Power of The Puranas


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Our Puranas are nothing but a compilation of stories which are metaphorical in nature. Listening to them or reading them for merely entertainment value can at best keep us amused. Ruminating over them and interpreting them in terms of situations can help us deal with quandaries of our lives in an informed manner. The necessity to look upon these fables beyond the frills and fancies has been put across very lucidly in the Bhagavata Purana.

Dhundhukari was the wayward foster son of a pious Brahmin Atmadeva. Perhaps he was genetically programmed to become a denigrated delinquent wastrel because of the nature of his birth. His mother Dhundhuli was not interested in bearing children. When she was asked to eat a divine fruit  to help her become a mother she fed it to a cow, pretended to be pregnant and went on to make a deal with her pregnant sister Mriduli. When her sister delivered a baby boy she led her husband to believe that her sister’s baby was theirs. The cow gave birth to a human child and was adopted by Atmadeva. The boys were pampered and sent to the best of teachers. While Gokarna thrived on education, Dhundhukari did not seem to learn much. He was more interested in frivolous activities. He was an antithesis of Gokarna. He lacked ethics and values. He distressed his parents with his debauchery. Atmadeva retired into Vanaprastha. Dhundhuli, who was ensnared in the web of deceit committed suicide. Gokarna also left his foster home in search of greater knowledge. This development only made Dhundhukari more decadent. He would stoop to any level to keep his addiction for wine and women alive. Once, the women, whose company he kept, ganged up  and killed him. His unrequited soul wandered about terrorizing those who crossed his path. Once when Gokarna returned home he learned of the new developments. He advised the ghost of Dhundhukari to take up austerity and listen to the narration of Bhagavata Purana.

Dhundhukari did as instructed. At the end of the session he was personally liberated by the lord. When Gokarna was puzzled by the unexpected development, the lord clarified the matter. True, Dhundhukari had been depraved, but he had also made a genuine attempt to correct himself. He listened to the Purana with rapt attention and reflected on it with devotion which redeemed him from his profligate existence.

 

Musings on a Maidless Morning


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Every time our maid takes off without compunction or notice for valid and invalid reasons, I promise myself to buy myself an Alladin’s lamp. The genie would solve all my problems. However that has remained in the domains of wishful thinking till date. I have often wondered if the brainy Jeeves could materialize and shimmer in to do my chores with the same élan with which he helps his young master to sail out of troubles. Yet the mere memory of his subtly sly ways to achieve his agenda at any cost makes me think twice about my choice.

I remember what Letitia  Baldridge once said, “ When in doubt look what everyone else is doing.” Since I know that practically everyone in my radar is bearing crosses of different densities on maid miseries, I practically have nowhere to look.  So, I decided to travel down the aisles of history and literature and tried to figure out what has gone wrong collectively with our generation of employers of domestic help? Why is it that we are not able to awaken a spirit of loyalty amongst our helpers like our ancestors did?

We certainly do not expect the likes of the nursemaid like Panna Dhai who quietly replaced her own bundle of joy in the place of the baby prince in waiting of Mewar only to be killed mercilessly. Nor do we expect a reliable slave like Jamal ud din Yaqut who stood by Razia Sultana through thick and thin.  I am sure that none of us expect the cruel alacrity displayed by Malik Kafur in the movie Padmavat when he killed two royals in response to a question that was mouthed in half jest by his brand new master.

Following feudal system or enslaving individuals or practising bonded labour is completely unthinkable, for the law of the land forbids it. Movies, soap operas and novels which showcase “old faithfuls” do not seem to have inspired the blue collared lot, nor has all the entertainment been  able to educate employers on the secret of retaining employees successfully. Common sense quotients like regular increments, generous gifts, timely loans and advance payments do not seem to change their ideas of accountability.

House helps have become a tribe who can be loved or hated but can never be ignored. It will certainly do us a world of good when we accept that they are also people like us and they do need to take off. Never mind if they disappear way too often. So the long and short of it is to just figure out a way to function well in their absence. Then, watch out for Zen like calmness that will ensconce your person once you get into the Swalpa Adjust Madkoli mode!

 

Tactlessness Can Be Hurtful


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Sometimes, we end up saying or doing tactless things with the best of intentions in mind. Our idea boomerangs and shows us in bad light. A little introspection will reveal that lack of right approach and choice of wrong words land us in such unpleasant situations.

The plight of sage Jaabali is one such as recorded in the Ramayana. When prince Bharata knew that his mother Kaikeyi was the architect of the twin catastrophe that struck Ayodhya, he decided to go to the forest and impress upon Rama to return from exile.

An entourage of family, well-wishers and ministers followed him. Repeated requests by Bharata pleading Rama to return were turned down by the Ikshavaku prince.

At that point of time, Jaabaali, an advisor in the court of Ayodhya, took it upon himself to convince Rama. He pointed out that it would amount to folly if the prince turned down the kingdom, especially in the new scenario when Kaikeyi and Bharata wanted him to assume throne. When Rama refused to breach his promise, Jaabaali he discounted the value of the promise of Rama in the altered circumstances.

Jaabaali felt emboldened by the calm attitude of the exiled prince and started elucidating his point with a very insensitive example. He said that people perform Shraaddha for their forefathers and feed Brahmins in the belief of satiating their dead. If such a practice had any genuine value attached to it, one could also perform Shraaddha to people going away on a long journey and then there would be no need for them to eat on their way.

When Jaabaali tried to ply his point using such tactless examples, he ended up enraging Rama. Raghava who was unperturbed when his crowning ceremony was cancelled and sent on exile, was enraged by the insinuations of Jaabaali. Rama, who was determined to redeem his promise to his father, actually faulted his sire for having entertained an atheist and foolhardy advisor like Jabaali in his court.

Jaabaali confessed that he had resorted to nihilistic ways in the hope of changing Raghava’s mind following which he sought the latter’s forgiveness.

Path of Endearment


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Oasis

Path of endearment

S RADHA PRATHI

The anxious people are not only the ones in trouble but also the ones who cause anxiety to others. So in other words the two groups of people though seemingly different from each other like chalk and cheese actually go through the same emotions albeit for different reasons. Apparently, falsehood, dishonesty, misplaced passion and rage, envy and forgetfulness of essential human values like compassion and brotherhood happen to be the main reasons for such a scenario.

The Bhagvad Gita records a criteria of a lovable person as told by Krishna to Arjuna. Krishna avers that a person who does not hate, envy, compare himself with others, holds others responsible for his fate and feels apprehensive about doing the right thing all the time is very dear to him.

Yudhishtira, the eldest Pandava prince in the Mahabharata, fits the definition of Krishna perfectly. His truthful and tranquil temperament fetched him many brownie points even among his rivals. The fact that he was called Ajatashatru – a person to whom the enemy is yet to be born – speaks in volumes about his character. Duryodhana, who resented Yudhishtira for being the first born and claimant to the throne, did not hate him as much as he detested Bhima or Arjuna. The eldest Pandava chose to overlook the attempts of murder made on him and his brothers when setting the house of lac on fire. Draupadi, the wronged wife of the Pandavas, had to constantly goad Yudhishtira to not forget the ignominy rendered unto her, because she knew that, left to himself, Yudhishtira would abstain from war.

On the day of the Great War, Yudhishtira was actually the first person who was ready to lay down his arms and call a truce. Krishna zeroed in on the straightforward royal to play his psychological mind game against Drona, because, he knew that the great Guru would validate and believe only the words of Yudhishtira when he would be appraised of his son Ashwaththama’s death.

Learning from the eldest Pandava who led a life with maturity and dignity can help us align ourselves towards path of endearment prescribed by Krishna.

Fortune, the Fair Weather Friend


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Sometimes we wonder about people who are corrupt but successful. Then, we feel tempted to go astray. When we succeed at such times, we gradually lose sight of our integrity and will have no qualms about repeating our misdeeds.

A story from our hoary past sums up this situation. There was a poor Brahmin called Hari Sharma. The pious man along with his family gained employment under a rich merchant, Sthuladatta. Life went on smoothly. The family worked very hard to make the wedding of their employer’s daughter a grand success. The Brahmin expected appreciation for his services. When he was neglected, he felt insulted. He decided to follow the path of deceit quite against the advice of his wife to teach Sthuladatta a lesson.

That night, he stole the horse carriage of the bridegroom and tied it under a tree outside the village. Then he instructed his wife to inform the worried Sthuladatta that he was a competent astrologer. When his employer consulted him, Hari Sharma extracted an apology from Sthuladatta before divulging information about the lost horse. This orchestrated act instantly shot him to fame. Even the king once consulted Hari Sharma about the robbery in the royal treasury.

The Brahmin was shaken by this unexpected test of his fake knowledge. He cursed his tongue aloud in privacy. The malefactor Jihva heard the curse and promptly pleaded guilty because Jihva in Sanskrit means tongue. Hari Sharma was dumbstruck by this unexpected coincidence that worked in his favour. The emboldened man dared to protect the thief for a fat commission and led the king to the remnant treasure.

The wise ministers found Hari Sharma’s accuracy dubious, prompted the sovereign to verify Hari Sharma’s expertise. Accordingly, they placed a frog inside a pot, closed it and invited Hari Sharma to reveal the contents. The terrified Brahmin who knew his game was up remembered how his father often called him a Mandookam or a foolish frog. He muttered his thoughts aloud. The court was dazzled by Hari Sharma’s brilliance and he was rewarded handsomely.

Hari Sharma realised that deception coupled with good fortune was a fair- weather friend who could desert him any moment. Hence he left the kingdom a reformed man.

Bird’s Eye View of Sanskrit


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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.

Integrity and Intelligence


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Life often scatters obstacles in our path. Some of us sidestep them while others overcome them. Yet, if we are riddled with difficulties from time to time, we tend to give up. A story from the Mahabharatha says that if one tackles problems intelligently and with integrity, it will stamp our success with moral satisfaction and happiness.

Princess Sukanya had to marry the old sage Chyavana whom she had blinded inadvertently. Though there was no equivalence of any sort in the marital ties, the young bride did not have any complaints. She was quite cheerful and sincere in carrying out her conjugal duties.

A couple of years later, the handsome celestial twins, the Ashwinikumaras, happened to sight the beautiful Sukanya. They were smitten by her ethereal beauty. They tried to wean her away from her marriage and make her theirs. The principled lady refused to comply to their wishes, politely, yet firmly. The demigods were struck by her loyalty to her husband despite his shortcomings. They offered to cure him and restore his youth as a reward for her steadfastness.

Sukanya and Chyavana were ready to accept a lease of normal and healthy life. Just when things seemed to fall in place, the divine twosome laid out their condition. The clause said that Sukanya could continue in her marriage if only she could identify her husband in his new Avatar. The lady accepted the challenge without batting an eyelid.

Accordingly, the sage was taken to a nearby lake by the duo. The trio immersed themselves in the waters. When they emerged, Sukanya was startled to see that the three of them were identical in every single way. She was stressed but gathered her wits and observed the threesome walking towards her. She recollected from her vast repertoire of knowledge that Godly entities never came into physical contact with earth. She noticed that only one of the three men was leaving footprints on the wet banks of the lake. She walked demurely towards her only love in life and stood by him. The Ashwinikumaras were highly impressed by her integrity and intelligence and blessed the couple a happy and a fruitful life of togetherness. Sukanya had every reason to flounder, but she chose to overcome it.