A Blog on Mythology and occasionally on Reality.


This is a Blog on Mythology, both Indian and World and especially the analysis of the myths.

In effect, the interpretation of the inherent Symbolism.


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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Chandra Tara & Adultery – Concluding Part



Earlier we have read how Tara decides to stay back at Chandra’s place and Brihaspati’s pleas of returning Tara go unheard, as Chandra feels that he had not forced Tara to stay back.



An angry Brihaspati went to Lord Indra and sought his help in retrieving his wife. When Indra sent his emissary to seek the release of Tara, Chandra sent him back with a mouthful. Chandra’s contention was that if a woman willfully left her home to stay with another man, then what was the fault of the man she chose to stay with? Also, family bliss was dependent on both the husband and the wife being happy, but if the wife was not happy, then how can one ensure the happiness of the family?

Tara was unhappy with Brihaspati not just for her reasons of sexual pleasure. She was also unhappy, because Brihaspati had forcibly made love with Mamta, the wife of his brother. He further went to ridicule Indra for fighting against supposed adultery, when Indra himself was known for many such escapades. Soon matters came to the stage of a war amongst the gods, with Chandra on one side and Indra on the other. However, Lord Brahma intervened and it was decided, without asking Tara of course, that Tara would have to return to Brihaspati. Brishaspati was happy and took Tara back with him.



But Tara was pregnant when she went back with Brihaspati. When a son was born, Brihaspati started making arrangements for his naming ceremony, but then Chandra objected to it, saying that it was his right to do so. Once again matters came to a war-like situation and Lord Brahma had to intervene in the claim for the son. Lord Brahma asked Tara as to whose child was it, since only a mother knew the father of her child. Tara said that it was Chandra’s. Chandra was happy and took his son away and named him Budh.



An interesting myth that is part of astronomical myths. Chandra as we know was the Moon, Tara represented the stars. Brihaspati is the planet Jupiter and Budh is the planet Mercury. The love of Tara can be seen till date when they come out twinkling when the moon is out!




The conversation between Chandra and Brihaspati and the emissary of Indra is quite interesting. Nowhere was Tara chastised for her decision of willfully staying on with Chandra and the latter misses no opportunity to ridicule Brihaspati for his inability to keep his wife happy. This myth is discussed in detail in the first book of Srimad Devi Bhagavatam, in Chapter XI, “Birth of Budh”. Some of these issues have been discussed threadbare and without any restrain.



In the war of gods, Tara does not face any defamation or retribution from her husband, Brihaspati. Chandra justifies by saying that Tara was with him out of her choice and would not force her to leave. Lord Brahma decides against Tara’s wish to stay with Chandra, but without any reprimand. The birth of Budh is also resolved in favour of Chandra. The entire dissatisfaction of Tara was based on physical aspects of looks and love-making skills of Chandra as against her husband. No aspect of emotion, love, etc. is discussed or brought out. Is this to say that these aspects do not have any bearing on a relationship? Is sexual satisfaction the driving force of maintaining a relationship or was this myth only implying that no matter what be the cause, a married woman belongs to the husband? (Refer to the earlier myth of Swetaketu)



Chandra is considered to be the first of the Chandra-vamshi, followed by Budh and then his son Pururava (This is Utkarsh Speaking: Urvashi and Pururavas). The heroes of the epic Mahabharat are all chandra-vamshis and surely go on to display their preoccupation with sex. To sum it, let me quote Prof. Satya Chaitanya, “The moon is the deity of the mind in both Vedic literature and subsequent Indian philosophy. And the mind is a slave to passions. In any case, a legacy of the moon god thus is one of powerful sexual longing – amoral or immoral – and this becomes the legacy of a vast number of kings in the lunar dynasty. King after king falls because he becomes a victim to unbridled sexuality.” And this as they say is history of epic proportions, as we see Yayati, Shantanu, Vichitraveer, etc. are examples of this.



The above myth is significant from the perspective that adultery is discussed in ancient scriptures threadbare. The intention of this article is not to be judgmental, but to relate a myth and its source for us to understand the position taken by each, irrespective of the resolution. What is important is not the outcome of the controversy, but the conversation that takes place.



If one opines that Tara, the woman is only a means to discuss the topic of adultery, then that would be an extremely myopic view. The way she exercises her choice, stays on with Chandra, and is not faulted ever, is significant in the narrative to bring out her position of a woman, who had a choice.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Chandra Tara & Adultery - Part 1



There are three main characters to this article, Brihaspati, Chandra and Tara.



Let’s talk about Brihaspati first.



Mamta was the wife of rishi Usija, the elder brother of
Brihaspati
Brihaspati. Brihaspati once felt the desire to make love to Mamta. Mamta resisted by saying that she was already pregnant with Usija’s son and there would not be any place for Brihaspati’s son, which she was bound to conceive if he made love to her. She also went on to say, that the foetus was learning Vedas and might not like another child in there, however, she added, that the choice was his. Brihaspati could not control his desire and decided to make love. At that moment, the foetus from inside tried to stop him by saying that he had arrived there first and there was no space for another one and thus he should stop.



Brihaspati was now angry with the foetus that even at the stage of a foetus it tried to stop him, he cursed the foetus to enter into a stage of darkness. Thus the foetus was named Dirghatamas, the blind sage. But another child was also conceived and was named as Bharadvaja (the one born of two). (Incidentally, Bharadvaja was the father of Drona in the epic Mahabharata). Many later scholars have termed this ‘forced’ union as a rape; however, what is interesting to note is that Mamta doesn’t stop Brihaspati from making love to her on the grounds of impropriety. She only stops him, on the grounds that there wouldn’t be enough space for two foetus together. Does this hint at some sort of permissiveness in the then society?



This is similar to the Swetaketu myth, where Swetaketu observes another sage taking hold of his mother’s hand and taking her away with him. His father observes this and doesn’t say anything and later explains to Swetaketu that it was natural for both men and women to have more partners, as all other creations of God did! However, Swetaketu was upset by this state of ‘affairs’ and made a law that no woman would be allowed to take another man, if her husband loved her and provided for her, and if she did, then that would be a grave sin and the same for the men too. He felt that man was different from animals and as only he was endowed with the faculty of brain, which taught him the difference between culture and the lack of it. Thus, he could not behave like animals.



Brihaspati was a great sage and goes on to become the guru of the gods. With this background of Brihaspati, let us move on to the myth under discussion.



Let us now take up Tara and Chandra.



Tara was the beautiful, buxom and the young wife of Brihaspati. Once Tara visited the land of Chandra, the moon and both fell madly in love with each other. Tara
Chandra
was so enamoured by the looks and his mastery in the skills of love-making that she decided to stay back with Chandra. Brihaspati waited for her for some time and then sent his disciple to get her back. When Tara didn’t return with the disciple, Brihaspati himself went to fetch her from Chandra’s place.



Brihaspati apprised Chandra that it was evil to keep Tara with him as she was his wife and thus Chandra’s gurupatni (wife of guru) who is akin to a mother. Having sex with ones gurupatni was an act of sin and that he could curse him for such sin. Chandra laughed him away by saying that a man, who had no mastery over himself, couldn’t levy a curse on anybody, besides the fact that he had not forced Tara to stay with him. As regards adultery, Chandra mentioned that according to the Dharmashastras, there could be no impurity due to adultery, as she was chaste after every menstrual cycle!



Brihaspati had no answer to Chandra and went back, but couldn’t reconcile with the absence of his wife and was beginning to long for her. So he came back again after a few days, but this time he was stopped at the entrance by the gatekeepers of Chandra. This further infuriated Brihaspati and he shouted at Chandra from the gates saying, that if Chandra didn’t return his wife immediately, he would curse him and reduce him to ashes.



Chandra came out and ridiculed Brihaspati by saying that what would an old man like him do with such a beautiful woman like Tara, when he couldn’t even pleasure her appropriately? It was sad that men of scriptures had such beautiful wives when they had no idea how to satisfy them. He went on to challenge Brihaspati by saying that he could do whatever he wanted to and would not give Tara to him, unless of course she wanted to go all by herself.



An angry Brihaspati went to Lord Indra and sought his help in retrieving his wife. When Indra sent his emissary to seek the release of Tara, Chandra sent him back with a mouthful. Chandra’s contention was that if a woman willfully left her home to stay with another man, then what was the fault of the man she chose to stay with? Also, family bliss was dependent on both the husband and the wife being happy, but if the wife was not happy, then how can one ensure the happiness of the family?


Let me leave the readers with the above thought.

We will continue the rest of the story, tomorrow……till then keep thinking about Chandra’s contention….. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Holi


Here's wishing all my readers a very happy Holi!!

Holi is a festival of colours, but read about a place where women beat men with sticks on this day, a festival known as "Lathmar Holi".
Read all about it......

http://www.talkingmyths.com/lathmar-holi/

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Khandav-prastha


In the epic Mahabharata, the episode of Khandavprastha is one of the most important events with serious implications. It also one of the most complicated events that mark the birth of a kingdom, but not without raising a few questions. Let us understand the event better.

Once the Pandavs return with Draupadi after the Lakshagraha event, they get into trouble with the Kauravs and the differences lead to the partition of land, with Hastinapur being retained by the Kauravs and the land better known as Khandavprastha was given to the Pandavs. Khandavprastha, later renamed as Indraprastha, was a tract of land which was a dense jungle with rich flora and fauna. To establish a kingdom, it was inevitable to burn the forest down. However, what is surprising is that that not a single life was spared, be they animals, birds or the naga’s or serpents who used to reside there. It is said that all animals who tried to escape were killed by Arjun or Krishna, and thus all life perished either by fire or by weapons of the two.

Just why was this kind of ‘mass-murder’ necessary? Couldn’t the animals and birds be allowed to leave? Wouldn’t that have been a better alternative instead of such naked bloodbath at the onset of the establishment of a kingdom?

According to the Khandava-daha Parva of Adi Parva (Section CCXXV) of the epic, there is an interesting myth which led to such actions by the two main characters of the epic. When Arjun and Krishna were contemplating the method of clearing the forest of Khandav, an old man came to them and told them that he needed help. He went on to say that he was a Brahmin, who was used to eating a lot of food and needed to be fed. When Arjun asked him the nature of the food that would suffice his hunger, he pointed them towards the forest.

This old man was none other than the Vedic deity, Agni. Agni them went on to related another myth. Once upon a time there lived King Swetaki, who was used to performing yagna’s for the welfare of his kingdom. His over-zealousness for such sacrifices made the sages run away from him out of sheer tiredness and the sore-eyes that they had developed due to being in front of the fire all the time. Not to give up, Swetaki approached Rudra to bail him out and Rudra asked him to approach Sage Durvasa (considered to be an ‘aspect’ of Rudra himself).

Rudra agreed to take up the sacrifices, provided Swetaki arranged for enough ghee, or clarified butter, to last twelve years at a stretch. When Swetaki arranged as directed, Sage Durvasa conducted the sacrifice. However, by consuming so much of ghee, Agni suffered from severe dyspepsia, to the extent that Agni stopped consuming anything for some time. Staying hungry for so long, Agni had now developed a huge appetite which could be satiated only by the Khandav forest and every inhabitant of the forest.

Arjun wanted to know why he couldn’t do it himself and why he needed their help. Agni continued that among the inhabitants of the forest were the nagas, the serpents and their King Takshak. The serpents were under protection of Lord Indra and every time he tried to consume the forest, Indra would send the rains and extinguish the flames. Agni wanted Arjun and Krishna to help him devour the entire forest to satiate his hunger.

The matter now gets complicated as Indra was also Arjun’s father, and would he take up arms against his father at the behest of Agni?

Arjun however agrees to fight it out, but would need celestial weapons. Agni gave him the Gandiva, the bow with quivers which never got depleted of arrows. Agni also gave Krishna the sudarshan-chakra, the weapon of Lord Vishnu (thus establishing Krishna as an avatar of Vishnu). Together Arjun and Krishna are also referred to as the mortal forms of the divine Nar and Narayan.

A sculpture in the temple of Banteay Srei temple in Cambodia
Arjun and Krishna can be seen on either sides with Indra at the top;
Arrows can be seen holding the rain waters.

Soon, Agni lit a small fire and started to consume the forest. When Indra learnt about the fire, he sent his rain clouds. Arjun used his bow to create an impenetrable umbrella of arrows which stopped the rains. When Indra realized what was happening, he himself came down to fight it out but realized that he was no match for his son and Krishna together. Matters came to a standstill only after the entire forest was devoured without a single life escaping, except for Takshak who was not in the forest and his son and four saranga birds. Also, Maya Asura, the architect of the asura’s too managed to save his life in return of a promise of building a never-built-before palace for the Pandavs.
 
At the onset, I had mentioned that this was a complicated myth, as no life was spared in the mass fire, which is supposed to have lasted for fifteen days. All birds, animals and serpents perished in the fire, leading to a life-long enmity between the nagas and the Pandavs with serious repercussions in future.

According to Dr. Pradip Bhattacharya, this conflict brings out many interesting aspects. For one, this is a classic case of father-son conflict (Indra vs. Arjun) which is a common theme in mythologies of the world. It is also a classic case of a conflict between two elements of nature, fire and water. In modern terms, it also depicts the victory of man over nature. Iravati Karve, the author of Yuganta views this as the colonization of the Aryans, by sheer force and decimation of the natives. A number of weapons are introduced during this event, which could be an indication to the impending war.

The entire event displays a complex set of contradictions. The nagas venerated Indra, the god of gods who decides to side with them against his own son and other gods; Pandavs take the help of an asura to build their palace, instead of the celestial architect Vishwakarma; the palace of illusions by itself becomes a point of conflict later in the epic; all life perishes in the fire, except those mentioned earlier, and yet it is not a crime.

While the myth of Agni’s hunger could be seen as a justification of the event, it also helped absolve Arjun and Krishna of the crime of mass-murder as they were doing it at the behest of a Brahmin! 


Banteay Srei Pics courtesy Wikipedia

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine Day Love Story



On this day of love, my quest to understand this emotion only gets stronger (the assumption being, I haven’t quite understood it completely!). Just what is this love that makes mountains move? Well, if this seems a trifle clich├ęd and juvenile (isn’t the god of love a child?), then so be it; let me indulge in
some juvenile romantic quest, if I may!


It is said, that what is in the epic Mahabharata, is everywhere and what isn’t in it, just doesn’t exist. If that be so, my quest to understand love ought to take me just there, where both love and hatred were of epic proportions. But today is a day of love, so we won’t refer to hatred. Let love paint it all in red (literally as we shall soon see)!



While love is capable of many things, I am quite impressed by its ability to transform as well as avenge


Let me give you a beautiful example of love transforming from the epic Mahabharata. According to this, the King of Mandukya’s daughter, Sushobhana, was not willing to get married, as she felt that marriage was like putting a free bird in a cage. She wanted to be free and spend her life philandering away to glory. Sushobhana would mask her identity, and get close to the man of her choice and live with him till she got tired of him, and left under some pretext, which she would have worked to her advantage before getting into the relationship. The men would be under a vow never to speak about it and thus the matter was never known to anybody, except her maid, Subinita and the King himself. Subinita on her part had tried her best to stop the princess from such philandering, but Sushobhana never yielded to her requests and used her beauty and charm as a means to live a life of her choice. 


Once, Sushobhana met the handsome King Parikshit of the Ikshvaku dynasty. Sushobhana was impressed by his looks and lured him into a relationship. Soon Parikshit took the unknown lady to his palace and the two enjoyed themselves. A time came when Parikshit wanted to marry her, but Sushobhana true to her nature saw that as an entrapment. At the beginning of the relationship, she had made Parikshit take a vow that he would never take her near a water-body. Over a period of time, Parikshit had forgotten about it. When Sushobhana came to know about the wedding, in a moment of Parikshit’s weakness, made him take her close to a lake and on reaching the lake, she reminded him of his vow and her imminent departure.


When a shocked Parikshit wanted to know about the cause of the departure, she feigned a curse. At that moment Parikshit decided to hold her in a tight embrace, daring the curse to take effect. It was at that moment, that Sushobhana felt that this man was different, and something inside her changed, but she could not accept that this was love. She managed to escape from there. While she was leaving, Parikshit noticed a spy and from his dressing, realised that he was from the Mandukya kingdom. He took his army to the doors of Mandukya and asked them to hand over Sushobhana who according to him had been ‘kidnapped’ by them. The King met Parikshit and told him the whole story of his wayward daughter.


When Sushobhana came to know about it, she was depressed that her truth was out in the open and the shame would be too much for her or her father. At that moment she decided to commit suicide. Just when she was about to gulp down the cup of poison, her maid Subinita comes to her to inform her that Parikshit was waiting for her in his tent. Sushobhana was surprised to know that the prince wanted to accept him even after he knew everything? Why would any man want a woman whose ways were wanton and who wilfully led a life of the unspeakable? Subinita replied “For love”.

It was for the first time, Sushobhana realised the power of love and inside her grew the desire to belong. For the first time she wanted to fly and be caged in the arms of Parikshit. To the joy of everybody, love had transformed a wayward philandering woman.


The same epic also tells us about how love makes one avenge for the love of one’s life. The Mahabharata has always referred to the love of Draupadi for Arjun. What has been overlooked is the love of Bhima for Draupadi. Though Bhima was married to Hidimba, the demoness before Draupadi, it was Draupadi that he deeply loved and never missed an opportunity to express the same. An obvious example of it is his fetching of the Saugandhika flower after a great fight with a demon. However, a more pertinent example of coming to her aid was that of saving her from Keechak during the year of exile.


The thirteenth year of exile was in a disguise and the Pandavs were at the court of Virata. When Keechak, the brother of the Queen of Virata tried to molest Draupadi who was serving the queen at that moment, Draupadi turned only to Bhima to save him. At the risk of their disguise being recognised, Bhima killed Keechak as he could never bear to see anybody insult her, even though Yudhishtir kept quiet as the Kings assistant. 


Another example was during the disrobing of Draupadi in the court of Dhritarashtra. It was only Bhima who reacted while the others simply expressed their inability to do anything. It was Bhima who had vowed that he would break the thigh of Duryodhan for asking Draupadi to sit on his lap and would drink the blood of Dushashan for touching Draupadi. True to his words, he killed Duryadhan by fatally striking him on his thigh. Prior to that he ripped open the bowels of Dushashan and with the blood he washed Draupadi’s hair before binding it which was left loose since the day of the disrobing.
 
A scene depicting the above at Hampi

While this might seem gory, nonetheless it is an expression of Bhima’s love and affection for Draupadi, who too knew that Bhima was the only one she could turn to in times of distress. Many would term this to be one sided love, but then who cares about sides, when love has been expressed to avenge the insult for the person one loves?


Many of my readers during the last few years had written to me as how why was it that I always wrote Greek Love stories on Valentine’s Day (http://utkarshspeak.blogspot.in/2012/02/valentine-day-love-story.html

http://utkarshspeak.blogspot.in/2013/02/valentine-day-love-story.html ). Well I had no reason for that, but to break away from tradition, I have written about love stories from India. Hope you like them and use love for all the good things it brings in our life.



Wish you a very happy day of Love!!



Pic Courtesy - Hampi picture is courtesy Hampi.in