Thursday, 26 December 2013

Seven Sisters...........the Fifth Sister

The Fifth Sister - Manipur

*     Believe me, If you are a risk taker and believe in real adventure, then Manipur is the right place for you. Forget the insurgency for a while and see the place yourself. Its history and beauty can't be described in words. However, I would try to make an attempt to................. 

*   Manipur, through the ages, has been known as Meitrabak, Kangleipak or Meeteileipak, as well as by other names. Neighboring cultures had differing names for Manipur and its people. The Shan called the area Cassay, the Burmese Kathe, and the Assamese Meklee. In the first treaty between the British East India Company and King Bhagyachandra signed in 1762, the kingdom was recorded as Meckley. King Bhagyachandra and his successors issued coins engraved with "Manipureshwar." Later on, it became Manipur.

*       The Loktak Lake, the largest freshwater lake in northeast India, is also called the only Floating lake in the world due to the floating phumdis (heterogeneous mass of vegetation, soil, and organic matters at various stages of decomposition). This ancient lake plays an important role in the economy of Manipur and is a source of livelihood for the rural fisherman who live in the surrounding areas and on phumdis. 

*     The Dzükou Valley, partly lies in Manipur and partly in Nagaland. This valley is well known for its natural beauty, seasonal flowers and the overall flora and fauna. The rare Dzükou lily is found only in this valley.

*    This is the tip of iceberg. The state has so much to offer to travellers and explorers. So come and explore the place and I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Seven Sisters..........the Fourth Sister

The Fourth Sister-- Nagaland

*     Nagaland is largely a mountainous state. The Hills rise from the Brahmaputra Valley in Assam to about 2,000 feet and rise further to the southeast, as high as 6,000 feet. Mount Saramati, 12,601 feet is the highest peak, where the Naga Hills merge with the Patkai Range in Burma. Nagaland is rich in flora and fauna. It has largely a monsoon climate with high humidity . By and large, the state enjoys a salubrious climate. Summer is the shortest season and lasts for only a few months.

*      The Dzukou Valley, tucked away at 2,438 m above sea level and behind the Japfu Range, is Nagaland's very own Valley of Flowers.  Dzükou derives its meaning from the Angami/Mao word which means "Cold Water" referring to the ice cold stream that flows through the valley.  During the monsoon, the valley turns into a riot of colours. Untainted by tourists, it has retained its pristine beauty. It's one of the three most beautiful valleys in India.

*     Nagaland is the land of  16 tribes, Angami, Ao, Chakhesang, Chang, Dimasa Kachari, Khiamniungan, Konyak, Lotha, Phom, Pochury, Rengma, Sangtam, Sumi, Yimchunger, Kuki and Zeliang. Every tribe has its own unique dialect but do not have any script of their own. Tribal traditions and loyalties play an important part in the life of Nagas. Weaving is a traditional art handed down through generations. Each tribe has its own unique designs and colour, producing shawl, shoulder bags, decorative spears, table mats, wood carvings, and bamboo works. Among many tribes the design of the shawl denotes the social status of the wearer.

*     Folk songs and dances are essential ingredients of the Naga culture. The oral tradition is kept alive through folk tales and songs. Naga folks songs are both romantic and historical, and these narrate the stories of famous ancestors and incidents. 

*     The Hornbill Festival named after the Hornbill, takes place between 1 and 7 December every year. It is held at Naga Heritage Village, Kisama 12 km from Kohima. All the tribes take part in this festival. The aim of the festival is to revive and protect the rich culture of Nagaland and display its extravaganza and traditions. The week long festival unites one and all in Nagaland.

*      The state has been the inspiration for several of my short stories ('Quest' is in the blog), though I'm yet to explore it fully. Hopefully someday I would and who knows the place might inspire me to pen down a novel........

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Mandela...............the Great Unifier.

*    Nelson Mandela was arguably one of the greatest human being of this century. His efforts to unify a divided South Africa and make it into a prosperous African nation is his greatest achievement. 

*    Perhaps there was a lesson for each African nation to learn from his life of compassion, forgiveness and humility. Today the white folks in South Africa would mourn his death more than the blacks. 

*    Mandela's South Africa remains only ray of hope across the continent where countries from east to west and north to south are caught in ethnic strife, majority between the Muslims and the Christians, while the rest between various tribes. The leaders in those countries are hell bent on destroying their countries for their narrow political gains.

*     Perhaps, Mandela, after political retirement, should have spent more time  in other African countries and unified some of them. Because Mandela didn't belong to one nation. He belonged to whole African continent and the world.

*     Africa has lost him, not South Africa.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Seven Sisters.............the Third Sister

The Third Sister -- Meghalaya

*     Meghalaya, the abode of clouds, is one of the most beautiful places
       on planet. Its beauty during rains is seen to be believed.
       Cherrapunji,not long ago, the rainiest place on earth is called
       'Sohra' in local dialect. When British couldn't pronounce it, they
       called it Cherra and punji in Khasi means village. That's how
       erstwhile village of Sohra got name of Cherrapuji. The place so
       inspired me that wrote a short story by the same name. 

*     The rainiest place on planet, Mawsynram, is in Meghalaya. I have
       not been to Scotland but in Meghalaya there are moors, akin to
       those in Scotland. Perhaps, it's rightfully called "Scotland of the

*     The Khasis, part of the Hynniewtrep people and one of the earliest
       ethnic groups of  settlers belong to the Proto-Australoid
       Monkhmer race, believed to have migrated from their homeland in
       the Mekong Valley in Cambodia. The wave of migration from
       there over many centuries would have passed through the region
       of Indo-China and Burma, via the Patkoi range and settled down
       for some years in the North Cachar Hills of Assam before
       reaching its present destination. 

*     As per the Khasi tradition, in the prehistoric time, the humans
       dwelt in heavens together with divine beings. The human beings
       then belonged to Khadhynriew Trep Khadhynriew Skum (The
       sixteen Huts). When it was decided to populate earth, seven of
       these groups descended below. In the beginning existed a tree
       that served as a link between heaven and earth. The ancestors
       of the Khasis freely commuted between those two places by
       means of this golden ladder. But in due course of time they 
       began to sin and lost their original state of righteousness and
       thus the link with heaven got broken.   

*     The Khasi history is a mixture of myths, fables and folklores. They
       believe in one Supreme Being, the Creator whom they called as
       U Blei Nongthaw whose manifestation they see in the groves,
       forests, hillocks, peaks and rivers. Thus these places over which,
       the Khasis believe that myriads of spirits, good and bad, hovered,
       became as the places of worship. For heartrending folktale of
       Nohkalikai, visit the beautiful waterfalls and hear the tale from
       the guide.......

*     Discover the land and its wonderful folks yourself........

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Seven Sisters..............the Second Sister

          The Second Sister.....Tripura

                Tripura in Sanskrit means three cities, corresponding exactly to the Greek
                Tripolis. Tripur was the 39th descendant of Druhyu, who belonged to the
                lineage of Yayati, a king of the Lunar Dynasty. However, a Kokborok
                etymology from tui (water) and pra (near) seems more appropriate as the 
                boundaries of Tripura extended to the Bay of Bengal when the kings of
                the Twipra Kingdom held sway from the Garo Hills of Meghalaya to the
                Arakan, the present Rakhine State of Burma.
·         In Tripura, upper Paleolithic tools made of fossil wood have been found in the Haora and Khowai valleys. The Indian epic the Mahabharata, the Puranas and the edicts of Ashoka – all mention Tripura. The region was under the rule of the Twipra Kingdom for centuries. The Rajmala, a chronicle of Tripuri kings first written in the 15th century, provides a list of 179 kings, from antiquity up to Krishna Manikya (1830–1850). The sculptures at the archaeological sites Unakoti, Pilak and Devtamura provide historical evidence of artistic fusion between organised and tribal religions.  

       There were several Muslim invasions of the region from the 13th century onward, culminating in Mughal dominance of the plains of the kingdom in 1733. Tripura became a princely state during the British rule. Following the independence in 1947, the Maharani of Tripura signed the Tripura Merger Agreement on 9 September 1949, as a result of which Tripura became a Part C state of India. It became a Union Territory, without a legislature in November 1956. The road distance between Kolkata and Agartala before partition was less than 350 km and increased to 1,700 km after partition.

·        Tripura along with Manipur and Meghalaya became a state on 21 January 1972. Since partition of India, many Hindu Bengalis migrated to Tripura as refugees from East Pakistan. Before independence, most of the population was indigenous. Ethnic strife between the tribes and the predominantly immigrant Bengali community led to scattered violence, and an insurgency spanning decades.

·        The dominant ethnic groups are Bengali, Manipuri, Tripuris, Jamatia, Reang, Noatia, Koloi, Murasing, Chakma, Halam, Garo, Kuki, Mizo, Mogh, Munda, Oraon, Santhal, and Uchoi. Bengali people represent the largest ethno-linguist community of the state. Bengali culture, as a result, is the main non-indigenous culture. The Tripuri kings were great patrons of Bengali culture, especially literature; Bengali language was the language of the court. Elements of Bengali culture, such as Bengali literature, Bengali music, and Bengali cuisine are widespread, particularly in the urban areas of the state.

·        Tripura lies in a geographically disadvantageous location in India, as only one major highway, the National Highway 44, connects it with the rest of the country. Five mountain ranges—Boromura, Atharamura, Longtharai, Shakhan and Jampui Hills—run north to south, with intervening valleys; Agartala, the capital, is located on a plain to the west. The state has a tropical savanna climate, and receives seasonal heavy rains from the south west monsoon. Forests cover more than half of the area, in which bamboo and cane tracts are common.     


Thursday, 21 November 2013

Seven Sisters ......enigmatic and beautiful....the First Sister

*    Seven Sisters is a name given to the contiguous states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura in northeastern India. These states cover about 7 % of India's total area and 3.7 % of India's total population. There is great ethnic and religious diversity within the seven states.

*    The region has a predominantly tribal population that speak numerous Tibeto-Burman and Austro-asiatic languages. 

The First Sister- Mizoram

*     The Mizos, as the legend goes, emerged from under a large rock known as Chhinlung. Two people of the Ralte clan  started talking noisily while coming out of the region. They made a great noise which made their god, the Pathian, to throw up his hands in disgust and feel too many people had been allowed to step out and so he closed the door. 

*     Chhinlung, is a Chinese city of Sinlung close on the Sino-Burmese border. The Mizos have songs and stories about the glory of the ancient Chhinlung civilisation handed down from one generation to the next.

*    In China in 210 B.C., the rebellions broke out and chaos reigned throughout the Chinese State. Then the Mizos left China as part of one of waves of migration. They first settled in Shan State in Burma after overcoming the local resistance. The Shans had already been firmly settled in their State when Mizos came there from Chhinlung around 5th century. The Shans did not welcome the new arrivals, but failed to throw the Mizos out. 

*       The Mizos lived happily in Shan for about 300 years before they moved on to the Kabaw Valley around the 8th century. Then they changed settlements several times, moving from Shan State to the Kabaw Valley in Burma. In the Kabaw Valley, the Mizos had unhindered interaction with the local Burmese. The two cultures met and the two tribes influenced each other in clothing, customs, music and sports.

*       In the early 14th century, they settled in the Chin Hills on the Indo-Burmese border. They built villages and called them by their clan names such as Seipui, Saihmun and Bochung. The Lushais were the last of the Mizo tribes to migrate to the Lushai Hills.

*      Mizoram is the land of myth, fables and folklores. Here the lakes, waterfalls and hills have a tale of their own. For some, refer my previous posts and for the rest, pack up your bags and explore the land yourself. I don't want to take the joy away from you by writing more about the place. I've lived here for six long years and the state has been inspiration to many of my short stories, a few novels and paintings. Hope you too find inspiration for something here.

*      Good luck and god bless.........

 ............(to be continued)

Friday, 15 November 2013

The Broken Window

Thirteen hours of back-breaking journey had brought him to the New Delhi Airport. He had flown over one ocean and two continents and landed in the third. Most of the passengers, a mixed group, had slept during the flight. However, his co-passenger, a young man in mid-thirties, had kept awake throughout. The brief interaction with him had been uninspiring. As the young man immersed himself in his iPad, he closed his eyes and chose to walk down the memory lane, running into twenty long years. In mind the images moved faster than the heart could digest. It was tough for him to follow the pace of his memories.
            Twenty years ago, as an undergraduate, he had come to the States to do his masters in the civil engineering. He was one of the luckiest few chosen for the scholarship by the institute. A sense of bewilderment had struck him when he had landed at the JFK International Airport. A village boy from a backward region in the central India had entered the El Dorado. It was some kind of a fairytale journey, about which thousands of Indian youth dreamed each year but only a couple of hundreds realised it. 

(For complete story please go to Short Stories section)

Friday, 8 November 2013

It rained last night

Their journeys had come to a brief halt at a ghostly station from where both, after seven hours, were to take connecting trains to their different destinations. They were a woman and a man, who, after initial surprise and subsequent introduction had settled down, in an air of unease, in the lone waiting room at the lone platform. The station in the best of sunlight inspired little optimism, in the night it brought complete gloom. There was a stationmaster, who did almost every job except cleaning the tracks, a clerk who did almost every work except typing letters, a vendor who sold almost everything stale except tea and a coolie who carted around almost every load except passengers. Mostly poor people alighted here.
         When the coolie noticed a lady with some pretence to beauty, clad in a costly sari, get down from the train, his eyes lit up. He sensed a chance to make some money and rushed to her, who asked him to take her to the waiting room. An hour later the next train brought a rich-looking man, whose luggage too he brought to the same room. Two passengers in one single day had been godsend. Both looked stinking rich and their gestures promised him a good tip in addition to his charges. This prospect energised him and he rushed back to the vendor and brought them hot tea, with less sugar and milk. From his previous experiences he knew that the rich people, unlike the poor, didn’t take their tea heavy in milk and sugar.

                           (read complete story in short story section)

Friday, 1 November 2013

Nala Damayanti.......

* Photo credit..Raja Ravi Verma

*       Damayanti, a princess of Vidarbha Kingdom, fell in love with King Nala of Nishad Kingdom, hearing of his virtues and accomplishments from a golden swan.

*      When she had chosen her husband at a swayamvara, where the gods, princes and kings had come to seek her hand. The Gods, Indra, Agni, Varuna and Yama were on their way for attendance when they met Nala. They ordered him to be their messenger and inform Damayanti to choose one of them as her husband. Nala first refused, but finally accepted . Damayanti agreed to pay her respects to the gods, but insisted on choosing only Nala as her husband.

*      The Gods then disguised themselves as Nala in the swayamvara. Damayanti went past them each time, as she knew Nala was a human being and cannot be perfect.The demon Kali, also wanted to marry Damayanti. On his arrival, he learnt that he was late for the swayamvara. He ran into the gods who mocked him. Kali then angrily vowed to cause the fall of Nala’s kingdom through his propensity for gambling.

*      Damayanti and Nala were married and had two children. Kali entered the palace as a servant, and for 12 years kept watch on him. One day, Nala in a rush said his prayers without washing his feet, thereby allowing Kali to bewitch his soul. In games of dice with his brother Pushkara, he lost his kingdom, forcing Nala and Damayanti to live in poverty in the forest.

*     In the forest the birds flew away with the only garment Nala had. He started worrying for Damayanti and resolved to abandon her to protect her from his bad luck. Damayanti found herself alone in the forest. Nala, meanwhile, rescued the Snake King Nāga Karkotaka from a fire. The Nāga bit him. Nala survived the bite, but the venom turned him into an unrecognizable dwarf named Bahuka, who served as a charioteer to the Ayodhya King Rituparna.

*      Damayanti was finally discovered and taken back to her father's house where she was reunited with her children. They searched for Nala, but couldn't find him. Damayanti thought that Nala would only come back if he feared she wouldn't be his wife anymore. Thus she requested a fake second swayamvara. She was still an irresistible beauty and so many kings attended. Nala's master also went to the swayamvara, and Nala accompanied him. On their journey, the king taught the dwarf the techniques of gambling.

*     When King Rituparna revealed him the skill of controlling the dice, finally the poison took effect and Bahuka vomited Kali from his body and imprisoned him to a tree. Damayanti was persuaded that the dwarf was Nala . The pair was reunited and Nala was transformed into his familiar form. He used the knowledge of gambling to regain everything he had lost.

*      She forgave him for having abandoned her in the forest, and he forgave her for another swayamvara.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Hemu.................India's unsung Heroes (2).

*        Hem Chandra (Hemu) was born in a Baniya (trader) family in a village in Alwar, Rajasthan in India in 1501. Apart from learning Sanskrit and Hindi, Hemu was educated in Persian and Arabic languages. He was fond of wrestling and horse-riding.

*        In the sixteenth century, India was socially and politically unstable because the Mughals and the Afghans were fighting for power. Babur's barbaric invasion of North India in 1526 had resulted in large scale destruction, looting and demolition of Hindu temples in the North.

*       Hemu started his career as a supplier of cereals to Sher Shah Suri's army, moving on to more critical supplies like saltpetre (for gunpowder) later. He also developed a cannon foundry and obtained technical assistance for casting cannons, and producing saltpetre from the Portuguese in Goa.

*       After Sher Shah Suri's death in 1545, his son Islam Shah became ruler. Islam Shah recognised Hemu's calibre and administrative skills, and made him his personal adviser. He consulted Hemu in matters relating not only to trade and commerce, but also pertaining to statesmanship, diplomacy and general politics. Islam Shah initially appointed Hemu  as 'market superintendent' to manage commerce throughout the empire.

*      After sometime Hemu rose to become Chief of Intelligence. In 1552 Islam Shah's health deteriorated and he shifted his base from Delhi to Gwalior, a safer place. Hemu was deputed as Governor of Punjab to safeguard the region against the Mughal invasions.

*      Islam Shah was succeeded by his 12 year old son Firoz Khan who was killed within three days by Adil Shah Suri. The new king Adil was an indolent pleasure-seeker and a drunkard. Adil Shah appointed Hemu as his prime minister and army chief . After some time, Adil Shah became insane and Hemu became the de facto king.

*     At that time the Afghans considered themselves natives of India, while the Mughals, were considered foreigners. Hemu was a native ruler leading a native Afghan army to victory, in the battle after battle. His army consisted of infantry, cavalry, artillery and large elephants. He had created a formidable force which included generals and soldiers from various castes of Hindus and Muslims.

*     Hemu launched most of the attacks between 1553-56 from the Gwalior Fort,  and won 22 battle victories.

*      After the victory of Humayun over Adil Shah's brother Sikander Suri in 1555, the Mughals regained the Punjab, Delhi and Agra after a gap of 15 years. Hemu was in Bengal when Humayun died in 1556. Humayun's death gave Hemu an ideal opportunity to defeat the Mughals. He started a rapid march from Bengal through Bihar, UP and Madhya Pradesh. The Mughal fauzdars abandoned their positions and fled in panic . In Agra, a Mughal stronghold, the commander of Mughal forces Iskander Khan Uzbeg fled after hearing about Hemu's invasion, without a fight. 

*      After winning Agra, Hemu moved for the final assault on Delhi. Tardi Beg Khan, the governor of Delhi, wrote to Akbar that Hemu had captured Agra and intended to attack Delhi, which could not be defended without reinforcements. Bairam Khan, realising the gravity of the situation, summoned all the Mughal commanders in the vicinity for the defence of Delhi. 

*     The Mughal army was thus drawn up. Abdullah Uzbeg commanded the Vanguard, Haider Muhammad the right wing, Iskander Beg the left and Tardi Beg himself the centre. In this assault, the Mughals captured 400 elephants and slew 3000 men of the Afghan army. Thinking of victory already gained, several Mughal soldiers dispersed to plunder the enemy and thus the Mughals were left in the field thinly guarded. All this time Hemu had been holding 300 elephants and a force of select horsemen as a reserve in the centre. He promptly seized the opportunity and made a sudden charge upon Tardi Beg with this reserve.

*     In the ensuing confusion, the Mughals were defeated. Hemu thus won Delhi after a day's battle on 6 October 1556. Some 3000 soldiers died in this battle. Hemu entered Delhi, victorious under a royal canopy. At Purana Quila, Delhi Hemu was crowned after defeating Akbar's army. Hemu assumed the royal robes and declared himself the Emperor of India under the title of Vikramaditya.

*      Thus Hemu became the first Hindu emperor of North India in 350 years

*      On hearing of Hemu's victories and fall of Agra and Delhi, the Mughal army at Kalanaur lost heart and many commanders refused to fight Hemu. Most of his commanders advised Akbar to retreat to Kabul, which would serve better as a strong-hold. However, Bairam Khan, Akbar's guardian and chief strategist, insisted on fighting Hemu in an effort to regain control of Delhi.

*     On 5 November 1556, the Mughal army met Hemu's army at the historic battlefield of Panipat. Akbar and Bairam Khan stayed in the rear, eight miles from the battleground, with the instructions to leave India in case of defeat. The Mughal army was led by Ali Kuli Khan, Sikandar Khan and Abdulla Khan Uzbeg. 

*     Hemu led his army himself into battle, atop an elephant. His left was led by his sister's son General Ramiya and the right by Shadi Khan Kakkar. He was on the verge of victory, when he was wounded in the eye by an arrow and collapsed unconscious. This led to confusion amongst the soldiers, with no supreme commander to coordinate decisions. He fell unconscious was captured and taken to the Mughal camp for execution. 

*     Bairam Khan asked Akbar to behead Hemu so that he could earn the title of Ghazi. Akbar replied, "He is already dead, if he had any movement or breathing I would have killed him". However, at the insistence of Bairam Khan, Hemu was first struck by Akbar to earn the title of 'Ghazi', then he was beheaded by Bairam Khan. Hemu's head was sent to Kabul in Afghanistan, where it was hanged outside to prove to the Afghans that the great Hindu warrior was dead, while his body was placed in a gibbet outside Purana Quila in Delhi to terrorise the Hindus.

*    After Hemu's death, a massacre of Hemu's community and followers was ordered by Bairam Khan. Thousands were beheaded and towers of skulls built with their heads to instill terror among the Hindus. 

*     Hemu's triumphant march to Delhi can be equated to the campaign of Napoleon. He never saw defeat in the battle throughout his life. And he died in the only battle he lost. His attempts to drive the Mughals out of India and establish the Hindu Raj was a continuation of various Hindu efforts to regain control from the Muslim invaders. 

*   Imagine !! If Hemu had taken lessons from Porus's defeat and prepared better for the Battle of Panipat, history of India could have been different. 

*   Nonetheless,  Hemu remains one of the greatest Indian warriors to have resisted the Mughals but sadly in his homeland, for which he laid down his life, he remains an unsung Hero...........

Saturday, 19 October 2013



Everyone’s mood at the dining table was sombre, unlike the other days when they joked and laughed around. The reason for stiffness in the air was due to sudden decision by the eldest Prasad. A few hours ago he had expressed his desire to undertake an arduous journey to an unpronounceable village in Nagaland. What had prompted this, nobody had any clue. Vaibhav, the old man’s son, knew only this much that his father when young had served for some years in that trouble-torn state and perhaps some extraordinary event of that time was calling him. What could that be? He made a few guesses. The outrageous ones he immediately discounted, the plausible ones made his task easier. Perhaps it was the call of the wild drawing him to that place.
              The septuagenarian Ramesh, lately, had become a recluse. His wife of forty years had died a year ago and possibly that could have been the reason for this. At least that was what Vaibhav and Kusum, his daughter-in-law thought about. He had been a diabetic for almost a decade now and developed high blood pressure last year, both of which had restricted his routine activities. Half-dozen pills supplemented his strict diet, which was painstakingly monitored by Kusum. Both Vaibhav and Kusum were doctors; the man a paediatrician and the lady a gynaecologist. Their nursing home was the most sought after in the town. Between them they earned four to five lakhs rupees per month. Sanjiv, their son worked in a multi-national company as a sales executive.

(for complete story, please go on to the Short Stories section)

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Was Homer inspired by the Mahabharta ?

*       Read these facts carefully:-

         ^     The Mahabharta was written two centuries before Homer wrote
         the Iliad.

         ^     Both the epics describe was; while the Mahabharta was fought
         for 14 days the Trojan for 10 years.

         ^     In the both, fighting during the nights ceased and people from
         one side did talk to another after fighting stopped after last night.

         ^     Two mercurial characters; Achilles and Karn were born out of
         union between human mother and god father.

         ^     Helen and Draupadi, were the two women over which the wars
         had been fought.

         ^     Gods played important roles in both the wars and took sides.

*       There are many more similarities between the two epics. This leads to one important question. Was Homer inspired by the Mahabharta ?

*       The presence of a large body of Indian troops in the Persian army in Greece in 480 B.C. and the discovery of modelled heads of Indians at Memphis, of about the fifth century B.C. show that Indians were living in Greece for trade.

*      It is significant to note that although the Indians and Greeks (Yavanas) had come from the same Indo-European stock, they met as strangers in the sixth century B.C. Persian Empire. Soon, the cousins became associates in a common cultural enterprise. Similarities in language and in religious beliefs indicate that these two people must have been either in close contact at some early period or have had a common origin, even though neither had any recollection of those times.

*    For example, the gods of heaven (Varuna - Ouranos; Dyaus - Zeus ) and the dawn (Ushas - Aurora) were common to the Greeks and Indians. The most prominent characteristics of the gods of both races was their power of regulating the order of nature and banishing evil. The Olympian religion of the Greeks and Vedic beliefs had a common background. The Greek concept of logos was very close to the vedic Vac, which corresponds to the Latin Vox.

*     The brisk intercourse between India and Greece is attested by the fact that a special rule was inserted in the great grammar of Panini to distinguish three feminine forms of yavana: a Greek woman was yavani, the curtain was yavanika, and the Greek script was yavanani. There is also a striking similarity between the social life described in the Homeric poems- the Illiad and Odyssey- and that found in the Vedas. Homeric gods, like the heroes who believed in them, often rode in the horse driven chariots. Horse-chariotry was a feature of the life of the Indo-European people.

*      The Homeric idea of a language of the gods is also found in Sanskrit and Greek literatures. Some scholars have even asserted that elements of the Trojan war story are to be found in the war between the bright deities and the night demons as described in the Rig Veda. It is clear from Homer that even they used articles of Indian merchandise which were known by names of Indian origin, such as Kassiteros (Sanskrit, Kastira), elephas (Sanskrit, ibha), and ivory.

*     Alain Danielou (1907-1994), son of French aristocracy, author of numerous books on philosophy, religion, history and arts of India, remarks that: "the Greeks were always speaking of India as the sacred territory of Dionysus and historians working under Alexander the Greek clearly mentions chronicles of the Puranas as sources of the myth of Dionysus." He quotes Clement of Alexandria who admitted that "we the Greeks have stolen from the Barbarians their philosophy."

*     There is irrefutable evidence to prove that there was a free exchange between  the Greeks and Indians in trade, philosophy etc.

*     Therefore, it's quite possible that the story of the Mahabharta, written earlier than the Iliad, would have reached the Greeks through Indian travellers to Greece.
And it's quite possible that Homer would have got inspired by the Mahabharta while penning down his own Illiad.

Monday, 7 October 2013

The Palak Tipa........ the enchanting lake.


In the series of enchanting lakes, I present folktale of another interesting Lake, the Palak Tipa (Dil), surrounded by hills and dense forests, located in south Mizoram, India. When I walked passed it, I found an eerie silence in the air. There's something about this lake that draws you towards it.

*    Where the Palak Lake exists now, there was a huge village of about 300 houses. The village was known as the ‘Palak Tipa’. It was a thriving and prosperous village. No other village could be found within miles close by. The life was peaceful and happy. The villagers prided themselves for the brotherhood and bonhomie prevalent amongst themselves. 

*      The villagers were sentimental about their beliefs and superstitions. The social life was governed by the norms laid down by the elders, passed down from one generation to the next. Observance of these norms was strict and no deviations were accepted. 

*       In the middle of the village was a huge stone under which lay a cave, where a large snake lived. Every night the snake came out of the cave, seized one child from the village and ate it. Unable to suffer the atrocities committed by the snake, the villagers one day decided to kill it. They made a strong hook and tied it on to a rope and impaled a dog on the hook. Then they threw the dog into the cave.

*       The snake swallowed the dog and the hook. The villagers tried to pull out the snake, but without any success. Then they went around the stone to get the leverage and they went around it five times. Tired, when they could not pull the snake further, they cut the part of the snake that they had pulled out. The snake’s tail and rest of the part fell back into the deep cave with a loud and fearful noise. 

*       The villagers satisfied with their efforts planned to celebrate killing of the snake. Immediately one boy was rushed to the village to announce their catch and requested the elders to prepare for a big feast. All the villagers sprang into action. The preparation got under way without wasting time. Everyone got busy in doing something or the other.

*       The part of the snake killed was wrapped and taken to the village. By now some more men had fetched up to the lake to help in carrying the huge snake. Almost the entire village had gathered at the entrance to see it. They could not believe what they saw. 

*      Never in their lives had they seen such a huge snake. It was something unthinkable. Something mythical. The children and the elderly women got scared and left the place hurriedly. The young ones chided them. The boys who had caught it were being facilitated like heroes. They smiled and narrated how they had caught it painstakingly to whoever cared to listen to them. Many villagers were hearing their tale of heroism with rapt attention and they did not disappoint the boys.

*       Some men were seen piling a huge sack of firewood in the centre. The village wore a festive look. The fire was lit. The entire area was lighted up with bamboos soaked in oil. Rice beer was being served lavishly. They had reason to celebrate the occasion. The young boys and girls broke into instant dance. Soon children and some elderly people joined them.

*       It was frenzy. Never ever witnessed in the village. They were celebrating as if there would be no tomorrow. The frenzy continued till wee hours of the next day. Then they all had food, relished the delicacy and went off to sleep. The entire village barring one old woman was in deep slumber. 

*       It was well past midnight. Suddenly the water started gushing out of the hole in which snake lived. The water kept pouring out of the hole all night long with fury. It gushed through the village and swept the entire huts in the rage. Within no time the entire village got submerged into the water. The unsuspecting and sleeping villagers-men, women, boys, girls, children, young and old -- alike were consumed by the fury and rage of the rising water.

*       Within moments the village was gone. As if it never existed. In its place a huge lake was formed, which came to be called as the Palak Tipa. The  Lakhers, the local tribe, believe that the Palak Tipa is the abode of spirits and they don't bathe in it lest they get caught by them.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Cheraw Dance, Mizoram, India.

*     Cheraw dance originated in the 1st century AD. In the ancient times, It was performed to provide solace to the soul of a deceased mother who had left her newborn child on earth. However, today the horizon of Cheraw dance has expanded considerably. In fact, this dance is performed on every big and small occasion and has become an integral part of almost every festival of Mizoram.

*     The various movements made by the Cheraw dancers are inspired by Nature. While some expressions of Cheraw dance resemble swaying of the trees, the others indicate flying of the birds. Cheraw dance is surely the most enchanting form of Mizoram culture.

*     Long bamboo starves are used for this dance, therefore some people also call it 'Bamboo Dance'. 

*    This dance includes four male dancers, who hold two pairs of bamboos across one another on the ground. The bamboos are clapped together on a particular beat by them. The bamboos, when clapped, produce a sound which forms the rhythm of the dance. It indicates the timing of the dance for the female dancers who step in and out to the beats of the bamboos with ease and grace. The females, with perfect sense of timing, dance gracefully by stepping alternatively in and out from between and across a pair of horizontal bamboos, held against the ground by males sitting face to face on either side. They tap the bamboos in rhythmic beats.

*     The costumes worn by female performers during the Cheraw include Thihna, Vakiria, Kawrchei and Puanchei. All these traditional costumes of Cheraw Dance come in vibrant colors that further brighten up the surrounding environment.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

The Legend of Nohkalikai............ Meghalaya, India

*    This folktale is a heart-rending story of a Khasi woman.

*      In the village of Rangjyrteh, upstream the falls, lived a woman called Ka Likai. Ka (prefix 'ka' means feminine gender.). Her husband was a porter who made his livelihood carrying iron to Sylhet. On one of the trips, he died leaving Ka Likai with a baby girl to take care of. She had to take up the job of porter herself, like many Khasi women, and ferry iron from Rangjyrteh to Mawmluh village, leaving her baby in the care of others. 

*      After sometime a few women persuaded her to find another man to take care of her and her child. So, Ka Likai remarried. Her new husband was jealous of the attention Ka Likai gave to her baby girl and hence hated the baby. One day when Ka Likai was out on her job, her husband killed the girl, chopped the baby into pieces and cooked the flesh. He threw away the head and bones, but forgot the fingers in the kwai (paan)basket. 

*     A tired and hungry Likai returned to her house to find none at home. She presumed that perhaps, her baby was with her new father or neighbours. The hunger and smell of the meat led her to satiate her hunger before going in search of her child. Anyway, the child had been safe in the care of others till then. The meat was tasty but left her clueless as to what meat it was. As usual after a meal she picked up the kwai basket to help herself to a kwai. Shocked, she found severed fingers of a child in the basket. 

*      The horror  that she had eaten her own beloved child, struck her like a lightning. Ka Likai became mad with anger and desperation. She ran screaming in dismay, brandishing a 'wait' - a chopper - at anyone who tried to stop her. She ran and ran till the edge where the cascade fell off the precipice and threw herself over the edge. 

*       'Noh' in Khasi means to jump. Thus the waterfall was named Noh - Ka - Likai (Nohkalikai).  

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Literature.......who inspired whom ?

*    We all love reading literature of different countries and different cultures. And often we wonder, who were the inspirations behind those excellent authors who wrote such lovely books that continue to inspire generations.

*     All modern authors ought to have got inspiration from one of the great writers of the ancient or medieval world.

*   Charles Dickens (1812-1870) and Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) were greatly inspired by their countryman, Shakespeare.

*   William Shakespeare (1564-1616),   English literature's greatest icon and arguably the giant of the western world literature, was  inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400).

*    Geoffrey Chaucer, another great seemed to be inspired by Virgil (70 – 19 BC).

*      Virgil, a Roman drew inspiration from Greek author, Homer (8th century BC).

*        Homer, the first poet of the West, remains to this the greatest. His two great poems, The Iliad and the Odyssey, are the first masterpieces of Western World literature and even after 3,000 years their power, vibrancy , influence and allure have not diminished.  Today they rank second only to the Bible among the western literary classics.

*     Hold on ! Before you arrive at the judgment, read this.  

*    And the greatest epic wasn't written in the western world but in the ancient India by Ved Vyas, a sage, who wrote 'the Mahabharta' between the 8th and 9th century BC. The Mahabharata is the longest Sanskrit epic, which consists of over 100,000 shloka or over 200,000 individual verse lines (each shloka is a couplet), and long prose passages. About 1.8 million words in total, the Mahabharata is roughly ten times the length of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined, or about four times the length of another epic 'the Ramayana'.

*   Surprised ! well we ought to be. East or West. The Mahabharta and the Ramayan remain the greatest epics in any literature and their appeal universal.

*   So, the greatest writer of all times and all cultures remains 'Ved Vyas'. Sadly the West, obsessed with their superiority in everything, often fail to accept this fact.

Sunday, 15 September 2013 it a Hindu ritual !

*       Is Yoga a Hindu ritual? 

*       This question since long has been troubling the Non-Hindus
         across the world. Some Churches have told their followers
         not to practice yoga as it is anti-Christian. Most people
         suffer from lack of knowledge about Yoga.

*       Yoga is a commonly known generic term for the physical,
         mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which
         originated in ancient India with a view to attain a state of
         permanent peace. Vivekananda brought yoga to the West
         in the late 19th century. In the 1980s, Yoga became
         popular as a system of physical exercises across the
         Western world. 
*         It would be wise for Non-Hindus not to fear Yoga,
         because it is just a form of physical exercises and
         it does not involve chanting of any mantras. 
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