Thursday, June 27, 2013

To the Jawans in Uttarakhand: WE Salute!

Uttarakhand as we all know has been in a disturbing state of gloom ever since flash floods and landslides hit the region a couple of days back. The only significant ray of sunshine has come from the brave men in uniform, from the Indian Air force and Army teams who have been working relentlessly to rescue the stranded people from the Char Dham Yatra areas. And such has been the illumination of these rays that a no-poet like me was moved enough to pen down this one. Read on...

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O Brave Jawan, I salute you!
Your works of bravery kindle my hopes anew.
No fear, no wrath, no terrain seems to be stopping you.
You are rocketing ahead like a bullet clear of all blues.


Efforts by the Indian Army men in the floods of Uttarakhand region of Kedarnath

Army Jawans skip their own meals to help the flood victims.

O Brave Jawan, I salute you!
For our safety, we are indebted and owe you our dues.
You endure hardships, you face the dangers,
And beam when you see the joy on the face of a worried mother or unite 2 lovers.


A mother unites with her son in Uttarakhand floods
"I will never forget how these jawans have served us, better than our own relatives could have," ~ A survivor.

O Brave Jawan, I salute you!
By calling it all a call of duty,
You give us a sneak peek into your humility.
Actions pure with no hidden malice,
I rather choose to call it the highest form of self sacrifice!


Saving a woman - Indian Army Rescue in Uttarakhand floods
"Yeh kaam hamare ghar ka hai, duty ka nahin (The rescue work we are doing is personal work for us and not a part of official duty)" ~ An Indo-Tibetan Border Police jawan.

O Brave Jawan, I salute you!
To the fury of nature, you proved strong and daunting too.
She tore the buildings, you built the bridge,
She burst the clouds; you passed the trapped, rice and porridge.
At a time when she has hollered and left us in spirits gloomy and tense,
You have taken on the battle and fought her back with sturdy physical and mental resilience.


Building of a bridge by Indian army in Kedarnath floods, Uttarakhand

Army Jawans built a human bridge
to help victims cross where bridges collapsed.

O Brave Jawan, I salute you!
I feel proud of all the work that you do.
To all those who say superheroes are the likes of Superman and Spiderman,
I want to tell them, 'Hey! You aint seen anything yet,


Someday you should meet My Indian Army and Air Force Jawan,

Indian Army Jawan - Pencil sketch

A Brave heart to the core, HE is my hero and I am HIS fan!

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Since this is one of my one-off poetry pieces, written in a rare moment of stimulation... for the immense pride I have been feeling on reading all about the Indian Army and Air Force Commandos over the past few days... kindly excuse me and ignore all grammatical and other poetical mistakes, if any. While I salute the brave men, I also pray to God to give strength to all those who have lost their near and dear ones to bear this irreparable loss. Let us all do whatever we can!

Helpful links and contact numbers for Uttarakhand Flood Crisis:

Mobile tracking: To get location details of your loved ones stranded in Uttarakhand, try these helpline numbers: 9818003057, 9958976317.

Indian Army's website providing updates on the location of stranded people in Uttarakhand, list of rescued people, helpline numbers and more: http://suryahopes.in/

Searchable database of survivors from govt. records: http://aamjanata.com/official-data-released-uttarakhand-flood-crisis/

Google crisis map that shows relief camps, medical centres, drop off centres etc. http://google.org/crisismap/2013-uttrakhand-floods?gl=in

Give and share information to help the people in flood-hit Uttarakhand: https://www.facebook.com/helputtarakhandonline

Monday, June 24, 2013

Temples of Kerala: The Rajarajeswara Temple, Kannur

If there was one temple I knew I had to visit during my Kannur Yatra, it was this – The Rajarajeswara Temple of Thaliparamba.

Why? Because a bit of research on the internet had informed me that it was ancient, historical, mystical and filled with legends - adjectives enough to arouse intrigue and kindle an interest to include the temple in our Kannur itinerary right from the very beginning. Come along!

One among the troika in the temple group of Shree Krishna Temple and  the Vaidyanatha temple, the Rajarajeswara Temple also occupies a prominent place amongst the 108 ancient Shiva Temples of Kerala. What makes it unique amongst the many Shiva temples from all around the country is its location, Thaliparamba, an ancient Shakti Peetham – the place where the head of Sati (Consort of Lord Shiva) fell during the Shiva tandav dance.

Sree Rajarajeswara Temple, Thaliparamba - Kannur, Kerala
Entrance to the Rajarajeswara Temple, Kannur

As one delves deeper, the legends of the temple emerge which make it even more captivating in its appeal.

Legends have it that once Sage Parsurama (incarnation of Lord Vishnu) passed by an ancient shrine and was disappointed to see it in a dilapidated condition. Curious to know more about it, he invoked Sage Narada and requested him to narrate the temple’s history.

Sage Narada obliged and began narrating,

Once upon a time, Sage Sanaka along with his siblings (the sons of the creator Lord Brahma) shook up the disc of the Sun to soften down its fierce intensity. The resulting dust got blended with the nectar of immortality to produce 3 spiritually powerful Shivlingams as outcome which were passed on by Lord Brahma to Goddess Parvati.

Goddess Parvati, pleased by the penance by three different kings from different yugams (a specific cycle of era in Hinduism), presented one Shivlingam to each of them with a little condition that the shivlingam be installed only at that place where there was no trace of death or burial.

Maandhatha, the first king from the Threta Yugam zeroed in on a small place satisfying the condition, a place which was big enough to hold a small plate and installed the deity there. Gradually, the lingam sank down in the earth but left its spiritual aura behind. Subsequently, the second king, Muchukundam from the Dwapar yugam (a different era) who was presented with the shivlingam with the same condition, was attracted to the same place but the shivlingam met the same fate as the first one thereby increasing the spiritual power of the land.

The third king, Shathasoman too was naturally attracted to this place and placed his shivlingam there. However, when he saw his lingam sinking in the earth, he got worried and invoked Sage Agasthya for help. The sage appeared and lighted a ghee lamp before prostrating in front of the Shivalingam. Following this, the third Shivalingam was installed permanently and the spot became spiritually vibrant three times in magnitude.

After the conclusion of the story, Sage Parsuram decided to revive the temple for the good of mankind. The divine architect Vishwakarma took on the renovation work and Sage Agasthya was invoked for the final installation. Sage Agasthya lighted a ghee lamp which is said to have been burning continuously till date. The place became famous as Thaliparamba, a place big enough to hold a disc or a plate (Thalika) and this spiritually powerful temple attracting devotees from far and wide came to be known as the Rajarajeswara Temple.

Sree Rajarajeswara Temple complex, Thaliparamba - Kannur, Kerala
The Rajarajeswara Temple complex, Thaliparamba in Kannur

Today... one can see a continuation of this legend in the offerings that are made to the Lord (Vazhipadu). Brass, silver or gold pots containing ghee (Neyyamrithu) can be brought from the temple which are then placed at the steps of the sanctum. This ghee is used for the daily rituals and to light the ever burning lamp in the sanctum inside, thus unifying the faith of all the devotees coming from far and wide.

The temple has many unique features of prayer differentiating it from its other counterparts. Thus, there is no bilwa leaf nor is there any pouring of water / milk on the shivlingam (Rudrabhishekam), not even on the festival of Shivratri. Instead, the sanctum gleams surrounded by an array of deepams (lamps) hanging all around with a golden Kalash (pot) placed at the dome. The view of Lord Rajarajeswara, the Emperor of emperors, in such a scene is indeed enlightening. It is also one of the very few temples in the country where presence of Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvathi and Goddess Laxmi is felt together, a symbolic amalgamation of both spiritual and material fortunes for a mortal seeker at the same time.

Sree Rajarajeswara Temple deity, Thaliparamba - Kannur, Kerala
A shop outside selling portrait pictures of the deity - Lord Rajarajeswara

The most peculiar aspect of the temple is its '8 pm entry rule' for the female devotees who wish to seek the blessings of the Lord. It is believed that after this time, Goddess Parvati accompanies Lord Shiva in the sanctum and they bless the devotees together. The view at night in the twinkle of the dangling deepams is a sight to behold. When one couples this view with a rich history of legends dating back unaccountable years ago, one feels the temple's aura radiating even more. An aura that can be felt at a deeper level... A level that is closer to the soul of our very existence.

The darshan (prayer) culminates with the prasadam or the pushpanjali: a leaf with a smear of turmeric and Tulsi leaf which I carefully tuck in my bag and and head back towards my home stay. So much for the blessings... time to call it a day.

Travel Tips and other Information:

Distance of Rajarajeswara Temple from Kannur: 25 km.

Pooja / Prayer timings: The temple opens at 4 am and remains closed in the afternoon from 12 to 5.

Wednesday, the day when the lingam was installed, is the most important day for prayer instead of Monday.

Festivals: Shivratri, Puthari, a festival of the harvesting season; Karkadaka Sankramam (July) and Nira are some of the auspicious days celebrated in the temple with pomp and festivities.

Codes and guidelines: Men are allowed to enter the shrine at any time, but woman are allowed only after 8 PM. Non Hindus are not allowed to enter the temple. Mundu is the dress code for men.


Dhoti / Mundu on rent: Dhoti is available on rent from inside the temple for a nominal rent of Rs.20/-.

Cloak room: One has to deposit their purse and other belongings in the cloak room. Photography is prohibited in the temple.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Winners of the 'One Picture from My Photo Album' Contest... Announced!

To be frank, I was a bit wary when I had taken this on. A photo album contest as a giveaway? Would this work?

30 entries, a warm bundle of wishes and a fortune of support later... today, I am a happy blogger. And proud to see that all it took was a few bloggers from all around the world to banish away all my fears and make this contest what it was - A fun venture and a delightful success!

A heartfelt Thank You to everyone who dug in their albums and shared their pictures with all of us and to everyone who stood by with their blessings, wishes and support. Everything meant a lot to me and I hope to have all of it again, the next time we have another contest here.

Who is the Winner?

It was fun to have a sneak peak in your photo albums and live your cherished moments with all of you but at the same time, it was also very difficult for us since we knew we had to choose only one from amongst so many entries - all giving a tough time to each other in the competition.

But, finally... after a lot of thinking over and considerations and re considerations,

WE have with us a winner today and an additional set of runners-up list as well!

*A huge round of applause please*

The Grand Voucher of ‘One Photo from my Picture Album Contest’ goes to...

.

.

.

Rajlakshmi from Destiny's Child! for her entry titled,



Rajlakshmi wins for herself one Rs. 6000 GiftBig's E-Giftcard
(prize courtesy: CupoNation)

What the judges say –
"Though most of the entries were very appealing, what tipped Rajlakshmi's to the top were the natural emotions her photo succeeded in capturing. The write-up offered a beautiful complement, further evoking the essence of those playful moments in an innocently nostalgic yet a naughty way."

And, an applause for the runners-up as well, both of them receive goodies from My Yatra Diary...:

Stir your soul: Freeze Frame The Happiness... (Wins a Rs. 500 Giftcard)

Ranjith, A Light Hearted Talk: A Photo (Wins a surprise goodie bag)

Congratulations to all the winners and Thank You once again, EVERYONE for your participation and motivation. Thank you, CupoNation for this wonderful collaboration opportunity cum shopping giveaway.

Finally... Those who could not make it to the winning list, we request you to please not feel disappointed. Remember the saying,

Winning isn't everything, but the will to win is everything.
~ Vince Lombardi

There is only one winner this time but we promise to come up with more prizes the next time around. For now though, all we can give you is a BIG thank you and a warm smile... hoping that makes for some consolation. :-)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Temples of Kerala: Shree Vaidyanatha Temple, Kannur

After around a 20 minute drive further from Shree Krishna Trichambaram temple, we arrive at the next temple in our temple trail of Kannur in Kerala: The Vaidyanatha temple.

Located at Kanhirangad, 6 kms from Taliparamba and revered as one amongst the 108 ancient Shiva temples of Kerala, stepping in the temple is like stepping back in time.

A flight of stony stairs running through an unkempt plantation, the simply structured temple looking from over from the top and absence of any sign of human life – when you witness scenes like these, it becomes that much more easier to believe what the legends say...

Way to the Vaidyanatha Temple, Kanhirangad - Kannur, Kerala
Way to the Shree Vaidyanatha Temple

This place once served as the hiding abode of Karaskarasura, the demon child of Bhasmasura. One day when sage Parsuram was passing by the forest, he came across the demon and both had an encounter. In the skirmish, Karaskarasura got killed and the sage found a shivlingam in a fountain of the courtyard. On inquiring more about the beautiful looking shivlingam from the sage Narada, He came to know of its powerful healing abilities and how its worship had once cured the leprosy struck Aditya (Sun God) relieving Him of his illness. This prompted him to install that lingam for the betterment of the whole of mankind, in the same place that we call the Vaidyanatha temple today – the temple with magical healing powers.

A series of steps take you to the main temple resting gently on a hilltop. Passing through the structure of the main gate gives a feeling of having entered the doors of any simple house and that is where, I believe, this temple’s prime beauty lies - in its sheer simplicity and minimalist appeal. The gates open in a spacious compound where a large deepam (lamp) burns bright to the left.

Deepam inside the Vaidyanatha Temple, Kanhirangad - Kannur, Kerala
A deepam burns bright inside the temple

I see pilgrims hurry to make their way to the sanctum as it’s time for the evening arti (prayer). We follow suit and soon, the main temple hall is filled with rhythmic sounds of temple bells, chants and hymns. What I can’t get my eyes off from though, are the lights in the sanctum... emanating from the multitude of deepams thereby arresting the dark of the sanctum in its brilliant dazzle and revealing the deity in all its radiance. The temple is small in size but the Lord is clearly visible, devotees are less in number hence the noise is at a minimum: all these elements together constitute for a beautiful experience, one that permeates the chambers of the heart once we close our eyes in prayer and bow our head in reverence. The bliss of warmth and prayers ends with a few Tulsi leaves and some ash which is distributed as prasadam.

The Vaidyanatha Temple, Kanhirangad - Kannur, Kerala
The inside of the Vaidyanatha Temple, Kanhirangad - Kannur, Kerala
The Vaidyanatha Temple compound

The circumambulation path reveals more - murals and paintings dating back decades and centuries. The antiquity is appealing and the craftsmanship interesting yet what brings people to this temple is their immense faith in the temple’s mystical remedial abilities. Be it the Ksheeradhara (pouring of milk on the lingam), the Jaladhara (pouring of water on the lingam), the temple well or the Shivlingam itself, the temple is believed to be abundant in features that have magical healing powers. That is also how the temple deity comes to be revered as the Vaidyanatha, the Master of medicines and healing. 

As I make my way down the very steps that had taken me up, I cannot help but think of the place as a modern (and effective?) therapeutic center for all those who believe... One where strong faith and resolute endurance is all that is asked for in the name of a fee and the ones who are willing to pay it...

... are the ones who return blessed.


Traveler tips and other information:

Bhagawathy, Ayyappan and Ganapathy are the other deities in the temple.

Festivals: Shivratri is the main festival which is in the month of Kumbam (February/March). Another auspicious occasion is the Aaru Nhayar (Sunday that falls on the 6th day of any Malayalam month). Besides this, prayers offered on any Sunday in general are also considered to be auspicious in nature as the deity was consecrated on a Sunday.

Dress code: Mundu is the dress code to be followed by Men.

Remember to: Plan your visit such that you include the Taliparamba Sree Raja Rajeswara Shiva temple (next temple post) and the Trichambaram Sri Krishna Temple along with the Vaidyanatha Temple in your temple trail – all the three constitute the local holy trinity of temples held in high regard and are administered by a single cohesive authority, Thaliparambu-Trichambaram-Kanhirangad Devasom.

Photography: Is prohibited inside the main temple.

Related post from the archives -


Monday, June 10, 2013

Temples of Kerala: Trichambaram Shree Krishna Temple, Kannur

Around 20 km from the town of Kannur in Kerala, 5 kms south of Taliparambu town and a short drive of around 15 minutes from Shree Muthappan Temple, is situated the Trichambaram temple.

Entrance to Trichambaram Krishna temple, Kannur- Kerala
Trichambaram Shri Krishna temple, Kannur- Kerala
Entrance to the Trichambaram Temple compound

Descend a fleet of stairs and you are led to the temple compound in the center of which stands the main temple. Dedicated to Lord Shree Krishna in his child avatar, the Trichambaram temple, like majority of temples in Kerala, exudes a high degree of calm and serenity the moment you enter its blissful shade.

Trichambaram temple, Kannur- Kerala
A pair of weighing scales in the temple compound

Gopuram of Trichambaram temple, Kannur- Kerala
The main Trichambaram temple

Long strings of Tulsi malas and scores of non lit deepams line the way to the sanctum sanctorum. The sanctum is bright intensely lit up with a multitude of deepams all around and the Lord seated comfortably in the center. A huge bell hangs at the outside but the priest discourages me to ring it the moment he sees me lifting my hand towards it. I am a bit surprised but soon reason it for myself: Peace here is left to be just that... peace – untouched and undisturbed.

Trichambaram Krishna temple, Kannur- Kerala
Trichambaram temple from the outside

The aura of the flickering lights emanating from inside the sanctum works magic with the peace spread all around. And one has to take it in before moving forward to the circumambulation path which reveals the antiquity of the temple in all its glory. The outsides of the sanctum walls flourish in ancient paintings depicting various leelas of Lord Shri Krishna and dating back to the 15th century, a compelling reassurance of the rich historical value of the temple.

Outside, in the shadows of the main temple stands another shrine encircled by a small pond and dedicated to Goddess Durga.


Durga temple, Trichambaram, Kannur- Kerala
Goddess Durga temple in the compound

Besides this shrine is a second pond, a great place to spend a few minutes in contemplation along with a grazing cow before finally making my way out of the temple.

Pond at Trichambaram temple, Kannur- Kerala
A cow happily grazing near the temple pond

Traveler tips and Information:

Dress code: Mundu (
white cloth or cream cloth attire also called as Veshti in Tamil) is a mandatory clothing for men who wish to enter the temple. Though it is advisable to carry it with you but in case you don’t, it can be brought from a shop inside the temple. (Tip: Shop remains closed from 12 – 5 in the afternoon.)

Photography: is prohibited inside.

Festival: The annual festival of the temple is the Trichambaram Mahotsavam, a vivid occasion usually held in the months February/March.

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Sunrise and a 5 Year Wish!


Have you ever gotten up early to watch the sun rise only to find it hidden behind a misty veil and then waited for it to shine in its entire splendor? If you have, you’d know the joy of all those moments and if you haven’t then... you have got to try it out someday. Really. It is something so beautiful; that it never fails to inspire, to leave you in awe.

Sunrise in Kerala

So when my fellow blogger friend and an ardent traveler Santosh of Huchchara Santhe asked me for a guest post on completing 5 years of his blogging journey, sunrise was the first topic to come to my mind analogous to a wish that his blog continues to explore and discover something new and exciting each day, every morning!

Here is a small excerpt from the guest post that is now 'Live' -

The sky is dull and listless, like a beautiful sketch in bluish gray. The sun is no where to be seen, hiding behind a misty cloud cover with its colorful box of crayons. 15 minutes have already passed by; the day has cracked but...

Do read the entire post – A new day, A new beginning... – on his blog! Thank You! :-)


Related Post on My Yatra Diary...

-> Witnessing sunset at a beach of Kerala

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