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.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine Day Love Story

It’s that day of the year when love is in the air – who cares if the day has been made famous by the consumerist economy and is despised by a few who see this as a western import. Love is the most beautiful emotion and let’s not allow a few silly idiots spoil the day, and so, on a day like this, let’s celebrate the concept of love which is in existence from time immemorial and stories of love, can be heard from the time man understood himself (and her!).
There are numerous stories of love and the ones that would have caught our fancy is the unfulfilled love and here’s one from the Greek Mythology which is considered to be one of the most well-known love stories. It is the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. There are different versions of this myth, but we will go through the most common of them.
Orpheus was a young man who was extremely talented in music. He possessed a divine gift of a lovely voice and had mastered the art of playing the lyre at a very young age. It is said that his mother was one of muse, Muse Calliope. When he sang and played the music, all would stand still to listen to him, be it man or beasts; trees would uproot themselves to come closer to listen to the music, the rivers would change course and the breeze would blow through the music, taking the lovely strains of his music far and wide. Apart from his musical talent Orpheus had an adventurous side to him, but why sour the romantic moments at this moment, so we will skip his adventurous pursuits for the moment!
During one such musical rendition, Orpheus noticed a shy wood-nymph, Eurydice and couldn’t help but fall in love with her. It was love at first sight for both of them and nothing could stop them. Soon they were married and after the day long celebrations, it was time to leave the two newly-weds alone. But such are not the ways of love, right? In the shadows was Aristaeus, a shepherd, who secretly loved Eurydice and could not bear the sight of Orpheus and Eurydice holding hands and happily married. He hid in the bushes intending to kill Orpheus when they were passing by. As soon as they came close, he pounced on Orpheus, but Orpheus sensing danger, caught the hand of Eurydice and ran from there. This resulted in a chase, both Orpheus and Eurydice running away from danger that they knew not and Aristaeus pursuing the death of Orpheus.
In the wild chase, both Orpheus and Eurydice stumbled on something and before anyone could realize what had happened, Orpheus saw Eurydice being separated from him. In her flight, Eurydice had stepped on a deadly snake that bit her and soon the poison enveloped her and she was dead. Seeing this, Aristaeus fled from there, leaving the inconsolable Orpheus alone with the dead Eurydice.
Orpheus could not come to terms with the separation and soon the lovely music had turned soulful. But Orpheus was not giving up. He decided to follow his love to the Underworld. The gates of the Underworld were opened for Orpheus where he sang and played such soulful music that the Hades, the god of the Underworld and Persephone, his queen were moved to tears (Read “Demeter and Persephone” http://utkarshspeak.blogspot.in/2011/03/demeter-persephone.html). So moved was Hades with the sad music of Orpheus that he promised Orpheus to allow him to take Eurydice back with him to the Upper-world. However, while he would take the soul of Eurydice, he should not look back; he should see her only when the soul had crossed the darkness of the Underworld and emerged in the light of the Upper-world. If he did try to see her in the darkness the soul would leave him forever and no power could unite them ever.
Orpheus leading eurydice out
of the Underworld
Orpheus was thrilled, and soon he could feel the presence of Eurydice and he started his journey from the Underworld. He could hear her footsteps and his joy knew no bounds and he wanted to look back and hug her, but was reminded of Hade’s condition. As soon as he reached the gates of the Underworld and could see the rays of the Sun, he could not hold back and turned around. Alas, Eurydice had not emerged out of the dark shadows of the Underworld and all Orpheus caught was a glimpse of her sad face and soon she was gone. The gates closed on Orpheus and this time, he could not cross the gates of the Underworld.
The lovers were separated for ever. Orpheus never managed to sing songs of joy and soon started staying away from people and became a recluse. He started staying away from all women as every woman reminded him of his love. The Maenads were the attendants of Dionysus, the god of wine and passion, and they longed for Orpheus. Soon the scorn and neglect got the worse of them and once in a fit of rage, they pounced on him and killed him in rage (some versions say, that he played such sad music calling for death, that all the animals who heard him, killed him weeping all through the act of killing him!). The Maenads threw his body in the river, and it is said that his head and his lyre floated down to the island of Lesvos, where the Muse gave him a decent burial. People in the island believed that music could be heard from his grave, where after death; Orpheus and Eurydice were united in the Underworld, thus ending the saga of love, separation and torment.  
On this sad note, here’s wishing all a Happy Valentine’s Day.

For more on Love, read the earlier articles –

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