Neelkanth (Indian Roller) Bird

In our younger days, I remember we often spotted the “Neel Kanth” as it is called in india. “Neel” means “blue” and “Kanth” means “throat”, in the agricultural fields here in Punjab. At that there were no electrical transmission lines crossing the fields. There were trees and there were fields. It was considered auspicious to see it because its name is connected to God Shiva whose throat also became blue to due drinking of the poison which threatened to destroy the world. It is the mythology part.

Nowadays it is very difficult to spot this bird. The possible reasons could be the decline in its population and its semi migratory habit. Some literature suggests the deforestation, grazing pastures and pollution.

I think during summers it shifts base to some other place because I have not spotted the bird during all the summer. Last year during February and March, I spotted it sitting across the dry wood trunks, poles and electric transmission lines during the wheat maturing season.

Neelkanth or the Indian Roller Bird (Coracias benghalensis), is a member of the roller family of birds. They are found widely across tropical Asia stretching from Iraq eastward across the Indian Subcontinent to Indochina and are best known for the aerobatic displays of the male during the breeding season. It sits patiently for quite long periods and then catches the insects etc and returns to the same spot. Once I saw it sitting on a big stone in a pasture. It will fly, catch its prey and revert back to that stone. These are some of its pictures.

   

    
    
   

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Flame of Forest: Palash

Palash tree bears beautiful red flowers. The tree itself is not beautiful. A stage comes when whole jungle with these trees blooms and it seems that entire area is on fire. Due to this, the flower is called flame of forest.

We lived in Panvel which is area surrounded by woods, undulating land with hills of peculiar shapes. There in these woods were plenty of Palash trees. They took on beautiful garb of flaming red colored flowers. All day bees and birds like crows and mynahs visited these trees.

The name of battle of Plassy is derived from the Palash tree which grew in abundance in the area of battle. Name of this flower occurs in Literature numerous poems and songs. In English the tree is called “Butea Monosperma”. In Hindu mythology, the tree is a form of Agnidev, God of Fire. It was a punishment given to Him by Goddess Parvati for disturbing Her and Lord Shiva’s privacy.

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Tragedy of Hill People in Uttrakhand

Uttrakhand is called Dev Bhoomi or the abode of Gods. The state was carved out of erstwhile Uttar Pradesh and comprised of hilly areas situated both in Himalayas and Shiwalik.
Lord Shiva is the God who is associated with the region. There are places and temples related to him. The two rivers namely Mandakini and Bhagirathi which merge at Devprayag to form Ganges flow through these hills.
All through the year, tourists, most of them being the pilgrims, are the mainstay of the people living in the Uttranchal. The region is dotted with temples of great Tourists, most of them being the pilgrims, are the mainstay of the people living in the Uttranchal. The region is dotted with temples of great importance. And also the hills offer adventure sports to the enthusiasts. Local people were employed with hotels and guest houses and some of them run their own small provision shops and eateries. With the catastrophe in which thousands of the pilgrims got caught and are still being rescued and brought to Dehradun or other places from where they could be sent to their homes. So many of them have perished. Devastation have been so great that region will be unsafe to venture into and the fear will be a big deterrent. So the tourism there is going to suffer worse phase ever. In such situation, the inhabitants are going to suffer. Their only source of income gone, crops smashed and land filled with rubble of stones and debris rendering it unfit for agriculture, their prospects seem very bleak. Hunger stares like an unseen demon. They are living under constant threat of floods. They are gentle poor and mostly illiterate people and even if some of them come down to cities in search of work leaving their families behind, their income will be very insufficient to feed the hungry mouths at home. Really it is very grim situation. And then the hills offer adventure sports to the enthusiasts. Local people were employed with hotels and guest houses and some of them run their own small provision shops and eateries. With the catastrophe in which thousands of the pilgrims got caught and are still being rescued and brought to Dehradun or other places from where they could be sent to their homes. So many of them have perished. Devastation have been so great that region will be unsafe to venture into and the fear will be a big deterrent. So the tourism there is going to suffer worse phase ever. In such situation, the inhabitants are going to suffer. Their only source of income gone, crops smashed and land filled with rubble of stones and debris rendering it unfit for agriculture, their prospects seem very bleak. Hunger stares like an unseen demon. They are living under constant threat of floods. They are gentle poor and mostly illiterate people and even if some of them come down to cities in search of work leaving their families behind, their income will be very insufficient to feed the hungry mouths at home. Really it is very grim situation.

Uttrakhand Floods: Shall we learn any Lessons

English: Temple at Badrinath, Uttarkhand, Indi...

It has become a tragedy of epic proportions. The loss in terms of precious human lives, property and environment is bigger than suffered in many wars. The floods which occurred in June 13 coincided with an event called “Char Dham Yatra” in which many hundred thousands have gone to the religious places in the Himalayas falling in Uttrakhand like Badrinath, Kedarnath. Thousands died and many thousands were trapped as the floods smashed many roads to smithereens blocking the way to return.

English: Kedarnath Temple, Uttarakhand

So many hotels and guest houses fell like house of cards. As can be seen clearly in the video footage shown on TV channels these were built on the edges of the river banks without taking any precautions about safety into consideration. They fell into deep trenches and furiously flowing water and were washed away.

The cloud bursts are a common phenomena in the region causing great distress and loss of property and lives. One of the reasons may be that roads have been built in an unplanned manner. The number of vehicles carrying heavy loads of pilgrims or tourists have increased very heavily putting the pressure on these roads and weakening them. They were thus unable to withstand the onslaught of the flood fury.

Why people go in so many numbers to these places? This region is the home of many Gods and dotted with several temples. Most famous of allĀ  these belong to the Shiva the God who is the source of dynamic forces of birth and deaths. By bringing end or death to physical form or pain or unhappiness, He transforms and purifies the things and since in Hinduism, soul is immortal, death is the way forward to life.

Also many of our saints like Kabir emphasized that there is no need to search for God outside in temples, Mosques or Jungles because the God is within us. But human beings are frail and gullible and choose the method which is visible or apparent like visiting a temple. Not only that, auspicious dates are announced by the priests and people in thousands begin congregating towards the said places.

This tragedy has caused great setback to the progress of the area. It has incurred losses of billions of rupees to the Government. So many army men, helicopters and road builders have been pressed into day and night service to rescue the people. Many families have lost all the members. It will take numbers of years to bring back the normalcy.

There are entry points which can regulate the entry of people into the region. It is a very sensitive issue to stop people from going en-mass for the fear of curbs on religious liberty, it is therefore for the people to think and learn the lessons. Since last some years, the weather is becoming very unpredictable and it is better to not to risk the adventure and be at home and worship the God at home.

Wall Paintings of Hazaribagh

Situated at about 2000 feet above sea level, Hazaribagh is a thickly forested region in the heart of the Damodar river valley. Ancient rock art sites have been discovered here,like the famous Isko site in Hazaribagh town. The forms and motifs of prehistoric art of ancient tribes like Khurmi, Ganju, Santhals and Oraons who live here. While entire tribal villages have elaborately painted houses,two varieties are outstanding: Khovar and Sohrai paintings.

Much like the bridal chambers of Mithila, Khovar paintings have fertility symbols celebrating union and propagation. Bird motifs,especially the parrots and peacocks,are popular,as are fruit bearing trees. They are mostly made in the wedding season,which extends from January to May.

Sohrai is observed during November to December celebrating the harvesting. Cattle are cleaned and worshiped ,as are agricultural implements,like the plough. Sohrai paintings characteristically have a male god, Pashupati (popularly known as Lord Shiva), the lord of animals shown standing on the back of a bull.

Though tribal khovar and sohrai paintings have not had the market exposure that Madhubani paintings have had,the region has enormous craft energy waiting to be tapped.

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Snakes & Peacocks
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Shiva, riding on his bull Nandi
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A hut with wall painting
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Animals
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Life

Train Journey from Delhi to Dehradun

It is the beginning of the month of April and Delhi has already become hot. The weather in India changes every 3 months. It is the spring season and soon sweltering heat will envelope North India. Dehradun which is situated in a valley between Lower Himalaya and Shivalik hills named after Lord Shiva.

We boarded the train from New Delhi Railway station at 06 hrs and 50 minutes and it is all sitting on chair cars. Due to being an AC train, it is closed with glass panes.

Soon we were hurtling through the vast plains of North India. The area is situated between two great rivers namely Ganges and Yamuna. It is called Doab meaning the land between two rivers. Naturally it is very fertile and featureless and totally flat.

There were never ending fields of wheat which looked like golden because the time of harvesting is nearing. Then there were sugarcane fields and carts yoked by bullocks and loaded with sugar canes could be seen on the beaten paths.

On the periphery of every field were poplar trees with translucent green leaves on the tops. If you have lived in this area only then you can realize the beauty of this area and sturdiness of the people.

My mind flashed back and I thought how once Mughal kings and their generals must had roamed in this area. Before their coming here, petty Hindoo fuedatories were there and they were always fighting between themselves. This lack of unity undone them.

Then came the British. The East India company established the army cantonments in Meerut and Ambala which employed these hardy people as the soldiers. These people belong to Aryan race and are the fairest and strongest in India. Aryans first established themselves in Punjab between Sind river and 5 rivers. The increasing pressure of population and cattle drove them towards Ganges valley which was even more fertile than Punjab.

First city to arrive at was Meerut which still is the big cantonment of Indian army. Then Muzzafarnagar, shaharanpur, Roorkee and Haridwar followed. There was no change in the scenery of wheat fields till we crossed into Saharanpur and you could see for miles the mango gardens in the bloom. Soon they will bear delicious mangoes like Dushehri which is so sweet.

After crossing the Haridwar, we entered into woods. The trees were sprouting new leaves which were coppery colored and soon shall become greener. At 1240 hrs we arrived in Dehradun.

Devi Lakshmi

Lakshmi means fortune. She is the wife of Vishnu and is often called Shri. She is the goddess associated with good luck and temporal blessing. Although she is considered coexistent with Vishnu, she appeared in full glory at the churning of primeval ocean. Thus ocean is considered her father.

She is usually portrayed as a woman of mature beauty, seated on a lotus, with a lotus in her hand and attended by two elephants who sprinkle water on her from their trunks. She is believed to incarnate herself as the wife of incarnation of Vishnu, thus worshiped as Sita, the spouse of Rama, as Rukmani or Radha being the chief queen and favorite of Krishna of his youth.