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POWERED BY GLOBAL ADJUSTMENTS

March 2018 Volume 9, Issue 1

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Wonder Women A look at some of the most influential women – from history to date

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Seek, Pray, Learn From India to Indonesia – exploring cross-cultural influences in Bali


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Dear Readers, I am writing this note from Bahrain, a small country that teaches big life lessons. When I visited the Bahrain National Museum, I was pleasantly surprised to see an exhibit from India, of women who make a difference. It showcased admirable women – ranging from Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) founder Ela Bhatt to biotech magnate Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw. As people from all nationalities pored over the curated photos of our exemplary women, my heart swelled with pride. In the deserts of Bahrain, with no water body or other foliage in sight, a tourist spot to visit is a lone tree that has been standing for 400 years. The Bahrainis call it the ‘Tree of Life’. One explanation is that its roots may, somehow, be getting water from a source two miles away. However, I like the other explanation – that this spot was the original location of the biblical Garden of Eden and the tree, covered with green leaves, stands as a mystical marker. This month, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, it seems apt to talk about women being Trees of Life. When we look at gender intelligence, we know it is optimised by ensuring gender balance – when both men and women are included in the effort to benefit the

Editor-in-Chief Ranjini Manian Managing Editor Yamini Vasudevan Creative Head Prem Kumar VP Finance V Ramkumar Circulation P Devaraj Advertising Chennai Shobana Sairaj Bengaluru Meera Roy Delhi/NCR Ruchika Srivastava Mumbai/Pune Ashish Chaulkar

To subscribe to this magazine, e-mail info@globaladjustments.com or access it online at www.globaladjustments.com Chennai (Headquarters) 5, 3rd Main Road, R A Puram,

world. However, we have not celebrated our women enough. They need confidence, cheer and calmness to get ahead in whatever they choose to do. In the light of International Women’s Day on March 8, Culturama pays tribute to the women who are waiting to make a difference, to flourish where they are planted. May we all work together to empower our young women so that they are mindfully happy and materially successful. They will then work shoulder-to-shoulder with men in building the nation. Hope you enjoy this issue.

Chennai – 600028 Telefax +91-44-24617902 E-mail culturama@globaladjustments.com Bengaluru #333/1, 1st Floor, 9th Main, 14th Cross, 2nd Stage, Indira Nagar, Bangalore - 560038 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

Editor-in-Chief | globalindian@globaladjustments.com

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


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Cover Image This portrait is of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi, also known as the Rani of Jhansi. One of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 against colonial rule, she is regarded as a symbol of courage and fortitude. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

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 Jane Kataria is a model, actress, radio jockey and writer. She is married to an Indian national. Devanshi Mody studied Physics, French and Philosophy at Oxford, then stumbled into travel writing. Vagabond urges notwithstanding, she’s ever lured back to Chennai for masala dosas! Deepa Kalukuri is the Managing Editor of LIVING and an alumna of the Asian College of Journalism. Preeti Verma Lal is a New Delhi-based writer/ photographer. If God asked her what she wanted, she’d tell Him to turn her into a farmer who also writes lyrically.

Letters to the Editor Dear Editor,

I have been following Culturama for a few years and wait for each issue eagerly. I enjoy the mix of topics and the way in which elements of Indian culture are explained in simple, easy-tofollow language. Best wishes to the team. - Ganesh Ram, Chennai

Dear Editor,

Photography is my hobby – so, it is no wonder that I am drawn to the stunning images published in your magazine. I particularly enjoy the themed photo essay, given the curation of unique (and sometimes) quirky images around a topic. - Vikas Kumar, Chennai

Dear Editor,

Culturama has been my gateway to learning more about India, a country I have been fascinated by thanks to Bollywood. I hope to be able to visit India and experience all that I have read about real soon! - Nicole Jenner, Canada

From Our Advertisers Co-branding with Culturama for 22 years now has helped us to be recognised as the trusted India travel expert for expats in Chennai. - Ashish Gupta, Managing Director, Milesworth Journeys

Co-branding with Culturama has helped Ananta Group of Spas reach out to an audience that we believe will truly appreciate and encourage wellness of the body, mind and soul. - Dr. Shruti Nair, CEO, Ananta Group of Spas

culturama – Subscribe Now! Get your copy of Culturama as a hard copy or as an e-magazine - visit www.culturama.in 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 Regulars

30 Feature Throughout India’s history, women have proved that they can step beyond domestic boundaries and forge new trails. We take a look at some such inspiring figures.

India’s Culture 8

Short Message Service

Short, engaging snippets of Indian culture.

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India Impressions

The death of a Nawab made way for the rule of first of four Begums over Bhopal – the only princely state ruled by women. We take a look at their wonderful legacy.

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India in Symbols

We delve into the symbolism behind commonly used symbols and markers.

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Festivals of India

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In Focus

We speak to renowned filmmaker Mani Ratnam about the fine balance that is marriage, and the role of a man in his wife’s successes.

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Picture Story

Only in India can you find these ingenious trades – often conducted street-side with little by way of investment or insfrastructure.

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India Diaries

What would it take for a man steeped in the corporate world to give it all up and take up spiritual teaching full-time?

The coming of Spring heralds the start of a season of celebrations.

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Tales of India

We relive the magic of popular fables from the Ramayana.

Journeys Into India 40

Hit The Road

Take a walk through Bali’s temples, and you will have had a fascinating lesson in the mingling of culture and spiritual thought.

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Myth & Mythology

The Ramayana travelled from India to Southeast Asia – and embedded itself in the local royal culture.

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Holistic Living

Like a speeding car, a mind that cannot control its pace needs to be brought under control immediately.

At GA Foundation

A look back at our efforts to empower women – and, in turn, empower our nation.

Relocations and Property 66

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: Banjara Embroidery The Banjara people number nearly six million across India today. They originated from Rajasthan and, historically, led nomadic lives as traders and carriers. Although many have now settled into farming communities, they have preserved their unique traditions. The Banjara women have long been celebrated for their spectacular embroidery skills. Their dress is colourful and elaborate, embellished with intricate needlework and studded with a range of different materials. Colourful chain stitches, herringbone, buttonhole and running stitches pattern the base cotton textiles in bold, geometric patterns and are combined with appliqué and patchwork, cut mirrors and beads, metals such as silver, brass and gold, shells, ivory and animal bone and even plastic. The finished textiles are rich with decoration, and heavy to wear. Banjara embroidery has now been adapted to ornament many other articles such as bags, bed spreads and cushion covers.

Words: Mast Mast is an adjective in Hindi that is used in everyday parlance to express that something is really good. It is used in so many different contexts that there is no single synonym for it, and it can mean anything from ‘cool’ or ‘awesome’ to ‘great’, ‘super’, ‘fun’, ‘exciting’, ‘delicious’ and ‘sexy’. The word mast often appears in Bollywood songs, and the 1994 blockbuster ‘Tu cheez badi hai mast mast’, which translates as ‘You are a mast object’ (i.e. of desire), helped popularise its colloquial use. It has even found its way onto a brand of cup noodles that carry the name Mast Masala, hinting at the tangy taste of the spices. It may have derived from a Persian word mast that literally means ‘intoxicated’ or ‘drunk’, but has come to mean a state of spiritual euphoria. In Sufism, a mast is a person who is overcome with love for God. Now the word is applied to having enjoyment or fun of a more worldly nature. ‘Mast movie hai!’ – ‘It’s a super movie!’


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Name: Taimur Ali Khan The 14-month-old son of Bollywood power-couple Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan already has a following that adult celebrities would give their right arms for. Snapped by paparazzi, his every playtime date, antic and expression analysed by the mainstream media and his outfits the subject of fashionista scrutiny, Taimur has been fêted since his birth and is, according to one Internet site, “the undisputed cutest baby in tinsel town”. The hoopla around Bollywood’s star kids starts before they are born, and they enjoy the same iconic status as their parents during their childhood. For Bollywood is a family business, with generation after generation of the same clan making their way in the industry. India’s film dynasties are legendary, their members the object of obsessive admiration from fans. Little wonder, then, that even the youngest members will make headlines. Such is the media obsession with Taimur that a spoof Facebook page has been set up, titled ‘Pictures of Taimur Ali Khan to Distract You From Real Issues’.

Food and Drink: Bombay Ice Halwa Halwa, or halva, is one of India’s most popular sweets and many different kinds can be found across the country. Usually made from semolina, regional variations use wheat, carrot or chickpeas as the main ingredient. Bombay Ice Halwa, which is Mumbai’s much-loved version of the sweet, is made of cornflour to produce soft, thin sheets of halwa that are dry and crispy on the outside and soft and chewy inside, garnished with dry fruits and nuts. Its popularity has spread and it is a favourite throughout India. The recipe is simple, but requires much stirring! Cornflour, sugar, milk and ghee are combined and brought to the boil, stirring continuously, until a soft dough is formed. The rose water flavouring is added, and the dough is placed on a sheet of wax paper, covered with cling film and rolled until it is leaf-thin. A mix of cardamom, slivered almonds, slivered pistachios and saffron strands are scattered over the surface, the halwa is sliced and then left to dry at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours.


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In Focus by Ranjini Manian

A Fine Balance

as women make their mark in all spheres, it is imperative that their partners lend them support and strength. renowned filmmaker Mani Ratnam shares his thoughts on what makes for a good marriage – in both intention and practice When we speak about International Women’s Day, we often talk about female empowerment and achievement, of multitasking in the workplace and home, and of balancing the many hats women wear on a daily basis. This time, however, I feel the spotlight should be tilted lightly – towards the men who have acted as pillars of support for their wives. In this day and age, when both partners are looking to make their mark in the professional space whilst being good partners and parents, it is crucial that men make the extra effort to help women in shouldering the load. There is a woman behind every successful man. The reverse is true as well – maybe even more so today. I do not have to look far to illustrate this truth. My close friends, Mani Ratnam and Suhasini, have been married for about 30 years, and I have known them for 25 years of that time (at least). Mani Ratnam is one of the best known and beloved directors of our country, and is known for his unique style, which led to the ‘Mani Ratnam era of films’;

his contribution to India cinema will always be remembered and highly regarded. When she met him, Suhasini was a multi-talented actress who was making waves in the South Indian film industry (acting in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam movies). They both hit it off, and the rest, they say, is history.


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Today, Suhasini is not just a writer, actor and director, but also an activist who is deeply involved in women’s causes, as well as the Consul General of Luxembourg. When I ask Mani about how he has helped Suhasini handle her many roles, he simply says, “The fact that she is very good at these multiple activities makes it so very easy to be supportive. All I have to do is enjoy and celebrate her success.” Over the years, I watched them as they created an amazing balance of give and take – whether it is her making sure he has his favourite pasta on a Saturday night, or him making sure that she gets time with her group of friends. They both ensure that the other is given the best without wondering what they get in return. This is the basis of their marriage – of any successful marriage, I might add. It is a lesser known fact that Mani learnt to give insulin injections for Suhasini’s father so that he could step in during times of need. In his unassuming manner, he says he is more than compensated for his efforts by her family: “I get pampered

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by them, and my coffee is always done to perfection.” When I press him to tell me more, and ask him to share an anecdote about his experience with having to handle the demanding roles of director and husband, he smiles and says, “I tell stories for a living. I tell them well only when I am paid well!” I have to admit, it is hard to get the better of Mani! So, I change track and ask him for three tips for the millennial generation – what should a modern-day husband do to ensure that his wife is supported in all aspects? “One, choose your partner well. Two, having chosen the one, give her enough space and time. Three, at crucial junctions, say only the following: ‘Yes, yes, of course’ and ‘Sure – 100 per cent’.” I tell him I am impressed. Prior to signing off, I ask him to name a man he regards as a model husband. Pat comes the reply: “Every married man! I wonder how they manage!”


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Standing Tall, Standing

Together

We take a look at some men who have been in the spotlight for all the right reasons – most of all, for being true ladies’ men Duke of Edinburgh The 91-year- old Queen met her soulmate Prince Phillip of Greece and Denmark in the 1930s. They were smitten by each other and after a brief courtship the couple tied the knot on November 20, 1947. The then 21-year-old Princess never knew she would go on to be the longest reigning monarch of the Commonwealth of Nations. Prince Philip has been the longest serving consort of a reigning British monarch. The Queen, who has seldom spoken out about her love for the Duke, has proved that women can balance demanding careers and personal lives with elan. Prince Phillip not only stood by his young wife during royal engagements but also gave her strength to deal with the many repercussions of the British colonial era. As the royal couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in November 2017, the world bowed down to their love, companionship and loyalty! Celebrating their successful marriage, the Queen said, “He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years.”

Raj K. Nooyi Thirty-eight years and counting! CEO and Chairperson of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi has been married to Raj K. Nooyi, the President of AmSoft Systems for almost four decades. She recently said that she followed her mother’s advice for a successful marriage. “Leave the crown in the garage,” she added when asked how to make sure there’s peace in a household. No prizes for guessing how busy the schedule must be for the CEO of one of the most profitable companies in the world. She often gives the credit for her success to her husband who took up equal responsibility in bringing up their two children. Talking about their strong family ties, Indra says, “First of all, family has to support you. But more importantly, you have to pick the right husband and I picked the right one.”


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Bill Gates She married the man she loved and stood by him like a rock! Melinda and Bill Gates are counted as one of the most powerful and richest couples in the world. Bill Gates was once her boss and supported her through the many challenges she faced as an independent working woman. As Melinda continues to work towards the betterment of women technologists, Bill Gates stands strong as her pillar of strength. After all, the couple has been named Times Persons of the Year! Not only that, among their many recognitions and awards Bill and Melinda Gates were the proud recipients of the Padma Bhushan award in 2015 for their philanthropic work.

Clarke Gayford

Additional reporting and writing by Deepa Kalukuri

The youngest female head of a government and soon-to-be mother, life’s been quite busy for the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern. The yet-to-be-married couple have never shied away from expressing their love and affection for each other. After announcing her pregnancy earlier this year, Jacinda said, “Clarke and I are really excited that in June our team will expand from two to three, and that we’ll be joining the many parents out there who wear two hats.” Her fans across the globe wished the happy couple and it looks like with a Prime Minister and a new mother at home, Clarke will have to brush up his parenting skills. Speaking about her partner’s role, the Prime Minister said, “Clarke and I are privileged to be in the position where Clarke can stay home to be our primary caregiver.” Relationships are evolving with times.


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Photo: Courtesy Jehan Numa Palace

India Impressions by Preeti Verma Lal

August Reign The death of a Nawab in 1819 made way for the rule of the first of four Begums over Bhopal – the only princely state ruled by women. For over 150 years, the Nawab Begums of Bhopal ruled over their people with vision and benevolence – for that, Bhopal is indebted to them

It is not always that plain white walls turn into splendid story tellers. As narrators of history. Holding anecdotes in their pilasters. Telling tales through the frames that hang resolutely on nails. In Bhopal’s supremely elegant Jehan Numa Palace (now a heritage hotel), history walks along as the uniformed valet opens the large glass/wood door into the lobby. Beyond the threshold, the silhouettes of princes, viceroys, nawabs, lords and vicereines gather around you. There’s Edwina and Lord Mountbatten. Prince Edward with his signature in long hand as a footnote. Lord Minto with the vicereine. Nawab Nasrullah Khan Waliahad Bahadur Shah of Bhopal. Nawab Ahmed Ali Khan Sultan Dulha Bahadur


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Nawab Sultan Jehan Begum. Photo: Preeti Verma Lal, India

Nawab, Consort of Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum Sahiba. The men handsome. The women dainty and sophisticated. Then, I saw her. The twelfth ruler of Bhopal. The fourth Nawab Begum. Her Highness, Sikander Saulat, Iftikhar ul-Mulk, Nawab Sultan Kaikhusrau Jahan Begum Sahiba, Nawab Begum of Darul-Iqbal-i-Bhopal. She stared out of a large canvas in oil. A stout woman, her forehead burdened with a crown, her satin robe carelessly caressing the red carpet. Often, Sultan Jahan Begum would wear the burqa with the medals pinned outside. In the photograph, she stands without a veil. She was benevolent and Bhopal still lives her legacy – she established a modern municipality, installed the first water pump of Bhopal, introduced free and compulsory primary education in 1918, established an Executive and Legislative Council in 1922, reformed taxation, the army and the police, and constructed extensive irrigation and public works. Education was close to her heart. She founded the first school for girls and in a heavily patriarchal era, she pushed for compulsory education and was the first chancellor of

The Begums’ Rule: Qudsia Begum (1819-1837) Sikander Jehan Begum (1844-1868) Nawab Shahjahan Begum (1868-1901) Nawab Sultan Jehan Begum (1901-1926)

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Photo: Preeti Verma Lal, India

Everything began with the Begums. Even the palaces and the mosques that melded the best architectural idioms of the time. The mosques built by the Begums are still referred to as the Begumi Masjids Aligarh Muslim University. She wrote poetry and travelled around the world. She was austere in her mien, she was munificent as a ruler. She was the last of the four female rulers of Bhopal who held the reins for 157 years of the princely state with a 19-gun salute. It all began as a quirk of fate. As the sound of a ricochetting bullet. In 1819, an assassin’s bullet pierced through the heart of Nawab Nazar Mohammad Khan, the ruler of Bhopal. At the funeral, his wife, Qudsia Begum threw her veil off and proclaimed that Sikander, her little daughter, would be Queen of Bhopal. The toddler became the Queen; she, the mother,

Nawab Shahjahan Begum. Photo: Preeti Verma Lal, India


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Nawab Sultan Jehan Begum. with the Vicerine and Lord Minto during their visit to Bhjopal. (Right) Taj-ul-Masjid, the world's largest palace built in its time. Photos: Preeti Verma Lal, India

the regent who ruled for 18 years. By the time Sikander turned 18, she could gallop on a horse, shoot a fish off a hawk’s claws and detail military strategies. All this without the purdah. Her successor, Shahjahan Begum, took power in 1868, and in her reign of 49 years, built Taj-Ul-Masjid, the second largest mosque in Asia and also partly funded the construction of Britain’s first mosque. Sultan Jehan Begum was the last woman ruler who abdicated power in favour of her youngest son in 1926. Bhopal was the only princely state ruled by women, the second largest state with a Muslim leadership (Hyderabad being the first) and for 157 years, the Nawab Begums of Bhopal redefined statecraft with their vision and benevolence. Bhopal is indebted to the Begums. For everything – hospitals and dispensaries, railways, waterworks, postal systems and the municipality. Everything began with the Begums. Even the palaces and the mosques that melded the best architectural idioms of the time. Gohar Mahal, named after Qudsia Begum, is a perfect amalgamation of Hindu and Mughal architecture. The 180-year old Shaukat Mahal has a very distinctive Indo-French design with unique church-like inputs in the interiors and a crown on the facade. Taj Mahal Palace, however, was the jewel in the crown. Spread over 120 rooms, a Sheesh Mahal (glass house) and Savon Bhadon pavilion, an elaborate fountain-like structure that simulated the effect of rain, this Taj Mahal was built over 13 years (1871–1884) at a cost of Rs 30 lakh by Nawab Shah Jahan Begum. Once one of the world’s largest palaces, the Mahal is crumbling now – its walls moss-laden, its doors withered away by the vagaries of nature and on its heart lay plaques calling it ‘unsafe’. The mosques built by the Begums are still referred to as the Begumi Masjids.

I marvelled at the Begums’ vision and determination. At their courage in holding their ground in a mainly male preserve. I drove around Bhopal in search of the legacy of the Begums. But it is at Jehan Numa Palace that their stories are oft-repeated. Built in 1890, the Palace was occupied variously, moved and renovated while still being used as the family’s secretariat until 1952 when the Abolition of Jagirs Act was promulgated. The Palace that once resonated with the orders of the Nawab Sultans was rented to the Government for use as a hostel, and then as the office of the Geological Survey of India, till 1981. Two years later, Nadir and Yawar Rashid, great grandsons of Nawab Sultan Jehan Begum, opened the doors of Jehan Numa Palace to visitors. Today, Jehan Numa Palace keeps alive the legacy of the Begums. Even in the kitchen where dishes are still cooked according to the handwritten recipes of the Begums. During the Palace’s Riwayat (Revival) Food Festival, forgotten food is rustled up again in the old-fashioned way. Those three days in Bhopal’s Jehan Numa Palace, I had gathered vignettes of the 157 years of the Begum-rule. I marvelled at their vision and determination. At their valour. At their relentless pursuit of artistic expressions in palaces and mosques. At their courage in holding their ground in a mainly male preserve. At their largesse. And their legacy. All this in an era where women mostly lived as shadows of their men. Bhopal owes everything to its Begums. The resolute, benevolent, brave Begums.


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Ballet of Cuisines and Cultures

HAMSA and Culturama recently hosted an exclusive dining experience for Chennai's expat families. HAMSA, a one-of-akind fine dining Indian vegetarian restaurant with unmatched luxurious ambience, is the brainchild of Nithin Kalkiraju. Nithin’s inspiration for HAMSA was drawn from several passions of his own. For one, he belongs to a passionate family of fine silversmiths. Further, his extensive travels widened his knowledge about and appreciation for food. All of this went into the making of a gastronomic wonder in an artistically aesthetic setting. Rohini Manian, CEO of Global Adjustments played the perfect host for the evening by introducing expat couples to the Indian spring festivals. Starting with the harvest festival of Pongal (Tamil Nadu), she went on to draw parallels and comparisons with Sankranti (Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh) and Lohri (Punjab), and about how all of these festivals celebrate the coming together of near and dear.

HAMSA and Culturama came together to host an exclusive dinner for Chennai’s expats – an evening that brought together gastronomic delights and aesthetic splendour

The attendees were treated to a sensory experience par excellence. Dinner began with a serving of traditional pongal (made with rice, lentils and jaggery), followed by a series of silver and gold-plated pan-Indian delicacies. A special mention must be made of the unique apple jalebi – a unanimous crowd favourite. The stage for a lively evening was set with a live violin performance of popular classical and cinematic tunes. The inclusion of an entertainment corner with kili josiyam or parrot fortune teller was a source of excitement for guests. From spicy food to delectable confectionery and flavoured curries, Indian culinary culture is delicious and diverse. At HAMSA, a range of delicacies from across the subcontinent are carefully curated for the vegetarian palate. Head there today for an unforgettable dining experience. HAMSA is located at 40, B Ramachandra Adithanar Rd, Gandhi Nagar, Adyar, Gandhi Nagar, Adyar, Chennai- 600020. Phone: +91-44 2445 9999


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India in Symbols by Susan Philip

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Motifs of Magnitude Photo: Ramesh S.A., India


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Photo: Melissa Freitas, Brazil

Photo: Joel VERANY, France

India traditionally values some visual symbols as means of conveying tenets of wisdom. Even if the deeper meaning is often not fully understood, collective wisdom has ensured that they are understood on some level by everyone In a nutshell

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Photo: Kathlijn FRUITHOF, Belgium

or illusion, and a reminder that this is what separates man from achieving a true realisation of divinity. The Om symbol is also believed to represent Lord Ganesh, and is deeply revered by Hindus. Often, it is put at the top of every hand-written page, especially ledgers of accounts.

Meaning and Deeper Meaning

Forehead marks are commonly seen in India. The most common is the bindi, traditionally a red dot made of kumkum, also known as sindoor, a mixture of powdered turmeric and alum or slaked lime. Powdered cinnabar, a naturally occurring form of mercury sulphide, may also be used. The bindi signifies the third eye, the one that provides spiritual insight. Kumkum applied at the hairline and along the hair parting signals a married woman. Although in ancient times both men and women wore a bindi, it is now almost exclusively a woman’s adornment. Stick-on bindis are available, and these have become more ornamental than culturally significant.

Om, the primordial sound, is recorded in written form as \. The three main curves represent the states of wakefulness, sleep and the one in between, dreaming. The dot on the top is the fourth state of consciousness. The semi-circle that separates the dot from the three curves stands for maya

Then there are the horizontal or vertical stripes drawn on the forehead by Hindu men using vibhuti or sacred ash, usually with a dot of kumkum in the middle. These marks have diverse significance, but, essentially, the patterns remind the wearer that man should serve God.

Every culture develops aids to jog the memory about tenets it holds dear, so that people are encouraged to practice these precepts. Over the years, visual symbols have evolved in India, shorthand for profound ideas and philosophies. Some are used as marks on the body, written on paper, etched in stone, fashioned as jewellery or printed on fabric. Others may be specific items from nature which have been invested with deep significance. Collective wisdom has ensured that these codes are understood at some level by every Indian. Here is a look at the more ubiquitous of these symbols.


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The banyan tree and the rudraksha, seed of the rudraksha tree, are invested with a lot of meaning. Rudraksha seeds are used as prayer beads and the banyan is seen as the tree of life, drawing sustenance from many roots, branching out in different directions, but basically emerging from the same trunk, offering shade to many. The Stuff of Legends

The swastika is another auspicious symbol in India. It can be found in religious texts, at temples and on sacred articles. The roots of the word are su-asti – Let Good Things Happen. The six-pointed star, made of interlocking triangles, carries special significance too. The triangle pointing upwards stands for Lord Shiva and fire, the other one for Parvathi, his consort, and for water. They are the two halves of a whole, and from their union, creation results.

The great demon Tripurasura kept growing in strength. He became more and more powerful, until he became all but invincible. He used his immense power to torment all creation, both man and beast. Even the minor gods in the Hindu pantheon were intimidated by him. They appealed to Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu, but both pleaded helplessness. The two joined the other Gods, and approached Lord Shiva, who was in meditation. The Gods petitioned Shiva, the Destroyer, to put an end to Tripurasura, and so stop the atrocities being committed on innocent people. Shiva decided to make use of his great weapon, Aghor. But he knew that deployment of the weapon against Tripurasura would have a wider, devastating effect. The thought brought tears to his eyes, and a few dripped down to the earth. Mother Earth covered the teardrops; and wherever they fell, they germinated and grew into trees, known as rudraksha – literally, the tears of Rudra, the name of Lord Shiva in his destructive form. Lord Shiva is commonly depicted wearing bead ornaments made from the seeds of the rudraksha tree. Scientific Substance The components of kumkum are believed to have a soothing effect on the wearer. In particular, the benefits of turmeric, which contains curcumin, are now universally accepted. Mercury sulphide is thought to enhance sexual energy, and hence the association of sindoor with married women. Widows are traditionally prohibited from using it. The power of geometric shapes to influence positive energy flow is something that ancient science from various civilisations endorsed. Saying it in Verse kararavindhena padharavindam / mukharavindhe vinivesayantham vatasya patrasya pute shayanam / balam-mukundam manasa smarami


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The Aikya factor Many cultures, religions and belief systems have invested the six-pointed star or hexagram with significance. Most prominently, the flag of Israel features it, and in the Jewish context it is known as the Star of David. It is also used in occult practices. On another level, the union of opposites, it represents is echoed in the Yin-Yang symbol of China. The tree of life is a common motif in many cultures, including the ancient Egyptian, Celtic and Babylonian traditions, and is also significant in Islam and Christianity. At a simplistic level, it signals the interconnectedness of life. The use of beads in prayer is not unique to Hinduism. The Catholics use the rosary and the Muslims use the Misbaha for the same purpose. Buddhists, Sikhs and followers of the Bahá’í faith use prayer beads too. The number of beads on the chains used by the different religions may vary, but the purpose remains the same – to focus the mind on a repetitive cycle of prayer. [My mind remembers how] with His soft lotus hands, baby Krishna grabbed His lotus-like toe and placed it in His lotus mouth, decorated with red lips, and sucked on it in amusement as He rested on the tender banyan leaf contemplating the next cycle of creation. – From a devotional hymn to Lord Krishna

A Last Word Put the kumkum and blessed rice on the head Where will dwell right thoughts and noble action. – From ‘Rakhi Day is Righteous Day’ by Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam


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Feature by Suzanne McNeill

Wonder Women Throughout India’s history, women have proved that they can step beyond domestic boundaries and forge new trails. In the process, they also have positively impacted society and sowed the seeds for women’s empowerment and progress. We take a look at some such inspiring figures

The nurturing figure of a woman as homemaker, wife and mother is a potent symbol within India’s cultural heritage, and still influences how women are regarded within society. Throughout India’s history, however, there have been women who found their own voice, asserted their rights and followed career paths that were rightfully theirs to pursue, often in the face of opposition. The word ‘trailblazer’ is attached to many of them because the dreams and ideas they pursued were revolutionary at the time. Here we focus on Indian women from many different walks of life whose individual actions and choices have impacted society at large.


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FREEDOM FIGHTER

The Rani of Jhansi (1828–1858) Rani Lakshmibai, known as the Rani of Jhansi, was one of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 against the British, and to this day she is regarded as a powerful symbol of defiance against colonial rule. Lakshmibai was married to the Maharajah of the princely state of Jhansi. When her husband died, the British refused to recognise the claim to the throne of the child they had adopted and named as heir. This long-standing tradition had been undermined by the colonial Doctrine of Lapse, a policy of annexation under which a territory would automatically be annexed if the ruler died without a direct descendent. The rejection of Lakshmibai’s claim on behalf of her adopted child coincided with the outbreak of the Indian Rebellion, and within months the Rani found herself defending her city against British forces, who demanded its surrender. Despite its resistance, Jhansi fell to the British and the Rani escaped to Gwalior, where the British made their next successful attack. Dressed as a sowar (soldier mounted on a horse), fully armed and with her child strapped to her back, the Rani went into battle but was killed. She is commemorated as one of India’s national heroines in films, novels and songs, and the first women’s unit of the Indian National Army was named after her.

Women of similar achievement

Rudrama Devi (13th century)

Mai Bhago (18th century)

Rani Gaidinliu (1915–1993)

Lakshmi Sahgal (1914–2012)

Rani Velu Nachiyar (18th century)

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EDUCATION

Savitribai Phule (1831–1897) At a time when education was the preserve of the higher castes and lower caste children of either gender were denied the right to any learning, Savitribai Phule was to herald a new age of thinking by opening India’s first school for girls. Phule was born into a farming family and was married to her 12-year-old husband when she was just nine years old. She entered her marital home clutching a book given to her by Christian missionaries, and, impressed by her thirst for learning, her young husband taught her to read and write. Phule was to become a crusader for the education of girls. The couple opened their first school in Pune in 1848, and by 1851 were running three schools with around 150 female students. In so doing, Phule also overcame another hurdle that prevented women from working outside the home but she had to contend with men pelting her with stones and dung as she made her way to work each morning. Phule set precedents that exist today, offering stipends to families to prevent children dropping out of school, and involving parents so that they would understand the importance of education. She extended her work to other vulnerable members of society, opening her home as a shelter for women who conceived out of wedlock and for young widows rejected by their families. It is said that she grasped the meaning of women’s liberation in India long before such rights were pursued by feminists, and that every Indian woman who is educated today owes Phule a debt of gratitude.

Women of similar achievement

Durgabai Deshmukh (1909–1981)

INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT Sarojini Naidu (1879–1949)

Women of similar achievement

Aruna Asaf Ali (1909–1996)

Bhikaji Rustom Cama (1861–1936)

A burning desire to see her countrymen free from colonial rule drove Sarojini Naidu to dedicate her life to fighting for Swaraj, the Gandhian principle of individual, spiritual and political independence, and the empowerment of women. A child prodigy, Naidu entered the University of Madras aged 12, and later studied overseas. On her return to India she was enraged by the continuing suppression of her homeland. She joined the Indian independence movement in the wake of the Partition of Bengal in 1905 (an attempt by the colonial government to split the state across religious lines that was widely seen as an attempt to quell the Indian Independence Movement) and met the prominent social and political figures campaigning for self-rule. She travelled around India delivering lectures on social welfare, women’s empowerment and nationalism and helped establish the Women’s Indian Association, seeking franchise for women, the right to hold legislative office and equality. Naidu took part in the salt protests and her anti-British activity led to several prison sentences during the 1930s and 1940s. President of the Indian National Congress from 1925, she was the first woman to become governor of an Indian state (Uttar Pradesh) following Independence. To this day she is respected for her unceasing commitment to the cause of Indian independence and gender equality, which transformed the social and political framework of her nation.


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DANCE

Rukmini Devi Arundale (1904–1986) Bharatanatyam is regarded as India’s pre-eminent classical dance form, a status it owes single-handedly to its revival in the 1930s by Rukmini Devi. As a beautiful young Brahmin, Rukmini Devi had already shocked conservative society by marrying a middle-aged Englishman, the Theosophist, G.S. Arundale. Her interest in India’s traditional dance forms led her to perform a Bharatanatyam recital at a Theosophical Society convention in 1935. Bharatanatyam had always been danced in the temples by the devadasis, the handmaidens of the gods, but no woman born into respectability had danced it in public, and the form had sunk into disrepute. The performance was a turning point, and the Arundales founded the prestigious Kalakshetra Dance School in Chennai in 1936 to further the study of the dance form. In later years, Rukmini Devi served in India’s Upper House of Parliament.

Women of similar achievement

Mrinalini Sarabhai (1918–2016)

Balasaraswati (1918–1984)

LAW and PUBLIC SERVICE Anna Chandy (1905–1996)

Education for women began to take hold during the first quarter of the 20th century and women were encouraged to join the teaching profession. Opposition to women holding other government jobs, however, was entrenched. This attitude was to be overturned by Anna Chandy, who became India’s first female judge. Chandy was born and raised in Trivandrum, benefiting from the state’s matrilineal traditions and reforms that opened admissions for women in the Government Law College. She became the first woman in Trivandrum to get a law degree, braving the sneers and comments of her male colleagues. From 1929, Chandy practised as a barrister, earning considerable fame fighting criminal law cases. But her pioneering work was not complete. Women had been eligible to sit in Travancore’s Popular Assembly from 1922, and several had done so. The practical difficulties were formidable, however, and Chandy faced considerable animosity when she fought the elections in 1931. She was targeted by a smear campaign and lost. Nonetheless, Chandy went on to be elected from 1932–1934, and in 1937 was appointed the state’s first female judge. Chandy was fiercely determined to make a success of her new post as she knew she was a test case; “If I faltered or failed, I would not just be damaging my own career, but would be doing a great disservice to the cause of women,” she later wrote. In 1948, Chandy was raised to the position of District Judge and then appointed to the Kerala High Court in 1959 – not only was she the first woman to hold such a position in India but the first amongst all the Commonwealth nations.

Women of similar achievement

C.B. Muthamma (1924–2009)


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MEDIA and ARTS

Homai Vyarawalla (1913–2012) Most women working in the 1930s were unskilled labourers. Women from respectable homes were expected to become homemakers in turn and certainly not pursue a career that required operating machinery or devices. Homai Vyarawalla was India’s first female photo journalist, whose portfolio of images captured the final days of the Empire and the events and personalities that shaped the newly emergent India. Vyarawalla was born to a theatrical Parsi family, and learnt photography from her husband. She studied at Mumbai’s JJ School of Arts, and then worked at the British Information Services, a role that plunged her immediately into the world of national politics. Thereafter she photographed many political and national leaders, including Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, said to be her favourite subject. She captured the swearing-in of Lord Mountbatten as Governor General of India, the Dalai Lama’s first visit to India, and the young Nehru-Gandhi family. To succeed in her career, Vyarawalla had to flout many social conventions. She travelled alone by train and bus, and took a practical and spirited attitude to the necessity of sharing accommodation with male colleagues. For many years her work was less well known than that of the photographs of India taken by her contemporaries from overseas, a bias towards foreigners that was yet another hurdle to her career. Many of her images now form part of India’s national archives.

Women of similar achievement

Amrita Sher-Gil (1913–1941)

SCIENCE

Asima Chatterjee (1917–2006) The gender gap in the field of science and scientific research was equally pronounced at this time. Asima Chatterjee was born in Calcutta. Her father, a doctor, was a keen amateur botanist who encouraged his daughter to take an interest in plant chemistry. Although it was unheard of for a woman to study chemistry, Chatterjee was to graduate with honours in the subject in 1936, and established Calcutta University’s Department of Chemistry in 1940. In 1944 Chatterjee became the first Indian woman to earn a doctorate degree in science awarded by an Indian university.

Women of similar achievement

Kalpana Chawla (1962–2003)

Tessy Thomas (1963–present)

Her contribution to Indian science was immense. Chatterjee worked in the field of organic chemistry and phytomedicine, the study of chemicals derived from plants. She developed anti-epileptic and anti-malarial drugs as well as plant-derived alkaloids that are used in chemotherapy, and was a prodigious writer, publishing around 400 papers in national and international journals. Professional honours followed. She was elected a fellow of the National Institute of Sciences of India in 1960 (later renamed the Indian National Science Academy) and was the first woman scientist to be elected as the General President of the Indian Science Congress in 1975. She served as a member of the Rajya Sabha from 1982 to 1990.


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BUSINESS

Chanda Kochhar (1961–present) The achievements of a new generation of businesswomen are being recognised in India’s corporate world. Last May, Chanda Kochhar, Chief Executive Officer of ICICI Bank, became the first Indian woman to receive the prestigious Woodrow Wilson Award for Global Corporate Citizenship, joining the ranks of Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice. As CEO-Managing Director of ICICI Bank, the country’s largest private sector bank, Kochhar is widely acknowledged for her role in shaping India’s retail banking sector.

Women of similar achievement

Kiran MazumdarShaw (1953–present)

Zia Mody (1956–present)

Tanya Dubash (1968–present)

Kochhar attended school in Jaipur before moving to Mumbai to study cost accountancy, taking a Master’s in Management Studies. She joined ICICI as a management trainee in 1984, impressing colleagues with her focus and ability to make inroads in a maledominated field. She then headed the bank’s Infrastructure Industry Group, before being promoted to the major client group, handling strategy and e-commerce as well. Under her leadership, the bank started building its retail business. Stints as chief financial officer and joint managing director followed before her appointment as MD and CEO in 2009, responsible for the bank’s operations in India and overseas. Today ICICI is present in 18 countries outside India. Kochhar is active on the boards of many national committees and institutions, and has won numerous industry awards.

SPORT

The Phogat Sisters (1988 onwards) The Phogat sisters are a compelling example of women’s emancipation. Geeta, Babita, Ritu and Sangita, and their cousins Vinesh and Priyanka, are professional wrestlers, breaking taboos and making history. Geeta, Babita and Vinesh have each won gold for India at the Commonwealth Games (in 2010 and 2014). In 2012, Geeta became the first woman wrestler to represent India at the Olympics. The younger girls are Junior Asian Championships medallists.

Mary Kom (1982–present)

Mithali Raj (1982–present)

The family lives in rural Haryana where the idea of women wrestling, let alone participating in sport, was unprecedented. A former wrestler and coach, their father wanted to see his children take up the sport. He built a simple training ground and instigated a tough coaching regime in the face of unrelenting criticism as his teenaged girls, dressed in close-fitting sports kit, slugged it out with each other and with the village boys. The sisters found themselves socially isolated, but their competitions drew large audiences and the attention of India’s national coaches. So inspiring has been the sisters’ success, they are now feted by their community and beyond. The media interest in their story is immense, including a film by Aamir Khan based on their lives. The sisters won four medals at the Commonwealth Wrestling Championships in 2017 and are focused on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.


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ADVERTISE

IN  T HIS MAGAZINE culturama@globaladjustments.com www.globaladjustments.com

Learn from the Bhagavad Gita by Team Culturama

Chapter 9 Capturing the essence of the Bhagavad Gita in a single sentence, one chapter at a time; accompanied by an inspirational photograph from our Annual Photo Competition.

Value your blessings Photo: Maayan Gutgold, Israel

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When benzoin resin (known as sambrani) is burnt, it emits fragrant smoke that is said to be anti-bacterial. By spreading the smoke, and taking a small fee for it, this man has created a niche business plan. Photo: Claudia GONELLA, UK

Picture Story by Team Culturama

Business as Usual

Entrepreneurship thrives in every corner in India. With little more than a few odds and ends, entire businesses are set up and run in tiny spaces. Do not be fooled by the scale of these trades – the people running them would be able to reel off lessons in strategy and organisation worthy of the world’s best B-schools. What is more interesting is that many of these trades are unique to India – so, take a closer look!


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There is no need for a fancy salon when a chair on the roadside suffices for a comfortable shave. Photo: Manju CHAND, India

Short on accessories? Pick up something up en route. Photo: Suriyanarayanan R S, India Mobile temples, mobile blessings – at a minor cost. Photo: Jessica Stewart, USA

Fortune on a farthing? Yes, we have that, too. Photo: Carlo Sem, Italy

Fresh catch for the picking and choosing. Photo: Elena PESSINA, Italy

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A temple in Prambanan. All Photos: Courtesy Remote Lands

Hit the Road by Devanshi Mody

Seek, Pray, Learn


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Elements of Indian architecture are to be found in the magnificent temples of Bali, which give rise to the questions of when and how this cross-cultural exchange was facilitated. Follow the trail and you will have a fascinating lesson in history and spiritual thought

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If you thought Tamil Nadu is temple land, you have not visited Bali, the only Hindu island in Indonesia’s kitty of 17,500 islands where pervasions of jagged-edged temples jostle for space with the mighty onslaught of luxury resorts (which, incidentally, have their own temples, just as every Balinese home has a ‘family temple’ in their yard). Bali’s temples, their prodigious quantum notwithstanding, have not the architectural splendour and stratospheric proportions of Tamil Nadu’s great temples. In Indonesia’s culture capital Yogyakarta, in Central Java, ninth century Buddhist and Hindu UNESCO sites Borobudur and Prambanan alone match the craftsmanship of Tamil Nadu’s temples – but that is perhaps because sculptors from Tamil Nadu and Odisha crafted them. History tells us that the Cholas attained Cambodia and Indonesia, and that Chola architecture inspired Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. I was told that Rajendra Chola swashbucklingly led an ocean fleet, captured and colonised certain Indonesian islands and brought Hinduism to Indonesia. Dubiety taints this tale however much it excites Tamil pride, because Rajendra Chola did not come into existence until the eleventh century and Hindu temples in Indonesia date from the ninth century, at least. We do, however, know that Rajendra Chola’s naval expedition to Indo-China accomplished the historic conquest of Srivijaya (modern Kedah), marking a unique chapter in pacifist Indian history. Now, the port Rajendra captured, Srivijaya, and the Sailendra Dynasty, whose collapse he achieved, bore Sanskrit names, suggesting the anterior advent of Hinduism into the region. Java legends of 78 AD refer to the ‘Saka Era’ and stories from The Mahabharata have been detected since the first century, together with extensive use of Sanskrit words, Indian deity names and religious concepts. Yet, there seems little academic rigour and, concomitantly, consensus on precisely when, how and from where in India Hinduism and Buddhism voyaged to Indonesia. History is shrouded in hearsay, and opinions abound, obfuscating fact. Hinduism came in the fourth century with the Sanjay

A series of shrines in Prambanan.

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Buddhist influences abound in Borodbudur (top and below).

Dynasty, says guide Sutan Ismail from Remote Lands. He is only one of four that the excessively stringent and terrifyingly exclusive tour operator Remote Lands recruited from 150 applicants – which inspires confidence in his authority. Moreover, his commentary, delivered in eloquent English, evinces a certain erudition. And, crucially, he has a sense of humour. So when my mother mistakenly calls him “Sultan”, he quips, “If my name were Sultan, I wouldn’t be here,” as he fetches us from 100-yearold heritage hotel Phoenix Yogyakarta, the base from which to explore Yogyakarta’s heritage sites, including the nearby Sultan’s Palace. In implacable rain, we embark to Prambanan, a complex of temples enshrining each of the Hindu Trinity

Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and their respective carriers (Hamsa, Garuda and Nandi) in the embrace of several incidental shrines. Ovoid temple tops uncannily resemble those in Odisha, except that in Indonesia they get tagged UNESCO. Temple architecture seems a Dravidian and Orian architectural hybrid, with sculptural adornments evoking the Great Chola Temples. Unsurprisingly then, Sutan reveals the artists were Indian exports, comprising 10 per cent of the workforce. “The locals only provided labour.” Why and how they were brought remains a mystery, but Sutan says Tamillooking descendants still survive in Java. Prambanan predates Hampi. While at Hampi, the Ramayana is told on stone in its entirety in one temple, the epic scrolls enclosures across the principle temples at Prambanan. Deciphering an especially pronounced panel from The Ramayana of Sugriva combatting Vali to get back his wife, Sutan winks, “It’s all about the women,” and proceeds to establish that the Great Wall of China and the Rama Setu (built by the army of monkeys led by Hanuman) linking India and Lanka are the only two things on Earth visible from space. We stroll 800 m to Sewu, an eighth century Buddhist temple, Indonesia’s second largest, which lately acquired UNESCO status. (Odisha’s more architecturally dense


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contemporaneous trio of sixth- to twelfth century Buddhist sites Ratnagiri, Lalitgiri and Udayagiri have not yet gained UNESCO status, neither has the tremendously pretty Sarnath, outside Varanasi, where the Buddha first discoursed.) Sutan says Indonesia aggressively secured for Sewu the much-sought UNESCO brand label that seems easily procured everywhere but in Intricate architectural influences are seen in Pura Besakih (top and below). India. Sutan prescribes that temple, the thirteenth century Pura Besakih with roofs the Indian government should make more strenuous efforts, like stacked Chinese hats are endowed with magnificent for he too has heard of the heritage marvel that is India and sculpted monoliths of dragons, snakes and buffalo, echoing longs to visit. Chinese influences. Bali practises an adulterated Hinduism – Prambanan, however, is astonishingly beautiful and I ritualistic and simplistic. Yet, the Balinese grasp the recondite wonder why Borobudur enjoys greater fame. Sutan replies monotheistic quintessence underlying Hinduism – ‘Many enigmatically, “You tell me.” manifestations, One Divinity’ – from which the immense But first, he tells me, en route to Borobudur, as we pantheon of Hindu gods has proliferated. pass lush rice fields, about how the Buddhists and Hindus Now, Borobudur is like nothing I have seen. Monumental, coexisted (with a few squabbles) in these fertile volcanic parts multi-tiered, rising majestically from plush lawns, it is the until the Muslims descended from Yemen and Gujarat. They world’s largest single Buddhist temple. Its tapering tiers, with then mass converted Buddhists and Hindus, except those who circular passages, ‘galleries’, flanked by streaming sculpted fled to East Java, and eventually hopped across to Bali where finery of Buddhist significance, divinity incarnate in stone, they engendered a unique temple architecture, notably those are a pilgrimage. Belaboured though by a querulous and ingeniously and famously around water systems. You have unmitigated rain that commenced its peevish assault at dawn spectacular monstrous ‘guardians’ vigilantly and would not relent, we escalate. contouring Balinese temples with The now-concealed base with illustrations of deviant otherwise little of the architectural sexuality, seen in Dutch books only as they alone accessed finesse of Indian temples and without this gallery during colonial rule, represents human carnality. icons of stupendous stature as in India. The second level, comprising four elaborately carved galleries, However, tenth century water temple begins with the most ornate gallery with expositions of the Tirta Empul and Bali’s most sacred


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kerala break for high tea

milesworth holidays india • srilanka • maldives • and beyond

visit: www.milesworth.com 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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life of the Buddha in splendid detail. It becomes increasingly more rarefied and esoteric as you rise, symbolising the mind’s cleansing and corresponding discarnation. It is a sensitive apprehension of abstruse philosophical concepts and precepts ‘transliterated’, if you will, in a graphic artistic language. If Sutan assumed that like his other guests we would just saunter past, he is overwhelmed when prevailed upon to interpret every panel (the ones on the circumscribing wall we quite simply cannot manage simultaneously). In 21 years of guiding, Sutan has rarely been asked exhaustive details. When we get to the more arcane carvings of the third and fourth galleries, Sutan confesses he cannot interpret them; not even the anchorites at the nearby monastery can. But the monks of yore who meticulously circumambulated each level, imbibing the lesson in each panel, clearly had some decoding tool, which not even the most erudite literature on the temple, Sutan says, has disclosed. Instead, Sutan enlarges on the significance of the number 9, as in Hinduism, (504 human-sized Buddha statues, and so on). When you reach the final ‘philosophical’ tier’s two levels, you have Buddhas in butter-dish-like stone encasings, with diamond-shaped apertures suggesting that the external world has not yet been eradicated from the mind. The rarefaction apotheosised in the stark, opaque stupa symbolises

Bali practises an adulterated Hinduism – ritualistic and simplistic. Yet, the Balinese grasp the monotheistic quintessence underlying Hinduism – ‘Many manifestations, One Divinity’ disembodiment and signifies extermination from the mind of all desire and the external world in Nirvana. The view from the top is exhilarating and liberating. The experience should enlighten, too. Sutan said we could see Borobudur in one hour; three hours later, we hardly feel we have seen anything. But the point is to see with the ‘Third Eye’. Indeed, Sutan avers every time he comes here he feels a subtle, elevating refinement of being. You certainly feel lighter, as if you have shed some of your toilsome embodiment. I now see why Borobudur is more famous than Prambanan. Just when we complete our visit, the rain stops. Haggard clouds, exhausted from a day’s labouring, hang limply in abashed skies. I had said that morning, “It is my destiny to see UNESCO sites in the rain, and once you accept your destiny, life simplifies.” Sutan winks; I seem to have acquired philosophical insight even before the circumambulation of Borobudur.


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India Diaries by Jane Kataria

Yoga Sans Borders


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Why would someone leave a lucrative corporate career to take up the practice and teaching of kriya yoga on a full-time basis? A chat with Nayaswami Dharmarajan of Ananda Sangha throws light on this and other questions related to the practice of this ancient yoga technique I reach the white villa, which is surrounded by trees in bloom. I am here to meet Nayaswami Dharmarajan, the Spiritual Director of Ananda Sangha – an institution that teaches kriya yoga. Dharmarajan and his wife, Nayaswami Dharmini, both disciples of Paramhansa Yogananda, serve as Spiritual Directors of Ananda Sangha in Chennai. This is a branch of a worldwide organisation that offers seekers training in kriya yoga. Born and brought up in the United States to an American mother and an Indian father, Dharmarajan did not start out practicing yoga or teaching it. He got a Master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and later worked for top companies, including AT&T Bell Labs, Xerox, National Semiconductor and AOL. As a graduate student, his desire was to move to California in order to develop himself spiritually at the Ananda community there, but it seemed unlikely. When he was suddenly offered a research internship in Silicon Valley, Dharmarajan was able to move into Ananda’s community there. He began working in Ananda’s school, teaching math and science to the children there. It was during this phase of his life that Dharmini and he met and married. The couple moved to Chennai recently on their guru’s advice. I am curious as to what could drive a person to leave the corporate world behind and devote his life to spiritual teaching and practice. And it is with these thoughts in mind that I begin my conversation with Nayaswami. Tell me more about kriya yoga. Kriya yoga is an ancient technique for spiritual growth and, ultimately, union with the divine. In a nutshell, it is about being able to draw divine energy through spinal centres. This technique was introduced to the West by Parmahansa Yogananda on his guru’s instructions. The technique has been passed down from guru to disciple in an unbroken chain. The path to becoming a kriya practitioner involves preparation for about a year, after which one can be initiated into the path of kriya yoga.

Nayaswami Dharmarajan

Kriya yoga is a gift of ancient Indian wisdom to the world, and an increasing number of people across the world are starting to practise it. I would recommend that those who are interested read Autobiography of a Yogi by Parmahansa Yogananda as a starting point. When and how did your spiritual journey begin? I was not brought up in a religious environment. Although my father is Indian (Tamil), and I recall visiting churches with my mother while growing up in the United States, I was not raised in a religious family. However, inside me, there was always a burning desire to seek something for which I had no name or form. I did realise that the beauty of mathematics, which I genuinely appreciated, was not enough to hold on my attention. In 1996, I read Autobiography of a Yogi and it set me on a course of spiritual discovery. The enthusiasm of a fellow student who introduced me to kriya yoga was impressive and influential in my decision to settle for a spiritual way of life. Do you believe that your spiritual journey is in part due to your Indian background? Can your interest be explained by looking to your family tree for five or seven generations, or even to ancestors who lived 5,000 years ago? It could possibly be the case. There are some researches about the influence of ancestry in the course of one’s life. And then again, perhaps this theory may not hold good. My father’s Indian links are unequivocally stronger than mine. However, he chose another way of life. We believe that the spiritual path continues over several lifetimes till one’s


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Is it possible to practice kriya yoga if you lead a regular life?

Photo: Darlene Armijo, USA

This is a very relevant question for this date and time. Babaji (the master of kriya yoga) gave this long-lost knowledge to Laheri Mahasaya, who was a householder. Most people who learn kriya yoga are not ascetics but are engaged in business and career. Practising kriya yoga helps in increasing focus and concentration for things that matter – including your profession. Yoga develops a brighter mind and a healthier body. Most importantly, you come to realise that all you are seeking outside is within you. In the modern-day environment, many people are constantly searching for happiness. What is it that they are missing?

soul is liberated. Our gurus say that if someone practising kriya yoga passes away in a particular life time, he or she starts the next life with a karmic deposit that continues from the previous life. It is said that all humans have free will. At the same time, there is a strong belief in destiny. Do you think that everything that happens in our lives is predestined? Or do you support the view that our life is in our own hands? Some of the most important choices – such as our parents, nationality, gender and children are already made for us. In light of the fact that so many variables in life are already planned, one may conclude that there is no place for choice. However, I would like to believe that there is some scope for personal endeavour – and that is sufficient motivation in itself. The small choices that can be made are sufficient to convert fate into the future of your own choice. Meditation is one such example. People who are meditating have exercised their choice, seeking to change their karma. As human beings, we have the ability to erase fear through meditation. Our perception of suffering, of good and bad, is always relative. Meditation, awareness, alertness and spiritual knowledge will help erase past impressions and bring us closer to liberation. Look at my life: The seemingly small choice that I made while at MIT has given me a chance to help people choose a path to the divine. And it has brought purpose and meaning to my life. And, for this reason, I do support the idea that some, albeit limited, aspects of our future are in our own hands in spite of a basically preordained world.

The human drive for happiness is one of our fundamental needs. Yet, despite our desperate search for happiness, only a minority of people describe themselves as absolutely happy. It seems that very few of us have truly unlocked the secrets of lasting joy and inner peace. As Paramhansa Yogananda said, instead of looking for temporary source of happiness, seek union with God. Instead of finding happiness through objects and experiences, seek God directly. After achieving any goal, the human mind seeks something else – that something else is union with god. I would recommend that people start their search with silence. Even the Bible says, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ Parmahansa Yogananda referred to this stillness as kriya yoga. This is indeed the spiritual highway for achieving the longing of the human soul. With teachers like yourself, this knowledge has been spread far and wide, across borders and boundaries. I believe that the spiritual journey is not about creed, caste or nationality – rather, it is about evolution. Spiritually advanced people have been born across all continents and in all times. For example, I learnt kriya yoga in the United States from one of Parmahansa Yogananda’s direct disciples, who brought this wealth of spiritual knowledge to the West. Self-realisation or union with the Creator is the desire of every soul; it is this that leads to our search for everything. As St. Augustine said, humans, such a small part of creation and short-lived as they are, still find a need to praise God. Each feels the longing to reach out to his Creator. “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you,” he says. Spiritual practices and ideas travel across the world to the hearts of seekers without being limited by boundaries and languages.


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At GA Foundation by Team Culturama

Ripples of Success Global Adjustments Foundation offers programmes aimed at Addressing the needs of women in the workforce. We look back at our progress to date

It is worth noting that work participation rate for women in India fell from 25.6 per cent in 2001 to 21.9 per cent in 2011–2012. The latest data shows that, of the total organised sector employment in the country in 2010, women accounted for only 20.4 per cent of the total workforce. Women’s participation in the workforce would propel our country’s progress forward in a tangible way. Studies suggest that if India increased its female labour force participation by 10 per cent (68 million more women) by 2025, it could increase its GDP growth to 16 per cent. It is estimated that 217 million women are missing from the workforce.

Champion A Woman – She Will Build A Nation The Global Adjustments Foundation life coaching programs aim to empower women with emotional, physical and leadership skills.

Our Vision Empower the workforce with balanced, confident and productive women. Our Mission Provide life coaching to maximise the emotional, physical and leadership skills of women.

The interactive workshops for our nursing staff were practical and extremely motivating. It helps them to be professionally effective and live a happier and peaceful life too. The mindfulness practice is most appreciated as it helps them handle stress better. Your time and effort is more than writing a cheque to our organisation. - T.V Sriram, CFO, Kanchi Kamakoti Childs Trust Hospital


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The class has been exactly crafted for the need and situations faced by women police. We find it extremely difficult to balance work and life. The class provided fresh energy and a new confidence for everyone to face life. - Umavani (a police inspector from Chennai)

However, women need sufficient support in order to be able to sustain their presence in the workforce, but often suffer from a lack of the same. To bridge this gap, Global Adjustments Foundation provides life coaching through workshops that are customised to specific needs. These interactive sessions tap on real-life inspiration, so that the participants can adapt and implement the learnings as per their individual needs and strengths.

I am empowered and have learnt to be ‘quietly assertive’ – my thoughts and actions were deeply influenced by this one line shared at the workshop. I am forever grateful. I have opened my motor garage and it is running well. - Renponi (a single mother from Nagaland)

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I am currently running an online accessories business. I was worried about whether I would get my investment back, but I am now motivated thanks to the teachings from the workshop. Tenacity, self-belief and planning are the tools I gained. Thank you Global Adjustments Foundation! - Divya (a college student from Chennai) “Our vision is to empower women to be a balanced, confident and productive workforce. We provide life coaching to maximise the emotional, physical and leadership skills of women,” says Ranjini Manian, Founder of Global Adjustments Foundation. It is a moment of pride for Global Adjustments Foundation that over 40,000 women, including homepreneurs, IT workers, nurses, police, soldiers, students and teachers, have participated in our interactive workshops and benefited from the programmes. “We show ways that lift self-esteem, will power and self-discipline to manifest potential. We enable women to relate positively with themselves and the world,” says Usha Ramakrishnan, Director of Global Adjustments Foundation.

Our programs are run completely free of cost for participants; we depend on corporates and individuals to champion the movement. To book a program or support us,

call +91-98405 20394 or email foundation@globaladjustments.com


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Festivals of India March, considered the dawn of Spring, is a time when several festivals from across different religions are celebrated

Holi

March 2 Also known as the ‘festival of colours’, Holi signifies the arrival of spring; it is also seen as a form of thanksgiving for a good harvest. Celebrations start on the previous evening, which is known as Holika Dahan or Chhoti Holi. Families typically perform religious rituals in front of a bonfire, to mark the destruction of Holika, the sister of a demon king named Hiranyakashipu. The prayers are meant to invoke the blessing of burning away one’s own negative qualities. The next morning sees the start of the celebrations, when people smear each other with coloured powder; water guns and balloons filled with coloured water are also used. The celebrations are carried out in the home, streets, parks and other communal spaces. It is also common to see music groups playing drums and other musical instruments to encourage the song and dance. While Holi originated in North India, it has become popular across the subcontinent, and people of all faiths participate in the revelry.

Ugadi

Photo: Diana Grieger, Germany

March 18 The name ‘Ugadi’ is derived from the Sanskrit words yuga (age) and ādi (beginning) and, hence, means ‘the beginning of a new age’. Thus, it refers to the traditional New Year celebrated by Hindus in the states of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The day is observed by drawing colourful patterns with rice flour at the entrance, hanging strings of mango leaves on the front door, giving of gifts and performing charity and visiting a temple. A special dish that combines all flavours – sweet, sour, salty, bitter – is made. This is a symbolic reminder that one must expect all kinds of experiences in the coming year and make the most of them.


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Gudi Padwa

March 18 Celebrated primarily in Maharashtra, Gudi Padwa marks the traditional New Year for Marathi Hindus, the arrival of spring and the reaping of crops. Gudi means flag, and padwa is derived from a Sanskrit word for the first day on which the moon appears after the ‘new moon’ day and the first day after the full moon. The festival is linked to several legends: the day on which Lord Brahma created the universe; the coronation of Rama in Ayodhya; and Shiva’s dance. A notable sight during Gudi Padwa are the numerous gudi arrangements at every household – a bright, colourful silk scarf-like cloth is tied at the top of a long bamboo; on top of it, one or more boughs of neem leaves and mango leaves are attached along with a garland of flowers. This arrangement is capped with a silver, bronze or copper pot. Traditionally, families prepare a special dish that mixes various flavours, which includes the bitter leaves of the neem tree and sweet jaggery. Like the one made for Ugadi, this dish acts as a reminder of life’s mix of sweet and bitter experiences.

Rama Navami

March 25

A festival that celebrates the birth of Lord Rama, Rama Navami is particularly important to the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. More so as Rama is regarded as the seventh avatar (manifestation) of Lord Vishnu. The day is marked by recitals or reading of Rama’s life story, which is captured in the Ramayana. People also visit temples or pray within their home, and some even participate in bhajans or communal singing. Another practice is to take miniature statues of infant Rama, wash and clothe it, and place it in a cradle – thus recreating the scene of his birth. Charitable events and community meals are usually organised. While the festival is named after Rama, it typically includes reverence for Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman given their importance in Rama’s life.


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Painting by Sri. S. Rajam. Picture courtesy ‘Art Heritage of India: A Collector’s Special’ published by L&T - ECC & ECC Recreation Club


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Tales of India by Team Culturama

An Epic Retelling

The Ramayana contains several beautiful stories that are entertaining while containing a seed of wisdom within

The Ramayana, an epic that details the life and rule of Rama (an avatar or incarnation of Lord Vishnu), is one of the largest ancient epics in world literature. Consisting of nearly 24,000 verses, it is also considered to be the adi-kavya (first poem). The Ramayana is read and recited by many as a daily practice or on special occasions, because the practice is said to awaken wisdom and impart spiritual well-being. Stories within the Ramayana are also shared, especially with children, to convey lessons of righteous conduct in an easy-to-understand format. We have picked up a few popular stories for your reading pleasure. Illustration: Lalithaa, India

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The Sweetest Berries

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Sabari was a tribal woman and the disciple of a sage named Matanga. She lived in a small hut in the sage’s hermitage in a forest, and served him dutifully. She was a great devotee of Rama, and was told by Matanga before he died that she would one day meet Rama and gain his blessing. Many years passed by and Shabri grew old – yet, each day, she cleaned her hut and the surroundings, picked berries and arranged them on a plate, and waited patiently for Rama to pay her a visit. Finally, one day, Rama and Lakshmana stopped by Sabari’s ashram en route in their search for Sita (who had been kidnapped by Ravana). Sabari was overjoyed and took them to her hut. She washed their feet lovingly and offered them the berries she had collected. However, the berries were all half-eaten because Sabari had tasted them to ensure she was giving the sweetest fruit to Rama. While Lakshmana was offended by her gesture, Rama was touched by her love and devotion and explained to his brother that the berries were made only sweeter by her touch.

The 14-year Slumber A well-known aspect of the Ramayana is of how close Lakshmana was to Rama. It is said that, as a baby, he kept crying until he was placed next to Rama. From childhood, he was always beside Rama, accompanying him everywhere he went. Thus, he also followed Rama and Sita into exile in the forest. Moreover, he refused to take his wife, Urmila, along for fear of being distracted from his task.

On the first night in the forest, Lakshmana kept watch while Rama and Sita went to sleep. When Nidra, the goddess of sleep, approached him, he begged her to leave him alone for 14 years so that he could guard his brother and sisterin-law all day and night. The goddess agreed, but told him that nature required someone else to bear the burden of Lakshmana’s sleep. Lakshmana asked Nidra to go to Urmila; when the goddess approached her, Urmila willingly agreed to take on her husband’s share of sleep. So, Urmila slept all day and night for 14 years while Lakshmana stayed awake in the service of Rama and Sita.


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Three Stripes of Love When Rama went in search of Sita, he enlisted the help of Sugreeva, the King of vanaras (monkeys). They found out that Sita was in Lanka, which lay across the ocean. Thus, they decided to build a bridge across the ocean. An army of monkeys and bears began to enthusiastically uproot large trees, boulders and even hills, and dropped them into the ocean to build a bridge. On seeing them, all other animals began to contribute to the effort – the fishes and other sea creatures helped hold up the boulders, while the birds brought smaller stones to fill in the gaps. In the midst of this, a small squirrel ran to the edge of the water, and, after rolling in the sand, ran to the water and washed himself. He ran back to the shore and rolled again, and more sand got stuck to him, since he was now wet. Again, he ran to the water to wash himself. The small grains of sand that stuck to his body were all he could contribute to the massive task on hand. However, the squirrel was getting in the way of the monkeys and bears and they shouted at it to move out

of the way. Unperturbed, the squirrel continued its work, determined to contribute in every way he could. Rama, who was watching all this, went and picked up the squirrel and gently stroked its back with his fingers to express his appreciation. Three lines appeared where the Rama’s fingers had touched the squirrel – a sign that is seen even today.

Cursed No More Legend goes that Ahalya, said to be one of the most beautiful women ever created, was married to a sage named Gautama who was much older than her. Gautama and Ahalya lived an austere life in a hermitage in a forest. One day, Indra (a powerful god) saw Ahalya while riding over the forest in his celestial chariot and was smitten by her beauty and wanted to have her for his own. Once, when Gautama was not in the ashram, Indra transformed himself to look like the sage and approached Ahalya. Some versions of the Ramayana say that Ahalya was aware of the deception but went along with it, while others claim that she was fooled by the disguise and thought it was indeed her husband. The duo was discovered sharing an intimate moment by the real Gautama, who went into a fit of rage. He cursed Ahalya that she would be turned into a rock for her act of infidelity. Upon seeing his wife shed copious tears, Gautama relented. He said that the curse could not be undone, but that she would be freed from the curse by Rama. Several decades passed. One day, sage Vishwamitra led the young princes Rama and Lakshmana into the forest. There, when Rama’s foot brushed against a rock, it turned into a woman – thus was Ahalya freed from her curse and reunited with her husband.


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Myth & Mythology by Devdutt Pattanaik

Ram Across Southeast Asia and India

Long before British Orientalists came along, Rama was as much a hero for the Buddhists of Southeast Asia as he was for the Hindus of South Asia


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In the 15th century, the capital of Thailand was a city called Ayutthaya, which is Ayodhya in the local language. When Burmese soldiers overran this city in the 18th century, a new king rose. He called himself Rama I, established the city we now know as Bangkok, wrote the epic Ramakien, which is Ramayana in the local language, made it the national epic, and had it painted as murals on the walls of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, patronised by the royal family. Although he was a Buddhist, the king established his royal credentials by identifying himself with the mythical Ram. In those days, long before British Orientalists and the colonial divide-and-rule policy, no one distinguished between Buddhism and Hinduism. Ram was as much a hero for the Buddhists of Southeast Asia as he was for the Hindus of South Asia. Soon he became a role model for local kings. This legitimising of kingship through Ramayana began more than 1,000 years ago: in a stone inscription from Burma in the Mon language, dated to the 11th century, King Kyanzittha of the Bagan dynasty proclaimed that in his previous existence he was a close relative of Rama of Ayodhya. In the Angkor Wat ruins, built in 12th century Cambodia, in the corridor adjacent to the one depicting the royal procession, one finds carved episodes from Ramaker, the Khmer retelling of the Ramayana. Murals based on the Ramayana are also on the walls of the royal palace complex in Phnom Penh. One story catches our eye. We see Hanuman stretching himself, from the edge of a broken bridge to the shores of Lanka, enabling Ram on his horse-driven chariot and Ram’s grand monkey army to cross the sea effortlessly. This story is not found in the Ramayana that Indians are familiar with. And it vaguely reminds us of the Jataka story in which monkeys escaped the king’s hunters by running across the back of the monkey-king who stretched himself between two trees. We realise this is a unique Southeast Asian twist to the tale, perhaps a Buddhist innovation, or perhaps a Chinese one, inspired by the story of the Monkey-king Sun Wukong who terrorised the Taoist gods, but who was compelled by the Buddha to help a Buddhist monk Xuanzang travel to India and find original Buddhist scriptures. As in Thailand and Burma, kings of Cambodia today follow Theravada Buddhism. But centuries before, they followed Mahayana Buddhism. And before that they practised Hinduism. These religions originated in India and

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reached Southeast Asia via Odia and Tamil sea merchants who took advantage of the monsoon winds to make their annual trip there. They exchanged goods and shared stories. It is said that at night, the ship’s cloth sails illuminated by lamps inspired the storytellers to create the art of shadow leather puppet theatre, which explains why shadow puppetry thrived along the Coromandel sea coasts and across most of Southeast Asia, as Ravan-chhaya in Odisha and Wayang in Indonesia, for example. Direct transmission stopped around 1,000 years ago, around the time that Buddhism waned in India, and sea travel became taboo, with Hindus fearing it would result in loss of caste. Trade was outsourced to Arab sea merchants who also took Islam to Southeast Asia. We can be quite sure of this because the Ramayana found in Southeast Asia lacks the bhakti flavour so integral to the Indian Ramayana, first made explicit in the 9th century Tamil Kamba Ramayana. Preference for power over piety is evident when one studies the many Southeast Asian depictions of Hanumans. He is more monkey-like and more aggressive, lacking the serene grace given to him in Indian temples. Most disconcerting to the devout Indian Hindu is watching the Southeast Asian Hanuman behaving like a mischievous rake who enchants women, including Ravana’s sister Surpanakha and his wife Mandodari. One of the most common stories told is that of how Hanuman charms and changes the mind of Suvarnamaccha, the mermaid daughter of Ravana, who steals the rocks used by the monkeys to build a bridge to Lanka. In another story, he outwits Vibhishana’s daughter, Benjkaya, a sorceress who takes the form of Sita’s corpse to make Ram turn back. In the Kakawin Ramayana of Java, while the first part of the story is true to Valmiki’s Ramayana, it is the second which is more popular as it deals with the adventures of the local comic hero, the misshapen guardian god Semar and his three odd sons. The Malaysian Hikayat Seri Rama gives more importance to the decisive Lakshman and is more sympathetic to Ravana while making Ram appear aloof and imperious. These local innovations are further evidence of a long rupture in cultural connection between India and Southeast Asia, one that the current Indian government is determined to rectify.

Published on 26th January, 2018, in Hindustan Times. Reprinted with permission from www.devdutt.com


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Holistic Living by Eknath Easwaran

slow down your mind

Photo: Srikant RANGANATHAN, India


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A speeding mind is a dangerous thing. When thoughts are going terribly fast, they are out of control, and there is no space between them. To press the analogy further, it is like those dangerous moments on the freeway when cars are not only speeding but following bumper to bumper. Everyone is in danger. A thrilling realisation comes when you begin to A hurried pace originates in the mind. You might stop at understand this two-way relationship between speeded-up someone’s desk to be sociable, but that does not mean your thinking and negative emotions. If you are chronically angry, thoughts have stopped. If you are pretending to chat while fearful, or greedy, you know well how much damage these your mind has sprinted ahead towards the conference room, tendencies have done to your relationships, making you you might as well take the rest of you there too. No one can “weak in love and imperfect in virtue”. And you know, too, love with a mind that is going fast – or one that is divided. how dauntingly hard they are to change when you approach No one can love with a mind that is apt to swerve wildly, them head-on. Their roots go deep in your past conditioning. whether to avoid the small exigencies of daily life or to pursue You can talk them out, analyse them in your dreams, reason something bright across the room that attracts you. with yourself, go to anger workshops and fear seminars; still Let me suggest a small experiment. With the uncritical eye they wreak havoc, out of control. of the motion picture camera, observe your thought processes But suppose that instead of going after chronic anger or when you are in different states of mind. When you are feeling fear directly you were to tackle the thought process itself – irritable, take a peek. If you have occasion to be afraid or anxious, check again. If a strong desire overtakes you and you the mind in its Indianapolis speedway mode. When a car is going a hundred miles per hour, you cannot safely slam on can manage to see what is going on in the mind, take note. the brakes. But you can lift your foot off the accelerator. From Check your vital signs at the same time: see how rapid your one hundred miles per hour the speed drops to ninety-eight, pulse is, and whether your breathing is shallow and quick, or then to ninety-five, then ninety, until finally you are cruising deep and slow. along at a safe and sane fifty-five. You have decelerated If you can do this accurately – which is harder than it gradually and safely. sounds – you will make a very interesting discovery. Fear, This is exactly what happens to the mind in meditation. anger, selfish desire, envy: all these are associated with a speeded-up mind, and when the mind speeds up, it takes basic You put your car into the slow lane – the inspirational passage – and you stay there, going through the words of the passage physiological processes with it. The thinking process hurtles as slowly as you can. Distractions will try to crowd in, and you along, thoughts stumble over one another in an incoherent do not want to leave big gaps for them to rush into. For the rush – and, on cue, the heart begins to race and the breathing most part, though, you just increase your concentration. In becomes quicker, shallow, and ragged. this way, little by little, you can gain complete mastery over Interestingly enough, the reverse is also true. Once the the thinking process. mind gets conditioned to speed, not only do speeding thoughts make the body go faster, speeded-up behaviour can induce negative emotions as well.

A speeding mind is a dangerous thing. When thoughts are going terribly fast, they are out of control, and there is no space between them – and everyone is in danger

Suppose you have slept through the alarm and are in a rush to get off to work. You rip through the kitchen like a whirlwind, grabbing whatever you need as you go, trying to button your shirt while you eat your toast on your way out the door. The next time you catch yourself like this, watch and see how prone your mind is to negative responses. Everything seems an obstruction or a threat. Your children look hostile – if you see them at all – and even the dog seems out to ruin your day, draping herself right across the threshold in the hope of tripping you up. “Watch out!” the kids say once you’re gone. “It’s going to be another of those mean-mood days.”

Join Us Every Saturday Global Adjustments Office, Chennai, facilitates a free 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.


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Culturama March 2018  

The March 2018 issue of Culturama celebrates women and their resilience to mark International Women’s Day on March 8. - We look back at th...

Culturama March 2018  

The March 2018 issue of Culturama celebrates women and their resilience to mark International Women’s Day on March 8. - We look back at th...

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