Judas Peep Hole

The front door of the flat where we lived in Mumbai was fitted with a peeping hole. The person inside upon hearing the bell could check through this glass hole to ascertain who is outside. It was for security purposes. We never knew that this device is called Judas, or Judas hole or Judas peeping hole.

Must be remembering the Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. It was he who is said to have betrayed the Lord. The device is named after him. Judas or Judas peep hole or Judas spy aperture is a device which is fitted in the door. Although these holes allow both the outsider and insider to peep through, Judas hole is considered one way. The person from outside can Spy on the inside.

President Barack Obama looks through the Oval Office door peephole as his personal secretary Katie Johnson watches 3/12/09. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

The device gets its name from Judas Iscariot the twelfth disciple of Jesus. Judas betrayed Jesus on Wednesday when he in lieu of some money told the whereabouts of Jesus and agreed to hand Jesus to Sanhedrin. Spy Wednesday gets its name because this is the day on which Judas betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin. Because Judas is thought to be sneaky, his actions conjured up the image of a spy.

Jesus and Judas

Coconut Plant: Kalpavriksha

Coconut grow in the coastal areas. In India, whole of the coast is dotted with coconut trees. Kerala tops the list in coconut plantations. Known as Coconut in English, Narikela in Sanskrit & Nariyal in Hindi, coconuts can grow to between 15 and 30 m tall in plantations. Their trunks are ringed with scars where old leaves have fallen. The top of the trunk is crowned with a rosette of leaves.

Fruits are called coconuts. They are oval and covered with a smooth skin which can be bright green, brilliant orange or ivory coloured. Below the skin is a thick fibrous layer which is used for coir. The next layer is the shell of the seed with the three characteristic ‘eyes’.

The coconut finds so many uses. The shell may be used to make charcoal which is used in the water filters for absorbing the coloring contaminants.  The inside of the shell is lined with a white, edible layer called the meat. This is used to make chemicals, and medicinal products. The fluid inside the seed cavity is known as coconut water. This fluid contains many minerals and is taken as such to rejuvenate the body. It is recommended in case of dehydration caused by diarrhea. It has a cooling effect and removes the body heat in summers. When seeds germinate, the new shoot sprouts from one of the eyes. Due to so many uses, in India it has been called the ‘tree of heaven’ or ‘Kalpavriksha‘.

In India, it has great spiritual value. The three ‘eyes’ of the coconut represent the three eyes of the great god Shiva. An earthen pot or pitcher, called a purnakumbha is filled with water and mango leaves and a coconut is placed on top. This purnakumbha is used in the ritual of worship and adoration of the gods, called puja. It is placed as a substitute for the deity or by the side of the deity. The purnakumbha literally means a ‘full pot’ in Sanskrit. It represents Mother Earth, the water the giver of life, the leaves life itself, and the coconut divine consciousness.

In South Asia, coconuts are named Sriphala or fruit of the Gods and symbolize complete usefulness, selfless service, prosperity and generosity. The palms are believed to be the embodiment of the ancient Indian concept of kalpavriksha, or the tree which grants all wishes. It plays an essential role in many religious and social functions in South Asia.

Coconut is an integral ingredient of South Indian cuisine. It is used in one form or another in the food. It is used to make chutneys, thickened with milk and sugar to make delicious sweets. It is milk is used in many fish preparations. Its oil is used for cooking and hair dressing.

Gautam Buddha

Gautam Buddha is the founder of Buddhism, the religion practiced by millions in this world. Hindu religion considers him as an avatar of Vishnu. He was born to Mahamaya the chief wife of King Suddhodhana of Sakyas.

His mother had a dream in which she was carried by demigods to divine lake called Anavatapa in Himalayas. She was bathed by heavenly guardians. A great white elephant holding a lotus in his trunk came and entered her side.

The dream was interpreted by king’s astrologers that a child would be born to her who shall either become a great emperor or a great teacher. Other interpreted the dream that the boy will see four sad events and decide to renunciate the world’s wealth and luxuries and riches.

Gautam Buddha

He was born as Siddhartha and Gautam was his Gotra. When he was born he immediately stood up and walked 5 steps and declared that this is his last birth. King was worried and tried every means to keep the boy away from all the events that can pain the boy and make him take up the path of renunciation. He was to married his cousin Yashodhara in a contest showing great skills and strength.

As the destiny would have it, he happened to see the four events predicted by the astrologer. First was when he saw an aged man in last stages of infirmity and decrepitude- actually the God himself in the disguise.

Siddhartha asked his charioteer Channa who this repulsive man was. Channa explained that everyone who is born has to pass to this state. Then he saw very sick man, then a dead man which was the last straw to break his resolve and last one was a ascetic in red robes with peaceful face.

He returned to his palace and was in great pains. Even the news of the birth of his son Rahul did not bring any peace to his mind. That night he left his home with Channa and his dear horse Kanthaka and on reaching the forest cut off his flowing hair and removed his jewelery and robes and gave it to Channa to give it all to his father. The horse died instantly on parting with his master.

Then for years he wandered here and there. He practiced great penances and tortured his body and was reduced to a skeleton. He realized that this is not leading him anywhere. He began begging for food and regained some strength.

He sat under a Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya and a village girl Sujata gave him rice boiled in the milk. He partook them and bathed and for next 49 days sat in meditation and at the end truth was revealed to him and he became Buddha.

After initial reluctance he started spreading his peace message and made so many people his disciples and many Kings who could not appease the Brahmins as they did not belong to warrior caste patronized Buddha. He toured all the North India from one end to another. He also converted his father, son Rahul to Buddhism and allowed his mother and other women to become Buddhist nuns.

Buddha in Bodh Gaya, India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When his end was near, he knew it and told his followers not to continue with the process of new successor. As was his nature, he would beg one house and whatever they gave him never refused. He was given contaminated pork meat by Chunda the smith. He ate it and was attacked by dysentery. He moved to Kusinagara and left this world there.

Karamnasa River

The rivers in India are considered very holy. People worship them because they sustain the lives by providing water for irrigation, bringing with them very fertile soil.

Water which sustains the life on this planet. All the great civilizations had prospered along the banks of rivers. In the Indian subcontinent, Indus valley civilization prospered on the banks of the great river Indus. Living near the river had many advantages. Agriculture was carried out near the rivers.

Nile provides the Egypt with its fertile land along its banks else rest of the Egypt is dry and unsuitable for agriculture. The Punjab which is called the granary of India owes its agriculture to the five rivers. Then greatest of  them all is Ganges which flows through the whole length of North Indian plane. Millions of people inhabit the areas adjacent to this river. The river is benevolent and are considered very sacred.

In India, most of the holy places are located on the rivers. People take bath in them to wash away their bad deeds which have been committed by them consciously or deliberately. Huge congregations gather on the rivers holy places to thank the river which nurtures them.

But, there is one river which is accursed in Indian mythology. Its name is Karamnasa which means the destroyer of one’s good deeds. The river originates in Kaimur hills in Bihar. It is a tributary of Ganges which it meets near Chausa.

Karamnasa River

According to the legend, Suryavanshi King Satyavrata ruled Ayodhya. He immersed himself in worship and wanted the Gods to help him rise directly to heavens. He approached Rishi Vashisht but he showed his reluctance after which he approached Rishi’s sons who also did not help.

Then another Rishi Vishwamitra came forward with help and helped him to ascend to the heavens. But as he approached the heaven, Gods who were already angered, hurled him down on the earth.

As he was descending down at terrific speed to crash, Rishi Vishwamitra interceded and put brakes on his descend but in the process, King got suspended in the mid air with his face downwards. Due to this conditions he is also called Trishanku.

He hung over this river and the saliva from his mouth due to drooling fell into he river contaminating it. Thus the water is considered polluted and in the olden times brahmins did not even let a drop of water from it to touch their body. While crossing the river, they gave special instructions to the boatman not to splash any water on them.

The river ultimately mingles with Ganges which is capable to washing and purifying everything which comes into its contact.

Narcissus in Us!!

There is a Narcissus in All of Us: More or Less

Narcissus or Narkissos was a youth of exceptional beauty and due to vanity became exceptionally proud and disdained others. When Goddess Nemesis saw this, she attracted the Narcissus to a pool of clear water. He saw his reflection in the water and fell in love with his own image. He did not left the pool and died.

Narcissus looking himself in water

The word narcissism is derived from him and means excessive self love. There is less or more narcissus in all of us. To a degree it is essential for self keep up. But many of us have it in larger measure and keep admiring their own pictures.

Narcissus is also the name of beautiful flower of the same name. The name is also linked to intoxication (narcotic) and the Greek character Narcissus which is the topic of this post. He was intoxicated with self-love.

Narcissus Flowers

Sacred Rivers

In Hindu religion, anything can become pious. God pervades everything ranging from the mammoth stars to the tiniest atoms. All the innate things are the forms of the God.

God is everywhere, omnipresent. Therefore even stones can become the objects of veneration. So many kinds of trees, rivers, hills and mountains are revered in Hinduism. Many of them have some form of association with the Gods.

For example, the rat is the vehicle of Lord Ganesha. Siva mounts the bull Nandi which can be seen in the stone casts squatting outside the temples of Siva. There is a mammoth statue of Nandi bull in the Chamundi Hills of Mysore. The pedestrian journey to the temple atop the hill begins from here.

Rivers are considered sacred. This is logical also because they provide us with the water which sustains the life by helping grow the crops, drinking, bathing and transporting. In fact many great cities and civilizations flourished on the banks of the great rivers.

The most prominent example is the Indus valley civilization which existed on the rivers in Punjab. Thus many rivers are held in most esteem by the Hindus.

Ganga is one such river. It is thought to have sprang from the foot of Vishnu, flowed over the sky in the form of milky way(Mandakini) and descended to earth with great force. The terrific effect of its impact was smothered by Siva who absorbed its great strength in his matted locks.

Like her tributary Yamuna it is revered as a Goddess. Other river like this is imaginary river Saraswati which was supposed to flow underground and meet the Ganga and Yamuna at the Prayag sangam which is a most holy place for Hindus.

Mughal emperor Akbar was so impressed by the great Kumbh fair there that he named the city as Allahabad. Other rivers held in esteem are Krishna (also called Kistna), Godavari and Cauvery.

Certain lakes, notably Manasa in the high Himalayas near mount Kailash and lake Puskara near Ajmer in Rajasthan are held divine.

Shiva: The Most Adorable God

Shiva or Siva is a great ascetic. He is like a bridge between the humans on the earth and Gods in the heaven. The great Yogi sits in meditation on the tiger skin on the high slopes of Mount Kailash in Himalayas. Through his deep meditation the world is maintained. He wears his long matted hair (Jata) in a topknot with crescent moon fixed on his forehead and sacred river Ganga flows from the knot. His neck is black, scarred by the poison which was the last product of churning of the cosmic ocean and which he drank to save the other Gods. Snakes encircle his neck and arms. His body is covered with ashes. Besides him is the trident and his wife Parvati and his mount Nandi bull.

Shiva

Although he always seems to be wrapped in meditation, he can, in his divine power divide his personality. He is the lord of dance (Nataraja). In this aspect he is very popular in Tamil country. He dances in his heavenly palace at Mount Kailasa and Chidambaram temple. He is said to have developed no less than 108 different forms of dances, some cal and gentle, others fierce, orgiastic and terrible. Tandava is the form of latter. In this dance he he dances and beats a wild rhythm which destroys the world at the end of cosmic cycle.

Another form which he is seen is called Daksinamurti a universal teacher and is depicted is an informal pose, with one foot on the ground and other folded on the throne on which he sits and one hand raised in a gesture of explanation.

Above all these, he is worshiped in the form of linga, usually a cylindrical pillar with rounded top. This form seems to be popular even in Harappa civilization thus constituting an element from non-Aryan culture. Shiva evolved from the fierce Vedic god Rudra with whom elements of non-Aryan fertility were merged.

In South India, story of the marriage of Shiva and Meenakshi, daughter of a Pandiyan king of Madurai is an event celebrated in one of the most famous and splendid of the temples.

Rama

Rama is the hero of epic Ramayana. Ramayana which is revered in India is little more than a quarter of Mahabharata. It is different in style and content from Mahabharata which contains many interpolation. The style of Ramayana bears some kinship to that of classical Sanskrit poetry.

Lord Rama

Ramayana is older than Mahabharata but major narrative portions of Mahabharata are said to be appreciably older. Some scholars think that Mahabharata is older than Ramayana. Ramayana was composed by sage Valmiki who was contemporary of Rama.

The central scene of the poem is Ayodhya which was the capital of old kingdom of Kosala. It shows that it grew in a milieu which was to the East to that of Mahabharata which mostly happened to the East of Ganges. In fact the war of Mahabharata was fought in Kurukshetra and the capitals of both the antagonistic parties Kauravas and Pandavas were around modern day Delhi.

Dasaratha, the king of Kosala, had three wives which bore him 4 sons namely Rama, Bharata, Laksmana and Satrughna. Rama won the hand of Sita in a great archery contest which was contested at Videha and was organized by King Janaka.

When Dasaratha became old, he decided to hand over the reins of kingdom to Rama his eldest son. But one of his wives Kaikeyi, reminded him of a boon which he had granted her long back and demanded to be fulfilled in the banishment of Rama to jungles and installation of her son Bharata as the king.

Rama accompanied by Sita his wife and his younger brother Lakshmana dwelt as hermits in forests of Dandaka and destroyed many demons who harassed the ascetics and villagers. Ravana the lord of demons decided to avenge this and came to collect the alms in the guise of a Sadhu and abducted the Sita and flew her to his capital at Lanka where he kept her in a garden. He did not touched her or maligned her.

With the help of Hanumant and his army of Monkeys Rama located Sita and constructed a bridge over the across sea to Lanka. The Ravana and his kin were killed by Rama and Sita reunited with Rama.

They returned to Ayodhya after the completion of banishment period. Although Sita was treated with respect by her captor and had in no way yielded to his blandishments. But Rama put her to the test of chastity and she threw herself into a funeral pyre but the Agni refused to take her thus proving her innocence.

Devi Lakshmi

Lakshmi means fortune. She is the wife of God Vishnu and is often called Shri. She is the goddess associated with good luck and temporal blessing.

Although she is considered coexistent with Vishnu, she appeared in full glory at the churning of primeval ocean. Thus ocean is considered her father.

Devi Lakshmi

She is usually portrayed as a woman of mature beauty, seated on a lotus, with a lotus in her hand and attended by two elephants who sprinkle water on her from their trunks.

She is believed to incarnate herself as the wife of incarnation of Vishnu, thus worshiped as Sita, the spouse of Rama, as Rukmani or Radha being the chief queen and favorite of Krishna of his youth.

Hanuman Ji

Hanumant or Hanuman is considered as the rare combination of wisdom and strength. He was loyal to the core to his Lord Rama and played a stellar role in Rama’s war against the demon Ravana who had abducted Rama’s wife Sita.

In fact, many demons belonging to Ravana harassed the ascetics living in the jungles and Rama destroyed them. This enraged Ravana who to take the revenge abducted Sita coming in the guise of a ascetic coming to beg alms.

While Rama and and his younger brother Lakhsman were roaming from one place to another in the jungles in search of Sita, they chanced upon Hanuman who from then on put him at their disposal.

Jai Hanuman Ji

He did many Herculean tasks like lifting the entire mountain and flying on the straits going to Lanka to locate Sita and reassure her. His heart was completely immersed in the devotion towards Rama.

It is said that his army consisted of monkeys. He himself is shown as half monkey and half man. This seems to be an incredulous idea. But I don’t know why Monkeys are called his Sena. These creatures have a very destructive mind.

They snatch eatables from inattentive people, root out the plants and many a times attack the people. Here in our colony we are wary of them as hundreds of them swoop on the colony every morning and make the life of residents  a nightmare.

Children are terrified and you have to be very careful about them when bringing milk and eatables. They leap into balconies and if doors are open get inside the homes, eat the fruits and other eatables like groundnuts. More than eating the things, they pull out the plants which have been tended so long for growing and blossoming.

In Kerala, however, monkeys have been trained to pluck the coconut fruits from the coconut palm which is a difficult work for human. Similarly, there are entertainers in India especially in rural areas which use monkeys in the roles of man and woman.

They can’t be his clan because He is a benign God who is a rescuer and harbinger of good luck.