Thursday, September 26, 2013

Keech...Keech...Beware...Parakeets Are Visiting....!

 As soon as I saw the picture of parakeets and so many of them in a small area in the city centre,  in the Tamil magazine Aananda Vikatan, I decided to preserve the article in my blog.  All of you know how crazy I am about birds and animals.

Then I searched the web to get more details of this news and got it.  It is here, in The Hindu dt. 12th June, '13. 

As we know already, we rarely see small birds like sparrows in the crowded cities nowadays.  Even crows are becoming less in number, I was told.  When I went to our old house, which was in the outskirts then, 17 years back, I used to see these birds visiting our house for the seeds of the Rathnagandhi flowers.  They used to split the beans like seeds and eat the seeds which are inside and leave the outer skin on the ground.  Whenever they visited, the whole garage area was full of these skins.  I was not writing blogs in those days (!) and so it never occurred for me to take pictures of so many of the birds.  But I used to stand there and watch them. I don't see them anymore now. The bulbul birds are also gone. The bulbul birds were like family for us.

The articles in 'The Hindu' and 'Aananda Vikatan' say that this man, 'Camera' Sekar, resides in Rayapettah, Chennai, in a rented house in a crowded, busy locality.  He has got his office downstairs and house upstairs. He repairs cameras for a living.  The story of the birds goes like this:

His wife had the habit of keeping rice, wheat, fried gram etc. for the birds on their terrace.  Crows used to eat the grains.  Sometimes pigeons joined them.  Around a year back, one day a parakeet (Kili in Tamil) came to eat the grain in the midst of 10-15 crows.  But the crows pecked/bit the lone bird and it flew away.  After a few days around 10 parakeets came together and started eating the grains which were kept on the parapet wall of the terrace.  For around one week the crows sat in one corner and ate the grains without 'disturbing' the new guests who started feeding on the grains on the other side of the wall.  After a week, slowly, the number of parakeets increased from 10-15 to 20-30 to nearly 200 now! Very rarely one or two crows join them nowadays!

He gets up at 5 am and spread wheat and rice on the terrace and comes down, closing the door.   The parakeets start coming around 6 am and eat until nearly 8 am.  Likewise they visit from 4 pm to 6 pm in the evening.  He needs around 15 Kg. ration rice everyday to feed them.  He is very particular not to disturb them when they eat.  Nobody is allowed to ring the doorbell when they are fed (though everybody knows the 'bird feeding' time now!).  He tried to feed some fruits, but they are smart.  It is easier for them to gobble up the grains than fruits.  They eat very fast, he says.   Nowadays he sees multi-coloured parrots also sometimes.  

He says that he will feed them as long as he live.  He says he is blessed to have them as guests in a house which is surrounded by vehicular traffic and blaring sounds. 

Now, to the pictures I got from 'Aananda Vikatan' and 'The Hindu'. Click on them to have a better view:

This photo looks like a wedding party,  waiting at the dinner table! (Added this on 4th Oct.'13)
Parakeets at Royapapettah, Chennai!

 A few pigeons are sitting along with the ring-necked parakeets!
 This picture is beautiful....the parakeets don't seem to be scared of the crow!

I clicked this picture from the Tamil Magazine, 'Aananda Vikatan'
This is the man whom I admire, Sekar! Look at the buildings in the background.  The area is full of shops and you can imagine the vehicular traffic in this area!
I am keeping on looking at the pictures...I am so happy to see them.  One day, I should try to visit this place.  But, I don't want to disturb the birds.  Just would like to meet this great man!

P.S.: I came across this video today (8.9.14):


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Unexpected Trip To Azhagar Kovil, Noopura Gangai And Trees Where Hundreds Of Weaver Bird Nests Hang From Trees!

Kallazhagar temple, near Madurai
As all my friends know by now that we go to Trichy to visit our family deity once every year.  This time after visiting our Gunaseelam temple, we went to Madurai and from there to Kallazhagar Kovil, which is situated 21 Km. from Madurai.  I will write about Madurai Meenakshi temple later.  I was more fascinated by this temple and the Noopura Gangai hill.

Actually, my husband wanted to visit Thirupparangundram and Pazhamudircholai.  We visited Thiruppangundram on our way to Madurai and this time we visited Kallazhagar Kovil, Pazhamudircholai and Noopura gangai which is near the Pazhamudircholai temple. Kallazhagar temple is situated at the foothills  of a range of hills called Azhagar malai.  Pazhamudir cholai is situated at a higher level, around 4 Km. uphill from here.  Noopura Gangai comes next.

The deity is Vishnu and he is called as Paramaswamy here.  The processional golden deity is called 'Kallazhagar' (Sundararajan also).  'Kallar' means 'thief' and 'azhagar' means 'a beautiful person'! He steals the hearts of his devotees by blessing them, it seems!  This is quite a huge, ancient temple built by the Pandya Kings/Nayakkar kings and patronised by Krishna Deva Raya.  The temple has got Dravidian type gopuram with beautiful sculptures.  During Chaitra month's utsav, the processional golden deity (Utsava moorthy)  is taken to Madurai for the celestial wedding of Shiva and Parvathi (Sundareshwarar and Meenakshi). As per our mythology, Vishnu is the brother of Meenakshi.  She is married to Shiva.  Vishnu hands over his sister's hand to Shiva here! Read more about it here.  (Vaishnavites, followers of Vishnu and Shaivaites, followers of Shiva, worship these gods together, here, for once!). I was fascinated by the Karuppanna samy temple which stands in front of the Kallazhagar temple! It has got 18 steps and nobody dares to  lie in front of the deity! Karuppanna samy is supposed to be the village deity.  It is quite huge. We have to enter Kallazhagar temple via this temple! It was a Sunday and some 3 local weddings were going on! This temple is famous for its sculptures.  We didn't have much time to spend here...hopefully, I will take more pictures and post again!

We noticed a closed, huge door inside which Vishnu's Chakra is kept it seems and the door opens only once a year.  Different stories are told about this temple.

We had the famous 'kallazhagar kovil dosa'...this is famous like our Tirupati laddoo! I noticed coarse rice powder, pepper, curry leaves and coconut as ingredients in this dosa.  They fry it in ghee, it seems, though I doubt it! It was dripping with oil, but the taste was good.

Noopura Gangai
Then we went up to Noopura Gangai.  It is said that when Brahma poured water from his kamandal on Vishnu's feet, the water fell on earth and they became rivers like Ganga in the north India and the water which fell down via his anklet fell on this hill and is called Noopura Gangai(salangai aaru...anklet river!).  The water is full of medicinal values and taking bath here cures many ailments, it is said.  Nobody knows where the water originates from.  The bathing area was very crowded.  People tonsure the hair of their babies and bathe here.  Another deity, called Rakkaayi also is here which is famous for the local people. Actually, the water comes out from her Garbagruha - sanctum sanctorum. We collected some water in a bottle and sprinkled on our heads! The water didn't have any smell, though!

Noopura Gangai steps (Picture link)

Before going up the steps to the above temple, we parked our car in a flat surface.  When we went there it was around 7 am.  Some sound hit our ears as soon as we stepped out of the car.  The crowd was less then and so this sound was too loud.  And then I saw this scene:

The dots hanging down the trees look like weaver bird nests, are they? Click on the picture to view clearly.
This area is full of trees.  This is sort of a 'herbal forest'.  Famous for Bisons, it seems.  But this is new.  We had seen weaver bird nests at Aathoor and wrote about it here.
The nests were two layered there.  Here, they look like single nests.  They are called pendant nests, my son said.  Since somebody said that it is better to visit Noopura Gangai as early as possible since it was a Sunday to avoid crowds, I didn't take a video of the sound before going up but when I came down, the area was full of vehicles.  It was difficult to make out the sound of the birds.  So, more photos:

This is the place where we parked our car.  You can see the trees in the background.
The next temple was Pazhamudir Cholai.  This is the sixth abode of Lord Muruga (Subrahmanya). The six abodes are called 'Arupadai veedu'!  The deity Muruga is with his two wives, Valli and Deivayaanai here.   The temple is small.  I have seen other Murugan temples and all were huge temples.

Pazhamudir cholai temple.
This temple and the whole area is full of beautiful monkeys. More  than me, my husband clicked more photos here...our ancestors, it seems!

 I think I will write more later about this trip. many 'it seems' are there!

Gopuram pictures: Thank you, Google!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Lord Ganesha Temple Car In Our Street!

Gajaananam Bhoota, Ganaadhi Sevitam,
Kapiththa Jumbhoo Phala Saara Bhakshitam,
Umaa Sutam Shokha Vinaasha Kaaranam,
Namaami Vighneshwara Paada Pankajam!

I did a post on Ganesh Chathurti a couple of years back (link). Today is Ganesh Chathurti. As I told you in the earlier post, we live in the outskirts of Chennai and the Ganesh temple here still celebrates Chathurti like it is celebrated in villages and small towns. The utsav moorthy (the small Ganesh Vigraha which is a small replica of the original deity) is kept in the decorated temple car (rath) and taken like a procession through the nearby streets. The car stops in front of the houses, who wish it to stop there and we do archana to the god on the road itself. Normally, the procession starts at 7 pm and ends by 10 pm. We draw fresh rangoli in front of the house in the evening and wait outside when the car enters our street. Our temple people decorate the car beautifully and artistically, every year. Now, to the pictures of the car:

This is the beautiful teak wood rath (temple car), before the flower decoration! I took this picture today evening.

We are waiting for Ganesha's visit in front of our house along with the cows! These cows sleep in front of our house every night and leave in the morning! If my husband comes home late, he has to shoo off these animals first for the car to enter the house! It is fun to watch!

More cows joined us for the Lord's darshan! You can see the rath in the distance!

This is the beautifully decorated Ganesha in the rath!

Hope you enjoyed having the darshan of Lord Ganesha! After posting the picture of the cows, I thought I will add one interesting video of our intelligent Indian Cow (thank you, Partha Sir, for the video!) Here, it is! Enjoy!

Reposting this again today (9.9.13) I miss these things.  We have left the old house now where this temple car was coming to our door.  We are in a flat, two stories above.  This is one of the things I miss most.

Jai Ganesha!

Friday, September 6, 2013

I Felt Like Dancing, After Many Many Years...Like I Did When I Was Small ...!

This is a beautiful picture of Stuart Freedman.   Thank you!

I was very very small when I first saw this type of dance drama...'Yakshagaana' in our small village where I lived with my paternal grandmother.  Our house was at the end of a street and then there was an open area where four roads joined together.  We used to have all  dramas, concerts and Yakshagaana often, conducted on the road by local people, beneath a pandal.  Yakshagaana, a folk dance drama with exotic costumes, mostly  had a story taken from our epics, Mahabharata or Ramayana.  It started in the late evening and went on till the next morning.  People used to sit on the ground and watch.  This must be in the late 1950's! I used to mimic their singing and dancing in the morning.  Their dancing was just rotating their palms and fingers and walking like a dancer, around the stage, making sounds loudly in between.  The gaayaks used to sing loudly with the rhythmic sounds from mridanga and thavil type instruments in the background (It resembled the sounds of  'chenda' vaadhyam from Kerala, but a bit different, I came to understand later)!   I must have been 5-8 years old.  The plays used to be in Kannada and Tulu too, (which is spoken in parts of Mangalore, Karnataka). It is said that most of our classics/epics are in Sanskrit.  Ordinary people couldn't follow the language.  So the simplified, local language version of stories based on the epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana were staged in the yakshagaana/kathakali/Therukkooththu (Tamil)  form. 

A couple of days back, I went to Kalakshetra Foundation, an Art School, in Chennai.  They hold 'Utasavams' of art forms like Kathakali, Kuchipudi dance etc. every year. They don't charge anything, too, great! Artists from different schools come here and perform for 3,5,7 days etc.  This time I went to 'Kathakali' utsavam.  Kathakali dance form is from Kerala and so the artists came from Kerala and the language of the story was Malayalam.  My relative who is from Kerala said that I won't be able to understand the language and their expressions and so won't enjoy! I was just curious.  The artists were from Kerala Kalamandalam, a famous Kathakali school.  This link says more about this dance form here. It started at 6 p.m., at which time it had to start! The medium sized auditorium was full, except for a few seats.

The story was about the Pandava's vanvas...the 13 year vanvas (The Kaurava raja Duryadhana had asked the Pandavas to stay out of their kingdom for 13 years.  Read the story here, please).  This story happened in the last year of the vanvas period and the Padavas were in Virata kingdom, in different forms of disguises.  Somehow Duryodhana comes to know of this and just to pick a war, stole some cows from the Virata kingdom Raja, Uttaran. The scene was: The Raja was relaxing with his two wives.  The women characters are also done by men.  Kathakali artists are always men! Then the news of the Kauravas stealing the cows, comes.  No, I will leave the story here...

The women characters' could be recognised as women from their top knot (Kondai) on their heads and cloth breasts (!) which were shown outside...funny! The male characters had long steel nails in their left hand fingers...all of them (except the sages!)! The emotions/actions, were mostly expressed with hands, fingers and EYES! You can see the finger nails in the photos below! When they were dancing, sometimes even while standing, their feet were not flat.  They were standing on the outer sides of their feet...the big toe was often curled.  I noticed nearly all the feet like this! And while sitting, they were holding the ends of anga vastra (the narrow long cloth around their necks) which had flower-like things at the ends,  in both their hands like bouquets! I noticed one more thing, the ghungroos were tied not near the ankles like our other dance forms, but in between knees and ankles!

As soon as we entered the auditorium, we were given a sheet with the story of the day's drama...scene by scene.  Still, it was not very easy to follow the drama.  Two men were singing in Malayalam, the story, at a corner of the stage.  Their voices were good! One was singing and the other was repeating.  Both of them had Ghanta (A round bronze plate played with a stick) and Jalra (two round brass plates, hit in a rhythmic style).  The music was the traditional Kerala vaadhyam, Chenda.  It is very loud.  I sort of, like it, though! I thought of leaving after some 45 mts.since I was not able to follow the story.  Then I noticed the monitors on two sides of the stage, where they were showing the story, nearly verbatically.  I started reading and then viewing the dance.  Since we know the story of Brihannala (Arjuna acts as a eunuch, in disguise) I got interested and started noticing how they were enacting the story.  Some characters were funny, like Kripacharya character jumping like a monkey, Dhronacharya was like a doll....  Duryodhana had a small white ball on his nose, don't know why.  I think the stage was a bit small for staging a battle scene.  Still it was good.  The abhinaya by the artists were very good.  The audience sat till the end of the drama.  Very good, appreciative audience.

Kerala Kalamandalam artist! Click on the picture to view in detail. Notice the steel nails in his left hand fingers!
The first picture was from Stuart Freedman and you can see more beautiful Kathakali pictures from him, HERE!

I took this picture at the auditorium.  You can notice the atmosphere, that is all.  The picture is not clear, sorry.

Have look at this 'you tube' clip of Kathakali dance form.  The play I attended was titled 'Uttara Swayamvaram'.  Here, the title is the same, but the artists are different, I think.  It is a small clip.


I came home and  enacted the dance, walking in a circular form, rotating my palms up and down,  to my son...I wanted to do it very badly! Childhood memories!


Monday, September 2, 2013

Have You Tasted This?

 I had been to Usman road, a famous shopping area in Chennai, two days back.  I had seen this cartwallah, selling this coconut flower (we call it thenga poo in Tamil) for a long time, whenever I went shopping here.  .  Though we have tasted smaller versions of this fruit (I feel like calling it fruit), along with the coconut at home often, I had never bought one from this cart.  This time I bought one fruit by paying Rs.30/- . No trace of coconut is there inside the shell.  The shell came out clean like it  comes out from dry coconut...copra.  

The weather was very hot and so I asked him why all the coconuts were wet.  He said that he keeps on sprinkling water on them so that they don't dry up.  You can see some coconut saplings on the side.

I noticed a small sprout projecting near the top of the coconut where the '3 eyes' could be seen.  This fruit which is inside the coconut provides nutrition for the sprout to grow into a sapling, he said.  People grow some coconut trees just for this purpose, he said.  He sells off all these coconut fruits within 2 days, it seems! Mostly, North Indian people are fond of this, it seems.  This is full of nutrition and helps to cure mouth ulcers.  I remember my grandmother telling me that we should not eat more of this fruit since it aggravates 'piththa'...what do you call it in English...bile, which is produced by liver?  It is not very sweet.  Looks and tastes spongy-like.   

The whole fruit

Cross section

Coconut flower (Pic. courtesy: Wiki) We call it Tennampoo in Tamil.

Have you tasted this fruit?

Edited to add today (3.9.13): I have tasted this many times and if I remember correctly this was tastier, sweeter than the one which is shown  above! I think this fruit grows eating the surrounding coconut and its water for feeding the sprout! Researching...!

Thanks for this picture, google!

Edited to add on 4th Sept.'13: My friend Sai Charan has mentioned this LINK about this fruit in the comment section.  Have a look!
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