Category Archives: Mythology

The Siren Song

All of us know the story of the Little Mermaid. And some time or the other, all of us have wondered whether these humans with fish tales really exist! Are they myth or reality? Sampurna Majumder delves into the reality behind the myth.

The Siren

“First you will come to the sirens,
Who enchant all who come near them.
… and warble him to death.”
The Odyssey.

A girl with a tempting body, which ended up in a fish tail – frequently found its place in Mediterranean, Greek, African and South American legends. Homer, Ovid and Anderson described them, Odysseus paid them a visit and numerous Renaissance painters painted them that way: human above waist and fishy below.

On his return voyage home, Odysseus is warned about the sirens, which by their charming songs lured the sailors thereby bringing in their doom. As Odysseus and his companions reached the Sirens’ Island, the sea was calm and over the waters came notes of music so ravishing that Odysseus was almost tempted.

However, his obedient companions remembered the warning and tied the former to the mast of the boat and sealed their ears with beeswax. Gradually the music became fainter till it ceased to be heard. All of them were saved from the hands of death, Odysseus was released and they celebrated the occasion. It is said that one of the sirens, named Parthenope drowned herself in grief. Her body was cast upon the Italian shore where now stands the city of Naples, in early times called by the Siren’s name.

siren

In Greek mythology, the sirens were sea nymphs who lived in an island called Sirenum scopuli. They were dangerous bird-women or fish-women who lured the sailors to their melodious tunes thereby causing their death. The sirens of ancient Greece had bird’s abdomens, which at a later stage became fish tails because they occurred mostly in and around water bodies. This gradually gave rise to the concept of mermaid, as we know them today. In the nineteenth century, the Danish writer Hans Christian Anderson immortalized this creature in his fairy tale.

The Little Mermaid (1837), where she falls in love with a human prince who once sailed into the sea. Anderson’s story had such a huge impact that later in the early twentieth century a statue of the Little Mermaid was erected at Copenhagen, Denmark, which happens to be a favourite tourist haunt till today.

But how this myth or concept of the siren/mermaid came into being? It is believed that it were the
ancient sailors who created this myth. Earlier, the dugong or manatees, an aquatic mammal abounded the coasts of the Mediterranean, Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Greek, Phoenicians and Egyptian seafarers had observed these animals in Arabian waters as well. When they observed a herd of dugongs from a higher point of view such as a cape or masthead, they saw elegant slender creatures passing by with graceful yet powerful movements of their tail fin.

mermaidHowever, it was a disappointment for modern time witness – Christopher Columbus wrote – “…at the coast of Hispaniola, I saw three sirens; but they were far less beautiful that Horaz described them.” Several human like features distinguish these mammals from other marine mammals. The females shed tears when excited and the way a dugong mother cuddles her suckling baby in her arms, surely touched the Hellenic sailors. Back home they remembered these features. Thus the
mermaid myth was born, as we know it today.

Whatever may lie beneath, reality or myth, even in the twenty-first century, this mysterious
creature still continues to enthrall all and sundry.

A Ramnavmi Special : रामनवमी पर विशेष

Ram_Navmi1

 

Satish Tehlan here talks about the Ramnavmi and pays his homage to Lord Rama in this insightful piece. 

आज उस हस्ती का जन्मदिवस है जिनका नाम लेना ही अपने आप में अभिवादन है। महात्मा गाँधी जैसे महापुरुष के आखिरी शब्द भी उन्हें ही पुकार रहे थे। कहा जाता है राम नाम सत्य है और वाकई केवल यही सत्य भी है।  राम हिन्दूओं के लिए एक भगवान ही नहीं बल्कि उनके जीवन का एक अटूट अंग हैं। सुबह उठते हैं तो जय श्री राम,किसी से मिलते हैं तो राम-

राम और किसी अनहोनी या भय पर हे राम। राम इस देश में एक ऐसी महिमाशाली विभूतियाँ रहे हैं जिनका अमिट प्रभाव समूचे भारत के जनमानस पर सदियों से अनवरत चलाआ रहा है। राम सदाचार के प्रतीक हैं, और इन्हें “मर्यादा पुरूषोतम” कहा जाता है।

भगवान श्री राम का जन्मदिन रामनवमी एक पर्व के रूप में मनाया जाता है। चैत्र मास के शुक्ल पक्ष की प्रतिपदा को प्रतिवर्ष नये विक्रम सवंत्सर का प्रारंभ होता है और शुक्ल पक्ष की नवमी को रामजन्मोत्सव जिसे रामनवमी के नाम से जाना जाता है,  मनाया जाता है। रामनवमी, भगवान राम की स्‍मृति को समर्पित है। राम को भगवान विष्णु का अवतार माना जाता है, जो पृथ्वी पर अजेय रावण(मनुष्‍य रूप में असुर राजा) से युद्ध लड़ने के लिए आए। राम राज्‍य (राम का शासन) शांति व समृद्धि की अवधि का पर्यायवाची बन गया है। रामनवमी के दिन, श्रद्धालु बड़ी संख्‍या में उनके जन्‍मोत्‍सव कोमनाने के लिए राम जी की मूर्तियों को पालने में झुलाते हैं।

maryada purshottam ram

मर्यादा पुरुषोत्तम

भगवान विष्णु ने राम रूप में असुरों का संहार करने के लिए पृथ्वी पर अवतार लिया और जीवन में मर्यादा का पालन करते हुए मर्यादा पुरुषोत्तम कहलाए। आज भी मर्यादा पुरुषोत्तम राम का जन्मोत्सव तोधूमधाम से मनाया जाता है पर उनके आदर्शों को जीवन में नहीं उतारा जाता। अयोध्या के राजकुमार होते हुए भी भगवान राम अपने पिता के वचनों को पूरा करने के लिए संपूर्ण वैभव को त्याग 14 वर्ष केलिए वन चले गए और आज देखें तो मर्यादा मर गई लगता है और उसकी याद ही बाकी है तभी तो वैभव की लालसा में ही पुत्र अपने माता-पिता का काल बन रहा है।

राम का जन्म

पुरूषोतम भगवान राम का जन्म चैत्र मास की शुक्ल पक्ष की नवमी को पुनर्वसु नक्षत्र तथा कर्क लग्न में कौशल्या की कोख से हुआ था। यह दिन भारतीय जीवन में पुण्य पर्व माना जाता हैं। इस दिन सरयूनदी में स्नान करके लोग पुण्य लाभ कमाते हैं।

ram-navami-rituals

रामनवमी की पूजा

हिंदू धर्म में रामनवमी के दिन पूजा की जाती है। रामनवमी की पूजा के लिए आवश्‍यक सामग्री रोली, ऐपन, चावल, जल, फूल, एक घंटी और एक शंख हैं। पूजा के बाद परिवार की सबसे छोटी महिला सदस्‍यपरिवार के सभी सदस्‍यों को टीका लगाती है।

रामनवमी की पूजा में पहले देवताओं पर जल, रोली और ऐपन चढ़ाया जाता है, इसके बाद मूर्तियों पर मुट्ठी भरके चावल चढ़ाये जाते हैं। पूजा के बाद आ‍रती कीजाती है और आरती के बाद गंगाजल अथवा सादा जल एकत्रित हुए सभी जनों पर छिड़का जाता है।

 

Influence of Music on the Inner World

Goddess Of Music

Shwetha Kalyanasundaram talks of the beauty of musical chords and how history and the present have been proof of the way music impacts our inner world

All our ancient treatises on music propound that it is a gift mankind has been bestowed with from Divinity above; and that its bliss is made available to everyone as freely as air, water and the sunrays. These great texts on music also enjoin it upon man to imbibe this great power of music and to enrich his spiritual power and to purge his body, mind and soul of all impurities that might be polluting them.

Music helps man to enhance his spiritual powers and enables him to experience very subtle and elevated emotional awareness deep within. As a result, his inner world undergoes a magical transformation. The salutary effect of music on the psyche (brain) and the body of man as well as other animals, including the plant world has been acknowledged by even the western scientists and scholars of music.

Musical vibrations are found to impact the non-living things as effectively as the living beings. Man has been able to articulate his hidden feelings of subconscious, varying states of mind, desires, urges and passions through the medium of musical notes (Nada) and unleashing an array of invigorating waves of energy.

There are several stories surrounding the enchanting and hypnotic powers of music. The God is nowhere as strongly evident as in the Indian tradition. Our history is replete with strange and incredible stories such as generating fire bringing down showers of rain, curing the most incurable of diseases, bringing the cruellest of animals under control, converting solid objects into liquids etc with the powerful influence of music.

Music restores peace and tranquillity to the heart that is afflicted with pain. Music enhances man’s creative faculties and cheers up his soul. In their endeavours to explore the intangible, yet powerful influence of music the yogis of India stumbled on discovering such powers and such domains of the spiritual world that to elucidate it all, they had to create a different Veda.

In ‘Samaveda’ the secrets of the musical powers of God have been expounded and elucidated in such a way that by emulating them, man can bring his powers to merge with that of God himself. Now, even the opinions of western scholars are found to lend sustenance to the vision of Indian musicologists in this regard.

It is in music that we find a perfect quintessence of all the elements of philosophy that strengthen the body, the mind and the soul. It was Pythagoras’s considered opinion that: “Music is the most ideal means of spiritual upliftment which is why one should always sing along with a musical instrument”.

But Dr. Mike Peden pointed out that vocal music is a more effective genre than instrumental music. From the point of view of psychological fulfilment what Pythagoras has said seems to be more apt.

Image of Raag Singing

On listening to Tansen’s ‘Todi’ raag, a whole swarm of deer came galloping there drawn by the cascades of his swar patterns. The singer, under the thrall of his emotional upsurge took out one of the chains that adorned his neck and put it on the neck of one of his enraptured audience! In the process the flow of the musical stream came to a sudden halt and then, the hitherto entranced deer ran back into the jungle!

Through his singing of the ‘Todi’ raag, Tansen demonstrated as to how music can influence the inner world. Inspired by this episode, Baiju Bavara sang the alaap of ‘MrigaranjaniTodi’ when that particular deer that had made of with Tansen’s chain on its neck came running back to the court of the king where the singing was in progress.

Through this experiment, Baiju established a curious fact that the subtle vibrations of the musical waves carry such enchanting powers that they can transmute message to any animal that may be located at any distance, and in any direction.

Celebrating the Day of Love – the ‘Bangali’ Way

Saraswati puja

As a community, the Bengalis have always been associated with the finer things of life. Aesthetics defined their very existence. For example, adjectives like gourmet and connoisseur of music and art are very commonly associated with them. Since music, art and scholastic are highly regarded by Bengalis, it’s no surprise that Saraswati Puja, the Goddess of Wisdom is widely celebrated by them with much pomp and pleasure.

There goes a traditional saying in Bengal – Baaro Mashey Taro Parbon, literally translated as Thirteen Festivals in Twelve Months. Well, true, from Poush Parbon in January to Bhai Phota (Bhaai Duj) in November – every festival is celebrated with much fervour.

Basant Panchami or Saraswati Puja is usually celebrated sometime in the month of February. Incidentally, the festival often coincides with Valentine’s Day. An interesting fact about Saraswati Puja is that, it is often considered to be the day where everyone has the full freedom to flirt around. Often young couples are spotted roaming around the para hand in hand dressed in new clothes. By the way, let me be more precise, the dress code is also somewhat defined – pyjama-punjabi (kurta) for the tougher sex while the fairer sex dawns a sari usually in various shades of yellow. This phenomenon has earned the day the sobriquet – Bengali Valentine’s Day.

And yes, even if Saraswati Puja means worshipping the Goddess of Wisdom with much devotion, as mentioned earlier, the gourmet Bengali will fish some lip-smacking vegan delicacies on this auspicious day.

Special menu for the day comprise khichudi, labra, beguni, papad and chatni – somewhat simple as compared to a usual elaborate meal a typical Bangali Babu would prefer having.

khichuri

The rice used for a typical Bangali style khichudi is Govindbhog. Other items include potato, seasonal vegetables (cauliflower, carrots), paanch phoron, tej patta and dried red chillies for those who like it hot.

Khichudi is accompanied by labra which is a medley of assorted vegetables; beguni – slices of brinjal deep fried after dipped in a batter of gram flour, fried papad and of course the sweet accompaniment at the end – kuler chatni.

A sumptuous meal of the bhog would wind up the day, while the fun quotient would still continue.

Though in the present times DJs belting out tunes of Honey Singh has long replaced the traditional Bengali ones, the essence continues to enthrall all and sundry.

pujo