Prarthana: A Book of Hindu Psalms

After five years of research and writing,
Prarthana: A Book of Hindu Psalms
was released on Ganesh Chaturthi, September 15, 2007.

This was my second book. When you see both my books juxtaposed on Amazon, you will nod: yup! only a Gemini could pull this off!

I am grateful that I was given this gift of compiling Prarthana in this form. With that also comes a responsibility of taking this message of our dharma to a wider audience. So I ask you to support this by purchasing a copy for yourself and your family.

With the festive season of Diwali soon approaching, you may want to pick extra copies for your friends and colleagues. Prarthana makes an excellent gift!

Get more details of Prarthana, as well as text excerpts at http://www.arunsprarthana.com
There you can also see details of the special pricing and how to buy it by credit card or check.

Prarthana is also available at Amazon for the List price.

I leave you with part of a review from Ellen Duranceau

… these prayers speak to something common to all of humanity: a spiritual impulse for light to dispel darkness; for connection to nature, to other people, and to the universe itself; for the courage to rise above our anguish or fears, to find hope and the best within ourselves, and to share our best selves with the world. In a time of great divisions, it is heart-warming to dip into another faith tradition and find common bonds, rather than alienation.

Ganesh Chaturthi

Painting of Dancing Ganesh Chaturthi by Arun Shanbhag

On Ganesh Chaturthi
Wishing you all
A Blessed Ganesha’s Grace!

M&A

Notes are excerpted from my book, Prarthana: A Book of Hindu Psalms;
© Arun Shanbhag 2007

Ganesha Stotram – Hymn to Ganesha
The visage of Gaṇeśa (or Gaṇapati) is easily recognizable as the elephant-headed God of Knowledge and Wisdom. Gaṇeśa is very popular in all parts of India, and amongst all sects: Vaiśnavās, Śaivās, Śaktās, Buddhists and Jainās. He is considered the controller of, and thus remover of, all obstacles (Vighnéśwar), thus he is remembered at the beginning of all religious services. The likeness of Gaṇeśa in the form of artwork, sculptures or murtī adorn many homes and offices. Tiny Gaṇeśa figurines also grace dashboard of cars, and Gaṇeśa icons in a variety of poses is a popular gift for family and friends (from Prarthana).
Continue reading “Ganesh Chaturthi”

Cave Temples of Badami – 2

Badami in Northern Karnataka, was the capital of the Chalukyan empire. During the 5th to the 8th century, skilled artisans cut caves in the mountainside and decorated the insides with stunning craftsmanship.

The four caves are dated to 578 CE. The first cave is dedicated to Shiva and you saw some impressive high relief figures of Nataraja and Ardhanareshwara in my earlier post. I hope you did not miss the cute Ganapati providing mridangam support for Shiva’s dance! In a prominent niche in this cave, is also housed a beautiful sculpture of Durga Devi in the form of Mahisasuramardini, which I previously used in a Dussehra greeting.

Cave two is dedicated to Vishnu. Near the entrance is an impressive carving of Varaha Murthy representing the avataar of Vishnu. He is accompanied by the king Naga (lower right). He is holding goddess Prithvi, representing the earth, which he rescued from the deluge.
Vishnu as Varaha Murthy, Cave Temples of Badami
Continue reading “Cave Temples of Badami – 2”

Cave Temples of Badami

Cave Temples of Badami

The Cave Temples of Badami in Northern Karnataka are part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. They are well maintained, and the sculptures are mind blowingly exquisite. Highly recommended. The above is an image of Shiva as Nataraja, Lord of the Dance. Apparently, his 9 arms on each side create the 81 combinations of Bharatnatyam poses.
Continue reading “Cave Temples of Badami”

Portuguese Inquisition and Revisionism

Due to my heritage and interest in Konkani Temples in Goa, and particularly our Kuldevata Ramnathi Devasthan I have been researching books on the Portuguese occupation in Goa. During the Portuguese Inquisition lasting more than 150 years (1560 – 1812), the Jesuits made a systematic attempt at wiping out the Konkani heritage in Goa. Konkanis were either tortured and killed, forced to convert, or give up their lands and migrate. In a desperate attempt at genocide, all Konkani temples in older Goa were ransacked, wealth stolen and destroyed. It was the men-of-the cloth, who spread the horrors of the Inquisition, and later Anglicans who put political pressure on the Portuguese forcing it to end the Inquisition.

I have tracked scores of such books from the 18th and 19th century which shed a grim light on the atrocities of the Portuguese, all in the name of their God. In the midst of an enormous amount of historical literature, there are always the revisionists, trying to cast a softer glow on the Portuguese Inquisition. This one by an ordained priest takes the cake.

A few lines from his work and my related comments.
An Historical Sketch of Goa, Rev. Denis L. Cottineau de Kloguen (DK)
Gazette Press, Madras (1831), Reprinted pp 44-45
Also available digitized from the Library at Harvard College, Cambridge, MA; Pg 69 – 70.

Original text in italics is contiguous in one paragraph; my comments are in regular text. In this paragraph, the Kloguen is trying to defend the Archbishop D Alexins de Menezes.

DK – … Some acts of violence by the Portuguese agents may have been committed, both before and after him, but they are not to be imputed to him.
AS – Really! Everyone else is to blame, but not the Archbishop who actually had more power in Goa than the political appointee?

DK – It is equally false, that, followed by the officers of the Inquisition, he went armed with fire and sword, to compel the inhabitants of Salsette to embrace the Christian religion. The Jesuits converted a great part of them by the usual and most laudable means;
AS – Reminded me of the recent controversial remarks by Pope Benedict 16th: (from the NY Times) “… in Brazil, … native populations had been “silently longing” for the Christian faith brought to South America by colonizers.” The Rev is probably alluding to such an “innate longing” for torture and death.

DK – but in order as they thought, the better to detach the remainder of the inhabitants from worship of idols, they destroyed all the temples and pagodas.
AS – Much to the embarrassment of the Jesuits, many forced converts continued to visit temples and kept to their traditional Hindu ways. The only way to prevent this was to destroy the temples. How many is “all”? How many temples were destroyed in Goa?

DK – This however, had the contrary effect; and the Pagans, exasperated at this circumstance, rose up in arms, murdered five jesuits, and several Portuguese.
AS – Did the Jesuits really expect anything else? Note the choice of the word “murdered” when associated with the Jesuits and the Portuguese. BTW, when “all temples and pagodas” were destroyed, how many of the locals were killed? Smoothly overlooked. And really, when armed men go in and destroy peoples temples, wouldn’t you expect an equally violent response?

DK – The Governor then felt himself obliged to use arms likewise to reduce the rebels; and of course did not after wards permit the temples to be rebuilt.
AS – “reduce the rebels” here is an euphemism for “massacring the population”! And since when did the locals become the “rebels” in their own lands? Don’t the ‘rebels’ have the right to defend their lands, home and temples?

DK – But in all this, the Archbishop had nothing to do, and what is certainly better proved, are the good works and the pious establishments of Goa, of which he is the founder.
AS – Looks like he is an ideal candidate for sainthood, no?



My Posts Related to the Ramnathi Devasthan and other Konkani Temples:


Saraswati, Lakshmi & Ganapati

print of Saraswati, Lakshmi and Ganapati posted by Arun Shanbhag

Growing up, such a print of Saraswati, Lakshmi and Ganapati adorned every home or shop, either as a calendar or a picture frame. I bought this poster from a sidewalk stall in the Fort area in Mumbai. Love the bright colors. Beautifully done.


Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

You need to be called to participate in a yatra (pilgrimage). Without the assent of the Gods, any number of obstacles, reasons, excuses will crop up and prevent you for participating. Even in our family group, many dropped out for various reasons. I count my blessing that I could make this happen.

The yatra was difficult and at times fraught with danger. Appropriate then that we started by paying our respects to Shiva in the form of Pashupatinath (Lord and Caretaker of All Living Beings). He is the patron deity of Nepal and his temple in Kathmandu is worthy of a separate visit.

The temple dates to the 8th century (or earlier) with many later renovations. The Shiva linga is an imposing 3-4 ft tall with humanoid Shiva faces at each of the cardinal sides. The four faces on the linga are called: Tatpurush (East face), Aghora (South face), Sadjyota (West face) and Vamadeva (North face). The top surface facing the sky is called Ishaan. These are the names of the four side of Mount Kailash – the abode of Shiva-Parvati, and our final destination.

Above is the quadrangle leading to the entrance of the temple. On entering, you see the back of an imposing gold covered Nandi (bull) on a raised pedestal, facing the Shiva linga in devotion.
pics of Nandi at entryway of Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal by Arun Shanbhag

The linga is placed in a small square garbha gudi with doors at each face. Devotees can walk around the linga on a raised walkway. Priests at each doors accept offerings of flowers and bael leaves, place it briefly on the linga and bring back the prasad. Around the garbha gudi, Nepali women in bright red sarees light oil lamps and chant prayers. It was a beautiful scene – one I wish I had more time to savor.

The temple complex is a huge pavilion with 20-30 mini shrines around the periphery of the Shiva linga. Notable are the fierce-looking, bronze Kaala-Bhairav and a small temple with 125 lingas arranged in a maze. The lingas are placed knee high and as you walk the maze, you can touch all the lingas. Nice! There is a public cremation ghat right beside the temple, which I was not prepared to visit.

These kids were tending shoes and chappals outside the temple. They should have been in school instead! Rather than place money in the temple hundi, I gave money to these boys. They were puzzled, but accepted it. I intentionally over-paid the women selling flowers. They quoted in Nepali rupees, while I paid in India rupees (=1.6 Nepali Rs).
pics of boys tending chappals at Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal by Arun Shanbhag

A beautiful temple. Wish I had more time to experience this sacred place fully – would prolly require a whole day. Also wished they allowed photography inside the temple complex, so I could share the ambience with you all.


Kailash Manasarovar Travelogue continues: Monks at the Pashupatinath Temple
To start at beginning of Travelogue: Rendevous with Sagarmatha (Everest)

Chai Time

Pics of two guys drinking chai at Kamakshi Canteen Ramnathi Temple Goa Arun Shanbhag

After performing the Lagu Rudra abhishek, an honor accorded the Kulaviis at the Shanteri Kamakshi Ramnath Devasthan, I sneak away to the canteen beside the front entrance. They make the best missal and ussal paav. As I gorge myself, I notice these two guys on a chai break. Both were caught up in their own thoughts and did not utter a single word to each other. Prolly none were needed. Their mere presence supported each other. Continue reading “Chai Time”

Durga Puja – Dussehra

Durga as Mahisasura mardini from Badami by Arun Shanbhag

Most compassionate and beautiful,
Yet relentless in battle against evil,
Devi!
Shower us with your grace!

M&m amp; A


Durga as Mahisasura-mardini, Cave Temples of Badami (6th century).


See Durga Stotram (Ode to Durga Devi) from my book Prarthana: A Book of Hindu Psalms


Other Durga Devi / Dassara Posts:

Ganapati Bappa

ganapati ganesh chaturthi Arun Shanbhag


Ganapati from our home, 2002.

On this occasion of Ganapati
Wishing Everyone
Days full of Peace and Good Cheer!

M&A


Recent Ganapati Greetings


Sandhya Vandan

My nephew Varun, learning to do the Sandhya Vandan, a service in preparation for reciting the Gayatri Mantra. It was about 3 weeks since his Upanayana (thread ceremony) during which he was invested with the sacred thread (see it on his left shoulder) and had his head shaved, marking his re-birth as a student of the scriptures, seeking the ultimate truth.

Sandhya Vandan

Mangeshi Devasthan, Goa

This follows a longer write-up on the Ramnathi Devasthān.

The Mangeshi Devasthān in Goa is a crown jewel of Konkani Temples. The an-iconic form of Shiva, the linga representing Mangesh, was originally in the ancient temple of Kushastali (Cortalim, Salcete Taluka). When the Portuguese destroyed the original temple in 1561, the linga was relocated across the Zuari River near other konkani temples. The current temple was constructed on land donated by a devotee in the mid- 1800’s and has been renovated several times.

Continue reading “Mangeshi Devasthan, Goa”

Rāmnāthi Devasthān, A Konkani Temple

Main entrance and Deepa Sthamba (light tower) at the Ramnathi Devasthan, Goa
Main entrance and Deepa Sthamba (light tower) at the Ramnathi Devasthan

The Shanteri Kamakshi Ramnath Devasthan (place of God, or Temple) in Ponda, Goa is our family's ancestral temple. Millenia ago, groups of Konkani families settled in extended family-based communities in Goa. Each community had their own spirits, which protected them from evil and satisfied their spiritual curiosity. The spirits and associated deities also received gratitude for agricultural and female fertility. With time, these spirits evolved into a full-blown God. Ramnath was the benevolent God of our community. His two spouses (Shanteri & Kamakshi) probably represented the heightened fertility required for survival in those days. And we have our own ferocious spirit – Betal, who is responsible for ‘taking care’ of evil. Continue reading “Rāmnāthi Devasthān, A Konkani Temple”

Cucumber Seller Smiles

photos of a woman selling cucumbers at the Mangeshi Temple Goa by Arun Shanbhag

Outside the Mangeshi Devasthan in Goa, this lady sold sliced cucumbers. It's a refreshing snack on a hot day. As I composed the pic, I fretted about this guy walking across, but then I noticed her face light up at an approaching customer. For her brilliant smile, and inviting pose, she deserved a post of her own.

photos of a woman selling cucumbers at the Mangeshi Temple Goa by Arun Shanbhag

RadhaKrishna – Miniature Painting

Miniature Madhubani painting of RadhaKrishna dancing in Vrindavan pic by Arun Shanbhag

I found this exquisite miniature painting of RadhaKrishna dancing in Vrindavan. Its about 5 x 10 inches on heavy stock paper. The bright colors and fine details are captivating.
Continue reading “RadhaKrishna – Miniature Painting”

Krishna

Here is a baby Krishna statuette I was gifted received during a recent visit to the Balaji Temple in Chicago. I was pleasantly surprised at the fine detail and the vibrant colors in this piece. It is made of a polymer (thus very light) and Made in China (of course).

Hare Krishna!

Durga Devi – All Powerful Shakti

Durga Devi the all powerful Shakti by Arun Shanbhag
After my earlier post on the Chicago Balaji Temple, reminded me about the Balaji Temple in Atlanta, GA. I was fortunate to visit the temple in Dec of last year. More than the main deity, “Durga Devi” in the seconday shrine intrigued me. Durga manifests the fertile woman, as the all powerful shakti, full of energy and ever in action. The earth is her body, and its regenerative ability and energy are apparent to even the common farm worker.

When Shiva, Vishnu and the other Gods were threatened by the demon mahisa, it is Durga, endowed by their weapons and her many arms to yield them, who slays the demon and restores the cosmic equilibrium. Durga is usually depicted as being calm and serene, with the demon trapped under her feet with its throat pierced by her javelin. The depiction of red represents the spilt blood and also alludes to her fertility.

Sri Venkateshwara (Balaji) Temple in Atlanta
Balaji temple in Atlanta pic by Arun Shanbhag


See Balaji temple in Chicago, IL.


Other Durga Devi posts:

Balaji Temple in Chicago

While recently in Chicago, I visited the Balaji Temple . Truly a magnificent temple. And you feel the 'presence' of the Supreme Being very strongly. The services are performed in traditional Tirupati style and despite the crowds, the priests take their time chanting the mantras clearly. There are no short cuts here. Inside the temple all my worries seemed to disappear and I felt very relaxed. I even wondered if they would let me spend the night there. I understood what it would be like 'to surrender.'

They have a very nice canteen as well, which serves idlis, medhu vadas, dosas, upma, tamarind rice, curd rice, sambar rice and of course the delicately compacted rich soft boondhi ladoos. Guess what I got?

It is in the midst of a major expansion and thus these odd angle pictures. I was trying not to get the scaffolding and the unfinished parts. Even for this expansion they have brought in the “shilpis” from south india who are well versed in the art.

Visit it and know what it would be like 'to surrender.'


See visit to the Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago, IL.

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