Raghuraman

~ Reflections of my inner self ~

Archive for the ‘Indian Culture’ Category

Pranic Healing and Yoga

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Our life styles are changing as we attempt to adopt and change ourselves to be in tune with
technology and science. In the process, unknowingly or knowingly, we are neglecting our health.
Issues are often caused by sedentary life styles, imbalanced diet, limited exercise or no time allotted for one’s self. This is a concern now for all age groups from school-going youngsters to senior citizens. Stress, tension and the pressures of daily existence can be remedied with allopath pain relievers instantly, though the problems can surface again after a few days or sometimes can lie hidden to surface later in life.

Pranic healing and yoga have emerged successfully in our search for an effective alternative with no
side effects and can provide lasting cures. Pranic healing is an ancient science and art that utilises
the prana of life energy to heal the whole of the physical body. It involves manipulation of prana
and the bio plasma matter of the patient’s body. The life energy, or prana, is utilised to accelerate
the healing process by increasing the rate of bio chemical reactions involved in the natural healing
process. The benefits are many. It can help to give relief from headaches, gas problems, toothache,
muscle and joint pains, cough, cold, loose bowl movements and so on. Cures can be obtained in
matter of a few minutes.

After a course in pranic healing the patient is taught the practices of yoga to sustain the benefits
over a long time. We are equipped and prepared to face the rigours of the day. Yoga is based on
the belief that the body and breathing are intimately connected with the mind. It balances and
harmonises the body, mind and emotions. It is used as a tool to withdraw from the chaos of the
world to find total peace and quietitude.It reduces the recovery time from illness and helps to
develop a stress free mind which is calm and composed all the time. The benefits include increased
flexibility and energy, better coordination and a reduction of fatigue, to give a cheerful healthy life.

Dr Chandra Swaminathan realised the benefits and potentials of these two practices to provide
basic self-support to all in need and has equipped herself with the knowledge and practice over the
last two decades. She has helped many to recover from acute and sub acute problems. Chandra
provides one to one sessions, in most cases teaching the students in her centre at Chennai. As a
nutrition expert she modifies diet patterns to support a speedy recovery from illness. Chandra
says ‘Starving is no solution, but balanced foods are the answer”. She also recommends fresh fruits
and plenty of vegetables in balanced proportions in addition to small quantities of dry nuts like
almonds, badam, peanuts and walnuts every day. She emphasises to maintain correct fluid balances
with a minimum of 6-8 glasses of water every day in addition to fresh fruit juices.

People come to her from various age groups. School going children come with common issues such
as problems of cold, cough, wheezing and lack of concentration over weight issues. Women of
middle age come with problems of tension and stress, body pain and blood pressure and vertigo.
IT professionals commonly have problems pain in the neck, shoulder and back, lack of sleep and
appetite issues. Senior citizens come with headaches, body pain, joint pain, poor coordination and
reduced appetite. Dr Chandra evaluates each case and prepares a program for relief and recovery.
The success rate is so high that her services are sought after by many. This has been possible
because of her commitment to the cause and her sincere dedicated efforts. Her weekly program has a minimum of 30 sessions with patients. Dr Chandra’s motto is to bring cheer and smiles back to patients’ lives and this she does extremely well. She advises a routine of early morning walks followed by a session of 30 minutes of yoga every day. She says start living for yourselves, take care of your body and the body will take care of you. Dr Chandra can reached through email here.

Written by admin

June 3rd, 2012 at 12:28 am

Posted in Health, Indian Culture

Ration shop experiences

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RATION SHOP EXPERINCES
Rice, Wheat, Dhal, oils, sugar and kerosene are some of the items offered through ration shops operated by the government all over the state of Tamil Nadu for eligible ration card holders every month. Among these items Rice up to 20 Kilograms is offered free of cost, while the other items are on a subsidised price which is up to 20- 30 percent lower compared to marked prices. It is an immensely popular scheme among the strata of lower and middle income groups as the quality of the products are fairly good and we are not at the mercy of black marketers who hoard the items during short supply phase or jack up the prices as they please.
I have some very special reasons as to why I go and collect my ration every month even though it means some hard ships in commuting, waiting etc. It the happiness I get when I see joy and cheer in the faces of other ration receivers .The fact is a family of four can collect most of their food requirements by spending less than Rs 500/ and they can two square meals a day, not having to depend on anything else, the only other need being vegetables and cooking gas or kerosene stoves which they have. They collect their allotments happily and with the help of their family members and friends carry these full bags to their home. I see their children and sometimes working men coming along to assist the wives or elderly mother and fathers and there are no words to describe the feeling reflected in their faces.
I have evolved my own way of redistributing the goodies I get. While we keep only 25 percent of the rice and some dhal the rest is given away to the staff /maids/security of our apartment in rotation .I am happy that I am able to do this for them without their asking for the same. I believe firmly that we all have a responsibility to do all we can to bring cheer and joy in the lives of others around us, apart from our own family members. We have to give back to the society a percentage of all we have back to society which has helped us to earn it. The joy of giving without any fan fare / promotion is very special because it is this act which can give real inner peace and joy. Above all we have to be grateful to the Almighty who has empowered us to do these things. We should never ever forget all the have-nots who suffer wanting food, clothing and shelter and health. We should keep doing whatever we can within our capacity and ability, whenever we can where ever we are. I would go one step further and add all living forms-plants and animals also in this list, for we as human beings are the chosen ones who have this added responsibility also entrusted upon us .We will then be on the road to realise and experience a great treasure –the treasure of pure joy, happiness and peace unlimted.After all what is a life without a purpose and what is a purpose without your living and experiencing it .So go ahead for Sky is the limit!!

Rice, Wheat, Dhal, oils, sugar and kerosene are some of the items offered through ration shops operated by the government all over the state of Tamil Nadu for eligible ration card holders every month. Among these items Rice up to 20 Kilograms is offered free of cost, while the other items are on a subsidised price which is up to 20- 30 percent lower when compared to market prices. It is an immensely popular scheme among the strata of lower and middle income groups as the quality of the products are fairly good and we are not at the mercy of black marketers who hoard the items during short supply or jack up the prices as they please.

I have some very special reasons as to why I go and collect my ration every month even though it means some hard ships in commuting and waiting. It’s the happiness I get when I see joy and cheer in the faces of other ration receivers. The fact is a family of four can collect most of their food requirements by spending less than Rs 500 and they can get two square meals a day, not having to depend on anything else, the only other need being vegetables and cooking gas or kerosene stoves which they have. They collect their allotments happily and with the help of their family members and friends carry these full bags to their home. I see their children and sometimes working men coming along to assist the wives or elderly mother and fathers and there are no words to describe the feeling reflected in their faces.

I have evolved my own way of redistributing the goodies I get. While we keep only 25 percent of the rice and some dhal the rest is given away to the staff /maids/security of our apartment in rotation. I am happy that I am able to do this for them without their asking for the same. I believe firmly that we all have a responsibility to do all we can to bring cheer and joy in the lives of others around us, apart from our own family members. We have to give back to the society a percentage of all we have back to society which has helped us to earn it. The joy of giving without any fan fare or promotion is very special because it is this act which can give real inner peace and joy. Above all we have to be grateful to the Almighty who has empowered us to do these things. We should never ever forget all the have-nots who suffer wanting food, clothing and shelter and health. We should keep doing whatever we can within our capacity and ability, whenever we can where ever we are. I would go one step further and add all living forms-plants and animals also in this list, for we as human beings are the chosen ones who have this added responsibility also entrusted upon us. We will then be on the road to realise and experience a great treasure – the treasure of pure joy, happiness and peace unlimited. After all what is a life without a purpose and what is a purpose without your living and experiencing it. So go ahead for sky is the limit.

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December 27th, 2011 at 1:42 am

Posted in Indian Culture

Feathered friends

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We have many birds who make their attendence every day from all three open directions in our flat.

In the kitchen window southern side we have kept few earthen pots for grains, cooked Rice, crunchies/Murukku and water. Crows and pigeons come for their fill. While crows prefer Rice, crunchies, Idli/Chappathi/Bread, it is Ragi/Thenai grains for pigeons. The male  pigeons always manage to bring in one or two new  girl friends and they all eat very systematically like a military drill and polish every grain. I also notice that they do a prayer and pradashanam to lord for their daily meal. A very good habbit!

The Mynas occupy the southern bedroom space above the Air Conditioner cover and below the concrete rain barrier. They bring in thier own food and all kinds of dry material for their nest which they build as a team of two with the males doing all the work, and the female bird ordering/making all the noise till she is satisfied.

The Sparrows build their nests in the bamboo sunshade we have put in the western balcony. They are very active between September and March. Very hard workers, keeping their beak sharply polished for use at all times. Protecive of their offsprings, they manage to get some food for them and feed them first and sing happily afterwards.

The Pigeons come on the northen side of my bed room window above the Air Conditioner. They create a racket with their kur kur kur in the wrong time of the afternoon when I try to get some shut eye. They manage to get all wooden pieces, straw and dry matter to build a tightly knitted nest. Like a good samaritan I permit then to a certain extent. What to do Geetha will not permit me to drive them away.

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December 21st, 2011 at 11:19 am

Posted in Indian Culture

Looking for the right answers

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When we reflect and look back, we may ask some candid questions like “is there such a thing called an ideal life? and if so, how does one attain it?”. If destiny is in our hands how does one logically explain the events that happen in our lives?

The path we have travelled is evidence enough to show that destiny is not in one’s hand. It would seem that some super power was (and is) orchestrating each and every event in our lives. If you try to analyze and quantify how much of what happened was within your control then we can possibly see it clearly.

Many of our attempts and actions to change the course of things may not come through the way we would have wanted. We surrender and accept the presence of a higher power, unseen but existing. We accept that delay is not denial and patiently wait for the right time to come. Till this, we can at best accept the fact that a life of human birth is given to us to live a life of peace, compassion and a strong willingness to support and help the needy (human, animal and plant life).

When change happens we also see and realize that it makes an amazing, fantastic difference to our lives. The resultant satisfaction is immense and unimaginable. These things also happen at the least expected moments. What resulted ultimately may be beyond logic or rational thinking. Is it all then a matter of destiny? Answers to such questions can come when we search within ourselves. Peace and salvation can be our creation. Yoga and meditation help achieve these with single minded devotion and pursuit.

If material prosperity is considered as the only yardstick for happiness, then at some stage we will realize money alone does not provide all the answers. Whilst money and wealth are a necessity to support us and our family, the real satisfaction of having money comes only in the right earning and giving. We need to instill a quality to give a proportion of the earnings back to the pillars which supported you to achieve it. We are also duty bound to give back a portion back to the society which helped you to earn it. We then graduate to the next stage.

We need to accept the fact that there is a soul in every living form and all our offers of help and support should be extended with love and humility. We will then realize the true meaning and significance of charity. We then become thankful to the Almighty who has bestowed us with the ability and means to support the needy. Under these circumstances, de-linking all material achievements from happiness do not seem realistic or correct.

Going to pilgrimage and travelling to different places of worship, shrines and sacred locations does give one joy. We enjoy meeting, learning and knowing from several enlightened souls. Vibrant chanting of bajans can give us a freedom feeling and a sense of joy. We live and enjoy the moment and enjoy reflecting on it later.

There is nothing called total peace or salvation. It is a state of mind. It is said that in an average human mind over 50,000 thoughts and emotions come and go each day. Just let them be, do not engage them, especially the disturbing negative ones. Never recognise or get difficult with them. They will go just as they came. Look at the mind like an ocean, and the rise and fall of waves as the thoughts and emotions of the mind. The ocean is not disturbed by them. Similarly our mind can slip away from the thought faster than you have realised its departure. We take trouble to keep in shape with exercise and visits to the gym, spending considerable time and money so why not consider some time for the wellness of our minds too? An approach to tone both body and mind will be in everyone’s interest. Dedicate all the goodness that accrue from this to your dear and near ones, your teacher, your elderly and those to which you are indebted to in your life.

Peace, love and joy can be your creation to become part of you, for you and for others around you.

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June 1st, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Posted in General, Indian Culture

Touching the Earth: A Yogic Practice

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I acknowledge with thanks the writer Thich Nhat Hanh for the following inspiring information

There is a practice evolved from Buddhism called “Touching the Earth”. This yogic procedure helps us to realize our wish to generate love, compassion, joy and equanimity. During the practice we touch the earth deeply 6 times. We touch the earth with our forehead, legs and hands. Our mind and body forms a perfect whole. We surrender our pride, notions of fear, resentments and even hopes and enter the world of things as they are. We thereby return to our own source of wisdom and we are no longer separate from the mother Earth.

We join our palms and bow in 10 directions: east, west, south, north, north east, north west, south east, south west, above, below and an eleventh direction- within.

During the 6 earth touching we follow a procedure. In the first we look deeply within. In the second we see the connection between ourselves and other living beings, including those who live around us. By the fifth earth touching we are able to feel true love for the people we have disliked. All hatred and anger will disappear and we only want the person whom we hated to enjoy happiness and peace.

We are able to reach that point because we are able to love ourselves. So touching the earth and involving ourselves in the six meditations generates in us deep love, affection and acceptance. When we are able to love a person who made us miserable we realize what a miracle love is.

The closer you lie against the Earth, melting in to the Earth, the better you become nothing in order to become everything.

After practicing touching the earth for two or three months, you will feel deeply refreshed, strong and healthy. You will love life and be able to smile because the energies of hatred and ill will in you will have greatly diminished to enrich and elevate yourself.

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September 6th, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Posted in General, Health, Indian Culture

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Hindu Marriage: Tradition and Rationale

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The tenets of the Hindu marriage, its conduct, procedures and styles are explicitly laid down in the Vedas. The Hindu wedding is a balanced blending of religion, morality, culture and joy, making it a memorable event. The Vedic rituals solemnise the marriage while indoctrinating the specified duties of the couple through life. The rituals are symbolic of beautiful and noble sentiments.

The following lines go some way to explaining the significance of this important ritual:

GANAPATHI POOJA: The God of initiation is invoked first to keep away all impediments and for a smooth conduct of proceedings. This is followed by Navagra pooja.

VRATHAM: This is performed with invocations to various Gods: Indra, Soma, Chandra, Agni, with a vow to uphold values. This is followed by Kasi yatra.

VAKKKU NICHAY MUHURTHAM: The bride’s father and groom’s father solemnize the final betrothal ceremony.

This is followed by exchanging of garlands to symbolize the union of bride and groom. Then there is OONJAL, PAALIKAI SEEDS SOWING CEREMONY, VARA PUJA and Kanya Dhanam (father gives the bride to the groom). The bride will now wear an exclusive KOORAI sari with a belt of reed grass. Mantras and thanks giving hymns are chanted to deities. The father gets a word of assurance from the groom three times!

MANGALYA DHARANAM: Timed to the auspicious hour, the tying of Managala sutra (also called thali), with a back ground of loud Nadaswaram (called ketty molam), ladies sing the popular GOWRI KALYANA VAIBHOVAMAY. Three knots are tied: one by the groom and the remaining two knots by his sister, thereby welcoming the bride to the family.

This is followed by Pani grahanam and sapthapathi. This is walking seven steps around the fire while mantras are chanted. It is a confirmation of friendship, love, strength and, taste to live together inseparable for rest of their lives.

PRADHANA HOMAM: Homage paid by the couple to Agni, the fire GOD, a prime witness to the marriage. Then comes a treading on the grind stone, showing the star arundhathi (embodiment of an ideal wife and chastity), next LAJJJA HOMAM (brides offering to sacrificial fire) followed by AARATHI.

SHOWERING OF AKSHADAI: All elders and invitees bless the couple for their health, wealth, peace, love, joy and happiness.

Written by Raghuraman

July 2nd, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Posted in Hinduism, Indian Culture

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Spiritual Experiences: Haridwar and Rishikesh

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A train journey of about 42 hours, covering 5 states, took us north from Chennai to Haridwar. Rishikesh is one hour from Haridwar and further up is the Capital of Utterkand State: Dehradun. Delhi is a further 4 hour drive from Haridwar. Both Rishikesh and Haridwar are border areas and entry points for the famous Pilgrim yatra to Kedarnath and Badrinath. The river Ganga, originating from Gangaothri, flows through these towns which makes these places serene and much sought after tourist holy destinations. Ganga is worshipped as a provider, supporter and caring mother. The perennial flowing river calms down our agitated minds to elevate us to a state of peace and tranquility. The holy waters are carried back home and distributed to near and dear ones.

Many spiritual leaders have settled down here on the banks of the Ganga to establish centres of learning, Ashrams. There is Chinmaya ashram, Swami Sivanandha ashram, Swami Dyanandha Ashram, Pathajali Ashram and up to fifteen more. These are residential campuses wherein disciples of masters continue the great work. They are today centres of culture and tradition. Accommodation is offered to visitors but one needs to book in advance as there is a waiting list year round.

The towns are full of small narrow by lanes. Mostly three-wheelers run on these roads alongside cycle rickshaws. Everywhere we can witness a clean environment and simple lifestyles. Vegetarian food is available in road side eateries called Dhabas who offer fresh hot rotis, dhall and vegetables at unbelievable low prices (attracting every tourist). The local population is made of mostly shop keepers, traders and artisans. They sell products and wares to the tourists who come here almost every month excluding the rainy season. Being a tourist location there are many tourist/taxi operators and hotels on the river front catering to various budgets.

We had requested accommodation at Swami Dyanada Ashram and we were very happy to get our confirmation for a weeks stay. The Ashram is housed in an area of 5 acre of land in plenty of greenery with over 5 residential blocks and 250 rooms. There is a prayer/mediation hall, a beautiful temple on the banks of river, a dining room (to seat over 300) Visitors are treated with access to a very good library having an excellent collection of sacred old books in Sanskrit, Hindi and English which are available on CDs and DVDs. There is a lovely shop selling books written By Swami Dyanadha with lectures available on CDs and DVDs. There are also rudraksha malas, special chains rings made of 5 metals, wall hangings, useful items for a prayer room, wall decorations and a host of other unique items.

Our day starts at 4 am to go and attend temple pooja in the ashram temple right located in front of the river Ganga. Besides the main deity Siva, there are smaller temples for Ganapathy, Adisankaa, Hanuman and Jyothir lingams. It is a beautiful, white marble structure very clean and very well maintained with poojas and chanting performed in the traditional style.

We are given an early break fast so that we can attend the lectures and classes conducted by teachers in the ashram. After lunch we have free time for interactive sessions, library, reading or personal work. We then go for a river bath in Ganga (ice cold water flows even at 4 pm)- no soap, oil, or shampoo and all one needs is a towel and a change of clothes. The river is so pure and Divine, an ideal location for prayer and meditation, and generally reflect upon oneself in total silence. Many offer obeisance for departed souls in the family. We attend an evening prayers session by 6.30 pm and a special aarthi on the river front for matha Ganga. We participate with awe, admiration and total surrender. After an early simple dinner we retire, not before a stroll in the green woods and cool gardens full of flowering shrubs.

We made trips to the hill temple of Neelakanda Mahadev housing a beautiful swayamboo lingam of Siva. We are allowed to perform abisheham ourselves with milk and holy waters. It is said a visit to this temple is a cure for illness and a salvation for our misdeeds. We also visited the Ram and Lakshman Jula at Haridhwar for a feel of Haridwar which is known for temples and its markets. We also attended the famous Ganga Aathi at Triveni ghat, a great sight and a evening to remember all our lives. We  joined a special group and were allotted a priest to our aarthi, for our family, and received Prasad afterwards. A very satisfying experience.

Days quickly flew by and by Thursday evening we prepared for our next halting place, Haridwar, not before offering our grateful thank you and gratitude to members of the ashram. As customary we offered a donation to cover our stay and food and liberal tips to service staff (over 30 people) that made our stay a very pleasant experience.

We had booked our stay at Haridwar in Hotel Basera, which has a central location very close to the railway station. We had the the good fortune to get a car arranged through a contact of ours- Sekar from Delhi. Our driver knew all the local places and was very efficient in organizing smooth and hassle free visits to all locations. In addition to a repeat visit to Ram and lakshman jula areas, we went to the hill temples Manasa devi and Chandi devi. The route up is through cable cars, well organised by the management, a car comes every two minutes which can house four people  and takes 15 minutes to reach the top. Good Darsan and prayers to mother Kali, a little bit of shopping and we are back. The view all along was wonderful and we also witnessed the Aarthi at Hariki Pouri Ghat. We were fortunate to get in to the VIP darsan area through our drivers contacts! The view of 7 big Aartis being performed for the river Ganga was a thrilling sight to see with background chanting of Ganga matha slogas.

One afternoon we went for a bath in a very special ghat reserved for state VIPs, a very private and exclusive affair! As per our plan we spent an afternoon at Baba Ramdev centre, consulting doctors and getting tips and advice with general ayurvedic medicine.  It is a very well organised set up and the consultation was free.

We bade goodbye to our driver with farewell gifts and generous tips. A special gift and Prasad was packed and conveyed through our driver to our sponsor.

The third day was kept for local shopping and preparation for our final packing for our return trip next morning. We had three more bags full of gifts and ganga water for our friends back home! Our camera is full of photos and we transferred the pictures to CDs. The trip was extremely worthwhile with some of the experiences being beyond words to describe. We are grateful to the Almighty for his help, guidance and direction. A very special thank you is in order for our kind hearted and caring sons Vivek and Arjun, with whose support this trip was possible. An experience which will stay with us for a long time to come .

We boarded the train back to Chennai after 3 hectic days at Haridwar. The hotel people had packed us plenty of food to keep us going for one day and we relied on the dining car for the second day of the journey. We travelled home content with three more pieces of luggage full of giftsand ganga water for our friends together with two CDs full of photos and memories.

Written by Raghuraman

July 2nd, 2009 at 8:45 pm

Posted in Hinduism, Indian Culture

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Recharge yourself with meditation

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Murphy’s Law says if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. Every time we solve one problem a new one springs up. This is a common, normal experience for all of us. Maybe no one can escape this or be free of problems. However, the least we can do is to ensure that we do not fret and worry about them. The pressure of life is so great that any stresses will affect us physically and emotionally.

The solution is not to succumb to our frustrations by fighting back or running away from them. Those reactions can create still more problems for us in our relationships. We therefore need to find an acceptable alternative solution to defuse tensions. Meditation is one way to counter stress, as it is a process by which we can experience higher spiritual realms. Meditation helps by bringing physical relaxation and it also puts us in a state where we are absorbed in an enjoyable, blissful experience and become oblivious to the problems of the outer world.

We select a pose in which we can remain calm and quiet. By focusing our attention on a point between and behind the two eye brows, we withdraw our attention from the outer body. The body then becomes as relaxed as it is in sleep and the mind is free to go in search of realms with in. With this inner support we can then face our problems with a clear mind and find solutions. We are able to make more rational decisions because we see life from a higher angle of vision. We feel less stressed as we remain calm, which in turn relaxes the body, and thus our chances of stress related illness decrease.

It is possible that as you sit in meditation all sorts of turbulent thoughts will come to your mind. This happens because of the deep rooted tendency of the mind to dwell up on worldly objects. To counteract this a point of focus will come to the rescue. The panchakshari Om Namah Shivaya mantra will induce seekers into deep meditation. The five syllables are the bij-aksharas or seed letters of the five elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether of which our body is made. Constant repetition of these holy syllables, either verbally or mentally, generates powerful spiritual vibrations, that will render the mind pure and one pointed. This leads to awakening of the kundalini, the spiritual energy that lies dormant at the base of the spine, the muladar, in each individual.

As you progress in meditation you will come to experience a sublime state, which will lead you to realise your inner most self, the abode of eternal consciousness.

We can meditate at any time of the day. We can begin our day with meditation, also end the day with meditation, during travel, during office lunch breaks, or immediately after returning home from a hard day’s work. We can overcome life’s stresses and strains and discover the key to relaxation and tranquility.

Written by Raghuraman

October 26th, 2008 at 3:46 pm

Reflections of a holiday in Ooty, Coonor and Coimbatore

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“Every night as you go to sleep, your vision doesn’t sleep, your goals don’t sleep, your aspirations don’t sleep, your world doesn’t sleep. The power to make your dreams a reality is in your own hands. Make your move first and he will do the rest for you!”

Since January we had been thinking of going away for a long holiday for rest and quiet away from life’s routines. Considering the hot weather in Chennai from April to June, the preferred location was any nearby hill station with an elevation of over 4000 feet. Our inner mind also craved to complete the much aspired trips to family temples near Coimbatore. That settled it and Nilagiris was the choice.

With support and encouragement from Vivek, Vaishnavi, Arjuna and family friend Jaya, we planned an itinerary for two weeks. From then onwards the rest was only a question of preparation and execution which was fairly easy compared to earlier bridges we have had to cross!

We all have some favorite trains and mine happens to be the Nilagiri blue mountain train running between Chennai and Ooty. We instead drove from Mettupalayam as the hill train was cancelled (a small disappointment). However, the road trip was equally enjoyable with the comfort of breathing the wonderful smell of Eucalyptus as we started climbing through the hairpin bends, appreciating the special signals of our driver to other bus, car and lorry drivers- a very courteous lot!

We halted for an hour near a waterfall for breakfast and continued via Coonoor to reach Ooty. We stopped to buy some fresh vegetable and fruits from the city market enroute and then by lunchtime we checked in to the resort in the lovely Elk hills above the lake. A comfortable room with good furnishings facing the town, a small compact kitchen with all utilities: oven, fridge, utensils, shelves and wash basin. Geetha was quick to unpack and lost no time in busying herself in the kitchenette (as she had come well prepared from Chennai). A menu of Pongal, Sambar and Salad was ready in no time and was the first of very enjoyable meals.

In the early afternoon we went to the botanical gardens (formerly the Royal Botanical gardens) to see the galaxy of flowering plants and lovely decorations for the annual flower show which was scheduled in two days time. We saw vibrant salvia, asters, marygolds, dahlia, anthuriam, hoyhocks, roses, antirinum, sweetpeas, and button roses. We walked down to the Tibetan shops to buy sweaters and scarves (they sell good quality at reasonable prices) and on to commercial road to buy Amma’s favorite homemade chocolates and essential medicated oils. The air became cooler around 4 pm and so we enjoyed a hot cup of Nilagiri tea and biscuits.

During the following days we established a routine of morning walks, trips to Ramakrishna center for prayers and meditation and visits to selected tourist spots in the afternoon. We enjoyed the trips to the rose garden, wax museum, boat house near the lake, chellarams and flower shows. We also browsed and shopped in supermarkets, department stores, modern stores and the shops run by tribal-toddas. Lunch was had out in the Marwari hotel (good, simple food). We could watch the IPL 20 matches in our room and participated in games organised by resort people. We enjoyed a trip to a tea factory to see the process of tea manufacture, buy their special tea packets and joined in a group trip to viewpoints like the Pykkara hydro project. We regularly visited a nearby temple of Vinayaka, Durga, Amma, Navagraha and the hill God Muneeswarar to pray for the success of Arjuna’s Graduation, the winding up from Virginia, safe travel and settlement in Texas and the safe return of Vivek and Cathy to London. The regular feedback we received from Arjun kept us in a peaceful and happy frame of mind. God answered our prayers and we were proud of the role played by all members of the team. Good show!

We said good bye to Ooty on the morning of the seventh day and arrived in Coonor to check in to Hotel Vivek by midday. Here we had to evolve a different routine as there was no facility for cooking. The hotel was in upper Coonoor overlooking a tea estate, fairly close to Sims park and the market area, Bedford circle. The changes unfortunately gave a sore throat for myself and indigestion for Geetha. However with the help of a nice Lady doctor (Dr Chitra Devi originally from Coimbatore) we managed to get the correct diagnosis and medication.

Coonoor is a nice compact place, milder in climate compared to Ooty, a calm, quiet town surrounded by tea estates. It has many famous landmarks like the military academy, Madras regimental centre, needle factory, Ketty valley, Sims horticultural park, boarding schools and shopping malls selling hill products. We spent a lot of time walking around Bedford Circle and Sims park. We also managed a visit to Ketty valley to see a real-estate development covering over 30 acres, where a promoter from Bangalore was developing a layout and selling housing plots from 10 cents (one “cent” is 432 sq feet) to 20,30 and 50 cents. The site is 5 to 6 kilometres from Coonoor (midway between Coonoor and Ooty). The cost and registration of a 10 cent plot comes to 19 lacs and with the construction of a 1000 sq feet house it would come to 32 lacs! Unfortunately this costing does not fit with this writer’s dreams. The vision was to have nice big house in such a hill station in 4-5 acres of wooded land facing a valley. However, some day it will certainly happen!

After 5 lovely days in Coonoor we drove down to Coimbatore to check in at Hotel Sri Lakshmi at Gandhipuram. We had a 3 day plan here which included: a trip to Palakad Manapully Bagavathy temple, a trip to Marudamalai Muruga temple, Saibaba temple, Danavathri temple at Kottakal ayurvedic centre and a trip to Isayoga centre at Vellingiri hill. We managed all the trips very well with help from my friend at Coimbatore, Dr Raghunath, and concluded the visit by boarding the train to Chennai as per schedule. It was very satisfying to be able to thank God in our favorite temples for his support, help, directions and blessings to members of the family: TVR, Geetha, Penny and Bill.

Back at home we settled in immediately, but took a week to get adjusted to the weather! However, it’s a fact of life so no use complaining about it. We surprised our friends with gift packets and showed them the photos. They were happy for us and hoped and prayed that we get blessed with such holidays at least twice a year. For they say we deserve it, will it come true?

Written by Raghuraman

June 15th, 2008 at 2:16 pm

Chennai is now a favoured destination

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Chennai becomes a very special city for tourists and locals during the months of November, December, and January. A fusion [ called Sangamum in Tamil] happens. There is music in the air, Carnatic songs and clasical keerthanas are sung by exponents in concert halls accompanied by instrumental musicians on violin, Mirdangam and Ganjira. Dance presentations such as Bharat Natyam, Kutchupudi, and Odessy take place. So do drama and theatre festivals, craft, art expositions, book exhibitions, Pongal festival , magic shows and circus shows. You name it, its all there, reflecting our culture and heritage. The mild weather prevailing during these months encourage our participation and involvement.

These are special months for the deeply religious. The Tamil months of Kathigai and Margazhi are considered very auspicious. Devotees of Muruga and Ayyappa undertake their Padayathra trip to the hills after the austerity days. The fronts of houses are decorated with Ramgoli and lamps. Sisters pray for the welfare of their brothers and brothers in turn give presents and gifts!

The state sponsored Trade and Tourism fair takes place in the city with stalls of departments, industries, traders and special organizations. In addition there are eateries, fun games, special promotions of furniture, household and electrical items such as air-conditioners, TVs and cars all in the comfort of the trade centre. Expositions of exclusive handicraft items, village artisan’s products, clay products, leather and brass wares can also be found on show!

We have heard of the Dubai and Singapore shopping festivals and now we have a Chennai shopping festival too. During the last week of December and first week of January most of the department stores come out with unbelievable discount offers for all products of home use. It’s a great shopping phase for all middle class people and many save up during the year to avail these offers! They share information with friends and it is a fun time, a happy phase for all, as new products come home much to the merriment of all concerned. It is also a two sided coin as the benefit goes both to buyers and sellers.

Pongal is the harvest festival which is celebrated with prayers and thanksgiving to the Sun. This is followed by thanksgiving to the bulls and cows (our farmer’s friends). These are big annual events in the villages and smaller towns of Tamil Nadu.

We also have an annual cultural event conducted by students of IIT called Sarang. Music performances [Indian and western], dance shows, clay modeling, crosswords and plate painting are some of the events. Then there is the Mega Book Exhibition with over 150 stalls displaying the latest and most famous books in the market.

The annual conference of Theosophists is conducted in spacious premises in Adyar. Delegates come world over for the conference, discussions, groups and meetings. The Festival of Kalashetra gets underway with wonderful dance dramas and music performances, beautifully presented in open air and indoor auditoriums. We also have the Chennai Sangamam Shows wherein artists from rural South India come in groups to present at various events. These are a fascinating reflection of village arts, dances, music on drums and is a state promoted project to revive and help village artisans.

We get the opportunity to hear the lectures of well known speakers like Swami Dyanandha, Swami Boomanandha, Swami Paramarthananda, Nochur Venkatramanji, Swami Sudhananda and others. Specific chapters of the Bhagavad Gita are taken up for weeks of presentations in auditoriums. Each day’s session would be a maximum of two hours, and each are very useful teachings and rare opportunities to correct our living styles and attitudes.

In addition to all this many special events take place such as the Heritage Walks. Groups of people are taken around the historic places of Chennai escorted by a guide. Places to be seen include forts, palaces, ancient churches, temples, museums and Adyar Creek. There are tree walks in the Guindy National Park for schools students. Then there is the turtle walk which takes place on full moon days along the coast during the egg laying season, which all age groups participate in.

Rarely does one get such opportunities to witness as many events in three months! Chennai is very popular and is catching the eye of everyone in India as well as people from overseas. The festival has evolved and is run by local people for the benefit of everyone! This trend is likely to continue in the coming years on a much bigger scale and will invite tourist groups from all over to come to India and Chennai.

Written by Raghuraman

February 10th, 2008 at 6:02 pm

Posted in Indian Culture

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