Friday, January 25, 2013

Old Tales- Ramayanam in 7 Lines

DISCLAIMER: I am not taking lessons in moral science or decrying any religion or faith or beliefs, so please just ensure that you drink a a good quantity of sense of humor before starting to read

On the train from Pune to Hyderabad I noticed two children fighting for the window seat and that reminded me of a similar incident of mine. During that incident long back, my grandpa (mother's father) taught me a small shloka which remained etched in my mind. Don't know why it remained etched. Perhaps twas the melody with which he recited it, perhaps because he made me recite it time and again. The story around it was...

              We were coming back from Pandalam, Kerala after school's  summer vacation. Amma, my sister and me were being escorted by Thatha(grandpa). Back then train journeys were something we used to look forward to. Priya(Could not recollect calling her akka i.e. elder sister) and me would always fight for the windows seat. Like Aufbau's principle of electrons occupying energy levels in a first come first principle, whoever got into the train cubicle first would get the window seat. I was always second since amma would not let go of my hand and by corollary Priya would get the window seat. She would give me a smug smile which would make me go into tantrum mode. Thatha to console me would take hold of my hand and take me to the compartment door where we would stand a foot behind. It was not fun to watch "between two legs" the world go by. By legs I mean the chap who would be standing at the door smoking and spitting the cud from the betel leaf he would be chewing. So the pitch of my tantrum would raise a couple of notches and thatha would bring me back to the berth. To get a sleeping berth on the train back then was no mean achievement. Socialist regimes ensured that there were not enough rakes and trains to transport the 10 times greater number of people. But then again thatha was so respected that securing sleeping berths for all of us was child's play for him. The next fight was for the upper berth at sleeping time. Again Priya would win because I was toooooo small to sleep on a berth of my own. I would always be paired with somebody.  Back then Pandalam, Kerala to Hyderabad was a three day journey by train which included a 6 hour wait at a station called Guntakal (or was it Renigunta?). At this station another train would couple the Kerala compartments from our train. So the six hour wait for the second train would kill all enthusiasm in a small child. So my tantrums must have reached an octave by now. Thatha then took me on his lap and taught me the shloka. The shloka in essence summarizes the Ramayana. he wrote the shloka in Tamil which I still don't know to read. He then started reciting it to me asking me repeat every syllable. By the end of the six hour wait, I knew the shloka by heart.

 The shloka summarize or explains what you can find in The Ramayana
I have tried reproducing the shloka in Sanskrit (devanagiri script) in which I am pretty sure there are spelling mistakes. Tis has been a long time since I wrote Hindi.

पूर्वम रामा तापोवानाती गमनं 
हत्वा मृगं कांचनं 
वैदेही हरणं जटायू मरनम 
सुग्रीव संभाषणं वालिनिर्दालानम 
समुद्र तरनम लंकापुरी दहनं 
तत्पश्चात रावण खुम्बकरा हननं 
एदत्त रामायणं ||

For those of you who are devanagiri challenged, the shloka in English

Purvam Rama Thapovanati Gamanam
Hatwa Mrigam Kanchanam
Vaidehi Haranam, Jatayu Maranam
Sugriva Sambhashanam, Vali nirdalanam
Samudra Taranam, Lankapuri dahanama,
Tat pashchat Ravana Khumbhakaran Hananam
Eddath Ramayanam.

I will attempt a translation what with my poor Sanskrit skills.

Long ago, Rama went to the forest 
where he went hunting the goldent deer
in that time Seetha was kidnapped
Jatayu tried stopping and was killed
Rama in search of Sita, crowns Sugria king after slaying Vali,
The monkey army cross the ocean
Raze Lanka
And finally Rama slays Khumbakarana and Ravana. 
This is what is described in the Ramayana      

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Old tales - Yudi feeding 8000 people everyday

DISCLAIMER: I am not taking lessons in moral science or decrying any religion or faith or beliefs, so please just ensure that you drink a a good quantity of sense of humor before starting to read

Long long ago, very long ago, so long ago, nobody knows how long ago, after the war at Kurukshetra Yudi is crowned king of sampurna Bharatavarsha (sum total India then) and he would pursue a habit he picked up during the time he and his brothers (pandavs) spent in exile. The habit was to feed 8000 (why 8000 people I am not sure) everyday. Imagine 8K hungry people would turn up at lunch time( I am assuming Lunch only) and Yudi as host would first wait for them to finish before gobbling his lunch. This fact of Yudi spread far and wide and inflated his ego so much so that his ego grew bigger than Godzilla and king kong stacked. Krishna in far of Dwaraka comes to know of this and he ponders "me thinks I will pay a visit to Yudi, his 8000 fame and his inflated ego. Just as Krishna was thinking this, Garuda comes along and says "Let's get moving, why the wait". So Krishna smiling hops on Garuda and off they flew towards Hastinapura. As would always happen, whenever Krishna came visiting people would throng for his darshan.  After a couple of hours Bhimasena(Of the shaanth Gadadhari Bhim fame) would lose his patience and would take his mace and swing it a couple of times and create a path from Krishna to the guest palace. Krishna had a separate palace in Hastinapura (even though he dissuaded and disapproved of it) which was bigger and grander than Yudi the emperor's palace. 
          The next day as usual Yudi would place host to 8K folks waiting for lunch. As they stood watching Yudi asked Krishna, have you seen a grander sight than a king gain satisfaction watching his praja being fed. The pride was not to missed when he said it. Krishna smilingly asked permission of Yudi (since Yudi is emperor and Krishna was very particular about such protocols) to go visit his best friend who was waiting to have lunch with him. I will be staying here for sometime anyway. Yudi pestered him with "go tomorrow, but lunch with us today. Why do you insist on going today?" When suddenly he goes "whoa!!! Who is this best friend we have not heard of? I used to think that us Pandavas are your best friends". Krishna could have boasted, "I am Krishna, the Lord of the Cosmos", but no, he simply said "Oh! he is a simpleton whom I meet once every year down south. Would you like to come and meet him?" Now Yudi who was tickled by doubt, jealousy and even more by curiosity said yes. They hop on Garuda who by the way gave Yudi a cold steely look. They flew down south (now remember this is a lore) and in a few minutes landed in the place called Kerala today. When Mahabali saw Krishna, he came running overjoyed like a small child being offered candy. He prostrated before Krishna. Krishna picked him up and gave him a fraternal hug. Mahabali went into raptures and started singing paeans about Krishna, the lord of the Cosmos. By now Yudi got bored and was itching to know who this minstrel was and what made him Krishna's best friend.
        After about three or four songs (as per south Indian mythology movie standards) Mahabali again prostrates in front of Krishna. Krishna picks him up and bids him "Mahabali, my friend, my best friend a very Happy ONAM to you". On hearing this Mahabali became ecstatic and prostrated again. After some more prostrating, hugs and songs, Mahabali notices Yudi and became very apolegetic. "Ayya forgive me, this is a lapse on my part for not noticing you earlier. A guest is the Lord in disguise and I have not noticed you. Please forgive me." He was very earnest when he said this while Yudi was both curious and bored to notice the breach of protocol. All the time Yudi was thinking; "OK he is a big fanatic of Krishna and his bhakti is apaar, So how does that make him Krishna's best friend."
               All this time, Krishna was aware of the turmoil in Yudi's mind, but naughty as he was he let it play for some more time till Mahabali noticed Yudi. Yudi, you know about the grandson of Prahalada who donated me three steps of territory. Well this is Mahabali, who comes to visit Kerala every year on ONAM. Mahabali interrupted, and again started a song about Krishna. Yudi now got very irritated and turned towards Krishna and waited for him to complete the introductions. Krishna turned towards Mahabali and said "Yudi is the grand emperor of sampurna Bharatavarsha. His greatness has spread far and wide. So much so that many people are mirroring his habit of feeding people everyday. He alone feeds 8000 people every day. People sing songs of his greatness everywhere. Krishna went on and on about how this practice ensured that people would not stay hungry and that they would get at least one sumptuous meal everyday." By now, they were seated under a banyan tree surrounded by the bounty of nature partaking a ONAM sadhya together.
               Yudi bore a proud mien during this discourse which extolled his greatness in feeding 8000 people everyday while Mahabali lost all his child like happiness and became sombre and thoughtful. Mahabali very agitated and embarassed because of the thoughts running through him broke another protocol of not seeking permission before breaking from a group meal. He just got up and walked away to sooth this ruffled pili and emotions. He returned soon and prostrated in front of Krishna and Yudi and sought their forgiveness for his yet another breach of protocol. He folded his hands and sought their attention and said 
        "Ayya I seek your forgiveness for what I am going to ask and say now. Lord! Parandhama! Mokshkunda! How is feeding 8000 people greatness when it means that 8000 people have no other way of feeding themselves. Lord! You know how for my yagna's and homams I would find it difficult to find even one person in all the three worlds who would accept my grants and bhiksha. The lord also knows that in my final yagna, people were aghast when you came and asked for three steps of territory since it was considered a shame to ASK for anything. Ayya! forgive me but feeding 8000 people means that either there is not sufficient means of earning or people in Bharatavarsha no longer value the the greatness of working and of being empowered. Ayya! Forgive me, tis not greatness but a real shame when the king has to provide food instead of empowering the praja to get their own food. Ah! People of Bharatavarsha how low have you fallen?". BY now Mahabali was running tears so much that they rivalled the Gautami and Godavari rivers in their flow.

     The lord smiled, Yudi was speechless. He regained his composure and prostrated in front of Mahabali and said "Mahabali! Krishnamsara! You have opened my eyes. Devakisuta, my friend! I thank you for opening my eyes. I will rectify the situation immediately. As if on cue, Garuda presented himself for the journey back home.

EPILOGUE: Last time it was checked, Yudi failed in rectifying the situation. People still wait for the ruler to dole out stuff. 

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Old tales - The rishi and the cat

I am startng a new topic series, the name of which just came to my mind after a conversation with my mama (amma's brother) during the wait at the hospital. The topic  of discussion was "rituals in religion" and we both were arguing despite agreeing with each other(you think that is not possible, come see us arguing). so here goes the first tale in this series of old tales and stories. 

DISCLAIMER: I am not taking lessons in moral science or decrying any religion or faith or beliefs, so please just ensure that you drink a a good quantity of sense of humor before starting to read

Long long ago, very long ago, so long ago, nobody knows how long ago,  a very well versed rishi went from village to village along with his travelling students. The rishi  worshipped the fire god thrice a day and would spend time lovingly preparing the agnihotram(altar/fire pit), pouring ghee(clarified butter) and other offerings into the sacrificial fires. After his "personal" devotion he would impart wisdom to his students and also the villages who had gathered to have his darshan. Thus ran his routine, until they came to this village. Unfortunately the village's name is lost in history and poor translation. As was his wont, the rishi prepared the agni hotram, decorated it with rice flour and flowers which the villagers had brought and amidst vedic chants, lighted the fire when suddenly a cat bounded across the agni hotram disturbing the floral arrangements. He kept his patience and rearranged the agni hotram, when the cat bounded across again. This kept repeating a few times when the rishi paused his worship badly distracted and sought his disciples. The whole gathering was waiting some distance away not wanting to disturb his communion with the LORD of the GODS. The rishi called out to one of his disciples - Ananda! Ananda!  please tie up this cat some where far away from here, but release it after my puja. The villagers noticed Ananda tying  the cat behind the hut to a heavy stone mortar. Tis was the monsoons and the rishi would wait in the village for some time for the monsoon to end and everyday the villages would notice Ananda dutifully tie the cat to the stone mortar before the rishi began the puja. The villagers simple folks as they were did not understand the significance of the cat, the stone mortar and the ritual of tying the two together. Now stone mortars were a dozen for an anna (old Indian coin) where as cats were.... thats another story in economics. The demand for cats went up, people bought cats for the ritual of tying it up before the rishi started his puja. They would tie the cat at the mortars in their home and gather under the banyan tree near the rishi's ashram. Ananda dutifully ensured that his guru(preceptor's) communion with GOD was not disturbed. Through out the monsoon the villagers tied up cats and the rishi went about his business with GOD. The rains stopped, the rishi blessed the villagers and left on his further travels. Nobody knew what happend to him after that since he never passed by again. Nevertheless, the villagers learning by what they saw continued the ritual of "tie the cat before the puja". Soon enough, the actual purpose of the puja was lost, but "RELIGIOUSLY" cats were tied up to stone mortars. Then marketing and sales took over. Portable mortars and puja-only cats flooded the market.