Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Annaprasanam at Guruvayur

Pranav is turning six months old and it is time for him to take solid food. Though, we can start feeding him, we have the age-old custom of conducting the feeding ceremony at a sacred place when the baby is fed with external food. Guruvayur is the preferred place as Krishna manifests as a kid and thousands of parents conduct the Annaprasanam, the food feeding ceremony of their kids here.

We boarded the Nilgiri Express on 12-Aug and reached Coimbatore the next morning. Much to our surprise, Pranav enjoyed the train journey, as it was much like a simulation of the rocking cradle. After the wash and change, we visited the Saradhambal Temple at Race Course, to which I am closely tied up because of the regular visits and some spiritual course that I had undergone a couple of years ago. Coimbatore is my favourite destination, not only because of the pleasant climate, peaceful atmosphere, but also for the brotherly affection shown by my friend Karthi and his family. Siddharth has grown into a boy and has bagged many proficiency certificates at Stanes. As expected, it was a heavy breakfast with Poori, Dosa, Potato Masala, Coconut chutney and of course my favourite Brinjal Chutney.

After making a visit to his mother’s place to get her blessings for Pranav, we started for Pollachi, yet another destination that I have loved, for its plush green coconut groves, paddy fields, friendly people and the caring big brother Kandan Karunai and his lovely family. After a pleasant walk, talk and a hearty lunch, we started to Guruvayur, which is 2-hours drive from Pollachi via Kollangode and Thrichur.

This is a view of the Paddy Fields and Coconut Groves at Jamin Oothukuli.

The stretch of Wester Ghats seen from Govindapuram, just near the Tamil Nadu - Kerala border.

We took nearly 3 hours to reach Guruvayur, stopping in many places to catch the irresistible scenic beauty of the God’s Own country. It was showering in many stretches and by the time we reached Guruvayur at 6:30pm, it was raining heavily. We checked in at Krishna Inn, which is about a furlong from the Temple and after a bath rushed to the temple for a darshan. It was too cold and hence, Pranav had some difficulty in sleeping. However, he managed to sleep after we got a cradle from the hotel and packed it with pillows and blankets.

This is the majestic statue of Garuda (Eagle) that welcomes the visitors, when they enter Guruvayur.The security was very tight due to the Independence Day threats and hence, the cameras were not allowed. The only snap I could capture was the roof of the passage that leads to the temple.

Though Annaprasanam starts at 5:00 AM, we went to the temple only at 7:00 AM. 10 Years before when I went for the Annaprasanam of my nephew Nitin, it was held just in front of the Garpagraham. Now that, they have allocated a separate hall in the first floor of a building to tackle the multitude of devotees performing this ritual. We were not allowed to be in the hall for a very long time and hence, it was a very brief ceremony, which lasted only for 5 minutes. All the items including cooked rice, payasam (sweet preparation of rice, sugar & milk) plantain etc. were placed on a banana leaf and we were asked to feed Pranav. Everyone attempted their turn and obviously, he spit every bit of what was fed. The best part was, the entire hall was filled with chubby kids with their exaggerated eyebrows and eyelashes drawn with long black stripes like the Kathakali Mohini. With their small gold striped mundus and chains, they were all prosperity, personified!

Next, though unwilling, we had to perform another offering called Tulabaram, in which the devotee is weighed against a commodity of his choice-banana, sugar, water, gold, in fact anything that is permitted inside the temple. Pranav was weighed against blocks of Sugar Candy (Kalkandu).

Then we visited the Mural Painting Institute, which is situated in the Devaswom Complex. We met the Principal and the Chief Instractor Mr.Krishnakumar and a Visiting Professor Mr. Vijaykumar from Baroda University. Had some good education on Mural Painting Tradition of India. The history of Mural Painting of India is traced back to the Ajantha Cave paintings considered to have been executed between 200 B.C and 600 A.D. In South India mural painting flourished in places such as Sittannavasal, Badami, Tanjavur, Vijaynagar and Kerala. Though the tradition of Mural painting is forgotten in most of the states, Rajasthan and Kerala are only states that are guarding it from extinction.

In Kerala, the walls and the gopurams of the temples are the mediums in which the mural paintings are executed. Apart from Hindu temples, a number of churches also have mural paintings with Christian iconographic features. The traditional Kerala mural painting is done only in five colours (Panchavarna) such as Yellow, Green, Red, Black and White. White is the wall or the medium and all other colours are prepared from leaves and stones.The first mural painting depicts multi-headed Ganesh sitting on a Lion, while the theme for the second one is the Dance of Shiva.

The above mural painting portrays Narasimhamoorthy. The subject or the theme for most of the mural painting is usually different incarnations of Vishnu, different manifestations of Shiva, Rasa Leela, Ganesh and the goddess Devi in different forms. The first painting in the above picture depicts the Aphrodite of Hindu Mythology, while the second one is dedicated to Krishna and Balram.

In 1970, due to a fire accident in the Guruvayur Temple, the mural painting adorning the walls of the sanctum sanctorum was destroyed. When attempting to renovate and redecorate the walls, it was found that there were only a very few artists like Mammiyur Krishnakutty Nair, M.K.Sreenivasan and K.K. Varier who were able to undertake this work. Though, they could complete it successfully, the need to preserve the endangered art of mural painting became a serious thought and hence, the Guruvayur Devaswom established the Institue of Mural Painting in July 1989.

As a mark of admiration and acknowledgement to this ageless tradition of Mural Painting, we ordered a beautiful painting of Krishna and Radha that will be newly painted and then shipped across to Chennai. With Pranav around it was not pragmatic to visit places around Guruvayur. The elephant sanctuary at Punnathur Kotta about 3 kms north of Guruvayur temple and the Mammiyur Shiva Temple are a must see places when you visit Guruvayur. Hoping to make another trip, may be after a couple of years, we boarded the Allepey - Chennai Express at Trichur and reached Chennai on the next day, 15 Aug.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

SSA - Official Website Launched

Finally, our school has launched its official website. This has relieved us of the pain of juggling through the various unofficial wesites hosted by the Amaravians. The website is really impressive with the raising curtain similar to the Avvai Auditorium curtain raising for the opening scene of the culturals. Though there are some obvious bugs, it's a decent beginning.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Trot Trot the Baby Goes

Finally, it was Vallimanavalan who found one of the lost poems. Though, it is already in a comment on my previous posting The Lost Poems, I'm posting it, in order for everyone to read and enjoy this sweet poem. I understand this as a poem written by Mary F Butts [1890-1937]. Her poetry seems to be of immediate access to the sacred, and the masks of the sacred. She goes directly to the subject , she wastes no time. The body of the poem becomes filled with things, with boxes, with screens, with feathers, with balls, with cups, the details of the personal highly charged and engaged, every word seems to be a translation of reality.


Every evening Baby goes

Trot, trot, to town,

Across the river, through the fields,

Up hill and down.

Trot, trot, the Baby goes,

Up hill and down,

To buy a feather for her hat,

To buy a woolen gown.

Trot, trot, the Baby goes;

The birds fly down, alack!

"You cannot have our feathers, dear,"

They say, "so please trot back."

Trot, trot, the Baby goes;

The lambs come bleating near.

"You cannot have our wool," they say,

"But we are sorry, dear."

Trot, trot, the Baby goes,

Trot, trot, to town;

She buys a red rose for her hat,

She buys a cotton gown.

I am still searching for "My House is Red".