ART PEACE

tapping the creative 'right' side of my brain

Archive for the tag “culture”

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

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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

Resilient

img_20120317_120747

“Puli Vesham” – predominantly famous in coastal Andhra where folk artistes done  the role of a tiger  and dance to the drum beats (dappu) of percussion artistes. The original folk dance was a demonstration of strength and fierce fight between the hunter and the tiger.

The best part of the ‘puli vesham’, many say, was the head gear depicting the various moods of the tiger. Usually the head gears depicted the ferociousness of the animal.

Though it has lost patronage we can still find it in small towns and villages where artistes are trying to keep the culture alive.

DP Photography Challenge – Resilient

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