Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Salads in our city, then and now.

Salads have become very popular at most restaurants in twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. Buffet spreads for breakfast, lunch and dinner have become very common at most restaurants. And these buffets have medium to very large spread of items for salad. With some restaurants having Live Action Salad Stations, the spread is much larger with a variety of salad dressings as you can see in the above pictures. If you like such a restaurant and spread, the salad may no longer be an appetizer salad or an accompaniment to the main course, it would become a full-meal!
Earlier in our city, most restaurants served a complimentary small plate of sliced onion with a wedge of lemon, before or along with the food ordered by you. If you wished for a larger quantity and variety, you would have to choose from the À la carte menu - onion salad, onion tomato salad or the green salad with a variety of vegetables that is carrot, cucumber, radish, tomato and onion with wedges of lemon or any exotic salad with a fancy name!
Present day spreads are elaborate with a wide variety of vegetables, cheeses, meats, nuts and dressings…there are endless combinations and salad toppings! At countless restaurants! A feast to the eyes and taste buds! Very nutritious and healthy for the young and elderly!
Most importantly people here are loving salads and the restaurants are fondly catering to them.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Pateeswarar Temple, Perur.

Perur Pateeswarar Temple is a temple of Lord Shiva; it is located at Perur, 7 kms west of Coimbatore city, in the State of Tamil Nadu. The temple was built by the Cholan King, Karikala Chola. The temple is located right on the bank of Noyyal River. Lord Shiva, known here as ‘Patteeswarar’, is the presiding deity of this temple together with his consort Parvathi Devi, who is known as ‘Pachainayaki’. The deity is believed to be ‘Swayambu Lingam’ (self emerged). The pillars raised in this temple depict the architectural prowess of the Tamil sculptors, which can be seen in the attached video and photographs.
Being able to visit this ancient temple with a history of about 1300 years is a great feeling. Several generations of devotees, the royalty, saints, poets and the common people have visited this temple to have darshan of Lord Patteeswarar (Shiva) and Pachainayaki (Parvathi Devi) and seek their blessings, and it was our turn on 28th August 2017.
History tells, that the great poet Sundarar, has sung the devotional 'Devaram' song in this temple in the 7th Century. Later great poets like Arunagirinathar and Kachiappa Munivar also patronized this temple. During the rule of Raja Raja Chola, 'Artha Mahal' and 'Maha Mahal' were constructed. In addition to this, there were regular donations from the Chola kings, which are documented on the temple walls.
From the 14th to 17th centuries, it is to be noted that the kings from different dynasties like the Hosala dynasty, Vijayanagara Empire, Nayakkar Kings have contributed immense donations for the maintenance of this temple. The famous 'Kanaga Sabha' was built around the 17th century, by Azhagathiri Nayakkar of Madurai.
By the 18th century AD, the primary deities were renovated and also a Mahal for the 63 Nayanmaars were raised. By the 20th century, the Kalyana Mahal and the front Mahal were constructed, and the gopuram was renovated as well.
This temple has several gopurams and halls, famous of which is, 'Kanaka Sabha', the one with the golden statue of Nataraja. The pillars have carvings of the various manifestations of Shiva and the ceiling has a series of stone chains.
There is a Patti Vinayagar shrine, dedicated to Lord Ganesha. The Arasambalavanar Shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva at the spot where Shiva is believed to have performed his Thandav under a peepul tree. There are also statues of Gajasamhara, Virabhadra, Bikshadana, Oordhva Thandava and Saraswathi Devi with Veena. The sacred trees associated with the temple are the palm and tamarind trees, called Irava Panai and Pirava Puli.
The temple is believed to be one of the places where Shiva is believed to have performed Ananda Thandavam. For this reason, every year the temple celebrates a classical dance week, typically Bharata Natyam.
The temple is open on all days. If you happen to visit Coimbatore or any place nearby, please do visit this ancient temple. You will be very pleased and feel blessed.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Hahai no ka ua i ka ulula'au - The rain follows after the forest.

Hahai no ka ua i ka ulula`au – seems like a magical expression, yes it is, it is a truth statement that will sustain life on earth forever. It is a Hawaiian saying. It means – The rain follows after the forest. The saying indirectly warns that if forests are destroyed, the rains will cease to fall, and the land will become a desert. And this is very true!
My previous blog post was in support of the ongoing campaign - RALLY FOR RIVERS by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev. One of the significant demands of this campaign to prevent dying of our Rivers is to plant trees along riversides up to a width of one kilometer, fruit trees in private properties and forest trees in government lands.  I covered this point in brief in my blog post.
Many would know the importance of trees in bringing about rain and life back into our Rivers. The Hawaiian saying is there to remind its people and us about the importance of trees for rain. But there would certainly be some people, no; many people who are ignorant of this fact or have read about it at School and have forgotten. Large scale ignorance of this fact is obvious as forests are vanishing fast in our country.
This article is especially for such ignorant people. In brief, forests bring about rains. Roots of plants and trees draw water from the soil and release water vapor through their leaves into the air, in a process called Transpiration.  That water vapor rises in the atmosphere and forms new rain clouds and returns to earth in the form of rain.
The percentage of rain due to Transpiration in thick forests may be around 15 percent but once the water levels in rivers and lakes of these forests improve, rain clouds would swell due to water Evaporation from these water bodies resulting in copious rains. This near perfect Hydrological Cycle would bring back life to our water bodies. This Hydrological Cycle can be understood through the attached posters.
Please spread this knowledge among all and support the ongoing ‘Rally for Rivers’ campaign. On large scale may the authorities grow trees everywhere…with projects like the 'Haritha Haaram' program of the Telangana State Government, which facilitated planting of over three crore plants in the State, in the last three years.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

I Support ‘Rally for Rivers’ Campaign.

I support ‘Rally for Rivers’ campaign. I have pledged my support by dialing 8000980009 and by posting my support narratives on social media. And I am looking forward to join some local group to strengthen this campaign. A call to 8000980009 by you for showing support to the Rally would be counted as a citizen’s vote, and a minimum of 10 Crore votes is being looked forward to so that the campaign would produce the desired effect and results. Please go through this article and please participate in the campaign in whichever way suits you.  
Rally for Rivers is a campaign launched by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev of Isha Foundation to save the dying Rivers of our Country. Our Rivers are undergoing drastic change. Due to pressures of population and development, the perennial Rivers are becoming seasonal. Many of the smaller Rivers have already vanished. Flood as well as drought, are becoming increasingly frequent, as Rivers turn unruly during the monsoon, and vanish once the rainy season is over. Sadhguru requested people across the Nation to join the campaign and show their support for the cause. This campaign has commenced on 1st September 2017, all over the Country, especially in all major cities and towns. It has attracted enormous support so far from the elite and common citizens and the support is growing by leaps and bounds.
I sincerely hope this movement with large support from all of us would enlighten the authorities and people along Rivers to improve the health of Rivers by all scientific means and care, for us all to live happily and for the welfare of our future generations.  

Thursday, August 31, 2017

All about making and buying of Kanchipuram / Kanjeevaram silk sarees.

This article; on the most popular and grand silk saree, the Kanchipuram saree which is also known as Kanjeevaram saree is based on my interaction with the weavers and salesmen you see in the attached photographs and video (and also information researched on internet). Its popularity and grandeur is known to all Indian women here and abroad and some foreigners too love and own them. But few may know how it is made and how to pick the best, hence this article. I sincerely hope this blog post would be helpful to you in understanding the making of this saree and buying the best.
Every Kanchipuram silk saree is made from one of the world’s most superior silks. Hand woven from pure mulberry silk, a single saree takes almost a week to finish and some intricate designs even more. The saree you see being weaved in the attached photographs will take 20 days to weave on a daily working of eight hours and would cost Rs. 26,000. Coming back to the making of the saree, the silk yarn, after careful extraction, is dyed in richest of colors and weaved with the zari. First the yarn is washed and then dipped in the required color which is in a boiler and the worker goes on turning the yarn so that the color is evenly mixed in the yarn. The most important aspect in this process is the mixing of colors which will give unique and durable color to the fabric. Then it is again washed and dried. These yarns are then starched. Starching of the yarn is where the color in the yarn will get more permanent nature and gives the yarn a polished look. The silk used in Kanchipuram saree is of the finest quality, one that is not cut or broken.
Pure gold and silver is used to create the zari in a Kanchipuram saree. The cost of a saree largely depends on the amount and the purity of the zari. The art of creating the perfect zari is relatively unknown – only a handful of families possess the knowledge of zari making. Though this makes a Kanchipuram all the more covetable, it also makes acquiring zaris quite challenging. Essentially, the ‘zari’ is a silk thread, twisted with a thin silver wire and then gilded with gold, is interleaved with the silk weave to create the designs or motifs on the saree. Most of the zaris used today come from Surat in Gujarat State. The genuineness of the zaris is checked in specialized Testing Centers in Kanchipuram itself. By custom, 1 Kg of zari would have approximately 500 grams of pure silver, around 5-5 1/2 grams. of gold. But now a days the quantity of pure metal used is lesser – only 420 to 470 grams of silver and 3 to 3.5 grams of gold. This practice enhances the beauty and the value of the silk, as it contains gold and silver in it. And it also has a resale value for the same reason.
The width of any regular saree, even a silk saree, is a standard 45 inches; but the Kanchipuram saree is typically much broader, around 48 inches and the standard length is 6 yards and more with the blouse piece included. The specialty of Kanchipuram saree is that the silk yarn is “double warp”, that means; each “thread” is actually made up of three single threads twisted together. Also, because of the pure mulberry silk used for these threads Kanchipuram sarees are renowned for their texture, luster, durability and finish – thus making a Kanchipuram saree much stronger and more expensive than its counterparts from Dharmavaram and other places. A regular Kanchipuram saree weighs between 500 grams and 1 kg, because of the intricate weave using “double warp” thread, the broader width, and the pure, gold-dipped zari. All these factors have together given Kanchipuram sarees an enviable reputation for weight, size and durability.
Sky-high wages due to lack of skilled artisans/weavers and the sky rocketing cost of silver and gold has already pushed the price range to 6,000 – 60,000; and it is rising higher by the day. But no Indian wedding is complete without it – especially a south Indian one. It is also a hot favorite for women during festival seasons – it being customary to wear them during poojas and while visiting temples. These sarees are now shipped abroad in huge lots to meet the demands of the ever growing Indian and Indian product loving population overseas. The bottom line is, whether in India or abroad – the soaring prices of the Kanchipuram sarees are met with an equal amount of purchasing power!
The Kanchipuram weavers are in this profession by tradition. The very first weavers called by the Chola king, Raja Raja Chola I (985–1014 CE), to weave these sarees, were chosen for their sheer talent on a loom. And for centuries now, this skill has been handed down from one generation to the next, with great care and diligence. There are no explanations, theories, or trainings for weaving. It is an art that was inherited, taught by the elders, and honed only by practice, creativity and vision. Kanchipuram sarees are weaved using the Korvai technique. A Korvai saree’s border and pallu are of the same color, and are in bright contrast to the “body”. Weavers use the ancient craft of three-shuttle weaving and interlocking weft to achieve this effect. The saree is ornamented with pure gold zari. The motifs are inspired from nature and temple sculptures — religion, architecture. Weaving a Kanchipuram is tedious but the Korvai technique makes it one of a kind, and stamps it with splendor and durability.
Kanchipuram sarees are registered and patented. What is made in Kanchi district is still a Kanchipuram or Kanjeevarm saree, if it exhibits features (weight, amount of metal, traditional designs) defined by the Geographical Indication Act. The handloom label indicates that the product benefits a weaver, as these days power loom weaving is taking over the traditional hand weaving and what once was an art is getting more and more commercialized and commoditized. As per Geographical Indication (GI) label, a Kanchipuram saree should have 57% silver and 0.6% gold in the Zari. The Tamil Nadu State government has relaxed this ruling to 40% silver and 0.5% gold. GI label adds to the Kanchipuram’s authenticity and helps maintain its standard, especially when sold in global markets.
The times have changed, and the Kanchipuram sarees have also undergone a transformation of sorts. Designs are now available, with embroidery or even crystal work done on the traditional silk saree, in every shade and combination imaginable.
Having read all this, next time or first time you intend to buy a Kanchipuram silk saree make sure you pick the very best by following these points:
- Insist on the Kanchipuram/Kanjeevaram label
- Check the weight and the width of the saree
- Ask for a genuine hand-woven six yards saree
- Look for the GI label
And if you still have doubts you could take a silk thread out of the saree and burn it. If it turns to ashes it is pure silk and if it melts it is fake.
Keep this check list in mind when you go Kanchipuram saree shopping, and you definitely won’t go wrong!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Adiyogi – A grand reintroduction.

You can see in the attached pictures the huge, Adiyogi, Lord Shiva Statue, which we visited yesterday, 28th August 2017. It is a 112 feet (34 mtr.) tall Statue. It is located near the Isha Yoga Complex / Center; close to Coimbatore city, in Tamil Nadu State. It is designed by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, a great yogi, mystic, philosopher, poet, author and founder of the Isha Foundation. It was built by the Isha Foundation and weighs around 500 tonnes. The Statue is made of Steel. It was designed over a period of two years and was manufactured in eight months.  As per Sadhguru the height of the Statue at 112 feet symbolizes the 112 possibilities to attain Moksha (liberation) that are mentioned in Yogic culture and it also represents the 112 Chakras in the human system. Sadhguru said that the statue is for inspiring and promoting yoga, and is named Adiyogi, which means “the first yogi”, because Lord Shiva is known as the originator of Yoga.
Adiyogi Shiva Statue was inaugurated on 24th February 2017, by our Prime Minister, Sri Narendra Modi on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri. The Adiyogi Statue has been recognized as the “Largest Bust Sculpture” by the Guinness World Records.

Here is a vivid narration from Sadhguru, a look at the being who introduced yoga to humankind, the Adiyogi, the first yogi.
Sadhguru: In the yogic culture, Shiva is not known as a God, but as the Adiyogi or the first yogi – the originator of yoga. He was the one who first put this seed into the human mind. According to the yogic lore, over fifteen thousand years ago, Shiva attained to his full enlightenment and abandoned himself in an intense ecstatic dance upon the Himalayas. When his ecstasy allowed him some movement, he danced wildly. When it became beyond movement, he became utterly still.
People saw that he was experiencing something that nobody had known before, something that they were unable to fathom. Interest developed and people came wanting to know what this was. They came, they waited and they left because the man was oblivious to other people’s presence. He was either in intense dance or absolute stillness, completely uncaring of what was happening around him. Soon, everyone left…except for seven men.
These seven people were insistent that they must learn what this man had in him, but Shiva ignored them. They pleaded and begged him, “Please, we want to know what you know.” Shiva dismissed them and said, “You fools, the way you are, you are not going to know in a million years. There is a tremendous amount of preparation needed for this. This is not entertainment.”
So they started preparing. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, they prepared. Shiva just chose to ignore them. On a full moon day, after eighty-four years of sadhana, when the solstice had shifted from the summer solstice to the winter solstice – which in this tradition is known as Dakshinayana – the Adiyogi looked at these seven people and saw that they had become shining receptacles of knowing. They were absolutely ripe to receive. He could not ignore them anymore. They grabbed his attention.
He watched them closely for the next few days and when the next full moon rose, he decided to become a Guru. The Adiyogi transformed himself into the Adi Guru; the first Guru was born on that day which is today known as Guru Purnima. On the banks of Kanti Sarovar, a lake that lies a few kilometers above Kedarnath, he turned South to shed his grace upon the human race, and the transmission of the yogic science to these seven people began. The yogic science is not about a yoga class that you go through about how to bend your body – which every new born infant knows – or how to hold your breath – which every unborn infant knows. This is the science of understanding the mechanics of the entire human system.
After many years, when the transmission was complete, it produced seven fully enlightened beings – the seven celebrated sages who are today known as the Saptarishis, and are worshipped and admired in Indian culture. Shiva put different aspects of yoga into each of these seven people, and these aspects became the seven basic forms of yoga. Even today, yoga has maintained these seven distinct forms.
The Saptarishis were sent in seven different directions to different parts of the world to carry this dimension with which a human being can evolve beyond his present limitations and compulsions. They became the limbs of Shiva, taking the knowing and technology of how a human being can exist here as the Creator himself, to the world. Time has ravaged many things, but when the cultures of those lands are carefully looked at, small strands of these people’s work can be seen, still alive. It has taken on various colors and forms, and has changed its complexion in a million different ways, but these strands can still be seen.
The Adiyogi brought this possibility that a human being need not be contained in the defined limitations of our species. There is a way to be contained in physicality but not to belong to it. There is a way to inhabit the body but never become the body. There is a way to use your mind in the highest possible way but still never know the miseries of the mind. Whatever dimension of existence you are in right now, you can go beyond that – there is another way to live. He said, “You can evolve beyond your present limitations if you do the necessary work upon yourself.” That is the significance of the Adiyogi.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Hidden Castle! Is most enjoyable!

Enjoyed yesterday, 20th August 2017, a daylong stay at the Hidden Castle! Every moment was joyous for our group of twenty, right from the time our journey started! The Castle and the vast greenery all around us and even under our feet was a feast to our senses.
There was plenty of entertainment at the Castle, that which was available there – adventurous, playful and magical and the entertainment pre-planned and enjoyed on our own. Every single moment was fun. With so much activity we obviously craved for food and it was available there in plenty and to our entire satisfaction.
As a bonus the weather was most pleasant for an outing with cool breeze throughout the day. Though monsoon season is in full swing in this area for the past few days, it has not played spoilsport with us today.
Thanks to my brother-in-law, Sri. K. Niranjan who sponsored this wonderful trip.
Here are some photographs and three videos to give you a glimpse of our memorable expedition to the Hidden Castle and this post is also for recording it into my journal – my blog!

Salads in our city, then and now.

Salads have become very popular at most restaurants in twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. Buffet spreads for breakfast, lun...