Visiting The Chattarpur Temple – Seat of Shree Adya Katyayani

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It is not the grandeur of its architecture which makes the Shaktipeeth different from the other temples, but the moving spirit of its founder, Shree Durga-chranan-anuragi Baba Sant Nagpal, who dedicated his entire life for the service of the down trodden and the needy people.
Baba’s mission to reveal to them the Sanaatan Dharma in its true and undistorted form with a view to spread the message of brotherhood, tolerance and patriotism attracted more and more people, who were willing to provide not only the financial support but also the physical labour required for building of the temple.

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The Southern Sojourn – Kanyakumari

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It was close to 9.00 p.m. and with hunger cramps, I told Rajah to stop at a good eating place in the next town en-route. We landed at a small time restaurant – Shanti Bhawan (?) at Sayalgudi, a very small Panchayat town. The place looked clean, but the restaurant owner told us that the place was “full”. There were around 40 Ayappa Swami Devotees already seated and they were to be served first and our waiting time could be more than half an hour. While talking to the owner I was surprised to see the pictures of Kabaa, the holiest place for the Muslims along with some of the Hindu Gods. I asked him if it was a Hindu hotel. He said it was a Muslim Hotel. When I pointed to the wall hangings, he said “Sir, we worship all the Gods”. I was touched by his reply to the hilt and almost embraced him. I wish people all over the country had the similar feelings and then this divide between the religions would probably be non-existent. Thankfully the things appeared to be much better in Tamil Nadu as people of all the religions eat the same food, drink same toddy, speak Tamil and wear the same dress – lungi / dhoti and shirt.

Outside the restaurant, a group of Swamis (devotees of Lord Ayappa) were standing. I was told that they were coming from somewhere in North Tamil Nadu (after a couple of drinks, one tends to forget the names sometimes) and were heading for Kanyakumari,

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The Southern Sojourn – Rameswaram

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It takes around an hour to take bath in all the 22 wells. The modus operandi is simple. There is a person standing by the side of the well ready to pour water on you with a small bucket. Some of the pilgrims make a small donation at each of the wells. We preferred to have holy water sprinkled over us and move to the next well.Despite the fact that thousands of pilgrims are visiting the temple every day and having a bath at these theerthams, it is believed that the tanks around the temple have a perennial source of water.

Having finished the ritual of purifying ourselves at the holy wells, we once again passed through the magnificent corridors, passed by the Nandi and reached the exit gate. I do not know if my sins were washed away, but one thing is certain that the experience of visiting the temple will remain etched in my memory all through my life.

It was around 6.30 in the evening. Still in a trance, I reached the hotel room, ordered a steaming hot cup of tea and thereafter met Rajah, the cabbie whom we had hired for taking us to Kaniyakumari, the southernmost tip of the country, where Swami Vivekanana meditated before proceeding for America and which is the confluence of two great seas – Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea and the great Indian Ocean, about which I would write in my forthcoming post.

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Baha’i House of Worship – The Lotus Temple

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The figure of “9 “ seems to have some significant meaning as we could see the temple surrounded by nine pools and there were nine archways into the temple. Another interesting thing is that a simple nine-pointed star is generally used by the Baha’is as a symbol of their faith. At the Information center, we were told that “nine” is chosen because it is the highest single-digit number and in many countries symbolises comprehensiveness, oneness and unity.

The most astounding thing is that this beautiful edifice has no pillars or beams. The petals are made of white concrete and are covered by marble (the same quality of marble as used in the Parthenon, mined in Greece, cut and polished in Italy and 10,000 pieces were brought to the site and assembled as a jig saw puzzle).

The volunteers at the entrance tell the visitors to maintain absolute silence in the temple, though every one is free to meditate or pray as per one’s religious practices.

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Majuli – The Island of Dancing Monks

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The half a dozen shopkeepers were honking to sell their wares. You can reach, Gharmur, the largest habitation in Majuli by bus, shared taxis or own cars. One of the Sumo drivers, constantly tailing us offered us a ride to “ME: PO OKUM” (which means happy home); our abode for the night, for Rs. 500. Considering the distance of around 15 Kms, we found it acceptable. Passing aside the small creeks, lakes and water bodies, we reach the market center of Majuli, which has a number of shops selling all kinds of goods. It is surprising that despite being connected to Jorhat only by three ferries plying in a day, the modernism has reached there, with the setting up of medical centers and educational institutions. Housing too, has segued from traditional bamboo and mud construction to ones made of concrete. There are ATMs, shops selling electronics, Airtel and Tata Sky outlets and what not. We picked up some eatables for the young ones and some cokes, sodas and bakery products for our use.

Me: Po Okum is an eco camp located at Chitadar Chuck village in Majuli. Haren Narah, the owner of the camp received us with a big smile and guided us to three cottages reserved for our stay. The camp has 10 cottages including a large one. All these cottages made of bamboo; thatch and wood have been raised on stilts around 4 -6 ft. above the ground, probably to mitigate the fear of floods during the monsoon. The camp looks like a group of traditional huts around a small mustard field. The cottages have attached basic western toilets with some basic supplies.

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The grandeur of the North-East – Kaziranga National Park

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The manager of the resort, Avik a young man in late twenties met us at around 6 p.m. and told that he has firmed up the arrangements for Maruti Gypsy, which would take us for a safari from the East Point of the park. The resort has a policy of not serving any eatables in the cottages. Hence the family assembled in the “Minivet Pelican” dining hall, which is open from all the sides and is located in front of the cottages and amidst the tea plantations. A couple of drinks followed by a dish of butter chicken and yellow daal, gave us adequate impetus to have a good sleep.
The Gypsy reported at 7.00 in the morning and after a quick breakfast we headed for the park. I being the oldest was given the seat next to the driver, while others accommodated themselves in the open rear portion. The driver introduced himself as Arun Deb. He did his high school education at Jorhat and after doing some odd jobs, bought a second hand Maruti Gypsy and came to Kaziranga. During the six years driving in the park, he probably knew all the better viewing points.
We reached the Park Administrative Centre in Kohora, which has three tourist routes under its jurisdiction – Kohora, Bagoti and Agaratoli. The park area is divided into four ranges. The four ranges are the Burapahar, Baguri, Central, and Eastern. They are headquartered at Ghorakati, Baguri, Kohora, and Agoratoli, respectively. The Park is open from November 1 to May 15. Only light vehicles are allowed on the park roads. You can book the Gypsy or take your own vehicle too, which needs to be accompanied by a representative of the forest department. At the gate one has to register and obtain an entry permit.

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In the mystic alleys of Delhi – the Dargah of Amir Khusrau

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I learnt about Amir Khusrau when I was very young.

During my childhood, we used to live in Old Delhi and our house was almost sandwiched between an ancient mosque and a “mazaar” (Mausoleum). At the Mazaar, every Thursday, a few of the good musicians assembled and played devotional music, which I came to know later on was called “Sufiyana Kalaam” and it was performed as homage to the father of “Qawwalis”, Hazrat Amir Khusrau and his Master, Hazrat Nizammudin Aulia.

Since I was fond of music, I found this kind of music very fascinating and depending on the homework prescribed by my school teachers, I used to attend the Thursday “Qawwali” session sometime. Seeing my enthusiasm, one Muslim gentleman, fondly called “Haji ji”, who lived in our neighborhood, told me a few interesting facts about Amir Khusrau.

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Shillong, Meghalaya – the abode in the clouds

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We were told by the locals that surprisingly in Cherrapunji it rains mostly at night. Thus, the day-to-day activity is not really disrupted by the rain. 
However, the irony is that despite perennial rainfall, Cherrapunji faces an acute shortage of drinking water, and the inhabitants often have to trek for miles to obtain potable water.

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