Shanti jal

Shanti Jal – Peace Water
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The water taken from the spot where the worship of Divine Mother Sri Durga was done, known as Shanti Jal. This “Peace Water” is sprinkled on the devotees. Before sprinkling host of Peace Invocations are chanted. During sprinkling three times Peace is recited. And thus the holy Durga Puja comes to an end leaving joyous memories in the hearts of people.
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Durga! Durga!

Time sports…

Acharya Adi Shankara
Acharya Adi Shankara

Today I am completing one week in the soil of Singapore! I am exhilarated to learn that only yesterday as it were, that is on the 12th June in 1893 Swami Vivekananda stepped into this great city!  As Acharya Shankara says, “kaalah kreedati” Time sports in his famous Bhaja govindam– I find five months have gone by so swiftly after I left South Africa! The move from South Africa to Singapore was not on rosy petals! It had its own share of hiccups.

My last post was on 20th November 2014. Most of the readers of this blog knew that I was on the move on a pilgrimage tour of Ramakrishna centres in Europe. I left the shores of South Africa on the 30th December 2014 and landed in Belur Math on 14th February 2015.

The six-week sojourn before stepping back to India and again an eight-week post-arrival travels in South India were extremely hectic and I had no time to “sit and stare” at the computer!

Resumption

It was heartening to see that many devotees, in the meantime started enquiring about my resumption of posts. I just wondered from where to start! From the ‘bidai’ of SA or from the ‘shuruAt’ of Singapore where I landed on the 6th June 2015.

One devotee’s suggestion came in handy. He said that I should give some space for my travels so far. My travels were in the nature of pilgrimage and hence the wonderful feelings that I experienced in all those places and in all those I saw would be worth recounting. Be as it may, now let me begin from Durban where I was given “Durga, Durga” !

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Ma Durga image

I learnt to say “Durga, Durga!” after joining the Order by watching senior monks used to pronounce these two mystical words at the time of anyone’s departure. Later I found in Bengal this is customary. It appealed to me to say the name of the Divine Mother who protects every jiva than merely saying “bye, bye!” that lacks the spiritual import. Hence I taught the devotees in South Africa whichever branch I went, including children who fearlessly would say, at the time of my departure in loud voice “Durga, Durga!” .

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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