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Showing posts from July, 2008

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Tanjore and Mysore Paintings at the CSMVS Mumbai

A chubby, naked, fair Krishna , holding a butter ball, covered in golden ornaments, Yashoda by his side, an indulgent smile on her face, even as her finger is raised in admonition. Rama and Sita seated on the throne, Lakshmana on one side, Bharata and Shatrughna on the other, surrounded by sages and kings; Rama a distinctive green in colour. These are both popular themes in Tanjore Art. I first saw both these in temples, the Navaneetha Krishna in many homes as well, if not original, at least a recent replica or just a copy. The Ramar Pattabhishekam I have better memories of, having seen it often at the Matunga Bhajan Samaj in Mumbai, as well as at my mother-in-law’s ancestral house in Thanjavur. The latter especially is close to our family’s heart, and it’s an exquisite piece of work, the expressions on Rama and Sita’s faces as intricately done as the gold work that surrounds them. Navaneetha Krishna Beautiful as they are , to me, they are associated with divinity more than just wor

Vedic Rites to be performed during the Kashi Yatra

The purpose of a Kashi Yatra for most people is the performance of Vedic rites for their ancestors, and it was the same for us. My in-laws were performing all the rites, and we had nothing much to do. In fact, we weren’t allowed to accompany them to Gaya at all, as it is apparently considered inauspicious for those whose parents were alive to see the Akshaya Vatam and the Vishnu Padam. However, my curiosity about the rituals made me ask a number of questions which were thankfully answered in detail by two young people- the manager of the Kanchi Math at Kashi and the vadhyar or pundit who officiated at our rites. Both of them were extremely helpful, and it is entirely thanks to them that I have been able to write in such detail about Kashi as well as the surrounding places, even those we did not visit. At my request, I was given this list of the rites that are traditionally performed during a Kashi Yatra. I share this with all my readers in the hope that it may be of some use to them

Gaya Part II - Bodh Gaya

Today is Guru Poornima, a day dedicated to all Gurus or preceptors. A preceptor is more than a teacher, for he not only teaches us things that extends our knowledge, but also those that enrich our lives, and make out life worth living. One of these was the Buddha. Whether we consider Him simply as a Buddhist guru, or the ninth avatar of Vishnu, it remains a fact that He was one of the greatest teachers of all time, and his legacy lives on today in the hearts of millions, some his followers, some simply his admirers. On this auspicious occasion, I take the opportunity to write an article on Gaya, one of the places most closely associated with the Buddha. At the outset, I must mention that I have not been able to visit Bodh Gaya as yet, and the facts I have mentioned have been told to me by those who have. This article is simply an attempt to share the knowledge I have gathered with others. A Statue of Buddha at Sarnath Bodh Gaya is about 18 Kms from Gaya. This is where Buddha came in

Gaya Part I - The Akshaya Vatam and the Vishnu Padam

Gaya is a holy place revered by Hindus and Buddhists alike . While to Hindus, it is the footprint of Vishnu (the Vishnu Padam), the Akshaya Vatam and the chance of performing the Vedic rites not just for 3 generations of ancestors, but anyone and everyone that attracts them to Gaya, for Buddhists it is the sacred Banyan tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. Indeed the regular influx of Buddhists from all over the world has made Bodh Gaya a tourist spot in Bihar, and a tourist attraction with all kind of facilities, something like an oasis in the heart of a desert! At the outset, I must mention that I will be giving only information and relevant details in this article. I will not be able to describe the places in detail, as I usually do, because this is one trip I wasn’t able to make. It is a belief in our community that those whose parents are alive shouldn’t visit the Vishnu Padam or the Akshaya Vatam, and my in-laws, who believe in these rules very strongly, went alon

Ayodhya - The Land of Rama

Ayodhya, the birthplace of Rama is bout 250 Kms from Varanasi. The river Sarayu flowing through this holy city is reason enough for a visit there. We expected the river to be dry, as it was the peak summer, but the quantity, the force and the depth of the water surprised us. Again, if time hadn’t been a factor, we wouldn’t have come out of the water at all. In fact, one of the best things that happened on this trip is that my son Samhith has lost his fear of water. 10 days of bathing in rivers has not only made him overcome his fear, but now he enjoys having a dip in rivers, and is proud of his ‘dubki’ or a full dip in the river, and actually tries to hold his breath under water! The Sun Rises over the Sarayu River The Crowds throng the river into which Rama merged at the end of his rule on earth. Ayodhya is much worse than Varanasi when it comes to extortion from pilgrims in the name of religion. In fact, even though we were accompanied by a guide, the number of people who trie

Allahabad- The Triveni Sangam and other places around it

125 Kms from Varanasi is the sacred city of Allahabad where the three greatest rivers of India meet, and continue their journey further. The Ganga weaves her way down from the Himalayas from Gangotri, passing places made sacred by her arrival, like Rishikesh and Haridwar, and passing through the industrial city of Kanpur, before arriving at Allahabad to join her sisters as she makes her way to Kashi. Yamuna also begins her journey in the Himalayas, at Yamunotri, and passes through Mathura and Brindavan, made more sacred by the association of Krishna, and finally arrives at Allahabad where she joins the Ganga to merge her identity with her. Saraswati arrives at Allahabad from god alone knows where, for she is an underground river, who remains unseen to mankind, making her presence felt at certain, extremely special places. She renders the holy Ganga and Yamuna even more pure, more sacred by her association with them at Allahabad. The place where these 3 rivers merge is the Triveni Sanga

Sarnath- A journey to the land of the Buddha

Varanasi may be home to the most popular and ancient Hindu temples, but it also has the distinction of being one of the most sacred destinations for Buddhists too. Sarnath, about 20 Kms from Varanasi, is where the Buddha taught his first few disciples. This sacred place, which Emperor Ashoka tried to immortalize by building the greatest Stupa, fell to ruins like many Hindu temples in the vicinity. However, archaeological excavations have unearthed what is left of them, and efforts are on to not only preserve the remnants, but also to find out more details about them. Credit must certainly be given to the Buddhist Society, because of whom this site has been preserved as much as possible. Sarnath is easily approachable from Varanasi . An auto wala charges about Rs.150/- for the trip (to and fro). A number of people hanging around act as guides, though a guide is not really necessary. All the structures have detailed descriptions and explanations on boards. All you need is the patience

The Ramnagar fort and Palace

Kashi might be the abode of the gods , but it also been ruled by various kings, who left their imprint on the city. The Raja Ghat on the river, for example, was built by one of them, and history tells us that one of the kings actually jumped from one of its high turrets while trying to escape the British troops during the mutiny, and actually succeeded! Our first view of the Ramnagar Fort from the boat From kashi The last remnant memory of the kings of Benares is the Ramnagar Fort and Palace on the opposite banks of the Ganga, in a section of which the present scion of the royal family still resides. The palace is about 15Kms away by road, and an auto takes about half an hour to reach there. We however chose the longer, but more interesting and relaxing option- that of taking a row boat to the palace across the river. The journey took us a good one and a half hours, but the sheer bliss we experienced made every minute worth it! The palace has now been converted into

A Boat Ride down the Ganges

Row, row, row the boat Gently down the stream, Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Life is but a dream………. This is one of my son’s favourite rhymes, and it describes exactly our experience during a boat ride on the Ganges. Samhith with our boatman Raju We spent 10 days in Varanasi, and not a day passed without us taking a boat ride. My husband Shankar made friends with a young boatman named Raju, not yet out of his teens, and we found him waiting for us, ready to take us to the other bank for a bath, or a long, leisurely boat ride down the river. It was he who took us for a tour along all the Ghats, a trip to the Ramnagar Palace, and also to the temples via the Ghats. It was a wonderful experience, one I shall never forget. Read the full post...