2.01.2007

Mamallapuram: a world so new
















Shore temple, Mahabalipuram:

It was another routine visit to Mahabalipuram, taking my NRI relatives to this very ancient site! As I reeled out the history, my mother continued to entertain the battalion of children we had brought along with us.

Sitting along the green grass carpet of a now well-maintained shore temple we watched all the others who had shown up to this temple on the fateful day before New Year. Shore temple looked even worse than Kumbh Mela, with all of India's population coming to visit these ancient beauties. And we had plenty of variety.

It was interesting to see the groups who came there. To start with we had a very lost-out Italian tourist group who were groping in the darkness of a vast history lying in front of them and trying hard to wade their way through the current Indian population.

In all the garbled language that fell out I heard "Andare turistico per favore".

We watched another group go by, rather uncouth, numbering fifteen guys of what I call - Local Tamil Romeos, who were definitely not there to understand Indian history...they were there to have fun and completely misplaced in this audience.
Hooting around, spilling all the Tamil slang one could hear of in a single day, this group marched on carelessly.

Soon we had another family coming by and sitting next to us. This was a Punjabi family, with a sardarji boy holding a recently bought shankh (conch shell) in his hand and attempting very hard to blow it. What rolled out was a troubled grunt, warning the young sardarji boy and everyone around him that he was not doing something quite right. Instantly his father took the Shank and blew hard, giving the most perfect sound that resonated through the air! My excited mother jumped up and said "yes! That’s the way, you got it", leaving the elderly sardarji completely excited about his accomplishment. What resulted was a series of enthusiastic sounds, now having no reason to stop, leaving my mother wondering why she even went saying "Encore".

Following suit on the green grass was a Kannadiga family who sat down right next door, watching the temple, turned away saying:

"Idu yedu chennagilla. Thumba 'simple' ayiththu. Hampi Vijayanagara thumba chennagiththe".

Ma was not too happy with the comment, for she had the instinctive urge to tell them that for the period this temple was built it was a fantastic accomplishment. She wished she could educate them that what they have back there at Hampi is a mature version, the prototype of which stands right here. She wished they could appreciate everything instead of bringing in regional comparison.

Back at the temple, my cousin and I happened to see a very spiritual group descending from Meghalaya/ Manipur with exceptional devotion. They removed their slippers and threw coins into the Linga Pitha of a now dead temple, where even the Shiva linga was missing in the smaller shrine.

While my cousin tried to wade his way through, we noticed another family from the north, maybe UP, well dressed and decent walking out of the temple, saying:

"Murti pata nahi hai, magar mandir achcha hai"

Another group that showed up was Red clad from Melmaruvattur. These were a group of 20 women, all dressed in red and going about a Shiva pilgrimage, worshipping the Lord in every form possible. Well "the women in red" pranced around in a hurry, speaking garbled Tamil into the air, rushing up to the temple to take a glimpse of the Lord long gone.

I sat back reflecting on this country and its people, who display their faith in more ways than one, so different from each other and yet so united towards a single deity.

Om Namah Shivaya.

14 comments:

anil joshi said...

Kavitha,I was very disappointed to note that there was not a single Maharashtrian there on that day.Would have loved to hear your comments on the Maharashtrian behaviour.

JC Joshi said...

Yes Kavitha, the three words, “Om Namah Shivaya”, contain – like ‘ocean in pitcher’ or ‘gagar (kumbha) mein sagar’- the essence of the universe! That was perhaps the purpose of Kumbhamela-like gatherings, which today can be seen anywhere you go to in India, be it a hospital or a hotel - but with a purpose other than seeking the 'Truth'...

In whatever tongue one might say it, the ancients wanted us to know that the origin of the variety of all sounds is the primordial sound, “Om” - symbolically written as the numeral ‘3’, with three finishing touches for further elaboration, i.e., a tail (mooladhar), a crescent of moon (sahasrara) and last but not the least a dot (nadbindu) that was believed by the ‘wise’ ancients to be associated with the Formless Creator...

And, Na-mah Shi-va-ya stood for the ‘panchabhoot’ or the five elements that believably go into the formation of all the apparent physical bodies in ‘Nature’, i.e., sky that is ‘nabha’; earth that is ‘mahi’ or ‘relatively purer ‘Gangadhara Shiva’; fire that is ‘shikhi’ or energy; life giving air that is ‘vayu’; water represented by the relatively more polluted ‘Yamuna’, which is associated with the mischievous Krishna or Natkhat Nandalal that is son of King Nanda whose supreme form is 'mrityulok' or planet Earth that is Shiva!

PS. Kavitha, I would be out of station, going beyond Krishna's Mathura, to Agra for the week-end!
See you later then.

kavitha said...

Will miss you Joshi Uncle, have a great trip. Do take pictures of Mathura if you can!

Regds
Kavitha

kavitha said...

Hi Anilji,

I really wished there was more to the variety, but this kind of audience was itself quite a lot to deal with.

Maybe there were Maharastrians, but I missed them altogether.

Rgds
Kavitha.

JC Joshi said...

Hi Kavitha,

Just returned via Mathura. We had decided to visit Banke Bihari Temple at Mathura on our return journey to New Delhi after visiting Fatehpur Sikri yesterday, where besides Jodh Bai's Palace, we visited Salim Chisti's Dargah also on a hill-top and tied a string...It is believed that one's wish gets fulfilled!

This forenoon, after many a turns inside Brindavan, reaching the parking area, we were unfortunately asked to leave the camera and also all leather goods in the car itself - shoes, belt and wallet too - and walk some distance to the temple along a few of the famous narrow lanes for which Brindavan is famous.

A big crowd had already gathered inside. And, after darshan of 'Bankey Bihari' Krishna and receiving 'prasad', we then proceeded to the ISKCON Temple and saw 'arati' performed of Radha-Govind and Krishna-Balram idols etc. there amid chanting of the popular lines, "Harey krishna Harey Krishna Harey Krishna Harey Harey..." in the background...and had nice hot vegetable stuffed paranthas with curd in a roadside restaurant named Hari Krishna Dhaba!

JC Joshi said...

Kavitha, Inside the Jodh Bai’s Palace complex, giving reference to some belief in Jainism, the guide indicated the location of a chamber where Akbar’s ‘Hindu’ astrologer - who was believably consulted regularly by him - used to be seated for day-to-day functions. The entries to the small chamber had animal figures – two elephant faces, one each projecting from the two sides of each opening and had crocodile’s body as their trunks that met at the top of the arch thus formed and which supported the dome shaped roof…

Also, at another location - seen located outside the complex – he pointed to the memorial tower dedicated to the elephant that was gifted by Jodh Bai’s father and was used by Akbar for execution of those ordered to be executed for some crime by crushing under its leg instead of killing them by hanging…

The above examples - cited in the ‘present’ - could help me visualize how the Hindu mythological stories of ‘Gaja’ & ‘Graha’, i.e., elephant captured by a Crocodile, both believed to be the forms of Krishna and both attaining ‘moksha’ thanks to Lord Vishnu, and the belief about essence of planet Mars to represent elephant-headed-Ganesha - as the ‘vighnaharta’ or ‘trouble shooter’ at Mooladhar of all humans - were communicated through the works in the Palace complex - (the elephant has a crocodile’s-jaw-like strong trunk)! And, also perhaps why I was taken to the two locations for the first time - one at Fatehpur Sikri on the full-moon day and Bankey Bihari Temple on the next day, i.e., in 'Krishna Paksha' or the fortnight of the waning moon!

JC Joshi said...

In continuation, the guide also narrated how Akbar had Tansen - the court musician - amongst the ‘nava ratnas’ or the ‘nine gems’ in his court. And, he indicated the platform inside the Palace complex in the middle of a stepped square shaped water tank that believably used to be filled up with rose-water. It is approachable by four narrow stone slabs from four cardinal directions, N-E-W-S.

Seated on the platform, Tansen’s rendition of ragas could believably be heard all over the place duly reflected from the surface of water that acted as a loud speaker!

Maybe, the above description could help visualise the Hindu concept of Nadbindu’s creation of physical forms in the universe utilising sound energy – water representing the universal space as a medium for communication of energy!

He also indicated how during competition between Tansen and Baiju Bawra, once Tansen lit up thousand unlit lamps by rendition of a composition in Raga Deepaka (meaning lamp or heat energy). And, the competion was however won by Baiju with his composition in Raga Megha (meaning clouds) Malhara that brought in rain and extinguished those!

[There is a story retold as a background to the said competition - that Tansen had become proud of the honour received from the King who no more wanted to hear inferior quality music thereafter and had therefore banned anyone else to sing in his Capital... Baiju believably got the training from the same Guru Haridas who had trained Tansen and dared break the King's order and hence the competitin...]

Again, the above could remind one of the Hindu Philosophy of the believable end of 'Brahma’s day' (Sun's full cycle) / a Yuga brought in by inundation of earth by water that represents the Formless who is omnipotent and omnipresent!

Aswin said...

Well, nice to hear about humans in your blog. It's refreshing to see you describing people whom you met during your trip to Mamallapuram.

Keep up the good work!

JC Joshi said...

Yes Kavitha, Shri Aswin is right that it was a good attempt at trying to reach the 'present day' comparative regional mindsets of Indians/ foreigners in the ‘present day’ India related with faith, although Anilji was disappointed that you didn’t locate and say something about the Maharashtrians in general...

It is perhaps therefore virtually impossible for anyone to find the one common God today, because of the grand hierarchical variety found in human nature from one person to another particularly in the present because of lack of 'tolerance' that was the believable inherent character of our ancients thanks to 'time'!

Of course, it is natural that one feels the need for a change from the routine from time to time to break the monotony. I recall that in our childhood - during the presentation of Ramleela, i.e., the story about Lord Rama in human form, as the ‘purushottam’ or the best human being during his time - during the time required for the set to be altered to represent the relevant background location for the next scene - some ‘vidushak’ that is a joker used to come in front of the curtain and act some funny roles lest the audience got bored waiting for the curtain to be re-drawn for the next stage…

JC said...

Kavitha, like the communication in the popular story about the game of gambling the Kauravas and the Pandavas participated in with dices and cowries, the ancient belief of human life as a game/ drama was apparently understood by Moghul King Akbar also who believably played the Ludo-like game of dice with his wife Jodh Bai within the complex at Fatehpur Sikri for their entertainment and pastime. The couple believably used to sit on a platform in the middle and in place of coins used today, the guide said, girls used to stand in the squares that were marked on the ground extending upto some distance from the centre along each of the four cardinal direction. Instead of moving the coins manually as in the game today, the concerned girls used to dance to the relevant square according to the number displayed by the dices. They were considered safe at the squares that are seen marked by crosses.

JC said...

The aspect of Hindu Philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutukbakam’ or ‘universal brotherhood’ that is ‘seculiarism’ - as it is being apparently followed on paper even today in India - during Akbar’s reign was perhaps seen reflected in the guide informing us about his having, besides 450 other unofficial ones, three official wives: One was a Goanese Christian, named Miriam whose image in white is apparently sketched on the ground floor wall of the ‘panchamahal’ the five-storied palace (as also believably Akbar’s coloured one as a bearded Afghan); the more popular Jodha Bai as the Hindu wife; and a Muslim one, whose name didn’t get properly registered in my mind…

JC Joshi said...

Kavitha, Although I was scared of History in the school days, with the Hindu belief of transmigration of souls and ‘Truth’ as that which doesn’t change with time, I am not surprised to learn from the information available on the Internet that Akbar was born in the year 1542 in Umarkot in the Indus Valley, in Sind. At that time his father and erstwhile emperor Humayun (and the son of Babur the founder of Mughal Empire in India) while in exile had taken refuge - with his young wife - in the fortress of his Rajput friend there after losing in battle with the Afghan leader Sher Shah in 1540.

Akbar didn’t go to Persia with his parents and was brought up by his uncle in the rugged terrain of Afghanistan. He spent his youth learning to hunt, run and fight. And, although, he never learned to read or write, yet he matured into a well-informed ruler from age 13 years (Feb 14, 1556- Oct 27, 1605), with refined tastes in the arts, architecture, music, and a love for literature and, particularly, tolerance for other opinions – a typical characteristic associated with ancient Indians… It’s no surprise that Fatehpur Sikri is a World Heritage Site today…

JC Joshi said...

In continuation, Kavitha, what perhaps noteworthy is that like Krishna was born in the confinement of a prison where his maternal uncle Kansa had his parents locked up, Akbar was born within a Rajput’s fortress when his parents had taken refuge there while they were in exile – emperor Humayun having been defeated by Afghan leader Sher Shah. And, like Krishna was brought up in Gokul and Brindavan under the care of Nanda and Yashodha, and not his natural parents, Akbar similarly grew up in Afghanistan in the care of his uncle Askari and his wife...

And, Akbar had a natural leaning towards the ‘Hindu’ concept of creation of the universe by the Formless God/ Krishna who had a large number of wives, as also seen in his typical life style reflected in the creations in Fatehpur Sikri, the political capital of India's Mughal Empire under Akbar's reign, from 1571 until 1585, when it was abandoned, ostensibly due to lack of water…and Krishna also abandoned Mathura and took his people to Kushalthali and founded the city of Dwarka...

JC Joshi said...

Kavitha, Anilji, Aswinji...

Talking of different ‘mindsets’, to understand the intended communication in “Satyam Shivam Sunderam” - taking hint from ‘Navagraha’ and ‘Navarasa’ - I was led to the root word for ‘essence’ in Hindi as ‘Sat’. I found sugarcane as an appropriate example of human life’s representation through symbols as perhaps being observed by immortal Bhootnath the Supreme Form of Krishna too as the essence of Hindu Philosophy!

In Delhi, and Maharashtra being the sugar belt of India in Pune too when on a visit on work - when I was young - I have enjoyed sugarcane juice (‘ganne ka ras’) on the roadside. And, while waiting for the juice to be extracted, I used to observe how care was taken to see that not even a single drop of it was believably left within the cane - by passing it a number of times after many turns and twists between the rollers worked manually/ with external source of energy. Only then the ‘exterior body’ was kept aside in a stack for proper disposal of the garbage later...

I was amused to notice flies hover over the stack – perhaps seen now with a detached view - indicating the immortality of the soul, or the essence of life forms, and the Hindu belief of the soul to hover for a certain number of days over the dead animal/ human body and the need for earliest possible disposal of the mortal remains!