Saturday, October 30, 2010

Drongoes in the morning

For the last few days, I have been awakened at dawn by birds instead of the irritating alarm clock. Wondering about which bird is making the noise has proved to be far more effective than waking up wondering about all the things I have to do that day. Anyway, a few days ago, I managed to find out at last the one who was making all that racket at the unearthly hour of dawn - it was a pair of drongoes!

Here are a few pics I have managed to click over the last couple of days.....





and here is a sample of the sound which makes all the noise. They seem to be really perverse birds, making so much noise that I wake up, and then shutting up when I get my camera ready!




P.S. I am out of town and will be back in a few days. Please leave your comments and I shall reply as soon as I get back.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Resident Reptile

This one is a permanent resident of our colony, and can be relied on to appear every now and then, reminding us of his presence, especially as a warning to kids not to venture into the bushes! Capturing him on camera has never been easy, even though he comes out to bask in the sun,  because he seems to be more wary of the kids than they are of him, and he is the first to disappear when they mark their arrival with whoops and shouts.

I saw the chap this week as I left to collect Samhith from school, and he didn't seem to be bothered much by me, and continued to absorb the warm sun rays after a sudden spate of rainfall.


As I clicked on and on, happy that I had my camera with me for once, he turned to regard me, as if wondering what I was doing!


Incidentally, for those of you who are interested, this one is an Indian (or Oriental) Garden Lizard, also called a Changeable Lizard. It is NOT a chameleon, though it does change its colours, but much more slowly.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Featured on 'Pocket Cultures'

Navaratri is over, and it's time again to get back to our normal lives.... and what better way to start my other posts, than to announce that I have been featured on the site 'Pocket Cultures'!


As the name suggests, Pocket Cultures is all about cultures. The site has contributors from all over the world, writing about their own cultures, thus giving an interesting insight into places from people who live there! They divide their posts into 3 categories - Blogs of the World, where they feature blogs from different countries, Topics of the World, which consist of posts by collaborators about world cultures, and finally, People of the World, which also has  a section called 'My partner is a foreigner', about cross cultural encounters. Anyone can contribute to this section. Sounds interesting, doesn't it? So go right ahead and check it out!

Forms of the Devi - An additional post for Navaratri 2010

The Subramania Samaj Temple in Chedda Nagar, where I live, is a temple dedicated to Lord Muruga or Subramanya. However, the temple also houses other deities such as Ganesha, Krishna, Ayyappan, Shiva, Durga and Hanuman. The temple thus celebrates a wide range of festivals, among them, Navaratri, dedicated to the Devi. For the nine days and nights of the festival, the temple resounds to the sounds of Sanskrit Slokas - from the readings of the Devi Mahatmyam in the mornings to the chantings during the Chandi Homam in the evenings. For those of us who live in the vicinty, the sound is almost like a background music, one we notice only when it stops!

However,the highlight at the temple (at least for me and Samhith!) is the decoration made every evening for the homam, depicting one form of the Goddess. For each of the nine days, we get to see a new arrangement, one we eagerly rush to see. This is the only part of the temple where photography is allowed, and it is now quite common to see young boys and girls with their digicams eagerly taking photos, asking about the Devi depicted! The name of the Devi is conveniently mentioned on a board for us ignoramuses, so it just makes things easier. As to the explanations, if the priest happens to be busy, it does not really matter, for the net is an inexhaustible source of information!

For the last three years, I have been photographing these depictions regularly and putting them up on my blog on a daily basis. This year, I decided to focus on the Golus instead, and decided to put all the decorations together as one post. So, here they are, with the names and the details, and hope you like them.....

On the first day, the Devis depicted were Jagat Prasootika and Lalita Tripurasundari


The one on the left is Jagat Prasootika, the divine mother of the Universe. The image shows the universe as a child in the arms of the mother,and signifies the divine mother nurturing the universe as her child. The one on the right is Lalitha Tripurasundari, the one who is the most beautiful in all the three worlds!

The second day brought us a new form of the Goddess, one we hadn't even heard of before - Bahuchara Mata. 


According to Wikipedia,
Bahuchara Mata is a Hindu goddess. She was a daughter of a charan Bapal dan Detha. She and her sister were on journey with a caravan when a marauder named Bapiya attacked their caravan. It was common practice in charan men and women if overpowered by their enemies, not to surrender but to kill themselves. Shedding the blood of charan was considered heinous sin. When Bapiya attacked the caravan, Bahuchara and her sisters announced tragu and cut their breasts. Legends tells that Bapiya was cursed and became impotent. The curse was lifted only when he worshiped Bahuchara Mata by dressing and acting like woman.[1] Today Bahuchara mata is considered patroness of—and worshipped by—the hijra community in India. Her followers believe in non-violence and consider killing of all animals and creatures a sin.
The goddess is shown seated on a rooster, holding in her arms, a sword, trident and lotus. Her fourth hand is shown blessing her devotees. There are temples dedicated to this form of the goddess in Gujarat as well as Rajasthan. The most famous among these temples, located in Mehasana, Gujarat, even has its own website, with lots of pictures and stories about the goddess. Click here to visit the temple website.

The third day's arrangement showed Maheshwari and Santoshi mata


Maheshwari (pronounced Maaheshwari) is the female counterpart of Lord Shiva (Maheshwara) and is thus shown with the same weapons as the Lord. This arrangement shows her with an axe and an antelope in her two upper hands, while among the lower ones, one is shown by her side, while the other is shown blessing her devotees. 

Santoshi Mata needs no introduction. She is probably the most popular among all the goddesses depicted! For those of you who would like to read more about her, click here.

The fourth day's arrangement depicted Kaala Ratri


Kaalaratri is the seventh goddess among the Nava Durgas - the nine forms of Goddess Durga, as mentioned in the Devi Mahatmyam. Her name literally means 'dark night', or the complete blackness of night, but she also depicts the destruction or victory over time (kaal) itself. She is dark,with unruly hair, wearing a necklace of lightning, holding weapons in her hands, and blessing her devotees by ridding them of fear. She is shown riding a donkey. 

The fifth day showed a bit of change, with the depiction of Kubera Lakshmi, which I have already written about here.

The sixth day brought along another surprise, with a Goddess I hadn't heard of -Momai Mata


Momai mata is a corruption of the word 'Mahamaya'. She is the kuldevi (family deity) of many Rajput clans, and she is known by various names in different areas of Rajasthan. She has, as her vehicle, the camel,not surprising, since she is a deity of the desert! One of the stories tells of a king who disrespected the devi since she was worshipped by the poorer sections of society, and had to bear the brunt of her anger. He finally had to atone by performing special pujas and vrats (fasts) to her, and she thenceforth became his family deity. To read more about her, click here

The seventh day's arrangement depicted the Devi as Shakambari.


In the Devi Mahatmyam, Durga prophesies that when the earth has been dry for a hundred years, the wise ones who continuously meditate upon her will cause her to be born in a superhuman fashion and she will bring forth from her body; fruits, flowers, vegetables and herbs to take away our hunger and thirst and our fear of death. She calls herself Shakambari. We pray to her for abundance of fruits and vegetables. She is depicted as being covered with fruits and vegetables, and as you can see from the photograph, apart from the face, every inch of the Devi is made up of vegetables, including the decoration around her. For more photos of Shakambari, see my earlier post.


The Eighth day or Ashtami is also called Durgashtami, so it was no surprise to see Kanaka Durga, but with one small difference. Kanaka Durga, located at Vijayawada, has only eight arms, while the figure depicted here has eighteen. In fact, the board mentioned her as 'Ashta Dashabhaya Kanaka Durga' or Kanaka Durga with 18 arms! Any explanations, anyone?



The ninth and final day is dedicated to Saraswati, so no surprises again - the decoration was the Goddess of Learning herself!


Ten goddesses in nine days (11 if you count Kubera Lakshmi). That includes two goddesses we had never heard of! This is the main attraction the temple holds for us during this festival season... There is so much we get to see, and get to hear.. and of course, so much I get to write about!!

Meanwhile, here are a couple of links from my friends' blogs..... both about Navaratri Golus....

EC has some wonderful pics of the Golu at Triplicane Sri Parthasarathy Temple,Chennai on the blog Temples of India.



Richard regularly posts about the events and festivities at Thiruvannamalai, and he has posted some wonderful pics of the Golu at the Yogi Ramsuratkumar ashram.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Navaratri 2010 - Day 10 - Part 2 - Dusshera

In my last post, Navatatri 2010 - Day 10 - Part1, I spoke about Vijayadasami, the conclusion of Navaratri. However, there's another aspect of the same day too, which is why this post is in two parts.

While Navaratri is a festival dedicated to the goddess, it is also associated with Lord Rama and his defeat of Ravana. All over the north, this event is celebrated on a grand scale as Ram Leela - the acts of Rama. Over nine days and nights, actors enact the roles of Rama, Lakshmana, Sita and Ravana, among the many characters of the Ramayana, living their parts as they play it. The tenth day or Dusshera is when this epic concludes with Lord Rama aiming an arrow at Ravana's heart, and an effigy of the dreaded asura goes up in flames.

I last attended Ram Leela as a kid when I was in Delhi, about Samhith's age, and don't remember much about it. The urge to see it again was great, but it didn't look possible, until this year, when I learnt that there was one being conducted quite near my house, albeit on a smaller scale than the more famous ones! Who cares about such insignificant matters anyway, if I could get to see one after ages! So off we went, Samhith and me.... his first Ram Leela, and mine, the first after ages! 

Here are a few images....

The stage with the characters playing Rama, Lakshmana and Vibheeshana on the left and Ravana on the right.


The good guys...


In action...


and here is Ravana's effigy - the one which will soon go up in flames....




Samhith enjoyed it a lot, which was quite a surprise, considering that he couldn't understand a word of the dialogues or the songs! Guess he just loved them sparring with weapons! Thats the main draw for the kids anyway, and the place was full of stalls selling swords and bow and arrows! I had a hard time steering Samhith clear of all that, and settled to buy him a flute and a horned head band instead!! Talk about compromises!

As it happened, we couldn't see Ravan go up in flames after all! The VIP who was expected to come and set off the arrow to kill Ravan was late, that too by more than an hour! The actors managed to keep up the tempo by indulging in extended war games, and entertaining the audience, and it was really fun, but unfortunately, I did not have an hour to simply lounge around while the VIP arrived, made his speeches and managed to get the arrow off. So, we decided to go back home. As Samhith mentioned, in a very grown up way, "At least we know that there is a Ram Leela here now, so we can come back again next year!"

Navaratri 2010 - Day 10 - Part 1 - Vijayadasami

The nine days of the festival are over, and the tenth day is a fitting conclusion to nine days of revelry. Signifying the victory of good over evil, it heralds new beginnings and is a day for starting new ventures. 

Vijayadasami is a day not just for celebrations, but also auspicious for starting something new. This year, Samhith begins his official studies in Carnatic Music (sounds great, doesn't it? But its just an euphemism for saying that his new music classes started today :)) We started off the day at the Fine Arts Society, Chembur, where we officially began the class by paying our respects to the teachers and repeating a couple of lines of the new songs from her. However, the main attraction there is their spectacular Golu.

Spectacular is the right word, for they have 15 huge steps full of dolls, each one better than the other! Most of them are huge and so well crafted, it is a pleasure to see them year after year. They also manage to get some interesting new ones every year, and also make a side-decoration which never fails to give us some wonderful ideas! Here is the Golu.......


And now for some of the dolls which caught our attention.....

Here is what Samhith loved the most - not surprisingly - Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill.


Next is one of Garuda with Lord Vishnu on his shoulders.


And now for my favourites - the Dashavatar Set. Those of you who have seen Golus will know that this is probably the most common one in the lot! Almost everyone has them (we don't, but then we don't have many sets anyway!), but what's special here is the detailing. There are few dolls with such beautiful detailing work available these days, which is why we haven't yet bought one! First on are Matsya, Kurma and Varaha.....


followed by Vamana and Narasimha (interestingly, the order here has been reversed. This is the first time I have seen the FAS make such an error. They are usually sticklers for perfection and correctness!)


Next are Parasurama and Rama....


Finally concluding with Balarama, Krishna and Kalki. (again, Balarama and Rama have been interchanged... Guess they have been too busy,or someone new has been setting it up!)


If you look close, you will see that Rama, Balarama and Krishna are clearly identifiable, which is not the case with many toys these days. But the USP of this set happens to be the last one in the series - Kalki. See how he is depicted, riding on a white horse? That is the way he is always described, but for some reason, the toy makers these days seem to have decided to depict him with the head of the horse!!!! This is the only place I have seen such an old-fashioned idol! Now, if only I could find one like this now, I would buy it immediately for my collection!!!

Anyway, moving on, here is the side decoration, this time representing mountains and the six famous temples of Lord Muruga, known as the Arupadai Veedu.


Here it is again, with the lights.....


The idea this time is rather simple, with just a mountain backdrop with their huge idol of Muruga on top, as you can see above, and the lower portion has the six temples represented by their various idols. This is also quite  a common set, but one which I like very much. 


Here is the village on the foothills, with a temple chariot procession..


A closer look at the chariot with the Lord inside...


The village women drawing water from a well....


The vegetable and fruit sellers.....


That completes the last of the Golus for this year... Lets see what the next year brings..... But my navaratri experiences are not over... Theres still more..

It has been a hectic day, with lots to write about, which is why this is just Part 1! Come back to read Part 2 tomorrow!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Navaratri 2010 - Day 9 - Durga Puja

We have been celebrating Navaratri the southern way for the past 8 days, and it is time for a change... Today, I have no more Golus for you, but I would love to take you along with me to the nearest Durga Puja Celebrations. The last 3 days of Navaratri are eagerly awaited by the Bengalis in my colony (and the entire neighbourhood), and they rush towards the only Bengali Durga Puja Celebration in the vicinity. Of course, this mass movement of humanity does lead to colossal traffic jams, but then again, we are used to them anyway, and who cares, when we get to celebrate just for 3 days! Anyone agree with me???

I am writing this post close to midnight, hoping to be done before then, and thus keeping up my resolution of a-post-a-day-during-navaratri! So, let me get straight to the point and take you along with me through my photographs!

Here is the decoration this year.... Any guesses?


The theme this time is the Mysore Palace, commemorating the 400th year of Dasara Celebrations there.


Here are some closer looks at the outside......






And here is a first view of the Devi.....

Now, lets enter.........
This huge and beautiful chandelier is a permanent fixture...


There are paintings everywhere, in an attempt to make it look like the Mysore Palace.




Now, I haven't yet been there, but this looks just too simple to even give an idea of the place to the masses.. What do you say, those of you who have been there?????

And here's a closer look at the Devi, taken with me straining to take a shot over the heads of all those tall people standing in front of me!



And here are a few more decorations outside.....


Samhith loved them....See how he posed in front of one!


Samhith loved the whole experience. I had taken him last year too, but he doesn't remember that one. This time, we were there during the Aarti, and he just loved the way the priest twirled the Aarti plate round and round! If you are wondering how I didn't manage to get a pic of that wonderful sight, thats because I didn't get to see it! The crowd was so huge that I just about managed to catch a glimpse of the Devi. Samhith got a better view because I made him stand on a stack of chairs, giving him an 'aerial view'!


Well, that's not all..... We also another Durga... One at a Maharashtrian/Gujarati Pandal..... Here she is....


Now that's called a merger of the East and the West. Wouldn't you agree?

LinkWithin

Blog Widget by LinkWithin