Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Back from a short break : Hyderabad

The view of the city
 from our room at Taj Banjara
Hyderabad, the fifth largest metropolis of India, is the state capital of Andhra Pradesh, known for its rich history and culture with monuments, mosques, temples, a rich and varied heritage in arts, crafts and dance.

Golconda Fort:
Golconda Fort in Hyderabad is a majestic monument, which lies on the western outskirts of the city. It speaks of a great cultural heritage of 400 years and is considered as a place that is worth visiting. Golconda was famous for its diamond mines in olden days. The world-renowned 'Kohinoor' diamond is believed to have come from here. The Golconda fort is built on a granite hill 120m high. The fort has 8 gates or Darwazas as they are called in local language. The main gate is called Fateh Darwaza. The hills around the fort lend a very mysterious charm and colossal grandeur to the gigantic fort.
The Golconda Fort reaches to a height of 120 meters with a boundary wall covering a range of 10 kilometers of the outskirts of Hyderabad. The Golconda fort comprises of four small forts within itself. 
You have to enter the fort through 'Fateh Darwaza', which is also called the 'Victory gate'. The main attractions of this entrance are the acoustic effects, which is a remarkable feature of the Golconda Fort. It is said that such an articulate construction was used in those ancestral days for security purposes.

The latest feature that adds more excitement to the Golconda fort is the Light and Sound show. The amazing light and sound impacts with the narration of the hair raising story of the Golconda Fort is interesting.

 Unfortunately we could not see it although we  had time for it, because it suddenly started raining heavily in the evening in Hyderabad.
View of the Husain Sagar Lake from Birla Temple.

The dasaavatars all standing in line on top of the wooden dancing Ganeshas.
They are called Kondapally toys made in Andhra Pradesh. They are made of wood and painted in
bright colors and also very light.
Birla Temple: We are not great fans of Birla temples, yet we visited it, and I spotted a set of Dasaavathars there which I bought

Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad

Aficionados of Hyderabad, the cultural treasure trove can't help raving about Salar Jung Museum, India’s third largest museum. The museum sited in the hot seat of cultural splendor contains antique pieces and artifacts from nearly all epochs of history.
The existence of the museum is credited to Nawab Mir Yousuf Ali Khan Salar Jung III as well as the Prime Minister of the seventh Nizam, whose passion lay in collecting priceless antiques.
Salar Jung Museum, flaunting the country’s largest ‘one-man collection’ of antiques rests on the southern bank of the Musi River. The museum is a dream come true for those who love to take long trips along the musty pages of history with its varied collection of over 43000 art objects, 50000 books and manuscripts. These compilations include works and relics of Indian Art, Middle Eastern Art, Far Eastern Art, European Art, and Children Art along with an elaborate Founder’s gallery.

The semi-circular building is a magnificent architectural edifice with 38 galleries spread across two floors of an imperial building. Each gallery has its own specialty with one housing the Nizam’s personal belongings, another houses Indian artifacts. Others display a plethora of items ranging from paintings, musical instruments, preserved stages showcased in glass cabinets, Kashmiri furniture and handicrafts as well a multitude of other valued historical relics.

A visit to Hyderabad’s Salar Jung Museum opens up treasure chest of unbelievable cultural legacy an unveils an ancient figurine of Veiled Rebecca, Double figure by Italian sculptor G.H Benzoni, Musical clock, Arabic Al Quran in Nashq (1288 AD), jade crafted knifes of Jehangir & Nurjahan and Famous European paintings like 'Venice', 'Soap Bubbles' etc.
We nearly spent 3 hours here, everything was so amazing, with history and love dripping from each and every objects, so well preserved. If you ever ever visit Hyderabad, don't miss it. The restrooms  there good and there are plenty of them in each floor. The whole Museum is very clean and well maintained.
Cameras are not allowed.

After this visit, we were guided to a very good Muslim Restaurant for lunch, it was practically full with all kinds of people enjoying their food or were patiently waiting for their turn to be served. It had a very Turkish look, one felt as if one had all of sudden landed in some place in Turkey. The food was wonderful: their Lassi/ Buttermilk was made like a  falooda, and it tasted real good.

The Chowmahalla Palace
 Chowmahalla Palace :

The Chowmahalla Palace was once the centre of Hyderabad. It was the seat of the Asaf Jahi dynasty
where the Nizam entertained his official guests and royal vistors.The palace is unique for its style and elegance.
 The complex consists of two coutyards with elegant palaces, the grand khilwat
(the Durbar Hall), fountains and gardens. khilwat mubrarak is the heart of the palace.
Different portions of the Chowmahalla were build during different phases of the Asaf Jahi rule.This was build around 1780 during the reign of Nawab Nizam Ali Khan, Asaf Jah II, but extensively renovated later in 1911.
Afzal mahal, a two storeyed building is the most imposing.the grand pillared Durbar Hall has a pure marble platform on which the Taqt e nishan or royal seat was laid. The 19 spectacular chandeliers of Belgian crystal have been recently reinstalled to create the lost splendour of this regal hall.

The old Clock Tower.

Inside the Palace

Chowmahalla Palace

I had to take a picture like this : just like them

Charminar: Culture
Charminar is always on the top of the mind of any tourist visiting Hyderabad. To imagine this 400-year-old city without Charminar is to imagine New York without the Statue of Liberty or Moscow without the Kremlin. Built by Mohammed Quli Qutub Shah in 1591, shortly after he had shifted his capital from Golkonda to what now is known as Hyderabad, this beautiful colossus in granite, lime, mortar and, some say, pulverised marble, was at one time the heart of the city. This great tribute to aesthetics looks sturdy and solid from a distance but as one moves closer, it emerges as an elegant and romantic edifice proclaiming its architectural eminence in all its detail and dignity
Every side opens into a plaza through giant arches, which overlook four major thoroughfares and dwarf other features of the building except the minarets. Each arch is 11 metres wide and rises 20 metres to the pinnacle from the plinth. The minarets soar skywards by 24 metres from the roof of Charminar. Each minaret has four storeys, each looking like a delicately carved ring around the minaret. Some Anglophiles call Charminar the Arc de Triomphe of the East. From the ground to the apex, the minarets cover a length of 48.7 metres.

Atop the great monument are 45 prayer spaces for the devout where they can offer worship in an atmosphere unspoilt by the bustle of the city. East of this space is a spacious verandah with small and large arches in the middle. The first floor has beautiful balconies from where one has a fantastic view of the historic city and its later accretions.

And of course I bought lots bangles and other knick- knacks that caught my eye. I also bought the red Venkatagiri saree ( though I could not get the exact thing I wanted), yet what I got was also very beautiful.
I managed to get a beautiful peach colored pearl set and also one pearl bracelet.
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped in the pouring rain and waited for our driver to bring us the famous Irani Samosas and  the equally famous  Irani Chai or tea for which Hyderabad is very well known for.
It tasted really good : hot and crispy, to really die for!
 I felt sad saying good bye  to this amazingly vibrant and ancient city, throbbing with so much life. I also felt bad the we could have seen a few more places if it had not started raining so heavily.
Anyway, the time we spent in Hyderabad was really great, and the weather was wonderful, except for the unexpected rain. Like they say "All good things must come to an end"

The next blog would be about Vizag: a really great place to visit.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Going on a short holiday: Hyderabad, Vizag and Araku Valley

Planning to visit some historical places, and of  course do all the touristy things, with beaches and shopping thrown in.
Looking for a nice Venkat giri saree in blood red color with thin zari border and very small zari polka dots. I had seen this saree worn by my aunt many years ago, hoping to find it at any cost. Wish me all the best in my search for this saree.
The train journey to the Araku valley promises to be good. On our way back, plan to drive down and visit some interesting Caves and other places of interest.
I leave you with an old blog of mine, written many years ago, hope you enjoy it.

                                             'Madame is not in'

It was 2.30 pm. time to move into the kitchen to prepare the snack; I had planned for my children, who would be returning from school by 3.45. I very reluctantly switched off the TV.

  The kitchen welcomed me with a sink full of vessels that cried to be cleaned, I don’t have servants for I don’t get along with them, I prefer to be my own boss. I am one of those working women who work in the house. In short, I am a housewife.

  The prospect of washing a sink full of vessels is not very appealing. But, ­­however unpleasant the job, it has to be done. I took my old, faded nighty and wrapped it round my waist like a towel. I don’t believe in buying fancy- looking aprons with pockets (why do they have pockets, I wonder). My good old nighty is enough to protect my dress from getting wet and also from food stains. After tackling the dirty work, I got down to making the cutlets. While trying to fry batches of golden brown cutlets, I was boiling milk and then water for the coffee filter and also simultaneously clearing up the mess on the kitchen platform. (Only a woman can do all these things and also keep thinking of all other unconnected things at the same time).

  In between, I had again switched on the TV to Prime Sports, where the programme  ‘Prime Bodies’ was going on. I was trying to pay attention to some of the new exercises that they were demonstrating. 
  The door bell rang and I opened it without bothering to un-wrap my old nighty from my waist as I was expecting only my children. Instead, I found myself looking up at a tall, dark, handsome guy (straight from the Mills & Boons), with a packet in his hand. He studied me critically, with the famous M&Bs frown, and asked me whether Dr. Ananth (he is my husband) was at home. He spoke in Hindi, and it sounded a little odd, coming from a man, who definitely looked like a South Indian. I too was carried away and replied in Hindi, (what with a handsome Southy talking in Hindi with an attractive frown on his face, there was no time to think ) saying that the said person was not in, but I could pass on any message he had.
   He the reluctantly handed me the packet and instructed me very curtly that it should be delivered to Dr. Ananth without fail. I didn’t look as concerned as he expected me to look, for my mind was suddenly on the cutlets that were threatening to turn black if I didn’t attend to them immediately. I just nodded my head dumbly and closed the door.

    Within minutes, my husband arrived and I asked him whether he had met a man called Giri down the stairs. Then I asked my husband whether this person was a South Indian. My husband told me he was a Tamilian.
  Suddenly everything became clear, and I could not help laughing at the absurdity of the situation. The man had mistaken me for a maid/ cook. Obviously, he didn’t expect Mrs. Ananth to be so shabbily dressed.
 I was right in my assumption for my husband quickly said that when the man met my husband on his way down he had mentioned that he had left a package with the maid upstairs. We both had a good laugh and wondered what would be his reaction if he was told that he had been talking to the lady of the house.
  It transported me back to my days in Bombay many years ago, when I used my maid – like look and attire to full advantage.  Often being pestered by sales -people  and others the only solution, I found was to pretend to be the maid and send them away with a polite "Memsahib gar may nahi hai". (Madame is not in)
  It worked. After a while they stopped coming as they did not want to waste their time at a place where "The Madame is not at home".

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Power Through Reiki

Reiki is a Japanese word meaning Universal Life Energy.  It is an ancient healing art, rediscovered about more than a hundred years ago by Dr. Mikao Usui, a Japanese spiritualist, healer, physician and scholar. He was guided to search for the secret behind the miracle healings of Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha. After many years of dedicated reseach, and travel abroad to countries like America, China, India and Tibet, he discovered the key to understanding the miracle healings in the Tibetan Lotus Sutras. In order to read and understand the Sutras in their original script, i.e. Sanskrit, he even learnt and mastered that language. Realizing that he had found the key to the healings, Dr.Usui went back  to Japan, to the Zen monastery  which had all along supported him in his quest.  He had knowledge – but that was not enough : he had to be empowered to use it. Along with the Abbot of the Zen monastery, Dr. Usui decided to meditate. Together through their meditation, it was revealed to them that Dr. Usui should proceed to the sacred Mount Kuriyama,  and commence a 21 days fasting and meditation . 
 Nothing unusual happened, until the last of the 21 days dawned. it was still dark about, when he saw a shining light moving towards him  at great speed. It became bigger and bigger, and finallly hit him in the middle  of  the forehead.  Millions of white glowing bubbles, each one containing a three dimensional Sanskrit character in gold, appeared one by one just slowly enough for him to register each character. He was now completely empowered- he was connected to the cosmic energy and was armed with the knowledge and ability to transfer this unique power of healing to others. Thus was born the Usui system of natural healing- or Reiki, as it is popularly known to us.
Shortly before Dr. Usui’s death, Dr. Usui charged one of his most devoted teachers, Dr. Chijiro Hayashi, a retired naval officer with the responsibility of carrying on the traditions of Reiki. Dr.Hayashi founded the first Reiki clinic in Tokyo.
In the year 1935, Hawaya Takata (1900-1980),  a young Japenese – American woman from Hawaii was led to Dr.Hayashi’s Reiki clinic for treatment. Once she was completely healed, Madame Takata became a student of Dr. Hayashi.  After years of dedicated practice, she was made a Reiki Master by Dr. Hayashi in the year 1938.  On his death in 1941, Madame Takata succeeded him as Grand Master.  It was through Madame Takata that Reiki was made available to people all over the world.  She brought it to mainland United States, and finally to Canada and Europe.  In the last 10 years of her life,  from 1970- 1980, she initiated 22 Reiki Masters,  both women and men .
    This is only  a very brief history of Reiki.  You would have to read some good books on this subject to get a better idea  about Reiki.  The books that would help are: Reiki- Universal Life Energy by Bodo J.Baginski, The Complete Reiki Handbook by Walter Lubeck, Reiki The Healing Touch First and Second Degree Manual by William Lee Rand, Empowerment through Reiki by Paula Horon.
                                      The Attunement
  What makes Reiki different from other healing methods is the attunement  (initiation) process which the student undergoes in the various levels of  the Reiki class.  Reiki is not taught in the way other healing  techniques are.  It is transfered to the student by the Reiki Master during the attunement process. This process opens the Crown, Heart and Palm Chakras, and creates a special link between the student and  the Reiki Source.  In the few short minutes of attunement process, the reciever of Reiki energy is given a gift that forever changes his or life in every positive way.
                                How Does Reiki Work ?
 Reiki energy is naturally available to all living beings from birth.  In time, various life experiences, emotional and mental stress, obstruct the free flow of Reiki, and the natural healthy connection is distorted.
 Just as Television waves flow in the atmosphere,  but require a suitable reciever tuned to its frequency to reproduce the sound and visual picture, similarly, we too need to be re- attuned to the cosmic energy to remain healthy or regain lost health.
 The attunement does not give the reciever anything new – it simply opens up and aligns what was already a part of her/ him. the process  is very much like plugging in a lamp in a house  already wired for electricity. Once you have recieved the attunement, you will have Reiki for the rest of your life.  It does not wear off, nor can you ever lose it.
                                     Channeling Reiki
After attunement, all that is necessary for the practitioner to use  Reiki is to place their hands on themselves, or on the person to be  healed, with the intention of healing. The healer may not know what needs healing , but Reiki  energy has an intelligence far beyond human, and will go where it is needed. It heals on all the levels – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. It can never do any harm- one can never use it for negative purposes.  Since you are not using your own limited energy  to heal,  you do not have to fear that you might end up with symptoms of your patient, (unlike other types of healing). You are using only the Reiki energy or the Universal life force energy, and you are just the channel.
Reiki can be used alone, or in conjunction with conventional medical treatment. It will improve results of all medical treatment, acting to reduce negative side- effects, shorten the healing time, reduce or eliminate pain, reduce stress and help create a calm state of mind.  
                                              Is Reiki A Religion?
Reiki is not a religion. It has no dogma, and there is nothing you must believe in, in order to learn and use Reiki . Because Reiki comes from God, many people find that using Reiki puts them more in touch with experience of their religion, rather than having only an intellectual concept or awareness of their own religion.                                    
Most learning about Reiki comes from doing healings , and letting the energy teach the healer.  The more the student uses Reiki, the more it teaches him, and stronger his healing ability becomes. The more it is used the more Reiki also works in the healer’s life to accelerate her or his personal growth and self- healing.
                                What Reiki Can Do For You
1. Reiki brings the body into harmony by relieving the physical and emotional blockages.
2. Reiki heals the root cause of any ailment and eliminates the effects of imbalance.
3.Reiki helps minimimize your sense of helplessness when facing disease or trauma of modern society.
4, Reiki helps lower the increasing cost of conventional medical care , easing strain on your finances .
5.Reiki is completely impersonal and positive- you can’t do anything wrong with it.
6. Reiki is a technique which allows you to assume responsibility for your health and well- being.  It shows you how to become the master of your destiny.
(Compiled from various sources )

Friday, November 5, 2010

Lighting of the lamp of love (source:The Speaking Tree).

Our  " Raath Ki Rani" tree looking so pretty

Oil lamps and candles
Pretty, pretty candles

One doesn't have to spend much in lighting up the house
Simply lighting the house  with candles and earthen diyas makes all the difference
The traditional breakfast
An antique mirror we got it cheap from Ooty
Our house glittering with lights

Ram, Sita, Lakshman,and Hanuman: the victory of good over the evil
A colorful festival that is celebrated by all Hindus worldwide is Deepavali, which is also known as the festival of lights. This festival usually falls around late October and November. One important practice that the Hindus follow during the festival is to light oil lamps in their homes on Deepavali morning. By lighting the oil lamps, the Hindus are thanking the gods for the happiness, knowledge, peace and wealth that they have received. The Hindus consider Deepavali as one of the most important festivals to celebrate.
There is even an interesting legend behind this festival. The story goes that Narakasura, a demon, ruled the kingdom of Pradyoshapuram. Under his rule, the villagers suffered a lot of hardship as the demon tortured the people and kidnapped the women to be imprisoned in his palace. Seeing his wickedness, Lord Khrishna set out to destroy the demon and the day Narakasura died was celebrated as Deepavali, the triumph of good over evil!

If there is one occasion which is all joy and all jubilation for one and all - the young and the old, men and women - for the entire Hindu world, it is Deepavali - the Festival of Lights. Even the humblest of huts will be lighted by a row of earthern lamps. Crackers resound and light up the earth and the sky.

In northern parts of Bharat, (India) Deepavali is associated with the return of Sri Rama to Ayodhya after vanquishing Raavana. The people of Ayodhya, overwhelmed with joy, welcomed Rama through jubilation and illumination of the entire capital. Well has it been said that while Sri Rama unified the north and south of our country, Sri Krishna unified the west and the east. Sri Rama and Sri Krishna together therefore symbolize the grand unity of our motherland.

In Hindu philosophy darkness is compared to ignorance and lighting the lamp has significance of driving away ignorance and gaining knowledge. Hindus begin their prayers and rituals by first lighting an oil lamp.

For an oil lamp to burn, the wick has to be in the oil, yet out of the oil. If the wick is drowned in oil, it cannot bring light. 

Life is like the wick of the lamp; you have to be in the world yet remaining untouched by it. If you are drowned in the materialism of the world, you cannot bring joy and knowledge in your life. By being in the world, yet not drowning in the worldly aspect of it, we can be the light of joy and knowledge. Lamps are lit on this day not just to decorate homes, but also to communicate this profound truth. 

Every human being has some good qualities. Every lamp that you light is symbolic of this. By lighting the lamp of wisdom in you, you light up latent values and by acquiring knowledge; you awaken all the facets of your being. When they are lit and awakened, it is Deepawali. Don't be satisfied with lighting just one lamp; light a thousand, for you need to light many lights to dispel the darkness of ignorance. 

Another profound symbolism is in the firecrackers. In life, you often become like a firecracker, waiting to explode with your pent-up emotions, frustration and anger. When you suppress your emotions, cravings, aversions, hatred, you reach a bursting point. Bursting crackers is a psychological exercise to release bottled-up emotions. When you see an explosion outside, you feel similar sensations within you as well. Along with the explosion, there is so much light. Let go of these emotions, so serenity dawns. You can experience newness when you discard these pent-up emotions. Deepawali means to be in the present, so drop the regrets of the past and the worries of the future and live in the moment. 

Sweets and gifts symbolise the dispelling of the bitterness and renewal of friendship. Deepawali is a time to throw light on the wisdom you have gained and welcome a new beginning. When true wisdom dawns, it gives rise to celebration. But don't let celebration make you lose your focus and awareness. To maintain awareness in the midst of celebrations, the ancients created rituals: puja brings sacredness. For the same reason, Deepawali is also the time for pujas that add depth to the festivities by infusing the spiritual aspect. 

Celebration includes the spirit of seva or service. Share. In giving, we receive. Celebration also means dissolving all differences and basking in the glory of the atman. Happiness and wisdom have to be spread and that can happen when all come together and celebrate in knowledge. 

Deepawali is the celebration of the wisdom thus born. For the one who is not in knowledge, Deepawali comes only once a year, but for the wise, Deepawali is every moment and every day. This Deepawali, celebrate with knowledge and take a sankalpa (intention) to serve humanity. 

Our Cashew tree is glowing with lights.
It is making her blush with all the attention...

Happy Deepawali To One And All!