Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Hinduism and rivers - brief note

River worship. Oneindia Tamil

 Though there is no convincing and  scholarly  consensus over true definition of Hinduism, according to Clifford Geertz, religions  relate to a cosmic "order of existence". Religion is an accepted cultural system of well-defined  practices, texts, world views, sanctified places, ethics and  organizations that relate humanity to the  supernatural or transcendental. There are five largest religions across the world, besides countless small religious groups. Religious practices among them vary, from countries to countries, and from regions to regions. Though there are many religious practices, the significant ones are veneration ( or anointing of deities), festivals, feasts, trances, initiations, funerary services, matrimonial services, meditation, prayer and other  spiritual aspects related to the local culture. 

Hindu prayer in NE India. Commisceo Global

In order to give  a meaning to life, religions have sacred histories / mythologies and narratives, which may be preserved in sacred scriptures, and symbols and holy places for pilgrimage and worship. The practicing religious beliefs may be at variance, however, in all of them "faith, besides reason, is the core of religion and a driving force".
the oldest religion in the world is a religion, or a way of life, widely practiced in South Asia.  It is a fusion or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions with diverse roots. There is no founder  of Hinduism unlike other religions. The strength of Hinduism lies in the fact that it gives utmost importance to all that is natural. In the ancient period, the Hindus recognized the divinity around them - in both living and non-living things. No doubt, Nature worship is part of Hinduism that gives due consideration to what is called "Pancha boothas"- five fundamental natural elements of "Nature". They are: water (jal), fire (agni), earth (prithvi), air (Vayu) and akasam (akash). No living things can survive on this earth even if one is missing. River-worshipping has been in vogue  in India since Vedic times. Since rivers are closely associated with  growth and evolution of human civilization, agriculture, food production, employment, etc., their presence in a country is vital for the welfare of the society. Hence, there are  many Hindu festivals in India to glorify the rivers and to express our gratitude to them. The name Hinduism has its origin from the name of the River Sindhu.

Wikimedia Commons
Except Brahmapudra (meaning son of Brahma, the Creator), all rivers are symbolic of goddesses and are being revered by the Hindus.  we are aware that the  Indus Valley civilization evolved  on the banks of major rivers like the Indus and Vedic civilization had its roots  on the banks of several major rivers, in the north, in particular, the Ganges.  In the Vedas, there are references to the holy rivers. Some have divine origin like the Ganges that descends from the heaven released by God Indira and flows from the crown of Lord Shiva symbolising liberation. The River Cauvery originated  with blessings fromGod Ganapathy  when Saint Agasthiy's ( who was meditating) Kamandalam (small pot) fell on the ground  and spilled the watersin the Kudagu region in Karnataka. The water began  flowing eastward towards Chola Mandalam.

  The birth of great Epic heroes like Krishna, Bhishma, and Karna  has close links with the holy rivers. In Judaism, the birth of Moses is associated with the Nile river. The name Hinduism has its origin from the name of the River Sindhu.
For Hindus the rivers are divine and and they support countless flora and fauna; every one of them is a manifestation of gods or goddesses, an embodiment of elixir of life. Hindus worship rivers as mothers - Mata or Nadima. Rivers do have a pleasant form - Saumya and unpleasant form - ugraha. When in spate and overflow  into the flood plains, the rivers show their unplesant nature and cause destruction. Invocations are made by way of homams, etc.,  for the smooth flow of water through their courses. Taking a holy dip in the river marks the erasing of past sins and start of a new lease of life, full of vigour and vitality. Many well-known Hindu pilgrim centers (dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and some goddess)  such as Kasi, Prayaga, Ujjain, Madhura, Badrinath, in the north and Srirangam, Kumbakonam, Thiruvaiyaru, Madurai, Vijayawada, Mantralayam, etc ., in the south are on the banks of holy rivers. Ayodhya, Lord Rama's birth place, is on the banks of the River Sarayu.
Aarti on the banks of the ganges. www.thehindu.com
Many saints and seers had their ashram built on the river banks to lead a peaceful  spiritual life. Countless Hindu rituals are associated with the river. The most important being doing Tharpanam- paying obeisance to the forefathers (pithroos). Vedic pundits, in the bygone days, used to live on the river banks to carry on their daily spiritual duties as well as other duties. In many Hindu temples for consecration, etc., water from the river is used.

Khumba-Mela, Pushkaram and Adiperukku (in Tamil Nadu) are some important festivals associated with the river. Even in this modern era, the divinity associated with the Indian rivers is just overwhelming. India is a Karma Bhoomi, hence, people world over come here for peace of mind and to experience the true spiritual ecstasy as material happiness does not give them happiness. In addition, the rivers represent the whole  gist of life - fertility, motherhood, growth, cleansing, destruction, death and salvation. It is symbolic of the transient nature of life and worldly possessions.



Sunday, 17 September 2017

Barakhamba,- 14th century tomb, Delhi

Barakhamba Monumenten.wikipedia.org
Barakhamba, also known as Barakhamba Monument is an ancient tomb belonging to the Lodi (Tughlag) period - 14th century. It is located on the eastern end of Lodi Road near the Sabz Burj and is a protected monument under the management of ASI - the Archaeological Survey of India. The name Barakhamba, literally in Hindi and Urdu means twelve pillars that support the vaulted roof in the old tomb. This 12 pillared and 12 arched monument may have been a tomb chamber with arcades around it and was intended  as Chausarh Khamba -  a tomb with 64 pillars supporting the vaulted roof.

It  is a tomb of an unknown nobleman from Lodi period. Unlike other tombs, it is open on all sides, no doors and lattices. The tomb is characteristic of twelve pillars and three arched openings on each face. The passage, around the central chamber, has four domed sections at each corner.

 It is  in the Nizamuddin heritage area at the entrance road to the Nizamuddin Dargah. It is at a distance of 7.5 km from New Delhi Railway Station and 2 km from Hazrat Nizamuddin Station. In the past, this place became a hangout for vandals and unwanted people in the society. The walls were defaced with graffiti and  paan  stains (spitting saliva mixed with chewed  betel leaves). The ASI is taking serious steps to restore this old monument to its old glory. Behind this vintage structure lies yet another monument called  Lalmahal, made of red sandstone. It is not in good shape. since British time, the road has been known as  Barakhamba Road. 



Awe-inspiring Chhatarpur Hindu Temple, Delhi

Chhatarpur TempleFindMessages.com

 Sri Aadya Katyayani Shakti Peeth Mandir, popularly known as Chhatarpur Temple is in Chhatarpur near Mehrauli - Gurgaon road, on the outskirts of Delhi.

Chhatarpur Temple, travelkida.com
 Main courtyard, Chhatarpur Temple en.wikipedia.org/
 Considered as the second  largest temple complexes in India, it is quite popular among the devotes as well as tourists coming to Delhi. 

This artistically rich, this  temple is dedicated to Goddess Katyayani, a form  of Goddess Durga. She assumes a fierce form riding a lion and holding the glorious Chandrahasa (sword) in her hand,  She is also a form of Sakthi, a saviour of the good and destroyer of the evil. She may be fierce-looking, but, in reality, she is full of grace and care and will not let down those who have trust in her.  Baba Sant Nagpal ji built the temple with care and devotion in 1974 in the capital. His samadhi  lies  within the temple complex in the premises of the Shiv-Gauri Nageshwar Mandir.

The temple complex is a huge one built on a land of roughly 70 acres in the prime locality. As for the temple architecture, one can see a blend  of Nagara and Dravidian styles. The main shrine of Chhatarpur Mandir  follows  Dravidian style. A fact worthy of note is that the entire complex is made of  neatly dressed marble stone   set amidst beautiful lawns and gardens. 

Within the temple complex, there are over 20 small and large temples divided in three different sections.  Goddess Katyayani is in the main garbagraha - sanctum  and is open to public bi-annually only during Navarathri and Durga Puja festivals. The small temples are dedicated to  various deities Shiva, Rama, Ganapathi, Goddess  Mahishasurmaridini, Lakshmi, and others. Nageshwar Mandir and  101 feet tall Hanuman statue are special  and attract lots of  visitors.

The Navaratri and Durga puja festivals attract a huge crowd. As in the temples of  the south, there is a special tree in this temple. It is believed, tying a thread soaked in turmeric water around the tree will positively fulfil  a devotee's wish. This temple is open from 4 am till 11 pm. 

The temple lies 4 km from Qutub Minar and 19 Km from New.


St. George's Church - second oldest church, Hyderabad, India

St. Georges Church Abids, Hyderabad, India /en.wikipedia.or

CSI-St. George's Church built in 1844 AD is the oldest church in the city of Hyderabad, India. Originally an Anglican Church, it is b now under the management of  of the Church of South India, a uniting Church.

The establishment of churches in a Muslim ruled state is quite interesting. In the state of Nizam, South India  the British and the French tried their best to exert their influence on the ruler to get some trade benefits etc., and the rivalry continued until 1758 At the fag end the French forces called it quits and went back to their base in pondicherry, now in Tamil Nadu.
 The same  year saw the installation of a British Resident at the court of the Nizam. After a decade later, as per a new treaty  drawn between the  Nizam and the British,  the later supplied sepoys and British officers on condition that they should not be used  the EIC's's allies and the salaries of the British army should me met by the ruler. Over a period of time financially and militarily, the British became a force to reckon with. With more and more British families moving in, there was a need for additional  church to take care of the spiritual needs of the European families. Thus came up St. George's church, the second one after Christ Church. in 1836, the againstNizam made available a piece of land for building a church 
Mr. T.W.Wray, Postmaster, designed the church and devoted much of his time for supervising the construction work.  It was built by voluntary subscriptions for the use of the Protestant inhabitants worshipping according to the form and tradition  of the Church of England with the sanction of the Supreme Government of India.

The foundation stone was laid in February 1844 and the building work completed in the same year. The church was open to Service  on 19 September 1844. thus the the European community developed part of Hyderabad and built many churches for their various needs.


Saturday, 16 September 2017

Prag Mahal, designed by Henry Wilkins for Raja Rao Pragmalji, Bhuj

Prag Mahal,Bhuj, en.wikipedia.org
Bhuj city in Gujarat has many attractions The majestic building close to Aina Mahal- the hall of mirrors is known as the Prag Mahal, a 19th-century palace.

Named after Rao Pragmalji II, who commissioned it
designed by Colonel Henry Saint Wilkins in the Italian Gothic style In order to maintain the authenticity Italian-Gothic style, he specially employed Italian artisans. As planned, the work began in  1865. The cost of Construction of the palace  was Rs. 3.1 million and the Italian workers' wages were paid in gold coins, so were  the palace artisans'.Th construction work was completed in 1879 during the regency of Khengarji III (Pragmalji II's son) following Pragmalji II's death in 1875.[The local Kutchi builder community (Mistris of Kutch) were also involved in construction of Prag Mahal along with Colonel Wilkins tactically used the local talents in the construction work - local Kutchi builder community (Mistris of Kutch).

Prag Mahal and the clock tower. TripAdvisor

The following are the note-worthy features: Italian marble and sandstone from Rajasthan were used for the construction work. Corinthian pillars.The Durbar hall has beautiful classical statues and chandeliers, a nicely built temple
in the courtyard behind the palace. The palace has a striking feature, a 45 foot tall elegant clock tower that has a whole view of Bhuj city. 

Interior, Prag Mahal, Bhuj TripAdvisor

In 2001 eartquake much of the palace was damaged. On top of it the local thieves stole antiques worth in millions of rupees. Thanks to people like Bollywood actor Amitabh Bacchan who initiated steps to repair and restore  the Clock tower and other parts of the place.

People are visiting the tower, however, the palace building is still in a dilapidated condition. 


Wonder that is Aina Mahal, Bhuj, Gujarat

The Aina Mahal palace, or “Hall of Mirrors” in Bhuj, Gujarat was designed by a talented master craftsman Ramsinh Malam. Backed by 17 years of experience in Europe, his mastery over his work was not fully recognised by some of the Indian rulers. Disappointed as he was, he approached the ruler of Bhuj  flamboyant Lakhpatji of the Jadeja dynasty 

Aina Mahal, Bhuj Travelyaari Blog

in the middle of the 18th century. The king commissioned the palace the Aina Mahal in 1752 and  Malam  made the palace the talk of the town. He followed the Indo-European style of design and with ingenuity, used the local materials and finished what appeared to be a hall of dazzling mirrors of varous hues, an amazing piece of craftsmanship that was impressive and elegant. With exquisite,big chandeliers and mirror-work juxtaposed against the golden ceiling and walls, the Aina Mahal is a marvellous place to explore.  Malam  personally created and crafted many works in the palace.

Bhuj city, Gujarat Maps of India

Apart from thjis project, he went ahead and founded a glass factory  at Mandvi,  made forged cannons in an iron foundry and china tiles in a factory in Bhuj. In this talented man ran the streak of   swadeshi spirit as propounded by Gandhiji. He created countless works -  the fountains, mirrors and glass work,. His other amazing creations are —a pendulum clock in sync with the Hindu calendar, doors inlaid with gold and ivory.

interior, Aina Mahal, Bhuj twitter.com
Bhuj, Gujarat: Damaged Aina Mahal exterioren.wikipedia.org
The Aina Mahal was a treasure house of various arts and innovative creations. unfortunately, the 2001 devastating earthquake damaged much of the building. However, one room remained unaffected after the earthquake. That hall was repaired, restored and converted into a museum. Aina Mahal is  at the northeast corner of Hamirsar lake, easily walkable from most of Bhu cityj.


The Huzoor Palace, Porbandar, Gujarat

The Huzoor Palace,Gujarat Tourist Guide
 The Indian subcontinent has hundreds of historical places of grandeur and beauty, dating back to centuries. They are remnants of past era dominated by Maharajahs and Nawabs. Countless palaces have become heritage hotels catering to the tourists. The Huzoor Palace is  a vintage structure located in a town that was the birth place of Gandhiji, the little man who shook the base of the British Empire.

The Huzoor Palace (also Huzar Palace), in Porbandar, Gujarat state  was built by Rana Natwarsinhji. He was the last  ruler  of the Princely State of Porbandar  in the early years of the 20th century, He had considerable clout with the Europeans.. The palace is in possession of the successors of the Maharajah's family members who reside in London; so, it is not open to public. Porbander in the Kathiavar Peninsula on the Arabian Coast, is the birth place of the apostle of Non-violence and freedom fighter Mohandas K. Gandhi, Father of Nation,  The palace is located on the coastal area facing the Arabian Sea.

The Huzoor Palace,Porbander.  en.wikipedia.org

Above image: The Huzoor Palace at Marine Drive of Porbandar city built by last Jethwa ruler of State, Maharana Natwarsinhji Bhavsinhji in early 20th century.

The palace building design shows strong European influence  with many wings and a slanting roof. The windows are very large  that give clear view of the sea. The various wings of the palace have front and backyards, and  are  so designed  as to  present a natural scenic ambiance  with  gardens and fountains around them. The semi-circular ornamental porticoes in the facade are built with neoclassical columns that make this edifice more impressive and grandeur.

During the colonial days and later. tradition had been that during the Navratri festival people of the town  visit the palace grounds to pay  nazar or pay respect to the former Maharajah and Maharani of Porbandar.


Hill Fort Palace, Hyderabad, India built by a nobleman

930, a view of Hill forest palace, Hyderabad, India.en.wikipedia.org/
Hyderabad, Telengana has a large number of palaces, heritage buildings and monuments and it is a tourist's paradise. It requires time and proper planning to visit them. The Hill Forest palace is an old building constructed by a gentleman who also served as an honorable  justice in the Nizam government.
Both Hill Fort Palace and the ‘Bella Vista’palace, Hyderabad, Telengana, India command a beautiful view of Hussain Sagar . The former was  built in 1915 by Sir Nizamat Jung, a nobleman who served as chief justice in the government of Nizam, India and the latter was built by  Nawab Hakim-du-dowla in 1905. Sir Nizamat Jung  resided in the palace for 15 year. In 1955, it was handed over by Indian government to the Ritz Hotel Company on lease. The hotel was operating till the late 1990s. The palace located in the heart of the city near Naubat Pahad is under the management of the  Tourism department of the state.

 The eldest son of Nizam VII, Prince Azam Jah, the Prince of Berar had his residence in the ‘Bella Vista’palace, whereas the   younger son, Prince Moazzam Jah, generally referred to as the Junior Prince,  used the ‘Hill Fort Palace’.

Since Sir Nizamat Jung  was not well due to asthma in 1915 he was advised to stay in an airy place with fresh air. Soon, he bought a plot comprising 5 acres of land and had a residence built for his use. The building  design was on the model of the Trinity College in Cambridge, his Alma mater. The building was completed in 1915 and named the ‘Hill Fort Palace’. After his pilgrimage to Mecca upon retirement, he wanted to lead a humble life and sold the property. The Nizam bought the property for Rs. 100,000.00 and it became the official residence of the junior Prince in his capacity as as the chairman of the City Improvement Board. His wife was Princess Niloufer who happened to be the first cousin of the wife of the Prince of Berar, who, in turn, was the only child of the last Caliph of Turkey.


Majestic Hari Niwas Palace, Jammu, built by the last ruler of Kashmir

Hari Niwas Palace, Jammu. India. hariniwaspalace.in
Hari Niwas Palace , JammuIndia.indiahotelplus

The Hari Niwas Palace is a nice, majestic  building in Jammu overlooking the Tawi river valley on one side and Trikuta hills of the Vaishno Devi shrine on the other side. The palace was built by Hari Singh, the last Maharajah of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (1895 - 1961) in the early 20th century. In 1903 when barely 13, Har Singh served as a page of honor to Lord Curzon during the greatest show on earth called Delhi Durbar. Maharajah Hari Singh  moved  over here in 1925 from the older Mubarak Mandi Palace. Here he spent the last days of his stay in Kashmir, before shifting  to Bombay (now Mumbai). As per his will, his ashes were brought to Jammu and sprinkled  all over Jammu and Kashmir and immersed in the Tawi River at Jammu.
Maharajah Hari Singh(1895-1961). en.wikipedia.org/

An illustrious son of the soil, this secular king ruled the state for 22 years  and faced the toughest political situation after India had gained independence in August 1947. However, with confidence he guided  the state  successfully through the most difficult period. The huge palace is an art-deco structure. The descendants of the maharajah converted the palace into a heritage hotel in 1990. Hari Niwas Palace is being  looked after by Maharaj Kumar Ajatshatru Singh and Kumarani Ritu Singh, grandson and daughter in law of Maharajah Hari Singh. On the grounds of the estate lies also the Amar Mahal Palace museum. Maharajah Hari Sigh was born in this palace.


Historical Delhi and London Bank building, Delhi

Delhi & London Bank - Delhi,www.flickr.com/

Have you ever heard of Delhi and London Bank operating in India? In the present banking scenario, it may look sound strange. Yes, such a bank did exit during the early colonial period in India when East India Company had begun to rule the roost. This bank was established in London in 1844  and its branch was functioning in its own very-British-looking  single story building in old Delhi's prime location - Chandni Chowk. The historic plaque outside the building points out that this Bank had begun the operation here in 1846 two years later after its inception in England.

Delhi & London Bank - Delhi,a1902 advertisement

The bank was operating in India at a time when the political situation was explosive in the wake of rampant racial discrimination in the army and poor treatment of the Indian rulers by the English company officials. The simmering hatred against the unjust East India Company at last reached the crescendo and a large-scale  rebellion broke our first in Meerut Cantonment and later it spread to other parts of north India. 

The information on the plaque confirms the existence of this bank during the worst political crisis in India. The story goes: The then bank Manager George Beresford became a fighter and had to vainly draw swords against the rampaging  mob of armed Sepoys and criminals on 11 May 1857 in the early days of the Indian Mutiny. Beresford,  along  with his wife, his Sub-Deputy Manager H Churcher and the Inspector of Post Offices at Jullunder, Mr Dalton  made a  desperate attempt to overcome the fury of the mob from atop the roof of an out-house but were, at last  overcome by the mutineers. While Beresford was fighting with a sword against the mob, his wife Mrs. Beresford, it is believed, killed two of the assailants by running them through with a hog spear before she herself was killed. Pathetically, the other victims included  three of the Beresford daughters; two other daughters were taken prisoner and later murdered.  Thus manager Beresford of Delhi and London branch of old Delhi and his poor family fell a victim to the violent mob during the Sepoy Mutiny

The bank got separated in 1916 with many of the Indian branches and merged with Alliance Bank of Simla (established in 1874). As for the the London branch, it was bought by the Boulton Brothers. The bank was liquidated in 1924 following heavy financial loss.

From 1929, Imperial  Bank of India operated from this building  and later  its successor the State Bank of India came into operation in 1955.


Friday, 15 September 2017

Cathedral Church of the Redemption, New Delhi - a colonial structure

Cathedral Church of the Redemption, New Delhi,wikipedia.org/

Cathedral Church of the Redemption in New Delhi, also known as the Viceroy Church, is considered among the most beautiful and magnificent churches in India. Located east of Parliament House and Rashtrapati Bhavan  (then British Viceroy used it). The Cathedral Church of the Redemption is a fine domed Classical church in red sandstone and is part of the Delhi diocese of the Church of North India .

In 1900s there arose a necessity to have a place of worship for the British officers and others.

Rev.T. R. Dixon, the Chaplain took steps  and the  Cathedral came up in eight years and was opened to public worship on Sunday, 18 January 1931. Earlier, the foundation stone was laid by Viceroy Irwin on 23 February 1927 at the centre of the proposed church. The church consecrated on 15 February 1931 by the Bishop of Lahore, Rev Storrs Fox, assisted by the Chaplain of Delhi, Rev. P. Dass.

Cathedral Church of the Redemption,New Delhi,wikipedia.org/
Sir Edwin Lutyens' plans for the new capital at New Delhi included a piece of land to build  an Anglican place of worship. The English architect Henry Alexander Nesbitt Medd who had worked closely with Lutyens and his partner in the New Delhi project, Sir Herbert Baker was the architect

Henry Medd planned the cathedral in such a manner that during the extreme summers the interior remains remains cool and comfortable. The church has beautifully curved high arches and delicate domes, which won the heart of the then Viceroy Lord Irwin was so much impressed by the delicate domes and high arches, he  gifted an organ and a silver Cross to the Church. It pays homage to Palladio's "II Redentore" in Venice. The name, unusual for an Anglican church, echoes its Venetian model. Medd's other contribution was  the Roman Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart in New Delhi.

This church is stepped in history and
Its first service was held on 3 December 1922 at 8 am. and the earliest recorded wedding solemnized, was that of Adelbert Vere and Mina Monica (a widow), by Chaplain T.H. Dixon on 20 October 1926.The church since its inception on 18 January 1936, has maintained a clear records and minutes of its meetings,beside, it still has a 1733 Cambridge Press published Bible, bound in red leather.

The Cathedral Church of the Redemption serves the community through its activities in education



Thursday, 14 September 2017

Impressive Kollengode Palace,Kerala

Kollengode Palace, City of Palghaten.wikipedia.org
If you look at the countless historical palaces of Kerala, you will be struck by some interesting facts and see some similar  patterns emerging out of them. They are not big and massive, no Mogul or Rajasthani type of design. There is no over presentation of ornamentation. With some exceptions, you can see rare Indo - European style adopted for the palace buildings of Indian rulers. They simply follow the designs and styles available locally - vernacular styles. Kerala style of architecture is simple, expressive and elegant quite suitable to the geography of  this place where  the monsoon is heavy. So, the climate of Kerala has influenced the traditional Kerala architecture.  Since, wood is widely used for the construction including walls,  structurally, the wooden  roof  is supported by pillars on the walls. All around the edify, the walls are erected on a  plinth raised from the ground, so that it is protected against dampness and insects in a tropical climate.  Invariably domestic architecture  follows  trend and development of temple architecture. 
At a distance of 26 Kms from Palakkad Railway Station lies  Kollengode Palace that was once the seat of power enjoyed by  the Kollengode Rajas. The predominant community here was Kollan (both in Tamil and Malayalam meaning blacksmith). Hence the place is known as Kollengode.

Kollengode palace, Kollengode. Let's See India

Kollengode palace, Kollengode. www.trawell.in/

It was in 1904, the  Raja of Kollengode, Vasudeva Raja, built  this palace and gave it to his daughter. Her descendants had lived here for a long time. In 1975, the State Department of Archaeology  took over the property and converted it into a museum. The original Kollengode palace (Kalari kovilakam) is in Kollengode,  palakkad. The building design is typically native to Kerala and here one can see a blend of traditional Kerala architecture and western design.  The museum houses the personal belongings of the ruler Vasudeva Raja and a large collection of murals from many parts of Kerala.  Mention may be made of temple models and well-preserved Veerakallu - hero stones. They are ancient stone-engravings and sculptures. There are manuscripts on dry palm-leaves.   The architecture of the palace is a unique blend of traditional Kerala architecture with western design.

 Set in a serene village removed far away from the din of urban life, lots of tourists come here to enjoy peace and tranquillity. The Gayathri River, a tributary of Bharathpuzha  passes through the town. It is now converted into a luxury hotel and an Ayurvedic Spa. The Nelliampathy Hills on one side and a large area of fertile paddy fields on the other make this place an interesting one to lose our worries and be at peace with ourselves


Aranmula kottaram / palace - 200 year old structure, Aranmula, Kerala

Arammula Palace, Aranmula, Kerala en.wikipedia.org 

Aranmula is a small, historical  traditional  town in Pathanamthitta district  Kerala state and well known for the Hindu temple dedicated to Parthasarathy Perumal (Vishnu). It is on the banks of the river Pampa.This place is also 

Aranmula Uthrattathi Boat Race,Kerala en.wikipedia.org
 Above image:The Aranmula Boat Race is the oldest river boat event in Kerala, traditionally held during Onam festival (August-September). The venue is Aranmula, near the Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Krishna and Arjuna. The snake boats zip through the waters of the Pampa river in pairs to the rhythm of full-throated singing and shouting before an  exciting crowd. It is a form of  canoe racing using paddled war canoes. The snake-boat racing was introduced in 1972. Events take place annually near the Aranmula Kottaram.

Aranmula Palace, ranmula, Kerala en.wikipedia.org

Aranmula Kottaram or palace is an old  structure built more than 200 years ago. Its history is vague and details are not available. Also known as Aranmula Vadakke Kottaram, it is a simple palace building without any embellished building in contract to those palaces in Karnataka, Rajasthan and other places. It is neither a palatial structure nor artistically designed building on a huge plot with garden, etc. However, one can spot grandeur in its simplicity and down to earth look.It is entirely made of fine wood and is amazing to look at it in the interior parts. It is mentioned that this palace is a major halting place for the  annual holy procession from Pandalam known as "Thiruvabharana khosa yatra" It was  right here that the 'Thiru Abharanam'(ornaments) of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala, were originally kept.

This compact and humble palace is close to the holy Pampa river and right across the famous Parthasarathy temple. This palace exemplifies the Kerala type of architectural form  Nalukettu which is  based on Thachu (carpentry) Sastra, or the Science of Carpentry and Traditional Vasthu Sastra that defines the plan of the palace..


Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Hongkong & Shanghai Bank, Bombay (1913) - lagacy of British baniking

Hong Kong Shanghai Bank buildin, Mumbai. Flickr

Hongkong & Shanghai Bank founded originally in Shanghai, China to cater to the needs of China-based trade and commercial activities of the British businessmen based in HongKong and Shanghai in the 19th century, over a short period of time it  a pre-eminent position as one of a few best Colonial banks in Asia. With the opening of the  Suez Canal and ever-increasing cotton trade, Bombay became a boom town in the 1850s. Bombay's strategic location and heavy trade activities attracted the attention of many banks. H & S Bank opened its branch in  Bombay in 1869; its first Indian branch being at Calcutta in 1867.

Both Bombay and HongKong were busy trading centres and shared a common colonial heritage through trading and business activities. The link between these two cities grew stronger when the British mercantile activities were at peak. 

In the 19th century the greedy British  business men supported by the British government were actively involved in opium trade with China and forced the Chinese to become major importers of opium from India. British Bob saw to it that as many Chinese were high on opium as possible. H & S Bank openly played a crucial  role as a source of funding for the huge  trade of opium into the Chinese markets in the ninetieth century. Ultimately, the Chinese government became furious and this led to
1858 Anglo-Chinese War.

 Some Indian business families took advantage of opium export to China  and were shamefully involved in this unethical opium trade and made a bundle. It was out and out an unscrupulous trading activity on the part of British India. So profitable and lucrative was this trade in financial terms, that by 1891, the income derived from opium export to China accounted for one-seventh of all budgetary income for the Government of India. Yet another forgotten chapter in Indian history is the Indian farmers were forced by the British to raise opium on their lands. In many cases, there was outright purchase of lands under duress from the British at a cheap rate. The British made profits at both ends in India and in China. The Hongkong & Shanghai Bank was never in the red in the colonial period  and became the first bank to take advantage of the enormous profits involved in  drug-peddling. 

The H & S Bank building on Church Gate street, Fort, in Mumbai is a beautiful architecturally colonial building  using neo-classical features on an Italianate frame. Made of  buff coloured Kurla stone, the  style is similar to  many of the Edwardian buildings in the city. The unusual feature is the arcaded ground floor loggias that are similar to those along Hornby Road and give protection for pedestrians from rain and sun.


The Maha Pushkaram (2017) in the Cauvery River

Religion World
 The Maha Pushkaram in the river Cauvery  was celebrated  on Tuesday 12 September 2017 with gaiety at various bathing ghats, in particular, in Tiruchy, Thanjavur and Nagapatnam districts along the course of the river in  Tamil Nadu. Pushkaram, a 13- day celebration, took off well despite the discouraging scenario -  the entire course of the river was almost dry or with pockets of water. However, the dry river bed and poor water condition  had not dampened  either the devotion  or the spirit and enthusiasm of the thousands of devotees at various ghats. Devotees thronged the other ghats and mention may be made of ghats at Talaicauvery, Hogenakkal, Bhavani, Mettur, Srirangam, Grand Anicut, Thirukkattupalli, Thiruvaiyaru, Kumbakonam, Kuttalam and Poompuhar. The Government officials  made elaborate arrangements to make the devotees access the river without hardship. Mayanur in Karur district; Kodumudi and Bhavani Kooduthurai in Erode district; and Mettur in Salem district are expected to receive considerable water flow; as for the riparian region, this may not be true. 

The Cauvery Pushkaram  is a thanks-giving ceremony to the river  as it forms the life line of the community living  along its course. It implies the fact that water plays an integral part of our lives  and we must be grateful to the god and pray to him for copious rain fall for the welfare of the society.

At Thula Kattam, the mouth of the river, in Mayiladuthurai, Nagapatnam district,  arrangements are afoot for  the celebration  of Cauvery Maha Pushkaram from September 12 to 24. 

Thula Kattam,Mayiladuthurai, Tamil Nadu
The Maha Pushkaram period marks the celestial transit of planet Jupiter (Brihaspati') from zodiac sign Virgo to Libra (Tula). This particular configuration of stars happens once in 144 years, so the organisers have constructed a tank for the devotees to have a holy dip. At Thula Kattam, Mayiladuthurai  water is kept at safe level for the devotees to take a holy dip.

The Akhila Bharatha Sanyasees Sangam has played a major role along with various maths in helping the devotees. The HRCE - the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments are conducting  temple rituals of the deities involved in the events such as the Thiruindalur Sri Parimala Ranganathar temple, Mayiladuthurai Sri Padithurai Kasi Viswanathar, Sri Mayuranatha Swamy, Sri Ayyarappar and Sri Vatharanyeswarar. 

During the  13-day celebrations, there will be Veda Parayanam, Homam, Maha Yagnam, cultural programs, etc. Piithru tharpanam is an important religious event to pay homage to our forefathers.

Considered as `Cauvery Kumbh Mela', the festival is popular in north India and Andhra Pradesh. It was in 1981 Parasara Sudarasana Bhattar Swamy, Sthalathar of Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, took  steps  to popularise the significance of the `Pushkaram'. At Srirangam, special homams, including Sri Hayagriva homam and Sri Vaibhava homam, will be held  for five days till October 2 and the brahma yagnam will be performed from October 4 to 10. The performance of Mahapurnahuti and Avaprutasnanam will  mark the conclusion of the `Pushkaram'.