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Puducherry Special Issue State of wellness, State of bliss

January 2017 Volume 7, Issue 11

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Dear Readers,

In 1947, India was launched as a beacon of hope, as a democracy that actually works. Add 70 years to that date and you have 2017. What emerges is an ancient civilisation holding the world’s attention with its soft power and a young nation holding out immense possibilities to the world. This is the year of India@70. And Global Adjustments, which brings you Culturama every month, dedicates itself to spreading awareness of Indian business and culture as we start the new year. When I was a student at the Sorbonne University, Paris, I remember being asked if I was from 'pondi-che-rrrrrie' as the French pronounced the name of this wonderful union territory in India, rolling the ‘rrrrr’ impressively. The fact that I was darker skinned and had a decent grip of spoken French seemed to my collegemates to indicate that I was one of the few hundred people who actually vote in France’s presidential elections all the way from Puducherry. French would have been my mother tongue had I really been from Puducherry.

At the time, being raised in Mumbai, I had never seen this pristine part of our country. And I remember feeling oh so superior that I came from the west coast of India. A few years later, better sense dawned on me. I visited Puducherry in the southern part of the Indian peninsula, and realised what a beautiful place it is. On hindsight, I know it was a compliment to be mistaken for a Puducherrian, typified by a wonderful mix of Dravidian facial features and a genteel European touch. Today our company headquarters even has a Puducherry inspired facade. We dedicate this issue to Puducherry (named after the largest district which formed the region), the new name of Pondicherry. We hope our readers will be inspired, reading about a French gourmet chocolatier, an amazing meditation hall and a city that holds in its heart both India and France. Before I wish you a Happy New Year, we would like you to save the date (March 25) of Aikya 2017 (please see our back cover for details) – an amazing fundraiser concert bringing together talented sets of musicians from two very different parts of India, in a never-before-seen concert format. No, don’t hold your breath – rather breathe in deeply, as wonderful things promise to happen in India@70. Ranjini Manian, Editor-in-Chief globalindian@globaladjustments.com

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


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Our end-of-year greeting card was an Indian twist of the ‘12 days of Christmas’ song. We are delighted to share it here with Culturama readers. We are also humbled by the overwhelming response it received. The greeting is innovative and creative indeed! Shanker Annaswamy, Former Managing Director, IBM Thank you so much for this inspired holiday share. Andrew Hoover, Head of American International School, Chennai This is awesome. Sharing it on Facebook! Seshu Badrinath, Director of Photography – Connecticut Headshots Admire your creative genius and energy – may it infect widely and inspire. C. Rajasekhar, MEA

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,

It was fascinating to see the photographs of India through the eyes of expats in your previous edition. It threw a new light on what India means to those who are non-Indians and that there’s more to it than the world and the media in general portray. Vivian Mathew, Kochi

Dear Editor,

The feature on Srirangam in the December 2016 edition of Culturama was simply stunning. I enjoyed the pictures as well as the introduction to the temple town. V. Balasubramaniam, Chennai

Dear Editor

I was delighted to see my picture chosen for the cover of Culturama. Thank you. Melissa Freitas, Brazil

Dear Editor,

The Seeing India column titled In Search of Firdaus was beautiful. Virender Kumar


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Contents 44

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

26 Feature Puducherry. It has something for everyone – nature, culture, spirituality, health and wellness.

India’s Culture 8

Short Message Service

Short, engaging snippets of Indian culture.

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Festival of the Month

This January find out how India celebrates the New Year.

Journeys Into India 68

Seeing India

Make Puducherry your base for visiting some amazing, interesting and historic locations.

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Holistic Living

Go slow to see and enjoy life, understand people and situations, and make wise decisions.

Join us on a pictorial journey into beautiful, tranquil Puducherry.

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In Focus

Lalit Verma of Aurodhan on Puducherry, its artistic ambience and its inherent internationalism.

Regulars

Relocations and Property

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India Diaries

Eat, shop, live, love and pray – explore the chic alleys of Puducherry.

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/Craft Bidriware Bidriware is the name given to handcrafted black-metal products such as goblets, vases, plates, hookahs and bangles that are inlaid with thin sheets of brilliant silver. The art form originated in Persia and was brought to the Deccan in the 14th century by artisans working for the Sultans of the Islamic Bahmani kingdom. Today, it is associated with the hill city of Bidar, 75 miles north-west of Hyderabad. Bidriware is produced in eight stages. The metal piece made of zinc and copper is cast in a mould. It is filed and smoothed, then coated with a temporary coating. Intricate designs of flowers and leaves and geometric patterns are etched into the coating by hand before they are engraved into the metal. Fine wire or flattened strips of silver are hammered into the grooves and the object is filed, buffed and polished again, before being soaked in ammonium chloride mixed with local soil from Bidar Fort that darkens the body whilst leaving the silver inlay shining.

Food Falooda

Word Gadbad

Falooda is a cold dessert-drink of contrasting flavours and textures that is especially savoured on hot, sultry days. It was introduced to India by the Muslim rulers and merchants of the Mughal and Deccan Sultanates, for whom it was a luxurious drink made of ice gathered in winter from mountain tops and stored in insulated underground chambers. Traditionally, falooda is made from rose syrup, vermicelli noodles, tukmaria or sweet basil seeds, and tapioca pearls. These are layered in a tall chilled glass. Cold milk and more rose syrup is poured over and then garnished with chopped pistachios or almonds. Numerous variations on this basic recipe are to be found across the subcontinent.

Gadbad is a Hindi word meaning a muddle, a mess, confusion, disorder or disquiet. It can be used to describe a cacophony of sounds and noises – ‘Don’t make so much gadbad!’ – a misunderstanding, and even a disagreeable mixture of something. In Konkani or Kannada, gadbad translates loosely to ‘in a hurry’, and a gadbad ice cream is a mixture of three flavours that can be prepared quickly. ‘‘What’s the gadbad about?’ Try slipping this Hindi word into an English phrase – it will make you sound well entrenched into India!


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Name to Know Sachin and Binny Bansal

Interpretations Ghoonghat

Both from Chandigarh, both computer science engineering graduates from the Indian Institute of Technology, and both former employees of Amazon.com, Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal are brothers in many things, although they are not actually related. In 2007, they co-founded the online shopping company Flipkart.com from an apartment in Bengaluru. Initially, Flipkart sold books but has now diversified into categories ranging from fashion, lifestyle and home furnishings to books, electronics and appliances. The pair famously quit Amazon.com to create ‘the Amazon of India’. Sachin, who once wanted to be a professional gamer, is the acknowledged risk-taker of the duo, whilst Binny is the book buff who quotes George Bernard Shaw. They turned their lack of significant start-up capital to their advantage, focusing on client satisfaction, building back-end technology services and a logistics arm that ensures quick deliveries. Within three years the Bansals had created a new market where none had existed before. In 2013, they raised venture capital to the tune of $360 million, one of the largest deals in India’s e-commerce space, and began expanding their market. By 2014 sales had hit $1 billion. Flipkart.com, which now occupies new premises in Bengaluru’s Cessna Business Park, currently lists 30 million products, ships eight million packages a month, and has 45 million registered users. With the Bansals still only in their early thirties, and the average age of their employees in their twenties, Flipkart is valued at $15.5 billion.

This movie still of Indian actress and former Miss World, Aishwarya Rai, dressed as a bride shows her wearing the high-end fashion version of a traditional head covering or veil that has been part of women’s attire since Classical times. Then, it was worn by royal women to avoid public gaze, and over the centuries it was adopted by some married Hindu, Jain and Sikh women as a mark of modesty or respect. The ghoonghat is still part of everyday attire in rural parts of India, where the pallu, or loose end of the sari may be pulled over the head and face to act as a ghoonghat, or perhaps the dupatta, the long scarf worn with salwar kameez. Most wearers cover only the forehead, ears and eyes, or pull the fabric from the side of the face and hold it there when talking to men or strangers. Nowadays the ghoonghat is an accessory that forms part of a bride’s attire and particularly suits current bridal trends where outfits are designed in traditional style with sumptuous embroidery, crystals and rich textiles. It is usually made of sheer tissue, net or silk with a heavily embellished border to frame the face. The colours – fuschia pink, orange or red – complement the bride’s dress. In former times the ghoonghat was worn to shield the bride’s face from anyone but the groom, so he would be the first to see her. This symbolism remains, and the bride may choose to remove her veil only after she and the groom have taken their seven steps around the fire, the most sacred moment of an Indian wedding ceremony.


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The Dome of Perfection India Impressions by Akhila Ravi Kumar

A universal town that epitomises the utopia of the future MY 87-year-old dad, Cdr. A. P. Radhakrishnan, having suffered a stroke in 2007, had not been able to speak too much. So it was quite astonishing when an article in the newspaper celebrating 40 years of Auroville triggered his memory and he narrated at great length, although a bit haltingly, the story of how he was present at the inauguration ceremony of the Matrimandir, several years ago. The Mother, the spritiual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo


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Built spaces that celebrate nature Photo Andrea via Flickr

He remembered people of different nationalities; walking silently and solemnly towards a lotus-shaped structure in the ground and emptying earth they had carried from their respective countries into the central ‘bud’ or urn. I suggested that perhaps this was the foundation ceremony, the ‘bhoomi puja’ of the Matrimandir and he confirmed that this was so. After he retired from the Indian Navy, he joined Messageries Maritimes, a shipping company, as a manager and used to travel to Puducherry on work. The highlight of one of those trips was meeting the ‘Mother’, when he had taken dignitaries, General Candeth and his mother on a visit to Auroville. There were about seven of them in a hall on the first floor of the centre, where the Mother was seated on a low armchair. She greeted everyone silently and without expression, but suddenly her eyes locked with General Candeth for one whole mesmerising minute, and the little party of visitors were transfixed. Then suddenly the spell was broken as she smiled gently and blessed them, and they moved on. Later, General Candeth was said to have commented that in his entire career in the army, he hadn’t quite encountered a powerful stare as that or experienced as strange a sensation!

The tree-lined path that leads to the dome Photo Ashwin Kumar via Flickr


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Detailing on the dome Photo Ashwin Kumar via Flickr

I also remembered stories that my dad would tell us as children of his visits there, as he was fascinated with the concept of life at Auroville. He would recount stories of wealthy foreigners who would get entranced by the life and principles of the town. They would donate their money and live the rest of their lives in pursuit of excellence and creativity. As teenagers we would visit the weaving centre, the bakery and the paper-making unit and be amazed. We would also visit the peaceful meditation centre and be intrigued by the unusual system of education in the school.

Vernacular sense: Insulating roofing Photo Terry Presley via Flickr

Later, as a student of architecture, I would pore over the intricate drawings with spiral lines converging on the central eye of Auroville, the Matrimandir, and be fascinated by the quaintly inspiring names of the villages, the sheer magnitude of the concept – and the sculptural quality of the architecture. Imagine, no architect was bound within the confines of vaastu (ancient Indian science of architecture). There were no traditional shapes of architecture. Experiencing the buildings was an emotional and visual delight. When we visited the fully completed Matrimandir for the first time, and walked in a single line, in pin drop silence, we entered the quiet interior of the sun-drenched sphere, where for a long minute one could actually experience perfection, the sacred and the sublime in there. It is impossible to describe the quality of misty brilliance and the exquisite silence within that unusual space. Perhaps, it’s this perfection that Aurovillians seek.

Architecture that sports a sculptural quality Photo Inoutpeaceproject via flickr

Auroville is located 10 km north of Puducherry. For more details on the Matrimandir and Auroville, visit www.auroville.org For details on Puducherry Tourism, log on to www.pondytourism.in The writer is a leading architect and lives in Chennai.


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Look Who’s In Town Bengaluru

Friendly and Flexible Rudolf Walfort – first from left

Rudolf Walfort, Regional Operations Officer – Asia Pacific, BSH Household Appliances Manufacturing Pvt. Ltd., from Germany, on making the move to Bengaluru My first contact with India was 12 years ago. I visited many potential suppliers for the company I worked for. Since then I have been to various places in India. During my last vacation, I made a two-week round trip through Rajasthan and spent a week in Goa too.

Colours of India

Then & Now

Sightseeing

Although I have been to India many times before my move, it was very different to live in the country compared to the business trips I had made before, which had lasted a few days only. I live in Indira Nagar, a very beautiful part of Bengaluru. There are few expats here, so I am living in India with Indians!

India on a platter The Indian food is very versatile. I taste everything that comes my way and the sweets are unbeatably good.

I took part in the Diwali celebrations. There are obviously clear rules for celebrating the festival. You wake up early in the morning and have an oil bath and wear new clothes. We really enjoyed the colourful celebrations. I have been to Delhi, Rajasthan and Goa. It was a very beautiful, guided tour. Udaipur, Jaipur and Agra are very nice cities. For our next vacation, we want to go to Kerala.

What I would like to change in India... Bumpy roads and traffic.

I am taking home... Friendliness, helpfulness, openness and flexibility.


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India on a platter by Janani Nagarajan

Deep Dark Secrets In his buzzing café, Bread and Chocolate, on a Saturday morning, Fabien walks in to find me tucked in a corner, obliviously gorging on a freshly baked Nutella and chocolate tart. I felt most gratified in this tranquil environment with the comforting aroma of rich bread filling the air around me. Auroville is home to Mason & Co; initially just called ‘Chocolate’, it is the eponymous dark chocolate business of French-Australian couple Fabien and Jane Mason. They pride themselves on being ‘bean-to-bar’ for ethical and culinary reasons, a conscious product that makes people happy.


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Flavour customised for the Indian palatte

other farmers, the beans are purchased from them at a higher price. How did it all start? The enthusiastic reception from friends and family encouraged Jane to replace the home lab with an artisan factory. With a team alongside them, this factory recruits women from the local village for whom it’s not always easy at home. Fabien Mason and Jane Mason

The chocolate factory

So, what’s the harm in eating conventional chocolate? Cacao beans in India are traditionally grown for the mass market. This means that large companies buy the majority of the beans from the farmers. Because the chocolate made by these companies has very little cacao and the rest is filled with vegetable fats, sugar, milk and other preservatives with little focus on the quality and taste of the cacao bean. For someone who is so passionate about food, this did not sit well with my mind or stomach. I have always defined organic chocolates as ‘expensive’, and have often pondered on why it’s expensive. The obvious two reasons are – one, cacao is never grown as a sole crop and two, to support the livelihood of organic farmers against the

As I walk around the factory (a few streets away from the café), I hear the temperature-controlled stone grinders mixing the luscious brown liquid. On one side, I see a room piled with huge gunny bags swollen with beans and on the other I see the beans being hand-sorted for quality, and then by size for even roasting. Fabien says they would never aim to compete with the big names. They envision being an everyday gourmet bar, in other words, a better Indian Lindt. They hope to achieve this by making small batches, preserving the tradition of the process and ensuring the quality of the beans. He says people are now taking pride in buying products that are organic and locally made. With the help of online retailers such as Amazon, Mason & Co delights people with their chocolates up to Uttarakhand, in the north of India. Each of their bars has a distinct flavour as they use bean from a particular farm. The flavours available in the market now are coconut milk, chilli and cinnamon, sea salt, bittersweet and peanut butter, to name a few. If you want to get the most out of your visit to Puducherry, I recommend off-roading at Auroville. Reward your palate with tasteful, rich food from the cafes; try the masala chai chocolate (only available at the Bread and Chocolate), the way that honours the environment and culture of the region.


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At Global Adjustments by Team Culturama

years young

People with wisdom of age sixty and above have been meeting for two years now. “Poornashakti” is a monthly meeting conducted by Global Adjustments Foundation for the social and emotional support of retired, wise contributors of society. This December saw their second anniversary celebration. Present on the occasion was Carnatic maestro, Padmashri awardee Smt. Aruna Sairam. She shared her life experiences that brought her where she is, answered their questions with a simple and personal touch and sang verses of some of her favourites and songs that were a popular demand. The interactive 60 minutes with the maestro touched their hearts when they saw the loving and genuine woman behind the musical genius. The programme began with an observance of silence and a mass Setu prayer in memory of the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Ms J Jayalalithaa. This was followed by Ranjini Manian, founder of Global Adjustments Foundation, sharing her happy two–year journey with the group of more than 50 elders.

Legendary vocalist Smt Aruna Sairam

Poornashakti’s monthly meetings include both men and women members who are offered geriatric fitness tips, games and interactions, with the motive of making them feel loved, respected and welcomed. Many retired bankers, writers, artists, former corporate leaders and spouses look forward to the hour-long programme. “I love Poornashakti because the programmes are creative and give us a lot of mindspace,” says Mohan. “It’s fun, learning and meeting like-minded friends, thanks to the Foundation team,” says Kala. For Vanaja Krishnan, “it is both entertaining and enlightening”. GA Foundation also creates an empowered young generation through life-education workshops. The elders from Poornashakti contribute to these workshops, thereby creating a link between the two generations.


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An event at Krtashraya Aurodhan Gardens

In Focus by Team Culturama

The Art Connection


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In a tête-à-tête, Lalit Verma of Aurodhan talks about his connect with Puducherry, the vibrant artistic ambience that prevails in the coastal town and its inherent internationalism

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The welcoming spaces of Aurodhan

Lalit Verma, the founder of Aurodhan, a one-stop integrated art gallery and heritage guest house in Puducherry, is an ex-student of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Puducherry. After completing MBA, he joined the Tatas and later settled down in Puducherry. Together with his wife, Shehnaz, he established Aurodhan, which also boasts of an Artist-in-Residence programme.

Childhood and growing-up years My childhood was like an amalgamation of all things Indian. I was born in Punjab and have lived in Ludhiana, Kolkata and Bihar. I have lived in Singapore as well. After working for the Tatas for six years, I came back to Puducherry.

What makes Puducherry so special?

Mr. Lalit Verma

Until a while ago, Puducherry attracted a certain type of people – people who had a French connection, and the spiritually inclined who were attracted by the Ashram. It is said that in the ancient days Puducherry was where Saint Agastya had his ashram. Puducherry, being endowed with all three – spirituality, French-connect and heritage, the people who came here started taking advantage all the three aspects. So today, you find all types of people in Puducherry – philosophers, seekers and corporate types. Only here can you find real ‘ananda’ – the basis of all Indian philosophy – rock solid, real joy.


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ALDOC - Oscar winners

Puducherry’s unique heritage We must not forget that Puducherry today is in the deep Chola zone. They were among the biggest patrons of art in the history of mankind. And then the French came, and one amazing ancient culture met another great culture. Later Sri Aurobindo and the Mother came and with this, people from all over India too – Gujaratis, Bengalis, Oriyas. And then Auroville attracted the whole world to Puducherry.

About Aurodhan I opened this art gallery to raise the consciousness of art in Puducherry. I have received artists from all over the world. Giants in the fields of theatre, music, dance, literature…

Where to go, what to do Puducherry is what you would call a hidden marvel. Come and get a taste of the world. Enjoy the beauty of the Bay of Bengal, the French town and the quasi French-Tamil buildings, a romantic and peaceful lifestyle, a unique French, Tamil culture, the Aurobindo Ashram and more. Aurodhan - Heritage guest house


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, i r é h c i d n y o r P r e a h L c e u Viv live Pud g n o L

a re Featu m Culturam by Tea


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Look but a little deeper and Puducherry will keep springing up new delights – be it for the nature lover, the history buff or the spiritually oriented Mention the word ‘Pondicherry’ to anyone who has some knowledge of South India, and they will mention tree-lined avenues, French-style heritage buildings, the sparkling coastline and the joy of having a glass of wine in a cosy boutique café. The union territory is officially known as ‘Puducherry’, which means ‘New Town’, and covers Karaikal in Tamil Nadu, Yanam in Andhra Pradesh and Mahe in Kerala. However, the best-known part of this district is the eponymous capital town. Known in local parlance as ‘Pondicherry’ or ‘Pondy’, Puducherry holds within its bounds a plethora of delights – from gardens to spiritual retreats, water sports to heritage sites. Explore and enjoy!

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Green Retreats Nature lovers have no dearth of choice – spend a quiet morning in the Botanical Gardens or take a walk through Bharati Park after a relaxed lunch, ride a boat on the Chunnambar Lake or catch sight of some migratory birds at Ousteri Lake. Botanical Gardens: Right from the gate, which is reminiscent of French architecture, the Botanical Gardens (which were laid out in 1826) stand as an example of ornate French style. The beautifully pruned trees and flower beds, gravel-lined paths and fountains transport the visitor to the heart of France. The 22-acre garden houses more than 1,500 species of plants – the horticulturalist would surely appreciate the placards that mention the species, common

name and information such as the medicinal uses of the plant and amount of oxygen generated. The Gardens also offer toy train rides for children. The Botanical Gardens, located at South Boulevard (near the old Bus Stand), is open from 10a.m. to 5p.m. Bharati Park: The Government Park or Bharati Park, located in the centre of the French Town, is a pleasing getaway from the sights and sounds of the urban landscape. Stroll through the green alleys or explore some of the famed monuments that dot the Park – Aayi Mandapam, Raj Nivas (former palace of the French Governor), the Museum, and former French bandstand on which the French Army Band used to play. And do keep a lookout for film shootings – it could be a chance to catch sight of a famous actor or two! Bharati Park is located in White Town, and is open from 6a.m. to 8p.m.


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Ousteri Lake: The century-old, man-made Ousteri Lake (also known as ‘Osudu Lake’) has been recognised as one of the important wetlands of Asia by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). Situated 10 km away from Puducherry, the lake supports a variety of fauna and flora that supports migratory and native birds. According to the Tourism Department, different species of golden oriole, open-bill stork, tailor bird, painted stork, white ibis, white-breasted water-hen and spotted owlets visit the lake, especially at the end of the year. The Ousteri Lake is located on Oussudu village, Vazhudavoor Road, and is open from 9a.m. to 5p.m.

Chunnambar Lake: Situated 8 km away from Puducherry, Chunnambar Lake could be nicknamed as a ‘tropical paradise’. The beach at Chunnambar, known as ‘Plage Paradiso’ or ‘Paradise Beach’ has pristine sands and sparkling water. One can indulge in sun bathing and beach sports, while keeping a lookout for the dolphins playing around. Boating or trekking, beach volleyball and other beach sports are on offer for the active soul. The Chunnambar Lake is located on the Puducherry-Cuddalore Road, Nonankuppam, and is open from 8a.m. to 5p.m.

Key: 1. The Botanical Garden and (inset) Entrance to the Botanical Garden; 2. Bharati Park; 3. Chunnambar Lake' 4. Ousteri Lake


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Step Closer to God If you wish to take some time out for a quiet moment of reflection, to steep yourself in the intricacies of tradition, you need not look any further. With some of the most beautiful and peaceful spiritual centres in India, Puducherry is home to a beautiful amalgamation of faiths and beliefs. Sri Aurobindo Ashram: Located on Rue de la Marine, Sri Aurobindo Ashram is one of the most beloved spiritual retreats, with devotees from all over the world visiting it throughout the year. The Ashram was set up in 1926 by Aurobindo Ghosh (Sri Aurobindo), one of India’s greatest philosopher-poets, who went to Puducherry to escape persecution by the British. Here, he discovered the power of yoga, and developed a philosophy that brought together yoga and spiritual awakening. Mirra Alfassa (known as ‘Mother’),

a French mystic, painter and musician, was his foremost disciple and was instrumental in helping him establish the Ashram. The mortal remains of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are kept in the main Ashram building. The Aurobindo Ashram is located on Rue de la Marine (Chetty Street Extn.), and is open from 8a.m. to 12p.m. and 2p.m. to 6p.m. Children below the age of three years are not allowed in the Ashram. Manakula Vinayakar Temple: Constructed three centuries ago, the temple’s name is derived from ‘manal’ (‘sand’ in Tamil) and ‘kulam’ (‘pond’ in Tamil). The name literally means ‘God near the pond of sand’. Dedicated to Lord Ganesha (with the elephant head), the stone walls in the


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interior of the temple hold carvings of 40 forms of the god. The Manakula Vinayakar Temple is located on Francois Martin Street, White Town, and is open from 5.45a.m. to 12.30p.m. and 4p.m. to 9p.m. (10p.m. on Fridays). Church of Our Lady of Lourdes: Located in Villianur, a small town 11 km away from Puducherry, the church was erected in 1876, and is modelled on the Basilica in France. This was the first church outside France to be named after Our Lady of Lourdes. The statue of Notre Dame was donated by the French Government a year after the church was erected. Legend goes that a generous donation allowed the commissioning of a statue of the Holy Mother. Despite three dangerous falls, the box containing the statue arrived intact at Puducherry on 4 April, 1877. A natural pond in front of the chapel, once used as a water reservoir for irrigation of

the lands around, was consecrated and another statue from Lourdes, France was installed in its centre. This is the only Catholic church in Asia to have such a pond. The church of Our Lady of Lourdes is located on Church Street, Villianur, and it opens at 6a.m. Jamia Mosque: Also referred to as the Khuthbha Mosque, the Jamia Mosque is believed to have been built in the 17th century. In all probability, it was the first mosque built in Puducherry, and was initially built at the present location of the Seventh Day School. With the coming of the French, the area of the Khuthbhapalli (as known locally) was categorised as a ‘White area’, and the mosque was shifted to the southern end of the town. The mosque is built facing Mecca, and houses the Dargah of Moulla Saiubu. The Jamia Mosque is located on Mullah Street.

Key: 1. (and inset) Sri Aurobindo Ashram; 2. and 3 Manakula Vinayakar Temple; 4. Jamia Mosque; 5. Church of Our Lady of Lourdes


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Of History and Heritage With a history that spans some of the most famous South Indian royal dynasties, and a period of French rule, it is but a given that Puducherry is home to monuments that tells tales from the annals of history. Aayi Mandapam: There is an interesting story behind the construction of the Aayi Mandapam. King Krishnadevaraya, the ruler of the Vijayanagara Empire, was travelling through Puducherry when a beautiful building caught the king’s eye. The king thought it was a temple and knelt before it with folded hands. Then, an old man asked the king, “Your Majesty, why are you bowing down in front of this brothel?

It is run by a courtesan called Aayi.” Embarrassed, the king ordered his soldiers to tear the building down. Aayi begged for mercy; she broke down her beautiful house and, in its place, dug up a water tank. The place was named ‘Aayi Kulam’ in her memory. It was from this tank that the French would draw water from, in later years – and they built a monument for Aayi in the centre of the park. The Aayi Mandapam is located inside Bharati Park, on Campagnie Street, and is open from 6a.m. to 8p.m. French War Memorial: The French War Memorial (Monument aux combattants des Indes francaises morts pour la patrie) on Goubert Avenue is a solemn remainder of those who laid down their lives in World War I. It was erected in 1937 and inaugurated on 3 April, 1938. Every year, on 14 July (Bastille Day), the memorial is beautifully illuminated and homage is paid to the martyrs. The French War Memorial is located at Beach Road, Goubert Avenue.


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Statue of Joan of Arc: A statue of the ‘The Maid of Orleans’ holds pride of place in this South Indian town, and the maiden’s bravery is celebrated in this part of the world as well. Joan of Arc was beatified in 1909 and canonised in 1920, and is one of the nine secondary patron saints of France. This life-size statue in white marble, a gift by Francois Gaudart, was erected in 1923 in the middle of a garden, facing the Church of Our Lady of Angels. The statue of Joan of Arc is located at Dumas Street, opposite to the Church of Eglise de Notre Damme, and is open from 9a.m. to 9p.m. Old Light House: In the past, the Red Hills, about 3 km to the west of the town, were the only landmarks providing navigators approaching Puducherry with orientation points.

The French planned to build a tower displaying a light for the guidance of mariners at night. In November 1835, the area around the ‘mât de pavillon’ was selected and, in March 1836, the lighthouse was erected. On 12 September, 1931, a revolving light of 1,000 watts replaced the fixed light. As the lighthouse was out of order frequently, a new lighthouse was constructed in Kirapalaiyam village, to the south of the town, in 1970. Now, this abandoned lighthouse has been converted into a (partial) museum. The space adjacent to the museum plays host to various cultural, musical and commercial activities throughout the year. The Old Light House is located at Goubert Avenue (opposite the Gandhi Statue).

Key: 1. Aayi Mandapam; 2. Statue of Joan of Arc; 3. Old Light House; 4. French War Memorial


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– while it holds Shiva as the main deity, the temple per se is dedicated to Shaneeswaran. The Varadaraja Temple (built in the 12th century) is the most important Vishnu temple in Puducherry. The Vedapureeswarar Temple (built in the 18th century), houses a shrine for Shiva as well as a ‘swayambhu linga’ (a lingam that came into being, not made). One of the best known spiritual landmarks is the ashram of the saint philosopher Sri Aurobindo Ghosh. A freedom fighter who was once considered the ‘most dangerous man’ by the British Government, Sri Aurobindo ‘found God’ and started the ashram with merely fifty paise. The place where Sri Aurobindo, the Mother, and their followers lived is now seen as a haven of peace.

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Fount of Wellness What do temples and hospitals have in common? They are both seen as places of healing – be it for the mind and soul, or the body. And Puducherry is blessed with both. Wellness for the Soul Puducherry is home to many faiths, and it is noteworthy that there are a whopping 350 temples in and around the capital, while neighbouring Karaikal has 91 temples. Take, for example, the world famous Thirunallar Temple (dedicated to Saturn, which is known as ‘Shani’ or ‘Shaneeswaran’ in Hindu tradition), located in Karaikal. Or the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Dharbaranewara’s temple

Wellness for the Body Puducherry boasts several general and speciality hospitals, testing facilities and pharmacies across the city. Treatments undertaken here cost a fraction of what they do in the Western world, and the city is favoured as an option for restful recuperation. One of the country’s best known eye hospitals has a branch in the city; high-quality dental care is a prominent speciality; there are several government and private hospitals focused on obstetrics; the capital is also home to a veterinary college and hospital. Indian therapies in the disciplines of ayurveda, siddha, varma kalai and variants of yoga can also be availed of here. Workshops for meditative practices such as vipassana and Art of Living are prevalent, as are alternative treatment options such as tai chi, reflexology and reiki.

Key: 1. Lord Dharbaraneswara's Temple; 2. The temple dedicated to Shani at Thirunallar; 3. Centres for meditation and yoga abound in Puducherry; 4. Sri Aurobindo, the saint philosopher whose ashram is seen as a haven of peace


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Spotlight by Team Culturama

23 International Yoga Festival rd

Puducherry

Welcome to the International Yoga Festival. Puducherry is a spiritual land where many siddhas (saints) are said to have attained salvation. In this beautiful and peaceful spiritual land, since 1993, with overwhelming response and enthusiasm from participants from all over the world and India, the Government of Puducherry has been conducting the Internation Yoga Festival regularly, every year, from January 4–7.

The final round of yogasana competitions and the Champion of the Meet would be the most interesting part of the festival. It will be held on January 7, forenoon and the valedictory and prize distribution function will be held on the same evening. The festival aims at developing the conscious process at the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels and completeness in all aspects of life. Interesting Features

The Yoga Festival for the year 2017 will begin with the registration of delegates on January 4, at Subhalakshmi Mahal, M.G. Road, Muthialpet, Puducherry – 3. There will be an official inauguration followed by a cultural programme on the same evening at Gandhi Thidal, Beach Road.

• Yoga meditation

The programme will feature discourse/workshop on various topics on yoga, yogasana competitions for various age groups, for men and women, lecture demonstrations and cultural programmes from January 5–7.

• Yogic food

• Yogasana practical • Presentation of papers, discourses and workshop • Yoga therapy

• Yogic music and dance


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Schedule of the festival January 5 2017 Yogasana competitions. Subhalakshmi Mahal 1030 hrs to 1300 hrs / 1430 hrs to 1730 hrs Workshops / Lecture Demonstration at Gandhi Thidal, Beach Road 1000 hrs to 1300 hrs / 1400 hrs to 1730 hrs / 1930 hrs: Cultural programme at Gandhi Thidal, Beach Road, Puducherry

January 6 2017 Yogasana competitions. Subhalakshmi Mahal 1030 hrs to 1300 hrs / 1430 hrs to 1730 hrs Workshops/Lecture Demonstration at Gandhi Thidal, Beach Road 1000 hrs to 1300 hrs / 1400 hrs to 1730 hrs / 1930 hrs: Cultural programme Gandhi Thidal, Beach Road, Puducherry

January 4 2017

January 7 2017

1000 hrs to 1800 hrs:

Final round of Yogasana Competition at Gandhi Thidal, Beach Road, Puducherry

Registration of participants at Sri Subhalakshmi Mahal, Muthialpet, Puducherry 1830 hrs: Inaugural function at Gandhi Thidal, Beach Road, Puducherry 2130 hrs: Cultural programme at Gandhi Thidal, Beach Road, Puducherry

1030 hrs to 1300 hrs Champion of the Meet 1430 hrs to 1730 hrs / 1730 hrs to 1830 hrs Valedictory and prize distribution function 1830 hrs: Cultural programme


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Holistic living by Eknath Easwaran

What’s the Point of Slowing Down? Even to see life, we need to go slow. To enjoy life, we need to go slow. To understand people, to understand situations, to arrive at considered conclusions and to make wise decisions – for all of these, we need time.

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

And this is just what is impossible in a speeded up civilization; there is no time for anything. After a while we become habituated to going faster and faster, and speed gradually takes over the mind. A kind of compulsive pressure builds up. Now we really have a problem, because it is very hard to change such a pattern of living. Just as an eye cannot observe its own working, so a rapid mind cannot take the time to perceive its own rapidity. Speeded-up people become automatic, which means they have no freedom and no choices, only compulsions. Since they take no time to reflect on things, they gradually lose the capacity for refection. Without refection, how can we change? We first have to be able to sit back, examine ourselves with detachment, and search out our patterns of behaviour. Paradoxically, people who hurry are actually stuck in the same spot.


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5 Join Us Every Saturday Global Adjustments Office, 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.bmcm.org for e-satsangs.

Photo Moyan Brenn via Flickr

We need time for pondering life’s deeper questions instead of always making money or making things. We need time simply to be quiet now and then: time to reflect on what we are doing, what we value, how we are spending our lives. So slowing down is not the goal; it is the means to an end. The goal is living in freedom – freedom from the pressures of hurry, from the distractions that fragment our time and creativity and love. Ultimately, it means living at the deepest level of our awareness. Of course, going slow doesn’t mean achieving little. If your concentration is one-pointed, going slow means achieving much.

giving the very best you are capable of even to the smallest undertaking. Somehow, in our modern civilisation, we have acquired the idea that the mind is working best when it runs at top speed. Yet a racing mind lacks time even to finish a thought, let alone to check on its quality. When we slow down the mind, we work better at everything we do. Not only is the quality of our work better, we are actually able to get more done. A calm, smoothrunning flow of thought saves a lot of wear and tear on the nervous system, which means we have more vitality and resilience in the face of stress.

It is essential in this connection not to confuse slowness with sloth, which breeds procrastination and general inefficiency. In slowing down, attend meticulously to details, Reprinted with permission from ‘What’s the Point of Slowing Down’, 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/2014/2014Spring.pdf)


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January Calendar of events

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

Workshops

Photography course Chennai

Stand-up Comedy Course Mumbai

This intensive photography course will help amateurs become professional photographers. Master DSLR camera skills and create images that are technically perfect and artistically creative. The course includes various types of photography including portrait, fashion, modelling and product photography. In addition, the students will learn the business side of photography and learn how to start and operate a photography studio.

A crash (and burn) course, this is a two-day workshop with Aditi Mittal. This workshop will focus on the art, craft and logistics of stand-up comedy, where a person stands behind the mike and tries to make the audience laugh.

Date: January 9 Time: 1830 hrs Venue: Mirage Institute of Film Making And Photography, 8, Balaji Avenue 1st Street, Opp. Vidyodaya School, T. Nagar

Theatre Workshop Hyderabad

Date: January 11 Time: 1000 hrs Venue: The Cuckoo Club: Bandra, 5AA Pali Hill, Macronells Compound

This fun-filled workshop promises to be entertaining and educating for youngsters. Samahaara‘s workshops are designed to introduce participants to the art of acting, focusing on learning the basics of stage acting, movement, stage geography and improvisation. Date: January 7 Time: 1600 hrs Venue: Inspire Enrichment Center, Plot 31, Jayabheri Pine Valley


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Dance

Performance Bengaluru

Music Concert NCR

Bhoomija Presents Nrityagram's Sriyah featuring dancers Surupa Sen, Bijayini Satpathy, Pavithra Reddy, Akshiti Roychowdhury, Prithvi Nayak, Urmila Mallick.

This New Year, come alive at a live concert and celebrate the spirit of love and music in an unplugged form with the Ghazal Maestro Pankaj Udhas.

Date: January 15 Time: 1900 hrs Venue: MLR Convention Centre, Brigade Millennium, 7th Phase J.P. Nagar

Live Show Bengaluru Dancing Drums – Trance is a quest to present Indian performing traditions in a collage of rhythm, kaleidoscope of colours, sensual poetry and traditional Bharatanatyam. Performance by Shobana Team and Tvk Cultural Team. Date: January 8 Time: 1600 hrs Venue: Chowdiah Memorial Hall, 16th Cross, G.D. Park Extension, 2nd Main Road, Malleswaram

Date: January 6 Time: Siri Fort Auditorium, August Kranti Marg, Asian Games Village Complex, Gautam Nagar Time: 1900 hrs

Saarang 2017 Chennai The auditorium filled to capacity, dance to the best of Bollywood music and one of the biggest names from Indian cinemas performing. Having hosted the likes of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Sunidhi Chauhan, Vishal-Shekhar and many more, Saarang only gets better this year. Bring out your dance shoes and your best moves to dance through the night as Shaan rocks the stage at the OAT. Date: January 8 Time: 1730 hrs Venue: IIT Madras Open Air Theatre, Delhi Avenue, Near Adyar


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Culture

Shop & Eat Bengaluru Enjoy a musical evening with the culture and taste of Karnataka, Karunaada Habba. After visiting the various stalls and immersing yourself in the Kannadiga culture, sit down for a chat over a cup of tea or coffee and treat yourself to some live music by Anil and Alok. The event will feature over 50 stalls of food and various other items. Date: January 13–15 Time: 1000 hrs Venue: Shantinagar Ground (Mudtank), Next to Hockey Stadium, Rhenius Street

Stand-up Comedy NCR 2nd Decoction is Karthik Kumar’s 2nd Stand-up Comedy Special, after his first, PokeMe, and this one is a celebration of all the things that are 2nd Best – that we reserve for ourselves, because we don’t deserve any better! It’s a celebration of a middle-class upbringing, filled with hope, dreams and life savings just enough to pay only the first EMIs for them. Date: January 28 Time: 2130 hrs Venue: Canvas Laugh Club, The People and Co., Ground Floor, Cyberhub, Gurgaon


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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 Work in progress November’s demonetisation initiative is being used to shepherd the country towards digitisation of transactions and a cashless economy – it is work in progress. The economy has taken a beating, but there is optimism that the downswing will be short-lived and the long-term gains substantial. Meanwhile, the Goods and Services Tax Bill, a much-touted economic reform initiative intended to ultimately usher in a common market for all the 29 states of India, is yet to take effect. Various measures needed to finally roll out the scheme, are awaited.

Amazing progress Still on the subject of demonetisation and digitisation, Amazon’s VicePresident and Country Manager, India, Amit Aggarwal, says the demonetisation drive has actually tripled its sales figures. The online sales major, which removed the cash on delivery (COD) option for a brief period following the note ban, has shifted gear to stabilise its position in the new

scenario. The logistics team now carries point of sale (POS) machines with it and customers can choose that option over COD. Did you know, POS machines are being adopted even by small vendors of perishables like vegetables, as more and more people are opting to pay via plastic in preference to cash.

Arty Happenings Carnatic musician in Cirque du Soleil show Carnatic musician Mahesh Vinayakram has won the distinction of being cast in a Cirque du Soleil production. He is the first Indian male from the Carnatic music tradition to have a part in the famous genre. The show, Luzia, centres around Mexico, and Mahesh’s role adds a spiritual element to the story. Q. Mahesh Vinayakram is the son of a famous father. Can you name him? A. Vikku Vinayakram, a percussion artist who uses the ghatam or the simple earthen pot. He is a member of the Shakti band, a novel music initiative combining Indian music and Jazz. John McLaughlin, Zakir Hussain and L. Shankar are other members of Shakti.

Awards and Accolades PM is online poll Times Person of 2016 The online readers’ poll conducted by the Times magazine has named Prime Minister Narendra Modi as Person of the Year 2016. In another endorsement of his standing, Mr. Modi was ranked 9th among the 74 most powerful people in the world by Forbes. In explanation, Forbes said: “Modi has raised his profile as a global leader in recent years during official visits with Barack Obama and Xi Jinping. He has also emerged as a key figure in the international effort to tackle climate change, as planetary warming will deeply affect millions of his country’s rural and most vulnerable citizens.” Q. The Times honour is not new to Mr. Modi. When did he win it earlier? A. In 2014, the year he took office as Prime Minister of India.


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A thinker and a lady

End of an Era

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has been recognised by Foreign Policy Magazine as one of the 15 ‘Global Thinkers of the Year 2016’. She has been acknowledged for creating a new brand of ‘Twitter Diplomacy’. The Minister has been very active on Twitter, not just replying promptly to complaints and calls for help but taking effective action to sort out various issues brought to her notice via the social networking platform. She has helped both Indians and others. What the magazine found especially noteworthy was the way she coordinated on Twitter an initiative to help around 10,000 migrant workers in the Middle East who were caught in a crisis as they were either laid off or had their salaries withheld.

Luminaries fade away

Q. Did you know the Minister is recovering from a kidney transplant? A. Sushma Swaraj took to Twitter to announce that she had a kidney problem, and was in hospital for treatment.

Sports Spots England in India The English cricket team is currently touring India. The two sides face each other in all the variants of the game – Test matches, one-dayers and twenty-twenty encounters. India has already proved its mettle in the Test format, with three wins and one draw in the five-match series. At the time of going to print, the fifth and final test match was under way at the Chepauk Stadium in Chennai. Q. The venue of the final Test match between England and India was in question till almost the last minute. Do you know why? A. Chennai, the designated venue, was battered by ‘Super Cyclone’ Vardah, the most intense to hit the city in over two decades. It left a trail of destruction in its wake, but fortunately for the organisers, the Chepauk Stadium could be made ready in time to host the match.

India is the less because of the passing of many a stalwart. Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and leader of the ruling AIADMK party, J Jayalalithaa, succumbed to a cardiac arrest, aged 68. She left a highly successful career as an actor to enter politics. As Chief Minister, she introduced many welfare measures in the state, including the ‘Amma Canteen’, a chain which serves food at hugely subsidised rates. Culturama deeply mourns the loss of this visionary leader. Noted Carnatic vocalist M Balamuralikrishna breathed his last in December. He was 86. Click http://www.newindianexpress.com/entertainment/telugu/2016/ nov/22/top-5-songs-of-m-balamuralikrishna-1541485.html to listen to one of his most popular Carnatic music renderings. Distinguished physicist M G K Menon, who played a key role in the development of India’s science and technology programme, passed away in New Delhi. He was 88. Well-known political satirist, Cho Ramaswamy, died in Chennai, aged 82. He wore diverse caps during his lifetime – actor, playwright, journalist and lawyer, to name a few. Q. Do you know Cho’s original name? A. Srinivasa Iyer Ramaswamy

This and That Celebrating Ranwar It’s a tiny village in the heart of Mumbai. And it’s a world away from India’s financial capital. Characterised by narrow lanes and quaint houses dating back over a 100 years, Ranwar Village harks back to the time when the Portuguese had high hopes of being a trading power in India. This year, the residents of the area in Bandra (West) got together to keep Ranwar Street vehicle-free and celebrate its heritage as part of the Christmas festivities. The village is known for its street art and also for traditional food. The famous ‘Bottle Masala’ a spice used by the East Indian community (original residents of the islands which constitute Mumbai and believed to have been converted to Christianity by the Apostle St. Bartholomew) was one of the attractions at the food stalls that were set up as part of the Festival. For more on Ranwar, look up http://tinyurl.com/z2xgmkp


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Photo Paul Stainthorp via Flickr

Globally Indian by Renuka Nadkarni-Hattangadi

Puducherry on a plate the union territory’s welcoming, warm vibes have led to people from all over the world settling here and opening specialty restaurants. So don’t be surprised to see a Vietnamese restaurant rubbing shoulders with a Chettinad eatery or a cafÊ serving organic food sharing the spotlight with another one that serves wood fire oven pizzas.


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Photo Ralph Dally via Flickr

Franco-Indian, Creole, Tamilian-French… just what do you use to describe the cuisine of Puducherry? Tiny as the place may be, it is difficult to use just one word, or even a term, to encapsulate the food here. When you think Puducherry, ‘French’ is the first association that comes to one’s mind. And then you realise that, wait, it’s in South India, so there must be some local influence? There are settlers from all parts of the world here; surely that too has influenced the cuisine? If you think this place is all about French food then you are in for a surprise, albeit a pleasant one. Puducherry owes a lot to its history which has made the food here a melting pot of cuisines that have generous helpings of something from France, a large portion of Tamil Nadu, a sprinkling of Vietnamese and Portuguese, a dash of something borrowed from its neighbouring states – Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala. This, and the union territory’s welcoming, warm vibe have led to people from all over the world settling here and opening speciality restaurants. So don’t be surprised to see a Vietnamese restaurant rubbing shoulders with a Chettinad eatery or a café serving organic food sharing the spotlight with another one that serves wood fire oven pizzas. Of course there’s the French influence but it isn’t in your face, much like the cuisine itself, it is understated and subtle. So you’ll see gravies that are akin to the classic sauces, some methods of cooking that are typically French and the other

way around, with roasts spiked with a dash of turmeric or cumin. My favourite place to stop for breakfast is Le Club, which is by the beach. They make a mean omelet, try this with fresh juices and it makes for a great way to start the day. Looking for something lighter? Try the muesli with yogurt and fruits, wash that down with freshly brewed coffee and you are set for the day! If organic is the way to go, then one place that needs to be on your list is Satsanga. The courtyard garden and wrought iron furniture add a unique charm to this place. Their salads are fabulous, the Tuna Salad and the Greek Salad have been on my favourites list for a long time now. Farm Fresh, near the Matrimandir in Auroville, is another stop you have to make. All the food here is fresh, organic and straight from the farm. Having grown up in Chennai I’ve become some kind of a ‘Sambar Snob’, give me sambar from or in any other part of the country and chances are that I’ll wrinkle my nose at it. I remember this one time we drove to Puducherry from Chennai. We reached the place early morning and terribly hungry, the only option for breakfast was a push-cart selling piping hot dosas and we called for a couple of them. When I saw the sambar I thought something was different and when I tasted it, I knew. There was a distinct flavour of garlic and cumin that made it stand out. Of course, it was different, but


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did we like it? Yes! Appachi’s Chettinad is a good place to stop by if you are looking for something from Tamil Nadu. The food is high on spice but you can always ask them to tone it down. Ask for a glass of buttermilk to wash it down. You can thank me later! You can never be far from a good pizza place anywhere in the world. Puducherry scores on this count too. Try Giovanni’s, Café Xtasi or La Pasta World for a slice of cheesy goodness or anything Italian. Just off Rue Suffren is Rendezvous, which is one of the older restaurants here, the colonial charm embraces you when you step in. The menu features dishes from various cuisines, almost like a tribute to the town’s heritage, and you’ll be spoilt for choice. My advice is to soak in the ambience and order whatever you feel like because of all the times I’ve been here, they’ve never gone wrong with the food! And if it’s ambience you are looking for, then try Villa Shanti or La Maison Rose which will transport you into another world altogether. Thinking of picking up something before you leave? Then head to Baker Street for the freshest brownies, baguettes and brioches. You’ll be heading back with more than just pleasant memories. Every time I’ve been to Puducherry, I stopped counting after 10, I’ve discovered something new to eat, learnt a new recipe or come across a spice mix that was a revelation. As tiny as the place may be, but the kind of cuisine that you find here is in direct contrast to its geographical dimensions and that, possibly, is the best part of it. Photo Christy via Flickr.


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Picture perfect Photo Sarath Kuchi via Flickr

Picture Story by Team Culturama

Pristine Paradise Think Puducherry. Think lazy afternoon strolls along the French quarters; watching the world go by, as the blue waters of the ocean crash against black boulders; visits to quiet spiritual spaces; yellow walls; tranquillity; togetherness and contemplative moments.

Ecofriendly travel options Photo Abhishek Shirali via Flickr

Castles by the beach Photo Sudanshu Goyal via Flickr


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Photo Nishanth Jois via Flickr

Street art in Puducherry Photo Tammy SANDHU, UK

At the historic Panchanadisvara Temple in Thiruvandarkoil in Puducherry

Spiritual satisfaction Photo Aleksandr Zykov via Flickr

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Myth & Mythology by Devdutt Pattanaik

The Mythology of

Publicly, today, we all yearn for the mythology of equality. Privately, however, there is a great yearning for the mythology of inequality

Is there equality in nature or not? The answer is complex. Nature has no favourites and every plant and every animal has to fend for itself to survive. In that sense, there is equality in nature. But, no two plants and no two animals are the same. Each has its own strength and weakness, with exposure to its own set of opportunities and threats. In that sense, there is no equality in nature. Every human being, like every plant and animal, is unique, with its own set of strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. Every human being also has imagination: he/she can imagine having more strengths and opportunities, and less weaknesses and threats. He/she can imagine a world where everyone, no matter what their strengths and weaknesses, gets access to the same opportunities and protection from the same threats. This imagination establishes the ‘mythology of equality’. When the experienced world does not match up to this imagined world, we get upset. We demand changes in the world. We yearn for messiahs. We yearn for revolution. But, humans can also imagine the world differently. A man/woman can imagine himself/herself as special, better than others, and yearn to


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Photo Susanne Nilsson via Flickr.jpg

dominate over others, or be feared or respected by others. This imagination is the ‘mythology of inequality’ that makes one feel privileged. It is what drives people to compete and be successful. It is what prevents people from sharing, for ‘when I have more wealth or knowledge or power, I can dominate’. To dominate feels good. Publicly, today, we all yearn for mythology of equality. Privately, however, there is a great yearning for the mythology of inequality: the desire to dominate another, control others, be feared or respected, and essentially obeyed. From the mythology of equality come concepts such as positive discrimination and reservations, to create a fairer and just world. From the mythology of inequality come concepts like meritocracy and free market and political correctness that gag conversations and allows for only one kind of conversation. The mythology of equality informs Abrahamic mythology. Here, all humans are equal before the eyes of God. Inequality is created by the Devil. The mythology of inequality informs Greek mythology. Here, the hero strives hard to be extraordinary, earn a place amongst the gods, or at least in Elysium, the heaven of heroes. But this quest to break free from the mediocre is seen as ‘hubris’ and it angers the gods, and lands many heroes into Tartarus. In the cosmos, everybody needs to know their place, high or low.

Communism is strongly influenced by Abrahamic mythology, hence the mythology of equality. Capitalism is strongly influenced by Greek mythology, and the mythology of inequality, where the ‘best man/woman’ wins and so gets rewarded more by the market. Hindu mythology is a combination of equality and inequality. The soul of all beings is equal, but not the body. And our body is a combination of our mind, our flesh and the property and privileges we acquire or inherit. In the cycle of rebirths, the soul experiences different bodies and eventually realises that it is temporary and the source of all agony. Wisdom lies in looking beyond the body at the soul, and realising that the soul within us and within all those around us is the same. When this happens, we work towards helping everyone around us, strong and weak, find opportunities and avoid threats, knowing fully well that we cannot change their destiny, or alter their desire, or make the world an equal place. Buddhist mythology does not subscribe to the idea of soul, equality or inequality. It does see desire as the cause of all suffering – desire to dominate in an unequal world as well as desire for an equal world. When we outgrow our desires, we no longer compare and contrast the imagined world with the experienced world. We don’t crave for a change. We simply glide with the change.

Published in Mid-Day on May 1, 2016. Reprinted with permission from devdutt.com


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Festivals of India this January find out how India celebrates Makara Sankranthi

Across the month of January, various Indian states celebrate the ‘New Year’. Traditionally, New Year in India is a time of thanksgiving, when the harvest has been plentiful. Apart from the common elements of food, music, dance and colour that define the occasion, each state has its own way of celebrating this festival. New Year in many states is also celebrated well into the month of March. Here we list the celebrations in January, starting from those in the north of the country.

Lohri

January 13 Popularly known as the harvest festival of Punjab. The memory of the legendry Dulha Bhatti, who is often synonymous with the legend of Robin Hood in the West, is commemorated. Children continue the tradition of going from door-to-door and singing his songs of chivalry, and they are given gifts in return. The highlight of this festival is the bonfire that is lit at sundown, when the God of fire, Agni, is worshipped for continued prosperity. To Do: While in Punjab, do visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar and participate in the feast at the communal kitchens.

Makara Sankranthi/Sankranthi

January 14

Literally meaning ‘transition’, it traces the Sun’s journey as it moves northwards, thus ushering in spring. Celebrated as Sankranthi in West Bengal, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, it is celebrated by flying kites; this festival symbolises new hope. It is also a time when families discard old clothes and things as a sign to welcome the new in the coming year. To Do: Food plays a central role during this festival, especially the sweets made of sesame seeds – be sure to try some.


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Bhogali Bihu January 15 One of the biggest festivals of Assam, the word comes from the ‘Bhoga’, which means ‘to eat’ or ‘to enjoy’. This two-day festival begins with the creation of the Meiji or Bhelaghar, or makeshift thatch and bamboo enclosures, under which the entire community comes together for a feast. The next day, these shacks are set ablaze to signify obeisance to Agni (God of fire), and to ward off the evil for the next harvest season. To Do: Visit the weaving villages of Assam, such as Sualkuchi, known for exquisite natural silk fabrics such as Muga and Eri.

Uttarayana January 14 Like Sankranthi, Uttarayana also signifies the movement of the Sun, as ‘uttar’ means north and ‘ayan’ means movement. If you happen to be in Gujarat or Rajasthan during this harvest season, you will see that the sky is dotted with the most magnificent array of kites – from the ordinary to the spectacular. This is the people’s homage to the Sun God. Parts of Maharashtra also follow this tradition. To Do: Check out the kite festival in Gujarat for never-seen-before shapes of kites.

Pongal January 14 The harvest festival of Tamil Nadu, Pongal is a tribute to the rain and sun gods, and a time to worship cattle that are an intrinsic part of the agricultural scenario in India. The first day or ‘Bhogi’ is when the rain god is worshipped. A huge bonfire is built to burn old things, such as clothes and other material possessions, in the evening. The second day, ‘Surya Pongal’ or ‘Thai Pongal’, is when the Sun God is worshipped, with milk heated in a pot and allowed to boil over, so as to symbolise overflowing prosperity in the coming year. The third day, ‘Maattu Pongal’, is when farmers pay their respects to their cattle, by decorating them with colourful pieces of cloth and parading them around the village. The last day is known as ‘Kaanum Pongal’, which literally means ‘to view’ – in rural parts, this is the day when communities come together and acknowledge each other’s support in the successful harvest. To Do: Try out the sweet and savoury versions of Pongal, which are made from freshly harvested rice.

Photo Tineke Sysmans, Belgium


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India Diaries by Team Culturama

y r TrÉs r e h c u d Pu

Journey through the chic alleys of Puducherry. Eat, shop, live, love and pray at this unique destination.

If you're feeling contemplative, just sit by the beach and watch the blue waters crash against the black boulders. Photo Terry Presley via Flickr


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Muted pastels and old world wooden doors beckon at Villa Shanti in Suffren Street.

Enjoy local fare at Villa Shanti.

If you are looking for inspiration to stay in Puducherry, check out the Palais de Mahe.

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Fragrance from Auroshikha's incense sticks will lift your mood and help you bring a piece of Auroville into your home.


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Sip on some mojitos or sample some local creole cuisine at the lovely Le Dupleix Hotel.

Don't forget to look for antiques in the many markets that dot the streets and outskirts of Puducherry. Above Left: A stone sculpture. Above Right: A bronze antique in display in the coastal South Indian town Photos Andrea via Flickr


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milesworth holidays india • srilanka • maldives • and beyond

Milesworth Travels & Tours Pvt. Ltd., 39 R M Towers, 108 Chamiers Road, Chennai. Tel: +91-44-24320522 / 24359554 Fax: +91-44-24342668 E-mail: holidays@milesworth.com


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Seeing India by Team Culturama

In&Around Puducherry


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From ancient temples to Dutch ruins and Islamic mausoleums there’s a lot to see around Puducherry... Puducherry can be a convenient base for visiting some amazing, interesting and historic locations. Here’s a guide that will make your road trip to Puducherry and Tamil Nadu worthwhile!


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Pichavaram Distance from Puducherry 73 km, approximately 1.5-hour drive

Mangroves found in various regions of India offer effective protection from tsunamis and tidal waves. They shield coastal communities from the onslaught of the waves – it is nature’s way of guarding the coastal areas. One of the most important temple towns of India is Chidambaram, which is situated near the coast. This temple, dedicated to Shiva in the form of Nataraja, the Cosmic Dancer, was, according to tradition, located in a dense forest of thillai (mangrove) trees where two saints prayed to see Nataraja dance. It is this realisation of the tree being the protector that prompted the ancients to name the thillai as the sacred tree of this temple. Even today, Pichavaram, near Chidambaram, is one of the most famous mangrove forests in the world.

Gangaikondacholapuram Distance from Puducherry 100 km, approximately 2-hour drive

Photo Terry Presley via Flickr

The main attraction in this temple town was built by Rajendra Chola I in 1035 AD. The Brihadeeshwara Temple, also called Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple and Gangaikondacholeswaram, is amongst India's largest temples. Along with Thanjavur's Brihadeeshwara Temple and Darasuram's Airavatesvara Temple, it makes up the UNESCO World Heritage triumvirate of the ‘Great Living Chola Temples.’ Experts deem that Rajendra deliberately made his temple smaller than the Thanjavur prototype constructed by his father, the legendary Raja Raja Chola (984 –1014 AD) in filial deference and perhaps also with obeisance to the exploits of his father, surely the greatest of all Cholas, who famously conquered expanses of South India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Sumatra, Kadaram (Kedah in Malaysia) and Cambodia amongst other places. The three-tiered Gangaikondacholapuram temple is built on an elevated structure where the presiding deity Brihadeeshwara, worshipped as a Lingam, is enshrined in the central sanctum approached through a columned mukhamandapa (prayer hall) and an ardhamandapa (hall of sacrifice).


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Photo Girish Gopi via flickr

Thiruvannamalai and Gingee Distance from Puducherry 106 km and 70 km

Visit one of the oldest temples of Tamil Nadu at Thiruvannamalai and receive a blessing from the temple elephant (don’t forget to give him some change, however). Take a walk around Mount Arunachala or venture to the top if you are fit and meet some meditating sadhus. On the way back, visit the scenic Gingee Fort and climb up the steps for a beautiful view of the area.


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Photo Creative Commons

Tharangambadi Distance from Puducherry 114 km, approximately 2.5-hour drive

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This former Danish colony whose original Tamil name is Tharangambadi, which translates as ‘place of the singing waves’, was called Tranquebar by invaders. It is a small seaside town steeped in history and has many beautiful buildings, some of the most important of which have been lovingly restored. Enter the town through a gate with its arch dating back to 1792. The gate brings you onto King’s Street which is lined on both sides by schools, churches and monuments that attest to this having been the birthplace of Protestantism in India. Perhaps the most notable of these are Zion Church and New Jerusalem Church. They were built in the early 18th century and although damaged by the tsunami of 2005 have been returned to their former glory. Other gems include the English Collector’s House (Tranquebar was sold to the British in 1845). Restored by INTACH, it is now a delightful hotel called ‘Bungalow on the Beach’. Behind this is an ancient Hindu beach temple, partly washed away. And obviously there is Fort Dansborg itself, which dominates the charming beachfront. Incidentally, this is open to the public and contains a very interesting museum.


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Nagore Distance from Puducherry 140 km, approximately 3-hour drive

A tiny coastal town, off the Bay of Bengal, Nagore is famous for the tomb of the Muslim Saint Hazrat Miya. The atmospheric ‘Dargah’, as it is known locally, sees an outpouring of faith all year long. The Nagore Dargah not only attracts Islamic pilgrims but also many hundreds of thousands of devotees who believe in its spiritual powers. Hindus, Christians, Muslims – devotees from all religions are welcome to this holy space. The festival season in Nagore occurs during the month of May. The popular Kandhuri festival is celebrated with pomp and splendour.

Photo Lakshmi Krupa

Vailankanni Distance from Puducherry 160 km, approximately 3.5-hour drive Vailankanni was once a port that traded with Rome and Greece, but it lost its significance to the larger Nagapattinam, later. Vailankanni is a very popular Roman Catholic pilgrimage centre and is the home to the imposing Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health. The town is referred to as the ‘Lourdes of the East’ because like Lourdes in France, millions of pilgrims visit the shrine throughout the year, praying to our Lady for various needs and thanking her for the favours received through her intercession. Just a little further away from Nagore, in true spirit of India’s ‘unity in diversity’ mantra, this church too sees people of various faiths.

Photo Lakshmi Krupa


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Culturama January 2017