Sunday 30 June 2013

The tale of Bappu Mama

Every year alternatively in May and June on the day of ‘Jyaishta Shukla Prathipada’ (the next day of Vaishak Shukla Amvasya) as per the Hindu calendar, the Bapu Mama Utsav is celebrated in the Kamat household in Shiroda. And the whole village and people from adjoining areas come to attend the Utsav, seek blessings and have prasad served to one and all who come to the Utsav. And every year devotees come here without fail.

The Story
As the story goes, he was hailed as Sidhpurush, Bapumama, etc. He was also called Yogiraj Bapumama Keni. Around 1730, Bapumama a spiritually inclined saintly person arrived in Shiroda and stayed at Harbanna Kamat’s house for 40 years. He worshipped Vetoba as Vitthal, the avatar of Lord Krishna. It is believed that while standing in front of Vetoba with folded hands, a small flame emerged from the deity’s heart, floated through the air and stopped in front of Bapumama’s heart. It was as if saying that he and Bapumama were one. This incident has been widely reported. Hence any description of Aravali’s Vetoba is incomplete without reference to Bapumama.

It is said that through his pravachanaas (lectures), Bapumama sang the glories of Vetoba and preached about His power and compassion to the devotees, turning hundreds of people into Vetoba’s  staunch devotees. Due to his presence in the region, Aravali soon blossomed into a holy pilgrimage place, where devotees thronged, and still do for Vetoba’s darshan and blessings.

Since Bapumama was very close to Vetoba that his anniversary programme is called ‘Bapumamacha Padwa,’ and is celebrated every year. It takes place on Jeshtha shuddha pratipada at the residence of Gajanan Pandurang Kamat at Shiroda. In honour of the occasion, it is the tradition to send from Aravali’s Shri Dev Vetoba Devasthan members of Joshi, Haridas, Puranik families, together with vajantri (troupe with instruments) and the temple gurav to Kamat’s residence at Shiroda.

Very few people outside Shiroda, Aravali and surrounding areas must have heard about this saintly person, Bapumama revered by a section of people in and around Shiroda, in Maharastra. Many outside Shiroda and outskirts may not have heard of Bapumama, considered to be a Sidhpurush, an enlightened holy man.

Not very far from Sawantwadi is Shiroda, a small town or a developed village with bustling life and a busy State Transport depot, with ST buses arriving and departing to coastal and interior towns of Maharastra and Goa. Close by is the temple devoted to Mouli. A little away is the temple of Vetoba and Sateridevi. And in the centre, a little away from the market area of Shiroda, stands an old and worn out, but majestic ancestral house of the Shiroda’s Kamat family said to be around 350-400 years old. The layout and architecture typical of wealthy persons those days bears testimony to the conservative lifestyle of the original Kamat’s, a GSB (Gowd Saraswat Brahman) to the core.

Door to the underground room
A well-laid out house with many rooms, the one-storey traditional house built of earth and wood still stands as a mute spectator to the hundreds of years gone by. It has seen the highs and lows of the well-to-do family. Due to the wear and tear and the vagaries of the nature, certain damaged walls have been replaced with ‘Chira’ (big cut stone bricks typical of Konkan region and also found in Coastal Karnataka and Kerala). It has an open space with a well, which provides water to 
Staircase leading to the top floor
the house as well as the needy staying around this big house. And attached to this house is a verhanda with two small rooms. One of the rooms is devoted to Bappu Mama, said to be a saintly person revered by the locals. Daily puja is performed by the family-appointed priest, as the Kamat family has now shifted to Sawantwadi for their livelihood, visiting the place not very often, mainly during the Hindu festivals.

Every year alternatively in May and June on the day of ‘Jyaishta Shukla Prathipada’ (the next day of Vaishak Shukla Amvasya) as per the Hindu calendar, the Bapumama Utsav is celebrated in the Kamat household in Shiroda. Relatives of the Kamat family from far and wide gather here for this auspicious day, to commemorate Bapumama. Special puja is performed by the traditional local priests. Since there is no image or statue of Bappumama, a big coconut (freshly removed from
the tree for the occasion) represents him and is worshipped in traditional pomp as per age-old custom. It is followed by a feast, a traditional vegetarian meal with rice, vegetables, sweets and other delicacies, served to the villagers and guests who attend the utsav. Some years ago, the villagers and guests partaking the Prasad would be around 300-400 people. I have had the privilege of being present at the utsav for the last few years as my wife is directly related to the Kamat family. It also provides an opportunity for the members of the large extended family to meet and interact. The extended family through marriage – Kamats, Pai, Banavalkars, Herwadkars, Kerkars, Deshpande, Kelkar, Naik, etc make it a point to be present at the utsav or otherwise, to seek blessings of the revered Bappumama.

The original vastu
As per tales passed on to generations, the great, great grandfather of the present Kamat family was a well-to-do man, owning a large tract of land used as Mithagar (salt pans) in and around the area. And being a well-to-do person; was well respected and known to many people in and around the village. But once the salt pans were taken over by the authorities, there was a

Vastu site
transformation in him; he was a changed man, who went into depression. He was so upset and disoriented that one fine day, he left all, home, property and family and just walked out. Months passed, years passed by, but no sign of his return. However his faithful wife, in traditional attire of the conservative GSB women in those days, waited for him believing that he would be back amongst his loved ones.

One day, a stranger, a man with spiritual inclination came to the door, asking for fire to burn the chillum (smoking pipe). The lady of the house, who was expecting her husband to return, offered him burning charcoal to fire his chillum. Nobody was aware of the man – who was he, from where he came, etc. He wandered around the place, going from one area to another, meditating and praying. The Kamat house was the place he would return from time to time, to rest. And after some time, he just left and vanished but left an imprint in the house, suggesting his presence and his spiritual power. As per the legend, the then Raja of Sawantwadi, Shri Som Sawant Bhosle who had heard about Bappu mama and his spiritual powers, ordered his guards to bring him to the court to question him so that his popularity as a Sidhpurush may not hamper the Raja’s rule over his territory. As the guards were taking him to present him before the Raja, he just vanished at Malgaon, bordering Sawantwadi. Nobody knew where he disappeared. The ‘Punya thiti’ of Bappumama is held on that day every year.

Like Sai Baba, nobody is aware, who he was and from where he came and where he vanished. But his spiritual presence is felt by the Kamat family and locals who revere him as a saint or Sidhpurush. His samadhi is believed to be to be in the verandha of the old house as told by him in a dream to one of the family members of the Kamat family. And it is considered sacred and has become a place of worship where relatives of the Kamat family come to pay their respects, along with the devotees and believers – men and women folk from around Shiroda and adjoining areas.

The young generation may agree or disagree, but the belief remains and his considered sacred to all. On the day of the utsav, during the evening bajan and puja in the Kamat household, the spirit of Bappumama is believed to enter the body of a close Kamat family member. I have been witness to this. And they believe it to be embodiment of Bappumama who makes his presence felt every year during the Bappumama utsav and blesses the family and the devotees. The family and the locals feel blessed by his eternal presence in the Kamat household.

Relatives of Kamat family
Womenfolk of Kamat family

Men enjoying the meal

Men enjoying the meal

Kids enjoying the meal

Meals ready to be served

Women enjoying the meal

Girls enjoying the meal

Men enjoying the meal

Women enjoying the meal

Warkaris' singing bhajans

Devotional discourse

Mr Pai & Shripad Kamat 


Picture Post
Mahuli Temple, Shiroda, Maharastra


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Sunday 23 June 2013

Himalayan Tsunami

Uttarakand Chief Minister calls it a ‘Himalayan Tsunami’. 70,000 people are missing. Almost 60 villages have been swept away. 57,000 are stranded in Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi. 1500 pilgrims and locals have been rescued from Chamoli district. 1200 tourists have been evacuated from Rudraprayag. It is alleged Early Warning System was not in place. The administration was caught napping as they are aware it a regular feature here, with pilgrims and tourists from all over India arrive here in large numbers every year.

Latest reports say – 70,000 people have been rescued, over 22,000 people are still stranded in flood-hit districts of Uttarakand, 33,000 people evacuated and shifted to relief camps. 123 bodies have been found in Kedarnath temple complex alone. 45 aircrafts and helicopters as well as over 10,000 troops are working to rescue the stranded people and provide relief material and restore communication. Army has also deployed over 100 special-forces troops in Kedarnath and Sonprayag area, which is cut off. IAF choppers, which have air-dropped 20,000 kg of food and relief material. Prime Minister announced a grant of Rs 1000 crore.

As a result of the devastation, it may take 3 years to resume the Char Dham yatra (pilgrimage). It’s nature’s fury no doubt. But many say it was man-made disaster waiting to happen, and it was nature’s intervention to correct these major ecological mistakes made by successive governments, both Congress and BJP.

Officially 1000 death toll was mentioned as per government sources. Toll feared is much higher. Many pilgrims are still missing and it is reported 90 dharam-shalas (local dormitories) have been washed away. Killer rains are expected in 48 hours. Union Home Minister has admitted to lack of co-ordination between rescuers. Threat of epidemic looms as bodies of victims start to rot.

It is clear that apart from nature’s fury, it is a man-made disaster. Environmentalists, experts and activists say un-planned development and rampant felling of trees and forests are responsible for the scale of disaster.

Series of dams has allegedly upset ecological cycle and hill slope stability.
Forest cover depletion has loosened soil, leading to frequent landslides.
No proper urban planning led to houses coming up in danger areas in Rudraprayag, Joshimath, Chamoli, etc.
3 years ago, while auditing hydel projects in Uttarakand, CAG had warned about severe ecological hazards. Its reports were ignored and government has not done anything to allay the fears.

Religious tourism is on the rise, but little attention is paid to safety of pilgrims – governments have done much to promote religious tourism (9,25,000 people went to Badrinath while Allahabad Mahakumb saw 100 million people this year) but very little was done to ensure safety in case of any natural disaster.

Pilgrims being rescued by the Airforce
Army was deployed to rescue stranded pilgrims

Sunday 16 June 2013

Indian Industry Global Leaders

In what’s being seen as the largest M&A deal in India’s automotive history, Apollo Tyres has announced it will acquire US-based Cooper Tire & Rubber Company in an all cash transaction valued at $2.5 billion or around Rs 14,500 crore.

The deal is larger than Tata Motor’s $2.3 billion Jaguar - Land Rover acquisition, which will propel Apollo from 16th to 7th spot among the biggest tyre companies in the world. With this Kanwar joins a select group of Indian businessmen who are part of the top league whose brief profiles are given below. They are leaders in their sectors.

Mukesh Ambani
Company: Reliance Industries    Industry: Polyester fibre & yarn
Rank: 1   Capacity: 2.5 million tonnes.

Brij Mohan Lall
Company: Hero Motocorp    Industry: Two-wheeler
Rank: 1   Capacity: 6.2 million units.

Anand Mahindra
Company: Mahindra & Mahindra   Industry: Tractors
Rank: 1    Capacity: 236,000 units

Kumar Mangalam Birla
Company: Aditya Birla Nuvo    Industry: Carbon Black
Rank: 1   Capacity: 2 million tonnes.

Anil Agarwal
Company: Hindustan Zinc     Industry: Zinc
Rank: 1    Capacity: 1 million tonne.

Baba Kalayani
Company: Bharat Forge     Industry: Forging
Rank: 2   Turnover: Rs 3,249 crore.

Sunil Mittal
Company: Bharati Airtel    Industry: Telecom
Rank: 4    User base: 272 million.

Cyrus Mistry
Company: Tata Motors    Industry: Commercial vehicles
Rank: 4    Capacity: 600,000 units.

Narayana Murthy
Company: Infosys    Industry: IT
Rank: 8    Revenues: Rs 36, 765 crore.

Friday 14 June 2013

LK Advani – The Sad End?

After Atal Behari Vajpayee, LK Advani presumed he was next in line, and was perennially the BJP’s Prime Minister-in-the-waiting. His ambition was to be the PM at least once. And he felt he had a rightful claim to it.

LK Advani took one of his most difficult political decisions, forcing his party-men to take sides. LK Advani’s chequered political legacy had seen many high and lows. This is the third time he quit to return on the frailest of excuses. No one is impressed, not even his staunch supporters. He time and again, has proved that he is bereft of new ideas and has not kept abreast with time and emerging India. The Iron Man was sadly found to be with iron deficiency!

This is the third time that LK Advani has withdrawn his resignation. He resigned as party President in 2005 following the furore over his thoughtless Jinnah remarks and then again in 2009 as leader of the opposition after the BJP’s debacle in the Lok Sabha elections, only to resume responsibility again. But this retreat stood out because of its swiftness and because Advani had raised the ante really high, targeting the entire party leadership which eventually proved very costly to the party.

Importantly, even before the curtains came down on the resignation drama, the BJP appeared not too distressed by Advani’s angry resignation letter, where he had criticized the party leadership for pursuing their personal agendas. Rajnath’s stand on Modi left no option for the patriarch. As Modi stayed, Advani backed off after RSS’s Mohan Bhagwat requested Advani to withdraw his resignation, and Advani grabbed the lifeline and meekly agreed to end the drama by withdrawing his resignation, thereby denting his own image and credibility further.

Is this the sad end for LK Advani? But in politics, one can never say for sure. He may even spring another surprise? One thing for sure, the image of BJP and LK Advani has taken a beating; the party with a difference, is no different than other political parties in India with internal rifts and groups pushing for their men and ideas.

Tuesday 4 June 2013

The Bathini Fish Remedy

The Bathini Goud brothers                                                 

Lakhs of people from all over the country come to Hyderabad on Mrugasira Karte (which falls on June 8 & 9 this year), the monsoon arrives in the state as per the Hindu calendar, to partake the fish remedy from Bathini Goud family.

Bathini Fish Remedy – The Bathini family has been administering this remedy for the past 163 years for free. The brothers administer a tiny live sardine with its mouth stuffed with herbs, deep inside the throat of the patient. The secret of the herbal mixture is only known to the Bathini family. However when the ritual became embroiled in controversy the number of people coming for the remedy drastically declined (around 70,000) last year.

Recently the Andhra Pradesh Lokayuktha said that the state government should not extend support to the annual distribution of the popular Bathini fish remedy, as it is conducted by private persons. But can the crowd management of nearly 70, 000 people be left to the private persons. It does not appear as simple as he states.

The Bathini Goud brothers claim the treatment can cure asthma and other respiratory ailments. The state government provides accommodation for the event. It also extends all kind of civic and law and order assistance. The government viewed it as a part of medical tourism as thousands of people from all over India visited the state to participate in the remedy, thereby generating revenue for the state.

However, the remedy has been mired in controversy for the past several years, as some rationalists and doctors say the medicine is not scientifically-proven. And many supporters say, in these modern times, there are many such treatments and faith-healing which is also not scientifically-proven, but, works wonders and most importantly, provides relief to persons. It could be attributed to the remedy or it is as they say, just in the mind, which gives the person a cured and good feeling. But as long as there are no side effects or it does not do any harm to the person, it’s their faith in the remedy that works.