Archive for ‘Travel’

December 3, 2009

Some ancient kumAra vigraha-s of North India

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

In the days of our childhood, which now seem like light-years away, our loving grandmother would perform offerings to kArttikeya and ShaShThIdevI on certain occasions, drawing their images near the gaushAlA by dipping her finger in turmeric and milk paste, and murmur some prayers for the wellbeing of us kids. Years later, we used to be reminded of it, when now living in the draviDa country we would flock to the lush hillock of the kongu-s and find ourselves at the ancient shrine of the fierce surasenApati. We would often wonder why the charming deity was almost forgotten by the hindU-s of North India, not knowing the answer. Still later, reading a hindI novel ‘jaya yaudheya’ written by the marxist scholar, we learnt how kumAra was indeed a very popular deity, a principal deity of North, in an era long gone by. But it is not until we read the encyclopedic essays by the AchArya of mAnasataraMgiNI that we learnt more about the kumAra traditions (Read several kumAra-related essays, starting with some discursion on skanda tantra-s and bAlagraha-s)

In our travels to rAjapUtAnA, mathurA and magadha in recent months, we have come across some ancient kumAra vigraha-s; posting here the pictures.

The following is a surprisingly intact and marvelous vigraha of skanda from abhanerI of dausA, datable to 700s:

This one has got to probably be the oldest available intact kumAra vigraha from anywhere in North India. From mathurA, 1st century of the CE, the age of the shu~Nga-s:

Also from mathurA, kept in the UP state museum there, is this 2nd century terracotta figure of ShaNmukha kumAra riding a flying mayUra, which has got broken into two pieces:

From the same age is this other figure where kumAra holds his shUla in the right hand and embraces his mayUra with left.

Our relatives settled in magadha country took us to this ancient temple on the shores of gaNDakI, at the meeting point of darabha~NgA and samastIpura, where true to his name skanda oozes out from shivali~Nga. There is no way to tell the date, but to us it seems like from roughly before the jehAd of bakhtiyAr khaljI.

November 16, 2009

pAtisAha’s diktat

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

We are guilty of having put off pAtisAha’s apostasy for some time now, conveniently blaming it on the lack of time but in reality suffering from our chronic lack of discipline and the habit of suddenly losing interest in a task after initiating it.

But this is not acceptable to pAtisAha, who recently decided to haunt us, and inserted an unplanned trip to sikandarA in our recent itinerary through the region. Although we have visited before where he was buried by his fanatic murderous son, but coming here fills us every time with more ideas and insights about him. The monkeys guarding the ASI description at the place reminded us of the job that our textbooks have done with pAtisAha’s apostasy:

monkeys at the ASI's description of Akbar at sikandarA

But this was not all. Just days later, pAtisAha next encountered us in mAravADa. Wandering through the alleys of a famous temple of AdinAtha around pAlI, we were sure to have missed this inscription, had our priyadarshinI companion not asked us to translate for her what was written on this one of those hundreds of pillars. And surely, here pAtisAha was, announcing in our face a grant he had issued for the temple during the happy days of his kAfirhood in 1594, through a famous AchArya! nAgarI lines announce in the second line, ‘pAtisAhi shrI akabbara pradatta…’:

pAtisAha's inscription at rANakapura temple

But as though this was not enough. He now seemed to be furious with us for ignoring his task for too long, when right in the next week he suddenly popped before us on a plaque in ambara country, sitting in vIrAsana facing ShoDashabhujI jagadambA, angrily staring down at us, censuring us for our laziness.

a plaque at ambara

We wonder what he would do next if we still ignored him any longer…

October 25, 2009

vasudhaiva kuTumbakam again

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

Aah! Spotted this lovely subhAShita again, this time inscribed inside the courtyard of an anglo-rAjapUta havelI in ambara country!


August 30, 2009

modI script and mAravADI accounting

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

During our short sojourn to vraja this janmAShTamI last weekend, our companion was a retired and elderly mAravADI businessman from utkala country, from whom we got to learn about many subjects, besides being fed the delights of the mAravADI kitchen of his hosts, option of pardoning ourselves from which was denied.

Our companion was at one point nostalgically relating the things of gone-by yesteryears, and was narrating the reminiscences of those days when he was a boy being initiated in his father’s business (of metals and minerals).

One of those things that he said he still missed sorely, was the tradition of book keeping in modI script.  While submitting that none competes with devanAgarI in perfectness, completeness and aesthetics of writing, he demonstrated how modI was an improvised shorthand that afforded more advantages for an accountant than nAgarI character set.  It allowed dual benefits: a quicker entry of journals, and an inbuilt encoder.

First, the script was designed in a way that it did not demand lifting of the pen from the ledger book, except for dipping it in the ink pot, which in itself was a huge advantage for the accountants who had to process a large amount of transactions during an average day.

This was done by making the standard nAgarI characters cursive where possible, and replacing those characters altogether which either had ‘corners’ demanding deceleration of the nib, or had features which demanded either the lifting of the pen, or repeating a line over itself, such as ‘ष’.

Anyways, the modI script then did away with the necessity of the horizontal bar, that integral datum of nAgarI which otherwise wonderfully enforces a clear and aesthetic alignment of the character-string, but which required the pen to move back and forth, slowing down an accounting clerk!

Finally, the most important deviation: the mAravADI shorthand eliminated all the mAtrA-s from the table, meaning that, for example, all the members of ka-kA–ki-kI-ku-kU etc group were only written as ‘ka’. In this aspect, mAravADI shorthand deviated even from the southern modI tradition of maharaTTI-s since they still keep the mAtrA-s.

This elimination of mAtrA-s while complicated the matter for a layman, for a trained accountant it not only accelerated journal writing, but also afforded a wonderful system of encoding information.  Only someone who knew the context of a particular transaction and was familiar with the agreed parlance and terminology of that business, would be able to understand the content of that journal entry, and with a little practice it was a wonderful way of encoding financial data!


(above is the maharaTTI variety of modI, not mAravADI. Thanks to this blog )

To demonstrate his point he narrated a funny anecdote from those days when he was then undergoing apprenticeship under the dIvAna of a branch of his father’s business. The days were when the hindU nation had moved on from the tyranny of the mlechcHa to the tyranny of the native socialists, and the corruption was already rampant.  Long story short, once this dIvAna had to affect a payment of some trivial sum for chai-pAnI to the income tax officials, simply to avoid the wastage of time in full scan audit.  The payment was also carefully entered in the general ledger, and the entry was made with journal description reading as “i-na-ka-ma-Ta-ka-sa-va-la-ka-da-la-va-ya”.  With intended mAtrA-s added, this meant “income tax vAlo ko dilavAyA” (‘made a payment to income tax fellows’).  But it seems income tax department did still have the books to be submitted for an audit, and as the fate would have it, the auditors asked dIvAnajI to explain this entry.

At this point our fellow traveler burst into a round of laughter before he managed to complete the narrative.

dIvAnajI did not lose much time in employing to his advantage the intuitive flexibility of modI script and interpreted the journal description as follows. “inakI mA (ne) Taxi vAlo ko dilavAyA”, meaning “His mom (referring to our companion’s mother) had us make payments for Taxi services”.

Then with twinkles in his eyes, he said that now in the days of digitized accounting, when all business was running on ERPs, he was manually passing the first journal of the new open ledger every year only in modI script on the day of lakShamIpUjana, to keep intact the memory of the tradition.

He then narrated another funny anecdote of days when his father had instructed his accountants to get trained in English language, and the initial outcome was no less funny.  He was once sent to Mumbai by his father for some business, for the first time alone on such a journey.  As was done those days, upon reaching there he sent a telegram for back home in churU, in imperfect English: “Reached Bombay stop staying with safely stop”, of course a literal translation from the common hindI phrase of its meaning.  Upon receiving the telegram, dIvAnajI promptly informed his father that kuMvara sahib had reached Bombay. But alarmed by the last half of the telegram, he quickly added his concern that it was probably time they looked for matrimonial alliance for the young fellow, since it seemed he now took interest in female company and had taken with him some lass with a fashionable name like ‘shephAlI’, likely an Anglo-Indian rUpajIvI!

Another hilarious outburst of laughter.

January 24, 2009

On the shores of sacred puShkara

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

It was on the day of amAvasyA during the fortnight which one spends in the sacred memory of one’s ancestors, coinciding too with somavAra, making the day even more auspicious, that we had the fortune to be on the shores of the sacred lake of puShkara, that famed tIrtha, where perpetually reside, as purANa-s describe, all the Adityans, all the vasu-s, all the rudra-s and all the mAruta-s!

It was on these very shores, says dwaipAyana, that janArdana had dwelt for many years, engaged in arduous tapa-s, that slayer of madhu the asura!

It was here, where the third of the pANDava heroes had sojourned during the last one of his twelve fugitive years of exile from khANDavaprastha.

It was here where sheSha had performed the feat of penances which had pleased prajApati to free him up from his sinful association with his nAga brethren of ill deeds, and where he acquired for himself the eternal anugraha of viShNu.

Indeed, one acquires not by the performance of the agniShToma and other yaj~nas, that much merit which one aquires by a sojourn to this tirtha, so describe our purANa-s, in particular the padma, garuDa, vArAha, skanda and vAmana.

It was here, so inform us our traditions, where one of the twin droplets of the divine tear befell on earth, from the lashes of that most benevolent deva of deva-s, the Supreme Ascetic, the cause of all the causes and the end to all the ends, that Lord of umA who had cried and danced in His divine anguish. It was that one drop of tear that became the reservoir of puShkara, whereas the other tear caused sacred kaTas, its sibling lake on the borders of sindhudesha and pA~nchanada, now in the terrorist country.

It was here, that the illustrious grandsire of all creation, who has lotus for his seat, had dwelt with great pleasure, and performed his grand yaj~na. And it was here that invited by prajApati, saraswatI had appeared, that foremost of all the rivers in the world, the mother most magnanimous and nourisher of sudhI-s, and she was called here as supravA by the sages, thereby blessing puShkara with first of her seven subsequent incarnations through which she nurtured the creation.

Indeed, as the slayer of madhu is regarded the foremost of all the celestials, so also this puShkara the foremost of all the tIrtha-s. And yet, wonders the great bhArata, why this tIrtha goes by the name of “puShkara”, with its three white hillocks and three springs, famed from the remotest times!

Therefore, as we beheld the marvel of this sacred lake, we wondered howmany generations of our forefathers too would have similarly beheld this lake, and would have offered tarpaNa to their forefathers, like we did to them!

And then, as a sudden pang, this old thirteenth century song surfaced in our memory, translation of which we had once read in the ‘Autobiography of An Unknown Indian’ by Nirad C Choudhury, and which was a sad lamentation of a Hindu poet, whose heart was crying over turuShka defilement around the sacred lake. The song went something like this:

puShkara, once the abode of bramhA,
Now home of the mlechcHa…

bramhA bathed there after concluding his yaj~na
Now mlechcHa removes in its waters the fatigue of demolishing our sacred temples…

Once this lake was the repository of the tears of joy of viShNu
Now a bin for the waste of mlechcHa’s meals…

Once warmed up by the fire of the eyes of The Eleven rudra-s
Now steaming with the hot tears of persecuted brAhmaNa-s…

apsaras were forbidden to enter its waters,
Even indrANI considered it not proper to bathe here,
Now becomes the wallowing pool for turuShkanI women in their menses…

Once deva-s quenched their thirst from it,
Now supplies to these barbarians who dont hesitate to slaughter their horses to quench their thirsts in the desert…

And even as we were taken to the famed shrine of prajApati, and also the place where sagacious dayAnanda of blessed memory, the founder of Arya samAja, had spent his early years in learning the veda-s — we hardly recovered from the torment.

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