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, July 30, 2013

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

A recent viewing of a very popular Hindi movie, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag has set me thinking a bit and I am reproducing the thoughts here.

Every hero has a reason to achieve his heroic heights, both mortal and mythological. According to Greek mythology, Hercules had murdered his wife in a fit of anger, and so he set out to atone for them and thus goes the tales of his twelve heroic deeds. Perseus set out on an adventure to bring home the head of the Gorgon Medusa just to prove that he was not a good-for-nothing Greek, but was brave and could do what no mortal had even tried to.

In Ramayan, Ram wanted to get his kidnapped wife back and set a regime of rightful rule in Lanka and thus the battle in Ramayan, which saw his heroic best. Hanuman wanted to do anything and everything to please his idol Ram, and did whatever he was told to, in the process, achieving feats which were inhuman. Arjun in Mahabharat achieved his heroic deeds by the sheer dint of reaching a target which none could and become the best archer in the world then. Amba took the birth of a eunuch just to achieve her sole objective of being the cause of Bhishma’s death. Numerous examples abound in different mythologies, where heroes have reached the peak of their heroism, at some point of time for something or the other.

It was no different for the ordinary mortal Milkha Singh. As a child he ran to school to reach on time and avoid being caned by his teacher, and then during the partition, he ran to save his life. Later he ran fast to avoid getting caught by the railway guards. As an army jawan, he ran for a glass of milk and then for the Indian blazer. He continued to run for something or the other, till it became a habit to satiate a particular need. Does this mean that if you do not have a material cause or a need, you do not achieve heroic heights?

No, many have achieved great success out of passion too. Many actors have achieved stardom out of sheer passion for the art and not primarily for the money. Certain doctors have achieved near-god status, out of the sheer desire to cure. Environmentalists have pursued their mission-like objective just to provide a clean atmosphere for the future generation without any gain for themselves. But even here there is an underlying need, excellence.

So what is the underlying common factor among all the above, irrespective of the status of divinity or mortality that sets man, to achieve what is unachievable for many? The word is motivation. Nothing can be achieved without some motivation. Hercules was motivated by getting to wash of the sins of murder, Perseus wanted to prove that he was not a useless son citizen who could not afford a gift for the King on his wedding. Ram was motivated to get his wife back, Arjun wanted to be the best archer on earth and Amba wanted to avenge her insult. Even the mythical characters had an objective, just as Milkha had different motivations at different stages of life.

Without a motive, there is no motivation. Even altruism is a motivation behind donating huge chunks of personal wealth!

What is your motivation and what does it want to achieve? If all of us ask this basic question, we know what we want and where we have to reach. This objective and the motivation to achieve it, differentiates man from cattle, the leader from the herd.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Who Enjoys More?

If you have not given this question a thought, then let me tell you, that mythology has. And if you have thought about it, well, then you sure are obsessed with questions!

In the course of sex, who enjoys more, a man or a woman? Both Greek mythology and Mahabharata (Mb) seems to have tried to seek answers to this question.

According to Greek Mythology, Tiresias was a blind prophet well known for his ability to predict the future. According to one version Tiresias once came across a pair of copulating snakes and he hit one of them with his stick. Hera, the Queen of the gods was not happy with this and she cursed him to become a woman for seven years. After seven years, Tiresias came across the same sight again, but this time he left them undisturbed. This act allowed him to regain his masculinity. Once Zeus and Hera were having an argument, as to who enjoyed more during sex. According to Zeus, it was women and according to Hera, it was men. Tiresias was called to arbitrate, since he had experienced sex both as man and woman. Tiresias answered – Of ten parts, man enjoys only one! This upset Hera so much, that she cursed him to become blind. Zeus could not do much, so he gave Tiresias the gift of foresight.

According to Mb, after the war of Kurukshetra, before Bhishma decided to die, there was a discourse between Yudhishtir and Bhishma while he was on the bed of arrows. Among many questions asked by Yudhishtir, one of the questions asked was similar to what Zeus and Hera had. To this Bhishma is supposed to have related the story of Bhangashvana. Bhangashvana was an ancient king who was cursed to turn into a woman, by Lord Indra. He was the only creature on earth, to have experienced sex both as a man as well as a woman, and he also had the rare fortune to have some children call him father, while some called him mother. It is said that later when Lord Indra asked him if he would like to regain his masculine form, he is supposed to have declined the offer, on the grounds that he would prefer to live as a woman, mainly for the ability to enjoy sexual pleasure more. Many later scholars have also added (lest this be seen in bad light!) that Bhangashvana enjoyed being a woman, also because as a woman she could love her children more than what she could as a man!

While Greek mythology answers the question in an indirect manner, Mahabharata answers it more directly. Unfortunately Tiresias had to bear the brunt of the ire of Hera, Bhangashvana goes on to enjoy the life of a woman.

Greeks punished the person who gave the answer, while in Mb the person gets a boon of his choice, but in both the cases, the answer was woman.

Statutory Disclaimer - The opinions expressed above were that of Tiresias and Bhangashvana, mythical characters, the Blogger (i.e. me) takes no responsibility for their words and opinions!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Ker Puja

Last time we read about Kharchi Puja of Tripura. Fifteen days after the Kharchi Puja, (July 30, this year) comes the second most important festival of Tripura called Ker Puja. However, contrary to the celebrations marking the Kharchi Puja, Ker as the name suggests, is marked with a sense of austerity and seriousness.

After the ritual cleansing of earth (during Kharchi Puja), all the gods and goddesses are now sacred and the entire atmosphere is ‘clean’. The Ker Puja is to honour the guardian deity of Tripura called Ker. A large piece of bamboo bent in a particular manner becomes the image of Ker to be worshiped. It is celebrated in a designated area, which is permanently earmarked for this event. Prior to the starting of this worship, all expectant mothers, ill and terminally ill patients are removed from this area. Once the worship starts, no one can leave or enter the area which has been earmarked for the event. If anything of such nature happens, including a birth or a death, the ritual has to start again at the expense of the person who caused the event. In Agartala, the capital of Tripura, an area has been designated for such event.

Another aspect of this worship is that once the ritual starts, nobody is allowed to speak loudly, joke or make fun, speak lies or derogatory about anyone or anything including uttering of slang and obscenities within the designated area. No celebrations, music and dance is permitted too. The atmosphere in the area has to be clean and not spoilt by anything negative, both in thought and actions. Offering animal sacrifices as part of the festival is another important aspect of the worship.

In the olden days, Ker Puja was observed for the welfare of the village, which now is observed for the welfare of the state. The deities are worshiped to ward of all evil including natural calamities like earthquakes, floods and epidemics as well as external attacks. Earlier the King of Tripura used to bear the expenses of the event, but now the state government bears the expenses as a part of the agreement of annexation by the princely state of Tripura with the Govt of India. The beginning of the worship is marked by firing of guns by the State Police to announce the commencement of the worship.

Ker Puja is considered to be centuries old festival which seems to be having a tribal origin. The same is being followed till date with all its austerity and seriousness. Such worships of appeasing nature to ward off its evil effects is a common phenomenon across the world. Different cultures have different rituals to appease such gods and this ritual being followed with all solemnity only bears testimony to early mans fear and reverence for nature, which people say has ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’. Any disregard of its power is reciprocated with vengeance, one of which we saw recently in Utarakhand.

Ker pic courtesy – www.tripura.org.in

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Kharchi Puja

The week long Kharchi Puja commenced in Tripura this week from July 16th. This is the most important festival of the North-Eastern state and the entire state is in the mood of a carnival.

The festival is interesting, as it blends the tribal as well as the Brahminical aspects of religion very well. The festival is characterised by the worshipping of fourteen gods, more importantly, the heads of fourteen gods, by the royal priest called Chantai. There are different legends lending credence to the festival. Let us look at one of the most important of them.

According to history, the King of Tripura, Trilochan had two sons, Dripakti the elder and Dakshin the younger son. Dripakti was adopted by his maternal grandfather, the King of Cachhar, as he did not have any heir. Soon the King of Cachhar died and Dripakti became the King of Cachhar. On Dripakti’s adoption, Trilochan, declared his younger son, Dakshin as the heir apparent of Tripura. When Trilochan died, Dakshin took the throne. Dripakti on learning about his father’s death claimed to be the rightful heir to the throne as he was the eldest. When Dakshin resisted, a battle waged for seven days, where Dakshin was defeated and Dripakti became the King of Tripura. Dakshin escaped with the heads of fourteen soldiers and set up his kingdom in the area of central Cachhar. Since then the descendants of Dakshin worshipped the heads of the fourteen soldiers who were deified by then. It is said that after the death of Dripakti, his descendants too started worshipping the fourteen ‘deities’ and soon it became a practice.

The tribal language of Kak-barok had tribal names for the fourteen deities. They were Katar, Katar-ma, Burachha, Mailoma, Khuloma, Subrai Raja, Lampra, Toi Bubagra, Sangrama, Harung Bubagra, Nangkhtai Bubagra, Bachhua Bubagra, Thunirok and Banirok. But with the influence of the Brahminical religion, the names soon changed into the gods from Hindu pantheon. Today the fourteen deities are called Prithvi (Earth), Uma (Parvati), Har (Siva), Hari (Vishnu), Kumar (Kartikeya), Ma (Lakshmi), Bani (Saraswati), Ganesh, Brahma (Creator), Kamdev (God of Love), Samudra (Ocean God), Ganga, Agni (Fire), and Himalaya (God of Mountains).

Another version says that the festival is celebrated as
a worship of Goddess Earth. Kharchi or ‘khya’ means the earth and worshipping the earth which provides sustenance to all aspects of life. Interestingly, the Kharchi Pua takes place fifteen days after Ambu bachi. Ambu bachi is the menstruation of the Earth and as thought by the ancient people, menstruation was an ‘unclean’ aspect of a woman. In the ancient times, during Ambu bachi no ploughing or digging activity was taken place. The soil was considered ‘unclean’ and women were prohibited from conducting any auspicious function during Ambu bachi. Even a priest whose wife was in menstruation at that time was prohibited from conducting any ceremony. Kharchi Puja is also considered to be the ritual cleansing of the Mother Earth of its post-menstruation mess! Many even compare this cleansing to the ‘shraadh’ ceremony (after death) from when everything becomes normal! Ambu-bachi is very important in Assam for a similar reason, which we will take up on some different day.

The rituals are marked with the bathing of the fourteen heads of the deities. Sacrifices of goats and pigeons form an integral part of the rituals. The worshipping of the heads, a tribal influence, remains.

The most important aspect of the festivities is the coming together of both the tribal’s as well as the non-tribal’s in the festivities. A festival which has its origin in history gets integrated with both tribal and Hindu mythology which hasn’t lost its significance even today, is an interesting subject for mythologists. Earlier, we have seen instances of popular myths getting ‘tribalised’, but here is an example of the tribal myth getting ‘Hinduised’ (apologies for the English bloomers!). The same integrates very well with the cult of Mother Goddess, which is a significant aspect of worship in the Eastern parts of India.

An excellent example of integration of myths!