Monday, November 30, 2009

About my trip to Shimla.


This month, I posted a few articles in my blog about my visits to some hill stations like Ooty, Kodaikanal, Lonavala and Khandala. In continuation I thought I must write about my visit to the most popular hill station in India that is Shimla in Himachal Pradesh. I visited Shimla during one of my official trips to Parwanoo, also in Himachal Pradesh. Parwanoo is 35 Kms. from Chandigarh along the Chandigarh –Shimla highway. And Shimla is just 80 Kms. from Parwanoo. Parwanoo is an industrial town at the foothills of the Shivalik mountain range. My trips to Parwanoo were to the Eicher Motors plant. During my various trips to Parwanoo I managed to visit places like the nearby Timber trail Resort, Kasauli and Chandigarh. Timber trail resort is at a height of 1,524 metres on the outskirts of Parwanoo atop the Shivalik range and we have to go there by a Cable Car, overlooking a beautiful valley of pine trees. And kasauli is another beautiful hill station close to Parwanoo and at an altitude of 1,927 metres. As for Chandigarh the capital of Chandigarh-union territory, Punjab and Haryana, I have been to the place a number of times, stayed there and seen all the interesting places. So on one such trip to Parwanoo I visited Shimla.
I visited Shimla in winter when the tourists are fewer compared to the heavy rush in summer. It is located on the Shivalik hills that are the North-West Himalayas at an altitude of 2,420 metres. It is the capital of Himachal Pradesh. Shimla is spread over several hills and the connecting ridges. It is a very peaceful place with picture perfect scenery all around. It is said to look all the more beautiful during snowfall. There was no snowfall during my stay there but I could see a few snow capped peaks at a long distance. Shimla was cloudy and very cold during my stay. I eagerly asked a local resident about the possibility of snow and he replied sort of angrily that snowfall is bad weather for them, so I should not look forward to it. 
I went to Shimla by bus but travelling by the Narrow gauge train from Kalka to Shimla would have been a much lovelier alternative. On the way from my hotel to Eicher Motors plant I always came across this lovely train circling the hills on its way to Shimla or Kalka and loved watching it. This railway line passing through 103 tunnels and 806 bridges, completed in 1906 is an engineering marvel. I visited the Mall a number of times which is the best place in Shimla for shopping and eateries. The other places I visited are Christ Church, Jakhu the highest peak in Shimla with a beautiful view of the distant Himalayas, the Shimla museum, the Railway station, Summer hill, the natural Ice skating rink, Annandale and Lakkar Bazaar.
I sincerely wish to go there once again, hope it would be possible soon.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lovely Lonavala.


Lonavala is a lovely hill station at an altitude of 622 metres, located in the beautiful Sahyadri mountain range. It is between Pune and Mumbai, 64 Kms. from Pune and 96 Kms. from Mumbai. I have passed through the beautiful Lonavala and Khandala Ghats a number of times while traveling by train to Mumbai and back. In either direction of the train journey; by Mumbai Express or Hyderabad Express the train passes through Lonavala and Khandala during daytime.  This enables me to see and enjoy the beautiful landscape of these places and the train journey on the Ghats, overlooking hills and valleys. The rainy season adds more splendor to these places; with lush greenery everywhere and countless small and large waterfalls and ponds.
It was after several years of watching these areas from train journeys that I could ultimately visit Lonavala and spend few memorable days there. The stay was very comfortable and the weather very pleasant. Some very interesting places we visited there are Lonavala lake, Tungarli lake and dam,  Valvan dam, Bushy dam, Rajmachi point, Shooting point, Lion’s point, Ryewood park, Shivaji Udyan, Tiger’s leap, INS Shivaji area,  Aamby valley, Duke’s nose, Khandala and the Pune-Mumbai Expressway. We were staying very close to the Lonavala lake so we enjoyed our walks along the lake on all days of our stay. As for shopping we bought Lonavala’s most popular Chikki which is available in large variety, for our relatives and friends back home. Chikki is a ready-to-eat Indian sweet; similar to Praline, made from Jaggery or Sugar syrup which is allowed to caramelize over a variety of nuts like groundnuts, cashews and almonds. The above photographs are from our vacation at Lonavala. 

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Taramati Baradari, Hyderabad.


The above photographs are from our recent trip to Taramati Baradari palace. Taramati Baradari though over 380 years old has come into limelight very recently and has now become a grand cultural and convention center, a heritage resort and a tourist attraction in Hyderabad. Thanks to APTDC-Andhra Pradesh Tourism and Development Corporation.
Taramati Baradari is a palace built for Taramati a favorite courtesan of Abdullah Qutub Shahi, the seventh Sultan of Golconda. Taramati and Premamati are two sisters and were good dancers and singers who entertained Abdullah Qutub Shahi. Baradari means 12 ways or 12 entrances and as the structure here has 12 entrances it is called Taramati Baradari. The love and respect the king had for these sisters is imminent from the fact that they have been buried at the royal cemetery of the Quli Qutub Shahi Kings and Queens. The information plaque put at Taramati Baradari by the Department of Archeology & Museums, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh is reproduced in the topmost photograph of this post. It reads as follows and tells everything:
“Taramati was a singer in the court of Abdullah Qutub Shahi. She was held in high esteem and was buried in a tomb built amidst the Qutub Shahi tombs. The Taramati Baradari was built about 1625 A.D. during the reign of Sultan Mohd. Qutub Shahi. It is a beautiful open pavilion, built of granite stone using lime mortar, with a terraced garden. The terrace has 12 arched doorways while the base of the terrace has 9 arches. Situated on the Road to Osman Sagar, close to Golconda fort, the perfect acoustics in the structure as well as in the Golconda fort enabled the ruler to enjoy Taramati’s song and even while sitting in the fort.”
This historical monument with some recent renovation and landscaping looks beautiful and thinking about the King’s love for Taramati, her dance and song hundreds of years ago at this place creates a pleasant and vibrant atmosphere here. After many years of neglect the place is now abuzz with regular tourists. Today cultural programs are held here frequently. There is a Haritha hotel, Haritha restaurant, Saqi bar and a souvenir shop here. The restaurant is quite popular with students from various colleges nearby and with people who pass by that way. I go to the Ordnance Factory-Medak via Taramati Baradari once in a while; when I make it a point to stop at this place for breakfast, buffet lunch or some snacks and tea. And in case I cannot stop I make it a point to watch the structure fondly as long as I can; as I pass by in either direction.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Family Picnic of 22nd November 2009.


I mentioned about this Picnic in my 100th blog post, on 1st November 2009 (http://srisrilara.blogspot.com/2009/11/november-month-of-many-birthdays-and.html). It took place today; successfully. It was originally planned for 16th November - my birthday and to celebrate “Karthika Masam Vanabhojanalu” – a traditional outing to an orchard, forest or farm in the Telugu month of Karthika Masam (http://srisrilara.blogspot.com/2009/07/karthika-masam-vanabhojanalu-my.html). Later we postponed the Picnic to Sunday, 22nd November as my nephew; Dr. Udhay Bhasker and his wife Dr. Hina were coming home from Saudi Arabia on 19th Nov. 22nd November was chosen as it is a Sunday and convenient for everyone to attend and more so as we can celebrate not only my birthday but that of Hina also which is on 23rd November. But ultimately the get-together turned out to be in celebration of all the seven “November birthdays!” in the family; as you can see in the above pictures of the Picnic-Invitation and the Birthday Cake. You can see all the Birthday Girls! and Boys! ready to cut the Cake – Smt. Vijayalakshmi, Smt. Usha Rani, Dr. Udhay Bhasker, myself, Dr. Hina, and Dr. Sudhir. As Mohan could not come, Ch. Sudhiksha cut the cake on his behalf. It is actually "Eight November birthdays" in the family taking into account my father, Late Sri. N. Bhaskarachary's birthday, which is 14th November 1915.
All family members totaling 24 assembled at our house - Srilekha and we started for the picnic at 9:15 A.M. We proceeded in 5 Cars to the Mango orchard of my friend located 60 Kms. from the city on the outskirts of a village called Masaipet. This is along an excellent highway-NH7 that connects Kanyakumari at the southernmost tip of India to Varanasi and then further north; up to Srinagar. We reached the Mango orchard by 10:30 A.M.
Soon after we reached the place we first cut the birthday cake. After the cake cutting and after having snacks we went round the orchard and then children played games. We had soup and after a short gap a nice lunch followed by dessert and ‘fresh-as you like paans’. Then some had a nap and others just relaxed under the trees. Later we played two rounds of Tambola. We then had tea and started back at 4:45 P.M. It was a warm and bright day and very pleasant under the trees. And towards late afternoon the weather cooled down a great deal and all through the day there was a refreshing breeze.
On 18th Nov. evening there was a setback to the Picnic program as Udhay informed us that he had missed his flight to India. We were disappointed with this development and were anxious that he should somehow come home. His participation looked bleak as he kept informing us that Air tickets at such short notice was extremely difficult. However he and Hina took some alternate flights and surprised us by reaching home on 20th Nov. afternoon.
At the end of the day all were happy and no one including Sudhiksha and Akhil appeared tired. The smiles on the faces of everyone conveyed more than words about the success of today’s celebration.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Our Kodaikanal trip.




Kodaikanal is yet another Hill Station in Tamil Nadu and is as popular as Ooty. It is at an altitude of 2195 meters on the Southern side of Palani hills, in Dindigul District. Kodaikanal is also popularly known as Kodai and has the nickname of “Princess of Hill Stations”. Kodaikanal means “Gift of the forest”. And as the name suggests it is a very beautiful place surrounded with forests, with greenery everywhere - on the hills and in the valleys, enchanting waterfalls, a beautiful lake and a pleasant climate all through the year.
We were at Kodaikanal for four days. Four of us went there, me, my wife, my youngest son, Srinath and my nephew, Kalyan. My eldest son, Srikanth could not accompany us due to College. As there are no direct trains from Secunderabad to Kodaikanal Road Railway Station, we had to change at Vijayawada and take another train from there. With delays en-route it took us 36 hours to reach Kodai Road Station. From the Railway Station to Kodaikanal we went by Taxi, a distance of 80 Kms. mostly on the Ghat road. This journey took us three hours and as it was dark we could not enjoy the beautiful scenery all around us as we were ascending the hills. We checked into Hill Country Resort at Kodaikanal of which my brother Dr. Lakshminarsu is a Member. He or anybody nominated by him gets to stay there for a week every year. The accommodation is a beautiful Cottage with a drawing room, two bedrooms, a well equipped kitchen and a beautiful view of the hills and valleys around the place and the colorful garden of the Resort. Few times, my wife cooked food in the Cottage with fresh vegetables and meat available close by and groceries from the Resort-stores. Other times we ordered food from the restaurant attached to the Resort. We also got to enjoy a variety of local fruits and chocolate. We also had fun with the various recreation facilities at the Resort.
We visited a number of places at Kodaikanal. We went to the Star-shaped Kodaikanal Lake and the Boats Club a number of times and enjoyed a long boat ride in it. We went to the beautiful Bryant Park, Pillar Rocks - three huge rocks of 122 meter height standing shoulder to shoulder, Coaker’s walk with a beautiful view of a valley and the plains, Kurinji Andavar Temple, Berijam Lake, Shenbaganur Museum, Guna Cave, Silver Cascade Waterfalls, Bear Shola Falls, Fairy Falls, Glen Falls and Pine forest.
Our return journey to Secunderabad was faster. We enjoyed the beautiful scenery during our 80 Kms. downhill drive to the Railway Station which we missed during our uphill drive to Kodai due to darkness. On the whole we enjoyed every moment of our stay at Kodaikanal.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Reminiscing, Ooty.


The above photographs are from our four-day trip to Ooty and surroundings. Ooty also known as Ootacamund or Udhagamandalam is perhaps the most popular tourist spot in South India and one of the famous Hill Stations in India. It is the headquarters of the Nilgiris District of Tamil Nadu State. Ooty is situated at an altitude of 2,240 meters of the Nilgiris range of hills of the Western Ghats. Nilgiris means Blue Mountains. They look so beautiful and picturesque that this location is called ‘Queen of Hills’ and ‘Queen of Hill Stations’.
While whole of South India has a warm to hot climate throughout the year, the climate of Ooty is different. Even at the peak of summer when temperature crosses 40 deg. Celsius elsewhere in the country the temperature at Ooty would never cross 25 deg. Celsius. The temperature at Ooty would normally vary between Max. 21 deg. to Min. 5 degrees Celsius. This apart the lofty mountains, waterfalls, lakes, dense forests, sprawling grasslands, miles and miles of tea gardens and beautiful parks with charming flowers enthralled us. In specific it is the Botanical garden, Doddabetta peak at 2637 meters above sea level – the highest peak in South India, Rose garden, Pine forest, Ooty Lake - a boat ride in it, Ketty valley, Madumalai National Park, the adventurous Nilgiri Passenger Hill Train journey - to and fro from Mettupalayam to Ooty, the tiny Railway Stations en-route and the ever-changing beautiful landscape before us, were all awesome. At every meal, we chose a different cuisine or variety and enjoyed the food. The sweetest part of the trip was the excellent Chocolate fudge we had every day. Chocolates and Chocolate fudge are sold everywhere in Ooty and of different varieties. Overall, Ooty trip is unforgettable and at anytime an enchanting flashback.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Shanti Mantram.



This is another Mantram I recite often. It is also the third and last of the three Mantras we recite at our community gatherings. The first two, Gayatri Mantram and Mrityunjaya Mantram I have discussed in my previous articles. Shanti means Peace and Shanti Mantram is for Universal peace. Shanti Mantras are recited at religious ceremonies and at the beginning of cultural, educational and business programs and for that matter by anyone and at any gathering. Chanting of any Shanti Mantram is to calm the mind of the person and the group reciting it and the environment around them and to remove any obstacles and hurdles ahead of them. There are a number of Shanti Mantras from the Vedas. However the most commonly recited Shanti Mantram is from the Katha Upanishad, Shvetashvatara Upanishad and Taittiriya Upanishad:
“OM Sahanaa Vavatu Sahanau Bhunaktu
Saha Veeryam Karavaavahai
Tejasvinaavadheetamastu Maa Vidvishaavahai
OM Shanti Shanti Shanti”
The literal meaning of this Mantra is: “OM let all of us protect each other together, may all of us enjoy together, may all of us work together and let our study become radiant. Let there be no hatred between us, OM Peace Peace Peace.”
Like many Mantras, this Mantra also begins with OM. The Amrita Bindu Upanishad states that, “The imperishable sound OM is the supreme Absolute”. OM also spelled AUM is considered sacred and the greatest of all Mantras. The syllable OM is composed of the three sounds A-U-M and in Sanskrit the vowels A-U combine to become O. AUM’s threefold nature is central to its meaning. It represents several triads, the three worlds – Earth, Atmosphere and Heaven, the three Main Hindu Gods – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and the three Vedic scriptures – Rig Veda, Yajur Veda and the Sama Veda. Thus OM mystically embodies the essence of the entire Universe. This meaning is further deepened by the belief that God first created sound and the Universe arose from it. As the most sacred sound, OM is the root of the Universe and everything that exists and it continues to hold everything together.
Shanti Mantras always conclude with Shanti repeated thrice; as “OM Shanti Shanti Shanti”. This is for calming and removing obstacles in three realms – adhyatmika, adhibhautika and adhidaivika.
The first Shanti pertains to Internal or adhyatmika realm - the source of troubles and obstacles arising out of our own body and mind, such as pain, disease and other physical issues like laziness and absent-mindedness.
The second Shanti pertains to Physical or adhibhautika realm – the source of troubles and obstacles from external world, such as people, wild animals and natural calamities.
The third Shanti pertains to Divine or adhidaivika realm – the source of troubles and obstacles from extra-sensory world and spiritual factors including our own Karma.
These are called “Tapa-Traya” or three classes of troubles. When Shanti Mantras are recited, obstacles from all these sources of disturbance are believed to be pacified.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mrityunjaya Mantram.




At our community’s cultural and social meetings we commence the programs with an invocation; by reciting Gayatri Mantram followed by Mrityunjaya Mantram and then the Shanti Mantram. In my previous post I wrote about my introduction to Gayatri Mantram at my Upanayanam ceremony and the regular chanting of it by me since then. In this article I am writing briefly about yet another very beneficial and popular Mantram called the Mrityunjaya Mantram.
Mrityu means Death and Jaya means Victory, so Mrityunjaya literally means victory over death. The Mrityunjaya Mantra and its meaning are explained in the above poster. Hindus and Buddhists believe and have experienced that chanting this Mantra would rejuvenate, bestow health, wealth, longevity, happiness, peace and prosperity. Recitation of this Mantra is believed to protect one from all evil, negative forces, accidents and misfortunes. It is said to have a strong healing power and would cure even those suffering since long with diseases declared incurable.
Mrityunjaya Mantra can be chanted at any time and at any place but preferably in a good environment. It can be chanted aloud or silently within oneself, and if done so with utmost faith, sincerity and devotion it would be most beneficial.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gayatri Mantram.



I am not competent to write on Gayatri Mantram. However, I am writing this article as one who chants it often though not as religiously and as regularly as I am supposed to. I chose to write on it because not a single day has passed since my Upanayanam three decades ago without me reciting it at least a few times.
At my Upanayanam ceremony (Sacred thread ceremony) my parents have put the circular-sacred thread called Yagnopavitam or Jandhyam on my left shoulder, across my chest and extending up to the right side of my waist. Then my father whispered into my ear; through Brahmaopadesam the Gayatri Mantram, which I have repeated after him. The sacred thread denotes that one who wears it should be pure in thought, word and deed. I continue to wear this sacred thread through these thirty years changing it at times every year. Since then I am also supposed to practice Sandhyavandanam which I do very rarely, due to various modern day priorities. Sandhyavandanam is a ritual to be carried out thrice everyday at Sunrise, Noon and Sunset. I only manage to perform Sandhyavandanam at times in the morning. During Sandhyavandanam Gayatri Mantram has to be chanted a number of times, the minimum being three times. As I am not performing Sandhyavandanam regularly, I recite Gayatri Mantram as and when I have some free time, say while driving, walking, sitting or lying.
The Gayatri Mantram has been revered for thousands of years by both Hindus and Buddhists. It has its origins in the Vedas. Mantram or Mantra is a religious syllable, hymn, sloka or poem in Sanskrit. The literal translation of Mantra would be “Mind Tool”. Man in Mantra stands for Manas that is Mind and Tra stands for Yantra that is a Tool.Gayatri is Sarvadevata Swarupini and Sarvamantra Swarupini - embodiment of all Gods, Goddesses and all MantrasGayatri is the mother of the Vedas. There is no need to chant any other Mantram if you chant the Gayatri Mantram. Chanting is the process of repeating a Mantram, number of times. Chanting Gayatri Mantram would benefit an individual with knowledge, wisdom, enlightenment, fulfillment of wishes, desires and ward off miseries and ill-health.
The Gayatri Mantram and its meaning are as portrayed in the above poster.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Enjoying chilly weather at Hyderabad.


Since four days the weather at Hyderabad is chilly and breezy. It is cloudy and the Sun has hardly come out during these four days. Further there was a drizzle for few hours on Saturday and Sunday that is on 7th and 8th November. I am narrating all this not to complain but to say that I am enjoying this phase of winter in Hyderabad. Of course if this continues for long we would miss the warmth of the Sun and perhaps fall sick. On Sunday afternoon, after lunch, we went on a long ride, out of the city towards Medchal and enjoyed the cool fresh air and the greenery along the drive. We went to two Nurseries there and picked up few plants for our home garden. The chill weather, the ride and the visit to the Nurseries with beautiful plants was a refreshing trip. And these days, hot beverages and hot snacks are adding to the fun.
I understand that this weather condition is partly due to active north-east monsoon in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and south coastal districts of AP State and aggravated due to a low pressure in the Bay of Bengal which is now moving towards Lakshadweep in the Arabian Sea, where it is likely to turn into a depression. The forecast is that this cloudy and chill weather condition would prevail in Hyderabad for another couple of days. 
Heavy rains in Nellore, Prakasam, Chittoor and Kadapa districts of AP State and in Tamil Nadu have caused flooding in some areas and destroyed crops, but the overall satisfactory feeling is that all water sources are full. And the adjoining areas that received normal rains are feeling happy as this is very beneficial to their crops.
These depressions and storms in the Bay of Bengal along the coast of AP State are very common. These storms may affect the north coastal districts and sometimes the south coastal districts and in either case there is an impact on Hyderabad weather. Sometimes we have heavy rains in summer bringing great relief from the intense heat. And sometimes when the south-west monsoon which is the main source of rain to the State fails it is just these rains due to depressions in the Bay of Bengal that bring relief to AP.
I am fully aware of the difficulties people in coastal areas face due to inclement weather and during storms and cyclones in the sea and as they approach land. I am aware of the loss and damage they cause to the houses, roadways, rail tracks, power transmission lines, crops cattle and other properties. I fully sympathize with the lives of these people who suffer from these extremities. My present article on rejoicing with the weather conditions in Hyderabad may seem to contradict my above feelings of sympathy, but it is not true. My feeling of happiness is purely from a local point of view.
In conclusion I would like to quote Pepper Giardino, who said “Weather is a great metaphor for life - sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad, and there's nothing much you can do about it but carry an umbrella”.  

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Taj Mahal - A monument of beauty and love.


It took me more than sixty trips to Delhi before I could visit the nearby Taj Mahal at Agra. I started visiting Delhi on official work from 1984 and as we began to supply more and more CNC Machines to different customers around Delhi in Faridabad, Ballabgarh, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad, Mohan Nagar and Moradabad, the frequency of my trips increased. I was also there at all the IMTEX – Indian Machine Tool Exhibitions held at Pragati Maidan. The trips used to vary from a single day to couple of days if it was breakdown calls. And if it was for the erection and commissioning of machines the trips used to be of two to three weeks. I used to stay at Delhi and attend to all these customers. In the process, during weekends and spare time I have seen all the tourist sites and much of Delhi and knew the city very well. While my colleagues and subordinates who were visiting Delhi for the first time always managed to visit the Taj Mahal I never did so. I always felt and decided that I should see the Taj Mahal along with my wife.
My two nephews Dr. Sudheer and Dr. Udhay Bhaskar were at the AIIMS, New Delhi pursuing post graduation studies one after the other from 2000 to 2006. During this time; both my sons visited Delhi a number of times, stayed with their cousins and saw the Taj Mahal before I could. Somehow my trip to Agra along with my wife became evasive though we were able to easily plan and go to many other places in the country.
Finally after I sought voluntary retirement and started my own consultancy I went to Delhi along with my wife in September 2004 and visited the Taj Mahal on 6th September. My nephew Dr. Udhay Bhaskar accompanied us. In this strange manner, though I have been travelling to Delhi from 1984 it took me twenty years to see the Taj Mahal along with my wife.
The above photographs are of that memorable visit. Everyone knows about the Taj Mahal, so I would only like to add and emphasize that it truly is a “Monument of Beauty and Love”.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Saraswati Devi - Temple, Wargal.


Yakundendu Thushara Hara Davalam, Ya shubra vastravrutham,
Ya veena vara danda manditha kara, Ya shwetha padmasana,
Ya brahmachyutha Sankara prbhruthibhi Daivai sada poojitha,
Saa maam pathu saraswathi bhagawathi Nissesha jadyabaha.
 
Meaning: She shines like a full Moon in a clear sky; She is as pure as morning dew on a green leaf. She wears a white sari (free from contamination), She holds Veena in her two hands (a symbol of music), and Veda (original Hindu scriptures) in other hand (A symbol of knowledge). She sits on a white lotus and is worshiped by Brahma (her husband), Vishnu, Mahesh, and all other gods of the universe. She is full of knowledge and we pray to her for her blessings.
This article is about Saraswati Devi Temple of Wargal that I mentioned in my previous post. This Temple is actually called as Sri Vidya Sarswati Shanaishwara-alayamulu. This temple is 60 Kms. from Secunderabad in Wargal Village of Medak district, AP State. The Temple is under the control of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. It is along the Hyderabad-Karimnagar highway, called as Rajiv Rahadari. Immediately after crossing Gowraram Check-post you will have to take a left turn, on to you a narrow road that will lead you to the Temple. You will not miss this left turn as there is a Temple arch at the entrance of this road and the Temple is at a distance of approximately 5 Kms. from here. The Temple is on a hillock and you will be able to see it as you are approaching. And there is also a beautiful ten feet high idol of Saraswati Devi on this hillock. You can see the Temple and the tall Idol of the Goddess, in the above photographs.
The Temple has become very popular of late with thousands of persons from the twin cities and nearby towns patronizing it. As the Temple is on a hillock, one will have to climb about 100 steps to reach the shrine. However there is an elevator for the aged, disabled and other persons who cannot take the steps. There are also Temples of Lord Ganesha and Shanaishwara here. One can have Darshan of the Goddess from morning till late evening but for sometime in the afternoon, when the Temple is closed. The Temple has a number of daily Sevas that can be performed by devotees. Various Poojas and annual Utsavas performed at the Temple are listed in the image of the Temple pamphlet furnished at the top of this article. The Temple is very popular for Akshara-abhyasam which I have explained in my previous blog on Saraswati Devi of Basra.
The 60 Kms. ride along the wide and smooth Rajiv Rahadari and on the narrow road to the Temple amidst greenery is an excellent relief from the crowded and chaotic road conditions in the city. And the time spent at the Temple brings about a lot of peace, relaxation and positive energy with the blessings of Saraswati Devi.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Gnana Saraswati Devi, Basara.




Saraswathi Namasthubhyam, varade Kama roopini, 
Vidhyarambham karishyami, sidhir bhavathu me sada
 
My salutations to Goddess Saraswati,
Who can take any form,
Who is the bestower of all boons,
And I start learning now,
With the prayer to her,
To make it very effective. 
Saraswati Devi is our Goddess of education, wisdom and fine arts. Every house of a Hindu has an image or idol of Saraswati Devi, where prayers are offered regularly. As soon as children commence to utter few words they are taught ‘Slokas’ and prayers meant for seeking the blessings of Saraswati Devi. However, when it comes to Temples of Goddess Saraswati there are very few and the ancient and popular ones are perhaps two in the entire country. I must confess that I do not know the reason for this.
In the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad I know of one Temple of Lord Shiva at West Marredpally where there is an idol of Saraswati Devi along with few other Gods. This Temple is a recently constructed one and is just known to people in that area. Apart from this I do not know of any other Temple of Saraswati Devi in the entire city. In contrast I am told that there are over 700 Temples of Anjaneyaswamy in the twin cities. Since few years a modern Saraswati Devi Temple at Wargal, 60 Kms. from Secunderabad has developed into a popular place of pilgrimage. But it is Gnana Saraswati Devi Temple at Basara, 210 Kms. from our house in Secunderabad which is very ancient and popular all over the country. Basara is along the banks of river Godavari in Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh. It is easily accessible from Hyderabad and other towns like Nizamabad, Bhodan and Nirmal. Basara is also conveniently reachable from many towns in Maharashtra State.
There are two legends linked with this Temple. According to one version prayers to Saraswati Devi were started here by Maharshi Vyasa. After the end of the ‘Mahabharata / Kurukshetra War’, Maharshi Vyasa chose to move south and stay at this beautiful and peaceful place along river Godavari. After bathing in the river the Maharshi used to bring three fistfuls of sand from the river bed and place it on the banks in three heaps and offer prayers to Goddesses Saraswati, Lakshmi and Kali. And soon these heaps of sand got transformed into idols of the three Goddesses. These idols are always kept smeared with turmeric. As Maharshi Vyasa spent considerable time here offering prayers, this place came to be known as Vasara and subsequently over a period of time it got transformed to Basara. According to another legend it is Maharshi Valmiki who installed the idol of Saraswati at this place, offered prayers and wrote the Ramayana here, much before the times of Maharshi Vyasa.
Devotees come here from all over the country and mostly from AP, Maharashtra and Karnataka throughout the year. Small children are brought here for ‘Akshara-abhyasam’ in the presence of Goddess Saraswati. ‘Akshara’ means alphabets and ‘abhyasam’ means practicing. At this ceremony in the temple the child is made to write for the first time, letters like ‘Om’ on a slate and practice.  And this ritual marks the formal commencement of the child’s education. Starting with ‘Abhishekam Seva’ early in the morning there are daylong rituals at the temple and Prasadam is distributed. The turmeric paste from Devi’s image is also given as Prasadam and this is believed to enhance ones knowledge and wisdom. The annual festivals of ‘Devi Nava Rathri’, ‘Dattatreya Jayanthi’, and ‘Vasantha Panchami’ are celebrated here very elaborately and in a grand manner.
The above photographs are of our recent visit to Basara. We started by Car from Secunderabad one afternoon at 3:00 P.M. and reached Nizamabad by travelling 168 Kms. by 7:00 P.M. We halted there for the night. The next day morning we went to Basara had Darshan of the Goddess and performed ‘Kumkuma-Archana’. Then we did some shopping close to the Temple, went for a boat ride on Godavari and returned to Nizamabad. After lunch and a short nap we started back and reached home by 6:30 P.M.
There is a very convenient train connection from Secunderabad to Basara so that one can have Darshan of Saraswati Devi and return back the same day. One can start from Secunderabad by the Nanded Passenger train at about 7:15 A.M. and reach Basara by 11:20 A.M. After visiting the Temple and Godavari one can conveniently board the Nanded-Secunderabad train at 4:10 P.M. and return to the city by 8:00 P.M. 

Monday, November 2, 2009

100th blog post - celebrations!




Yesterday I posted my 100th article to this Blog and I am quite happy to reach this milestone. When I began blogging six months ago I had an apprehension that I might discontinue writing for one reason or the other but fortunately it continued without a break. This achievement certainly called for a celebration yesterday, 1st November. The celebration was quiet a low note one in the form of a Buffet Lunch at “Ohri’s Havmor-70MM” restaurant on Necklace Road and Dinner at the recently opened “36 Bar-B-Q” restaurant adjacent to our house, just for the three of us, my wife, our eldest son and myself.
I received few messages of congratulations and encouragement yesterday through emails, facebook, orkut, phone calls and through comments at my blog. This has certainly made me happy. The joy of writing is enhanced and lasts as long as there are readers. Unfortunately I do not know who is reading my blog until they communicate their views or comments to me. Because of the response I have received from some readers I know that about twenty-five persons are regularly or occasionally following my posts. To assess the viewership I installed a Counter to my blog on 18th August ‘09. This tells me how many persons have visited my blog so far, every day and how many articles have been seen but it does not tell me who exactly has seen them. In these eleven weeks, over 3800 unique and repeat visitors have reached my blog at an average of 50 hits a day. This information makes me happy but I would be much happier if more and more readers let me know who they are and express their views on my articles.
From the time I was ten and half years old I was away from my parents for being at better schools and college. I was away from my parents for the next twelve years meeting them only during vacations. During all these twelve long years and may be for another additional four years there was extensive letter writing mostly between my father and myself and then my sister, two friends in particular, my grandmother, a cousin, my brother and of course with my future wife for almost four years during our intense courtship. All my letters used to be very long and in case it was an Inland letter every side and gap on the letter would have my scribbling. During this period I also kept Diaries and made entries of most important events. And all this came to an end the moment I took up a job. During the last 30 years my writing was restricted to only official correspondence on technical matters concerning manufacturing of Machine Tools and their Service related issues. It is only after I started blogging I am able to once again write on several personal and general topics. I hope I shall continue to love this new found hobby and write more for the entertainment of members of the immediate family, extended family, friends and whoever is interested on regular basis and for the casual visitor seeking information.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

November, a month of many Birthdays (9) and two Wedding Anniversaries.




November is the month of most celebrations in our family. Normally every year there would be nine parties in November, eight birthday parties and one wedding anniversary party. But this year we are going to have eleven parties.
The first of the two additional celebrations is today on the occasion of this - my 100th Blog Post! And to celebrate this event we are having a dinner party at a restaurant tonight and may be the lunch too. The reason for the second additional party, a daylong picnic on 22nd November has a longer explanation. So I shall clarify it after detailing about the regular November events.
My sister-in-law’s birthday is on 5th November; my niece Usha Rani’s birthday is on 6th, my nephew Udhay Bhaskar’s birthday is on 12th, my father’s birthday is on 14th November and my grand nephew Vikyath's birthday is on 15th November. Then; it is my birthday on 16th, our daughter-in-law Hina’s on 23rd, my brother-in-law Mohan’s on 29th and my nephew Dr. Sudheer’s on 30th November. And Dr. Sudheer’s wedding anniversary is on 28th November and my niece Sravanthi's wedding anniversary is on 18th November. My father is not alive but we observe his birthday. As my father read a lot and loved books we specifically gift books to his seven grandchildren, on and off on his birthdays.
In my posts dated 19th and 20th July in this Blog I mentioned of celebrating my birthday outdoors in a mango grove or a farm in case it falls in the Telugu month of Karthika masam. I also explained about the tradition of picnics called Karthika masam Vanabhojanalu: (http://srisrilara.blogspot.com/2009/07/karthika-masam-vanabhojanalu-my.html). This year also my birthday is on Saturday a holiday and in Karthika masam. My birthday just made it this year, as Karthika masam would end on 17th November. We initially planned to have my birthday party on 16th at some mango grove, as on previous occasions. Then as an afterthought we decided to postpone it to enable my nephew Dr. Udhay Bhaskar and Hina to join us. They are coming home on 19th from Saudi Arabia on a vacation and 23rd is Hina’s birthday, so we decided to have a picnic for the entire family circle on Sunday 22nd November at a Mango grove 60 Kms. away from Secunderabad and celebrate the two birthdays. Of course the birthday parties on the exact dates would anyway be celebrated, may be on a smaller scale.
I wish all my family members mentioned above to have a wonderful birthday and a happy year ahead full of good things. And all good wishes to Dr. Sudheer and Dr. Lavanya on their Wedding Anniversary. God bless us all.

Wish You All A Very Happy Deepavali / Diwali.

Dear All, Wish you all a very Happy Deepavali. May the year ahead and times ahead bring you immense happiness & prosperity....