Tag Archive: Rama


521px-Rameswaram_temple_(1)

One of the temple gates.

 

One must walk barefoot on the grounds of a Hindu Temple. At the Ramanathaswamy Temple, the approach to the temple begins several streets away, and all this ground is sacred and belongs to the temple; walking barefoot over the cobbled stones and occasional debris can be a bit of a challenge.

 

Inside the temple, it is cool and dark. Through large windows, one can see through to the outside, where the temple is surrounded by 22 theerthas. These are huge sacred tanks; pilgrims are blessed by immersion in the water. This is generally accomplished by people filing by as a priest pours an entire bucket of water over each of their heads.

 

Still dripping, the pilgrims then enter the main part of the temple. In the floor near the entranceway, are shallow channels which carry away the water.

 

One of India’s holiest sites, the island of Rameshwaram is where the ancient King Rama journeyed on his way to Lanka to rescue his kidnapped wife Sita. Rameshwaram lies off the coast of mainland India on the way to Sri Lanka.

 

Thousands of years ago, during the course of rescuing Sita, Rama killed her abductor, the demon-king Ravana. The problem that arose, however, was that Ravana, even though he was not a very nice fellow, was a Brahmin – and this meant that by killing him, Rama was guilty of the sin of Brahmahatya, or killing a Brahmin – a sin that had to be expiated.

 

Ravana, the ten-headed demon king of Lanka.

Ravana, the ten-headed demon king of Lanka.

 

So Rama, on his return from Lanka with the rescued Sita, stopped at the site where today the Rameshwaram temple stands, to worship Shiva and to be cleansed from his sin. The very ancient site was sacred to Shiva even then. Rama sent his trusted friend the monkey God Hanuman to go to Mount Kailash to bring back a shivalingam, a representation of Shiva, to install in the temple. Mount Kailash is in the Himalayas, thousands of miles north of Rameshwaram which is in the far south of India, so, even though Hanuman could fly, it took him a while. It took so long that in the meantime, Sita had built a small lingam out of mud and placed it in the temple.

 

When Hanuman returned with the large stone lingam he had brought from the far north, Rama decreed that both lingams would always remain in the temple, where they are today.

 

Like other ancient south Indian temples, the Ramanathaswamy Temple is surrounded by a high rectangular wall which runs 865 feet from east to west and 657 feet from north to south.

 

The temple is at least as old as the time of the Ramayana, which may be around 3,000 BCE. In the beginning, it was a simple shed in the charge of a hermit. The building of the temple in its current form was begun during the Pandyan Dynasty of south India.

 

Other kings added structures from the twelfth through the seventeenth centuries, gradually expanding the temple to the huge complex it is today.

 

The temple contains the longest temple corridor to be found anywhere in the world; the outer wing of the third corridor goes 690 feet east and west, as well as 435 feet north and south. Standing at the corner where they meet in a right angle, one can look a very long way down one way and then down the other. On either side of the corridor, 1212 carved columns rise from five foot high platforms and stretch 27 feet up to the ceiling. There are also inner corridors.

 

1024px-Sri_Ramanatha_swamy_Temple_Carridor

The longest temple corridor in the world.

 

On a visit to the temple in the early years of the twentieth century, the Hindu saint, Swami Vivekananda, gave an address, saying: “Let me tell you again that you must be pure and help anyone who comes to you as much as lies in your power. And this is good Karma. By the power of this, the heart becomes pure and then Shiva who is residing in everyone, will become manifest.”

 

Rameswaram is one of the four holiest places of pilgrimage in India; these lie in the four directions. They are Varanasi (Benares) in the north, Puri in the east in Odisha, Ramaneshwaram in the south, and Dwarka in the west. Rameswaram is sacred to both Vaishnavites and Shaivites, both those who worship Vishnu and those who worship Shiva.

 

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2014

 

Top photo: Vinayaraj / Wikimedia Commons / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. One of the gopurams or gates of the Temple.

 

Second photo: Painting by an unknown artist around 1920. /Wikimedia Commons. / This work is in the public domain in India because its term of copyright has expired. / Ravana.

 

Third photo: Purshi /  Wikimedia Commons / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. /  Te longest temple corridor in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

the shore of rameshwaramIMG_7508

 

A passage retold from the Ramayana, by Valmiki

 

In despair, Rama looked out over the sea.

 

The day was beautiful, filled with sunlight, and gentle waves rolled onto the shore, with their white froth. Herons, pelicans and cormorants fished in the waves, elegant, standing on one foot or walking with long strides through the shallow waters. In the waves little white shells, empty and incredibly delicate, rolled up onto the yellow sands.

 

Rama looked out over the vast, vast sea, which seemed to him vaster than any sea had ever been, and there was no way to cross it.

 

He stood on the shores of the island now called Rameswaram, and looked across to where the kingdom of Lanka (now known as Sri Lanka) lay, encircled by the sea, thirty miles (fifty kilometers) away. A few months before, the demon-king of Lanka, Ravana, had stolen Rama’s wife Sita, kidnapping her at a moment when Rama and his brother were off in the forest, and she was alone. She had been spirited away in the airship of Ravana and now was held captive somewhere in the island country of Lanka.

 

It had taken Rama a long time and much effort to find out where Sita was, to discover who had captured her, and then to journey here, with his faithful brother Lakshmana at his side. And now there was no way to cross the sea.

 

For three days, on the shores of the sea, Rama fasted and meditated, praying to the God of the sea, Varuna, to appear and to help him find a way to cross to Lanka.

 

Rama prayed and meditated, and the waves washed along the shore, but there was no reply from Varuna. There was no response, nothing but the endless, repetitive sound of the waves.

 

On the morning of the fourth day, Rama stood up, enraged at his misfortune and this most unfair obstacle that stood in his way; he shouted at Varuna, the God of the sea, demanding that he appear at once. His voice echoed over the water, “Varuna! Varuna!” The God Varuna was probably none too pleased to be spoken to in this way, and he did not answer.

 

Rama, infuriated by this unbearable silence picked up his bow and began to shoot arrows into the sea. These were no ordinary arrows, and Rama was no ordinary hero. Years before he had been taught the secrets of celestial weapons by his teacher, Vishwamitra, and now he unleashed weapons with the power of supernatural force. The creatures of the sea began to die, and the waters began to burn.

 

The army of monkeys who had come to Rama’s aid and had traveled with him in the quest for Sita stood not far off, aghast and alarmed at this display of violence against the sea and her innocent creatures. Lakshmana, Rama’s brother, entreated him to stop this senseless onslaught.

 

Just as Rama was about to unleash the cosmic force of the all-powerful weapon, the Brahmastra, which might have destroyed all of creation, Varuna appeared out of the waves.

 

640px-Rama-Varuna

 

He bowed to Rama, who was, in fact, the avatar of Lord Vishnu, and calmly explained that there was nothing to be so upset about, that he would ensure that the waves would remain still while a way was found for Rama’s forces to cross the sea, and that they would remain calm until they had completed their crossing.

 

Then, Hanuman, the Monkey God, the ever devoted and loyal friend of Rama, as he did time and again throughout the long adventure, came up with a solution. There was nothing to worry about. Yes, the sea seemed vast, but the army of monkeys would build a bridge from Rameshwaram to Lanka. The dilemma would be easily solved, and the sea could be crossed.

 

The monkey army set to work, and after a time, the bridge (which still exists today) stretched all the way from Rameshwaram to Lanka, enabling Rama with his armies of monkeys and bears to cross to Lanka.

 

More to follow…

 

 

Top photo: Sharon St Joan / The shore of Rameshwaram

 

Second photo: Painting by Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906)./ Wikimedia Commons/ “This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.” / “Varuna the Lord of ocean, pacifying Sri Rama, angered at the intransigence of the sea to give way to enter Lanka.”

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2014

Rama-Varuna

N. Vanamamalai Pillai’s “Setu and Rameshwaram” is one of three publications to be released at the Ramayana Festival to be held from February 1 – 24, in Chennai, at the C.P Ramawswami Aiyar Foundation.

 

 

 

The Setu is a natural bridge of limestone shoals extending 18 miles from India to Sri Lanka. It was first mentioned in the epic poem, the Ramayana, by Valmiki.

 

 

 

To learn more about the Ramayana Festival 2013, please visit the Ramayana Festival website.

 

 

 

 

 

Image: Painting by Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906) / Wikimedia Commons / “This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.” / Sri Rama Vanquishing the Sea

 

 

 

 

 

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By the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation

THE RAMAYANA IN LITERATURE, SOCIETY AND THE ARTS

A Festival organized by                                                       

The C.P. RAMASWAMI AIYAR FOUNDATION 1, Eldams Road, AlwarpetChennai 600 018, India.www.cprfoundation.orgTel.: 91-44-2431778, 24337023e-mail: cprafoundation@gmail.comramayanaconference@gmail.com

 

FEBRUARY 2013

The C.P. RAMASWAMI AIYAR FOUNDATION is celebrating the role of the great epic in the culture of India and South-East Asia.

The Ramayana is a great epic which knows no boundaries of religion or nation. It has taught the values of life and behaviour to men and women over centuries, across India and South-East Asia. There is no finer example in the world of a multi-religious, international culture than the Ramayana. Scores of generations of children have watched performances and narrations of the great epic over 2,000 years, to learn the importance of an ethical life. This has been the cornerstone of the life of India and South-East Asia. Many kings in these countries have taken the name of Rama, cities and islands have been named after persons and places in the epic and symbols of Vishnu (whose incarnation is Rama) have been royal emblems across the region.

The story of the Ramayana is enacted more often than any other story of the world. It is performed by Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims. It is the most important cultural tradition of Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal and India. It has also been widely prevalent in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. The Ramayana is the great bond of culture which unites India and the countries of South East Asia.

FEBRUARY 1, 2013, at 10 a.m.INAUGURATION by His Holiness SWAMI DAYANANDA SARASWATHI.

                                                     Dr. SUBRAMANIAMSWAMY presides.

Release of the following publications:

1 VALMIKI RAMAYANA by late Justice N. Chandrasekhara Aiyer.

THESETU AND RAMESHWARAM by late Shri N.Vanamamalai Pillai.

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VENUE for all programmes – The C.P. RAMASWAMI AIYAR FOUNDATION, 1 ELDAMS ROAD, ALWARPET, CHENNAI 600018.

PROGRAMME

FEBRUARY 1 to 24  –              Exhibition of the RAMAYANA in PAINTING, SCULPTURE

                                                and POPULAR CULTURE

                                                organised by C.P. ART CENTRE                                                                

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The Ramayana as it has been created in early 20th century oleographs, miniature and folk painting, bronzes, terracotta and popular toys will be on display. A map of India with Rama’s  route from Ayodhya to Lanka and scenes of the various events that took place in each site will be depicted by clay toys.

There will be performances of the RAMAYANA in HARIKATHA, MUSIC and DANCE during this period. The final programme will be posted later.

FEBRUARY 1 and 2  –   International Conference on the RAMAYANA in LITERATURE, SOCIETY and the ARTS organised by C. P. R. INSTITUTE OF INDOLOGICAL RESEARCH.

All conference participants should be registered. While there is no participation fee, we are limiting the number of participants, so please register as soon as possible.

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FEBRUARY 1 & 2, 2013 – RAMAYANA CONFERENCE

SPEAKERS (in alphabetical order)  

1.    Tracing the Antiquity of the Ramayana – Through the Inscriptions, literature and 

       Art of the Gupta …..Dr. Ashvini Agarwal

2.    Plant Diversity in the Valmiki Ramayana…..M. Amirthalingam and Dr. P. Sudhakar

3.    The Influence of Ramayana on Kalidasa…..Dr. S. Annapurna

4.    Ethical Values of Ramayana…..Dr. V. Balambal

5.    Time-honored Depictions of Ramayana in Vidarbha (Maharashtra) during Vakatakas…..Kanchana Bhaisare, B.C. Deotare and P.S. Joshi

6.    Highlights from the Chronology of Ayodhya…..Nicole Elfi and Michel Danino

7.    Temples in and around Thanjavur District, in Tamil Nadu connected with Ramayana…..Dr. S. Gayathri

8.    The Historical Rama…..Dr. D.K. Hari and D.K. Hema Hari

9.    Historicity of Rawana and Trails of Rama – Seetha in Srilanka…..Devmi Jayasinghe

10.  Women in Ramayana – Portrayals, Understandings, Interpretations and Relevance…..Dr. Prema Kasturi

11.  Telling or Showing? Ramayana in Graphic Novels…..Aarttee Kaul Dhar

12.  Historicity of Ramayana on the leads of Plato’s Timaeus and Critias and Valmiki’s Ramayana…..N.C.K. Kiriella

13.  Rama Temples in South India…..Dr. Chithra Madhavan

14.  Epic retold – Ramayana influencing English graphic novels for children in India over the years…..Dr. Lopamudra Maitra

15.  Chudamani – The crest jewel of Sita and its Symbolism in the Ramayana…..Dr. Soumya Manjunath Chavan

16.  Bhratru Bhava in Ramayana – A Critique (Bonding Relationship of Brotherhood in Ramayana)…..Dr. V. Mohan

17.  Ramayana as a source for Yogic concepts…..R. Muthulakshmi

18.  A few important Pahari Ramayana Drawings and Painting from the Seth Kasturbhai Lalbhai        Collection…..Dr. Indubala J. Nahakpam

19.  Textual and Contextual Dynamism in RamayanaSculptures…..Dr. Choodamani Nandagopal

20.  The depiction of Rani Kaikeyi in the Ramacharitamanasa…..Dr. Haripriya Rangarajan

21.  Dream Motif – Ramayana Inheritance…..Dr. Ramadevi Sekhar

22.  Valmiki and many Ramayanas…..Tilak Shankar

23. Sri Ram Temple at Ayodhya…..Dr. A. K. Sharma

24.  Re – Telling Ramayana: Performing Women in Ramlila of Ramnagar…..Dr. Anita Singh

25.  The Ramayana as the Inexhaustible Site of Cultural Contexts…..Dr. Avadhesh Kumar Singh

26.  Glimpses of Ramayana in the Hymns of Saiva Saints of Tamilnadu…..Dr. Bala Sivakadadcham

27.  Iconographic trends in Rama worship: Insights from techno – cultural studies of  bronzes…..Dr. Sharada Srinivasan

28.  The Art of Administration as depicted in Valmiki Ramayana…..Dr. R. Subasri

29.  The Didactic Representation of the Characters of Ramayana in Sanskrit Literary Tradition…..P.P. Sudarsan

30.  Ramayana and Bhattikavya…..Dr. Sita Sundar Ram

31.  Ramayana and the works of Mahamahopadhyaya Sri Lakshmana Suri…..Dr. Uma Maheshwari

32.  Characterization of Sri Rama in Mandodari Chatusloki……Dr. M. Varadarajan

33.  Plight of Sita in Chudamani Episode – A Study…..S. Kumuda Varadarajan

34.  Ramanayana panel sculptures from Tiruchenampoondi, Pullamangai and other early Chola temples in Tamil Nadu…..Dr. S. Vasanthi

35.  Axioms as idioms and proverbs – Ramayana’s influence on society…..K. Vidyuta

36.  Uttarakhand in Avani: Sita’s life in exile and the Cholas’ religious policy in the aftermath        of the Govindaraja Controversy (1186 – 1279)…..Dr. Usha R. Vijailakshmi

37.  Ramayana Musical Compositions……Dr. V. Yamuna Devi 

For further information, please write to the above e-mail / postal addresses.Or call G. Balaji: +91-94441 54939 or Malathy Narasimhan: +91- 97100 49639

Please visit our website: www.ramayanafestival2013.org

Top image: Author: Raja Ravi Press / Source: http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00routesdata/bce_299_200/ramayana/goldendeer/goldendeer.html  / Wikimedia Commons / The lord Rama portrayed as exile in the forest, accompanied by his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana / http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rama_in_forest.jpg

Second image: Wikimedia Commons: “This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired in the United States and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.” / Valmiki composing the Ramayana / http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Valmiki_Ramayana.jpg

Third image: Artist: Raja Ravi Varma / Varuna the Lord of ocean, pacifying Sri Rama, who stands on the shore, angered at the intransigence of the sea. / Wikimedia Commons: “This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.” 

Fourth image: Artist: Raja Ravi Varma / Wikimedia Commons: “This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.” / Hanuman

A Ramayana Festival

 

 

The Ramayana in Literature, Society, and the Arts

 

A Festival organized by

 

The C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation                           

 

February 2013

The Ramayana is a great epic which knows no boundaries of religion or nation. It has taught the values of life and behaviour to men and women over centuries, across India and South-East Asia. There is no finer example in the world of a multi-religious, international culture than the Ramayana. Scores of generations of children have watched performances and narrations of the great epic over 2,000 years, to learn the importance of an ethical life. This has been the cornerstone of the life of India and South-East Asia. Many kings in these countries have taken the name of Rama, cities and islands have been named after persons and places in the epic and symbols of Vishnu (whose incarnation is Rama) have been royal emblems across the region.

 

The story of the Ramayana is enacted more often than any other story of the world. It is performed by Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims. It is the most important cultural tradition of Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal and India. It has also been widely prevalent in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. The Ramayana is the great bond of culture which unites India and the countries of South East Asia.

 

The C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar Foundation is celebrating the role of the great epic in the culture of India and South-East Asia.

 

February 1 to 24        

Exhibition of the

RAMAYANA in ART

at  C.P. ART CENTRE

 

February 1 to 24

RAMAYANA in HARIKATHA, MUSIC and DANCE

at  The C.P. RAMASWAMI AIYAR FOUNDATION

 

February 1 and 2       

International Conference on

RAMAYANA in LITERATURE, SOCIETY and the ARTS

at C. P. R. INSTITUTE OF INDOLOGICAL RESEARCH

 

 

An international conference to research the impact of the Ramayana in Literature, Society and the Arts will be held on February 1 & 2, 2013 at CPR Institute of Indological Research (CPRIIR), No.1, Eldams Road, Alwarpet, Chennai 600 018, as a part of the RAMAYANA FESTIVAL.

 

All conference participants should be registered on or before October 30, 2012. While there is no participation fee, we are limiting the number of participants, so please register as soon as possible.

 

For further information, please write to the e-mail / postal addresses below.

 

Or call G. Balaji: +91-94441 54939 or Malathy Narasimhan: +91- 97100 49639

 

The C.P. RAMASWAMI AIYAR FOUNDATION                           

1, Eldams Road, Alwarpet

Chennai 600 018, India.

www.cprfoundation.org

Tel.: 91-44-2431778, 24337023

e-mail: cprafoundation@gmail.com; ramayanaconference@gmail.com

 

Photo:  Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain / Hanuman, Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana

Indian palm squirrel eating papaya

When Lord Rama and the army of monkeys led by Hanuman were extending a bridge to Sri Lanka so that Rama would be able to go to the abode of Ravana, the ten-necked demon, to defeat him and to get back his wife Sita, who had been abducted, a little squirrel played an important role in building the bridge.  He ran along to the end of the bridge and shook sand out of his fur.  This sand provided the binding material that held the building blocks of the bridge together.

The bridge did hold together, Rama killed Ravana, and Sita was returned safe and sound to her husband.  In gratitude, Rama thanked the little squirrel, affectionately running his hand along his back.  This is the reason that today the Indian palm squirrel has three stripes on his back.

Because of the squirrel’s hard work and devotion to Rama, squirrels today are protected by Indian households, and no one would harm them.

This story, and many others, are recounted in the book by Dr. Nanditha Krishna, “Sacred Animals of India”.

Rama

It is a true story.  It is true because, of course, the incarnation of God on earth would feel love and appreciation towards a little, innocent creature like a squirrel.  A squirrel is indeed very hard-working, and makes a positive contribution towards the environment and towards life on earth (thereby assisting in building a bridge to defeat the arch-demon Ravana, the author of evil).

Science, when it is true to its origins, respects and values all life from the squirrel to the eagle – from the mushroom to the ficus tree.  All is valued and preserved.

But there is another kind of science – it’s a kind of pseudo-science, though it has in many ways taken over the place of the rightful, true science.

This pseudo-science began probably in Europe around the time of Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes in the seventeenth century – and its doctrine (it does have a doctrine, just like a religion) is that human beings are the dominant species and have the right to mastery over all other creatures on the earth. In order to pursue that goal more effectively, it is useful to deny that animals have any level of sentience or consciousness—and there is an implicit denial of any genuine spirituality.

There is really nothing “scientific” about that kind “science.”  True science, meaning wisdom and knowledge, does something quite different in quite a different way.  It observes, watches, notices, catalogues, and seeks to understand the natural world, with respect and open sincerity.  Following from this approach, it values and appreciates the natural world, and as a consequence, it seeks to preserve it.  This science, which is the real science, is oriented towards conservation, towards the preservation and restoration of eco-systems, of forests, of all the natural habitats of the earth, of the plants, the forests, the birds, the animals, the geological formations, the rocks, and the mountains, and ultimately the people because we need the earth too.

It’s a good idea for us to notice that these two kinds of science are not the same.  They are in fact opposite.  One seeks to understand.  The other seeks to dominate, and when dominance is the goal, really, the less understanding there is the better, because understanding can only get in the way of carrying out that harmful goal.

Ravana

If one’s purpose is to dig a mine on top of a mountain or a dangerous oil well deep into the earth or under the sea, then the less one knows or understands about these fragile eco-systems, the easier it will be to destroy them without a second thought.

One of these kinds of sciences is life-giving and life-affirming.  The other, the false science, is death-dealing and is contributing to destroying the planet. It is helpful not to get them mixed up.

India has always been a life-affirming land, with a philosophy and a culture that values really everything, that sees the validity, the worth and the sacred nature of all things, all animals, and all people.  It is a culture that gives warmth and inclusion, that recognizes the consciousness, the sentience, and the value of all beings on all levels.

The ancient Vedic science was alive and well long before the beginnings of modern “science” ever came into being. Many thousands of years in the past, there was an understanding of astronomy, of the stars and the planets, a system of medicine, a practice of metallurgy, cartography, and the development of a number system that the world still uses today.  There were surveying instruments, navigation, advanced mathematics, and eye cataract surgery. Along with a great many other advances that we still may not recognize as having originated in India.

All this knowledge is laid out in the ancient Hindu texts. When we see clearly the antiquity and the source of much of the world’s knowledge, that will enable the life-giving essence that was always there within this true science to prevail over the forces of environmental destruction.

Then there can be life, energy, and a restoration of hope and well-being to the planet earth.  Then we’ll be honoring the squirrel, and Rama, and the victory of goodness and kindness over evil.

Top photo: Ashraaq Wahab / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ Indian palm squirrel

Second photo: Painting done around 1860 / Wikipedia / public domain / Rama

Third photo: Painting done around 1920 by an unknown Indian artist / Wikipedia / public domain / Ravana

Manasi at Mudumalai

Mudumali National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary lies at the western edge of Tamil Nadu, in the south of India.  One arrives there by traveling up to Ooty in the spectacularly beautiful Nilgiris Hills, and then down again on the other side to the forest.

Across from Mudumalai, on the western side of the sleepy Moyar River, is the state of Karnataka and Bandipur National Park, which then runs into Nagerhole National Park.

There was once a time when the whole of India was covered in forests.  People built their villages inside the woods and lived among the trees in a sustainable forest.  In one of the two great Indian epics, the Ramayana—much of the story takes place in the forest, where the great hero Rama has been sent as an outcaste, to live for years in the forest with his wife Sita, and his brothers.  There many adventures ensue. (This is a way of summing up in five words a story that has played a dominant role throughout the thousands of years of Indian tradition.  It’s as if we were to say, “Jesus was a carpenter who lived in the Middle East.”  There is, of course, much more to the story of Jesus, and much more to the story of Rama too, which we will re-visit at another time.)

The forest is primeval.  It is, in all mythologies in the world, a place of mystery and magic.  Even though the forests of India now exist as protected areas, confined to only a fraction of the area they once covered, one can still sense this presence of mystery and something of the sacred nature of the forest.  The core of the forest is closed to visitors, and one can only visit the outer areas.

The tree are elegant, slender, often with a white trunk extending up to leaves at the top.  During my visit to Mudumalai, in January of 2010, I was fortunate to have as my guide, Mr. Kumaravelu, who works with the CPREEC (CPR Environmental Education Centre). He told me that these particular trees were perhaps 60 to 70 years old, so they are not thousands of years old, still they have an atmosphere of the sacred about them. It’s as if they remember all the distant past of India, as if they live in a unique world, filled with magic and miracles, set quite apart from the humdrum world of modern cities. They have a connection with another age—when animals could speak and humans could fly, and there were not such clear distinctions between the human, and the animal or the plant—when all spirits were simply spirits—all part of one spiritual realm.

It is amazing to see peacocks in the wild.  I have taken care of peacocks in captivity, and here they are in the habitat where they are meant to be—at home in the forest.  One peacock walks along the branch of a tree.  His beautiful mate is on the ground below waiting for him, out of sight.

Wonderful too are the jungle fowl.  Jungle fowl are simply chickens by another name.  They are the ancestors of what we know today as domestic chickens, those creatures who suffer all the horrors and indignities of captive life in nearly every country in the world.  But in Mudumalai they are at home, in peace, where they belong.

There is also an Elephant Camp at Mudumalai, where rescued elephants are kept by the Forest Department and are used for tasks in the forest, such as clearing non-native plants and brush.  Each elephant has a mahout (an elephant trainer) who stays with the elephant and guides him or her in where to go and what to do.  The mahout is inseparable from the elephant, taking the elephant to bathe in the river every day, bringing the elephant to the camp for food, leading the elephant to work on the tasks assigned.  These forest elephants appear to be well-cared-for.  They are out in the forest with other elephants, able to walk and get good exercise, and they seem to lead a relatively normal existence.

Manasi, a very young elephant, is spending her first day learning to eat grass.  She was found orphaned.  Until this point she has been bottle-fed, but now she will learn to eat by herself.  I ask her care-givers what will be come of her, and they assure me that she will stay there in the elephant camp.

That is good because I’d been afraid that she might be sold to a temple.  The temple elephants are treated badly and cannot live a natural life.  Here in the forest, the twenty or so elephants at Mudumalai live and work together.  They walk on the grass of the forest, among the trees and lead a happy life.

To visit the website of the CPR Environmental Education Centre, go to

http://cpreec.org/