Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Maheshwara / Shiva Sutrani

      Maaheshwara Sutrani along with Panini's Ashtadhyayi is an example of how human genius when shaped by divine inspiration gives rise to an outstanding creation

During Panini's time, the existing Sanskrit Grammar rules had already begun to become haphazard and confusing. It was Panini's desire to compile, codify and compose the rules of Sanskrit Grammar in such a way that it would remain undisturbed by the ravages of time. Till eternity, it should remain akshara , ananta. Panini went into meditation to seek Lord Dakshinamoorthy- the Adi Guru 's help.

There are some moments which come in history, when there is a perfect assimilation of human aspiration and Divine Grace. This was one such moment.

When Panini was in meditation, Lord Shiva appeared before him and played the damaru 14 times  in a specific manner.

That was all. 

Just damaru sounds.

But, for Panini, the genius, those sounds were more than sufficient. For a student/ devotee like Panini and a teacher like Mahadev, there is no need for long winded explanations, lectures and treatises. All the teacher has to do is give a hint, an indication- and- if the student is smart enough, he will understand what is to be understood.

For the lesser beings, what Shiva played would have only sounded like random drum beats- but- Panini instinctively grasped their enormous significance.

Those drum beats were not random sounds. They carried within them- which only Panini could hear- certain Aksharas of the Sanskrit alphabet.

The manner in which Lord Shiva played the Damaru indicated the way in which the aksharas should be arranged.

Those drum beats formed the Maaheshwara / Shiva Sutras which gave Panini the basis on which he could formulate the rules of Sanskrit Grammar.

The Maaheshwara Sutrani are as follows: 
  1. अ इ उ ण् 
  2. ऋ ऌ क् 
  3. ए ओ ङ्
  4. ऐ औ च् 
  5. ह य व रट् 
  6. ल ण् 
  7. ञ म ङ ण न म् 
  8. झ भ ञ 
  9. घ ढ ध ष्    
  10. ज ब ग ड द श् 
  11. ख फ छ ठ थ च ट त व् 
  12. क प य् 
  13. श ष स र् 
  14. ह ल

You can listen to an audio rendition (with the damaru sound) of the Maheshwara Sutrani here

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Lakshmana and Urmila- Part XI


Lakshman was too stunned to reply immediately. "Urmila- please don't. I did not mean to hurt you. Take back your pledge"

"I will, Lord- when you return after fourteen years" replied Urmila.

A distant gong announced it was the last prahar of the afternoon. Lakshmana could sense brother Rama's footsteps outside.

"It's time for me to leave, Urmila" Lakshmana announced gently.

A sobbing Urmila fell at his feet. "Fourteen years is a long time, Lord. How can I live without you?"

"As I am going to live without you, dearest" Lakshama replied tenderly, bending down and lifting her. "Duty beckons us now Urmilla. I have to do mine as you have to do yours."

"I have one more request, Urmila.....which will ease all the hardships of the next fourteen years. Will you do it for me?" asked Lakshmana

"Command me, lord" replied Urmila unable to stop crying.

Lifting her face, Lakshmana wiped her tears with his fingers. "Will you promise never ever to shed tears in the next fourteen years? Of course, I will relieve you once I return and you can cry all you want"

Urmila's response was to sob harder.

Lakshmana shook his head. He placed his hand on her head by way of blessing and turning around, began to leave.

Urmila shook herself. What was happening to her? Couldn't she give a better send-off to her husband- something that will relieve him from worrying about her? She hastily wiped her tears and composed herself.

Lakshmana was nearly at the door.

"Aryaputra" she called out. Her voice was still quavering.

Lakshmana froze. He was not prepared to take any more sentimental mush from her.

"Aryaputra" Urmila began, walking towards him. His back was still turned towards her.

"Aryaputra, I have heard that rakshasis roam around in the forests. They are capable of assuming forms of beautiful women and lure innocent men.  If by chance, some such rakshasi tries to flirt with you, do not forget you have a wife at home."

Lakshmana smiled and turned around.

He put his hand on her shoulder and said solemnly, "I won't. In fact, I will chop off her nose and bring it to you as a souvenir. Happy?"

Urmila smiled and held back the tears that were threatening to burst.

Lakshmana gave her one last look and was gone through the door.

Lakshmana and Urmila- Part X


Urmilla came and stood beside the swing, holding one of its chains. Lakshman grunted to show he had noticed her.

"Aryaputra'"she began hesitatingly'. "Can I also not... I mean...can't you..." her voice faltered

Lakshman held up his hand to silence her. "We have been through this once Urmilla. I cannot take you too along with me."

"Please, Arya' do not say so" implored Urmila piteously. "When Sita can accompany her husband why can't I too?"

"What? Is sister Sita  also coming along ?"

Urmila nodded.

Lakshman ran his fingers through his hair. "All the more reason, Urmila, you cannot come along. Now I will have to serve both of them. How can I look after you as well?"

"You need not look after me, Arya. I will serve you. I assure you, you will not be put into any trouble because of me."

"No Urmilla. That's my decision and that's final" said Lakshmana firmly.

He paused and continued "Be happy that you will be within the comforts of the palace, and not have to endure the hardships of the forest."

Urmilla was stung to the quick. "Of what use are palatial comforts to me, Lord, when you are not there?" she countered.

 "And just in case, Aryaputra, you think that it will be possible for me to enjoy myself in your absence, I hereby pledge that despite living amidst all royal splendor, my life will mirror yours. The fruits and roots that are going to be your food will be mine too. The comforts that are going to be denied to you will have no place in my life too." Urmilla paused, her voice loaded with indignation.

Lakshmana and Urmila- Part IX


Lakshmana had been ready to fight on his brother's behalf and was dismayed when brother Rama brushed aside his offer and instead pointed out gently that their father's command was paramount to him. Lakshmana then proposed he would accompany his brother into exile but this too was brushed aside by Rama.  Deeply pained, Lakshmana stormed and ranted and threatened to put 'the old hag' behind bars.

Rama became alarmed. "You should not refer to Manthara like that, Lakshmana" Brother Rama had reprimanded him

"I was not referring to Manthara" Lakshmana had replied sulkily.

"Then who were calling 'an old hag'?" inquired Rama. Lakshmana did not dare to reply.

Comprehension dawned on Rama's face and his look became one of fury. "Lakshmana" he thundered "Is this any way to talk about Mother Kaikeyi?"

Lakshmana mumbled something about "deserves'nothing else'"

"Apologize at once" ordered Rama

"I am sorry, brother'." said Lakshmana meekly.

It was perhaps this incident which may have forced Rama to reconsider his decision.  Maybe Rama felt that to leave Lakshmana loose and unhinged in Ayodhya at such a time would be an open invitation to disaster. Maybe Rama might have thought that it would be safer to let Lakshmana accompany him where it would be easier for him, Rama to keep an eye on Lakshmana. Whatever be the reason, Rama accepted Lakshmana's proposal to follow him into exile.

Mother Kausalya then had come to him to persuade him to change his mind. It was bad enough for her, she said, to let one son go, how can he also think of leaving them? What would she tell Sumitra?  Lakshmana was getting impatient with these sentimental arguments. His place had always been beside his brother, and everyone had been happy with it. Now that his brother was being forced into exile, there was no reason why he should leave his brother's side

The lone sane voice, Lakshmana thought, had come from his mother- Sumitra. On hearing his resolution, she had come to his room - and placing her hand on his head- said, she had expected nothing less. Relieved, he touched her feet in salutation as she hurried out of his room to be back with the king- who was reportedly suffering from a nervous breakdown.

To hell with the king,
 thought Lakshmana. He was feeling particularly mutinous towards his father right now and didn't bother to keep himself updated about the king's health. But no doubt, brother Rama will want to take their father's blessings before leaving.

Lakshmana was sure he was not going to fall at his father's feet. Yet, with brother Rama's eye on him, he wouldn't dare not to either. The thought of his father had made him furious once again and he began swinging vigorously

Lakshman and Urmila- Part VIII


A few months later.
The royal palace at Ayodhya.
 Lakshmana's quarters

The rays of the late afternoon sun streamed through the windows into the room where Lakshman was seated on a swing, swinging furiously. He looked out at the sun. Brother Rama had informed him that they would leave in the last prahar of the afternoon, well before sunset. 

Anytime now, thought Lakshman. He had already divested himself of all his ornaments and wondered idly whether brother Rama would insist on them wearing clothes of bark.  Prince to pauper in no time, thought Lakshmana wryly. 

He wondered why brother Rama had not yet returned. Rama had gone to surrender the Royal Seal to Arya Sumant . Since there were apprehensions that some sections of the society may rise in revolt, Rama had also gone to meet the army chiefs to ensure that the security arrangements were in place. Typical of brother Rama to worry about the kingdom even when it was no longer his, thought Lakshmana.

He could hear, at a distance, the citizens protesting in the front of the main gates of the palace. News of the king's sudden decision to send Rama into exile and crown Bharata instead had sent shockwaves through the city. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Lakshmana and Urmila- Part VII

Lakshmana jumped out of his skin "That was you? Some nerve you have. Why were you spying on us, that too in our room?

"Your room? May I remind you it was my father's palace." retorted Urmilla ingnantly. "And who was spying? In Ayodhya, it may be called spying, but in Miltila, we call it Athithi Satkar" answered Urmilla self righteously.

"Anyway why are you telling me all this now?" asked Lakshmana             

Urmilla's voice softened as she looked down, "Lord, I know that service to your brother is the only aim in your life. Isn't it so?"

Lakshmana nodded.

Urmilla placed her hand on his shoulder and looked up into his eyes "Let it continue to remain so. I hereby promise you..."

"Wait... Urmilla..." Lakshmana almost shouted in panic. " Wait...wait  before you even say the word 'promise' "

Laksmana was  breathless as he tried to explain to Urmilla.

"Do not take a pledge so easily, Urmilla . Honoring a pledge is paramount for us Raghuvanshis. We will give up our lives but will not renege from a promise we have given. 

"Now that you too are a part of this will also have to uphold the tradition. Think very carefully before you promise anything"

Urmilla continued as if Lakshmana had not even spoken. "I, Urmilla, daughter of King Janaka, promise you, my Lord, that I will not prevent you from doing your duty whenever you want to. I will not exercise my rights as your wife to hold you back from following your dharma. I will unhesitatingly accept every decision of yours."

There was a slight quaver in her voice as she continued, still looking down "And, Lord, if ever the duties of a younger brother beckon you, you will not find Urmilla in your way."

Lakshmana held his breath.

Urmilla knelt down and placing her hands on his feet said  "This..Lord... is a Raghuvanshi's promise..."

Lakshmana bent down and lifted her and holding her chin made her look up. Her eyes reflected the strength of her character.

Hugging her close, he whispered "Truly Urmilla, you are a worthy daughter of King Janaka. I am indebted to you eternally"

Lakshmana and Urmilla - Part VI

Holding Urmilla in his hands, as she leaned her head on his chest, Lakshaman was even more confused. Here was a woman who was willing to surrender completely to him. 

And now, how could he just tell her that should a situation ever arise for him to choose between her and  Rama, he, Lakshmana, would unhesitatingly choose his brother? Will she not be upset? Yet, for him, life without brother Rama was unimaginable.

He stood there, unmoving, feeling the weight of her head on his heart. Her earring was pricking him on his chest, but he did not move. After all, it was nothing compared to the pain he was going to give her. At length, Urmilla disengaged herself from his clasp and looking up into his eyes asked "You love your  eldest brother don't you?

" 'Devoted' would be a better word" answered Lakshmana. "People say I am his shadow"

Urmilla continued " So much so that when walking together, your eyes are more on his feet than your own."

"Out of habit, I suppose...I am content to follow in his footsteps. But how do you know?"

"When the two of you, along with Rishi Vishwamitra, were walking down the Royal Avenue in  Mithila. The rishi was pointing out interesting things to both of you, but apart from occasional glances here and there, your eyes never left your brother's feet. You were walking exactly half- a - foot behind your brother, and you were careful not to overstep him, even accidentally.

"You were watching me?" Lakshamana asked, astonished

"Well, all of us had congregated in one of the balconies overlooking the avenue to get a better view of the princes from Ayodhya".  Urmilla answered, matter-of-factly.

She continued " And in the pushpa vatika when your brother was plucking the flowers..."

"Was I still half- a- foot behind him?"

"No" answered Urmilla calmly "you had stepped on to his side and you were anxiously looking at his hands lest he prick himself on an unwary thorn."

"You were observing me all that while?" Lakshmana was dumbfounded.

"Let's put it this way... Your brother was gazing at my sister, you were watching your brother and I was looking at you. We had also come to pluck flowers, remember?"

Urmilla continued "And at night, you cannot sleep until you press your brother's legs, despite his remonstrations."

"How do you know this?" asked Lakshmana, his eyes narrowing in suscpicion

"Remember the maid who kept popping in and out of your room on the first night of your stay in Mithila?"

Lakshmana replied "Yeah...vaguely..."

"That was me" replied Urmilla calmly