Thankful for All

Pics of an older woman cooking on the sidewalk in Mumbai by Arun Shanbhag

Hoping you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Meera and M are doing superbly well and healthy. Our lives have been enriched in so many ways: great family and friends, satisfying careers and fulfilling “dharma”. We are thankful for all this and more! ~ Arun

This post by Preena reminded me of this older woman cooking on the sidewalk in South Mumbai. It was a simple, charred metal can she used to boil a little bit of rice. That was all she had for dinner. Continue reading “Thankful for All”

Aśṭa Vināyak – Pilgrimage to Eight Gaṇeśa Temples – A Photo Essay

Pics from AstaVinayak Tirth Yatra Maharashtra by Arun Shanbhag In the Indian state of Maharashtra, a tīrth yātra (pilgrimage) to visit eight ancient temples to Gaṇeśa (Aśṭa Vināyak) is mentioned in the puranas and considered very sacred. These eight temples, each with exquisitely beautiful Gaṇeśa murtīs, are in tiny villages, scattered around the mountainous terrain between Mumbai and Pune. After much procrastination, last February we were called on this short, beautiful and spiritually uplifting tīrth yātrā. Continue reading “Aśṭa Vināyak – Pilgrimage to Eight Gaṇeśa Temples – A Photo Essay”

Meera at Seva Mandal Ganapati: Worth her weight in … bananas

pictures of Meera on the scales at the GSB Seva Mandal  by Arun Shanbhag

In a Hindu tradition called Tolay Bhaar families celebrate life events by offering their weight in fruits to the divine. These fruits are then served to devotees as prasad. At the GSB Seva Mandal Ganapati, this tradition takes on mammoth proportions where 1000’s of devotees offer everything from the more traditional coconuts, bananas or modak/appams (the sweet dollop made during Ganapati festivals), to gold or silver jewelry.

During the past year, we got a wonderful opportunity to perform Meera’s Tolay Bhaar (roughly translates to: scales are full) at the GSB Seva Mandal in Mumbai. The weighing scales are setup in front of the Ganapati murthy, giving the devotee an unimpeded darshan. Despite my concerns, Meera sat quietly and (eerily) focused in darshan, the entire time she was on the scales. Continue reading “Meera at Seva Mandal Ganapati: Worth her weight in … bananas”

Krishna Janmashtami – Shri Krishna Muth Udupi

Murti of Udupi Shri Krishna with Alankar during Paryaya

Greetings for Krishna Janmashtami!

The Shri Krishna Muth in Udupi, Karnataka was founded by Sant Madhvāchārya, a Vaishnava Saint (1238-1317) who also propounded the Dvaita philosophy of Vedanta.
Continue reading “Krishna Janmashtami – Shri Krishna Muth Udupi”

Amma coming to Boston, July 2012

Mata Amritanandamayi Amma Devi Bhava Arun Shanbhag
Amma in Devi Bhava during her Boston visit in 2011.

Dates for Amma‘s (Mata Amritanandamayi) Boston tour have been announced and Registration is now open for the Retreat. Here, you can read about my fabulous, life-altering experience with Amma. Hope to see some of you there.
Continue reading “Amma coming to Boston, July 2012”

Hanuman Mandir Picket Rd Mumbai

Hanuman Jayanti Maruti at the Picket Rd Hanuman Temple pics by Arun Shanbhag



Shree guru charan saroj raj, nija manu mukuru sudhari |
Baranau raghubar bimal jasu, jo dayak phal chaari ||

With the mirror of the mind, cleansed by the dust of the lotus feet of my Guru;
(listen) to the unblemished glory of Hanuman, exalted one of the Raghu dynasty, who can bestow the four fruits (dharma, artha, kaama and moksha)

Wishing you all a wonderful Hanuman Jayanti!

Continue reading “Hanuman Mandir Picket Rd Mumbai”

Makar Sankranti – To Brighter Days

Makar Sankranti 2012 Greetings drawn by Chitra Ulhas Nayak pics by Arun Shanbhag

Praise be to Surya, the Sun God
As he starts his Northerly trek

Grace us with Warmth and Light

Happy Sankranti to All!

Continue reading “Makar Sankranti – To Brighter Days”

Break at a Marathi Village

During our AstaVinayak (Eight Sacred Ganapati Temples) tour, we stopped at a roadside eatery in rural Maharashtra. After a simple meal (roti & sabzi for us, yogurt and rice for Meera), I ambled over to the village square. Continue reading “Break at a Marathi Village”

Dussehra: Glory to Durga Devi 2011

Durga Devi preparation, Mumbai 2011 by Arun Shanbhag

Shristhī-sthīthī-laya kārinī
Cause of this creation, sustenance & dissolution

Wishing you all a Wonderful Dassara.
M&M & A

Continue reading “Dussehra: Glory to Durga Devi 2011”

Wedding Rangoli

Rangoli - Shubh Vivah (Congratulations for an auspicious wedding) by Arun Shanbhag
Shubh Vivah = Congratulations for an auspicious Wedding!
Saw this hand draw Rangoli outside a wedding hall in Pali, near Pune; approx. 6-7 ft across. The white is usually rice powder, which the birds and ants are expected to eat away. Spectacular, no?

Ganapati Visarjan: Wadala & Lalbaug cha Raja

GSB Muth Wadala Ganapati 2011 Amol Kamat
During the 11 days of Ganapati, the murthy is brought into our homes and the divine spirit invited to reside and bless us all. During these days, we treat Ganapati as a valued guest and shower him with the best of flowers, fruits and delicious foods. Friends and relatives visit in awe at the divine presence. At festivals end, we bid farewell and the material form is immersed into a water body so as not to soil it. Bidding farewell to our divine visitor is called visarjan. In villages, Ganapati is dunked in the home or community well, or nearby lake or river. In Mumbai, the murthys are carried with pomp and celebration, with much dancing to one of many beaches and immersed in the waters.
Continue reading “Ganapati Visarjan: Wadala & Lalbaug cha Raja”

Ganapati at the GSB Muth, Wadala

Ganapati at GSB Wadala by Arun Shanbhag

The GSB Wadala Muth Ganapati holds some of my fondest memories of sarvajanik (public) Ganapati. At 8 ft, it is not the largest of the Ganapatis, but certainly one of the most artistically excuted and ‘constant.’ Even though the artisans craft a new murthy from clay each year, this murthy has not changed one bit over the last three decades. The size is limited by the doorway to the hall where this Ganapati sits. The GSB Seva Mandal Ganapati contrarily, is built on and sits on a trolley which is covered under a huge outdoor tent. On visarjan day, the stage is dismantled and the trolley with the Ganapati is pulled out. The Wadala Ganapati is wheeled/carried out of the hall, placed on a trailer and taken to Shivaji Park for immersion.
Continue reading “Ganapati at the GSB Muth, Wadala”

Ganapati at GSB Seva Mandal

pictures of GSB Seva Mandal Ganapati 2011 2012 by Arun Shanbhag

The GSB Seva Mandal is one of the largest Sarvajanik (public) Ganapati celebrations in Mumbai. The murthy is 14 ft tall and all pujas ( devotional services) are performed in Sanskrit following traditions prescribed in ancient scriptures. See pics from our 2009 visit here.
Continue reading “Ganapati at GSB Seva Mandal”

Monks at the Pashupatinath Temple, Nepal

In an ancient stone portico (bhojan mandap) outside the Pashupatinath Temple (Kathmandu, Nepal), several sanyasinis (female monks) were resting and enjoying meals. Here donors arrange free meals for monks and the needy. Loved the colors.
Continue reading “Monks at the Pashupatinath Temple, Nepal”

Meeting Amma in Boston

Mata Amritanandamayi Amma

Prema rasāmrta varshini mātā amrtānandamayi |
Prema bhakti sandāyani mātā amrtānandamayi ||

Showers us with immortal nectar of love, O mother;
Grant us the capacity for love & bhakti (selfless devotion), O mother Amritanandamayi ||

Two weeks ago, I got the opportunity to experience darshan of Mata Amritanandamay, better known as Amma. What started as a casual email invite, turned into a life fulfilling experience. Below, I have used my tweets to supplement my notes. Continue reading “Meeting Amma in Boston”

Visiting the Daulatabad Fort at Deogiri

Daulatabad Fort, India Arun ShanbhagDaulatabad, previously known as Deogiri (Hill of Gods), was founded by Raja Bhillama of the Yadava dynasty in the 11th century of the current era. Raja Bhillama renounced his allegiance to the Chalukyas, and after victorious campaigns against neighbors, retained control of the strategic Deccan with his capital at Deogiri.

Having heard of the wealth of the land, Alauddin Khilji marched down, destroyed the town and laid siege to the fort in 1294. After a 3-week stand-off, Raja Ramachandra Deva surrendered on payment of a record tribute which had to be carted off on elephants and camels. The tribute was believed to include 54,000 lbs of gold, 560 lbs of pearls, 160 lbs of precious stones, silver, silk and adjacent towns. This was the first time Muslims had penetrated as far south as the Deccan. Fresh with booty, Alauddin schemed and murdered his uncle Jalauddin Khilji and ascended the throne in Delhi in 1296. And a few years later Alauddin would lust after Padmini, ending tragically in the massacre at Chittor. Continue reading “Visiting the Daulatabad Fort at Deogiri”

Chinmaya Maruti; New Year Greetings 2011

Picture of Hanuman Maruti by Arun Shanbhag


Jai Hanuman Gyan Guna Sagar
Jai Kapis Tihun Lok Ujaagar

Glory to Hanuman
Limitless ocean of wisdom and virtue,
Glory to leader of primates
Whose fame lights the three worlds

In the New Year!
May the gracious Hanuman guide you
To overcome weakness, and
Use your strength to serve the Divine!

Meera, M & A

Continue reading “Chinmaya Maruti; New Year Greetings 2011”

Diwali: Madurai Meenakshi Temple

photos of Lighting Oil Lamps at the Meenakshi Temple Madurai by Arun Shanbhag
Lighting Oil Lamps at the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai

On this joyous Diwali,
Wishing you and all your loved ones
God’s amazing grace.

Coz, with it comes
Peace, Good Health and Success!

Happy Diwali
Meera, M & A


Continue reading “Diwali: Madurai Meenakshi Temple”

Gita Press Bookstore: Karma Yoga in Action

Gita Press Gorakhpur Bookstore

Tucked away on gritty Princess St and across from Parsi Dairy Farm is one of my favorite book stores: Gita Press Ki Dukan (Bookstore of the Gita Press).

See, I came late to this genre of Hindu scriptures. Educated in a convent school, I drank deeply of the Kool-Aid that western writers were the axis around which the Universe rotated. We studied Browning, Byron, Keats and O’Henry, and passed on Dnyaneshwar, Eknath, Kanaka Dās and Tukaram. I knew more about priests and nuns, and zilch about Alvars and Nayanmars. Romeo & Juliet was a Classic, Ramayana a myth. We doted on Shelley, Hemingway and Shakespeare, but skipped Tulsidās, Mirābai, Tyāgarājā and Kālidās. I knew more about St Peter than Bhagwān Ādi Shankarāchāryā or Swami Madhvāchāryā.

Thankfully I graduated and real education could begin. A tiny booklet of Swami Vivekananda’s lectures bought at a railway station was the spark. And what a roaring fire it kindled. Was engrossed in it for days. Followed hungrily by the Bhagavad Gitā, Upanishads, Purānās, commentaries of various masters and Bhakti poetry. I had just scratched the surface. Continue reading “Gita Press Bookstore: Karma Yoga in Action”

Video: Best of Mumbai Ganapati Street Dancing


Ganapati is a fabulous time for our extended family. At the end of five days of festivities, Ganapati Bappa is taken in a procession to Chowpatty for consigning to the waters. Behind the truck bearing the Ganapati, nephews, nieces, uncles, aunts, meera, friends and family, all walk or dance along. Enjoy the unique ishtyle of Mumbai street dancing!

See blog post on Meera’s Tolay-Bhaar, where Meera gets weighed in bananas, at the GSB Seva Mandal.


See my different Ganapati posts


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