Sunday, May 30, 2010

Panorama Kurukshetra

The Panorama is one among the places of interest relating to the Mahabharata in the city of Kurukshetra. This is a large 360 degree panorama that depicts ten scenes from the Mahabharata. You climb up the stairs to the second floor of the building, where the panorma is spread over a couple of hundred feet, and is over ten feet tall. You can start at any point and traversing the panorama in either direction will get you to where started from.

This is what you see as you climb upto the floor where the panorama is situated. An otherwise dark room, only the scenes from the Mahabharata are lighted. It makes sense to start from the first day of the way, so you can follow the scenes in a chronological manner.

This is the panorama that depicts Lord Krishna, Arjuna's charioteer, who has got off from his chariot, Sudarshana Chakra in hand and ready to be dispatched to kill Bheeshma. Lord Krishna wants to remind Arjuna of his promise to do his duty, his karma and dharma, and fight in the war. Arjuna was swayed by his love for his grandsire, Bheeshma. Lord Krishna had promised not to take up arms, so this act of the Lord to take up arms would have meant a lot to Arjuna. That Narayana had to break his promise on account of Arjuna's vacillation. This then was a pretty big deal. What we have here is Arjuna beseeching Lord Krishna to stop. Arujuna promises to fight with all his strength and vigour. Bheeshma is standing with his hands folded, ready to receive death at the hands of the Lord.

The tenth day of the war. Bheeshma lies on a bed of arrows, the literal reflecting the metaphorical. Arjuna kneels by the grandsire's deathbed. While Bheeshma was the commander of the Kaurava army the war was fought by the rules laid down and agreed upon by both sides. While he was alive the rules of war were not broken. His fall in the war also saw the fall of righteous conduct in the war. It started with the death of Abhimanyu, and culminated in the murder of the Pandava's sons on the night of the eighteenth day of the war. There is the story of Pareekshit too that is so much an integral part of the Mahabharata...

This section of the panorama below depicts the episode where Bhagadatta (Wikipedia) shot a lethal weapon at Arjuna, only to have it be intercepted by Lord Krishna. The weapon turned into a garland upon hitting Lord Krishna, thus saving Arjuna from certain death.

One of the most villainous characters in the Mahabharata has to be Jayadratha. Almost every negative character in the epic has some trait or redeeming value in him. Duryodhana had envy. Dhritarashtra was blinded by love for his son and the throne. Shakuni was seeking to avenge a perceived insult to his Gandhara kingdom. Karna was a tragic figure caught between his duty and loyalty to Duryodhana and the need to do the right thing.
Not Jayadratha. Perhaps the single most villainous character in the epic.
He was the brother-in-law of Duryodhana, and had carried off Draupadi from the jungle where she was spending the 12 years of the Pandava's exile. He was captured by Arjuna and Bheema, only to have Yudhishtra spare the villain's life. But what Jayadratha is most famously remembered for is his pivotal role in the death of Abhimanyu, Arjuna's son. Jayadratha, the recipient of a boon that made him invincible on the battlefield, for one day, to all enemies save Arjuna, stood at the entrance of the chaktravyuha, a battlefield formation devised by Drona. The chakravyuha could be breached only by Arjuna and Abhimanyu. Arjuna was drawn away from the scene of battle by other warriors, leaving Abhimanyu to breach the chakravyuha formation. However, before the other Pandavas could enter the formation, Jayadratha stood at the entrance and prevented them from entering in to help Abhimanyu. The boon had him unconquerable on that day.
So, while the seven warriors from the Kaurava army, who so gallantly attacked and killed an unarmed and wounded Abhimanyu, were guilty of cowardice, the one held centrally responsible for Abhimanyu's death was Jayadratha.
Jayadratha Vadha
Karna possessed a weapon that could kill Arjuna, his mortal enemy, and also his younger brother. However, Karna had to use that weapon to kill Ghatotakacha, the rakshasa son of Bheema. Ghatotakacha had been rampaging through the Kaurava army, and threatened to end the war with his deeds. Karna was very reluctant to use the Shakti on anyone except Arjuna, since it could be used only once, and having been used, would return to Indra.

Among the final acts in the Mahabharata was the death of Duryodhana. Bheema fulfilled the terrible oath he had taken 13 years before in the court of the blind king Dhritarashtra, of breaking Duryodhana's thighs in battle. This scene depicts that, with the Pandavas and Lord Krishna and other people watching this duel between the two warriors.

Some more photos from the Panorama:

View Larger Map

View Larger Map

See my earlier posts on Kurukshetra:

© 2010, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bheeshma Kund, Kurukshetra

The holy town of Kurukshetra is most famously associated with the battle of the Mahabharata (Wikipedia page, Mahabharata by Amar Chitra Katha - 42 Comic Books in 3 Volumes, The Gita, Bhagavad Gita (Amar Chitra Katha)), a terrible fratricidal war fought between members of the Kuru family, with the Pandavas on one side, and the Kauravas on the other.

The Kauravas had the mighty Bheeshma (Bheeshma (Amar Chitra Katha)) as the leader of their army, and for ten days he rampaged through the Pandava army, taking care however not to kill any of the Pandavas though. With the war in a stalemate, and with the realization that the Pandavas could not win the war without first killing Bheeshma, and also that Bheeshma could be killed only if he so willed it, Lord Krishna, Arjuna's charioteer, came up with the strategem of having Shikhandi face Bheeshma in battle, with Arjuna firing the lethal arrows from behind Shikhandi. Now, Bheeshma knew, as did Lord Krishna, that Shikandi was none other than Amba reborn as a man. Bheeshma also knew, as did the others, that he would not raise his weapons against a woman, even if that person had been a woman in a previous birth. And so, Bheeshma, the indestructibe warrior, let Arjuna's arrows pierce his body, and thus fell on the tenth day of the war. Having fallen, he was surrounded by both the Kauravas and the Pandavas. He asked for water, and Arjuna shot an arrow into the earth, thereby releasing a stream of water.

The spot, where Bheeshma fell, is generally accepted as the modern day village of Naraktari, in the district of Kurukshetra.There is a small temple and a small water tank that marks the spot.

View Larger Map (Naraktari, or Bheeshma Kund, Kurukshetra, Haryana, India)

The temple itself is not more than a couple of decades old.

To get to this village, you have to keep your eyes peeled for a small, single-laned road that leads into the village. The only indication that you are on the right track is this stone signpost at the turn. It reads "Baan shayya mandir" on the first line, the second line reads "Bheeshma kund baan ganga". The third line reads "26 foot Hanumanji", and the fourth line states simply the name of the village, "Naraktari".

This road that leads to the village of Naraktari is not as bad as it looks, and in any case you do not need to travel more than a kilometer before you reach the village.

A world weary priest outside a temple at Naraktari

"Shree Ganga Mata Pracheen Mandir, Shree Ganga putra Bheeshma Pitamah Baan shaiyya pandav mandir, Naraktari, Kurukshetra"
Transliterated into Hindi - श्री गंगा माता प्राचीन मंदिर, श्री गंगापुत्र भीष्म पितामह बाण शैय्या पांडव मंदिर, नाराक्तरी, कुरुक्षेत्र
Translated it reads - "Ancient temple of Mother Ganga", "Bed of arrows Pandava Temple dedicated to great grandsire Bheeshma, the son of Ganga, in Naraktari, Kurukshetra"

There is a depressing lack of infrastructure to support any sort of tourism, whether national or international. For a city that should rank as one of the holiest places in the world, it is quite dis-heartening to see an almost complete lack of attention or interest to building Kurukshetra into a heritage city.
Take this photo below for example. The Gita Press of Gorakhpur is one of the oldest and most respected publishers of books on Hinduism. This however is the lone shop, ramshackle as it is, that sells Gita Press publications at the site. We worship our Gods, we swear by our texts, we all know our mythologies, yet we do not care enough to showcase the incredible history and richness of our culture. Not to ourselves, not to the outside world.

Also see my earlier post, The Gita Chariot at Kurukshetra.

Link to the Amar Chitra Katha web site.

© 2010, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Gita Chariot at Kurukshetra

The Gita (The Gita (Amar Chitra Katha)) Updesha Chariot at the Brahma Sarovar complex is the latest addition to sites and structures that celebrate the Mahabharata at Kurukshetra. The chariot is a humongous bronze chariot, and is really, really massive. If you look at the chariot, at Arjuna standing, and looking pensively at Krishna, the charioteer, at Hanuman seated on the flag, there is a lot that is symbolic there. As I wrote in an earlier post, Upanishads - Kena and Katha, the chariot is used as an example in the Katha Upanishad to illuminate the relationship between the self, the body, the senses, desires, and intellect.
Gita Updesha Chariot, Kurukshetra

To repeat from that post:
2.3.3 Know the Self as lord of the chariot,
The body as the chariot itself,
The discriminating intellect as charioteer,
And the mind as reins.

2.3.4 The senses, say the wise, are the horses;
Selfish desires are the roads they travel.
When the Self is confused with the body,
Mind, and senses, they point out, he seems
To enjoy pleasure and suffer sorrow.

The chariot is one of the largest bronze chariots in the country, and measures 50 x 25 x 26 feet. It was commissioned by the ITDC and completed in December 2007.

Lord Hanuman atop the chariot, Lord Krishna's peacock feather crown, and Arjuna's Gandeeva are visible in this shot.

© 2010, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Hwy 101 San Francisco Airport

Some photos taken from the shuttle (AirTrain) that runs between the rental car center and the San Francisco International Airport. In 2005.

This photo below is actually the criss-cross of flyovers and interchanges that connect Hwy 101 with roads leading to the airport terminal - departure, arrivals, international and domestic terminal, short-term parking...

I took this last photo from the flight as it took off from the SFO airport. The plane was about 1000 feet high when I snapped this.

© 2010, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Nikon ad at Frankfurt Airport

A remarkably effective and cute ad. Without getting into the technogeek babble that can sometimes accompany advertising for technology products, this cuts through the clutter, and gets straight to the purpose of photography. To capture the essence of what one sees, and how one sees it.

I shot this photo at the Frankfurt International Airport in 2005.
Nikon camera ad, Frankfurt International Airport, Germany. 2005.

© 2010, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 17, 2010

30000 feet above the earth

Somewhere over central India, 30000 feet above the Earth. Or maybe 35,000 feet. Traveling at 900kph.

© 2010, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Terminal 2 at New Delhi Airport

Correction: Nov 08, 2010 - these are photos of Terminal 1D or 2D from the New Delhi Airport. Evidently I was mistaken... this post,, has photos of the actual Terminal 3.

The recently completed Terminal 3 at the New Delhi Airport is a much needed and greatly appreciated improvement over the facilities that existed before. As far as size goes it is not that huge, but the facilities there are a pleasure. There is a small food court on the upper level, while the waiting area sports a bookstore and about a dozen other stores. There are a few laptop stations where you can plug-in your laptop computer and get some work done. There is a charging station where you can plug in your cell phone, with charging ends provided to suit many different types of phones. And yes, there is free wi-fi provided. You do have to register, provide your cell phone number, to which a temporary password to connect is provided.

GMR Web site page for Delhi Airport
Official site of the New Delhi Airport

This is the waiting area.

On the left in the photo below is the baggage check-in area. There are probably close to a 100 check-in stations, which should mean a goodbye to long waiting lines. Frequent travelers will know better whether this happens in reality or not. The security screening area is however not that large.

From the waiting area you take the escalator to the boarding gates below. There is only limited seating available down below, so it is advisable to stay put in the waiting area on the first floor till your flight boarding is announced.

© 2010, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.