Chapters from Mythology – VI

Chapter VI

Tulsidasa and Lord Hanumana

“चित्रकूट के घाट पर लगी सन्तन की भीड़
तुलसीदास चंदन घिसें तिलक करें रघुवीर।”

This was one of those rhymes people at our home were taught during childhood. The context was a story of Tulsidasa and Lord Hanumana. Tulsidasa, as many of us would know, is the writer of “Ramacharimanasa“, that’s the story of Lord Rama written in Awadhi language. (For the uninformed, this is different from Ramayana, which was written in Sanskrit by Saint Valmiki, who was supposed to be a comtemporary of Lord Rama himself.)

The story goes like this. While coming back from his abulations every morning, Tulsidasa used to pour the water that remained in his mug at the root of a tree. A ghost used to live on that tree and the water poured by Tulsidasa used to fulfill his needs. He got really pleased with him and once came before him. He asked him to ask for something as blessing. Tulsidasa, a devout of Lord Rama, had only one wish. He wanted to meet Lord Rama.. The ghost himself could not have helped him with that, but he gave him a hint. He said that the only one who could help Tulsidasa with his purpose was Lord Hanumana. He told him about a temple where everyday the story of Lord Rama was recited. Lord Hanumana used to come to hear the recital without fail, disguised as a leprosy patient. He would be the first one to come and the last one to leave. Tulsidasa should approach him. Tulsidasa did the same. He fell on the feet on Lord Hanumana one day and would not let him go untill He told him a way of meeting Lord Rama. Lord Hanumana had to, ultimately, give in to the strength of the inner desire of Tulsidasa to meet Lord Rama. He told him of a certain date when Lord Rama will pass throug the particular part of river’s bank called Chatrakoot Ghaat. Tulsidasa was ecstatic, but how would he know when they come. Lord Hanumana assuerd him that He would give him the hint when it happens. When the day came, Lord Rama, along with his yonger brother Lakshmana, came to the place. They indeed went to Tulsidasa to get blessed with a tilak of the sandal paste. (Tilak is the the mark put on the forehead with sandal paste or a red powder used in Hindu rituals.). While this was happening Lord Hanumana recited the couplet I gave at the beginning of this post. The approximate literal translation (its so difficult to find the exact words) of it is given below -

On the bank of river at Chitrakoot, there is a crowd of saints. Tulsidasa is preparing his sandal paste and Lord Rama is getting a Tilak.

On hearing this, Tulsidasa knew that he was actually meeting Lord Rama. He immediately fell on His feet and prayed to Him.He was blessed by his worshipped Lord.

There is an interesting piece of information about the character of Lord Hanumana, especially in the light of stereotype the bollywood movies have made out of him. He is considered to be the God of bachelors (ब्रह्मचारी). Well, this is true that he had practiced celibacy. But he is not the God of only the bachelors or those practising celibacy. In fact, he was blessed with immortality on earth, the only divine figure supposed to be living on earth even in the present age of sins that is kaliyuga (कलियुग). He is the only one to whom the prayers of the people born in kaliyuga can reach. He is like the messenger for all our prayers to all the Gods in this age. He is to be worshipped by everyone. (From Hanuman Chalisa – और देवता चित्त न धरई, हनुमत सेई सर्ब सुख करई)

If you take things I write about in this blog (and particularly in this series) too seriously, you know whom to route through your prayers from now on :D

Though I do not think you are wondering about it but just in case you are, what prompted this post was that I happen to hear Hanumana Chalisa and a “brahmachari” song of Mukesh almost next to each other :D

Technorati : , , , , ,

Chapters from Mythology – V

I do not know how I recalled this story today, but what struck me (which I had not noticed earlier) today was how it has emphasized that ultimately everyone has to be responsible for his or her deeds in life. No society, no relatioships can every be enough of an excuse.

Chapter – V

The Story of Valmiki

Valmiki is the saint who is credited with having written the epic Ramayana. But he was not born and brought up as a scholar. His original name was Ratnakara and he was actually a robber. He would live in a jungle, and would rob the unfortunate people who happen to pass through his area. That’s how he earned a living for himself as well as his family consisting of his wife, parents and son. One day Saint Narada happened to pass by this Jungle. Ratnakara caught hold of him too. At this point Narada asked him as to why was he doing a thing like this and accumulating all the sin for himself. Ratnakara replied that it was his duty to earn livelihood for his family and they all will share his sin. Narada asked him if he was sure and why does he not ask them once. Ratnakara saw a trick in this and told Narada that he was trying to find a way to escape while he goes back to his family. Narada was straightforward and told Ratnakara that he could bind him to a tree while he goes back. Ratnakara agreed and went to his home. He asked his wife first as to whether she will share his sin. She outrightly refused saying that it was his duty to feed her and his family. How he does is not her concern; why should she share the sin then? Ratnakara was shocked. He still had hopes from his parents and son. But they all gave similar answers. Ratnakara had never imagined something like this. He went back to Narada, quite ashamed. He asked for his forgiveness and asked him to show him the right path. Narada asked him to just keep chanting Lord Rama’s name. But Ratnakara had never uttered the name of God in his whole life. He simply was unable to utter that name. Then Narada asked him to utter “maraa-maraa” instead, which when read backwards will be pronounced as “Rama”. So, when he would utter it repeatedly, he would end up uttering “Rama-Rama”. That’s what Valmiki did. Later he bacame a great Saint himself and wrote Ramayana (the story of Lord Rama).

The later part of the story is something I do not have much to tell about. But the point where everyone refuses to share Valmiki’s sin has the gist of the story according to me. The learning is not to give in to the pressures of the society while deciding on one’s own deeds. Ultimately one has to reap what one sows and the unit here is really the individual, not a group he or she may belong to.

Technorati : , ,

India and China – II

My favourite methpahor for comparing India and China is the comparison between IITK and IIML. Things at IIML, at any level, are more controlled, more planned and hence the tasks get done more smoothly in comparison to IITK. But if I have to choose between IITK and IIML I would any day choose to live at IITK. Because the kind of outlet IITK gives to individual’s creativity, talent and approach is not that easy to get at IIML. It is similar between China and India. Chinese government has nurtured and guided the economy. In India things have happened. And the following articles explain the ensuing differences:

I would like to synthesize it here. Overall it can be argued that India stands superior in terms of Banking Infrastrucure and Capital Markets, Legal & Judiciary system (despite its inefficiencies) & most interestingly in promoting domestic entrepreneurship. China has done well on the front of Hard (Physcial) Infrastructure and in attracting Foreign Direct Investment.

One of the interesting issues is that of Domestic Entrepreneuship in India vs. huge FDI in China. Interesting because as far as I understand, neither of these was completely intentional. It turns out that domestic entrepreneurship is China has been stiffled by Government’s desire to maintain the monopoly of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs). On the other hand to stimulate development in certain sectors, the FDI was welcomed. So, it wasn’t exactly because of FDI that the domestic entrepreneurship did not come up as strongly as in case of India. The two things happened independently. In India, similarly, it wasn’t exactly to promote domestic entrepreneurship that FDI was not embraced as early as by China. It was more of the political feeling of not getting dependent on Foreign Funds. Although in recent years we hear the talk of protecting domestic enterprises (e.g. in case of retail) from FDI, it was certainly not the initial motive. Entrepreneurship prospered despite government I would say. The situation is changing now, but this is how it has happened. Even in China the entrepreneurship situation is changing and more domestic enterprises (non SOEs) are coming up. However, as of now, the net result is that domestic entrepreneurship has not played as important a role in China as in India and similarly FDI has not played as important a role in India as it has done in China.

Future now is in convergence, and which one would be more successful will be determined by whether it is easier to promote domestic entrepreneurship in FDI laden China; or is it easier to attract FDI in India?

Next comes the development of hard infrastructure. No mystery – the planning and control by Chinese Government over a long period of time has contributed to this. Indian politics has often been blinded by the short term of governments, ethnic rivalries, populist agendas and issues like Kashmir. Not to say that these disadvantages are to disappear overnight, but despite these India is making progress. And the best advantage of India is its stable democracy despite all the turbulences in the background. China on the other hand, as I quoted in the last article in this series, is a Geopolitical problem waiting to happen. Politics still suppresses individual’s voice there. One of my “favourite” news item, that I have earlier quoted in this blog, is here – China Tightens Grip on Internet – With New Content, Media Rules. Here again there is a need of the convergence for both of them to be able to make progress. While India needs to catch up with China in terms of infrastructure, China needs to rethink its political system.

China has also lagged in Banking and Capital Market reforms. The capital is still in the hands of bureaucrates, which in turn in also a barrier in the development of Entrepreneurship.

One the one hand, the development fueled by the Government’s Intervention is likely to carry all the sins of inefficiencies and misallocation of resources; on the other hand it is also fair to ask if the “free market way” is the only way of reforms. Several people have put up this question and have argued that since countries like China have not started in the state of a Perfect Market, turning to markets to reform them might not be the best way. To some extent the present day success of China has proved this point of view. However, my contention is this. If perfect markets are pre-requisite of a market-led development, excessive control by government is the pre-requisite of a government-led development. The former was absent and the latter was present – true. But the future will depend on whehter what is present is sustainable also and whether this development under control has nurtured enough talent in the economy and society so that the cotnrols can be smoothly phased out. Probably even more importantly whether the “powers that be” are at all in a mood of giving up a unsustainable system smoothly. The new legislations (mentioned earlier) do not give encouraging signals.

A better insight can be obtained by looking at the development in particular sectors of the economy, which has been outlined in the last of the artcles given in the list I provided at the beginning of this post. I expect to explore that further later.

Technorati : , ,

India and China – I

The Hypothesis

The hypothesis (which you may also like to call a bias) that I am starting with is this. On most of the indicators of Economic Progress China is doing better than India. This is because they have been able to plan through their reforms process better. This ability to plan, in turn, is the result of autocratic governance there. Therefore, there is a question mark on whether the trend will be the same in future. Due to the multi-party democracy, Indian reforms and planning has been often plagued by the short-term vision spanning the term of governments. Also the necessity to be able to achieve a minimum level of acceptance amongst various parties and groups have often stalled important processes here. But it is this same thing, which also gives robustness to the things happening in India. To summarize what I feel about China, given the lack of democracy and lack of freedom of press and speech, I would quote this one like from an article that Priya sent to me

China is a geopolitical problem waiting to happen

Some preliminary numbers

The following comes from a project we did in the last term (Thanks to Divyansh who drew the following charts).

IndiaData_1.jpg

ChinaData_1.jpg

IndiaData_2.jpg

ChinaData_2.jpg

IndiaData_3.jpg

ChinaData_3.jpg

Source: World Bank Site

(If you click on these images, you can see them clearer. I am sorry, but I do not yet know how to make them look all right in the main post itself).

A quick look at these figures will tell us that on almost all the parameters of economic development, China is doing better than India presently. However, look at the variables of “Press Freedom” and “Voice and Accountability”. India is far, far better than India. We are marginally better even in the case of “Rule of Law” and “Control of Corruption”.

The more striking trends can be observed in the rankings of Global Competitiveness Index as published by World Economic Forum. (Thanks once again to Divyansh for taking the pains of gathering this data from Executive Summaries etc. which were available free and making these charts).

The index that is published has actually two indices, in turn comrising of subindices

  1. Growth Competitiveness Index
    • Technology Index
    • Public Institutions Index
    • Macroeconomic Environment Index
  2. Business Competitiveness Index
    • Company Operations and Strategy Index
    • Quality of National Business Environment Index

Growth Competitiveness Index

GCI.jpg

Subindices
TIR.jpg
PIR.jpg

MeIR.jpg

Business Competitiveness Index

Overall
BCI.jpg

Subindices

COSR.jpg

QNBE.jpg

A general trend of India’s situation improving while China’s worsening is obvious from these graphs. And over last few years, India has been able to overtake China is some of the indices. What will be interesting however will be know what is causing it. Unfortunately, I do not have access to the complete report. It would have been nice to be able to delve further into the components of these indices.

Anyway, we will see in due course of time.

Technorati : ,

Chapters from Mythology – IV

Have been thinking over writing about it since Durga Pooja itself. But it kept getting postponed. I have picked up the story behind Durga Pooja this time. It’s not an elaborate one. Just some bits and pieces I could pick up.

Chapter – IV

Durga Pooja

Goddess Durga has been called upon by Gods to kill the asuras (devils), whom they could not individually overpower. There are nine roops (forms) she has taken to kill nine of them. On the nine days of Durga Puja, these nine forms are worshipped.

One of the most famous ones amongst the asuras killed by Her was Mahisashura. He had gained enormous power by worshipping Lord Brahma. The Vardan (blessing) that he got from Lord Brahma was that no man or God could kill him. He first conquered the Manavaloka (the world of the humans – the earth). After that he started fighting and defeating the Gods left and right. Ultimately he captured Lord Indra’s (king of the Gods) throne and started ruling the Devaloka (the world of the Gods). This was too much for God’s to let continue, of course. Along with Lord Brahma, other Gods went to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva and requested them to save the universe from Mahishasura. When Lords Vishnu and Brahma heard the whole story, they got very, very angry. It was out of their anger that a shakti-punja (a ball of light, which denotes power) came out. Then all the Gods gave their powers and weapons to this shakti-punja. Soem Gods also gave the shringara (make-up, toilettries) to this punja. That’s how Goddess Durga came into being. She was unmatched in the world in the power as well as in the beauty. So, great was her power that all the three lokas (worlds) started shaking. All the devils came to see her after hearing about her beauty, but lost their lives to her power. Finally even Mahishasura came out. The fight with Mahishasura lasted for 10 days and finally he was killed. It is to celebrate this that Durga Puja is celebrated for 10 days in the shukla paksha (15 days after no-moon to full-moon) of the month of Aashwin according to Hindu calendars.

Some other asuras who were killed by Goddess Durga were Raktsbeeja, Shumbha-Nishumbha, Chanda-Munda etc.

Durga Pooja is also associated with the fight of Lord Rama and Ravana in Ramayana. It is said that for these ten days the fight went on between the two armies and finally on the 10th day, Ravana was killed by Lord Rama. It is to celebrate this that Rama-leela (play depicting Lord Rama’s life) are perfromed through out the country during Durga Pooja. Also, on the last day, Vijayadahsami (Dashami = 10th day of the month, Vijaya = Victory. It is the 10th day of the month of Aashwin when the victory was achieved by Lord Rama/Goddess Durga), Ravan-Dahan (burning the portrait of Ravana) is carried out.

Whether the two are connected in some way is not very clear. One of the possible conncetions that my dad surmised was that because these 10 days were associated with the victory of right over wrong (due to the destruction of Mahishasura), people used to choose these days for battles. And so did Lord Rama when he set out to have battle with Ravana after worshipping the  Shakti (symbol of Power). But this is not very authentic.

Yet, another story associated with Durga Pooja is that in these 10 days Goddess Uma (another name for Parvati – wife of Lord Shiva) went to visit her parents, King Him (of Himalayas) and Queen Maina. On 10th day she went back to Kailash (where Lord Shiva lives). My hunch, however, is that this is more a folklore than having a root in any of religious/mythological books.