Sunday, January 27, 2013

Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar ~ A memorial for the slain

Text and pix by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

Bullet wall with bullet marks
Stone plaque on the ground

Jallianwala Bagh is a picturesque public garden in Amritsar in the State of Punjab of India, and houses a memorial of immense national significance. 

The Martyrs’ park and the Martyrs’ memorial were established in 1951 to commemorate the thousands of peaceful celebrators on the occasion of Punjabi New Year on 13 April 1919. The Punjabi New Year is also known as Baisakhi , Vaishakhi and Thanks Giving. The infamous massacre is also referred to as Jallianwala Bagh Massacre or Amritsar Massacre.

Over 20,000 people were gathered on that fateful day when the shooting was ordered by Brigadier General R.E.H. Dyer, and his soldiers began indiscriminate firing at unarmed civilians including women, children and senior citizens without any warning, six minutes before the sunset.

The British placed the fatalities at around 379, and another 1,100 wounded. However, a surgeon by the name of Dr. Smith had indicated that there were 1,526 casualties. The true figures of fatalities are unknown, but are likely to be much higher than the official figure of 379.
The 6.5 acre garden site of the massacre is located in the vicinity of the Golden Temple complex, the holiest shrine of Sikhism. The monument is managed by Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust, established as per the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act passed by the Government of India in 1951.

Martyrs’ park attracts thousands of visitors daily eager to revisit history. The site includes “Historical Lane, Bullet Wall, Martyrs’ Well, Martyrs’ Monument, Martyrs’ Gallery, Martyrs’ Museum and signposts that lead to the exact locations where people were shot from. Bullet Wall still bears bullet holes marked in white. An orange flame continues to flicker even during winter cold at the entrance of the Jallainwala Bagh- a poignant tribute to those massacred. Amritsar Massacre was a turning point, and gave strength to the nationalist campaign to oust the British.

Flickering flame at the entrance to pay tribute
Narrow historical lane through which many have been shot dead
Martyr's monument at Jallianwala Bagh
Winter view at the entrance
Thousands of visitors go to the Martyr's Park to see the history
A tribute to the Nation's Martyrs
Plaque to honour the people who struggled for India's independence
Visitors during heavy winter
A kind notice to the visitors
A visitor is seen capturing the plaque near the bullet wall
Marty's well at the park 
Plaque near the Martyr's well

Martyr's gallery houses paintings
Visitors viewing the Martyr's well

 Pictorial on Ceylon Today of 27th of January 2013


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Golden Temple of Amritsar

Text and pix by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

 Golden Temple is a symbol of equality and human brotherhood

Amritsar, which literally means “pool of ambrosial nectar”, is popularly known for Harmandir Sahib (Temple of God or Abode of God) as it’s formally called or the Golden Temple. It is the most sacred temple, and a place of pilgrimage for Sikhs. Sikhism emerged in the north western state of Punjab region of India in the 15th century. The temple construction work was started in December 1585 AD, and was completed in August 1604. There are four entrances to the temple, symbolic of the openness of Sikhs towards people from all religions. Pilgrims have to walk on the white marble barefoot, after dipping, and wetting their feet in a pool of water at the entrances. Despite the heavy winter weather, pilgrims from all parts of India, and elsewhere throng the Golden temple to invoke blessings. Pilgrims walk slowly along the sacred pool, while chanting. Religious chanting by the Sikh clerics adds fervor to the freezing cold. The picturesque Golden temple stands shining in the busy city of Amritsar, which borders Pakistan. The temple has unique Sikh architectural features, and gold coating. Men in Amritsar wear turbans in vivid colours such as red, orange (mostly) and yellow, and long beards. The temple stands tall with the Nishan Sahib (holy triangular Sikh flag), and visible from a distance. A wholesome vegetarian meal is served daily for lunch at world’s largest free eatery, Langar hall or community kitchen at the Golden temple. According to the temple trustee, “80,000 pilgrims eat on a weekday, while 160,000 people eat on a weekend”. Volunteers help in community cooking and serving. It’s a Sikh tradition to serve free meal to all the pilgrims, no matter what faith they belong to. Sikhs strongly reject the caste system. Tension grew between the Government led by late Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi and Sikhs in 1984. She ordered to storm the Golden Temple, where many Sikh separatists were hiding. Hundreds (possibly thousands including civilians caught up in cross fire) of people have been killed during the “Operation Blue Star”, at the Golden Temple, which took place during the first week of June in1984, and the temple was damaged, and repaired later. A memorial shrine is currently being built around the corner to honour those who were killed (martyrs), except the Indian security forces.
A devotee prays at the Golden Temple in Amritsar
Harmandir Sahib is the Gurdwara worship of the Sikhs
Notice to the pilgrims
Golden Temple is a place of worship for men and women from all walks of life, and all religions
A view from afar
Religious items are sold in the vicinity
Pigeon drinks water from the sacred pool
Pilgrims at Golden Temple 
Most Sikhs visit Amritsar and Harmandir Sahib at least once in their lifetime

"Kirpan" ~ ceremonial Sikh short sword, one of the articles of faith for sale at a shop in Amritsar
Occupy dome ~ pigeons sit on the temple dome during winter
A vendor is seen busy reading the newspaper near the Golden Temple
Golden Temple is the supreme centre of Sikhism
Harmandir Shaib watch tower
Singh selling orange triangular Sikh scarves to be worn to the temple
A distinctive appearance of the Golden Temple
Man driven Rickshaw taking pilgrims to the temple
Pilgrims throng the temple during heavy winter

Pictorial on Ceylon Today of 20th January 2013


Sunday, January 13, 2013

A domain to bliss

Text and pix by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai 

White Marble structure at the main entrance of the temple in the City of Miltipas 

Jainism is an ancient religion that originated in India and belongs to the most ancient of faiths in the world. It teaches the way to liberation and a cornerstone of Jain religious philosophy is the path to bliss being founded on harmless living and renunciation. 

The Jains worship 24 ‘Tirthankaras’ or human beings who help in achieving liberation and enlightenment by destroying all of their soul-constraining karmas, as role-model and leaders for those seeking spiritual guidance. They are seen as the ideal of perfection and are identified as: Adinatha, Ajita, Sambhava, Abhinandana, Sumati, Padmaprabha, Suparshva, Chandraprabha, Suvidhi, Shital, Shreyansa, Vasupujya, Vimala, Ananta, Dharma, Shanti, Kunthu, Ara, Malli, Muni Suvrata, Nami, Nemi, Parshva and Mahavir. 

The majority of the Jains live in India, and according to the 2001 census, India has a Jain population of about 4.2 million. According to community estimates and Jain leaders, the figure is between six to eight million Jains the world over. About 100,000 live in North America, including 4,000 in the San Francisco Bay Area in Northern California. 

The Jain Center of Northern California (JCNC) was founded in 1973 with just 20 families, and now it has a membership of more than 600 families from the Bay Area in San Francisco. The JCNC itself was built in 2000. The architecturally-designed Jain Center of Northern California lies in the Silicon Valley and attracts many Jain worshippers from around the world.
A view of the temple in the City of Miltipas
Jains must be vegetarians
The philosophy and practice of Jainism emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation
Offerings are made in the main shrine hall of the temple
Temple worship is of more importance to lay Jains than to Jain monks and nuns
Jains worship the icons of Jinas,Arihants and Tirthankars who have conquered the inner passions and attained divine consciousness, and study the scriptures of these liberated beings
Lord Mahavir is regarded as the man who gave Jainism its present-day form
Jains believe that the soul exists forever
Lord Mahavir found enlightenment after 13 years of renunciation, and soon made 11 converts at the age o 30
Jainism is a religion of equality
Jainism encourages non-violence,peace and harmony
Shatrunjay Tirth
An image of Lord Mahavir
Ranakpur Tirth
An array of deities
Girnarji Tirth
Usually the worshipper makes eight symbolic offerings to the image of a Tirthankara
Pavapuri Tirth
Every worshipper says "nisihi" while entering the temple. This means "giving up" and indicates that they are moving from the secular activities into spiritual ones
Fasting purifies the body,mind and soul
There are 24 Tirthankaras
Jains believe that to attain enlightenment and ultimately liberation, one must practice the ethical principles such as non-violence, truthfulness,non-stealing,celibacy and non-possession or non-materialism
Leather products are not allowed into the temple
Worshippers in the main sanctum
Jains believe that the universe has always existed and will always exist
Pictorial on Ceylon Today of 13th of January 2013