Tuesday, March 5, 2019

ISKCON Temple, Jaipur: A Psychedelic Window To The Spiritual World.

Lord Krishna playing flute stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan

O adorable Krishna!
let my longing eyes behold thy form.
let my ears hear thy flute.
O healer of all sorrows,
show me Thyself!
~ Unknown.

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I have been a regular visitor to the ISKCON Temple in Jaipur, Rajasthan for almost an entire past decade. Rajasthan being my ancestral state, we make it a point to travel here once at least every year. To say then, that I have a personal affinity for this state, and the Jaipur ISKCON temple wouldn’t be an exaggeration… from being a simple small house many years back, it has been a joy to see the temple gradually evolve to a relatively bigger premise and stand in line along with some of its more famous contemporaries like the ISKCON Temple in Delhi.

During its development, the temple has undergone many a changes as well, the more prominent among them being the coming up of a full fledged guest house for the visiting devotees who wish to stay inside the campus, and the in house Govindas restaurant which serves pure vegetarian fare – and of course, the grand Sri Sri Giridhari Dauji Mandir made entirely from pink stone and decorated with stained glass work celebrating the various avatars of Lord Krishna which opened up earlier this year.

ISKCON Temple, Jaipur, Rajasthan

The temple has taken many years to be built… there was a time when I’d see a part of premises as perpetually ‘under construction’ or so I wondered – what exactly was taking the building of the main temple so long?

Little did I know back then, I would be getting my answer in a few years from now, in 2019 and how!

I recall this incidence from around 3 years back… there was an office right below the “under construction” temple site where one could see a foreigner, often alone, deeply immersed with little pieces of colorful glass scattered all around him. Whenever I passed through his office cum workshop, the room intrigued me, beckoned me. How could it not?! It was an artist’s workshop after all!

Alas, I could never quite give wings to my intrigue by going any nearer or striking a conversation with the person inside but just catching a little glimpse from afar did give me enough to afford this colorful piece of memory today to cherish as my own.

Come January 2019 – and I was in for a beautiful surprise.

The land that I had seen as under construction for so many years long was no longer under construction anymore. What stood on it instead was a magnificent structure resplendent in the glorious art that the Pink city is known for.

After freshening up at the guesthouse just opposite the main temple, I headed to pay my respects and to see the temple, first thing first in the evening and then again the early next morning.

Window to the spiritual world stained glass vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan

But it was the morning youthful sun that left me enamored. Ascending slowly beyond the horizon, its peeping light sprinkled a sweet golden glow to the structure.

A burst of colors waited inside as I stood and admired agape at the beauty that stared back at me – large windows about 11 feet high and four feet wide with striking stained glass murals integrated within them. A characteristic more commonly observed in churches and cathedrals, this was the first time I was witnessing glass art of this stature in a temple.

ISKCON temple Srila Prabhupada stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan

Shafts of sunlight shone through the stained-glass windows, scattering coloured light all over the chequered floor. The windows were a gleaming brilliance against the early morning sun as against the muted tones of the previous evening. As I made my way around the masterpieces, I gave a silent clap to the Master Artist Mr. Colin Greenwood whose dedication and devotion for many long years was so clearly visible in his exceptional creation in Stained Glass which he had created for the pleasure of His own Master Srila Prabhupada. What was even more laudable was to see the merger of a vision, a vision of bhakti that Srila Prabhupada once dreamt for all of consciousness, with an art form thereby inspiring people towards not just blindly following but actually understanding the beauty of Vedic culture through the paintings.

Door man Vijaya stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, RajasthanDwarpal Jaya stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, RajasthanJust upon entering the gate, are the Two Doorkeepers of Vaikuntha, Jaya and Vijay followed by the Dasa Avatars of Lord Vishnu. It was fascinating to know that the glass, lead and other specialized materials used were sourced from Australia and all the work was carried out by locally trained artists under the supervision of Mr. Greenwood.

Govardhan lila stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan

Each window consists of over three thousand pieces of individually cut glass and when seen through the light of the sun, morning as well as evening, literally double up as windows to the Spiritual World!

Narsingh avatar - stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan

Walking slowly through the periphery of the temple, I paused at several points, dazzled by the huge colorful windows that soared high towards the distant ceiling. The illustrations took me back to a myriad of stories narrated to me by my grandpa and the lovely memories I treasure in my heart about the times spent listening to them.

Krishna makhan chor stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan
Varah avatar stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur Rajasthan
Vrindavan Forest stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan
Krishna Balram stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan
Shri Ram Chandra avatar stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan
Shri Parsuram Avatar stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan
Kalki avatar stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan
Kaliya Lila stained glass window vedic art - ISKCON Jaipur Rajasthan

I spent a longer time pausing and admiring the Kaliya Lila window,  but it wasn’t the story that had caught my eye, it was the light… light fell here like a high poised sphere creating a mélange of colors that bounced off the window onto the silhouetted floor to paint a muddled reflection.

Beautiful stained glass window reflections vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan

It was a beautiful sight, this moment, how to describe it? Everything seemed to be in perfect balance, harmony and unison: The colorful window shrouded in light suffusing the dark floor in life!

Everything around me seemed to stop for those few moments and turn into something entirely different. The silent space suddenly filled with meaning, and the million colorful beams dissolved into a little bubble of wisdom. Just me and those multi-hooded dark serpents, the serpents that create mayhem within, had just been blessed with the dancing footprint of the Lord Himself.

Soon, I moved to the center of the hall and spent a few quiet moments kneeling down before the altar, beneath the deep domed ceiling.

Deities - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan

After offering my prayers, as I was walking out of the temple, my eyes fell on the beautiful image of Radha Krishna sitting together on a swing. A beautiful painting dipped in the hues of red, here was love, unadulterated, pure and whole. I thought of the aura when the light illuminates this part of the gallery: Does it make their love come alive? Would it breathe life in their play?

Radha Krishna love stained glass window vedic art gallery - ISKCON Jaipur, Rajasthan

There was no way to know that just about now, maybe someday.

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How to spend 3 days in Atlanta, USA.

Atlanta is a cultural hub with a thriving restaurant scene and a variety of attractions. It offers the advantages of a bustling city with southern charm. There is something for everyone in Atlanta. If you are flying into Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, here is some advice for making the most of a three-day visit.

Bustling city of Atlanta in Georgia

Before your visit, book a hotel in Downtown Atlanta for convenience. Many attractions and restaurants are downtown. Staying downtown also provides easy access to MARTA trains and buses if needed. Atlanta has great public transportation that stretches across the entire city. The 4 Seasons and Mandarin Oriental Hotel are just two of the many hotels that offer breathtaking views of the city.

Start your first day walking through Centennial Olympic Park. The 21 acre park was created for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games as a place for visitors to relax in during the event. Today parts of the park have been renovated, but a large portion stands representing the revitalization of downtown Atlanta. The beautiful park is a peaceful memorial for the game. It includes jumping fountains, brick paths and bright landscape. The park is home to a number of free events throughout the year such as concerts and festivals. The winding path will lead you to three of the biggest tourist attractions in the city- CNN Studios, The Georgia Aquarium and World of Coke.

Begin at CNN with a 50 minute walking tour. CNN is a popular national 24-hour cable news station in the United States that boasts a number of nationally known journalists, including Anderson Cooper. This popular tour shows you the process of a story hitting a news desk to making it on the air. You see an exciting side of the news that you don’t normally get to see. Aside from watching the process, you even get to sit in the news anchors desk. Keep your eyes open, you may even see one of the famous news anchors making their way around the office. Next walk over to The World of Coke. This museum is dedicated to the famous soda Coca-Cola, founded in Atlanta.

Walk through the exhibits showing different ad campaigns throughout the world and various collectible items Coca Cola has released over the years. Enjoy presentations about the company’s history and the process of making Coca Cola. Finally, visit the tasting room to try flavors of Coca-Cola brand sodas from around the globe. Some flavors aren’t even available in America.

Take a lunch break at Mary Mac’s Tea Room. This cafe is known as “Atlanta’s Dining Room,” offering the best in southern soul food. Fill up on tomato pie and peach cobbler before heading over to finish out the day at The Georgia Aquarium. As home to over 100,000 species, this is the largest aquarium in the United States. It takes around 3 hours to walk the entire aquarium, but it is worth the time. Get up close looks at species you will only see at this aquarium, such as the Whale Shark and Manta Rays. Watch a sea lion show or experience feeding time with otters to make the experience even more memorable. The entire aquarium totals 10 million gallons of water, it will be one of your most memorable experiences of the trip.

As the evening winds down, head to Midtown for dinner at The Vortex. This burger bar is for 21 and older, but it offers the best, and most creative, burgers in the city. Be adventurous and try the Fat Elvis- a hamburger with peanut butter, bacon and fried plantains on top.

Start your second day with breakfast at Wafflehouse, a staple in the south. This breakfast chain started in Atlanta and thrives across the south. Their signature waffles can’t be recreated. Don’t forget to get hashbrowns “all the way” to eat like a true southerner.

After a hearty breakfast, head to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park. This site has multiple places of interest related to the life of Dr. Martin Luther King. Walking throughout this park you will explore the historic Ebenezer Church that Dr. King Jr. was part of, as well as his childhood home. Talk with the volunteers at Fire House No. 6 to discuss MLK Jr.’s daily visit to the firehouse. Be sure to walk across the street to view the first black colleges. Though they look like a row of a houses, it’s a big part of America’s history. Inside The King Center you can pay your respects at the tombs of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mrs. King.

Jelly fish, Aquarium Atlanta

Following your visit to the MLK Jr. National Historic Park, head to Ponce City Market for lunch. The first floor of this former factory is dedicated to a variety of local dining establishments. Eat community style or at one of the stand alone restaurants. Be sure to complete your meal with a King of Pops. This local company offers a variety of freshly made popsicles including such flavors as Cookies N Cream- made with whole chocolate chip cookies. Spend the afternoon taking in the architecture of the building while perusing local artistry from Atlanta designers on the second and third floors. Take a break with some mini golf on the enchanting Skyline Park.

Look at the Atlanta Skyline while engaging in friendly competition. Round off your day with some famous barbeque at “Fox Bros. Barbeque”. The lines may be long, but it’s worth the wait to try the sliced brisket sandwich with a side of macaroni and cheese.

On your final day in Atlanta, take in a few of the secret gems of the city. Start the morning with a walk along the Beltline Trail that winds 22 miles throughout the city. The trail is divided into different sections, and one of the most popular is the Eastside Trail. This portion of the trail offers the best views of the city, especially from atop the North Avenue Bridge. Another popular spot is under the Virginia Avenue Bridge. Below the bridge is two of the many murals found throughout Atlanta. It’s a great place to stop for some photos. Rent a bike or take a pleasant walk in the early morning before the sun is at its peak for the day.

After working up some hunger, head to The Varsity for some tasty food and Atlanta history. This restaurant has been servicing customers since 1928. It’s a popular destination because it feels like a time warp to a 1950s cafe. Grab a chili dog, Coca Cola and enjoy a quiet lunch. After lunch, head over to the Oakland Cemetery. This is not only the final resting place of many famous Atlantans, including Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell, but it is a popular garden. It is the largest green space in the heart of downtown Atlanta, offering a variety of beautiful greenery. You can pick up a self-guided tour map at the visitor center and take in the landscape, beautiful tombstones and sculptures throughout the 48 acres.

Continue your afternoon journey to the eclectic Center for Puppetry Arts. This museum is dedicated to the art of puppetry around the world. It’s most famous for its collection of Jim Henson muppets. Here you can see such famous muppets as Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. View exhibits that show Henson’s career from beginning through his death, as well as the legacy he left behind. Enjoy hands-on exhibits celebrating puppetry from a variety of cultures around the world.

Complete your day with dinner at Fellini’s. This local chain serves up some of the best pizza in the city. Pick your favorite toppings and order New York style gourmet pizza by the pie or slice. When planning your trip to Atlanta, use the ESTA, electronic system for travel authorization, to make international travel to the United States easier. If you are traveling from a VWP (visa waiver program) country, you can use this system for pre-approval to travel if traveling to the United States for less than 90 days for business or vacation. The ESTA checks that the traveler is not a danger or security risk and gives approval to those who pass with flying colors. Those who are from a VWP approved country and do not hold a visitor’s visa are welcome to use ESTA. All you need is a credit card or PayPal account to pay the application fee, current contact information and most recent employment information. Check ESTA application status prior to travel on their easy-to-use website. It is important to apply at least 72 hour before departure, otherwise you may not be approved in time and will not be able to travel to Atlanta.

Travel with ease and enjoy your visit to the “Gate City.”

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About the Author: Martins is a 31 years old Australian born and officially in love with a never - ending affair of solo world travel. He has a great passion of exploring the planet, meeting new lives and writing about his travel experiences with people all around the world.

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Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post to support the blog. Please do the appropriate research while accepting any third party offers.