I was working in a place called Sivasagar in Assam. There was a shopping centre. In one of the shops a boy named Gopal used to work. Gopal was a runty-bodied boy from Bihar; he was working in a shop here in the mini-shopping center. Anyone who saw him will take him for the proprietor of the shop which sold eatables, victuals and phone service and has a xerox machine. Shops generally are all-in-one type here.
Gopal was very agile and competent and extremely good-natured. He has a gift of gabbiness and it did not take him long to make a niche in a corner of your heart. I thought him to be Bengali but actually he was from Bihar; so many Biharis have come to this state because the British rulers brought their forefathers here as labours for tea plantations, and to do the menial jobs and rickshaw pullers, barbers and laundry.
Then one day, Gopal suddenly disappeared from the scene. How did I come to know was that I had given Gopal a parcel to courier to my native town and it did not reach the destination for a long time. I came to inquire for it from Gopal but he was not in shop. Other persons who were actually the proprietors began sitting in place of Gopal. In the beginning they will not divulge his whereabouts but they knew it for sure. Sometimes they said Gopal has gone to another village to attend a marriage; after some days version became his own marriage.
Gopal is the name of Krishna who you might have seen playing on a flute in front of cows and there are amours Gopis who dance around him. These Gopis were married women who it is said, forget everything in the world: shame, their family, husbands and society, and went running to him when his notes on flute began wafting into the air and reached their ears. And our Gopal, he was smitten by love though not of gopis but only his unwed neighbour. The girl’s father and mother are also having a shop in the same shopping place; they were next door neighbours. The affair was kept secret by the smart Gopal, but I doubt that some of the boys who loiter around all the time were knowing everything and so did the owner of the shop in which Gopal worked.
So one night, Gopal eloped with girl and to this day nobody knows where he has gone. He might be in some secluded place, must have got employment and by now may have fathered a child.
In our country where mythology plays a big role in the lives of its inhabitants, many sites like hills, rivers, and caves have their associations with the mythology. One such concerns the Lord Krishna and is called Govardhan Parvat (mountain).
The legend is that when the uninterrupted deluge threatened to innundate Mathura, Krishna lifted the entire mountain on his little finger to make an umbrella to protect the Mathura.
UP government has planned to revive the almost barren Govardhan parvat situated about 23 kilometres from Mathura. Government plans to plant the herbal plants on the mountain. These are:
Kadamba: It is a tropical tree. Krishna and Radha are said to have conducted their love play under the cool shade of the tree. It is used as one of the raw materials in the preparation of “itars”.
Tamala or Indian bayleaf or tezpatta: It is commonly used in Indian culinary as well as medicines particularly for alleviation of diabetes due to the presence of highly antioxidant enzymes.
Karira: Scientific name is Capparis decidua. It’s spicy fruits are used for culinary purposes like vegetable, curries, and pickles. It is also used in medicine.
Pakar : It belongs to mulberry family. Leaves have sour taste.
Pilkhan: Scientific name Ficus virens. It grows to heights of about 100 feet. It is Avenue tree. It bears “strangler figs” because they can germinate on other trees and strangle them. It is used in Thai cuisine.
The garments worn in Vedic times onwards did not fundamentally differ from those worn by Hindus in later times. A single length cloth draped around the body, over the shoulders and fastened with a pin or a belt. This was a comfortable dress to be worn in a hot and humid climate which prevailed in India in comparison to the weather from where these people migrated.
Lower garment was called paridhana or vasana. It was usually such a cloth fastened around the waist with a belt or a string which is called mekhala or rasana. Upper garment was called Uttaiya and worn like a shawl over the shoulders. This upper garment was usually discarded at home or in hot weather especially by the people belonging to lower strata. Third garment called pravara was worn in cold season like cloak or a mantle.
This was general garb of both sexes and varied only in size and in the manner of wearing. Of poor people, sometimes the lower garment was a mere loincloth, but of rich was up to feet. In many sculptures, the lower cloth is pleated in front and held with a long girdle. Sometimes the girdle appears to the end of cloth itself. This might have been the precursor of the modern sari. Sometimes the end of the cloth was drawn between the legs and fastened at the back in the manner of dhoti.
Stitching was not unknown as is evident from the depiction of women in jackets and bodices. Invasion of Sakas and Kushanas from Central Asia led to the introduction of trousers at least in the upper classes in the Gupta times. In fact, Kushana kings have been shown in the coins and a headless statue of Kanishka wearing long quilted coats, trousers and boots of typically Central Asian style.
Clothes used for preparing these clothes varied from wool worn in North India in winters, diaphanous silks and muslins which were transparent and showed the limbs of the wearers. Clothes were often dyed or otherwise patterned with gay stripes and checks.
Foot wears were generally worn to protect the feet from scorching heat of earth in Indian summers.
Himachal Pradesh is a beautiful hill state in India. It is nestled between Shiwaliks and Lower Himalayas and due to cool weather have so many hill stations like Shimla, Kasauli, Kulu, Manali. Chamba is old city in the state. Situated on a mountain ledge overlooking the River Ravi, the town of Chamba was established in the 10th century when Raja Sahil Varman relocated his capital from the neighbouring Bharmour region, now the homeland of semi-nomadic shepherding Gaddis. The city is believed to have been named after the king`s favourite daughter, Champavati, who legend says, sacrificed herself to provide water to the parched city. To this day, women and children sing her praises in the town temples on the occasion of the annual Sui festival. The ornament carving of the Laxhmi Narayan Temple Complex, the Chamunda temple and the Madho Rai Temple provide ample testament of the consistent art patronage provided by Raja Sahil Varman and his successors. The hill state was rulded by a single dynasty in continuous series of accessions and consequently, it enjoyed a remarkably stable political environment in which the arts could be actively cultivated by the rulers. In the mid 18th century, a number of artists fleeing religious persecution were given refuge in the Pahari states; notable among the courts in which these artists found avid patrons was that of Raja Umed Singh of Chamba.
Although practiced throughout the region that comprises erstwhile princely hill states, the craft has come to be associated specifically with Chamba owing to the patronage afforded it by rulers of the area as well as to the quality of the local craftsmanship. Traditionally,the Chamba rumals were silk embroidered square pieces of hand spun and handwoven unbleached mulmul (muslin), fine cloth that were used to cover dishes of food,gifts to significant persons and offerings to a deity, or exchanged between the families of the bribe and the groom as a token of goodwill. The embroidery was done in a double satin stitch technique known as dorukha, which ensured an exact replication of image on the
reverse of the fabrics.Although practiced by women from all strata of Pahari society,the embroidery style developed by the women of the upper classes and the royalty has now come to be exclusively related to the craft.Both the folk and the court styles usually rendered the popular themes of the Raaslila, Raasmandal (depiction of dance in relation to Krishna and devotees), Ashtanayika ( a depiction of various types of heroines in their distinctive moods and environments),hunts and chaupad, dice game; the styles and colour schemes, however, were vastly different. The folk style made generous use of brilliant colours including pink, lemon yellow,purple and green while the court form evolved a more sophisticated colour palette that consisted of pale shades of ochre,dark green and blue. The court style reflects the popular pastimes of Pahari men and women from royal and noble families through the addition of details such as the smoking of the hookah, women shown talking to parrots, playing with a ball or dice or listening to music. It also derived its compositions, border motifs and floral ornamentation from the wall paintings of the Rang Mahal of Chamba and the Pahari miniature tradition. Often, trained miniature painters from the courts were called in to draw the compositions onto the fabric and to provide colour schemes. It is due to this close relationship with the painting tradition that the Chamba rumals have been called “paintings in embroidery”. In recent years, artisans have been encouraged to reproduce earlier masterpieces in order to sustain the craft. Simultaneously,efforts have also been made to diversify the craft products to include a wider range of items such as caps,hand fans, blouses and bedspreads. Below are some examples of Motifs.
Below: In the depiction of the Raaslila, Krishna multiplies himself in order to dance with four of his devotees, the gopis, while Vishnu witnesses the scene from his seat on a lotus.
Below: Radha and Krishna are seated in the upper floor of the pavilion; the musicians, ladies-in-waiting and strolling peacocks in the garden reflect what was the lifestyle of the court.
Below: The deity Lakshmi Narayan sits in the central quadrangle of a game of chaupad as three male figures sit in the four corners of the composition with sets of dice laid out before them. The dense stitching is believed to be based on the bagh (garden) embroideries of Punjab.
Below: Godhuli, literally the “hour of cowdust”, when cow herds come home,depicts Krishna and his cowherd friends bringing the cows back at dusk.
Lakshmi means fortune. She is the wife of 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.
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.
Krishna is reincarnation of Vishnu. He is very popular God because of his childhood frolics with Gopis (the wives of cowherds) and miracles. This facet of His life is full of romance. He is shown carrying a flute and herding the cows because he belonged to the Yadav caste which reared the cows. When he played the flute, a magic spell was created and animals, birds and moreover Gopis became mesmerized and felt a force which carried them towards him. He flirted with numerous Gopis but his favorite was Radha.
Afterwards, there seems to be a total change in his personality. He became a very serious characters who sided with the righteous and helped them decimate the ignoble. He became the director of war called Mahabharata between the cousins and preached a sermon to hesitant Arjuna about what is wrong and what is right and it was the pious duty of a righteous person to destroy the evil.
He was born in Mathura in the Yadava tribe. His father was Vasudeva and mother was Devaki. His birth was also very dramatic. Devaki, his mother, was the sister of ruling king Kamsa who was a tyrannic ruler. It was prophesied that eighth child of Devaki shall kill Kamsa. For this reason, Kamsa put Vasudeva and Devaki in a dungeon and killed all his 7 children. But Krishna was born and since it was all Maya, the sentries fell asleep, locks of the dungeon broke automatically and a baby girl born to a friend of Vasudeva called Nanada was exchanged and was duly killed by Kamsa who thought that problem is now solved as he had killed all the children of Devaki.
As he grew up, Kamsa traced him and made many attempts on his life and he slew the Kamsa and became the king of Mathura. But even now he did not have any peace because he was pressed between two hostile kingdoms namely that of brother-in-law of Kamsa Jarasandha and unnamed Yadav king. He left Mathura and with his followers travelled to a place called Dwarka in the Saurashtra presently a part of Gujarat. He married Rukmini, daughter of king of Vidarbha his chief queen. Some say that he amassed 16000 wives and 180000 sons. This is only a mythological story because only a man with supernatural powers can perform such a mind boggling feat. Since he was the reincarnation of God, it was not impossible for him.
After the end of Mahabharata in which the wicked Kauravas perished and Pandavas become victorious, he settled them on the throne, he returned to Dwaraka. Here ominous portents beset his regime as his clan members drank heavily and indulged in quarrels. He banned the liquor but it could not stop the feud. His son Pradyumna was killed before his eyes. His bother Balarama also died. Dejected Krishna wandered in the forest and was hit by an arrow in the heel by a hunter as the hunter mistook him for a deer. He had a weak heel like Achilles it was a vulnerable spot. He died and city was swallowed by the sea.
Such is the story of Krishna. Even Gods perhaps with the exception of Siva have to die like other mortals. Also when God descends to Earth from heavens then he has to be like other people although adorned with extra powers.
The war with Ravana has ended. Ravana and all his companions have been vanquished. Lanka, once the glorious kingdom of Ravan, is lying in ruins. There are corpses rotting in the streets. Sita, who was abducted by Ravana and brought here and for whom the war has been waged has united with Rama. Rama is filled with many feelings of mixed kind. He is contemplating the long period of 14 years which he , his brother Laxman and wife Sita has spent in the jungles. He has seen many colors of the life. He has killed many evil persons and emancipated many suppressed ones. There have been good and bad times. Moments of happiness and sorrow.
Rama and his retinue are all waiting eagerly to proceed to their Kingdom. Bhabhisan has made special arrangements and arranged the Ravana’s spacecraft for them to fly supersonic to their kingdom. At last, the mission blasts off and soon they are cruising over the Indian ocean.
Soon they enter the Indian space. They are startled to note that there are fires, terrifying sounds of bombs, bloodshed, rivers water are sullied red, and jungles look sparse like the bald head of aging man. The sounds are nothing like they have heard in their life. They are surprised that what they have used is child’s toys in comparison to these. Poisonous smoke is billowing making many kids gasping for breath. Rama is distressed, his heart is weeping and all the enthusiasm of going back to his home disappears. He then orders the spacecraft to be taken back again to jungles for another self inflicted banishment.
One of the many things which I miss about Assam is the flowers of Parijat. In its blossoming season, it is treat to watch these trees and ground beneath them. It is completely covered with its fragrant flowers. The flowers are very small with white sepals and one orange colored speck in the center. The children collect the flowers in little bamboo baskets. I asked them what they will do with so many flowers, to which they answered that these will be dried and added in cooked vegetables. The shrubs there are very healthy like all other vegetation which seems to grow literally before your eyes. The land has been laid down in seams of very highly fertile soil. All this is the dower given by mighty Brahamputra river to Assam. The river which flows very peacefully along the mountain from Mansarovar lake towards East but becomes very virulent when it enters the plains of Assam. Sometimes, during the monsoons, the river brings so much water with it that it creates floods in all the Assam and Bangladesh. The whole of area looks like a big lake. It uproots the islands and hurls them at different places. But it is all the blessings and anger of the river. The whole area is lush green and weather is entirely different from rest of India.
The shrub is called Nyctanthes arbor tristis in botanical jargon. It grows in India, Pakistan and South East Asia. The flowers occur in clumps of 2 to seven in numbers. It is also called tree of sorrow because of its short life span of one night only. In Indian mythology, there is story connected to the bringing of tree branch from heaven to earth by Krishna to appease his demanding wife Satyabhama.
The story goes that once Krishna and Satyabhama were invited by Lord Indra for a lunch. After lunch, Krishna and his wife were strolling in the garden when they happened to pass by the heavenly tree. Instantly, Satyabhama took a fancy for the tree and insisted that Krishna stole a branch and take it to their home and plant it there. Krishna despite his resistance had to pluck a branch. As he was hiding the branch in his clothes, Indra noted it and cursed not the Krishna directly but prophesied that the shrub will not bear seeds and propagate on the earth.
This does not seem to be true, otherwise how so many trees grow in different parts of world. Incidentally, I have noticed that shrub grows hardly near Mumbai. Only in one house I noticed one plant. Another plant has been planted in our colony by a Bengali family. In Bengal, this grows in abundance and is called “Shiuli”. Here in Mumbai area, the plants’ main thrust seems to be on leaves which are wider than their brethren in Eastern India. The color of leaves is lighter in Assam than here.
I found a very beautiful link to auspicious trees. It is called namah te.