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Book Review: Was Surpanakha a destructive Demoness from the Ramayana or tormented Woman?

The story of surpanakha; a catastropihic demoness from the Ramanaya or much more than that?

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Ramayana, Wikimedia

– by Vikas Dutta 

Jan 16, 2017: Title: Lanka’s Princess; Author: Kavita Kane; Publisher: Rupa Publications India; Pages: 280; Price: Rs 295

Like the space-time it is set in, Hindu mythology too seems to trace a circular course — in fiction. Its once unmitigated villains are being re-evaluated, their motives and actions re-assessed, and epics retold from their perspective. But while the great “demon” king, the Pandavas’ unknown brother and “jealous” cousin have had their say, what about a calamitous woman long-perceived as a cause of the war that destroyed Lanka?

But it was time that Surpanakha got her chance to tell her story of repression, rage, revenge — and eventual redemption.

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We have long known her as Ravana’s younger sister, a “wanton” asura whose advances to Ram and Lakshman, the exiled princes of Ayodhya, were spurned and earned her horrific mutilation from Lakshman’s swift sword. Her subsequent complaint to her brother set in motion a chain of events that led to the death of almost every male relative. But do we know anything else about her — her past, her thoughts, her future?

Remedying the deficiency is author Kavita Kane, who has long been trying to give the overshadowed women — wives, mothers and sisters — of the great mythological epics a voice — and their due.

And after Karna’s wife Uruvi, Sita’s sister Urmila and the apsara Menaka, it is time for Meenakshi, the youngest child and only daughter of sage Vishravas and asura princess Kaikesi. It was her mother who named her Surpanakha, because of long sharp nails and equally sharp and destructive temper.

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Meenakshi’s story cannot, however, be seen in isolation from her family, especially her brothers, the powerful and ambitious Ravana, the slow but solid (and unexpectedly perspicacious) Kumbha, and the righteous Vibhisana, and the growing tensions between her parents, and her father and eldest son.

But this is not where Kane begins her tale, which starts in another, later age, where a young prince, raised as a cowherd, returns to Mathura to reclaim his heritage.

Among the crowd, Krishna immediately identifies an old, hunchbacked woman, who makes her living by making sandalwood paste, as an “acquaintance” from an earlier life and approaches her. She is discomfitted by the attention of “an eerily familiar” but unrecognisable interlocutor, who seeks a favour, and promises to return. He does after fulfilling his primary mission, restores to proper form and reminds her of her previous life.

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It is then a flashback to the hermitage of Vishravas as she is being born, and her mother’s disappointment at giving birth to a daughter. From then we follow the childhood of Meenakshi and her elder siblings, which give us insights into their latter, more-known selves. It also, through their examples, shows us how some human traits and social issues have been part of our lives in the ages.

And before the events segue into those we know as the Ramayana, we learn how Meenakshi’s bids at happiness in her trying life fail and what an elaborate revenge she plans and implements — though there are times when she balks at the cost it demands.

Her campaign doesn’t end on the battlefields of Lanka but continues well into Ram’s Ayodhya, though she finds herself unable to carry out the final part of her revenge due to the unexpected reactions from her prospective victims. It is then she finally understands the patterns of her life and fate.

The narrative returns to Mathura, where Krishna, who has comforted her with her eventual redemption, foresees — but forbears to tell her — her future (setting the stage for the next book?)

But, Kane’s fourth book is not just a mere retelling of the epic from the viewpoint of a significant but minor character, and providing more space to the likes of Ravana’s mother, wife Mandodari, and brothers as well as Sita, though it is her sister, who has a more vital role.

It also may not lead us to view Surpanakha more sympathetically (though we can understand her) but shows how epics are not about the struggles between “good” and “evil”, but of and between humans, of their choices, aspirations, their different social systems and outlooks. We read them not to find god but to know more about ourselves.

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Paintings Which Beautifully Depict Scenes From Ramayana

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Ramayana
Ram lifting the bow during Sita Swayambar. Wikimedia Commons.

Ramayana, the ancient Indian epic which describes the narrative of Ayodhya Prince lord Rama’s struggles. The struggles include- exile of 14 years, abduction of his wife Sita, reaching Lanka, destruction of the evil. It is strongly ingrained in the Indian culture, especially, the Hindu culture since a long time. Hindus celebrate Diwali based on the narratives of Ramayana.

The story of Ramayana gives out the beautiful message that humanity and service to the mankind is way more important than kingdom and wealth. Below are five paintings describing the scenes from Ramayana:

1. Agni Pariksha in Ramayana

Ramayana
Agni Pariksha. Wikimedia.

When Lord Rama questions Sita’s chastity, she undergoes Agni Pariksha, wherein, she enters a burning pyre, declaring that if she has been faithful to her husband then the fire would harm her. She gets through the test without any injuries or pain. The fire God, Agni, was the proof of her purity. Lord Rama accepts Sita and they return to Ayodhya. 

2. Scene From The Panchavati Forest

Ramayana
scene from the panchavati forest. wikimedia.

The picture describes a scene from the Panchavati forest. It is believed that Lord Rama built his forest by residing in the woods of Panchavati, near the sources of the river Godavari, a few miles from the modern city of Mumbai. He lived in peace with his wife and brother in the forest.

3. Hanuman Visits Sita

Ramayana
Hanuman meets Sita. Wikimedia.

Hanuman reaches Lanka in search of Sita. At first, he was unable to find Sita. He later saw a woman sitting in Ashok Vatika, drowned in her sorrows, looked extremely pale. He recognized her. After seeing the evil king, Ravana making her regular visit to Sita, he hid somewhere in the Vatika. After Ravana left, Hanuman proved Sita that he is Rama’s messenger by showing her his ring. He assured her that Rama would soon come to rescue her. Before leaving Lanka, he heckled Ravana. Agitated by Hanuman’s actions, Ravana ordered to set Hanuman’s tail on fire. With the burning tail, Hanuman set the entire city on fire.

 

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8 Immortals In Hindu Religion You Would Like To Know About

There are 8 immortals in Hindu religion who are believed to remain alive through kali yoga. Until a person attains Moksha, their life cycle is incomplete and Samsara of life and death continues. There is no escape to this fate.

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Immortals in Hindu Religion
Source: Wikimedia Common

New Delhi, September 24, 2017: Hinduism is the oldest known religion in the world. The way of life and spirituality in Hinduism is followed by certain rules, called Hindu dharma. Widely practiced in South Asia, Hinduism dates back to 4000 BCE to 1500 BCE in context to pre-Vedic religions and Vedic period.

Hinduism observes a comprehensive range of philosophies, from where the Hindu text are themed into four Purusarthas, Dharma (duties), Artha (work/prosperity), Kama (desires), and Moksha (freedom/salvation). These are the important part of fulfilling and happy life that makes a complete cycle of living.

Until a person attains Moksha, their life cycle is incomplete, and Samsara of life and death continues. There is no escape to this fate, and it is believed in Hindu Dharma that 8 personalities are in the same infinity cycle of Samsara. The eight immortals or Astha Chiranjeevi as they are known stands the loop Chiram (Long) and Jivee (Lived).

The 8 immortals in Hindu religion who are believed to remain alive through kali yoga

Maha Rishi Markandeya

Immortals in Hindu Religion
Source: Wikimedia Common

One of the devotees of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu, Rishi Markandeya comes from the Bhrigu, a clan of sages. The legend behind speaks of the great devotion of Markandeya towards Shiva to save himself from the god of death, Yama.

Rishi Mrikandu and his wife Marudmati worshipped Lord Shiva and requested from him the boon with a son. However, the boon came up to them two options, either their son will have a short lifespan or the son will have low intelligence. Mrikandu chose the first option and was blessed with Markandeya, who was destined to die at 16. The destiny cannot be escaped, and so the time came.

Markandeya knew about his fate, and on the day of his death, he started to worship Lord Shiva near the Shivalingam (the symbolic statue that represents Lord Shiva). The devotion and prayers were so powerful that the messenger of death God Yama was unable to take his life. Hearing this, Yama appeared himself to take away Markandeya’s life. He started to create a trap around the teenage sage, but mistakenly it grounded upon the Shivalingam. Furious Shiva emerged from the Shivalingam and a battle started between them on point of death. Yama couldn’t handle the rage of Shiva and thus resulted in losing it and sparing the life of Markandeya. Also, Shiva revived Yama to give the boy a boon of immortality.

This legend made Maha Rishi Markandeya be one of the 8 immortals in Hindu religion.

Asura King Mahabali

Immortals in Hindu Religion
Source: Wikimedia Common

The great-grandson of Hiranyakshipu, the grandson of Prahlada and son of Virochana, Mahabali.

The most beloved king in Kerela, Mahabali ruled his kingdom with prosperity and happiness. His success as a king led Gods to be cautious and bring him demise by Vamana, Vishnu avatar. Vamana asked Mahabali for 3 steps of land at the time of Ashwamedha Yoga, a Hindu rite that Bali performed to maintain dominance over three worlds. Bali agreed to it and granted Vamana the boon. Vishnu avatar Vamana covered the earth and the heaven with his two steps and asked Bali now that you don’t have anything left how will you fulfill my grant. Mahabali offered Vamana his head as a place his last step, which compelled Bali to go underworld.

Vamana got pleased with his devotions and blesses Bali to be the Indra during the period of Manu, known as Savarni. Bali’s devotion, dharma, and polite words mesmerized Lord Vishnu and he was granted with a boon of visiting the earth once a year. Onam festival in Kerala is celebrated to welcome Asur King Mahabali in this regards. He is also one of the 8 immortals in Hindu Religion.

Parashurama

Immortals in Hindu Religion
Source: Wikimedia Common

Born in Brahmin family, Parashurama was a warrior. Unlike other Brahmins, he was very temperamental and was also known to all as the sixth avatar of Lord Vishnu. Parashurama, the Brahmin-Kshatriya has many personas of being Kshatriya like warfare, valor, and aggression.

He is a martial Shraman ascetic. However, it is believed that he still lives on earth and is one of the 8 immortals in Hindu religion. He is an avesha avatar, the one who takes spiritual possession on other with his special power.

Like other avatars of Lord Vishnu, Parshuram appears at the time when evil tries to prevail earth.

ALSO READ: Was Taj Mahal Once a Shiva Temple? The Debate over the Tomb Continues

Vibhishana

Immortals in Hindu Religion
Source: Wikimedia Common

Vibhishana, the younger brother of demon king of Lanka,‘Ravana’. He comes from a rakshasa family (demon family) but was a nobleman who advised Ravana to release Maa Sita, who was kidnapped. He insisted Ravana to return Sita to her husband, Lord Rama, but his advice was not entertained. Eventually, he left Lanka to join Rama’s army.

With his knowledge and support, Rama defeated Ravana and crowned Vibhishana as the King.

When Vibhishana became the king of Lanka, he ruled the country with peace and prosperity following the path of Dharma.

During the end of Rama avatar, Lord Vishnu directed Vibhishana to stay on earth and maintain and guide people to the path of dharma. Hence, he is counted to be one of the 8 immortals in Hindu religion.

Hanuman

Immortals in Hindu Religion
Source: Wikimedia Common

Pavanputra(Wind-God son) Hanuman was born to Anjana and Kesari.

According to ancient legends, Anjana and Kesari long devotions and prayers towards Shiva brought them to have Hanuman as their son. The story goes like while Anjana and Kesari were worshipping Shiva, the king Dasaratha of Ayodhya performing the ritual of Putrakama Yagna for the same reason.

On finishing the Yagna, Dasharatha received a sacred kheer to be shared by his three wives, Kausalya, Kaikeyi, and Sumitra. By the grace of God, a kite snatched a splinter of that kheer and it fell down while the kite was flying over the forest. Vayudev (Wind God) brought that splinter to Anjana, which she consumed and Hanuman was born as a result.

Hanuman is one of the major characters of Ramayana meets Lord Rama in the last year of latter’s 14 years exile. Hanuman helped Rama to defeat Lanka King Ravana, who kidnapped Rama’s wife Sita.

Hanuman is pictured as the devotee of Lord Rama and Maa Sita. The story follows during the last age of Rama, Hanuman was blessed with immortality.

Veda Vyasa

Immortals in Hindu Religion
Source: Wikimedia Common

Vyas, the author of legendary epic Mahabharata and the holy book Shrimad Bhagavatam is a great scholar and Hindu scriptwriter. He is among the 8 immortals in Hindu religion who is a prime example of knowledge and wisdom.

Many believe that Vyasa is Chiranjivins (immortals). A festival in India is dedicated to him, named Guru Purnima on account of his birthday.

Ashwatthama 

Immortals in Hindu Religion
Source: Wikimedia Common

Ashwatthama or Drauni, son of Guru Dronacharya, is a mighty Maharathi, who fought from the Kaurava side in the battle of Kurukshetra against Pandavas. He is among the eleven Rudras avatar and also one of the seven avatars of Chiranjivi.

Born as Chiranjivi, it is believed that he has a gem on his forehead which gives him the power to take control over all living beings except humans. It also protected him from thirst, hunger, and tiredness.

The tales say that during the Mahabharata war, on the night after the conquest of Duryodhana, Ashwatthama was terrified and twitchy. He made up a plan to attack Pandavas camp during the nightfall. With his desire, he affected a large part of Pandavas army by massacring them.

The next day when Lord Krishna and Arjuna came to know about it, they searched for Ashwathama. The fierce fight resumed again, with both Ashwatthama and arjuna drawing Brahmaastra at each other. Vyasa was aware of the power of it and asked them to revoke it.

Arjun learned the words of Vyasa and retract his Astra, while Ashwatthama diverted it towards the womb of Uttara, where the only lineage of Pandavas was living. Lord Krishna protected the baby from it but he cursed Aswastthama with 3000 years of sufferings.

He was asked to give away the gem on his forehead and he will be wandering around in the forest with puss and blood coming out of his body.

It is believed that he is one of the 8 immortals in Hindu religion and still there roving around with incurable diseases.

ALSO READ: Hollywood Celebrities Who Converted to Hinduism

Kripacharya

Immortals in Hindu Religion
Source: Wikimedia Common

Known as one of the most important characters in Indian epic Mahabharata, Kripacharya is the true embodiment of impartiality.  He is one among the immortals in Hindu religion and the boon was bestowed upon him by Lord Krishna. Kripacharya is placed even above Dronacharya in the list of Hindu immortals because of his virtues,

Kripacharya is placed even above Dronacharya in the conference of immortality because of his virtues, righteousness, and impartiality. It is because of his quality to remain calm in any stressful condition that he stands out from the rest of the immortals. As stated in Mahabharata, Kripacharya was also capable to manage 60,000 in

As stated in Mahabharata, Kripacharya was also capable to manage 60,000 in the battlefield.

– Prepared by Abhishek Biswas of NewsGram Twitter: @Writing_desire

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5 traits of lord Rama which make him the Supreme Being

One of the main deities in Hinduism, He is believed to have lived in the Treta Yuga, 1.2 million years ago

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Hindu God Rama
The best qualities of lord Rama. Maa Durga wallpaper

New Delhi, September 22, 2017: Lord Rama, the seventh avatar of lord Vishnu, is the central character of Hindu epic Ramayana and is considered as the most important avatar of the deity. Rama is considered to be an enlightened man, with great regard for morals and values. He has also been given the title of Maryada Purushottama, which means the perfect man. One of the main deities in Hinduism, He is believed to have lived in the Treta Yuga, 1.2 million years ago. He has even been defined as, “the embodiment of truth, of morality, the ideal son, the ideal husband, and above all, the ideal king,” by Swami Vivekananda. For the perfection that he personifies, let’s take a look at the best of his qualities.

Traits of Lord Rama: 

1. Satisfaction: He was satisfied with whatever he had, even a little less couldn’t have bothered him.

Best qualities of lord Rama
Satisfaction.

2. Loyalty: He never thought of a woman other than Sita in his entire life.

Lord Rama
Loyalty.

Also read: Ramayana : 6 Timeless Management Lessons From the Ancient Hindu Text that You Must Imbibe

3. Kindness: He was a kind soul, who wished well for every creature on earth.

Hindu God Rama
Kindness.

4. Spirituality: The title of a king did not stop him from performing his spiritual practices.

Hindu God Rama
Spirituality.

5. Humility: He never talked about his goodness or greatness.

Hindu God Rama
Humility.

                              -prepared by Samiksha Goel of NewsGram. twitter @goel_samiksha
                                                                                                          

 

pic credit – maa durga wallpaper