Category: Books


Kurukshetra

 

There are some very nice Mahabharat quotes, which I would like to share with the reader.

From the first book Adi Parva :

Anukramanika Parva, Chapter 1:

Time creates all things,
and time destroys them all.
Time burns all creatures,
and time again extinguishes that fire.

—Anukramanika Parva, Adi Parva, Mahabharata Book i.1

 

Tapa is not a sin,
Study is not a sin,
Ordinances of Vedas are not sins,
Acquisition of wealth by exertion is not a sin,
When they are abused, then do they become the sources of evil.

—Anukramanika Parva, Adi Parva, Mahabharata Book i.1

 

 

 

Sangraha Parva, Chapter 2:

As all the senses are dependent on the wonderful workings of the mind,
so all the acts and moral qualities depend on this treatise (Mahabharata).

—Sangraha Parva, Adi Parva, Mahabharata Book i.2

 

 

 

Paushya Parva, Chapter 3:

You are the infinite, you are the course of Nature and intelligent soul that pervades all,
I desire to obtain you through knowledge, derived from hearing and meditation.

—Paushya Parva, Adi Parva, Mahabharata Book i.3

 

 

 

Adivansabatarana Parva, Chapter 62:

This (Mahabharata) is equal to the Vedas, it is holy and excellent,
it is the worthiest of all that should be listened to. It is a Purana, adored by the Rishis,
It contains many useful instructions on Artha and Kama. This sacred history makes the heart desire to attain salvation.

—Adivansabatarana Parva, Adi Parva, Mahabharata Book i.

 

 

 

Drupada said to Drona: Friendship never remains in the world in anyone’s heart without being worn out,
Time wears it out, anger destroys it.
The poor cannot be the friend of the rich, the unlearned cannot be the friend of the learned,
the coward cannot be the friend of the brave, how then do you desire the continuance of our old friendship?

—Sambhava Parva, Adi Parva, Mahabharata Book i.

 

 

 

One who is afflicted by destiny can find a remedy in destiny alone.”
— [Elapatra to Vasuki, Astika Parva, Adi Parva, Ch 34]

 

 

 

This single strand of grass that you see, the one from which we are hanging, is the strand of our family lineage. O Brahmana! The strands that you see being eaten up, are being eaten up by time. O Brahmana! The half-eaten root from which we are all hanging is the last of our lineage, practising austerities. O Brahmana! The rat that you see is time, immensely powerful. He is slowly killing the misguided Jaratkaru, engaged in austerities, who is greedy for austerities, but has lost his mind and senses.”

— [Ancestors to Jaratkaru, Astika Parva, Adi Parva, Ch 41]

 

 

 

“According to the sacred texts, there are three kinds of fathers. In proper order, they are the one who gives a body, the one who protects and the one who provides food.

— [Shakuntala describing to King Duhshanta what Sage Kanwa told her about her birth. Sambhava Parva, Adi Parva, Ch 66]

 

 

 

“The wise have said that a man is himself born as his son. Therefore, a man should regard the mother of his son as his own mother. … The wife is the sacred ground in which the husband is born again. Even sages are unable to have offspring without wives.”
—[Shakuntala to Duhshanta, Sambhava Parva, Adi Parva, Ch 68]

 

 

 

“You see the faults of others, even though they are as small as a mustard seed. But you do not see your own, even though they can be seen as large as a bilva fruit. … O Duhshanta! My birth is nobler than your own. O lord of kings! You are established on earth. But I roam the sky. Know that the difference between you and me is that between a mustard seed and Mount Meru.”
— [Shakuntala to King Duhshanta, Sambhava Parva, Adi Parva, Ch 69]

 

 

“I also know the difference between anger and forgiveness and the strength and weakness of each. But when a disciple behaves disrespectfully towards a preceptor, it should not be condoned.”
— [Devayani to Shukra, Sambhava Parva, Adi Parva, Ch 74]

 

 

“Altercations are nothing but the resort of the weak.”
— [Karna to Arjuna, Jatugriha-daha Parva, Adi Parva, Ch 126]

 

 

“Unlike a cow, the fruits of evil actions are not immediate. Such fruits are certainly manifested, if not in one’s own life, in one’s son or in one’s grandson. They are like a heavy meal in the stomach.”
—  [Shukra to King Vrishaparva, Sambhava Parva, Adi Parva, Ch 75]

 

 

“Great is unhappiness for those who desire wealth, greater for those who have acquired it.”
— [Brahamana lamentingBaka-vadha Parva, Adi Parva, Ch 145]

 

 

 

“One who does not see impurities in one’s acts, is not expected to see it in another.”
— [Upajaya to Drupada, Chaitraratha Parva, Adi Parva, Ch 155]

 

 

 

“But if a crime doesn’t find a punisher, many in the world will commit crimes. A man who has the power to punish a crime and doesn’t do so, despite knowing that a crime has been committed, is himself tainted by the deed, even if he is the lord.”
— [Ourva to ancestors,Chaitraratha Parva, Adi Parva, Ch 171]‘

 

 

 

“Which hero will kill an enemy who has been defeated in battle, has lost his fame and is now protected by a woman?”
— [Yudhishtra to Arjuna,Chaitraratha Parva, Adi Parva, Ch 158]

 

 

 

“He was a king who had no abilities. All that he did was breathe air in and out.”
—  [Karna on King Amuvicha, Viduragamana Parva, Adi Parva, Ch 196]

 

 

I shall collect more quotes which I find interesting  in time coming and post on my Blog. Though I would like to mention here that Abhinav Agarwal‘s blog was a great help. The guy is an inspiration for his writings on Mahabharat. I hope my blog is also someday overflowing with Information on Mahabharat like his, he has made a detailed study of all the Parvas (i.e. Volumes) in Mahabharat.

 

Reference link:

http://blog.abhinavagarwal.net

yudhishtira

He was the eldest son of Pandav and Kunti and the Kings of Pandavas. He was someone with an impeccable Judgment and one who spoke the truth. In the War of Mahabharat broke out because there was claim for kingdom which was rejected by his arrogant cousin Duryodhan.

Yudhistra in true terms can be classified as a generous and noble king but he would not be able to win anything on his own, here the support of his brothers was a crucial point. Yudhistra was trained in religion, science, administration and military arts by the Kuru preceptors, Kripa and Drona. Specifically, he became a master in using the spear

Yudhistra was beta male who lived in the shadows of Alpha male brothers like Bhīma and Arjun. He would be rated  equivalent to Nakul and Sehdev in Warfare, whom many writers consider as incompetent sidekicks. He is a good man and someone who should rule but foolish and sometimes lets ego get better of him (which is certainly not a good characteristic of a man with good judgment), the biggest example was his gambling in which he lost everything even himself.

Birth

Birth of Yudhistra is conceding with the fact that Pandu his adoptive father is cursed that he would die if he has sex with anyone which includes his two wife because he killed a sage and his wife.

He had asked Kunti to call gods to impregnate her and the first god she invokes with her mantra is Yama, god of death and Judgment, interestingly many folk tales mention that Yama is god of Sun much like Manu (The one who wrote scriptures for Ancient Indian and made Brahmins at top of ladder, amusing and laughable, as such thoughts are written by priests to make them higher up and then exploit masses).

After he was born he was named Yudhistra, he had other names too, namely Ajatshatru (the one with no enemies).

Teachings and Personality

There is a story in Mahabharat in which when Drona Kuravas and Pandavas teacher was teaching a lesson to the about Truth.

Another where he and his brothers were sent off to 13 year exile, they went to a lake one by one and did not return after which Yudhistra went looking for them.

Lord Krishna introduced Himself to Yudhisthira

However, His personality is not as perfect as many would like it to be or what some ‘scholars’ like to projects as. If he is a good king with better judgment, the question comes why would such a man bet his wife  ? (here Let me point out that I do not sympathies with the character of highly egoistic Draupadi )

Why would such a man gamble on the first place, is his ego getting better of him?

However, Yudhisthira’s true personality is was shown in his unflinching adherence to truth and righteousness to fulfill one’s moral duty, which were more precious to him than royal ambitions, material pursuits and family relations.

He rescued Bhima from Nahusha. He also rescued his four brothers from Yaksha by exemplifying not only his immense knowledge of Dharma, but also understanding its finer implications.

His understanding of Dharma was distinct from other kings. He had Bhima marry an outcast Rakshasi, he denounced casteism, saying a Brahmin is known by his actions and not his birth or education, thus portraying a changeable Dharma that modifies itself to suit the times.

Due to his piety, Yudhisthira’s chariot did not touch the ground (until his deception of Drona), to symbolize his purity. This means he was well regarded as a wise and pious man even by his enemies.

One day while living in exile in the forest, Yudhisthira finds that while attempting to drink water from a lake, all his brothers have been killed by a mysterious Yaksha (a celestial entity). When Yudhisthira arrives, the Yaksha challenges him to answer all his questions or else face the same consequences as his brothers. These questions-answers are like Vedic sutras, short, pithy and practical, and deal with piety and religiosity.

 

Yudhisthira and Yaksha

In order to save his brothers Yudhistra gave answers to Yaksha’s questions.

Yaksha:: Who is really a helpful companion ?

Yudhisthira: Steady intelligence is a very good friend, and can save one from all dangers.

Yaksha: How can one acquire something very great ?

Yudhisthira: Everything desirable can be attained by the performance of austerity.

Yaksha: What is amrita (nectar)  ?

Yudhisthira: Milk is just like nectar.

Yaksha: What is the friend bestowed upon man by the demigods  ?

Yudhisthira: Wife is such a friend.

Yaksha: What is the best of happiness  ?

Yudhisthira: True happiness comes as a result of contentment.

Yaksha: Why does one give in charity to brahmanas, artists, servants and kings  ?

Yudhisthira: For religious merit, prestige, maintenance and protection, respectively.

Yaksha: Why does one forsake friends  ?

Yudhisthira: Lust and greed drives one to forsake friends.

Yaksha: What is the only food  ?

Yudhisthira: The cow is the only food, for the milk that she produces is used to make ghee (clarified butter), which is used to perform sacrifices, pleased by which the demigods give rain, which causes the grains to grow. Therefore it should be understood that the cow is the root cause of all kinds of food.

Yaksha: What is the king of knowledge  ?

Yudhisthira: Knowledge pertaining to the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the king of all kinds of knowledge.

Yaksha: What is ignorance  ?

Yudhisthira: Not knowing one’s constitutional duty.

Yaksha: What is the best bath  ?

Yudhisthira: That which cleanses the mind of all impurities.

Yaksha: What is real charity  ?

Yudhisthira: Real charity is protecting one from the onslaughts of material nature.

Yaksha: Since dharma (virtue), artha (profit) and kama (desire) are opposed to each other, how can they co-exist harmoniously  ?

Yudhisthira: These three become congenial to one another when one has a virtuous wife.

Yaksha: Who is condemned to everlasting hell ?

Yudhisthira: When one promises a brahmana charity, but upon his arrival refuses to give him charity.

Yaksha: What make one a brahmana, birth, learning or behavior ?

Yudhisthira: It is behavior alone that make a person a brahmana. Even one who is expert in the four Vedas, born of brahmana parents, but whose behavior is not proper, should be considered a sudra.

Yaksha: Who is pleasing ?

Yudhisthira: A person who speaks in a pleasing manner.

Finally the Yaksha asked Yudhisthira four questions of great significance:

Yaksha: Who is truly happy ?

Yudhisthira: One who cooks his own food (is not dependent on anyone), is not a debtor (does not spend more than he can afford), does not have to leave home to make in order to earn his livelihood (does not over endeavor for material things) is truly happy.

Yaksha: What is the most wonderful thing ?

Yudhisthira: The most amazing thing is that even though every day one sees countless living entities dying, he still acts and thinks as if he will live forever.

Yaksha: What is the real path to follow in this life?

Yudhisthira: The best path is to follow in the footsteps of the pure devotees, for they are the actual Mahajanas whose hearts are the sitting places of the real truths regarding religion.

Yaksha: What is news? (that is What is real situation in the material world ?)

Yudhisthira: The material world is like a frying pan. The Sun is the fire, the day and nights are the fuel. The passing seasons are the stirring ladle, and time is the cook. All living entities are being thus fried in this pan. This is the real news of what is happening in the material world, which is a miserable place full of ignorance.

These questions and answers cover a wide gamut of instructions from being successful to pious to religious. Pleased by the answers of Yudhisthira, the Yaksha who was none other than Dharmaraja/ Yama/ Hades (the father of Yudhisthira and the embodiment of religiosity) revives all the brothers of Yudhisthira and offers him many benedictions.

Death

There is a story which is told after Mahabharata was finished about when all five brothers and their common wife Draupadi walk together to a mountain before their end.

Yudhistra On management

He is a leader who gives value to Judgement and righteousness, if he has able commanders working under him like Yudhistra had it in the case of his brothers. Then he can become a near perfect leader.

He would be fair in terms of decision making but at the same time will have human failings. His personality would help him create and recreate organizations which would then run on the principles of Truth, thereby creating credibility.

Yudhistra in today’s world:

He is someone who would be an idealist like Bhishma but not Bhishma in every sense, particularly warfare.

Yudhisthira

Crime and Punishment

Then one of the judges of the city stood forth and said, “Speak to us of Crime and Punishment.”

And he answered saying:

It is when your spirit goes wandering upon the wind,

That you, alone and unguarded, commit a wrong unto others and therefore unto yourself.

And for that wrong committed must you knock and wait a while unheeded at the gate of the blessed.

Like the ocean is your god-self;

It remains for ever undefiled.

 

And like the ether it lifts but the winged.

Even like the sun is your god-self;

It knows not the ways of the mole nor seeks it the holes of the serpent.

But your god-self does not dwell alone in your being.

 

Much in you is still man, and much in you is not yet man,

But a shapeless pigmy that walks asleep in the mist searching for its own awakening.

And of the man in you would I now speak.

 

For it is he and not your god-self nor the pigmy in the mist, that knows crime and the punishment of crime.

Oftentimes have I heard you speak of one who commits a wrong as though he were not one of you, but a stranger unto you and an intruder upon your world.

But I say that even as the holy and the righteous cannot rise beyond the highest which is in each one of you,

So the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in you also.

 

And as a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree,

So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.

Like a procession you walk together towards your god-self.

You are the way and the wayfarers.

 

And when one of you falls down he falls for those behind him, a caution against the stumbling stone.

Ay, and he falls for those ahead of him, who though faster and surer of foot, yet removed not the stumbling stone.

 

And this also, though the word lie heavy upon your hearts:

The murdered is not unaccountable for his own murder,

And the robbed is not blameless in being robbed.

The righteous is not innocent of the deeds of the wicked,

And the white-handed is not clean in the doings of the felon.

Yea, the guilty is oftentimes the victim of the injured,

 

And still more often the condemned is the burden-bearer for the guiltless and unblamed.

You cannot separate the just from the unjust and the good from the wicked;

For they stand together before the face of the sun even as the black thread and the white are woven together.

 

And when the black thread breaks, the weaver shall look into the whole cloth, and he shall examine the loom also.

If any of you would bring judgment the unfaithful wife,

Let him also weight the heart of her husband in scales, and measure his soul with measurements.

And let him who would lash the offender look unto the spirit of the offended.

 

And if any of you would punish in the name of righteousness and lay the ax unto the evil tree, let him see to its roots;

And verily he will find the roots of the good and the bad, the fruitful and the fruitless, all entwined together in the silent heart of the earth.

 

And you judges who would be just,

What judgment pronounce you upon him who though honest in the flesh yet is a thief in spirit?

What penalty lay you upon him who slays in the flesh yet is himself slain in the spirit?

And how prosecute you him who in action is a deceiver and an oppressor,

 

Yet who also is aggrieved and outraged?

And how shall you punish those whose remorse is already greater than their misdeeds?

Is not remorse the justice which is administered by that very law which you would fain serve?

Yet you cannot lay remorse upon the innocent nor lift it from the heart of the guilty.

 

Unbidden shall it call in the night, that men may wake and gaze upon themselves.

And you who would understand justice, how shall you unless you look upon all deeds in the fullness of light?

Only then shall you know that the erect and the fallen are but one man standing in twilight between the night of his pigmy-self and the day of his god-self,

 

And that the corner-stone of the temple is not higher than the lowest stone in its foundation.

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Freedom — Khalil Gibran

n

And an orator said, “Speak to us of Freedom.”
And he answered:

At the city gate and by your fireside I have seen you prostrate yourself and worship your own freedom,
Even as slaves humble themselves before a tyrant and praise him though he slays them.

Ay, in the grove of the temple and in the shadow of the citadel I have seen the freest among you wear their freedom as a yoke and a handcuff.

And my heart bled within me; for you can only be free when even the desire of seeking freedom becomes a harness to you, and when you cease to speak of freedom as a goal and a fulfillment.

You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care nor your nights without a want and a grief, But rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound.

And how shall you rise beyond your days and nights unless you break the chains which you at the dawn of your understanding have fastened around your noon hour ?

In truth that which you call freedom is the strongest of these chains, though its links glitter in the sun and dazzle the eyes.

And what is it but fragments of your own self you would discard that you may become free?  If it is an unjust law you would abolish, that law was written with your own hand upon your own forehead.

You cannot erase it by burning your law books nor by washing the foreheads of your judges, though you pour the sea upon them.

And if it is a despot you would dethrone, see first that his throne erected within you is destroyed.

For how can a tyrant rule the free and the proud, but for a tyranny in their own freedom and a shame in their won pride?  And if it is a care you would cast off, that care has been chosen by you rather than imposed upon you.

And if it is a fear you would dispel, the seat of that fear is in your heart and not in the hand of the feared.  Verily all things move within your being in constant half embrace, the desired and the dreaded, the repugnant and the cherished, the pursued and that which you would escape.

These things move within you as lights and shadows in pairs that cling.

When the shadow fades and is no more, the light that lingers becomes a shadow to another light.

thus your freedom when it loses its fetters becomes itself the fetter of a greater freedom.

 Target 3 Billion: Innovative Solutions Towards Sustainable Development by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Srijan Pal Singh

The book talks about PURA : Providing Urban amenities in Rural Area. It talks about various social entrepreneurs who took a challenge or a task to transform their respective villages and societies. Dr Kalam along with Mr Srijan Pal Singh provides the readers with various steps which could be taken to eradicate poverty in the world by using PURA as a tool for development.

The book starts with mentioning about the other human kind which has no access to good life and lack basic amenities like portable drinking water and basic medical supplies.

Then Dr kalam talks about the vision of 2020 that he had set out when he was the president of India. A target he set that needs to met, in which all the indians would strive to make our country a developed nation by 2020.He talks about a form of socio-economic revolution that needs to take place.He rightly focuses upon the cause of rural to urban area migration.

He focuses on youth of India who could play a major role in this aspect in eradicating poverty. He talks that rural India is an opportunity and challenge at the same time for young entrepreneurs who could bring a socio-economic change.

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Dr Kalam provides a list of sustainable features which needs to be undertaken to offer solution to the problem:

  1. Economic sustainability
  2. Technological sustainability
  3. Social Sustainability
  4. Environmental Sustainability
  5. Value Sustainability
  6. Learning and adaptability

He talks how technology could become a major driving force to meet the goal.He also states that environmental conditions should not be harmed in the due process.

Agriculture and PURA:

In another part of the book Dr Kalam and Mr Singh give a detailed viewpoint as to how PURA could be used in agricultural sector.Since rural economies are largely dependent upon agriculture the world over, the work could begin from there to eradicate poverty buy unleashing the potential of agriculture.Both talk about the second green revolution and how India needs another green revolution in which these agro-businessmen of India could play a major role.They then provide information about the many case studies in this field. eg Chitrakoot PURA and WARNA cooperative sugar factory.

They also talk about the Milk revolution which needs to come again. India being that largest producer of the milk in the world and Indian dairy providing 13% employment and 5% to national GDP. The figures are provided to show the potential of Indian milk industry.India has 283 million cattles in the world more than any. Cattle breeding,cattle health care, cattle food and nutrition,processing and marketing of of milk is talked in detail.

Social Transformation and PURA:

Mr Kalam talks about the gap in the Rural and Urban amenities in detail. He provides a bunch of stats in this regard. Here he talks that how technology,management, entrepreneurship and investments need to be used optimally to create a revolutionary change in this decade.Society based on knowledge and skill could be used to utmost advantage in India.There are case studies of social entrepreneurs who made a huge change to society. They also talk how there needs to be building of value based society.

Eco-Friendly sustainable development:

They devote an entire chapter on how the development must be made on Eco-friendly terms. Any development which is done by harming the environment is not right and should be avoided. Climate change and reforestation is talked in detail. The use of renewable energy could be employed for power generation and they talk about the vision 2030 for global energy.

Community driven sustainable development:

In this part Public private community partnership model is talked. The role of community action is been talked in length.

The four fold participation by the community is talked:

  1. Planning
  2. Execution
  3. Sustenance
  4. Growth

Then there are case studies about the barefoot doctors of China which were part of Chinese rural health care movement (started in 1950s). It’s success is talked and how it could be used. Child journalist who create a voice for the community are also in another case study where “Bachhon ki pahel” news bulletin is mentioned. They talk about other organization too such as Magarpatta community, samaj shilpi dampati and female health volunteers of Loni.Emphasis is made on youth to meet the target.

Enterprise creation leading to empowerment:

This was the chapter which interested me the most where social entrepreneurship is talked. This focuses on how enterprises could help eradicate poverty and PURA could be useful tool in it. Micro, small and medium enterprise’s role is looked in depth. A constructive environment which is beneficial for all is talked about which could be built using an enterprise network. Technology’s role is again mentioned and given a prime importance.

Certain PURAs are talked in detail to give a perspective into the way working could be, namely:
1.    Chitrakoot PURA
2.    Periyar PURA

Working culture of Toyota and Fabio Rosa’s work towards bringing sustainable energy to Brazilian villages is also mentioned.

Realization of PURA:

In this part the steps towards implementation and realization of PURA are talked about. The many organizations or people who could setup PURA and worked are talked. It talks more about policy.

The people whom they mention could set up PURA and help realize the dream of poverty-less nation are:

  1.  Government
  2. Individual/NRIs
  3. Entrepreneurs
  4. Industry
  5. Village cooperatives
  6. Academic institutions
  7. International organizations and NGOs

It is mentioned that ministry of rural development in may 2010 launched national PURA program under private public partnership with an active role for panchayati raj institutions. The funding plans of the projects are also provided in detail.Rest of the book talks about that PURA cooperation could bring changes in development and result in the development of 21st century.It is a good book in understanding a solution that Dr Kalam brings about for solving the issue of poverty in the world and particularly in India.

9780143029106

The book is a combination of various articles written by the author over the years. Possibly from mid 1990s to 2002. The author essentially is of capitalist mind and offers solutions based on that model. The author also tries to convince people that capitalism must be sold to people like “Fabian socialism” of Nehru was sold to masses in 1950s. Even though acknowledging the short comings of the capitalist ideology, the author debates that it is the best system forward.

Being the ex-CEO of Procter and Gamble(India) , the author does provides an insight into various issues from the side of a capitalist. I however believe that the author missed out a concept called “social entrepreneurship” or “responsible capitalism“, which one believes should have been talked more in his book. I must say that I was horrified by couple of his suggestions and at the same time sympathetic to some, particularly about export industry .

Author is educated in Harvard University (in 1950s if I am not wrong) , he does bring along a certain mindset. I however believe that his understanding of certain issues were elitist per say ( both social and economical ) even though the author tries to pinpoint to the reader that he is NOT elitist, on this part I would beg to differ with him.

Author also focuses a lot on philosophers and their view points, I presume that is an educational hazard that the author has to live with (since the author did Philosophy honors from Harvard university) and so he uses the names of many western philosophers in putting his view point across. I would have liked if he would have quoted more of Indian philosophers.

The author also makes a point that he is a liberal in every sense ( I presume it is fashion these days to say so), I for one evoke author’s concern towards the reform of the rules and allowing entrepreneurship to be encouraged. It is an average book if any body wishes to read it. I was drawn to it after reading India Unbound by the author. I however doubt that I would be reading any other of his books soon. None the less , some books recommended by him will certainly be on my list for the book TO-READ.

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The book is an interesting take on Babur, his fights and battles. It starts from 12-year-old Babur listening about his ancestor Timur from his father who is a king but is not that rich (Timur plundered Delhi and his soldiers raped and killed many during the rule of Tughlaq dynasty  in 1398).

 The main characters which go along with you throughout the book are:

  • Esan Dwalat: Babur’s maternal grandmother
  • Khanzada: Babur’s older sister
  • Kutlugh Nigar: Babur’s mother
  • Shibani Khan: Babur’s arch rival, leader of Uzbeks and a nemesis of Babur’s people
  • Baburi: Babur’s close friends
  • Wazir Khan: Milk brother to Babur’s father , guide and mentor to Babur.
  • Kasim : Babur’s ambassador
  • Baisanghar : Babur’s father-in-law who helped Babur capture Samakhand
  • Maham: Babur’s favourite wife and mother of Humayun and daughter of Baisanghar.

Babur as such had 5 wives and many concubines, the name of his 5 wives mentioned are:

  • Ayisha: 1st wife older than Babur, daughter of chief of Mangligh clan. She never accepted him and had a lover prior in her own people with whom she eventually marries after leaving Babur.
  • Maham: Daughter of Baisanghar, the man who helped Babur win Samarkand.  Babur marries her to show respect to Baisanghar in addition to the fact that his 1st wife abandoned him for her lover.
  • Gulrukh: Mother of kamran and Askari. Grand-daughter of Bahlul Ayyub, Vazir of Kabul.
  • Bibi Mubarak: Daughter of the chief of Yusufzai clan (A Pashtun clan)
  • Dildar: Mother of Hindal

The author’s name Alex Rutherford is the pen name for Diana Preston and her husband Michael. Both studied at Oxford University reading History and English respectively. I believe that the act of humanizing Babur and the fact Babur is shown crying would definitely be a mind of a woman at work. Since that emotion riddled sequences are the ones which they so much like.  Therefore I guess that the husband and wife duo had their work cut out, very well.

Babur is a descendent of  Timur and Genghis Khan both. I however think that the book is romanticism of Babur. It shows him in humane form. Shibani Khan an Uzbek and arch rival of Timur princes is shown as barbarous man who was sexually assaulted and kept as a boy toy by an old Timur noble. This was when he was captured in a battle but Shibani Khan kills that noble and escapes, pledging to kill all Timur princes ( I think a fair deal if we look what Timur descendents did to Shibani khan and his people).

Babur is also saved many times by luck as his uncles, Rulers at Samarkand and Kabul gift him his kingdoms as they have no male heir. Shibani khan demands Babar’s sister’s hand in marriage as a price of leaving Samarkand unharmed, when he invades Samarkand (which is a tough issue for Babur). The author writes that Babur wept at being not a man/feeling impotent as he was unable to protect his sister’s honor,especially when he visualizes/imagines Shibani Khan touching the soft white skin of his sister (which is again human attempt though reality of the situation was not written or recorded in Babar’s auto-biography.Babur at that time was 19 Years old and his sister was 21 years old). His sister was returned to him by the Shah of Iran as the Persian Army killed Shibani Khan.

Babur again returns to Samarkand but as a puppet of Shah of Iran who asks him to convert to Shia Islam instead of Sunni Islam. His refusal leads to his loss of the city once and for all. During this period Baburi and Babur have differences. Therefore Baburi leaves Babur’s side and goes away. Babur is left all by himself without the men he could really trust. Baburi eventually returns after 7 years bringing Turkish canon along which he uses to conquer Hindustan (a land of infidels as he use to call it).

There he fights Sultan Ibrahim Lodi (A Pashtun Ruler). Whose armies he is able to defeat (as apparently it is full of infidels, very amusing). During this war he loses his close friend Baburi. After killing and defeating Ibrahim Lodi, Babur becomes the Emperor of India. Here too he fights of many fractions within, Namely Lodi’s mother Buwa who curses Babur.

Then there are fights with Rana sangha of Mewar, an old ruler famous for many bruises on his body along with many of his wives and concubines. This he wins by calling Jihad.  There is an attempt on Babur’s life by Poisoning but Babur is able to overcome it, it was  by Buwa, Ibrahim Lodi’s mother. He eventually dies praying for his son Humayun’s recovery.

I think it is a good book for fun-history purposes but the author himself/herself writes that he/she has fictionalized it. Though 70% is facts based on Babar’s auto biography.

I might read rest of the parts too but not soon, probably in a year or two.

The following lines are from the book “The Madmen” by Khalil Gibran, one of my favorite authors:

DEFEAT

Defeat, my defeat, my solitude and my aloofness;

You are dearer to me than a thousand triumphs,

And sweeter to my heart than all worldglory.

Defeat , my defeat, my self-knowledge and my defiance,

Through you I know that I am yet young and swift of foot

And not to be trapped by withering laurels.

And in you I have found aloneness

And the joy of being shunned and scorned.

Defeat, my Defeat, my shining sword and shield,

In your eyes I have read,

That to be enthroned is to be enslaved,

And to be understood is to be leveled down,

And to be grasped is but to reach one’s fullness

And like a ripe fruit to fall and be consumed

Defeat, my Defeat, my bold companion,

You shall hear my songs and my cries and my silences,

And none but you shall speak to me of beating of wings,

And urging of seas,

And of mountains that burn in the night,

And you alone shall climb my steep and rocky soul.

Defeat, my Defeat, my deathless courage,

You and I shall laugh together with the storm,

And together we shall dig graves for all that die in us,

And together we shall stand in the sun with will,

And we shall be dangerous.

One Hundred years of solitude

One Hundred years of solitude is a story of a Latin American family (Of Spanish Descendant) and in the book you live every moment of the family. I was recommended to read it by a teacher as a book which one “MUST” read in his/her lifetime. The teacher drew a list of books that one must read much like all  time top movies one needs to watch.

The book itself was written in 1967 by Gabriel García Márquez who writes in Colombian historical backdrop with Spanish history taken into consideration. One believes that it also touches the tragic demise of the Spanish Royal House of Habsburg Dynasty’s EXTINCTION. It has been well documented that the Royal family members had cousin marriages and into the same family or more appropriately into the same clan( ie paternal and maternal). This inbreeding has been termed as incestuous and believes to be the reason for extinction of the Royal House. In the book One hundred Years of Solitude, the Grand-matriarch shows fear that one of her Descendants would be born with a pig tail.

The book is very detail oriented and there were times where I got bored and just kept on reading it for the sake of it. It is written in  daily life narrative of a family (in this case Buendía family).

The starting of the book with Gypsies arrivals Melquíades in Mocando (which is preceded by a Romantic narrative where Colonel Aureliano Buendía is standing in front of a firing squad),Melquíades later returns from dead  and gives Buendía family  a book which is written in sanskrit (these sequences were irrelevant to me till I read the entire book and realized how important they were).

While reading the book certain things of these characters stood out for me.

  • Jose Arcadio Buendía‘s desires and maddening
  • Colonel Aureliano Buendía‘s revolutionary fights
  • Úrsula Iguarán‘s determination
  • José Arcadio‘s wildness
  • Amaranta‘s stubbornness
  • Aureliano José’s and Arcadio’s desire to be like Colonel Aureliano Buendía
  • Santa Sofía de la Piedad‘s slient presence
  • 17 Aurelianos: Sons of wild Colonel Aureliano Buendía, who were born when he was on wars and had beautiful women come to his tent at night to attend him and have his children.
  • Remedios the Beauty: Her death giving beauty
  • Aureliano Segundo and José Arcadio Segundo: the twin brother who die together.
  • Fernanda del Carpio‘s royal desires
  • Renata Remedios (a.k.a. Meme)’s rebillion
  • José Arcadio (II)‘s death by the hand of children
  • Amaranta Úrsula‘s free spirit.
  • Aureliano Babilonia (Aureliano II)‘s isolation and reading
  • Aureliano (III)‘s death

The theme on which the book is based on is “MAGICAL REALISM” which Gabriel García Márquez had tried for the 1st time in this book of his written in 1967. I can say that once the reader is done and if the book finds you off guard (or uninterested as I was after sometime). It is most likely to give you a kick once you are done with it, much like an adrenaline rush. Writing anything more about the book’s story will impact reader’s fun. Though one can still find detailed narrative of the book on Wikipedia (with whom certain section of people have huge issues).

Reading this book can become laborious at times as it became for me. However the ending made me sure that it was worth reading it and now I understand why Salman Rushdie says that it is “The greatest novel Written in any language in the last fifty years”.

This book I will keep with me always. I look forward to read other works of  Gabriel García Márquez.

On an evening two angels met at the city gate, and they greeted one another, and they conversed. The one angel said, “What are you doing these days, and what work is given you?”

And the other answered, “It was been assigned me to be the guardian of a fallen man who lives down in the valley, a great sinner, most degraded. Let me assure you it is an important task, and I work hard.”

The first fallen angel said, “That is an easy commission. I have often known sinners, and have been their guardian many a time. But it has now been assigned me to be the guardian of the good saint who lives in a bower out yonder. And I assure you that is an exceedingly difficult work, and most subtle.”

Said the first angel, “This is but assumption. How can guarding a saint be harder than guarding a sinner?”
And the other answered, “What impertinence, to call me assumptious! I have stated but the truth. Methinks it is you who are assumptious!”

Then the angels wrangled and fought, first with words and then with fists and wings. While they were fighting an archangel came by. And he stopped them, and said, “Why do you fight? And what is it all about? Know you not that it is most unbecoming for guardian angels to fight at the city gate? Tell me, what is your disagreement?”

Then both angels spoke at once, each claiming that the work given him was the harder, and that he deserved the greater recognition.

The archangel shook his head and bethought him. Then he said, “My friends, I cannot say now which one of you has the greater claim upon honor and reward. But since the power is bestowed in me, therefore for peace’ sake and for good guardianship, I give each of you the other’s occupation, since each of you insists that the other’s task is the easier one. Now go hence and be happy at your work.”

The angels thus ordered went their ways. But each one looked backward with greater anger at the archangel. And in his heart each was saying, “Oh, these archangels! Every day they make life harder and still harder for us angels!”
But the archangel stood there, and once more he bethought him. And he said in his heart, “We have indeed, to be watchful and to keep guard over our guardian angels.”

.

Khalil Gibran On Beauty

Where shall you seek beauty, and how shall you find her unless she herself be your way and your guide?
And how shall you speak of her except she be the weaver of your speech?

The aggrieved and the injured say, “Beauty is kind and gentle.
Like a young mother half-shy of her own glory she walks among us.”
And the passionate say, “Nay, beauty is a thing of might and dread.
Like the tempest she shakes the earth beneath us and the sky above us.”

The tired and the weary say, “Beauty is of soft whisperings. She speaks in our spirit.
Her voice yields to our silences like a faint light that quivers in fear of the shadow.”
But the restless say, “We have heard her shouting among the mountains,
And with her cries came the sound of hoofs, and the beating of wings and the roaring of lions.”

At night the watchmen of the city say, “Beauty shall rise with the dawn from the east.”
And at noontide the toilers and the wayfarers say,
“We have seen her leaning over the earth from the windows of the sunset.”

In winter say the snow-bound, “She shall come with the spring leaping upon the hills.”
And in the summer heat the reapers say,
“We have seen her dancing with the autumn leaves,
and we saw a drift of snow in her hair.”
All these things have you said of beauty,
Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of needs unsatisfied,
And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy.
It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand stretched forth,
But rather a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted.

It is not the image you would see nor the song you would hear,
But rather an image you see though you close your eyes and a song you hear though you shut your ears.
It is not the sap within the furrowed bark, nor a wing attached to a claw,
But rather a garden for ever in bloom and a flock of angels for ever in flight.

People of Orphalese, beauty is life when life unveils her holy face.
But you are life and you are the veil.
Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror.

The story of Karna has to do a lot with how a girl’s curiosity for a “gift” led her to a miserable life which became a curse not only for her but also for her great son whose life was plagued with injustice. It can aptly be said that it is a story of a tragic hero who had royal blood in him but was never considered royal; leave aside the respect and honour he deserved. It is a story in which a warrior gave his life for friendship, even though it meant being on the opposite side of his brothers the Pandavas(who knew nothing of karna’s existence till he was killed by one of them, namely Arjun).

More notably it is a story of a great soul who was a great philanthropist and in one instance gave away his very protective body armor (‘Kavacha’) and a pair of earrings (‘Kundala’), which he was born with.( which the sun god, his father had given to him so that he could not be killed by anyone.)

Kunti:

The story of karna cannot begin or end without Kunti being the central character. She was Karna’s biological mother. The best metaphor to represent her in this present era are those girls who are from well to do families and want “freedom” but end up with teenage pregnancies and then abandon their new born, not letting anyone know in the process about what occurred, thereby manifesting a life of misery for the child.

Kunti’s other sons Yudhistra, Bhim and Arjun were sons by various other gods as Pandu was cursed that he cannot have physical relations with his wives or any women.(since pandu accidentally killed a Rishi in forest hunting who had taken the form of deer and was enjoying with his mate. The Rishi cursed Pandu that he would similarly die when he would mate with his wife therefore can never bear sons as per a curse by a sage).

In short Kunti was quite the matriarch, I bet modern feminist would be so proud of her achievements of having kids with whoever she wanted, though it is been reported in Mahabharata that she had a mantra that she could call upon any god for a “gift”.)

Karna’s Birth :

When Kunti called Sun god with a mantra to test the validity of the mantra, which was provided to her by a sage who was happy with her service towards her when the sage came to her palace (after all the women empowerment and liberation are key factors here) she got scared and wanted the Sun God to go away, but he pleaded his helplessness against the power of mantra. (she was one with captivating spell)

Surya dev  (or Sun God) however assured Kunti that even after being blessed with a son, she would still remain a virgin and would not have to suffer any opprobrium. And so Karna was born with kavach and kundal (armor which would make him invincible). Kunti was nevertheless afraid of social stigma and therefore she abandoned the child. She put Karna in a basket and placed the same in the Ganges river, the basket was seen by Adhirath, a charioteer, who had no issues. He picked up the baby and brought him up. That is why Karna is also sometimes called Sarathiputra. Thereby karna became the illegitimate eldest son of Kunti. (the irony of the situation is that there are many karnas born even today).

On a personal note one would never forgive Kunti for what she did to Karna,even though many feminist can go gaga over her problem. The point however would remain that she never owned up her responsibility and her fault till the end. So even though she was karna’s mother, from my view point she was the reason that karna had to suffer so much in life and one would rarely sympathies with such a character, her “pain” was nothing compared to the pain endured by karna throughout his life. (though many would disagree with my viewpoint)

Teachings and the curse by Parshuram:

As Karna grew up, he became more interested in the art of warfare than in merely being a charioteer like his father Adhirata. Karna met Dronacharya, who was an established teacher in the art of warfare. Dronacharya taught the Kuru princes, but refused to take Karna as his student, since Karna was a son of a charioteer and Dronacharya only taught Kshatriyas, or warriors. (another case of elitism in education system and deep arrogance)

After being refused by Dronacharya, Karna sought his brother Shona’s help. But in Indian culture, to learn an art you must have a teacher, so Karna appointed the sun god as his first taecher, learned to wield his weapons during the day by gathering information about the various weapons and practiced with them after sundown.

Karna was keen to acquire the Brahmastra mantra from the great teacher Parshuram.  However, he knew that Parshuram gave instructions to Brahmins (the priestly tribe) only (call it elitism in education system).  So he disguised as a Brahmin and beseeched  Parshuram to accept him as a disciple.  Parshuram accepted him as such and started giving him instructions.

One day when Parshuram was resting in Karnas lap, it so happened that a bee stung Karna on the lower part of his thigh (It was Lord Indra who did that by taking the form of a bee).  It was very painful and he started bleeding.  However, fearing that if he moved his legs, he would awaken Parshuram, he did not move at all and continued to suffer.  When Parshuram woke up, he saw Karna bleeding.

He cursed him immediately as he believed that a Brahmin cannot suffer so much physical pain.  Only a kshatriya (the warrior tribe) can endure so much discomfort.  Karna was obliged to disclose his identity.  Parshuram was greatly annoyed because he was a sworn enemy of Kshatriyas.  He therefore cursed Karna that as he had learnt through deceit, he shall forget the skill which Parshuram had taught him at the crucial juncture.

Karna pleaded that any student would have acted in the same way and that he was the son of Vasusena, a mere charioteer and not a Kshatriya. But while Parashurama regretted cursing Karna in a moment of anger, his curse was irrevocable (This shows how 2nd misjudegment after kunti’s resulted in the downfall of karna). In order to subside the curse Parashurama gave to Karna as a gift the celestial weapon called Bhargavastra, along with his personal bow called Vijaya, for being such a diligent student.

Then there was another curse in which he accidentally killed a poor bhramin’s cow who cursed him helpless in the same way the innocent cow had become, by his chariot wheels getting stuck to his ground. (The reason on his death he was not on his chariot when Arjun killed him)

 Karna

Draupadi and karna

The problem with Draupadi was that she was as flawed as Kunti but with loads of EGO inside her. (It seems to me that it was karna’s fate to have such flawed women in his life even though his quality as man was what women always wish in a son or a husband)

It is said that when Draupadi was once praying for a husband, she asked that her husband be:

1) Righteous and good

2) Strong and brave

3) A great warrior

4) Good looking

5) Handsome

Lord Shiva told her that no one man can have all the 5 qualities. But as usual Drupadi highly stubborn and egoistic would not relent, Lord Shiva granted her wish. Except she had to be the wife of 5 brothers- each Pandav brother had one of the qualities she desired.

Yudhistra (righteous and good)

Bheem (strong and brave)

Arjun (a great warrior)

Nakul and Sahdev (good-looking/handsome).

However it is said, Karna had all these 5 qualities- he was after all technically the eldest of Kunti’s son .

When he went for her swamwar (where a woman is allowed to choose her husband, yes it was very liberating experience back then in ancient India too), where Pandav were dressed as Brahmins or Priests. She insulted him by calling him a mere son of a charioteer who DARED to think of marrying a princess, being true to her egoistic nature (after all she considered herself to be very EDUCATED and she believed that she knew everything about karna, another case where her arrogance was at best, as in reality karna was of Royal Blood and eldest brother of 5 Pandav, so in short was the perfect husband for her, Krishna here too played his spoiler game by misguiding Draupadi)

Karna and Arjun

It would be right to say that their fight was much like two tigers fighting for their pride , only that in this case Karna knew the truth but Arjun didn’t. The hostilities between Karna and Arjun were since childhood were in when he heard his brother shone tell about Arjun piercing through the eyes of a fish. Karna retaliated that he could pierce through two eyes of the fish with just one shot.

The Arjun’s humiliation of karna again and again by calling him the son of a mere charioteer or shurdra ( lowly ranked Servant ) who DARED to fight the kshatriyas or warrior tribe men made the blood of karna boil. Then the biggest reason fight between them is Draupadi (who I think was born just to get Mahabharat started with absolute egoism)

Many have said Karna was wrong in calling Draupadi a whore while she was being stripped by Durshasan. He said that saying that a women having more than one husband is a whore (as Draupadi had five Pandavas to be called as Husbands).

Though one would like to bring a different perspective here. Karna’s attempt to humiliate Draupadi and damage her spirit can be seen as revenge act. Draupadi too humiliated karna and damaged his spirit and kept on doing so till the end, by calling a shudra ( son of a servant). If a woman’s pain and humiliation is taken into account then why shouldn’t a man’s pain be considered, after all earlier he gave her full respect and wanted to love and honour her as his bride but she called him names ?

Karna’s Death:

His death was a result of a series of curses which he received in his life. Those curses were due to the misjudgment of the ones giving them. It was also due to his mother who did not care about her eldest son but was content with her 3 sons and 2 step-sons, though she came to plead to him before the day he was suppose to fight Arjun to not fight,but Karna said it was too late for her to recognize him as her son.It was also result of his giving up of his body Armour and earning with which he was born to Lord Indra who came disguised as a poor Brahmin. Karna use to pray to Sun God at every noon and he was famous for giving away anything that some asked from him at that time even if it may lead to his death. Indra capitalized on that nobility of karna and asked for his armour to save his son. Indra, shamed into generosity by Karna’s gesture, reciprocated by giving Karna the boon to use his most powerful weapon, the Vasavi shakti, but only once. It was then that Karna earned the name Vaikartana, as he cut the armour off his body without flinching.

During kurushetra war,while fighting against Arjun, karna’s chariot wheel sank into the ground in loose, wet soil. Descending from his chariot to remove the wheel, he requested Arjuna to wait, as the etiquette of battle allowed. However, Krishna instructed Arjun to kill Karna while he was weaponless even though rules of war state that no warrior will raise his arms against an opponent who is without his weapon. But Krishna knew that in a fair war, Arjun would not be able defeat Karna. His rationale was that killing Karna was critical to win the war and hence a necessary evil.

The real deal and Karna on management:

The real deal is that world did not deserved a great and noble warrior as karna. His defiance, fight against odds, anger, philanthropy, courage, hunger for knowledge, honorable conduct, devotion to teacher and loyalty towards friend, all are traits for deep admiration. The world never recognized while he was alive his greatness. In corporate world there will be karnas who will keep on doing their duty because it shall be done, even though it means fighting against all odds. In the end they may or may not get RESPECT for their efforts.

Karna in today’s world:

They are all around you, the only thing is that  those of the likes of  Bhishma or Krishna can see right through them. For rest, it is no need to know who is Karna as their life of arrogance will get affected and so will Karna’s charm.

PS: for those who want a woman’s perspective on karna can visit http://seema-suchislife.blogspot.in/2010/05/complete-man-karna.html

khalil Gibran on Friendship

Your friend is your needs answered.
He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.
And he is your board and your fireside.
For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.

When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the “nay” in your own mind, nor do you withhold the “ay.”
And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;
For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.
When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.
For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.

And let your best be for your friend.
If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.
For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
Seek him always with hours to live.
For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.

And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.
For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

.

Khalil Gibran on Love

When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.

But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.

When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am in the heart of God.”
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.

Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.

Bhishma for me symbolizes purity and eternal wisdom.  Someone who is the guiding force in the family. I came across few line which showed Indian people’s admiration for him. The line are as follows :

  • If there is some sea one needs to bath in-order to be one with his spirit, then one would do so.
  • If there is some Mountain one needs to climb in-order to be one with his spirit ,then one would do so.
  • If there is some pilgrimage one needs to make in-order to be one with his spirit ,then one would do so.
  • If there is some fire one needs to walk through in-order to be one with his spirit,then one would do so
  • If there is some sacrifice one needs to make in-order to be one with his spirit,then one would do so.

To be one with the noble spirit of Bhishma is the desire and dream of every warrior because there is no greater character who sacrificed everything and yet remained true to the rules or as they say to warrior code (kshatriya Dharma) , even when those rules caused him terrible misery and eventually a painful death.

I, like every child growing up in 1990s watched Mahabharata being telecast on India channel (Doordarshan to be exact) . There were usually fights over who the better fighter was in Mahabharata, Arjun or Karna or Bhima. Some even said that Krishna should be also included into list. The story dates back to the time of 4000 B.C (now whether it is real story or not, one would not discuss but it was a story none the less). So when on those Sunday mornings it use to get telecast in Tv channels. Everyone use to be ready. One of our family friend’s son who was couple of years younger than me got so much impressed that he changed his name to Arjun. Much like it happens in childhood, I wanted my name changed too. I suggested Arjun but I was told that it was already taken. In reality my parents never wanted to change the name but were amused and were looking for some entertainment. When I suggested Karna, the reply was one of your uncle is karna, so no.  The whole idea about the name change was associated with the personality of the being or the fact who was greater warrior. Someone who could beat Arjun too (the supposedly the best warrior which we knew or I knew)

Then during one of the episodes I observed a man very old and wearing everything white, but  nobody wants to be old. Fortunately there was a story behind and the whole episode had its video series too.  I though of knowing about him more well,  the elders did narrate that he was Bhishma and he was the grand-father of  kauravas and Pandavas, in short he could spank them all (nice :)). I thought of knowing more about him, so I watched the starting episodes and discussed with others. It came to being that he chose to give always the right to the throne so that his father could marry a fisher-woman. The most notable point being that he was the son of Ganga, the most sacred river for Hindus and Indians. His father shantanu was king of hastinapur ,a powerful kingdom in north India.

The story of his life was such that he  abstained from throne so that his father could marry a fisher-woman since the fisher-woman’s father wanted his to-be (unborn) grandson to sit at the throne of Hastinapur which was certainly not possible when Bhishma (or Devavratha as he was originally known) was there as crown prince. Bhishma then took the vow of not marrying so that his off-spring might not stake a claim on the throne later. This vow at that time was called to be a rare one and a AKHAND Pratigya (unbreakable vow). It was much to the disappointment and frustration of his father , who blamed himself till the end of his time, for doing this to his son.

He took the another vow that anybody who sits on the throne of Hastinapur will be in synonym with his father’s position. Therefore he would do (Bhishma) as the king will commanded and his loyalty will be to the throne alone and none so ever. The second vow that he took became a reason for concern since Dhitrashtra (the blind king and father of Duryodhan) was not able to take right decisions owing to his love to his ever angry, egoistic son Duryodhan who was incited by his shakuni uncle (who was the crown prince of Gandhar or Bactira or Presently known as Afghanistan).

What followed was a war that nearly destroyed the entire India/ Bharat as it was called then and the epic war in India was called “Mahabharata” or “the great Indian war “. In short Bhishma was the epitome of culture and tradition in the ancient India. Though his act to look other way when Draupati (The queen of Pandavas) was been stripped naked by the kauravas is seen with contempt and anger. Here too it is said that it was his two vows that he took that made him incapable of stopping such an act. It was then left to Krishna to stop  kauravas from outraging the modesty of Draupati.

There was another instance when his half-brother was insulted in a marriage ceremony by the brides father (the king of other kingdom) by not inviting in the swamwar ( where a bride can choose their own groom). Apparently the act was done to insult Bhishma and Hastinapur by the king’s family. It was  a revenge act to get even as the king’s father was insulted when he had proposed the marriage of his daughter to Bhishma. Whereas Bhishma’s father Shantanu had laughed off that matter ( showing that there was huge class difference between both the kings). This act of insult to his half-brother did not go down well with Bhishma and he single-handedly went and captured three princess who were to get married in swamwar in order to get them married to his half-brother in the presence of all the princes of India present there and the king himself. (and none were able to do anything)

The three sisters were namely ambika, amballika and Amba. Salwa, the ruler of Saubala, and Amba (the eldest princess) were in love. Upon reaching Hastinapura, Amba confided in Bhishma that she wished to wed Salwa. Bhishma then sent her back to Salwa who turned her down as it was humiliating for a man to accept a woman who had been so long in the company of another man. She then naturally approached Bhishma for marriage who refused her, citing his oath. Amba, humiliated and enraged beyond measure, vowed to avenge herself against Bhishma even if it meant being reborn over and over again.Burning for vengeance all those years ago, Amba had left Hastinapur and gone into the forest, where she sought the shelter of the sages. With their help she worshipped Lord Shiv to gain the boon she wanted: To cause Bhishma’s death.

Years passed and Amba performed the most austere and extreme austerities to please Shiva. Finally, Lord Shiva appeared and asked her what she desired. She requested a body whereby she would be able to destroy Bhishma. Shiva granted her wish. Bowing before him, Amba surrendered her body into the sacred fire so that she may be reborn according to Shiva‘s blessing.

Amba took rebirth and was a reason for the death of Bhishma in the battle of Mahabharata.Amba was reborn as Shikandi, with full memory of his past life and vendetta against Bhishma. His body was male but his mind was female and thus Shikandi gained notoriety in the kingdom for being not quite male or female but both. During the ninth day of battle it was observed that till Bhishma is there kauravas will never lose but neither will Bhishma defeat Pandavas as he considered them as grandchildren just like kauravas.The war was thus locked in a stalemate. As the Pandavas pondered over this situation, Krishna advised them to visit Bhishma himself and ask him to suggest a way out of this stalemate. Bhishma knew in his heart that the Pandavas were righteous and chaste, and that he stood as the greatest obstacle in their path to victory, so when they visited Bhishma, he told them that if faced by an other gender that is a gender which has both features of a male and female in battle he would stop to fight and not lift weapons against her.

Therefore on tenth day of battle shikhandi accompanied Arjun (The favorite grandson of Bhishma). Upon seeing shikhandi Bhishma knew that he could not shoot him as it was Amba.(she had taken rebirth half man and half woman). Krishna provoked Arjun to shoot Bhishma. So Arjun shot Bhishma reluctantly with arrows and a death-bed was created for Bhishma. Bhishma was given a death wish by his father when he took those vows that he could choose the time of his death. Therefore till the time war was not over Bhishma laid there on the arrows, shot by Arjun. In all this event Bhishma was very proud of Arjun showing his ability (In reality Arjun wouldn’t have stood a second in front of him had he not disarmed himself). None the less this was the personality of Bhishma. Once in a war he deliberately struck Krishna with an arrow so that Krishna could take up arms and break his vow of not fighting for anyone. In a fit of rage Krishna had even ran with a wheel in his hand to kill Bhishma ( Bhishma being more than willing to die by hands of Krishna, but it was Arjun who stopped Krishna from Killing bhishma falling on his feet). There is a pic to depict whole act. The pic stands out for me in whole of Mahabharata.

Therefore back to the debate over choosing what to be. I finally was able to decide and it was Bhishma.  As far as name goes well Bhishma’s real name was Devavratha , so it really doesn’t matters that what the name is. It is the actions and more importantly the personality that matters. It was said his personality was the best that could be, fit for kings. Therefore the best man, but yes the catch being not the one made for marriage.

Bhishma on Mangement :

To be honest Mahabharat  has more to do with understanding the personality of character than  management these characters did. Still however every character had a distinct set of rules of getting things done. In the case of Bhishma it is more in terms of ethics. He was a very ethical man for whom rule and principles were supreme.He was an idealist but it was his vow towards Hastinapur that led him not to act on certain situations causing outrage among masses sometimes.

If one wishes to identity any manager with him, then he would be one who worked hard to create an organization on ideal principles.

Bhishma in today’s world :

Now this was a tricky one though I went around and tried to get a feel of the situation as to what people in India think about that, therefore it was two candidates which were narrowed. Both are from strong political parties in India namely Congress and BJP. The names are Dr. Manmohan Singh from congress and Atal Bihari Vajpayee from BJP. Without doubt both are statesmen and honorable people and I somehow felt they were right in today’s time to be named as Bhishma.

However, about who is the Bhishma of Indian Business world. I sensed that I always knew that answer. It is Ratan Naval Tata.

 ps: One knows that one cannot be an exact replica of bhishma but as far as I am concern, he is the only hero for me in entire Mahabharata and everybody wants to emulate their heroes. Isn’t it… ?

Plus on naming present day people who are close to or might resemble characters well, I doubt that I might have the wisdom to always come out with a name or even write. Now nobody wants to get spanked by naming someone a Duryodhan ( Though wise people will always be able to find such characters :) )

Mahabharat is one of my favorite mythological books along with Iliad. Somehow I find it more real compared to Ramayana. Although many in India regard Ramayana as “the” book, I personally beg to differ. For me Ramayana symbolizes bondage but Mahabharata unleashing of spirits and thoughts, for someone who does not like bondage much, Ramayana might not excite much (Though I guess that talk might be blasphemous to some. I would just say it is the choice of having something spicier ).

Mahabharat offers a variety of characters whom we in this present world could relate to and I would be trying to give my own understanding of the characters as time goes on, hoping to find some answers myself too in the process. Additional to that I can say Business Sutra  reignited my interest for it providing a different perspective and a deep insight into Mahabharat. I enjoy the Business Sutra very much started on CNBCTV18 in which Devdutt Pattanaik  talks about mythology. I can honestly say that it is a delightful experience listening to him. I have rarely seen someone describe and enlighten people about Indian manuscripts and old age text like he does and use it in terms of management.

In the coming posts I would talk and think about certain characters which made me think and question. For a list they would be as follows:

  • Bhishma
  • Karna
  • Arjun
  • Yudhishtar
  • Bhim
  • Krishna
  • Duryodhan
  • Shakuni
  • kunti
  • shantanu
  • Ganga
  • Nakul and sehdev
  • Draupadi
  • Durshashan
  • Balram
  • Ghatotkach
  • Barbarika or Khatushyamji
  • Abhimanyu
  • Dhitrashtra
  • Gandhari
  • Pandu
  • Satyawati
  • Dronacharya
  • Sanjay
  • Vidura

Now one would try to start it generation by generation but would dare say that it would not always be that restrictive……. It may vary as per my admiration for the character (and mood)  so bear with me who ever will read it,apologies before hand if it puts you off. It will be more in terms my understanding of these characters…

Kahlil Gibran on Marriage

Now since it is the season of marriage in India (usually there are two seasons winters and summers, in winters it starts from November to February, summers I think it is from May to August ) and many  people who I know are getting married (friends, cousins and acquaintances). I just glanced through Kahlil Gibran’s book just to get an idea about his thoughts on this matter.

Khalil Gibran’s poetry and more importantly his book The Prophet gives a very good insight for the married, just married or about to be married couples.

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

This poem is another proof of the brilliance of khalil Gibran, out of many other  poems of his, this I find very enchanting. Those parents who believe and consider children to “oblige” to their demands, considering themselves as gods (in short fueling their egos). I think it is a good answer.

For those about to be parents, it is a cautionary note, not to fool themselves into believing that they hold any command over anyone. For circle of life has power beyond few immediate living beings.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you, they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite.
And He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hands be for happiness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
So He loves the bow that is stable.

.

Khalil Gibran is one of many authors who have influenced me deeply. Particularly in the case of Khalil Gibran, when I read his books, I found myself in a state of drunkenness much like in sufi poetry (at-least that is what my friends observe). For the record I do-not drink, so that might be some substantiating evidence of his “enchanting and elevating ” writing. It is a feeling that when your brain feels light and heavy at the same time. Very few authors have this remarkable ability to do that to reader.

I have thought of writing about him, but his range of books and writing is so huge that it would take me couple of years to summaries it. I would be putting the extract of his philosophies which I have found reverting. He is an American-Lebanese writer and my love affair with Lebanon (if I can call my admiration of the country that ) began upon reading his writing.Following are the line of his chapter on a visit from wisdom which I enjoy.

In the stillness of night Wisdom came and stood
By my bed. She gazed upon me like a tender mother
And wiped away my tears, and said : ‘I have heard
The cry of your spirit and I am come to comfort it.
Open your heart to me and I shall fill it with light.
Ask of me and I shall show you the way of truth.’

And I said : ‘Who am I, Wisdom, and how came
I to this frightening place? What manner of things
Are these mighty hopes and these many books and
Strange patterns ? What are these thoughts that pass
As doves in flight? And these words composed by
Desire and sung by delight, what are they? What are
These conclusions, grievous and joyous, that embrace
My spirit and envelop my heart? And those
Eyes which look at me seeing into my depths and
Fleeing from my sorrows ? And those voices mourning
My days and chanting my littleness, what are they ?

‘What is this youth that plays with my desires
And mocks at my longings, forgetful of yesterday’s
Deeds, rejoicing in paltry things of the moment,
Scornful of the morrow’s coming?

‘What is this world that leads me whither I know
Not, standing with me in despising? And this earth
That opens wide its mouth to swallow bodies and
Lets evil things to dwell on its breast? What is this
Creature that is satisfied with the love of fortune,
Whilst beyond its union is the pit? Who seeks Life’s
Kiss whilst Death does smite him, and brings the
Pleasure of a minute with a year of repentance, and
Gives himself to slumber the while dreams call him?
What is he who flows with the rivers of folly to the
Sea of darkness? O Wisdom, what manner of things
Are these?’

And she answered, saying :
‘You would see, human creature, this world
Through the eyes of a god. And you would seek to
Know the secrets of the hereafter with the thinking
Of men. Yet in truth is this the height of folly.
‘Go you to the wild places and you shall find
There the bee above the flowers and behold the eagle
Swooping down on his prey. Go you into your neighbor’s
House and see then the child blinking at the
Firelight and his mother busied at her household
Tasks. Be you like the bee and spend not the days of
Spring looking on the eagle’s doing. Be as the child
And rejoice in the firelight and heed not your Mother’s affairs. All that you see with your eyes was And is for your sake.

‘The many books and the strange patterns and
Beautiful thoughts are the shades of those spirits
That came ere you were come. The words that you
Do weave are a bond between you and your brothers.
The conclusions, grievous and joyous, are the
Seeds that the past did scatter in the field of the
Spirit to be reaped by the future. That youth who
Plays with your desires is he who will open the door
Of your heart to let enter the light. This earth with
The ever open mouth is the savior of your spirit from
The body’s slavery. This world which walks with
You is your heart; and your heart is all that you
Think that world. This creature whom you see as
Ignorant and small is the same who has come from
God’s side to learn pity through sadness, and knowledge
By way of darkness.’

Then Wisdom put her hand on my burning brow
And said:
‘Go then forward and do not tarry, for before  walks Perfection. Go, and have not fear of thorns
On the path, for they deem naught lawful save Corrupted blood.’

.

The argumentative Indian

For starters let me be honest that it took me 8 months to complete this book, partly because of other engagements and partly that I found some portions boring as I would narrate. Dr Sen certainly has done a good job in trying to make west understand about India but unfortunately from an Indian perspective his observations were more focused on the eastern India from Bihar to Jharkhand and mostly his beloved Bengal where he traces his ancestry from.Though I would like to add that he did give accounts of medieval and ancient India in complete fairness. It was the modern history that he talked about and specifically about Tagore that made me think on those lines.

The book has been very meticulously divide into four parts,  I can say with conviction that I consider all the parts thoroughly engaging barring some chapters which I found not interesting(  a fact that I could not relate to them in any way).

His books as 4 parts , namely

  1. Voice and heterodoxy
  2. Culture and Communication
  3. Politics and Protest
  4. Reason And Identity

For starters the first chapter is the most engaging of all, providing a detailed insight of the way India society works in terms of the opinions of people on religion and science. The chapter of the argumentative Indian he talks about  “good amount of debates” that use to take place in the Indian society at large in past, such as the debates within various religions . Akbar‘s tolerance and the secular nature of India formed. His approach is again more in making the world understand that how debates and arguments have been institutionalized in the history of India and that it is this behavior which led to the formation of a democratic India. Even though many in west claimed otherwise that it was because of “western” ideas and colonialism.

He is also particularly harsh on the NDA government , a fact that the book was written when NDA was in power. The book also address the angle where Hindu militants(Hindu aggression and parties with those ideology) has been talked by Dr Sen and how BJP cannot win more than the seats that it won at the time(184  precisely). His analysis of BJP and its ideology was  to offer an insight into an organizational structure which has worked secretly (pretty much till its RSS link came out in the open). Though he gives them credit for the meteoric rise. I found all this information very fascinating and none the less somewhat like a lecture from grandfather type figure telling as though “how the world runs”.

In the chapter of Diaspora of the world he very rightly touches the topic which has concerned me for very long time, the Identity debate.

The second section of the book it is the most boring which I found (which caused the delay in finishing). He talks at length about Rabindranath Tagore, it may be his fondness of the man or that he studied in the school which was laid by Tagore but the talk about Tagore made me lose interest. If I may add in some points I was furious about why he was talking about him so much, whereas overshadowing other people at that time in modern India. Later I did calm my self by realizing that the man was basically giving respects to the culture he was coming from ( a fact which my friends might acknowledge when I speak so more often about Jats, his action kind of gave validation to my attempts as to speak about your own too) .

The chapter that stood out here however was that of “our culture and their culture” in which much to my dissatisfaction he talks how Satyajit Ray tries to portray his understanding(again proving that it is not wrong to talk about your people, as Ray is a Bengali). The best of the lines for me in this part were on page 133 last paragraph, on word “modernism” which I for all means consider a raped word. I thoughtfully enjoyed his questioning as it was again something which has made me think a lot and made somewhat uncomfortable. It was reassuring that a Nobel laureate also thought this way.

Here he also mentioned about three ways west usually looks at India

  1. exoticist
  2. magisterial
  3. curatorial

Exoticist approach where everything is fascinating about India. The magisterial approach where the British governors tore apart Indian culture and intelligence by calling it barbaric and archaic(which many of their Indian admirers retransmit). The curatorial approach, the most balanced of all.

In the context of China and India he talks at length about how china and India have interacted since ancient time.(Nalanda university time). He talked about the fear of Chinese people when Buddhism came to their footsteps and about what both “nations” have learned from each other.

The third part was the quickest for me as most were related to the recent events and the fact that I read it in my Delhi to gurgaon metro journeys(where I don’t have much apart from either getting bored to death or sleeping or  finishing my pending books in the bookshelf). The chapters involves the freedom to the class distinction in India. It varies from the gender issues to the nuclear bomb thing, which he consider another BJP brouhaha as it was already done in 1974 by Indira Gandhi government secretly.On the gender issue he takes the usual line of women as victims and all the stuff that you read and watch on TV set.( it seemed to me that most of the media people must have read his book)

The fourth part Reasons and Identity he talks from various calendars to the topic of enlightenment.The importance of “new human psychology” as propagated by Jonathan Glover met with cynicism by him( I hope the pseudo-intellectuals are listening). He at one point brings rightly into the different ways in which west and east approach the same issue. He also rebuts the claim that most westerns feel that Asian societies lack liberty or tolerance(which baffles me too). It would be interesting to see that how many of the “western intellectuals” who shape the opinions of the mass public actually know about people like Akbar and Asoka who championed both of the causes. His well constructed argument in understanding the various calendars and pointing towards Gregorian calendar. ( the only way world running). Giving credibility to the fact that power does influence cultures , as he points out about various time median have had such influence. Greenwich time median is another example. It was made official at the time when Britain was a force to reckon with, I doubt now US would agree to such things if it unfolds.(hope western ideology worshipers in India are listening).

All in all I found couple of points in Dr Sen’s book to be used very much often Tagore, BJP and reasoning. The first one got to my nerve, though I must say that he quotes that many Bengali’s are baffled that Indian people not appreciate Tagore  for his intelligentsia. It is but true as most are interested in singing their region’s choirs plus Tagore was never that a universal leader as Gandhi who came from Gujarat(a state on the west of India). Similarly many of the rest of the Indian are baffled that Bengalis do-not appreciate other parts of the country that much and neither their leaders. It was a through grandfather speech affair, which I could say had moments of amazement to disliking to great knowledge. It is a book must read for those who wish to brush their history skill(something which I fancy a lot).

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