The featured Image and the picture below are the first glimpses of the Hemis Monastery ( building in yellow) which is discretely located and practically invisible till you are literally at it’s doorstep.
This picture was taken from the main courtyard of the Monastery where the Winter Hemis Festival is held annually in February.
It is only now I realize the colour yellow is from the silken banners.
Beautifully integrated into the landscape, the construction can be a lesson for modern architects.
The Hemis Monstery is located at a Height of 13000 feet and does leave you gasping for breath in awe.
The ARDH KUMBH at Haridwar takes place once in 6 years and millions express their faith by thronging the banks for a dip in the Holy Ganges.
Hindu Mythology states that the Holy Ganges descended from Heaven into the flowing locks of Lord Shiva ( see the picture below) , from where the Goddess Ganga gently flows onto Planet Earth via the Himalayas.
A larger than life statue of Lord Shiva blesses all the pilgrims who arrive at Haridwar ( Doorway to the Lord)
The Aarti ( Prayers) to the The Goddess Ganga is held every evening at Har Ki Pauri, ( At the the feet of the Lord) , Haridwar.
However this evening is special as it on the eve of an Auspicious day ( Mauni Amavasya) when a dip in the Ganges is considered extremely beneficial.
The Faithful assemble in thousands along the banks of the Holy River eagerly awaiting the Sun to Set and the Aarti to commence.
The River shimmers in anticipation and the perceptible religious fervour reaches a climax as the lights are turned on and first of the Lamps are Lit.
The heat from the lamps warms my cheeks as the flames from the Oil Lamps reach the Black Skies and the mammoth crowds sing in Unison in praise of the Goddess Ganga under a Moonless Sky .
Lo, Behold the magnificent AARTI at the Har Ki Pauri in Haridwar, Utrrakhand, India.
The Ardh Kumbh has commenced at Haridwar and will continue till April 2016. It is an experience of a lifetime I would not wish to miss.
The mammoth crowd magically disappears within minutes of the conclusion of the Aarti at Har Ki Pauri, leaving the River alone to reflect the lights of the temples.
There is a website you can access to see the Auspicious dates or you can go on any suitable day to behold the spectacle at Haridwar.
Do watch the Power of Faith during the Ardh Kumbh.
The India Art Fair is annually held in January at the NSIC grounds, Okhla in New Delhi.
It was an amazing opportunity to see some fabulous works of Art brought together under one Roof.
The threads that bind the four works of art selected by me for this blog are:
The Artists of all the paintings are Anonymous.
They are all almost 200 years old dating to the 19th Century.
All of them are expressions of Faith and reveal tales from Hindu Mythology.
The Colourful and detailed featured Image of Maa Durga ending the terror of the Rakshas ( Demon) Mahishasur portrays so many symbols and tales that it would take me years to understand and pen them down.
The large almond shaped eyes are a signature of the artists of Bengal and Maa Durga is portrayed as such to date.
The painting below beautifully illustrates Lord Shiva with his wife Parvati seated on their vehicle the Bull, Nandi. Mount Kailash in the the Himalayas is his fabled abode which is depicted in the picture below.
An unusual potrayal of Goddess Parvati depicted as Mother with her younger son Lord Ganesha.
The crown in the painting seems to be an influence from the Mughal Period and is repeated in all the pictures above as well.
Maa Durga is an incarnation of Goddess Paravati who assumes a Fierce and Powerful form armed with various weapons to end the Evil of the Demon Mahishasura.
Symbolism and Philosophy is deeply entrenched in all the depictions and portrayals in the paintings.
The painting of the Goddess Saraswati below is distinctively different from those above.
The headgear and attire are more in tune with depictions from Southern India. The style was made extremely popular by the famous artist Raja Ravi Verma from Travancore ( now in modern day Kerala).
The attention to detail is simply mind blowing as the Jewellery is visible through the extremely fine and translucent Saree that drapes the Goddess of Wisdom.
The Veena ( musical instrument in her hands) , the string of White Pearls and the Vedas ( Holy Books ) symbolize the Goddess of Fine Arts and Knowledge.
All the paintings show the fascinating minds of the Anonymous Artists who have unfortunately been lost in the Mists of Time.
Hidden in the midst of skyscrapers of this chic and upscale locality ( Malabar Hill ) in Mumbai (Bombay) is a well hidden secret, the holy Baanganga Tank.
Walking through narrow lanes you are transported back in time.The picture below showcases the ancient and the modern.
Within but a few hundred metres from the salty waters of the sea , the water of the tank is mysteriously sweet.
Embalmed in the fables of Ancient India , the history of the tank goes back to the time of the Ramayan ( the immortal Epic of India) ie. about 4000 BC.( time period is not ascertained to date , some fix it at 2500 BC) .
Within a few days of writing this post all of India will erupt into celebration and the story of the Ramayan will be reenacted across the length and breadth of this country.
In the quest for his consort Sita, Lord Rama and his brother Lakshman reach the top of the Malabar Hill at the site where the Baanganga tank now exists. Lord Rama asks his brother for water, who releases an arrow ( a baan in hindi) from his bow. The arrow releases the sweet water of the underground river Ganga, called Bhogvati.
The twin towers ( do not mix with the Lord of the Rings) are the entrance to the Baanganga tank. The towers reflect the unique architecture of the Marathas and are in fact oil lamps.
The Baanganaga tank is today part of the Walkeshwar Temple Complex.
It is today a site of pilgrimage and many immerse the ashes of the departed in the tank.
The area is extremely interesting as it tells the story of Mumbai and the various communities who inhabit this region even today.
An elderly lady looks out from the window of her terracotta tiled roof home,as pedestrians walk by the Peepal Tree little realizing they are walking through History.
Lord Rama created a Shivling from the sand of the Baanganga and offered his respects. Sand is called Waluk in the local language and Ishwar is God , hence the name Walkeshwar.
Many residents living in the posh Walkeshwar Area of Mumbai today are probably unaware of this legend.
A hen pays obeisance to Lord Shiva. ( Shivling in the centre)
The vast sweet water tank is now surrounded by skyscrapers all around.It is fed by an underwater stream.
Numerous priests were offering prayers around this vast tank during the time I took these pictures from my mobile.
Swans and ducks ( white specks in the picture below) swim gracefully near the trees.
The enormous Baanganga Tank in the heart of Mumbai
I strongly recommend a walk through these parts after reading about the History of Mumbai. A metal plaque at the entrance of the tank details the history and layout of the Baanganga region.
Thank you Vivek and Arpita for unraveling this secret destination.
There is another legend of the Baanganga in the Himalayas near the famous Vaishnodevi temple in Jammu & Kashmir. But that is another story…