Friday, December 27, 2013

The prayer wheel

Milarepa tucked his saffron shawl closer, as he whirled his prayer wheel. The wind was brutal today. His narrow eyes were even more slanted, his flat nose wrinkled up and his ruby lips parched. His agile 14 year old frame shivered.
Even his woolen cap (woven of thick yak wool) could hardly protect his bald head from the chill.

The roads of Leh were deserted. It was past 7'o clock and the tourists had already started moving back to their rooms. Milarepa quickened his pace. If only the lama hadn't come down with fever, he would never be allowed to come out at this hour.
The sky was inky. Writers had myriad of terms to describe it's hues. But to Milarepa, it had always appeared inky. Like the very bottom of those Chelpark bottles at the monastery.

Inky seemed appropriate because it's color spilled everywhere at night.
This same street glittered in the mornings. Happy tourists, excited kids, loud guides and eager shopkeepers. The cosy little cafes would be filled to bursting, the momo stalls abuzz with customers. The little quaint curio shops, the woolen stores, travel agencies and adventure sports stalls vibrated with life.

And as the ink started dripping, everything would close. The wind from the mountains brought it's chill, it's mist and it's stillness with it. Just as it had done for centuries past.

Milarepa stopped whirling the prayer wheel, as he realized that he had almost missed his turn.
He hurried to the medical store. The guy was stowing away boxes, clearly packing up for the day.
"Para...ceta...ceta ....mol", he fumbled deep inside his robes as his teeth chattered of their own accord.
"Wait. Wait. I just packed it up"

"Arjun, come here. Enough I said!, a panicked voice came from nowhere.
Milarepa raised his head and looked around. For a moment, for the tiniest fraction of a moment, he had actually dared to imagine ...

The voice came closer as a family of three approached the store. The mother was still glaring at the kid.
"You have any cough drops? He has been coughing like mad", the little kid let out a heart-wrenching cough (almost on cue)
"Ji madam. One minute. Aye lama bhaiya .. your paracetamol tablet"

Milarepa handed the crumpled ten rupee note and left. Almost ran, as fast as his legs would carry him up the steep slope of the mountain.
The image of the family was stuck in his head. Arjun was someone he knew. Someone with long curly hair and a cheeky little grin. Incidentally, a lot like the kid he had just seen.
He remembered very little though. Just flashes of memory. Like those stains which won't go away no matter how roughly you scrub the cloth.
He remembered Arjun's docile, tiny mother ... he remembered poverty .. hunger .. cuddling with her bony frame on cold nights ..he remembered the fight she and her new husband had.. and the way Arjun had screamed at the monastery gates.

Milarepa's breathing became shallow. He stopped, bent forward and put his hands on his knees. To struggle against the untamed mountain winds on an uphill slope, was no easy task.
He did not tug his robe closer. He wished Arjun's mother was there to tuck it in. Was there to hold his hand and brace him against the winds. Was there to pat his head on that hard monastery bed. Was there to pour cough drops when he was sick.

As he absent mindedly clutched his robe, he recoiled in horror. There was something wrong with his them. A dark spot had appeared on the saffron folds.
Ink. That was what it was. Ink had not only dripped on him, it had managed to seep in.

Malirepa squeezed his eyes shut in fear, shook his head and forced his legs to walk again. He chanted "Om mani Padme Hum" as loudly as he could. His prayer wheel was rotating in his hand.

If only someone could see the young monk, they would know how bravely his prayer wheel kept whirling against the force of the winds that night.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Chand Munda Saga - I

This story is from the fifth chapter of 'Durga Saptshati'. I have tried to translate the original work to the best of my abilities.
All the brilliance is Hers. All faults are mine.

Indra paced in his room. His brows were knit together, fists clenched and you could hear the clouds rumbling as he gritted his teeth.
The asuras had done it again. After the slaying of Mahishasura, He had hoped that they would have learnt their lesson. Hoped that they would lie low and not create chaos. But no, they raised their heads again and again.
Each new one would be more proud, vain, haughty and cruel that the last one. And this time, there were two of them. Shumbh and Nishumbh. These sons of Kasyapa and Danu, had indeed crossed all limits.

Indra looked all around Him. What used to be the royal court, was now a ruin. Surya, Chandra, Vayu, Kubera, Varuna and even the mighty Yama! They had all been stripped of their powers and disposed off.
There was no other way now. They must call upon the One.
She had given her word that she would appear, whenever called upon. She would stand by the Devas in times of calamity. It was time for the vow to be fulfilled.

                                                            *          *            *
The winds raged on Himavat, the lord of the mountains. There was an eerie calm up here, the silence that usually precedes the storm. You could see the Devas standing near the waters of Ganga. Their heads were bowed, arms raised in salutation and eye glittered with hope.
And as their united voice echoed in the valleys of Himavat, the entire world stood still. The Devas sang to Aparajita ( The undefeatable one).

"We prostrate before the one who is the most loving and the most terrible.
We bow to you, you who support the entire world.
You are the very essence of volition, O Devi.
You are the one named Vishnumaya.
 You abide in all beings as the consciousness, intelligence, sleep, hunger, reflection, power, thirst and forgiveness.
You are what forms caste, modesty, peace, faith, beauty, destiny, energy, memory, comapassion and contentment.
You are the Divine Mother, the error ( for truth and error are both forms of the Goddess), you watch over all the three elements.
Oh Isavari, we call upon you. You the one who brings all things auspicious. Come and free us of our hardships"

The echoes of their words had not even died out, when they heard the tinkling of anklets. As they turned around, they saw the figure of Parvati approaching Ganges. She raised those exquisite brows of hers and asked,
" O Devas, who is it that you pray to? with such intensity and devotion"

As if in reply to her question, there sprang from a light from her body. Before the very eyes of the awestruck Devas, the ray carved itself into the figure of Ambika.
"They are addressing the prayer to none other than me. For Shumbh and Nishumbh have threatened the entire world with their atrocities"
This form of the Ambika had been born of Parvati's physical body (Kosa), and would be remembered as Kausiki.
As Kausiki spoke these words and the Devas prostrated in front of Her .. Parvati herself had turned dark . This darkened Parvati would be called Kalika and forever reside on Mount Himalaya forever.

However, the Devas were not the only ones adoring Ambika. From behind the mountains, two pairs of Asura eyes looked down upon the entire group assembled there.
Chand and Munda turned to each other and grinned. This was something that both the masters (Shumbh and Nishumbha )would be very interested in.