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What They Don’t Tell You About Women in Mythology!

Step into the captivating world of Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain lore with Sati Savitri by Devdutt Pattanaik where women rewrite the rules and redefine their destinies beyond patriarchal norms. From ancient scriptures to modern-day interpretations, Pattanaik offers a fresh perspective on liberation, revealing how patriarchy and feminism have coexisted throughout history.​

 

Read this exclusive excerpt to dive into the feminist side of mythology like never before!

Sati Savitri
Sati Savitri || Devdutt Pattanaik

***

Images of Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, are often placed in libraries, right next to the board that says, ‘silence please’. No one notices that the goddess always holds a musical instrument called veena (lute) in her hand. The irony is lost on many who look at sacred images without actually doing darshan.

 

Darshan is the act of seeing that generates insight and results in reflection. For example, the sight of the veena grants us some insight into the human ability to make music and musical instruments, and this makes us reflect on how music made by humans is different form the music made by birds. The music of birds is specific, to enable survival. It is designed to attract mates and draw attention of fellow birds to food or predators. Human music, on the other hand, is not necessary for survival. But it adds beauty to life and makes us wonder on the meaning of existence, by making us aware of various rhythms and emotions.

 

Unlike other goddesses, there are not many stories about Saraswati. She is more the embodiment of a concept.

 

Saraswati is draped in a white sari indicating she has distanced herself from the materialistic world, represented by colourful fabrics. While Lakshmi nourishes the body with food, Saraswati nourishes the mind with knowledge and the arts. Lakshmi’s wealth is contained in a pot; Saraswati’s knowledge is expressed through words, through songs, stories and music, dance and arts. In Jain art, the more austere Digambar monks compared Saraswati to a peacock while the white-clad Shwetambar monks compared her to a goose (hamsa). In Indian folklore, dancing peacocks attract rain clouds, while hamsas are able to separate milk from water, like fact from fiction.

 

▪️ The peacock links Saraswati to art, dance, music, theatre and entertainment.

 

▪️ The hamsa links Saraswati to ideas embodied within, and communicated through, sounds, songs, stories, songs, symbols and gestures: the knowledge of maths, science, literature and philosophy.

 

Saraswati is therefore linked to both, the peacock like courtesans as well as the swan-like philosophers. In modern society, the courtesan has been erased from history; her contributions to the world of art appropriated by men.

 

In popular Hindu mythology, Saraswati is called the wife of Brahma. But she is also called the daughter of Brahma. This can be confusing. The confusion comes from our failure to appreciate that mythology is metaphorical. Gods and goddesses are given supernatural forms so that we appreciate the idea, the symbol and do not take things literally. That Saraswati is shown with four hands, and Brahma with four heads, is the clue provided by the artist that these figures embody ideas, not entities.

 

Human ideas are complex. Words are often not enough to communicate an idea. We need grammar. We need sentences. We need punctuations. We shift from prose to poetry, we use music and melody, even gestures and symbols, to communicate subtle refined ideas. Language has metaphors where known words are used to explain and elaborate unknown ideas and inexpressible emotions. Still ideas resist transmission. What is conveyed by the source is not received by the destination.

 

To communicate Vedic ideas to people, the sages decided to compose stories. Ideas then become characters. The relationship between ideas is communicated through relationships among characters. Characters have gender, and so the relationship between ideas ends up being expressed in sexual terms. When the characters are gods, indicated by their supernatural form, they serve as metaphors. They are vehicles for ideas that resist simple communication.Veda, which means knowledge, pays a lot of attention to reality that is visible and reality that is not visible.

 

▪️ Food is a reality that is visible. It is visualized in female form as Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune. The name Lakshmi is derived from ‘laksha’ which means target.

 

▪️ Hunger is a reality that is invisible. It is visualized in male form as Indra, the master of paradise, where all fortune is cornered.

 

▪️ The name Indra is derived from ‘indriya’ which means sense.

 

▪️ Indra chasing Lakshmi is then a metaphor for hunger chasing food. Indra rides elephants. The aroused, excited, uncontrollable elephant in the state of masht is how the poets describe Madan, or Kama, the god of uncontrollable craving.

 

▪️ Shiva who burns Madan then embodies the mind who controls craving. Shiva also beheads Brahma’s fifth head that sprouts as he chases Saraswati. Here, Brahma views Saraswati as entertainment to be consumed, rather than knowledge that will help him evolve.

 

▪️ In wisdom, Brahma realises that the point of creation is to feed the other. Animals eat and are eaten, but humans need to feed and be fed. This applies to food, as well as power, as well as knowledge. Saraswati created must be given away. In the process we gain insight and reflection.

 

Male forms are consistently used to depict mental states:
1. Brahma for craving
2. Indra for insecurity
3. Vishnu for empathy
4.Shiva for indifference
5. Kartikeya for restraint
6. Ganesha for contentment

 

Female forms are consistently used to depict material states.
1. Kali for the wild
2. Gauri for the cultivated
3. Lakshmi for resources
4. Saraswati for communication
5. Durga for battle
6. Uma for household
7. Annapurna for kitchen
8. Chamundi for crematorium

 

Why are male forms used to depict the invisible reality of the mind and female forms for the visible reality of matter? The reason is relatively simple if one appreciates the male and female anatomy from the point of view of the artist and the storyteller, who carry the burden of communicating Vedic ideas.

 

***

Get your copy of Sati Savitri by Devdutt Pattanaik wherever books are sold.

Mrityunjay: Can Vivaan Unravel The Truth Behind His Grandfather’s Mysterious Death?

The most awaited work of Tantric fiction of 2024 is here! A gripping blend of mythology, suspense, and ancient wisdom, Mrityunjay by Parakh Om Bhatt is about Vivaan’s quest to unravel his grandfather’s mysterious death, discovering a hidden world of tantric secrets and ancient prophecies. Could it be that the severed fifth head of Brahma held the deepest secrets of the Kaliyuga?

Read this exclusive excerpt to know more.

Mrityunjay
Mrityunjay || Parakh Om Bhatt

***

‘Baba, what is death? Why did Mom and Dad have such a short life?’
Vivaan had asked his grandfather these questions numerous times to, only to get a more mysterious answer each time. Today too, he was thinking about death. His thoughts came to a sudden halt as the car stopped. He had arrived at ‘Vasant iwas. The beautiful childhood he spent with his grandfather, the old man’s moist eyes when Vivaan was leaving for London, the spark in his eyes when he returned with a journalism degree and the shock when he announced that he wanted to settle down in Mumbai— the memories were vivid and fresh in Vivaan’s mind. He stepped out of the car and stared at the house. He had never ever thought he would come to an empty home in Rajkot.

 

The vintage-style house was one of its kind in the city. Vivaan opened the huge front door and the light smell of sandalwood hit him immediately. He remembered his grandfather using sandalwood while performing his daily prayers. The scent of the sandalwood reflected Sudhir’s subtle presence. The living room had white marble flooring, antique furniture and glass showpieces. There was a huge, embellished living room, prayer room and kitchen on thefirst floor of the house. Every morning after finishing his daily routine, Sudhir would sit in the prayer room on his mat in a fixed place and was not to be disturbed for an hour–and–a –half. There was another room through the prayer room, the key to which only Sudhir had. Vivaan still did not know what was in that room. He was curious, but after an incident that had happened in his childhood, he had not probed further.

 

Vivaan was shaking as he entered the living room. It was only last night when Sudhir had taken his last breaths in this very room. Vivaan imagined his grandfather stepping out of the prayer room, giving him a warm smile and offering him some prasaad. Vivaan reckoned that he had lost the pillar of his life.

 

His entire existence had crumbled in the last twelve hours. Though he had put on a brave face all this while, he was broken from within. He did not know how he would go on with his life without any family. He forced his eyes shut and crumpled to the floor. Fifteen minutes passed in absolute numbness. The sudden and loud ringing of his phone forced him to open his eyes and come back to reality.

 

‘Hello . . .’ Vivaan’s voice was almost like a whisper.

‘Good evening, son. Have you reached home?’ Alok Chaudhary said, his tone firm but loving.

‘Yes, uncle . . .’

‘Freshen up and come to the morgue. I want to talk to you.’ There was an urgency in Alok’s tone.

 

Alok Chaudhary, commissioner of the Rajkot Police, was a close friend of Sudhir Arya’s. Though they were years apart, they got along well. At fifty-seven, Alok was a year away from retirement. He had achieved the position of commissioner after several years of hard work and was well respected by his department for his excellent observation skills. Many believed that Alok should be in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and use his reasoning and intellect for national security. But Alok had decided that after the wedding of his daughter, Riya, he wanted a peaceful life. He was no longer the same person he had been at the start of his professional journey, mainly due to the emotional turmoil he had gone through in his life. Alok had a profound reverence for Sudhir. Every evening after work, he would visit Vasant Niwas. He had a thirst to learn about history and mythology. And Sudhir Arya was a treasure trove of knowledge! Though he was
fifty-seven, Alok would listen prudently to everything Sudhir said. Their discussions would range from ancient history to the multinational companies that Vivaan ran. He had always addressed Sudhir as ‘Dada.’ When he heard the news of Dada’s death that morning, he could not believe it.

 

Alok had not been able to meet Dada for two days—he had been out in Gondal on business. After watching the news, he immediately asked his team to seal Vasant Niwas with strict orders that nothing was to be touched. Forensic experts were called in and even the tiniest things in the house were analysed. In the end, Sudhir Arya’s body was moved to the morgue. The death certificate was awaited. Alok had called Vivaan to take custody of the body and wrap up the formalities.

 

It was evening by the time Vivaan reached the morgue. Though the Diwali lights shone on Rajkot, Vivaan felt a void and darkness within him. The appearance of the morgue and the copper sign on the gate looked inauspicious. He forced himself to walk towards the room at the end of the lobby. Before entering it, he caught a glimpse of what was going on inside.

 

Alok seemed to be in an intense discussion with three constables and the doctor. They were all standing in a circle and vehemently arguing about something. However, Vivaan was not looking at them. His eyes were seeking his grandfather.

 

The stretcher lying in one corner of the room caught his eye. Unexpectedly, he sighed. He had to hold on to the handle of the door to prevent himself from falling. Hearing the low thud, everyone present in the room looked at the door.

 

‘Baba . . .’ Vivaan was on the verge of collapse as Alok ran towards him and caught him just in time. Vivaan’s eyes were still on the body of his grandfather, lying half-covered with the white sheet.

***

Get your copy of Mrityunjay by Parakh Om Bhatt wherever books are sold.

Hanuman Schools a Temple Looter (the Hard Way)

Join Hanuman, the legendary monkey-god, on an extraordinary quest in The Later Adventures of Hanuman by Amit Majumdar. Follow along as Hanuman embarks on thrilling adventures to uphold sacred traditions, confront oppressive rulers, and safeguard the timeless legacy of the Ramayana.

The Later Adventures of Hanuman
The Later Adventures of Hanuman || Amit Majumdar

***

Hanuman grew more pious with age. Like many a worldly grandfather, he turned his mind to higher things. Mountaintop temples, pilgrim trails, sacred groves and rivers, libraries honeycombed with sacred scrolls, roadside Goddess shrines, holy cities—these drew him as never before. Maybe it was because he had stayed so close to the sacred by simply staying at Rama’s side. Or maybe he was just thinking more about mortality (even though he himself was immortal) and sickness (even though he was healthy) and old age (even though he could still touch his toes and none of his joints crackled).

 

One day, Hanuman visited a Shiva temple in Kashmir. A lingam made of light had ruptured the earth there, and a temple had been built around it. He was surprised to find the temple in disrepair, the grounds overgrown with weeds and the priests unusually skinny and haggard looking. Noon would see the bells ring and the lingam washed in milk, according to the ancient rite, but the chief priest, with a forlorn look, was adding water to the milk. This puzzled Hanuman. The temple was very crowded, and he saw visitors stuffing plenty of money into the donation box.

 

‘What’s all this?’ demanded Hanuman. ‘The temple is thriving, but it looks like it’s abandoned. I can’t even accuse you priests of embezzlement since you all look like you haven’t eaten a proper meal in years.’

 

The chief priest joined his hands before the talking monkey. The monkey hadn’t said he was Hanuman— Shiva incarnate, many said—but who else could it be?

‘It’s the king’s tax collector,’ the chief priest explained. ‘There’s more than enough money for the temple’s upkeep and for our own modest needs. We could even feed thousands of people a day if only we kept what we take in. But we don’t. Every day, the king sends a bureaucrat to our temple. He collects the temple tax, which is twenty-seven per cent right there, and then he adds the tax calculation surcharge, reimbursement for his commute, a coin-sorting fee, a coin-counting fee, and a per-hour rate for the whole process. By the end of all those assessments, sir, we barely have enough to buy a bottle of milk to mix with water for our noon rite.’

 

Hanuman frowned in righteous indignation. ‘By what right does the king take a cut of what belongs to Shiva? If it goes from Shiva’s devotees to Shiva, there’s
no need for a middleman. You say this bureaucrat dumps the donation box into his bag?’

‘He is very formal about it. He reaches in and helps himself.’

‘I promise you,’ Hanuman said, ‘today is the last time he’ll try collecting.’

 

That night, a fellow as portly as the priests were skinny had himself carried up the temple steps in a litter, like a little emperor. This was Rupianath, the bureaucrat in the service of the king.

The priests looked everywhere, wondering when Hanuman would sweep down with his gada and knock this collector to the ground. Rupianath would need to
be carried then, wouldn’t he? But the mysterious talking monkey was nowhere to be found. His promise had been words and nothing more, it seemed.

 

The priests lined up with their hands joined as usual— for they knew that Rupianath could take even more than he took if he sensed disrespect. They performed the other ritual of the temple, which involved praising the king’s piety, his generous police protection and his wise administrative skill.

 

Rupianath spat bright red betel-nut juice to one side (he demanded respect but showed none to the temple) and stuck his hand in the donation box. He grabbed his first handful of coins and raised his eyebrows in shock. With a yelp, he snatched his hand away. Torchlight revealed a bite mark.

 

‘There’s some kind of rat in there!’ shouted Rupianath, looking accusingly at the equally surprised priests.

 

‘Let’s take a look. Those are flat teeth that bit you,’ said the chief priest, getting a sense of what was going on. ‘So, this is a man’s bite?’

‘Or a monkey’s . . . or a God’s.’

Rupianath pointed at the box. ‘Stick your hand in there and take out a handful of coins.

The chief priest’s hand felt around in the bin for some time or seemed to do so. ‘I don’t feel any coins in here, sir.’

‘There were heaps of them! I felt them!’

‘Give it a try again,’ said the chief priest.

Rupianath stuck his hand in the box, and, this time, he yelped twice as loud. He held up a hand that was missing the tips of the index and middle fingers. The stumps were bleeding. With a furious set of kicks and blows from his cane, he smashed the box to splinters. When he did so, the world’s tiniest monkey—whose head the chief priest had been petting—became the world’s biggest monkey and sat cross-legged with his teeth bared and hissing.

 

The bureaucrat, unlike a conventional demon, required no violence from Hanuman to be vanquished. Rupianath’s terror and disbelief sent him shuffling
backwards to the steps, and he tumbled down cracking so many ribs that every breath for four months felt like being stabbed with seven knives. He ran howling from that vision of Hanuman resplendent and hostile, and he never dared visit that temple again.

 

***

Get your copy of The Later Adventures of Hanuman by Amit Majumdar wherever books are sold.

Would you like to meet some fantastic beasts from ‘Mythonama’?

Mythonama
Mythonama || Mudita Chauhan-Mubayi, Adittya Nath Mubayi

 

Winged horses, tusked fish, shape-shifting snakes . . . Bovines that provide endlessly, raptors that devour senselessly. Some so colossal they block the sun, others so infinitesimal they defy vision. No myth is complete without its fabulous creatures, divine or demonic.

While exploring India’s many mythologies, Mudita and Adittya’s Mythonama introduces us to an array of animals, somewhat familiar in appearance yet incredible in ability.

 

Here are some excerpts from the book.

 

*

 

Krishna displays the fabulous Navagunjara (‘nine beings’) avatar to Arjuna, in an episode from the fifteenth century Sarala Mahabharata, composed in Odia by Sarala Dasa.

This cannot be an earthly creature, thought Arjuna, instinctively reaching for his bow. What stood before him was unseen, unheard of. A rooster’s head on a peacock’s neck; a bull’s hump on a lion’s torso; legs of a deer, tiger, elephant; a serpent’s tail; and a human hand holding a lotus—nine beings in one fantabulous form . . . Could it be divine? It is believed to be Krishna manifesting spectacularly to either reward Arjuna for completing his penance on Manibhadra Hill or, an eco-sensitive interpretation, to prevent him from razing Khandavaprastha to the ground. Realizing that a creature may not exist in human imagination but surely in god’s creation, Arjuna bows to the infinite wisdom of the universe.

 

BURAQ

BURAQ was the noble white steed of lightning speed, who effortlessly carried the Prophet ﷺ from Mecca to Jerusalem to heaven. A creature of lore, she appears in various artworks with a woman’s head, radiant mane, gem-laden crown, eagle’s wings, peacock’s tail and bejewelled throat. Some believe that the Prophet ﷺ climbed to heaven on a glittering ladder, having fastened Buraq to a wall. Today, we know it as the Buraq Wall or Wailing Wall.

 

MARDYKHOR

MARDYKHOR (manticore) was a man-eating monster with a scarlet lion-like body, a human face with blue-grey eyes, triple rows of razor-sharp teeth, a scorpion’s tail with spikes it shot (and promptly regrew) and impenetrable hide. It hid in tall grasses, lured men (even three at a time) with its flute- or trumpet-like crooning, paralysed them with toxic stings and devoured them whole, bones, clothes and all. It moved faster than anything and could kill anything except elephants. Creepy!

 

RE’EM

RE’EM was a Biblical unicorn, or perhaps an aurochs or rhinoceros because—horn. It was strong, swift, agile, untameable and possibly untrustworthy because—pride. One touch of its horn could detox and sweeten any water. Jews believe it dwarfed mountains and dammed the Jordan with its, erm, dung. It couldn’t fit in Noah’s Ark, so it was tied by its horn, allowing it to swim along and poke its mouth in to breathe and feed.

 

SIMURGH

SIMURGH was a benevolent bird deity with a canine head, lion’s claws, often a human face, peacock plumage, healing feathers and copper wings so strong it could carry a whale. It lived atop Saena, the Tree of All Seeds. When it took flight, the branches shuddered and sent millions of seeds across the world, creating life. It lived for 1700 years—witnessing the world’s destruction thrice and gaining endless wisdom—before diving, Phoenix-like, into flames.

 

**

Read in detail by getting your copy of Mythonama from a bookstore near you or by ordering online.

Exploring the fascinating world of Abrahamic Lores with Eden

Mythology is often regarded as the sacred history of humankind, with elements of mystery, human nature, and supernatural elements rolled into enrapturing tales and stories. Myths are intrinsic to every culture’s existence and being, and often become bedtime stories that are passed down from generation to generation to keep that culture alive and roaring. Devdutt Pattanaik is no stranger to myths, and with Eden, he has explored the vast world of Abrahamic lores and myths uniquely through an Indian prism.

 

What are Abrahamic Lores?

Eden cover
Eden||Devdutt Pattanaik

 

Abrahamic lores, derived from the word ‘Abraham’, consist of monotheistic religions that strictly worship one God. These include three of the biggest religions in the world: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. There are mentions of ‘Abraham’, the one true God, in scriptures of these religions throughout history, be it in the Torah, the Bible, or the Quran. Abrahamic lores remarkably bring together these three contrasting religious beliefs with a series of common and entrancing elements. These include believing in a paternal, judging, and completely external God, to which humans and living beings are subordinate. Another common theme that is consistent throughout these religious texts is the longing for salvation or transcendence which can only be achieved by pleasing God. Abrahamic lores often have prophets, beginning with God creating the world, and ending with the resurrection of the dead and a final judgement.

 

 

Eden: Retelling Monotheism through an Indian Prism

 

Eden spotlights how the same lores have different retellings in three of the world’s most dominant faiths in the modern era. The similarities between the scriptures of these three religions and the obsession with ‘one truth’ have, in fact, created inter-religious rivalries, instead of unification. These lores also reflect the plethora of insecurities we have as human beings and instigate a much-needed sense of empathy to heal the wounds we earn while constantly fighting these battles.

 

“In the beginning, there was nothing but God.

God has no form or name.

But God existed-conscious and sentient.

Humans refer to God in the masculine,

but that reveals the inadequacy of the human language.

God is neither male nor female, neither human nor animal,

neither plant nor mineral, neither wave nor particle.

God is beyond it all, an entity uncontained

by measurement or word

Before creating the world,

God gave seven things:

God’s law, God’s throne, Heaven to the right,

Hell to the left, God’s sanctuary, an altar with

the name of the first and final prophet who

would tell all about God and God’s law,

and a voice that kept chanting,

“Come back, children of humans.”

 

Written by veteran mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik, Eden introduces readers to the many captivating tales of angels, demons, prophets, patriarchs, judges and kings. It also retells stories from Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Zoroastrian mythologies that influenced Abrahamic monotheism over time.

Get your copy and delve into the fascinating and captivating world of Abrahamic lores today!

Jambavana- the wisest bear in the world!

In her latest book, Fantastic Creatures in Mythology, Bulbul Sharma brings to us multiple stories of never-heard-of creatures like Jambavana and Airvata or unknown dimensions of the ones we already know of, like Jatayu and Narasimha.

Here is an excerpt from the book telling the story of Jambavana, the wisest bear in the world!

Fantastic Creatures in Mythology by Bulbul Sharma
Fantastic Creatures in Mythology || Bulbul Sharma

 

‘When anyone asked Jambavana, the noble king of bears, his age, he would shut his eyes and think. He would smile and then continue, ‘Let’s see . . . I was present when Vamana, one of Lord Vishnu’s avatars, took three rounds of the three worlds in just three giant steps. Ah! I have even seen the golden glory of the blue-skinned Lord Krishna and heard him play his magical flute. Now that I am old, I wait here in this quiet, lonely place to serve Lord Rama.’

 

Jambavana was blessed from the day he was born, when Lord Brahma had yawned one morning and from his breath, this mighty bear had been created. When the king of bears was young, he was said to have had the strength of ten thousand lions. He was the strongest bear of all. In fact, he had made rounds of the earth at lightning speed several times. But now, hundreds of centuries had passed, and all the great bear did was live quietly in the forest and think about all the wonderful things he had seen in his long, long life.

 

One day, he looked far out to the seashore and noticed that all the monkeys and bears were running about, making a lot of noise. He knew why they were so agitated. The king of monkeys, Sugriva, in whose army Jambavana once served as a general, had told him that Rama, the prince of Ayodhya, was here looking for his wife, Sita.

 

Sugriva explained that the demon king of Lanka had kidnapped her and taken her away in his golden chariot. They had heard that she was somewhere in Lanka, but no one really knew where exactly she was being held prisoner. Sugriva had promised Rama that his entire army of monkeys and bears would help him rescue Sita. With folded hands, Hanuman, the cleverest and bravest of all the monkeys, sat at Rama’s feet. He was so keen to serve Lord Rama, but did not know what to do. Everyone gazed at the vast ocean that lay between

them and Ravana’s kingdom. Who could possibly cross this turbulent ocean? Which of them was strong enough to leap hundreds of feet through the air?

 

The waters were rough; the waves rose as tall as mountains and crashed down with a thunderous, deafening sound. Everyone gathered there knew that rakshasis guarded this ocean, and so, no one had been able to muster the courage to cross it until now. As the monkeys racked their brains, their leader Angada asked, ‘Which one of you brave monkeys will leap across the ocean, find Sita and bring her back?’ At first, there was complete silence and the monkey army did not even move. Then a few well-built monkeys stepped forward. They bowed their heads and one of them said, ‘We can jump very high, sir, and even though we are not really sure if we can cross this ocean, we are willing to try. We do not mind dying in the attempt. We want to serve Lord Rama and be loyal soldiers to our noble king.’ Meanwhile, Hanuman stood back quietly, looking out at the ocean. All he could see was an endless expanse of water and no land beyond it. Lanka seemed

like a dream! How could any ordinary monkey cross this ocean? It was an impossible task.

 

Whoever tried to leap across would just drown and never be found again. Hanuman sighed. His eyes filled with tears as he whispered to himself, ‘If only I could do something

to help rescue Ma Sita.’ All of a sudden, the noble king of bears, Jambavana, appeared and stood next to him. ‘Why do you stand here alone, Hanuman, with such sadness in your eyes?’ he asked in his deep voice. ‘I want to cross this ocean and find Ma Sita.

I want to serve my Lord Rama, but I don’t know how to. How can one leap across these unsafe waters? Look at those monstrous waves rising and falling like mad elephants on the run. How will I get across this cruel sea? Nobody can.’ Hanuman sighed, his eyes full

of regret.

 

Jambavana turned and looked at Hanuman. He took a deep breath, patted his back and said, ‘Listen to me, my son. Listen to me very carefully. I have lived a long life and I have seen things that you are not even aware of. Today, I am going to tell you something important.’ Hanuman lifted his head and looked at Jambavana.

 

With a solemn expression, the old bear said, ‘Hanuman, you are not aware of your great strength because of a curse cast upon you by an angry sage many years ago, when you were young. This curse made you forget everything. ‘You know that your mother, Anjana, was an apsara from the heavens, and your father, Vayu, was the god of wind. But have you forgotten that as a child you stole the very sun because you thought it was a ripe red fruit and you wanted to taste it?’ Jambavana’s eyes crinkled as he smiled.

 

He continued, ‘Do you know the great Lord Indra threw his thunderbolt at you, but your father saved you? Furious at Indra, he stopped the winds from blowing. Soon, every living creature on Earth gasped for breath, and finally, when Indra asked Vayu for forgiveness, he blessed you with eternal life. Brahma gave you a boon too and made you invincible. With Varuna’s blessing, water cannot harm you. With Agni’s boon, fi re cannot burn you. And your father, Vayu, made you faster than the wind!’

Hanuman looked at the wise bear with astonished eyes.

 

Jambavana slowly nodded and patted Hanuman. ‘Look within your heart, son of Vayu, and you will find that you are not an ordinary monkey but a unique creature with more strength, wisdom and courage than anyone of your kind. I am as old as the ancient hills and I have seen a number of great warriors, but you, Hanuman, will be the greatest

amongst them.’

 

As Hanuman heard the old bear speak, something stirred his mind, something he had long forgotten. Jambavana’s words were like magic, and they seemed to take him to a faraway place where he was once a monkey with amazing power and strength. Hanuman could feel himself changing! Fresh blood raced in his veins and his eyes sparkled with a new-found energy. He could feel his arms and legs becoming stronger.’

 

What do you think happens next in this story? Was Hanuman able to cross the waters and get to Lanka?

 

Read more of such interesting stories in Bulbul Sharma’s Fantastical Creatures of Mythology.

September’s list of books in sight

As the little ones step into the ninth month of the year, we know they need some good company to welcome the no-melting-no-freezing September. So, look nowhere else! We wholeheartedly sign up to accompany them, match their enthusiasm for reading, and give them a chance to taste the different flavors of imagination. Our books promise to stay by their bedside, on their study table, and make just enough space to be warmly packed in their already stuffed vacation bags. The vibrant covers of the books will have the kids googly eyes even before they begin reading the diverse stories.

Here’s our specially curated list of books that will get your children hooked and will transport them to the fantastical realms while they complete the plethora of engaging activities. It’s time to get them ready to cross the whirlpool of mazes and traverse through the wild alleys to meet mermaids and unicorns.

 

Boy, Bear
Boy, Bear || Adithi Rao

For ages: 5+ years

Boy and Bear have grown up together on the streets of Mumbai. Baba is a madari. But now that Baba is gone, how are Boy and Bear to survive?

The Hook Book series of short simple stories for beginning readers come with fun stories set in different parts of India. The gorgeous illustrations and short exercises are sure to enhance their reading experience.

 

Shoo, Crow!
Shoo, Crow! || Kavitha Punniyamurthi

For ages: 5+ years

The crows of Rajipuram are eating up all the corn in the fields. Can Velu and Akif find a way to shoo them away?

The Hook Book series of short simple stories for beginning readers come with fun stories set in different parts of India, gorgeous illustrations and short exercises to enhance the reading experience.

 

The Great Indian Mathematicians
The Great Indian Mathematicians || Gaurav Tekriwal

For ages: 10+ years

India’s mathematicians have made significant contributions over the last 5000 years. From the ever-popular Aryabhata, widely recognized for revolutionizing the number system and Shakuntala Devi, universally admired for her fast mental calculations to pioneers forgotten by time, like Baudhayana, who explained the Pythagoras’ theorem nearly 3000 years ago, the figures included in this book are trailblazers in the world of mathematics.

Fresh, accessible and inspiring, The Great Indian Mathematicians celebrates persistent mathematicians throughout Indian history. This book is an ideal introduction for the next generation of tenacious and curious maths wizards, and features a goldmine of tips and tricks, nuggets of surprise and much more!

 

Fantastic Creatures in Mythology
Fantastic Creatures in Mythology || Bulbul Sharma

For ages: 8+ years

Did you know that a celestial elephant once hid in the ocean after causing mischief ?
What happened when Rama and Lakshmana encountered a one-eyed headless demon?
Why did Ilvala turn his brother Vatapi into a goat and serve him to passers-by?

Find answers to these and meet many strange and wonderful creatures in this hand-picked collection of legends. Delve into the exploits of gods who took on magical avatars, birds and animals with superpowers, and demons and demonesses who were once good souls.

Bestselling children’s author Bulbul Sharma’s deft prose accompanied by bewitching illustrations will transport you to the fantastical realms inhabited by the Hindu pantheon. This book is sure to leave you spellbound!

 

Mazes and more: Funny Mazes
Mazes and more: Funny Mazes

For ages: 3+ years

Funny Mazes is a book from the series Mazes and More that features full-colour pages filled with different puzzles and mazes, along with search and find activities to keep little minds engaged. Designed to encourage logical thinking, sharpen hand-eye coordination, these activity-filled pages are sure to keep little puzzlers engaged. Grab your pencils, trace the squiggly path and follow each funny maze to a new discovery! With eye-catching illustrations, the book has puzzles organized by themes such as Circus, Island adventure, Fairyland, Camping among others. All mazes and puzzles come with answers to help kids if they get stuck on a puzzle.

 

Princesses, Mermaids and Unicorns Activity Book
Princesses, Mermaids and Unicorns Activity Book

For ages: 3+ years

From mermaids and princesses to unicorns and fairies, the fairyland brought alive inside this quirky activity book provides hours of creative fun for kids. Jam-packed with colouring pages and fantastic activities like interactive puzzles, dot-to-dot, spot the difference and playing peek-a-boo with fairies, Princesses, Mermaids and Unicorns Activity Book is the perfect companion to keep young minds engaged.

Children can follow mazes that feature prompts for problem-solving along the way. They can trace the path to the desired end, colour in the pictures, use the colour by number prompt to create a mystery picture, find the differences between two pictures, complete the drawings, connect the dots, learn to draw a simple picture, match the identical objects, find and circle objects, order the events, and much more. This carefully researched book aims to build vocabulary through picture-word association for toddlers and pre-schoolers and is suitable for parent-child association.

 

6 Quotes You Must Read on Gender and Sexuality

While many use religion to justify why they are being unfair to a person’s gender and sexuality, Devdutt Pattanaik in his books The Pregnant King and Shikhandi And Other Queer Tales They Don’t Tell You shows how mythologies across the world appreciate what we deem as queer.
Here are 6 quotes on what it means to be a man, a woman, or a queer.
What it feels to be a woman
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Repercussion of Patriarchy
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The meaning of queer in different mythologies
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Should the queer hide or be heard like the thunderous clap of the hijra?
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The functions of the forms
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Traces of feminism in Hindu mythology
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Read Devdutt Pattanaik’s The Pregnant King and Shikhandi And Other Queer Tales They Don’t Tell You and make sense of queerness and the diversity in society.

Up close with Krishna Udayasankar

If you just cannot get enough of The Cowherd Prince, you are not alone. Krishna Udayasankar’s prequel to the bestselling novel Govinda is a thrilling insight into the world of Govinda before he became the master strategist of The Mahabharata. We had a chat with the author and it was an absolute delight!

 

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We hear you’re a science fiction buff. Who are your favourite writers in the genre?

KU: I was a huge fan of Isaac Asimov as a child and teenager. I mean, I still am, but it’s difficult to say that now without asking myself questions about separating the art from the artist – after the allegations of harassment against Asimov. But I can’t stop liking what I’ve liked all these years, I can’t change the fact that I love the books and have been influenced greatly by them. So yes…

 

You characterise your protagonist Govinda very carefully. You have also said that consent is one of the most important things to learn from Govinda. What would you say is the importance of looking at mythological characters from a more contemporary lens?

KU: Fiction is a device by which we look at the world around us, all the more so for genres that deal with alternate worlds, like myth and history or fantasy. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that good fiction is always a commentary on the way the world is. When it comes to mythology, I believe that becomes even more important because it is a two-way thing – the way we understand our past, the way we believe things happened, are fundamental parts of how society functions in the present. And if we want to question our present or examine it, then we also need to examine our understanding of myth or the pre-historic past – all the more so because for a large part of our society, myth is the bedrock of defining good and bad, right and wrong.

front cover the cowherd prince
The Cowherd Prince||Krishna Udayasankar

 

We also hear that you hate spinach. If abandoned on a deserted island with only spinach to eat, which three books would you take with you?

KU: Haha! Since I would not eat a book or tear it up even if I were starving, I assume the question is which books can make the spinach go down easier? Traditionally, it would be Amar Chitra Kathas – since those were the spinach-y books of my childhood. But now my list would be: My entire Calvin and Hobbes collection, Kalki’s Ponniyin Selvan and Asimov’s Foundation series. And maybe I’d try to sneak in Lord of the Rings too? And The Jungle Book. And … wait a minute, three books? I can survive on spinach but I can’t survive on only three books.

 

 

What are you reading now? What book are you excited to read next?

KU: I am re-reading Martha Well’s Murderbot novellas in anticipation of reading her latest – a full Murderbot novel next.

 

 

What is your favourite thing about being a writer?

KU: Hanging out with some amazing (imaginary) people. Living in other worlds. Travelling to places I have never been, vicariously doing things I can’t dream of doing otherwise in this lifetime (whether it’s flying a fighter jet or whipping up a six-course meal!) And of course, one of the best parts of being a writer is getting to share these experiences with readers – who often become friends.

 

 

How do you battle writer’s block?

KU: I don’t battle it, not anymore! All I do is show up every day, even if that means I’m doing nothing other than stare at a blank page. But that is when I am writing. I often go for months without writing, particularly between books. I’ve learnt that imagining new worlds, new stories is one of the best parts of writing (other than playing with words). I tell myself now, that its ok to do that, and the story will come to me when it has to.

 

 

What is your writing process like? Are you a planner, or do you wing it, or is there a third customized method that works for you?

KU: I’m a mix of planned, chaotic and downright clueless. I think I try different methods at different points on time in a book – usually winging it when I begin, then stepping back to plan a little bit, then just being instinctive about it again. I also work on multiple books, sometimes, so I could be following different processes at once. Like I said, clueless and chaotic!

 

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Krishna Udayasankar’s The Cowherd Prince is captivating and will keep you reading well into the early hours of the morning.

Ashta Siddhis and the extraordinary powers of Goddess Durga

Do you know what the Ashta Siddhis, or the eight kinds of supernatural powers are? Read an excerpt to find out more about Nalini Ramachandran’s Nava Durga and the extraordinary powers that Goddess Durga can bestow on other gods!

 

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The goddess, in each of her forms, grants different kinds of blessings to her devotees. But Siddhidatri, the goddess worshipped on the ninth day of Navaratri, is special. In Sanskrit, ‘siddhi’ means ‘supernatural power’ and datri means ‘giver’. So, Siddhidatri is ‘the giver of supernatural powers’.

After Adi Shakti, in the form of Kushmanda, had created the universe and the new gods and goddesses, Shiva prayed to her, ‘O Supreme Goddess, grant me all the siddhis to make me a perfect god.’

He meditated for thousands of years so that Adi Shakti would listen to him. Impressed by Shiva’s devotion, the goddess appeared in the avatar of Siddhidatri from Kushmanda’s japa mala, which the smiling goddess used to bless people with the ashta siddhis and the nava niddhis. Almost immediately, Siddhidatri also emerged from the left side of Shiva’s body. So the right half of Shiva’s body was his own, and the left half was in the form of Siddhidatri. This half-man, half-woman form of Shiva is known as Ardhanarishwara, ‘the lord who is half woman’.

Just as she lives within humans, she began living within Shiva too as his shakti. And in this unique way, she bestowed supernatural powers on him and made him a perfect god.

…Those who truly worship Siddhidatri can get some or all of these abilities (but it’s easier said than done!):

 

 

Mahima

To make your body huge in size
(It can help when you suddenly come face to face with a mighty asura.)

 

 

Anima

Front cover Nava Durga
Nava Durga||Nalini Ramachandran

To make your body as tiny as an atom
(It can help when you play hide-and-seek with friends.)

 

Garima

To become very, very heavy
(You can face a storm like a mountain.)

 

 

Laghima

To be nearly weightless
(You can levitate or even float in the air.)

 

 

Prapti

To travel to or be present in any place you wish
(You can time-travel, whenever and wherever you want.)

 

 

Prakamya

To get or be able to give whatever one desires
(You can gift your mother the very thing she has been secretly wishing for!)

 

 

Ishitva

To be in control of nature, like a god
(You can make the sun listen to you in summer and make the rain obey you in monsoon.)

 

 

Vashitva

To be able to control other beings.
(You can turn bullies into friends.)

 

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Nalini Ramachandran’s Nava Durga tells us about the rich mythology of Durga Puja and what makes each day special!

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