Adikesava Perumal Temple, Kanyakumari district

Kick-starting my series on lesser know heritage sites in India with this temple located in the Southernmost district of mainland India.

The Adikesava Perumal temple is located at Thiruvattar in Tamil Nadu, about halfway between Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and Kanyakumari town in Tamil Nadu. I had the good fortune of visiting this place a couple of years ago while on a visit to Thiruvananthapuram.

I had never heard of the temple before my visit. It is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The idol of Lord Vishnu is depicted as reclining on his snake couch and has to be viewed through three separate doors. I could not find any specific date of establishment of the temple, but it has been mentioned in texts dating to the 8th – 9th centuries. So the temple must be at least 1200 years old.

The architecture of the temple is an interesting mix of Keralan and Tamilian temple styles, to my untrained eye. The entrance and roof is unmistakably Keralan, while the long columned corridors are typically seen in the temples of Tamil Nadu. The temple was quite and peaceful when we visited. There were repair works being undertaken as parts of the temple needed restoration. It was interesting to watch ‘traditional’ building materials being prepared to ensure structural integrity.

I sadly do not have any photos of this temple. But as a lesser known, but ancient, part of our heritage, this temple is worth a visit.

Indian Music Experience

Indian Music Experience
Indian Music Experience

The Indian Music Experience is a fairly new (established late 2018) addition to the museum scene in Bangalore. We recently visited this place located in a Southern suburb of the city.

The entry compound has a variety of novel musical ‘instruments’ that visitors can interact with. Children will especially like making ‘music’ on these installations.

Indian Music Experience - external view
Indian Music Experience – external view

The music experience starts on the third floor of this interestingly designed building. This section talks about the developments in popular Indian music over the past few decades before leading visitors to the classical music section. The exhibits are beautifully laid out with ample listening stations for visitors to hear representative music. There are also interactive exhibits where visitors can choose their musical instruments and they can instantly hear what an orchestra composed of their selected instruments sounds like.

The journey continues on the second floor where visitors can learn more about the development of film and folk music. The second floor also contains a large two storey wall installation composed of the various types of musical instruments played in India. One can also choose a instrument to listen to how it sounds.

Wall of Instruments - IME
Wall of Instruments – IME

The second floor also includes a set-up of a recording studio where visitors can experience the feel of recording the vocals on a song and also get their ‘song’ emailed to them.

The highlight, for me, was to see the actual shehnai and cap worn by Ustad Bismillah Khan. This section also has the tanpura and sari worn by M. S. Subbulakshmi as well as clothes and silver paan box belonging to Pandit Bhimsen Joshi.

The entry fee seemed steep initially, but it is well worth it for the wealth of information presented inside. We spent a little over two hours, but one can easily spend twice that time in this world-class museum.


Post-consumerism (or are why are people not buying things?)

One of the topics that has dominated the business news in India recently has been the spectacular decline in automobile sales. One of the reasons that our Finance Minister gave for this trend is that millennials are increasingly not buying cars. She received some flak on social media for this comment, but many also feel that she does indeed have a point.

A cursory read into the state of the US auto industry (one of the largest in the world) would show that this trend of declining sales has been visible for some time now. And many commentators are not hesitant in calling this a structural shift in the industry, driven by multiple factors, one of which is undoubtedly that people, especially so-called millennials, are indeed buying less of cars.

And this drop in consumption is not restricted to just automobiles. Real estate, apparel, music are just some of the other categories where people are moving away from asset ownership. This is a topic that I am interested in, and have been reading up on. Here are some of my personal observations:

People, especially the younger generation, but not necessarily restricted to them alone, are increasingly questioning the value in ownership of traditional ‘assets’ such as houses and cars. Some commentators believe that this is due, at least in some Western markets, to having experienced first-hand the troubles faced by their older generations in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

In addition, the rise of the ‘sharing’ economy has made it much easier for people to experience a similar lifestyle and benefits at a fraction of the cost of full ownership. This has led to consumers increasingly questioning the traditionally held concepts of value of asset ownership.

The rise and rise of digital and social media is also playing a role, in my opinion. I think we are beginning to see a reaction against the intrusion of digital into all aspects of our life. We are increasingly yearning for simplicity and a desire to reconnect, with each other and with nature. Witness the popularity of movements such as minimalism and personalities such as Marie Kondo with her message of decluttering.

The desire to reconnect with each other and with nature is leading to people valuing experiences. It is believed that since 1987 the share of consumer spending on live experiences and events relative to total U.S. consumer spending increased 70%. This can also be seen in the significant rise of Airbnb with its core concept of enabling authentic stays and experiences.

There is also a view that the younger generation are more concerned with the environment and in leading a more sustainable lifestyle, which again leads to questioning traditional consumption habits.

Is this still a fad, or the start of an irreversible trend? My opinion is that it’s the latter, but only time will tell.

A visit to the Art of Living Ashram

The Art of Living Foundation has a large Ashram located on Kanakapura Road on the outskirts of Bangalore. We recently paid a visit to this Ashram founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

We had visited during Navratri, which is the busiest time of the year at the Ashram. Thousands of people were participating in the various programmes being held there at this time of the year. The entire place had a festive, busy feel to it.

We started our visit by having lunch at Vishala cafe. The food was delicious and plentiful. We then visited the Gaushala which has nearly 1,000 heads of cattle, all belonging to one of the 37 native breeds of cow in India. The vast majority belonged to the Gir variety, with beautiful brown coats and long, drooping ears. A quick online search revealed that this breed produces the highest yield of milk of all the breeds in India. They are also widespread in Brazil! There was a nice, pleasant atmosphere in the Gaushala, surrounded by these peaceful bovines.

We then continued our visit by taking in the small temples in the Ashram complex, visiting the lake area adjacent to which is a small pen containing a few Chital (Spotted) Deer, Rabbits, a couple of Turkeys and a few peafowl.

We then took in the Vishalakshi Mantapa. We could only view this beautiful multi-tiered meditation hall from the outside as there was a programme being held inside. Situated on top of a small hill, the walk offered beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.

We took in the book shop and other shops located within the Ashram before heading back home.

I found the visit very refreshing, coming back with an increased sense of calm.


The Future of How We Live

One of the topics that fascinates me is the way we are adapting our lives to respond to the changes wrought about (largely) by technological advancements. There is a generation growing up that are technology natives and who might not know of a life before social media, smartphones, video and music streaming, etc. We are already hearing about how, led by this generation, people are:

  • Purchasing less cars, preferring to use shared mobility services
  • Delaying (perhaps indefinitely?) the purchase of real estate for personal use, preferring to rent instead
  • Looking for interesting and fulfilling work to do, rather than a job
  • Preferring to spend on experiences, instead of assets (live music concerts, niche travel, etc.)
  • Exhibiting greater awareness of willingness to lead a more sustainable life

I am not sure if all of these are definite long-term trends or a short-term reaction to the present stimuli. I am also not sure if all of these hold true globally, or are specific to a country’s state of development and specific economic conditions.

I hope to read and learn more about these trends and be able to express some views over the next few weeks.