Thursday, 31 January 2013

Kumbh Mela - Religion, Spirituality, Tourism and Revenue!

Kumh Mela  (

The other day I was talking to a group of youngsters (college students), the conversation turned to the Kumbh Mela, in due course. I asked them about the mass human gathering  that brings people together from all religions, caste and creed. It is important not only from the spiritual or religious point of view but also in terms of tourism and revenue that it brings to the home state. The reason for me asking the question was the second one of course! I had been following a parlicular TV channel that shows a 30 minutes programme on the Maha Kumbh at Allahabad this year. I watched a couple of episodes and it got me interested and curious to know more about it that I don't miss to catch the early morning segment. I am amazed at the lives and lifestyles of the sadhus particularly the Naga Sadhus. With this in the background I posed the question to the youngsters. I was surprised to know that not many knew what I was talking about. Yes of course they knew the Kumbh Mela as portrayed in the Hindi movies, it was a massive gathering of people where a family member would get lost in the crowd. The youngsters didn't really know anything much beyond. I am sure they learnt in their schools but somehow it isn't retained, the newspapers have write ups almost everyday and theres so much  information about the festival on the internet,  particularly the photographs, almost all top photo journalists from across the globe are there to cover the event. The pictures are a treasure in itself. The youngsters inspire me to write this post. This year the Maha Kumbh at Prayag, Allahabad is from 14th January to 10th March 2013 (Makar Sankranti to Shiv Ratri). The lives of the sadhus fascinate me and arouse curiosity to take a peek. Finally the post comes out of the draft stage where it remained for almost a fortnight.

Kumbh means pitcher or pot. Mela in hindi is festival or fair. So, the Kumbh Mela is the festival of the pot. It specifically relates to the pot of nectar in Hindu mythology.Legend has it that the gods once lost their strength. In order to regain it, they agreed with the demons to churn the primordial ocean of milk for 'Amrit' (the nectar of immortality). This was to be shared equally between them. However, a fight broke out, which went on for 12 human years. During the battle, the celestial bird, Garuda, flew away with the Kumbh that held the nectar. Drops of nectar are believed to have fallen in the places that the Kumbh Mela is now held Prayag (Allahabad), Haridwar, Nashik, and Ujjain. Theres Maha Kumbh once in 12 years and the Ardh Kumb is held once in 6 years.

The various saint groups that visit the Kumbh are:
The Naga Sadhus, are identified by their ash smeared naked bodies and hair in deadlocks.
Urdhwavahurs, believe in putting the body through severe austerities.
Parivajakas, have taken a vow of silence and go about tinkling little bells to get people out of their way.
Shirshasins stand all 24 hours and meditate for hours standing on their heads.
Kalpvasis are people who spend the entire month of Kumbh on the banks of Ganges, meditating and  performing other religious rituals. They are supposed to have only one meal during the day. Even families perform this.
To know more about the mela you can follow the link. This is the official website of the Allahabad Kumbh Mela:

Some facts that I heard about the lives of the Naga Sadhus, 
  • They were created as the Hindu army by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century BC.
  • They are the devotees of Lord Shiva (Shree Digambars and Digambars)
  • Most of them live in the caves in the Himalayas or the Akharas across different parts of the country.
  • Most of the Akharas are owned by the Digambars but there are also Akharas of the Sikhs, Budhist monks and Sufi saints.
  • The Sadhus generally live in the Akharas and come to civilization only for the Kumbh melas that are held alternatively at Allahabad, Haridwar, Nasik and Ujjain
  • People who renounce the world and join the Akhara get their degree or certificate of being a Naga Sadhu after a rigorous penance of at least 8- 10 years. Religious duties as well as yoga and martial arts, weapons are a part of the training.
  • Among the sadhus are people who were once in the civil services, defence, artists, educationists, people who worked in the government or the private sector.
  • To be inducted into the Akhara, the individual needs to give up all worldly pleasures, relations, kinship etc.
  • They adorn ash all over bodies, the ash from the holy fire that they light They don't shave and wear their hear in deadlocks.
  • In the Hindu culture a married woman does 'solah sringar' ( 16 adornments) but a Naga Sadhu does 'Satrah Sringar' (17 adornments) during the Kumbh Mela festivities.
  • The Sadhus get to do the Shahi snaan (The Royal dip), the first bath of the day, it may begin as early as 3 am.
  • They carry out impressive processions during the Kumbh  Mela, showcasing their weapons as well.
This once is 12 years event is certainly an event to behold not only from the religious or spiritual point of view but also from the revenue that it is likely to generate.
According to the Business Standard, the ongoing Maha Kumbh in Allahabad is projected to generate about Rs 12,000 crore of revenues and create over 6 lakh job opportunities. Airlines, hotels and tour operators are likely to witness a boom period in their economic activities due to the mela and contribute Rs 12,000 crore revenues to the state coffers in Uttar Pradesh. The report has projected that new employment opportunities would be created in airlines, airports, hotels, tour operators,infrasturctual development, medical and  Eco-tourism. The unorganised sectors would also gain.
Tourist arrival to the extent of 250 million, compared to 30 million in 2001, is expected to congregate for the holy dip. Besides, about a million foreign tourists are expected to visit India for site seeing, religious and Eco-tourism.

Kumbh Mela is one of the largest human congregations on earth, and a visit to the Kumbh is in the bucket list for sure! 


I'll keep with my promise of writing about Abhilash Tomy in my posts till he is back from his historic voyage.
(Abhilash Tomy is attempting to be the first Indian on a solo non stop unassisted circumnavigation of the globe)

Kumbh Mela is a festival of the pitcher where the devotees take a dip in the Holy waters of the river Ganges and the Maha Kumb is considered to be very auspicious, here's an Aquarian  who is set out to be the first Indian to circumnavigate the world... crossing all its Oceans. 
He has his birthday this month (February), in fact in the coming week, this is what the astrologists say about the Zodiac sign, Aquarius is symbolized by the Water Bearer. In much the same way that the Water Bearer brings that precious liquid as a gift, Aquarians shower the world with their thoughts and new ideas. Luckily for Aquarians (and the rest of us), they are at a near-genius level, so their minds churn out some amazing things. Their thought process is also inventive and original. While Aquarians are happy to bestow these ideas as a gift with no strings attached, they are much happier when the rest of the world agrees with them. 
Here too, are a lot of people in 'agreement' can see that from his fan following.

 To know more about Lt. Cdr Tomy and his boat the Mhadei, follow the link below.

Pictures have been taken from google, if anyone has a problem with their use, they'd be promptly removed.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Republic Day with the Vrooooooooom gang!

Republic day - is the day on which the foundation of a republic is commemorated, Republic day of India marks two significant moments  in the history of our country,
  • India became a republic on 26th January 1950.
  • Constitution of India was officially brought into enforcement.
My son came back from school the other day and was trying to educate me on the significance of the Republic day and how it was one of our National festivals. Basically telling me all that his teacher shared with the class that day. He added that the main parade was held at the Rajpath in New Delhi, where the president took the salute from the different marching contingents. The defence forces, military and para military forces were represented and all of them showcased the 'new' that was brought in. There were also tableaus from the different states showcasing their historic, cultural or modern might. The school children also put up cultural programmes for the gathering. Important honours such as the Param vir Chakra, Vir Chakra etc are awarded to the winners and so are the brave children honoured during the parade. Celebrations are also held at the state level, in the state capital as well as across different educational and government set ups. Its a day of grandeur and celebration across the country. 
Of course I thanked my little boy for all the gyan he gave me and made me think about our republic and feel the pride of being an Indian living in todays times.

My brother in law, who is a biking enthusiast had been posting about the ride they were all going for on the 26th this year in Mumbai. The ride was to start at Bandra and they were to go all the way to Nariman Point. They were expecting 1000 bikers, the Royal Enfield guys!... but to their surprise more than 1600 bikers turned up on their Enfield Bullets. The Message that they wanted to convey on the Republic Day was 'Unite to end violence against women'. Sahil, my bro in law; knows how much I love this bike and wanted me to be a part of the group. Somehow I couldn't make it, motherly duties took over the adventurous girl in me... never mind would love to do it in future... theres always a second, third or a fourth time! isn't it? But I asked him to keep me posted on the happenings and get as many pics as possible which both my sister and he obliged happily. I was amazed at the pictures that I saw... Wow!... was the only thing that came to my mind.

Splendid indeed. There were Royal Enfields in their true element and so were the modified versions. There was an array of colours and stylish bikes. Riders were both men and women. Most of them had pillion riders. The pillion seats were occupied by the spouse, children, friends, relatives, young and old... sorry to use the word 'Old'. I correct that as 'young at heart', age is just a number... sometimes the number is quite Big! Some couples had their children as young as one year olds, kind of loved their spirits! A lady biker caught my attention, just loved her attitude not to forget the helmet that had a Mohawk on it, she looked a picture to behold in her aviators... I certainly will meet this biker over a cup of coffee for sure and also on the wish list is our Navi Mumbai biker Nigel who was the man behind this idea and.....what an idea Sirji! 

The fleet of riders was impressive, they were from all over Mumbai a good 1600 + gathered at Bandra to kick off the ride. The bikers couldn't locate even their own friends in the massive sea. Anyway everyone was a friend and everyone was united for the cause. The gang got enough eye balls all through the ride, the tricolour flying in the air. They had the support from Mumbai police, there were a couple of police bikes as well as police jeeps with them. They were given a bypass at ever traffic signal. A feat rarely given to anyone else apart from our VVIPs. The Bullets reached Nariman Point in true grandeur and conveyed their message loud and clear.

Bikers like up

The girl with the mohawk!

Riders at Haji Ali

Wow... thats the spirit!


I'll keep with my promise of writing about Abhilash Tomy in my posts till he is back from his historic voyage.
(Abhilash Tomy is attempting to be the first Indian on a solo non stop unassisted circumnavigation of the globe)

There was one more place that had the tricolur unfurl.. This is what Tomy had to say about hoisting the flag,   "What is so special about this tricolor? It was the farthest flag to be unfurled this Republic Day...10,000 miles away on the other side of the globe, one mile south of Cape Horn, exactly at the confluence of the Atlantic and the Pacific, with albatross, cormorants and dolphins as witness".

 To know more about Lt. Cdr Tomy and his boat the Mhadei, follow the link below.

Friday, 25 January 2013

While you were sleeping....

One way communication? Oh can communication be one way and still called communication? As we all have learnt that Communication involves a sender, a message, a receiver and the medium or channel through which the message would travel. It is considered to be complete only when the feedback is received. I am not talking about the theory of communication or listing the barriers ....but how even one way communication can be great at times. Infact it reminds me of the movie 'While you were sleeping'.

Have you ever wondered how it works... let me put it across to you in another prospective, Have you used this form of communication ever? I am sure you have, how has it helped you or helped a situation?
For me it has been writing to my loved ones, who did not have a way of responding, be it writing to my grand parents regularly. Sending them handmade new year cards. They'd always tell me, how nice they were and how much they looked forward to my letters and the greeting cards, of course when  we'd meet. I never expected them to reply to the letters or send cards to me... It was one way for the world but it did mean the world to me and brightened my days... They still do, thinking about them. Though they are watching over me from far they remain in my heart forever.

It was also writing new year messages on hand made cards or letters to my relatives, uncles, aunts... they looked forward to receiving one, anytime in the month of January each year. This one way communication later followed my better half, he was the chief officer in the merchant navy then,  the internet onboard the vessel was with the captain but others could receive messages on the vessel email id. Thus he could only receive messages but he never tried to revert, would call later and would tell me how nice he felt reading them. I always felt that, like all of us he must be looking forward to hearing news from the home front, whether there was something of importance or not. Its rightly said, 'Home is where the heart is! Fortunately within months of our marriage he was promoted as the captain... now he had the access to the internet! ... things didn't change when it came to writing back! But again the access is limited and they need to be judicious about its usage. He believes in living by example, wouldn't do anything that he didn't expect the others to do. Yeah I do complain about it but somewhere deep inside I also respect that. Yes, when he is sailing I do try to send a message everyday, as its a customary habit for me... my letters often get sms type replies but no complaints whatsoever. I very well understand the compatibility of Venus and Mars!... we (Venusians and Martians) are a bit different and we must celebrate our differences.

In relationships one way communication is the best thing to happen at times. It allows the person to vent, where an explosive situation can be curtailed. Allows the one who is on the prowl to explain their stand, finally the calm leads to an amicable settlement... if at all you can call the situation a settlement! the bottom line is the friendship is saved. I am not being a feminist here but the experience says that it helps if the man allows one way communication from the lady. Playing the role of a good listener helps... most of the times!!

There can be situations where its not possible to reciprocate by replying to a message but acknowledging it is certainly good. Keeps the understanding and respect in the relationship shared by two individuals. I have experienced it many times and I feel its extremely healthy, Doesn't let a situation get out of control as only one party is communicating.... reaching out to the other person doubt it is! Just like we communicate with the power we believe in, the almighty even that is often one way but its also most fulfilling. May also add that lectures most often are one way communications!


I'll keep with my promise of writing about Abhilash Tomy in my posts till he is back from his historic voyage.
(Abhilash Tomy is attempting to be the first Indian on a solo non stop unassisted circumnavigation of the globe)

He is sailing alone, has a little window to the world when it comes to communicating with others, his friends, family, well wishers and fans. I am sure he receives hundreds of messages from them. At the same time, it may just not be possible for him to revert or acknowledge. But people will still send him the messages of goodwill and show that they care. Sending him good wishes as he is all set to round the Cape Horn soon... he is extremely close to it now. He may round it while we are sleeping!

 To know more about Lt. Cdr Tomy and his boat the Mhadei, follow the link below.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

And the winner is ..... YOU!

The other day, I came across an article in the Hindustan Times, Sunday Brunch about how the engineers are turning creative people. Now I don't recollect who had written that and who were the people interviewed. But it did speak about getting in touch with ones true calling! 

It also got me thinking, how I landed up teaching!... A little walk down the memory lane. Yes I am a hotelier and was working with the top hotel in the country and doing so called 'good' for myself. While on the job I loved the training classes that I conducted for my staff. It was so satisfying that I felt like switching to teaching and it did come my way when my Alma mater was looking for a faculty to teach Rooms division Management They got in touch with me and told me that they needed someone to take that up on an urgent basis and I was  there making that my forte. Industrial experience was there but I felt the need to equip myself with knowledge, skill and attitude about  the new role that I was going to embark on. Thats how PG in training and Development  happened then and so did a Masters in Tourism Management as my teaching required me to know that aspect also. I have been teaching the under grad and post grad programmes. In the mean time I did earn my CHE (Certified Hospitality Educator) from American Hotel and Lodging Association.

But the most fulfilling experience for me has been the training programmes that I got to do for the porters of the Dadar station. The programme was sponsored by the government and it was called, The Capacity building programme. It was aimed at training the people who work in the hospitality and tourism sector, who did not have any formal training with regards to soft skills. The target group got me interested in taking the Saturday classes, which was otherwise an off day for me. It was a day long programme where they had to be given inputs on customer interaction and soft skills training. To use the polite words with everyone but tourists in particular who may not be conversant with the local language. They were given a certificate on completion of the program. The programme covered about 300 porters during the 6 sessions.

They just loved sitting in the classroom and I haven't seen so much of an adulation ever, it was the best experience so far. I got to learn a lot about their lives and their job. The camaraderie that they share. They had even set up a trust to take care of medical and other personal expenses for which the members  might have needed financial assistance. Yes did teach them a bit about the customer relation which they anyway were good at but shared some finer nuances of the trade that I learnt in college as well as in the industry.  Also, taught them to use a few polite words and phrases. We also discussed their life goals, financial planning ,read it as saving and handling expenses, their children's education and other life skills. At the end of the programme I came out as a winner. It was a great learning experience for me for which I have always been thankful to the people concerned for giving me that opportunity. I learnt why Emotion was energy in motion!

Everyone has a true calling and its somewhere down the line that they feel the need to touch base with that ... I guess its nice to listen to that little voice inside. One person who I know who is doing that is Swapnil Shinde, just happened to talk to him. He is an electronics engineer, into quality assurance certifications. But has taken up his love for origami to such a level that he is the only expert in the country in this craft. He is associated with many institutions of repute. He does it  simply for the love of the craft. Every time I meet him when we invite him to do a session with our students, I learn something new from him. He has 3 books coming out shortly. To know more about him, you can refer to this link:

We tell our children to take up careers that are a safe bet, but later on in their lives they understand what their true calling is and some of them leave everything else to gain that creative satisfaction. Mostly its a liking or a hobby that they might have developed during their childhood or got inspired by an individual or an idea that they might pursue later. Among the students that I have taught in the initial years have worked in the industry but its nice to see some of them take up their hobbies as their careers and they are doing well. Its nice to nurture that dream and see it materialise some day. Himanshu Tomar is one of those students who I taught in the initial years of my career.... in fact the picture is taken from his collection. Some of them have even gone on to become famous television personalities.

Parents certainly play a very important role in helping their children during their student years. They need to get a good education for sure, in India we say that should see them through at the same time if the child has a gifted talent it can certainly be nurtured and the child can be trained in that aspect, be it a particular sport or an art form. I know a classmate of mine at the catering college who was so passionate about dancing. Yes he had a degree that would've seen him through but the talent that he had has actually taken him places. In fact Terrence Lewis is one of the top choreographers in the country today and has even created a Guinness record for the maximum number of people dancing on a Bollywood choreographed song at a time. 

There are a lot of non- traditional career avenues opening up now that can be explored and so much more can be achieved making you the winner!


I'll keep with my promise of writing about Abhilash Tomy in my posts till he is back from his historic voyage.
(Abhilash Tomy is attempting to be the first Indian on a solo non stop unassisted circumnavigation of the globe)

He is a Naval aviator, sailing at the moment to be the first Indian to take up that kind of a voyage. When he was asked if being a pilot has helped him in the voyage that sees the seas in their element, with loads of swell, rolling and pitching. He says that everything that he did in life has helped him, including adobe Photoshop! Ofcourse one can see that as he is sailing, almost about to round the Cape Horn, maintains his facebook page and updates his blog regularly.

 To know more about Lt. Cdr Tomy and his boat the Mhadei, follow the link below.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Heading for the Horn!

As Tomy is very close to the Cape Horn almost heading there… he is pretty excited about it like any sailor worth his salt. I am following his voyage, and following it enthusiastically! .... to the extent that I dream of it sometimes. Oh there is certainly another voyage that I track on the ‘vessel tracker’ each morning, my husband onboard a chemical tanker. So ever since we got married I have been the ‘tracker’ for the vessel he sails on; ofcourse I am not the nasty bitter half who keeps a track on him always! ... its only the vessel as its nice to see the big wide blue mighty ocean in the morning. Blue is such a cool colour and happens to be my favourite. 
INSV Mhadei and Lt. Cdr. Abhilash Tomy add another aspect to my tracking vessels. This one is purely for adventure and the pride that the whole exercise brings to the nation. When he is back to the base Mumbai and the Indian Navy completes Sagarparikrama 2 successfully, Abhilash becomes the first Indian to circumnavigate the globe nonstop and unassisted. That makes him join the elite group of 80 people from all around the world who have done that before him. What a feat that will be, not only for Tomy as an Indian but also for the Navy to prove its might and successful maritime history.

His last cover picture on the Mhadei’s  facebook page said, Horn 3000 Nautical miles. And current one says 2000 miles away from the Horn. Surely it is the topmost thing on his mind; he is hoping to round the horn and raring to do it fast.
I have read up about the Horn, on the internet, ofcourse! There are thousands of pages available. Reading different aspects of Cape Horn and why is it so distinguished in the minds of the sea farers, if I may say so. There are thousands of people following the voyage now as can be seen from the number of likes on the page and the blog visits. This post is particularly for the people who’d like to know a bit more about the cape and aspects that makes it so exclusive. 
Let me add here that I am not an expert on the topic, I haven't done any sailing either. These facts are taken from Wiki, and other websites and I acknowledge that and every writer that may have been referred. Anyone who wishes to add a fact or negate something is most welcome.Will do the needful! 

Get ready for the Horn…
Cape Horn is the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago of southern Chile, and is located on the small Hornos Island. Cape Horn marks the northern boundary of the Drake Passage; for many years it was a major milestone on the clipper route, by which sailing ships carried trade around the world. However, the waters around the Cape are particularly hazardous, owing to strong winds, large waves, strong currents and icebergs; these dangers have made it notorious as a sailors' graveyard.

The need for ships to round Cape Horn was greatly reduced by the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. However, sailing around the Horn is widely regarded as one of the major challenges in yachting. Thus, a few recreational sailors continue to sail this route, sometimes as part of a circumnavigation of the globe, and almost all of these choosing routes through the channels to the north of the actual Cape (though many take a detour through the islands and anchor to wait for fair weather to actually visit Horn Island or even sail around it to replicate a rounding of this historic point). Several prominent ocean yacht races, notably the Volvo Ocean Race, the VELUX 5 Oceans and the Vendée Globe, sail around the world via the Horn, and speed records for round-the-world sailing are recognized for following this route..

The climate in the region is generally cool, owing to the southern latitude with an average annual temperature of 5.2 °C .Winds were reported to average 30 kms per hour (8.33 m/s; 18.64 mph), Cloud cover is generally high, with averages from 5.2 eighths in May and July to 6.4 eighths in December and January.
Visiting Cape Horn (Cabo de Hornos, in Spanish) can be done on a day trip by helicopter or by charter power boat or sailboat, or by cruise ship. "Rounding the Horn" is traditionally understood to involve sailing from 50 degrees south on one coast to 50 degrees south on the other coast, the two benchmark latitudes of a Horn run, a considerably more difficult and time-consuming endeavor.

What do the Ships face at the Horn?
Several factors combine to make the passage around Cape Horn one of the most hazardous shipping routes in the world; the fierce sailing conditions prevalent in the Southern Ocean generally; the geography of the passage south of the Horn; and the extreme southern latitude of the Horn, at 56° south.
The prevailing winds in latitudes below 40° south can blow from west to east around the world almost uninterrupted by land, giving rise to the "roaring forties" and the even more wild "furious fifties" and "screaming sixties". These winds are hazardous enough in themselves that ships traveling east would tend to stay in the northern part of the forties (i.e. not far below 40° south latitude); however, rounding Cape Horn requires ships to press south to 56° south latitude, well into the zone of fiercest winds. These winds are further exacerbated at the Horn by the funneling effect of the Andes and the Antarctic Peninsula, which channel the winds into the relatively narrow Drake Passage.
The strong winds of the Southern Ocean give rise to correspondingly large waves; these waves can attain enormous size as they roll around the Southern Ocean, free of any interruption from land. At the Horn, however, these waves encounter an area of shallow water to the south of the Horn, which has the effect of making the waves shorter and steeper, greatly increasing the hazard to ships. In addition to these "normal" waves, the area west of the Horn is particularly notorious for rogue waves, which can attain heights of up to 30 metres (100 ft). The prevailing winds and currents create problems for vessels attempting to round the Horn against them, i.e. from east to west. Although this affects all vessels to some extent, it was a particularly serious problem for traditional sailing ships, which could make very little headway against the wind at the best of times; modern sailing boats are significantly more efficient to windward and can more reliably make a westward passage of the Horn, as they do in the Global Challenge race.

Rounding the Horn, under sail, on a non-stop passage of more than 3,000 miles passing through the latitude of 50 degrees south both east and west of Cape Horn grants sailors eligibility to apply for membership of the exclusive International Association of Cape horners an elite organisation whose origins lie amongst those who rounded the Horn as professional seamen serving upon the tall ships of the Clipper era. There are no exceptions to the strict joining criteria whose membership now includes members of crews from several notable Round the World Yacht races and others who have shared the same unique experience - the 'Mount Everest' of ocean sailing.

For detailed reading refer to the wiki link on Horn:

For the people, the general public, who would like to get there, can take trips to Cape Horn on Cruise ships. There are voyages available to Cape Horn that can be done even on sail boats. Companies dealing in adventure tours have packages on offer. Again, one can look up for those on the internet. Almost all Cruise liners have tours with a voyage ranging from 13 days to 50 days.
There are many hotels near Cape Horn, and their reviews can be checked on Tripadvisor or other sites that review hotels. 
As far as tourism is concerned, the tourists would be special interest group as it attracts people who are studying bio diversities in an ecosystem. The local community of the Cape Horn region consists of families and naval personnel of the Chilean navy, the indigenous Yahgan community, and individuals from areas throughout Chile. 

Liked this comment posted by someone who's been there,'' There is always a cape waiting for you in life, but if it is Cape Horn, the cape at the southern tip of the American continent and if you are lucky enough to round it, then you'll never forget it". 

Oh given an opportunity to round the Horn, .....don't know if I can do that on a sail boat...(I get sea sick) may be on an airplane I surely can. Look forward to that!

To know more about Lt. Cdr Tomy and his boat the Mhadei, follow the link below.

The pictures have been taken from various websites, if anyone has an objection regarding their use, they'd be promptly removed.

Monday, 14 January 2013

The festival of Makar Sankranti

Hello everyone... Its been a while since I have written something. I received a message from Swapnali, an enthusiastic girl, who follows my blog saying that I hadn't written anything  of late and she suggested that I should write something on Makar Sankranti. I promised her that I'd surely have this topic for my next post and here it is.....

The sun, symbolizing wisdom, divine knowledge and spiritual light, which receded from you when you reveled in the darkness of ignorance, delusion and sensuality, now joyously turns on its northward course and moves towards you to shed its light and warmth in greater abundance, and to infuse into you more life and energy. - Author Unknown
  Makar Sankranti is one of the most auspicious day for the Hindus, It is celebrated in almost all parts of the country in many forms, with great devotion, fervor and gaiety. It is the day when the Sun begins its ascend and entry into the Northern Hemisphere. Sun in the Hindu religion is notably mentioned as the visible form of God that one can see every day who symbolizes the one, non-dual, glorious divinity blessing one and  all. The Gayatri Mantra, is directed to Sun God to bless the individuals with intelligence and wisdom. Sun not only represents God but also stands for an embodiment of knowledge and wisdom.
Astrologists consider it to be having a great significance in astrology as it involves the transition of sun from one zodiac sign to the other, in fact sankranti happens every month. 
This year, Maha Kumbh mela at Sangam (meeting place of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati) in Allahabad begins on this day. Where bathing for purification from sin is considered especially auspicious and attracts millions of devotees from around the world.

The religious significance are many and can be read in our various scriptures, I am not covering those aspects here.  
The festival of Makar Sankranti is highly regarded by the Hindus from North to down South. The day is known by various names and a variety of traditions are witnessed as one explores the festival in different states.It is a major harvest festival celebrated in various parts of India. According to the lunar calendar, when the sun moves from the Tropic of Capricorn to the Tropic of Cancer or from Dakshinayana to Uttarayana, in the month of Pausha in mid-January, it commemorates the beginning of the harvest season and cessation of the northeast monsoon in South India. The movement of the Sun from one zodiac sign into another is called Sankranti and as the Sun moves into the Capricorn zodiac known as Makar in Hindi, this occasion is named as Makar Sankranti in the Indian context. It is one of the few Hindu Indian festivals which are celebrated on a fixed date i.e. 14 January every year or may be sometimes on 15 January, if it happens to be a leap year. After this day the days start becoming longer and warmer in India, hence is also a celebration among the folks.
 In Uttar Pradesh, Sankrant is called ‘Khichdi’. Taking a dip in the holy rivers on this day is regarded as most auspicious. A big one-month long ‘Magha-Mela’ fair begins at Prayag (Allahabad) on this day. Apart from Triveni (where the three rivers Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswati meet), ritual bathing also takes place at many places like Haridvar and Garh Mukteshwar in Uttar Pradesh, and Patna in Bihar. 
In Punjab where December and January are the coldest months of the year, huge bonfires are lit on the eve of Sankrant  which is celebrated as Lohri. Sweets particularly revdi, peanuts, sugarcane and rice are offered in the bonfires, around which people, family and friends gather. Dancing follows the puja. The following day, which is Sankrant, is celebrated as Maghi. 
In Maharashtra on the Sankranti day people exchange  tilguds made from til (sesame seeds) and sugar and til-laddus made from til and jaggery. Til-polis are offered for lunch. While exchanging tilguls as tokens of goodwill people greet each other saying – ‘til-gul ghya, goud goud bola’ meaning ‘accept these tilguls and speak sweet words’. The under-lying thought in the exchange of tilguls is to forget the past ill-feelings and hostilities and resolve to speak sweetly and remain friends. This is a special day for the women in Maharashtra when married women are invited for a get-together called ‘Haldi-Kumkum’ and given gifts of any utensil, which the woman of the house purchases on that day.
 In Gujarat Sankrant is observed  in the same manner as in Maharashtra but with a difference that in Gujarat there is a custom of giving gifts to relatives. Kite flying has been associated with this festival in a big way. It has become an internationally well-known event now. On this day colourful kites make Gujrat sky a sight to behold!
In Tamil Nadu, Sankrant is known by the name of ‘Pongal’, which takes its name from the surging of rice boiled in a pot of milk, and this festival has more significance than even Diwali. It is very popular particularly amongst farmers. Rice and pulses cooked together in ghee and milk is offered to the family deity after the ritual worship. In essence in the South this Sankrant is a ‘Puja’ (worship) for the Sun God.
In Andhra Pradesh, it is celebrated as a three-day harvest festival Pongal.  The Telugus like to call it 'Pedda Panduga' meaning big festival. The whole event lasts for four days, the first day Bhogi, the second day Sankranti, the third day Kanuma and the fourth day, Mukkanuma.
In Kerala, also among a lot of Hindus from the Southern states, the 40 days Anushthana by the devotees of Ayyappa ends on this day in Sabarimala with a big  celebration in the form of makaravilakku festival.
In  Madhya Pradesh this festival is known by the name ‘Sakarat’ and is celebrated with great pomp and merriment. Food forms an integral part of the celebrations. 
Sankranti - black!
In Odisha the tribals  start their new year from the day of Sankrant by lighting bonfires, dancing and ofcourse great food. In Assam, the festival is celebrated as Bhogali Bihu. In the coastal regions, it is a harvest festival dedicated to Lord Indra, the supreme ruler of the Gods. 
In Bengal a big Mela is held at Ganga Sagar the continental shelf of Bay of Bengal,south of Kolkata. This island is a famous Hindu pilgrimage place. Every year on the day of Makar Sankranti  thousands of Hindus gather to take a holy dip at the confluence of river Ganges and Bay of Bengal and offer puja in the Kapil Muni Temple. This mela is attended by a large number of pilgrims from all over the country.

For the ladies in Mumbai, it’s a day to dress in black sarees, have some celebrations in office. Offer Til ladoos, attend haldi kumkum in office as well as at their friend's places in the evenings. Yes, for me I got to see some amazing black sarees and a feeling of great festivity among the lovely ladies. 


I'll keep with my promise of writing about Abhilash Tomy in my posts till he is back from his historic voyage.
(Abhilash Tomy is attempting to be the first Indian on a solo non stop unassisted circumnavigation of the globe)

This day of Makar Sankranti, is celebrated all over India with pomp and gaiety. Taking a holy dip in the rivers or having an early morning bath at home is a part of the ritual, Tomy mentions that he has a limited supply of the potable water and has to be judicious about its use. Sun is certainly the power that he looks for everyday, as he says that its overcast most of the time. Yes he does meditate, Shambhavi Kriya is a part of his daily meditation. I am sure all that has been a part of his preparation for the big job that he has at his hands. I must say, we salute this rock solid guy for his endurance and perseverance.  

 To know more about Lt. Cdr Tomy and his boat the Mhadei, follow the link below.