Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Silent Valley – Postage stamp 2009 - India

15th November 2009: A commemorative postage stamp
India Posts (Department of Posts, India) issued a commemorative postage stamp on The Silent Valley (Denomination -INR 05.00) on November 15, 2009. 

The Silent Valley National Park (91 Sq.mi) , a unique preserve of natural rainforests, is located in the Nilgiri Hills, Palakkad District, Kerala.  The british named the area Silent Valley because of the absence of noisy Cicadas, which are present in all forests.  

The River Kunthi flows from the Nilgiri hills and flows along the the valley and down to the plains through the deep forest.  One of the specialty of this river  Kunthi is that it never turns brown and the water is always crystal clear. 

The area is locally known as "Sairandhrivanam" which literally means Sairandhri's Forest. According to a Hindu legend, Sairandhri is Draupadi, wife of the five Pandavas, who disguised herself as Sairandhri, queen Sudeshna's assistant, while they were in exile for 14 years. They wandered south, into what is now Kerala, until one day they came upon a magical valley where rolling grasslands met wooded ravines, a deep green river bubbled its course through impenetrable forest, where at dawn and twilight the tiger and elephant would drink together at the water's edge, where all was harmonious and man unknown. Beside that river, in a cave on a hill slope, the Pandavas decided to stay during their exile. 

The Silent Valley national Park is one of the rare surviving original evergreen tropical rain forests in the world.  The Silent Valley Park was declared as a National Park in 1984 by the Indian Government. This area is also declared as plastic free zone. 

The government of India website gives the mystic details of this rain forest:
“The Valley exudes a quite grandeur, a mystery half revealed and half concealed that is part of a story older than mankind, for this rainforest probably dates back to 50 million years. Silently she beckons us to witness the marvelous exuberance of life that expresses itself in an incredible chaos of plants and animals and birds and insects. At the heart of her many songs is a still, deep silence which only those who tread softly and wait patiently may learn to hear.”


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Movie review – Guruvaram (Telugu)– Shirdi Sai Baba

Guruvaram is a telugu documentary movie, about the Saint Shirdi Sai Baba directed and produced by Lakshmi Vinayak.  This movie was released on May 24, 2012, of course on a Thursday, as a tribute to Baba who attained Maha Samadhi on the Vijaya Dasami day, a Thursday.

Rami Reddy plays the lead role as Sai Baba. Cast includes Babu Mohan, Annapurna, Telangana Shakuntala, Uttej and others. According to the movie director, Shirdi Sai Baba is worshipped by many as Guru and Guruvaram (Thursday) is a very significant day for offering prayers to one’s Guru. 

Lyrics and music in Guruvaram is by Sai Sri Harsha, Jaya Surya, Sashibala, Anuradha and Ravi Shankar. Yamesh, has missed the opportunity to make the movie more lively with his cinematography. It would have been a good movie to watch if more of Baba’s life and teachings were brought out than his miracles.


Healthy Living - Sugar the not-so-sweet

Most of us have first-hand experience that lots of sugar, carbs and, junk food  make us feel very irritated.  Earlier this month, Dr. Robert Lustig told CBS News’ “60 minutes” that sugar is addictive, toxic, and it’s killing us by increasing our risk of heart disease, type II diabetes, hypertension and cancer. The pediatric endocrinologist has even gone as far as to say that sugar should be regulated like cigarettes and alcohol.

History shows that in 6000 B.C. usage of sugarcane in papau New guinea is recorded. And in 1000 B.C. India started making sugar crystals called GUR with sugarcane, by crushing the cane and boiling the juice.  When Alexander the Great invaded India In 325 B.C. came across this miracle reed  (sugar cane) from which sugar was made without honeybees.  Beet sugar was made from beet roots only by the 19th century.

There are two kinds of sugar: naturally occurring and added sugars.  Mother Nature provides us with many naturally-occurring sugars in our foods. For example, yogurt, milk, and fruit – all healthy foods- contain sugar. Lactose is the sugar in milk and yogurt; fructose is the sugar in fruit.

Added sugars are sweeteners that are added to food and beverages during the manufacturing process. Common sweeteners added to foods include fructose and high fructose corn syrup. Desserts, sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas, energy and sports drinks, are the top sources of added sugar in most American diets.

For example, a 12-ounce can of regular soda contains about 25-35 grams of high fructose corn syrup but provides our bodies with no other nutrients. In comparison, one cup of blueberries contains about seven grams of natural fructose and also packs a powerful punch of fiber, antioxidants and important vitamins and minerals.

The American Heart Association recommends that most women have no more than 100 calories per day from added sugar, which equals about 6 teaspoons (25 grams). For men, no more than 150 calories from added sugars or about 9 teaspoons (38 grams). That’s much less than you may think: 1 small candy bar, ½ cup of ice cream or frozen yogurt is equal to about 100-150 calories.

-    Read the label for sugar. Look out for these names in the label when you go food shopping this week –Sugar, Brown sugar, High fructose corn syrup, Corn sugar, Syrup, Corn syrup, Fructose, Glucose, Sucrose, Raw sugar, Turbinado sugar, Honey. If most of these are in the top, avoid or replace them with natural foods like fruits and vegetables.
-     Avoid pastry, even home-made pastry for dessert. Have fruit instead.
-   Reach for plain yogurt instead of flavored yogurt which is sweetened with lots of added sugar and unwanted calories.
-    Drink sparkling water with few drops of lemon or lime in it, low or fat free milk, 100 % fruit juice or unsweetened tea, instead of Soda. 
-  Add more ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg to sweeten your food instead of processed sugar. Cinnamon has been shown to reduce blood sugars, Sprinkle a couple teaspoons of cinnamon powder on your yogurt, or take it in capsule form.
-    Regular exercise helps us lose weight and also helps lower our blood sugar within minutes.
-    A cup of plain decaf coffee (you can add some cream, but no sugar!) seems to lower blood sugar levels.
-     Special vitamin tablets with chromium helps lower the blood sugar.
-    One cup of green tea, regular black tea and white tea too helps lower the bood sugar levels.
-    Reduce stress or find ways of dealing with stress, by practicing relaxation techniques like meditation, breathing exercises and nature walks. 
-    Sleep is a very good stress reliever too.

Normally, when your blood sugar level starts to drop, your liver steps in. It goes to work changing stored carbohydrate into glucose. Then it sends the glucose out into the blood, which helps you avoid or slow down a low blood sugar reaction.
Remember, below 70 and you risk going into insulin shock; above 200, and you are doing significant damage to your organs over time. So aim for a healthy blood sugar range, between 70 and 150.
Choosing Good Carbohydrates Over Bad Carbohydrates
There's no need to avoid all (or even a lot) of carbohydrates. In fact, carbohydrates should supply about half of your daily calories. One gram of carbohydrate, whether it is sugar or starch, contains four calories. One slice of bread has about 12 grams of carbohydrates. One typical chocolate bar may have about 50 grams of carbohydrates. A medium potato has about 35 grams of carbohydrates.

Although all carbohydrates have four calories per gram, some sources of carbohydrates are better for your diet. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and grains are healthier carbohydrate sources than candy, sodas and pastries. These carbohydrates have large amounts of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber. Fiber is especially important because it keeps you feeling full longer.

Foods like candy, sodas, ice creams and pastries termed as the junk foods are referred as foods having empty calories and are poor sources of nutrients.  They have lots of calories and have little or no nutritional value.  Moreover they usually are low in fiber.

Be aware of what you eat and limit sugar for a sweet life.


Vaikasi Vishakam (June 2, 2012) - Lord Subrahmanya

Lord Muruga, also known as Shanmuga, Skanda, Kartikeya and Subrahmanya, is the primordial energy, created to save the world from the asuras (dark and negative forces). He is the Lord of the army of Devas. 

According to Puranas he was instrumental for the Soora Samharam (destruction of the evil asura Soora Padma).  He is also the lord of Serpents and is worshipped as Kukke Subrahmanya Swamy.  According to the legend, Subrahmanya Swamy is said to have given protection to the serpents Vasuki and others from Garuda. Hence he is worshipped as the lord of Serpents in Kukke Subrahmanya Swamy Temple, Karnataka. Skanda Sashti is a very important festival celebrated all around the world by the devotees.

According to the Hindu calendar, Lord Muruga’s birthday is celebrated on the Vishaka Nakshatra which falls in the Vaikasi month. He is the son of Shiva and Uma Devi (Parvati).  Muruga’s Vahana is the Peacock and with one of his hands he holds his weapon, the spear (Vel) and with his other hand he holds a flag with rooster symbol.

Being the Lord of courage, valor, beauty and intelligence, he blesses his devotees with the same characteristics. He is also called the six-faced lord Arumuga Swamy.  With his six faces (5 faces of Lord Shiva and one face of Goddess Uma Devi), he is said to protect his devotees in all the 6 directions: East, West, North, South, Skyward and also the Earth.  Being the son of Shiva and Uma Devi, he is said to bless people with the comforts of this world and also the other world.
Six is a very powerful number associated with Lord Muruga and the six syllable mantra “SARAVANABHAVA”, was revealed by Lord himself, to Sage Agastya.  The six syllables are said to mean:
SA – power to attract good people into your lives
RA – power to attract wealth
VA (HA)– power to destroy negative energy like diseases and debts.
NA – Power to eliminate enemies and problems.
BA – power to attract positive energy  
VA – Power to eliminate the negativity and influence caused by bad placement of planets in one’s horoscope.

While you chant this mantra (either silently or out loud), visualize Muruga’s Peacock, Rooster symbol on his flag and his Vel (weapon) forming a protective shield around you. This year Vaikasi Vishaka also happens to be a Sani Pradosham day. (Pradosham falling on a Saturday).

On this day, special poojas like Archana (reciting of Lord’s names) with fresh flowers and Abhisheka is performed by devotees with water, milk and other abhisheka materials like honey, chandan, panchamrut etc. Singing of various hymns and bhajans in praise of Muruga helps devotees overcome their obstacles and attain health, wealth and prosperity by his grace.

SubrahmanyaSahasranamam – Thousand names of Lord Muruga

SubramanyaBhujangam by Adi Shankara. (Read with meaning)



matrahhinantu yad bhavet
tat-sarvam ksmyatam deva
Srimate Narayanaya Namo Namah

Whatever syllable or word or syllabic instant has been left out, 
may they be returned back correctly as each should be.
May all that be forgiven Oh divine Narayana. Salutations to you,
To the glorious Narayana, salutations, salutations.