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Originally posted on Art, animals, and the earth:


Every year during the celebration of Eid, one of the most important Islamic holy days, a vast number of animals, in India and many other countries throughout the world are slaughtered. Sheep, camels, and goats are killed in the streets in a way that causes drawn-out suffering for the animals. Often camels slaughtered in south India have been forced to walk on foot from all the way from Rajasthan in the northwest; many others have been transported by truck in terrible conditions.

The slaughter at the Eid celebration has continued despite the statements by many Moslem animal advocates that this practice is not required by their faith and that animal abuse is contrary to the tenets of Islam.

Dr. Chinny Krishna, Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Blue Cross of India, has been engaged for a number of years in combating this slaughter of camels, which most people in India find…

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Originally posted on Raxa Collective:

10355655_10201665725084704_4823049703076743324_oYesterday at Spice Harbour I got to participate for the first time in an Independence Day flag raising ceremony.

It’s a good time to tip our hats to history. On August 15, 1947, after centuries of British imperialism, India gained independence. I am no expert on the Indian Independence movement so I won’t speak to it too much, but I know there were many political organizations and philosophies behind it that were united by their desire to end British rule. Mohandas Gandhi’s nonviolent philosophy and civil disobedience is what led the final parts of the struggle for independence that prompted the eventual withdrawal of the British. Since we’re talking about colonial India, we can put Kerala and Spice Harbour into historical context.

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Originally posted on sitanaiksblog:

Its been over a year since my visit to Bhimbetaka  near Bhopal – which was no 18 on list of 23 World heritage cultural sites . And this time, I could make it to Thanjavur to see the Chola temples. We took the train to Kumbakonam – a 6 hr journey – and stayed at one of the new eco-resorts in the area. The site includes three great 11th  and 12th century Shiva Temples built by the Cholas: the Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur, the Brihadisvara Temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram.

On the first evening, we visited Gangaikonda Cholapuram. The temple was  built by Rajendra I (1012 -1044 CE) the son of Raja Raja Chola  following his  great victorious march to river Ganges. He assumed the name of Gangaikonda Cholan (the Chola who had seen the Ganga) and  hence the name. The structure was completed in…

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Originally posted on sitanaiksblog:

Every region of this country has its own unique weaving traditions. Many of us who grew up wearing cotton sarees through the hot and long summers, came to recognize the origins from the design, style and texture of the weave. From the Muga and Eri silks of Assam, the Chanderis,  Benarsi, Paithani, Kanchipurams – the list can go on and on. And buying a saree in the local weave is on the agenda, where ever I travel in the country. So, our travel in Tamilnadu led us to the local weavers.

Hand looms are an integral part of the livelihood in many of the villages and towns in and around Kumbakonam, Thanjavur etc. So in Kumbakonam, we visited the house of Mr Kamsan,  who had his loom in the front verandah of his house. Hand weaving is the family tradition, and he now has 60 odd looms around Kumbakonam. These…

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One must walk barefoot on the grounds of a Hindu Temple. At the Ramanathaswamy Temple, the approach to the temple begins several streets away, and all this ground is sacred and belongs to the temple; walking barefoot over the cobbled stones and occasional debris can be a bit of a challenge.


Inside the temple, it is cool and dark. Through large windows, one can see through to the outside, where the temple is surrounded by 22 theerthas. These are huge sacred tanks; pilgrims are blessed by immersion in the water. This is generally accomplished by people filing by as a priest pours an entire bucket of water over each of their heads.


Still dripping, the pilgrims then enter the main part of the temple. In the floor near the entranceway, are shallow channels which carry away the water.


Thousands of years ago, during the course of rescuing his wife Sita, the ancient King Rama killed her abductor, the demon-king Ravana. The problem that arose, however, was that Ravana, even though he was not a very nice fellow, was a Brahmin – and this meant that by killing him, Rama was guilty of the sin of Brahmahatya, or killing a Brahmin – a sin that had to be expiated.




So Rama, on his return from Lanka with the rescued Sita, stopped at the site, where today the Rameshwaram temple stands, to worship Shiva and to be cleansed from his sin. The very ancient site was sacred to Shiva even then. Rama sent his trusted friend the monkey God Hanuman to go to Mount Kailash to bring back a shivalingam, a representation of Shiva, to install in the temple. Mount Kailash is in the Himalayas, thousands of miles north of Rameshwaram which is in the far south of India, so, even though Hanuman could fly, it took him a while. It took so long that in the meantime, Sita had built a small lingam out of mud and placed it in the temple.


When Hanuman returned with the large stone lingam he had brought from the far north, Rama decreed that both lingams would always remain in the temple, where they are today.




Like other ancient south Indian temples, the Ramanathaswamy Temple is surrounded by a high rectangular wall which runs 865 feet from east to west and 657 feet from north to south.


The temple is at least as old as the time of the Ramayana, which may be around 1,000 BCE or maybe older. In the beginning, it was a simple shed in the charge of a hermit. The building of the temple in its current form was begun during the Pandyan Dynasty of south India.


Other kings added structures from the twelfth through the seventeenth centuries CE, gradually expanding the temple to the huge complex it is today.


The temple contains the longest temple corridor to be found anywhere in the world; the outer wing of the third corridor goes 690 feet east and west, as well as 435 feet north and south. Standing at the corner where they meet in a right angle, one can look a very long way down one way and then down the other. On either side of the corridor, 1212 carved columns rise from five foot high platforms and stretch 27 feet up to the ceiling. There are also inner corridors.


On a visit to the temple in the early years of the twentieth century, the Hindu saint, Swami Vivekananda, said: “Let me tell you again that you must be pure and help anyone who comes to you as much as lies in your power. And this is good Karma. By the power of this, the heart becomes pure and then Shiva who is residing in everyone, will become manifest.”


Rameswaram is one of the four holiest places of pilgrimage in India; these lie in the four directions. They are Varanasi (Benares) in the north, Puri in the east in Odisha, Rameshwaram in the south, and Dwarka in the west. Rameswaram is sacred to both Vaishnavites and Shaivites, both those who worship Vishnu and those who worship Shiva.



© Sharon St Joan, 2014


Top photo: Purshi / Wikimedai Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.” / One of the long corridors.


Second photo: Painting by an unknown artist around 1920. /Wikimedia Commons. / “This work is in the public domain in India because its term of copyright has expired.” / A depiction of the ten-headed demon-king of Lanka, Ravana.


Third photo: Vinayaraj / Wikimedia Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.” / One of the gopurams or gates of the Temple.






Originally posted on Jugraphia Slate:

Somewhat surprisingly for such a wide continent, Indian rock art has often been considered as pertaining to a “cultural unity”, as is the case for Upper Palaeolithic cave art in Europe. Disparities do exist according to the areas, so that regional groups have been and will no doubt be defined (see for example Chandramouli 2002 for the rock art of Andhra Pradesh in the south of India, or Mathpal 1985 for that of Kumaon in the north). However, “in spite of the great distances of the different regions Indian rock paintings bear surprising affinity in forms, subject matters and design elements to their contemporaries” (Kumar 1992: 56).

 The only petroglyphs (i.e. rock engravings) we have mentioned are cupules, because we hardly saw any other engraved motifs during our trip. Still, it is necessary to recall their existence and their importance in many parts of India, even if we are here focusing on pictographs (i.e. rock…

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Originally posted on Rashid's Blog:


The origins of the Gurjars are uncertain. The Gurjara clan appeared in northern India about the time of the Huna invasions of northern India. Some scholars, such as V. A. Smith, believed that the Gujjars were foreign immigrants, possibly a branch of Hephthalites (“White Huns”). D. B. Bhandarkar (1875-1950) believed that Gujars came into India with the Hunas, and the name of the tribe was sanskritized to “Gurjara”. He also believed that several places in Central Asia, such as “Gurjistan”, are named after the Gujars and that the reminiscences of Gujar migration is preserved in these names. General Cunningham identified the Gujjars with Yuezhi or Tocharians.

In the past, Gujjars have also been hypothesized to be descended from the nomadic Khazar tribes, although the history of Khazars shows an entirely different politico-culture ethosThis argument is chiefly based on the assumption that the word “Gujjar” is derived from the word…

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Originally posted on Art, animals, and the earth:


In Odisha, in east central India, following heavy rains, a huge volume of water has been released from the Hirakud Dam, to try to manage the danger of severe flooding in the area.

Swollen rivers have so far claimed 34 lives, and are affecting one million people, many of whom have been evacuated.

Floodwaters threaten cattle, buffaloes, and other animals. When people are evacuated, their herds of animals are left behind. Cattle are short on food since grazing pastures are covered in water, and there is no shelter for them.

Kailash Ch Maharana, Chairman of the Maitri Club, which sent relief teams to rescue animals in the 2011 floods, has written,

“The flood situation in Odisha could be worse than that of 2011. The release of water from the Hirakud Dam and incessant rain in the catchment areas caused the rivers Mahandi, Bramahani, Baitarani, and their tributaries to swell, further…

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