“I choose to collect memories instead of things” – Elena Levon
This one is long due.
We went to Nepal in 2018 during the Dushain festival; ie in the month of October. We knew most of the establishments would be closed as Dushain is the most auspicious festival there and everyone would be on vacation and would spend time with family rather than tending to guests. However, that is what we wanted to witness and experience.
The trip was filled with a splash of red color, beautiful smiles, worshipping people and high swings.
I will do an entire post to show all the beautiful places we visited, this one is dedicated to the beautiful people we saw and met during our journey and the color RED 🙂 . Red was the color of the season, people in red dresses, red ornaments, red tilak(vermillion) on foreheads, on statues, on walls….
Dashain the greatest festival for Hindus, honors a great conquest of the gods over the evil demons.
The faces are covered until the 8th day, however from day 1, there is night long prayers and bhajans.
Durbar Square – where people enjoyed feeding the pigeons, running among pigeons and a saint trying to find peace among all the chaos.
Just some random clicks of happy people
Sadhu’s at Pashupatinath temple in their exotic appearances
Sadhus are almost entirely dependent on the alms of others for survival. But, many of them also support themselves by begging, singing, serving as spiritual mentors, interpreting dreams, telling fortunes and reading palms, making amulets, tattooing, performing exorcisms, casting spells, conjuring, or selling medicinal herbs and potions.
Evening bhajan and aarti at Pashupatinath
The famous Sel Roti of Nepal – made of rice flour. it is sweet and deep fried and mostly sought after snack during festivals. The vibrant market place. People finding their future in stars. The royal guard at the Durbar Square. And finally the funky musician selling music in all forms.
Amongst all the craziness, this topped it all. You get to see a web of entangled wire all across Kathmandu. I wonder how they fix it when there is a problem!!!
Prayers to Buddha in his birth place – Lumbini
Lighting a butter lamp in one of the largest stupas – UNESCO world Heritage site – Boudhanath Stupa
Bhanjans(musical prayers) and recitation of the holy text Rama Charith Manas @ Janakpur, the birth place of Sita.
Dashain is, in fact, a festival in Nepal which reunites the families and is the ceremony of reunion and joy. Every house is filled with happiness and delicious foods. The sky is filled with the Kites, the grounds are filled with swings and the people are filled with joy and memories and so was I.
The trip was filled with long rides across valleys and river side, hot Nepali food, visit to the many durbars of Nepal, meeting and greeting smiling Nepalis, paying oblations in the various religious places, breath taking views, taking walks in the festive filled busy streets and shopping, of course… 🙂
This is my favorite pic among all !!!
Somewhere out there is Mount Everest which we couldn’t see due to fog … some other time maybe 🙂
“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need” – Marcus Tullius Ceciro
I have been bitten by the gardening bug lately hence soaking in a lot of Vitamin D in my small apartment garden. Some researchers say that gardening helps reduce stress and anxiety. Some others say that the more you involved with mother earth the clearer your skin gets :). I don’t mind having all of that !!!
“The best project you will ever work on is you” – Sonny Franco
For the first time in my life I wished for a relaxing trip. Go into the jungles – visit a few temples, waterfalls, enjoy the local food and back to business. BTW I changed my job again and hence the gap. I have been working like a donkey so wanted to wonder in the woods like a lion. Little did I know – once a donkey – always a donkey; and you will know why, by the end of the trip.
Through the dense Nallamala forest and washed-off roads we reached a small town called Ahobilam where Vishnu incarnated in the form a lion-man; Narasimha avatar to kill the demon Hiranyakashipu.
This place is divided into two: Lower and Upper Ahobilam. We will visit the Lower Ahobilam temple for the evening where the Lord got married.
There are lots of interesting stories related to this place. First – how did the demon Hiranyakashipu came into existence and Second – how he got killed?
The first story – how did the demon Hiranyakashipu came into existence
Jaya and Vijaya were the gatekeepers of Vaikunta the abode of Lord Vishnu. Four Sanat Kumars – sons of Lord Brahma once went to visit Lord Vishnu and were stopped by Jaya and Vijaya which led to a rift between the parties and angered the Kumaras. Kumaras then cursed Jaya and Vijaya to loose their divinity and take birth as mortals for 3 life times. At this point Lord Vishnu intervened. Jaya and Vijaya asked him to lift off the curse to which he replied that he cannot do that but instead he assured that in their three life’s Vishnu himself will come and kill them so that they attain moksha and return back to their rightful place. In their first birth as enemies to Vishnu they were born as
Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu in Satya Yuga.
Ravana and Kumbhakarna in Treta Yuga.
Shishupal and Dantavakra in Dwapara Yuga; (good luck pronouncing all the names)
Second story – how Hiranyakashipu got killed
The story starts when Hiranyaksha, his brother got killed by Lord Vishnu in his Varaha avatar. Hiranyakashipu swore revenge that he would, in turn, destroy Vishnu. He decided to undertake penance to earn the grace of Lord Brahma. Brahma pleased with his austerities, appeared before him and told him to ask for a boon. When Hiranyakashipu demanded immortality, though, Brahma refused, saying that anything that was born on Earth had to die someday. So he told him to ask for another boon. Hiranyakashipu thought for a while and asked that nobody killed him under the following circumstances: Neither by an entity, living or nonliving; nor by any weapon. Neither by a demigod nor by a demon. Neither by a human nor by an animal. Neither within nor outside his residence. Neither during day nor nighttime. Neither on the ground nor in the sky.
Brahma granted him all of the above, blessed Hiranyakashipu and left. This newly found power made the Asura drunk with his power. He decided that it was time he showed off his powers and established his superior status, even as compared to the Devas.
When Hiranyakashipu was in penance, Indra and the other Devas decided to attack his home. At that point, sage Narada intervened to protect Kayadhu, the devout and pure-hearted wife of the demon. He took her under his wing, until the time Prahlada, the child she was carrying, was born. Right from the womb, Prahlada would hear Narada sing praises of Lord Vishnu. Thus, he became a great bhakta (devotee) of Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu resented his son’s leaning and extreme devotion toward Vishnu. When things became unbearable for him, he decided to kill Prahlada. However, he failed each time he tried to kill the boy.
Prahlada refused to acknowledge his father as the supreme power and would instead keep praying to Vishnu. One day, Hiranyakashipu led his son to a pillar and asked him if Vishnu would be residing in there. Prahlada answered in the affirmative and said that his Lord resided everywhere. In a fit of rage, he lifted his mace and banged it hard against the pillar.
The pillar shattered and from inside it, jumped out Narasimha, a fearsome entity who was half-man and half-lion. This was actually the 4th avatar of Lord Vishnu. He had manifested to destroy the arrogant asura and also to protect his young devotee, Prahlada. Narasimha then proceeded to attack Hiranyakashipu.
As per the asura’s conditions for death, Narasimha was neither a human nor a Deva nor an animal. He manifested at twilight (a time which was neither day nor night); on the threshold of the courtyard (this was neither inside nor outside the palace). He put the asura across his thighs (this was neither on the ground nor in the sky) and, using his sharp claws (not weapons of any kind), he tore the demon open, disemboweling him; killing him instantly.
So today we will be trekking to to the pillar from which Narasimha manifested which again goes through forests and rocky terrain.
Seriously, he couldn’t pick a simpler pillar to smash…
We definitely needed a guide for this one and I am glad we got one as it had started to rain. Everyone one around us advised us not to climb. But our guide was like – it’s a piece of cake, I’ll take you there, don’t worry. And that was all I needed to move forward.
I pray this bridge stays intact till I come back.
This is the path, if you can call it a path, which freaked me out. We climbed almost 5kms through this rocky jungle with just a stick to support us.
My guide was my photographer for this trek, I couldn’t manage to hold on to anything but my stick and had to crawl like a monkey all the way up.
I have no idea how I climbed this….. however as if this wasn’t enough !!! Now I have to climb down to reach there……
And just go down those loosely held life risking ladder… one slip and I would have had a direct audience with God today !!!!
And I am finally there… Oh Gods!!! Now getting down from here will be an achievement in itself.
I was tired, but it was the good tired feeling that you have after doing something worthwhile. The gentle breeze, the sunlight, the chirping of the birds, the calmness – I was soaking it all in. This is by far the toughest hike we have done which left me euphoric for long. Given a chance I would like to be born in one of these isolated places – worrying about nothing but daily bread n butter and enjoying the nature in its fullest. For this life I am not sure I can go back to a life like that after seeing what money can buy. I have had this dilemma for a while now – will I be able to give up on material things to live a nomadic life? Having that money in my pocket is what gives me the strength and confidence to plan random trips like these, will I be peaceful knowing I don’t have that bank balance or in other words “safety”? With these thoughts in mind I start my descend back.
We took a different route while coming down – thank God or thank Shivanna(our guide). He took us through the dense forest and that was awesome. There was always a risk of a wild animal pouncing on us or a snake getting angry with us, but these thoughts didn’t occur to me until we crossed the forest safely.
After a long nearly 5 kms walk or more…. I lost all sense of position. Happy to see some ground where I can relax. We had to keep walking – walking – walking while we were in the jungle, the minute we stopped we were surrounded by the over enthusiastic mosquitoes who wanted the taste of some human blood. Sitting by the stream I got myself a little free fish spa 🙂 There were others there who had packed some food and were enjoying it – I wish I had packed some snacks as suggested by my guide. I can’t wait for the walk to be over and eat something appetizing.
The place where we sat is where Prahalad – the son of the demon studied Vedas. He must have also walked through the jungle daily to get to this place. No wonder why he wanted his dad dead 🙂
On our way down we visited some other Narasihma temples. I am way beyond exhausted. All I care for now is some good food and a nice bed and its my job that pays for these two so I am going to hang on to it for a while 🙂 and leave it to nature to fulfill all my desires…
“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us” – Anonymous
A quick getaway is what I needed after zombie-ing in and out of my laptop from 9 to 5 and making the one hour commute to vegetate in front of the TV till I drop dead only to rise and shine again and rinse and repeat.
Heading to the Nallamala forest for this short trip. Nallamala is a dense forest range in the Eastern Ghats of India with multiple tiger reserves and varied flora and fauna. Uranium deposits have been found there now, so before the whole place becomes radioactive – politically and otherwise; let me enjoy the beauty. We had a lovely monsoon season so the forest is going to be lush and alive – hoping to see some tigers on the way 🙂
The first stop is Mallela Teertham waterfalls. We go through a muddy pathway through a village and cotton fields to reach there.
Loved the monsoon clouds which made the entire trip so picturesque. Mallela Theertham is yet again a religious site\waterfall as it is believed that many saints and rishis have performed penance here and Lord Shiva content with their devotion appeared here and blessed them. Some 350 steps in the lush green forest takes you down to the waterfalls. This is also the source for Krishna river.
Meditation is definitely possible in this place. I hope I gathered some energy from here which would help restore my sanity. Next stop – Srisailam – the shrine of Lord Shiva who is in the form of Lord Mallikarjuna with his consort Goddess Bhramarambadevi.
As it was Navratri and the festivities were on. By the time we reached Srisailam it was almost evening so we decided to take a stroll in the market place rather than relax and I am glad we did that. The whole place was lit up and bustling with food and people of all sorts.
Somewhere in the distance I could hear drums rolls and was just drawn towards it. The procession had just started from the temple. Navratri is the celebration of good over evil. During these 9 nights and 10 days Goddess Durga is worshiped in all her nine forms. Each day the Devi is ornamented in the respective form and brought out for a stroll among the people along with the presiding deities of the temple.
After an evening full of amusement and morning full of worship, time to move into the deeper parts of the jungle.
Some more of the countryside
I wonder what this crop is? These are infact the big leaves from a small tree which they are hanging to dry them up.
Country style homemade food…. as we were crossing villages in the forest area there were very less options for lunch. The best one however was the one below. They had transformed their veranda into a dining area and provide homemade local food 🙂
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth”
– The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
The DP Challenge – The Road Taken reminded me of Robert Frost’s poem – The Road Not Taken and it got me into thinking about the options we have in life and the paths we choose. I have at times wondered what my life would be only if I had taken a different path. I know, getting into the “What If” analysis is dangerous but my stupid mind gets the best of me at times. Robert Frost helped me understand that no matter what path you take you get what you are destined for so stop thinking about the road not traveled and enjoy the perks of the road you are travelling 🙂
“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 🙂
“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.
“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
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 !!!
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 🙂
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.
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
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.
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.
View of the Dauladhar mountains from Naddi
The trip is never complete without a little activity.
And finally the sun sets in the mountains and it’s time to move on….
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
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.
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.
“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???
“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?
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!!!
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.
“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 🙂
“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 🙂 .
“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.
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!
“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.
“Music is a mantra that soothes the soul… something our body has to have. It is important to understand the power of music” – Michael Jackson
Sometime back I went to this music concert to hear Dr L Subramaniam on violin but I was taken by surprise by this man; Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. He plays Mohan Veena which is this own creation. His music is so mesmerizing that I have no words, you have to witness it yourself to know the power of live music; what it can do to you and your soul.
I am glad I had a chance to hear to his music and that definitely wouldn’t be the last one.
To listen to one of this mesmerizing work click here
“Don’t tell your Ganesha how big your problems are, Tell your problems how big your Ganesha is” – Chugani
Doesn’t matter if you are from North India – South India – East or West; Rich or Poor every Hindu in India loves Lord Ganesha and performs Ganesh Puja. We do it at the beginning of any new event as he is the God for New Beginnings, Prosperity and Obstacle Remover. Only after the Ganesh Puja is performed you feel safe and secure in your mind that nothing bad will happen whatsoever and still if you face challenges Ganesha will take care……
Ganesh Chaturthi which is observed once a year, used to be the busiest time in the year when I was young. There was this huge list of items I helped my mother procure for the puja. I used to go around my colony and the gardens to get them and my mother used to say “Even though I am doing the puja, you will reap the benefits as you are working hard for it” and that alone was enough motivation year after year…