Swami Chinmayananda and His Mission: Part 1 – The Layman


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Chinmaya Mission logo

The Chinmaya Mission is a worldwide nonprofit Hindu spiritual organization with more than 250 centres worldwide. The Mission spreads the knowledge of Advaita Vedanta, the non-dual system of thought found in the Upanishads, which epitomize the philosophical teachings of the Vedas.

Swami Chinmayananda in 1990

Swami Chinmayananda in 1990

Swami Chinmayananda born Balakrishna Menon on May 8, 1916, in Ernakulam in Kerala, India was the eldest son of  Kutta Menon, a famous judge and nephew of the Maharaja of Cochin. His mother, Paru Kutty, died while giving birth to her third child, and her eldest sister, Kochunarayani raised Balakrishna.

Balakrishna completed his formal schooling in Sree Rama Varma High School, Kochi and Vivekodayam School, Thrissur. He completed his Fellow of Arts (FA) at the Maharaja’s College, Ernakulam, and his Bachelor of Arts (BA) at the St. Thomas College, Trichur. He then went to Lucknow University (1940–1943) and earned postgraduate degrees in literature and law, while completing courses in journalism at the same time.

Shree   Ramana Maharshi in his late 60s. (Portrait by G. G Welling in 1948)

Shree Ramana Maharshi in his late 60s. (Portrait by G. G Welling in 1948)

During the years as a student, Balakrishna did not formally accept religion. In the summer of 1936, he visited Shree Ramana Maharshi (December 30, 1879 – April 14, 1950), widely acknowledged as one of the eminent Hindu gurus of modern times. When Ramana Maharshi looked at him, Balakrishna experienced a spiritual ecstasy. Yet, at that time, he justified it as mere ‘hypnotism’.

The ‘Quit India’ Movement

On August 8, 1942, at the Gowalia Tank Maidan (also now known as August Kranti Maidan) in Mumbai, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi launched a ‘Do or Die‘ civil disobedience movement to be carried out throughout India, demanding “an orderly British withdrawal” from India. It was called the Quit India Act, or the India August Movement.

The All-India Congress Committee (AICC) proclaimed a mass protest. The British were prepared to act. Within hours after Gandhi’s speech, almost the entire INC leadership was imprisoned without trial.

Balakrishna joined fellow students in writing and distributing leaflets to stir up the national pride amidst the wide-scale attempt by the Indian activists to force the British to leave India. He gave many speeches generating awareness of the inability of the British to solve the problems of India.

Within weeks, more than 100,000 people were arrested nationwide, mass fines were levied, and thousands were killed or injured in police and army shootings.

Balakrishna, went underground when he came to know that a warrant had been served for his arrest. He spent the following year moving around in the state of Abbottabad (the same region where Osama bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaeda, was shot dead by the US Army Seals on May 2, 2011), far from where the British officials would be looking for him. After a year, he left Kashmir and moved to Delhi.

Almost two years after the British had issued the warrant for his arrest, believing his case might have been long forgotten, Balakrishna arrived in Punjab and associated himself with several freedom groups operating over there. He advised students on distributing leaflets and organizing public strikes, but he was promptly picked up by the police and imprisoned.

Living for several months in unhygienic conditions in prisons, Balakrishna was afflicted with Typhus. As was the custom with the British jail officials he and many other sick people were carried out of the prison at night and were dumped on the outskirts of the town.

The next morning, an Indian Christian lady passing along the road where Balakrishna was lying saw him. He reminded her of her own son serving in the British army. The good Samaritan took Balakrishna to her home. The doctor who examined him insisted that Balakrishna be taken to a hospital without delay if he were to survive.

Journalism

After several weeks, Balakrishna recovered his health. Sri K Rama Rao, the eminent editor, noted freedom fighter and member of the first Rajya Sabha, gave Balakrishna his first job as a journalist sub-editor at the National Herald in Lucknow and later at Delhi. Balakrishna wrote a series of articles — short, critical satires — on socialism in a society where the majority of people were poor. These were soon published regularly in Indian national papers.

Around 1947, working as a journalist, he decided to write an article “exposing” sadhus and made preparations  to travel to Swami Sivānanda’s ashram in Rishikesh. He later confessed:

I went not to gain knowledge, but to find out how the swamis were keeping up the bluff among the masses.

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To be continued …

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“The Light of Faith tour” – Vatican’s St. Peter’s Cricket Club in England


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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The Vatican cricket team poses with the dome of St. Peter's basilica in the background. The newly-formed team will play against the Church of England first XI and the Royal household team. (Photo: Chris Warde-Jones)

The Vatican cricket team poses with the dome of St. Peter’s basilica in the background. The newly-formed team will play against the Church of England first XI and the Royal household team. (Photo: Chris Warde-Jones)

Father Tony Currer (41) leads Vatican’s first-ever cricket team. According to a released team list, seven Indians dominate the team and Father Curer is its only Englishman. Also, in the team are two Sri Lankans and one Pakistani. All members of Vatican’s Saint Peter’s Cricket Club are young seminarians training for the priesthood, many of them aged between 24 and 41.

Preparations for the cricket club began around a year ago due to the enthusiasm of Australia’s ambassador to the Holy See, John McCarthy, who said the initiative was an example of “sporting diplomacy”.

Pope Francis with the members of Vatican's Saint Peter's Cricket Club (Photo: St. Peter's Cricket Club - Vatican Facebook page)

Pope Francis with the members of Vatican’s Saint Peter’s Cricket Club (Photo: St. Peter’s Cricket Club – Vatican Facebook page)

Pope Francis, born in Argentina is an avid football fan, but knows little about cricket. He blessed the Vatican’s “underdog” cricket team that will be facing a formidable Church of England XI during their maiden foreign tour to England dubbed “The Light of Faith tour“. The Holy Father signed a cricket bat, which the team will take with them to England.

Members of the St Peter's cricket team, from left, Deepak Anto, captain Anthony Currer, Ajeesh George, Davidson Jestus, and Pratheesh Thomas (PA)

Members of the St Peter’s cricket team, from left, Deepak Anto, captain Anthony Currer, Ajeesh George, Davidson Jestus, and Pratheesh Thomas (PA)

The papal XI will play matches against chaplains of the British armed forces at Aldershot and the Royal Household Cricket Club at Windsor Castle, as well as two other games. The climax of the tour will be a showdown with a Church of England team in Canterbury on September 19, 2014.

The manager of Papal XI Father Eamonn O’Higgins, and “spiritual director” of the team, said:

“Realistically, we are the rank underdogs with a very outside chance, but that’s OK. None of us has played first class cricket. The boys have not had a lot of time to practice. What we hope for, above all, is a good match.”

The Vatican cricketers will be praying and playing during the eight-day tour of England organized by the Anglican weekly newspaper The Church Times and Kent County Cricket Club. They will be visiting several holy sites and raising money for the Global Freedom Network, which fights against modern slavery and human trafficking.

Father Jery Njaliath (36), a priest from Kerala said:

“We’re going over there to beat them, to play to the maximum. But we’ll certainly play in the spirit of the game.”

Father Tony Currer, the captain of Saint Peter’s Cricket Club said:

“Win or lose, the first cricket match in history between the Vatican and the Church of England will be an event  to remember and to build on.”

St. Peter's team in London before moving on to Aldershot (Photo: St. Peter's Cricket Club - Vatican Facebook page

St. Peter’s team in London before moving on to Aldershot (Photo: St. Peter’s Cricket Club – Vatican Facebook page

On September 13, 2014, St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) won the first match of The Light of Faith Tour against the Chaplains of the armed forces played at Aldershot Army Cricket Ground. St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) won the match by 81 runs.

Scoreboard:
St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) 152/2 (20 overs)
Chaplains XI 71/4 (20 overs).

St. Peter's XI in Brighton (Photo: St. Peter's Cricket Club - Vatican Facebook page)

St. Peter’s XI in Brighton (Photo: St. Peter’s Cricket Club – Vatican Facebook page)

On September 14, 2014, in the 2nd match played between St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) Vs. St. Peter’s CC (Brighton), the Vatican team won the toss and chose to bowl first. St. Peter’s Vatican lost the T20 game to St. Peter’s Brighton.

Scoreboard:
St. Peter’s Brighton 168/6 (20 overs)
St. Peter’s Vatican 114/9 (20 overs)

St. Peter's XI at Ascott House (Photo: St. Peter's Cricket Club - Vatican Facebook page)

St. Peter’s XI at Ascott House (Photo: St. Peter’s Cricket Club – Vatican Facebook page)

In the third match of The Light of Faith tour played yesterday, September 14, 2014, St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) faced the Authors XI at Ascott House. It was a 30 overs match. The Authors XI won the toss and chose to bowl first. St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) won the match by 4 runs.

Scoreboard:
St. Peter’s 151 (29 overs)
Authors XI 147/4 (30 overs)

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Police Arrest Actress Shruti Chandralekha for Murdering Her Live-in Partner


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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On May 12, 2014, the officials of the Tirunelveli City Police and the District Revenue Department of Tirunelveli assembled at a spot in Asirvatha Nagar in Palayamkottai, Tamilnadu, India, and exhumed the body of a 36-year-old mechanical engineer and a film financier who was reported missing since January 2014.

Ronald Peter Prinzo

Ronald Peter Prinzo

According to the Police, Ronald Peter Prinzo, the deceased, hailed from Parapadi village in Nanguneri Taluk, Tirunelveli District, in Tamilnadu, India. He was married and had two sons.

Uma Chandran

Uma Chandran

Prinzo along with his friend Uma Chandran of Palayamkottai ran computer centers in many towns including Tenkasi, Alankulam, and Pavoor Chathiram. When the computer centers ran at a loss, Prinzo left for Kolkata. There he earned a good deal of money from various ventures. He then came to Chennai and started an online trading business. His friend Uma Chandran joined him as the partner and invested money in Prinzo’s online trading business.

After leasing a house in V.R.S. Nagar First Street, in Maduravoyal, West of Chennai, Prinzo traveled once a month to Tirunelveli to see his family.

Prinzo also financed Tamil films and had acted in a couple of them. Even though the two movies were never released, he got acquainted with many people in the cine field.

Shruti Chandralekha (Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com)

Shruti Chandralekha (Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com)

In 2012, he met the gentle, soft-spoken, 22-year-old Shruti Chandralekha, a married budding actress from Bengaluru, at a film shoot in Salem.

Shruti had acted in minor roles in some Tamil and Kannada films. She had gotten married when she was 16 to a person named Manjunath. But after a few years she left her husband and started acting in minor roles in Kannada and Tamil films.

Shruthi moved into Prinzo’s residence as his live-in partner.

After a few months, Prinzo started bringing many other women to his house for his carnal pleasure. This infuriated Shruthi and she quarrelled with him constantly.

The online trading failed. Prinzo’s business partner, Uma Chandran asked him to return the money he had invested. But Prinzo refused to pay him. After that Uma Chandran constantly pestered Prinzo for the money.

Prinzo forced Shruti into prostitution. He decided to make porn movies and relentlessly pressurized Shruti to take part in group sex in the porn films. He also started bringing many other women to his house for his carnal pleasure. This infuriated Shruthi and she quarrelled with him constantly.

An enraged Uma Chandran waited patiently for a chance to avenge Prinzo. He then came to know that Prinzo and Shruti were not getting along well. He and some of his friends met with Shruti and hatched a plot to murder Prinzo.

On the night of January 18, 2014, when Prinzo came home, Shruti gave him poisoned milk to drink while being intimate with him.

After the poison took effect, Uma Chandran, John Prinson, and their friends from Tirunelveli – Honest Raj alias Saddam, Gandhimathinathan alias Vijay, Vijay, Rafiq Usman, Vinoth Nirmal Singh and Elisa – entered the house and strangled Prinzo with nylon rope.

Shruti and the murderers reportedly took rupees 75 lakh in cash, a Volkswagen Polo car, and other valuables from Prinzo and shared the booty.

They took the body in a car all the way from Maduravoyal to Maharajanagar in Palayamkottai and buried the body in an already dug up deep trench in a vacant plot in Asirvatham Nagar.

A fortnight later, on February 1, 2014, Shruti lodged a complaint with the Maduravoyal police saying that her ‘husband’ Prinzo was missing since January 18, 2014.

Justin, brother of Ronald Peter Prinzo

Justin, brother of Ronald Peter Prinzo

On April 12, 2014, Justin Prinzo, elder brother of Ronald Prinzo lodged a similar complaint at the Palayamkottai Police Station about his missing younger brother.

On May 10, while returning to Tirunelveli from Chennai, Justin saw his brother’s car in Madurai. When he intercepted it, he found John Prinson driving it. When Justin asked about his brother Prinson gave contradictory answers and said Prinzo had gone to Calcutta. Not satisfied, Justin informed the police about Prinzon driving his missing brother’s car.

The Maduravoyal police picked up Prinson and he confessed to the crime.

By the time the police arrived, Shruti and Uma Chandran absconded. The police arrested Uma Chandran’s accomplices Sadam, Vijay, Rafeeq and Vinoth.

Umachandran's accomplices showing the spot where they buried  the body of Ronald Peter Prinzo.

Uma Chandran’s accomplices showing the spot where they buried the body of Ronald Peter Prinzo.

On May 12, 2014, Prinzo’s body was exhumed after Uma Chandran’s accomplices showed the officials of the Tirunelveli City Police and the District Revenue Department of Tirunelveli the spot where they buried the dead body. A post-mortem was conducted on the recovered remnants of Prinzo’s decomposed dead body.

In the meantime, Maduravoyal police received information that Shruti was taking part in a shooting of a Tamil film at Mahabalipuram. Before the police arrived, Shruti took off from the shooting venue along with her new paramour Uma Chandran and his aide Vinoth Nirmal.

The police then received a tip-off that she was hiding in the house of a relative in Bengaluru. But again, she escaped to Hyderabad. Shruti and Uma Chandran confounded the police by skipping from one place to another.

Eventually, on Thursday, September 4, 2014, Chennai police apprehended Shruti in Bengaluru. Shruti was produced before a court and remanded.

The hunt is now on to nab Uma Chandran, the prime accused, and his aide Vinoth Nirmal.

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My Impromptu Advice to a Youth


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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FB - No friends to show (Small)

Last week, a youth from Andhra befriended me on Facebook. He had joined Facebook recently. I visited his page and clicked on “Friends” and found to my surprise it showed “No friends to show”.

Last night when I was logged into FB, this youth came on-line to chat with me.

Here is a part of the verbatim conversation:

He: sir u have gud stuff in ur page sir (sic)

Me: Thanks Uxxx.

He: you r welcome sir (sic)

Me: Did you visit my website: http://tvaraj.com ?

He: sir i had good communication skills with me,i can face people,i can motivate people and i am hard worker sir how can i use theses all things for my life and for the nation

am really cnfused

am also good at acting sir

any advice from ur xperience (sic)

Me: Uxxx, we belong to different way of looking at life due to our age difference. So, I never give advice to young people. Sorry.

I have been smitten many times and burnt my fingers and my image by advising youngsters.

He: it’s ok sir no need to tell sorry i jst tried (sic)

I felt sorry for this youngster and the ‘teacher’ inside me gave in and my fingers started typing:

Me: What I find in you is that you are quick learner. Last time I communicated with you, you were using a lot of short cuts. Today, I find you completely changed. Keep it up.

When I was young, I was pulled in to act in the main parts in all college dramas. It gave me courage to face any number of people. But I would say this: “If you want to make a mark in life, forget about acting.”

Don’t emulate film stars and never have them as your idols.

Next, forget about the nation. Always remember “Charity begins at home.”

You are part of the nation, your parents are also part of the nation. If you and your parents grow, the nation will prosper automatically.

So, first obey your parents and don’t let their hearts bleed. In Tamil we have the saying “Maathaa-Pithaa, Guru, Deivam” meaning “[Honour your] parents, teachers, and gods [in that order.]“

When I say parents, it includes your own brothers and sisters also. Your family.

After you have done the needful for your parents and made them happy, then you can think about your poor relatives who are in need.

So, it will take a long time to fulfill these tasks. Be honest with yourself and your friends and relatives.

Forget about taking active part in politics because all politicians are just rogues bent on making money only.

Don’t trust and go after priests of any religion. They too are cheats bent on making money by blessing you.

There is a saying in Tamil: “koduppavanai kandaal deivam kunangi kunangi aadumaam” meaning “if a god sees a donor, it will start dancing obsequiously.”

Here ‘god’ means those rascals in temples and houses of worship and the devil dancers who act as if the gods or demons, the Holy Spirit, etc., have entered into their body and start dancing feverishly and holler nonsense. That is ‘talking in tongues’.

The real blessings come from your parents and your own elders.

After that I waited for about 15 minutes for his response. But there was none from him.

Today morning, when I logged in to FB, I saw the following:

He: thnk u sir goldn wrd (sic)

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The Longest Indian Feature Film


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Did you ever wonder what the longest film that was ever produced in India?

It is the Gangs of Wasseypur, a 2012 film based on criminal activities, co-written, produced and directed by Anurag Kashyap. Centered around the coal mafia of Dhanbad, Jharkhand, and the underlying power struggles, politics and vengeance between three families well steeped in crime, the story spans from the early 1940s to mid 1990s.

Though the movie ran for 319 minutes,  Directors Fortnight, a non-competitive section at the Cannes Film Festival, selected Gangs of Wasseypur for screening at the 2012 Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival.

However, in India, no Indian theatre was willing to screen the five hours 19 minute movie.  So, the film was edited into two parts of 160 and 159 minutes for screening in India.

Poster of Thavamai Thavamirundhu, a 2005 Tamil movie directed by Cheran

Poster of Thavamai Thavamirundhu, a 2005 Tamil movie directed by Cheran

So, the credit for the longest Indian feature film screened in India as a whole until now is probably Thavamai Thavamirundhu, a 2005 Tamil movie depicting the familial bond, directed by Cheran.

At the box office, the film Thavamai Thavamirundhuwas was moderately received compared to the director’s earlier work, Autograph. However, the film won the National Film Award for Best Film on Family Welfare.

Here is a list of the longest films produced in India, sorted by running time:

Title Running Time Language Year Released
Gangs of Wasseypur 319 mins. (Part 1 and Part 2 combined) Hindi 2012
Thavamai Thavamirundhu 275 mins. Tamil 2005
Tamas 274 mins. Hindi 1987
Mera Naam Joker 255 mins. Hindi 1970
LOC Kargil 255 mins. Hindi 2003
Sangam 238 mins. Hindi 1964
Daana Veera Soora Karna 233 mins. Telugu 1977
Hum Saath-Saath Hain: We Stand United 228 mins. Hindi 1999
Lagaan 224 mins. Hindi 2001
Khatarnak 223 mins. Hindi 1990
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero 222 mins. Hindi 2005
Parthiban Kanavu 219 mins. Tamil 1960
Aayiram Thalaivaangi Apoorva Chintamani 216 mins. Tamil 1947
Mohabbatein 216 mins. Hindi 2000
Salaam-E-Ishq 216 mins. Hindi 2007
Narasimha 214 mins. Hindi 1991
Saudagar 213 mins. Hindi 1991
Jodhaa Akbar 213 mins. Hindi 2008
Indrasabha 211 mins. Hindi 1932
Khoon Pasina 210 mins. Hindi 1976
Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham 210 mins. Hindi 2001

To Worship or Not to Worship Shirdi Sai Baba: That Is the Question…


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Dwarka Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati (Source: indiatoday.intoday.in)

Dwarka Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati (Source: indiatoday.intoday.in)

Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati seems to be an outspoken person. A few days before the recent parliamentary elections the seer was in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh to attend a religious programme. A reporter from a news channel pressed him to know his views on Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party prime ministerial candidate. The seer lost his cool and instead of answering slapped the reporter.

The incident was politically coloured with both Congress and BJP taking different stands. The seer brushed aside the matter, saying he did not want to discuss politics.

Mayank Aggarwal, the State Congress leader said: “Sadhus should not be asked political questions in the first place.” He also added that the seer wanted the discourse to be around religious issues and felt bad at being asked about Modi.

The BJP spokesperson Hitesh Bajpai,  said: “We believe that the religious leaders are the flag-bearers of religion, ethics and truth. They should be the epitome of forgiveness. Questions from the media are of prime importance and should not be brushed aside.”

However, the unperturbed seer brushed aside the matter, saying he did not want to discuss politics. Elucidating on the matter he said: “I slapped the reporter and told him ‘you are talking about him (Modi) so that he can remain a topic of discussion’.

On June 30, 2014, while addressing a meeting of the central working committee of the Bharat Sadhu Samaj at Kankhal near Haridwar in Uttarakhand, the forthright Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand stood steadfast on his stand on Shirdi Sai Baba. He asserted that Sai Baba was a Muslim fakir and should not be worshipped like a Hindu deity. He said his campaign to protect the Hindu religion will continue even if he is sent to jail, “They may burn my effigy or even send me to jail, but my campaign to protect the sanctity of the Hindu religion will continue,” Shankaracharya said.

On June 30, 2014, while addressing a meeting of the central working committee of Bharat Sadhu Samaj at Kankhal near Haridwar in Uttarakhand, the forthright Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand stood steadfast on his stand on Shirdi Sai Baba. He stressed that there is a need now to guard against forces that were “corrupting” the Hindu religion by arbitrarily creating new gods and propagating them. He said his campaign to protect the Hindu religion was being opposed by those who had made religion a means of livelihood and some people were making money in the name of Shridi Sai Baba. He said worshipping Sai Baba was a conspiracy to divide the Hindus.

Uma Bharti (Source: dnaindia.com)

Uma Bharti (Source: dnaindia.com)

At that meeting a letter sent by Uma Bharti, the Union Minister of water resources, to the Shankaracharya explaining the rationale behind her statement made the previous day was also read out at the confluence. In the letter she had said, looking upon someone as a god was people’s prerogative.

Shirdi Sai Baba - 2 Shirdi Sai Baba - 1 Shirdi Sai Baba - 3

However, Uma Bharti’s justification did not seem to satisfy the seer. Known to be a Congress backer, the Shankaracharya, belittled Uma Bharti saying he thought a devotee of Lord Ram had become a Union minister and a Ram temple in Ayodhya would soon be a reality, instead, she turned out to be the “worshiper of a Muslim.” He asked whether she had not seen the pictures of Sai Baba depicted like Hindu Gods including Shiva and Vishnu?

Now, while people are ranting and raving over this controversy of whether it is right to worship a human or not, some might wonder who the protagonist, Shridi Sai Baba, is.

The early life of Sai Baba continues to be an enigma. There are no reliable and consistent records of his birth and parentage. He is believed to have been born around 1838. He arrived at Shirdi as a nameless individual at a young age.

At Shirdi, he stayed on the outskirts of the village in Babul forest and meditated under a tropical evergreen Neem tree. Many villagers after perceiving him as an embodiment of discipline, penance and austerity, revered his saintly figure and gave him food.

After wandering in the woods for days, Sai Baba took shelter in a disused decrepit mosque. He referred to his new dwelling as “Dwarkarmai“, after the abode of Lord Krishna in Dwarka.

Very soon he had a large number of devotees among the Muslims, Hindus and Zoroastrians, who regarded him according to their individual beliefs, as a saint, a fakir, an avatar or an incarnation of god, or a Sadguru. They flocked to Dwarkarmai seeking spiritual guidance.

Unlike the present day spiritual leaders, Sai Baba had no love for corporeal materials. His sole concern was teaching self-realization.

Sai Baba is worshiped by people in India and around the world as a saint. He taught a moral code of love, forgiveness, helping others, charity, contentment, inner peace, and devotion to the Almighty and the guru. He did not distinguish people based on religion or caste.

It still remains a mystery and almost everyone is uncertain of Sai Baba’s true religious leaning – Islam or Hinduism. His teachings combined elements of Islam and Hinduism. He practiced Islamic rituals, but taught using words and figures drawn from both traditions.

A minor section of the Islamic community in India considers Sai Baba as a Muslim Fakir and as a Sufi Pir or Peer, translated into English as “saint” and could be interpreted as “Elder”. In Sufism a Pir’s role is to guide and instruct his disciples on the Sufi path.

Zoroastrians like Nanabhoy Palkhivala and Homi Bhabha, worship Sai Baba who has been cited as the Zoroastrians’ most popular non-Zoroastrian religious figure.

Sai Baba died on October 15, 1918. He was buried in Shirdi. He is well known for the aphorisms such as “Allah Malik” (“God is King”) and “Sabka Malik Ek” (“One God governs all”), which is associated with both Islam and Sufism. He also said:

Trust in me and your prayer will be answered“.

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Have Will? Then, You Can Travel in the Indian Subcontinent!


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Up to now I thought overloading was the major trait of transportation peculiar to India alone. But, now, I am really confused …

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Video grab from "Indian train in all its (crowded!) glory!" uploaded on November 10, 2011 by WildFilmsIndia.

Video grab from “Indian train in all its (crowded!) glory!” uploaded on November 10, 2011 by WildFilmsIndia.

I grabbed the above image from a video titled Indian train in all its (crowded!) glory! uploaded on November 10, 2011 by WildFilmsIndia. I do not think anyone in the West would have seen a train crowded like this in their country. But in India, it is a common sight, particularly during the festival seasons.

The regular commuters are mainly laborers coming to New Delhi from neighboring states. They would work for a week and then return home over the weekend. Most of them travel without tickets, and the state-owned Indian railways, are compelled to permit this, else their entire railway system will be debacled by these laborers.

Indian Railways ... (Source: imcradiodotnet.files.wordpress.com)

Indian Railways (Source: imcradiodotnet.files.wordpress.com)

I came across the above image captioned “Indian Railway…” on IMC – India meets Classic presents… web page hosted on wordpress.com. I doubt whether this photo was taken in India. I think it was most probably, taken somewhere in Pakistan. Also, I wonder whether all these people are genuine passengers or merely clinging on to the train, posing for the photograph to prove a point.

Recently, I viewed several videos on YouTube about railways in Asia. When I saw the following video titled “End of Ramadan rush-hour in Bangladesh” uploaded by No Comment TV on August 8, 2013, I was dumbfounded.

Eid al-Fitr or the Feast of Breaking the Fast, is an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting (sawm). On this day all Muslims around the world show a common goal of unity.

This video shows thousands of Bangladeshis getting crammed on ferries and climbing on trains while leaving Dhaka, Bangladesh on Wednesday, August 7, 2013, to return to their home villages and celebrate Eid al-Fitr. This video needs no further comments.

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Was the Indian Railways Born on April 16, 1853?


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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It is generally believed that the railways were first introduced to India on April 16th, 1853. The Bori Bunder to Thane line is customarily seen as the birth of the world’s largest railway systems, but the plan for the first rail system was drawn in 1832. The laying of an experimental track began in 1836 near Chintadripet, in Madras (now Chennai). When the experiment proved successful, a 3.5 mile (5.6 km) rail track was laid between Red Hills and St. Thomas Mount in Chennai.

On December 22, 1851, the first steam locomotive in India was used during the construction of the Solani canal near Roorkee, a city in Haridwar district, Uttarakhand. Bengal Sappers of the Indian Army built the railway line to carry soil for the construction of the canal from Piran Kaliyar, 6.2 miles (10 km) from the city.

It is commonly believed that the two-wagon train was hauled by a Jenny Lind class locomotive built by E.B. Wilson and Company at their Railway Foundry in Hunslet, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England or something very similar in design, by the name of “Thomason“. However, surviving work records do not substantiate this fact.

The engine had a short life. A boiler explosion destroyed it a few months after it started operating. It might have been a secondhand engine. Nonetheless, it pioneered a new era in the transportation history of India.

The locomotive rail paths are still intact.

Replica of Jenny Lind in Roorkee (Courtesy of Kota Shivaranjan/Flickr gallery of travel photos)

Replica of Jenny Lind in Roorkee (Courtesy of Kota Shivaranjan/Flickr gallery of travel photos)

A replica of what the locomotive might have looked like is exhibited at Roorkee Railway Station in original LB&SCR (London, Brighton and South Coast Railway) livery as a monument to the historic moment.

The National Railway Museum in Delhi also has illustrations of a Jenny Lind with the name “Thomason” the shop.

 

On April 16th, 1853, at 3.35pm, the first train in India left Bori Bunder, in Bombay (now Mumbai), for its destination Thane, 34 kilometres away. (Source: oldphotosbombay.blogspot.in)

On April 16th, 1853, at 3.35pm, the first train in India left Bori Bunder, in Bombay (now Mumbai), for its destination Thane, 34 kilometres away. (Source: oldphotosbombay.blogspot.in)

Although the first rails were laid at Chintadripet in Madras, the first train flagged off was on April 16, 1853, between Bori Bunder (later Victoria Terminus, now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) in Bombay (now Mumbai) and Thane. It travelled 21 miles (34 Km) with the aid of three locomotives: Sahib, Sindh, and Sultan. 400 invited guests in 14 carriages enjoyed the historic ride. This journey set a milestone in passenger train service. The governor, Lord John Elphinstone flagged off the train at 3:30 pm.

Robert Maitland Brereton (2 January 1834 – 7 December 1911) was an English railway engineer in India. (source: en.wikipedia.org)

Robert Maitland Brereton (2 January 1834 – 7 December 1911) was an English railway engineer in India. (source: en.wikipedia.org)

A British engineer, Robert Maitland Brereton, was responsible for the expansion of the railways from 1857 onwards. The Allahabad-Jabalpur branch line of the East Indian Railway was opened in June 1867. Brereton linked this track with the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, resulting in a combined network of 4,000 miles (6,400 km). And, from March 7, 1870, onwards, it became possible to travel directly from Bombay to Calcutta. “Around the World in Eighty Days,” the classic adventure novel written by the French writer Jules Verne was partly inspired by this railway.

At the opening ceremony, the Viceroy Lord Mayo concluded:

“… it was thought desirable that, if possible, at the earliest possible moment, the whole country should be covered with a network of lines in a uniform system.

An  Indian train (Source - dhankedeshme.blogspot.in)

An Indian train (Source – dhankedeshme.blogspot.in)

In 1951, the various railway systems were nationalized and brought under the banner of the Indian Railways becoming the world’s largest railway network. It covers more than 71,000 miles (115,000 km) of multi-gauge track – broad, metre and narrow gauges – over a route of more than 40,000 miles (65,000 km) and 7,500 stations. Its operations cover all the states and seven union territories in India. It also provides limited international services to Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Indian Railways have roughly over 200,000 (freight) wagons, 50,000 passenger coaches and 8,000 locomotives. Indian Railways also own locomotive and coach production facilities at several places in India.

On April 16th, 1853, at 3.35pm, the first train in India leaves Bombay for Thane (Source: oldphotosbombay.blogspot.in)

On April 16th, 1853, at 3.35pm, the first train in India leaves Bombay for Thane (Source: oldphotosbombay.blogspot.in)

In 2011, Indian railways transported more than 24 million passengers daily, roughly half of which were suburban passengers, amounting to 8,900 million passengers annually (not counting the ticketless travellers), and over 2 million tonnes of goods daily.

In 2011–2012, the Indian Railways had revenues of: ₹1119849 million (US$19 billion) consisting of ₹696760 million (US$12 billion) from the freight and ₹286455 million (US$4.8 billion) from tickets issued to passengers.

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Dhanushkodi – Fifty Years After the Cyclone of 1964


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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A cyclonic storm now referred to as the 1964 Rameswaram cyclone or the Dhanushkodi cyclone started with the depression that formed in the South Andaman Sea on December 17, 1964. On December 19, it intensified into a severe cyclonic storm. From December 21, it moved westwards, 400 km to 550 km per day. On December 22, it crossed Vavunia in Sri Lanka with a wind speed of 280 km per hour.

On December 22-23 night, the cyclone moved into Palk Strait and made landfall in Dhanushkodi, at the southern tip of Rameswaram island, on the eastern coast of Tamil Nadu, India. The devastating tidal waves that were 7 metres high submerged all houses and other structures in Dhanushkodi town  with heavy casualties.

On December 22, 1964, the tidal wave smashed into the Pamban-Dhanushkodi Passenger train and washed it into the sea while it was crossing the viaduct during the cyclonic storm.

 The railway track in Dhanushkodi destroyed by the cyclone of December 22, 1964

The railway track in Dhanushkodi destroyed by the cyclone of December 22 – 25, 1964.

More than 100 passengers drowned in the sea. The death toll was estimated to be anywhere between 115 and 200. The variation is due to the many ticketless travellers. The railway line running from Pamban Station to Dhanushkodi Pier was washed away.

The 1¼ mile-long Pamban Rail Bridge over the Pamban Channel, that links the Indian mainland with the island of Rameswaram was also badly damaged; 126 of its 145 girders collapsed. However, the lift span was barely damaged.

The Pamban bridge after restoration (Source: the hindu.com)

The Pamban bridge after restoration (Source: the hindu.com)

Most of the girders were salvaged from the sea and the Pamban viaduct was working once again in a span of just three months time.

The metre gauge branch line from Pamban Junction to Dhanushkodi was abandoned after the cyclone destroyed it.

Prior to the cyclone, Dhanushkodi was once a flourishing town. Then, the Railway line to Dhanushkodi, destroyed in the 1964 cyclone, went directly from Mandapam station to Dhanushkodi without touching Rameswaram. In those days Dhanushkodi had a railway station, a small railway hospital, primary schools, a post office, customs and port offices. There were hotels, dharmashalas (religious rest houses), and many textile shops that catered to the Hindu pilgrims and travellers to Sri Lanka.

A map showing the ferry route from Dhanushkod, Indiai to Talaimannar , Sri Lanka (Source:-Wikimedia Commons)

A map showing the ferry route from Dhanushkod, Indiai to Talaimannar , Sri Lanka (Source:-Wikimedia Commons)

Dhanushkodi is about 18 miles (29 km) West of Talaimannar, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon). There was a steamer ferry service which operated daily from the pier on the south-east of the Dhanushkodi town to the pier at Talaimannar. The ferry transported travellers and goods, across the Palk Strait.

In the 1950s and 1960s, I used to travel to Ceylon by the Dhanushkodi-Talimannar steamer ferry.

The Indo-Ceylon Express, also known as the Boat Mail train, plied from 1915 to 1964 on a metre gauge track between Egmore Station in Chennai (then known as Madras) and Dhanushkodi. It took almost 19 hours to complete the journey of 420 miles (675 Km).

Ferry service from Dhanushkodi Pier to Talaimannar in the 1950s.

Ferry service from Dhanushkodi Pier to Talaimannar in the 1950s.

After the Boat Mail train reached Dhanushkodi Pier at 15:05 hours in the afternoon, the passengers after alighting from the train had to pass through the customs before boarding the ferry which used to leave the Indian shore soon after 16:00 hours. Depending on the weather, it took between 2 and 3½ hours to cross the very shallow Palk Bay and reach the Talaimannar Pier in Sri Lanka. The voyage used to be bumpy and nauseating when the sea was rough.

The name of the train changed from Indo-Ceylon Express to Rameswaram Express after the 1964 cyclone. Now, it is a 12-hour journey from Chennai to Rameswaram on a broad-gauge track.

On June 12, 2014, my wife and I along with relatives left Chennai on Rameswaram Express to attend a wedding at Pamban town. We reached Rameswaram the following day around 5:30 am and lodged in a hotel. We hired a van and left the hotel around 11:00 am to see Dhanushkodi.

After travelling for 20 minutes, we reached Dhanushkodi. Even 50 years after the cyclone of 1964, Dhanushkodi remains a dilapidated strip of land.

The driver stopped the van at a spot on the Indian Ocean side where many other vans carrying tourists were parked.

The driver said he cannot go farther as local regulations, meaning rules set by the local cartel of van drivers, forbids it. But the members of that association ply a number of their own vans to ferry the travellers to the end of Dhanushkodi and charge ₹100/- per person. At the end of the journey we paid ₹2,200/-.

After 35 minutes of a bumpy ride by van, on shallow waters and muddy tracts, we reached the tip of Dhanushkodi where Adam’s Bridge, a chain of sand shoals between Dhanushkodi and Talaimannar begins. The distance from the tip of Dhanushkodi in India and Talimannar in Sri Lanka is about 18 miles (29 km). The Dhanushkodi fishermen say that some sand dunes are just 50 yards in length. Surprisingly, the smallest land border in the world, is a shoal in Palk Bay between India and Sri Lanka – just 45 metres in length.

An eerie stillness prevailed around us except for the chatter of the few tourists subdued by the sound of waves. There were a few marine birds pecking on the soggy earth searching for food and many sea eagles circling in the air ready to swoop on any prey they could spot in the shallow waters or on the muddy land.

We saw many Hindu pilgrims bathing in the Palk Bay. The Hindus believe that pilgrimage to the holy city of Kashi (Benares / Varanasi) in North India would not be complete without having the ritual bath at the tip of Dhanushkodi, considered a sacred confluence of the Palk Bay and the Indian Ocean, before completing their pilgrimage to Rameswaram.

St. Antony's Church at Dhanuskodi devastated by the cyclone of 1964 (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

St. Antony’s Church at Dhanushkodi devastated by the cyclone of 1964 (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

It was heartrending to see only thatched huts and no buildings with standing walls. The only walls we saw were the dilapidated walls of St. Anthony’s church and of a school devastated during the cyclone of 1964.

Trinkets and ornaments made from seashells (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

Trinkets and ornaments made from seashells (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

The main trade other than fishing was the sale of conch shells, and trinkets and ornaments made of shells sold at exorbitant prices to tourists and pilgrims.

Eventually, we left Dhanushkodi around 2:30 pm with a heavy heart after having seen the ravages wrought by the 1964 cyclone.

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Hoodwinking the Innocent in the Name of Jesus and The Holy Spirit


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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An innocent Congo boy

In the New Testament in Mark 10:13-16 we read:

People were bringing children to Jesus that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.

When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”

Then he embraced the children and blessed them, placing his hands on them.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

If your heart is physically weak please do not view these videos.

The images you see in these videos are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where self-styled pastors hoodwink ignorant rural folk using the name of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. These criminals who call themselves “pastors” resort to so-called “exorcism” of infants and children to fatten themselves by levying a high fee equal to US$50 or more to drive out the evil spirits in the innocent children. The government officials in Congo do not bother to intervene and arrest these extortionists because they receive their kickbacks under the table.

In India too, there are in every nook and corner, many crooked Christian pastors such as these, who inveigle ignorant people to their churches and fleece them in the name of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

These felons should be stripped bare and molten lead should be poured into their blasphemous mouths for Exodus 20:7 says:

You shall not invoke the name of the LORD, your God, in vain. For the LORD will not leave unpunished anyone who invokes his name in vain.

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