culture

London Journal

London Journal

My London days have just begun and so bear with me, readers, all my writings will now be the hues of London. To be candid, I came here with many prejudices and misgivings. England had ruled my country for 200 years, looted, plundered and left it with a begging bowl. Today we are a third world nation and London is the land of developed rich. Thus, England never featured in my good books and I have a very cynical view of anyone who settles here. Probably why God decided to send me here, to be able to wash away all this idiocy and be realistic, live in the present and enjoy what is, rather broods about what was.

I settled in with great enthusiasm and gusto, new country and living up to his reputation my husband chose a very beautiful locality to reside. We are very close to The Thames River and the Greenwich Meridian, the 0 longitude – Latitude line is a place we pass by everyday!  This is very historically rich and every road has a story to tell kind of a place. And, lucky for us, we could come in the summer months, where the weather is at its best behavior.  The first month flew by speedily. My daughter and I were at our adventurous best and managed to visit the important landmarks. We downloaded the app for bus routes and found our way.

This sightseeing month we did manage exemplarily well because we had the app on us. The timings of the bus, the directions, the next stop, route everything is marked and comes up immediately on this app ‘City Mapper’. All we used to do was type the place we had picked for the day and press ‘search’. In a flash, viola! All the options come up with  beginning with how long it takes to walk, then the bus- train routes available, then in case we wish to hire a cab what would that cost us.  A rain safe route also is given and that was our biggest thrill; discovering this ‘city mapper’.  This is the fun of a developed country.  Within a month though we had exhausted most of the routes and the city mapper has worn its charm. This is a vice of a developed country! Boredom sets in even before the enthusiasm can bid adieu properly.

We now knew which bus to board, where to alight and what time the next bus came and so on and so forth.  So, we had shifted to our next interesting task on hand, observing the other passengers.  A very interesting observation was: ‘people here rarely smile’. Most of the faces look hassled or brooding.  Everyone had their noses buried into a book or the damn phone. Everyone had earphones plugged in as if it was a part of the ear itself.  Phone and earphones are ubiquitous and people talking to each other are like the appearance of ‘Hailey’s comet’! Babies had the pacifier stuck into their mouth; so the most crowded bus also is usually eerily silent. So, apart for an occasional ‘sorry’ (when someone is asked to make way) and ‘thank you’ (when someone vacates a sit for an elderly person) our 50 minute bus ride was in absolute silence and stiff boredom.  “Nobody looks at anybody anymore, even if they do; they have suspicion written all over their faces.” (This was a co –passenger mumbling to himself; I was totally in agreement with his disgruntled mumbling)

 

In India, asking for directions and making friends on a journey is like second nature to everyone. By the time we left our house and reached the destination we would have made friends with the taxi driver, the security guard, and asked directions after every 5-7 minutes and made friends with all of them too. I am not that social a person to begin with and I definitely do not ask every second person for directions either. But this sharp contrast of totally relying on the phones and never ever asking anyone for help had me stumped. I spontaneously would look up and smile or try to strike a simple conversation and the response is very akin to London weather; cold and windy (not forthcoming to say the least). They have people from all over the world and maybe that makes them very hesitant too, the lack of awareness of culture and rules of the place is a handicap. And when the technology is so advanced and omniscient they may wonder why this harried looking silly – smiling woman is trying to chat up with them. What could they possibly know which the phone in my hand could not answer?  Funnily, the bus drivers also are strictly aware of their routes and their stops only, ask them about any other route or if this bus is close to some area, they look blank and clueless.

Now, my present test is, by the time head back to India, will this place rob me off my smile or will I succeed in making a few friends and pass the smile on. Will keep you all posted as it goes; latest is I am kind of blending with the place or adapting to London ways. My daughter has earphones glued to her ears and I have started to read on the bus. Let’s see when the weather changes and I can dazzle this place with my sunny smile. Wish me luck.

Disclaimer: The picture is a download! but I have many answers for that question:)

Baba Dhaam

Baidyanath Jyotirling temple, also known as Baba Dham and Baidyanath Dham is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the most sacred abode of Lord Shiva. According to Hindu Mythology the demon king Ravana worshipped Lord Shiva and in an attempt to appease the Lord began offering one head after the other as sacrifice. Pleased with Ravana’s devotion and sacrifice Lord Shiva descended to earth, played doctor and cured the injured Ravana. Since here, in this place God descended as a ‘Baidya’ or Physician (doctor) the place got its name, Baidyanath Dham; the place where the lord played Baidya.

Apart for the story attached to the name, many other interesting beliefs are attached to this most unique temple. This temple is contesting with 3 other temples for the enviable spot of being one amongst the 12 Jyotirling temples in our country. Some schools of thought believe Vaidyanath near Parali in Andhra Pradesh to be the Vaidyanath Jyotirlingam. Other schools of thought claim that Kiragram in Punjab and Dabhoi in Gujarat are the Vaidyanatha Jyotirlinga temples.

The uniqueness just begins here and everything about this temple is different and unlike any other temple in the world.  The origin of Baidyanath Dham is full of antiquity.

According to Shiva Purana, it was in the Treta Yuga that the demon Ravana, King of Lanka, meditated upon Mahadeva seeking that the Lord should permanently reside in Lanka. Shiva got pleased and permitted Ravana to carry His Lingam (a symbolic from of stone tinctured with circle of light) to Lanka, warning Ravana to not to let go of the Lingam till he reached his destination.  If he does have to let go of it then the lingam would get fixed at that spot forever.

On his way back from Mount Kailash it was time for Ravana to perform his Sandhya Vandanam and he searched for someone to hold the Lingam for him till he completed his pooja. Lord Ganesha is said to have appeared in the disguise of a shepherd and offered to hold the Ligam, but only for a little while. As fate would have it, Ganesha called out Ravana’s name 3 times saying he was tired and would like to relinquish the Lingam soon. And by the time ravana returned from his pooja the Lingam was set on the banks of the river and the shepered was nowhere to be seen.

Another story goes that Gods conspired and begged Lord Vishnu do play some trick because if the Lingam reached Lanka then there was no stopping Ravana and his further destruction of the world.  So, Lord Varun entered Ravana’s tummy giving him an unstoppable urge to release self and at the nick of the moment Lord Vishnu appeared in the disguise of a Brahmin and offered to hold the Lingam till Ravana released himself. Ravana took too long to relieve himself and the Bramhin placed the Lingam and disappeared.  Ravana tried to push, nudge, lift the lingam with all his might to no avail; and out of sheer frustration and anger he kicked the lingam on top and pushed it further down into the earth.  Ravana immediately realised his folly and casino begged to be forgiven but what was done could not be undone and thus Baidyanath Dham came to being. The lingam has a small denture on top and is practically inside the earth; only the dented top is what is visible to the devotees. This jyotirling is also known as ‘Manokamana Ling’ because it was Ravana’s wish that was being fulfilled by the benevolent Baba, or Lord Shiva.

The origin of the temple and its present day structure also has colourful history attached to it.  The temple is famous since the 8th century AD, the last Gupta Emperor, Adityasena.  Later during Akbar’s reign Man Singh is believed to have visited this temple regularly; he is said to be the one who got the tank excavated, the Mansarovar tank of today.

This temple passed on through generations and in the 18th century due to a political turmoil the temple is said have fallen into the hands of Nawab of Birbhum  and then after the East India Company came in 1788, Mr .Keating, the then collector of Birbhum restored the temple architecture and handed it over full control to the high priest.

This sacred place is thronging with devotees throughout the year and has more than 7-8 million devotees; a world record, during the holy month of shravana. This particular month people offer water of the holy Ganges to the deity; the water is collected from Sultangunj. Sultangunj is about 106km from this temple and pilgrims cover this distance on foot carrying 2 sets of clothes and the holy water. An unbroken human chain in saffron- dyed clothes stretches all the way from Sultangunj to the temple. All the pilgrims address each other as ‘bum’ and some devotees pledge to cover this 106km distance overnight, non-stop. They are called Dak-bum’s. Many villagers set up camp on either side of the trail selling food, shelter and massage oils. The tired bare foot pilgrims relax, get a massage done and walk on with renewed energy.

Another unique thing about this temple is women can visit this place during the shravan month particularly, even if they are having their monthly cycle. Secondly, because it is Bhole Baba’s temple one can see almost every other pilgrim smoking ‘ganja’ and lost to the world around!

The queen of Nepal (seeking a child) is also said to have covered this journey once and it took her the whole month of sharavan to cover the 106km.

Babadham is located in N.E. Jharkhand, 4 miles from /Jasidih station on the Eastern Railway.  It stands near G.T. Road connecting Delhi with Kolkata. Regular passenger buses ply from Ranchi, Bokaro, Jamshedpur and other places.

Hotels are innumerable but since this is a very small place, it is better check properly before choosing.The website: www.babadham.org/shrawan.php has detailed information about everything pertaining to this holy place.

 

Jaageshwar -Binsar

Jaageshwar -Binsar

A little about the name and its origin before moving to the famous temples in this wondrous area called Binsar. Binsar was originally known as Bineshwar and Binsar became the easy pronounceable choice. Most of the temples in this area are dedicated to the local Kumaoni God Gwalla or Golu. There are many temples dedicated to this God in this area, who is most renowned for his sense of justice. At the Chitai temple near Almora , people hang bells with letters to Golu asking for His mediation in legal issues.

Apart for the local Gods Binsar is home to one and only Mrityunjaya temple in the world and also a host of other temples in the Jaageshwar temple complex. These comprise about one hundred and more shrines, large and small, backed by huge deodar trees. There is a vast array of stone temples, all of them magnificently carved but the best are the shrines dedicated to the deities Jageshwar, Mrityunjaya and Pashtidevi, which have some beautifully intricate carving along the outer walls and main doorways. Most of the shrines are located in the main temple complex, but a kilometre away is the Dandeshwar group of temples, seven or eight shrines dominated by a massive temple with a towering spire.

Jaageshwar is believed to be one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of the country and has been an important centre for shaivism in our country. These 12 jyotirlingas are spread across the length and breadth of India but the location of these temples is contorversial too like all else in india. The eight one is the most controversial and has 3 claimants to this position. One is the Naageshwar temple in Aundh , Maharashtra, the second is the Dwaraka Naageshwara and the thirs is this Jaageshwar temple in Uttarakhand! The controversy arises from the fact that the scriptures describe the temple as ‘Daruka Vanam’. This translates to the Deccan plateau for some which originally was daruka vanam, for some others it is the Dwaraka temple. The Jaageshwar for others because it is located amidst dense deodar forests and casinostiver.com deodar is also known as ‘daruka’!

As you reach this 1000 year old temple complex there is a considerable drop in the temperature and it can get very cold under the shade of the lofty deodars trees which surround this beautiful temple complex. Jaageshwar assumes further importance because Saurabhi and Nandini flow down and converge in this holy place. The priest narrates the story that this jyotirling was originally known as ‘Naageshwar’ but changed by the locals over the years to ‘jaageshwar’ the presently known name. Naageshwar is the original name because the lingam inside the temple has a covering or ‘kavach’ which has a snake prominently displayed on it.  Next to the diety are 2 figures, a man and a woman about 4 feet high; the priest informs that they are the king and queen under whose reign this temple complex was constructed in the first place.

The whole temple complex has almost 124 temples and is a magnificent display of craftsmanship popular during that period. The oldest or the first constructed amongst these temples are the Mrityunjaya and the Dindeshwara temples respectively. Jaageshwar temple,or the shiva temple was built somewhere between the 8th and the 18th centuries and is the biggest temple of its kind along with 108 other temples in the same vicinity.

The other temple of interest is the ‘Pushti Devi’ temple. Pushti means nourishment so this is the goddess who gives the people what they need. The locals eagerly ask the visitors to focus not on the idol of the goddess but on the Yantra or the symbol, as present inside the temple and considered to be of real significance. The Sri Yantra has the figure of Goddess Kali etched on it. Story goes that when Kali defeated her enemies she was drunk with power and blood and danced all over the battle field in frenzy. Shiva was the only one who could bring her to her senses and calm her, which he did by lying down on the battlefield. Kali stepped over him in her frenzied state and immediately regained composure and conscious. The Yantra is a bit chipped off but the Goddess is still very visible on it.

Another temple called the Lakushila temple is also worth visiting. Apparently, Lakushila was one of the earliest teachers of the Pashupata philosophy and is considered to be an avatar of Lord Shiva. The name literally means ‘the Lord with a club’ and this is how the idol was inside the temple originally. Now all that is left is the Shivaling and most of the idols are preserved in the museum maintained by the archeological survey of India.

The architecture and superb carvings reflect the cultural efficacy and Buddhist influence. The archeological importance of this temple increases multifold for this exceptional difference and the intricate carvings and their depiction of the rich culture during those times demand a closer look.

In all almost 175 sculptures are housed in the museum and each is a wondrous beauty to behold. Photography is prohibited which makes this museum a must visit. All the details are available on the website and have further details too.

Jaageshwar is about 125kms from Kathgodam, 35kms from Almorah and about 85-90kms from Pittoragarh. The Temple is on the Kailash -Mansorvar yatra route. The accommodation options are very few and numbered and prior booking is advised. Jaageshwar itself has no known places to stay, but Binsar has Club Mahindra resorts and some others also. KMVN guest house is by far the other best option for stay purposes. However, it is quite easy to drive down from Nainital, Almorah and Binsar to this temple site. The roads are good and also offer scenic beauty exemplary flora and fauna and many other delights, local cuisine stalls, the fish lake expedition and the giant frog on the bridge, lastly ‘Vridhha Jaageshwar’ or the older Jaageshwar are all worth seeing along the way.

Warangal – Andhra Pradesh

Warangal – Andhra Pradesh

I can go on endlessly about my country.  This time it is about a small place called Warangal. This is a town in Andhra Pradesh state, about 175 km north of Hyderabad, the capital city. This is a politically active region of the state and suffers because of the recurring strikes, dharnas (protest shows). Yet it has retained its rustic charm and has definite air of mystery and enigma. People are loud and soft in the same breath. It is a place full of contradictions. My country is such, the whole length and breadth of it; full of good –bad, tradition-modernity, myths- truth.

Warangal happens to another such town on the brink of breaking tradition yet trying to retain its cultural values. We took a taxi from Hyderabad, at around 5 in the morning. It is a 4-5 hours journey. The main attraction of Warangal is its 1000 pillar temple. There is neither a duplicate nor anything close to this in the whole world. I had visited this temple when I was barely 7 years old; and it left an indelible mark.  This trip was to relive that memory and see the rush of adrenalin on my kids faces when they would see this unimaginable beauty. The Warangal fort, which is in semi ruins now was another place of interest for me, that I wanted my kids to see.

The journey began in a bad way; we got a horrible driver with no driving sense. He broke all records, drove at a break neck speed, his hand never left the horn and the sound was deafening. We all had a splitting head ache.  The kids began to complain, they were getting angry, irritable, tired and weary .I was regretting this decision of mine. Only a wonder of the world may pacify my battered kids and this temple was a religious, historical, architectural monument; a far cry from a wonder of the world genre! After the arduous journey, imagine my dismay when I saw a miniature temple complex and the driver insisting, “THIS IS THE 1000 PILLAR Temple, madam!” I was crestfallen; the children looked at me with murderous rage. God! For a few fleeting seconds I saw Yama (The Hindu God of Death) in front of meJ.

We later found out that the Archeological survey of India had dismantled a part of the temple, comprising of almost 400 pillars! And the remaining 600 pillars are tightly knit to form the walls. They definitely look far less than 600 in number. The temple is star shaped and has a huge NANDI (Lord Shiva’s mode of transport). The guide took us through the entire complex giving us the history in great detail. This is a temple which dates back to 750AD- 1325 AD. Till date the temple is breathtakingly beautiful and intact. This is the only temple which faces south, and the Nandi too looks eastwards only here.  Usually Hindu temples face east and the Nandi looks westwards. The guide also mentioned that the whole city, the original Warangal was carved out of one rock in the 13th century.

Finally, I did get to see the awe struck look on my children’s face. The sheer magnitude of our cultural richness and our achievements humbled my son.  With all our technological advancements we still fall short in comparison to what our ancestors created centuries ago. It was a successful trip and we returned very content despite the bad beginning. You also please do not miss it for anything. The other places of interest are A Kali temple on a hilltop, a serene lake called Pakhal Lake about 45-50km from Warangal and a Jain temple too.  The fort I already mentioned above is another must visit site.