A Blog on Mythology and occasionally on Reality.

This is a Blog on Mythology, both Indian and World and especially the analysis of the myths.

In effect, the interpretation of the inherent Symbolism.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Fair-skinned Draupadi.

A recent newspaper article mentioned that Prakash Jha after the success of his recent Rajneeti was thinking of making Draupadi with Angelina Jolie as Draupadi. Angelina Jolie as Draupadi? A fair-skinned Draupadi?

Let me tell you the story of Draupadi’s birth.

King Drupad had no son and he desired a son to punish and kill the strong Dronacharya. So a sacrifice was arranged for the great purpose of getting a son. At the end of the sacrifice, the queen was called for to partake the offering, (which was to beget twins), but she was not ready at that very moment to come out in the open. The offering, could not wait, so it was cast in the fire. No sooner was the offering cast in the fire, out came a son of the colour of flames, ready to fight.

After him came a very beautiful girl, dark-skinned and black-haired (as described in Mahabharat). The priests named the son Dhristadyumna, and the girl, Krishne. In Mahabharat, one can find Lord Krishna referring to Draupadi, as Krishne many a times. By the way, Krishne also means dark, which was also the meaning of Lord Krishna’s name, who too was dark.

Birth from fire and the very name implying dark – how can there be a fair-skinned Draupadi? Even with the objective of “reaching out to the international mass…”?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The case of the missing river, Saraswati

We have all heard about the famous Triveni Sangam – the confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. Obviously, there is no river Saraswati. Why?

It is said that the river Saraswati was the most famous river during the Vedic period (some say it was the tributary of the Bhagirathi River). As times changed, due to a poor flow, Saraswati began to reduce into lakes and ponds. Though the river began to lose its prominence as a river, it slowly started gaining importance as the Goddess of Speech, due to the practice of sacrifices being offered at the banks of the river and the necessary recitation of mantras, also soon became the basis of her being associated with the Goddess of Learning, and as an obvious progression, as the wife of Brahma.

Around the same time, the river Ganga was gaining prominence as it was an absolute contrast to the river Saraswati in its ability to flow constantly, though she never attained the status that the elevated Saraswati did. But soon the river was nearly wiped out and all the practices and the rituals associated with the river Saraswati, got associated with the Ganga.

The importance of Saraswati as a river is still seen in the famous Triveni Sangam, where though there is no river Saraswati, the place hasn’t lost the name and the significance.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Vahana – the carriers of Gods

In Indian Mythology, all gods and goddesses have been depicted with a carrier or a ‘vahana’, which serves as a mount or a vehicle for the deity. Vah in Sanskrit means to carry or to transport.

Deities have always been depicted to have an animal or a bird as a vahana. This could be a real animal, or a mythological and sometimes even a combination of both.

In iconography, the vahana is both the symbol and the emblem of the deity that it carries. Nandi the bull, vahana of Shiva, represents strength and virility. Parvani the peacock, vahana of Skanda, represents splendour and majesty. The swan, mount of Saraswati, represents grace and beauty.

As the assistant of a deity, the vahana serves the function of doubling the deity’s powers. Durga the warrior destroys the demon Mahishasura with the aid of her mount, Manashthala the lion. Lakshmi, goddess of fortune, dispenses both material and spiritual riches from her mount, Uluka the owl. Ganesh, remover of obstacles, cannot go everywhere despite his elephant-like strength. However, his vahana, Mushika the mouse, can slide into the smallest crevices and overcome the greatest obstacles. He also carries Ganesh's benedictions.

The vahana symbolizes the evil forces over which the deity dominates. Mounted on Parvani, Skanda reins in the peacock's vanity. Seated on Mushika, Ganesh crushes useless thoughts, which multiply like rats in the dark. Shani, protector of property, has a raven in which he represses thieving tendencies. Under Shani's influence, the raven can make even malevolent events bring hope.

There are a number of smaller myths about each animal and its relation to the respective god and how they become their vahana.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Oppenheimer quotes Gita

In reference to the Trinity test of Atomic Bomb in New Mexico, the father of atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer, famously recalled the Gita: “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky that would be like the splendour of the mighty one. . . . Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Was the scientist quoting the verses from Gita to justify the destructive invention, after all Mahabharata is replete with the usage of such destructive weapons?

It remains a matter of debate whether Oppenheimer misunderstood the overall significance of Gita. However, he did misquote a particular verse as a half-truth under an impression that the Gita is a treatise on war and peace only. War as envisaged by Gita is not incompatible with a life of peace and righteousness if waged for its preservation (as dharmayuddha).

In my opinion, Oppenheimer made a quotation out of context. In fact, the importance of Gita stems from its prescribed value of human life and fighting for its maintenance and resurrection if need be. Human beings then, perhaps, not only knew how to destroy but also realised the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

The rules contained in Mahabharata generally governed issues ranging from the general prohibition of the use of weapons that caused unnecessary pain, to overcoming the enemy, to the treatment of the enemy’s property and persons in the conquered territory. If the modern laws of war were to require that when war breaks out, fighting must be conducted on the basis of ‘like with like’ or by using like weapons, it would not only minimise the impact of war but would also deter aggression and make war more humane.

Coming to the point of the use of nuclear weapons (called divyastra e.g. Brahmastra and Pashupatiastra) during the times of Mahabharata, before Arjuna acquired the divyastras from the respective gods, he was strictly advised by them to use it as a “threat weapon” rather than a weapon to be actually used in the war. There are extensive dialogues between various characters in the war of Mahabharata on not using the divyastras which were the ultimate weapons that any warrior could then possess.

At the end of the epic war, when Aswathama, son of Drona, frustrated by defeat in war uses the weapon, he is cursed by Krishna, and the same was diffused to result in minimal devastation.

Thus one can safely say that the quoting of Gita for the said event was definitely out of place and needless to say, a very poor justification.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Influence of Mythology in our daily lives.

How many of us have given this a thought?
Every day we use something from mythology without realising it.

Let’s start it from the days -
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday -- the day of Tyr, day of Woden, day of Thor, day of Freya, day of Saturn – Gods from Nordic mythology.

Your morning cereal, a grain product is named after Ceres, the goddess of grain. The month of January is named after Janus because he had two faces and could look both forward and backward, just like the named month, can look at the year gone by and the New Year!

The planets are all named after Greek gods. Lots of common popular names today also come from characters of Greek myths e.g. Helen, Alexander, Irene, Phyllis, Melissa, Sibyl, etc.

A number of common words and phrases have mythological references, like
• Odyssey – a long quest, from the story of Odysseus
• Tantalize – from Tantalus in Greek mythology who had food hanging
before him which he could never reach
• Panic – derived from Greek god Pan, who was thought to cause panic
• Syringe – from the syrinx, Pan's hollow reeds that functioned as
his musical instrument
• Nectar – from Greek nektaros which was the food of the gods
• Echo – from the Greek nymph Echo was turned into an echo
• Phobia – from Phobus, the god of fear
• Adonis – a handsome man, after the Greek Adonis
• Flowers like the narcissus, hyacinth, and crocus are named after
the boys Narcissus, Hyacinthus and Crocus of Greek myth who were
turned into these flowers by the gods
• Asia – from Asia the wife of the Titan Prometheus
• Europe – the continent, from Europa, a lover of Zeus

Besides the above, we have phrases like, “open up a Pandora’s box”, "Achilles heel", "cleaning the Augean stables", “a herculean task”, etc. all from Mythology.

Chemistry is replete with references from Greek mythology, elements like Mercury, Titanium, Niobium, Plutonium, etc.

A number of trademarks and brands have Greek influence, Nike, Atlas, Hercules, Amazon, Mercury, etc.

Without realizing, the influence of mythology is all around.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mark Twain..

Mark Twain once said - "Write without pay until someone offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this as a sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for."

If Twain was alive today, he might have said - "Write without pay until someone offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may take up blogging."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Agatha Christie got me in trouble!

My wife is a great fan of Agatha Christie and recently she came across a quote of hers which says – “The best time to plan a book is while you’re doing the dishes”.
My wife wants me to be a successful writer sometime and she thinks blogging can take me there. So guess what happened???

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Greek Love Story, (we all know so well)

Psyche was one of the three beautiful daughters of a King. However, Psyche was so beautiful that she seemed like a goddess amongst mortals.

When Aphrodite heard about Psyche’s beauty, she was jealous and summoned her son, Eros (also referred to as Cupid in some stories) and ordered him to put a spell on Psyche, so as to ensure that nobody would want to marry her. Eros flew down to the earth to follow his mother’s instructions.

Eros was so charmed by her beauty, that he fell in love with Psyche, but could not go against Aphrodite’s wishes. So along with his mother’s wishes, he sprinkled a magic potion on her eyelids to ensure that she found all the love and happiness in life.

Sure enough, as Aphrodite had willed, nobody was willing to get married to Psyche. Her parents were worried and consulted an Oracle, who confirmed to them that sure enough no mortal would marry her, but there was a monster at the top of the mountain who would marry her.

Giving in to what was destined for her, her parents left her at the top of mountain. On reaching the peak, she came across a beautiful palace decorated and lit up for a wedding. The palace had everything to take care of her including invisible servants and attendants. At night, in the dark, she felt the presence of a prince. The prince was very gentle and nice and assured her that he would love her no matter what. He was very romantic and Psyche instantly fell in love with him. But the prince made a condition, that she should never insist on seeing him, and if she did, he would vanish. Psyche started living a life full of romance and was happy in ignorance, that the Prince was none other than Eros himself.

Soon Psyche was feeling lonely and started missing her family members. She pleaded with Eros, to allow her to get her sisters to visit her. Though Eros warned her that it would lead to trouble, Psyche would not hear, and Eros gave in to her request. When her sisters saw her opulence, they were jealous. When they came to know about Psyche’s unique relationship with her husband and that she had not even seen her husband, they started filling her in with all that the Oracle had said and convinced her to see her monstrous husband.

So one night, she went to bed with a candle and a dagger. If her lover was a monster, then she would kill him with the dagger. That night, when she saw under the light of the candle that her husband was none other than the god of love himself, she was too delighted. In her delight a drop of candle fell on Eros who woke up to find Psyche staring at him. A disappointed Eros left the palace saying where there was no trust, there could be no love.

Aphrodite soon learnt about her son’s disobedience and decided to punish Psyche by making her suffer. She punished Psyche by making her go through a number of torturous tasks, which she fulfilled, albeit, with the help of Eros, who was helping her secretly.

Zeus, the king of gods, intervened and decided to get Eros and Psyche united, as both had proven their love for each other.

This love story of romance, obedience and patience has given rise to many a story in later times, the most famous being, ‘Beauty and the Beast’.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Why write on Mythology?

Somebody asked me the other day – “Why do you want to write on Mythology?” and I shot back by asking “Why not?” But then let me explain.

Mythology has been a part of our lives right from our childhood, especially in India. As children we are fed on stories of all the mythical heroes of Indian mythology and we grow up either idolising the characters or the slightly curious ones end up having more questions as they grow.

How can someone be born out of a sacrificial alter? How can someone not die for ages? How can someone move mountains, fly like a bird, fight like a warrior and romance like Casanova? All these and many more, besides the common ones like who am I and where did I come from?

As one grows older and is introduced to other literatures, one realises that there is more to mythology in other cultures too. English Literature is replete with references from Greek mythology and some of them have become part of daily usage. Statements like “a herculean task”, “the issue will open a Pandora’s box”, etc. are part of our parlance.

So what is it about mythology that has lent it continuity for ages? Some of the things we read are far from rational or rather quite anti-science – then what is it that has still got it going? Is there something more to it than the spoken or written word? Were the writers or the perpetrators of these myths trying to tell us something which might have some relevance? Or is it that these continue to be institutions of ideals in the present day of no-morals, no-hero times?

It is this underlying truth that I am trying to bring forth through this blog. I want to know, what is behind all this that is so logic-defying in today’s times, but still manages to hold us spell-bound. In these modern times, how are the epics still being so relevant and being told and retold in so many different ways? I hope to bring all this and more thru this blog.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Welcome to my Blog.

Welcome to my Blog. The title sounds familiar? Well Ms. Rand could sue me for plagiarism, but I just can't help but use her line......this line has stuck on me ever since I read the 150page monologue by John Galt more than 20 years back!

But this blog is not about her, its about - what is in me and my ever-troubling mind. So what better way than to blog?

What am I going blog? Mythology is a pet subject and will be writing on mythology quite extensively, both Indian and World. All about the fantastic world woven by the myths and the very rationale of such stories.

But that won't be all. There will be more.

Wait and watch......and keep reading.

Send me your views, questions and opinions.