Goodness of Neem Flowers

Neem flower pachchadiNeem flower pachchadi

The neem flower is a tiny ingredient with stupendous curative powers. From protecting your gut, relieving painful migraines to keeping skin ailments at bay, these flowers are replete with blood-purifying properties.

The neem tree ideally flowers during spring. The best way to harvest these flowers is by collecting them on a clean cloth or a mat from under the flowering tree. You can then rinse the flowers in a large sieve, sundry and store them in a dry air-tight container. Radha Prathi suggests a few recipes using this bitter condiment.

Neem Flower Rasam

Ingredients: A tbsp of neem flowers; 1 tbsp of cumin seeds; 1 tbsp of tur dal; 1 tbsp of peppercorns; 2 red chillies; 1 tbsp of tamarind extract; ½ tsp of mustard seeds; 1 tsp of ghee; a sprig of curry leaves and salt to taste.

Method: Grind the cumin seeds, pepper, chillies, tur dal and curry leaves to a fine powder. Add tamarind extract, the powder, and salt to a litre of water and allow it to boil to half its quantity on a low flame. Add another half a litre of water and bring the contents to a boil. For the tempering, add ghee to a pan and toss in the mustard seeds before turning off the heat. Then add neem flowers to the pan and sauté them lightly. Add the tempering to the rasam along with some curry leaves. Serve the rasam hot as it is or with some hot rice and ghee.

Neem Flower Rice

Ingredients: A tbsp of neem flower; a pinch of asafoetida; ½ tsp of pepper powder; 1 tbsp of ghee; 1 tbsp of lemon juice and salt to taste.

Method: Heat the ghee in a pan and toss in the asafoetida and the neem flowers before turning off the heat. Add pepper powder, lemon juice, and salt and allow the mixture to stand for 10 minutes. Add the mixture to a tablespoon of freshly cooked rice. Serve immediately.

Neem Flower Podi

Ingredients: A small cup of neem flower; a pinch of asafoetida; ½ tsp of turmeric powder; 1 tbsp of peppercorns; 2 sprigs of curry leaves; a tbsp of ghee and salt to taste.

Method: Heat the ghee in a pan and toss in the turmeric powder, asafoetida, peppercorns and curry leaves and turn off the heat. Add the neem flowers to the pan and sauté them. Grind all the roasted ingredients together with salt. Store the mixture in an airtight container. You can mix the powder with rice for a healthy meal.

Neem Flower Pachchadi

Ingredients: Two tbsps of neem flower; 2 tbsps of jaggery; 2 red chillies; ½ tsp of mustard seeds; 2 tbsps of tamarind juice; a pinch of asafoetida; 1 tbsp of oil and ½ tsp of salt.

Method: Grind the chillies, jaggery, salt, together and mix it with the tamarind paste. Heat a pan, add oil, toss in the mustard seeds and asafoetida and turn off the heat. Then add the neem flowers and saute them well. Add the previously prepared spice mixture. Stir well and the pachchadi is ready to be served.

Colour me Yellow

Image for representation.Image for representation.

It is interesting to note that every household in our country uses haldi or turmeric powder in their food. This wonder rhizome has been used in vegetarian, non-vegetarian and vegan cooking in the powdered form for centuries now.

The condiment is an integral part of our culture, a mandatory ingredient in our cuisine, an effective curative, and is also used as a cosmetic. Its subtle spiciness can add a zing to just about any curry, pulses, rice, and even baked goodies like buns and breads. The secret of getting the colour and flavour of turmeric right is simple. The haldi powder should be tossed in just before the oil or ghee, which is used for seasoning, starts smoking. If you add it too soon, the turmeric will leave its raw smell behind, and later than the precise moment will lend shades of brown instead of the desired yellow, and will give out a burnt smell.

Turmeric is usually avoided in sweets. The exception to the rule being that a pinch of haldi added to boiling milk, while making milk sweets to lend it a pale creamy colour. If you are planning to add the herb in milk for therapeutic purposes, it is best that you put it right at the end, just before serving.

It is advisable to add sundried rhizomes instead of the powdered form while making masalas for rasam, sambhar, bisibele bath or vangibath at home. It will make a tangible difference to the taste, colour and potency of homemade masalas.

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Route To Our Roots


The other day, I landed an assignment where I had to translate a slim booklet into Kannada. I took a brief look at the English version and thought it was pretty manageable.

A closer reading revealed it to be challenging in parts. I gathered that the dictionary would help me circumvent my problem. I promised to turn over the finished work in two-day’s time.

Putting pen to paper would have been the most comfortable way of completing the work. However, I was asked to turn in a soft copy. This was a tall order, considering the fact that I had absolutely no expertise in handling the keyboard in the vernacular. The next best option was to transliterate. It was a tedious process. I went through the whole exercise in the hope that the opportunity was a boon in disguise to hone the skill.

About 20 man hours later, over two days, I felt that I deserved a pat on my back for my accomplishment. I had spoken too soon, albeit mentally. The moment I submitted my meticulous work with pride, I was called and told cursorily that I must rework on the questionnaire as it was incomprehensible. Key words were missing, meanings were distorted and the format was formidable. I was taken aback and rushed to my soft copy to verify the accusation. A detailed revision of my work revealed no mistakes as far as I was concerned. But I wanted to be doubly sure before calling back. So, I requested a competent friend of mine to cross-check my work.

When I was given a clean chit, I felt brave enough to call back. This time, I wanted to talk to the chief and address the alleged grievances. Apparently, the lady did not know the lingo, nor did the person who assigned me the job. They had a native Kannadiga validate the work. The receiver was duly handed over to the latter. Within a few minutes of the conversation, I realised that we were not speaking the same language.

It turned out that the young lady was actually assaulted by my chaste Kannada. She was so accustomed to ‘Kanglish’ like tens and thousands of her generation that she had lost sight of the distinction between the two languages. Regional versions for words like schedule, reference, care, insurance, interview and university, among such others, were a novelty to her. The verbs and certain words in the written language seemed alien to her because she was unfamiliar with the difference between the written and the spoken language. Such being the case, it was quite understandable that the technical equivalents in her mother tongue sounded alien to her. I cleared her doubts; rather, I cleared my reputation before calling it a day.

The incident set me thinking. I realised that there was more to it than being blamed and clearing my name. The young lady, possibly singled out for her ability to read the Kannada script, was simply doing as bidden. Here was this hard working, intelligent, educated girl taking care of office responsibilities with the élan of a professional, but sadly, she had lost touch with her mother tongue, quite like the millions across the nation. If such a person found it difficult to grasp the contents of translation, there was every chance of the same going over the head of the common man who was expected to answer it.

A certain unarguable logic supports us, when we as a nation place supreme value on English education so that our children can thrive across our multilingual nation and flourish in the global village at large, when parents of children belonging to different ethnic or lingual origins use English as the common language in order to avoid confusions, and migration compels people to master the common tongue.

In such a scenario, the moot question is — how do we get to protect and sustain vernacular languages with their ethnicity? Well, the answer lies at home. If families conscientiously expose children to their mother tongue during the formative years, the goal can be achieved. It has been scientifically proven that language-learning skills in children can be rated the highest between the ages of two and five. So, parents need not worry about their children losing sight of English or other official languages, for, Indians have a penchant for being multilinguists sooner or later in life. Besides, the media, the teachers and the peer group of the kids will attend to the development of other language skills of the child.

The ability to speak, write and read one’s mother tongue can prove to be beneficial in more ways than one in the long run. If the route to our roots is familiar in the form of our languages and dialects, we can carry forth culture and ethnicity for the coming generations. We have come thus far as a nation, without losing sight of our hoary past. We are game to gear up for a futuristic world. In such a backdrop, a little effort on the part of parents can go a long way in conserving our languages.

Culture on a Wider Canvass

If one were to chronicle the history of the Chitra Kala Parishat in Karnataka (CKP) it will be very hard to ignore the contribution of Professor M J Kamalakshi, the present secretary and the erstwhile principal of the College of Fine Arts. The lady has spent a major portion of her life dabbling with paints creating a wondrous world of her own on a range of canvas ever since she was a toddler. She not only has the distinction of being one of the first diploma holders from CKP but also has the credit of growing up with the organisation and heading it and representing the organisation both in India and abroad. Her innumerable awards and works of art speak volumes about her total dedication to the art. Her zeal for the art and her unique approach to her chosen subject unfolded as she spoke to Metrolife at her residence in Malleswaram.
How do you draw the distinction between being a teacher of art and being an artist?

As an artist, I can express my creativity through my paintings, but my canvas sometimes puts forth limitations in terms of space or scheme. Whereas, as a teacher, I can improvise and propagate variations and many different ideas on the art by suggesting them to my students. This outlet keeps my creativity alive and also helps me realise my ideas on their canvases.

How has your life as an artist been?

I began replicating the pictures of gods and goddesses in my home and constantly earned the appreciation of my grandmother. I worked on my skills at the Lalitha Kala Shaale in Bangalore as a child. It was there that I realised that I had an aptitude for art and decided to pursue it.

Which genre of painting do you favour most?

Though I started with traditional motifs, I graduated to modern and abstract paintings apart from replicating landscapes and experimenting with various techniques. Some of the murals that have been represented on the walls of Makkala Mandira and Himamshu Jyothi Kala Peetha among other places in Bangalore have been widely appreciated by the public. But I love doing portraits because it provides the real challenge to any artist.

How did it feel to be the only Indian representative at the Roerich festival at Russia last year?

It certainly was a matter of honour. But more than that I was thrilled when I got the chance to see some of the most celebrated paintings and meeting many long lost artist friends.

What are the qualities an artist should have?

Apart from having a knack for the art, a good artist should develop observation skills. Knowledge of tradition and history will help if it is complemented with an understanding of anatomy. Sensitivity to feelings and emotions can certainly add to the existing skills.

How did you imbibe these skills?

All arts are complementary to each other. Perhaps my avid interest in drama, music, tabla and Ikebana have indirectly contributed to my art.

Your take on art?

Art is vast, very creative and intricately scientific in nature. I have been able to realise various aspects of science, spirituality and the essence of religion during my rendezvous with my canvass.

Reviving an Ancient Language

Samskrita Bharathi is continually making efforts to reintroduce Sanskrit in Indian communities over which its hold is fast loosening, writes S RADHA PRATHI.

The moment one hears the word Sanskrit, one associates the word with the intellectual elite. It speaks of a rich cultural past, the incomprehensible treasure troves of knowledge and an innate sense of well-being. Nothing about Sanskrit appears to be contemporary or happening. Yet everything about India is associated with Sanskrit. In fact, the synonym of Sanskrit, called Geervana Bharathi, suggests that it is the language of Bharatha (India). The Indian term for culture – Samskruthi – has been derived from the word Samskriti. In short, Sanskrit is the decoction of the very essence of India.

The Indian way of living, the languages that we speak, the religion we follow, the concepts of morals and ethics are but an offshoot of what the language holds in its wide spectrum. This language enjoyed supreme status once upon a time. The syntax, structure, phonetics and grammar of the language have been adjudged as most scientific and precise. Perhaps the quintessence of the tongue can be best expressed in the words of Sri Aurobindo, “Sanskrit language has been universally recognised by those competent to form a judgement and is one of the most magnificent, the most perfect, the most prominent and wonderfully sufficient literary instrument developed by the human mind.”

Yet somewhere along the archives of time Sanskrit was relegated to a corner, crowned as a finer language meant for the scholarly Brahminical race. Sanskrit was excluded from the mainstream and was patronised by the priestly clan to communicate with God in the form of prayers. Interestingly, it is ironical to note that the best literary products of the language display a contrary record. Great Sanskrit works were written by non-Brahmins, Vyasa, the son of a fisherwoman authored the Mahabharata; Valmiki, a hunter, wrote the Ramayana; Kalidas, a shepherd, composed extraordinary plays and poetry, and Jabala, an outcast, compiled the Jabala Upanishad.

The constant invasions and exposure to varied foreign culture made the common man in India lose track of the language over a period of time. He shunned the language unable to cope with its exactness and wholesomeness, switching over to user-friendly dialects. Sanskrit was slowly sidelined and all the Indian languages that we speak today emerged and evolved varying in shades, complementing the region it was adopted by. The education policy put forth by Lord Macaulay nailed the language to irretrievable levels. Yet Sanskrit survived the onslaught because academicians across the globe realised that a wealth of knowledge encompassing all subjects under the sun lay beneath the veneer of this ancient language.

The decline of Sanskrit in modern times worried people like Sri Krishna Sastry who agonised at the vistas of learning and research we were losing by forgetting the language. He proposed, “Let service to Sanskrit not stop at worshipping with the language; everyone should be able to speak it. Conversational Sanskrit has to be taught and popularised.” Sri Krishna Sastry, with a group of like-minded friends at Tirupati Sanskrit College, founded Samskrita Bharathi and evolved the “Speak Sanskrit Movement” in 1981 at Bangalore.

The Aksharam centre at Girinagar in Bangalore has taken the onus of spreading the spoken language of Sanskrit through extensive Samskritha Sambhashana Shibira, which teaches elementary communication in just ten days. A Sandhya Kendra conducts a five level course sponsored by Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan among a horde of other courses. The Organising Secretary of Samskritha Bharathi exudes the spirit of the language by supplementing a chaste “Hari Om” instead of the customary “Hello” over the telephone. He strongly feels that the only way to resuscitate the language is to speak it. Surprisingly, it is not at all difficult to comprehend the casual conversation in the language carried on by the inmates of Aksharam though one cannot reply in the same lingo.

The atmosphere strongly reminds one of Swami Vivekananda’s words who said, “Sanskrit education must go along with general education because the very sound of the language gives prestige, power and strength to people.”

Mr Srikanth Jamadagni, the organiser of the Sandhya Kendra at JP Nagar, realised the virtues of Sanskrit while he attended a Sambhashana Shibira in the US and decided that he should do his bit to contribute to the rejuvenation of the language. He feels that a lot of educated people across the globe, especially Indians, have realised the need of the hour. Mr Balasubramaniam, the President of Sanskrit Lovers’ Association, feels that the misconceptions regarding the language can be best eliminated only when they start speaking the language.

Ms Bhatt, a Sevavrathi, feels that the so-called students of Sanskrit who study the language as a part of their academic curriculum are not in a position to speak even elementary sentences in the language. This scenario can change only when people start conversing in the language.

Twenty four years after its inception, the organisation has managed to train 70 lakh people to speak the language from all over the world. They have trained over 50,000 teachers and have their own publications, audio/video cassettes; they have also established over 5,000 Sanskrit homes. They have found Karnataka a veritable haven for their widespread activities which propagates the language. Bangalore functions as the epicenter which co-ordinates with nodal centres at Bidar, Gulbarga, Belgaum, Dharwad, Karwar, Shimoga, Udupi, Tumkur, Kolar, Mangalore and Chamrajanagar.

Among the most unusual results of the Speak Sanskrit Movement are those in the two villages of Mathoor and Hosahalli in Karnataka. The movement adopted them as a means to promote spoken Sanskrit. Today, everyone irrespective of caste, creed, educational level and social status speaks Sanskrit with elan. These two villages are known throughout the country. More recently, Samskrita Bharathi succeeded in teaching conversational Sanskrit to the entire tribal village of Mohaka, near Jabalpur.

Perhaps the success of Samskritha Bharathi lies in its secular and practical approach while highlighting the linguistic features of the ancient language.


The word sanskrita- means “purified, consecrated, sanctified.” The language has by definition always been a ‘high’ language, used for religious and scientific discourse and contrasted with the languages spoken by the people. The oldest surviving Sanskrit grammar dates back to the 5th century BC.

Almost every student of Sanskrit hears the traditional story that Sanskrit was created and then refined over many generations (traditionally more than a thousand years) until it was considered complete and perfect.

When the term arose in India, “Sanskrit” was not thought of as a specific language set apart from other languages (the people of the time regarded languages more as dialects), but rather as a particularly refined manner of speaking, bearing a similar relation to common language that “Standard” English bears to dialects spoken in the United Kingdom or United States.

Knowledge of Sanskrit was a marker of social class and educational attainment, and was taught through close analysis of Sanskrit grammarians such as Panini.

This form of the language evolved out of the earlier “Vedic” form, and scholars often distinguish Vedic Sanskrit and Classical Sanskrit as separate languages. Vedic is the language of the Vedas, the earliest sacred texts of India and the base of the Hindu religion.

The earliest of the Vedas, the Rigveda, was composed in the 2nd millennium BC. The Vedic form survived until the middle of the first millennium BC.

Spinning a House Full of Interesting Stories

Deccan Herald » Spectrum » Detailed Story
Spinning a house full of interesting stories
Kathalaya, founded by Geeta Ramanujam, Lalu Narayan and Sujatha Pai, uses the method of storytelling to infuse the basics of classroom education into children, says S Radha Prathi.

Among most adult Indians in their thirties, some of the most pleasant and cosiest moments of early childhood are awe-inspiring flashes of bed-time stories. The ethereal experience of drifting away into sleep, halfway through a story session and following them up in dreams used to be an unforgettable part of childhood.

But not anymore. Life has undergone unbelievable changes as a side effect to the progress of science and technology. Most children fall asleep while watching television or over their unfinished homework. Less privileged children fall asleep out of sheer fatigue after a gruelling day of work. Story-time appears to be an antiquated custom no longer in vogue.

One can easily notice a definite lack of imagination and creativity in an entire generation of very efficient but mechanised people. This is the direct result of students not being able to grasp the basics of education. To many children, education is a never-ending exercise of learning questions and answers by-heart.
As this vacuum in personalities has become more and more evident, a triumvirate of thoughtful people decided that it was time to do something to alter the situation. With a study of the socio-cultural environment around them, they realised that there was a gross lack of understanding and imagination in the society around them. The education system needed to be altered to cater to needs of the society. They decided to supplement the education system through story telling. Thus Kathalaya was born.

Kathalaya was registered as a trust in 1999 by Geeta Ramanujam, Lalu Narayan and Sujatha Pai with the aim of using storytelling as an educational tool in rural and urban schools. Today, the organisation has adopted 50 rural schools with the support of Sarva Shikshana Abhyan of the Departments of Education and has reached out to more than 10,000 children.

Involving teachers

It has also trained more than 7,600 teachers in South India, Japan, South Africa and Poland. Kathalaya has opened its own resource centre for stories and storytelling, which also functions as a library and research centre. Some of the schools where Kathalaya has been involved in Bangalore are Shishugraha, AV Education Society, APS School, Kumarans Schools, Little Flower, and Montessori schools such as Headstart, Anurag, Little Feet, and Stepping Stones among others.

The programs of Kathalaya stretch far out into the rural areas. The organisation has adopted five schools in Taverekere and Chennenahalli on Magadi Road, Kaggalipura and Laxmipura on Kanakapura Road. The programs are conducted free of cost in these schools. The organisation uses story telling to make learning fun and to communicate basic values of goodness, beauty, harmony, responsibility and right conduct. Academic concepts like mathematics, geography, life sciences and history are made livelier in the classrooms through stories.

The children are coaxed into learning a whole gamut of concepts without much ado. The story sessions exude bilateral improvement in children. They not only follow the concept but also pick up a decent vocabulary and are instructed in the usage of language.

Story telling in history

Story telling has its own merits. A walk down the annals of history shows that the finest educators resorted to story telling to put across their concepts. The famous Panchatantra is nothing but a collection of stories meant to give wholesome education.

The Jataka tales, Hithopadesha, Kathasarithasagara were stories which put across radical principles of life. Shivaji, the Maratha king, was inspired by the stories told by his mother Jijabai, which later helped him establish his empire. The general public, which did not undergo formal education, learnt from these stories through art forms like Harikathas, Patakathas, Chitrakathas, puppet shows, toy theatre and shadow play. In fact, most of our art forms and temple arts such as Kathakali, Ottan thullu, Villupattu and street plays were storytelling forms.

Kathalaya is merely trying to reiterate this idea through practice. Geeta Ramanujam, the director of Kathalaya says, “A great treasure trove of folk tales is buried in our own culture. It is our duty as a community to unfold this treasure and plough it back to our children.” Lalu Narayan, co-founder, incorporates clay–modelling with story telling to make his sessions more interesting.

The programme has evoked a positive response from parents, students and teachers alike. Rajesh Ramamurthy, a parent said, “The workshop has helped my son get interested in stories and related activities, which he never used to earlier.” Ms Hegde, Principal of the Government school in Kaggalipura stated, “I never knew storytelling could have this kind of impact in the classrooms. The children love the stories and it has made my classes very joyous.”

Future plans

Kathalaya plans to hold a festival every year and find patronage and encouragement from the general public across the globe to preserve these invaluable forms of art. ‘Kathotsava ’05 – The First International Storytelling Festival’ hopes to realise this dream, apart from laying the foundation to Storyland – a resource centre for storytelling and education on the outskirts of Bangalore city, the first of its kind in the country. Kathalaya – the house of stories, hopes to continue its mission of preserving, popularising and using storytelling as an educational tool.

India Lags Behind in Art Preservation

‘India lags behind in art preservation’
By S Radha Prathi

Mr S Subbaraman, director of Intach, Chitrakala Parishat Art Conservation Centre (Ickpac), Bangalore, has spent almost half a century striving to conserve the vestiges of art and architecture of ancient India for posterity. His journey to the prestigious Ickpac began way back in 1954 when he joined the conservation wing of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) with a first class Master’s degree in chemistry. He trained at the Central Institute of Art Restoration, Rome and British Museum Research Laboratory, London, and set up the conservation laboratory of the Indian Museum in Kolkata, heading it till he got involved in the conservation of monuments in the whole of southern India. Excerpts from an interview.

What is Ickpac ?

Ickpac is part of the Intach Indian Council of Conservation Institutes engaged in the conservation and restoration of all types of objets d’art, paintings, old bronze sculpture, objects of wood, ivory etc. We have been catering to institutions and individuals alike ever since 2003.

What have been the major achievements of Ickpac?

Some rare Ravi Varma paintings in an extremely damaged condition were given a new lease on life. The 400-yr-old Nayaka period paintings in the Srirangam temple that were completely covered with soot due to a fire accident were rejuvenated, 300-yr-old murals in Ramnad Palace, among others.

How does India compare with the rest of the world in terms of conservation?

Undoubtedly India is the richest country in the world in cultural heritage in the form of art and ancient monuments. But the sheer profusion of this wealth mocks the efforts made by the government in preservation, as it appears to hardly touch the fringe of the problem. We are certainly second to none in technical knowhow but we lack adequate facilities.

What kind of restoration work have you carried out?

The most important work I’ve done is perhaps the successful separation of two layers of mural painting, one superimposed on the other, viz., the Chola layer of 11th century and the Nayaka layer of the 16th century in the Brihadeeswara temple, Thanjavur, and the preservation of both. This work attracted international attention and was filmed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. I was associated with the conservation of the giant Buddha statues in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, in 1977. They were recently destroyed by the Taliban. I was actively involved in the conservation of Angkor Wat, the largest Hindu temple in the world, and one of the most prestigious monuments of the world, when I was with ASI.

How do you rate Bangalore as a heritage centre?

It is good… Incidentally, it was due to the efforts of Intach in the early 1990s, that the Attara Kutcheri was sustained.

Which monument do you think is the best preserved world heritage?

The Abu Simbel temple in Egypt: it was transplanted by Unesco before the construction of the Aswan dam and reconstructed immaculately in the fifties.

Does restoration and preservation need specific training?

Conservation and restoration require special training, and, if attempted by amateurs, may cause damage.

What are the future plans of Ickpac?

Apart from its multifarious works, Ickpac has doubled up as the Manuscript Conservation Centre for Karnataka under the National Mission for Manuscripts of which I am the state co-ordinator.