The Jasmine Lady of Madurai

  “Let this delicate blossom not toil on the rugged sylvan earth. Let its dainty buds wind their way up my glorious chariot and adorn it with their mesmerizing fragrance.” Said King Pari when he saw the wild, yet fragile jasmine buds and the vine creeping on the floor of the forest in which he went hunting. Thus the jasmine, called Mallipoo in Tamil, rose to significance. So says a legend from one of the earliest Tamil…

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Nations, Borders and Ceremonies

  Learning is a process that never ends and one of the best ways to learn about the world is to travel. This journey to India was my lesson in history. I understand that I’m beginning this story on a rather somber note by alluding to certain tragic events in the historical timeline of the Indian subcontinent. The choice was deliberate and perhaps necessary in this context. History has a bizarre pattern, which it repeats ad infinitum…

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Tea and Tibet in India’s Northeast

The English drinking their tea is a ubiquitous stereotypical image. It shows a typical ‘English’ family sitting in a garden holding teacups around a little table with a tea-pot on it. This, despite the fact that tea was neither an English discovery nor was the plant native to the island. I will now admit to some truths – I’m English, I love tea and my family sometimes fits the stereotype. One may wonder why I’m driveling so…

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Taking Form in Kumortuli

नते रूपं विजानामि सगुणन्निर्गुणम् तथा | Nate roopam vijaanaami sagunannirgunam tatha | Your form cannot be known, neither with attributes nor without them चरितानिकुतो देवी संख्यातीतानि यानिते || Charitaanikuto devi sankhyaateetaani yaanite || Tales of your glory transcend even numbers – “Devi Bhagavatam”, a sixth century religious text The Shloka or chant emphasizes the formlessness of the Divine, yet calls it Devi, the ‘Feminine’ Divine and speaks of her glories and eminence. There is no ambiguity in…

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In Varanasi, at the Jukaso Ganges

Kashi, Kasi, Kashika, Benares, Banaras, Baranasi, Varanasi – It has myriad other names and myriad more hues within it and no matter by what name you call it, the city of Varanasi will respond to your inner voice with the same spiritual density. Considered by Hindus to be the most sacred among the seven sacred towns of India, even to an outsider like me, its sanctity is unmistakable. It is also one of the world’s oldest continuously…

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