Myths are my thing!

The entry into Sirigere
The entry into Sirigere

Off late, I have been reading a lot of books on spirituality and mysticism. Probably, this is why I got thinking about how and why myths, legends, tales of kingdoms bygone are generated. Are these true stories? Or did they grow as tales of strength and valor passing from generation to generation,peppered with liberal doses of imagination of the people who had no better past times than story telling? Or were they trying to glorify these stories just to get a proxy ego boost? Somewhat like, “Though I have not done anything great, wait till you hear about my ancestors!”. The glory of past achievements trickling down into their blood, giving them the confidence to carry out with their mundane existence.

Which ever way it goes, the best part about these stories are that, they are interesting to listen to. And if you are like me, in a way that anything history and mysterious fascinates you, they can lead you into the past of your imagination so many hundreds of years ago, when levitating sages and magic potions were probably as common as roadside cows now!

I first had this feeling when I visited Hampi, in Hospete. The ruins of the Vijayanagara Kingdom, the plains, the rocky mountains, the silence and the fact that most of the city is so well preserved, make it easy for you to suddenly imagine those times when they would sell gold in bushels on roadsides, the swish of the King’s silks as he entered the Vittala temple and generally,the grandeur of those times.

The same with the fort in Chitradurga, where one look at “Obavvana Kindi”(the crevice in the wall of the fort named after Obavva ) is enough to push me into a world where Hyder Ali’s treacherous plan was spoiled by a soldier’s wife with a wooden pestle.

Recently, this feeling caught me when we went to an almost unheard of place called Sirigere, about 30 kms from where I live. What started as a long drive in the rains became a lesson in history and mythology.

Sirigere looks like any common village in the heart of malnad, with one road,a couple of houses,and a temple on the top of a hill.But what sparked my interest was this board:

The board which reads"Pandavas prayed here"
The board which reads”Pandavas prayed here”

Which reads, “This is the place where the Pandavas(yes, the same ones from the mahabharat), prayed”. Trudging up the hill, we found a makeshift temple and an over enthusiastic priest. The temple consisted of a mound covered in red with a trident and some rudrakshis wound around it and another mound next to it.

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In front of the temple on top of the hill
In front of the temple on top of the hill

The priest explained that we were actually standing on the top of a temple which had been buried underground. He showed us a closed trap door entrance to the temple underground, which was not accessible to visitors, as they had seen and caught a lot of them trying to steal into the tunnel in search of treasure! (Only if it were so easy!). He claimed that this was indeed the place where the pandavas prayed last before their exile ended. And that there was a whole sect of people replete with a swamiji (Godman), who had grown on and into that belief.

A stream from up the hill finding its way out of a cow's mouth!
A stream from up the hill finding its way out of a cow’s mouth!

He pointed to the other mound and said that this was the place that the swami took his Samadhi. In other words where he died. But the concept of this again, is part spooky and part exciting to me. Taking samadhi means that the seer would have known by divine intervention that his time on earth was coming to an end. At which point he would crawl inside a cave on a self imposed fast and meditate for days on end. There would be a lamp placed at the mouth of the cave, with instructions that, once the lamp extinguishes(which meant that the swami’s soul would have left his body), the cave would be sealed.  I had recently also seen Sri Shankaracharya’s samadhi in a cave of a hill in Kashmir! Again, this is impossible for me to imagine, but apparently happened quite often!History or fantasy?

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Parrots in abundance
Parrots in abundance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We become instantly suspicious about the fact that we can be in a place so famous and deep in history which no one has heard about, when he comes out with yet another explanation.” If we let the Archaeological Department into this secret, they would most certainly dig out the temple from underground and spoil its aura. Why do we need a scientific body to prove something that we know as true and believe. Hence all this secrecy!” Put that way, it makes a weird kind of sense. Who are we to burst the bubble, if it is giving solace to so many??

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He went on to show us the weapons which were apparently used by the pandavas, hands us a visiting card of the temple, complete with a website, which some techie from Bangalore(who is also a devotee) has created with a detailed description of the miracles which have happened in the temple and tells us about a cave right on top of the hill in which Arjuna meditated, and is off bounds to visitors(but not to him) due to the divine energy it radiates.

 

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Dazed and part unbelieving,we clamber down in the rain.One part of me wants to believe that I have indeed been living close to a very important, magical, mysterious,mythologically significant place.The fantasizer in me is glowing, and how!The rational side, plays spoilsport though. I wonder how the pandavas strayed so far from their course, in exile. Then again, fourteen years is a really long while. And they did not have GPS for sure!

I had once met a scholar who told me that most of the stories of bravery and valor recorded as history in our textbooks and the like had actually never happened in that exact same way. The people existed, and so did their brave spirit, but the story was, in fact blown out of proportion to impress upon the lay people, the strength of spirit! Being the emotional country that we are, any talk of changing the story would erupt into a fight or convert into threats for the scholar!

Hence, our myths and legends have stayed. And grown. And enticed me into their mystery. Fleetingly making me forget that there is a line between fact and fantasy. And that sadly,most times we need to boringly stay with the facts. For the rest of the time, there is places like Sirigere!

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My world then….

Growing up in the eighties and the nineties meant watching the world change at its fastest. We were whisked from a lazy, calm, slightly meandering time and plopped right into the middle of a whirl of activity. Especially so, after the discovery of the internet, mobile phones and the social network. At the risk of sounding like a dinosaur, I know that my children will not recognize the milieu of my childhood with their own. Now, it feels as if the whole world is constantly buzzing with an information overload, things to do, opportunities popping up every corner, new careers to delve into, and new methods of entertainment! Whew! Where and how do you even relax? There is always something to do or somewhere to go.

Exciting though things are at present, there are times when I miss the old world vibe of my growing up years. With most of my friends  and  cousins living far away or being busy, I rarely get the opportunity to get into the “those were the days “ mould, and therefore unload the charms of my lesser privileged but more fun kind of childhood on to my son, who looks confused and surprised  at a few of the things which I mention! (And when he does that, I feel really really old!).

I know that the world will keep changing and there is no way to stop it. I have lived through many of those changes, in my childhood and teens and adapted. But sometimes I wonder how life would have been if some of the things had remained the same. So that I could experience it again through my children. There were things which made my childhood exciting, and fulfilling and those that probably only children of that decade would understand.

Like owning a tape recorder and buying/borrowing coveted audio casettes.

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I was part owner of a really old, origin unknown, sony tape recorder, which was schizophrenic by nature. It would play scratched tapes to perfection, but unspool brand new tapes for no reason at all. It was almost alive, and I swear, I was top one on its hate list. My tapes, no problem. But borrowed tapes from cousin, friend or new… definite unspool, which would require me to sit for ages with a nataraj pencil and rewind the tape carefully back into the cassette. Despite these problems, the pleasure of listening to Alka Yagnik in Qayamat se qayamat tak, Lata mangeshkar croon Dil deewana and ABBA on the old contraption was something I’ll never forget.

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The pleasure of meeting up with cousins over summer holidays.

I know facebook has made things really great, and I am aware and update about my friends’ lives with the click of a button and all that, but somewhere, not knowing so much, added to the excitement of holidays where all cousins and friends would meet up. There was enough talk to last us through two months and beyond. No need of television, trips or eat outs. We could devour time only talking. Over the breakfast table, on the steps, over the garden fence, during play and under the covers at night! I don’t remember talking so much ever!

Waiting for a trip to Bangalore

Mainly to fulfill all longings to last till the next visit. In my case, books from good old Higginbothams and Gangarams on M.G Road. Vegetable  sizzlers from Sanman. Ice cream from Corner House or Lake View. A visit to Kids Kemp, more for their free welcome drink than to actually buy anything ( most stuff seemed exorbitant anyway!). Meeting up with my favorite cousin and exchanging books. Visiting her circulating library. Every single time, a repetition of the same, but still excited about the trip. Because there was no amazon or home delivery to send all this and more to my doorstep. And the only face book we had was a face of a friend and a book.

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The lack of choice.

I’m serious. I recently read somewhere that the brain goes into over drive and chooses wrong when given a multitude of choices. Apparently, the brain is always trying to give you the best choice, but unfortunately, there is no one choice that fulfils all your demands or wishes. There is a great post on a blog, Peas and cougars regarding the same. Hence, life was bliss before ‘too much’ came along. Orange kissan marmalade was exotic, when we had only kissan mixed fruit jam. Maruti was hep, when the rest were cranky ambassadors. Till the third option came, the interest held on between the first two! Shift to now, with big bazaars and hyper marts, nothing is either exciting or exotic after the first time. There is always a craving for something new and something more, which never seems to quell.

Brands that are obsolete now.

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Lekhak notebooks, hero pens, bril ink, bata school bags,plastic rain coats with colourful hoods,dayanara tvs with doordarshan playing on all channels, halo shampoo, angry fire arrows of mahabharat and HMV casettes.

Writing letters.

I recently discovered an old box of letters which my parents and friends had written to me when I first went to hostel. It was nice to read actual personal, hand written letters after a long time of reading short text  messages. I do not know whether they still teach letter writing in primary schools. It sure was an important part of our curriculum… leave letters, letter to your friend about your holiday, write to your granny about your school.. etc.etc..This was something I really loved because I could write whatever I wanted, there was no intense preparation required and one could get full marks for this in the exams! Learning how to make money orders, telegrams, or  registered post were important skills in our childhood, the acquisition of which would make us feel a little bit superior to the rest!

The happiness of owning a cycle.

This was one prized possession all of us craved for. The sight of a brand new BSA SLR which at that time cost my parents eight hundred bucks seemed more luxurious than any Mercedes Benz. Learning the art of cycling was done on loaned bicycles so that I would not scratch the paint when I fell off it!

Most of the things described here almost just vanished or faded away in the last decade. Life now is easier, and much more comfortable, but just the thought of these, make me nostalgic. What things of your childhood make you wish for a time machine?