Tag Archive | Religion

Fun Time of Year

So its that time of year again. The time when my Dad uncovers the cassette player and digs out two cassettes of devotional songs in Bengali from the pile of cassettes which are now ignored in today’s world of Winamp and Channel V. He plays them every year on the first day of this time of year at an unholy hour of 7.00 am that too quite loudly. And we know by listening to “Mahishashur Mardini” that its Mahalaya i.e. the beginning of Durga Puja that day. You can listen to some songs at this link here.

Mahalaya is an auspicious occasion observed seven days before the Durga Puja, and heralds the advent of Durga, the goddess of supreme power. It’s a kind of invocation or invitation to the mother goddess to descend on earth – “Jago Tumi Jago”. This is done through the chanting of mantras and singing devotional songs. Since the early 1930s, Mahalaya has come to associate itself with an early morning radio program called “Mahisasura Mardini” or “The Annihilation of the Demon.” This All India Radio (AIR) program is a beautiful audio montage of recitation from the scriptural verses of “Chandi Kavya”, Bengali devotional songs, classical music and a dash of acoustic melodrama. The program has also been translated into Hindi set to similar orchestration and is broadcast at the same time for a pan-Indian audience. This program has almost become synonymous with Mahalaya. For nearly six decades now, the whole of Bengal rises up in the chilly pre dawn hours, 4 am to be precise, of the Mahalaya day to tune in to the “Mahisasura Mardini” broadcast.

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Religion and Respect

Before expressing my personal opinion, I want to share a news item. I don’t know how many national dailies featured this news. But it is this news that inspired me to write this post.

Mon, Sep 8 2008 :- Christian organizations have demanded action against activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal who misbehaved with two nuns at the Durg station on Friday. The two nuns, carrying three babies with them, were on their way to Bhopal on the Chhattisgarh Express when the activists forced them to get off the train at the station. The nuns, of the Mother Teresa Missionaries of Charity, were handed over to the railway police when they refused to answer questions on the babies. Later, the nuns told the railway police that they are carrying the babies after taking consent from their parents. The parents were very poor and could not take care of the infants properly, the nuns told the police. The babies were being taken to an ashram for children in Bhopal. Christian organisations have conveyed their dissent to Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan and have demanded action against the VHP, Bajrang Dal activists.

Please read the more detailed news here. Somehow there is no update available in local newspapers since that day.

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Vishwakarma Puja – Photo and Video Feature

Yesterday Vishwakarma Puja was celebrated in my Department of Electrical Engineering. Lord Vishwakarma is a Hindu deity known as the divine engineer and architect in Hinduism.

Hindu mythology is full of Vishwakarma’s many architectural wonders. Through the four ‘yugas’, he had built several towns and palaces for the gods. In “Satya yuga”, he built the Swarg Loke, or heaven, the abode of the gods and demigods where Lord Indra rules. Vishwakarma then built the ‘Sone ki Lanka’ in “Treta yuga”, the city of Dwarka in “Dwapar yuga”, and Hastinapur and Indraprastha in the “Kali yuga”.

Vishwakarma Puja is celebrated on Kanya Sankranti day which comes after Ganeshotsav. All engineering and architectural community celebrate this day and worship Him. Craftsmen worship their tools in His name. He is supposed to provide excellence and quality in work and blessing for proper working of machinery and tools. Though the festival is mainly celebrated in factories and industries with much grandeur, we have the tradition of celebrating it in our engineering college’s laboratories and workshop also. Here is a photo feature of the whole event. Place the mouse on the photos to read the captions.

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The Point Of Religion

Before you read this post I must repeat my disclaimer that this is entirely my point of view and it may offend conservatives and orthodoxly religious people. Rest are mature enough to understand what I’m trying to say. India is a land of festivals and all of them centered around some god/goddess or other. Today is Ganesh Chaturthi which marks the beginning of Lord Ganesh‘s festival of 10 days. Yesterday students had come to us lecturers, as they do each year, for monetary contribution to the festival. All of us contributed. But if it had been for Bihar Flood Relief Aid, most people would have been suspicious and hesitant to give money because they know their politicians and officials. But still my point is that our institution or the students didn’t even try to raise a fund for the aid, whereas they are ever eager to collect money and celebrate yet another religious festival. The question in my mind is what is the point of religion?

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Tit for Tat

The pettiness of our politicians and religious groups has reached new heights. The J & K government had decided to transfer land to Amarnath shrine board for development of facilities for the pilgrims, but after strong and violent protests and political pressure the government revoked its order. The board also decided against pursing its claim over the land. Now, Hindu fundamentalist groups like VHP have retaliated by calling a Bharat Bandh (India Strike) today. They also demand that subsidies given by government to Haj pilgrims should be taken back.

“Haj subsidy must be cancelled. No flights for Haj should be sent as it is wastage of precious fuel the cost of which has to be borne from the taxpayers,” VHP general secretary Pravin Togadia told reporters.

They also demand that the cancellation order of land transfer be revoked by the government. This is what happens when you mix politics and religion. Its the most harmful cocktail one could think of. Now, I think

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World War 3.0

So now I know how the world is going to end. It will be annihilated by the commencement of World War III. How did I reach to this conclusion? Read on.
There was a bomb blast in Thane, Mumbai on June 4 2008. Some more bombs were recovered live from other places. Two Hindu extremists have been arrested for the same. Supposedly they belong to some Hindu organizations called Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) and Sanatan Sansthan. Read the whole news here. Now after this happened, the Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamna ran an editorial in which Mr.BT (the editor) advocated “build-up of Hindu response to counter the ‘growing Islamic terrorism’ in the country while ridiculing members of a Hindu fundamentalist organisation held for low-intensity bomb blasts in Thane.” Of course it doesn’t matter that 7 people died (correction:injured) in the blast and my guess would be all of them were not Muslims. What is the problem if 7 die (correction:get injured) among 13 million population of Mumbai? Sacrifice must be made for the greater good, right? I guess this is the convoluted mentality of these people.

So Mr.BT has commended the creation of Hindu suicide squads as a tit for tat for Islamic outfits. I’ve already expressed my indignation over how irresponsibly leaders speak and behave. But this has crossed the limit. How can a leader in his sensible mind ask his people to form suicide groups for spreading violence? How can he ask them to sacrifice their lives and families to die for his absurd cause or rather I presume his personal vendetta? In today’s world how can a leader champion the cause of terrorism and blood for blood? Our Nation’s Bapu must be turning and tossing in his grave!! (yes, I know he was a Hindu) How can a leader encourage his people to take the law in their own hands?

I condemn such fundamentalist leaders of any country who show the path of violence and bloodshed to their people. Instead of waging wars why doesn’t he encourage people to form cleaning squads to keep Mumbai clean and water logging free?
According to Mr.BT these Hindu squads should go to Islamic countries and carry out bomb blasts there. I guess if this happens those countries will retaliate and US & EU will jump in too in the foray. Taking the opportunity China may attack India from other side. And thus World War 3.0 will ensue. And the world will come to an end.

On second thought, that might be a good thing. Everything will start anew after humans have wiped out each other. Sigh! A 6 yr old kid is wiser than a 80+ adult.

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P.S. Logos credited to northernsun.com

The Puri Trip

Hello folks!! (better than dear diary or dear blog), since my existence on the planet Earth for more than two decades ( come on!! u don’t expect me to write in years do u?) I haven’t had a chance to see even a wee bit of the thing that covers 71% of Earth’s surface i.e. oceans. A friend of mine found this quite shocking and unbelievable. What is there to be so shocked and astounded? As it is I’m not much of the travelling or the touring kind and I have always stayed at land locked places. People just tend to overreact at what one has done and what one hasn’t. One day a time will come….with the Earth gaining popularity just like “India Shining” and getting increasing hits from aliens just like Google search hits on Britney Spears…when people will be like :”oh my god! you haven’t seen an alien yet?”

Anyway….so I decided to go on a trip to see the ocean in this Diwali vacation with my parents. Destination Puri was selected and a four day trip was chalked out. In the train to Puri, during the whole journey our tickets were not checked by the authorities…..We may have as well travelled ticketless…would have saved some bucks….but being good dutiful citizens we did our part. The scenery was pretty much alike to that en route Kolkatta (my homeland)….All small ponds, coconut trees, ponds full of lotus plants……Unlike the barren and dusty route when one goes towards Pune/Nagpur….
As the train sped towards Cuttack, we crossed the 2,250 m long bridge built on the river Mahanadi. It was awesome.

As like all cautious Bongs, my parents had got their home made packed dinner while I’d decided to try the cuisine offered by Indian Railways….and I’m glad to report that I.R. has improved a lot….food was edible and in fact somewhat delicious….So much that my unexperimental and “no risks” father decided to leave the Bong tradition and eat in train hereon….But old habits die hard…in return journey he still got dinner packed from our cottage restaurant and again we had delicious food served by I.R. …better than before as this time we were in air conditioned coach and again Father’s vow was renewed.

After dealing with agents and browsing through pamphlets we decided on a cottage type hotel which had “international” in its name…..People put such titles so casually in India…A roadside stall or a more posh stall i.e. dhaba selling biryani or punjabi non veg cuisine also writes “international”…..Indians having been an colonised nation in past,have always been fascinated by foreigners on some subconscious level….from the time of Huen Tsang to Edwina Mountbatten….. So in spite of slow service, first floor being under construction (quite hazardous..mind it…even some bricks fell down one afternoon from a just built wall!!!!) and the cottage being international in the sense that except us, all other occupants were girls from England, Israel etc; it was a good bargain and right on the beach with the ocean 30 metres away…Would have been a better bargain if I’d a brother and would have gone along with us…u can guess why……Would have been a worse bargain if I’d been with husband….As Ganeshaspeaks.com puts it “You would want your man to have eyes only for you and no one else in life. ” Heh Heh….The British girl was our neighbour and quite courteous in the way that she used to do “namaskar” to my mom. My father and me didn’t have the privilege of her greetings.
In the late afternoon of the day we arrived, my parents went to see the ocean while i kept sleeping….And afternoon nap for me more often than not ends in me getting grumpy and irritable. It’s definitely not a power nap for me. So I was grumbling all evening for being left alone. Then we again went for a stroll after dark and the beach light being out of order, it was quite scary to walk across beach in darkness..And then I got the night view of Bay of Bengal…..Looking so omnious in night..A dark unknown water world…So wild and powerful…I wondered how do people go on journeys across seas and oceans…..I have always been a staunch follower of terra firma and will continue to be so….u know both feet planted on ground type.. Heh Heh!! I love water, I surely do, from the shore.Then later we went for a quick ride around the city.
1st day…..My parents went on an early morning romantic walk to see the sun rise over the ocean…..As for me the desire to see such a view gets curbed by the desire to have morning sleep….This “morning sleep” is so better than the “night sleep”…. My parents being larks and catching worm type of early birds are unable to understand this pleasure and thus have not yet given up their persuasion to make their two daughters early risers….Hope floats I guess….
The plan for the day was to visit Lord Jagannath Temple. Our “international” hotel didn’t have any facility of providing hot water. So after having bathed in luke warm water (entirely credit of the climate..Thank you Lord!!) and having arranged a “paanda” (aka agent of God…the god depending on the place..in this case Lord Jagannath) to escort and guide us in the temple, we set off.
Oh my God!!! no…no….Oh Lord Jagannath!!!!! Trust Ministry of Tourism to be so callous and indifferent so as not to develop such tourist places for earning money. I mean India has so many places having lots of tourism potential but our government is just not tapping such resources. The “Incredible India!” tag line is restricted to a few places like the Taj, Goa etc. The street leading to the Jagannath temple is host to a large vegetable market, three wheelers, rickshaws, dirty water in sewers and cows. We were amazed at the indifference of the government to develop such a prospect of tourism knowingly. Well….I guess they dont bother because only Hindus are allowed inside the temple and we Indians comprising mostly of Hindus have become inured to such sights, roads and places…There is nothing shocking in spitting while driving or cows sitting on the busiest roads or markets and stalls at most inappropriate places, encroaching into walking /driving space.

So after submitting our mobiles and camera, we washed our feet and entered the 8000 yrs old temple consisting of many temples inside, carved out of hillocks. Here and there various types of prasads were available and once you take it innocently, the pandas ask for money….It is a whole business going on there…Godliness on sale….There were a line of old men (brahmins i suppose) sitting on a place slightly out of reach and women worshipers were walking below trying to touch their feet by standing on their toes…one old man even extended his feet so that the lady can touch those..god knows what was this custom…The place was so crowded that our hired paanda held our wrists and literally dragged and pushed us inside the main temple to see the Lord. Since when did God become so inaccessible?? We not being among the good god-fearing Hindus who know all the customs; didn’t quite fit in. The paanda had to keep asking my mom to cover her head with sari pallu.. and our attitude “lets get over with it as soon as possible” was pretty clear. The only thing that appealed to me was a kitten i met at the place where they cook food for all devotees i.e. bhog . Huge oven by god! After exchanging some miaows with cat we left for our hotel.
Then we came back to our hotel and had breakfast. A rented car came to take us to Konark to see the famous Sun temple. The 13th-century Sun Temple (also known as the Black Pagoda), built in Orissa red sandstone and black granite by King Narasimhadeva I (AD 1236-1264) of the Ganga dynasty. The temple is one of the most well renowned temples in India and is a World Heritage Site. [This information has been provided by the courtesy of wikipedia]. While driving to Konark, we crossed a place called Chandrabagha. The view of the sea from there was awesome , but due to afternoon time we couldn’t enjoy much. The snaps didn’t come well too due to so much of sunlight. We also crossed some forest area but didn’t get to see even one deer.

The Sun temple was really grand…such a huge structure made of stone…so much creativity and hard work. Its surrounding gardens were extremely beautiful. Huge elephants and other creatures made of stone were there. There were many “guides” who pestered to hire them to show around and tell story. Some foreigners had hired them. We, Indians, knew better. I took many snaps and bought a lot of souvenirs from outside stalls.

The food shops outside the site don’t serve tasty food. But we drank very tasty coconut juice and ate pulp. Then we returned to our hotel and had our lunch. Our “international” hotel served very tasty food and a lot of it in cheap prices so I was happy. After our afternoon nap, we went to the main beach of Puri; “Sworgodwar” meaning gateway to heaven. Here the beach was very crowded and all the prominent hotels were on the road adjacent to the beach. It was already sunset when we went, so couldn’t enjoy much. There was a large market too but as we were tired from our day trip, we just did window shopping. We planned to come back the next day in early evening. From there we went around a trip around the town. Visited a Buddha temple where stone sculptures were kept for sale. Exquisite work but very costly.

The next day the same rented car came to take us to Chilka Lake. Chilka Lake is a brackish water coastal lake . It is the largest coastal lake in India. The driver told us Chilka is famous for its crabs. We were tempted to eat crabs and had decided to buy from there. The fun part of Chilka visit consisted of boating ; the activity of which both my Dad and I were afraid. So we just roamed a little , took snaps and sat in the adjoining park while eating chips and feeding crumbs to crows.

While coming back, I’d to undergo the torture of listening to Himesh’s songs which our driver had put on. Also Dad bought 3 crabs weighing one kilo and gave them to the hotel chef to prepare for us. I was looking forward to my dinner that night more than i usually did. When the crab dish came I could find only two crab bodies. Supposedly our hotel chef couldn’t resist and kept one for himself. I admit I was grumpy as I am not at all generous in matter of food.

In evening we went to Sworgodwar and enjoyed a lot. Even Dad went to wet his feet in the waves crashing on the shore. There was a foreigner couple bathing intimately and thus were the centre of attraction. At the beach there were local people selling “pearls” and “stones” collected from sea at prices of Rs 5-25!!!! There were camels for giving ride and chairs were available on rent at the rate of Rs 10 per hour to sit and enjoy. We “rented” chairs as the beach was quite dirty and because Mom saw a camel doing shit and the owner covering it up with sand.

Then we bought some snacks from the Mongini’s outlet and sat by the “Marine drive” to enjoy. After that we went shopping and I bought knick knacks, dress material and gift items for colleagues back home. Beautiful idols made of stone and coral were available. Came back to hotel. After dinner we went for a night walk on the beach. Unlike my parents, I didn’t dare to sit on the sand as all crabs , big and small were climbing out in night.

Next day was our last day in Puri. All of us went for early morning walk on beach. The ocean at each time of day has different sights and different effects. The morning chill, the fog, the boats going out to earn livelihood…..whereas in night the darkness, the sound of waves crashing in the silence of night, boats returning home, a feeling as if we’re standing at the edge of the world. Dad and Mom went for some last minute shopping. In late afternoon, Dad and I went for our last view of the Bay of Bengal, to take in the vastness of the elements of earth before we left for station.

After giving suitable tips to the boys who worked as waiters, we left for station. Next day we reached our home with the memories of a wonderful trip.