Carrying a Kavadi at the Chariot Festival (at Ealing Kanaga Durga Amman temple, London):
A year ago I decided and made an offering to do this `Kavadi dance’ at this year’s Chariot street procession at the Ealing Durga Goddess temple in London. That divine offering / prayer was fulfilled on 13/8/17.
The day started with a 5am wake up in my tent… and we got to Ealing temple for the big annual chariot festival by 7.30am. The Kavadi procession (dancing with this ritual `mountain’ prop) began around 10am and we returned to the temple after street procession and dancing throughout ..by 4-5pm (culminating with a final dance inside temple).
Personal history: long ago when i was little..I did this with a tiny version of it around a local temple (Sanathy Murugan temple, near Jaffna, Sri Lanka) .. which started my ritual dancing and drumming..which has evolved into my shamanic trance drumming & dancing.. So it’s apt that I’ve come full circle. It’s been a divine privilege..
Next year I will be constructing my own `Kavadi’ ..and hope to do this in 2 different temples (Wimbledon Ganapathy temple, and Ealing Durga Temple again).
Many thanks to my mother Rani Navasothy for accompanying me, providing me with water etc during this 6+ hours of procession and keeping me `safe’ as I completed my promise.. (and in and out of mild dance-trance). Am also grateful to Varathan Uncle for bringing the Kavadi and helping me with initial set-up & preparations.
I attended the Ther (annual chariot festival ) at Ganapathy temple yesterday with my mother, and met a few relatives and friends 🙂 Also managed to to Ganapathy mantra 1000+ times (counting on fingers ..without my chanting Rudraksha was a bit difficult at times.. as we’re all walking..and much was going on.. )
It was amazing, spiritual and absolutely festive as ever. This time around I was able to focus more on the different aspects (forever studying and decoding the intricate ritual aspects and their meanings.. much of it is not usually taught in schools..except to Brahmins who are training to be Hindu Priests).
So here are the tons of photos. You can see full explanations under each photo in my facebook album.. (it’s my intention to preserve the meanings, and share that with those interested).
there are many who honour and worship the Hindu Elephant-headed God Ganapathy (Ganesh). He is a remover of obstacles! In London, this time of the year, the Ganapathy temple conducts their annual festival..which culminates after many weeks of celebrations and special poojas, with the Chariot Festival (Ther).
I will be attending this, and walking with the deities with the large chariots ..along the side roads.. to gain full divine blessings of Lord Ganapathy.
You are most welcome to do so.. (even if it is only for part of the journey).
Buses will be diverted in that area.. Please check TFL website for updates.
Nearest Tube: Wimbledon (District line)..Then bus 200 goes closer to Effra Road. `Colliers wood’ and `south Wimbledon’ are also nearby tube stations (Northern line) ..from which you will need to either walk 30 mins..or take buses to get to Effra Road.
125-133 Effra Road, Wimbledon, London SW19 8PU.
The Chariot Festival will begin at 8.30am in the morning,.and conclude around 1pm…Then deities will be taken inside temple..fore more prayers / poojas..
(I aim to be at the temple by 8am. On this occasion, I will NOT be waiting to collect / organise anyone…as following early morning shower/ purification and meditations, I will be observing silence and get to the temple asap..to begin worship).
As some are already aware, last year (2015) in Autumn, I began organising/ facilitating `Hindu Magic Rituals’ in outdoor venues…
There has been a little gap. With this Ganapathy festival, I will be re-starting a full set of Hindu Magic rituals.
Here is the extended version of what I recently wrote on my facebook wall, about Hanuman. He is a monkey – who is supposedly an incarnation of Lord Shiva. Hanuman is the son of of Vayu (God of Air) and a mortal Lady Anjana. He can also fly.. well he’s a monkey and is able to leap over mountains and stay up in the air.. (Son of Vayu..god of Air). Another ability that Hanuman has is to grow into a giant form.
In the epic story Ramayanam, Lord Raman and his brother travel through the various forests looking for Rama’s wife Sita who has been abducted by a Demon King called Ravanan. Raman comes across a Monkey-Prince who is living in fear in a cave with his close ministers and confidants (one of whom is Hanuman). Once the brutish and most powerful Monkey Lord Vali has been defeated by Rama, Hanuman and other monkeys choose to help Rama help with the search for Sita.
It is Hanuman who leaps across the oceans, lands in Lanka (kingdom ruled by the demon King Ravanan) and eventually finds Sita ..who is imprisoned in a forest prison. Hanuman manages to meet Sita, pass message from Raman, takes a message from Sita, and eventually returns to Rama.. Great war ensues and Raman & his army defeat Ravana and free Sita.
Three events that are worth highlighting..
1. Burning of Lanka: After secretly meeting Sita in the forest prison, Hanuman causes problems and is caught (he allows himself to be caught) by Ravana. When his tail is wrapped in fabric and it is set on fire by the demons, Hanuman escapes…takes up his giant form..and using the lit tail as a burning torch, he sets flame to many parts of Lanka… before leaving….(to go back to Rama & Lakshman and tell them he has located Sita).
2. Carrying the healing mountain: During the war itself, at one point, due to magical trickery, both Raman & his brother Lakshman are mortally hurt and appear to fall in battle and die. A special healing herb was required to help them.. So Hanuman leaps off to find the herbs that only grow in a certain mountain range. As he was unsure which was the correct her, he uproots the entire mountain..carries it to the battle zone…where upon the essence of the herbs waft over the fallen Raman & Lakshman…and they awake. (Hanuman then returns the mountain to its proper place).
Hindus worship Hanuman as a powerful demi-god in his own right, and Hanuman is often depicted as flying with the mountain in his hands.
3. Giant Chariot in War: In another moment during the war, Raman’s chariot is destroyed by the demon king Ravanan. And Raman is left standing on the grounds of the war zone. Hanuman immediately assumes his giant form, and carries Raman and Lakshman on his shoulders, so that they may continue to fight the war on equal footing.who helped Raman & Lukshman win the war against Ravanna the Demon. In one of the stories, Hanuman opens up his chest to reveal his heart..where an image of Rama & Sita could be found. Hanuman is the Son .
Hanuman and Sani (Shani) or Saturn:
It is also said that Hanuman rescued Sani (Saturn) from the clutches of Ravana (when Hanuman was bound up by Ravana and set fire to his tail..)
Perfect Devotee of Raman :
In one of the chapters of Ramayanam, Hanuman opens up his chest to reveal his heart..where an image of Rama & Sita could be found. In another section, (after Raman & Sita return to their kingdom), Hanuman is given a gift of pearl necklace. He then set about pulling the necklace apart, and breaks each pearl. When asked why he was destroying the pearls, Hanuman answers that he was merely looking to `see’ if he can find Raman & Sita inside each pearl.
These two incidents illustrate Hanuman’s devotional nature towards Raman & Sita. All he wanted to do ..during and after the war was to worship and serve Raman & Sita.
Tale of monkey tail (meeting Beeman)
In the other great epic Mahabharatham,, one of the pancha-pandavas (5 brothers on the side of good) was going through the forest when he comes upon an old monkey sleeping on the side of the path..with his tail across the path. Beema (being the strongest man in that story) demands the monkey move. The monkey refuses but says that Beeman may pass if he can move the tail aside. Aggravated, Beeman tries to brush aside the monkey’s tail..then lifting it.. He fails…and realises his own ego.. And the monkey reveals himself to be none other than Hanuman. It transpires that Beeman is also the son of Vayu (God of Air). So the brothers embrace. Beeman then asks Hanuman to help the pandavas in the coming war. Hanuman says he is tired of wars and will not fight again, but promises to watch over their welfare.
The lead archer Archunan (one of the 5 brothers, the Pandavas) rides in a chariot (piloted by none other than Lord Krishnan himself..another long story). This chariot flies a flag that has the image of Hanuman.. and this is the `blessings’ that Hanuman had promised Beeman.
Well, I grew up reading the Hindu epics Ramayana (and Mahabaratham) ..so Hanuman is one of my favourite Gods.. The above are things I have written from a long term memory ..(it’s been over 30+ years since I read the hindu epics).
It is worth saying, that I am now starting work on an art/ writing project connected to hindu epics, and so will be re-reading Ramayanam & Mahabharatham (in tamil) soon.. Watch my blog for updates in the coming months 🙂
ps. I have used when possible, the Tamil pronunciations for the various Hindu epics and characters. Tamil versions usually end with an `m’ or an `n’..where as the Hindi / English way of writing ends with an `a’. For example, Ramayanam (Ramayana), Mahabharatham (Mahabharatha), Raman (Rama), Ravanan (Ravana).
Few days ago, I went looking online for some upcoming rituals in Wimbledon Hindu temple. I found the temple’s official website. More importantly, I found the wikipedia entry..which had a notice of `lack of notability and possible deletion’. This was quite worrying. Wikipedia as many know is a living entity, billions of people use it as reference, millions add entries (woffles, bables, chatty)..and possibly a select thousands work at making those wiki articles as professional and precise as possible..(with references, citations, proper formatting and all that).
Well, I spent a few hours digging stuff in google for any references to the Ganapathy Temple in Wimbledon, and found some great references – from BBC, Guardian, Scouts, Merton Council etc.. So I put them all in, as well as a few new sections, added external links and so on.. and the wiki entry started to look a bit better. (still long way to go yet, and am sure many others can now add similar `good and notable contents’)
Already I see that another nice person has formatted the contents I put in and made it look better. So here is the entry as it looks at the moment.
The point behind this ..to let people know that anyone with a basic internet technical skills can edit / add to wikipedia entries …for a subject they have an interested in and have experiences/ knowledge thereof. It all adds to the content and quality of wikipedia.. modern repository of our knowledge. 🙂
Wikipedia entry for Shree Ganapathy Temple, Wimbledon (on 20Jan2015)
**** Note: Sections in blue (below) are original before I added other content ****
Shree Ganapathy Temple, Wimbledon, is a Hindu temple in south-west London, England, that was established in the 1980s. The main deity in the temple is of LordGanesha. There are also deities of Goddess Durga (Parvati), Lord Hanuman, Krishna etc. The Sai Mandir was opened in 1981 and is a prayer hall dedicated to Sathyanarayana Raju.
During the temple’s early years, the realisation came that there was an urgent need to educate the younger generation about Hinduism. Furthermore, the temple wanted the children to fully understand the faith at a deeper level than previously. Therefore the Sai Mandir has been running classes for many years, teaching the children spiritual education, Sanskrit prayers, how to sing Bhajans (devotional hymns) in addition to learning about other religions too. Voluntary activities take place in affiliation with local authorities and Age Link groups.
The temple provides classes dwelling on teachings of Hinduism, music and dance classes, and yoga to name a few.
4 External links
Shelter for Refugees: Refugees from Sri Lanka have been given temporary shelter at the Temple in 1986. The BBC recorded this info as part of their DomesDay Project in 1986.
Scouts – 23rd Wimbledon: This temple became Europe’s first Hindu temple in the UK to be home to a Scout Group. The 23rd Wimbledon  was established by Scout Leader, Geetha Maheshwaran in Autumn 2012 .
School trips – Religious Education: The school is listed in Merton Council Directory as providing Hindu religious, social and cultural services for all ages, especially for schools to visit as part of their teaching of Hinduism in their Religious Education Curriculum.
The Ganesh temple has been using a building that was formally a Church and a Community Centre. Hence the interior has been a basic square shape. Reconstruction work began in early 2014, and is nearing completion in January 2015. It will be based more on the style of the traditional South Indian temples.
^“BBC Domesday Project 1986 entry”.
^“Feature on Scouting Magazine (Uk)”.
^“School Visits at Temple”.
^“Young Reporter-Local Guardian – Wimbledon”.
Family Service Community Directory – Merton Council
Local Guardian -January 2014- Wimbledon Hindu Temple renovation Article
Places of Worship – listing at Kingston University London
spiritual-scouting – Article in Scouting Website
Video of Omam at Ganapathy Temple (by London Hindu Temples)
Omam – Hindu fire ritual – blog by QuantumPhoenix
BBC site Domesday Reloaded article- Refugees housed in Hindu Temple
ps. Here are those actual links related to Ganapathy Temple 🙂
Happy Thai Pongal Greetings to all my Blog Readers & Followers, Family & Friends…!
It’s the first day of the Tamil Calendar.. `Thai’ is the name of the first month of the Tamil Calendar.. And pongal is the milk-rice food that is traditionally made on this day.. as the first food item..
People tidy up, make special offerings to the Sun God (leave the food items on an outdoor altar where Sun light is shining),.. and honour nature! And luckily, it’s a sunny day in London today.
It’s also traditionally when farmers get prepared ..to get back to the paddy fields..to start work for a new cycle!!
The day after Thai Pongal (15th January) is dedicated to honouring the farm animals (and tools) ..as these are the next most important things to Sunlight, rain and the Earth.. for farming!
ps. What do ya know..This happens to be my 350th blog post.. 🙂
After writing my blog this morning on the birthday & mythology of the Hindu (elephant headed) God Ganesh, I went to attend a training course – on interview techniques. Nothing I don’t know already (must write about that!) but this is one I had to attend. It was in Wimbledon. So afterwards I tried going to the Ganesh temple. It was packed, and no parking space anywhere!
So I was driving back with disappointment, and memories of my own personal experiences came back to me – which I thought I’d share here, as part of the festive celebrations (in my own way). After all, a temple is where you make it, and Hindu Priests have been known in ancient times to build `inner temples’ meditatively – efforts that had taken them years. It is known that Hindu gods had favoured such inner temples. (another blog to write!)
Back to Elephants – one of the sacred animals in Hinduism – an eastern pagan religion.
The Ride on Elephant
My earliest memory of Elephants, like for most people, was at a Zoo, and it was back in Sri Lanka. I do recall one occasion where my parents paid for me to go for a ride on a Zoo Elephant. They are big creatures, and once you mount them, on one of those people-carrier basket things that can hold about 5-6 people at a time, it’s incredible – especially when the Elephant starts walking – away from any tall stands. It gentle wobbles of course and walks slowly. I don’t remember much more, but that is a precious experience to have had. These days people who visit 3rd world countries and nature reserves (africa?) can quite easily have one of these elephant rides. If you get a chance, do have a go. I mean, how often can one say he or she had a ride on the largest mammal on the planet? !
The Temple Elephant
My second Elephant experience was at a Temple – and it was with a Temple Elephant, back in Sri Lanka. It was a sacred special temple, one that my grandmother & family had to hire a coach and drive a day to get to – as part of a pilgrimage. I remember then getting to the booked accommodation (large room, where all of us slept ..with just sheets on the floor). The part that still stays in my mind is the bathing in the nearby river in the evening. It was expected, and there were no other facilities anyway. And straight afterwards, while still wet, we had to make our way up the mountain paths to the temple – for worship.
It was the temple in Kathirkama, where Priests do not speak. They have their mouths covered by a piece of cloth! There is a similar temple in Wales, UK that I have been to, where they do this.
Well, after the Pooja, I was guided to the area where the temple elephant resided. As was tradition, I was `blessed by the Elephant’ (on the nudge of the Keeper, the Elephant places its trunk in a blessing manner on my head!) I was a very young boy and what came next was even more previous now to remember. My relatives told me to circle around the Elephant and pray, and also walk under it. So I did – went in from one side, walked under the Elephant, came out the other side from it’s body!
I don’t think it ever occurred to me that if the beast had decided to move in haste or upset, or anything of the sort, I would have been splatted in a second! At the time, I was focused on it as a spiritual experience- and still do.
There are many auspicious days pooja (prayers), fasting & festivals in the Hindu (religious) calendar. Today is one of them.
It is called `Vinayahar Sathurthi’ where Vonayagar is one of the names for the Elephant-headed Hindu God, also known as Ganesh and Pillayar. Sathurthi’s are special days that happen every month, but the one on this month is the most sacred of all, and belongs to God Ganesh.
Myth of the Elephant-headed God Ganesh.
Ganesh, son of Parvathi (Shakthi) and Shiva (in a manner of speaking) was not born with the elephant head! That came later. He was originally born as a human. Born is the wrong word, as he was `made’ or created by his mother – the great Goddess Shakthi (which means `power’ amongst other things).
The mythology goes that Shakthi was fed up of being intruded by her husband the God Shiva, whenever Shakthi was taking her bath (and he would just walk in). So she set a guard outside. But when the Lord Shiva came through, the guard was hesitant and did not stop him. How could he stop Shiva, who was not only the husband of Parvathi, but also the god of all gods?
Realising that she needs a guard who will not falter, Parvathi set about creating a statue of a boy, using her own skin fragments as clay! She brought this to life (she is Goddess!) and asked him to guard her privacy, and let none through. And so that is what the boy did – when Shiva tried to enter the Chambers.
Initially Shiva’s attempts to talk his way through failed, so he escalated his efforts with force. But the boy was powerful enough to stand against that. Eventually Shiva had to call in all the other gods.. Brahma (the Creator god), Vishnu (the protector God) and more. All joined forces and the conflict became a big battle of magic. The boy defeated all their efforts, and still stood firm. In the end, using diverting tactics, the gods cut the boy’s head off! And rejoiced!
When Parvathi heard this, she was intensely angered. Out of her anger came two fierce war goddesses – Durga and Kali, and they began to destroy not only the gods, but the worlds!
The other gods pleaded with Parvathi for mercy. And she request that her Son be brought back to life! (and Shiva realised who the boy must have been..!) But as the head was missing, Shiva told the others to go in a direction, and bring back the head of the first animal they see. So the other gods travel, and find an elephant, ad brought its head – which Lord Shiva fixed to the headless boy, and brought him back to life. (It often bothers me that the Gods would go kill an innocent animal, but wold mythologies are full of all sorts of such violent acts by the gods!)
Shiva then takes the resurrected boy to his wife Parvathi, and she was semi-pleased. Shiva then proclaimed to all the worlds – that the first prayer in any ceremony or ritual should always go towards the boy, named Ganesh,
This is seen in any hindu ritual to date. People spend the first few minutes or seconds praying to God Ganesh. Sometimes they have images, in other cases, they use `Saani’ (the dung of a sacred cow!) or Tumeric powder-paste to make a small cone, and stick a sacred grass in it. This is treated as a divine symbol of Ganesh, and first prayers and respects are given, before proceeding with the main purpose of any pooja or festivities.
Lord Ganesh is said to be the remover of obstacles, and giving first prayers to him is a reason for all to wish that whatever initiatives they are beginning should go well.
If there is a Father who is in Heaven, it’s most likely `our father’ (mine & my 2 sisters’ that is!), and not some bearded deity!
That said Hindus (people who follow Hinduism) do deify their dead ancestors and relatives. Well, not just Hindus, so do a number of other religious people – like the Chinese, Japanese, Africans and so on. So I am quite okay to make such a statement.
Today is the 71st birthday of my father – Mr Kanapathippillai Navasothy – had he still been alive. He had a road accident – way back in 1990 (4t
h January 1990) and passed away in hospital following head injuries, and being in a coma for a few hours. The accident took place, in the streets of `Elephant & Castle’ in SW London, when he was returning from his civil service work (as one the then-Poll-Tax officers!!).
He wasn’t always that of course. Educated to degrees – well, a B.A and then an M.A in Sri Lanka, he was working on his Ph.D thesis while in London when he died, so his work was never finished. We have stacks of all that research in cupboards – and at one point, both my sister Vathani & me vowed to finish his work – but life took us in different directions. It’s not our cause!. We have our own paths and works.. my sister in the direction of Psychology & Counselling (B.SC & M.Sc), and me in Physics (B.Sc) and esoteric and paganism. (We do have another sister, who went in the direction of Education, working with kids in schools, sign language etc until she got married and has now a baby boy – who incidentally is the same star-sign as my father. Magicians with soul-considerations will make what you will of this. Well, that;’s not all. All 3 of us – me and my 2 sisters have spouses who are all Aries- the same start sign as my father! Psychologists will have a field day on this, am sure!)
Back to my father – Navasothy – for that was his first name – meaning `Nine-lights’. In Tamil culture, the first name of one’s father / husband becomes one’s Surname. So his name `Navasothy’ became my surname and now that we are in a western country, that has become our family surname for ever! So in some ways, my father’s name lives on!
He was a Tamil Scholar, reading and writing so much on folklore and cultural matters. He’s written and published many books – and here I am proud to say, his children’s novel `Odiponavan’ (tamil for `(boy) who ran away’) became the first Children’s fiction book to be read in Tamil classes in schools – back in Sri Lanka. His next book was on folklore & poetry. He had attended many international Tamil conferences (last one was in Mauritius); his articles appeared almost every week on newspapers, and his voice was heard on tamil radio stations. We grew up with all that as `normal’ occurrences (he took me to a children’s radio `story telling’ programme recording, and I got to say a few words once !) I recall his first TV session ( a 15 min talk). And here in London, he started up one of the first Tamil Sunday Schools in Tooting Broadway, as well as a Monthly magazine.
He was hardly home, but when he was, he’d be writing, or gardening! Those times with him (having tropical fish!), stalking lizards that ate our vegetables, or going for a walk in the forest (and trying to get me a `pet monkey’ ) are ones I still cherish – as well as the fact that he believed in my creative talents. He took my comic books to try and publish them (alas I now know they were not good or original).
I’ve been following in his footsteps for decades now- writing, art works, community events organising, public speaking, teaching.. even interests in books (he worked as a Government Archivist back in Ceylone), and archaeology (first few months in UK, he did some volunteer work in the roman town of St.Albans). Many of my writing projects have started to culminate, so I think that’s my best homage to him.
I must mention, it was his sudden death (I was just starting my Physics in University when that happened) that set me initially on an atheist path and then spun me around topsy-turvy – and finally into Paganism & spirituality.
It is time, 22 years after his death, that a memorial is built for him – for the world has almost forgotten him. But in true modern fashion, a website and online is where I’m building his memorial.
In Tamil, I call my father `Appa’ .. So here’s to you – `Happy Birthday Appa’. 🙂