Difficult to say if Mcleodganj is more peaceful or Tibetans: See photos

Our trip to Mcleodganj was a part of our November tour which also included Amritsar and Dalhousie. Although I had a memorable time in the other two places, the feeling after entering Mcleodganj was unexplainable. It was like suddenly switching over to a TV channel hugely different from what you have been watching since long.

mcleodganj-monks-monasterySuddenly I was surrounded with the most serene atmosphere I have ever experienced. The Himalayas provided the enchanting visuals of nature. The buildings and architecture in the town oozed not only colours but also calmness.

But the most pleasant sight was the presence of Tibetans in the entire town, especially the monks. It’s a sheer pleasure to talk to them. They appear unreal for their peaceful demeanor they carry. In fact, just to see them go about their daily, everyday routine calms you like nothing else can.

Mcleodganj has two monasteries. The main one is also a place of residence of the great Dalai Lama. It is quite an experience to be there. But it is the other one in the market area that is easily more beautiful and vibrant.

The Tibetans have been living in India as refugees ever since China occupied Tibet in the 1950s. They still have a glimmer of hope of returning to their homeland, although the chances are very bleak.

But, more importantly, after seeing the way they have nurtured Mcleodganj like their own baby, will Indians like me be happy if and when they return?

Needless to say, after such an experience I would love to visit next time and stay for a much longer duration.

P.S:– I was pleasantly surprised to not see a single political banner or poster in the entire town. Later on, I realized that Tibetans have no voting rights as they are refugees. That explains it all.

By Keyur Seta

More pictures from Mcleodganj:

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Swami Vivekananda’s inspiring thoughts on India

Swami Vivekananda is one of the greatest spiritual gurus of the world. But he is also who can also be called a ‘Patriot Monk.’ His love, admiration and respect for his motherland shines brightly through volumes of his teachings.

Here are some of his inspiring thoughts on India on the occasion of Republic Day:

– I am proud that I am a countryman of yours. You the descendants of the sages, you the descendants of the most glorious Rishis the world ever saw. Therefore have faith in yourselves, be proud of your ancestors.

swami-vivekananda– Shall India die? Then from the world all spirituality will be extinct, all moral perfection will be extinct, all sweet-souled sympathy for religion will be extinct, all ideality will be extinct; and in its place will reign the duality of lust and luxury as the male and female deities, with money as its priest, fraud, force, and competition its ceremonies, and the human soul its sacrifice. Such a thing can never be.

– Once more the wheel is turning up, once more vibrations have been set in motion from India, which are destined at no distant day to reach the farthest limits of earth. Believe, believe, the decree has gone forth, the fiat of the Lord has gone forth – India must rise, the masses and the poor are to be made happy.

– India will be raised, not with the power of the flesh, but with the power of the spirit; not with the flag of destruction, but with the flag of peace and love, the garb of the Sannyasin; not by the power of wealth, but by the power of the begging bowl

– Let us all work hard, my brethren; this is no time for sleep. Do not figure out big plans at first, but begin slowly, feel the ground, and proceed. Up, up, the long night is passing, the day is approaching, the wave has risen, nothing will be able to resist its tidal fury.

– Let her New India arise – out of the peasants’ cottage, grasping the plough; out of the huts of the fisherman, the cobbler, and the sweeper. Let her spring from the grocer’s shop, from beside the oven of the fritter-seller. Let her emanate from the factory, from marts, and from markets. Let her emerge from groves and forests, from hills and mountains…

– Arise and awake and see her seated here on her eternal throne, rejuvenated, more glorious than she ever was – this Motherland of ours.

Guru Gobind Singh 350th Birth Anniversary: 15 facts about the 10th Sikh Guru

Today marks the 350th Birth Anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh ji. He was the 10th and the last Sikh Guru. His life is an ideal example of service to humanity and adherence to truth, even if it means laying down your own life. Here are 15 facts from Guru Gobind Singh ji’s life story on his 350th Birth Anniversary or Gurpurab (2017):

– He was born in Patna, Bihar in 1666.

– He was earlier named, Gobind Rai.

– He was considered a leader by his friends right during his childhood.

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Picture: Pinterest

– During the time of his birth, his father, Guru Teg Bahadur was in Dhaka (then Bengal, now Bangladesh). He saw his child Gobind Rai for the first time when the latter was three years old.

– Guru Gobind Singh ji migrated to Anandpur, Punjab with his mother, Mata Gujri ji in 1671.

– Even during his childhood, he was well-versed in a number of languages like Hindi, Persian, Sanskrit and Brij Bhasha (along with his mother tongue Punjabi).

– Gobind Rai was only 10 years old when he was given the responsibility of leading the Sikhs by becoming their next Guru after the passing away of his father.

– Guru Gobind Singh ji not only became an expert in warfare (martial arts, sword fighting, etc) but also trained a large army of Sikhs to fight the oppressors in the form of Mugals and, at times, caste-conscious Hindus.

– Raja Bhim Chand of Kahlur and other rulers got insecure of Guru Gobind Singh ji and waged a war against him and the Sikhs in 1687. But the Sikhs fought valiantly and defeated the enemy forces.

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Guruji asking for heads (Picture: Gurbani.co)

– Guru Gobind Singh ji found the Khalsa Panth in a dramatic way in 1699. He took a sword and asked for the heads of the most beloved Sikhs. Although people were confused, five Sikhs came forward. The Guru took one inside and returned with a blood stained sword and continued the same exercise for all five followers. He later came out with all five of them and, highly satisfied with their faith and dedication, he honoured them as Panj Piara (five loved ones).

They became the heads of the Khalsa Panth. This is also how the slogan, “Wahe Guru Ji Da Khalsa, Wahe Guru Ji Di Fateh” was born. It translates in English to, “You are a pure soul created by Wahe Guru (God) and hail victory to him.”

– Guru Gobind Singh ji and his troops fought quite a few battles from here on. He lost his two elder sons in a battle against the Moghuls at Chamkour. His two younger sons were brutally killed by being buried alive straight in walls by Moghul emperor Wazir Khan in Sarhind. Soon thereafter, their mother passed away in custody.

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Guruji with family (Picture: PunjabiDharti.com)

– Despite losing his sons and wife, Guru Gobind Singh ji continued fighting battles against oppressors.

– In 1707, Guru Gobind Singh ji arrived at Nanded, Maharashtra where he came across Madhav Das, who became his follower and was named Gurbaksh Singh. He later came to be known as Banda Singh Bahadur.

– Over here, Guru Gobind Singh ji was attacked by a Pathan with a dagger when he was doing his prayers. But Guru ji managed to kill him but not before sustaining serious injuries. This is how Guru Gobind Singh ji merged with the Supreme.

– Before passing away, he announced that henceforth, Sikhs should worship the Guru not in a physical form but in the form of their religious book, Guru Granth Sahib.

Book Review: Open-Eyed Meditations

Open-Eyed Meditations is author Shubha Vilas’ latest offering. He has gained popularity with his Ramayana: The Game Of Life series (three of the six books have released so far). His admiration and keen interest in ancient Indian epics is clearly felt if you have read the three books.

Apart from retelling the epic, a notable feature of his version is the wisdom at the end of each page. So, it doesn’t come as a surprise to see him come up with a book full of wisdom. As those wisdom lines in his earlier books aren’t limited to Ramayana, it also doesn’t come a surprise that he has also included examples of Mahabharata in it.

Open-Eyed Meditations is a non-fiction book with a series of chapters based on the teachings of Mahabharata and Ramayana. Each chapter takes up one issue and offers a practical solution to it by linking it to one or more incident from the epics.

open-eyed-meditations-shubha-vilasThere is a misconception that ancient epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana or any of the Vedas for that matter are outdated items. It is believed, especially by people carried away with urban culture, that they are irrelevant in the current time. However, if one looks deeper, one would understand that they are more relevant now than they were before. Open-Eyed Meditations reconfirms this.

Shubha Vilas has delved deep into human mind and brought to light varied types of negative emotions and behavior. He has offered solutions to them using from most famous to least known incidents from the epics. His lessons might appear preachy but if looked closely, they are practical solutions.

Another reason why Open-Eyed Meditations generates appeal is that the author has tackled problems pertaining to the current, modern era. For example, issues faced at workplace, modern relationships, degradation of the psyche in the fast-moving world, management issues in the corporate world, etc. In other words, it’s a subtle reminder on living life rather than just surviving.

The language used also doesn’t come as a surprise. Just like his previous works, he has maintained a fine balance between rich and simple sentences. In other words, it will appeal to those well-versed with English language to those who aren’t. The copy editing is also up to the make with no grammatical and punctuation errors as such.

There is not much of a flipside here. Probably the book should have ended before almost 280 pages. Also certain issues appear repetitive. It should have been crisper.

Review by: Keyur Seta

Author: Shubha Vilas

Rating: 4/5

Publishers: Fingerprint! Belief

Price: Rs 250/-

Pages: 279

Cover: Vibrant as well as simple. The image gives a clear idea of what to expect from the book.

Golden Temple Pictures: Where peace and kindness reside

By: Keyur Seta

Over the years, I must have heard umpteen number of times that the Golden Temple in Amritsar (Punjab), also known as Sri Harmandir Sahib, is one of the most beautiful places in India. I got some idea of it by watching its sight in numerous images and movies (Rang De Basanti, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi etc).

But I came to know its sheer brilliance only when I visited it for the first time a week ago. The manner in which it is radiating such enormous beauty since centuries can even make an atheist into a believer, even if it is just temporarily.

This is because one can’t ignore the immense peace the golden monument generates into you. The kind behavior of the staff and their commitment towards cleanliness adds on to the impressiveness.

This automatically gets passed on to the devotees. They might quarrel or do various kinds of mischief outside. But once inside, a sense of responsibility and sanskaar takes over them.

Golden Temple is one place that shows its different shades of beauty during day and night. So, it is mandatory to visit it during both phases of the day, like we did. The results are seen in the pictures.

Like all Gurudwaras, Golden Temple too offers langar (meals) to devotees daily irrespective of their religion, caste, language, nationality and what not. And being the biggest Gurudwara in the country, the number of people fed daily goes into lakhs.

All in all, the Golden Temple is a must visit for those craving for peace and hope.

Timings of the Golden Temple: 3 am to 10 pm.

More information or history: The Golden Temple was built in 1577 by the fourth holy Sikh guru, Guru Ram Das. It was turned into gold 200 years later by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. For complete info, click HERE.

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Devotees served langar.
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Preparation of langar.

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Book Review: When Life Turns Turtle

By: Keyur Seta

When Life Turns Turtle is a spiritual fiction novel by author Raj Supe. It tells the story of a 38-year-old Bollywood filmmaker Indraneel. He has had a successful journey from theatre to movies. His latest film, Strugglers, made with newcomers, has become a box-office hit. However, Indraneel’s personal life is going nowhere.

After going through a bitter divorce with Chitra, he gets involved with a struggling actress Avni. Unfortunately, life continues to betray Indraneel. It is at this point that his best friend Arunodaya advises him to visit Rishikesh and try treading on the spiritual path. Indraneel hesitantly agrees. But will this have any long-term positive effect on Indraneel’s life? Will he ever find peace?

when-life-turns-turtleWhen Life Turns Turtle basically falls in the self-discovery zone. But it actually goes much further and deeper than most of the stories on this theme. It provides a wake-up call that fills you with delight. Its impact is hard but at the same time gentle. Normally, books of this genre are only meant for those who are into spirituality. But this one goes beyond the target audience simply because any grown-up adult, especially from urban cities, would relate to it.

The initial portion is interesting. But the book gets fully into the mode once the story shifts to Rishikesh. From here on, it just keeps enlightening in a delightful way without being preachy. As Indraneel goes about his life in Rishikesh meeting and interacting with different people, you feel as if you too are present in the Himalayan town witnessing the discussions. But what gives you a terrific high is the climax and the events leading up to it.

Supe achieves such favorable results by keeping simplicity quotient in mind, even while explaining concepts that are mostly considered complicated. Be it in the overall plot, narration and the definition of characters and their distinctive psyche. The author provides a lot of information to the readers through interesting conversations, without making it sound non-fictitious.

The only weak point here is the length of the book. The story could have been told in much less than 468 pages.

Overall: When Life Turns Turtle is a delightful spiritual journey that forces you to introspect the life you are living. The book also has the capacity to appeal those who are not much into spirituality, provided they are okay with the length.

Cover: Peaceful scenario with light, pleasant colors. Perfectly goes with the theme.

Rating: 4.5/5

Author: Raj Supe

Publishers: Leadstart Corp

Pages: 468

Price: Rs 399/-

Durga Puja 2016: Photos

By: Keyur Seta

Durga Puja or Durga Pujo is the time when the entire Bengal, especially Kolkata, comes alive. One can find unending Durga Pandals in the state, all boasting some elaborate. The final day of the Durga Puja, which is mostly referred to as Dusshera in most parts of India, celebrates the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil Mahishasura.

There is another significance of the day. Dusshera is also the day when Lord Ram killed the evil demon Ravana, who had kidnapped the former’s wife Sita. In short, the day celebrates the victory of good over evil.

Coming back to Durga Puja, the festival has been spreading a lot to other parts of India. Mumbai is a prime example. The Shivaji Park Durga Puja, organized by the Bengal Club, is also a sought after place during this time.

Here are some pictures from 2016 Durga Puja in Shivaji Park, Mumbai:

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