Friday, November 23, 2007

we visited a local dance village

this is where the resident dancers stay. the huts are in a traditional style, but with post-modern aspects: or were there really triangular windows in ancient huts? we arrived too late (we got lost!) to see the master classes, but we were blown away by the grounds themselves: so clean and quiet. sculptures all over. we will go back soon!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

we were motorcycling down the highway and saw a bunch of "birds" flying overhead, but we noticed that their flying patterns were rather peculiar. so we stopped the bike and looked closely: they were BATS! i had never seen bats flying in the middle of the day before.... it was ultra-cool to see them hanging upside wrapped in their own wings, just like in the movies.

Friday, November 16, 2007

i had written earlier about the many uses of granite; here is a vineyard whose stakes are made of stone. this is quite common practice in this neighborhood. a local winery just announced a deal to plant another thousand acres or so of zinfandel and cabernet, because they have determined that the conditions here warrent expansion. i suspect that wine-making is a business about to boom here in in-jah....

during divali the blessings continue... our autorichshaw driver had his vehicle ritually blessed, in order to prevent collisions (one of durga's realms of influence), and in order to increase his revenue, because lakshmi (the goddess of wealth) is among the goddesses honoured during divali.

this is what divali is really about: the lamps burning in celebration of the return of rama or krishna. this shot is taken on the stairs of a fancy hotel in mysore, where the management decided that a classy bunch of lamps better portrays the holy-day than a bunch of firecrackers. and it is easier to clean up....

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Divali in mysore was not as radical as what we heard about Dasara... the latter is the GRAND festival for mysore: over a million folks show up to watch the crazy indulgent processions of elephants, musicians, military guards in full plumage et cetera et cetera as they celebrate the victory of a LOCAL goddess over a LOCAL demon.
Dasara is HUGE in mysore. Divali is a sort of second class celebration there.
we saw bunches of fireworks and the palace lighted up with electric bulbs all over.
an order of magnitude difference.
and we were not allowed to sleep well, because Divali has morphed from a festival of *lamps* into a festival of firecrackers.
there were some sweet moments, but it was a lot louder than i was hoping. the photo shows a sweet sight, n'est-ce pas?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

two big festivals in two weeks

During the recent Dasara festival, we celebrated the victory of Durga (as a representative of “Good”) over various demons (as representatives of “Evil”), so it is archetypically the celebration of the triumph of Good over Evil. But it was MUCH more than this… Since Durga slew demons with her knife, it is a time to get blessings on all knives; and since knives have morphed into all manner of related and unrelated tools, Dasara becomes a time to get ALL tools and vehicles blessed. So there is a line-up at all temples (not only Durga temples) to bless tractors, buses, cars, bicycles, scissors, screw drivers, hair blowers, etc etc. Almost all offices have hired priests to come and do pooja at the doorways, so there are broken pumpkins and squashed limes in every corner, and stripes of sandalwood paste on all windows. All vehicles are adorned with banana leaves and flowers, for Durga’s charms can keep away collisions and break-downs. [Imagine the mess traffic would be without Durga’s interventions!] This was a ten-day fetsival, with several explanations for this indulgent duration. My favourite is that Dasara really celebrates three goddesses, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati, and that they each get three days, with a grand finale trio on the tenth day.
And next week there is yet ANOTHER big festival: Divali, the Festival of Lights. Guess what this one celebrates? You guessed it: the triumph of Good over Evil. Hey, if it’s worth celebrating once, it’s worth celebrating twice! This time the mythical structure is that the good Lord Rama has returned to his kingdom, and his subjects all light candles and lamps to welcome him home. Another version has the lamps lighted to celebrate the return of Lord Krishna. During the modern celebrations of this time of Devali, there is a massive reliance on fireworks, including NOISY firecrackers all times of the day and night… They are already almost constant, and Divali doesn’t start for another four days!