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Sanskrit is the new craze among Mumbaikars

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Fiona Fernandez

Chandrahas Halai is a man of many pursuits. He is a mechanical engineer, a mathematician, a travel writer and history buff. Tying these varied interests together now is a language that history seems to be in no interest to forget.

Last July, Halai signed up for a certificate course in Sanskrit that would eventually enable him to read the Samarangana Sutradhara. Written in Sanskrit by Raja Bhoja, the 11th-century ruler of Malwa region, this text is a discourse on civil engineering detailing the construction of buildings, forts, temples, idols of deities and mechanical devices. “I am interested in temple architecture.

In our country, temples 210 feet tall have been built in the pre-modern era. What was the sort of machinery that was used? How did the workers carry the stones to that height?” The answers to these questions, says Halai, lie in the 80 chapters of the book. And although translations exist, he fears much of the essence will be lost. Plus, he wants to avoid reading history from a Westerners’ perspective.

An interest in mythology borne out of a need to better a television script and a better left brain-right brain balance are some of many reasons driving Mumbaikars to Sanskrit classes. And, as is the case with Halai, it’s not in order to read religious texts.

Madhavi Narsalay, assistant professor and head of the department of Sanskrit at Mumbai University, says this year has seen 100 students enroll for the certificate course that runs over weekends. It’s full capacity. The numbers, she adds, have been at a high since 2000.

In between, the class average would be 50-60.

In 2013, she was asked to consult on the show by the producers of Mahabharat, 267 episodes of which were aired. “They wanted someone to provide them the exact story by reading the original texts and not translations,” says Narsalay, who has been with the department for 20 years. She would also be required to identify shlokas from the original text that would fit in when a certain character was introduced.

“For instance, for the entry of Draupadi who rose from the fire… I had to go back and read a lot of original texts,” she remembers.

Reading Sanskrit, however, isn’t everyone’s passion. Arjun Vyas, who greets you with a Namo Namah (he will make it a point to tell you that the greeting has nothing to do with the country’s Prime Minister), says he stumbled upon the class on a social messaging group and felt obligated to join. A few classes in, however, the 51-year-old industrial project consultant was hooked. “All my life I though Sanskrit was a difficult language, but it’s so easy,” he exclaims. Vyas attended the free of charge, 10-day, spoken Sanskrit camp conducted by Sanskrit Bharati in Bandra East this February. He recommends the class because it’s all about conversational Sanskrit: “Upanetram kutra aasti?” (where are my spectacles?)”. Which brings us to the tough question. Once they do learn Sanskrit, where do Vyas and his batchmates practise?

It’s a bit of an admission. “We would call each other and speak. Else, there are weekly sessions where people can come and practise,” he adds. Plus, he says, he now converses with his wife Snehal in Sanskrit. Snehal, 51, a breast cancer survivor says someone first asked her to start reciting Sanskrit shlokas in 2013 since it would help her tongue stiff from chemotherapy, recover. But, watching her husband speak the language fluently prompted her to join the class. “Part of the motivation was envy. How could he speak better than me,” laughs the manager at NIIT. Now, the two have found a code language to speak in, she says.

The lure of Sanskrit, says Malhar Kulkarni, who teaches the language at IIT-Powai, is that it’s free in order. “For instance, you can’t change the order of the words ‘tiger eats man’ in the English language without changing its meaning. In Sanskrit, this is possible,” says Kulkarni, who holds weekly classes for advanced-level students at Vile Parle, again free of charge.

Sanskrit, he says, also finds takers among software engineering students who want to use the language — considered to be the root of several Indo-European languages — to develop tools to analyse others languages and train machines to translate them.

Kulkarni emphasizes that the curiosity about the language crosses borders of religion and social strata. “It’s part of our psyche, everyone feels connected with it. Once I was walking in Vile Parle and came across two drunk men fighting outside an illicit bar. One, in a fit of anger, said to the other, ‘I will send you to the yama sadan!’ Not hell. But, yama sadan. That’s how much we’ve grown up with Sanskrit.”

This article was first published at midday.com

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8 Amazing Facts About Lord Hanuman That Will Astonish You

The glorious tales of Lord Hanuman is mentioned in several texts, such as the Mahabharata, the Puranas, the Buddhist and Sikh texts

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Hanuman is the son of Anjana and Kesari. Wikimedia Commons
Hanuman is the son of Anjana and Kesari. Wikimedia Commons
  • Once Lord Hanuman assumed a very rare form of Panch-Mukhi Hanuman to kill the demon Ahiravan
  • Hanuman was kind of a naughty kid in his childhood and he often used to tease the meditating sages in the forests
  • Agni blessed Lord Hanuman, Saying, “Fire will never burn you

Lord Hanuman was a passionate devotee of Lord Rama and one of the crucial characters in the various versions of the epic Ramayana found in the Indian subcontinent. The glorious tales of Lord Hanuman is also mentioned in several other texts, such as the Mahabharata, the Puranas, the Buddhist and Sikh texts.

As per several other texts, Lord Hanuman is also presented as an incarnation of Shiva. Hanuman is the son of Anjana and Kesari. He is also taken as the son of the wind-god Vayu, who according to several stories played a role in his birth.

Hanuman Jayanti

The Hanuman Jayanti is also known as Hanuman Janam-Utsav. Hanuman Jayanti is a Hindu religious festival that celebrates the birth of Lord Sri Hanuman, who is immensely venerated throughout India and Nepal.

During the Pandavas' exile, Hanuman masked as a weak and aged monkey to Bhima in order to subdue his arrogance. Wikimedia Commons
During the Pandavas’ exile, Hanuman masked as a weak and aged monkey to Bhima in order to subdue his arrogance. Wikimedia Commons

Hanuman Jayanti is celebrated on different days in different parts of India. In many states, the festival is observed either in the day of Chaitra Pournimaa or in the month of Vaishakha. In a few states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Hanuman Jayanti is celebrated in the Hindu month of Margazhi.

Hanuman Chalisa

The Hanuman Chalisa literally means forty Chaupais (chapter) on Lord Hanuman. It is a Hindu devotional hymn addressed to Lord Hanuman.

Traditionally, it was believed that Hanuman Chalisa was authored by 16th-century poet Tulsidas in the Awadhi language and is his best-known text apart from the Ramcharitmanas.

The word “Chalisa” is derived from “Chalis”, which means the number forty in Hindi. So does the Hanuman Chalisa has 40 verses.

Here, we have compiled some interesting facts about Lord Hanuman which will surely amaze you.

  1. Lord Hanuman’s battle with Lord Rama

The sage Vishwamithra ordered Lord Rama to kill Yayati. Sensing the gravity of the situation, Yayathi pleaded Lord Hanuman for help. The Yayati was promised By Hanuman that he would save Yayati from any kind of danger.

In the battlefield, Lord Hanuman did not use any weapon. Hanuman stood chanting Rama’s name and the arrows from Lord Rama’s bow did not have any effect on him

Finally, Lord Rama had to give up and sage Vishwamithra relieved Rama of his word seeing the courage of Hanuman.

Once Lord Hanuman assumed a very rare form of Panch-Mukhi Hanuman to kill the demon Ahiravan. Wikimedia Commons
Once Lord Hanuman assumed a very rare form of Panch-Mukhi Hanuman to kill the demon Ahiravan. Wikimedia Commons

2. Hanuman’s hunger saga

Once Lord Hanuman visited Sita Mata in sage Valmiki’s cottage and expressed his desire to eat some food cooked by Sita. Sita Mata started cooking many dishes and started serving Hanuman.

But Hanuman’s hunger was unquenchable and the entire rations of the house were coming to an end and finally, Sita Mata had to pray Lord Rama. Then Lord Hanuman suggested Sita Mata serve a morsel with a Tulsi Leaf and then his hunger was finally satisfied.

Also Read: Saphala Ekadashi: Significance, Celebrations, Rituals, Festival Timings and Dates

3. Five headed Hanuman

Once Lord Hanuman assumed a very rare form of Panch-Mukhi Hanuman to kill the demon Ahiravan. Ahiravan was the younger brother of Ravan, who kidnapped Ram and Lakshman and took them to the Netherworld. The only way to kill Ahiravan was to extinguish 5 lamps in 5 different directions, which Lord Hanuman did with Panch-Mukhi form.

The other five faces of Hanuman, apart from himself are that of Narasimha, Garuda, Varaha and Hayagriva.

4. Demise of Rama

Lord Ram would have lived more only if Lord Hanuman wouldn’t have allowed Yama to enter Ayodhya to claim Ram.

Lord Ram diverted Hanuman’s attention by dropping his ring through a crack in the floor and asked Hanuman to fetch it back for him. Lord Hanuman immediately reached the land of serpents and asked their King for Ram’s ring and the king showed Hanuman a vault filled with rings all of which were Ram’s.

Hanuman challenged Arjuna to build a bridge like the one Lord Rama made. Wikimedia Commons
Hanuman challenged Arjuna to build a bridge like the one Lord Rama made. Wikimedia Commons

5. The curse on Hanuman

Hanuman was kind of a naughty kid in his childhood and he often used to tease the meditating sages in the forests. Finding Lord Hanuman’s unbearable acts, but realizing that he was but a child, the sages placed a mild curse on him by which he became unable to remember his own ability unless reminded by another person.

The curse of the sages is featured in Kishkindha Kanda and Sundara Kanda when Jambavantha reminds Hanuman of his abilities and encourages him to go and find Sita.

6. God’s blessing to Hanuman

After the birth of Lord Hanuman, Varuna blessed Lord Hanuman with a boon that he would always be protected from water and Agni blessed him, Saying, “Fire will never burn you.” Surya blessed him with two siddhis of yoga namely “Laghima” and “Garima”(“Laghima” could help him to attain the smallest form and with “Garima” the biggest form of life).

Vayu showered Lord Hanuman with more speed than he himself had and Yama (the God of Death) blessed him with a healthy life.

Also Read: Diwali 2017: Significance of the Diwali, Celebrations & Rituals, Date & Diwali Recipes

7. Lord Hanuman and Bhima confrontation

Hanuman is also appraised to be the brother of Bhima as they had the same father, Vayu. During the Pandavas’ exile, Hanuman masked as a weak and aged monkey to Bhima in order to subdue his arrogance.

Hanuman put his tail by blocking Bhima’s way. Bhima, unaware of his identity, tells him to move it out of the way but was refused by Lord Hanuman. Bhima wasn’t able to move the tail by himself, despite his great strength.

Lord Ram would have lived more only if Lord Hanuman wouldn't have allowed Yama to enter Ayodhya to claim Ram. Wikimedia Commons
Lord Ram would have lived more only if Lord Hanuman wouldn’t have allowed Yama to enter Ayodhya to claim Ram. Wikimedia Commons

8. Mahabharata’s relevance

During the illustrious battle of Kurukshetra, Arjuna made his way into the battlefield with a flag displaying Hanuman on his chariot.

Earlier, after one of the encounters between Hanuman and Arjuna, Hanuman appeared as a small talking monkey before Arjuna at Rameshwaram, where Rama had built a bridge to cross over to Lanka.

Hanuman challenged Arjuna to build such a bridge alone when Lord Hanuman found out that Arjuna’s was wondering aloud at Rama’s taking the help of monkeys rather than building a bridge of arrows.