Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Combat as Lila

'The Hindu scriptures, especially the puranas, frequently depict the world as being on the brink of disaster...The theme that runs through this ever recurring struggle (between the devas and asuras) is that of combat as play on the part of the gods. At the height of battle for instance the deity will laugh uproariously...In almost every case we are told explicitly, or it is inferred, that Vishnu's avatars are as much bent on amusing themselves as they are on saving the world...The Goddess in her many forms is also a formidable warrior who enters combat with zest. She clearly enjoys it and rarely seems to be in any trouble. For her also it is simply a diversion.' - David R Kinsley in ‘The Divine Player - A study of Krishna Lila.’
“There is in Shiva an aspect of primordial wildness, as his earlier name, Rudra (the howler, from the root rud), suggests. His untamed nature is overwhelming...Siva the mad god is not bound by any of the restricting limits of the rather tedious sane world...The Great Goddess is frequently described as drunken, which well she might be, for she embodies maya, the effect of which is intoxicating...Ramakrsna puts the matter more directly when he says of Kali: ‘She appears to be reeling under the spell of wine. But who would create this mad world unless under the influence of divine drunkenness?’... “- David Kinsley in ‘The Divine Player – A study of Krishna Lila’
'Chhinnamasta, whose image is a severed head, is the goddess who causes us to cut off our own heads or to dissolve our minds into pure awareness. She brings transcendence of the mind and represents the non-mind (unmana) state...As the power of Indra, Chhinnamasta is vidyut or lightning, the electrical energy of transformation (Vidyut Shakti) working on the cosmos at all levels. The electricity in the material world is only one form of this. In the mind it functions as the power of instantaneous enlightenment... As lightning, Chhinnamasta represents direct perception, pure seeing which cuts through everything and reveals the infinite beyond all forms.' - Dr David Frawley.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Theeyattu is a ritualistic folk art from Kerela dedicated to Bhadra Kali or the Kali who brings auspiciousness. A single actor playing Bhadrakali, uses chants and classical dance mudras to narrate the incidents leading to the killing of Darukasura, a demon, to her father Shiva, who in the performance is represented by a flaming lamp.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Telling Tales

Geetha Ramanujam in the Bangalore Mirror

Director, Kathalaya, the only academy globally for storytelling
The belief: The Steiner-Waldorf method of teaching lays emphasis on the role of imagination when it comes to learning and children. And therefore fantasy stories are believed to be a must for young minds.

The reasoning: Fantasy is believed to be the main foundation on which the imagination grows. It involves a suspension of belief — where we tend to believe in fantasy despite knowing it not to be true. This is a trait that children are born with, believes Geetha. She believes that the imagination has to grow with a child as though on a parallel railway track. The Montessori style of teaching says that fantasy stories can affect a child, if the child begins to live constantly in its world. However, children do have the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality. The stories of the Panchantantra have central characters revolving around animals that speak. In the Ramayana, Ravana is referred to as having 10 heads. Children do understand that this does not happen in real life and that these descriptions are merely representational. It’s a convenient and fun way to interpret things. Children largely believe that ghosts don’t exist, but there is a thrill in listening to stories about them.

Taking flight: Every child has an imagination that needs to evolve as a child grows. That should not be curbed in the growing years. There is something exciting about the fish who could talk, the birds who could swim and the boy who could fly. It helps the child relax and allows his imagination to grow.


Monday, May 2, 2011

With the spread of Bhakti movement in India wandering saints retold puranic stories in vernacular languages with many regional variations. The stories were rendered into poems and songs that reflected a personal relationship between a cosmic deity and an ardent devotee.

Listen, sister, listen.
I had a dream

I saw rice, betel, palmleaf
and coconut.
I saw an ascetic
come to beg,
white teeth and small matted curls.

I followed on his heels
and held his hand,
he who goes breaking
all bounds and beyond.

I saw the lord, white as jasmine
and woke wide open.

- By Akka Mahadevi in Speaking of Shiva, translated by AK Ramanujam

Illustrated by Swetha Prakash