Monday, September 24, 2012

The plight of The Elephant (God)

Ganesha Chaturthi also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi, is the Hindu festival celebrated on the birthday (re-birth) of Lord Ganesha. A very famous and lavishly celebrated festival in the Indian state of Maharashtra.
The widespread celebration of Ganesha Festival can be attributed to Indian freedom fighter and social reformer Lokmanya Tilak. He recognized the wide appeal of the deity Ganesha as "the god for everybody" and popularized Ganesh Chaturthi as a national festival in order "to bridge the gap between Brahmins and 'non-Brahmins' and find a context in which to build a new grassroots unity between them", and generate nationalistic fervor among people in Maharashtra against the British colonial rule. Tilak was the first to install large public images of Ganesh in pavilions, and also established the practice of submerging in rivers, sea, or other pools of water all public images of the deity on the tenth day after Ganesh Chaturthi.
    Under Tilak's encouragement, the festival facilitated community participation and involvement in the form of intellectual discourses, poetry recitals, performances of plays, musical concerts, and folk dances. It served as a meeting ground for people of all castes and communities in times when, in order to exercise control over the population, the British discouraged social and political gatherings. From then on, Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm and zeal.

History apart, but the 10 day long festival celebrated is a great period of joy and enjoyment. The "Modak", a specially prepared sweet to offer Lord Ganesha and playing of drums called dhol-tasha are other attractions of the festival. Added to it is the high decibel Bollywood music.

While doing all these, it appears that Lord Ganesha is lost somewhere in the clay idols and people forgot the real animal, the elephant, which our Lord signifies. This is the story of Sunder, the 13yr old elephant which was kept captive for seven long years in Kolhapur's Jyotiba Temple. As per reports of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India, Sunder spent seven years in chains in a dark shed. Sunder, who had been kept chained by temple authorities since 2005, has a hole in his ear due to an ankus (an iron rod with a hook at the end), in addition to scars all over his body and a severely injured eye probably due to a beating. In August 2012, Sunder became violent and uncontrollable in response to the ill-treatment meted out by his mahout (handler) and temple authorities, tore down a pillar and tried to flee his captors. He was subdued and brought back. The abuse of Sunder highlights the way elephants used in Indian temples are being housed and mistreated.The utter hypocrisy of Indians. PETA led a three-month campaign under which 13,000 people across India signed PETA's online petition calling for Sunder's release. It caught the attention international personalities as well. Sir Paul McCartney, former Beatle member, had taken time off from his rehearsals at the recent London Olympics to appeal to the state government to free Sunder. Apart from McCartney, Hollywood actor Pamela Anderson also lent support to the campaign by writing letters to government officials. Finally, the dark days were over for Sunder. He is being moved from the temple and rehabilitated in a wildlife rescue-and-rehabilitation center near Bangalore. 

The PETA link showing the plight and sufferings of Sunder is here.

Its a kind of hypocrisy on my part as well that being a non-vegetarian I am blogging about animal rights. However, the story of Sunder is far beyond just cruelty to animals, it shows the drastic sinking of morals in us.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Tarkarli Fun

MTDC Beach at TarkarliLast week, I along with a bunch of my friends went for a 3 days trip to Tarkarli. Tarkarli (Marathi: तारकर्ली) is a village in the Sindhudurg district in Maharashtra, India. The place is famous for its beautiful beaches and the famous naval fort Sindhudurg built by Shivaji Maharaj. The beaches are probably less frequented by people and so looked virgin and clean. The place is around 450KM from Pune and it took us around 7Hrs. to reach via Kolhapur and Ganapawda Ghats. Thanks to a long stretch of pothole ridden roads. The journey was otherwise nice through the serene roads of Konkan Maharashtra. We checked in to the MTDC (Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation) resort. The resort was nice except it was expensive as per the maintenance of the rooms are concerned. However, the best part was that the rooms were sea view ones and the resort had its own private beach. The restaurant in the resort was horrible, with worst quality food served in sky high prices. The first day we had lot of fun in the MTDC beach itself. The next day went to a backwater stretch, which had a small island called "Tsunami Island" :-). Another attraction of the place was that it had the lower course of a small river, where it meets the Arabian Sea. The shallow water body near the island was ideal to have a sun bath and just float and relax. There were options of many water sports as well which every one of us enjoyed. This was followed by a stupendous lunch in a place called "Atithi Bamboo". Yeah, funny name as it sounds. But the food was extremely good and priced at reasonable rates. This is the best place to fulfill ones' craving for sea food and Malwani dishes in Tarkarli. Another place of attraction is "Rock Garden" just near to Malwan town. A nice garden near the sea. However, one need to be very careful about the rough sea there and should avoid going into the water. A few other beaches, almost empty during our visits were other attractions. It was some nice relaxing days spent for all of us there. The return journey was nice as well which we did via Amboli Ghat, the same route for Pune - Goa. In fact Tarkarli is just 2 Hrs. or so from Goa. So, someone planning for a longer vacation can plan a few days in Tarkarli followed by fun in Goa. Somehow we felt the sun to be harsh in Tarkarli with probably more UV content. So, a statutory warning is to use sunscreen for sure before going out in the sun. I got exposed to severe sun burns and the wounds are still healing even after 1 week of return. Although it diluted my overall fun experience to some extent, but in all the visit to Tarkarli was a great break after a long time.