Darsan / 2007

I have retrieved a set of images and videos from my years living very close to the large Sri Venkateswara Temple at Helensburgh near Sydney, Australia. I feel great love for that time, and the Temple was literally our place of worship during those years. We saw the community there building one shrine after another, working on the architecture and the gardens, cooking fragrant Masala Dosas under the gum trees, fighting off terrifying bushfires - and doing Poojas (ceremonies of offering) to protect against bushfires. We participated in very long Mantra recitations lasting hours; some were 1008 repetitions accompanied by ritual actions involving fire, oil, milk, immersion, music, veiling, unveiling and dressing the statues of the Gods. And the Temple ebbing and flowing in its cycle of life, from placid afternoons with the Gods being gently tended and oiled in slow motion, to searingly loud, raucus and colourful festivals with parades, fire, chanting, flower decorations, ritual sacred foods, and the wonderful, dedicated community swirling all around. We got to know the priests and the musicians. At the time (2005-2010) the Temple had in its congregation some of the finest South Indian musicians that we’d ever heard. One of those musicians, Mr Moorthy, could wail on the Nagaswaram (long oboe-like reed instrument) like no other; he was literally a spiritual descendant of John Coltrane (to our ears, anyway). We followed the cycle of the devotional year. There is a great build up to the Ganesha Festival, mirrored all over the world where there are Hindu Temples - and at this location the elephant god is paraded and hurled into the sea with ecstatic crowds - as all negativity is washed away and a new cycle can begin again. It is not allowed to photograph in Hindu temples, but on big festival days the cameras would come out and I got in a few photos…. here are some below from 2007. I also have wonderful (and crazy) videos shot on the beach during Ganesha immersion; those to follow. A note: the loving attention in the eyes of the worshippers is part of the act of Darsan, or Sacred Seeing…. devotees make contact with the gods through sight, and I can only assume, the gods in return contact the human devotee. It is a beautiful thing to witness. For more on Darsan see the seminal book Darsan: Seeing the Divine image in India by Diana Eck. https://cup.columbia.edu/book/darsan/9780231112659

Enjoy the photos. Videos will follow.
All photos by Catherine Schieve / Ganesha Festival, Sri Venkateswara Temple, 2007. Click to zoom.

Darsan for Ganesha, as the Nagaswaram is played. Ganesha statue is in the shrine just out of sight.

Darsan for Ganesha, prostrating on the floor, musical offerings

Making fire offerings with oil lamps, and circumnabulating the shrines with hands clasped in prayer

Emerging from the Temple with Ganesha statue on a bier, full accompaniment of Nagaswarams and drums

Table of food offerings, lamps, flowers and music

Heading toward the sea, crowds chanting

Ganesha heading toward the sea, final Poojas with fire before the joyous rush to immersion and destruction in the ocean’s waters.

Bruxelles - Christmas from a distance

I grew up in Brussels and like many migrants am “imprinted” with holidays past in other lands. So, Christmas to me basically still feels like Belgium. The folk festivals, street foods, extreme decorations of Son et lumière - with students parading through the streets after university lets out dressed in lab coats, all forms of steaming hot outdoor foods, and the great illuminated architecture of La Grande-Place de Bruxelles (French) /also Grote Markt (Flemish), and Place Sainte-Catherine And the sounds of street bands, the smell of pine and foods cooked in market stalls and arcades by increasingly multicultural chefs, the look and feel of the Bandes Dessineés in the book shops (Franco-Belgian comic books elegantly produced in hardbound volumes) — and of course the giant newspaper cones of pommes frites served outdoors and hot with exorbitant amounts of mayonnaise. There has always been a sacred-and-profane quality about Bruxelles and its cultures, including the ability to party lavishly in the streets, a love for the marionettes and parades of its Medieval past, and the celebration of things rough-hewn as well as polished and decorative.

For me, this mental image will contrast with a low-key Aussie Southern Hemispherian Summer Christmas season, that will include keeping an eye open for bushfires, hiking in canyons, and carving out times to swim on certain Southern beaches around Melbourne. And enjoying mussels - a taste I acquired in Belgium!

I hope your holidays, however spread across various lands, are rich and wonderful in their own particular ways.

~ Catherine Schieve

With thanks and photo credits to the following websites:
Noel Grande Place de Bruxelles / impressions2voyage.net
Le marché de Noël de Bruxelles / Oui
Bruxelles Ma Ville / bruxellesmaville.be
Un Pied Das les Nuages / unpieddanslesnuages.com
Plaisirs d'Hiver / plaisirsdhiver.be
Marché de Noël de Bruxelles / BrusselsPictures.com

Jaymen Drahm / Nunyarra Culture Festival

Contemporary AUSTRALIAN Indigenous DancE

“Giving thanks to the totems and land throughout my dance”

Jaymen Drahm is a Yidinji, Mamu man from Innisfail, Queensland, Australia. He is a contemporary & Hip Hop dancer, and founder of the Golden Coastline dance collective. Here’s some fantastic video footage of his dance at the Nunyarra Culture Festival that recently happened September 14-16, 2018 at Nunyarra, NSW.

Thank you Jaymen Drahm for your moving performance.

More info about the artist on his Web Page / and his Facebook page Golden Cockatoo