Today’s prompt was to write about a book which I recently read, the impact it had on me and the reasons for the same.

At the outset let me confess that it has been at least a month now since I have read any book, and anybody who has been following my book reading habits on Goodreads since the start of 2014 will know that this is the longest that I have gone without reading a book this year. A plethora of reasons have contributed to this long gap, but that is material for another post and not this one.

Given this background, I am not going to restrict my discussion to just one book which I recently read, but am broadening the scope to a genre which I thoroughly enjoy and have learnt a lot from – Indian mythology.

The advent of high speed unlimited broadband has meant that most of us spend more time googling for resources in topics and subjects that we are interested in, and to me, this means more time, bandwidth and resources to search for stories from Indian mythology. And one such source has provided me with access to some of the best English translations of the great epics, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and other seminal Sanskrit works. To me, this has been a treasure trove of information on Indian mythological and religious texts.

As a child growing up in pre-satellite TV India, my primary source of Indian mythological stories were ones that my grandparents narrated to me as bedtime tales, Amar Chitra Katha comics and the BR Chopra TV serials – Ramayana and Mahabharata on Doordarshan. When I grew older, C Rajagopalachari’s abridged editions of both these great epics also provided a lot of information to me on stories from them.

However, the last couple of years have been quite an eye opener in terms of understanding the vast ocean of knowledge these epics were when it came to the lessons to be learnt, the characters in them, their stories, and the sheer variety of human emotions they dealt with.

Take the Ramayana as an example. While most of us immediately think of Rama, Sita’s abduction, Rama slaying Ravana and Hanuman’s exploits during the great war as the main points of this great epic, lots of little stories and incidents such as Kaikeyi’s motivation behind demanding that boon from Dasharatha, Vibhishana’s motivation behind switching sides in the great war, Sita’s travails after she is rescued by Rama, these are some parts of the epic that I read about only in the recent past. These give me a better, deeper and healthier understanding of the great epic itself. Further, reading multiple interpretations of the great epic, both online and offline also meant that I appreciate the nuances, lesser known tales and the human emotions behind the individual characters in these stories better today.

The Mahabharata still remains that formidable mountain range (notice I use the word ‘range’ here rather than ‘peak’ as the epic contains multiple stories within itself) which I still kind of struggle getting my hands around. Irrespective of the number of times I read about incidents which are popular like the Game of Dice, Abhimanyu’s death, the Palace of Illusions, I am left spell bound by the sheer depth of information and subsequent interpretative knowledge in this great epic. It is not simply that wise men of the past and present state that the Mahabharata is nothing, if not a lesson for all of us humans in how to lead our lives. All that we need in terms of knowledge, information and guidance are there in different parts of this great epic.

Another profound religious text that I have been introduced to in the recent past has been the Srimad Bhagavatham or the Bhagavatha Purana, one of the great Puranic texts of Hinduism, focusing on devotion to the Supreme Lord, Vishnu. This text provides so much of information about Krishna and other forms of Vishnu that it is mind-blowing at all levels. As is that wasn’t enough, there are so many other stories of deities, humans and others in this text that one could probably spend a better part of a lifetime trying to read, understand and imbibe the lessons here.

I could go on and on about some of the other epics that I have had the pleasure of having glanced through during the last couple of years, but I will restrict myself to these three for now. If, like me, you are a fan and aficionado of Indian mythology and religious texts, then you surely have to keep coming back to this blog from time to time to read up on some retellings of well known and lesser known tales in this genre.


This post has been written for Project 365 :  A post a day where the objective is to publish at least one post a day based on the prompts provided by the WordPress team.

Maitreyi explains the origins of Srimad Bhagavatham

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Rishi Sanatkumara accompanied by other Rishis once went to the underground world called Patala and approached Sankarshana to know more about Vasudeva the superior being. The rishis prostrated and praised hymns in praise of Sankarshana who imparted the Bhagavata to Rishi Sanatkumara. Rishi Sanatkumara taught it to Sage Maitreyi’s guru Sage Parasara who then taught it to Sage Maitreyi.

Brahma’s birth

At the end of a Yuga the whole universe plunges into the cosmic waters, which is called Pralaya. After Maha Vishnu spends a thousand chaturyugas in the cosmic waters in a slumber of self-awareness he gets up and views the universe in latent condition in Himself. With his power he creates a form of a lotus bud with its root in Him and enters into the lotus bud.

Then later the creator Brahma appeared in the Lotus, he is called self-born and an embodiment of Vedas. Brahma, after getting up did not understand anything about himself or the Lotus. Brahma was wondering, “Who am I? How has this Lotus sprung up from these water? What is the origin of this Lotus?

Thinking thus he tried to find the stalk of the Lotus but to no avail. After searching for a long time he abandoned his quest and sat in a meditative absorptional state for around a hundred years. The truth of the Lord as the indwelling spirit dawned on Brahma and he praises Maha Vishnu as the indwelling spirit and all-pervading Lord of the universe.

Maha Vishnu understanding that Brahma was lacking confidence in creation told him, “Practice concentration and self-absorption in me and then you will find the worlds within their ideal form with all obstructions removed. When your mind has reached to such a level of concentration that you see only me as penetrating the universe and yourself then you will also see the world and jivas resting in me. When aspirants see me as residing in all beings then they overcome their delusion. You will be able to engage in the creation of countless creatures and never be affected by the work of creation because your mind is always dedicated to Me alone. You have all my blessings and start creating all beings that have become latent in me.

Saying so Maha Vishnu left the place.

Vidura meets Maitreyi

On hearing from Uddhava that Sage Maitreyi is the spiritual Guru destined for him, Vidura reached Haridwara where Sage Maitreyi lived. He had some questions on the mode of life and put forth the following questions to the sage.

1. In this world people do many things to get happiness. But they never reach their perfect happiness as more desires lead to more unhappiness. Please let me know the course of life a man should follow.

2. Tell me about the great devotees of the Lord, how their hearts and minds get purified and how they attain the state of perfection.

3. How did God create the world and how is he sustaining it?

4. How does God create different forms and how does he dissolve it at the time of dissolution?

5. Tell me more about the excellences of the Lord and his various incarnations for the welfare of the world.

Vidura was anxious to hear about the Lord’s excellences as he was thoroughly tired of hearing about only worldly matters.

Sage Maitreyi

Sage Maitreyi was extremely pleased with Vidura’s devotion to Lord Hari and revealed to him that Vidura was an incarnation of Lord Yama. Yama who administers death and after-death punishment to all beings for their sins was once cursed by Sage Mandavya and it is due to that curse that Vidura has taken a human birth as the son of Vyasa Deva.

On creation:

In the beginning God alone existed as the seer, as the pure spirit. Maya is the power of the witness of the seer and it has got the dual nature of being in the causes as well as the effects. Maya along with Time created the Mahatatva. From the Mahatatva came the I-thoughts which constitutes the mind, senses and intelligence. Then He created the pancha bhootas – sky, air, fire, water and earth. Then He created a cosmic form called Virat Purusha which formed the basis of the whole universe of living and non-living things.  This Virat is the cosmic power of everything in the universe, also called the spiritual source or the super soul.

Vidura asked, “How can the living spirits be subject to the loss of bliss and plunge into the world of suffering if he is actually a pure spirit?”

Sage Maitreyi replies, “Just like in a dream a person can experience his own head being cut off the Atman experiences a change of its nature without that change being factual. The Atman which living spirits experience is the self identified as the body and thus it is subject to defects of the body. When the mind and intelligence focus on devotion to the Lord and is bathed in Godly love he will realize his true nature as different from the bodily nature.”


The next post in this series will contain the rest of Sage Maitreyi’s answers to Vidura

Vidura – A Dharma Putra

Veda Vyasa had fathered four sons, one each for the values of dharma, artha, kama and moksha.

Vidura is considered to be the dharma putra of Vyasa Deva. Sage Suka is the moksha putra of Vyasa Deva. There were many times that Vidura could have left Hastinapura unable to bear the atrocities taking place there under the leadership of his brother Dhritarashtra and his son Duryodhana.

One instance could have been when Duryodhana, with the support of his father Dhritarashtra masterminded the most wicked terrorist act of the Dwapara Yuga – accommodating the Pandava brothers in a wax palace and attempting to burn them alive.

Another instance could have been when the daughter-in-law of the family Draupadi was dragged by her hair into the Hastinapura court by Duhshasana under the encouragement of Duryodhana and Karna when she was in her menstrual cycle and minimally clothed, and insulted publicly in court.

Another instance could have been when Yudhishtira asked for his kingdom back after completing twelve years of rigorous exile in the forest and one year of incognito life and Dhritarashtra still supported his greedy and wicked son in not giving even a needle point of space.

Another instance could be when Krishna was sent as an ambassador by Yudhishtira to Hastinapura to bring about peace and avoid war and bloodshed as far as possible, the way he was insulted by Duryodhana and his father Dhritarashtra.

Despite being a witness to these unrighteous incidents, Vidura being the ever calm and even minded person spoke to his brother Dhritarashtra and advised him to return the kingdom back to Yudhishtira which was his rightful claim.  The embodiment of jealousy and evil, Duryodhana had even insulted Lord Krishna who had come as an ambassador to avoid war at any cost. Vidura persuaded Dhritarashtra to banish his son Duryodhana from Hastinapura and bring good to his dynasty.

Duryodhana on hearing this advice being given to his father insulted Vidura with wicked words like slave’s son, one who has allied with the enemies etc and with an unbearable anger he ordered his attendants to push Vidura out of the palace.

Hearing such insulting words and considering them as mysterious work of the Lord’s Maya, Vidura placed his weapons at the door of the palace and left for a pilgrimage. He dressed like an Avadhuta and visited many holy places like Mathura, Vrindavan, Govardhana and holy rivers and lakes.

When he reached the holy place Prabhasa he heard about the Mahabharata war and how Yudhishtira, the Dharmic King has started to rule the kingdom and also about the destruction of his relatives and friends. Then sad and silent he proceeded towards many other holy places and in course of time he reached a place on the bank of Yamuna river where he met the great devotee of Lord Krishna, Uddhava.  He questioned Uddhava on the well being of all his relatives including the Pandavas and Lord Krishna.  Uddhava informed Vidura that Krishna has left the earth after completing his duties of this avatar as well as the Pandavas. The whole Yadu dynasty was also destroyed by a curse which Krishna had known. Vidura was grief-stricken on hearing the news of the death of all his friends and relatives but by his power of discrimination he controlled his sorrow.

Vidura then pleads submissively to Uddhava to impart to him the supreme knowledge about the Atman which Krishna had revealed to Uddhava before leaving his earthly life. Uddhava informed Vidura that it is Rishi Maitreyi who is ordained to impart the knowledge of the Atman to Vidura because Uddhava had heard Lord Krishna commanding Sage Maitreyi to this effect.

Next Post – Vidura meets Sage Maitreyi and questions him

Brahma’s inspiration for creation


Brahma’s inspiration

Once Brahma was thinking about the ways to create but he could not get any clue to proceed further. While thus contemplating within himself, he heard a divine sound from among the cosmic waters surrounding him. He heard a sound ‘tapa,tapa’  meaning concentrate, concentrate on your nature as the spirit. He knew that this instruction must have come from a divine source and in that very place he started to engage himself in austere meditation.

Brahma performed his austerities for a thousand divine years and the Lord revealed his highest spiritual realm to Brahma. Brahma saw Him whose face is illumined with a gracious smile, with his ear ornaments, yellow cloth, four arms, Kousthuba and Sri adorning his chest. He saw the Lord surrounded by twenty five expressions of His creative power.

Brahma was bathed in bliss within which overflowed as torrential tears from his eyes and prostrated at His holy feet.

The Lord was highly satisfied by Brahma’s continuous and concentrated meditation on Him and was willing to grant any boon. Brahma requested to know the Supreme Being, who is formless, gross and subtle and the Atma Maya. Brahma, as the Lord’s servant will continuously discharge his duty of creation, and he requested that he does not develop any pride in it.

The Lord explained the supreme knowledge to Brahma being extremely pleased by his yogic meditation on Him. The basic substances of nature combine and constitute various objects. These elements do not lose their material nature but also takes on the qualities of the combinations. Similarly, the Lord constitutes all beings and is in each of them, yet the Lord’s pristine nature is not affected by the nature and experience of the combinations that make up the bodies of beings. A seeker of truth has to grasp the fact that the basic nature does not suffer any diminution and always exists as itself despite any set of combinations it undergoes. The supreme spirit is that ultimate substance. Concentrated absorption on the supreme self is the only way to get liberation.  Saying as much, Sri Hari disappeared from Brahma’s view and then Brahma proceeded towards the activity of creation.

Bhagavatam Lineage

Bhagavatam Lineage