Each year, 1st January is celebrated as the New Year all around the world. The arrival of December itself sparks the mood of celebration among people of all religion, class, nationality and what not. And as December is about the end, the excitement for the first day of January increases even further.
But amid such atmosphere of celebration, not many would know that January 1 also holds a lot of spiritual significance. The Kalpataru Day falls on this date. It is believed that on 1 January 1886, Ramakrishna Paramhansa revealed himself to be an Avatar or incarnation of God.
It is also believed that Ramakrishna was given the status of a Kalpataru (wish fulfilling tree) by a follower. Hence, the day came to be known as such.
Kalpataru Day is celebrated among the followers of Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Swami Vivekananda in all Ramakrishna Mission centers around the world. On this day, devotees gather in large numbers and pray for their wishes to be fulfilled.
Even if you are not a believer in legends and in the power of getting your wishes fulfilled, it is still a peaceful and tranquil way to start your New Year. This is just what I personally feel.
Here’s wishing all of you Happy Kalpataru Diwas and New Year 🙂
December 24th is known as Christmas Eve all over the year. It is a day before the birth of Jesus Christ, which marks the festival celebrated not just by Christmas but by people all around the world.
But not many would know that Christmas Eve holds a lot of significance for the followers of Swami Vivekananda and Ramakrishna Paramhansa. On this date in 1886, Swami Vivekananda, then known as Narendra Nath Dutta, and nine other disciples of Ramakrishna Paramhansa took the oath of monasticism.
They renounced the world by becoming Sanyasis (monks) to selflessly serve and motivate humanity.
Hence, every year in every Ramakrishna Mission centre, Christmas Eve is celebrated with aplomb. The same was the case in its Mumbai centre in Khar, which I make a point to attend every year.
As per the tradition, the celebrations started with Jesus Aarti, which, I am sure, many of you might not have even heard about before. Important verses from the Bible were read in Hindi and then in English.
Having heard Bhagavad Gita teachings in Hindi, the recitation of Bible in the language sounded like teachings from the Gita.
It was another reminder that His message is the same even if paths may differ.
World War, especially the second one, has inspired a lot of stories in the historical fiction genre over the decades. It continues to do so even after more than 70 years of the unfortunate event. Bett Rose’s A Week In Time also revolves around World War II. But it is more of a moving account of the human sufferings of the families of those who are out on war.
The book tells story of a group of individuals living in England during the Second World War. The 29-year-old Frances is waiting for the return of her husband Joseph since three years. She is sure she is not a widow and her love would return some day. She has rented out a room to Eliza, whose husband is in the navy. Frances and Eliza are close friends who work at the same place. But they are poles apart in terms of nature.
Next door lives Joanie and Arthur. Their sons are serving in the RAF. Norma Watling and her four girls stay on the other side. Her husband Reginald, an engineer, has been sent to war. The ageing couple Harold and Violet too lived at the allotment. Their two sons too are fighting the war. Similarly, Ruby and Lizzie stay nearby. The American Air Force base was close to them. This enables Ruby to come in contact with the American officer John Parker.
Escaping air raids was the constant battle of the aforementioned people. Each day they wonder when the war would end.
War appears very action oriented. What with two groups of people engaged in firing rifles and throwing bombs on each other. But at the core of it, it is an emotional event, more for the families of soldiers. A Week In Time focuses on the humane aspect of war. It gives very little footage to the war. There are only a few references made to the details of the battle and rightly so.
There is reality written all over the narrative as we are exposed to the in-depth everyday lives of the characters. Their sorrows are the main focus but care is taken to not make the proceedings depressing. In fact, the characters are seen enjoying whatever happiness that comes in their way; at times even creating it. This moves you even further.
A Week In Time starts off in an engaging manner. But after the initial portion, the narration goes onto a dry mode as there is nothing much in terms of story development. Thankfully, the story picks up steam later on and this ensures satisfaction once the book ends. But the author shouldn’t have disclosed in the introduction that the story has a happy ending. This turns out to be a spoiler.
Rose’s writing is simple and detailed. She has penned the minute acts and emotions of the characters, which plays a big role in creating an impact. But it becomes impressive only as the book progresses from one chapter to another. At times, some very long sentences should have been avoided.
There is one issue in the editing. A comma is missing in some sentences that need breaking-up and in every dialogue after the line is completed. One wonders why.
Overall:A Week In Time scores for its emotional moments of the sufferings of everyday people forced to accept war. But it eventually turns out to be a positive take on human spirit.
Gulmarg, the small town in Kashmir, gets garnished in snow with the arrival of winter every year. In between the snow-peaked mountains lies a Shiva temple on top of a hill. Named Rani temple, it is visible from all corners of Gulmarg.
Spotting a Hindu temple in Kashmir is a rare sight as there are hardly any left in the region. The Rani temple is one of the last signs of the Dogra Dynasty and was built by Maharaja Hari Singh in the 20th century. He was the last Maharaja of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The temple is named after his wife Maharani Mohini Bai Sisodia since she used to ardently perform prayers over here. She was one of his four wives.
The most incredible feature about the temple is the priest. He is not an ordinary priest. His name is Ghulam Mohammad Sheikh. Yes, the Hindu temple is guarded by a Muslim priest. But that’s not all. The priest daily recites verses from the Gita as well as the Quran. I guess this practice isn’t seen anywhere else. Unfortunately, he wasn’t present when we visited the temple.
The Rani temple is also famous for being featured in the classic Hindi song ‘Jai Jai Shiv Shankar’ from J Om Prakash’s Aap Ki Kasam (1974) and was picturized on Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz.
The way to the temple is through a long staircase. As Gulmarg lies at a high altitude of 8690 feet, one is bound to become breathless after the climb. But the effort is truly worth for the peaceful atmosphere the temple offers and the breathtaking view of this beautiful snow-clad town.
Gulmarg is known for its iconic Gondola ride that takes you almost as far as the PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) at a height of close to 13000 feet at Mount Apharwat Summit. It is a place that is worth innumerable words.
Dwarka is famous for being the holy place of lord Krishna. The Dwarkadhish and Bet Dwarka temples are the ones that are thronged the most by Krishna devotees. But during our recent trip to the place, we realized that the Nageshwar Mahadev temple or Nageshwar Jyotirling temple also holds a lot of significance in the town of Gujarat.
When our driver-cum-guide told us that he is taking us to a temple of Lord Shiva which is some distance away from the town, we were interested but not excited. However, even when we were some distance away from the destination, excitement suddenly crept up.
It was the huge statue of lord Shiva or Shankar that appeared fascinating as we approached the place. As expected, we were in complete awe of the mammoth piece of art work as we finally reached the place.
The huge white coloured Shiva statue stood as an astounding figure commanding respect. The rudraksh necklace around His neck and fingers, tiger skin costume and the presence of the snake, damru and trishul along with the calm facial expression made it appear like a real person.
The sight almost made me forget that the main temple was actually inside. Like what you expect from a place of worship, the atmosphere inside the Nageshwar Jyotirling temple provides peace and serenity. We were easily able to do darshan of the main Shivalinga as there was hardly any crowd (they don’t allow pictures). The compound also has an artistic little Shiva-Parvati temple.
A large photo frame of the late music mogul Gulshan Kumar is also hung inside the temple. We assumed that he must have done a hefty donation to the temple trust.
Like every well-known temple, there is a legend about this place too. The Shiva Purana says that Nageshwar Jyotirlinga is in the Darukavana, which means forest. According to the legend, a Shiva devotee named Supriya was attacked by the demon Daaruka. After chanting Shiva’s name, Supriya was saved by Him, who resided there in the form of a Shivalinga.
By: Keyur Seta
More pictures from the Nageshwar Mahadev or Jyotirlinga Temple in Dwarka:
Being all of just 22, the idea of going on a pilgrimage to Dwarka didn’t sound exciting to Vikram. It is believed that holy places are only for the old. A young person venturing to such trips is considered weird, especially in India. But after a lot of emotional force applied by his parents, Vikram finally agreed.
Vikram wasn’t an atheist though, which didn’t make it that difficult for his parents. The end of monsoon was zeroed in as the right time to take a tour. Vikram’s Diwali vacations had also commenced, so he wasn’t required to miss college. He was studying his Masters in Journalism and Mass Communication in a reputed college in his hometown, Mumbai.
The journey from Jamnagar airport to Dwarka was smooth. After doing the rounds of the Dwarkadhish Temple, Vikram and his parents took a tour of the neighboring places like the Rukmini temple, Sudama Setu, Nageshkar temple, etc. Vikram was pleasantly surprised to realize that he was enjoying the trip. Despite him not being too religious, he had stopped regretting coming here.
On the second last day of the trip, the trio decided to visit an unnamed beach near the Momai Mata Temple. Vikram was interested in seeing the beach but not excited. Having experienced a lot of beautiful beaches in Goa and other Konkan areas, he thought this would be just another beach.
But a single glance at the beach was enough to convince Vikram how wrong he was. They were standing atop a hill-like structure while the beach was further down. This vantage point provided the perfect view. The Momai Mata temple stood just from where they were.
Vikram was feasting his eyes on the view instead of the temple. His parents decided to take darshan inside the temple whereas he impatiently went down to the sea.
The beach was in a pristine condition to say the least. It looked virgin. It appeared that the sand was untouched as there was not a single person or even an animal visible till the far end. While wondering how the beach was so secluded, Vikram forgot to admire its beauty. What he saw appeared surreal to him.
The eerie silence of the place was broken by the chatter of his parents who had slowly descended the steps. As the sun was just about to set, they urged Vikram to visit the temple before it gets darker. He did so hesitatingly. Although he was praying in front of the idol, his mind was at the beach.
As soon as he turned around after the darshan, he heard someone jump towards him out of nowhere. Shaken, he looked to the right from where an old man clad in orange lay bended. Vikram was shocked to see a snake in his hand as he slowly stood up. He just saved his life. It was easy for him to make out that he was the pujari (priest).
But he didn’t look like a normal pujari. Going by his facial appearance, it seemed to him that the man might be centuries old. However, his physique and agility made him look extremely fit and strong. Without saying a word, he went towards the left of the temple where stood a hut-like structure made out of cement. The pujari went inside and started sweeping it.
Vikram peered inside. He could see a statue of a pujari in similar clothes. The darkness didn’t allow him to have a look at its face and he wasn’t even interested in the same. Going by what was written on a board outside, it was the statue of the founder of the place and the first pujari. As the old man turned, Vikram thanked him from saving his life.
Without showing any sort of feeling, the pujari said, “This temple is under my control. I won’t let anyone get into trouble over here.” He merely walked off.
Vikram kept on looking at the direction where he went for some time and then joined his family downstairs at the beach.
He couldn’t get the secluded beach and the age-old pujari out of his mind while being on his bed in the hotel room. Brooding over the place, he slowly drifted into sleep. Even before opening his eyes the next morning, he could hear his mom asking him to hurry up as they had to leave for Mumbai that day.
But a couple of hours before they checked out, she felt a mild shock when she realized that she forgot one of her bags near the steps of the Momai Mata temple. As the place was on their way to Jamnagar, they decided to visit and see if it is still there. They were quite sure the bag would be there considering how secluded the place was.
When their car reached the vicinity of the temple, Vikram was ordered to hurry and get the bag. He did so and luckily found it at the same spot. He took the bag and out of curiosity peered inside the hut where the statue of the founder resided. In the bright daylight he could clearly see the face of the statue and what he saw froze him.
He didn’t know how to react when the face told him that it was the statue of the same pujari who saved him from the snake last evening. Just then, he recalled the only thing the pujari had said.
“This temple is under my control. I won’t let anyone get into trouble over here.”
By: Keyur Seta
Note: The place and the temple are real. The pictures were clicked during the author’s visit to the place. But the story is fictional.
The Dwarkadhish temple is considered the main attraction in Dwarka. But I personally beg to differ. For me, Bet Dwarka (‘bet’ translates to ‘island’) is the most important place of Krishna worship. You will get to know the reason as you read.
Bet Dwarka is an island situated some distance away from the main Dwarka town, which is called Krishnanagari or the land of Krishna. You are required to travel from Dwarka to Okha by road for about an hour. Once you reach Okha, you need to take a ferry to Bet Dwarka island. The ferry ride is around 15 minutes long.
It is a pleasant experience to travel through the sea to the island. We were worried about the heat just before boarding the ferry. But we didn’t think about the weather once the ferry took off. The beautiful waters and the sight of the island (as you reach near) will make you forget the high levels of heat.
The ticket costs Rs 20 (as per September 2017). The seat inside the cabin of the ferry operator costs Rs 50. However, only locals are allowed to travel in the shade for reasons best known to them. But that’s not all. The ticket conductor refused to charge passengers who hailed from his village. Nobody knows how he recognizes people from his native.
It seems you can also get away from buying a ticket if you are related to some influential people. For example, during our return trip, when the ticket conductor arrived to give tickets, two men sitting next to me said with authority (in Gujarati), “We are Nareshbhai Joshi’s sons.” This was enough to allow them free travel. A Google search didn’t help in knowing who this man is.
Once you reach bet Dwarka, you realize that it isn’t a small island with not too many structures. It is like a proper village, very much like the main Dwarka city. There are plenty of shops selling whole lot of items, just like the vicinity outside the Dwarkadhish temple. Food and beverages stalls are also found in large numbers.
A number of such stalls lead to the main Bet Dwarka temple (cameras are strictly not allowed inside). This place is considered the residence of Lord Krishna once.
This is the reason why I consider Bet Dwarka as the most important site in Dwarka. The Dwarkadhish temple was built by Krishna’s grandson Vajranabha in His memory whereas Bet Dwarka is where Krishna actually stayed.
Coming back to the Bet Dwarka temple, once you enter, you are asked to gather at a place where a learned priest narrates the history of this place. He said that the room where we had gathered was the one where Krishna met his childhood friend Sudama after years (another reason why it’s important to me).
The custom was to never visit someone empty handed. As per the legend, Sudama gave Krishna some quantity of beaten rice as that was the only thing he could afford. In remembrance of the incident, devotees are given a fistful of beaten rice as prashaad. But instead of eating it directly, you are supposed to mix it with the stock of rice at your home.