Chapters from Mythology – III

I will start with a light comment on Indian Mythology and Lord Shiva. Somehow, Indian mythology is fraught with stories, where some wicked devil would do a tough Tapasya and get some Vardaan, which would then be a problem for the human kind and sometimes for the Gods themselves. And invariably, Lord Shiva ranks first amongst the Gods for giving such disastrous Vardaana. Then he himself, or some other Gods, have to come up with some trick to get rid of the effects of the Vardaan. This time I will take up one such story.

Chapter – III 

Bhasmasur 

Bhasmasur was a wicked devil who worshipped Lord Shiva for a long time. Lord was moved by hi Tapasya and had to appear before him and grant him his wish. Bhasmasur asked for the ability that whenever he would put his hands on somebody’s head, the person should get burned off and turned into ashes. Lord Shiva did not realize the consequences and granted him the wish. As soon as he got the power, Mahisasur started off to test it on no one else but Lord Shiva himself. He started chasing him. Lord Shiva ran away from him, but Bhasmasur won’t give up. While running, Lord Shiva also appealed to Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu realized the disaster that was facing the universe. He thought of a trick. He took the form of a very beautiful woman, called Mohini and went to Bhasmasur. Bhasmasur immediately fell for Mohini. He would do anything Mohini would do or say. She started dancing and Bhasmasur followed. In the course of dancing Mohini made a posture in which she put her hand on her head. Bhasmasur followed and turned himself into ashes due to the power he had recently gained.

The moral of this story is supposed to be that power, without self-control and self-poise leads to one’s own destruction.

Chapters from Mythology – II

Deaoghar is a town (and headquarter of Deoghar district) in Jharkhand state. The place is famous for it’s temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. There is a group of temples around this one dedicated to several Gods and Godesses.

Every year, in the month of “Shravan” (around July-August), several devotees, including many kids and old people make a trip to this place to offer Lord Shiva the holy water. Lord Shiva himself is supposed to reside there. The devotees travel upto a place called Sultanganj. At that place the river Ganges takes a turn towards the north and hence is called “Uttarvahini Ganga“. From there, the devotees fetch the water. They walk the distance of around 105 kilometers to Deoghar barefooted to offer this water.

The temples are said to be built by Lord Vishwakarma, who is the God of what can be approximately called “Engineering” in Hindi Mythology.

Chapter – II

The story of Deoghar

The story is related to Ravana, the villain in the Ramayana. Though he made mistakes in his pride of power, he was actually a very learned person and had achieved his powers through nothing else but severe Tapasyas. Once, he pleased Lord Shiva with his long and single-minded Tapasya in Himalayas. Lord had no option but to appear before him and give him Vardaan (“giving Vardaan” means granting a wish). He promised to give him anything he wanted. On being told so, Ravana asked, as Vardaan, that Lord Shiva should reside in his kingdom, that is Lanka. Lord Shiva was puzzled. He could not have backed from his promise, but living in Lanka was not feasible for Him. He had to agree. But he told Ravana, that Ravana should himself carry him to Lanka in the form of a Shivlinga. And that he should not keep him on ground till he reahes Lanka. Or else, this shivalinga will get grounded whereever he puts it down. Ravana agreed and proceeded on his journey back to Lanka. By the time he reached Deoghar, he felt the urgent need to urinate. So, he looked around him and found a small boy. He asked the boy to hold the Shivalinga for him and strictly instructed him not to keep it on the ground. The boy agreed. Of course, this was all the trick of Lord Shiva. Ravana took a long time in urinating and it is said that he took such a long time that a water-body was formed out of it. It is still supposed to be there! Meanwhile, the boy felt that the weight of Shivalinga was continuously increasing. After a while, he found it impossible to carry it any longer. He left it on the ground and disappeared from the scene. When Ravana returned, he could do nothing as he had failed to keep his part of the promise. So, the Shivalinga got established there.

Then, Lord Shiva asked Lord Vishwakarma to create temples at the palce to suit the dignity of the Shivalinga. He had to do this work overnight as He could not have stayed on the earth during the day. He started out on it. He made temples dedicated to several Gods and Godesses. But by the time he started making the temple for himself, it was already dawn and he could not complete it. That temple is still lying incomplete.

Chapters from Mythology – I

Have been thinking about writing a serial post like “The Maithils” for long, but could not think of something. Today, it just struck me, while chatting with an acquaintance, when she asked me whether I am interested in mythology.

Now – I used to know quite a few stories, but have forgotten most of them. Let me see what all can I recall. And yeah – it is Indian Mythology I am talking about. I am not sure how shall I structure the things, but I guess it will not follow a fixed structure throughout. Somewhere, I might talk of a place, somewhere I might talk of an incident, somewhere of some character. Let’s see how it proceeds.

Any corrections/additions are welcome.

Chapter – I

Bithoor

Bithoor is asscociated with some of the very well known characters of Indian mythology. It is strange to see how little importance the place has got amongst the pilgrimage destination in the light of these things. Before getting in to the stories, a small introduction of the place itself. Bithoor is located 27 kilometers north-west of Kanpur. Actually, this is where the old city of Kanpur actually started off, but now it is only a cast off part of the city with little maintainence, the polluted river Ganges and no charms whatsoever. For those not comfortable with some of the Hindi/Sanskrit words used below, there is a glossary at the end.

Mythological Associations of the place:

  • Brahma’s Tapasya and Yagna: Lord Brahma, who is considered to be the creator of the world, had undertaken a long Tapasya at this place before creating human beings. It is for this reason that the most famous and important Ghat (bank) of Ganges there is called “Brahmavarta“. He is also said to have left his paduka (wooden slippers) here after he left the place to remind the world of the importance of the place. The paduka is said to have sunk into the Patal Lok (the world underneath the earth, where danava (devils) reisde) now.
  • Dhruva’s Tapasya: The story of Dhruva is well illustrated in this wikipedia entry. This is the story of a king’s son, who resolves to worship Lord Vishnu (while he was still a child), when he is rebuked by his step-mother. Pleased by his Tapasya, Lord Vishnu blesses him and as a rememberance of his “strong and immovable will”, with which he carried out his Tapasya for so many years at stretch, makes him eternal by placing him in the sky as “Dhruva Taara” (Pole Star) to be respected by the world. The pole star does not appear to move unlike other start in the sky (of course there is a scientific reason behind it). This immovability is associated with the immovable will of Dhruva. “Dhruva Tapasya” is a phrase, still used in Hindi and related languages, to indicate somebody’s strong will/efforts. One of the major rituals associated with “Dhruva Taara” is that in the marriages. From most parts in northern India, this star is very clearly visible in early morning hours (around 4 ‘o clock). After the night long marriage rituals, in the morning, the newly wed bride is made to see the “Dhruva Taara“. This is kind of a prayer to make the marriage as strong and constant as the “Dhruva Taara“.
  • Ramayana: This place is associated with the writing of Ramayana (the story of Lord Rama), exile of Sita and the war between Lord Rama and his twin sons Lav and Kusha. After coming to know about the objections raised by some common man in his kingdom about the acceptance of Sita by Rama, after she had spent so much time in the captivity of Ravana, Lord Rama ordered for the exile of Sita. His younger brother Lakshmana was asked to carry out the order by leaving her in a jungle. Lakshama, though unwilling, had to carry out the order of the elder brother. He left Sita in the jungle, which was near Bithoor then. Sita was also pregnant at that time. She sought refuge in the Ashrama of Maharshi Valmiki. Valmiki was the writer of Ramayana. Here she gave birth to the twin kids named Lav and Kusha. After sometime to establish his kingdom further, Rama conducted an “Ashwamedha Yagna“. Ashwa means “Horse”. In this after certain rituals, a horse is left to wander across all the kingdoms. The horse is followed by the army, of course. Whichever kingdom the horse enters into is assumed to accept the supremacy of the King who was doing the Yagna. If some kingdom does not, the horse is caught there. This invites a fight and then the decision of supremacy is done by the result of the fight. When Lord Rama initiated this Yagna, the horse happened to pass through the same Jungle. The two kids, in the course of their play, caught the horse. The people accomanying the horse were surprised at the daring nature of the kids, because the supremacy of Lord Rama was not challenged by anyone so far. Despite repeated entreaties the kids refuse to leave the horse and hence a fight ensues. The kids perform very bravely there. Later on, when it is realized that they are, in fact, sons of Lord Rama, they are taken to the kingdom and stay there. There is a place marked in Bithoor, where this horse was supposed to have been caugth and tied to a pole by these kids. There is also the Valmiki Ashrama, where the Ramayana was written, Sita lived during her exile and the two children were born.

    This is a very brief description of events and I may take up, in later posts on this series, many of incidents and people in detail.

  • This much should get us started. Here is a glossary of terms, for those not very familiar with Hindi/Sanskrit terms:

  • Tapasya: An act of Austerity or enduring suffering in a spiritual quest.
  • Yagna: It’s apecific ritual of paying respect and giving offerings to the Gods. Sometimes, there might be specific wishes for which a particular Yagna is carried out. It is much more elaborate than usual daily worship. There can be various types of Yagna.
  • Maharshi: It is made out of two words “Maha” and “Rishi”. “Maha” means “Great”. “Rishi” approximately means “saint”. There is a hierarchy of rishis in Hindu mythology e.g. Rajarshi, Maharshi, Brahmarshi. This is decided by the knowledge level and tapasya of rishis.
  • Blogger.com vs. wordpress.com

    Major Update: This is a highly outdated post. Please, please read it alongside this update.

    Update: Folks – I am flattered by the attention, links and hits this post has got. But I must warn you that this is a highly outdated  post and lots of things have changed in both blogger and wordpress.com since it was written. Would request you to look for some newer reviews online or compare the current features yourself :)

    (Update: This comparison is there for specific hosting service at wordpress.com and blogger.com and does not cover the wordpress software. Idea is to compare the two services for someone who just want an online service through which they can blog and can not afford/do not want to have a paid account, set up wordpress etc. Nor are covered the aspects of hosting the blog at a different palce than blogspot.com through blogger.com. The updates in the post are there in italics. Certain things which Lorelle asked about in this comment, but which I could not include in the comparisons, per se, are answered at the end of this post.)

    Here is a comparison for those who are wondering what to do. I will not give a solution to the wondering, but you might be in a position to make a choice for yourself.

    Advantages and disadvantages are relative terms. So, here what I call as advantages or disadvantages are purely from my own point of view…

    • Firstly the reason I am here. WordPress.com supports categories, blogger.com does not.
    • If you like to do a lot of experimentation with your template, blogger.com gives a direct access to your template, WordPress.com doesnot. With blogger.com you can have your own template, with WordPress.com you can not. The reason apparently are realted to security concerns. However, the other side of the story is that whatever modifications are possible at WordPress.com, they are a lot cleaner and you do not have to redo it all over again, simply because you decided to change your template (ask me!). And a lot of additions, deletions in the sidebar are still possible. Creating links in the sidebar, for example. You can simply define the category and add links to them. You won’t have to redo it with a change in template. While with Blogger.com, you must manually change the template code with html and then redo it with a template change. Any customization of blogger.com template requires some minimal knowledge of HTML. WordPress.com provides nice interface. But if you just want the control over HTML of your blog, well go for blogger.com!
    • The idea of pages (posts not shown in the usual choronological order) is absent at blogger.com. At wordpress.com, they provide a way to maintain some ‘static’ sort of pages, which you may want.
    • There are no “File Upload” features in Blogger.com, which is there at WordPress.com.
    • You can password protect a post in WordPress.com, not so at blogger.com
    • Multi-user capabilities at blogger.com is very advanced. I am still not quite sure, WordPress.com supports it. There are some talks about “WordPress MU”, but how are you supposed to add users? Am not sure. This, however, is not likely to remain a disadvantage for long.
    • The facility of usign raw HTML in the basic HTML editor (not the WYSIWYG editor) selectively was something I loved at blogger.com. The raw HTML editor is too raw at WordPress.com!
    • As of now, I do not think that multiple blogs per person is supported on WordPress.com, which is a very stable feature of blogger.com.
    • Blogger.com does not give option in terms of your permanent link structure. But it sanitizes your non-english titles very well and you do not see those weird, long URLs there. WordPress.com should be able to give me flexibility to use post-ids. But it, still, is not there.
    • Because of default “Justified” text, the rendering of Hindi characters has been poor here at WordPress.com. For the post body, I could take care of it, but left justifying it. But can not do that with the titles and titles are still rendered in a rather weird fashion. And that reminds me, at blogger.com, you can use Raw HTML in the Titles too, if you wish so.
    • Rendering the smileys as images in something blogger.com does not support, WordPress.com does.
    • There are these features “Optional Excerpt” and “Custom Fields” in WordPress.com editor. Have not used them yet and am not sure what and how useful they are. Any experienced wordpress users? Diwaker? :)
    • Features like “Recover Post” are not there at WordPress.com, I guess. But of course this is most likely to be important only if you have a system without a UPS and you are also likely to face power cuts :) (Yeah, yeah – ask me again!)
    • The interface at WordPress.com is good and bad. It does offer lots of features associated with wordpress software. But as a web-based service, I often end up looking for a “Help” or “FAQ” link and find it missing!! Of course, there are these blogs listed on the dashboard as “Top Blogs”, which do provide you with lot of information. But they are too technical to be grasped by normal mortals and not quite like a “Help” or “FAQ” page.
    • The WordPress.com homepage has no information whatsoever about the site. What are their privacy policies? What about the copyright of all the stuff that I am posting on their site and resides on their servers? It appears more like a site made for the geeks, made by the geeks. May be that was the purpose in the first place (but there is no way to know from the website!). For a normal user, Blogger.com presents a much assuring homepage, with enough information.
    • Search of WordPress.com is cool. That at Blogger.com was pathetic earlier. With Google Blogsearch coming into picture, however, that disadvantage for blogger.com is completely lost! :)
    • The system for spam comment filtering has recently been introduced at blogger.com and is limited to word verification. WordPress.com provides advanced capabilities like requiring approval before comment appears and tests for other symptoms like several hyperlinks, certain words etc. Have not used them. So, can not comment on their usefulness, but it appears to be a more advanced way of dealing with comment spam. And yeah, if you have had some unwanted people, making idiotic comments (ask me!), approval of comments is something you would want to turn on. There is also an option of letting those whose comments have been approved once, to post freely. Thus, you can take care of your regular sane readers.
    • Areas to manage post is also a negative with blogger. You can not pick up a particular time period whose posts you want to view. You are forced to see a reverse chronological order of posts. If you want to retreive some really old posts, when the number of posts in your blog is large, it’s nightmarish to wait for your posts to load.
    • There is no inbuilt site tracking mechanism in Blogger.com. You have to rely on external counters. WordPress.com provides a fairly detailed one. However, I wish they would show the IP information too, the way they show it in comments. This would help analyze exactly where from visitors are coming.
    • Finally WordPress.com is under experimentation. If you do not like to see little surprising changes and little messing up here and there on a daily basis, you would want to wait for sometime before trying to shift. Blogger.com is stable and cool that way :)

    These are all I can think of right now. Might update it, if there are queries or if something else comes to my mind.

    And now, answer to some of the questions Lorelle asked about Blogger.com and which I could not inlcude in comparison –

    • Does Blogger have a link inside of its administration panels that allows you, the user, to send feedback and questions to the developers? Yes. But Blogger.com first gives a link to its ‘Help’ or ‘FAQ’ page. There is also a ‘Knows Isuues’ and a ‘Blogger Status’ Page. If the problem is still not solved and not included in ‘Knows Isuues’ or ‘Blogger Status’, you can contact the developers. And they respond too :). I guess this is fair enough, since their Help, FAQ, Knows Issues and Blogger status pages are quite well-developed.
    • Are there any limits on post sizes, number of posts, or image and file uploading? None on post sizes or number of posts. There are no options of file uploading. And total image space is limited to 300 MB.
    • How many users can you have on a single Blogger blog? I haven’t come across anything mentioning a limit yet and I have seen blogs with fairly high number of users. (Okay, not in hundreds yet!)

    Nepal

    Found this chronology of Nepal’s political history at http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/DEL4482.htm. Saw the same in print edition of ET a few days back.

    You need to have a look at it before I go further.

    1948 – Nepal’s first constitution is promulgated, then suspended in face of opposition; Prime Minister Padma Shamsher Rana resigns.

    1955 – King Tribhuvan dies, succeeded by King Mahendra.

    1959 – New constitution promulgated, leading to first general election; centrist Nepali Congress party wins absolute majority.

    1960 – Nepali Congress leader B.P. Koirala heads first popular government; his policies are opposed by King Mahendra, who dismisses prime minister, bans political parties and takes over direct control of government.

    1972 – Mahendra dies; is succeeded by his son, King Birendra.

    1990 – Birendra lifts 30-year-old ban on political parties and ushers in constitutional monarchy.

    May 1991 – Girija Prasad Koirala of Nepali Congress takes office as first popularly elected prime minister in 30 years.

    July 1994 – Koirala quits after defeat in parliamentary vote, opening long phase of instability.

    Feb 1996 – Maoist rebels launch insurgency aimed at replacing constitutional monarchy with one-party communist republic.

    Jan 1999 – Birendra dissolves parliament.

    June 1, 2001 – Birendra, Queen Aishwarya and other royal family members are killed in shooting rampage by Crown Prince Dipendra, who then shoots himself.

    June 4 – Gyanendra is crowned king.

    July – Maoist rebels step up violence. Sher Bahadur Deuba becomes prime minister, heading 11th government in 11 years, after Girija Prasad Koirala resigns over violence.

    July 23 – Deuba announces peace with rebels, truce begins.

    Nov 21 – Maoists say talks have failed, truce is no longer justified.

    Nov 23 – Gyanendra declares state of emergency, government declares Maoists “terrorist organisation”.

    Oct 4, 2002 – Gyanendra sacks Prime Minister Deuba and assumes executive power. Staunch royalist Lokendra Bahadur Chand is later named prime minister.

    May 30, 2003 – Chand resigns after months of protests led by political parties demanding king appoint government with their nominees or revive parliament.

    June 4 – Gyanendra appoints royalist Surya Bahadur Thapa as prime minister.

    May 7, 2004 – Surya Bahadur Thapa quits as prime minister after weeks of protests.

    June 2 – Gyanendra reappoints Deuba prime minister.

    Feb 1, 2005 – Gyanendra sacks government, assumes power himself.

    It can be seen that Nepal’s attempts at establishing democracy have been, more often than not, failures. Sitting here in India, how does it feel to think about the neighbouring countries like Pakistan and Nepal, struggling with their dream-democracy, when we have taken our democracy almost for granted? And somewhere does it not give a feeling of something being different so that despite so many things going wrong, despite it being such a large and diverse country, we do not see an immediate threat to the democracy as a system!! I do not know how much pride can be taken in simply that, but it deserves some merit at least.

    The current Maoist movement in Nepal has literally been a doom for Nepalis. They capture interior villages of the country, and demand either a high sum of money (Which no one can pay) or a young boy/girl from each family. Otherwise they go on a massacre. When I was visiting my place during Dushehra in 2003, it turned out that Maoists had captured some village in proximity of Biratnagar, which is city in Nepal on the border of which we live. No, it did not affect us, but the situation in Biratnagar was highly tense. People were afraid of going out. Maoists had also issued some orders against celebration of Dushehra (it was difficult to judge what exactly since my sole source of information were people around us). Because of which the usual environment of excitement was totally missing!! Nepalis were somehow getting the minimum formalities of worship done and shop-keepers regretted having got the stock in the anticipation of Dushehra.

    Many of you might have read news about the situation of strikes. Every other day, there is some strike or other. Sometimes they go on upto 5-7 day at stretch. Can you imagine what does it mean for those who have to earn their daily bread? And eduction of children and economic activities? May God bless them. Its a boon for school-averse children for sure… Because, our town does not have good schools, many children from there also go to schools in Nepal and hence are affected by that. Now, people are rethinking sending their children there.

    Traveling by a bus can be nightmarish in Nepal. At the border of each district they will check your luggage. And not by coming to the bus. The bus will be parked some 2-3 kms away from the check-post. You have to carry all your luggage to the check-post and then bring them back and board the bus. Imagine, this at the border of every district!

    All this is really pathetic. Despite problems with Democracy, before Maoism, Nepal was not an oppressive country, at least judging from the account of the people we know. Even now, some of the civic amenities and administrative situation far surpass those in Bihar. Roads are so much better, you are not allowed to ride a motorcycle without a helmet, government hospitals function very well (one of our relatives who stays in Nepal used to say that she would far more prefer a government hospital of Nepal to a private hospital in Purnea or Katihar, if for nothine else, then for the cooperative behaviour of the staff. And private hospitals in Purnea or Katihar are not bad, believe me!). Jute industry flourished there and gave employment to God knows how many people. There were investments from China and some other countries also in sweater factories etc. Some of them are still there, but the situation is bad. The main Jute Mill in Biratnagar, which has a large campus, a look at which can tell you how many employees must have been there, has been closed for quite sometime now. Employees have been laid off, without adequate compensation and situation is bad. Tourism, general as well as pilgrimage, also had good opportunities in Nepal and is suffering adversely.

    Of course, all this description of “good-old-days” might be coming from a particular strata. Probably people did have reasons to resent the system, but what form it has taken really! Where will this maoist movement lead Nepal too? I am wondering. As of now, I see nothing other than destruction for people, whose fight they are supposed to be carrying out!