Art on Varanasi Ghats

Unsanctioned arts on streets have been condemned too many times. But for me they are always piece of art. Something we need to appreciate. I had earlier posted about same in Israel. Israel Graffiti. Now for another place!

The ghats of Varanasi have always been an attraction to visitors. You always find it buzzing with people busy in different activities. The boat rides along the colourful and lively ghats, funeral pyres by the river’s edge, twisting lanes full of people, cows, bicycles and hole-in-the-wall shops selling tea, local sweets, spices and devotional bling, that’s what you see here. And in all this you invariably fail to notice many wall arts on the ghats.

Though many like me might like these arts/paintings but they might get removed from the ghats soon. Varanasi is considered as the heritage city of India. There are many heritage buildings on the ghats. The ghats itself are considered to be part of heritage status of this city. Defacing century’s old stone walls of the ghats along the Ganga by random graffiti, paintings and designs made of harmful chemicals is causing harm to the structures. Removal of these paintings has already been initiated with ASI, BHU and few other organization joining hands. Continue reading

The Little known Masroor Rock Cut Temple!

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30 odd km from Kangra town, there is this rock cut temple, which is hardly known to even people of that district. It is the Masroor Rock Cut Temples which many call as Himachal Pyramids or Elloras of Himachal.

These rock cut temples of Masroor have been carved out of the sandstone monoliths which make up the landscape. No one seems to know who carved them. There are many legendary stories that go round.  Few locals say it was built by Pandavas. There’s another legend attached to the construction of this temple, it is said that these temples were carved out at night, and work had to be halted when it was morning, which is why some shrines remained unfinished. Historians have identified that sculptures in the Masroor temples have been shaped in late Gupta style, most likely in the second half of the 8th century. There are not known inscriptions in the temple and no written accounts about this temple – thus it is rather a guess.

Legends apart, it is the architecture of the temple that is awe-inspiring. It has been built in Nagara style. This is very important style in Hindu temple architecture, with characteristic beehive formed towers. Every design is intricately carved. The temple has black stone idols of Ram Lakshman and Sita. But in the centre of the temple is a figure of shiva which brings a theory that possibly the temple originally was of Mahadev. The shikhars of some of the temples remain standing and are a supreme display of the craftsmen of the 7th -8th century who overcame the limitations of the existing rock structures to shape and carve their creations. The rock-cut style started in the reign of the Pallava King, Narsingha Varman (630-668 AD) during the 1st half of the 7th century.  It reached its climax in the Kailasha Temple at Ellora.  Though rock-cut caves are common in South India, yet, temples cut out of free standing rocks, known to archaeologists and art critics, are only 4 in number – Rathas of Mammalapuram, Kailashas at Ellora, Dharmanatha temples in Dharmnar and this one as Masroor. The Rathas & Kailashas are built in the Dravidian style, whereas the Masroor and Dharmnar ones are in the Nagara style. Continue reading

Breaking illogical tradition taboos in Vrindavan!

Our traditions are nice to follow, feels great too. But what about the orthodox traditional practices, those that are harsh and follows discrimination? Most of the times you’ll find the “Thekedars” of these traditions saying it’s in shastras knowing well that common man might not have in-depth knowledge about our shastras. Nowhere in our shastras there is any sort of discrimination. And many such discriminations are attached to our Widows.

We had the shameful tradition “Sati Pratha” at one time. Thankfully it has been eradicated now. This too was marked as a “Hindu Ritual” and widows were made to follow. But that is nowhere true as far as our shastras goes. The term Sati is derived from the original name of the goddess Sati, who self-immolated because she was unable to bear her father Daksha’s humiliation of her husband Lord Shiva. Later Sati became a term in our shastras for women in Hindu mythology who were exceptionally devoted to their husbands and righteous. Property tussles was the root reason behind this practice, with male heirs preferring to do away with a widow, leaving the inheritance entirely in their hands. The Brahmin who helps in the burning would get a hefty share so they brought forward all theories on glorifying Sati Pratha.

Sati Pratha was ended but there still remained many discriminatory practices. A widow was expected to stay away from all festivities, renounce all earthly pleasures, wearing only white, shave off hair, and eat veg food. For big majority of widows life was more like “Living sati”. Many of these taboos have been reformed but complete reform is still awaited. Continue reading

Happy Holi 2016 – Lathmar Holi of Braj

All of us in India must have celebrated Holi – the very joyful, energetic  festival of colour. Holi – Popularly known as “Phagwah” in Assam, “Dol jatra” in West Bengal and “Fagu” in Nepal, the festival is celebrated with different names and traditions across India.

But what if I tell you that there is a village in Mathura district, Barsana where people play Holi with wooden sticks? Yes, this village near Vrindavan is the birth place of our dear Radha Rani and lies just beside Nand Gaon, our Kanha’s village. Here, men from Nand Gaon come to play Holi with the girls of Barsana and hope of raising their flag over Shri Radhikaji’s temple. But, instead of colours they are greeted with sticks by the gopis, the women folk of Barsana village. Hence, the Holi get its new name here Lathmar Holi. As the name suggests, “Lath” – Stick, “Mar” – To hit, this is Holi played by hitting sticks.

As per Hindu mythology Lord Krishna visited his beloved Radha’s village on this day and playfully teased her and her friends by applying colours to them. The Gopis took offence and chased Lord Krishna and his friends away by running after them with lathis (Sticks). Men and Women of Braj even today clash in a colorful display of battle. Men of Nand Gaon raid Barsana with the hopes of raising their flag over Shri Radhikaji’s temple. Continue reading

Punno Maati – Not so Uplifting Custom of Durga Puja

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There are many rituals and traditions that we follow blindly without really knowing the true reason behind them. And one I would address today is connected to Durga Puja, especially the making of idol. So many times I have visited the Kumartuli of Kolkata just to watch the Kumors making different idols of Gods and Goddesses. Kumortolas across Bengal is most busy before Durga Puja when they are busy making n-number of idols of Maa, each one as beautiful as the other.

Kumartuli-2But this idol making of Durga has a custom, soil collected from a prostitutes home is used to partially make the idol. This soil is called “Punno Maati” or the pure soil. It’s said that when a man enters the porch of a prostitute, the “Nishiddo Palli” meaning the forbidden territory, he leaves behind outside all his purity and virtues. Hence the soil outside is considered pure. There’s another view that because Maa does not make difference among human beings. So the soil from outside a prostitute’s home is used to show inclusiveness. The destitute sections of society are shunned by all and through this process; it makes them feel a part of society and shows them that they too belong to the world as much as the others. Continue reading

Rani ka Vav – The Unesco World Heritage Site

Ancient architectures have always fascinated me. In Gujarat I am getting to see some really great spellbinding architecture that is bound to leave anyone in awe. Rani ka Vav is among those which was built more than thousand years ago. Vav means stepwell and because it was built by Rani Udayamati in memory of her husband the Solanki ruler Bhimdev between 1022-1063 AD , it’s called Rani ki Vav. In reality, it is so beautiful I guess it would be equally appropriate to call it Vav ki Rani!

The step-well later got flooded and eventually remained buried under the earth for many hundred years! Believe it or not, it was excavated by Archaeological Survey of India only in the recent 1980’s! You will not believe your eyes (I did not, and you may feel free to blame me in case I underestimated your capability by an unwarranted extrapolation) to see how the carvings still looked so fresh, no way look to have been buried under earth and how on earth ASI has carried out such a marvellous work of excavation without damaging the structures! Continue reading

Somnath – The Spectacular Resurrected Temple.

The temple city of Somnath or Prabhas Patan is situated in the state of Gujarat on the Arabian Sea. This is the first among the twelve Jyotirlings. Since ancient times, Prabhas Patan has been a pilgrimage center, being the confluence of the mythological Saraswati, Hiranya and Kapila. Legend has it that Lord Shiva’s Kalbhairav linga is situated at Prabhas. It is also associated with the moon as the Moon God is also said to have worshipped this Shivling. This is also the reason why this temple is popularly known as Somnath, the one named after the moon. The present temple, Kailash Mahameru Prasad is built in the Chalukya style of temple architecture and reflects the inherent skill of sompuras, Gujarat’s master masons. It has the shikhara, the Garbhagriha, the sabha mandap and the nritya mandap.

On the Southern side of the temple, on the wall at the sea shore, there is a pillar. It is called “Baanstambh” बाणस्तंभ्. On the top of the pillar is placed a globe of Earth and an arrow pierces through it. On the pole is inscribed “Aasmudrant Dakshindhuvparyant Abaadhit Jyotirmarga”. It means If you start travelling from Somnath Temple towards South in Arabian Sea, you will not meet any land until you reach the South Pole or the Antarctica. The temple has been built in such a position that there is no land between the Somnath temple and Antarctica.

Baanstambh

Baanstambh

Continue reading

Happy New Year 2016

Sunrise

संघर्ष हो तो सफलता भी हो

परिश्रम हो तो परिणाम भी हो

शक्ति हो और सेवा भी हो

सपने तो हों पर शांति अवश्य हो

आप मस्त भी रहें और स्वस्थ भी रहें

आसमान भी छूऐं और धरा से भी जुड़े रहें

आने वाले साल आपके जीवन मे,

उत्साह की लहर रहे, उत्सव का माहौल रहे

प्रेम भी हो और आनंद भी हो

 

सूर्य की एक और परिक्रमा पूरी हुई और नये सपने एवम् नई चुनौतियां ले एक बार फिर आया नया साल । आने वाला यह नववर्ष आपके लिए मंगलमय हो ।

 

Sangharsh ho to safalta bhi ho

Parishram ho to parinaam bhi ho

Shakti ho aur seva bhi ho

Sapne to ho par shanti avashya ho

Aap mast bhi rahey aur swasth bhi

Aasmaan bhi chhuye aur dhara se bhi jude rahey

Aane waala saal aapke Jeevan mein

Utsav ki laher rahey, utsav ka mahaul rahey

Prem bhi ho aanand bhi ho.

 

Sun completes one more revolution and with new dreams and new challenges, brings in the new year. May this coming new year be happy one for you all.

Counting my blessings, wishing you More. Hope you enjoy the New Year in store. Have a joyous New Year!

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Incredible Bioengineering by Khasi Hill tribesmen!

The Khasi hills receive lot of rains throughout the year. It’s fair to say that this part of the world gets a hell of a lot of rain. And here you find the acclaimed Living Root Bridges which are specialty of the Khasis. Bridges always bring to our mind concrete and iron bars. But these bridges are different; they are not “Made” but “Grown”.

All around, even on the banks of high velocity streams, Ficus tree (Rubber Tree), thrive and flourishes a lot in the Khasi hills. These trees can even perch themselves strongly over boulders on the banks of streams. They have adapted themselves well from soil erosions around these rivers and streams. These trees shoot out many secondary roots. The War-Khasis, a tribe in Meghalaya, long ago noticed this tree and saw in its powerful roots, an opportunity to easily cross the rivers. Now, whenever and wherever the need arises, they simply grow their bridges.

By realizing they could tap into the power of these roots and use them to their own advantage, they started manipulating and directing the secondary roots to create ultra-strong living bridges with which to cross streams and rivers. To make a tree grow in a certain direction, the tribes’ people use the trunks of a betul nut tree, sliced down the middle and hollowed out, as a guidance system. The thin, tender roots of the rubber tree are placed so they grow in the direction of the tree trunk rather than fanning out. Eventually, the roots reach the other side of the river and grow into the soil. Or they would take two trees on both sides so as to make the roots move and meet in the centre of the trunk. Continue reading

The Pitcher Plant scare!

It was during a walk through the wild of Shillong outskirts that I came across these plants. At first glance I was not sure what exactly it was but curiosity made me go near and check. On seeing them at close quarters I realized it was none other than Pitcher Plants that we studied so much in details in school. These plants are more of vine and these pitchers are hanging from it. There was a lid at the top of each pitcher. Inside it was filled with a liquid. Whatever I recall of my botany lectures, this liquid contains enzymes that digests food and is similar to one present in our own stomach.

Initially I was bit scared to touch the plant. Not sure of what might really happen if I do so. Considering its size I was sure of one thing, it CANNOT eat me! 😀 But what if my hand or finger gets trapped! Garnering lot of courage I touched the tip of the pitcher’s mouth with a quick movement. Nothing happens! That helped my confidence and I next touched the pitcher properly, holding it to see exactly how it looks.

The pitchers are hard and the top mouth is quite stiff, almost woody in many of the pitchers. I touched the inside wall and found it slippery. The liquid was not exactly thick but a bit sticky. It seemed more like a gel. There was the cover, like a lid which was movable. In one pitcher I found the lid closed while other I could move it to close the pitcher. Maybe when it catches the insect, this lid closes over the mouth so that it cannot escape.

I local boy was passing by and he stopped to join me and explained more about how they use these pitchers. The vines of this plant are supposed to be very strong and the locals use it for tying up things. Even the pitcher is used to cook food. They pour out the liquid and wash it properly. A special kind of steamed rice with chicken is made by filling the same in this pitcher and then heating.

Here are few photographs of the Pitcher Plant. You can click on the images to view the enlarged version. Continue reading

Shameful to call Raja Ram Mohan Roy a British stooge!

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Raja Ram Mohan Roy

In recent times suddenly there is a cry that our history has been distorted by historians who are more leftist. Unfortunately I find it’s now another set of so called Historians who are hell bent on discrediting our freedom fighters and reformers of that era in the name of “Discovering new facts of true History”. Today I am going to take up one issue and show how distorted their views are as it’s time we come out strongly and make sure these mischievous people don’t get away with such mudslinging. Yes the article would be a long one, but then don’t we know how history and its explanations are never in short. Still remember filling pages after pages when it came to History exam in school.

Check this LINK to know about the man Raja Ram Mohan Roy so that you realise how great a reformer he was!

Raja Ram Mohan Roy has been charged by few as “Stooge” of British govt. Sole reason being his support to Macaulay’s education reforms for India. According to them, Raja Ram Mohan Roy had written to the British govt asking for scrapping of a Sanskrit college and in turn also supported Macaulay’s plans to reform the education system of India by introducing English.  I’ll show how Raja Ram Mohan Roy was so correct in supporting him by proving what exactly Macaulay’s plan was and that he had no malicious intentions against Indians, by touching upon both his Minutes and also his speech in British parliament before coming to India. These reforms were necessary then considering the socio economic conditions and to uplift Indian education. Continue reading

Happy birthday Didi.

Today is very special day. It’s the day for celebration of the birth of someone very dear to my life. No matter what, I have always cared

We have been through ups and downs and together walked the thick and thin. And for you I can say didi, you have gotten me through everything. You make me stronger and always have. You mean so much to me more than words can describe. More than I could ever hide!! I support you through and through and I don’t know what I’d do without you.

You are my sister. And you are number one, one in a million. And you are perfect. Perfect the way you are, and the best you can be is yourself.  Don’t let anyone tell you differently. If they do then they must be too blind to see what I see. You are unique and unstoppable, Incredible, A miracle. A gift from above, whom I treasure! Continue reading

Happy Durga Puja, rituals and its significances!

All those who follow Durga Puja are aware of the different rituals that are followed during these 10days puja. There is a significance and reason behind every single ritual that is practiced during Durga Puja. All these rituals have a mythological story behind it which many of us are unaware of

Mahalaya-Tarpan

Mahalaya Tarpan

Goddess Durga descends from her heavenly abode in Kailash to visit her devotees on earth every year. She comes with her children Devi Lakshmi, Devi Saraswati, Lord Kartik and Lord Ganesha.

Devi Paksha rituals start from Mahalaya and people do Tarpan on the day. Mahalaya means “Maha” meaning Big and “Laya” meaning Destruction. It is the day when there was the big war between the Devtas, Rishis with the Asuras. The war started on the first day of the waning moon in the month of Bhadra and ended on amavasya or Mahalaya as we call the day. Many Devtas and Rishis died in the hands of asuras. Devtas and Rishis are considered to be our forefathers hence the ritual of Tarpan. We pray for the peace for our entire forefather’s souls’. Continue reading

To make a difference – Nelson Mandela.

It is Nelson Mandela’s birth anniversary today and I am reminded of one of his quotes. It’s my favorite one among many of his.

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

If only most of us could follow this lesson, world could be a far better place as far as humanity goes.

To make a difference in someone’s life is to enrich someone’s life.

We should never get tired of doing little things for others. Sometimes, those very little things could be the biggest part of their life. That is how change for better happens. That is how you make a difference. One gesture, one thing at a time!

If it is to be, let it be me!

The quote always reminds me of the Bollywood Raj Kapoor song from the film Anadi – “Kisi ki muskurahato mein ho nissar…”

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Mummy of a monk at village Giu

(This article was published in the North India Kaleidoscope.)

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The Mummy (Click to Enlarge)

In the Spiti valley of Himachal Pradesh is a small village called Giu. On one of my usual trekking I visited the village to get a view of the mummy here. This mummy is that of a Tibetan monk and carbon dating shows it’s more than 500years back. During construction work of a surveillance post by ITBP police, they found this mummy while digging. The spade of the workers hit the skull of the mummy and blood oozed out. The dent mark is still visible. How so ever spooky it may sound, strangely enough the skull also has some hair and the body skin unbroken. The police recovered the mummy and put it up in the village itself inside a glass chamber. The villagers take turn to take care of the mummy by lighting lamps and doing regular puja. Continue reading