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54: Parallels from Ancient Lives - a Thought Experiment with Hindu and Roman Mythology

Reading Thomas Bulfinch ('The Age of Fables', 'The Age of Chivalry',  'Legends of Charlemagne') is like getting a first-hand lessons from the master storyteller. His prose flows like poetry, and one is quickly lost in the fantastic realms of ancient worlds. This time while reading though, interestingly, I found myself getting reminded of some of the incidents and people from Hindu myths.

Make no mistake. These two bodies of work cannot truly be compared. The religions of Roman gods (and their predecessors the Greek gods) are long gone, and there are no worshipers or followers left. While the Hindu gods and goddesses continue to have a following among a billion Hindus and several million Buddhists (to an extent) across the world. The characters, the stories, the drama - the times, the motivations, the culture and the civilization - all are quite, quite apart.

But it is interesting to see parallels in unexpected places while reading these works of ancient poets …
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53: A bountiful of gods

The Sanskrit word "Koti" popularly means a "crore" (this is a very Indian measure for 10 million or 10,000,000). And it is common to say that Hinduism has 33 koti devas - which gets unfortunately and wrongly translated to 330 million gods. It is this literal translation that has befuddled many till now, including the 16th century Mughal emperor Akbar, who believing the term to be literal, launched the impossible task of cataloging all the Hindu gods and goddesses.

Had he had a Hindu wife in his harem, like most historians wrongly believe, and had she been his most beloved, like more than most of them hope to be, and had he been open and forward-thinking enough to let her practice her own religion in his palaces (so that he could 'learn' and understand the natives of the country), which a whole bunch of them argue vehemently  - he would have simply discussed this project with her (Jodha Bai, if she ever lived).

And she, as the popular portrait suggests, bei…

52: Shunashepa

Several stories in the Indian Mythology appear in several places and in disjoint forms, often contradicting each other. This creates further confusion in the minds of the reader, if there are any readers in this time and age, and further alienates these wonderful narratives from even the casually curious minds. It has been my endeavor here to try and put some of these stories and parables in simple, user-friendly language. I do not think it as a 'modern re-telling' - as it has become popular these days and quite lucrative too, if I can add ... but simply going over the stories that I know from childhood to have a fresh look.

Today, the story I want to revisit is the well-known story of Shunashepa (शुनःशेप), the poor boy who was sent for sacrifice by his own father in exchange of livelihood.

Shunashepa literally means the 'tail of a dog'. There is no explanation that I am aware of that explains the etymology of this rather peculiar name. Anyway, the story begins with a…

51: Back story of Duryodhana Bhima Battle

51 How could Bhima break Duryodhana's thigh in spite of Gandhari's blessing?

"What we do now echoes in eternity"
- Marcus Aurelius

It was the evening before the start of the great war. All 18 armies were gathered around the field. Soldiers were setting up the camps and tents, unsure how long this war is going to last. Most of them had traveled through the length and breadth of the country to get there, and were already missing their families. The animals were restless. There was a general commotion all around and the air was filled with expectation, excitement and mostly, fear. Most men were anxiously passing glances towards the royal tents, hoping against hope for peace, knowing fully well that from the time the Pandava's esteemed messenger - Krishna - was treated rudely in the court of Hastinapur, war was inevitable.

The royals and the statesmen in both camps we…

45 Re-post : A Bit of Perspective

A Bit of Perspective

Note: Again a re-post from Dec 2012. Wonder why this is happening?

Anyway, this is a good reminder on the existence of this blog and the idea behind it. So very opportune for crossing the 50th post mark as well as the 150,000 page view mark on the blog !! Thank you all for your continued readership and comments. This blog and these interactions have made my own life more enriching in the last few years.

Quite recently, I picked up an interesting read. It was called 'The Monkey King & Other Stories' when it was first published in 1995. It is now called 'Scarless Face & Other Stories' and is reprinted in 2006 by HarperCollins in India.

What is interesting about the book is that it is a collection of stories by Canadian writers, mostly of Sri Lankan origin. Some stories are originated in Sri Lanka, while some have travelled to Sri Lanka from other parts of the world - mostly India. There are some stories from the epi…

02 Re-post : Endings of the Four Yugas

Endings of the Four Yugas

Note: You know, something sinister is happening here. Three of my earlier posts got deleted for no apparent reason. Not sure if it was something I did, considering that I am quite technologically challenged. So I am re-posting them as they were. This one is one of the first posts, and what started this blog really. So it is especially dear to me. This was first posted in May 2008. Blast from the past really ! Have fun !

You know, there are a lot of theories floating around. I have a few theories too -- one of them is that when we used to drink a lot of 2-rupee 'chai' - when we were in degree college, when money was scarce but friends were many -- we used to have a lot of brigth ideas to change the world. We would in fact solve half the world's problem in a 'cutting' - that's half a cup of brew you get on Mumbai's roadsides ...

But today, when we pay 60 rupees for a cup of cappuchino and what …

29 Re-post : The origin of the alphabet

The origin of the alphabet - The Maheshwara Sootram

Note: For some reason while managing the posts, this one post was deleted from the blog. So re-posting it as it was. First posted in March 2009.

Out of all the Sanskrit text that I learnt in the school, this one verse has stuck to me more than others. I do not know why or how. It was not even part of the syllabus, but one day our Sanskrit teacher told us about the beginning of the language, I guess that took my fancy. The lines of the verse I am talking about go like this:

नृत्यावसाने नटराजराजो  ननादढक्काम नवपञ्चवारम ।
उद्धर्तुकामः सनकाऽदि सिद्धाः नेतद्विमर्षे शिवसूत्रजालम ॥

Nrittya avasaane Nataraja Rajo, Nanaada Dhakkaam Nava Pancha vaaram |
Uddhartu kaamah Sanakaadi Siddhaa Netadwimarse Shiva Sootra Jaalam ||

At the end of his (celestial) dance, the king of natyashastra (i.e. the Supreme god Shiva), sounded the Dhakka (Damaru - his famous two-…