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.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Lately, I have been working on relationships. No, don’t take that literally, I mean, I have been working on relationships as a subject! (Phew, I guess I just saved a few relationships!).

Relationships are probably the most important possession that we start with and probably end up with (and often without) in life, without quite realising it. And we don’t realise it, because we are busy acquiring other more ‘profitable’ possessions.

The problem with relationships is that every relationship tends to become unimportant or less important as we proceed to the next one. We start our relationships with our parents. We anchor everything with this one from the time we recognise a smile or a frown, without even understanding the meaning of them. All our initial fears, insecurities and troubles are resolved by this single relationship. Then comes a time when we start moving out of home and often far, to schools and colleges. Then we start working on new relationships, with friends, peers. Soon the previous one with parents is relegated to the back-burner as it is meant to be there when we need and thus is out of one’s radar. During this new phase, friends at everyplace seem to matter and soon we have many of them and with each we seem to be working at different levels. We work on relationships at schools, then colleges. By the time we reach colleges, the school relationships have become less important and a lot of energies are spent on working on the ones that we have acquired or are trying to acquire.

By the time we have settled down on the new ones and sort of relegated the school relationships in the back-burner the ones at home have been totally taken for granted. They exist as where else do they go, and of course they don’t go anywhere, they just stay back and understand.

Soon we have left colleges and are moving towards a career. Now relationships become very important as they are will be supporting us in our career. Who do we get seen with and whose understandings are to be borne with a smile, are all a matter of ‘profit for life’. Needless to say that we have also become more mature, so words which were earlier uttered without a thought are now more measured, at least with relationships which matter in the new circumstances.

Soon we acquire partners, or would-be spouses, who become the cynosure of our very existence. No other relationships seem to matter in comparison to this, (except the ones at the workplace of course)! Friends,
folks they are totally absent at this stage. The honeymoon with this relationship lasts for some time, at times, but we realise quite late that even this one has become trifle boring, what with endless hours of work pressure, competition at workplace, inflationary pressures, children (oh yes, we have forged some new relationships without realising) – just why can’t the old relationships try to understand! By the way, this old relationships are the ones with our spouses – the parents and the old friends have been forgotten, at least in terms of having to work on them!

It is our relationships that make us what we are and an entire life is spent in getting in and out of relationships without realising that these are the ones that give us maximum joys and an occasional sorrow. A time comes when we realise that it is these relationships that we have neglected which mattered the most.

While, pressures of modern day life is quite stressful, meeting two ends meet while climbing the corporate latter or fighting the materialistic peer-pressure can be quite unnerving, an acknowledgement of a relationship is not asking for too much. Life is short and when people will leave us physically or mentally, one never knows. Parents leave physically and we realise it too late. Some friends leave us mentally, and often we don’t even realise it. But tragedy is when close family members leave us mentally while physically living with us.

Relationships need to be worked on, and they need pretty hard work! Not all are able to accept just being on the list of someone’s priorities rather than being somewhere on top of his/her priority of relationships. Many a relationship is a cherished one and many we
realise was a cherished one after the person is gone. The tragedy would be when we don’t realise even after that!

Relationships need to be nurtured, and all they need is a touch, a smile, a call and a few minutes of your time.

Check it out!!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Knowledge Transfer – Lessons from Mythology

Many organisations that I come across seem to have one problem (amongst many) in common and that is Knowledge Transfer (KT). People don’t want to share knowledge and at times people don’t find the existing knowledge worth taking (typical of the Gen X, who have just passed out of elitist colleges), or people not being able to collate and ‘hand-over’ a clearly articulated body of knowledge.

KT is the transfer of knowledge, expertise, skills and capabilities. Is KT a new subject on the horizon or is it just a new phenomenon due to insecurity of the modern day workplaces? KT in its basic form has existed from time immemorial in the form of Gurukuls, and then schools and colleges of present day. Teachers have taught and passed their knowledge to students, some of who have added to the body of work and passed it down to others in the subsequent generations.

Organisations too have seen such transfers earlier. Be they in the form of an Associate, an Apprentice, or just a junior who goes on to learn the tricks of the trade and take on the mantle one fine morning. Sons have been natural heirs, but others too have been honoured with the knowledge and have moved on to start on their own.

But transferring knowledge in an organisation is not as easy as it is in schools and colleges or small set-ups. In a modern-day knowledge based organisations, knowledge is critical. Besides managing knowledge which is in the minds of its employees, transferring the same on their leaving is a critical aspect where many seen to fail, and in many cases, the organisations are not even aware of the failure.

So how does KT become effective and a viable practise for organisations? How do they ensure that nothing is lost or at least substantial is retained before an employee leaves or retires?

KT is effective when the receiver is aware that there is knowledge worth accepting. When the leader is held in awe because of the knowledge, then the transfer is effective. In the epic Ramayan, Ravan was an able administrator. His rule was a golden period for his kingdom (which figuratively was referred to as sone-ki-Lanka, or the land of the gold). When Ravan was on his death-bed, he passed his knowledge of able administration to Ram, which in future came to be referred as Ramrajya. Ram who had dealt the deadly blow to his enemy, accorded Ravan the position of a Guru, and sat down to hear the words of wisdom from the dying asura-King. Knowledge should never die with the person who either created it or mastered it.

In the epic Mahabharat, Vidur has been shown sharing his knowledge of administration frequently with the Pandavs, which is also known as Vidur-niti. This is never done with the Kauravas, since they were never found receptive. Bhishma too promises not to die till he has imparted his knowledge of ethics, morals and values to Yudhishtir and the same was meticulously done from his bed of arrows after the tenth day of the war of Kurukshetra.

Knowledge Transfer is effective, when it is done by the person who is acknowledged to be in a superior position because of the knowledge. His elevated position is because he has some skill, knowledge in his possession. This is akin to the typical guru-shishya parampara where people have gone to acquire the said art or skill. It could be similar to Dronacharya, as a teacher who is willing to pass his skills to all the students in return of some favour, or Parashuram who is willing to pass down his knowledge to Karna in return of no favour.

Knowledge transfer is very effective when it comes in the form of need-of-the-hour. Krishna in his epochal Gita had transferred a huge body of knowledge at the right time to Arjun, which enabled him to fight the war of Kurukshetra. This knowledge till date is translated, interpreted and taught in different ways and the relevance of which seems to be reinvented with changing times.

Knowledge transfer is meaningful, when we know that the said knowledge emanates from reliable sources. The Vedas, Upanishads, etc. are all troves of knowledge which have been recorded for use. Some say, they were passed on by gods through seers for future use, while some say these are learning of the past recorded for generations to come. Even the epic Mahabharat is supposed to have been dictated by Vyas, but written by Ganesha – where is the reason to doubt such an epic which has been written by a god with his own piece of tooth?

Finally what makes KT most effective is the method of the transfer. Many a times, if it is passed down as tomes of knowledge, it is ineffective. Let me tell you a story here. Once upon a time there lived a king who had three sons and according to the king all his sons were idiots and he wondered how could he ever leave the throne to any one of them, when none of them were worth anything? His worry was solved by a person, who promised to educate his sons and make them worthy of the throne. This man focused on the wisdom of the scriptures rather than the scriptures itself. He created stories which would teach a lesson or a moral and make the learning more interesting, instead of didactic or moralistic. Soon the Princes were a Kings delight and each one of them was eligible to occupy the throne! This man was none other than the famous Vishnu Sharma and what he wrote for the princes is known to all of us Panchatantra! The Panchatantra or the five treatise cover all aspects of management, personal life and the cunning that one needs to have to face life.

Just as lessons are easy to impart, but not-so-easy to understand, so is the case with Knowledge Transfer. It is easy to speak about it, even easier to lay down
Courtesy Dilbert.com
the processes that govern the transfer, but very complex to execute. The biggest impediment to the process is the fear of redundancy. In an ever increasing competitive environment, ones knowledge is perceived as ones asset acquired over a long period of time and to pass it down as a process does not settle well with an individual who is feeling insecure in the first place. Needless to say, that the same cannot be done overnight too, after all KT is not a case of divine revelation!

KT needs to be part of an organisational process from day one. Every process or step in an organisation should aid the Knowledge accumulation leading to its dissemination. It has to be a top-down approach. A Bhishma needs to be visible to the system who is willing to share his knowledge or a leader like Ram needs to be seen in all humility willing to accept knowledge from even his enemy.

The day, sharing knowledge becomes a part of an organisations DNA, Knowledge Transfer will be seamless and as normal as any other regular process of the organisation!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Black-magic in Malayalam Mahabharat – Part 3

In the previous articles we read about two similar versions of abhicara. Finally, before we conclude, here is another interesting and many feel a better known version of abhicara in Malayalam versions of Mahabharat. According to this version, a sage by the name of Kaala MaMuni, an expert in rituals arrives at the court of Duryodhan, at his behest. Here the Dushta Chathushtaya (Duryodhana, Duhshasana, Sakuni, Karna), the evil-foursome, urge the sage to perform the abhicara to rid Duryodhan of the Pandavs. The sage is worried that he is being asked to do something that would rid him of all his good deeds accumulated over the last seven births. He tries to reason with the foursome, but they continue to praise him, till he gives in.

At the corner of his ashram, the sage sets out to perform the abhicara ritual. He dug a pit and made a small fire out of some special wood and by the incantation of the mantra’s created a fiery phantom like creature which was as large as the mountains. The sight was truly scary and it is said that one sight of it could even scare the gods for a moment.

All this was being observed by Yama and as the beholder of dharma, he decided to do something. Soon a Brahmin boy’s deer-skin was taken away by a deer. He urged the Pandavs to get it back from him and so the Pandavs set out chasing the deer. The deer chase was a never-ending one, and soon the Pandavs got tired and arrived near a pond, which however was poisoned. Yudhishtir asked Sahadev to go and fetch water for all. Sahadev died on the spot after drinking the water and soon Nakul, Arjun and Bhim were casualties too. However, Bhim managed to write on the ground that the water was poisoned. By then Yudhishtir was too tired and fainted for want of water.

In the meanwhile, the phantom that had emanated out of the ritual fire sought orders from the sage. The sage asked it to kill the Pandavs wherever they were. The phantom said that it would go out in search of the Pandavs and kill them, as it could not see them then, but just in case it did not find them for any reason, then it would return to kill the sage himself.

The phantom then set out in search of the Pandavs. It came across Yudhishtir who was lying unconscious and assumed that he was dead due to heat. He soon found the other four dead too. The phantom was now angry to have been asked to kill people who were already dead. It returned to where the sage was and shouted at the sage for not being able to see that his targets were already dead. It made fun of the sage’s knowledge and beheaded the sage and returned to the fire.

In the meanwhile, Yudhishtir, regained consciousness and went in search of his brothers. When he saw them dead near the pond and tried to drink the water, he was stopped by a voice, which told him to drink the water only after answering some questions. When Yudhishtir answered the questions, he was   allowed to revive one of his dead brothers. When Yudhishtir asked for Sahadev and the voice learned about his reasoning, the voice was pleased and taught him a mantra to revive all his brothers. Later, the voice introduced itself as Yama, and also told him about the abhicara performed by Duryodhan.

While this episode seems to have borrowed from the popular episode of Yaksha-parva from the original, it sure has its own elements of abhicara, weaved in quite effectively.

It is interesting to see how regional beliefs have crept in the retellings of the epic. Every version has an element of localisation and the Malayalam versions are no different. What is interesting is that the retellings have been further made popular in the different dance forms which are regularly enacted, it hasn’t been lost. The rich and thriving art forms which had the sanctity of temple premises have not given way to popular dance forms and are regularly performed even today. This speaks volumes of the desire to save the art forms from dying, while keeping the old and ancient texts alive, even in difference with the original Sanskrit version.

Besides regional flavours, it also throws light on the social structure of the day. While we have read that the rituals are performed by the aboriginal tribes of today, it shows that in a period when caste-system was very strong in other parts of the country, the people of this region did not stop the people from the marginalised sections of the society from entering the temple. Not only did they enter the temples, they even performed some of the rituals and have divinity attached to the origins of the community (as seen in Lord Shiva being the first Velan).

Once again, my sincere thanks to both Mr. A. Purushothaman and Mr. A. Harindranath for sharing their knowledge on the subject with me and simplifying my learning to a large extent, something on which they have been working for years.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Black-magic in Malayalam Mahabharat – Part 2

In the previous part, we read about the Pallippana ritual and the legend behind it. Today, we will read a slightly different version of the same, where the ritual is not conducted by the Malayi.

A slightly different version from the above is observed in the Nizhalkkuttu attakatha which was composed by Shri Pannisseri Nanupillai in 1925, and according to the author, there weren’t too many Hindu homes (then) which did not perform the Nizhalkkuttu attakatha at least once a month to annul the effects of abhicara which could have been performed by some unknown person.

Duryodhan (Kathakali)

The story behind this is similar to the above with a slight difference. Duryodhan calls Bharata Malayan to perform abhicara. When Malayan learns that the victims of his act were going to be the Pandavs, he declines to do it, as for him both the Pandavs and the Kauravs were Kings, besides the fact that Krishna was with them, due to which he would not be able to do so. Duryodhan threatened him with dire consequences if he did not comply with his order.

Malayan agreed but asked for certain things for the ritual – the sun as a lamp, the moon as a plate, measures of darkness, egg of an elephant, arrows used by Lord Rama, some leaves made of water, etc. Besides all such impossible things, he also asked for the sacrifice of their sister, Dusshala. On hearing all this Duryodhan was enraged and threatened to kill him instantly, if he did not begin the abhicara. A reluctant and a scared Malayan decided to perform the ritual.

Malayan (Kathakali)

When the ritual began, Malayan realised that he was unable to see the shadows of the Pandavs on the stone. He was worried, if the ritual was not successful, Duryodhan would kill him. He prayed to the gods to bail him out of the plight. Soon he noticed that he could see the shadows of the Pandavs along with that of Lord Krishna. He prayed to Krishna to show mercy on him as he was doing this only under utter duress. Soon the shadow of Krishna went missing and his task was accomplished. He begged forgiveness and left with all the gifts heaped on him by Duryodhan.

When he reached home, his wife found it unusual that he should return with so many gifts, and still be sad. On asking him the cause of his unhappiness, Malayan said that on his way back he practiced abhicara on five does, who were with a deer. Malayi was not convinced and on insisting to know the truth, Malayan told her that he had killed the Pandavs by Nizhalkkuttu, shadow-piercing. When Malayi learnt this, she was enraged. She killed her son, so that Malayan could feel the pain of Kunti and rushed to the spot where the Pandavs were lying dead.

In the meanwhile Kunti finds her dead sons and calls for Krishna. Krishna revives them and soon Malayi arrives there and tells all that had happened due to her husband. Krishna assured her that he knew everything and killing her own son was too drastic a reaction and that his son would be alive too and that there would be no hatred towards Malayan as he had done it out of sheer compulsion.

Krishna, Malayi & Kunti (Kathakali)

Krishna then goes on to say, that anybody who listens to this tale would never be affected by abhicara ever.

The above version is different in the fact that here Krishna is credited with the revival of the Pandavs and not Malayi as in the previous version. Also, Malayan is shown making efforts to avoid the abhicara and thus he is not spited for greed, again, as against the previous version. Also, in the earlier version, the son remains dead, unlike this version, where the son is given another lease of life. The bottom line is that in the previous version the Malayi is at the centre stage whereas in the present, it is Lord Krishna.

Needless to say, that both the versions are depicted in different dance forms in Kerala, like Theyyam and Kathakali, and people who have witnessed the performances say that the depictions of the abhicara episode in Kathakali is extremely colourful and rich in details.

NB – The pictures shown in this and the previous article are not from a ritualistic performance, but stage performances of Kathakali, depicting the episode.

Before we conclude, we will read an altogether different version of abhicara. Keep reading……