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Loss and grief during the pandemic

Keep calm and carry on" only works for some people, but this unwritten rule seems to become mandatory. We're expected to get over our grief by hiding it, and always it, and always showing a cheerful face. In these unprecedented times of isolation, when not everyone has a family to touch and hug, it can aggravate the stress.

I've been lucky that I have lost no one in my immediate family. But friends, good friends, close friends, have succumbed.

It's not only death. The loss of other things. Many of us identify with our work, and I have seen several friends lose their jobs. Part of their paycheck, because of pay cuts. Their time, because of the blurring of work and leisure hours. There is what I would call "lateral grief", when I see my friends struggling and trying to keep the smile on their faces, pasted on, covering the sadness.

Children are, I think, among the most affected, because of not being able to be with others of their age, without adult supervision. My grandchildren seem to have coped. But the effects on this isolation may not be known for a long time.

I have coped by trying to turn loneliness to solitude. To switch from the external locus of control, to the inner side. My nature walks have truly been a lifesaver for me. They allow me to both be with other people, and be contented in myself. The lockdowns have been far easier for me, and I am very grateful for that. I am grateful for the internet, and to electricity, which has kept us going. My family was not here through the present lockdown, but the fact that they were in a relatively safer place was a comfort.

Is being "comfortably numb" the way to deal with this? I don't know. I am a gregarious person, but have become more of a solitary one. Is it me, the ageing process, or the pandemic? I don't know. I was someone who would rush to hug a friend. Now I have controlled that impulse.

We all need the human touch, both figurative and physically. The lack of Vitamin T is a serious lack.

Covid has affected us on more levels than are immediately apparent.
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A puzzle and the different ways each of us solved it

On QuizFamilies, the quiz group which I have moderated (off and on, mostly on!) since 1991, my friend Sutanu posted this puzzle:

puzzle

(Do try your hand at it, if you like, without looking at the rest of the post!)

It intrigued me that three of us got the solution...but we got it in different ways!

What Sravana did was this:

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Being tech-savvy, she'd put it on her laptop to solve.

Socro did this:

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He said he'd tried the grid, and abandoned it.

Me? I just cut out pieces of paper and fitted them together. The "J" in one piece was the "cornerstone" for me as not too many words can be made with that letter.

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This also gave me thought. Just like there are different and valid solutions to a problem or puzzle, surely, there are different ways to achieve the same goal...including that of achieving the Godhead or Nirvana or whatever we choose to call it!
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Art by Biju

Pettikada by Biju, 130721

Just look at this painting by

Biju Cherayath .

This is (was, it's almost gone now) a ramshackle shed at the edge of Gulakmale Lake. It had a nice extended shade and we birders used to share our snacks under it. Over a period of time, it came to this. I have passed it and looked at it a zillion times, and never thought of it as a subject of art. But Biju has elevated it thus! The end of human use, the reclamation by Nature, creeping in at the edges....Biju's vision and inner eye is just breath-taking. `

In your case, Biju, your 'third eye' is not one of destruction (like that of Shiva) but one of creation! I salute your talent.
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Bngbirds 2nd Sunday outing, Lalbagh, 110721

Last year, as the cases of Corona virus subsided, the lockdowns were eased off and little by little, we had returned to some semblance of normalcy, but it was not to last, as the infections spiralled up drastically again, and a second lockdown had to be brought in earlier this year. It was a truly dreadful time.

Slowly, though, the surge has eased again, and though we know that the dragon is still very much in the forest, many of us have tried to take precautions and yet try to lead less restricted lives.

Dr M B Krishna, affectionately called MBK, decided to revive the monthly 2nd Sunday walk, and the first one post-lockdown was on July 11. He broke with the long tradition of meeting at the Glass House and following a set route, by changing the meeting point to the West Gate. This is definitely easier to access by publicth transport (the Metro and BMTC having started operations in full swing), a point that weighed with MBK, no doubt. Cars could also be parked in the areas near Kamath restaurant.

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MBK with Vishesh and U Harish Kumar

I guess we were all wondering what the turnout would be like; and as expected (perhaps as some feared!) we had 40 + people gathering. A sure sign that many of us feel that an outdoor activity, where we need not crowd one another, was a healthy option.

I took Namita, Reshma and Shirish to the gardens about an hour earlier, and we went and had a look at the Spotted Owlets. Reshma also pointed out two Black-rumped Flamebacks

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in the Wild Almond (Sterculia foetida) tree, with its very artistic seed pods that assume a beautiful heart-shape when they burst open and disperse the seeds.

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We followed the others after locating them, keeping the lake bund on our left,

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Walking without crowding one another.

and started by sighting both our common Barbets, the Coppersmith and the White-cheeked species. There was no dearth of the four most common species in our city, that I refer to as CKMP (Crow, Kite, Myna, Pigeon). We distinguished the House Crow from the Jungle Crow, the Jungle Myna from the Common one, and the Black Kite, with its characteristic V-shape in the tail, from the Brahminy Kite that is called Garuda.

The other abundant species in the botanical garden is, of course, the Rose-ringed Parakeets; we watched several of these gobeautiful birds flying around, or foraging on the ground for the rice or seeds which man y visitors scatter for the birds.

We turned our attention to the waterfowl; experts like MBK, Harish Kumar, and Kishan showed us the difference between the shore waders like the Little or Intermediate Egret, and the Herons, the birds like Little Grebes or Spot-billed Ducks that really "duck" under the surface of the water to find their food, and the divers like the Cormorants (we saw all the three common species, the Little, the Great, and the indian) and Kingfishers, which go deep under the surface and come up with fish or insects. Kishan's "Grimmskipp" as we refer to it (the field guide by Grimmett and Inskipp) was in use constantly, as he referred to the pictures and participants looked at the birds.

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On we walked, remarking on the majesty and girth of many of the trees, especially the Silk-cotton (Bombax or Ceiba sp) many of which had burst seed pods scattering the soft down on the ground. A few petals of the late-blooming Gulmohar (Delonix regia) lay on the path. The Jacaranda trees, which I learnt, were called "Blue Gulmohar", had bloomed much earlier, and we could see their seed pods, too.

We sighted a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron in the reeds on the banks, and those patient fishermen, the Pond Herons

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were in their beautiful breeding plumage too. A lone Spot-billed Pelican glided effortlessly on the water, and Kishan pointed out the gular sac at the bottom of their beaks, that allow them to scoop up large quantities of water (hopefully, with plenty of fish in it, too!). We saw the typical "Christ on the Cross" pose of the Cormorants which sit with outspread wings to dry their feathers after a dive.

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The "Christ on the Cross" pose of the Cormorant

Several of us had brought our cameras, and since MBK has ensured that this walk is part of the planned activities in Lalbagh, we were not harassed as we took photographs of the feeding behaviour of the birds.

It was very heartening to have many youngsters, both school and college goers, in the gathering. Many of us had notebooks and pens,

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Nagashree and some of the children with their notebooks and pens. Many adults kept notes too.

and wrote down the names of the birds we saw, as also some of the other living beings. For example, I was able to point out the poisonous but beautiful Oleander (Nerium sp) bushes, the beauty of the Peacock flowers (Caeselpinia pulcherrima), as well as the far less noticed herbs like Punarnava (Boehravia diffusa),

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with its microscopic but perfect flowers, used in Ayurveda. We looked at Cotton Stainer Bugs,

Lalbagh, 110721

millipedes, and even a Weaver Ant that climbed on Kishan's shirt!

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Two-tailed Spider on her egg sac

I must mention here that MBK always seems to attract youngsters around him, and people like Reshma, Varaprasad and Vishesh, have built up their own groups of young nature lovers, who are observant and also listen carefully to the information imparted by the experts. One of the best features of the Labagh walks is the nuggets of information which we can get from the experienced people who come and spend time with us and share their knowledge generously, sometimes laced with humour and wit. I was very happy to meet Annapurna, who has taken the initiative to start bird walks in Chennapatna. These young men and women seem quite knowledgeable about things that it has taken me years to learn slowly!

Many of the children enthusiastically called out the names of the many living beings that we were seeing. We did not miss even the lichen growing on the trees, which have a symbiotic relationship with them, thriving in exchange for protecting the trees against boring insects or other infections.

Some of the sights were, of course, less than delightful. Discarded trash and plastic bottles, a Fruit Bat entangled in some wire (which apparently died even after being rescued),

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a sick Jungle Crow which sat disconsolately on the ground, not moving even when we passed very near it...

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not all is well in this small patch of Nature that is Lalbagh.

I had also pointed out, earlier, the pitiable condition of some of the heritage structures in the park; I cannot understand why the funds collected from visitors cannot be used to maintain these, which are falling into ruin, and will, at this rate, only be a memory and live on in photographs.

The weather was rather too cloudy and dull for many butterflies to appear, but I give below a few of the species I noted.

As we moved on, the pangs of hunger struck, and some of us returned; but many of the group wound up with animated discussions over breakfast at Kamath, which has also been the traditional way to wind up the outing. The four of us went to my favourite place in J P Nagar 3rd Phase, called Checkpost, where we liked the Mangalore dish, called "Pundi"

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Lalbagh is a place where, according to MBK, the number of bird species has fallen by over 70 per cent; but the monthly outing is immeasurably rich in both the company of the experts, as well as the camaraderie of the whole group, where an interest in Nature is shared.

I too have revived my Covid-Careful outings to destinations in and around Bangalore. Though right now with limited numbers, I hope to be able to conduct open walks soon; the outing to Bettakotte kere (near the airport) with 17 members, on Saturday, was a kind of trial run!

Looking forward to more outings to watch the various living beings that surround us, whether in the city or its environs.

Kishan will be providing his usual list of birds; but meanwhile, the eBird list is at

https://ebird.org/checklist/S91576340

I have put up my photos, with captions and ids, on my Flickr album at

https://www.flickr.com/photos/86494503@N00/albums/72157719522963863

and on an FB album at

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10158644649753878&type=3

Butterflies:

Awl, Common Banded
Blue, DarkGrass
Blue, Lesser Grass
Blue, Pale Grass
Blue, Tiny Grass
Cerulean, Common
Crow, Common
Coster, Tawny
Emigrant, Common (Lemon)
Emigrant, Mottled
Jezebel, Common
Mormon, Common
Rose, Common
Rose, Crimson
Tiger, Blue
Tiger, Plain
Tiger, Striped
Yellow, Common Grass

See you all again, soon, on an outing!

Cheers, Deepa.
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My tree dream...

I have helped, in a very small way, to enable the Wildlife Conservation Group (WCG) with Nagesh, Ashwath, Hari and team, to rejuvenate a small lake in Kaleswari, a village on the road to Ragihalli.

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We are now nearly at the stage of planting trees along its banks.

I have bought a banyan sapling which I want planted on the banks of the lake. My dream is that, one day in the future, several decades hence, people will sit under its cooling shade, birds chirp from its foliage, squirrels run all over its trunk,children swing from its branches, and mendicants sleep under it.. Good future planning, don't you think?
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FaceBook comments

Always-safe comments to post on FB.
1. On self-portraits: OMG you are looking so stunning.
2. On photos: Great capture.
3. On world-shaking issues: Hmmm, let me think about this.
4. On family holiday albums: Thank you for sharing.
5. On my posts: Any and every superlative that occurs to you.
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Kolar, 01,020721

Twelve of us had a simply amazing "other-creatures" outing to Kolar.

I am giving all the details of our trip here, for anyone to refer to. Meanwhile, general observations:

Very impressed by Rajesh and the work he is doing, on the preservation of bats in the Kolar area, particularly the endangered Kolar Leaf-nosed Bat. (Permission was NOT given to even go near the cave where these bats are.) He took us to see a large colony of Schnieder's Leaf-nosed Bats, a common species, which was quite breath-taking for us (on two levels....several of us held our breaths because of the typical bat-smell!) A night walk when we saw several amphibians, a Saw-scaled Viper, an Indian Black Turtle, some crabs...you will agree that it was an outing on which we saw several living beings that we never see otherwise!

We started from Bangalore, meeting on the bund of Hoskote lake at 6.30am, and birded until 10am. We then had "outstanding" (we were not allowed to sit, thanks to the lockdown restrictions) at Nalapaka restaurant, and proceeded to Mayuri Lodge, where we checked in by about 11am. After a wash, we went next door to a small eatery, where we had excellent gingerc chai and lemon tea, and then went to the Bat Conservation Trust field station, which was 17 km away. We reached there at about 12.30pm and met Rajesh, who runs the trust, his assistant, a young village boy called Anil (school suspended because of the lockdown) and Shraddha, who is doing her doctoral research on bats.

We went out to the small lake just behind the field station, which is called Devarayasamudra. We birded there (there were quite a few butterflies and plants of interest, too) until we got the call for lunch.

After an excellent lunch which Rajesh, Shraddha and Anil cooked and served us, we had a bit of a rest and left at 3.30pm for Devarayasamudra betta, a small hillock. Rajesh pointed out a cave on the slope where we would find bats, and also talked about climbing the rocks up the hill. But all these plans came to nought as the stormclouds broke, and for some time, we just sat in our cars, munching on the snacks we'd brought with us, and watching the torrential rain. At about 4.30pm, Rajesh said he would take us to an abandoned tile factory in Chitheri village, where we could see some common bats, so off we went.

We could not get out the cars for a while, but as the rain eased, we walked through the abandoned buildings to a low stone pavilion where a large flock of bats resided. Fascinated, we watched them for a while, photographing and videographing them under Rajesh's expert guidance.

We returned to the field station where Praveen H N, based in Bangarpet, had also joined us. We decided to go for a night walk along the granite slopes nearby, and it proved very productive indeed, though we were able to sight only one Nightjar briefly, as it flew off. But, very happy with the many different (and unusual) creatures that we had seen, including reptiles and amphibians, we went to Inchara restaurant for dinner (not recommended; very slow service due to paucity of staff due to Covid, which may be rectified now, but everything was over-fried).

As there were already 4 people in the field station (Rajesh's friend Santosh was also there) only Naveen and Mangala decided to stay there (power is also a problem in the area, and it was quite hot and humid). The rest of us returned to Mayuri Lodge at 11pm.The air-conditioning was welcome in the warm and humid weather, it allowed us good rest for the few hours we had.

We left by 5.15am the next morning, and were joined by the others from the field station, and after birding briefly at Devarayasamudra Hill, we went to Avani Betta, and slowly climbed the rocky path to the Seeta Parvati temple, birding along the way. We finished our outing at about 10am, and returned to a small eatery (the proprietor says he's been running it for 40 years!) near the field station, and had hot chitranna and iddli, with freshly-made ginger chai.

We then gathered under the spreading rain trees for group photographs, before returning to Bangalore.

Distances:

From Jayadeva Flyover on Bannerghatta Road, via Old Airport Road and Hoskote, to Mayuri Lodge, on the highway : 85 km, 1.45hrs to 2 hrs. Less in the early morning.

Location of Mayuri Lodge:


https://g.page/hotel-mayuri?share

Prop: Chandrsekhar Reddy +91 80158 23090

(Rs. 1200 for a/c rooms on twin-sharing, and Rs. 1000 for non a/c rooms on twin-sharing. They also have 3-bed and 5-bed options, but we took the 2-bed options as we needed access to more toilets.)

Clean rooms and bathrooms but we did have roaches. We did not eat at the restaurant attached.

From Mayuri Lodge to the BCT field station:
20 min drive, 18 km.


Location of the BCT Field Station (a 1 BHK house, not suitable for groups to stay) : https://goo.gl/maps/eLifKdF5i71fTRRE6

We birded at Devaryasamudra lake, right next to the field station and at Avani betta location below:

https://goo.gl/maps/orWW3gQeb2DmPtdy5

Sri Saravana Bhavan is only 10 km from the field station, but it had not yet opened after the lockdown.

Location:

https://g.page/hotel-sree-saravana-bhavan-177?share

There are plenty of small hillocks and waterbodies in the area that can be explored.

Selected photos from my Flickr albums:

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Indian Silverbill with nesting material

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Northern Lime Swallowtail


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Rajesh, Sharddha, Anil, and all of us, at Devarayasamudra Hill, just before the cloudburst

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Burrowing Frog

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Saw-scaled Viper

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Some of us on the night walk

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Schneider's Leaf-nosed Bats


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Sunset

Night Walk:

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With our torches

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Skittering Frog


Morning birding at Avanibetta:

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Yellow-throated Bulbul

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Seeta Parvati temple


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Ramalingeswara Temple viewed from Avanibetta

Videos:

Indian Black Turtle, Night Walk:



Saw-scaled Viper, Night Walk



Yellow-throated Bulbul calling, Avanibetta:





eBird lists:

1. Hoskote (83 species)

https://ebird.org/checklist/S91151540

2. Devarayanasamudra (55 species)

https://ebird.org/checklist/S91151481

3. Avanibetta (28 species, including the Yellow-throated Bulbul)

https://ebird.org/checklist/S91151517


Hoskote:
Flickr album:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/86494503@N00/albums/72157719489946564

FB album
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?vanity=deemopahan&set=a.10158629879173878

Kolar, Devaryanasamudra, Rain, Night walk:
Flickr:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/86494503@N00/albums/72157719488476743


Devaryanasamudra/Kolar FB:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10158630082323878&type=3

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10158630068243878&type=3

Schneider's Leaf-nosed Bat

FB:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10158630136218878&type=3


Avanibetta, 020721
Flickr album
https://www.flickr.com/photos/86494503@N00/albums/72157719495457441

FB album: 
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10158630715368878&type=3



For any further details, contact me at

kolarquestions.z.boods@xoxy.net.
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"Idhu jokku!"

"Idhu jokku!"
My mother told me the story of how, when SHE was young (practically takes us back to B.C!) , she'd visited one of those "doorin' talkies"(touring talkies), which were makeshift bamboo or palm-thatch shacks, with the movie screened on a large cloth.
The movie would go on, and a comedy scene would appear on the screen. The audience, she said, watched in silence.

Then, on the screen would appear the words, "Ithu jokku" ("This is a joke"). Immediately, the audience would erupt into laughter.

I strongly suspect my mother of having made the whole thing up, just to get a laugh out of us, but the word "jokku" and the phrase, "ithu jokku!" have been gleefully used in our family ever since.
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Stories associated with various living beings....

Many of the living beings that I see on my walks, I find, have interesting mythological stories and spiritual allusions attached to them. Here are a few samplers!

Let's start with a pretty flower that used to be part of almost every garden, whether urban or rural.

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Parijata, Coral Jasmine

In Hindu mythology, the celestial Parijata tree was the tree of the universe which was owned by Indrani and planted in "Svarga", located between Heaven and Earth. It was supposed to grant every desire. Krishna's wife, Sathyabhama, wanted the tree; his other consort, Rukmini, wanted him to get Parijata flowers for her.

Krishna stole the tree and brought it to Dwaraka, and granted the wishes both his consorts in His usual crafty way. He planted the tree in Sathyabhama's garden, in such a way that the flowers fell into Rukmini's garden!

There is another poignant tale associated with this flower. According to this myth, Princess Parijataka was in love with the Sun. Her love remained unrequited. Heartbroken, she committed suicide and from her ashes rose the Parijat tree. Since she is unable to bear the sight of her love during the day, she blooms only at night, and sheds the flowers as tears, before the sun rises. Some legends also go on to say that the tree sheds its flowers upon the touch of the first rays of the sun. These flowers spread their fragrance during the day, as a sign of Parijataka’s undying love for her lover, the Sun.

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Here's a flower that stands in the lakes, and spreads its beauty across the waters.

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Waterlily

I found this lovely Ojibwe (Native American) legend about a beautiful woman, who loved the beautiful lakes and bounty of the Ojibwe people and their land. She appeared in the dreams of the chief of the tribe, asking the people to choose in what form she should reside among them. Worried about choosing wrongly and losing her, they asked her to choose her form herself. Her response:

"I know where I will live.....I shall live where the canoes of the people travel. Dear children, I will kiss your cheeks as you sleep by the lakes and there I will make my home....I will be the water lily!”

The next day, the lake near which the tribe lived was filled with thousands of waterlilies.

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The Passion Flower has stories related to more than one religion.

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Passion Flower (wild)

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Passion Flower white variety (wild)

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Passion Flower red variety (cultivated)

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Passion Flower purple/blue variety (cultivated)

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Passion fruit

The "Passion" in "passion flower" refers to the passion of Jesus in Christian theology.[29] In the 15th and 16th centuries, Spanish Christian missionaries adopted the unique physical structures of this plant, particularly the numbers of its various flower parts, as symbols of the last days of Jesus and especially his crucifixion, as follows:

The blue passion flower (P. caerulea) shows most elements of the Christian symbolism
The pointed tips of the leaves were taken to represent the Holy Lance.
The tendrils represent the whips used in the flagellation of Christ.
The ten petals and sepals represent the ten faithful apostles (excluding St. Peter the denier and Judas Iscariot the betrayer).
The flower's radial filaments, which can number more than a hundred and vary from flower to flower, represent the crown of thorns.
The chalice-shaped ovary with its receptacle represents the Holy Grail.
The 3 stigmas represent 3 nails and the 5 anthers below them 5 hammers or 5 wounds (four by the nails and one by the lance).
The blue and white colors of many species' flowers represent Heaven and Purity.
In addition, the flower keeps open three days, symbolising the three years' ministry.

In India, blue passion flowers are called Krishna kamala (कृष्णकमळ) in Karnataka and Maharashtra, while in Uttar Pradesh, it is colloquially called "Panch Pandav" (referring to the five Pandavas in the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata). The five anthers are interpreted as the five Pandavas, the divine Krishna is at the centre, and the radial filaments are the opposing hundred Kauravas. The colour blue is moreover associated with Krishna as the colour of his aura.

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The Squirrel (the Three-striped Palm Squirrel, to give it its full name) is a little mammal that can be found in all our cities and villages.

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According to Ramayana, the squirrel earned its stripes for assisting the monkey army in building the bridge to Lanka. The squirrel worked tirelessly, the story goes, gathering pebbles and small stones for the bridge’s construction, never worrying that its contribution was minimal. Rama was so impressed with its dedication to Sita’s rescue mission, that he caressed the little creature’s back with three fingers, leaving behind three prominent white stripes.

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Even nocturnal creatures have stories and mythology pertaining to them. Here is the Owl, which keeps our rodent population in check by preying on them at night.

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Spotted Owlet

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Mottled Wood Owl

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Indian Eagle Owl (Rock Eagle Owl)


In Hindu mythology the owl has been treated at times reverently and given some place of prestige. Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of money and wealth, rides an owl. Some people believe that if a white owl enters a home it is treated as a good omen by relating it to the possible flow of wealth or money into that home. It is also believed that the owls have magical properties which can ward off bad luck.
However, because of their nocturnal activity and screeching call, they have also been associated with bad luck and death, and are believed to be Alakshmi’s (Lakshmi’s twin, the goddess of strife and misfortune) savari or vehicle. I have also heard a myth that owls have jewels in their foreheads, which probably explains why some of them are killed.

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The Peepal Tree is much revered in mythology, and perhaps history, too.

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Fresh leaves of the Peepal Tree


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Peepal tree shading a small temple

Siddhartha Gautama, the spiritual teacher who became known as the Buddha, is said to have attained enlightenment circa 500 BCE under this tree, which is called the Bodhi (Giver of Knowledge).
Ashvattha, as the tree is also called, is a name of Shiva and Vishnu; according to Sankara, this name is derived from the terms shva (tomorrow) and stha (that which remains)

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Small vignettes surround other birds too.

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Long-tailed Shrike

Many people that Shrikes are called "butcher birds" as some of them impale their prey on throns before eating them. But they are also called "Gandhari", after the wife of Dhritarashtra, the Kuru king who was the father of the Kauravas in the Mahabharata, because of the "masks" over their eyes. Gandhari, to be like her husband, blindfolded herself permanently when she married him.

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A bird that stands in shallow waters to feed, is also associated with spirituality.

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Greater Flamingos

In general, flamingos are considered to be very positive spiritual symbols. When the lovely flamingo spirit animal calls, we are being reminded to celebrate the beauty, romance, and fun in life. They are called "agni pankh", that is, with "wings of flame"...the name can be understood from the photograph.

Fascinating, isn't it, to get to know the stories that surround our fellow-beings!