Posts Tagged ‘religion’

On the death of children….

December 17, 2014


Children reached out
For the shimmering colours
Of their future
Little knowing
That their own elders
Would burst that bubble
In the red glare of a bloodbath.
Nothing will remain now
But the memory of their innocence.
Trusting lambs,
Slaughtered where they came to learn, to grow.
Agony, incredible pain,
In the hearts of their families.
What inhuman beings are these
Whose hearts hold so much anger
And hatred, that they can kill children
In cold blood?

Every child, to me, is like my little grandchildrn, chasing dreams, with happiness and hope..

On different orientation…..

November 7, 2014

A thread about cross-dressing, trans-genders and homosexuality prompted a friend to write the following mythological/religious reference on a mailing list:

Just consider the following:
1. Shiva cross-dressed as Ardhanarishwara

2. Arjuna cross-dressed as Bruhannala

3. Vishnu, not only cross-dressed, but actually “crossed over” as Mohini, had an affair with Shiva and produced Hariharaputra/Shaasta/Ayyappa.

4. We have a tradition that Aravaan, who was Arjuna’s son was expected to die in the next day’s battle—-such was the prophecy. Aravaan was asked as to what his last wish was. He wanted to marry. No one wanted to marry a person who was going to die the next day. Finally a transvestite/Hijra volunteered. That is why Hijras are also called Aravaanis. There are Aravaan temples which are visited by Hijras and others.

5. Many male Krishna-worshippers, even today cross-dress as Radha and worship Krishna.

6. In the 1500-year old Jambukeswara Temple at Tiruvanaikovil near Tiruchirapalli, even today, every day at noon, the priest cross-dresses as a young woman and performs the puja to Shiva.

7. Sakhi and Sakha are all traditions with enormous homoerotic content and are considered entirely legitimate.

8. Khajuraho has sculptures depicting both male homosexuality and lesbianism. At least our ancestors did not feel these were “dirty” for the temple atmosphere. If they are dirty, it is only because the dirt arises in the mind of the beholder.

In fact, cross-dressing, pursuit of androgyny, homo-eroticism, transvestite identities etc. are so common and frequent in Hindu traditions that they do not even call for excess comment. Arjuna, who is one of our great heroes, exhibited signs of bisexuality, cross-dressing and a refreshing androgynous personality. He was known as “Sabyasachi” because he was ambidextrous and could shoot arrows from both hands. The term also captures his inherent androgyny. Quite cool, if you ask me.

My take on homosexuality/lesbianism:

How on earth does it matter who we sleep with, or not? The people we are are what matters. I too have several friends of a different orientation; when they told me so, my response was that I was waiting for the day when it would no longer be necessary to make these statements at all.

Especially in our repressed, hypocritical Indian culture, where even heterosexual activity is so frowned upon, just imagine how tough life must be if one has a different orientation (it’s been proved that this is genetic and not a cultivated choice.)

We can be in denial, as we seem to be often in denial of there being child molesters in so many Indian families. Or…we can accept an aspect of humanity that has existed as long as humanity does. Believe me, as a naturalist, I know that such behaviour is common to other species too. If we remove the moral tag from so many things….smoking, drinking, non-vegetarianism, and others…we would, I feel, be happier people ourselves, accepting those whom we meet for what they are.

I have several friends on both sides of the spectrum, and the good friends are good friends NMW…No Matter What!

When D’s uncle and his partner (they’ve been together for 20+ years now) came to attend DnA’s wedding, we were rather apprehensive about whether they would face whispers and sniggers. But on the other hand, my friends seemed to perceive them as people, and everyone got along so well!

One of my gay friends in Bangalore laughs about the fact that landlords are so against letting an apartment out to a young man and a young woman, and unthinkingly let their homes out to two men or two women.

Let’s just meet and interact with people as people, and not go by the bodies they inhabit! And let’s remember…love is so precious and rare to find in this world, let’s not scorn it because it may come in an unusual garb….pun intended!

Memories of Pujo

October 2, 2014

IMG_0009 Durga Puja, Ulsoor, 06

চেযে দেখলাম নিজের মনের মধ্যে।
পুজোর সে দিনগুলি আবার
চোখের সামনে এসে পড়ল।
ঢাকি, প্রসাদ, নতুন কাপড় জামা,মিষ্টি,ঘুঘনি,সে যে ভীড় ….
মনে করিলাম সেই দৃশ্যগুলোকে।
আজ আমি অনেক দূরে আছি.
তবুও আমার মন ক্ষণে পৌঁছে গেল
মায়ের কাছে….
মহিষাসুর মর্ধিনি! দেবী!
আমার প্রনাম স্বীকার কর গো মা!
তোমার চরণ স্পর্শতে
আমার মন ও আত্মা
কমলের মতন ফুটিয়া পড়ে।
জননী, ই জগতের রক্ষা কর !

I looked back, in my mind,
And revisited the days of Pujo.
The dhaakis, prasad, new clothes, sweets, those crowds..
I saw those scenes once again.
Today, I am very far away.
But my mind reached the Mother
In an instant.
O Slayer of Mahishasur! O Goddess!
Accept my reverence, O Mother!
At the touch of your feet
My mind and soul
Blossom like lotuses.
O Mother, protect this Earth!


is my blogpost from 8 years ago! Happy Bijoya to everyone!

Reflections on Krishna Jayanti (Janmashtami)

September 16, 2014

A friend on a mailing list had talked about Krishna, and said:

Surprisingly, the word Krishna means dark/ black color. However this had not affected his immense popularity.

One point occurs to me, visiting St.Louis at a time when division based on the colour of one’s skin is more pronounced than ever, in this deeply segregated city.

​I personally find the “dark/black colour” of Krishna has been sanitized in Indian folklore (like Rama’s skin colour, too!) to a purple-blue, from the actual dark grey that “megha varNam” is…the rain-bearing monsoon clouds certainly don’t have a hue other than that!

I have heard so many Indian people claim, with righteous pride, “We venerate dark gods.” It is precisely these people, for whom the colour of even a god seems important, who seem more intolerant of darkness of skin in humans.

I think it is the other qualities of Krishna…his romantic allure, his people skills, and indeed, his crafty statesmanship…that account for his popularity.That, and his association with music, and the allied “lalit kala” (fine arts.)

I can never help being impressed by the subtlety by which he ensured that the Pandavas’ representative, Arjuna, got the first choice of his guidance in the war. (He asked one Pandava and one Kaurava to come and sit next to him, and ask their boons when he awoke. Arjuna devotedly sat at his feet as he slept, and Duryodhana proudly sat at his head. This ensured that on waking, Krishna saw Arjuna first, and gave him the first choice. Arjuna chose Krishna, and the Kauravas got Krishna’s armies. It does intrigue me that Krishna, knowing in advance the outcome of the war, so easily sacrificed his loyal soldiers on the battlefield.)

In Anjana’s high school Hindi text book (probably Class 5 or 6, in the early nineties) there was a prose passage which dealt with Krishna, not as a god, but as an excellent statesman and leader of the various tribes which made up the kingdoms around Mathura.

I thought that Rahi Masoom Reza’s characterization of Krishna in the famous TV serial as a mischieviousm impish person, not above the occasional deviousness and political stratagem, is very human, and sticks close to the persona that most of our literature and music talk about.

God or man? The choice is ours to make, based on our faith, or lack of it.

Chakra and yantra, 040814

August 4, 2014

When was tending his bike, he asked me to take this snap of the cycle gears:


This was mounted on the bicycle wheel, which is called “chakra” in Sanskrit. It has 10 gears…or levels.

It reminded me of a spiritual aid, that has been worshipped for centuries in Hindu culture:


(Pic from the net.)

Here is the wiki entry about

The Sri Chakra or the Sri Yantra

Which has nine levels.

How apt, I felt, that the cycle, which is a “yantra” or instrument, has two “chakras”, with gears that so closely resemble an ancient “chakra” or “yantra”!

Kinetic energy does not, after all, seem to change much over many centuries!And cycling is a religion for many….

Ales Stenar, Sweden, 040714

July 14, 2014

“Ale’s Stones (or Ales stenar in Swedish) is a megalithic monument in Skåne in southern Sweden. It is a stone ship, oval in outline, with the stones at each end markedly larger than the rest. It is 67-metres long formed by 59 large boulders, weighing up to 1.8 tonnes each,” says the Wiki.

We took the road from Tomelilla to Ystad:


We passed some beautiful buildings on the way:





It was wonderful to see so many cycles!


One cyclist reminded me of me!


We went through fields of poppies:


and potatoes:


We entered Kaseberga:


I’d made a packed lunch, and we sat and ate it with relish!



(That dahi is TEN PERCENT FAT!!!)

Both the cultivars and the wildflowers, like this Swedish Jasmine (or perhaps it is Mockorange?) were beautiful!


This Hollyhock was nearly black!


Nina id’d the Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), which can be medicinal or toxic to humans, depending on its use:


Bluebells nodded in the breeze:


Poppies laughed in the wind:


They were beautiful, whether or not I knew their names!







Imagine having rambler roses growing wild!


The souvenir shop was very colourful:


Some gates were obviously not used!


Some wall decorations were lovely:


We walked past this ancient cottage, dreaming in the sunshine.


Who’s more beautiful…Nina or the poppies?


Fat, woolly sheep were grazing everywhere:


We approached the stone “ship”:


We found some paragliding attempts in progress, but there was not a stiff enough breeze.



We sighted the Baltic Sea:


the cove had a sandy beach:


At last we were near Ales Stenar:


But you think I’m going to let you see it? I’d got sidetracked by some beautiful butterflies in the grass:





The sea called everyone:


Ok, ok! Here is the stone ship, from prehistoric times…


I was again sidetracked by many larks, that went up in the air to sing:


They landed again (I had to keep far from them!)



Here’s a short video of their behaviour:

Back to the awe-inspiring Ales Stenar!




Amongst the ancient stones, a traditional pastime, kite-flying, was being tried out:



The grasses and the sea made a stunning combination!


So did the wildflowers and the sky:


A puff of wind would play parent…


The product of this seed would set me dreaming in a different way 😀


Houses talked about the past, too:


Windows were works of art:


Treasures lay spilled:


Some houses were mute; it was their thatched roofs that harked back to ancient times, and it was as if an eye was open in that roof:



Some of the houses were pretty old, too, if not pre-historic!


I caught these two Hooded Crows, feeding:



Avoiding the ice-creams and other calorific snacks, we got into Nina’s car and drove to Glimminghuse Castle…but that’s the next post!

July 11, 2014

I’ve been wandering around a good deal, and have got back to good internet connectivity. Here are two of the very interesting places I visited in the Skane area of Sweden, thanks to Nina Pries and her affectionate hospitality….

We decided to start with visiting Carolyn Pihl, who used to live in Sweden before she moved to the UK, and Donna Ruth Zabielski-Morillo, who came from the US to Spain to live, at the stuga (cottage) they’d rented out in Tomelilla. I dragged Prashanth Chengi along, too.

Here are Caro and Nina, who brought colour into my life when they visited me at Bangalore earlier!


The cottage actually used to be the stables, and the weather-vane bears that out:


The cottage is well-decorated and comfortable inside, too:


A cute loft:


A cute staircase to the loft:


The old stable windows look wonderful:



Some pleasant modern windows, too:



Nice pics on the wall:


We sat outside in the garden,


scoffing doughnuts and swilling coffee:



No one realized that there was a spider on the sun-umbrella over our heads:


…so I didn’t tell them, either!

I liked this whale-in-the-wood just behind us:


Manolo is a great raconteur, with a great sense of humour.


Ray is rather quieter, but can come up with great one-liners! I wish I’d had more time with him…well…maybe tomorrow evening (we are meeting again, in Linkoping, hopefully.)

I wandered around the garden while the others chatted, and was enchanted by what I saw:







This seemed to be the main house:



Another house nearby:


The view from there:


The flowers in the garden included hollyhocks


Pelargoniums (can I forget that I call Caro ….PQ, or Pelar Queen, or just Pelar Rani?)


Daisies and roses:




Wild flowers delighted me, too:






this, told me, is

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

…that is often used in preparations to help people sleep; it was also used as perfume in the past. Given its sweet scent, this is not surprising!



Bees and other insects were at their pollination work, amongst the flowers:





This barn had a Swallows’ nest, with the parents flying in and out:


We went for a walk to a very old, ruined church nearby, which is still sometimes used for weddings:


This Muscovy Duck was sitting in the stream that we crossed:




A White Wagtail sat on top of the barn:


We crossed fields of asparagus


and horse-radish:


A railway track, too…


Local trains are purple!



We came to the church:


It lay, dreaming in the sunshine:


The explanatory plaque was, of course, in Swedish!


The gates were hospitably open:


The very lichen on the rocks seemed mellow with age:


Narrow, slit-windows spoke of defence against marauders, when a church was also a citadel:


Photography was mandated!


A pigeon seemed to be one of the present inhabitants:


What scenes had these windows looked down upon? Now, like the eyes of a departed man, they were shut…


The church did look like a face that was exclaiming at its own chequered past:


Overhead soared a European Black Kite:


The men were probably discussing how the hot weather was good for a beer!


Here we are, photographing on our way back:


The cattle made a pretty scene:


Nina wanted to get to know the cattle better!


I photographed my friends:


After Tomelilla, we were going to Ystad…


But that’s the next post!

Bus ride from Goteborg to Linkoping, 150614

June 19, 2014

It was to be a 4-hour bus ride to get to Linkoping (by the way, the latter is pronounced lin-show-ping and the “shoping” is similar to the modern English “shopping”…there were markets which then grew into these towns/cities .)

I started with a prismatic tram-shelter seat as we waited to get to the Central Station:


As we took the tram through Goteborg, to the central bus/train station, I saw some buildings.

I looked at what I felt must be an ancient water tower, and Google tells me that it is, indeed:


An ancient church, probably..the solidity of those buildings!


We approached the Central Station:


It was a picture-postcard!


Nearby was an hotel:


As my bus left Goteborg, I didn’t know what this more modern tower was:


Signs helped me know where we were headed:



A town that we passed:


Lovely to see the modern bus shelter and the ancient copper-covered cupola!

I realized that the Bus Gods must be appeased:


This was in Jonkoping:


Contrary to everything I’d heard, cars began to pile up (I counted more than forty in line!) at this traffic signal:


We were travelling along the large Lake Vattern.


Another beautiful spire:


Our drivers were Mike, and Pia, reflected here:


I saw windmills but didn’t tilt at them:


Beautiful meadows sped past:


We arrived in Linkoping:


Ikea! I’ve always wanted to visit this place IN Sweden (I’ve visited in several other countries and cities).


I was hoping to see the Gota Canal, but I only saw the sign.


Fleecy clouds, pretty houses and green trees welcomed me:




A very witty sculpture of a hoop, with a dog looking askance at it, was at one roundabout (if you look carefully, you can see the small dog.)


The hoop itself was a marvel of balance!


I passed “Biltema”, which my cyclist friend Prashanth Chengi, whom I met on LiveJournal, tells me is a cycle store:


Prashanth just finished the cycling marathon of Sweden…the Vatternrundan, a 300-km ride around Lake Vattern!

A quick view of the Linkoping Cathedral:


I hope to find out what this cigarette-lighter building is:


Was this a planetarium or telescope? I couldn’t tell.


I didn’t like these smokestacks quite so much!


But at Linkoping Station and Bus Stand, my journey came to an end!


Thyagarja Aradhana (thyAgarAja ArAdhA)…a music festival to venerate a saint

January 21, 2014

Today, 200114, is, according to the Hindu calendar, Bahula Panchami, and this is the day that


attained samAdhi on the banks of the river Kaveri, at Thiruvayaru, iean Tamil Nadu.

Over the years that I have learnt, and been interested in, Carnatic music, this has turned into a major, televised event called the

Thyagaraja Aradhana

I just finished watching it on DD Podhigai, it used to be televised on the Doordarshan TV, the official “Government” channel which was the only channel we had in the beginning of TV! Before that, in Kolkata, I would hear it transmitted over the radio.

Here’s the first of the “pancharatna” (“five gems”…the five special compositio ns by the saint that are the highlight of the musical worship), sung in 1986; you can see stalwarts like Maharajapuram Santhanam, and that towering musician, Semmangudi Sreenivasa Iyer.

FB album by M D Ramaswami, with a very interesting narrative

Here’s all the “gems” being sung last year, from DD Podhigai (I must say, the shrill singing by ladies, who are trying to sing one octave over the pitch, which is set to suit men’s voices, is quite awful):

Though Thyagaraja was a saint, and his samadhi (and the singing) are supposed to be open to one and all, social prejudices prevailed for a long time. Gender discrimination, particularly, was quite bad, persisting until 1940. For the story of how

Bangalore Rathnamma

laid the foundation stone to the temple to the saint, only to be denied access (women were not allowed in those days),

click here

Carnatic music has also been the traditional bastion of the Brahmin community, with the very interesting exception that nAgaswaram, thavil and mridangam players hail from the Pillai community…Brahmins are a very “exclusive” caste and did not, earlier, even allow other castes into their homes…so this co-existence is intriguing.

My parents conducted the Aradhana in Kolkata, under the auspices of the Carnatic Sangeeta Sammelan, for many years. Apart from this, Rasika Ranjana Sabha (or RR Sabha as it was called) also conducted an event.

The event is also celebrated by the south Indian diaspora, in the US, at

Cleveland, Ohio

It has also developed into a major event–both a music and dance festival– for the south Indian diaspora, but it is not held at the actual time of the saint’s attaining nirvana; this year, it is from March 28 to April 7. Interesting, this year, to have a Thyagaraja festival dedicated to the memory of another of the trinity of Carnatic music, Maharaja Swathi Tirunal!

There has, of course, been a lot of politics surrounding the festival, and I just try to look past the human element to the divinity that still ensures that many people gather each year on the sandy banks of the Kaveri, and offer geetanjali (musical reverence) to this saint.

The irony, however, never fails to strike me…Thyagaraja was a man who was poor all his life, renounced the world and became a sanyAsi a few days before his death, and reached out to the masses through the simplicity of his songs…and today, he is a gold-plated statue,decked with garlands and jewellery, accessible only to those with “VIP” tickets…he is saluted by the rich and the powerful..and the poor, common people to whom he reached out can attend the concerts that happen over the days of the festival..but not many do. It’s still a bastion of the Brahmin caste/community, and a very “Hindu” event…old divisions continue to live on.

malE mahAdEshwarA temple, MM Hills, Karnataka, 120114

January 15, 2014


The malE mahAdEshwara temple

is the Wiki entry for this beautiful temple, near which we stayed as part of the first Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary (CWLS) survey, from 10th to 12th January, 2014.

Chandra Shikara:


(Shiva is known as Chandra Shekhara, One Who Holds the Moon Atop His Head, so I found this image appropriate!)

I’ll be writing about the Survey, and our adventures during, and after it….but to me, one of the bonuses of participating in such surveys is the opportunity to know this land of mine, her people, and her heritage, a little better.

Male Mahadeshwara Hills (Kannada: ಮಲೆ ಮಹದೇಶ್ವರ ಬೆಟ್ಟ) is a pilgrim town located in the Kollegal taluk of Chamarajanagar district of southern Karnataka. It is situated at about 150 km from Mysore and about 210 km from Bengaluru

click here for info about MM Hills.

Now…the Maley Mahadeshwara temple….apparently,this is not a temple to a god, but a human saint!

The temple complex was built by a rich Kuruba Gowda landlord called Junje Gowda.According to legend, Lord Male Mahadeshwara was born in the Kaliyuga to a fair coloured virgin woman known as Uttarajamma. In his boyhood, he has spiritually guided by the then pontiff of Suttur Mutt and Kunthur Mutt. The young saint is supposed to have come from Srishaila to this part of the state. He is said to have performed several miracles, living in the dense forest area surrounded by seventy sevehills in seven circles. Six centuries ago, it was not a safe place for human habitation. The young saint went in to the forest area, to save the saints who were performing penance and were taken captive by an evil king known as Shravana who possessed powers of black magic.



Three chariots:


The chariots are pushed into the temple at dusk:


The professional singers of the epic story of Lord Mahadeshwara are called “Devara Guddas” (God’s mountain) and ‘Kamsaleyavaru’ (those singers who keep time with ‘Kamsale” –bronze cymbals). The song and dance routine is called Kamsale.


Kamsale putting their Sloth Bear caps on people’s heads to bless them, and ask for money:


Kamsale is closely connected with a tradition of Shiva worship. The artistes are drawn from the Haalumatha Kuruba Gowda community and are initiated into this profession very early in their lives and after initiation, they are required to lead a very discipllined life, as prescribed by tradition. Only those who have vowed to live a life of devotion to Mahadeshwara are supposed to perform kamsale. The dance is a part of a ‘deeksha’ or oath and is taught by a teacher or spiritual leader. Kamsale artists are illiterates and have no printed literature. They learn those songs orally. They participate in fairs, which are held in Mahadeshwara hills during ‘Diwali’, ‘Shivaratri’ and ‘Ugadi’ festivals.[3] Hence, Mahadeshwara is also known as Kurubara Devaru or Badawara devaru Madappa
“Chellidaru Malligeya” is a famous folk song that describes the devotion and worship of lord Mahadeshwara.

There are a lot of shops in the temple courtyard.


We went looking at the brassware:


Here are the bells for cattle (gejjE):


Votive torches are lit and carried around:


Another view of the temple:


and at night:


My country is dotted with such treasures…