A friend of mine told me to check out this picture of the deities in Manipur – they are so beautiful! I was thinking about their unique Manipuri dress and where the unusual design might have come from, when I remembered that I have a book on Manipuri dance. This outfit is a replica of the traditional costume used for the Manipuri Rasa Lila dance. It is believed that the design of the costumes was originally conceived by Raja Bhagyachandra (1763-1798) who saw a divine vision of the rasa lila in his dream and reproduced the clothing he saw accordingly. Over the years, the costumes have become more decorative. Designers have also gradually stiffened the skirt more and more to give it its fixed shape.
In 2005 I visited the temple in Navadwip run by the Manipuri devotees who cooked us an amazing Manipuri feast and gave us a demonstration of their traditonal martial arts.
The deities at the Navadwip temple – Radha Krsna and at the bottom, Sri Gopaldeva – the picture is really bad but you can Radharani has her hands in a unique dancing pose.
This picture also reminded me of how lucky I was to attend a program in New York last year with Bhakti Svarupa Damodar Swami. It was my second day there and I was feeling very jetlagged, but as he sang the bhajan ‘Gay Gaura Madhur Svare’ so beautifully, I felt my tiredness lift; as he spoke I was touched by his humility, sincerity and intelligence. He invited everyone at the program to come to Manipur and visit the new temple and cultural centre they were building at the time. I wonder if I will ever get there. For now it’s off to Vrindavan – goodbye for three weeks little blog…
On my parent’s anniversary on Wednesday, I made a spur of the moment cake, and decided to try the recipe for Carrot Cake Supreme , submitted by Mother Rangavati in her section on Krishna.com.
In my rush, I forgot that American temperature measurement is different than English and had the oven on way too high. I soon realised, and turned it down but kept adjusting it nervously for the rest of the hour and bit baking time. At one point, the top of the cake which had initially cooked too quickly started to burn slightly, so I took it out and cut the top off (in bits) which seemed to work quite well. Haha. It was fun putting it back on again at the end like an edible puzzle.
Anyway, despite all of this culinary drama, it turned out to be delicious, and the whole point of this post is simply to recommend the recipe. Yum.
Packing this morning makes it feel more real. The iron sizzles (what a wonderful sound) as it hits the damp fabric of the saris I’m putting in my suitcase. It’s real! I’m going! I feel slightly guilty, escaping from university only two weeks after I’ve started. I looked at the other people in my class yesterday, feeling a little sorry for them. Somehow devotees get to do more than the usual share of very cool things. Oh well, I’ve been given the OK by my tutors – I explained everything about the trip to them and they had no problem letting me go. It makes me wonder why I ever have to turn up at all – the lecture notes are all online. Sigh. Modern education.
I feel unprepared. This is momentous for me. Fourteen years ago I arrived in Vrindavan – the memories are still vivid. I remember Loi Bazaar; shopping for my Ladhu Gopal deity and dressing him in yellow on Vasanta Panchami; eating ice cream from the tiny stall that was Biharilal’s (I hear now it’s a supermarket); having darshan of Radha Raman and Radha Gokulananda; hot rooftops and dusty feet; Kusum Sarovar and being pinched by a huge crowd of children at Radha Kund; early morning tonga rides, seeing fleeting glimpses of the nilagai through the trees; water that tasted of clay pot (oops, I drunk it); a wall topped with glass to scare away the monkeys; bat’s droppings on the floor of the Madan Mohan (was it?) temple; Radha Syamasundara, the most beautiful deities I had ever seen.
I wish I would’ve read more in preparation. I wish I already knew all the spots where Krsna did what, so I could meditate on him with more focus. I wish I wish. I pray. I pray that Krsna will help me while I’m there, to see him; to serve the devotees; to make fewer offenses; to gain spiritual strength; to see beyond the material characteristics of Vrndavan; to become more attached to his holy name during Kartik time. I pray that he will bless me in my artistic endeavour while I’m there and I pray that he will help me to find my way back. I can’t wait another fourteen years.
In my creative writing class last week the teacher passed around a candle and asked us to write something in two minutes, inspired by something about it.
Early morning trays of sand
drops of wax on every hand
tiny flames together form
a plate of autumn light
Who can measure my luck – to be in Vrndavana during the most sacred month of Kartik? Thankyou Krsna.
As I walked from university,
down the road,
what did I see?
A family of pheasants,
1 – 2 – 3!
and above the fence,
a single sweetpea.
When I got to my car,
what did I see?
A £50 parking ticket,
just for me.
O son of Kuntī, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.
Bhagavad Gita 2.14
On this day, in 1982, my parents got married at Bhaktivedanta Manor. Twenty-five years later they are still going strong, and I couldn’t be more proud of them. Together, they give me everything, and inspire me more than I can say. Congratulations!
Disclaimer: I was thinking about this post on my drive home from school. When I arrived, I had a look on Planet ISKCON and I was quite surprised to see this great post which was sort of along the lines of what I was thinking about. So please excuse me if I’m chewing the cud. Put it down to some kind of divine synchronicity.
At university, I am studying linguistics (amongst other things), and with this being my first week back I have been dutifully cleaning out my ears and getting in the habit of listening once again for interesting linguistic data; in conversations; in writing; anywhere really. As I drove home this Thursday, it struck me suddenly that ISKCON can be a total goldmine for linguistic oddity. I don’t know why I had never considered it before, but it is perhaps this which first sparked my interest in learning about language, and how it varies and develops.
I think every devotee has a story of when they have used ISKCON slang with a non-devotee, and been met with confusion, or just a blank stare. There are several that I’ve noticed more recently. As with all linguistic commentary, once you notice it, you become very self conscious of saying it yourself…oh well.
Haribol: This word has taken on so many meanings depending on context and intonation – it’s amazing. It literally means ‘Chant the names of Hari (Krsna)’ but often becomes –
- ‘Haribol?’ – Answering the phone, knocking on doors, interrupting conversations.
- ‘Hariiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-BOL!’ – Usually only used in kirtan or reserved for special occasions such as festivals, initiations and weddings (normally accompanied by loud banging of mrdangas, djembes, or the temple room floor)
- ‘Uh-hari-bol?!’ – the ‘uh’ indicates indignation – normally used when apprehending queue jumpers at prasadam time.
- ‘Haribol! Haribol!’ – (imperative) Can mean, ‘Get out the way! Maha trolley/disabled person/swami/wet mop coming through!’
- ‘Hari-BOL!’ – How are you?! I haven’t seen you in so long! (could be required after just days, weeks, months, years – depends on the person) Many variations on the intonation of this one.
- ‘hari-bol‘ (slow, quiet) – When hearing bad news.
Once a devotee called me and I realised how ridiculous the ‘haribols’ can get. It went something like this:
Dasi: Haribol! Jahnavi?
Me: Yep haribol!
Dasi: Haribol this is Dasi! –
Me: – OH! Hari-BOL! (note appropriate usage here)
Dasi: – Haribol! – I wanted to talk to you about next week. We’re……
Others I have noticed are smaller ones. Things like:
- (House) program: We’ve taken the humble word ‘program’ – which I suppose is valid, in that it can describe a scheduled series of events; but it tends to take on a variety of meanings as to what these activites actually are. From Bhagavad Gita study groups, to kirtans, to birthday parties, movie nights, garba evenings – one things’s for sure – there will be devotees there, and they’ll be doing something. There’s definitely not many better words to describe this mix of kirtan/prasadam/class/socialising – but it gets a little awkward when you’re trying to tell someone not in the know – ‘Yeah I can’t come to your party on Friday. Sorry, I have to go to a….um…program?’ Doesn’t really work.
Others are a little more in-house things that bug me sometimes.
- Swami abbreviations – The practice of abbreviating the titles and names of Swamis, into one, annoying acronym – ‘Yeah, HH RNS is giving class on Sunday, oh, and don’t forget, I want a copy of that SRS kirtan from you!’ I can understand it in email addresses and notetaking, but using it otherwise is like transcendental ‘textspeak’. A related issue is always referring to Krsna Consciousness in speech (and print) as ‘KC’ – ‘Yeah, his KC really took a turn for the better last year when he got initiated.’
- Tautological phrases – Tautology is when you needlessly repeat a word, phrase or idea. Normally it’s just within one language, but we often inadvertently do it because we’re using English alongside Sanskrit or Bengali. Of course it’s perfectly understandable that we’re all going to do it at some point, but I just think in general we should know what we’re saying. Examples include: ‘The Rath cart will leave at 11′ – ‘Rath’ means ‘cart’; ‘Sage Narada Muni was extremely devotional’ – ‘Muni’ means ‘sage’ ; King Bali Maharaj – you get the point…
- Kirtan/bhajan – When is a bhajan not a kirtan? If we stand up and sing ‘Jaya Radha Madhava’ is that a kirtan? I know this one doesn’t really matter but I wish I could resolve it somehow. I always grew up thinking that the definition of a ‘bhajan’ was a devotional song (meaning, it has lyrics and a definable beginning and end) and a kirtan was chanting Hare Krsna – in any context. But now the trend seems to be more towards calling anything sitting down a bhajan, and anything standing up, a kirtan. So if you’re sitting down, chanting Hare Krsna, you’re having ‘bhajans’, but if halfway through, everyone gets up and starts dancing, you’re now having a kirtan? Confusing…
- Nectar – This is just a mini observation I made when I was travelling in America this summer. I noticed that the drink at prasadam time (at the temple) was almost always referred to as ‘nectar – no matter whether it was apple juice and 7up, or caranamrta. I just thought it was interesting as I never hear it in England. I also noticed that devotees just use the word ‘nectar’ there more often – ‘His class this morning was really nectar!’ A related issue to this is the word nectarean, e.g. ‘The nectarean glories of the holy name‘. It’s nectarean, not nectarine. A nectarine is a fruit, not an adjective.
Anyway, I know this is all very insignificant ultimately, but it is interesting (to me at least). If anyone reading has any more they want to share, please do.
I love this animation. It was done by a graduate student of CalArts and was based around the narration of the story by this little boy. Very creative.