Sunday, July 29, 2012

Shri Krshn: Notes on why he is called 'Bhagavan'.

Author's Note: This is the 1st in this 'Shri Krshn' series.

You may also read the 'Pot Luck' series: Part-I [HERE] and Part-II [HERE].   

In this post, I will endeavour to bring out why Shri Krishna became Bhagavan Shri Krishna.

This is the auspicious month of Shravan and today (July 29) - marks the commencement of 'Jhulon Utsav' (also: 'Jhulan Yatra,' 'Jhulan Purnima,' 'Hindola,' or the Swing festival) - that celebrates the love of Radha-ji and Shri Krishna. [Sanskrit: Sri Krsna].

Tonight, the rain gods permitting, we should be able to admire the serene full moon (Jhulon Purnima) and continue to celebrate till August 02.

To me, both Radha-ji and Shri Krishna were humans and not God; to me they were (and are) made of flesh and blood, and not celestial beings. And I do not subscribe to this theory of divine love between them. To my mind, Love is an emotion of myriad hues and shades; one aspect of which is divine. However what it is clearly not, is the manner in which it has been and is still being portrayed or depicted - by our showbiz and entertainment bigwigs and silver screen Czars and Czarinas.

To me, Shri Krishna is an extremely multifaceted, talented and charismatic person, with immense insight into events and human nature, apart from possessing rare foresight. He meant different things to different people and was perhaps an awesome illusionist too - the best of his era (yug) no doubt, but of all times as well.

There is no one Krishna - so to speak. There is this baby born under extraordinary circumstances into a royal family, a baby separated from his parents (Devaki Ma and Vasudev) right after birth and brought up by a family of milkmen (Yashoda Maiya and Nanda Maharaj), a baby that killed Putana; a naughty (natkhat) toddler that loved to steal butter, an extremely intelligent boy who spent his childhood in the village - as a cowherd (gopa), and the twinkle-eyed teenager that playfully teased the milkmaids - the gopis. There is also the extraordinary philosopher and guide - to Arjun and the other Pandavs, a dear friend - to Sudama and Arjun, a sakha - to Draupadi, the slayer of the ruthless Raja Kamsa (Kansh), and the consort of Radha - in an eternal romance that transcends eras. And there is also the handsome King of Dwarka, a great warrior, a fountainhead of knowledge and wisdom - as enshrined in the 'Srimad Bhagavad Gita' that consists of 700–verse and is part of the celebrated 'Mahabharat' - the comprehensive itihaas (history) of the 'Dwapar Yug,' ... and much more.

His advise to Arjun about doing one's duty, i.e., about upholding one's Dharm - during the course of the 'Kurukshetra War' is today revered as the 'Srimad Bhagavad Gita,' or the 'Song of the Blessed One or the Fortunate One.' ['Srimad' is an honorific, 'Bhagavat' means 'Fortunate,' or 'Blessed' and is derived from 'Bhagah' which means 'good fortune,' while 'Gita' or 'Geeta' means 'Song'.]

The Bhagavad Gita begins before the start of the climactic Kurukshetra war, with the Pandav prince Arjun becoming filled with doubt on the battlefield. Realizing that his enemies are his own relatives, beloved friends, and revered teachers, he turns to his charioteer and guide, Krishna, for advice. Responding to Arjun's confusion and moral dilemma, Krishna explains to Arjun his duties as a warrior and prince, elaborating on a variety of philosophical concepts.

Krishna, through the course of the Gita, imparts to Arjun wisdom, the path to devotion, and the doctrine of selfless action (Karm Yog). The Gita upholds the essence and the philosophical tradition of the Upanishads. However, unlike the rigorous monism (Advaita) of the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita also integrates dualism (Dvaita) and theism (āstika). [Note: I have not read the Upanishads, and hence have simply mentioned what I have gathered from other sources, though I would like to add that the pattern of life based on Vedic wisdom being a way of life, the word 'rigorous' and its connotations - should and would be quite alien to it.]

The Bhagavad Gita occurs in the 'Bhishma Parva' of the 'Mahabharata' and comprises of 18 chapters from the 25th through to the 42nd and consists of 700 verses. However, according to the recension of the Gita commented on by the Adi Shankara, the number of verses is 700, but there is evidence to show that the old manuscripts had 745 verses. [What happened to these additional 45 verses, I know not. But what I can say with certainty is this: that it has been our loss; we have been deprived of priceless knowledge and guidance. And whether there were more than 745 verses, many of which now lost in the mists of time or to the elements - both natural and human, while several of the remaining ones misunderstood or misinterpreted or not, I leave it to your discretion.]

Early in the text, responding to Arjun's despondency, Krishna asks him to follow his swadharma. 'Swa-dharma' literally means 'work born out of one's nature' and in this verse, is often interpreted as the 'varna dharma' or the 'duty of a warrior'. The 18th chapter of the Gita examines the relationship between 'swadharma' and 'swabhava' or essential nature. In this chapter, the 'swadharma' of an individual is linked with the 'gunas' or 'tendencies arising out of one's swabhava'. [Therefore, one has been advised to ascertain one's own self, in order to best understand one's own nature, tendencies, inclinations and bent of mind; and then to apply oneself accordingly - into an area or field of work that one is best suited for. This way, one is able to do justice to one's talents and with that comes contentment. A contented or satisfied person is good for one's family and to society as well, while a frustrated or dissatisfied person does no good to anyone.]

The 'Srimad Bhagavad Gita' distills the timeless knowledge of the 'Veds' (whether of all the four - the Rg Ved, the Sama Ved, the Yajur Ved and the Atharva Ved - I know not; but of the Rig Ved certainly) and those of the 'Panchatantra,' the 'Upanishads,' the 'Ramayan,' etc., as well. It is a book that holds immense wisdom and knowledge within its pages and is the jewel of ancient India's spiritual wisdom, one that is not constrained by time and space.

The Veds, the Panchatantra, the Upanishads, the Ramayan, etc are all part of another era - a different yug. The 'Ramayan' is the comprehensive itihaas (history) of the 2nd era - the 'Treta Yug,' while the 'Mahabharat' (of which the 'Srimad Bhagavat Gita' is a part of) has come into our possession from OUR forefathers who lived in the 3rd era - the 'Dwapar Yug'.

And WE all are part of the fourth era - the 'Kali Yug'.

Therefore, how has Shri Krishna, who walked on this planet in a completely different era, when there was no 'religion' or 'ism,' been branded as a 'Hindu God' is a mystery to me. And how his knowledge, wisdom and advice - his legacy - his gift to us, rather his gift for the whole of mankind, been dubbed as a part of 'Hindu literature,' is also something that I have been unable to fathom. [Please do let me know in case you have made any headway in this regard :)]

Which other 'ism' existed in the earlier 'yugs' (eras or kalpas)? None that we know of! Since 'religion' and 'ism' were not part of the 'way of life' - in the preceding eras.

Strangely, these days, a mere change of name, attire, the manner of 'offering prayers' and a change of the respective 'place of worship' is all that is required - to connect with the divine and with one's inner self - the soul. But how does one change the DNA - the mark of one's forefathers - firmly embedded within one's marrows? How indeed?? And does anything ('religion' included) come from vacuum? Is there nothing that influences or precedes it?

For OUR forefathers, the stress was not on 'religion' (this word and its connotations were unknown to them) but on dharm, that elusive word, which lays down what is right, rather indicates one's righteous duty - no matter what the obstacles in its path. 'Dharm' - was a way of life ... and had not yet come to mean either 'coalition dharma' or 'religion'.

As for our 'mythologies' and 'epics,' can it not be that OUR ancients were farsighted enough to deliberately camouflage the events, etc, in coded texts? Knowledge falling into wrong hands can have devastating consequences, and history documented 'as is' - is vulnerable to 'amendments' - at the hands of sundry forces. But 'coded texts' have to be deciphered first, and if they are also doubly insured as fantastic stories, then chances are that young children would grow up listening to them - and would be unlikely to forget. In this manner our heritage too gets carried forward without much ado. [Not that various forces have not altered the narrative or changed our perception.]

Coming back to Shri Krishna, is it not possible that OUR forefathers gave the status of 'Bhagavan' - to someone who touched their lives and was a harbinger of change - positive change - in society, and whose life and times transcended eras?

Can it not be that Shri Krishna was one of the many wise and accomplished men and women of their time who achieved this exalted status of divinity (that of 'Bhagavan') - through sheer dint of their will and effort as well as their influence, their work, their vision, their wisdom and their legacy?

We have this concept of the 'Paramatma' - the 'Supreme Being' or the 'Supreme Soul' - of whom we are all a part of. Can it not be that these great people - wise and accomplished men and women that did great service to society, to mankind and therefore to civilization, through their words and deeds - were given the status of 'Bhagavan' and were considered to be a part of (i.e., a manifestation of) that Supreme Being or the 'Paramatma' - through the eras/ages (yugs, kalpas)?

I am referring to the 'avatar' concept that OUR ancients - through the ages - have referred to. [An 'avatar' is taken as a part of, or a manifestation of, the 'Paramatma' or the 'Parameshwar' - the 'Supreme Soul' or the 'Supreme Being'.]

The Chapter IV - 8 of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita - says:

paritranaya sadhunam
vinasaya ca duskrtam
sambhavami yuge yuge


Paritranaya: for the deliverance; sadhunam: of the devotees; vinasaya: for the annihilation; ca: also; duskrtam: of the miscreants; dharma: the principles and ideals of 'the right path' or the 'way of life' as it should be - for the good of humankind and for civilization to flourish well; samsthapana-arthaya: to reestablish; sambhavami: I do appear; yuge: millennium; yuge: after millennium.


In order to rescue/deliver the good and the pious (the noble-hearted) and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles and ideals of 'the right path' or the way of life as it should be - for the greater good of mankind and for civilization to flourish well, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.

Here humankind should not be taken as humans only, but creation per se - all living beings.

The good and the pious (the noble-hearted) need not mean the profoundly devout or ritualistic people, but refers to ordinary folks who largely have good, positive thoughts and intentions and are somehow making an effort - in their own way - for the betterment of the society or are at least trying to.

Miscreants do not mean evil people, since there is no concept of 'evil' in the Vedas or in the philosophy of life rooted in the Vedic wisdom. [Veda comes from the root vid meaning: wisdom, knowledge.] The soul after departing the mortal body does not 'rest in peace' as is thought by some sections of society. The "Sanaatan Dharm" has this concept of Charaiveti - to keep going, in some other form, based on one's Karm (actions committed in that life) - as per the principles of 'Karm Yog'. A great soul (Mahaatma) will be reborn to carry on the good work, in whichever capacity; but every soul (irrespective of its accumulated Karm phal, the fruits of its Karm - in the previous birth) will be reborn accordingly, and get an opportunity to redeem itself. The soul has no form, no shape, no gender; only the outer covering or the mortal body takes the shape of a human (a man, a woman, a tritiya prakriti - the 3rd gender) or an animal, a plant, a bird, an insect, a reptile and so on and so forth.

Even the annihilation or the destruction of the miscreants by the 'avatar' (manifestation of the Parmaatma or the Parameshwar) is not to be viewed as a punishment, but as a step towards their redemption.

Both 'Sur' or 'Sura' (i.e. positive forces or entities) and 'Asur'/'Ashur'/'Ashura' (i.e. negative forces or entities) are required for creation, and they are present everywhere: in creation, in the universe and in this world; they are present within us (as traits), within society and within civilization as well - so as to sustain it or rather so as to maintain the balance. 

Imbalance is also part of nature. ['Vikriti' is also part of 'Prakriti'.]

However, whenever the negative content increases to alarming levels, it threatens creation, society, and families and in effect it threatens civilization. In such scenarios or times, some extraordinary men and women come forward ... and through their words, deeds and lingering influence restores the balance.

It has been people and it IS people, mortal humans of flesh and blood, wise and courageous men and women, that have always risen above themselves (their own needs, wants, fears, emotions, attachments, etc) in order to bring the necessary changes in society so as to restore order - in creation, in civilization. This has happened in every age, in every era. Is it not?? 

And through their actions, these extraordinary men and women have left behind a legacy that has in turn transcended time and space and even triumphed death.

We have this concept of 'mrityunjay' - one who conquers death, don't we?

To my mind, Shri Krishna was one such "Yug Purush", an illumined man of extraordinary caliber, a man of nonpareil intelligence, a larger-than-life legend. But there have been many more (Yug Purush and Yug Manavi) through the eras/ages/yugs, and this can be observed even in the current difficult era and times - the Kali Yug. What?

Parting shot: Despite this being 'Jhulon Utsav' or 'Jhulan Yatra' - the celebration of love - Radha-Krishna's love; yet somehow it seems love is against 'our ancient culture and traditions.' Strange, no?

(More later...)

Photograph: Found while trawling the net. Don't have the link :(

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pot Luck: Multicuisine/ Notes on Faith, Religion, Customs, Rituals, Mythology, etc.. (Part - II)

So Pronob-babu has finally succeeded in becoming the hilltop man, and once he takes up residence in that swankiest house in Dilli, we can say there's something fishy going on there - without any sinister insinuation. However, to commemorate his elevation to Rashtropoti status, he should start writing his surname in its original version - the gaalbhora Mukhopadhyay, instead of the clipped Mukherjee. And we can watch the magic unfold. [Roshogolla sales will shoot through the roof, clear the stratosphere and take up residence in Mars or Venus. And if THAT doesn't put the 'animal spirit' back into our economy, what will??]

But now that the Ostrich too has been classified as an animal ... I must confess I'm a tad ... umm, apprehensive.

So, let me get back to what I set out to write. Here's the 1st part - for a second reading or repeated reading. [Remember: old is gold?!]

The Hope fairy from that die-hard Pandora's box tells me that you have somehow managed to ponder over why Shri Ram (or Shri Rama for that matter) has taken up residence within 'green' festivals :)

See! Haleem is very good for that long dormant dimaag ki batti. [Disclaimer: Chlormint is not paying me a penny for this one.]

Meanwhile, the very auspicious month of Shravan (Shravan Maas - the Hindu lunar month dedicated to Bhagwan Shiv) - has also commenced (19th July - 17th August, 2012).

Shravan brings with it 'Janmashtami' (Shri Krishn's janamdin or birthday), 'Rakshabandhan' (a day when sisters tie the sacred 'Rakhi thread' on their brothers' right wrists and pray for their long life) and 'Sitla Satam' (when there is no cooking or heating - only food cooked the day before can be eaten cold and baths have to be cold too.)

This year, 'Jhulon Utsav' (also: 'Jhulan Yatra,' 'Jhulan Purnima,' 'Hindola,' or the Swing festival) - that celebrates the love of Radha-ji and Shri Krishn - too falls in the month of Shravan. Though various 'Khaps' and self-proclaimed 'moral police' are completely unaware of it, the love bit that is. [You see love is against 'our ancient culture and traditions.' Still, I'm sure that most of us would admire the serene full moon night (purnima) of July 29 and celebrate till August 02.]

But then, the auspicious and holy month of Shravan has also arrived with the hardest thing of all - fasting.

This fasting bit I shall tackle later, so lets begin with the cold bath.

A cold bath (after exercise) can soothe sore muscles. But a cold-water bath has been used for centuries as a great way to treat various ailments, so much so that even when the Ancient Greeks developed heating systems for their public baths, they continued bathing in cold water for the health benefits.

But folks that have a high blood pressure, are overheated or feverish, or suffer from a heart disease should refrain from taking a cold bath. The heart may jump out of the chest, or one may pass out from hyperventilating - when the cold water hits the body. Moral of the story: Its better to be safe than sorry!

It - a cold bath, that is - improves circulation, relieves depression, keeps skin and hair healthy, strengthens immunity, increases energy and well-being, increases testosterone and increases fertility too. Though I don't think that the latest specimen of the mustachioed (phantom version included) macho man needs any help in creating some progeny. Their daughters, mothers, wives, sisters, daughters-in-law, granddaughters, toddlers, babies, et al., bear testimony to their machismo, testosterone included. [What is testosterone, you ask? Umm, it's something like: F1 ... that Dushashana tried his hardest to qualify for but failed miserably. And it is also something that prompted the Queen of 'Hastinapur' - the fiery Draupadi - to untie her 'shikha,' i.e., remain with disheveled hair, until ... ]

Lets turn our attention to 'Rakshabandhan' now. Frankly, 'Rakshabandhan' urges the brothers to also reciprocate, i.e., to tie a sacred thread on their sisters' wrists and pray for their long life, since 'Rakshabandhan' symbolizes the affectionate brother-sister bond (bandhan) and is a vow that they both undertake together: to stand by each other - always. However, modern, new-age brothers - mustachioed (phantom or otherwise) and appropriately macho men - have transcended Vedic wisdom. [Result: 'Rakshaks' have turned 'Bhakshaks' and shamelessly fearlessly slyly innocently masquerades under the 'ask for it' think-local-act-global brand.]

Great men have turned water into wine. Big deal! Even 'greater men' have been turning wine and much else into uric acid and regularly watering the plants since time immemorial.

And it is these 'greater men' that have unequivocally informed us that the knowledge and wisdom of the Vedas (so what if they are steeped in antiquity and are as old as Time itself) - are old-fashioned, archaic, moth-eaten, chauvinistic, unscientific, out-of-style and communal. Just like Sanskrit.

Here are some examples:

During the month of Shravan, one is advised to read the Ramayan, the Mahabharat or the Shrimad Bhagvad Gita. [How sad! How can anyone be asked to read 'mythologies' and 'epics' of all things??]

Our elders have also urged us to read the Panchatantra, the Hitopadesh, the Upanishads, the Jataka Tales, the Jain Tales, the Arthashastra, the Niti-Shastra, etc. [But how can anything other than: Playboy, Femina, Stardust, Conscience Bhagat's novels, Rs. 95 or Rs. 100 - navels novels or sundry Penthouse stories, be read?? Or the front and back covers of a packet of condom at least?! After all, HOT is in and cold bath is out, passé.]

Note: For all those that are ignorant, let your GK travel north: Condom is the name of an exotic bird that is not part of 'our ancient culture and traditions.' However, since due to some miracle it has also been discovered in some or the other 'closely-guarded' ancient scripture, therefore, the female of the species have been tasked with the onerous pleasant job of acquiring it; it's a walk in the park, really. Only to ensure that the 'Pati-Parameshwar' types, the 'boyfriend speci-men' and the 'other holy spe-semen' types need not lose face accumulate 'bad karma.'

As for those advice-dispensing Vedic people, they were definitely sickular; and wait a minute, they did not even have hair growing on their ears, you say?! *Horror of Horrors* [This is THE sign of being communal. *Shivers*]

Also, weren't these the same folks that created the Khajuraho, the Ajanta and the Elora Cave temples? [Tsk! Tsk! They had no better work than to create such audacious things out of mere rocks and stones?! Cheeee! No hero-giri in them, steroid-fed pumped-up torsos, spindly legs and all.]

And they did not even know how to create beautiful monuments like: concrete jungles, that collapsed under the weight of a petal or a feather?!! [Surely these Vedic people were spineless, moustache-less, spindly legs-less, middle-finger-less poor sods ABCDEFGH @#^&%#$@!]

And they portrayed (sculpted) figures of men and women indulging in err ... 'amorous activities' on temple walls??? [Hmm. Vedic maha-fools that never knew the charms of Pamela Anderson, Sunny Leone ... and porn! Too bad.]

To be modern, fashionable, appropriately perfumed, macholy moustachioed and suit-ably 'vested' one must know how to eloquently 'compare' those disgusting Khajuraho, Ajanta and Elora temple sculptures to something that is divinely crude, crassly divinely commercialized and divinely revolting to the senses. [Only then can one earn the much-coveted 'badge of honour' - that of being a real feminist, with impeccable secular and philanthropic credentials ... big red bindis will come gratis. Bhatt naturally! Nothing to Sue-hail Seth about it.]

However, all of the above, along with a long holy beard, holier mumbo jumbo, a dollop of saffron, a teaspoon of holy water, a dash of magic, and some sleight of gymnastics - is enough to elevate 'crooked trees' to a position or status even higher than that of the Almighty - the Paramatma.

And bolo who doesn't know that it is best (and pays) to sit or lie immobilized with folded palms - in front of all the mushrooming super Paramatmas? One gets to see and feel THE God Particle himself, no? Total union with God guaranteed - albeit for a small price. [But do also remember that THESE God Particles are 1001% sure, pure and (un)adult-rated, than THAT God Particle - Higgs-Boson or something. So? A small price is nothing, haath ki maeil hai. Only.]

Sadly, those dull, dim-witted Vedic people have had the audacity to urge their enlightened modern counterparts to pray to 'Bhagawan Shiv' and 'Maa Parvati' or 'Maa Durga' - embodiments of the masculine and the feminine cosmic energies - during the month of Shravan. [This, when the 'Dark Knight' has risen!]

Not only that, the modern enlightened humans have been asked to worship the cosmic energies with offerings of flowers, ghee, incense, special leaves (mango, bel, tulsi), milk and honey. [This (!!!) in the age of dalda, vanaspati ghee, esspesaal pujas and even more esspesaal darshans; when the money plant holds sway, and wood is urgently needed for furniture purposes!]

And they (the modern enlightened humans) are also supposed to gently pour milk (not rum, not sherry, not vodka, not gin and tonic, not beer, not even desi daaru ... but milk!) - over what the modern macho man most definitely regards as the 'Shiv Ling' !!

Umm, it seems that those ancient un-macho desi-daaru-less Vedic people regarded it (the supposed 'Shiv Ling' that is) as the union of the male and the female, the union of the masculine and the feminine: cosmic energies certainly, but also symbolizing the celebration of love, of life, of birth, of creation and of civilization. This was 'Vedic wisdom' - an aspect of 'Sanaatan Dharm,' and an aspect of 'Arya Dharm' as well. [But then those backward Sanaatan Dharm-wallahs did not have television, as we moderns know it: proliferating channels, Arnab-da et al. See!! BTW, 'Sanaatan' means 'ancient' as in: timeless. Which clearly means: those advice-laden, poverty-stricken Vedic people did not even own a Breguet timepiece or at least a Swatch or a Tissot!!]

And what exactly is this 'Arya'? You aren't referring to the 'Aryans' by any chance, are you? All those destructive, fair-skinned, phoren, alien, outsiders that invaded us - as per our benign, friendly, scholarly, twist-dancing, fairly-skinned, colonizing brothers and their sisters. [Now, how can anyone KOSCHEN that? This is not Kaun Banega Sitapati Crorepati, I say !!]

Plus, don't we all know (courtesy those same alien Vedic people) - that only Rakta-beej proliferates?? [While the big screen, small screen, item numbers, hip swingers, zandu balm appliers, progressive advertisements, regressive comedy shows, Rakhi Sawant, et al are instruments (via media) - of high-voltage enlightenment, that aid in precious 'evolution'. So much so that the dimaag ki batti metamorphoses into BRANDED sodium vapour lamp.]

Time for some asinine sublime Flash Mob please...

(More later…)

Photograph: Found it while trawling the net. Don't remember the link :(

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Pot Luck: Multicuisine/ Notes on Faith, Religion, Customs, Rituals, Mythology, etc.. (Part - I)

This is the month of Ramzan (also: Ramazan) and I being a bhojon roshik (epicurean) Bengali look forward to all the delicious biriyanis, kababs, phirnis and of course the haleem – that are sure to come my way. The latter (haleem) is a very tasty dish that materializes when the working class humble wheat is forced to mix with the bourgeois mutton. This is one red-blooded Communism that even Didi will never be able to dismantle. Though off late her actions seem to suggest that she is determined to ensure that the ebhil sickle rids itself of its sickle-cell anaemia - and becomes even more healthy, wealthy and otherwise than before.

Getting back to the haleem, for non-mutton-eaters this version of the haleem posed a severe gastronomic depression (as in despair or gloom) - which the lachrymal glands failed to resolve. Then Chlormint came to the rescue and so we now have this to-die-for dish finally upgraded to its yummy chicken version. Thank Shri Ram (or Shri Rama, whichever is applicable) - for small mercies!

And I am not even sure whether the bleating mutton - before it becomes delicious, and the clucking chicken - before it un-clucks itself in a giant copper or aluminium pot, are creatures of the desert.

Though (probably) millions of sheep every year board massive cargo ships bound for those distant desert lands or thereabouts, but then those are merely the green card holders - naturalized citizensheep.

Methinks: Aboriginal sheep was perhaps that anonymous sheep that quietly penned the Alif Laila (better known as: the Tales of the Arabian Nights) - since the kids (lambs) created a lot of ruckus and refused to be tucked in bed before mid-night.

... But don't even ask me about the wheat. I am almost certain that they cannot grow on tall date palm trees - that are trying their best to speak to the listening heaven.

However, coming back to the sheep ... it's best not to speculate, since folks from the land of that great scientist with several 'original' inventions to his name, Guglielmo Marconi, have informed us that it was not Cruci-fiction but Cruci-fact.

But then, if it were not for that cruci-whatever or more precisely for that red-suited great big man with a snow-white beard, whose sleigh was driven by Rudolf - the red-nosed reindeer, we wouldn't have been able to gorge on all those goodies, yummy rum cakes with red cherries on top included. We can take the whole bakery but let's leave the baker behind and not share any cake with Robinson Crusoe's Man Friday. As for the baker, he can go and find a new job - that of mixing cement and concrete, so as to create poetry-inducing 'masterpieces' out of brick and mortar, also known as the concrete jungle. These seem to sprout everywhere these days, especially on agricultural lands and pristine lakes.

However, continuing with the gastronomic delights, I also intend to explore various noodle dishes and Manchurian cuisine too. So, do stay tuned ... armed with a spoon, a fork or a pair of chopsticks.

You see, I have been to Buddhist temples and deeply appreciate the calm and serene environment that seems to prevail there. No elbow-wrestling happening, nor are people seen severely testing the strength of their shoulders and fists. The latter is usually seen open (as in palm instead of the closed fist) and joined together - in reverence, while the eyes - the mirror to the soul - are closed, perhaps in deep meditation.

The reciting of the mantras or the sacred hymns coupled with the fragrance of the incense fills the air ... and the surroundings resonate with a positive energy that mere mortal words fail to express.

Meditation and prayer or puja are some of the instruments - that aid us in our efforts to unite with the Supreme Being - the divine, or shall I say, the forces of the universe. At the end of it - the puja or the meditation, that is - we feel enriched, energized and a strange calmness envelops us within it's fold.

[Note: The gesture used when bowing in Namaste is the bringing of both hands together, palms touching, in front of the person - usually at the chest, or a higher level such as below the chin, below the nose, or above the head.

This gesture is a mudra; a well-recognized symbolic hand position in the ancient Vedic faith (Sanaatan Dharm), that has shrunk over a period of time. One hand represents the higher, spiritual nature, while the other represents the worldly self. By combining the two, the person making the gesture is attempting to rise above their differences with others, and connect themselves to the person they bow to. The bow is a symbolic bow of love and respect. [Sanaatan = timeless, Dharm = path or way of life.]

Particularly in what has now come to be known as Hinduism, when one worships or bows in reverence, the symbolism of the two palms touching is of great significance. It is the joining together of two extremities - the feet of the Divine, with the head of the devotee. The right palm denotes the feet of the Divine and the left palm denotes the head of the devotee. The Divine feet constitute the ultimate solace for all sorrows. This is a time-honoured thought that runs through the entire ethos - of this faith.]

However, mere instruments (like meditation, puja, incense, camphor, earthen lamps or diyas, etc) are not enough. The most important aspect (in one's communion with the divine) is one's mind or more precisely one's thoughts. If the mind is preoccupied with such 'important' matters that range from how much donation will ensure that one's name is engraved on the temple walls or get published in the newspapers; to figuring out such mind-boggling questions of deep philosophical significance, viz., how best to 'catch a glimpse of god', rather get a ringside view, and so on and so forth, then I'm not so sure about the response of the divine, or even the divine per se.

Yet, the following (6 out of many more) has been the manner in which a significant portion of the self-proclaimed 'most evolved of all species' goes about the business of god. And have been at it ... for many decades now, or perhaps centuries.

  1. Indulging in the proverbial rat race, so as to 'catch a glimpse of god' - who, as OUR ancients have told us, is omnipresent - is every where;
  1. Offering 'chai-paani' in the garb of donation - to the divine no less, so as to receive some or the other benefit - in return;
  1. Playing loud music with astonishing lyrics (e.g., professing to teach someone to make lowe in twelve different ways, one each for every month of the year, that is); and even breaking into a worshipful break-dance (that somehow also resembles a high voltage electric shock) - all the while offering prayers with unflinching devotion;
  1. Delivering frenzied sermons that would put the sound-barrier breaking concord jet to shame and make it question it's very existence and purpose. All - in the name of calling the faithful to prayer or delivering one or the other discourse. Now why the 'devout' faithful need to be 'called to prayer' in this manner every day - in this age of wrist watches, alarm clocks, mobile phones, SMS divorces, et al - is something that Newton or Einstein or perhaps Socrates should ponder over;
  1. Badmouthing gods of 'other' faiths, since one or the other specific faith is THE bestest or THE truest, while also repeatedly stating that THE book explicitly says that God is one and the same. This, despite OUR ancients, enriched as they were with Vedic wisdom, never having known or mentioned the word 'religion'. 
  1. Places of worship and 'prayers' that revolve around sustained efforts to 'convert' people of other faiths, even the ones that predate the supposedly 'real' and 'true' ones - as if faith (now known as 'religion') can be swallowed - willingly or forcibly - like a pill!

Does anything (religion included) come from vacuum? Is there nothing that influences or precedes it? Even a child - human, animal, bird, fish, worms, reptiles, plants, et al - are not born out of vacuum. And how does one change the mark of one's ancestors or forefathers? How does one change the DNA - the mark of one's forefathers - firmly embedded within one's marrows? How indeed??

A mere 'change' of name, attire, the manner of 'offering prayers' and a 'change' of the respective 'place of worship' is all that is required - to connect with the divine and with one's inner self - the soul (aatman). Shifting one's residence or changing one's job is far more cumbersome and time-consuming, I tell you. But then this is the age of instant coffee, instant noodles, instant everything. Filter kaapi is passé.

However, if a jam bottle were to be relabeled as a bottle of pickle, it's contents would still refuse to change. But what do jam bottles know? Or for that matter pickles know? Useless inanimate things masquerading as food!

And these rats I tell you, they have jumped the queue and cozied up to Shri Ganesh no less, and have been happily feasting on the tasty modaks - meant for Shri Ganesh, but which actually finds their way into various human stomachs ... without so much as a by your leave. This is clearly not Ivy League. Hmmmph! We must therefore make an all-out effort to send these uncultured rats to Harvard Law Ishcool - for appropriate ethical makeover.

Umm, but just in case you want to know what I mean by Vedic wisdom, do read Chief Si'ahl's Letter: [Link] - that warns us of the need to hold nature dear in our hearts.

"But how can you buy or sell the sky? The land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?"

... Profound thoughts expressed through beautiful words, isn't it? We must remember to take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints.

The pattern of life based on Vedic wisdom transcended colour of hair, pupil, skin, height, other physical characteristics, food habits, language, etc., and encompassed vast lands - in the ancient world and even during the early medieval era. There was no 'race', but values - which declined over a period of time, since people gradually learnt to take much more than memories, and forgot to leave their footprints too. Sadly.

For OUR forefathers, the stress was not on 'religion' but on dharm, that elusive word, which lays down what is right, rather indicates one's righteous duty - no matter what the obstacles in it's path. Dharm - was a "way of life" (and had not yet come to mean coalition dharma.)

But then what can one do; this is the age of 'austere' lifestyle that brings about the resurrection of a Breguet timepiece. This is THE Gift of the Maggi no doubt. [Note: It is not a typo. I did not mean the Magi, I meant Maggi only - the 2-minute instant noodles.]  

It - meaning, the holy godly business - is lucratively spy-ritual too, quite IS-CON like, though all that does not glitter is worth more than gold. Also, hardly any investment is required; just a vest would suffice - since interests need to be properly vested, or else they catch a cold and that may even result in pneumonia, and that you see is against 'our ancient culture and traditions.' But one thing is certain, returns hii returns is confirmed, chappar phad ke. Compound interests, fixed deposits, etc - are all child's play (with primitive toys) and pales in front of this super-duper-bumper-lottery. It even ensures persistent astronomical TRPs - the Holy Grail, for the business of news, views and recycled refuse.

So, you see ... or you still no see?

Parting shot: I am very curious to know as to how and why Shri Ram (or Shri Rama for that matter) has been making a guest err ... ghust (as in ghus jao) appearance in Ramzan or Ramazan ... and for how long? Food for thought along with that delectable haleem, what say?! :)

(More later…)

Picture: Found while trawling the net. Don't remember the link :(

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Auld Lang Syne/ Purano Shei Diner Kotha: Part - II.

Author's Note: The 1st part can be read HERE.

Auld Lang Syne: The popular belief is that Robert Burns wrote "Auld Lang Syne" and this has been the subject of much debate. In short, though it is apparent that Burns "restored" the piece based on fragments of an old ballad dating from before his time, it can be reasonably concluded that Burns probably only added a few verses of his own - to the song. The most compelling evidence, however, is demonstrated in a letter from Burns to Mrs. Agnes Dunlop in which he comments:
"Light be the turf on breast of the heaven-inspired poet who composed this glorious fragment! There is more of the fire of native genius in it than in half a dozen of modern English Bacchanalians."

In this statement, Robert Burns was confirming that someone else had written this marvelous piece, albeit that the original words had been lost in the mists of time. His reference to "Light be the turf" means... the turf lying upon the writers grave. The "glorious fragment" confirms that Burns had taken the only known verses and added to them. His praise of the unknown writer's talent ("... the fire of native genius") demonstrates Burns great admiration for the words.   

On this basis, it has been concluded that Rabbie Burns certainly wrote at least two verses, which have been attributed to his style. (Verses 3 and 4) The other verses and the famous chorus are believed to have dated from the middle of the 16th century, if not before.

[Note: Here's Robert Burns' version of "Auld Lang Syne."]

The phrase: "Auld Lang Syne" - is also used in similar poems by Robert Ayton (1570–1638), Allan Ramsay (1686–1757) and James Watson (1711) as well as older folk songs predating Burns. Matthew Fitt uses the phrase, "In the days of auld lang syne" as the equivalent of "Once upon a time..." in his retelling of fairy tales in the Scots language.

Burns sent a copy of the original song to the Scots Musical Museum with the remark, "The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man." [This old man is thought to have been an old shepherd from whose lips Burns first heard this song c. 1788. Later on, he added two new stanzas of his own - to the original Scottish song. Then in 1799, this song was formally published and has ever since been associated with Burns; rather been credited to him.]

Some of the lyrics were indeed "collected" rather than composed by the poet; the ballad "Old Long Syne" printed in 1711 by James Watson shows considerable similarity in the first verse and the chorus to Burns' later poem, and is almost certainly derived from the same "old song". It is a fair supposition to attribute the rest of the poem to Burns himself.

"Auld Lang Syne" is usually sung each year at midnight on New Year's Day (Hogmanay in Scotland) in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Hong Kong, and the English-speaking areas of India, Pakistan, and Canada ... and signifies the start of a new year.

It is used as a graduation song and a funeral song in Taiwan and Hong Kong, symbolizing an end or a goodbye. In Japan and Hungary, too, it is used in graduation, and many stores and restaurants play it to usher customers out at the end of a business day. In both the Indian Armed Forces and the Pakistani Military, the band plays this song during the graduating parade of the recruits. In the Philippines, it is well known and sung at celebrations like graduations, New Year and Christmas Day. Also, before 1972, it was the tune for the Gaumii salaam anthem of The Maldives (with the current words). In Thailand, it is used for Samakkkhi Chumnum (Together in unity), sung after sports. In Brazil, Portugal, France, Spain, Greece, Poland, and Germany this song is used to mark a farewell. It is also used in the Scout movement for the same purpose, but with somewhat different lyrics.

The tune to which "Auld Lang Syne" is universally sung is a pentatonic Scots folk melody, probably originally a sprightly dance in a much quicker tempo.

In the United States, the song is used as a song of remembrance at 9-11 memorials and other memorial events. The University of Virginia's alma mater ("The Good Old Song"), and the anthem of Alpha Kappa Psi, the largest professional business fraternity in the U.S., is both sung to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne".

In India, the melody was the direct inspiration for the popular Bengali song "Purano shei diner kotha" (About the old days) composed by the great Nobel laureate Kobiguru Rabindranath Tagore. And it forms one of the more recognizable tunes in Rabindra Sangeet (the songs of Rabindranath Tagore) - a treasure-trove of 2,230 songs and lyrical poems that form the backbone of Bengali (Bangla) music. In Japan, the Japanese students' song Hotaru no hikari ("Glow of a Firefly") uses the "Auld Lang Syne" tune. The words are a series of images of hardships that the industrious student endures in his relentless quest for knowledge, starting with the firefly’s light - that the student uses to keep studying when s/he has no other light sources.

The tune is also used for the Dutch football song, Wij houden van Oranje (We love Orange). In France, the melody is used with French words and the parting song is entitled Ce n’est qu’un au revoir (This is only 'until we meet again' [not goodbye]). In Indonesia, the melody is used as a farewell song that is commonly sung during graduation or farewell parties. In South Korea, the melody was used for their national anthem, Aegukga, until composer Ahn Eak-tai composed a new melody to the existing lyrics. In Italy, Italian football supporters are very familiar with this melody since the 1970s. It is often sung in stadiums during the matches, especially after the kick-off. Many Italian supporters of different regions and cities adopted this tune and arranged its lyrics according to their teams. These are the lyrics sung by A.S. Roma supporters: La nostra fede mai morrà/canteremo noì ultrà/e insieme a te saremo allor/forza Roma vinci ancor (Our faith will never die/we, the ultrà, will sing/then we'll be with you/come on Roma, win again). In Spain and in Poland, the Scouts movement - for their farewell song at the end of summer camps or just to say goodbye after big events - uses this tune.

So, I guess, one can safely conclude that "Auld Lang Syne" is indeed a very well traveled song.

"Your friend is your needs answered." So said the Lebanese-American artist, poet and writer - the great Kahlil Gibran.

And I say, true that! Wholeheartedly.

Frankly, there are no words to fully express the joys of having friends, especially friends that one can grow wise with. However, both the great bards – Robert Burns and Robi Thakur tried to, what say?

Here are Kahlil Gibran's complete words:

Your friend is your needs answered.

He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.

And he is your board and your fireside.

For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.

When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the “nay” in your own mind, nor do you withhold the “ay.”

And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;

For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.

[by Kahlil Gibran (January 6, 1883 - April 10, 1931)
From The Prophet (1923)
Section - Friendship]

Do listen:

1. Julie Andrews singing Auld Lang Syne: Link.

2. Auld Lang Syne with Bagpipes: Link.

3. Auld Lang Syne (Celtic Version): Link.

4. Susan Boyle singing Auld Lang Syne: Link.

5. And here's the Bee Gees singing Black Diamond (YouTube link). The lyrics can be found: HERE.

Listen to them and be claimed by nostalgia!


PS: Here's the Bee Gees' How Deep Is Your Love (link). Timeless, isn't it? Just couldn't resist mentioning it here and providing the link too. Enjoy!

PPS: As well as making original compositions, Burns also collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them. His poem (and song) Scots Wha Hae served for a long time as an unofficial national anthem of Scotland. Other poems and songs of Burns that remain well-known across the world today include A Red, Red Rose; A Man's A Man for A' That; To a Louse; To a Mouse; Halloween, The Battle of Sherramuir; Tam o' Shanter, and Ae Fond Kiss. To know more about this Scottish genius, hop on to: Link.

Photograph: The best-known portrait of Burns, by Alexander Nasmyth. Full view of the Nasmyth portrait of 1787, Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Pic. courtesy: Link.