Friday, July 7, 2017

Religious Connection between Indian Music and Indian Mind

Music has the power to cause emotions to stir up within us. These feelings are gripping – often irresistible - and seem to emerge from nowhere. These feelings color our moods, affect our perception and generate a behavioral pattern. A musician is an artist. Similar to fine art, a musician also recasts, rearranges and perceives with his mind’s eye and creates something that echoes with his heart content, and resonates with many others. So, what’s the relation between music and religions? Or is there any? In India religion is a life blood of almost every section of society; whether you agree or disagree, religion plays a significant part in the life of Indians.

Indian Classical Musical History & Religious Connection

Indian history from a technical point of view is quite vague because it is difficult look back beyond a certain period because Indian mythology gets woven into reality. Indian music (classical Hindustani and Carnatic music) is believed to have originated from the Vedas. If you study music, you will find the content of Indian classical music, both Carnatic and Hindustani have remained uniform in the last 15 centuries. 

In the 7th century, the Thevarams, one of the earliest forms of Carnatic music formed a part of temple music. The form is still a part of music, consisting of religious lyrics. In the ancient times, temples were the patrons of music along with king’s court. Temples were the centerpieces of cultural activity. Indian culture is deeply rooted in religion, and music was at that time part of worship. In ancient religion and philosophical texts, Vedas and Upanishads, music is an integral part of worship.

Modern Classical Music & Religious Significance

Over the times, Indian Classical music evolved from sacred to more mainstream, but the content remains intact. If we consider Western classical music, it was also originated in churches, but within a short period of time, it has transformed completely. Indian music keeps the integrity though got the natural evolution, religious content carries forward till date.

Bhakti movement in 12th, 13th and 14th centuries really shifted the musical style to more mainstream and popularized with more simple style, and expressions. Bhajans encouraged congregational singing in the temples, and thus, was an effective community building exercise.

The growth and development of Indian classical music through centuries is a testimony to the greatness of Indian mind. The way the music has changed, evolved and at the same time retained its core, is an incredible feature.

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Nightlife in Bangkok

Bangkok is unbelievably vibrant, chaotic and perhaps too engaged in its own loop. The city is busy but people are not jaded. When the night falls on the city, it has become more vibrant. Bangkok nightlife is famous worldwide for its colorfulness and corporeal pleasures. Most of the tourists are intended to experience this sought after nightlife in Bangkok. This is paradox arises from the fact that there are dozens of dance halls, hundreds of neighborhood restaurants, which tourists never go.

Bangkok nightlife can be differentiated into many parts – areas of discotheques, restaurants, massage parlors and jazz bars, which appeal to natives as well as foreigners. If you seek for intellectually provocating nightlife, the city is not for you. The city has very little to offer to artistic culture, quality cinema, satirical cabaret, modern dance and so on.

Evening Cultural Entertainment in Bangkok

If there is a little artistic sense of entertainment, it is the dinner shows of traditional Thai dance offered at several restaurants around town. The most scenic of this art can be showcased at the Sala Rim Naam, a traditional Thai teak structures on the river band opposite the Oriental Hotel, of which is part and the Thai Night at the Thai Village of Siam Inter-continental Hotel, where both dances and martial arts are performed. Of course, these are not for backpackers or budget travellers unless you have lots of Baht in your pocket. 

Enjoy Silom Night Market

The longest strips of night markets are along Silom Road near Patpong and in Patpong itself. Apart from unbelievable fake stuff like watches, pirated DVDs, jeans, skirts, Games, T-Shirts, you also find some good stuff. For example, you can buy beautiful Burmese wall-hanging and puppets, bronze ware and silverware and other handcrafted items. 

Read More about Thailand

Patpong & Her Sisters (& Brothers)

Bangkok for many, especially India is synonymous with sex. Seeing Patpong for the first time, many are what disconcerted to find themselves in a brightly-lit clothes market. In the contemporary Patpong, the street is completely jammed with stalls selling garments, DVDs, t-shirts, sex toys, souvenirs, obscuring the renowned raunch and sleaze.

Like other red light districts, Patpong inspires fascination and fear, and curiosity and disgust as well as plain old lust, according to a person’s principles and predilections, but most people when they get there find it at least interesting, for Patpong has something for everybody. You do not even have to go in a go-go bar, let alone a sex show bar, for its streets and surroundings contain numerous discos, restaurants, piano bars, cocktail lounges, beside late-night shops and street market. Dancing, eating, music listening and shopping are as much a part of Patpong these days as boozing and ogling.

Jazz Clubs & Rock Pubs

Jazz bars have bloomed all over Bangkok. Most of them do not actually play live jazz or even any sort at all. So do not be fooled by the signs: “jazz” seems to be the code for “fashionable”. But some most certainly do.

Doyen of them all is Brown Sugar, located next to Lumpini Park on 469 Phrasumen road. This place set the trend: nightly mainstream jazz, occasional black American singers, informal atmosphere and great vibes.

Read More about Thailand

Brown Sugar is not a big place and soon others took up the time and eased the crush. A string of music pubs sprang up alongside offering anything from blues to country and western. Just round the corner in Soi Langsuan: Round Midnight, with a terrific moody jazz mural on the side wall. Off Soi 23, way past the go-go raunchy ride of Soi Cowboy, Black Swan, all dark glass, lurks behind palms. It has a relaxed atmosphere and excellent live performances.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

On The Road – from Kolkata to Gangtok and beyond

To get out of the impossible complexities of Gangtok traffic, we took an early start from the city for West Sikkim. It was a sunny, beautiful morning, had a good night sleep with good dinner in the night, so we were fresh in our mind and body. My friend drove more than 1000 km, and seemed okay with the driving under pressure. It was my first trip on four wheels, initially quite excited but later on felt in the car that I had to maintain a full awareness even sitting in the shotgun position. A few times I felt, I applied break, involuntarily my feet felt a tension and whole body straightened up when a vehicle or someone very sneakily passed by. Also traveling in a car is different from motorcycle. In a car there is a frame and you always feel you are in an enclosed space; in a motorcycle frame is gone and you actively observe the surroundings. In a car the observation is more passive.

Gangtok was incredibly touristy with unbelievable number of vehicles; hotels were expensive, more than any other hill stations I had visited, and practically no real room to walk comfortably in the evening. We reached comfortably in the evening but our ordeal started when we entered in the city. For an hour or more we couldn’t find appropriate place to stay, parking space and even some good place to sit and think. Finally, we had decided to stay at a room that would cost maximum Rs. 600-800 in Shimla or Manali, but we paid Rs. 2000 for overnight stay.

Kolkata to Raiganj – road kills!

We had started from Kolkata late morning, and for more than an hour; it was an ordinary car ride with traffic and hot sun, and office-goers getting on their daily routine with usual chaotic way like in any other Indian city, till we got on the smooth tarmac road of NH2 and straight across the road till Panagarh crossing. After 3 hours of driving, we reached Vasudha, somewhere in between Rampurhaat and Panagarh, a surprisingly nice roadside restaurant with considerably good condition. We had our lunch and a good break.

West Bengal State Highway
I thought of all my friends who were in the middle of the traffic, going to office, and we were also stuck in the middle with a completely different purpose. Sitting at Paramita Hotel, I was jotting down some points in the diary – road was long and dusty, and above all cacophony of all sorts of vehicles. State highways in West Bengal are bad, very difficult to drive because vehicles, small or big, do not maintain simple traffic decency.

Our plan was to reach Siliguri in one day but when we reached Malda, already darkness shrouded in that part of the world. I have a personal policy of long distance riding that I never ride in the night. It was a difficult decision to stay overnight in Raiganj but we both decided to stopover because from Raiganj to Siliguri was still 160 km distance. There were couple of decent hotels there, so we asked locals and they suggested staying at Imperial Hotel. We got a decent room in Rs. 500, and spent our night just sleeping tight.

Gangtok and Sunil Lama

Night fell on the hills and the hills became first time real. The usual dissonance was gone, less cars, people were walking comfortably on the roads, and we were searching for a decent restaurant for our drink and food. We didn’t have to search more and found a small yet decent pub.  A stout man, distinguishably Nepali was sitting along on a sofa at the corner of the bar. We were confused about the North Sikkim permits and other details, so I went to him and asked him whether he could throw some light on the permit stuff. To my surprise, he was extremely polite and warm, answering my queries with enthusiasm. He asked me to sit and told a waiter to bring a pen and paper. He was occurred to me the owner of that bar. He told me he could have managed the permit if I gave him one more day. I was not interested in North Sikkim but West Sikkim always excited me, so I asked him about the direction and some places to stay.

He wrote it down a complete road map with staying places, but I had to ask him again because his handwriting was incomprehensible. 

Forest Colony (our hotel) à After 1 hour drive Sintham à Sandupche via Temi Tea Garden-à 2-3 km drive to Namchià From Namchi to Rabang 20 kmàBuddha ParkàTashiding Monasteryàfrom Tashiding to Yuksam 2 hrs drive.

YuksamàKhechiperi Lakeà Dentham/Peling via Sombaria, DhardinàJorthangàSiliguri

He suggested to stay in Dentham at hotel Red Mud Shelle

Sunil Lama was great help, and I thanked him twice for his clear road map. 

Sunil Lama's Road map 

Gangtok to Yuksam – Treacherous at its best

If you look at Sikkim in a certain light – and light is the pristine natural element, glinting off the cloud of the valley and turning green hills into panes of misty beauty. My new found happiness inside the four wheels was suddenly vanished in a puff when couple of hours the car moved in 30km/hr on one of the worst roads I had ever seen. It was a beautiful sunny morning with prayer flags lined up both sides of the road and just fluttering in a strange setting. I thought of my previous Himalayan travels, those were different, those were extraordinary when I though back to all the moments that had most inspiring, simply overwhelming. 

The road till Tashiding was like working the car off the dirt road – the jerks were consistent, no respite for even a few minutes. Sometimes, from the window of the car, I saw small houses, very beautiful ones, people sat in the sun, on benches, the leaves turning gold, and felt a foreigner’s sense of wonder. Sikkim was quite strange to me. 

Yuksam Finally!

First time I heard the name when I was working with organization where I had to write on various Indian travel destinations. It was 2007. I was thrilled to write on Yuksam and always planned to go there. It took 13 years to reach my desired destination and the feeling was mixed. This small town in West Sikkim is quaint, laid-back and a bit strange. There were a few food joints, couple of hotels but good ones. 

Yuksam has a great historical importance to Sikkimise because it was the first capital of the state and home to the oldest monastery in the state. Dubdi Monastery is perched in the hill, 2 km uphill from the town. Yuksam is also a base camp to various fascinating treks in Sikkim Mountains. It is also the gateway to the Khachendzonga Biosphere Reserve.

Road Trip Video - Gangtok to Tashiding


I walked slowly, the people all around me on this cloudy summer evening, refulgent and shiny – though the atmosphere was strangely blurred. The very old and the very young live on the edge of things in this corner of India – and were closer to the woods; they don’t have to go and check in on the daylight world. They worked, they made stories, they worshiped Buddha; I heard a distinct bell over and over, my eyes remained close long after the bell stopped ringing.

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Top Location Independent Jobs To Manage Travel Finance

Many professional poker players around the world call April 15, 2011 as “Black Friday” when the U.S federal government had charged some of the largest online poker sites with fraud and money laundering. You may think what is the relation between poker and travel? Just wait a bit; good things are usually slowly unfolding. Anyway, so, when the U.S government brought indictment charges against the founders of world largest online poker websites, many professional pokers – some of them earn five digits earning, moved to Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica and some other far flung places to salvage their accounts and keep playing. They soon built a poker community and worked during the day and met up at night and on weekends to party. Life suddenly turned into a location independent work with money flowing in with perks of varied experiences.

Location independent work – is it real?

Now, probably you have got it why I have started the story with poker. Become location independent employee is a non-negotiable part of managing finance. I don’t buy all those false narratives – “travel without money”, “travel free” etc. Those are extremely misleading stories and impossible, at least for a decent guy like I and you (I hope you are a decent guy like me). For long I fulfilled my travel objectives by doing freelance content writing, but not everybody has the required skill set to do high-paid content writing. For those who wish for long-term travel (a few months to a year), a steady income is unavoidable unless he or she is rich. However, the path to get a location independent work is stressful, frustrating and sometimes scary.

What options you have?

Options on paper are plenty, but practically there are a few things you can actually do. There are principally three common ways you can work without being present physically in a particular locale. 

Create a passive income stream

My Workplace in Pondicherry (at Auro Beach)
It is the most important part of your process of earning while traveling. The planning should be started very early – from the very beginning of your job when you start making money out of some sort of passive income such as freelance work, share trading, online selling, affiliate marketing in your website or blog, translation or language related jobs, teaching online lessons, doing market research for companies, selling photographs and so on. Remember these are all one way or other passive source of income unless you do it full-time. It is also advisable to take these jobs as passive income source because you need to build a steady client base for your fulfill your future travel goal.

Convince your company/boss to allow you to work remotely

10 years back it was an impossible proposition, but now it is quite feasible option to negotiate with your company or boss to let you work remotely. As my personal experience I worked with a company for a year or so as ‘Work from Home’ option and traveled different parts of the country and South East Asia. Of course I was good at job and created a good impression. Also, I negotiated on money part so that the company had more profit keeping me for the work with less pay than recruiting another person. The most important thing is to stay in a company for a few years and create a proposal that will clearly benefit the company.

Work remotely as a freelancer

That’s the most common method to work without any fixed location. Freelance means you are hired for particular job for different companies for different projects. For example, freelance developers or freelance graphic designers. However, you need to develop a skill and know how to sell the skill. Top freelance websites to look for are Upwork, Toptal, Freelancer, Cloudpeeps etc. 

Some Unconventional Methods To Work Location Independently

From my balcony @ Dharamkot (Himachal Pradesh)
No matter how much it sounds exciting, creating a base for a location independent work requires time, and therefore people who have succeeded in this domain prepared themselves for years before they completely left the job. Even if you have an idea, significant fund and lots of enthusiasm, the correct measure is to create your base while continuing your regular job. Almost everything you plan, even freelance writing, you need to create a solid base first, which requires time.

Start your own business

It will take time and a labor of love to doing it successfully. There are numerous ideas to start an online business and work it remotely. It is a hell of a job to earn money from the business initially but if you start it early, you might succeed in the business.

Drop Shipping

Dropshipping means you are a retailer without having an inventory. Instead it purchases the product from a third party and has it shipped directly to the customer. So, you will never see or handle the product. The difference between dropshipping and retail model is that selling merchant doesn’t stock or own inventory, so you will be location independent. You buy it from a wholesaler or manufacturer and sell it to the buyer through the inventory from a third party. 


Less fund is required to open an ecommerce store without having to invest lots of money. It is also easy to get started because you don’t have to manage or paying your warehouse or packing and shipping your orders. You also don’t have to do the complex process of tracking inventory for accounting reasons. 


Low margins are the biggest drawback of this business. There are inventory issues emerge because you don’t manage your own inventory and source from multiple warehouses so inventory changes on a daily basis. 

There are many companies providing a platform for your own online retail store. For example, Hothaat, Seasonsway, Bagsvags, Snazzyway, and other some others.

Working @ some Thai Restaurant
Day Trading

Trading is a wonderful way to be location independent and earn lots of money. Although it sounds exciting, it is quite tough to start as a day trader if you don’t have any experience or knowledge about equities and market. I work on day trading and it’s been now a steady passive income source for quite number of years. Unfortunately, I lost lots of money also in day trading, but since it is my passive income source, I consider those lose as my sunk cost. 

Playing Poker

If you are good in poker or card games, you can try online poker playing in variety of websites. Poker is lucrative and you can earn lots of money, even after giving 30% of government tax. Every day there are hundreds of tournaments going on in multiple poker sites, and you can start it from Rs. 100 to unlimited amount. Needless to say, you must first go through free roll for months to understand the game, and develop an interest in it. Poker is a skill based game, so don’t think it is a pure gambling. There are lots of strategies involved, game plans etc.

Productivity v/s Procrastination

My personal room @ Sohra (Meghalaya)

Believe me, traveling on road is a tough job. It is frustrating when you see other travelers enjoy, drinking, chatting and you are in the middle of finishing a project. The pressure is probably more than office because you are a sort of mercenary and people who pay you never listen to your excuses. It is very important to maintain a routine on the road so that you never miss the work. Every new place brings some unique challenges to work, so you need an impeccable discipline. It sounds glamorous working from road, but realty is far from fantasy. 
  • Assess your strength how much your can work, and how much money you need daily for sustenance and save. Don’t forget to save money because freelance or passive income sources have no security.
  • Don’t run after money because it will rob happiness from your journey.
  • As mentioned repeatedly first create a solid base of whatever you want to do. Proper planning is important for freelance work. Gaining trust from clients is important, so even if you take a few days leave, they will understand it.
  • Make a strict schedule. For example, early morning work is better if you complete everything or at least 80% of work.
  • Do not procrastinate on work. Remember all friends or travelers you meet in the journey are temporary. You have to manage yourself. If you have committed yourself to a certain freelancing style, don’t just leave it.
  • Limit your browsing time on internet. Open your computer only for work. Block all those sites that are potentially time wasting such as Youtube, Facebook etc. if you work demands those websites then it’s okay but limit yourself to your professional work only.
  • Try to finish your work first then go for exploring the place. There is no joy in traveling if you keep thinking about your work. After all you are traveling for your own peace, and not to pretend that you are enjoying your life. 
Important Tips for Working on Road
  • Carry multiple SIM cards
  • First figure out when and how you work best
  • Create a productive playlist
  • Buy an international outlet adapter
  • Have a back-up plan for internet failure (particularly in India)
In my life I worked and traveled at the same time plenty of times. I worked at roadside restaurants in India, in minus degree temperature Himalayan regions, and also working in the middle of happy go lucky hostel mates, all were enjoying and I was working. In all my experiences, I never regretted my decision but I confess it’s really a tough job. I want to give you a true picture, and try to help people who live in a fantasy that traveling and working together is a wonderful concept. 

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Munsiyari Travel Chronicle – Panchuli Aura & My Solo Camping

panchuli range from munsiyari

(I couldn't reach Khalia Top because of excessive snowfall, so I am not able to describe how beautiful Panchuli range of Himalayas would be watched from the top, though I could understand the feeling of Panchuli magic where I spent my days in the mountain.)

“Don't you scare of living off the land alone?”

“What you do alone the forest?”

There are some questions randomly shoot at me ( I say randomly because most of these people do not think while asking) whenever I return from my camping trips. When I show my pictures of camping or tell them my (brief) stories about my experiences, there is an air of disbelief, a sort of mixed feeling of amazement and disgust. If I remember correctly, I never felt any type of trepidation so far. It is also a fact that I do not feel any extraordinary feeling in those places as people may imagine seeing my pictures.

Winding roads in Kumaon
A peculiar sense of emptiness grasps my whole being, a power that is inconceivable by reasons and logical gymnastics. Every place has its own energy and when you place yourself with a little quietness, the place reveals itself slowly its secrets. Perhaps, that is the outcome of my travel or living off-the-land for sometimes. It cuts down from my usual self, usual thoughts, but attached with something that heightens my perception, can feel things from a different level of life.

I like Himalayas, more than anything else, because the energy is so wholesome, too complete. If I have to strictly tell what part of the Indian Himalayas I prefer, I would say Garhwal. This is the land where great souls buried, not essentially in a sense of last rite or incinerate, but the energy buried here for hundreds of thousands of years. After so many years have been passed, even today you can sense the subtle energy if you are sensitive enough to feel to that. The silence is exquisite, but many people can't contain it because they aren't accustomed to it. The tranquility of the region may bring a familiar sense of sadness and remorse. Nevertheless, within this peculiar sense of sadness, one can find a direction.

Travel journey to Munsiyari

Munsiyari in March
I noted down most of things during my journey, lest things I can't recall. Sometimes, small things can turn out be a crucial part of the journey. For example, my night bus journey was unmentionable but became a part of my note because of an incident.

A girl was sitting beside me. She was quite noticeable for two things – her continuous hard efforts to sleep in the bus, and her strong perfume she wore, and hard-bitten good looks. The more she moved position, more she created disturbance, not essentially irritation but a peculiar attractive disturbance. At one point of time, she literally rolled down to my shoulders with her hair slightly touched my face. I had this experience before when I was coming back from Dharamsala and a Tibetan girl fell asleep over my shoulder with her hair all over my face.

Anyway, I soon was relieved when this miniature love story ended soon when she dropped at Rudrapur and my ordeal thankfully concluded with a sweet sleep for 40 minutes. When I reached Haldwani, I was utterly disappointed with the fact that I came at the wrong time. Because of Holi, a few buses and shared taxis (with double fare) were only plying to distant places. I had been warned by a fellow in the bus about this possibility. This bright young fellow, working with Indian Oil Corporation was patiently listening to me while we were waiting at Dominoes. We had a long or rather one-way conversation about travel where I was speaking about travelling and he was patiently listening to me.

I was standing at the bus stand, thinking what to do. I wanted to go to a new place but there was not a single vehicle going to Munsiyari or any elevated mountain range. Once again absence of cohesive thoughts had fallen for a gentle yet forceful invitation from a taxi driver who was supposed to go to Pithoragarh.

I and two soldiers

From Munsiyari
I was travelling in a small hatchback with five people, two were soldiers returning to their homes in Didihat. It was again a long journey and quite painfully sandwiched between big sized soldiers. I was reading and sometimes talking to one of the soldiers who was quite friendly. They were returning from Siachen and looked like totally jaded. I was contemplating why for a small piece of land two governments spending lots of money. The average temperature of Siachen is 2 degree and in the winter months, temperatures can dip to -50 degree.

We reached Pithoragarh around 4pm. I already realized that it was nearly impossible to find any commutation to Munsiyari because the market was desolated and only one jeep was there to Dharchula. At one time I though I must take a ride to Dharachula and then decide what could be done. However, after taking suggestions from the soldiers, I had decided to stay in Pithoragarh for the night.

Final journey to Munsiyari and failed Khalia Top trek

Next day early morning and my travel mate who I met in Pithoragarh started the journey. He is 16-18-year old guy with unbending intent to go to Munsiyari to find a job. He was carrying 300 rupees, out of which I lent him 150 rupees of his bus journey. I also paid tea and breakfast without any problem because I liked the attitude and nerve of that teenager. He already talked to some hotel in Munsiyari and told twice that he would pay me when he reached the destination. So, I had to pay the taxi fare from Thal. I already knew that and had no issue in paying.

We had reached Munsiyari in the afternoon, and he dropped in some hotel. I didn’t have to pay the fare as he borrowed it from the hotel manager. I took a picture of him and he left. I spent the whole evening, night and half of the day with this guy, and probably will never meet him again, but this small incident, selfless friendship remains very valuable to me.

pithoragarh town
Desolate Pithoragarh town
I had my lunch in a small restaurant and with some guidance from locals took the journey to Khalia Top. Well, I took the shortcut and soon I realized that I did a mistake. At one point of time, I simply lost in the forest, thinking to camp and next day started again. However, it was quite dense and there was a source of water very nearby. I don’t camp near the source of water because animals generally come in the night to drink water.

Finally after a long and tiring hike, I ultimately came to the main road. At that point of time I couldn't walk anymore, so I preferred to wait for any transportation. Fortunately, I didn't wait too long and got a shared car, which dropped me to my destination. 

Evening looming large and I had to climb at least 2 hours to reach the top. It seemed impossible because of snowfall, so I decided to climb till I got sufficient sunlight. Finally, I found a nice place to pitch my tent, which was in a good height and mountains were nicely captured on my camera.

My journey stopped there. I didn't feel anything more, no tiredness, no hurry to reach the destination, not a single thought came to my mind, except to stay in that special moment for at least some hours.

Few Related Stories

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

An evening well-spent in Abhinavagupta Research Library in Varanasi

I have frequently seen myself a scholar withdrawn, having enjoyed the most valuable part of my life in those crusty, otherwise inanimate words written by writers of all ages, putting their hearts and souls and made such wonderful objects called books.  I was spending my days in Varanasi abandoned my time in the streets of this ancient city, sitting on ghats all day long, sometimes quite restlessly. I kept lots of books with me during my journey, though I looked at them only now and then. I didn’t wish to practice resignation in Varanasi but to observe how people were living in this oldest city with zest.

More and more I was feeling that why we would box everything into advantages and disadvantages. I was engaged in thinking why we were so involved in starving ourselves before we were hungry? It came to me that I was not an exception in this living, probably because I was also a part of this tasteless urban life. So, I desperately wanted to get rid of this futile thinking, at least not in my travel.

Read More about Varanasi

Two days spend in some good and bad experiences. I had already spent a few days in Varanasi, and one fine morning I got a call from my friend Yann who lived in the city. He had a very beautiful house in the heart of the city, with a terrace, nice garden and absolute silence in all of his rooms. We spent some good time with French tea and handmade cookies.  He told me about Abhinava Gupta’s library and Bettina Baumer. A well-known indologist and one of the scholars of Kashmir Saivism, she had lived in India for more than four decades. 

A brief tryst with Abhinavagupta Library (संविदालय ) and Kashmir Shaivism

Abhinavagupta Research Library
In the afternoon I went to the library. I met Bettina 'Sharada' Bäumer, an Austrian born scholar who dedicates her life in abstruse philosophy and in the field of inter-religious dialogues. I found her very gentle and humble. She showed me the library though not much talked about the philosophy. She gave me three books to study and showed me the study room. Surprisingly, there was no conventional study table in the room. There were four bookshelves and one tanpura (a classical string musical instrument). I felt very relaxed in the room and studied those books for straight two hours. When I came out of the study, she already left the library.

Kashmir or Kashmiri Saivism 

It is a system of philosophy known as the Trika System. The Sanskrit work Trika means ‘threefold’. In Kashmir Saivism, also scholars wrote it Kashimiri Saivism, trika is used to refer to threefold signs of humankind and their world. These three signs are Shiva, Shakti and the bound individuals (nara), and the three energies of Shiva. These three energies are Para Shakti – the supreme energy, parapara Shakti (medium energy), and apara Shakti (inferior energy).

Trika philosophy explains that the realm of apara Shakti, the lowest energy is found in states of wakefulness (jagrat), and dreaming (swapna). The domain of medium energy, is established in the state of sound sleep (susupti). The province of para Shakti, the supreme energy is found in Turiya state. Turiya state transcends the three common states of consciousness – waking consciousness, dreaming and dreamless sleep.

Kashmir Shaivism is a nondualist Tantric practice that is one of the oldest forms of spiritual practice in India. There are still many yogis and practitioners follow the teachings including some of the proponents in 20th century. One such name is Swami Lakshman Joo, who was a Kashmiri Brahmin, revived the tradition and made a great contribution to this legitimate field of spiritual inquiry.

Information on Abhinavagupta Research Library

The research library has been established by the Trika Interreligious Trust at Varanasi, as a place for study and research on Indian spiritual and religious traditions with special emphasize on Saivagama/Tantra and Kashmir Saivism. The library has a vast collection of books including Veda, Agama/Tantra, Kashmir Saivism, Indian philosophy, Traditions of Banaras, Indian Art and Aesthetics/Musicology, Hinduism and Buddhism.

The research library is in collaboration with scholars and institutions like Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Central University for Higher Tibetan Studies (Sarnath), Institute for Religious Studies, University of Vienna (Austria), centre for Intercultural Theology, University of Salzburg (Austria).

Opening Timing: Daily from 2 to 6 p.m. (except Sunday).

Activities: Occasional seminars are organized on topics related to the special focus of the library, as well as text study (Sanskrit), individually or in a group, with a scholar or pandit. Also, music programmes are occasionally organized. 

There is also a space for meditation in the library.

Address: B-2/114, Bhaidaini (near Ma Anandamayi Hospital), second floor, Varanasi – 221001
Director: Dr. Bettina Baumer ‘Sharada’

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