It was twilight, that magical time between day and night, when she arrived at the gates of the Jalakandeshwar temple in Vellore, Tamil Nadu. Though it was a summer day in May, the gentle breeze going around made the heat bearable.
She stood diffidently at the entrance, looking around and wishing she were elsewhere — maybe exploring the Fort within which the temple was located… She didn’t really believe in God or rituals and found temples to be noisy, dirty places. But she had promised her father that she would visit the temple while in Vellore, so there she was.
She entered the temple complex hesitantly and looked around. To her surprise, the temple wasn’t overly crowded and there was a pleasant buzz in the air. While some devotees were offering prayers at the various shrines, many others were sitting around talking, socialising, relaxing and presumably waiting for the evening aarti to begin.
As she was wondering which way to head, the faint strains of music wafted her way and decided to follow the sound. It led her to an old man sitting on the ground outside a small shrine with a shruti box and singing Rama nannu, a Tyagaraja kriti. The old man had a beautiful voice, full of devotion and passion, and she immediately entranced. She sat down near the old man to listen to him and was soon caught up in the emotions of the song, which was about the all-pervading nature of God (Rama) and His existence in every living being.
When the old man finished singing, she realised that her cheeks were wet. As she wiped her face with her dupatta, she heard a voice whispering to her:
On that beautiful summer’s evening in 2009, after a day spent exploring London’s Docklands, I came across this near the West India Quay DLR station.
St. Peter’s Barge claims to be London’s only floating church, but for me it could have been the world’s only as far as I was concerned. For till then I had not seen or come across anything like this and have not till date. 🙂
The fine print revealed that the floating church had a crèche for children, personalised prayer service as well as the terms and conditions for hiring the barge for ‘Christian occasions’. I was really disappointed to find no one around as I would have loved to know see more of this church.
Have you ever come across something like this? If yes, please do share your memories and experience in the comments section.
PS: The photograph does not really convey the floating nature of the barge and I apologise for that. When I took the photograph, I had no idea that I would be blogging about it in the future. 😉
Do you ever have a song, an idea, a storyline, or an image stuck in your head? And it just refuses to go away? For some time at least? I have this with music—it could be a song, an instrumental piece, a jingle, etc. This becomes my “now’”song, and the “nowness” (pardon my English here) could be for any length of time.
The music selection blared out by the various pandals at the ongoing 10-day Ganpati festival has not thrown up any surprises. Hindi and Marathi film songs, and film songs from other languages as well; remixed bhajans andaarti songs, and at a pandal near my house some Vishnu Sahasranamam spiced up with some ‘technofied’ beats. But today morning I heard a song that I associate with the Ganpati festivals of my childhood and took me back to the Mumbai of my childhood.
I had just got off at the bus stop near my workplace when I heard the opening strains of “Prathama tula vanditi krupala…”
This song is from the 1979 Marathi film Ashtavinayak and is sung by Vasantrao Deshpande and Anuradha Paudwal. I remember singing this with many others at the pandal near my grandparents’ house at Matunga and enjoying this beautiful melody in Raga Yaman. Even after so many years, I found that the appeal of this song had not diminished as I softly accompanied this song from across the road. I was also surprised to find that I remembered the lyrics as well !
I am an occassional, rather than a regular, temple-goer. And when I do go to one, it is to the Sharadamba Temple in Chembur, Mumbai. I like this particular temple because it is quiet, peaceful, and most importantly, very clean—it is a pleasure to walk on the cool granite floors. Another reason I go to this temple is because it is never crowded, except on festival days like Navratri and Mahashivratri, and even then it is never unbearably so.
The Sharadamba Temple is one large hall with the entrance at one end and the Sharadamba deity at the other end. A simple wooden barrier separates the devotees from the sanctum sanctorum. Like in most temples, the men flock on one side of the hall and the women on the other side, though there is no physical barrier to separate the two sexes. The children, of course, keep running between the two sides.
Over the years that I have been going to this temple, I have noticed something very curious at this temple. After the aarti is over, the priest always offers it to the assembled men first, in particular the office bearers/trustees of the temple. Only then does the aarti thali come around to the women’s side. This is the case with the teertham (holy water), the prasad, as well as the flowers.
It is Thursday evening and I am at the NCPA Mumbai’s Tata Theatre to attend an evening of Sufi music. The above words by Inayat Khan leap out of the beautifully produced and informative programme brochure on “Sama’a The Mystic Ecstasy: Festival of Sufi Music” as I read it to familiarise myself with the programme. Though I have listened to some Sufi music over the years, I have never attended a live performance. I also do not know anything about the history of Sufism or Sufi music, for that matter, except for the fact that music is central to the core experience of Sufism. The programme brochure states that
… music is regarded as a means for the believer to get closer to the Divine. Sufi music therefore is music of the ‘soul’ by the ‘soul’ and for the ‘soul’.
The Banashankari Temple site has been a place of worship for about 14 centuries or so, though the current temple building is only about 200 years old. The temple’s name is derived from its location in the Tilakaranya forest. The main deity, Banashankari is also known as Shakambari or the vegetable goddess. Banashankari was the kuldevata or the tutelary deity for the Chalukya kings of the 7th century.