Category Archives: Articles

Fourth anniversary of Kamleshwar Shiv Temple In Kenya

We celebrated fourth patotsav of Kamleshwar Mahadev Shiv Temple last Sunday. This temple has proved the presence of Shiva in weirdest possible places and mostly difficult to reach. The roads to this temple is difficult but getting better day by day.  We performed Yagna, Dhvaja Rohan, Ganesh Puja, Rudrabhishek and homa to the yagna.

The devotees of the Iskon temple performed Bhajan during the occasion. Devotees of various communities also joined us to this auspicious occasion. I must say that the time flys. Its been four years this temple came into existence in the middle of no where.

The beauty of the temple is growing each year pass by. We see new faces every time we hold any function there. The locals have been very supportive and we think they are part of our Shiva family.

Met revered saint Babaji Labh Singh ji from Anandpur Sahib India.

I some how always manage to get the blessings of saints wherever I am. We at Kisumu are fortunate to welcome Shree Babaji Labh Singh Ji from Anandpur Sahib in Punjab.

He is 94 yrs old serving the community for a long time. It was a perfect day and occasion to have a small chat with him and share my books with him. 

He was accompanied by Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh Ji from Birmingham. 

They are chairman of Guru Nanak Nishkam sewak Jatha,  a religious and charitable organization dedicated to selfless service to humanity in the name of Guru Nanak Devji. The organization headquarter is based in UK with charitable branches in India, Kericho and Kenya.

A journey from Dwarka to Oxford 

It is very rare that one gets blessed to find knowledge from two extreme worlds. Sixteen years back I started from mokshpuri Dwarka to find myself, where I come from and what am I doing here? Why we don’t choose our parents, community, region and religion. All those things are decided by a super natural force which we can’t see and feel in our world.

While I met the team of Turors at Oxford Center of Religious Studies in Oxford, my bug of questioning came alive. 

It is true that everyone around the world has a right to learn our scriptures and practice also at the same time. Oxford Center for Hindu Studies is one of them. They have tried their best to bring the right point of view of scriptures and presented in the manner one can understand.

But my question is what about our own indian system? When are they going to start school, colleges and universities to teach scriptures and give degrees too. There is none at present which can claim of teaching scriptures in its original way apart from Ved Shala and few gurukuls. 

One more question is who should be teaching them? Everyone claims to be the authority but I think it’s only traditional gurukul system should take initiative and modernize and present them. 

It’s going to be a big battle ahead about taking a lead, delivering it and implementing the knowledge at the grass root level. Let’s see who does it successfully? 

Indian Sitar by westerners 

It is always very amusing to enjoy indian musical instruments by westerners who really try to put efforts to play those difficult strings together. Recently I attended such event in Nehru Center in London where three Europeans played very good sitar, ghunghru, Arabic drums etc. 
They ​​did a good justice to the instruments, taal, Soor and tempo of the melodies they created on stage. It is very difficult for me to appreciate any westerner attempting to play indian instruments as for us it is an attempt to connect with god and not just create random music. 

I still appreciate their efforts and music they created and entertained relatively a good audience. 

International Day of the Family

Every year 15th may is observed as the International Day of the Family. Every country has understood the importance of the family in a person’s life. In fact, a family is a place where everyone unwinds, feels natural and also learns to give and give in. Many companies ask details of a candidate’s family before calling them for interviews. This is because sociologists feel a person with a family is more mature and can handle trying situations with calmness. It is a place for emotional and spiritual growth. We learn to adjust and understand other’s needs and also learn to put other’s feelings and needs before ours. An extended family which includes pets is good for our health and growth. I feel sad when I see people sitting at homes or travelling as families they may be together but not really together. Everybody seems to be lost in a world of gadgets. When we were young we used to chat, joke, tease, play simple games but nowadays the only thing that is a constant companion in everyone’s hand is the mobile.  Maybe that’s why the United Nations decided to observe an exclusive day as day of the family as we need to be reminded of basic things in life.

It recognizes the importance and the role played by families in shaping an individual’s life and has been observing May 15th as the International Day of the Family with a specific theme for each year. This year it is Families, education and well-being. Education is not limited only to school and college. Life teaches us many experiences and what better place than a family to learn? We need to raise awareness among families about the important role they play in promoting early childhood education. The gift of education is a distant dream for many as many impoverished families see their children as potential income generators and send them away for doing menial tasks when in reality they should be enjoying their carefree childhood by going to schools and studying. This whole year the focus will be on making disadvantaged parents around the world understand the importance of education and the need to educate their children.

So I think wherever we can, we can influence and encourage parents to send their children to study and also help them in getting all the information they require. That’s a nice way to see that education for all becomes a reality one day in this world.

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Why female foeticide

It is again very disheartening to write about this issue as I am still not convinced by the people who give reasons why they want to kill girl child. I started my research on this topic three years back when I was traveling to North India. After visiting couple of cities and speaking to few people, I just realized that no media or NGO is ready to work on the actual reasons. Everyone is in the race of criticizing the Indian government, society, culture and the legal system.

But what I found is that there are two countries living in India, one is old Bharat – with extremely old value system and completely unaware that times have moved on. Another one is modern Bharat, which is very indian by nature but modern lifestyle, latest gazettes and freedom of doing anything we want on the name of liberal, free and independent.

The old Bharat thinks that women specially daughters are the pride of the family and shouldn’t allow her to ruin the name of the family by getting married outside the community or religion since marriage is the only way to throw weight in the neighborhood and family. I respect this old Bharat too which thinks a lot about daughters but they get fanatics when it comes to finding the life partner for her.

I almost had tears in my eyes while studying the cases of honor killing, specially girls, because if they have run away with boys, they have ruined their names, lost opportunity to find suitable boys through family, parents are not ready to keep them back, they are not educated so can’t work, society has mostly disowned the family so less chances of livelihood for parents too, often the boys back out after having all the fun with her, hence death is the only choice.

Why girls run away from the house? The major influence is Bollywood, its movies, its portrayal of heroine getting into the hands of true lover and life partner, modern lifestyle, freedom of doing anything they want, city culture, flashy phones, TV, Camera, glamorous life shown on the TV.

The second major influence is education centers. The colleges and university hardly teach anything related to value based education. It takes five years to teach degree which actually can take two years as the content is only that much. In such cases, what would young minds want to do? what they would think? why students have got all the time except studies during that age? where are they going to go to seek any advice related to life, relationship, health etc.

Why female foeticide increased in last twenty years? The major reason is definitely technology of ultra sound which was suppose to use to find the health and wellbeing of the child while in the womb. But the millions of people used it for all the wrong reasons. It didn’t stop in villages and towns, but it has increased in all the mega cities because of other various reasons.

It is very unfortunate to know that the modern India is indirectly responsible for the female foeticide in the small villages and towns. The flashy lifestyle we boost in cities are killing the women and culture of small villages and its people slowly.  Its time we build the bridge of old and new and improve the city and village in its own way.

I am not going to discuss other reasons like fetish to have baby boys, social and financial responsibility, gender inequality, security, dowry, insecurity etc. We all know they exist.

Culture Curious

Culture is always a fascinating subject. There is something within each of us that yearns to know about history, culture, mythology of a particular region or people. That is why perhaps we see a revival of works of art based on these themes. There is always something new and fresh to add to old themes. Sometimes facts are intertwined with fiction or the writer’s imagination and what comes out is a totally different perspective of what people already know. Amish Tripathi’s Shiva trilogy or the Scion of Ikshvaku, for example, deals with characters we are all familiar with right from our childhood. But what makes these books compelling reading is the way the writer has approached existing themes and given them a fresh twist. They make you want to read every book as soon as it is released. Amish has created that eagerness which was associated with the Harry Potter series. Devdutt Patnaik’s works are also of the same mould. As a mythologist, he uncovers existing stories for a new audience. I feel so happy that through their works our people are rediscovering stories which were lost for some time due to the invasion of He-man, superman, StarWars series. If people in the creative field, like artists, dancers, storytellers, cinema directors delve into such themes associated with culture and heritage, the common man can easily understand these things. But individual sensibilities should be carefully handled. If a positive message comes out through the creative medium, then it is definitely a great effort.

For the sake of the movie Baahubali, the director created new kingdoms, new language also. A set of 750 words with its own grammar rules for this new language kiliki was created. How creative can that be! Coming to think of the effort, the research, the time that has gone into the making of this movie or the research that goes into making of a book with mythology themes- really our country is going ahead in all these areas and there is an audience waiting to lap this up. Which actually is the greatest reward for any creative person!!!!!!

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Bahubali – a world class piece- made in India 

Very rarely I get compelled to write about any movies. But after watching Bahubali I am mesmerized and thrilled to see how indian (actually South Indian) cinema has come off age. Bahubali is far superior than Troy, 300, crouching tiger hidden dragon or even Mughal e Azam for that matter.

Every piece used in the movie was authentic and looked far convincing. The expression of the artists- even the general public was just right. The cinamatography of every scene was done meticulously. It is a perfect larger than life saga produced by completely indian minds and portraying the indian value system. A perfect example of how women were treated with dignity and a complete rights given to her to find her soul-mate.

I am sure Rajamauli has studied the ancient indian war techniques and also must have studied the book called The art of war. I could find many such scenes which were adapted from these books which I had studied while writing about them for my website.

Many important subjects of agriculture, water harvesting, archeology, Niti shastra, astronomy, war tactics, value based education, indian food science etc. are depicted in the movie just appropriately. Most importantly the the orders to attack were given in Sanskrit which is so true as many armies of various riyasat used to use sanskrit language for daily use. Before British era, it was common to use but after British employed the Indians in British army English got introduced to the army. I remember Gandhi ji had criticised the same openly.

It is time Bollywood takes some lessons from south studios and directors and start making movies with more Indianness. Rather copying it from the west in theme, stories, music, values, lifestyle and even the locations.

The movie has correctly portrayed the pre eslamic era when India was truly prosperous and rich in knowledge and arabs used to come to india only to trade but not to capture the land and loot.

When I used to watch dubbed South Indian movies, I always thought them to be quite emotional, dramatic, just too focused on indian values and better than any regular Hindi movies. This movie has conquered that thought again in my mind.

After movie got over, I was frantically looking for names of any big international studios involved in any part of the production. But I could find only one column with international names. Which makes this movie a perfect example of make in India .

The Seed Festival- Beejotsav

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We have just celebrated the earth day with much fanfare in all parts of the world. In most places, the idea of conserving nature and protecting Mother Earth is celebrated once in a year and people disperse after taking pledges and making vows. Many forget about them even before they reach their homes and until the next year, nothing ever happens. If you are the type following the news in the papers and media, you will agree with what I am saying. Of course, there are many people who really get inspired and try and do something in this direction. Even a small step counts.

But deep within the country, there are so many indigenous people like the Adivasis of Khondh in Odisha or the women of the Khasi tribe in Meghalaya who are silently renewing their relationship with mother earth not because it is earth day or something but because it is their way of life, something women from these communities have been doing for thousands of years. The Khondh community celebrates the seed festival or Bijun Parab just before the arrival of the first rains. The women collect different varieties of seeds throughout the year and store them safely from insects, beasts or any such intrusion by mixing neem paste or using natural fertilizers like lining the basket with cow dung. During the annual seed festival, they bring out the varieties of seeds they have saved into the open outside their homes and place them in the village square. The entire community participates in rejoicing during the festival with men beating the drums, women singing songs and children dancing and playing. Those who were unfortunate and have lost their seeds need not worry; the seeds will be shared by all the women. What a wonderful spirit of community sharing and caring.

And they wait, till the signs of rain. Then off they go to scatter the seeds in the patch of lands and soon the land gives them a rich reward and thus the cycle continues.

The Khasi tribe which is matrilinear also does something like this. Women preserve seeds of all varieties for they need wholesome meals which should include cereals, vegetables, fruits even medicinal plants. The knowledge that these women possess is amazing. They pass it on to generations along with the deep reverence for the mountains, rivers and forests. They are untouched by the guile of the outsiders and have made their lives simple and closer to the elements.

That is true earth day. Every day is a celebration. How I wish we can learn from our cultures and respect the earth and her resources with gratitude. The Beejotsav teaches us just this.

Cross the negativity

I remember having read an old Native American tale where a grandpa explained to his little grandson about the two great beings within each one of us. One is the angel and the other is the beast constantly waging a war between themselves. The little boy curious wanted to know which one usually wins. The wise old man replied whichever we choose to feed!

Nowadays the internet is teeming with so much negativity that I feel suddenly people simply wake up online and start pouring out abuse which becomes so toxic over time. These are usually quiet people who will hesitate to harm even a fly but why do they become so daring and vicious online, I am not able to figure out.

It is not wrong to voice an opinion. Healthy discussion and debate are necessary for every democracy. But let us be polite even when disagreeing, that way the real issue will not get lost and we can see various opinions emerge.

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At the Akshar Dham, New Delhi

January 2017 continues to be a lucky month for me as my run with temples continues. I visited the Akshar Dham on 26th January, the Republic Day of India. The weather was cold and foggy and the slight drizzle made the winter nip frosty. Thanks to Yami ben Patel who arranged for a special guide to take me through all sections of the temple quickly.

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The temple is so magnificent, a cultural wonder and I must mention here that it has made it to the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest Hindu temple in the world. We started the temple tour with the mantaps and these are an amazing display of the glorious heritage of Vedic religion, culture and our deities. The entire structure is constructed with pink Rajasthani sandstone and Italian Carra marble. No steel has been used anywhere in the construction.

I performed the puja of nilvarni maharaj with the sankalp of remaining happy forever. The place is known as a devotional Disneyland due to the amazing light and sound show that is screened in the temple. There was an interesting show on how Swami Narayan helped people from different walks of life. The temple welcomes all visitors irrespective of caste, creed, race, nationality and belief. We could also see a theatre which was running a movie on his life on a large screen.

Our last stop was the Sanskruthi Vihar, for which we took a boat ride to reach this powerhouse of knowledge. I became speechless as I saw the vision and thoughtfulness that has gone into creating this architectural marvel. It is truly one of its kind in the whole world.

Pramukh Swami Maharaj has given new life to the long lost art of sculpture making and the disappearing community of artisans. More than seven thousand workers worked on the temple in a span of five years.

A great visit and a great start to the New Year!

 

In the land of Mahaprabhuji

Champaran has become historically famous for the first ever satyagraha march led by Mahatma Gandhiji which put the place firmly in the independence struggle of India. Champaran is also a spiritual hotspot. It is famous as the birthplace of Shri Vallabhacharya known as Shree Mahaprabhuji. Mahaprabhuji lived in the fifteenth century in Champaranya near Raipur in present day Chattisgarh. He is the founder of the Vallabh sect known as Pushti marg. His birth was itself a miracle. You can read the interesting account of his life in my website if you follow this link   http://www.indianscriptures.com/gurus/acharyas/shri-vallabhacharya

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On the holy Makar Sankranti day this year I was fortunate to be at the haveli of Mahaprabhuji. The journey to Champaranya was so refreshing and beautiful.The Mahanadi flows near the temple and it is believed to be flowing from River Yamuna. It makes the place even more beautiful. The entire experience was truly divine.

Tuning in to Krishna Consciousness

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The holy Vaikunta Ekadashi day on 8th January 2017 was a memorable one for me. I happened to visit the magnificent ISKCON temple in Bengaluru and felt I was literally going through the Vaikunt dwar. This holy day is dedicated to the worship of Lord Vishnu. The Vaikunt dwar or the special north side entrance of the temple is opened on just this particular day in a year. The belief is that anyone who goes through this entrance reaches the abode of Vishnu. Being a special day, the temple was crowded but I enjoyed being in the midst of so much spiritual vibration.

The ISKCON temple which is on top of a hill in the heart of the city was opened in 1997 and there are so many deities as we ascend the steps of the temple. You can also have a wonderful view of the city from atop the hill.  There is a shrine for Lord Balaji. It is so beautiful that I was transported to Tirupati straightaway. There is another shrine dedicated to Nitai and Gauranga. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is known as Gauranga because of the beautiful golden complexion he had. He is believed to have been an avatar of Lord Krishna himself. The Kirtan tradition began with Chaitanya and this became an important hallmark of the Bhakti movement in India. Nitai is Nityananda Prabhu who appeared at the same time as Gauranga and it is believed that he is an incarnation of Balarama. Together these two great men helped in the spread of Vaishnava Sampradaya in this country.

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And of course, as in all ISKCON temples, there is the main shrine with Radharani and Krishnachandra decked in all finery as befits the lord of the universe and his consort. Then there are idols of Krishna and Balarama and this reminded me of their childhood days in Brindavan. A shrine dedicated to Prahlada and Narasimha is also there in the temple. Lord Vishnu took this ferocious avatar to save his child devotee Prahlad. You can read in detail about these legends in my website www.indianscriptures.com

http://www.indianscriptures.com/gurus/devotees/bhakta-prahalad

http://www.indianscriptures.com/gods/avatars/vishnu-avatar/narsimhavtar

After worshipping at the altar of Hanuman and Garuda, I completed my visit to this holy shrine and returned full of memories.

 

 

Factual error in hindi movie  Dangal

First and formost, the movie is very well made. The concept, storyline and characters are really upto the expectations.

My reason to write about Dangal is, a scene wherein father asks daughters to eat meat for more protien so that they can perform better in wresting. It is again a propoganda of requirement of high protien and encouragement to meat eating.

The reality of Bhogal family is they have been vegetarian all their lives and even girls never had to eat meat to get strength. Because it is an Amir khan movie, nobody is bothered to find out the real fact of such small issues. I found out about it from one of their interviews wherein the girls Geeta and Babita have confirmed that they never had to eat meat to improve their performance.

Friends, please stop the propoganda of protien requirements in our body. The whole concept of protien started by wrestlers in the USA as they have not discovered the strength of pulses.

If you are an office goer and into sitting jobs, you need only two spoons of daal every day which can be adjusted only weekly basis with little larger portion.

Family love

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A family is such a wonderful place for each one of us to grow and evolve as a person. It takes a lot of love, commitment and effort to keep the family as a unit. The famous American entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn says “Your family and your love must be cultivated like a garden. Time, effort, and imagination must be summoned constantly to keep any relationship flourishing and growing.”  It is the older members of the family who sow good ideals which become the norm later on. Children observe and imbibe these ideals sub consciously and fashion their later years to a large extent based on the experiences they have received in their childhood. These are called family values which are cherished by each individual as they are unique to each family and which make the journey through life memorable.

Are there a definite set of values straight jacketed for each family? The answer is an overwhelming no for they are different for each family based on so many factors. What holds good for one individual or family may not find favor with another. These are a set of values that are so unique and cherished by each family. They can be described as a set of rules that the entire family stays true to and follows at all times. Sometimes they can also be unspoken rules but are followed as one does not like to cause hurt to others. Over time these bind the members of the family together and in times of distress, these values help one another to tide over the crisis. The family as a solid unit is a bedrock of support and helps each one to find his or her moorings eventually. The warm love that each member basks in is enough to sustain the members through difficult times.

As I look lovingly at all the members of my family my heart also goes out to those unfortunate ones who come from broken homes or are separated from their loved ones due to whatever reason. As we are so close to the New Year maybe one really good resolution would be to extend a loving hand and heart to someone out there who longs for the warmth of love. Maybe in our own small way we can make this world a better place for such unfortunate ones too.