Changing FACE of India… a visit to Mangaluru & back

January 28th 2017, I was traveling to Mangalore after almost two decades. The last time we wanted to go on that road for a monsoon drive some years ago, but the road was so bad & on top of it a lorry filled with haystack had toppled blocking the road for almost a day! My chauffeur cum bodyguard husband refused to go an inch further & with great difficulty managed to turn the car back. But this time it was a pleasure. The roads are good with the completion of the highway No.88 (Mysore-Bantwala). Had nice cup of coffee at Coffee Day which was almost empty near Sulya along with 5-youngsters in their Mitsubish Pajro sports & we stopped for lunch in Managalore at Giri Manja’s. My nephew-in-law highly recommended the place & insisted I taste the Mangalorean fish dishes there. But he was doubtful if my husband would be comfortable in that small little cramped place.

Finally we parked the vehicles besides the flower market & walked a distance to the restaurant near Kalikamba temple… well not exactly a restaurant… located beside a road of about 12 feet including the pavement… as both sides of the road used as a parking place for two wheelers. Small cars, rickshaws, cycles, people, etc., etc… were plying as a little queue formed to get into the restaurant inside a little house of yester years with tiny windows which had seen better days. It seems BBC travel rated the place as the one of the top five best places to eat in India! Interestingly 20 meters away across the road stood yet another Giri Manja’s in a new building & the food was also carried from this old restaurant itself. However, no one went there & waited here as hungry dogs waiting for their bone. As one young teenager refused to eat there saying it was too dark and ugly & was grumbling with his parents, yet another one came out saying it was heavenly food I ever ate…. Almost everyone was walking out wiping the sweat!

After about 20 minutes, finally we went inside & it reminded me of my childhood days when during the small function at the ancestral homes particularly during the monsoon, small benches were used for seating & tall benches were used as tables. Even before the soiled plates were removed & the place was cleaned, we both sat there lest we lose our turn as the other five waited for the other occupants to vacate their seats. One of the young men from our group knew the cook at the restaurant. Then came Anantha, our waiter for the day. When I asked him what was the specialty of the house, he assured us don’t worry, just tell which fish you want & what rice (boiled or normal) you want & I will do the rest. And he did & suggested dishes to share between the seven of us. It was so yummy, reasonably priced & even after eating so much none of us felt heavy too. Luckily one last plate of prawn biryani was available which we shared between us. Fish cooked in coconut oil complimenting & suppressing the fishy flavour was a delight to the pallets. If you ever go to Managlore don’t miss a meal there. It’s worth every paise you pay!

Mangalore (Anglicization of Mangaluru, which is named after Goddess Mangaladevi) for some reason reminded me of a modern version of Colombo, Sri Lanka. People are kind & friendly too. When I asked about the water supply, the Uber driver said: Amma people of Mangaluru has become smart by drinking sweet water which is so very abundant!! Perhaps Goddess Managaladevi did bless the land with abundance & happiness.

On our way back we wanted to visit Kukke Subramanya temple. The drive is beautiful surrounded by plenty of greenery & hills at a distance. Finally we made it to the thousand year old temple, now managed by Muzarai department of Government of Karnataka. Well organized & plenty of police personnel to guide people, the devotees had one small problem: You don’t get enough time to see the deity! Even before I could see how the flower decked amazing idol really looked, I had to move! I know that according to Indian culture the God lives within us but I wanted to see the beautiful idol too… Unfortunately education once given free, hospitals & now even the God is become commercial… Sadly many temples have become golden goose for the government. Surrounding of the temple could have maintained better too.

On our way another interesting thing was the mushrooming of minarets. Throughout the highway, perhaps every couple of kilometers – I simply lost count of those looking towards the sky painted mostly in green & half white. Seems like the do-gooder petrodollar indeed spreading magic carpet effect. Black gold from across the ocean has brought property for some parts of India too… I was joking with my husband what if US President Donald Trump happened to go on that road, perhaps the heat generated from both inside the car as well as the buildings outside would surpass the summer of Kuwait!!

Somewhere between my working life & retirement… the time known to me seems to have elapsed… giving birth to a new order. People even debate over the religion & attire of Statue of Liberty! It’s odd that every where man is futilely looking & holding & crying & sacrificing self (& others) – for & in the name of God, while they themselves have pushed God into the dark corners of their own heart. For some unknown reason it reminded me of my visit to Amsterdam where the Churches are being turned into discos & restaurants for lack of devotees…

When I came home my dear old friend & ex-colleague from Cochin had sent an interesting video on Funeral Event Management…Wow. Its common in India that some communities hire professional wailers & dancers to perform in front of dead bodies depending upon their beliefs… if death & departing is sad for some … for some others it’s the beginning of a new life… continuation of the cycle of birth & death rolling endlessly which calls for a celebration. With the event management (said to cost anywhere between 5 to 10 lakhs) the ugly truth reflects similarities to how the youngsters are given all the expensive toys such the mobiles & games etc., etc., to play with by their busy parents to compensate for not spending the quality time. Now the departed souls are given a grand funeral for not being there when they were needed… I could not understand if it was love or the vulgar display of wealth. It is said that the human brain has stopped growing… I think it’s the heart/feeling that is shrinking while the fauna is getting wiser, smarter, kind & understanding… after all man is a mysterious being, an enigma to himself.

Wondering what next? Facetime or whatsapp funeral…. It will be cost effective too hahahahha

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Ghee & the Modern Man

 

Known as Ghrit or ghrta in Sanskrit, ghee is considered is a staple in Indian cooking and has been a host of good health for thousands of years. I love both butter & ghee, & growing up have eaten loads of it. After she was done churning, my mother kept the butter floating in a dish of water on the dining table & every time we passed by a portion of it went into mouth!! Both Butter & Ghee are usually solid in cooler conditions & melts as it warms. The smooth texture, melting in the mouth gives that classy feeling like the melting chocolate. Butter, Sri Krishna’s favourite dish, has a limited shelf life but a simple process turns the same butter into ghee (Clarified butter, we call it “Nei” & Kannada “tuppa”). Ghee’s own shelf life is almost one hundred years if stored properly!!! That’s makes it survive longer than us.

Boiling the butter on low fire yields the ghee. My mother added few betel leaves for flavor towards the end. The butterfat is bottled after cooling, leaving the proteins (casein, way & other milk solids such as lactose, etc.) collected at the bottom. We kids waited for the chance to collect the bottom solids & ate with banana or simply dhal which is prepared in the same vessel and smelt so good.. became so tasty… my mouth is watering. We fought for the lion share of the betel leaves cooked crisp.

Food for the Mind & Spirit

Unfortunately, modern science came up with the idea that ghee is bad, corrupting every mind & until recently not realizing the value of it. So ghee became a No… No in the modern meals…. In a way they might be right too because their study came from the cows eating all sorts of manmade concoction including plastic & ground bones (powder) of other dead animals. On the other hand, in Aryurveda, our Rishis spoke of the cows which ate grass straight from Mother Nature’s lap. I think that when the cows eat the fresh grass roaming freely in the meadows, the grass smells so good – like how the mowing brings out the unusual smell, enhancing good feeling in ourselves – making the cow happy & calm. That pleasantness (of the mind – which makes us believe either we are happy or sad) is then radiated into the entire body of the cow like the sweet fragrance, including the udder (perhaps mainly udder because cow produces milk for its baby, the calf not for us the thieves).

Everyone knows that Body & Mind of the beings works in unison when the conditions are pleasant, communicating through chemical signals creating harmony with each other. Even though we cannot see, we can experience it! Also it is noteworthy that when we are happy, small little problems just does not get any attention from us which shows that positive thinking & healthy mind condition could also reduce negativity in us. The milk in the udder comes to man, then it is converted into many different forms such as curd, buttermilk, butter, cheese, etc., etc.

Now the scientists are turning around & says its goooodddd…. Mr. Ghee is trust worthy… after Mr. Ghee, Mr. Coconut also got a praise… Lol… wonder whether Indians & Ayurveda really need certificate from the Modern Science & their chameleonic theories.

Mrs. Cows graze mainly on grass & other greens, fruits & vegetables or rice, etc. So all the vitamins & medicinal properties of the food consumed is absorbed & transported to milk. So we get the nourishment like taking a supplement in modern terms!! It’s an antioxidant & has antiviral properties too. It contains Omega 3 (so called good cholesterol) & 6, which are boosters for brain & nervous system for smooth functioning. Let’s see some of the qualifications of Mr. GHEE.

In Ayurveda it is considered as a Satvic food & like all the Satvic foods, it promotes positivity, growth & expansion of the consciousness. Even though it is a diary product, coming from another body, like mother’s milk it is accepted by everyone including pure vegetarian Brahmins. That’s one of the main reason Cow is respected & regarded highly in India. Sadly, people think it is related to religion & kill them… losing long term benefits for less than an hour’s craving…

Ghee has a high smoking point (about 250 Degree C) so it will not break down into so called free radicals like other oils. It is rich in oil soluble Vitamin A & E, K2 & CLA as well as medium chain fatty acids, which are absorbed directly by the liver like carbs & burned as energy, which does not result in fat storage. It is rich in butyric acid (so named because it was first discovered in butter & it increases its concentration in ghee), which is considered beneficial to the digestive & immune systems in many ways.

It protects the body, aids digestion & strengthens immune system. In Ayurveda, ghee is used as a carrier for the nutrients in herbs & to lubricate the intestinal tract & all the tissues inside the body. Bowl movement & Digestion related problem, is a big problem for many people in the modern world. Our body is designed to digest. However, many suffer from digestive stress & it is said that an estimated one in four Americans suffers from gastrointestinal (GI) track & digestive maladies! (no study is done in India…)

Ghee preventing onset of body ache, joint pain, alzimers, cancer, etc., etc. So don’t feel bad if you want to consume gheeeeee….. However, people suffering from heart ailments & diabetics should be little careful & if doctor says no then please don’t eat it!!

Finally, the ghee enhances the taste & flavor of the food. Cook dhal, chicken or biryani with ghee & see how great it tastes & smells!! My mother used to narrate this fable: Kai guna Mavayya or nei guna Mavayya (is it merit of the cook’s hand or the ghee). A wife had been cooking for her husband all her married life. He never really appreciated or perhaps did not show openly. Time passed, her son grew up to be nice young man & got married, & the daughter-in-law, let’s call her Asha came home. Once wife was away for few days & the Asha cooked the food. The food was so tasty… Mava (father-in-law) could not believe his tongue. When his wife returned, all that she heard was that how good was Asha’s food… all her dishes. Suddenly/sadly the old man felt wife’s cooking was not good, nothing in front of Asha!! Poor Mavi (mother-in-law), a good cook herself could not understand how come her food is not tasty to her husband any more. So one day she hid herself & watched Asha cooking everything with ghee. So next day the smart lady hid the ghee container. Asha could not find the ghee & unable to ask anyone, finished cooking with oil. After tasting Mava said why Asha did not cook today.. the food is not tasty…. Wife was waiting for this & told her husband to ask Asha “Kai guna or nei guna”? Asha shyly answered “Nei guna Mavayya”, ending Mava’s nagging of his wife for good!

Story of King Ravana from Ramayana – Part 1

Ravana’s KARMA & reflection in Modern man!?!

In India, Sri Rama (incarnation of Lord Vishnu) is seen as a personification of goodness & Ravana as the prime antagonist of the epic Ramayana. Ravana is shown with ten heads & all the ten heads plotting to do bad all the time

So who is Ravana? Ravana was the mighty, controversial King of Lanka & the villain of Ramayana. But there is a lot to learn from his character for us.

It is said that “Humility is a Virtue not a Weakness” & Ravana’s paid a very high price to learn the lesson on humility & his life seems to be conjectural…. His life outlines the reach of KARMA & I am sure when the time comes, we have to settle our scores too. It’s remarkable to learn that even though Devas & Ausars shared the same ancestry how they are different in their thoughts  processes & deeds, like how our own minds & functionality vary from time to time depending upon our culture, mood & circumstance. In a strange reality we are not really very different from both of them & in the process of evolution we have only managed to become more ignorant & egoistic. The main culprit in the mean behaviour in general is the selfish, self-centered, egoistic, greedy, etc, etc., nature of humanity.

Ravana’s story begins much before his birth as Ravana. He & his brother Kumbhakarna were the famous duo Jaya-Vijaya, the devoted Dwara Palakas (gatekeepers) of Vaikunta, heavenly abode of Lord Vishnu. They were very loyal to Lord Vishnu & loved him dearly but they were also proud of their status… it’s no joke to be guarding Maha Vishnu. No one could even see him without their permission!

One day the Kumar brothers {Sanak, Sanandan, Sanatan & Sanat Kumars} went to meet Lord Vishnu. At the beginning of the process of creation, Lord Brahma had created them from his manas (mind) by just a desire & as such they are referred to as his Manasaputras. They were said to be free from negative qualities like Kama, Krodha, Lobh, Moha, Ahankara, etc., (material desires, anger, attachment, lust, pride, etc.,) as well as trigunas (Sato, Rajo, Tamo) of Maya (illusion). Lord Brahma had created them to help him in the process of creation but they chose Brahmacarya (celibacy) & devotion to God over procreation. They also obtained the boon to remain perpetual 5-years old from their father to remain pure & blissful forever. Boon coupled with the strength of their tapa, kept them looking like kids even in their advanced age. They had no attachment to any material possessions & using their spiritual powers, they moved freely around the universe. They were closest to Godly like. Jaya-Vijaya mistook them to be a bunch of pranky kids & not only stopped them but also made fun of them.

Kumar brothers tried to convince them saying they were great devotees of Lord Vishnu & Vishnu is never too busy to see his devotees.  But the gatekeepers were not ready to budge. Knowing what was happening out side, Lord Vishnu took the opportunity to teach them a lesson on humility & created Maya (illusion) & made the Kumaras curse both of them to be born & live as mortals 7-times on Earth. Meantime Lord Vishnu appeared on the scene & the Kumars forgetting everything ran to him with childlike enthusiasm. After a while they departed & then Jaya-Vijaya pleaded with Vishnu to liberate them from the curse.

Lord Vishnu said that words of Kumaras cannot be reverted. However, He could give them 2-options. The first option is to take 7-births on Earth as devotee of Lord Vishnu, while the second is to take 3-births as His enemies & meet death in his hands. After serving either of these sentences, they can re-attain their status at Vaikuntha & be with Him permanently. Jaya-Vijaya were heartbroken & could not bear the thought of staying away from their beloved Lord for 7-lives & chose the 2nd-option to become enemies (those days’ longevity was lengthy too). Moreover, even getting killed by Lord’s hands are also a boon. Thus began their peregrination on earth.

In the first birth as enemies of Lord, they were born in Satya Yuga as brothers Hiraneyaksha & Hiraneyakashyipu, the sons of Diti & Kashyapa rishi. Hiranyaksha was slained by Lord Vishnu after he took the Earth to the bottom of what has been described as the “Cosmic Ocean”. Lord Vishnu in Varaha (boar) Avatara dove into the ocean to lift the Earth, in the bargain slaying Hiranyaksha who was obstructing Him after a battle of over thousand years. His elder brother Hiranyakashipu who was incredibly powerful after a boon & invincible unless several conditions were met, was later slain by the next Avatara as Lord Narasimha (half man-half lion).

The second birth is the story of Ravana & Kumbhakarna, to be killed by Lord Vishnu in the Avatara of Sri Rama & Lakshmana (Ramayana) in Treta Yuga.

Pulastya was the Manasa putra (mind-born son) of Brahma the creator & one of the Sapta-Rishis (7-great Sages). So he had inherited the virtue & learning of Brahma & became a great Sage. Once pleased with the devotion of Rishi Trinbindu’s daughter, Pulastya promised her a son worthy of both their clans & Vishrava (Visravasam) was born. It is not clear if the child was a blessing or they were married. Vishrava was also a renowned Vedic scholar like his father Pulastya. Vishrava was married to Rishi Bhardwaj’s daughter Ilavida (Idavida).

They had a son called Vaishravana (Kubera); who was knowledgeable of the Vedas & equal to Lord Indra in valour. Vishrava told his son that the deserted city of Lanka (on Mount Trikut, off the Southern coast) would be ideal for his residence & established him there. Kubera was of modest demeanor, a well-wisher of the people & many Asura tribes accepted his rule without much opposition. Later he became the Lord of Wealth through a blessing from Brahma after tapasya. Kubera possessed the magnificent Pushpaka-Vimana (the shape-shifting flying craft made of golden flowers, which could travel at the speed of mind). It’s noteworthy that very sophisticated aircrafts were mentioned in Ramayana & man of this epoch is yet to even dream of it!!

Smitten by the glory of Kubera, the Asura leader Sumali (Sumalaya) wanted his daughter Kaikesi (Kaikasi) to marry Sage Vishrava. So that their offspring would be as illustrious as Kubera, & would bring glory & dignity to the entire Asura clan. So Kaikesi became the 2nd wife of Sage Vishrava.

According to Uttara Kand of Ramayana, Sage Vishrava knew that the off-springs by such a match would be bad & unworthy & mentioned it to her. On hearing his words, a sad Kaikesi said: Mahatma, I came not to get such children from a great soul like you. I want a virtuous child & Sage Vishrava told her that the 4th child (Vibhishana) would be born as she desired.

Eventually they had 6-sons {handsome Dashagriva or Dashanana (the ten-faced or the ten-necked) – later came to known as Ravana}, Kumbhakarna, Vibhishana (a scholar, pious – great Rama devout & a minister of Ravana), Khara (King of Janasthan), Dushana (Viceroy of Janasthan), Ahiravan (King of the Underworld), Kumbhini (well known for her beauty was the wife of Madhu, demon King of Mathura) & infamous Surpanakha (she was the root cause of Sita’s kidnapping & instigated her brothers to wage a war against Rama because both him & his brother refused to marry her). Thus by lineage, Ravana was only partly Daitya (through his mother, he was related to Maricha & Subahu).

Ravana seems to be a confused being as he had too many people influencing his upbringing {too many cooks spoil the broth} & his DNA mixture was erotic. Mother Kaikesi was a great devotee of Lord Shiva so was he. He had lots of merits obtained by penance but had quite a few curses(*1) shaping his life too. His father Vishrava noted that while Ravana was aggressive & arrogant, he was also an erudite scholar. Under his tutelage, Ravana mastered the Vedas, scriptures, arts & ways, was well-known Veena player. On the other hand, his maternal grandfather Sumali, kept him close to the ethics of the Daityas. Then there was the pushing to limits of spoken/unspoken words of disparity between the half-brother Kubera… & his wealth, pomp-romp, glory… Golden Pushpaka-Vimana was an eye sore too… Sadly, this conflicting influence by different set of parenting made him a character of Jekyll & Hyde. Often I wonder what kind of parenting does the terrorists & other negative characters must have had?

Except his citizen who loved him dearly for he was a just ruler everyone else was scared of him….. Ravana is said to be an excellent ruler & under him his citizens were happy & prosperous, close to utopia. He had 3-wives & 7-children, & his Pattada-Rani (chief queen) was Mandodari, the daughter of Danava king Mayasura & celestial dancer Hema. Mandodari said to be gorgeous, very pious & virtuous woman.

To read more about the source of Ravana’s powers, his rule, and Ramayana, check out my 2nd article on the series.

 

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…)

Me& the Kodava Mapila

January 2016, just 10 days after coming back from India, I was going again to India as my brother was unwell… It’s been two decades since I traveled by Kuwait Airways… they had started a direct flight to Bangalore lately. Departure from Gate No.8 in the basement.. it was crowded… a group of Indians were returning from Omrah… strangely majority of them were coughing… as if there was a coughing competition. Like some times during the rainy season when a group of frogs starts croaking in one location, the minute it stops the sound from another batch in another place will start as if they are in to Olympic size competition. Same way they coughed nonstop… Then magically a lady, new comer who just came at the same time as me started coughing… instant transferring of coughing… Wow so much so I started regretting that I was making a trip by KAC as I was afraid that I would be carrying the transferring-cough to the hospital with me making everyone sick including my brother. But I had no choice but to wait as the synchronized coughing bout continued.

Finally, we reached the aircraft to be waiting yet again for another hour or so as the conveyer belt had some problem. Thanks to whatsapp, I spent that extra hour messaging my family voicing my fear about transferring-cough. The lady who caught the cough at the airport was sitting next to me & started complaining how she got the cough. In the meantime the gentleman who was on the other side of the isle who was also going home from Saudi was trying to assure me that it’s not contagious & they drank chilled water in the cold weather which effected their throat. I had no comments… I was stressed.. tired & too worried about what must be happening back home?

The woman next to me spoke nonstop during the flight, with breaks to cough every now & then… baffling me with her personal history. An adventure par excellence & beyond imagination, one of the most fascinating persons I have ever met! To my utter surprise she was an illiterate shepherdess, who never stepped into a classroom in her life!! Spending 6-1/2 hour with her was like a life time… In return all that she wanted from me was to fill her information in the immigration form… and point to her where to sign & assist her to talk to the custom office when landed regarding the 32” TV which she was carrying with her!! But the world she opened around me was infinite.

Still coughing in synchrony, most of the passengers slept off after the meal…. Somewhere in between I heard someone talk in a strange Kodava-dialect.. I thought I imagined it & ignored. After a while I heard again but I could not get up & look as it was dark… after the dinner the lights were off… anyway we landed in Bangalore late… While getting up I saw this lady wearing manly-looking, shiny gold-rings in 3-fingers.. just joked with her so you got a new ring… wow.. nice… in English… she gave me a weak smile without answering back but her husband from behind said yes.. in Riyadh… then I picked up a conversation & learnt that they were from Kodagu & 35 of them went to Omrah as part of a group … When I understood who they were, it was a strange feeling… while growing up I had heard of them but never really bothered to find or talk to them as there was simply no need & the priorities were different then.

They were a gang of Kodava-Mapillas, the progenies of Tippu’s malice…… who are still known as Kodava-Mapillas in Kodagu, speak the language (though with a slightly different accent/dialect) but their ways, life style & behavior were different… clothing was different.. Ironically they still have clan names too… I had such mixed feelings…after all, we shared the same DNA in a different past yet we were poles apart… somewhere inside my heart, it pinched me… I know its history yet I wondered what if it did not happen all those years ago.. what if maniac Tippu’s father never came hitch-hiking to India? Perhaps I would have known some of them personally, some of them may have been my relatives. {as a small community which does not allow inter-marriages, the whole community is somehow distantly related to each other.} I would have spent time with them & enjoyed their company. So many if & buts… it was a far-cry & a question which will never have answers…. I couldn’t even imagine myself fitting into their shoes…

According to Indian belief the “runau-bandha” (there is no equivalent word in English… the unexplained relationships something like unseen & unwritten DNA), lasts for 7-lives… doesn’t expire even when the physical body expires!! There was this elderly lady & a middle aged man was helping her out… he said it was his aunt. When I reached the escalator they were in front of me & the man was trying to convince her to go with him… waited for a minute or so & offered to help her… that man left her hand immediately & moved forward, the lady did not put her feet down properly & along with her I too fell down on the escalator… perhaps God was watching as both of us were unhurt.. Finally we ended on top of the escalator & I requested one of the guys around to arrange for a wheelchair for the lady. Later found them near the luggage area again & spoke to them …to make sure the old lady now on wheelchair was safe & comfortable. Our acquaintance ended there… it was a strange feeling… it had been a long stressful day from the time I heard about my brother early morning… meantime so much had happened in a different way.. I met so many people & learnt so much about the life.. When we landed something strange happened, which perhaps even Mr. Ripley can’t find an answer… all of a sudden everyone stopped coughing!! LoL it just vanished into thin air of Namma-Bengaluru.

Forcible conversion is a funny thing… a cruel joke, treating humans like lifeless objects without any personality… Gold can be converted to bangle, chain, necklace, ring, etc… but the gold always remains the same only it’s shape & quality changes. I remember whenever we twisted & turned while explaining or doing something, my mother would say.. if you take the food straight from the plate (Indian enjoy eating with hand) it will go to your mouth… supposed you take your hand (with the food) around your head & eat, it still the food goes to your mouth… so speak straight! Similarly whether one convert or not the physical body does not alter, the body function does not alter, DNA remains the same… perhaps all that happens is the way they dress, food/drink habits & change in praying style.. but the prayer will be still towards the same God… only thinking process differs. People cannot alter God. God does not belong to anyone and we belong to God and it is the ultimate fact of life. God is beyond anyone’s perception or reach unless one becomes a real human in deed & thinking… Feel sorry for those pathetic, purposeless, sadist salesmen of God who acts like a monkey who is given charge of maintaining the beautiful garden. No matter how much hungama one creates to prove their religion or faith is better than others they will not be born or created differently… they will not eat or bring out the waste product differently. They cannot progenate differently.. That’s how it meant to be because God is only one… that’s the first second & the third fact!!

 

 

Tippu Series Part 5: What’s with Astrology & Tippu?

He was an unusually unpredictable character & a delusional soul… he claimed that he was a Muslim. However, since his passion for expansion weighed greater, he was addicted to astrology. He consulted astrologers, believed in omens, sought answers for his dreams… on behest of astrological predictions observed some Hindu believes to ward of trouble… Even spared some temples from destruction to avoid curse!! Yet he used conversion as a tool… perhaps he must have thought that they would be loyal?

He enjoyed the destruction of temples… His destruction of Hindu temples were innumerable. The intensity of Tipu’s raid was so terrifying that hundreds of temple priests from Kodagu fled to Mangalore along with their families. Many Priests had to dump the idols & the other holy artifacts into temple wells to protect it. Many priests lost their lives. Worship came to a permanent halt in several temples. Like the Maletirike Bhagavati temple at Virajpet some temple were covered with leaves in order to conceal their presence. The famous Omkareshwara (Shiva) temple of Madikeri faced mortal danger. To avert it from Tippu’s wrath the ruler of Madikeri removed the existing tower (Kalasha) of the temple & replaced it with a dome so that it appeared like a Mosque from afar. To this day it stands with its dome as a testament to Tippu’s destruction spree!

On the other hand it is on record that the Tipu addressed the head of the Sringeri Math, Sachchidananda Bharati, as Jagadguru (“World Teacher”; Saletore, 1999, p. 127) &, according to an eyewitness account, “went barefoot to [the] . . . Math to receive the Swamy’s blessings & to ask him to pass on a letter to the Marathas requesting them to take his side than that of the British” (Subhan, 2002, p. 43). Tipu patronized the temples of Sri Gandeswara & Sri Ranganatha. Subbaraya Chetty (1999) cites a list of grants from the Sultan to the Hindu temples & priests.

As the an astrology freak he consulted Hindu astrologer to find out right time to travel, start & wage wars, gave Brahmins dakshina to clear any bad omens. So much so, he was wearing a 41.2 gm oval yellow gold ring with the name of the Hindu God Rama inscribed in raised Devanagari given by Sankaracharya of Sringeri Math. He must have hoped that by wearing such a ring, he would reach the status of reverence like Lord Rama & his lies will be covered. {The famous ring was sold in Christie’s auction as part of the Raglan Collection on May 23, 2011 for 1.5 crore rupees. It was taken off the finger of the dead ruler by the Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, as his personal spoil of war after the Battle of Seringapatam in 1799.} Astrologers obliged him fearing for their lives, their family & to protect their deities. Because of Tipu’s trust in astrology, astrologers managed to convince him that offering poojas on behalf of him at Sri Ranganath temple will give him immense power that he seeks. That’s one of the reasons few of the temples like Sri Ranganatha is still standing! Not because he was an apostle of secularism, peace & religious tolerant! {Sri Ranga did pay his debt by saving Tipu’s life once… read further!) Also it is said that Tippu used to dream & would seek meanings & solutions for his dreams from both Hindus & Muslim astrologers….. it is not surprising!! How could one sleep in peace after the evil destruction?

In 1960s when there was heavy rains & flooding in Lakshmanathirata River, many artifacts such as lamps washed up from the sand near my cousin’s home. He not only destroyed the two temples (there were very few temples in Kodagu) near my ancestral home in Napoklu, Kodagu but also along with it, set fire to the  homes of Kodavas & burnt everyone inside alive by not allowing anyone to leave. The atrocities meted out on Nairs (in general it is referred as Nairs but it is inclusive of all the Hindus of Kerala), Kodavas, Brahmins, Catholics in Mangalore, is beyond imagination. Interestingly, according to the folk lore, the origin of Badaga community of Coonoor (Tamil Nadu) with their uniquely beautiful culture & songs originated when their revered “Hethai“ managed to escape Tipu’s advances with handful of trusted people from Karnataka. Luckily they managed to make a living & to keep their culture & tradition alive. There are one too many untold tragic calamities befell on so many communities & families.

Tipu’s correspondences with the Sankaracharya of Sringeri Math reveal his scare for the foreboding of doom that he tried desperately to counter (Sharma, 1991). A firm believer in astrology, he often resorted to religious rituals & wore apotropaic objects & trinkets—Hindu as well as Islamic—either to avert a disaster or to attain success in his undertakings. A near contemporary historical account describes how, on May 4, 1799, the day Tipu died in the battlefield, he had ordered for all the ceremonies prescribed by the Brahmins to be duly performed, & having given them several presents, requested their prayers for the prosperity of his government. He also ordered to be slaughtered two elephants with all their golden trappings; . . . & large sums of gold mohurs were distributed amongst the beggars. (Maistre De La Touche & Mohammad, 1855, p. 307)

When the morning of May 4th came, Tipu was told that, the omens were not propitious. Since fighting was inevitable, He tried to ward off misfortune. Perhaps his black soul was so huge, even the elephants souls could not carry it away which stayed behind to welcome the death personally!! He appears to have developed a defeatist mentality of a doomed man several months before the siege of Srirangapatnam. Lieutenant Wilks writes of the Sultan’s apprehension of an impending dissolution of his empire based on a folk tale of cephalomancy he sincerely believed. {Cephalomancy: Divination by the study of the skull or head of a donkey or goat. Sometimes mentioned as the roasting of an ass’s head on hot coals}. According to this tale, the mysterious power of a crushed human skull showing some cracks caused the death of 40 persons. When Tipu noticed some cracks on the mast of the ship the Frenchman Ripaud had taken to the Isle of France, he was convinced that these cracks foreboded the destruction of his empire & thus “he readily made up his mind to throw himself unconditionally in his Lordship’s [Wellesley’s] compassion” after he had read the Governor General’s letter of January 9, 1799 (Wilks, 1810-1817/1869, Vol. 2, pp. 332-333). {Wilks does not mention how he obtained the information on Tipu’s reaction to Mornington’s letter of January 9, 1799.}

It’s very odd to write this… for all his offering to Hindu Gods & God men (Brahmins)… Sri Ranaga did save his life once, in the form of a Nair!!

 

Tippu Series Part 4: The marauding Tiger

Roderick Mackenzie (1793) commented on Tipu’s march to Trinomaly & his mayhem there in 1790: Here neither respect, for the grandeur & antiquity of their temples, nor veneration for the sacred rites of a religion whose origin no time records, proved any protection for the persons or property, even of the first Brahmins. Their pagodas, breached with sacrilegious cannon, were forcibly entered, their altars defiled, their valuables seized, their dwellings reduced to ashes, & the devastation was rendered still more horrible by the scattered remains of men, women & children, mangled beneath a murderous sword. (Vol. 1, p. 203).

On his raid of Napoklu near Madikeri, Tipu destroyed the temples in the the surrounding villages of Betu & Kolakeri. He set fire to the house of the Biddatanda family. Forty members of this family were captured as prisoners & transported to Ganjam. After a few years, two members of this family escaped from Ganjam & returned to their hometown. One of them was a warrior named Appanna. However, the people of his hometown decided that he had now become a Mapila (Muslim), & excommunicated him. Appanna built a hut near the town-lake & spent the rest of his life there. This lake was in existence till recently, & was known as the Appannajja kere (Lake). Like the siege of Nargund letter (quoted earlier), he left nothing in the path of destruction. Remnants of the savagery that Tipu inflicted upon the hapless Kodavas are visible even today. His actions could dwarf every event from Afghanistan to Middle East combined. (Sandeep Balakrishna- Tipu Sultan The Tyrant of Mysore page 105).

Even today, we find the descendant of these Kodavas who were forcibly converted during Tipu’s time. these Kodava mapilas till recently used to celebrate Coorg festivals, built houses (called ain-mane) like the non-Muslim Kodavas, bore the same arms, the same kind of jewelry, & carried similar surnames. We have surnames like Alira, Cheeranda, Chimma Cheera (this surname is shared by non-Muslim Kodavas), Duddiyanda, Kaddadiyanda & Kolumanda in Virajpet. In Davanageri village, we have Muslim family names like Puliyanda & in the regions surrounding Virajpet, we have Muslim family names like Kuvalera, Italtanda, Mitaltanda, Kuppodanda, Kappanjeera. Similarly in the Madikeri taluk, we have Kalera, Chekkera, Charmakaranda, Maniyanda, Balasojikaranda & Mandeyanda.  Intriguingly, in the Hoddur village in Madikeri taluk, there is a Muslim family with the surname of Harishchandra… (Sandeep Balakrishna, Tipu Sultan the Tyrant of Mysore page 108).