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Friday, August 30, 2013

WISH YOU A HAPPY SRI JAYANTHI

My father introduced me to the joy of being an unabashed fan of the legendary Tamil thespian P.U. Chinnappa. One of the narratives he use to exult about, was from the film Krishna Bhakthi (famous for the song Saarasam), in which there is a 15 minute Kathaa Kalakshepam on Lord Krishna narrated by P.U. Chinnappa posing as a pious bhagavathar. His outrageous action of using snuff powder while talking of pranayamam, splits us into peals of laughter.

On the other side of Krishna Bhakthi is the serious Sri Krishnaanubhavam, by U. Ve. Velukkudi Krishnan Swamigal. He needs no introduction to the world of Asthikas especially Sri VaishnavAs. I am blessed that I had a brief association with him as a co-student of Vivekananda College, after which the torrents of a nomadic life took us apart. His Krishna Bhakthi, though is beyond any reproach.

The two vignettes of Krishna Bhakthi with very Happy Wishes for Sri Jayanthi:

Sunday, August 25, 2013

TWO SIDES OF A DESPERATE MAN

Normally, I avoid posting articles that are reserved for Video Pundit blog. But the two video songs from two different Tamil films provoked me to do this post. The first video song, Kadavul Manithanaaga Pirakka Vendum from Vaanampaadi (SSR starrer), is an emotional outburst of a man who has experienced the pain of life at the hands of a woman he loved, and is railing at God for His apathy. Biting lyrics from the flaming pen of Kaviyarasu Kannadasan. The second video is a rare song that I am listening and viewing for the very first time - Paaviyennai Marupadiyum Pirakka Veikkaathe from Ennathaan Mudivu (AVM Rajan starrer). This song is pictured with the inimitable comedian/character actor Late T.S. Balaiah. This is the desperate and soul-rendering outcry of a guilty heart.

Some things happened with me today morning that made me reach out to the first of these two songs, when I spotted the golden egg that is the second song. I think both songs together create the imagery of a desperate soul at the mercy of a puppet master who just resides as a stone, but does not answer to it's heartfelt pleas. Even the greatest believer is sometimes subject to the harshest test in life where even the most righteous of boons don't get granted, and is subject to the temptations and tempests aptly called the dark night of the soul.

I hope my righteous pleas don't fall to deaf ears and are instead blessed to happen:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sri Vaishnavam and Biblical Revelations

One may think - what is this bald head and below knee (Mottai Thalai and Muzham Kaal loosely translated) connection? Or better still what is this sudden, strange connection between GokulAshtami and GhulAm QAdir? All for a good reason, as we will discover with some patience.

Biblical Revelations, like Kalki Puranam and Kalki prophecy in Vishnu Puranam, paints a grim picture of our Earth's future harping on the irrevocable truth of God's wrath against errant humanity. As we can see with our own eyes today, many of these symptoms are already manifest in our present world. There seems to be less love and tolerance, and greater dissent. There is an abominable down-slide in what is considered as godly life, and a palpable disobedience to God and His Immutable Law, divined at the very outset of human history on Earth. When this behavior supposedly reaches an intolerable limit, judgment is prophesied to be visited upon our planet. In order to sequence these catastrophic events in a destiny time-line, biblical revelations presents through St. John's vision, a visual imagery of opening the Seven Seals, pouring out the Seven Bowls and sounding the Seven Trumpets. This not only serves to warn us of the grave consequences of irreparable actions, it also intends to instill the fear of God in place of antagonism and gross neglect.

On the other hand, Sri Vaishnavam relies solely on the Vishnu Puranam for its predictions of end of the Kali Yuga (roughly 427,000 years from now), disregarding any useful information revealed in the other puranams (Raajasa and Taamasa) as not suitable for the average Vaishnavaite. But as unbearably as it may fall upon orthodox ears, the divine is also in the details specially in Kalki and Bhavishya Puranams, about a time of intense Tribulation aptly termed the Day of our Lord. Despite few blinders like this, the Vaishnava tradition is yet able to offer its own insights into the concept of 7 bowls and 7 divine musical instruments. If anyone can point me to information sources on the 7 seals in Vedic tradition, I would be much obliged.

In the daily worship of Lord Vishnu as various saalagramam forms (called Thiru Aradhanam), a vaishnavaite uses vessels to hold sanctified water called Pancha Patrams. These are usually 5 in number, with a sixth reserved for Acharyan's (preceptor's) sake and the seventh being the Pratigraham to transfer sanctified water. No wonder there are 7 total bowls. Thirupalliyezhucchi, the early morning invocation to Lord Ranganathar, names 7 divine musical instruments sounded daily in Sri Vaikuntam for waking up our Lord and his divine consorts. They are called by ancient tamil names - YethamiL, Thannumai, Ekkam, MaddaLi, Yaazh, Kuzhal and Muzhavu. I have not been able to identify YethamiL and Ekkam (they are probably horn and cymbals), but have been successful in tracing the other 5 on the web. Remember, Muzhavu could have meant the keralite Mizhavu or our Ghatam or even Murasu (a later deprecation perhaps?). Similarly Yaazh may be Lyre/Harp, Tanpura, Veena or other String Instruments. Kuzhal may have meant pullanguzhal or flute, nayanam or pipe, israeli shofar, indian horn, or other reed instruments. MaddaLi would have been the Tavil, Chenda, or other indian drums played by wearing around the neck. Thannumai, per Silappadigaram and other ancient Tamil Literature, seems to be a Mridangam/Pakhavaj precursor. The 7 bowls as in Vaishnavism, Christianity and Tibetan Buddhism are:

Pancha Paathrams

7 Bowls of Wrath

7 Tibetan Singing Bowls








The 7 divine musical instruments of Vaishnavism are also shown below.
Thannumai
Maddali Drums
Yaazh Tanpura Veena Rudraveen
Kuzhal Flute
Mizhavu Ghatam Murasu
Cymbals Kartals
Shorke Shofar Horn
Indian Instruments Balinese Instruments

Friday, August 16, 2013

LOSING A FATHERLY FAMILY PRIEST

India Pundit blogs record with deep regret and sorrow the paramapadam advent of yet another near and dear one, a father figure who was also the family priest - Ubhaya Vedanta Sri. Sundarraja Iyengar Swamigal, fondly known to the family as Vatthiyaar Maama. He was 90 when he left us all grieving.

Sri R. Sundarrajan, who was a salesman of electrical supplies, was also a professional priest for many families in Tamilnadu, though he mostly frequented only the ones in Chennai, Srivilliputtur and his favorite hometown, Srirangam. Some of the families are from the upper echelons of the society, but nevertheless held him and his vidwat in great respect. He was a sort of a bridge between disparate Iyengar families within the city. A short stature man of quicksilver temper with a thenkalai thirunaamam across his broad forehead culminating near his furry eyebrows, his laughter would expose his unruly teeth which he would cover with his right hand. He had a pet peeve against many of his peers, because he knew them to be charlatans who he claimed were only money-minded that were not qualified to conduct religious ceremonies properly. He taught us brothers Vedic Mantras, Sukthas and Thiru Aaradhanam (daily worship of God). He taught us Medha Suktham and the renowned Raja Rajeshwari Mantram fortified with powerful Beejakasharas. His brother-in-law was the priest for my Upanayanam while he himself was the priest for my brother, my cousin and my son's Upanayanam. He also conducted my grandpa's Shataabhishekam. In short, he was my dad's older brother who had even the right to get annoyed with my dad at times.

Blessed with three daughters, the devout srivaishnavaite couple that he and his wife  (one of my many mothers) were, lived in a traditional rental home in Saidapet, Chennai. Few years back, his wife reached the holy Thirunaadu, even as she was attending the Vaikunta Ekadasi festival (the very Ekadasi day if I remember it correctly) at the Srirangam Temple. She had leaned on the bamboo support of PeriyAzhwar's palenquin at the Aayiram Kaal Mandapam (1000 pillared Hall) and breathed her last. She had died within the temple precincts. I suppose that had weighed in on his mind for a while. He continued living with his daughter Kalyani.

Like my loving Aacharaya Swamigal, he was yet another pillar of our family, the other being my father. The three years 2011, 2012 and 2013 are watershed years for our family because of three father figures leaving us - my father, my preceptor and finally my priest. Vaathiyaar Maama loved my parents, my wife and my son a lot, but he was specially fond of me and my brother. We were like the sons he never had. My letter encomium on his departed wife, in traditional Sri Vaishnavaite language, impressed him so much so that he proudly showed it to his friends and relatives. He had even framed it for display in his Srirangam home.

May he decorate Nithya Vibhoothi as a fragrant Tulasi garland as he was here (his backyard grew a forest of Krishna Tulasi plants). And may he be reunited with his blessed wife (a mother to me) who left us years back. And may they serve Our Lord and His Consort together as a liberated couple.

My family feels devastated as much as my sisters Kalyani, Ranganayaki and Maduravalli (I have been blessed with a mother, a wife and a sister, all named Maduravalli). But then there is also a crazy hope of a blessed reunion with our elders, in some nebulous future. God be our strength at this time of bereavement!

Thursday, August 08, 2013

DHOTI IS NOT A DRESS FOR DUBAI?

The word Dubai brings to any Indian's mind, crowded streets, India-like residential localities, ferries, multi-storied buildings, endless constructions, expatriate Indian workers, golden sand, palm date trees, Indian restaurants,  Sharjah cricket stadium, artificial palm islands archipelago resort and now Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure in the world. And of course, the local Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) operates the Dubai Metro also, other than ferries and buses. And Indians are always welcomed with open arms into this international beehive city of UAE. It is therefore quite shocking to hear such an incident even happened in Dubai last Saturday.

Yes! This is about the local news that a policeman near the punching gates of the Etisalat Metro Station prevented the 67 year old father of Madhumati from entering the metro clad in his, hold your breath, DHOTI. In spite of RTA claiming there is no such regulation or dress code that they are aware of, Madhumati told Gulf News that their pleading fell to deaf ears and her father was very upset at this incident.

"What has happened is really surprising. There is no official restriction from the RTA and we have not given instructions on dress codes," said Ramadan Abdullah, Director of Operations at the RTA's Rail Agency. "I think anything that covers the body and is respectable should be allowed. I believe it was a personal reaction on the part of the policeman and this matter will be investigated."

Abdullah urged the victim to approach the RTA with details of the incident which would help in the investigation. Madhumati has lodged a formal complaint in the matter.

Ramadan Abdullah? And this happened during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan? Chillingly coincidental! By the by, Abdullah originates from Abd Allah which means faithful servant of Allah. No wonder his reaction and action both exuded fairness. But the burning question is, can an Indian not roam the streets of Dubai in his traditional attire, especially when the mental image is of Kaili/Lungi clad Indians in Dubai?

Friday, August 02, 2013

LORD KRISHNA IN WESTERN HOMES

A KAAMIKA EKADASI (August 2, 2013) SPECIAL POST:
In an age where being a Krishna Conscious Hindu implies competing with fellow Hindus for better social status, greater wealth and career success, there seem to be a few rays of hope in the western homes, and quite surprisingly so.

When many Indian families are aspiring to teach their kids adaptability in western nations (often times within India, encouraging to ape the west shamelessly) through recitation of famous English nursery rhymes like Old McDonald Had a Barn, many western families are turning to Hinduism and teaching their kids remixed rhymes such as the one shown below. Is devotion to Lord Krishna and Vaishnavism making a surprising comeback in the most unexpected of ways? Is this a sign of the great success ISKCON enjoys in spreading the enlightening message of Srila Prabhupada Swami across nations and tongues?  You be the judge!