Saturday, August 29, 2009

Kotha Pentaiah & Bodla Ramachandraiah Banaras & Gadwal Silk Palace.



This is the name of a Silk Saree shop I know since 1973. I heard of it the first time when purchases were being made there for my brother’s marriage in 1973. Thereafter it became a very familiar name in the family whenever Saree purchases came up for regular wear, festivals and marriages. All the Sarees for my sister’s marriage and my marriage were also purchased here. And this practice of buying Sarees there for all occasions continues till today. Interestingly all the Sarees required for the wedding of my brother’s two sons and sister’s two daughters and son were purchased here. The shop has thus catered to the requirement at our weddings in the past, and the recent weddings of our children. Satisfying two generations of customers, speaks very high of this shop’s quality, stocks, variety, salesmanship & competitiveness.
The shop was established in 1969 in General Bazaar, at Secunderabad. It is now 40 years old. In fact this shop is known to my wife and sister-in-law ever since its inception in 1969. The shop not only sells Sarees but all wedding dress requirements of the bride and bridegroom. As a matter of fact I took my Japanese guests to the shop twice and they bought many Cashmere Shawls for gifting to family and friends, back home. They were very happy with the shop and the purchases. The popularity of the shop is evident from the huge number of customers present in the shop at any time. Just like us, the shop has thousands of trusting, loyal customers. Several Saree shops and malls have come up in the city in recent times but the popularity of Kotha Pentaiah Silk Saree shop has never diminished and as a matter of fact it only increases as more and more satisfied customers visit them.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Magnificent shopping scenario! During Ramzan.



The shopping activity during Ramzan all over Hyderabad and especially around Charminar is stunning. The market places are active since morning but as the day progresses the sale of items pick up and the bigger shops close late and the road side vendors operate well past midnight. Top on the sales list would be fruits and other food items required for breaking the fast. Apples, dates and dry fruits can be seen on sale everywhere. The sale of clothing, readymade garments, footwear, jewellery, bangles, crockery, house furnishings, fancy goods and a variety of other merchandise reach the year’s peak during this month. Even midnight appears as just commenced evening with people everywhere amidst well illuminated shops and with all types of eateries open.
And as it gets closer to the day of ‘Eid’ this activity would further increase. Few years ago I used to make it a point to visit Charminar area during late evening sales. In those days it was possible to drive through a narrow lane left for a car’s movement by the road side vendors and the crowds. Today there are traffic restrictions in the night. So we go there during daytime once or twice during Ramzan as a tradition, enjoy the window shopping and return home with some fancy items.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Haleem Chacha!!!


The holy month of Ramzan commenced at Hyderabad on 23rd August this year. This is one of the most auspicious months of Islamic calendar, a month of prayers and fasting.
Many caf├ęs and restaurants in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad sell ‘Haleem’ – a very nutritious refreshment, in the evenings, after the dawn to dusk fasting ends. Over the years, more and more people have taken a liking to this delicacy. Today we can find a Haleem outlet in every nook and corner of the city, with huge crowds flocking the most popular ones.
Haleem is a very soft porridge of chicken or mutton cooked with wheat, lentils, onions, oil, ghee, green chilies, ginger garlic paste, curd, mint leaves, pepper, cloves, lemons and coriander leaves. I first tasted it in 1974 at my brother’s Dental Clinic. Since then I have never missed having it a number of times every Ramzan, by ordering it from the best of the outlets in the city.
In 1995 I learnt to make excellent Haleem at home with mutton or chicken. Since then I prepare Haleem any time of the year to entertain family and friends. The above photographs are of Chicken-Haleem, which I prepared yesterday morning with of course much assistance from my wife. I prepared this specially for my brother’s family who left the city yesterday evening on a week’s pilgrimage. We had Haleem for lunch and then we packed some for their journey. We also served it to some guests who visited us in the evening and we had it once again with our dinner. Everyone liked it and said that it is much better than what is available commercially.
We normally have Haleem on the first day of Ramzan but this year it was not possible as Vinayaka Chavithi festival was also observed on 23rd August. And on this festival day we do not have non-veg. food. The next day, 24th August, my brother was leaving on pilgrimage and would not taste Haleem for a week so I decided to prepare Haleem for their lunch at home and dinner during journey. When my brother’s sons were studying at AIIMS, New Delhi and I was flying there frequently on official work I used to carry ‘Paradise-Biryani’ and few other eatables to them. Three times I prepared Haleem and took to my nephews and their friends, and their friends gave me a nick name: ‘Haleem Chacha’, meaning Haleem-uncle!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Vinayaka Chavithi - 2009.



Vakra Thunda Maha Kaaya,
Koti Surya Samaprabha,
Nirvighnam Kuru mey Deva,
Sarva karyesshu sarvadha.
God who has an immense body,
God who has a broken tusk,
God who shines like millions of Suns,
Remove all my problems,
From all that I do and at all times.
Today is Vinayaka Chavithi, the birthday of Lord Vinayaka. Chavithi is the fourth day of any Telugu month and Vinayaka Chavithi is celebrated in the current Telugu month, Bhadrapadha. As in the past, my brother, Dr. Lakshminarsu, my son, Srikanth and I went to Monda market, Secunderabad, at 8:00 A.M., to get clay idols of Vinayaka, flowers, fruits and a variety of leaves for the Pooja. On this day, we always go to the market early as it gets too crowded later. The purchases did not take much time but our walk up and down to the market took longer as we parked our car a little away at the Passport office. We returned home by 9:00 A.M.
In the meantime my wife, Lalitha was busy with her Thadhia Nomu Pooja. She had an option of performing Pooja yesterday, the third day of Bhadrapadha masam or today as Thadhia lasted upto 10:00 A.M. We commenced Vinayaka Pooja at 11:20 A.M and it was completed by 12:30 Noon. In the past I used to perform Vinayaka Pooja also called Ganapathi Pooja by reading from a ‘Pooja procedure/slokas/prayers booklet’ but since few years we are performing Pooja according to a ‘Vinayaka Pooja - Audio CD’. My son, Srinath who is in Birmingham, participated in the Pooja through Skype. As per custom, after the Pooja I picked up the ‘Akshinthalu’ (Pooja-rice grain) that were placed at God’s idol and then placed them on the heads of family members and myself to ward off a curse of Goddess Parvathi. The curse is that anyone who sees the Moon; who laughed at Vinayaka’s personality and movements on Bhadrapadha Chavithi would face problems by wrongful accusations and blame. And at 1:15 P.M., brother’s family and we had a festive lunch together. For the festive lunch on Vinayaka Chavithi, apart from other regular dishes it is compulsory to have four unique festive specific dishes, Paasham, Thummikura pappu, Chinthakaya pachadi and Kudumulu. Paasham is a sweet made with sugar or jaggery and thick wheat-noodles, Thummikura pappu is a green leaf curry, Chintakaya pachadi is a chutney made from fresh tamarind and Kudumulu are made of rice flour and look like flattened button mushrooms and this is Lord Ganesha’s favorite.
My sister, Hemalatha visited us in the evening with their new family member, her daughter-in-law, Swathi, to give Nomulu. Later in the night we went on a long ride in the city and visited three Ganesha pandals. Vinayaka Chavithi is celebrated at home by everyone but from the last 30 years the festival is also being celebrated on a very grand scale by groups of people belonging to a lane, a locality, an apartment, a shopping area, a community and so on. Huge idols of Ganesha in different forms are being placed in well decorated pandals in over thousand places at Hyderabad and Pooja performed for nine days. And on the ninth day the idols are brought out in attractive processions from all-over Twin cities to Hussain Sagar Lake. Here, God is bid farewell amidst loud prayers and requests that he should visit them next year and then the idols are immersed in the lake.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda – ancient Buddhist places of interest.





I got opportunities to visit a few Buddhist temples and ancient sites of Buddhist-era in India and Japan. I learnt about Gautama Buddha and Buddhism at school. But it was in later years when I began to visit more and more places associated with Buddhism that I learnt a great deal more. In this blog I wish to write about two Buddhist places close to Hyderabad, which I have visited. These places are Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda. Amaravati is on the right bank of river Krishna, in Guntur district, 35 Kms. from Guntur and 307 Kms. from Hyderabad. And Nagarjunakonda is an island in the Nagarjunasagar reservoir of river Krishna in Nalagonda district, 150 Kms. from Hyderabad.
Amaravati was once a Buddhist settlement of great repute. Amaravati means ‘Deathless Realm’ in the Buddhist scriptural language, Pali. It is also the site of a grand Buddhist Stupa dating back to the time of Emperor Ashoka, which of course is in ruins now. According to Buddhist scriptures this is the place where Buddha gave the Kalachakra empowerment. Kalachakra stands for Time-wheel and Time-cycle. These cycles are akin to the movement of planets and the cycles of our breath and Kalachakra is the practice of controlling the subtlest energies within one’s body, on the path to enlightenment. The Kalachakra deity represents Buddha and thus omniscience. Since Kalachakra is time and everything is under the influence of time, Kalachakra knows all. The Amaravati Stupa which is 2000 years old and in ruins now was originally decorated with carvings of life and teachings of Buddha and Jataka tales. The 32 metres tall and 32 metres diameter Stupa was made of brick and now only its base can be seen to some height. Amaravati Buddhist sculpture are most beautiful and world famous. There is a museum housing the artifacts found here. A massive statue of Dhyana Buddha is a big attraction here.
Amaravati is also a place of Hindu pilgrimage. It has the ancient temple of Sri Amareswara that is Lord Shiva. The temple has a 15 feet high white marble Lingam. The Satavahana and Vijayanagar Kings have made great contributions to this temple. This temple is one of the five Pancharama Kshetrams in Andhra Pradesh.
Nagarjunakonda is an island hill in River Krishna named after the Buddhist monk, Acharya Nagarjuna. Nagarjuna who lived in the 2nd century AD is believed to have been responsible for the Buddhist activity in this area. During these ancient times this location has been the site of many Buddhist Universities and monasteries, attracting students from as far as China, Sri Lanka, Tibet and northern parts of India. The construction of the Nagarjunasagar Dam in 1960 submerged several Buddhist archaeological sites in this area. All the findings of this area have been dug and moved up to the hilltop where they are housed in a museum. With the completion of the Dam, Nagarjunakonda got surrounded by water on all sides and became an island.
Nagarjunakonda was also the capital of the Ikshvaku dynasty from 225 AD to 325 AD and of the Shatavahana rulers later. The excavations on Nagarjunakonda and the surroundings have yielded art works and inscriptions of great significance for the scholarly study of history. The museum houses a collection of relics of Buddhist culture and art. These include a small tooth and an ear-ring believed to be that of Buddha. The main Stupa of Nagarjunakonda named Mahachaitya is believed to contain the sacred relics of Buddha. This Stupa was 32.3 metres in diameter and 18 metres high. Among innumerable findings housed on Nagarjunakonda, the ruined monolithic statue of Buddha is the main attraction.
A ferry service takes tourists from the mainland to Nagarjunakonda. Both Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda are big tourist attractions mostly because of their proximity to the cities of Guntur and Hyderabad. The above photographs give a glimpse of these two places.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Unique rocky landscape of Hyderabad and environs.





As you enter the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad by road or rail you would not miss the breath-taking rock formations and rocky hillocks along the way. You can see rocks of different shapes and sizes spread all over the landscape and mostly doing balancing acts. Unfortunately you would also see large scale quarrying that has already destroyed and continues to annihilate this landscape forever.
These rocks that can be found in and around Hyderabad and also in some neighbouring districts are said to be 2.5 billion years old. These rocks are amongst the oldest rocks in the world. And all the interesting and intricate shapes one sees are a result of centuries of ageing. As earth started forming about 4.6 billion years ago its upper crust began to have a variety of rocks by the action of volcanism, metamorphism, weathering and sedimentation. The rocks around Hyderabad are grey granite and the hardest rock formations in the world. Barbara Cartland was so fascinated with these rock formations that she mentioned them in her novel ‘Love on the Wind’ in 1982. She says that looking at these formations she has a feeling that in ancient times Giants were playing games here with rocks and have arranged them in these intricate heaps and shapes.

The above collection of photographs is just a minuscule sampling of the rock formations in and around Hyderabad. These rocky hills and rocks are being mercilessly broken down to use them in construction of buildings and sometimes to level ground. These rocks are lifeless but have lived for millions of years supporting life…..of fauna and flora that take shelter under them and its crevices and by generating waterfalls, springs, streams, lakes and recharging ground water. We cannot foresee the consequences of this destruction, destruction of animals, trees, hills, rocks, water bodies and even air that we breathe. This is not wisdom. May the authorities give due attention to the remnant beautiful environment around us and protect it. Only strict laws can protect the environment.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Papikondalu Cruise on Independence Day - 2009!



We returned home this morning from another memorable trip to Papikondalu, a 130 Kms., 9&1/2 hour boat cruise on River Godavari with the Eastern Ghats on either side of the river. My wife Lalitha, my son Srikanth and I have gone on this trip. Lalitha and I have gone there before but for my son it is his first trip. He was so thrilled with the beauty of the area that he clicked as many as 215 photos of the hills and water en-route River Godavari and also captured much of the journey on Handycam.
Earlier we had gone to Papikondalu up to Perantalapalli from Bhadrachalam side, a cruise of 90 Kms. from Sri Ramagiri town. And this Trip was from Purushothamapatnam town on Rajahmundry side up to Perantalapalli and back, a cruise of 130 Kms. While the first tour was on our own, this one was a tour conducted by IRCTC-Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation. We started from Secunderabad on 14th August night by Gouthami-Express Train to Rajahmundry. We were received at Rajahmundry Station by IRCTC representative at 6:30 A.M. on 15th August. He dropped us at a hotel for freshening up. We were then picked up at 08:00 A.M. and transferred to a bus which took us to Purushothamapatnam which is 45 Kms. from Rajahmundry. This journey was also pleasant not because of the bus or road but due to the greenery of fields and trees all along the way up to the horizon in any direction. At Purushothamapatnam; at 9:45 A.M we boarded an Air-conditioned, 120-Seater boat called Sree Bhageeradhi. Breakfast consisting of Idli and Vada was served followed by tea. The boat started at 10:00 A.M. on a 65 Kms. journey to Perantalapalli. The boat personnel made detailed announcements all along the way about the places along the banks, about the hills and the river in ancient times and now. Several Telugu movies are shot along this beautiful stretch of Godavari, so the narration included details of these movies, scenes and actors.
As our boat cruised ahead we were shown some places and stopped at some. The first major site we saw was that of the proposed Polavaram Dam. We passed through some tribal villages in the hills that were visible on the shores like Devipatnam, Singanapalle, Tekuluru and Koruturu of the East Godavari and West Godavari Districts which are separated by the river. We also stopped at Rampachodavaram where the tiled British police station attacked by Sri Alluri Sita Rama Raju was shown to us. We also stopped at Gandi Pochamma temple and Perantalapalli in Khammam District. At Perantalapalli there is a Shiva temple on top of a hill. This temple was established by Sri Balananda Swamiji in the year 1927 who also strived for the development of the locals called Konda Koyas and Konda Reddies. The temple and the ashram there are called ‘Sri Krishna Munivaatam’. And the water falls adjacent to the temple as Munivaatam waterfalls. Our boat turned back here and now traveling downstream we stopped for a while at Kolluru village where there is a provision for a night stay in the bamboo huts along the river bank.
There was on board entertainment in the form of dance, jokes and Tambola. After the artists on board danced to the tunes of three Telugu songs, I and Lalitha were called on to the stage as a specially selected couple. Then on stage to everyone’s entertainment our marriage was performed by making us enact all the important marriage rituals. This was followed by more dance programs by small children, youngsters and couples on board who were asked to dance on their own but mostly by imitating a dance master dancing in front of them to some very popular Telugu movie songs. After the morning entertainment show, a fairly good lunch was served on the top deck of the boat. Srikanth ordered for Chicken fry at the time of boarding the boat so that was served to us separately. This lunch for the tourists was picked up from a place along the shore. The boat also has a canteen from where some readymade and cooked snacks, tea and soft drinks were circulated on the boat and sold.
We kept moving freely the whole day long, along all sides of the boat enjoying the beautiful scenery all around. We sat in the Air-conditioned lower deck at times but mostly enjoyed our time on the top deck and around the outer railing of the boat. With plenty of river water all around us and small to mighty hills on either side of the river with thick green forests on them is a very beautiful experience beyond my description. As you enter Khammam district the river narrows down between two hills to about 400 metres and the depth of the river here is about 100 metres. And the height of the two hills about 525 metres. Passing between these two hills is said to clear all the sins committed by us. Sins in Telugu means Papaalu and hence the name Papikondalu. But the most popular version for the name Papikondalu is because the river is like Papida – that is the parting of hair on our head and the hills are like the hair on either side of the parting (Papida) and hence the name Papikondalu.
The weather was very good; just warm, mostly cloudy with strong breeze and it also rained for sometime in the evening making it a wonderful day. We got down from Sree Bhageeradhi at Purushothamapatnam at 7:20 P.M. Tourists took their own time to board the bus to Rajahmundry which started at 7:45 P.M. causing some tension as we had to catch the night train to Secunderabad. We reached the IRCTC/tourist office at Rajahmundry by 9:15 P.M. and soon we were transferred to the station and provided with dinner packets.
We started from Rajahmundry at 9:40 P.M. by Gouthami-Express Train and arrived at Secunderabad at 6:35 A.M. on 16th August. In 34 hours we covered 1000 Kms. by train, 100Kms. by road and 130 Kms. by boat but did not feel any strain because of the refreshing scenic beauty of Godavari and Papikondalu. To meet the demands of a growing population, to provide water to the people of Vishakapatnam and to divert the water from River Godavari to River Krishna for irrigational benefits Polavaram Dam is being constructed. And this would soon submerge the beauty of the place forever and as for the tribals who would be displaced in lakhs I hope they will be kept happy and as for the animals and all other living creatures of these forests, I pray God to protect them.

P.S. You may click on the following link to reach several of my photo-articles / blog posts on Kothagudem, Singareni Collieries, Bhadrachalam, Godavari River, Parnashala, Kinnerasani and Papikondalu:
http://srisrilara.blogspot.in/2013/08/list-and-links-to-my-blog-posts-on.html

Friday, August 14, 2009

To combat Swine flu – stay safe and protected.

The swine flu virus that entered India about three months ago has now spread into various parts of the country and has begun taking away some lives. It seems to be spreading very easily and very fast among the young and the old. The world Health Organization has raised an Alert of the highest level which is 6, to alert all nations and prevent further spread of this virus and stop this from blowing into an epidemic. Fortunately it is curable if detected and can also be prevented.

As I was about to write another ‘Personal photo blog’ today, I thought, I should instead write a beneficial blog on this virus. I felt that I should propagate the appeal of the Government and the Doctors to benefit the readers of my blogs. Almost everyone is scared of the virus now and might be aware of the precautions and treatment I am about to list, but another friendly caution will certainly help friends and relatives following my blogs and several others who reach my blogs through their ‘key search words’.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, recently issued the following advertisement in all leading newspapers of Hyderabad. I am reproducing only a part of the advertisement here.

“H1N1 FLU IS TREATABLE.

THE TREATMENT FOR H1N1 FLU IS AVAILABLE AT DESIGNATED HOSPITALS.

A person with H1N1 flu symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, running nose and difficulty in breathing, should go to a designated hospital for a check-up and testing. Only suspected cases with severe conditions will be admitted to the hospital. If the patient is detected with H1N1 flu, but shows mild symptoms, he/she would be given the option of being treated at home. The patient needs to provide complete details of all social and family contacts for preventive treatment.

Patients opting for home care will be given a detailed checklist of safety measures that needs to be strictly followed by the patient, the caretaker and the entire household to ensure that infection doesn’t spread to others in the family.

The advertisement designated the following hospitals in Hyderabad for treatment: AP Government and Chest Hospital-Erragadda, Kondapur Area Hospital-Kondapur, Vanastalipuram Area Hospital and King Koti General Hospital.”

While that is the information I wish to share from the Government advertisement, there is some more I picked up from general conversations:

Everyone should maintain personal Hygiene. Hands should be washed often. One should avoid touching eyes, mouth and nose. Tissue paper should be used when one coughs or sneezes.

One should avoid travelling and going to crowded places especially airports, railway stations, bus terminals, theatres etc. And if it becomes compulsory to travel or go to crowded places then one should use a doctor prescribed nose mask. One extremely cautious person said …. “To escape the virus and as a measure of cost reduction during these times of recession avoid travelling and resort to video conferencing and other Internet facilities to communicate.”

In conclusion, I quote Gautama Buddha: “Every human being is the author of his own health or disease.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

About today’s earthquake and the ones I remember well.

At about 1:25 A.M. (IST) today, few people who were awake along the coastal towns of Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram, Machilipatnam and many other East coast towns up to Chennai experienced a mild tremor for about 3 seconds. Two earthquakes occurred around this time, one affecting South Asia and the other East Asia. The one that caused mild tremors in coastal Andhra had its epicenter in the Indian Ocean, 275 Kms. north of Port Blair at a depth of 33 Kms. Though the magnitude of the earthquake is 7.8 it has fortunately not caused any damage to the close by Andaman Islands, coastal Andhra which is over 1100 Kms. away or to many other surrounding countries. A tsunami watch was called for initially but within a short time this was negated.

As I got up in the morning all Telugu TV channels were filled with news of the earthquake. Even as scientists and Government officials were calming down agitated public since early morning, ruling out the possibility of a tsunami and higher intensity aftershocks the TV channels created a lot of confusion. TV channels interviewed agitated persons along the entire east coast who felt the mild tremor of 2~3 seconds and those along the seashore who thought the sea has receded or the sea has advanced and are seeing never before high waves and created enormous confusion. Once I went out of the house I found people normal and happy and least concerned with these false alarms and stories as no damage whatsoever has occurred anywhere due to this Indian Ocean earthquake – thank God.

In the past I witnessed three earthquakes in Hyderabad. I found the doors vibrating or a little tremor – a sort of mild shake and in one case a brief roaring sound but realized it is due to an earthquake only much later. Of these three the one that occurred on the night of 14th April 1969 was the most intense one. This earthquake of magnitude 6.5 occurred close to Parnashala near Bhadrachalam, which is about 375 Kms. by road from Secunderabad. First the power supply failed and almost simultaneously I heard a door vibrating for quite some time and thought that it was caused by our dog - Munna. But little later as people began to call and talk, I realized that it was an earthquake. However my parents and sister who were at Kothagudem just about 75 Kms. from the epicenter of the earthquake had witnessed a much higher impact. As lights went off and the intense tremors occurred my father realized that it is an earthquake and rushed everyone out of the house. At the same time there was heavy noise from hundreds of birds flying out of the trees in our house. Though this earthquake had caused damage to some houses in villages and towns around the epicenter it did not cause any harm to human or animal life. The other two earthquakes I felt were in 1982 and 1983. The 1982 earthquake of 3.2 magnitude had occurred at Gandipet in Hyderabad and the one of 1983 with a magnitude of 4.0 had occurred at Medchal, close to Hyderabad. Being of low intensity, mild tremors were felt but no damage was done to people or their properties. Latur-earthquake that occurred at about 4:00 A.M. on the night of 30th Sep. 1993 was experienced by many people in Hyderabad. Fast asleep I had no idea of this earthquake. Only in the morning I heard of this 6.3-high magnitude earthquake that killed over 7500 people and destroyed 30,000 houses in towns and villages situated around Latur which is just 230 Kms. from Hyderabad.

Hyderabad is classified as a Zone 2 seismic activity prone zone. This means that earthquakes up to 5.0 on the Richter scale can occur here. However the neighboring Bhadrachalam area is in Zone 3 where earth quakes of magnitude 5.7 may occur. Normally earthquakes of magnitude less than 6.0 are considered to be less dangerous and may mostly affect areas within about 20 Kms. As earthquakes are happening around the world all the time and the possibilities of it are there in Hyderabad all necessary precautions have to be taken. Especially the high rise buildings, the flyovers and the bridges have to be constructed to withstand such a calamity. And one day when our scientists are in a position to predict an earthquake well in advance; lives can be protected.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Entertainment at Hussain Sagar, is close at hand!





Hussain Sagar Lake, the most prominent and beautiful place in the Twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad is very close to our house. All the entertainment that is available around the lake is easily accessible to us. The aerial distance from our house to the northern side of the Lake is just about 500 Metres. And by road; this point is 1.2 Kms. from our house, due to twists and turns along the way. At this northern edge we touch the Necklace Road which would lead us along the periphery of the lake up to NTR Gardens. From there once again along the lake we go on to the Tank Bund Road and in one full circle we come back to the same point from where we started on the Necklace Road. This circumambulation of the lake and the huge Buddha Statue at the center of the lake is of 9.7 Kms. And the distance of this Pradakshina around the lake, starting and ending at our house is 12.3 Kms. long.
This circumambulation or a drive on Necklace Road up to IMAX junction and back or trips to the eateries, parks, exhibitions and entertainment shows along this route are common activity for us. It is an easy to choose destination when there is confusion about deciding a place for an outing. The most important places along this route are Sanjeevaiah Park, Yogi bear park, Jalavihar entertainment park with water games, Ohris 1857 restaurant, Eat street with multitude eating options, Water Front restaurant, Peoples Plaza with innumerable exhibitions and entertainment shows from time to time, Horse and Camel rides, smaller eateries, Prasads IMAX which has an IMAX screen and five other screens along with a food court, a shopping mall and entertainment zone, NTR Gardens, Lumbini Park which is popular for boating in Hussain Sagar, musical fountains and Laser shows and small eateries along Tank Bund Road. This entire circular route has wide roads and looks beautiful with well landscaped lawns, gardens and greenery all around the lake. There are 33 Statues of famous personalities of the State on Tank Bund reminding people of our history and greatness. Lord Sree Venkateshwaraswamy’s Temple made of white marble on the nearby Naubat Pahad more popularly known as Birla Mandhir and the world’s largest Buddha Statue which is 72 feet high and located at the center of the lake on Rock of Gibraltar add extraordinary beauty to the place. My sons Srikanth and Srinath go there along with cousins during Sankranti festival to fly Kites as it is an open area with no obstructions and a strong breeze all the time and as there is ample scope for Kite fighting. And as such on Sankranti day there is an International Kite flying Show at Peoples Plaza.
Few other important places around the lake are PV Narasimha Rao Ghat, NTR Memorial Ghat, Hyderabad Sailing Club and Secunderabad Boats Club. Within close proximity to Tank Bund are Snow world, Indira Park, Hyderabad Marriott Hotel and the State Secretariat. Tank Bund Road which connects the Twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad has heavy traffic throughout the day and in contrast Necklace Road has negligible traffic. This prompts us to go on frequent rides along the beautiful Necklace road up to IMAX junction which is 6.1 Kms. from our house and return home with no traffic hassles ….. At speeds we love in the center of a chaotic city!
To know the history and technical data of the Lake you may please left-click on the topmost photograph and read the two billboards.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Children love boats and boating ….. Me too!





It is true that all children love boats and boating and in my case this childhood passion has not diminished with age. Next week on this day I am starting for Rajahmundry along with Lalitha and Srikanth for a day long cruise on River Godavari. This would be our second ‘day-long cruise’ on Godavari. My association with Godavari is from infancy. We were at Kothagudem for 27 years and at an hour’s drive from Bhadrachalam which is on the other side of River Godavari. For 13 years; until the bridge over Goadavari was ready, we had to cross the river by boat and launch or only launch to visit Lord Sree Sita Ramachandra Swamy Temple at Bhadrachalam. And as I grew up I never missed a chance to have a boat ride in lakes or rivers, at places I visited.

While working at Praga Tools Limited, I had to visit Calcutta at least six times a year for 15 years. During every visit I used to prefer travelling between our office at Fairlie place and Howrah Station or Cossipore by Ferry service over River Hooghly/Ganges. The above photographs are of our boat or launch rides at Ooty lake, Kodaikanal lake, Ulsoor lake, Hussain Sagar, Durgam Cheruvu, River Godavari-Bhadrachalam, River Godavari-Basara, River Krishna -Vijayawada, River Krishna-Nagarjuna sagar and River Krishna-Srisailam. There are many other boat/ferry rides I had on Ganges and Yamuna at Prayag – Allahabad, Brindavan gardens, Ranganathittu bird sanctuary, Cochin boat tour, trip to Miyajima Island in Japan and at few other places of which there are no photographs but all these events are fresh in my thoughts and bring about pleasant memories.

I am eagerly looking forward to the next week cruise over Godavari. Previous ‘day-long cruise’ on Godavari was from Sri Ramagiri near Bhadrachalam to Perantalapalli, Kolluru and back. Forthcoming cruise will be in the opposite direction from Rajahmundry to Perantalapalli, Kolluru and back. On my return, I shall post a blog on this exciting trip on Godavari through Papikondalu hill range, the lush green hill range with interesting places enroute and the gentle music and breeze of Godavari.

Very honestly it is just not the boats and water, I do enjoy outdoors and nature as much as I can, the forests, trees, fields, flowers, hills, birds, butterflies, the star-lit sky, lakes, rivers, sea, sand and the rain. I need nature to feel good, inner and outer.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sri Avadhutendra Saraswati Swamiji.


The top photograph is of Sri Avadhutendra Saraswati Swamiji at my sister Hemalatha’s wedding on 2nd March 1975. That was the first time I saw him and our entire family including the bride and groom sought his blessings. Swamiji was very close to my brother-in-law Sri Niranjan’s father Sri Kasoji Sathyanarayana garu since 1967. Uncle Sathyanarayana garu and his entire family are ardent disciples of Swamiji. Uncle constructed a huge hall for Swamiji’s stay on the 3rd floor of his house at Himayathnagar. Whenever Swamiji visited Hyderabad he used to stay here and also conduct bhajans in this hall which can accommodate about 50 persons and the space in front of the hall can accommodate another 100 persons.
Sri Avadhutendra Saraswati Swamiji; also called as Sri Raghuvara Dasu Garu dedicated his life for the spiritual betterment of the masses through Bhagavannama Sankeerthana that is in the form of chanting Hare Rama Hare Krishna bhajan and recitation of Hanuman Chalisa. He was born on 28th November, 1914 at Attili in west Godavari district to an orthodox, God-fearing couple Sri Pemmaraju Hanumanlu and Smt Pollalamma. He developed a taste for devotional songs and bhajans; in the footsteps of his father. From an early age he began to participate in dramas mostly enacting the role of Lord Krishna or Rama. With his action and melodious voice he won everyone’s acclaim and toured large parts of Andhra with popular drama troops. After leading a normal life for few years, he took to travelling all over the country preaching the benefits of Rama Nama bhajans and recitation of Hanuman Chalisa. He organized and started the tradition of conducting ‘Ekaham’ and ‘Sapthaham’ bhajans at various temples and houses of his followers. ‘Ekaham’ is chanting of Hare Rama Hare Krishna Bhajan for 24 hours without a break and Sapthaham is nonstop recitation of the bhajan for 7 days, 24 hours a day. This bhajan is a melodious recitation of the following words to the accompaniment of music from the Harmonium, Tabla and Thaalalu: “Hare Rama; Hare Rama, Rama Rama; Hare Hare. Hare Krishna; Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna; Hare Hare.”
Swamiji’s demise took place on 11th June, 1975 at my brother-in-law’s house. My Uncle Sri Sathyanarayana garu and aunty were on a world tour at this time and could not return in time for the immersion of his mortal remains in the holy Krishna River. His last journey was witnessed by a very large number of his followers. Even today, 34 years after his demise he has a huge following.
After the death of Swamiji, the hall in which he is to stay at my brother-in-law’s place is converted into a pooja room. There is a very attractive life size portrait of Swamiji with some of his books and other items on display. Every Sunday from 6:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M, Swamiji’s recorded bhajans are played. Followers in large numbers chant the bhajan in tune with Swamiji’s voice. Prasadam is distributed at the end of bhajan. On Swamiji’s birthday – Mukkoti Ekadashi (Nov.~Dec.), Ekaham is performed. And six days prior to Swamiji’s Vardanthi (in the month of May) Hanuman Chalisa is recited for one full day and then from the second day for seven days Sapthaham takes place. On all these occasions elaborate arrangements are made for the ‘Stay and Food’ for the various followers who come from all over the state and to some special teams who come for participating in the bhajans. On the last evening of Sapthaham which I do not miss, small children are sometimes dressed like Krishna or Rama and the bhajan is accompanied with dancing and Kholata. This tradition is observed for last 34 years with extreme devotion from all members of their family and to the satisfaction of all Swamiji’s followers and spiritual persons. May God and Swamiji bless them forever for this religious service.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Rakhi Purnima / Rakhi Pournami / Raksha Bandhan.


This year, the festival of Rakhi Purnima is on 5th August. Purnima means Full-moon day and this festival is celebrated every year on the Full-moon day of the Telugu month - Shravana Masam. It is basically a festival of North India but it is celebrated in Telangana area of Andhra Pradesh for over two centuries with the same devotion and enthusiasm. This was initially due to the influence of the culture and traditions from the adjoining districts of Maharashtra which were for long a part of Hyderabad State under the rule of Nizam. In recent times the festival has become popular in Andhra area and other Southern States mostly due to the significance of Rakhi spread through sentimental scenes in movies and commercializing the festival through advertisements for the sale of Rakhies, Chocolates, Sweets, Greeting Cards and other associated gifts. As a result this festival is being celebrated more elaborately today, all over the country.
Rakhi is a sacred thread embraced with a sister's love and affection for her brother. On the day of Rakhi Purnima, sisters tie Rakhi on the right-hand wrists of their brothers and express their love to them and offer sweets. After receiving the Rakhi from a sister, a brother sincerely takes the responsibility of protecting his sister. In return, brothers also gift money, dresses, Saris and any other useful items to sisters. Rakhies come in very colorful and multitude variations starting from simple colored thread wrist-bands to elaborate designs containing images of Gods, holy signs and flowers. They are also made of Silver and Gold. In Indian tradition, the Rakhi strongly binds a brother and a sister in mutual love and trust.
As a small boy I used to love displaying the Rakhis on my hand tied from wrist to almost the elbow. As I have only one sister, I used to get one Rakhi from her but my aunts and their children used to send Rakhies by post and this contributed to my show-off. Rakhi day is a holiday so I and similarly many other students used to go to the school the next day wearing Rakhies. While at college, I and my brother used to get Rakhies from sister and relatives by post. Since 1981, I and my elder brother Dr. Lakshminarsu are staying together in the same house in Secunderabad, while my sister stays 6 Kms. away in Hyderabad. So every year my sister comes to us on Rakhi day without fail. And in the case of my wife, her brother Dubbaka Mohan stays few blocks away from our house so it is very convenient for her also to go there and tie the Rakhi.
On this day my brother and I put on a new Janjam – a sacred bunch of threads that we wear over the left shoulder and across the waist. For this reason this day is sometimes referred to as Janjala Purnima.
For brothers who cannot come home to sisters or sisters who cannot visit their brothers on this day, there are many modern alternate methods. Sisters send Rakhies and sweets or chocolates by courier service or order such deliveries through several Internet Websites. And if this is not possible there is a simpler alternative of sending e-greetings. But in whichever way this festival of siblings is celebrated it only reinforces the bonds within the family and their responsibility towards one another to love and care for each other under all circumstances and at all times.

The Hidden Castle! Is most enjoyable!

Enjoyed yesterday, 20th August 2017, a daylong stay at the Hidden Castle! Every moment was joyous for our group of twe...