Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mahalaya - Pitru Paksh....the legend

Today is Mahalaya....marked as the auspicious beginning of Durga Puja, the greatest of the festivals in Bengal. The countdown for festival begins from the Rathayatra when the construction of the Durga idol first begins. From the day of 'Janmastami', everyone eagerly awaits Mahalaya. Mahalaya only marks that the preparations for the Durga Puja has reached the final level and everyone starts counting hours for the ceremony to inaugurate. Mahalaya means Homecoming.
According to the Hindu mythology, Goddess Durga who was married to Lord Siva returns to her paternal residence during the Puja, and this is the preparation for the welcome of the diving homecoming. (to know more in details refer to my previous blog article, "Durga Puja, the mythology, the ritual" written in Oct'09). It is on the dawn of Mahalaya only that the artists, the makers of the Durga idols, paint the eyes of the Goddess. This is known as Chakshudanam, literally meaning - giving eyes. The famous idol makers in Kumartuli or Kumortuli, a popular place in Kolkata, remain very busy with this all the day.

There is also a very interesting legend & story from Mahabharat, the mythological epic, which is of significance. It explains why Pitra Paksh is marked by Daan & Charity. When Karna, died in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, his soul went straight to heaven.
In his lifetime, he was popularly known as Daanveer Karna, & because of this quality & all the good deeds, he earned a place in heaven. It is said that, everyday, after he finished taking his bath & made ritual offerings to Surya Devta (Sun God), if anyone approached him and asked for anything he would give, without any hesitation, even if that meant risking his life. When the war of Kurukshetra was imminent, Karna gave away his Kavach Kundal ( protection shield) to Indra Devta ( King of the Gods), who came in the disguise of a brahmin asking for the Kavach - Kundal as daan(donation), in order to save Arjuna.
So when the soul of Karna transcended to Heaven, amongst many things to enjoy, he was offered gold & jewellery for food. Hungry & astonished at this strange offering, Karna asked Yama, the God of Death & Destiny, "Oh Lord, why dont I get normal food to eat? Why am I given gold & jewellery instead?" Lord Yama said, "My dear Karna, you made such wonderful charities during your lifetime on earth & therefore you are getting them back manifold, but unfortunately you never gave food in the name of your ancestors......you did not perform Shraadhh!! Hence you are deprived of food here". To this Karna said, "But my Lord, I never knew who my ancestors were, till almost the end of my life. I was known as Sutputra, throughout my life. I came to know about my original family, my Pandav Lineage just before the beginning of the war & hence had no time or reason to perform Shraadh. I performed Dharma to the best of my abilities & knowledge."
Lord Yama knew the truth of all the curses Karna had to face in life, & gave Karna the chance to make amends. Legends say that Karna was given permission to come back to earth for a period of 15 days to perform all the rituals that were left unfinished....to offer & donate food & water in the memory of his ancestors. Karna came down to earth & as instructed by Lord Yama, fed many Brahmins & needy persons for 14 days. This period, since then, came to be known as Pitru Paksh. It is believed that these 15 days, the souls of our ancestors are the closest to the orbit of earth, & if we fail to recognise them, they return to their abode unsatisfied & unhappy. The 15 days are named as Pratipath, Dwitiya, Tritiya, Chaturthi, Panchami, Sasti, Saptami, Ashtami, Navami, Dashami, Ekadashi, Dwadashi, Trayodashi, Chaturdashi & Sarvapitru Amavasya or the New Moon Day. Mahalaya marks the end of this Pitru Paksh.  This is the reason, in the Hindu society, why no elaborate celebrations like wedding, purchasing something prominent like house, vehicle etc is done during these 15 days.

Offerings done on Mahalaya day is also known as Tarpan. Considering the whole of India, there are more than 1008 Pitru Mukti Sthals (ancestor salvation spots), including the well known ones like Varanasi, Prayag, Gaya, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Trambakeshwar, Rameshwaram, Nedungudi, etc. It is said that, in all these Pitru Mukti / Moksha Sthals, the exalted Pitru Devas themselves accept your Tarpan, Arghya & Shraddha offerings at all times, particularly during the Pitru Paksh fortnight.

Om Namah Shivaye.....

Friday, September 23, 2011

Nawab of Pataudi....the original Tiger

As team India got whitewashed in the recently concluded test series in England, we saw Tiger Pataudi on the podium at Oval for the awards ceremony, watching balefully, as English Captain, Andrew Straus lifted the winning trophy…..The Pataudi Trophy. A trophy named as a mark of respect, after the illustrious contributions made by the Pataudi family(namely Tiger himself & his father, Sr Pataudi) to the game of cricket. As he blamed IPL for India’s miserable defeat to England, little did the world know that Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, the Tiger was making his last public appearance.
Suffering from a chronic lung infection for which there is no cure, he finally breathed his last yesterday, the 22nd of Sept 2011, at the age of 70 yrs, leaving behind the world mourning all over. He is survived by his wife Sharmila, his son Saif Ali & two daughters Soha & Saba.

Arguably the greatest Captain India has produced thus far, he was given the leadership role in only his fourth Test, when he was barely 21 years of age, in Barbados in 1962, as the regular captain Nari Contractor was in hospital after getting hit on the head by Charlie Griffith. Pataudi was then the youngest Test captain, a record that held until 2004. Over the years, under his able captaincy, India won nine Tests, and it was during his tenure that the team began to believe it could succeed. The first ever overseas victory for India came under his leadership, when in Dunedin, New Zealand, in 1968, India went on to record their first away series victory, beating the Kiwis 3-1, a feat that got Pataudi the “Wisden Cricketer of the Year” award.
In all he played 46 test matches, of which he captained 40, scoring 2793 runs at an healthy average of 35 and made six centuries & 16 half centuries, the highest of which was an unbeaten 203 against England in Delhi in 1964. However, many critics rate his 75, scored on one leg with one eye, against Australia in Melbourne in 1967-68 as his finest batting display. Coming in to bat at 25 for 5 on a green wicket, with a thin drizzle, Pataudi needed a runner because of a pulled hamstring that had kept him out of the previous Test. Unable to play several front-foot shots, & hobbling under pain, he made up by hooking & pulling. By the time he was dismissed, India's total had been lifted to 162. In the second innings, with India facing an innings defeat, Pataudi scored another half-century(85 runs), and added 54 with the No. 10, Ramakant Desai….a test match that India eventually lost by an innings, but would be remembered for his courage & never give up attitude against the marauding Aussies. He was probably India's first batsman to try lofted shots over infield to keep the scorecard ticking, a shot that's used so widely & intelligently by current ODI format champion batsmen like Sehwag, Gambhir, Raina, Dhoni, Watson etc for maximum benefits.
In a country of dreamers, one imagines, what heights of batting credentials Tiger would have conquered, had he not lost his right eye permanently in a tragic car accident.

At the tender age of 20, a car accident damaged his right eye permanently, denying the Tiger from fully realizing his batting / cricketing potential. This would have snuffed out the ambition and resilience of lesser men, but Tiger took on the challenge to overcome the handicap and play the sport he loved most. (For the record, he was also a terrific hockey and squash player).
The loss of one eye would have been unnerving. He saw most things double and only by trial and error at nets did he come to the conclusion that of the two balls he saw while batting, the real one was the inner one. He would tilt his cap in a manner, which would cover his right eye, thus minimizing the blurred vision as much as possible. Once Ted Dexter, a renowned English batsman, & then captain of Sussex, amazed at Pataudi’s batting capabilities, experimented batting one eyed in the nets. He could not middle a single delivery as the hand eye coordination went wrong every single time. He was astounded as to how MAK had been batting so consistently over the years, despite this serious handicap.

As a Captain, having no pace bowler of significance in his team, he masterminded the use of attacking spin bowling, featuring the famous spin quartet of Bedi, Chandra, Prasanna & Venkat. He backed them up with some of the best close in fielders India has ever produced….the likes of Solkar(arguably the best forward short leg fielder ever), Abid Ali, Wadekar, Venkat, Gavaskar etc, as he himself led by example, being India’s best cover fielder ever, which got him the title of Tiger. He literally prowled the cover area as a proud King…the Tiger. He also had a penchant for discovering talent & supporting them to grow...Gundappa Vishwanath, one of India’s all time greatest batsman was his find. He also captained Sussex & Oxford University.

Pataudi retired in 1975 after West Indies' tour of India. After retirement, Pataudi served as a match referee between 1993 and 1996, officiating in two Tests and ten ODIs, but largely stayed away from cricket administration.

Probably the first of the sports superstars in India, Tiger Pataudi was a debonair handsome man in his heydays, & lived his life King Size, marrying the beautiful film actress Sharmila Tagore in 1969. He was known for his ready wit & humor & was always a popular sought after man in any social gatherings. He was the one-eyed prince from a royal lineage in India, who had out-Englished the English and who helped India master this great colonial game in times to come.

In a world of dwindling Tigers, we all mourn the loss of this regal Tiger, the original Prince of Indian Cricket, Mansur Ali Khan of Pataudi…..May his soul rest in peace.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Life : Amusing Musings....

Sometimes the best of the planning goes awry, as something more powerful takes over....rendering all efforts meaningless.....its painful yet real, its disturbing yet true, its heartbreaking yet one has to accept the situation & move on......am sure we all experience this phenomenon in life.....
Such experiences tell us, how something else, more powerful  more authentic & more capable controls our lives.. decides for us & redefines the meaning of the journey...........Life.
Meticulous planning, elaborate arrangements, study of the situation, gathering resources & taking cue from past experiences is all we can do.....finally whatever unfolds as happenings, is as its supposed to happen.... the more you experience this, the more you realise how miniscule & inadequate is our control over situations. Moments of pleasure gets us ecstatic, while moments of pain gets us morose....its all a happening... whatever begins has to end.....every end presents the face of a new beginning, every beginning signals the finality of an end......

So what does it tell us ???
Life is now....this moment...this fleeting moment !!!......so live it full....live it complete, whatever be the experience........everything else is a product of either residing in the past or bothering about the future....& one fine day, its all over.....this body drops...everything that you held on to, every relation that you had built, every laurel that you had earned....all is left behind....a silent testimony of your existence.....& even that too gets washed away.....in the unending chasm of Time !!!!
The soul....the real You however, travels out...towards the unknown......a new journey begins, again.....with renewed hope, new aspirations.....new destinations.....new story......