Happy New Year


Another year goes by. Another year dawn. The earth completes one more circuit around the sun. Tonight there will be parties, tomorrow hangovers.

2008 is a leap year. Which means that Feb will have 29 days, and anyone born on 29th Feb will age 4 times slower than others ! For the others, who don't celebrate 29th Feb, we have 1 more day of work.

This year, most of the govt holidays, which we get off , fall on weekends. E.g 26th Jan is ... a Saturday. +1 day of work. As per my company calendar, my next holiday falls in May. sigh !

Oh well, I am supposed to be happy about another year coming. But without even 1st being an off day, how can I be happy about new year ? I am supposed to keep resolutions, which end with the new year. I am supposed to ... oh well, i am getting cynical.

WTF ! Happy New Year ! ! !

Moto Rokr E6


At the time of leaving the Good Technology Group in motorola, and joining up in Symantec , I had a dilema. I needed a new phone. You see, in GTG, since we were developing on mobile phones, and all the time i was there (almost 2 years) , i never needed a phone. I was using Treos mostly - touchscreen, qwerty keyboard, etc. Now, I had to figure out what phone to use.

Nokia is the prevalent choice in India. But, essentially its the same stuff that has been there for ages. My main criteria was a touchscreen phone, and the ones that were coming close to what i wanted was quite prohibitively expensive. At the same time, being a Moto employee, we get discounts on the mobiles there. Had a look at the portfolio, and the one I liked was the moto rokr E6. Not a great phone by any means, but since it was linux based, had FM and a touch screen with a 2MP camera, and almost half the cost of the next contender in line ( the HTC touch), i bought it.

The plain vanilla phone is not that high on features. It has its drawbacks a plenty, like scrolling your music collection takes ages. Some of the issues are addressable, some are not. Here are things which you can do with your phone. Some of it requires messing with your phone ... so, if you like messing with things, you are gonna enjoy this phone !

EDGE

Frankly, most things that you can do with a phone go beyond the sms and phone apps. Now, you can be connected online all throughout the day using a data connection. The hitch here is that the E6 comes with only a GPRS connection (48kbps ~ 6kB per sec of data). Now , this is ok if you like living life in the slow lane, but what we really want is an EDGE connection ( 236kbps ~ 29kB of data per sec). So, the first thing you want to do is to get EDGE working. Unfortunately, on this phone, EDGE is disabled by default!

This is where the wide user community comes to the rescue. Googling for EDGE (especially since a couple of my friends had already done the updates) threw up direction on the moto mod community. Its been made really easy, just need to have the correct software installed.
NOTE : you need a data connection on your mobile phone. If you call up the service center and ask for EDGE , they will in all probability not know what you are talking about. Tell them you want a data connection for your mobile, and it should do the trick.

Spicing it up

Now, i started looking around for software to go with it. With GMM I always had email at my disposal. But, since that is a corporate software, I needed something similar but for personal use. Google Mail to the rescue ! gmail for the mobile is quite easy to use, and almost similar to the version you see using a desktop. It is possible to browse the emails through the web browser, but gmail gives a much better presentation, and also is faster than the web version for the mobile. The only glitch, the latest version does not work on the mobile ! sigh! So, you need to get an older version.
Next, since I am always travelling, download the google maps application from google.
Another nifty thing is Morange. Its a kind of all in one tool. With it you can read RSS ( a severly stripped down version though, which I find really frustrating), and also chat using any of the usual chat clients.
(A friend suggests fring, but it does not work on the rockr).

Hope this helps all who have a E6 and wondering what all they can do with it.

PS : Thanks to arpan and alok for pointing out the site for EDGE.

Chai at Lonavala

BN At Lonavala

Planned to go to Chandni Chowk (the pune one, not the delhi one), and ended up at Lonavala... last night was a good ride :D

The initial plan was just to go to CC, as nalin (on CBZ) had come over. But then got a call from Ashvin that KJ from cramster was in town. With Nav also dropping in with a loaned RTR, decided to head to MG road. Praveen also was going to join up with US. Met up with KJ at Diamond restaurant , a seedy kind of joint which offers Beer on MG, and suddenly the plan materialized to go to Lonavala. Called up Praveen to not to come to MG, and hold on as we would be gonig the same way.

While going, we stopped at 4 places, RTO (to fuel up), Baner (to get helmet for KJ, and gloves for myself), Joshi Vada (sync with Praveen), Talegaon (for Nalin, as he had gone to change). Reached Lonavala at 10 mins to 1am. RK was closed so decided to go to the bus station for some chai and vada pavs.

The ride back was one straight rip. Reached home at 2:30am.

Nice. :D

This is a test

This is a test. I kind of like a black background, so am trying a template which reflects that better. I think its cool, what do you say ?

Also, i am in the process of adding the good posts that I have on the link which is 'hot posts'. If you think there is a post of mine which should go there, let me know !

Kids

A pic uploaded by a friend of mine. Though at first glance it looks like just a group, but a deeper look at the pic sends one back into your childhood.

BN Video

Praveen Sathaye over at BikeNomads created a cool video on BikeNomads. Check it out !

Thought for the day

We are finally, all wanderers in search of knowledge. Most of us hold the dream of becoming something better than we are, something larger, richer, in some way more important to the world and ourselves.

Too often, the way takn is the wrong way, with too much empahsis on what we want to have, rather than what we wish to become.

- Louis L'Amour,
Education of a Wandering Man

BN 2007 Meet at Hampi

Bikes lined up at Vitthal Temple, Hampi.

No matter how many times you see something as pics or on TV, nothing beats being there. On 23-25th nov'-07, we had one of those moments. Around 40 people from around India met up at Hampi for the bikenomads meet (see pic above). 40 people !

When I had started BN around 5 years back, I had no idea we would be doing these meets kind of things. No idea that we would have people who were in college to people who were grand parents coming and riding. No idea that with the guys, there will also be girls riding. No idea at all. But it all happened, and its a feeling which is not describeable.

Links to pics etc on the website : www.bikenomads.com

Now for the trip log (somewhat of a trip log as i dont have exact times/distances)

Travelogue

Prologue

5th year anniversary for BN. Never in my dreams had i thought that I would create a group which would grow this big that we start having annual meets. AFAIK, apart from bullet groups under the patronage of Royal Enfield company, there is no other group in India which does annual meets where people from different cities ride up to some place and meet people. Sure, lots of bike clubs exist, but they have city meets, not inter city meets.

Which kind of makes it a challenge to get the people from different cities to one place, without any outside resources. No big entity with a big wallet. All you have is yours and other peoples wallet, which they are kinda not in a hurry to empty. Add to it, we have people of all spectrums, those still in college ( with pocket money) and those who are grand parents.

Initial plan was to figure out where to have the meet. Last year was Goa, so we wanted to do it
someplace else. A quick poll on the group, and Hampi seemed to be a good 2nd destination ( kind of a partial poll, as most people are down south). So, Hampi it was.

Then another hitch happened. I was shifting jobs right when the meet was being planned. Which meant, i would not be online to take care of co-ordination activities. So asked for volunteers and Vasanth jumped into it. Soon we have Vasanth for Bangalore, Captain Nandu Chitnis for Pune, Hrishikesh for

Mumbai and GR for hyderabad as the co-ordinators.

As the days went by, the people confirming started to swell - more than the people who were dropping out, and soon we had 30+ people all confirmed for the meet. With a few more people jumping in at the last minute, we had 40 people in all. 40 Nomads riding from various cities to Hampi.

My side of the journey concerns pune to hampi.

23rd November 2007 : Starting out.

Pune and Mumbai group


6am we were to meet up at CC (chandni chowk - yup its there in Pune also). But as usual got delayed. Also had to pick up Medini, Captain Nandu Chitnis's ( capt. from now on) wife. So, by the time we got to CC, it was pushing near 7am. Met the guys and started off, but stopped a bit away to sync up with Harshad and the Mumbai cagers.

The route was Pune - Peth - Sangli - Bijapur - Hospet - Hampi. I guestimated at reaching by 6-7pm ... but how wrong I was. With 5 bikes and 2 cages, we rolled off. There were 2 more bikes of Praveen and Nalin who were escorting us only part of the way, and then back ( i guess they are cursing themselves now for not making it to the meet! ).

We planned to have meeting points, where we can group up while moving on. The group of riders were mostly people who had not toured much on bikes (apart from navendu), and I guess the idea of the distance was not very firmly etched in their minds, cause we started having a lot of breaks.

Everytime someone would stop for whatever reason, off would come everyone and start smoking. That would eat up around 15-20 mins each stop.

Stopped for breakfast around 9am, where we were caught up with Dr Arnob and Prasad , who had started off from Mumbai around 6:30pm. While we were still sipping tea, they headed off. They were taking the route from Hubli to Hampi, and wanted to ride all out.

Capt on a Karizma

We turned off Peth towards sangli around lunch time. Till now everyone had a good time riding on the 4 laned highway , with capt. first on his 220 and then on a karizma. Nehal, the only woman rider, also had a stint of riding the Karizma of MV for sometime on the highway, and was unwilling to give it back to MV !

Around 12 we reached Peth and turned off towards Sangli. We were guests of Mayank at Sangli for Lunch, and he caught up with us some way off from Sangli, and then guided us into the town - straight to his garage with 3 shining bikes lovingly worked on (see pic). I have seen a few people having their workplaces for their bikes, but I have not yet seen one like this. Spic and span, and everything shining.

Mayank's Garage

Lunch was at a temple adjacent to his house, which his grand father had helped build. Typical south indian ( or was it marathi ?) fare, which was quite fulfilling. Around 2pm we starte off, and then everyone got lost in the city traffic ! It took another 30-40 mins for everyone to regroup and move off.

Around 4:30pm we hit Bijapur. We were running very very late. Last time I had been here, we had reached bijapur by 12 and had spent around 2 hours at the gol gumbaz. But this time we just had to ride on. Suddenly we realized that capt. was missing. Called him up to find he had stopped to fill in fuel into his 220.

An hour later we stopped at a BP ghar for tea and filling fuel. Sunset. Now the tough part started. Night riding on a single lane highway. A totally different ball game from the morning ride. And much tougher. This was taking its toll on the riders and more and more brakes were needed. Around 8:00 at a sutta break, we decided to stop for dinner after 9pm. At around 9pm found the bikers (who were usually ahead of us cagers) stopped at a dhaaba , which they were deciding to stop for dinner.

However, it was not suitable for the ladies. Also got a call from Ryan that his car had a puncture. Lots of discussion later, we said we could not really stop at this place - a strick no-no from the ladies and we decided to head on and find another place. A bit later found a sign for "Kamat 20 kms ahead". Another 1/2 an hour and we were at kamat. It was going to be only open till 11pm (just 1/2 an hour more) , and as soon as the bikers rolled in, we gave a bulk order for everyone. Hrishi then called up Dr Arnob to see if he can guide us into the hotel where we were to stay. Arnob said for us to meet him at the hospet bus station. Asking a few passerbys and policemen we were able to finally reach the meeting point, and then followed doc to the Hotel. Thanks to Vasanth's planning, everything was all set up for us to just crash.

24th November : Hampi

We were to get up at 8am and go and sight see hampi at 9am. We finally left around 10:30 am from the hotel to hampi. The plan was to see hampi as much as we can by 3:00pm and be back at the hotel for regrouping for the group pics. With Vasanth as guide we went around hampi, clicking a lot of pics at the famous locations like Queen's bath, Zanana, elephant stables, vrupakshi temple etc.

Just Ride!

BN there DN that

Around 3pm people began to trickle back into the hotel. We started lining up the bikes. Even with ample parking space we would have run out of places to keep the bikes, so we rearranged into 2 curved lines, and headed out towards Vitthal Temple for the Group Pic session. Harshad and I definitely need megaphones for next time, as it is painfull yelling at a group of 40 people to align themselves.

Again at Vitthal temple we took sometime to line up the bikes. By this time the other contingent of people who were not going to come on this day had arrived - venkat and co from bangalore, Arpan and Alok from mumbai. So , we had a full set of bikes to be photographed. The show of strenght with the new BN Ts was generating a lot of interest in the people around. Hard not to be interested when we have so many bikes !

Bike Line up

5 pm, and the photo shoot over we went to the Vitthal temple to look at the temple with musical pillars and the rath. The next regroup time was 7pm at the hotel, and till then we lazed around, a few of us heading to the Tungabhadra river right next to the temple.

7:30pm we finally started to get a semblance of order at the hotel. We had basically taken over an open (but with roof) dining space for our whole group. The plan was to have intro's and discussions. The intro was planned in such a way that the person being introduced would only stand up, say his/her name and his location. It was up to the rest of us to describe about that person. This went on for another 2 hours (in which gr, ashish and Anu also planned the dinner and the bonfire). Unfortunately we did not get much time to discuss other things which had planned like first aid (by arnob) and the discussion for next year's ride.

Bonfire

10:30pm some of us went off to sleep while some still swapped stories over 2kfs. ;)

25th Nov : the ride back

5:00am I got up and started waking the pune guys, when harshad told us, there was a change in plans around 2am or so to move on at 7am ! sigh. if i had known earlier I would have slept more.

7:30am we started to move off. Since the cagers were ready, we started off first, as we know the bikes would catch up. This time we would be going through hubli and then catch the highway to pune.

However the 130km stretch from Hospet - Hubli was not in good condition and we knew we would take some time. We took almost till lunch time to reach Hubli. The bikers had gone to a Kamat restaurant, but we could not figure out the directions, and so we decided to try our luck on the highway. We found a Golden Garden restaurant where we stopped for lunch - and it had really good food.

We then headed to kolhapur where we were to regroup with other as Mayank would be peeling off from us. Juices and teas later, we bid our bye to Mayank and headed towards Pune. By this time we were joined by Praveen Sathye, who rode on from pune and then back.

From Kohlapur the traffic picks up a lot. For bikes its not a problem, as they find gaps and move on, but for a car, it started becoming slower. Ryan had to reach mumbai fast, so he had also said his byes and moved off. Capt. was again on a ZMA, and though he had said he wanted to switch around 6pm, all he did at that time was switch his helmet for one with a clear visor and moved on. I think he found the ZMA much more fun to ride.

Around 7pm we again regrouped with capt. moving into the car. We decided to regroup at Joshi Vada pav before pune. By the time my car would reach there, the bikers would be all ready to move on. Also syncd up with Nalin there. Around 10pm, At katraj, capt got back on his bike as we were leaving Harshad there. That place was jammed with traffic even at this hour and it took us a lot of time to head over to drop Medini. Finally, around 11:30pm, and 1200kms done, we reached my uncle's place.

All in all, an amazing meet. I hope BN has a lot more such meets over the years.

Nick Brandt's Animal Photography

I came across this fabulous collection of pics from Nick Brandt, a british photographer. The B&W treatment he's given to the pics, make them almost surreal. Check them out ( click the pic above to go to the main website).

Last day at Moto

Farewell.
The last day at Motorola. A couple of more days before I leave hyderabad. Life is strange. At one moment you think you have it all figured out and ... bam ! you are wrong. With my team here, at my farewell, the thoughts are a bit pensive, a bit apprehensive, a bit expectatious. A bit of everything.
It was great working with you guys.

Happy Diwali

Happy Diwali to everyone ! May this festival of light chase away the shadows that haunt you. May you have a fantastic life ahead of you !

(pic above of a diya taken yesterday night)

Best inventions of the year


TIME has a roundup of what they consider as the best inventions of the year. Though not all are available, some of them are in the 'wow' category.

Take a look : The Best Inventions Of The Year

WoW on Linux

Woot ! I got World of Warcraft running on Linux ! Let me enjoy a nerdy moment of glee :-D

Links :

WoW : Halloween

The game developers have incorporated many real life events into the game. Right now , it is Halloween, known as Hallow's end in the game. Some screenshots from it.


This is the headless horseman. His head periodically falls off, and you have to kill it first otherwise it gets back onto the horseman and you have to again go through the fight.

The loot ? I got this cool flying broom on which I can ride for 14 days . Very harry potterish if you ask me.


Trick or Treat with a difference. Every hour, you can talk to an innkeeper to get a trick or treat. Treat usually gives some goodies which help recovering your health ingame. Trick is the spiffy one, which changes how you look for a duration of 1min to 1hr. Here, i am a mini-diablo (another of Blizzard's game). Right next to me is my pet lion (hunters tame pets to fight with them !). Other changes I have been are serpent, a glowing wisp, ninja, skeleton, a bat.

WoW : Karazan and T4 gloves

I actually started a different blog for my ingame character of a Night Elf Hunter named Brahmos. However, I find it too tedious to take care of 2-3 blogs at the same time. So, from now on, I am just gonna start posting here about the game and the travels in it.

Ok, so finally I got another slot at Karazan. The problem is that the guild I am in is singapore based. They start the kara stuff around 6:30pm IST. That in itself is ok with me, except that on the first day of the raid, I have a call in the office :( . Suffice to say, I am almost never on a run. However, sometimes I get lucky. You see, on a 10 man instance run, there are specific places where you can join in, if you have not played before. The place wherein I got in was the Curator.

Bam Bam Bam, and down he went the first time round ! And lookie here ! what does he drop ? A tier 4 glove which is usable by only hunters, warlocks and mages ! And since Brahmos is the only hunter in the glove - its for us !


Ok. Assuming the average person here does not know WTH I am talking about, I will explain a bit, and also the screenshot above. Most links in this article will take you to sources which explain more about particular terms.

World of Warcraft (WoW) is a game played online with other players. The common aim is to kill the monsters, and at the end levels (i.e. at lvl 70), it means the monsters are so tough that it takes teams to take them down. This particular instance is a 10 man raid. The screenshot above will give you an idea about what happens.

The lowest bars and the ones on the right are quick click-links to my abilities as a hunter. Suppose I want to fire a poison arrow, i click on the image for it and voila - the target gets poisoned. The backpack you see is a kind of inventory i carry around. Whatever loot we get, as well other stuff we can buy from vendors gets into it. The mouseover shows the glove that I so gleefully described above :D

The left side shows the party interface. 10 people , 5 with portraits are in my group (each group is max 5 people). On the top right is 'damage done'. I am 4th in that, but that is not so very good. However, I console myself that the other people are those who go on each raid. So, their equipment is much better than mine. I guess if I was on most of these raids, I would easily be in top 2. Equipment matters a lot in end game instances in WoW.

So, here I leave you scratching your head on what the hell did Vibhu post here ! :-D

(If you are interested , check out the introduction to WoW )

WoW Dances

One of the games i find myself playing more and more these days is World of Warcraft. I even started a blog, which i am sadly neglecting with so many things going on in life. Its an amazing game, especially if you like role playing games. One thing that sets this game apart from most others is that it has so many things in game which really don't do that much for game dynamics, but just makes the game more enjoyable.

One of these things is dances.

When logged into the game, if you type
/dance
your character will start dancing. How he dances depends on which character it is. And each dance is modelled on real life dances. The following video shows the different dances with their real world counterparts !




If you are from India, and play this game, I suggest joining the Google group (this is india centric).

Hindu Rituals and Routines Why do we follow them?

(blogger makes a mess of the links. so dont tell me that links are broken :) )

Introduction
Why do we…….
  1. Why do we light a lamp?

  2. Why do we have a prayer room?

  3. Why do we do Namaste?

  4. Why do we prostrate before parents and elders?

  5. Why do we wear marks (tilak, pottu and the like) on the forehead?

  6. Why do we not touch papers, books and people with the feet?

  7. To touch another with the feet is considered an act of misdemeanor. Why is this so?

  8. Why do we apply the holy ash?

  9. Why do offer food to the Lord before eating it?

  10. Why do we fast?

  11. Why do we do pradakshina (circumambulate)?

  12. Why is pradakshina done only in a clockwise manner?

  13. Why do we regard trees and plants as sacred?

  14. Why do we ring the bell in a temple?

  15. Why do we worship the kalasha?

  16. Why do we consider the lotus as special?

  17. Why do we worship tulasi?

  18. Why do we blow the conch?

  19. Why do we say shaanti thrice?

  20. Why do we offer a coconut?

  21. Why do we chant Om?

  22. Why do we do aarati?


Introduction


Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life. Unlike other religions, Hindu dharma has many specialties. This is not known as a religion, it is known as the dharma; Sanaathana Dharma. Sanaathana means, according to Bhagavath Geetha, which cannot be destroyed by fire, weapons, water, air, and which is present in all living and non living being. Dharma means, the way of life which is the ‘total of all aachaaraas or customs and rituals’.

Sanaathana Dharma has its foundation on scientific spirituality. In the entire ancient Hindu literature we can see that science and spirituality are integrated. It is mentioned in the 40th chapter of the Yajurveda known as Eesaavaasya Upanishad that use scientific knowledge
for solving problems in our life and use the spiritual knowledge for attaining immortality through philosophical outlook. Remember that in each and every aachaaraa there will be a component of
spirituality in it. Without spirituality, nothing exists in Sanaathana dharma. Generally everyone bear a wrong impression that this spirituality is religion. Spirituality is different in Hindu dharma.

Here the question of religion does not exist at all, because Hindu dharma was not created by an individual, prophet or an incarnation. Spirituality is a part of every Hindu custom in the normal life of a Hindu.

Aachaaraas are to be followed based on their merits available from the self experience; you need not blindly follow a teacher or someone who gives advice without reasoning. All these aachaaraas are mentioned for the prosperity of the human beings and it should be the prime focus for practicing the Hindu aachaaraas.

Achaaryaath paadam aadatthe
paadam sishya swamedhayaa
paadam sa brahmachaaribhya
sesham kaala kramena cha
This is an important advice given in smruthies. It means a person can get only one quarter of knowledge from Achaarya - the teacher, another quarter by analyzing self, one quarter by discussing with others and the last quarter during the process of living by method addition,
deletion, correction, and modification of already known aachaaraas or new aachaaraas.
Aachaaraath labhathe hi ayu:
aachaaraath dhanamakshayam
aachaaraath labhathe suprajaa:
aachaaro ahanthya lakshanam
Aachaaraas are followed for the psychological and physiological health and long life; Aachaaraas are followed for prosperity and wealth; Aachaaraas are followed for strong family and social bondage and following the Aachaaraas give a fine personality, dharmic outlook and vision, says our dharmasaastra.

In India everyone followed Aachaaraas for the above mentioned psychological, physiological, family relation, social benefits and national integration based benefits. It is your right and duty to understand scientifically, rationally and logically the meaning of each and every Aachaaraas and follow the same in your life systematically.

1. Why do we light a lamp?

In almost every Indian home a lamp is lit daily before the altar of the Lord. In some houses it is lit at dawn, in some, twice a day – at dawn and dusk – and in a few it is maintained continuously - Akhanda Deepa. All auspicious functions commence with the lighting of the lamp, which is often maintained right through the occasion.

Light symbolizes knowledge, and darkness - ignorance. The Lord is the "Knowledge Principle" (Chaitanya) who is the source, the enlivener and the illuminator of all knowledge. Hence light is worshiped as the Lord himself.

Knowledge removes ignorance just as light removes darkness. Also knowledge is a lasting inner wealth by which all outer achievement can be accomplished. Hence we light the lamp to bow down to knowledge as the greatest of all forms of wealth.

Why not light a bulb or tube light? That too would remove darkness. But the traditional oil lamp has a further spiritual significance. The oil or ghee in the lamp symbolizes our vaasanas or negative tendencies and the wick, the ego. When lit by spiritual knowledge, the vaasanas get
slowly exhausted and the ego too finally perishes. The flame of a lamp always burns upwards. Similarly we should acquire such knowledge as to take us towards higher ideals.

Whilst lighting the lamp we thus pray:
Deepajyothi parabrahma
Deepa sarva tamopahaha
Deepena saadhyate saram
Sandhyaa deepo namostute
I prostrate to the dawn/dusk lamp; whose light is the Knowledge Principle (the Supreme Lord), which removes the darkness of ignorance and by which all can be achieved in life.

2. Why do we have a prayer room?

Most Indian homes have a prayer room or altar. A lamp is lit and the Lord worshipped each day. Other spiritual practices like japa - repetition of the Lord’s name, meditation, paaraayana - reading of the scriptures, prayers, and devotional singing etc are also done here. Special worship is done on auspicious occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, festivals and the like. Each member of the family - young or old - communes with and worships the Divine here.

The Lord is the entire creation. He is therefore the true owner of the house we live in too. The prayer room is the Master room of the house. We are the earthly occupants of His property. This notion rids us of false pride and possessiveness.

The ideal attitude to take is to regard the Lord as the true owner of our homes and us as caretakers of His home. But if that is rather difficult, we could at least think of Him as a very welcome guest. Just as we would house an important guest in the best comfort, so too we
felicitate the Lord’s presence in our homes by having a prayer room or altar, which is, at all times, kept clean and well-decorated.

Also the Lord is all pervading. To remind us that He resides in our homes with us, we have prayer rooms. Without the grace of the Lord, no task can be successfully or easily accomplished. We invoke His grace by communing with Him in the prayer room each day and on special
occasions. Each room in a house is dedicated to a specific function like the bedroom for resting, the drawing room to receive guests, the kitchen for cooking etc. The furniture, decor and the atmosphere of each room are made conducive to the purpose it serves. So too for the purpose of
meditation, worship and prayer, we should have a conducive atmosphere - hence the need for a prayer room.

Sacred thoughts and sound vibrations pervade the place and influence the minds of those who spend time there. Spiritual thoughts and vibrations accumulated through regular meditation, worship and chanting done there pervade the prayer room. Even when we are tired or agitated,
by just sitting in the prayer room for a while, we feel calm, rejuvenated and spiritually uplifted.

3. Why do we do Namaste?

Indians greet each other with namaste. The two palms are placed together in front of the chest and the head bows whilst saying the word namaste. This greeting is for all - people younger than us, of our own age, those older than friends, even strangers and us.

There are five forms of formal traditional greeting enjoined in the shaastras of which namaskaram is one. This is understood as prostration but it actually refers to paying homage as we do today when we greet each other with a namaste.

Namaste could be just a casual or formal greeting, a cultural convention or an act of worship. However there is much more to it than meets the eye. In Sanskrit namah + te = namaste. It means - I bow to you - my greetings, salutations or prostration to you. Namaha can also
be literally interpreted as "na ma" (not mine). It has a spiritual significance of negating or reducing one’s ego in the presence of another.

The real meeting between people is the meeting of their minds. When we greet another, we do so with namaste, which means, "may our minds meet," indicated by the folded palms placed before the chest. The bowing down of the head is a gracious form of extending friendship in
love and humility

The spiritual meaning is even deeper. The life force, the divinity, the Self or the Lord in me is the same in all. Recognizing this oneness with the meeting of the palms, we salute with head bowed the Divinity in the person we meet. That is why sometimes, we close our eyes as we
do namaste to a revered person or the Lord – as if to look within. The gesture is often accompanied by words like "Ram Ram,” "Jai Shri Krishna", "Namo Narayana", "Jai Siya Ram",
"Om Shanti" etc - indicating the recognition of this divinity. When we know this significance, our greeting does not remain just a superficial gesture or word but paves the way for a deeper communion with another in an atmosphere of love and respect.

4. Why do we prostrate before parents and elders?

Indians prostrate before their parents, elders, teachers and noble souls by touching their feet. The elder in turn blesses us by placing his or her hand on or over our heads. Prostration is done daily, when we meet elders and particularly on important occasions like the beginning of a new task, birthdays, festivals etc. In certain traditional circles, prostration is accompanied by abhivaadana, which serves to introduce one-self, announce one’s family and social stature.
Man stands on his feet. Touching the feet in prostration is a sign of respect for the age, maturity, nobility and divinity that our elders personify. It symbolizes our recognition of their selfless love for us and the sacrifices they have done for our welfare. It is a way of humbly acknowledging the greatness of another. This tradition reflects the strong family ties, which has been one of India’s
enduring strengths.

The good wishes (Sankalpa) and blessings (aashirvaada) of elders are highly valued in India. We prostrate to seek them. Good thoughts create positive vibrations. Good wishes springing from a heart full of love, divinity and nobility have a tremendous strength. When we prostrate
with humility and respect, we invoke the good wishes and blessings of elders, which flow in the form of positive energy to envelop us. This is why the posture assumed whether it is in the standing or prone position, enables the entire body to receive the energy thus received.

The different forms of showing respect are :
Pratuthana: Rising to welcome a person.
Namaskaara: Paying homage in the form of namaste
Upasangrahan: Touching the feet of elders or teachers.
Shaashtaanga: Prostrating fully with the feet, knees, stomach, chest,
forehead and arms touching the ground in front of the elder.
Pratyabivaadana: Returning a greeting.

Rules are prescribed in our scriptures as to who should prostrate to whom. Wealth, family name, age, moral strength and spiritual knowledge in ascending order of importance qualified men to receive respect. This is why a king though the ruler of the land, would prostrate before a spiritual master. Epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata have many stories highlighting this aspect.

5. Why do we wear marks (tilak, pottu and the like) on the forehead?

The tilak or pottu invokes a feeling of sanctity in the wearer and others. It is recognized as a religious mark. Its form and colour vary according to one’s caste, religious sect or the form of the
Lord worshipped.

In earlier times, the four castes (based on varna or colour) - Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra - applied marks differently. The brahmin applied a white chandan mark signifying purity, as his profession was of a priestly or academic nature. The kshatriya applied a red kumkum mark signifying valour as he belonged to warrior races. The vaishya wore a yellow kesar or turmeric mark signifying prosperity as he was a businessman or trader devoted to creation of wealth. The sudra applied a black bhasma, kasturi or charcoal mark signifying
service as he supported the work of the other three divisions.

Also Vishnu worshippers apply a chandan tilak of the shape of "U,” Shiva worshippers a tripundra of bhasma, Devi worshippers a red dot of kumkum and so on). The tilak cover the spot between the eyebrows, which is the seat of memory and thinking. It is known as the Aajna Chakra in the language of Yoga. The tilak is applied with the prayer - "May I remember the Lord. May this pious feeling pervade all my activities. May I be righteous in my deeds.” Even when we temporarily forget this prayerful attitude the mark on another reminds us of our resolve. The tilak is thus a blessing of the Lord and a protection against wrong tendencies
and forces.

The entire body emanates energy in the form of electromagnetic waves - the forehead and the subtle spot between the eyebrows especially so. That is why worry generates heat and
causes a headache. The tilak and pottu cools the forehead, protects us and prevents energy loss. Sometimes the entire forehead is covered with chandan or bhasma. Using plastic reusable "stick bindis" is not very beneficial, even though it serves the purpose of decoration.

6. Why do we not touch papers, books and people with the feet?

To Indians, knowledge is sacred and divine. So it must be given respect at all times. Nowadays we separate subjects as sacred and secular. But in ancient India every subject - academic or spiritual - was considered divine and taught by the guru in the gurukula. The custom of not stepping on educational tools is a frequent reminder of the high position accorded to knowledge in Indian culture. From an early age, this wisdom fosters in us a deep reverence for books and
education. This is also the reason why we worship books, vehicles and instruments once a year on Saraswathi Pooja or Ayudha Pooja day, dedicated to the Goddess of Learning. In fact, each day before starting our studies, we pray:
Saraswati namasthubhyam
Varade kaama roopini
Vidyaarambham karishyaami
Sidhirbhavatu me sadaa
O Goddess Saraswati, the giver of Boons and fulfiller of wishes, I
prostrate to You before starting my studies. May you always fulfill me?

7. To touch another with the feet is considered an act of misdemeanor. Why is this so?

Man is regarded as the most beautiful, living breathing temple of the Lord! Therefore touching another with the feet is akin to disrespecting the divinity within him or her. This calls for an immediate apology, which is offered with reverence and humility.

8. Why do we apply the holy ash?

The ash of any burnt object is not regarded as holy ash. Bhasma (the holy ash) is the ash from the homa (sacrificial fire) where special wood along with ghee and other herbs is offered as worship of the Lord. Or the deity is worshipped by pouring ash as abhisheka and is then
distributed as bhasma.

Bhasma is generally applied on the forehead. Some apply it on certain parts of the body like the upper arms, chest etc. Some ascetics rub it all over the body. Many consume a pinch of it each time they receive it.

The word bhasma means, "that by which our sins are destroyed and the Lord is remembered.” Bha implied bhartsanam ("to destroy") and sma implies smaranam ("to remember"). The application of bhasma therefore signifies destruction of the evil and remembrance of the
divine. Bhasma is called vibhuti (which means "glory") as it gives glory to one who applies it and raksha (which means a source of protection) as it protects the wearer from ill health and evil, by
purifying him or her.

Homa (offering of oblations into the fire with sacred chants) signifies the offering or surrender of the ego and egocentric desires into the flame of knowledge or a noble and selfless cause. The consequent ash signifies the purity of the mind, which results from such actions. Also the fire of knowledge burns the oblation and wood signifying ignorance and inertia respectively. The ash we apply indicates that we should burn false identification with the body and become free of the
limitations of birth and death. This is not to be misconstrued as a morose reminder of death but as a powerful pointer towards the fact that time and tide wait for none.

Bhasma is specially associated with Lord Shiva who applies it all over His body. Shiva devotes apply bhasma as a tripundra. When applied with a red spot at the center, the mark symbolizes Shiva-Shakti (the unity of energy and matter that creates the entire seen and unseen universe).
Tryambakam yajaamahe Sugandhim pushtivardhanam Urvaa rukamiva bhandhanaan Mrytyor muksheeyamaa amrutaat "We worship the three-eyed Lord Shiva who nourishes and spread
fragrance in our lives. May He free us from the shackles of sorrow, change and death – effortlessly, like the fall of a rip brinjal from its stem."

9. Why do offer food to the Lord before eating it?

Indians make an offering of food to the Lord and later partake of it as prasaada - a holy gift from the Lord. In our daily ritualistic worship (pooja) too we offer naivedyam (food) to the Lord. The Lord is omnipotent and omniscient. Man is a part, while the Lord is the totality. All that we do is by His strength and knowledge alone. Hence what we receive in life as a result of our actions is really His alone. We acknowledge this through the act of offering food to Him. This is exemplified by the Hindi words "tera tujko arpan"– I offer what is Yours to You. Thereafter it is akin to His gift to us, graced by His divine touch.

Knowing this, our entire attitude to food and the act of eating changes. The food offered will naturally be pure and the best. We share what we get with others before consuming it. We do not demand, complain or criticise the quality of the food we get. We eat it with cheerful
acceptance (prasaada buddhi).

Before we partake of our daily meals we first sprinkle water around the plate as an act of purification. Five morsels of food are placed on the side of the plate acknowledging the debt owed by us to the Divine forces (devta runa) for their benign grace and protection, our
ancestors (pitru runa) for giving us their lineage and a family culture, the sages (rishi runa) as our religion and culture have been "realised", aintained and handed down to us by them, our fellow beings (manushya runa) who constitute society without the support of which we
could not live as we do and other living beings (bhuta runa) for serving us selflessly.
Thereafter the Lord, the life force, who is also within us as the five life-giving physiological functions, is offered the food. This is done with the chant
praanaaya swaahaa, apaanaaya swaahaa, vyaanaaya swaahaa,
udaanaaya swaahaa, samaanaaya swaahaa, brahmane swaahaa
After offering the food thus, it is eaten as prasaada - blessed food.

10. Why do we fast?

Most devout Indians fast regularly or on special occasions like festivals. On such days they do not eat at all, eat once or make do with fruits or a special diet of simple food.

Fasting in Sanskrit is called upavaasa. Upa means "near" + vaasa means "to stay". Upavaasa therefore means staying near (the Lord), meaning the attainment of close mental proximity with the Lord. Then what has upavaasa to do with food?

A lot of our time and energy is spent in procuring food items, preparing, cooking, eating and digesting food. Certain food types make our minds dull and agitated. Hence on certain days man decides to save time and conserve his energy by eating either simple, light food or totally abstaining from eating so that his mind becomes alert and pure.

The mind, otherwise pre-occupied by the thought of food, now entertains noble thoughts and stays with the Lord. Since it is a self-imposed form of discipline it is usually adhered to with joy
Also every system needs a break and an overhaul to work at its best.

Rest and a change of diet during fasting is very good for the digestive system and the entire body. The more you indulge the senses, the more they make their demands. Fasting helps us to cultivate control over our senses, sublimate our desires and guide our minds to be poised and at peace.

Fasting should not make us weak, irritable or create an urge to indulge later. This happens when there is no noble goal behind fasting.

The Bhagavad-Gita urges us to eat appropriately - neither too less nor too much - yukta-aahaara and to eat simple, pure and healthy food (a saatvik diet) even when not fasting.

11. Why do we do pradakshina (circumambulate)?

We cannot draw a circle without a center point. The Lord is the center, source and essence of our lives. Recognizing Him as the focal point in our lives, we go about doing our daily chores. This is the significance of pradakshina.

Also every point on the circumference of a circle is equidistant from the center. This means that wherever or whoever we may be, we are equally close to the Lord. His grace flows towards us without partiality.

12. Why is pradakshina done only in a clockwise manner?

The reason is not, as a person said, to avoid a traffic jam! As we do pradakshina, the Lord is always on our right. In India the right side symbolizes auspiciousness. So as we circumambulate the sanctum sanctorum we remind ourselves to lead an auspicious life of righteousness, with the Lord who is the indispensable source of help and strength, as our guide - the "right hand".
Indian scriptures enjoin - matrudevo bhava, pitrudevo bhava, acharyadevo bhava. May you consider your parents and teachers as you would the Lord. With this in mind we also do pradakshina around our parents and divine personages.

After the completion of traditional worship (pooja), we customarily do pradakshina around ourselves. In this way we recognize and remember the supreme divinity within us, which alone is idolized in the form of the Lord that we worship outside.

13. Why do we regard trees and plants as sacred?

The Lord, the life in us, pervades all living beings, be they plants or animals. Hence, they are all regarded as sacred. Human life on earth depends on plants and trees. They give us the vital factors that make life possible on earth: food, oxygen, clothing, shelter, medicines etc.
Hence, in India, we are taught to regard trees and plants as sacred.

Indians scriptures tell us to plant ten trees if, for any reason, we have to cut one. We are advised to use parts of trees and plants only as much as is needed for food, fuel, shelter etc. we are also urged to apologies to a plant or tree before cutting it to avoid incurring a specific sin named soona.

Certain trees and plants like tulasi, peepal etc., which have tremendous beneficial qualities, are worshipped till today. It is believed that divine beings manifest as trees and plants, and many
people worship them to fulfill their desires or to please the Lord.

14. Why do we ring the bell in a temple?

Is it to wake up the Lord? But the Lord never sleeps. Is it to let the Lord know we have come? He does not need to be told, as He is all knowing. Is it a form of seeking permission to enter His precinct? It is a homecoming and therefore entry needs no permission. The Lord welcomes us at all times. Then why do we ring the bell? The ringing of the bell produces what is regarded as an auspicious sound. It produces the sound Om, the universal name of the Lord. There should be auspiciousness within and without, to gain the vision of the Lord who is all-auspiciousness.
Even while doing the ritualistic aarati, we ring the bell. It is sometimes accompanied by the auspicious sounds of the conch and other musical instruments. An added significance of ringing the bell, conch and other instruments is that they help drowned any inauspicious or
irrelevant noises and comments that might disturb or distract the worshippers in their devotional ardour, concentration and inner peace.

As we start the daily ritualistic worship (pooja) we ring the bell, chanting:
Aagamaarthamtu devaanaam gamanaarthamtu rakshasaam Kurve ghantaaravam
tatra devataahvaahna lakshanam
I ring this bell indicating the invocation of divinity, So that
virtuous and noble forces enter (my home and heart); and the demonic
and evil forces from within and without, depart.

15. Why do we worship the kalasha?

First of all what is a kalasha? A brass, mud or copper pot is filled with water. Mango leaves are placed in the mouth of the pot and a coconut is placed over it. A red or white thread is tied around its neck or sometimes all around it in a intricate diamond-shaped pattern.

The pot may be decorated wit designs. Such a pot is known as a kalasha. When the pot is filled with water or rice, it is known as purnakumbha representing the inert body which when filled with the divine life force gains the power to do all the wonderful things that makes life
what it is.

A kalasha is placed with due rituals on all-important occasions like the traditional house warming (grihapravesa), wedding, daily worship etc. It is placed near the entrance as a sign of welcome. It is also used in a traditional manner while receiving holy personages. Why do we
worship the kalasha? Before the creation came into being, Lord Vishnu was reclining on His snake-bed in the milky ocean. From His navel emerged a lotus from which appeared Lord Brahma, the creator, who thereafter created this world.

The water in the kalasha symbolizes the primordial water from which the entire creation emerged. It is the giver of life to all and has the potential of creating innumerable names and forms, the inert objects and the sentient beings and all that is auspicious in the world from
the energy behind the universe. The leaves and coconut represent creation.

The thread represents the love that "binds" all in creation. The kalasha is therefore considered auspicious and worshipped. The waters from all the holy rivers, the knowledge of all the Vedas and the blessings of all the deities are invoked in the kalasha and its water is thereafter used for all the rituals, including the abhisheka.

The consecration (kumbhaabhisheka) of a temple is done in a grand manner with elaborate rituals including the pouring of one or more kalashas of holy water on the top of the temple. When the asuras and devas churned the milky ocean, the Lord appeared bearing the pot of
nectar, which blessed one with everlasting life. Thus the kalasha also symbolizes immortality. Men of wisdom are full and complete as they identify with the infinite Truth (poornatvam).
They brim with joy and love and respect all that is auspicious. We greet them with a purnakumbha ("full pot") acknowledging their greatness and as a sign of respectful and reverential welcome, with a "full heart".

16. Why do we consider the lotus as special?

The lotus is the symbol of truth, auspiciousness and beauty (satyam, shivam, sundaram). The Lord is also that nature and therefore, His various aspects are compared to a lotus (i.e. lotus-eyes, lotus feet, lotus hands, the lotus of the heart etc.).

The lotus blooms with the rising sun and close at night. Similarly, our minds open up and expand with the light of knowledge. The lotus grows even in slushy areas. It remains beautiful and untainted despite its surroundings, reminding us that we too can and should strive to remain
pure and beautiful within, under all circumstances. The lotus leaf never gets wet even though it is always in water. It symbolizes the man of wisdom (gyaani) who remains ever joyous,
unaffected by the world of sorrow and change. This is revealed in a shloka from the Bhagwad-Geeta:
Brahmanyaadhaaya karmaani
Sangam tyaktvaa karoti yaha
Lipyate na sa paapena
Padma patram ivaambhasaa
He who does actions, offering them to Brahman (the Supreme), abandoning attachment, is not tainted by sin, just as a lotus leaf remains unaffected by the water on it.

From this, we learn that what is natural to the man of wisdom becomes a discipline to be practiced by all saadhakas or spiritual seekers and devotees. Our bodies have certain energy centers described in the Yoga Shaastras as chakras.

Each one is associated with lotus that has a certain number of petals. For example, a lotus with a thousand petals represents the Sahasra chakra at the top of the head, which opens when the yogi attains Godhood or Realisation. Also, the lotus posture (padmaasana) is recommended when one sits for meditation. A lotus emerged from the navel of Lord Vishnu. Lord Brahma originated from it to create the world. Hence, the lotus symbolizes the link between the creator and the supreme Cause.

It also symbolizes Brahmaloka, the abode of Lord Brahma. The auspicious sign of the swastika is said to have evolved from the lotus.

17. Why do we worship tulasi?

In Sanskrit, tulanaa naasti athaiva tulasi - that which is incomparable (in its qualities) is the tulasi. For Indians it is one of the most sacred plants. In fact it is known to be the only thing used in worship, which, once used, can be washed and reused in pooja - as it is regarded so self-purifying.

As one story goes, Tulasi was the devoted wife of Shankhachuda, a celestial being. She believed that Lord Krishna tricked her into sinning. So she cursed Him to become a stone (shaaligraama). Seeing her devotion and adhered to righteousness, the Lord blessed her saying that she would become the worshipped plant, tulasi that would adorn His head.

Also that all offerings would be incomplete without the tulasi leaf - hence the worship of tulasi.
She also symbolises Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu. Those who wish to be righteous and have a happy family life worship the tulasi.

Tulasi is married to the Lord with all pomp and show as in any wedding. This is because according to another legend, the Lord blessed her to be His consort. Satyabhama once weighed Lord Krishna against all her legendary wealth. The scales did not balance till a single tulasi leaf was placed along with the wealth on the scale by Rukmini with devotion.

Thus the tulasi played the vital role of demonstrating to the world that even a small object offered with devotion means more to the Lord than all the wealth in the world.

The tulasi leaf has great medicinal value and is used to cure various ailments, including the common cold.
Yanmule sarvatirhaani
Yannagre sarvadevataa
Yanmadhye sarvavedaascha
Tulasi taam namaamyaham
I bow down to the tulasi, At whose base are all the holy places, At whose top reside all the deities and In whose middle are all the Vedas.

18. Why do we blow the conch?

When the conch is blown, the primordial sound of Om emanates. Om is an auspicious sound that was chanted by the Lord before creating the world. It represents the world and the Truth behind it.

As the story goes, the demon Shankhaasura defeated devas, the Vedas and went to the bottom of the ocean. The devas appealed to Lord Vishnu for help. He incarnated as Matsya Avataara - the "fish incarnation" and killed Shankhaasura. The Lord blew the conch-shaped bone of his ear and head. The Om sound emanated, from which emerged the Vedas.

All knowledge enshrined in the Vedas is an elaboration of Om. The conch therefore is known as shankha after Shankaasua. The conch blown by the Lord is called Paanchajanya. He carries it at all times in one of His four hands.

It represents dharma or righteousness that is one of the four goals (purushaarthas) of life. The sound of the conch is thus also the victory call of good over evil.

Another well-known purpose of blowing the conch and the instruments, known traditionally to produce auspicious sounds is to drown or mask negative comments or noises that may disturb or upset the atmosphere or the minds of worshippers.

Ancient India lived in her villages. Each village was presided over by a primary temple and several small ones. During the aarati performed after all-important poojas and on sacred occasions, the conch used to be blown. Since villages were generally small, the sound of the conch
would be heard all over the village. People who could not make it to the temple were reminded to stop whatever they were doing, at least for a few seconds, and mentally bow to the Lord. The conch sound served to briefly elevate people's minds to a prayerful attitude even in the
middle of their busy daily routine.

The conch is placed at the altar in temples and homes next to the Lord as a symbol of Naada Brahma (Truth), the Vedas, Om, dharma, victory and auspiciousness. It is often used to offer devotees thirtha (sanctified water) to raise their minds to the highest Truth. It is worshipped with the following verse.
Twam puraa saagarot pannaha
Vishnunaa vidhrutahakare
Devaischa poojitha sarvahi
Panchjanya namostu te

Salutations to Panchajanya the conch born of the ocean Held in the hand
of Lord Vishnu and worshipped by all devaas

19. Why do we say shaanti thrice?

Shaanti, meaning "peace", is a natural state of being. Disturbances are created either by others or us. For example, peace already exists in a place until someone makes noise. Therefore, peace underlies all our agitations. When agitations end, peace is naturally experienced since it was already there. Where there is peace, there is happiness. Therefore, every one without exception
desires peace in his/her life. However, peace within or without seems very hard to attain because it is covered by our own agitations. A rare few manage to remain peaceful within even in the midst of external agitation and troubles. To invoke peace, we chant prayers. By chanting prayers, troubles end and peace is experienced internally, irrespective of the external disturbances. All such prayers end by chanting shaanti thrice.

It is believed that trivaram satyam - that which is said thrice comes true. For emphasizing a point we repeat a thing thrice. In the court of law also, one who takes the witness stands says, "I shall speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth".

We chant shaanti thrice to emphasise our intense desire for peace. All obstacles, problems and sorrows originate from three sources.
Aadhidaivika : The unseen divine forces over which we have little or no control like earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions etc.
Aadhibhautika: The known factors around us like accidents, human contacts, pollution, crime etc.
Aadhyaatmika : We sincerely pray to the Lord that at least while we undertake special tasks or even in our daily lives, there are no problems or that, problems are minimised from the three sources written about above.

May peace alone prevail. Hence shaanti is chanted thrice. It is chanted aloud the first time, addressing the unseen forces. It is chanted softer the second time, directed to our immediate surroundings and those around, and softest the last time as it is addressed to oneself.

20. Why do we offer a coconut?

In India one of the most common offerings in a temple is a coconut. It is also offered on occasions like weddings, festivals, the use of a new vehicle, bridge, house etc. It is offered in the sacrificial fire whilst performing homa. The coconut is broken and placed before the Lord. It is later distributed as prasaada.

The fibre covering of the dried coconut is removed except for a tuft on the top. The marks on the coconut make it look like the head of a human being. The coconut is broken, symbolising the breaking of the ego. The juice within, representing the inner tendencies (vaasanas) is offered
along with the white kernel - the mind, to the Lord.

A mind thus purified by the touch of the Lord is used as prasaada ( a holy gift). In the traditional abhishekha ritual done in all temples and many homes, several materials are poured over the deity like milk, curd, honey, tender coconut water, sandal paste, holy ash etc. Each material has a specific significance of bestowing certain benefits on worshippers. Tender coconut water is used in abhisheka rituals since it is believed to bestow spiritual growth on the seeker.

The coconut also symbolises selfless service. Every part of the tree -the trunk, leaves, fruit, coir etc. Is used in innumerable ways like thatches, mats, tasty dishes, oil, soap etc. It takes in even salty water from the earth and converts it into sweet nutritive water that is especially beneficial to sick people. It is used in the preparation of many ayurvedic medicines and in other alternative medicinal systems.

The marks on the coconut are even thought to represent the three-eyed Lord Shiva and therefore it is considered to be a means to fulfill our desires.

21. Why do we chant Om?

Om is one of the most chanted sound symbols in India. It has a profound effect on the body and mind of the one who chants and also on the surroundings. Most mantras and vedic prayers start with Om.

All auspicious actions begin with Om. It is even used as a greeting - Om, Hari Om etc. It is repeated as a mantra or meditated upon. Its form is worshipped, contemplated upon or used as an auspicious sign.

Om is the universal name of the Lord. It is made up of the letters A (phonetically as in "around"), U (phonetically as in "put") and M (phonetically as in "mum"). The sound emerging from the vocal chords starts from the base of the throat as "A". With the coming together of the lips, "U" is formed and when the lips are closed, all sounds end in "M".
The three letters symbolize the three states (waking, dream and deep sleep), the three deities (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva), the three Vedas (Rig, Yajur and Sama) the three worlds (Bhuh, Bhuvah, Suvah) etc. The Lord is all these and beyond.

The formless, attributeless Lord (Brahman) is represented by the silence between two Om Chants. Om is also called pranava that means, "that (symbol or sound) by which the Lord is praised". The entire essence of the Vedas is enshrined in the word Om. It is said that the
Lord started creating the world after chanting Om and atha. Hence its sound is considered to create an auspicious beginning for any task that we undertake. The Om chant should have the resounding sound of a bell (aaooommm).

Om is written in different ways in different places. The most common form symbolizes Lord Ganesha’s. The upper curve is the head; the lower large one, the stomach; the side one, the trunk; and the semi-circular mark with the dot, the sweetmeat ball (modaka) in Lord
Ganesha's hand. Thus Om symbolizes everything - the means and the goal of life, the world and the Truth behind it, the material and the Sacred, all form and the Formless.

22. Why do we do aarati?


Towards the end of every ritualistic worship (pooja or bhajan) of the Lord or to welcome an honored guest or saint, we perform the aarati. This is always accompanied by the ringing of the bell and sometimes by singing, playing of musical instruments and clapping.

It is one of the sixteen steps (shodasha upachaara) of the pooja ritual. It is referred to as the lighted lamp in the right hand, which we wave in a clockwise circling movement to light the entire form of the Lord.

Each part is revealed individually and also the entire form of the Lord. As the light is waved we either do mental or loud chanting of prayers or simply behold the beautiful form of the Lord, illumined by the lamp. At the end of the aarati we place our hands over the flame and then gently touch our eyes and the top of the head.

We have seen and participated in this ritual from our childhood. Let us find out why we do the aarati?

Having worshipped the Lord of love - performing abhisheka, decorating the image and offering fruits and delicacies, we see the beauty of the Lord in all His glory. Our minds are focused on each limb of the Lord as the lamp lights it up. It is akin to silent open-eyed meditation on His beauty. The singing, clapping, ringing of the bell etc. denote the joy and auspiciousness, which accompanies the vision of the Lord. Aarati is often performed with camphor. This holds a telling spiritual significance. Camphor when lit, burns itself out completely without leaving a trace of it. It represents our inherent tendencies (vaasanas). When lit by the fire of knowledge which illumines the Lord (Truth), our vaasanas thereafter burn themselves out completely, not leaving a trace of ego which creates in us a sense of individuality that keeps us separate from the Lord.
Also while camphor burns to reveal the glory of Lord, it emits a pleasant perfume even while it sacrifices itself. In our spiritual progress, even as we serve the guru and society, we should willingly sacrifice ourselves and all we have, to spread the "perfume" of love to all. We often wait a long while to see the illumined Lord but when the aarati is actually performed, our eyes close automatically as if to look within. This is to signify that each of us is a temple of the Lord.
Just as the priest reveals the form of the Lord clearly with the aarati flame, so too the guru reveals to us the divinity within each of us with the help of the "flame" of knowledge (or the light of spiritual knowledge). At the end of the aarati, we place our hands over the flame and then touch our eyes and the top of the head. It means - may the light that illuminated the Lord light up my vision; may my vision be divine and my thoughts noble and beautiful.

The philosophical meaning of aarati extends further. The sun, moon, stars, lightning and fire are the natural sources of light. The Lord is the source of this wonderous phenomenon of the universe. It is due to Him alone that all else exist and shine. As we light up the Lord with the flame of the aarati, we turn our attention to the very source of all light, which symbolizes knowledge and life.

Also the sun is the presiding deity of the intellect, the moon, that of the mind, and fire, that of speech. The Lord is the supreme consciousness that illuminates all of them. Without Him, the intellect cannot think, nor can the mind feel nor the tongue speaks. The Lord is beyond the mind, intellect and speech. How can this finite equipment illuminate the Lord? Therefore, as we perform the aarati we chant;
Na tatra suryo bhaati na chandra taarakam
Nemaa vidyuto bhaanti kutoyamagnib
Tameva bhaantam anubhaati sarvam
Tasya bhasa sarvam idam vibhaati
He is there where the sun does not shine, Nor the moon, stars and lightning. then what to talk of this small flame (in my hand), Everything (in the universe) shines only after the Lord, And by His light alone are we all illumined.

- Swami Chinmayananda

BN in PN times !

BikeNomads got featured in the Pune edition of Times of India ! If you live in pune, read the paper. If you don't, read online !

Multi Touch to the next level

After having been blown away with the Apple iPod's multi touch surface (which basically allows you to use multiple fingers on the device), I was pretty much thinking what other players in the market are going to do about it ?

Then i saw this video today, which though is still a concept, but if it makes mainstream market, I think it will be great for gaming !


Bidar - Revisted

After a lot of dilly dallying, falling sick with vertigo, umpteen postponements, we finally went to Bidar.

This was my 2nd time to this holy place, but first time for Soniya. This time we went by lightning, with a couple of more friends - Manav and his wife Nidhi.

Since the distance was just 120kms (confirmed by my last blog), we decided to take it easy. We were to leave by 8am, and only go to the gurudwara. The route out of hyd was ok. The main difference I see between a bike and a car are :
  • I have to wait patiently behind other cars/trucks/tractors, sing a song etc, as I don't have much chance of overtaking on a single lane highway.
  • There is a breed of drivers more dangerous than the 3 wheelers in the city. These are the white indica cab drivers.
  • The second most dangerous drivers are uncles in Maruti 800s.
  • On a bike, you dont even realise the above as there are too many big gaps to overtake on.
  • You can listen to songs, but if you have been driving for long, the songs become stale. You crave for switching them off, but when you switch it off, it becomes boring and sleepy.
  • The day which is perfect for biking is one in which you switch on the AC in the car.
  • You can eat and drink while driving.
  • People usually see you.
Our first stop was to be at the Reliance A1 plaza, but it was closed. I don't know whats with the reliance and AP, but all the plazas are closed it seems. So, we went on further and came across an AP tourism stop point, where we had tea and coffee. The only thing they had on sale was some puris - nothing else. Wonders why the govt even bothers to open up such places.

The turn off to Bidar is at Zahirabad. Last time the road from here onwards was not very good. However, this time round the road had been metalled up and was pretty good to zip on. My wife drove here and was just enjoying the drive.

At Bidar the gurudwara is on the main road. Just keep following the road and you come across an arch on the right side which has something written in Gurumukhi. Cant miss it. Turn in from there and a short descent later we were at the gurudwara. Being a weekday , it was quite empty.
Darshan at the Gurudwara

We spent some time at the darshan, and soaking up the atmosphere. There is something wierd about the atmosphere. The sikhs there sing the holy songs - which at first sound quite jarring, but if you just sit there inside the gurudwara, a feeling of peace steals over you, and you start enjoying the songs , which just a while back were getting to you.

The gurudwara has a 24 hour langar (food for the faithfuls) which ate. Just prior to leaving the gurudwara, we went to see the spring adjacent to the gurudwara. Legend has it that when Guru Nanak had visited Bidar, the area was under a severe doubt. He stuck his sword in at the ground , and a fresh water spring came out of the hole. This spring is that one. We took a sip each of the crystal clear water, and it tasted really good. People were filling up bottles with the water to take back home.
The fresh water spring

On the way back we stopped at a Bharat Petroleum Ghar. I think they are starting on a similar concpet to Reliance A1. This one though was operational, and the food was good. I would recommend it to people who are travelling on this route and want to stop for some food.
BP Ghar

The way back was uneventful except getting frustrated with the traffic and the road. I remember this road being the same for god knows how many years. On both sides the road widenning has started, and then forgotten. Took the turn at BHEL to avoid further traffic buildup and crused home via gachibowli, avoiding the people sauntering across the road - jumping in your path as soon as you draw level with them.

I enjoy touring, but I dont like coming back to the city!

Wheelie on a Truck


Wheelie on a Truck
Originally uploaded by Harshad Sharma
Harshad over at our BN group posted this pic. Click the pic and read his description !

It happens only in India !

Breakfast Ride/Drive

Its been a long time since I hit the highway. So, decided to hook up with a few BNers this weekend. Decided to go to the A1 outlet on the Nagpur highway and meet up with GR. 8am we were to meet up at Runway 9 . The excuse was that we would distribute the BN Ts, but unfortunately, they had not arrived. Decided to head out and enjoy the morning anyways.

I think I have forgotten how to get up early ! Reached around 8:20am, by which time the BNers were already there. GR, Naveen and Mohit with their bikes. This time I was going with my wife and a couple friends. I went in my Verna.

Intros over (first time I was meeting Naveen and Mohit) we decided to move towards A1. I took GRs spanking new 220 and rode up till the A1 restaurant. This was the tough part - sunday morning, nice highway road, and doing max of 65kmph as the bike was being run in.

Reached the A1 - but it was closed. I dont know why reliance wants to waste money. The A1s on both the Pune highway and the Nagpur highway are closed. sigh!

So, we decided to head out more , towards Nagpur and get a dhaaba. Finally came to a Punjabi Dhaaba where we pulled up and had aloo paranthas with anda bhurji and chai ! Swapped bike stuff with the BNers. But I think my cager friends got bored ! :)


GR on Quicker Silver

The men and their machines. From left : Pulsar 220 with GR, Mohit with Pulsar 180, Naveen with Karizma R, Vibhu and Manav with Verna.

iPod Touch


Drool ! This is what a music player should be like ! Wow ! Totally blown away.

But after the launch of the iPhone earlier this year , this was sure to happen. However, if you ask me , I would still like to get the iPhone instead of the iPod, just so that I dont have too many different devices.

Read more on the Apple site. Watch the videos. Ah-maze-ing
!

7 tips for programers.


It saddens me. Really makes me sad, to see how programs are written. Being in India we gloss over and drool over the foreign investment coming in, about offshoring, about being in the global market. But, just stop to consider ... how many software packages are really made in India end to end ? In my experience , its all handed down from US or UK or wherever the parent company is , line by line, as to how we are to make the software. And in most cases, the end result is something which makes us feel like ... umm... is this the best that can be done ?

Being right in the bang of how software is made, I think its more of an attitudinal problem. Its how we take writing code that is the problem.

So, my dear software programmer, this article is for you. The stuff you are expected to do, and which you are not doing. Please start at the earliest, or all your aquaintences are gonna come to pull your hair out in frustration. This goes for programmers and software architects.

1. Design it to make it Fun.
Now the definition of fun changes from application to application. In a game it is the gee-whizz factor. For spreadsheets it may be nifty features like summation. If your product does not have a 'wow' factor, there is something you are doing which is seriously wrong. Visit the design again. Add or remove from the features you have. Be bloody creative man !

2. Design for the user and not yourself.
So what if its difficult to implement. So what if you have to do some scary pointer arithmetic. The end result is for the user not for you. For the end user make it easy and simple to use. A typical end user is not techno savvy to the same extent who is going to sit down and figure out round about routes to make the software work. If you can't do it, drop your attitude of mental superiority. Test for edge conditions not straigtforward scenarios which will work anyways.

3. Make it easy to Remove.
Yes. Your software should be easy to remove. If someone does not like your software, he should be able to remove it instead of having to lug the entire software he installed cause now there is no way to remove it. What a pain.

4. Take ownership dude.
The management philosophy is more about discrete chunks which other people will work on. That is a recipie of disaster. Be aware of the entire code. Its not only good for the code as more eyes and minds will be on a problem when it comes - you can be sure it will come. It also makes it easy for people to transition in and out of projects - which is a fact of life in the programming companies we have.

5. Team Work.
Derived from pt 4, but its so strange that people hardly do it. Most of the time its about 'hey he may shine more than me'. If you are so scared about that, then probably you dont deserve to be a programmer. Go, become a politician.

6. The middle path.
Buddhism defines the middle path - the correct balance. You need that in your code too. You cannot design with having too narrow an approach or make something thinking it will be used maybe 2 iterations down the line. Strike the balance.

7. Crash it.
While devloping, try to keep crashing your code. The more it crashes during development, the more strong it is when it comes to users. Use version control if you are unsure of code changes. Thats what it is for. Dont keep local copies which will 'works on my system'.

Here endeth my rant for today. Go forth. Write great code !