Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Origin of the Coconut

You can read more about Trishanku at Wikipedia. Here is the graphic from Amar Chitra Katha:

Trishanku wanted to enter heaven with his mortal body. Assisted by Sage Vishvamitra, he ascended, only to be thrown down by the devas. As he hurtled down, Vishvamitra propped him up with a long pole. The pole changed into a coconut tree. Trishanku's head became the nut and his beard, the fibre around it. Take off the fibre and you can see his eyes!

Here is a picture from Wikimedia showing the "face" you can see in a coconut:

Fact Sheet: Indra

This is the Amar Chitra Katha fact sheet for Indra.

Vahanas: Airavata the elephant and Ucchaisravas (Uchchaihshravas) the horse
Spouse: Shachi
Capital City: Amaravati
Weapon: Vajra, or the thunderbolt
Guards the East Direction
The God of Rain
Born to Kashyapa and Aditi

Fact Sheet: Vayu

Another Amar Chitra Katha fact sheet: Vayu.

Born from the breath of Vishwapurusha, the Universal Being.
Also known as Pavana, the purifier.
Broke the peak of the Trikuta mountain and dropped it in the southern ocean. Legend has it that Lanka was built here.
The father of Bhima and Hanuman.
Guards the North-West direction.
Vahana: Antelope.
Acted as the arrow that Shiva used to burn down Tripura.

Fact Sheet: Agni

Here's a "fact sheet" from Amar Chitra Katha:

Born as Jatavedas to Pururavas, according to the Bhagavata Purana.
Spouse: Swahadevi
One of the Panchabhootas, or five elements
Weapon: Spear
Guards the South-East
Vahana: Ram
The Vedas call him second to Indra.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Epified: Sacred Trees

Here are some links you can use to follow up on what you learn from this Epified video:

The Wish-Fulfilling Kalapataru Tree

The World Tree: Yggdrasil

The Ashoka Grove, where Ravana held Sita prisoner

The Shami Tree, where the Pandavas hid their weapons

Bodhi Tree, where the Buddha achieved enlightenment

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Featured Author: Kamban (Kambar)

To follow up on an earlier post about R. K. Narayan, I wanted to say something about the medieval Tamil poet Kamban, since it is his version of the Ramayana that Narayan relied on to create the English-language Ramayana that you might be reading for class.

You can start with article about Kamban at Wikipedia, and there is also an article about his version of the Ramayana, the Ramavataram, which he composed probably around the year 1200 (although there is debate about that). The overall structure follows that of the Sanskrit version of Valmiki, but Kamban's work has many charming features of its own, and in his English adaptation R. K. Narayan sometimes refers to what "the poet" is doing in a particular scene — the poet he is referring to is Kamban.

If you would like to learn more about Kamban's version of the story and its distinctive features in more detail, you might enjoy this article online: Fire and Flood: The Testing of Sita in Kampan's Iramavataram by David Shulman.

Kamban the Procrastinator...

There is a great legend about Kamban and his poem, which says that he had put off composing the poem. When it was the night before the day when he was required to present the poem to the king, he imposed the help of the elephant-headed god Ganesha, who wrote down the whole poem that night as Kamban dictated it to him. You will also hear a similar story about how Ganesha was the scribe of the Mahabharata who wrote while the poet Vyasa dictated to him — but that story does not involve the procrastination factor as Kamban's story does.

If you are not familiar with the term "Tamil," you can learn more at Wikipedia, with articles about the Tamil people, Tamil language, and the state of Tamil Nadu, which is where Kamban lived.

The image below is a statue in Kamban's honor:

Full view:

Friday, September 7, 2018

Featured Author: R. K. Narayan

Today's featured author is R. K. NARAYAN, one of India's best-known English-language authors. His short prose versions of the Ramayana and of the Mahabharata are both on the reading list for this class.

Narayan (Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanaswami) was born in 1906 and died in 2001 at the age of 94 — and thus he witnessed most of the tumultuous 20th century in India. You can read about his life and career in this detailed Wikipedia article. He is best known as a novelist and a writer of short stories, turning to these epic projects only in the 1970s, very late in his career. Narayan's version of the Ramayana is remarkable because it is based, not on Valmiki, but instead on Kamban's Tamil version of the Ramayana, which is in turn based on Valmiki but which also has a personality all its own.

This brief video gives you an overview of his life:

Narayan was featured in a Google Doodle:

And a postage stamp was also issued in his honor: