Monday, January 5, 2015

The Benevolent Kali, The Violent Man

A little girl of age five was visiting her maternal grandpa's place in Kolkata. One day she accompanied her mother to the market. She was holding her mother's hand as they walked passed different shops. They came across a small temple in the market. The little girl's mother stopped there and told her that it was Goddess Kali's temple. The mother bowed to the Goddess and offered prayers as the little girl looked on with curious eyes. Just then a priestly man brought a goat inside the temple with garland around its neck. People started to assemble and the mother realizing what would happen next decided to leave. The curious little girl wanted to know what was going on and wanted to stay like all the other bystanders. The mother briefly explained that the goat will be sacrificed. The little girl couldn't comprehend and questioned the sacrifice of the innocent goat, why was it punished, what had it done. The mother quietly walked away tugging the little girl behind her but the girl had her head turned back as she saw the goat tethered and mercilessly murdered. She had a tear running silently down her cheek as the heart cried 'why mom, why'.

There is this concept called 'Wonderfull'. Yes you read it right and no spelling mistake here. It simply means 'full of wonder'. We often follow religious rituals that are passed on to us by our elders, social institutions and to sustain traditions. No harm to keep up traditions as long as we are being 'Wonderfull'. It is important to wonder about what we are doing/following and why.  

It is believed that animal sacrifices end sin, evil and bring prosperity. To fathom this, let's consider the story of the little girl who witnessed the scarring ritual of a goat sacrifice to Goddess Kali. 
Goddess Kali is worshiped as one of the incarnations of Parvati who is the consort of Shiva. At first look, her image is terrifying depicting absolute power. However, if we further wonder, we will realize that Goddess Kali is the destroyer of demons in the form of demonic thoughts, actions and ego. The word Kali stands for black and time. This denotes that she is unconventional and infinite. She fights the dark to bring about enlightenment. There is nothing in her image that asks for animal sacrifice. 

It was appealed to the Nepal government to ban the mass animal killing in the name of ritual sacrifice that takes place every 5 years. The government responded saying that they cannot end a century old tradition. The point is how can an animal atone for the sins of a person. Also, the idea of sacrifice is to willingly offer or surrender and not coerced. But animals, just because they cannot speak the human language, are owned up and forcefully slaughtered. This is not sacrifice. Ever wondered, if animals could speak, they would have shown people whole new perspectives. 

Animals exist to sustain nature. We need to be more 'wonderfull' so that we can realize that the change and prosperity that we want to bring about is right within us, in our mind and heart. God is benevolent, there is no reason for man to be violent.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Saving Little Princess

This post is about a Little Princess who walked in front of my door one afternoon. She was very beautiful but hurt and very much in pain. She was crying out for help. I could see that she was limping and her left leg was completely loose, she was unable to put it on the ground and a mere touch of the leg with anything was causing her huge amount of pain. I understood that she was hit by a moving vehicle and her leg completely fractured or what else could have caused such a grave damage. I am talking about a stray puppy about three months old whose left leg was badly damaged. We immediately gave her hot milk, biscuits and rugs to keep her warm. While she slept, we called up Animal Health Care Centre, Friendicoes. They confirmed to send an ambulance. Meanwhile, we took good care of her and were elated to find that she was very friendly and loving. All she did while we waited for the ambulance was to drink milk, sleep, cry, wag her tiny tail, look innocently with her big eyes and we could not help but give her lots of love and care that she was desperately in need of. She hated to be left alone. Time just flied with her. The ambulance arrived and she was carefully taken away. She came and went but all the time spent with this new little friend gave me a few realisations. It seemed like she was god-send to us and god did his work of taking care of the little puppy through us.
Be it human or animal, touch is a life-giving thing and animals have the right to the gentle stroke of a human hand.
Love is Freedom. It is great to pet animals but what exactly do we intend by petting animals. They get shelter, food, love, care and we in turn receive love, companionship, security, but we forget that we don’t own them. Do we being parents own our kids? We are their guardians and we support and supervise them but certainly not own them. And on a philosophical level, do we really own anything? If we did, we wouldn’t be losing them then. Give it a thought. I recently read a piece of news in the paper saying that a dog went through vocal cord surgery just because the neighbours were unhappy of its barking. Now it cannot bark. Wow, I wonder if we can do the same for people who talk and shout more than they should and are a nuisance in the neighbourhood. Animals can’t sue us or can’t fight with us for the tortures we do to them. Pet but don’t curb freedom. Be a guardian, not an owner. I am personally not very much in favour of petting animals and keeping them inside the house. The only reason why I feel so is because it takes away the freedom of the animal. It loses the freedom to roam on its own, go for nature-calls as and when needed, eat as per our time, sleep as per our time, no mating, and follow other terms and conditions for getting a shelter. And why I encourage petting of animals is because they get to live. They anyways have a short span of life but they don’t get to complete that, thanks to the vehicles or rather the drivers. This planet is equally theirs as it’s ours. Just to keep the community clean or only to us, we cannot eradicate the animals. I’ll share an incident here. My dad was posted in the district called Avadi in Chennai. Army cantonments are known for their squeaky-cleanliness. You won’t believe what measures they took to get rid of stray dogs. Villagers were hired to shoot down stray dogs for a mere Rs. 100 per dog. The half-conscious dogs were carried in tractors and dumped in some garbage area. Animal care centres operate on female dogs so that they cannot produce. It’s not natural but do they have a choice. It’s the best measure to prevent animals from being shot or squashed under a vehicle just because they are high in numbers.
Let me share something called Law of Unintended Actions. A car hit an animal on the road, the driver drives away, does not get down to check and later on says ‘Oh! It was unintentional’. That’s what I call Law of Unintended Actions. Of course it was unintentional but you know what, it could be prevented. Let us keep a check on speed, be careful and generous towards these little guys.
The least I could do is tell this story so that it makes at least one more car drive carefully along the road, then I’ve done something little out of respect for Princess who is going through so much pain today.
A note of thanks to my angel family, Friendicoes (, people who pet stray dogs instead of buying breed dogs and people who make a positive difference in the lives of animals in the community.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mayapur Dham-Spiritual Capital of the World

Sri Prabhupada Temple

The Ganges in Mayapur

Devotees singing and dancing in glory of Lord Krishna


Jagannath Temple in Mayapur

ISKCON Mayapur welcomes you with pure greenery

Kutirs for guests

Lord Chaitanya's Birth Place

Shyam Kund (Don't miss the fishes)

Every bit is a treat for your eyes, mind and soul

Mayapur is the birthplace of Lord Chaitanya and the world headquaters of the Internatinal Society for Krishna Consciousness. Mayapur is located 130 km north of Kolkata across the River Ganges. You can reach this holy place via train, bus or by car. The ISKCON vedic township here includes temples, various guest house facilities, gurukul, goshala, shopping arcades, eating joints, library, museum and beautiful gardens. Mangala aarti that takes place at 04:15 AM is a must experience as it will lift your spirit to heaven. ISKCON follows the purpose to systematically propagate spiritual knowledge to society at large and to educate people in the techniques of spiritual life in order to check the imbalance of values in life and to achieve real unity and peace in the world. Mayapur dham is one place where you can improve your spiritual life, meditate and know exactly what it takes to be happy, so if you want to then consider taking the powerful darshan to Sridham Mayapur.

Copyrights © Arpita Kar

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

River Goddess Needs Respite?

Rescue me!!! This is the voice of none other than The River Goddess Ma Ganga. Ever since childhood, I heard so much in praise of River Goddess Ganga that I could hardly wait to see her when I was visiting Haridwar with my family for some rituals. The very sight of the holy river and its flowing sound captured me. As I stood there, I thought I heard that somewhere the Bengali song ‘O nodire’ is being played. It was of course playing in my mind. Everything that I heard, read and believed about the Ganga started coming back to me.
...The Ganga winds her way down the Himalayas at Rishikesh on her long eastern journey towards the sea. Sri Ramakrishna would call the Ganga as Brahmavari, that is, Brahmn in the form of water, capable of bringing about dispassion and making one a free soul. This metaphysical attribute of the Ganga is the basis for all the ceremonial rituals performed on its banks, from the tonsure of heads to death related rituals. Yogic literature views the descent of the Ganga as symbolic of the descent of the divine consciousness. Ganga is the divine consciousness itself, flowing from the siva-self, which every seeker intends to merge in. A cosmic touch is felt and experienced each time one bathes in the waters of the Ganga. The water Gangajal is an important element of rituals related to birth and death. A pilgrimage to the various points of the Ganga is a liberating experience. The ‘Ganga Lahiri’ one of the most popular bhajans, composed by Pandit Jaganatha, talks of the river as the mother who alone would care for the outcaste and the wicked sons, while other mothers may be tempted to care only for the good sons. Ganga signifies not just a mere stream of water but it stands for the numerous streams of Indian culture, the evolution and the eternal continuity of Indian Civilisation and the power to redeem the fallen. The daily worship of the River Goddess at dusk by performing aarti on her banks invokes her as the mother who bestows spiritual wealth. It is said that Akbar would relish drinking the Ganga waters, and Gangajal was regularly sent to the emperor in huge jars, wherever he was stationed. Jawaharlal Nehru wrote of the Ganga as the soul, the heart beat of the Indian tradition. It is this living tradition which still calls out, metaphorised as ever flowing water, in which all differences are dissolved, and no separate identities remain in our search for that transcendent reality...
After spending a few more minutes at the Ganga ghat, I walked back towards my family. We lodged at Birla House which was very nearby to the Ganga. It was late afternoon and everyone settled down for a quick nap after having lunch. The rituals were to take place the next day. So we had plenty of time. While everyone rested, I and my elder sister decided to visit the nearby market. As we walked, we came across a bridge under which we noticed dirty sewage water flowing swiftly. To our shock, we further noticed that the dirty, poisonous water was flowing and merging into the Ganga. We walked towards the nearby shops and approached the shopkeepers asking them about the sewage canal merging into the River Ganga. They answered with a heavy heart that there are many such canals merging into the Ganga at different points. These canals are meant to carry rain water however a nearby factory that got constructed some years back is dumping all the waste into the Ganga through these canals. These canals are also carrying untreated sewage water into the Ganga. They were told that the government is planning to do something about it but it has been a decade now with no progress on the same.
Let me walk you through some facts now:
As per study, the sacred river Ganga is put under D category. While A category is fit for drinking, B for bathing, C for agriculture and D is for excessive pollution level. The main cause of high level pollution in Ganga is due to disposal of untreated sewage directly into the river from its starting point in Gaumukh till it reaches the Bay of Bengal. Apart from sewage, disposal of half burnt bodies, industrial effluents and hazardous medical waste are also adding to the pollution levels in the Ganga.

Ganga Action Plan or GAP was a program launched by Govt. of India in April 1985 in order to reduce the pollution load on the river. The program was launched with much fanfare, but it failed to decrease the pollution level in the river, after spending a huge sum of fourteen hundred crore rupees over a period of 15 years. The activities of GAP were declared closed on 31st March 2000. The govt. claims that the schemes under the GAP have been successful, but actual measurements and scientific data tell a different story. The failure of GAP is evident but corrective action is lacking.

Ganga declared as National River by PM Manmohan Singh on Nov 5th, 2008 to achieve the objectives of the clean-up operation.

A group of students in Varanasi participated in a cleanliness drive to clean the River Ganga. They used brooms, cleaned the banks of the river and removed dirt from the river.

Few non-profit and non-governmental organisations like the Sankat Mochan Foundation have been struggling to alleviate the environmental degradation of the River Ganga. The efforts of such organisations to restore Ganga to its pristine purity and glory by preventing discharge of pollutants into it has found support from all corners of the world.

We enquired with a few more local people in Haridwar. The owner of Krishna Tours & Travels confessed that he is well aware of the fact that the waters of the Ganga are polluted, but he along with his family, continue to take dip in the Ganga everyday and drink the Gangajal. He said that he never worried about getting sick because he like almost everyone in Haridwar had faith in Ganga Mata. We stepped out of the market area and while heading back to Birla House we noticed that there was not a single dustbin and the garbage was heaped at different corners. The next morning, we got ready for the rituals and went to one of the Ganga ghats in Haridwar. I noticed a board at one corner of the ghat that mentioned the rules & regulations to be followed while bathing in the Ganga. Let me share one rule that I witnessed was being constantly violated at the ghat. The rule was not to use soap in the Ganga waters. But almost everyone brought soap and was washing themselves and their clothes in the Ganga. It was a sad sight. My consciousness speaks when I land up throwing an ice cream wrapper on the road and I pick it up to find a dustbin. I wondered what about their consciousness. I recalled what my friend, one day, very rightly said that such awareness begins at home. We grow up watching our parents, teachers, society etc. Today, the kid saw his mother washing clothes in the Ganga, tomorrow he would do the same. We left the ghat after the rituals and got ready for our train to Delhi. On my way back home, I had an ocean of thoughts in my head. The Ganga is not just a river but a mother, a goddess, a tradition, a culture and much more. It is so ironical that River Goddess Ganga that purifies everyone needs a little bit of cleaning herself. We are living in an age where we need reasons to do something right. The Ganga now has been declared the National River. Hurray! We have a reason to keep it clean now. The NGO’s, Government and foreign organisations are doing their bit to alleviate the degraded condition of the Ganga by construction of pipelines, sewage treatment plants etc and we have witnessed that from the past 15 years it has been work in progress. Let NGO’s and Government do their bit and I’ll do my bit. We think that how can I make a difference when NGO’s and other groups are finding it so difficult. It’s true, though the students in Varanasi did not think so. They landed in the ghats with brooms and did their bit. We must have heard about the Power of One. Why not apply it here? Each drop can make the Ganga, Each one of us can make the difference. We can do our bit by working for an NGO or the government itself and study why it is taking so long for the implementation of the projects and share are ideas; Promote education and health care programs for the less privileged; Get media attention; Contribute towards maintenance of cleanliness like keeping a dustbin in front of your shop; Spread awareness. It is the miraculous love of River Goddess Ganga and the faith we have on her that despite the waters being so polluted majority of the population is healthy. But for how long? I can’t answer that. All I can answer is that I will do my bit and River Goddess Ganga, I will come back.