I have just returned from a few days in Kovalam Beach, Kerala state, near the southernmost tip of India. I'll be posting some updates soon.
There have not been new postings recently for a few reasons: (1) I got sick with the flu and spent a few days in bed recovering, (2) I was busy setting up the home page for my Koh Mak Retreat, and (3) I was too busy relaxing by the seaside in Kovalam!
Please stay tuned, more is coming soon!
In the meantime, enjoy what's left of 2005, and best wishes for 2006!
My friend Koichiro has suggested a good way to get a Japanese translation of this blog.
Simply go to
and enter the URL of this blog:
and you will automatically get a computer translation of this site. Starting today, I will automatically add a Japanese computer translation of all blog entries.
Here is a sample translation:
Last Friday, there was a concert. The performers were all yogis; it was inspiring to see so much talent among the people around us in practice every morning.
The concert was at the Kev-in; a hotel and restaurant run by Kevin, a very dedicated yogi who has been in Mysore for a long time. Kevin organized the concert to raise funds for Project P, a charity he started to help one needy family in Mysore. The concert was free, but donations were collected; I don't know the exact numbers, but I heard that the fundraising went very well.
The first performer was Kevin himself; he played 3 songs written during his university days. In addition to being a dedicated yogi and good hotel manager, he turned out to be a very talented musician!
Next up was Mark; sorry but I didn't get a photo. Mark was followed by Luke, who played a very funny original song about about yoga.
Afsheen was next; he played songs written by himself and others.
Then, Trina performed; her second song was an original which she performed in Chinese. Of course, most of us didn't understand the words, but her silvery voice left us all enchanted.
For the final number, Mark, Luke, Afsheen and Trina performed together; Afsheen switched from guitar to percussion; playing a large plastic water drum. There was another percussionist playing tabla, but I'm sorry to say that I didn't get his name.
It was a perfect evening to relax, enjoy and also help a good charity; we all left feeling a little closer to samadi!
Palace and Countryside
Wednesday, Nov. 30
Today was Mein's birthday. Mein and her husband Francis practice Ashtanga in Tokyo; they are now here with their lovely daughter Sophia Ashley to practice with Guruji. To celebrate Mein's birthday, Francis arranged a lunch party at the Lalita Mahal hotel, a grand building originally built as a palace for the Maharaj of Mysore.
The hotel's elegant dining room, which used to be a ballroom, was a perfect setting for an excellent lunch.
All the food, Indian and western, was superb. By the way, the apple pie with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce was excellent! Francis ordered it; but it was too big for him and Mein and Sophia to finish, so I shared the work of eating it!
After the lunch, we walked around the hotel and enjoyed the elegant atmosphere and the beautiful views from the rooftop.
Later, I went on a motorbike ride with my friend Antonia
to see the countryside around the hotel. It was a warm, sunny afternoon, with a good breeze blowing, and the backcountry road was buisier than I have seen it before, with some people working, while others appeared to be going for a stroll to enjoy the wonderful afternoon weather.
Antonia is a film producer, and like me, she enjoys taking photos, so we stopped many times to photograph scenery and the local people; some of the photos posted here were taken by her.
Here is a shot from the back of my motorbike:
First we saw a few cows; this man was hurrying to catch up with them:
Then a family with a flock of sheep:
The lady had an interesting assortment of branches and a plastic bottle balanced on her head:
Then this older man, who had a very charming smile, he sells plastic items from his bicycle:
This young man was carrying a container of gas, used for stoves, on the back of his bicycle.
Another man passing by on his bicycle was curious about us and wanted to have his photo taken; Antonia took it and showed it to him:
Then another man with a herd of oxen:
And more oxen:
and then some more sheep passing my motorbike:
After about 20 minutes, we got back on my bike, and went further, we reached a small village where people were getting water from the well:
We took a few photos; and suddenly people became interested in us; the size of the group increased rapidly. the children were especially eager to have thieir photos taken:
As it got darker, and the scene became more and more crowded, we decided to get back on our bike, and return to Mysore.
Two more thoughts about the countryside. First, I was impressed by how open, friendly and happy everyone seemed. There were clearly not rich people, and they probably have to work very hard just to eat and survive, yet they all had a welcoming attitute, and a ready smile.
Second, I'm a little dissatisfied with most of these photos, after returning home it became clear that I really know almost nothing about the lives or stories of the people I photographed. Of course, there is a language barrier, since most of them spoke almost no English; but I'm thinking that rather than just having pretty photos, it would be more meaningful and satisfying to also learn about the lives of those photographed. What do you think?
Lost Cities, Part 2
Here's the much delayed contiinuation of the previous post about our trip to Thalakadu and Somnathpur.
Our second stop was Somnathpur, a small but beautiful and well preserved 12th century temple. The ruins at Thalakadu were impressive for their antiquity and the fact the entire city was buried under sand for centuires. On the other hand, Somnathpur impresses for its artistic quality: it's graceful proportions and the amazingly detailed sculpture covering the temple inside and out.
This time, we were lucky to hire Mr. Ramakrishna, a very knowledgeable guide who also spoke excellent Englsh.
He explained that the temple is dedicated to the god Vishnu, but it is no longer an active temple since it was attacked by islamic armies from the north of India.
This huge stone inscription near the entrance, written in the old Kannada script, records details of the construction of the temple.
The first thing one notices when entering the temple compound are the building's graceful shape and proportions.
Only as we near the temple do the small and amazingly detailed decorations become visible:
Mr. Ramakrishna explained that there are over 5,000 statues decorating the temple, which took many artisans about 60 years (if I remember correctly) to make. The statues are made of soapstone, which is soft and easy to carve when it is freshly cut, but after drying becomes very hard. Most of the stonework at Thalakadu was granite, which is a very hard stone, this is probably one of the reasons that the sculpture at Somnathpur is much more detailed and sophisticated.
Many of these statues are of Vishnu, but there are also statues of the other two princiipal gods, Shiva and Brahma, and their spouses Lakshmi, Parvati and Saraswati. After giving us a brief course on how to identify these 6 gods, Mr. Ramakrishna took us around the temple, pointed out many interesting details, and also quizzed us by asking us to identify the gods shown in many of the statues. I'm pleased to say that by a group effort, we correctly identified them all!
Here are some close ups of the statues:
The first is a lion, one of the symbols of Vishnu:
Here is an incarnation of Vishnu with a lion's head and a man's body; he has killed a demon and is pulling out the demon's intestines and wearing them as a necklace:
Our guide explained that the temple also served as a school for the community, and had to teach people about all ascpects of life. Here are some scenes from the Kama Sutra:
A happy, dancing Ganesha:
And finally, Budda, considered by Hindus to be another incarnation of Vishnu:
The inside of the temple is just as impressive. First, there is the main hall, with very detialed carvings on the ceiling, showing banana flowers, etc., and several large columns, all hand made and each having a unique design.
There are three chambers or sanctums, which house statues of the three different incarnations of Vishnu. Although they are made of stone, these statues shlne like metal; Mr. Ramakrishna explained that the priests washed them with coconut oil every day, and because of this, over the ages, the stone becomes shiny.
Unfortunately, the statue of the main god was taken by the British when they controlled India, and is now in the British Museum, so we were unable to see it; in its place, the Archaeological Survey of Inida has placed a statue excavated from the temple grounds.
Dan in Mysore
First Days in Mysore
Breakfast at Home 1
Breakfast at Home 2
Lost Cities 2
Lost Cities 1
Birthday & Moonday
Palace & Country
Kovalam Beach 1
Kovalam Beach 2
Kovalam 5-Last Days
Religion in India
Dan's Koh Mak Retreat 2006
Divine Eye-Antonia's Blog
dan's ashtanga page
ashtanga yoga japan
astanga yoga finland
astanga yoga italy