Saturday, June 30, 2012

Tholi Ekadashi.


Today is Tholi Ekadashi, a very auspicious day, a day of fasting and offering prayers to Lord Vishnu and his reincarnations - Lord Krishna and Lord Rama.  Tholi Ekadashi is the eleventh day of Shukla Paksham (waxing phase of the moon) of Ashada Masam - the Telugu calendar month called Ashadam. The day is observed with great reverence all over the country by different names: Devashayani Ekadasi, Hari Sayani Ekadasi, Shayana Ekadasi, Maha Ekadashi, Toli Ekadasi and Vishnu Sayani Ekadashi. Lord Vishnu is said to go into Yoganidra (meditation / sleep) after this Ekadahsi, for four months. These four months are night time for all Devathas – Gods. This period of four months is called Chaturmasya and the ardent devotees who observe Chaturmasya vratham are expected to minimize the quantity of sense gratification and spend their time in spiritual lore. Most restrictions in these four months are on intake of food, in Shravana masam (name of month) one should not eat spinach, in Bhadrapada masam one should avoid yogurt, in Ashwija masam it is milk and in Karthika masam it is non-vegetarian and high protein food like pulses.
Tholi Ekadashi is celebrated by all Vaishnavites and at all Vaishnava Temples. The celebrations at Vithoba Temple, Pandharpur, Maharashtra, is very popular and is telecast live.
Devotees fasting on this day are expected to offer prayers for the grace of Lord Vishnu, without asking for or expecting any material gains. After day long fasting, one may have few fruits and milk in the night and normal food the next day that is on Dwadashi day. Observing Tholi Ekadashi is said to help us in redemption, forgiveness of our sins.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Ghatothsavam.


The Telugu month of Ashadam has commenced on 20th June 2012 and with that; the month long festivities of Bonalu have started on 22nd June, in the Twin Cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. The most prominent of these festivities, the Ujjaini Mahankali Jatara at Secunderabad, also known as Bonalu festival or Lashkar Bonalu is on 8th and 9th July. I have earlier posted two detailed articles with a number of photographs on these festivities, which you may reach by clicking on the following links:
Ghatothsavam is an important ritual of this festival, followed at all the Temples of Mahankali and her sisters Pochamma, Mysamma, Yellamma, Poleramma, Dokkalamma and Peddamma. Ghatam is a Copper Pot decorated in the form of the Goddess with fine clothing and flowers. The Ghatam of the Ujjaini Mahankali Temple is decorated at Karabala Maidan on the banks of Hussain Sagar on the first Sunday of Ashada Masam and brought in a procession to the accompaniment of Mangala Vaidhyam and kept at the Temple at General Bazaar. This ritual is called Ghatothsavam and is carried out at all Temples of the Goddesses mentioned above. Starting from the next day, every day the decorated Ghatam is carried by a priest smeared in turmeric, to the accompaniment of band and Mangala Vaidhyam to every house in the adjoining streets and localities. This is to ward off all evil and illness in these areas and to facilitate Darshan and blessings of the Goddess to everyone at their doorsteps. At the end of the festivities the Ghatam is immersed in water at the nearest lake.
The above pictures are of Pochamma Devi Ghatam at our house today. Pochamma Temple is close to our house at Somasundaram Street and the Ghatam is brought to our house once every year, since decades. In the above pictures you will notice that the tired priest is taking a break and his assistant is carrying the Ghatam!   

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hereditary Fascination for “The Story of Mankind”!

Me as a child, with “The Story of Mankind”, a classic written and illustrated by Hendrik Van Loon, for his grandchildren.

My granddaughter, Sudhiksha, with “History of The World, Earliest Times to the Present Day” - John Whitney Hall, General Editor.

History fascinates me; from childhood to date. While at school history was one of my favourite subjects. Favourite for reading and learning so many facts and information about Indian and World history but I must admit it was not easy to prepare for history exams as it involved memorising several dates, places, events, names etc. I think same is the case with most of us, we are very curious and love to learn about the past, the history of our family, our native place, ancient civilisations, kingdoms, a fort, a place of worship, any antique, a piece of art, an excavation, a king, a queen, a great leader, a saint, a war, a calamity and what not about the past. I love reading historical books and watch historical movies. The lifestyle, the costumes and the stories / history of the past are fascinating and that is the reason why every year at least a few interesting books and movies are presented to us.
In short we all love to know about “The Story of Mankind” and the “History of the World”. The picture at the top of this article is of me as a child holding “The Story of Mankind” written and illustrated by Hendrik Van Loon, for his grandchildren. And the picture below it is of my granddaughter, Sudhiksha, with “History of The World, Earliest Times to the Present Day” - John Whitney Hall, General Editor. These photographs prompted me to write these few words about our interest in history.
“We study the past to understand the present; we understand the present to guide the future.” – William Lund.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

AP State Liquor Bluffs!


The Government and the ruling party claim that they are carrying out “An intensive campaign to educate the public about the evil effects of drinking” and thus restrict and gradually prevent consumption of liquor through its Prohibition and Excise Department!
The ground reality as seen from recent Anti-corruption Bureau revelations; is quite contrary. Several ministers including the Excise Minister and many MLAs from the ruling party and the opposition are involved in running liquor business legally and some of them illegally. All of them are sincerely pursuing the business for profits and by no means to educate the people about evils of liquor consumption! And as we all know, at every given opportunity especially during elections liquor is distributed in unbelievable quantities by these leaders among the electorate as a bribe to vote for them.
The Government makes every possible effort to earn money on liquor. With the previous policy that has just concluded the Government first earns money by sale of Licenses to liquor outlets through auctions. Then it earns money through sale of liquor to these outlets and collection of various taxes on these sales. As you can see in the above chart, the State Government has earned Rs. 3,991 Crores through auctions and a total amount of Rs. 14,250 Crores in the year 2010-11. And to impress us that they are not interested in sale of liquor they take pride in telling us that there are just 6,596 liquor outlets in the State since several years and they do not want to expand any further.
Auctions led to large scale irregularities. Shop owners obtained licenses by bidding heavy amounts and to compensate this investment they resorted to selling liquor at higher prices than legally permitted (MRP) and from outlets other than the shops licensed to them, through what are known as belt shops. This sort of business went unchecked for almost two years profiting the shop owners and those who overlooked these wrong doings. And the Government which remained blind and deaf to these malpractices was content and happy with its earnings. Suddenly all the irregularities were exposed in the past few months.
Disappointed, the Government talked extensively about operating the liquor shops as in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In these States; liquor shops are operated directly by the respective State Governments. AP Government sent out teams to study the operations in these two States and then finally abandoned this good scheme. It is once again resorting to easy additional revenue earning tactics. Instead of directly operating these Liquor shops they are now in the process of issuing licenses by lottery and collecting a hefty license fee from these shops depending on the population in the areas of the shops. They are expecting to earn an amount of over Rs. 200 Crores just by sale of application forms (lottery tickets) for this lottery and then an amount of Rs. 2,650 Crores as license fee from the winners of the lottery and total revenue from liquor business for the year 2012-13 close to Rs. 1,500 Crores . With private operators there would be once again irregularities and thousands of unauthorised outlets making liquor available at higher than permitted prices; in every nook and corner of the State, even at places near Temples, Highways, Colleges etc., which is against law.
By running these shops departmentally the Government would be losing the Application and License fees amounting to Rs.200 Crores plus Rs. 2,650 Crores and further incur expenditure on staff, facilities and operations, which it does not want to. It just wants easy money on Liquor and wants the sales to boost by hook or crook so that there is daily cash flow into its coffers which it can use for various vote generating schemes! So why would they be interested in the ill effects of excessive drinking and its impact on society as long as there is cash flowing into the coffers of the State. What if alcohol addiction is increasing, drunken driving-accidents and deaths are common, crime due to alcohol is on the rise and thousands of families suffer as their bread winners spend large part of their earnings on liquor.
Finally to say that the Government respects prohibition, the sale of liquor is strictly prevented on three days in a year that is on Republic Day, Independence Day and on Gandhi Jayanti Day. It is a different matter that the sale of liquor goes up by leaps and bounds prior to these holidays, ensuring substantial revenue to the Government and availability of liquor to the people during these national holidays.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Our Roads Are Victims of Corruption – And We Suffer.

Roads all over the world have a service life of at least five years, extending up to 30 years! but in Hyderabad it is just a few months or a year at the most! The above pictures are of the road in front of our house – Prenderghast Road, and the pictures at the bottom of this article are of an adjacent road – Sirdar Patel Road. This morning I went out to capture these pictures. The condition is much worse all along these two roads and the other three roads adjoining our house that is Mahatma Gandhi Road, Minister Road and Sarojini Devi Road. I am not saying all roads in the Twin Cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad are bad but most roads certainly are, with potholes, cracks, sudden depressions, dislodged loose gravel and clouds of dust rising from such places, enough to irritate us and gradually damage our vehicles.
Someday they will be shabbily repaired or re-laid to last just for a few months, to benefit those involved in the works and for our convenience! I wish the period of convenience for the citizens would last forever and then what is the benefit for those involved in ordering and executing frequent road repairs and re-laying.
This is one of the many ways in which corruption affects us – a very obvious and blatant outfall of corruption that you can see in front of your houses and every few feet on certain roads. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Congratulations! AP Transport Department!

Congratulations! Transport Commissioner, Additional Transport Commissioner, Joint Transport Commissioners, Deputy Transport Commissioners, Regional Transport Officers and hundreds of  Motor Vehicle Inspectors and Assistant Motor Vehicle Inspectors for discovering in the last three days that a number of Private Travel Buses and School Buses are plying in violation of license and fitness rules. In the process you have prevented the Bus operators from further cheating the Government exchequer and causing tragic damage to public life and property.

This I understand is the primary duty of RTA, so I wonder why there has been so much neglect for so long. If all this was curbed much before, many lives that were lost in road accidents; could have been prevented and perhaps the lives of 32 Shirdi pilgrims in the recent mishap avoided. It was a heartrending tragedy, 32 persons, mostly youngsters lost their lives and then we woke up to all these transport irregularities.
As a result of weeklong news following the Shirdi Bus accident, I think everyone has developed a Bus phobia and is travelling under tremendous anxiety and fear. Thank God, I don’t have any Bus travelling to do in the near future. I hope things will improve soon.
In the meantime, as is the trend, the CBI should step-in to find reasons responsible for these irregularities and severely punish the culprits.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sri Bhadrakali Temple, Warangal.


Today we visited Sri Bhadrakali Temple at Warangal. This is our third visit to this ancient Temple. Once in Warangal; there is always a desire to have darshan of Sri Bhadrakali and seek blessings of the Goddess. The attached photographs are of our visit today and of an earlier visit with my younger son, Srinath.
Goddess Bhadrakali is being worshipped here by saints and commoners since very ancient times. It is said that King Pulakesin-II of the Chalukya Dynasty worshipped Goddess Bhadrakali here after defeating the Vengi Kings and constructed a proper Temple in the year 625 A.D. Later when King Rudra Deva of the Kakatiya dynasty made Warangal (then Orugallu) the capital of his kingdom, he worshipped Goddess Bhadrakali as Kula Devatha that is as ‘Family Deity’ and developed the Temple. And during the rule of Emperor Ganapathi Deva, a minister of his by name Hari got the beautiful Lake made at the Temple, which you can see in the above photographs. The Lake is called Bhadrakali Lake.
The Temple was very popular for over 900 years and with the defeat of the Vijayanagara Kings in 1565, the Temple lost its prominence and remained neglected under non-Hindu rulers. After the end of such rule, the Goddess appeared in the dream of a devotee named Sri Maganlal Sameja and ordained him to enliven the past glory of the Temple. He along with the help of the local people revived the Temple and in the presence of Alaya Muthavalli Sri B.S. Ganesh Rao the Temple was re-consecrated on 29th July 1950. And since then all rituals as practiced in ancient times are being carried out with great devotion and the Temple has once again become very popular.
This history of the Temple is as narrated in a poster at the Temple. The poster is in Telugu and here it is for you: 

P.S. You may read my articles on other ancient Temples in and around Warangal by clicking on the following links:

Saturday, June 16, 2012

My Condolence Message to INC.

My deepest condolences to you and every Sonia bakth, for your ignominious defeat in the recently conducted by-polls, in Telangana and Andhra. You have lost miserably in 16 of the 18 Assembly constituencies and in the lone Parliament - Lok Sabha constituency poll by a margin of 291,741 votes. Further you have lost deposits in six constituencies! And as per overall vote share percentage you stand third, with just 21.84%.

In Parkal constituency you have earned the dubious distinction of taking the fifth position, with just 5,099 (3.2%) votes polled in favour of you while the victor TRS party polled 51,936 (33.02%) votes! It is not just this time. You have been losing every election and deposit in Telangana region in the recent past.
It is very clear that people of Telangana do not trust your party and your local MLAs and Ministers. You deserve such defeats!
I wish to see your annihilation in Telangana, in the next elections!
Good-bye, and in advance, May your Soul Rest in Peace!



P.S. As for TDP the less said, the better. It has lost everywhere and even deposits at five places! TDP CEO and leaders have been canvassing every day since their defeat in 2004 announcing many freebies, criticizing every other politician and political party and giving sermons on voting for the most people friendly, honest, efficient, development and result oriented party and candidates, meaning themselves. All the supporters of TDP and other voters have followed these instructions strictly and ensured the victory of exemplary 18 MLAs and 1 MP who do not belong to TDP! 
  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Eagerly waiting for Rain.


Varying predictions and promise of rains in Hyderabad in the first week of June and then by 10th of June have gone wrong. And even a week after the onset of southwest monsoon in Kerala there are no rains in Hyderabad and there is no relief from the high summer temperatures. Kerala is the entry point for the annual southwest monsoon and June 1st is the normal date of its onset. And within a week after the arrival of rains in Kerala, it normally rains in Hyderabad. This year rains have begun in Kerala on 4th June and nine days have passed since then and yet there in sign of rain in Hyderabad.  I hope we don’t have to wait much longer for the rainy season to set in and I hope there will be plenty of rains here and everywhere.
The rains are badly required after a severe summer; to cool our places, fill up our drinking water sources, washout the dust and dirt that has collected since the last rainy season and specially to keep the gigantic creeper – the facade of our house clean and shiny!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Refreshing and Colorful Summer Chillers and Thirst Quenchers!

There is nothing like a glass or more of something cold to drink when the summer heat is bothering you. Water would do the job but it becomes monotonous. Instead one can have countless variety of nourishing beverages. With some fresh or canned fruit juices, milk, curd, buttermilk, fruit syrups, crushes, squashes and ice at home; one can make delicious and colorful cold drinks and mocktails in a few minutes, to entertain and delightfully quench thirst of themselves and guests.
The above colorful photographs are a result of my wife and our granddaughter playfully churning a variety of mocktails for all of us today, and as an afterthought making an elaborate display, for my wife’s facebook photo post and my current blog post!
The video below is of some recent mocktail parties at home which you may find colorful, interesting and entertaining:
video

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Live Cooking Stations and Flamboyant Flambé Flourishes!

video
video

Buffet breakfast, lunch or dinner with at least one live cooking station has become very common with most restaurants, these days. A live cooking station enhances our dining experience. We can enjoy - witnessing an expert chef preparing our choice and have it attractively plated fresh and hot or cold! Commonly found live Omelet and Dosa stations have expanded to innumerable types of live stations like Pizza and Pasta station, Wok and Stir Fry station, Tandoor and Tikka station, Chinese corner, Chat bhandar, Chocolate fountain, Ice Cream Cold station, Pan Stall and so on. Such live stations are an attraction at restaurants and at parties with very small gatherings. But at very large gatherings this is an inefficient and futile arrangement, crowding, queuing and waiting at these live stations is very irritating.
Among many exciting varieties of live cooking stations, one that would stand out as an extraordinary entertainer is Flambé cooking or Flambéing. Flambé is a French word, meaning flaming, that is igniting foods for a dramatic effect and to develop a rich flavor. Several extravagant Flambé foods are made using fruits, salads, meats, desserts and drinks. There are a number of Flambé dishes which are easy enough to make at home and impress your family and guests. You can see one such dish “Banana Flambé” being made by us at our house. The first video at the top of this article shows the Flambéing process and the second one is a detailed video on the entire cooking process of “Banana Flambé”. I hope you will find the videos interesting.
Warning: Flambéing is a very dangerous cooking process involving lot of serious risks.
The pictures below are of our entire family happily participating in barbecuing! In our backyard.

Jagannath Temple, Puri.

The most significant of Lord Jagannath’s many shrines in India is the one in Puri...