Sunday, December 25, 2005

Back

I was away in Calicut, my home town, for two weeks. The first two days I could not access the net due to some connectivity problems. That prompted me to take a break from the net, sort of a cyber fasting! I did not even check my e-mail for two weeks. Quite a nice experience, I must say.

 

I was also sort of busy with some other things for a few days. Many of the readers of this blog may remember that I had a series of posts here, titled Father's Memoirs. They were edited translations of excerpts from the autobiography that my father was writing then. Father turned sixty this month and Natannuvanna Vazhikal, his memoirs, is in some sense his birthday gift to himself! His students, colleagues and friends too had a beautiful gift for him on the occasion. This was in the form of a two day seminar on his works. The autobiography was released at the inaugural session of this seminar. I attended the proceedings, and perhaps this is the first seminar outside my subject that I fully attend. It was an interesting two days. I was very close to many of my father's earlier students, and it was nice to meet all of them together.

R & I, with my sister and her husband, had a wonderful one day trip to the northern parts of Kerala. We went till the Bekal Fort (remember Mani Ratnam's Bombay?) with stops at Kappad beach (where Vasco da Gama landed five centuries ago), Lokanarkavu temple(s), Mahe, Kannur Fort and Karivellur.

Lokanarkavu has one Bhagavathi temple, one Vishnu temple and one Shiva temple. In the Shiva temple there, you are not supposed to do the full pradakshina. You do only the three fourth. I heard that this practice is common in several Shiva temples in Kerala. I do not know how common this is in the Shiva temples in other parts of India. R told me that this was the first time she heard about it. Perhaps this is the custom in certain Tantric temples. And perhaps the thought behind this ritual is that Shiva does not "deserve" your 100% respects as he is considered an "inferior" god -- a "tribal god" with bark clothes and a snake and all that? I do not know.

I also read a few books. One was a collection of some delightful poems of P.P. Ramachandran, a relatively young and now famous Malayalam poet. How I loved reading and re-reading those! Another book that I read, which I should have read years ago, was Jawaharlal Nehru's autobiography. Very few books have moved me to this extent. Of course I'm always a Nehru admirer! I also started reading Philip Roth's I Married a Communist which I found very appealing in the initial few pages, but not so interesting as the story progresses. Did any of you like that book?

I attended one or two public functions. One was a local convention of Purogamana Kala Sahitya Sangham, a left leaning cultural organization. This was held late in the evening in a private lower primary school, a ramshackle building with no electricity, with un-plastered walls, with even un-cemented floors. During a long speech on culture and society in that candle lit night, I glanced across the various charts on the walls. One was meant to teach the kids 'the present tense'. A few sentences there: Ramu takes bath before studying, Rani cleans the house every day, Ramu likes to get up early in the morning, Rani helps her mother in the kitchen. You get the drift. I could have attended two more talks but I came to know about both a bit later. Utsa Patnaik (JNU) and C. Raja Mohan (JNU and The Indian Express) were around.

That's it for now. If I was blogging in my vacation, probably I would have blogged mainly about these topics. Have to catch up with a lot of my favourite blogs. Looks like I have missed a lot of blog action!

20 Comments:

At 6:24 AM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said...

the three-quarters pradakshaniam at shiva temples is actually something i have seen all over in kerala and have sometimes wondered about! have seen it being practised in some temples outside kerala as well. and it is not that the remaining quadrant is untraversed - one walks 270 degrees clockwise retrace it entirely and then does the left over 90 degrees counterclockwise, then backtracks ...

there could be tantrik reasons (perhaps justifications) for this.

there is yet another practice followed in siva temples in kerala. after the pradakshinam, one sits for a while in the temple enclosure before leaving. the funda is allegedly that if one leaves in a hurry, the 'bhuta's attending on siva might tag along and create trouble!

 
At 8:04 AM, Blogger Kiranz..!! said...

Hi Anand,

I was just roaming around the blog world n' searching the keralite bloggerz round..Found ur blog one on top with my latest search n'making my commentz here..A very nice pic u posted with ur latest blog..Bakel is a nice memory for me too..

 
At 8:33 AM, Blogger bhupinder singh said...

Philip Roth's 'I Married a Communist' is dreary at places, and requires some perseverance to complete. It does give insights into a political movement that is now marginalized in the US. There are also few pages about Indian students cooking curry in the hostels - remember this is about the 50s and 60s!

 
At 8:50 AM, Blogger Abi said...

I was wondering about the lack of activity here in your blog. I really have nothing to say, except this:

Welcome back!

 
At 9:11 AM, Blogger Qalandar said...

Welcome back! The picture is beautiful (and I did remenber the fort from Ratnam's Bombay, I had wondered at the time what the striking location was...)

 
At 9:14 AM, Blogger Mandar said...

Welcome back, Anand! :-)

 
At 1:15 PM, Blogger froginthewell said...

3/4 pradakShiNam and back + 1/4 apradakShiNam and back is the norm in some of the temples; in others it is 3/4 apradakShiNam and back + 1/4 pradakShiNam and back. If I remember it right, the initial orientation ( clockwise/anticlockwise ) depends on whether the mUrti faces south or north. I think the usually offered explanation is that one shouldn't cross the duct through which water comes after abiShEkam is done to shiva ( I think that duct is called gan.gA-nadi; you might have seen people taking water out of the lion's mouth through which water from the sanctum sanctorum falls onto the duct and drinking it/placing it on their head ).

And I don't think this has anything to do with shiva being tribal or harappan or anything; though some say nampUtiris are vaiShNavas ( there may be partial truth in it ) they apply bhasmam/vibhUti in horizontal lines after/during sandhyAvandanaM. nandakumAr - the funda about sitting for a while before leaving sounds interesting - which is/are those kShEtra/kShEtras?

 
At 5:35 PM, Anonymous Krish said...

Welcome back. I too was wondering what happened to you :-)

 
At 8:24 PM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said...

hi frog-in-the-well,

the practice of sitting for a while in siva temples seems to be a regional thing, followed by some folks in some parts of kerala - i did not hear about it till very recently (although i grew up there).

and as you say, siva being a harappan god is suspect (at least irfan habib, in his 'people's history of india' seems to agree with you). indeed there is a web page somewhere with a theory that siva is actually ZEUS (and skanda-kartikeya is none other than alexander, deified)!

 
At 9:38 PM, Blogger uma said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 10:39 AM, Blogger Sunil said...

good to see you back, and glad you had a great holida.

 
At 12:28 PM, Blogger Old Path said...

Welcome back Anand. Glad you had a great vacation. I will try to obtain a copy of Natannuvanna Vazhikal.

Nandakumar: "after the pradakshinam, one sits for a while in the temple enclosure before leaving". The funda behind this is the same as in meditation. After meditation one is not advised to rush into outer world with intense activity. After meditation, experts advise, to sit in solitude or silence for a while before one veture out to the active world. The meditator would lose the benefits of meditation if he/she switch their mind immediately from one plane to the next. Pradakshinam is meant to be carried out as a form of meditation. The story of bhuta was a round-about method devised to educate the slow learners.

 
At 12:41 PM, Blogger Old Path said...

"and skanda-kartikeya is none other than alexander, deified".

I doubt that theory. If Karthikeyan( or Subramanyan)is Alexander diefied then why he is not popular in Northern India, the play field of Alexander ? Subramanyan is popular only in the southern part of India where Alexander had no influence at all. I don't remember that I see that many Karthikeyan temples in North.

 
At 10:16 PM, Anonymous Srikanth said...

why [Murugan] is not popular in Northern India
I remember reading somewhere that the deity Karttikeya of the Aryan speakers merged with the popular deity Murugan of the Tamil region. This kind of merging also happened to the regional Mother Godesses with Devi.

You might have noticed that in the north, Karttikeya is a bachelor; while in the south, he has 2 wives!

 
At 1:23 AM, Anonymous Anirudh said...

Good to see you writing again. Two weeks without an internet connection is a nice experience indeed. Enjoyed reading the post.

 
At 7:58 PM, Blogger uma said...

welcome back...R& you seem to have had a great trip!

 
At 11:37 PM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said...

pippala leaf,

thanks for that bit of gyan.

alekhandros - isakandar- skanda looks a plausible chain of derivation. apparently, alexander used to think of himself as some sort of war-god and encouraged a cult on those lines. and skanda is a young indian war god, basically.

the traditional sanskritic derivation for the word 'skanda', at least as given in britannica, feels very contrived.

and i guess, the much married murugan was originally an independent south-indian deity who later got identified with the bachelor skanda-kartikeya.

 
At 3:19 AM, Blogger anthony said...

Time very well spent i say.
Welcome back

 
At 10:09 AM, Blogger froginthewell said...

nandakumAr,

I don't think that constitutes a valid argument for concluding that skanda is Alexander, though if there is some other argument this might strengthen it. First of all Alexander's influence was only in some north-western part of India. Moreover if Zeus was worshipped in India and Alexander deified I suppose Arrianus Xenophone would have mentioned that. In any case lord shiva is mentioned even in RgvEda. About krShNa, I read in a recent article in bhAShApOShiNi that his character was possibly a mixture of three or four more local kRShNas, one of them possibly a deity of bactrian greeks. The guy who wrote the article claimed that a certain consistency was missing in the depiction of kRShNa in mahAbhArata ( without actually pointing out the inconsistency ). For all these statements one needs more evidence than a cursory sketch of a possible sequence of derivation.

 
At 9:28 PM, Blogger One More Reason said...

Pippala Leaf, Thanks for the gyan. While visiting temples, I have been told to sit for sometime before leaving. I asked several friends the reason behind this. Never got a great explanation. Thanks

 

Post a Comment

<< Home