Our Naada Habba


Appeared in the student edition of Deccan Herald  23rd September 2019

 

The Pooja vacation is round the corner. A welcome respite for students indeed,         especially as it crops up during the middle of a hectic academic year. Maybe you should keep this article aside and read it at leisure during the vacation.

The Mysore Dusshera our Naada Habba is a world famous event which attracts tourists from every nook and corner of the globe. The reverence towards the goddess Chamundeshwari coupled with pomp and glory exhibited during on these days reflects on the ambience of an age that has flit past. Though one can view the entire ceremony on the television shows which relays the occasion in great detail one must make it a point to enjoy the experience first hand at least once in your lifetime. It can be a joy to re-live the splendour and the grandeur of a prosperous era which is represented by caparisoned elephants, royal relics besides the food and music fit for a connoisseur.

The Dusshera festival is also known as the “Gombe habba” or dolls festival in south India.  Temples and homes have wide stairs built, numbering up to eleven in number and display figurines of gods and goddesses in addition to several dolls representative of historical or contemporary life. This also an occasion to unveil the creativity and imagination by setting up parks, railway stations, cricket grounds to add colour to the occasion.

Dusshera is symbolically celebrated to mark the struggle and the ultimate victory of goddess Chamundi to vanquish the demon Mahishasura. It is believed that this demon assumed the form of a wild buffalo and troubled the sages and disrupted their Yagas. He was very powerful and was blessed with immortality by Bramha who said that the demon would never face death until a woman exterminated him. Mahishasura was extremely pleased with the boon and took his life and power for granted and acted ruthlessly. He knew no woman would dare to even look at him, let alone kill him. It was at this juncture goddess Shakthi assumed the form of Chamundeshwari at the behest of the pantheon of Gods and waged a battle against Mahishasura for nine days.

Puranas reveal that the strength of the goddess was supplemented by Lakshmi, Saraswathi and Durga in phases of three days each, to empower her to destroy Mahisha eventually.

A closer look at this story appears to disclose a coded message for us. The assets of the goddesses are representative of different strengths like wealth ( well- being) , education and power. The goddess also employed Yantra (Mechanisations), Mantra ( synthesized information in the form of formulae) and Tantra (Logic) to kill Mahisha. Hence it becomes apparent that one needs a strength which is a combination of physical power and mental power to achieve one’s end for success does not come very easily without a struggle.

To this day we worship machines, even laptops and palmtops on the ninth day of the festival also known as Ayudha pooja day as a mark of deference towards the instruments that play a part in our success. The last day of the festival is called – a day of victory when the victory of the goddess is celebrated.

It is also celebrated as teachers’ day by traditionalists. It is considered as an auspicious day when new learning or projects can be launched without fear of failure.

The north Indians take pride and happiness in celebrating the event as Durga Pooja or Navrathri. The traditional Garba dance in worship of the goddess has caught the imagination of youngsters in a big way nowadays who spend the Pooja holidays in fun and frolic.

The Ramayana mentions that Rama returned to Ayodhya with Sita and Laksmana after his exile of fourteen years during this period. Ram Leela is celebrated with great fervour in Uttar Pradesh and surrounding states when an effigy of the ten headed Ravana is set on fire.

The Mahabharatha says that Arjuna the Pandava prince retrieved his bow Gandeevi from the Banni tree on Vijayadashami after living incognito for a year to fight Duryodhana and his forces as he took the side of prince UttaraKumara.

A closer observation of their activities will reveal that each geographical area has a different custom which has been followed over the ages though the core value and understanding the festival is uniform throughout the country.

Did you know that this Pooja season has a lot of relevance to mans relationship with the environment around him?

For instance, people give a lot of importance to different cereals and food grains during the first nine days of this festive season.

This tradition has a lot of practical connotations when we delve deeper into it. We all know this festival falls at the fag end of the rainy season. There is usually a dearth of fruits and vegetables during this time. The greens also do not thrive during this season. When man is cut off from a major source of nutrition he is likely to fall sick hence he resorted to utilize the food grains stored by him.  The cereals which are a rich source of protein supplement as nutritious food during the season which is punctuated with fasting and feasting.

Down south, families display dolls and images of gods and goddesses recreating myths, historical and contemporary events during the ten days. If you have noticed they also build a small park where they allow food grains to germinate and grow into young plants.  The site of greenery indoors not only lends beauty to the atmosphere but also acts as an indicator of the condition of the soil. In the past, in a predominantly agricultural society the festival proved to be a platform for experimenting on a possible bumper crop using this aesthetic mode. Farmers collected soil from their fields and sowed different food grains and watered them regularly till they developed into healthy little plants. At the end of ten days they got a fairly good idea of the crop which would do well that season in their soil. This little agricultural experiment formed the basis on which farmers could exchange seeds and agrarian know-how.

This custom encouraged the “give and take policy” among people and helped them to live in harmony amongst themselves and the nature around them.

A study of ancient Vedic texts reveals that each food grain was identified for its specific strengths and its ability to nourish and medicate the various parts of the body when consumed or distributed on a particular day of the week. It has been discovered that intake of rice on Mondays, Toor dal on Tuesdays, green-gram on Wednesdays, channa on Thursdays, beans on Fridays, urad dal on Saturdays and wheat on Sundays can prove to be potent. Recent studies by dieticians and healthcare researchers have confirmed the veracity of the tradition.

Just like any other festivity in India, there are several reasons assigned    for the celebration of these ten days which commence on the Mahalaya Amavasya day during the Sharath or the autumn season. Nevertheless they convey the same messages – the triumph of good over evil and how it is important for us to live in harmony with each other.

The festivities begin on a somber note at riversides, beaches and the several water bodies of India which are generally flooded with people who offer their obeisance to their dead ancestors and pray for the peace and general well being of the departed souls. The following nine days are celebrated with variations that suit the geographical and social backdrops of the various regions. It is amazing to know that each one of our festivals have several layers of meanings and relevance to people from all walks of life. They have been tested and formulated by our ancestors in a purposeful manner to bring added meaning and joy into our lives!!! Happy Dussera !!!

 

 

 

 

 

Gratitude is the Best Attitude


Published in the Oasis column of today’s  Deccan Herald

In the Ramayana Hanuman, was identified to cross the ocean and scout for Sita the abducted wife of Rama.  When he was midway across the ocean Mount Mainaka rose from the depths of the ocean and intercepted him. Hanuman was annoyed by the obstacle and started pounding the great mountain with all his might. Mainaka bore the brunt gracefully and spoke gently to Hanuman requesting the latter to accept the hospitality of the ocean. He sourced fresh fruits and water from his being and humbly requested Hanuman to avail the same and rest awhile before continuing on the journey. Maruthi was highly appreciative of the hospitality made a token of acceptance and continued with his journey.

The meekness of the once powerful Mainaka may seem in order with his altered status as a refugee. A little introspection of this story will reveal that Mainaka was being humble and grateful for what he received. It is said that long long ago all mountains were winged. They flew around with their massive bodies and landed where they pleased. This exercise proved to be a menace to earthlings. Therefore the Rishis requested Lord Indra to help them. Consequently, Indra chopped the wings off the mountains using his Vajrayudha. Mainaka, the son of Himavaan did not want to lose his wings. He sought refuge in the southern seas. Sagara obliged Mainaka and allowed the mountain prince to hide himself in the bosom of the ocean.

When Sagara learnt that Hanuman was crossing the ocean for Rama, the Ikshavaku prince he bid Mainaka to offer respite to the messenger. Sagara extended this support because he was grateful to Bhagheeratha, an Ikshavaku prince who had added sanctity and volume to his being by bringing down the divine Ganga to earth which eventually flowed into the seas.

This well known story has the mighty and the powerful eager to show their gratitude for favours received, and all of us are well aware that gratitude is the best attitude one can ever have to keep us happy.

 

Public Sector Companies-End of an Era


https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/right-in-the-middle/public-sector-companies-end-of-an-era-746322.html

Seven decades ago, India stepped into the path of progress by instituting a large number of public sector companies and factories. Namma Bengaluru has housed several of them. The coming of this sector ushered in a new pattern of work life in our city. New secular communities, colonies and tenements sprouted like mushrooms all over the place. They thrived for a couple of decades lending a vibrant vigour to the ethos of our garden city. As in all things change happens to be the only constant in life. It has not left the public sector untouched, hence we see the phenomenon phasing out ever so quietly from our lives.

The only remnants of the public sector happen to be the senior citizens who dot our city with their unique anecdotes. Though I have been privy to many of them, the one which never ceases to fascinate me happens to be the one I wish to share with my readers.

It is a well known fact that Rama and Lakshmana the protagonists of the Ramayana availed help from Sugriva the monkey- king to fight their enemy Ravana and redeem Seeta. An army of monkeys famously known as the Vanara Sena was instituted to help Rama in his mission. The ocean was crossed and the battle was fought. Rama the crown prince of Ayodhya slew the ten headed demon king Ravana redeemed Seeta. When it was time to return to Ayodhya with his wife Seeta and brother Lakshmana, he rewarded all the leaders like Hanuman, Sugriva, Vibhishana among the others but was at a loss as to how to return the favour of the members of the Vanara Sena. Then the lord said that the Dandakaranya forest would be abundant with fruits to take care of them during the Treta Yuga.

The simian army accepted their gift humbly but did not disperse as expected. So Rama told them that they could serve him as Yadava confederates when he re-incarnated as Krishna. Even as the Vanaras acknowledged the blessing gratefully, Rama felt that he had not been generous enough to see them through the wheel of time. So he said that in the Kali Yuga they would be absorbed as human resources by the public sector!

I have heard this tale regaled in jest, just to mark a merry moment. Of late, the elderly who recollect this tale do it with such a veneration which leaves the listener baffled! If the stories do enough rounds in the new tone, it will probably enter the portals of our mythology by the next half of this millennium!  Only time can tell!

 

Cross Six Obstacles to Success


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We cannot, should not and need not live like the Jones’. We can achieve our personal goals by recognising our set of six enemies known as the Arishadvargam and make sincere efforts to overcome them. The Ramayana outlines the life of Vishwamitra who was a Rajarishi. He once visited Brahmarishi Vasishta who lived in austerity but had access to plenty because he possessed the divine wish granting cow Kamadhenu.

Vishwamitra thought that he could put Kamadhenu to better use and demanded Vasishta to hand it over to him. When he was met with refusal, he seized the gentle giver. Vishwamitra was stunned when the divine bovine materialised a massive army to defend herself.

At that moment, Vishwamitra realised the superiority of Vasishta and resolved to become a Brahmarishi like him. He renounced all his worldly titles and commitments. In other words he gave up ‘Lobha’ or greed to pursue the path of spirituality. He performed stringent penances, which were interrupted time and again by his own frailties. He understood that he would have to overcome ‘Kaama’ or passion when he succumbed to grace and charm of Menaka and fathered Shakuntala.

When he resumed penance he became aware that he should conquer ‘Krodha’ or anger when he cursed the celestial nymph Rambha to turn into stone. His ‘Mada’ or ego took a beating when he tried to send the corporal form of Trishanku to heaven. He knew he cut a sorry figure when he created a unique heaven for Trishanku.

He recognised that it was his ‘Matsarya’ or jealousy of Vasishta which was still being an impediment in his lofty pursuit which was nothing but ‘Moha’ or his infatuation for power. This realisation made him submit humbly to the compassionate sage which finally made him Brahmarishi.

Sage Vishwamitra went through a roller coaster of obstacles when he displayed one-upmanship to spite his rival. Yet when he delved into his psyche identified his faults and corrected them he succeeded.

Ethics of Earning


Published in Deccan Herald dated 9th April 2019

Money is important in life. Our ancient philosophy, which subscribes to attaining the meaning of our lives through Purushartha consists of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. Hence it has been established since times immemorial that one cannot discount the economic factor in life. However, the moment we allow the financial quotient to take over our lives it amounts to unconditional servility to the monster called materialism. Greed will consume us till we lose touch with ourselves and cannibalize on our identity.

An episode from the Ramayana teaches us subtly to handle this tricky issue in its narrative of sage Agastya’s tryst with wealth.

Once, a highly accomplished princess Lopamudra was struck by sage Agastya’s knowledge, wisdom and keen presence of mind. The sage was also impressed by the lovely lady and entered into a matrimonial alliance with the royal lass. Though the sage had access to all the riches he could ask for by way of dowry, he chose to live a life of austerity with his bride. Several years passed smoothly. Then the couple decided to start a family. They realised that they needed at least the minimum materialistic facilities to give a comfortable life to their wards. Since the couple had led a Spartan life, thus far, Agastya, decided to seek the necessary wealth from one of his contemporary rulers as per the customs of those days. However he followed a certain principle while doing so. He decided that he would take charity only from the excesses of the treasury’s exchequer. Accordingly, he approached the kings one by one. He called for the ledger and examined the income and expenditure of the kingdom at large. He found out that just about every king’s balance sheets tallied. He did not have the heart to accept the generous offers of the just kings because it meant taxing the people of the state. Then he moved away and found his own way to acquire some means to run his family.

The amount of concern, caution and discretion used by Agastya while endeavoring to fulfill his needs speaks in volumes about the code of ethics to be followed while procuring income. If we allow our conscience to screen the money that enters our purses we could squarely obliterate a whole lot of associated crimes by simply following the ethics of earning.

Quality of Mercy is Twice Blessed


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Many of us carry a mental baggage. Injustice and wrongs meted out to us at different points of life continue to bog us down. We either wallow in self pity or very simply crave to settle scores.

Both options can prove detrimental to our physical and mental health. Religion and psychology say that the only way forward is to forgive and forget. This lofty concept is easier said than done. This is because we are not as large-hearted as we believe ourselves to be. Secondly, we forget the times when we have been pardoned for our sins by generous souls. The sum and substance of the quality of mercy can be identified in one of the key episodes in the Ramayana.

Rama killed Ravana, the king of Lanka and the abductor of his wife in a gory battle. Hanuman hastened with the news to the Ashoka Vana where Sita was held captive.

The distressed princess felt elated. Hanuman told Sita that he could punish her offenders. Sita gave Rama’s messenger a long look. She looked around her at the faces that were no longer menacing. She simply told Hanuman to leave them alone. When Sita saw the quizzical expression on Anjaneya’s visage, she explained that the female ogresses who guarded her and intimidated her were mere instruments in the hands of their leader. They had been carrying out their assignment out of dread of their king. Hence they were not to be faulted or penalised for simply carrying out their duties.

Besides, her redemption from the clutches of her abductor happened to be a red lettered day in her life. She had no earthly possessions to give away to signify her joy. Her royal lineage prompted her to be generous. Her intrinsic nature chose to forgive the malefactors. Hence it was but natural for her to let bygones be bygones and carry on with life.

Shakespeare reiterated the same sentiment when he said, “The quality of mercy is not strain’d, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes: ‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes. The throned monarch better than his crown;—”

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.