Thursday, August 31, 2017

Fortcha Ichchapurti Ganesha, Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal, Mumbai.

Sometimes, there are moments in life, when we long for someone who would listen to us without judging… someone who would understand our weird, almost crazy, may be even ostensibly wrong notions that swirl in our heads and yet they still accept us and love us for who we are; someone who celebrates our flaws just as they are and appreciates our goodness as well; someone who sees our worth in being a human and not in the baggage of our degress, ranks or positions that we tend to accumulate and carry...

Have you ever longed for someone like that, who would, just be ... by your side and allow you the comfort of just being as well, so then the world looked a little more beautiful and merry?

Then, you have just arrived at the right place! Though Bappa forever shines in our hearts, 24*7, 365 days a year, but it is during the 11 day annual festival of Ganesh Chaturthi celebrated with great pomp and fervour in India, that it becomes a tad bit easier to spend time in His company. All we need to do is just look around, in our societies, localities or homes and there are very bright chances that He might be there, waiting for you – with that twinkle in his eyes and modak (sweet) in his hand smiling with the most charming of smiles you may have ever seen!

Yeah, He is just a step away and there is no better way to actually experience this than visit some colorful and artistic pandals that spring up with the advent of the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi! A friend, a confidante, someone we have been longing to speak and spend our time with, pour our hearts out... let’s meet Fortcha Ichchapurti Ganesha (again after our first visit in 2015) who is in the house, gracing the humble abode of My Yatra Diary… just to hear us all out and converse with our hearts. Let's go!

Mumbai Ganesh Pandal Hopping - A Photo Story: Fortcha Ichchapurti Ganesha (Sarvajanik Vibhag Ganesh Mandal, Fort.)

Let's climb the stairs of the Sarvajanik Ganpati Pandal in Fort,Mumbai
to meet Fortcha Ichchapurti Ganesha or the wish fulfilling Ganesha

Way to palatial Fortcha Icchapurti Ganesha, Fort Vibhag Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal

The interiors are grand and majestic with artisans
from as far as Rajasthan called over to design His home.
The hall resonates with the devotional hum
and chit chatter of the devouts while Bappa looks on... 

Palace decoration of Fortcha Icchapurti Ganesha, Fort Vibhag Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal

The intricate detailing of the set including the frescoes
and the marble effect on the columns is eye catching and awe inspiring;
the fact that is made of reusable fibre makes it stand out even more.

Grand Bikaner palace decoration of Fortcha Icchapurti Ganesha, Fort Vibhag Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal, Mumbai

A big fat incense stick glows in front of the altar all through the day,
it's vapours waft in the air blurring all ideas of past or future,
leaving only the here and now...

Beautiful decoration of Fortcha Icchapurti Ganesha, Fort Vibhag Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal Mumbai

Here and Now...
With our beloved, Bappa...
seated on the golden throne, decked in his yellow colored robe
and precious jewels and pearls,
 flanked by two peacocks on his side.

Bikaner palace pandal of Fortcha Icchapurti Ganesha, Fort Vibhag Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal

He is the King,
ruler of hearts
remover of all obstacles,
the ever smiling and benevolent...

Fort Vibhag Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal Ichchapurti Ganesha, Fort

... Bend down to whisper …
some words unspoken,
a few dreams cherished,
a prayer, conversations of the heart

Fort Vibhag Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal Circle, Fort

In His eyes,
love is never absent

Grand decoration of Fortcha Icchapurti Ganesha, Fort Vibhag Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal Mumbai

In His court,
no one is ever alone or forgotten ~

Through the ears, Fort Vibhag Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal Circle, Fort

A friend listens without judging
A friend does not care about how you look
Or where you come from
A friend allows you to be exactly who you are
And love you as well.

~ Cindy Grundsten.

|| Ganpati Bappa Morya ||

PS: If you would like to check all the posts on the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi 2017, you can follow this link here or you may go through all the previous posts on the festival here

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Soulie Saturday #19: Nature's Child (Eco Friendly Ganesha, Mumbai)

Dazzling in the lap of Nature,
amid a forest of flowers and water
sculpted in mud,
and elements mild
sits my friend,
Eco Friendly Ganesha -
a jolly little child.
One look of his face,
Thy picture in my sight
and an echo in my heart –
I am here,
everything’s alright.


Worry ends where faith begins. 2 Corinthians 5:7


This post is part of an ongoing series called Soulie Saturday on My Yatra Diary..., a spiritual exploration of that which is Unseen and a celebration of that Ultimate sacred space we yearn for - within and without - and the riches we carry in our own hearts. Click on the preceding "Soulie Saturday" link to view all posts in the series, or visit the initial overview post that inspired me to start this series here.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Ganesh Darshan At A Ganesh Murti Kala Kendra / Ganesha Idol Art Workshop In Mumbai

Can I click a picture of the Ganesha?

My wandering eyes had just caught a Ganesha, sitting regally on a throne of swans beneath the wings of Goddess Saraswati, at the entrance of a Ganesh Murti Kala Kendra or Ganesha Idol Art Workshop, looking adoringly at me. I had to pop the question.

Oh yes, please do – the man replied with a smile – there are many inside as well. Just remove your slippers outside and feel free to roam around as you like. Click to your heart’s content and if you like one, you may even carry it home on your head, he added with a chuckle.

The invitation sounded sweet music to my ears and I couldn’t wait to explore this side of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival, one that I had only watched from a distance till now; the call had finally come… and I felt blessed as I removed my slippers and jumped into a world rather different that my own.

Ganesha idols for sale in art workshop, Ganesh Chaturthi, Mumbai
A Ganesha sitting at the entrance of the Mumbai Kala Kendra (art workshop) along with Lord Shiva.

Most of the Bappas were wrapped in plastic sheets while a few others were left open. Each Ganesha had a string, a tag attached revealing his identity along with the name of the house where he would be received for Ganesh Sthapana or as a guest for the next couple of days.

Ganesha idol up for sale: Before the first day of the festival.

Like a thirsty kid who had just reached a water fountain, my eyes devoured the different forms of Ganesha, one after the other, trying to behold the beauty of the creation on one hand and the divine moments of ecstasy on the other that led the creator to craft them in such supreme actuality. Here, was a world of Ganeshas, where the artist through his impression had breathed life into simple moulds of plaster and clay so as to bring one of people’s much loved God – Ganesha, literally, from heaven above down to earth below...

So on this auspicious occasion of Ganesh Utsav, I rest my pen, as always, and invite you to come along with My Yatra Diary... on a photographic walk as we join in the carnival of the 11 day annual festival ongoing in India right now, celebrating the birthday of our very own friend, Ganesha in our own unique style! Starting today, here is a tour of this art workshop or Kala Kendra in Borivli, Mumbai where the artist, Shankar Narayan Singh, is very kind (and very very enthusiastic!) to guide and help us appreciate the distinctiveness of all his creations, his labour of love for the past couple of days running into the festival. What are we waiting for? Let's go!


Ganesh Chaturthi: 24th August 2017 - Peeping into A Ganesha Art Workshop, Mumbai -->

Blogger Ganesha? 

Full of wisdom, wit and charm, he is one God who loves to dabble in the field of writing for sure, just like us! Here, he can be seen writing the longest epic in the world, Mahabharta.

A Ganesha sitting in a workshop, Ganesh Chaturthi 2017, Mumbai

There is something special about His eyes... 

A blue Ganesha idol, Ganesh Chaturthi, Mumbai

This is Antique Ganesha!

He's ummm... well, different!

Antique Ganesha idol, Ganesh Chaturthi, Mumbai

Undir Balganesha

Baby Ganesha on his army of undirs or mouse!

Baby Ganesha, Ganesh Chaturthi, Mumbai

Tirupati Ganesha

A replica of Lord Balaji or Venkeateshwara
from the picturesque hills of Tirumala in Andhra Pradesh!

Colorful Ganesha idols for sale, Ganesh Chaturthi, Mumbai

Eco friendly Ganeshas,

all seated neatly, in the centre,
in a row, G, H and I!

Eco friendly Ganeshas sitting in a workshop, Ganesh Chaturthi, Mumbai

When the Ganeshas are eco-friendly,
how can the his vehicle, the mouse be far behind?

Eco friendly Mooshaks, Ganesh Chaturthi, Mumbai

Gopi Shankh,

Ganesha creating melody in a conch shell!

Ganesha in a shell, Ganesh Chaturthi, Mumbai

Swayumbhu Ganesha,

Ganesha that is self manifested like in a cave!

Ganesha in black stone, Ganesh Chaturthi, Mumbai

Paanch Maasa Ganesha

Ganesha riding on five fish.

Ganesha on a fish, Ganesh Chaturthi, Mumbai

Koli Ganesha

Ganesha dedicated to the fisherman community!

Koli Ganesha idol, Ganesh Chaturthi, Mumbai

Ashtavinayak Ganesha

Mayureshwar Moregaon situated in Pune district.

Mayureshwar Moregaon Ganesha, Ganesh Chaturthi, Mumbai

Swami Samarth Ganesha

Dedicated to the Akkalkot Swāmi Mahāraj of Akkalkot,
an Indian sage of the Dattatreya tradition.

Swami Samarth Ganesha, Ganesh Chaturthi, Mumbai

Kitne sundar hai aur kitne saare, poore desh se ek saath ikattha! (These are all so beautiful and so many, from all over the country at one place, together!) I exclaimed to Mr. Shankar Singh as we made our way towards the exit after the 20 minute walk or so. Sabki bhavnaye dikhni chahiye,  (Everyone's image of Ganesha should be seen) he replied with a gentle smile. Before leaving, I had one more request for him - Can I click your picture? He humbly obliged, posing next to the same Ganesha that had initially caught my eye at the entrance... his graceful smile starkly similar to the Ganesha.

Artist who painted Ganeshas, Ganesh Chaturthi, Mumbai



How to contact Artist Mr. Shankar Narayan Singh?

He didn't have a card or a contact number, but he said that he is available all round the year at the famous Ambaji Dham Temple, Factory Lane, Near Gokhale Education Societys High School in Borivli (W), making idols for temples. That is the best way to reach him.

If you like reading about Lord Ganesha, these are two of my favourite posts that I'd recommend you check:

Swayumbhu Siddhivinayak Ganesh Temple - Vazira Naka, Borivli
16 Ancient Ganesha Temples in India

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Soulie Saturday #18: A Dip in Mother River Gomti, Dwarka.

When He lights a lamp at the altar of the Universe
Sangam Ghat, River Gomti, Dwarka

that moment,
a reflection...

when it’s just me,
 your light,
a rippling silence
and some affection;

 pure and pristine,
free of any ignorance and ill-will or deception

that moment…
a reflection,
is full of answers
to all of life's questions.

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This post is part of an ongoing series called Soulie Saturday on My Yatra Diary... a spiritual exploration of that which is Unseen and a celebration of that Ultimate sacred space we yearn for - within and without - and the riches we carry in our own hearts. Click on the preceding "Soulie Saturday" link to view all posts in the series, or visit the initial overview post that inspired me to start this series here.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Krishna Janmashtami Special: Nand Bhavan or Chaurasi Khamba Temple in Mahavan, Old Gokul

A painting depicts Krishna crossing the Yamuna at Chaurasi Khamba Temple,  Old Gokul Mahavan

"Blessed is human birth,
even the dwellers in heaven desire this birth,
for true knowledge and pure love may be attained only by a human being."
- Bhagavad Gita.

------------------------------ **** ------------------------------ 

The clock strikes twelve, it's midnight;
and a mischievous beautiful brave child takes birth
to two divine parents, Vasudev and Devki,
in the confines of the jail set up by Devki’s brother, demon king Kansa.
It's the eighth day in the month of Shravan of the hindu calendar, Ashtami…
and according to a celestial prediction, the child is to be the slayer of Kansa;
hence Kansa is already eagerly on the lookout of this child even before he is born.

In the dark hour of the night that he is born, a miracle happens…
all the doors in the jail are thrown open and the binding chains unshackle,
the guards on duty have all fallen asleep!
Fearing for his child’s safety,
Father Vasudev ferries his little apple of the eye
across a ferocious River Yamuna,
across stormy waters and lightening skies,
and places him in Nand Bhavan,
in the loving lap of Yashoda and NandRaj for care...

------------------------------ **** ------------------------------ 

The rest is history and today, it all lies scattered as a treasure for pilgrims all over the world to hunt and gather from a small nondescript town that stands off a dusty road. Around 11 kms. from Mathura on the left bank of River Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh, our car steers its way, past green fields and tiny bushes, towards Mahavan, also known as Old Gokul, in a bid to collect some of these precious pearls from an era gone by.

Way to Chaurasi Khamba temple old Gokul Mahavan
Take a turn towards Nand Bhavan!

A flight of steps takes us to the significant Nand Bhavan also known as the Chaurasi Khamba temple, the same house where once the cow-herder boy, the infinitely loving essence, Baby Krishna was raised along with his elder cousin brother Balaram in loving affection by his foster parents, Yashoda and NandRaj, and where he spent his childhood by performing his pastimes and lilas and stealing many hearts.

Chaurasi Khamba Temple, Lord Krishna's birthplace, Old Gokul Mahavan
Chaurasi Khamba Temple / 84 pillared temple or Nand Bhavan.

The original palace, built by architect of the Gods Vishwakarma around 5000 years ago, couldn't escape the destruction by Emperor king Aurangzeb during his reign as a result of which this temple is a re-built version believed to be constructed later using the same pillars from the original. No wonder then, the major striking aspect of the temple are the pillars on which the temple stands its ground – exactly 84 in number! And that is how the temple gets its name - Chaurasi Khamba - which refers to the 84 pillars in the temple.

Pillars at the Chaurasi Khamba Temple, Mahavn old Gokul in Mathura
Outer walls of the temple.

The walls of the temple are adorned with paintings and motifs illustrating the life of the Lord right from his birth to his early years of childhood. As I roll my hands on the stone carvings, passing from one pillar to the next, and gaze at the beautiful paintings, it’s easy to be transported to a time that still stands still somewhere in the annals of space…

One of the pillars at ancient Chaurasi Khamba Temple, Mahavan Old Gokul in Mathura
One of the pillars in the temple.
A painting adorns the walls at Chaurasi Khamba Temple,  Old Gokul Mahavan
A raas lila painting adorning the outer wall.
A time when Krishna’s enchanting laughter
resonated in the verandahs as a little child swinging in the cradle.
A time when Krishna’s brave acts of killed mighty demons like Putna and Trinavrita
as simply as a child’s play.
A time when Mother Yashoda’s annoyance led her to bind his piece of heart
to 2 trees with a rope that somehow always came out undersized…

Walls of the Chaurasi Khamba Temple, Lord Krishna's birthplace Mahavan
What lies inside?

Mahavan today is marked by all these places that come alive in living breathing structures resplendent in timeless tales, legends and lores from Ancient texts and Scriptures glorifying the various pastimes and youthful plays (lilas) of Lord Krishna in his early years. The temple inside is dim lighted and stands neatly on a row of ornate columns and pillars resplendent in symbols and figures - the number 84 signifying 84,00,000 species of life in this material world. All the pillars taken together in the temple thus houses all the life in the Universe. In the center of this life ball, sits the core of all, baby Lord Krishna swinging in a cradle, playing as a child, radiating his blooming effulgence, looked over lovingly by his family, Nand Baba, Yashoda maiya and his elder brother Balaram. Photography is allowed inside the temple but due to poor lighting conditions and my cellphone camera, I couldn't take any presentable ones.

Beautiful words at Chaurasi Khamba Temple,  Old Gokul Mahavan
BrajVaasi Vallabh (Krishna) always resides in my spirit
May I never ever forget him, my love and the pride of Nand Baba.

The pradakshina marg or the circumambulation path around the Chaurasi Khamba temple in Mahavan leads you places like Brahmand Ghat where baby Krishna showed the entire Universe in his mouth much to the astonishment of his mother, Yamala-Arjuna kunda where Krishna uprooted the two ashoka trees on which he was tied for his mischief's and several smaller shrines depicting various incidences connected to his growing up years like killing of demons Putana and Trinavarta.

A small temple Chaurasi Khamba Temple,  Old Gokul Mahavan
A kalpa vruksha at Chaurasi Khamba Temple compund,  Old Gokul Mahavan
A temple of Kali Maa under the banyan tree.
Lord Shiva temple at Chaurasi Khamba Temple, Mahavan
Lord Shiva temple.

The main temple is surrounded by several smaller shrines located close to each other housing various other Hindu Gods and Goddesses along with a banyan tree draped with many colourful ribbons dipped in faith and prayer.

------------------------------ **** ------------------------------ 

In a world frightened by birth and death,
some people take shelter of shrutis, some of the smritis
and some of the Mahabharata.
But I pray to Shri NandRaja,
in whose courtyard Param Brahma is playing as a child.

~ Sri Padyavali, 127

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Soulie Saturday #17: Just Row, My Friend (Boat Ride, Vishram Ghat, Mathura)

Boat ride by the Yamuna River in Mathura
Boat Ride by the River Yamuna in Mathura.

Just row, row my friend --
rise up and high with the waters,
or keep low and bend.
Watch out for the currents,
the joys and the sorrows,
emotions, pain, melancholy and exuberance;
expressions of the heart, all God sent,
to help you grow and strengthen,
fortify, brace and transcend.

Just row, row my friend --
send the Universe a focussed intent.
Every moment, bright and new,
a new opportunity for us to re-invent.
The beauty is in the journey,
the journey passing through stony dents.
Just row, row my friend --
Past the trivial turn of events,
bask in the delights of the here and now,
bask in the delights of this very moment.
And you will reach where you are meant,
in peace, calm and content,
And you will find your natural scent
Just row, row my friend.

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I have shared a close affinity with our holy rivers like River Ganga and Yamuna wherever I have been blessed to meet them with boat rides being one of my most cherished activities to do in places like Varanasi and Mathura. And you?

With Krishna Janmastami, the birthday of Lord Krishna upon us in a day from now, penning this soulie from one of my boat rides in Mathura from Vishram Ghat where Lord Krishna has rested for a while after killing the tyrant king Kansa. While Kansa has long been liberated, he continues to live on often as a demon of the mind in this dark age of Kali Yuga; this soulie I hope will provide all of those among us who are fighting a battle, the brave warriors, a little respite from their battles, just like Vishram Ghat had offered respite to Krishna.

---------------------------- **** ----------------------------

Don't swim against the current.
Stay in the river, become the river;
and the river is already going to the sea.
This is the great teaching.
~ Osho

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This post is part of an ongoing series called Soulie Saturday on My Yatra Diary..., a spiritual exploration of that which is Unseen and a celebration of that Ultimate sacred space we yearn for - within and without - and the riches we carry in our own hearts. Click on the preceding "Soulie Saturday" link to view all posts in the series, or visit the initial overview post that inspired me to start this series here.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Soulie Saturday #16: My Small Little Thread. (Nidhivan, Vrindavan)

Threads binding love and faith in Nidhivan, Mathura
Threads strung on the beads of love, trust and faith in Nidhivan, Vrindavan.

Faith is not always invisible
I see it in my small little thread –
a whirl of thoughts in my head,
organizing, breaking away from fear,
as I tie my small little thread
and weave a bond of love and protection
with my friend – in red.

Love is not always blind
I feel it in my small little thread –
Bound on the wrist of trust 
it's worth more than any quantities of gold
than all worldly misery
this material dust.

Promises are not always empty
I am assured by my small little thread –
all knotty troubles sealing
as my garden of knowledge He's tilling
Look how my small little thread
takes away all my burdens
so that I peacefully go to bed.

But hey!
do not mistake my 'small little thread'
for just about any thread –
it is a crop I am reaping,
for seeds of belief and patience sown 
in a little bit of laughing,
a little bit of weeping.

My small little thread 
my butter and bread,
an eternal bond which keeps
happiness and joy abreast
protecting from all turmoil and unrest.
You got to cut a heart open 
if you wish to see it true and best.
My small little thread.

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Picked this picture of a tree tied with sacred threads from Nidhivan in Vrindavan keeping the festival of threads, Raksha Bandhan in mind... this picture only because who else than the Gopis (cow herd girls) from Vrindavan to inspire us with their unconditional dedication and pure devotion to Krishna... as a lover, friend, brother and father... all rolled as one. This humble soulie, my small little tribute to all those beautiful bonds in the world that rest on love, trust, faith and protection. Happy Raksha Bandhan!!

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This post is part of an ongoing series called Soulie Saturday on My Yatra Diary..., a spiritual exploration of that which is Unseen and a celebration of that Ultimate sacred space we yearn for - within and without - and the riches we carry in our own hearts. Click on the preceding "Soulie Saturday" link to view all posts in the series, or visit the initial overview post that inspired me to start this series here.