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 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.