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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.

The Descendants – Will Jay Succeed in Finding the Key to Immortality?

Ever wondered what happens when a mysterious meteor lands, carrying a powerful black element with supernatural possibilities? Join Jay, the CEO of Vantra Labs, in Laksh Maheshwari and Ashish Kavi’s The Descendants, as he embarks on a modern-day adventure where science collides with ancient prophecies. Does history repeat itself, and can Jay navigate the intricate blend of family, science, and destiny?

Find out in this exclusive excerpt!

The Descendants
The Descendants || Laksh Maheshwari, Ashish Kavi

 ***

The sudden flash of a lightning bolt reflected on the glass panes of the city’s skyscrapers intimidated Jay, pulling him out of his trance as he walked towards the parking lot. He moved gingerly towards his car, clad in his impeccable Vanquish II suit and carrying a leather laptop bag in his right hand, drenched from head to toe.  

 

Dhananjay Somvanshi, the rightful heir to Vantra Technologies, had been brutally dethroned. Two days ago, he was on the path to saving the world and now here he was, discarded like a piece of scrap by his own family.  

 

With each step he took, he mulled over a single question— how could this happen?  

 

He reached his Mercedes and sat in the backseat. Water dripped from his pants and began to pool on the car’s floor as he closed the door with a loud thud. With a thousand thoughts whirling through his head, he first took off his shoes and socks, and then his soaked jacket which he folded neatly beside him. He felt another wave of fury boiling through him. Clenching his jaw, he started throwing punches at the car seat and took his laptop and smashed it repeatedly against the window till it was completely destroyed.  

 

The man sitting in a white uniform in the driver’s seat remained unfazed. 

‘Let’s go home, Kaka. There’s nothing left for me here,’ Dhananjay said.  

 

‘Letting anger steep within is no better than diluting your blood with poison and expecting it to kill the other person,’ the man in the driver’s seat spoke without looking behind.  

 

‘What?’  

 

‘Whenever you feel rage bubbling inside you, think of the consequences; where would the decisions you make under such a cloud lead you? Anger never creates, Jay, it only destroys.’ Kaka smiled pensively.  

 

Jay’s eyes scanned the seat and the floor which was now dusted with the laptop’s parts and realized the futility of his actions. He looked outside the window and noticed that it had stopped raining.  

 

A sadhu wrapped in saffron from head to toe walked by their car. He was strangely dry and seemed unbothered by the muddy puddles or the bits of litter floating out of the clogged gutters along the sidewalks.  

 

‘I wish I could go somewhere far away from all this hideousness, to live a quiet life of peace and solitude.’ He sighed. ‘I feel lost now. All my efforts over the past months have been in vain and I feel defeated by the ones I call my flesh and blood.’  

 

There is no peace without conflict;  

 

no joy without sadness;  

 

no virtue without sin;  

 

and son, there is no sannyasa (renunciation) without karma.  

 

‘What do you mean, Kaka?’  

 

‘I mean no learning without burning!’ Kaka joked and laughed. 

 

A slight smile broke out on Jay’s lips and he felt calmer. Kaka had had this impact on him ever since he was a child. He had always been an anchor and a friend whenever Jay needed support or advice. Kaka was like a father when Jay needed love and a guru when he needed direction. ‘Follow your own path and leave the rest to Hari (Lord),’ he would always say.  

 

‘What happened, Jay?’ Kaka asked with concern.  

 

Kaka had been driving, and it was only now that Jay noticed that they were not heading home.  

 

‘Kaka, where are we?’ He looked out, trying to recognize the area which looked like an uninhabited clifftop.  

 

‘We are just making a pit stop,’ Kaka said with his constant gentle smile. He got out of the car and stood at the edge of the cliff, whistling a beautiful melody.  

 

Jay stepped out of the car and looked around. The view was amazing. He could see the whole city spread out in front of him. In the distance, he could see the majestic building with a ‘V’ on it, towering over the other buildings.  

 

‘Now tell me, what happened in there?’ Kaka stopped his whistling and asked.  

 

‘Arindam Chachu is on a wretched path that can only lead to havoc. You always knew this would happen, but I still couldn’t believe that he’s capable of such despicable actions.’ Jay shook his head.  

 

‘Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power,’ Kaka said. 

 

***

Get your copy of The Descendants by Laksh Maheshwari and Ashish Kavi wherever books are sold.

Exclusive excerpt from the trilogy’s finale

If you’re someone who shops from the mythological fiction aisle, you must’ve heard about the next big trilogy in the reading world, i.e. The Hidden Hindu series by author Akshat Gupta. Readers have been raving with reviews and waiting for the finale of the trilogy to be released and we’re pleased to inform you that it’s here! 

So, we decided to bring you an exclusive excerpt from the book. We promise you, once you start reading it, you wouldn’t be able to stop.

The Hidden Hindu by Akshat Gupta
The Hidden Hindu || Akshat Gupta

Hearing about Dr Batra’s lonely death, unheeded struggles, and how mercilessly he was thrown out of the submarine and into the unforgiving sea without a proper funeral broke Mrs Batra to the core. The last thread of hope of seeing her husband again was all she was clinging on to, but now, even that had snapped. Utterly devastated by the realisation, Mrs Batra asked Prithvi to leave and left the door open. Prithvi could feel her pain and knew that he could no way soothe her acute agony. He started to make his way out. 

‘Don’t you want to know what happened to those people who killed your beloved husband and why he was killed?’ asked Prithvi before stepping outside. 

Mrs Batra stood there for a silent moment, looking at Prithvi. She shut the door and Prithvi walked back to take his seat. She knew what her heart longed for, so she took her spot on the couch to hear how it all ended. Sensing that she was yearning to know more about Dr Batra’s assassins, Prithvi began narrating from where he had left. 

In the month of Jyeshth (May), when the whole world had come to a standstill due to Covid-19 and the death count was on a hike, stories of losses were painted all over social media, newspapers, and news channels. Optimism seemed to be dissipating as dark clouds of uncertainty fogged people’s lives. While the death toll from Covid-19 had crossed all estimations, headlines of other catastrophes began to make their rounds; the glorious and tranquil Mansarovar being overpowered by Rakshastaal; the destruction of Roopkund–the lake of skeletons; the Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world, suddenly turning black; and the overnight seize of the ghost village of Kuldhara. This series of unbelievable events was, connecting the dots automatically as the news read, ‘Mysterious phenomena clutching India adding to the miseries of Corona. Are these signs of Doom’s Day closing in?’  

A worried Ashwatthama sat in Gyanganj at Mount Kailash with his wounds still healing. He looked at Parshurama and Kripacharya’s still bodies as they remained trapped in Om’s subconscious mind. Next to them was Om lying unconscious after the battle of Kuldhara. When Ashwatthama asked Vedvyasa about Vrishkapi, he received another painful answer.  

‘Vrishkapi is on his deathbed. It’s just a matter of few hours before he gives up the fight for survival and leaves his body.’ 

‘I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if we have lost or won. I don’t know what I should be feeling right now,’ said Ashwatthama, consumed by his thoughts. 

Vedvyasa was about to say something but to their surprise, Kripacharya and Parshurama returned to their bodies from their astral state and stood up as normal as ever. Ashwatthama shot up to greet them.  

‘You’re back! How did you open that door?’ 

‘We didn’t have to. Something suddenly changed within Om and after that, there was no retaliation, no more tussle to trap us, and there wasn’t a door holding us back anymore,’ Parshurama replied, still wondering about the whys and hows.  

A confused Ashwatthama thought out loud, ‘But how could that be? Where’s the door gone?’ 

‘I destroyed it,’ came a voice from behind him. Ashwatthama turned in wonder, though he already knew who it was. It was Om who had also sat up but with a distant gaze. ‘There’s no barrier. No bridge. No door between me and my hidden past. Not anymore. I remember who I am,’ said Om, glancing at all four of them.  

‘Who are you?’ Kripacharya asked. 

Everybody’s intrigued stare was glued on Om. 

Om closed his eyes and took a deep breath, ‘I am Devdhwaja.’ 

‘But that can’t be! We checked and you don’t have the birthmark! How’s that even possible!’ Kripacharya said, trying to piece everything together around the new revelation. 

‘Hold on! I am confused. The birthmark of Devdhwaja that the immortals saw in Om’s memories was there on Nagendra’s foot and Om claimed to be Devdhwaja himself. So, who out of the two is Devdhwaja?’ asked Mrs Batra of Prithvi. 

Prithvi replied, ‘Both of them.’ 

‘You mean twins?’ asked Mrs Batra. 

‘No, they were not twins. They were the same person.’ 

 

***

 

Intrigued to read more? Get your copy of The Hidden Hindu 3. 

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.

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.

When Young Chintamani Woke Up in a Place He Had Only Read About: ‘Lost in Time: Ghatotkacha and the Game of Illusions’ — An Excerpt

Chintamani Dev Gupta is on a trip to a bird camp near Lake Sat Tal! Away from the drudgery of urban life in Gurgaon, Chintamani finds himself near the cool, blue water of the lake and dives in for a swim. But when he emerges out of it, things look different. Where is he?
Find out with Namita Gokhale’s beautiful new novel for your little one, ‘Lost in Time: Ghatotkacha and the Game of Illusions’.
Here’s an excerpt from the book telling you where it all started.
A figure was approaching. He, she, it, was holding a burning branch of wood and breathing deeply. I had slouched down, suddenly tired and drowsy, in a bed of dry leaves. An enormous face came into view a long way above me. I wondered if I was dreaming, but the warmth from the flaming torch seeped into my bones, as did the long, careful breaths of this giant. I sat up bolt upright.
He was sniffing me, and I could smell him too. The tang of leaves and the forest, with a whiff of animal and the scent of human.
‘Who are you?’ he asked in a language I didn’t understand. And yet, strangely enough, I did. Was this telepathy?
‘And who are you?!’ I asked back, the question was put forward in sheer panic mixed with some cunning. I was still trying to take in the awesome size of this Godzilla, and figured my question might help establish a bond with this primeval creature. But then, how would he understand my question, which probably sounded more like a squeal?
‘I am Ghatotkacha,’ he replied. ‘I am the rakshasa Ghatotkacha, born of the lord Bhimasena and the lady Hidimbi. I rule over hill and vale, forest and stream to protect the spirit of the forest and all who live in it.’
I understood this too, through some sort of teleprompter that seemed to have lodged itself somewhere in the left lobe of my brain like a Google Translate implant.
‘I am Chintamani Dev Gupta,’ I replied tentatively. But it wasn’t me speaking at all, perhaps some sort of decoder that seemed to be picking up on signals from my brain. Take control, I told myself, take control, or you will lose this mind game.
‘I am speaking Paisachi, but I am fluent in Prakrit and Sanskrit too,’ the giant replied.
He had huge red eyes that were lit up by the burning torch he held in his hand. But they were kind eyes . . . there was not even a hint of cruelty in them.
‘And don’t worry, I am not trying to take control of your mind!’
Weird, weirder, weirdest. He could actually read my mind! Holy cow! This situation was just impossible. I pinched myself even harder this time, so that I might now wake up from this fast-accelerating nightmare.
It only gets “weird, weirder, weirdest” from here on! You wouldn’t want to miss it! Grab your copy and dive right into the charming world of Ghatotkacha!

7 things you didn’t know about Usha Narayanan

After a gamut of jobs, Usha Narayanan pursued a career in writing. The author of 5 successful novels, Narayanan experiments with various genres, ranging from suspense thriller to light-hearted office romance.
Her new novel Prem Purana is a delightful anthology of three stories of love and devotion.
Here are a few things you should know about the author.







How many of these facts did you know about the author?

Discover the world of the gods and goddesses like you have never before

Celebrated author Usha Narayanan’s new book, Prem Purana, is a chronicle of love, longing, and the unexpected trials and tribulations one takes on in the journey of love. The book explores how even the mightiest of Gods and Goddesses have not remained untouched by love — with Ganesha taking on the challenge to please his wives, Ravana sharing an unbreakable bond with Mandodari, and Nala and Damayanti’s love withstanding the test of time.
Here are a few times the Gods surprised us with their deeds in love.
Myriad of stories

Fable of the mouse

The wonders of charming Gajamukha  

Lord Ganesha’s vast appetite

Bad angel vs good angel

The game of Chaturanga

The story behind the fall

Hamsa, the cupid

Aren’t these facts fascinating?

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