Indian Culture;Orchestra of Man and Bird

Indian music

As you plunge deep into the Indian countryside, you cannot escape the lilting hauntingly beautiful melodies wafting from the hamlets of India.Man and bird team up together to form the greatest orchestra and weave some of the best symphonies our ears can hope to enjoy.

Summers are just beginning, spring is on its way out , the cuckoo is still enthusiastic about the departing guest (spring) and in the air, there is still a throbbing sense of romance and love .Welcome to the month of Chait.
Chait holds promise for a lot of reasons- up in the North, the Indian farmer is getting ready to harvest his crop and earn a decent profit, flowers bloom up everywhere and the air is laden with their wild and untamed scents, the dark bodied cuckoo sure gives its own stamp to the proceedings with its enticing cry and the parents of a lot of recently turned adults decide to marry off their wards.In short, Chait =Love.

We celebrate this season of March and April  with our own Indian folk songs called Chaiti.

You see, we  have a reason and an excuse to celebrate each and every month of the calendar with a distinct style of folk songs.So, there would be a specific set of folk songs for the rainy season, a different one for autumn and a totally different one for the winters.You can say that the life of an average Indian is closely integrated with his /her environment.

For the billions of Indians who inhabit this earth, Chait is also the season of the birth of Lord Rama.

Indian Culture and Music
Lord Rama (courtesy;bhmpics.com)

Combine all these reasons and you have the context ready for a typical Chaiti folk song.While love and longingness are the dominant themes, the twin words, Hey Rama or Arey Rama are frequently used  as a punctuation, exclamation or simply an utterance. Many songs also have reference to Holi, the festival of colour.

Festivals of India
Scenes from Holi

Typically in a song, the young bride would ask for a new dress.Another song could tell us how shy and embarrassed the young bride is upon meeting her beau!

While, Chaiti is essentially folk music in its presentation, it certainly is semi classical in its roots.

Chaiti is sung largely in the North Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Listen to some of the songs here.I am sure you will find them exceedingly sweet.

The young woman here is talking about the recently bloomed flowers which are unable to make  their way to her braids .The flowers are too fragile to withstand their journey from the garden to her hair and just dry and shrivel up!

Another example;

The singer here is one of the greatest exponents of Indian classical music, Girija Devi.The words here run like this,”My dear, Chait has arrived and I want my dress dyed.Please , get it done for me.”

That is it folks for now.Did you like this post?

Would you like to know more about the hauntingly beautiful aspect of India?Please write to me.

Haunted Places in India

World Heritage Day Special- Ship in the Desert !

Do you know that the Desert State of India, Rajasthan, has an ancient building shaped in the form of a ship?And,is this House haunted?What is the story?

Haunted Places in India
The Hauntingly Beautiful Ship House of Jodhpur

Now, you will wonder, what is a ship doing in the middle of a desert?Even, I was surprised when I first read about it.But, then, upon reading the historical account of this building, I thought of sharing this story with my dear traveller friends.

In the year 1886 AD, the Raja of Jodhpur decided to have a ship in the desert.Ok, ok, not exactly a ship but, a palace shaped in the form of a ship.The name of the Raja was Pratap Singh.This Raja was voracious traveller and made several trips to Britain by sea.In those times, the airplanes had not yet arrived and the only means of travelling to Britain was the ship.

Jodhpur is located on the edge of the Thar desert and the only thing that you can be sure of seeing around this city is the sand dunes.So, to provide some novelty to his citizens, the Raja decided to have a new palace for himself.A hillock was identified , it was hewn by the masons and under the guidance of the British architect, GJ Overeen, the magnificent palace sprung up.Not surprisingly, this new building was shaped in the form of a ship.It was named Ship House.

The people of Jodhpur found this new building interesting and yes, it provided a topic of small talk to them.But, the Ship House quickly was abandoned .

Why?

It so happened that this Ship House was located towards the eastern periphery of the city.Now, in the deserts, dry and wind laden winds blow from west to east.This weather phenomenon  posed a health related problem to Sir P, as the Raja was addressed by the Britishers.As things happened, a few months later, he abandoned this fancy building and went back to his ancient palace at Mehrangarh.

A House of Music

Yes, the Ship House also served as a radio station in 1949.Some of the best classical musicians have graced this building in the past.But, now, it wears a haunted look. Locals living in the vicinity of this building now do not go near it.I do not know why.Maybe, it gives an eerie feeling to them.

Would you like to visit some of the haunted places in India? You may write to me at swayamt@gmail.com. I live in Delhi and will be happy to take you around.Hope to hear from you soon.

Thanks for reading this post.

India Travel Stories; A dog in the court of Lord of Death

I was advised by my astrologer to go to Lord Mahakal in Ujjain and stay around the deity like a dog.Just imagine you are a dog, while you are there, he told me grimly.Don’t consider your Ujjain trip as a sightseeing one, you are going there as a hungry dog goes in search of food.The food is the darshan of the Lord and you are hungry for only that object and nothing else.

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For travellers planning to visit India, Ujjain is an ancient town in the state of Madhya Pradesh.Located on the Tropic of Cancer and by the banks of the river Kshipra, Ujjain is one of the holiest towns of India.It is also the abode of Lord Shiva, the God of Death! Shiva is also known as Mahakal and the word means the master of time.Every day, thousands of the devotees of the Lord come visiting him to draw solace in their lives.The Lord gives audience to all and sundry, listens to their problems via his secretary and sends sends them back with peace and tranquility.

The Temple of Mahakal was constructed by an ancient Indian king, Vikramaditya more than a 1000 years ago.The Lord manifests here in the form of a shivalinga or the celestial egg.Your trip to India would be incomplete if you did not visit this city, my dear travellers to India.

A few years back, I was in dire straits and like many fellow Indians,I too consulted an astrologer about the solution to my problems.After hearing me out, he had his medicine ready-go to Ujjain but lead the life like a commoner there for a few days.Have you seen a dog, he asked?It always hangs around the gate of the house that feeds him.It is always expecting food coming out from the gates.The dog is focussed on its food.,It knows that lack of focus may leave him hungry for a day.So, go to Ujjain like a dog, determined to stay around the Lord much like a dog.Always be in the Lord’s company.Only when you have to eat something or sleep then you come back to your dharamshala.And, mind you, he continued, do not take a fancy accommodation in Ujjain.Live somewhere that is modest in disposition..

Obeying his advice,I landed in Ujjain and promptly headed to a modest inn.The rooms were small and the cot was just fitting my size.There was no AC and I had to make do with a fan .The temperature was a sweltering 43 degrees celsius- pretty hot even by Indian standards.

The temple was a few hundred metres away and reaching the Lord was an arduous task in itself.One had to approach him barefoot but the asphalt on the path to the altar was just short of melting.I said to myself, I am a dog so I should not be minding it.

the god shiva at ujjain mahakaleshwar jyotirling images

After an hour of waiting under the blazing Sun,I finally made it to the sanctum sanctorum.I was hoping to reach the Lord and touch the idol with my bare hands to imbibe the pulsating energy radiating from the Shivalinga but, the Lord probably wanted to test my patience.A temple official told me at the last hour that only the VIPs were allowed to enter the altar and not the common man.I felt flustered and got hot under the collar.I was just about to shout back at the official when, some one told excitedly that there was no provision of VIPs having privilege over the commoners , that day.All were welcome inside the altar! Was it divine intervention,I wondered.The dog had finally got its first meal that day!

The next few days at the Mahakal temple were full of ecstasy for me.Sitting in the main hall and gazing for hours at the Lord for hours together, I realized why Lord Shiva is so much loved by  millions of Indians.he is loved more than respected here in Ujjain.Everybody is welcome and each one can bring his or her unique gift for the Lord.Every offering is valued by the Lord of Death, Shiva in this temple.You can sing in front of Him and devote that song to Shiva as your offering , no problem.A lowly placed person in the society can have a darshan of the Lord alongside the most powerful official of the country.Transgenders, deformed people,lepers- all are welcome.The Lord does not turn back any of his devotees without his gift of peace and joy.

The small team of priests at the temple is always on their toes while preparing the Lord for His lunch, bath, sleep , adornment and waking Him up from his sleep.The Lord here truly lives the life of a common man and that is what connects Him to to his devotees.He even has His daily siesta!

But, the Lord showers His gifts in a more direct manner.Every devotee to the temple is offered a free meal.You may come hungry but, the Lord ensures that you have a bellyfull of lunch or dinner when you go back home.

Lord Shiva receives the prayers of the devotees through His celestial secretary,Nandi, the bull.They whisper their petitions into the ears of Nandi who then transmits all messages received to his master in the midnight.No petition is missed.

Nandi

I lived like a dog for 4 days in the city of Ujjain and feasted on the visage of Lord Shiva every waking moment.On the 5th day, when, I boarded the train to Delhi, I was a much more relaxed and sorted out person.You don;t believe it?Try it yourselves for a few days and you will feel the difference.

Festivals of India

Kumbh Mela; 50 million people head to Ujjain for salvation!

The greatest festival of the world is the Simhastha Kumbh Mela that is drawing in more than 50 million visitors from across the globe. Ujjain becomes a microcosm of humanity in the months of April and May, 2016.What is the story of this festival?

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(When Sun enters the house of Aries and Bhrihaspati the house of Leo, that is the right time for achieving salvation at Kumbh in Ujjain)

An awe inspiring event, the history of Simhastha Kumbha is lost in the mists of time and no one really knows when all this started.We do know, however, why people collect in such huge numbers?

What is the story of Simhastha Kumbh?

Legends say that millions of years ago, the demons and the gods decided to churn the ocean to ameliorate the sufferings of the mankind.This churning threw up an assortment of goodies- poison, the tree of life, the celestial doctors and finally an urn holding nectar.This nectar assured immortality to whosoever who drank it.This churning of the ocean is called Samudramanthan in Sanskrit language.The Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport has a terrific sculpture of this celestial churn.

Festivals of India
Samudramanthan (courtesy;hindgujrati.org)
Festivals of India
Garuda-The celestial carrier of Lord Vishnu (pinterest.com)


Naturally, a bitter fight ensued between the demons and the gods .The gods were no match for the mighty demons and had to take help of the celestial vehicle of Lord Vishnu,Garuda.The mighty bird that he was,Garuda flew away with that precious urn leaving the demons squirming in jealousy and frustration.But, Garuda could not prevent a few drops of the nectar falling down upon the earth.In all, there were 4 places where the nectar drops spilled over from the vessel-Haridwar, Prayag,Nashik and Ujjain.Us Hindus consider these places holy and taking a bath here is considered an exercise in salvation.Prayag also goes by the name of Allahabad.

Every 4 years, Hindus gather in large numbers to  take bath in one of these 4 places.This congregation is called Kumbha Mela or the Kumbh Mela.The word, Kumbh/Kumbha means a vessel or a pot.Mela means fair or congregation.Each of these 4 holy places has a holy river.Ganga is present in both Prayag and Haridwar while Nashik is on Godawari. Ujjain is located on the banks of Kshipra river.

Astrologically,this year during the months of April and May, the Sun is aligned with Aries while Jupiter is aligned with Leo (Simha).Favourable alignment of Sun and Jupiter happens once every 12 years and this year, the Kumbh Mela is perfectly in sync with it. As I said earlier, this Mela is happening in Ujjain.Simhastha means location of the Sun and it is a Sanskrit word.

During this period,devotees will take their holy dips in the Kshipra and will also pay their respects to Lord Mahakal, the presiding deity of Ujjain.Lord Mahakal is the Master of Time..The Lord is also known by another name. Shiva, the God of Death.

Fairs of India
Seeking salvation;Ujjain Kumbh (ujjaintourism.in)

The month long Kumbh Mela is a grand and an intense event.It draws millions of devotees, tourists and other people from all over the world to this ancient city of Ujjain.You will find sadhus attired in their tradional livery astride elephants,camels and horses going to Kshipra to have their holy dip.These sadhus have weapons and some of them are called Naga sadhus I cannot explain here the sheer emotion involved  during the Kumbh Mela.You have to go and experience it first hand.For a lot of people, Kumbh Mela has been a life changing episode, it is a spiritual journey for them.At another level,this fair or festival also is an opportunity for mnakind to repair its ties by meeting, speaking, eating, praying and laughing with each other,

Festivals of India
Sadhus for Salvation

Ujjain has several offerings for different sets of people like;

Heritage Walks

Trips to Ancient Temples

Bird Watching activities

Historical Monuments

So, when you are free from your Kumbh Mela schedule, you can indulge in these luxuries.

Where is Ujjain;

Ujjain is one of the ancient cities of India.Located on the Tropic of Cancer  in the state of Madhya Pradesh,India, Ujjain is also described as the Greenwich of India.The astrological dates, time and moments are calculated while keeping the alignment of the zodiac and planets in relation to Ujjain.You can read more about Ujjain here> http://www.simhasthujjain.in/ujjain-introduction/

How to reach Ujjain;

Ujjain can be reached by train or road.There is excellent train connectivity to Ujjain from Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.All you have to do is check the website;https://www.irctc.co.in/

Where to stay in Ujjain; Click here> http://www.simhasthujjain.in/where-to-stay/

Do you want to know about the dates when the baths happen? Click here> http://www.simhasthujjain.in/about-simhasth/snan-dates/

Some basic dos and don’t dos > http://www.simhasthujjain.in/about-simhasth/dos-donts/

That is it folks.I hope, some of you will be checking up on the Simhastha Kumbh.Please let me know in case you want some more information.

Thanks for dropping by.

 

Places to see in Delhi

Around Delhi-The Slope of Power;Raisina Hills

The Raisina Hills in Delhi is home to some of the most powerful institutions of power in The world.The Hills also host the Commander in Chief of the fourth largest armed forces of the world.He is also the President of India.

One of the most beautiful and eagerly awaited events in Delhi is the change of guards of the President of India..The Presidential Palace is thrown open to visitors to witness this breathtaking ceremony.Man and beast come together to offer to Delhi a spellbinding spectacle.

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Every fortnight, the Presidential Palace opens its vast gates to its visitors for them to witness a military tradition-the change of guards of the President’s Bodyguards.If you are in  Delhi, you ought not to miss this event.The President of India is also the Commander in Chief of her Armed Forces, so, the privilege of giving a ceremonial guard of honour to him is invariably of the Forces.

The Presidential Bodyguard comprises men drawn from the Indian Army and you will be surprised to know that horses form an integral part of this unit.There are cavalry men and there are the regular infantry men forming this elite group of soldiers.The cavalry men are invariably 6 feet plus in height and are smartly turned out on all occasions.

The Presidential Palace is an imposing piece of architecture.Sprawling on a ridge , the Palace oversees the Rajpath -King’s Carriageway- that leads to the India Gate.This Gate, constructed by the Britishers to commemorate the fallen British Indian soldiers in the First World War, is one of the most recognized monuments of India.The ridge is called the Raisina Hill.

More than a hundred years back, the Raisina Hill was a village.After the announcement of Delhi as the new imperial capital by the reigning British monarch, at the start of the last century, work got underway to establish a new centre of British power.The villagers of Raisina Hill were coerced and later forced to vacate their land and hand it over to the colonial government.They had to shift to newer and strange places like Kotla Mubarakpur and Begumpur.In the next few years, the Presidential Palace came up which we now we know as the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

The announcement of Delhi as the new capital of imperial India was done in the famous Delhi Durbar of 1911 by the then British Emperor.

Won’t you be interested in watching the video of this 100 year old event?Here goes;

But, we have digressed, haven’t we? We were talking about the change of guard of the President’s Bodyguard. Have a look.

Monuments of Delhi

Though, the Presidential Palace is out of bounds for the ordinary citizens, there re some areas which are accessible to the lay visitors.It is a well appointed property and during March and April, the lawns come to life with greenery and colour.

Places to visit in Delhi
Guns and Roses!

Did you see this tall handsome column?Ever wondered about its origin and story?

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The construction of Jaipur Column was sponsored by the Raja of Jaipur, Madho Singh as a gift to his British masters.It is a magnificent structure and is made of sandstone.An inscription on this pillar prays for the greatness of India.

The massive gates of the Rashtrapati Bhavan lead to the majestic India Gate and lining this path are the seats of the Government of India where key decisions are taken.

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Elephants were a source of amazement to the British and you can find a lot of figurines of this animal in the campus.

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The Raisina Hill embodies the power of the Indian Republic.The Parliament House , which enacts laws for our nation is situated next door to the Palace.

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While, the Hill is diffused with sights and sounds of power, the surrounding lawns have a human touch to them.On a a quiet Saturday morning, you can even see youngsters enjoying a game of football amongst themselves, unmolested by the tight security around them.

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All this gives hope to the citizens that the Indian State is not far removed from them.

But, while we marvel at the well kept lawns , have we spared thought for the men who make all this possible?

India Gate Lawns
Men At Work

It is they who keep the India Gate Lawns eternally beautiful.

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That is it friends.Hope, you enjoyed this post.

Travelling in India-Rewa, an Offbeat Destination

The land of world’s first white tiger is again in news.Rewa is set to host the first sanctuary in the world for white tigers!Good news for travellers to India interested in an offbeat destination.

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Where is Rewa? Rewa is a quaint little town a few hundred kilometres from Khajuraho, the much acclaimed temple in India.

For travellers interested in coming to India, let me share an interesting piece of history with them.Rewa was the first area in the world to house a white tiger.Mohan was its name and it came within the spotlights of the jeep that Martand Singh, the erstwhile king of Rewa was driving, one night.Mohan was a cub then and had separated from its mother .Oh yes, and this happened one dark night in 1951, a full 65 years ago.

Over the years, Mohan beget several tiger cubs and most of them were distributed across the world.to zoos .However, not many of them are left in India and one reason for their low numbers is their genetic strain.White tigers that are present today are mostly the result of inbreeding and as such have many genetic defects.Zoologists , the wold over have decided to stop all inbreeding of the white tigers and thus, their numbers are falling.

Coming back to the first white tiger sanctuary business, this place is being located 20 kilometres from Rewa.There is already one white tiger there and her name is Vindhya.Yes, she is a tigress.It is expected that a few more white tigers will join her for company.The people of Rewa are happy that this safari will help in generating more opportunities for earning their livelihoods.I hope, it comes true and people of this area are able to improve their lives by a considerable extent.

By the way, Rewa is bang in the middle of a tourism laden territory.You have Khajuraho a few hundred miles from here, then, there is Bnadhavgarh National Park- famous for its tigers-,the famous palaces of Orchha and the world famous Dhuandhar waterfalls at Jabalpur.

The best way to reach Rewa is to take a train from Delhi.Rewa does not have an airport and it is quite an offbeat destination for many international travellers actually.And, if you need help in finding a good accommodation there, then look out for the ones provided by Madhya Pradesh Tourism.

The best season to travel to Rewa and its adjoining places, if tigers are on your mind, is now.Monsoons make it difficult for you to spot them.

That is it folks for now.I am afraid, it does not have pictures but, I meant it to be an information laden one.

Thanks for dropping by.

 

 

 

 

Monuments of Delhi

Sensuous Delhi-Garden of Five Senses-A photoblog

Early this March, I thought I will make a short journey to a wonderful place in Delhi,The Garden of Five Senses.For travellers planning  to visit India, this Garden is a terrific place to relax and enjoy Sundays and holidays.

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This garden is located in the village of Saidulajab.The village is located next to the Saket Metro Station and is within a shouting distance of the famous Qutab Minar.

This garden comes to bloom in late February and early March and is the centre of attraction for Delhiites and outsiders as well.When I visited this pretty place,much of the bloom was gone but, its prettiness was very much there.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a photoblog of the Garden of Five Senses;

Visit Delhi
Colors Galore

The Garden is not your typical garden, it is more like a work of art and architecture.The elements inside it have been borrowed from sculptures and  other art forms from across the world.

Visit India
Flowers galore

One of the striking features of this Garden is a gate designed on the lines of West Asian architecture.Have a look.

Visit India
A “West Asian Gate”

All these images have been taken by my iPhone.

More of such interesting sculptures are here in this post.

Monuments of Delhi
A spiral stare case?
Monuments of Delhi
Awash in Gold

But, gardens are meant for flowers and colour, isn’t it?So, let us return to color.

Best places to visit in Delhi
Colors provide meaning to our lives

And, what a delightful piece of creation is this?Hola!

Monuments of Delhi
Class in progress

There is some more amazing stuff to be seen here.

Monuments of Delhi
Quack Quack

Hidden corridors and doorways lend an element of mystery to the Garden of Five Senses.

Monuments of Delhi
Camouflaged doors provide sanctuary to lovelorn souls

The majestic Qutub Minar looms in the horizon.

Monuments of Delhi
Looming in the Horizon-Qutab Minar

And a lazy day in the Garden of Five Senses closes with this last image of mine.

Thanks for dropping by.Please let me know whether you liked this photoblog.