Saturday 24 May 2014

Temple Trips South India

Lonely Planet offers you Guidebook to South Indian temples: covers temples, festivals and pilgrimages and also informs you about the history, heritage and culture of the destinations.

South India is known for its old and magnificent temples, its grandeur,its sheer size and presence make the place divine and sacred. Guidebook - Temple Trips South India is a first-of-its-kind travel guide from Lonely Planet. The book explores popular Hindu pilgrim destinations across South India and the temples or kshetras (holy places) that invoke devotion. The information in the book will not only make your journey easy and pleasant, providing you information to reach the places without much hassle, and it will also give you the history and heritage of the ancient temples and the deity you visit for blessing and solace. It's a great help to plan your holy itinerary, including lodging, food and mode of travel for young and old pilgrims and travelers from India and abroad.

People going on pilgrimages and temple visits are soaked with prayer and faith. Temple darshan includes family or group visits during auspicious days, occasions or to fulfill prayers and vows. Apart from being a devotee; if you are a lover, student or admirer of history, architecture and culture, temples are fantastic places to observe and study the past and its cultural history played out through the centuries. The temples listed here are showcased for sculptural beauty, architectural grandeur and cultural festivals.

The 276 page colourful travel guide is reasonably priced at Rs 495 and was published on March 2014.

The highlights of the book:

·        Specialized information by the world’s leading travel expert on hotels, transport, eating options and sightseeing opportunities alongside each temple destination.

·        Details on the importance of each deity and temple’s history and the wealth of its antiquity and history.

·        The reader will be informed on special features, temple legends or sthalapurana and symbolism, festivals and important occasions associated with each temple.

·        Quick facts on what kind of offerings, special pujas and prasadam are associated with each temple and its presiding deity. 

·        Experts in the fields of South India’s temple architecture and sculptural styles, cultural and historical references unique to the South, sacred grove and other aspects that offer special insights to understand the world of temples and gods better.

·        It includes features by Bharatanatyam dancer Alarmel Valli, Carnatic vocalist TM Krishna, South Indian temple historian Pradeep Chakravarthy and architectural expert Chithra Madhavan, author and journalist Nalini Rajan among others.  

The guide is also a feast for the eyes, studded with colourful images and maps informing the location of the temples in all four states of South India – Tamilnadu, Kerala, Andhra and Karnataka.
Temple Trips South India combines the fascinating world of travel and Hindu temples, making both the physical and spiritual journeys come true. 

You can order the book for yourself or gift it to your friends or loved ones –Place your order with: Lonely Planet India Pvt Ltd or their authorized distributors.

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Wednesday 14 May 2014

Portrait of an Artist - Shivanand Kedekar

The priest of art: A priest who creates and paints excellent artwork.

A few years ago on one of my regular trips to Goa, I visited Sankhlim and also went to Shri Rudeshwar temple at Harwalem and had peek at the monsoon waterfall, and met the Purohit, Shivanand Pandurang Bhat Kedekar, responsible for performing the rituals at the temple; is also a talented and creative artist with a deft touch of hand, creating works of immense art and spirituality. After talking to him, he showed me some of the earlier and recent creations exhibited in the traditional house, in the precinct of the temple and later visited his home cum studio, a little away from the temple. He speaks Konkani and fluent Marathi. 

Shri Rudeshwar temple in Harwalem,
He is an affable man and quite knowledgeable too. I spoke to him about his life, paintings and creative works of art which are impressive.

Shivanand Kedekar's paintings take art to the next level
He unleashes his creative magic on the canvas and other mediums.
"It took me almost a decade of research before I began work on these paintings," Shivanand Kedekar said talking about how he created the artworks. "It is an outcome of years of studying spiritual literature, visiting places of worship and pilgrimage and deep research of ancient statues, relics, sculpture and motifs to develop a deeper understanding of what spirituality stands for," he added. The mantras itself has been a constant source of encouragement and inspiration for Shivanand Kedekar. "It has always inspired my life, career and work as an artist and as an individual," he stated.

More about Shivanand Kedekar
Shivanand Pandurang bhat Khedekar was born at Savoi Verem, Ponda in Goa on 22 June 1955. After his birth when he was six months old, his father shifted from his native place to Harvalem, Sankhalim - Goa to work as a priest at Rudreshwar temple.
He passed secondary school education in 1972 from Progress High School Sankhali, Goa.
Secured Bachelors degree in Fine Arts (B.F.A) with specialization in murals of Bombay University in 1977 at Goa College of Arts, Panaji and he was the first class first student of the first batch.

He worked in Goa Government at the Design and Development Center as Technical Assistant from 1978 to 1984. He later resigned his government job due to his father’s death in 1984.
Has experience in float designs participating in Republic day parade at Delhi and pavilion designs at Delhi on behalf of Goa state. He exhibited his paintings and landscapes at various art galleries and private collections in Goa and abroad at International Trade Fare at Pragati Maidan.
He was a winner of the Goa state, award for sculpture in 1986.
He works on the traditional Goan ancient motifs and antiques in temples and church, life and nature.

Due to the meditation and religious thoughts one can see that his paintings are related to lord Ganesha, sun, moon, sea, ocean and universe from where his thoughts, creativity emerges from his heart and thoughts, he tells me.

He owns a private art gallery at Harvalem, Sankhlim, Goa named Shivamurthi from 2009 where he has exhibited his many different paintings, murals and other art work. His art gallery is not just designed to explore his paintings but he has constructed it in such a way that it is multi-purpose, used for various functions like corporate and association conferences, meetings, birthday parties, wedding receptions, exhibitions etc. There is an open lawn with ample parking space.

His paintings and creative artworks speaks of spirituality and a quiet calmness. Apart from painting, he works on different mediums like wood, metal, stone, etc.

Today he is over 56 but still works for hours together sometimes more than ten hours, even at night which according to him is nothing but only gurukrupa.

"Matrudevo bhava, Pitrudevo bhava and Gurudevo bhava, is my secret of success," he added with a smile before I bid goodbye to this talented person. 

My visit was thought-provoking and interesting at the same time at the expression of art and spirituality. I had a look around the temple and the roaring waterfall across the temple compound and lot of people coming to meet the Purohit to perform rituals as per Hindu tradition. A place where nature, spirituality and art combine to express at its best.

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Thursday 8 May 2014

No Indians, No Chinese please!

‘Singapore authorities should realize they are dealing with the citizens of two Asian giants and the two leading economies in the world, which could possibly have repercussions.’

Why do Singaporean landlords avoid Indians and Chinese?
‘Indians always cook smelly curries using too much oil and spices.’
‘Indians and Chinese do not maintain property well. They are not house-proud.’
This is what the Singapore landlords feel about Indians and Chinese. Isn’t it funny a small city state trying to irritate the citizens of two Asian giants. Remember the ultra-rich Indians are driving the global trend of global citizenship or place of residence. One in seven ultra high net worth individuals in the world is an Indian or a Chinese, according to Wealth-X report.

The bias against Indian and Chinese expatriates in Singapore is taking a vicious twist – no Indians and Chinese is becoming an increasingly common clause in rental ads for tenants, with reasons ranging from smelly cuisine to shabby housekeeping. On certain days, one can find more than 100-150 housing advertisements on the website PropertyGuru that clearly states landlords do not wish to rent to Indians or migrants from the People’s Republic of China, according to a BBC report. Many foreign workers have been affected because of the racial bias and several expatriates have described experiencing varying level of discrimination and irritation while hunting for accommodation.

Estate agents confirmed that landlords refuse to rent to Indians and Chinese because, Indians always cook smelly curries and the Chinese tenants, they believe would not maintain the property well.

Mathew Mathews, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies stated, ‘There are stereotypes that people have about different immigrant groups and how responsible they are in terms of the upkeep of a rented apartment.’ There is more to this. There is resentment among Singaporeans who blame foreigners for taking up their jobs, the increase in living costs and a spike in housing prices, even blaming them for adding to traffic chaos.

The incident of Dec 8, which triggered the worst violence in Singapore in 40 years saw several Indians deported and sentenced to various prison terms. The incident sparked strong response on social media, denouncing foreign workers without realizing the ground situation.

Ethnically a diverse nation, Singapore with a population of over five million consists of 74% people from Chinese origin, 13% Malay, 9% Indian and 3% of other groups. And 90% of Singaporean families own their homes, a significant portion of tenants are foreigners.

Singapore authorities should realize they are dealing with the citizens of two Asian giants and the two leading economies in the world, which could possibly have repercussions. I do not know about China, but as far as Indians living abroad in rented homes in Far East, Gulf, Europe, America, Canada, etc take care of the rented property as their own.

They maintain it well, ascetically decorate their homes in traditional Indian or modern style with a welcome feel. For Indians, home is not just a place to reside, eat and sleep; a home is considered sacred almost like a religious place; be it from any community. Well there may be a few who may not maintain rented property, but one cannot generalize it. And as far as cooking and smells of spices and oil, one can say the same about local Singaporeans cooking and smells. The authorities should intervene before things get out of hand.

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