Here’s Part 1 of the much awaited interview with Maj Gen GD Bakshi – Like You’ve Never Seen Him Before!
General Bakshi is well known in India for his views on military and defence matters but in this interview, he reveals a very different aspect of his life – the mystic and spiritual.
In this Part 1, General Bakshi talks about his early spiritual influences and about his guru – a fitting topic for this Guru Purnima weekend. Enjoy and don’t forget to leave your feedback and comments on Facebook and YouTube!
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The Rath Jatra (Chariot Festival) is one of the most colourful, enigmatic and important festivals in India and one of the oldest of its kind, finding mention in the ancient Puranas. It is an annual festival held at the Lord Jagannath (Lord of the Universe) temple at Puri in the state of Orissa, India which is considered to have its origins in tribal culture (tribal art shows itself in the depictions of the deities of the temple) . The English word ‘juggernaut’ meaning an unstoppable force, derives from Lord Jagannath and the massive force of the Rath Jatra procession.
The festival involves the idols of the three deities of the temple – Lord Jagannath (form of Vishnu), his elder brother Balabhadra and younger sister Subhadra – along with the Sudarshana Chakra (celestial wheel) being taken out of the temple in a huge procession, to the Gundicha temple (at a distance of ~2km) where they remain for 9 days before being returned to the main temple.
The chariot (rath) of Lord Jagannath is called Nandighosha. It has 16 wheels and 832 pieces of wood are used in its construction.
This year the festival took place between 25 June and 3 July. Below are a few glimpses (credit to @shrijagannatha for the tweets).
The first day of the Rath Jatra (25 July this year) is traditionally marked by a frenzy of festivities including song, dance and rituals. Both classical Odissi and tribal dance and music is performed side by side.
The ISKCON Hare Krishna movement was instrumental in making the Rath Jatra an international event that happens every year in over 108 cities around the world in the US, Canada, Europe, Russia and South East Asia.
The festival includes several rituals. One of the most important of these is the Chhera- Pahanra. This ritual is performed once the deities are brought from the sanctum of the temple, to their chariots (raths). It is part of ritual for the king of the region to come to pay respects to Lord Jagannath, perform aarti, fan the deities with a golden hand fan, offer flowers and fragrant sandalwood water and sweep the chariot with a golden broom. It is believed that the chariot cannot budge unless the king performs this ritual which symbolises humility through the complete submission to the Lord of the Universe by the lord of the land.
The Chhera-Pahanra is performed by diverse peoples, from Hindu royalty to Muslim leaders and tribal chiefs – in a spirit of universality.
In Dharakote, Ganjam, the 15-year old Queen, Sulakhyana Gitanjali Devi performs the Chhera-Pahanra. #RathaJatra
Around the grand chariots are the lesser-known Gods, Parshwadebatas, such as Harihara (composite form of Vishnu and Shiva), Ganesha (son of Shiva and Parvati and the remover of obstacles), Bhubhaneshwai (Goddess of the world), Goddess Bimala (presiding deity of Puri and identified with one of the 4 Shakti Peeths), Varahi (feminine counterpart of Lord Vishnu’s boar or varaha reincarnation), Madhusudana (Vishnu as the vanquisher of the demon Madhu), Banadurga (a form of Goddess Durga), Tantric Goddess Chamunda, Chintamani (benevolent Krishna) and Gajantaka (form of Shiva that destroyed the elephant demon Gajasura).
Main photo “Breathtaking scenery on way to Amarnath Cave’, Credit: Hardik Buddhabhatti
Each year, the Amarnath Yatra commences around late June and is open for 40 days. Despite the high altitude, extremely treacherous terrain and the increased incidences and threats of terrorist attacks in recent years, the yatra (meaning journey) remains one of the most significant and popular for Shiva devotees.
But what is the yatra all about and why is it considered so important? Here’s a brief explanation.
The Route from Jammu to Amarnath
JAMMU: City in Jammu and Kashmir state of India, accessibly by air, rail and road
PAHALGAM: 315km from Jammu in a valley through which the Lidder and Aru rivers flow
CHANDANWARI: 16km from Pahalgam, along the Lidder river
PISSU TOP: the mountain believed in legend to be formed by the dead bodies of the asuras killed by the devas in the battle to reach Shiva first
SHESHNAG: Surrounded by 7 peaks (believed to represent the heads of the mythical snake, Shesha), the Sheshnag mountain and lake are breathtakingly beautiful (image above)
PANCHTARNI: Reached after a steep ~5km climb. 5 rivers flow at the foot of Bhairav Mount which are believed to have flowed from Shiva’s locks
AMARNATH CAVE: The rivers Amravati and Panchtarni meet on the way to the cave believed to be the above of Shiva. In addition to the main ice Shivalinga, the cave contains two smaller ice lingas believed to represent Parvati and Ganesha.
Yes MBAs and business leaders do meditate! Isabella Convertini, career coach, business strategy expert and mindfulness teacher at Google gives us an insight into what mindfulness is all about and her personal journey into it.
With the summer season upon us, it is only ‘natural’ to go looking for ‘natural’ ways to beat the heat. Famous yoga and Ayurveda guru and founder of the popular Ayurvedic food brand Patanjali Ayurved, Baba Ramdev offers some wisdom for keeping your cool while boosting your health.
Follow these tips on food, drink and pranayama for a more pleasant summer, naturally.
What to favour
What to avoid
Note: While ripe mango produces heat, raw mango in cooked form however (as used for making aam panna, a popular drink), is cooling.
What to favour
Avoid alcohol during the summer as it is extremely dehydrating.
The ancient yogic techniques of pranayama or breath control, enable one to control the flow of life energy (prana) in the body.
The Chandrabhedi, Sheetali and Sheetkari pranayams are especially beneficial in cooling the body. Read more about these here.