Thursday, October 24, 2019

Coral Jasmine - a carpet of flowers

If you visit a flower market in Mumbai, you will usually not see the coral jasmine. It flowers at night, and when day breaks, all the flowers fall, leaving a beautiful carpet of flowers on the ground. It is a fragile flower, that fades quickly, and doesn't do well when transported to markets.

In my mother's apartment there is a coral jasmine plant; and every morning, the night watchman gathers up the flowers and gives them to my mother. Some of them go into the kitchen temple, but the others are used like this, as a beautiful carpet for her plants.
Coral jasmine, offered to the Tulsi, and to other plants 
This jasmine is offered to gods, even after it has fallen to the ground. In Tamil, it is called kanaka malli, where kanaka means coral, and malli is jasmine. In Hindi, the coral jasmine is called harsingar, or the adornment of God. It is the state flower of West Bengal. In Bengali it is called sheuli.

This flower is also identified as parijat, a legendary flowering tree that is mentioned in the Puranas. As is common in Indian legends, there are multiple candidates claiming to be parijat :) In Tamilnadu, the parijat of legend is a much larger, all-white flower, with a very intense fragrance.

Krishna Uprooting the Parijata Tree, folio from a Bhagavata Purana manuscript (text in Sanskrit), Delhi region or Rajasthan, India, artist unknown,1525–50; opaque watercolor and ink on paper. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. 

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Walking through Dharavi

It's always eye opening to walk through Dharavi. Today I was with Kathy and Clive, they have been to India 5 times already, but to Dharavi for the first time. It struck me how many times she said "This is not what I thought it would be." There are so many misconceptions and cinema-driven myths that sometimes I feel everyone who visits India should do one of these walks.

A couple of pics from today's walk below:

 Funky hairstyles at barbershop
 Kathy tries a Royal Enfield. 
Clive shows Torab his modified vehicles 

Plastics for recycling

Monday, March 04, 2019

Indian Aesthetics - The Poetry of Krishna

- by Deepa Krishnan

Yesterday at The Magic Room, I attended a marvellous session organized by Expansions (curated by Sarayu Kamat). We listened to the very erudite scholar Dr. Harsha Dehejia speak on the many moods of Krishna Kavya.
I do not reside in Vaikuntha, nor in the hearts of yogis.
Where my Bhaktas sing my songs, there I reside, O Narada!
The invitation for the event said: "Krishna’s romantic presence is best understood as kavya and not as a katha, and that too as muktak, or fragmented moment of romantic pleasure. While enjoying the sensuality of Krishna’s shringara, a committed Rasika will endeavour to move it to shringar bhakti. Krishna shringara ultimately should lead to brahma jnana and therefore ananda"

It was a pleasure listening to Dr. Dehejia, as he led us through the history of Indian Aesthetics, from the Vedas and the Upanishads, down to Brathrhari (Vakyapadiya, Sphota theory), Bharatamuni (Natyashastra, rasa theory), and Abhinavagupta (commentary on Natya Shastra). 

After giving us a better understanding of various expressions of aesthetics - shabda, shilpa, natya - he then took us into the world of kavya (art, music, poetry). Specifically, he took us for an exploration of Krishna Kavya, tracing the major art and poetry movements of northern and eastern India. 

I learnt a lot, particularly about saakar and niraakar concepts of brahman, about bhakti poetry, about the advaita and dvaita concepts that found expression in the literature. I also learnt the answer to a question that had been puzzling me, the question of Radha. I had never understood how suddenly Radha became a major goddess when she is nowhere in the Puranas. I learnt that Radha is a later construct by poets, particularly Jayadeva and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. It is a great example of how poetry/music seeps into the Indian heart and fills it with emotion, even leading to mass acceptance of new gods and goddesses. I also learnt a lot about the major poets of the Krishna tradition, and developed an appreciation for Pahari and Rajasthani miniature art. 

All in all, a very good way to spend an evening, and I was very thankful to Sarayu, for inviting me to the event. Here are some more photos:

Sarayu Kamat introducing the speaker

Small glimpse of the audience
My Warli saree and jewellery from Indu Diva
I wore a slice of tribal village life yesterday to the event - a handpainted Warli Art necklace and saree. Indu has done such a lovely project with this. The saree has a base cotton weave from Madanapeta in Telengana, and it was the perfect brown to set off the beauty of the Warli pallu. The artist who painted the necklace and the saree is from the Warli people, living in a village about 4hrs from Mumbai. She went to the village and got the jewellery and saree project kicked off. I felt very good to have supported this work, and it is a joy to wear something that has personal meaning. The Kotpad blouse from Odisha was really perfect! I have increasingly begun to make conscious choices about what I buy and wear.