Thiruppavai – Godai’s Gita Volume 2 | My Notes

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Book Title: Thiruppavai – Godai’s Gita | Volume 2

Author: Swetha Sundaram

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Get Your Kindle Copy: Amazon US | Amazon India 

A Bird’s Eye View

About the Storyteller:

Swetha’s narrative style has the old South Indian tradition of storytelling clubbed with loosely knit story format that works wonderfully for this commentary on Andal’s Thiruppavai. There are so many micro short stories woven with such sensitivity that it is an experience of being in a timeless boat floating on the oceans of never-ending stories.

The Story in a Nutshell

Goda, the composer and the versatile story weaver of the Thiruppavai brings out the deep-seated desire of the girls in Ayaripadi to celebrate and to get Lord Krishna’s exclusive companionship. Goda in this volume is visiting every missing girls’ house to personally awake them from their slumber to join in the Pavai Nombu celebration.

The Volume 2 stories are as compelling as those from the volume 1. These are small incidences picked from various Puranas and Vedic time stories. She also picks up stories from the contemporary era too, when she talks about the Alwars who lived before her and their life stories. The never-ending link of stories and facts of the rites provides for an entertaining conversation among the girls.

Review

My Likes and Dislikes

I liked all little and big stories. I didn’t feel tired from the constant deviations from the main event of the Pavai Nombu. The stories felt like an ambling aging river carries with slush pile of silt in its bed. The time spent on the three girls in Goda’s list of missing girls is well spent on learning so many interesting news bites about the Lord and His gracious benevolence towards His devotees.

Some of the stories were rehashed, but then, they still were entertaining to listen to again. For someone like me, if you are also interested in listening to stories then this Kindle book will entertain you immensely. There is a lot of information about the various religious figureheads and stories related to them are narrated with equal passion with which the other Puranic stories are narrated.

My Opinion

The Volume 2 keeps the interest going while providing new information about where the Pavai Nombu gathering has arrived at. This volume may be spent on waking up the girls, but at the same time, there is a lot happening with the internal cleansing process. With every discussion and arguments with the Goda and her friends to wake the missing girls, the internal thought is cleared and focused on Lord Krishna and his many avatars.

Thiruppavai – Goda’s Gita Volume 1 | My Take

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Book Title: Thiruppavai – Goda’s Gita | Volume 1

Author: Swetha Sundaram

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Get Your Kindle Copy: Amazon US | Amazon India 

A Bird’s Eye View

About the Storyteller:

Swetha Sundaram an Instrumentation and Controls Engineer who lives and works in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Her narrative style was exactly like the ones of my grand aunts who would entertain my siblings, cousins and me with stories from various Puranas. Her narrative had a similar fault of meandering through the maze of stories.

Of course, there is no doubt that the stories are so interesting that you would not mind being deviated from the main course. In this volume, she sets the stage for the pasurams by providing a wonderful introduction to the primal God Varahar Perumal. She informs the origin of the thought seed of Thiruppavai to the moment when the Earth got saved by Varahar Perumal.

The first volume covers five pasurams and the main space is provided to the beginning and the life story of Godai and how her adoptive father Periyalvar found her under the Holy Basil plant. Her brilliance as a child and her love for Perumal is beautifully articulated in the early chapters.

The Story in a Nutshell

The story is about gathering all young girls to perform the Pavai Nombu with a secret agenda of acquiring Krishna for a husband. Godai the cheerleader of the group of young girls undertake the task to bring about this group worship of Lord Krishna. The first five pasurams deal with the first meeting to undertake the fast.

The entire setting is Gokulam of Godai’s imagination with River Yamuna playing some lead parts in the narrative. This volume deals with the part where the plan is set up to meet at predawn hour and perform the fast on Lord Krishna. The setting is a group meeting near the Yamuna with elder’s consent and a secret agenda of unifying with Krishna.

Godai and girls meet near the River Yamuna and discuss the purpose of the meeting. They then set up a plan to worship Lord Krishna with the secret agenda of getting Him for themselves. The girls are thrilled about the agenda and are excited to start.

Next day, after the late meeting, some ten girls are found missing. So Godai with few other girls who have arrived for the meeting sets out to find them. In the course of finding those girls, Godai wakes up each girl giving her some really nice stories in the wake.

Review

My Likes and Dislikes

I liked all the connected stories that are displayed like a bouquet of fragrant flowers. The stories brought back childhood memories of how the story used to be told. There was no fixed rule for the order in which the story needs to be told, a story could evolve from one look or one word uttered and completely sidetrack the narrator and listener. But then when it comes back to the strayed track to the main agenda, that is, to attain Lord Krishna; it has been beautifully done.

One thing that I would not say that I disliked it; but more out of concern for the readers who are not well-versed with Indian Mythological stories may need some context fixing especially when the conversation moves towards Alwars and their magical experiences.

My Opinion

I feel this volume was such a pleasure to read for two main reasons. One reason is that the small and big stories about Lord Vishnu and his many avatars were simply superb to read. The other reason being that I got to know so many unknown stories and the wonder of it is present like nectar consumed in Godai’s Vrindavan along with the Gopikas as another Pillaiy.

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Emotional Expression of Gita Govinda | An Inward Seeking

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Work Title: Gita Govinda

Poet: Poet Jayadeva (12th Century  Court Poet)

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

Get Your Copy:  Amazon | Flipkart | SnapDeal

A Bird’s Eye View

About the Poet:

The Gita Govinda by the Bengali court poet Jayadeva of the 12th Century, which was done to be enacted as a dance drama, touches on all the emotional aspects of the lovers from separation to the final union. The creative work is divided into 12 Cantos with 8 couplet groups or Astapathi. The cantos speak of the various emotional factors of Krishna and Radha, in the cowherd incarnation. The lyrical ballad describes the parting and reunion of the two lead players of the dance drama.

Little Information About Gita Govinda

The poetry of this work uses the various eight emotions of lovers starting from separation to satisfaction of union with a clever device to be a cathartic spiritual experience. This is essentially a love song with dramatic components in them of an aspirant seeker and the goal of the search. The poet has extensively used the various dramatic and emotional pointers to bring out the flavor of various yearning that is found in the various characters involved in the lyrical song.

This piece is structured for Vasantha or Spring season celebration. Jayadeva introduces many elements which enrich the poetry to be very visual and emotional work. The fact that onlookers feel these elements as part of their emotional growth, is achieved with perfect setting and poetry. The greatest expression of love is found in this work in the form of a description of The Spring season’s scenic elements. The poet plays with the various faun and flora of the season with such poetic finesse that the poems move the minds of the reader.

Gita Govinda in Southern Vaishnavism Tradition

The poetry has traversed through the various parts of India and has been adapted with varying degree of change in the format.  In the South, the Vaishnavism of Tamilnadu has adopted this work to be presented in the musical format. The Radha Kalyanam format is set up to bring out the beauty of the poetry and musical scores have been already chosen and a tradition has been created. Of course, the performing group of Bhagavathars and their chorus can experiment as per their Mano Dharam with other ragas for the translation of original work in Tamil.

The work is treated as a spiritual expression of an aspirant seeker of God who eventually finds Him and becomes one with Him. The work is given religious value with the elements of the Bhakti movement. The gathering of the Bakthas’ experience of the presence of God’s grace being bestowed upon them is given more importance in this format.

The Story in a Nutshell

The 12 cantos play around the dramatic scene of separation of Radha and Krishna and eventually how both of them come together. The eight various aspects of the heroines’ emotions and Krishna’s mental states are described with exquisite finesse by the poet. The lyrical quality of the work is appealing to the reader who takes pleasure in the detailed expression of the various dramatic elements of the relationship between Krishna and Radha.

Review

My Likes and Dislikes

I liked the fact that the poet uses the lyrical ballad mode to bring out the beauty of the relationship along with their various impressions. In this, the most important aspect would be the human emotions being explored with delicate modes of expression.

My dislike was the fact that I could not read the original work in the Sanskrit language. But the beauty of the poetry was not lost even in translation. I could still connect with the core work in translation.

My Opinion

Personally, I found the poem very erotic and it took me some time to actually fix the spiritual implication in it. Even though I travesed from the Southern version to original Sanskrit version. Bakthi movement has added spiritual value and south has added the ritualistic factor to the work. But no one can miss the lyrical beauty of the work.

Radha Kalyanam A Musical Event 2018| My Take

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flute and feather

I came to know about Radha Kalyanam from my mother. She would reminiscence about incidents from her life. One of her past incidents was about her youngest sister’s interest in the Radha Kalyanam event more out of necessity than any spiritual import. She attended the event and participated in getting alms from the brahmin community, dancing around in the celebratory wooden press, and free meals at the end of the event. So, Radha Kalyanam was a reference that I got from my mother and I always thought of my aunt who passed away at a very young age.

I never really understood about Radha Kalyanam, since it was not my topic of interest. Naturally, I never could relate to the program format that my mother explained to me. But there were moments when I could imagine my youngest aunt jumping around the Ural or Wooden press pounding stick and finding whatever connection that she found in it.

Radha Kalyanam brought back sad notes for me and surprisingly, I attended the Radha Kalyanam for about most part on 29th and 30th December 2018. I feel that being a semi-passive audience could be a little hard on one. I definitely feel, that it the hardest to sit it out on a hard cold floor covered with a thin carpet and the AC in full blast. Apart from a bad back and butt after the program, I was left with a feeling that I really don’t know anything about Jayadevar’s “Gita Govinda” work.

My neighbor’s family has been holding this function during Marghazi Tamil month for the past three years. It usually coincides with the first day of the new year. Marghazi falls between mid-December to mid-January. Interesting thing is that Chennai climate is pretty cold in this month compared to the other months in the Tamil Calendar.

The past years, I had just quickly visited for a few moments and listened in from the comforts of my home since their function happened on their terrace. This year they had booked a hall for this function. I had no clue about the format of the program until this year and would always wonder why the singer was not doing a good job. I enjoy solo more than group singing. The only time I am fascinated by the group singing is when they have practiced a lot as a choir. The group singing is all about coordination and mellifluous voices that appear as a single unit.

This Marghazi of 2018 I felt an interesting need to attend this program and understand its import. So even when I did get the invite, I was thinking of just giving a quick visit and leave after taking tambulam. But somehow during my research on Andal’s work Thiruppavai, I came across a connecting reference to the rasaleela of Vrindavan and Andal’s call for Pavai Fasting.

The event format was not clear until I read a little more about the source work and the significance of the Radha Kalyanam. As an aftermath of attending the event, I had a hard time to forget Radha. The principal human Atmas are represented by Radha and gopikas who become unified with Krishna consciousness.

Around the second week of the new year, I decided to get to the bottom of this mystery that was making my mind so confused. Radha and Krishna’s relationship has a mystical quality to it which by the way, does not fall under the common human definition of love. But the audience can relate to the lower level resonance of love and the affection of human qualities and its human plane references.

So during my research of Radha Kalyanam, I found the following sites very informative:

So, I decided to get back to the main text written by Jayadevar in the “Gita Govind”. The Tamil version of the Astapathi of Jayadevar’s poetry is sung with great fervor of devotion. The translation of the Astapathi provided an incline into the poetic structure of the Gita Govind’s 24 verses of 8 couplets in a pastoral lyrical ballad.

There is a huge difference in the format of Thiruppavai and Gita Govind. Both speak of pastoral scenic places and settings. In the expression of love there lies the difference. The poetry is definitely conservative in the case of Andal’s Thiruppavai compared to the Astapathis. The view of the exact transliteration of the poetry may not provide a clear understanding of the central theme if the context is not fixed at the beginning.

Out of context, the Astapathi sounds very erotic since the poetic format is structured in such a way that it brings out pastoral love of Nayika and Nayak. It parallels the universal sought spiritual goal for each individual atma to get unified with the supreme Paramatma. This time Radha Kalyanam was interesting to follow and observe the various elements of the event. I am yet to find the Supreme Krishna consciousness.

In that I believe, Andal’s Nachiar Tirumozhi is closer to the Astapathi, yet Andal is very conservative in her expression. This conservative expression is essentially very south based poetry rules. Given that Andal’s exposure to various literary works at that time would have been provided by her adopted Father Periazhwar. Given that she was educated and learned to write a pastoral poem on her ishat devatha first as a communal prayer event and later as a personal one-on-one conversation leading to individual aspiration of sainthood. In that I liked the poetic quality of both the poets for different reasons. Though the pastoral quality of Gita Govind is sublime experience for me.

 

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The Presiding Goddess of the River of Human Imagination

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Book Title: Saraswati’s Secret River

Author: Devdutt Pattanaik

Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars

Get Your Copy:  Amazon | Flipkart | SnapDeal

A Bird’s Eye View

About the Storyteller:

Devdutt Pattanaik is an excellent storyteller who brings back the magic of Indian myths and mythological stories. These stories are said in a conversational tone which makes it very appealing to read. The art of storytelling is at a matured state with this author, since he takes the various curves of the story with relative ease and making the story very appealing.

The Story in a Nutshell

A surprised school teacher meets the goddess of education, Goddess Saraswati and learns something new in history, geography, and literature. This is the most needed lesson for any aspiring students and teachers because it brings out the true essence of education. In the search of the River Saraswati, the readers come to terms with the actual river and how it can be saved.

Review

My Likes and Dislikes

I liked the structure of the story. There were many facts which were imaginatively displayed and interlinked with the Saraswati River which has dried up. The best way to revive this river was provided in this book with an interesting twist.

I disliked the fact that the book was a very small one and ended very soon. I wished that I could spend more time with the River Saraswati and explore the true path towards being educated.

My Opinion

I found the take away from the book on what happens to be the true value of education. The mad rush for earning high scores, and somewhere down the lane, the joy of learning is totally lost. The idea is not to keep getting higher mark by mere replication of the text. I liked the idea of a day’s class was by following what made a student curious about on that particular day.

There is another thing that is equally interesting to note which is explained beautifully in this book. When one learns about a topic, the related subjects become interlinked, which then, enhances the student’s thought process. This thought I found it very interesting and innovative in this book. This is a great one time read but it is also something leaves you thinking about our education system and reviving River Saraswati in ourselves is an excellent thought.

Image Source:  Saraswatis Secret River

On Being Sick in Bed While Recovery A Long Haul

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From the collection “The Moment and Other Essays” by Virginia Woolf is the essay titled “On Being Ill.” I accidentally came across this essay while searching for the essay as a mode for a critique of an event. Virginia Woolf is the renowned essayist who has written many critical pieces on Essay as an appealing literary format. Since I was planning to write an essay about Radha Kalyanam that I had attended over the weekend and I was exploring critical essays for better representation of the program’s impact on me.

The program was a recital of Gita Govind by Jayadev, a 12th Century Poet but not in the originally written language. The poet’s original work was in Sanskrit; but the program was performed in Tamil, one of the South Indian languages. The performers used the translated text from Sanskrit to Tamil for the recital. The program was done with the musical rendition and had a lyrical quality to it.

The fact that various sublinks took me to this essay was rather interesting. I was recently recovering from a bout of body pain and cramped legs condition with a slight touch of fever. I was bed-ridden for a day and a half. The words that illness should have an equal place in literature along with love, jealousy, and other emotions, caught my interest. I decided to find the essay and read up.

Woolf seems to be dwelling on various aspects of illness seen from individual suffering from the ailment, visitor’s behavior, environment or space in which the individual is made to rest, the window, flowers from visitors and the view. All of these become a character, and eventually, the books lined up to read is dealt in greater detail.

A trip to heaven and back is done in the duration of having a tooth pulled out at the dentist’s chair was a dry humorous note to the essay. When the dentist becomes an angel surrounded by white cloud for the anesthesia fogged mind which is working hard to figure out dream from reality was confusing for me initially as I was swimming in the play of various description that sounded like a heavenly harp. The punchline was the fact it was a tooth pulling session at the dentist.

Surprisingly, I could relate to the thought that life’s physical ailment is not given as much importance as it should be given. I remember when I was bed-ridden for about eight months in a row, my sole companion was the books that I picked to read. Of course, I would look out of the window to watch the WoodApple Tree and Koel sitting inside the dense foliage for distraction.

The current view is the road and traffic clubbed with some green here and there. Otherwise, the entire room is a gloom. With the new Kindle device, books are no longer heavy to hold reclining. I found solace from the fact that a couple of days rest and some Crocin 650 should do the trick. After which I should be fit as a fiddle. Woolf even plays with the medicine consumed and makes it into a lyrical ballad.

But Woolf’s essay was another revelation by itself. She covers all the aspects of being ill. From the point where a sick person is someone who has quit the battlefield before the war got over. Being included in the members who ran away in fear or were brave but a fallen soldier whose valor now lay squabbled on the battlegrounds while rest of the battalion forward marches to carry on fighting erect on their feet.

She then recommends, that when a person falls sick, then they no longer are thinking of arguing or justifying deep prose. She recommends and says that poets are the best speakers of that natural causation that cheer up the mind. A healthy person who is ready to contest the theologies of the poet’s thought, would now rather hear him out without putting up an intellectual block.

Surprisingly, it reminded me of the time when I was sick for many months together, I read a collection of poems written by a girl who knew she will not last for long. She was hardly more than 13 years of age. Her aspiration, yearning and a singular desire for peace in the world were beautifully written in simple free verse form. I found the book so fascinating and so genuine, that I could take solace from the fact that my ailment was temporary, unlike her health trouble.

I totally agree that the best book to read while unwell is a collection of poems by known or unknown poets. Since the text is easy to take in, given all the stress levels. At the same time, there is an immense beauty in the lines that overpowers the sick person’s impressions of life.

Woolf chooses Shakespeare in her essay as the poet for the sick; though I would have preferred Keats. She also talks about other lesser known and popular books in circulating that were pulp fiction of the time. Her description almost equates to the regular soap serials of heroine who are unendingly facing hardship only to find momentary happiness at the end. Stories that are churned out in random order and on a regular base for light reading consumption.

I found the entire essay fascinating and relevant to my condition. Yet there are a few things, that I felt Woolf had left out, which made it seem so one-sided. There are moments in the sickness when the bodily energy is drained and the entire view is blood red with pain surrounding it. In those moments, when the outside view is just a blue pattern curtain shutting out light and there is no nature to divert, then, I believe, the mind goes in circles wallowing in thoughts that are clearly not helping the situation.

Woolf keeps to the text of cheering the sick person on the bed with things that would calm them down and give them the well-needed rest to recover. I believe the recovery achieved at the cost of gloom is one of the priceless achievement. When many days pass with no sign of hope and a healthy day in a sick person’s life seem a far cry, then I believe the victory of recovery should be talked about too. But then, her focus was on influenza and how the ailments turn the mind and perception.

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Motivational Speech and Their Role in My Life

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What really motivates human beings? Is it a few words of encouragement, or is it an entire mindset to think differently, or is it, that you find your motivation in self-talk and self-encouragement?

I have often wondered, how I could get motivated and make self-progress in life. How much of these thoughts are just vanity trying to please itself? Because, at every point, there is a need to find a purpose to support the activities, that human beings perform in their life.

The Unchanged Self

So given my desire for books ranged on different topics, motivational and self-help books were my favorite ones. The interesting part of these books is the fact, that their influence on me remained right up to four hours. Because at the end of the four hours, I am back to my old ways. So technically the motivational speech didn’t change me! This used to disappoint me to a great extent.

Temporary Influence of Motivational Books

So then, is motivation just a temporary influence of mind by the words written by an author, that loses its effect after some time or after the mind is away from the text for a specific duration? This question has haunted me a lot and the fact that I have not scanned the entire book into my brain like a computer, thus I am unable to hold on to an ideology which is different from what I believe in.

For me, every book that I read, I would focus on the message only for a prescribed space of time. Once, there is space from the influencing thoughts, then, I am back to my old thoughts. So, does it mean, that motivational speaker’s thoughts and ideas are not easy for me to internalize and carry forward?

Power of Positive Thinking

Among my various books, that I enjoyed reading were those related to self-help and motivational books. I began reading the first book on Self-help when I was 14-years-old. “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale was a very difficult book to read since the writer wrote in a heavy restrained tone.

Moreover, I was at the beginner level with language. So, the writer’s personal choice of words kept getting in the way of my understanding of the text and its central meaning. When I read this book, my understanding of the text was very limited.

By the time, I came to a settlement with my warring thoughts, I was forced to come to an assumption, that I have understood what Peale was trying to say, or at least the general idea of having a positive thinking mindset.

Who Moved My Cheese

Later maybe after about four years, I came across a book, which was light to read and was different from all the other self-help book. The author fixed the life’s variable at change is a constant and the cheese of happiness will be moved under all condition. Given the interesting take on the choice of seeking cheese in our life, I found an interesting connection. But still, it was a hard job to change with time and move with the cheese.

I found Dr. Spenser Johnson very easy to read but did I understand the concept, that is the question? I remember reading the thin book at least five times before I set it back on the shelf and resolutely told myself that I need to make space between the new thoughts and my old ones.

And the Monk Spoke After Selling His Ferrari

Robin Sharma’s book was an interest read for me. There was some connection because the language used had become slowly familiar by the time I reached “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari.” There were some thoughts that felt a little difficult to come to terms with, but then, the book flowed well in its own set of requirements.

Of course, I am in Robin Sharma’s mailing list and there is some interesting self-help content that includes audio-visual, written, and encouraging snippets of inspiration. While I look thoroughly perplexed with the fact that change of self is inevitable and the principle of change being a constant has entered the literature of self-help book.

Work Effectively with the End In Mind  

Stephen R Covey made an interesting read, but then, I kept comparing the material with my inner perception. I liked the fact that he spoke of the Inside-Out process and that was helpful for me. The seven habits are something that is really hard to earn and to keep.

But when you read Dr. Covey your understanding takes on a new level. Maybe over the years of self-help book reading, I had acquired an inkling into my own thought process and come to a new understanding.

Finally…what?!

All the self-help cannot add up to one small step of effort taken to regularly make a change happen in one’s life. Before that, it is essential to know that your life requires change and understand the need for a change. I still believe that self-help is a great help when there is no confusion in the thought process. A confused mind cannot bring change. Only a clear mind can bring about change that is effective and positive for the person seeking change in life.

Speeches that were interesting with notes:

  1. Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address
  • Connecting the dots in the future
  • Love what you do and don’t settle until you find it
  • Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

2. Who Moved My Cheese by Dr. Spencer Johnson ► Animated Book Summary

  • Change Happens (They keep moving the cheese)
  • Anticipate Change (Get ready for the cheese to move)
  • Monitor Change (Smell the cheese often to know when the cheese gets old)
  • Adapt to Change (Learn to let go old cheese and enjoy new cheese)
  • Change (Move with the cheese)
  • Enjoy the Change (Savor the new cheese and enjoy the adventure of finding new cheese)

3. How to react when someone insults you? Dealing with Rude People – Personality Development Tips

  • Why do people insult others?
    • Insecure feeling as against others
    • Unexpressed Jealousy
    • Lack of Understanding
    • Teasing is Cool
  • How to respond to Insult?
    • Stay Calm | breath if required to calm down and not react but proact to a situation
    • Express How You Exactly Feel without getting affected by the insult
  • Simply Ignore the insult and focus on what is important in your response to insult
  • Use Humor to Turn the Table of Insult on the Insulter
  • Report Chronic Insult related to gender, sexuality, religion or disability

 

Karna’s Tragic Personal Choices and Its Outcome

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Book Title: Karna’s Wife: The Outcast’s Queen

Author: Kavita Kane

Translator:  N/A

Rating: 3.25 of 5 Stars

Get Your Copy:  Amazon | Flipkart | SnapDeal

A Bird’s Eye View

About the Storyteller:

The central character is Princess Uruvi of Pukeya and she is the main storyteller. The entire novel is from her perspective. Karna as her husband is seen from her emotional view. Uruvi way of looking at things is colored with her sense of being fair towards all.

She is caught between two men, who are arch-rivals determined to fight to death, if the opportunity arises. How that opportunity arrives and how it pans out is the entire story narrated mostly from Uruvi’s view and later, the narration of war has more than one voice.

Uruvi’s thoughts are well-structured about various aspects of women’s role in the society of ancient India. Woman are used and discarded with little thought in the ancient world even if they were Princess or Queen. A woman is just a prized object to be donated like an object for fulfilling allegiance towards the winner of the competition.

Kavita juxta poses the various strong women characters and comments using the view from Uruvi’s point. The enforced choices that each woman makes in their personal and social life nags Uruvi’s sense of right. Of course, Queen Kunti’s choices directly affects Uruvi’s life.

Story in a Nutshell:

Mahabharata unlike Ramayana has many side stories, that culminated in the eventual battle, that defined the balance of justice. The novel is about lesser known stories that are not even mentioned about Karna’s life. His personal life as seen by his second wife Princess Uruvi gives an insight into this most wronged character of the epic.

Karna’s obsession to be recognized as man of honor and remove the label of his low birth, almost colors everything in this story. Throughout the novel, his view of how the society sees him plays the vital part of all decision-making. He feels trapped in his role of an adopted son of a Charioteer.

He is also unwilling to give up on his adopted family, while secretly harboring angst on his natural parents for abandoning him. At every given point of decision-making, he sides the people who had stood by him, despite the mystery behind his true identity. The fact that they stood with him against all odds, becomes the factor for his steadfast loyalty towards them.

He is so loyal to his friend, that he is willing to support him even when his friend is wrong. By way of association Karna also becomes the villain of the piece. Karna’s strength of conviction, that his friend is faultless is so strong, that he is unwilling to see it differently, even when, Uruvi points out the fallacies of Duryodhana.  

Review

My Likes and Dislikes

Karna’s life from the perspective of Uruvi might not be a complete portrayal of this misunderstood and failed war-hero. This specific aspect about Karna really captured my imagination.The motif played throughout the novel is one of societal recognition and bearing the label of being a ‘sutaputra.’ Kavita portrays Uruvi as someone who makes her choice of selecting the man she desired to wed; but even in that, the wedlock didn’t give Uruvi the joy that she hoped for; yet there was some really endearing moments in her married life with Karna.

War by any standards has elements to it, that leaves behind a bitter after taste. As you witness, how Uruvi’s simple statement, that her love for Karna was unconditional and watch how it becomes a hindrance to her understanding of her own mind, as her very choice of her man brings her morale down. Karna is forced by his principle to side the bad men. Uruvi has great difficulty accepting this and never gives up, even though she points out the fault in Karna’s processed thoughts.

At the same time, there are glimpses to Karna’s characteristics, which reveals a man of honor and integrity, that even his bad choice of friendship and misplaced loyalty, this only makes him a tragic hero whose redemption was not possible, even past his death.

Both Karna’s loyalty to Duryodhana and Uruvi’s love towards Karna are nemeses choice for them. The lead pairs make the story a tragic loss of noble beings. Yet, it invokes a pathos in the readers for Karna’s end in the battlefield, disarmed and helpless. His death was already decided by the set of curses from his tutors and other celestial beings. He is nonchalant about his actions from the past and that almost places the final wood piece on his preset pyre.   

Kavita’s voice when she used minimalist brush stroke for the Kurukshetra war in the voice of Uruvi, brought out the dire straits of war in a more poignant style.With each fall of brave warriors of the lore, the war gets to be uglier to even watch through the voices of the varied narrators. One can feel the deep sense of despondency and death of humanity in general.

My Opinion

I believe when reading ancient stories, one must treat them as literature that often reflect the past era. There are two variant contingent thoughts for me. One, do we look at the ancient past as a more advanced pure age, or two, do we see it as an era that is just pulling its way into the more advanced thought processing era.

When we use the prism of the past being much more progressive than the present, then I feel there is a lot of disappointment instore for the readers. Since, the story speaks of everything going from bad to worse. The Mahabharata war ends the Indian Bronze age and ushers in the Iron age or Kaliyuga. As per ancient text, the Iron age is riddled with all kinds of immoral activities and darkness. The story ends with a paraphrased statement about Karna and Uruvi’s son Vrishkethu being under Krishna and Arjuna’s guidance.   

So when we read the worst from the Bronze age the book leaves one hopeless of the coming age.There are no positive thoughts at all. One even feels sad for the violence in Duryodhana’s death. As a retelling and narration of Princess Uruvi and Karna’s life this book is truly wonderful to read, though it is a one bumpy emotional ride.    

Image Source: Karna’s Wife Cover page

 

Antal’s Love for the Mãl

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Book Title: Antal and Her Path of Love: Poems of a Woman Saint from South India

Author: Vidya Dehejia

Translation of:  Andal’s Thiruppavai and Nacciyar Tirumozhi

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

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A Bird’s Eye View

About the Translator:

Vidya Dehejia wears multiple caps in her profession as a passionate art historian. Much like a detailed investigator, Vidya probes deep into the past and pulls out the stories behind artifacts and monuments clearly listing the era of progress in Art history and social settings of the past.

Vidya Dehejia’s professional website provides interesting information about all her interest areas. She is Barbara Stoler Miller Professor of Indian and South Asian Art at Columbia University. and visiting professor to the Mario Miranda Visiting Research Professorship at the Goa University.

Her Exhibition show her in-depth knowledge of the South Asian Art History. She is also a Padma Bhushan awardee, whose passion for the Art world sparkles in every one of her books published so far.

In this book, she has picked the work of the Woman Saint Antal and her center-piece theme of her poems is Krishna one of Vishnu’s ten incarnation. The Southern milieu works of the Alwars are great inspiration for sustaining the growth of Vaishnavite religion.

Vidya has done a clean translation and has been very detailed to a ‘T’ about various aspects of the poems. The translation is clean and the author had done a wonderful job of looking at the text from various perspectives, thus providing a rounded view of the age and time.

Poems in a Nutshell:

Antal is one of the 12 Alwars and the only woman alwar who is recognized and worshipped in the Temples of Srivaishanava Hindu religion. Her work in praise of the Lord Vishnu is used as text to churn the spirit of worship from within to any who reads or recites her poems.

Antal has written two poems, Thiruppavai and Nacciyar Tirumozhi. The shorter poem Thiruppavai, consisting of 30 verses, is popular and is recited during the month of Marghzi (Period: between Mid-Dec-Mid-Jan) in the Srivaishanava temples even today.

Both the poems are focused on the central theme, the love of Mãl or Vishnu or Krishna. Andal pours forth her love for Krishna in her two works with such passion that the enthusiasm of her love gets transferred into the hearer of the pasuram or verses.

Between the two works Thiruppavai is mellower than the Nacciyar Tirumozhi, which is an outcry of a young maid longing for her lover. The vastness of the poem’s angle can be seen in the approach that Antal had on the verses that she rendered in praise of the lord Vishnu.

Nacciyar Tirumozhi is more erotic and speaks of a lamenting lover grievance to be with her love. But the second work Antal is more herself and unrestricted. Where Thiruppavai is restrictive to proprietary behavior in a social settings, the Nacciyar Tirumozhi breaks those boundaries. Her second work is more a personal and private conversation between her and her lover Mãl.

Vidya does a beautiful work of bringing out the huge difference in the works and Antal cannot be better represented textually. The translated text flows beautifully and there is an unique understanding of the poetess which brings out her inherent fragrance of spirituality.

Review

My Likes and Dislikes

I liked the way the words flowed into each other. The translator has done a wonderful work of almost replicating the musical quality from the source language to targeted language of translation, English. Even though both the languages have a huge difference; but Vidya had done justice to both the languages.

There were places where the flavors of South Indian scenario comes out beautifully. The rustic life and Antal’s love in translation didn’t lose its quality and intensity.

My Opinion

This book opened many of my sensitive points of thoughts in my mind as I read it. I also understood that the conversation of spiritual nature when based on emotional attachment to spiritual head, it removes almost all barrier of expression. When love becomes the expression, then the rules of social life just vanishes.

Image Source:  Amazon