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.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Olympic Games – Mythical Origins

Last week, we read about the Ancient Olympics. Today we will read about the mythical origins of the Olympics.

There are a number of versions of the origin of the games, and let us go through some of them briefly.

One of the main versions is related to Pelops and King Oenamaus of Pisa or Olympia. Pelops was a handsome youth, who had learnt chariot racing from none other than Poseidon, the god of seas (and who was in love with Pelops). Pelops fell in love with the Hippodamia, the daughter of King Oenamaus. To marry his daughter, the suitor had to defeat the King in a chariot race and the loser would be put to death, and the King had already executed twelve suitors. (Many say that the King did not want anybody to marry his daughter as he himself was in love with her! However, another version says that he was aware of a prophesy, that his son-in-law would kill him). But Pelops was determined to win, by hook or by crook. So he invoked Poseidon and reminding him of his love for him, sought his help. Poseidon gave him a chariot with winged horses. However, Pelops was still not sure, so he bribed Oenamaus’s charioteer, who while preparing his chariot the night before the race, inserted wax linchpins instead of bronze ones in the axle of the chariots wheels.

During the race, just as Oenamaus was catching up Pelops, the wheels flew off and the chariot crashed, killing the King. Pelops then wed Hippodamia and became the King of Pisa. The games were held in commemoration of his victory over King Oenamaus. Some say that the games were held to thank the gods for helping Pelops, while some even say that the games were held as funeral games in the memory of King Oenamaus. (Please note that this myth does not just end here, but we will not go beyond the establishment of the Games)

Another version credits the origin of the Games to Hercules. Hercules was the son of Zeus and his mortal lover Alcmene. Due to some twists of destiny, Hercules was subjected to twelve labours, which were not only tough but also near impossible (giving rise to the well known phrase ‘herculean task’). As part of his fifth labour, Hercules was supposed to clean the Augeian Stables in a single day. Augeias was the King of Elis and he had thousands of cattle in his enormous stables which were not cleaned for ages. To complete this task in a single day was near impossible, so the King had agreed to part with one tenth of his cattle as a price for the cleaning. Hercules diverted the course of two rivers, Alpheius and Peneius to flow through the stables and cleaned the stables in no time. King Augeias however refused to honour his bargain and Hercules after completing his twelve labours waged a war on Elis and killed Augeias. Hercules is supposed to have instituted the Olympic Games in honour of his father Zeus. It is said that it was Hercules who taught men to wrestle and it was he who measured the length of the race by placing one foot in front of the other, six hundred times, measuring the length of the first footrace and also ascertaining the length of the stadium which was built for the Games. Hercules is also supposed to have planted the sacred olive tree which was later used for making the crown of the Olympic victors.

Yet another myth says that it was Zeus himself who had started the Games to celebrate his victory over Cronus. In the first games held, only the Gods had participated and Apollo was credited with most of the wins in the games. Apollo is also supposed to be the first victor of the first Olympic Games due to his blazing speed and great archery skills. These games of the gods were supposed to be the predecessor of the ancient Olympic Games. Zeus is supposed to have hurled his thunderbolt identifying the location of Olympia in Southern Greece, where a temple was built in honour of Zeus, which does not exist anymore.

All these myths only go on to lend credence to the divinity associated with the Ancient Games.

Next we will read about Women in Ancient Olympics.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Olympic Games

The world will usher in the next Olympics being held in London later today. As we all know that the Olympics were first held in Greece, and anything Greek, has to have its origin in Greek mythology. Before we look at the mythical origins of the Olympics, let us understand the Olympics as they were, which is better known as the Ancient Olympic Games as against the present format of the Games which we refer to as the Modern Olympics.

The Ancient Olympics were first held in 776 BC as per the available documented records. They were held in a city by the name of Olympia, a district in Southern Greece and were held every four years which began around the Summer Solstice. This four year period was referred to as Olympiad and was also used as a reference point for many important events in the Greek calendar.

The games were not just a set of games, but also a religious event for the people then. A temple dedicated to Zeus, the King of all gods, at the site of the games had a huge 42 feet high, gold and ivory idol of Zeus, which was also a part of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. During the games, no city-state could go for wars or even execute criminals. Part of the activities during the ancient games was altar rituals and sacrifices in honour of gods. In the middle of the games, about 100 oxen were sacrificed in honour of Zeus in an extravagant ritual known as the ‘hecatombe’.

The Ancient Games did not have too many events, except for a few races, jumps, discus and javelin throws, wrestling and boxing and horse-riding and chariot races. In all events, there was only one winner and his prize was a crown of leaves, olive or laurel leaves. Participating and winning in the Olympics was considered to be very prestigious. Many of the victors were treated like heroes and were accorded a very high status and some were taken care of and fed by the state for the rest of their lives. A victor could have his statue erected and even have poems written on him. They not only brought fame to themselves and their families, but also to their ‘poleis’ or city-states. Besides this, the participants were also trying to impress and win favour of some god or the other.

The Games were stopped by Theodosius in AD 393, after an existence of more than a thousand years, as he was a champion of Christianity and wanted to impose the same as the state religion. Part of his religious imposition meant bringing an end to such games which were held in honour of Greek Gods. The site of Olympia where the Games were held was destroyed in an earthquake in the 6th Century AD. The Games were later reinstated in 1896 in the city of Athens.

Next, we will see the mythical origins of the Olympic Games.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Amarnath Yatra - Variation to the Myth

Yesterday, we read about the legend associated with the Amarnath yatra. There is a different version which is diametrically opposite to the above in terms of the location of the divine discourse.

Matseyndra Nath
The followers of the Natha sampradaya, i.e. the Natha community, have a different version. A fisherman by the name of Matseyndra Nath (Matsya – fish), once got swallowed by a huge fish which had got entangled in his net. The fish took him deep under the ocean. Since Matseyndra Nath had done good deeds, he did not die. The fish went and settled outside a make-shift home created by Shiva to relate the mysteries of his immortality. Shiva had selected this location so that no mortal could hear it (as against the cave as we read in the Amarnath yatra earlier).

However, while the fish was resting, Matseyndra Nath heard the full discourse and later after twelve years when he came out of the fish, he went on to become the founder of the Natha sampradaya, a sect of yogis. The sampradaya does not believe in caste system and Kings and untouchables, alike, have been the followers of this sect. The objective of the sect is to enjoy peace and tranquillity, at the same time also seek release from the cycle of birth and death. They also feel that for this one does not need divine intervention, it is based on ones actions and karma. Among the major disciples of Matseyndra Nath were Gorakhnath and Caurangi, with the former being very influential and also instrumental in spreading the teachings of Matseyndra Nath. They consider Lord Shiva to be the first in the line by referring him as the Adi Nath.

Matseyndra Nath and the natha sampradaya have thier followers in different parts of the country, especially in Bengal, Bihar, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Nepal. Matseyndra Nath, Gorakhnath and other seven such teachers are collectively known as the Navnath. The natha sampradaya have their own following with different myths associated with Matseyndra Nath, which we will not get into at this stage.

This variation is important especially for its difference. The people from the hilly terrain associate the myth of the Amar Katha in a mountain, whereas those closer to the sea, have an underwater association. Though Nepal can be seen as an exception, but the association of Matseyndra Nath, who is better known as Machindranath, has been discussed earlier in another article (Ratha-Yatra – In India and Abroad – Part 1 Nepal ). One of the versions even had a similarity with the earlier myth, where instead of Parvati acknowledging during the discourse, it was Matseyndra nath doing the same from inside the fish, when Parvati had dozed off! However, when Shiva learnt that it was someone else, he did not want to eliminate him, but blessed him to spread the good word. The significance of the natha sampradaya is more so, as it takes a Puranic myth and weaves around it secular credentials and thus has a wider base.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Amarnath Yatra

The Amarnath Caves
Amarnath yatra is one of the most arduous and sacred pilgrimage shrines for the devoted Hindus. The cave is situated at a height of close to 13,000 ft, which has a stalagmite in the form of a shiva-linga, which waxes and wanes with the waxing and waning of the  moon during the month of Shravan month of the Hindu calendar, which coincides with the months of July-August. The caves are closed all round the year, except during this period, when devotees brave the dangerously harsh temperatures, slippery paths and bad weather. This year the caves are open from June 25 to August 2nd.

What is it about the place? First the legend.

Once, Goddess Parvati asked Lord Shiva the reason for his immortality. While she had been taking different births, he remained the same. Shiva avoided the discourse till he could, but then Parvati would not give up. At last Shiva decided to tell her the mystery, but wanted to ensure that none other than she should hear it.

Shiva identified a cave in the mountains and as part of the preparations for the secret discourse; he left his vahana, the Nandi Bull at Pahalgam (Bail gaon). He left the moon from his hair at a place called the Chandanwari and his snakes at the Lake Sheshnag. He left Lord Ganesha at Mahaguna Parvat and the five elements of life at Panjitarini. (All these are present day sites of reverence and part of the Amarnath yatra). Once inside the cave, Shiva opened his third eye, from which he created a ball of fire which destroyed all living being around the area, leaving the two, Shiva and Parvati all alone for the Amar Katha (immortal discourse). Shiva then sat on his deer skin and related the entire mystery.

It was in this cave of Amarnath, where the discourse was supposed to have taken place.

From here there are different versions of the legend. We will go through them briefly.

One version says that under the deer skin was an un-hatched egg of a pigeon. In the course of the discourse, the egg hatched and out came a pair of pigeons. Since they had heard the discourse, then have become immortal and pilgrims say that even today, a pair of pigeons are found flying around during this season of pilgrimage.

Another version says that from the egg came out a parrot. Shiva had told Parvati that she should continuously acknowledge, by saying “Hm”, during the discourse as he would be in his yogic trance. When the egg hatched and the first thing the parrot learnt was the “Hm” uttered by Parvati. In due course of the discourse, Parvati had fallen asleep and it was the parrot who had kept acknowledging during the entire discourse. When Shiva came to know about it, he was angry and sent his trident to kill the parrot. The parrot flew away from the chasing trident and entered into the mouth of a yawning wife of Sage Vasishta. The parrot entered into the womb of the wife, but did not want to come out as he had known all the mysteries of life and did not want to enter the world of Maya, illusions. Later with the intervention of Lord Vishnu, a child was born the sage’s wife, who became famous by the same of Sage Shuka (Shuka is parrot in Sanskrit).

Shiva also ordained that anybody who visits the Amaranath caves during this auspicious period will be released from the cycle of birth and death.

Ice Shiva-lingam
There is an interesting myth with the discovery of the caves. Once a shepherd, by the name of Buta Malik was given a sack of coal by a saint. When he opened it at home, he found it full of gold coins. The grateful shepherd went back to the spot to thank the saint, but found the caves. Since then the caves have become an important place of pilgrimage. Yet another version says that in those days, Kashmir was nothing but a huge lake. Rishi Kashyap drained the waters of the lake into rivers and rivulets and later Rishi Bhrigu visited the Himalayas to discover the cave along with the shiva-linga. The previous one gives the place secular credentials, where a Hindu shrine is discovered by a Muslim, though many say that Buta Malik was from Gujjar community.

Though the Amarnath yatra has had its share of controversies due to the impact on national security as well as the environment due to rampant pollution, the yatra has its picturesque moments, besides spiritual and divine moments. For the believer, it is a quest of immortality and for the adventurous it is the thrill of the tough terrain; in both the cases it draws lakhs of devotees every year.

After all, both the believers as well as the adventurous are ‘seeking’!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Man – Animal Conflict

Recently, in a Mumbai suburb, a child was dragged away by a leopard in full view of her shocked mother and grandmother, only to recover the head of the girl next day. The ghastly and scary incident is not the first of its kind, except the gory nature of it. People living in the periphery of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mumbai, have been living with this problem for the last few years and time and again such incidents are reported. Many environmentalists say that this is due to excessive encroachment of human lives inside the jungle which is supposed to be that natural habitat of these animals.

When we move into their territory, what do they do? A classic case of man-animal conflict, where we end up blaming the animal.
This leopard had jumped a boundary wall and entered the verandah of a Row House
in Goregaon, Mumbai - photographed by a resident

This reminds me of a lesser known myth of the Kayopo tribe of the Red Indians taken from Claude Levi Strauss’s collection of the myths of the Kayopo tribe.

An Indian takes his younger brother-in-law to catch parrots up a cliff; they quarrel and the boy is left stranded in the forest. He is there for several days and is rescued by a jaguar who is walking past carrying a bow and arrow. (It is important to mention here that these tales are set in the period when man and animals lived together and some of the animals had both human and superhuman qualities). The jaguar takes him home for a ‘cooked-dinner’, for it was only the jaguar who had the gift of fire and cooking at this stage.

The jaguar’s human (!) wife does not like the boy who was from the village and the boy is eventually forced to murder her with the bow and arrow; he then runs back to his village, taking with him a piece of cooked meat. There he shows the villagers the jaguar’s lair from where they capture an ember and thus learn about fire and the art of cooking, but the jaguar becomes man’s enemy for the betrayal.

Shorn of fiction, the story is full of symbolism. It is symbolic of mans move towards culture (from a raw existence) by the discovery of domestic fire and cooking with the help of the animal and the jaguar’s (i.e. the animals) move away from culture which becomes the embodiment of raw nature. Man pays the price of fire by earning the hostility of animal life in the jungle. Besides all that the myth portrays, doesn’t this myth also bring out man’s inherent nature of not being trustworthy as against that of the animal? Debatable? I don’t think so.

If this is not a case of classic man-animal conflict, then what is it? Since childhood we have heard stories of man and animals – man in villages and cities and animals in jungles. Things have changed slightly, man has started leaving villages for the cities and the cities have started moving into jungles. Where does that leave the animals? Where do they go? While I sympathize with the family that lost the child, I also would like to question the authorities as to how is it that humans encroach so much that it takes an animal to remind us about it and that too in its own way? Many such incidents have highlighted the plight of the animals that are vulnerable at this time of year, due to the rains as well as new-born cubs to look after. At this time, they look out for easy preys. Children and small animals like dogs and cats that are a many due to the garbage accumulation (again thanks to the human encroachments), are the easiest prey for these animals.

Who do we blame? Man or Animal?

Monday, July 16, 2012

2nd Anniversary

My blog is 2 today!

It’s growing and growing well! I look back like a proud father, who’s worked hard, written a bit and read a lot. But it’s time to indulge in some nostalgia!

Blog was a geeky word and world for me, but I did dive into it, hoping to make some sense. Someone said, the best thing about a Blog is, you decide what you want to publish – No Editor! No editor and that too for a fresher in writing is music to ones ears. The long dormant creative juices started flowing and I penned my first few articles.

My wife was the first guinea pig when it came to reading what (or whatever?) I wrote. Her comments were like a medical capsule – sweet outside and truth inside! But she egged me on and I unleashed a barrage of articles in my Blog. Festivals, occasions and events all were associated with Mythology and occasionally I even expressed my views on some current affairs.

Some good friends started reading and forwarding and soon more and more people started liking it. From a few forced readers, (who had no choice) to 300 visitors a day in my Blog as of today; more than 250 articles in a span of 2 years – I don’t know if this is good, bad or ugly, but as they say – I’m lovin' it!!

Thanks to all of you who have been reading and a special thanks to those who are forwarding – where would I be without you guys?!?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday the 13th

The world is scared of today, today being “Friday the 13th”, but not India. We have been living in such a situation for so many months and years now. The sinister day is just a personification of the state of times we live in –

  • Any day can be a Friday the 13th to molest women in crowded streets, with the cops doing nothing or much 
  • Any day can be a Friday the 13th for train blasts which can happen anytime and the victims left on the altar of justice to seek justice (today is the anniversary of the 13/7 blasts) and pick up the threads of their shredded life
  • Any day can be a Friday the 13th to remind us about the sorry state that we live in where women in some places are asked not to wear western clothes and use cell phone, as this leads to law and order problems 
  • Any day can be a Friday the 13th if we decide to go out and enjoy ourselves, as the moral cop is waiting on the sides with a hockey-stick to catch innocent merry makers, letting hard-nosed criminals pass by
  • Any day can be a Friday the 13th to remind us that we live in times when the politicians and the powerful enjoy themselves, both inside and outside the jails, and ordinary mortals are trying to make ends meet, without even saying “ouch” – some charge sheeted politicians can even plan to go to the London Olympics 
  • Any day can be a Friday the 13th for us to realise that our teaching institutes are turning to barbaric acts of discipline and scarring our children for a life time
  • Any day can be a Friday the 13th to tell us that today people can die in hospitals not for medical reasons, but political and negligence 

What is a Friday the 13th when we live the day in and day out?

For those interested in the origins of the day, please read my previous article on the day - Friday the 13th!! This is Utkarsh Speaking: Friday the 13th!!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Caste System

A recent TV show has brought back the discussion on Caste System. Since childhood (which was quite a long time back!), we have read about the ills of Caste system, but am surprised to see the same thing being discussed and I recently found myself teaching my child about the same. The discussion brought up many things, besides the issue that is caste pre-decided? Does one inherit a caste based on his birth? To rephrase it, is caste more of an accident than choice? Was this how it was envisaged in the first place? 

Well, as they say, let’s begin at the very beginning….

According to the Purusha sukta (Purusha sukta is a set of hymns from the Rig Veda which deals with the subject of Creation); every aspect of the universe was created from the cosmic Purusha, man. From his mouth, arms, thighs and feet were born the four varnas, or classes’ of people, viz. Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. The apparent objective of this class-based society was division of labour. The Brahmins were to take the responsibility of teaching (which also involved research and upholding the religious and related institutions). The Kshatriyas were to take care of all the people, govern and provide security to their subjects. The Vaishyas were entrusted with carrying on the responsibility of business, which was farming and cattle-rearing, besides doing all such acts that generated revenue. Finally, the Shudras were to provide services which could be in the form of providing labour. Division of labour is not an unheard subject; rather all societies (and organizations) work towards this.
So far so good….

The ills started to be visible, when domination of one led to discrimination with the other. Of all, the Shudra was the most oppressed and discrimination led to their isolation from the mainstream. The foremost issue that comes up, is – is caste pre-decided? What if the son of a Brahmin is brave and capable of fighting for an army? What if the son of a Vaishya is intelligent enough to become a teacher? What if the son of a Shudra is able to transcend his caste into any of the other professions? 

It is here that things have gone haywire. The caste system was purely for division of labour and if someone was good in another area, they were not stopped. There have been examples of such crossing of caste barriers which have gone down well with the-then powers-that-be and nobody has quite raised even an eyebrow. Let us see some examples –

Sage Vishwamitra – Vishwamitra was a Kshatriya ruler, Kaushika. Once King Kaushika stopped by the hermitage of Sage Vasishta, who ensured that the King and his army were treated to a lavish meal. Kaushika was surprised at the arrangements and enquired of the Sage about such arrangements. The sage told him about his calf, Nandini who had provided for everything needed for the meal, and that the calf was the daughter of Lord Indra’s cow, Kamdhenu. On learning this, the King asked for the calf as he could do more justice to its powers than a sage in a remote hermitage, and even agreed to pay a price for her. When the sage declined form parting with it, Kaushika tried to take it away by force. Sage Vasishta, then through his yogic powers waged a war with the army of the King and soon took the King as a prisoner. The sage pardoned Kaushika and let him go. Kaushika then learnt a lesson that power was not in physical strength or in an army, there was greater power in knowledge and from that day, he started his quest for this power in the form of penance. To cut a long story short, after many trials, he was accorded the title of Brahmarishi by none other than Sage Vasishta himself. An example of a Kshatriya becoming a sage and being accepted by the community.

Parashuram – Parashuram was not a Kshatriya, but all that we know of him has to do with wars and battles. His rage against the Kshatriya caste is well known and is said to have spent a lifetime in eliminating the Kshatriyas from the face of the earth. Whatever one knows about Parashuram, has got to be with his acts of warfare and his teaching the said skills to some of the well known characters of Mahabharata, like Bhishma, Drona and Karna. His association with axe as his weapon is also well know. 

Dronacharya – Dronacharya in the epic Mahabharata was born as a Brahmin. His youth was spent in poverty, but he trained under Parashuram, and was an expert in the arts of weapon and warfare. Later he goes on to become the military teacher for the Pandavas and Kauravas and was also a general during the war of Kurukshetra. A Brahmin, who was an expert in the art of war and weapons.

Finally, an example from History.

Chandragupta Maurya – Chandragupta was a Shudra, but went on to become the ruler of the Magadh Empire and he was brought in to rule, by none other than a Brahmin, Chanakya. Chanakya had to face strong criticism and opposition from the then clergy who opposed this move of his, but Chanakya argued and stood his ground. During one such argument, he is supposed to have said that the caste system, did not allow anyone to inherit ones caste based on ones birth, but it had more to do with one’s ability and capability. Chandragupta went on to become the founder of the Mauryan Empire and was also credited to be the first unifier of India and one of the finest Emperors that India has seen.

Detractors will say that the caste bias existed in the epics which I have quoted, and is visible when Dronacharya declines from teaching the likes of Karna and Eklavya saying that they couldn’t take training under him since they were not Kshatriyas. I would see this not as an issue of caste, but more as a case of favouritism. Arjuna was Drona’s favourite and he wanted him to be the best archer and that was the driving force behind not training the two. 

This brings us back to the issue of caste system as many of us know it. The ills of caste system and the exploitation started centuries back. This happened when the interpretation was changed from a logical division to the politics of division. The masters of interpretation became the twisters of many a fate. Once the practice of Sati had sanction in religious texts, but it did not find any place in a modern society. Human sacrifices and animal sacrifices have given way to symbolic sacrifices of vegetables. Many such aspects have been given a decent burial and we have moved on, without hurting anybody’s religious sentiments. 

Why can’t the same happen to the caste-system, which has outlived its time and relevance, if any?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The God Particle

The Higgs Boson Particle or the God Particle has stirred a hornet’s nest in the sense that its opened or rather re-opened the debate of religion and science. The triumphant images of Scientists feeling euphoric about the yet-to-be-declared-great-discovery-but-nearly-there, is seen to be believed. Being Indian, I too felt great and the next day read much about Satyendra Nath Bose (the only thing common between us is that we belong to the same state!) & Einstein (nothing common between us!) and indulged myself in some scientific reading and felt good. 

But then somewhere, the I in me questioned me as to why was this so important? Just how will my life change due to this yet-to-be-declared discovery? Okay, I don’t understand the full implications of this concept, but then was I living without it quite well and happy, if I may add so. Just how has Mr. Einstein’s “E=mc2” helped me in life, except to add to my troubles when I was in school? If Newton had not told me about gravity, would I be balancing apples in the air? I would still keep then in my fruit-bowl and if today I have my feet firm on the ground, then it has more to do with my upbringing than gravity! 

Science is so important and my folks would yell their lungs out whenever they saw my Report card in school (oops, I guess, the cat is out of the bag). In Physics they taught me to use a Vernier Caliper and I never got a single reading right and thank god that I have never needed to use it in my life time. I never needed to see things in Reflections or Refractions; I see them straight, as they say, in-the-eye! The Organics and Inorganics of the Chemistry that my teacher in school struggled with, only made me more Physical (with agitation) then and over time the problems only Compunded and got me into my Elements! Biology was trifle helpful as it told me how to grow plants, which I do only in my namesake balcony and introduced me to some important body parts like the kidney and liver, which needs to pumped with you-know-what regularly and my other body parts which are of great use to me. The teacher did teach me about the brain too, but I guess I lost it to all the science that my folks wanted me to master, to no significant practical use in my later life. 

But then back to Higgs-Boson. The world and its neighbor are going gaga (not the Lady this time) about it and I am yet to fathom all about the atoms, or is it the particles? After all the discussions on the telly and the stuff in the newspaper, I understood that the whole thing has something to do with mass and matter. At my stage in life and the people I get to move around, we only understand mass, the bulk of it and matter, the lack of it, and the fact that in many of us, it is inversely proportional!

Well I made my efforts to understand the Higgs-Boson and I understand one thing, there is nothing godly about it, so let’s leave the gods out of it. The gods had nothing to do with the Big Bang Theory; rather I am quite sure that they feel offended about the theory as it undermines their efforts! Gods and their champions have taken ages to put together a theory which is so simple and understandable, no intricate formulae, no thesis and no having to learn the same thing for many years to master it. It is as simple as – “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” As recorded in the third verse of the Book of Genesis. I do understand however, that if all were to follow theology, then the worshipers of Science would lose their jobs, so let’s not be as unfair as that. Let this balance between Science and Theology exist as precarious as it can be and lets cheer the finding of a particle just as we celebrate the birth of a god. What do we mere and merry mortals have to lose? 

As far as god is concerned, when the discovery of so many particles has not overthrown him from his current position, this one will not make even an iota of difference. So dear god, have no fear, we mortals have our standards very clear, when we send our children for their Science exams, we tell them to pray to you first, don’t we? 

We call it a win-win coexistence!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Abhimanyu’s Death

Yesterday, we read about the death of Abhimanyu which seemed to be part of the war-strategy of Lord Krishna. Did he seem like a villain who was out to eliminate the young Pandava princes and get them to sacrifice each of them and leave the Kuru clan with no survivor (except Abhimanyu’s unborn son, Parikshit)?

Not exactly! Yes Abhimanyu was killed as a part of a plan, but a plan which was way beyond the battlefields of Kurukshetra.

Before it was time for Vishnu to take the mortal birth of Krishna, each of the gods were expected to contribute towards the massive destruction that was expected on earth, i.e. in the war of Kurukshetra (as they say, everything is destined). Many sources say, that the Pandavas, who were the sons of gods, were actually the representatives of the said gods (like Yudhishtir represented Dharma, Bhima represented Vayu and Arjuna represented Indra, etc.). As a part of this design, Abhimanyu was the reincarnation of Chandra, the Moon-god’s son, Varchas.

As an arrangement, Chandra did not want to part with his son for too long and so had agreed to part with him only for sixteen years and also wanted his son to be known as a hero. This was known to Krishna, and thus he is supposed to have ensured that Abhimanyu died a heroic death at the young age of sixteen and leave the world and go back to his father, Chandra.

The fact that the death of Abhimanyu was the turning point in the war has been well accepted by one and all. The death of his favourite son, from Subhadra, made Arjuna cry for blood and bring out the warrior in him.

This should be seen as the utilisation of a useful piece of information for a larger cause – a great skill to possess in the field of strategy. The vows of Draupadi, the hardships they had to undergo, the treachery and the unfairness meted out to them, besides Krishna’s rendition of Gita had not quite had the desired effect on Arjuna that was needed in the kind of battle that was being fought. Abhimanyu could have been eliminated as any other death in the battlefield, but the way he got killed, roused the passions and anger in a relatively cold Arjuna who was not fighting to his potential and was avoiding all the seniors of the Kaurava army. His death changed the whole attitude of Arjuna and there was no looking back thereafter.

Many scholars have also opined that this could have also been done to serve as a lesson to one and all that half knowledge is dangerous and that wars have to be fought through a combination of strategy and bravery, not just the latter.

So can we still blame Krishna for the death of Abhimanyu, or should we see as a masterstroke in the master plan?