Archive for March, 2011

The Golden Temple

Posted by Freddy on Mar-26-2011

The Golden Temple, located in the city of Amritsar in the state of Punjab, is a place of great beauty and sublime peacefulness. The Golden Temple is considered holy by Sikhs because they believe their eternal guru of Sikhism, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, is always present inside it. It’s construction was mainly intended to build a place of worship for men and women alike irrespective of their walks of life and religion. The temple is surrounded by a large lake, known as the Sarovar, which consists of ‘Amrit’ – ‘holy water’. Amritsar, the original name of first the ancient lake, then the temple, and still later the surrounding city, means “pool of ambrosial nectar.” Looking deeply into the origins of this word ‘Amrit’, we find that it indicates a drink of the gods, a rare and magical essence that catalyzes exhilarated states of consciousness and spiritual enlightenment.

Originally a small lake in the midst of a quiet forest, the site has been a meditation retreat for wandering mendicants and sages since deep antiquity. The Buddha is known to have spent time at this place in contemplation. Two thousand years after Buddha’s time, another philosopher-saint came to live and meditate by the peaceful lake. This was Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the founder of the Sikh religion. After the passing away of Guru Nanak, his disciples continued to frequent the site; over the centuries it became the primary sacred shrine of the Sikhs.

The lake was enlarged and structurally contained during the leadership of the fourth Sikh Guru (Ram Dass, 1574-1581), and during the leadership of the fifth Guru (Arjan, 1581-1606), the Harmandir, or Temple of God was built. From the early 1600s to the mid 1700s the sixth through tenth Sikh Gurus were constantly involved in defending both their religion and their temple against Muslim armies. On numerous occasions the temple was destroyed by the Muslims, and each time was rebuilt more beautifully by the Sikhs. From 1767 onwards, the Sikhs became strong enough militarily to repulse invaders. Peace returned to the Harmandir.

The temple’s architecture draws on both Hindu and Muslim artistic styles yet represent a unique co evolution of the two. During the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), Harmandir was richly ornamented with marble sculptures, golden gilding, and large quantities of precious stones. Within the sanctuary, on a jewel-studded platform, lies the Adi Grantha, the sacred scripture of the Sikhs. This scripture is a collection of devotional poems, prayers, and hymns composed by the ten Sikh gurus and various Muslim and Hindu saints.

From early morning till sunset, these hymns are chanted to the exquisite accompaniment of flutes, drums, and stringed instruments. Echoing across the serene lake, this enchantingly beautiful music induces a delicate yet powerful state of trance in the pilgrims strolling leisurely around the marble concourse encircling the pool and temple. An underground spring feeds the sacred lake, and throughout the day and night pilgrims immerse themselves in the water, a symbolic cleansing of the soul rather than actual bathing of the body. Next to the temple complex are enormous pilgrims’ dormitories and dining halls where all persons, irrespective of race, religion, or gender, are lodged and fed for free.

The Sun Temple of Konark

Posted by Freddy on Mar-20-2011

India is blessed with number of world heritage monuments showcasing the breathtaking architecture and intricate work. The monuments of India are living testimony which pull us back to that particular era and helps us in exploring the history of India. One such monument in India is the Konark Sun Temple.

Konark Sun Temple is a 13th-century Sun Temple, at Konark, in Orissa. It was constructed from oxidizing and weathered ferruginous sandstone by King Narasimhadeva I (1236-1264 CE) of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty. The temple is one of the most well renowned temples in India and is a World Heritage Site. According to local legend, the temple has a great aura of power that comes from two very powerful magnets said to have been built into the tower – magnets that allowed the king’s throne to hover in mid-air.

The Konark temple is widely known not only for its architectural grandeur but also for the intricacy and profusion of sculptural work. The entire temple has been conceived as a chariot of the sun god with 24 wheels, each about 10 feet in diameter, with a set of spokes and elaborate carvings. Seven horses drag the temple. Two lions guard the entrance, crushing elephants. A flight of steps lead to the main entrance.

Every inch of the temple is covered with sculpture of an unsurpassed beauty and grace, in tableaux and freestanding pieces ranging from the monumental to the miniature. The subject matter is fascinating. Thousands of images include deities, celestial and human musicians, dancers, lovers, and myriad scenes of courtly life, ranging from hunts and military battles to the pleasures of courtly relaxation. These are interspersed with birds, animals, mythological creatures, and a wealth of intricate botanical and geometrical decorative designs. The famous jewel-like quality of Odishan art is evident throughout, as is a very human perspective which makes the sculpture extremely accessible.

The nata mandir in front of the Jagamohana is also intricately carved. Around the base of the temple, and up the walls and roof, are carvings in the erotic style. There are images of animals, foliage, men, warriors on horses and other interesting patterns. There are three images of the Sun God, positioned to catch the rays of the sun at dawn, noon and sunset. Its fine traceries and scrollwork, as well as the beautiful and natural cut of animal and human figures, give it superiority over other temples.

Kalaripayattu

Posted by Freddy on Mar-14-2011

Kalaripayattu is a Dravidian martial art form of Kerala which combines the dynamic skills of attack and defense. Kalari payat includes strikes, kicks, grappling, preset forms, weaponry and healing methods. Regional variants are classified according to geographical position in Kerala. These are the northern style of the Malayalese, the southern style of the Tamils and the central style from inner Kerala. The practice of Kalaripayattu is said to originate from the Dhanur Vedic texts encompassing all fighting arts and described by the Vishnu Purana as one of the eighteen traditional branches of knowledge. Kalaris are the schools where training in this martial art form is imparted by Gurukals or masters.
This martial art form is indigenous to the Southern Indian state of Kerala which, legend has it, was created by the warrior saint Parasurama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, by throwing his axe into the sea which receded till the point where it fell. Parasurama then established forty-two kalaris and taught twenty-one masters of these kalaris to protect the land he created.
Kalaripayattu is a traditional psycho-physiological discipline emanating from Kerala’s unique mytho-historical heritage as well as a scientific system of physical culture training. The historical antecedents of this martial art form combines indigenous Dravidian systems of martial practice such as ‘varma ati’ or ‘marma adi’ with an influence of Aryan brahman culture which migrated southwards down the west coast of India into Kerala. There are two distinct traditions in Kalaripayattu-the Northern and the Southern schools.
The main techniques (atavu) in kalari payat are a combination of steps (chuvatu) and stances (vadivu). It is claimed that learned warriors can disable or kill their opponents by merely touching the correct marmam (vital point). This is taught only to the most promising and level-headed persons, to discourage misuse of the technique. Marmashastram stresses on the knowledge of marmam and is also used for marma treatment (marmachikitsa). The earliest mention of marmam is found in the Rig Veda where Indra is said to have defeated Vritra by attacking his marman with a vajra.
In the Northern tradition the emphasis is laid on progressing from body exercises to combat with weapons and last of all too unarmed combat. In the Southern tradition the patron saint of Kalaripayattu is the sage Agastya whose strength and and powers of meditation are legendary. It is said that when the Lord Shiva married the Goddess Parvati at Kailasa in the North, all gods and goddesses went to attend the wedding and with this shift in weight the world tilted, so much so, that Agastya was sent to the South to restore the balance. Lord Rama, legend has it, was mentored by Agastya to acquire the weapons, which defeated the demon king Ravana. In the southern tradition the emphasis is primarily on footwork, movement and the ability to strike at vital points or ‘marmas’ in the opponents body of which 108 points are considered lethally vulnerable.
Although no longer used in sparring sessions, weapons are an important part of kalari payat. This is especially true for the northern styles which are mostly weapon-based. Some of the weapons mentioned in medieval Sangam literature have fallen into disuse over time and are rarely taught in kalari payat today.

Yoga

Posted by Freddy on Mar-6-2011

Yoga refers to traditional physical and mental disciplines that originated in India. The Sanskrit word yoga has many meanings, and is derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj,” meaning “to control,” “to yoke” or “to unite.” Translations include “joining,” “uniting,” “union,” “conjunction,” and “means.” It is also possible that the word yoga derives from “yujir samadhau,” which means “contemplation” or “absorption.” This translation fits better with the dualist Raja Yoga because it is through contemplation that discrimination between prakrti (nature) and purusha (pure consciousness) occurs. Yoga, the Sanskrit word for “union”, is a practice that uses posture and breathing techniques to induce relaxation and improve strength, and its health benefits may surpass those of any other activity.
Each of the yoga poses has specific physical benefits. The duration of each pose should be increased gradually. The poses can be done quickly in succession and thus creating heat in the body through movement, or they can be done more slowly to increase stamina and perfect the alignment of a pose. Although the poses themselves do not change, the relationship to them will. There are warm-up poses, standing poses, seated poses, twist poses, supine poses, inverted postures and balance poses, backbends, and finally finishing poses and each of these poses helps you to increase strength and flexibility, at the same time makes a person become more aware of their posture, invigorating their whole body.
The physical benefits of yoga are myriad. Yoga keeps the body strong, as it involves all the muscles in body to hold and balance yoga asanas (poses). The various yoga postures strengthen your feet, legs, hands, abdominals, lower back, legs, and shoulders. Yoga’s stretching and breathing exercises improve your flexibility, helping joints, tendons, and muscles stay limber. People suffering from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis will see a noticeable improvement in their stiffness, pain, and other arthritic symptoms by practicing yoga poses and postures. Yoga improves your endurance, especially the more athletic forms of yoga such as ashtanga yoga, power yoga, vinyasa yoga, and Bikram yoga. These rigorous yoga practices follow a specific sequence of poses (asanas) that become more challenging as you progress. Unlike the gentler hatha yoga, the forms of ashtagna yoga, power yoga, vinyasa yoga, and Bikram yoga require you to keep your body in constant motion between poses, resulting in a strenuous cardiovascular workout and improved core strength.
Yoga benefits anyone’s mental health by helping him or her relax, and it is an effective form of psychological therapy. Yoga reduces anxiety and stress, resulting in better health, better mood, and better concentration throughout the day. Yoga has been used to help treat a wide variety of emotional and mental disorders, including acute anxiety, depression, and mood swings.
The regular practice of yoga will create multiple and noticeable benefits to health.