Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta Indonesia


Despite the official spelling, the name is usually pronounced and not uncommonly written — JOGJAKARTA or just JOGJA (JOGH – JAH).  YOGYAKARTA, also JOGTA or JOGJAKARTA is a city and a capital Yogyakarta Special Region in Java, Indonesia.  The city is named after the Indian city of AYODHYA from the Ramayana Epic.  YOGYA means “suitable, fit, proper” and KARTA means “prosperous, flourishing” (i.e. “a city that is fit to prosper” ).  The Dutch name of the city is DJOHJAKARTA.


Yogyakarta Indonesia


The area of the city of Yogyakarta is 32.5sq.km.  While the city spreads in all directions from the KRATON (the Sultan’s Palace), the core of the modern city is to the north, centred around Dutch colonial-era buildings and the commercial district, JALAN MALIOBORO, with rows of pavement vendors and nearby markets and malls, is the primary shopping street for tourists in the city, while JALAN SOLO, further north, is a shopping district more frequented by locals.  At the southern end of Malioboro, on the east side is a large local market of BERINGHARJO, not far from Fort VREDEBURG, a restored Dutch Fort.


Yogyakarta temples


At Yogyakarta’s centre is the Kraton and surrounding it is a densely populated residential neighbourhood that occupies land that was formerly the Sultan’s sole domain.  Evidence of this former use remains in the form of old walls and the ruined TAMAN SARI, built in 1758 as a pleasure garden.  No longer used by the Sultan, the garden has been largely abandoned.  For a time, it was used for housing by the Palace employees and descendants.  Reconstruction efforts began in 2004 and an effort to renew the neighbourhood around the Kraton has begun.  The site is a developing tourist attraction.


Yogyakarta malioboro


Nearby to the city of Yogyakarta is Mount MERAPI.  The northern outskirts of the city run up to the southern slopes of the mountain in Sleman Regency (Indonesian language : KABUPATEN ).  GUNUNG MERAPI (literally “mountain of fire” in Indonesian / Javanese ) is an active strato-volcano located on the border between Central Java and Yogyakarta, Indonesia.  It is the most active volcano in Indonesia and has erupted regularly since 1548.  The south of Merapi is KALIURANG Park.


Mount Merapi


Because of its proximity to the BOROBUDUR and PRAMBANAN Temples, and because of the Javanese Court Kraton, Yogyakarta has become an important tourist destination in Indonesia.

Yogyakarta Indonesia


Nine rock sites have been declared as Geo-heritage Sites : (1) ECOCENE LIMESTONE at Gamping in Sleman.  (2) PILLOW LAVA at Berbah in Sleman.  (3) Prehistoric volcanic sediment at CANDI IJO in Sleman.  (4) PRAMBANAN in Sleman.  (5) Sand Dunes at PARANGTRITIS in Bantul (6) KISKENDO Cave and a former manganese mining site at KLERIPAN   in Kulon Progo.  (7) NGLANGGERANG prehistoric volcano in Gunung Kidul (8) WEDIOMBO – SIUNG Beach (9) A bioturbation site at KALINGALANG near Wonosari.

Some of the cultural aspects of Yogyakarta are :
Yogyakarta Indonesia(1) Batik fabric production.  The most famous Batik marketplace is BERINGHARJO Market.  Yogyakarta Silver market(2) Silverwork, fine filigree jewellery and the production centre is in KOTAGEDE.
(3) Traditional Javanese dance performance, especially Ramayana WAYANG WONG dance performed in Prambanan and Purowisata.


WAYANG WONG dance Indonesia


(4) WAYANG KULIT, a traditional Javanese leather puppetry used for shadow plays.

(5) Contemporary puppetry and theatre, for example the Papermoon Puppet Theatre.

WAYANG KULIT puppet show


(6) GAMELAN Music, including the local Gamelan Yogyakarta which was developed in the courts.

(7) Annual traditional Javanese festivals such as SEKATEN or GEREBEG MULUD.
(8) Visual artists including the TARING PADI Community In Bantul.

Traditional Indonesian festival


To the east of the town, is the large Air Force Museum ( MUSEUM PUSAT DIRGANTARA MANDALA ) with 36 aircrafts in the building and 6 aircrafts displayed outdoors.  As Indonesia was for a period in the Soviet sphere of influence, this Museum contains a number of vintage Russian aircraft not widely available for inspection in the NATO sphere of influence.  There is also an assortment of Japanese, American and British aircraft.  There is also another museum —— Jogja National Museum.

Where is the soul?

The “treasures of our soul” remain hidden under the layers of mind, matter and illusion.  Our attention is focused on the outer world instead of the inner one.  We keep adding more coverings through our mind’s desires, which lead us to anger, violence, lust, greed, attachment, deceit and ego.
Where is the soul in the body ?  What is its size and shape ?  Where do we look to find it when we talk about the soul and speak of its characteristics ?  But is there any way to describe our soul ?
Our soul transcends physical description because it is not made of matter.  Matter has weight and takes up space.  But the soul is spirit,  and as spirit, it is invisible.
When doctors dissect a body they find only matter.  They cannot find the soul, as the soul belongs to a dimension in which there is only light and sound, but not the one we know of in this world.  They are of a purer form of which the light and sound in the physical universe are but a reflection.


The soul


We, as soul, are a light brighter than 16 outer suns, yet it is not a scorching, burning light.  It is a light that is soothing and loving.  We vibrate with a celestial harmony that cannot be heard with our physical ears.

The soul is connected to the physical body through a silver cord that is invisible to the eyes.  Saints and Mystics have referred to this cord.  It is a luminous thread that allows the soul to transcend the body and travel into spiritual realms.
At the time of death, the silver cord severs from the body so that the soul does not return to the body.  When the soul leaves the body in meditation however, the silver cord remains intact so that the soul can return to the body.  The outer expression of our soul is attention.  Attention is spread throughout our body.  It is the soul that gives life to our body.  A body devoid of a soul or in which the silver cord has been cut is not alive.  The seat of the soul lies at a point between and behind the two eyebrows, in a place known as the “third eye”.
It is also referred to as the 10th door, sixth chakra, ajna chakra, daswan dwar, tisra til and mount of transfiguration.  By concentration on this point in meditation, we can gain access to the soul.This point is a doorway through which the soul can enter into the spiritual realms within.
————- Sant Rajinder Singhji. (Head of Sawan Kirpal Ruhani Mission)   

Umaid Bhawan palace

Umaid Bhavan Palace


UMAID BHAWAN PALACE, located at Jodhpur in Rajasthan, India, is one of the world’s largest private residences.  A part of the Palace is managed by Taj Hotels.  Another part of the palace houses a museum.

It was called CHITTAR PALACE, during its construction, due to use of stones drawn from the CHITTAR HILL where it is located.  Ground for the foundation of the building was broken on the 18th of November, 1929 by Maharaja Umaid Singh and the construction was completed in 1943.  The Palace was built to provide employment to thousands of people during the time of famine.


 Umaid Bhavan Palace

The history of the building is linked to a curse by a Saint who had said that a period would follow the good rule of the Rathore Dynasty.  Thus, after the end of about the fifty- year-reign of Pratap Singh, Jodhpur faced a severe  drought and famine condition in the 1920s for a period of three consecutive years.  The farmers of the area, faced with famine, sought the help of the then King Umaid Singh, who was the 37th Rathore Ruler of Marwar at Jodhpur, to provide them with some employment so that they could survive.

The King decided to build a lavish Palace.  He commissioned Henry Vaughan Lanches, who was a contemporary of Sir Edwin Lutyens, who planned the buildings of the New Delhi Government Complex, by adopting the themes of domes and columns.  The Palace was designed as an extraordinary blend of Western technology and many Indian architectural features.  About 2,000 – 3,000 people were employed.  However, the actual occupation of the Palace by the Maharaja came only after its completion in 1943, very close to the period of India’s Independence.

Umaid Bhavan Palace


The site chosen was on Chittar Hill, in the outer limits of Jodhpur, where no water supply was available nearby and hardly any vegetation grew, as the hill slopes were rocky.  The building material (from sandstone quarries) required were quite a distance.  The Maharaja built a railway line to the quarry site to transport the building material.  Donkeys were inducted to haul soil to the site.  The sandstone transported was dressed at the site into large blocks with interlocking joints, so that they could be laid without the use of mortar and thus create a wonderful edifice.

The Palace was built with dun-coloured (golden-yellow) sandstone with two wings in an area of 26acres of land, including 15 acres of well-tended gardens.  The interior central dome sits above a sky-blue inner dome.  The inner vaulted dome rises to a height of 103ft in the interior part, which is capped by an outer dome of 43ft height.  Makrana marble has also been used, and Burmese teakwood has ben used for the interior woodwork.  When completed, the Palace had 347 rooms, several courtyards and a large Banquet Hall which could accommodate 300 people.  The architectural style is considered as representing the then in vogue BEAUX Arts Style, also known as INDO-DECO Style.  However, for many years, the Palace did not function fully on account of many tragic events in the Royal family.  Umaid Singh, who stayed in the palace for only four years, died in 1947.  Hanumant Singh who succeeded him also died at a young age  ——- he had just won in the 1952 General Elections and was returning after this win, when his plane crashed and he died.  Gaj Singh –II, who succeeded his father, then decided in 1971 to convert a part of the Palace into a Hotel.

Umaid Bhavan Palace


The Hotel wing of the Palace is run by the Taj Group of Hotels.  It has 79 guest rooms, including the luxurious Regal and Vice Regal Suites and the fabulous “Maharaja” & “Maharani” suites, and the latter is fitted with a bath-tub that is carved from a single block of pink marble, said to be the only one of its kind in India.  The Maharani suite has a parquet flooring and a terrace.  The bedroom has an attached kitchen and the furnishing here is in pink and peach colours.  The bed is also fitted with an art feature of a woman sitting on a lion.  The Maharaja suits has furnishings in leopard skin and black marble flooring and a curved mirror dome.  Both the suites are decorated with murals.  The Banquet Hall of the Palace now forms a large restaurant.


Umaid Bhavan Palace


The Museum has exhibits of stuffed leopards, a very large symbolic flag, gifted to Maharaja Jaswant Singh by Queen Victoria in 1877, an impressive “quirky” collection of clocks in windmill and lighthouse shapes and photographs of the elegant art-deco interior of the palace.  The Classic cars of the Maharajas are also on display in the garden in front of the Museum.  Glass, porcelain ware, memorabilia and information on the building of the Palace are also part of the exhibits.


Umaid Bhavan Palace


The Darbar Hall, which is part of the Museum, has elegant murals and a substantial number of miniature paintings, armour and an unusual collection of household paraphernalia that was in vogue in the 1930s, which were costly and then not found in India.

October to March, during the winter season, are the best months to visit the Palace and the Museum.

Phugtal monastery

Phugtal monastery Ladakh


PHUGTAL MONASTERY or PHUGTAL GOMPA ( often transliterated as PHUKTAL) is a Buddhist Monastery, located in the remote LUNGNAK VALLEY in south eastern ZANSKAR, in the autonomous Himalayan region of Ladakh, in Northern India.

It is one of the only Buddhist monasteries that can still be reached “only on foot”.  Supplies to the monastery are brought on horses, donkeys and mules in the warmer months, and in the frozen winters, they are transported through the frozen Zanskar River.  A road is expected to be built up to the monastery, however, for now, it is a day’s walk from DORZANG, the end of the road leading from PADUM.

Phugtal monastery Ladakh


The monastery owes its legacy to powerful and renowned scholars and teachers, who resided in the cave around which the monastery has been built, and has long been a place for retreat, meditation, learning and teaching.  This is reflected in the name PHUKTAL, which is derived from PHUKTHAL, made up of PHUK meaning “cave’ and TAL or THAL meaning “at leisure” in the endangered Zanskar dialect of the Tibetan language.  An alternate spelling of PHUKTAL is PHUKTHAR, where THAR means “liberation”.  Hence, the name PHUKTAL means “the cave of leisure” or ” the cave of liberation”.


Phugtal monastery Ladakh


The Monastery is built around a natural cave, which is believed to have been visited by numerous sages, scholars, translators and monks around 2,550 years ago.  The remote location of the Monastery was ideal for monks looking for peace and solitude to meditate.  The present Phugtal Monastery was established in the early 15th century by Jangsem Sherap Zangpo, a disciple f Je Tsongkhapa.

Believed to be one of the earliest residents of the cave are the 16 ARHATS, or the legendary followers of Buddha.  The images of the Arahats appear on the cave walls.  The eminent scholars and brothers Dangsong, Pun and Sum, who were believed to have the supernatural power of flight gave teachings on Dharma at Phugtal.
According to legend, the spiritually-gifted Zangpo caused a spring to appear and run from the cave, a tree to grow on top of the cave and for the cave itself to grow larger in size.  Then, under his guidance, the present structure of the Monastery was built around the cave.  It is built in the Cliffside like a honeycomb.  The cliff is part of a lateral gorge of a major tributary of the LINTI – TSARAP River.  The Monastery houses a main temple, prayer rooms, a library with rare sacred texts, apartments and living quarters, teaching facilities, a kitchen and, of course, the original cave and the sacred spring, which is protected.  It is home to about 70 monks.  There is a stone tablet which serves as a reminder of the stay of Alexander Csoma de Koros at Phugtal, while he worked on the first English-Tibetan Dictionary between 1826 and 1827, when he explored Ladakh.

Phutgal monastery view


The Phugtal Monaster maintains a Traditional Tibetan Medical Clinic, catering to the local community. There is an on-site AMCHI (a traditional Tibetan Physician) who provides natural SOWA – RIGPA medicine, many of which have been prepared at the monastery itself.  The village life in the Lungnak Valley revolves round the monastery.  Monks from the monastery attend local village events of significance, such as births, deaths and weddings, performing traditional prayer ceremonies.  The villagers visit the monastery to offer prayers, consult the Amchi and to attend festivals and special events at the monastery.


puja phutgal monastery


On December 31, 2014, a landslide occurred between the Shun and Phuktal villages.  This caused the formation of a landslide dam on the Phuktal River.  IT was first noticed due to the recession in the water level of the NIMOO BAZGO Hydroelectric Plant down the river.  The lake formed, behind the dam, increased in length and height as compared to the height of the blockade.  In May 2015, the Phuktal river flooded and washed away the entire school campus.  The building, equipment, materials and stores were all destroyed.  The Monastery has applied to the Jammu and Kashmir State Government and the Central Government for grants and financial aid to help rebuild the school and monastery and undo the damage of the flood.

The Lotus principle

It is a well known fact that no growth, be it personal, professional, domestic or spiritual, can take place without a “peaceful mind-set”.  A peaceful mind-set is directly related to our behaviour and attitude.  Unfortunately, not many people bother to check and control them.
Lotus principle** Do not interfere in other people’s matter / business.  We usually offer unsolicited advice, irrespective whether our advice is welcomed or whether we are even qualified to offer advice on an issue.  This is often annoying to others.  It does not end there, as we also tend to monitor the implementation of our advice, embarrassing people and brewing negativity against ourselves.
** Do not crave recognition.  This creates an expectation from others and the rule of expectation is that it never gets fulfilled.  So, in the end, we are dejected.
** Do not be jealous of others.  Most people are not happy with what they have and keep craving for more.  The focus is always on what they do not have.  So, they tend to be jealous of other people who appear to be better off.  The cause for jealousy could be anything from looks to intellect, name, fame, riches, house, car, prosperity and position.  We should consciously make an effort to be happy with what we have .  We must realise that what we get in life depends on our individual karma.  We must accept everything that we have as gifts from God and know that He is the best judge in these matters.
Lotus principle** Grasp the best and leave the rest.  All around us, we have a duality of people, things and situations.   The duality is “good” and “bad”.  Generally, our focus is on the bad aspects of people, situations and things, hence we land up grasping only the “bad”.  If we start grasping only the “good” from our surroundings, we would be the happiest people around.  One particular example that often finds mention in spiritual literature is that of the “lotus”  —– how it blooms amidst all the dirt around.  It is aware of all the dirt around it, yet it just absorbs whatever it needs to from the dirt for its own growth.  Similarly, we are surrounded by all kinds of people, but it is entirely up to us to absorb the good for our own growth without constantly trying to change our circumstances.
Pointing out flaws repeatedly acts as negative affirmation in the other person’s mind and instead of changing for the better, the other person feels dejected.  Another outcome of repeated fault-finding could be strained relations and friction.  The other person will avoid our company rather than listen to constant criticism.
——– Sadguru Rameshji.  

Niihau

Niihau island


NIIHAU is the westernmost and seventh largest of the inhabited Hawaiian Islands in the US state of Hawaii.  The Island is about 4.9 million years old, making it, geologically, younger than the 5-million-year-old neighbouring island of KAUA’I.  NIIHAU consists of one extinct volcano that had a large landslide to the east.


Niihau


The Island is relatively arid and because it lies in the rain shadow of Kaua’i and lacks the elevation needed to catch significant amounts of trade wind rainfall, Niihau therefore, depends for its rain on winter KONA storms, when more northerly weather systems intrude into the region.  As such, the Island is subject to long periods of drought.  Historical droughts have been recorded several times, one in 1792 by Captain James Cook’s former junior officer George Vancouver, who had been told that the people of Niihau had abandoned the island because of a severe drought and had moved to Kaua’i to escape famine.


Niihau island


As an arid island, Niihau was barren of trees for centuries  ——– Captain James Cook reported it ‘treeless’ in 1778.  Aubrey Robinson, grandfather of current owners Bruce and Keith Robinson, planted 10,000 trees per year during much of his ownership of the island.  Robinson’s afforestation efforts increased rainfall in the dry climate.  Island co-owner, Keith Robinson, a noted conservationist, preserved and documented many of Niihau’s natural plant resources.  The Island is designated as a critical habitat for the OLULU, an endemic and endangered species of Hawaiian LOBELIOID.  AYLMER ROBINSON, a Pritchard palm tree, named for Keith’s uncle Aylmer Robinson, is an endangered  species native to Niihau.


niihau-island


Several bird species thrive on Niihau.  Intermittent PLAYA lakes on the Island provide the KOLOA MAOLI (Hawaiian duck).  The critically endangered MONACHUS SCHAUINSLANDI (Hawaiian monk seal) is found in high numbers on Niihau’s shores.  Niihau’s secluded shoreline offers them a safe haven from habitat encroachments.  “Conditions here are better than the Government refuges of the North western Hawaiian Islands,” according to Robinson.  When the Robinsons originally purchased Niihau, no monk seals were present, because they lived in the north-western part of the Hawaiian Island Chain (NECKER & MIDWAY Islands).  They have been relocated to the main Hawaiian Island Chain by NOAA Fisheries over the past 30 years, and some have found homes on Niihau.

Big game herds, imported from stock on MOLOKA’I RANCH in recent years, roam Niihau’s forests and flatlands.  Eland and Aoudad are abundant, along with Oryxes, wild boars and feral sheep.  These big game herds provide income from Hunting Safari Tourism.

Niihau island Hawaiian seal


Approximately 80% of Niihau’s income comes from a small Navy Installation atop 1,300ft-high cliffs.  Remote-controlled tracking devices are used for testing and training with Kaua’i’s Pacific missile Range Facility.  Modern missile defence tests are conducted at the site for the US and its Allies.  The Installation brings in millions of dollars a year and provides the Island with a stable economic base, without the complexity of tourism or industrial development.  The sale of shells and shell jewellery is an additional source of income.  Niihau’s beaches are known for their PUPU (tiny shells) that wash onto shore during winter months.


Niihau island ranch sheep


Species used for shell leis include Momi, Laiki or rice shells and Kahelelani.  The shells and jewellery are so popular that Governor linda Lingle signed a Bill in 2004, to protect Lei POPO O NIIHAU from counterfeiting.  A single intricate Niihau shell lei can sell for 1000s of dollars.

Many residents of Niihau were once employees of Niihau Ranch, farming cattle and sheep until the Robinsons shut down the operation in 1999.  It had not been profitable for most of the 20th century.  Honey cultivation was also no longer viable by 1999.  KIAWE Charcoal was once a large-scale export, but aggressive Mexican price competition ended that as well.  Mullet Farming has been popular in Niihau, with ponds and lakes stocked with baby mullet which reach 9 to 10 pound apiece before being harvested and sold on Kaua’i and O’ahu.
Niihau’s owners have offered half-day helicopter and beach tours of the Island since 1987, although contact with residents is avoided and no accommodations exist.  Since 1992, Hunting Safaris provide income via tourists who pay to visit the Island to hunt eland, aoudad and oryx, as well as wild sheep and boars.  Any meat the hunters do not take with them is given to the village.

A true patriot

India patriotismPATRIOTISM is a value system where one loves everything that belongs to a country  ——- its laws, systems, traditions, culture and diversity.  In the Indian context, it translates to loving all that India stands for, including its laws.
Does ‘Patriotism’ have a ‘Religion’ ?  If ‘Patriotism’ is ‘love for country’ and ‘Religion’ ‘love for God’, is there a conflict of allegiance ?  Ideally speaking, there shouldn’t be any clash between the two most important domains of one’s identity.  It ought to be just like the way one can love his mother and father at the same time.
However, religion getting shrouded in fanaticism and patriotism in rhetoric, the equation gets skewed.  Our cherished ideals are LOKAH SAMASTAH SUKHINO BHAVANTU ( Welfare of all beings in the world ) and VASUDHAIVA KUTUMBBAKAM (The world is one family).
Is a religious patriot an ‘oxymoron’ ?  Devotion and patriotism are two sides of the same coin.  Loving the Divine means loving His creation.  Religions often get communalised and patriotism gets reduced to symbolic outpouring of VANDE MATARAM on Independence Day or Republic Day.
The point is that patriotism is a complementary part and parcel of all religions.  The vision to balance the two though secularism is yet to be realised.  State-sponsored national integration drives have focussed not on creating a feeling of oneness, but on recognising and tolerating the diversity.
A spiritual person alone can strike the right balance.  Spirituality encompasses a wider concept of patriotism and religion, transcending the limitation of geography and sectarianism  He alone can be a TRUE PATRIOT, whose love for the nation is not guided by narrow considerations of caste, creed and religion.
Let us pledge, to become TRUE PATRIOTS.
——– Excerpts from: A True Patriot Transcends Geography. by M. Rajaque Rahman.