Art work on Anjaneya

Today is the first night of navaratri which is holy and auspicious to all Hindus. Here in SA, the Divine Mother Goddess Durga is worshipped in Her three aspects as Mahakaali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati, three nights each during this nine-day celebration. Not only Sri Ramakrishna kept in his room several pictures of Gods and Goddesses but also advised devotees to do so. “Divine feeling is awakened through such pictures” he said. Once he went all the way to see a home of a devotee, hearing that he had a large collection of religious pictures! You can also enjoy seeing one hundred ninety-nine ennobling pictures of Hindu Goddesses, one hundred twenty-seven of which especially on Durga at this Flickr site. The Lord of Durga – Neelakantha Shiva has eleven aspects that are called Rudras. The Shiva puraana speaks about the Eleventh Rudra who incarnates as Sri Hanuman. I am thankful to Simon Ram of UK who gave permission to place a rare picture of Hanumanji with Gauri-Shankar which you can find at the bottom of this post.

The drawing and a write-up on Visual Art Work that is displayed in a box down below, is by one 14 year old school student who regularly attends our Sunday School for Children. Presently this boy is schooling at Ladysmith High School and in Gr.9. His name is Yashteel Raj. He attends the Ramakrishna Centre – Ladysmith branch. He also enjoys reading and learning about Hindu religion through stories like the Ramayana, etc. Recently he wrote to me an email which I reproduce here:

Yashteel Raj of Ladysmith
Yashteel Raj from Ladysmith

Om Namo Narayanaya Swamiji

It was very good to see you on Saturday after such a long time.

I had to make an artwork about my culture this week and I was so inspired by your talk on Sri Hanumanji that I made a drawing of him carrying the Drona Mountain. I wanted to show you how it looks – I hope you like it.

Mom, Dad and Chiara also send their pranams.

Durga Durga

Yashteel Raj

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Yes, beta Yashteel, I  am immensely pleased to see your art work. Congrats! Indeed, your devotion to Sri Hanumanji has brought Hanumanji’s grace to you and you have excelled in it. May He bestow you the three essential things which Tulsidasji, in his mystical prayer hymn, demands from Sri Hanumanji – bala, budhi, vidya!

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Inspired drawing - an Art work on Anjaneya
Inspired drawing - an Art work on Anjaneya

Arts & Culture:

Visual Artwork Project

What is Culture?

Culture, as I understand it, is a word which describes an individual’s lifestyle. One’s culture is basically their way of life: their social and religious norms, cuisine, literature, and choice of music and art. Culture thus consists of person’s customs and traditions.

What is your Chosen Culture and

Why can it be defined as a Culture?

I have chosen to make my artwork about my own “hybrid” Hindu culture as it would be personal and I already know much about it.

My chosen culture can be described as a culture as it includes all of my social and religious norms. It consists of the food I eat (spicy) and governs, to an extent, the type of literature, art and music I come into contact with. It also consists of all of my customs and traditions.

My religion plays a very important part in my culture, so I chose to make an artwork which is relevant to it. My artistic talent lies in drawing; hence I chose to depict an event from the epic tale, the Ramayana, in this form. Here Lord Hanuman carries the huge Drona Mountain on his shoulders, from the Himalayas to Lanka, as it contains the rare sanjeevani herb required to heal Lakshmana.

What I found Difficult

I faced many difficulties while creating my artwork and tried to overcome them as best I could. These problems were:

  • My colouring was uneven and looked bad, so I “smudged” or “shaded”.
  • Some garments blocked vital muscles, so I made them semi-transparent.
  • I had some trouble drawing Hanuman’s hands and feet, but I got it right in the end.
  • Lord Hanuman’s ape-like mouth was hard to blend in to the face so I experimented with sfumato.
  • It was hardest for me to give texture to Lord Hanuman and the mountain. I tried utilizing tonal value to aid me in my plight.

What I Learnt and Enjoyed

  • I learnt how to draw another type of abdomen and six-pack, which stems from “Hercules-type” animation.
  • I discovered how to add tonal value to give texture and depth to an artwork.
  • Shading, in some cases, is more effective than colouring.
  • If you shade on differently textured surfaces, their texture will be implied on your artwork. This can be a easy way to create texture.
  • I enjoyed drawing Lord Hanuman and experimenting with different muscle-types and colours, etc.

Conclusion

I really liked making this artwork. Drawing is lots of fun and I really enjoyed expressing my culture in this form.

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Sri Hanumanji with Sri Gauri-Shankarji - a rare picture
Sri Hanumanji with Sri Gauri-Shankarji - a rare picture, Courtesy: Simon Ram, UK

Navaratri – II

Last Five days

Shrine at Pietermaritzburg Centre
Mother Durga at Pietermaritzburg Centre Shrine

Continued from Navaratri – I

On Sunday, the 5th October the car drive took just one hour to Escourt. The MahaGayatri temple, there, was tastefully decorated for the sixth night of Navaratri festival. The devotees of Estcourt included devotees of other Hindu organisations as well like Divine Life Society, Satya Sai Sangh etc . With common prayers the function started that included my sixth night Talks. Here I spoke on ‘Devi and Her Splendour’. The devotees would not let me go after supper as they all sat with me in the adjoining hall where till eleven past interesting discussions took place.

From Estcourt I reached Pietermaritzburg by midnight. How I wished the next day would go off quietly with sufficient rest! But Mother had other plans, it seemed. The almost continuous incoming telephonic or otherwise messages on the sixth October did not allow me to forget my birthday, which I badly wanted. And when the evening came, I was taken to Pietermaritzburg centre. The program on the seventh night pleasantly included, among the set pattern, extra two items of dance on the bharatanatyam style by two school girls who performed exceptionally well. Here being the seventh night of Navaratri which was inter alia the first night of worship of Mother Saraswati, I dwelt upon Mother Sarada as the embodiment and imparter of knowledge.

Next day, by seven in the morning I was back at HQ. At Nischalananda Hall arrangements for Chandi yajna or Durga Hawan have been made in a huge scale. The chanting of entire scripture of Durga Saptashati was done followed by hawan with the mantra – ‘Aum Aim Hrim Klim Chaamundaayai Vichhe’  which was joined by all the assembled devotees. Cooked prasad was distributed thereafter. On the same eighth night, to a packed audience at the Ramakrishna Temple I spoke on the Devi Mahatmyam. Especially the meaning of ‘Aim, Hrim and Klim’ bija mantras. 

Mother Durga at Chatsworth centre
Mother Durga at Chatsworth centre

On the ninth night of Navaratri, Chatsworth centre had my penultimate Talks during which I narrated the three interesting stories and their significance as contained in Sri Sri Chandi.

The morning of the tenth day at HQ started with silent meditation and a short satsang. This was joined by all other centres in around Durban. The Durga images from Asherville, Chatsworth and Pietermaritzburg by the time arrived at the HQ and all the images were carried to sea for immersion. After a brief visarjan puja the images one by one, were immersed which was witnessed by a huge assembly of devotees. While Mother’s clay image floated on the sea waters, the devotees felt Her luminous image remained in their hearts never to leave. In his blessings to all devotees, our Most Revered President Maharaj, Swami Atmasthanandaji quotes an incident from the Life of Swami Vijnanananda, one of the Direct Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna:

 
Shrine in the Ramakrishna Temple at HQ
Mother Durga at HQ Ramakrishna Temple

“Revered Vijnan Maharaj is staying at the Math. Everyday, the priest starts the worship after offering pranam to him. Vijnan Maharaj asks him, ‘What is next?’  The priest describes… On the day of Navami, Maharaj asked, ‘What is there tomorrow?’ The priest replied, ‘After a brief dashopachar puja (worship with ten articles) in the morning, there will be darpan-visarjan (immersion in the mirror). And in the evening there will be immersion of the image.’ Maharaj asked again, ‘Where will you immerse the Mother?’ The priest replied, ‘Why, in the Ganges?’ Maharaj asked again, ‘In the Ganges?’ The priest replied, ‘Yes Maharaj, as is the practice every year.’ He (Swami Vijnananandaji Maharaj) said solemnly, ‘Mother is to be immersed in the heart only’. ”
[The Life and Teachings of Swami Vijnanananda, p.32]

And Navaratri concluded in a grand and unforgettable way on the Vijaya dashami night with my Talks centering around Devi Saraswati during the night satsang.

Navaratri – I

First Five days

My Vijaya greetings to all of you! Trust by the grace of Divine Mother, the Durga Puja or Navaratri at your place, as usual, would have been a spiritually stimulating and enjoyable experience.

Mother Durga at Asherville Sarada Devi Ashram
Mother Durga at Asherville Sarada Devi Ashram

Here of course, Mother made me travel (felt blessed) all the centres in Northern Natal. I left HQ on the very first evening of Navaratri for Talks at Asherville where Sri Sarada Devi Ashram is situated. The vibrant atmosphere there enlivened my Talks on Durga and Her manifold Names.

Next day I reached Newcastle for the noon lunch. The Navaratri second night was spent there. The program there included Puja, bhajans and my Talks. ‘Mahakali – Her Aspects’ was my pet theme that I dwelt upon. After supper, the devotees of Newcastle sat with me when we had lively discussion on religious life. Next day individual appointments were granted to devotees from morning 8 to 11.

Mother Sarada at our Newcastle Centre
Mother Sarada at our Newcastle Centre

My third night stay was at Dundee. The program at the Dundee shrine which is indeed so beautiful was in the set pattern including my Talks. Here I took up the subject of ‘Grace of Kali’. Next day again from morning 8 to 11 devotees of Dundee met me in groups and we had lively discussion on interesting subjects. Albeit tucked away from the mainstream land, living as if in a seclusion, the devotees of Holy Trio have undeniably kept up the spirit of love and service. The keen interest that the growing children of Dundee devotees took during discussions eminently suggested to me that they are really ‘thirsty’ for the right kind of knowledge about Hinduism.

Mother Durga at Dundee Centre
Mother Durga at Dundee Centre

I reached Glencoe by noon. My thinking that I would have a quiet lunch was taken a back seat when I found that old devoted lady had invited almost all the devotees of Glencoe! The evening program was held at the only Hindu Temple wherein a big cut-out of Devi Amba was kept in front of the presiding five deities – Ganesha, Shiva, Murugan, Vishnu, Ram. Here also the usual satsang pattern was adopted that included my Talks on ‘Three Functions of Energy’.

Mother Durga at Glencoe
Mother Durga at Glencoe

The children and devotees of Glencoe were always fascinating to me as their faces would instantly light up with devotion unbelievably. The post supper discussion went on and on till we realised that the time was fifteen minutes to one in the night and I rose for the rest! Next day from morning 8 to 11 the devotees and their children from Glencoe as well as Dundee assembled. The discussion continued till I got ready for departure for Ladysmith. They saw me off; and the parting was indeed so heart-rending especially when the children could not contain their tears!

Shrine of Ladysmith Centre
Shrine of Ladysmith Centre

Reached Ladysmith for the lunch. Selected devotees were there who all joined me in the sumptuous lunch that was served lovingly to all of us. Post-afternoon rest, I was taken to Ladysmith Centre where a strikingly enchanting shrine is there. Here also the usual pattern of satsang was followed with my Talks juxtaposed in between the items of program on the fifth night. ‘Mother’s Protection’ was the theme I chose to deal with. About 250 devotees who attended were served with supper in the nearby Civic Hall. Next day morning I went to the Centre where the Sunday School for children was in progress. I met all the different class students from kids level to adult level. I felt satisfied in witnessing the loving efforts put up by the voluntary teachers in imparting the cherished Hindu values through study of religious books.

Continued…