Traffic as Indias psychosocial mirror?

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buses-from-jhigatola
Today I was hit by a motor bike. Nothing serious, but I was knocked off my cycle and gifted a few grazes.

“I am so sorry. Listen to me. I’m so sorry from the bottom of my heart!”

I admit to few Australian adjectives, as I picked myself up adding “sorry isn’t good enough.”

He had just began passing me on my right then cut left across my path clipping my front wheel.My ankle was bleeding and the indent of my wallet into my leg left a painful bruise in my thigh.

“No listen to me. I’m so sorry. From the bottom of my heart.”

My unflattering thoughts included ‘why do people cut across the front of you, why not go round behind?”

“No harm done” says an old man in white Nehru jacket. Our eyes meet, and I nod in agreement. A young woman, (clearly anxious for future husband was smiling nervously), He had cut across the street to Bhopals Rainbow Treat to his future in-laws company.

Again: “Listen. I am sorry from the bottom of my heart. What can I do for you? I will do anything.”

“I don’t want you to do anything for me. I want you to be careful next time, so you don’t hurt anyone.”

I was about to cut into statistics: 1.5 lakh die on Indian roads, 20% are cyclists and pedestrians.

Its  worse if they're driving a car or motorbike

Its worse if they’re driving a car or motorbike

But why?

I chose silence and left. The day before I had another near miss, cut off this time by a man cell phone jammed into the crook of his neck in mid conversation as he swang round a round about nealy collecting me as I walked across it.

I ask again why?

People simply don’t look. They pull out then take a glance. They pull out and expect people to stop for them.

The constant cutting across paths means no one ever picks up much speed – that means plenty of scrapes but few seriously hurt.

I’m assured its because of traffic congestion. “Yes” I conceded, the madness of Bangkok and like cites any traffic space is fair game, so tailgating is a national port. If you don’t someone else pushes you back down the queue.

  • But this doesn’t explain the bus driver parking his bus in the middle of a round-about.
  • It does not explain the woman in who pulls up besides the line of parked cars infront of the subze wallah’s , stopping in the right lane that is bordered by a concrete , blocking all traffic behind her.
  • It does not explain the truck driver that, stops in the right lane to change a tyre, never considering it would be kind to pull over off the road to let other cars by.
    I have seen all three examples and more.

But does that say something of India’s psyche?

You can never really get ahead of the crowd. Those who do must break away and stay clear of the pack and the social norms that constrain others.

Indians are not oblivious to the world, but rather oblivious to what is of no direct interest to them says Pavan Varma in his book Being Indian. At first it made me angry. This single minded focus has helped Indians succeed against adversity.

However, every strenght has the potential to become a weakness. In excess, it may become Adadha, or disregard of others. Pushing the envelope of law unfortunately parallels variable law enforcement.

For every social action there is an equal and opposite reaction. India is very conscious  of molding community> Within each group indiviidial voices are screaming to be heard.

Then I discovered, there is beauty in the madness.

Yes, at times this outback loving Aussie, used to 1 person every 5 square kilometres, finds the noise over reaching and stressful.

But it is in this madness that I have had my greatest breakthroughs.

I know what I am about to say may upset some of my Indian friends, so I ask you to hear me out before you judge. Here goes:

India has had so many luminaries and spiritual giants because India is not spiritual.
Each Indian has a spiritual yearning, that collectively is destroyed by the samsara of the crowd.

1. There are two way to get ahead: switch off and run ahead of the herd. Some  corruptly ignore the rules and cheat.
2. Or those who look within so profoundly they are unaffected by the chaotic road kill of Indian life.
Life is balanced equally of good and bad, chaos an order. Where there is focused y public attention to a few masters, the equal but opposite disorder is scattered amongst the crowd.
Sometimes the power is focused on spiritual giants, sometime dictators of ill will.
These few can help give direction to the chaotic crowd.

Can I see myself in the mirror of Kali?

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Mirror Idol of Mother Goddess by Balan Nambiar

Mirror Idol of Mother Goddess by Balan Nambiar

Even as a mirror stained by dust, Shines brilliantly when it has been cleansed, So the embodied one, on seeing the nature of the Self, Becomes unitary, his end attained, from sorrow, free
– Svetasvatara Upanishad

“The Mother Goddess is worshipped in the form of a polished mirror in certain shrines of Kerala. The mirror can be used to examine the soul, not only the physical body. “ states artist Pushpamala N.

Those words have haunted me for months. But what does it mean for me?

Consider this scene:

Passing storefronts as we walk down the street, we glance sideways to catch our reflection in the glass.  The urge to reconcile self-awareness and self-deception comes naturally to us, and we respond innately to the lure of the mirror.  While there is undoubtedly a measure of vanity in gazing at one’s own reflection, we look more to become oriented with the elements of our countenance.  We look to see the physical matter of our face and body and assess how we appear to the world, to confirm that our form and distribution of features are as we believe them to be in our minds, and to ensure all is as it was the last time we looked.  We look for signs of our hidden carnal nature and to see if the wicked secrets and sinful desires we harbor have emerged from deep within to belie our observable moral surface.  Subconsciously, perhaps, we look for assurance of our continuity and existence.

Artist Balan Nambiar has a tribute to the mirror symbolism in Devi worship. It is a cross cultural symbol, especially in Kerala and West Bengal where a mirror is placed behind Kali or Durga. For Bengalese looking at the goddess directly is inauspicious.  Even in Japanese Shintoism the mirror symbolises the Mother goddess.

However in Kerala, in consecration rituals for the goddess Bhagavati the kannati – bimbam , or mirror image, and the idol are identical.

Called Kannati Bimbam, Malayalam for mirror-image, Nambiar’s image of surgical grade, stainless steel explores the mother goddess rituals of Kerala.

The val-kannati or mirror with long handle is auspicious in the rituals that are part of Vishu, the day when farmers sow the first paddy of the season or when the auspicious mirror is held by girls during the coming-of-age ceremony, weddings, pregnancy, and the naming ceremony of girls.
Traditionally, cast in bronze alloy, a val-kannati is about 15 to 20 cm in diameter, with a long handle of equal length, round-edged, and a flat polished surface with mirror finish.

The most important event in Vishu is the Vishukkani, meaning “the first thing seen on the day of Vishu after waking up”. This ritual includes an arrangement of auspicious articles such as rice grains, lemon, cucumber, betel leaves, arecanut, metal mirrors, the yellow konna flowers, and a holy text and coins in a flat vessel called uruli.

Nambiar discovered that in Kerala’s ritual art — Theyyam, Bhuta, Patayani, Nagamandala and Titambu Nrittam — it is one among eight auspicious objects used in pujas. The other seven are the kuthuvilakku, ritual lamp; kindi, vessel with spout; changala vatta, oil lamp with handle; thalika, plate; dhupathattu, incense-holder; uruli and nira-para, the paddy measure.

With the passing of Diwali, again the concept of Goddess as mirror, of seeing divinity mirrored within ourselves, has become a very personal quest me. I am fascinated by the self sacrificing yet scary image of Chinamastra.

The Mother Goddess  has always been a cross cultural symbolic place where opposites could meet.  A symbol of nature she gives birth to the opposites of male and female, of birth and death, violence and protection, order and disorder, dark and light.

A symbol can be defined as something that connects any given reality to its constant representation within a certain culture.

Intimate relationships are a mirror of our shadow, or unexpressed selves. A woman finding in her man a masculinity for her own developing actualisation; a man must learn the art of surrender of his inflated need to conquest that offers sovereignty to the woman whose life he shares.

Are we to see divinity in a mirror, as if some Jungian sense that reflect back our hidden shadow, can we learn to see the God within? Relationships often mirror our shadow and religions claim sacred texts force us to see face our unpleasant truths.

 

Artist Kali-Maa gets ready as Lord Shiva showing her mirror during the Shri Ram

Artist Kali-Maa gets ready as Lord Shiva showing her mirror during the Shri Ram

Is the Hindu pantheon is a psychic mirror?

“The mirror allows us to see our own facial features and to apprehend its own body’s unity in a way which is different from  that which is available from interoceptive, proprioceptive and exteroceptive sources. The subject  becomes a spectator when it recognizes its mirrored image: seeing itself in the mirror is seeing itself as  others see it. Therefore, mirror self-recognition exemplifies a troubled form of self-knowledge, since the mirror facilitates the subject’s alienation into its double. The decisive and unsettling impact of mirror self-recognition is the realization that the subject exists in an intersubjective space”
– Giovanni B. Caputo  Archetypal-Imaging and Mirror-Gazing, [1]

Hinduism beautifully expresses the range of experience, even taboos, in its pantheon.

Mirrors also reveal much of our own psychic distortion.

Look at your face in a mirror at low light. After a few minutes the dysmorphic illusions may appear  explains researcher  Giovanni  Caputo.

The meaning we give these shadowy distortions  is “psychodynamic projection of the subject’s unconscious archetypal content”.

“Healthy observers usually describe huge distortions of their own faces,  monstrous beings,  prototypical faces, faces of relatives and deceased, and faces of animals.  Schizophrenics show a dramatic increase in their number, including the “perception of multiple-others that fill the mirror surface surrounding their “strange-face”. Schizophrenics are usually convinced that strange-face illusions are truly real and identify themselves with strange-face illusions.” Healthy people do not.   “Patients with major depression do not perceive strange-face illusions, or they perceive very  faint changes of their immobile faces in the mirror, like death statues.”

So, as I gaze into the face of a Kali, I experience a whole range of questioning associations.

When I first passed Bhopal, it was Diwali, and moving here I realise that we give life meaning based on our past. I was travelling by train,and new nothing of the city other than the Union Carbide disaster. My whole experience off the beautiful diyas on Bhopals train station was immediately spoiled. I realised, that from birth, perhaps a past life. Rarely do we see life as it is.

Life is always a tension between self and other, mainstream and marginal. I would suggest that the pantheon is also a mirror projection – a healthy one that allows believers to admit the taboos they hide within their shadows with harmless psychic release.

To discover themselves in the pursuit of purification.

As Nambiar. Stated of his divine art.:

“Venerating the kannati-bimbam is one of the highest forms of worship in northern Kerala. It is the visible symbol of ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ — ‘I am Brahmn’ — and this state of realisation is achieved through dedication and intense contemplation. The seeker looks at the kannati-bimbam, observes his own image reflected in the mirror, and meditates upon it.”

The artist quotes from the Svetasvatara Upanishad:

‘Even as a mirror stained by dust, Shines brilliantly when it has been cleansed, So the embodied one, on seeing the nature of the Self, Becomes unitary, his end attained, from sorrow, free’

“The Sri Chakra, for example, combines mathematical principles and symbolism, and I find it fascinating. Its meaning has universal appeal, as it is beyond religion, even. I try to recreate the symbolism associated with ritual performances of Kerala and Tulu Nadu.”

“While I was working on a 3.5 metre sculpture of the mother goddess as depicted in Theyyam, I instinctively started chanting the Devi Mahatmya stotram. It was as though I was in a trance.”

 

[1] Giovanni B. Caputo , 2014, Archetypal-Imaging and Mirror-Gazing, , DIPSUM, University of Urbino, via Saffi 15, 61029 Urbino, Italy; Behav. Sci. 2014, 4, 1-13; doi:10.3390/bs4010001, behavioral  sciences <www.mdpi.com/journal/behavsci/ >

 

The power of Gandhi’s passion Hindu and Christian

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Gandhi was a passionate man. As an ascetic he channelled his sexual creativity beyond immediate gratification.

His pursuit was partly inspired by his reading of the Sermon on the Mount. Unable to assist theosophists’ in London who hoped he could translate Sanskrit, so he read the Bible.He also tapped into a tradition 2000 years older than Jesus with renewed vigour.
Shiva, lord of the Dance and Beasts, is depicted a yogi from the 3rd millennia BCE.  Like Jesus fasting 40 days among the wild beasts, yogi’s reflected of in nature learning the meaning of breath, mind,  and   tapas  or suffering.

Tapas is used in the Vedas of the creative heat of Tad Ekam, That One, Later tapas refers to the laser like power of focused yogic concentration.

In Christianity the suffering of Jesus crucifixion is called the Passion and in mystical Christianity personal transformation is attained through the burden of carrying our own cross.

Gandhi’s own passion for selfless service courted violent contempt by those unable to grasp his determination to give up wealth and comfort to break the evil of injustice. Each prison cell he proclaimed a “temple” or “palace”, the yogic self sacrifice of fasting had a “delicious taste” and pleasure was found in pain suffered for the common good.
He gained congress admiration, eve as Gokhale thought his methods impractical,  and radicals despised his cal for non violence.

He was passionate in his Satyagraha campaigns against the injustices in Gujarat and Bihar. He transformed Congress moderate reform agenda of Congress into a mass movement for freedom. Critics may point to his Spartan simplicity, ruder in many cases than the poor endued,  as publicity. His simplicity of dress made him one of the world’s most recognised figures, alongside Charlie Chaplin and Hitler.  His insistence on third class train travel turned carriage into a mobile office, unless he was on foot or in prison.

Gandhi was a contradiction: He rejected the sensual and acquisitive realm of this world, and shivered naked in winter like the poorest. He retreated fro power on the brink of victory and suffered the summer heat without complaint.

Offered complete control of Congress, he declined, grooming younger men to wear the “crown of thorns.” He would abandon his own party when it lost its ideals to might, money and greed.

Gandhi recreated in himself a passion for the pain of the masses of poor, who saw in him the”Mahatma” or Great Soul.

“The purer the suffering (tapas) the greater the progress. Hence did the sacrifice of Jesus suffice to free a sorrowful world. .. If India wishes to see the Kingdom of God established on earth, instead of that of Satan which has enveloped Europe …we must go through suffering.

He would march his own Via Dolorosa” to freedom along with the poor who followed not a warring Maharaja but a yogi who mirrored their own suffering.

nkgandhi

Creatively he subjugated his own suffering transforming Western passion and Indian tapas into a force against Empire. He turned himself into a cauldron of suffering that radiated an aura of compassion and goodness that magnetised the oppressed to his cause.

Just as the words tapas and passion express contradictory opposites, Gandhi’s own expressed passion is  equally ambivalent.

Sensitive to the potential of sexual brutality Gandhi sought of return to Brahmacharya, the first stage of upper class life, or studenthood, before initiated into the sexual life of marriage. For four decades Gandhi struggled passionately for total conquest of desire.

He devoted his life to seeing God, perfecting his life to live in harmony with divine attributes.

“Truth (satya) is God” he wrote, and elsewhere he equated God wit Ahimsa, or non violence, which he called Love.

His embrace of tapas paced him at odds with society’s norms and demonstrated it was possible lo liberate oneself from self imposed shackles, as well as the shackles of tyranny. As a young man he had already been excommunicated from his caste for the act of travelling over the seas to London.

He knew rejection early in life, excommunicated from his caste for travelling across the ocean to study..

However, Ahimsa, Satya and tapas empowered him with a divine conviction beyond his physical body.  He openly wrote of personal failings, or for the “Himalayan blunder” of prematurely launching his 1905 Satyagraha campaign. More importantly he learned from them transforming mistakes into stepping stones to success.

He had sought “purity of means” but sadly this legacy was not retained by India or by the Congress Party that he left, disappointed that power and money spoke more to politicians than selfless service.

Did I find the worlds smallest mosque?

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Passing the Shaukat Mahal, I am seeking the tomb of Bhopals founder, Dost Mohommad Khan.
The Shaukat Mahal across from the Iqbhal Playground, where budding cricketers in white qurta and knitted skullcaps practice. Post Renaissance and Gothic, it’s design blends occident and orient in a style conceived and designed by a decadent Frenchman who claims decent from the French Bourbon Dynasty.
Next door, the entrance of the Sheesh Mahal seems more parking lot for cars Sadar Manzil Gate.

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The delicate beauty of the past now houses the Bhopal Municipal Corporation.A fountain past the entrance catches my attention as I ask a a guard for directions. They invite me in for a look. I am saddened that nearby Taj Mahal is a closed deteriorating shell while this beautiful building is a business hub that few tourists can be entered within to experience.

However, my goal is slightly farther, within the campus of Gandhi Medical College, besides the tomb of Dost Mohammad Khan and his wife Fateh Bibi . I am even more interested finding on the campus the worlds smallest mosque.

tomb Dost Mohommmad Khan

Panoramia.com I was not permitted to photograph inside the mosque tomb

the tomb of Dost Mohammad Khan and his wife Fateh Bibi

I quickly found the asjid Dost Mohammmad Khan as I wound past  a temple and mosque inside the entrance. Within to the side are the tombs.

I had first to negotiate a barrage of personal questions. “Foreigner? Which country””Mai Bhopal main rahta hai), and offering profuse assurances I would not photograph inside the mosque or tomb, I was checked several times to ensure I did not take photos within.

Built by son Yaar Mohammad Khan in the year 1742 the tomb sits on a raised square platform, the tomb is surrounded by a 3 metre  high wall with corner minars and three entrances.

Eight arched pillars support a dome, which typical of the early Bhopal rulers, is not proportionate. Beautifully, amalgam horse shoe and lotus shaped brackets  in between the pillars are proportionately balanced multifoil arches. Lattice marble screen surround the tomb.

Dost Mohammad Khan was a complex man. Brutal in conflict, he enlisted under Mir Fazlullah, Emperor Aurangzeb’s Keeper of Arm and led forces during in the final brutal years of collapsing Mughal rule.  A risk taker, who broke military conventions, often at great risk to his own life.

However, he had earlier learned to appreciate culture when he fled Afghanistan after he killed a man in self defence. In Delhi, There he met his old  Mullah Jamali of Kashgar. For a year, Khan studied Quran and witnessed the culture and  tolerant ideals of Shah’s Akhbar and Jehan.

A mercenary during the wars of Mughal Succession, he married Kunwar Sardar Bai, who later converted to Islam and adopted the name Fatah Bibi and established a small mustajiri (rented estate) near Mangalgarh, called Berasia.

Khan was invited by Bhopali Ghond Queen Rani Kamlapati to revenge her husbands death. Bhopals upper lake was then inhabited by around 1000 Gond and Bhil tribals.,and Khan usurped her kingdom then invited her to join his harem. She refused, choosing suicide.

He decided to fortify the town with a wall with six gates and built Bhopal’s first, and the worlds smallest, mosque so fort guards could perform namaaz.

The fortified city of called Sher-e-khas enclosed 1.5 sq kilometre by a wall 10m high 2 to 3 m thick included  hammams, with windowless chambers for public bathing,  hathi khannas to house elephants and their mahaots , serias to house  travelling merchants, and mosques. Buildings, three or four floors high, enclosed narrow streets, a few 4 metres wide at the most,  matched each other as children played on pattias or raised platforms to sit out the front of a house.

Ironically, after chai with my new – still inquisitive – friends, they did not know where the worlds smallest mosque was! Overhearing, another man pointed me a few hunnded metres around the bend.

 Dhai Seedhi Ki Masjid, the Mosque of two and a half steps

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russinansmallestmosque

Russia’s World Smallest Mosque

“Er …. where is it?” was my first reaction, reading the sign, sadly aware that unable to find the watchman I would not see inside. The padlocked gate also prevented me from climbing the steps.

Dhai Seedi Ki Masjid sits atop a watchtower, at one of the cities highest points it offers a commanding view of a city built in turbulent times. Initially a makeshift mosque for the prayer of the guards,  the mosque of 2 and a half steps was built during the construction of Fatehgarh fort begun by  Dost Mohammad Khan.

But  the words smallest mosque? Daniel McCrohan paced  the floors interior dimensions to 16 metres square, smaller than another “world’s smallest mosque” of 25 metres square in built in 2002 at Naberezhnye Chelny, in honour of those who fought Ivan the Terrible.

Harar Ethiopia Tree Mosque [Travelod.com]

In Harar it is claimed the smallest mosque is in a tree!!

For me, the Dhai Seedhi ki Masjid, built for the defenders of Fatehgarh Fort, is a reminded that we have a spiritual yearning that needs to be answered even when defending our kingdom.

As I wandered the grounds hoping for a better a photographic angle, I found this more worldly reminder of the modern world.

Mosquetwohalfsteps no ragging res(8)

Yes, we must live in this modern world. First we must transform ourselves if we are to transform the planet. After visiting the Mosque, I found that Lonely Planet had made the same trek with better success finding the watchman.
Hence, complements of lonely Planet I present the inside of the Dhai Seedhi Ki Masjid.

4x4: The main prayer hall of Dhai Seedi Ki Masjid. Image by Daniel McCrohan / Lonely Planet.

4×4: The main prayer hall of Dhai Seedi Ki Masjid. Image by Daniel McCrohan / Lonely Planet.

The mosque was perched on top of an overgrown stone turret, which formed a corner of an old ruined fortress wall. The hospital, it turns out, was built inside the grounds of the 18th century Fatehgarh Fort, so that soldiers deployed as guards could perform their daily prayers. And, according to an old city tourism sign standing outside the locked gates, this was the first mosque built in Bhopal, a city that now boasts more than 400.
- Loney Planet

Tribal India has an extensive Pharmakia

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India’s Bhil Tribals believe disease is caused by the displeasure of the Gods. A cure may require a gayan lasting 24 hours to exorcise the offending illness. However, tribal India also has an extensive Pharmacia of much quicker cures.

From the Ethnomedical knowledge of plants used by Kunabi Tribe of Karnataka, the 40 most important herbs used by the Korku of Betul District, Madhya Pradesh,  tribal medicine is simple to prepare and convenient they are affordable by tribal’s and rural poor.

In Satna district, Madhya Pradesh, plant medicine cures gastrointestinal problems that western medicine only relieves[1].

Loose stools are prevented by 20 mil of fresh Arjun bark juice in 400 ml of curd water. For infants  the leaf extract of chotti dudhi is used.
Garlic is antiseptic and excellent for intestinal inflammation.
Four or five fruits of Shivalingi are fried in fresh cows butter and taken twice a day for  colitis.
Four or five teaspoons of saunf are bought to boil and steeped for 15 minutes. It is cooled and strained then sipped to relieve colic.

Not just a random collection of herbal cures, ancient Indian medicine goes back to the Vedas.

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For example western trained Darshan Shankar was amazed to how Maharashtran Thakar, Mahadev Koli and Katkari tribals enhanced the breast milk of lactating mothers with Ipomoea mauritiana, reduced swollen testicles with Calantropis gigantean and could draw out deeply imbedded thorns with a latex from the same plant.  Dry cough was cured with the fruit of Terminalia bellinica roxb, dysentry by Holarrhena pubescens, uterine bleeding was stopped by Minosa pubica.

The range of Indian medicinal skill , both tribal and Ayurvedic, is inspiring. It is also a little angering to realise that the futuristic deal f heath in your hands is already promoted in the village. However, the migration of youth to city opportunity risks the loss of  great body of knowledge.

There are many Indian centres seeking to preserve these ancient skills.  For example, Madhya Pradesh promotes commercial herbal production. The methods of preparation are extremely diverse and sophisticated.

Badwais and Bhils confirmed that they use different parts of the same plants for different diseases and mixture of several parts of same plants or different plants for different diseases. The different parts of plants used as medicines are whole plant (usually in herbs), leaves, flowers, fruits, roots of herb, shrubs, trees, climbers, stem, root, root bark, resins, and latex, rhizome, tuber, bulb, tender, seed, petiole and latex. In some cases only one part of the plant has medicinal value. Usually the different parts of plants were made into paste, juice, powder, decoction and raw form. In most of the cases people use fresh plant as a medicine. The doses of the medicine depend upon the form in which it is used. The dose differs with different plants.

Generally, the ‘Badwai’ are very secretive about the medicinal uses of herbs and it is almost impossible to extract information, but by developing closer contacts they revealed certain vital information about the indigenous system of medicine practiced by them.

Folk traditions are not only rooted in the community but usually community supported. Traditional Birth Attendants are paid through rural communities.

Folk medicine knows over 8000 plant species, several hundred animals, minerals and metals. There are an estimated traditional formulations, knowledge of drugs, diagnostic and therapeutic techniques both physiological and mind-body based.

But unless the tribal communities and their plat based ecology, are revitalised we may lose the opportunity.  Shankar observed that outside of the tribe, respect for the vaidu tradition was low. He observed that the self confidence of vaidyas, hakims and siddhas was also low.

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It seems the forces eroding these traditions are not medical inefficiency, but result from economic, cultural and political pressures.  These included reduced demand, and the irrational lexpectation that all tribal ideas must match western parameters.  Because, the indigenous Adivasi system of medicine has been handed down orally from generation to generation, there are no written records. As youth rush to the cities in hope of opportunity, traditional knowledge is not being passed on.

I find it sad that the while Western science criticised religion, especially the Western church, for disrespecting human diversity , science has unwittingly an undermined respect for traditional medicine.  Also, I have previously written of IGRMS efforts to keep medicinal traditions alive .  In  Ponicherry. Guruji P. Srinivasaraju  and a group of Adivasi have been spreading the word  of traditional medicine.

Because“Bhils believe that illness is caused by the displeasure of the spirits, they are indifferent to practitioners of modern medicine. That being said, there are a number of allopathic dispensaries that have been established by the State Government and people are encouraged to avail of the services provided by trained Medical Practitioners and auxiliary nurses.”

Traditional and Western medicine are complimentary not enemies. Most tribals know the bhopa cannot cure all disease. Many herbs are remarkable, others cure only partially. At times custom ignores the importance of hygiene for maintaining good health.  So together the availability of Western and eastern cures have space for each other.

[1] S. N. Swavedi, Sangeeta Swavedi and P. C. Patel ,Medicinal plants used by the tribal and rural people of Satna District, Madhya Pradesh or the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders and diseases,Department of Botany, Janata,, P. G. College, APG University, Rewa, Madhya Pradesh, India.

Bhopal and the world: What is landscape in the modern world?

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Capitalism does not want you to stay content. That new fangled item you were sure you needed is useless and needing to be replaced.

Unfortunately the beautiful malls we thought we needed will last a lot longer. Sometimes as deteriorating concrete frames.

So why does Bhopal, with all of its small population need the biggest Mall in India? Besides DB Mall, and Ashima there is the collection of faded concrete arcades scattered everywhere.

What happened to the meditative reflection of the Ashram? There is the headlong rush of food courts, with the hype and hustle of 24-7 sales pitch. Turn on pay TV and the same add will be repeated four times in a row just to be sure you didn’t get the McPoint that you need to McPurchase McRubbish you didn’t McWant.

Chasing fame, wealth, and power can prevent us from the truth of our personal and world challenges. Addicted to more goods and a hectic life only bandages our gaping spiritual wounds and compels us to greater loneliness and unhappiness.

Of course, there is a need for development. Bhopal has developed beyond the BEMAC label. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shiraj Singh Chauhan has an enviable 3 term record for getting thing done. (In a recent visit to Brisbane Australia I met a BJP official who praised him from afar).

But why rip up good farmland on Bhopal outskirts for town houses in a state that is spending money on giving infrastructure for agriculture?

Hinduism and Islam ritual respect natures rhythms. So if nature is construed as at least a little closer to the divine then surely our push for consumerism and commerce has become the architecture of evasion and deception. The unquestioned desire to consume an ever proliferating arrays of unneeded, commercial products seems a soul-defying measure of happiness that is damaging the planet.

India’s national politics has become slogan driven ideological wasteland, where cunning is praised and compassion a weakness. Politics is a cultural construction of media mirages, communal division and an ecological mess.

Osho Anhad Ashram, Bhopal

Osho Anhad Ashram, Bhopal

What is landscape?

Britain bought the Enlightenments idea landscape controlled and commanded.

“The English word landscape comes from landscaef , an Anglo-German word that meant “a clearing in the forest with animals, huts, fields, fences. It was essentially a peasant landscape carved out of the original forest or weald, out of the wilderness[1]. The English ‘land‘ means earth from the older Gothic for ‘a ploughed field’. Scape implies the shape of similar objects or shaeth , a buncle or sheath of similar plants.

Do we command ecology through the science and technologies of architecture? Landscape is certainly sublimated or modified by mans interference. But now, the ideological imperative to remake the land is losing ground to environmental fears.

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Landscape is memory

In W J T Mitchell suggested landscapes are part of a ‘process by which … identities are formed[2]

Sometimes landscapes remind you of childhood, meeting the love of your life, a concert at the Bharat Bhavan, or – heaven forbid – loss, pain and sometimes the fracture society experiences in a riot or the Bhopal’s Dow chemical disaster.

Princes, Priests and Politicians have shaped India’s landscape. But now it seems the rush to consumerism is rubbishing the scenery. In India where landscape is so often associated with linked to the gods must this also be true. The vibrant, textured colour of India has assimilated many marks of invasion.

In the village the Banyan tree is never trimmed or removed from the middle of a road. Even palaces and temples have sprawled organically without the geometric perfection of Grecian ideals that were borrowed by Islamic designers. Islam also espouses garden designs inspired by paradise.

Now, India is a secular democracy, and the issue of land use and economic progress for the poor transcends state lines. But, I hope India will not fall to the Western trap of market driven morality. Business interests tend to place profit over human life and biodiversity.

By amir taj (Flickr.com, Khattak Dance) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By amir taj (Flickr.com, Khattak Dance) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The Dervish dance of modernity

The modern world, is constantly moving described well by the word raqs.

Raqs is “the state dervishes enter when they whirl. It also means dance” wrote Elena Bernadini in Raqs Media Collective: nomadism in art practice. “In Urdu and Hindi it indicates a temporary home for travelers, a place where travellers meet, a caravansary, an inn.”

She links ‘hypermobility,’ ‘nomadology,’ ‘space-time compression,’ and ‘hybridity’ as key words for modern space. Modernity is, in Donna Haraway’s terminology[3], “about vulnerability.”

The excitement of modernity is the very cause of our vulnerability because personal and social identity is a process. Landscape is also a process, though moving much slower, offering us a psychic anchor. But even the landscape is increasingly fluid in our increasingly urban world.

It contrasts with culture as embodied genealogies of “blood, property and frontiers”. Culture “rooted societies and their members: organizations which developed, lived and died in particular places.”

While people yearn for a modernity that allows them their memories.

“The past lives on in art and memory, but it is not static: it shifts and changes as the present throws its shadow backwards. The landscape also changes, but far more slowly; it is a living link between what we were and what we have become.

This is one of the reasons why we feel such a profound and apparently disproportionate anguish when a loved landscape is altered out of recognition; we lose not only a place, but ourselves, a continuity between the shifting phases of our life.[4]

India needs both modernity and nature, just as she equally needs both men and women.

At times the balance is lost and along with it, India’s uniqueness. The sprawling village gave us that. But cities require structure to function. Cities work when their infrastructure allows for movement and social expression.

We are torn between the masculine fixation on structure and feminine fluidity of mind and nature that resists the politics of closure, but is insatiably curious about the webs of connection.

The Laxmi Narayan Mandir or Birla Temple, Bhopal

The Laxmi Narayan Mandir or Birla Temple, Bhopal

Before the Commonwealth Games, ‘What will foreigners think?” seemed to drive a need to make Delhi a modern megacity that moved the chai wallahs to the outskirts and ignored the ‘nomadic sensibility’ still apart of Indian psyche.

If we are not careful the interconnectedness promised by technology can build a social apartheid of inclusion and exclusion. We observe national borders increasingly “thinned” and “doubled,” “multiplied” and “reduced” creating border zones, regions of residence suggests Etienne Balibar[5]. The dividing line between ‘us’ and ‘others,’ insiders and outsiders is not something which is drawn necessarily at national borders, but also within the very space of the city itself.

Cities can be both a breeding ground of natural beauty or of confrontation. A relaxed user friendly city can help keep the peace.

Bhopal is beautifully green built around a 38 hectare lake, with other smaller water bodies. But the landscape and psyche were scarred by a promised economic growth from a defunct fertilizer factory.

What have we learned? Will Bhopal will be turned from a lake garden to a beehive of prefab poorly maintained concrete? What do Bhopalis want as their cities cultural landscape?

As Ken Taylor expressed it: “The character of the landscape thus reflects the values of the people who have shaped it, and who continue to live in it. Culture itself is the shaping force. Landscape is a cultural expression that does not happen by chance but is created by design as a result of human ideologies.”

So what type of landscape of memory do we want? Heritage site give us pride, but walk outside and look. Where is the rubbish? Even if it is put properly aside more often than not rubbish collected may find its way in an empty field.

Is this the message of authenticity and integrity we want to leave for our children?

[1] Ken Taylor, Landscape and Memory: cultural landscapes, intangible values and some thoughts on Asia
[2] Mitchell WJT, (1994) ‘Landscape and Power’, Chicago University Press, Chicago.
[3] Donna Haraway as quoted in Irit Rogoff, Terra Infirma. Geography’s Visual Culture (London and New York: Routledge, 2000), 25.
[4] Margaret Drabble in A Writer’s Britain: Landscape in Literature referring to Virginia Woolf’s sense of loss of a loved place. Drabble M, (1979), A Writer’s Britain: Landscape in Literature, p.270; Methuen, London
[5] Etienne Balibar, “The Borders of Europe,” in Cosmopolitics. Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation, ed. Peng Cheah and Bruce Robbins (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1998), 220

Healing the sick Bhil: Why Tribal healing should matter to you

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Group of Bhils vintage postcard obverse

When a Bhil tribesman falls ill he believes the deities will cure him if they are properly worshipped. They believe disease is seen as a sign of the god’s displeasure.

So the Badwa is called. The Badwa is highly respected elder and chief physician with considerable social power.

The Bhils, like India’s other Adivasi tribes, do have an access to a pharmacea that Western medicine is only beginning to understand.

After examination, if it is considered a normal disease he recites mantas and blows air into her with the leaves of a neem tree. Occasionally herbal medicines are used.

Historically

The myths and legends of the tribal people reveal that they suffered from a wide range of ailments – endemic as well as epidemic – in the past. Before the 1880s, they were left largely to their own devices when ill. In a few cases, they may have sought herbal and faith based cures from wandering mendicants – such as sadhus and pirs – who resided in forest tracts. Most healing was by relatives and neighbours using herbal and other folk remedies. Tribal specialists who used herbal remedies, cauterisation, divination and exorcism, treated the more intractable cases.
– Vibrantbhiltribe.com

Song and group dancing are inseparable in Bhil culture with even tempo, and regular rise and fall. However, songs sung with a faith to cure the sick both physically and mentally  are the exception.

Unlike the daily hawen offered by Hindus, Tribals do not worship gods, but only propitiate or appease them.  Ritual is left for the priest or tribal  Badwai,who may be open to explain the ritual of sacrifice, but will refuse to explain the mantras used.

If the sick are confined to bed, or with a long fever, a Gayan may be advised.

bhil postcard

 The Gayan

The stuff required for gayan are -cardamom, clove, dry dates, almonds and lemon, all nine in number, lobhan and incense sticks.

Beginning about eight P.M. the gayan lasts until sunset next day. Three others accompany the badwa. The badwa brings a musical instrument called Bahari which makes a sound when rubbed

One of his assistants keeps a branch of sindh, called Jhadna. it’s leaves are torn with a thick needles so it turns into a fan to blow air on the sick. The Badwa holds in his had a Kharkisya.

The badwa does the Gayan depending on the ghost the person is suffering from. The badwa plays Khakiswa and his friend beats a brass plate. If the person is possessed by a Chokhala Bhoot or Chokahli Bhotani then the badwa and his friends do not drink wine a tthe time of Gayan. But if the ghosts or hags are not Chokhala then wine is drunk.
Chokhala Bhoot or Chokahli Bhotani are good people killed prematurely by someone doing evil known as Ghayandha.

The gayan begins by invoking the earth, stars and sun. The sun is called satpudi being described in seven pages. Each is invited to a mandal for their worship prepared on the East, North and south, where is kept an urn, and items including beetle nut and cloves.
They meditate and call on Ram-Lakshman.
They meditate then call on God Shankarji and Saat Bhahuvani Mata. In song they are called on to heal the sick person.

“My God, we call you, please do come.”

Hunamanji is last called to heal the sick.  As the sick person hears the gods been invoked, they sing of Teetya Jasi , Teetya Jasi, a famous past badwa of the Gayan,  finding medicinal herbs in the jungle. Teetya Jasi has taken a pick-axevand a broken pawadi to dig herbs.

Peepli refers to the sick person.

“You have to come and blow a healing wind, you have to blow wind with fan of gold and silver to cure the sick.”

The Bhil people believe Hunamanji bought sanjeevani with Badrisillla fo the god Badrinaath in the Himalays and he will do the same to heal the sick person.

The Brahmin devta is called to “see his calendar” (horoscope) to find disease and blow wind.

“The sick person is in trouble and is crying desperately, but the Brahmin guruji comes and blows the windwith the result  that the sick person becomes cheerful.”

Next Mahadev is called. He has not come and his place lays vacant.     As expert in the arts he is called to find what the disease is and to blow wind to cure. It is believed Mahadev came and has blown the amar jhada on the sick then the sick person bursts out in laughter.

Parvati is called to give jhada of silver and gold on the edge of her sari.

Next Kandi Paladev is called to be rebuked. How can a disease enter the village when he is there to protect it?

The gayan lasts until sunset next day. Prays are offered to Kalika Mata, Narmada Mata, Beheema-Arjun and Seeta Mata.

“There is a pool midstream In the Bikaner in Dhar District, about which it is believed that it cures any disease in one takes a bath in it on seven Tuesdays.”

Why does a Bhil healing ritual matter to you?

Tribal beliefs remind me that life is not a clean idea, tragedy death are all  part of  our experience..  Where Westerners  hide from illness and death behind clip boards, tests and protocols.

Observing both tribal and Hindu belief I realize the West has become  detached from life because ignore death and illness.

Consider the Western rise of alternative psycho social healings as Western science is making great discoveries. People want meaning beyond the machine of the body. Mind body medicine is much a part of the Indian tradition, as it was once in the West, but ignored and denigrated as unscientific in the modernist world. Abstrctions seem divirced from nature.

In India every possible human experience, even those frowned on socially, are expressed in the divine realm. This polytheism of the human soul gives expression even  to what is forbidden.

Just as , research on the placebo effect and hypnosis demonstrate the incredible power of the mind to heal. the experience of Tribal healing,  allows release of illness inducing emotions

This is more than the quaint acceptance of social relativism. Tribal healing is connected to the earth, and health is more than fixing the broken parts of the human machine. Most of us want to believe we are part of something beyond our self. The Hindu philosophy, as well as Abrahamic mysticism, recognizes all creation as part of the infinite divine. In that view we have all universal possibilities as part of us, as a hologram expresses the whole.

However, those parts of our self that we deny become shadows that we seek to admit to in the lovers we pursue and the enemies we despise.

The nuance of illness is largely derived cultural meaning , so healing  is influenced by the beliefs and customs of a culture. This is especially true of the  meaning given to illness: in this case to exorcised with divine

In many traditions the answers are dormant within, and healing comes from awakening them up .
Like Jacob struggling with the angel, to heal we must wrestle with the demons within to reconnect to our ‘earthiness’.

Understanding our tribal brothers and sisters is a window to understanding the primitive earthiness of humanity within us all. From admiration, to misunderstanding, to praise and sadly angry criticism, reveal unrecognized component parts of our self we must recognize if we are to have health and peace with ourselves.

As Archetypal psychologist James Hillman explains “The power of myth, its reality, resides precisely in its power to seize and influence psychic life. The Greeks knew this so well, and so they had no depth psychology and psychopathology such as we have. They had myths. And we have no myths as such -instead, depth psychology and psychopathology. Therefore… psychology shows myths in modern dress and myths show our depth psychology in ancient dress.”

Myths are  sounding boards employed “for echoing life today or as bass chords giving resonance to the little melodies of life.”

Reference: Bhil Devlok, Adivasi LokKala Evam Boli Vikas Academy, Madhya Pradesh Sanskriti Parishad, Governmment Press, Bhopal.

Back again for Punjabi Tandoor

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Amutsari kulche chole

Women have bad hair days,  I was having a bad Hindi day. Maybe I was just tired, but basic questions like “How do you say greater” in Hindi escaped me.

The day was compounded by some personal dramas effecting my business partner.

So I decided to walk from HB City Mall to 10 Number Market, an area named by the local bus stop, to enjoy a latte at Shake’n’Bake before heading off for one of Bhopal’s legendary hones of Punjab tandoor, Amutsari Kulche Chole.

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If you want India, check it out, but If you want a 5 star experience it may not satisfy. But i was the locals who insisted I should check it out. I’m glad I did.

With my comments to follow, you may wonder why I recommend this side street cafe.  But do not go in the flooding monsoon, when the floor was mudded wet and I go the runs.

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So why do I keep returning there?

There seems something wickedly exciting about the place. The old tandoor looks more like a metal drum than the fancier clay. The cylindrical drum is heated by charcoal fire within the tandoor itself cooking the parathas stuck to the inner sides of the drum by live-fire, radiant heat, and hot-air, the the flavoured smoke from the fat and food juice that drip on to the charcoal.

My Hindi failed to make much sense of the staffs questions, reduced to pointing, the Palak (spinach) I wanted was not available, i misread the menu – until I realised the word for onion (pyaaz), had been replaced by English lipi (transliteration) of the English.

I order two parathas: one of onion and the other paneer, cost 80 rupee, served with rajmah  and onion sauce.

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Simple vinyl ‘table cloths’; stained walls squeezed between the cart of Yashi Chinese and Raspan South Indian Sosa opposite Nakhrali, a fashion store in 10 Number.

Staff in tshirt, trousers and chapels respond to an a singleted gentleman, who I usually remember in blue. He orders my bowl to be refilled with beans. Meanwhile, a blue turbaned Sikh sits at the front with the cash box. I’m sure his turban was orange last time I visited.

Rustic and delicious. He waves to me as I return the next day.

Building in the spirit of the Vedic home

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Hand-colored Engravings by Balthazar Solvyns, c. 1799

Hand-colored Engravings by Balthazar Solvyns, c. 1799

House building is an expression of civilization. They are more than shelters since  culture and civilization are intrinsically linked. The word implies sanctuary.

Unfortunately, when reflecting of India, many think of a wandering ascetic, naked save for a loin cloth.

While, it is true that saints in many countries and traditions have chosen a simple life without a home, In ancient India, as now, home is where the heart is, with deep spiritual significance.  Our home environment reflects our interior world.

 Each decoration tells a story

The Veda’s reveal  that the ancient Indian home was far more than the product  of primitive shepherds.

 “We lay the strong foundation of a house which is well ventilated, beautiful, with parts symmetrically corresponding  to each other and measured or enclosed all round.” Atharveda IX-3.1.7

“It’s main four parts are store houses, kitchen, harem and drawing room.”

Commonly the Indian Hindu home has a home altar with fore and incense to keep the sacred energy alive.

Westerners include more practical altars: a well stocked kitchen a television to worship with hours of trance like devotion, or a workbench in a man cave as a shrine to masculinity, or dressing room as a shrine of adoration to feminine transformation.

In the ancient Hindu texts, the home is most sacred.

“The house may be two-sided, four-sided, six-sided, eight-sided or even ten-sided. The house is peace giver to mind. I take shelter in as fire in its womb.”

“From humble to mansion the home is compared to a beautiful bride, and  a place where you find happiness.” Atharveda IX.3.24

The most sacred inner shrine of a Hindu temple is also called a womb.

The book of rituals, Paraskara, calls the house the centre of the world, Bhivanasya nabhih. It is the centre of his life and universe the pivot of his ideas.

Rather than built with  rudimentary workmanship, three classes of masons are mentioned.

But to know the feeling of the ancient Vedic home we can consult the Rig Veda book 7 hymns 1-3:

“O  great house builder! Impart this satisfaction to us that thou art a giver of an abode free from diseases to us. Kindly do as I request you. Let thee bring happiness to our bipeds, and quadrapeds.”

“O delight giving builder, add to our wealth by being helpful to our cows and horses. Through thy kindness, let us live in hygenic conditions to a good old age. Be kind to us as a father to his son.”
” O builder, make us such a house that we may live in all sorts of comforts and enrich ourselves. Let happiness come to us. Let us ever be blessed with auspicious things.”

houses4 (1)

The structure of Vedic home

The structure of a home is less poetic and more practical.

In 1939 French scholar Louis Renou (1896-1966), began the process of culling the Vedic literature about the “process of building” and “techniques of construction” of shelters for home and ritual (“La maison védique” in the Journal Asiatique).

Profane homes were called shala  distinct from cultic shelter. He found imprecise ritual use of the terms veshman, “habitation”; sharana, “refuge”; avasana, “place where one removes the harness after a journey” but also meaning “site of the house.” The word frequent word is vastu, designating both the house and its site. vimita (“construction”) to refer to a ritual “hut” described in the Shrautasûtras ).

From “the rites that accompany house construction” he discovered the materials of bamboo, thatch, straw mats, rope, as ell as their arrangement and orientation.

Rituals for the home (vidhi or karman) are called vastushamana (literally “appeasement of the soil”). The Vaikhanasiyas, it links to birthing practice; other times it stands alone.

A broom, or udûha, clears the ground. The surrounding wall (parilikhya) is laid carefully. According to the shvalayana Shrautasûtra, a thousand furrows are dug. Possibly a preliminary tilled into the soil (uddhatya). From all directions water flows toward the center, creating an ambulatory path (pradaksina) around the bedroom (shayaniya), claims the shvalayana orders. The water then drains noiselessly eastward.

The soil was raised at the sides, forming a drain slanted slightly eastward, claims Narayana’s commentary, with a north channel (syandanika) to drain off water, near the kitchen (bhaktasharan.a), north of the bedroom. The bed should be northeast claims the Baudayana Shrautasûtra.

However a variant tradition uses the variant samavasrava, to explain a house site should allow for draining the same everywhere. Devapala explains”no side should be lower or higher than any other.”

Renou’s goes into the specific rooms including a chariot house. A salon (sabha), where the master of the house receives his guests, says Narayana, is in the part of the house “that inclines toward the south” according to (i.e. in the northern part according to Narayana.  Its best location is at the water’s confluence, says the shvalayana.

solvyns3

Construction began by digging a number of holes (garta) of equal depth to the distance from the ankle to knee, so that water drains well from them (dharayisnûdakatara). They are called four corner holes in Jayarama’s commentary on the Paraskara Gr.hyasûtra. The Kaushikasûtra mentions a middle post-hole (madhyama garta).

Posts (sthûna), called “that which rests in the cavity (darashaya)” by Nirukta, were then installed of udumbara wood. If wood of an inferior quality is used, the Shankhayana Shrautasûtra recommends a ritual of atonement (prayashcitta).

If a house is “white” (dhavalagrha, which may mean they were made of stone), stones replace the sthûna. , A stone is placed at the bottom of each hole to support it, but no Vedic text describes stone buildings. We do not know the number of posts or holes, but the Paraskara Grhyasûtra speaks of four but this may be only referring to the corner posts. Nine are mentioned in the Shankhayana Shrautasûtra.

These homes were not rude.

“Above the east entrance, in the space between the two middle pillars, is an ornamental fronton called the “forehead” (rarati). The  rarati is a strap-work of finely knotted reeds (aisiki), inclined toward the east and attached to the front cross-beam by a thread. The Manava Shrautasûtra says this rarati is a pad to prevent drafts (varasa) made of grasses that one places at the center of a strap-work of reeds; it seems that the grasses are gathered together by encircling them several times with thread, the two ends joined together, and the strap-work suspended from the front cross-beam” explains Renuo

For the home is itself sacred.

In the Rkasamhita the term for beam (vamsha) is used to describe the priests raising  Agni [the fire-god] like a beam (vamsha). Indra [the lord of heaven] is likened to the raised sky that does not need beams (avamshe). The Rig Veda also refers to pillars (sthûna) in comparisons such as “you carry men, O Agni, like a support pillar.

In the Atharvaveda we see the respect offered to cows.

“May the calf, may the child, may the dairy cows come to you (oh,shala), when they return in the evening”; also “hommage to bulls, to horses, all of which are born in the house”; and “you cover (chadayasi) in your breast, Agni, servants as well as cattle (oh shala).” One prose source refers to a cowshed called a gostha and in another a goshala is alluded too.

I prefer a home as poetry.

Or as H. Bodewitz, wrote

The Sadas hut is Prajapati’s belly. The Udumbara wood is strength (life-sap). When theUdumbara pillar is erected in the middle of the Sadas hut, one thereby places food, life-sap, in the middle.

and

The central pillar of a house or of a sacrificial Sadas is identical with the axis mundi which is placed in the navel of the earth.

For a home is a palace of chants.

In a funerary hymn the poet supplicates the Earth to allow a thousand pillars to be raised in the cavity where the dead repose, so that her weight will not crush those who take refuge in her breast.

Or Architect Anthony Lawlor once said,

“You enter the temple of home by discovering a new way of seeing, one that reconnects the needs of your soul with the buildings and landscapes that shelter you.”

It was also true of the ancient Indian home.

The Birla Museum is a must for lovers of archaeology

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birla-museum
Together with the Lakshmi-Narayan temple next door, the Birla Museum sits serene in a beautiful setting on the on the Arera Hills. The red and white sandstone building entered by steep steps, it houses an extensive 4,000 volume library of art and culture, terracotta sculptures and manuscripts.

The Birla Museum is a must for lovers of archaeology, but there is little effort to keep for the average “Philistine” tourist interested.

A lover of history, I was enthralled. I immediately began photographing the gardens, aided by one of the staff, only to be told that photography was not allowed. I would have loved to show you more of the very special artefacts inside!

Durga Trimurti, 12th century, from Sagar. [art-and-archaeology.com]

Durga Trimurti, 12th century, from Sagar.
[art-and-archaeology.com]

Not to be missed is the 12th century Durga Trimurti. In her Trimurti form, Durga where the goddess is depicted with the attributes of the Hindu Trimurti of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. The central image shows her on her lion, flanked by her depicted standing.

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The colourful Kondapali toys make for a refreshing display. These toys traditional to Andhra Pradesh are made of soft wood and tamarind powder and enamelled gums. They are painted with bright water colours to depict mythological figures and village scenes.

Varaha, Paramara dynasty, 13th century  from Samasgarh

Varaha, Paramara dynasty, 13th century from Samasgarh

A ninth century image of Varahi, the feminine form of Vishnu’s boar avatar in the Devi gallery. A head of a Salabhanjika, or stylized woman grasping a branch, depicts a tree spirit.

Paramara dynasty, 10th century,  from Ashapuri .

Paramara dynasty, 10th century,
from Ashapuri .

A 12th century Vishnu holds a conch and discus, surrounded by attendants and deities, including Brahma and Shiva.

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Unfortunately, in our over hyped super sensory world. Tourists can be a necessary but despised breed. Wanted for cash, but despised for their Philistine disregard for subtlety of tradition.
Tourists need to be engaged or they lose interest.

This is perhaps why the Birla Museum is not rated highly on TripAdvisor.com. People complain it is boring, and not been allowed to take photograph means you walk in look around and leave. Perhaps, a guide, or an audio headset that explains each display will engage people more.
For lovers of archaeology, there a booklets for 20 rupee detailing the artefacts with black and white images. Six colour post cards are available for 20 rupees for the set. I hope the collection will be digitized, perhaps as a CD so people can enjoy the beautiful art when they return to their home country.
Apparently, the museum workshop makes limited display replicas for purchase. Without a vehicle, I will return later to purchase one.

The terms ecotourism or cultural tourism seem oxymorons. Tourists are seen as culturally ignorant and tourism is accused of changing the very thing come to see.
Thinking of the neaby Union Carbide site, I recognise frustrated sceptics feel justified in describing Social Justice tourism as “self righteous arrogance”, “hypocritical” and “ironic”.
However, museums importantly allow locals to appreciate their heritage, and tourists a chance to treasure a world I hope is never forgotten.

2014-10-02 16.39.14res

10 Rupees adults 5R children
50 rupees foreigners.
Open 9:30 AM – 8PM
Monday closed

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