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A variety of animals in a big city

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

In Mumbai you encounter a lot of everything on the streets; traffic, people, buildings, businesses, dirt and also animals of all sorts and sizes.

At the bus stop across the hotel this little goat was nibbling on a leaf:

Mumbai 's colorful people

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Driving (in a taxi) or walking through the streets of Mumbai I'm about the only Westerner amongst so very many people. What a crowded city Mumbai is!

Here are some random pictures of the locals. Ofcourse there are the women with their beautiful, colorful sari's:

Earning a living in Mumbai

Monday, February 27, 2012

The contrasts in  Mumbai are huge. There is a number of obscenely wealthy people and there are many, many very poor people.

What is clear though, is that everyone is trying to earn a living, one way or another. And believe me, there are many ways. Some very specific and -for us westerners-  unusual or even unknown jobs, services and businesses.

Here are some examples of what people do for a living:

You can transport things,

like cans:

Mumbai, India.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Some weeks ago I left Holland (again) for Singapore for some months.

Fortunately I was able to meet up with most of my friends there AND catch some events as well, cause already soon we left for Mumbai, India, where we are now.

For me it is my first visit to India and I was dreading it, I have to admit. The poverty, chaos, dirt and the chance to get sick all scared me a bit. Frits has to work a lot, so I have to entertain myself. Fortunately I am quite good at that ;-).

We are staying at the Four Seasons Hotel in Worli. Our room is on the 15th floor and this is our view. Behind the building is the sea, but since it is hazy in the mornings, you cannot see it on this picture.
A couple of Indian eagles is often searing in the sky. At least, I think that's what they are. Anybody knows for sure?


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thaipusam: a Walk of Faith

Thaipusam is a highly symbolic Hindu festival celebrated by Singapore’s Tamil community. It is an annual procession by Hindu devotees seeking blessings, fulfilling vows and offering thanks. Celebrated in honour of Lord Subrahmanya (also known as Lord Murugan), who represents virtue, youth and power to Hindus and is the destroyer of evil, it is held during the full moon in the 10th Tamil month.

In Singapore, the Thaipusam ceremony starts in the early hours of the morning where devotees fulfill their vows with a 4.5 km walk from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple along Serangoon Road to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple on Tank Road. 
The festival is a visual spectacle and it often brings traffic in the city centre to a standstill, with a colourful procession full of chanting and dizzying rhythms of Indian drums. 

The festival also attracts a lot of photography-enthusiasts like myself. (There were so many that it was almost too much, especially since several of them behaved in an overly 'assertive', egocentric manner :-( )

Nevertheless I enjoyed this festival very much! Although not a religious person myself, I have always been intrigued by rituals and religious artifacts and I am crazy for color and ornamentation. If you see the pics, you will understand that I am so happy to have witnessed this event!

More background: (or skip this part and go straight to the pictures)
The first batches of devotees usually carry milk pots and wooden Kavadis. A Kavadi consists of two semicircular pieces of wood or steel which are attached to a cross structure that can be balanced on the shoulders of a devotee. It is often decorated with flowers, palm leaves and peacock feathers. The milk they have been carrying is then offered to Lord Subrahmanya at the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple. Some devotees also pierce their tongues with skewers and carry a garlanded wooden arch across their shoulders. 
The Kavadi itself is a physical burden through which the devotees implore for help from the God Murugan.
Generally, Hindus take a vow to offer a kavadi to idol for the purpose of tiding over or averting a great calamity. For instance, if the devotee's son is laid up with a fatal disease, he would pray to Shanmuga to grant the boy a lease of life in return for which the devotee would take a vow to dedicate a kavadi to Him.

Devotees carrying spiked Kavadis, which require elaborate preparations, leave the temple in the later part of the morning and continue till night. The festival is not just an exclusively Indian affair; several Chinese devotees and people of other races also come to fulfill their vows on this day. 
In preparation for carrying a Kavadi, a devotee has to prepare himself spiritually. For a period of about a month, the devotee must live a life of abstinence whilst maintaining a strict vegetarian diet. It is believed that only when the mind is free of material wants and the body free from physical pleasures that a devotee can undertake the sacred task without feeling any pain. The devotees are normally accompanied by friends and family members who cheer and offer support, usually in the form of prayers and chants. 

Devotees  prepare for the celebration by cleansing themselves through prayer and fasting approx-48 days before Thaipusam. Kavadi-bearers have to perform elaborate ceremonies at the time of assuming the kavadi and at the time of offering it to Murugan. The kavadi-bearer observes celibacy and take only pure, Satvik food, once a day, while continuously thinking of God.

On the day of the festival, devotees will shave their heads and undertake a pilgrimage along a set route while engaging in various acts of devotion, notably carrying various types of kavadi(burdens). At its simplest this may entail carrying a pot of milk, but mortification of the flesh by piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks with vel skewers is also common.
The simplest kavadi is a semicircular decorated canopy supported by a wooden rod that is carried on the shoulders, to the temple. In addition, some have a small spear through their tongue, or a spear through the cheeks. The spear pierced through his tongue or cheeks reminds him constantly of Lord Murugan. It also prevents him from speaking and gives great power of endurance. Other types of kavadi involve hooks stuck into the back and either pulled by another walking behind or being hung from a decorated bullock cart or more recently a tractor, with the point of incisions of the hooks varying the level of pain. The greater the pain the more god-earned merit.

Ok, so far for the background info.
So here are the pictures that I took:

Before doing their Kavadis, there is a lot of offering, ceremonial stuff and preparations to be done by the devotees and their 'posse'.

Chingay 2012

Monday, February 6, 2012

In 2010 I saw my first Chingay; Singapore's big street parade. We bought tickets and watched the show; it was beautiful!

The year after, 2011, we did not buy tickets, but went 'behind the scenes' in the hours before the show and we had a great time taking pictures.

This year, 2012, I first went 'behind the scenes' and later watched the 'after-parade'. Having a great time again!

Both in 2011 as this year balloons were omnipresent. Singapore really has fantastic balloon twisters and sculptors that can make about anything; from wearable clothes and accessories (2011) to wearable lion - and other animal-hats.

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