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.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Indo-Pak Match.

Yesterday was the India-Pakistan Cricket match which was nothing less than a war. The tension was all around and palpable – streets deserted, offices empty, all appointments cancelled, stadium tickets at unbelievable prices and some even willing to pledge their organs to get to see the match!

Is this sports?

The match was between two all-time arch-rivals, which wasworth the bucks that were at stake. What is it that makes the two nations such strong adversaries? Till a few decades back we were a single nation with a single objective and similar outlook. The colonial past can be blamed for the strife, but if more than six decades have not got us together, then probably nothing will. What makes this animosity so strange? Is there a parallel so similar?

A similar strife can be found in the Roman history, between Athens and Sparta. Athens and Sparta were both Greek cities and their people spoke a common language. Athens was a city of busy trade. Sparta was an armed camp where people were soldiers for the sake of being soldiers. The people of Athens loved to sit in the sun and discuss poetry or listen to the wise words of a philosopher. The Spartans, on the other hand, never wrote a single line that was considered literature, but they knew how to fight, they liked to fight, and they sacrificed all human emotions to their ideal of military preparedness. Athenian life was a creative wonderland. Spartan life was simple. The focus was on obedience and war.

Both the nations had lots to join hands for, but the friendship did not last as a sense of insecurity overtook each soon. This led to conflicts and battles and ironically, in their quest for power over Greece, the two city-states caused each other's demise.

Another very significant example can be the enmity between the Pandavas and the Kauravas in the famous epic Mahabharata. Both belonged to the same ancestors, with no differences whatsoever, but were at logger-heads on everything from sharing of parental emotions to sharing of titles and land. Nothing could get them together, except a war. The final battle left nothing to covet, except a huge burden of guilt and an emptiness which was regrettable.

Yesterday’s intense tension and the build-up during the last few days belied all the feeble attempts to shake hands both in the name of sports and culture that the two nations were supposedly making. Be it at the levels of leadership and bureaucracy or at the grounds level, the animosity seems to be irreversible.

At the end of it all, I simply hope that the end is not similar to the Greek example or the Mahabharata example. A rank optimist will tell you that it’s never too late to make a fresh beginning, and if I were to toe the same line, then I would repeat the same.

Let a game remain so and let us not transform a stadium into a battleground. Don’t use such platforms for expressing patriotic emotions, and don’t make such simple sporting events into a do-or-die event. Individual emotional burdens cannot be offloaded on the national cricket team.

Saying ‘tathastu’ or ‘inshallah’ is up to you!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Demeter & Persephone

According to the Greek Mythology, Demeter was the goddess of vegetation and fruitfulness, especially of corn. She represented the products of soils and seasons and the generative forces that directed their abundance. Demeter was the goddess of the harvest and she taught man how to grow crops. Traditionally, the first loaf of bread of the season is sacrificed to her.

Demeter lived in the mountains and was known as the protector of the fields. She was known as the fair haired earth goddess who blesses all phases of the harvest. She walks the furrowed fields dressed in green.

Demeter had a very close bond with her daughter Persephone. Persephone was the goddess of the underworld, spring and harvest. She also represented all the elements of the earth.

Persephone was very beautiful. Once the God of the underworld, Hades saw Persephone and fell deeply in love with her. He trapped Persephone and abducted her to the underworld.

After the disappearance of Persephone, Demeter began to look high and low for her daughter. Demeter was so distraught, that she wandered the earth for nine days, denying herself of all forms of food, drink and comfort. She renounced her divine functions as a goddess of vegetation and fruitfulness, in search of Persephone.

Seeing this Zeus decided to intervene. He sent his messenger to speak to Hades to release Persephone from the underworld. But as luck would have it, Persephone who had revolted all these days by not having anything to eat or drink and had just tasted a few seeds of Pomegranate and had thus become one of the underworlds, as per the rules of the underworld.

So a compromise had to be struck, that Persephone would spend two-thirds of the year with her mother, Demeter, and one-third as the queen of the underworld.

From that day onwards, while Persephone lives with Hades, the days are short and dark and cold. Demeter, who could not forgive Hades, allows the earth to go barren during the months when Persephone resides with him. But her return to earth is marked by the spring season when there is the warm, bright light of summer, and the flowers start to bloom, the leaves to bud and the birds to sing in the sky.

Herein lies the secret of seasons, explained so painfully through the love of a mother and daughter!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Holi – Festival of Colours

Holi, plainly put, is a festival of colours. It is a Spring festival which heralds the advent of the lovely romantic season of love. In the days of secularism, we can say that it’s a day to celebrate the bond of friendship and soaked in colour, all forget the distinctions of caste, creed and colour. But the origins do have roots in mythology of our times.

There are different versions of the origin of Holi, but I would like to focus on one of them, which relates to Lord Krishna and his love, Radha.

According to a myth, Lord Krishna as a child was extremely disturbed by his dark complexion and jealous of Radha’s fair complexion. Fed up of the constant comparison more as a complaint, Krishna’s mother gave a solution to the child. She suggested that he change the colour of Radha’s complexion with any colour of his choice by smearing the colour on Radha’s face! Krishna was impressed with the idea and proceeded to the same, and thus started the festival of playing with colours and on this day, you will never find anybody with the complexion s/he was born with. Over a period of time, this simple child-like play gained prominence in the poet’s expressions of love, romance and eroticism of the eternal relationship of Radha and Krishna and soon blossomed into a full fledged festival of colours. More so, in Vrindavan, Mathura and Barsana (the birthplace of Radha). The festival has special significance in these areas which are supposed to have been graced by both Krishna and Radha, where the festival goes on for about two weeks.

Another aspect of Holi is the license to misbehave and uttering of obscenities. In a repressed society, a sudden burst of enthusiastic intermingling and an unfound freedom of expression gives way to hurling of abuses and usage of vulgarities, without much reprimand. There could be a number of reasons for this. The primary amongst them lies in the myth of Bhakt Prahlad. One of the other important myths of Holi celebration, is the episode of Prahlad’s aunt, Holika, trying to burn Prahlad under the instructions of his father, but is reduced to ashes herself. Since then, the burning of a bonfire prior to the festival of Holi, Holika-dahan, is part of the ritual. In many parts of India hurling abuses and throwing cow dung at the bonfire as a mark of disrespect to Holika for her unkind intentions is a norm, and is practiced even today. In Bengal, a pot which is painted with demonic eyes and lips, is put in the bonfire, and at the peak of the fire, it is ceremoniously burst by a large bamboo! Over a period of time, this has changed its attention from Holika to women-folk in general.

One more reason for such an act could be the secular aspects of the festival. In a society where caste-system was so prevalent and rigid, here was a festival which was trying to eliminate the generations old system. It gave vent to many from one caste to hurl abuses at someone from another caste and still get away by chanting – bura na mano holi hai (Don’t mind, its Holi!) and at times settle a long-pending score!

Obscenities or not, but here is a day full of joy and fun – so go ahead and have a fun-filled, eco-friendly, green Holi!

Happy Holi to all my readers!!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ophiuchus – 13th Sign of the Zodiac

Ophiuchus is the new and the 13th Zodiac sign, which has been added between Scorpio and Sagittarius and is the sign for all born between Nov 29 and Dec17. We are told that an addition of a new sign is because of the shift of the earth’s axis. In technical terms, the earth has been on its axis for several thousand years and such a shift is not unexpected. But we will leave science here and move on to the mythical reference of Ophiuchus.

Ophiuchus in Greek means the Serpent bearer and that is why the sign is also sometimes known as the Serpentarius. The figure represents a man wrestling with a giant serpent ultimately dividing it in to two.

Ophiuchus was the illegitimate son of the god Apollo and the nymph Coronis. When Coronis was pregnant with Apollo’s son, she began courting a human. This got Apollo’s sister furious and she shot arrows at Coronis for cheating on her brother. When Apollo came to know about it, he managed to save the unborn child before the arrows hit Coronis. Apollo then took the child, named him Asclepius, and gave him to a centaur Chiron. Chiron was a wise and a kind centaur who excelled in the art of medicine.

Chiron then trained Asclepius in medicine, who went a step beyond his teacher and Asclepius soon mastered the art of raising people from death. This worried the god of the underworld, Hades, who did not want mankind to be immortal. He convinced his brother, Zeus, the King of Gods, and Zeus, hurled a thunderbolt at Asclepius and killed him. Later to honour Asclepius, Zeus put him in the sky and named Asclepius, as Ophiuchus.

The Egyptians believe that there lived a person by the name of Imphotep in the Ancient Egypt. Imphotep was a healer by profession and he introduced the concepts and the techniques of healing to mankind. The serpent or the snake symbol which today is used to symbolise the medical profession was used to represent Imphotep. According to the Egyptians, it is the same Imphotep, whom the Greeks later named Ophiuchus. The serpent symbol is also known as the Rod of Asclepius.

It is also said that the Hippocratic Oath that the physicians take, named after Hippocrates, was supposed to be the descendant of Asclepius.

Finally, Ophiuchus is the 13th Zodiac sign, so does it bring bad luck to all born under this sign? Astronomers do not think so, rather, they feel that people with this new sign, are those who seek wisdom and knowledge and the year 2011, is going to prove to be a very good year for them. There, that does it. So keep your doubts at bay and move on the Serpentarians! This year belongs to you!!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Woman of Substance

Recently we celebrated a day to laud Women in general. I from my side would like to applaud the efforts of one woman, who has braved criticism, and done a great favour to many who might now have a dignified death. (‘Might’, because there still is a maze of words called law which the society at large has yet to debate!)

I am talking about Ms. Pinki Virani who had filed a third party euthanasia plea for Aruna Shanbag. Ms. Virani lost the plea, but in her loss, is the gain for many an individual who are nothing more than dead. If it didn’t help Aruna, at least she got the subject out in the open and got the subject its much-needed due recognition. In Aruna’s case, there was celebration across nurse-dom. The Doctors and the Deans were ‘happy’ with the verdict and praised the court for showing mercy. All were happy, but Aruna, who is oblivious of all the efforts that a single woman took to help her.

I would like to recall a scene from a recent Hindi movie, Guzaarish, which is on the same subject. In one of the scenes, when the patient’s counsel, Shernaz Patel, suggests that they file the petition for euthanasia once again after having it dismissed earlier, his nurse, Aishwariya Rai, is agitated at the Counsel. The nurse goes on to say, that she has given her twelve long years, her family, her life to tend the patient and the Counsel wants to end it away? What about her tireless nursing for the last twelve years without break? The Counsel stoically reminds her, that the issue is not about her, but of the patient! That is the crux of the matter.

In the entire debate, everybody was thinking about themselves. The matrons, the nurses and the doctors on how they have tended to her so well that she doesn’t even have a single bed-sore. How some of them make it a point to visit her whenever they visit Mumbai. How they ‘feel’ that she understands and responds. How she calms down to ‘gentle touch’. All this even after knowing that her condition will not improve, but only go bad, as her bowel movements are going worse due to routine feeding, her teeth are giving in and how her brain has shrunk.

My singular question to all is; where does love end and pity begin?

Nobody thought of Aruna. Does she want to live? Does she even know that she has an option? Is it right to have her continue like this? Does she manage to communicate pain and discomfort, by her facial expressions the way she expresses joy and comfort, which everybody seems to understand so well?

The court went on the feedback given by the Hospital, which was emotional in its submission. During the proceedings, a Doctor went on record by saying that he could not put himself in her shoes. Exactly, none of us can, not even the nurses and ex-matrons. The court did not recognise Ms. Virani as her kin, and thus did not grant her a right to speak on her behalf. But then sometime back a mother filed a similar plea for her son, which too got rejected. (In that particular case the mother only wanted to donate her son’s organs if her plea for euthanasia was granted.)

Thanks to Ms. Virani, the story of Aruna came out in the open, till then she was just another patient in a ward at KEM. Thanks to Ms. Virani, the subject got debated and today we have some clarity on jargon associated with euthanasia. On her behalf, I would like to add, that here is a woman who felt the pain of another wronged woman, who was not related to her. She tried to bring dignity to Aruna, and in her failure she has brought dignity to many of her kind.

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s not make a villain out of her by crying ‘Pinki Virani murdabad’, let’s applaud her guts and her efforts and the service that she has rendered to many who can’t speak for themselves.

Thank You, Ms. Virani.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


On this Women's Day, let's know more about Kaikeyi, the most misunderstood woman of our Mythology.

Kaikeyi was one of the wives of King Dasharath and the mother of Bharata, in the epic Ramayana. She is considered to be one of the women whose actions led to the events of the epic. She is also considered to be the proverbial step-mother and is seen as the jealous wife and an over-zealous mother. We will keep the negative epithets aside for the time being and try to understand the character, without the tainted glasses that we have been made to wear for long. 

Kaikeyi was the daughter of the King of Kekaya. King Dasharath had married Kaikeyi only when his first queen, Kaushalya, was not able to conceive. Thus the marriage took place, under some unuttered assumptions. First, that Kaikeyi’s son would be the future king of Ayodhya and second, that she would be the Queen Mother. All this because Kaushalya’s bearing a child had been already ruled out. However, when she too could not conceive, Dasharath got married again. But Kaikeyi was no Kaushalya. She was brave, beautiful and ambitious.

It is said that once, she had accompanied Dasharath to a war against a demon. During the war, when Dasharath was supposed to have been injured, she drove his chariot out of the battleground, nursed him and got him back on his feet, fit to fight the war. Some other versions say that during the war, the axle of the chariot’s wheel broke and lest the chariot break down and bring Dasharath on the ground; she is supposed to have used her finger for the axle till the battle was over. King Dasharath was very impressed by her heroism, and granted her two boons, which she kept for a better day.

It is said that every action that one takes has a bearing on ones upbringing or some event of the past (especially childhood) which has moulded him/her the way s/he is as an adult. It was no different in the case of Kaikeyi too.

According to some versions, Kaikeyi’s father, Ashwapati had a rare gift of understanding the language of the birds. But it came with a rider. If he ever told anybody what he understood of the birds’ conversation, then he would lose his life. Once while he was strolling with his wife, he heard the conversation of two swans and had a hearty laugh. This got the queen curious, and she insisted that she be told the contents of the conversation, knowing well the implications of the King’s actions. This led the King to believe, that the Queen did not care for the life of the King and banished her out of the Kingdom. Kaikeyi grew without any maternal influence and always harboured a sense of insecurity from the male community, who she thought were fickle. What if Dasharath did not love her in his later life, as he had other wives too? What if her son, Bharata did not care for her at her old-age? All these thoughts and thanks to Manthara’s (her maid who had accompanied her from her father’s place) fuelling of latent ambitions, were the result of Kaikeyi, seeking two boon’s – one, Bharat to be appointed the King and second, Ram to be banished for fourteen years.

Some versions also say that she did all this under the instructions of Ram himself! According to this version, Ram once confessed to Kaikeyi, that he was Lord Vishnu on earth and he needed to go to the forests to eliminate many a demon and Ravana as part of his duty on earth. For this, could she do something to help him? He also warned her of the implications, and the stigma that would be associated to her name for ages. Kaikeyi could not have said a ‘No’ as she was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu and a stigma on her name was a relatively small sacrifice to be made, to get to serve the Lord himself. It is said that after her death, Kaikeyi found a place at Vaikuntha, the abode of Lord Vishnu.

Yet another version says that Kaikeyi’s father had overheard from some birds that the jungles would soon be full of demons that would hurt the Brahmins and ascetics, which would need a long-term helping hand of Rama. To ensure that Rama spent a lot of time in the jungles, and being aware of Manthara’s character, he ensured that she accompany Kaikeyi, after the wedding. He had full faith in her capabilities, and needless to say that she did live-up to the King’s expectations!

All the versions and many more, lead us to one conclusion. Ram’s exile was destined and pre-ordained. The quintessential step-mother was a figment of an authors imagination or at best just a catalyst, who has been bearing the brunt of it all, since ages!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Why is Revolution not possible in Mumbai?

For quite some time people have been wondering, that in spite of some recent inspirations of revolt, why is it there is no such revolution in Mumbai. Is it that we don’t have reasons? Well we don’t have despots, but there is no dearth of reasons.

The pathetic roads, the three-wheeled menace called autos which don’t want to ply wherever the passenger wants to go, the apathetic government and its never moving machinery, terror-strikes and Rs. 9 lacs/day expense to keep the killer alive, student politics which tells us what to read and what not to in colleges, our moral keepers telling us which festivals to celebrate and which plays not to watch, etc. etc.

The above were just a few which fell off my head without having to rattle it. Coming back to why we can’t have such revolutions.

First we are too busy during the week-days. Breakfast, office, Boss and back home to another boss with travel thrown in between, who has the time? Week-ends, is for household work, men-in-the-kitchen-days, fitness, grocery, children’s skating classes, movie, mall, phew! who has the time again?

Then of course we have the famous ‘chalta-hai’ attitude of ours coupled with ‘what can only I do?’ feeling. Whatever happens to others will happen to me.
With the World Cup on, are you mad to waste time for such things? There is no religion bigger than cricket and after all the condition isn’t that bad, is it? Everything in life can wait.

Finally, and probably the main reason – lack of a Square in Mumbai. Cairo has Tahrir Square, Libya has Green Square and Bahrain has the Pearl Square. Mumbai has no square left, except that little tile on the floor! Have you ever thought that to revolt, just where are the people going to meet in Mumbai?

We have to revolt in blocks. One for the SoBo (South Mumbai), the other for the Western Line, probably in Bandra, then we will need one for Borivali too. I am sure we will not argue on the East vs. West as we aren’t that bad shirkers of responsibility! Then we need one in the Central Line and yet another in Navi Mumbai. Can you imagine a unified revolution in Mumbai at different locations, close to people’s residences or workplaces, to be conducted on week-days, with enough vada-pav and Frankie stalls thrown in?

That’s tough……and that’s why we cannot have a revolution in Mumbai, even though we need one very badly!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Lord Shiva’s Wedding Procession

It is said that when Shiva’s marriage with Parvati was finalised, like all grooms he too was invited with his relatives to the brides place on the day of the wedding.

Since Shiva had no relatives as such, he is supposed to have asked all his friends and acquaintances to accompany him. Since his friends were not from the ‘mainstream civilisation’ of the times, the wedding procession was quite a site. It also reflected on Shiva’s far from homely lifestyle, which to everybody’s horror was definitely horrifying, to say the least.

His wedding attire was tiger-skin for dress and a snake for a necklace. He had ashes smeared over him, and his unkempt hair in matted locks! He was sat atop his vahana, the Nandi bull and the whole sight was a far cry from what any bride’s family would have preferred to see. The members of the wedding procession too were worth a sight. Shiva was accompanied by ghosts, goblins, gnomes and all sorts of weird creatures from the crematorium, where Shiva spent most of his time. Many of them were bedecked with skulls and bones and some of them were smoking hemp!

When the procession reached the doors of Parvati, all the women-folk who had gathered to greet the procession ran away in fear. Parvati’s mother, Menaka, refused to greet such a hideous crowd and a semi-drunk groom! It took a lot of cajoling from Parvati for Shiva to look more worldly and pleasing at least on the wedding day. So to conform to the societal norms, Vishnu and Brahma who were part of the procession, and other gods got together, bathed him with perfumed water, and adorned him with gold, silver and gems! With proper dresses and combed hair, he is supposed to have looked more handsome than Kamdev himself, thus making him more acceptable to his would-be-mother-in-law, Menaka, who was too happy to wed her daughter to the erstwhile mendicant!

 (A 1955 Hindi film, Munimji, has a song ‘Shivji bihane chale palki sajaaike………’ which describes the entire episode very beautifully.)

Shiva’s marriage to Parvati was his second marriage. Earlier Shiva had married Sati, in which Sati had followed Shiva to Mount Kailash and after getting his reluctant consent, had married him. This was more of Shiva giving in to Sati’s worship. This did not make him any more husband than what he already was. He more or less remained the same ascetic and yogic that he was prior to Sati coming to Kailash. He remained far from the society and the worldly ways of life and Sati was content being his wife, nothing more.

But in the second instance, Parvati insisted that he come and wed her in the most proper manner. Shiva and Parvati were to be a worldly couple and the two get married by the Vedic rites, performed by none other than Lord Brahma himself. This was Parvati’s way of educating Shiva, the acceptable norms of a worldly society of which she was a part of and this time; unlike in her past form of Sati, she did not want an ascetic and a yogi for a husband. She wanted a worldly man with all the emotions and longings for a woman. She wanted children, a family and a loving husband. This can also be seen as taming of Shiva in worldly ways. She was going to be his Shakti (power) and the two together would signify the male and female principle of the cosmos.

Hereafter, the saying शक्ति के बिना शिव भी शव के समान हैं meaning ‘Without his Shakti, Shiva is nothing but Shava (corpse)’, would have its true meaning.