Short story: Happy Diwali to Sulekha and her pet dog

This time of the year was most awaited by the people of Bharat Nagar. Diwali brought in a new vigor and energy all irrespective of age and ethnic differences. As the festival was just a couple of weeks away, the shops and roadside stalls started displaying Diwali related items like diyas, rangolis, kandils, firecrackers decorations, etc. The shops selling clothes are also ready with latest materials.

It was just a matter of 1 or 2 days when people would throng these shops and stalls. It would appear as if they have received parole from the drudgery of everyday life. It’s that time of the year when students would forget the burden of their studies while working individuals would stop cribbing about their bosses, although temporarily.

However, life wasn’t so hunky dory for the 65-year-old Sulekha and her pet dog, Marco, who are put up in the busiest locality in Bharat Nagar. She has been staying alone with Marco after her husband passed away eight years ago. Her two daughters, who are married abroad, hardly check on her. But that is not the reason why she is gloomy these days.

Diwali-KandilSulekha has been an asthama patient since last few years. Her situation aggravates due to air pollution. So, needless to say, her asthama reaches higher level each Diwali through the rampant use of firecrackers. In other words, her need for the asthama pump increases during the festival.

Worse, there is no escape from the situation. The few relatives with whom she is in touch are based outside city. Her house is just above the chowk that sees the maximum crackers being burst. As most of them are burst at night, she can’t go anywhere thanks to her old age and knee problem.

Her life situation doesn’t hamper her jolly mood though. In fact, she is the most calm, peaceful and humorous person in the locality. This is all the more reason why very few people realize what she goes through during Diwali. There are times when taking the pump isn’t enough and she feels she might not make it to the next morning.

With so much suffering, it was never a Happy Diwali for her, although she sends and receives numerous Diwali wishes on What’s App. The celebrations at her place are next to none. She hardly ever bought anything for Diwali in recent years despite the shops being so close to her building.

But she doesn’t suffer alone. She has Marco for company. His only mistake is that he is an animal (not for Sulekha though). Most of us are aware how nightmarish life can be for animals when crackers are being burst around. But then, we turn a blind eye to this fact.

Hence, every Diwali, when people around them are in a celebratory mood, Sulekha and Marco tolerate the worst period of the year. They just hope to get rid of this ‘festival’ ASAP.

The feeling was the same this year. Just 10 days for the the festival, people of Bharat Nagar had thronged the shops and stalls while Sulekha and Marco sat at the window thinking about the challenging times ahead. It was difficult to say whether the dog was low because of his master feeling gloomy or whether he actually knew that Diwali was round the corner.

Sulekha switched on the TV to divert her mind. The loud mouthed news anchor was screaming out at the top of his lungs that the court has banned firecrackers during Diwali.

After years, she was seen excitedly buying decorations and kandils for Diwali the next day. Marco was wagging his tail besides her as he was happy to see his master happy.

Suddenly, it was a Happy Diwali for Sulekha and Marco this year.

By: Keyur Seta

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Krishna’s Dwarkadhish temple to Sudama Setu: Pictorial tour of Dwarka

After becoming a Krishna devotee since last few years, I, obviously, developed a keen interest to visit Dwarka. It so happened that just recently I told my parents about my wish to visit the holy place at least once. And just one or two days later, I get a mail informing that I, along with few other bloggers, was selected for a trip to Dwarka. Was this a mere co-incidence?

The trip was a part of a bloggers’ review program for Mercure Dwarka hotel, which was inaugurated in the town of Gujarat in August this year. We landed at Porbandar airport and reached Dwarka in a drive of around 90 minutes. The place can also be reached from Jamnagar airport in little over two hours.

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Sunset captured from Sudama Setu in Dwarka

Dwarka is located at the western end of Gujarat on the shore of Arabian Sea. It is one of the Chaar Dhams (four major holy places) along with Jagannath Puri, Rameswaram and Badrinath.

Also read: Mercure Dwarka Review: Serene hub in the land of Lord Krishna

Dwarka has been built and rebuilt seven times in history. It was said to be built first few thousand years ago by Lord Krishna when he migrated from Mathura with his followers. The aim behind the migration was the safety of the villagers from the evil ruler and Krishna’s staunch enemy, Jarasandha.

The city built in the ancient period got submerged into the sea after the fall of the Yadavas (villagers) and the passing away of Krishna and his brother Balrama. They are said to have succumbed to the curse of Gandhari but not before Krishna had finished his aim of taking birth on the earth.

Dwarka city
Cows roaming on the roads of Dwarka

Our driver enlightened us that since the modern times, Dwarka has more tourists than locals. Its population is only aroun 38000. He also said that the city lies only in 3 by 3 kilometers land. As our trip progressed, we did realize this as we found proper civilization only around the Dwarkadhish and Bet Dwarka (situated in an island nearby) temples. But one can find huge number of cows on the roads in and around Dwarka.

Places to visit:

Dwarkadhish Temple

This is the biggest attraction as this is considered the main Krishna temple. Dwarkadhish is another name for Krishna. The temple is also called Jagat Mandir. Archeological studies suggest the temple to be around 2000-2200 years old. It is said to have built by Krishna’s great grandson Vajranabha. The temple has been destroyed twice by Mughal rulers Mohammad Shah and later by Mahmud Begada and rebuilt on both occasions.

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Dwarkadhish  Temple

It has a beautiful dome along with a vibrant dhwaj (flag). Unfortunately, cameras or any sort of gadgets are strictly not allowed inside. One has to deposit them at the entrance. The entrance leads up to the main area where the idol of Krishna resides. The idol is veiled during different times of the day. Witnessing the reaction of the people when it is unveiled is quite an experience.

Dwarkadhish-Temple-Dwarka

Krishna is also called Shrinathji in Gujarat. Shrinathji’s idol is given black colour and has peculiar turban and other attires. This form of Krishna is seen in the Dwarkadhish Temple. The idol is adorned with jewels and royal clothing. The vicinity also has other pretty and peace-inducing temples that are surely worth visiting. They offer Prasad (offering) in the form of puris we use in Sev Puris. The only difference is that it tastes sweet.

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Outside the temple

 

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A shop opposite the temple

The main market area lies around the temple. One can find shops selling sweets, snacks, different type of idols, conch shells (shankh), clothes, etc. One sweet item that I would highly recommend is Sata. After looking at it, I wasn’t expecting it to taste so lovely.

Sata
Sata

 

Sudama Setu

Just a stone throw away from Dwarkadhish temple is Sudama Setu (Sudama’s bridge), which lies over the Gomti river. Sudama was Krishna’s closest friend. It offers a beautiful, panoramic view of the city and the river (see the 1st image of the article). And if you happen to witness the sunset, you would be amazed with the breathtaking visuals.

Sudana Setu
Sudama Setu

Sudama Setu connects the market to an area exactly the opposite. Once here, you would feel as if you suddenly landed in Rajasthan. It is a desert-like area where camels are seen loitering. Don’t forget to sit on the benches on this side to feast your eyes on the flowing Gomti along with the side view of Dwarkadhish temple.

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Laxminarayan Temple

This area also has an old, mysterious Laxminarayan temple that offered a serene feeling. I also found a small Hanuman temple, behind which lay idols of other Gods for unknown reasons.

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Other side of the bridge
Dwarkadhish Temple Dwarka
Dwarkadhish temple from the other side of Sudama Setu
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The desert like area on the other side of Sudama Setu.

Rukmini Temple

Legend has it that Krishna and his wife Rukmini were taking sage Durvasa to their place in Dwarka in a chariot pulled by them. During one point, Rukmini felt thirsty, so Krishna dug his toe in the ground and water flowed out of it. She quenched her thirst but Durvasa felt insulted since they didn’t offer him water. He cursed that Krishna will have to stay away from Rukmini and that the water of Dwarka will always taste salty, which is still the case.

Rukmini Temple-Dwarka
Rukmini Tenple
Rukmini-Temple Dwarka
Entrance of the Rukmini Temple

His curse is also the reason why the temples of Krishna and Rukmini are separate. The Rukmini Temple is a pretty work of art which is seen on the human sculptures on its dome and other areas. Like the Dwarkadhish Temple, the dome of this one also deserves mention. As Dwarka only gets salty water, there is a tradition of donating normal water on your behalf if you feel so.

By: Keyur Seta

Mercure Dwarka Review: Serene hub in the land of Lord Krishna

Dwarka is the land of Lord Krishna. He is said to have built this town out of scratch to provide shelter to his followers. He had migrated with them from Mathura, his birth place, to save them from the wrath of his enemy Jarasandha.

Mercure DwarkaToday, around 5000 years after it was built, the pilgrimage continues to attract tourists on a large scale. The place is also known as Krishna Nagari or Devbhoomi. It is one of the chaar dhams (four holy places) of India along with Badrinath, Jagannath Puri and Rameswaram.

Our driver, during our recent trip to Dwarka, informed that the town at any given point has more tourists than locals. Hence, it is imperative to have good hotels in and around the holy place.

Mercure Dwarka is the latest one to be built in the city to facilitate the devotees. It became the first hotel from an international brand to arrive in the holy town of Gujarat when it was inaugurated in August 2017. Mercure Dwarka is a part of Accor Hotels. It mainly suits to people from urban or western areas who prefer a comfortable and luxurious stay during their pilgrimage.

Mercure-Dwarka

Let’s analyze different features of the hotel:

Location: Mercure Dwarka is situated on the Porbandar-Dwarka Highway. It is a lone big structure in the locality. It is one and a half hour’s drive away from Porbandar Airport and little over two hours from Jamnagar Airport. The main Dwarkadhish Temple is at five minutes’ drive away. From here, one can also visit other prominent sites like the Rukmani Temple, Nageshwar Mahadev Temple, Bet Dwarka, Gopi Talao and Sudama Setu (bridge).

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The entrance

Rooms: The most important aspect of any hotel is the room since it is your temporary abode for the next few days. Mercure Dwarka has 99 rooms in total with 20 on each of the first four floors. The fifth floor has 19 rooms as one is a suite. Every floor has four interconnecting rooms.

Mercure-Hotel-Dwarka

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To put it simply, the rooms are exactly what you expect from such hotels. The bed is soft and comfortable. The same can also be said for other furniture like the sofa, chair and table. The interiors and ambience offer a feeling of serenity. The simple and light colours used on the walls have a large role to play in it.

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The icing on the cake is the beautiful painting of Lord Krishna (in each room). This adds to the spiritual as well as artistic value. They also have the same painting of elephant in every room. The staff told us that Mercure adds local flavour to each of their branches. This was clearly on display here.

The suite has a nice extra room that can also be used for office or meeting purposes.

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The bathroom and washroom are posh and luxurious. I personally felt one problem due to the lack of bucket and tumbler while bathing. Everyone might not be used to the shower. Availability of tap would also help in reducing wastage of water.

Lobby: The lobby and reception area goes with the peaceful demeanor of the rooms due to its spaciousness, use of light colours and simple properties. It becomes even better when they play the flute music (which goes with Krishna’s personality).

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Food: The restaurant inside the hotel is called Makhan (as Krishna was called Maakhan Chor), which serves vegetarian food. Its specialty is the Gujarati thali, which is quite a sight as you can see from the picture below. We were served Theplas, Shev Tomato (bhel sev mixed with tomatoes) and Ringna Bateta (brinjal potatoes) sabzis, Dal, Rice, Gulab Jamun, Salad, Kachori and Khakra along with a glass of Chhaas (buttermilk). The taste of the food does go well with the looks.

Gujarati-thali

I was surprised to see Shev being added in the end in the Shev Tameta. We always add it while cooking.

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The restaurant area

Maakhan also serves good Punjabi food on ala carte and buffet basis. The subzis that we had over there on three occasions were quite satisfying and so were the rotis and naans. One can try their Pasta too. The breakfast menu too offers a wide range of options like simple bread butter and toasts to items like Pohe, Medu Vada, Shev Upma, baked beans, etc.

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Other facilities: The conference or meeting room has a capacity of 40 people. There is also a gym with a good range of equipment.

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Conference room
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Gym

Staff: The staff deserves special mention for being extremely humble and friendly.

Overall: Mercure Dwarka is an ideal hotel for Krishna devotees who are looking for a comfortable and luxurious stay during their pilgrimage.

Article and pictures: Keyur Seta

Navratri special: Ever heard of Garba Visarjan?

Here’s some meaning, importance and relevance of Garba pot or matka.

Like Ganesh Visarjan, there is Navratri Visarjan too. For most of you, this would mean the visarjan or immersion of idols of Goddess Durga. But this is not the only visarjan during Navratri. There is a section of the devotees that also carry out Garba Visarjan.

This might have come as a complete surprise to many. The word ‘Garba’ generally means a dance form carried out during Navratri along with Dandiya. However, that isn’t the only Garba that exists.

Garba pot matka
Picture: Indiamart.com

Garba is actually a pot which is brought home on Navratri and then immersed on Dusshera. Just like the Ganesh idol, it is worshipped daily. But it is not like any other pot. It is a wide pot which is designed and decorated royally in different colours. It has various holes on it. This enables enough air for the lamp (diya), which is ignited inside, to keep its flames alive.

The practice of bringing home the Garba is practiced mostly among Gujaratis. But it is practiced by people from other Indian communities too.

The Garba is also used in another manner. While playing Dandiya and Garba, the Garba is placed at the center and the people dance around it in circles. The Garba symbolizes the universe while the light inside symbolizes God. In other words, it shows that God is at the center of the universe.

That’s not all though. The dancers represent the never-ending nature of life, which indirectly hints at the idea of reincarnation.

Lastly, just like the Ganesh idol, Garba too is immersed in the sea, lakes, river or ponds with much fanfare.

 

Garba-pot
Picture: http://utkarshspeak.blogspot.in

 

Label Beh Gaye (Poem on 2017 Mumbai floods)

Here is my poem on the deadly Mumbai rains and floods that shook the city yesterday (August 29, 2017). The poem speaks about the spirit of Mumbai, like many of us. But there is also something deep hidden inside these scenes of people helping rank strangers.

Mumbai-floods-2007लेबल बह गए

निकले थे घर से सज सवरकर
धरम जात के लेबल लगाकर
साथ आया बारिश का झोंका
न लगा इसमें कुछ अनोखा

पर तूफ़ान थम नहीं पाया
२६/७ की याद ले आया
जल्द ही हुआ घातक नज़ारा
कुदरत का था जवाब करारा

मुंबई पे छाया मुसीबत का साया
निडर दिलों में भी डर ले आया
शहर बना जल समुदाय
जिसमे फसा जन समुदाय

लेकिन साथ आई एक उम्मीद
हमने पकड़ ली फिर एक ज़िद्द
भले ही ठोकर खाते रहेंगे
कश्ती को किनारा देते रहेंगे

सब ने बड़े दिल दिखाए
मानवता के झंडे लहराए
अनजान लोग अपनापन दिखा गए
धरम जात के लेबल मिटा गए

अब ठहरा कुदरत का क़हर
निकले वापस घरों के बाहर
अब भी लेबल अदृश्य रहेंगे
हम यही आशा करेंगे

– केयूर सेता

 

(In English font)

Label Beh Gaye

Nikle the ghar se saj savarkar
Dharam jaat ke label lagakar
Saath aaya baarish ka jhonka
Na laga isme kuchh anokha

Par toofan tham nahin paya
26/7 ki yaad le aaya
Jald hi hua ghatak nazara
Kudrat ka tha jawab karara

Mumbai pe chhaya musibat ka saya
Nidar dilon mein bhi darr le aaya
Shehar bana jal samuday
Jisme phasa jan samuday

Lekin saath aai ek ummeed
Humne pakad lee phir ek zidd
Bhale hi thokar khate rahenge
Kashti ko kinara deke rahenge

Sab ne bade dil dikhaye
Manavta ke jhande lehraye
Anjaan log apnapan dikha gaye
Dharam jaat ke label mita gaye

Ab thehra kudrat ka qahar
Nikle wapas gharon ke baahar
Ab bhi label adrishya rahenge
Hum yehi asha karenge

– Keyur Seta

Ganeshotsav Poem: Dhoond Raha Hoon Khud Ko

Here is a poem on the atmosphere during Ganeshotsav festival.

Ganpati-photoढूंढ रहा हूँ खुद को

वैसे तो सृष्टि के कण-कण में पाया जाता है मुझ को

पर ऐसे माहौल में मैं खुद ढूंढ रहा हूँ खुद को

आइटम नंबर्स के अश्लील शब्दों में ढूंढ रहा हूँ खुद को

हिंसक शोर शराबे में ढूंढ रहा हूँ खुद को

उस शोर से बच्चे-बीमार के कराहने में ढूंढ रहा हूँ खुद को

पढाई न कर सके छात्रों की मार्कशीट में ढूंढ रहा हूँ खुद को

पॉलिटिशंस के फोटोशॉप्प्ड़ चेहरों के बीच ढूंढ रहा हूँ खुद को

हवा में फैले पटाखों के ज़हर में ढूंढ रहा हूँ खुद को

नशे में धुत्त मवालियों की गालियों में ढूंढ रहा हूँ खुद को

उनसे की गई लड़कियों की छेड़-छाड़ में ढूंढ रहा हूँ खुद को

पर गली मोहल्ले घूम-घूम कर भी न महसूस किया खुद को

अंत में, विसर्जन के बाद के दयनीय दृश्य में पा लिया खुद को…

– केयूर सेता

 

(In English font)

Dhoond Raha Hoon Khud Ko

Waise toh srushti ke kann-kann mein paya jata hai mujh ko

Par aise mahaul mein main khud dhoon raha hoon khud ko

Item numbers ke ashleel shabdon mein dhoond raha hoon khud ko

Hinsak shor sharabe mein dhoond raha hoon khud ko

Us shor se bachche-bimaar ke karrahne mein dhoond raha hoon khud ko

Padhai na kar sake chhatron ki marksheet mein dhoon raha hoon khud ko

Politicians ke photoshopped chehron ke beech dhoond raha hoon khud ko

Hawa mein faile patakhon ke zehar mein dhoond raha hoon khud ko

Nashe mein dhutt mawaliyon ki gaaliyon mein dhoond raha hoon khud ko

Unse ki gayi ladkiyon ki chhed-chhad mein dhoon raha hoon khud ko

Par gali mohalle ghoom-ghoom kar bhi na pa saka khud ko

Ant mein, visarjan ke baad ke vivash drishya mein paa liya khud ko

– Keyur Seta

Janmashtami special: When the world saw Krishna v/s Krishna battle

We have read and heard a number of stories and incidents from Lord Krishna’s life over the years. But there is one instance that surprisingly hasn’t become well-known like other legends of Krishna. In fact, I too came to know about it just recently.

There once came a moment when the world saw a battle of Krishna v/s Krishna. Let’s know about this story as the festival of Janmashtami (birth of Lord Krishna) is almost here.

Paundraka was the king of Pundra. He was the son of Krishna’s father Vasudev’s sister Shrutadeva. So, he was Krishna’s cousin. Paundraka started thinking very high of himself after continuously receiving humongous praises from his ministers. They even stated that his greatness was comparable to Lord Vishnu.

Shri-Krishna-with-Sudarshan-ChakraHowever, at that time the glory of Lord Krishna was in full flow. Paundraka had heard stories about how beautifully Krishna had built the city of Dwarka and was hailed by his followers as the incarnation or avatar of Lord Vishnu.

This, obviously, made Paundraka jealous. Hence, he declared that he is the actual avatar of Vishnu and has arrived in the world to destroy evil. In other words, he is the real Krishna and the one ruling over Dwarka is fake. Paundraka decided to wage a war against Krishna, finish him and prove to the world as to who is the actual avatar of Vishnu.

Through some powers, he grew two more arms and carried a mace, conch (shankh), sudarshan chakra and flower in them, just like Vishnu. He sent a message to Krishna asking him to either surrender and accept him as the real Krishna or fight a war. Krishna laughed at the message and decided to go on the battlefield against Paundraka.

Krishna entered the battlefield with his brother Balram (one version also says that Krishna went alone). After a fierce battle, Krishna finally defeated Paundraka with his Sudarshan Chakra.

I wonder why a story with components like identity crisis, conflict and action hasn’t acquired fame. The tale, however, was portrayed in Director Chandrakant’s Hindi film Krishna-Krishna, which released in 1986.