Dublin Diaries-4

Dublin Diaries-4

Labour of Love

Whilst writing about our friendly neighbourhood ‘cabbie’ friends, many other comparisons sprung to mind.  India and Ireland are replete with comparable contradictions (another jumble-word which jumps to mind). Don’t know whether it makes sense or not but I will try to frame the scene and elucidate better. I get all dewy eyed when I think of how much India is losing out on, and how much room for improvement we have and yet… With half the resources and one tenth or even less manpower, this country has emerged as a developed nation. The only difference is in the attitude.

From the moment I wrote that cabbie article, I have been wracking my brain to recollect one such memorable, informative or light hearted incident that I have had the pleasure of being a part of, in all my countless taxi experiences in India. Sadly, I can recall many unsavoury instances! I may have a few good ones too if I try hard and for long; but the point I am trying to make here is; I have not met a single, and I repeat, a single auto-driver who enjoys being an auto driver! A single taxi driver who loves his work and is happy with his job! Not just the taxi drivers, most people in my country seem to be stuck at their jobs. The joy on the faces I see anywhere I go in Dublin is in stark contrast to the harried, frowning expressions I encounter in today’s India. The people here seem to enjoy what they do, be it a menial job (did not dare to write ‘no-brainer’) like managing the cash counter at the local grocers or sitting behind the HR desk in an IT firm.  I can assuredly say that picking dead leaves all day to keep the streets clean cannot be a dream job. Yet, the Irish seem to add wit and joy to it; make it enjoyable for themselves and for the people they encounter.  Till I came to Dublin I never dreamt that being a taxi driver could be a chosen or happy job either. Yet every taxi driver is intelligent, very politically aware, witty and always smiling!

What the Hindu philosophy teaches us, about the Shat Sampatti (Sama:  the ability to control the mind, think objectively. Dama: applying the will to help control the mind, keeping the vices at bay, doing regular sadhana to succeed in this endeavour. Only if Dama is practiced properly, the will power will increase and therefore Sama can be achieved with relative ease.  Uparati: Being able to rise above all the dualities; even relinquish the feeling of ownership. Attain a state of balance and stability. Titiksha: The attitude of forbearance which refuses to be affected or shaken by pain and suffering.  Every situation is accepted with calm and equanimity; not moan with pain, rather endure with a smile.  Shraddha and Samadhana, the six behaviour traits) the Irish apparently live the first 4 Sampattis admirably.

Our Wild Atlantic tour this summer brought to fore many more comparisons. Somehow, our country despite having it all, seems to be lacking in everything. I accede that the natural beauty here is unparalleled but after completing the whole 10day tour I could only pick a handful of distinctively different places! Crag Caves, Hooks’ lighthouse, Skellig Island and then the countless spectacular beaches and mist laden mountains.  India has Himalayan peaks, the greenery in Kerala, beaches of Goa, desert in Rajasthan, the list can go on, each distinctively unique and memorable.  However, the upkeep, maintenance and efforts put in by the Irish government and the Irish themselves, to retain the pristine beauty is laudable, and that is the contrast point. Our monuments; I don’t think I need say anything. The Irish have more to tell with the little they have; the tourist guides kept us enraptured. They spun a yarn about every brick in the wall and leaf on the tree!  We visited the Hooks Lighthouse and were smitten by the guide. We visited the Ferns Castle in Wexford and the yarn spun by the tourist guide had us reeling all week! This fort is not even a fort really, barely a wall remains, the rest of the structure is long gone and yet the guide went on and on and he had more to tell!  The Irish have their own unique brand of dry humour and they brandish it with great panache.  All the places became more beautiful and embedded in our memory because of the guides and their narratives. That brings me to the comparative. I dreaded hiring a guide in India. They lack the enthusiasm and zest, their command over the language is pathetic, they simply rattle off the facts in a well-modulated drone.  In no time, I skitter away from the group and wander onto a personal discovery journey. ‘Athithi devo Bhavah’ (Guest is God) is our belief and the Irish are living it. Could it be the labour of love question again?

Another interesting thing that came to my notice was that we work round the clock, the only country in the world which is a willing beast of burden.  Rest of the world says they work five days a week and diligently work five days only.  We can say anything but the world knows that we are willing donkeys.  Maybe, this lack of work ethic never allows us to imbibe Labour of love attitude?

Like I have mentioned many times before; weather here is dismal, perennially wet, cold, and least propitious for any vegetation or agricultural produce. All they have is different kinds of cheese, meat, liquor of course and potatoes! On the other hand, India is bestowed with all the natural resources, we enjoy every season; each state in India boasts of a different cuisine, integral to its agricultural produce and prevalent culture.  Irish are known world over for their music, liquor, and their carefree nature.  A cabbie said, ‘The Irish smile just because they wish to, it is more for themselves rather than to please others’. Today, what are we known for? It’s the only country in the world which has it all, natural beauty, culture, history, resources, manpower… God’s couldn’t have been kinder and more biased towards my country! Even with everything in our favour we remain a third world, developing nation. Abundance has proved to be detrimental to our progress, individually and as a nation, simply because we lack the attitude. We probably need to learn to love first, give ‘labour of love, a fighting chance; and then the right attitude hopefully comes….?

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: has detailed information about everything pertaining to this holy place.


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.

Just a tribal Land ?- think again

Just a tribal Land ?- think again

I grew up in Bhilai, a steel city in Madhya Pradesh (Now part of Chhattisgarh). I always lived under this illusion that Chhattisgarh is a state seeking a lot from every quarter. It was renowned tribal area and also thriving with dacoits. Phoolan Devi hailed from this place! I was secretly very happy when dad left Bhilai for work reasons. This place showed no promise of any development or progress ever. India was making giant leaps in every way, tourism included. And look at this pathetic state! Apart for the steel plant, coal mines and the best forgotten Tribal warfare, what did this state have to showcase?

My father is now residing in Bhilai and we spent our new year’s there. And I was in for a huge surprise. The way the state has transformed is unbelievable.  Amongst the tourism ads this state’s Ads are the best (I used to think all this is a trap, false claims to tempt and lure tourists). Every architectural monument has been renovated new colleges and institutions have come up not to miss out on the innumerable flyovers, mall and multiplex movie theatres.

Chhattisgarh has the best Tiger reserves, lush green forests and abundance of flora and fauna. The Kanha tiger reserve has cent percent chances of sighting a tiger! We went to Mudumalai Tiger reserve (Chennai) ,Jim Corbett reserve (Uttar Pradesh), went on an evening, morning, noon safari  hoping to catch a glimpse of the majestic animal; all futile.  We chanced upon this wondrous beauty in all its glory strolling in its natural habitat in the Kanha tiger reserve! This state also boasts of India’s best, largest waterfalls, second to the Jog falls in Karnataka called the Chitrakot falls.  We can marvel at the 100ft drop throughout the width of Indrāvati River. Very rare caves called Kutumbser caves to mention a few. A very ancient temple site called the Khajuraho of Chhattisgarh is also in this state. The ‘Bhoram Deo’ temple epitomizes eternal love and beauty. Not to miss the Tribal Land Bastar. The government has made attempts to reconcile with the tribal’s, and made mutually beneficial agreements. A lot of their handicrafts, made in metal are up for sale. A weekly haat amongst the tribal’s takes place, barter system is prevalent here. Pench Tiger Reserve (Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle book), Kanger valley National Park and Tirthagarh Falls are some other interesting tourist destinations.

We went to Kutumbser caves this time. We saw natural limestone rock formation and amazing stalagmite, stalactite formations. It is very narrow underground opening, pitch dark and very hot. It lacks oxygen and has a wet feeling through the stretch because of the lake flowing overhead. A small Shiva temple is inside this cave, a pundit lives their! In that dark low oxygen cave, we were sweating profusely, many Bengali tourists found it hard to breathe and beat a hasty retreat. The rock formations are of different kinds. The guide showed us formations which resembled the unicorn, the elephant head, a lion face many more that I am unable to recall now.  A Small stream flows here in which you can see small fish, blind fish. They die the minute you take them out into the sunshine.  A very unique experience it was.  My father says we have seen only the tip of the iceberg.

My illusions shattered, I am eager to visit this amazing state and explore its wondrous places. You are invited too. Come and get surprised.