Friday, October 30, 2009

Beach vacations.

Right from childhood I have a fascination for the Ocean. My first experience with the Ocean was as a child at Chilakalapudi, Machilipatnam, where we went a number of times. Subsequently at every opportunity, I went to the beaches at different places in the country. I also got to live close to the Arabian Sea for five years at Manipal, while studying Engineering. The beautiful Malpe beach is just 6 Kms. from Manipal and I used to go there very frequently. The Sea was also visible from some of the West facing hostel rooms in which I have stayed during those five years. And if I had an East facing room the view was that of a beautiful valley and beyond it the beautiful Western Ghats - Agumbe Ghats. Depending on which side of the hostel I stayed I used to get to see the beauty of a Sunrise or Sunset with varying colors of the clouds and the scenery all through the day.

A few of my holidays have been to cities and towns along seashore and sometimes at isolated beach resorts where I could see, hear, feel the Ocean, the breeze, the sand and be with the Ocean all by myself and my family throughout my stay. I have a great deal of video recording of the Sea, its waves, sounds and with us in the foreground to give me some comfort and feeling of being at a beach in between my real trips. The serenity and relaxation that an Ocean side offers is unique and extraordinary.

I wish I could go on such trips, more often.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sri Veera Venkata Satyanarayana Swamy Temple, Annavaram.

Among few pilgrimages we made this year; Annavaram is one. It is the abode of Lord Sri Veera Venkata Satyanarayana Swamy. The temple is situated on a hillock called Ratnagiri, in Annavaram. Here, Lord Sri Satyanarayana manifests himself in the form of Trimurthis - three Gods that is Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. The Goddess here is called Ananta Lakshmi and Satyavathi Ammavaru. This Temple town is named Annavaram because whatever wishes a devotee makes here; are fulfilled. In Telugu; one particular meaning of Anna is - what I say/said and Varam means a - boon. So Annavaram stands for fulfilling whatever wishes one seeks.
Annavaram is easily accessible from Hyderabad. It is just an overnight journey by train. All trains from Hyderabad to Visakhapatnam pass through Annavaram. I went there along with my wife and eldest son Srikanth. We travelled there by train and were at Annavaram for two days. I booked accommodation for our stay at Annavaram and train tickets for our journey in advance and the trip went off well.
The Lord of the hills Meru and his wife Menaka had two sons, Bhadra and Ratnakara. Bhadra became a rishi and performed penance for his beloved Lord Rama, on the banks of River Godavari in Dhandakaranya. Lord Rama did not fulfill Bhadra’s wish during his incarnation as Rama. But several years later as Bhadra’s penance intensified, Lord Vishnu once again took the form of Rama and appeared before him as Vykunta Rama along with Sita Devi and Laxmana Swamy. Lord Rama granted him Moksha and the deities at this place are in this form of God’s manifestation. And this place came to be known as Bhadragiri and as Bhadrachalam. Ratnakara followed in the footsteps of his brother. With great devotion for Lord Vishnu, he did penance on the hillock adjacent to River Pampa. Lord Vishnu appeared before him and offered him moksha and settled on this hillock in the form of Sri Veera Venkata Satyanarayana Swamy. And this hillock came to be known as Ratnagiri and the place as Annavaram.
The construction of the temple resembles a Chariot with four wheels. The main deity of the temple is 4 metres high and in cylindrical form. The base/feet at the lower portion of the temple and the top portion represent Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu and the middle portion Lord Shiva.
The most important Pooja/Seva to be performed here by devotees is Sri Satyanarayana Swamy Vratham. From morning till evening as long as the Temple is open one can perform Vratham at any chosen time. Vrathams are performed inside the Temple and all around the Temple independently for small batches of couples, after which they are sent for Darshanam of Sri Satynaranayan Swamy.
In ancient times when Narada Mahamuni was saddened by seeing the problems and misery of mankind he approached Sri Maha Vishnu for a remedy to this situation. In reply; Lord Vishnu told Narada that Satyanaryana Swamy Vratham would relieve men of their problems and would ensure good health, happiness and prosperity. Narada Mahamuni passed on this information to those facing problems. The experience of people who have performed this Vratham and benefitted through it since ancient times are told as stories and the popularity of Sri Satyanaryana Vratham has increased. Today Sri Satyanaryana Swamy Vratham is performed all over the world by devotees for all round wellbeing, in terms of good health, happiness, wealth, success and relief from all sorts of problems, for the entire family. And performing Sri Satyanarayana Swamy Vratham at Annavarm is very significant as it is said to be equivalent to many performed at home.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Madhavi Lata.

Madhavi Lata is a woody high climbing Vine with clusters of very attractive and fragrant flowers, the flower colors varying from white to yellow and pink. The gigantic Madhavi Lata Creeper with white flowers you see in the top photographs is the one decorating the West façade of our house. The tree has grown up to a height of 30 feet that is on to the terrace of our two-floor house and this Creeper has spread all over the façade, terrace, adjacent trees and the neighbor’s house. The stems just shoot out in different directions trying to hold on to anything and once they come in contact with it, they just entwine and grow on it. The flowers have very attractive shape and the fragrance is very strong, pleasant and resembles a fruity perfume, the fragrance is said to improve sensuality and emotional comfort. The flowers are there for almost three quarters of the year spreading their perfume into our house and on to the road. This plant has existed in India since ancient times and it is so popular that there are many legends, poetry and mentions of it in ancient Indian literature.
This Creeper is said to have got its name after Madhavi the daughter of Yayati, the fifth King of the Chandra Vamsha / Dynasty. Yayati had two wives, Devayani and Sarmishta. Devayani gave birth to a son named Yaadu and Sarmishta gave birth to a son Puru. These two sons grew up to become great Kings and were the basis for two Dyansties named after them. Yayati subsequently had three sons. Yayati lived happily with this family and his kingdom. In his old age he once met Lord Indra. They spoke on various subjects for a long time and when the old King returned to his palace he was a changed man. He wanted to live longer and he wished the same for all his subjects. He ordered his people to lead a pious life without any desires and passions and that would bring them immortality. As a result deaths were few and birth none. This infuriated God Indra as the cycle of Life and Death virtually stopped. So he sent Asurvindumati daughter of Kamadeva - the God of love; to King Yayati to bring about a change in the King’s new philosophy. On seeing the beautiful Asurvindumati the king’s beliefs changed, he immediately fell in love with her. He wanted to marry her but he was very old and she very young. He approached his five sons asking anyone of them to sacrifice their youth to him and take away his old age. While other sons refused, Puru his most devoted and loving son accepted. Yayati took his son’s youth and married Asurvindumati and lived happily. They were soon blessed with a daughter who was named Madhavi meaning springtime, resembling spring, fresh and youthful. Madhava is one of the innumerable names of Lord Vishnu and hence Madhavi also refers to one of the names of Goddess Lakshmi. Asurvindumati returned back to Heaven afterwards, and Yayati spent another thousand years in pleasure and health, then got tired of being young and active, and returned the youth back to his son Puru. Yayati then retired into the woods, stopped consuming food and eventually died. Madhavi grew up into a beautiful young woman. One night, she heard a whisper out of a mango tree. She went to the tree to enquire who it was. The tree said “I have come for you, my beloved one, come to me". As she touched the trunk; the Mango tree turned into a handsome young man and embraced her. The young man was the incarnation of God Prajayapati, the Creator of Life. The two joined together and stayed together; the strong Mango tree, the symbol of life and the spring-like, youthful, fragrant, Madhavi getting entwined with the tree. Lata means a Creeper, a Creeping plant. Since ancient times, in India, a Mango tree and its fruits are considered as one of God’s best blessings and the Madhavi Lata flowers as a symbol of love and spirituality.
Among many other ancient references of Madhavi Lata one is that of Goddess Lakshmi. Goddess Lakshmi the mother of Earth; is symbolically the creeping Vine – Madhavi, and Lord Vishnu is a Mango tree around which the Goddess clings for support. Another reference to the union of Madhavi Lata and the Mango tree is when Rishi Kanva finds out that his adopted daughter Shakuntala had met King Dushyanta, the man of her choice and a great king, he says to her “I have been looking for a good and handsome Mango tree for you and now that you have found one (referring to King Dushyanta) I shall give you, my Madhavi Lata (referring to Shakuntala) to him in marriage”.
The scientific name of Madhavi Lata is Hiptage benghalensis or Hiptage madablota. And the common name is Hiptage pronounced as Hip-tah-jee. The plant has many commercial uses. Apart from its ornamental, fragrant and beautiful growth in houses and parks it is cultivated for medicinal purposes. It holds a reputed position in Indian medicine. The bark, the leaves and flowers are used in the treatment of cough, burning sensation, inflammation, skin diseases and in the cure of rheumatism and asthma.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Yellandu Club.

Sitting, 1st row: L to R 1) My brother Dr. Lakshminarsu 2) Myself
Sitting, 2nd row: L to R 8) Dr. Rajendra Prasad the first President of India
Standing, 1st row: L to R 3) My mother Smt. Eshwaramma
Standing, 2nd row: L to R 3) My father Sri N. Bhaskarachary

Yellandu Club of Kothagudem was a big source of entertainment to us for 27 years. Every month and all through every year there used to be many celebrations and activities in the Club. Every Sunday night we used to see a Hindi or English movie there. Depending on the season the movies used to be screened indoors or outdoors - close to the Swimming pool or at the Tennis courts. On weekdays we used to have two ‘Club days’ when there was hectic activity at the Tennis courts, Billiards room, Shuttle badminton court, Table tennis room, Swimming pool, at the playing card tables and the Bar. Apart from all these facilities we enjoyed, we also played our own games in childhood like Hide and Seek. We also had a good Reading room with several Indian and International Magazines and a good Library. A variety of snacks used to be served on the ‘Club days’. We used to have Republic day and Independence Day celebrations and grand dinners. For Deepavali and on Christmas Eve we used to have games and prizes for the children followed by dinner. We used to get a variety of crackers as gifts which we used to burst around the swimming pool. On Christmas evening Santa Claus used to appear at the well decorated Xmas tree on stage and give away gifts to us. For Dasara we used to have a daylong outdoor picnic at some scenic place around Kothagudem. On New Year Eve there used to be a Fancy dress competition followed by some entertainment, dinner and celebrations up to midnight. On most of these occasions we used to play Tambola and Whist drive. My brother and sister always won prizes in Fancy dress competitions; it was always a first prize to my brother. Apart from these celebrations there used to be many more parties at the club when the children of members got married or some dignitaries were visiting Kothagudem or Singareni Collieries and then some or the other parties like a Welcome or Farewell party.
The group-photograph at the top of this article is of 4th July 1955 when Dr. Rajendra Prasad the first President of India visited our Club. An enlarged copy of this photograph still adorns the front hall of the Club, even now after 54 years. The color photos show some areas of the Club. The black and white photographs are of my brother – Dr. Lakshminarsu and my sister – Hemalatha in some prize winning Fancy dresses.
It is just not the above events I remember but also those I have enjoyed at the club as a toddler, the See-saws, the Merry-Go-Round, the Swings and Slides and the Train with an Engine and Coach on rails; driven by any elderly boy by pedaling, though these equipment were taken off the club premises may be before I was 10 years old. Good and happy times are never forgotten.
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:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A ‘Hyderabadi-Urdu Verse on Twin cities of Hyderabad & Secunderabad’.

I am posting an interesting typical Hyderabadi-Urdu verse I have recently come across. As I was reading it, visuals of many experiences, sights and tastes of the Twin Cities opened up in my imagination. I am sure you too will find it amusing and recollect the many items and places mentioned in it. Please click on the above document to zoom in and read it.
I am posting this article just for entertainment, those of you who are far away from home please do not think too much about the Twin cities and become homesick ….. PLEASE.

Interruptions to my morning walk are increasing.

I love my morning walk. Since several years I and my wife go for half an hour walk at the nearby Parade grounds. We start from the house at 5:30 A.M. by car and reach the Parade grounds in about seven minutes and after the walk we return home by 6:20 A.M. This schedule is now getting affected very often. Heavy rains in the recent past were one reason and then a sprain in my left leg prevented me from going on these walks for few weeks. Then last week we missed our walk for few days due to Deepavali festival-related activities. And today my wife is going to Bangalore with her sisters and brother for three days to attend a marriage and I do not like to go for the walk alone.
Otherwise we normally stick to our walking schedule for six days every week. Occasional skips would be due to previous evening parties, movies or fatigue or some early morning engagements of that day. Even when the Parade grounds are closed for the walkers during Republic Day and Independence Day rehearsal parades and celebrations, Military events and exercises or let out for cultural, commercial events and political rallies we do not miss our walking routine. On these days we walk at Sanjeevaiah Park, which is almost the same distance from our house as Parade grounds. Then there is a Treadmill in the house but I do not consider it equivalent to the early morning outdoors walk at Parade grounds or at Sanjeevaiah Park.
I find the outdoors morning walk relaxing and refreshing. The benefits of walking are plenty. It is the easiest form of exercise with many advantages. It improves muscular fitness, ensures optimum blood flow and adds to the improvement of lung and heart performance. At that early hour there are not many people at the ground and it is very quiet. There is always a fresh strong breeze mostly along one stretch of the ground. Then depending on the season we get to enjoy seeing the Moon vanish and the Sun rise with the sky in different colors and formations. When the advantages and the pleasure of such a routine are so many I think I should try hard not to miss this important morning schedule. And I advise the same to you.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The joy of Crackers, Sparklers and Photographs.

This is my fourth article on Deepavali, in succession. A break would have broken the monotony of the subject but once the mind decides to tell or write something it is difficult to think otherwise.
I am posting few photographs of my sons and nephews snapped on various Deepavali evenings. Some photographs are of a Deepavali twenty-five years ago. The children are all grown up now. They are all Postgraduates and my son Srinath is pursuing Postgraduation in Finance and Accounting. My nephews, Dr. Sudheer and Dr. Uday Bhaskar are Dental Surgeons and are in teaching profession in senior positions. My eldest son Srikanth is a Mechanical Engineer and an MBA in Marketing and Operations Management. He is a Marketing Executive.
When we look at old photographs, memories become alive and the long past happenings seem to have occurred very recently. Today on Deepavali evening when I see these grown up children gleefully bursting crackers and enjoying sparklers with the same enthusiasm that they have shown in their childhood it appears that none of us have aged. Festivals and various celebrations bring about this enjoyment year after year and if there are photographs of these events to assist our memory we can re-enjoy the past happiness.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Deepavali Greetings.

Dear All,
I sincerely wish each one of you a very Happy Deepavali. May this year bring you immense peace, prosperity and happiness. May all your wishes be fulfilled and all your dreams come true.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Deepavali Bommala Koluvu.

Bommala Koluvu means an assemblage of dolls in an orderly fashion. Bommala Koluvu is popular in entire Andhra Pradesh State but it is organized at different times by different communities. While some families hold it at the time of Sankranti or Dasara it is at the time of Deepavali in our family. Deepavali Bommala Koluvu is held not just in our family but among all our relatives and for that matter in most families of Telangana.
One day before Deepavali, on Naraka Chaturdashi after Harathulu and lunch my wife gets busy to arrange Bommala Koluvu. Before my marriage it was my mother who used to arrange the dolls. Using wooden planks and tables in the house, odd numbers of platforms are made in the form of steps to hold the toys as can be seen in the above photographs. White cloth is spread over all the steps and then dolls are arranged neatly on them according to size, category and theme. Some items like Chekka Bommalu and Donthulu filled with Puffed rice, Chliakalu and Batthisalu are a traditional must. Every year new Donthulu and at least a pair of new dolls made out of clay are bought for the Koluvu. Turmeric idol of Goddess Gouramma is placed on betel leaves and kept at the Koluvu along with some custard apples and worshipped every evening for five days. After five days the dolls are restored back to their storage area.
Family members, relatives and neighbors are invited to come and see the Bommala Koluvu. This invitation called Perantam pilupu is exclusively for girls and ladies. After the guests arrive and are seated in front of the Koluvu, Vermilion mark is applied on the forehead of the guests, Sandal paste to their chins and Turmeric paste to their feet. The guests are given Thambulam that is Betel leaves with Betel-nuts, fruits and flowers. After this snacks are served. On each of the five days of Bommala Koluvu different families are invited and the evenings are spent happily in the company of friends, relatives and neighbors, strengthening the relationships.

On a breezy morning…

On a breezy morning, Amidst plants and flowers, As the Sun was rising, The feeling was joyous! Happily as we strolled, Pic...