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?

Take a Plunge into the Heart of Arts


Published in EDUVERSE- JNANADEGULA special supplement of DECCAN HERALD on Saturday 26th May 2018

By S. RADHA PRATHI

The air in the higher education scene is certainly undergoing a subtle change, if the recent response to the results of CET is anything to go by. The reaction of the students of second PUC who have taken up the exams has been surprisingly lukewarm, considering the fact that it had been held a sacred ritual for every student of science for almost two decades. Apparently there is more to it than the eye can see at the outset. Though the confusions and pandemonium connected with the examination in the last two years or the reservation policy appear to be the obvious culprits there are other latent factors that are working on the minds of the Indian populace.

Even as early as the last academic year the educational system represented by the colleges followed the unwritten rule of taking students with a high score into the science stream and phasing out to the commerce and arts streams respectively as the total marks of the board examinations tapered down. The parents and students accepted this unwritten dictum and tried very hard to get into the sciences to prove their worth.  The student tribe as a race flinched at the idea of taking up arts as they fear that they may not be respected in their peer group, especially in the urban areas across India. Well they cannot be really blamed for their conviction because an invisible and unlabelled stigma has been attached to the subject.

While the commerce stream invariably took the middle path and played it safe, it has been the arts stream that has been bearing the brunt of it all except in a few rare cases. If a brilliant student chose to study arts in the past he invariably aimed at taking up the civil service examinations. Then there were others who took pride in obtaining and honours in BA in the past, but the mediocre students pursued the same to embellish their names with a degree which could be obtained without much strain.

A study reveals that on an average in India, the arts stream has an astounding number of female students the ratio showing almost eight girl students for every two male students. Most of these graduates in arts have been showing a leaning towards teaching or have reclined back in the glory of just being a graduate. Even those who pursue their higher studies through distance education show an affinity for the arts as it facilitated self study and gave them scope to answer the papers in the vernaculars. Usually, students who choose to take up under graduate and post graduate courses through correspondence courses opt for arts to serve their purpose of completing a degree course.

The mindset of the regular students of the undergraduate courses in the arts stream did not reveal a very different tale. In fact when several lecturers and heads of institutions were asked their opinion on the arts courses they were certainly not ecstatic about it. They unanimously opined that only the dregs of very academically poor students take up arts and this trend has eroded the interest of both the teachers and the students over the years.

Even the best of colleges revealed that barring a handful of sincere students who were passionate about their subjects the rest of them took it for a lark. It appeared that the students who dappled with combinations that highlight the study of literature in several languages, journalism and psychology were considered to be more astute among others who chose the customary combinations like  political science, sociology, History etc.

Of late there has been a noticeable change in the attitude towards studying arts at least in the urban sector. It is important to note that this trend is catching on only among the elite and intellectual urbanites who have had an international exposure. The rest of the brethren are pursuing the course because it is cheaper, easily available, can be pursued with or without guidance and most importantly as everyone consulted on the issue chimed in that one does not have to study the “dreadful subject” called mathematics.

The present craze to pave way for a budding career in the arts stream should not be misinterpreted for lack of opportunities in the past. One glance at the subjects and several combinations offered by the PU Board of Karnataka and various universities in the state reveals that there has been absolutely no dearth of subjects right from day one, but colleges that came under their wings never risked to experiment beyond one or two common combinations.

However of late this trend is undergoing a gradual change as more and more enterprising and gifted students are aiming at becoming Art Historians, Archaeologists, Theologians, Anthropologists, Curators, Copy Writers. The colleges in the state are recognizing the need to cater to the need of these aspiring students as a record number of application forms have been filled out for these courses in almost every college.

At present the serious students of arts are migrating to America, Australia and England to follow their dreams. Some of the students who have dared to tread the “untrodden path” have found that it is not only “Cool” to study Arts and if pursued in right earnest it can woo a lot of “Hot” money too. Go take a plunge if your heart beats for the arts.

 

 

Bird’s Eye View of Sanskrit


https://www.jnana.com/blog/Sanskrit/

To many of us, the word “Sanskrit” suggests a wonderful language which belonged to a hoary past. We know that India is the land in which this wonderful language originated. Ancient Indians were well versed in the language. The Vedas, the Puranas, the classical texts – The Ramayana and the Mahabharata were written in this language and they have been recognised and revered by people across the globe even to this day. The Indian way of living, its ethos and flavour is directly related to the language and what it has to offer by way of classics and literature. Just about every subject under the sun has been covered in one way or another in some of these texts. Linguists and scientists marvel at the precise nature of this language. The inherent binary code of the letters in the language has been discovered to be compatible for codification and for use by computers. All the contemporary Indian languages have been derived from this source, with the exception of Tamil.

This ancient language has a hoary past running into millenniums hence it is very difficult to arrive at some consensus about the origin of the language. Traditionally, Indians, believe that the language was initially used by our pantheon of 33 crore gods to communicate amongst themselves. Hence Sanskrit is also called Daiva Bhasha or the lingo of the gods. Later on, the language was gifted to mankind by goddess Saraswathi and hence Sanskrit is also known as Geervana Bharathi.

The fairy tale like origin of the language apparently had few takers amongst the hardcore linguists across the globe who think that Sanskrit evolved from Prakruth derived from the sounds of nature. They believe that long, long ago when man evolved into an intelligent being, he found the necessity to communicate his thoughts, feelings and ideas. He probably played “dumb charades” and sometimes took to hieroglyphics to put across his thoughts and aped sounds from nature in order to communicate. Over a period of time the language was organised and honed till it reached the point of perfection. The phonology, syntax, vocabulary and grammar of the language has the world awestruck with its finesse and completeness.

When an ancient language has so many feathers in its cap (or is it crown?) one would think that the language is on velvet and nothing can ever go wrong in its kingdom. Yet sadly enough, we have come a long away from such a pristine state of affairs. A brief study of the history of the country will reveal that, we as a nation have been introduced to varied cultures and civilisation over the course of history. The invaders left their stamp behind that influenced our way of living and thinking to a large extent. Lots of factors changed. Yet the change cannot be considered complete as we have retained the basic Indian values despite innumerable onslaughts. Perhaps it is at this juncture, we should recognise the power of the Sanskrit language which helped us to carry forward the basis of Indian-ness for it has been the cementing factor which has sustained the spirit in the oral and written format.

All of you are perhaps aware that Sanskrit is one of the most ancient languages in the world which is complete in its own way. Have you ever wondered about the origin of this language? As students, whenever you are taught something new or asked to learn a novel concept, you may have found yourself wondering whoever started it all. Some of your questions may have interesting answers and some may not.

If you have ever wondered about Sanskrit, well, there is a very interesting tale about the beginning of the language in our ancient texts. It is said that lord Shiva lapsed into one of his ecstatic danced to the beat of the Dumroo, a small percussion instrument (see picture alongside) and several variations of sounds flowed out of the instrument. It is said these letters were gathered in this order and used as the basic letters of the language and were represented in the ‘Devanagari’ script.

The sound and the symbols of the language were effectively used by the people to compile a comprehensible vocabulary and record their observations and inferences in the form of Vedas which are called Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharvana Vedas. A close reading of the Vedas will reveal that they not only give guidelines to lead a life that emphasises on living in harmony with nature and fellow human beings but also have a wealth of information on just about every topic under the sun.

A few copies of the Vedic literature was etched on processed palm leaves by scholarly students for reference, but most of them committed the entire text to memory and passed on the texts orally to their juniors. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why, we do not have too many copies of the entire text available as on date.

Many a time some words were lost in mis-pronunciation and lapse of memory. In such cases, people resorted to the basic rules of grammar which helped them to supplement the blank with an appropriate word. This procedure is almost akin to solving a crossword puzzle where you have a clue of both the meaning of the word and the number of letters in the answer word.

Our ancestors had evolved a wonderful way of understanding and learning a language. Panini an ancient grammarian who is believed to have lived in eighth century BC formulated 3964 “Aphorisms” also known as “Sutras” each running into a word or a phrase. If a student of Sanskrit grammar learned these sutras by heart, his language was sure of becoming impeccable. These sutras dealt with different aspects of language like grammar, analogy, vocabulary, communicative language among other things which facilitated the learning of the language almost faultlessly.

The fact that there have been little or no revisions in the basic rules of the language ever since reflect on the level of perfection that had been attained by the grammarian. The famous Vedas, Puranas, epics, classics and even contemporary literature have been written in the language which subscribes to these rules. Perhaps, it is features like consistency and the completeness of the language that keep it going on till this day despite so many setbacks.

Get More of Methi


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/661071/get-more-methi.html

Radha Prathi Feb 23 2018, 22:19 IST

Fenugreek or methi, as we know it, possibly originated in the Mediterranean region. It is interesting to note that the ubiquitous seeds in most Indian cuisine were actually used for embalming by the Egyptians, while the Greeks and Romans used it for cattle fodder.

The tiny bitter seeds can add a rich aroma, colour and flavour when used in various recipes. However, it is best not to use the seeds as they are. Roast them over a slow fire before adding them to any dish. If you want to use it in the powdered form, follow the same procedure. If you want to grind the seeds into the dish, soak it overnight, preferably with a pinch of salt to get a smooth paste. If you want to use methi seeds for seasoning, add them to the oil when it is at maximum heat and take it off immediately. When you grind batter for dosa, make sure that you soak a teaspoon of methi seeds along with urad dal.

For those of you who are hard pressed for time, here are a few tips to keep your methi masala ready:

Roast methi, jeera and dhaniya seeds in one is to two is to four ratio and powder the spices with a half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Toss a teaspoonful of the spice mix in your curries or rice preparations just before you turn off the flame and mix it well. This will lend a tasty and healthy twist to your cooking.

If you have lots of curry leaves at home, wash and dry them. Add a teaspoon of roasted methi seeds to the dried leaves, powder them and use this to season your sambhar or chutneys.

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!

Sky is the Limit For Unshackled Women


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/600038/sky-limit-unshackled-women.html

The world of women has always been oscillating, especially in our sub-continent. Recorded history and sociology vouch for the fact that women were enlightened and emancipated in the best possible manner in the early Vedic ages. Conditions regressed in the later periods, only to deteriorate steadily. Women were weaned from the right to education, equality, economics and even dignity.

Foreign invasions and inland political insecurities which prompted the use of the purdah system caught on to the point of shrouding our sisters in some parts of the country till date.

Dowry system which was paved with the intention of passing on the rightful fraction of the family heirlooms and property took demonic proportions which started smouldering and singeing young women in their marriages. The rigid caste system, polygamy and the system of honour killing almost decimated the status of women to non-entities.

Our society slowly fell into a decadent pattern that proved to be a dreadful nightmare for women in particular. So much so that even five centuries ago, there were formulae for bringing up children. A separate set of rules for sons and daughters. By the time they were responsible young adults, they were prepared to slip into their slots and play their part within and outside their households. This methodology worked quite well through several centuries.

Several centuries later, the fairer sex stepped out of their hearths and homes pursuing education and professions. They did face teething problems till they emerged successfully. Then the trend became an accepted norm.

Young women blossomed at every given opportunity while their less accomplished sisters experienced the much needed exposure. This encouraged them to dream for a bigger platform for their daughters. If this phenomenon of getting better with each passing generation were to become a reality, then the world we live in will transform into Utopia.

Alas such is not the case. Parenting has become a challenge. Despite all the talks and convictions about creating a level playing ground for children of either gender, the harsh truth remains contrary. To be fair to parents of our sub-continent, many of them do walk their talk. There are lakhs of couples who have parented only one girl child and have helped her achieve wisely and well. Yet, sadly the fact remains that many of these young women are considered to be round pegs in square holes because the world at large openly or secretly consider them to be second class citizens.

Freedom for girl child

More than ever, there is a serious threat to the security and freedom of the girl child, especially in urban set ups. We are living in times where stories of molestation, rape and the fairer sex being subjected to indignities have started making headlines almost on a daily basis. While rationalists would like to smother this news content as the hype created by media, we must also remember that there can be no smoke without fire.

Let us face facts, looks like we have reached a stage where debauchery has begun to become a byword in our country. At one glance it is obvious that there is something essentially wrong in the way we bring up our children. It is not just about gender inequality which begins at the foetal stage.

The health and education sectors which make a staple contribution during the formative years wallow in corruption. The families and immediate society which moulds the child’s thinking and shapes its character unthinkingly imposes its biased convictions and baseless theories which undermine its personality in the long run.

Intrinsic human values like truth and compassion have given way to superficiality and wanton display of materialism. Certificates and documents have substituted learning and imbibing knowledge. The global village which leaves us spoilt for choices have made us blind to the positive qualities of our vicinity. There seems to be no censor over the entertainment sector which is dishing out brain candy and promoting medieval beliefs and superstitions. The scenario is bleak.

Despite this drawback, it is heartening to note that quite a decent number of the fairer sex in our cities have not only managed to survive but also thrive. If women can stand up against all odds and prove their mettle, just imagine, how much more they can achieve if they are unshackled of obstacles? The sky will be the limit!