Thursday, November 26, 2009

An unusual sight

We recently saw a sight in our building, which is common in Kerala, but rather unusual for this city. Shankar was the first to spot the man atop our coconut tree, and suggested that it was a good opportunity for some photos.... So here they are...... shots of a guy at ease atop a coconut tree, and his descent... without any aids except his hands and feet............

















Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The God takes a tour - of the area He lives in!




Living as close to the eastern express highway as we do, it comes as a surprise to see the many birds and the peace that pervades through our colony. For all practical purposes, it is like a small village, a parallel highlighted by the state of the roads inside, a permanent bone of contention between the residents and the BMC (the Municipal Corporation). However, yesterday, our colony literally took on the atmosphere of a village in celebration, when the Subramanya Mutt in our complex conducted its annual Kanda Shashti Mahotsavam.

To give a small introduction, Kanda Shashti is an auspicious day for Muruga, the son of Shiva and Parvati, also known as Skanda. This is the day the young warrior lord is said to have defeated the arch enemy of the Devas – Surapadman, the lord of the demons.

The story of Karthikeya

According to the legend, the demon lord Surapadman along with his brothers Tarakasuran and Simhamukhan defeated the Devas and ruled heaven. The Gods rushed to Brahma as usual, asking for help, and he informed them that the only one capable of defeating the demonic trio was the offspring of Shiva. But here, the Devas were in trouble, for Shiva was deep in penance, having forsaken the world after his wife Sati perished in the flames of the divine Yagna. Sati had re-incarnated as Parvati, daughter of Himavat, the Lord of the mighty Himalayas, but Shiva had no eyes for anyone. It was left to the Devas to open Shiva’s eyes to the beauty and allure of Parvati and hasten their marriage, but all their attempts were of no avail. Even an attempt by Kama, the lord of love to open the lord’s eyes only resulted in Kama’s death! Finally, it was Parvati herself, who, by her rigorous penance, managed to earn the attention and then, the love of the lord. Shiva and Parvati, once they got married, were so immersed in themselves, that the Devas had to rush again to Kailas to ask him to beget his heir soon. Shiva decided to oblige the Devas this time, and, opening his third eye, sent out sparks, which he said would give the Devas their warrior. Agni, the lord of fire, was deputed to carry the sparks to Ganga, who would nurture them, but he himself found them so hot, he had to be helped by Vayu, the lord of wind, and somehow managed to deposit the sparks in the river. Ganga, in turn, took the sparks to a sacred lake full of lotuses, where the sparks turned into 6 small children. They were picked up by 6 young girls passing by, who cared for them till Parvati turned up. Once Parvati lifted them, they al merged to form one child with 6 faces – known by various names, such as Karthikeya (since he was nurtured by the 6 Krittikas), Skanda (since he was carried by Agni), Guha (thanks to Vayu), and Shanmukha (6-faced). There are many more such names, but since the story is getting too long, I shall stop with these!

Anyway, Muruga grew up and in time managed to slay, first Tarakasuran, who had taken the form of a huge mountain, and then Simhamukhan, the lion-faced one. According to the story, Simhamukhan regrets the part he has played and apologizes to Muruga, who blesses him that he shall take the form of a lion and act as a vehicle to his mother, Parvati. Finally, he met Surapadman in battle; a battle which seemed would never end. Surapadman took to sorcery, changing shapes before he could be targeted by the Vel, the divine spear. He finally turned into an elephant and then to a tree, when the Vel split him into two. At the last moment of his life, he came to the realization that Muruga was nothing but part of Shiva, his revered lord, and begged forgiveness, and Muruga granted it to him – transforming the two halves of the tree into a peacock and a cock. The peacock he took as his vehicle; and the cock as his emblem on his flag!

This drama is enacted year after year on Skanda Shashti day, at temples to Karthikeya across India. This year, due to the vagaries of the Indian calendar, the day fell twice – once in the first week of November, and again yesterday. We have two temples to Karthikeya in our complex, and they decided to celebrate the festival on different dates. While I missed the celebration at the bigger temple, I was able to attend the celebrations at the smaller temple which is run by the Kukke Subramanya temple near Mangalore. Here, they had a procession all over our colony last night, with bands and people dressed up in various costumes and chanting slokas and Vedas leading and following the deity.It is, in essence, a victory procession for the lord. Let me share with you, images of this wonderful procession…….


Leading the procession - Samhith's favourite animal!



Larger, much larger than life!!!





Looks like a masquerade party!!!



Here come the leading couple......



Followed by the rest....



All aglow in the dark winter night...



Ready with his instrument....



Members of the Panchavadyam troupe...



Time to herald the advent of the Lord!!



Too happy to pose for the camera!!



Bands - of all types!



The trumpeters!



... and the 'mami' band - singing bhajans!



The lord arrives - in his palanquin - Palkhi



A Closer view......



Prayers of the devout.....



Paraphernalia of the Lord's procession .........












Waiting with our offerings.....that's Samhith, trying to peep through!





The procession moves on.....



....and the ladies too....



A final performance before they pass our building...



I was unable to get a good pic of the main deity, though I even  asked the priest to click one for me....... Probably the lord doesn't want his idol here... open for all to view......

It was a wonderful evening, a procession we shall look forward to, year after year!


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Its time to Celebrate!!!!!

Yes, it's celebration time for me, and for more reasons than one!




  • Next, my dream of seeing my name in print came true when my article on Omkareshwar was published in the Sunday Herald! I am yet to receive my copy of the newspaper, so meanwhile you can check out the article on their site here.


  • Last, but not the least, I just received a mail informing me that my blog had been nominated for the Best Travel Indiblog of the Year, 2008. Yes, it is a bit late for the year, but as they say, better late than never! As soon as the voting starts, I shall put up more details, so meanwhile, get ready to vote for me!!!!!




Saturday, November 21, 2009

Update on Birds in my neighbourhood.

November has been an interesting month so far, bringing with it not just some un-seasonal, but welcome, rainfall, but also a variety of birds. The first indication we had, of the change in weather, was the presence of a small bird hovering over our building. Usha was the first to spot it, and she wondered if it was a swift or just a magpie robin. I very confidently assured her that there were no swifts around, and that she must have just seen a robin flying high up! Imagine my surprise, when, the very next day, I opened my window to see a whole flock of swifts flying round and round over our building! There were at least 25-30 of them! I immediately called her, and both of us rushed to the terrace with binoculars and camera, hoping for at least one good shot! We had ample time to observe the birds, for they stayed there the whole morning, seemingly enjoying the sudden November chill as much as we were. Unfortunately, we were unlucky with the camera, and it was woefully clear to me that I had a long way to go before I could take pictures of these wonderful birds, which zipped past us at such speeds, we were unable to focus on them, much less actually take a snap! Even observing them through the binoculars wasn’t easy, given their speed, but finally, we gave up on the camera, and with some perseverance, managed to get a better glimpse through the lenses.


Here are the only few shots I managed to get….







 




I was so curious about the sighting of these birds, I wrote to the Bombay birds group, who helped me out, explaining that the fall in temperature must have forced the birds to fly lower and thus be easily visible, hunting insects which now flew lower thanks to the clouds and stormy weather.


These weren’t the only new winged visitors to our colony. The day after the swifts arrived, I rushed to the window hearing a ruckus and found a group of crows who appeared to be fighting over the food we keep out daily for them. This is a normal affair, something I wouldn’t have bothered about, except for the fact that a few of the crows at the centre of the melee appeared different. I looked on for a while and then noticed that the new ones were jet black in colour and a little bigger than our regular visitors. Could they have been the jungle crows or ravens? Unfortunately, the net on our kitchen window acts as a stumbling block to my photographic aspirations, and I had to settle for mere memories over digital ones……


On the other hand, I have finally managed to photograph one of the many parrots in my neighbourhood. Here’s one eating the little red berries which grow right opposite my window.








I have also managed to capture the many moods of the kite which is roosting on a coconut tree nearby.







Magpie robins have been regular visitors, and it appears they too are building a nest, for we are seeing them frequenting the same branches far more frequently than before… Here are a couple of pics, one where I managed to capture it in flight.
















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