Friday, 26 April 2013

Carriers of Gods- vahanas

What is the common factor across almost every, if not every Shiva temple of India? Which one common element, or factor would you find across all of these temples, be it in any nook or corner of the country?
Before someone starts contemplating the various symbolism of Mahadev, what if I add that the same common element is present in almost every Goddess Laxmi temple across the Indian subcontinent? That the same element is also present in almost every Ganesha temple, Saraswati temple, Durga temple, Vishnu Temple...

The common factor binding all the deities, the factor with which they are quite inseparable, and shall I say incomplete in their imagery, is their carriers, the Vahanas of Gods.

Barring a few Hindu deities, most of the major ones are always shown riding their Vahanas, their carriers. Such is the complete imagery of God-Vahana pairing, the Vahana becomes completely entwined with the God, and though seldom talked about, they become a compulsary part of every temple of that particular deity. Such is the strong relationship between them, that at times when analyzing the attributes of a deity, the Vahanas that the deity rides in turn become an indivisible part of those attributes.

As per legends, it is believed, that if you need your message to reach across to the Lord you are offering your prayers to, just speak it into the ears of the Vahana, and your message will be delivered.

Ever wondered, what made these particular deities choose these specific Vahanas. Or for the realists, what made the ancient Vedic men assign those particular Vahanas to the specific deities?  Time to have a closer look at one of the lesser thought about and even lesser talked about part of our daily worship.

The Shiva Family: Who better to start with than the entire Shiva family. The Shiva family is indeed unique in a way, for if you consider all members to be living somewhere in Kailash, and Kartikeya(who as per many texts, lives in Mount Krouncha) visits his parents and siblings, then the Shiva-ganas would be witnessing a mystical combination of a lion, a bull, a peacock, a rat and a snake(though not a Vahana) living together at one place. The combination is indeed unique, as it signifies peaceful co-existence and harmony between archetypal enemies, symbolic of the powerful and lordly attribute of the Shiva family.

Shiva and Nandi: Symbolically, Nandi represents strength, faith and consistency in belief. Unlike other Vahanas, Nandi is the only one, who is even worshipped separately as a complete divine figure. The divinity of Nandi finds its traces even in Indus Valley Civilization, dairy farming being the chief occupation then and Nandi being given a supreme position. Nandi is considered a guard or a protector of all Shiva temples, the reason why he is placed outside the temple. Scientifically, the divinity of Nandi is resplendent of intuition and instinct, thus it is said that one should look at Shiva from in between Nandi's horns, when one can view the Lord maximizing one's instinctive abilities.

Durga and Dawon: Shakti represents the complete cosmic energy, and Durga is known to be the complete embodiment of Shakti, symbolizing not only the cosmic energy but being the mother of all beings in world and beyond. The lion, Dawon was gifted to Parvati, the calmer aspect of Durga, by her father, Himalaya. The lion represents ferocity and aggression, attributing to Durga's form. Interestingly. the roar of Dawon is said to be another voice of Durga, which is the proclamation of silence, forcing one to listen.

On another interesting note, the white haired Dawon represents day, while the black Nandi represents night, them representing Shiva-Shakti embodiment of the entire creation.

Ganesha and Mooshika: The name Mooshika is derived from Sanskrit term Moosh, which means to rob or to steal. Rat, being a notorious creature, robs people of food and clothes. Symbolically, human mind is akin to a rat, the mind being wavering and selfish. Ganesha sitting on a mouse depicts all such thoughts being crushed if a devotee surrenders himself to him. A mouse sitting still near Ganesha's feet denote him to be able to guide your thoughts to absolute serenity.

Kartikeya and Parvani: As per legends, Kartikeya who defeated Tarakasura in a heavenly battle was about to kill him when he asked for forgiveness. Kartikeya transformed the demon to Parvani, a peacock and made it his Vahana. Peacock, is known to be the nemesis of snakes, a symbol for ego in ancient times, Kartikey's Vahana thus symbolizing him as the destructor of ego.

Vishnu and Garuda: An eagle like creature, with a shiny golden body, red wings a sharp eagle's beak and a human body. Another Vahana, after Nandi, who is given a special place in Indian mythology. As per legends, during the legendary Samudra Manthan, when Amrit was churned out, Vishnu handed the pitcher(Kumbh) to Garuda to fly it over to heavens. The four places where the nectar fell, viz. Allahabad, Haridwar, Nashik and Ujjain, now we celebrate the Kumbh Mela after every 3 years at each place. The emblem of Thailand, interestingly, has an image of Garuda in the center, symbolizing divine power and authority.

Lakshmi and Uluka:  Owls are known to be associate with auspiciousness and good wealth. Further, owls are known for their penetrating sights and sharp sense. Also known as Pechaka in some parts of the country, Uluka, the owl at times is not even considered as the Vahana of Lakshmi. A few ancient texts suggest Uluka to be representing Lakshmi's twin sister, Alakshmi, who represents everything opposite of what Lakshmi stands for. In a bid to defame her, they started depicting her as an owl.

And thats not even half done. The more I write the more there is left unexplored, as always. The swan of Sarasvati, the horses of Sun, the elephant Airavat of Indra, the buffalo of Yamraj, each having its specific set of symbolism and attributes remaining to be explored, uncovered, the list is endless. Why each of the individual deity was attributed to their respective carriers, and why were these carriers not chosen for the other deities, perhaps has got something to do with the individual attributes of those deities. Like, Vishnu has always been attributed with heavenly attributes, unlike Shiva who has more of earthly attributes, so Garuda has wings that can even cover the sun, while Nandi is more of an earthly creature. Similarly, Indra is the king of devas, hence his carrier is an elephant, and a ferocious lion for Durga, unlike a swan for Sarasvati who is much calmer.

I would like to end the post as of now, and would like to know what did you think about it.
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Thursday, 18 April 2013

Bits and Bytes

In the Spring of the year 1985, a NASA scientist by the name of Rick Briggs, working at Roacs-NASA Ames Research Center(California), composed and presented an article by the name of "Sanskrit and Artificial Intelligence" for AI Magazine, published by NASA. Needless to say, C++ was still in its naive form by then, JAVA still hadn't arrived, and programmers were having a real tough time trying to deal with the machine-like computer languages in mnemonic codes.

In simpler terms, Mnemonic codes are part of Assembly Language, which comprise of operations like ADD(to add), SUB(to subtract), etc, which a computing machine can understand. Even to perform simplest of calculations in series, people were still feeding in scores of mnemonic codes, which they could neither comprehend nor understand properly. The Mnemonic codes formed a part of low level language and were completely different from the natural languages which humans speak or understand.
The search for a comprehensive programming language which would be compatible with natural languages was still on. C/C++ had provided glimpses of hope, albeit after years of research and money being pumped into it. Mr Briggs commented that the scientists have got beaten heavily by some 2,600 years in  being able to develop semantics for such a programming language, when a certain Indian sage, by the name of Panini, belonging to 7 BC, had all the answers to the problems the scientists were facing. Now why would Rick Briggs, a NASA scientist, claim such a thing? Had he found certain elements in Panini's work which compelled him ascertain such a notion?

Namaste and welcome to the eighth post of this blog. This post, like all the previous ones is indeed very special, but more so, because I personally found it the toughest to compose till now. I really hope you guys like it much more than all of the previous posts.

Panini was the man who designed the entire grammar for Sanskrit. The semantics, which comprise of some 4000 rules in total, are so scientific and logical in nature, that it could very well be the baseline of structures used by various computer scientists. Panini composed a book by the name of Ashtadhyayi which comprise of exhaustive set of rules for Sanskrit Grammar. The grammar is based purely on mathematical and algebraic algorithms, and is powerful enough to be used to model a generator, which could churn out the rules for languages like Chinese or Thai.

Alright enough of the theory, time for some practicals. Lets take up certain concepts of modern day computer programming and see how well they match up with the rules of Panini's Sanskrit.

Database and Metadata: In layman terms, Database is a collection of data. Raw data is meaningless. Metadata, in programming terms, means data about data. In other words, raw data, which is meaningless as such, assumes meaningful patterns and collection when metadata is applied to it. Panini's Sanskrit, in the form of 4000 rules, form four compact databases. Aksharasam Amanaya, Sutrapatha, Datupatha and Ganpatha are the databases of Sanskrit, and the metadata are the rules contained within these databases.

Recursion: Those who are not aware, recursion is a process of repeating items in a self-similar way. In computer programming, whenever a method call is made from within the method itself, it is called recursion
The picture below would explain recursion better
It is interesting to note that Panini has extensively used recursion in Sanskrit grammar. Each of the 4000 rules are called Sutras, and each complete word to define those rules was called Pada. Panini did not use all the Padas in a Sutra to fully explain the Sutra. He, at times refers to previous Sutras where the Pada has already been defined or used (method invocation). There are instances when Panini has called a Sutra from within itself to refer to the Pada.

मार्जारः श्रावितृ मूषकम् अपश्यत् (The cat, who hears, saw the rat)

Here there is a recursion of मार्ज(The Cat). May sound easy now, but think of it as a semantic being composed 2600 years ago

Arrays and null values: Panini has defined a term called Lop, which would be equivalent to Null. A null can be assigned to a variable, or a pada in Sanskrit, and then used for simple Array operations in Sanskrit like Join(Sandhi in Sanskrit). A number of array joins can result in a complex term, which again can be broken down(disjoint). The below example shows A simple Sanskrit word as three distinct String arrays with Null
नमःस्तुते = न             मः           लोपः           स्                तु             लोपः         ते
             S1[0]     S1[1]         Null            S2[0]          S2[1]       Null           S3[0]

Polymorphism: Literally, polymorphism simply means one word having more than one meanings. My software industry friends would understand better, but the below image can be of help for the others.

If "cut" is called, it maybe for a surgeon, hair stylist or an actor. A single action can mean different to different audience.
लम्बोदर: could mean A person with big Stomach, and could also mean Lord Ganesha. The user of the word has the freedom to define the meaning of the word in his context(run time polymorphism)

Distributive Law(Inheritance and Sets):  Panini used Brevity extensively in his Sanskrit Grammar rules. Consider this:
सुरेश: विपणिं गच्छति : Suresh went to the market(Suresh(s)Market(b))
सुरेश: त्रिचक्रिका क्रयक्रीत Suresh bought a cycle(Suresh(s)Cycle(b))
Suresh went to the market, brought a cycle(s(a+b))

Conditional Prgramming(If-Then-Else): Panini had made strict rules when two words were being joint or disjoint. At times, it would happen, that these rules may conflict. He again had a set of conditional statements, as per which every time there was a conflict, some rules can "block" other rules based on certain conditions

If X then Y(माथरा कौनदिन्य: न्याय: )
If X then Y else Z(तक्र कौनदिन्य: न्याय: )
If(not X) then Y(निसेधा)
If X then(Y and Z) (विभास: )

And the similarities, rather derivations dont end there. Sanskrit grammar has full support of multiple inheritance, function overloading, data abstraction, transformations...the list is endless. If certain scientists at NASA, and in India are to be believed, Sanskrit could very well be the language for all future communications, including interstellar communication. With hopes that one day this may be true, I would like to bring my post to an end. At some later time, I would wish to pick up the remaining of the software programming paradigms and their Sanskrit origins. But, as of now, I would love to know what you felt about this post.

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Goodbye and Namaste!!

1.) R. Briggs, 1985, “Knowledge representation in Sanskrit and artificial intelligence", AI Magazine, vol.6,pp. 22-38.
2.) The methods used inside the ashtadyayi is similar to today's arrays, inheritance (including multiple inheritance), polymorphism, etc. used in OOPS - Reference: Recent Research in Science and Technology, 2011, 3(7): 109-111,  ISSN: 2076-5061,
3.) Ashtadyayi Reference:
4.) Panini's Ashtadhyayi A Computer Scientist's viewpoint by Amba Kulkarni, 3096420,
5.) Maharshi Panini : The Father of Computer Programming !!!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The 9 Divine Nights-Navratri

My previous post Mahadev turned out to be a very special post for me, in more than one ways.
The post was indeed very close to my heart and the super positive comments I received from people on social media and various forums was more than any of my previous blog posts. So, thanking all of you once again for all the praises and positive feedback.

All through our lives, we would have celebrated and even observed fasts on the nine continuous days of Navratri. In the year 2013, 10th of April marks the beginning of yet another version of Navratri celebrations all over the Indian sub-continent. We all know the notions and the implications of Navratri as such. Nine different Goddesses are worshipped each day of the entire cycle, the ninth day marking the completion of the festivities. Did any of us wonder the spiritual and scientific attributes of these nine days? With the onset of Navtari from this day, I decided to write something about the celebration of the nine days, not the semantics, but the radical part of it.

As per legends, the inception of Navratri celebrations was when Goddess Durga, defeated the demon Mahishasur in the very famous fight, which lasted for nine days. It is believed, each day Durga introduced a new dimension of her divinity, finally slaying the demon down on the ninth day. As per other legends, Narad was the first to observe fasts during the nine days of Navratri, to pray for the victory of Rama over Ravana in the epic war of Ramayana.

There is no mention of an exact time or date in history, or a mention of any king under whom, people started celebrating Navratri for the first time ever. But, it is believed that the soldiers used to take off for the nine days form their relative duties and used to worship the Goddesses for the nine days, before setting off for wars again.

Symbolically, each of the nine days is symbolic of victory over a sin. The nine days denote worship of nine attributes of Goddess which help one defeat nine evils of humans. Each of the night has a certain significance with respect to the evil and the Goddess one worships to defeat those evils.

First Day: The first day is dedicated to Shailputri, or the daughter of the Himalaya. She is also called Shakti, the companion of Shiva. She is worshiped on the first day of Navratri and is often shown riding a bull. She is known to destroy the evil of Ahankaar or ego.

Second Day: The second day is dedicated to Brahmcharini, who helps a person in Tapa or penance. She is known to destroy the evil of Kaam or lust.

Third Day: The third day is dedicated to Chandraghanta, the symbolic representation of beauty and bravery. Worshipping her helps one to fight the evil of Krodh or anger.

Fourth Day: This day is dedicated to Kushmanda, who is also called the creator of the entire universe. She is known to destroy the evil of Pashchatap or Guilt.

Fifth Day: Skand Mata is worshipped on the fifth day of Navratri. She is known to be the mother of chief of the army of Gods, also called Skanda or Kartikeya. She destroys the evils of Moh or attachment.

Sixth Day: This day is dedicated to Goddess Katyayani, with three eyes and four hands. She is known to destroy Irshya or Jealousy.

Seventh Day: The day is dedicated to Goddess Kaalratri, who, symbolically, is known to make her devotees fearless. Another avatar of Durga, she is known to destroy Bhay or fear.

Eighth Day: Dedicated to Goddess Maha Gauri, the symbol of calmness and eternal wisdom, as per legends, she is intelligent, wise and very patient. She destroys the evils of Jadta or Inertia.

Ninth Day: Sidhhiantri is the ninth form of Goddess Durga. She is the known to be the ninth form of Durga. She is known to destroy the evils of Lobh or Greed.

Scientifically, Navratri's onset was devised perfectly at a time, when it would be fulfilling certain other purpose. Navratri is celebrated at a time, when one of the seasons is giving way to another season. Due to the same reason, the mind and the body undergo certain considerable changes. It is, therefore, advisable to practice fast for a few days, to maintain the metabolism of the human body. Further, Navratri falls at a time, when the heat (or tama) inside the body reaches a level which could be harmful for urinary, digestive and respiratory system. Fasting during these days help the body clean itself, give rest to internal organs and even increases the lifespan of digestive systems.

Other than the above mentioned symbolism, Navratri, as such is manifestation of the intent of the Vedic or ancient men to impose upon everyone the superiority or the significations of feminine attributes. Various attributes and forms of women were respected and worshipped, the attributes and symbolisms blooming out of all forms of feminism around a person. It’s really unfortunate that people have knowingly or unknowingly forgotten the very intent for which these symbolisms were incepted. They would like to worship the face of Goddess in the temple, but not the ones around them.

With that I would like to bring my post to an end. I would love to know what you felt about it.

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Goodbye and Namaste!!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013


I really pondered upon in my mind and all over the internet, trying to choose what to write upon in my next blog post. A plenty of symbols yet to be uncovered, scores of traditions and customs yet to be analyzed, and hundreds of historical marvels yet to be investigated. I was still confused when a notion struck me hard enough. Indian mythology and Ancient Indian imagery has been resplendent of symbolic references and scientific analogies, OM being one of the most multifaceted and supreme out of all these concepts. What about someone so celestial, so legendary, and such supreme, that horde of such multifaceted symbols form small pieces of the complete ascendancy of his divinity. A supreme figure, each and every attribute of whom speaks volumes of scientific and symbolic attributes, Shiva.

Symbolically, Shiva's supreme form has volumes to speak of. 

Unclad body smeared with ashes: This attribute represents the transcendental aspect of his nature, he is above all physical phenomenon. The cemetery ash symbolizes him to be the God of destruction, that Shiva is beyond the realities of life and death. Scientifically, ash is the residue of burning any fuel. Hydrogen fuel burns to become helium ash. Helium burns to become carbon ash. Carbon ash burns to become oxygen ash. In short, every element matter is made up of, is ash. Shiva smearing ash on his body would signify the entire existence. A person smearing ash on his body, thus has spiritual significations, him being unattached to anything earthly.

Matted Hairs: The flow of his matted hair represents wind or Vayu, a subtle form of breath, Shiva thus being Lord of all living beings. Each strand of his hair, also denote desires, and he has knotted them together, keeping them in control, thus asking all his devotees to control their desires. As per legends, he has controlled the fiery water of Ganga in his matted locks. The three matted locks on the head convey the idea that integration of the physical, mental and spiritual energies is the ideal of yoga.

Sacred Ganga: Ganga, owing to its mystical healing attributes, thanks to the presence of certain bacteriophages, denotes fertility, knowledge, peace and prosperity. Ganga flowing from his hairs denotes Shiva as the master of knowledge and prosperity. One of the most sacred rivers in mythology, Ganga gains further ascendancy, being in the matted hairs of Shiva. The water is found to be resplendent of healthy minerals and antiseptical attributes, and is thus considered healthy.

The Third Eye: Symbolically, the Sun is said to be his right eye, the moon being his left and the fire his third.  The two eyes indicate his activity in the physical world, while the third eye is the eye of spirituality, one who sees beyond the obvious. His third eye can look beyond obvious and annihilate any negative energy. The scientific implications of the third eye are rather interesting. 
As per a few notions, ancient humans used to have an actual third eye in the forehead. With time, this eye sunk deep into the forehead, into what we know today as the Pineal gland. Proper activation of this gland can help in proper meditation, spirituality and intelligence. Interestingly, Sodium Fluoride destroys the Pineal Gland, and aerated drinks like Pepsi, Coke etc. comprise of Sodium Fluoride. Pineal Gland is also known as the "All Knowing eye" in certain traditions, a symbol of Illuminati

Half Open Eyes: Shiva's closed eyes denote destruction and mayhem. His open eyes denote creation of a new life. His half-open eyes denote that the worldly affairs are still in progress, without a beginning and without an end.

Crescent Moon: The moon is the measure of time, and a new moon being on his head denote his control over time. The time is a part of his divinity and not the other way round, the reason why moon is not wore on his body, but just as an ornament. It also denotes cool mind and foresightedness, if a decision is taken with a calm mind, the results are mostly positive.

Neelkanth: Symbolically, the blue throat denotes him being willing to undergo any distress for the sake of happiness of others. The blue color symbolizes poison or negative thoughts. Thoughts, which should neither be digested or spitted out, but kept temporarily, to neutralize at an appropriate time. Think of anger as an example of slow poison. Expressing our anger or outrage not only causes social disharmony, it can also rupture a heart blockage and precipitating a heart attack or brain hemorrhage. Suppressed anger, on the other hand releases harmful chemicals in the body causing acidity, asthma and even blockage of blood vessels. Only a balanced positive alteration of anger is helpful.

The Snake around the neck: Shiva is shown with a snake coiled three times around the neck, each coil representing the past, the present and the future. Shiva, again, wears the snake as an ornament, signifying he is above time and death. The snake also denotes dormant energy of a man, also called Kundalini energy.

Kundalas: Interestingly, Shiva is always shown with a larger Kundala in the right ear and a smaller in left. The right Kundala denotes the male attributes of existence while the left Kundala denotes the female aspects. He wearing them together denotes male-female equality in the universe, akin to Shiva-Shakti.

Rudraksha: As per legends, Rudraksha means eye of Shiva. Literally, Rudra means uncompromising and strict, and Aksha means eye, Rudraksha thus denotes uncompromising attributes of Shiva. Scientific studies have revealed that wearing Rudraksha beads relieves a person from stress, depression and anxiety. Rudraksha also symbolizes being close to nature and healthy living.

Damaru: The hourglass-shaped drum kept near Shivam, when shaken, produces a sound called Nada. Nada is said to be the cosmic sound of AUM. When a person goes deep into meditation, he experiences the same Nada sound deep in his consciences. As per a lot of legends, Nada is the source of all creation, a fact well explored in my previous blog The Multifaceted OM.

Such is the divinity of Shiva, and such is the ascendancy he commands, I have been able to compile only a few of his attributes from scores of other symbols and concepts. The list, though may sound quite exhaustive, is actually not even close to completion. The symbols that I have chosen, though, are more of his famous and better known symbols.

Ancient Indians, particularly those of Vedic times, used to assign healthy and beneficial customs and practices to Gods and other deities. This helped the general public perform those practices as part of their daily living, thus helping them live a healthier life. 

In the past few days, I have seen Shiva anarchy on a regular growing spree. Modern people are more comfortable connecting to Shiva and his attributes. Add to that the earthly attributes of Shiva, him being consumer of opium, which as per legends, he did to keep his anger in check. The earthly attributes make Shiva even more close to his devotees. Successes of recent works like “The Immortals of Meluha” or “Devon ke Dev Mahadev” only confirm this theory. I also hope this post is as much liked by you much more than previous ones and you keep showering your appreciation in form of comments, page views and social media presence. 
With hopes that you keep liking my posts, time for me to say good bye.

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Har Har Mahadev!!!!