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POWERED BY GLOBAL ADJUSTMENTS

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Beautiful India

A photo journey through expat eyes into India

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In search of Firdaus

Journey into the beautiful Valley of Flowers

December 2016 Volume 7, Issue 10

Rs 40


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Dear Readers, Editor-in-Chief Ranjini Manian Senior Editor Lakshmi Krupa Business Head Archana Iyengar Creative Head Prem Kumar VP Finance V Ramkumar Circulation S Raghu Advertising Chennai Archana Iyengar Bengaluru Meera Roy Delhi/NCR Ruchika Srivastava

Geographic boundaries are man-made. What does it matter where one nation ‘ends’ and another ‘begins’? This thought keeps popping into my mind as we come to the ‘end’ of another year – 2016. It has been a historic year, one that saw a businessman elected as the 45th President of the world’s oldest democracy, the United States of America. It also saw the world’s largest democracy, India, demonetise two of its largest denomination currency notes in a bid to deliver a body blow to corruption and terrorism. Both events could impact the life of global citizens. I was at the Wagah border as this issue of Culturama was being closed, and watched in wonder like many a tourist on either side of the Line of Control, as Pakistan and Indian Border Security Force personnel went into their elaborate daily ritual of lowering the flags of both nations at sunset. Tall and stately men in impressive headgear marched in disciplined and ceremonial style, delighting the audience. Our hearts connected to one side or the

other of the decorative iron gate there; yet we were all equally interested in the other side, judging by the straining of necks. That’s how life is, isn’t it? Be it nations, communities, companies or families, we all have events unfolding, stories for the telling, and we are all interested in the other. However, we see things not as they are, but as we are. This issue of Culturama is dedicated to the 61 photographers from 17 nationalities, living in India, who participated in our annual Expat Beautiful India Photo Contest, for they give us the tools to promote understanding. They have given us images and we are free to interpret cultural insights from those images. Three cheers for the interconnectedness of the human race. Three cheers for our abiding interest in each other. Let’s increase the caring.

Mumbai/Pune Arjun Bhat To subscribe to this magazine, e-mail info@globaladjustments.com or access it online at www.culturama.in Chennai (Headquarters) 5, 3rd Main Road, R A Puram, Chennai – 600028 Telefax +91-44-24617902 E-mail culturama@globaladjustments.com Bengaluru No.: A2, SPL Habitat, No.138, Gangadhar Chetty Road, Ulsoor, Bengaluru – 560043. Tel +91-80-41267152, E-mail culturamablr@globaladjustments.com Delhi-NCR Level 4, Augusta Point, Golf Course Road, Sector 53, Gurgaon 122002, Haryana Mobile +91 124 435 4224 E-mail del@globaladjustments.com Mumbai #1102, 11th floor, Peninsula Business Park, Tower B, SB Road, Lower Parel, Mumbai – 400013 Tel +91-22-66879366 E-mail mum@globaladjustments.com Published and owned by Ranjini Manian at #5, 3rd Main Road, Raja Annamalai Puram, Chennai – 600028, and printed by K Srinivasan of Srikals Graphics Pvt Ltd at #5, Balaji Nagar, 1st Street, Ekkattuthangal,

Ranjini Manian, Editor-in-Chief globalindian@globaladjustments.com

Chennai – 600032 Disclaimer Views and opinions expressed by writers do not necessarily reflect the publisher’s or the magazine’s.


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Cover Image Culturama’s cover image this month won the first prize in the Faces category in the 19th Annual Beautiful India Expatriate Photo Competition. Photo: Melissa Freitas, Brazil

Advisory Board Members N. Ram is an award-winning journalist and former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu. He is Director of Kasturi & Sons Limited, publishers of The Hindu. Suzanne McNeill lived in India for seven years before returning to Scotland. She is a freelance writer and graphic designer. Liz Neisloss is a veteran journalist and writer who has worked for CNN based from Singapore, Chennai and at the United Nations in New York. She is now based in Mumbai. G. Venket Ram is an acclaimed photographer and the creative mind behind many a Culturama issue. www.gvenketram.com Annelize Booysen is a business consultant and social entrepreneur. She lived in Asia for more than a decade, which included three years in India. She is currently based in the United States. Namita Jain, founder of Jaldi Fit, is a leading fitness guru and a businesswoman who helms Kishco, a world-class cutlery brand.

Contributors Susan Philip is a freelance writer based in Chennai, and the editorial coordinator of Culturama’s various coffee table books. Eknath Easwaran (1910–1999) was a spiritual teacher, author and interpreter of Indian literature. In 1961, he founded the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation and Nilgiri Press in California. Devdutt Pattanaik is the Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group and a writer and illustrator of several books on Indian mythology. www.devdutt.com

Letters to the editor Dear Editor,

I thoroughly enjoyed reading, both, your letter as well as Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s letter to children in the November edition of Culturama. Even though his letter is several decades old, it continues to resonate with us because of its truth and his wisdom. Vinod Kumar, Chennai

Dear Editor,

I was pleasantly surprised to read an interview of cricketing star Suresh Raina in the last edition of Culturama. His journey is not only inspiring to those who want to excel in sports, but also to everyone looking to do well and serve our country. May his tribe increase. V.K. Ganapathy Subramanian, Bengaluru

culturama – Subscribe Now! Get your copy of Culturama as a hard copy or as an e-magazine - visit www.globaladjustments.com to subscribe For other enquiries, e-mail us at culturama@globaladjustments.com or call us on +91-44-2461 7902


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Contents 12

India Now

A recap of the events and people that made news in the past month.

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Look Who’s In Town

Expats share their views about life in India.

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Calendar of Events

See what’s going on in the main cities and suburbs.

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Picture Story

44 Feature Excerpts from a new book, Srirangam… Bhooloka Vaikuntam, about the beautiful temple town in South India.

India’s Culture 8

Short Message Service

Short, engaging snippets of Indian culture.

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Festival of the Month

This December find out how India celebrates Christmas.

Journeys Into India 58

Seeing India

Discover the stunning landscapes of the verdant Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand.

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Holistic Living

Only those who forgive others will enjoy the healing power of forgiveness in themselves.

Join us on a pictorial journey into the heart of the historic state of Punjab, in the city of Amritsar.

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Beautiful India

A selection of photographs that won the top honours from our 19th Beautiful India Expatriate Photo Competition

Regulars 42

India Diaries

Dr. Angelika Villinger compares two landmark events – the floods of last year and the demonitisation decision of this year...

Relocations and Property 78

Space and the City

Property listings in Chennai.


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SMS

by Suzanne McNeill Short cultural snippets for an easily digestible India

Art/textile/craft Phulkari Phulkari is an embroidery technique from the state of Punjab, and translates literally as ‘flower’ (phul) ‘craft’ or ‘work’ (kari). Coloured floss silk thread, also known as untwisted silk, is woven in and out of the cotton ground fabric using a simple darning stitch. These running stitches are varied in length and direction to produce stunning geometric designs that can completely hide the ground cloth, thereby imitating more expensive woven silk. At other times, the unembroidered fabric is incorporated as part of the design. Phulkari decorates scarves and shawls. It can be traced back to the 15th century, when phulkari pieces were part of a bride’s trousseau to indicate she had blossomed from a girl to a woman.

Words Shabash

Food and drink Lassi

Shabaash, or shabash, is an exclamation used across India to praise achievement and means ‘bravo’, ‘well done’, ‘excellent’, ‘congratulations’! The word is Persian in origin and is related to the noun shabashi, meaning ‘applause’ or ‘praise’. Shabash is used in many different situations, but tends to be employed as a form of praise from someone of an older generation to a younger. A phrase such as ‘Shabash on your speech/catch/ exam results!’ is the equivalent of offering someone kudos for their achievement. ‘Shabaash India’ was a reality show on Zee TV that showcased the extraordinary feats and skills of Indians.

Every part of India has a cooling drink made of curd that refreshes during hot weather and aids good digestion. The most famous is lassi, which originated in Punjab but is now popular throughout the Indian subcontinent. Delicious and creamy, traditional lassi is a salted, savoury yoghurt-and-milk drink that may be flavoured with cumin, cardamom or mint. This is common in North India and is often served with lunch in a clay beaker. Sweet lassi can be simply flavoured with sugar, but is often combined with fruit pulp, and even rose water and saffron. Mango lassi has gained worldwide popularity.


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Photo: Silvia RICANEK, Germany

Name to know The Phogat Sisters

Interpretations Langar

Geeta, Babita, Ritu and Sangita Phogat, and their cousins Vinesh and Priyanka, are professional wrestlers, trailblazers who have broken taboos and made history. Geeta, Babita and Vinesh have each won Gold for India at the Commonwealth Games (Geeta in 2010, Babita and Vinesh in 2014), and in 2012 Geeta became the first woman wrestler to represent India in the Olympics. The younger girls are Junior Asian Championships medallists. The family is from the Jat community and live in a farming village in rural Haryana, where the idea of women wrestling, let alone participating in sport, was unprecedented. Their father, Mahavir Singh, is a former wrestler and coach, who trained at Delhi’s famed Chandgi Ram akhara (wrestling school). He always wanted to see his children take up the sport, and the fact they were girls, not boys, didn’t deter him. When his older daughters were 10 and 8, he built his own simple akhara. He instigated a tough regime, with training from 4.00 a.m. to 7.00 a.m. and again in the evenings after school. As the family had land and influence, the village could not oppose them, but Mahavir faced unrelenting criticism. The sisters found themselves socially isolated, but were soon travelling to neighbouring villages, where their competitions drew large audiences and the attention of coaches. The media interest in their story is immense, and December 2016 sees the release of Dangal, a film by Aamir Khan based on the life of Mahavir Singh and Geeta and Babita Phogat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_7YlGv9u1g

These men are helping to prepare chapattis in a langar, the common kitchen or canteen of a gurdwara or Sikh temple. They are participating in a practice common to all gurdwaras in which food is served to all visitors to the temple, without distinction of faith or background, and is free. The food is vegetarian, so that all can share it, and usually consists of simple and nourishing dals, vegetable curries and fresh bread, which are prepared following strict rules of cleanliness. The practice of the langar is believed to have been instigated by Guru Nanak, the first Sikh guru. It was designed to uphold the principle of equality between all people, regardless of religion, caste or gender, and expresses community and inclusiveness. Men, women and children share the tasks of preparation, cooking, serving and cleaning the thousands of thali trays on which the food is served. The langar is funded by donations of money and food. Whole families volunteer each week to provide and prepare the langar. Participation in the preparation and sharing of food is an act of piety, and a Sikh is under religious obligation to contribute the service of his or her hands whenever possible. Serving in a langar is considered particularly meritorious and shows seva – selfless service to others in the community, the gurdwara and the world beyond. At the Golden Temple, the holiest gurdwara of Sikhism, up to 80,000 people are fed every day by the langar.


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India now by Susan Philip

The month that was

As we enter a new month, we quickly recap the events, people and places that made news in the past month

Business Matters Happy to do business India is the world’s second most optimistic country as far as business goes. The Grant Thornton International Business Report shows that India has moved up from the third to the second position in global business optimism during the July–September quarter of 2016. The report is based on a survey of 2,500 businesses in 36 world economies. Did you know that the two states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are in joint first place on the country’s Ease of Doing Business list, as per a report by the World Bank and Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion?

Modi, and his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe. It provides for the development of nuclear power projects in India and collaboration between industries in the two countries for civil nuclear projects. Several memoranda of cooperation (MoCs) and memoranda of understanding (MoUs) were signed by the two countries in other areas, including manufacturing skill transfer, agriculture and food-related industries, textiles and marine and earth science technology. India and Japan will also be collaborating in the fields of sport, education, culture and business.

Awards and Accolades Arnie of Bengaluru The Arnold Schwarzenegger of Whitefield – that’s G Balakrishna. He won the title of that name, and was declared ‘Mr Asia 2016’ as well at the Phil-Asia Bodybuilding Championships. The 25-year-old drives a water tanker in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru, and is also a gym instructor. The recognition is doubly sweet for Balakrishna as he’s an ardent fan of the Terminator star and erstwhile Mr. Universe.

Sports Spots

It’s a deal!

Champions all!

India and Japan have signed a milestone Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement. The bilateral agreement was signed in the presence of the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra

Hockey fans in India had much to cheer about, as both the men’s and women’s teams claimed the Asian Championship Trophy in their respective categories. The men defeated traditional rivals Pakistan to reclaim the cup, while the women beat China. The men’s final was held at Uantan, Malaysia. The score card read 3–2 at the end of the match.


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The women’s final was held in Singapore, and India won 2–1 – its maiden victory. The tournament is an annual one organised by the Asian Hockey Federation. It is being held since 2011. Q. When did the Indian men’s team win this Trophy earlier? A: In 2011, the first edition of the tournament.

This and That The Lakshmi touch

by the end of this year or early in 2017 at Mumbai. The ship first belonged to the Royal (British) Navy, and was commissioned in 1959. It was sold to the Indian Navy in 1987. After it is decommissioned, the Andhra Pradesh Government will take it over and develop it as a tourist attraction, possibly as a hotel at sea, berthed off Visakhapatnam. Q: Do you know by what name INS Viraat was known while it was a part of the Royal Navy? A: HMS Hermes.

Lighting up the world

The banking industry in India went a level up, technologically speaking, with the introduction of Lakshmi, a robot. The City Union Bank (CUB) became the first bank in the country to deploy a humanoid when Lakshmi was put ‘on duty’ at one of the bank’s branches in Chennai. Lakshmi, all of two feet high, can interact with customers on over 125 subjects. As of now, ‘she’ speaks English, but will later be able to converse in other regional languages! The decision to introduce a robot was taken after studies showed that bank staff spent a lot of their time answering basic questions from customers, most of them repetitive. Lakshmi will take a lot of this burden off them. Q: Why is the name ‘Lakshmi’ particularly apt in this context? A: Lakshmi is the Goddess of Wealth, consort of Lord Vishnu, the Preserver.

Goodbye to arms After 55 years of loyal service, a veteran of the Indian Navy was given a ceremonial send-off. INS Viraat, the world’s oldest aircraft carrier in service, was seen off at the Ernakulam Wharf by Rear Admiral Nadkarni, Chief of Staff, Southern Naval Command. The ship was at the Kerala port for a decommissioning re-fit. It is expected to be decommissioned

For the first time in history, the United Nations marked the festival of Diwali by lighting up its headquarters building in New York. The image of a diya – earthen lamp – and the words ‘Happy Diwali’ were projected on to the façade of the building. India’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations Syed Akbaurddin thanked General Assembly President Peter Thomson for taking the initiative in this regard. In another first, outgoing US President Barack Obama lit an oil lamp in the famous Oval Office at the White House to celebrate the festival of lights. Present on the occasion were some Indian-Americans working in his administration. “…darkness will always be overcome by light. It is a tradition that I hope future Presidents will continue,” Mr Obama posted on the White House Facebook page. Did you know that in 2009, Barack Obama became the first US President to participate in the Diwali celebrations at the White House? Diwali was first celebrated in the White House itself in 2003, when George W Bush was the President.


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When the world came together... ...for Beautiful India


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Visitors at the Photo Exhibition where over 600 photographs of Beautiful India were on display

Indian/Bollywood numbers like Dhola Re Dhola and Jai Ho at the Global Adjustments’ 19th Photo competition Awards Presentation Ceremony on November 20 at the Crowne Plaza Chennai. They had learnt to dance for over a month at the Global Adjustments headquarters in Chennai, and the event was a fantastic demonstration of India’s soft power and cultural appeal to citizens of various countries. Grammy award winning singer Tanvi Shah joined the dancers on stage as they performed Jai Ho, and the audience too tried to shake a leg as she crooned her number.

At a cultural event that connected India with expats in a deeper manner, spouses of top executives from foreign direct investors in India – from Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, France, and so on, from Daimler, Renault, Ford, Shell, BMW – danced to some amazing

A selection of 600 photos, shot by expatriates living in India, was the highlight of the 19th Annual Beautiful India Photo Competition. These photos captured their perspective of India – as seen from the points of view of Places, Faces, Cultures and Festivals, and Into India (an expat immersed in an Indian scene). A special category in this year’s contest was Digital India. The judges for the competition were Jochen Stallkamp, MD, BMW Plant, Chennai, Tanvi Shah of Jai Ho fame from Slumdog Millionaire and renowned photographer C.P. Satyajit. For the first time in the history of the Beautiful India Expatriate Photo Competition, which has already been in Chennai in various avatars for 18 years, an important leader from the Ministry of External Affairs, Former Director General of ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) who has served as Ambassador to Cuba, C. Rajasekhar, came down from Delhi especially as the Chief Guest.


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A photo booth shaped like a royal palanquin drew excited families, especially children

Clockwise from top-left: awards being given away by Markus Villinger to Melissa Freitas of Brazil for the Digital India category, by Tanvi Shah, C.P Satyajit and Jochen Stallkamp to Kathlijn Fruithof of Belgium for the overall winning entry, by Dr Annie Jacob to Bhavia Joshi of UK for the Culture and Festivals category and Arindam Kunar to our Facebook contest winner Anda Garup of Denmark


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Dancers enthral the audience with their stellar performances

Guests speak Markus Villinger, Managing Director - Daimler Buses India and Vice President - Daimler India Commercial Vehicles Pvt. Ltd. speaking at the event said, “Global Adjustments becomes a part of your family when you move to India. You just cannot do without them!” He shared his experiences of moving homes in Chennai and about how Global Adjustments helps families like his from around the world feel at home in India. Amb. Rajashekar spoke about the importance of cultural relations between the world and India. “Global Adjustments serves not only with the head, but also with their heart,” he said quoting from the famous poem Night of the Scorpion, by Nissim Ezekiel. “It’s great to see a non-governmental enterprise like Global Adjustments taking the initiative to promote the idea of Beautiful India for 19 years now!” he added.

Har Sahay Meena, Commissioner of Tourism and Managing Director, TTDC, spoke about the importance of such events in promoting India. “It’s wonderful to see people of so many nationalities come together and perform to Indian music and showcase their version of India for all to see,” he said. Dr Annie Jacob, Director, KCG College of Technology, who was a special guest, added, “It is wonderful to see so many beautiful photos through the eyes of non-Indians. These photos help us pause from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and appreciate the beauty of our country,” she said. The judges and special guests presented the awards. The event was wrapped up with beer and brunch.


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Har Sahay Meena, Commissioner of Tourism and Managing Director, TTDC, gives away a prize for the Faces category to Marlene Wiegreffe of Germany at the cermony

Judges speak “All the photographs in this competition were of pretty good quality. I was looking for the motifs in the images as well as some technical finesse,” said Jochen Stallkamp of the judging process. “I was looking for some emotions in the photographs and ultimately those were the ones I chose. There are a few that are still stuck in my head,” chipped in Tanvi Shah.

The Global Adjustments Cultural Ambassador Award 2016 was presented to Mithun Sacheti, CEO, Jaipur Gems and CaratLane. The bronze Ardhanareeshwara presented to him celebrates the tenacious attributes of a man and the intuitive powers of a woman, both of which are possessed by a successful entrepreneur.

C.P. Satyajit added, “I am generally averse to judging but I did this because the judging process also, at times, results in self-analysis. You start seeing things with clarity. I was looking at two things: One, what was the photographer experiencing? And, two, what experience does it evoke in me. I was also looking at how the photographer was engaging with the subjects, and in essence with India, rather than just at the picture, and the composition.”


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Dancers speak Allison Cozart: Thank you to Global Adjustments and our wonderful teachers! I have truly enjoyed dancing each week with such a fun group of ladies. It has made my first few months here in India so memorable already.

Sarah Monk: Thank you for giving us this opportunity. I had a great time and loved dancing with all the lovely ladies. It really was a great day! (Standing L-R) Melissa Freitas of Brazil, Sharon Bonnar of UK, Sophie Fontant of France, Allison Cozart of the USA, Christelle Forby and Sophia El Mehdy of France, Jenny Niezen of New Zealand. (Sitting L-R) Suvi Kumar (choreographer) of India, Verunka Ondrackova of Czech Republic, Ulla Lang of Germany, Sophie Vazquez of Spain, Sarah Monk of the UK, Anna Bozzi of Italy, Emily Schmidt of the USA and Tujika of Sri Lanka

Christelle Forby: Thank you so much for the great moments. I had so much fun and I am proud of what we accomplished together! I will remember this when I rock in my chair as an 80-year-old.

Hospitality Partner:

Supported by:


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Beautiful India by Team Culturama

Lights, camera prizes! Over 750 photographs, from 60 expats from 17 nations, poured into our offices for the 19th Beautiful India Photo Competition. And on November 20, the winners were announced. Here’s a selection of the photos that won the top honours across the various categories – Places, Faces, Culture and Festivals, Into India, Humour and Digital India accompanied by snippets from the photographers on how and when they shot them...


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Flowers at the temple

I took this picture at a temple in Mylapore, Chennai. Next to the temple was a small path that lead to a tiny garden with a Nagalingam tree. The caretaker was plucking some flowers to give to the temple's priest as offerings to the gods. He filled up a whole basket of these wonderful, colourful, delicate flowers and then presented me with the one on his hand, seen in this photograph. The light at that time of the day was wonderful and the shadows on his hand and on the flower were just perfect. The contrast between the delicacy of the bright flower and his rough hands in that light of the day is just an example of how simple real beauty can be in India.

Kathlijn Fruithof, Belgium

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Waves close in on Ganesh

This was my first Ganesh Chaturthi, and I was at the Thiruvalluvar Nagar Beach in Kottivakkam, Chennai. It was an overwhelming experience. An endless stream of Lord Ganeshas arrived by truck and were being carried into the sea. I was fascinated by this one particular Ganesh. I watched it be immersed, only to return to the shore!

Kate Wentworth, USA

Heavy Jack

My young niece Juliette visited India mainly to see elephants. She was over-excited when she saw her first elephant at Periyar, carrying timber. She took this jack fruit and came to me saying, “Look, I can also carry enormous stuff!�

Arnaud Passieux, France


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Attention!

Thrissur Pooram is a temple festival held annually in God's own country, Kerala. Thirty grand elephants adorned with gold and multicoloured armour were directed by young men playing instruments, holding up beautiful umbrellas and displaying detailed and intricately designed decoration. Surrounded by sweaty local men and women who were just as enthusiastic to see these magnificent beasts and this unique procession as I was, I was able to capture this moment which was probably, by far, the calmest moment of the festival.

Bhavia Joshi, UK

Can't see a thing This image was taken in Mylapore during a PSM (Photographic Society of Madras) Photowalk on September 5, 2016. I knew that Global Adjustments had listed a new category for the 2016 Expat Photo competition, that is. Digital India. Woah, what do I shoot? Have it. "An elderly lady and a mobile phone.� Given the popularity of mobiles across all ages. So during the photowalk I had this on my mind and was lucky to get the image I had visualized.

Stuart Kinkade, USA


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Happy first birthday Lilly

Lilly Sophie was born in Chennai on December 8, 2014. For her first birthday she was gifted traditional anklets from an Indian family. This photo was taken on her first birthday. Lilly is happily turning two soon, and it's very emotional for me to see her photograph winning a prize. Our Indian girl!

Sylvia Ricanek, Germany

Hope my prayers work We were driving to our company’s plant located in Oragadam and decided to take a diversion. We discovered a small, freshly painted, shiny Hindu temple and stopped for a few seconds to shoot it. An old woman came to us and insisted on opening the temple especially for us. We entered and spent a few minutes there, during which she called the priest to bless us. This picture was shot at that moment. It was beautiful because it was totally un-planned in the middle of a work day. We were alone, far from any touristy place, into India.

Pierre Benichou, France


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Modernity

I took this photo in Varanasi, India's oldest and holiest city. It was very early in the morning when I arrived at the ghat to watch the sunrise. Hindu priests perform a ritual ceremony with lamps, incense, bells and chants every day. In this photograph, a man is recording the ceremony with a cell phone, which reminded me, how easily an incredible moment can be recorded and instantly shared with others around the world. This is the perfect integration of a tradition dating back thousands of years with the technology that is in our hands today.

Melissa Freitas, Brazil

Precious I met the young jewellery vendor in a small alley, in Varanasi, during one of my early morning walks. I clearly remember that the word ‘Precious’ came to my mind at that very moment. The real ‘jewel’ was looking shyly towards me, from behind the colourful, cheap chains and necklaces.

Ruxandra Cruceana Passieux, Romania


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India Impressions Text & Photos by Ashok Viswanathan

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Sculptures of yore


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The temple town of Belur is located in the district of Hassan in the south Indian state of Karnataka. Along with the nearby temple town of Halebedu, it is one of India’s well-known tourist attractions, located about 220 km. from Bengaluru and 22km. from Chikmagalur. The word hoy in Hoysala translates to ‘strike’. A devotee named Sala, who was performing rituals at the Jain temple was attacked by a tiger which he killed with one blow. As a result, Sala became the first ruler of the Empire and the tiger became his kingdom’s emblem. The temples here date back to the Hoysala Empire and to the period of King Vishnuvardhana who commissioned it to be built in 1117AD. It took 103 years to complete. During his reign 1,500 temples were built in 958 locations. Of these only 100 survive today. There are several temples scattered in small towns and

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villages in the area. The Hoysala rule lasted about 300 years. The main attraction is the Chennakeshava temple in Belur, dedicated to Vishnu. It is the best example of Hoysala architecture. It is 37 metres high with carvings covering the outer walls from floor to ceiling. The walls are lined with carvings of elephants, horses, lions and sensuous dancers. Although the temple complex was built in 1117 AD, there are still two shrines in use today by devotees, with a step well on the right of the main entrance. If you are in South India, a trip to Belur and Halebedu is well worth it.


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India Diaries by Dr. Angelika Villinger

Of loss and hope The writer compares and contrasts two landmark events – the floods of last year and the demonitisation decision of this year... November 2015. Many of us, expats, remember this month very well. This was when thousands of people were suffering due to the loss of their homes, and fear caused by a flood which ultimately had its climax in December 2015. Many people even lost family members or friends. It was an extremely traumatising experience. We, as expats, had different problems. We had very little contact with our families, back in our home countries due to bad or no internet and phone connection, were scared for our spouses trying to reach home from office, and were worried about the possibilities of our kids falling ill and being unable able to reach a hospital, if required... It was a feeling of loss of control. However, most of us stayed in safe homes with supplies of food and water. India showed us, yet again, how privileged we were. Yes – it wasn't an easy situation at all. As we were all in India without our family and old friends, we found out something unique: how important connectivity can be between new friends – doesn't matter from which part of the world, which religion or orientation they are. We all had to face the same problems and that's what grounded us again. That was November 2015. As we continued our daily routine after this catastrophe, in November 2016 some of us had a flash back... On

November 8, this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced, during a speech on TV, that notes worth 500 and 1,000 rupees will be invalid starting that midnight. The feeling of lack of control came back, at least to some extent. Our first reaction was a ‘wallet check’. How much money do I have in cash, and how many 500 and 1,000 rupee notes do I have, which aren't valid anymore? But after sometime we realized that it wasn't important that there was no use for our notes anymore. It was the lack of new money itself that concerned us. Again: lack of control, and the feeling being dominated by a new situation. Within days we adapted to the new situation, queuing in ATMs or petrol stations and being restricted to getting, initially, just 2000 rupees in cash per day (whenever the ATMs were not out of order due to lack of notes). We had no other chance and tried to find ways to handle this situation. And luckily we could pay almost everything by credit or debit cards and cheques. We were not really suffering compared to the many poor people. We became innovative again in handling the circumstances. The flood wasn't helpful to anybody. But the decision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was designed to fight against corruption and money laundering. An important step for India!


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Srirangam and river Kaveri bathed in moonlight

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Feature Text & Photo by J. Ramanan and Vrinda Ramanan

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Stunning Srirangam Srirangam‌ Bhooloka Vaikuntam is a pictorial tribute to the first of the 108 Vaishnava Divyadesams (temples mentioned in the works of Tamil poets, called azhwars). This book contains a compilation of interesting mythological legends, historical facts and figures, art and architecture and fascinating festivals. The highlight, however, is the array of stunning photographs of the temple precincts of Nam Perumal, decked with pearls and precious stones and seated on different vahanas (vehicles); the exile of Azhagiya Manavaalan in the forests of Seshachalam at the foothills of Tirumala and the frenzy festive fervor of this shrine, all captured by J. Ramanan with an appealing narration by Vrinda Ramanan.

Excerpts from a new book, Srirangam‌ Bhooloka Vaikuntam


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Pandha Katchi, the showing of lit lamps to the Lord on a processional ceremony

The boisterous Veda Pari festival is a photographer's delight

Nam Perumal, the deity of the temple, decked in Kili Malai (garland with parrots)


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Nayaka painting depicting Vibhishana, a character from the Indian epic Ramayana carrying the Vimana (vehicle)

This glorious temple is spread over 156 acres, has 7 prakaaras (area outside the sanctum of the temple), 21 temple towers and the main shrine is dedicated to Shriman Narayana reclining on the serpent bed of Adisesha, who was worshipped by the illustrious Ikshvaku Dynasty. The presiding deity, Azhagiya Manavaalan, is the handsome hero of this book whom devotees congregate to admire. He is the star, the icon that is brought with great gaiety, in procession, almost every day, on the streets of Srirangam, for his devout followers to see and enjoy. This is the only kshetra (holy place) that has been sung about by all the azhwars. The outpouring of their heavenly experiences with the lord is called the Naalayira Divya Prabandham or Tamil Marai. A festive fervour always lingers in the temple precincts almost throughout the year, for nearly 322 days. On every festive occasion, the idol of the lord is attired regally and carried in various vahanas for all his devotees to see. Each festival is of great significance. The simple and the learned flock to the temple to participate in the festival and receive the blessings of the Lord.


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Through light and sound, vision and recitation, the congregation is put in touch with the heavenly realm. Srirangam is a veritable heaven on earth made holy by this glorious presence and a treasure trove where Hindu culture and tradition thrive. This book is available at Focus Gallery, T.T.K. Road, Chennai. It is also available online at www.amazon.in. Price Rs. 1,800. For details, call 09884012123. Vrinda Ramanan is a trained Bharathanatyam dancer. She is the Artistic Director of Bala Kala Vidhanam, an Academy of Indian Arts where classical arts, yoga and tai chi are being taught. J. Ramanan is a practising architect with a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture (1974) and a Master’s in Town and Country Planning (1977) from the University of Madras. He is also a photographer. He has authored a book ‘The Joy of the Himalaya’. Currently, along with his wife Vrinda, he is working on the book ‘The Mountains of our Destiny’.


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Look Who’s In Town Chennai

Verunka Ondrackova who works as an Event and Corporate Communication Manager at BNP Paribas Cardif, on moving from France to Chennai

The Indian spirit is powerful The family Verunka Ondrackova from the Czech Republic, Marc Poirrier from France and their children, six-year-old Anna and five-year-old Alexandre.

Then and now My first point of contact with India was with a person in Paris, in my University in 1996. When I studied psychology I had the choice to study Hindu philosophy instead of European philosophy. Before I came here I thought that it would be difficult to recognise when an Indian thinks ‘No’ when he says ‘Yes’, because culturally it is not possible to say ‘No’. Now I fully understand why we do not have the same interpretation of ‘No’. And I focus more on the body language, which is really easy to read.

India on a Platter The most interesting thing about Indian food is the perfumes of the spices. A typical dish in the metallic plate seems like a kolam, colourful and geometric with a harmonious alchemy between all the ingredients.

Festive Fervour The Ganesh Chaturthi celebration was an important experience for my kids. We live a few metres from the beach and during that week we saw trucks full of statuettes of Ganesh dropped on the beach to be offered to the sea. Since

this experience, a Ganesh idol is at our home like a protector and is the most popular god among our kids, and mine for sure.

Diverse India I love the diversity of so many interesting subjects in India the most important are for me education and art. As a volunteer, I offer my expertise in communication to the unique French school in Chennai : Ecole Franco-Indienne Sishya. You can read about it here, www.efis-chennai.com. My other favourite activity is photography. I have started a new project that speaks about modernity in India and the influence of India in the world.

Sightseeing My best experience was in the south of Tamil Nadu, in the Chettinad area. I learnt about the interesting history and the success stories of Nattukottai Chettiar businessmen and the beautiful nature and architecture of this area.

What I would like to change in India... Accelerate the emancipation of women.

I am taking home... The Indian spirit is powerful and will help us develop into a better humanity. I want to carry home from India enthusiasm, curiosity, boldness, the art of happiness and generosity.


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THEN

The historic alley that leads to the Jallianwala Bagh square

The Martyrs' Well tugs at your heart. In memory of those who jumped to the well to avoid death by gunshot.

Picture Story by Ranjini Manian

Poignancy, pride and patriotism

Join us on a pictorial journey into the heart of the historic state of Punjab, in the city of Amritsar. Poignant tales of valour stir us at the Jallianwala Bagh, where hundreds of men, women and children were martyred then in the course of India’s struggle for freedom. Patriotism and adrenaline are all at an all-time high at the Wagah border now. Here, we watch our brave jawans (Border Security Force) take long strides, with soldiers from across the border, a few metres away, in Pakistan marching too! It’s a show everyone must watch at least once in their lifetime.


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Now

The sunset glows over India and Pakistan

A bullet-proof army vehicle looms large

Cries of 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' (Victory to Mother India) fill the air at Wagah

A towering Indian jawan - member of one of the largest Border Security Forces of the world


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Advertisers Feature

An Ode to Dance The Mammallapuram Dance Festival, to be held in December and January, showcases numerous Indian dance forms and performers from across the world Music, dance and drama are an essential part of the people’s lives in Tamil Nadu. And given that Chennai is the ‘cultural capital’ of India, a number of cultural fairs and festivals are held here throughout the year. Of these, one of the most famous is the Mamallapuram Dance Festival, organised by Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC). The month-long festival, is usually held in the months of December and January. This year, it will run from December 20, 2016 to January 20, 2017. First organised in 1992 to celebrate local art forms, the Dance Festival is held within the temples of Mamallapuram, which are regarded as architectural wonders in their own rite. Over the years, this cultural extravaganza has attracted performers from various parts of India – Tamil Nadu,

Puducherry, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Karnataka, Kerala, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Odisha, Assam, Sikkim, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Performers from different parts of the world, such as The Netherlands, Ukraine, Suriname, South Africa and Dubai, have participated as well. Over a 100 performances of various dance forms will be on view. The South Zone Cultural Centre, Department of Arts and Culture, and the various State Tourism Departments have sponsored a variety of dance forms. Visitors will be treated to classical dance forms such as Bharathanatyam, Kathak, Odissi, Mohiniyattam and Kuchipudi, as well as folk dances such as Karagam, Kavadi, Kokkalikattai Attam, Bommalatam, Therukoothu, Thappattam and Oyilattam. The entire event plays a very crucial role in bringing out the cultural diversity of India – hence, it is also known as the ‘Indian Dance Festival’. A large number of tourists from across India and other parts of the world flock to this cultural extravaganza year after year.


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At Global Adjustments by Team Culturama

Give to the needy, and take joy

Clockwise from top-left: beneficiaries of our eduction sponsorship, 'give and take' charity umbrellas distributed, workshop for children, donation of gifts for school students, lunch for students of Corporation School in Mandaveli

There lived a king who was a miser and never knew ‘giving’. One day he fell in a river and his minister extended his hand so that the king could hold it and he could drag the king to the shore. The minister said, “Oh king, please give me your hand,” and the king was clueless about what the minister had said. The smart minister who knew the king well then said, “Oh king, please take my hand,” and the king immediately grabbed him. Unlike the king, Global Adjustments Foundation, apart from imparting life-education to various segments of people, also derives satisfaction in “giving” to those who are in need. We believe that helping society is the rent that one pays for living on earth. The Foundation funds the total educational costs of a group of students from underprivileged backgrounds every year. We periodically meet the students to instil confidence in them and their parents to emphasise the need for quality parenting. The Foundation has also been helping flood victims in medical emergencies. The Foundation donated desks to a government school in Virugambakkam after the old ones

At Global Adjustments Foundation we believe that helping society is the rent that one pays for living on earth

were damaged during last year’s floods. This was done with the support of Radiance Realty Services as a part of their Corporate Social Responsibility initiative. Another regular programme, being successfully organised for a year now, is a monthly project called “Give and Take”. As part of this programme, some good Samaritans donate a particular item in the first week of every month, which is collected and donated. The items collected are rice, pulses, oil, and so on and these are given to orphanages or old age homes. Recently, umbrellas were given to roadside vendors, to reduce their struggle of sitting in the rain to earn a living. A row of roadside vendors in Mylapore, Chennai benefited from this gesture. Global Adjustments presents Spiritual fellowship and end of year retreat on passage meditation and allied disciplines. Come join us for reading, discussions, activities and meditation to set goals for the New Year with a potluck lunch. On December 17, Saturday, 1000 hrs–1430 hrs. RSVP foundation@globaladjustments.com. Venue – Global Adjustments Foundation, No 5, 3rd Main Road, R. A. Puram, Chennai


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Seeing India by Shefali Ganesh

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Early morning view from Ghangaria. Photo: Shashank Kulkarni

In Search of Firdaus

Discover the stunning landscapes of the verdant Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand


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Photo: Sandip via Flickr

Poet Amir Khusro once said in the graceful Farsi tongue, ‘Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast, Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast’. If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this. I have these beautiful words on my lips as I discover my very own firdaus in the ‘Dev Bhoomi’ (Land of Gods) – Uttarakhand. In the wee hours of the morning, the Haridwar Railway Station wears a deserted look. Porters hang around listlessly. The Mussoorie Express chugs in and with it the holy city of Haridwar wakes up to the day’s chaos, welcoming pilgrims to its sacred soil. As I clamber down with my bag, I feel a thrill passing through me, that of beginning my maiden trip to Dev Bhoomi or the ‘Land of Gods’. This was more than a pilgrimage; it was to be an adventure – one that would take

me up close to the lofty Himalayas – a trek to the Valley of Flowers. My fellow trekkers have gathered around; an excited lot of 20, all ready to lace up the boots and stomp ahead to find our firdaus. Our destination, the Valley of Flowers lies beyond Haridwar, nestled at a height of 3,600 m above sea level among the Zanskar ranges. For most of the year, it seems the valley, a UNESCO World Biosphere reserve, lies hidden under a spell of snow. Between the months of June and September, it takes on a magical look, with flowers of every colour creating a quilt of vivacious colours. We set off feeling like little Dorothy in search of the magical Land of Oz. As we travel along from Haridwar, the camaraderie in the van has already been cemented with plenty of laughter and


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Trail to Ghangaria. Photo: Shashank Kulkarni

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lively chatter. Uttarakhand seems to be where God started off creating his wonderful world – one set amidst snow-capped mountains, green valleys, waterfalls and streams. It is here that the sacred river Ganga attains its full, gracious life-giving form. We witness in awe the five confluences or Prayags that turn into Ganga. We meet the mesmerising Alakananda who gushes along to meet five others. The Dauliganga, Nandakini, Pindar, Mandakini and the Bhagirathi join Alakananda at five points – Vishnuprayag, Nandaprayag, Karnaprayag, Rudraprayag and Devprayag. Five beautiful maidens come together to make the succinctly named mother Ganga, who miraculously sustains a large part of the Indian subcontinent.

Here we come, mountains! The buzzing group can’t wait to reach Govindghat from where our real trek starts to the base camp Gangria village, a 13 km long one, filled with scenic beauty at every juncture. As we start our trek, we gape at the Alakananda on her purposeful journey, the mystical mountains that loom ahead of us and the azure skies filled with promises. It’s easy to forget the long distances, tough climbs and backpacks with this natural anaesthesia that Mother Nature fills us with. Our pahadi guide Yashpal walks along with us. Conversation veers around snowy winters, when villages shut down or just relocate to the plains. Landslides are common in these areas, and often life comes to a halt till the boulders are cleared from the narrow mountain roads. As we walk, we dodge mule-droppings; life at Ghangria depends on these mules that carry provisions. These are a handsome lot, a cross-breed, we learn between a horse and a mule, that makes them sturdy and nimble footed as well. Innumerable dhaba-stops later, we ascend the mountains to reach our base camp, Ghangria. Life at Ghangria is easily summed up – narrow cobbled paths, one leading to the local gurdwara and another leading on into the mountains, couple of phone booths and many little food shacks. The gurdwara deserves a special mention, for the warmth travellers derive from their early morning prayers, not to forget finger-licking prasad! The jingling mule bells and hymns from the gurdwara wake us up for our daylong trek.

Hemkund Sahib Before we visit the Valley of Flowers, we decide to take the blessings of Hemkund Sahib – the highest Sikh gurdwara in India at 15,000 ft. The clouds envelop us as we begin the climb to the gurdwara. Sikh pilgrims egg us on, with generous handfuls of nuts and colourful legends about Hemkund Sahib. This is where the last Guru of Sikhism meditated


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standards of self-sufficiency – it not only provides food and succour to its pilgrims, it generates its own power with a water turbine. The brave hearts among us take a freezing dip in the ice-cold waters of Hemkund. We pay our respects, savour the langar of piping hot tea and khichdi, and ring the bell at the Lakshman temple nearby as we leave. As we start our trek back to camp, the sun parts the clouds and gives us an awe-inspiring view of the seven snow-touched peaks around Hemkund. For first-time trekkers like me, the clear waters of the lake had shown us also the tougher side of ourselves.

The Valley of Flowers The next day dawned bright as we set out to find our paradise – the Valley of Flowers. If the trek to Hemkund was picturesque, this one to the valley is a heavenly experience. The river Pushpavati gurgles out of the valley, her soothing sounds following us across the mountains. We follow criss-crossing flower-strewn paths, skipping light-heartedly through tiny waterfalls. After a picnic stop by the stream and a meditative snooze on the warm rocks, we move on to the viewpoint of the valley.

Brave little soldier after an icy dip in Hemkund

Photo: Praveen via Flickr

in his previous birth. The place also features in the Hindu epic, Ramayan, where Lakshman rested when injured in the great war. The able Hanuman flew on to the neighbouring mountain and got herbs from the Valley of Flowers to cure Lakshman. The climb up is probably the toughest part of the entire trek, both because of the steepness and the cold. We pant and puff our way up to enter the stunningly set Hemkund Sahib – a symbol of faith among the lofty white peaks of the Himalayas that surround it. The gurudwara sets exemplary

We are mentally prepared for the magical sight of our Ithaca – a veritable oasis of flowers, their heady scents bursting through our senses. We sight the snowy white peaks of Mt. Kamet amidst the green of the valley. The clouds seem to float towards us, as if whispering a secret. They part to reveal the vast green valley, with but just a scattering of flowers! Swallowing my disappointment, I recollect a passage from the poem Ithaca; “This is Ithaca. She gave you the marvellous journey, without her, you would not have set out. If you find her poor, Ithaca won’t have fooled you. Wise as you will have become and so full of experience.” The mountain air is intoxicating and brings back our enthusiasm. We hear our guide’s consoling words, ‘It must be the heavy rains. They say you can either see the flowers or the valley. Don’t you see firdaus in the valley?’ We agree. The clouds tell us to come back soon. We promise to ourselves that we will.

Best times to visit the Valley of Flowers is June–August.

Set aside a couple of days to explore Rishikesh for the best water rafting in India and Auli for some snow skiing experience.

The last Indian village on the Indo-China border is also a place you could visit.


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Calendar of events

Presenting the best of India’s events in different categories across Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and nearby suburbs

Art & Exhibitions

Exhibition Chennai

Art Festival Goa

HeART BEAT Foundation and Stella Maris College present a joint art show for the 'International Day of Persons with Disabilities'. The artists are all ‘special’ as they are creative people who have surged ahead despite their physical conditions and limitations. The artists whose works will be on display include R. Udhayakumar, K. Narasimhalu, Suvedha Ganesh and Uttam Kumar.

Serendipity Arts Festival constitutes exciting programmes of exhibitions and performances music, dance, theatre, visual arts, and culinary arts for social and educational engagement. The festival will feature eight days of immersive arts experience, at seven venues across Panaji, Goa, with 14 curators facilitating dialogues and 40 commissioned projects. Details at www. serendipityartsfestival.com

Date: December 2–5 Time: 1000 hrs–1800 hrs Venue: Mini Auditorium, Stella Maris College, Cathedral Road

Date: December 16–23 Time: 1100 hrs onwards Venue: Various venues across Goa

Art Tour Mumbai Mumbai fosters art, culture and creativity in its every nook and corner and exploring this can be a magical experience. The purpose of this tour is to familiarise you with the art and architecture of South Mumbai. Date: Until December 23 Time: 1600 hrs Venue: The Asiatic Society Mumbai Town Hall, Outside Asiatic Library Entrance (Stairs), Fort


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Music

World Music Chennai

Hindustani Bengaluru

Anoushka Shankar brings her Land of Gold, live to Chennai. Land of Gold, Anoushka’s album for Deutsche Grammophon, is her heartfelt response to the trauma and injustice being experienced by refugees.

Bhoomija presents the magician of our times! Pandit Venkatesh Kumar is among the foremost musicians of our times.

Date: December 2 Time: 1930 hrs Venue: Sri Mutha Venkarasubba Rao Concert Hall

Carnatic Chennai First Edition Arts presents one of the most compelling and brilliant Carnatic musicians and vocalists of our time, TM Krishna in a full Carnatic classical concert. Date: December 3 Time: 1800 hrs Venue: Swatantryaveer Savarkar Smarak Sabhagriha, 252 Swatantryaveer Savarkar Marg, Shivaji Park

Date: December 10 Time: 1900 hrs Venue: MLR Convention Centre, Brigade Millennium, 7th Phase J.P. Nagar

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Events

Comedy Bengaluru Based on the eponymous movie from the 1950s, BLT's version of Maya Bazaar is in English and is a contemporary retelling of the classic yarn. How does Abhimanyu win the hand of Sashirekha, the love of his life, with some help from Ghatothkacha and his merry rakshasas and Krishna, the original magician? Date: Until December 24 Time: 1930 hrs Venue: Various venues across Bengaluru

Play Mumbai Bombed is a light-hearted look at today's urban youth, the city we live in, religion, and how our paranoia about terrorism warps our lives and our relationships with neighbours and friends. Date: December 1 Time: 1600 hrs, 1900 hrs and 2130 hrs Venue: Prithvi Theatre, 20 Janki Kutir, Juhu Church Road

Theatre Mahesh Dattani's powerful and gripping tale of a complex mother-daughter relationship, 30 Days in September brilliantly directed by Lillete Dubey has completed over 200 shows around the world. Date: December 10 Time: 1930 hrs Venue: Epicentre at Apparel House, Sector 44, Opp. Power Grid Residential Complex, Gurgaon, NCR


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A typical Carnatic concert has performers and accompanying musicians. This is an image from Aikya 2016, a concert for a cause organised by Global Adjustments.

Spotlight by Team Culturama

Music and dance season December

In the months of December and January, the southern ‘culture capital’ Chennai plays host to a series of music and dance festivals. Cultural clubs, known as sabhas, vie with one another to put up performance schedules that feature the most number of leading artistes. We give you the insider’s guide on where to go to get a glimpse of the best. For more details of the sabhas and their schedules, visit www.kutcheribuzz.com.

com/cfxqvl4 to watch how one form of the taalam is done.) •

Do eat lunch at one of the sabhas on traditional banana leaves.

Brush up on your December Season lingo! Sabha: An assembly or gathering, in this case of music lovers, promoting music, dance or art.

Editor’s note

Kutcheri: Vocal performance or concert of classical music.

The music season is a more relaxed experience than Western formal classical music, so here are a few dos and don’ts:

Ragam: The scale or set of notes that form the musical composition.

Do book your tickets in advance – in some cases, tickets are sold at the venue.

Do catch a few end-pieces of performances as they often have the best numbers. Don’t hesitate to keep ‘taalam’ or rhythm by beating your palms on your thighs rhythmically to show appreciation. (Visit http://tinyurl.

Alapanai: Explanation of the notes used in the song that is to be sung. Mudras: Hand symbols used to convey some expressions. Abhinayas: Facial expressions that show emotions. Tiffin: A snack or an in-between meal like dosas or idlis, varieties of tiffin are served.


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Learn a yoga pose by Namita Jain

The cobra

This pose resembles a cobra, when it lifts its hood up and hisses, as if it is about to strike! 1. Lie with your abs resting on the mat. Place your palms flat on the mat, facing downwards, just below your shoulders. 2. Slowly lift your head and chest and arch your back. Try not to place too much weight on your hands, but use your back muscles to lift your chest up. Variation Extend your arms and lift your chest and spine as high as possible.

india • srilanka • maldives • and beyond

Benefits: Massages abdominal muscles and strengthens the spine. 39


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Festivals of India this december find out how India celebrates christmas

Christmas

December 25

According to some historical sources, Christianity first came to India in 52 AD when Thomas the Apostle visited an ancient seaport called Muziris in Kerala. Thomas also established the oldest church in India, namely, the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in Palayoor, Kerala. The British established many churches as well, the oldest one being St. Mary’s Church in Chennai.


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Christmas is celebrated with a lot of fanfare in many parts of the country. Some local traditions have also influenced the celebrations. In South India, lamps made of clay serve as decorating accessories, while Christian Bhil tribes from Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan sing their own carols every night for a week during Christmas. In Goa, beautiful lights and poinsettia flowers adorn the churches and homes, and children sing Christmas carols late into the night. Attending the midnight mass, joining friends and family for a special lunch and donating to charities to mark the spirit are some of the key elements of Christmas celebrations. We have put together a list of information for the major cities (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Chennai) so that you can have a merry Christmas.

Where to go for Christmas Mass Delhi St. James Church, the oldest cathedral in Delhi (built in 1836), is a popular location during Christmas. The Sacred Heart Cathedral, which is more than 80 years old, located in Connaught Place, is one of the largest in New Delhi.

Mumbai Saint Michael’s Church in Mahim, one of the oldest Catholic churches in India, was built in the 16th century. One of its well-known features is the picture of the Virgin Mary. Mount Mary’s Basilica, which sits atop a hill near the Bandra Bandstand, is about 100 years old. It houses a statue of Mother Mary that dates back to the 16th century. Midnight

mass here is very popular amongst Mumbai residents.

Kolkata The Armenian Church of the Holy Nazareth, built around 1724, is said to be the oldest church in the city. The church celebrates Christmas on January 6, in line with the Orthodox Christian tradition. One of the first buildings erected by the East India Company (in 1784), the St. John’s Church is the third oldest church in Kolkata. Modelled on St. Martin-in the-Fields in London, its prime attraction is a replica of ‘The Last Supper’, which was painted by 17th century German painter Johann Zoffany.

Bengaluru CSI East Parade Malayalam Church has the honour of being the oldest and largest Malayalam Church in Bengaluru. There is no midnight mass, but a Christmas service is held in the morning. The Hudson Memorial Church in Hudson Circle, a 110-year-old church, is known for its Gothic architecture – long with pointed arches, ribbed vaulted ceilings, quarter foil openings, lancet windows and stained glass.

Chennai The Santhome Basilica, built in 1523, was built over the tomb of St. Thomas, an apostle of Jesus Christ. This is one of three basilicas in the world built over the tomb of an apostle. The Armenian Apostolic Church, built in 1712, is one of the oldest churches in India and is best known for a bell tower where one can see six bells. It celebrates Christmas on January 6.


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Myth & Mythology by Devdutt Pattanaik

Virgin Mary in Indians have been familiar with the idea of ‘Amma’, or mothergoddess who protects and provides for the village


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She is the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, and she is draped in sari. Thousands of devotees throng her shrine at Vailankanni, in Tamil Nadu, deemed basilica by the Roman Catholic Church in 1962. They bow to her, stretch out their hands to her, lie on their face before her, crawl to her shrine, sing songs of her glory, weep in joy, shave their heads and offer her flowers, saris and candles as an expression of their devotion, for she is the Lady of Good Health. The story goes that in the 16th century, a cowherd was on his way to the market to sell milk when he stopped to drink water from a pond and rest under a banyan tree. A woman appeared before him bearing a child in her hand and asked for some milk for her child. The boy gave her his pot of milk. After feeding her son, she returned the pot, thanked the cowherd and disappeared. When the boy reached the market, his customers were upset because he was late. He apologised and told them of what he encountered. Then to everyone’s astonishment, the pot started overflowing with milk. This was no ordinary woman. This was clearly a goddess. The local Catholics recognised her as the Virgin Mary. A small shrine was built for her near the pond where she appeared. The pond was named Matha Kulam, or the Mother’s Pool, or Our Lady’s Pool. A few years later, some say it was in 1597, she appeared once again, to a lame boy who was selling buttermilk on the roadside. She asked for some buttermilk to feed her child. After the child was fed, she asked the boy to deliver a message to a Catholic resident in the town of Nagapattinam, requesting him to build a church for her. But the boy pointed out that he was lame and would be unable to act as her messenger. The lady smiled and asked him to try standing up. To the boy’s surprise, not only could he stand but he could also walk and run to the town and deliver the message. The gentleman was in no doubt that Our Lady of Good Health was responsible for this miracle. Finally, a group of Portuguese sailors on their way from Macau, China to Sri Lanka encountered a terrible storm in the Bay of Bengal and prayed to Mother Mary, promising to build a church for her if saved. They landed safely in the area associated with Our Lady of Good Health. These three apparitions appeared in the same area where, today, stands the Gothic style Basilica that draws over two million pilgrims especially during her nine-day festival in

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August–September. The Mass is conducted in at least eight languages: Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Konkani, Marathi, Hindi and English. People of all religions and castes throng the shrine whose divine resident is said to cure all ailments. This place is called ‘Lourdes of the East’, although in Lourdes, a village in France, Mary appeared to a local peasant girl only in the 19th century. The festival of the virgin of Vailankanni involves hoisting a flag on the flagpole before the church and ends with her crowning and her procession. Those who are cured of ailments often return with gifts of a sari, and a replica of the cured body part, made in silver or gold. For devotees, Our Lady of Vailankanni gives children to the childless, and finds spouses for the unmarried, and jobs for the jobless. She heals every wound and wipes away all suffering. She understands the suffering of humanity. In art, she is sometimes shown with a crescent moon at her feet, complementing the sun, who is her son, Lord Jesus Christ. The church brings together Catholic beliefs and many Hindu rituals. And although it may disturb a puritan, the local representatives of the Roman Catholic denomination respect the vast and intense outpouring of faith expressed using an Indian idiom. For thousands of years, Indians have been familiar with the idea of ‘Amma’, or mother-goddess who protects and provides for the village. Across India, in almost every village, there are local manifestations of the Goddess, who help women bear children, who cure ailments and when angry, can cause plagues and epidemics. It is quite possible that before the shrine of Our Lady of Good Health, this was a local goddess shrine, either tribal, or Hindu, or Buddhist, or Jain, or all of these over centuries. For in India, denominations may change, but the deity remains. In pre-Christian traditions, divinity was often seen through the female form. While the male form offered salvation, the female form took care of health and home. We find this divide in Buddhism too, with the Bodhisattva speaking of enlightenment and Tara, the goddess born of his tears, offering compassion. Likewise if Vishnu of Shri Vaishnavism is associated with dharma (law) and moksha (liberation), Lakshmi embodies artha (wealth) and kama (pleasure). For many Muslims, the ‘hand’ of Fatima, the prophet’s daughter is a good luck charm and protection from the evil eye. Naturally, every Indian is drawn to Our Lady’s basilica.

Published in Mumbai Mirror on 7th August, 2016. Reprinted with permission from devdutt.com


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Holistic living by Eknath Easwaran

Forgiving Others, Forgiving Ourselves The marvel of forgiveness is this: when we can completely forgive someone the tantrum they threw this afternoon, we are at the same time beginning to forgive ourselves for every tantrum we have ever thrown at others. You can see how practical a step it is to take. All those other people may long since have forgotten what we did and said—maybe some of them didn’t really care much in the first place. But deep in our own minds, every single storm has left its mark. Every storm has burst a little hole in the consciousness through which angry thoughts, angry words and angry acts gradually seep into our daily life. In this sacred act of forgiveness we are mending thousands of these little holes. It relieves us of part of the tremendous burden that all of us carry within, healing our

consciousness and taking the pressure of anxiety off our mind and our nervous system. And it makes us much less likely to get provoked the next time someone rubs us the wrong way. This is the miracle forgiveness works. Only those who forgive others will enjoy the healing power of forgiveness in themselves, because in showing mercy to others we are being merciful with ourselves as well. The reason is simple: only then are we abiding by life’s most fundamental law, that all of us are one. If I give love to others it means I stand to benefit from that love as much as they. Not necessarily immediately, not necessarily directly, but that love has to come back to me; for I have added to the 6 Blue Mountain Journal Summer 2016 measure of love in the world, the mystics say, and I am part of that whole. Similarly, if I add meanness, stinginess, resentment, hostility, then sooner or later that sort of treatment will be shown to me.


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5 Join Us Every Saturday India Immersion Centre in Chennai facilitates a weekly spiritual fellowship group following Easwaran’s Eight Point Programme of Meditation. E-mail us for more information at globalindian@globaladjustments.com. If you are in other cities, visit www.easwaran.org for e-satsangs.

Only those who forgive others will enjoy the healing power of forgiveness in themselves

This is not as occult as it may sound. After all, when someone treats us unkindly, isn’t it natural that we begin to avoid that person, speak curtly, even be unkind ourselves? When a person is regularly unkind, it conditions our expectations; then, when that person surprises us with something thoughtful – it does happen! – we may shun him anyway, simply out of habit. It is the same with kindness: when we can count on a person to be loving, we give our love freely in return, and allow a wide margin for those rare times when he or she might act otherwise. That is how our responses to life come back to us.

been much misunderstood, but its literal meaning is simply action, something done. So instead of using exotic language, we might as well refer to the “law of action,” which states that everything we do – even everything we think, since our thoughts condition our behaviour – has consequences. It is a law of life, which no one has stated more clearly than Jesus: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be meted unto you.” Paul puts it more tersely: “As we sow, so shall we reap.” If we sow mercy, we shall receive it in ample harvest.

In Hindu and Buddhist mysticism, this common-sense principle is called the law of karma. The word karma has

Reprinted with permission from ‘Forgiving Others, Forgiving Ourselves’, an article by Eknath Easwaran from The Blue Mountain Journal. Copyright The Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, P.O. Box 256, Tomales, CA 94971, www.easwaran.org. (Extract from http:// bmcmwebsite.s3.amazonaws.com/assets/bm-journal/2016/2016Summer.pdf)


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Culturama December 2016  

Join us on a photo journey through India in this edition of Culturama! Discover India through the eyes of expats who have won the top honour...