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Apology

So I have not been able to keep my promise and write a post every week. The weeks have become months and months quarters, ... so very soon it would have become years. Before that happens, I thought I will put a tick on the wall.

I have been caught in the vortex of life. Also, what has been happening around the world, the Mumbai carnage, the war which no-one is calling a war, and so on ... has left me angry and hurt, like everyone else. The anger is more about my own impotence and inability to respond to the stimuli in any way whatsoever.

For all those who have been following this space, sorry for the delay and thank you for your comments, writings and reverts. They have given me strength and courage (more important!) to continue with the endeavour. I promise I will return shortly.

Before that, I want to put something on the table, and that is the purpose of today's post.

I have a dream - that this blog does not remain one person's work but becomes a contributory effort. Now I am t…

Asti Kashchit Vaag-visheshah

Asti Kashchit Vaag-visheshah
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This post is not directly about Hindu mythology, but rather about a man who made parts of the mythology immortal by molding small skeletal reference stories into classical literary masterpieces - a man who himself is subject to more colorful myths than anyone else - this post is about Mahakavi Kalidasa.

Kalidasa wrote poems of epic proportions for music and dance and he is regarded as the most outstanding writer of classical Sanskrit. The typical works that are attributed to him are:

Plays:

1. Abhijnana shakuntalam - or simply Shaakuntalam ("The Recognition of Shakuntala")
2. Malavika Agnimitra, and
3. Vikramorvashiya

Poems:

1. Raghuvamsa ("Dynasty of Raghu") - Epic poem
2. Kumarasambhava ("Birth of the War Lord") - Epic poem
3. Meghduta ("The Cloud Messanger") - Lyric poem
4. Ritusamhara ("The Exposition on the Seasons") - Lyric poem

These seven are considered usually to be…

Shatrughna

When it comes to Hindi movies aka Bollywood, there are two terms that puzzle me the most. Actually there is a lot that puzzles me, but these two are almost like enigma, because I can't understand what in Dadasaheb Phalke's name do they mean.

The first one is 'Item Number'. I mean, what exactly is the definition of this term -- an "item number"? When does a song cease to exist being just another song, and suddenly become an Item Number? Earlier it was easy. There would be one jhatka-matka song in the film - especially filmed on some good-looking woman with great body and almost negligible clothing. The song's mood would be different from the overall movie, and most importantly, this femme fatale from the item number had very little (actually absolutely nothing) to do with the rest of the film. So that was easy.

But now I am not so sure --- you know, with Shahrukh Khan - not a gorgeous babe but a 45-year old skinny dude - dancing in his own movie where he has…

Ghatotkach and Abhimanyu

When one reads Mahabharata in its current form, it is always made amply clear that the Mahanayak - the supreme hero - of this epic is Lord Krishna. Although Krishna appears on the scene much later after the feud has happened, he is almost always at the center of the story - and as Krishna is the supreme hero, so is his greatest devotee and friend Partha Arjuna. So much so that Arjuna is considered to be the incarnation of Nara, the supreme Man, and Krisha is considered Narayana - the Supreme God (Vishnu).

Arjuna kills all the Maharathis (generals if you please) in the war --- Bhishma, Drona, Karna --- except the Kaurava brothers. The Kauravas --- all 100 of them, including Dussasana and the eldest Duryodhana --- are all killed single-handedly by - and this is where we come to the second greatest character - Bhima.

Bhima is known for his prowess with his favorite weapon the mace (gada, in Sanskrit), just as Arjun is known for his archery. Bhima is as much responsible and central to all t…

Multiple Yugas – Part 5 Final

In this last post on the topic of Time, I will try to sum up the entire discussion so far. Here is a schematic I have attempted on the subject: So, there you go. That concludes our discussion on the nature of time and our relative position in it – which started from the post on “How many Hanumans?”

How are we doing? Makes one feel really small, is it not? Like a grain of sand in a desert!
Do we still think we can nuke this planet and that it will make a difference in the ‘Overall scheme of things’? Is this not what Vishwaroopa is all about?

Now do you know why Arjuna feels perplexed when Krishna shows him the Vishwaroopa – complete with all the cycles of time, and all the different universes?

Well, you know, there are only two ways of reacting to this – either be an Arjuna and marvel at this beautiful concept of Time & its cycles, or get completely lost. The problem with the latter is that once you get lost, you cease to see the meaning – and then you ask yourself ‘what does this mean …

Multiple Yugas – Part 4

1. A ‘Manavantara’ – Bringing It All Back------------------------------------------------------Again, let’s bring this back to Human understanding.A day of Brahma has 14 Manvantaras (like 12 hours). Similarly one night has 14 Manavantaras.Each Manavantara is made of 71 Mahayugas, plus the sandhis. Each sandhi is equal in time as one krita yuga – note, this is not one Manayuga, neither one yuga, but one krita yuga, i.e. 4 Charanas of a Mahayuga.So let us back-calculate and check where we get to:1 Mahayuga = 4,320,000 years1 Manvantara = 71 Mahayuga1 day of Brahma = 14 Manavantaras + 15 sandhis= 14 x 71 Mahayugas + 15 x 4 Charanas= 994 Mahayugas + 60 CharanasNow, 60 Charanas mean 6 Mahayugas (each Charana is 1/10th of a Mahayuga). So:1 day of Brahma= 994 Mahayugas + 6 Mahayugas = 1,000 Mahayugas.Which is the same calculation we did earlier for 1 Kalpa (Day of Brahma).2. So, where are we?-----------------------------Now, to see where we are in this whole scheme of things:We don’t know wh…

Multiple Yugas – Part 3

1. Total Life Span of the Universe-----------------------------------------------------
Now let us calculate the total time span of the universe.It is said that before the creation of the universe Lord Vishnu is sleeping in the form of Narayana in the ocean of all causes on the back of Sheshanaag.While He is sleeping, a lotus sprouts of his navel. Inside this lotus, Brahma resides. Brahma represents the universe, which we all live in, and it is this Brahma who creates life forms. This universe represented by Brahma is not a permanent universe, it is temporary, Brahma lives for 100 years say the vedas and then dies and then a new universe (Brahma) is born.So as per vedas our universe lives for 100 Brahma years. Now we shall see how long each year of Brahma is. But for that, we need to get to the day of Brahma.2. A Day of Brahma-------------------------1,000 such Mahayugas = 1 Kalpa1 Kalpa = 1 day of Brahma= 4,320,000,000 years of man (4.32 billion years)Which is – hold your breath – the…

Multiple Yugas – Part 2

Now let us go a little deeper in our understanding of time.1. Significance of Years of GodsA divine year (i.e. 360 years of man) is a very useful unit of time measurement at this level.One cycle of the four yugas together is 12,000 divine years. Each of these years is composed of 360 days, and each of their days is equal to one human year. So Krita-yuga is 4000 divine years in length, Treta-yuga is 3000 divine years in length, Dvapara-yuga is 2000 divine years in length, and Kali-yuga is 1000 divine years long, with the addition of the conjoining portions of the Sandhya and Sandhyansa.(Each yuga is preceded by a period called a Sandhya and followed by a period of time known as a Sandhyansa – which is 10% of the yuga’s time span each).
SandhyaActual YugaSandhyansaTotal div. YearsKrita yuga400 4,000 400 4,800 Treta yuga300 3,000 300 3,600 Dwapar yuga200 2,000 200 2,400 Kali Yuga100 1,000 100 1,200
1,000 10,000 1,000 12,000
All the above numbers are divine years (i.e. 360 years of man).Th…

Multiple Yugas – Part 1

I would like to spend some of my posts on the excellent topic of "metrics of time measurement" according to Hinduism. Of all the intriguing heritage that we have received from thinkers of ancient India, this is perhaps the most fascinating work.
What is most interesting is that all the possible sources where this topic is discussed - the mythical Puranas like Vishnu Purana, Vayu Purana, the Bhagavatam, along with Bhagavad-gita, literary epics such as Mahabharata and the scholarly works like Surya Siddhanta -- all of them -- agree on the measurements of the duration of yugas, kalpas and so on, with some very minor deviations.I remember when I had to visit New Delhi once somewhere in the year 1998, Prof. Mohan Apte asked me to go to the Indian National Science Academy on Bahadurshah Zafar Marg and buy a copy of Surya Siddhanta for him if they have one. I was lucky to get one there, and while returning managed to read parts of it, although I could barely grasp any of it.The Sury…

How Many Hanumans?

How Many Hanumans?
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Just as the story of Panchmukhi Hanuman where he goes to Patala (see my earlier post), there is also another story about Hanuman going to the netherland, and this one is rather controversial *. I am going to narrate it anyway since I love the insight / world view it gives and also because this leads to the topic of my next posts.

So after Rama conquered Ravana, returned to Ayodhya, and after all the episodes of Uttar-Ramayana (Luv-Kush etc.), it was time to go. Rama and Laxmana's work on the earth was over. However Hanuman, who had returned to Ayodhya to be with Rama was of the opinion that they were still needed. Rama thinks of a way of letting Hanuman know the real nature of time and a man's position in the wheel of time (Yugas).

Thus while speaking, Rama lets his ring slip into a hole in the ground. Ever ready to serve Lord Rama, Hanuman jumps into the hole and follows the ring. The ring keeps rolling ahead into the wormhole…

Panchmukhi Hanuman

If you are driving down from Mumbai to Goa, or to Pune on the old highway, you need to cross Panvel. While you negotiate your way through the traffic mainly caused by the state transport (S.T.) buses, you pass a small shrine under a banyan tree. It declares the lord of the property to by "Panchmukhi" (five-faced) Hanuman.पंचमुखी हनुमान ।

Although shrines of Hanuman are in abundance across the Indian subcontinent, especially in hilly terrains like Maharashtra, shrines of "Panchmukhi" Hanuman are a rarity. Of course, there is more likelihood to find one in the Southern parts of the country. The images of the Great Vanara (not Monkey) God in Northern India usually depict him as pulling his chest apart to show Lord Rama and Sita, or flying through the air carrying an entire mountain in one hand. But none of these have Hanuman depicted as having more than one heads.

The form of Hanuman as "Sri Panchamukha Anjaneya Swami" (Anjaneya = "son of Anjani") is…