Let us become nobler

Sanskrit word 'Arya' or 'Aryam' stands for nobility. Let us implore everyone to become noble, the Arya or Aryam. Christians, Muslims, Hindus or Jews, communists or capitalists, rich or poor, clever or dumb, weak, meek or bully. Uncomfortable perhaps are they with other, threatening peace. Ray of hope for the world is ‘include-all’ ideas of ancient Indian wisdom popularly known as Hinduism. Only they knew how to celebrate individuality of each person. Aryas respect ideas of others, respect way of worship of others, help others and become a noble citizen of this wide and varied world. Idea behind this blog is to bring out those ideas and help each of us become better than what we are. 'N' in the 'Aryan', by the way, was a mistake made by colonial 'experts' who wanted to underplay and undermine the culture and religion of those who they clandestinely enslaved.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

5- Kailash, Kathmandu and Kashi – A story of Shiva and me.

(A decade ago after a trip to Tibet, Nepal and India, I wrote down my impressions. It was not meant to be a book, however after it was read by some, it was suggested that if it gets published, interested persons can use it. However I thought (and still think) that the narration was more of a personal quest into Bhagavan Shiva and that it may not interest a wider audience. Therefore instead of commercially publishing it, I thought of placing it on a website of Publishing house Harper Collins’s website known as Authonomy.com. It remained on their website  as "Kailash, Kathmandu and Kashi – A story of Shiva and me" for people to review my narration for many years. However, last year, when Harper Collins shutdown Authonomy.com and I realized that some people still wanted to read my account, I decided to place all 26 chapters of that travelogue on this blog. Reader views and comments are welcome)

Chapter 5.  Shiva - Puran, Ancient Text of Shiva-Stories Shiva/ Digression into Quran / Back to Shiva-Puran / Shiva – Parvati Romance / Digression into Bible / Back to Shiva-Parvati


Ancient Indian scripture-texts are classified as Vedas, Upanishads, Purans, Itihaas, Sutras etcetera based on their content and the source. They are storehouse of ancient episodes, information on dynasties, on cultural life, morals, ethics, experiences and knowledge of all kinds, secular, spiritual, religious, moral, historical, geographic, scientific etc.


There are several Purans, each covering one or the other God. Shiva-Puran is one among about a hundred minor and major Purans and is full of amazing tales of Bhagavan Shiva.

Digression into Quran


No connection with the subject of this book, however it seemed irresistible not to notice and then not to write about close rhyming between the words “Quran” (Islamic religious scripture) and the word “Puran”.  Rhyming has intrigued me for many years and am led to fantasizing with two ideas to explain what appears to be a strange coincidence which in reality may be by design. Etymologists would not agree with me, and they could be correct because according to them, the word ‘Quran’ is derived from Arabic root-word (قرأ)‘qara'a’,  which means ‘read’. The Archangel Gabriel commanded ‘Iqara'a’ (أقرأ ) to Prophet Mohammed, asking him to ‘read’ or ‘recite’.


So on the face of it Sanskrit word ‘Puran’ can have no etymological connection with ‘Quran’. However if one was to assume (or discover) any Indic connection with Prophet, a world of possibilities open up. Consider these two:


One: ‘Quran’ as a strategic ‘avatar’ of word ‘Puran’ to distinguish it from original inspiration and yet maintain religious authoritativeness of the written word. Remember, Purans were authoritative religious documents for a large section of civilized population of world during pre-Islamic times.


Or, Two: The word ‘Quran’ as having emerged from Sanskrit original word ‘Karna’ meaning ‘Ear’.


Let me explain.


First hypotheses: When new religions are established, they need their unique holy books and distinct names for those books. If one was to view Puran, it would be found that many subjects discussed within Quran and Purans have a close match if viewed in a broader sense, not withstanding wide differences and outright opposite content in words and spirit.


How to select a word or how to change existing word that should be unique and yet can infuse undertone of authority? This question may have exercised minds at that time. Any word that is similar to ‘Testament’, ‘Tohra’ or ‘Bible’ could not be a choice, after all Islam rose from followers of Those books and needed to demonstrate the difference from them. ‘Puran’ was handy enough which conveyed “Religious Authority”. However there was one problem with the word ‘Puran’. Because Arabic script does not have letter “P”, Arabic-speakers could not pronounce “Puran” as we do in English and most other languages of the world. Thus the word “Puran” is naturally un-pronounceable by speakers of Arabic language. This handicap was put to advantage. Simply replace unpronounceable ‘P’ with something suited to local tongue. And ‘Q’ of ‘Qitab’ meaning ‘Book’ was a good replacement. Thus Quran, a strategic Avatar of ‘Puran’.


Second Hypotheses: Sanskrit, ‘Karna’ to be a root word for Quran seemed possible to me because ‘read’ as a root word for Quran is far fetched, firstly in its origin, Quran was spoken by angel Gabriel and heard by Prophet Mohammed. Since it was a revealed wisdom, it could have been perhaps be called as ‘revealed’, ‘received’, ‘heard’ or ‘Through-Ear’.  Prophet was illiterate, he himself could not read a written word, so ‘hearing’ had more importance. Even ancient Indian scriptures have that connotation when they refer to “Shruti” (Shruti means ‘Heard’). Thus there is a precedent.


From this viewpoint, now, look, how well Sanskrit word ‘Karna’, meaning ‘Ear’ seems a promising fit. Remember, if ‘Karna’ was to be written in Arabic script, it would be written as three distinct alphabets Qaff, Raa and Nuun قرن and would be pronounced as ‘Qaran’, even ‘Quran’. In English or most other languages, one can pronounce Sanskrit word ‘Karna’ with R and N joined together, in Arabic, due to language architecture limitation, R and N have to remain separate - There is no way to write ‘Karna’ in Arabic since there is no provision of joining R with N. Therefore Sanskrit word when written in Arabic, would lend itself to pronouncing as ‘Qaran’.


Present day accepted Arabic spelling of Quran has an additional alphabet ‘a’, and written as قرآن


normally pronounceable as ‘Qaraan’, marginally different than ‘Qaran’ The ‘u’ in the


pronunciation of ‘Quran’ does not appear in the  written script yet by convention what is written


as Qaraan is pronounced as Quraan. If one really wanted to pronounce word ‘Quran’ as ‘Quraan’,


it should be written in Arabic as  كوران


However both hypotheses lack one important ingredient; could India have influenced Arabs who were geographically some 2000 km away? Well, historians know that Arabs had very close ties with India through maritime links and silk-route links. We also know Arab names such as “Al Hindi’, “Al Rams”, “Ramallah” etc. Also we know that Prophet has in his teachings, advised his followers to use Indian incense Oud, that is obtained from Agar-Trees grown in Indian north-eastern states such as Assam etc. Arabs took Indian spices, medicines, game of chess, even decimal system to Europe many years ago before the advent of Islam. Some people have even suggested that Islam’s holy shrine the Ka’bah is somehow connected with Bhagavan Shiva from a few unusual traditions that smacks of Hinduism. For instance, one, Muslim pilgrims revere one specific corner-stone near the entrance of the Ka’bah. This stone is known as ‘Hajre Aswad’, and stands out by a beautiful silver frame fixed around it, two, Hindu-style circumambulation (Parikrama) around the Ka’bah by pilgrims, three, Hindu style unstitched white garment wrapped around their bodies and four, the draping and cleaning rituals of Ka’bah. Perhaps remnant of pre-Islamic tradition observed at Ka’bah when it was used as a place of worship by Arabs of Mecca and surrounding towns before advent of Islam. It contained many idol of Gods and is known in Arabic as ‘Baitullah’ or ‘Bait-al-Allah’, meaning “House of God”, (Bait=House, Allah=God).


Do these prove Indic connections? Leaving further deliberations to etymologists, archeologists and historians let me return to Shiva-Puran.

Back to Shiva-Puran: Shiva – Parvati Romance


Shiv-Puran is one of the major Purans and a solid document, in its current form, consisting of 24,000 verses, 6 sections and 260 Chapters. It is said that initially it contained 100,000 verses before it was made into its current abridged form by great sage, Vyas, (also known as Ved-Vyas, he being compiler of Vedas) and taught it to his disciple Romaharashana. He in turn repeated it as a talk during his dialogue with sages who lived in the forest known as ‘Naimish-Aranya’ in response to their enquiry about Bhagavan Shiva. Thus on the scale of antiquity, the history covered in Shiva-Puran is much older than the time of its narration.


One among many interesting anecdotes and ‘stories’ is a romantic Shiva-Parvati tale, in a nutshell, as follows: 


In a complex plot hatched by Gods to arrest the menace created by a devil Tarakasur, they needed Bhagavan Shiva’s son. Only he could end Tarakasur. Gods therefore desired that Bhagavan Shiva gets married and produces a child But this is an impossible task as Bhagavan Shiva is in deep meditation in Himalayas. However a maiden, Parvati, sees Him and falls in love with Him. She cared for Him when He was deep in meditation. On the other hand, this situation provided Gods with a great window of opportunity. If Bhagavan Shiva can be made to consider Parvati favorably, perhaps their dream can come true. ‘Conspiracy’ is hatched. Cupid (Kama Deva, God of Love), is order in action. On the other hand, neither Shiva nor Parvati are aware of the designs of Gods. Kama-Deva creates a romantic climate for love to germinate and succeed. All of a sudden it is spring-time, complete with singing birds, bees sweet smelling flowers and rest of the paraphernalia. Disturbed from his meditation and suspicious of something amiss, apparently aware neither of being tended by a hopeful maiden nor of Kama-Deva’s action, when He opens His eyes, He notices a beautiful maiden nearby and Kama in hiding behind nearby foliage, ready to hit Him with his love-arrow. Bhagavan Shiva becomes angry at impropriety of Kama Deva and to stop him in his tracks, hurls fire from third-eye. Kama-Deva, instantly burns to Ashes.


Parvati, unaware of presence of Kama-Deva, is shocked to the core and freezes in fright seeing angry man she was tending to and Kama turning into ashes. She was in utter disbelief and terrified by His temper.  Disappointed, confused, she goes back to her house, losing every hope of reaching heart and mind of Bhagavan Shiva. After a while, during course of a visit by Narad[1] Muni[2] to her parents’ home, upon seeing dejected Parvati, he suggests Her to undertake severe pursuance by meditating on Shiva, so strongly and so single-mindedly that Bhagavan Shiva has to pay attention to Her. It goes on for many[3] years. She gets so engrossed in His longing, at one stage even she does not care even to eat, Her body becomes frail, earning Her a nick name ‘Aparna’ (Who does not eat anything not even a leaf). Bhagavan Shiva is not unaware; He is never unaware when a devotee remembers Him. He sends His helpers to verify Her spiritual knowledge and intensity of her quest. All the informants come back with positive report. Then Bhagavan Shiva himself goes to Parvati in the shape of a Brahmin[4] boy and asks her reasons for terrible austerities that She is observing. She, in a child like innocence, replies that She was seeking to marry Shiva. The Brahmin boy laughs out aloud at her ‘stupidity’ and tells her as to what an irony that beautiful women like her wants to marry a recluse. It defies senses that anyone in right mind can even ever think of marrying that ugly man. What a repulsive and terrible man has she chosen! Boy says that Shiva has horrifying appearance, if seen at night, one would die of fright, no one knows when He was born and no one even knows who His father and mother is, He wanders among dead, among ghosts, His wild temper is legendary and He is so utterly carefree, does not even wear a loin cloth. Who can want this type of man for husband and what happiness can He ever give you anyway? To this, Parvati replies, ‘you have made me angry by denouncing my love. However, yet I am not cursing you because among all your wicked sentences that you have uttered, I have seen one line of truth and praise, that His birth, that His father and that His mother is unknown. Precisely because He is birth less, He would be deathless too and therefore I want him as my husband.’ Satisfied with her brilliant reply and seeing her firm resolve, boy in the end reverts to His original form and accepts Parvati as his wife.


Well this is a Puranic tale, even may be a history, perhaps garnished with a poetic modifications from a very distant time. Indeed this story does not have any recognizable hallmark of history as we know it therefore let us not debate its historicity, we need only to read from it, its messages as best as we can; that: God would not allow us to manipulate Him, God can be called; when called with fervor, He does come; He always listens; have clarity in your quest; He can test our resolve; if at some stage we might meet with disappointment, some ‘Narad’ at that time will come to show direction; better among the people deserve tougher test paper; ultimately, in this world, nothing is more important than God; Once you are with Him, you may not prefer to detach from Him; etcetera.

Digression into Bible


Modern man is obsessed with the history, with dates, chronologies, and lineages. These, no doubt, are important but in India, they think, more important is the message. It is ironical, modern men have chosen to ignore messages of many spiritual masters. Take Jesus Christ for instance: in this world with nearly half the population worshipping him and swearing by him, how come man still kills a man and how come he does not love his neighbor, how come he covets neighbor’s wife and how come he does not give tunic to the man who asks for his shirt?


And however much obsessed we may be with history, the truth still appears far away despite our skills at recording events. Take Jesus Christ for example, an event that happened merely two thousand years ago. Birth of a divine child and yet no one knows with accuracy his date of birth; speculations are rife if it was 25th December or was it 6th January or was it some time in September-October?  Biblical records have recorded the time of his birth as the time when “Cattle was out for grazing”. Do we know year of his birth? Again the speculations are rife, placing the year from 0 to 6 BCE. Do we know who his biological father was? Certainly not; we only know a carpenter named Joseph was his foster father who was married to Jesus’ mother. Do we know who was mother, yes, Mary, but we are not sure how; because she was a ‘virgin’. And we even do not know where and how Jesus spent crucially formative years of his life as a youth. Where was Jesus between age of 12 and 30? History has no record of his ‘lost years’. Although the Roman government of the day had executed him, there are no official records to confirm a date of the sentence and no one knows his exact date of death, was it Friday or a Thursday? And what was the month. (Refer to various books and internet on this subject to ascertain existence of the controversies around life of Jesus). History obsessed we have failed on both the counts; neither our history is accurate nor do we have learnt the messages from masters. And in any case, even if the historical records were not available or that they were false, the substance of the words of Jesus would still be potent enough. With or without historically accurate records, let us read and benefit from the messages of masters.


Back to Shiva-Parvati


Mata Parvati was certainly a formidable thinker who took her arguments to their logical conclusions and had courage to live by them. How else did she recognize Bhagavan Shiva and had her unequivocal yearning for Him, even though He appeared exactly as described by that Brahmin Boy. Ultimately They wed, Their marriage celebrations described at length in the Shiva-Puran and lived, still live, happily ever after on mount Kailash. There, Mata Parvati, Bhagavan Shiva, Their both children, Bhagavan Ganesh and Bhagavan Kartikeya, their ‘army’, their ‘vehicles’ Bull, Mouse and Peacock are said to live permanently.


Bhagavan Shiva and Mata Parvati, despite their ‘Bhagavanhood’ love each other passionately. Their married life is epitomized as ideal and till this day Hindu men and women seek inspirations and blessings from them.  Mata Parvati could put across her views and intelligently argue out her case when required in discussions with Bhagavan Shiva. A mother of a brilliant child knows how difficult is it to deal with them without scuttling their minds. For Mata Parvati, both her sons were extra-ordinarily gifted, how would she have managed them, especially during long meditational trips of Bhagavan Shiva, single handedly? In the times of crisis, Devas and mortals have sought her to save them from demons. She has in turn taken forms of fierce goddess and saved innocents and oppressed while annihilating the demons. As for her eyes for romance, one should read Shiva-Puran first hand. In India, even the folk-songs, hundreds of them, are dedicated to their love stories and especially girls and women observe austerities (Vratas) to please Mata Parvati for her divine assistance in search for a good husband. Famous Navaratri festival, a festival of nine nights, is especially meant for praying at three forms of Mata, the intellectual as ‘Saraswati’, nourisher as ‘Laxmi’ and the protector as ‘Durga’.


[1] Name of a wandering Sage, who is considered as a great devotee of Bhagavan
Vishnu (Narayana)
[2] Sage
[3] As per the text of Shiva-Puran, 3000 years!
[4] Brahmin is the name given to that class of people in ancient India who engaged themselves in learning and educating others. Due to this ability, they were generally teachers, priests, advisers etc. Brahmin’s child is taught strict physical and mental discipline and to live austere life, learning various arts, sciences, grammar etc and serve the society. Brahmins lived a frugal life, dedicated to the society. Brahmin is one among the four Varnas (Castes) of Hindu caste system.


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