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Showing posts from October, 2008

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Ladakh - Planning The Trip

Over 2000 Km by road, in around 10 days. Stunning landscapes, wonderful people. That sums up our Ladakh trip. But how did it actually work? How did we make it happen? Read on to find out!  Leh, the capital of Ladakh , is accessible by air and road. Flying into Leh is the easiest, and time-saving option, while the road is the time consuming one, but with the added advantage of driving past some of the most beautiful landscapes in our country. Each option has much to recommend it, and we chose the road for just one reason – altitude sickness. Altitude sickness was one of my biggest concerns, since I suffer from motion-sickness. Yes, I do travel a lot, but that is despite my condition, and, over the years, have learnt how to handle it. I struggled with it when we visited Nathu-La in Sikkim, and wondered if I would be able to manage a week at the even higher altitudes that we would encounter in Ladakh. This was the reason we stuck to a basic plan, of only 9 days in Ladakh, though we

Navaratri Experience -11- Dusshera

The tenth day of Navaratri – Dusshera or Vijaya Dashami celebrates the victory of good over evil. Whether one considers it the celebration of the Devi’s victory over Mahishasura, or Rama’s victory over Ravana, we celebrate the end of tyranny and evil, and usher in a new era of goodness and righteousness. This is the reason it is considered auspicious to begin new ventures on this day. Be it buying a new house, opening a shop, or starting a course of study, this is one of the most auspicious days to do so. People studying the arts, especially the classical forms like music and dance, begin their classes on this day. This year, Samhith stepped into the vast world of classical music, joining a music initiation course for Tiny Tots at the Chembur Fine Arts Society. It was a beautiful sight at the hall, which was lined with musical instruments of every kind. From Miscellaneous From Miscellaneous The prayers began at 9 AM sharp, followed by a symbolic beginning of each class. I ha

Navaratri Experiences – 10

Navami – the ninth day of Navaratri is dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of learning. At home, we place books and writing implements near the altar of the God, and place an image of Saraswati over it. We do not read or write the whole day, taking the books out and reading them only on the next day, Dusshera, when it is auspicious to begin studies. We pray not only to the goddess of learning, but also to those things which aid us in learning. In the south, students welcome this day, as it gives them a respite from studies, but for us, it has never been so. I remember, we not only had school, but also exams during this period, and had no choice but to study on this day too. My mother used to make me keep textbooks of those subjects whose exams I had already completed, and had to use the other books to study. Not once did I get a break from studies as my cousins in Chennai did. Today, Samhith has no exams, so thank God; we can keep his books for the puja, but just for a couple more year

Navaratri Experiences – 9

Ashtami – the eighth day of Navaratri is celebrated as Durgaashtami all over India. We too celebrated this day remembering the Devi in her avatar as MAHISHASURA MARDINI, for this was the decoration in the temple yesterday. From Miscellaneous According to the Devi Mahatmyam, the Asura named Mahisha (who took the form of a wild bull) performed great penance to Brahma, who, pleased with him, offered a boon. Mahisha asked for immortality, which Brahma said was impossible. Mahisha then asked that he should not be killed by men, Devas, asuras, or any other creatures, and this boon was granted by Brahma. In his arrogance, he did not name women, for he considered them inferior to him. When the Devas could no longer bear the atrocities of Mahisha, they went with Brahma to Shiva and Vishnu, and asked them to relieve them of their troubles. Vishnu and Shiva’s anger presented itself in the form of a lustre, to which was added the lustre of the other gods – Brahma, Indra and all the other Dev

Navaratri Experiences – 8

The seventh day of Navaratri, the temple decoration was that of SIVA – KAMESHWARI or Kameshwara- Kameshwari, as they are also known. From Miscellaneous Kama – the god of love was burnt to ashes when he tried to make the meditating Shiva fall in love with Parvati, born as the daughter of the mountain king, Himavan. When at last Shiva married Parvati after years of austerities, he also brought back Kama to life. However, at the same time, an Asura by the name of Bandasura was born from the smoke. The Devas pleaded to the Devi to rescue them from this Asura, and she appeared in the form of Kameshwari, and put an end to Bandasura. Siva married her as Kameshwara, and this is the form depicted above. I have also appended a Tanjore painting of Kameshwara and Kameshwari (which I found on the net) so as to understand this depiction better. From Miscellaneous Well, that’s all for today. Looking forward to being back tomorrow with (hopefully) more photographs….

Navaratri Experiences – 6 and 7

Weekends during Navaratri are busy, for these are the days of hectic socializing – these are the days we have more visitors at home, and we have to go to others’ houses as well. At least, Samhith was happy as he got to see a lovely golu at one of our friends’ houses. They also have a young son, and he had enthusiastically exhibited a cricket team as well an airport. From Miscellaneous From Miscellaneous From Miscellaneous Navaratri is a time we pay obeisance to the Devi in her each and every form. It was one such form that was depicted in the temple on Saturday, the fifth day of Navaratri – SAKHAMBARI. From Miscellaneous In the Devi Mahatmyam, Durga prophesies that when the earth has been dry for a hundred years, the wise ones who continuously meditate upon her will cause her to be born in a superhuman fashion and she will bring forth from her body; fruits, flowers, vegetables and herbs to take away our hunger and thirst and our fear of death. She calls herself

Navaratri Experiences-5

Fridays are always auspicious for the Devi, and Fridays during Navaratri are even more special. Normally, when we perform the puja at home, we invite everyone home for Haldi – Kumkum on a Friday, but this year, we were busy visiting others, as we did not have the puja ourselves. Here is a photograph of the kolu at one of our neighbours’. Samhith went to see it first and told them that they had very few toys, as compared to his grandmother. He also gave them suggestions about what they could do to make it look even better. Of course, his interest in the golu is great, but I don’t know what I am going to do if the chap keeps talking like this! From Miscellaneous The decoration in the temple was of CHOTTANIKKARA BHAGAVATHI. The Devi looked beautiful amidst a number of oil lamps, which had been lit to give a wonderful effect. From Miscellaneous The Chottanikkara Bhagavathi temple is one of the most important and famous temples of Kerala, and needs no introduction. The De

Navaratri Experiences-4

The first three days of Navaratri are dedicated to the goddess Parvati, and yesterday was the last of this phase. When I told my son about this, he decided that since he could not dress up as Parvati obviously, he would dress up as Shiva, his main interest was in being allowed to hold a Trishul. Of course we refused, so he compromised by agreeing to wear a ‘Veshti’ and making a Trishul with his blocks. We hosted the Navaratri Bhajan at our place yesterday, and this gave him an added reason to dress up. “If you all can wear lovely sarees and dress up, why can’t I dress up too?” was his legitimate question. You can see the results in the photographs below. From Miscellaneous From Miscellaneous At the temple, the decoration was dedicated to BHUVARAHA SWAMY – this is the form of Vishnu when he too the form of a wild boar – the Varaha Avatar. The lord took this form when the demon Hiranyaksha hid Bhoomi Devi (Mother Earth) in the ocean. In the form of a wild boar, the lord Carrie

Navaratri Experiences-3

It is just the 2nd day of Navaratri, and already Samhith is looking forward to our temple visit. He is normally bored in the temple, and runs around, troubling everyone, but now, the daily decoration seems to be exciting him. He looks forward to the evening, and keeps asking whether it is time to visit the temple. This second day of Navaratri, the temple priests had made a wonderful image of GARBARAKSHAMBIGAI , as she is seen at the Thirukkarugavur temple near Thanjavur. From Miscellaneous Garbharakshambigai, or Karu Kaatha Nayaki as she is known in Tamil, represents the One who protected the Womb. The story behind this temple is as follows – Nidhruva Maharshi and his wife Vedhika were ardent devotees of Shiva and by the grace of the Lord, Vedhika became pregnant. Once, when her husband was out, tired after all her household chores, she lay down to rest, and fell asleep. The rishi Urdhvapada arrived at this time, and asked for alms, which she did not hear, being fast asleep.

Navaratri Experiences-2

The 30th was officially the first day of Navaratri, and wherever I went, I could see people bringing home the Devi. It signals the beginning of a hectic week, where we have to carry out our normal routines, while making time for prayers and Parayanams, attending Bhajans in the colony, and also finding time to visit the temple. Things were further complicated with Samhith’s classes, as well as my sister’s birthday. I had to have a quick darshan at the temple before rushing off to Thane to wish my sister. The decoration at the temple depicted the Devi as LALITAMBIKAI, at the Thirumeeyachur temple, near Kumbakonam. This temple is about 13 Kms from Mayiladudurai, on the Mayiladudurai- Thiruvarur road, and is home to 2 Thevara Padal Petra Sthalams (i.e. 2 songs sung by the saints). The main deities here are Aruneswarar and Lalitambikai, who were worshipped by Surya the Sun God at this place. The Lalita Sahasranamam is said to have originated here from the Devi herself, and hence this is c

Navaratri Experiences-1

Navaratri- the nine nights dedicated to the mother goddess is here . Call her by what name you will - Durga, Kali, Parvati, Lakshmi, Saraswati- the names are endless, and so are the types of prayers offered to her. All around me, I can see people of different communities praying to her in their own way, but there is one thing common - the dedication and their belief that the mother will solve all their problems. Every year, we celebrate these nine days with prayers, parayanams (reading the stories of the Devi), and our traditional 'kolu'. This year, the kolu is missing, for some close relatives have passed away, but the prayers will continue uninterrupted. These nine days, let me invite you to my neighbourhood , where the temple is the hub of activity. Every morning, the air resounds with the sound of the Devi Mahatmyam being read by the devout, followed by the chanting of slokas. Every evening, special Yagnas are conducted, and again the sound of the priests chanting the sacr