Saturday, February 21, 2015

Tales from the Mahabharata 7- Of Conditions and Exceptions

Tales from the Mahabharat, Episode 7 - Of Conditions and Exceptions - my seventh installment of "Tales from the Mahabharata" was published in the Swarajya Magazine on January 10, 2015.

This is the full text of the article as it appeared:

The Mahabharata presents many a different face to different people. A story of friendship, filial jealousies, passions run amok, and much more. In between the main story, there are a number of side stories and tales that have found their way into the epic. Even one version of the Ramayana is contained in the Mahabharata! The other fascinating element found frequently enough is one of conditions and exceptions. Ignoring or acting upon these results in unintended consequences, which is the thread that pervades the epic. Like the story of Karna's earrings and armour, and how an anxious Indra came in the guise of a brahmana to ask Karna to give them away.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Tales from the Mahabharata - 6 - To renounce the throne or not

My sixth installment of "Tales from the Mahabharata - To Renounce The Throne Or Not" - was published in the Swarajya Magazine on December 14, 2014.

This is the full text of the article as it appeared:
Arjuna benefited from Krishna's wisdom - most famously before the start of the eighteen day war at Kurukshetra. The wisdom helped guide Arjuna through the war, helping keep his focus on what his dharma was. Arjuna still found himself giving in to his emotions, but by and large he proved to be the ideal warrior. Yudhishthira on the other hand had to wait till after the war to bathe in an elder's wisdom - Bhishma. What he received by way of wisdom was much longer than the 700 verses of the Bhagavad Gita though. But more on that later.

When the war came to an end, Duryodhana was dead, Ashwatthama had committed the unpardonable sin of foeticide and had been cursed by Krishna for it, Gandhari had cursed Krishna, the final rites of those departed had been performed (described in Shraddha Parva - and the death toll stood at more than one billion (the exact number given by Yudhishthira in response to a question by Dhritarashtra in Shraddha Parva is "One billion, twenty thousand and sixty six crore" - bringing the total number of 1,660,020,000. The ninth verse from the twenty sixth chapter of the eleventh parva has the shloka: दशायुतानामयुतं सहस्राणि च विंशतिः 
कोट्यः षष्टिश्च षट्चैव येऽस्मिन्राजमृधे हताः ).

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Tales from the Mahabharata 5 - Parikshit: Ego, Deja Vu

My fifth installment of "Tales from the Mahabharata - Parikshit: Ego, Deja Vu" - was published in the Swarajya Magazine on December 2, 2014.

This is the full text of the article as it appeared:
Parikshit’s is a most unusual tale, in more ways than one. The posthumous son of Abhimanyu, Parikshit was given life by Krishna himself. Yet he died a most gory death, burnt to ashes because of the poison of Takshaka. Why? Because of the curse of Shringi, the son of sage Shamika. Yes, but why Takshaka, the serpent king? Well, one could argue that Takshaka’s abode, the Khandava forest, had been burned to the ground by Arjuna and Krishna. So what better revenge than to kill Parikshit—the grandson of Arjuna who had been given life by Krishna. But Takshaka per se is not what I want to dwell upon here.
Let us take a brief look at the incidents that led to Parikshit’s demise.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Tales from the Mahabharata - 4 To Forgive or Not

My fourth installment of "Tales from the Mahabharata - Forgive Now and Fight Later?" - was published in the Swarajya Magazine on November 16, 2014.

This is the full text of the article as it appeared:


Forgive Now and Fight Later?

Was Yudhishthira a forgiving man? One might be forgiven, pardon the pun, for thinking that he was. After all, didn't he forgive Duryodhana and the entire Kauravas for the many evils they perpetrated on the Pandavas over the years? Well, yes, he did, for the most part. Yudhishthira also quoted these lines from a song sung by sage Kashyapa on the topic of forgiveness:
"क्षमा धर्मः क्षमा यज्ञः क्षमा वेदाः क्षमा श्रुतम्
...क्षमा ब्रह्म क्षमा सत्यं क्षमा भूतं च भावि च
क्षमा तपः क्षमा शौचं क्षमया चोद्धृतं जगत्
...."
Translated: "Forgiveness is dharma. Forgiveness is sacrifices. Forgiveness is the Vedas. Forgiveness is the sacred texts... Forgiveness is the brahman. Forgiveness is the truth. Forgiveness is the past and the future. Forgiveness is austerities. Forgiveness is purity. Forgiveness holds up the entire world."

Tales from the Mahabharata - 3 - Fratricide, Suicide, and more!

My third installments of "Tales from the Mahabharata - When Krishna Stopped Arjuna from Killing Yudhishthira" - was published in the Swarajya Magazine on November 2, 2014.

This is the full text of the article as it appeared:
When Krishna Stopped Arjuna from Killing Yudhishthira.
Attempted fratricide, attempted suicide - a bizarre turn of affairs on the seventeenth day!

Krishna may have uttered the most profound 800 shlokas ever at the beginning of the war (Bhagvad Gita Parva). He was successful there - Arjuna picked up his weapons, and the rest, so to say, is history. His words however failed to prevent the war itself. His visit to Hastinapura (Bhagavat-yana Parva in the Udyoga Parva), as a last resort to get Duryodhana to cede to the Pandavas at least five villages did not yield the desired results. Krishna was successful on at least two other occasions in preventing needless violence, once against Arjuna and once against Bhima - but that's another story for another day and time though. Happily enough, Krishna's war prevented at least one fratricide during the war itself - between Arjuna and Yudhishthira!

Friday, December 5, 2014

NH3 Before Igatpuri

This is a fairly recognizable section of the National Highway 3, as it makes its way towards the picturesque town of Igatpuri, and beyond that to Nashik. It is at this point that the highway bifurcates, and the eastward highway snakes to the left while the westward highway is what you can see in the photo below.

https://www.google.com/maps/@19.6796264,73.5209861,13z





© 2014, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Shani Shingnapur, Maharashtra



Truth be told, I do not have many photographs of the Shani Shingnapur Temple in Maharashtra. This is because they do not allow photographs inside the temple, and I was too enthralled by the entire experience to remember to take my camera out. The temple town is about 35kms from Ahmednagar - so it can be done as a quick detour if you're on your way to Aurangabad - and about 70kms from Shirdi. Shirdi is, of course, famous for Sai Baba, and going to Shingnapur and back from Shirdi can be done in about four hours. The road is OK for the most part, except for about a 15 km stretch that is not so OK.

However, this was a somewhat striking moment outside the temple, in the parking lot. Apart from the shops that hawk every knick-knack you could want for instant moksha and to protect you from the evil eye of anyone envious of your prosperity - which could be almost everyone and anyone - there was this loads of color (gulal, kumkum, call it what you will) on a cart that was being tended to by this elderly gentleman. Nothing out of the ordinary till you realize the gentleman is a Muslim. While trite and overused to death cliches do come to mind, it is a measure of India's enduring spirit of inclusiveness that binds people together. Commerce of course is a highly underestimated glue.


© 2014, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Oracle Restaurant and Bar


Either Oracle, the enterprise software and hardware company, is getting into the consumer space in an example of brand expansion gone horribly wrong, or someone's been getting a bit creative with trademarks and all. In any case, you can't fault the person from sticking with the Oracle "red" color theme. The cuisine also promises to be international - Punjabi, Maharashtrian (OK so far it's all Indian), Chinese (yes, venturing out), Indian (back to the homeland), and seafood (ok, so not that international after all).

Shot somewhere on NH10, between Shirdi and Rahuri in Maharashtra.



© 2014, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Tales from the Mahabharata - 2 When Arjuna Wanted to Behead Yudhishthira

The second installment of my series, "Tales from the Mahabharata", appeared in the Swarajya magazine, on October 7 2014.

The article as it appeared:
-------------------------------
When Arjuna Wanted to Kill Yudhishthira
A little-known episode of the Mahabharata illustrates a new idea in the field of social psychology: Ego Depletion.

It was the seventeenth day of battle on the field of Kurukshetra. A most bloody war that had taken a huge toll of human lives and emotions. Even though most maharathis of the Kaurava army had fallen—including Bhishma on the tenth day and Drona on the fifteenth, Karna still remained.

Tales from the Mahabharata - 1 Unintended Consequences

The first installment of my series, "Tales from the Mahabharata", appeared in the Swarajya magazine, on September 30, 2014.

The article as it appeared:
-------------------------------
Unintended consequences – tales from the Mahabharata
While everyone has their favorite story or episode from the Mahabharata, and most have more than one, I have found the theme of unintended consequences to be the most fascinating one. Actions taken not only have reactions, but unlike the Third Law of Motion, actions also have quite unexpected results at times.

The story of Abhimanyu and how Jayadratha became the stumbling block in the efforts of the four Pandava brothers to rescue him from within the fearsome chakra vyuha is well known. If not, then that is a topic for a future article! Here I will talk about a little known but equally potent illustration of unintended consequences from the Mahabharata.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Spines of the Mahabharata - 2

When I wrote "The Spines of the Mahabharata Books" in Feb 2013, only the first six volumes of Dr. Bibek Debroy's unabridged translation of the Critical Edition of the Mahabharata had been published. The seventh volume (my review) was published in June 2013, while the eighth (my review) was published in late November 2013 - this one was somewhat delayed because of issues with getting the binding right I believe. So I thought it was time to update my post, actually write a new one, covering the spines of these two volumes. The ninth and tenth are going to be published in November 2014, so there is some time to go before that event.
As I had written, each volume of the series contains a motif that is associated with the content in the volume. You can read my earlier post, "The Spines of the Mahabharata Books", for a description of the spines of the first six volumes. As you may recall, especially if you read my reviews, the seventh volume marked the end of the Mahabharata war, with Karna killed on the seventeenth day on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, beheaded by an arrow shot by Arjuna at an unarmed Karna who had got down from his chariot to extricate its wheel that had been mired in mud. Hence the spine of the seventh volume has an illustration of a wheel partially submerged in mud. Given the inclination to avoid persons on the spines, the fifth volume was the sole exception, Duryodhana's battle with Bhima was therefore not a candidate.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Bitter Chocolate: Child Sexual Abuse in India

Bitter Chocolate: Child Sexual Abuse in India, by Pinki Virani

5 stars

My review of this book appeared in DNA on the 29th of July 2014 here: 
Book Review - Bitter Chocolate: Child Sexual Abuse in India

Below is the entire text of the review:

Each passing day brings into the headlines another sordid story of a child being abused somewhere in the country. After the initial scandal and outrage, the media scatters to find its next new titillating tale to expose, the public finds distraction in the latest sporting tamasha – consoling itself that such things could not possibly happen to people like them, self-proclaimed experts crawl out of their holes to appear on television debates and blame everything on the wanton promiscuity of the west or the patriarchal oppressiveness of the Hindu society – depending on which deep end of the ideological spectrum they have gone over, while the family of the victim is left to pick up the scraps of normalcy in their lives even as they deal with the subsequent abuse of their humanity at the hands of the police and judiciary.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Vashi Creek Bridge

This photo is of the Vashi Creek Bridge that connects mainland Mumbai with Navi Mumbai. Taken early in the morning, even as the hot summer sun beat down through a haze of smog, pointing the phone's (a Nexus 5) camera slightly up and towards the sun caused the shot to underexpose a little, providing an nice silhouetted look to the composition.



© 2014, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Truck Signage - Wives and Families

As far as truck signages go, this one attempts to combine messages on marital fidelity, family planning, and female figure consciousness, and of course, spiced with patriarchal seasoning.
बीवी रहे टिप टॉप, दो के बाद फूल (sic) स्टॉप |

© 2014, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Photo - Barren Tree

It's a long, hot, scorching summer.
The monsoons are supposed to be here.
It is supposed to be raining.
It's supposed to be cool.



© 2014, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.
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