Streets of Madurai

The streets leading to the magnificent Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple was full of life with families and vendors. Children played but they were hushed by their watchful parents at the slight on-sight of mischief or a noise. After all, are they not near the most powerful deity?

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MyRefractions approached a policeman on guard duty to obtain formal permission to photograph the insides of the beautiful temple. Knowing the behavioral patterns of an exhausted policeman who is almost the end of his duty, MR was taken aback by the humbleness and soft words of guidance by the guard-on-duty. A senior officer walked in and was also equally humble with the words. Do they hand pick soft-spoken officers or they change to becoming soft-spoken near the temple. Anyway, the answer was a polite negative.

Most of the captures were from the street. But the beauty of the thousand-legged tower, the sanctum sanctorum, the fragrance of fresh camphor and the flowers… all embedded in that clear bell, alive in the minds of all.

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Walk to the past

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A walk through the many alleys of the old town of Muharraq is quite rewarding.The man depicted in the photograph above was friendly and posed for the snap. A feeling of being home far from one’s own home town – and the word for that feeling evades – was felt with all its intensity while walking through the alleys. Please note that a match between the text and pictures might not be a best fit.

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About Muharraq…
Muharraq means ‘Place of Ashes’. It is Bahrain’s second largest city and served as its capital until 1923. The Muharraq Town was established by the Al Bin Ali Utub tribe as early as the late 17th Century. It has long been a centre of religiosity. The city is located on Muharraq Island.

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The city’s origins are ancient, going back to the time of Dilmun some five thousand years ago, but it came to prominence in the historical records during the era of Tylos when Bahrain came under domination of the Selucid Greeks. Muharraq was the centre of a pagan cult dedicated to the shark god, Awal. The city’s inhabitants, who depended upon seafaring and trade for their livelihood, worshipped Awal in the form of a large statue of a shark located in the city. Awal is an ancient name of Bahrain, an island country in the Arabian Gulf. The name Awal had remained in use, probably for eight centuries. Awal was derived from the name of a god that used to be worshiped by the inhabitants of the islands before the advent of Islam. Awal resembled the head of an ox.

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By the fifth century AD, Muharraq had become a major centre of Nestorian Christianity, which had come to dominate the southern shores of the Persian Gulf. As a sect, the Nestorians were often persecuted as heretics by the Byzantine Empire, but Bahrain was outside the Empire’s control offering some safety. The names of several of Muharraq’s villages today reflect this Christian legacy, with Al-Dair meaning ‘the monastery’ and Qalali meaning a ‘monk’s cloisters’.

Muharraq has been a place of arts and traditional music. Muharraq is also known for its traditional market, or souq.

Ooops!

The city of Thiruvananthapuram in the southern state of Kerala, India, gets dressed up like a bride for the harvest festival of Onam. There will be two kinds of feast: the delicious Onam Sadhya served in fresh plantain leaves with over 25 dishes and the folk arts from across the state. Often hard to say which is more enjoyable.

One such art form of Arjunanritham (Dance of Arjuna) is about to begin with the drummers starting their presentation. The senior most leader reprimands the junior artist for a tiny mistake no one noticed but the leader…

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Band stand at Napier Museum

The famed 19th century band stand in front of the 131-year-old Napier Museum, Thiruvananthapuram, the vibrant capital city of the state of Kerala.

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Before the advent of electricity and radio, police and army bands regularly performed field music on the architecturally-impressive circular stone structure to entertain the colonial rulers of the Victorian gaslight era.

It was a time when employees of the erstwhile State of Travancore would hurry around the capital city before night fall to manually light the “inverted cone” shaped street lamps. The vintage Rama Rayar lamp at LMS junction is perhaps among the last remaining symbol of the period. With the beginning of broadcasting in the 1940s, radio slowly replaced the band music at Museum grounds. The sight of people gathering to listen to the daily news on the radio was a part of yester years.

Robert Chisholm, architect of the Napier Museum, designed the band stand as an ornamental focal point of the upper botanical garden surrounding the art museum. His design also met the acoustic requirements of the time.

Even now, the public opinion seemed to be in favour of having police and army bands perform on the band stand on special days.

If popular will prevailed, the band stand would perhaps reverberate once again to the gong of drums, drone of bagpipes, call of bugles, and the inspiring fanfare of the brass band.