Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The unique sign, legend and temple of Pillaiyar ( Ganeshji)

It is a practice  amongst my mom and  family elders to put the above sign signifiying Ganesha at the top of the page before writing  a grocery list, diary,letter, account book or any record maintenance book. Similarly you will find it on most invitation cards of wedding, house warming ceremony and other auspicious functions.

This legend is called as ‘Pillaiyar suzhi’ in tamil,  literally translates to the curl of Lord Ganesha, though some say it is to check the stylus of the pen  with a small curve,line and dot to ensure smooth flow of writing , my family elders write this  with the immense faith that writing this will help them  complete the task without any obstacles and if  at all any obstacle arises it will be smoothly evened out by the grace of the lord.

Similarly before doing all those sweets and savories for occasions, they make a  small conical figurine of dough symbolizing Ganesha  with the belief that dedicating the dough  to the lord will make the process smooth and render the sweets and savories tasty.

It is a  faith amongst practicing hindus that before commencing any work  Lord Ganesha’s blessing is sought, the work undertaken will be accomplished without any obstacles, therefore all Hindus invoke him with the firm belief that he will take care of every obstacle that they come across.

  According to Maharishi panini,  “Gana” is a group of eight direction or the guardian deity of the directions. “Gana pati” is the master of the directions. Other deities cannot reach the site of any ritualistic worship without his consent. Hence Lord Ganapathi is always worshipped  first.

Most of us  are aware of the 'Amrit manthan' story in which Lord Indra forgot to worship Lord Ganesha before undertaking the task of churning the ocean, for those who are not aware, there is a an architectural marvel of a temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha at Thiruvalanchuzhi in Kumbakonam, the temple town in South Tamilnadu.  A Legend has it that here Lord Indra made Ganesh from the froth  of the ocean waves, so here pillaiyar(ganeshji) is white in color.

I visited this temple two years back on my visit to the temple town of Kumbakonam, a very peaceful temple by the banks of River Cauvery, here the river takes a gentle curve by the side of the temple hence the name Thiruvalanchuzhi( thiru is sacred, valanchuzhi is curve by the right).

Legend associated with the temple:

 When durvasa Muni came to visit Indra, he brought with him a garland obtained from Lakshmi. Seeing Indra riding on his Airavatha, he offered the garland as a fitting gift to the king of devas. Indra, who was in one of his proud moods, carelessly took the garland and placed it on airavatha’s head. The elephant in its playful mood dragged it down and stamped on the holy garland. Anger burst through Durvasa who cursed Indra “Oh foolish proud King, You have just shown disrespect to Lakshmi herself. May all your prosperity melt away. May your strength disappear and may you rot in disrespect.”. Cursing thus he left the place, the devas all shivering in fear.

Later they rush to MahaVishnu and seek his help. “Divine Protector,” they pleaded, “please show us a way out”. The ever benevolent Vishnu cast his eyes on them and said “Oh Devas, you have but one way left. Churn the Milk Ocean to obtain amrutha. Intake of this divine nectar will free you from all the curse and restore you back to power”. The devas prostrated before him and left. The churning would require a huge churn support and a humongously long rope. Vasuki, the king of snakes offered himself as the rope and the devas decided to use the meru mountain as the churn. All preparations done they still couldnt begin, their strength all gone with the curse. Having been weakened by the curse, they alone couldnt churn the ocean.

After prolonged consideration, Indra sent a missive to his step brothers, the asuras, asking them to join in this effort, promising a portion of the nectar. With the assent of the asuras, the churning was to begin.

According to the legend, when the Devas and asuras were churning the ocean, they forgot to worship Ganesha. They realized their error when the poison came out, and Indra immediately made an image of Ganesha out of the sea foam which had collected as a result of the churning of the ocean. Ganesha was pleased, and the Devas were able to obtain nectar. This is the Ganesha present in the temple. Swetha Vinayakar, a Ganesha made of Sea Foam.

Indra continued to worship the cream idol and took it with him when he went on a pilgrimage to absolve his sins. When he reached the banks of the kaveri, he placed the idol down to take a bath and perform the ritual poojas. Returning back, he saw that the idol had firmly attached itself to the ground and refused to budge. Understanding the divine will of the lord he prostrated in front of the idol. “Who am I to take you around when your desire is to stay here. All I ask is one boon. May I be allowed to perform pooja to you everyday?”, he asked. Vinayagar gave his approval, and happy with this Indra returns back to Amaravathi leaving the cream white idol to be worshipped by generations of devotees in what is now Thiruvalanchuzhi. 

Offering To Vellai Pillaiyar:
The cream idol, adored as Vella Pillayar, Swetha vinayagar or Nurai Pillayar(( made of ocean's froth), in the sanctum is pure white and is protected very fiercely by silver and gold frames. No abhisheka or pushpa are offered to the deity, lest the cream is washed away. Every decoration and splendour is for the surrounding frames alone. The only offering is Pacha-Karpooram (a fine edible form of camphor), which is finely crushed and sprinkled over the image on a basis. This alone is the main offering by the devotees to the temple. Even the darba grass we took were offered to the feet of the lord.

Architectural marvel
On the other hand, just outside the main sanctum one would find a mandapa that is made up of unpolished uncut stones carelessly fitted together as though in a hurry. Legends report that once the King of the land stopped by the temple to offer his worship. Offering a plate full of abhisheka materials to the priest, he ordered “Bathe the lord in these frangrant powders and anointed waters. Let him be cooled”. The priest was caught in a dilemma. The temple required that no abhisheka be done while the king had just ordered for one. Either way he was doomed. Silently invoking ganesha he begged for help. In answer to his prayers a voice reached from the sanctum, “Oh King, I am made of cream and bubbles. Would you want me to be dissolved in the fragrant waters that you just gave?”. The king is stunned and realising his mistake he begged for forgiveness. “Then build a mandapam in front of the sanctum by sunset today to atone for your mistakes. May it remind people of the mistakes that they make in life and make them pray for forgiveness”. The king obliged and built the mandapam in the given time period, putting together rough stones into an approximate hall. The mandapam stands even today and is called the mannippu mandapam or the hall of forgiving. People who visit the temple meditate in this mandapam and ask ganesha to forgive their sins and grant them eternal bliss. 

Similarly  there is a stone  door made with symmetrically  carved stone cross like in grills  called as 'Karungal palagani" which speaks of the quality of olden day architectural skill. There are 16 symmetrical crosses which was built to let light and air inside. The door is such a super human feat that when ancient architects signed their contracts, they agreed to build the best except five exceptional pieces of architecture that could never be replicated at all. The  Karungal palagani is one of them.( the other four are the main temple tower of thanjavur, the huge hall in thiru veezhi malai, kodungai in aavudaiyar koil, the outer wall known as madil in kadaarankondaan and of course the fifth is the stone grill mentioned above - these 5 were super human efforts of ancient architecture)

The most important festival celebrated here is the Ganesh chaturthi, celebrated like a carnival for ten days.

Source on temple architecture: temples of tamilnadu.
Image courtesy: google

Friday, August 26, 2011

Meet his little warriors

HE is the man at the moment, he is everywhere - on TV, newspapers, journals, twitter,FB, blogs etc..Everybody across all ages, regions, caste,creed and even cutting across party lines people are chanting his name, so I had nothing new to say or write about him in my blog but last evening changed it all.

No prizes for guessing who the man is? I know that you all know him and that too very well....ok ok... I have given enough build up.. but no.. my post is not about him or about the mixed feelings i have for Jan LokPal bill....It is all about his star warriors, not about Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi or Bharat Bhushan.... but about those little unknown warriors...

Last week my 12 year old son came back from school and announced to me "Amma, I'm going to Necklace road with my friends", before i could ask him why? He went into his room and told his Grand mom - "Patti, you know Anna hazare is an old man like you, he is 74 years old and he is on a fast to save our country from corruption, it is our duty to strengthen his fight, so I and my friends have decided to join the rally at necklace road"

Oh, I now realised that the rally was the reason to head towards necklace road. Necklace road is on the banks of hussain sagar( a lake in hyderabad) it is hyderabad's answer to beach. Most hyderabadi's head to this place to hangout and it is also the venue of rallies, marathons and their likes.

Though we elders discouraged their presence at necklace road with an emphatic 'NO'. The teens, tweens and the little ones of our complex assembled at the amphitheatre of our housing society and we residents went on a candle light March. All this was last week.

But after yesterday's breakdown of talks with the government, Our co-residents organised a march to a place 2kms away and guess who once again stole our hearts by organising the whole march. It was our little Indian citizens again, since the rally was organised on a short notice that too on a weekday, the children went door to door calling all the residents to participate in the rally and by 7.30 , braving the rains many residents came out to join the rally.

While I watched the people march down the lane from my 5th floor balcony under the rainy dark sky, the whole sight reminded me of the scenes i saw in all those moving pictures depicting freedom struggle during our pre-independance days. The children with anna trademarked topi's, flags and some over-enthusiastic residents were carrying the fire torches (Mashaal) and the following chants rent the air,

"Ek do teen chaar, band karo brashtachaar......paanch chay, saath, aat... anna, hum hain aapke saath"

" Anna, aap jung lado... hum sab aapke saath hain"

Truly, the whole scene reminded me of the pre-independence struggle, they might call it the august kranti, the anna upraising, the revolt of 2011 or whatever, the spirit of the children was patriotic, feverish and infectious. From the various reports in media especially the student editions of newpapers, it is clear the same feeling is echoing in all the Indian streets, I really felt proud of Anna's little warriors.

Hopefully if they sustain the same feelings throughout their life, rest assured India is in safe hands.

Monday, August 22, 2011

To you Madras, Happy 372nd birthday - part -II

Madrasa pattinam - A sandy fishing village of the Bay of Bengal some 3 and half centuries back is today a eight million populated Chennai, this Coramandal queen celebrates its 372nd birthday today.

This southern metropolis on the Coromandel Coast combines the best of technology and the rich core of Indian tradition. With each succeeding generation, the port city has added more layers to its unique identity, building a promising future from a proud legacy.

The hallmark of a successful city lies in its ability to preserve the old (some call it conservative, i call it individuality) while constantly adapting itself to the new. Chennai’s success in commerce has allowed it to afford its citizens all the modern conveniences of a world class city. The modern glistening city is filled with malls, resorts, highways and high-tech offices that co-exist peacefully with the deep rooted cultural values of its people. With its two facets equally alive and vibrant, Chennai reigns as the queen of the Coromandel. This city has a lovely history as it changed various hands and now to the genesis of chennai.

History post Alert
Early settlers
Ancient Chennai lay in the province of Thondaimandalam, which stretched between Nellore and Cuddalore, with its capital at Kancheepuram. The region contained the ancient villages of Thiruvallikeni (Triplicane), Thirumayilai (Mylapore), Thiruvanmiyur and Thiruvotriyur, all integral parts of modern day Chennai. St.Thomas, the apostle, is said to have preached here atop a hillock, now called St.Thomas Mount, between the years 52 and 70 CE. The relics of the Saint, interred in the San Thome church near Mylapore, are believed to possess miraculous healing powers.

The earliest European settlers in the region were the Portuguese, who built a port and named it São Tomé (modern day Santhome) after St. Thomas. The port subsequently passed into the hands of the Dutch, who established themselves at Pulicat, north of the city, in 1612. The British East India Company arrived soon after and established a Calico Cloth factory in Armagon, a village 35 miles north of Pulicat, in 1626.

It was around this time that Francis Day, an agent-in-charge of the East India Company’s Calico Cloth shop in Armagon, set off on an exploratory mission down the coastline in search of a region that produced better cloth for trade. In 1637, he selected a three-mile sandy strip of land south of Armagon, to start his new factory. The area contained the fishing village of Madraspatnam, and in the words of Day, produced “excellent long Cloath and better cheape by 20 percent than anywhere else”. Local gossip at the time however, seemed to suggest that Day’s selection of Madraspatnam was influenced by the location of his mistress in the Portuguese settlement of São Tomé nearby, in order that “their interviews might be the more frequent and uninterrupted”! Irrespective of Day’s actual reasons, his decision was supported by Andrew Cogan, his superior officer and chief of the factory at Masulipatnam. And so, on August 22, 1639, Day secured the lease of the three mile strip of Madraspatnam from Darmarla Venkatadri Nayakudu, the local governor of the Vijayanagar Empire.

On April 23, 1640, with the assistance of his interpreter (dubash) Beri Thimmappa Chetti, Day began the construction of Fort St. George, the first British fortress in India, and the nucleus around which modern day Chennai grew. The Fort still stands today, and houses the Legislative Assembly of the state of Tamil Nadu. The Fort, together with the houses built for British officers constituted ‘White Town’, while labourers, dyers and weavers settled into ‘Black Town’ nearby. By 1750, the neighbouring villages of Narimendu, Triplicane, Kottivakkam, Nungambakkam, Egmore, Mylapore and several others were annexed by Francis Day’s successors through grants approved by the Nayaks of Chandragiri.

The Origin of Madraspatnam
The origin of the name of the little fishing village of Madraspatnam remains a mystery to this day. Though the name sounds alien to the Indian ear, it was not coined by the British. Legend has it that the village was named after Madarasan, the chieftain of the village, whose banana grove was chosen as the location of the fort. Many historians however attribute the name of the village to the church of Madre de Deus, located in the Portuguese settlement of San Thomé, nearby. Another theory is that the village was named after a Muslim madrasa or religious school that was said to have existed in the region.

While the original tract of land allocated to Francis Day did contain the village of Madraspatnam, another village called Chennapatnam lay to the south of it, named after Damarla Chennappa Nayakudu, the father of Damarla Venkatadri Nayakudu. Based on land records of the time, it is probable that Fort St. George was built in Chennapatnam, though the two villages rapidly merged together soon after. The English continued to call the united villages Madraspatnam, while the locals chose to call them Chennapatnam. In 1746, Fort St. George and Madras were captured by the French under General La Bourdonnais, but was returned to British power three years later, through the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. Now in full control of the city of Chennapatnam, as it was known by the locals then, the British established a naval base and built a harbour. With Madras as their administrative centre, they fought several wars, notably with the French at Wandiwash, with the Danes at Tranquebar and with the Kingdom of Mysore, led by Hyder Ali and his son Tipu. By 1780, the British had gained dominance over vast portions of Southern India and established the Madras Presidency with its capital at Madras.

Colonial Centre
The city became a major centre for trade between India and Europe by the end of the 18th century. Elihu Yale, after whom Yale University is named, was the British Governor of Madras for five years and established Yale University using the fortunes that he amassed while in colonial government service here. Thomas Parry set up one of the country’s oldest and most respected mercantile companies here in 1788. John Binny established the famous textile house Binny & Co in 1814. Spencer and Co, Asia’s largest departmental store at the time, was established in 1864. Several other notable British companies joined suit, leading to the formation of the Madras Chamber of Commerce, the Madras Trade Association and finally, the Madras Stock Exchange in 1920.

Madras remained the administrative centre of the Madras Presidency even after independence. State reorganisation followed, and it continued as the capital of Tamil Nadu. Attracted by its booming commerce, many trading communities migrated to the city from all over the country. Artisans, musicians, dancers and craftsmen from the corners of India flocked here as well in the early part of the 20th century, and the city is now regarded as a major centre for the arts in the South. Madras was renamed Chennai in August 1996, after the village of Chennapatnam, in deference to local sentiment. Today apart from the various IT companies,  it is home to many Global and Indian auto majors like BMW, Ford, Hyundai,Mitsubishi, Nissan Ashok leyland, TVS for which reason it is nicknamed 'Detroit of Asia'.

Now for a visual tour,

An illustration of Fort.St.George in the early days(courtesy: dinamalar)

                                    Built in 1504, the Santhome Church rests on the tomb of the Apostle St. Thomas

                     Named after the Governor General of India, Lord Rippon, the Rippon building was built in 1913. 
                                                        It houses the offices of the Chennai Corporation

The Madras High Court was one of the three High Courts in India established by Queen Victoria in 1862, and is the         highest judicial body in Tamil Nadu.

                                                           Today's neon drenched chennai

                                             the beautifully lit Napier bridge( courtesy: The hindu)

 The majestic 150 year old chettinad  palace on the adyar estuary, many film shootings take place here, at present the home of  Raja muthiah's family.( photo courtesy: wikipedia)

My wish list for chennai is to see the beautifully lighted napier bridge, the full moon lit mahabalipuram shores, the chettinad palace (from close quarters) and the heritage site Dakshinachitra, the last one despite my many attempts evades me. Don't go there on a   tuesday which is a weekly off.

Happy Birthday Madras/Chennai. May you celebrate many more 372's without losing your identity.

                                          Do be a part of Madras day by being here or here.

history and remaining photos courtesy: the best of chennai.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

To you Madras, for giving me beautiful memories- Part I

Generally when a person is questioned which his/her favorite city is, normally it would be the place where they have made best memories or had/have a great social circle or work culture irrespective of the city’s weather, politics, lack of infrastructure and even traffic and with that definition, my fav cities are Madras,Bangalore and Hyderabad in random order.

Though I have never lived in Madras, I share a special bond with this city. No matter how far you go, your childhood stays with you and this city other than giving me memories has been the venue of my wedding and my birth too.

This place celebrates its formation day as ‘Madras day” on August 22 every year and the week around is celebrated as Madras week.

The character of Chennai lies in the fact that it has not lost its culture and deep rooted values while adapting itself to new,  for which reason it attracts many foreign tourists on its shores some of whom have made this their home. This is very evident from the many visting foreigners who went on to become students at cultural hubs like Kalakshetra, cholamandalam arts village and at many other cultural centres, but due to paucity of time, technological advances and the world shrinking into global village, we do take our own culture and heritage for granted, at times like this it is occasions like our festivals which helps us to take a step back in time and ‘Madras day’ is one of them.

A team of enthusiasts who value heritage like Mr.Vincent, Mr. Muthiah , Mr. Sashi nair supported by many volunteers and organizations connect the present generation with the past by arranging and focusing on an eclectic mix of madras related activities like heritage walks, photo exhibits, docu dramas and talks at the various parks,schools and hotels which volunteer to host.

It just feels beautiful to share this series of post which is not a travel guide of madras but a celebration of memories that is madras for me apart from its culture, couture, craft, coffee, cinema and cuisine, especially these memories were made in 4 old suburbs of Madras – Adyar( where I was born),Mylapore( my maternal grandparents home ), Nanganallur( my paternal grand parents place) and now my marital (extended family) home at T.nagar.

There could be lot of grammatical and spelling errors, and some lines could even be repeated, a very random list straight from my heart,    To you  Madras.....

As a little girl while travelling by Brindavan express( Bangalore to madras), I used to be so excited when the train reached Basin bridge junction because Madras was just a few minutes away and thatha would be there to receive me at the station and I would be in the company of my loving relatives and cousins.

As the car passed through Napier bridge and the world’s second largest beach Marina, I would be bursting with joy to capture the beautiful moments that lay in store for me.

Here’s where I caught the sights, sounds, scents and sweet people like in the list below and all these are so symbolic and represent Madras, On a personal level these are the things that I have done in madras long back,

  • A vibrant and active city( thoonga nagaram) is awake as early as 5 or before, and you will find people splashing water and cleaning the door steps to put kolam(rangoli). Most people rise here to the south Indian wake up music  of noted carnatic singer M.S.Subbalakshmi’s suprabhatam, followed by a cup of Filter kaapi.. Here filter kaapi is served in a stainless steel davara and tumbler( cup and saucer). The way kaapi is poured from the cup to the saucer from a great distance to make it frothy is an art to be mastered and could keep capuccino, mocha out of the race.
  • The scents and sights of the beautifully strung kadhamba poo made up of flowers of henna, bluebells, kanakambaram, marikozhundu, the scent of jasmine flowers all these were strung beautifully on a banana fibre by the florist on almost all street corners. The paneer rojas( a scented rose used in gulkand) would be made into huge garlands and encased in silver threads and the scent of these flowers were always in the air, the marikozhundu(Spanish cherry), thazhampoo(screw pine), Manoranjitham(ylang ylang) and the festoons made of coconut glade during ocassions.
  • The lovely procession of janavasam( baraat) where the bride groom goes in an open car piloted by the mellifluous tunes of nadaswaram and mridangam band and relatives ,flanked by the carriers of petromax lights( Ilike the effect of the filtered light in the night) all this from the balcony of our patti’s home. The baraat passes through our home to the Raja kalyana mandapam beside Buckingham canal.
  • The pattu pavaidas brought at rasi silk and nalli and tailored by maadi tailor and all those colorful rustling silks of the madisar maamis around kapali kovil and Nanganallur anjaneyar koil.
  • The taste of the Goli soda at T.A.S ratthinam pattinam kadai, kaara sevai of the matthala narayanan street, the jeeraga mittai , eli mittai and 5 star bought at sankar stores, the herbs at dabba chetty kadai, the softy,flavored milks and palkova of aavin and of course nothing to beat the taste of patti’s malligai poo idli, suttennai and milagai podi and the rose barfi of Grand sweets.( I was very angry with my grandpa once when he told me to share a 5 star with a co - passenger on my train).
  • I studied for 5 months during my mom's confinement while my sister was born, and amirtham our maid used to take me to kumaran's school, not wanting to go to school, I swung the oonjal (swing) against her head while she was mopping the floor and while she was writhing in pain, i was so happy i would miss school till thatha punctured my happiness by tellling me that he would take me to police station.
  • My first sight of Television and I loved to watch oliyum oliyum, wonderballoon , here’s lucy, and non-stop nonsense and I would be delighted to see those east man color movies  and this oliyum oliyum was telecast on fridays during the archanai at kapali koil and my patti told us cousins to accompany mami. Oh, How we hated to go to kapali koil those days, and now almost daily before going to sleep, I am mentally go around this temple.
  • The pride I and my cousins felt while giving neer more( chaas/buttermilk)  to the passers by sitting on the steps of the sengalineer pillaiyar koil which patti specially churned during ramanavami and summers.
  • The utsava murthi( god in procession) which used to exclusively pass in front of our home and all of us would come out with  pooja items to offer pooja( this arrangement is done by the temples so that invalid and old people can have the darshan of god)
  •   The sidaru thengai( breaking coconuts on the road in front of Ganesha temple) and the rickshaw wallas rushing to get the sidaru thengai.
  • My own choppu basket( toys)  made of cane which was downloaded from the attic when i went for holidaysand the games of pallankuzhi. I still have my patti’s pallanguzhi ( a traditional game which has a wooden base).
  • The strolls around maada veedhi (road), luz church and the narrow alleys like matthala narayanan street, bazaar street, walk to santhome beach, around the lanes of my mom’s school and the various falls I had while learning to cycle in the vast ground before 41, lakshmi nagar colonynanganallur and union carbide colony , the walks to watch movies at ranga, kapali and kamadhenu theatres.
  • Shopping at luz, mada street, t.nagar, pondy bazaar, Burma bazaar and the old red spencer building .
  • In nanganallur home, there were sepia toned photos of our ancestors walled in a linear fashion along with those was a photo of nehru and gandhi. As a child, when I asked who was that? my thatha answerd as nehru thatha and till many years I was thinking nehru was related to me and he was my thatha.
  • Our visits to the temples of kapali kovil, luz anjaneyar, mundakanniamman, nanganallur anjaneyar , ashtalaksmi koil, velanganni , ayyappan koil at R.A puram and santhome church .
  • The aroma wafting out of patti’s kitchen while she makes keerai masiyal, urulai curry , vengaya sambar and that tasty arisi upma made in vengala uruli , the kaisuttu murukku and adirasam were too tasty and how can I forget the special atthi kai( fig) sambar . These atthi kai was not available in all shops, only in a roadside shop outside hindu chit fund office, paati sent amirtham( our maid) to get this because I love this atthi kai sambar and the taste is still lingering on my tongue
  • The sound of the cycle rickshaw bells which carried rosary matric children, bells of the soan papdi cycle the nearby pillaiyar koil still chimes in my ear.
  • The cool sea breeze which caressed us while we played on the hot summer terrace.
  • The smell of amrutanjan while you stood outside the bustop at luz,The casual bow to luz vinayagar,My cycling experiences at the huge open area called nanganallur.( On my last visit to this place , I could find no open space, only flats), My first electric train journey from Pazhavanthangal to mambalam and our joy rides in my thatha’s amby MSR 2277, the phone number 73762, the beautiful chettinad mansion on adyar, the various kutcheris at Ramana kendra, the dramas( madras has a very active theatre group), The Christmas cakes at universal bakery, the sand castles built on the beach, the maangai sundal and chocobar of santhome, marina and elliots beach, the cool breeze that caresses your  face while you walk up the narrow alleys of Ashtalaksmi kovil,,The warmth and service of people like mani mama( jewelry shop), veenai mami, Shankar stores, the archakar at kapali kovil, srividya manjal kunguma kadai , rickshaw puller kapali, Dr. kailash his wife Dr. chitra and all those people at the post office, thambi pharmacy, sarasa pinman, Shankar stores, dabbachetty kadai,the gurkha of the United bank, the librarian at the nearby library who went on mouna vrat’s on Monday , my aunt’s and mom’s typewriting and shorthand institute, devi milk depot. and our maid amirtham ,
  • Come December and this city experiences concert tourism where musicians from all over the world congregate to celebrate and experience the December katcheri – a music fest which is unparalled in the world.
All these and much more are  the memrorable times  that Madras has given me that will stay on forever wherever I go and so madras day is a reason for me to celebrate. There is still lot more to madras and I leave this list incomplete…………….

Regular winner Mrs. Gowri Chandrashekar at 'Mylapore festival' with her winning kolam(rangoli)

The aroma of Patti's kitchen, idli moligai pudi, nallennai or sometimes suttennai

                                                 The spirit of madras - dance and music

The theppotsavam at mylapore temple tank, the air around mylapore is very festive during this time

                               She is the morning raga for most Chennaites - The divine M.S.Subbulakshmi
Interested may find the madras day events listing here

All the photos are from :Global village's Best of chennai - a coffee table book. except the theppam photo which is from mylapore times.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

They are making memories.........

                                                         "Mirror in the middle"

                                                            "God in the middle"

Most parents of growing children would have heard the above lines or similar ones often at home. If not, read ahead……

I had rested my son one day from school since he had a severe dry cough. He was tired and sleeping on his bed when my daughter returned from school at 2.30. I had laid her lunch and was waiting for her to come to the table but she refused telling that she will have food only with her brother. He was in no mood to give her company and so he refused to eat with her, not one to listen my daughter went on nagging him to give her company. When he did not yield , she started bothering him by tickling and shouting into his ears, this irritated my son and finally he hit her.

Not wanting to be a mute spectator, I intervened and shouted badly at my daughter telling her not to bother him since he was unwell and went into the kitchen to do my work. A few minutes passed and while at work on the kitchen platform, my son came and tapped at my back, I turned around and my son had this to say,

“Amma, why did you interfere and shout at her? Ippo avo azhara paaru(see she is crying now), Go say sorry to her”

My jaws dropped at first and then I went Hmpfff......I deserve it.

A lesson learnt …. I decided that day, I would never interfere when these siblings fight.

But wait….Did I learn?

On an another day…...

This time again both of them had a fight, usually it’s over a rubber, pencil , pen, A4 sheet or for something trivial. My daughter a perfectionist who keeps her things clean and safely and my son who is just the opposite …….

This time I shouted at my son badly which sent him crying to the bed and now my daughter came to me and this was the dialogue that followed…

She : Amma, everytime he cries he ends with a bad cough and you are the one who suffers and takes him to a doctor, when he has a dry cough… why do you shout and make him cry?.

ME: It irritates me when you both fight. Stop fighting.

She: No ma, we are not fighting, We are making memories. These things are what we will remember when we grow up , so allow us to fight. You don’t interfere.

Now whenever there is a shout or fight, I never go in the middle it is either ‘God in the middle’ or ‘mirror in the middle’

Do you get the drift?

When one shouts the other says the above dialogue … it means god is in the middle so the other automatically stops shouting.. now who would shout at god?

Mirror? Now you all know mirror reflects…..

Like all siblings they rival and revel and when they revel they are so creative and come up with beautiful music compositions (between them they learn carnatic music, tabla and they learn keyboard from internet), art works and delicious recipes and help each other with their school projects… when they rival they send my head reeling….

Never mind the reeling…. They are making memories after all. Little wonder then this relationship calls for a celebration.

Happy Raksha bandhan to all those brothers and sisters celebrating this lovely relationship.

This post is for my son and daughter . After all they are making memories, while I’m recording them…..

Monday, August 8, 2011

Where are we heading?

I had to shop for some needs in the nearby store and was looking for my jute bag, when suddenly I heard a huge commotion with a volley of abuses going back and forth, the amplified voices of my fellow residents would've put sound mics to shame and it almost shook the whole building. The drama unfolded in our parking lot and the event was our society elections. All the blocks were unanimously elected, while our block alone had a contest. The contest was also not with the intention to serve the society but an ego tussle between two groups.

Yes, groups - when many like minded people come together they form a group, similarly in my complex with more than 1000 families around there are many groups. Fair enough till now, but two of the groups indulge in mud slinging, hurling insult and the hate they harbor in their minds is so scary( wrt to society welfare affairs). All these were only on internet on our website but yesterday it spilled over when they came face to face during the polls.

An impulsive retort, a bitter truth , freely expressed opinion or an innocent joke are taken offensively and replied with bitterness.

Can we not express our dislike in a subtle way? Can we not adjust? Where are we heading? What precedent are we setting for our gen next?

And do you know the people who fought hold top positions in famous MNC’s which includes international banks, IT and pharmaceutical companies and the spectators of the clash were our complex children, service providers and our security men who must’ve chuckled from inside. What effect will it have on the children?

What shocked me more was when my son related the events to his father on skype.

Not just in societies, even I am witness to some marriages crumbling because of some flimsy reason like watching tv, disliking food. A sweet couple in their late twenties where both of them are very soft spoken and nice individuals, fight for the simple reason as to who has to lull the baby to sleep and the angry young man and lady fought in the corridor bringing the complex to their floor at 10.30 in the night. She a fashion designer with an airline was watching MTV and he an MNC engineer was watching cricket match. So much for education and their occupation. Can't they confine it to their walls?

And these fights are on TV reality shows and blogs too, The king of them of course is our politics......(we have had 8 bandhs in our state in the past two months)

What is it people irrespective of age have become so impatient and so revengeful? Why can’t they understand that people with different backgrounds, different school of thoughts can think differently and act differently? Why cant we respect other’s faith, religion and race?. Why is it that mighty people always assert and express aggressively and expect others to follow their way of thinking? Why are they so arrogant and always want to prove that they and only they are right?

Looks like values like peace, restraint, resilience, patience, love, affection, honesty are a thing of the past.

P.s: all sorts of people make this society, even the people who fought are from good backgrounds and extremely helpful,nice people. They are cultured and decent when it comes to their workstations only that their ego was rubbed the wrong way and they could not show some restraint and I had to rant.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Talakad - Land of sand, legend,temples, history and geography

Journeying through beautiful lotus laden ponds, temple tanks, quaint village huts, humble kutccha houses and all those cliché’s which I described in my Shimsha post we reached the banks of River Cauvery at Talakad. All along the drive, the Cauvery canals too ran parallel to the road irrigating the vast expanse of sugarcane and paddy fields.

The moment our vehicle stopped at Talakkad, the local guides flocked our vehicle and offered to take us on a guided tour. We narrowed on a guide and he rattled out the history , geography and legend associated with the place called Talakkad.

Talakad – 45 kms from Mysore was once a flourishing capital city of the Ganga dynasty . It was later ruled by Cholas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagara kings and later the wodeyars.

The dynasties which ruled this place have left imprints of their faith by erecting temples and stamping it with their unique architecture. All these temples numbering around 30 are buried under sand dunes. The central archaeological department of India has excavated many such temples.

A story goes that the name Talkad comes from two woodcutters called Tala and Kadu, who while chopping wood in the forest, found blood oozing out from one of the trees that they had tried to cut. Tala and Kadu while praying to Lord Shiva applied the leaves of that tree to the wound and the bleeding stopped. This incident led to Shiva being worshipped as Vaidyanatha, the lord of doctors and the temple in Talkad came to be known as Vaidyanatheswara Temple.

Apart from vaidyanatheswara, the other temples of Shiva - Pataleeswara, Maraleswara, Arakeswara and Mallikarjuna form the Pancha linga darshan and are believed to represent the Five faces of Lord Shiva. Another ancient temple recently excavated was the Keerthi Narayan temple which is the only temple with Hoysala architecture in Talakkad. We covered nearly 7 temples in one hour since the closing time was 1.00p.m, nevertheless had a fulfilling darshan.

The pataleswara temple

One has to walk over the sand dunes to see these excavated temples in the wooded area. Since it had rained the previous night, it was easy to walk over the sand . We visited all the above temples , while the guide was telling how the archeological department had now constructed a raised wall around the temple so that sand does not close in. Despite their efforts the sand does creep in and close on the temple.

It gave me a giddy feeling to know that I was walking over a great civilization that lay buried underneath the sand While the guide was narrating the history and the legend of Talakkad.

Like any other ancient historical capital, Talakkad too has its share of colourful legend. The one that is popular dates back to the early 1600’s When Raja Wodeyar, the founder of Wodeyar dynasty defeated Rangaraya – the viceroy of Vijayanagar empire in Sri Rangapattina. He later retired to Talakkad and died of a disease.

Sri Rangaraya’s wife was Alamelamma. The victorius wodeyar king alleged that she still had the jewels which belonged to the temple of Srirangapattina. He sent his force to recover the jewels. Alamelamma relented the use of force, she jumped into the river Cauvery and cursed the king and the town thus,

“Let Talakadu be Sandy, Malingi become a whirlpool and the Mysore kings be childless”

and to this day this place is deluged with sand and the nearby town Malingi is full of whirlpools and Wodeyar dynasty of Mysore is issueless.(The present scion Sri Kanta Datta wodeyar, an ex MP from Mysore is also issueless).

While scientists and scholars say the legend is fabricated around the town and attribute the sandy nature to the onslaught of sand brought about by an ecological disaster due to the construction of a dam in 1336 and the strong winds that blow here. The whirlpools to an active geological fault, they are intrigued by the mystery of the issueless wodeyar dynasty. With a few exceptions, the curse has survived folklore from 1610 till today for almost 400 years spanning 17 maharajahs.

After a grand story time and an even grander visit to all the temple we retired to the canopied cover of the river banks to relish our food hamper.

We followed it with some spa moments and a coracle ride on the quiet river which is the confluence of the three rivers Kaveri, Kabini and the mythical Spatika, knowing all along the curse of a woman was swirling and echoing through the place.

We came out of the waters to drink a hot cup of ginger chai under the canopy of trees overlooking the river from a tendered chaiwalla.

Left the place pondering about the legend. Is it a curse? an ecological disaster or a geological phenomenon?

Let time and geologists unravel…… I had a blissful time.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Padhinettam perukku - a regional festival

Padhinettam Perukku (meaning the floods/rising  of the eighteenth) is a  regional festival of tamils unique to the people of villages/ towns on the banks of River Cauvery.

This  ancient festival patronized by Kings  falls invariably on the 18th day of the tamil month Aadi (Aashad or shoonya maas) and is therefore known as Aadi padhinettu or Aadi perukku. On this day river Cauvery raises/swells to its full capacity in the Thanjavur – Trichy region of Tamilnadu due to the onset of monsoon.

Basically a nature worship - a prayer and thanksgiving to the monsoon for uninterrupted supply of water and good harvest, for this is what sustains the life of people  in the Cauvery delta. People also worship water in the form of temple wells and temple tanks. This is also the month when new seeds are sowed by farmers. Ritualistically people  worship her like a female goddess by lighting agal vilakku( diya)  and offering puja to her on the river basins which is a fertile land for growing crops.

 Friends and relatives get together to pray and feast on the banks of the river. On this day only mixed rice like puliyodhirai(tamarind rice), thengaisaadam(coconut rice), elumbicchai saadam( lemon rice) , thayir saadam(curd rice) are made. The accompaniments are Avial( medley of vegetables in coconut gravy), vadams( fryums) and papad. This is then eaten on the banks of the river  like a picnic.  They also express their joy by dancing a form called ‘Kummi’( similar to garbha) and kolattam( Dandiya).

The scientific significance of this month is that Sun changes his direction from north to south which is called Dakshinayana in sanskrit( Dakshin- south and ayana is travel) and so sun moves towards debilation. Hence it is a practice to indulge in religious practices to please the deities  since the positive energy received from sun is lessening gradually. To establish our connection with the energy spots enshrined in rocks, it is important to visit temples and bond with the creative energy in temples and thus  this month is full of  festivals like Aadi velli, Aadi Pooram, Aadi Kirthigai and today’s Aadi padhinettu and it is also a forerunner for hindu festivals like lakshmi vrat, Sri Jayanthi, chaturthi,etc.,.

To focus our energy and attention on the Gods, no auspicious events llike weddings, upanayanam or even shopping for goods are restricted in this month. The reason why business is pretty dull during these month and hence tradesman come up with the famous  discount sales like  Aadi/aashad discounts to attract customers during this time. 

Info courtesy: My family elders