Friday, January 21, 2011

History and heritage reside in California's Japan Towns

I will write PEACE on your wings and you will fly all over the world” ~ Sadako Sasaki (A young Japanese girl on the threshold of adolescence developed leukemia in 1955 from the effects of radiation caused by the bombing of Hiroshima), (1943-1955)

Beautiful bunches of Bougainvillea in Japan Town. Bougainvillea is also known as "Paper Flowers" because the bracts are thin and papery

Japan Town is also known as "Nihonmachi". It is also called "J Town" in short.Japan Town was originally formed around the existing "Heinlenville" ~ China Town settlement. During the Second World War, the Japanese American population was forcibly removed from Japan Town and interned in camps. After the war, many Japanese Americans resettled in the area. Many Japanese left the area due to the expansion of Silicon Valley. But the town still remains home for thousands of Japanese Americans.

California State Legislation designated this area as one of the last three remaining historical Japan Towns in the United States of America. They are in San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles. The Japanese community in these three areas (San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles) survived the urban renewal in 1950s and 1960s. It is believed that more than 40 Japan Towns existed in the United States of America before the World War II.

Japan Town has many authentic and ethnic Japanese restaurants.Churches, Buddhist temples, community halls, restaurants and landscape contribute a lot to the history and identity of Japan.Walking down on Japan Town gives a real experience of Japan. It is a rare feeling of a neighbourhood, where history and heritage reside in the keepers of the shops and the people walking along the streets. San Jose Japan Town is a rare treasure.

It is reported that 1,20,000 Japanese Americans were forced to leave and put into internment camps during the World War II (1942~1946)
A walk in Japan Town engages, educates and enriches the visitors

The term "Japan Town" encompasses a wide range of communities from large Nihonmachi in metropolitan areas
The stories and memories of people who lived and experienced California
Japan Towns were created because of the widespread of immigration of Japanese to America in the Meiji Period (1868~1912)
History Walk in San Jose
Preserving California's Japan Towns helps to assist American community to recognise their local heritage
Japan Town is a place of discovery
The place showcases the history and contemporary features of a vibrant community
Stone monument in Japan Town
Plaque on the pathway
Gorgeous view of Japan Town
Buildings highlight the points of historical and cultural significance of Japanese American community

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Sethu Samudram ~ Bridging Art, history and human relations

Sri Lankan visual artist Koralagedara Pushpakumara expanded his imagination by using the distance between North of Sri Lanka and South India ~ 22 Miles. He used 22 sacks of various groceries imported from South India to Sri Lanka

"Sethu Samudram" is a three year collaborative art project and a dialog~making platform between Theertha International Artist Collective, Colombo,Sri Lanka and 1 Shanthi Road in Bangalore, India.

"Sethu Samudram" is the name of the mythical bridge found in Raamayanam ~ meaning the bridge across the ocean. This bridge connects ri Lanka and India.

There is substantial amount of good reasons to believe the existence of a real "Sethu Samudram" ~ a bridge across the ocean ~ between the two geographies in the ancient times, not only conceptually but also physically. This naturally formed ancient bridge in the Palk Strait has acquired numerous mythical through millennia.

South India is only 22 miles across the Palk Strait from North of Sri Lanka. Considering the proximity of South India to Sri Lanka, even without much hard arguments, the possibility of cultural exchanges and human migration between these two geographical zones for millennia can be an obvious presumption.

Now a construction of a real human~made bridge is scheduled to be constructed linking Sri Lanka and South India on the same place where the ancient bridge was supposed to have been. The mythical bridge is under physical threat and is drawing critical attention from various interest groups mostly Indian. They are highlighting many opportunities and potentials as well as imagined ecological, social, political and cultural threats which might ensure from the building of this bridge.

"Sethu Samudram"~ the art project that Theertha and 1 Shanthi Road have developed collectively is envisioning to investigate this highly complex and variegated history and emotions surrounding the concept of "Sethu Samudram" and foreground the links, similarities and shared anxieties, emotions and histories between the two geographical areas. The overall research will cover a wide area of study that includes society, politics, history, religion and mythology as relevant to Sri Lanka and India. The "Sethu Samudram" project would like to engage in the wider discussion of history navigating through the contemporary ideological and methodological innovations of visual arts within the South Asian region. With this in mind, "Sethu Residency 1 @ Theertha 2010" is the very first research based art residency under "Sethu Samudram" ~ the art project held in Sri Lanka.

Participating artitsts are Koralagedara Pushpakumara (Sri Lanka), Madhu D (India), Pradeep Chandrasiri (Sri Lanka), Sharni Jayawardena (Sri Lanka) and V.G.Venugopal (India). The Sethu Residency 1 @ Theertha 2010 was inaugurated on 27th of December 2010 at the Theertha Red Dot Gallery in Pittakotte. The exhibition will remain open till 11th of January 2011. The gallery hours are Monday to Wednesday 10.30AM ~ 5.00PM and Sundays 11.00AM ~ 4.30PM.

Series of shirts by Indian artist V. G.Venugopal

Series of shirts by Indian artist V. G.Venugopal

In the Theravada Buddhist tradition female deities have been relegated to minor positions. An exception has been the Goddess Pattini. Sinhala Buddhist believe that Pattini is a guardian deity of Buddhism. She is the definition of Kannagi, who is the central character of the Tamil epic Silappadhikaram (Cilappatikaram). She is worshipped by mainly by Buddhists in Sri Lanka (and also Hindus in the East) and is the patron goddess of fertility and health.

According to Sinhala mythology, the Bodhisatva Pattini was incarnated as Kannagi to ride the Pandy Kingdom of its evil three-eyed King. She was born of a Mango fruit, which was cut down by the God Sakra with an arrow.

The first mention of Pattini is in the Silappadhikaram written in India sometime after 2nd Century CE. At the end of the Sangam Era (2nd to 3rd Centuries CE), the older order of the three Tamil dynasties was replaced by the invasion of the Kalabhras. These new kings and others encouraged the religions of Buddhism and Jainism. Ilango Adigal, the authour of Silappadhikaram, probably lived in this period and was one of the Jain and Buddhsit authours in Tamil poetry.

Gananath Obeysekere in his book Cult of the Goddess Pattini makes the point : "An examination of some of the Sinhala texts of the Pattini cult may provide further circumstantial evidence regarding Pattini as a Buddhist deity, both in the original South Indian context and the later diffusion of the cult to Sinhala Sri Lanka".

These are the verses I used (to elucidate the images):

When the time for offering mangoes arrived

And seeing that the mangoes were ripe

She covered them in cloth at he correct time

And offered them to the Buddha.

By the merit of the mango I gave

May I be born in the golden mango...

From the Pattini Patuma, the wish to become a Pattini

Gananath Obeysekere, Cult of the Goddess pattini (Chicago: 1984)

Long ago she listened to Buddha's sermons hoping thereby to achieve Nirvana

On her behalf the God Sakra looked on the world's suffering with his thousand eyes

She saw then the wrong done by the three-eyed Pandi King

Is there any other divine being but you? O Pattini come to this human world.

From Pahan Pujawa: Offering of Lights, from the Gammaduwa ritual texts

Gananath Obeysekere, Cult of the Goddess Pattini (Chicago:1984)

We invite her who was conceived in the holy golden mango

She gave the anklet to her husband and told its worth

With the anklet she broke the pride of the Pandi King

O, Pattini who resurrected the dead body, come and reside here

From Pahan Pujawa: Offering of Lights, from the Gammaduwa ritual texts

Gananath Obeysekere, Cult of the Goddess Pattini (Chicago:1984)

My mind a dam holding back a stream of falling water

My shoulder a shade held over my sorrowing breast

My hands a battle stick held aloft

But my mind a firm Meru rock that cannot be cleaved.

From Mara Ipaddima ritual drama:Killing and Resurrection

Gananath Obeysekere, Cult of the Goddess Pattini (Chicago:1984)

The Goddess descends from the wind and clod and sky

She looks at the sorrow of Sri Lanka with her divine eyes

She takes the anklet and carries it on her shoulder

Arrive O Patini of wind and cloud and flower.

From Pahan Pujawa: Offering of Lights, from the Gammaduwa ritual texts

Gananath Obeysekere, Cult of the Goddess Pattini (Chicago:1984)

Photographs by Sharni Jayawardena
Creation by Indian artist Madhu D

Creation by Indian artist Madhu D

Art lovers at the preview of the exhibition

Sri Lankan artist Pradeep Chandrasiri's creation on display

Sri Lankan artist Pradeep Chandrasiri's creation on display

The residency was held from 30th November to 27th December 2010

Variety of Kerosene lamps imported from India

Performance by the guest artist Bandu Manamperi

Bandu Manamperi is wrapped up in a heap of firecrackers and views the exhibits

Traditional bites for the special evening

Bandu Manamperi is wrapped up in a heap of firecrackers and Kerosene lamp and walks along the streets of Pittakotte in the night

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Keerimalai ~ A Land of Sacred Springs and Spirituality

"Keerimalai" springs is reputed for its curative properties

Keerimalai” natural springs is known for its water and rituals. The water with mineral contents has curative value. Hindus believe the water here has miraculous powers to cure many diseases. According to many legends, the sage “Nagula Muni” was born with mongoose face and meditated in a cave in “Keerimalai”. He bathed in “Keerimalai” springs and his mongoose face turned into a human face. "Keerimalai" was known as Thiruthambaleswaram.

Keerimalai” is 50 feet above the main sea level, and situated West of Palaly. The fresh water comes from an underground fresh water spring. Hindus flock in large numbers on “Aadi Amaavaasai” day which falls during the Tamil month of “Aadi”, to carry out rituals for their forefathers and take a divine dip in the natural springs. These rituals are usually carried out by men. “Keerimalai” is famous for “Aadi Amaavaasai” and continues to be the foremost place.

Nagulaambigai Sametha Sri naguleswara Perumaan” temple (commonly known asNaguleswaram” temple) spreads to 50,000 square feet.Naguleswaramtemple is one of the hallowed Sivan temples (Pancha Ishwaram) in Sri Lanka is situated here as well. Lord Siva is the destroyer or transformer. He is viewed as the supreme deity in Hinduism. There are five famous Ishwaram~ Sivan temples in Sri Lanka. They are Thirukoneswaram in trincomalee, Thiruketheeswaram in Mannar, Naguleswaram in Jaffna, Munneswaram in Chilaw and Kokkattichcholai Thaanthondreeswaram in Batticaloa.

Naguleswaram temple stands supreme in Jaffna Peninsula, North of Sri Lanka. It is endowed with special three attributes such as Moorthy (deity), Thalam (temple) and Theerththam (water).

The oldNaguleswaramtemple was destroyed by the Portugese in 1621. A Brahmin priest, who fled the area during the Portugese regime, took the valuables from the temple, put and preserved them in a well according to Yaazhpaana Vaipava Maalai.

In 1878, Hindu reformer Sreelasri Aarumuga Naavalar campaigned to rebuild the temple. After 17 years, the consecration ceremony took place at “Naguleswaram”. But, due to an accidental fire in 1918, the temple was severely damaged. The current temple is being renovated, and nearly 70% of the construction work is completed so far.

Sculptures are being made at the main entrance of the temple

Main entrance of the temple
The Chief priest of Nagulaambigai Sametha Sri Naguleswara Perumaan temple (commonly known as Naguleswaram temple) Kumaraswamy Naguleswara Kurukkal (85). He has been the integral part of the temple from 1947 at the age of 22, and has served here for more than six decades with great dedication and devotion with a smiling face always

The natural springs was renovated in 1969
Directions given in all three languages ~ Tamil, Sinhala and English
Way to the natural springs
Destroyed building in the vicinity
Ruins buried in shrubs

View of the St.Anne’s Church in Valikandal from the natural springs

"Keerimalai" natural springs
Sea view from the springs
Another notice for the devotees in Tamil, Sinhala and English

St.Anne’s Church in Valikandal is standing still with partial damage

An array of Palmyrah trees which withstood the war
Bathing side for the men devotees
View of the Palk Strait from "Keerimalai"
"Do Not Urinate here" says a notice in Tamil and Sinhala
Margosa leaves dance for the non~stop sea breeze
Graffiti on th wall by the visitors
Bathing side for the women devotees
Tender Palmyrah Palm at the site
Hall for the devotees to carry out the rituals for their forefathers on Aadi Amaavaasai day
Yet another view of remaining ruins
View of ruins from the road
Shrubs cover the ruins
On the road of the ruins
An overview of the temple
Another view of the ruined building
The sanctum has the largest Sivalingam in Sri Lanka
Beautiful sculptures of male and female Mongoose worshipping the Lord Sivalingam
Sasaralingam ~ It has 1,000 Sivalingams
Sculptures on a ruined building
An array of Bronze statues
Devotees at the main entrance of the temple
Inside view of the Mandapam
Another view of the temple from inside
Remaining ruins of the archway
Stray dogs in the vicinity
Old statues of male and female version of the Mongoose
"Please Do Not Enter with Footwear. Smoking is Strictly Prohibited" written on the pillar inside the Mandapam
Entrance of the Mandapam where Anna Thaanam takes place
Austin Cambridge in "Keerimalai"

The temple is referenced in many Indian religious treatises such as Dhakshina Kailaasa Puraanam and Kantha Puraanam

Another view from inside the temple
Cool spot to quench thirst
View of Naguleswaram temple as the Sun sets
Sunset in "Keerimalai"