Sunday, May 29, 2016

Anger Management

Madurai city in south Tamilnadu is a popular tourist center. It's recorded period dates back to at least 300 BC. Megasthenese, Greek ambassador to India, is said to have mentioned about this city. Madurai is a historical, social, cultural and business center. Thousands of tourists throng the city every day for visiting the Meenakshi-Sundareswara temple and other temples around the city. The size of these temples is often huge and a proper visit to them would take half a day for a meaningful round up. A visit to Meenakshi-Sundareswara temple in the morning is very rewarding; it meets the objective of morning walk and exercise as well. Tirumala Naiker's palace is another important tourist attraction. Madurai is also the gateway to the island of Rameswaram that houses the historical temple by the same name. It is an important commercial centre and the city with nearly two million population never sleeps. Different shades of cultures can be seen thriving harmoniously in this city. The city is situate on the banks of river Vaigai, though water flow in the river is very rare. Madurai has a bench of the Madras High Court and has a Divisional Office of Indian Railways as well. The city is vital and important politically and the belief is that the political party that wins in Madurai and surrounding areas does rule the state of Tamilnadu. Past electoral history is a witness to this claim.

Madurai is well connected by National Highways, Railway network and Airport. There is a regular and heavy traffic between Chennai and Madurai. Many long distance trains from Chennai to various destinations in south India pass through Madurai. The most popular among them is Pandiyan Express, plying between Chennai and Madurai, due to its convenient timings on either side of the journey. One can take the train after supper and arrive at the destination well before sunrise on the next day. I was required to travel frequently between these two cities as a part of my work for a few years. The train had AC coaches as well but the journey by First Class coaches (which have been now phased out by Indian Railways) were very pleasant due to the extra space available in them. The journey by Pandiyan Express was always enjoyable and lasting in memory. 

There was a slight drizzle on that night at Chennai Egmore station, some fifteen years ago. The wet platforms were full with south bound passengers looking for their trains. Pandiyan Express had not yet arrived at the platform from the yard. There was no place to sit on the platforms as all seats were either occupied or wet due to the drizzle. There was only one bench on which one person was sitting with her bags besides her. As the wait was going to be longer, I went to her and asked her if I could sit beside her if she moved the bags. She readily agreed and made way by moving the bags. What followed was a very interesting episode.

Many persons passing by our bench would stop and greet the lady. She was nearly seventy years old and the smile on her face was evident even in the dimly lit platform. Initially it appeared that only railway employees were greeting her. All guards, drivers, porters and other railway employees stopped for a minute and talked to her with reverence. Many of them asked her whether they could get dinner for her. She smilingly replied such queries that she had ordered dinner to be served on the coach. As the minutes passed by, it was observed that even some non-railway employees were greeting her and exchanging pleasantries. She was referred as "Madam". Only elderly ones addressed her as "Satya Madam". Her name was probably Satyavati. I was tempted to ask her how she knew so many people from the railways and others traveling to Madurai. But I did not.

When the train arrived on the platform half an hour later, there were half a dozen railway employees competing to take her bags to her coach. As I entered my compartment, she was seated opposite to my berth. An elderly couple were the other two passengers in the four berthed compartment. They had their packed dinner ready with them. Railway employees delivered dinner packets to us. The time during the dinner opened a chance to ask her the reasons for her being so popular with the railway employees and other travelers. 

She told me that she was working as a teacher in the Railway school in Madurai for some three decades. Some of the persons who greeted her were her former students who have now become railway employees. There were others who were parents of children who studied in that school. She said that it was no surprise that that many people greeted and spoke to her. "I should have been an awfully bad teacher if at least this many did not recognize me!", she exclaimed. She was humble and polite. She must have been much better than an average teacher. She ought to have been a wonderful teacher and guide to her wards. Not all teachers are recognized and respected like her, I thought.

Our brief discussion during dinner was disturbed due to a heated argument between a passenger and the TTE. As the argument subsided, she smiled and said "I do not know why people become angry". "There could be many reasons for that", I said. She laughed and what she said later is fresh in my memory. 

"In any situation involving me, I am either right or wrong. If I am wrong, I have no right to be angry. If I am right, I need not be angry. Remembering these two rules are the best medicine for treating anger", she said as we finished dinner.

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Satya madam had a wonderful lesson in "Anger Management". She put it very easily in simple words but with lasting effect. It is a lesson difficult to follow always, but gives rich dividends whenever followed.  Yes, it is either we have no right to be angry or we need not be angry!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Colour of Saraswati


The last post was about "Shree Pruthvivallabha", (click here to read it) referring to the war between Pulikeshi II and Harshavardhana in the Narmada river valley in 618-619 AD. This period of 7th century AD was a very fertile ground for growth of fine arts and literature. Temples and monuments constructed at that time as well as works of literature that are available even today bear testimony to this. There were many talented artistes and poets in the court of Pulikeshi II and other noted Kings of the period like The Gangas of Talakad and Pallavas of Kancheepuram, besides the Banavasi Kings. 

Chandraditya was the eldest son of Pulikeshi II. Chandraditya's queen Vijayambike was herself a noted poet of that time. Vijayambike was known by different names such as Vijjika, Vijayakka (meaning elder sister Vijaya) and Vijaya Bhattarika. She is referred to as "Karnati" (Lady of Karnataka) and "Karnata Rajapriya" (Darling of the King of Karnataka). She is said to have been born in a courtesan family and well versed in music, dance and literature. In fact, there are claims that she was the foremost poet in Vaidharbhi style, next only to Mahakavi Kalidasa. She has written a five act drama by name "Kaumudi Mahotsavam".  She had earned the title "Karnata Saraswati". 
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Dandi or Dandin is considered as one of the foremost poet of that period. Researchers have established that he was in the court of Pallavas King Simhavishnu and later in the court of famous King Durvinita of the Ganga dynasty who ruled from Talakad near Mysore. His celebrated work "Kavyadarsha" is a highly respected source book in Poetics. He is also credited with two more prose works, "Dasha Kumara Charita" and "Avanti Sundari Katha". He is praised as a foremost exponent of "Padalalitya" or playing with words, in his works. He lived around the same period as Vijayambike. There was a running feud between Chalukyas and Pallavas with victory favoring one or the other in a long period of 6th and 7th centuries.
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We see many photos of various deities, gods and goddesses that are sold in shops, displayed in temples and shown in calendars, books etc. These are based on the descriptions of the deities in Vedic hymns and artiste's impressions developed over a period of time. For example, the pictures of Goddess Lakshmi with two elephants on either side is a depiction based on her description from "Shree Suktam". All hymns describing Goddess Saraswati mention that she is all white; dressed in white, sitting on a white lotus, white swan as her chariot and she herself is white in colour. The picture of Saraswati given above is from such description in different sources.

Dandi has described that Saraswati is all white (नित्यशुक्ला सरस्वती) in the beginning of his "Kavyadarsha". Vijjika or Vijayambike, daughter in-law of Pulikeshi II and queen of his son Chandraditya came to know of this as she was a contemporary of Dandi. Vijjika herself was of dark complexion. She did not accept this description of Saraswati. She retorted thus:

नीलोत्पलद्लष्यमां विज्जिकां मामजानता |
वृथैव दण्डिना प्रोक्तं सर्वशुक्ला सरस्वती ||

Neelotpaladalashyamaam Vijjikaam maamajanataa
Vruthaiva Dandina proktam Sarvashukla Saraswati!

Dandi has not seen me, Vijjika, who is like a Blue Lotus. That is why he has mentioned that Saraswati is all white! (Had he seen me, he would have known that Saraswati is not white in colour. He would have mentioned that she is of dark complexion).
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Vijjika represented a generation of women poets who were confident about themselves and stood on same footing as men as far back as over a thousand and three hundred years. She had the confidence to say that she was Saraswati personified!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Shree Pruthvivallabha


An interesting news report in "The Hindu" last week (25th April, 2016) has thrown additional light on an important part of History. Studies at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune has accurately fixed the year of the historic war between Pulikeshin II of Badami and Harshavardhana of Kannauj. 

The Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune, Maharashtra is an institution founded in honor of Ramakrishna Gopal Bhandarkar who is regarded as the foremost pioneer of scientific Orientology in India. The institute is said to have the largest collection of manuscripts and rare scripts of yesteryears. The institute, founded in 1917, will be celebrating its centenary year shortly. The institute received a collection of copper plates from Shri Raghuvir Pai, a noted coin collector of Mumbai. Research at the institute based on the bunch of copper plates (photo given above) have confirmed the dates of historical events of the seventh century AD. The institute has informed that the coronation of Pulikeshin II as the King was in 610 AD, when he ascended the throne by defeating his uncle Mangalesha, who had planned to deny the throne to him. The research has also fixed the year of the deciding fight on the banks of the river Narmada, between Pulikeshin II and Harshavardhana as the winter of 618-619 AD as against the earlier vague dates of 612 to 634 AD. It further informs that there is a reference to grant of 50 Nivarthanas (units of land) in village Vataviya, in the present Paithan taluka of Aurangabad in Maharashtra to a Vedic scholar Nagasharma. This grant of land was presumably made when Pulikeshi returned from the war on the banks of Narmada river.
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Pulikeshin II belonged to the Chalukya dynasty that ruled large part of South  and Central India intermittently for six centuries, from 6th 12th century AD.  This dynasty ruled in three different and related branches. The first branch of Badami Chalukya took over from the Kadambas of Banavasi and had their reign from mid 6th century to 8th century (543 AD to 756 AD). The rise of Rashtrakutas eclipsed Badami Chalukyas and thereafter they ruled from Vengimandala, the area between Krishna and Godavari rivers in present Andhra Pradesh, until 11th century. King Tailapa was responsible for coming out of the subordination of Chalukyas to Rashtrakutas and started the third branch of Chalukyas ruling from Kalyana, the present day Basava Kalyana in Karnataka. The reign of Kalyana Chalukyas extended till 12th century AD.

Pulikeshin II was the foremost and most famous King from the Badami Chalukya dynasty and ruled for three decades (610-642 AD). His empire covered the large area of parts of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, entire Maharashtra and Karnataka and parts of Andhra Pradesh. More than a hundred temples and monuments are available even today bearing the stamp of Chalukya architecture in and around North Karnataka. Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal temples are visited by tourists regularly.

Harshavardhana was a popular ruler of North India in the 6th century (590-647 AD) and his reign coincided with that of Pulikeshin II (610-642AD). Harsha's empire extended from Punjab and Rajasthan to Gujarat and parts of Bengal and Odisha. Pulikeshin had become a powerful adversary and taken the title of "Pruthvivallabha" (Lord Paramount). Rise of another powerful King in South India was naturally not to Harshavardhana's liking. He marched from Kannauj with a large army to subdue Pulikeshin II. Harsha's army had a large contingent of elephants. The two armies met in the Narmada valley. Pulikeshin's battle plans and superior warcraft in guarding the river valley resulted in the loss of large part of Harshavardhana's army. Harshavardhana was forced to accept Narmada river banks as the boundary between his and Pulikeshin's kingdoms. The present research has now fixed the date of this decisive war having taken place in the winter of 618-619 AD.

A film by name Immadi Pulikeshi (1967) with popular actor Rajkumar playing the lead role is available for viewing on Youtube. The film was a huge success and is considered as a milestone in the actor's career.

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"Shree Pruthvivallabha" is a title meaning "Lord Paramount" and used by many Kings of that era. It can be compared to the popular cricket cup called "Ranji Trophy". The victor in a major war took the title and held it till the next decisive war. The title would pass on to the winner again. There could a defending champion or a new victor, depending on who won the next war.

The title was lost by Chalukyas of Badami after the Rashtrakutas became powerful and defeated them. King Tailapa II reestablished the supremacy of Chalukyas and made Kalyan (present Basava Kalyana) as his capital. He defeated Munj, a Parmar king and won back the title "Shree Pruthvivallabha". The reign of Tailapa II and later his son Satyashraya is considered as a "Golden Age" in the annals of South India.

C K Nagaraja Rao, well-known Kannada writer who has recorded the reign of Hoysala Kings in his historical novels titled "Pattamahadevi Shantaladevi", "Veeraganga Vishnuvardhana" and "Dayada Davanala?" has also a written another historical novel titled "Shree Pruthvivallabha". The struggle of Tailapa II in establishing the rule of Kalyana Chalukyas and disengaging from Rashtrakutas is well chronicled in his novel "Shri Pruthvivallabha". The book is based on the available historical material relating to that period and subsequent research on the subject. Interested readers can read the novel to get a picture of those times by going through the book.