Saturday, November 28, 2009

26/11..A year after...the trauma continues, the fallacy palpable !!

Exactly one year has gone by……..26/11 simmers in the minds of the Mumbaikars as a traumatized nightmare. A city under siege for more than 72 hours, by a bunch of youngsters from Pakistan, creating mayhem…….firing mindlessly, leaving a trail of innocent deaths & a world stunned into silence & grief.

Exactly one year has gone by & Ajmal Kasab still continues to enjoy life in the confines of the Arthur Road Jail, while the justice struggles to find enough evidence to prove him guilty!!! Nothing could be more shameful, ironical & unreal. The morning news came up with the headline on the front page: “It has cost Rs 31 Crores to keep Kasab alive.” That’s what it has cost the Govt till date to keep the 21 year old terrorist from Faridkot safe & alive in jail. What kind of an example as a country are we setting ???
We still continue to be a soft target to the terrorist camps brewing on the other side of our Western borders. We still are not able to gather enough political & diplomatic clout from the rest of the world to isolate Pakistan as a terrorist state & force them to fight terrorism… eradicate the poison !!! We are a country, institutionalizing the famous Gandhian philosophy of “ if you slap me on one cheek, I put forward the other cheek to be slapped”………such insipid stands is only making the ever lurking terrorism smack its ugly lips in content. We seem to have lost the plot completely, as the Centre continues to take its usual inept “play safe” stance. It just seems to lack the teeth & bite. It has failed to send across a strong message. The trial on Kasab has become a laughing matter, as it keeps dragging on & on, despite all the evidences against him.
The police & the security forces continue to keep vigil, ill equipped & ill trained. The fire arms look ancient, vintage & rusty. The support systems look fragile & inadequate. The State & Centre trade words for words, without focusing on improvement. the All this becomes more shocking, when we come to know of the amount of money spent on keeping Kasab alive !!!!!

Mere lighting of candles, holding gatherings of solidarity, peace march, flying doves are not enough !!!

Wake up, Mumbaikars……wake up Indians…… we need to unite….we need to become aware….we need to take action…….

Jai Hind !!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Badrinath Dham......a legend, a journey : Part 3

The Legend has it that, according to the Puranas, Lord Narayana was in Vaikunth, resting on Shesh Nag & Goddess Laxmi was attending to him, when Rishi Narada visited them. He did not like the lifestyle of the Lord & said, “You are the creator of this universe & whatever you do would set an example for the mortal beings. Your resting here like this will leave a wrong impression & therefore you need to renounce all of this & perform some Tapas for the benefit of the Universe & Creation.” Lord Narayana agreed to what Rishi Narada had to say & decided to comply with the wish. He sent Goddess Laxmi for some errand work with the Nag – Kanyas & himself left Vaikunth to travel to the Himalayas.

On reaching the snow capped mountains, He was mesmerized by the beauty of the place. However, Lord Narayana realized that Lord Shiva stayed here with Goddess Parvati & it was their abode. Narayana was now keen to get a place for himself here & being mischievous, he thought of a plan. He went to the doorsteps of where Lord Shiva was staying with his wife, Goddess Parvati & assuming the form of a small child, started wailing loudly. Lord Shiva & Goddess Parvati were at that moment about to leave for their bath at the Tapt Kund. Parvati was taken in by her motherly instincts & she took up the child in her lap lovingly. Lord Shiva, knew what was going on & persuaded Parvati to give up the child. “You don’t need to take up all this trouble. All these are various phases of this mortal world, where it is quite natural for someone to be happy or sad. Let the parents of this child take care of him. Let us go, as it is getting late for us.” Being a mother, Parvati however, could not sense the trick of Lord Narayana. She insisted on keeping the child. Shiva tried explaining again, “Don’t involve yourself with this child. He is very mischievous, & if you show mercy on him, he will take advantage & take away everything.” But Parvati would not listen & was firm on keeping the child. “No. Whatever happens, I shall provide him with shelter.” Lord Shiva knew that the matter was going out of hands & just smiled as the events unfolded. “You are the owner of your wish. You will have to live with the choices you make. You may give shelter to this child, but you will have to repent later.” Parvati, ignored the advice & took the child inside, consoled him & put him to sleep in her room.

When they went out for their bath, Narayana came into his own self & closed the door from inside. When Shiva & Parvati returned, they found they door locked from inside, and try as much they could not open it. Shiva now smiled at Parvati & said, “ I had warned you, but you would not listen. It was Narayana, who had taken the form of the child. He has now taken away the place & will stay here. We will have to find a new place for ourselves.” So Lord Shiva & Goddess Parvati then travelled some distance & on another mountain decided to build their new abode. This place came to be known as Kedarnath.

Narayana stayed at Badrikhestra & meditated for the welfare of the Universe. He came to be known as Badrinath.It is said that in Satya Yuga, Narayana lived in Badrikashram in visible form. In Treta Yuga, the saints saw Lord through the practice of Yoga. In Dwapar Yuga, Narayana came to Earth in the form of Krishna. When the saints & rishis asked him about Kali Yuga, Lord Narayana said, “ Kaliyuga would be full of sins & wickedness & hence I will not be visible. There would be an idol of mine under the Narad Shila in Alaknanda river. You may take that & establish it for the welfare of people. Whoever sees that idol, will get the same reward, as seeing me in visible form. So Vishwakarma (chief architect of the Gods) built a temple & the Gods and the saints took that idol & established it. They made Rishi Narada, the head priest & a rule was made that Lord Narayana in the form of Badrinath would be worshipped by human beings for six months & by Gods for the balance six months.

The rule is applicable even today, as the temple closes down for six months from November to April. It is said that when the temple doors are opened after six months by the priests, the oil lamps at the altar inside are still lit & inside looks completely fresh. As if someone has been keeping it clean every day.

to be continued...........

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Badrinath Dham......a legend, a journey : Part 2

Outside, it was almost freezing, & the rumbling of the Alaknanda river, added to the dip in the temperature, & yet I felt so nice & energetic. The sky was lit with millions of stars, as if welcoming us to the heavenly abode, the dark mountains in the backdrop looked like sentinels, guarding the mankind.
After the Pujas, we met the Head Priest of the temple, a young, simple yet peaceful & content looking man in his late 20s maybe or at best in his early 30s. He is called the Raawal. It’s a Title given to the Head Priest as a reverence. He is traditionally a Nambudiri Brahmin from South India & has to be a Bramhachari. This tradition was started by Adi Shankaracharya, who also came from South India. The Rawaal enquired about us & our background. He would speak very little & had a beautiful smile lit up on his face. He asked us retire for the night & also told us to meet him again the next day after the morning Pujas.

We were hungry & ate like crazy at a restaurant nearby. Each preparation was fresh & hot and tasted simply yummm. We just hogged & hogged. The walk back to the Guest House was again in lost in thoughts……..amazingly, a lot of events from the past were sweeping my mind, as if a movie was on an action replay mode. Too many thoughts to handle, too many past events kept surfacing, but strangely, the mind seemed to be in peace, as if just observing the chain of events in dispassion. Naturally, I tried to engage myself in explanation, but the mind seemed least interested in doing so.
We went to sleep early as the morning Puja was scheduled at 5.00am. Everyone seemed to be engrossed in their own thoughts.

We woke up at 3.30am & quickly managed to take a shower, thanks to the hot water from the Tapt Kund. Getting ready as soon as we could, we almost dashed to the shrine for the morning Pujas. The place was almost full with devotees & but we somehow got to sit with a clear view of the shrine. The next couple of hours just went by in a trance, as the main priest performed the rituals amidst the chanting of the Mantras & the ringing of the temple bells. Sitting on the floor, I was transported to a world of celestial bliss. It felt divine & heavenly……even after the whole rituals were over, I did not feel like leaving the place. I was simply transfixed. The shrine, which is also called called the Garbha Griha(inner sanctum), houses idols of Badri Narayan, Kuber, Narad,Uddhav, Nar, Narayan, Laxmi, Garuda, Adi Shankar, & Sri Ramanujam. The idol of Badri Narayan is made of black stone, with conch shell(shankh) in one hand & chakra in another,(both the hands raised), & the other two arms are resting on the lap in a Yog Mudra position. This idol is believed to be only one of its kind.
Later, we went round the temple & then huddled around a Havan Kund ( a place where fire is lit & offerings are made to the Divine). With every Mantra, we were offering ghee & Yagya Samagri ( various offerings, as per rituals) to the fire. It was an amazing experience. The whole thing took a little more than an hour. After this we met up with the Raawal. He gave us his blessings & Prasad and wished us a safe journey back. For some strange reason, he asked quite a bit about me & then told me to come again, whenever I wanted to. It was as if he was reading my mind on what was happening to me the previous night.

We started our journey back around 10.00am. It had started to snow on the mountains & we were told that the winters had arrived. The temple would now close for six months & open again in April. As the majestic Badrinath Dham started to recede through the rearview mirrors of the vehicle, the longing to return started to increase.......return to meditate, to internalise, to go deep within........maybe some day in future.

to be continued..........

Monday, November 9, 2009

Badrinath Dham...... a legend, a journey : Part 1

This had been a strong wish for many years……. A trip to Badrinath ( One of the “Char Dhams”), considered to be very sacred amongst all the pilgrims in India by the Hindus.
Having taken a flight from Mumbai to Delhi on 6th Nov'09 evening, I drove straight from the airport to reach Kashipur around 1.30am, a small hamlet in Uttaranchal via Delhi, where we all had to assemble.

We were six people….Two couples, a driver & I, deciding to make this trip. After a quick shower & rest for a couple of hours, we took off on a Innova. The journey was arduous but extremely exciting, through the rocky & narrow roads. The fresh air of the mountains slapped against our cheeks, as the vehicle lumbered its way through, as if keeping us awake & aware of the terrains ahead. The winding road had huge mountains on one side, & deep gorging ravines on the other. We had started in the early hours of the morning, around 3.30am, just to beat the traffic & get a head start. The sound was the engine of the car & the wind outside, kept us in a trance, broken occasionally by a hooting owl & the crickets in the jungle…….in dark the mountains looked even larger & intimidating, yet serene & quiet.
Gradually, the eastern horizon broke into a crimson & birds started their morning chitter – chatter as if waking up the world….. we stopped first at Chakhautia, for hot ‘jalebis & chai’, as the mercury started dipping outside, & then at Girsain to have a proper breakfast at the Govt Guest House. Hot paranthas, along with another round of hot brewing tea, was just the right potion to get us rejuvenated.
Since the roads were not so good, we decided to save time by skipping lunch & continued driving. The view was just breathtaking…..the Ganges( in various forms & names)flowing deep down in the valley, sometimes broad & gurgling, sometimes quiet & slow, & sometimes thin, but charging its way through rocks & boulders…..always on the move…….the unending terrains, the mountains, got me to singing as usual, & time kept moving… the time we reached Joshirmath, it was already late afternoon. We took a short tea break by the roadside, & inhaled a lungful of fresh cool breeze, as we stepped out & stretched our cramped limbs for a while.
The rest of the journey was an eager rush to reach Badrinath, as if an invisible magnet was drawing us close to the pilgrim. The river, Alaknanda, kept gurgling down the ravines between the huge boulders, the mountains looked indomitably huge & the first specs of snow looked inviting & pleasing on top, as if telling us to gear up for the dipping temperatures. While the car lumbered on, there seemed to be a serene calm around, & each one of us looked lost in some private thought…….not wanting to be disturbed.

The rest of the journey was almost as if we were in silence. We reached Badrinath almost around twilight. Amazingly, the long trip through the treacherous terrains had not made us tired. We quickly settled in the Guest House & each one of us took a splash from the hot waters of the Tapt Kund(hot water spring). As if by miracle, all the fatigue of the journey evaporated, as we all changed into white clothes & made our way to the main shrine. The evening rituals started moments after we reached the place. The ambience was just so brilliantly radiant & pure. The chantings of the mantras & the mellifluous sounds of the conch shell & the temple bells in an amazing synergy transported us to a very different world……it was as if the time had come to a virtual stop & some invisible Divine aura was cleansing us all……I felt so very humble. We got to watch the Puja & the Aarti from very close to the shrine. There seemed to be something very mystical & enchanting about the whole ritual.

to be continued...........