PIPLANTRI is a village located in RAJSAMAND District in Rajasthan State.

The villagers of Piplantri plant 111 trees every time a girl child is born, and the community ensures these trees survive, attaining fruition as the girls grow up.  Over the years, people have managed to plant over a quarter million trees on the village’s grazing commons, including neem, sheesham, mango and amla among others.


To ensure financial security, after the birth of a girl child, the villagers contribute 21,000 rupees collectively and take 10,000 rupees from the parents and put the amount in a FD, which can be broken when she is 20 years old.  To make sure the child receives proper education, the villagers make the parents sign an affidavit which also restricts them from marrying her off before she attains the legal age for marriage.



Shyam Sundar Palwal, the former Sarpanch (village head) started this initiative in memory of his daughter (Kiran) who died a few years ago.  The initiative begun in 2006 has turned Piplantri Village into an oasis.  The planting of the trees have raised the water level.  IT has also helped the village economy.  To keep termites away from the trees, many of which bear fruit, the village has planted more than 2.5million Aloe Vera plants around them.  Gradually, the villagers realised that Aloe Vera could be processed and marketed in a variety of ways.  So, the community now produces and markets Aloe Vera products like juice and gel, pickle and other items.  So, for the last several years, Piplantri is quietly practising its own home-grown eco-feminism and achieving spectacular results.  On an average 60 girls are born every year in Piplantri.


People also plant 11 trees whenever a family member dies.  The Village Panchayat, which has a studio-recorded anthem and a website of its own, has completed banned alcohol, open grazing of animals and cutting of trees.  Villagers claim that there has been no police case since the last seven or eight years.

Piplantri is well-known for its marble mining industry.  In this Gram Panchayat, the famous R. K. Marbles is located whose name is recorded in the Guinness Book of World Record for maximum production of marbles.


The village was awarded by the Rajasthan Government and included in Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Adarsh Gram Yojna and it is the only village from Rajsamand to get selected for it.

—————- Mahim Pratap Singh for The Hindu. 



JANMASHTMI celebrating Lord Krishna’s birth day each year assures us of the grand manifestation of the Supreme in the form of Krishna for protection of the virtuous and destruction of  the wicked at the appropriate time.

Puranic Theology associates the avatars with the four Yugas —— Sat, Treta, Dvapara and Kali.  In today’s Kali Yuga Krishna could appear in our midst at any given moment.  The Bhagavatam say that Krishna is the full-fledged avatar complete in al aspects.


Krishna denotes unmeasured, incomprehensible and absolutely great personae stimulating astonishment, rapture and admiration.  Krishna is known as the Foremost Yogi.  With the amalgamation of the theistic doctrine of devotion, Krishna evolved as a personal God of love and grace in the form of Kanha Krishna at Gokul and Vrindavan apart from representing Vasudeva Krishna at Mathura and Dvaraka.

Krishna is also looked upon as having two bodies.  One which is eternal, supracosmic and spiritual and the other which is material and temporary.  As an object of Bhakti, Krishna appears as an embodiment of Nine Emotions or Rasas and fulfils the nine-fold required enforcements of devotees as God in the form of a child, a youth, counsellor, friend and beloved.

———- Asha Goswami


The Sanskrit language is called DEVAVANI (Divine Language).  The Upanishads are written in Sanskrit.  The very word “Sanskrit” means transformed, adorned, crowned, decorated, refined,  —— but remember the word “transformed”.  The language itself was transformed because so many people attained to the ultimate, and because they were using the language, something of their joy penetrated into it, something of their poetry entered into the very cells, the very fibre of the language.  Even the language became transformed, illuminated.  It was bound to happen.  Languages in the West are becoming more and more scientific, accurate, mathematical and precise.  Science is giving languages colour, shape and form.
Sanskrit hymnThe same happened with Sanskrit 5,000 years ago.  So many people became enlightened and they were all speaking Sanskrit, their enlightenment entered into it with all its music, poetry, with all its celebration.  Sanskrit became luminous; it is the most poetic and musical language.
A “poetic language” is just the opposite of a “scientific language”.  In “scientific language” every word has to be very precise in meaning; it has to have only one meaning.  — In “poetic language” the word has to be liquid, flowing, dynamic, not static, allowing many meanings, many possibilities.  The word has to be not precise at all; the more imprecise it is better, because then it will be able to express all kinds of nuances.
There are 800 roots in Sanskrit and out of those thousands of words have been derived just as out of one root a tree grows and many branches and thousands of leaves and hundreds of flowers.  Each single root becomes a vast tree with great foliage.
oshoFor example, the root RAM can mean first ‘to be calm’, second ‘to rest’, third ‘to delight in’, fourth ’cause delight to’, fifth ‘to make love’, sixth ‘to join’, seventh ‘to make happy’, eighth ‘to be blissful’, ninth ‘to play’, tenth ‘to be peaceful’, eleventh ‘ to stand still’, twelfth ‘to stop’ and thirteenth ‘God, divine, the absolute’.  Sometimes the meanings are related to each other, sometimes they are contradictory to each other.  Hence the language has a multi-dimensional quality to it.  You can play with those words and through that play you can express the inexpressible; the inexpressible can be hinted.
The script in which Sanskrit is written is called DEVANAGRI (dwelling-place of the Gods), and so it certainly is.  Each word has become divine, just because it has been used by people who had known God or godliness.
(Abridged from I AM THAT, Osho Times International, http://www.osho.com)   ——– Talk : Osho 


Virupaksha temple

PATTADAKAL, also spelled PATTADAKALU is a World Heritage Site, a Village and an important tourist centre in the State of Karnataka, and is located on the left bank of the MALAPRABHA River in Bagalkot District.  It is 22km from BADAMI and 514km from AIHOLE, both of which are well-known for Chalukya monuments.  The pre-Chalukya historical and archaeological site BACHINAGUDDA is also near Pattadakal.

Pattadakal temples

Pattadakal, the place for Chalukya’s Coronation, was the capital of the Chalukya Dynasty of Karnataka in Southern India.  The Chalukyas built many Temples here between the 7th and 9th century.  There are 10 Temples, including a Jain Sanctuary, surrounded by numerous small shrines and Plinths in fusion of various Indian architectural styles (Rekha, Nagara, Prasada and Dravida Vimana) .  Four Temples were built in Chalukyan Dravidian style, four in the Nagara style of Northern India and the PAPANATHA Temple in mixed style.  Nine Shiva Temples and one Jaina Basadi, situated along the northern course of the river, which is considered as very auspicious according to the Holy Scriptures.

virupaksha temple

Pattadakal was a great centre of art and architecture.  According to the inscriptions, the place was known by the names KISOVOLAL (red town  ——- mostly mountains near Pattadakal gave this name, RAKTAPURA.  It continued to be an important centre under the RASHTRAKUTAS and the KALYANI CHALUKYAS.  It became a chief city for a small region called KISUKADU.  The SINDHAS of YARAMABARIGE (Yelburgi) also ruled it for some time.

Virupaksha temple

UNESCO, in 1987, included PATTADAKAL in its list of World Heritage Sites.  The group of 8th century monuments in Pattadakal are the culmination of earliest experiments in the VESARA style of Hindu Temple architecture.

Temples Pattadakal

VIRUPAKSHA Temple is the largest and grandest of all the Temples in Pattadakal.  It was built in the 8th century by Queen Lokamahadevi to commemorate her husband Vikramaditya — 2 victories over the Pallavas of Kanchi.  The Temple has rich sculptures.  It has a sanctum, pillared navaranga and triple entrances from the north, east and south porches.  It has a massive gateway in front from the east.

An integrated science

Rishi Patanjali

The Sutras of Patanjali cover all aspects of human life, prescribe a code of conduct to lead a life of fulfilment and end with a glorious vision to reach our full potential.  Yoga Sutras begin at the very root, mind and intelligence, called CHITTA.

In the first chapter SAMADHIPADA, Patanjali analyses the movement and functioning of the mind.  The second chapter SADHANAPADA deals with practise.  Patanjali goes on to provide deep insight into the nature of KLESHAS (afflictions) that affect the body and distract the mind, resulting in distorted behaviour patterns of an individual.

Yog sutras

In SADHANAPADA, Patanjali reaches out to the lowest level of the seeker who is spiritually yet unevolved.  He coins the term KRIYA YOGA .  Kriya means action and Kriya Yoga emphasises the dynamic efforts on the part of the sadhaka.

Kriya Yoga comprises eight yogic discipline ——— yama, niyama, asana, pranayama,pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and Samadhi.  Through asanas, the seeker becomes familiar with his body and sense intelligence.  Pranayama gives control over subtle qualities of the elements ——– sound, touch, shape, taste and smell.  Pratyahara is withdrawal of the senses and organs of actions.

According to Patanjali, Yoga is a preventive healing art, with its science and philosophy.  Pantanjali also warns us of the pitfalls that may impede spiritual growth and advises us to stabilise body and mind so that we are not shattered when confronted with  tragic realities of human existence.


The 3rd chapter VIBHUTIPAD, deals with attainments.  Patanjali exhorts  us to continue the practise of yoga so that the intelligence of consciousness and soul may be equally balanced.  Then we attain the highest state of wisdom where the person exists in a perfectly ‘integrated state’.   This is known as KAIVALYA.  This is the subject matter of the last chapter in the Yoga Sutras called KAIVALYAPADA that focuses on ‘absolute liberation’.

Yoga is an INTEGRATED SCIENCE which alone can restore the wholeness and integrity of our divided being and lets us enjoy real well-being.

——-  Nivedita Joshi (she teaches yoga in Delhi)    


Shrinathji Nathdwara

It literally means GATEWAY to SHRINATHJI.  It is a town in Rajasthan, famous for its Temple of Krishna which house the idol of Shrinathji (14th century)——- a 7-year-old infant incarnation of Krishna.  Nathdwara Town itself is popularly referred to as SHRINATHJI, after the presiding Deity.


As per the religious beliefs, the shrine at Nathdwara was built in the 17th century at the spot as exactly ordained by Shrinathji Himself.  The idol of Lord Krishna was being transferred to a safer place from Vrindavan, to protect it from anti-Hindu, iconoclastic, Mughal ruler Aurangzeb.  When the idol reached the spot n the village of SINHAD, the wheels of the bullock-cart, in which the idol was being transported, sank axle-deep in mud and could not be moved any further.  The accompanying priests realised that the particular place was the Lord’s chosen spot, and accordingly, a Temple was built there, under the rule and protection of the then Maharana Rana Singh of Mewar.  Shrinathji Temple is also known as HAVELI (mansion) of Shrinathji.

Nathdwara has an average elevation of 1919ft.  It is set amid idyllic hills.  A steady stream of pilgrims has ensured a plentiful supply of transport and accommodation.  Shrinathji Temple is the centre of attraction, but the town is also famous for its PICHWAI paintings (large paintings on cloth depicting legends from the life of Lord Krishna), handmade terracotta, ivory articles and HAWELI music (devotional music akin to DHRUPAD singing with compositions meant for various seasons, festivals and sections of the day).

Shrinathji Nathdwara

The structure of the Temple is simple, but the aesthetic appeal of this Temple is ceaseless.  Lord Shrinathji symbolizes a form of Lord Krishna, when He lifted the Govardhana (a hill).  In the image, the Lord is revealed with His left hand raised and the right hand is like a fist.  The idol is carved out of a large black stone.  Images of two cows, a snake, a lion, two peacocks and a parrot near the God’s head are imprinted on the idol.

Nathdwara Shrinathji temple

The Temple authorities have not less than 500 cows.  Darshan opens eight times a day and the Lord looks different in every Darshan, and the RAJBHOG Darshan, taking place around noon, is the most important and sought-after.  Photography and mobile phones are strictly prohibited in the Temple premises.  The best time to visit Shrinathji is from September to February.

Jewel of Vidharba

Tadoba Tiger reserve

The TADOBA ANDHARI TIGER PROJECT is a Tiger Reserve in Chandrapur District of Maharashtra State.  It is notable as Maharashtra’s oldest and largest National Park.  It is one of India’s 43 PROJECT TIGER  —— Tiger Reserves.

The name TADOBA is the name of the God TADOBA or TARU, praised by the tribal people who live in the dense forests of the TADOBA & ANDHARI region, while the ANDHARI river that meanders through the forest gives the ANDHARI name.
Legend holds that TARU was a village chief who was killed in a mythological encounter with a tiger.  A shrine, dedicated to God Taru, now exists beneath a huge tree, on the banks of the TADOBA LAKE.  The Temple is frequented by Adivasis, especially during the fair held every year in the Hindu month of PAUSHA between December and January.

Tadoba tiger

The GOND Kings once ruled these forests I the vicinity of the CHIMUR hills.  Hunting was completely banned in 1935.  Two decades later, in 1955, 116.54sq.km was declared a National Park.  ANDHARI Wildlife Sanctuary was created in the adjacent forests in 1986, and, in 1995, both the Park and the Sanctuary were merged to establish the present Tiger Reserve. ——– TADOBA ANDHARI Reserve is the largest and oldest National Park in Maharashtra.  The total area of the Reserve is 1,727sq.km.  This includes TADOBA National Park, created in 1955.

There are about 43 Tigers in the Reserve, one of the highest in India.  Densely forested hills form the northern and western boundary of the Tiger Reserve.  The elevation of the hills ranges from 660ft — 1,150ft.  To the southwest is the 300acres Tadoba Lake, which acts as a buffer between the park’s forest and the extensive farmland which extends up to IRAI Water Reservoir.  This lake is  a perennial water source which offers a good habitat for MUGGAR CROCODILES to thrive.

Tadoba tiger reserve India

Other wetland areas, within the Reserve, include the KOLSA LAKE & ANDHARI River.  The Tadoba Reserve covers the CHIMUR HILLS and the Andhari Sanctuary covers MOHARLI & KOLSA Ranges.  There are thick forests, which are relieved by smooth meadows and deep valleys as the terrain slopes from north to south.  Cliffs and caves provide refuge for several animals.  The 2 “forested triangles” are formed of Tadoba and Andhari range.  The south part of the park is less hilly.  Tadoba Reserve is predominantly a southern tropical dry deciduous forest with dense woodlands comprising 87% of the protected area.  Teak is the predominant tree species.  Other deciduous trees include AIN(Crocodile bark), BIJA, DHAUDA, HALDU, SALAI & TENDU.  The PALAS or Flame of the Forest adds vibrant colour to the forest.  Black plum trees grow in the RIPARIAN habitat around the lake.  At the waterhole at PANCHADHARA, huge ARJUN trees are seen. Bamboo thickets and patches of grass are found throughout the reserve.  The climber KACH KUJALI (velvet bean) found here is a medicinal plant used to treat Parkinson’s disease.

Tadoba tiger reserve

Aside   from around 65 of the keystone species of Bengal Tiger, TADOBA TIGER RESERVE is home to other mammals like spotted deer, sloth bears, gaur, nilgai, dhole, striped hyena, small Indian civet, jungle cats, sambar, barking deer and CHAUSINGHA.  The Tadoba Lake is an ornithologist’s paradise, with a diversity of water birds and raptors.  195 species of birds have been recorded, including 3 endangered species.  The Grey-Headed Fish-Eagle eagle, the Crested-Serpent Eagle and Changeable Hawk-Eagle are some of the raptors.

Other interesting species included the Orange-headed thrush, Indian PITTA, Crested Tree-swift, Stole Curlew, Crested Honey Buzzard, Bronze-winged Jacana and Lesser Golden-backed Woodpecker.  The call of the Peacock is often heard.  74 species of butterflies have been recorded and that include the Monarch, Mormons and Swordtails.  Other insects located in the reserve are Praying Mantis, Dragonflies, Stick Insects and Jewel Beetles.  Spiders like the Wolf spiders, Crab spiders and Lynx spiders are common.

Murad – Janjira Fort

Janjira Fort

MURUD – JANJIRA is the local name for a fort, situated on an island just off the coastal village of Murud, in the Raigad District of Maharashtra, India.

The word JANJIRA is not native to India and may have originated after the Arabic word JAZEERA (Island). Murud was once known in Marathi as HABSAN (of HABSHI or ABYSSINIAN). The name of the fort is a concatenation of the Konkani and Arabic words for “island” (MOROD and JAZEERA). The word MOROD is peculiar to Konkani and is absent in Marathi.  
Janjira Fort
Murud – Janjira Fort is situated on an oval-shaped rock (instead of the “oblong” and “square-shape”) off the Arabian Sea coast near the port town of Murud, 165km south of Mumbai. Janjira is considered one of the strongest marine forts in India. The fort is approached by sailboats from Rajapuri Jetty.
Janjira FortThe fort has 26 rounded bastions. Now in ruins, the fort in its heyday was a full-fledged living fort with all the necessary facilities —— palaces, quarters for officers, mosque, two small 60ft-deep natural fresh water lakes. On the outer wall flanking the main gate, there is a sculpture depicting a tiger-like beast clasping elephants in its claws. The four elephants symbolize Shivaji’s major enemy dynasties on which he possessed control, whereas he tiger-like beast symbolizes control of Shivaji on these. There are prominent Ashoka Chakras on all the major gates of Janjira Fort.
Janjira Fort
A special attraction of this fort are three gigantic cannons named KALALBANGDI, CHAVRI & LANDA KASAM. These cannons were said to be feared for their shooting range. Another gate to the west is sea-facing, called the DARYA DARWAZA.

There is also another fortress, named GHOSALGAD, which is located on top of the hill around 32km east of Murud – Janjira, that was used as a outpost for the rulers of Janjira.

Janjira fort, built at the end of the 17th century, is almost entirely intact even today, despite the ravages of wind and tide, a testimony to the marvels of ancient engineering. According to all accounts, the JAL – DURK (Sea Fort) could not be conquered by any of the Kings ruling the neighbouring territories. Surprisingly, not even Shivaji could acquire the fort despite 13 expeditions to conquer the fort. His son, Sambhaji, tried a unique approach to capture the fort : digging an underwater tunnel to enter. But, he too failed in his attempt. Not to be deterred, Sambhaji constructed another fort just across the bay, called KANSA. Most of the earth that was dug up to build the tunnel was used in the making of this 2nd fort, which was to be the base for future attacks on the Sea Fort of Janjira. It took 22years to build Kansa, and it is constructed on 22acres of land.
Visitors can gain access to the Janjira Fort from Rajapuri. The fort wall is about 40ft high and has 19 rounded porches or arches, some of which still have cannons mounted on them. Inside the fort walls, the ruins of a mosque, a palace and bath with water channelled from streams, tell of ancient times when royal ladies occupied the quarters. The deep well with cold and sweet water —- a wonder of nature in the midst of the saline sea, still provides water to quench the thirst of the weary visitor. This invincible fort remained unconquered until it became part of the Indian Territory after Independence from the British in 1947. 

Holi Hai!


The festival of colours, HOLI, is an ancient festival and is celebrated at the end of winter, or on the 14th day of PHALGUNA.

The literal meaning of HOLI is “burning” (DAHAN).  Originally, HOLI was known as HOLIKA, indicating the relation of the festival to “HOLIKA – DAHAN”.  Though there are a number of legends associated with HOLI, the most famous of all is the legend of Prahlad and Hiranyakashyap.
King Hiranyakashyap had instructed all the people of his kingdom to worship only him and none other.  But his son Prahlad became a devotee of Lord Vishnu.  Despite his best efforts to distract Prahlad from the path of devotion, Prahlad refused to worship Hiranyakashyap.  Enraged by Prahlad’s devotion and his own failure, the King instructed his sister Holika to enter the fire with Prahlad.  Holika had a boon to endure the effects of fire without causing any harm to her.  While Prahlad was saved by the grace of the Almighty, Holika, despite her boon, died because of her evil motives.

Holi / Festival of Colors 2013

HOLI marks the victory of good over evil, and it is customary to celebrate HOLI with a bonfire.  HOLI celebrations start  the night before HOLI with a Holika bonfire, where people gather, sing and dance.  The festival, therefore, symbolises the DAHAN (burning) of hatred, anger, enmity, jealousy, greed and other ills of life.  It is also the day to forgive others and to forget all kinds of past conflicts and errors.

Holi Festival

HOLI is the festival of new beginnings.  It celebrates the beginning of spring when the fields are in full bloom and people are expecting a good harvest.  It is all the more reason to rejoice and celebrate HOLI.  Spring is the season of colours and so is the festival of HOLI.

It is the day when people throw colours, especially GULAL, which symbolises happiness and love.  The legend of Radha and Krishna is associated with playing with colours and the festival of gulal comes to its full form in Mathura and Vrindavan.
The Sacred Guru Granth advises Sikhs to play a pure HOLI by immersing themselves in NAMSIMRAN.

Holi celebrations worldwide

“I am imbued with the deep crimson colour of the Lord’s Divine Love; my mind and body have blossomed forth in utter incomparable beauty,” says the Guru.  Sikhs celebrate HOLA MOHALLA { HOLA means HALLA (attack) and MOHALLA implies an organised procession in the form of an army column } at Anandpur Sahib in a three-day celebration marked by shabad-kirtan, langar, processions and poetry recitals.

———–  Kulbir Kaur.                  



PANDHARPUR is a most popular pilgrimage city on the banks of the Bhima River in Sholapur District, Maharashtra, India.  It has an average elevation of 1,520ft.

Pandharpur, alternatively known as CHANDRABHAGA because of its half-moon like shape, is a city named after a great merchant, PUNDALIK, who achieved self-realization here.  Pandharpur, also known as PANDHARI, hosts the renowned  VITTHALA TEMPLE.  Vithoba, Panduranga and Pandharinath are the popular alternate names of the Deity, VITTHALA, who is regarded in Hinduism as a form of Lord Krishna.  Lord Krishna is considered as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.  RUKMINI is Vitthala’s consort in the Temple.

Pandharpur Rukmini

The worship of Vitthala is based mainly on the contents of the Puranas and the contributions of the Vaishnav Saints of Maharashtra and Karnataka, during the 13th through the 17th centuries.  The Pandharpur Temple covers a large area and has six gates.  The eastern gate is known as NAMDEV GATE.

Pandharpur Vittala

Pandharpur is the centre of the BHAKTI Movement.  For centuries, every year, just before the rains, thousands of pilgrims known as VARKARI, followers of HARIPATH ( path of God who is Krishna – Vishnu) travel long distances from rural Maharashtra and Karnataka to Pandharpur.

Pandharpur Dindi

The pilgrimage, known as DINDI, is a sight to behold, with long lines of fluttering flags against the summer sky, majestic flower-bedecked bullock carts and palanquins, men dressed in white, anointed with sandal paste, wearing strings of tulsi beads, carrying lutes and cymbals, singing traditional songs, and women in colourful nine yard saris balancing tulsi plants on their head in brass pots.  They travel to pay obeisance to Krishna known locally as Pandurange Vitthala.  Devotees affectionately address him as —VITTHA – AI, which means Mother Krishna, attributing to him boundless maternal wisdom, bypassing all gender rigidities.

Pandharpur temple

The word VITTHALA has a mysterious etymology.  Based on VIT, which is Marathi for “brick” on which he stands.  It is even more confusing that a dark-complexioned Krishna is called PANDURANGA, the “fair-complexioned”.  What matters to the devotees, is that Krishna came to this region to meet a devotee called PUNDALIK who was too busy taking care of his old parents to turn around and pay attention to his Divine Guest.  So, he pushed a brick in Krishna’s direction and told him to wait while he completed his duties.  So Krishna waited, arms akimbo, and is still waiting, for the archetypal devotee to turn around.  Thus, through temporal household drama, the lofty divine connects with the devotee.

———–Inputs by Devdutt Pattanaik at mirrorfeedback@timesgroup.com.