Monday, 26 January 2015

Commemoration of King Charles I Execution / Martyrdom

Charles I (19 November 1600 – 30 January 1649) was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. He was beheaded on January 30th 1649, the only king to be publicly executed in Britain. Each year the anniversary is marked by special prayers and wreath laying at his statue outside the Banqueting Hall in London which was the site of his decapitation, followed by a Mass inside the Banqueting House.

Legend / History says that he wore several shirts as the weather was cold and he didn’t want to shiver because the assembled crowd might think he was trembling with fear. As soon as he was executed, he was portrayed as a martyr for his faith (Roman Catholic) and for many years muffled peals of bells rang throughout the country on this day.

The Society of King Charles the Martyr organise an event on the 30th of January each year. When the 30th January falls on a Sunday it is customary to transfer the observance to the following Monday. The service is held at the site of S.Charles’s martyrdom, The Banqueting House in Whitehall, London. Wreath laying and prayers near the place of the martyrdom are offered at 11.40 a.m. followed by High Mass and sermon at noon within the Banqueting House itself.

The Society’s relics of S.Charles are placed upon the altar for the Mass and may be viewed after the service. A choir, usually from King’s College, London sings at the Mass. The Banqueting House is where S.Charles was kept for several hours on the day of his decollation. The architect of the Banqueting House was Inigo Jones and the ceiling is adorned by the great paintings of Rubens. There is also an exhibition on the ground floor describing the events of 30th January, 1649.

King Charles the Martyr was the last saint to be canonised by the Church of England. He is honoured as a martyr because he died for the Church. He was offered his life if he would abandon episcopacy but he refused, for this would have taken the Church of England away from being part of ‘the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church’ and change Her into a sect.

So The Society of King Charles the Martyr venerate him for his sacrifice and see in it inspiration for today. S. Charles is a martyr for the doctrine of episcopacy and the apostolic succession.

In the words of Dr. Mandell Creighton, Bishop of London 1897- 1901 and a noted ecclesiastical historian: ‘Had Charles been willing to abandon the Church and give up episcopacy, he might have saved his throne and his life. But on this point Charles stood firm: for this he died, and by dying saved it for the future.’

Immediately upon the Restoration of Church and monarchy on 19th May, 1660, the Convocation of Canterbury and York, now being free to assemble and act, canonised King Charles and added his name to the Kalendar of Saints at the revision of The Prayer Book.

S. Charles is also honoured for his strong personal piety and for his protection and patronage of the Church.

His reign saw the beginning of a revival of the Religious Life in the Church of England and the first attempt at Community Life (after the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII), which began at Little Gidding and was encouraged by S. Charles. The King visited the community and commissioned work.

He oversaw many schemes for the Church: the restoration and adornment of churches and cathedrals, the founding and advancement of charities, the improvement of the liturgy and the re-introduction of the episcopacy in Scotland. His reign witnessed, albeit briefly, a Golden Age for Anglicanism especially in spiritual and devotional writing that is still much appreciated today.

The English Civil War Society also organise an annual parade in Whitehall on a Sunday near to the 30th. This year that date fell on the 25th. The English Civil War Society dress in authentic period costume and weaponry identical to that used during the 17th century.

They assemble on the Mall by St James's Palace and march along the route the king was taken on Sunday 30th January 1649, across Horse Guards Parade to the Banqueting House in Whitehall where Charles was beheaded.

King Charles I (1600-49) was king of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1625 until his execution in 1649. After he became king, he was constantly at loggerheads with parliament who wanted to curb his royal prerogative. Charles believed in the divine right of kings and thought he could govern according to his own conscience.

Charles dissolved parliament three times in the four years after taking the throne and in 1629, he dismissed parliament and resolved to rule alone. This forced him to raise revenue by non-parliamentary means which made him increasingly unpopular.

In November 1641, tensions came to a head with disagreements over who should command an army to suppress an uprising in Ireland. Charles marched into parliament and attempted to have five members of parliament arrested.

In August 1642, Charles raised the royal standard at Nottingham and Civil war began between the Parliamentarians (led by Oliver Cromwell) and the Royalists (led by Charles I). The war divided the country and lasted until 1649, when Charles was captured and tried for treason. He was executed and Oliver Cromwell took on the role of Lord Protector, thus turning England into a Republic.

The Parade organised by The English Civil War Society was an interesting experience. People came in full costume reminiscent of the 1600's. The bishop and the Mayor were the most smartly dressed. But there were also loads of ordinary soldiers and womenfolk and children who were so excited to be a part of this event.

What I truly loved about this event was that as the participants were assembling, they were more than willing to have conversations about their costumes, the history behind the event and the props that they were carrying. The children in the crowd that had come to observe were curious and asked many questions and the participating members interacting so well with them. It wasn't just a costume party. Each one of them could knowledgeably answer curious and excited questions regarding why they were dressed that way and why they were there participating in the event.

This is truly a way to keep history alive. Everyone who interacted or observed the parade today will always remember the event and the history behind it.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Saraswati Pooja / Pujo in London

Goddess Saraswati is the Goddess of Learning / Wisdom / Education / Culture / Music / Arts. She is One of the Main Trinity of Hindu Goddesses along with Parvati and Lakshmi.

She is often depicted in a white sari. Her 4 arms hold a book (for knowledge), a garland or prayer beads (for meditation/spirituality) and 2 arms hold her veena (stringed instrument for music / creative arts / sciences). She is often portrayed with either a White Swan or a peacock in the background. She could be seated on either this white swan or on a white lotus.

Saraswati Puja is performed on the Day of Basant Panchami which also heralds the arrival of Spring (towards the end of January - exact date depends on the Hindu Calendar). Yellow is the colour that marks this occasion and you may observe people in yellow clothes ranging from a pastel lemon to Canary to blinding sunshine yellow shades.

Being away from India and with our shipment not yet arrived with our pooja ghar, we decided to attend one of the Saraswati Poojas in London, that was organised by the Sanaton Organisation This year it was held at Kingsley Hall near Bromley by Bow. Incidentally Mahatma Gandhi lived in this same building in 1931.

The pooja was held much earlier in the morning, but we did get a darshan (viewing) of the lovely Goddess and the decorations around. It did feel like we had stepped into a time warp and been transported right back into India, with all the ladies, so beautifully decked up in their saris and high heels. There was food being served, but we were quite stuffed already, so after our quick darshan, we just headed back home.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

The White Rajah's of Sarawak

Sometimes an unusual thing you see on a general walk, can open up the most interesting fact finding adventures.

Houses of Historic Significance around London have a blue circular plate with the names of historic figures who used to live there. What a wonderful way to keep history alive.

Saw this on a house today when wandering around near Hyde Park.

I was quite surprised to see a distinctly British sounding name, with a "Raja" title attached, so I obviously had to look it up as soon as I got home. Turns out the Brookes numbered among a couple of other Englishmen who were known as the "White Rajah's", this term also included the Englishman Alexander Hare in Borneo, Scot John Clunies Ross in the Cocos Islands and Dane Mads Lange in Bali.

As a reward for helping the Sultanate of Brunei fight piracy and insurgency among the indigenous peoples, Englishman James Brooke was granted the landmass of Sarawak in 1841 and received independent kingdom status from the grateful rulers.

While the plaque says that Sir Charles Vyner Brooke 1874-1963 was the last Rajah of Sarawak, his brother Bertram was heir presumptive - a claim he relinquished in favour of his son Anthony on 25 August 1937. Anthony held the title of "Tuan Muda" (literally "Little Lord") and the style of "His Highness" and succeeded to the title of Rajah in 1963 on the death of his uncle, Rajah Charles Vyner of Sarawak - the third and last of the ruling White Rajahs.

Granted a knighthood in 1927, Sir Charles Vyner Brooke ran a hands-off and relatively popular administration that banned Christian missionaries and fostered indigenous traditions (to an extent; headhunting was outlawed). He continued as Rajah, until 1 July 1946 when he ceded Sarawak to the British government as a crown colony, thus ending White Rajah rule in Sarawak.

His nephew Anthony Brooke, who had served since 1937 as the Rajah Muda (Crown Prince) of Sarawak because Vyner had three daughters but no son, opposed cession to Britain as did majority of the native members of the Council Negri (Parliament), and they campaigned against it for five years. Astand that was backed by the Malays who were close to the Brookes.

The anti-cession movement came to head in 1948 when the second British Governor to Sarawak, Sir Duncan Stewart, was assassinated by a young nationalist Rosli Dhoby in Sibu.

Suspicion fell on Anthony that he orchestrated the killing of the governor but declassified documents from the British National Archive later showed that he had no connection to the plot. In 1951, Anthony finally renounced his claim to Sarawak’s throne

The White Rajahs are buried at Sheepstor Churchyard, Devon.

Today this area of Sarawak is part of Malaysia.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Food Ingredient Heaven (Ingredients from across the Globe in London)

Went for a 4km walk to explore the new neighbourhood. Aside from the Arabic Supermarket that I found on Day 1, next to Waitrose, Today I found a Russian supermarket, French Supermarket, Oriental Supermarket (food products from Japan, China, Korea, Singapore, Thailand & Malaysia). All within a 15 minute walk from home.

No Indian Supermarket, but I did find 2 Indians running "Spar"

Then of course there are the M&S Food, Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury, Morrisons etc.

I am in Food Ingredient heaven!

For those looking for Indian Food Ingredients in London, my friends recommend the following areas :
1. Heathrow / Hounslow
2. South Harrow - South Indian food items - Idli rice, rice powder, red rice - & well cleaned fish - Then eat in Saravana Bhavan or at La Masala ( Spicy Sri Lankan food)
3. Wimbledon area
4. Southall - for North India ingredients
5. Eastham - has some good shops
6.  Drummond St in Euston - the most centrally located Indian grocery store. Even stock paneer, dosa batter etc etc.  And Gupta sweets across the road does better samosa, jalebi etc than Ambala Sweets
7. for online orders.

Thanks to Deba, Urvi, Prasad, Praj & Sharky for sharing this gyaan (knowledge)

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

The Knowledge, London’s Legendary Taxi-Driver Test, Puts Up a Fight in the Age of GPS

From "The New York Times"
10 Nov 2014

When we first arrived in London with our 14 pieces of baggage and over a 1 hour ride from the airport, I got into a long chat with our very friendly "Black Cab" Driver and one of the things that we discussed was how it had taken him 3 years to clear the exams to get his "Green Badge" License. I was obviously impressed at the rigour of the course and the sheer volume of knowledge that each one of them had to memorise and internalise.

This article in the New York Times from last year goes into marvelous detail of the whole process and is a brilliant read.

The Knowledge, London’s Legendary Taxi-Driver Test, Puts Up a Fight in the Age of GPS