Monthly Archives: March 2014

Quiz on the Ramayana

Ramayana Quiz

The Ramayana has been written many times. First instance of this was written by Sage Valmiki who was initially a robber. Later, he chronicled the life events of Rama, who is an incarnation of Vishnu, which is called Shrimad Valmiki Ramayana.

1. __________was the vaidya(doctor) who healed Lakshman.

2.  Meghnaad was performing yagna to please the goddess ___________.

3. How Rama identified Vali from Sugriva, when the two brothers were fighting?

4. Who saved Rama and Laxman from Naagpasha?

5. Sita was imprisoned in __________ vatika.

6. Ravana contained amrit in his navel. Rama evaporated this by using _____________ weapon.

7. Who was Ravana’s wife?

8.  How many Kanda’s or books are there in Srimad Valmiki Ramayana?

9. Hanuman is said to be Brahmachari. Yet, he had a son. Can you name his  son?

10. There is one character in the Ramayana, who is also present in Mahabharata. Who is he?

11. Laxman was an incarnation of ____________.

12. First shloka of The Ramayana written by Valmiki is Maa Nishada Pratistham… This happened when birds was killed by a hunter and Valmiki complained with above shloka. Which were those birds?

13. Hanuman had two siddhis, garima and __________. With the help of these two, he could get past Sursa.

14. Rama intended to use Brahmastra couple of times, first, on Indra’s son, Jayant. On whom, he wanted to use this weapon second time?

15. Who was the teacher of the four princes, Rama, Laxmana, Bharata and Shatrughan.

 

16.  Name the wife of Bali (or Vali).

17. Rama took help of Sugriva and monkeys because he was cursed to this effect. Who cursed him?

18. After rejected by Rama, Sita lived in the hermitage of sage __________?

19. Indra’s son, in a form of bird, was annoying Rama and Sita. Rama intended to use brahmastra on him. In what form he(Indra’s son) was in?

20. Who was the mother of Sita?

21. Rama, Sita and Laxman lived in ____________ forests during their exile.

22. While Jatayu lost his life trying to save Sita from cluthes of Ravana, his brother lived to tell the details of the abduction to Rama. Name him?

23. in Bal Kand, Rama let the wife of Sage Gautam come out of a curse. Who was she?

Arjuna receiving Pashupata

Arjuna and Kirata

 Arjuna and Kirata

There is a humbling story about Arjuna, the world’s greatest archer, and how was he made to understand that being greatest archer did not mean he was invincible.

Mukasura and his death

Arjuna did great penance in quest of Divyastras. Just when he was completing his worship, a demon named Mukasura, came to kill him. Being an accomplished archer, took aim of the beast and killed the demon, which took the form of a boar. As he killed the demon, he noticed another arrow in the body of the boar.

Argument between Kirata and Arjuna

Surprised and thinking that who could have killed the boar, he went about to examine the kill. It happened that a kirata (hunter) has shot the arrow and claimed the boar. He became angry with him saying that he deserves the prey as the hunter has killed the boar from behind. Kirata countered that there is no rule saying that a prey cannot be killed from behind.

Kirata and Arjuna

Kirata and Arjuna

Arjuna worships Lord Shiva

After the argument, a fight broke between them and to his surprise, Kirata happened to be an equal warrior. More surprise was in store as Arjuna was losing the battle, first in archery, then as wrestlers. Hapless, he decided to worship Lord Shiva and made a shivlinga on the earth. Then he brought some flowers and worshipped Lord Shiva. When he decided to face the Kirata again, to his surprise, he found the flowers on Kirata.

Lord Shiva gives Pashupata to Arjuna

He understood that this hunter was Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva bestowed his blessings on him and he said that he wanted to test him whether he was worthy of Pashupata-astra. This weapon was the ultimate weapon to have in one’s armoury. Lord said that he was happy with Arjuna’s skills and he would bestow his blessings on him. In this way, Arjuna got his lesson and the Pashupata-astra, the great weapon.

Arjuna receiving Pashupata

Arjuna receiving Pashupata

Pulse - the free app for android

An intriguing story on Lok Sabha 2014 , Varanasi and Social Media pulse

Lok Sabha elections 2014

The battle of titans at Varanasi

As Indian political scenario is hotting up, and there is lots of buzz on social media. A TV channel was saying that as per a study, about 160 LS seats will have influence of Social Media this election. This is natural to know how our leaders are faring on social media. So far, we only hear terms about how active someone is or how many conversations are being done.

AN EXCITING APP – PULSE (FREE)

But there has not been a single holistic view which could truly measure the popularity. There is a free android application “Pulse” available which provides exactly this information. No more and no less. It gives the one single view of Leader’s popularity. You can download this app on any android device and monitor the social media activity for yourself.

Pulse - the free app for android

Pulse – the free app for android

Who tops the chart

This app provides a single view of popularity scores, and it also tells how much a leader’s popularity has gone up or down from the previous period. This app has really captured the sentiments as I noticed the day Arvind Kejriwal and Punya Prasoon Vajpayee video went viral, there was a sharp drop in the popularity of Arvind Kejriwal.

This app shows that Arvind Kejriwal and Narendra Modi are the leaders on social media, while Rahul Gandhi is not necessarily at third place.  This also shows some not so obvious names such as Rajnath Singh well ahead of other national figures, telling that their social media campaign is managed well.

 

popularity timeline of leaders

popularity timeline of leaders

The detailed report on Varanasi and its contestors

The site offering this app also provided a detailed report on  chances of Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal and how they fare on social media.  This is a very interesting article to read.

Seven famous Swayamvaras

Famous Swayamvaras

A swayamvara is the process of choosing a bridegroom by a bride. This event had been the most important event in the life of a girl and there are some great stories in Indian mythology on this. Have a look.

Sita

Perhaps the most famous is Sita’s Swayamvara, where Lord Rama won the hand of Sita.  The condition was set by King Janaka, father of Sita.  Janaka laid out the terms of the challenge. “Here in this great courtyard, on the six-wheeled chariot before you rests the bow of Siva, crafted by none other than the celestial architect Viswakarma . This bow was presented to me by Siva’s pupil, the great warrior-seer Parasuraama. The bow is my most treasured gift. It is a blessing bestowed upon my land and my people. Let us pay our homage to it.”, said he and everyone present stood up in reverence and bowed their heads in acknowledgement of the might of the Destroyer. Then Janaka continued, “Mighty lords, in order to take my daughter Sita’s hand in marriage, you must overcome the task of stringing this great bow. He who first succeeds in this task shall be her groom. May the contest begin!”

Then one by one came the suitors, some with humility and some with pomp. None succeeded. They could not even lift the bow, leave alone string it. Try as they might, they just could not move the heavy weapon. They heaved and tugged at it but it lay there unmoved. Many a ferocious lion were tamed out of shame.

Ravana also came and accepted the challenge. He had ten heads and on each there sat a crown of dazzling gold. Of the same dazzling gold were the rest of his ornaments too. This was an extremely wealthybeing. His face, the same across all his heads, bore a learned expression, like that of a scholar, which further added to the contrast he presented. He had smeared, uniformly across his foreheads three white lines, marking him as a devotee of Shiva. Everyone thought that he would win the hand of Sita, but he failed as well.

Rama took the permission of his guru and attempted to lift the bow. He rose, walked towards the chariot calmly and, like Ravana , walked around it in circumambulation. He then folded his hands and paid respect to the mighty bow. Then, effortlessly, he lifted it.

Rama breaking Shiva's bow during Sita Swayamvar

Rama breaking Shiva’s bow during Sita Swayamvar

Everyone watched in awe as the young prince from Ayodhya placed the bow vertically on the ground, bending it from the top in order to string it, as required. The silence was broken. With what sounded like a clap of thunder, the bow of Lord Shiva, the mighty weapon He had used to raze the city of Tripura to the ground, the heirloom of Mithila, broke under Raama’s strength, ironically announcing him the winner.

The next day, King Dasharatha’s delegation traveled to Mithila to carry out the wedding ceremony. Upon reaching there, he received proposals for marriage of his other three sons. Lakshmana was betrothed to Urmila, another daughter of Janaka. Vishwamitra proposed the marriages of Bharata and Shatrughna with the two daughters of Kushadhvaja, the younger brother of Janaka. Thus Bharata was married to Maandavi and Shatrughna to Shrutakeerti.

The backdrop of this condition was based on an incident when Sita playfully lifted the table, on which the bow was placed.

Draupadi

This is another famous swayamvar which has caught the imagination of everyone. For couple of reasons, She was the most beautiful maiden in the region and second, the condition set was equally impossible to achieve. This event was controversial as well, as Draupadi did not allow Karna to participate.

Arjuna participated as in the guise of a Brahmin as they somehow ran away from the fire which broke at Lakshagriha. Though Arjuna won her hand, but she was married to all five pandavas later. The whole story of her swayamvara is available here.

Arjuna winning Draupadi's hand

Arjuna winning Draupadi’s hand

Damyanti

Another noted Swayamvara is Damyanti’s. In this story, Nala has managed to win her heart through a swan even before Damyanti had seen Nala. The swayamvara could have been a mere formality, but gods (Indra) were interested in winning her hand.

After falling in love with Nala, the next step was to have a swayamvara. Getting a swayamvara arranged was not as easy as Damayanti thought. It would be highly improper of her to approach her parents directly. She began to drop hints by eating less and losing weight, by pretending to forget things, by looking lost and gloomy and other such things. At last her mother noticed that Damayanti was not her former self and told the king about it. The king immediately ordered the royal physicians to find out what sickness was troubling her daughter. It was only after the physicians drew a blank that the king realised that his daughter was now a grown-up maiden and it was time for her to get married.

The swayamvara was announced. Nala left immediately. Since he was an excellent equestrian he made good progress. The news of the swayamvara had reached the heavens as well. Four of the demi-Gods, Indra, Agni, Varun, and Yama, had also descended to the earth for the swayamvara. They accosted Nala as he was nearing Vidarbh. Indra told Nala that he would have to do them a favour. Nala protested that he needed to know what was being asked of him before he could commit. Indra got angry. “Humans consider it an honour when we ask them to do something. But you are creating a fuss. Don’t you know our power? We can make you disappear and not reach the swayamvara at all,” he thundered. Nala meekly acquiesced. Indra then told him to approach Damayanti and plead with her to choose from the four demi-Gods. Nala was aghast. “How can I act against my own interest,” he pleaded. The threat of dire consequences was repeated. Nala tried a different route. “We are allowed in the palace only on the day of the swayamvara and that too only where the swayamvara is to be held,” he said, “How will I access Damayanti?” Indra reminded Nala that he was the king of the demi-Gods and would arrange the meeting.

A day before the swayamvara Indra transported Nala to Damayanti’s chamber using his divine powers. The two recognised each other instantaneously. After a long embrace Nala stated the purpose of his visit. Damayanti told him not to worry. He had kept the promise made to the demi-Gods and nothing could dissuade Damayanti from garlanding Nala in the swayamvara ceremony. Nala faithfully repeated the conversation to Indra. “You have kept your word only in letter and not in spirit,” Indra stated, “Now I will do what has to be done.”

Nala and Damyanti

Nala and Damyanti

A galaxy of princes was gathered at the swayamvara. Nala sat in one corner so as to avoid the demi-Gods, but they sought him out and sat next to him. At the appointed time Damayanti entered the hall. To her amazement she saw five people exactly like Nala sitting in a corner. She realised that the demi-Gods were trying to trick her but was confident that her love would prevail. After watching the five for a few minutes she realised that four stared at her with unblinking eyes while the fifth was blinking regularly. She garlanded the fifth person. The four demi-Gods assumed their true form and blessed the bride and groom and went back to heaven.

 The Swayamvara of Amba, Ambika and Ambalika

There is another famous swayamvara from the times of Mahabharata This swayamvara could be cited as the reason of downfall of Bhishma.

The King of Kashi had organized a ‘Swayamvara’  (event of selection of a husband of her choice by a princess in public) for his three daughters. Bhishma went to the Swayamvar for his brother Vichtravirya. He defeated the rest of the kings present at the Swayamvar and came with the three ladies and handed them over to Vichitravirya. Amba, the eldest daughter of Kashi King, told Bhishma that she had considered King Shalva as her husband, and that in fact, she was going to accept him.

She also told Bhishma that as he was a pious man, he should do whatever he feels is right. Bhishma let Amba go and got Ambika and Ambalika married to Vichitravirya. After sometime Dhritrashtra was born to Ambika and Pandu was born to Ambalika. The sons of Dhritrashtra and Pandu were known as Kauravas and Pandavas respectively.

Later on, she was rejected by Shalva and she vowed to take Bhishma’s life before killing herself. Amba was reborn as King Drupada’s daughter. When she grew up, she went to the forest and performed rigorous austerities and penances. As a result of these difficult practices, in time, she was transformed into a Man and became known as the warrior Shikandi.

Savitri’s story

Another great story is of Savitri. Here, not exactly a swayamvara was organised, but Savitri chose her husband herself. She was very beautiful and when none asked for her hand, her father told her to choose a husband for herself.

She went on a pilgrimage and selected Satyavan as her life partner. Upon asking Narada about the choice, she was told that though Satyavan has been perfect, but his life was short.

Savitri and Satyavan

Savitri and Satyavan

Infact, exactly after an year, Satyavan will die. Then there is the legendary story of Savitri saving her husband’s life.

Historical India – Prithviraj and Sanyogita

In the history of India, Prithviraj Chauhan, won rather forcefully took her bride away from the swayamvara.

The love between Prithviraj and Samyukta is one of India’s most popular medieval romances. At the peak of his reign, Prithviraj had annexed vast regions of India to his kingdom, and his fame had spread all across the subcontinent and to Afghanistan. Many lesser kings were envious and wary of his power, including Raja Jaichand of Kannauj. Jaichand’s daughter, Samyukta, was a headstrong girl who was known for her bewitching beauty.

Prithviraj and Sanyogita

Prithviraj and Sanyogita

Samyukta fell in love with Prithviraj as his reputation dazzled her. She desired nobody but him. For his part, Prithviraj had heard of Samyukta’s loveliness and fell in love with her as well.

However, Jaichand and Prithviraj belonged to rival Rajput clans.

On finding out about the affair, Raja Jaichand was outraged that a romance had been budding behind his back. Jaichand decided to insult Prithviraj and arranged a Swayamvara for his daughter. He invited royalty from far and wide to the ceremony, every eligible prince and king except Prithviraj. He then commissioned a clay statue of Prithviraj, which served as doorman (dwarpala) to Jaichand’s court.

Prithviraj, on hearing about the impending swayamvara, devised a plan to elope with the bride to be.

On the day of the ceremony, Samyukta walked through the court holding the ceremonial garland, ignoring the gazes of her ardent suitors. She passed through the door and put the garland around the neck of Prithviraj’s statue, declaring him her husband. Prithiviraj, who meanwhile was hiding behind the statue, caught Samyukta up in his arms, set her on his horse, and whisked her away to Delhi. Raja Jaichand was enraged.

Outside India

This practice was not limited to India and there is a famous incident is captured by Firdausi in Shahnama. In pre-Islamic Iran, of one Kitayun, eldest daughter of the Emperor of Constantinople, selecting the Iranian Gushtasp. With a view to procure a husband for one of his daughters, the Emperor determines to hold a grand assembly of illustrious and wise men for her to see and select from. She does not find a suitable husband in the first assembly and a second one is held, where she places the crown on Gushtap’s head. Gushtasp, also known as Vishtaspa, returns to Iran with his bride and is crowned King.

Parshuram avatar of Lord Vishnu

Parshuram Jayanti and Akshay Tritiya

Parshuram Jayanti festival and Akshay Tritiya

Parshuram, the sixth incarnation of Vishnu is the epitome of valour and devotion  towards parents. Once his father, Jamadagni got angry with his wife Renuka and ordered Parshuram to murder her. Parshuram obeyed him and killed his mother. Contented with his act Jamadagni asked his son to ask for anything whatever he wanted. Parshuram asked to bring back his mother to life. It was Parshuram’s cleverness that brought back his mother to life again. In this way Parshuram proved his devotion to his father and mother.

Parshurama

Parshurama

The birthday of Parshuram is celebrated on the 3rd day of Shukla Paksh of Vaishakh month. Fast is kept on this day to be blessed with son and is also called Parshu Rama Dwadashi. According to Varah Puran by keeping a fast on this day the devotee enjoys his stay in Brahmiok and will be reborn to become a great king.

Akshay Tritiya

This auspicious day is also celebrated as Akshay tritiya and is more popular. On this Akshaya Tritiya day the Sun, Moon and Venus are in their signs of exaltation and it is very auspicious. According to some scriptures, on this day and with these astrological combinations the ancient Rishis performed the first yagya in the history of mankind and it marked the start of a time regarded as the Golden Age of Indian culture.

Importance of AkshayTritiya

Importance of AkshayTritiya

Akshaya means eternal or that which never ends. Any good undertaking started on this day will be of a lasting and permanent nature. All over India people celebrate weddings, plan new business ventures, long journeys and other events on this day and buy gold, silver and other assets. Any Pooja performed and any dana (donating) given on this day is said to give 100 times more results.

 

Legends associated with Lord Parshuram

According to one legend Parashurama also went to visit Shiva but the way was blocked by Ganesha. Parashurama threw the axe at him and Ganesha, knowing it had been given by Shiva, allowed to cut off one of his [[tusk]s. The goddess Parvati (wife of Shiva) on finding her sons tusk being cut filled with rage and declared that if Parashuramas thirst for Kshatriyas blood was still not over she would put a stop to it and teach him a final lesson; she will severe both of his arms and kill him.

The Goddess Parvati then takes a form of Shakti (Goddess Durga) and becomes the ultimate source of Power and no other divine power can resist or match to her Supreme power. Luckily, Shiva arrived at the scene and pacified Parvati after convincing not to harm Parashurama as he is also like her son in a way and she should forgive him as a Mother on her childs mistake. Parashurama also asks for her forgiveness. Parvati finally forgives Parashurama at the request of Ganesha. Parashurama then gifts his divine axe weapon to Ganesha and blesses him.

There is another interesting legend with regards to Parashuramas beating back the seas. It is said that he fired an arrow from his mythical bow that landed in Goa, at a place called Benaulim(Konkani:Banavali or बाणावाली) creating what is known locally as Salkache Tollem, literally meaning lotus Lake.

A tale of two brothers – Bhima and Hanumana

 When Bhima was humbled

There is an interesting story from Mahabharata about Bhima and Hanumana. This may sound strange but Bhima and Lord Hanumana can be termed as brothers, as they both are born to Lord Pawan, the god of winds. While Hanumana was a constant companion of Lord Rama in treta yuga, Shri Krishna was in company of Arjuna, Bhima’s brother, in the Mahabharata.

When Arjuna was away

Arjuna, the third pandava, had gone to the Himalayas in quest of great weapons from Indra. In case of a war, he would have to face great warriors like Bhishma, Drona, Kripa, Aswatthama, Karna  many more. And it was necessary to acquire more skill and power. The other four pandavas and Draupadi found life devoid of joy in his absence. Desiring a change in life, they moved in search of  a more peaceful place.
At last they came to the Narayanasrama forest. They decided to take rest and stay there for some time.

The flower and request to Bhima by Draupadi

One day, the wind placed a flower near Draupadi. The sweet scent of the flower mesmerized Draupadi. Draupadi felt a deep desire to possess that flower known as Saugandhika. She requested Bhima to get her that flower.  Bhima agreed to to satisfy her desire. He set out in the direction from which  the  fragrance came.

Bhima meets the monkey

On way to the flower, Bhima found an old monkey resting on the path. He asked the monkey to give him way as he was obstructing his path. In reply, the monkey politely declines saying that he was old and weak. Bhima got angry and said that he was talking the greatest mace warrior and possesses great power.  The monkey replies that if he has such strength, why don’t he himself make way by moving the monkey.
Bhima and Hanumana

Bhima and Hanumana

Bhima humbled

Bhima, out of pride and confidence,  Bhima tried  to pull the monkey’s tail aside .But he could  not move it even  a little bit. He put all his might in the endeavor, but to no avail. He was all perspiration. In spite of his best efforts,  he  could not move the tail. As such the question of challenging this monkey for a show of strength did not arise. He felt very humiliated and subdued. He told  the monkey “You are no ordinary monkey. Please tell me who you are. I accept defeat  and bow to you”.

The monkey tells about himself

Now, smilingly, the old monkey tells that he is Hanuman, his brother, who crossed the ocean in search of Sita. He said –I am your brother. Your path  ahead is perilous. It is the path of the gods and is not safe for men. So I came to  caution  you. I knew you have come to collect the  Saugandhika flower. I shall show you the pond, where this  flower grows. You can  collect as many as you want and go back. Bhima was happy. He bowed to Hanumana and requested him  to show his huge form in which he jumped over the sea, one hundred yojanas wide, to land on Lanka.

Lord Hanumana shows his virata form

Hanumana increased his size till he seemed to occupy  the whole landscape, like a hill.  His form was dazzlingly white, so Bhima had to cover his eyes . Resuming his normal form, Hanuman embraced  Bhima and blessed him. He also assured him  “When you roar like a lion on the battle field, my voice shall join yours and strike terror in the hearts of your enemies. I will be there on the flag of the chariot of Arjuna .You will be victorious”. With Hanuman’s embrace, Bhima’s strength also increased. Hanuman wanted to free his brother Bhima from his ego and to give him greater  strength to fight his enemies.
Hanuman shows his true form

Hanuman shows his true form

 

 

Hanumanchatti

Hanumanchatti