It is an unusual festival in the memory of an eighty plus year old event and takes place in the month of Ashada (rainy season in Odisha usually falling in June or July) this celebration takes place in the state of Orissa.
The three dieties of Krishna, Balarama and Subhadra can be seen for the first time after a gap of a fortnight over which they remain secluded in the ‘anasara ghaa’ or retiring room of the 12th century temple.
Rath Yatra means ‘chariot ride’ which is preserved as the gateway to the heavens by devotees.The ritual is observed in the Jagannath temple in the city of Puri in Orissa. The Jagannath temple is a trinity abode or dham dedicated to lord Krishna, his elder brother Balarama and their sister Subhadra. The images are made of new wood and adorned in splendour.
Ratha -Yatra (Puri) in the state of Odisha, India is still the oldest, biggest and most visited Rath Yatra in the world. It attracts a “large crowd” (thousands of people!).
How is it celebrated?
On the full mooon day of ashada, the images are taken out with the accompaniment of huge chariots to the streets. They are brought out onto the Bada Danda (Main Street of Puri) and travel 3km to the Shri Gundicha Temple. This allows the public to have darsana – a Holy view. Once the chariots come on the road, the continuous movement of the participants do not allow the procession to come to a halt. This ride is usually covered uphill and downhill track. The procession takes almost ten hours to reach its destination.
The English word juggernaut was originated from Jagannath that is replayed to the massive and unstoppable “Ratha” carrying Jaggannath.
The chariots, which are built new every year, are pulled by devotees. The chariots are 45 feet high, 35 feet square and take about 2 months to construct. The artists and painters of Puri decorate cars and paint flower petals and other designs on the wheels, the wood carved charioteer and horses and the inverted lotuses on the wall behind the throne.
The three chariots are being draped in multi coloured cloth for two days before Rath Yatra this year.
The UK had a General Election on Thursday 8th June 2017. This is when we elect a representative, in our constituency area, for Parliament. It is supposed to happen once every 5 years but we have had three elections in 7 years now (2010, 2015 and 2017). The Prime Minister Theresa May called the Election when she was significantly ahead in the polls from her nearest rival, the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. Theresa May called the Election purely on political grounds for her party. She expected and wanted to win an increased majority to give her a mandate in the upcoming Brexit negotiations as the UK leaves the European Union(‘EU’). She also did not have a personal mandate as she became leader of the Conservative party after David Cameron resigned following the UK Referendum on whether the UK should leave the EU. As she was now leader she automatically became Prime Minister (‘PM’) but had not been elected by the UK electorate.
What actually happened was that Labour gained 30 seats and the Conservatives lost 13 seats. She made the campaign about “strong and stable” leadership. As a consequence this is a huge failure for her; the gamble did not pay off.
Theresa May now has to form a government with the support of the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party (‘DUP’). This is hardly strong and stable – more like a weak and wobbly coalition. We shall see how the coalition pans out and what concessions have been made to the DUP to elicit their support.
The key moment will be the vote on the Queen’s speech. If Theresa May fails to get that passed in parliament then Jeremy Corbyn will be asked by the Queen to form a minority government. It could result in another general election before the year is out so that one party can take control.
It’s not a new thing though, the Scottish National Party ran a minority government in Scotland about 10 years ago and John Major survived without a majority in the dying days of his administration in the mid-1990s. Harold Wilson and James Callaghan governed with minorities for most of the 1970s (and probably the most memorable Labour administrations that everyone remembers for all the wrong reasons).
The Democratic Unionist Party, Northern Ireland’s largest unionist party, have 10 MPs and if they vote with the Conservatives, the government will be able to get its business through Parliament. The easiest way for the government to ensure regular DUP support in Parliament would be to agree a “confidence and supply” arrangement. The DUP would promise to back the government in votes of no confidence and budget (supply) issues. In return, the government would support or fund some of the DUP’s policies.
Facts and figures
There are now 208 women in the Commons, up from 191 in 2015. This takes female representation in the Commons to a new high of 32% of MPs. There are significant variations between parties: Labour 45% of their MPs are women and 21% for the Conservatives.
To stand as a candidate in the General Election, you have to submit an application to your local returning officer with a £500 deposit.When a party gets less than 5% of the vote in a constituency, it loses the £500 deposit each candidate needs to put down to stand.
The Prime Minister’s constiuency always attracts a large number of candidates due to the guaranteed publicity on election night. The media always report live the outcome of the PM’s constituency as well as the leader of the opposition (as well as numerous other key or important, newsworthy constituencies). Now the majority of those standing in the PM’s constituency only got a few votes each, meaning that they lost their deposits. They included the Green Party, UKIP, Animal Welfare Party, Lord Buckethead (yes, really), the Monster Raving Looney Party (‘Howling Laud Hope’), Christian Peoples Alliance, the Just Political Party and three brave Independents. Lord Buckethead has now developed a following on social media as a consequence of his appearance in the election.
The Lib Dems lost deposits in 375 seats(£187,500), UKIP lost 337 deposits (£168,500). The Green Party lost the most deposits with 455; That’s a whopping £227,500 down the drain.
Jeremy Corbyn increased Labour’s share of the vote more than any other leader since Clement Attlee (who had a 10.4% swing in 1945). Nine Conservative ministers lost their seats including Ben Gummer who co-authored the Conservative manifesto. Rosie Duffield won Canterbury defeating former defence minister Sir Julian Brazier and taking the constituency Labour for the first time since its inception in 1918. The Conservatives secured 13 seats in Scotland, making it their best performance since 1983. Nick Clegg, the former Deputy Prime Minister in the coalitions government, lost his Sheffield Hallam seat to Labour. A final punishment for his reversal on tuition fees and joining the Tories in coalition.
The electorate was 46,843,896 and the turnout was 68.7% meaning that nearly a third of the electorate did not vote. There were 3,303 candidates contesting a total of 650 seats. This is down from the 3,971 candidates who stood in the 2015 General Election which in turn was 162 lower than the all-time high of 4,133 in 2010.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is the largest unionist political party in Northern Irelandand is far right on the political spectrum. It was founded by the late Rev Ian Paisley in 1971 (at the height of the troubles), breaking away from the Ulster Unionist Party (the ruling party in the country since its formation in 1922). Unionism in Ireland is a political ideology that favours the continuation of some form of political union between the islands of Ireland and Great Britain. Since the partition of Ireland, unionism in Ireland has focused on maintaining and preserving the place of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom.
The Rev Ian Paisley led the party for 38 years. The current leader is Arlene Foster. It is the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly and the fifth-largest party in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.
Theresa May will be forming her cabinet and changes will be necessary as she lost some ministers in the election. Jeremy Corbyn too will be forming a shadow cabinet. Then there is the Queen’s speech and the subsequent parliamentary vote, which will be the first test of the new coalition government. Theresa May is going to have to compromise on policy and legislation and carefully select that which she really want to get through Parliament as upsetting a few back benchers will mean a defeat. Watch out for MPs hanging aimlessly around parliament late at night waiting for a vote, as every vote really does count. It has been known in the past for MPs to be wheeled in from hospital to vote on crucial matters.
Whatever happens it will certainly be interesting. Perhaps another General Election before the end of the year, who knows!
It’s mango season here in Bangalore. Everyone eats lots and lots of mangoes. There is discusssion about the best mangoes this year, where to buy them and prices.
The best mangoes
Alphonso mangoes are generally regarded as the best mangoes (oh yes, there are many different types) as well as ‘chemical free’ mangoes (those not injected to ripen early). Organic mangoes are highly sought after. Our neighbour coordinated a delivery for the complex from an organic mango farm just outside Bangalore at ₽70 a kilo. They made a killing as everyone put in large orders to cover not only themselves but helpers, gardeners and driver’s too. Everyone is an aficionado.
At is time of year farmers appear on the same street outside a swimming complex in Bangalore. (It’s summer holiday time here and parents frequent these places more as they desperately try to entertain hot energetic children.) It is stall after stall after stall of nothing but mangoes. It really is potluck as to which one is the best. Stopping at one roadside seller we asked if his mangoes had been forcibly ripened (injected with chemicals to get them to ripen early). On assuring us he had not we taste tested before we bought. They were delicious. Not organic but delicious none the less. Of course, they were Alphonso mangoes.
It’s quite an art slicing a mango, which has a huge centre stone, for eating in a moderate, polite way. Helpers here have it down to an art and can do so quickly. I make a right hash of it. I do however like to just bite into the (washed!) mango and let the sweet sticky juices run down my chin and fingers as I enjoy the tasty yellow flesh inside.
Types of mangoes
Mangoes of India are well famous in the world for its sweetness, richness and flavor. India is the largest producer of mangoes and it is the most important fruit of the country. Most popular types of mangoes in India are Alphonsos, Badami, Chausa and Dasheri. There are around 283 types of mangoes found in India, out of which only 30 are well-known. Here is a list of a few types of mangoes cultivated in India.
Alphonso from Ratnagiri, Maharashtra
The Alphonso Mango is one of the best Variety Mango found in India in terms of sweetness, richness and flavor. Maharashtra, Ratnagiri, Raigad, and Konkan are the only place in western part of India where the Alphonso Mango are cultivated and also one of the most expensive kinds of mango in India.
Badami – Karnataka Alphonso
Badami mangoes are also called as Alphonso of Karnataka state, where we live. There is a certain pride about this mango and it is usually the one bought if Alphonso mangoes are unavailable. The texture and taste are quite similar to the Alphonso Mango from the region of Ratnagiri in Maharashtra.
Chaunsa – North India
Chaunsa is one the sweetest mangoes grown in North India, It has medium oblong and has a golden yellow colour with a red blush. It mainly produced in Mirpur Khas Sindh inPunjab of Pakistan.
Dasheri – Malihabad, Uttar Pradesh
Dasheri is delicious variety of mango basically grown in North parts of India. It is one of the very famous variety of mango in north India. Malihabad in Uttar Pradesh of North India is the largest producer of Dasheri mango and the most popular variety of Dasheri.
Kesar – Saurashtra, Gujarat
Kesar Mangoes are also simply called Gir Kesar because they are cultivated and grown in the foothills of Girnar in the districts of Junagadh and Amreli.
Langra – Northern India
Langra is the prominent variety of mango and one of the most superior varieties of Mango from the Northern Indian sub-continent. Langra mangoes are originally from near Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.
Mulgoba, Tamil Nadu
Mulgoba is one of the best mango cultivated and grown in Tamil Nadu state and other parts of South Indi. Mulgoba is also known as the “Alphonso of South India”.
Neelam mango grows in many areas of India, usually found in abundance in June. These mangoes are a favourite in Hyderabad.
Raspuri are an oval shapedmango with excellent flavour and juicy in texture and considered as the Queen of Mangoes in India. Also known as Peddarasalu but known as Rasapuri in Karnataka.
Himsagar- West Bengal and Orissa
Himsagar Mangoes are the specialty of West Bengal and Orissa. Himsagar area considered to be one of the top five mangoes in India.
Totapuri -South India
Totapuri Mango is the famous mango found primarily in south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Totapuri is one of the main types cultivated and grown in India.
Banganapalli -Banganapalle, Andhra Pradesh
Began Phali also known as Banganapalli is one of the most common cultivated mango in the town of Banganapalle in Andhra Pradesh. These mangoes are large and are known as known as The King of Mangoes in South India.
Shopping for mangoes
Not all shops carry all the varieties of mangoes, aside from the mango market I have already mentioned. Certain shops carry certain types. BigBasket, the online shopping app, carries six different types of mango being Alphonso, Badami, Raspuri, Totapuri, Banganapalli and Mallika
Whatever your choice of Mango, enjoy Mango season.
The Indian government has imposed a ban on the the sale and purchase of cattle from markets for slaughter under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules 2017. Now I haven’t quite worked out why this is restricted to cattle and not any other animal, or bird for that matter, but the effect is a complete ban on the sale and consumption of beef. (Why goats and chickens for example aren’t included in this ban is baffling to me.)
Now, as you can imagine, this has caused uproar. Not only from the Muslim community who are currently fasting during Ramadan/Ramzan and prepare feasts following fasts, but from the general population who see it as government interference in their daily lives. They are right of course. The ‘saffron haze’ has an affect on daily lives, which I think might be the purpose – to stop people eating beef. It’s certainly focussed thoughts on Hinduism.
This is worrying on several counts but also because it encourages vigilantism from those trying to stop beef consumption. There have been lynchings and violent attacks recently. These are all on the pretext of preserving the cow. The government hasn’t introduced an anti lynching law but murder is murder and these murderers need to be brought to justice and quickly.
The state governments are in uproar as they see the federal government encroaching on territory reserved for them. State governments have the power to regulate cattle trade and animal markets, or at least they did.
Beef Export Trade
The rules are supposed to regulate the cattle trade. It will hit the beef export trade. India is the world’s second largest exporter of beef. I am not sure how that position will be maintained if cattle can’t be slaughtered.
It will also hit dairy farmers too. They will not be able to send cattle to slaughter after the milk production has stopped, making dairy higher priced as farmers maintain animals effectively as pets. I think India might be the world’s largest milk producer , so that will be hit as well.
The ban will also hit the leather trade. If no cattle is being slaughtered then leather products will be goat hide and similar.
I can see this being challenged on several fronts, not only by the state governments but by human rights groups who see this as a control on their freedom of what to eat. It will certainly be interesting over the next few days and weeks.
There’s been a lot going on personally so I haven’t managed to keep up with blogs and the water issue. I have been keeping a diary of events, which is now quite long, about the drought and the Cauvery water supply. (I may publish it when I leave the country; its such a sensitive subject here.)
. Pre Monsoon Rains
Over the last week or so the pre monsoon rains and storms arrived. We have had thunder and lightning, hail, wind and lots of rain. The rain came down so quickly one evening it floooded into Zahra’s bedroom. I got drowned trying to lift the grill off the drain so the water could escape quicker.
The newspapers are reporting people being injured or killed in the rains and storms. Holiday has been cancelled for the state water and sewerage staff until after the monsoon.
Hot and Humid
It’s strange as it is still extremely hot and stifling at night. Sleep deprivation is coming into its own at the moment. In the U.K. such weather is associated with winter and it would be freezing cold. I’m sat outside at 8:30pm in 28C temperatures – it’s hot and humid. Mosquitoes, flying ants and all manner of creepy crawlies and flying insects are out and about. Three mosquito repellent sticks burning and lots of anti mosie spray and the blighters keep on coming. My legs look like a dot to dot from a zombie movie.
Snakes are an issue to at this time of year. Thankfully we haven’t had any (so far) in our house or garden but the neighbours have this week. Cue an alert on Whatsapp and the snake catcher paying a visit. Anti snake powder is spread in a lot of gardens, ensuring that those of us who haven’t braved the truly appalling smell of the powder are even more likely to get a snake. Yippee!
First World Problems
The pre monsoon rains continued to disrupt power lines and supply well into yesterday. People started to lose patience. Our driver and helper were without power for over 24 hours meaning that they could not shower (water heaters not operational) their phones ran out of charge. Now it did strike me that it was somewhat of a first world problem caused by a developing world infrastructure. Phones are so critical here, especially for drivers. This place cannnot function without them, or we have forgotten how to. Turning up at a pre arranged time and place are a thing of 30 years ago, now people merely phone each other when they’re ready. How our society and culture have changed.
The Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (Bescom) received over 3,200 complaints. I suspect it may take some time to work through all of those. Three electricity poles had been damaged and trees uprooted near two primary power stations causing damage. That’s not a quick repair. Some may be without power for some time yet.
At the beginning of April we had a visitor from the UK with us for a week’s short break from the madness of work. The holiday was mainly to relax in the sun but some tourist intake was necessary to make it a worthwhile trip (other than seeing us obviously!). We decided to do a day trip to “Magnificent” Mysore (the palace city) on the Ugadi holiday as Zahra was off school and Rez was off work, so we could all go.
We set off suitably early at stupid o’clock to miss the traffic and arrive in Mysore at 9am. It was already getting hot but we had come prepared…we had socks with us. (We have learnt, painfully, that bare feet in temples and sacred places in searing heat leads to very hot feet and blisters.)
Tippu Sultan’s mausoleum
The first stop was Tipu Sultan’s Mausoleum. It is magnificent and peaceful; surrounded by beautiful landscaped gardens. The Gumbaz at Seringapatam is a Muslim mausoleum holding the graves of Tippu Sultan, his father Hyder Ali and his mother Fakr-Un-Nisa. It was originally built by Tippu Sultan to house the graves of his parents. Tippu was himself allowed to be buried here by the British, after his death in the Siege of Seringapatam in 1799.
The original carved doors of the mausoleum have been removed and are now displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The present door made of ebony, and beautifully decorated with ivory was gifted by Lord Dalhousie.
Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace
A few minutes drive away is The Dariya Daulet Bagh, Srirangapatna, “the wealth of the sea” is referred to as the summer palace of Tipu Sultan, was built in 1784. It’s a square palace built on a raised stone plinthwith teak pillars running along the outer edge enclosing a corridor all the way around. There are two open air rooms overlooking open air halls on the north and south sides, which are accessed by four staircases. The walls and ceilings of the entire palace are painted with fabulous murals and battle scenes. Unfortunately photography is not allowed inside to protect the ancient paintings.
Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel
On a hill just outside Mysore is the Lalitha Palace Hotel. It was built by the Maharaja of Mysore to host the Viceroy of India in 1931. The Lalitha Mahal is now one of India’s “most opulent” hotels. When we visited at Brunchtime it was deserted and trying to have some food served proved a little tricky at first but was soon resolved when we finally got hold of the man in charge. Whilst the menu was limited, the meal was fine. We were starving anyway, so it was very welcome sustenance.
Chamundi Hills is located 13 km east of Mysore at 1000km elevation and is famous in India. At the top of the hill the Sri Chamundeswari Temple.
‘Chamundi’ or ‘Durga’ is the fierce form of ‘Shakti’. She is the slayer of demons, ‘Chanda’ and ‘Munda’ and also ‘Mahishasura’, the buffalow-headed monster. She is the guardian and protector deity of the Mysore Maharajas and the presiding deity of Mysore. For several centuries they have held the goddess Chamundeswari in great reverence.
Named after goddess Chamundi, the Chamundeshwari Temple sits atop the main hill. The main hill itself features an ancient stone stairway of 1,008 steps leading to its summit. Approximately halfway to the summit is statue of bull Nandi, the vahana, or “vehicle” of Lord Shiva, which is 4.9m tall and 7.6m long and carved out of a single piece of black granite. Around this point, the steps become significantly less steep and eventually the climber is rewarded with a panoramic view of the city. We drove.
According to a legend, the asura Mahishasura (king of the city that is currently known as Mysore) was killed by goddess Chamundeswari (also called Chamundi) after a fierce battle.
Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens, known as ‘Mysore Zoo’, is one of the oldest zoos in India established in 1892, by His Highness the Ruler of Mysore Sri Chamarajendra Wadiyar Bahadur. Mysore Zoo holds an important place in Karnataka. It was ok as zoos go, and certainly one of the better maintained we have seen since being here, but the enclosures were not large and the lack of enrichment activities made for bored and restless animals. Like everything in India, there is so much more that could be done to make it a fabulous place, but the lack of cash is always a factor here.
As usual, it was the ‘wild’ Monkeys that proved to be most mischievous, stealing ice creams from visitors on this day. Rez risked losing his hat to one for the photo.
Mysuru Palace is the official residence and seat of the Wodeyars — the rulers and Royal family of Mysore, who ruled the princely state from 1399 to 1950. The palace houses two durbar halls (ceremonial meeting halls of the royal court) and incorporates an array of courtyards, gardens, and buildings. It is an example of a combination of Indo Saracenic architecture and is truly magnificent. The palace is in the central region of inner Mysore and faces the Chamundi Hills eastward. It is illuminated on Sundays and festive occasions between 7pm and 7:30pm. Entrance is INR 40 (about 50p) for adults. Shoes have to be left at the entrance and the chaos surrounding the shoe stall makes you wonder whether you will ever see your shoes again! Having been before we knew to wear socks if we were ever to get our feet clean again. After passing through some airport style security checks we have our tickets checked and sent back to the start adthe ticket office has given us one short. (a nice little scam!) after finally gettting through security we followed the carefully sanctioned route around the Palace, passing regular security guards whose main purpose was to hurry people along and to ensure no one took any photos inside the Palace….oops!
After the Palace we were famished and were ready to eat (nearly) anywhere. We quickly found a restaurant in a hotel on TripAdvisor which was close by and headed there. We enetered a very dodgy looking dark restaurant with walls covered in African style artefacts. It was very strange. The menu was fine and we ate a hearty meal before heading out back to the Palace to see it lit up at night for Ugadi.
I haven’t written a blogpost for a couple of weeks. I have come to really enjoy writing and I am missing my daily drafting of notes of things to write about and update you. What have I been doing then?
U.K. Visitor and School Inspection
We had a visitor with us from the UK for a week. We took a day trip to Mysore (which will be the subject of a blogpost at some point) as well as a trip around Bangalore seeing a few things. I also took him to a friend’s place as she was hosting a talk on North East India. The beer and biryani was certainly an attraction but the talk was fascinating.
During the same week though there was a visiting group from the international Baccalaureate accreditation who were looking at the school. I was on a panel of parents who were asked a few very easy questions about the school and the environment. So that took up an afternoon.
On the Friday Zahra was in the PYP music concert and then finished school at midday. She also had a friend over for the afternoon for a play date. We went to the pool for the afternoon.
The week just flew by really.
PTA Charity Gala
Well, it’s all been about the Stonehill International School PTA Charity Gala for the last few months and very hectic over the last few weeks.
I’ve been sourcing gifts for the raffle and silent auction as well as vouchers for all attendees. I was pleased with the results. Thank you to those wonderful people who did donate and those who bought tickets.
I have to say though that the experience was one that was certainly an education in cultural differences. I can say with confidence that it is a heck of a lot easier to source raffle prizes in the UK than it is in India. Most businesses simply refused. Others passed the request up the lines of management (for there are many) before refusing. Those who indicated they might be interested in sponsoring wanted to know immediately what they would get in return and presented a long list of requests. Suffice to say that European contacts and companies were a lot more forthcoming and didn’t make these demands.
The whole process was exhausting. I had so many phone calls, emails, Whatsapp messages to try and get some of the donators over the line. It was if I was asking some of them to sell their granny to me!
I won’t be quick in volunteering to do that again. I’d rather bake some cakes. Which leads me nicely onto the next event.
Swim Tournament at School
There is an international swim tournament being held at school on Friday and Saturday. (Zahra has an ENT viral infection and can’t participate.) We are hosting two girls from the Dehli school who are from New Zealand and Japan. They arrive Thursday afternoon. I’ve been shopping for healthy snacks (not easy in Bangalore) as I am sure competitive swimmers will be hungry. We rearranged bedrooms and got spare beds ready, all whilst baking for the bake sale.
I’ll be having a stall to sell cakes and (handmade) cards at the swim tournament. So I’ve been baking: Chocolate Brownies, cookies, red velvet tray bake, flapjack, chocolate fudge cake with mini eggs, coconut cake and chocolate coconut cake. So far. More to come.
It’s fair to say that travelling thousands of miles in a shipping container and a move across campus took its toll on our sofas. I washed the removable covers, only for them to shrink.
I’ve bought new fabric – which Zahra chose- and the tailors are currently sewing up a storm in the lounge. Bespoke re upholstery is cheaper than buying a new sofa in India.
So imagine the scene, there are cakes and cookies chilling everywhere and I have tailors measuring and sewing on the floor. In addition I finally got round to having all our art work framed and that’s sat around the walls on the floor waiting to be hung.
Volunteering at a Slum Summer School
This week was also the start of the summer school in a slum. This will be two mornings a week for the next 8 weeks. The first one was on Tuesday and it was great fun for both the kids and the volunteers.