Saturday, January 23, 2021

Vid artists to recreate 800-yr-old saint tradition in Maha’s R-Day tableau

30-Member Team From Nagpur Working Hard In Delhi

Nagpur: This year’s Republic Day parade in New Delhi will have many firsts such as restricted number of spectators, no chief guest and bio-bubble for the participants due to the Covid-19 situation. For Vidarbha, there is an additional first; and it’s very special.

A team led by an art director from Nagpur and comprising of 22 artists from Vidarbha, all youngsters below 30 years, is making the Maharashtra state’s tableau in the national capital. This is for the first time since 1980 that artists from Vidarbha are making the float of the state for the R-Day parade.

Art director duo Naresh Charde and Pankaj Ingle who run ‘Shubh art’, an advertising and event management firm in Ajni, have bagged this opportunity this year. In a video chat with TOI on Friday, Charde said they had been waiting for this opportunity since 10 years. “Finally, the state government as well as Defence ministry selected our proposal this time,” he said.

The basic concept of the tableau is Santancha Mela (a congregation of Warkari saints) which will depict the 800-year-old tradition of Warkari saints in Maharashtra for which the state is known across the world.

Young artists Tushar Pradhan from Yavatmal and Roshan Gule from Wardha, both pass outs from Government Chitrakala Mahavidyalaya in Nagpur, are working 24X7 along with the team to recreate the history on the float. Nagpur’s Rahul Dhansare is supervising the entire task.

“An eight foot tall statue of Sant Dnyaneshwar, the pioneer of the Varkari Sampradaya, will be at the forefront. Next will be Sant Tukaram with Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. An 8.5-ft tall replica of Lord Vitthal’s idol from Pandharpur will be in the backdrop. Statues of all major saints from the state will be placed all around the float,” said Tushar.

The artists are using fibre material to make lifelike and durable statues . It takes special skill to carve the statues out of this material. Rajesh Tembhre and Ankush Tembhre from Yavatmal have made four moving statues for this float.

“Literature has been the most important and rich part of Varkari Sampradaya. The writings are not only spiritual but also philosophical. Our artists have done amazing calligraphy to show this literature,” said Charde.

Maharashtra’s tableau has always been a special one in the R-Day parade. In 2018, a tableau designed by renowned art director Nitin Desai had won the first prize. Nagpur artists are eager to be a part of this tradition.

Maharashtra in R-Day parade

- State’s tableau won first prize in 1980, 1983, 1993, 1994, 1995, and 2018

- Second and third prize in 2007, 2009, and 2017

- Did not make it to the parade in 1972, 1987, 1989, 1996, 2000, 2005, 2008, 2013, 2016 and 2020

- This year, the concept is ‘Santancha Mela’ — a congregation of Warkari saints

- Tableau will have statues of saints, Lord Vitthal, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and saint literature

- The float will move on the tunes of abhangs

Monday, February 12, 2018


Chetan Kalambe stands at the meeting point of Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean at Dhanushkodi
Four hours, I kept on searching a befitting adjective to prefix or suffix the word ‘Dhanushkodi’ as title of this travelogue but failed to find out that one perfect word to describe the beauty, the serenity, the calmness, the mystery, the mythology, the history, the heritage, and the people of this land.
Dhanushkodi is the southernmost point of Rameshwaram island, the meeting point of the Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean, the place from where the mysterious Rama Sethu begins and a place where you can experience the unusually calm ocean and serene beaches still untouched by the commercial resort culture. 

The thought of visiting Dhanushkodi was there in my mind since almost three years. I used to share the idea of visiting this place with many of my friends whenever we used to discuss about the outing or a longish tour. But, I used to receive mixed reactions from them. 

This was because Dhanushkodi is neither a tourist destination nor a picnic spot. People hardly visit this place and for most of the visitors, the prime purpose is religious pilgrimage at Ramanathswamy temple, one of the 12 Jyoteerlingas of Lord Shiva. 

While you search online, the information of this part is more focused on the religious pilgrim of Rameshwaram and it restricts Dhanushkodi only as a ‘Ghost town’ or ‘Haunted place’. Only after visiting this land, one realizes that calling ‘ghost town’ or ‘haunted’ is an insult to this place which bears huge strategic, political, historical, cultural, mythological, and national significance for Indians.


The Beginning
All it began in November 2017 when I successfully convinced two of my friends – Chetan and Amol – to visit Dhanushkodi in early 2018. Chetan, being like my younger brother, was confident that the plan made by his big brother is going to become successful. On the other hand, Amol was a bit skeptical. Finally, he also got convinced that the off-beat destination will add the once in a lifetime experience for him and his wife Komal. My better half Nupur and our son Devavrat became the other two companions.
Arichal Munai, an official memorial created by Government of India as mark the last land point of this area.

Travel booking

Earlier, we searched Rameshwaram connecting trains. The train, if you take it from Nagpur or from Pune or Mumbai, takes more than 33 hours to reach here. To avoid such a long journey by train, we decided to go by flight. We booked the flights three months in advance and saved quite a lot on travelling. It was first flight experience for Nupur and our three-and-a-half-year old son Devavrat.
We booked connecting flights from Pune to Chennai and Chennai to Madurai. From Madurai, we decided to take a passenger train up to Rameshwaram so that we can experience the ride over the iconic Pamban Rail Bridge. All it was decided back in November 2017.


Dhanushkodi is 20 km away from Rameshwaram which is an island in Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu. I searched a lot for beach resorts in this area but failed to find authentic information. I also asked a friend in Maharashtra who works as a travel and tour planner to plan our tour. However, the budget he gave for the four-day stay and cab service was huge. He told me that the local service providers may get a better deal for us. Finally, I decided to go for a local advice. 

I casually visited, a website run by Murali K, who eventually became a friend forever after the memorable tour. 

Me and Murali with Devavrat on the sea shore somewhere near Dhanushkodi.

Murali is a software engineer and he works in Bangaluru. His family runs some lodging and boarding facilities for pilgrims visiting the Rameshwaram temple. However, Murali has upgraded the traditional business to a new level. Rameshwaram is his birthplace and he loves it. This reveals through his casual conversations made on phone. He provided a wonderful package to us at very affordable rates, and most importantly, a valuable friendship for lifetime. 

Those who are willing to visit Rameshwaram and Dhanushkodi should always remember that the place has many different rules and regulations other than the conventional tourist spots. This is because the Tamil Nadu government treats it in a different way. Private vehicles are not allowed to ply after a certain limits in this town. So, having a local vehicle with you always ensures comfortable journey. 

Me, Devavrat, Nupur, Amol and Komal at Pune Airport

We started from Pune International Airport and I will not write much about the flight experience because, it was in fact horrible! We had opted SpiceJet service because there were connecting flights of the same airline from Pune to Chennai and Chennai to Madurai and return. But, our first ever flight got delayed for more than 3 hours and we had to wait at the airport. Eventually, we missed our connecting flight too. But, somehow, we managed to reach Madurai airport at around 11 am. In fact, we had planned to reach here at 8 am and visit the Meenakshi amman temple. We had to skip that plan due to this delay. 

Amol, Nupur and Devavrat in the passanger train that takes us to Rameshwaram from Madurai

We reached Madurai Railway Station at around 11.30 and directly went to Platform No 5 where the passenger train was already stationed. As we reached more than an hour in advance, it was quite easy for us to settle down in train and occupy the seats. Luckily, Murali was in Madurai that day. He called me up and told that he will be joining us in train. Travelling with him was like an orientation before the tour as he introduced us with the culture and people during the journey. We got the lifetime experience of passing through the Pamban Bridge during this journey.As we reached Rameshwaram, an AC Innova vehicle was waiting for us. 

The Road Bridge shot from train while we were passing from Pamban Bridge


Murali had arranged our stay at a decent hotel – MCM towers, just a walk away from the ancient Ramanathswamy temple. As the Ramanathaswamy temple is the identity of this town since ages, we preferred to visit the place on very first day. 

Ramanathswamy temple

Night View of Ramanathswamy temple. Inside photography is not allowed

On Sunday evening, we entered this ancient temple complex, built in traditional Dravidian style of architecture. One thing I must mention here that no vehicles – be it a four wheeler or two wheeler is allowed in temple premises. You can’t take your mobile phones inside. There are some shops providing the safe lockers for your phones around the temples, but we had kept our belongings in hotel rooms only.
Murali was with us, so, we were moving like local boys. He introduced us with the every aspect of the temple. The Shivalinga in this temple was worshipped by Lord Rama just before he started for the war. This was the place where Lord Rama composed the iconic Rudrashtakam, that says

I bow to the Ruler of the Universe, whose very form is Liberation,
the omnipotent and all pervading Brahma, manifest as the Vedas.
I worship Shiva, shining in his own glory, without physical qualities,
Undifferentiated, desireless, all pervading sky of consciousness
and wearing the sky itself as His garment.

However, Ramanathswamy temple is not only about Lord Shiva. You will get 22 other deities here right from lord Ganesha, Lord Hanumana, Goddess Parvathi, Lord Murugan, to Goddess Lakshmi. There is a temple of Lord Rama too in this complex. In fact, it takes more than 2 hours to visit the entire temple complex.

Another special feature of this temple complex is 21 ponds of sweet water inside it. Devotees believe that having bath in the waters of all these 22 ponds is very pious and has power to free them from sins. Interestingly, taking holy dip inside the pond, which is quite common practice in Maharashtra is not allowed here. One has to stand near the pond, and the priest takes out water and spreads on your head. We skipped this bath thing. 

Photography is strictly prohibited inside the temple so, it's not possible to share pics over here. 

Day one 

It was Monday. We started at around 9 am and went straight to the Ramar Padam temple. It is believed that Lord Rama stood at this tip of the mountain to view the entire Rameshwaram Island. One can get a comprehensive view of the surroundings from this place even today. The temple is well-maintained and visitors are allowed to have a view from the top of the hill. 

What amazed all of us was a concrete made TV tower in Rameshwaram. The iron gets rusted due to the weather here and hence the towers are made by the cement concrete. It’s like Kutub Minar of south. 

We visited several other temples around Rameshwaram town throughout Monday morning. Every temple was telling a tale from Ramayana. The Ram Kunda, Lakshamana Kunda and an Ashram of devotees of Lord Hanumana where you can see the porus stones floating on the waters were in the midway. Real temple where we spent quality time was the house of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. 

The real temple
This was the same place where Dr Kalam was born and brought up in Rameshwaram. The House of Kalam is now a monument and the family has donated it to preserve the memories of the former President. Kalam’s family members own a grand show room here and they are known for selling authentic pearls, conches, and other marine items. All of us purchased authentic conches here.

The shopping mall having authentic conches for sale

On Monday afternoon, we had a gala time with some water sports at The sea here is unbelievably calm and you can enjoy some select water sports as per the weather and availability.  

Will update more soon...