Autumn Resilience

Those were the Autumn days, about two decades back,
Was out and about with family, had festivities to make.

Was on my way back home, when the warning was issued,
The Cyclone was approaching, we tried to rush all we could.

Efforts were not enough, and we got stuck in a bad traffic jam,
With huge trucks around us, ours was a tiny car in the open.

The hours passed, a veil of darkness descended upon us,
We heard big roars, as if the devil’s lung was about to burst.

The Cyclone went about its business for the whole night long,
Destroying vehicles, houses, as if licked with its thorny tongue.

Twisted trees and power poles alike with all its might,
Wiping out years of mankind and civility in just one night.

We stayed in that car for the whole time, huddled and scared,
The winds tried to toss us, and we thought we won’t be spared.

That was one scary Autumn night, like none I had seen before,
With everything else destroyed, as if we were left to tell the lore.

It was long before, when cyclones were without any names,
Less powerful, and may be a slightly less in fearsomeness.

Rising temperatures have made them more common than ever,
Autumn is synonymous with cyclones now, and will be in future.

When the world prepares for festivities at the arrival of Autumn.
My tribe is either preparing for a cyclone or is recovering from one.

As mankind “progresses” towards a better “future” elsewhere,
There will be people here who pay more than their fair share.

Not paying for the “progresses” they haven’t made, not a choice,
Autumn and its cyclones are now a story of my tribe’s resilience.

Having stood steadfast in the face of the cyclone of this year,
They pick up pieces, preparing for the next without any fear.

Autumn Resilience
An old man looks at the restless sea under black clouds as he prays using prayer beads, at Puri in Odisha, India.

My first encounter with a cyclone was way back in 1999, when me and my family were caught unawares while coming back from a roadtrip during Dussehra. We spent a night inside the car, stuck in a traffic jam on the then infamous Andhra-Odisha border. The storm raged on outside, and tried hard to toss and turn our car as the eye of the storm passed right over us. When the storm passed and dawn broke, almost everything around us was destroyed. The super cyclone of 1999 followed it, and became one of the worst natural disasters of the Indian subcontinent.

Over the years we moved to naming cyclones in the Indian ocean region, but the cyclones didn’t relent. On the east coast, Odisha became their primary target, and they came back every year during Autumn, the festive season in India. As global temperatures have risen, Odisha has been gearing up for cyclones, every year since, that is, after facing its annual bout of floods.

And for the people of coastal Odisha and the adjoining hills inland, they don’t understand what on Earth is worth the price they pay for every Autumn, year after year. The industrialisation that doesn’t exist in their backyard, the infrastructure that is just beginning to show up, the vehicles that don’t ply on their roads, or the over-consumption of resources that they are not party to? Or is it that they pay the price for someone else’s luxury?

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

The Day I Died

The roar of the river, and so close,
Drowned everything including sound,
Couldn’t even hear my mind’s prose,
Beneath, the slippery shaky ground.

The whirlpool right in front of me,
Couldn’t fathom how deep it could go,
To be locked in it, and lose the key,
Forever, with no more despair to grow.

My mind’s whirlpool was getting bigger,
Consuming everything, from inside out,
Event that led to this, and the rigour,
Everything that I thought I knew about.

Stood there thinking, on the bank of the river,
Cold wind touched my skin and I began to shiver.

Lot of rejections, a failed life I thought,
People who once “adored” had started to hate,
This agony and pain, on myself I had brought,
There won’t be any if they left at this rate.

The image of a life I had in my mind,
Things that I had started to believe,
In last few days all of it came unwind,
It started to question my love to live.

It was the river I had followed,
All the way up, and on way back,
And saw everything it had mowed,
The mountains it made to crack.

I walked a few steps on the bank, and now closer,
Thought it was okay if the world called me a loser.

Everything started to become hazy,
Was getting ready to make the jump,
Thoughts in my head were going crazy,
Clearly heard my heart’s frantic pump.

Everything fell silent all around, including the river’s roar.
I clearly heard but turned to find no one, and it shook my core.

I had clearly heard my Mom’s calling,
But I couldn’t see her anywhere near,
Didn’t know what kept me from falling,
And the whole event too much to bear.

More than a year later, when I think of it,
Perilously close I actually was to commit.

Cannot thank enough the divine intervention,
A blunder it would have been, for any reason.

All these days, this past in me had dormantly lied,
Nothing remained same, that was the day “I” died.

The “I” that was meek, and fragile..
The “I” that was weak and easily broke….

Lot of things were unfolding in my life during that time, and the mountains had turned my life upside down. People had changed, definitions had changed, and outlook had changed, or so I thought. I was finding it really hard to cope with all of it at once. And it is that moment of weakness I have portrayed in my poem above. Depression is a killer. You might not be as lucky as I am to have a divine intervention. So, please talk it out.

Remember, suicide is a crime against your loved ones!

River Ganga flowing through a valley, under an overcast sky, downhill from Devprayag, in Uttarakhand, India.

In frame: River Ganga flowing through a valley, under an overcast sky, downhill from Devprayag, in Uttarakhand, India. It was here we had stopped for lunch on our last day in the mountains more than a year ago.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

The Last Gajapati

ईन्द्रद्युम्नो महाराजो जगन्नाथार्चकः पुर,
जातः प्रतापरुद्रः सन् सम ईन्द्रेण शो धून।

King Indradyumna, who previously worshiped Lord Jagannath and built His temple in Puri, was born as Prataprudra, with the same opulences as Indra himself. (Gauro Ganoddesha Dipika)

When the reigns of Gajapati kingdom were handed over to Gajapati Prataprudra Deva, borders of Kalinga extended from river Ganga in Bengal in the north to Kaveri in the south and bordered the Bahamani in the west. His title read Gaudeshwara – Lord of Gaudadesh (present day Bengal), Nava Koti – King of nine crore subjects, Karnata Kalabargeshwara – Lord of Karnataka and Gulbarga (Bahamanis ruled from Gulbarga, or Kalaburgi as it is known today). Undoubtedly the most illustrious King of Kalinga, he was the longest serving monarch of the Gajapati kingdom and ruled for forty-three years (1497-1540 AD), and he was also the last.  In 16th century AD the Indian subcontinent was going through unprecedented churning and the Gajapati empire of Kalinga was not untouched.

The last King to have ruled when Kalinga at its greatest extent also happened to rule during the time when Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was spreading the message of Bhakti (devotion) through out the Indian subcontinent. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu himself. Such was his appeal among everyone that once when the fierce armies of Gajapati Prataprudra Deva and that of the Sultan of Bengal were fighting a battle with each other, He and His devotees crossed unharmed right across the battleground into Kalinga.

Gajapati Prataprudra Deva was a devout Vaishnava. Prataprudra Deva had always wished to meet Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, but was denied audience, because Mahaprabhu was an ascetic, and having renounced material life He did not want to have anything to do with women and Kings. Till the time He had only heard that Prataprudra Deva led a very simple life, unlike that of any other King, having utmost respect for scholars and learned men. To test Prataprudra Deva further, He even likened Prataprudra Deva to a black snake obsessed with power. The King was disheartened and even went to the extent of abdicating the throne, so that he would be able to meet with Mahaprabhu. Prataprudra Deva was advised against it.

The King of Kalinga is not the King, but merely a servitor of Lord Jagannath, and rules the land in His name and only as His representative. Lord Jagannath is the true King. As a normal servitor, the King with a broom in his hands, sweeps the three chariots of the siblings – Lord Jagannath, Goddess Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra, during the annual Rathyatra festival, during which they embark on their annual visit to their aunt. And this has been the practice from millenia.

And it was during Rathyatra, that Mahaprabhu saw Prataprudra Deva sweeping the chariot like a common man. Impressed with Prataprudra Deva’s humility and piety, Mahaprabhu granted him a special power through which he could see miracle that was about to unfold. Prataprudra Deva saw there were seven groups of devotees dancing in front of the chariots, and each of the groups had Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu dancing with them. He was there with all seven groups, at the same time. Seeing the miracle Prataprudra Deva’s beliefs became stronger about Mahaprabhu being an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and hence Lord Jagannath himself.

Devotees of Lord Jagannath praying when he appears on his chariot, during Rathyatra.

In the meantime, Prataprudra Deva saw that Mahaprabhu took a break from dancing and went to a nearby garden. He followed Him, changed his clothes from that of a King to that of a commoner, and started recited verses from Mahaprabhu’s favorite chapter from the Bhagavatam. Moved by the way the King recited the verses, Mahaprabhu told him, “I have nothing material with me to give you, however I can embrace you.” And then He embraced the King.

It is believed that the mythical King Indradyumna had built the Jagannath temple in Satyayug. Gundicha Devi, the aunt to whose place Lord Jagannath travels every year during Rathyatra was the queen of King Indradyumna. As events turned out, King Indradyumna could not meet his Lord for the last time before dying, and hence took birth as Gajapati Prataprudra Deva during the time of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu so that he could meet his Lord in flesh and blood.

More about Gajapati Prataprudra Deva:

Gajapati Prataprudra Deva did not have a smooth sailing as the King. He was only seventeen years old when he faced his first challenge, an invasion from the north, by the Sultan of Bengal (1497-1500 AD). He had just finished defending the north of his empire, when he was challenged from the south, this time by the Vijayanagara empire (you can read more about the Vijayanagara empire in my earlier post called “The Torchbearer” by clicking here). His Vijayanagara campaign was about to end after eight years (1500-08 AD), when the Sultan of Bengal again sent his general, who taking advantage of the absence of Gajapati, was able to march all the way till Puri. Prataprudra Deva hurried back and in 1509 AD drove out the invading army of Sultan of Bengal.

In 1509 AD, the most illustrious emperor of Vijayanagara, Krishnadevaraya ascended the throne (you can read about Krishnadevaraya in one of my earlier posts by clicking here). He challenged the Gajapati’s supremacy, and Kalinga and Vijayanagara were locked in battle that lasted for seven years (1512-19 AD). The battle ended when Prataprudra Deva conceded defeat after the capture and death of his son and crown prince Virabhadra. The Gajapati had to retreat to the north of river Krishna as per the treaty. A few years later, the Gajapati supremacy was challenged by Quli Qutub Shah, of Qutub Shahi dynasty of Golconda, and remained greatly intact with only minor losses of territory.

Apart from defending the borders of Gajapati kingdom to a very large extent during a largely tumultuous period in the Indian subcontinent, Prataprudra Deva also patronized art and literature, himself having authored nine literary pieces in Sanskrit. It was during his time that the Panchasakha (five poets and friends Balarama Dasa, Jagannatha Dasa, Ananta Dasa, Achyutananda Dasa and Jasobanta Dasa) produced their best work and flourished despite being openly opposed to few of Prataprudra Deva’s actions. This proves that the King was very tolerant and lenient towards his dissenting subjects too.

With the Gajapati kingdom ended the military hegemony that Kalinga held in the Indian subcontinent, which had so far helped Kalinga sway history in its favor, right from the time of Emperor Kharavela in 2nd century BC.

You can read my other works related Lord Jagannath here:
1. A wait too long – Click here
2. Sees it all – Click here
3. Master of the Universe – Click here
4. The Krishna Connection – Click here

In frame: Devotees of Lord Jagannath praying when he appears on his chariot, during Rathyatra. This unique way of praying, extending two arms in the air with open palms symbolizes the devotees urging to Lord Jagannath to rescue them from the figurative mortal sea. Interestingly, the followers of Mahima Dharma also pray in a similar fashion.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.



The Torchbearer

अविद्यारण्यकान्तारे भ्रमतां प्राणिनां सदा ।
विद्यामार्गोपदेष्टारं विद्यारण्यगुरुं श्रये ॥

To souls that wander in utter dismay in the dense forests of ignorance, He shows the path of true wisdom; In sanctuary of that great Saint Vidyaranya!

Not many people from the past have contributed to the shaping of India as a civilization as it is today, like Saint Vidyaranya did. Saint Vidyaranya was 12th Jagadguru of Sringeri Sharada Peeth mutt and was the chief pontiff for six years, from 1380-86 AD, before attaining Samadhi. He succeeded his younger brother, the 11th Jagadguru of Sringeri mutt Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha, who was the chief pontiff for forty-seven years, from 1333 AD till his Samadhi in 1380 AD. Saint Vidyaranya was probably by far the shortest serving chief pontiff of all the monasteries founded by Adi Shankara. What contribution could Saint Vidyaranya have done in those six years that could have shaped the civilization to such a large extent. Well, it wasn’t what he did in those six years, but what he did before that!

Once Saint Vidyaranya was in deep meditation on the Matanga hill, near Hampi, in present day Karnataka (Oh! You have an idea where this is headed?), when he was approached by two brothers, Hakka (Harihara Raya) and Bukka (Bukka Raya). These two brothers were commanders in the army of the Kakatiya King of Warangal. In the battle with the army of Sultan Mohammed Bin Tughlaq, they were captured and taken to Delhi, where they were forcefully converted to Islam. After having won the confidence of the Sultan, they were sent back south to establish order. Seizing an opportunity, they converted back and declared independence. They had come to Saint Vidyaranya to seek guidance, after one of them had a dream about it. That is how the foundation of Vijayanagara empire was laid.

Legend has it that Saint Vidyaranya chose a site for the capital city, Hampi, for the empire to last for eternity. As per the legend, this was the place where a hare had stared down a tiger while being chased. Apparently, after some studies he came up with the exact date when the foundation was to be laid by the two brothers, and the chosen auspicious time was some time in the night. The legend goes on that he instructed Hakka and Bukka to touch the pick-axe to the ground and there by symbolically lay foundation of the city, at the precise moment when they hear the conch that he would sound from far off. As per the legend, it didn’t go according to the plan. It was pitch dark and both the brothers were waiting for the sound of conch to touch the pick-axe to the ground. And finally, after hearing it, they followed the rituals as instructed. After the rituals were done, they returned back to their horses, and that was when they heard the conch again. Confused, they rode back to Saint Vidyaranya and reported hearing two conchs. That’s when Saint Vidyaranya apparently had an inkling of the empire not lasting forever. Vijayanagara empire lasted for slightly more than three centuries.

The contributions of  Vijayanagara to the civilization, be it in literature, architecture, irrigation, economy, trade, diplomacy or military campaigns and tactics, are immense. For example, when Babur was establishing his foothold in the north, Vijayanagara was being ruled by one of its most prominent rulers – Krishnadevaraya. If not for him, Babur probably wouldn’t have hesitated marching down south, and India as we know today as a civilization would have been completely different. I wrote something on parallel history, where I touched upon this topic and called it “Drawing Parallels”. You can read it here.

As advised by Saint Vidyaranya, Harihara ascended the throne of Vijayanagara empire first, while the work on the new capital in Hampi was still on. He reigned for twenty years. After him, his brother Bukka ascended the throne and reigned for twenty one more years. It is during the reign of Bukka that the capital was shifted from Anegondi to Hampi. Saint Vidyaranya was the spiritual guru and a trusted advisor of the Emperors of Vijayanagara for close to half a century, during which time the boundaries of Vijayanagara as well as its prosperity expanded manifolds. It was during his time that the Sringeri Jagadguru came to be addressed as ‘Karnataka Simhasana Pratishtapanacharya’. It is believed that he also initiated the first three Emperors of Vijayanagara into Atmavidya, the Emperors who ruled Vijayanagara in its formative days for seventy years among themselves.

Legends aside, the new capital of Hampi was designed under the guidance of Saint Vidyaranya as a Sri Chakra. A Sri Chakra has nine triangles of varying sizes with a centre point. The triangles are arranged in five concentric levels, and are circumscribed by two concentric circles, a total of seven levels. Hampi has Virupaksha temple at the center, seven layers of fortified walls, with nine gates around. Well, Connect the dots?

Sun and the hawk
The setting sun over the rugged terrain of Hampi, capital of erstwhile Vijayanagara empire, in Karnataka, India.

Had Saint Vidyaranya not laid the foundation of Vijayanagara empire and had not imbibed his teachings in the early rulers, don’t you think our history would be entirely different? During the course of my research, I have developed an interest for Sringeri, in Karnataka, and have added to the list of places I must visit.

विद्याविद्याविवेकेन पारं संसारवारिधेः ।
प्रापयत्यनिशं भक्तान् तं विद्यारण्यमाश्रये ॥

In the sanctuary of Saint Vidyaranya, who holds aloft the torch of discrimination between the knowledge of the real from unreal, and helps the devoted across the sea of birth!

In frame: The setting sun over the rugged terrain of Hampi, capital of erstwhile Vijayanagara empire, in Karnataka, India. As if the drama unfolding in the horizon to the west was not enough, this hawk while returning to its nest unexpectedly flew into my frame, heightening the drama manifolds. Decisive moment, I say!

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

In search of “Nothingness”

Bira (pronounced as Bee-raw, meaning brave in Odia) was born into a Brahmin family, in a Brahman Sasan. In Odisha, a Brahman Sasan is a village where every family is Brahmin. He grew up witnessing the monster called Brahmin supremacy and the twisted, distorted Hindu Sanatan religion. Tired of it, he and few of his friends went to Joranda and embraced Mahima Dharma. That was seven decades ago.

The allegation that was levelled against Bira was that he had converted and was no more a Hindu, so he and his family need to pay a fine to continue to stay in the village, to which Bira sternly refused. As a result, his family was banished from their ancestral village. One of main reasons was, even after being a Brahmin himself, Bira had challenged their supremacy. All other families of the village were asked to not keep any kind transaction with his family.

In the meantime, a letter was written to the high seat of Hindus in Jagannath temple, in Puri, asking them to advise a future course of action in Bira’s case. To which, they replied that it was settled long back and Mahima Dharma was very much a part of the Sanatan Hindu fold. After the ban on Bira’s family was lifted, having his point proven he chose to stay back in his ancestral village fighting further religious atrocities and intolerance, till he left for a city close by for his children’s education few decades later.

Bira Panigrahy was my grandfather. Of the group of people who embraced Mahima Dharma on that day, more than seven decades ago, only my grandfather continued to be a follower till his death. Any history of my association with Mahima Dharma would be incomplete without mentioning the brave man who was much ahead of his time. As I sat down to write this post, devotional songs written by the blind poet Bhim Bhoi and sang by Mahima devotees rang in the background. The devotees, even though having full time professions, accompany the monks  wherever they go. They were at our home as we were conducting something known as a “Balyaleela”, a yagna of sorts. The occasion this time was my grandfather’s death anniversary.

As per the teachings of Mahima Swamy (as the Master of Mahima Dharma is called), a human doesn’t need any intermediaries to reach the Supreme. All humans are born equals despite caste, creed, color, race, gender and religion. That there is only one God, the Supreme, who is shapeless and colorless, the nothingness in other words. The Supreme resides in every living and non-living being and everything resides in the Supreme. Mahima Dharma is a form of Vishisht Advaita, where every living being is respected equally. Followers of Mahima Dharma worship the nature and the universe, the nothingness within and without, and pray for well being of every living being of the universe.

The Offering
A Mahima monk accepting a coconut being offered by a follower of Mahima Dharma at “Dhuni Mandir”, the temple of fire in Mahimagadi, at Joranda, Dhenkanal, Odisha. The offered coconut will be burned in the holy fire.

The monks of Mahima Dharma as directed by Mahima Swamy himself follow an extremely ascetic lifestyle. For example, when they visit the houses of devotees, they not allowed to stay for more than a night, and are not supposed to go inside the house. They eat under the open skies, and are not allowed to sleep on beds for the rest of their lives. Giving up basically everything that would even remotely qualify as modern comfort. They have only one task at hand, spread the message of the Master, and in the process move ahead in their spiritual journey.

When I was on a road trip with parents in Odisha few months back, something strange had happened. After having spent few minutes in the Indralath temple, in Ranipur-Jharial, we came out and were getting ready to get inside the car. A drunk shepherd approached my father from nowhere, and told him “A Mahima monk had come here many many years ago when I was a kid. And he hosted a “Balyaleela” (a ritual done on special occasions), and there were lakhs of people.” There were no identifications either on my father or on our car which suggested that any of us were a follower of Mahima Dharma. The followers of Mahima Dharma are a very very small fraction of the total population.

Before that, when I had gone to see Puri during Rathyatra last year, I received a call from an unknown number. On the other side was a Mahima monk who visits our family very often. “Have you become a Jagannath devotee?”, he asked me, when on being asked I told him that I was in Puri. Worshiping deities, shapes or  forms is forbidden in Mahima Dharma.That the monk had called me for the first time ever, when I had come to see Lord Jagannath had to mean something; also, what the drunk shepherd was mumbling in front of the Indralath temple.

The celestial message was clear to me. I had to go visit the Mahimagadi, the seat of Mahima Dharma at Joranda, in Dhenkanal, Odisha. And what better time than the annual Maghmela, on the full moon day in the Hindu month of Magh.

On 31 January, 2018, Joranda was a mission accomplished!

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

The year song


Riding the waves
A young man running back to the shore from the sea

A song for the year, I had promised to write,
Taking time out in the middle of the night,
Thoughts rusty, and not organised so well,
But an year it was and many tales to tell.

So, here it is!

Before the year started, in hindsight it was like…

Retreating waves pulled me back to the sea,
Like vices in whose vice like grip I was in,
Vices I left behind on my way to the coast,
And to those no one would raise a toast.

With questions and no answers I started my year,
A start with much less joy and surely a lot of fear,
As if I stepped into the unknown blindfolded,
Fear of an uncertain future, and what lay ahead.

It was the best one ever. To sum it up…

I travelled ten thousand kilomeres on road,
To new places about which I had never heard,
Met people I would never see in my life again,
But memories of a lifetime, of joy and of pain.

I let go of the hands that I never thought I would,
Stopped missing people I never imagined I could,
Worked on myself and learned to be with me,
Had I felt bored with myself, I was in bad company.

Started to see every living being for what they were,
My lack of compassion, and it was totally unfair,
Biggest lesson was on empathy and to be able to relate,
Thank my stars I learned in time, and it wasn’t too late.

The universe has been very kind to me in return,
A lot of gifts and people with best intentions,
Gifts that will stay with me for my entire life,
People who will stay and will help me thrive.

When the waves pulled me, I came back riding them,
Stronger, wiser, calmer, compassionate and brave.

Now with 2017 behind me, here is my 2018 wish for you….

May you have my 2017, if not better than that,
I wish this for you from the bottom of my heart.

Call it a rhyme or a poem, this is my year song,
A song, I won’t mind humming whole life long.

2017 was a life changing year for me, with a lot a of changes for good. This is how good a year it was, in my own words, as a poem.

In frame: A young man running back to the shore from the sea, near Baruva, in Andhra Pradesh, India.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.


The Striker and the pieces on a carom board

They are family, kin and friends, how could one kill,
Void they would leave behind, who would be able to fill.

The ones that he grew up playing with, and the ones who taught,
Unable to take on them, was there a way the battle won’t be fought.

The battlefield lay in front of him, and the warriors gave battle cries,
He was unable to pick up his weapon, even after a million tries.

He was given a code to live by, and million reasons to kill,
Told they were his enemies, whose void he need not fill.

He was shaken violently, when he hesitated and refused to fight,
To see things clearly, like he would in the morning after a dark night.

He was chosen for this task because he was mighty and just,
Unlike mightier warriors filled with jealousy and blood-lust.

The ones in front of him were dead the day they joined the wrong,
With justice and morality on his side, he felt ever so strong.

Understanding his duty and worth, he started killing with rage,
Without seeing who was in front of him, or what was their age.

He killed for many days, and many of his beloved ones were taken away,
Rule of justice finally established when he stopped, and was there to stay.

This poem and the accompanying photograph are my attempt to draw an analogy between the Kurukshetra war and our day to day life, even something as uneventful as playing carom.

I try to portray one of the most important teachings of Bhagvad Gita, that attachments make us lose sense of right and wrong, just and injustice, moral and immorality. To uphold and do what is right, one must rise above every form of attachment, and look at things objectively. And when the time comes to do one’s duty, it has to be done no matter what.

In frame: The striker and the pieces on a carom board, clicked on manual mode using my Oneplus 3 phone during the carom tournament at office. This photo was edited using Google Snapseed.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

Mountain Song

I was unsure and had many questions when I started,
Unable to understand whether to hold on to those who departed.

I tried and any attempt to touch my past was futile,
As from behind the veil it waved at me with a “smile”.

In a failed attempt, I fought with my past in present,
An act that I would never consider to be decent.

I cried as I saw the past slip away, to which I was so attached,
It was a healing process and I thought I was being attacked.

I decided to quit the things that I was doing,
With tears in my eyes I tried a new beginning.

There was one more thing that I had still to let go,
The sense of I, me and mine, which they call the ego.

As I looked at the winding road up the hill,
Towards a destination I hadn’t started still.

It looked like I was a long long way away from my goal,
I decided to climb nonetheless and it started taking a toll.

Shivering while climbing as cold touched my bones,
On the roads I found freshly fallen pine cones.

The pine cones reminded something that I had chosen to forget,
That even those high up also fall and eventually turn to dust.

When hungry, I found fresh apples from a road side garden,
Tastier I am sure than the one had by Eve and Adam.

When I was thirsty I drank from a mountain spring,
A respite that only pure mountain water could bring.

It was the Almighty telling me to relax and not to worry,
And that I would be provided for and I need not be sorry.

The mountains and highlands that people called divine,
When I reached there, I was sure I would be fine.

The mountains were so big, and the snow so white,
And I told myself that the teachers were always right.

Mountains told me to accept that I was puny and the outcome I can’t influence,
I am not even a speck of dust, when it comes to the whole vast universe.

The snows told me that everything here is inherently pure,
And we pollute everything looking for useless cure.

When I came down from the mountains, I was not like when I went,
Left there many things I was attached to, for which I was sent.

I was questioned for the decisions I took and things I left behind,
I told them as long as this did good to me, I really didn’t mind.

Been a year since I came back from the mountains,
And the memory still as fresh as last night’s rains.

Looking back at last year, it all makes sense now,
The answers to my why, what, when and how.

In human terms, this journey has lasted only a year long,
Ode to the mountains and my evolution, this mountain song.

Mountain song
A temple by the mountain road, high in the Himalayas

The poem was penned by me, where I have tried to put in to words my evolution from what I was a year back when I went to the Himalayas.

In frame: A temple by the mountain road high in the Himalayas, on the way from Naitala to Guptakashi, in Uttarakhand, India. I found these small temples dedicated to local Gods as well as such ritualistic things, common place in the Himalayas.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.


She’s the only one I got

Ours is a unique “love” story, as one-sided as it gets. She is so good, all she has ever known is giving. And she gives without expecting anything in return. She gives without asking. She gives more than what I need. She gives more than what I deserve. She gives even if I hurt her, beat her up, or bruise her. She gives in joy. She gives in pain. She gives me whatever she has. She loves me!

Having used her mindlessly for all these years, having bruised her in unimaginable ways, having hurt her in worse ways than worst of my nightmares, I still found her by my side. And then, I realized that she is very very special. And… She’s the only one I got!

She’s the only one you got. And, she’s the only one we got.

Earth, yours, mine and each one of ours. Our “love” for her has been so cruel, we have done unimaginable things to her. We have always taken from her, more than our fair share, and without ever giving anything back, or giving back too little. In simple terms, we have raped her in every worst way possible.

There is no “humane” way of destroying our beloved little blue marble. Other lives on this once beautiful planet are suffering the repercussions of our actions. Ever imagined why we are acting the way we are? Because, we humans have a very wrong notion of “Oh, we are so entitled”. Because, we believe everything that exists on this planet belongs to us, and it exists to serve us. We can do anything we want to anything that exists on this planet.

We were capable of learning, we were capable of improvising. We learned, and we improvised. We also CHEATED! As intended, we did not use our learning and improvisation for betterment of other lives and that of our planet. Instead, we used them to take advantage of other lives, and to screw up our planet. And with time we have become so greedy, we do everything in excess. We eat more than needed, we use more than required and naturally, we waste more than we can have.

Do you remember those Hollywood sci-fi movies, in which an alien species invades Earth because it has exhausted the “resources” on its own planet? Do you like those aliens? No? Well, those alien characters are based on our greed! Having almost screwed up our planet successfully, we are now looking at other planets in the solar system and beyond, to implement our scheme of things and screw them up too.

All those cyclones, floods, unseasonal rains, droughts, rising temperatures and missing seasons of the recent times are a grim reminder that though she loves us unconditionally, our Earth can fall sick too. And when she does, all hell breaks lose! So, hoping that it is not too late, let’s do our bit to prevent her from falling sick. However small it may seem, but let’s start for once. Be it closing that tap, or switching off the engine at the traffic signal, or not using polythene, or reusing/recycling, or planting that one tree sapling. Let’s us do how much ever we can do. And let it not be restricted to mere symbolism.

As far as I am concerned, I do not use the AC in my car when I am travelling alone, not even in this hot summer. I had turned a vegetarian for some other reason, but I intend to stay a vegetarian for the rest of my life, because recently I came to know that animal agriculture for meat production generates more harmful greenhouse gases than all cars put together (read here). And with time, I intend to do more. Pitch in with my small little efforts, even if it sometimes results in discomfort for me.

Why am I doing this? For everything that I have put her through, I have realized that I can not live without her, quite literally! And I have fallen in love with her. Because, she’s the only one I got. She’s the only one you got. She’s the only one we got.

For her! Happy Earth Day, my love..

In frame: Sun rise at Naitala village, in Uttarakhand, India. This was the first morning I woke up in the laps of the Himalayas. The river in the bottom of the frame is Bhagirathi, “who” is called Ganga after Dev Prayag (Use of “who” is deliberate, because Ganga is now legally a living person. Read more about it here). All this serenity and tranquility in my mind were shattered, when I imagined the havoc floods of 2013 must have caused, scars of which were visible throughout my journey in the Himalayas.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

Could you repeat that, Mr Capa?

“If your pictures are not good enough, you are not close enough.” – Robert Capa

Well, that’s what Robert Capa said. But, who was Mr Capa?

Robert Capa was the “greatest combat and adventure photographer” in history. If you are not in the photography business or have got nothing to do with cameras, you would probably not know him. An accidental photographer like many of us, he becamse a legend because of the way he dealt with his profession – dedication and commitment.

The said quote was in the context of war photography. Robert Capa lived and died during an age when there were no fancy photographic equipment. And in that age, more often than not, one had to walk in to the thick of action to get that appealing frame. We are talking about bombs going off all around, bullets whizzing past ears. That thick of an action! And it was this “getting close” part which helped Capa in capturing some of the most dramatic photographs of the wars that he covered.

How is the quote relevant for me in this age, when we have all the fancy equipment we can think of: super-zoom telephoto lenses, the best sensors, and what not? How is it relevant for me when I have not seen a live combat in my entire life? Combat as in when people are trying to kill each other! And most importantly, how is it relevant in my life? Read on for the revelation!

Capa’s quote in the context of photography:

On a scale of one to telephoto lenses, how lazy are you? That’s a weird scale, isn’t it? Not when we are discussing photography.

First, let’s all agree that photography is all about interactions with subjects. Alright? The goodness of the photograph is directly proportional to how well the photographer has interacted with the subjects. If the broad genre is people, then it becomes interaction with people, and if the broad genre is wildlife and/or nature, then it becomes interaction with the nature (insects, trees, birds and animals included). Simply put, the photographer needs to get involved with her/his subjects. And one cannot get involved with the subjects without getting closer, can (s)he?

For me, capturing people was always difficult. I was shy by nature. I was not comfortable talking to strangers. For this reason, most of the times I came across as arrogant. When I say capturing people, I do not mean staying in my comfort zone, taking out that telephoto lens and start capturing people from far off. And then, out of those thousands of photos chose one that is reasonably good and call it “candid”. Well, nothing wrong in that! Nothing wrong other than the fact that I would be bull-shitting, if I say “I capture people”. So, to challenge myself, I took up making portraits.

The photographs where the subjects look right at the viewer, I find these photographs as most intriguing. I feel these are the photographs which connect with the viewer instantly. And to capture those, the subject must be aware, and one needs to abandon all the inhibitions and ask for permission from a total stranger. That is the thrill part!

And that is the level of involvement (“getting close” in Capa’s words) one needs, irrespective of the genre of photography. All or nothing, I tell you!

With time, as I develop my skills of making a portrait, I am also developing my people skills. Now, I do not mind approaching a total stranger and ask for permission to make a portrait. If it is a “yes”, you can see the result in the portrait above. And if is a “no”, I take it in the stride and keep working on my smile.

While making portraits, how do I know how close is close enough? Well, definitely not so annoyingly close that I am encroaching my subject’s personal space. But close enough to capture the right emotions.

Below is yours truly in action, while making the portrait above. That close is close enough, I think.


I have never been caught in action, except for this one time, all thanks to my good friend Amit Kumar Singh.

Capa’s quote in the context of life:

I am going to tweak that original quote slightly.

“If your life is not interesting enough, then you are not living it from close enough.”

Well, you are alive, aren’t you? And what part of “being alive” do you find not interesting?

More about Robert Capa:

Capa lived and died in an age when there were no fancy photography equipment, in an age when photographers had to “make” photographs. Yes, he died at a young age of 40 back in 1954, when he stepped on a landmine while covering the French Indochina war. He had a love story too! He was engaged to Gerda Taro, another combat photographer, who was killed in the Spanish civil war in 1937. Capa contributed primarily to Life magazine. He clicked some of his most famous photos when he accompanied Allied troops during D-day invasion, in World War II. He was the co-founder of Magnum Photos. For all his association with war and death, here is his second most famous quote:

I hope to stay unemployed as a war photographer till the end of my life.” – Robert Capa

In frame: A flower seller in Gudimalkapur flower market, Hyderabad, Telangana, India. I initiated the talk by asking if I could take pictures of the marigold flowers she was selling, and she agreed. After the photographing the marigolds, I asked if I could make her portrait, and she agreed but said it is going to cost me. So, we bargained and settled for a “nominal” amount. So much for people skills.

Also, I have used a 3-step Brenizer technique here, for the first time. These are three photographs from top to bottom merged in to one.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.