Saturday, May 31, 2008
In a surprise anti-climax, Chennai Super Kings defeated Kings XI Punjab by 9 wickets to enter the finals against IPL-favourites Rajasthan Royals at the DY Patil Stadium, Mumbai.
KXIP, for all their might, lacked luster before CSK. Theit entire top-order was manhandled, leaving them with a poor total of just 112-8 in 20 overs. Their 100 came in the 19th over, which is the slowest century in the IPL so far. The last chunk of runs (28 runs) were scored by Powar by means of successive fours.
Not even good bowling could save such a low score. However, the didn't even have that. CSK made reached their target of 113 in 14.5 overs, losing just one wicket (S Vidyut). Parthiv Patel and Suresh Raina's 102-run partnership ensured that KXIP could not take advantage of CSK's initial loss.
KXIP won the toss and chose to bat, but found it difficult to make any runs. Gony, Ntini and Morkel picked up two wickets apiece and Ntini was adjudged Man of the Match. Irfan Pathan seemed disgruntled after losing his wicket, as he pushed aside some of the stadium equipment on his way back.
Tournament sensation Shaun Marsh made just 23 runs before being bowled by Ntini. KXIP have now lost all their three matches against CSK.
CSK plays Rajasthan Royals tomorrow. Can they keep up their momentum? Watch this space to find out. (OTFS)
Watching the episode and forgetting about it is one thing, but discussing, debating and critically analysing it, though trivial, is a lot more fun! And that's what we at the FB Group did: from hating Nihal to pitying Ayaz to making fun of 'S&A' (Shanbhavi and Anmol), we did it all, religiously staying up late on Saturday nights/Sunday mornings.
Friends were made, people were banned and theories were torn apart: all in the name of Roadies. Indeed, it wasn't just the thirteen Roadies who made new friends, the 20+ active members on the group added each other, mingled and jingled. Of course, the group boasted nearly 6,000 members (and counting, for some unknown reason) but it was just a small group of 20 members or so who really contributed significantly.
One highlight of the group was when Vaibhav asked us to contribute some jokes to the MTV Tickr. Comical epigrams came flying through cybersphere and tears of laughter came to out eyes as Raghu, Rannvijay and Ashu were dissected. An added bonus was that many of these jokes were played on the Tickr too!
Reporting on Roadies 5.0 was a great experience for us, having posted nearly 20 posts including several summary pictures. In fact, we loved it so much that we hope to repeat it for Roadies 6! Till then, watch this space. (OTFS)
Rajasthan Royals tore through the opposing Delhi dare Devils at the first semifinal of the DLF IPL to comfortably enter the finals.
Throughout the match, RR seemed in control. It was only when Smith tore a hamstring did DD seem to have some chance of winning. After a while, he was allowed a runner and went on to add 65 runs. Rajasthan Royals made an impressive 192-2 in 20 overs.
Shane Watson and Y Pathan added 52 and 45 runs respectively to the Royals' total.
In comparison, Delhi seemed muted. Shockingly, Sehwag, Gambhir and Dhawan, Delhi's top batsmen, were gobbled up at once by Watson, leaving Delhi bereft of its top order. Eventually, the collapsed and Rajasthan Royals defeated Delhi Daredevils by a massive 105 runs.
Friday, May 30, 2008
India's GDP growth rate for the Financial year 2008 beat forecasts and grew by 9% (YoY). Furthermore, Q4 growth was pegged at 8.8%, far above the market's expectation of 8.2-8.4%. This strong performance by Asia's third-largest economy was mainly attributed to agricultural growth, even as manufacturing growth fell.
Agriculture and allied sectors grew at 4.5% vs. 2.6% (YoY), while manufacturing grew at 8.8% vs. 9.4% (YoY). Finance Minister P Chidambaram hailed the strong growth and highlighted the pro-growth policies taken by his government.
The IMF has however said that FY09 growth rate would be below 8%, as the whole world fell into a global slowdown led by the US.
Per capita income rose by 7.8%, firmly placing India in the trillion-dollar economy club. "More money is available in the hands of the people. Per capita income is rising, it is a very good sign," Chidambaram commented.
Meanwhile, the party was sobered a bit by inflation for the week ended May 17, which stood at a whopping 8.1%, a sharp increase from the previous week. the high inflation coupled with strong GDP growth could forebode of an interest rate hike by the RBI. (OTFS)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Ray Winstone, Shia LeBeouf and others
Producer: George Lucas
Duration: 2 hours approximately
Rating: ***** of 5 (5/5)
I always say that one should not enter a movie theater with preconceived notions and expectations. But when it came to Indiana Jones, I just had to make an exception! After all, this was the first one in over a decade and the previous ones had become the stuff of legend.
And it lived up to its name. We expected fireworks and we got just that. From escaping a sexy KGB agent, shielding himself from a nuclear explosion (the mushroom-cloud effect was spectacular), escaping Maya tribes and saving his team from an alien species, Indiana Jones does it all. But the movie isn't all bang-bang, its also got some emotion as Jones finds his son and ex-lover. His son (LeBeouf) refuses to accept him as his father at first, but like all son-and-missing-father tales, they reconcile at the end.
Kudos to the technicians at Dolby Studios, who tinkered with the sounds so well that drops of water really sounded like drops of water, and a nuclear bomb made the whole floor shake! Now that was one of the highlights of the movie.
The special effects were great, particularly those of the triple-waterfalls. The costumes were well-suited and the props were just right (the thirteen crystal skeletons were stunningly beautiful albeit ominous). The story never gets boring at any point, although it slows down at the end. Harrison Ford's no-nonsense style, LeBeouf's arrogant-teenager impersonation and the KGB agents' east-Ukrainian accents added authenticity to the movie.
All-in-all, there's very little to say about the movie: it speaks for itself. I recommend everyone to watch it, with friends or family. In fact, watch it twice: the magic of Indiana Jones just gets better and better!
By-elections held for Lok Sabha and Assembly seats yesterday went off relatively peacefully. These elections have been seen as a referendum on the demand for a separate state of Telengana by the Telengana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) and its President K Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR).
Contrary to the TRS' expectations, voter-turnout was low in those areas where the Telengana sentiment was supposed to be the strongest, Karimnagar for example. This has led to speculation that the TRS, which imposed this election after resigning from the Lok Sabha and the Assembly, could fare badly.
The Congress, which has been using the development plank to woo voters, seemed happy after high turnout in areas which is saw as favourable. Some areas recorded turnout as high as 70%. The meager turnout in Hyderabad was attributed to the scorching temperature (41C max) and the general urban indifference to politics.
However, there were innumerable cases of missing names in voter rolls, malfunctioning EVMs and invalid Electoral Photo ID Cards (EPICs). Many people complained that they could not locate their polling station, while others were shocked that their names were deleted from the list, although their family members' were not. It is hoped that these problems would be eliminated before the 2009 General Elections.
Counting will take place on June 1. (OTFS)
(More discussions on the demand for new states and other issues in the soon-to-be-launched label IN09, where we discuss the 2009 Lok Sabha Elections on OTFS.)
Thursday, May 29, 2008
And perform they did. Raghu himself said that he didn't expect such a classic performance. The final task was a collection of five tasks which any of the Roadies - except the two finalists and Sonel - could perform. Take your pick: kissing an iguana, piercing your body (it was supposed to be piercing your nipples but Vikrant had to pierce his tongue!), stripping naked (covered only by newspapers), tonsuring your head and taking a slap from the opposing team's captain!
Now, you wouldn't expect these Roadies to do all these tasks, their track record is such. But they did! Ayaz (!!) and Snehashish (!!!!) stripped naked and tonsured their hair for Nihal and Ashutosh respectively. The girls kissed the iguana, Varun pierced his nipples (he didn't know where his nipples were!), Vibhore was slapped by Nihal and, most controversially, Shambhavi was slapped by Ashu.
That slap was in extremely bad taste and, as payback, Raghu ordered Shambhavi to slap Nihal and Ashu!
However, both the teams had performed their tasks. Who would win? Enter Sonel. For the mere price of kissing a disgusting iguana for five seconds, she was allowed to choose the winner. Like OTFS has been saying on Facebook for a long time, Sonel was the king maker as always. At the end, she chose Ashu, her prince in not-so-shining armour.
Thus, Ashutosh was the fifth in the series of MTV Roadies and the first International Roadie. He had the honour of taking home Rs. 2.3 lakhs and a Hero Honda Karizma. Moreover, he was also allowed to distribute the other two bikes to anyone he chooses, and Snehashish and Varun got their new bikes!
A lot of hugging, some jokes and a long behind-the-scenes video later, Nikhil closed the series on VOTED OUT with his charming jokes. And thus ended Roadies 5.0, when the Game went International. But before it ended, we were promised of Roadies 6: bigger and badder than ever before!
Roadies will be replaced by MTV Vodafone Splitsvilla on MTV, Saturdays, 7:00 PM
ROADIES 5.0 AWARDS ON SATURDAY, MAY 31, 2:00 PM ON MTV
Not everyone likes them though. While prolonged showers lasting an hour or more are good, those lasting for a few minutes do little in terms of bringing down the mercury. Rather, they raise the humidity, bringing sweat to the citizens of a land-locked city!
However, every Hyderabadi is waiting for the monsoon to begin. Although the city's roads are infamous for being flooded within seconds of rain, nobody minds the fall in daytime temperatures.
So here's to another summer, successfully survived!
Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium, Mohali, May 28
It was touted to be a dress-rehearsal for the IPL finals as top-ranked Rajasthan Royals took on second-place Kings XI Punjab in a match full of fireworks. KXIP won the toss and chose to bat. Opener Shaun Marsh (c Y Khan b Watson) made a stupendous 115, his highest score in the IPL and also overtook Gautam gabhir as the highest run-scorer of the tournament at 593 runs.
RR, for their part, had re-jigged their team quite a bit before the match. Shane Watson was the acting-captain for the team that lacked its quintessential batting and bowling attack. Rajasthan responded to KXIP's 221-3 (the highest total in the IPL so far) with just 180-7 in 20 overs each. KXIP hit 14 sixes and 20 fours, while RR hit 8 sixes and 18 fours. RR had rested captain Shane Warne, opener Graeme Smith and star vowler Sohail Tanvir for the semi-final match against DD.
Neeraj Patel (b Chawla) played well for the Royals, making 57 with 10 fours. Yusuf Patha (c Marsh b Hopes), playing against brother Irfan, made a quick 39 before his dismissal. He, along with Kamran Akmal (c Mota b Chawla, 24), gave the RR their only hope of winning. Akmal notably hit the 14th over off Sreesanth for 4-0-6-6-6-1! However, their hopes were dashed as the duo was dismissed, heralding the end of the Royals' innings.
KXIP co-owner Preity Zinta worked wonders with her cheer-leading! Both teams however, have already made it to the semis.
KXIP 221-3 (20 overs), RR 180-7 (20 overs)
KXIP WIN BY 41 RUNS
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
DC won the toss and elected to bat, making a decent 147. But their fielding was never really up to the mark and that was what made them lose. Suresh Rana's unbeaten 54 (he was declared the Man of the Match) and Dhoni's crucial 37 saw Chennai win their match.
Now, with KXIP and RR (who play against each other today) already in the semis, this leaves just one spot open and that will most likely be filled by Delhi Daredevils. The MI vs. RCB match would mostly be about pride.
Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Aman Siddiqui, Juhi Chawla, Shahrukh Khan, Rajpal Yadav and others
Director: Vivek Sharma
Producer: Ravi Chopra for BR Chopra Producations
Rating: ** of 5
Music Composition: Vishal-Shekhar
Amitabh Bachchan has done it all: he's portrayed perhaps every human character there is. So the next step would be not to play a human at all! And that's where Bhoothnath picks up from: the story of a ghost who befriends a little boy.
The movie has a good beginning and the tempo continues with the entry of the Sharma family in to Nath Villa, filmed in picturesque Goa. Then, after a fairly lengthy period of courtship, the ghost and the kid (Aman Siddiqui) finally meet. They share a long period of friendship peppered with adventure and tragedy, and a few song-n-dance sequences to boot!
That's pretty much how the story goes until the intermission. In the second half of the movie, we see Aman's real world and his friendship with Bhoothnath, whose real name is (Late?) Kailash Nath, clashing. So while he insists that Bhoothnath is real, nobody believes him and calls him a liar. His mother (Juhi Chawla) goes as far as slapping him!
Eventually, Bhoothnath reveals himself to Mrs. Sharma and tells her his heart-wrenching story, so typical of Bollywood. He however, insists that no one except the Sharmas can ever live in his house. Then comes a slew of new characters that includes Vijay Nath, Kailash Nath's not-so-nice son. At this point, the story becomes somewhat monotonous as tears and music take over.
The end of the movie, however, leaves you disappointed. If Bhootnath had been given mukti (freedom), how can he return from his heavenly abode? And if he does return, isn't the whole second-half pointless, a full circle? The acting wasn't exceptional either, the actors seemed to be faking their crying scenes (agreed that they were, but they're supposed to look real!). Furthermore, how is it that while the whole world refused to believe that the Bhoothnath was real, Aman's father (Shahrukh Khan) believed it in no time at all? And has Satish Shah cursed himself into acting like a dumb teacher/principal a la Main Hoon Na forever?
The music was good but it lacked substance, which means you'll forget the songs by the time you're home. However, Banku Bhaiya and Mere Buddy are catchy numbers. The costumes and make up were perfect, Bhoothnath's dusty coat and scabby skin were perfect. Furthermore, Aman Siddiqui's acting was quite good for a child actor.
Bhoothnath might not appeal to a slightly mature audience (teenagers, in other words) but children will love it. It's scary and sweet at the same time. Plus, it's good for sheer entertainment. And if you really want to get the feel of the movie, carry a packet of Kurkure with you!
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
We were promised smash-hit wins and a team that could destroy the mightiest opposition. Instead, we got a team that doesn't play together, that has 'low bonding' and that is playing only to help other teams enter the semis.
Need I explain further as to why I supported KXIP from the beginning?
PIC CREATED BY OTFS
Shane Warne, Captain, Rajastahn Royals, and Sachin Tendulkar, Captain, Mumbai Indians and cricket's God, share a light moment after RR beat MI by the slimmest margin possible. However, there was no loss of love between the two legends.
Perhaps Harbhajan Singh should take a leaf out their book.
PIC COURTESY IPLT20.COM
Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin, who had been leading the world's largest telecoms operator since 2003, will step down in July of this year. This announcement was made even as Vodafone posted a net profit of $13.1 bn for the financial year 2008, helped partly by hyper-growth in Turkey and India.
Annual sales rose 14.1% to $70 billion, driven by increased data sales, growth in emerging markets and positive currency exchange rates, in particular the strong (Indian) rupee and euro against the British pound. Thus slightly exceeded street expectations.
Sarin, who faced some opposition during his tenure, will be replaced by Vittorio Colao, head of Vodafone (Europe) Operations.
Vodafone Group (VOD.L) LSE (11:50 AM GMT)
GBP 168.30 UP 0.50 (0.31%)
Monday, May 26, 2008
The Ten Avatars of Vishnu make for some fine storytelling and I enjoyed it immensely. It has always been the prime goal of OTFS to bring fresh, innovative content to its readers. We started this series with the idea that during summer, they would like to slow down, get back to their roots. It was also a fact that in the media, mythology was making a comeback! For these reasons and others, we launched this very successful series.
It was important for us to complete this series in May, as some other series in OTFS had stagnated for too long. We are happy to say that we fulfilled our promise and ended the entire series in May. We also decided to keep this series under the Documentary label, since it was this label that was created for the purpose of educating and entertaining at the same time.
OTFS has tried to maintain neutrality and present all its content in a matter that does not hurt any religious sentiments. Parallels drawn between Hinduism and other religions are not meant to be derogatory in nature, rather, they are meant to highlight the single bond of humanity that unites us all. If however, we have hurt anyone's finer sentiments, we apologise.
When we began this series, we had about 15,000 hits. Now, we have well over 21,000! This alone is proof that our innovative ideas, deep research and storytelling skills are the roots of our success.
There is a lesson to be learnt from each avatar of Vishnu. These stories aren't just religious: they are meant to help one live a better, more fulfilling life. In the ten avatars we have covered, and also the female avatar, we hope to have helped you discover a little bit of yourself. After all, it is said that God resides within us and God resides without us.
THE TEN AVATARS OF VISHNU - An Opinions 24x7 Presentation
OTFS wishes to thank IndiaYogi.com and Tripod
Every article in this series was written using Windows Live Writer
Although Vishnu has ten main 'primary' avatars, his avatars also have 'secondary' avatars of themselves (the Bhagvad Gita lists 22 of them!). Furthermore, all forms of Vishnu are not avatars. Mohini, the Divine Enchantress, is one such form. She is not an avatar, yet she fits the description of an avatar. She may best be imagined as an alternate but equivalent female form of Vishnu. She can also be called the most dangerous form of Vishnu.
Mohini represents the female force, the force that can destroy one's senses. Mohini is said to have been the most beautiful woman of all. No man, or God, could resist her. Her name is derived from the word 'Moha,' which means 'desire.' Desire, as we know, drives out all logic from the mind, it makes us behave like fools. It is this ability of Mohini that makes her the most dreaded form of Vishnu. She personifies the Biblical saying "Hell hath no wrath like a woman scorned." It is this supreme power of Mohini that causes fear to ravage men, explaining why there are so few temples in her honour.
Mohini is also thought of as a shadow of Vishnu, a shadow that appears only in light. She is not called forth for fun (although the Trickster God Vishnu loved having fun). Female force is considered so powerful that it is called forth only when the very existene of the world is endangered.
The first appearance of Mo hini was during the chruning of the Ocean, where she appeared along with Vishnu's Kurma Avatar to prevent the demons for drinking the nectar of immortality, as explained in the previous post on Kurma Avatar.
Mohini's next appearance takes place to save Lord Shiva. Shiva, considered the most innocent of all Gods, agreed to grant a boon to a demon as a reward for his great penance. The demon asked for the power to reduce anything to ashes by touching it. Shiva granted it, and the demon came to be known as Bhasmasura, or the ash-demon. Sadly, the demon decided to test his new power on Shiva himself. Now, it was considered inappropriate for Shiva to be reduced to ashes by his own boon. Thus, Shiva was left with just one option: RUN! The demon c hased Shiva around the Universe but stopped abruptly when he saw Mohini. He lost self-control upon seeing her and asked her to marry him. She said that she could marry someone only if they could match her in dance. Coincidentally, the demon was also a great dancer (this can also be explained: the demon had worshipped Shiva, whose form as Nataraja is worshipped for its dancing skills). And so the great dance competition began. But the demon was so enamoured by Mohini that he started copying her movements. Mohini swept her hands over her head repeatedly, causing the demon to do the same. Eventually, he reduced himself to ashes and Shiva was saved.
This divine dance performed by mohini is practised today as Mohiniattam and is performed in Kerala by only women. This is odd in Kerala, where the tradition dance Kathakali is performed by men. It is said that the Mohiniattam is so powerful that only a woman can fully perform it: a man would simply fail to do the same!
Mohini's last appearance is recorded in Kerala's mytholog y. She appeared before Shiva to give brith to Ayyapan (or Ayyapa Swami), the guardian of Kerala and one of the leading Hindu Gods in South India. Shiva had his doubts whether it would work, but the moment he saw Mohini, they came together. One wall carving in Kerala shows Shiva's wife Parvati staring at the celestial pair in anger, for she knew that she could not do anything about it and that it was very important.
Mohini is not worshipped much in India, the reason being that such a powerful form cannot be worshipped on a daily basis. The divine energy that manifests in a woman is so powerful that if it is called upon in jest or casually, it would mean the end of the world. If you don't believe me, they you are si mply too young to understand! Luckily, Vishnu never desired Mohini to be worshipped. The Preserver took care to see that such immense energy was not left in our hands.
Man degenerates over time. Cultures collapse and traditions die out. All things taboo become the order of the day. These are not astounding revelations: they are considered true by major civilisatiosn particularly the Greek and the Indian civilisations. The Tenth Avatar of Vishnu - Kalki: The Divine Horseman - is a manifestation of this belief. It could be considered equivalent to the Greek idea of the Horseman of the Apocalypse.
There are no stories associatied with Kalki and he is not worshipped anywhere. From the Vishnu Purana, all we know that he will be born to orthodox brahmin parents in the state of Andhra Pradesh. He will eventually come to know of his task, m ount a white horse, brandish a sword and remove all unrighteousnes from the world, destroying it in the process. This will be done under the grace of Shiva, the Destroyer and under the guidance of Parashurama.
There are nine immortals residing on earth, according to scriptures. These immortals will live until the time comes for Kalki to free them from this world. Of them, two will identify Kalki. These two are from the Mahabharata: Kripyacharya and Ashwatthama. The story of Aswatthama might surprise you. He was born at the very beginning of the current age, the Kali Yuga (when there is a complete collapse or dharma). He broke all norms by attacking his enemies at night with fire and neglecting the rules of war. He also created the world's first primitive nuclear device. This is not a joke: the Mahabharata describes in great detail what today's scientists call the effects of exposure to nuclear radiation and genetic mutation!
To punish Ashwatthama, Krishna cursed him to live throughout the Kali Yuga (which will end a little after CE 45,000) with a great wound, wandering in pain until Kalki frees him from his suffering. Ashwatthama's dying age is exactly equal to that of the Kali Yuga.
The Vishnu Purana makes some predictions of how the world will be in the Kali Yuga. It says that man will fly in the sky like a bird, women will demand the same rights as men, governm ents wil be unstable and forever achanging, there will be no stability and war will be the order of the day. Although the Vishnu Purana was written 1,500 years ago, its predictions are fairly accurate: women have become leaders of many countries, airplanes have touched the edge of space, man has stepped foot on the moon and democracy has ensured that no government is permanent. Interestingly, the Purana does not cite these as signs of development: it calls them a natural destruction of the cosmic order. In fact, it says that what we see today is nothing: the worst is still yet to come.
When the worst does come, and dharma is all but gone from the world, Kalki will be born. It is predicted that the caste system would be destroyed completely. Indeed, that process has already begun. Money would make the world go round: that has already happened.
Interestingly, Kalki has not caused mass hysteria! The traditional Hindu believes that the changes taking that place in the world are destined changes and the degradation of morality is on purpose rather than by accident. He also smiles at these with the knowledge that they would go on and get worse until Kalki finally comes. That might explain why Indians are some of the most cheerful pessimists in the world!
The world looks forward to the last avatar of Vishnu as it would mark a renewal of the ancient, eternal way of life. Kalki's appearance would mean not just the end of the world, but also the end of suffering and the loss of morality. These might seem strange, even evil, to today's youth. But so it has been written, and so it shall be.
(These are the Ten Avatars of Vishnu. Apart from them, OTFS also presents an extra documentary on Mohini, Vishnu's female avatar. She is however, not counted among the ten.)
The Ninth Avatar of Vishnu - Buddha: The Divine Avatar of Consciousness - is often thought of as an explanation to Buddhism. It is important to note that this avatar is NOT the same as the Buddha who established the religion of Buddhism, they are similar only in name. Buddhism, the great religion of peace and equality, was virtually driven out of the land of its brith. However, its influence was so great that it had to be included in India's culture somehow or the other. The result is the story of the Ninth Avatar.
The story of Buddha is not nearly as grand as any of the other avatars. Rather, it is a little derogatory. Once upon a time, demons had discovered that by faking righteousnes and humility, they could gain immense power. By following appropriate moral conduct (which need not be true; even false obedience of moral conduct is considered genuine), they had managed to drive out the Gods from the important religious cities in India. Demons are odd because they have an indomitable spirit: when they want to do something, they will do it until they succeed or die trying.
This unexpected rise of the demons threatened the cosmic order. To win back the supremacy of the Gods, Vishnu takes the form of Buddha. He denounces moral conduct and theology, ridicules sacrifices and worship, rejects the ideas of the Vedas and the caste system. The demons, quickly beguiled, return to their evil ways and the Gods are restored to their original position. In the Skanda Purana, it is said that Vishnu resroted to this trick to get back the city of Kashi for Shiva, from where he had been driven out by the huge power of the penance undertaken by the king Divodasa.
There is also another version to the story that is highlighted in the Shiva Purana. It is said that Buddha is an avatar of Sage Gautama, whose righteousness was a cause of great envy for his Brahmin neighbours. They attempted to drive him out on the false charge of cow slaughter (which was a sin), but their plan backfired when Buddha preached against their authoritarian rule and broke apart the social order drastically. This is one attempt to explain the phenomenon of Buddha, for Buddha's original name was Siddhartha Gautama. The story however, does not explicitly mention the Buddhist faith but wrongly rejects it as a sort of mild uprising.
The Buddha remained a sort of contradiction to Hindu faith and tradition until he was covered by the all-encompassing mythology of Vishnu. Over time, the tales of subjugation of the Buddhist way of life died out and Buddha is considered an avatar of Vishnu that came to remind the world of the importance of harmony and love.
Buddha was also the last avatar seen by man in this era. One more avatar of Vishnu remains viz., Kalki. Kalki will appear only when the time comes to destroy the world and prepare it for the next cycle.
Next: Kalki: The Divine Horseman
The story of the Eight Avatar of Vishnu - Krishna: The Divine Supreme Avatar - is one that has caught the imagination of hundreds of generations. Krishna is not one being but many: full of contradictions and miracles. His story can be found in many texts but he is known particularly for his role in the Mahabharata, the longest epic in the world.
Before we begin, you should know that 'Krishna' literally means 'black,' to represent his colour, which was as dark as the night. In ancient India, a dark complexion was considered handsome but as time went on and we entered the Kali Yuga, prominence was given to a man of fair complexion. This degradation of humanity continues even today and will continue until Kalki rids us of it (to be discussed later).
Ugrasena, a kind king, had been deposed by his ambitious son Kansa. Kansa ruled with ruthless might and crushed all opposition to his rule. He would never let anyone destroy him. But one day, a magical oracle told him that his sister, Devaki, and her husband Vasudeva would give birth to the child that would destroy Kansa. Kansa was shocked at this proclamation and arrested his sister and her husband. He killed the six children that they had together by crushing their heads or even drowning them! But one stormy night, Devaki gave birth to her seventh child, Krishna. The parents were desperate to save their child. They prayed to Vishnu to save him and suddenly, the gaurds fell asleep and the gates opened on their own. Vasudeva took Krishna in a basket to the little village of Gokul, where he was looked after by Nanda and Yashoda, the most famous foster parents in Indian history. Vasudeva returned to the prison with their little daughter, who was also a magical God. As Kansa came to kill her, she told him that the Saviour had been born and he could do nothing about it. This finds similarity to the story of Jesus Christ.
Vasudeva's second wife also lived in Gokul and her son, Balram, became Krishna's close friend. Later on in their lives, the two brothers realised their true identities. But even before that, they loved each other as brothers. Kansa sent many assassins to kill the child Krishna, all in vain. Krishna's entire childhood was under the spectre of imminent death and, unable to bear this any longer, the twelve-year-old boy traveled boldly to Mathura, where he killed Kansa with an elephant tusk. This act was a mere demonstartion of Krishna's indomitable strength.
Krishna was an extremely playful trickster. He loved playing pranks on his friends and was loved as a child for that. He loved having butter and would even steal some butter to satisfy his hunger! Gujaratis in particular still celebrate the divine child Krishna. He was also quite a playboy, as he loved playing with the Gopikas (cowherdesses) nearby. He is famous as much for his love affairs as he is for his eternal, divine love for Radha, whom he could not marry on account of a curse. Their love is celebrated even today with the chant 'Radhe-Krishna!'
The pinnacle of Krishna's strength was achieved in the Mahabharata, which deals with practical questions of politics and battle and does not worship its heroes, unlike the Ramayana. The Pandavas and Kauravas were cousins who had been torn apart by politics. The five Pandavas, their mother and their colective wife Draupadi had lived in exile in a forest, cheated by their wily uncle. They were great friends of Krishna as well. When they returned after exile to ask for a small piece of land to rule over, they were denied. Thus, a nationwide battle broke out, one that could be described as India's World War. The battle was fought in the grounds of Kurukshetra (in modern Uttar Pradesh), the Kauravas on one side and the Pandavas, led by Arjuna, on the other. Arjuna's charioteer was Krishna.
It was during the war that Arjuna broke down, unable to fight his own brothers any longer. He asked Krishna how he could possibly kill his own relatives, tear apart his own flesh and shed his own blood. It was then that Krishna assumed his true cosmic form as Vishnu. Arjuna was so scared of this form that he begged Krishna to return to his original form. Krishna obliged and proceeded to divulge the truth of life and dharma (righteousness). Some of the world's greatest theories were proposed at this stage and they are put together in the Bhagvad Gita (the Song of the Lord, also worshipped as the Fifth Veda). So great is this book that it finds practical application even today. The Bhagvad Gita is not a religious text, it does not worship Gods and Goddesses. It is a practical manual, a guide to life. Even today, many MBA students are asked to read the Bhagvad Gita.
Krishna said that dharma was supreme and that we, as humans, could control only our actions (karma) but not its consequences. He said that whenever there was an excessive concentration of adharma (unrighteousness), he would take birth to rid the world of evil. He pointed out that only those who sincerely worshipped Him, who came to Him and Him alone for protection, would attain moksha (nirvana). Interestingly, Krishna also says that he is greater than other men and warns them not to try to copy him for 'I am not like you.' This is in complete cntradiction to Rama, who considered himself equal to all men. Krishna's wise teachings bore fruit, as the Pandavas defeated the Kauravas. Furthermore, they also took Krishna's help for this. Krishna is said to have caused a solar eclipse to trick the Kauravas into thinking that it was night, as fighting was prohibited at night. This trick led to the Kauravas' downfall. Another point to note is that the Mahabharata mentions the exact time that the eclipse took place and ancient civilisations in other parts of the world have also noted an eclipse taking place at the very same time.
Krishna's death is also an interesting story. Once, a sea-side party broke down into a brawl that involved Krishna's community, the Yadavas, who were the only class of warriors left after the Battle of Mahabharata. The Yadavas brought in arms to fight it out and Krishna, disgusted, sat down near a copse by the sea shore to let the drama play out on its own. Now, Krishna wore headgear that resembled peacock feathers. These 'feathers' stuck out over the edge of the bush behind which Krishna was sitting. A hunter mistook them for a real peacock and shot an arrow that struck Krishna at his heel, the only part of his that could be harmed (this is akin to the Greek story of Achilles, depicted in the movie Troy). Before Vishnu died, he assured the hunter that he had done no wrong and that he was but a medium for Krishna to return to his heavenly abode as Vishnu. Krishna had died at the age of one hundred and sixteen years, the mandatory fullness of years as mentioned in the Vedas. Interestingly, the hunter was named Jara, which means Old Age. Sybmolically, it means that Krishna simply died of old age.
Alhough he died, Krishna was and is still wo rshipped throughout the world. In his lifetime, Krishna performed many miracles, so many that it would be impossible to list them all! Some scholars consider Krishna not as Vishnu's greatest avatar but as an avatar greater than Vishnu himself! The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) propagates his eternal teachings.
Next: Buddha: The Divine Avatar of Consciousness
The Seventh Avatar of Vishnu - Rama: The Divine Lila (Play) - is perhaps the most revered of all avatars and is worshipped all over India and South-Southeast Asia. Rama is called the 'perfect man,' a personification of all virtues. The story of Rama is famous throughout the world, among people of all faiths. The Ramayana by Valmiki is the best book that describes the life of Rama. It is one of the greatest epics in the world (along with the Mahbharata, Odyssey and Illiad). 'Ramayana' literally means walking with Rama (Ramena saha ayanam karoti iti).
Rama was born Ramachandra, son of King Dashratha of Ayodhya, who belonged to the Sun Clan (Raghuvansha). His mother was the chief queen Kaushalya (Dashratha had four wives). Rama had three half-brothers: twins Laxman and Shatrughna (born to queen Sumitra) and Bharata (born to Dashratha's favourite queen, Kaikeyi). Unlike other Avatars, particularly Krishna, Rama never acknowledged that he was an avatar of Vishnu. But sage Vishwamitra recognised who he really was and trained him in the art of battle. The family Guru Vashishtha trained all the four boys in his Ashram.
Rama was to become the King of Ayodhya. He was extremely kind and virtuous. His first task came when the daughter of King Janak, Sita (Maithili/one from the kingdom of Mithila or Janaki/daughter of Janak; she was an avatar of Vishnu's wife Laxmi and was born from the Earth) was to choose her husband in a Swayamvar. Rama alone was able to complete the task of stringing Shiva's bow and in the process he broke it too! Thus, Rama married Sita with whom he fell in love at first sight. The breaking of the bow also saw a confrontation between Rama and Parashurama, as explained in the previous post.
The next hurdle came when Dashratha decided to vacate the throne in favour of Rama. Although Queen Kaikeyi was jubiliant at first, for she loved Rama, her evil servant Mantra tricked her into believing that Rama would imprison her. Kaikeyi decided to use a promise that Dashratha had made to her long ago. She demanded that Dashratha made her son Bharat the King. She also demanded that he exiled Rama to the forest for fourteen years. The King was shocked at these demands and refused to accept them, but Rama said that he would accept Kaikeyi's wishes so as to maintain the grandeur of his clan.
Sita insisted on going with Rama to the forest, in spite of its rigours. Her love for him was so great that she refused to live without him. Rama is also said to have loved Sita deeply and, unlike the other Kings of the day, he married only her. His monogamy and fidelity are revered in India. Laxman also went with Rama into the forest to protect his sister-in-law and serve his brother. As Rama left for the forest, the entire city of Ayodhya was engulfed in sorrow.
When Bharata found out that his beloved brother had been treated thus, he attacked Mantra in anger and refused to accept Kaikeyi as his mother. He implored Rama to take over as the King, for their father Dashratha had died of sorrow. But Rama refused to break his promise to Kaikeyi. Finally, Bharata walked away with Rama's footwear and placed them on the throne. Henceforth, he too lived a life of a sage in a forest and served the people only as a temporary representative of Rama. Bharata's love for his brother and his act of serving Rama's people equate him to Laxman. Both can be said to have served Rama equally.
In the forest, Rama, Sita and Laxman went through many adventures, killing demons and meting sages on the way. But one day, a female demon Surpa Nagara tried to enamour Rama. The fidel King-in-exile shunned her away. The enraged Surpa Nagara tried to kill Sita but Laxman stopped her, cutting off her nose in the process. In tears, the demon went to her brother Ravana, the mighty Demon King who lived in Lanka, and asked him to avenge her humiliation. Ravana went to the forest, where he fooled Rama and Laxman into chasing a fake golden deer. He tried to approach Sita, but was blocked by a magical line drawn around her (the Laxman Rekha). Ravana, disguised as a sage, tricked Sita into crossing the line to offer him some fruits. He kidnapped Sita and took her away to Lanka.
When Rama realised what had happened, he was shocked and vowed to rescue Sita. He met Sugriva, the King of monkeys, who offered to help him if he would kill Bali, his evil brother who had illegally occupied the throne. Rama, in one of his most controversial acts, killed Bali, justified by the fact that Bali had destroyed the cosmic order by dethroning the rightful King Sugriva. Sugriva then appointed his general, the powerful Hanuman, to help Rama. In a famous episode, Hanuman flew to Lanka where he met Sita, trapped but alive, and assured her that Rama would come to save her. He was caught and Ravana ordered that his tail be burned as punishment. The sly Hanuman used his burning tail to torch all of the Mighty Kingdom of Lanka and massacred it. He then flew back to Rama and informed him that Sita was alright and remained as loving and fidel to him as ever.
Rama and his Monkey Army proceeded to build a great stone bridge from India (specifically the modern state of Tamil Nadu) to Lanka (now Sri Lanka). This was done by writing 'Sree Rama' on each stone, which magically kept them afloat. Ants and tiny creatures too came to Rama's aid and together they reached Lanka. This bridge, called the Rama Sethu or Adam's Bridge, finds mention in various names in many religious texts and its existence had been confirmed by NASA.
In Lanka, the mighty Rama took on Ravana in an epic battle. Ravana assumed his celstial form with ten heads and tried to kill Rama, but Rama used Vishnu's weapon, the Sudarshan Chakra, to tear the demon into half. Thus ended the reign of Ravana. Ravana's virtuous brother, Vibhishana, was appointed the new ruler of Lanka. It is said that flowers and trees took root at the spot where Ravana lay, as mother Earth reclaimed him.
Rama then proceeded to meet Sita. But just as she was about to hug him, he stopped her. He told her that he suspected her fidelity and wondered whether she had allowed Ravana to touch her body. He ordered Sita to prove her purity by walking through fire. If she was left unhurt, he would believe in her purity. But had she shown any sign of infidelity, she would be burned. In perhaps the most controversial test in history, Sita walked through fire (it is called the Agni Pariksha or test of fire) and escaped unhurt. But she was sad that her husband had suspected her fidelity and never spoke to him in the same, loving manner as she had done before.
Fourteen years had ended and Rama, Laxman and Sita returned to Ayodhya. Just before that, in another controversial move, Rama asked Hanuman to check whether Bharata has become proud with power, for he knew that it takes but a moment for one to change one's mind. Hanuman confirmed that Bharata had not changed and was still faithful to his brother. Rama returned amidst processions and merry-making and was crowned. Thus began the Rama Rajya or rule of Rama, considered the pinnacle of democracy and governance in India and indeed, the world.
Rama and Sita had two children. But Sita was continuously ridiculed for having to go through the Agni Pariksha. She was engulfed in sorrow throughout her life and is thus said to be janma-dukhini (a woman who is sad from birth). Many orthodox Hindu families do not name their daughters Sita for the same reason. Unable to bear the sorrow any more, Sita bowed down to Mother earth, from where she had been bron, and begged her to take her back. A magical throne sprouted from the Earth and Sita sat on it. It descended into the ground and Sita returned to her home. Some years later, Rama, who was filled with grief, also left the world.
The story of Rama has been retold in hundreds of languages around the world. Almost every culture in India has its own special version of Valmiki's eternal tale. Tulsidas' Ramacharitmanas is one such version. Rama's life reflects that of a perfect man: a benevolent King, a loving husband, a caring brother, a strong warrior, a faithful son and, above all, a great human. Although many of his acts are controversial (particularly the Agni Pariksha, which is still condemned in modern cinema), his legacy lives on and he is revered as one of the greatest Avatars of Vishnu, rivalled perhaps only by the next avatar, Krishna.
Next: Krishna: The Divine Supreme Avatar
The Sixth Avatar of Vishnu - Parashurama: The Divine Axe-Wielding Warrior (or simply, the 'angry avatar') - is the strangest of all avatars and the most difficult to explain. He was born Jamadagnya, but as his favuorite weapon was the axe (parashu), he was called Parashurama (it is however, a mystery as to how he was given the name Rama as well). This avatar came with the soul mission of wiping out the kshatriya caste (warrior clan), who had become so powerful that they were threatening the brahmin caste.
Before we begin, you should know that Hinduism divided people on the basis of caste as Brahmin (those who worship Gods and chant hyms), Kshatriya (warriors), Vaishya (traders and businessmen) and Shudra (the lower caste meant for small, 'dirty' work). This was done to create more order in the society. Originally, the caste system was such that one could choose one's caste but later it became hereditory. Today's youth however, rightly reject caste as having no place in a free, democratic society. But in the olden days, the system prevailed.
Parashurama was born by accident. His grandmother, Satyavati, prepared a magic potion that was meant to be drunk by her mother and her so that they would give birth to sons. Sadly, Satyavati mixed up the potions and her brother, born a warrior-prince, behaved as a monk, wanting to study and pray all the time. Satyavati's husband however, being a great sage, managed to defer the effect on Satyavati such that her grandson, and not her son, would be born a warrior. Parashurama was that very grandson.
Parashurama's parents, Renuka and the sage Jamadagni, kept their eyes open for his birth. They gave birth to four sons who showed no signs of any infatuation with war. But the fifth one was the one they had been dreading. Parashurama was adept at the scriptures and was an excellent Brahmin student, but he showed an exceptional love for fighting and war. He seemed to want to kill and pillage all the time. This was unthinkable in the Brahmin community, where everyone was expected to live a quiet life reading holy texts. His behavious angered his father, which in turn infuriated him! That along with four elder brothers who would tease him, and Parashurama swore to win his father's love at all cost.
Parashurama went to the Himalayas and meditated with skill, pleasing Shiva, who granted him a boon. Parashurama asked Shiva to make him the master of all weapons. Shiva taught him how to use the battle-axe (Parashurama's favourite weapon) as well as archery, and Parashurama became invincible.
Meanwhile, his father's Ashram (hermitage) was going through troubled times. Renuka was a pativrata (an extremely fidel woman) and consequently, she had magical powers. She could shape flowing water in the shape of a pot and carry it home. One day, near the river, she noticed Chitraratha, the King of Mrittikavati, making love in an exotic manner to his wives near the river. Renuka saw this and, for just a moment, felt disheartened that such pleasures were not in her destiny. Instantly, she lost her magical powers and her wise husband knew of her sinful act. He ordered his sons to kill her as punishment.
His sons however, felt that he was over-reacting and did not listen to him. Just then, Parashurama returned and, hearing the story, cut off his mother's head at once. He justified his act on the ground that he was obeying his father's command. Indeed, Jamagni was so impressed that he cursed his other sons to lose their knowledge and granted Parashurama a boon. The avatar chose eternal life, supreme command over all weapons (which he already had thanks to Shiva) and for his mother to be brought back to life. In Andhra Pradesh, it is said that his mother needed a new head and Parashurama cut off that of a Shudra woman, whose head was considered 'dirty' in those days, to be used for his mother's. This implies Parashurama's anger at his mother. Thus, Parashurama gained his family's approval.
But disaster struck again. Kartivirarjuna, the proud King of the Haiyahayas, who had once humbled the demon Ravana (to be discussed in the Rama Avatar), came to the ashram asking for a sacrificial calf. The sage rejected his request but the King carried the calf away anyway! Parashurama, greatly angered, massacred the Kings palace, killed everyone including his thousand warriors and finally chopped off the King's arms and head with his axe. He never considered that he might be be killing too many people in comparison to the King's crime. To him, anger and death were second-nature.
He also lacked the foresight not to leave his father alone. The King's sons slaughtered the old man in revenge. This is curious, as Parashurama was a wise avatar and would have easily seen this loophole. Perhaps he still harboured some resentment against his father. Nevertheless, Parashurama vowed to cleanse the world of the Kshatriyas, who had broight fear to everyone's hearts because of their insurmountable strength. He killed all the men and women, he killed their children and grandchildren and their's in turn. This went on for twenty-one generations until the entire caste was nearly wiped out. He filled seven rivers with his enemy's blood.
But then he repented. He returned his conquered lands to the Kshatriya princes and granted land to Brahmins as part of his penance. However, not an inch of land was left uncovered by his bloody tirade. So, he reclaimed land from the ocean. He tossed his axe into the ocean and whatever part it covered was turned into land. This is the modern state of Kerala, also called Parashurama-kshetra (land of Parashurama). Geologically, Kerala is one of the last strips of land to rise from the Indian Ocean after the Indian plate collided with the Asian plate.
It is said that Parashurama could move at great speeds, accompanied by dust clouds. He finds mention as the man who trained Bhishma Pitamaha in the Mahabharata and he is also said to have acknowledged Rama's superiority in a test involving the stringing of Vishnu's bow in the Ramayana. This was when the two avatars of Vishnu - Rama and Parashurama - met, and Parashurama conceded that Rama was the greater of the two. He also introduced the world's oldest martial art, Kalaripayyattu, though he is not worshipped for it but simply acknowledged as its inventor. Indeed, this angry avatar of Vishnu has few temples, even in Kerala, and is mentioned in passing. He is also supposed to have knocked off a part of Ganesha's tusk.
Thus, Parashurama's life is riddled with odd incidents and some scholars fail to understand how he was even acknowledged as an avatar of Vishnu, such was his anger and lack of righteousness. However, it can also be said that he destroyed a community that was trying to control all other communities and thus, detroy the social and cosmic order. In that respect, he acts as the Preserver, Vishnu.
Lastly, it is worth mentioning that Parashurama is a Chiranjeevan (immortal) and exists to this day, in us and in the world. He will stay on till Kalki, the Tenth and Last Avatar of Vishnu, descends. He will be Kalki's spiritual leader and train him to destroy the world at the end of the current Kali Yuga (the last age, when dharma stands on just one leg like a lotus or kali) under the grace of Shiva. He will thus, play a role in destroying all evil from this world.
Next: Rama: The Divine Lila (Play) Avatar