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Showing posts from May, 2015

Aangirasi: Woman who Changed Rama’s Ancestry

We do not know her name, so we will call her Aangirasi. It is the Mahabharata that tells her story – and in the story she has no name. Like so many other women in our epics – Rama’s mother Kausalya, Bharata’s mother Kaikeyi, Duryodhana’s mother Gandhari, to name just a few important women – she is a woman without a name. And yet her story is powerful in itself to be told here, apart from the fact that she plays a decisive role in the ancestry of Rama. Since her time, the blood of the Ikshwaku’s would no more be pure kshatriya blood, assuming it had so far been so. It would be mixed with brahmana blood, through an act of niyoga – the same act through which at a later time Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidura would be born in the Bharata family through Sage Vyasa, through which the founders of Anga, Vanga, Kalinga, and Paundra would be born to the family of Emperor Bali through the sage Deerghatamas.
We would call her Aangirasi because her husband, whom the epic simply calls a brahmana and w…

How Great Masters Teach: A Few Stories

A legendary spiritual master born in Kerala, the land famous for acharyas like Shri Shankara, is Pakkanar, a pariah by birth. Numerous stories are told about how he gave lessons in the highest wisdom to people in his unique ways. In one of these stories, Pakkanar meets on the road a group of brahmanas who were on their way to Kashi, the holiest of holy places in India. He greeted these men as was appropriate for someone born to one of the lowest castes in the caste hierarchy and enquired of them where they were going. When they replied they were going to Kashi, Pakkanar showed them his walking stick and asked them, “Could your lordships do me a favour? Could you take this stick along and give it a dip in the Ganga too?” They were offended by the request. They did not want even to touch a pariah’s walking stick. Why should they carry it all the way to Kashi and give it a bath in the Ganga and bring it back? But the man who was making that request was known to be not an ordinary pariah…