Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dance and Culture

When I first saw this video it brought a smile to my face. The wedding entrance dance has become a trend in western weddings but this was the first time I was seeing it in a Hindu wedding. For me I preferred her coming out with the gals as i didn’t get the part with the boys and found that cheesy.

Now while in general most people like me have liked the video, theres another minority bunch who are critising the video on the basis of culture. To all of them I’d like to ask you what culture are we talking about?

Culture is manmade and has been changed to fit the whim and wants of men across centuries.

If we are such upholders of culture, how did the sacred art of bharathanatyam and temple dancers into prostitution? It took a women centuries later to go against culture to revive back Bharatanatyam!

And when did this revival happen? In the 1930s!!!!! Before that you were looked down if you were a bharatanatyam dancer. Where were our people and culture when they made the sacred artform disrespectful?

Did you know that according to Hinduism there is a third gender? That would be transsexuals. All this changed when the British arrived in India and began treating them disrespectfully and creating laws to imprison transsexuals. So how did our culture change then when this has been in our legend and scriptures. Take Ayyapan’s legend – who are his parents? Vishnu and Siva – as the asura had asked for a boon where he cannot be killed by one who parents are male and female!

My question is will this culture question have arised if the bride had danced kohlatam or bharatanatyam?

How come its okay to dance when we do thirukalyanam? Don’t people sit and dance at the weddings or hare rama Krishna festivals?

The only difference in this brides wedding was the songs were cinema songs but look at the songs. There was nothing wrong with the lyrics or the way the bride danced. Everything was done respectfully. If she was to have done the same moves to a kolattam song, all of you would have gone why thats so great.

Cinema music is popular and it is the fault of parents and their own generation for not teaching carnatic music, bhajans, thevarams, folk songs to their kids. If the children had grown to love those songs and music they would have picked those songs to dance for instead.

Culture is manmade and it has changed so much over the yugams as man becomes more and more critical about others. For those who would like to question this please tell me why did culture prostitute temple dancers and now mistreats transsexuals?

To the bride and groom – nice one and congrats. To future brides or grooms who would like to do these at your wedding, please hire me to be your photographer. I would love to shoot such a fun wedding ;p

ps: the wedding was in Singapore.

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Monday, February 20, 2012



Everytime I visit Chennai there are two cities I must visit. One is Kanchipuram and the other Thiruvannamalai. While Annamalai is where my ancestors are from, it is Annamalaiyar himself who brings me back there everytime for he is an absolute joy to behold.

I headed to Kanchipuram in the wee hours of the morning to reach there for the morning abhishegam that we would usually book for to do for Kanchi Kamakshi. After that I headed for a beautiful darshan at Ekambareshwarar temple. It was a Monday and there was a priest sitting there and reciting manthras who obligied me to a sahasranama archanai. When he saw me sitting down at the mandapam in front of the tree to sing, he came by to give me pulisadam my most favourite food which was the prasadam for the day.

I headed straight to Thiruvannamalai and feeling a bit lazy was reading a book when the rays of the sun hit my room and i looked out to find monkeys on the roof and the sun glowing at the gopuram. I immediately headed to the temple to catch the sunset and the evening prayers and to book the margazhi month abhishegam. When i reached the temple the evening abhishegam was going on so I couldn’t give my maalai there. I was walking around the temple when I saw Nadarajar being decorated oddly with a piece of cloth. I walked up to the priest and said will you put the maalai for him and he said yes but only later. If you want to see come back here.

I went to Umaiyaal for prayers and headed back to Nadarajar. That’s when I realised he was going to be decorated grandly for flowers of all sizes and colours arrived in truckloads for the idol is at least 10 feet in height. I sat down to watch the alangaram and sing. I was awestruck at the care and beauty of the decoration. Soon more people joined me. My malai was placed right at the top of Nadarajas crown. Soon they brought out the huge trunk of gold to decorate him. One by one the gold chains and crowns were placed and soon the decoration was done. I took a shot with my camera phone but wanting more I went to the iyer and asked him if I could take a picture. He said yes and I quickly took out my dslr and shot 2 photos before putting it back into my bag. Photos are not allowed in the temple.

All my years of waking up early for Marghali was rewarded with this beautiful darshan which was followed by the singing of Thiruvembavai and the procession of Manickavasagar. I followed the procession right to the end of the street – will post the photos later.

The next morning I was lucky to have been the only two umbhayakarargal for the 4am abhishegam and what a morning it was. Annammalaiyar and umaiyal were a sight to behold. And the malai I had purchased the night before was still fresh as promised by the florist.

And so on Shivarathri, I’m sharing this amazing photo to be seen with everyone. Please note this photo is copyrighted and is not for sharing, stealing or sale.  Anyone who wants to see it printed are welcome to my house ;)

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Si Tanggang in Batu Caves?? Ehh

So there’s a new theory on Batu Caves by a writer who loves folklore and doesn’t know geography.

So when I read this I knew I had to reply as sensible as possible.

Si Tanggang or Malin Kundang is a folklore on an ungrateful son who together with his ship and all the sailors turned into stone after being cursed by his dejected mother.

Now the writer claims that based on the 1955 novel written by Abdul Samad Ahmad the stone ship in question is non-other than Batu Caves.

So was Si Tanggang folklore based in Batu Caves. 

Here’s my answer and comment to the article.

lol ok lets talk facts and get some geography lessons.

Abdul Samad Ahmad was born in 1913

K. Thamboosamy Pillai, an Indian trader, in the 1800s who also founded  the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Kuala Lumpur, founded the temple cave in 1891 and the first Thaipusam was held in 1892. Which means Thaipusam has been held there for 120 years.

Now Abdul Samad Ahmad wrote Si tanggang in 1955.

Although Si Tanggang is not really an original story since similar versions can be found around Asia, the most popular being Malin Kundang. The ship or its remains can be found in Pantai Aia Manih, south of Kota Padang, West Sumatera. Please check the photos at the link for the ship ;p

So you've written an article based on a folklore written in 1955? some 57 years ago by a writer who was not even born when the temple was founded ;))

Now If you've based this on the orang asli (aborigines) legend - people who continue to be forgotten and side stepped in this country - again this can only be nothing but a legend because

1 Batu caves formation is said to be 400 years old.
2 Geologically Malaysia's current map shape has been pretty much the same size for some 6000 years. According to the prehistory geological evolution of Malaysia and the world, the available land has continued to shrink in size and is slowly being taken over by water. Yeah we are continuously in risk of losing our precious coastlines.

Take a look at this for some prehistory lessons.

This itself proves that is totally ridiculous to assume Batu Caves could have been Si Tanggangs ship as it is right smack in the middle of Selangor and towards the border of Perak, the nearest ocean coastline is around Klang which is about 60 kms away. No ship that size could have berthed so far away from the sea. 

I suggest that you go back and study geography please and let's keep SI Tanggang what it is a folklore.

So in conclusion you are the most awesomest man in Malaysia la macha ;)) Can become writer of folklore or cerita dongeng.

To the writer 

YOur article wasn't racists but its definitively disrespectful. Saying that we've misunderstood and that it was about respecting ones parents is ridiculous and makes you look like a politician who said the wrong thing.

If your article was about respecting one's parents and you knew that this is a myth, why do you insist the the mango tree was from the mango Si Tanggangs mother threw and for that we should be a statue as tall as Lord Muruga's statue? What kind of fantasy world are you living in that you think a myth that has no geographical evidence is true?

If your article was about respecting one's parents, wheres the stories about youth disrespecting parents? The whole article is about your fascination on the story and search to see the ship. Neither the ship existed nor any part of the story besides you insisting on 1 mango tree being the evidence of its existance.

I suggest you learn how to write and understand the importance of research before writing something ridiculous.

Ps: please pass this answer around - lets learn some geography ;)

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Thaipusam 2012

The flag is up

Those who have been following this blog for years now are probably wondering wheres the Thaipusam post. Well its been a super awesome Thaipusam and hence no posts.

This year I shot a wedding on the night of the chariots journey to Batu Caves. So you can imagine how hectic my day would have been.

I left the wedding hall and headed home to drop my equipment and rest a bit. Then mom joined me in our quest to look for the chariot – I was pretty certain it would still be at the usual place but one guy sent us on a goose chase to Masjid India before we found it again in Leboh Ampang where lion dances, urumi melam and kompangs were waiting for the chariot.

Thaipusam 2012 Muruga Looking  

Ah I absolutely loved how the chariot looked this year. I had mumbled to one of the annas that I didn’t like the fluorescent tubes and preferred the solidary bulbs and looks like someone listened to me.

When we were there some group gave a 12 feet malai that was so heavy – 8 guys had to carry it.
Muruga looked so dashing as he made his way around KL. I was at Batu Caves three times this year, first on the evening before to see the festival flag hoisted and then early the next morning for my river photos and finally in the evening to climb to the inner caves.

The crowds were epic this year. When I arrived in the morning both sides of the flyover was jammed up with people. Even when we returned in the evening the crowds were just growing in numbers.

thaipusam 2012

Every year it’s a tradition for me to go see the chariot leave and on its way back we will do prayers in KL. A few years once we will try to make it for the final pooja at KL Maha Mariamman Temple. Since the chariot procession grew ultra famous the timing has gotten later and later. The chariot only arrived at 3.30am in Leboh Ampang. All this is because the number of people doing prayers and breaking coconuts in the thousands has increased tenfold.

thaipusam 2012

Home at last

getting a lift home

The chariot is so tall and the idols are so heavy that they have to use a forklift to lift and bring down Murugan each time.

thaipusam 2012

thaipusam 2012 thaipusam 2012 thaipusam 2012

Right after the prayers they had been giving out his garlands and the fruits to everyone who was there. Everyone who attended got something. As we are annual ubhayakarargal, mom was given a kalanji.  I was standing in front of Murugan and watching them remove his gold ornaments. He looked so gorgeous ;p

One of the annes asked if I wanted something. At first I said no but then I had been eyeing the little crown garlands. So I said can I get a kutty flower or garland. Instantly I was given the small malai from his neck (you can see it in the photo - its the one with red green at his side) ;))) obviously I was too happy for words and skipped away, garland in hand ;p

I said goodbye to Muruga and left and with that Thaipusam 2012 has officially ended.

I have much to write about it though so look out for more posts soon.  

Oh if you're looking for the photos of the kavadis - checkout my fb page ;) 

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