Gujarat Travel Diary 2 – Wild and Wonderful Gujarat

Let us start this blog with a question.

When we say “wild and wonderful” where does our mind jump to immediately?

“Hakuna Matata. kusafiri” is the answer.

Confused with the answer? In the East African language of Swahili, it simply means “no worries”, “take it easy”. The answer is “Safari”.

Safari -An introduction

In Swahili, the word safari means “journey”, originally from the Arabic noun سفر, safar, meaning “journey”, “travel”, “trip”, or “tour”; the verb for “to travel” in Swahili is kusafiri. These words are used for any type of journey.

Safari entered the English language at the end of the 1850s thanks to the British explorer Richard Francis Burton. In 1836, British Army Engineer,

William Cornwall Harris led an expedition purely to observe and record wildlife and landscapes. Harris established the safari style of journey, starting with a not too strenuous rising at first light, an energetic day walking, an afternoon rest then concluding with a formal dinner and telling stories in the evening over drinks and tobacco.

The hunting aspect traditionally associated with the safari is said to have its origins where villagers got together to hunt wild boars and reclaim land for farming. However it was the British who used Safaris for hunting for personal pleasure and popularized it.

Gujarat – The wild and wonderful

Our trip to Gujarat contained two segments where we stuck to the spirit of William Cornwall Harris style of Safari as a means to understand the wild and wonderful Gujarat.

Segment 1 – Gir – The kingdom of the “Wild and Wonderful”.

Part A – Jungle Safari

The Gir National Park was established in 1965 in the erstwhile Nawab of Junagarh’s private hunting area, with a total area of 1,412 km2(545 sq mi), of which 258 km2 (100 sq mi) is fully protected as a national park and 1,153 km2 (445 sq mi) as wildlife sanctuary.

Kicking off the day at 0530 Hrs we started our Safari in the jungles of Gir. A four hour drive in an open Gypsy (A jeep) took us the nook and corner of the sprawling Gir Forest. We were lucky to spot a lioness marking her territory right at the start of the Safari. The rest of the Safari covered other animals and birds. Here is an overview.

Sasan Gir – Jungle Safari

This was followed by an exquisite lunch and siesta at the FERN GIR FOREST RESORT.

Part 2 – Devalia Safari

Evening Safari was a bit different; we wanted to present ourselves as “strange moving creatures with two legs” to the wild and wonderful. So we locked ourselves in a cage mounted on a Gypsy and paraded ourselves to the wild animals in the Gir Forest. Needless to say that the Wild and Wonderful didn’t bother about us at all and were busy at their routines.

Gujarat Tourism calls this place as “ Devalia Safari Park ” also known as “Gir Interpretation Zone- Devalia”. Here is our Safari with a dufference:

Devalia Park – Safari with a difference

Experience in this segment summed up – “High” on expectations (with increased Lions population and previous day sightings expectations built up) and “Moderate” on success in sighting.

Segment 2 – The Little Rann of Kutch – A saline sublime

In this segment, we moved away from the Jungle to the vast, dry and extremely hot saline desert.

Covering an area of 4954 Km2, Little Rann of Kutch is one of the most remarkable and unique landscapes of its kind. Wild Ass Sanctuary is located in this Rann which harbours the last population of Wild Ass (Equus hemionus khur).

It is a vast desiccated, unbroken bare surface of dark silt, encrusted with salts which transforms into a spectacular coastal wetland after the rains. The present saline desert of the Little Rann (saline desert-cum-seasonal wetland) of Kutch is believed to have been shallow sea.

We checked into the Royal Safari Camp at Bajana and relaxed after a sumptuous meal.

Part A – The Wild Ass Safari

We were ready for the Evening Safari. Temperature soared to 43 deg C (in the last week of March itself) and here we are driving in an open Gypsy towards the saline desert from the village center.

Wild Ass Safari – LRK

Part B – Nature’s Aviary at the Saline Desert

We even got down from the Gypsy and walked around the waterbodies to have an exclusive “darshan” of the birds around there. Wow. What a sight.

Nature’s Aviary

Experience in this segment summed up – “Low” on expectations (what do you expect, except a few Wild Asses and that too in a hot desert) and “High” on success in sighting (not only Wild Asses but also an impressive show by the Birds and Aditya, the Sun while setting).

Lessons learnt – Safari and Vedanta

This is our second Jungle Safari after the one at Kanha Tiger Reserve at Madhya Pradesh in 2018.

Safaris like these drive home several lessons, many of them straight from our Vedanta.

Here are some of my learnings:

1. If you are keeping your expectations (desires) high, you are bound to get disappointed (frustrated). After all you are looking for a few hundred wild animals (which are mostly territory oriented) in an area spanning thousands of square kilometers.

2. What you get to see (or otherwise) need not necessarily be seen (or otherwise) by someone who are either ahead of you or behind you. Your experience is unique to yourselves.

3. Time and Space can decide what you get or loose. In other words your experience is time and space limited.

4. Enjoy what you see, your experience. That moment is precious. The idea of being present and savoring the moment is not a novel idea, but it’s often a forgotten one. David Attenborough’s extraordinary documentaries on Animal Kingdom are awesome; no doubt about that. But nothing will ever have as big an effect as seeing the real beauty of the world and its inhabitants on safari by yourselves.

5. Silence is golden. Feel it and enjoy it. Through the day enjoy that moment where a bird or a monkey or a deer provides an alarm for an approaching animal. In the night at the Camp, listen to the insects’ hum and chirp; the stars in the sky and the sounds of nature.

6. See the positives. Even dirty roads and bushy terrain offers great views.

7. The Sun always provides spectacular views both in the morning and evening. Enjoy it and pray Aditya for keeping us alive.

8. Be patient. You have no choice. Sometimes what you want and expect doesn’t happen right away; sometimes what you want takes much longer than you thought it would.

9. Ears are better than mouth. Listening is Often Better Than Talking. Listen to the safari guide or just listen to the sounds of the bush. The point is that when we listen, our bodies are much more attuned to everything that’s happening around us. You also learn what you may not have known.

10. Life is not a rat race. Reconnect with the beauty of little things and enjoy.

Gujarat Travel Diary continues…..

Gujarat Travel Diary – 1 – Shining Gujarat

Post retirement we had a wonderful plan of exploring every year, one of the States and Union Territories in our country. That was working out nicely till 2019, when the dreaded CoVid 19 stuck. The years 2020 and 2021 saw us getting trapped in the residence.

At last, the opening came in March 2022. We decided that we will visit Gujarat (despite the fear of an oppressive heat). A detailed plan was drawn out (10 night & 11 days) covering nearly 2500 Kms of road journey. The tour was well coordinated and organized by Akshar Travels, Gujarat.

Here is a pictorial summary of our tour plan.

The explorer

Great experience it was. From the time we landed in Rajkot till the time we boarded our return flight at Ahmedabad, it was non stop learning about animals, places, heritage, culture, food and of course people.

From the non stop “Thambakoo” chewing Rajasthani driver (thanks to Film Stars who are responsible for this addiction in many people) to the tribal people selling their wares in Little Rann of Kutch, evidences of our Sanatana Dharma, everyone in search of pure happiness kept cropping up by the minute again and again.

My iPhone X literally cried for help. Help came only through places where photography was not allowed. Consolidating the photos and preserving them is a mammoth task. That process has just started and the first focus is on my favorite, the Sun – Aditya. The reason is “After all Gujarat is shining. Isn’t it?

Here is Shining Gujarat, a video of Sun Shine across our entire route in Gujarat

Shining Gujarat

Vantage View – A photographic Pranaam 🙏

Today is Thai Pongal. They say தை பிறந்தால் வழி பிறக்கும். The dawn of the Tamil Month of Thai is expected to bring in solutions to all our issues. Happy Pongal to all.

The day is also called Makar Sankranti or Uttarayan or Maghi or simply Sankranti (also known in Bangladesh as Poush Sankranti), It is a harvest festival day in the Hindu Calendar, dedicated to the nourisher Aditya or Surya (Sun). It is observed each year the day Sun enters the Capricorn zodiac which corresponds with the month of January as per the Gregoriyan Calendar. It marks the first day of the sun’s transit into Makara rashi (Capricorn). A very special day indeed for us.

On this auspicious day, here is my photographic Pranaam to Aditya.

Everyday during my walks in the early morning and in the evening, I was always under the impression that I had the best views of our nourisher “Aditya” the Sun and receive his Golden Blessings.

Somedays I get young guests joining me to share the gallery.

But never did I realize that there are always some “special beings” who had the vantage view, negating my “superior view” about myself. Here are these special ones.

No wonder we say “आदित्यहृदयं पुण्यं”. The Sun has a noble heart indeed.

Have a great day. God Bless. இறை அருள் பெருக. வளமுடன் வாழ்க !

Dakshinamurthy Stothram – Sloka 2 – Introduction – Part 3 – The Giant Tree, the Magician and a Tamil film song

From the last blog after watching the videos about spider, we understood that God is The Creator; but ended up with a doubt – how does God create the world? What materials does He use? How does He present his creation? Before answering these questions we must have a look at two more videos and hear a Tamil Film Song. Curious ? Here we go!

First let us see a video titled “Sequoia in a Snowstorm” from the National Geographic channel.

Now let us come to the core issues on this video.

From where did this gigantic Sequoia tree come from ? Well, it came from this simple looking seed

Sequoia Tree Seed

How is it possible for such a gigantic tree to hide inside a small seed? Tons of wood, millions of leaves, huge number of branches etc. No way! Then how ? Watch another video (a bit long)

Now let us see a magic show in 1957 by the legendary Indian Magician PC Sorcar.

What did PC Sorcar do in the magic show? Didn’t he keep creating animals after animals from that flat screen? Didn’t he cut that girl into two and bring her back as one living entity? Is it a creation or an illusion?

These two videos are real life happenings – aren’t they?

Now let us listen to a Song penned by the legendary Tamil Poet Kannadasan in the film “Valar Pirai”.

Audio Link

https://www.dropbox.com/s/9ivoxwfv0y2u6gl/Poojiyathukkulle-b8WQV6YmI5A.mp3?dl=0

Here is the lyrics in Tamil

பூஜ்ஜியத்துக்குள்ளே ஓரு ராஜ்ஜியத்தை ஆண்டு கொண்டு

புரியாமலே இருப்பான் ஒருவன் – அவனை

புரிந்து கொண்டால் அவன் தான் இறைவன்

தென்னை இளநீருக்குள்ளே தேங்கியுள்ள ஓட்டுக்குள்ளே

தேங்காயைப் பொல் இருப்பான் ஒருவன் – அவனை

தெரிந்து கொண்டால் அவன் தான் இறைவன்

முற்றும் கசந்ததென்று பற்றறுத்து வந்தவர்க்கு

சுற்றமென நின்றிருப்பான் ஒருவன் – அவனை

தொடர்ந்து சென்றால் அவன் தான் இறைவன்

கோழிக்குள் முட்டை வைத்து முட்டைக்குள் கோழி வைத்து

வாழைக்கும் கன்று வைத்தான் ஒருவன் – அந்த

ஏழையின் பெயர் உலகில் இறைவன்

Meaning – The guy who rules the Infinite Universe through emptiness, the guy who resides as a kernel inside a tough shell of a coconut from the coconut tree, the guy who becomes a relative of monks who abdicate everything in life, the guy who keeps a chicken in an egg and an egg in side a chicken and the guy who keeps the sapling inside the trunk of a banana tree – if you can understand and follow that guy, then that guy is the God.

Confused completely further ! How does He do it ? It is time that we should get some answers to our doubt. Let us straight away get into Dakshinamurthy Sthothram – Sloka 2 in the next blog where we will get our doubts cleared by Adi Sankaracharya.

Dakshinamurthy Sthothram – Sloka 2 – Introduction – Part 2 – The Spider & The Creator

Mundaka Upanishad 1.1.7

We saw in the previous blog that Brahman/God, the one “which is invisible, inconceivable, without lineage, without any classifications (Varṇa), without eyes and ears, without hands and feet, and that which is eternal, all-pervasive, omnipresent, extremely subtle and undecaying” is the source of all beings. We also saw that we need an intelligent cause and a material cause for a creation. Now, we have a logical question that may arise in one’s mind to answer “How can this universe and physical beings come out from such an entity that is beyond physical attributes”?

In the two videos we saw how the spider creates a web. The Spider in-fact is a great teacher and a living example of the creation process adopted by God/Brahman/The Ultimate Reality. What does the spider teach about? It teaches about īśvaraḥ.

Spider is the intelligent cause behind the web; and most interestingly, spider never goes after any raw material; the raw material is found within itself. spider is nimittam and upādānam.

यथोर्णनाभिः सृजते गृह्णते च यथा पृथिव्यामोषधयः संभवन्ति |

यथा सतः पुरुषात् केशलोमानि तथाक्षरात्संभवतीह विश्वम् || 1.1.7 ||

yathā- as, just like; ūrṇanābhi- spider; sṛjate- emits;

gṛhṇate- take back; ca- and; pṛthivyām- on the earth;

oṣadhayaḥ- herbs; saṃbhavanti- spring up;

sataḥ puruṣāt – from living person; keśalomāni- hairs (on head and body); tathā- so, in that manner;

akṣarāt- from the imperishable; saṃbhavati- arises, happens; iha- here, this; viśvam- universe.

As a spider emits threads (and makes its web) and takes them back (at his will), as herbs spring up on earth and as hairs grow from living persons, so does the universe arise from the Imperishable (entity).

We must note that the spider is unaffected by the emission of thread and also outlives the thread; moreover, it also sustains the thread and also withdraws it at its will.

In the same way, Mundaka upanishad points out that Brahman the paramātma is the intelligent and the material cause of the universe and therefore, before creation, there was only non-dual Brahman, which served both as the intelligent cause as well as the raw material to produce the universe. And therefore, paramātma is said to be jagat abinna nimitta upādāna kāraṇam. And the world is the kāryam.

Whenever this subject of the Spider comes, my mind goes immediately to the Discourse by the legendary Sengalipuram Anantharama Dikshithar around the year 1960 at Matunga in Mumbai (I don’t know the exact year and date) while explaining the significance of Vishnu Sahasranama. Here is that rare audio clip. This is in Tamil. செங்காலிபுரம் அனந்தராம தீட்சிதர் உபன்யாசம்

Audio Link:

So, the Creator is the Ultimate Reality, “an undefinable something which is everything”. We call Him as GOD.

A doubt can arise in the mind of the seeker. “Ok. Understood that God is the Creator. How does He create the world? What materials does He use? How does He present his creation? Why is He creating?

Adi Sankaracharya answers these questions in Sloka 2 with two examples, which we will see in the next blog.

Madhuvanti Malligai – மதுவந்தி மல்லிகை – A Nectar with Fragrance

When a flower predominantly grown in South of India and a Hindustani Classical Raga of the North India merges, you get nothing but pure Nectar (madhu).

No wonder, I saw these Jasmine flower plants in the apartment of a Delhi based “Madarasi” (a typical name given to people from South India living in North India), now settled in Bangalore. Being a very close relative of mine, I didn’t waste much time to pull out my iPhone, open the Camera and iTunes.

Music Courtesy: Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia

Lock Down ! Look Up !

After 15 months stay at the East Coast of USA, we are back at the base in Namma Bengaluru. Within two weeks of arrival, here we are ! under “Total Lock Down for 14 days” due to the second wave of the epidemic.

Heart goes out to the people suffering and affected by the virus. Lucky & fortunate elders like me should have no issues at all to stay at home in an apartment complex.

It is no big deal. Simple formula – Just lock down and look up. You will see what you want to see and not the barrage of negativity around. When you lock down negativity and look up for positives, you will see HOPE.

Here are some images of what I saw:

These iPhone images taken by me, reinforce my belief that Nature can present its best side even under stressful living.

I sincerely pray that this good side of Nature soon help us overcome its other side and presents a smile on us, the suffering Indians.

World ! Please Pray for Indians. This also will pass.

Spring in the Park

Pandemic may come and hopefully go; but there is no doubt that if it is early April, you will see the Central Park at the Newyork city springing up to life, providing happiness, cheer and hope.

Time to sign off from the USA for the year 2021.

Sankey Tank at Malleswaram, Bangalore is ready for me.

au revoir; abiento.

Central Park, NYC