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.

Alandi: Photo tour of the village where Sant Dnyaneshwar and Jalaram Bapa reside

Alandi is a small village situated around 27 kilometers from Pune and around 147 kilometers from Mumbai.

When a person generally thinks about India, he or she ends up thinking about Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai, etc. But we tend to forget that a large portion of India stays in villages. As the saying in Hindi goes, ‘Bharat gaon mein basa hai (India lies in the villages).’

Therefore, there are countless little villages in the country, which are unknown even to those who have been staying in India since more than 50 years. These places never come in the mainstream. Alandi is one among the thousands of such small villages in India.

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River Indrayani at Alandi. 

It falls on the banks of river Indrayani, which is a pleasant sight when in full flow. It’s dry during summers for obvious reasons.

Alandi is mostly known for being the Samadhi of Sant Dnyaneshwar. Also known as Dnyandev or Mauli, he was a poet, saint and philosopher who was born in Apegaon in 1275 and passed away in 1296 in Alandi. It is believed that he went into Samadhi after writing a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. His Samadhi is visited by a large number of his followers who belong to the Varkari sect.

A sacred temple of Jalaram Bapa is also situated in Alandi, which is also famous among his devotees. Jalaram Bapa was also a saint, who is highly regarded by his followers, mostly from Gujarat. He was born on November 14, 1799 in Virpur and passed away on February 23, 1881. A temple in his honour is built in his hometown Virpur. An exact replica of it was built in Alandi in 1960s.

There are chances that you would find Alandi peaceful, more so if you have always been a city-dweller like me. The best time to visit here is winter. The roadside food over here is very tasty, especially Misal and Vada Pav.

Since last decade or so, a lot of buildings and hotels have cropped up in the village and around. But the village-like feel still remains.

By: Keyur Seta

Here are some more pictures of Alandi (The first picture above is clicked during the winter of 2011. Others during summer of 2017):

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Sant Dnyaneshwar
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Jalaram Bapa
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Lord Vishnu with his 10 avatars inside the premises of Jalaram temple.

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Group of Varkari singers performing inside the premises of Jalaram temple.

Book Review: Don’t Believe In God Till You Experience Him

The title of Mukul Kumar’s Don’t Believe In God Till You Experience Him gives an idea that the book is a non-fictitious account of someone’s realization of God or almighty. However, that is far from the case. It’s a fiction novel which may be based on the author’s personal experiences to some extent. It portrays an extraordinary journey of an ordinary and poor village boy.

The story starts in the yesteryears in the small town of Rajgir in Bihar, India. Mukul is born in a joint family that is poor and constantly quarrelling. His mother is his father’s second wife. In those days, one was allowed to have more than one wife. She goes to Patna to continue her studies after marriage. Mukul also goes to stay with her to complete his education. Despite coming from a poor family, he scores very well in exams. He is hailed as a bright student.

Dont-Believe-in-God-bookBut once he enters college, he gets spoilt in the hostel life despite the strict atmosphere. He somehow manages to pass class 12 but doesn’t clear a single competitive exam to enter a premier engineering college. Mukul starts working for it and appears next year. He finally makes it to an engineering college. But at this moment, his life takes a sudden and unexpected turn. His perception and meaning towards life goes through a complete change.

Don’t Believe In God Till You Experience Him keeps you guessing about its main story for quite long, which isn’t a bad thing. The preface at the start appears more interesting later because almost 50% of the content, which follows, is poles apart from it. So, you keep wondering when the preface will find a place in the main plot. Although there are moments in the latter half of the book where the story drags, the final conclusion is impressive.

The book throws light on the menace of fake Godmen. But I personally could also relate to it from the point of view of politicians and their blind supporters.

The narrative is the major drawback here though. The book isn’t a fast read because the writing isn’t engaging enough. On most occasions, it appears bland during important turns. The balance between simple and rich language isn’t maintained. It tilts more towards the former thereby making it too simplistic. Also, few details about the protagonist’s everyday life could have been avoided.

Overall: Don’t Believe In God Till You Experience Him is worth reading due to its storyline.

Rating: 3/5

Author: Mukul Kumar

Review by: Keyur Seta

Price: Rs 275

Cover: Beautiful image of a sanyasin walking into enlightenment, although it’s quite similar to Hidden Road To Lifemanship by the same publishers

Pages: 265

Publishers: Leadstart Publishing

This supremely peaceful pond in Juhu is hardly known to Mumbaikars

Mumbai is such a vast city that even those who have been staying here for decades aren’t aware about some of its delightful spots. One such place is a pond in Juhu called Brahma Kund. For some reason, this place is unknown to almost everyone I know. It’s strange how hardly anyone from my circles has ever noticed it.

Brahma Kund is situated in the lane opposite to the Iskcon or Hare Rama Hare Krishna temple. It appears suddenly on the left side of the lane. Its appearance is like a miniature Banganga, which is situated long way away from here in Walkeshwar (see pictures HERE). It is five feet deep and 12 X 12 feet in dimension.

Juhu-pond
Click to enlarge

There are footsteps to descend into the pond where the water is still. It has a number of tortoises and fishes. Smart spots are inscribed to place diyas. There are a couple of temples situated inside its vicinity. One looks like a Shivalinga and the other is not known.

This is because, unfortunately, one is not allowed to go inside the premises. This has been the case ever since I spotted the pond for the first time in 2012. Not sure till what period were people allowed inside. This is the sad part. I guess there might be some logical reason behind this.

But one can experience extreme peace even by peeping into the pond from the outside. Thankfully, my work involves visiting this place often. So, I recharge myself by stopping by this pond each time. There are times when I reach few minutes early just to make sure I spend some time here.

It is difficult for me to explain what is so special about Brahma Kund. All I can say is that I experience extreme peace and serenity, something so rare in the fast moving city aka concrete jungle. It’s an example of nature going hand-in-hand with spirituality.

I would love to know the history behind this pond. There is no info available on the internet except that it’s ancient. Any more enlightenment would be highly appreciated.

P.S:– This place feels more delightful during rains/ monsoons.

By: Keyur Seta

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Brahma Kund during monsoon

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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How Swami Vivekananda attacked communalism, casteism, class division in one go

The following incident is taken from the book, Swami Vivekananda: The Friend Of All. It’s published by Swami Sarvabhutananda. The incident is presented on the occasion of his 154th Birth Anniversary (January 12, 2017).

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It was 1891. Swamiji was staying at Mount Abus as a guest of a Muslim lawyer. He invited him saying, “If you would condescend to live with me, I shall feel myself greatly blessed. But I am a Mussalman. I shall, of course, make separate arrangements for your food.” Swamiji didn’t hear a word of that.

swami-vivekananda-wallpaperOne day, Jagmohanlal, the Private Secretary of the Raja of Khetri, came to the lawyer’s bungalow and was quite surprised to see Swamiji, a Hindu sanyasi, there. Unable to conceal his wonder, Jagmohanlal said to Swamiji, “Well, Swamiji, you are a Hindu monk. How is it that you are living with a Muslim?”

Swamiji, who couldn’t stand any differentiation on the basis of religion and caste, sternly replied, “Sir, what do you mean? I am a Sanyasin. I am above all your social conventions. I can dine even with a Bhangi. I am not afraid of God because He sanctions it. I am not afraid of the scriptures for they allow it. But I am afraid of you people and your society. You know nothing of God and scriptures. I see Brahman everywhere, manifested even through the meanest of creature. For me, there is nothing high or low. Shiva Shiva!”

Every word of Swamiji rained fire while Munshi Jagmohanlal stood mesmerized before his towering personality.

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The above incident conveys a lot more than it seems. On the surface, it speaks about Swami Vivekananda’s intolerance to religious division. But from what he told Jagmohanlal, we also get to know about his opposition to any sort of casteism, especially from the line, “I see Brahman everywhere…”

Similarly, by saying, “But I am afraid of you people and your society,” and “For me, there is nothing high or low,” he has also revealed that social class doesn’t exist for him. And he did walk his talk. This is evident from the incident where he happily accepted food from a person belonging to the so-called lower caste outside a railway station in Rajasthan.

This and many other such incidents from his life clearly show his forward and liberal thinking even more than 100 years ago.

By: Keyur Seta

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.