Saturday, February 26, 2011

The story of Satyavati - I

Though the daughter of a King and a cursed Apsara (celestial dancer), the lady who was the root of the Mahabaratha was brought up as a fisherwoman. She used to ferry people across the Ganga river and catch fish for a living. So much so, she started smelling like a fish and people started calling her Matsyagandha (One who smells like a fish).

As a young woman, when she was ferrying sage Parashara across the river, the sage calculated the stars location and found that they were in very favourable positions and any child conceived at that time would be one with great wisdom. Being the only woman near by, he propositioned Satyavati. The frightened girl gave excuses after excuses but the sage resolved them all and gave her two boons as an additional lure to accept. Fearing the sage's anger, she saw no means but to accept. The boons she gained was that she would always be as sweet smelling as a garden of the sweetest smelling flowers (Gandhakalli) and that she would regain her original self (virgo intacto) after their child was born and so it was. This child was the one who grew up to write the Greatest Epic in the world. Vyasa!

A few years later King Shantanu, Father of Bheeshma, was moping on the shores of Ganges, missing his wife Ganga, when he saw the beauteous and sweet smelling Satyavati. Promptly forgetting his first wife, he set about luring the fisherwoman. But Satyavati's father was a bright man and wanted his grandchildren to rule over the kingdom. This was unacceptable to Shantanu as he already had a grown up and very eligible son.
But he was unable to forget his fisherwoman either and so he returned to his favorite pass time of moping and pining again.

Devavrata, the crown prince meanwhile getting to know of his father's angst, resolved to remain celibate and to always serve the person ascending the throne of Hastinapura, but to never ascend it himself. This was indeed a terrible oath, considering that those were times when celibacy was unheard of and kings had harems full of wives. The Devas very pleased with the oath named him Bheeshma and gave him a host of boons.

Coming back to our story, with the only barrier in his courting of Satyavati , Shantanu happily married her and they were blessed with 2 kids Chitrangada and Vichitravirya.


Friday, February 25, 2011

The best time to say bye to the world

According to the Hindu scriptures, if a person dies in Uttarayana (between Jan 14 to July 14) during the Bheeshma ekadesi then they are said to go directly to heaven. Also, they do not get to have another birth on this earth.

Wondering why I am saying this. Well! Since my g'ma left us on this auspicious day and she like Bheeshma Pithamaha was waiting for such an occasion to pass away, I have been asking around on why this is such a great time.

This is auspicious for two pronged reasons.

1. Shree Vishnu Sahasranama (Lord Vishnu's 1000 names) was brought to light on this day :-

When Krishna did the Geethopadesha, Arjuna could understand it only partly and hence did not treat Krishna as the Guru he was. Disappointed Krishna appointed Bheeshma as the Guru to teach the Pandavas (who were the only ones alive by then) the true meaning of Dharma. Bheeshma in turn taught them the Vishnu Sahasranama which is the embodiment of the Geetha and all the Vedas.

2. Bheeshma died shortly after.

When Devavrata took the oath to never marry or rule the kingdom, the devas and celestial beings were impressed with the young man's courage and devotion and bestowed upon him many great boons and rewards. One such boon was that Devavrata (now renamed Bheeshma) could choose the day he wanted to die. Bheeshma chose to die shortly after explaining the Sahasranama and the Ultimate truth of Dharma to Pandavas.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Dhruv - The Pole star

When the gods and other celestial beings roamed the Earth, Manu and Shatroopa (the indian Adam and Eve) were created from the left and right limbs of Lord Brahma (the Creator) for human procreation. Of their offsprings was King Utanapada, who in turn had two wives Suniti and Suruchi. As all stories go, Suniti the elder queen was a kind, gentle and good lady and her son was Dhruv. Suruchi the younger queen was a very pretty and very selfish lady and she was also the king's favourite. She too had a son, Uttama. Suruchi always had the fear that the king might make Dhruv his heir instead of Uttama.

Since Utanapada hardly spent any time with Suniti, Dhruv did not know his father well and was interested in hearing more about him all the time.

One day when the 5 year old Dhruva was playing in the gardens, he saw Uttama sitting on their father's lap and Dhruva ran to his father to sit too.

Suruchi seeing the little boy coming to sit on his father's lap, stopped him and told him to go make something great of himself, so that he may deserve his father's love and then come to talk to his father

Crying, little Dhruv ran back to his mother, who explained that Bhakthi to Lord Vishnu was the greatest deed a person could do and hence he should pray to the Lord.

Taking his mother's advice seriously, Dhruv went into the forest to do his penance. Narada, concerned, stopped the little boy and asked him to go back to his mother but he was not to be deterred. Surprised and pleased by Dhruv's determination, Narada taught him how to pray to Vishnu.

So hard was Dhruv's penance that it is said to have shaken the three worlds and even Indra, the king of lords, was frightened. Indra was worried that Dhruv wanted to usurp his own position and sent demons and apsaras to frighten and advice the child to stop the penance. He even took the form of his mother Suniti to beg the child to desist, but to no avail.

The Sapta Rishis (the seven great sages) admiring the little boy, formed a protective circle around him to safe gaurd him from any harm.

Eventually the Lord, pleased despite himself, appeared before Dhruv and blessed him with a boon. The little boy, delighted, asked that he have a position above the world that no one could move him out of. And so he was made into Dhruv, the pole star and the sapta rishis were made into the stars surrounding him even there and this constellation of stars is called the Big Bear or the Sapta Rishi Mandalam.

Most sailors and Astronomers mark their position based on Dhruv and thus Dhruv got a position above everyone, that could never be usurped.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

How Kush came to be

When Ram, listening to Gossip, banished the pregnant Sita out of Ayodhya, she went to live in the Ashram of Sage Valmiki, where she gave birth to a pretty boy and named him "Luva". It was her routine to leave the little toddler with the great sage everyday when she went down to the river to collect flowers and bring water for the Ashram.

As was her practise, one day she left the child with the Sage and asked him to take care of the baby. But the Sage was so immersed in his prayers that he did not seem to be listening. Not wanting to disturb him, Sita took the child along with her.

Completing his prayers, when the sage turned around, he could not find the baby. When a frantic search still did not yield the child, Valmiki took the grass (Kush) growing around his ashram and made a replicate of Luva and gave it life.

Think of Sita and Valmiki's mutual shock when Sita came back with her baby safe and a twin of her Luva playing in the Ashram too. The sheepish Valmiki then told her what he had done and gave the new baby to Sita and asked her to keep him too as her son and named him Kush, after the grass from which he was made.
And this is how Sita got to have two children

How River Ganga came to Earth

Once upon a time, a long time ago, there lived a Pious, Fair and Kind King called Bhageeratha of Kosala. He was of the Surya Vansh and an ancestor of Lord Ram. His grandfather Sagara had performed the Ashvameda Yagna (where in a sacred horse was let loose after the Yagna and all the places the horse roamed would come under the performing king or if the horse is caught, then the catcher would have to war against the performer). But the sacred Horse disappeared suddenly and King Sagara asked his sixty thousand sons (:-O) to search and get the horse running again. The princes searched far and wide and finally found it tied next to where the Sage Kapila was doing his Penance. Tired and frustrated the princes accused the sage of being a thief, which angered him to no end and he promptly turned the princes to ashes.

Since the princes had died in sin, their souls were unable to enter heaven, this created such chaos in the Kingdom, that by the time Bhageeratha ascended the throne, he was hard put to do something.

The Pious King discussed with the great sages for a solution and was told that only can cleansing the dead's ashes in the River Ganga would allow the restless souls to enter the Heaven.

Now, everyone knows that Ganga, the daughter of Brahma (the creater) was a vain lady and bringing her down to earth had two problems. She was happy where she was and was not interested in coming down to earth and encouraging her to come would take years of penance and even if she agreed, her power would be so great that the earth would not be able to bear her fall.

Not knowing what to do, the great King prayed to Shiva and Brahma to help him out of this tangle. Pleased by Bhageerath's obvious bhakti and determination, the two Gods agreed. Forced by her father to go down to earth, Ganga thundered down in a mighty fall, when Lord Shiva appeared just below the flow and caught her in his locks, breaking her fall.

Thus forced out of her power and vanity, it is said Ganga then followed Bhageerth docilely, washing through his ancestors ashes, cleansing them off their sins and letting them enter the Heavens. And this is how the mighty River Ganga came to Earth

Grandma's tales

(Happy New Year 2010!!!! :-) )

It was a hot summer night. The night was heavy with the humidity and smell of ripe mangoes and the grandchildren had come down to visit her. They were a joy and she had been looking forward to this time all through the year. But no one could disagree that her four little joys were also four little tail-less monkeys. They had run her ragged throughout the day and had still not wound down. She could hear them screaming and running and it was dinner time, something she was surely not looking forward to.

Looking out the kitchen balcony she could see the beautiful moon rising out from behind the palm trees when it stuck her.

Armed with mixed rice in a vessel, she called down to her monkeys " Come children, Its time for your dinner and If you will all come to the terrace with me, we can have a picnic and I shall tell you the story of .....