Monday, December 29, 2008

Brunch @ Agra... Dinner @ Khajuraho!

I always wanted to be a fancy travelogue writer like my Mom, like an explorer or something.. writing stuff about different places. So I thought, let me start with my most recent trip to Khajuraho. The memory is still fresh in my mind and my mom advised that the sooner I write them down the better it is!

We started off from Delhi at 5:45 AM when it was pitch dark, I have never traveled so early in the morning when I could actually see the sunrise on the way! Well that is partly because I am the reincarnation of *kumbhakarna* and I can sleep through a entire day with ease and Panache!! Anyway, As we set out on the Delhi- Mathura - Agra highway, all I could think of was drifting off to sleep :P, but the morning sunrise made me change my mind. On both sides I could see the greenery coming to life with the crimson gold rays of the sun, I tried to capture a shot while the car was moving... and I think i did a swell job. We stopped at Agra to get a heavy breakfast, we knew that we couldn't halt on the way in the small towns we barely knew, so decided to have a brunch!! We ate at ITC Mughal (that was fun) and after a very very heavy breakfast and one Red Bull we started off for Khajuraho. It is a 620 KM drive from the capital city and believe me it's a looong drive! After crossing Mathura, Agra, Gwalior, Jhansi and NowGong, we finally reached Khajuraho at around 5 in the evening. Particularly interesting things on the way were the green fields and the mustard fields which looked amazing in the early morning light. And it was obvious that I had to get down and take a snap in a villager like pose in the middle of the sarso ka khet. We also crossed Chambal on the way, but sadly did not see any Dakus. The hills of Chambal looked like they have a cover of green moss on them... but on a closer look it seems that there is some weird shiny shrub all over the hills that sparkle in the sunlight and give it that mossy glow.

Anyhoo! Khajuraho is a very small town, a village so to say. The main village of Khajuraho is like any other village in India.. small, dingy and rural people curiously looking at tourists and smiling at you for no apparent reason. The temples of Khajuraho are constructed all around the village, and almost centering the village the temple directions are set. Khajuraho: the name is derived from the word Khajur/Khajoor or date plant. Being a very dry area, one can see many date tress around this place, the name Khajuraho, was most probably derived from that. Legend has it that when the temples were constructed, the architects built two beautiful Golden Date trees at the main entrance of the temple campus, later these trees were taken down and stolen by the Afghan invaders. Can you imagine? Invaders going back to their land with looted Golden Date trees and telling their Moms 'Dekho Maa main tumhare liye kya laya hun'

Coming back to the erotic Khajuraho sculptures. The Chandela Dynasty that ruled around 9 to 11 century BC, constructed over 85 temples over a period of hundreds of years over here. The first among the rulers of this dyansty, was Chandravardhan, he was the first one to upright the very first temple of Khajuraho. According to local legend and mostly maybe a folklore, Chandravarman was the illegitimate son of a temple priest's daughter, Hemvati and the Moon God. Hemvati was bathing in a beautiful lake on a Moonlit night- (Bathing was an extremely important pass time in medieval India, as noted in Mahabharat and Ramayan as well), when the Moon God, extremely impressed by her beauty was compelled to come down to Earth and romance her. Quite obvious!! But then, when the Sun's rays touched the earth, the Moon God (chandradev) was compelled to return to his heavenly abode. But, Hemvati was petrified by the thought of the night before as she knew she would bear a child. (Yes! she was ovulating!):P The moon God then directed her to go the banks of Karnavati river near the secluded village of Khajuraho where she would give birth to a son who would grow up to be a valiant King. So she did what was told, and she gave birth to ChandraVarman, the founder of the Chadela dynasty. The Chandela dynasty flourished over the years, and to make up for his mother sins, he had to construct over 80 temples in the Khajuraho area. He did an elaborate yagna and laid the foundation of the holy temple grounds of Khaujuraho.

Chandrabarman's decendants, mainly Yashobarman or Laxmanbarman constructed the other most important temples that are still found in that area. Today, only 25 of the 85 temples are in stable consitions, most of the others were taken down in the Mughal era or by the Afghan and Turkish invaders.

The temples are distributed around the small village of Khajuraho beside the Khajuraho river/ or widely known as the Karnavati, and are marked in directions accordingly. The Western band of temples, the Eastern Band of temples and the southern temples. The eastern temples as I saw were less lavish and were most probably made as a prototype to prove to the kings that the workers and carvers were worthy of being entrusted with this job. The first prototype was the Bramha Temple, just after that is the Baman temple which is dedicated to the Baman avtar of Lord Vishnu. The carvings on these temples are those of beautiful apsaras dressing up and these are depicting the different ways of shringar. Make up was extremely important in medieval times as well! The guide explained that the Apsara was putting on Lipstick... I wonder what brand did they use back then!! :D

In most of the temples of Khajuraho that are dedicated to Lord Shiva, we saw the ancient symbols of OM crafted on the ceilings of the temples. Hinduism is emblematized by the symbol "OM" or "AUM" which encompasses the aspect, trinity. The representation of "AUM" connotes Brahma(A), Vishnu (U) and Maheshwara (M). The third of the tridev is Maheshwara or Lord Shiva, most of the temples which have erotic sculptures also have many variations of Shiva Parvathi on the temple walls, attracting and preaching the masses to lead a healthy 'Grihastha' life (a family life). Lord Shiva as a symbol of creation therefore, is worshipped as "Linga".

The temples of the Western Belt are most probably among the ones that are in the best condition today. Here we saw the earliest and most probably among the first temples of Kahjuraho, that is the 'Chausath Yogini' temple, that was build around 9th century (this is thought to be the one that was made after the yagna). The temple is dedicated to Bramhani, Maheshwari and Mahisashurdamini (this last one is mentioned as hingalaja). Then there is the Varaha temple (incarnation of Vishnu). After this we saw the Parvathi temple, Vishwanatha temple and the Laxman temple. The Laxman temple is not that of the Laxman that we know through Ramayan. apparently, Chandela ruler YashoVarman was also known as Raja Laxmanvarman, and he constructed this temple. To immoortalize his name, the temple was named after him. There is also a Nandi Shrine and a ChitraGupta temple and the Devi Jagadambhi temple. The most famous one in this belt is the Kandariya Mahadeva temple : it is the largest and the loftiest and has a huge lofty shiv linga.

In the Southern belt of temples we saw the Dulhadeo Temple and Chatur bhuja temple. The Dulhadeo temple is dedicated to the newly weds and is also a Shiv temple. Locals of the region come here to seek blessing after marriage, and it is believed that praying in this temple gives a couple a happy married life and earns them the blessing of Shiva Parvathi for three years three months when they pray once at the temple. It is a compulsion for the local villagers to come here after marriage, they perform a Puja here once and seek a blessing equivalent to three years three months. The architecture of the temple points towards the romance and eroticism of the first night of marriage, and is depicted graphically on the walls all around the temple.

One of my favorites in the Southern belt is the Chaturbhuja temple. Here the idol is almost 11 feet tall, and is in a west facing direction. A folklore has it that, the Sun God after circling the universe comes to this temple to seek the blessing of the OM. The Idol's feet and legs represent Lord Krishna, it is clearly noted by the posture in which lord Krishna stands with his legs crossed with his Bansuri in hand. We can see ornaments on the idols feet which are similar to Krishna Idols. The chest represents Lord Vishnu, the hands are of Bramha with the "kamandalu" and "mala". The face and the head is that of Lord Shiva, where wee see the Jata and Ganga on the crown of the idol. This is the reason, this idol is called the Chaturbhuja, with the elements of all four Gods. It is here that the Sun God comes to offer his prayers to the almighty Lord. While we waited in the temple, we saw the sunset, and the sun's rays touched the feet of the Idol, and I must confess, I was a little intrigued by it. It made me think of how advanced the architects of the temple are, that they had been able to figure the exact positioning of the Sun's rays, so that it touches the feet of the Idol. At the Back of the temple is a sculpture that denotes the chariot of the Sun God with his seven horses, traveling the world and finally resting at the feet on OM to seek his final blessing.

My trip to Khajuraho ended with a visit to the near by Pandav falls, where inside the Panna tiger reserve a beautiful waterfall is situated amidst caves, where the Pandavas were believed to have rested for a while during their 'Agyatvass'. The exotic Pandav falls are at a distance of 34 kms from Khajuraho. Falling down to the Ken river from great heights, the sight of the falls is quite extraordinary. It is believed that the Pandavas spent some years of their exile here and hence the name was given to the place.

On my way back, I bought some traditional bamboo silk from Khajuraho, this is something which the locals take great pride in, and show off to the tourists with great passion and self appreciation. I think I will gift two of those to my Mom and one I will keep for myself. :D

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wide Awake

Things may never be the same between us.
Lives have parted and raw bricks stare me in the face.
I've been thinking about this for a while,
and no! on my face they don't bring a smile.
Why do you complain I have changed?
Haven't you? Yes! you have and it's been quite a while.
You were never ready and you will never be!
And now I wont even say that it will be alright!
Write me a letter or sing me a song,
A dozen red roses to make up for the things you have done.
Maybe yes! or maybe not!
Even then I won't say that will be alright!
Even then things wont be the way I want from life!

A thousand broken strings of thought.
On them I play on, play on the rhythm...
Of What is left and what I got!
I remember what I have given up,
Not that I regret... maybe backup is always a myth!
Times have changed and so have they!
If I tell them to come back today..
Maybe they will or maybe not!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Take on Ramayan continued.... Lets come to Vanar Sena :D

So, as the story was told in a nutshell in the earlier post (when I imparted hopes of returning with a post on my take on Vanar Sena) now let me get in to the details of the Vanar Sena AKA the Army of Monkeys (taller, stronger, sharper than Men). So, as you must have read in the last post, after Sita was abducted by the Kind and Benevolent (yet revengeful) Ravan... Ram and Laxman go crazy searching for her. (Neha AKA Jhaansi ki Raani says he is Lax-man, you know like Spiderman & Superman.. lol).
Anyway, they wander through the forest searching for her... Sita! Sita tum kahan ho, but all in vain! ( Dude! you should have thought of that before you went on a poaching spree to kill the gold deer aka Marich) So, while they were all over the place looking for her... the guys came across Hanuman. Now, I know what you are thinking, Hanuman as in an intelligent superpowerful monkey right! Well wrong.. this is where my theory kicks in. So all this is happening as a part of a very old school drama, somewhere in TretaYug (Ramayan is one of the oldest texts ever written). So, as per the story, Ram meets Hanuman and Hanuman introduces him to his tribe leader Sugreeb(now Banished by brother Bali). Sugreeb and Ram sign a treaty: you help me kill Ravan, I help you kill Bali. So, the treaty is a win win situation for both. So Ram kills Bali, and then Sugreeb raises his army of Monkeys and Bears, builds a bridge, gets Sita Maiyya... you all know this part!

Now coming back to my theory again, the strong suspicion roots from the fact that writer Valmiki, got lost as a child in the forests and was raised by a hunter. He later turned in to a dacait/bandit and indulged in to plunder and loot. Later under the advise of Maharishi Narada (who narrated this story of Ramayan to him) he became a wise man and penned the great epic sometime between the 4th and the 2nd century BC.
So, now this got me thinking... wandering in the forests he must have encountered people in those centuries who used to live in forests in tribes. Maybe of some African-Indian or Dravidian origin whose bone structure was yet suffering from the marks of the famous Ape to Man theory of evolution (as my frien A points out).. their bodies were fit and strong as they were jungle people and they were more like Tarzan, inhabitants of the Trees and loved to swing on the branches. ***Drum rolls** the catch here is, Ram and Laxman meet this Jungle-Tribe-Tarzan like strong and agile individual swinging from branches. He introduced himself and offered help. The Jungle warrior was actually Van Nar which was later mistakenly (or maybe on purpose) interpreted as Vanar!! So, Hanuman introduced him to his tribes the other Van Nars and together raised an army to save Sita... As simple as that! No Monkey business here!!

Coming back to the poor misunderstood Ravan ( I mean Hanuman maybe confused to be a monkey, but Ravan has even graver problems at hand)... think about it people. If Ravan was so bad then picture this scenario: Hanuman goes to Sita as a messenger of Ram, he is captured and brought before Ravana. Ravana orders to kill him but then he decides not to as that would be breaking the laws of Justice! Hanuman came as a messenger and not as a warrior. (See how cool Ravana was!) Anyway, so under the influence of the enraged court members, to insult Hanuman, he ordered to put a tail on him and set it on fire. (No the tail I believe was originally not there!!) So, these court people thought, he is a Jungle Warrior, let us insult him by treating him like an animal... so pin the tail on the man, and make him a monkey! Sigh!!
However, they misunderstood the power of this Van Nar, and they watched helplessly as with the false pinned tail Van Nar raged havoc and burnt down half of Lanka (this may be a little exaggerated!) and then he quietly returned to Ram and they started preparations of the great fight!

So there it is, I said it! the load is off my chest now... :D
And please people, I hope you understand that I have done quite a bit of research on this ;P

My take on Laxman!!

As I was reading through the summary of Ramayana a very weird thought hit me. And it hit me right in to the head! Now before I got in to that theory, let me accustom you guys on how the story of Ramayana unfolds and what is it that sets the base of Indian Mythology for ages to come. In a nutshell, the story is about a young, handsome and devoted (wife-loving) prince of Ayodhya (who despite the polygamy-like practices of those ages had immense love for his Wife Sita). And in this un-dying love for his woman he crosses saath-samunder to avenge the humiliation of his wife. So as wars all over the world has been fought over some woman or the other... Ramayana was no exception.

Going back to the story... Dasharatha, King of Aydohya, has three wives and four sons. Ram is the eldest and the best guy. His mother is Kaushalya, a mother who has carved the niche for all Hindi Film mothers through the next few thousand years (especially the 70s!!!). Bharata is the son of his second and favorite wife of the King, Queen Kaikeyi. The other two are twins, Lakshman and Shatrughna. Ram gets married to Sita after winning her love in the pompous Swayamvar, and brings her back to Ayodhya. Dashrath decides to hand over the throne to Ram, who is seriously good at this job. However, King's favourite wife is not happy with the arrangement at all! She thought that she is obviously the favourite dame of the family and she might as well use her charms to get her way (very clever, I must say! As my friend Khushboo pointed out.. she is more like Samantha from Sex and the city!). So obviously, the charm worked (women know how to get their way). She wanted her son Bharat to get the throne and send Ram to some Forest place to roam around for a while. Well not a while, actually 14 years. Phew! that's quite a lot. Anyway! So Ram is like really the Good Obedient Son. He goes away to the forest, and Sita and younger bro Laxman follow him. They were having a nice time over there, but then came a twist in the tale. An episode that made me think!!

So enter Surpanakha! But before I forget, in the original story and the photographs Rama and Bharata are blue, perhaps indicating they were dark skinned or originally south Indian deities. What I dont get is why Blue!! I mean even Lord Krishna is drawn in a blue paint. After much thinking, I came to the conclusion that maybe, just maybe... in those days' paintings, they did not use the color black cos if they painted it black they would not be able to demarcate them from looking like Rakhsas who were always painted in black. So to separate the somewhat black/dark ppl
from rakhshas they made the rest of the dark guys Blue. Hmmmm! interesting!!!

Anyway, coming back to Surpanakha! So, much read Wikipedia describes Surpanakha to be of the same breed as Aphrodite of Greece who started the war of Trojan. Surpanakha AKA Indian Aphrodite, is described in some Tamil versions of Ramayana as a beautiful woman with fish-like eyes (also known as Meenakhsi), but in Valmiki's Ramayana, she is a Rakshasa (quite ugly so to say). Anyway, not judging her by her looks, the original story tells us that she was awed by Ram in the jungles and approached him for marriage, Ram was monogamist, he directed her towards bro Laxman who also refused her. She then got angry and tried to insult Sita, Laxman enraged with her guts cut off her nose and Surpanakha ki Naak cut gayi!. She went back to Lanka (Sri Lanka) and complained to her mighty brother (Asura King) Ravana... who was pretty pissed off with the whole thing, and went to the forest and kidnapped Sita in some kind of a private Jet plane, and imprisoned her in Lanka. Ram obviously had to get her back. So, Ram, Lakshman and the monkey army (will write about that theory later) build a bridge from the tip of India to Sri Lanka and went on to get Sita back. A battle followed of course. Ram killed and massacred the Ravan family, Laxman even very slyly kills Ravana's very hot and muscular son (*sob sob*). Meghnad/Indrajeet AKA the hot son was too powerful to be defeated and so Laxman kills him from behind when he is sitting at prayer without his arms (not much of a heroes' fight I must say). So finally Ram frees his lovely wiffey and brings her back to the Kingdom (14 years is over by now). And then Sita has to give an Agnipariksha of her purity (don't even get me started on that) and then they live happily ever after... well not exactly happily! A lot of Luv-Kush drama followed.. :D -- But coming back to the point, the real twist of the story! In Valmiki's Ramayana, the Ravana is the bad guy, and Surpanakha is the Vamp. But what I could make out was the the poor Ravana was a nothing but a highly misunderstood fellow. I read this beautiful poem once by a renowned Bengali Poet, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, called Meghnaad Vadh Kavya, in which my sympathies for Ravana first started budding. Well, what I get from this Valmiki story is that...

The real deal perhaps was that, Surpanakha a lonely widowed female came across Rama, whom she liked. But Ram was unavailable so she went to Laxman. Now Laxman, left his wife behind and was very lonely, so they had an affair. But Surpanakha insisted on Marriage like a true Bharatiya Nari.. Laxman refused!! Shaadi aur tumse.. kabhi nahi!! huh! so Surpanakha suddenly turns Jhaansi ki Raani and decides to tell Sita about her Devar's misadventure. But Laxman got freaked out! and then he disrespected Surpanakha's honor (ahemm! I don't want to use Bad words in the post.. but I am sure all you guys know what 'Naak kat jaana' means in Hindi, especially when referred to a woman!) So with all the disrespect and humiliation she goes back to her brother Ravana. Now what would any Brother do in a situation like this!! Ravana is more powerful than an underworld Don, and he has the resouces (private jet and all)... So he says, you do stuff to my sister (ahemm!!) so I will kidnap your bhabhi! And off he goes... but never in the whole kidnapping process does he ever disrespect sita by cutting off her nose (:P). So, I think it was pretty justified. All Laxman had to do was to admit to his bhaiya bhabi of his extramarital affair, but nooooo!! He had to go and start off a war, and kill poor Ravana! I can't help but feel sad for the whole thing!!

I will take a short break now... will return with more on Ramayana Parde ke Peeche!!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mission almost-Impossible

Ok! So when will men grow up? I mean seriously when?!! Cos I am so so so freaking tired of this right now, that I am almost losing it! So the thing is, this specific species of men (AKA the know-it-alls, AKA the 'Betaal') who behave in the most matured manner possible in front of you turn out to be mere 5 year olds when it comes to relationships. I mean how hard can it be to figure out that you like someone? Well it may seem simple to us girls, but apparently it’s nothing less than rocket science to these men! I mean it. It is not even funny! These men will be with their favourite girlfriends (we’re just friends!) all the time, and will have comforting feelings in their hearts, feel secured with them, have amazing chemistry with them, also have the most wonderful conversations with them. They will talk to them about anything and everything under the sun and feel more than relaxed at their company. And beat this! Even after getting all this, they will look around for Miss Right! Completely oblivious to the fact that she is standing right next to you. If you really want to meet that perfect girl, I suggest you just look beside you, the one person who is standing next to you through your: boring conversations, hardships, highs and lows… is really THE ONE! You just need to realize that, before it’s too late!

P.S. You guys must be wondering about what the AKA Betaal is all about. Well, these people want us to give them a piggyback throughout their stupid relationship ups and downs for life. So! ya that reminds me of Vikram and Betaal.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Me n Mah Sistas'

Well, What do you do when you are short of *Inspiration* per say.. What Does Carrie Bradshaw Do? Why go to her Girlfriends! what else??!! And that's exactly what I did.
And trust me, I didn't have to look with a microscope to get some Woo Hoo Ideas! It made me wonder how much goes on inside those cute little women brains.. And I thought, my head is messed up! Nah ah!!

Like For example, Aruni "wants to be in the pseudo intellectual mode momentarily": well my take on her momentary pseudo-intellectualism is what I call reaching the last stretch of your young adult life (which is scary beyond all reasons) and then leaving the last strand of rope that you had desperately held on to for some kind of unexplainable comfort. And when you let that rope go, you feel free but at the same time, you kinda miss that rope! If you think I am making no sense.. read Aruni's Blog ;P (it's called destructive-creativity btw)!!! LOL.

This just makes me wonder, just how much of creativity women have locked up inside their pretty heads for so long. I mean... at one end I have a cute girlfriend of mine who looks like she is about to have a tea-party with Alice, and then suddenly you see her blog (destructive-creativity-aka-Aruni) and you go... Whoaaa!!! And on the other Hand is my other cute girlfriend Manasa who is burdened with work and manager issues and you think, poor thing!! But what the hell did I know ----------

--- when asked about a burning issue inside her head! The heavily worked up Manasa (who is btw overloaded with Opportunity Identification Reports) said.. " well I get mad when I see people wearing wrong colors on the wrong days, and and night make up for day and day make up in the night" LOL.

I mean give the poor girl a break!! She is overloaded with work, and then you show up at work with the WRONG colors on the wrong day and that too wearing night make up!! Sheesh!

And again o the other hand, I have a cubie Neha! who is the eternal Jhansi ki Raani today and tomorrow and forever!! LOL. For those of you who didn't know.. my last post was inspired by her *condition a la femme*. Today, she has no burning issues! She is busy dealing with mood swings, PMS, and the whole concept of unfair Biology ( as I can make out from her face). If I ask her one more question, she may just turn back and say: "read my face!!" And I sure don wanna disturb a girl who is already disturbed by the *Uneven Distribution of Organs and features* by the Heavenly forces. As I said, the Gods must be crazy jealous of our sheer awesomeness and hence, the Pain has been bestowed upon us. (And we have to accept it with a pinch of salt, that is, the wonders of Motherhood! ya rite! ;P)

Coming to my Glam Girlfriend AKA new Flatmate Khushboo, she has an absolutely different burning issue today! I mean I am amazed at the variety I am getting today... I have seen nothing like it. So she says: " i need to write something. And write it before the story idea goes out of my mind but i wont get time so well, the story idea will go out of my mind... " and then she goes on bitching about her Manager! The usual Ordeal.. you get it right! :D

So, it seems I have done enough research for today! And I must say.. Girlfriends.. you guys Rock! you gave me food for thought on a Dry Day...! :D

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mood Swings over a Cup of Coffee... :|

What is it that we have done to anger the forces of nature? Is it our sheer awesomeness that drives them towards a mad jealous frenzy or is it the fact that we are born to be Mother Indias' or Jhansi ki Raanis'. Coping with PMS' is not easy my friends. Mood swings and erratic behavior.. eh! we don't really enjoy (For those men out there who still think it's our part-time hobby).

Well, me myself and I, put my mind to work over a cup if steaming Americano (aka the plain black coffee made MY style). Why is it that, we have to go through through PMS, suffer pain & Mindless mood swings and on top of that (as if its not enough) go through bloody Labor Pain. Well, not that I don't understand the joy of Motherhood (well, actually I don't get it.) But it's not fair, if guys can enjoy the fatherhood almost like a cakewalk, why cant women enjoy motherhood with the same ease??!!

Well, Well.. bitter world, and even bitter realities. But! what the hell.. My Bio teacher won't be very happy with my concepts of Biology (neither am I happy with God's concept of Biology!!) But then! who's listening.. apart from my black coffee.. which has become quite cold by now! Sigh.. :|