Lord Ganesha – Why he has an elephant head and why he’s the first to get a pooja?

Mr.Ganesha… Adhya-Poojita (first to be worshipped), my husband’s favourite whom he lovingly calls our Ganapanna, & whom a Kannadiga householder would have lovingly addressed (him) as Nam-Ganeshaa.. as if talking about a child who has gone out to play & may return any time soon!! An artists’ delight towards imagination… Often woven funny stories around, {even sometime ridiculed by other religious salesmen.. anything for gains/commission I guess}. Yet He somehow somewhere fits in to any mold. It’s a freedom enjoyed by the followers of Sanatana Dharma what is today known as Hinduism. A liberty to perceive the Devas & Devatas as they reckon with.

It is said that when Sage Vyasa wanted to write the Great Epic Mahabharata, the only one who was able to grasp & note the dictation was none other than Mr. Ganesha.  Ganesha is said to have agreed to write only if Vyasa never paused in his recitation & on the other hand, Sage Vyasa agrees on condition that Lord Ganesha takes the time to understand what was said before writing it down! A grandeur beyond human contemplation. In the Indian culture since yore, the scriptures are passed from Guru to Shishya. Indian civilization is the oldest surviving culture & the knowledge is passed from mouth to mouth, a tradition which seems to have started from Ganesha. His teachings seem eternal & fit in best today even more so. So Who is He in reality?

Everyone says he was born out of Mother Parvathi’s palm-dirt (or the turmeric from the body), to guard her bathroom & Lord Shiva cut off his head when not allowed to go inside his own house. Later to calm a furious Parvathi (who challenged to destroy the entire creation itself) & to appease her, He got his head fixed with a baby elephant’s head as the original head could not be located… perhaps rolled down the slopes of Kailash. When Lord Shiva’s Gana (army) went in search of the head they could not locate it. Then Lord Shiva told them to get the head of anybody sleeping with their head to north. The only being sleeping with its head to north was the baby elephant. So is it really factual? An era when they could travel between Lokas (world) & create at will was having a bathroom door or getting a head a problem or impossible task?

When young, everyone (at least 99.5%) loves their life & do not want to lose their head at any cost… So Mothers often recite this tale to discourage youngsters from sleeping with their head to North, which is considered bad as the magnetic field in the north could affect the blood flow to brain in the longer run.

According to scriptures, Mahadeva (highest among the Devas) was the first tribal head who lived in Mount Kailash & was known as Adinath (he has one too many names like Shiva, Vrishabadeva, etc., etc.,). Lord Ganesha (Ganapati, Vinayaka, etc., etc.,) was the eldest son of Adinatha & Parvathy & born as a handsome regular boy. As a son of divine beings, he was very gifted & spiritual. As he grew up his spiritual knowledge grew along with him making him one of the most powerful in terms of spirituality. He was the master of all the Vedas & Upanishads, an erudite of every Vidya in totality. So much so even the Mahadeva himself had accepted his teaching & considered him as his Guru. It’s not an easy task for a father to accept his son as his teacher as it’s a well-known fact that a father is considered as Guru & not son.  Lord Ganesha was an exceptional case & Lord Shiva out of love & respect had said to him, “you will be worshiped even before me always!”. True to that, even to this day Lord Ganesha is the first one who receives the offerings, & worshipped everywhere. And in every Shiva temple for that in every temple there is Lord Ganesha’s idol & everyone offers their obeisance first to him. He is considered as the remover of obstacle, bestower of knowledge & it is believed that if he is happy everything goes smoothly with his grace.

One of his most powerful teaching was that humans & animals should live in harmony otherwise there will be an imbalance in nature. In other words, symbiotic relationship is the Universal secret of Survival. Compassion towards the fellow creature will not only create harmony & peace but will also maintain the balance of nature. For example, if all the insects particularly bees disappear then it’s very unlikely that human race would survive. So even though we humans presume that most of the insects & animals around us are useless & purposeless, we are gravely mistaken. In the play of things, in the very fabric of creation everything is inter-linked & balanced together. Directly or indirectly everything has a role to play. It is something man took too long to understand because of his selfishness & ignorance but now slowly everyone is realizing its truth.

After understanding this reality, to pass on this secret of survival to the future generation, his early followers created the stone statue of Lord Ganesha in the form of man with the head of an animal. They captured the essence in stone idol expecting that in case of disaster like fire or any other calamity, the statue would still remain carrying his eternal message. Guess they under estimated human ability (remember Bamiyan Buddhas??) They also made Mushika (Rat) as his Vahana (vehicle), to represent parity that whether big or small they have a role to play, a dignity & importance of their own & all beings are equal. (We can even consider the same application to gender, wealth, etc., whichever differentiate, as all imparities are human creation). Unfortunately, we have managed to wipe out scores of animals & insects in our journey towards modernization & still continue to do so…

When I think of the animal killings in India, the very culture where this truth was revealed, it astounds me as to how the illusion of proving that they are better than others, draw men mad. In this RAT-race (of what I still don’t understand), we are becoming not just the undisputed predators in the creation but also we will end up ruining our own future.

 

His second most important teaching is that the detachment from Vyamoha*… he says attachment is unhealthy. Attachment even to the God itself will not take you to God because one gets obsessed with the attachment hindering the very purpose of God realisation. For example, we are so attached to our body, family, food, comforts, wealth, etc., etc., we would go to any length to hold on to that attachment even to the extent of committing the heinous crimes. This part of detachment is showcased by his early devotees which are followed even to this day without even knowing the very purpose of it. What it is.. Take a pick!!

Every year after Ganesha Chaturthi, after worshiping Lord Ganesha to one’s heart’s content his idol will be immersed in water body what is called Visarjane. Those days it was made out of simple clay & then immersed in water which had no environmental effect. But now it’s become a fancy… & all sorts of chemical colours, etc., are used. Sadly, even with God we have created our own competition… who spends more money or who creates the biggest or who does it with fanfare. It’s so funny… in the name of progress & competition we are even selling our own souls. If the almighty God & Devas-Devis are so powerful & plentiful, materialistically what would they want from us mortals? Do they really want shelter, food & protection from us? All that they need is for us to live like human beings.. the real crowning glory of creation.

Ganapati literally means leader of all the Ganas (classes of beings ranging from insects, animals & humans to the subtle & celestial beings) & is considered as the destroyer or remover of the darkness created by ignorance & guide us towards ultimate truth. Hope the humanity understands the secret of survival before it is too late.

No wonder he commands love & respect without demand.

{Vyamoha… there is no equivalent in English something like cocktail of lust, whim, desire, etc…)

Even though the coorgstories’s lady calls me “SAKUI” I have absolutely no idea what my name is.. But I am definitely not from Japan. Let me tell you little about me…

I am a desert termite … after coming to Kuwait from the Red Sea area of Saudi Arabia I managed to propagate.. a quantum leap in the game of evolution the secret of which I cannot tell you.  You have to figure out yourself… but first learn to live in harmony which is the substratum of creation. I hitch hiked from Saudi aboard a Conocarpus tree because it’s my favourite food. This tree is as tough as I am & it’s fast-growing as well as tolerant to heat, draught & salt.

If you are wondering how am I helping evolution? Well I am a super bug… I am functioning under harsher climate & managed to survive & expanded my family from scratch.

How do I help Mother Nature? Well I am creating fertile top soil. If I get a place with trees & water I can convert the place into fertile land within a decade or so. That’s my story in a nutshell….

One fine day I stumbled upon this beautiful fascinating artwork with array of vivid shades of brown under Conocarpus tree but could not make out what it was. I never saw something so unique before. A well-planned nest, as if someone had painted a canvas with array of different shades of brown, starting from fresh wood colour to light brown to chocolate brown. And the water was dripping constantly from the drip irrigation pipe without disturbing the pieces. There was small vent for the excess water to drain too. The fresh wood turns brown eventually, guess because of the chemicals in the glue turning the wood there by creating different shades of brown.

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Took a picture & asked around sent to my family members, colleagues & friends, no one could guess what it is. Everyone said it’s something they never saw in their life. That’s when my curiosity increased & the nest became a passion… whenever possible I went to see the nest & spent few minutes there yet I could never see the owner of the nest.

I could see the ants running around in & out of their nest nearby in couple of places where somebody usually puts some gains or sugar. But none near these beautiful nests… it looks more like the owners are the termites than the ants. When I sat down beside it, I could see the wood pieces were gleaming as if each tiny piece is polished individually. Out of curiosity I tried to touch it to pick one to show my family only to realize that it was glued permanently.

How did the termite ended up in Kuwait? Perhaps hitch hiked while importing the tree from Saudi… but I can’t understand how did they get a queen? Did they manage to breed one? So how many of them came here?

Initially there were only three nests & gradually they started expanding. One fine day, the workers who were repairing the compound wall had disconnected the water supply & that’s when I realized no water no nest. It’s a great miracle that they manage to survive in this heat but water is the most important source of survival. Since there is no underground water in a desert like in the forest, they solely depending upon the artificial water supply. Perhaps to grow mushrooms, their food. Once the water supply is cut, the nest became bone dry & within days they started their nest elsewhere but still under their favourite tree, the Conocarpus ….

Then in a sudden move they also found comforts under the date tree but only two trees so for. There are Cuba palm, bear fruit & other different trees but they are untouched. The latest one is an ideal location & they are planning to build a larger nest as the foundation seems pretty large. The one under the date tree however is growing in height faster compared to others. Perhaps the roots of the date tree decays faster than the other trees degrading into soil quicker. what  is note worthy is that none of the plant or tree is dying or died… so it seems like they have a symbiotic relationship like ants & aphids or cattle & egrets.

Conocarpus lancifolius, derives its name from its cone shaped berries but does not have a proper English name. However it is known as Damas in Arabic & Qalab in Somali languages. A mangrove shrub it is found in the costal & riverine areas of Somalia, Dijbouti & Yemen, etc., etc. Also found in the mangroves of Saudi Arabia & now a days becoming a popular ornamental as well as hedge plant all around Middle East.

The interesting character of the tree seems to be its adaptation. Kuwait is one of the hottest countries in the world & in summer it grows as if possessed … it is hardy tree that grows well in sandy or rocky, alkaline soils as well as wet, saline conditions. Fast & symmetrical growth habit makes it the perfect hedgerows as well as landscape trees & maintenance seems to be practically zero except trimming when over grown as well as water supply…. However if let it grow straight it breaks easily whenever there is heavy winds.  (I have seen it happening couple of times). Flowers are inconspicuous, with clusters of greenish white flowers mostly 1 to 3 inches long. They appear at the end of twigs & at leaf axils. There are no petals, & the sepals are fused. The tree seems to be having either the flower or fruits all the time!! Even though there are thousands of seeds it’s odd that I never saw one sprouting anywhere near!! The brownish red fruit look like old leather buttons & earned the nickname button wood.

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However one of my Kuwaiti boss, who is very fond of plants & gardening, just hates this plant because he says his asthmatic allergy increases because of this tree!!

I nick named the termite as “Sakui” because born in Saudi Arabia, raised & propagated in Kuwait & found by an Indian… These nests are located in the northern side of the garden & I have no idea if it is by chance or choice may be to avoid direct sun.

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To point out how these are different from ants nests, here’s pics of what ants nests look like:

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I AM SAKUI!

Bilmismish*….. Pigs don’t FLY

Friday July 31st 2015, 6 am it’s hot & humid. It’s been almost two weeks since I collected the previous material for writing. Passing the familiar surroundings on my way to the walk, as I neared the circle I remembered that one more day it will be Twenty Five years since Saddam Hussain occupied Kuwait. So much had happened around the world since then. Kuwait has come a long way since & physically there is no trace left. However the mental scars left behind in the mind of citizen will never be erased. We did not live in this area before the war but sometimes we came here searching for food… Amman Circle was one of the few places one could find some fruits & vegetables. I don’t even want to think of those days…

As I crossed the road under the tree saw this cat had scratched the mud & was busy relieving itself in a small temporary hole… its face was serious… reminded me of constipated face of a child.. was wondering if the cats really drink enough water? Dint want to disturb it & walked past thinking how traces of their past still hangs on… even though they don’t live in the wild, to avoid detection they still bury their poop. Old habits die hard.. Some consider this act as cleanliness…

When I walked further I was wondering there is something odd… for a change there were no papers, plastic or any kind of garbage lying around!! I thought how can it be? Am I seeing things in humidity? Did the municipality read my mind… I went further I did not see anyone washing the car but then on Fridays the watchmen don’t wash the car, it’s their unwritten Law!! But what surprised me most was the garbage… I was not sure if there was a contract change of cleaning company or did a magic carpet with garbage magnet flew over on Thursday night… whatever it is there was no trace of garbage anywhere. Wow… so cool… I was so happy. Finally over night miracle had happened…

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As I passed the old school building where the sugar sacks were lying, I was into another surprise only 5-sacks were on the other side of the pavement & many of the empty sacks were on the ground & loads of brown sugar now perhaps faded looked almost like sand, scattered all around. Then I noticed that the non-operational school building yard was being converted into football court..  So I was not sure if the sugar sacks were destroyed by those workers as it was stored illegally outside the premises or the owner himself got rid of it as it was infested with ants or some kind of insects which could withstand Fifty plus Celsius temperature. I was happy & sad at the same time. Happy because God knows what must have been the condition of the sugar & many were saved from consuming it. I was also sad because what a waste of produce… from sugar cane field to the pavement how much resources were spent & wasted including manual labour?

By then I had covered more than a kilometer plus & already sweat was dripping all over & my eyes were burning… in case someone never experienced humidity**

When I reached the garden then I saw this mess scattered all over… remembered the old saying… pigs cannot fly… The filthy groups who had hot picnic the previous night had no decency to collect their waste & dump in the dustbin which is not far away. I wondered if the cat which was pooping in the hole was better than these civilized picnickers… What a coincidence I had seen the cat in the beginning of my walk. Oh Lord… wish I had a magic wand & turn all those nincompoops into CATS!! When will these so called civilized people will really be civilized?

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The tiled path is one kilometer… its marked clearly & I started counting the dustbins… there are 20 plus 3… 20 cement bins & 3 plastic ones at the entrance. It’s pathetic where the humans are heading. Otherwise also Kuwait is a plastic country & the amount of plastic bags used in shops & supermarkets… I joke with my husband that in couple of decades Kuwait will have enough plastic to cover the entire country…

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I was upset & when I walked further I found these four unusual nests on the ground under the tree where the drip irrigation vent was… I stood there 10 minutes for at least one single owner to show up but it never happened… survival of the fittest… braving the heat these insect (wonder what it is – termites, ants??) found a way to survive in the heat & close by the grass was in full bloom with unusual pinkish shade. It occurred to me that perhaps even before humans walked on earth these insects survived & grass bloomed & even if the human species wiped out they are here to stay! When the plants & insects are busy mastering the art of survival man is busy mastering the art of destruction….

*Bil-mishmish is a Kuwaiti word which means it never happens!!

**… it’s the moisture content in the atmosphere. When you are close to ocean the high humidity makes you constantly sweat… even if you are standing still. And it’s muggy, sticky, salty… it’s very uncomfortable feel it’s like a giant natural mineral (salt) removing machine. Like how leeches can such your blood without your knowledge humidity can suck your salt without your knowledge.. It’s like being in sauna but not really present in sauna & hair is sticky with salt… from under garment to outer garment is wet & can see the white streak of salt on the cloth if you allow it to dry. Your lips are salty with sweat flowing on your face. It’s hard to describe, you have to experience it… but there is pot of gold on the other end…. Once you have bath you feel your skin is smooth & supple… beautiful.. pores are opened up without even spending a dime… how cool is that?? Also if you were waiting to eat some salty dish & was hesitating… well you can go for it for the day!! Sounds crazy but…. Hum… Compared to Kuwait places like Dubai has more humidity, guess it’s the geographical position. Even there, Dubai stands number One…  in Kuwait mostly in mid July to September but not all the days.

A Summer morning in Kuwait, one of THE HOTTEST countries!! – Part 1

July 19th 2015….. When I told my husband I want to take some pictures one morning & write about a summer morning… he just gave his usual calm soothing smile with a warning don’t get arrested… you will not be able to tolerate the heat!!

I did not realize how lucky I was as I could not have chosen a better morning for the weather God was little gentle. When I left the house at 5.35 am, my mobile showed the temperature as sunny 34 degree Celsius. Only thing I missed was the scores of Doves flying around pecking on the grains/rice scattered by some bird lovers & bathing/drinking on the pockets of water collected from the car wash before it evaporated. Also did not realize how the material for the article would just roll in front of me…

Kuwait is one of THE hottest countries in the world & this year it is been bad, really bad. And it’s one of those years I did not miss the warmth of summer… last week it was worst & on Wednesday at 15:09 one of the temperature display towers showed 52 degrees & yet another tower showed 50 degrees at 15:14. No way in 5 minutes within 2 kilo meters radius the temperature would fluctuate so much unless it starts snowing….It’s hard to know the exact temperature recorded as mobile, car, towers, media, meteorology department, your body, everything tells different readings… however you would really know it’s bad when the pavement/road practically throws heat back at you or the tap water is almost boiling… make you jump out of commode!! Last week my body told me it touched 55 degree Celsius…

Most people have Eid holidays & the roads were practically deserted. I live in an area called Salmiya, a favorite place for Indians where about half a dozen schools are located dotted with n-number of restaurants & stores selling Indian vegetables, fruits & other stuff catering to everyone’s need. In case you did not know when Indians are out of India they are very patriotic & prefer Indian stuff!! The desi term NRI (Non Required Indian) makes them crave for their Motherland!! It’s a joke but has some truth in it too…

When I passed Amman Circle, scores of daily wagers were either standing/sitting on the pavement under the shadow from the buildings, some with their tools & most with a packet (may be water & sandwiches). I had no heart & also have no right to click their pictures & peek into their privacy. What was amazing is that one-side was occupied by Iranians (known for their physical strength – I have seen average built old men carrying large air-conditioner units on the back & climbing the stairs. I wonder what their secret is) near “la baguette” & the other side near the temporary mosque was lined with East Asians. Birds of same feather…. I was not sure if everyone was hired every day & the logic of why an Indian would come here to work as labourer braving the heat when he could almost make the same amount working as a labourer back home had no answer!!

As I crossed the street I saw this car parked arrogantly on the bend… & that brought the thought of arrogant drivers (attributed to practically all nationalities). With the ever increasing number of cars it is getting from bad to worst. As I passed on I came across the 2-watchmen washing the cars with hoses… an act which boils my blood. Wasting the resources as if there is no tomorrow, using-misusing-abusing the generosity of the country which supplies the desalinated water (Kuwait has no natural resources & also rain fall is negligible) at reasonable price. One consolation is that compared to yesteryears it’s reduced drastically as Municipalities has issued strict instructions against the wastage of water.

Cats and sparrows in kuwait garden summer hot

The other thing which makes me angry is the sight of garbage bins & its surrounding. Probably Kuwait has the highest per capita cleaners & domestic helps. Still I feel it’s very dirty thanks to the wasteful nature & ignorance of the general public. The amount of food of all kind wasted is unbelievable. In summer it crosses the limit because it tends to get spoil faster. The untied garbage bags are thrown outside the bin, anything & everything from cardboard boxes to wooden boxes to furniture to mattresses to construction material is discarded. When the fruit-vegetable shops throw the half spoiled stuff, someone who needs tries to pick out the usable ones & mess up too. How much a government can do… Cleanliness should come from within… a human should behave like human… one can exhibit only their true nature that’s what I can say.

As I walked further saw this gentleman walking his 3-dogs. Unlike the majority of Kodavas, I am not a dog person as I had bitter experience with them when I was young. {It’s a very funny & nasty experience; I will write about is some other time}. I am told that most countries in the Middle East do not encourage having dogs (pets) at home. I asked him can I take a picture & he agreed, I told him my daughter loves dogs… which is also true but I wanted it for my article!!

Aroma of deep fried falafel, hot fresh chapattis/paratas were teasing my nostrils. On the sandy ground men were playing football, construction workers were busy (they cannot work later as it gets too hot). It’s noteworthy that: Never ending construction… Ever increasing rents… an unusual phenomenon unique to Kuwait does not match the theory demand & supply. Every rule has an exception!!

As I entered the Rumaithiya Park about a kilometer plus I realized that I had seen so many things, then came the sight of the small group of Indians doing yoga… & laughing practice. As I walked further there were men playing football in the covered court, the cricket players (luckily with tennis balls) had not arrived yet guess mostly because their ground was wet. Then I saw my all-time favourite sight, the sprinklers & the birds & green grass. The sight of birds particularly sparrows brings me immense joy as it is almost extinct in Kodagu. The long stem of palm flowers swayed in the mild wind… spreading the mild smell of its flower (I don’t know if I imagined it) some still had its dry leaves & old dry black berry intact. The dry leaves provide shelter to birds & keep them away from dust storm. The cats were stretching on the grass & one cat had managed to catch a black dove & I was surprised the cats still hunt their prey. There are so many people bring & keep food for cats… so most of the time it seems like the cats does not have to work at all… like some spoiled kids!! Loads of black-yellow insects were around even after watching for a while I could not make out if it was honeybee or wasp…

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Bloomington Diary – Part 8 – Lady-lace – the beauty par excellence

It was all over the wilderness of USA in Bloomington, Chicago, Catskill, all around the ponds, just smiling & swaying as if singing in happiness, spreading the glory all around her. Even though hundreds of flowers in bunches are very tiny, I could see the bees & other insects flocking to them. For me, it was part of my growing up… a nostalgic memory, we called it Lady-lace.. because the bunch of flowers looks like a white laced umbrella, reminding me of the lace covered umbrella we use during the wedding for both the bride & the groom. This aggressive biennial plant once found on rough grassland, road sides, & in gardens, is sadly almost extinct back home. How & why is a real mystery for me (like the vanishing sparrows in South India) as this plant even tolerates the harsh winter of North America. I could never get enough of its picture.

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The pretty finely divided almost fern like aromatic leaves & delicate flat clusters of small white flowers looks as though Mother Nature created it to adorn herself with intricate lace. It can also be pictured as the lace around the colour & the middle dark standing out purple flower is the pin!! Not only that she must have thought that the flower is too pretty & to ward off the evil eye just provided a single darkly coloured floret just off center, standing tall above the rest as if to take all the evil to itself!! Now tell me….. don’t you agree nature has taken enough time to design it?? If not people at least it seems to fool/mimic & attract the insects giving false impression of an insect already sitting there, which might ensure pollination.

The petioles & flower stems are mostly hairy. When the flowers are spent/withered the umbels curls inward forming a depressed cup, giving an impression of a nest & it earned its nickname bird’s nest weed. The plant from the parsley family umbelliferae is also known as Bees’s nest (for some unknown reason you can often see bee or insect roosting on it), Queen Ann’s lace*, Bishops’s lace (did not know he wore one), devil’s plague (don’t know if the devils are as beautiful as this flower!!), fools parsley, herbe a dinde (derived from its use as a feed for young turkeys-dinde, etc., etc.

The most amazing nickname is the Mother Die after the belief that if you bring the flower home mother will die. However I am still alive & kicking so it’s just a myth perhaps to encourage little girls not to pluck & spoil the beauty of the nature.

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Growing up, we occasionally ate the roots but not the leaves & flowers. Guess it’s edible but I have no idea why we did not eat. We were interested in playing with the flowers, decorating the dolls & playing house-house games. The stems are firm & flexible, won’t break easily, & the flowers do not dry fast. The root & seeds were used as medicine but I can’t remember what they were was used for. When I asked someone (my mother is no more), they told me that it’s good for kidney, liver, digestive disorder, female problems, anti-worm & supposed to increase the sexual hormones. Pregnant women are not given this, particularly the seed, as it is considered abortifacient. However, don’t take my word & start gulping it!

It’s a biennial plant also called wild carrots because of its tapering, elongate, yellowish orange or ivory edible (eaten raw or cooked) taproot, is in the parsley family (Daucus carota, carota & common domesticated carrots belongs to Daucus carota, sativus). The spindle shaped, slender, firm & woody root smells very much like carrot but once matured becomes hard. Perhaps the wild carrot nickname was coined after 17th century because till then, carrots were not orange!! Guess this was the original form of carrot; in other words, the progenitor of the cultivated carrot known to us today.

There is another species where the flower is slightly yellow & the plants as well as the leaves are slightly larger.

*it’s not clear if it is named after Princess Anne of Denmark or the Queen of Great Britain. One of them is supposed to have loved to make lace but because of her abnormally large, cumbersome hands, she often needle pierced her finer, hence the single blood-red flower at the center. However the one I remember & see in US has darkest purple center which looks black. So I guess by now the blood has dried & solidified. Another school of thought says it’s named after Saint Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary & the patron saint of lace makers!! I like to call this lovely, out of the ordinary flower, simply as LADY LACE as it is as pretty as the entire Female species on earth.

Krishna Kamala or Passion of Christ… did I fall from heaven??  

While walking around Kukkanalli pond in Mysore, I saw these wild fruits hanging from the vine on a fence which looked like a small wild passion fruit but was hairy like ramubtan. I was very sure it’s the cousin of passion fruit as the flower & the leaves looked same but I was not sure if the fruit is edible & as usual my husband would not let me pluck it to avoid me eating it. Known as Kukkiballi in Kannada is also called clock flower, love-in-a-mist and stinking*.

I have seen & tasted passion fruit all my life & simply love the amazing taste &, flavour of the juice which is hard to find on shelves even though its presence is felt strongly in most the cocktail juices. It’s a popular fruit in Kodagu & every one, young & old alike loves it. The pulp is used in juices, wines, ice creams, cakes (my mouth is watering, honestly), etc. Some of my relatives make amazing concentrates. There are more than 400 species in passion flower family passifloraceae & the flower is usually white & purple or mauve. Depending upon the variety & climatic conditions, there are many types of passion fruits & comes in different sizes, shapes & colours like purple/maroon, green, yellow etc & the taste could be sweet to sour to somewhere in in-between. Usually the purple/maroon ones are sweeter!!

When we were young we also used to eat a wild variety just like the passion fruit but with slightly elongated fruit with supple outer cover & white flower (I think), which is hardly seen these days. It said to have possessed many medicinal properties.

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Those who have not seen or eaten a passion fruit, the globose fruit have a white sack (which resembles dressed goat tripe – the Turkish towel like stomach cover) inside the smooth, hard outer shell/cover. The sack is filled with numerous black seeds with a very thin coating of orangish-yellow, pulpy-juicy flesh. Even when the fruit is wrinkled outside with aging, the sack inside remains fresh for some time.

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Coming back to the flower, it also comes in exotic colours such as dark purple, red, fuchsia, etc. But they are mostly ornamental & do not seems to be bearing fruits. The flower stays for a day only but blooms practically every day & butterflies are attracted to these flowers. The wild, cultivated & the hybrid flower formation looks the same at the first glance. But if you look closely it differs from one another. It looks as if so many different parts from different flowers are put together to form an unusual master piece. Human globalization is happening now but this species seems to be far ahead of us. The flowers usually have pleasant smell (at least the ones which are known to me).

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The amazing thing is that the uniquely beautiful flower & the vine is linked to scriptures & believes in different religion. The name passion flower was given by the 15th century Spanish Christian missionaries who thought that the flower depicted the crucifixion (passion) of Christ (Crown of Thorns (corona), & other parts as the instrument – 3-nails, 5-wounds, sponge of Gall & vinegar, Pillar of scourging, sacrificing blood, Centurion’s spear (leaf), lashing (tendrils) & the fruit (as globe). Some people also link it to sexual passion, after all a man sees in the world what he/her carries in his/her heart….

In India it is called both as Krishna Kamala (particularly the large purple one) & Paanch Paandav (Mahabharata). The unique formation of the perennial flower is supposed to symbolize or represent: The waxy-white Petals (5) alternating with sepals (5) with their green hook (awn) at the tip for ten Avtars of Vishnu, five 5 filaments with anther in the center for five well-armed Pandavas, the single ovary (bulb in the center) for Pandava queen Draupadi & the three styles with stigma for the holy trinity of Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva. And the corona filaments are the Sudarshana-chakra of Lord Krishna. I was told that the filaments are hundred in number representing the Kauravas. I had to hire a pro-bono investigator to count the number… & luckily my husband’s niece who also has a degree in criminology fitted the bill & she reported back with a picture: I counted the filaments with a tweezers and there are exactly one hundred!!

To top it, the 3-lobed leaves which are alternately arranged along the stems & borne on stalks, shaped in trident (Lord Shiva’s weapon) form. Whatever one may perceive it as, one thing is certain that it is amazingly beautiful. Don’t believe me take a break & look in the neighborhood you might find one or go to a botanical garden!!

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I am sure besides being beautiful, there is something special about this flower as thousands of miles apart two different believers associated their belief in it!! After all the life spark/energy in me is the life spark/energy everywhere & everything comes from God almighty. If beauty lies in the eye of the beholder – Faith lies in the very being itself. When you are in love with God you can see God everywhere & in everything. This unusually beautiful flower looks out of this world… as if someone stole her from the heavenly garden & brought her to earth or perhaps she was so proud of herself & her significance, the weight of the pride brought her down to earth!!

The vine can be reproduced by seeds easily but it’s a very slow process. So commonly it is propagated by mature cuttings. This hardy long lasting vine loves sun but not scorching though & water, & unless groomed can grow uncontrollable yielding plenty of fruits under healthy conditions. So you have to provide a strong support. I vaguely remember seeing large bees & humming bird buzzing around. All the unopened buds from different species are light green in colour. The flower looks strong but it is delicate. The petals & sepals have the same finish & can be passed as petals. But if you look closely the sepals have green hook (awn) at the tip. It is said that each & every part of the flower has specific role which they play religiously!!

Among the flowers I have seen only the wild one on the bank of the pond had bracts, which are supposed to trap insects but if as merely as defensive mechanism to protect its flowers (think it was white) & fruits or is it carnivorous (digest & gain nourishment from its catch) is not known. Leaves & stems of this particular variety is said to be poisonous. Wondering if I should eat & test it??

The whole vine has medicinal properties & is used in treating digestive problems including dyspepsia & diarrhea, an astringent & expectorant for nervous conditions & spasms. Tea from the flower is an antioxidant & used to calm the mind (depressant) as well as sleeping aid, used to contain diarrhea/dysentery, neuralgia, etc.

Legends of Magical Tala-Kaveri, River Kaveri and the Kodavas

If someone asks how old is River Kaveri… what could be the right answer? Well I guess she has been around forever!! Then how old is the Brahma Kundige? Unfortunately no carbon dating possible I guess… perhaps the old Ashwata-mara could have given a clue… it’s too late for that too…

The River Kaveri (anglicized as Cauvery) is a name every soul in Karnataka is familiar with. If they have the privilege of getting Kaveri water supplied to their homes, they go an extra mile in telling with a note of pride… “We get Kaveri water (as opposed bore-well water)”… its tasty & brings the flavour in the food. Don’t believe me, try it out!! Every visitor to Mysore will have the trip to KRS in their itinerary. Yeh.. The Krishna Rajendra Sagar dam is built across the river Kaveri by our late Maharaja Krishna Rajendra Wodeyar IV, under the guidance of Sir M. Vishveshwariah, one of the greatest Engineers Karnataka has ever produced. However, she is equally revered in Tamil Nadu. Ironically the two neighboring states Karnataka & Tamil Nadu constantly fight* over the distribution of water too.

Kaveri (birth name Lopamudra), born with the blessing of Lord Brahma, is the daughter of Sage Kavera, who had given up his throne to do tapsya seeking moksha (salvation) & for the welfare of his subjects. Then Kodagu & the surrounding area is said to be barren filled with only rocks & dirt. Wife of great Sage Agasthya, she came to be known as Kaveri, after her father Kavera muni.

“Brahma Kundige” (Kundu – pond in Kodava dialect) at Talakaveri (aka Dakshina Kashi) on the picturesque Brahmagiri betta (hill) at an altitude of 1276 meters above sea level, Kodagu district in the Western Ghats is the Ugama-Sthana (birth place) of the Jeevanadi (life supporting river) Kaveri. After originating at the little Kundige, flows down inconspicuously as Guptagamini, re-emerging at a distance downwards at Nagateerta. So called as the rock formation looks like the water is flowing out of a Cobra’s hood. It is also said that on Sage Agastya’s behest Nagas along with their king tried to stop her at this point. But when Kaveri told them her heart’s desire of serving the mankind, they let her go with utmost respect. From there she flows downstream joining river Kannike & mythical river Sujothi at Triveni Sangama (the confluence of 3-rivers) in Bhagamandala.

From Kundige, the steps lead up to the nearby Brahmagri betta with breath taking 360 degree panoramic view, where the Sapta Maharishis are said to have performed a special yagna. The Brahmagiri range was supposed to known as Agnigiri, Vayugiri & Gangagiri in the Puranas. With the misty clouds it literally gives the feeling that you are climbing the STAIRWAY to HEAVEN!! The butterfly kiss of fresh gentle air feels like God Almighty thyself caressing you gives the feeling of elation. A sentiment even the baring of tree on the hill is for a purpose: just to let the angles kiss you gently!! Time seems to be frozen & transporting one into another era/yuga… The thought of sharing the same ground once walked by the greatest souls, watching the same mountains & the misty clouds… wishing the feeling never ends… When you are up there your mind plays trick on you & you feel like as if you are transported into nothingness with the sound of Omkar in your ears. I have personally experienced it on every visit.

I remember my mother mentioning that there is supposed to be a very small pond filled with perennial water on top of the betta which is said to be made by Lakshmana from shooting his arrow to get water for cooking & drinking during his Vanavasa with Sri Rama. But I have never seen it. A lot of stories are attached with her origin & is supposed to be visited by Gods & Goddesses & many mythological characters. (It’s very interesting story appearing in Skanda purana but too long to cover here). Snaking through arduous journey joined by numerous tributaries, turning into a mighty maiden & nourishing/helping millions in various forms makes her way to merge with Bay of Bengal at Poompuhar covering almost a distance of 800 kms. There are numerous holy places & shrines built on her way so also bunds, dams, hydroelectric plant (Shivansamudra – Asia’s first built in 1902), etc.

We celebrate her birthday, Kaveri Sankramana on Tula-Sankramana day (the first day of Makara-masa in Hindu calendar), which normally falls on the 17th of October every year. On that day occurs the spectacular emerging of the holy spring from the Brahma-kundige known as THIRTHODBHAVA. A very unique natural phenomenon which does not have any scientific explanation & I am sure there never ever going to be one!! The fountain head rises when water gushes up from the spring at a predetermined moment, predicted in advance an year earlier. {Thirtha = holy water & udbhava = springing from/growing/origin). The Kundige is never allowed to over flow as it is believed that overflowing would bring famine. The priests will pour out the thirtha on the devotees mostly with tonsured heads who jumps into the main pond in frenzy to get the glimpse of the occurrence & collect it in containers. I feel that there is enough & more Thirtha in the Kundige (roughly about 3-1/2 by 2-1/2 sq ft between the shrine & tank located on the platform enclosing the temple tank) for the entire worshipers & more.

Kodava men in traditional dress render traditional dudi-kott-paat (dudi is a small native drum, kott-beating & paat-singing), singing the glory of the mother. The Nandi (bull) at the small Lord Agasteshwara (Shiva) temple seems to be watching over the tank for mischief mongers. The prabhavali at the sanctum sanctorum close to the Brahma-kundige bedecked with grand floral arrangements adds momentum & fragrance. The whole atmosphere religiously surcharged amidst the relentless chanting of Vedic hymns by posse of priests, is electrifying as everyone praying/thinking in unison on the lap of peaceful serene Mother Nature. It’s something one has to experience & cannot be explained. Even though it is at a very high altitude & millions of pots of water are taken out each year, irrespective of the global warming, the magical Kundige has the same level of water 365 days. Earlier Thirtha used to be preserved for number of years at home without any preservative & expiry date, thanks to pollution; now it cannot be stored very long. This year (2014) the annual spectacle of Thirthodbhava occurred on October 17th Friday at 6:04 pm just 3 minutes before the calculated time, followed by heavy rains. For next one month tens of thousands of devotees will make a pilgrimage trip to particpate in the Tula Sankrmana jathre (fair).

Growing up we were told that all across Kodagu, all water bodies in the paddy fields to wells to ponds to streams to rivers, you can see bubbles rushing out at the same time. Also come what may it will rain at least a little. Such is the power of Kaveri. Legend has it that every year Mother Ganga comes via an underground route to Kaveri for a cleansing dip to wash off the sins accumated from the devotees.

Being a Kodava/Coorgi, the river Kaveri holds a very special place in my heart. She is not only our Kula Devate & we consider her the Big Mother & believe that Kodagu flourishes because of her blessing. To mark our gratitude we name our children after her: girls are called Kaveramma/Kaveri & boys Kaverappa. Our civilization developed in her banks, our culture & tradition revolves around her, & even the unique way of draping our sari is in her honour. As a Kodava, for us she does not have a form & the name Kaveri always brings the Kundige to our mind as traditionally we don’t have a statue/image. Her beauty, character & legend par excellence, it’s impossible to fathom a shape or form. All the statues you see all around Karnataka or beyond is a recent addition to fit into each one’s mind set. This is how things including legends get contorted & contaminated generally…

She is called as the Ganges of South & one of the Sapta Sindhu (Seven sacred rivers) of India. We consider her holier than Ganges & our lives from birth to death & in-between is associated with her. Our final journey ends with our ashes immersed in her. When a Kodava dies his/her ashes will be immersed in Triveni sangama at Bhagamandala & believed that, only then the soul will be liberated. It is customary that after a Kodava gets married both has to make a trip to Tala-Kaveri (tala means head) & take a dip in the kola (pool) together in front of Kundige to SEAL the marriage. Basically Kodavas are not very religious & we just have a very special eternal maternal bonding/love affair with River Kaveri just like a “Mother & Child” as genetic inheritance!! After that as long as both are alive, both cannot make a solo trip to Tala-Kaveri. It may surprise the readers that Kodava wedding is performed with the Blessings of Elders of the community without the presence of a Priest!! Believe me up until the last decade or so divorce was never heard of in Kodava community. Also I am proud to say that there is no Dowry System as well & considered a shameful act. Every Kodava household keeps the thirtha at home & before taking up a long journey, a little is consumed pouring on the cup of the palm for protection on the way. When someone is above to die, the last drop of water given is the Kaveri thirtha. Generally, Hindus believe that anyone who dies without last sip of water in the mouth, be it Ganges or coconut or any water, his soul will not rest.

All said & done, Mythical incidents are beyond the understanding capacity of ordinary human mind, science or technology. Perhaps it’s subtler than the understanding on why a little “toddler cloud” from Africa causes havoc & misery in USA as “hurricane”. According to a mythical legend, the trimurthis, Brahma-Vishnu-Maheshwara, gave darshana to the great sage Agastya under the holy Ashwatha tree (was pretty small compared to its age) just above the Kundige which stood test of time for thousands of years. It’s noteworthy that dark skinned Agastya, one of the most powerful sages of his time was born in a Kumbha (pot), himself was very short, almost a dwarf. Finally about 15 – 20 years ago when some modern thinkers, wanting to please tourists, attempted to build a katte to the tree (perhaps out of good intentions) & while doing so managed to kill the tree itself. The one you see now is the modern one!! They had to clear lorry loads & loads of roots perhaps one for each year the tree stood there!! The whole Tala-Kaveri is given a facelift lately. People are really strange, an Indian colleague of mine suggested that someone should dig up the place between Talakaveri & Nagateerta to find out how the river flows gupta-gamini & I said sure if you are funding!! So until he comes up with funds, secret is safe!!

Sometimes human meddling in Nature might have negative consequences. For some unknown reason the insects & birds population in Kodagu have noticabley dwindled in the last decade along with scores of plant species, which is noteworthy.

Another interesting theology is that Kaveri wanted to be the holiest river & she did tapsya to Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu told her Ganga is holy as she started from the touch of his feet. Kaveri would be his garland, close to his heart & therefore would be more sacred. Incidentally three of the holiest shrines of Lord Vishnu are found at Srirangapatna, Shivanasamudra & Shrirangam called Adi-Ranga, Madhya-Ranga & Antya-Ranga respectively. Incidentally all the three temples are on island with the Kaveri encircling it just like the mythical garland!

I can write volumes… Next time you drink the Kaveri water just think how blessed you are to be part of a great legend! Mortal man came & gone, comes & goes, but legend lives on…. irrespective of the doubts in anyone’s mind. As for me even though River Kaveri is extra special, I have equal respect to entire water body of the earth irrespective of the size or legend. PLEASE conserve the water & help Mother Nature in whatever way possible for the betterment of our Future Generation & welfare of the Universe. Don’t let your future generation suffer & say what the heck my predecessors were thinking or doing? Simple fact of life: Mother Nature does not need us for her survival (perhaps better off) but we definitely cannot do without her!!

 

*When my younger daughter who is named after River Kaveri was 4-years old, she happened to be in Mysore with my cousins. There was a protest march & every one was shouting we want Kaveri… Kaveri is ours… (of course in Kannada) & when my daughter heard that got so scared & started crying bitterly, uncontrollable & shivering with fear. After that for a long time she did not even wanted to leave the house!!