Monthly Archives: February 2018

HERITAGE OF THE DOG –A SHORT NOTE Follow @navinajafa www.navinajafa.com

Akita
American Akita

 

Traversing various terrains of myths, histories, symbolism and modern use of the animal such as the field of intelligence, the article traces in brief the manner in which the dog fulfills several human contradictory aspirations – from securing power, territory, to being a loyal companion in the alienated existence of modern age and, as a metaphysical idiom the dog evolves in the Indic religions of Hinduism and Buddhism as a symbol of ultimate self-realization and compassion. The dog closely associated with humans is reflected in Indian and other cultures of which just a few examples are given.

Where Natural traits make the Dog Special:   Their sense of smell, hearing, and sight makes a dog capable of detecting trespassers up-to 200 meters. Because of these traits, they have been used by man not only as pets, companions but as hunting assistants and in more recent period for intelligence and military intention. But amongst his many traits, the dog is most celebrated for his affection, loyalty, and sense of marking territories.

Recently, as I was about to take a walk in the Lodi Gardens, one of New Delhi’s most popular public spaces, I chanced to a see an unusual breed of dog arrogantly getting out of a swanky BMW 4 Series Convertible Model. Both the car and the dog caught my attention which led me to approach the young man who accompanied the intriguing canine. I was told that the dog was an American Akita a breed known for its legendary loyalty. Suddenly, I recalled the Hollywood Film ‘Hachi: A Dog’s Tale’ -starring Richard Gere. The story of the film is based on a real Japanese Akita dog- Hachiko in Tokyo, who in the 1920s kept loyal vigil outside the Shibuya railway station used by its deceased master for several years until he passed away. His loyalty has been acknowledged in many ways among which is a statue in the vicinity of the railway station.

Hachiko Statue Shibuya Station
Hachiko’s Statue

 

Yet another reference to an Akita is associated with the famous American deaf, and blind author and political activist Helen Keller who is credited with bringing the first Akita into the United States as her guide and companion.

Helen Keller and her Akita
Helen Keller with her Japanese Akita

 

Inspired, I sat charged my batteries to write a fascinating but selective article on the Heritage of Canine. This narrative like any storytelling piece is a small collage of various aspects of the heritage of dogs.

Traits & Myths

One of the most interesting aspects of the human psyche is his activity of creating myths and symbols.  It is also fascinating to trace the manner in which myths and symbols with time acquire a life of their own and assume another level of reality. Such a phenomenon is widely conspicuous in ancient cultures like India where observed reality and ideas are woven into a metaphysical reality and tales of mythical wonder.

The process for an object to evolve as a symbol most times emerges from realistic nature embedded in the elements in the object itself.  For example, the dog has visual and olfactory sensory abilities that are literally superhuman and hence it is not surprising that in modern times man has used them among other functions in the arm forces where the animals can go to places where a soldier cannot, and the dog is often said to subdue or intimidate a foe more quickly with non-lethal force. According to ongoing studies their brains are capable of tracking, detecting explosives, and locations of casualties and used in rescue and search missions. Selective breeds are preferred to be part of the intelligence squads among which the Labrador and the German Shepherds are most popular. The Labrador is mainly used for detecting the bombs while the German shepherd is used mainly for rescue operations.

 

Suzana Herculano-Houzel, a Brazilian neuroscientist who works on comparative neuroanatomy and has researched formations of neurons in human and brains of other animals and offers that the increased number of neurons (the basic information processing units) in a brain is directly correlated to the higher degree of cognitive capability. As such, the preference of selected breeds is determined by the high number of neurons in the brain. In India, the army, the paramilitary organization – Border Security Force and the police have formal Dog Squads and special personnel who handle them, there are special centers of breeding, training and researching these animals for a variety of security and other emergency situations.

 

Myths and Symbols:

Sarama
Sarama The Divine Female Hound

 

Ancient Indian texts have referred to dogs both as symbols and myths. For example, Sarama is perceived as the divine female hound who is sent by the King of the Vedic Gods Indra to search for missing cows, in some references it is believed that Sarama taught man to milk the cow. It is considered that Sarama’s four children are companions of Yama the god of Death, and are also linked to the powerful epic mendicant Dattareya.  The four dogs emerge as guardians and as hunters. As watchdogs, they are seen as protectors of the Ultimate Truth. The number  four is understood to represent the truth entrenched in the idea of the four Vedas which are compilation on human wisdom,  with the four Yugas  or perception of the  four cosmic time periods and with the four states of existence; all in all the dog is a symbol of protection of  the Dhrama or the moral order.

Bharhut stupa woman & dogs
Bharhut stupa woman & four dogs

 

When one perceives the location of the dog in the Vedas, there emerges the multilayered yet complex symbolism of the animal. One of the earliest books in the world, the Vedas are a compilation of metaphysical existentialist human knowledge where the mechanism of transmission is based on listening and memorizing-  shruti and smiriti . The dog symbolizes the faculty of listening where this power facilitates the experience to the most sublime – the sound of silence, the ultimate subtlety of truth by which man has the means to  self-realization.

Maha
Yudhisthira with his dog facing God of Death

 

This symbol of moral order or Dharma is repeated in a story in the great Indian epic The Mahabharat where the eldest of the five heroes Yudhisthira is accompanied by the God of Moral Order who is shown to be in the form of a dog. While the hero is invited to go to heaven, the dog who has been his loyal companion is denied entry. The hero Yudhisthira is willing to forgo his seat in heaven but is unable to leave his loyal companion. The story ends with Yudhisthira passing the final test. The idea of loyalty, protection and compassion is reiterated in Buddhism as well. In Nepal, the thanksgiving festival of Tihar, is one where animals useful to man are worshiped and the dog is one of them.

Tihar fest
Nepal – Tihar- Thanksgiving  Festival

Kal Bhairav and his mount – Dog

 

In yet another association in the long list of Indian mythology the dog appears as the mount of the deity Kal Bhairav. Kal Bhairav is one of the form of Shiva. Perceived as a guardian deity, the Kala Bhairav represents a contradictory concept; where on the one hand he is understood to be the protector of territory, and is therefore linked as a guardian of cities such as Ujjain and Varanasi among many others  which also includes the five Bhairavs of Delhi; on the other hand, Kal Bhairav is worshipped by the ritual offering of alcohol.- A substance that numbs and confuses the human brain resulting in a state of disempowerment that makes the devotee experience the force of disintegration of his identity and his urge for possessing territory. Both the power-identity equation, and the urge to possess is driven by the overwhelming illusionary force of the Human ego. The offering of the alcohol is a symbolic ritual whereby man is made to realize the futility of pining for worldly power, name, possession and territory. And yet, in a contradictory manner the ethos of Kal Bhairav celebrates dualism since the dog as the mount of the deity remains a symbol of guarding territory.

History and some breeds:

Indian Pariah

The Indian Pariah – In a documentary film titled Search for the First Dog the National Geographic depicts among the several breeds the Indian Pariah. An indigenous breed  the Indian Pariah is through the DNA closely associated with the Austronesian dogs such as the Australian Dingo and the Santhal Hound among many others. In fact, the Indian Pariah gains much importance in the index of the Primitive and Aboriginal Dog Society (PADS) as well.

The Santhal Hound found in the Chotanagpur area of Jharkhand is reddish-brown in color  and like other ancient dogs, they are known to Yoodle which is believed by several indigenous communities that the dogs are incarnated mystics who sing to the moon. As mentioned above, they are a part of the group of Austronesian dogs who are said to have moved with human populations from Africa four to five thousand years ago. As one of the most ancient Indian dogs who is closely integrated with several indigenous communities on various levels, they are seen as hunters and as spiritual totems. As totems they are depicted in paintings of large number of indigenous communities like those of the Sorais and Gonds.

 

Saluki
Saluki

 

Outside India, there are inevitably a number of dogs apart from Akitas, German Shepherds and Ladradors who have fascinating histories and one such breed is the ancient dog – Saluki whose fossils are found in the archeological evidence of the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt.  The Salukis were used for hunting and were perceived as protectors and sacred totems; and like the Shanthal hound, their figures are seen on sacred amulets. The Saluki as guardians were even buried with their noble owners and masters.

Conclusion:

In the present times, conflict is an inevitable reality with an overpopulated world and a planet with limited resources, and hence the issue of security, and other emergencies gain much importance.  Hence, it is not surprising that in recent times among several other things the use and visibility of dogs by the security forces for example in public spaces has increased. But the demand for dogs as pets too has increased which has led to the development of the Canine Industry which includes kennels, parlors and much more; and yet, the mytho-historicity of the dog, along with their scientific functionality and social habits presents a fascinating narrative on their heritage and makes the DOG no less – Man’s best friend!

 

 

 

 

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Hidden Heritage of Delhi The National Defense College In Lutyen’s Delhi Follow: @navinajafa www.navinajafa.com

 

NDC -1

 

 

Ironical Symbolism

One can go on and on discovering the tale of Delhi that goes beyond the clichéd Heritagescapes (term copyrighted by Navina Jafa) in the city, and one such heritagescape is the unique building of the National Defense College in the prestigious Lutyens’ Bungalow Zone. Embedded with an interesting history it, unfortunately, remains out of reach for heritage buffs. The National Defense College is located on the 30 January Marg and its location presents a poignant symbolism since it is opposite the Gandhi Smriti, the famous house where Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated.

30 Jan
Gandhi Smirti opposite the National Defense College

History

The building has a unique history. Commissioned in the starting year of the Second World War it was built as an Army General Mess in 1939. However, in the post-partition period, 20 rooms of the building were converted to house some British officers and their wives before they left for England.

In 1960 the use of the building was re-positioned when the President of India who is the supreme commander of the Indian Defense forces sanctioned for the structure to be transformed into the National Defense College (NDC). The College was inaugurated by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as the first prime minister of India.  Ever since the responsibility for its maintenance lies with the Military Engineering Service.

 

Inside NDC

As far as a distinct but dynamics of Heritage of the City of Delhi goes, the NDC remains a unique pioneering institution in Asia of its kind. Perceived as a think tank it offers courses on Strategies of Security and related matters to high ranking civil and defense officers from India and around the world.

Architecture

The majestic building, characterized by rows of Tuscan pillars, high ceilings, is defined by long galleries, large halls, rooms and impressive gardens. Different parts of the building are shared by the Army, Air Force, and the Navy.

Tuscan pillars

 

Cuisine Heritage

There is yet another alluring snippet in the narrative of Heritage of this building which emerged in my visit to this sacred out of the bound building, and it was one that is related to what now has become a topic of great discussion on heritage platforms – The Heritage of cuisine.

It is humbly acknowledged by the defense forces that the best cooks are from the Indian Navy, so much so, that the Chief cook for the President of India is also appointed from the Navy. “For days with nothing but the ocean, where the seamen are often rocked by sea-sickness and with a strict order not to consume alcohol, food takes a great priority of engaging the senses….” told me an officer associated with the administration of the building. Before leaving this hallowed space, I had the chance to sample the famed food. But the travel from the front of the building to the dining room seemed to be a heritage journey of its own. One passed imposing halls decorated with fascinating paintings, documents, and gifts from different countries.  While what appeared to be the Army side contained monumental animal trophies, the naval section of the building that led to the dining room contained paintings related to the sea, photographs of prominent ships, and officers, there was for example an interesting well almost a sexual frame describing why a Ship is a ‘She’… It read that the Ship is a She since she is surrounded by the bustle, and gang of men, that she has a waist, and takes a lot of paint to keep her good-looking….

 

Ship2-NDC

The Stroll to the space of the much-awaited food was through a long carpeted, narrow corridor lined that was like everything else had interesting photographs and other unique adornments. Finally, the journey expanded into the realm and sensibilities of food and it was worth the walk… a wide spread of salads, exotic sweet dishes, experimental assortments of bread awaited us…YES! The Ship of our Sense truly rocked.

Ship- NDC

 

 

 

UNTOLD LADAKH WITH NAVINA JAFA 1st-7th June 2018 #INCREDIBLEINDIA #TRAVELADAKH #LADAKH #SILKROAD #MONGOLIA #NUBRA #BUDDHISTRAVELS #Oracle # Aryan

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LADAKH the stark naked mountains in the North West Rain shadow Himalayan Region marks an important geopolitical region (two side there is the border of Pakistan and on one side China).

Figure 1 The Aryan communities of Ladakh

 

A mini Tibet, the geography, and essence of Buddhism provide its own hypnotic exotic pull.

Ever since tourism opened in the mid-1990s along with the depiction of a famous lake in a box office film 3 Idiots, the region has seen a vast flow of foreign and indigenous tourists.

The demand has led to a huge rise in the quantitative volume of cheaply affordable tick the box travel packages which also include adventure/sports activities like trekking, rafting, polo among others.

The Indian Cultural Heritage Research has been presenting Academic tours ever since 2000 and has been one of the earliest organization initiating experiential travel over the site travel. The presentation of the program is based on personal connections which allow for exclusive interactions and inroads to people and places. The travel programs are logistically well organized and well researched.

While the normal sites are covered the program in Ladakh is defined by special visits and interpretations based on the following themes:

 

Continue reading UNTOLD LADAKH WITH NAVINA JAFA 1st-7th June 2018 #INCREDIBLEINDIA #TRAVELADAKH #LADAKH #SILKROAD #MONGOLIA #NUBRA #BUDDHISTRAVELS #Oracle # Aryan

INCREDIBLE INDIA – LATHMAR HOLI & ITS ECOLOGY WITH DR. NAVINA JAFA www.navinajafa.com @navinajafa

LATHMAR HOLI & ITS ECOLOGY

INTOXICATION WITH COLORS – GENDER INVERSION IN LAND OF KRISHNA WORSHIP

Jafa Journey to VRINDAVAN & NANDGAON 

Lathmar Holi Nandgaon

Sunday 25th Feb, 2018

One day Academic Driving Tour

Brief:

Experiential tourism mostly gets limited to one event, hence the commercialized experience of the incredible Lath Mar Holi in Barsana is presented without its context, & myth- sociological symbolism

Chaitanya Sansthan

Our Academic tour to Braj – The playground of Lord Krishna aspires to recreate layers of the EcoSystem of rituals, celebration and real-time challenging issues that surround this heritage landscape.

In collaboration with Chaitanya Prem Sansthan, Friends of Vrindavan and Temple of Radha Raman

Chaitanya Sansthan- 1

Themes:

  1. Concept of Radha- Krishna – Immersion in Love
  2. Rituals, Cultural Skills & Sacred Cuisine – Conservation of Heritage
  3. Saving the Ecology: Homage to Robyn Beeche, an Australian Fashion Photographer from Paris & her love for Krishna
  4. Social Meandering- Gender Inversion in the mytho- sociology of the Lathmar Holi in Nandgaon.
  5. Religion- Social Reforms and Sustainable Development
  6. The program in Vrindavan will end with the dance performance by Dr. Navina Jafa as a SEWA (in service of Lord Krishna)

Chakor takat chanda      Radha Raman

 

PROGRAM

Depart from Delhi Haat- 6am (3/12 hrs to Vrindavan)

Depart from Vrindavan at 13:00 arrive at Nandgaon at 14hrs

Depart Nandgaon by 16 hrs arrive in Delhi by 20 hrs at Delhi Haat

Some instructions:

  1. Please be prepared that you might get some color on yourself
  2. Please wear clothes which can be either thrown or given away
  3. Please carry towels, Vaseline and an extra pair of clothes and easy footwear
  4. Please take covers for your camera
  5. For Details for Fee Payment please send us an email

Friends of Vrindavan

 

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