Some real pain: The aftermath of the Indian flooding

I’m not quite sure this counts as a counter pose (post?) to our terrific discussion of pain and Ashtanga, but it at least is a reminder of the pain that happens off the mat.

The flooding last month in northern Indian, now getting the moniker the “Himalayan tsunami,” caused by early monsoon rains, continues to subside.

And, yes, we keep coming back to it — in part to make sure you’ve heard of Namarupa’s effort to help one village that was caught in the devastation.

Here’s a latest dispatch:

During the months of May and June pilgrim-tourists in the millions make their way up into the mountains of the north Indian state of Uttarakhand. Their destinations include the divine sources of the Yamuna and Ganga rivers, the abode of the god Shiva in Kedarnath, the famous residence of the god Vishnu in Badrinath, and the Sikh site of Hemkund Sahib, associated with Tenth Guru of the Sikh tradition, Guru Gobind Singh.

This year in mid-June the monsoon rains came early and poured down upon the Land of the Gods with the sort of unexpected intensity that comes once in centuries. Flash flooding, landslides, and rising waters stranded tens of thousands of visitors and destroyed roads, buildings, livelihoods, and bridges. It is too early to know how many people have died but the number will probably be in the thousands.


On June 24, 2013, the Hanuman Fan Club on Facebook, a group devoted to the deity Hanuman, posted an old pre-flood image of the Kedarnath temple. Hindi text introduces the image, noting that of all the structures in Kedarnath only the temple survived because “It was connected to the faith of millions and therefore Mahadev [Shiva] did not allow it to tremble.”

It should be noted that cell phone towers also appear to have survived. The range of sentiment expressed in the comments this posting generated, of which at last count there were 2133 (along with 2917 “likes”), is striking. Some express the opinion that this destruction is the direct result of frank commercialism. Others take issue with Shiva’s seeming whimsy at choosing who lived and who died, or ask why the survival of the temple matters when family members are dead. But the majority of the comments are expressions of praise and reverence: “Long live the lord of Kedarnath” (“Jai Kedarnath baba ki”), “Long live Bolenath [sic] ( “Long live the lord [Shiva] who is innocent and simple”), or simply “O god of gods, destroyer, destroyer” (“har har mahadev”), an acknowledgement of human limits in the face of such power and tragedy.

It’s a good read (and hat tip to Namarupa for point toward it.) Guestimates are that 4,000 people are still missing. I guess I’ll add: A point is this could have been you on your pilgrimage.

Posted by Steve

The destruction in India through Western eyes; Saraswati arrives in DC

We’ve highlighted the terrible destruction happening in northern India as well as Namarupa’s effort to respond. Now, here’s some first-hand accounts from Westerners caught up in the flooding, via the BBC:

A group of about 40 foreigners, mostly Westerners, were in the Uttarkashi region of the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand when floods struck 13 days ago and a furious torrent of water, mud and rubble hurtled down the Himalayas, destroying everything in its path. The group was practising a form of yoga in a religious retreat and its members were extremely fortunate to have survived. The BBC Hindi’s Vineet Khare met them in Haridwar.

That sounds pretty close to the types of trips/retreats many of us, I suspect, take to India. Here’s one quote from the piece: “It’s hard to understand how we survived. Only when you believe in God, you know that is possible. It’s been a blessing.”

Take a look.

And then take a peek at this story from NPR today:

Embassy Row — otherwise known as Massachusetts Avenue — in Washington is decorated with flags of every nation, flying in front of impressive embassy buildings.

And in front of the embassies there are often statues of national heroes. Winston Churchill graces the grounds of the British Embassy. Outside the Indian Embassy, Mahatma Gandhi looks as though he’s in full stride, clad in loincloth and sandals.

And now, there’s a Hindu goddess. Saraswati just arrived. She stands in a garden in front of Indonesia’s embassy, glowing white and gold, with her four arms upraised.

If you know a little about Indonesia you might be saying, “Saraswati?” Because Indonesia happens to be the country with the largest Muslim population in the world. The country’s ambassador explains it this way:

“One of the most famous, if not the most famous, islands in Indonesia is Bali. And Bali is a Hindu enclave in Muslim-majority Indonesia. And I think it says a lot about our respect for religious freedom that the statue in front of the country with the largest Muslim population is a Hindo statue.”

That’s a polite way to explain it, certainly.

Posted by Steve

A way to help out in flood-ravaged India

Robert Moses and Eddie Stern at Namarupa have set up a fund to help all the thousands — tens of thousands, maybe more — people killed, injured and otherwise affected by the flooding in northern India. I’ll quote directly from the email they sent out and the updated they have at the Namarupa blog:

We have begun a fund for Namarupa Bandhava. It will be based in the Broome Street Temple (link) and thus fully tax exempt.

Donations by check can be sent to:
Namarupa Bandhava
℅ Broome Street Temple
430 Broome Street, New York City, NY 10013
Checks should be made out to Broome Street Temple with Namarupa Bhandava in the memo line.
Donations via Paypal can be sent to
Add a note that it is for Namarupa Bandhava
There is a lot more to read there, and we strongly encourage you to do so and to assist if you can. What’s perhaps different with Robert and Eddie’s effort is that this will focus on one specific village so help can be magnified: “Swamiji will locate a small village in the region that has suffered the impact of the combined forces of mother nature’s fury and people’s meddling. We will adopt the village (or villages) and begin the slow task of reconstruction.” The whole basis for the idea can be found at the full blog post.
And here’s a little more of what this aid will result in next summer:

We will go to Uttarkashi and to do seva in the village during the Yatra Divine 2014.

During the Yatra Divine in 2014 we had planned to visit Badrinath and Kedarnath. At this time it is doubtful whether those shrines will open to the public. If one or the other is open, we will still journey there. In any case, we will proceed to Uttarkashi to spend some days living in and helping reconstruct the village we have chosen to support.  This selfless service will help us understand the local people who have suffered much. It will bring some solace to them. For us it will be karma yoga, the best yoga of all for purifying blockages to higher attainment. And it will be a cultural exchange as well.
If thoughtless actions of diverse peoples around the world unknowingly led in some way to the catastrophe in Uttarakhand, then thoughtful actions of people focused on one small village can help relieve suffering and healing ripples can spread outward from there.

We’ll keep passing on more as we learn it.

Posted by Steve