Pālki at the Rāmnāthi Devasthān

photos of Ramnath and Kamakshi in Palki at Ramnathi Devasthan by Arun Shanbhag
Hindus believe that all things animate and in-animate (manifest or unmanifest) are part of the universal divine consciousness. We generally refer to this divine consciousness as “That”, because any attribute you give it is limiting (see Sant Tulsidas’ beautiful verse describing “That” divine consciousness; also this post on Dwija). In common parlance, we refer to “That” as Paramātmā or eternal soul (1). It thus follows that all humans are part of this eternal soul or Paramātmā. The corollary then is that Paramātmā too includes human qualities, strengths and frailties, and expresses human emotions. Purān and itihās (history) are filled with their anthropomorphed lore. In our temples, we adore our divine just like we would our valued guests. In the common Hindu puja, we pamper our divine guest with 16 services (shodasho upchār) like if she was a valued friend, like cleaning her feet, helping her brush, bathe, providing new clothes, jewelry, sumptuous feasts, etc.

Completing this anthropomorphization our temple bound deities like to go out on the town and have fun. Wouldn’t you if you were couped up in a tiny garbha-griha? Thus in many communities, devotees take their temple deities out for a ride in a specially designed pālki (palanquin) (2).

Every Monday evening at the Rāmnāthi Devasthān, Rāmnāth Dev sits in a pālki and is carried around the grounds. It’s a festive occasion with a small band playing and devotees chanting bhajans. Following tradition, the pālki has designated stops where aarti is performed and verses of the Mangalāshtak are chanted. Pālki is followed by a sumptuous prasād (yaay).

On special occasions, Rāmnāth Dev is accompanied by Kāmākshi Devi on his jaunt around the temple grounds. These pictures are from the recent Mahā Shivrātri when Rāmnāth and Kāmākshi went around the temple in their respective pālki (3) . While Rāmnāth sits in his simple pālki, Kāmākshi, verily the Goddess of Desire and Sensuality, tours in style, high on an elephant pālki. How cool is she?


Notes:
1. The word God doesn’t exist in Hindu vocabulary and is a Western construct.
2. In Mumbai you commonly see Muslims take their sacred deity out on the town; recently in Kumta, I noticed the local christians in a procession with their deity in a pālki.
3. Plural of pālki remains pālki and not the anglicized pālkis.

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

Ganapati and Gauri Puja

Aarti of Ganapati Mumbai Arun Shanbhag

Na tatra suryo bhaati na chandra tarakam
nema vidhyuto bhanti kutoyamagnihi |
tameva bhantam anubhati sarvam
tasya bhasa sarvam idam vibhati ||

Sun cannot illumine him, nor the moon, nor the stars
Lightning cannot, much less this little flame I wave |
Verily, when he shines everything is illuminated
By his light alone all of us shine ||

~ Kathopanishad II v 15


Continue reading “Ganapati and Gauri Puja”

Diwali: Festival of Lights

Diwali Deepavali Greetings

On this festive occasion of Deepavali,
May the Gods grace you and your loved ones
with
Peace, Good Health and Success!

Happy Deepavali!
Meera, M & A


Previous Greetings:

Ganesh Chaturthi – The Day Before

Picture photograph of Ganapati murthy, Ganesh utsav murthy during Ganesh Chaturthi by Arun Shanbhag
After a few days respite in Goa and Kumta, we returned home for the Ganesh Chaturthi Utsav (festival). Over the next few days, our extended family home transformed into a festive temple. Resident cooks arrived and made traditional Konkani snacks (chivda, mando, shankar paLLan, masala shaenga, chuklee, etc). Siblings and cousins descended on our home. Professional flower stringers decorated our main hall in elaborate arrangements of plump marigolds. Humongous pots and pans, giant oil lamps and other puja accompaniments were retrieved from storage and polished to a high gleam. Continue reading “Ganesh Chaturthi – The Day Before”

Chai Time Two

photo of Chai Time at Ramnath Devasthan Goa by Arun Shanbhag

After Dhool Bhaet at the Shanteri Kamakshi Ramnath Devasthan, I walked around heavenly rice fields and stopped by the canteen outside the temple for a cup of Chai. Next to me, this gentleman savored his morning cup. He poured it in the saucer, lifted the saucer to his lips and slurped. Continue reading “Chai Time Two”

Goa: Visiting Ramnathi

Pictures of Rice fields at Ramnathi Devasthan, Goa by Arun Shanbhag
After celebrating Meera’s birthday, I make a quick, day trip to visit our Kuladevata (family temple) at the Ramnathi Devasthan in Goa.
The early morning flight brought me to Ramnathi at the crack of dawn. The temple was open and I paid my respects to Ramnath as “Dhool bhaet”.

From my earlier post on the Ramnathi Devasthan

It is the tradition at Ramnathi and other Konkani temples, for kulavis to visit the deity as soon as we arrive – even before we wash our feet. We leave our footwear at the door and with dusty feet rush inside to pay homage to our father protector, guardian and closest confidant. Akin to the return of a prodigal son (or daughter); our father wants to see us ASAP, even before we wash our feet. This first visit is thus called “dhool bhaet” (dusty meeting). Only after we have visited the temple, do we visit the office, rent a room, freshen up and come back into the temple for a proper service.

This early, the office was still closed. So camera in hand, I walked across the road to a series of rice fields (see picture above). The early morning light bathed them in an ethereal glow. I felt my burdens lifted: This is the life! I could spend the rest of our days here, and Meera and M would love it here Continue reading “Goa: Visiting Ramnathi”

Sacred Places

pic of Dev Bara Karo at the Madgaon Train Station by Arun Shanbhag

It is sad that in India, places of worship are being targeted to achieve political ends, or vent frustrations. This is absolutely wrong! Temples, churches, mosques, and all other places of worship are sacred and should not be pawns in political movements. People should feel empowered to use objective fora to address grievances. Politicians! Make it happen and stop using these incidents to advance narrow political gains!

In an attempt to address the grievances, the Karnataka state government blames “the flow of foreign funds,” for conversion of Hindus into Christianity.
Continue reading “Sacred Places”

Great Penance: Descent of the Ganga

Photos of the Great penance descent of the Ganga Mamallapuram by Arun Shanbhag
Mamallapuram, about an hour south of Chennai along the East coast, hosts India’s largest and most dramatic relief-sculpture. It represents the celebrated myth of the descent of the river Ganga from heaven to earth. The Great Penance, is carved on a giant granite rock wall 27 meters wide and 9 meters tall, and was believed to be initiated during the reign of the Pallava King Mahendra Varman, ca 7th century ce.

While a traditional sculpture (or other work of art) would memorialize a climactic scene, this Great Penance is depicted as a “continuous narrative,” wherein multiple scenes from a series of events are portrayed on the same canvas, permitting the observer to focus on different parts of the work and recollect different scenes in the narrative. The more details one observes and associates, the more richer the experience.
Continue reading “Great Penance: Descent of the Ganga”

Uma: Quencher of Thirst

It was a blazing hot summer afternoon in Hampi. As I walked out of the magnificent Vithala Temple, my throat was parched. Even my sweat had dried in this arid North Karnataka summer. The sight of this woman under a bright red umbrella, tending a cooler with drinks was an oasis of bliss to a weary traveler. I ambled over and quickly gulped two bottles of my favorite: Limca! Aaaah! I bought a few more bottles for M and the driver.

She charged me 12 rupees for each. I gave her the money. But ever eager to practice my kannada and engage in conversation, I asked here only jokingly, why it was 12 rupees here, while it was only 10 rupees in the city. She must have been surprised by my heavily accented and rudimentary kannada, and realizing I was joking, she started giggling. I could not keep a straight face and started to laugh too.

I made small talk, asked her name and generally how many drinks she sold in a day. Her name was Uma and she sold about a crate (of 12) each day. I estimated she made 4 rupees profit on each bottle, netting her about 50 rupees a day (slightly more than a dollar)! And for that she had to stand in this heat all day! And some one had to drop her here and pick her up in the evening. And she has not yet eaten! Life is tough! But she had a certain calm about her and I think this pic radiates her inner peace. And her confidence!

As I prepared to leave, I asked her again why it was 12 rupees for each drink: yaakae hutnerdu rupaiya?
Now she really burst out laughing, and I laughed with her. After a few moments she composed herself, then lifted the lid of the cooler, pointed inside and with a twinkle in her eyes mouthed a single word: Ice!

On this blistering hot day, she knew the magic word. For that thirst-quenching ice cold drink, I would gladly have paid twice as much!



I was gifted this small, yet well done bronze of Uma by my cousin brother Ramnath. He has a good eye for art work.

This is Uma (Parvati) as Shivakami – the beloved of Shiva, in a classic tribhanga pose. This is purported to be a late 18th century reproduction of the 11th century piece from the Kulottunga I era. I have had this for several years and I never tire of admiring it. It is small and fits nicely in the palm of my hand. I am drawn to her graceful pose. I am drawn to her exceptional beauty. I am drawn to the inner calm she radiates! And I am drawn to the confidence she exudes!

The craftsmanship is exquisite for so tiny a piece and we have no idea where this statuette resided for the last several centuries. The sharp features suggest she was not used for any puja. Prolly stayed in a noble household.

It is said that the easiest way to reach Shiva is to appease Parvati (or Uma) and have her champion you to Shiva! Perhaps it is that restlessnes in my heart that draws me to her. I certainly thirst for her grace! And every time my eyes fall on Uma, I know my thirst will soon be quenched.

Dassara, Dussehra: Celebrating Devi’s Grace

Devi Kamakshi at the Ramnathi Devasthan by Arun Shanbhag

Wishing you all a Wonderful Dassara.
All year around,
We are blessed by
Devi’s Grace!

M&M & A

Continue reading “Dassara, Dussehra: Celebrating Devi’s Grace”

Cave Temples of Badami – Cave 3

I previously shared pictures of two cave temples of Badami. These represented the zenith of the Chalukyan cave temple architecture from the 6th century. Cave one was dedicated to Shiva as the impressive Nataraja; and Devi as Mahisasuramardini. Cave two honors Vishnu and his avataars Varaha and Trivikrama (Vamana).

Cave Three is also dedicated to Vishnu and his avataars, and holds some of the most impressive works of art.

As we approach the caves, they appear as narrow slits in the sandstone mountain side. As you walk up and step onto the verandah that the true beauty of the sculptures becomes evident. Note that these caves are ‘open’ and have no doors or other forms of protection from the weather. Yet their grandeur has survived nearly 1,500 years.

Cave 3 of the Cave Temples of Badami

As you walk up the stairs, you step in between a row of beautifully carved pillars and on the right is the larger than life-size carving of Vishnu, as avataar Narasimha (man-lion). And what a majestic Narasimha it is. On the lower left is Prahalad, whose entreaties caused Vishnu to take this form to alleviate suffering of his devotee; and on the right is the cruel king Hiranyakashipu, who Narasimha disembowels on the threshold.
Continue reading “Cave Temples of Badami – Cave 3”

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