Friday, February 21, 2020

Call of the Lord !

We all know Shiva, from whom Yoga originated, the first Guru of Yoga, Adiyogi, symbolizes the balancing and calming effect of all Yoga practices.

Yoga as a spiritual practice rests upon building the Shiva consciousness of the awareness and bliss.

On the night of Mahashivratri, as a yoga  practitioner & spiritual seeker, I recall my tryst  with the Lord.  #Don'tYawnTillDawn

The below article was written for & first appeared Financial Express dated 21 Feb.

There are times in our life when we plan much, and work hard but things don’t fall in 
place and then there are times when things effortlessly fall in place. Our recent trip to 
Sringeri in Western ghats was one such. It was not in our itinerary when we left home, 
but the spiritual monastery beckoned us and we drove from Chikmagalur through the 
hairpin bends flanked by scenic coffee estates to Sringeri.

 It was sheer grace that we had a comfortable vision of the beautiful deity of 
Sharadamba and other shrines within the complex. After the darshan, we were heading 
towards the exit to our room, suddenly my children decided to take a look at River 
Tunga. We walked by the beautiful 14th century Vidyashankara temple and reached the 
bridge over the river. Soaking the beauty of the moonlit river under the star-spangled 
sky, we walked on the bridge aimlessly in silence not knowing where we were heading. 
We saw a handful of men in traditional wear of dhoti and a few women in nine yards 
saree walking ahead of us. We followed them on the bridge into the woody orchard 
Narsimhavana and saw it opening into the portico of Guru Nivas. Traditionally dressed 
devotees, less than 100 in number, were seated in a well- lit hall. Unknowingly, we had 
walked into the home, where the spiritual head, His Holiness Bharati Theertha Swamiji
was to begin a pooja in a few minutes.
 What followed after that was one of the most divine experiences I have had in recent 
times. It was a surreal feeling to watch the Chandramouleeswara pooja in the night to 
the invigorating Vedic chants by the young students of the Vedic school. The 
Chandramouleeswara is a crystal linga, the principal idol of worship not only in Sringeri 
but also the other monasteries — Badri, Dwaraka, and Puri established by Adi 
Shankara. Legend has it that this spatika linga along with the other three was handed 
over by Lord Shiva himself to Adi Shankara, who in turn gave to his 4 disciples, one of 
whom was Mandana Misra, his first disciple and the first Acharya of the Sringeri Mutt. 
Since then, the linga has been propitiated by the various Acharyas who have adorned 
the peetams and what I saw was the pooja performed by the present Acharya, a 
renowned scholar, the 36th in the line of Guru Parampara. The ambience, the rhythmic 
chants, the vibrations I felt here are inexplicable. 

After the pooja when we crossed over the river bridge, I felt I was charged with supreme 
bliss. It is what one calls as a spiritual moment that has to be internalized. Spiritual can 
mean many things to many, it is a broad concept with room for many perspectives, as in 
connecting with the self, the supreme, blissful solitude, a belief that tells you to give up 
your anger, ego, hate and many more.

Though temples are God’s abode, there are a few temples where one has that feeling. 
The older the temple, the more such intangible feeling. I sense such vibes in a few 
ancient temples which are built according to Agamic principles (temple architecture). 
Here I would like to recall a visit to an old temple again by default.
One of my favourite travel routes is the Thanjavur-Trichy belt in Southern Tamil Nadu. 
The numerous criss-crossing canals and the tributaries of River Cauvery which 
meander around the little villages adorned with lush green fields are a sight to behold. 
The river banks are home to many world heritage sites like the Brihadeeswarar temple, 
Gangaikonda Cholapuram, Darasuram etc., 
I have often traveled this route and each time I visit, I am enriched. It was during one 
such travel, on the main road from Kumbakonam to Thanjavur, we found a temple arch 
with 108 Shiva temple written on it. Intrigued, we stopped by the temple. At first glance, 
it didn’t seem like a big temple and did not have a ‘tall temple tower’ characteristic of the 
other temples in the region. We walked into the temple and saw the main deity named 
Ramalinga Swamy, another one called Hanumathlingam and the rest of the 106 lingams 
were in 3 rows.
The temple priest in the unpretentious temple where only we were the devotees said 
that worshipping Lord Shiva here would remove one of all sins, hence the name of the 
place, Papanasam. 
He went on to tell the sthala puranam (history of the place). Lord Rama, after 
worshipping at Rameswaram to ward off the evil effects of killing Ravana, found the sins 
were still following him due to the killing of Kara and Dhooshana in the war. He 
instructed Lord Hanuman to bring one Shivalinga from Kashi. Since it got delayed, 
Rama and Sita themselves collected sand from nearby river Kudamurutty (a branch of 
Cauvery) and made 107 Shiva lingams under a vilva tree. Meanwhile, Hanuman 
brought the Shivalinga, it was named Hanumanlinga. Thus the total lingas numbered 
108. This place is also called Keezh Rameswaram and possibly the only ancient place 
in the world where 108 big separate lingams are present in one place. It is believed that 
one’s wish is realized if one circumambulates the outer praharam by 108 times and 
during Mahashivarathri nearly 10,000 people circumambulate this temple. 
The idols in ancient temple built according to agama shastra are said to have esoteric 
power due to chantings than the newly constructed designer temples. One need not be 
spiritual or a theist to visit such temples, but if one loves history, art, heritage, 
architecture, such temples will be deeply appreciated.

The link is here

(Will adjust alignment when I touch my base)

Monday, February 17, 2020

Stop and smell the roses!

Valentine's day - some company decided to sell their greeting cards and the idea turned into a good business......seriously, it has done our economy well.

The below article was first published in Financial express dated 12 feb,2020

Stop and smell the roses – I literally follow this age old good advice when I travel to Hosur via Bangalore or Salem. Every time I travel this route, I stop by the many rose farms and poly houses, to soak in the beauty of every whorl and colour of the beautiful roses. The gardeners and farmers are very warm and welcoming. Each time I stop by, we share conversations, they invite us home for lunch or offer a glass of butter milk. They are also very generous to give me bonus in the form of a rose plant, tomatoes, chayote, Brinjals or whatever they grow.

Hosur is a little historical, industrial and agricultural town in the state of Tamil Nadu. A very humble town which is not proud of its various honours, perhaps the reason it is not so popular.  All around the town if you observe, you will find historical and archaeological evidences that pre-dates this town to 2000 years. During Sangam-age it was called ‘Muraasu nadu’ and ruled by King Adiyamaan, the King who gave gooseberry to Tamil poetess Avaiyaar to prolong her life. The Cholas, Rajputs, Nayaks, Hoysalas, British East India during Lord Cornwallis time, Tipu sultan and many more have ruled this place.

This town is home to many small scale and large scale industries producing automobile bodies, automotive spares, high precision aero parts, watches, bio-tech, agriculture, tissue culture, pharmaceuticals and many more. A place which cannot be classified as a 'laid back' town or a 'hyper-active' town, It takes a middle path. From what I have observed generally, people here have the approach of ‘Work while you work, play while you play’. Maybe because majority of them have jobs with 9-5 schedules in Industries unlike many MNCs which work across different time zones.

One of its prime revenue generator is through its horticulture and floriculture exports. Hosur soil is said to be very fertile and ideal to grow European vegetables like broccoli, carrot, beets, bell peppers, asparagus etc. This is possible not only because of the fertile soil but also because this place is elevated 3000ft above sea level and thus enjoys a compatible and salubrious climate, all round the year. The weather is the reason why the Britishers called this place as “India’s Little England” during their rule. Tons of vegetables are exported to other parts of the country and this town also houses prime floriculture companies.

Many agri-export companies based here have their project sites around the main town like Denkanikottai, Bagalur, Thally etc. They breed, cultivate and export flowers like carnation, lilies, gerbera and the world famous valentine red rose called ‘Taj Mahal’. This variety created by a rose breeder in Holland is patented and cultivated in Hosur. It is a deep red budded rose with long stalk and big leaves. Another rose by name ‘Kohinoor’ which is a baby orange-pink rose is also cultivated here. The main markets for these flowers are Europe, Australia, The Middle East and Japan. The valentine rose was patented in 2009 and the exports have been doubled, tripled and some years they dip too.

Talking to a rose grower, in Bagalur (near Hosur), who was growing the Damask rose popularly called ‘Paneer rose’, said he also grows cassandra, chrysanthemum, marigold, tuberose for domestic and international markets. The flowers he grows are auctioned in the famous Hosur flower markets to retailers where they reach homes for daily pooja or special occasions like wedding. 

But with passage of time, flowers have gone beyond decorating gods, sacred spaces and many other places. They now decorate office establishments, living rooms, as gifts etc. He said growing flowers now is a highly competitive industry. With introduction of new techniques, cultivators now grow and develop new flowers which leads to change in the trend of consumers. The new generation employ modern technology, maximise the production and offer better quality of flowers and thereby, a better price. He said the developed cut flowers like the valentine roses are grown in poly houses under controlled conditions. The buds are covered with netted bud caps so their shape  remains in the bud form. Their petals are also thick so that they can withstand long distance travels. The flowers grown here travel in refrigerated vans to Bangalore and then are airlifted to various countries like Amsterdam, Germany, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Australia etc. Recently, an Intellectual property attorney has also applied for GI tag for the “Hosur roses”.

As I type this looking at the rose plant in my balcony garden; the subtle fragrance, its rich colour and artistry of whorls reminds of Emperor Jahangir’s quote “No other scent of equal excellence…It lifts the spirit and refreshes the soul”.

So the next time you happen to pass this route, do stop by to smell the roses - a soothing balm for city souls. If lucky, you could also relish the refreshing buttermilk, enjoy a lively conversation and also carry home a lovely rose plant to adorn your garden along with some fragrant memories

The link to the article is here