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Showing posts from 2012

44 Yudhishthir at War

The Epic of Mahabharata, among many other things - but mainly - is a story of a war. Agreed that the actual war covers only about one-third of the total verses. Agreed that the years preceding the war - with all the back stories of most key people, and the years rolling out painfully in the aftermath of the war - take up a lot of space (some would even go as far as to say 'disproportionate') in the Epic. Yet, the central theme around which the entire work is woven is the 18-day bloody war - a war which saw the death of around 2 million soldiers, about 1.5 million animals (see "An Akshauhini of a Fighting Force"), and most of the known and famous heroes of the time in the land covering the current Indian states, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bactria and other countries.

But what of the main protagonists of the story? What battles did they fight and win? One hears stories of victory and valor of Bhima and Arjuna - the second and the third Pandava princes - all thro…

43 Revati

While traveling in North India, we came across a temple at Gokul that has the idol of Balarama with his wife Revati. This seems to be the only temple to boast a joda (pair), and so I decided to write about this largely unknown wife of Balarama.

Revati was the daughter to king Raivata, a mighty king who ruled the kingdom of Kushasthali and Anarta - the ancient name of Dwarka in Gujarat. Some accounts suggest that Kushasthali was a powerful and prosperous kingdom under sea - something like the Atlantis, while Anarta corresponds to the present-day North Kathiawad region of Gujarat state.

Raivata, also called Kakudmi, was the last known ruler of the dynasty of Sharyatas, who claimed their descent from Sharyati, a son of Vikukshi, son of Ikshvaku (founder of the surya vamsa and ruler of Ayodhya), who in turn was the son of Vivasvan Manu, son of Surya. Sharyati had three sons: Uttanabarhi, Anarta, and Bhurisena. Raivata was the son of Revata, son of Anarta.

It is said that Revata, Raivata'…

42 Makhan Mishri in Gokul

It so happened that by chance (or you can say by providence, depending on your inclination) that we took a short road trip to Mathura on the day of the Choti Teej - also called Hariyali Teej in North India.

This festival is celebrated on the 3rd day of the Shukla paksh of Shravan month - and although not as grand and superflous as Badi Teej - which comes only 5 days before the largest festival in Mathura - Krishna Janmashtami, Choti Teej has its own charm. The weather at this time of the year is usually very pleasant, with the monsoons making the nortern plains look sparking green (hence the name - Hariyali Teej), and the people in the five villages of Brij - Mathura, Vrindavan, Govardhan, Barsana, and Gokul - especially Gokul - have a sparkle in their eyes in anticipation of festivities and also of good business during the times.

Apparently a visit to this region is equivalent to a complete Char Dham yatra, since this is the root of the tree - a place where Lord Krishna spent his chil…

41 Show me how to Live - A post about Parashurama

Show me how to Live!
भार्गवेन हता माता एका जायाश्च पाण्डवाः |
परदाररतः कृष्णो न देवं चरितं चरेत् ||

Translation: "Bhargava (Parashuram) killed his own mother; (All five) paandavas had but one wife (Draupadi); Krishna indulged with others' wives; do not perform the deeds of the gods"
If one of the purposes of mythology is so that people take lessons from the lives of others and learn how to live their own lives, some of the oldest civilizations surely do not provide a direct ready reckoner for such modeling.

Take the Greeks and the Romans, for example. Zeus / Jupiter is always wooing ladies from different species - women, nymphs, goddesses. His wife Hera is always fuming mad with jealousy. Hades is always conspiring to overthrow his brother's throne. The Olympians appear to be a petty, squabbling, self-centred lot. The demigods and the so-called heros are no exceptions either. Heracles is a cold, cunning and calculating figure. More so is Odysseus. Achilles is known for hi…