Friday, July 31, 2009

Radha Govindaji's Jhulan Yatra Darshan

Jhulan Yatra at Radha Govindadevji Mandir in Jaipur started almost 2 weeks ago and every day Thakurji is enjoying the festival. All other Jaipur temples started their celebrations on consecutive days. All the way up to purnima there will be special darshans of the Lord, which have been even advertised through the local newspapers. The Govindaji temple moved the last darshan time 30 minutes later - 9.30pm till 10pm, and every day a Bengali kirtan mandali plays amazing bhajans for the pleasure of Govindadev and His devotees.

Day darshan.
Evening darshan at 9.30pm.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I've graduated!

This is my Hindi class at School of Oriental and African Studies in London, where we have studied together for the past 4 years and where I have just completed BA in Hindi and Study of Religion. In the front row, on both edges, are my Hindi teachers: Rakeshji from Myssorie, and Aishwarji from Delhi. I am very thankful to both of them for putting up with me and for encouraging me in my learning process. In between them is Zain, my best friend. Top row: me, Louise, Johanna and Emily, who are also lovely people and great friends with whoom I have shared a lot of joyful times! I have learend a lot from all of you. Thank you! Louise is expert in Hindi, while Zain, Johanna and Emily graduated from Hindi & Development. Johanna and Emily deal with the issues of child labour and do a lot of work in Kolkata at an NGO which picks up kids from Howrah Station and takes care of them, while trying to find their own families or foster care. Zain deals with AIDS in India.

And here is a joyful and long awaited moment! I have missed my own graduation ceremony, hence I am relishing the photos. Can you play frizzby with these hats? I am back in India, recharging my energy for a bit more academic work out ahead of me. In October I am due to go back to London to start MA in Religion, where I will continue with Hindi and also learn Urdu. Blessings please!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Exams, exams, exams...

Just to let everyone know, that I haven't completely disappeared from the cyberspace. I have 'killer' exams around the corner, thus I am in a state of high hibernation, busy revising and writing endless essay assignments. Joys of academic life!

Anyhow, if any of you have exams too, here is what my uni has to say about exam stress management.

Common fears....

  • Going blank
  • Having a panic attack
  • Not finding any questions I can answer
  • Not having enough to write


  • Are designed purposely to test your performance under stress
  • Are a highly artificial situation – absence of normal resources: books, telephone, other people, food, drink, distractions
  • Are physically and mentally demanding – 2-3 hours in one seat without moving around, talking etc
  • Do not test intelligence or overall academic ability

Exam stress…..

  • Is entirely normal in the circumstances
  • Can be managed in relatively straightforward ways
  • Is catching from other people
  • Some stress is probably necessary for an optimum performance

When the perceived demands greatly exceed your perceived resources then stress is more likely to feel unmanageable and disabling

Ways of making stress manageable

They are not highly complex, are easy to learn but require patience and practice

  • Do remember it’s impossible to feel anxious and relaxed at the same time so relaxation techniques will help reduce anxiety
  • Do approach the exams a bit like running a marathon and prepare yourself mentally and physically
  • Do approach your exams positively – focus on what you understand, what you have prepared, what you can do
  • Don’t make big changes to your lifestyle just before a stressful event such as exams e.g. giving up smoking, coffee, change your diet drastically. Change (including beneficial change) can add to stress and familiar patterns may be part of your immediate support system. This is not a time to throw away your existing support system. Such changes are best made gradually AFTER the exams, ready for next time. However some small changes may be helpful immediately eg cutting down on coffee, eating more fresh foods (nb carbohydrates are more likely to make you sleepy and protein less likely, sugar will boost your energy quickly but likely to lead to a sudden energy drop later)
  • Don’t approach your exams negatively – eg by telling yourself you always fail, never do well, always go blank etc
  • Don’t dissect the exam with other people afterwards – take yourself off and give yourself a treat instead. Post mortems will only make you more anxious and uncertain

Relaxation techniques

  • Practice centring
  • Become aware of your breathing and learn to slow your breath down more than breathing deeply
  • Take regular, short breaks while revising
  • Exercise helps, including swimming, running, walking, yoga, dance
  • Treat yourself occasionally to something special
  • Use lavender oil e.g. in your bath, in an oil burner, on your pillow, on a tissue
  • Imagine yourself in a dream place, a tropical island, a mountain top, a beautiful room and imagine it in as much detail as you can, using all your senses
  • Listen to relaxation tapes

First aid

if panic strikes
  • Centring
  • Grounding
  • Focusing on your breath
  • Taking time out
if you go blank

Write down anything you can think of or remember even if it seems gibberish – try using spider diagrams, brainstorming or images

not finding any questions to answer

Read through the questions again and underline words which relate to material you know. Read through the questions that seem most relevant, slowly and think how you could answer them

not having enough to write

Taking too long to answer a question and writing too much more common. Concise answers that really answer the question are likely to be more effective than writing pages and missing the question itself

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Holi! Holi! Holi!

Although I am not in India at the moment, thanks to modern technology I am able to have Holi darsan of Sri Radha Govindadev in Jaipur. I am sharing with all of you links to Rajasthan Patrika, where you can see video reports from the temple, where Jaipur devotees are enthusiastically celebrating the Holi season.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Stress on tourism package for Braj region

From the "The Times of India", Jaipur, 28/02/2009

After having succeeded in influencing the state government to ban all kinds of mining operations in the spiritually and culturally significant Deeg and Kaman tehsils of Bharatpur, the Braj Foundation have embarked upon yet another mission.

According to chief executive officer of the foundation Vineet Narain, "The ban on mining in the Rajasthan portion of Braj region is just the beginning. There is an immense need for the preparation of a comprehensive tourism master plan for the entire region so that the economic fallout can be mitigated through enhanced tourism activities and the ravaged hills can be restored back to their glory." The foundation has recently prepared a comprehensive tourism master plan for the Uttar Pradesh part of Braj region. The plan has been duly approved by the Uttar Pradesh government.
Narain and his team would be meeting chief minister Ashok Gehlot and would be impressing upon him the need of developing a comprehensive master plan for the Braj region lying within Rajasthan so that the bulk of tourists visiting the Keoladeo National Park at Bharatpur and the Sariska Tiger Reserve at Alwar can be attracted to the exotic heritage hills of Braj as well.
"Due to our sustained campaign, the townships of Deeg and Kaman had been declared as heritage cities. Signages had also been installed at major sites of attraction. But there doesn't exist any plan or policy for developing these heritage sites. Whatsoever little tourism exists in the region is either religious tourism," said Narain. "The need of the hour is to recognise the cultural importance and spiritual significance of the innumerable villages lying in the region and to boost a multi-dimensional tourism" he added.

Friday, December 5, 2008

My First Day at School

Recently a friend of mine has sent me this picture. I completely forgot about the existence of this, as due course of my life I moved houses, cities, countries and continents. But here you go folks - this is a photo taken in Poland, on my first day at primary school - a looooooong time ago: 1st of September, 1982. Considering the fact that I am still loitering around at the university, that makes it sound totally prehistoric.
Well, any guesses where I am on this photo? To tell you the truth - it took me a while to figure it out! Huh, maybe it is some proof that I grew up after all?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Journalism in the Age of Quarrel

As we all hear the latest about Mumbai terrorist attacks, I ponder about the job of those who report the news to us. Here is a picture of Mumbai journalists giving their live reports while lying down in order to avoid being shot by stray bullets. Training to be a journalist myself, I realise how different it is from writing about gossip and celebrities!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Braj Rāslīlā Dramas

Since it is the end of the Kartik month and the Maha Ras is going to take place, I thought I would share with you essay which I have just written for my course entitled "Literature in the 19th century colonial India".

Braj rāslīlā performances – their literary, educational and cultural impact on British and “Hindoos” of 19th century colonial India

Colonial India of 19th century saw a great development in it’s theatrical state of arts. Intellectual circles and common folk were able to see performances played by various types of theatres. This variety consisted of devotional ramlīlās and rāslīlās set up in the open air or within a temple environment, a more sophisticated parsi theatre displaying historical, social and mythological genres or a mixture of both styles – the famous nautankī. Study of theatre popular at particular era allows one to venture into many areas of interest and it gives one access to understanding the history of language, literature, religion and culture of a particular region. British who were present in India at that time were naturally exposed to rich cultural heritage of that continent. Holding administrative duties within the country involved the necessity of knowledge of it’s customs, language, religion and art. Whether appreciating it or not, British immersed in the environment around them, found themselves exposed to India’s theatrical heritage as well. In this way, Indian theatre played to two audiences – “Hindoos” and British. Cultural, linguistic and religious aspect of the Braj rāslīlā performances and it’s perception by British and Indian people, portrays the position of Hindi literature of that time, which was active via the medium of this devotional drama.

Braj rāslīlā has to be understood within it’s regional and religious setting. Rāslīlā originated from the region of two cities of north India - Vrindāvan and Mathurā. Up to the present day, the language medium there is a local dialect of Hindi - Braj. Mathurā, the birthplace of Kṛṣṇa and Vrindāvan, the area where Kṛṣṇa spent his youth, both create a setting for the theological and cultural basis of the rāslīlās. These two cities are famous for being the cultural and linguistic hub of the Kṛṣṇa worship and the Braj language.
Līlās are Kṛṣṇa’s actions which he played as child or lover of the gopīs. According to “Viṣṇu Purāṇa”, rās refers in particular to Kṛṣṇa’s circle dance performed together with the gopīs on a full moon autumn night. “Bhāgavata Purāṇa” (3.2.14) brings the two terms together, calling the original romantic event the rāslīlā.[1] It is therefore that the devotional drama – Braj rāslīlā, consists of 2 parts: rās (dancing) and līlā (singing and dialogue). Kṛṣṇa’s original dance and other stories from his life are re-enacted. The followers of Kṛṣṇa tradition see such performances as representation of most important parts of Vaiṣṇava theological thought.
The rāslīlās are performed exquisitely in the Braj language because it is a speciality of the residents of that region. Living in the land of Kṛṣṇa, understanding the theological intricacies of Kṛṣṇa culture and being able to speaking the regional language, all became the essential requirements of the performance. In this way, Braj rāslīlās gained very strong linguistic and regional character. Apart from being the language of stage performance, Brajbhāshā became the language of religious books, songs and temple stories. In fact, through spreading the popularity of rāslīlās, Brajbhāshā culture gained almost a national appeal.[2]
The theology of religious traditions active in Braj area gives a prime importance to understanding, and in fact celebrating, the union of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa.[3] According to theological schools of Vrindāvan, it is the devotee’s highest duty and pleasure to contemplate the dalliance and union of these two divine lovers while thinking himself as an attendant who facilitates their meetings and renders the adoring service.[4] Rāslīlās thus resemble and portray the fundamental attitudes of India’s bhakti tradition.

Braj rāslīlās provided spiritual and educational value to it’s spectators. The commencement of the rāslīlā performances took place along with re-establishment of the cultural and religious importance of Vrindāvan in 16th century, by Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis. Federic Salomon Growse, the British administrator of Mathurā in 19th century, maintains that rāslīlās started along with initiating the banjātrā – a pilgrimage through all places in Braj in which Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes occurred.[5] Nārāyaṇ Bhatt, a disciple of Rupa, who started the banjātrā, identified these places and erected special platforms (maṇḍalīs) where the actual rās dance took place. The round maṇḍalīs built with the throne for Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, apart from marking the sacred spot, became the first stage arrangements where līlās were performed. By being acted in the actual divine-geographical spots, the rāslīlās became a form of religious ritual. Through seeing līlās in the sacred places of Braj, the spectator could experience spiritual transformation and learn about the theology and history of the area. Nārāyaṇ Bhatt made līlās more accessible to general populace and played crucial role in improving it’s performance and musical aspect. Encouraging staging rāslīlās enabled him to illuminate reality by evoking the vision of the deity. In this way, rāslīlās can be understood as continuity of tradition – just as gopīs enacted the rāsa dance because they were missing Kṛṣṇa, in the same way those who played in līlā as Braj actors, and the spectators of the rāsa performance, could have a darsan of Kṛṣṇa. Līlās carried thus spiritual and educational value which was giving it’s impact via dramatic performance and Braj poetry which was part of it.
Educational value for the Indian viewers of the rāslīlās can be understood in a broader perspective. Due to strong devotional aspect of this theatrical form it is clear that it’s purpose wasn’t just a mere, plain entertainment. Līlās due to their sacredness were never played on the roadsides where līlā could be just stared at by passer-bys. Looking at rāslīlā meant entering into a sacred space – in a physical and metaphorical sense. Līlās thus usually were enacted within the temple compounds, pandals, or at houses of rich families (where devotees who wanted to see them were always encouraged to come in). Spectators had understanding that actors playing roles of Rādhā Kṛṣṇa, were in fact non-different from them and therefore needed to be shown utmost respect. A particular feature of the rāslīlā was that all roles were played by Brahmin boys, up to the age of 12-13.[6] Young age of the actors is explained as a way of keeping purity over people’s perception of Kṛṣṇa’s love affairs. The educative impetus of līlās can be thus looked within two contexts – it’s impact on actors and on the spectators.
Although the sacredness of the performance was strictly maintained and reinforced upon the viewers, līlās were open to all audience. The literacy level of the 19th century residents of Braj was extremely low. Majority of people gained their theological knowledge not by reading scriptures but by hearing the poetry of the medieval Braj poets which was used in rāslīlās and which was popularly sung at the local temples. The modified vernacular renderings of these great poets, which during the performance were further enriched by prose and pravacan, contributed to the education of the people of Braj.[7] On the contrast with illiteracy of the Braj folk, svamīs - the leaders of līlā groups, were highly skilled in usage of Hindi, Braj and Sanskrit. Brahmin boys who played in līlās had to become literate as well, in order to be able to learn their lines. Svamī on taking on someone’s son into the group was taking responsibility for providing the child necessary education.[8] Rāslīlās therefore had their importance far beyond recreation – they were complexly evolved, extensive in outreach, effective in communicating the religious experience and an important instrument in education.[9]

The literary contribution of the 19th century rāslīlās consists of writings of poets who drew their inspiration from the religious scriptures and literary heritage of earlier bhakti writers. Braj poetry was continually created in 16th, 17th, 18th and consequently in 19th century. 18th century especially is characterised by increased creativity of commentaries on previous vernacular languages. Writings of Vallabha’s eight poet disciples (the Ashtachap), the “Sūrsāgar” of Sūrdās, and the “Braj Vilasā” by Brajbāsī dās (written in 1743) all taking their source from Bhāgavata Purāṇa were all further expanded by rāsdhārīs of 19th century. Dhruvadās of 17th century was inspired to compose during nights at rāsmandal in Vrindāvan. Further contribution in 18th century is “Rās Chadma Vinod” of Cācā Vrindābandās. Starting from the 16th century, in every successive century, the poets of Braj have been thus setting forth new stories concerning Kṛṣṇa, often with the needs of the rāslīlā staging as their direct impetus. Nārāyaṇ Svamī, a 19th century poet clearly states in the introduction to his “Braj Vihār” that he was an enthusiastic follower of the rāsmaṇḍalīs and wrote especially for their use. Those who would adopt their works for the stage purpose have probably dwelt on poetry of previous writers since generations. What made the rāslīlā remarkable was the literary treasure on which it drew, the refinement of language and the feeling which it derives from generations of literate stage people, and of it’s power to attract and influence relatively sophisticated and cultured audiences.

There are a few accounts of British seeing a rāslīlā being performed. Thomas Duer Broughton in his “Letters written in a Mahratta Camp during the year 1809” gives a detailed description of such event. Broughton (1778-1835) was a British army officer with literary interest who went to India in 1795. Son of a clergyman in Bristol, educated in Eaton, eventually joined the Bengal Army. In 1802 he became the commander of the British Resident’s escort at the court of Daulat Rao Sindia, the leader of the strongest Maratha army. Broughton had a good knowledge of Urdu and was well acquainted with the Persian literature. During his stay in India he developed also a great interest in the Braj poetry.[10] In his letters he recalls watching a rāslīlā performance on the occasion of Janmāsṭami celebrations.[11] Broughton seems to be impressed by the performance and the appearance of the Brahmin-boys actors of whom he says: “they are all eminently handsome”.[12] His writing reflect European perception of the drama and Braj language: ”The performance was a kind of Ballet, descriptive of the sports of this amorous and inconstant, but interesting deity, with the Gopees, or virgins of Gokul, during which they sung stanzas of B,hak,ha, or a language of Brij [sic] (…). This language which is very little known among Europeans in general, is forcible and comprehensive, though, from abounding in monosyllables, it sounds harsh to ears unaccustomed to hear it pronounced. It contains beautiful specimens of the ancient Hindoo poets, which, I am persuaded, would apply himself to their study.”[13] Author gives us also a first hand description of what he saw: ”Both the dancing and singing of the Rahus-d,harees was far superior to that of common performers; their attitudes were exceedingly graceful, and their voices were never raised beyond the natural pitch. The dresses were appropriate and elegant, especially that of Kunya [sic], who wore a brilliant sun upon his head, and a quantity of superb jewels about his neck and breast; all of which, as well as the dresses of other boys, were furnished from the wardrobe of Muha Raj. After the dances were over, they exhibited in groups representations of the most celebrated statues of Krishna and his relatives, with accuracy and steadiness quite surprising in such children. (…) and it was pleasing to see them, after their performance, instead of making the usual obeisance, lifting up their little hands, as evoking a blessing upon the Muha Raj, who rose, and bowed to each as he retired.”[14] Broughton clearly appreciates the show with it’s visual and poetical aspects. The point which he makes about boys giving blessings to the Raj and Muha Raj bowing down to all of them, confirms the fact that līlā actors were seen as personifications of Kṛṣṇa and his associates who duly should be respected and can bless the audience. Broughton’s interest on Braj poetry results in publishing a collection of Braj poems under a title: “Selections from the Popular Poetry of the Hindoos – 1814”. The book is an outcome of Broughton’s finding out that many of his soldiers being Brahmins, were well acquainted with the poetry. Soldiers could remember many poems and were thus source of Broughton’s poetry collection. He was very surprised with the fact that poetry was not restricted only to royal courts but was relished by the common folk. Broughton’s published collection is one of the earliest critical remarks on Hindi poetry in English. [15]

Another eye-witness account given by foreigner is one of James Tod (1782-1835) in 1829. Tod was a British officer and a historian of Rajasthan. He served there on a diplomatic service from 1805 to 1822. Similarly like Broughton, Tod went to India in 1799 as a cadet in the Bengal Army and subsequently served as a chief of the Intelligence Department.[16] His description of rāslīlā can be found in his “Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan” (1829). Tod, similarly as Broughton, watched rāslīlā on the occasion of Janmāsṭami celebrations. He sums up his experience: “The movements of those who personate the deity and his fair companions are full of grace, and the dialogue is replete with harmony. The Chobis of Mathurā and Vindravana [sic] have considerable reputation as vocalists; and the effect of the modulated and deep tones of the adult blending with the clear treble of the juvenile performers, while the time is marked by the cymbal or the soothing monotony of the tabor, accompanied by the mūrali or flute, is very pleasing.”[17] In his account Tod clearly appreciates the aesthetic qualities of the performance. Both of the accounts – Tod’s and Broughton’s - show that Braj rāslīlā troupes were travelling and visiting distant places. It proves popularity of the līlā performance and the fact that it was considered as something worthy to show to British administrators.

An additional report worth noticing is that of Growse who happened to see only one performance, played in Sanket - place of Rādhā’s and Kṛṣṇa’s marriage. Sanket was established by Nārāyaṇ Bhatt as one of the important places in the banjātrā pilgrimage trail, hence, the rāslīlās were enacted there. Since līlā which was seen by Growse was “Vivāha Līlā”, where Kṛṣṇa and Rādhā don’t speak (just as it is in any contemporary marriage ceremonies, where groom and bride don’t talk), Growse was under the impression that rāslīlā was a pantomime. He writes: “The marriage scene, as performed at Sanket, is the only one that I have had the fortune to witness: with a garden terrace for stage, a grey stone temple for back-ground, the bright moon over head (…), the spectacle was a pretty one and was marked by a total absence of anything even verging upon indecorum.”[18] Further, since main 2 actors didn’t speak, he remarks that children who partake in a play “act only in a dumb show.”[19] Growse stated that Mathurā district was home to many actors and confirmed that Mathurā had been a centre of stage activity during the 19th century. As an enthusiast of the Braj culture he was raising also positive hope that it would develop even further.[20]

Contrasting to the above positive accounts, a report appeared in the 19th century edition of the “London Times” (24th March, 1859). The article describes evening entertainment provided by the rājā for the European officials in Lucknow. The one sentence description shows Western understanding in the face of the exotic: “There was one other interlude in the nauch, when there appears six or eight boys dressed as girls, their faces covered with gold leaf, who performed an abstruse comedy or mystery, and sang a chorus of an incomprehensible character (…).”[21] Understanding and appreciation of the rāslīlā certainly requires knowledge of it’s intricate world of special theological concepts and religious symbols. No everyone was ready to appreciate, celebrate and understand the amorous love plays or cheeky acts of Kṛṣṇa. Alexasnder Duff (1086-1878)[22], missionary and one of the most militant representatives of the Christian faith in India, bluntly spoke of Kṛṣṇa: “And yet, with all his external beauty, enhanced as it was by the decorations of art, what was the character of this incarnate divinity? In his youth, he selected 16000 shepherdesses, with whom he ‘sported away his hours in the gay revelries of dance and song’ (…). In a quarrel with a certain monarch respecting some point of precedency [sic], he became so enraged that he cut off the head of his rival. He was in the habit of practicing all manner of roughish and deceitful tricks. With the most deliberate acts of falsehood and of theft he was more than once chargeable.”[23]
… And because of these tricks and acts of falsehood the rāslīlās found a great material for plays and literary creativity. Braj poetry is happy to celebrate Kṛṣṇa’s frolics which Duff finds it hard to appreciate. One of the poems which was recited while Tod saw the rāslīlā is an excellent example of celebrating Kṛṣṇa’s “roughish and deceitful tricks” by Rādhā, Jasodā and consequently by Braj poets and their audience:

सुनिहो जसोदा फरियाद करों तकसीर सुनो अपने नट की ।
अहली जु चले बिँदराबन जाएँ जहाँ बाहँ झकझोर लियो झटकी ।
अहली मन मैं सुख छाइ रहे सखियाँ मुसकाई सबै सटकी ।
दधि माखन लूट लियो सगरो चट चौपट मैं मटकी पटकी ।।
तुम ग्वलिन नार गँवार बड़ी कोऊ पावत ना तुम्हरे धट की ।
दस बीस मिलो बन को जो चलो तुम मानत ना अपनी हटकी ।

रस कुंजन मैं जु किलोल करो हमसे (न) कहो मटकी पटकी ।।

“Listen, Jasodā, this is my complaint. Hear the mischief of your actor:
“When filled with joy, I went to Vrindāban, where he frolickingly wrenched my arms,
“Joy spread in [his] mind and my smiling companions moved away from us.
“He took away all my curd and butter and my earthen jar instantly smashed in plain view.
“Oh, cowherd woman, you are a big fool; nobody can understand [the matter] of your heart.
“Go in groups of ten or twenty when you go to the Forest (Vrindāban)! –
You did not consider my words, but only your stubborn [ways].

“You sport in groves of love and still speak of the smashed jar?” [24]

The rāslīlās of Mathurā and Vrindāvan hold a special position within India’s cultural heritage and it’s literature development. Study of rāslīlā in the context of it’s influence on various spheres of life and on two types of people: British and “Hindoos” is an interesting approach which enables one to explore many aspects of this theatrical form. Dramas of Mathurā certainly differ form western forms of theatre. As Norvin Hein puts it: “Special Indian needs bring them into being, and special Indian conditions give them their characteristic shape.”[25] The rāslīlās contributed greatly to the development of Hindi literature by providing poetry and prose which were either new creations or a transformation of already available literature. Through it’s literary development, this form of drama provided theological and cultural education for Indians and a new cultural experience for the British. Rāslīlā can’t be described as ‘rustic drama form’. The dignity of the dramas approaches that of literature, because it is so closely connected with it. Rāslīlā’s literary tradition does not cater for the taste of the masses, but inculcate traditional ideals which are approved by the society’s most honoured classes. The travelling rāsmaṇḍalīs were able to cross linguistic boundaries and their penetration of the non-Hindi speaking areas contributed to the increased prestige of Hindi and Hindi literature. Līlās proved that though played in Braj language, they were able to educate and make an impression on it’s spectators. It’s performance in colonial India had various impact – it certainly intrigued the British[26], educated Indians, created new devotees of Kṛṣṇa, new singers of Brajbhāshā songs, new pilgrims to Braj and new readers of the Brajbhāshā literature.[27]

Bangha Imre, The First Published Anthology of Hindi Poets – Thomas Broughton’s Selection from the Popular Poetry of the Hindoos 1814, Rainbow Publishers Limited, Delhi, 2000

Dalmia Vasudha, The Nationalization of Hindu Traditions, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1999

Duer Broughton Thomas, Letters Written in a Mahratta Camp During the Year 1809, Archbald Constable and Company, Westminster, 1818

Hein Norvin, The miracle plays of Mathurā, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1972

Growse Federick Salomon, Mathurā – A District Memoir, Asian Educational Services, New Delhi, 1979


[1] Hein Norvin, The miracle plays of Mathurā, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1972, pg.129
[2] Hein Norvin, The miracle plays of Mathurā, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1972,, pg. 6
[3] Kṛṣṇa, Supreme Godhead is understood to be a personal being, therefore his exchanges with gopīs and his devotees are very human-like. All religious groups of Vrindāvan and Mathurā worship Kṛṣṇa along side with Rādhā - the most important of gopīs. Rādhā is considered Kṛṣṇa’s hlādinī śakti, ‘blisfull energy’, a polar principle that is no different from Kṛṣṇa. In order to taste the bliss of his own nature, Kṛṣṇa creates his potency and as a lover enjoys communion with himself in this form. - ibid., pg. 9
[4] ibid., pg. 9
[5] ibid., pg. 223
[6] It is known that the rāslīlā performance of the mid - 16th century was predominantly an adult art and the timing of the shift into the usage of child actors is difficult to be dated. - ibid., pg. 230
[7] Hein Norvin, The miracle plays of Mathurā, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1972, pg. 6
[8] After leaving the stage career, skilled boys could hope to become svamis themselves, or moved onto playing musical instruments that accompanied the performance.
[9] Hein Norvin, The miracle plays of Mathurā, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1972, pg. 14
[10]Bangha Imre, The First Published Anthology of Hindi Poets – Thomas Broughton’s Selection from the Popular Poetry of the Hindoos 1814, Delhi: Rainbow Publishers Limited, 2000, pg. 9-10
[11] “Great preparations are making for the approaching Hindoo festival Junum-ushtoomee, the anniversary of the birth of Krishna. Sets of dancing boys, called Rahusd,harees, are arrived from Muttra for the occasion, and all the principal people in camp have received invitations to be present at their performance.” in: Duer Broughton Thomas, Letters Written in a Mahratta Camp During the Year 1809, Westminster: Archbald Constable and Company, 1818, pg. 187
[12] ibid., pg. 192
[13] ibid.
[14] ibid., pg. 194-195
[15] Bangha Imre, The First Published Anthology of Hindi Poets – Thomas Broughton’s Selection from the Popular Poetry of the Hindoos 1814, Delhi: Rainbow Publishers Limited, 2000, pg. 11
[17] Growse Federick Salomon, Mathurā – A District Memoir, New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 1979, pg. 33
[18] ibid., pg. 80
[19] ibid.
[20] Hein Norvin, The miracle plays of Mathurā, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1972, pg.4
[21] ibid., pg. 130
[23] Dalmia Vasudha, The Nationalization of Hindu Traditions, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999, pg. 346

[24] Bangha Imre, The First Published Anthology of Hindi Poets – Thomas Broughton’s Selection from the Popular Poetry of the Hindoos 1814, Delhi: Rainbow Publishers Limited, 2000, pg. 65-66
[25] Hein Norvin, The miracle plays of Mathurā, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1972, pg. 273
[26] Apart from personal accounts mentioned above, British scholars looked at rāslīlās in an academic perspective. For example, William Ridgeway in his book The Dramas and Dramatic Dances of Non-European Races in Special Reference to the Origin of Greek Tragedy, published by Cambridge University Press in 1915, gives substantial description and documentation concerning the rāslīlā.
[27] Hein Norvin, The miracle plays of Mathurā, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1972, pg. 161

Friday, October 31, 2008

For Women By Women

As I am sitting and writing a news article about safety of women living in India, I want to share with you an article from the web, which I think presents a cool idea. It is an old one (28th September 2007, "The HINDU" Business Lane), neverthless a valuable one. It presents female driving force - in it's actual meaning!

Driving Forsche
A new taxi service in Mumbai powered by women, for women.

Hers: The Forsche taxi service boasts a team of well-educated, reliable and courteous drivers.

Surekha Kadapa Bose

Every second Saturday of the month, a small office near the City Light cinema in Mumbai comes alive with peals of laughter, excited chatter and lively discussions.

Eighteen women drivers, part of an all-women taxi service called ‘Forsche’, are busy exchanging notes and narrating their experiences of the month gone by over a sumptuous meal.

“It was in December 2006 that I hit upon the idea of starting a pre-paid taxi service for women in this metro. It was just a thought and I wasn’t too sure of the reaction to my venture. But I knew that I had hit bull’s eye when I received a tremendous response for the first full-page advertisement I placed in an eveninger asking for competent women drivers,” says Revathi Roy, 45, the brain behind Forsche.

‘For she’

Incidentally, ‘Forsche’ has been derived from the word Porsche — the German sports car firm — but is spelt with an ‘F’ and pronounced as ‘for she’. Of course, Revathi’s service motto is — ‘By the women, for the women and of the women.’

“As a frequent taxi passenger, I would find it irritating that some drivers would stare at me in the rear-view mirror. Also, I wasn’t too comfortable with the lack of cleanliness of regular cabs and even the way the drivers drove,” remarks Revathi. With her personal savings and some money from friends and relatives, Revathi raised funds to the tune of Rs 14 lakh. Friends and well-wishers bought her the cars and she pays the EMI of these cars plus Rs 1,000 extra to the car owners. Despite the experience of running a successful business — her family owns Windors, an outlet for windows and doors accessories — Revathi was pleasantly surprised at how quickly word spread about her venture. Forsche taxis, the fleet comprises 18 air-conditioned white Maruti Versa cars, are cleaned daily so that the passengers don’t inhale stale air. In addition, Forsche offers its women-only passengers a mini make-up kit that includes a mirror, nail polish remover, cotton buds, clippers and nail files. There’s a selection of magazines and newspapers on board so that passengers are pleasantly engaged during long rides.

Each taxi is also fitted with a walkie-talkie so that the drivers are in constant contact with each other and also with the head office, manned by Revathi. Interestingly, these cabs also double as advertisements on wheels. Currently, the women’s magazine, Marie Claire, has had a pink stripe painted on the taxis, which gives them an attractive and feminine appearance.

“We have a six-month contract with Marie Claire,” explains Revathi, who began the Forsche service this year, on March 8, which is International Women’s Day. “I will later be tying up with Hindustan Lever for an all-India sponsorship.” These good-looking vehicles stand out from among the regular yellow-black cabs in the city. But it’s not just the cabs that are trendy. The drivers are, too.

Dressed in pink or lavender kurta (tunic) and blue trousers, an ink-blue scarf tied Girl Guide fashion around their necks completes the very elegant and posh look. “Not only do our passengers like our looks and that of our taxis, they also enjoy the music we play,” says Annhaita Mistry, 45, a graduate and one of the senior-most drivers. That is another plus point of Forsche — the drivers are well educated and can speak fluent English, Hindi and Marathi. A few are also conversant in Gujarati.

Love of driving

And all of them are passionate about driving. The drivers take home Rs 9,500.

Prachi Jaiswal, 28, a graphic designer from the J.J. School of Arts in Mumbai, is the latest entrant at Forsche. Says Prachi, “I have always loved driving. When I got this chance to indulge in my passion, earn and also work on my freelance design work, I jumped at the offer.” Some drivers pursue higher studies, working part-time with Forsche over the weekends. The 24-hour, door-to-door service is a big hit with the women of Mumbai. One has to just pick up the phone and dial 09323208277 or 09892819245 or 022-24324161 to arrange a cool ride. Forsche’s customers also include outstation women who fly down to the city for work. “They call up and ask for the taxi to be at the airport to pick them up at a particular time,” Revathi says. For instance, Bangalore’s Swarupa Gangadharan always books in advance and enjoys a comfortable ride with Forsche.

Then there is 81-year-old Dr Nalinee Odak, a former physician at ESIS’s MG Memorial Hospital in Parel, who likes to engage a Forsche. “Being a senior citizen, I found it difficult to move around. But with Revathi’s taxis, which have reliable, well-behaved and courteous women drivers, I have started travelling around the city with ease. Now I use their services at least two to three times a month to visit my sister at Walkeshwar, or my friend at Dadar,” she says.

Comfort’s price

But the comfort comes at a price. Forsche charges Rs 200 per hour. Revathi concedes, “Our services are 20 per cent higher than other taxis. But with us, women can relax and enjoy the ride without having to worry about their plunging necklines as there are no gawking male drivers looking in the rear-view mirrors.” The facilities are only available to women, though. No man can ride in a Forsche taxi. Not even husbands or sons, though children up to 12 years are welcome. “The family can always hire a regular taxi,” suggests Revathi.

In the last six months, these drivers and their regular customers have become an extended family that meets often and shares benefits. Any tips earned are put into a common kitty, a ‘handi’ (clay pot).

“We break the handi every second Saturday and distribute the money equally among all the 18 drivers. Every driver makes an extra Rs 1,000 - 2,000 a month from these tips,” says Revathi. The venture has already broken even. “From next month I hope to make profits,” says Revathi, whose last six months have been fraught with many personal tragedies.

She lost her husband, her mother and her grandfather. Revathi credits her family for her accomplishment. “The immense support that I have got from my parents-in-law and my three children — Satyajit (21), Shurojit (18), Shubhojit (12) — has made my venture very successful,” says the petite but strong-willed entrepreneur. What are her future plans for Forsche? Having tasted success, Revathi wants to expand her business to Delhi and Bangalore. In fact, she has already set up the Delhi office and her eldest son has begun the initial groundwork. Here’s hoping she has a smooth ride.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Diwali in Jaipur

Though I am presently in London and not in Jaipur, I do keep the pulse on what is happening there. And hanging on the phone with India every day is a great help too! Here for your pleasure are few pictures of the colorful decorations that light up the Pink City every year for this festive season.

Old city.

View of Jaipur from Nahargarh Fort.

Raja Park.

Offices of Rajasthan Patrika - a regional Hindi newspaper that I read. All the pictures here are at their courtesy.

Busy streets of Raja Park again.

Old city.

Monday, October 27, 2008

How much are you worth?

Recently I have spent countless hours writing my CV, updating it and making various forms of the same, boring CV document. Trust me - I prefer to write up a 5000 words essay than dive into the challenge of CV writing boredom. It is an art - how much do you sell yourself for? How much of yourself can you advertise on the first page of your CV, before fed up Human Resources manager will be prompted to put you in the 'No' file? How many people do you need to outstand and outnumber to get to the top? And how not to run out of steam in the meantime? Tough questions for the tough living in the mainstream of our human society. Some people have competitiveness in their blood. I don't. When I used to train target shooting I never wanted to compete against the others. But the cruel world is not set up like that.
So how much are we worth at the end of the day? Now see the crude reality.
Forget your CV. Die quickly so you can save some money on your exit.
I took this picture recently in Kolkata Crematorium near Kali Ghat.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Unity in Diversity

Here are a few cool pictures which were given to me by my friend Dhara who lives in Delhi. These pictures were taken by her in a call centre where she works with a bunch of other enthusiastic young people. Whenever I look at them I think: "unity in diversity! teamwork!". And then I ponder on what my friends told me once when I described myself as a teamplayer: "Yeah... cool, but did you notice that it must be always only YOUR game???". There you go. Wanna be part of my game then?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Item Girl

Did you ever feel you were an item girl? Well, I am not speaking here of item girls doing a 5 minute song-flick-thing in a Bollywood movie. There is other type of item girls. Here in India if you are white and a westerner - you are an item! If you are blond - you are high value item! Everyone wants to speak to you, take a photo with you, invite you for functions so that they can show you off to their friends and family. Watch out for the wedding season - there is nothing more powerful than having a few white videshis dancing in your bharat (wedding procession)! Everyone will look, whoooohaaaa - you made your statement, and increased your local status by 6 points! White people around you - you must have money, charm, style, and connections! And maybe you can even manage to leave India on their invitation and become and NRI! Wah, wah, wah!
But tell you one thing, guys - as much as I am white and blond (and truly hope that I am not one of those 'thick blondes'!), I have no money, no status, no home in foreign land. I am completely useless. Oh, maybe I should then hook up with some wealthy industrialist over here. What a great idea, wah, wah, wah!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

108 - Indian Emergency Call Number

If you are ever in trouble while in India, simply dial 108! India recently launched a new scheme and 108 has become an emergency number for some of some states. Here is an article about it form
"You may have often seen in the movies or even read in books about ‘911’ the number the United States denizens dial incase of emergency situations! Now a similar service is being introduced in India by the Emergency Management and Research Institute (EMRI), which is soon about to launch this service in Madhya Pradesh. In a recent statement, Health minister Ambumani Ramadoss was intimated by Union Telecom minister A Raja that 108 is being finalized as the national toll free trauma care number to the institution.

It was further informed that 108 is already being used as the toll free emergency number in Indian states such as Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. On the other hand, even states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have inked MoU with the EMRI Institute for availing this service. Indian states like Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and Kerala too are charting plans for fixing the number 108 for all emergency purposes.

Every time a caller dials 108, his or her call will be received by a 24 hour call centre which will take down all important information from the caller. After this, the call centre will locate an ambulance, fire vehicle or the police vehicle depending on the type of emergency through GPRS technology and dispatch it to where the help is needed. The EMRI Institute has received top recognition in the health care category at the 2008 computer world honours programme."

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Non Sacred Sounds of India

Well, just as people appreciate the sacredness of India with it's mantras, tantras, sound of aratik songs and ringing bells, I am pondering about it's non sacred sounds that surround me every day...

Here you go, that is what the background sounds of my life here consists of:

1) Sound of clearing the throat followed by spit. From the window of my bathroom I can hear that every morning from my neighbors' house.

2) "Breaaad, breaaad!" - that's the guy who sells bread every morning in front of my house. It is followed later on in the day by people selling brooms, subjis, newspapers, chai, muri, namkeen, ice cream, samosas and so on.

3) Buzzing of the AC. And fan.

4) Buzzing of the energy saving light bulbs (the long one's that make you feel that you are in a hospital ward!).

5) Hooting of scooters, bikes and cars.

6) "Radio Mirchi" - (They always say: "Radio Mirchi sunnewale - always kush!" - those who listen to radio Mirchi are always happy!)

7) Bollywood songs - my addiction!

8) Silly TV advertisements.

9) Questions asked by absolute strangers: "Which country do you belong to? Are you married?" - next time you ask me, I will strangle you, by the way.

10) Sexual harassment lines and sleazy chat up lines - as a response, I have become expert in Hindi dirty language.

11) A guy who lives around the corner and dressed up as a clown follows people around playing a tambourine.

12) Bharat (wedding) processions that march back and forth in front of my window.

13) Brass bands that are just so uncool.

14) Screaming kids. Screaming big families.

... Any other ideas and experiences anyone out there?????

And thanks God that India has so many sacred sounds to balance it all out and give one some tranquility, so that one doesn't go totally nuts by living here!