Category Archives: Religion

Karaoke: Ekadantaya Vakratundaya

The song “Ekadantaya Vakratundaya” was originally sung by the legend-wait-for-it-ary singer Shankar Mahadevan. I’ve heard it a zillion times at Amrita University, my Alma Mater.

Sharing a Karaoke I recorded a few months ago! Listen to it and share your comments. Brick-bats most welcome!

Related post: Lord Ganesha – a hobbyist’s delight!
https://meluhanmuggle.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/lord-ganesha-a-hobbyists-delight/

Om Ganeshaya Namah!

Sneak peak into “Scion of Ikshvaku”

Being active on Twitter has its benefits. I had pre-ordered “Scion of Ikshvaku” on Amazon and answered a few contest questions, and bang, landed myself an opportunity to attend a meet-and-greet event with the Author himself. I was elated.

With hopes of getting to know more about the Ram Chandra series, I reached India Habitat Center at Lodhi Road.

Few live tweets from the event follow:

Now, time to keep calm and wait for June 24 (expected date of delivery of the book) to enter the mystic world of Lord Ram!

Trek to Velliangiri Peak

Scene I

We were just about to start our ascent of the mighty mountains of Velliangiri (also called South Kailash) when we were confronted by a man wearing a helpless face, trying to live a respectful life even in poverty. That kind of face. He said, “Ayya, please give me an opportunity to smoothen your bamboo sticks. I will charge only 5 rupees per stick. I have two kids Ayya, and I want them to study”. We could see a small boy (referred to as Jet Lee, going forward) playing around in the temple premises, having little idea about the poverty his family was in. Just behind him, the man’s wife was feeding their second kid. We gave the man 30 rupees and also asked him to make sure Jet Lee studies and comes big in life. The man thanked us with a beaming smile and wished us good.

Scene II

A boy, all of 14 years, was manning a small shop in the middle of the mountain forests, selling biscuits and other refreshments. Abishek asked him if he was going to school. Their conversation follows.

Abishek: “Brother, do you go to school?”

Boy: “No” <without any signs of resentment>

Abishek: “Why not? Your parents couldn’t afford it?”

Boy: “They could. I was going to a Government school till Class VIII. Then I stopped”

The boy shooed away a few monkeys which were interested in the bananas in his shop

Abishek: “Why? Why did you stop?”

Boy: “One day I got angry in Class and hit my teacher bang on his head. I never returned to school after that”

All of us were in shock.

Abishek: “Why? What did he do?”

By this time, he had developed a liking for us and spoke more freely.

He went on to explain how the teacher had shouted a lot of expletives towards him when he had gone to class without completing his homework. When the boy tried to explain that his father was taken ill the previous day, the teacher wouldn’t listen. At one point, the boy apparently lost his cool and hit him hard on the center of his head with a stick. And never returned to school.

In the middle of the forests, after 11 hours of trekking, sitting on the rocks, there was only thing running in my mind! What if Jet Lee grows up to become like this boy!

Anyway, these two scenes kind of capture the quality of life of people living in and around Velliangiri.

This was my second successful visit to the Velliangiri mountains, in three years. Something I can proudly tell my grandchildren, 40 years hence.

If you look at the demographics of people who come to Velliangiri, 80% of the people are from Coimbatore or its surrounding areas itself. ~19% from Chennai and other cities in Tamil Nadu. There were hardly any people outside Tamil Nadu. Other than being a pilgrimage center for Shiva devotees, it is also a brilliant trekking destination.

Velliangiri - the seventh mountain

Velliangiri – the seventh mountain

But there are a number of reasons why Velliangiri is not yet there in say, “The Top 10 trekking destinations of India”.

  • The Authorities probably don’t see it as a Tourist destination, and haven’t taken any significant steps in that direction
  • It is not safe.
    • We heard stories about a Tamil movie Director who got lost in the forests, and came out somewhere near Kerala, after nearly a month.
  • Lack of facilities.
    •  Apart from moonlight and the torch/mobile phone one carries, there’s no source of light, for 95% of the journey, up and down
    • There are only three sources of water, all seven mountains combined
  • No WOM
    • Since most of the people who visit Velliangiri are “not-so-tech-savvy” devotees, the word of mouth doesn’t spread beyond their close circles
    • Perhaps, the Isha Foundation can contribute in a big way to make it an awesome tourist destination

To kill boredom while trekking (we were only three of us), we surveyed people who were coming in the opposite direction. We would ask someone, “Anna, innum evlo dhooram na?” (“Anna, how much more distance to the peak?”), and he would say, “It’s very close. Will hardly take two more hours”. We would then walk for two hours and then ask another guy. “Just one more hour”. After walking for an hour. “Maximum one more hour”.

It took us 7 hours in total, to reach the peak. The mountains were deserted, that friday evening. In fact, there was a stretch of around an hour when there was not a single person ahead or behind us. Stories about the missing Tamil Director was there in the back of our minds, Our torch lights were dimming. That moment was my best of the trek.

After paying our respect to Lord Shiva at the peak and taking the load off our feet for an hour, we started our descent at 7 am. It was raining then and we were offered some breathtaking views by nature.

Rock bed

Rock bed

The rocks were slippery due to rain and it took us some extra effort and time to climb down the 7th mountain. Aradh’s obsession with clicking pictures didn’t help us either.

Rainbow

Rainbow

Sunrise

Sunrise

The next 4 mountains were relatively easier to climb down. By this time, after 12 mountains (7+5) and 12 hours of continuous trekking, my legs had given up. They were dead. Climbing down the last two mountains were the toughest for me, taking a break after every 10-15 minutes.

Trekking unlike say jogging, or gymming, is different in the way that you don’t have a choice. You cannot give up. You push your boundaries longer and harder. But when you are done, there’s no feeling bigger than that feeling of accomplishment.

Darr ke aage jeet hai

Darr ke aage jeet hai

At the end of 14 hours of trekking, some picturesque moments. some eerie moments, some calm moments away from the drudgery of city life, the experience was totally worth it!

If you do not have Velliangiri in your bucket list yet, it’s time you add it to the list and make it a point to visit the awesome place, some time. You will not regret it!

MSD P55 – Second year diaries: Part 4 – When we made modaks

Our batch of 107 people (Stalwarts, we call ourselves) has a lot of diversity in terms of geography, age and educational background. Having a hotel management grad (Rutwik Dilip Phatak) in our batch came in handy when he decided to make Modaks (Kozhukattai) for both batches, on the eve of Ganesh Chaturthi. Of course, he wasn’t going to do it alone; that’s where the help of people like me came into use.

Rutwik took care of the main part of mixing the ingredients in the right proportion. Others helped him around with the easier, repetitive manual work involved in making the modaks. It took the 10-15 of us three full hours to make around 300 modaks.

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The Master Chef, Mr. Phatak

The Master Chef, Mr. Phatak

Saiprasad posing as if he's working

Saiprasad posing as if he’s working

Ofcourse, other than  clicking these pics, I did some of the work too. It felt gratifying when the final product didn’t turn out to be too bad; in fact, it was well received by both the batches, with a few of them (notably Priyankar Pandit :D) sneaking more than their permitted amount of one modak.

That was the day I realized how much effort had to go in by the mess workers to prepare food for 200-300 people, four times a day. That was also the day I stopped complaining about my food. Cooking is tough.

Modaks, ready to eat

Modaks, ready to eat

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It was fun preparing Lord Ganesha’s favorite snack. He must have liked it.

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Kumbakonam Degree Kaapi & a road trip to Sri Rangam

The Chennai-Trichy highway (NH-45) is a driver’s paradise. Once you cross Chengelpet, it’s almost like NFS-MW Tollbooth challenge – it’s only you, your car, awesome roads and LOTS of tollbooths; all the way to Trichy.

NFW Most Wanted - Toll booth challenge

NFW Most Wanted – Toll booth challenge

Sri Rangam has to be the temple outside Chennai that I have frequented the most. It is one place we (my family) love traveling to. One such trip to Sri Rangam began on Friday when we left Chennai by road at 8 am.

The road stretch from Ulundhurpet to Perambalur is awesome beyond words, considering that it’s in India.

Perambalur bypass

Perambalur bypass

NH-45

NH-45

The number of small shops selling Kumbakonam Degree Coffee on both sides of the highway was surprising to me. Almost every second kilometer, we could find hoardings advertising about the Coffee shop that also sold a lot of other stuff. For example, “Only Coffee”, one such coffee shop, offered snacks, rice mixes, halwas and books in addition to Kumbakonam Degree Coffee.

These small coffee outlets that adorned the sides of NH-45 (GST Road) were not present the last time I travelled through this highway. On googling, I found out that “Only Coffee” stores were recently set up by a gentleman G. Samyraj who wanted to create a means of livelihood to his struggling villagers. Aping his innovation, other Degree Coffee outlets followed suit.

They don’t serve overpriced variants of cold coffee like a Starbucks or CCD. Only frothy, piping hot, filter-coffee served in gleaming pithalai davara tumblers. And it costs Rs. 15/-

Kumbakonam Degree Coffee

Kumbakonam Degree Coffee

Somewhere near Perambalur on the highway, we took a small detour to visit Siruvachur Mathura Kaliamman temple. The shrine here, is open only on Fridays, Mondays and the first day of all Tamil months.

We next went straight to Sri Rangam, an islet formed by rivers Cauvery and Kollidam, located less than 10 km from Trichy. The Ranganathaswamy Temple at Sri Rangam is majestic, huge and divine at the same time. With 7 prakarams (outer walls), 21 gopurams (towers) and an area of 156 acres, it is the second largest Hindu Temple in the world!

Gopurams of Sri Rangam

Gopurams of Sri Rangam

But today, it doesn’t seem as large as it sounds because of the shops and houses that have been set up to as far as within the 4th prakaram. It’s still huge, though. You could spend an entire day inside the temple and still not end up covering even half of what it has to offer.

Sometime ago, Ms. Jayalalithaa had donated two mobile fuel efficient vans to the temple to help the elderly and disabled to travel within the temple premises. Ofcourse, Sri Rangam is her own constituency.

Ubayam: CM

Ubayam: CM

The Puliyodharai (Tamarind rice), Sweet pongal, vadai, athirasam and other snacks offered at the Prasadam Stall within the temple premises can act as more than just a substitute for lunch.

The temple also has lots of interesting legends associated with it. Try googling them (or read them from the walls of the temple if you happen to visit the place).

From personal experience, the people of Trichy and other small/medium towns are sweeter compared to the cities, at least when it comes to telling directions to a stranger. A particular bike man went to the extent of travelling a few hundreds of metres in his bike, along with us to show the road leading to Kumbakonam.

A 100 km from Sri Rangam lies Kumbakonam, popularly called “temple town”. It’s impossible to stand at any part of the town and not have a temple in your vicinity. During British Raj, it was a prominent center of European education, which gave it the name “Cambridge of South India”. The town is also world-renowned for its Degree Coffee.

The Little Flower Higher Secondary School (LFHSS), Kumbakonam has two notable alumni – Dr. M.S. Swaminathan and Mr. R. Aravamudhan, grandfather of Nitin Srinivas. 😀

Outside Thatha's Alma Mater, LFHSS

Outside Thatha’s Alma Mater, LFHSS

M.S. Swaminathan might have forgotten about his Alma Mater but my grandfather hasn’t. He is still very fond of LFHSS and his childhood days in Kumbakonam.

Uppliappan Koil, located about 10 km from Kumbakonam was also a part of our agenda. The temple elephants at both Uppiliappan Koil and Sri Rangam had gone to the yearly elephant camp and were found missing from the temples.

Tender coconut vendor in Uppiliappan Koil

Tender coconut vendor in Uppiliappan Koil

If the road from Chennai-Trichy was awesome beyond words, then the road connecting Kumbakonam-Dindivanam more than compensated for it. We were only too happy to catch the NH-45 at Dindivanam and get back home to end yet another trip that had a lot to offer.

 

Lord Ganesha: A hobbyist’s delight!

Among the thousands of Gods from the Hindu pantheon, Lord Ganesha is the most artistic (Lord Hanuman comes a close second).

Is it the elephant-head, the potbelly or the complete absence of angularity? Perhaps it is a combination of all these varied elements that has inspired artists and sculptors.

There’s a flexibility about this amicable deity that allows artists and sculptors in expressing their creativity. Ganesha has lounged, reclined, danced, fought and even played a few games.

Artists have never taken this liberty with any other Hindu God.  There is no scope too.

Fondly referred to as the Lord of the people,  Ganesha is a hobbyist’s delight!

When there are people who collect coins and stamps, why not avatars of Lord Ganesha?

Today, there are hundreds of avatars of Lord Ganesha adorning my house!

ganesha

Book Review: The Oath of the Vayuputras

No spoilers…

Writing fantasy fiction is easy. Recounting history/mythology is not tough. But writing historical fiction and making the reader glued to the book is no joke. Amish seems to have done that with ease in his final book on the Shiva Trilogy: The Oath of the Vayuputras.

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While reading the book, you get the same feeling you get while watching Mani Ratnam’s Thalapathy. You know it’s fiction but you just cannot stop drawing parallels with the original.

Each of the fifty odd chapters ends on a twist/suspense that it’ll be extremely hard to put down the book and get back to work.

The characters in the book are ones you get to see in your daily life. The “Kadamai, Ganniyam, Kattupaadu” Parvateshwar, wise Gopal, fearless Kartik, sinister Vidyunmali, among others.

“What is Evil? Why should it be destroyed?” are the main questions answered in this book.

The definition of Evil in the “eye” of the reader keeps changing in every book of the Trilogy.

In the first book, Chandravanshis were portrayed as Evil from the “eye” of Suryavanshis.

In the second book, the Nagas were portrayed as Evil from the “eye” of both Suryavanshis and Chandravanshis, at least till some part of the book.

Only in the third book does the reader realize that Evil can be something very simple; something that is a part of your system, that no one notices.

Evil doesn’t exist in itself. It is the human greed that causes Evil to rise. Someday, even the Greatest Good WILL turn into Greatest Evil. It is only a question of “When?” Of course, Neelkanth is the ultimate “Destroyer of Evil”.

A good storyteller is one who makes the reader visualize the sequences as they unfold. The Author has proved himself to be an excellent storyteller. When he describes war, you can see the gore and bloodshed in front of your eyes.  When he describes a city/town say, he is able to paint a picture in your mind.

In trying to prove a point that the characters in HIS story are humans, he gives a scientific explanation for almost everything considered superhuman, which might test the reader’s patience, at times!

Shiva’s conversations with Gopal are good life lessons for all.

A fitting and epic climax for the epic series, “The Oath of…” is easily the best book of the Trilogy, in my opinion. May be because it is the one I read most recently!

The Universe bows to Lord Shiva. I bow to Lord Shiva.

Har Har Mahadev!