Vani’s Musings

Archive for February 2007

From Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, 1601:

DUKE ORSINO:
If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it…

The Masters - Thyagaraja & Purandhara Daasa

Gosti Gaayana 

 Muktha BaLaga - A Few Representatives

Music, is not only the food of love, it is food for the soul; panacea for a stressed mind. Music has no borders; it transcends language and culture, and is the one binding force of humanity. Nothing else touches a person’s soul more than melody.

 I had the good fortune of being a part of the Thyagaraja-Purandhara Aaradhana celebrations conducted in Usha’s residence. It had been her dream to host one such event at her house, and she pulled it off, quite successfully.  

After a lot of planning the event was scheduled to take place on 25th of February 2007.  The day began with a formal Puja to God and next to the two Pillars of Karnatic music, Saint Thyagaraja and Sri Purandhara Daasa. Students of Karnatic music would know and appreciate these two giants’ contribution to the upliftment of this style of music that is popular towards the South of the Deccan Plateau.  

The event was hosted at Usha’s residence under the guidance of Flute Exponent Sri Venugopal, who also happens to be Dwaraka’s teacher. 

 I reached Usha’s residence around 10.00 AM, right in time for the commencement of the program. Srik & Prashanth were there already, so was Shruthi with her parents.Praneshachar, Bellur, Chaitanya and his mother arrived shortly after me. Srik’s parents joined us shortly, and Veena, who was held up at home came along subsequently.

It began with a vocal recital of Sri Sundareshan, an octogenarian with a wonderful voice, who is Sri Venugopal’s teacher, and belongs to the lineage of Saint Thyagaraja, accompanied by young Varijashree, who has a strong hold over the flute as well.   

After this, we were in for a treat for the ears, with most of the disciples of Sri Venugopal giving short performances. It was great to see and hear kids show so much expertise in their chosen instruments or vocal recitation. We then had elders also showcase their prowess, in the form of Vidwan Shankarnarayan playing the Veena, and Vidwan Prasanna giving a vocal performance.   

Our BaLaga folks took over the stage next and we had the good opportunity to hear Shruthi’s mom render a couple of compositions. Next was Bellur’s turn, and he too entertained the audience to the fullest.    

At 12.00 Noon the Gosti Gayana, the main component of the program began, with most of us participating in the singing.   

The Gosti kicked off with the recitation of the “Pillari Geethe” a set of 4 small songs, but rich in meaning, composed by Purandhara Daasa.

After the Pillari Geethe, the Pancharathna Krithis of Sri Thyagaraja, which are the backbone of every Aradhana, were sung. They are 1) Jagadaanandakaaraka, 2) Dudukugala, 3) Saadhinchene, 4) Kana Kana Ruchira & 5) Endaro Mahanubhavulu  

The Gosti was concluded with a recitation of “Raghupathi Raghava Raja Ram”.  

Here I must specially mention the excellent co-ordination of Vidwan Prasanna who led the group in singing the Gosti. He was effective in successfully bringing together the various voices and making all of us sing in unison.  

The accompaniment was superb, and the percussionists were competing with each other to do a good job.  

After this, a Maha MangaLaarathi was conducted, followed by a tasty lunch that made a fitting end to the program.  

Thank you Usha, for this wonderful day, and hope to be a part of it in the years to come.         

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Interpreting Dreams is a hobby I have always pursued, but have found little success with them so far. I dream in Techni-Color, and most of my dreams are comedies, they are very hilarious situations, and it is not uncommon for my dad or mom to wake me telling that I was laughing in my sleep. Many are old sorrows, some are my deepest fears and yet others are insignificant incidents of my life, some worth sharing, and yet others to be buried deep inside my mind.  

Fellow blogger Prashanth tagged me and asked me to reveal 3 of my dreams. So here goes:  

 3. This is one that I used to dream of when I was a child. Somehow it vanished as I grew up. Most of us have dreamt about this, we may have our own versions; I read somewhere that it is a manifestation of our insecurities. In the dream, I am traveling in an aircraft, and suddenly I fall down, and land on my bed. The dream used to be very powerful, because I always felt weightless and the wind rushing in my ears seemed very real. Thankfully I stopped dreaming of this maybe 15 years ago.    

2. I am not an atheist, but have never actually believed much in exhaustive rituals to supplicate my belief in the Divine. But I dream often of visiting temples, and being a part of the multitude ceremonies and Pujas the temples conduct. And most of these temples I dream of are figments of my imagination, I am sure I have never been to any of them.  

 1. I miss my grandfather a lot. It is now 10 years since he passed on. I dream often about him. And he always tells me he’s coming back, and he’d just been out for a walk. I love to dream about him, because this is one dream I know that will never ever come true. 

  Most of the people I wanted to tag have already been initiated into it.  The buck stops here. 

In Indian culture there are sixteen major samskaras (rites of passage) to be performed by or for an individual beginning with conception and continuing up to the last rites performed after death. These samskaras are meant to cultivate positive qualities which help purify the soul and ultimately lead it to Realization, or union with God.The literal meaning of the word Samskara is to purify or to refine.

There are forty samskaras prescribed of which sixteen, called the Shodasha samskaras, are in vogue today. There are a few samskaras which do not come under the classification above, but which are also widely performed like performing puja to the foundation stone of a building, the milk-boiling ritual before one starts living in a new house, etc.

The Shodasha samskaras are to be done in the five different stages of a human life i.e. – the prenatal years, the childhood years, the student years, the adulthood years and the old age or wisdom years. They are

1.     Garbhadana  – is performed by a married couple when conceiving a child. This important Samskara raises the act of conception to a sacred occasion, and is powerfully purifying and uplifting for the unborn child.

 2. Pumsavana – is usually performed between the second and fourth month of pregnancy. Its purpose is: first, to promote the birth of a male child (for perpetuation of the family line and tradition); second, to insure the good health of the foetus and the proper formation of its organs, regardless of gender.

3. Simantonnayana Samskara – In the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy, the mind of the foetus begins to develop. This is when Simantonnayana Samskara is performed. Its purpose is to protect the foetus–especially its newly forming mind–from all negative influences, and also to stimulate the development of the unborn child’s intellect.

4. Jatakarma – is the ritual performed at the birth of a child. It awakens the child’s intellect, gives it strength, and promotes long life for the child.

5. Namakarana  – On the eleventh day after the child’s birth, namakarana Samskara is performed. In this ceremony, the child receives its name.

 6. Nishkramana – The baby’s first outing into the world, beyond the confines of the home, is the occasion of nishkramana.

7. Annaprashana – The first feeding of solid food to the baby, usually in the sixth month after birth, is the occasion of Annaprashana

 8. Karnavedha Samskara – usually performed in the sixth or seventh month after birth, consists of the piercing of the baby’s ear lobes, so earrings may be worn.

 9. Chudakarana Samskara – At the end of the first year after birth, or during the third year, the child’s hair is shaved–all but a tuft on the top of the head. This ritual shaving of hair, performed with ceremony, prayers, and chanting of Vedic hymns, is chudakarana Samskara This Samskara is for both boys and girls.

 10. Aksharabhyaasa: begins a student’s primary education by ceremonially introducing the child to the alphabet

11. Upanayana Samskara – initiates the formal study of the Vedas. It is one of the most important and esteemed of the samskaras. Upon performance of Upanayana, a boy traditionally moves from home to live in the ashram of the guru. 

12. Samavartana Samskara – With samavartana Samskara the disciple graduates from his Vedic studies and returns from the house of his guru. Thereafter, the disciple will marry and raise a family, and so enter the stage of householder, grihasthashrama.

13. Vivaha – The traditional Hindu wedding ceremony is known as Vivaha Samskara It is considered by many to be the most important of all the samskaras.

14. Panchamahayagna – A married couple performs the panchamahayajna, or five great sacrifices, daily. In this Samskara, one honours, in turn, the rishis (ancient seers of Truth), the gods, the ancestors, humankind, and all created beings.

15. Vanaprastha Samskara – According to the Vedic tradition, vanaprastha is the third stage of life, following brahmacharya (Vedic student/disciple) and grihasta (householder). Here, a man leaves behind his life in the world and retires to the forest (with or without his wife), to live an ascetic life devoted to study of the scriptures and to meditation.

16. Antyeshti Samskara – The final sacrament, the funeral rites, are known as antyeshti Samskara

People from the west, when speaking of the orient, generally think that we are an ignorant and superstitious race. But we are not alone in being superstitious. Here’s a look into some of the common superstitions followed in the west.
Touchwood
When people are hoping for something, they say ‘…touch wood’, and find something wooden to touch, to guard against bad luck. For example, ‘The business deal is finalized next week… touch wood’. This dates back to Celtic times. A tree could take evil spirits down into the earth, like a lightning conductor.
Friday the 13th
An unlucky number and unlucky day. The reasons are lost in the mists of time. Various religious explanations are given (the fate of the thirteenth guest at Jesus’ Last Supper, Jesus crucified on a Friday, Noah’s flood started on Friday etc.) none of them provable. Some hotels omit Room 13 and occasionally people reschedule business meetings mistakenly set for a Friday the 13th, but the date is usually ignored.
Four-leafed clovers
Clover has three leaves, so finding the rare mutation with four leaves is very good luck.

Ladders
People don’t walk underneath them. Some sources say this is because a ladder was traditionally propped up against the gallows; others, that a ladder against a wall was a triangle and therefore the sign of the Holy Trinity.
Horseshoes
It is good luck to have one nailed up over the door. Horseshoes in a bedroom protect people from nightmares. Possibly the good associations come from its shape, like a new moon. Finding a horseshoe in the road is exceptionally good luck. If it has come from a grey mare, this is doubly good.

Black cats
If a black cat crosses in front of you that is bad luck.


What I want to convey through this post is that no race or relegion is free from some beliefs that have passed through the ages. Probably there was a rationale in following them at that time. They may seem meaningless now, but followed they are, fearing some untoward consequences, and followed across all strata of society.

No, This post is not one of those glorifying Valentines Day. I am tired of all the hype surrounding it. Some may think I am naïve, yet others may call me a fundamentalist, but I have reached the point of no return when it comes to the hype surrounding Valentines Day. Enough of those stupid red balloons and cupid’s posters. 

Here is a brief account of St Valentine and how this practice came into being. Valentine’s Day started in the time of the Roman Empire. In ancient Rome, February 14th was a holiday to honor Juno. Juno was the Queen of the Roman Gods and Goddesses. The Romans also knew her as the Goddess of women and marriage. The following day, February 15th, began the Feast of Lupercalia. The lives of young boys and girls were strictly separate. However, one of the customs of the young people was name drawing. On the eve of the festival of Lupercalia the names of Roman girls were written on slips of paper and placed into jars. Each young man would draw a girl’s name from the jar and would then be partners for the duration of the festival with the girl whom he chose. Sometimes the pairing of the children lasted an entire year, and often, they would fall in love and would later marry.

 Under the rule of Emperor Claudius II Rome was involved in many bloody and unpopular campaigns. Claudius the Cruel was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. He believed that the reason was that roman men did not want to leave their loves or families. As a result, Claudius cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome. T

he good Saint Valentine was a priest at Rome in the days of Claudius II. He and Saint Marius aided the Christian martyrs and secretly married couples, and for this kind deed Saint Valentine was apprehended and dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and to have his head cut off. He suffered martyrdom on the 14th day of February, about the year 270.

At that time it was the custom in Rome, a very ancient custom, indeed, to celebrate in the month of February the Lupercalia, feasts in honor of a heathen god. On these occasions, amidst a variety of pagan ceremonies, the names of young women were placed in a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed.

The pastors of the early Christian Church in Rome endeavored to do away with the pagan element in these feasts by substituting the names of saints for those of maidens. And as the Lupercalia began about the middle of February, the pastors appear to have chosen Saint Valentine’s Day for the celebration of this new feast. So it seems that the custom of young men choosing maidens for valentines, or saints as patrons for the coming year, arose in this way.

And, why is Valentines’ Day celebrated in the West? Legend says it is in honor of St Valentine who performed secret marriages for Roman Soldiers who were forbidden to marry. So if they are doing it in honor of someone who did a service to them, why, pray, are we copying them blindly? As far as I am aware, no king in the history of India ever forbade his soldiers to marry.

Personally, I do not think that you need a special day in a year to tell someone, not just exclusively your girl / boy friend that you love them. I feel that it leads to a lot of pretence on both sides, and is not an honest platform to declare their love for each other. 

And teenagers are the easiest to fall a prey to the sidey advertisement tactics of businesses benefited by this hype. If not for Valentines, why would anyone buy a single rose for something like 200 Rupees? From where is this money flowing into their hands? Will no one question them? Don’t we as responsible elders have a responsibilty of ensuring that our children are under proper care and guidance regarding spending money?

Time we stopped this blind “monkey-see, monkey-do” copy from the west. 

I was listening to a song from a not so old Hindi movie recently, and the lyrics were so wacky and silly, I did not know whether to laugh or lament about the quality of them.  Some of the old ones were melodious, and the singers lent a comic touch to them, and so they became popular. Others were heard once or twice, and vanished, never to be heard again. The filmmakers caught this trend in the early 90’s. It was a time when neither the movies by themselves were good, nor the songs, hummable.  A few that I can think of off hand are: 

  • C.A.T CAT, Cat Maane Billi
  • Eena Meena Deeka
  • Jaate The Japan Pahunch gaye Cheen, Samajh gaye Na
  • Paanch Rupaiyya Baraa Aanaa
  • My Name is Anthony Gonsalves
  • Amma Dekh, Aa Dekh, tera munda bigda jaaye
  • Stop that … Madhuri Dixit Mili Raste Mein
  • Meri Pant Bhi Sexy
  • Main to Bhel Puri Khaa raha tha
  • AA AA EE UU UU UU
  • Meri Marzi
  • What is Mobile Number
  • Kisi Disco Mein Jaayein
  • Aaja meri gaadi mein baith ja

 

Among the songs listed above, I like all of the old songs. Though they were not so sensible, they were easy on the ears, melodious, and the singers themselves added life to the songs. The new ones are simply crazy, neither melodious nor sensible, and most of them are not meant to be heard by the family together.

 

The trend has again changed now, we do get to hear some good music in addition to some sensible stories being portrayed, of course, and every rule has an exception. But even the exceptions are stray ones, and so generally one can dare to say that there is no dearth of good music nowadays.

 

Readers, please feel free to put up your own list of wacky songs here.

We have all heard the story of Robin Hood, who used to rob from rich travelers in Sherwood Forest to help poor people. As times change, the story also changes, as also the values associated with life. The latest in this is that Government bodies themselves are aiding the wealthy and influential.

 

Robin Hood here is our BWSSB, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board.

 

My extension is a fairly old one now, it is a colony of a Defense Ministry House Building Society. Most of the residents are / were employees of this Defense R & D Center. All of us know one another very well, and have lived in peace and harmony for the last 25 odd years.

 

We had never faced a severe water shortage, till about 5 years ago, when the “Tanker Mafia” started to flourish. From then on, there has been an unhealthy nexus between the local BWSSB fellows and the Tanker people. Artificial water scarcity is created whenever business is dull for the Tanker Operators, and the spoils are shared between the two.

 

We have gotten used to this, and know that on certain days, we cannot but request for a tanker to fulfill our water requirements.

 

Recently there was an article in the Times of India Kannada version where one of the resident welfare associations complained about the water scarcity happening in the area. This association is quite strong, and is supported by many influential people living in the area.

 

Now, as a reaction, BWSSB has installed a valve on the main line that supplies water to the streets that are on a lower elevation, and diverted the water to the houses that are on a higher gradient. And this has not been done with the concurrence of the general public. It has been a shady operation and has taken place at night. The whole surrounding place was dug up to install the valve, and has so neatly been covered, that it hardly looks like the place has been dug recently.

 

We have taken photographs of this operation “water racket” and are planning to expose this issue. It so happens that the head of the welfare association who is behind this whole issue belongs to our friendly neighbor state that is demanding the major share of our water resources. Now this is funny. Not only are they snatching away macro portions of our resources, but also are slowly eating away into the resources of localites.

 

Who knows when this will end? Why resort to such unfair and cheap means to fulfill requirements? What, pray, is exactly the problem?