PUERTO RICO: Preparing For Maria

PUERTO RICO: Preparing For Maria

Shelves empty as people stock up

Puerto Rico is a US Territory an the Caribbean. There are 3.4 million American citizens living there and yet two months later many homes are still without electricity, and still some without running water. 

Maria came thirteen days after Hurricane Irma, another category 5 hurricane, passed north of us. Irma devastated some of the neighboring islands, and left us without power for three days. People prepared well. Our house was covered with storm shutters, we had collected water and purchased bottled water, batteries and non-perishable food. Irma came on September 6th and 7th, and by September 10th, the kids were back in school. At the university we were back as well.

All of the organizations that we belong to – the kids’ school, the university, the gymnastics club, the soccer club – arranged activities to send supplies to the islands of St Martin, Anguila and Barbuda. I donated different items to all of them. Like myself, many people donated things they had bought to prepare for Irma, and ended up not using. Although we had been hearing about Irma for a while, we were never in its direct path. The northern turn that was predicted happened later than expected and took it closer to us, but it still passed north of us.

Around September 14th, we started hearing that there was a weather disturbance that was a threat to Puerto Rico. On Saturday September 16th, citizens were told that the storm, still a tropical depression, might pass over the island. My father called me and said that we all needed to prepare. At 5:00 p.m., tropical storm Maria had formed.

On Sunday September 17th, I woke up before the rest of the family to buy more supplies, since we had donated much of what we had. The first stop was WalMart. Although it was only 8:15 a.m., they were already out of bottled water. I bought a few things and went to Sams Club. There was no bottled water there either, but I bought batteries for our flashlights. I went to Walgreens next: no water there either. At Ralph’s, a local grocery chain, I was able to buy one of the last five cases of water left. I went home and started washing clothes. By 5:00 p.m., Hurricane Maria had formed as a Category 1.

On Monday September 18th, classes at the university were canceled. The kids were in school, so my husband and I went to work to wrap a few things up. I then went to renew my car insurance which was due on September 30th. I got a message from my sister-in-law telling me that Sams Club had water. I went, and was able to get two cases as per the family limit. I went to WalMart in search of tank tops, knowing it was going to be hot, and I found a small battery-operated radio that someone had left behind in a cart. This $12.50 contraption was to become our best friend. I filled up the tank – gas stations had started rationing, but my ration was enough to fill the tank. I finished my shopping at a grocery store a quarter of a mile from our house: I bought things like Vienna Sausage, Spam, canned pasta, chicken, and corn.

Back home, I continued securing things around the house, washing everything including the bathroom rugs, and cleaned the house. I took my daughter to gymnastics practice and while there, the 8:00 p.m. news bulletin announced that Maria was now a Category 5 hurricane. My youngest brother called me and asked me for shelter, since he did not have storm shutters and has a three-year-old child. I welcomed them but asked them to bring pillows, blankets, towels, water and any food the baby might need.

Lineups grow as a gas shortage looms

My husband got cash, and topped his car up as well.

Tuesday September 19th. Almost ready. We finished cleaning the last corner of the house and washing all of the clothes. We made sure all of our devices were charged.

In the end we had seven people (four adults, one teen, one tween, one toddler) and one dog. For this we had about 150 bottles of water, rice, whole and refried beans, juice, rice, pasta, flashlights and the batteries, canned meats, and veggies and snacks. We also had our 450 gallon water reservoir and whatever water we could collect in empty containers. The freezer had four bags of ice, about fifteen bottles of water and ten quart sized Ziploc bags full of water.

At around 2:00 p.m. we thought we were ready. Little did we know…

This is a guest post for World Moms Network by Tania Malave. Photo credit to the author.

World Moms Network

World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms Formerly, our site was known as World Moms Blog.

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A Global Day of Giving! #GivingTuesday

A Global Day of Giving! #GivingTuesday

Giving Tuesday was created to transform how people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season. It has become an international movement around the holidays dedicated to giving, in the same way that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now synonymous with holiday shopping.

After the frenzied commercialism of Black Friday sales (that now last through the weekend) and the inundation of Cyber Monday e-mails, Giving Tuesday provides a way to make sure we give as good as we get.

Giving Tuesday has become an international phenomenon, and for North Americans it’s an opportunity to harness all of the grateful energy amassed over Thanksgiving and transform it directly into the spirit of helping others.  It feels like this year more than ever we are reminded that family, good health, a place to call home, security, access to clean water, and food to eat are not things to be taken for granted.  If you are reading this chances are that you have the good fortune to live in a place where food security, education, and housing are the norm. It is basic humanity to extend a hand if we can and there are so many positive ways to give back, and celebrate the true meaning of “The Giving Season”.

Here are a few organizations doubling donations today and working to make the world a better place on #GivingTuesday:

Heifer Project International

What We Do – Heifer International from Heifer International on Vimeo.

African Wildlife Foundation

The African Wildlife Foundation is having a GivingTwos-day! Donations will be doubled today and these animals need our help!

Shot@Life

Shot At Life – UNF, Honduras, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012. Photo Credit: Stuart Ramson

One of the greatest investments we can make in global health is to vaccinate children against vaccine preventable diseases. The impact is undeniable as demonstrated in this Impact Report by Shot@life.

MAM, has agreed to match all donations dollar-for-dollar to shot@life this #GivingTuesday and Facebook and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have teamed up to match up to $2 million in funds for nonprofits. To have your donation to Shot@Life matched, donate through Shot@Life’s Facebook Page.

WaterAid

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Atalay

Water is life, plain and simple. This #GivingTuesday is an opportunity to double your impact an provide clean water to families and villages around the world who do not have something most of us take for granted. Clean water.

Save The Children

Children are our future and often the innocent victims in man-made conflicts and natural disasters alike.

Photo Credit: Save The Children/ Victoria Zegler

Happy Giving! What other organizations you are supporting this Giving Tuesday? Please let us know!

This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Elizabeth Atalay.

Elizabeth Atalay

Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.

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World Tour of Andre Rieu and The Johann Strauss Orchestra



Nothing #thesistershood likes more than dressing up for a night on the town. When there is music and women in splendid ballgowns who sing like angels while being accompanied by a genius with a violin – perfection. Sisters from Another Mister was thrilled to be #sponsored to attend the World Tour of Andre Rieu and The Johann Strauss Orchestra. The orchestra began back in 1987 by the man now nicknamed the King of the Waltz and first performed on January 1st, 1988 – they truly make the world a happier place.
Andre Rieu brings magic to the stage with his engaging sense of humor, reeling in his audience with his stories, the occasional slapstick comedy, snowflake and balloon drops, and copious amounts of champagne amongst his orchestra – yes, real champagne. Married to his high school sweetheart, Marjorie, and living in a castle built back in 1452 seems fitting for a man who creates dazzling stages and owns an atelier for the production of the lavish dresses for which the ladies in his ensemble are well known. Rieu often wonders what Strauss, one of the people he most admires and considers his idol, would have thought of him – we think he would give him a high five or perhaps take a bow … just look at this spectacle of gorgeousness.

Photo credit: The Johann Strauss Orchestra

There is something about bringing people together from across the globe to rest in the beauty of music that reminded us of our own sistershood. We believe that no matter where in the world you may be, we can be of one mind, and one heart just as World Moms Network brings together women around the globe to share their journey of motherhood. Music can be the language of lovers, the soother of babes in arms, the passion of the theater and the joy of gatherings from young to old. We should mention that Rieu even has a Kindergarten in his 27 roomed abode for members of his orchestra’s children – as world moms, we approve of this message.
And in bringing together hearts and minds, these words resonate …

I make music to touch the souls of people as it’s a language we all can speak. Andre Rieu

Music can break through barriers both linguistically and culturally, across borders and demographics, uniting old and young and captivating audiences when in the presence of a master like Andre Rieu. His boyish charm and delightful stage antics have warmed the world to classical music with unprecedented popularity. The attention to detail in lavish events, ballgowns to the tune of $3,ooo a piece and the grandiose of the sets for his performances have elevated his concerts to an art form. In fact, back in 2015, Rieu took more than $1M in one day at the box office when his annual Summer concert from Maastricht was broadcast live

The waltz can be sad and at the same time uplifting. You have to see life from both sides, and the waltz encapsulates that. If you’re in my audience you give yourself to me and the waltz will grab you. Andre Rieu


Rieu has also been quoted as saying that he would like to be the first musician to play on the moon – it goes without saying that he has already reached for the stars! So are we fans? Absolutely. And because we totally have a crush at this point, and were so dazzled by the glam and the opulent drama unfolding before our eyes – we invite you to feast on this beautiful video. Then head on over and click on this amazing link which will connect you to your local tv station to bring you more delicious goodness packaged as a 10-part series on Ovation TV, America’s only ART network.
 

 
For your further listening pleasure, you can always order from general retail or Target has an exclusive version of the CD with two bonus tracks which happen to be our favs too – Music of the Night, from Phantom of the Opera, and, Lara’s Theme, from Dr Zhivago. There is something about music that can take you back in time by a memory stirred that simply makes your heart smile.
So with that in mind, take a look through the tracklist to Shall We Dance;

  1. Second Waltz
  2. The Blue Danube
  3. And The Waltz Goes On
  4. Godfather ( Main Theme)
  5. Strauss & Co Medley
  6. Love In Venice
  7. Radetzky March
  8. A Time For Us ( Romeo & Juliet)
  9. Zorba’s Dance
  10. Edelweiss
  11. Carnival Of Venice
  12. Bolero
  13. My Heart Will Go On
  14. Time To Say Goodbye
  15. Music Of The Night ( From Phantom Of The Opera) (Target Exclusive)
  16. Lara’s Theme ( From Dr. Zhivago) (Target Exclusive)

See any old favorites? You will LOVE that Rieu and his talented orchestra have taken them to new heights!

In closing on things loved and this fairy tale evening, I bring the King and Queen of my life, my mom and dad, who were thrilled to be guests of this auspicious event – how cute are they?

Sisters From Another Mister

Sisters From Another Mister ... A blog born from the love of 'sisters' around the world who come together to lift eachother up no matter where they are on their life journey. Meet Nicole, a transplanted British born, South African raised, and American made Mom of two girls living on the sunny shores of South Florida, USA. A writer of stories, an avid picture taker and a keeper of shiny memories. Sharing the travels of a home school journey that takes place around the globe - because 'the world truly is our classroom'. Throw in infertility, adoption, separation, impending divorce (it has its own Doom and Gloom category on the blog) and a much needed added side of European humor is what keeps it all together on the days when it could quite clearly simply fall apart! This segues nicely into Finding a Mister for a Sister for continued amusement. When not obsessing over the perils of dating as an old person, saving the world thro organisations such as being an ambassador for shot@life, supporting GirlUP, The UN Foundation, ONE.org and being a member of the Global Team of 200 for social good keeps life in the balance. Be sure to visit, because 'even tho we may not have been sisters at the start, we are sisters from the heart.' http://www.sistersfromanothermister.com/ https://www.facebook.com/SistersFromAnotherMister https://twitter.com/thesistershood http://pinterest.com/thesistershood/ Global Team of 200 #socialgoodmoms Champion for Shot@Life and The United Nations Foundation

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World Voice: Social Good Summit + UNGA: Education is Key for #2030NOW

World Voice: Social Good Summit + UNGA: Education is Key for #2030NOW

Muzoon Almellehan, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador; former Syrian refugee

Muzoon Almellehan, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador; former Syrian refugee

For the past three years, I have attended the Social Good Summit in September and have always been excited to hear speakers address issues that deal with SDG’(Sustainable Development Goals). This year’s speakers did not disappoint. In addition, I was invited to be a part of the SDG Media Zone during the UNGA (United Nations General Assembly) in the same week, where media influencers and high-level delegates from around the world came together to address the global problems facing us today.

With celebrities like Aasif Mandvi speaking on the fairness of media when covering politics and Whoopi Goldberg, whose involvement with the AIDS Foundation in collaboration with Quinn Tivey, Elizabeth Taylor’s grandson, there was no shortage of inspiring changemakers whose goal was to further the conversation of the SDG’s for #2030NOW; but of those that I heard, one speaker made the biggest impact on me.

Muzoon Almellehan is the youngest Syrian refugee who changed her unimaginable circumstances to one of inspiration. She was 14 when her life was upended and had to escape to Jordan with her family to escape the war. For most children, the thought of starting a new life in a different country, let alone a refugee camp, would be daunting, but for Muzoon, it was more than that; she had to leave the school that she considered her second home.

Facing the reality that she couldn’t go back to Syria, she decided to pursue the one thing that the war couldn’t take away from her: education. Relieved to find out that the refugee camps in Jordan offered education to children, she dedicated all her energy to continue her learning. It was during her stay at two refugee camps in Jordan that made her realize the impact she could make for her community. She used her voice to raise awareness of the importance of education for children, especially for girls. Muzoon knew too well that the fate of young girls was bleak since her community believed early marriage was the only way to protect girls. She made it her mission to convince organizations in the refugee camps that education was the way to break the cycle of poverty and traditions that threaten the safety and future of girls.

Her commitment to bringing SDG 4 (Education) to the forefront of the Social Good Summit speaks volumes. Muzoon is not content in spreading the value of educating girls only in her community, but to the rest of the world. It is her passion towards education that has earned her the distinction of being the youngest UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

While I was not a refugee, like Muzoon, my family came to the United States to escape a Philippine dictatorship when I was 10 years old. Before we left, I was lucky to have been taught English as my first language by two aunts who were teachers before the national language, Tagalog. Like Muzoon, I had to leave my home, friends, and school and start over. My family had to rebuild our lives in a different country, but the one thing that was never compromised was my education. I didn’t realize how much I would be grateful for learning English at an early age because it made me feel like I belonged, even though I looked different.

My education has allowed me to pursue a career that I love, which may not have happened had we not left the Philippines. Now, as a Mom of an eighteen-year-old woman, I am so grateful that she will not have to fight to get an education and pursue her dreams, unlike girls in countries whose education is suppressed, thus affecting their future.

Muzoon’s commitment to implement SDG 4 (Education) for everyone is inspiring and should be heeded as a wake-up call. Education makes it possible for anyone to dream big for themselves and their communities. Her parting words say it best: “Even if we are young, even if we have challenges in our lives, we really can make a change. Yes, life is difficult, yes we face difficulties like war, conflict, poverty, but when we believe in ourselves, and when we believe that we are strong enough to make a change, we will make this change and we can actually make a difference in this world. No matter who we are, no matter where we are and no matter how old we are. Just remember that we are all humans, and at the end, we have the same feelings and same rights. So let’s be one and let’s come together for making our world much better”.  

I, for one, am ready to join her mission of bringing education to every single person.

How about you?

 

Tes Silverman

Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.

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USA: Today Is World Polio Day 2017

USA: Today Is World Polio Day 2017

Last year I spoke at the United Nations Foundation Shot@Life Summit to a room of almost 200 advocates for global vaccines from all over the country. I had a story to tell, as many of us do, though you might not know it. The story of how Polio touched the lives of so many goes back a couple of generations for most Americans, people forget how terrifying it was, was but if you speak with anyone who grew up before the Polio vaccine became available and mention the word Polio you can watch their eyes grow wide at the memory of the fear that gripped this nation. Try it. Ask your grandmother or grandfather, and I bet they have a story for you about how it touched their lives. This is the story I told:

“Every story begins and ends with a woman, a mother, a grandmother, a girl, a child, . Every story is a birth”….- Ishmael Beah Author of Long Way Gone & Radiance of Tomorrow & UNICEF Advocate

As a storyteller, and a mother to my four children that quote by Ishmael Beah really touches me. Because before I was a mother, I was of course a daughter. And the story of why I am here speaking to you today begins with her. my mother was born in 1922 , she was 45 when I was born, and a polio survivor. She stood all of 5’2” at a tilt, since Polio had left her with one leg slightly shorter than the other.

Eventually I would come to tower over her at 5’9″, and now that I am a mother myself I muse at how odd it must have been to have ended up with a daughter so much taller. While I was still a daughter, and before I became a mother, I was a traveler. I still think about the mothers who approached me as a westerner in my early twenties and held out their babies to me asking for medicine or a cure. If those babies survived they would be in their mid-twenties now, and surely not all did survive. Knowing what I know now I wish I could go back in time with a bag of medical supplies and give them whatever they needed, because the pleading looks in those mother’s eyes haunt me to this day.

I never was a mother and a daughter at the same time. My mother passed away four months before my own first child was born. Though she had told me stories about having Polio as a child it never really resonated with me in the way it did once I became a mother myself. How terrified my grandmother must have been of losing her. And to be honest I hadn’t really reflected on those mothers I met as a backpacker in my 20’s until I became a mother myself, and then I remembered that helpless feeling I was left with when I did not know what to do to help them. When I joined shot@life as a champion in 2013 I was so grateful to finally have the opportunity to DO SOMETHING. To honor my mother’s legacy as a Polio Survivor, and to help the mothers that I know are out there in developing countries desperate for proper healthcare, for lifesaving vaccines for their children that every mother should have access to.

IMG_6308

As excited as I was to join Shot@Life I have to confess that had I known that I was going to be visiting my government representatives on capitol hill that first year I attended the summit, I may never have joined. I had never done anything like that before. Yet, the next thing I knew I was hoofing it around capitol hill (in the wrong shoes…I might add…) advocating for Shot@life with my congressmen and Senators. I brought the messaging back to my community and realized how much work is still to be done just in terms of  awareness alone. There is so much misinformation and lack of awareness out there on vaccines.

In this country we take it for granted that our babies will not die from a simple case of diarrhea, but mothers in countries where they lack access to vaccines have lost, or know someone who has lost a baby to a vaccine preventable disease.

Every 20 seconds a baby dies from a vaccine preventable disease, mothers will walk for days to get vaccines when they can for their children. I realized there is a huge need to get the message out to the public.

So what can YOU do to make sure every child gets a fair Shot@life no matter where they are born?

  1. Become a United Nations Foundation Shot@Life Champion, as a Champion here are a few ways to reach out to make an impact in your community that can ripple around the globe:
  2. Contact or visit your local representatives and tell them that you care about their support of global health and global vaccines, and ask them to support these programs as well.
  3.  Hold a party to get the word out, if you don’t want to do it in your home there are so many companies that offer fun alternatives. In my community stores like Alex & Ani,  Pinkberry, and Flatbread Pizza will help you have a party on site to fundraise for your event.
  4. Speak to local clubs, a local new neighbors club, Rotary or General Federation of Women’s Clubs
  5. Hold an event at your child’s school or set up a booth during an international fair, take the opportunity to work the importance of vaccines into the broader issue of global awareness.
  6. Use social media as a messaging tool for good by following and sharing information through Shot@Life social channels, Write op-eds, letters to the editor, blog posts, or articles for your local paper or magazine.

For World Pneumonia Day in November of 2015 I was paired up with Pediatrician Dr Mkope from Tanzania and at the National Press Club in Washington, DC we did over 20 radio and TV interviews! It was a great feeling knowing that the message of the importance of vaccines, with real life proof of efficacy from Dr. Mkope, was being broadcast so far and wide. At shot@life we say “a virus is just a plane ride away”, and in a perfect example of this ever shrinking world, it turned out that Dr. Mkope is the pediatrician of the one friend I know in Tanzania.

Polio is still known to exist in only three countries in the world, the World Health Organization predicts that, with vaccines, it will be eradicated soon.

Every story is a birth, for my mother who survived Polio, for the mothers I met in central Africa with the pleading eyes, for my children and my children’s children, what I have learned as a Shot@Life Champion is that we have the opportunity to shape this narrative on global health, together lets write this story to end with no child dying unnecessarily from a vaccine preventable disease.

 

A version of this post previously appeared on Documama.org

Elizabeth Atalay

Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.

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World Voice: From PranaPrathishta to Pranahuti – The Transformative Possibilities

World Voice: From PranaPrathishta to Pranahuti – The Transformative Possibilities

Gangai Konda Chola Puram, UNESCO World Heritage site in India

Gangai Konda Chola Puram, UNESCO World Heritage site in India

There was an air of pious anticipation, that one could almost hear the elephants trumpeting while carrying huge granite stones to build the temple, one could almost hear the hum of the 400 odd dancing damsels’ and their anklets tinkling, while dancing for Lord Shiva (as the lore tells), and one could almost envision the talented artisans carving out the beautifully sculpted figures. Gangai Konda Chola Puram is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, and called as the “Great Living Chola Temples”. It is called “living” because it is still very much an alive place of worship. Perhaps it is also called “great” because of the rich heritage of the Chola Dynasty still palpable in the atmosphere. But wait, I was in for a surprise as I was just yet entering the temple’s premises.

History

The temple was built in the 11th century AD in a record time of nine years by Rajendra Chola-1, son of Raja Raja Chola. He was a mighty warrior, who won over major kingdoms in India up to the Gangetic plains in the North, and South East Asian countries like Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and so on. He had come back to Tamil Nadu State in India, and built a city as his ruling capital, and named it Gangai-Konda-Chola-Puram, meaning the capital of the King who won over the rulers of the Ganges.

The Welcoming Nandi Sculpture
The Welcoming Nandi Statue

The Welcoming Nandi Statue

The first thing anyone would notice in this compound is the huge 11 feet tall kneeling Nandi (bull) statue, Lord Shiva’s stoic vehicle. This is so similar to the Sphinx in front of the pyramid in Egypt. It is resplendent and majestic in itself, and one can gaze for more than a few minutes and walk all around it admiringly. The strength, virility, and controlled power in Nandi was tangible in the statue. This is one of the 12 monoliths of Nandis in India, carved out from a single granite stone.

The World Famous Dancing Nataraja
The World Famous Dancing Nataraja Statue

The World Famous Dancing Nataraja Statue

As I walked beyond the Nandi, there was a flight of stone steps leading up to the sanctum where Lord Shiva’s idol rested. The entrance was flanked by the dancing Nataraja sculptures, which was a trademark of the Chola architecture. The Chola dynasty was known for encouraging art, culture, dancing, creativity in the form of sculpting, painting, poetry, literature, scholarly debate as a way of expression and so on.

The dancing Nataraja sculpture which is world famous, with a presence even at CERN, Switzerland, originated during the Chola period.

Walking past this ancient relic, I wondered if the foot of the statue held any geomagnetic effects as the lore claimed.

Entry into Lord Shiva’s Abode
Entry into Lord Shiva’s Abode

The Long Walk – Entry into Lord Shiva’s Abode

The weather was very pleasant, not too sunny, just the right dose of sun for a summery South Indian morning. The entry into the doors of the temple gave me a tiny shiver. There was a man sitting just near the entrance giving out oil lamps for those who wanted it. There were some who walked in without taking his lamps. My attention drifted, searching for the idol. All I could see was a very long corridor, with the hope that there was the idol at the end of it. It was slightly darker inside. I wondered, why the King, Rajendra Chola, who built the temple, had to make the corridor so long? Slowly my son and I started walking onward. There was an opening in the left and right side somewhere ahead of us. But we could already feel a cool breeze from a draft somewhere nearby. We continued to walk. The gentle breeze was soothing. It was perhaps whispering secrets about the beauty of the art and richness of the culture of the Chola Dynasty. I looked around to observe the walls, trying to grasp all that I could from this one long walk. I also realized my mind was numbing me to stop my wandering focus.

We had made this trip to the temple, because we happened to be in the vicinity, and did not want to miss out checking a UNESCO World Heritage site. That was all. But here I was trying to squint my eyes trying to figure out what the idol of Lord Shiva looked like. Slowly I felt my eyes drifting close. I opened them, immediately alerted. I was walking after all. I could not close my eyes.

This was not like the regular temples. There was a special uniqueness here. We both could sense that.I wondered if Lord Shiva knew all the devotees entering this temple.

During all this train of thoughts, I felt the gentle chide of the breeze, nudging me to focus on the life essence of the Universe.

The idol was consecrated, I realized. The breeze was telling me that.

PranaPrathishta

The holy process of PranaPrathishta or consecrating a stone idol, which is an image of god, is done to infuse the divinity into the idol, the temple and the neighborhood too if the energies can be strong enough. So how is it done? In recent history, rituals, hymns, and mantras are used for the process thereby signaling the completion of consecration. However, in ancient times, the sages Agastya and Patanjali were known to perform PranaPrathishta by infusing life force or life energy into the idol. It was a very active and transformative process. They wanted to make sure that all of living habitation across the world should have an environment of holy life energy. Thus this also accounts for numerous temples across India.

Is there a modern day scientific explanation validating the process of PranaPrathishta, you may ask.

Fellow to the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, Professor Emeritus William A. Tiller, of Stanford University’s Department of Materials Science, spent more than three decades to validate this.

William A. Tiller says, “For the past 35 to 40 years, in parallel with my traditional science research and teaching at Stanford University, I have been seriously investigating the effects of human intention on both the properties of materials (inorganic and organic; non-living and living) and on what we call physical reality. From this research, I and my colleagues have discovered that it is possible to make a significant change in the properties of a material substance by consciously holding a clear intention to do so.”

More info here.

Our walk in the corridor, from the door leading to Lord Shiva’s abode, was almost ending. We were standing in front of the idol now. I looked at my son. He was silent for a change. His mind was not jumping into all sorts of science and math and mythology talk, which was a relief for me. I was enjoying these few moments of silence too. He had already commented about the similarities and differences between the trident of Shiva and Poseidon, as we were entering the temple.

After what seemed like a long lapse in time, in front of the idol, we looked at each other and then silently walked out.

#WorldMom Purnima from India with her son

#WorldMom Purnima from India with her son

The lawn around the temple grounds was well maintained, and we sat down and relaxed for a bit. There were a lot of sculptures all around, and some smaller temples for minor deities. We were in no hurry to check them all out.

“What just happened in there?” asked my son.

“It is a holy place. You felt the effects.” I replied.

“But what really is that, which we felt?” he asked again.

“You tell me,” I said.

“It was peaceful,” he said.

“So it was,” I replied.

“And something more, which cannot be explained,” he continued.

Transformation of man

I felt obliged to explain to him the holy process of pranaprathishta of an idol by pure intent and will, by the holy seers of the ancient.

“If they could transform a mere stone to god, they could do it to living things too, who are alive and receptive, and holy in thought and action,” he concluded.

“Yes, perhaps they could,” I smiled.

Bidding Goodbye to Gangai Konda Chola Puram

Bidding Goodbye to Gangai Konda Chola Puram

As our visit was coming to an end, I couldn’t help thinking that in today’s times, we are gifted with Pranahuti, or Yogic transmission in the Heartfulness Meditation system. The Heartfulness trainers are trained to impart this energy to the seeker.

In the words of the modern-day saint, Ram Chandra, “Transmission is the utilization of Divine Force for the transformation of man.” By such a transformation man is divinized, he says.

Kamlesh Patel, the global guide of Heartfulness says, “The best way to understand transmission remains to experience it practically… For many people, the experience of receiving transmission is so convincing that no further proof or understanding is necessary. I invite you to experiment and experience it for yourself.”

Extending the possibilities of the consecration of an idol through pranaprathishta to the transformation of man to make him divinized through pranahuti, is a giant leap of evolution in the history of mankind.

The beautiful thing about our planet’s rich past is that it has led us to the evolution of the present.

Tell me a little bit of spiritual revelations you have had, from your culture.

Photo Credit: The Author

Purnima Ramakrishnan

Purnima Ramakrishnan is an UNCA award winning journalist and the recipient of the fellowship in Journalism by International Reporting Project, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Her International reports from Brazil are found here . She is also the recipient of the BlogHer '13 International Activist Scholarship Award . She is a Senior Editor at World Moms Blog who writes passionately about social and other causes in India. Her parental journey is documented both here at World Moms Blog and also at her personal Blog, The Alchemist's Blog. She can be reached through this page . She also contributes to Huffington Post . Purnima was once a tech-savvy gal who lived in the corporate world of sleek vehicles and their electronics. She has a Master's degree in Electronics Engineering, but after working for 6 years as a Design Engineer, she decided to quit it all to become a Stay-At-Home-Mom to be with her son!   This smart mom was born and raised in India, and she has moved to live in coastal India with her husband, who is a physician, and her son who is in primary grade school.   She is a practitioner and trainer of Heartfulness Meditation.

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