Category Archives: Inspiration

5 Places To Visit When You’re In Chicago

When planning a trip to the Windy City, you will find there are plenty of Chicago attractions and activities to consider, including main sights, shopping opportunities, and entertaining cultural explorations. Regardless of what you planned before entering this exciting destination, you are sure to come across a variety of places to visit, which may include some of the following selections: Continue reading 5 Places To Visit When You’re In Chicago

Dip Your Soul into a Spiritual Aura with Varanasi Tour

Varanasi is a holy city of India, which is also known as Benaras. Regarded by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, it is a pilgrimage place for Hindus. This cultural capital of India has different shades. It is the city where you find such vivacious blend at a single place. This city of temples is also a beacon of culture & spirituality.

The present name Varanasi has its origin in the two tributaries of the Ganges – Varuna and Asi, which flank its northern and southern borders. Banaras or Benaras, as it is popularly known, is only a corruption of the name Varanasi.

History

The original name of the city was Kashi. The word derived from ‘Kasha’, which means brightness. It is the site of the sacred place of Lord Kashi Vishwanath, which is one of the tweleve revered Jyotirlingas of the Lord Shiva. Ruled by Aryans and Muslims for years, Varanasi finally became an independent kingdom in the 18th century. Ramnagar was the capital of the city at that time. After India got independence, Varanasi finally became a part of Uttar Pradesh.

Bharat Mata Temple

Located in Kashi Vidhyapeeth campus, this temple is 1 km away from the city railway station. This famous temple is dedicated to Mother India who is the human manifestation of Indian nation. There is a marble statue of Bharat Mata inside the temple. It is a replica of united nation in three dimension with plains, mountains and oceans.

Tulsi Manas Mandir

This temple holds historical and cultural importance for India. According to the legends, this is the place where Ramayana was composed. Built in 1964, the temple is dedicated to Lord Ram. The temple is named after Tulsi Das, the great saint poet. The temple construction follows Shikhara style of architecture. Adorned with many inscriptions that display the stories from Ram Charit Manas, the temple is a must visit spot.

Banaras Hindu University

Founded by Pandit Madan Mohan, the university is amongst the oldest educational centres of India. He established it in 1917 for the study of Sanskrit and Indian culture, art and music. Extending over five sq km, the university campus also houses Bharat Kala Bhavan. It houses a wonderful collection of miniature paintings and sculptures, dating back to 15th centuries. The premises of the campus also houses the New Vishwanatha Temple.

Ganga Ghats

The ghats of Ganga river in Varanasi represent the divinity of the city. The beauty of the ghats can be best seen during sunrise and sunset. Most wonderful scene of these ghats is Ganga Arti. There are 84 ghats, out of which, five ghats are more important. Legends say that God Vishnu first put his holy feet in the city and these five ghats symbolize the bodily parts of Him. Assi is the head, Dasaswamedh is the chest, Manikarnika is the naval, Panchganga is the thighs and Adi Kesava is the feet.

Also, consider a Nepal Culture tour!

The Shrine Of The Mevlana

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and right doing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.
― Rumi

Every time I read a poem by Rumi, I am filled with regret that I cannot read it in the original Persian, for I know how much is lost in the translation of vernacular poetry into English. Still the effect is profound and moving, and the sheer simplicity, stunning.

Mevlana Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī was a 13th century Anatolian mystic better known around the world as Rumi (meaning from Rome!). Born in a small town in Afghanistan he spent most of his life in Konya, capital of the Selcuk Sultanate of Rum (possibly named after Rome) and is buried there, alongside his father. It was fitting that our visit to Konya in 2007, coincided with the United Nations sponsored ‘Year of Rumi’ celebrations.

The wound is the place
where the light enters you.
― Rumi

Above the main door is the inscription ‘Ya Hazrat Maulana’, with the following verse in Persian:

Kaaba al Ushaaq Ba-en Shud Muqaam,
Har Ke Naaqis Anja Shud Tamaam

(This is the Ka’aba (mecca) of all Lovers,
It converts an unpure one into a pure one)

The shrine was once the headquarters of the Mevlevi brotherhood until it was banned by the secular government, when Turkey became a republic. It was converted into a museum in 1927 and contains the tombs of Rumi’s successors and their families, apart from his own. Each distinctly recognisable by the turbans placed over the headstones. Women’s graves had none, while the Mevlana’s and his father’s had the largest. Photos were unfortunately not permitted.

Silence is the language of God,
all else is poor translation.
― Rumi

While their properties were confiscated, members of the Mevlevi Brotherhood continued their religious practices in secret, until their ecstatic whirling dance was acknowledged as a cultural heritage of the country, and the ban lifted in 1953.

Do not be satisfied with the stories
that come before you.
Unfold your own myth.
― Rumi

Mevlana preached tolerance, reasoning, charity and most of all love. His acceptance of all other faiths as equal, prompted Pope John XXIII to make this statement: “In the name of the Catholic World, I bow with respect before the memory of Rumi.”

I want to sing like the birds sing,
not worrying about who hears
or what they think.
― Rumi

Based on the belief that all matter in the universe revolves, that man’s existence depends on the revolving atoms in his body, the whirling dance of the Sufi’s or the ‘Whirling Dervishes’, represents a spiritual ascent, through focus and love, to connect with the divine truth.

Raise your words, not voice.
It is rain that grows flowers,
not thunder.
― Rumi

The setting of the Sema we attended in a Caravanserai was amazing, but the performance was patently touristy. With camera flashes going off despite their request to not photograph the proceeding till the end, when a lone dancer came out just for that purpose.

I wished again that I could understand the lyrics of the mournful chant. Without that connection this can be a slow, boring affair and R swore he wouldn’t sit through another one. I was, of course, totally fascinated.

Below is a video clip of a Sema with more contemporary music. You can find a description of the seven steps comprising the ceremony, and the slower, traditional version here.

Are you searching for your soul?
Then come out of your own prison.
Leave the little stream and join the river
that flows to the ocean. Like an ox,
don’t pull the wheel of this world on your back.
Take off the burden. Whirl and circle.
Rise above the wheel of the world.
There is another view.
― Rumi

And the most relevant of all, I dedicate to that traveler I met on the Nile, a girl after my own heart. And the first person I think of when I read Rumi.

Travel brings power
and love back into your life.
― Rumi