Thursday, November 25, 2010

End of Kaliyug?

The newspapers are full of such bad news.

News about scams, traffic accidents, accidents caused by negligence, crime and so on and so forth hit your eye as you glance at a newspaper. The list is endless and I feel bad to add to this gloom by writing about them in my blogs.

While it is more than an year since my return, I am still not used to the speed at which these stories pop up. The frequency is amazing. Almost a scandal a day. On some days there are more than one fighting for space in the papers. The TV channels which revel in such news have a great time and manage to frustrate us even further with their endless debates which offer no real solutions! But it is not all bad! There are also some inspiring stories but you have to look for them as they are hidden in some corner of the papers.

Finally, I am also able to give some hope! I was with my golfing friends at the club for lunch and soon the conversation turned towards corruption. John Pinto who is full of anecdotes and stories gave us some interesting stories from the past about corruption in high places! Srihari reacted with 'These corrupt fellows must be put behind bars!' Shivkumar who edits and publishes a Kannada humor mag 'Aparanaji' said he had written about corruption for its December issue and I could read about it.

'But is there an end to it?' I asked. He said: 'It is something that is in our genes and has been there for centuries'. (We have heard this before!) and then what Shiv said took my breath away. 'Yes it is happening, corruption will end but will take a couple of centuries' and announced that 'Kaliyug has ended and Satya yug has begun'.

I first thought he was just pulling my leg but realised that he was serious. He visits the interiors as a member of the Agastya Foundation (Both Srihari and Shivkumar are with the foundation) and interacts with teachers and students and has seen positive changes in the countryside.

He argues that people are acting against corruption and are exposing corrupt people and this has never happened before in such a scale. News paper write about corruption, people go to court with proof obtained by them as a right (Right To Information). Some have even died while going after corrupt practices but this has not stopped other people.

I hope he is right and we are into Satya Yuga. Interesting to read about it and the Mayan prophecies for 21-12-2012.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A visit to Paschima Vahini and Srirangapatnam.

My memories of Paschima Vahini is linked strongly to my maternal grandmother. The only grand parent I knew. I still remember the careful walk down the steps to the river and the shock I felt as she dunked my head down thrice below the water.

I also recall taking a dip in the Kaveri later on. I was a very worried kid as I had heard that there were crocodiles in the river and kept my eyes peeled for any unexpected movement on the banks of the river.

I have been to the place a few more times, twice to consign the ashes of my parents. While these moments were poignant, it is the memory of my grandmother that fills my heart as I walk down the steps to the river. The unquestioning belief part of my nature was entirely due to her nurturing. She passed away when I was 14 years old and I was desolate. I guess my questioning attitude took over from then on.

But this story is about a temple her grand father had built on the banks of Paschim Vahini and the tradition of Tulamasa Kainkarya the family continues to follow till today. (Tulamasa is during mid October to mid November)

It is a typical Hindu Indian story. My great great grandfather Kodagu Srinivasa Iyengar was tired after a long travel on horseback (This impressed me a lot as I heard the story from my Grandma!) found a nice place to bathe and rest. While asleep under the ashwatha tree he had a dream. He was asked to dig the earth below where he rested and he would find an idol of Lord Krishna. He should
then build a temple and install the idol. He was also told to perform kainkarya of taking care of all pilgrims who would visit this sacred place.

The ground below the tree was dug, a beautiful idol discovered and a temple built. The pilgrims who came were offered food as ordained in his dream and the tradition which began 200 years ago continues till today. Many members of our extended family stay there during the month supervising the temple activities and organizing the 'Annadhana' for the pilgrims who arrive during Tulamasa to take a dip in the river and offer prayers. Annadhana consists of a freshly cooked lunch which is served around noon.

I remember my grandmother's brother was very active during my younger days, later my maternal uncle, my mother, maternal aunts and older cousins would all stay and take care. Now it is the turn of younger aunts and cousins! Their dedication and especially the contribution of their time is admirable. It is not easy to camp for a month and deal with many issues. Some days the numbers of pilgrims visiting is unexpectedly large and they manage to somehow give them food.

Paschima Vahini finds mention in Puranas as a sacred place from time immemorial and mythology says that God Brahma's daughter came down to earth as river Kaveri and it is said that a dip in the river washes our sins, guarantees moksha and a freedom from rebirth.

We made a pilgrimage on the 16th of this month and it is always a special feeling as we feel connected to the temple and the river which holds the remains of our parents somewhere in its depths.

We did not go directly to Paschima Vahini. We took a small detour to Gosai Ghat which my sister Srilatha had seen earlier. A beautiful place to visit.

My cousin's wife Sridevi takes a careful step as she gets into the water.

The rest preparing to take a dip in the river.

It was nice to see the larger river bank almost litter free.

This warning and the flowing water discouraged me from swimming! The dip in the river felt great. While I believe there is more to attaining moksha than just a dip in a sacred river, it felt heavenly while we were in the water. The water was pure and clean. May be the reason why Tulamasa is the chosen time for a dip.

The small temple was neat and the walls recently painted.

This boating is for a very special purpose.

The boat had no takers on that day.

This notice forbids people from drinking alcohol and consuming non vegetarian food in the area. Typically I saw a couple of empty whiskey bottles lying just near the sign!

There were some jarring reminders of what the future may hold. Hope someone can convince Pepsi to be more sensitive to the surroundings!

We then came to Paschima Vahini and I was again disappointed to see more number of buildings, restaurants and lodges blocking the view of the river and the temple our forefathers built. I gather many structures are illegal. Earlier it was a small beautiful temple with an open space next to it, which could have been made into a nice garden for people to relax and enjoy the view of the river. Sadly the reality is very different.

I wish the gurus who hold forth on our sashatras will usher in a change by unearthing doctrines which demand clean and well maintained surroundings for our well being, material and spiritual.

The rear entrance to the temple.

The main entrance.

The building next to the temple which was once an open space with a small garden.

The building on the left of the temple! Ideally the communities could join together to make the surroundings beautiful.

The steps I took as a kid with my grandmother.

The ceremonies before conveying the remains to the river.

The building across the river.

The tree under which the idol of lord Krishna was unearthed.

The flood level. The temple was half under water.
The rituals during Tulamasa:

The chanting of prayers as we wait for the doors to open.

The devotees from the town wait patiently.

The doors finally open.

Electricity failed and it felt special as the aarthi was performed in darkness. We were taken back in time!

Offering homage to the river from the doors of the temple.

Reaching out for the aarthi. This is a very important part of our ritual.

We bow our heads to be blessed by the priest.

The annual report.

Great grandparents. The only pictures of our ancestors we could find.

The modern hygienic kitchen.

This has a very special significance. My mother would tell me the story with a lot of excitement. She was in the court yard of the temple making wicks for the lamps when she heard a loud thump. She looked up and was surprised to see a silver vessel lying near her and then she saw a monkey which had thrown the vessel down looking at her. Then the monkey just vanished! As no one came looking for the vessel it was decided to use the silver to cover the Hanuman idol. She maintained that Lord Hanuman had arranged this miracle to happen and she felt blessed as she was the chosen one.

As I researched the web to learn more about Paschima Vahini, I saw this report from Hindu. May be there is hope that there will be improvements will be made, but we really do not know.
Having ideas is fine but implementation is something else.

A deluge of problems at Paschima Vahini R. Krishna Kumar
Tuesday, Jul 22, 2008

Tale of woe: The ghats at Paschima Vahini near Srirangapatna.

MYSORE: The Paschima Vahini, near Srirangapatna, presents a picture of neglect. The ghats and the steps leading to them are on the verge of collapse.

Thousands of people come to the place to immerse the ashes of the dead. A priest, who has been officiating ceremonies here for several decades, said that any development here was last witnessed during the time of the Maharajas.

In summer, the water level is low and the banks are strewn with garbage. The water stinks as garbage is thrown into the river. During rainy season, people take risk to immerse the ashes of the dead in the absence of chains and meshes as at the bathing ghats. According to the local priests, there is a need to clean the banks and undertake dredging operations to ensure that there is enough flow of water during summer while ensuring that garbage is regularly cleared.

The bathing ghats need to be strengthened and the flooring has to be relaid the steps are in urgent need of repairs. Local people have suggested that chains be fixed along the banks to facilitate people to take a dip in the river without the fear of being washed away, especially during rainy season.

Located in sylvan settings, the area is historic and there are a few structures belonging to the period of the Maharajas. It was here that the then Chief Minister Chengalaraya Reddy took the lead in the ceremonies associated with the immersion of Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes on February 12, 1948. A stone plaque records the event for posterity but it is now covered with weeds.

Srirangapatna is often clubbed with Mysore (which is just 13 Kms away). In reality, Srirangapatna needs to be considered as a stand-alone weekend destination. As an island of cauvery, it has perfect setting, It has a rich history to narrate as it witnessed the valour of Tipu Sultan. Sri Ranganatha temple at Srirangapatna, is an important pilgrimage centre. Naturalists will love Ranganathitu Bird Sanctuary, arguably one of the best in India.

Temple at Srirangapatna

Tipu Sulatn, Srirangapatna

Srirangapatna near Bangalore
Daria Daulat

Srirangapatna attraction

Ranganthittu, weekend from bangalore

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Living in a bubble!

I posted some pictures of a gated community on FB. Then I thought it could also be a blog. The pictures were taken at various times of the day.

Living in a gated community is educative in its own way. It is quiet, cars are driven slowly and kids run around freely. There is a community feeling and it feels secure.

It reminded me of my days as a kid when my parents moved in to a new extension of the city. Not gated! But we felt secure as there were no speeding vehicles. We played cricket on the streets. In most houses grandparents would keep an eye on us. Not that we wanted to be secure this way. It deterred us from our monkey tricks of climbing trees and so on.

This has changed now as most of the new extensions, excepting such gated communities, are poorly planned with no space for children to play. This I feel is the biggest tragedy. Every child has a right to this secure feeling of playing and running around without a fear. I believe we have lost it as a nation.

It was during Deepavali, the festival of lights!

Some of the families went overboard with the crackers, but it was a delight to watch. Especially for the many expat children.

This is an interesting story. The residents have a tradition pooling strings of crackers from each house and creating a long chain, which one of the boys claimed was a record. As the crackers went bang-bang it felt like being in the midst of a war zone.

This went on for twenty odd minutes. More than 100,000 crackers were burst non stop.

The place was cleaned up the very next day! Very impressive.

Babies on Strollers

The vigilant security.

Electric fence, I am not sure how this works.

It is time for the children to return from schools.

They are invariably received by parents or someone from the household.

This driver was getting bored and is looking for company.

The place is next to impressive office buildings.

It appears calm all the time.

Some drivers come in their own vehicles. I remember a few drivers in Bangkok would come in their cars to work!

A few of the maids have uniforms!

The drivers have a chat as they wait for their bosses.

This car is special. Its registration number is '1'. Usually reserved for VVIP's

This street is not in a gated community! But I am sure with some imagination and cooperation between authorities and residents we can give space back to the children to play and run around in many of the residential areas.