ART PEACE

tapping the creative 'right' side of my brain

Archive for the tag “art2peace”

Madness

“There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness” – Friedrich Nietzsche

The fight with my inner sloth was finally worth it. I have never painted such huge projects so fast. This was completed in just 4 days and looks like the long gap I had has its own positives. I had some new ideas but true to myself – went crazy with colors 🙂

Happy painting !!!

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Bommavara-Sundareshwara Temple

“The results of action depends upon the very quality of the action” – Chinmayananda Saraswati

On the occasion of Kartika Purnami we decided to visit a Shiva Temple built by the ghosts. Yes, you heard me right!!!

Sundareshwara Shiva Temple is located just outside Bangalore in a small village called Bommavara.  As per the claim of the villagers this temple was built by the ghosts itself in just one night.

This is how the story goes: Some 600 years ago the village of Bommavara was haunted by a lot of ghosts and they were creating havoc in peoples life. Finally a man named Bucchaiah thought of solving the issue and learned mantra and tantra and became a sorcerer. Bucchaiah was also an ardent Shiva devotee so he with the help of the villagers built this temple. The ghosts did not like this so they destroyed the temple. Bucchaiah got furious and then worked hard towards capturing the ghosts using his tantric energy, in which he succeeded. The ghosts then requested Bucchaiah to release them. He agreed to release them on two conditions. 1: that they rebuild the temple, and 2; they leave the village. The captured ghosts then accepted his condition built the temple overnight and left the villagers to their peace. Some years later a Shiva Lingam was found in the near by excavation site which is now the presiding deity of this temple.

Usually temples have carvings of gods\goddessess but this temple has carvings of ghosts and demons on it. The villagers says that is because it was built by them. Maybe that is their definition of beauty 🙂

 OM Namah Shivaya …

Pashupatinath-Nepal

“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.” – J K Rowling

We went to Nepal on 27th day of the Ashwin month, year 2075. OKAY… I didn’t time travel and visit Nepal in the future but that is what 13-October-2018 converts to, as per Nepali calendar.

So a Nepal trip during Dashain – as it is known in Nepal OR Dushera – as known in India. There is so much to share so I am going to split it into many blogs and hopefully that way I can share all I want to 🙂

A visit to the Pashupatinath Temple takes you to a different era. As you walk towards the temple the surrounding areas are bustling with shops selling items for puja and the many colorful traditional ornaments that married Nepali women wear.

Nepali women wearing Pote – glass bead necklace in red, green or yellow. Only married women wear it and it is believed to bring good luck for them and their family.

So, the existence of Pashupatinath temple dates back to 400 A.D and it was rebuilt in 17th century as the old one was destroyed by termites. The temples lies on the banks of the Bagmati river.

Interesting fact – the 2015 earthquake destroyed many things in Nepal, the temple still stands tall and unharmed. While devotees claim it’s because of the divine powers, some argue its because of the strong architectural base. Take your pick..

Anyways it is one of the oldest Hindu temples and there are many legends surrounding the origin of the temple.

Legend 1

One fine day when Shiva and Parvati were taking a stroll, they came near the banks of Bagmati river and were amazed by its beauty. Both took the form of deer and spend their time here. After a while the gods got worried and decided to bring Shiva back to Kailash to resume his duties. When Shiva refused to do so they had to use force and in the battle Shiva’s lost one of his antlers. Which became the first Lingam that Hindu’s worship here as Pashupatinath. Pashupatinath means Lord of Pashu’s or animals.

Legend 2

In continuation of the previous legend, the dropped antler of Shiva got lost\buried and was found again by a herdsman. The herdsman had a cow which used to visit this place and irrigate the place with its milk. By the time the cow reached home its udders were empty so the herdsman followed it one day and saw the whole event. On digging deeper he found the Shiva Lingam.

Legend 3 – As per Koti Rudra Samhita

The Pandavas defeated and killed their cousins — the Kauravas in the epic Kurukshetra war. To atone for the sins of committing fratricide (gotra hatya) and Brāhmanahatya (killing of Brahmins — the priest class) they went in search of God Shiva to seek his blessings. First, they went to the holy city of Varanasi (Kashi), believed to Shiva’s favourite city. But, Shiva wanted to avoid them as he was deeply incensed by the death and dishonesty at the Kurukshetra war and was, therefore, insensitive to Pandavas’ prayers. Therefore, he assumed the form of a bull (Nandi) and hid in the Garhwal region.

Not finding Shiva in Varanasi, the Pandavas went to Garhwal Himalayas. Bhima, the second of the five Pandava brothers, then standing astride two mountains started to look for Shiva. He saw a bull grazing near Guptakashi (“hidden Kashi” — the name derived from the hiding act of Shiva). After some searching Bhima recognized the bull to be Shiva and tried to catch him. Shiva trying to hide, dived into the ground but Bhima caught the bull by its tails as he was disappearing. Then Pandavas prayed to him over and over again. Following that Shiva is said to appear in parts in the following regions: – The Bulls hump – Kedarnath, The Bulls head – Pashupatinath. The Pandavas then meditated and attained salvation.
The Linga in Pashupatinath has 5 heads: east facing – Tatpurusha; north facing – Ardhanarishwara; west facing – Sadyojata; south facing – Aghora and the upward facing Nirakara.

The mesmerizing evening aarti on the banks of Bagmati river.

Open cremation on the banks of Bagmati river.

Sadhu‘s near the temple

By the time we came out it was late in the evening. On our way out we saw a marquee where a Sadhguru was telling the tales of Goddess Durga and how she killed Mahishasur. The faces are covered now, the veil will be removed on the eight day (I am yet to discover the reason for that and when I do I will let you guys know)


One thing I loved about these travels is that you uncover so many stories or legends and it make the journey all the interesting.

Time to call it a day … OM Namah Shivaya!!!

Ambubasi Mela – Kamakhya

“Wilderness is not a luxury but necessity of the human spirit.” – Edward Abbey

Kamakya Devi temple that we went to has a lot of legends and stories to tell.

Sati, the consort of Shiva was the daughter of Daksha Prajapati a descendant of Bramha… Sati had married Shiva against the wishes of her father. The vain Daksha performed a great yagna(with the sole aim of insulting Shiva), to which he invited all the gods and goddesses except his son-in-law Shiva. Against Shiva’s wishes, Sati attended this sacrifice and was insulted by her father. Unable to bear this insult, Sati sacrificed herself.

Enraged at the insult and the injury, Shiva through Veerabhadra, destroyed Daksha’s sacrifice, cut off Daksha’s head and later replaced it with that of a goat, as he restored him to life. Still crazed with grief, he picked up the remains of Sati’s body and did Tandav (dance of destruction) throughout the Universe. The other gods intervened to stop this, Vishnu used his Sudarshana Chakra  to cut through the corpse of Sati whose various parts of the body fell at several spots all through the Indian subcontinent. These sites are known as Shakti Peethas today.

Kamakhya Devi’s shrine hosts the vulva that fell here following the destruction of Daksha’s sacrifice.

Ambubachi mela or Ambubasi festival is an annual fair celebrated for four days in Kamakhya temple, Guwahati, Assam during the Assamese month of Aahar (mid-June). It is believed that the presiding deity of the temple Devi Kamakhya (a form of Shakti) goes through her annual cycle of menstruation during this period. The temple is closed for three days during this period and the doors of the temple open on the fourth day when devotees throng in a long queue to get a glimpse of the goddess..
The deity is believed to have been there since pre-historic times. There is no man-made statue of the goddess but a stone of shape similar to vulva.

Kamarup is a very important Shakti Peeth and this place is one of the primary temples of worship for the Tantrics. Pilgrims, devotees and Tantrics throng the temple during this 4 day festival.

Om Namah Shivay!!!

Restoration

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks” – John Muir

Trips like these restore my hope for humanity. There are abundant trees to produce oxygen and abundant rains to fight water scarcity. So no worries !!!! Chasing the monsoons we decided to go to the Wettest place on earth, that is Cherrapunjee or locally known as Sohra. This is one place with only one season- monsoon ranging from high-medium to low. The surroundings are mostly dotted with towering Khasi hills and valleys beyond your horizon.

Guwahati Airport

The 3 hr long flight dropped us in Guwahati from where we took a shared taxi Rs 500/per person to Shillong. The roads start winding from here itself and our driver wasn’t going any slow. I kept hearing tires screeching and kept praying the whole time. Whoever said Bangalore has the worst traffic should visit Shillong. It took us 35 mins to make a U turn.

Shillong traffic

Looks like they are just getting started on women empowerment…

We reached Cherrapunjee by hiring another taxi from Shillong. And the winding roads continue…

As soon as we meandered towards Sohra the mist started following us, we were at the mercy of the mist now, we see what it feels like revealing.

I was out of words witnessing the lush greenery and the misty landscape.

And then it started raining….

The day ends early here, so we had lunch by 7pm and called it a day. It was raining the whole night.

I guess they don’t even know what pollution means or even heard of it…

Time for being the tourist and do some sight seeing, there is almost no public transport so you have to either walk or hire a taxi. I would have preferred walking but it was pouring like hell so we hired a cab and I am glad we did. Why? The time to do sightseeing in Cherapunjee is when it is raining, as soon as it stops raining the mist take over and blocks your views and plus we could throw some extra clothes in the bags which were helpful later.

The Nohsngithiang Falls(can’t pronounce) or popularly called the Seven Sister falls – our first stop

The Seven Sister Falls

Before the misty curtains drop on it we managed to enjoy the beauty of these falls. It is 315m\1033ft. Some say it gets its name because of the seven streams of falls but our driver Kynpham – again a name I can’t pronounce… well said it gets its name because of the seven steps in which they fall.

Next stop – Mawsmai Caves

Nature at its best

It’s all dark in here and I loved the fact hey kept the sanctity of it by not lighting up the place.

There are stalagmites and stalactites, its dark, and wet and slippery and you will be drenched as water falls from everywhere. Its a 15-20 mins long dark cave, the experience was nerve racking in a fun way. And finally some light….

Where do you think these steps lead to? Maybe to a yogi’s ashram or hideout of somebody like Bigfoot. There were many of these in the woods….

Next stop : Nohkalikai Falls

This beautiful falls has a gory story to tell.

Story:

Ka Likai was a Khasi tribe woman and wife of a porter. The porter died at work one day and left Ka Likai to fend for herself and her daughter. With her daughter being an infant and no source of income to fend for herself, Ka Likai herself became a porter and remarried. Ka Likai used to spend most of the time with her daughter after work which made the husband jealous of the daughter to an extent that he started hating her.

One day when Ka Likai was at work the husband overcome by sheer jealousy kills the child and serves her as food to Ka Likai on return. Ka Likai is not surprised to see the child at home thinking she must be with some neighbor as usual and heartily devours the food.

Later when Ka Likai realized what she had unknowingly done, she went into a fit of rage and sadness. Ka Likai ran to the cliff  of the waterfall and jumped to her death, thus the name, Nohkalikai – “Noh” meaning Jump, Jump of Ka Likai. 

If you looked closely at the falls… every drop seemed like a wailing white ghost was jumping from the top. Maybe it was the effect of the spine-chilling story I just read but there was such sadness in this beauty.

Time to move on …. now that the rains had stopped we have to rely on our luck. Mist will now claim the region and if you are lucky it will reveal the beauty of the hills.

Next stop: Arwah Lumshynna Cave

Ok now this was an insane one. Arwah Cave is now the world’s longest sandstone cave at 24,583m with fossils from upto 30 million years ago. Only a small part of it has been opened to tourists though. A small rocky road take you to the caves and then you have to walk 1km or less to reach the cave.

On our way we saw two sign boards; 1) Pleasant Path and 2) Rugged Trail. We took the rugged path 🙂 … and after climbing the dense forest hill for 10 mins we realized there is no path… 🙂 but we kept going on.

The thick foliage was turning out from being creepy to dangerous. What if a snake bites me or if a jaguar or fox comes out from the bushes, with all these thought we kept going on…..

Some beautiful flora…. I am glad I didn’t see any fauna else you wouldn’t have no post to read.

Oh some steps going down … finally I am reaching my destination….

Still no destination …. I discovered a waterfall 🙂 and this was the dead end. We were in no mood to retrace and go back so we decided to follow the waterfall and see where it takes us…..another crazy decision….

It did lead us to civilization but it wasn’t a fun ride down …. 🙂

Somehow we reached the cave entrance with some people laughing at us and with some looking at us with suspicion ….. you know the way we tumbled down to the pleasant path.

Arwah is a long, peaceful and dark cave. I have used some Photoshop techniques to lighten the image.

No more rugged trail going back….. this is the view we missed by not taking the pleasant path.

Next Stop: Bri Ki Synrang Park popularly known as Mawdohnud (feel free to pronounce them as you like, for me it was a park filled with small waterfalls)

Known as Ka Bri Ki in the Laitmawsiang village, this area is a combination of Caves ,Waterfalls and rock/stone formations. You reach the park going through the village which is quite interesting

The village has a huge playing ground and sports center but the kids are happy playing their marble game ….

From inside the Asdad Falls

Some more waterfalls…. I don’t remember those tongue twister names anymore… but one thing I know, there is enough water for everyone one of us 🙂

The day ends very early here as the clouds take their position and its time for rains again.

Most of the businesses here are run by women as tourism and some government jobs are the only source of employment for the locals here so most of the men migrate to cities for a livelihood. You find strong, charming and ever smiling Khasi women in all the establishment.

A vegetarian paradise – Orange Roots and below is the final waterfall on our way back to Shillong ..

This is called the Ka Kshaid Lai Pateng Khohsiew (or “Three Steps Waterfalls”) popularly known as Elephanta falls– the name given by some British who obviously couldn’t pronounce it.

One of the cleanest places I have see with easygoing and smiling Khasi people. I wish I had some more time here or I wish I was born here where everything moves at a snails pace. I wish I stayed naive as the kids in the below snap, this place felt like the home I always wanted to have…..

Khublei (farewell) Sohra!!!

Self-torture

“Perfection is worth striving for, even if it is unattainable in this life” – Joseph B Wirthlin

The only word that kept ringing in my head while I was doing this piece was “Self-torture – Why Am I doing this to myself” . I started painting in small drawing books so that I can do small projects and finish them quickly. And then I started this one, way back in May. Looks like a simple abstract one but the amount of detail that has gone into it, tested my patience to the core. I am still not fully happy with this but cannot go any longer. I guess Shiva cannot be attained that easily in life or on paper.

Just playing around with Photoshop

Survival

“Extinction is the rule, survival is the exception” – Carl Sagan

I have been watching a crow family who have made the pine tree in front of my house their home. Perched on the top the Mama crow sat on her eggs and perched in my balcony drinking tea I watched over them. I had also bought a new DSLR so they were my muse for a while. I prayed for them every time there was a thunderstorm and the tree swayed left and right in the wind or whenever I saw the eagle hovering above.

Crow scouting the trees

Crow’s nest

The predator

And then came the day….. when I saw something I never thought I would see and which broke my heart.

Seemed like the eggs had hatched and the babies wanted food. The papa crow and mama crow cawed at each other(I had no clue what they talked then) and after the conversation papa crow perched near the nest while the mama crow went to the nearby pigeon colony. She tried to get near some pigeon nests but one pigeon family gave her a fight, however there was a lonely pigeon mama sitting on her eggs in one corner. The crow went there and started attacking the pigeon, the brave pigeon never gave up so the papa crow pitched and both started attacking the pigeon. They were so quick and dexterous that finally the mama pigeon couldn’t take it anymore and left the nest. Then the crows took the pigeon eggs to feed their babies. The pigeon came back to her nest to see the damage, I am not sure if they have feeling but to me it looked like she was heartbroken.

Like a curious cat I watched nature at work – my tea got cold…..BUT this got me into thinking –

Is survival the only purpose of life?

If YES – then there is no good and bad, they are mere perceptions – what is good to me could be evil to others and vice versa. There can be a justification for everything we do and the action could be right as long as our conscious is clear !!!

If NO – then should we just succumb to the bad and be grateful for the good and live life thinking – everything happens for a reason !!!

Just some r@nd0m th0ught$ !!!

Diversity Trip – Amritsar

With OM MANI PADME OM still reverberating in my mind, we boarded the bus to Pathankot, from where we will take another bus to Amritsar. AND the reverberations I was hearing now were no where near to peaceful.

Just a glimpse into what I endured during the 4 hr bus ride: I wish I had recorded it but this video does perfect justice.

I couldn’t stop smiling thinking about such contrasting worlds just 50kms apart. On one side you have smiling peaceful stocky Buddhists and on the other you have feisty, loud and exceptionally tall Punjabi’s.

My next destination is the city of Amritsar where the Golden Temple is.

It was the night of Deepavali

 

Sri Harimandir Sahib or popularly known as the Golden Temple is not only a central religious place of the Sikhs, but also a symbol of human brotherhood and equality. It is accessible to every person without any distinction of Caste, creed, sex and religion all you need to do is cover your head when entering.

It is surrounded by a manmade lake of 150 sq.m. The lake gives it a sublime, serene and meditative feel. Of the two days we stayed there I found myself going to this place every morning and evening.

We also had our Diwali meal at the langar. Langar is a community kitchen where everyone is served free meals and the kitchen is managed also by volunteers.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh statue

Some more statues and a smiling Sikh 🙂

And finally it is time for some patriotism. We headed to Wagah border for the border gates closing ceremony. And we were going to close the gates on Pakistan so I was looking forward to experience. It was a testosterone filled environment from the minute we entered. The peaceful Buddhist in me had now transformed into a Raging bull ….LOL

You see the guy marked in orange, that is the Pakistan side by the end of the ceremony. All gone and they started brooming their side. And the crowd on this side, Indian are not done with their cheering and photo sessions, for us the festivities always last a little longer.

Back to the Golden Temple in the morning

Indulging in some soothing bhajan along with warm halwa 🙂

A Khalsa Sikh with his 5 K’s – Kesh, Kangha, Kara, Kachera, Kirpan and the humongous Dastar on his head.  These are initiated Sikh men who have vowed to follow the Sikh way of life commanded by the Guru Govind Singh.

A last look and time to stay Good Bye ….

Time to get back to the circus. Shredding the wildness and going back to being a tamed one 🙂

Part 1: Diversity Trip – Jammu

Part 2: Diversity Trip – McLeod Gunj

Durga

“..If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way” – Napolean Hill

Drawing in sketchbooks has never been my thing, when I start drawing or coloring, things just get out of proportion. But these days with my busy office schedule I don’t get the conviction enough to finish huge projects hence trying to teach myself to draw small. A drawing book which I can probably carry with myself as well. Wouldn’t that be nice !!!

Out of this world

All meanings, we know, depend on the key of interpretation. –George Eliot

A view from the Griffith Observatory, LA. Saw a cloud out there in the mountains.

Was it smoke from the volcanic mountains, first of all are there any volcanic mountains near Los Angeles??

Or some scientific experiments… shhhhh …. or maybe aliens just dropped by near Vegas desert.

Guess I will never know…. earth is a mysterious place and earthians definitely are no less

DP Photo Challenge: Out of the World

Diversity Trip – McLeod Gunj

From Jammu we reached Pathankot and from there took a bus to Dharamshala. More than 10 hours for 230 kms, the State Government should do something to improve the public transport.

Reached McLeod Gunj at around midnight – surprised to see some shops and restaurants open – checked into the hotel and called it a day.

Woke up to the view of the Dauladhar range and to the chirping of birds.

A warm tea is all I need to start my day.

I had listed out around 10-12 places\things to do but once we were out on the streets I didn’t feel like working on my checklist. Dropped everything and went with the flow – which included again a pot of ginger tea and brunch – had a toast and pancakes for almost almost 2 hrs. Tibetan culture was getting onto me and I was enjoying it. One other reason could also be because my legs were still all dead and McLeod Gunj is no plain area. All the streets are at least at an inclination of 30-50%. I moved the streets of McLeod Gunj like a tortoise with a grim smile on my face. I was very particular I wouldn’t be an impulsive shopper anymore, however if the universe has different plans for you then what can you do.

Slowly crawling all over the place we reach the Namgyal Monastery, the abode of Dalai Lama. This is a quiet monastery nothing fancy plain and simple architecture. What I saw there was quite thought provoking for me.

In my perception till then – a monk was someone who had given up worldly pleasures and meditating to get nirvana. However when I saw the their daily rituals and their way of life – these monks got me curious.

On entering the Namgyal Monastery, I saw monks doing their traditional Buddhist philosophical debate. The debate happens between a Challenger, standing and asking questions and the Defender, sitting and answering them. The debaters are seeking to understand the nature of reality through careful analysis of the state of existence of things. There is a dramatic clapping which is done by the Challenger only. In their understanding of the gesture, the right hand represents method, meaning especially the practice of compassion, and the left hand represents wisdom. Bringing the two hands together represents the joining of wisdom and method. At the moment of the clap, you hear the left foot stomp down and that represents slamming shut the door to rebirth in the lower levels.

All around you, you see smiling Tibetans chanting “Om Mani Padme Hum” and counting through the rosary beads in their hands. And one fascinating thing I came to know about the Namgyal Monastery and for that matter all the other  monasteries there was that they all have Tantric colleges which teach monks the essentials of sutra and tantra. For a monk an average day consists of two hours of ritual, two hours of sacred arts, three hours of philosophy classes, two and a half hours of debate, and several hours of meditation and personal study and the students who completes a 13 year course successfully gets his\her degree of Master of Sutra and Tantra.

If you ever go to a monastery never miss the evening prayer routine, it is heavenly.

Statue of Buddha Sakhyamuni

Guru Padma Sambhava

Guru Padma Sambhava, a great Indian Sidda, who went to Tibet in the 8th century. He helped the King Trisong Deutsen in building the cathedral of Samye  by subduing all the enemies of the Dharma. He also gave tantric teaching in Tibet, also known as  the “Father of Buddhism”.

Magnificent statue of 1,000 Arm Avalokiteshvara of whom the Dalai Lama is believed to be the human embodiment, next to him – Maharishi Patanjali.

This statue of the Buddha of Compassion exudes the very spirit of selfless love and the very essence of compassion, its thousand arms stretching forth in all directions, bringing hope and salvation to all beings from their treacherous and myriad sufferings in the pitiful and tragic pit of samsara.

He is also referred to as Chenrezig, his teachings are contained in the mantra – OM MANI PADME HUM

Mani\Prayer wheel –  these are devices for spreading spiritual blessings and well being. Rolls of thin paper, imprinted with many, many copies of the mantra(Om Mani Padme Hum), printed in an ancient Indian script(Sanskrit) or in Tibetan script, are wound around an axle in a protective container and spun around and around. Tibetan’s  believe that chanting or spunning of the mantra invokes the spiritual power and blessing of Chenrezig(Tibetan name)\Avalokiteshwara.

You can just see so many people just repeating this mantra around you irrespective of time or place.

Other beautiful paintings inside the monastery

After spending ample time in Namgyal it was time for Gyuto Monastery. This brightly colored monastery with the majestic Dauladhar mountains in the backdrop is also a Tantric school.

We were just in time for the evening prayers.

I refrained myself from taking pictures but just when I did this guy caught me….

Calling it a day with another pot of tea and lazy-lengthy dinner. I bought a Tibetan Pain oil in the market and massaged myself back to walk like a human.

Day 2

Now because I can walk freely it was time for some more trekking again 🙂 …Going to Bhagsu Nag temple and Bhagsu waterfalls. In India wherever you go you are bound to have a temple nearby and a story connected to it.

Bhagsu Nag story: It is said that Bhagsu was a king, or a local chief, and his region was plagued by drought. He set out, promising his subjects that he would bring water. His search brought him to these mountains, more specifically, to a lake – the Nag Dal – which belonged to the serpent king. Bhagsu himself had magical powers. He managed to transfer the water from the lake into a kamandalu (water receptacle), and started on his way back home.  The serpent king returned home that night to find his lake empty. Needless to say, he was irate, and he set out to find the one responsible. He caught up with Bhagsu here, and there was a terrible fight. Bhagsu was lethally injured, and the kamandalu fell, releasing the water, which flowed down the mountain. Realizing that his end was near, he surrendered to the serpent king, asking only that the water be allowed to flow on, so that his people would be relieved from the drought, and that his name be associated forever with this place. The serpent king relented, and henceforth, the water flowed free, and this place came to be known as a combination of both their names – Bhagsu Nag.

Bhagsu Nag Temple

Bhagsu Waterfall

And the trail

There is another side to this beautiful and peaceful place, as the road winds up from Dharamshala you start seeing signs of “Free Tibet” and stories about the enforced disappearances posted all over the place. In 1959 Dalai Lama had to flee Tibet following the Chinese invasion of Lhasa, Tibet. Since then Dharamshala, India has become a home to Dalai Lama and to the many refugees who are escaping Tibet and arriving India. It has also become a center for the “Free Tibet” movement. For more history click here.

Day 3

The quaint 150 year old Anglican St John’s Church, this one is set amidst tall deodhar trees and built in neo-Gothic architecture.

I wonder what it would be like to live here. Below is the Naddi Village and the view they get to see everyday.

Naddi Village

View of the Dauladhar mountains from Naddi

The trip is never complete without a little activity.

Paragliding

And finally the sun sets in the mountains and it’s time to move on….

OM MANI PADME HUM

Diversity Trip-Jammu

I am referring to this as diversity trip as we visited three places this Diwali to witness three different cultures which we so so different from each other. Ranging from the devout Hindus to the slow moving peaceful Tibetan Buddhists to the feisty Sikhs.

Let me again remind everyone reading this, Global Warming is a true thing, it was Diwali time (October time) and we went to Jammu, the northern most state in India which is known for being one of the coldest parts in India buttt…. it was no less than an inferno. In my anticipation of the cold climate I packed all my woolens and hauled it throughout the trip. Hmmm…. next time I am not getting afraid of the cold anymore, don’t think its cold anywhere in the world anymore!!!

Our first stop was the disputed land of Jammu Kashmir, as Kashmir is currently occupied by Pakistan, we are left only with Jammu.  I presumed Jammu to be like Switzerland, cold and snow peaked mountains in every direction but as I said it is all hot-hot-hot. The best part of the 3 hours we spent in Jammu the fascinating differently shaped Shiv Linga’s (no photography is allowed inside the temples so you just have to believe me) in the Ranbireshwar and Raghunath temple.

The weird looking tasty-tasty pani puri, Kavadi kulcha (if you have to taste authentic street food in India – you should turn a blind eye to the hygiene) and the beautiful shawls and sweater in the markets. Living in south I don’t need shawls yet I ended up buying two of them.

From Jammu we took a bus and by late in the evening reached Katra – this is the place from where our actual 35 km journey begins. The markets were bustling with tourists and shops selling dry fruits among other things.

We will be trekking this tomorrow

Day 2

This day is going to test our patience and perseverance, have a 35 km trek ahead of us which we decided to complete in a day . Bought ourselves walking sticks and started the climb to Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine.

The other options

Look at their rhythm

The journey to the Shrine cave of ” Mata Vaishno Devi “begins with the blessing of Mata. It is not only a belief but also a strong experience of one  that the godly Mother sends a call or Bulawa to her devotees. And once you get the Bulawa\call all you need to do is start the journey from the Trikuta foothills and Mata will make sure you reach her abode and grant all you wishes.

Every step of the way is filled with stories, click here to read the full story of Mata Vaishno Devi.

Our final destination

I always wonder when going to such places, is the journey more important or the destination. Even though you start your journey with full vigor after a certain point your mind totally calms down and you end up thinking more than talking. I find many answers to questions which have been bothering me for a while. At the end of such journey’s I come out with a renewed commitment list.

One of the best part of the trek apart from the trek was the music coming out of those Bose speakers –  the valley is filled with tonnes of them and makes your trek all the more spiritual.

The way back was filled with dry fruit shops and many more collectible shops but I am exhausted to even take pictures.Can’t explain in words how exhausted I was after 10 hrs of walking and we still had 4 more hrs ahead of us.

It’s time to get back, bought some lovely Kashmiri pashmina shawls and beautifully embroidered tops – again exhausted to take pics and plus I was walking like Frankenstein.

The dry riverbeds – Global warming again!!! I wonder how these would look like in rainy season.

Next destination: McLeod Ganj – Dharamshala

Temporary

“People who love to eat are always the best people” – Julia Child

 

Now what is food doing on the temporary section, some people have an eternal love for food, however I noticed that once your stomach is full you don’t even feel like smelling or looking at food how much ever you love it. That is definitely the case with me, be it the homemade selections or the exotic restaurant ones ….so I feel craving is a temporary feeling. What do you say???

DP Photo Challenge: Temporary

Peek

“No object is mysterious, the mystery is your eye” – Elizabeth Bowen

Pic credit: Naresh Saginala

You can find yogi’s any where in India, some new bee’s, some in the process, some who might have attained higher consciousness and some just pretending to be one. Looking at this one I wondered – is he a genuine one or a fake!!!  Is he meditating, contemplating or he is just tired and relaxing? What made him give up worldly pleasures and adorn saffron robes and roam the streets without shoes on his feet, a roof on his head? What could his life have been before he decided to take this path? Is he repenting his decision or is he in bliss already? Was it his true calling or just an influence?

I would never know ….!!!

DP Photo Challenge: Peek

Rounded

OM – purifies ego establish generosity,
MA – purifies jealousy establish ethics,
NI – purifies desire establish patience,
PAD – purifies prejudice establish perseverance,
ME – purifies possessiveness establish concentration,
HUM – purify hatred establish wisdom

This Diwali we went on a diversity trip – one of the destinations was Namgyal Monastery (Dalai Lama’s Temple), I came to know many wonderful things about Tibetans and their culture – and I am in the process of putting it in a blog. For now let’s talk about the Mani\Prayer wheel –  these are devices for spreading spiritual blessings and well being. Rolls of thin paper, imprinted with many, many copies of the mantra(Om Mani Padme Hum), printed in an ancient Indian script(Sanskrit) or in Tibetan script, are wound around an axle in a protective container and spun around and around. Tibetan’s  believe that chanting or spunning of the mantra invokes the spiritual power and blessing of Chenrezig(Tibetan name)\Avalokiteshwara. They believe that Chenrezig is within us because love and compassion are not qualities added to the mind but are inherent in our true nature. Wonderful people, place and teachings!!!

Reference: http://www.dharma-haven.org/tibetan/prayer-wheel.htm

DP Photo Challenge: Rounded

Glow

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light” – Aristotle

Picture of the Golden Temple: Sri Harimandir Sahib in Amritsar. It is a treat for the eyes and peace to the mind.

DP Photo Challenge: Glow

Scale

“Little Steps – Big Impact”

My Bachi, little creature who had\has a huge impact in our lives. It been a year since he is gone but we still miss him the same. I still wonder how he might have returned back to this world – again as a dog, a cow which stared at me, the lizard which refuses to leave my room,  a human whom I might meet after some years; or is his karmic debt cleared and he is gone for good.

DP Photo Challenge: Scale

Pedestrian

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop” – Confucius

The two things I enjoy as a pedestrian in India is the simplicity around me and the colors. Even after such technological advances you can always find places where people and things move at a turtle pace and it all looks so peaceful and connected to nature.

Cattle herd returning home after leisurely grazing the whole day. BIT Mesra, Ranchi, the place where I was brought up and completed my education. Life there is so slooowww, nothing much has changed yet. All the while I was there I wanted to move to the city and to fast life and now I spend humongous amounts of money for a peaceful day or two.

Shopping market at Church Complex, Ranchi.

Love the Indian shops they are all so colorful and bright. They never fail to change my mood 🙂

DP Photo Challenge: Pedestrian

Realize Vs Identify

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

My human experience since the past 6 month has been quite grueling, maybe the universe was trying to teach me a lot in a short span of time. I was pushed to the limits – mentally and physically. Finally I decided to fall of the edge and quit that job to make time for people and things I love.

This painting is inspired by the contents of the book – Aghora – II Kundalini by Robert E. Svobodha  which talks about self-realization and self-identification among other things. This got me into thinking – while the universe was trying to teach me something (the hard way), was it because of my self-identification /”Ahamkara”/ “ego” that “I” thought “I” can make things better for me. In my next job I think I will try to go with the flow, if I am meant to learn things the hard way let it be so.

Satisfaction

“Wake up with determination and sleep with satisfaction” – Unknown

Since my childhood I had an obsession with the Rubik cube – every once in a while I would buy one and fail at it.

But in the present day (thanks to technology) I got a tutor online on  Youtube. Though it took me several days to follow him, finally I solved it. Oh… I was so ecstatic as if I was the only genius in the world. Below is the picture of my achievement.

DP Photo Challenge: Satisfaction

Bridge

OM, udbudhyasvagne prati jagrihi tvamishtapurte samsrijethamayam cha, asmin sadhasthe adhyuttarasmin vishve deva yajamanascha sidata.”  – source

O Fire, please wake up, please get up. And in your arising, wake us up as well. You are the one who gives us what we ask for, as well as what comes to us unasked. You are the remover of illness. In this house of fire practice, please be seated. Along with you, may all the benevolent divine forces be seated, too. May those doing this practice also be seated.

Lately I have been reading a Trilogy: Aghora by Robert E. Svobodha. There is so much overwhelming information in the book and personally I feel like believing every word of it. As per the Tantric Philosophy,  Agni – fire is a visible divine energy and acts as the bridge between humans and the ethereal being, it is through fire that we can communicate with the cosmos and the ethereal being be it – gods, goddess, ghosts, demons etc.

In India Homam – fire ritual is performed during most of the auspicious ceremonies. During Homam\Havan oblations or any religious offering is made to the fire. It is believed that as the ethereal beings have no body they eat through smell so the offerings that go into the fire are consumed by them and once they are pleased you get to make a wish. There is a darker side it also but that depends on humans and not the ghosts 🙂 .

DP Photo Challenge: Bridge

Order

“Chaos was the law of nature, Order was the dream of man” – Henry Adams

DP challenge: Order

Heritage

“The Universe is made of stories not of atoms” – Muriel Rukeyser

Storytelling – India’s oral heritage, I remember spending evenings with my grandmother listening to the many stories and I always wondered how she remembers so many of them. Not only my grandmother but also my aunts and other elder people in the family, if you sit with them they always have a story to tell or a riddle for you to solve. I used to love those times and still cherish them.

This story board in Ujjain reminded me of those days. This is the story of King Bhatruhari and Vikramaditya as told by Late Guru Peer of Nath Sampradaya who used to live in Bharthari Caves, Ujjain. By looking at it I can tell you he tried his best to translate it from Sanskrit, the reason why the grammar is displaced but I couldn’t help appreciate his efforts to tell the story in a foreign language so that today’s generation gets reminded of their heritage.

For those who find it tough to read it and understand, below is the story in simple english;

First story (The one in BLACK ink)

Bhartruhari was so much immersed in romance and sex, that he wrote 100 stanzas on ‘the art of romance and sex‘, now famously called ‘Shrungara Shataka‘. All the stanzas are on sensuality and sexual pleasure.

King Bhartruhari was obsessed with his youngest wife Pingala, she was beautiful and charming. Once king’s brother complained to the king about the affair of queen with king’s charioteer and advised him to banish her for the sake of the kingdom. King was too obsessed with her to heed to his brother, in fact when the queen heard of this from her sources, she manipulated the king and banished his brother from the kingdom

One day a yogi came to his court and presented the king with an apple, which he said would bless one with ‘youth and longevity‘ on eating (stories say that the ascetic got the apple as a boon from the gods and that the apple was from the Kalpavruksha- ‘wish fulfilling tree’).

The king wanted queen Pingala to have the apple, so that she would always look young for him.

Queen Pingala gave the apple to the charioteer. She wanted him to be young and strong.

The charioteer was in love with a prostitute, he gave her the apple to eat.

The prostitute thought ‘it would be better if someone deserving ate this‘, she always liked the king, he was noble and pious, his long living also meant the peace and stability of her kingdom, so she took the apple to the king and give it to him.

King Bhartuhari was surprised to see the apple with her, and enquired how she got it. She told him how she got it from the charioteer, king sent men to bring the charioteer, he told the king that he got it from the queen, and confessed of his affair with the queen.

Bhartruhari realized the fleeting nature of the pleasure from worldly objects, he wrote a poem about the incident which changed him in his Niti Shataka. (100 stanzas on Moral conduct)

(She) whom on I contemplate, is not passionate for me, she loves another;
that whom she loves, loves another;
One whom he loves, loves another.
Refuse (disdain to) that woman, that man, Cupid, me
.”

Deep Vairagya (dispassion) arose in him, he gave up the desire for his wife, realizing his mistake he brought his brother back and crowned him, renouncing the world he lived rest of his life as an ascetic. Bhartruhari wrote Niti-Shataka and Vairagya Shataka during his later years.

Source: king-bhartruhari-who-became-saint-bhartuhari

Second story (The one in RED ink)

Ujjain is a city shrouded in myth and legend and most of these center around the legendary king who ruled here –Vikramaditya.
Very few know, however, that Ujjain has a temple on its outskirts that was one the center of daily human sacrifice!
This is the famous temple of Bhukhi Mata. It is a legend that is imperative for all to know because it tells the reason that led to Vikranaditya’s long and prosperous reign as the king of Ujjain.
Centuries ago, the goddesses whose temples citizens of Ujjain worshiped demanded that a youth be sacrificed to them daily. The citizens complied devotedly while heartbroken mothers wailed in suffering as their sons were taken away day after day.
Finally, one brave mother approached the king and demanded that he save her son. The wise king thought long and hard. He then told the mother that he would appeal to the goddesses and if they did not agree he would sacrifice himself that day. Before night set in, the king arranged a huge feast. The flavors of a million different delicious dishes scented the air so much so that the appetites of the goddesses were appeased.
They came to enjoy the food while the king hid himself inside a casket.

On top of this casket he had placed the replica of a man made of delicious sweetmeats. As the devis enjoyed the hearty meal and were about to leave, one of them happened to glance at the special replica. She stayed back while the others left and tasted it.

She praised the tasty food and wondered aloud as to who could have kept the tasty human replica there. At that moment, Vikramaditya showed himself. Taken aback, the goddess asked him to express a wish. He said that she should never cross to this side of the river .  Pleased by his courage, she agreed. The goddess was Bhukhi Mata and the king made a temple in her honour on the other side of the river. Since then, she never came to trouble the people of Ujjain and no more young men needed to be sacrificed!

Source: Bhukthi Mata story

DP Challenge: Heritage

Earth

“Heaven on earth is a choice you must make not a place you must find” – Wayne W Dyer

View from the Nahargarh Fort, Jaipur

This is a small pond in the middle of the desert land. As far as you can can see there is no vegetation, but Earth is kind enough to provide us with some life sustaining water. Mother Earth is kind and caring but we have lost respect for her.

Sometime back I came across a news that people in China are buying fresh air packets manufactured in Canada. I’d rather plant trees for the rest of my life than get into a situation like that. As Sadhguru says, “Right now we are looking at ecological concerns as an obligation to fulfill. It is not an obligation, it is our life.” So lets start caring for the other life around us.

DP Photo Challenge: Earth

Mandala 2

“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.” – Bruce Lee

I think I went a little overboard with green and messed up with this one. It doesn’t look like one integrated piece … What do you say???

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