Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Shiva Sigma

"Leadership cannot really be taught. It can only be learned."
-Harold Geneen, Leading American businessman

"A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way."
-John C. Maxwell, famous author

So, who are the greatest and most famous villains of Indian mythology?
Ravana, for sure would make it to the list. There will be Hiranyakashyap, Kansa, Hiranyaksha, Jarasangha...
I know I have deliberately skipped a few names, but kept the above ones because they all share a common bonding with each other. Know what?
Interestingly, they were all devotees of Shiva.
So, here is a group of most dreaded villains of Indian mythology. Yet, they get all pious, religious and respectful, when it comes to Shiva. These men, who would not flinch to take any dreaded step, be it killing their own family, to imprisoning them, to removing every single object of worship from their kingdom on the slightest hint of a threat to their power, were ready to loose it all for Shiva. What command or 'enchantment' did Shiva cast over these men? What qualities did Shiva possess that made followers out of them?

When the famous Sagar Manthan took place, all the deities and demons were expecting the Amrit, sooner than later from the sea. That the sea would eject Halahal poison, no one had expected and were unprepared to face the challenges it threw. Once the Halahal poison came out every one got in a fix. No one, including the deities present there had a solution to the problem in front of them, and the poison gradually started poisoning the air and killing humans.
I dont know which scripture to believe, as some claim that Shiva knew he would be able to stop it in his throat using Yoga, while some claim that Parvati's love for Shiva stopped the poison in his throat. Nevertheless, Shiva attempted what the other deities did not, for the sake of the living world. He drank the most poisonous substance the world had seen and saved millions of lives with his act.
And to think, he wasn't even waiting for the Amrita, a clear quality of a powerful, and efficient leader.
Let's see what other qualities he possessed to become one of the greatest leaders of mythology.

The Trusted Aide: So out of all the aides(gana) of Shiva, who do you think is his most favourite aide? An easy guess would be Nandi. So much so, that Nandi forms an integral part of every Shiva temple. Is it because Nandi is also his Vahana? Maybe, but Nandi is known as the principle Gana of Shiva. Not only his Vahana, Nandi is also a door-keeper to Shiva's abode Mount Kailash. He also is the commander-in-chief of all the Shiva-ganas, and when Ravana attempted to move Shiva from his abode to Lanka, he fought Ravana  and even cursed him for his attempts.
Clearly, Nandi is Shiva's favourite gana. But think of it, did Shiva, as per any of the scriptures say it to Nandi that "you are my favourite"? Or did he say this to anyone else? The answer is no.
There is a management term called "Job Enrichment", where an individual is delegated more decision making powers and responsibilities. A good leader should never pick up and declare a favourite of his or her out of his team or followers, but rather, keep on delegating more responsibilities on his most efficient men. He should not let others feel the neglect of his favouritism, but let the work of his most efficient aides speak for them. He should thus, in a way, keep a team of most trusted aides, where the employees also feel valued.

Doing the right thing: Ravana was one of the biggest devotees of Lord Shiva. So much so, that he even sacrificed his head not once but ten times when performing an obligation for Shiva(Shiva would give his head back each time, as per legends). Ravana loved and respected Shiva, and Shiva acknowledged the respect that Ravana showed for him. He even asked Ravana to master all the Vedas and spread the message of the Vedas on earth, clearly delegating more responsibilities on him.
Ravana, however, once became adamant to take Shiva from Kailash to Lanka, as he knew that Lanka would be all powerful with Shiva being there. He became adamant and even fought Nandi for the same. When Nandi didnt let him enter, he attempted to lift the mountain itself and take it to Lanka. Clearly, an arrogant attempt by him.
What did Shiva do? The right thing! He didnt hesitate to punish Ravana for the same, and put the toe of his feet on the mountain firmly. Ravana's hands got stuck beneath the mountains, and if legends are to be believed, Ravana stayed the same way for some thousand years, pleading for forgiveness all the time.
Though a leader should not openly declare his set of favourites, there may be a few followers or employees who would openly acknowledge the credibility of their leader and would place their utmost trust and respect in their leader.What if some decision or attitude of these employees become a deterrent in the overall roadmap of the company or the leader himself? Well, deal it with the Shiva way. Do the right thing.

Attachment to the cause: When Ravana comes to pursue Shiva to move his abode from Kailash to Lanka, lets put in perspective what Shiva had and what Ravana offered. Shiva lived on Mountain Kailash not in any palace or constructed house, but under open nature. Though there are ganas who love and respect Shiva, he treats them more as followers and friends, rather than servants(again an important quality of leaders). The food they must be having would rather be natural fruits and vegetables(though tough to say if Shiva would even need food, he is Mahadev).
Ravana on the other hand, wanted to take Shiva to the Golden Lanka. So, Ravana offered a huge and magnificent palace, hordes of servants, the most delicious of foods and festivities, and all the luxuries which Ravana could give(though Ravana misinterpreted Shiva probably, he is much above the worldly desires).
The point however is, Shiva not only refused Ravana's repeated attempts, he even punished him, as explained in the aforementioned point.
How many MBA degrees you pursue, whatever management courses you complete successfully and whichever corporate trainings you attend, there is a certain human factor which comes into play when you are leading an organization. Though all these courses and trainings and programs and seminars would teach you to be professional to the core, a leader simply cannot succeed, unless he is attached emotionally to the organization, or the cause which he is supporting. If you are not attached to your organization, and are ready to move to a better organization because it could offer better facilities(or salary?) to you, chances are, you wont be able to attach to your second organization as well(what if a third organization offers even more), and thus would not ever be a good leader

Byproducts of success: Referencing the Sagar Manthan and the Halahal poison once again. all the deities wanted to get hold of Amrit which was due to come out of the sea, and every deva wanted to be a part of it. However, no one wanted to be a part of the poison. If Indra was ready for Amrit, he should have been equally willing of poison as well.
Everybody loves success, there is no two way about it. Every leader and the people or followers under him are bind together by one simple cause and effort, to succeed. There is no truer a fact than this.
However, at times this success doesnt come so easily. At times it takes a lot of sacrifices and efforts from the seekers of this success. Everyone wants to be a part of success, however a true leader is one, who is equally willing to be a part of the toxic products of success, or the sacrifices which are made in the process.

Value proposition: What exactly is value proposition?
The simplest definition of Value proposition could be "a promise of value to be delivered and a belief from the customer that value will be experienced"
For a leader to believe in a simple notion as above, it would start from his very basic nature. For this, a leader should be able to value even the most basic of stuff around him. He should be able to judge and evaluate every single resource or asset available to him and try to use its value to the maximum.
Once Sati asked if Shiva is Mahadev, why did he live devoid of all luxuries. She asked him to show her his house where they would live after marriage. As Shiva didnt have any, she asked him what protects him from sun in summers. Shiva showed her the valley full of Deodar trees. Then she asked what protects him from rains, Shiva took her to a cave. When she asked where would he keep fire, Shiva showed her the burning pyres.
Imagination is value, and value is imagination. Shiva being a Mahadev never really thought of worldly comforts. Caves or even Deodar trees are not of much value in terms of worldly luxuries, but Shiva found and valued all the resources available to him.

Partners in Equality: One of the most distinct legends attributed to Shiva is that of Ardha-Narishwar.
A composite androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati, the form is depicted as half male and half female, split down the middle.
Symbolically, the form represents that male and female are inseparable from each other. It also represents the law of duality. It also represents the equality of male and female. That both are incomplete without each other, a concept which many legends of Shiva very clearly point to and acknowledge. As per legends, this form has primarily been associated with fertility and growth.
A leader, similarly, no doubt shall treat his subordinates with respect and equality, he shall also have mutual trust and understanding with fellow partners in business. They shall understand that for the cause to be successful or the company to be a success, they all need to work together with one goal in mind. The purpose would be incomplete in the absence of any of them.

That Shiva and Krishna are two of the most divine figures of Hindu mythology, there is certainly no denying the fact. And that people could actually learn a lot from their lives and their legends, there is no denying this either.
At times when I am done with writing a blog on Krishna or Shiva, I end up physically exhausted and mentally drained. I feel as if I have done a decent work and covered what all I intended to when I started.
However, when I come back the next day to review the same blog, I see how little I have written about them and what all I could have covered further.
Krishna, Shiva,  their legends and their tales have a lot to teach and learn from, in the modern concepts of the world. Then why is it that some people have a problem accepting the divinity of Krishna or Shiva? People claim a lack of ideals and figures to look up to in current times. Why it gets so tough for them to look up and learn from probably the most accessible and most ideal sources of inspiration?

Coming up with a book based on Indian history/mythology.
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Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Human Evolution

Evolution is the change in the inherited characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins

In the realms of the infinite pages of history, within the magnificent premises of ancient and modern temples, inside the impressive giant laboratories where scientific marvels are put to engineering processes, in the lavish conference rooms of offices and even within the four walls of a simple home, there has always been a recurrent emotion, a persistent thought, since a little later than the advent of time.
Science and Religion dont get along very well.
Where on one hand Science believes in proofs, religion believes in faith.
The problem Science has with Religion is that science wants proofs, analysis, experiments and results. It cant just let religion base every answer on some myth without a sound proof or physical viability of that myth. "Shiva cannot hold up mighty Ganga in his hairs because thats not at all possible. So, stop throwing food and polluting it", science would say

The problem Religion has with Science is that Religion thinks the world needs Science but Science is a bit immature at this stage to understand every possible attribute of the world. Religion says what Science claims as "discoveries" and "inventions" are actually "realizations", as the concepts, the findings were very much there since the beginning of time, its only later that scientists found it out or realized its existence. Religion says it has answers to all things which science currently doesnt have.
"Ganga is our Goddess and offering obligations to it would bring prosperity in life and taking a dip would rid you of diseases.", religion would say

At times through this blog, I have brought forward ideas which completely prove the existence of some or the other scientific concept in various symbols and notions of religion through visible and proven facts. At times, there have been no visible facts, but the scientific concepts perfectly match the religious corollaries.

With this post I wish to put forward a religious concept which exists in perfect tandem with a scientific theory. The difference? The proof, in this case, would be the religious concept itself.

It is believed that the cryptic language in which the Vedas are written, turn out to be different for each of its readers. It is also believed that a true seeker of knowledge would get in Vedas what he or she seeks to find and attain.
On one hand the Vedas are known to be the words of God, on the other hand, a certain Nasadiya Shukta of Rig Veda states that maybe the world got formed first and then God came into existence.

The beginning of it all: What science claims as the beginning of earth is the "Big Bang Theory". Interestingly, Hinduism has a similar concept where a primordial sound is known to be the source of all life on earth when a higher state of Consciousness, OM is believed to have given birth to all of the world. While in Hinduism, Brahma takes care of all evolution and creation processes, science claims it to be Higgs Boson, or the "God particle", the particle responsible for the Big Bang itself.

Dual Nature of Matter: As per the Brihadranayak Upanishad, there only was the soul. Then, the soul divided itself into male(pati) and female(patni), the soul-mates. The Upanishad mentions that the female turned itself into a cow, so the male turned itself into a bull. In a similar way, everything that exists in pairs was created. If there is Shiva, there is Sati. If there is light, there is darkness.
The above concept closely resembles the law of duality in particles. For every negative, there is a positive. For every south pole, there is a north pole. If there is black, there is white. There are protons, and there are electrons. Even for neutrons, there are anti-neutrons.

Bhagvad Geeta talks of duality of pain and pleasure, of desire and hate, of life and death.

Dashavatar: The very elements of Dashavatars are viable proofs of the belief of Hinduism in the theory of evolution. Modern theory of evolution claims that humans have evolved as a gradual process, which resulted in the unfolding of this evolution, forming a chain of species where organisms purely based in water, ie fish, were the first link of that chain.

Matsya: As per the theory of evolution, Proto-Amphibians that primarily lived in water can be seen as the first stage of life. These creatures first appeared some 540 million years ago.
A starking resemblance is the first Avatar of Vishnu, Matsya Avatar, which was actually a fish that helped Manu save the world. the literal meaning of Matsya is fish.

Kurma: The second step of evolution of life, were creatures that could live on land as well as in water, like
the tortoise. The reptiles appeared almost 385 million years ago on earth.
Kurma Avatar is in form of a tortoise. It becomes a part of the legendary Amrut Manthan where Halahal poison was also churned out, drinking which, Shiva became Neelkanth.

Varaha: Reptiles gradually evolved to form the semi-amphibians, which later evolved to form first complete animals, which could exist purely on land. They could bear children and walk on land.
Varaha, or the boar was the third Avatar of Vishnu. Interestingly, boar was the first mammal to have whose teeth were at the front, and so didnt swallow food but eat more like humans.

Ironically, Vishnu in this Avatar took earth out of water and placed it in the solar system.

Narsimha: The mammals or semi-amphibians gradually evolved to become human-like creatures, which could walk on two legs, used their hands to hold things, but the brain was still not that developed. They had a human like lower body and animal like upper body.
Though not exactly apes, Narsimha Avatar fits into the above description pretty well. Though not a direct reference, it would certainly mean an ape man.
An interesting point here is that those who are aware of the story of Narsimha, he appears at a time, place and setting, where each attribute is in the middle of two things(neither human nor animal, neither at home nor outside, neither day nor night)

Vamana: Some 5 million years ago, Homo Erectus got evolved. The organisms of this species were much more like humans. They walked on two legs, had lesser facial hairs, and had an upper body like a human. However, they were dwarves
The Vamana avatar of Vishnu could also relate to Neanderthals, which are known to be quite shorter than humans.

Parsuram: The Rama with the Axe. Finally the first Homo-sapiens arrived and they were hunters and nomads. They were tall, could talk and had tools to hunt down their food.
Parsuram was the first complete human Avatar of Vishnu, the attributes fitting perfectly with that of an early man which could hunt and use tools for his own needs. Parsuram is known for his anger and rage, much like the early man which existed without a proper society in place.

Rama: Finally, a society is evolved out of needs of humans to live, eat and co-exist. The society has rules, and is God-fearing and abiding. It is important to follow rules, rage and unsocial behaviour is cut down. Fellow humans are respected and people abide to law and order.
Rama, the complete man would be the Avatar that could be called as the perfect social human being. Rama respected and followed rules of the society. He would also respect the saints and kill those who would torment the sages and the oppressed ones.

Krishna:  A close friend prompts Krishna as the complete modern man. The theory of survival of fittest comes into play and now humans have become much smarter and has started enjoying music, dance and festivals. There have been war around and feuds within the family. Society has become shrewd and a devious attribute is the need of the time.
It would feel like I am giving a description of Krishna himself. He was smart, devious and a skillfull manager. More like a modern day man.

Buddha: More like futuristic, a stage which we have not yet encountered. Theory of evolution would suggest a drop in the restlessness of the world after some stage, as it could not go on forever, and peace would be restored back in the world. Maybe the avatar of Gautam Buddha, would be Hinduism's futuristic vision to tell the world what it has in store in the coming times.

The critics of the Dashavatar-evolution analogy claim that Dashavatar were not strictly in the order in which they are famously drawn out. The legends in which they appear do not follow a strict ordering. Also, maybe the relation to theory of evolution is a far fetched theory out of a simple concept of Avatars being there. to defeat evil and sustain life on the earth. Even if this indeed is a far-fetched theory, the analogy is quite fascinating. If Vishnu had indeed decided to take these Avatars, he took them in accordance with the various stages of evolution, which was much later discovered, or shall I say, realized, by Charles Darwin. Gives me one more reason to say, as I did in The Matrix Reloaded, maybe the concepts of Hinduism are such scientific, they apply to every modern and logical concept of the world.

Coming up with a book based on Indian history/mythology.
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Sunday, 13 October 2013

The Flaw in the Plan

“Do you see, Harry? Do you see the flaw in my brilliant plan now? I had fallen into the trap I had 
foreseen, that I had told myself I could avoid, that I must avoid. I cared about you too much,” said Dumbledore simply.

-The Last Prophecy, Chapter 37, Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix

“Is Draco alive? Is he in the castle?”
The whisper was barely audible; her lips were an inch from his ear, her head bent so low that her long hair shielded his face from the onlookers.
“Yes,” Harry breathed back.
He felt the hand on his chest contract; her nails pierced him. Then it was withdrawn. She had sat up.
“He is dead!” Narcissa Malfoy called to the watchers.

-The Flaw in the Plan, Chapter 36, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Rama needed a bridge to be built across the ocean to reach Lanka, in order to defeat Ravana. The night before they started their preparations, he decided to conduct a Yagna to worship Shiva at Rameshwaram. As he was going to fight one of his most powerful adversaries, he needed the most scholarly priest to conduct the Yagna for him. He was informed that Ravana himself is the most learned scholar of all times. An invitation was sent to Ravana, who accepted it, arrived at Rameshwaram and conducted a Yagna with all holy rites.
Interestingly, the Yagna could be considered successfully completed only when Rama would sit with his wife Sita in the ceremony, who was held captive by Ravana in Lanka. Ravana not only brought Sita to the Yagna, he presided over the proper arrangements and completion of the Yagna.
After the Yagna got over, Rama sought Ravana's blessings in defeating him, to which Ravana replied, Tathastu.

The great Shiva devotee that Ravana was, he wanted Shiva to move his abode from Kailash to Lanka. When Shiva didnt oblige, he even attempted to lift the entire Kailash mountain with his hands. This was one distinct attribute of Ravana, the arrogance.
When Shiva pressed his toe on Kailash, Ravana's fingers got stuck beneath the mountains, and he sang an entire Stotram, Shiva-Tandava-Strotram to appease him. This was a contrasting, yet another distinct attribute of the same person, his knowledge, his wisdom. On Shiva's insistence, he had even mastered all the Vedas and their knowledge.

From the face of it, Ravana was all set to become one of the greatest and divine figures of Indian mythology. Inspite of his arrogance and ego, his knowledge and wisdom could eventually have placed him as one of the most revered names of Hindu mythology. And though, he is still worshipped at a number of places in India for the same reason, he never did really reach a position and stature that he deserved.
Why a wise man like Ravana was doomed to meet such a fate in the hands of Rama. What was the flaw in the plan?

Illusion of Immortality: Ravana performed one of the most difficult penances of all times to Brahma standing on one feet for hundreds of years, and after the penance got successful, Brahma granted him Amrut which he placed in his navel. He had asked Brahma to be superior to devas,other Rakshasas, serpents, beasts, celestial beings, as he disrespected  mortals .
This illusion of immortality sowed the first seeds of arrogance in Ravana

The Return of the King: Lanka was built by Vishwakarma and was acquired by Kubera, Ravana's half brother. When Ravana returned from his penance, he won the complete control over Lanka from Kuber and the kingdom flourished under his rule. It is believed that even the poorest of houses had vessels made up of gold and hunger vanished from the country. The rise of Lanka speaks volumes about him being a wise and a just ruler.

The Absolute Devotee: After being granted Amrut by Brahma, Ravana started a penance to Shiva where he sacrificed his head 10 times, Shiva each time replacing his head. After the penance, Shiva blessed Ravana with 10 heads, after which he was known as Dashanan.
On a separate note, the 10 heads of Ravana represented the 4 Vedas and 6 Shastras which he had mastered, the heads symbolically representing his knowledge in all the 10 directions.

By now, Ravana had become so powerful, that he defeated all the deities of heaven, and gained control over the setting and rising of sun

The multi-faceted Ravana: Nadi Shastra talk about Ravana being an expert in Ayurvedic texts. He also attended medical conferences held in those days.
Ravana was a great musician. As per legends, when he started playing his Veena, even Gods would appear to listen to his music. He was an equally fierce warrior and a great administrator. While he was moments away from his inevitable death, Rama had asked Laxman to pay respect to Ravana and learn the methods of proper governance and administration, when Ravana eventually obliges Laxman with his knowledge.

Tirthankar: As per Jains, a Tirthankars are human beings who achieve enlightenment and show the world the right path. Some souls are never released from the cycle of birth and death, and in repetitions, these 24 Tirthankars are born as humans and show the world the path to liberation.
Ravana, as per Jainism, is one of the 24 Tirthankars, a list which includes Krishna and Mahaveer themselves. Jains, however, do not worship Ravana, because before he could have realized his destiny and given up on war, he was killed. They believe that in the next cycle of Tirthnankaras, Ravana will be born and lead humans this time.
Had Ravana not been killed by Rama, maybe he could have realized his evils and shown the path or liberation to the world.

The Divine Figure: In many places in South India and South-east Asia, Ravana is still worshipped in temples, and devotees flock in large numbers to pay homage to him. Kailash Temple in Kanpur opens its gates only for one day of the year, i.e. Dusshehra, and is worshipped on the day. Apart from this, Ravana is also worshipped in Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh; Alwar, Rajasthan among other places.

In spite of him being a bona-fide villain in Hindu mythology, his effigies being burnt in almost every part of India on Dusshehra, his name being equivalent to evil, the divinity and respect he still enjoys, albeit concentrated to a few specific places and sects, is worth mentioning.

The chink in the armour: Be it his son, his wife, his brothers or his sister, Ravana loved his family the most in the world. Though he placed his duties as a Brahmin and a king above his family, when Kumbhkarna was tricked by Brahma in receiving an eternal sleep as boon, Ravana performed some further penance and pleaded Brahma to amend the boon, which he then changed to 6 months of continuous sleep.
He loved and respected his wife Mandodari and also used to take her advises on matters of high importance.  And though, people may claim he didnt love Vibhishana as much, he loved him until he asked Ravana to give up war against Rama, when Ravana considered his kingdom the greatest of all.

It was his love for Surpanakha, that caused his inevitable downfall. Though he had previously murdered her husband as well, when he had tried to overthrow Ravana in greed for power, he loved and adored his sister. Add to that his arrogance, which forced him to seek some revenge against the men had who insulted his sister, formed the ingredients of his fall.

What would have happened had Surpanakha not proposed to Laxman, or had Laxman not cut her nose? Had Ravana not reacted strongly and had decided to negotiate with Rama and Laxman? Had Ravana accepted the peace proposals sent by Rama in the form of Angad, Hanuman? Had Ravana listened to Mandodari like he always did, when she asked him to let Sita go back to Rama? The epic would have been written differently, or we would have had another divine figure in the Hindu mythology to look up to.

Born in the lineage of one of the most learned and wise sages of all times, Rishi Pulatsya, Ravana had all the bearings which could make him a legend. That said, Ravana had his own share of sins that he committed, and before he could have had realized his sins(maybe he would have never had), he met his inevitable death when Rama's arrow pierced his navel. Not exactly a hero which he could have been, he definitely had the knowledge to be one. But, his ego, his illusion of immortality, and the belief that he would never be punished for his sins made him fall in the battle of Ramayana. Certainly an interesting character, where on one hand he stopped any kind of animal sacrifice in his kingdom and was pious and ascetic, on the other hand he had a long list of curses received from many celestial figures including Nandi

Ending the post with an interesting trivia: Do you know that the famous "Laxman Rekha" finds no reference in the Ramayana? Ramayana does not mention any Laxman Rekha when Sita is abducted or later on. Laxman Rekha finds its mention only in Ramncharit Manas by Tulsidas

Coming up with a book based on Indian history/mythology.
Please join the Facebook page and invite others as well to do the same.
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Khoj-In Search of Lost Signs

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Twist in the Tale

So, which is the greatest story of all times?
Would you say, Godan? Or, Devdas? Or Sholay or Guide?
Or shall we expand the horizon? Gulliver's Travels? Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde? What about The Godfather? The Dark Knight? Harry Potter? There are too many contenders, really. And I could have just missed your favourite pick.

What makes a good narration a contender for one of the greatest stories of all times? A twist, which quite often is not the very soul of the story, not even the protagonist or the narrator. A trigger which causes the very events to start and flow which form the very backbone of the entire story. The twist may not be that apparent or may even lose its face as the story progresses, but is the most important singular point in the story.
While in Devdas, the twist could be attributed to Narayan Mukherjee who caught Paro with Devdas in his room, Sybill Trelawney takes the honours in Harry Potter when she made the famous prophecy. Be it the villagers who caught Raju guide stealing from temple or Dr. Jekyll's insanity to differentiate from his wicked self. Be it the train robbery in Sholay or the shipwreck in Gulliver's Travels, not always have the twists got the recognition, or shall I say, coverage, they deserved.

What about the Mahabharata?

The first marriage: King Subala of Gandhara, which now falls around modern day Kandahar in Afghanistan, once performed a very holy Yagna in his kingdom.
An astrologer who had attended the Yagna advised him to get his daughter married off to a goat, to bring fortunes upon herself and her family. Heeding to his advise, King Subala got Gandhari married to a goat, and then killed the goat subsequently. Technically, this made Gandhari a widow and Dhritrashtra her second husband.
This fact, though a bit trivial, however was kept hidden from Dhritrashtra, the eldest prince of Kuru kingdom, who was blind since birth. Gandhari had voluntarily decided to blindfold herself throughout her married life.

The moment of truth: Dhritrashtra, eventually learned about the truth of her wife, and decided to punish the entire Subala clan. He imprisoned all of them, and used to supply one handful of rice for all of them every single day. With such a meager amount of food, most of the members of the family died eventually.
King Subala decided that one of them should live and avenge the death of the entire family. From then itself, all the rice allocated for the family was fed to the youngest son, who eventually went on to become stronger and much sharper than before.

Why Shakuni?: Subala had 100 sons whom Dhritrashtra had imprisoned when he came to know of the absolute truth about his wife's marriage to a goat. Subala decided to take a test of all the sons, so as to decide who would be getting that one handful of rice to live and sustain and avenge their family's destruction. He gave a bone to each one of his son, and asked them to put a thread through it. None of his other sons were able to complete the task when Shakuni tied the thread to an ant who went through the entire length of the bone to reach a grain of rice at the other end.

Death of Subala: Subala realized that he could no longer survive, and would eventually die of hunger, he requested Dhritrashtra to forgive him and his only son left till then. He promised that his son would not claim any right to his throne and would always be a guardian to all the 101 children of Dhritrashtra, the Kauravas.
Dhritrashtra took pity on the old man and freed him eventually.and his son.

The Twist in the Tale: King Subala, before dying, instructed to make a pair of dice from his bones, which would always produce the numbers requested by him. He also asked Shakuni to be the reason of downfall of the entire Kaurava clan.
As promised, Shakuni became the guardian of the 101 Kauravas, and was the sheet anchor of the entire "Chaupad" episode in Mahabharata, which then led to the very war of Mahabharat. He provoked the Kauravas to do all the incorrect acts and thus formed the very basis of all the wrongdoings of Kauravas.
As per other legends, it is believed that when Bhishmapitamah brought the matrimonial proposal of Dhritrashtra for Gandhari. The royal Gandhars felt angry and insulted that their princess was proposed of marrying a blind person. The Kurus were mighty kingdom, and refusing the proposal of a mighty king was akin to being suicidal, so they were left with practically no choice but to accept the proposal of Bhishmapitamah.
The anger, however propelled the king and his son Shakuni to avenge for the insult and Shakuni vowed to being an important tool in eliminating the entire Kaurava clan.

The Smart moves: Shakuni, by his sheer intelligence and judgement of characters, was smart enough to sense the jealousy and anger trapped inside the heart of Duryodhana towards his cousin brothers, and how he also feared them for their chivalry. He had also judged Yudhishtir's love for gambling and how he could be manipulated to keep playing in spite of losses.
Another smart move which Shakuni applied was that he had guessed Krishna as one of those persons who would be able to successfully foil all his plans for Kauravas in pitching them against Pandavas. For this reason, each one of his manipulations and moves was done at a time when Krishna was away from the Pandavas.

The Tricks and Tweaks: To say that Shakuni was the brains behind all the master plans which the Kauravas instrumented against Pandavas, would not at all be exaggerating things. He was the brains behind cajoling Yudhishtir to play Chaupad and then lose all of his kingdom and royalty, right to his family to Duryodhana. He again, was the one who suggested 12 year exile for Pandavas and 1 year anonymity exile after their loss in Chaupad. He was the one who suggested to wage a war against the kingdom that was holding the Pandavas secretly, so that they are revealed and they may again be sent for 12 year exile.
It was Shakuni idea to burn down the house of lac where Pandavas were supposedly hidden and could have died, and also it was his idea to send Durvasa sage to the forests where the Pandavas were living so that he may curse them.

A figure to worship?: Even though, unlike Ravana, the name of Shakuni is associated with pure villainy, a temple of Shakuni is located in Kerela at Pavitreshwaram. The temple as such doesnt encourage any puja or worship, just a few offerings are  made in the form of coconuts.

It is notable indeed that in his endeavour to avenge the destruction of his family, or maybe to help his nephews out in defeating the Pandavas, Shakuni himself never properly ruled his own kingdom. Seeing the atrocities he meted out on Pandavas, keeping Kauravas in front, Sahadeva, one out of the five Pandavas vowed to kill Shakuni and avenge all that he did to hurt their dignity and prestige. Shakuni had two sons, Uluk, who was killed by Nakul and Kalikeya, who was killed by Abhimanyu. Shakuni himself was killed by Sahadeva on 18th day of Mahabharat.

Symbolically, Shakuni represented the Dwapar Yuga, a time when brother would kill brother in the quest for power, and Shakuni was the catalyst.

Twists have a peculiar habit, they make a story a legend, but somehow get lost amidst the main themes, the protagonists, the major players of the story. Shakuni, as such, doesn't enjoy any kind of divinity which his contemporary characters command and receive, but his role in one of the biggest epics of all times, certainly deserves a special mention

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Sunday, 8 September 2013


What if someone was to explain Indology, albeit in symbols? How would he do it? What if someone was asked to jot down any three symbols of Indology, symbols which define it or characterize the very basis of Indology. What if you were asked to compile the list?

While the presence of Swastika would be a bit debatable despite it being a major symbol in Hinduism since eternity, because the symbol finds its presence in other ancient civilizations as well, OM would make it to the list thanks to the ascendancy and the rich symbolism it boasts of. Any such attempt, specially of a comparatively later Indian context would be incomplete without the analysis of undoubtedly the most revered and prime symbol of Sikhism, the Khanda.

Around the year 1499, when Guru Nanaka was thirty years old, he laid the first foundations of a new stream of spirituality, the obvious signs of divinity being already acknowledged by those near and around him. He began teaching and spreading the very lessons of this new branch of spirituality, called Sikhi. The followers came to be known as Sikhs.

The Khanda:  Primarily, the Khanda consists of three distinct entities taken together, a solid circle, two interlocked swords, one double-edged sword at the center. The emblem of Khanda appears on Nishan Sahib, the Sikh flag. Commonly, it is called the "Coat of arms" or Khalsa crest.

Symbolically, Khanda is rich in meanings and connotations more than what meets the eye. There are a number of triads, which the Khanda as a whole composite unit signify. Primarily, the two swords represent Piri and Miri, literally meaning spiritual and secular respectively and were wore by Guru Har Gobind.  The circle, or Chakra is a circlet, which is a throwing weapon used in battles.
The double-edged sword, also known as Khanda, represents sword which is used to stir the immortalizing nectar of Amrit given to initiates to drink in the Sikh baptism ceremony.

The two swords represent balance in every phase of life. While one symbolizes that a person needs power to protect his faith, the other symbolizes that a person needs to power to protect and help the needy and the weak, thus teaming up to brand the bearer Sant-Sipahi.
The Chakra represents eternity of Godliness, the continuous cycle of life and death, of creation and destruction, a concept quite similar to the symbolism of Shiva.
The Khanda itself represents a weapon to cut the evil down both ways.

Literally, the Khanda depicts the Sikh doctrine Deg Teg Fateh in the form of an emblem, which means "Victory to charity and sword". This would mean that a person who wears the Khanda needs to protect the oppressed and to provide food to the needy and the hungry.

Other meanings: The Khanda below is shown in a slightly different manner using ears of Wheat, the basis of all bread on earth - the common food for all people.  The Khanda is dedicated to all those seeking freedom from suffering where ever they may be.

The Sikh flag is a saffron-colored triangular-shaped cloth, usually reinforced in the middle with Sikh insignia in blue. It is usually mounted on a long steel pole (which is also covered with saffron-colored cloth) headed with a Khanda. The Sikh flag is often seen near the entrance to the Gurdwara, standing firmly on the platform, overlooking the whole building. Sikhs show great respect to their flag as it is, indeed, the symbol of the freedom of the Khalsa.

At times, the Khanda is rendered in the form of a pin and can be worn on the turbans.

From the endless of pages of the history of India, no one, and just no one can take away the very fact that Sikhism and Sanatana Dharma share a common lineage and ancestry. The Constitution of India powers this country to place both of them under the broader heading of 'Hinduism' and an analysis of either one of their later years is incomplete without the mention of other. The interweaving of two distinct schools of thoughts into one another, is what makes India such diverse, and Indology, a mighty interesting topic.

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Monday, 19 August 2013

The Deal

"And we plan to build everything which would make this school the best of all available choices in the city. We will have night classes for the elderly, which of course, would be free of cost.". He paused for a moment to catch his breath and glanced at his cell phone for the time. He was speaking since 2 hours flat. He took a long breath and looked across at the silhouettes of all the people sitting in the room, their shaped being illuminated by the light of the projector
"Next to the school", he continued, "will there be Sanjeevani hospital where we aim to build up the most qualified and experienced team of medics in the entire state" He paused for a second,"With that I would like to wrap up our proposal.". He switched on the lights of the room

"Mr Suryavanshi", the man sitting across the long table,spoke after what seemed to be a few seconds,"I have been through some 10-12 presentations by various companies since we announced the construction of Dhanush-Koti township in Janakipuram. Yours is the one in which I see a lot of potential to collaborate together to develop Dhanush Koti. But I find myself in a tricky situation here before accepting your proposal"
"And what would that be?"
"We planned to develop on the barren land lying in the central Janakipuram area. In your proposal you have also included the Shivpuri region's land."
"But isnt that also the land of the government? Whats the point of a township with a slum on two of its sides?"
Rajarshi Yogi cleared his throat,"Thats how things are here, Mr Suryavanshi. We are not in a position to remove the slum."
"Well then lets talk to someone who is."
"Things are not the same here as in your area, Mr Suryavanshi. The area is under the constituency of Shivaji Bhargava, and we have tried to persuade him a number of times. All efforts were fruitless."
"Shivaji Bhargava! Wasnt he the protege of Paras Kulhari, leader of Shiv Shakti party? "
"You bet he was. But that was a long time ago. He has risen up the party ranks much faster and aggressively than others."
"In that case, we would like to meet him once, say, the next week?"
"I will arrange for the meeting, if you say. But he is a tough man to persuade and hates Corporates for their indifference towards common people. Be prepared to face rejection."
"We will see to that.", he said, standing up and started to leave,"See you next week."

Raghava opened the cuffs of his shirt and folded them up. He loosened his tie lazily and as he was about to sit in the car along with Anuj, they heard a soft female voice from behind,"Excuse me, Mr Suryavanshi"
Raghav turned around to see Bhumi Yogi, daughter of Rajarshi standing near them. She was wearing a black coat over her white shirt, with a matching pleated skirt
"Yes, Miss Yogi? How can I help you?"
"I really liked the proposal Mr Suryavanshi. The human touch that you have added is really marvellous .I hope you are able to break the Dhanush-Koti deal. It would be a pleasure to work with you."
"Same here, Miss Yogi."
"Well you can call me Bhumi."
"Then call me Raghav, Bhumi."
"Well, Raghav", she said extending her hand,"All the best!"
Raghav shook her hand,"Thanks a lot!", and sat in the car. Bhumi came towards the open window of Raghav and lowered her head,"Try to visit those slums. Votes are the lifeline of a politician. Good bye!", she said and walked away
Raghav smiled and turned his car towards Shivpuri area.

Raghav switched on the light and looked straight at the tall man in white kurta pyjama sitting next to Rajarshi. "And this is how we plan to build Dhanush-Koti in Janakpuri and Shivpuri areas."
Lines of irritation seemed to appear on Shivaji Bhargava's face as he looked at Rajarshi,"Is that it? You called me here for 'this'? I cancelled an all party meeting just because you wanted to hold an important discussion around Shivpuri. And you called me in here for this buffoonery?"
"Sir", interrupted Raghav. "There are certain points we wanted to discuss in the proposition."
Shivaji Bhargava stood up."There is no proposition and certainly no discussion." He turned towards Rajarshi, his voice full of irritation,  "Why did you call to waste my time if you already knew my answer"
"Sir, actually Mr Suryavanshi wanted to meet you.", Rajarshi fumbled for words.
"And you called me here to watch this mockery?" Shivaji was fuming with anger.
"Mr Bhargava", said Raghava calmly,"Mr Yogi called you on my insistence. You can talk directly to me."
"There is nothing to talk about. I wouldnt allow Shivpuri to be removed."
"Lets at least discuss about this plan."
"There is no plan", said Shivaji in a grave serious tone, putting weight behind each of his word. "The entire township is anti-poor. You are going to take away their homes."
"To give a better, well constructed home. A better locality, better infrastructure. What are they living currently in? A slum!"
"At least they have a home now. Your townships and your schemes will deceive them off their homes."
"Mr Bhargava, we will develop exactly as we have proposed, and the poor will only benefit with better homes, better education, free medication, and job opportunities."
"Dont give me your management junk, Raghav Suryavanshi. I have slain scores of corporates before you. Your sweet coated talks wont work on me. You are too stupid to think that you will succeed"
"Mr Bhargava", Anuj snapped before Raghava could speak,"I think you should watch your words."
"The irony! I am called to waste my precious time and I need to learn my manners too."
"More than that, you need to learn to listen. Whats wrong if your people go on to have a better life. Their children may not have to work and they get to study. No more deaths out of negligience?"
"Since when did corporates become such emotional for common people?", said Shivaji mockingly.
"I think you didnt hear properly what my brother said. We will provide job opportunities to them and not our sympathies"

"And that would be a hole in your profit margins! Why would you do that? Why would a corporate do that?"
"Why would we do it?", said Anuj."I dont fathom you watch much of national news, do you? The Suryavanshis have always been known to be supportive of the poor and the oppressed!"
Shivaji Bhargava looked straight at Anuj,"If I were to believe the news, Suryavanshis of Ayodhya are the most notorious goons of the entire area, and even police and bureaucrats are powerless in front of them. Tell me Anuj Bhargava, how much blood do you have on your hands?".
"We help those who do not get the support they deserve from their very own elected people. We help those who expect us to help them when they are turned away by the very police and bureaucrats you talk about"
"Almost running a parallel government? What the hell you think you are? Some messiah?"

Bhumi looked at Raghav signalling  him to intervene.
"And what does Mr Shivaji Bhargava believe in?", said Anuj,"Suck the blood of the voters? Let them live and die in slums, till its not affecting the vote bank? Neither do anything nor let anyone do anything, right? You keep them poor for your selfish benefits Shivaji Bhargava! How much blood do I have on my hands? You removed the entire family of the person that killed your father!"

"How dare you speak of my father?"
"Why, Mr Bharhava? Because they feared your father would become the leader of the workers? The reason why you hate Corporates? You killed all the 21 members of their family?"
Shivaji was fuming with anger,"That has got nothing to do with this."
Raghav signalled everybody with his hand,"Calm down, gentlemen. I think the meeting is going out of control,. Lets keep matters unrelated to this meeting away as much as possible. We are here for a purpose, and let us get over it". He turned to Shivaji,"Sir, I very well know all you want is that the poor people of Shivpuri dont lose their homes.What if the people of Shivpuri themselves would want to be a part of Dhanush Koti township?"
"What do you mean?", asked Shivaji, his face still hard
 Raghav took out a few pages from his bag, walked over to Shivaji and kept them in front of him.
"Signature of each and every member of Shivpuri. They are with us in developing this township. I hope you will adhere to their wishes."
Shivaji studied the papers for a few minutes as the lines of his forehead started to disappear. He then spoke in a low tone. "If the people want it this way, I dont think I should interfere with their wishes. Are the papers of this deal ready?"
Rajarshi presented the file before him. Shivaji studied and signed the papers. He then looked at Raghav.
"The papers have been signed. You can go ahead with the plan. However, there is still one condition on which I can give it to you."
"Whats that?", asked Raghav.
"Mr Anuj Suryavanshi will apologize to me right now."
Everyone turned to Anuj whose eyes were red with anger.
"Say sorry, and take these papers away.", said Shivaji with a smirk.
Raghav moved over and kept his hand on Anuj's shoulder."Anuj, Mr Bhargava is elder to us and is a responsible and respected citizen of the state. Please say sorry to him."
Anuj looked at Raghav who smiled back to him. "Come on, say sorry. We must learn something from his experience."
Anuj took a deep breath and looked at Shivaji,"I am sorry!"
"Mention not", replied Shivaji with a straight face. He turned to Rajarshi,"All the best with the project. I hope you will take care of the residents of the slum as you have promised.", he said and walked away.

"I think you handled it pretty well", said Bhumi to Raghav as they sipped coffee in the office cafeteria.
"I think your idea worked! Thanks for the hint!"
"What hint?", she asked raising her brows as both of them broke into a laughter.
"Listen, we are planning a party celebrating the launch of Dhanush-Koti and I would really like if you come", said Bhumi
"Of course. What else do you like?"
"Lets say a nice Italian dinner with a great company"
Raghav smiled as he put his cup down and looked at her. "I will pick you up at 7:00"

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