Banganga Photos – II

I had done a Banganga tank picture post last year (see it HERE). But the place is such that a single post on it isn’t enough. So here I was again today. Just like last year, I chose monsoons as the time to visit here. The place is super pleasant at this time of the year.

Luckily enough, in my hour long visit, I experienced both extreme sunlight as well as heavy rains. When I landed there, I was a bit disappointed to see the sun out and the atmosphere turning very humid. Nevertheless, the place still provided with peace.

Banganga

Thankfully though, it started raining soon. The falling of heavy drops of rains on the water body appeared like nature’s way of creating special effects.

Banganga is an ancient tank situated in the Walkeshwar locality of Mumbai. History says that the tank was built in 1127 AD by Lakshman Prabhu, who was a minister in the court of the Silhara dynasty in Thane.

But legend has that water sprang up when Lord Rama, who was in search of his kidnapped wife Sita, shot an arrow at a place where the tank stands. Banganga was rebuilt in 1715 AD when Rama Kamath, a renowned businessman and philanthropist, gave a donation.

The only negative point I found here was with regards to cleanliness. The steps used by visitors for sitting need to be clean regularly.

By: Keyur Seta

More pictures from Banganga tank:

Banganga ducks

Banganga Mumbai

Banganga-in-rains

Banganga-Mumbai

Banganga-tank

Banganga-Walkeshwar

Ducks

Ducks-in-Banganga

Old Temple-Munbai

Old-temple Mumbai

Old-temple-Mumbai

 

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Krishna personally didn’t kill anyone in Mahabharata war, but is it true?

(This is the 7th episode in my ‘Lessons from Mahabharata’ series. To have a look at previous episodes, click HERE.)

One of the most significant aspects about the Mahabharata war was Lord Krishna’s role in it. He ensured victory for the righteous Pandavas against their evil cousins Kauravas through various tactics. However, he contributed in a mammoth way without taking weapons in hand or killing anyone.

But what if I told you that Krishna did kill in the war?

The Kurukshetra war started off in the most unusual manner. Arjuna developed cold feet and simply refused to fight. He was overwhelmed with the very thought of killing his own cousins, although they had proven to be evil. The opposition also had his highly respected grandfather Bheeshma and teacher, Drona. Hence, Arjun dropped his bow and arrow.

Lord-Krishna-MahabharataThis was when Krishna was compelled to motivate Arjun in fighting the war. The conversation turned out to be the most beautiful enlightenment on duties of a warrior and the real meaning of life, death and journey of soul. The talk turned out to be the sacred Bhagavad Gita. It continues to be the driving force for human beings (not just Hindus) till today and shall continue to do so.

This was enough to open Arjun’s eyes towards his real duty. He went onto valiantly fight the war and the rest, as we all know, is history. The war goes down in history as the victory of good over evil.

But the biggest evil was inside Arjun. It was his weakness and faintheartedness that stopped him from taking part in the war.

This evil force within Arjun was defeated by Krishna. Man can be his biggest enemy if he is filled with weakness. Krishna killed this weakness and with it, the biggest enemy on the battlefield. If he hadn’t done that, Pandavas’ greatest warrior wouldn’t have taken part in the war. The result of this would have been disastrous.

By doing this, Krishna also indirectly gave a message that fighting the outside enemy is futile without destroying the evil within.

By: Keyur Seta

Book Review: The Sixth – The Legend Of Karna Part 1

The biggest challenge while writing the first part of a trilogy or a series is that the book should generate enough interest for the subsequent parts. In other words, if the first part doesn’t impress you, why would you bother reading the remaining parts?

Thankfully nothing of that sort happens with Karan Vir’s The Sixth – The Legend Of Karna Part 1. The book passes the biggest challenge successfully through an interesting detailed insight into the life of Karna, Mahabharata’s unsung hero.

The Sixth is so called since Karna is considered the sixth Pandava since he was born to Kunti. He was born under most unusual circumstances. After being impressed with the qualities of Kunti, Sage Durvasa granted her a boon in the form of a mantra to summon the devas. Out of utter curiosity, she summons Surya (Sun God) and ends up being a mother. Fearing the wrath of the society for bearing a child without getting married, she abandons the infant.

Revised  cover -The Sixth-5-12-2016The child is found by the royal charioteer Adhiratha and his wife, Radha. The couple considers the kid as God’s gift. They adopt him and name him Vasusena (he is later named Karna). He grows up to be a fearless teenager with a Godly gift of archery skills. Hence, his only aim in life is to become a warrior, the profession exclusive for Kshatriyas. But will the son of a charioteer be allowed to be a warrior?

The book simultaneously tells the present day story of Karan, a rich business tycoon living in New York. Out of nowhere he sees flashes and dreams about Karna. This brings him back to his roots in India. But who exactly is Karan and what is his connection with Karna?

The Sixth gets going on the enjoyable path only once it plunges fully into the life of Karna. The starting few chapters on the present day story, although not bad, don’t generate as much excitement.

However, once the story of Karna starts from scratch, there is just no looking behind. Incidents like the back story of Kunti, Karna’s birth, his abandonment, growing up with his foster parents and the consequences after he grows up are narrated with utmost sincerity and detailing.

We have read various accounts of the early years of Pandavas, Kauravas and important characters like Krishna, Bheeshma, Draupadi and Kunti. But it is rare and refreshing to get a proper understanding of the early and adolescent years of Karna as well as his psyche and inner conflicts.

Vir’s writing, especially after the initial few chapters, is creative as well as simple. He has gone into details but at the same time kept the length short. Few problem areas, however, are punctuation errors here and there.

Overall: The Sixth – The Legend Of Karna Part 1 gives an interesting insight into the life of Karna and generates interest in the two remaining series of the trilogy.

Rating: 3.5/5

Reviewed by: Keyur Seta

Additional feature: A number of creative sketches that aid in storytelling

Author: Karan Vir

Pages: 218

Price: Rs 299

Publishers: Leadstart Publishing

Cover: Attractive and colourful image of the event of Karna’s abandonment

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.

River-Indrayani
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):

Alandi-Dnyaneshwar
Sant Dnyaneshwar
Alandi-Jalaram-bapa
Jalaram Bapa
P_20170418_102409
Lord Vishnu with his 10 avatars inside the premises of Jalaram temple.

P_20170418_120654

P_20170418_121312

P_20170418_121402

P_20170418_122028

Varkari
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

When Javed Akhtar gave a profound tribute to Lord Ram through SRK…

Mainstream Hindi cinema has hardly featured stories from Indian epics like Mahabharata or Ramayana in the modern era or last two decades. The two aforementioned epics have innumerable incidents that can fit into the parameters of typical ‘Bollywood’ melodrama. But somehow they have escaped our films.

As tomorrow (April 4, 2017) is Ram Navami or the Birth Anniversary of Lord Ram, we shall look at one film that has given a deep and profound description of His qualities.

Ashutosh Gowariker’s Swades (2004) remains a much-loved film that didn’t work at the box office. One of the most striking moments in the film is the song ‘Pal Pal Hai Bhari,’ which comes during the Dusshera festival in the story.

Swades-Pal-Pal-Hai-BhariGayatri Joshi, who plays Geeta, mostly features throughout the song, which talks about Sita’s separation from Ram after she was kidnapped by Ravana. While expressing her anguish on being away from her husband for so long, she lists down Ram’s great qualities.

But it is the ending part of the song that takes the cake when Shah Rukh Khan intervenes. In what can be called as a monologue, the actor, who plays Mohan, gives a profound tribute to Ram. In fact, in my opinion, there hasn’t been such a sensible yet appealing compliment to any God in a mainstream Bollywood film in the colour era.

The end of the monologue with the line, ‘Mann Se Ravan Jo Nikale Ram Uske Mann Mein Hain’ speaks a lot than it actually does. It translates in English to – The one who removes Ravan (evil) from his heart has only Ram (good) within him.

Javed Akhtar, the lyricist, has displayed the qualities of both Ram and Ravan in just 10 words! One can only expect a legend like him to come up with something like this. Anyone who is unaware about Ram and Ravan would be enlightened about their respective natures through just a single line. Singer Vijay Prakash, who sang that part, also shouldn’t be forgotten.

Before watching this film, very few would have associated SRK to feature in a song about Lord Ram. But Gowariker had other ideas and thankfully so. Apart from Khan, the only superstar actor to have played a hugely worshipped God in recent decades is Akshay Kumar. He played Lord Krishna in Umesh Shukla’s OMG! Oh My God (2012).

There is another hidden trivia or information in Swades that I have just noticed while writing this piece. SRK’s character is named Mohan who falls in love with Geeta, played by Joshi. Mohan is another name for Krishna. And Krishna is the one who is associated with his great gyan in the form of the Geeta.

And both Ram and Krishna (Mohan) are avatars of Vishnu.

But there is more to it. Krishna was born to Devaki but he grew up with his foster mother, Yashoda. In the movie, Mohan grows up with his foster mother, Kaveri amma, played by Kishori Balal.

Gowariker also featured Lord Krishna and his lover Radha’s love story in his earlier film, Lagaan (2001) in the song, ‘Radha Kaise Na Jale.’

By: Keyur Seta

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

Brahma-Kund-Juhu
Brahma Kund during monsoon