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.

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.

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.

Yugpurush (Gujarati) Play Review

There are some striking similarities between Swami Vivekananda and Shrimad Rajchandra. Both are regarded as Spiritual Gurus. Both passed away in their 30s. This is not all. There is not much gap between the birth years of both. The former was born in 1867 and the latter in 1863.

But for some reason, Shrimad Rajchandra’s life story isn’t as well-known as Vivekananda’s. Director Rajesh Joshi’s Gujarati play, ‘Yugpurush – Mahatma Na Mahatma’ takes on the task of making his enlightening story known. It succeeds in giving a layman an introduction to the spiritual giant.

yugpurush-gujarati-play‘Yugpurush – Mahatma Na Mahatma’ tells the life story of Shrimad Rajchandra. The play also dwells upon his relationship with Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and his teachings helped the latter gain the title of Mahatma.

The play scores the most in creating realistic and visually stunning scenarios on stage throughout its duration. Considering how some incidents are completely different from the other, it is laudable to see such favorable results gained so effortlessly. The scene where Rajchandra carries out too many tasks simultaneously stands out. But the credit should also go to the director for handling such difficult scenes and to the lighting as well.

Coming to the writing, the play has impactful lines after regular intervals, something so important in biographies of great heroes. Sachin-Jigar’s music too adds to the effect.

But the play lags behind when it comes to balancing the script. Shrimad Rajchandra’s life story and message aren’t explained in a way a layman, who has no knowledge about him, would get a proper insight. We are told through songs that he was great, but not exactly explained why and how.

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The scene where Shrimad Rajchandra is multitasking.

There is also some confusion about the central character. If Gandhi is as much important as Shrimad Rajchandra, why they didn’t include the important incident about the former being thrown out of the train in South Africa? Gandhi’s non-violent struggle is credited to Rajchandra, so the incident that triggered the struggle has to be there.

The performance of the actor playing Shrimad Rajchandra plays a vital role here. Parthsarthi Vaidya smartly balances confidence and humility, which was so important here. His confidence is also seen in the dialogue delivery. As the older Gandhi, Nikhil Modak does what was required. Gandhi was a lot different as a young barrister. Pulkit Solanki makes him believable.

Overall: ‘Yugpurush – Mahatma Na Mahatma’ is worth watching to get an introduction into Shrimad Rajchandra.

Review by: Keyur Seta

Director: Rajesh Joshi

Producers: Shrimad Rajchandra Misison, Dharampur

Writer: Uttam Gada

Cast: Parthsarthi Vaidya, Nikhil Modak, Pulkit Solanki

Music: Sachin-Jigar

The Mahabharata Code: Book Review

Author: Karthik K B Rao

Ancient Indian literature like Mahabharata and Ramayana has become one of the favourite genres of Indian authors since last few years. This is because young readers have gained interest in such epics, mostly due to the advent of the internet.

Few modern authors have also experimented by giving a modern touch or twist to these mythological epics. Author Karthik K B Rao has given a most modern or whacky twist to Mahabharata in his debut novel, The Mahabharata Code and has achieved decent amount of success.

the-mahabharata-codeThe story follows Narayan Rao who hails from Bengaluru, India. As a child, he used to love listening to tales of Mahabharata and Ramayana from his grandmother. Later on, he became an avid watcher of the serial Mahabharat on Doordarshan. It is during his time that Narayan’s father migrates to the United States of America. The kid moves to the US with a heavy heart.

After growing up, Narayan becomes an astronomer in NASA. He and his colleagues once realize that people from a distant and mysterious planet have been sending signals of friendship to them. Narayan is sent on a mission to visit the planet. Circumstances ensure that he becomes an integral part of the restaging of the Mahabharata over there. The mission also brings a young techie Srishti into his life.

The Mahabharata Code has an interesting plot. It is truly an out-of-the-box idea to restage Mahabharata in another planet. Rao has been smart in giving a sci-fi touch to the epic. The gadgets and the use of modern language don’t appear silly or out-of-sync. It adds onto the interest and at the same time keeps the flavour of the epic intact.

The book is an easy read. Rao’s language is simple and the narration fast-paced. There isn’t a single sentence that is unnecessary. In other words, you are hooked. On few occasions though, the sentences could have been framed better. But this is not the biggest negative point here.

What harms The Mahabharata Code the most is the pre-climax portion where the big revelation and confrontation takes place. This part is just too lengthy, complicated and, most importantly, difficult to read. There comes a time where you are tempted to skip few pages. The big twist at the end might also leave you unsatisfied, although it takes you by surprise.

Overall: The Mahabharata Code is an interesting experiment.

Rating: 3/5 

Review by: Keyur Seta

Info:

Pages: 214

Publisher: Notion Press

Price: Rs 250/-

Cover: A good mixture of sci-fi and Mahabharata