Monday, September 28, 2015

Our Weekend Vacation that coincided with World Tourism Day.

We just returned today evening – Monday, 28th September from an extended weekend vacation which coincided with World Tourism Day – 27th September 2015. We set out on Saturday, 26th September at dawn to be with nature…amidst hills, valleys and a dense forest full of birds and visit the ancient Temples there. The place is called Ananthagiri Hills and it is 85 kilometres from our house at Secunderabad. I shall write about this place and the Temples there in detail very soon with more interesting photographs and videos. In the meantime I decided to present some photographs of our trip through this brief post; to my son and nephew living abroad and to my blog followers and regular and random viewers.
I wish these photographs will give you an idea of this beautiful place.

Friday, September 25, 2015

About the Festival of Bakrid and Bakrid Greetings.

Today is the festival of Bakrid. The festival is also known as Eid-ul-Zuha or Eid-al-Adha which means the Eid (festival) of sacrifice. The festival is celebrated with great joy and fervor at Hyderabad as of course all over the world. However this year, yesterday’s stampede tragedy in Mina, Saudi Arabia, which has left 719 Hajj pilgrims dead and 863 injured would dampen the festive mood.
Before I write in detail about the festival of Bakrid, for those who do not know about it, I must say that I am deeply saddened by this huge stampede tragedy that has affected so many people, their families and friends from different parts of the world. Through this blog post, I wish to express my deepest condolences and heartfelt sympathies to the bereaved family members of the unfortunate victims and the injured people.
Despite this mammoth tragedy, normal life has to continue and the important festival of Bakrid has to be celebrated. So, Happy Bakrid, and here is information about the festival:
Bakrid is celebrated by the Muslim community on the 10th day of the Muslim month of Zul-Hijja. On this auspicious day, Muslims are supposed to sacrifice a goat and offer prayers at the mosque. There is an interesting story behind the celebration of this festival. It marks the spirit of sacrifice. This festival is in commemoration of Hazrat Ibrahim's great test of obedience to Allah. Once Hazrat Ibrahim saw a dream in which Allah ordered him to sacrifice his most precious thing. He kept seeing the dream for many days. Then he described the dream to his wife that Allah wants him to sacrifice his most precious thing. After much discussion, Hazrat Ibrahim and his wife decided to sacrifice their only son, Ismail for the sake of Allah because their son was most precious for both of them. Then he asked his son for his consent. Ismail readily agreed to be sacrificed for the sake of Allah. Hazrat Ibrahim was all set to sacrifice his son at the gallows. As he put the sword at his son's throat, Hazrat Ismail vanished and he was replaced by a sheep. Then there was a prophecy that Allah was only testing Hazrat Ibrahim's faith. He need not sacrifice his son and he could sacrifice a ram or a sheep instead. Hence, the festival of Bakrid or Eid-al-Adha came to be celebrated. There are a few guidelines regarding the sacrificed meat in Islam. According to the rules, the sacrificed meat is to be divided into three parts. The larger part of the meat is to be shared with all the poor and needy who cannot afford to have meat or a meal of the day. The two smaller parts are to be shared with friends, relatives and family. Eid-ul-Zuha is a time of celebration. People offer prayers at the mosque. The prayers can only be offered when the sun has completely risen. Women are also encouraged to attend the prayers however it is not compulsory. The distribution of the sacrificed meat among the poor is the most important part of the festival. This distribution is done to make sure that no impoverished person is left without an opportunity to partake the meat. Thus, Muslims celebrate Bakrid or Eid-al-Adha to mark the spirit of sacrifice. It is a time of great joy and lavish feasts and celebration of unity and brotherhood.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Surprise Birthday Party of my Sister – 2015.

My sister, Hemalatha’s 60th Birthday was four days ago on 17th September. This year her Birthday coincided with Vinyaka Chavithi Festival, so a Birthday Party they were planning for all of us could not be hosted on that day. Some of us met her on that day and conveyed our Birthday wishes and other well-wishers through various other communication means.
As my sister and brother-in-law where planning to host a party in the next few days and they were yet to decide on the date and venue, my nephew, Sridhar took over the responsibility and deliberately hinted to them of a celebration with few family members on Sunday – 20th September (that is yesterday) at some Resort. But secretly, unknown to them he invited us and the entire extended family for a grand day-long surprise party yesterday at Dream Valley Water Park Resort, Chilkur, Hyderabad. We all arrived at the venue much before the arrival of my sister’s family and went about exploring the resort. My nephew told his parents that there is a last minute change in the venue and brought them to Dream Valley Resort. As they entered the Resort premises we all assembled inside the Wood-house provided for us and surprised my sister the moment she opened the door to the hall, with our large presence and Birthday Wishes.
After the greetings and welcome drinks we enjoyed the water games of the Resort. And after a sumptuous lunch we played a number of party games with several prizes, which everyone liked. After a full day of entertainment we left the venue late in the evening after snacks and tea.

In the video at the top of this article you can witness the element of surprise! And the fun we had! However the party-games we played indoors are not recorded as all the cameramen and camerawomen you see in this video were busy playing and enjoying!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Sri Raghavendra Swamy Brindavanam, Mantralayam.

These photographs are from our recent visit to Brindavanam at Mantralayam, on 9th and 10th of September 2015. This article as usual is for friends and family to read, and more importantly for those who have not heard of this popular place of pilgrimage in South India, located at Mantralayam of Kurnool District in Andhra Pradesh. Brindavanam is the place where Sri Raghavendra Swamy (1595-1671) attained Jeeva Samadhi. Sri Raghavendra Swamy was a renowned Hindu saint, philosopher, Guru, musician, Veena player and a proponent of Dvaita philosophy established by Sri Madhavacharya. We were there to seek his blessings at his Brindavanam. Every day pilgrims visit this place in very large numbers from all over, especially South India, offer prayers and are blessed with his miraculous benevolence.
Sri Raghavendra Swamy was born as Venkatanatha to Kannada Brahmin parents, Sri Thimmanna Bhattu and Gopikamba in 1595, in the town of Bhuvanagiri in Tamil Nadu. He was named after Lord Venkateshwara Swamy of Tirumala and was fondly called as Venkatanatha and Venkanna Bhattu in his childhood and also as Venkatacharya. He was the third and youngest child of his parents, after a brother and sister named Gururajacharya and Venkatamba. Thimmanna Bhattu was a famous scholar proficient in the Vedas and Sastras and an accomplished player of the Veena. When Venkatanatha was five years old and began going to school, his father Thimmanna Bhattu took ill and expired. Then the responsibility of educating Venkatanatha fell on his elder brother Gururaja who found it very difficult to maintain his family. When Venkatanatha was eight years old Gururaja performed his Upanayanam with the help of donations from his community and sent him to Madurai to his brother-in-law, Lakshminarasimhacharya for imparting further education. Lakshminarasimhacharya felt it not only easy but a pleasure to teach his new ward as the latter was quick to learn. In a short time, Venkatanatha acquired mastery over the Vedas, the six Sastras and the eighteen Puranas and became unrivalled in scholarship.
After Sri Venkatanatha returned from Madurai in 1614, he was married to Saraswathi Bai and they were blessed with a son Lakshminarayanacharya in the same year. And then Venkatanatha and his family shifted to Kumbakonam, where he studied Dwaitha Vedanta, grammar and literary works under his Guru, Sri Sudheendra Theertha. Venkatanatha was already well versed in Bhashyas and consistently prevailed over renowned and reputed scholars, irrespective of the complexity of the debates. He was an ardent devotee of Sri Rama and Sri Hanuman. He spent a large part of his time in prayers and teaching Sanskrit and the ancient Vedic texts to children. He never demanded any money for his services.
While Venkatanatha’s life was spent in the worship of God and service to humanity, his spiritual Guru, Sri Sudheendra Theertharu was looking for a successor to his Mutt. Sri Sudheendra Theertharu had a dream where the Lord indicated that Venkatanatha would be the right person to succeed him as the pontiff. Sri Venkatanatha had to become a Sanyasi for this. He initially refused; due to his responsibility towards his young wife and son but was soon blessed by the Goddess of Learning, where she in a dream indicated that he was to seek salvation as a Sanyasi. Sri Venkatanatha treated this as an omen and changed his mind. The Sanyasa ordination took place in 1621 at Tanjore and he adopted the name of Raghavendra Theertha. His wife Smt. Saraswathi died soon afterwards and his son became his disciple.
Sri Raghavendra Theertha succeeded his Guru Sri Sudheendra Theertha as the head of Sri Mutt and served from 1621 to 1671. He traveled extensively all over South India expounding Madhavacharya’s Dvaita philosophy. He became a very popular Guru and there are a number of miracles and tales of his benevolence and his blessings from that period.
One such tale of miracle is of an illiterate sheep rancher, a devotee of Sri Raghavendra Swamy coming across the Nawab (King) of Adoni, Nawab Siddi Masud Khan and then miraculously becoming Diwaan of Adoni. Long after this incident Sri Raghavendra Swamy happened to meet the Nawab of Adoni and as a result of their interactions the king was impressed and became an ardent devotee of Sri Raghavendra Swamy. Out of respect and admiration the Nawab offered to give Swamiji any amount of land and wealth. Swamiji refused any such gifts for his personal gains; he asked for some land in Manchale – present day Mantralayam, on the banks of River Tungabhadra, to be handed over to his Mutt. Thus the Mutt moved to Mantralayam, from where Sri Raghavendra Swamy continued his spiritual journey. He performed penance at a place called Panchamukhi, near Mantralayam where he had darshan of Lord Hanuman in the form of Sri Panchamukha Hanuman – five headed Hanuman. At Mantralayam Sri Raghavendra Swamy encouraged Annadhanam (serving of food for free) to all devotees, which is followed to this day, since centuries!
In 1671 at the age of 76 years he decided to go into Jeeva Samadhi at Mantralayam. He had given an indication of this intention to his devotees much earlier. He waited to choose the exact time, which happened to be seconed day (Dwadashi) of Sravana Masam, Krishna Paksham in 1671. He offered prayers to Manchalamma, the presiding deity of Manchale – Mantralayam and sought her permission for his Jeeva Samadhi – Brindavana, and then at the Mutt he gave a soul-stirring speech to hundreds of devotees who had gathered to witness the event and he went into Samadhi.
For more Life details of Sri Raghavendra Swamy, his innumerable miracles in brief, during his lifetime and there afterwards, Brindavanam rituals and timings and of how to reach Mantralayam you may click on the following link:

Incredible Coincidence!

784533 - This is a number known to our family since 1980. It is a number we all had to remember then and even today, with of cou...