Mahabali cannot be Dwarfed.

baliAs we were driving down from Panaji, to Margao I saw this banner that said, 37%  Goan have votes AAP, 27%BJP, and some X% congress, the conclusion was AAP leads, what occurred to me, is it could also be interpreted as 63% Goans are clear that they do not want AAP.

Ultimately every story is about whose story are you telling?

chalayasi vikramane keshava balim adbhuta vamana padanakha nira-janita-janapavana kesava dhrita vamana rupa jaya jagadisa hare.

When we were kids we were told the story of the benevolent Balindra or the Mahabali, who was an epitome of virtue that Lakshmi was chained to his dungeons. the story as narrated by Kittadoddamma, always told us how the Deva’s were jealous of Bali and Indra decided requested Vishnu to annihilate Bali he was then pushed down to the PatalaLoka, and each Onam he comes to oversee the harvest Bali or Mahaveli’s arrival I never could figure the solar calendar out, the only thing I know is it Sone thingalu… some day and she said and the festival after it was ananthan chaturdashi.

She would tell us about Bali Maharaja, his greatness and his kindness and how his persona is honoured by the word Bali meaning sacrifice, she talked of the sacrifice of the seed that shed its skin, the soil that gave the nutrients, the clouds that showered the rains, the earthworms and the snakes that kept the soil enriched and how all this combined bounty gave a rich harvest. When this mission was complete Bali returned to the Patala on the day of Balipadya after being sure that his subjects were secure.

The understanding of the sacrifice or the effort that went into bringing that abundance, she would tell was the secret which kept Bali alive  among his subjects, she would conclude Kings would come, Kings would go but Bali still ruled.., Vamana stayed dwarfed and forgotten.

When I got married my value system was questioned because the story here was Bali was arrogant he chained Lakshmi so the Deva’s were justified in sending Vamana, it putting an asura in place.It was the ballad of Vamana and not Bali.

As I learnt more of these and began the quest of understanding the untold story of the other, after all eulogies and history is always about the winner. Here is what came to me…Bali the King of an prosperous Agrarian society.

Here comes Purandara the destroyer of cities, choose to call him divine incarnate if you wish, but definitely King somewhere who coveted the prosperity, the riches of the land, in comes the conqueror, and relegates the indigenous culture down. He is potbellied at that, and he unchains Lakshmi the goddess of Prosperity that would mean either he grabbed the riches or he destroyed the assets.

The conquerors Ballads talk of Bali being an Asura could be for Asura of the Rig Veda is the Ahura of the Zenda-Vesta the Zoroastrian holy text and Kerala always sea connect with the middle east.

Like our Balipadya being traded for the bhaubheej or our Onam is being traded for Vaman Jayanthi, the conqueror is marketed our oral stories and histories relegated as the large wave of Hindaptations (adaption to Hindi culture) even Thiruadhira or the big wave will not be able to save us.

Mr.Amit Shah, this is the translation of what my grandmother used to chant about Mahabali, can you bring it back?  Till then let your Vamana stay the way he is  — dwarfed!!

When Maveli ruled the land,onam
All the people were equal-
Times when people were joyful and merry;
They were all free from harm.
There was neither anxiety nor sickness,
Deaths of children were unheard of,
No wicked person was in sight anywhere
All the people on the land were good.
There was neither theft nor deceit,
And no false words or promises.
Measures and weights were right;
There were no lies,
No one cheated or wronged his neighbour.
When Maveli ruled the land,
All the people formed one casteless race

I do not know which of the stories are true but the story of Bali narrated by my grandmother is definitely more empowering than the story of Vamana.


Nagabana Bennekudru
Nagabana Bennekudru


August 7th 2016

The worship of the snake god happens all over India and other indigenous  cultures. In the Tulu – Malayala region it is very vibrant since it is essentially the snake territory. We have the cult of Nagamandala, the Nagapatri and other folk rituals which tell the stories connecting nature-animal-man.  Most families are associated with nagabana or  snake hives.

The worship could rise from the belief that the earth is held together by Sa-akarshana the geomagnetic force that is symbolized by the snake sankarshana.  So snake worship is a form of earth worship, where clusters of old trees are found.

The motif of earth-soil and fertility keeps popping up along the  coast, the land being created or reclaimed by Parashurama the son of Renuka  while Renu is also the essence of sand or soil. Goa at one end of the Parashuramakshetra has satteri the anthill in this folk religion tradition for ants are pointers to fertile soil. Once the ants move on, the snakes arrive indicating that the Bhu is now ready to turn to Shri. So snakes are always known as the keepers of wealth.

shed snake skin
shed snake skin

It is believed that the snakes return to Patala after nagapanchami, though I am not really sure when they emerge from there, anyway ritual offerings are made to ensure that the snake has enough nourishment for the journey through the sea.  So a symbolic stone is consecrated with milk, coconut water and water, soft offerings are made of traditional food like chikkli, tambittu and halubai. Nagapanchami also heralds the end of the period of where farm work particularly digging is a taboo. The belief is one might accidently kill a snake or be killed by one.

Nagabana - Kadekaar
Nagabana – Kadekaar

There some interesting rituals like not using the kumkum, or heating oil in a pan for the it might irritate the skin of  the snake.

The snake is believed to be natures equivalent of a Brahmin, probably because it the knowledge that recognizes fertile soil, the belief is so strong that if one sees a dead snake particularly a cobra it is given a human funeral.

Astrologically when the asteroid Rahu snake headed goes off balance then he is appeased by making offerings to the snake.

Ailments  of the nerves and skins are sarpadosha or the effect of the element of snake.

Eminent snakes in Hindu mythology

Worship of snakes in other cultures

Nagarapanchami worship of snakes

Naga preeta bhavanti shantimapnoti via viboh
Sashanti lok ma sadhya modate shashttih samh

Let all be blessed by the snake goddess, let everyone obtain peace
Let all live peacefully without any turbulence.

The Jhulelal Temple

Lal meri, pat rakhiyo bhana jhulelaalan

Is one of my favourite songs, and when I did ask someone they told me it was a Sufi song. Religious scholars always said Jhulelal was Krishna; their justification was Jhulelal was the son of MataDevki.

My own learning from the various articles published by the Sindhology study group said that the Hindu Sindhi’s believed he was the incarnation of Varuna the Lord of waters. Now this is really interesting as Varuna is part of the Vedic triad, also Sindhi’s are seafarers.  I am sharing an article from the scroll that has quite adequate information on Jhulelal for us to begin a journey.

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prayer at the temple

When In Jamnagar, I saw for the first time a shrine dedicated to Jhulelal, there was the slogan written in Guajarati and Urdu. It was interesting to observe, that the older wall paintings, were of Jhulelal, who looked like a Persian Guru Nanak, and a picture of MataDevki like a river goddess. But there were also newer pictures of calendar art version of Lakshmi and Krishna.

The ritual in the shrine was also very different from the Brahmanical ones, there was incense laden dhoop and low nasal Sufi like chants it was soothing.

What interested me the iconography and the slogan Jeko chawundo Jhule Lal Tehnija Theenda Bera Paar (جيڪو چوندو جهولي لال ، تَنهن جا ٿيندا ٻيڙا پار)’ meaning whoever says Jhule Lal his/her ship will reach the shores

The fish, the lotus, the wisdom represented by an old man, the fish the symbol of plenty and nourishment coming from the sea, the lotus the symbol of abundance that floats on water, Sindhi the travellers, the craftsmen, the tradesmen who sailed the waters of Sindhu. Please note this is what the iconography told me, I have not yet researched this, but crossing the seas safely to reach the shores is the practical need of every sailor, though we can give it metaphysical intonation.

julelala (1)

Someday I guess I shall find answers to these questions and newer questions will arise. for those who are interested in knowing more.

Mutation Not Evolution.

yugadi (2)
first rains of the season

An interesting prompt. How do we teach kids to keep environment safe? The answer is WE DON’T, the onus of keeping the earth safe, for human existence is on us and not the kids. Let’s  just take a deep a breathe, and connect with the environment, ever thought of it? Turn the television off, the air coolers and air conditioners off no room fresheners or perfumes for the day. We have walked so far away from where we were that we are no more connected.

On one hand I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We could stand a better chance of survival if accommodate ourselves to this planet and viewed it with appreciation instead of sceptically and dictatorially.

yugadi (1)Can man really destroy the planet? Maybe it is an intoxicating vanity. Just an overview of our planet. Earth is four and a half billion years old. There has been life on it for nearly that long, 3.8 billion years. Bacteria first, then the first multicellular then the first complex creature in the sea, then on land. Finally the great sweeping ages of animals, the amphibians, the dinosaurs the mammals, each one enduring millions on millions of years, great dynasties of creatures rising, flourishing dying away – all this against a background of continuous and violent upheaval. The mountain ranges thrust up, eroded away, commentary impacts, volcanic eruptions, oceans rising and falling, whole continents moving, an endless, constant violent changes colliding buckling to make mountains over millions of years. Earth has survived everything in its time. It will certainly survive us. if all the nuclear weapons of the world went off and all the plants and all animals died and earth was sizzling hot for hundred thousand years life would still survive somewhere, under the soil, frozen in the arctic circle. At the appropriate moment life would spread again. The evolutionary process would begin again. It might take another few billion years for life to reach the present state. And of course its manifestation would be different, the earth would survive our folly but the same cannot be said of us.

DSCN8317If the ozone layer was to think, and ultraviolet rays sear the earth, what then… well ultra violet rays are good for life, it is a potent energy that promotes mutation.. Change. Many forms of life thrive with more UV radiation. Many others will die out. This ain’t the first time this has happened. Think about oxygen, very necessary for life now. But oxygen is actually a metabolic poison, a corrosive gas, like fluorine. When oxygen was first produced as waste product by certain plant cells some three billion years ago it created a crisis for all other life on earth. Those plants were polluting the environment, by exhaling a lethal gas. Earth eventually had an atmosphere incompatible with life, nevertheless, life on earth took care of itself. In the human  though being hundred years is a long time, but think about it a hundred years ago we didn’t have cars airplanes, computers or vaccines. It was a different world, a different life, but to the earth a hundred years is nothing for that matter neither is a million. The planet lives and breathes on a much vaster scale. We can’t imagine its slow and powerful rhythms and we haven’t got the humility to try. We have residents here for the blink of an eye if we are gone tomorrow the earth will not miss us.

nagvem cha raya (8)
from a bygone era

What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.  Think of this, smoggy skies, insecticide grains, pines hidden with billboard signs, from to oily sea… many call this process the destruction of nature, maybe, but more than destruction it is change. Nature cannot be destroyed.

Humans will do a lot of damage before we ultimately destroy ourselves, but life will continue without humans. New forms of intelligence will emerge long after this human experiment is over.

How do we educate remind our kids to save nature? How do we teach Ctrl+S for nature….WE DON’T TEACH THEM. children are never good at listening to their elders. But they NEVER fail to imitate them. the best thing to do for OUR survival is to kick butt and respect nature.

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tunnel spider

We could confront our creature-hood squarely, how do we propose to educate? The answer I think is implied in the root of the word education, educe which means to draw out. What needs to be drawn out is our affinity for life. That affinity needs opportunities to grow and flourish, it needs to be validated, it needs to instructed and disciplined, and it needs to be harnessed to the goal of building humane and sustainable societies. This in turn would lead to a kind of awakening of possibilities and potentials that lie dormant and unused in the industrial- utilitarian mind. Therefore the task of education as Dave Foreman stated, is to help us open souls to love this glorious luxuriant animated planet.

We could stop fighting over who we believed created the planet, and work against destroying it, and this readiness to assume the guilt for the threat to our environment is deceptively reassuring. We like to be guilty since, if we are guilty it all depends on us. we pull the strings of the catastrophe, so we can also save ourselves simply by changing our lives. What is really hard for us to accept particularly those influenced by the west is  that we are reduced to the role of a passive observer who sits and watches what our fate will be. To avoid this impotence., we engage in frantic, obsessive activities. We recycle old paper, we buy organic food, we install long-lasting light bulbs – whatever – just to assure ourselves that we are doing something. We make individual contributions like the cricket maniacs who support their team in front of a TV screen at home, shouting and jumping from his seat in the belief that he can somehow influence the outcome of the game.

the day ends.

At the end of it all we need to have the humbleness to accept that nature is constantly mutating and evolving. We are sorry outcomes of the same.

PS; — after playing the devil’s advocate and telling you to stop being so arrogant about mastery over nature, the best way to ensure our environment remains friendly to us, is by getting proactive in the maintenance phase. Will give you the link tomorrow.

, “I’m blogging about how I’ll remind kids to press Ctrl+S for nature for theShortcut Safaari weekend activity at BlogAdda.”

On Sparrows and Crows

Crow-Image courtesy Google

A cluttered balcony, I am rushing through to dry the laundry and fix breakfast

I feel the quiet presence of the crow, it perches on the ledge until I have dried the clothes and then caws, then there is the other one, which perches on the tree across and caws as if to make conversation until I toss out the bird feed, and interestingly the it has to be either a roti or bread, the birds don’t peck or pick anything else

One day I was unduly delayed, the crow hopped right into the dining area of  my house.

Another day my husband put out the bird feed and water the crow started cawing so rudely it was almost of as if it taking husband to task. Well he snapped back saying wait she will come to give you your feed, the crow stopped cawing as if to sulk, MrD just brought the bread back it took me good 15mnts to put the bread back, the crow perched patiently on the sill.

When I had my burns I was in isolation, the bed room is next to the balcony, the crow would actually perch on the window sill and sit quietly but sort of give me assurance people once believed that when someone dies, a crow carries their soul to the land of the dead. But sometimes, something so bad happens that a terrible sadness is carried with it and the soul can’t rest. Then sometimes, just sometimes the crow can bring that soul back to put the wrong things right.

But the last one week, my crows are missing, and that worries me no end. I imagine the poor bird being electrocuted, or run over by a vehicle. Or maybe beheaded by a turning fan, like the poor sparrow was once.  Someone once said that you don’t have to be a crow to be a sparrow, well really not, because both have their role in biodiversity, both are our partners in the journey of the earth school.

Now I understand why Mr Mohammed Dilawar of Nashik decided to create the World Sparrow Day, to raise awareness of the house sparrow, the house sparrows are more or less extinct, but the number of crows are reducing steadily too.

By the way 20th March commemorates the world sparrow day, an initiative of Nature forever society of India and Eco-sys Action foundation of France and numerous other national and international organizations across the world.

sparrow image courtesy google.

The idea is to earmark a day for the house sparrow to appreciate the beauty of the common biodiversity that we take so much for granted. This was initiated in 2010. It is also a platform where people who are working on the conservation of the house sparrow and other common birds can network, collaborate and exchange conservation ideas which will lead to better science and improved results.  It aims to provide a meeting ground for people from different parts of the world to come together and form a force that can play an important role in the advocacy and spreading the awareness on the need of conserving biodiversity.


A Sacred Grove –Nagvemcha Raya

nagvem cha raya (1)
sacred grove at Nagvem

Growing up in western coastal towns, Nagabana, the placement of Garadi all made me realize that the ethnic religious cult was very close to nature and revered nature. Unfortunately it is being devoured by the more powerful brahmanical cult. Interestingly Kalidasa’s Vikramuurvashiiya talks of Nakshatravana or the green patch. The legend of Urvashi also has her turning into a tree, and the kannada folklore talks of Chelvi the daughter of the sacred grove who marries the prince of the land but is destroyed by his families insensitivity.

Communally protected sacred groves are found all over India. They have religious connotation for protecting the community. These were areas where hunting and logging are prohibited. If logging is done then it has to be done with sustainability in mind and substitution. However collection of honey and deadwood is allowed.

nagvem cha raya (4)
a panel of a seafarer

These groves are sometimes associated with temples/monasteries/shrines or with burial grounds. Sacred groves like the Alpine Meadows protects natural habitat on religious grounds.

The districts of south Kanara and Udupi have nagabana’s dedicated to the snake god which is form of sacred grove, while the Kodavas maintain the DevaKadu and they are dedicated to Aiyappa.

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The Funnel spider Unique to Goa.

The brahmanical texts refer to forests of three types. Tapovan— inhabited by the rishi’s.Mahavan the natural grand forests, both these are considered to be Raksha’s or sanctuaries and ordinary human beings are not allowed to enter these forests. Then there were Sreevana which means forest of prosperity these allowed collection of dry wood, and forest products and limited amount of timber as it did not disturb the ecosystem.

The sreevan allowed cultivation and nurturing of certain plants, recreational activities and religious activities were associated with these groves. Each village would create a grove with Panchavati or a cluster of 5 trees that represent the five primordial elements, earth, water, fire, air and space. Yet, somewhere all forests are one… they are all echoes of the first forest that gave birth to Mystery when the world began.

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The panel of the snake goddess

Vruksha-ayurveda is the science of plant life and interweaves mystic beliefs and conservation of ecology.  Every forest has its own personality. I don’t mean the obvious differences, like how English woodland is different from a sahyadari’s, or the deodhars… each has its own sound , smell, rustling whispers and whisperings gossips. A voice speaks up when we enter their acres that can’t be mistaken for one you’d hear anyplace else, a voice true to those particular trees, individual rather than of their species.

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The Gajalakshmi Panel

The sacred groves were the repositories for medicinal herbs and plants and replenish able resources like fruits and honey. They also associate with ponds and streams, to meet water requirement of local communities. We need to recreate new sacred groves and maintain the old ones, for they are the biodiversity hotspots, with rapid urbanization, plants and animals are becoming extinct and the urban landscapes require lungs. If the day comes when our descendents can venture with wonder into any forest we will have gained back more than a perfect tree. We will have gained a new reason for hope.

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Saddula Bathukamma

bathukammaThe ninth day of Bathukamma is also the last day of the festival and is called Saddula Bathukamma.  On this day the Bathukamma is immersed into the water.

Conical creations of cow dung decorated with flowers is the Bathukamma, this is a folk art. The immersion is done with great devotion, accompanied by rhythmic drum beats throughout the state of Telangana.

The myth is that the Chola King Dharmangada had a wife after many years of being married. The girl child was believed to be the incarnate of Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity. The girl child survived many accidents, hence was called Life=Bathuku, and Amma= mother also used affectionately to address a female child.

The festival connects and celebrates nurturing. The girls are made aware of their own nurturing energy. There is of course the prayer to the goddess of health and wealth to bring prosperity to their families.

There are other legends and myths that are either around this. Some are adaptations of the mainstream religion. Like one that says it is the spirit of Parwati, since Parwati is the re-incarnation of Sati and Bathkuamma is the mother who came back to life.

Another popular myth is that the Goddess Gauri who is fatigued after her fierce war with mahishasura the demon, goes to sleep on the day after the new moon, and the celebrations are to awaken her, she awakens only on the day of Dashmi.

The variation to the Chola legend is that the Chola king Dharmangada and his wife Sathyavati lost 100 sons in a battle before the goddess incarnated in their house. the seers and sages who came to bless the child blessed her with immortality, ”Bathukamma or live forever.”

The Bathukamma is believed to be a lover of flowers, so flowers are arranged on a square wooden plank or bamboo frame of tapering  sizes to form a pinnacle on top. This resembles the shape of a temple or gopura, the symbolic idol of Gowrie in turmeric is placed on top of the flowers. This becomes the Bathukamma

Thambula set
Thambula set

For nine days this is worshiped and Nivedyam make of different dishes are offered. The general ingredients being corn, sorghum, bajra, black gram, Bengal gram, green gram, groundnuts, sesame, wheat, rice, cashew nut, jaggery, milk.

On the day of Saddula Bathukamma, Maleeda is prepared and distributed. Maleeda ( )is a combination of roti and jaggery.

In general there is lot of joy and gaiety that goes with this. Dance performances, music, drama and variety entertainment happens, Jataras or fairs are held during this month long celebration.