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Saturday April 2, 2005

Enlightening experience in India

Story & pictures by M.KRISHNAMOORTHY

This structure before the museum symbolises the universe being held up by God.
Out in the middle of nowhere, deep in the heartland of India, a magnificent Chinese-styled palace suddenly appears out of nowhere when you drive 130km north of Bangalore. 

You do a double-take and then remind yourself you are in India, in Andhra Pradesh. 

Two stone lions, standing nine feet tall (2.7m), welcome visitors at the entrance. You have to leave your footwear and continue walking on a stone pavement, past balustrades. As I step into the spacious and splendidly coloured reception area, moving away from the Indian summer heat, I feel tranquil and calm.  

It is appropriate, considering this is the Chaitanya Jyoti, the museum of all religions. 

Here, you will see amazing multimedia presentations on how religious leaders and founders like Prophet Mohammad, Jesus and Gautama Buddha went through difficult times as they went about spreading their teachings. It feels as if you are being taken back in time, a witness to great events.  

The Chaitanya Jyoti, inaugurated four years ago on Nov 18, was designed by the late Malaysian architect Goh Say Tong. His design was picked because it fused different cultures and architectural styles. 

Find enlightenment in the “time tunnel"
The building, whose name means “Experiencing the Divine”, is flanked by two pavilions crowned by Moorish domes made of titanium.  

The Chinese-styled roof of the main building is the largest outside mainland China. The two lift shafts for the six-storey building have Japanese style roofs and there is a fish pond out front, designed by a specialist from Singapore. The stone balustrades, roof tiles and the stupa come from China. 

Built by craftsmen from China in Puttarparthi, the building has won several international awards, the latest being the Indian Concrete Institute’s Most Outstanding Concrete Structure. 

The Chaitanya Jyoti, designed in honour of one of India’s most famous holy men, Sathya Sai Baba, was built to commemorate his 75th birthday. Consultants, engineers and workers from some 30 countries worked on the building, completing it within six months.  

The architecture here is influenced by several cultures, hence the Moorish dome.
As I walked pass the exhibits, one striking quote by Sai Baba caught my attention. “Love as thought is truth. Love as action is right conduct. Love as feeling is peace. Love as understanding is non-violence.” 

As I strolled out of the museum, the message of the exhibits lingered in my mind: “Discard ego, and work for the good of man”, “Love all, serve all, help ever and hurt never” and “Work selflessly for the suffering of the poor and provide them what they lack.” W 

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