Friday, March 15, 2013

Glorious and Magnificent Pilgrimage of Sikhs : Takhta Har Mandir Sahab

The founder and the first Guru of Sikhs Guru Nanak Dev , while undertaking his first journey towards eastern direction of the country came to Patna in the year 1507 . During his sojourn in Patna he stayed with his devotee Jaitamal . During his stay in Patna he came in contact with Jauhari Salis Rai, who later became his devotee. Remaining four months in Patna, Gurunanak Dev offered preaching’s almost every day in morning and evening. At the time of his departure from Patna and giving the status of Sangat ( Sacred Place of Worship ) he declared Salis Rai his successor .

Ninth Guru of Sikh – Guru Teg Bahadur was the another first Guru of his sect , who undertook journey outside of the Punjab for the expansion of his sect . Those days he was on the journey of Assam. He was accompanied by his mother Nanki Devi. wife Gujari Devi, Brother Kripal Chandra and other Sikh courtiers . In way to his destination passing through Varanasi, Sasaram and Bodh – Gaya he halted at Patna for a few days. His family stayed at the same Sangat. On this very place on 26th of December, 1666 accordingly Poush Sudi 7 of 1723 Vikram era, Govind Rai (the original name of boyhood of Guru Govind Singh . ) took his birth . At the same time a Muslim Fakir Sayyed Bhikhan Shah residing at Ghoran of Patiala – hundred miles away from Patna visualized unique light on the horizon. Noticing that light he bowed down in worshiped form and uttered that the almighty has sent a new brilliant illuminating light on the earth in shape of a child , he set out towards the direction of that light with a view to have a glimpse of that sacred and newly born pious soul performing a long and tedious journey he reached Patna . To test the newly born baby he carried two pots with him – one filed with milk and other of water. Covering both of them properly he placed them before the child and realize that if he ( the child ) touches the pot of containing milk he would consider him to be follower of Islam and simultaneously on event of his touching pot of water – he would take him to be Hindu . But to the utter surprise the boy placed his both hands on twin pots simultaneously. This filled the Fakir with immense pleasure and he exclaimed with cheers – this country really needed a person like this .

Guru Govind Singh spent his first seven years of his infancy in Patna. He mentioned in his autobiography “ Vichitra Natak “ that this is the same place where I was born in Patna In course of time at the place of his birth a magnificient harimandir was constructed. But when this mandir was actually constructed there is no specific authentic information in this regard. However there is a record of some repair carried out for the first time in building by local king Raja Fateh Chand maini in 1722. is available. Mulla Ahmed Babahani who came here in Patna towards last days of 18th century has mentioned in his book Mirat ul Ahiwal the following facts -‘ devotees of Guru Govind Singh has built a palatial magnificent building in the memory of Guru Govind Singh and named as Hari Mandir. This has became the center of strength and power of Sikhs. This is also famous by the name Sangat ( a sacred place of assembly for religious discussion and discourses ) Sikhs have made it a seat of their pilgrimage . It has become a symbol of respectful dedication and devotion of Sikh community.

In 1781 Charles Willikins who has witnessed a building of Sikh college here has mentioned – “ the construction of building on the birth place of Guru Govind Singh is scattered in about 40 sq.m which is about 6 to7ft above the surface of the land. In the center there is a big room which is surrounded by other rooms. All the arch and wooden pillars there are beautiful attractive and ornamental carvings. The building is of greater length in comparison to his breadth. Whole surface is covered with carpets. By the side of the wall about 6 to 7 palanquin are placed on which the Guru Granth Sahab – the holy religious scripture book is placed . One small room is decorated with golden cloths where Manji Sahab ( palanquin with Guru Granth Sahab ) is placed in well arranged gorgeous decoration. Just above the palanquin a golden chain is having various bouquet are arranged. By the side by which there are three donation pots in which visitors inserts their donations and gifts. Letters inscribed on the Guru Granth sahab are all golden. But the present building of Hari Mandir Shaeb does not exist in the previous original form. Suitable changes have all along been done in it . Now the whole structure made of marble presents a very attractive and marvelous look. Depicting the memories of Guru Govind Singh various objects used by him such as his cradle, his wooden footwear ( Kharaun), his apron, books and other memorable commodities are well preserved there. It is said Guru Govind Singh had inscribed his name on the Dharma Granth by sharp point of his arrow.

The four most important pilgrimage of Sikh are Amritsar, Anandpur Saheb, Naded Saheb and Patna Saheb . All these were established by Guru Govind Singh. Patna Saheb is his birth place . Beside there are some additional places here which are places of importance for Sikhs.

Gurudwara Ghat Sahab- It is an old house of Guru Nanak Dev’s devotee bhakta Jaitamal . This place was made sacred firstly by the visit of Guru Nanak Dev and nextly by Guru Teg Bahadur . Guru Teg Bahadur has stayed there with his whole family in the year 1666. This is stationed at Ashok Rajpath at the distance from 4 km from Harmandir . Guru dwara Govind Ghat- It is located at the bank of river Ganga at the distance of only 200 hundreds yards from Harmandir. This is famous with the name Kangan Ghat . it is the same Ghat from where boy Govind singh has thrown the golden bracelet in to the river Ganga . The local king of the time Raja Fateh Chand Maini together with his queen was great admirer and devotee of Guru Govind Singh . Due to being issueless, both of them were very sad. One day he narrated his agony to Pandit Shivdutta . Pandit Shivdutta was having held respectful position among the Hindus. Pandit Shivdutta informed them that a boy gifted with divine qualities Govind Rai by name will transform their dejected and disappointed life into joyful one. On this assurance lives of the couple was filed with pleasure . They use to look after Govind Rai with affection and respect . One day while the queen was busy in her worship in her prayer room Govid rai suddenly appeared there and set in the lap of the queen . He was playing with his colleagues else were and together with all of them he reached there . Govind Rai spoke to the queen that they got tired due to playing and feel hungry. He demanded some edible from the queen. This was an occasion of pleasant surprise for the queen. She embraced Govind Rai . Both king and queen were quite happy. The king got prepared bread baked in Ghee ( Puri ) and fried gram . The same was served on child Govind Rai and his companion . Since than it has become a tradition to serve the Sikh devotee with fried bread and gram.

Guru Ka Bag – Towards east of Har Mandir Sahab there was spacious garden of trees belonging to two Nawab brothers – Rahim Baksh and Karim Baksh. These two brothers were admirer of Guru Nanak Dev. They were very much impressed by Govind Rai also . Guru Teg Bahadur , when arrived at Patna from Punjab , he stayed in the same garden for a while . Before arrival of Guru Teg Bahadur the garden was presenting a deserted look as all the trees were dried. The dried garden change into green once soon after the entrance of Guru Teg Bahadur . Getting the information of this miracle both Baksh borthers ran up the garden and made earnest request to Guru to accept the ownership of the garden which they willingly offered to him. Guru accepted the offer and garden has become famous as Guru Dwara Guru ka Bag which has a pond. This is located at the distance of 4 km from Hari Mandir Sahab .

Guru Dwara Handi Sahab – At the time of his departure from Patna together with his family members Guru Teg Bahadur made a first halt at a place near Danapur , about 20 km west of Patna in the house of an old lady Yamuna Devi . She prepared in a earthen pot a mixture of boiled rice and pulse food preparation to serve only Govind Rai .But miraculously enough the limited food preparation became such in as even after serving all the members of the party , the quantity remained intact . A Gurudwara has been made here also and once in a year, a holy performance is held here by Takht Hari Mandir Sahab .

Preserved memorable materials associated with the life of Guru Govind Singh in Takht Hari Mandir Sahab .

1. Guru Granth Sahab with the signature of Guru Govind Singh .

2. Oil paintings depicting the childhood activities of Guru Govind Singh known as picture Chhabi Sahab .

3. A small cradle – on which child Guru Govind Singh used to sleep known as Pandhura Sahab .

4. Small sword of Guru Govind Singh .

5. Four small arrows used by Guru Govind Singh .

6. Clay round marbles with which Guru Govind Singh used to play .

7. Small iron chakri which Guru Govind Singh used .

8. Small spear like double blade sword – known as Khanda .

9. Tiger nailed shaped dagger.

10. Wooden comb of Guru Govind Singh .

11. One pair of wooden foot pair filled with ivory used by Guru Govind Singh .

12. Order sheet ( Hukmanama ) granted by Guru Govind Singh .

13. Apron of Guru Govind Singh .

14. Wooden footwear made of sandalwood used by Guru Teg Bahadur .

15. Order sheet ( Farman ) of Guru Teg Bahadur .

16. A well used by mother of Guru Govind Singh known as Mata Gujri Ka Kuan. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bodh Gaya – The abode of enlightenment

Bodh Gaya – The abode of enlightenment

Strolling Through the bank of ancient Niranjana (Falgu) river, the first thing that arrested my eyes happen to be the riot of colours. Some monks wearing yellow robes, other Buddhist pilgrims wearing maroon and the tourist donning sundry other colours added brilliance to this holy river.
Come winter this abode of enlightenment really blooms like garden of flowers where all hues of colours and shades add sublime beauty to this ancient place. The most important chapter of Buddhism it was this Falgu river where Siddharta used to bathe regularly. Besides it was this river where he had thrown the bowl of kheer (Rice pudding) given to him by the village lass Sujata. Soon after eating this kheer Siddharta had attained his enlightenment.
Leaving the banks of Phalgu as I started moving towards the Mahabodhi Temple, the sound of the Buddhist holy mantra “Buddham Sharnam Gachchami, Sangham Sharanam Gachchani’ entered into my ears. In and around the Mahabodhi Temple a large number of little shops selling cassettes and CD’s of religious songs and various other items related to Buddhism really create a divine ambience to it.

This holy mantra really transformed my thought process. It took me to the ancient past when this holy words in Pali language beaconed thousands of people from the Tibet (roof of the world), china and other places of South East Asia to this land where Siddharta became Sakya Muni after attaining his Sambhodhi (enlightenment).
Braving hailstorms and very adverse climatic conditions, the foreigners had set foot to Bodh Gaya. Even the Chinese scholar Hiuen Tsiang and Fa Hian had endangered their lives for the sake of these words that says “We take shelter to Buddha’s lotus feet, we belong to Dhamma (Dharma) and we belong to Sangha (Monasteries)” and this holy tradition continues. Bodh Gaya is the supreme pilgrimage of Buddhism.

A flight of steps led me to the inner courtyard of Mahabodhi Temple. On looking at this 170 ft high shrine anybody would praise the nameless ancient masons who had created this architectural wonder centuries ago. This truncated pyramidal shape temple dates back to the 2nd century A.D. This is the oldest and most venerable of all Buddhist shrine. Hiuen Tsiang and Fa Hian had profusely praised the architectural cum sculptural art of this temple.

In the courtyard, I found a large number of monks moving around barefoot, others deeply meditating without even noticing my presence. Tranquility prevailed everywhere. I had a feeling of boarding in a time machine and entering into the time of Emperor Ashoka, who revived Buddhism. In the premises of Temple the multi coloured flags were fluttering to mutely tell the universe that peace should prevail over anarchy. In his days (2550 Year ago) Buddha also had pleaded against war and fought to establish peace. Looking at the Mahabodhi tree lies near the shrine one really feels that Bodhgaya continues to remain a living page of history. Under this peepal (Bunyan) tree Siddharta attained enlightenment. He became Taltagat the great.

This Mahabodhi tree still appears to be radiating an aura of abiding serenity, spiritual solitude and peace. It is believed that the original Bodhi tree sprang up on the day of Siddharta’s birth.
Bodhgaya may be lying thousands of kilometers away from South East Asia yet it offers the look of typical Asiatic nations (Buddhist countries). The temples, Chaitya and monasteries of various Buddhist nations are built in architectural and sculptural style of those countries of South East Asia. They reflect the very essence of ancient Java, Sumatra, Bali Anuradhapuram (Sri Lanka) and other pockets where Buddhism was carried in 3rd BC by Sanghmitra and Mahindra daughter and son of Emperor Ashoka. Really Bodhgaya appears to be a replica of South East Asia.

The Sun had already set. I could not resists the temptation of witnessing the Arti (showing of lamp) carried out in the Mahabodhi Temple by the devout Lama’s, Monks and others who consider Shakya Muni their supreme solace. Hurriedly I walked to the premises of the shrine to find hundreds of butter lamps and candles lighting there to create a divine atmosphere. The statues of Buddha attained serene glow due to the light of those lamps and candles. The holy sight arrested me. I stood still against a ancient wall. A group of monks were slowly moving with lamps in their hand and chanting “Buddham Sharanam Gachchami, Sangham sharanam Gachchami” in their leaps.

After experiencing this enlightening of Buddhism in its purest essence, that too at the spot of its birth, I started walking towards the hotel through the series of kiosks. The tourists and shop keepers were bargaining with each other. Why to blame them? They are all mundane creatures. After leaving the crowded market place as a moved to the hotel nearby, suddenly “Buddham Sharnam Gachchami…………….” Echoed in my ears. Really how different is the mundane world with the realm of spirituality.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sikki art : A traditional handicraft

Sikki art : A traditional handicraft

The sikki grass articles made by women of north Bihar are entirely different from anything else, which you see in any other part of the country. They transport you into another world. As the very name indicates, sikki is a plant, which automatically grows by the riverside or roadside of rural area. The places where there is moisture are also suitable for the growth of this plant.

After the rains, it is cut down and divided into thin pieces and preserved in the house for use throughout the year. Though it has its own golden colour, which is very attractive but the village women also dye the grass in red, black, blue and green colours to give the articles made of this – a presentable look.

The manufacture of sikki article is very simple. Women of artistic caliber, settling the different parts of this dried grass in desired shape do stitching work with a thick needle known as Takua. The women make small tray for serving fruits, dry also make large trays known as Dagra. Small baskets are made for their domestic use and organic designs are worked in different colours.

They display human figures, animal’s birds thereon. Each one is unique piece, naive yet highly expressive and most decorative. The elephant with a rider, horse with a rider is fabulous. The clothes box is in the shape of an elephant. While the back of a horse becomes the stand for a large tray set off by gay tasels; a fish serves the purpose of a make up box: an owl whose head can be detached turns into a jar; a bird is made into tray and so on.
It is difficult to trace out the origin of this unique craft, but from a study of social customs and the manner of its manufacture one comes to the conclusion that this must be an ancient craft. The fact that sikki is closely connected with the marriage ceremonies is perhaps the main reason why so many different patterns and deigns have been worked into it. It is essential the young bride should learn the art of making objects out of sikki from her childhood, so that at the time of her departure for her new home(sasural), she could carry a good collection with her , It was and is a custom that , along with the dowry, these subjects would also be displayed and villagers would assess the ability of the young bride, from the imagination she had shown in creating new designs.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sujani : a primitive handicraft of Bihar

Sujani : a primitive handicraft of Bihar

As its very name indicates, it is made of torn and tottered useless clothes of daily life. It is made and prepared with patches of different clothes, preferably of the cotton. By setting them in separate layers and then stitching – it takes swollen shape that is why it is said Sujani . Sujani is generally used as carpet or mat stretched on naked floor or wooden cots – giving physical comfort to slippers. It generally serves the purpose of bedding. It is as comfortable as Tosak. If it is not too fat and heavy and can be easily folded, it can be used as wrapper also.

There is no specific proof of its origin. Since it is used and made by mostly poor people, nobody bothers to know its history. The members of the poor families, who are not affluent like rich cannot afford seasonal costly clothes to fight the vagaries of the weather. As such the various dresses, which became unserviceable, were not thrown like waste materials rather they were thought to be used again by giving a desired shape to them. Consequently setting different unserviceable and useless clothes together binding them with shape is given – and thus Sujani comes into existence. In backward and poor families such sujani is very common. If we happen to pass through the slum areas, huts made of dried long grass or paddy bases on the stump of bamboo, we can see such sujani, though not in a very presentable shape, dirty and cramp stretched on the threshold on the front position of the hut.

How sujani has come to light? What factors are responsible for its coming in existence are some interesting and curious questions which occasionally flashed before our mental eyes. To put even completely useless article for use, has been special efforts of human being. Poverty and inability also pave way for the partial relief. Prominently these two factors seem to be responsible for existence of Sujani . But if we go to the past, when men were uncivilized or semi civilized not fully acquainted with the art of living comfortably and living in the Jungles like wild beasts, they might have living on the fruits and other wild articles – even on the meats of the animals and birds. In those state of affairs they might have been using the big leaves of trees as plates. Placing together more than one leaves, they might have given a bigger shape to so-called leaf plates or dishes. Likewise in the preparation of sujani the same idea would have prevailing. 

The very name of sujani does not give fair meaning. People discard and look down upon it. And discredit it with ugly sounding name as gendra , khendra and logad etc.

Since its preparation is time consuming affair and patience and perseverance is required for it, like preparation of Rangoli, Madhubani painting etc. It is a work to be performed exclusively by women folk. It is purely needlework, and for beauty and perfection- skill of embroidery is needed for it.

Of late women of affluent society of Bihar undertook this work and they started preparing sujani on costly new fabrics also Needle stitches play important part in its preparation. Through figures, pictures, events are started to be depicted on Sujani. The use of such sujani is now no more remain confined to bed but other fashionable garments are also now a days prepared on sujani style which are much in demand. 

Earlier sujani was personal pastime, confined to limited families. But during the last two decades, it has become popular among various families. So many people have adopted it as useful art. Interestingly Aditi, an institution devoted to expansion of the domestic art and handicrafts by popularizing it beyond the boundaries of this country and started to boost its commercially. Sujani has now gained a new name for its unique style as a result of which artisan engaged in this performance could get chance to visit foreign countries like United Kingdom etc.

In this context special mention may be made of Sanjeev Upadhayaya and his wife Preeti of Patna who are engaged as whole time performer of sujani arts. 

Patna Museum : Down the ages

Patna Museum : Down the ages

Situated on Budha marg in the ancient city of Patna, Patna Museum is one of the most important museums in India. It is famous all over world for its rare and priceless collections.

The Patna Museum was established in the year 1917 by sir Edward Gait, the then lieutenant governor of Bihar and Orissa. In the early days it was housed in one of the wings of the Patna High court. With increase in collection, the wing of Patna High court proved to be very much inadequate for the display of exhibits and so the entire collection was moved to the new building which was built in the indo-sarcenic style. It is one of the finest architecture examples in India.

The Patna museum, during the period of ninty five years of its existence has collected more than fifty thousand objects and thus occupies a very prominent position as a repository of ancient Indian culture and tradition. It is a multipurpose museum and so the collections are varied in nature. There are several sections-such as Archaeology, Ethnology, Natural history, Coins, old arms and trophies, art and miscellaneous. Thangka paintings and rare manuscripts of Tibet brought by great scholar and wanderer Rahul sankritayan is also a very prized possession of the museum.

The archaeology section contains varied antiquities such as pre-historic objects, stone sculptures, bronzes, terracotta, seals and sealing and beads etc. The pre historic objects contain pal eoliths, microliths and neoliths from different parts of Bihar and other places including foreign countries.

The museum preserves few of the important finds of harappan civilization which included the terracotta figurines, potteries, copper and bronze objects, seals and sealing of different size. The museum posses the rare collection of bronze images in India. These bronzes were discovered from chausa (Buxar), Kurkihar (Gaya) Nalanda, Belwa, Aluara (Dhanbad), Sonepur (Orissa), Negapattam (Tangore) etc. A large number of bronzes were discovered from Nalanda. These depict. the deities of all the three religion i.e. Buddhism, Jainism and Brahmanism prevalent at that time in India. The figures are dated from post-gupta to pale period.

Museum has a good collection of terracotta, seals and sealing from vaishali, Nalanda and Dharawat. Various sealing have inscriptions, which are important for the study of the economic, political and religions condition of that period.

In the art section in consists of painting on paper of different schools such as the mughal school, Pahari School, Rajput School, Gujrat School and Patna School of Painting. They range in date from the beginning of the 13th century. to the end of the 19th century.

The museum has got a very rich collection of coins, silver and copper punch marked and cast coins are in good number. Indo-greek, Indo-parthian coins are also preserved in this museum.

Numerous tourists and research scholars visit this museum to see the extremely rare and valuable antiquates and art objects from all over the world.