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Showing posts with label Mythology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mythology. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Manabasa Gurubar : Breaking caste barriers













The story behind Manabasa Gurubar. Taken from a 15th-century text, namely 'Laxmi Purana', that is read in almost every Odia home on Thursdays during the Hindu month of Margashira. 


A story that is helmed by the two protagonists, Maa Lakshmi and Sriya Chandaluni. One woman who supports another in the garb of a Goddess who blesses her disciplined and hardworking devotee irrespective of the latter's social standing. Cleanliness (or rather being industrious) is the key to appeasing the Goddess we are told.

Next is the character of Lord Balabhadra ( Jaganaath's elder brother). He epitomizes the high-handedness of a patriarchal society meting out unjust punishment to women for crossing their boundaries. In this case, by visiting the adobe of a 'Chandala' or social outcaste.

Lastly, the character of Lord Jagannath, Maa Lakshmi's husband who fails to stand up for her. He is torn between his elder brother and his wife. 

The transgression is followed by the banishment of the Goddess from her home. Then begins the 'Lakshmi-chawda' ( roughly translated into one abandoned by Lakshmi) phase of Princes who are turned into paupers. In a dramatic turn of events, the siblings are even denied food and water as the elements of nature conspire with the Goddess to bring the former to their senses. A beautifully narrated episode that establishes the Goddess's all-encompassing role as the center of the Universe.

The final redemption of the siblings is when they hungrily partake food at another 'Chandala' home (a test devised by Maa Lakshmi) thereby completing the cycle and vindicating the Goddess's stance. Food is positioned as the common denominator in this story. No one is above it. Hence to this date, people from all castes are allowed to partake in the 'Mahaprasad' from the same pot at the Jagannath Dham in Puri. The concept of 'Makara' or 'Sangata' seems to have evolved from the same philosophy. 

It's a story that seems to be quite ahead of its time. Sadly the Lakshmi Purana has been turned into just another 'holy book' that is read for the sake of it. While it does have its share of clich├ęs and parts of it may not be relevant in today's date, it is a timeless tale. And the feminist and socialist tone is in sync with the period during which it was written. 

Jau / Jukha

'Jau' or rice from the season's harvest cooked with a trickle of milk, a dash of sugar and a single Annapurna(Pandan) leaf is one of the most important 'bhoga' or offerings made by my mother on Manabasa Gurubar. This is not 'kheer' or dessert but something which can be eaten as a main dish. 

Ingredients -

  • 1 cup new rice (aromatic is preferred)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2-3 tsp sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1-2 Pandan leaves
  • 5-6 cups water

Method - Bring the water to a boil in a thick-bottomed vessel. Wash the rice thoroughly and drain it. Add to the boiling water and stir it so that it doesn't catch at the bottom.

Add the salt. Lower the flame and let it cook till the rice is cooked. Add the Pandan leaves and cook for 15-20 mins longer so that the grains start to disintegrate. Top with more hot water if required.

Add 1/4 cup milk, 2-3 tsp sugar and a pinch of salt. Remove from flame and eat warm with a simple fry (or 'bhaja') or just by itself.

Various kinds of Pitha are also an important part of the Manabasa bhoga. Usually, a different kind is made every 'Manabasa pali' or Thursday. Kakara Pitha (image below) made with rice flour and stuffed with coconut jaggery is one of the mandatory pithas made in our home.




Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Book Review: Warrior (by Oliver Lafont)



















When it comes to fiction, I usually rate a book by the shortest possible time taken from start to completion. It boils down to a ratio like number of pages divided by the number of days. Anything that scores more than hundred is top dog. And it took me just 2.5 days to chow down the entire 375 pages on this one :):).

Coming to the storyline. An immortal son of Lord Shiva. The imminent End of Days. Space travel. A heavy does of quantum physics. And a rag tag team of soldiers facing an unknown enemy. Imagine the endless possibilities that can arise when one decides to throw all these components together into one heady cocktail. It can either make one land flat on one's face or one can end up with a sparkling read that is a sure shot winner. And trust me, this book falls into the latter category.

Oliver Lafont is a fine story teller. He adds elements of mythology, science, human emotions and heroism into the narration and yet does not allow these numerous elements slacken his grip at any point. The language is easy to grasp and yet at par with international authors. Since this is his debut novel, I would rate him to be much better than quite a few of his Indian contemporaries who are in the business of churning out one hopeless plot after another.

But at the same time, there are a few flawed bits. Some parts could have been left out or modified to add substance to the plot. For example, some of that banter between Saam and his girlfriend which lacks chutzpah, the meeting of the Peerless which looks contrived and even the first meeting with the geeky IIT professor which seems too gory without a proper reason. But then there are some bits like a parallel Kurukshetra war fought in another world (aka another dimension of time and space ) which make one wonder if the concept of good and evil are anything but absolute and need to be calibrated in terms of relativity. Nonetheless, this one slowly grows on you and keeps you captivated till the end.

This is a book that allows one's imagination to take a lot of wild twists and turns which may or may not be a good thing for some( personal preference ). Not going to spoil the suspense by revealing more of the plot. Grab a copy of this one and you won't regret it.

Buy it online from Amazon.

Do read the author's interview here .


[DISCLAIMER - A copy of the book was provided by the author's publicist but that has not influenced my opinion in any manner.]


Friday, March 20, 2015

Book Review : Ramayana - The Game of Life (Shattered Dreams Book 2)







Perhaps the greatest injustice done to our epics have been relegating them to the place of worship. For they contain the wisdom that is meant to be handed down over the generations instead of being locked up in the name of religion. Sage Valmiki's Ramayana is no exception, for every episode and every character is a case study in human and quantitative psychology. How unfortunate then that something so valuable is now considered uncool by the current generation !!

It then takes someone like Shubha Vilas to narrate it in a language that resonates with the youth of today and bring it back into popular imagination. A sequel to the first book 'The Rise of the Sun Prince', this book traces the events in Rama's life that precede his planned coronation, the bitter twist of fate and the initial days of the exile. Now I must admit that I have not read the first part though I am aware of the good reviews. I did pick up a fair portion of the Ramayana from my elders during the growing up years and had not thought of reconnecting with the epic since. Plus the feminist in me is forever up in arms against the 'Agni pareeksha' episode that Sita had to endure. But that has changed with this book. Now I am planning to order 'The Rise of The Sun Prince' and all the sequels as and when they hit the stalls. I am especially looking forward to the chapters that revolve around Sita and how sensitively the author handles them.

When the aging Dasaratha is besieged by nightmares and wishes to relinquish power and anoint Rama as his successor, the shallow minded Keikeyi devises a shrewd plan to exile the latter and to put the ropes into the hands of her own son. At this juncture, one can almost draw the parallel with India's aging politicians who suddenly find themselves out in the cold. This episode iterates the need for a leader to step down while he is still at the peak of his power and any signs of weakness are still undetected. For opportunists like Keikeyi, any sign of failing (which in the case of Dasaratha was his lust for the much younger and beautiful Keikeyi) signals an opportunity to grab power.

Deeper into the narration, one comes to know that Dasaratha was under the influence of a curse for having killed Shravan kumar and causing much distress (and ultimately death) to his blind parents. While his intentions might have been sabotaged by the devious Keikeyi, the seeds for his sorrow were already sown in his past. It goes to show that one has to bear the consequences of one's action and others can only act as a medium for it.

Some of the other memorable lessons in this book are the faultless arguments put up by Sita and Lakshmana who decide to accompany Rama to the forest , the first night of the exile and the story of the boatman . Of course there is an interesting chapter on Ravana's life too !

The footnotes included at the bottom of each page are quite useful. They provide detailed explanation and in most cases add to the narration with relevant facts without actually breaking the flow of the plot.

All in all, this is a great read. A big thanks to BlogAdda for giving me the opportunity to read and review this masterpiece !!!

This review is a part of the biggest http://blog.blogadda.com/2011/05/04/indian-bloggers-book-reviews" target="_blank"> Book Review Program
for http://www.blogadda.com" target="_blank">Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

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