Thursday, January 28, 2016

To Enter or Not To Enter; That is the Question

There is a beautiful story about Meera Bai, whose devotional songs linger on a million tongues even to this day. She once visited a temple at Brindavan, which, at that time, was only open to men. When the priests prevented her from entering, she innocently told them "I thought Krishna was the only male in this universe". The priests were tongue-tied and let her in. 

I wonder if the women who are making a hue and cry about Sabarimala and Shani Shinganapur know about Meera bai. The noise that is being made over Sabarimala and Shani Shinganapur would have been funny (come on, airdrop?) if it were not so pathetic. It is evident that these ladies do not have any love for these Gods or for the religion that endorses these Gods. They are in it just to prove a political point and buy their two minutes of fame, and that is it. 

In a country as diverse as India, there are many, many unique temples and unique ways of worship. In Sandur, there is a Kumaraswamy temple that women of child-bearing age are denied entry to, much like Sabarimala. There is a short wall right in front of the main door, that prevents others from even snatching a glimpse at the icon inside. And there are some Maaramma temples, where traditionally there are priestesses but no priests. Some Gods and Goddesses are worshipped with flowers and fruits and sweets, whereas others need meat and liquor. Yet others are worshipped with song and dance. Flowers are not to be worn in Tirumala, because all the flowers that grow in the vicinity are meant for the Lord. There is room for the devotion of everyone and answers to the spiritual aspirations of everyone. This diversity is what makes sanAtana dharma so charming but yet so difficult to understand. 

The devotees of Ayyappa undergo penance for forty days before visiting Sabarimala. They dress differently. They abstain from meat, alcohol and sex. Can they do these without the consent and help of their wives? The day before the men leave for Sabarimala yatra is a big festival for the entire family. All the people (women included) worship and sing bhajans in praise of the lord. At least, this was what I had seen a few years ago, when I was invited to the celebration before the departure of the yaatris. The women send their husbands and brothers and fathers happily for the yaatra. Women participate in the celebrations with great fervor, even if they don't enter the temple.

And then there is Shani Shinganapur, unique in its own way. The temple does not have doors, like any other house in the village (even the bathrooms do not have doors, believe me!). Contrary to what some of the loud voices of today would have us believe, women do enter the temple for darshan. However, going up on the platform to pour oil on the icon is done by males who have undergone purificatory bath just before entering the temple. My mind simply fails to understand how this is an affront to women.

The vrata men perform before visiting Sabarimala is arduous. Also, it emphasizes self-denial and detachment. The daily duties of women need some level of attachment to the family and worldliness. Taking care of children, for instance. Whatever the feminists say, mothers' duties towards children are more those of the father. This affects other aspects of their lives also. They dress in different ways. They prefer different timings at work. They worship in different ways. sandhyāvandane is for men, whereas Hūvīḻya and kuṅkumārcane are for women. The Kathasaritsagara talks about a weird vrata that was performed by women to ward off diseases that are common in the rainy season. 

The argument that feminists put forth is that the patriarchal society of the day kept women out of places of worship because they menstruate. This is, however, true only in places like Sabarimala. Women do not visit any temple on the days when they are menstruating. Frankly, half the women I know would rather spend those days curled up in a bed and reading, than visiting overcrowded temples. Whatever prompted theses rules to be dictated, they are a blessing, even if in disguise. This is especially true in India where public sanitation leaves much to be desired.

Finally, the ultimate truth is that Biology is Destiny*. Until technology can make men with uteruses and make them produce babies, there is going to be this difference. But I hope we never get such technology, because we should accept and cherish these differences. A painting with many colors looks prettier than one that has been smeared with red ink all over. 

*Not my quote, but I love it.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Voice of Kashmiris

Kashmir has a special place in the hearts of Indians. For centuries, it has been the dwelling of Saraswati. It is the land of Philosophy and poetry. It is home to beauty of nature, mind and spirit. Which Indian heart does not swell at the feats of King Lalitaditya? Which Indian poet does not heave a sigh of pleasure on reading the poetry of Bilhana? Indeed, Kashmir, both by its geographical location and its importance, is the crown jewel of India.

Yet, Kashmir is almost always in the news for all the wrong reasons. Since my childhood, it was a given that the daily newspaper contained details about some militant activity in Kashmir or the other. Some times the newspaper reports talked about militants killed, sometimes it was the security personnel. And some other times the reports contained the statements of politicians condemning the attacks. It looked like a hopeless, helpless situation always. During such a time, the Kannada magazine Taranga (I think) carried an article about the displacement of Kashmiri Pandit population. I was too young to read the article, but I remember that it carried pictures of beautiful, modern-looking Kashmiri Pandit men and women standing at water taps in front of one-room dwellings.

Since then, I have heard the Kashmiri Pandits being mentioned many times. Our first prime minister apparently belonged to that community. The exodus of the KPs has been the subject of many debates; many times they are just mentioned in passing. When someone mentions the Gujarat riots where muslims were killed (conveniently forgetting the Godhra carnage), it is almost a reflex action to say "But what about the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits?". What exactly this exodus was, I had not known until I recently read Rahul Pandita's book "Our Moon has Blood Clots".

Rahul Pandita is not a new name to me. Nandini Krishnan (a very good writer who writes with style and yet with balance) had interviewed Pandita and had published it. I thought I should read the book, all the more interesting because he claims to be a communist. From what little left literature I have read (including articles by Arundhati Roy, Dilip D'souza, Romila Thapar and others), I know enough to wonder how a KP and communist can coexist in one person. However, as I discovered when I read the book, RP turns out to be quite different from the rabid communists that Arundhati Roy and her ilk are. He is proud of the traditions of the Kashmiris, of their Shivratri, their sacrifices and rituals and Durgasaptashati. He mourns the loss of tradition like the passing of an old uncle.

Rahul's writing is very simple. He says that he wrote this book only because he wants the story of the Pandits to reach the next generation, and not get lost in the flood of secularism and dhimmitude that is setting the course of political discourse these days. And I must say he is quite successful. If this story about Kashmir can move me, a kannaDiti to tears for a few hours, I cannot even start imagining how a Kashmiri may feel about it. He describes the compound outside his family home, the apple and cashew trees and the heavy snow that makes the tin roofs cave in. His childhood was idyllic, surrounded by people he loved and looked up to. He had friends with whom he played cricket. All this was gradually taken from him, and suddenly one night in January 1990, everything turned topsy turvy and within a few days, his whole family was seeking refuge in Jammu.

It is not the story of RP alone. Thousands of Kashmiri Pandits lost their homes, many of them lost their lives too, that fateful night. The estimated number is more than 300,000. There are many theories to explain this exodus. Some say that the muslim-hating Jagmohan packed off the KPs so that he could hunt the muslims without any danger of harming the Hindus. This is very unlikely, keeping in mind that that night in Kashmir, it was mainly Pandit blood that flowed and it was the Pandit women who went through untold horrors. As always, our media glosses over these stark realities and harps on the atrocities of the army in Kashmir. Not to condone the civilian killings done knowingly or unknowingly by the Indian army, but major brunt of militant insurgency was borne by the Pandit population and no one else. They have a reputation of physically being weak; so much that it is a matter of shame to lose a physical fight against them. This made them soft targets to the insurgents. While the youth who were fresh from Pakistan were indulging in military exercises, the helpless Pandits could only look on. Or I should  say they "would" only look on. All portents of a looming invasion were ignored by the government and the Pandits themselves. As Rahul Pandita says, after the first few killings happened, the then Chief minister assured people that militancy would end soon. This is the same shortsightedness that was displayed by our first prime minister during Chinese insurgency. In spite of all our learnings from Arthaśāstra and Rājataraṅgiṇi, we really never learnt.

Things in Kashmir have only gone downhill since Independence. A major contributor was the myopic judgment of our first prime minister who brought Article 370 into governance. Recently, about a year ago, the flamboyant Sunanda Pushkar had raised the issue of Article 370 and had mourned that she would never be able to buy any land in her homeland. Rahul raises the same issue and says that he may own land in any place in the whole world other than his homeland. There is a telling moment, when he visits the house that was his when he was a child. There is someone else living there; the apple tree is cut and the bookshelves are filled with onion and garlic. Whether it was intended or not, a very important "dhvani" is brought out here. When the Pandits were turned out of Kashmir, it lost its scholarship and beauty. Only sorry relics - like the "showpiece almari" without the showpieces and the bookshelf devoid of books remain.

There have been efforts to rehabilitate the Pandits in their homeland. The then Prime Minister, Dr.Manmohan Singh started a program to that effect in 2008. However, so far, they have not been very successful because it is difficult to promise safety in a war-zone. It is a chicken-and-egg problem; While the Pandits are not rehabilitated in their own homes, peace in the region will remain a farce. But to even promise the Pandits their original homes, there has to be some semblance of peace in the valley.

After reading the book, I googled references to this book. There have been books about Kashmir - but Rahul Pandita's book is different in that it talks about Kashmir from the point of view of the minority community. Not only that; it does not gloss over the atrocities of the army or the amiability of the Kashmiri Muslim brethren.

During my long hiatus, I did read a lot. But not one of them spurred me to write. This book did that. Dear readers, if you read this book, and a tear rolls down your eye as you do and you spread the word about the book - the plight and the resilience of the Kashmiri Pandits, and then all of us lend our voices to them, the purpose of the book will be served.

Jai Hind! 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

ಶ್ರೀ ಆಂಜನೇಯತತ್ತ್ವ

ಬುದ್ಧಿರ್ಬಲಂ ಯಶೋ ಧೈರ್ಯಂ ನಿರ್ಭಯತ್ವಮ್ ಅರೋಗತಾ |
ಅಜಾಡ್ಯಂ ವಾಕ್ಪಟುತ್ವಂ ಚ ಹನೂಮತ್ಸ್ಮರಣಾತ್ ಭವೇತ್ ||

ಆಸೇತುಹಿಮಾಚಲವೂ ಜನರಿಂದ ಪ್ರೀತಿಭಕ್ತಿಗಳಿಂದ ಪೂಜೆಗೊಳ್ಳುವ ದೇವರು ಶ್ರೀಮದಾಂಜನೇಯಸ್ವಾಮಿ. ಆಂಜನೇಯನ ಸ್ಮರಣೆ ಮಾಡುವವರಿಗೆ ಬುದ್ಧಿ, ಬಲ, ಯಶಸ್ಸು, ಧೈರ್ಯ, ನಿರ್ಭಯತೆ, ಆರೋಗ್ಯ, ಮುಂತಾದವುಗಳು ಸಿದ್ಧಿಸುವವೆಂಬುದು ಮೇಲಿನ ಶ್ಲೋಕದ ತಾತ್ಪರ್ಯ. ಸ್ಮರಣೆಯೆಂದರೆ ಬರಿಯ ನಾಮಸ್ಮರಣೆಯಲ್ಲದೆ ಹನೂಮಂತನು ಪಾಲಿಸಿದ ಆದರ್ಶ, ಆತನ ಧ್ಯೇಯಗಳನ್ನು ನಮ್ಮ ಜೀವನದಲ್ಲಿ ಅಳವಡಿಸಿಕೊಳ್ಳುವುದೇ ಆಗಿದೆ.
          ಆಂಜನೇಯನು ಸಕಲರಿಗೂ ಪ್ರಾಣದಾತನಾದ ವಾಯುವಿನ ಪುತ್ರ. ವಾಯುವಿನಿಂದ ನಮ್ಮಲ್ಲಿ ಶಕ್ತಿಸಂಚಲನವಾಗುವುದರಿಂದ ಹನೂಮಂತನನ್ನು ಶಕ್ತಿಸ್ವರೂಪನೆಂದು ಕರೆಯುವುದು ಯುಕ್ತವೇ ಆಗಿದೆ. ಇನ್ನೂ ನಮ್ಮ ದೇಹವ್ಯಾಪಾರವೆಲ್ಲವೂ ವಾಯುವಿನಿಂದಲೇ ನಡೆಯುವುದರಿಂದ ಬುದ್ಧಿಗೂ, ಬಲಕ್ಕೂ ನಮ್ಮ ಇನ್ನಿತರ ಎಲ್ಲ ಶಕ್ತಿಗಳೂ ಆತನದೇ ರೂಪಗಳು; ಎಲ್ಲ ಶಕ್ತಿಗಳಿಗೂ ಆತನೇ ಮೂಲ.
ಆಂಜನೇಯನು ನಮಗೆ ತಿಳಿದಂತೆ ಕೇಸರಿ-ಅಂಜನಾದೇವಿಯರಿಗೆ ವಾಯುವಿನ ಪ್ರಸಾದದಿಂದ ಜನಿಸಿದವನು. ಚಿಕ್ಕಂದಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಸೂರ್ಯನನ್ನೇ ಹಣ್ಣೆಂದು ತಿನ್ನಲು ಹವಣಿಸಿದ ಪರಾಕ್ರಮಶಾಲಿ. ಇಂಥ ಆಂಜನೇಯನು ಸಾಕ್ಷಾತ್ ಸೂರ್ಯನಲ್ಲಿ ಶಿಷ್ಯವೃತ್ತಿಯನ್ನು ಕೈಗೊಂಡನು. ವಿದ್ಯಾಭ್ಯಾಸಕ್ಕಾಗಿ ಸೂರ್ಯನ ತಾಪವನ್ನು ಸಹಿಸಿಕೊಂಡು, ಅವನ ಸತತಚಲನೆಯನ್ನೂ ಅಭ್ಯಸಿಸಿ ರೂಢಿಸಿಕೊಂಡು ಆದರ್ಶವಿದ್ಯಾರ್ಥಿಯೆನಿಸಿಕೊಂಡನು. ವಿದ್ಯಾಭ್ಯಾಸಾನಂತರ ಸೂರ್ಯನ ಆಜ್ಞೆಯಂತೆ ಸುಗ್ರೀವನ ಮಂತ್ರಿಯಾದನು. ನಂತರ ಶ್ರೀರಾಮಲಕ್ಷ್ಮಣರ ಪರಿಚಯವಾಗಿ ಸೀತಾಮಾತೆಯನ್ನು ಹುಡುಕಿದ್ದು, ಶ್ರೀರಾಮನಿಗೆ ಬಂಟನಾಗಿದ್ದು ಎಲ್ಲರೂ ಬಲ್ಲ ಕಥೆಯೇ ಆಗಿದೆ. ಉತ್ತರಕಾಂಡದ ಒಂದು ಸುಂದರವಾದ ಸಂದರ್ಭದಲ್ಲಿ ಶ್ರೀರಾಮನು ಸೀತೆಗೆ ಒಂದು ಹಾರವನ್ನಿತ್ತು – ’ತೇಜೋ ಧೃತಿರ್ಯಶೋ ದಾಕ್ಷ್ಯಂ ಸಾಮರ್ಥ್ಯಂ ವಿನಯೋ ನಯಃ | ಪೌರುಷಂ ವಿಕ್ರಮೋ ಬುದ್ದಿರ್ಯಸ್ಮಿನ್ನೇತಾನಿ ನಿತ್ಯದಾ’ –ಇಂತಹ ಗುಣಗಳು ಇರುವಂಥವನಿಗೆ ಇದನ್ನು ಕೊಡು ಎಂದಾಗ ಸೀತೆ ಅದನ್ನಿತ್ತಿದ್ದು ಹನೂಮಂತನಿಗೆ. ಹನೂಮಂತನ ಎಲ್ಲ ಕಥೆಗಳಲ್ಲಿಯೂ ನಮಗೆ ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಕಂಡುಬರುವುದು ಅವನ ಜಾಣತನ, ಸ್ಥೈರ್ಯ, ಧೈರ್ಯ, ಸ್ವಾಮಿನಿಷ್ಠೆಗಳು.

ಬುದ್ಧಿಮಾನ್ ಸಾಧುಸಮ್ಮತಃ :
ಶ್ರೀಮದಾಂಜನೇಯನು ಸಾಕ್ಷಾತ್ ಪ್ರಾಣವಾಯುವಿನ ಪುತ್ರನಾಗಿದ್ದರಿಂದ ಬುದ್ಧಿರೂಪನಾಗಿದ್ದಾನೆ. ಇನ್ನು ಕಥೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ನೋಡುವುದಾದರೆ ಆತನ ಬುದ್ಧಿಮತ್ತೆಯು ಅಗಾಧ. ಸಂಕಟಕಾಲದಲ್ಲಿಯೂ ಮೋಹಕ್ಕೊಳಗಾಗದೆ ಬುದ್ಧಿಸಾಹಾಯ್ಯದಿಂದಲೇ ಪರಿಸ್ಥಿತಿಯನ್ನು ವಿವೇಚಿಸುವ ಗುಣ ಆತನಲ್ಲಿತ್ತು. ಶ್ರೀರಾಮಲಕ್ಷ್ಮಣರನ್ನು ಕಂಡು ಸುಗ್ರೀವನು ಹೆದರಿದಾಗ, ಸ್ವಯಂಪ್ರಭೆಯ ಗುಹೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಸಿಕ್ಕಿಬಿದ್ದಾಗ, ಅಂಗದನು ಕಂಗೆಟ್ಟು ಪ್ರಾಯೋಪವೇಶ ಮಾಡುವೆನೆಂದು ಹಠ ಹಿಡಿದಾಗ, ಸುರಸೆಯಿಂದ ತಪ್ಪಿಸಿಕೊಳ್ಳಬೇಕಾದಾಗ, ಸೀತಾಮಾತೆಯನ್ನು ಹುಡುಕುವಾಗ ಆಂಜನೇಯನ ಕಾರ್ಯಗಳನ್ನು ನಿರ್ವಿಘ್ನವಾಗಿ ಸಾಧಿಸಿದ್ದು ಸರ್ವೋಪಲಬ್ಧಿಹೇತುವಾದ ಆತನ ಬುದ್ಧಿ. ’ಏತಿ ಜೀವಂತಮಾನಂದೋ ನರಂ ವರ್ಷಶತಾದಪಿ’ – ಜೀವದಿಂದಿರುವವನು ತಡವಾಗಿಯಾದರೂ ಆನಂದವನ್ನು ಪಡೆಯುತ್ತಾನೆ (ಜೀವನವನ್ನು ತೊರೆದವನು ಏನನ್ನೂ ಪಡೆಯುವುದಿಲ್ಲವೆಂದು ಅರ್ಥ), ’ಅನಿರ್ವೇದಃ ಶ್ರಿಯೋ ಮೂಲಮ್ ಅನಿರ್ವೇದಃ ಪರಂ ಸುಖಮ್ | ಅನಿರ್ವೇದೋ ಹಿ ಸತತಂ ಸರ್ವಾರ್ಥೇಷು ಪ್ರವರ್ತಕಃ’ – ನಿರಾಶೆಯನ್ನು ಬಿಟ್ಟರೆ ಸಕಲವನ್ನೂ ಸಾಧಿಸಬಹುದು ಎಂಬೀ ವಿಚಾರಗಳನ್ನು ನಾವು ಆತನಿಂದ ಕಲಿಯಬೇಕು.
ಇನ್ನು ಆತನ ವಾಕ್ಪಟುತ್ವವನ್ನು ಶ್ರೀರಾಮನು ಹೊಗಳಿದ ಕೆಲವು ಶ್ಲೋಕಗಳು ಶ್ರೀಮದ್ರಾಮಾಯಣದಲ್ಲಿಯೇ ಪ್ರಸಿದ್ಧವಾದವು. ಆತನ ಮಾತನ್ನು ಕೇಳಿದರೆ ಋಗ್ವೇದ, ಯಜುರ್ವೇದ, ಸಾಮವೇದಗಳನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಸಹಿತವಾಗಿ ಅಧ್ಯಯನ ಮಾಡಿರುವನೆಂಬುದು ಸುವಿದಿತವಾಗುತ್ತಿತ್ತು. ಮಾತನ್ನು ಅನಾವಶ್ಯಕವಾಗಿ ವಿಸ್ತರಿಸುತ್ತಿರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಸಂದೇಹಕ್ಕೆಡೆಯಾಗುವಂತೆ ಮಾತನಾಡುತ್ತಿರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಬಹುವೇಗವಾಗಿಯೂ ಬಹುವಿಲಂಬಿತವಾಗಿಯೂ ಮಾತನಾಡುತ್ತಿರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಮಾತು ಹೃದಯದಿಂದ ಹುಟ್ಟಿ ಕಂಠದಿಂದ ಬರುತ್ತಿತ್ತು. ಆತನ ವಾಙ್ಮಹಿಮೆ ಎಂತಹುದೆಂದರೆ ಕತ್ತರಿಸಲು ಕತ್ತಿಯನ್ನೆತ್ತಿದ ಶತ್ರುವಿನ ಚಿತ್ತವನ್ನೂ ಪ್ರಸನ್ನಗೊಳಿಸುತ್ತಿತ್ತು. ಇಂತಹ ವಾಕ್ಪಟುತ್ವವಿದ್ದರಿಂದಲೇ ಆತನು ಸೀತೆಗೆ ನಂಬಿಕೆಯನ್ನೂ, ರಾವಣನಲ್ಲಿ ಭೀತಿಯನ್ನೂ ಹುಟ್ಟಿಸಲು ಸಫಲನಾದನು.
ಸರ್ವಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವೇತ್ತನಾದ ಆಂಜನೇಯನು ಧರ್ಮಭೀರು. ರಾವಣನ ಅಂತಃಪುರದಲ್ಲಿದ್ದ ಸಾವಿರಾರು ಸ್ತ್ರೀಯರನ್ನು ನಿದ್ರಿಸುತ್ತಿರುವಾಗ ನೋಡಬೇಕಾಯಿತಲ್ಲಾ ಎಂದು ಚಿಂತಿಸುವಷ್ಟು ಪಾಪಭೀರು. ಆದರೂ ಬ್ರಹ್ಮಚಾರಿಯಾದ ತಾನು ಅವರನ್ನು ನೋಡಿದ್ದು ಪಾಪದ ದೃಷ್ಟಿಯಿಂದ ಅಲ್ಲವೆಂದು ವಿವೇಚಿಸಿ ಸಮಾಧಾನವನ್ನು ತಂದುಕೊಳ್ಳುತ್ತಾನೆ. ಆಂಜನೇಯನಲ್ಲಿ ತನ್ನನ್ನು ತಾನೇ ಅವಿರತವಾಗಿ ಪರೀಕ್ಷಿಸಿಕೊಳ್ಳುವ ಗುಣವಿತ್ತು. ಇದನ್ನು ನಾವು ವಿಶೇಷವಾಗಿ ಗಮನಿಸಬೇಕು.
ಭಕ್ತಿಯೇ ಶಕ್ತಿ
ಆಂಜನೇಯನು ತನ್ನ ಎಲ್ಲ ಕಾರ್ಯಗಳನ್ನೂ ಸ್ವಾಮಿಯಾದ ಶ್ರೀರಾಮನಿಗೋಸ್ಕರವಾಗಿಯೇ ಸಮರ್ಪಿಸಿದ್ದು. ಸೀತಾಮಾತೆಯನ್ನು ಹುಡುಕಿದ್ದಾಗಲಿ, ಲಂಕಾದಹನವಾಗಲಿ, ಸಂಜೀವನಪರ್ವತವನ್ನು ಹೊತ್ತು ತಂದಿದ್ದಾಗಲಿ ಯುದ್ಧದಲ್ಲಿ ಅತೀವಪರಾಕ್ರಮವನ್ನು ತೋರಿದ್ದಾಗಲಿ ಶ್ರೀರಾಮನ ಪ್ರಯೋಜನಕ್ಕಾಗಿಯೇ. ಅನಿತರಸಾಧ್ಯವಾದ ಈ ಕಾರ್ಯಗಳನ್ನು ನಿರ್ವಹಿಸಲು ಆತನಿಗೆ ಸಾಧ್ಯವಾಗಿದ್ದು ಆತನ ಸ್ವಾಮಿಭಕ್ತಿಯಿಂದ. ಈ ಸ್ವಾಮಿಭಕ್ತಿ ಯಾವ ಮಟ್ಟದ್ದೆಂದರೆ ಕೆಲವೊಮ್ಮೆ ಶ್ರೀರಾಮನ ಪರಾಕ್ರಮಕ್ಕಿಂತ ಆಂಜನೇಯನ ಭಕ್ತಿಯೇ ಹೆಚ್ಚು ಬಲವುಳ್ಳದ್ದೆಂದು ರಾಮಾಯಣದ ಕೆಲವು ಪ್ರಕ್ಷಿಪ್ತಭಾಗಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಕಥೆಗಳುಂಟು.
ಶ್ರೀಮದ್ರಾಮಾಯಣದ ಉತ್ತರಕಾಂಡದಲ್ಲಿ ಶ್ರೀರಾಮನು ಹನೂಮಂತನಿಗೆ ಏನನ್ನಾದರೂ ಬೇಡಲು ಹೇಳಿದಾಗ ಆತನು ಕೇಳಿದುದು – ’ಸ್ನೇಹೋ ಮೇ ಪರಮೋ ರಾಜನ್-ಸ್ತ್ವಯಿ ತಿಷ್ಠತು ನಿತ್ಯದಾ | ಭಕ್ತಿಶ್ಚ ನಿಯತಾ ವೀರ ಭಾವೋ ನಾನ್ಯತ್ರ ಗಚ್ಛತು ||’ ಅಂದರೆ, ’ನಿನ್ನಲ್ಲಿ ಯಾವತ್ತೂ ನನಗೆ ಸ್ನೇಹಭಾವವು ಕಡಿಮೆಯಾಗದಿರಲಿ. ನಿನ್ನಲ್ಲಿ ಭಕ್ತಿಯನ್ನು ಬಿಟ್ಟು ಬೇರೆ ಯಾವ ಭಾವವೂ ನನ್ನಲ್ಲಿ ಬರದಿರಲಿ’ ಎಂದು. ಇಂತಹ ಅಹೈತುಕವಾದ ಭಕ್ತಿಪ್ರೀತಿಗಳು ಮಾನವಮಾತ್ರರಾದ ನಮಗೆ ದುಷ್ಕರವಾದರೂ ಶ್ರೀಮದಾಂಜನೇಯನ ಸ್ವಾಮಿನಿಷ್ಠೆ ನಮ್ಮಲ್ಲಿ ಮೈಗೂಡಬೇಕೆಂಬುದು ಇಲ್ಲಿ ಗ್ರಾಹ್ಯ.
ಆಂಜನೇಯನ ಪರಾಕ್ರಮದ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಎಷ್ಟು ಹೇಳಿದರೂ ಕಡಿಮೆಯೇ! ಇಡಿಯ ಸುಂದರಕಾಂಡ-ಯುದ್ಧಕಾಂಡಗಳು ಶ್ರೀಮದಾಂಜನೇಯನ ಯಶೋಗಾಥೆಗಳೇ ಆಗಿವೆ. ಅಪ್ರತಿಮಬಲಶಾಲಿಯಾದ ಆತನ ಬಾಹುಗಳಿಗೆ ವೈನತೇಯನ ರೆಕ್ಕೆಗಳ ಬಲವುಂಟು. ಪರಾಕ್ರಮದಲ್ಲಿ, ತೇಜಸ್ಸಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಆತನು ವಾಯುವಿಗೆ ಸಮಾನನು. ಆತನೇ ಹೇಳುವಂತೆ ಆದಿತ್ಯನೊಡನೆ ಉದಯಗಿರಿಯಿಂದ ಹೊರಟು ಅಸ್ತಾಚಲವನ್ನು ಮುಟ್ಟಿ, ತಿರುಗಿ ಬರುತ್ತ ಆದಿತ್ಯನು ಆಕಾಶಮಧ್ಯದಲ್ಲಿರುವಾಗಲೇ ಆತನನ್ನು ಎದುರುಗೊಳ್ಳಬಲ್ಲ ಶೀಘ್ರಗಾಮಿ. ಬೆಟ್ಟಗುಡ್ಡಗಳನ್ನೇ ಆಯುಧಗಳನ್ನಾಗಿ ಉಪಯೋಗಿಸುವ ಬಲಶಾಲಿ.
ಇಂತಹ ಹನುಮಂತನ ಬಗೆಗೆ ಶ್ರೀರಾಮನಾಡಿದ ಮಾತು – ಕೃತಂ ಹನುಮತಾ ಕಾರ್ಯಂ ಸುಮಹದ್ಭುವಿ ದುಷ್ಕರಮ್ | ಮನಸಾಪಿ ಯದನ್ಯೇನ ನ ಶಕ್ಯಂ ಧರಣೀತಲೇ|| – ಬೇರೆಯವರು ಮನಸ್ಸಿನಲ್ಲಿಯೂ ಚಿಂತಿಸದ ಮಹಾಕಾರ್ಯವನ್ನು ಹನೂಮಂತನು ಸಾಧಿಸಿದ್ದಾನೆ ಎಂದು.
ಇನ್ನು ಸಮುದ್ರವನ್ನು ಲಂಘಿಸುವಾಗ ಉಂಟಾದ ವಿಘ್ನಗಳು ಒಂದೇ? ಎರಡೇ? ಕ್ರೂರಿಯಾದ ಸಿಂಹಿಕೆ ಒಂದೆಡೆಯಾದರೆ, ಸ್ನಿಗ್ಧಭಾವದಿಂದ ತನ್ನಲ್ಲಿ ವಿಶ್ರಮಿಸಿ ಹೋಗೆಂದು ಬೇಡುವ ಮೈನಾಕಪರ್ವತನು ಇನ್ನೊಂದೆಡೆ. ಇದಾವುದಕ್ಕೂ ಬಗ್ಗದೆ, ಹಿಡಿದ ಕಾರ್ಯವನ್ನು ಸಂಪನ್ನಗೊಳಿಸಿಯೇ ತೀರುವೆನೆಂಬ ಅಚಲ ವಿಶ್ವಾಸ ಆತನನ್ನು ನಡೆಸಿತು.

ಹೀಗೆ ಶ್ರೀಮದಾಂಜನೇಯನು ಬುದ್ಧಿ-ಸ್ಥೈರ್ಯ-ಶೌರ್ಯ-ಬಲಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಅದ್ವಿತೀಯನಾಗಿ ಸನಾತನಧರ್ಮದ ಪಾಠವನ್ನು ತನ್ನ ಚರ್ಯೆಯಿಂದ ಬೋಧಿಸುತ್ತಿದ್ದಾನೆ. ಅಂತಹ ಮಹಾಮಹಿಮನ ಚರಿತೆಯನ್ನೂ, ಅದರಿಂದ ನಾವು ಕಲಿಯಬೇಕಾದದ್ದನ್ನೂ, ಶ್ರೀಹನೂಮಜ್ಜಯಂತಿಯ ಈ ಶುಭಸಂದರ್ಭದಲ್ಲಿ ಚಿಕ್ಕದಾಗಿ ವಿಚಾರಿಸುವುದಾಗಿದೆ. ಇದನ್ನು ಯಥಾಶಕ್ತಿ ತಿಳಿದು ನಮ್ಮ ಜೀವನದಲ್ಲಿ ಅಳವಡಿಸಿಕೊಂಡು ಸುಖಿಗಳಾಗೋಣ.

|| ಇತಿ ಶಮ್ ||

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

To Daffodils

I had written this some time back for Padyapaana, but did not publish it there because I was too late. It is a translation of the famous poem 'To Daffodils' by Robert Herrick.
ಕಳೆವ ಮುನ್ನವೆ ಹೊತ್ತು, ಓಡೋಡಿ ಹೋಗದಿರಿ
ಎಳೆಬಿಸಿಲ ತಂಪಿನಲಿ ನಗುವ ಹೂವುಗಳೇ !
ಅಳುವುಕ್ಕುವುದು ನೀವು ಸೊರಗುವುದ ನೋಡುತ್ತೆ
ನಳನಳಿಸಿ ಗಿಡಗಳಲಿ ನವಸುಮಗಳೇ! !

ತಡೆಯಿರೈ! ನಿಲ್ಲಿರೈ! ಸಂಜೆಯಾಗುವ ತನಕ
ಪಡುವಣದಿ ರವಿತೇಜ ಮರೆಯಾಗುವನಕ
ಕೂಡಿ ನಿಮ್ಮನು ನಾವು ಬರುವೆವೈ, ನಮ್ಮೊಡನೆ
ಮಾಡಿ ನೀವ್ ಸಂಧ್ಯೆಯೊಳಗರ್ಚನೆಯನು

ನಿಮ್ಮಂತೆ ಕ್ಷಣಿಕವೈ ನಮ್ಮ ಬಾಳೂ ಕೂಡ
ನಮ್ಮಯ ವಸಂತವೂ ಚಿರವಲ್ಲವಲ್ಲ!
ನಮ್ಮ ಜವದೇಳಿಗೆಗೆ ಜವರಾಯ ಕಾದಿರುವ
ಎಮ್ಮ ತೆರವೂ ಕೂಡ ನಿಮ್ಮಂತೆಯೇ

ಮುಗಿಸುವೆವು ನೀವು ಜೀವನ ಮುಗಿಸುವಂತೆ, ಬೇ
ಸಗೆಯ ಮಳೆ ಧರಣಿಯಿಂದಾವಿಯಾದಂತೆ
ನಗುವೆಲೆಯ ಮೇಲಿನಿಬ್ಬನಿಯ ಮುತ್ತುಗಳೆಲ್ಲ
ಮುಗಿಲ ಮಡಿಲನು ಸೇರಿ ಕಾಣೆಯಾದಂತೆ ||

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Happy Independence Day!

At the stroke of midnight today, we turn sixty-five. As our Swamiji once told me - a birthday is not just a reminder of the day you were born, but it is a vardhanti - to celebrate growth, to introspect, to think about what we have achieved so far and try to plan for what lies ahead.
When I was younger, our patriotism was intense. Songs like "bhAratIyaru nAvu endendu onde" and "bhAratAmbeye janisi ninnoLu dhanyanAdenu" moved us to tears accompanied with happiness and excitement and contentment. (The former song still moves me to tears sans all the good feelings). Our patriotism also found expression in the marchpasts, in saluting our tricolor with pride. In fact, it is always a cherished dream of children that they will grow up and achieve things that will make their country proud of them. We were no exception. We read stories of war and Independence with greed and pride. We were proud that we belonged to a country of brave soldiers, valiant and benovelent kings and queens and freedom fighters who cared more for the country than for their families.
It was not long before we started questioning our beliefs. Of late, all I have are questions. True, we are a great country. But is the greatness showing itself? If so, where and how? Various news reports and surveys show us that we rank down there along with Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia in the way we treat fifty percent of our population, that we are only slightly better than Pakistan when it comes to corruption, that we rank lower than tiny countries like Belarus when it comes to winning medals in Olympics, that we are slowly but steadily losing vast tracts of our land to our neighbors.
Coming to the last thing first, the news about Assam was conspicuous by its absence in the newspapers. Assam violence certainly deserved many more pages than it got. Initially I thought that it was just because of the way we thought about the Northeast - news from the Northeast does not jump out of the newspapers like the Bacchan family. But the more I read, the better I realized that Assam is being deliberately kept far from the prying media. Or, may be the media does not venture too close to the weaknesses of the Congress party. Things would have been vastly different if we had exchanged Gogoi with Modi. There are no Sardesais interviewing Gogoi. There are no online petitions this time around (I remember signing one for Irom Sharmila a few years ago).
Our problem has always been that of shortsighted leadership. Chacha cared more for his image on the international political stage than his policies at home, and left us with a legacy far too troublesome to ignore - Kashmir and Tibet (by induction, Arunachal Pradesh). Indira Gandhi was better, but did nothing to check Bangladeshi immigration. And look what it is doing in Assam.
Another recent incident in Assam shook my belief about my country. Unlike the Bangladeshi immigration and associated violence, this news was literally popping out of newspapers. The torture undergone by a young girl oustide a pub at an early enough time were disconcerting. The Mangalore and Jharkhand news came not too later, and both found me asking myself if I would like my daughter to grow up in such an environment. There is a beautiful shloka in the raghuvamsha about Raghu's rule, that says that while Raghu was king, even the wind did not dare to disturb the clothing of an abhisArikA who went in search of her lover at night. That was the kind of freedom and security that an able leader like Raghu gave his subjects. In contrast, we are scared to venture out of the safety of our homes after dark, even for work or buying medicines. IMO, the culprit here is not just patriarchy as some feminists claim, but a sick mentality and confidence that they can get away with anything by paying a good enough bribe. And also that ordinary people would not give a damn, whatever happened.
In our History classes, we often studied about various dynasties. The achievements of these dynasties would be listed in separate categories like Conquests, Literature, Art and Architecture and so on. When I tried to do the same thing now, I could not come up with as many items as I would have liked. The progress we have made is on par with other developing nations of the world, not any better. The technological advancement we seem to have made is less because of indigenous technology and more because of technological advancement happening halfway across the globe. Indeed, our poverty is such that we do not have one good institute other than IISc that encourage the Sciences, but cry ourselves hoarse celebrating the accomplishments of the likes of Sunita Williams and Kalpana Chawla. They are Americans, for crying out loud! And also, there are no signs of any improvement coming the people's way with respect to education either, with Sir Kapil as the incharge of the country's education.
I have never felt this depressed on any Independence day. As a person remarked, we seem to have passed from the hands of the British to the hands of thugs and rowdies and criminals. This sort of makes me agree with what Churchill had said once, that we were still not capable of ruling ourselves. Till date our biggest achievement seems to be that we have remained whole as a political entity, even when we have people in our midst who think they are in their right to vandalize a monument to our soldiers when people elsewhere are killed. Oh, and also that we can talk about gifting phones to families below the poverty line.
There, I did not mean to be so caustic in this post. I would like to think that there are promising things happening around us, that we are still living and thriving, Churchill's words be damned. And sure there are, if we look for them. There are little things happening everyday, that show that though all is not well, somethings at least are going in the right way. We have come far from the days of the license raj. Schools are more accessible than in the past. Sensible laws exist, even if they are mere paper tigers, as do sensible people, even if they are not powerful. All is not lost, yet. It is up to us to make the best of what we are provided with, and also to make the lives of those around us better.
So, folks, wish you a very happy Independence Day! May God give us the ability to live up to the dreams of countless people who died fighting for freedom.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Māyūrī modayati manāṃsi

It was some years ago, when I was still young and impressionable, that I first laid my hands on the book 'Mayūra' by Sri.Devudu Narasimha Shastri. I remember that I had liked the book a lot, though some of the intricacies in plot and emotion were beyond my comprehension. For a long time I had wanted to re-read the book, and recently my wish came true*.

The original story of 'Mayūra' is a fairly familiar one to many of us, from our History classes. An orphan boy raised as a brahmin, Mayura Sharma lives in Kanchi, belonging to the Pallava kingdom. He has an altercation with one of the princes of the kingdom and is forced to leave Kanchi. The rest of the story is about how he overthrows the regime of the Pallavas and establishes the Kadamba kingdom. History tells us this much, and it takes a master craftsman like Devudu to make a beautiful sculpture out of this fine granite. He has added his own details - ministers loyal to the old king, wars fought with the brain and not with brawn, an enemy everyone would wish to have and a love interest. The result is a book that guarantees hours of absorbing reading.

'Mayura' is not as heavy as Devudu's other books**. The language is definitely a lot lighter (more Kannada and less Sanskrit :)). One can see expressions like "ತಲೆ ಕುಟ್ಟ" and "ಬೊಡ್ಡೀ ಮಕ್ಕಳು". Rural Kannada is used very effectively. There is more action and less description and hence this book is much more egalitarian than his other three novels.

In his descriptions, Devudu has followed the path of our classical writers. One cannot forget the way he describes the cow Nandini in his mahabrAhmaNa. It is easy to see the touch of Kalidasa there (बिभ्रती श्वेतरोमाङ्कं सन्ध्येव शशिनं नवम्). It is so even in this book. When Mayura asks how his mother looked, Narasimhadatta replies "ನೇರಳೆ ಹಣ್ಣಿಗಷ್ಟು ಕಪ್ಪನ್ನು ಕೊಡುವ ಕೂದಲು, ದಂತವನ್ನು ಚಿನ್ನದಿಂದ ತೊಳೆದಂತೆ ಮೈಬಣ್ಣ..". As in his other books, the descriptions of nature are lyrical. His writing is poetry in prose. The beauty of this book is that it is definitely a work of great erudition, but also maintains simplicity.

Devudu had an uncanny eye for the beauty of words. He has used a couple of Kalidasa's nuggets to great advantage in Mayura. The first instance is when the Pallava princess Premavati suspects that the merchant Gupta is Mayura himself, and receives a present from him. The present is a peacock (mayUra) that, when given the key, turns around and bows. Later, a priest brings her a message from Gupta, apparently about a dream that he had. Immediately the princess retorts "मायूरी मदयति मार्जना मनांसि", and then, feeling shy, runs away. Now this line occurs in the first act of the Malavikagnimitram. Mother Kaushiki says this line when getting ready for the competition between the dance teachers. In both cases, the very air is full of the moisture of longing and the fragrance of romance. There is the sound of the beating of māyūrī drums keeping time with melodious music, jingling anklets and hearts full of yearning. In that one line of harmless-sounding reply, the princess indicates that she suspects Gupta to be Mayura, and that she is in love with him. An outsider would have just thought that she referred to the gift of the peacock.

The other heartwarming instance happens after the princess is married to Mayuravarma, who is a king by then. She is singing a line from the Meghadūta "इष्टे वस्तुन्युपचितरसाः प्रेमराशीभवन्ति". (My fervent opinion is that each verse from the Meghadūta is a nugget of sheer joy. Well, almost all of them. The beauty of these words, these sounds joined together in the beautiful Mandākrāntā meter is so great that so many times, I cease to think about the meaning and play the sounds in my head over and over again). Again, one can see the queen playing the veena with the king watching her with satisfaction on one side, and on another side there is the yakshi playing the veena, thinking of her husband.

Today is the age of pacifists. While warmongering is not good, it is basic human (even animal) nature to defend one's territory, and not to do so is to go against nature. Mayura probably had another interest in having a cordial relationship with the Pallavas, and so he resorted to bloodless war, even when he had a full-fledged army fighting for him. The warring sequences are simplistic but fantastic, and capture the imagination well. The simplicity and far-fetched-ness of the sieges are just afterthoughts. Such is the writing prowess of Devudu that when one is reading the book, one is sure that that was exactly how Mayura became the king. The plot is woven delicately and intricately, and makes it hard to put the book down once you pick it up.

Incidentally, this book was made into a movie starring Raj Kumar and Manjula. As it is with almost all movies based on books, the movie fails in a lot of things. It does inspire the viewer with patriotism but brings in unnecessary Kannada-Tamil controversy. But it is certainly a movie that can be watched once.

In my opinion, a good book can be differentiated from a not-so-good one by its ability to elevate and calm the mind. All of Devudu's books are just that - good. They leave the reader calm, peaceful and happy. Dear Reader, if you read Kannada but have not read Devudu so far, do find Mayura and read it. And do tell me about it!

*This post was written some time back.
** A note on Devudu: Devudu Narasimha Shastry is a well-known Kannada author. He has written other books like Mahakshatriya, Mahabrahmana and Mahadarshana. Mahakshatriya is the story of King Nahusha and Mahabrahmana is the story of how Kaushika became Vishwamitra. Mahadarshana is the story of Yajnavalkya. This last one can probably be called his magnum opus, because of its depth and the magnanimity of the subject itself. Recently, I also came to know that he translated each verse of the 'Yoga vAsishTha'

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The Eternal Battle

The other day, my six-year old Sunshine told me about the eating habits of his friend. This other child was a non-vegetarian, and apparently he described his food with a lot of enthusiasm. I saw that my son's eyes were shining, and asked him if he would like to eat that too. He replied with a nod and a bright smile.
At that moment, you could have felled me with a fork. Raised in a family of strict vegetarians and married into one, it has never occurred to me to eat anything other than vegetarian. When we were young, the "Eww" factor kept us from eating NV. During college days, I used to try to convert non-vegetarians to vegetarianism. But later, with more reading, I learned to be tolerant of, and accept others eating that kind of food.

Actually, non-vegetarianism is not new to sanātana dharma, and from old texts, it does not look like it was forbidden for Brahmins, either. In the famous story of sage Agastya getting rid of vātāpi, it is evident that he ate vAtApi,in the form of a goat. In the kathāsaritsāgara, there is the story of a brahmin, a servant in a merchant's house, who desired to eat meat -aamisha, and it is just one such example in our literature (On an aside, people who constantly complain that the learned brahmins sitting on high horses kept others away from knowledge should spare a look at classics like kathāsaritsāgara to get a more real and complete picture - but that should be a topic for a separate post). In fact, a story from the same classic explicitly mentions that sanātana dharma endorsed violence and therefore bauddha-dharma was better, because it preached peace and non-violence. If one wants examples from sacred texts themselves, it is very clear that animals were used in various yajñas (horse during aśvamedha and goat during somayāga), until religious leaders like Madhvācārya advocated the use of images of animals made of flour (piṣṭa-paśu).In fact, the manusmṛti says the following about eating animals for food -
'pravṛttireṣa bhūtānāṃ nivṛttistu mahāphalā' |, meaning that this was the tendency of living beings, but abstinence would be greatly beneficial.

Having said all this, this is my view of vegetarianism. Even if all the śāstras of the universe espoused non-vegetarianism, I would not eat non-vegetarian food. For the simple fact that I would be taking the life of another animal to satisfy not just my hunger but also my palate. Our ancestors had a simple reason to resort to eating animals - that of non-availability of food. When people did not know how to grow their own food, it made sense to eat the animals they got by hunting. This reason does not hold during the present time and age. As R says, a person can eat an animal if you kill it. If you can stomach the killing, you can stomach the kill.

Secondly, the animals in the feedlot are treated in a very inhuman way. Not just in crowded ranches abroad, but even in our non-violent country. Chickens, still alive, are often seen packed in metal boxes, with no space to stretch their wings. It is not a rare sight to see live chickens dangling from the handlebars of bicycles. I am sure the situation is no better for other animals in feedlots. Cows in dairy farms are probably treated better, but apparently they are also fed hormones, so that more milk is produced. Also there was this news about artificial insemination for cows. The question is, for how long can we get away with this kind of cruelty to animals?

The third issue is that of resources. Non-vegetarian food consumes a lot of resources. It makes collective economic sense to become vegetarian, or at least, reduce the consumption of non-vegetarian food. Not to mention the health benefits. Other factors being equal, a vegetarian is less likely to develop heart disease than his/her non-vegetarian counterpart. If this is not reason enough for continuing to being a vegetarian, I do not know what else is.

To come back to my Sunshine, I told him that non-vegetarian food was not really healthy and that we did not make it at home. Luckily, that evening, there was this program on Discovery, about catching sharks for their fins (shark-fin soup is apparently a delicacy). It was a bloody (sorry!) gruesome sight - the way the shark was caught, its fins were cut off, and it was thrown back into the water to die (if it was not dead already). My son was watching this too - and R asked him if he would like to do that to any animal. The shocked child replied "No", while I turned away, grinning. For a few more years, us parents can still influence him, at least in the matter of food.