Monday, June 30, 2014

Nahri temple , KASAULI

I recently holidayed in Kasauli with my family. I was visiting Kasauli after more than three decades and was very excited about re visiting the town again with my family. My earlier trip had been while i was a student in Punjab University, Chandigarh. I had gone on a day's visit with my batch mates.

Being spiritually inclined i always make it a point to visit  temples . along with other sightseeing activities . I  simply  have to make time out for a temple visit.

So i was told that there was an ancient Shiva temple in Kasauli. I set my heart to see this temple. Surprisingly  majority of the locals did not know about this ancient temple called Nahri temple. But a few did. so we set off on a 7 km ride through narrow roads, which ended at the  temple via gravel rods.

As we drove towards the temple the inhabitation became thinner and thinner and i wondered just how far the temple was.

After having covered a distance of 5 kms , we finally heaved a sigh of relief when we saw a signboard





 which assured us that despite  the locals being unaware of it, such an Shiva temple existed.

Taking a U turn from the sign board we drove on and reached the temple.

The temple is situated in Nahri village and thee idol of Lord Shiva and another idol of Maa Bagwati are inside the sacred chamber.

But the temple is beautifully made of white marble











 and as you stand there you get a lovely view 




of the hilly terrain. 

The Nahri temple, dedicated to the heavenly Lord Shiva and Goddess Durga, is believed to have been built around 150 years ago. Also known as the Jantar Mantar Choo Mantar Mahadev Mandir, this temple is famous for its festive celebrations of Shivratri and Dushera. The temple boasts of beautiful idols of Lord Shiva and Goddess Durga placed inside the sanctum of the temple.

 Near the temple, there is a century-old “bauri” (a natural source of water) which still provides sweet potable water. The temple is visited by thousands of pilgrims every year to offer their prayers to the almighty, and find solace in its enchanting and divine ambience.

I loved the absolute serene , calm and pristine pue atmosphere of the temple situated at approximately 6320 feet above seal level. . So much so that i plan to visit Kasauli once again and this time ill spend a few quiet hours meditating at this ancient but well maintained temple.

The drive is challenging but if you are fond of visiting temples like me, you must visit this Shiva temple.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Faith







One moment faith
Another moment despair
One moment Yes
Another  moment can't be
My thoughts waver
Like a drunken  pendulum.

It is faith that keeps me going
Faith that rejuvenates my doubts
And yet
Every now and then
Doubts creep up without warning
Churning my desires
In a painful flash
Robbing me of peace
My tranquillity.

But behold
You may shake me up
Stir negativity
But by God
I shall never give up
Never give up my dream
For faith is that one reason
I am alive.



Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Gender Change

It is a paradox that in out country women are worshipped as Goddesses. The female half , or the Ardh Shakti is Goddess  Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva.   Nevertheless the plight of Indian girls and women is shockingly beyond imagination. Child widows, dowry deaths, domestic violence, molestation and rape have become synonyms with the indian womanhood. 

While the new age Media its playing its role of doing away with old and useless traditions, a lot more needs to be done.

In 2013, the Holi festival brought relief to the widows of Vrindavan who had lived a life of anonymity and were shunned by the narrow minded and out dated society of our country.For the first time widows played Holi much to the joy of these  women who have been sidelined by society until 2013.

The pictures courtesy Deccan Chronicle vividly show the joy and gaiety of widows playing Holi with flowers and colors, Indeed a heart warming sight.












 In another heart warming news , Malavath Poorna,






a 13-year-old from Andhra Pradesh, became the youngest girl to set foot on the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest proving that girls are in no way lesser than their male counterparts.

In a third heart-warming news, Pankaja Gopinath Munde , the eldest daughter of the deceased politician performed the last rites of her father.



This third piece of news warmed the cockles of my heart. Because we are four sisters. And i have two daughters. I congratulated Mum and said to her:

"Mum, good news for both of us. Now our daughters will perform our last rites and we need not be on the lookout for our male cousins , nephews"

. I know it sounds morbid talking about death and last rites, but this is an emotion which can be understood only by those parents having only daughters and no son.

Early morning i shared the news of Pankaja with my daughter and we both nodded in unison and smiled happily.

Yes, today My Mum and i are very happy.

But this is just the  beginning. We need to question and change many other outdated gender issues and bring in relief and light in our society.

Till one more such news catches my attention, i sign off with a big smile on my face.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A new DAWN


Yesterday evening the entire nation and much of the world were glued to the TV screens to witness the Swearing in ceremony of our new Prime Minister Modiji.

It was an immensely dignified function which saw heads of states of SAARC countries expressing their solidarity towards Modji.

I sat in my living room , my eyes constantly on the TV  in a bid to watch each and every member of the cabinet take  their oath, stopping myself from going to the fridge to get a glass of soft drink.

But it was not always so. Politics and I were strange bedfellows for much of my life. The reason was an  incident from my childhood . As a kid growing up in Allahabad i had a brush  with politics which left a mark on me. In the mid 70s there was the Jan Sangh party beside the Congress. The party workers would distribute badges and we would run to get one. But what put me off was a slogan they used:

Jan Sangh to vote do
Beedi peena chod do
Beedi main tambakoo hai
Indira Gandhi daaku hai

Even as a child i was aghast at this outrageous slogan and i decided that politics wasa   dirty game and i would have nothing to do with it, where the opposition did not spare a thought about the kind of language they used to highlight their own party.

My next brush was in Chandigarh. As a student in Punjab University i witnessed the whole commotion of Univ elections. I would have been a mute spectator but for the post election scenario. Girls in open jeeps applauding  and celebrating the victory of their candidates  in a near drunken state. To me this sight was very unwomanly and once again i shut doors on Politics.

Once i got married with maturity came awareness and i would keep stock of top news , never going deep into any happening. But some incidents left a mark nevertheless. The assassination of both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, the Mandal commission outrage, the siege of the Golden temple in Amritsar, the Sikh riots in Delhi, the Kargil War and other incidents.

But a real awakening of my duty as a citizen of my nation happened only a few years back. We the people would complain about bad governance but would not exercise our right to vote and thus had no business to blame the ruling party.  But more than this it was an article i read on Political  Illiteracy which finally woke me up from  my political  slumber.

The article, without mincing word said that of all kinds of illiteracy the greatest illiterates were  the political illiterate. Because it was this kind of illiteracy which stopped growth and development. It was politics that would decide the cost of onions and flour. Politics that would make it possible to wipe the tears of an orphan. Politics that would ensure a roof for the homeless, Politics that would provide three square meals to the poor.. Politics that could empower women.  And finally i woke up and realized that it was my duty to be an alert citizen and politics was to be embedded  in our daily life.

Hence i watched the pre election scenario with a lot of interest. The number of scams in the last decade had made everybody turn away from the Congress. The results of 2014 elections gave their thumbs down, The AAP many believed would bring in a change but perhaps we expected too much from a one year old party. Instead India gave their mandate to BJP , bringing in the  Modi wave.

And the results are here. Shri Narendra   Modiji has been elected as the 15th Prime Minister of India The entire  country and beyond witnessed the swearing in ceremony last evening at Rashtrapati Bhawan.

Today we have social media as a very far reaching tool for almost every sphere of life, Politics included. Within minutes of the swearing in ceremony of Modiji, his website was updated and his message posted. Below is  Modiji's letter to the nation and rest of the world.

My dear fellow Indians and citizens of the world,

Namaste!


A very warm welcome to the official website of the Prime Minister of India.
On 16th May 2014 the people of India gave their verdict. They delivered a mandate for development, good governance and stability. As we devote ourselves to take India’s development journey to newer heights, we seek your support, blessings and active participation. Together we will script a glorious future for India. Let us together dream of a strong, developed and inclusive India that actively engages with the global community to strengthen the cause of world peace and development.
I envision this website as a very important medium of direct communication between us. I am a firm believer in the power of technology and social media to communicate with people across the world. I hope this platform creates opportunities to listen, learn and share one’s views.
Through this website you will also get all the latest information about my speeches, schedules, foreign visits and lot more. I will also keep informing you about innovative initiatives undertaken by the Government of India.
Yours,
Narendra Modi



We, the people of India have  a lot of expectations from you and your governance. We are waiting for  acche din. We are waiting for CHANGE. We are waiting for prosperity, growth, development and  an end to corruption.

We are hoping you will be the harbinger of CHANGE. The nation has put their trust and faith in you. Let a new India emerge from today.

JAI HIND.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

MONGU Dreams

What is  Happiness?

 Happiness is going down memory lane and being twelve again. Remembering my childhood experiencing MOTHER NATURE in Mongu.

Jogging your memory to recall the name of a tree that was an important part of my childhood.  Yes, i managed to recall the vernacular name of the tree where i spent many happy hours with the local Zambian kids.

I am talking about my stay in Mongu, in the western province  of Zambia,a country in Africa. 

I was initiated to the wonders of nature by my father. I grew up in  sprawling colony in Allahabad in Bamrauli. We had a beautiful garden and kitchen garden in the government house where we lived for the first twelve years of my life. It was my father who inculcated the love of nature in me. We had fruit trees growing in our aangan - guava, custard apple and lemon. The neighbors had a Jamun tree which we had proclaimed  as our own by climbing on the roof and plucking ripe jamuns. 

The front  verandah garden had Bougainvillea, Rangoon creeper and Ivy growing against the walls. The garden's hedge was made of three  varieties of shrubs. Henna, Hibiscus and Jasmine,

Father would diligently tend to the garden growing crops like tomatoes, potatoes, Brinjal, . Chillies etc. He taught me to till the soil, add manure, plant a sapling. dig the earth to remove the weeds and how to transplant a plant.

It was he who taught me to be in sync with nature. Whether it was carefully wrapping custard apples in newspapers to allow them to ripen or tending to an injured sparrow whose wings had been hurt by accidentally striking against the fan ( yes in those days in Allahabad, sparrows  not just visited your aangan but ventured into your rooms too), or feeding Bajra to pigeons, he succeeded in forging  my tryst with Mother  Nature,

Besides the garden  in our home, the entire Bamrauli colony was a treasure house of every imaginable flower and trees.

While the government offices and the Swimming pool complex would have pots and beds  of seasonal flowers, large trees dotted the colony.

So i grew up getting acquainted with Banyan, Pipal, Tamarind, Gulmohar, Mango, Ber, Mulberry,Grape fruit, lemon.   We had twp guava orchards in the colony which bore an excellent produce of famous Allahabad guavas in winters,

The legacy of my childhood in Allahabad got an extension in Mongu. Coming back to the tree i was talking about . It was called Muzauli, in Lozi the local language of the Lozi people who inhabit the Western province of  Zambia particularly in Mongu.

Happiness is discovering the scientific name of the Muzauli tree. It is Guibouritia coleosperma, aka African Rosewood  or Large False Mopane tree.


Happiness is checking out my Stamp collection and discovering  the different MOTHER NATURE theme  stamps.

 I am sharing some of the stamps in this post .


The Red Muzauli seeds have a thin semi fleshy coating which the neighborhood kids would chew and we would emulate the kids and chew it for a while only to spit it out as this was no fruit to be savored. The hard red seeds came in handy for playing in door games, just like marbles.


According to one research shows that the Muzauli tree, native to the Kalhari sands which occupy much of Western province is used to treat Newcastle disease,  which is a contagious bird disease affecting many domestic and wild avian species; it is transmissible to humans.

The  leaves and stalks of the Muzauli tree  are pounded and added to drinking water.

Another tale tells of how the locals survived a tough drought times by eating the Muzauli seeds.






A stamp of Muzauli tree






Mongu is famous for mangoes. While we lived in Mongu, Dad worked at the Airport and every season the mango produce was shared amongst the  employees. Dad would get  sackful of his share of mngoes and we would feed on the ripe mangoes. However  this African variety was very fibrous unlike the pulpy and fiber free mangoes found in India.

Pic Courtesy Lusakatimes.com


Strangely, the Airport also had a Cashew nut tree where we would get to see the False Apple fruit



Although the entire town of Mongu was sandy, it did not deter the locals from farming .   Majority of the houses in those days were single houses , open from all l four sides and having a kitchen garden.

When we moved in to the house the house had a   small garden at the back. However i would accompany  Dad  in his Fiat car   and bring sack full of black soil  of the Zambezi plains to cover the sandy soil in the backyard. And we successfully managed to triple the kitchen garden space and added a back lawn of green grass where we would often have picnic meals in the Winter sun.

The main  food of Zambia is maize. It is crushed to a powder form called Meali Meal which is the staple food. The  natives use Mealie meal to cook a porridge called nshima which is eaten with vegetables  and meat dishes.






The stamp shows women pounding Maize in the traditional way.






The sandy soil in Mongu is perfect for growing ground nuts and father too had a bed of groundnuts every season. It was the first time i had seen a soft ground nut , so different from the dry groundnuts we would crack and eat in Allahabad.


The peanut, or groundnut (Arachis hypogaea)



This stamp shows women farming ground nuts,






 The two most common vegetables eaten with nshima are Cabbage and Rape leaves





Rape leaves 




Another favorite local vegetable is Cassava. It is either eaten as such or dried and powdered to form a porridge a bit like nshima

Cassava

During our stay in Mongu at times we had to depend on our own kitchen garden for vegetables. There were many Indian families staying in Mongu and the Gujaratis were very prominent. It was a Gujarati family which encouraged us to grow Arhar dal.

The arhar dal grew so well that is served as a boundary wall for the garden. I


 ARHAR, scientific name Cajanus cajan 




Besides the Departmental stores in Mongu, there was an African market where items like Basket handicrafts, dried fish, tobacco leaves and other native stuff was sold.





The two stamps show Tobacco farming.






The culture of Kitchen garden was found even in our boarding  school. Besides other crops, Pine apples were  grown in the kitchen garden of our school.


pineapple (Ananas comosus



Besides  mangoes, Mongu is also famous for Fishing as the town lies along the Zambezi river.  Here in the Zambezi the locals would fish and the three common varieties  of fishes are  Lake Tanganyka sardines which is celled Kapenta, Bream and Tiger fish.




Kapenta 





While in Mongu i discovered for the first time that Kapenta  fish was dried and sold  as food item.  In those days it was sold openly, while now it is packaged and sold.






Dried Kapenta 
The second abundant variety of fish is Bream



The stamp shows a variety of Bream.



The third variety of common fish is The Tiger fish



Zambia has a variety of birds, the most common being the Crow.

One marked difference in the Common Crow found there is that the African  Crow is completely black unlike the Indian crow which has patches of white breast.




Black Crow



The National bird of Zambia is the African Fish Eagle.






Our house which was  walking distance from both the town Library and the the Lewanika Hospital was open from all four sides as most houses in Mongu were then.  To avoid insects and other creatures from entering the house, there was a hedge of cactus plant on two sides. But one fine day we had a visitor. Very creepy. Very poisonous. Very scary. A glistening long green scaly creature. Yes it was a snake.



My sister and i stared unbelievably at the green snake,  But the neighbor's kids who were with us exclaimed in hushed tones:

Green Mamba!

As the Zambian kid chased the snake, it slithered  back into the dense grass beyond our house. it was a sight i will never forget.

Today thanks to the competition by KISSAN , i went back in time to remember my Happy days as a child growing up in a dramatically different flora and fauna  from Allahabad, This contest also made  me open my stamp book and jog my memory of my happy childhood  in Mongu.

Happiness is dreaming of my second tryst with MOTHER NATURE in Mongu. (The first tryst was in Bamrauli, Allahabad and you can read about it in Growing Up in Bamrauli)

I have a dream of visiting Zambia, particularly Mongu One day.

A dream of  checking whether the Muzauli tree still stands on the side of the house we lived in. Whether the Cashew nut tree and mango trees still grace the  Airport.


A dream of  standing on the road in front of the Dairy and checking the cattle in the  Dairy. Of gazing at he breathtaking beautiful expanse of the Zambezi river flood plains, preferably in the rainy season when the plains are full of water and fishermen in narrow canoes can be seen moving through the water.


A dream of taking a motor boat ride on the Zambezi river from the harbor and heading to the nearest island village.


Even though i am a vegetarian i would still buy a packet of dry Kapenta for family and friends and dare them to experiment with  their taste buds.


Of watching the Sun set on the Zambezi plains.


A dream of walking thought he roads and hear little children shout  'Mukua' excitedly which means foreigner in the local language Lozi.


Of halting  by at my neighbors home, cupping my hands and clapping them three times and saying:


'Mul mulensha'


And hear them reply back: 'Ensha'


A dream of eating golden deep fried sweet flour balls , Matumbua.


A dream of visiting my school and checking the kitchen garden to see whether they still grow Pine apples.


A dream of wrapping a Chitenge on my hips .just like the locals


A dream of witnessing the world famous KUOMBOKA ceremony during the rainy season at Limulunga, near Mongu.


A dream of spending two nights again at he Kafue National park.


 Mongu is calling. I want to be 12 again and re live my childhood a midst he Zambian flora, fauna and the town.

Happiness is writing this nostalgic post.

 Thank you KISSAN!

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[This post is n entry for the KISSANPUR contest by KISSAN by Indiblogger]