Gurudwara in Andheri west: See pictures

Sometimes you experience something memorable out of the blue. Such events can’t be planned. The same happened with me recently when I landed in the famous Gurudwara of Andheri in Mumbai.

I had gone to the D N Nagar Metro Station area for a work-related visit. I reached my destination much before time, which is rare for me considering my work schedule. My auto-rickshaw stopped just near the Gurudwara. The sight was enough for me to enter it, more so since I was before time.

I have seen this Gurudwara in some television shows and movies. I always felt I should visit it some day but it just kept on delaying. But here I was at the place all of a sudden.

Gurudwara-Andheri

I was surprised to see a young man in rich clothes and attire on the footwear stand. He was extremely polite and humble. The beautiful sight of the main dome ensured that I didn’t feel the steps while climbing up despite it being a tiring day.

The inner sanctum of the Gurudwara instantly fills you up with peace. No matter how hectic day you had, you will feel relaxed as soon as you enter it. The sight of other devotees and the priest-like man with the Guru Granth Sahib felt like my own even though they were strangers.

I was there only for few minutes but that was enough to rejuvenate me.

The experience reminded me of my visit to the Gurudwara in Matunga west in Mumbai.

By: Keyur Seta

Gurudwara Andheri west

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Why is Shiva called the destroyer?

Mahashivratri is around the corner yet again. It is the festival where Lord Shiva aka Shiv aka Shankar aka Mahesh is worshipped all over India and the world. Mahashivratri was the day Shiva drank poison to save the world. Hence, he is also called Neelkanth [Neel is blue in English and the colour of poison]. To know more about Mahashivratri, click HERE.

Lord Shiva has various qualities. The most prominent one is his ability to be the destroyer. But what does he destroy? Rather what is the need for him to be a destroyer? Let’s find out.

The Vedas describe the trinity of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Mahesh. They are referred as the creator, preserver and destroyer respectively. This might make Shiva’s quality appear to be negative but that is not the case.

Also see: Pictures: Shiva Temple in the snow-clad Gulmarg where Quran is recited

According to our mythology and puranas, Brahma created the world, Vishnu preserved what is good in it and Shiva destroyed the negative forces or evil. Hence, this quality of Shiva is positive because destruction is not always bad.

Shiva  temple Dwarka

Shiva’s worshippers ask him to destroy the various evils within them like anger, lust, jealousy, greed, etc.

But there is also other theory about Shiva being the destroyer. It is believed that while Brahma creates the universe and Vishnu preserves it, every yug has to end some day. And it is Shiva who undertakes the task of destroying the world. According to the ancient theories, it is necessary for the world to end when it is completely deteriorated. Hence, Shiva has to carry out his duty.

Also read: Photos: Huge Shiva statue at Nageshwar Mahadev temple in Dwarka

Well-known author Ashwin Sanghi in his book The Krishna Key has described that the names Shiv and Vish are one as the same. It’s just that they are spelt opposite in Indian languages. Their respective function is also the opposite – one is a preserver and the other is the destroyer.

There are many Shiva temples in India. Shri Somnath Jyotirling temple in Somnath and Mahakaleshwar Jyotirling temple in Ujjain are two of the most famous ones.

The pictures in this post are from Nageshwar Mahadev temple in Dwarka. 

Nageshwar temple Dwarka

Alandi: Sant Dnyaneshwar’s therapeutic abode along the banks of the Indrayani

Aalandi is a small village but that doesn’t stop it from being popular. Its connection with Sant Dnyaneshwar is the major reason why it is thronged throughout the year by devotees, many of them belonging to the Varkari sect. It is around 20-30 minutes away from the Pune city.

Dnyaneshwar was a 13th century saint, poet, philosopher and guru from Maharashtra. He is known the most for authoring a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita from Sanskrit to Marathi and titled it Dnyaneshwari. His translated work of the ancient text helped a lot of people who didn’t know Sanskrit from the state to acquire its knowledge.

Dnyaneshwar’s another famous work is Amurtanubhav, which he wrote on the advice of his guru Nivruttinath. (Read more about Sant Dnyaneshwar by clicking HERE.)

Dnyaneshwar-temple Alandi
Dnyaneshwar temple

Alandi is the place where Dnyaneshwar attained Samadhi (Nirvana) at Siddheshwar temple. A temple complex was built over there later which is thronged by pilgrims ever since, especially on Ekadashi.

The temple offers plenty of serenity. As soon as I entered, I was welcomed with positive vibes. It is also a treat to see the passion of the devotees. It is their simplicity that impresses you, especially their clothing. The compound of the temple is also used to simply sit and take in the experience. You might find people reading devotional texts over there.

Dnyaneshwar temple-Alandi

Alandi is also known for its renowned temple of another saint Jalaram Bapa. This is his second most prominent place of worship after his birth place in Virpur in Gujarat.

Alandi is like any other small village of Maharashtra. There has been a lot of construction over here in the last decade or more. This wasn’t the case when I used to visit it during my childhood in the 1990s. Nevertheless, it still provides relaxation.

Indrayani-river-Alandi
River Indrayani

River Indrayani is the major reason for this. It is a peaceful river surrounded by nicely built steps. The scene is somewhat similar to Varanasi. There are a number of shops selling devotional items, literature and food. If you are in Alandi, it is a must to savour its spicy Misal with Pav.

By: Keyur Seta

Misal-Pav

IMG_20190206_175151
Inside the Dnyaneshwar temple

Sant-Dnyaneshwar temple

Dnyaneshwar-Alandi

Gyaneshwar-Alandi

River-Indrayani

Rubaru Roshni is a heart-wrenching film that provides healing: Watch here

Producers Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao are against calling Rubaru Roshni a documentary. It appeared unusual to me until I saw the film. Although the film is technically a documentary, its effect is not like one whatsoever. In fact, the quality storytelling it displays is more impressive than a lot of feature films released in today’s times.

Directed by Svati Chakravarty Bhatkal, Rubaru Roshni shares three real-life stories bound by a common theme of forgiveness. It appears like a simple idea to forgive someone. But in the context of the stories shared here, forgiveness appears impossible.

The Orphan And The Convict:
Congress MP Lalit Maken and his wife Gitanjali were murdered in 1985 by Kukki, who belonged to the Sant Bhindranwale group. Kukki decided to take the step after reading about Maken’s alleged involvement in the anti-Sikh riots that took place after the assassination of India’s former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Gitanjali got accidentally killed in the operation.

Years later Maken’s 38-year-old daughter Avantika shares her ordeal and anger of losing her parents at such a young age.

The Farmer And The Nun:
Samandar Singh mercilessly stabs Rani Maria, a nun, to death after he is brainwashed to believe that she has been converting people from their village in Madhya Pradesh. Her fellow nun recounts the brutal incident where the killer couldn’t stop stabbing the victim repeatedly.

Rubaru-Roshni

The Terror And The Mom:
US resident Kia Scherr’s husband and daughter had gone to Mumbai for a meditation camp in 2008. Little did she know that they would be killed in the 26/11 terror attack at the Taj.

In all three stories, the near and dear one of the victim(s) explore the option of forgiving the wrongdoer.

Bhatkal shows the art of asking important and, at times, uncomfortable questions in a calm manner. She gets the interviewees to speak about the horrific incidents with detail. Her storytelling skills too are at display here. As mentioned before, the documentary doesn’t appear like one. It keeps you not just engaged but also glued.

The thoughtful editing also deserves to be praised and so does Khan’s narrative skills.

There are innumerable documentaries that portray victims’ pain and anguish. But Rubaru Roshni goes a step further by getting into the spiritually healing mode. The victims forgive the offenders and this encourages you to not have grudges against anyone. Of course, it is not easy to forgive someone who has pained us. But I guess the wrongdoings that might have happened with most of us is much smaller in comparison to the one faced by the victims here.

It will be an understatement to say that one needs a big heart to forgive the criminal acts in these cases. The victims have set a benchmark for forgiveness to a limitless height. It is because of them that Rubaru Roshni was possible.

By: Keyur Seta

Watch Rubaru Roshni by clicking on this link: https://www.hotstar.com/movies/rubaru-roshni/1000228573/watch

 

Book Review: Mama Don’t Stop The Music

The importance of mother is sky high in India. This can be seen from the numerous stories and films based on her. But the subject is not limited to just one country. Mother is a universal phenomenon.

Author Pamela Edwards’s book Mama Don’t Stop The Music is an emotional roller-coaster ride about a daughter’s self-discovery and the importance of forgiveness along with a dash of supernaturalism.

The novel revolves around the 33-year-old Nadine Allen in the US. Her mother or Mama is on her death bead. She desperately wants her to be well as she is ridden with guilt for not being at her side for the past 21 years. Nadine narrates her tale right from her childhood. Her happy life starts going through turbulence after her family shifts to a new apartment.

This starts a roller-coaster ride of unexpected and testing events for Nadine right till she grows up. Her inexplicable life brings her closer to God. She is sure He will not let her down.

mama-dont-stop-the-musicThe sequences about Nadine’s efforts to revive her mother, who is on the death bed, not only move but also hook you right at the start. Edward’s language is a smart mixture of simplicity and richness. The pace is free-flowing with one important event happening after another without much break.

Although the topic is about a complicated relationship between a mother and daughter, the role of the former isn’t much. But she is present throughout in Nadine’s conscience and memory, which is put on paper.

A major part of the book features the social scenario of the people belonging to the middle class in the yesteryears in the US. The angle on how youngsters are forced to get into crime and the detailing of the same appears realistic but, thankfully, not like non-fiction.

There are incidents that are depressing, especially the incident where Nadine and her sisters assault their own mother. But the fast pace takes care of this bit.

The story also has an element of supernaturalism. But it is never in-your-face and kept in the background in a subtle way.

What works against the book is that way too many sub-plots and incidents are thrown in one after the other after a point. They are so many in number that it’s difficult to recall them after finishing the book. Some of these instances have not much to do with the main plot. These incidents should have been reduced as it, in the latter half, makes the narrative lengthy.

Thankfully, the ending portions are where the book scores the most. The manner in which the story ends does bring a smile on your face.

Overall: Mama Don’t Stop The Music is not just the story of a mother and daughter but also one that speaks about the societal condition in the US. It manages to overcome the minuses and becomes a fulfilling experience in the end.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Author: Pamela Edwards

Genre: Drama

Pages: 221

Publishers: Publishing Push

Acharya Vidyasagar’s life is as engaging as a fictional movie: filmmaker Vidhi Kasliwal

Filmmaker and producer Vidhi Kasliwal has made a documentary on the life of the Jain monk Acharya Vidyasagar. Titled Vidyoday, the film will feature the journey of his life story through interactions and is beautifully depicted through sand art by the well-known Italian sand artist Fatmir Mura.

In an exclusive conversation with Road To Divinity, Kasliwal gets candid on the process of making the documentary and its aim.

Personal connection:
Although I am a Jain, being born and brought up in Mumbai kept me distant from Muni culture. I didn’t grow up going to Munis or offering them aahaar (food). But my mother’s family is very well renowned in the Jain community and regulars when it comes to doing Muni darshan. In fact, there is a very old temple in Ajmer – Nasiya ji – that has a 3D model depicting the story of Adinath ji, the first Tirthankara, made entirely of gold. This is also a tourist attraction today and was built by my mother’s great-great grandfather centuries ago. It is through this connection, I had a basic insight into the Jain order of monks.

When opportunity knocked on the door:
My mama (maternal uncle) told me that Acharya Vidyasagar ji’s deeksha is completing 50 years and many activities had been planned to celebrate this. They were also grappling with the idea of making a documentary on his life and journey. And I immediately volunteered thinking this should be something interesting and different, that I’ve never done before. Everyone was quite receptive to me doing it and I met various senior people of the community to try and understand what exactly they wanted in the film before I officially started working on it.

First glimpse of Acharya Vidyasagar:
First and foremost, I was very keen to do his darshan. Although I hadn’t visited Acharya Vidyasagar or read much on him, I had heard so much about him. And I have no words to explain what came over me in his presence. His aura is so pure and so powerful, I was moved to tears and I literally began to weep. That’s when I decided I had to do this film.

Acharya-Vidyasagar
Acharya Vidyasagar and sand artist Fatmir Mura.

Extensive research:
It took such intensive and extensive research work for us to know about him and his journey. We had to talk to various sources, collate material from all over the country and we also needed someone who could guide us and authenticate the information for us. That’s where Muni Pramansagar ji (a disciple of Acharya Vidyasagar) came in. He very patiently pointed us in the right direction and then left it upto me as a filmmaker, despite being such an exalted Muni. This is such a big thing. He said he would only point out factual errors, if any and the rest would be my call. This increased the responsibility on me and I had to give it my all.

We’ve been at it for over three years now. The research and the shoot took us all over the country with major portions shot in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. We faced many hardships and unique challenges through these years, but all in all it has been an enriching experience not only for me, but for my entire team.

Tougher than feature filmmaking:
When we started out, we had a rough outline in mind. We knew what were the topics we wanted to cover and hence began working towards those. But unlike a fiction film, where one knows every dialogue every character is going to say in each shot in each location, in non-fiction filmmaking you have very little or no control on what exactly you’re going to be able to capture. We had to go with the natural flow of things, hoping it would all come together on the edit table.

Making a Documentary is far more challenging and difficult than making a work of fiction. The not knowing is the part that contributes to the most anxiety. Only once you have all the content and the conversations, then can you begin to give it shape and with any luck weave a compelling story around it.

Not willing to cast someone to play Acharya Vidyasagar:
It was especially fascinating to hear what his younger brothers and sisters had to say about growing up with him, as now, inspired by him, they too have renounced worldly life and are following the same path of spirituality. We collected so many interesting anecdotes of his childhood from his siblings and friends, but how were we to depict them. There weren’t any pictures or videos of that time, of those incidents. Some people suggested why not cast someone and shoot those ‘flashbacks’. But I was rather uncomfortable casting an actor to play his part, it would have been very inappropriate. I don’t think any actor could have done justice to such a pious soul and I don’t think as a director I could have replicated his essence and aura.

Idea of roping in Sand Artist Fatmir Mura:

Besides being a master philosopher, Acharya Shri is also a literary scholar. His most accomplished work is a 500-page epic poem “Muk Mati”. The title itself gave me an idea. Why not use ‘Mati’ (sand) to recreate the happenings. Sand Art is a very captivating and unique art form, and we needed a master artist for this, thus began our search for one.

Rummaging through Google for ‘best sand artist’, we came across Fatmir Mura, an Italian Sand Artist, living all the way in Florence. We were floored by his style and the intricacy he brought out in his works which we saw on YouTube. We randomly messaged him through Facebook messenger and promptly got a reply. That’s how our ‘long-distance relationship’ started.

VK
Vidhi Kasliwal

Non-Indian getting to know Acharya Vidyasagar:

It was going to be a long drawn, challenging task. Almost 35% of the visuals were going to be Sand Art, so they needed to be engaging. They needed to convey very specific stories and emotions, so they had to be detailed and nuanced. All the facts had to be accurate, so we had to be prepared for a lot of back and forth. The subject was steeped in Indian culture, so we had to have patience – for us to explain the smallest of details and for him to get a hang of them.

As expected, we took 2 years to complete the Sand Art. But what has been achieved is beyond our expectations. What started out as rough sketches, turned into beautiful symphonies of sand. Hats off to Fatmir to have the persistence and intelligence to grasp such foreign things for him – like the attire of Indian women, the writing of words like ‘shree’ in Devanagri script, and so on. So much so that on seeing the sequences, not a single person can guess that they have been done by a non-Indian. Thus, proving his artistic mastery over emotions and instincts.

Life story engaging enough for the youngsters:

We wanted the film to be a factual representation of Acharya Shri and his journey. Sometimes facts can get quite repetitive and boring, but that is not the case here at all. Every aspect, every chapter of his life is so engaging that it could almost feel like fiction, but believe you me, we didn’t need to embellish at all.

Nowadays, with exposure to digital platforms on the rise, the popularity of different content including non-fiction documentaries has increased and found loyal audiences especially in the youth. And I’m confident that youngsters will find ‘Vidyoday’ a compelling and insightful watch.

Message not confined to Jainism:
Besides being a religious leader, he is a philosopher and an author par excellence with a keen sense of humour. Being completely up-to-date, he is fully aware of the challenges we face in today’s times and he offers practical solutions on how to face them. I strongly feel that people will connect with him on a level beyond religion, cause what he says is not only confined to Jainism, but covers principles of equality, non-violence, working hard, etc., all of which can help us lead better and deeper lives.

About the release of the film:

This is a one-of-a-kind film, more like an audio-visual documentation on Acharya Vidyasagar ji Maharaj. The life cycle of such a film is posterity and our ultimate goal would be to have it on a digital platform for generations to stream it as and when.

As for now, we are concentrating on theatrical screenings. It’s not a regular theatrical release, but more like an on-demand theatrical release.

  • By: Keyur Seta

Durga Puja 2018 at Ramakrishna Mission: Pictures

Like every year, Durga Puja was celebrated with aplomb in 2018 too all over India. It reveres Goddess Durga, who defeated the demon Mahisasura on this day.

The day is also celebrated as Dussehra in various parts of India. It was the day when Lord Rama killed the evil Ravana, who had kidnapped the former’s wife Sita.

Various branches of Ramakrishna Mission not only in India but world over celebrate Durga Puja. The same is the case with its Mumbai branch.

Have a look at pictures from this year’s Durga Puja in Ramakrishna Math in Khar, Mumbai:

Durga-Puja-2018Durga-Puja-Ramakrishna-MathDurga-Puja-Ramakrishna-MissionDurja-Puja 2018PictureRamakrishna-Math-Mumbai