Expressive Mudras and Movements to depict a story of good over evil

I recently donned my dancing bells after many years for a performance in my son’s school. It was exhilarating to perform in front of young admiring eyes with the creative juices lending shape to expressive mudras and intricate movements.  It was storytelling week and 3 of us moms came together to portray a mythological story, through the classical dance form, Bharatnatyam.   Hindu mythological stories are generally based on the rivalry between the Devas (Gods) and the Asuras (demons) signifying the time transcending conflict between good and bad. One such story comprising of many sub-stories is the Dashavatar (Dash –meaning 10 and Avatar- form), the 10 forms taken by Lord Vishnu, the protector of the Universe to nurture good and fight against evil.

The first form taken by Vishnu is MATSYA (fish).  Long ago, a demon, Somasuran snatched the holy Vedas from Brahma, the creator of the world and jumped into the ocean to hide the Vedas. Vishnu then took the form of Matsya—a huge fish—and swam to the depths of the ocean, destroyed the asura and brought back the Vedas to earth.

KURMA, the tortoise, is the second incarnation of Vishnu. Once, the Devas and the Asuras decided to get together to bring out the Nectar of Immortality, hidden deep in the ocean. They had to churn the ocean for the Nectar to come out of the water. For this, they used a mountain, Mount Mandar as the churning staff and the King of snakes, Vasuki as the rope. With the Devas on one side and the Asuras on the other, they churned and churned, when suddenly, Mount Mandar started to sink. Vishnu then took the form of a huge tortoise—Kurma—lifted the mountain on his back so that the churning could continue. Of course, when the nectar finally came out, Vishnu ensured that only the Devas received it by tricking the asuras.

VARAHA, the boar, is the third form of Vishnu. Hiranyaksha, a demon desiring to take control of Mother Earth, rolled her into a mat and carried her to the bottom of the ocean. When Mother Earth called for help, Vishnu took the form of Varaha the boar. He dived into the ocean, destroyed Hiranyaksha , picked up Mother Earth between his long tusks,  and put her back in her place in the universe.

NARASIMHA (Nara, meaning man, and Simha, meaning lion) is Vishnu’s fourth avatar. Hiranyakashipu , a demon was blessed with a boon wherein no man, no animal and no weapon could kill him. His young son, Prahald, was a great devotee of Vishnu and always prayed to him. One day, Hiranyakashipu livid with his son asks, “Where is this Vishnu of yours?” Prahlad replies that Lord Vishnu is everywhere; he lives in a grain of sand as well as in a big pillar. Angrily, Hiranyakashipu walks to the nearest pillar and breaks it open. Lord Vishnu appears as Narasimha (half man, half lion) from the pillar! He takes Hiranyakashipu on his thigh and disembowels him with his sharp claws.

VAMANA the dwarf is the fifth avatar of Vishnu. Bali, an Asura king and grandson of Prahlad , had defeated all the gods and became king of all three worlds. During a Yagna (a religious ceremony conducted in the presence of fire) held by Bali, Vishnu appears in the form of a small, holy man. As per custom, Bali promises to grant anything he wishes for. Vamana says that he only wants three paces of land. Bali is amused and grants him the wish.  Vamana then starts growing in size until he reaches the sky! He takes the whole earth with his first stride; heaven with his second. Then he turns to Bali and asks for the third piece.  Bali has now realized that this can be none other than Lord Vishnu, so he bows down and offers his head. Vishnu steps on his head and pushes him to the underworld, where he still rules as king.

PARASHURAMA is the sixth avatar of Vishnu. He was born to the holy sage Jamadagni and his wife Renuka. Though born a priest, Parashurama was a warrior who was an expert in wielding the axe, his favourite weapon, which he received after many years of penance from Lord Shiva. He avenged the death of his father killed by a king of the Surya Vamsha dynasty by destroying the entire dynasty with his axe. He fought evil forces throughout his life and became a symbol of justice.

Virtuous RAMA, the prince of Ayodhya is the seventh form. Rama is considered the ideal man; courageous, respectful, kind, strong, brave, loving, and just. To fulfil a promise given by his father to his step mother, Rama, his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana have to spend 14 years in exile in the forest. One day, the 10-headed demon king Ravana, wanting to teach Rama a lesson as he had once spurned his sister Surpanaka, carries away Sita to his kingdom, Lanka. Ram fights a huge war with Ravana with the help of a great monkey army, including Hanuman, kills Ravana and rescues his wife, Sita.

BALARAMA (Bala meaning strength of the arms), older brother of Krishna is the eighth form of Vishnu. In one incident, when Balarama was feeling tired and dizzy, he called out to the Yamuna River asking her to flow near him so he can take a bath. The proud Yamuna refuses angering Balarama who uses his plough to dig trenches around her that reduces the mighty Yamuna into small streams.

Mischievous and naughty KRISHNA is the ninth form of Vishnu. Brought up by his foster mother, Yashoda, he charmed all the women in the village in spite of troubling them with his pranks and antics. His uncle, Kamsa, a terrorizing King, sends innumerable demons to kill Krishna right from his infancy as it is prophesised that Krishna would kill him. Krishna not only destroys all the demons but also fulfils the prophecy, killing Kamsa eventually. Krishna is also the conferrer of the Bhagavad Gita, the spiritual and philosophical doctrine of life.

KALKI, the tenth and the last avatar of Vishnu is yet to appear. It is said that Vishnu will take the form of Kalki in this current era, known as Kali Yuga and will move with ‘great speed’ on a ‘Big White horse with a sword ‘in his hand. He will come finally when evil and immorality at the pinnacle, destroy wickedness in this world, restart creation and restore truth in people’s lives.

For the non-believers, the Dashavatar is also construed as the evolution of life starting from water based creature to more physically and intellectually developed life forms. But in the end, it’s a great story depicting humanity, values of life, andt of good winning over and evil!

Homeless, but owns a Washing machine?

img777

Washing machines made their entry in India around the mid 80’s giving relief to maids who until then washed clothes by beating them on a washing stone!The first washing machines were the semi-automatic ones with separate washer and dryer and was replaced many years later with the fully automatic one. Today, every middle class household in India boasts of owning a washing machine, though the poor still use the traditional method -washing by hand.

So, I was mighty surprised when I saw this lady (coming out from my sons’s basketball class), who lives in  a shack in a corner of a playground, but owns a washing machine! Times are a changing?

Related:

Frizztext’s Story Challenge : Letter W

Reflections on Life

The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection”.Thomas Paine
There are times when life throws a monkey wrench at us, we tend to focus only on the fragments and the distorted images. It’s ony when we reflect back and put the pieces of puzzle together that we are able to see the big picture.

img036
Multiple images at Boston airport

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation,which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.“- Confucius

24072012090
Trying to take a picture of the cat sitting on a pile of books in a book store ended up with my reflection in it

Occasionally,life rewards us with more than we bargained for. It is then we realise that ..”It  is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved,  but by reflection, force of character, and judgment”.– Marcus Tullius Cicero

P1000464

To see some stunning pictures on “reflections”, visit the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge

The Evergreen street vendors

Street vendors are a common sight in India. You can find them in every nook and corner peddling anything from books, CDs, clothes, home and clothing accessories to vegetable and fruits. Most of them set up shop illegally and usually scuttle away at the sight of the law enforcers.

But some have made a place for themselves on the roads and in the hearts of local people. In Malleshwaram,one of the oldest areas of the city of Bangalore, one can find these vendors, come rain, sunshine or cold. Their  fresh produce , mainly fruits , vegetables and flowers ,piled up  carts, boxes and plastic tubs can put any supermarket to shame.Be prepared to haggle though and be wary that the price they quote varies depending on your attire!

For decades now, these vendors have been the pride of our city. Only time will tell though if they can continue to retain their place as the city and its people bear the brunt of change and construction in the name of development. (The city development authorities plan to reconstruct the main Malleshwaram market -not shown here- into multistoreyed building).

Related:

Frizztexts Story Challenge: Letter V

Unconditional

The last week has been a hectic one – with family events and commitments taking precedence. First up was the younger one’s birthday party (which these days require weeks of meticulous planning!).Thankful to have survived the party, managing a group of  boisterous 8 year olds, I then began preparations for the next big event – a classical dance performance for storytelling week in my son’s school. After months of practise and rehearsals with 2 other moms, and last minute shopping for accessories, the D-day finally arrived – with a painful, swollen and sprained shoulder.

Opting out on the D-day was out of the question and as they say, ‘the show must go on’. And so it did- smoothly, without any hiccups. In fact, a whole bunch of mothers came together to put up different shows, some taking time out from work to rehearse, another  in spite of a hamstring injury, came to be a part of the show. Not for any gain or fame- purely for their children’s sake.

It’s the unconditional love for a child or a partner that pushes us out of our comfort zones; bear discomfort or make time for seemingly insignificant things. While doing things unconditionally for a loved one comes naturally to most of us, there are very few who do so for others, and fewer who even risk their lives unconditionally.

Yesterday, our country paid tribute to the martyrs and victims of the 26/11 tragedy on its 4th anniversary. Some have become symbols of bravery and sacrifice. Mumbai’s Hemant Karkare, chief of the Anti-terrorist squad, his colleagues, Vijay Kamte and Ashok Salaskar  who went down fighting  in a narrow lane just yards away from the office of the crime branch. Bangalore’s Sandeep Unnikrishnan , Major in the National security guards,  put his life on the line at the young age of 31 . Taking on the terrorists at the Taj Hotel on that fateful day, his last words to his men were, “Do not come up, I will handle them.” And there are others like him, many unsung heroes, who regardless of their own safety, lay down their lives, unconditionally, to keep our country and the citizens safe.

Related:

Frizz Text’s Story Challenge: Letter U

Weekly Photo Challenge: Thankful

“Be Thankful for what you have, you’ll end up having more…”- Oprah Winfrey

A recent Diwali party organised by the American Chamber of Commerce had the usual cultural events of song and dance .

Usual? Not quite!  The group of dancers ( performing Bharatnatyam- a South Indian classical form) were disabled  – some deaf and some blind.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I was surprised at first, then impressed and later thankful.

Thankful for what I have –  a lovely family and a healthy normal life to be able to do the things that I love to do – time with friends and family, travel, read and blog!

Visit the Daily Post for other interpretations of ‘Thankful’. Happy Thanksgiving weekend!

Related:

Weekly Image of Life: I am Thankful for..

Break the Cyber Ice

Image from virtualeventshub.com

Expressing myself through writing rather than in person always came to me more easily- whether it was putting myself out there through my blog, writing personal stuff (though I don’t do that anymore , as mentioned in a previous post) or commenting through social media. In real life though, I’m rather introverted and reserved, so much so that a person ,first acquainted with my online persona , then happened to meet me, would probably wonder if he/she had met my doppelganger!!

Socialising had always been a bit of a challenge. Large parties are the ones I used to dread, as I tended to be a wallflower and usually froze and fumbled when a ‘guy’ came up to speak to me. So, ‘Breaking the ice’- meaning to attempt to become friends with someone or to initiate social interchanges and conversation was obviously not my cup of tea.

A carefree attitude that came with age changed all that – to a small extent. I still try to avoid the large parties, prefer the ones where most of the guests don’t know/ barely know each other or a small group of close friends. In fact I ‘m now quite comfortable chatting with a stranger (at a party), especially if I know there’s a rare chance I’ll see him/her again!

So, for this week’s writing challenge when the daily post asked us to break the ice with bloggers we’ve never read before- follow and leave substantive comments, I was intrigued. I’d never used the reader to find new blogs, mostly depended on recommendations of other  fellow bloggers  or occasionally through the freshly pressed page. So I decided to give it a shot considering that it was the cyber world after all- my comfort zone!  Here’s what/who I found :

  1.  Humour is a genre that I admire and generally struggle with. Very few people can write humorously and connect with their readers. So I searched under ‘Humour’ and clicked on the first blog that came up- MeditationS. Erin from mindbodygallery.com  has a casual style of writing about her everyday life and is currently on a venture to put up 50 posts this November. Check out some of the titles she has planned for her upcoming posts!
  2. Being a born bookworm and lover of fiction, I decided to look for fiction blogs. I found this amazing writer,Danevon from Flashfictiondaily.com ,who’s even been Freshly Pressed (don’t know how I missed that!) and whose blog is dedicated entirely to flash fiction. What I really liked was the simple writing style and stories inspired mostly by news articles around the world.

I had fun stumbling upon these new blogs, not knowing what really to expect and being pleasantly surprised. I’ve left my comments, though not substantive, but in my usual minimalistic style. Now, all I have to do is wait and see if the ice is broken!

Do you/ would you use the reader to find new blogs? Was it helpful? Did you have fun?

A word a week Challenge: Flower

Sue from A word in your ear has ‘ A word a week’ challenge. The word this week is ‘flower’.

In India, not only are flowers appreciated but also venerated to a great extent .  Besides  being used for decoration and  offered as a symbol of love and friendship, flowers also have a spiritual significance in Hinduism. They are used to worship Gods at home and in temples not only on religious occasions but also for the everyday puja. Women adorn them in ther hair- some wear them on special occassions like a  wedding or a puja and  some women , specially in the South, wear flowers in their hair every Friday as it is considered an auspicious day.

My favourite flowers are the Frangipani  and Jasmine for their divine fragrance and  Geraniums and Hibiscus are they are fairly easy to grow 🙂

Click on any of the images for a larger view.