Travel Shot: The floating church

On that beautiful summer’s evening in 2009, after a day spent exploring London’s Docklands, I came across this near the West India Quay DLR station.

London, Floating Church

St. Peter’s Barge or London’s Floating Church

St. Peter’s Barge claims to be London’s only floating church, but for me it could have been the world’s only as far as I was concerned. For till then I had not seen or come across anything like this and have not till date. :-)

The fine print revealed that the floating church had a crèche for children, personalised prayer service as well as the terms and conditions for hiring the barge for ‘Christian occasions’. I was really disappointed to find no one around as I would have loved to know see more of this church.

Have you ever come across something like this? If yes, please do share your memories and experience in the comments section.

PS: The photograph does not really convey the floating nature of the barge and I apologise for that. When I took the photograph, I had no idea that I would be blogging about it in the future. ;-)

My “now” song: Prathama tula vandito

Do you ever have a song, an idea, a storyline, or an image stuck in your head? And it just refuses to go away? For some time at least? I have this with music—it could be a song, an instrumental piece, a jingle, etc. This becomes my “now’”song, and the “nowness”  (pardon my English here) could be for any length of time.

The music selection blared out by the various pandals at the ongoing 10-day Ganpati festival has not thrown up any surprises. Hindi and Marathi film songs, and film songs from other languages as well; remixed bhajans and aarti songs, and at a pandal near my house some Vishnu Sahasranamam spiced up with some ‘technofied’ beats. But today morning I heard a song that I associate with the Ganpati festivals of my childhood and took me back to the Mumbai of my childhood.

I had just got off at the bus stop near my workplace when I heard the opening strains of  “Prathama tula vanditi krupala…”

This song is from the 1979 Marathi film Ashtavinayak and is sung by Vasantrao Deshpande and Anuradha Paudwal. I remember singing this with many others at the pandal near my grandparents’ house at Matunga and enjoying this beautiful melody in Raga Yaman. Even after so many years, I found that the appeal of this song had not diminished as I softly accompanied this song from across the road. I was also surprised to find that I remembered the lyrics as well !

Hope you enjoyed listening to my “now” song :-)

Just wondering… Why are men offered prasad in temples first?

I am an occassional, rather than a regular, temple-goer. And when I do go to one, it is to the Sharadamba Temple in Chembur, Mumbai. I like this particular temple because it is quiet, peaceful, and most importantly, very clean—it is a pleasure to walk on the cool granite floors. Another reason I go to this temple is because it is never crowded, except on festival days like Navratri and  Mahashivratri, and even then it is never unbearably so.

The Sharadamba Temple is one large hall with the entrance at one end and the Sharadamba deity at the other end. A simple wooden barrier separates the devotees from the sanctum sanctorum. Like in most temples, the men flock on one side of the hall and the women on the other side, though there is no physical barrier to separate the two sexes. The children, of course, keep running between the two sides.

Over the years that I have been going to this temple, I have noticed something very curious at this temple. After the aarti is over, the priest always offers it to the assembled men first, in particular the office bearers/trustees of the temple. Only then does the aarti thali come around to the women’s side. This is the case with the teertham (holy water), the prasad, as well as the flowers.

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A Sufiana experience for the mind, body and soul

Sufism is neither a religion nor a cult. Any person who has knowledge of both inner and outer life is a sufi.

(Hazrat Inayat Khan, Sufi philosopher and practitioner)

It is Thursday evening and I am at the NCPA Mumbai’s Tata Theatre to attend an evening of Sufi music. The above words by Inayat Khan leap out of the beautifully produced and informative programme brochure on “Sama’a The Mystic Ecstasy: Festival of Sufi Music” as I read it to familiarise myself with the programme. Though I have listened to some Sufi music over the years, I have never attended a live performance. I also do not know anything about the  history of Sufism or Sufi music, for that matter, except for the fact that music is central to the core experience of Sufism. The programme brochure states that

… music is regarded as a means for the believer to get closer to the Divine. Sufi music therefore is music of the ‘soul’ by the ‘soul’ and for the ‘soul’.

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The Banashankari and Mahakuta temples: Examples of neglect and apathy

My recent trip to some heritage sites in North Karnataka (Aihole, Badami, BijapurHampi and  Pattadakal) was an eye-opener in more ways than one. While I was amazed to see the excellent work done by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in restoring and maintaining the sites, as well as the efforts taken by the Karnataka Tourism Board, I was appalled to see condition of heritage sites not maintained by the ASI. My visits to the Banashankari Temple and the Mahakuta Temple Complex, both near Badami, are perfect examples of this.

The Banashankari Temple site has been a place of worship for about 14 centuries or so, though the current temple building is only about 200 years old. The temple’s name is derived from its location in the Tilakaranya forest. The main deity, Banashankari is also known as Shakambari or the vegetable goddess. Banashankari was the kuldevata or the tutelary deity for the Chalukya kings of the 7th century.

Our tour group arrived at the Banashankari Temple after spending a magical and enchanted evening at the Bhoothnatha Temples and the Agastya Teertha, near the Badami Cave-Temples. And came back to earth rather rudely with a ride through narrow, dusty, potholed and dirty access road to the temple. It was an inkling to the state of the temple itself.

Outside the Banashankari Temple. The guard-cum-lamp tower at the entrance to the Harida Teertha in the centre of the photograph

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