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By Sharon St Joan


To read part one first, click here.


Meanwhile, Gauri Maulekhi, of HSI and PFA, appealed to the Supreme Court of India, which then issued a directive to close the India-Nepal border to any transport of animals into Nepal during the weeks preceding the festival.


Since most of the animals to be sacrificed came from India, closing the border had a momentous effect.


Large numbers of volunteers from Indian animal welfare groups arrived to assist the Border Patrol in spotting people trying to take animals to Nepal. They spoke with farmers and other animal transporters and, if they did not turn back, the volunteers followed up with the Border Patrol to make sure they were sent back.


Dawn Williams and his team from Blue Cross of India played a leading role in tracking down those attempting to smuggle animals into Nepal. A former commando, Dawn Williams rescues animals daily, often risking his life going down dangerous wells to pull out cows, dogs, cats, or other animals.


Jayasimha Nuggehalli and Alokparna Sengupta of HSI – India and many other volunteers were also there. All these courageous animal people, along with a great many others, on both sides of the border, worked long days and nights in hazardous, primitive conditions.



© Erinpackardphotography:dreamstime_xs_22512788


They rescued around 2,500 animals and sent them to shelters. Many thousands of animal owners and transporters were turned around, taking their animals back home with them.


Also in the days leading up to the event, in Nepal, Uttam Dahal of Nepal Animal Welfare and Research Centre approached Nepal’s Supreme Court, which issued a directive that all Nepalese laws were to be enforced by the police and adhered to by all local and national authorities and individuals, including the Nepal Animal Health and Livestock Services Act, the Nepal Animal Slaughterhouse and Meat Inspection Act, and the Environment Protection Act. In other words, the Court ruled that barbaric slaughter by machete in unsanitary conditions would not be allowed. This re-enforced the stance of animal activists that the Gadhimai sacrifice was illegal.


Jayasimha Nuggehalli and Alokparna Sengupta in a journal described the difficult and dangerous circumstances of their work along the border. At one point they stopped a transport truck full of buffaloes – this nearly led to their arrest by the Nepalese police who stopped them repeatedly throughout the rest of the day. They wrote sad descriptions of animals being led along to the sacrifice. As they made their way towards the temple, they encountered a horrendous scene of hundreds of thousands of people camped out in open fields and then, in the days following, the mass killings of animals near the temple.


They and the many other volunteers rescued many animals. Sadly, some animals did get through and thousands of animals were slaughtered – however, the total was at least 70% fewer animals than the half a million slaughtered in 2009.


In the end, the festival itself was a failure, so much so that the Chinese company who had contracted to buy the remains of the poor slaughtered animals canceled their contract – there were just not enough animals available. The future was already looking bleak for the next Gadhimai festival in 2019.


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Inside the temple, for several hours, as multitudes of people approached the head priest, Mangal Chaudry, to seek his blessings, Dr. Nanditha Krishna, who had earlier made his acquaintance at Jaipur, had been invited to sit beside him. Dr. Nanditha Krishna has an unmatched gift for communicating about innocent animals – in a way that is both non-judgmental and unflinchingly direct – a clear voice of truth. In numerous situations behind the scenes, without fanfare, her words, whether to government leaders or to rural village women have helped to turn the tide on one animal issue after another. There is no doubt that they had an effect in this case.


Manoj Gautam, President and Founder of AWNN, in Nepal, also spoke at length with the head priest and held a number of meetings with the temple committee.


The conditions around the festival were entirely horrible for all those who traveled there to help the animals – the brutality and hatred, the filth and dirt, the smells, the sights, the sounds, all were a nightmare – from the travel on dangerous, rugged roads to the atmosphere of cruelty and the immense suffering of the animals. All those who went to help are heroes, and many thanks are due also to all those who supported them in India, in Nepal, and around the world.


In the end, the bloodsport that was the Gadhimai sacrifice could not stand up to the combined force of those working on behalf of the animals, and, at last, the temple sacrifice was revealed to all as what it was – a horror, a disaster, and finally also an economic failure.


With the announcement, on July 28, 2015, by Motilal Prasad Gadhimai Temple Trust Secretary and Ram Chandra Shah, Trust Chairman, the Gadhimai animal sacrifice finally came to an end.


Because one could not forget the suffering of so many animals, the ending of the sacrifice was not a joyful victory, but it was a decisive one.


In the words of Dr. Chinny Krishna, Chairman Emeritus of Blue Cross of India, “A tipping point had been reached, with the negative world-wide publicity of the senseless killing, the lower than expected numbers of those killed, and the Supreme Court’s rulings which would have ensured even smaller numbers of animals in 2019.”


An entrenched, blood-thirsty spectacle, which it seemed might never end, had been stopped by the will, the courage, and the dedication of the many who set aside their own wellbeing and comfort, and who never gave up in their fight to save hundreds of thousands, and over the years what would have become millions, of innocent animals.


© Sharon St Joan, 2015


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Second photo: © Erinpackardphotography /


Third photo: © Aleksandr Noskov  /







© Neverse : dreamstime_xs_48509749


By Sharon St Joan


Nearly 300 years ago, Bhagwan Chowdhary, a Nepalese man who’d been thrown into prison, prayed to the goddess Gadhimai for help, promising to sacrifice animals to her if she would get him out of jail. He was freed and, in return, he sacrificed five animals to the goddess, and he founded the temple dedicated to her. Today, in the twenty-first century, his great-great-great grandson serves as the head priest. Over the years the animal sacrifices grew and grew until the Gadhimai Temple became known as the world’s most ghastly scene of bloodshed.


On July 28, 2015, at a New Delhi press conference organized by the Animal Welfare Network Nepal, Humane Society International, and People for Animals, the temple authorities of Gadhimai Temple made the announcement that the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of animals, held every five years, would be permanently canceled. The world’s largest animal sacrifice had finally come to an end.


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Although billions of animals are killed worldwide every year, and no words can do justice to their suffering, the five-year sacrifice at Gadhimai was particularly horrifying. It was visible, taking place outside in full view. In 2009, around 500,000 animals were killed out in the open by men with machetes, resulting in a grotesque scene of unimaginable gore and bloodshed.


That this sacrifice, which drew hundreds of thousands of devotees, could be canceled had seemed impossible – despite all the determined efforts of animal advocates. This tremendous victory will save millions of animals in the future from a horrible death.



In a statement at the press conference, Shri Ram Chandra Shah, the Temple Trust Chairman said, “For every life taken, our heart is heavy…the time has come to replace killing and violence with peaceful worship and celebration.”


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With the support of Humane Society International (HSI), Animal Welfare Network Nepal (AWWN) had for some time been meeting with the temple committee, to work towards ending the sacrifices. The temple committee thanked these groups for showing them a path forward.


Gauri Maulekhi, HSI – India consultant and Trustee, People for Animals, remarked on the need for continuing to educate the public, saying, “HSI -India will now spend the next three and a half years till the next Gadhimai educating devotees in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal on the temple trust’s decision not to sacrifice animals.”


The Gadhimai Temple Committee has also decided not to sacrifice any animals during the upcoming harvest festival. Instead, they are placing any animals that arrive into a shelter where they’ll be cared for and turned over to animal groups to be rehomed.



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In India, which has a long tradition, over thousands of years, of kindness and reverence towards animals, animal sacrifice is illegal. Occasional incidents of animal sacrifice do still occur in rural villages, never performed by Brahman priests, but only by individual farmers or by local village priests. Animal sacrifice is not part of Hinduism and is denounced by all Indian Hindu authorities.


However the situation in Nepal is different. Animal sacrifice is widespread. The temple in Nepal that has never practiced animal sacrifice is the Pashupathi Nath Temple founded by the Indian Hindu saint, Adi Sankara, in the seventh century AD. AWWN and many other Nepalese opponents of animal sacrifice have worked for many years to end this gruesome practice.


Awareness of the horrors of Gadhimai and fierce opposition from animal groups has grown worldwide in recent years. A great many individuals and organizations played a part in this victory for animals. Swami Agniyesh, a popular social and animal activist, urged his followers to boycott the festival and held a hunger strike at the Gadhimai Temple.


Back in 1999, Mr. T. Shantilal Jain, then Treasurer of Blue Cross of India, raised the issue of the Gadhimai sacrifice to the Board Members of Blue Cross, asking what might be done to stop it. Dr. Chinny Krishna and Dr. Nanditha Krishna traveled to Nepal, where a prominent businessman had promised to arrange a meeting with then King Birendra. They waited in Kathmandu for three days, however the meeting did not materialize, and they left.


The sacrifices in 2004 and 2009 went ahead. The numbers of animals and people involved only increased – until the numbers of animals sacrificed reached half a million in 2009. They included buffalos, chickens, pigeons, calves, goats, rats, and many others. In recent decades the numbers have exploded, with the majority of the animals coming across the border from India. Many of the animals were brought by small farmers who believed that sacrificing an animal would bring good fortune to their families. Other animals were paid for and transported in trucks.


In 2014, as the time for another five-year sacrifice neared, efforts to halt the bloodshed were stepped up. HSI India persuaded the Chief Priest at Gadhimai to attend the FIAPO (Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations) Conference held that year in Jaipur. While he was there many people spoke with him, asking him to cancel the slaughter, including Manoj Gautam, Founder of AWWN, Dr. Nanditha Krishna, Chair of HSI India, and Jayasimha Nuggehalli, Managing Director of HSI India. Mrs. Maneka Gandhi, India Government Minister and Founder of People for Animals, offered financial assistance to re-build the Gadhimai Temple if the sacrifice was halted. Mrs. Gandhi also generously paid the fares of animal activists who traveled by train to Nepal.


Continued in part two


© Sharon St Joan, 2015


Top photo: © Neverse /


Second photo: © Lakhesis /


Third photo: © Yulia Babkina /


Fourth photo: © Jdanne /






By Sharon St Joan

In the book, Underworld, by best-selling author and explorer, Graham Hancock, he devotes several pages to underwater explorations off the coast of India. In March of 1991, three divers with India’s National Institute of Oceanography, went down to a depth of 23 meters (75 feet) to explore one of three large structures under the waves. They only had enough oxygen to investigate the central structure, which they described as a large horseshoe shaped object, one to two meters (three to six feet) high. A second NIO dive down to the horseshoe shape took place in 1993 and careful measurements were taken.

It was 5 kilometers (three miles) off shore. The distance between the two arms of the horseshoe is 13 meters (42 feet). The structure is made of rock; it is covered with layers of sediment and marine organisms. Masonry present between the rocks provides a convincing indication that the structure was man-made.

Due to lack of funding, the NIO has made no further dives in this area. In February of 2001, Graham Hancock traveled to Bangalore to visit S. R. Rao, one of India’s most distinguished archaeologists, founder of the Marine Archeology Center at the NIO, who led the Poompuhar survey. Graham Hancock, in his book Underworld, provides a transcript of his conversation with S.R. Rao, who stated that dating the rock itself is not possible “we have only stone which cannot be dated in any meaningful sense.” He appeared, however, to be entirely open to the possibility that it may be extremely ancient.

Given that the now underwater site must have been built when the land was above sea level and out of the water, and that it was 75 feet down, Graham Hancock asked S.R. Rao for his views on this, mentioning that sea level rises as great as 23 meters had taken place at the end of the last Ice Age.

S.R. Rao agreed and then raised the question of where the origins of Indian civilization may have taken place – since the Indus Valley civilization already had a well-developed script and cities with advanced planning, something must have taken place much earlier than that. He went on to refer to the long-held Indian tradition of extensive lands, off the coast, known as Kumari Kundam, believed to have sunk beneath the seas around ten or eleven thousand years ago. This event would have been at the end of the Ice Age, when the sea level rose dramatically due to the melting of glaciers.

Of course, 8 or 9,000 BCE is generally considered by archeologists to be far too early for any civilization to have existed, but this is precisely the point of Graham Hancock’s research all around the world, which points to a far older human civilization, as yet unrecognized.

Of these ancient ruins from the far distant past, S. R. Rao commented , “It must have existed…we have photographed it. It is there, anybody can go and see.”

The manmade horseshoe structure, encrusted in barnacles, 23 meters under the waves of the Bay of Bengal, stands in silent testimony to the presence of these unknown ancient builders, over 10,000 years ago.


© text and photos, Sharon St Joan

Top photo: The sea, off the coast of Poompuhar.

Second photo: A shrine on the beach at Poompuhar.



By Sharon St Joan


The great ships spilled their cargo onto the wharf. After months on the sea, the sailors and tradesmen came ashore to spend a few days, to sell their wares, to amble along the wide streets and the colorful bazaars of the city. They paid for what they bought with round, punch-marked coins or square coins.



Beads and bangles were popular. 350 beads have been found in Poompuhar made from glass, jasper, agate, carnelian, coral, paste, stone, copper, and terracotta. Most were of glass, and also found were many glass bangles, ranging in color from green to blue, black, yellow, and red.



The village Maruvurpakkam, part of Poompuhar, by the sea had many buildings, including houses with distinctive windows that, it is said, were shaped like the eyes of a deer. There were elaborate, tall, many-roomed houses, with the upper floors being reachable by ladders. Inside were wide hallways and corridors.




Fishermen and their families also lived in the village. It was a lively port, with numerous warehouses and many tradespeople; merchants selling silk, grain, fish; weavers; and potters; there were also jewelers and diamond sellers. There were inns for the captains and crews of the ships to stay in.



Today there are a few small fishing boats offshore and fishermen wading into the waves.



The Museum at Pallavaneshwaram, where the site of the Buddhist temple is, at the western end of Poompuhar, has photos and information about the archeological discoveries over the years.




The archeological finds confirm the details found in ancient Tamil writings. The town of Poompuhar, or Kaveripattinam, was one of the busiest trade and commercial centers in the pre-Sangam period, before 300 BCE. It was a lively port from the third century BCE through the tenth century CE.



(The Sangam period is one of three early epochs of Tamil history, the first two sangam periods being legendary – though they may have also been entirely real, and the third which is commonly accepted as historical; a sangam was a gathering or an academy of poets and scholars, so the Sangam period refers to the Third Sangam, and goes from 350 BCE to 300 CE.)



Two main villages comprised the town, with Maruvurpakkam directly on the sea, and Pattinappakkam to the west. In between the two towns was a great market, surrounded by gardens, orchards and shade trees. There were many smaller villages as well.




Not far away from the shore is a tower and an enclosed pool. This was once the site of a lake by the sea where the waters were miraculous, healing those with illnesses and infirmities.



The king and his court lived inland, in the town of Pattinappakkam, in the midst of beautiful gardens. Nearby lived doctors, astrologers, top army officers, wealthy businessmen, and court dancers.



The National Institute of Marine Archeology, Goa, while doing research in the area found that Poompuhar had been repeatedly afflicted by floods and erosions. Excavations of submerged wharves and pier walls extending out several meters in length have confirmed the ancient literary sources that refer to this town.





The town was rebuilt several times. Marine archeologists have recovered pottery off shore dating back to the fourth century BCE.



In 300 BCE, after many floods, this wondrous and wealthy port city was destroyed by a tsunami. There may even have been a series of tsunamis, compounded by soil erosion. In the centuries following, the towns rebuilt on the site were repeatedly destroyed by the sea.



During the Tamil Sangam period, Ilamcetcenni was an early Chola king who ruled his kingdom from his capital, Puhar (Poompuhar). He married a princess among the Vellirs, and their son, Karikala succeeded him, becoming the greatest of the early Chola kings. He is believed to have reigned around 190 BCE. What is known about him is derived from frequent mentions in ancient Tamil poetry.



Karikala’s reign got off to a rocky start. His father died suddenly, and the young prince was unable to assert his claim to the throne. Instead of being accepted as his father’s successor, he was exiled. After a while when the situation had calmed somewhat, an elephant was sent to find him. When the elephant brought him back though, he was thrown into prison. That night there was a fire in the prison, causing burns to his leg. He escaped and was finally able to claim his rightful place on the throne, though he was left with the scars of burns and with one impaired leg.



As king, he was acclaimed for the beauty of his war chariots. Karikala consolidated his power in a great battle near Venni, now Kovilvenni, near the city of Thanjavur. There he defeated the combined armies of the Pandyan and Cheran kings, along with the fighting forces of eleven minor kings. This decisive victory set him on the road to greatness.




He next defeated nine minor kings who had taken up arms against him, and he also conquered the entire island of Sri Lanka.



According to the epic poem, Silappatikaram, Karikala then headed north, invading territories all the way up to the lands of the Himalayas.



When he returned after conquering much of India, his chariot got stuck in the mud near Thiruvaiyaru, 13 kilometers (eight miles) from Thanjavur, and as it was being dug out, the idols of Dakshinamurthy, Vishnu, and the Seven Mothers were found in the mud. A voice from heaven told him to take them to the nearby Shiva temple, Panchanatheeswar, which he did, and there he took part in a consecration ceremony for them. This incident was recorded at the time in rock inscriptions.



Later Chola kings praised him as their great ancestor. He is known for building dikes that elevated the banks along the Kaveri river.



A large dam, the Kallanai, still in use today to regulate the waters of the Kaveri River was built by him. The Kallanai is built of unhewn stone, 329 meters (1,000 feet) long and 20 meters (65 feet) wide. The dam allows water to be diverted into canals to irrigate fields in the region.



There are nearby, in the sea, ruins much, much older than Poompuhar…



Continued in part three…



© text and photos, Sharon St Joan, 2015



 Photos: Sharon St Joan

These are models of early ships at the museum, in a tall, round tower, at Fort Dansborg, near Poompuhar. The town is Tharangambadi, which was a Danish colony from 1620 – 1845.






By Sharon St Joan


In the hot sun, covering an acre or so, lie the ancient foundations of a Buddhist monastery. Only the base remains, meticulously laid with small, evenly sized bricks, some arranged in circular patterns where once there stood columns. The bricks are only a few layers high, all the rest is gone, carried away by time. A woman with a pot on her head carries away debris, and a couple of men work on constructing a protective wall around the boundaries of the site.


The Archaeological Survey of India has been excavating this site for thirty years. Next to the site is a small museum.



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Fifteen hundred years ago, saffron-clad monks prayed within the walls of the monastery and temple, while artists and sculptors created beautiful depictions of Buddha and the Gods. The temple belonged to a town of thirty villages, which had a bustling sea port and was the capitol of the early Chola kings. At the western part of the town the temple was built, and further east, on the shore of the Bay of Bengal, on the estuary where the Kaveri River joins the sea, was a thriving port. Known as Poompuhar or Puhar, the town is also called Kaveripattinam. It lies 318 kilometers (197 miles) south along the costal road from Chennai to Nagapattinam.



In ancient days, Poompuhar was famous and was described in plays, poems, and other sources of early Tamil literature. There was a mention in a Greek and Roman navigational book authored in the first century CE, the Periplus of the Ereythrean Sea (or, with modern spelling, the Eritrean Sea).


The Periplus, which may have been written around 60 CE, is a fascinating account of trade routes that extend from Rome and Greece through the Red Sea, and down the coast of east Africa, or, alternatively, ships would have sailed across the sea to India, all along the west coast, and also up the east coast, as far north as the Ganges. Trading ships going from Rome or Greece might have stopped in Egyptian cities along the Red Sea, or the Aksum Empire of Ethiopia, then along the ports of Yemen and across to India down the west coast and up the east to Poompuhar.


Claudius Ptolemy (Greek geographer AD 90 – 168) refers to the city of Poompuhar n his writings. The Tevaram is a collection in several volumes of Tamil poetry; in it the poets Appar and Sambandar who wrote in the seventh century CE describe the town, with its strong walls, busy roads, elaborate buildings, and bustling port.


A detailed plan of the city is given in the Silappatikaram, one of the great epic plays of Tamil literature, believed to have been written down in the first century CE and retold in the sixth or seventh century. The play is a popular tale of the merchant Kovalan who, attracted by a dancer, Madhavi, leaves his wife, Kannagi. He later returns to his faithful wife, but when he is falsely accused by the queen of stealing an anklet, he is beheaded. His wife, Kannagi maintains her husband’s innocence, and enraged by his beheading, sets fire to the town of Madurai, burning it to the ground. Kovalan and Kannagi are originally from Poompuhar and there are vivid descriptions of daily life in the town, which is said to have extended over an area of thirty square miles.


Another early Tamil epic play, Manimekalai, a sequel to Silappatikaram, focuses on Manimekalai, the daughter of Kovalan and the dancer he ran away with, Madhavi; their daughter converts to Buddhism and becomes a nun. This epic also gives details of life in Poompuhar.


Archeologists have also found terra cotta sculptures of Vishnu and Shiva deities that indicate that these faiths were also present in Poompuhar then, as well as Buddhism.




Traveling east towards the coast, from the museum and the Buddhist temple site, one arrives these days at a large fish market, with the stalls of fish sellers, and thousands of dead fish spread out under the sun. There are no customers in sight; only a handful of boys playing with a soccer ball. Leaving that behind, a few yards farther along one comes to the shore of the Bay of Bengal, with many tumbled rocks, on to which the waves of the Bay of Bengal crash. The expansive open sea pounding against the rocks is peaceful, as only a sea can be, in the brisk wind. The remains of an ancient brick wharf are still entangled among the rocks. Here huge ships used to dock from lands as far away as Rome, Greece, and Egypt, as well as Sri Lanka.


Continued in part two …


© photos and text, Sharon St Joan, 2015


Photos: Sharon St Joan


Top photo: Excavation site of the ancient Buddhist Temple.


Second photo:  A representation of the feet of the Buddha, found within the ruins of the temple.


Third photo: The coast, at Poompuhar.




Originally posted on Raxa Collective:

Greater Flamingos by Sudhir Shivaram - RAXA Collective

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Originally posted on Alois Absenger:

779K2047 Absenger

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Originally posted on Guru Genie: Advice... the wise don't need it, and fools won't heed it.:

 You should sit in meditation 
                      for twenty minutes every day
                                   – unless you’re too busy;
              then you should sit for an hour.

 ~ Zen

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Originally posted on Known is a drop, Unknown is an Ocean:


Only the childlike consciousness is capable of understanding all that is beautiful in life, all that is great in existence. And the whole existence is full of greatness, full of glories. This is the only existence there is; its beauty, its truth, is the only beauty and the only truth. But they are available only to the innocent people. Blessed are the innocent, for theirs is the kingdom of God.

~ Osho

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Originally posted on Raxa Collective:

The Marudam School in Thiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu. For starters, it’s run by an NGO – The Forest Way – a registered charitable trust involved in education, afforestation, environmental education, organic farming and more. Also, it receives no funding from the government. The school, set in an organic farm and powered by renewable energy, teaches its students about conscious living that respects the environment.

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