Thursday, April 29, 2010

Research and Amuse Yourself!

A few months back I e-mailed the above photograph to some friends and relatives asking them to identify as many actors / persons as possible in it. Most of them have been able to name one to three persons. I hope you will be able to do better.
And when you identify some familiar face / faces in the photograph, I am sure it will make you smile and perhaps even laugh! And that is exactly what I want!
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” – Anonymous.
Have a nice day!
P.S. You may click on the photograph to zoom in.

Monday, April 26, 2010

CSK Wins IPL 2010!

CSK beat MI in the final of IPL T20 2010. At the end of 56 matches that is just before the Semi-final matches MI was at the top of the points list, DC in 2nd position, CSK in 3rd position and RCB in 4th position. Then DC slipped to 4th position, RCB to 3rd position and MI to 2nd and CSK to 1st position.
For those who do not know IPL 2010 these abbreviations and these results would be confusing and meaningless. But for millions of Indians IPL 2010 is a great Cricket festival of fast and funny 60 thrilling matches between CSK, MI, RCB, DC, DD, KKR, RR, K XI P. These abbreviations are familiar all over India and one or some teams are loved by them and they hope that the rest should never win matches against their favorite. Expanded these abbreviations sound very funny and ridiculous, CSK-Chennai Super Kings, MI-Mumbai Indians, RCB-Royal Challengers Bangalore, DC-Deccan Chargers, DD-Delhi Daredevils, KKR-Kolkata Knight Riders, RR-Rajasthan Royals and K XI P-Kings Eleven Punjab.
The first of the 60 matches of IPL 2010 was played on 12th March at Navi Mumbai. Since that day, every day, matches were played between different teams at different venues all over the country until the final match yesterday, 25th April, at Navi Mumbai. At every stage of the game there were twists and turns, ups and downs, and at no time a result could be emphatically predicted. Every match, whoever won or lost, was a success for the organizers monetarily and for millions of lovers of specific teams and boundaries and sixes - watching the match from the stadium or on TV. And as for the players their remuneration is exorbitant irrespective of their performance or team’s victory. So everyone is happy! With this success I am sure IPL and BCCI will now begin to conduct such Cricket Tamasha twice or more times in a year!
This is the comment I put up on facebook immediately after the final:

Raghu Narayanaraopeta This year’s IPL T20 Tamasha! has finally come to an end with the usual twists and turns. This avatar of cricket akin to Horse racing and Rummy has converted millions of houses into exciting Casinos. Congrats! & Thanks! Chennai Super Kings! for bringing victory to yourself and many who have prospered by taking your side.

10 hours ago ·  · 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pilgrimage to Tirupati – Part IV

There is much to write in recollection of our various visits to Tirupati. However I wrote in general about pilgrimage to Tirupati in my previous three posts and in this concluding part I am writing about places to see in Tirumala and in and around Tirupati.
When you visit Tirumala, you must first have darshan of Sri Varahaswamy. Sri Varahaswamy Temple is to the North of the main temple of Sri Venkateshwara Swamy and along the Swami Pushkarni (sacred pond of the Temple). And then after the darshan of Lord Venkateshwara Swamy you may visit a number of sacred and interesting places on the Tirumala hills. Close to the main Temple is the TTD Devasthanam maintained beautiful ornamental Garden which also has many rare species of plants and trees. And within a radius of 15 Kms from the main Temple there are many places to visit. One can engage a cab to visit all these places in one go or as per convenience in two trips.
You may visit Srivari Paadhalu on Narayanagiri hill. This is the place where Sri Venkateshwara Swamy first set his foot on Tirumala hills. The foot prints of the Lord are present here and the view of the Tirumala Temple and town is magnificent from this place. Close to this place is Shilathoranam meaning a stone gate or arch. There is a Shiva Temple here in the midst of a garden.
Within 5 Kms. from the main Temple you can visit Akashaganga. There is a perennial water stream jetting out between rocks here. This water is used for Sri Venkateshwara Swamy’s Abhishekam and other Temple rituals. Papavinasanam is also close by. Across the Papavinasanam River; a dam is present here. This is one of the sources of water supply to Tirumala. Papavinasanam means ‘getting rid of sins’. Seven streams of water are let out from the river from a height here and pilgrims are advised to take a holy bath under any of these streams. On the way to Papavinasanam there is the Temple of Sri Venugopala Swamy. There are few more interesting places like Vaikunta Tirtham and Tumburu Tirtham on Tirumala hills.
Downhill while in Tirupati town; you may visit the ancient Temples of Sri Govindarajaswamy and Sri Kodandaramaswamy. And in close proximity to Tirupati town there are other important Temples which you can visit within half a day.  Sri Kapileswaraswamy Temple of Lord Shiva is just at the foot of Tirumala Hills. The Temple is amidst attractive greenery and there is a sacred waterfall here called Kapila Teertham. At Alamelumangapuram which is 5 Kms. from Tirupati is the most important Temple of Sri Padmavati Devi the consort of Sri Venkateshwara Swamy. It is said that a visit to Tirumala is fruitful after visiting Sri Padmavati Temple. However due to various personal constraints pilgrims mostly visit this Temple on their return journey from Tirumala. And about 12 Kms. from Tirupati is Sri Kalyana Venkateshwara Swamy Temple at Srinivasa Mangapuram. It is said that Sri Venkateshwara Swamy and Sri Padmavati Devi stayed here for sometime after their marriage and then proceeded to Tirumala.
And 40 Kms. from Tirupati is yet another important Temple, Sri Kalahasti Temple of Lord Shiva. It is as important as Shiva Temple at Kasi (Varanasi) and that is why it is called Dakshina Kasi meaning Kasi of South.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pilgrimage to Tirupati – Part III

It is not very easy to have darshan of Lord Sri Venkateshwara Swamy unless you have bought some special ‘Seva’ ticket. These ‘Seva’ tickets are sold in limited quantity and will have to be booked in advance. With such tickets you will have to report at the specified time at the main entrance of ‘Vaikuntam queue complex’. This complex has a number of compartments between two gangways. Each compartment has gallery type seating to accommodate about 300 persons. The compartments have TVs for entertainment and vendors selling snacks and soft drinks. Devotees are made to wait in these compartments. Depending on the type of darshan or ‘Seva’ devotees are let into the main gangway to queue up for the darshan of the Lord.  
The free darshan called ‘Sarvadarshanam’ might take 4 to 12 hours of waiting in the queue complex and after such long wait they can be in the main temple for few seconds and a fraction of a second in front of the main deity.  The other ‘non-Seva’ darshans are ‘Sudershanam token system’ darshan at Rs. 50/-, which has a specific reporting time so that the waiting time is slightly lowered. And ‘Seeghra darshanam’ at Rs. 300/- which is little faster. All these special darshan devotees and ‘Seva’ darshan devotees are combined in the common queue of ‘Sarvadarshanam’ devotees at different points closer to the Temple depending on the value of their ticket.
In any case except for a very few ‘Sevas’ all devotees get to spend only a few seconds in the Sanctum sanctorum and less than a second in front of Lord Sri Venkteshwara Swamy. But the entire experience is a very fulfilling one. Whenever possible we try to have more than one darshan during our trips to Tirupati.
The daily ‘Sevas’ are Suprabatham, Thomala Seva, Archana, Kalyanotsavam, Arjita Brahmotsavam, Dolotsavam or Unjal Seva, Vasanthotsavam and Sahasra Deepalankarana Seva. Apart from this there are other special weekly ‘Sevas’. One very important weekly (Friday) ‘Seva’ which our entire family got to witness few years back is ‘Poorabhishekam’ when we got to sit in the Sanctum sanctorum in front of the deity for close to one hour and participate in the ‘Abhishekam’ ritual. It is the most satisfying darshan of Sri Venakteshwars Swamy. Nowadays these tickets are booked well in advance and I understand that they are not available for the next 6 years.
It is said that Lord Sri Venkateshwara Swamy enjoys ‘Utsavams’ (festivals) and it is for this reason that every moment in the Temple and Tirumala town is celebrated as a festive occasion. Brahmotsavam is a major annual celebration of nine days when on each day there are different grand rituals conducted and procession of the Utsava Vigrahas carried out in grandeur.  

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pilgrimage to Tirupati – Part II

I now find that there are many photographs of our visits to Tirupati; though I have not carried a camera during every trip. I initially thought that I will post two articles on Tiruapti along with some selected photographs but now it looks like there will be more posts on ‘Pilgrimage to Tirupati’. I am constantly encouraged to post as many photographs as possible in my blog; by my son and nephew who are abroad and several relatives and friends. 
In photographs I have posted on 18th April and today and perhaps in the next two or three posts you will find a number of family members tonsured. Offering hair to Lord Sri Venkateshwara Swamy at Tirumala is a very ancient tradition. There are various reasons mentioned behind this tradition. One purpose of tonsuring is said to show ones devotion to God by shaving their heads clean and by doing so it also enabled these people to free themselves from their past sins and continue on with purer lives. Another version is that hair is a symbolic offering to God, representing a real sacrifice of beauty; in return for God’s blessings.  Yet another reason given is that it would efface the ego of the individual and appease God with this sacrifice. However to many devotees it simply is a must tradition at Tirumala to seek blessings of God and more commonly as a ritual of vow-fulfillment, devotees pray God asking for blessings and favors and on fulfillment of wishes offer their hair at Tirumala. Offering hair at Vaishnava Temples is a common tradition but at Tirumala it is a very significant one with thousands of devotees queuing up for the tonsure every day at the ‘Kalyana Katta’.
Similarly devotees seek God’s blessings and intervention to sort out their problems and grant wishes and in return vow to climb the seven hills, a steep trek of 14 Kms. on the seven hills to Tirumala and / or offer money or jewellery at the sacred ‘Hundi’ of the Temple. ‘Hundi’ is a huge white-colored collection bag placed at the Temple to receive the offerings from the devotees. My wife and sons have offered their hair at Tirumala a number of times as you can see in the photographs. And they have also trekked the hills to reach the Temple. My eldest son Srikanth has done this five times so far, my wife two times and my youngest son Srinath once. Last year the ‘Hundi’ received close to Rupees 440 Crores that is Rupees 4.4 Billion! Apart from this the Hundi also netted several quintals of gold, silver, diamonds and other precious articles! This perhaps makes the Temple the richest in the world! Certainly the richest in India! And most benevolent and powerful one for the devotees! 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pilgrimage to Tirupati – Part I

It is exactly a year since I started blogging. Since then I have been thinking of writing on our several visits to Tirumala / Tirupati the abode of Lord Sri Venkateshwara Swamy and post some related photographs. Somehow it always got postponed and is now taking shape in my ‘One hundred and ninety second’ (192nd) post, at the completion of my first year of blogging.
When I was in Praga Tools Limited, a Government of India, Ministry of Defence Undertaking I was eligible for an annual Earned-leave of 33 days to be availed in one go. I was with this Company for 21 years and in all these years I went to Tirupati with my family during my annual leave. Of course even after leaving this Company I have gone to Tirupati regularly. Lord Sri Venkateshwara Swamy is called ‘Kaliyuga GOD’ that is the GOD of present times who is very merciful and is fulfilling the wishes of everyone who prays him. The GOD here is so popular that the pilgrims with their vow-fulfillments and thanksgiving offerings make this Temple the richest in the country. The Temple is on Tirumala Hills at Tirupati town in AP State. It is a beautiful place. The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams which is in-charge of the Temples in Tirupati and Tiruamala is maintaining the Temples, the rituals there and all the arrangements for pilgrims like accommodation and food to the best of their ability. Tirupati is well connected by Rail, Road and Air. Every day a minimum of 30 thousand pilgrims visit Tirumala.
My visits to Tirumala / Tiruapati have been both for religious purpose and as a peaceful holiday at this sacred place. With this Part-1 article on Tirupati I am mostly posting photographs of our trips to Tirupati in large groups of our family / extended family. I am sure these photographs would remind family members of the nice time we had during those trips and make them happy. I hope the followers of my blog would also find the photographs interesting. I shall write on Tirumala / Tirupati in more detail in my next few posts.

Friday, April 16, 2010

God bless!

Ever since the online booking for Sevas, Accommodation and Hundi offerings was launched by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams in 2002 the facility has functioned erratically and mostly never. In February 2002 when my niece got married; our family went to Tirumala and that is the only time when I could book online sixteen Archanananthara Darshanam tickets in advance. And after that in all these eight years it was never possible for me to book any e-Seva or e-Accommodation online. At all times the site simply stated that the quota is not released for any of the Sevas and accommodation or a message appeared stating that the site is temporarily down for maintenance.
With lot of publicity the website is re-launched on 6th April 2010. I checked the site and was thrilled to find it functioning well and immediately booked for Suprabatha Darshanam and accommodation in the third week of June. I preferred this time of June as the summer rush at the temple would have come down by then. I also made travel arrangements online immediately, which of course are hassle free since several years. Now we only have to pack for the pilgrimage. All this reservation accomplished from the comfort of the house makes me happy and makes me post this article.
Normally any personal interaction or correspondence with TTD staff is not a pleasant experience. Majority of the pilgrims share this view point. The pushing, jostling and abusive behavior by the staff even in the Sanctum sanctorum is an extension of this general TTD attitude. So this online arrangement is a very convenient way to avoid such people related problems. I have checked up the “” Site today and it is functioning very well. I hope it would do so in the future too. God bless the Site’s second innings.  

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Scorching summer sets a record … of much suffering.

This year we have touched 42.4 deg. Celsius at Hyderabad on 11th April itself, indicating a very hot and tough summer ahead. Normally the temperature peaks towards end April and lasts whole of May and until the rains in June. The above newspaper is reporting of this record temperature and of the health and other problems it is creating in the city. You may click on it to zoom-in and read.
Added to this inconvenience of summer there is acute electric power shortage in Andhra Pradesh. There is a staggered power cut of two hours, one hour each to all residential localities in the city. This situation is certainly boosting business for the suppliers of Power Inverters (Battery backup power supplies) and of Re-chargeable table fans from China. Most industries have two to three days power shut down. If these Industries do not have Diesel-Generator sets to generate their own power they are now rushing to buy them. Though this arrangement is not very economical to them they are left with no other option.
On 13th April and today 14th April the temperature was 42 deg. Celsius. Sometimes when we have a spell of few such hot days in summer it rains in the evenings bringing a lot of relief for that night. The next day of course would be sultry and messy. Longing for a weak summer and frequent rains in this season; I am sure is the top most wish among many in Hyderabad.
Someone said “Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is no such thing as bad weather or season, only different kinds of good weather” … he would not have spoken so softly and kindly about seasons had he experienced summer in Hyderabad.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Remembering my sojourn in Dhandakaranya.

The Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh is constantly in the news these days. This week on 6th April, at dawn, 76 members of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were ambushed and killed in this district by the Maoists (PLGA - People’s Liberation Guerilla Army). This tragic incident took place in the Mukrana forest, a part of the huge Dhandakaranya forest, close to Chintalnar and Mukram villages. Last year the Maoists who are also called as Naxalites killed 591 civilians and 317 Security personnel from their hideouts in these forests, in their so called war against the State.
Many years ago before Chhattisgarh State was formed and this area was under Madhya Pradesh I got an opportunity to spend three adventurous and memorable days in this part of the dense Dhandakaranya forest. The present Dantewada district was then a part of Bastar district. I went there at the invitation of my friend Anil Kumar Singh. My friend was working for a Contractor engaged in the business of buying trees from plantations grown by the Dhandakaranya Forest Development Corporation (DFDC) and converting the felled trees into Charcoal and transporting to the Navabharat Ferro Alloys factory in Paloncha town in the adjoining Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh. The Contractor had bought three plantations in auction in different and distant areas of South Bastar district and wanted my friend to explore and chose a central place to which the felled trees would be moved for conversion to Charcoal. And from this single conversion point the Charcoal would be transported to Paloncha. I joined my friend in this mission. We moved extensively by Jeep for three days in this dense forest between Marayagudem of AP & MP, Gollapalli, Kistaram and Konta of then MP State, a little south of Chintalnar where the above ghastly encounter took place.
The vast Dhandakaranya forest is spread over an area of 35,600 miles in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Orissa. In most areas we moved around using the rough mud passages; the forest was dense, with very tall trees and wild growth all around us. The shade of these trees was virtually creating a night like atmosphere for us and the sunlight was appearing as tiny stars through some gaps in the leaves of the trees. As we stopped here and there in the forest and the sound of the Jeep’s engine is silenced the occasional wild sounds of the jungle thrilled us. And the few refreshing and beautiful forest streams we came across and the wild fruits we could pluck and eat along the way are still good memories. In the nights, we stayed at the places of the Forest officers known to my friend. These resting or halting places were slightly larger villages but still a part of the forest. The presence and sounds of cattle, hen, birds, frogs and wild sounds from the forest around you as you are resting is a great and rewarding experience of such an expedition. Because of the hectic movement I had a good appetite at all times and we were well looked after in this regard by the friendly Forest Staff.
I wish this bloodshed will end soon and this area will once again become as serene and as peaceful as I had experienced it years ago.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Dhola-ri-Dhani, an ethnic Rajasthani Resort.

“Dhola-ri-Dhani” is an “Ethnic Rajasthani Village Resort” located just 14 Kms. from our house in Secunderabad. It is on National Highway 44 (old NH 7) that is on the way to Kompally and Medchal towns. It is a wonderful place to visit in the evenings for lots of entertainment, stay until late night and return home after a nice Rajasthani dinner. As you reach Dhola-ri-Dhani, an imposing entrance welcomes you. And inside this resort every bit is a classic setting, reflecting the rustic ambience, charm and culture of a Rajasthani village with lots of modern aspects and amenities. Once you enter the resort, you are far away from Hyderabad and in Rajasthan. The above photographs will give you an idea of this marvelous place.
One can enjoy camel rides, horse rides, puppet shows, magic shows, boat rides, Rajasthani folk songs and dances here. There is an amphitheater offering a variety of entertainment, a swimming pool and facilities for disco and rain dances. There are two vegetarian restaurants. The Maan Manuhar restaurant is a Royal Rajasthani Chowki styled dining hall where Rajasthani style sumptuous thali meals is served. Above this hall on the first floor is the well decorated Sangri restaurant serving ‘A la carte’. Apart from this there are a number of facilities and packages for conferences, picnics, birthday parties, kitty parties, banquet halls and so on. There are cottages for people planning to stay there for a day or more. There is a Rajasthani handicrafts market and even a Temple complex called Panch Deva Mandir.
We enjoy going to Dhola-ri-Dhani as often as possible. The above photographs are from some of our trips there.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Remembering, Moazzam Jahi Market!

The Moazzam Jahi Market has lost its old glory but it is still a very important land mark in Hyderabad. It is more commonly spelt as Mozamjahi Market. It is located at the center of the city at a very busy and important cross-road junction as you can see in the above Google map. Thousands and thousands of people pass by these roads every day. The Clock at the top of the Market’s main tower was very popular, but these days it is not functional. Newcomers to the city admire this construction as they pass by the adjoining roads. The market has few fruit shops, a huge vegetable shop, a number of grocery shops and other miscellaneous shops like perfume vendors, an eatery and even arms and ammunition shop but it is the Ice Cream shops here that are very popular all over the city. There are three Ice Cream shops here called Famous Ice Cream, Shah Ice Cream and Gafoor Ice Cream. They make large variety of Ice Creams; they are not very rich but fairly good and are served in very large portions at a very reasonable price. The rush at these shops in this season, that is in summer until late in the night is phenomenal. As in drive-in restaurants, orders for Ice Cream are promptly taken and executed as soon as you park your Car anywhere on the adjoining main roads of the market.
This imposing market was constructed using only granite stone in 1935 by the last ruler (Nizam) of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan. And it was named after his son Moazzam Jah. It was one of several projects taken up by the Nizam, for the beautification of Hyderabad city. 
The top most photographs show my granddaughter Sudhiksha feeding the pigeons at Mozamjahi Market. I circulated a few of these photographs by email to friends and relatives asking them where exactly this place which reminds of Trafalgar Square of London is in India and its name. Almost everyone answered correctly ….. Mozamjahi Market! Hyderabad.

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...