Wednesday, 29 July 2015

DAY 7 Glastonbury

After a day of travelling from India to London via Dubai, we stayed near the airport in Heathrow for the evening and had a restful day before catching the National Express Bus to Glastonbury at 5pm the next day arriving at the town hall about 9.30pm.

I then spent a day starting with coffee with my sister of the priestess Maree from Australia who is also here to share in the week of the conference before washing, grocery shopping then catching up with my dear friend Jan Guest who I met here in Glastonbury two years ago, along with her friend from Australia Tamara who is attending the conference for the first time. We spent three hours together catching up on the sacred tour of Somerset they had done prior to the conference and on my time in India.

After lunch we spent time in the Goddess Temple in meditation and thought of what lies ahead in the conference and inspiration and journey we all wish to have. Maree and I were then invited to share in the dinner of the priestesses of Avonlon, Melissa's and all those involved in the conference, a lovely honour to have been included in this special dinner.

We then were able to buy tickets at the door of the Assembly Rooms to attend the concert of Julie Felix an inspirational women of song, who in her late seventies sings so wonderfully full of passion, love and joy, it was a lovely night together.

We then awoke the next morning for the first day of the conference, starting in the Town Hall with the opening by the lady Lord Mayor of Glastonbury followed by music and dance. After lunch we gathered in our orb group  to walk in the landscape of Avalon. It has been very windy and wet for the last couple of days and as is the way of the Goddess the afternoon turned to pure sunshine and joy for our walk and gathering together.

Main Stage Altar

Ceremonial  Priestesses and Kathy Jones

Lord Mayor and Kathy Jones

View of the Tor from Wearill Hill

View over Glastonbury township

The sacred thorn tree

We then had a quiet hour or two for dinner in our unit before returning for the Opening Ceremony in the evening.

Day 4 Kolkata

Today we were meet in the hotel by Alex who will be our guide today with the taxi and indian speaking driver.

Pictures of the bus and taxi’s in the streets.

We started the day by going to the GPO to send a parcel home for Anique, in the street surrounding the post office were gentlemen who package up the goods and sew them into calico parcels with the stitching wax sealed. Another lovely old fashioned service of Kolkata. The gentlemen is pictured below he had been doing this for 50 years.

We then drove to the River Ganges and whilst Anique sat by the river Alex and I walked along the pathway which was so green and beautiful in comparison to the city. It was wonderful to see the Mother Ganga in person and experience her essence. We stopped at a ghat a cemented stairway into the river which was dedicated to those grieving the loss of someone important in their lives. It is the Hindu tradition of shaking off the hair and offering this to the river for the rememberance of the person passed over.

This is the local train service many carriages not even having seating, so different to home.

After our walk along the river we drove to the Botanical Gardens to see the famous Banyan Tree, I don’t believe I have ever seen a Banyan Tree before with the tree dropping roots from the branches and new trees growing and spreading. Within the branches were beautiful ferns a very lush and lovely sight.

Anique stopped and sang to the glory of mother nature and the many school children and teachers who must have been there on an excursion stopped in awe of this Caucasian lady singing to the trees. There would have been 50 – 80 people gathered around by the time she finished quite extraordinary.

We then drove to see the Kalighat Kali Temple a Hindu temple dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali. The Kalighat temple in its present form is only about 200 years old, although it has been referred to in Mansar Bhasan composed in the 15th century, and in Kavi Kankan Chandi of the 17th century.
The original temple was a small hut. A small temple was constructed by King Manasingha in the early Sixteenth century. The present temple was erected under the patronage of the Sabarna Roy Chowdhury family of Banisha. It was completed in 1809.

Kalighat was a Ghat (landing stage) sacred to Kali on the old course of the Hooghly river (Bhāgirathi) in the city of Calcutta. The name Calcutta is said to have been derived from the word Kalighat. The river over a period of time has moved away from the temple. The temple is now on the banks of a small canal called Adi Ganga which connects to the Hoogly. The Adi Ganga was the original course of the river Hoogly (the Ganges). Hence the name Adi (original) Ganga.

Kalighat is regarded as one of the 52 Shakti Peethams of India, where the various parts of Sati's body are said to have fallen, in the course of Shiva's Rudra Tandava. Kalighat represents the site where the toes of the right foot of Shakti or Sati fell.

It is a very famous place and a pilgrimage for Shakta (Shiva and Durga/Kali/Shakti worshippers) followers within the Hindu religion.

This lovely pottery hanging was in the shop where we sat and waited for the temple to open and the Brahmin to take us in to see the Statue of Kali.

The image of Kali in this temple is unique. It does not follow the pattern of other Kali images in Bengal. The present idol of touchstone was created by two saints - Brahmananda Giri and Atmaram Giri. Three huge eyes, long protruding tongue made of gold and four hands, which all are made of gold too. Two of these hands holding a scimitar and a severed head of the asura king 'Shumbha'. The scimitar signifies Divine Knowledge and the asura (or, human) head signifies human Ego which must be slain by Divine Knowledge in order to attain Moksha. The other two hands are in the abhaya and varada mudras or blessings, which means her initiated devotees (or anyone worshiping her with a true heart) will be saved as she will guide them here and hereafter.

As no photography can be taken in the temple this photo from the internet shows this image.

When in the temple there were many men standing around the statue they are not Priests of the temple they are the employees of the Phaledar. I was astounded at the behavior in the Garbagraha of the temple was like with pushing a shoving like a football match, which seems to lack any reverence to me, we were surrounded by our Brahmin men to keep us safe. The Brahmin who takes care of the Deity has a hereditary right.

After being in the temple we went outside to the Sosthi Tala a large rectangular covered platform called a Natmondir, adjacent to the main temple, from where the face of the image can be seen. About three feet high bearing a small cactus plant. Beneath the tree, on an altar three stones are placed side by side - left to right representing the Goddesses "Sosthi", "Sitola", and "Mongol Chandi". This sacred spot is known as Sosthi Tala or Monosha Tala. This altar was constructed By Gobinda Das Mondal in 1880. The place of the altar is the Samadhi of Brahmananda Giri. Here all the priests are female. The Goddesses here are considered as part of MAA Kali.

We were allowed into this shrine with our Brahmin and there was a priest who performed prayers for us to the goddess. Again the below photo is from the internet.

Also near  this shrine is the spot adjacent to the Natmondir, southwards meant for Bhali. There are two Bhali Peet for animal sacrifices side by side. These are known as Hari- Kath.

The bigger one is for buffalo sacrifices and the smaller one for goats and sheep. The animals are sacrificed with a single stroke of the knife and there is very little cruelty to animals when compared to the professional abattoirs. The meat from these animals is then used to feed the poor, so in truth it is the temples way of providing for the masses rather than sacrifice in the true sense of the world.

Here Anique is processing the experience of the temple.

We then drove to the Birla Mandir  a Hindu, built by the industrialist Birla family. Also known as Lakshmi Narayan Temple, the Birla temple is known for its creative architectural designs and aesthetic surroundings.

The interiors of Birla Mandir are jaw-drop gorgeous, with wonderful marble finishing. The engravings in marble are blended with the intricate Rajasthani architecture, to give a unique touch to the building. The electric diyas and wonderful chandeliers add to its charm. The exteriors of this colossal temple have been done with sandstone. The construction of this building took about 26 years to be completed, before it was opened to public in 1996. The main temple houses statues of deities Krishna and Radha.

The left side temple shikhar (dome) houses goddess Durga, the Hindu goddess of Shakti, the power. The right side dome of the temple houses Shiva in meditation mode.

Spread on 44 kathas of land, this temple built of white marble bears resemblance to the renowned Lingaraj Temple of Bhubaneswar. Birla Mandir also showcases pictorial depiction of scriptures of Bhagavad Gita in its stone engravings and some intricate Rajasthani temple architecture. Designed by the architect Nomi Bose.

We then ended the day at the shop Alex works for before heading back to the hotel after a wonderful day.

Day 3 Kolkata

Today while Anique rested I caught  a taxi to see the Victoria Memorial a vast, beautifully proportioned festival of white marble. Built for a beautiful Indian princess rather than a dead colonial queen, this would surely be considered one of India’s greatest buildings. It was designed to commemorate Queen Victoria’s 1901 diamond jubilee, but construction wasn’t completed until nearly 20 years after her death.

Statues as you enter the first hallway: King George V faces his wife Mary. The soaring central chamber remains very impressive and leads through to the Calcutta Gallery, an excellent, even-handed exhibition tracing the city’s colonial-era history in art form.

Queen Victoria Statue

I then caught a taxi back to the hotel and again the language barrier proved to be a problem with the taxi driver delivering me to a part of the city I was unfamiliar with and I had to refuse to pay to ensure that I was taken to the hotel, when we finally arrived after me having to ask for help in a near by hotel the taxi driver tried to demand more money than was negotiated due to the extra kilometres and time. I was very grateful to return to the hotel and safety once more.

After lunch in the hotel with Anique we hired a taxi to go to the Indian Museum. Kolkata’s old-fashioned main museum fills a colonnaded palace ranged around a central lawn. Extensive exhibits include fabulous 1000-year-old Hindu sculptures, lumpy minerals, a dangling whale skeleton and an ancient Egyptian mummy.

The plaque stated it was Three pillars with a coping stone showing Yakshis tramping evil forces from 2nd century CE. To me the goddess ridding expressions of the ego.

This plaque stating Bust of Brahma the creator 6th century CE, to me this represents the three aspects of the goddess.

Here the plaque says Mahisasuramardini 12th century CE

This plaque states Mother fondling Child 10th Century CE I see this as the original version of the mother and child

This plaque states Head of Nefertiti from Tell-el-Amarna Dynasty XVIII
When we were leaving the museum and trying to get a taxi back to the hotel we spoke with a gentlemen who spoke very good English and Anique negotiated for him to be our guide for tomorrow to see more sights of the city.

Day 2 Kolkata

Today Anique and I hired a car through the hotel to take us to some of the sights we are interested in, the driver did not speak English so it was difficult to change from the instructions that the hotel gave.

We visited a Jain Temple not the one I was hoping to see with the beautiful gardens but I did see this style of temple which was very interesting.

As we drove through the streets it was very interesting to see how many small shines to Kali can be found like this one I captured through the window

We then went to see the Dakshineswar Kali Temple
a Hindu temple located on the eastern bank of the Hooghly River, the presiding deity of the temple is Bhavatarini, an aspect of Kali, meaning, 'She who liberates Her devotees from the ocean of existence i.e. Saṃsāra'. The temple was built by Rani Rashmoni, a philanthropist and a devotee of Kali in 1855. The temple is famous for where Ramakrishna started his remarkable spiritual journey, a mystic of 19th Century Bengal.

The temple compound, apart from the nine-spired main temple, contains a large courtyard surrounding the temple, with rooms along the boundary walls. There are twelve identical shrines dedicated to Shiva, done in white and black stone and each of the temples houses Shiva lingas done in black stone. Along the riverfront, a temple to Radha-Krishna, a bathing ghat on the river, a shrine dedicated to Rani Rashmoni. 

To the north east of the Temple Complex is the Vishnu Temple or the Radha Kanta’s Temple. A flight of steps lead to the columned verandah and into the temple where a silver throne rests with a 21 and half inches idol of Lord Krishna and 16 inches idol of Radha. 

There is no photography allowed in the temple, this image from the internet shows the statue of Kali in the main temple, called the idol of sri sri Jagadiswari Kalimata Thakurani.

According to myth Adyashakti is the primordial energy-consciousness-bliss, she is the Mahamaya who creates the universe and liberates the jiva from the clutches of Maya. The sky is Her clothes. Her eyes have the spread from ear to ear. The Gods were defeated in the war against Shumbha and Nishumbha, the two Asura brothers. They were driven out of the heaven. They then composed a hymm to the Devi and prayed to Her. At this, a Devi came out of the body of the Adyashakti. She was named Kousiki. As a result, the color of Adyashakti turned into black. So she became known as Kali or Kalika (the dark).Though in course of time, she got black as her original color. In another version, during Ambika’s (the mother) war against Shumbha and Nishumbha, at the moment of killing Chandasur Kali sprang forth from the forehead of Ambika. During the war between the gods and the asuras Kali spread out Her tongue and drank all the blood of Raktabij. That is why Her tongue is out. Kali is the first Vidya of ten Mahavidyas. She wears tigerskin. She plays with mahakal and so she is Mahakali or Kali. Kali has so many forms. She is terrible and at the same time calm and benefactress of the world.

The famous Dakshineswar temple which houses the Goddess Kali was founded by Rani Rashmoni following a dream she saw when she was about to start on her pilgrimage to Benaras. A long term plan of the Rani materialized which she had longed to perform when her husband died with unfulfilled wish of constructing a Kali temple.

A dynamic woman, Rani Rashmoni took over the administration of the enormous estate her husband left her. The benevolent administrator, Rani Rashmoni was always in conflict with the stringent British laws and policies. People honored her and loved her for her daring and benevolent spirit. Dakshineswar temple, bathing ghats, a way from Subarnarekha River to Puri, Imperial Library (present National Library) and Hindu College (present Presidency College) are the testimonials to her benevolent nature.

The dream had moved the Rani intensely and she instructed her trusted people specially her youngest son-in law to look for plots to construct the Kali Temple. After a massive hunt for suitable plots, a 20-acred plot in the village of Dakshineswar was selected. The land resembled a hump of a tortoise. One part of this land belonged to a European Christian while the other part was a Muslim burial ground. The Rani began to construct this Hindu temple in 1847 on this very ground thus integrating different faiths. The Deed of endowment states “In order to fulfill his wish, on 6th September 1847 I purchased 54.4 bighas of land at the cost of Rs. 42 thousand and 500 from James Hasty. I made to build a puca Navaratna temple, twelve Shiva temples (twelve jyotirlingam), a Vishnu temple and a Natmandir on the land. On 31st May 1855 I placed luxminarayan Shila in the Navaratna temple as per the wish of my late husband and also for the welfare of his soul.” The deed was executed on 31st May 1855.

The exceptionally open-minded Rani wished that pilgrims of all casts and religions could offer prayers at the temple. Her dreams were fulfilled since irrespective of religion and castes Dakshineswar is thronged by millions of devotees and admired for its peaceful ambiance.
The Rani lived only for five years and nine months after the inauguration of the temple. She seriously fell ill in 1861. Realizing that death was approaching she decided to handover the property she purchased in Dinajput (now in Bangladesh) as a legacy for the maintenance of the temple to the temple trust. She accomplished her task on 18th February, 1861 and passed away on the subsequent day.

We then went to visit the Sri Sarada Math however unfortunately it was closed when we arrived and would not be opening for 4 hours so we made our way back to the city, and again go to New Market for shopping, and went back to our room and had a couple of drinks together before retiring for the night.

The New Market marked by a distinctive red-brick clock tower , this enormous warren of a place was originally opened in 1874. Despite the appearance of new air-conditioned, American-style, shopping malls all over Kolkata, New Market, which has survived two devastating fires and regular flooding, remains at the core of the shopping experience in the city. Over 2000 stalls under its roof sell everything from clothing to wheeled luggage to electronics to a special cheese found nowhere else. Under its apparent chaos lie extraordinary finds as well as remarkable bargains. It was substantially rebuilt after the 1980s fire.  Technically, it referred to an enclosed market but today in local parlance the entire Lindsay Street shopping area is often known as New Market.