Bhikshatana-Soup for the Soul


http://www.deccanheraldepaper.com/

We live in times where begging is a sign of abject poverty or perhaps laziness coupled with lack of self respect. It is generally looked upon as the last resort of an individual who possibly refuses to lead a procreative life.

Yet going on Bhikshatana or a tour of begging was a part of student life and that of the men who belonged to the Brahmana sect of the ancient Indian society. A little trip down our traditional society will reveal that the practice finds its roots in the Varnashrama system that was propounded and followed during Vedic age.

Those were times when people contributed to society in which they lived on the basis of their physical and mental capabilities. The students and Brahmins who expended their time in rites and rituals, research, learning and disseminating knowledge, had little time to take care of the daily logistics of life. Hence, society took it upon itself to sustain such members in their community as and when their help was sought.

Thus, Bhikshatana or seeking of alms came into practice. The seekers of alms would arrive at the doorsteps of their potential donors and call out loudly and humbly for their requirement. The charitable household would take stock of their situation and then the lady of the house would give away one or two items. Usually it would be some food grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts or a length of cloth according to their financial strength.

Rarely though, there were times when the seekers of alms would receive very little or face rejection or derision from the public in general. This experience taught the seekers to accept discourteous or negative response without feeling offended or judgmental. They learned the valuable lesson of humility in the practical way.

Moreover they imbibed the value of curtailing the impulse to save up or hoard for a future time. In other words, Bhikshatana served as soup for the soul to evolve as a mature personality.

Indian culture introduced and included the practice of Bhikshatana variously, with the intent of inducing charitable and humble traits in our society.

Golu 2018


These are some of the pictures from our Golu 2018 captured by some of my dear friends and well wishers. The theme was FLORA. Natural plants, arts and crafts of a varied range have been worked on and have been used to depict the world of flowers and explore its overwhelming global presence in mythology, history , literature and architecture.

Palm Leaf Paper


DHSC_B_MR_11.Sep.2018_pg07

Long long ago in India, when children of your age went to schools known as the Guru Kula they had lots to study just like you but they certainly did not have to write as much as you do! They committed whatever they learned to memory and sometimes noted down some very important definitions or formulas on palm leaves for later reference. You see they did not have note books then as you have them these days! If you are wondering whether they were lucky, unfortunately they are not around here to answer your question but they were certainly an eco-friendly lot as they were not using reams of paper made from trees!!! In such a case you could always argue that the palm leaves they used were also sourced from trees! Very true, indeed! In those days there was really no dearth of palm fronds, besides the rudiments of language like grammar and core subjects like science and mathematics were reduced to verses running into two or four lines. These couplets and quartets captured the essence of the subject in as few words as possible. The student had to understand these formulas which were popularly known as “Sutras” and he needed to memorise them to help him remember of all the aspects of the theory at a later date.

They were tested on the subject from time to time orally just like you are tested, but then all of you also take up a written test to show that you have writing skills too ! Perhaps they were spared of the exercise because processing palm fronds into writing material was a long drawn process.

Centuries before paper was invented our ancestors hit upon the idea of using hardy dried leaves as paper.  They were known as “Patra” which means both letter and leaf in most Indian languages used till date. Students processed palm leaves not only for their use, but also for their teachers and scribes who were engaged in making copies of important manuscripts.

Processing palm leaves was no mean task, but it was certainly fun –filled too! Palm fronds cut freshly from the tree were allowed dry partially for a couple of days in  sunlight and then they were then buried in swamps for a week so that they become sturdy and later on the leaves were washed and dried completely in the shade.

Then they were cut along the borders so that they formed rectangular pages which measured eight to twelve inches in breadth and about an inch or two in height. Some times when longer sheets of palm paper were required they were sewn together using plant fiber.

Once the palm paper was ready for use a fine tipped iron stylus (pencil) was used to etch the words or diagrams on the leaf so that it made a depression without actually damaging the leaf. Then powdered vegetable dyes usually green or charcoal powder made from burnt coconut shells were mixed with sesame oil and rubbed over the leaves in such a way that the colours settle down in the depressions. Then the palm leaves were coated with turmeric powder mixed with sesame oil to add sheen and strength to the leaves. Then they were bundled together and wrapped in silk or cotton cloth for safe keeping. Our ancient texts like the Vedas, Puranas, the epics, scripts of plays and treatises have been passed on to us on palm paper.

Possibly this is the reason why we are able to see manuscripts preserved in this manner for over a millennium in a fairly good condition in spite of the gross neglect they are subjected to.

Over a period of time when paper was invented and mechanization made it possible for it to be easily available paper made from palm leaves made an exit. Today these processed leaves are used as canvass on which creative artists showcase their talent.

If you happen to be traveling in Orissa make sure you visit a small village called Raghuraipur in the district of Puri. There are several craftsmen and artists who make a living there by etching wonderful designs on processed palm leaves. Even little children in the village know how to make the longer lasting palm paper. Now that you have an insight into the method, why don’t you try making your own name plate on processed palm leaf?

Connecting Dots, Spiritually


http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-metroplus/connecting-dots-spiritually/article22409107.ece006.JPG

Every festival is celebrated with grandeur in our country. So isDhanur maasa which falls between December and January. The south celebrates this season both spiritually and musically.

One cannot miss the mellifluous music that rise from our temples early in the mornings.

Sabhas and music halls compete with each other to provide a stage for both the established and upcoming artists alike. Similarly, one can not miss the art of rangoli/ kholam designs either, which are drawn in front of homes at the crack of dawn.

These days one sees them drawn out even in apartment complexes and gated communities. Some commission rangoli artists in their social circles to draw different rangolis for each day of the month.

If you are wondering what is special about Dhanur Maasarangolis, VR Bhat the Archaka at the Ganesh temple on New BEL Road explains, “Ideally a rangoli should be drawn in front of homes every day, except when the household is mourning. Creative and colourful rangolis can earmark special days in the family and festivals. Patterns based on dots, instil a sense of harmony and connectivity.”

Dr Shatavadhani R Ganesh explains the origin of rangoli, “What we call rangoli today, has its origins in the Sanskrit word Rangavalli. It means creeper-like lines on a stage. They have been a part of Indian art and culture ever since Vedic times and have been used as embellishments and as an expression of aesthetics and faith.”

On the origins of this art, he says, “The lines are blurred between the classical and folk form of the art, leaving us guessing. The geometric Mandalas of Vedic times paved the way for some of the Rangoli patterns drawn to this day.”

The constellations with their relationship to the cosmos, the power of the forces of nature have been symbolically, geometrically and graphically represented as a rangoli, which are also called Yantras.

Sheela Sankaran, a student of Indian Art and Aesthetics, Mumbai University notes, “The Margazhi month in the solar calendar has been earmarked for the art because south India is at latitude of 32 degrees from the Equator. Since this solstice brings the earth closest to the sun, our ancestors decided to highlight the season by infusing music and art in the Rangoli form to celebrate the season.”

It is heartening to see that a few homes in our city still draw out these intricate designs in front of their homes.

Syamala Subramaniam, a 77-year-old home maker reveals she has “not missed drawing a kolam outside my home since I was seven. I enjoyed making huge designs as I had time and space. Ever since I shifted to Bengaluru, my rangolis have become smaller.”

Great Sanskrit Poet – Mahakavi Kalidasa


If one hopes to travel the globe, delve deeply into the psyche of fellow human beings and derive an understanding of history, tradition, culture and civilization one lifetime will prove to be insufficient. Yet if one seeks the solution in the world of literature one is seldom disappointed for literature holds a mirror to life.

II Kavyeshu natakam ramyam, tatra ramya Shakuntala

Tatrapi chaturthaha ankaha tatra shlokaha chatushtayam. II

Drama is the most charming form of literature. Shakuntala is the most charming play. The fourth act of the play happens to be the best while the fourth shloka takes the cake.

Those of you who are familiar with the lines will realise that I am speaking of our greatest poet Mahakavi Kalidasa who is also toted as Kavi Kula Guru. The high praise allocated to the fourth stanza of the fourth act of the play lies in the fact that Kalidasa was subtly breaking news to Kanva maharishi about the pregnancy of his adopted daughter Shakuntala. She had married king Dushyanta in the Gandharva style during his absence. Kanva is informed of the same through an invisible aerial voice. The ability to tactfully render sensitive information about an unconventional situation to a person who was detached from family life forms the climax of the play. The story culminates with the union of the estranged couple after a dramatic course of events. Kalidasa manages to do the needful aesthetically through a mere couplet. This is perhaps one of the reasons why he is considered to be the greatest litterateurs of all times. One Subhashita says,

 

II Pura kaveenaam gananaa prasange kanishtika adhish titha Kalidasa

Adhyaapi tat tulya kavehe abhavaath anaamika sa arthavathi babhoova II

“Once upon a time when great poets were counted, the little finger was raised first and the name of Kalidasa was counted. The ring finger which is the next in sequence is called anaamika which means nameless in the Sanskrit language. It remains in the same nameless status to this day, because there is not another poet who has measured up to the greatest poet, namely Kalidasa”.

Though Kalidasa’s play Abhijnana Shakuntalam has been evaluated as his magnum opus by Von Goethe the greatest poet of Germany who was also his sincere critic and fan, one cannot really discount the other works of the great poet. In his play Malavikagnimitram, Kalidasa chronicled portions of contemporary history by giving an account of the political relationship between the ancient countries of Vidisha and Vidarbha by weaving a romantic theme. The twice married king Agnimitra of Vidisha falls in love with the princess of Vidarbha called Malavika by merely looking at her portrait. Later on Malavika happens to enter his principal wife Dharini’s entourage. Then, over a course of events punctuated with steady humour the affair is solemnized into a marriage of love and political convenience.

Kalidasa’s other popular play is Vikramorvashiyam. It is believed to celebrate his contemporary Gupta king Vikramaditya. The poet improvises on a love story found in the Puranas between the mortal king Pururavas and the celestial nymph Urvashi. Gods, demigods and mortals who populate the story with a romantic theme not only captures varied human emotions but also acts as a guidebook to the flora and fauna in the Himalayan slopes.

Besides being a playwright, he authored two of the most brilliant Mahakavyas or epic poems Raghuvamsham and KumaraSambhavam. In Raghuvamsham the Mahakavi traces the lives, times and values of the kings of the solar dynasty over nineteen cantos. It begins with Vivaswat, Manu, Dilipa, Raghu, Aja, Dasharatha, Rama, Kusha et al all the way up to Agnivarna through magnificent couplets.

Kumara Sambhavam revolves round the life of lord Shiva, who went on to become a recluse after his beloved wife Dakshayini jumped into the sacrificial fire unable to digest the insults heaped on her by her father. Dakshayini reincarnates as Parvathi at the behest of the Gods. She woos Shiva and begets a son who kills Tarakasura who was terrorizing the three worlds. Kalidasa indulges in some of his very best word painting in this epic poem.

Kalidasa was an all-rounder in the world of literature. Historians believe that he must have authored at least forty works in the areas of poetry, drama, criticism and commentary. Meghadutam, Ritusamharam, Kali Stotram, Shyamala Dandakam, Chandikadandaka stotra, Kavya nataka alankaram among others, happen to be a few of his works that are available today.

The number of influences, adaptations and improvisations of classical literature is omnipresent in the works of the Mahakavi. The content of Kalidasa’s works have been invariably sourced from Vedas, Puranas and the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Yet one cannot accuse him of plagiarism because he uses the broad framework and storyline from the original and lends his own special touch to his works by taking ample poetic liberty. He mellowed and molded his characters in such a way that they appealed to ones finer sensibilities and went on to become popular and set new standards. His readers and viewers prefer his version and interpretation of characters as compared to the original.

Kalidasa was unique and second to none in terms of style and presentation. In fact the phrase upama kalidasasya speaks in volumes about his ability to use apt similes to make a point. It is astonishing to note we know very little about Kalidasa who achieved great feats in every conceivable field of Sanskrit literature. Not much is known about him beyond his pen name. Kalidasa just means, the servant or a follower of goddess Kali which is but a common nomenclature. Folklore believes that Kalidasa was an unlettered shepherd who was tricked into marrying an erudite princess. When she discovered his ignorance, she bid him to claim her only after acquiring some basic education. Accordingly, Kalidasa prayed to goddess Kali vehemently and became enlightened with her blessings. History spans the date of Kalidasa over six centuries based on internal references in his works, historical and critical, and from inscriptions and edicts. It is obvious that any mortal could not have lived over six hundred years. Yet the fact remains that he must have lived sometime during this time bracket. His nativity is ambiguous though it is believed that he must have spent a lot of time in Ujjain because he gives a very detailed description of the place. Critics are divided about his patrons too. While some deem him to be one of the nine gems in the court of King Vikramaditya Gupta there are others who think Raja Bhoja patronised him. Stories about his death also vary from being a victim of jealousy of king Bhoja, to the greed of a courtesan who sheltered him.

Though there is abundant folk lore attached to the poet’s time, life and social status none of them are validated with evidence. Most things that we know about his life, place, date and works are sourced from later references, inscriptions and a deeper understanding of their works identified by their unique patterns. Western and modern historians and critics attribute this drawback to the sloppiness of Indians, who did not believe in documenting events or maintaining chronological records. Just about every detail of his life dwells in the realms of speculation.

Today Kalidasa and his works have been limited to academicians and their students. Most prescribed textbooks give limited and selective biographical information about Kalidasa who was an author, poet, dramatist and critic. A student or reader of the Mahakavi has to realise that there is more to it than what meets the eye. The person may be very different from the persona. Hence it will be in the best interests of the literary works not to judge them at the elementary stage of reading. One would do well to read all the possible works of the writer and then read about the person. This measure will help students and the reader to draw a holistic and mature opinion of the litterateur instead of being led by the nose.

We must realise that Indian achievers of the past were sensible and self-effacing people who maintained a low profile. Kalidasa must have belonged to this group of accomplished people with sterling qualities, who dedicated his works to the immediate society he lived in. The fact that his works have stood the test of time and has been translated into many languages of the world and the people world over want to know more about him speaks in volumes of his caliber both at the personal and professional levels.

A connoisseur of art and literature is called a rasika in Sanskrit. It is said that a consistent rasika can turn into a sahridaya or a good hearted person over a period of time. A passionate student of Kalidasa will find that he or she who begins savouring the rasas which are a combination of thoughts feelings and emotions becomes a rasika and has actually signed up for a lifelong rendezvous with the subject. Reading will help them introspect, relate and act to make a difference to the world they live in the capacity of a sahridaya!

If one hopes to travel the globe, delve deeply into the psyche of fellow human beings and derive an understanding of history, tradition, culture and civilization one lifetime will prove to be insufficient. Yet if one seeks the solution in the world of literature one is seldom disappointed for literature holds a mirror to life.

II Kavyeshu natakam ramyam, tatra ramya Shakuntala

Tatrapi chaturthaha ankaha tatra shlokaha chatushtayam. II

Drama is the most charming form of literature. Shakuntala is the most charming play. The fourth act of the play happens to be the best while the fourth shloka takes the cake.

Those of you who are familiar with the lines will realise that I am speaking of our greatest poet Mahakavi Kalidasa who is also toted as Kavi Kula Guru. The high praise allocated to the fourth stanza of the fourth act of the play lies in the fact that Kalidasa was subtly breaking news to Kanva maharishi about the pregnancy of his adopted daughter Shakuntala. She had married king Dushyanta in the Gandharva style during his absence. Kanva is informed of the same through an invisible aerial voice. The ability to tactfully render sensitive information about an unconventional situation to a person who was detached from family life forms the climax of the play. The story culminates with the union of the estranged couple after a dramatic course of events. Kalidasa manages to do the needful aesthetically through a mere couplet. This is perhaps one of the reasons why he is considered to be the greatest litterateurs of all times. One Subhashita says,

 

II Pura kaveenaam gananaa prasange kanishtika adhish titha Kalidasa

Adhyaapi tat tulya kavehe abhavaath anaamika sa arthavathi babhoova II

“Once upon a time when great poets were counted, the little finger was raised first and the name of Kalidasa was counted. The ring finger which is the next in sequence is called anaamika which means nameless in the Sanskrit language. It remains in the same nameless status to this day, because there is not another poet who has measured up to the greatest poet, namely Kalidasa”.

Though Kalidasa’s play Abhijnana Shakuntalam has been evaluated as his magnum opus by Von Goethe the greatest poet of Germany who was also his sincere critic and fan, one cannot really discount the other works of the great poet. In his play Malavikagnimitram, Kalidasa chronicled portions of contemporary history by giving an account of the political relationship between the ancient countries of Vidisha and Vidarbha by weaving a romantic theme. The twice married king Agnimitra of Vidisha falls in love with the princess of Vidarbha called Malavika by merely looking at her portrait. Later on Malavika happens to enter his principal wife Dharini’s entourage. Then, over a course of events punctuated with steady humour the affair is solemnized into a marriage of love and political convenience.

Kalidasa’s other popular play is Vikramorvashiyam. It is believed to celebrate his contemporary Gupta king Vikramaditya. The poet improvises on a love story found in the Puranas between the mortal king Pururavas and the celestial nymph Urvashi. Gods, demigods and mortals who populate the story with a romantic theme not only captures varied human emotions but also acts as a guidebook to the flora and fauna in the Himalayan slopes.

Besides being a playwright, he authored two of the most brilliant Mahakavyas or epic poems Raghuvamsham and KumaraSambhavam. In Raghuvamsham the Mahakavi traces the lives, times and values of the kings of the solar dynasty over nineteen cantos. It begins with Vivaswat, Manu, Dilipa, Raghu, Aja, Dasharatha, Rama, Kusha et al all the way up to Agnivarna through magnificent couplets.

Kumara Sambhavam revolves round the life of lord Shiva, who went on to become a recluse after his beloved wife Dakshayini jumped into the sacrificial fire unable to digest the insults heaped on her by her father. Dakshayini reincarnates as Parvathi at the behest of the Gods. She woos Shiva and begets a son who kills Tarakasura who was terrorizing the three worlds. Kalidasa indulges in some of his very best word painting in this epic poem.

Kalidasa was an all-rounder in the world of literature. Historians believe that he must have authored at least forty works in the areas of poetry, drama, criticism and commentary. Meghadutam, Ritusamharam, Kali Stotram, Shyamala Dandakam, Chandikadandaka stotra, Kavya nataka alankaram among others, happen to be a few of his works that are available today.

The number of influences, adaptations and improvisations of classical literature is omnipresent in the works of the Mahakavi. The content of Kalidasa’s works have been invariably sourced from Vedas, Puranas and the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Yet one cannot accuse him of plagiarism because he uses the broad framework and storyline from the original and lends his own special touch to his works by taking ample poetic liberty. He mellowed and molded his characters in such a way that they appealed to ones finer sensibilities and went on to become popular and set new standards. His readers and viewers prefer his version and interpretation of characters as compared to the original.

Kalidasa was unique and second to none in terms of style and presentation. In fact the phrase upama kalidasasya speaks in volumes about his ability to use apt similes to make a point. It is astonishing to note we know very little about Kalidasa who achieved great feats in every conceivable field of Sanskrit literature. Not much is known about him beyond his pen name. Kalidasa just means, the servant or a follower of goddess Kali which is but a common nomenclature. Folklore believes that Kalidasa was an unlettered shepherd who was tricked into marrying an erudite princess. When she discovered his ignorance, she bid him to claim her only after acquiring some basic education. Accordingly, Kalidasa prayed to goddess Kali vehemently and became enlightened with her blessings. History spans the date of Kalidasa over six centuries based on internal references in his works, historical and critical, and from inscriptions and edicts. It is obvious that any mortal could not have lived over six hundred years. Yet the fact remains that he must have lived sometime during this time bracket. His nativity is ambiguous though it is believed that he must have spent a lot of time in Ujjain because he gives a very detailed description of the place. Critics are divided about his patrons too. While some deem him to be one of the nine gems in the court of King Vikramaditya Gupta there are others who think Raja Bhoja patronised him. Stories about his death also vary from being a victim of jealousy of king Bhoja, to the greed of a courtesan who sheltered him.

Though there is abundant folk lore attached to the poet’s time, life and social status none of them are validated with evidence. Most things that we know about his life, place, date and works are sourced from later references, inscriptions and a deeper understanding of their works identified by their unique patterns. Western and modern historians and critics attribute this drawback to the sloppiness of Indians, who did not believe in documenting events or maintaining chronological records. Just about every detail of his life dwells in the realms of speculation.

Today Kalidasa and his works have been limited to academicians and their students. Most prescribed textbooks give limited and selective biographical information about Kalidasa who was an author, poet, dramatist and critic. A student or reader of the Mahakavi has to realise that there is more to it than what meets the eye. The person may be very different from the persona. Hence it will be in the best interests of the literary works not to judge them at the elementary stage of reading. One would do well to read all the possible works of the writer and then read about the person. This measure will help students and the reader to draw a holistic and mature opinion of the litterateur instead of being led by the nose.

We must realise that Indian achievers of the past were sensible and self-effacing people who maintained a low profile. Kalidasa must have belonged to this group of accomplished people with sterling qualities, who dedicated his works to the immediate society he lived in. The fact that his works have stood the test of time and has been translated into many languages of the world and the people world over want to know more about him speaks in volumes of his caliber both at the personal and professional levels.

A connoisseur of art and literature is called a rasika in Sanskrit. It is said that a consistent rasika can turn into a sahridaya or a good hearted person over a period of time. A passionate student of Kalidasa will find that he or she who begins savouring the rasas which are a combination of thoughts feelings and emotions becomes a rasika and has actually signed up for a lifelong rendezvous with the subject. Reading will help them introspect, relate and act to make a difference to the world they live in the capacity of a sahridaya!

What is in a Name eh?


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/638300/whats-name-eh.html

I quite marvel and also agree with everything William Shakespeare penned with the exception of one celebrated line. I always have a feeling that if he had just about peeked into our subcontinent, he would have certainly refrained from making a grand statement about the redundancy of names. It is obvious he was innocent about our penchant for a thousand names for most of our deities. The less important gods and goddesses who did not merit the haloed Sahasranama were assigned at least a 108 names.

The abundant populace of our country, who wished not to be left behind, traditionally gave a minimum of two names and a maximum of five names to their wards. The wards are named after the personal favourites in the pantheon, the family god, elders in the family, role models and even movie stars — sometimes complete with their respective surnames. Then, parents come up with an official name based on the horoscope or numerology hoping to realise all their dreams from the child bearing the lucky name.

At the end of all this exercise, each member in the family and neighbourhood comes up with a tacky pet name for the infant which almost always sticks for a lifetime. As if these names were not enough, children always invariably attract nicknames through schooling and college life. The girls, mostly, take the surname of their husband post marriage and are often renamed after the nuptials to match their spouses name.

Such being the case, when the police come for verifying details given in the passport application form, nine on ten people whose names have been given as referral will have to be apprised about the “official name” or the quintessential “daak naam,” especially if you happen to be of Bengali or Oriya origin. Then there is the other category of people who create aliases for their creative works, social media and international work desks.

As if these were not enough, our birth certificate, mark sheet, PAN card, bank account, Aadhar card and other documents sometimes have variations of the official name, and we Indians know such anomalies are a part and parcel of our lives. In fact, there is an entrepreneurial money-spinning industry out there which helps people to correct personal  data in the documents that matter, so that they reflect uniformity!

But how was the Bard to know all this when he wrote, “What is in a name? A rose called by any other name would smell as sweet!”