Archives for category: spirituality

Since childhood we had a very spireitual and mystical atmosphere at home. My father devoted the mornings to meditation and prayer. His Isht Dev ( principal deity for worship) was the lord Vishnu, revered in India and Hinduism as being one of the trinity of creator sustainer and terminator at the end of a cycle. He is also regarded as one who reincarnates from time to time when the equilibrium in creation is disturbed and anarchic and evil forces begin to overun the world. He therefore descends as a saviour on the material plane and some primary examples are Rama, Krishna and the Buddha.

Sometimes we would join him in the prayer room to hear passeges from the Tulsi Ramayan, the great poetic masterpiece of the epic of Rama’s life and deeds, which he explained with great fervour. He was a philosopher and mystic and author of books like  Introspections onthe Gita and essays on the Upanishads. In other words well versed in the scriptures, the Vedas, Upanishads Puranas epics and and Hindu mythology. And he would often launch into spiritual lectures on the nature of Atma (the soul) and paramatma (the supersoul or God).

The room housed a special alter. An exquisitely carved wooden temple about three feet high which housed a statue about a foot and half of solid silver. Its dress of brochades would be lovingly changed each day and perfumes applied to this beloved statue. He also got a solid gold crown made which sat on its head adding to its beauty and workmanship.

Silver statue of lord Vishnu

We learnt later that the statue had been commissioned by him in Baroda entrusted to the finest silver sculptor and craftsman. When ready its Pran Prathishta (holy consecration) was undertaken there at a special event with numerous pundits through a Haven, sacrificial fire, where my parents sat together ‘to bring the spirit of the lord to descend into the statue’. This prayer is a must at all temples before a Deity is installed there for prayer. As kids we were also briefly required to attend the Puja, ritual prayer in accordance with the scriptures.

The holy consecration of the statue. we kids in the right corner witnessing the awesome event

This fervour on the part of my father had an origin. When he was a kid on one occasion he had a vision of bright circular light in which he descerned a bluish form which he later felt was that of Vishnu. Later in life he therefore arranged to bring the deity of the vision home. When the beautifully crafted statue, a work of art, arrived he was amazed to find that it appeared quite like his vision. after that he was inseperable from it.

close up of head of Vishnu statue

A likeness of the vision he retained in a painting from the famed Gita Press, which is below.

They say in Hindu traditions that God craves our love more than we his grace and blessings. The most important attribute of prayer is not seeking his protection or demanding any favours  but feeling a deep love for Him as the saints Meera Tulsi Sur Kabir Nanak Raidas Bule shah Shahbaz kalandar Rumi Yahya Teresa Joan of Arc Francis of Assisi. Their distinguishing feature was not only prayer  compassion faith and theological investigation but above all communion through pure unadulterated LOVE through service poetry song and dance.

When even an ordinary person, no saint, expresses devotion and love without any other purpose there can come a response which is unexpected and amazing.

This response to your love can come suddenly, like my father’s vision for a sincere motherless child who cared deeply, or in curing the incurable and miracles of sight, restoration of vision lost, movement for the parapelegic or paralytic, restoration of speach for the dumb, great works of art and science and you name it. Miracles are well known but not so well known that it flows from your undemanding love and His urgent response because He is after all the greatest lover. Witness his impeccable Creation, not just life and our Earth but the grand universe in all its majesty. An act of unimaginable love.

Other displays of his love come in Christ on the cross -”forgive them for they know not what they do” or the force that gave prophet Mohammad the revelation of the Holy Quran, or Krishna’s sermon to Arjun his friend and love, on the nature of Himself His creation and the secrets of the nature of the soul, or the Buddha’s sermons on  how to overcome suffering or through saints for relieving suffering  and caring for the dying and disabled or even for ways to create awareness of the environment in which we live and pollute, for helping us advance in sciences to relieve our incapacities and ailments, to, in a word, enjoy his creation – all out of sheer love which we all need to respond to in some way. I wonder who has not seen the extent of such array of miracles and bothered to attribute it to his love, let alone our response to it

Shri Rama

Hindustani devotional music is based on Ragas and shares many elements with it. Those which create a participation with the audience or congregation rather than being a solo performance are called Kirtans or Dhuns. They are  simple unlike Bhajans which allow the presentation of a great poetic creation by sages saints and artists in song and music. The Kirtan just picks up one or two phrases in praise of the avatars or the supersoul (Param atma) and through a repetitive chant seeks to arouse ones spiritual emotions to levels of ecstacy and communion. Another feature of the kirtan is the echoing repetition of the leading chant by the congregation or audience following the master or Guru. This dual rendering adds volume richness and fervour to the chant creating a mesmerising effect. Kirtans are sung in temples before the diety on festivals and even without one, at village gatherings, and in urban areas by religious organisations for the devout. Often the mystical mood of communion is enhanced by singing the chant in a Raga which empowers the event with divine emotions and fervour.

It is quite interesting how this form of devotional music has travelled to the West. Today a modified version of the Kirtan with phrases in praise of Rama and Krishna has become popular in the English speaking world. A prime example is the HAREKRISHNA movement started by the sage Prabhupad. their signature Kirtan is Hare krishna Hare rama, rama rama krishna kreishna These sessions arouse a great devotional ardour in communion and worship even when the audience is not Hindu. A prime example is that of a pioneer who has adopted the name Krishna Das. He is a Jewish resident of long Island who happened to travel to India and was deeply influenced by An indian Guru. The Guru asked him to return home which finally he did reluctantly. Then to overcome his failings and addictions when in deep depression he sought to seek solace in Kirtans and found relief. Following this he began composing Kirtans which became popular on the media with a growing following. Some of his works earned him a nomination for the grammy awards. and today he is a celebrity and leading light in Kirtan presentations and participations.

When i posted an essay on the Classical North Indian Raga system of music which is often etherial and having to do with communion, I was asked if kirtans were in any way related to this traditional musical system. I replied in the affirmative. Because of this growing esoteric devotional growth of Kirtans in the West I thought I should present an album which in my view epitomises the spirit of the kirtan and helps in understanding why it has this amazing captivating quality which carries you to ethereal and mystical heights of communion. I was so deeply moved by it framed in Ragas and hypnotic praise of the Godhead that i felt compelled to share it with those who had been effected by the concept of kirtan in finding solace and communion of a rare intensity. Like all kirtan music it seeks to praise the great Avatars  and seek ecstatic communion with them . This album is sung by the great musical masters of Hindustani classical music which greatly enriches the experience with their sonorous voice and technique. I hope all in the East and West will find something extraordinary in it both for the Raga music, the chants and the fact that it seems to move our very souls in participation and worship.

This is being shared from YouTube This melodic theme is in raga Jhinjoti, a famous melodic structure that takes you immediately into communion. Some listeners have been moved to tears by its emotional power of love for the absolute.

The celebrated legend TANSEN one of emperor Akbar’s 9 jewels the vocal singer of Hindustani classical music in his court in the 16th century.

INTRODUCTION

From my teens onwards forms of classical Hindustani music have had a unique influence on my mind, emotions and spirituality.  It began with bhajans which transported me to heights i didnt fully understand as a boy. When later i heard classical Hindustani music both instrumental and vocal, it seemed to have an even enhanced effect. Notes or Swaras sung professionally, particularly the long pauses on a single note would have a transporting effect even greater than a bhajan composition. I then realised that the frequency of a single note alone had such a unique power to infiltrate your very being. Later when heard the progression of notes in a scale or sargam (7 notes of the scale) i thought i had stumbled on a gold mine. Each was captivating, different, meaningful in its own way and effected me touching parts of me that i had never discovered or thought about. Later when I heard a classical rendering of the interplay of notes in a concert where a raga was being expounded I felt quite overwhelmed because if the persistance on a single musical note could be so endearing how much more would be their progression or combination. I was so to speak floored. It was then that i realised the strenghth and potency of India’s great incomparable music traditions that had percolated every aspect of our beings from folk songs to prayer, reciting of mantras to joyous dance music and the intonations of Om in prayer, devotional songs for communicating with the great superspirit, In a word the ultimate in mystical experience. These magical notes of music that make you fall in love, sooth you in longing, give peace and tranquility, help you in grief, raise your spirit to unbelievable heights. this magic of the Swara and their progression, and finally their interactions in amazing miraculous combinations producing melodies, exquisite art and soul stirring elevations to heights you never imagined where you could weep love have hair raised to their ends feel sublime communion or wonder at the possibilities that nature and its sounds could engender.

Kushiki Chakravarti a rising star of hindustani classical vocal music with outstanding performances in Khayal Thumri and bhajans etc

In Indian interpretations of the act of creation Sound rather than Light was the primary source of creation. Thus the resonating Om that filled the universe with its sonic presence and the rest followed.

No surprise how tones (notes) Swaras have an individual  primal significance of their own. when they are weaved into a melodic theme it therefore becomes the ultimate ecstacy.

Another great exponent of Hindustani classical vocal music PARVEEN SULTANA

Indian classical music traditions were conceived at the dawn of civilization. The great Rishis and sages the pristine philosophers of this culture who contemplated meditated and found essential truths of Being in all its aspects, writing profound intuitive understanding of Truth through scriptures and treatises arriving to enlighten us to this day, also discovered the essence of Sound as a primal element in creation. Dwelling on this they formulated a complex musical system which was no less than the words of their great poetry and prose on the nature of being and spirit. They related this discovery to the rest of their findings and thus arose the great classical traditions of Indian music carrying forward from century to century to the present day. it is remarkable how detailed their research and creativity must have been to produce such a grand tradition of music. no less than their equally profound interpretation of the solar system and the universe around us, through the other science of astrology. all related to our material existence and its relationship with the spiritual and metaphysical world, in a word with god, the creator.

A legend of Instrumental classical hindustani music

UNITED KINGDOM – FEBRUARY 12: BBC STUDIO Photo of late Ravi SHANKAR, playing sitar, performing on ‘In Concert’ BBC TV show (Photo by Tony Russell/Redferns) Great master of the Sitar

I feel strongly that in India it is not just scriptures and prayer or worship and ritual that carry you to spiritual understanding and heights of piety but Sound, Music and its vehicles like Bhajans,  Ragas, Khayals, Thumris Kavallis, Nats even Ghajals,folk songs and for the commonest, Bollywood creations by great musical composers that transport us from the mundane to the etheral in our daily lives. Music gives us communion both with each other on this plane and with much more on other planes.

With this rather emotional prelude i would like to dare to unravel for the layman the genius of our classical musical traditions. In this i am greatly handicapped for neither being a musician nor some one with great knowledge of this intricate and complex system beyond confessing that it has deeply effected every aspect of my life and overwhelmed me with its power and beauty.

I really don’t know how to begin or where to begin. It is presumptuous to even try. But what has been so overpowering through my life I need to share the best i can.

SWARAS

Basically one must realise that sound has to be of a certain frequency to be within the range of human hearing. A musical note, Swara is pleasing to the ear because it is constant, remaining at a given frequency represented in a unit of measure called Hertz or Hz, the cycle in a second. This uniformity in frequency of a sound is a musical note’s characteristic. Any noise is not uniform and its waves are chaotic. That is Basically the distinction between music and noise. Like the colours of a spectrum, VIBGYOR, there are seven notes in both Eastern and western music. The seven musical notes constitute a scale. most of us are familiar with the SARGAM , Sa Re Ga ma Pa Dha Ni .

SAPTAK

In music the range of human hearing allows ten Octaves of eight notes each. The second octave is considered the most common one for singing and playing music. In the west it is called the C Major Key. In India it is called the Madhya saptak.  It denotes the Middle voice Register or the medium pitch The one below is of lower frequency and is called the Mandra saptak, whereas the third the highest frequency is called the Taar Saptak. If you sing Sa Re Ga etc from the lower octave you will reach the scond octave Sa and can continue to sing the succeeding six notes as the second Octave till you reach the third Octave Sa and proceed to sing the next six notes together forming the sargam at the third level. Most artists and performers can sing or play with facility in the middle, the madhya saptak(Octave) starting from its Sa to its Ni for starters.But depending on their individual ‘PITCH’ ( ability to sing higher or lower, depending on the capacity of their vocal chords) they could either go into the next Octave to some extent, or go down into the lower Octave to the extent they can. which means that they can move from  the middle and on to the the higher octave or stray into the lower, depending on their pitch ability.

The frequency of a note in the first of our octaves is half that of the same note in the next octave. in short the Madhya Saptak notes are double of their counterparts in the Madra saptak and the corresponding notes in the next  or third saptak are double in frequency to that of the preceeding madhya saptak. The pitch of the notes rises as we move from one saptak to the next. Thus in the first the sound is deep or low , in the second it is medium or natural and in the last it is a high pitch.

The scale in an Octave need not be restricted to seven notes or swaras but include the seven main pitches plus five more half way between two main frequencies. This is because while two notes, Sa and Pa, are constant (called shudha), not capable of variation the others are variable. So Re (the second note) Ga (third note) Dha ( the sixth note) and ni (the seventh note have subnotes just before them (lower), These frequencies between the preceding and the following, are called Komal or soft notes of the one following them. in the west this Komal is called FLAT. It is neither like the following shuddha or Natural, nor like the preceding shuddha but in between in frequency and sound effect. Now we are left with Ma the forth swara(note). here there is a slight twist. It has no preceeding seminote but instead has a higher seminote and that is called Tivra or in the West as SHARP. Its Hz is higher than that of the natural shuddha Ma.

The reasons why i am going into these apparently unneccesary details is that NOW we do not have merely 7 notes or swaras in an octave but with 4 additional FLATS and 1 additional SHARP, the total adds up to 7 shuddha, 4 komals, and 1 Tivra, making a total of 12 shrutis or seminotes rather than only 7 full notes or swaras!! Each octave therefore becomes a 12 seminote octave or  a 7 full tone octave whichever way you would like to look at it. This is so both for indian and Western music. But Hindustani classical music goes further in exploring tonal variations. It holds that there are actually not 12 but 22 variations with additional subtle barely audible frequencies interspersed between notes. We can ignore this refinement as too subtle for the ordinary music lover. but that is not so for the maestros whose ability surpasses even our desire to appreciate nuances.

Indian music is basically melodic with unbelievable variations and improvisations. Let me explain.

THE THAAT

Basically the backbone of indian Classical music is the concept of the Raga. but before we examine that let us see what are the structural basis of the Ragas. We have seen that there are initially 7 swaras or notes in three octaves, but the variations of sound in practice give us 12, flat and sharp or Komal and Tivra, adding up to 12 for each octave. Two Shuddha swaras are unchangable The Tonal Sa with which the artist begins and ends and the Pa which demarcates the two sections of the Sargam The other 5 Shuddha swaras can variate by being preceded by a Flat or komal note at lower resonance. This addition of 5 more swaras or notes enriches music beyond our conception as lay people. I have always been intrigued when the komals and the tivra notes are heard because it takes us at a tangent we did not expect both surprising and elevating the musical experience. While we are quite familiar with the natural, Shuddha notes  of the sargam we are not with the additional 5. Its like an artist familiar with 7 colours but is he conversant with the  colour between say BLUE and GREEN? OR YELLOW AND ORANGE? OR EVEN MORE SUBTLE BETWEEN VIOLET AND bLUE. Most artists are, which makes them artists. same is the case with indian classical celebrities. they have an ear so fine tuned from practice and training that a so called music lover would be more or less DEAF to, no matter his love and understanding of music. Ok so the indian system allows 22 shrutis against the 12 of the West and also the normal indian performer. But the genius of some performer would have a different  story to tell because he utilizes all the 22 Shrutis in his rendering at concert when his art impels him to to touch not merely 7 of the novice or 12 of those more advanced. If you can hear the 22 in a concert you are a real music lover who knows, if not it is sufficient for your enjoyment to be confined to 12 and if not that even then best to confine yourself to 7, no harm done to your aesthetics or enjoyment of the concert.

Now let us move deeper in unravelling the basic structures before we move on finally to Ragas. Ragas are the product of the genius of abcient Indian culture and civilization. Muysical notes were combined in such a way as to reflect every emotion from love to yearning, prayer to communion, pathos to consolation, joy to exhiliration, sorrow to comforting, appreciation to understanding, meditation to enlightenment; merely on the basis of weaving a tapestry of sounds. The ragas have a hypnotic effect on all audiences transporting them in several ways from their mundane existence to another realm of being. and artists rendering them are to be revered for practicing a difficult discipline 5 hours a day for at least 20 years before their very souls participate in the exercise. The audience becomes fortunate in sharing the artists inner attainments and experience of moods, emotions, feelings and metaphysical growth which seek to take him where the artists aesthetic and spiritual journey the Ragas have managed to take him. That is a gift from the artist to a lover of music.

In the west there are what are called MODES. These are a progression of selected notes that form a skeleton on which you can build a musical theme. It is similar to concepts in Indian music (classical north indian). Essentially North indian Classical music dwells on notes or Swaras which have the power to captivate or mesmerise you with their resonance. Every Swara has to be respected for the different effect it has on your psyche. And let me tell you they all have. Each note like colours of a spectrum effects you deeply in one way or another. That is even before they are applied to a grand master’s painting. Each color, every note is  a masterpiece of the creators imagination.  When you mix colors and apply them then as an artist you contribute your genius to the one provided by the creator.

The great value of a note or swara must be fully understood through your innate aethetics. and skills of appreciation. The great sages of yore in India understood this and devised combinations as eternal musical ‘PARENT melodies. These are called THAATS. Simply put, they are  musical combinations of notes which create a special flavour or ambience, whether emotional seasonal or metaphysical which will stand for all time.  Each Swara combination in my view is something as fundamental as our numerous emotions and feelings.

There are`10 THAATS with the 7 swaras or 7 of the 12 shrutis, however you like to describe them, combining them in a manner to create a primal mood, of pathos, celebration. communion ,love, longing, detachment, exhilaration, prayer etc These were to be the fundamental Swara/Shruti combinations to evoke modes and emotions and not unlike meditation practices to elevate your spirit. A Thaat selected 7 notes from the  12 semitones. We find when observing the Thaats that in the selection of seven notes they selected some pure natural or full notes, some Komal or flat rather than the full one and some Tivra or sharp in a unique combination of the seven to produce a specific mood or melodic pattern, on which the Raagas will eventually be based though not confined, because unlike the Thaat they have the liberty to omit one or two notes in ascent and descent. Let us hear them:

These pristine structures were provided as a guide, formula or parent source and pattern for further developments of creative efforts.  Basically the 10 are the source of most Ragas. Their structure has 7 swaras each either shuddha (natural or full) Komal (flat or soft) and tivra ( sharp or higher semitone) arranged in succession like a sargam but only in ascending order to capture a mood a flavour or emotion. The Thaat is never sung but reamains there to inspire the production of ragas that carry its essential spirit and ambience to further depths. The ragas inspired by the source are then created to make the Thaats blossom into great musical creations based on those guiding musical alphabets.

THE RAGAS

Now we come to the backbone of Indian classical music – the musical themes that evolved from these parental scales, the RAGAS. The alphabets of the Ragas to weave complex melodies from these basic themes. Basically a Raga chooses some or all of the notes of a Thaat but rearranges its sequence in ascending and desending order. A Raga should not have less than 5 notes in ascent or descent and should not exceed 7 notes, further the Ma and Pa caannot be both omitted.

THE DRONE- TANPURA

A word about an essential accompanying instrument – the Tanpura. This is a drone with four strings that remind the artist of the tonal Sa his starting point in the middle octave, the Pa of the lower octave and the Sa of the higher octave. The strumming of the four helps the artist to remain at the right pitch and not get tonally derailed so to speak. The strumming of the four notes also creates an essential atmosphere before the Raga commences and after it terminates.  to give an analogy, If the raga is the life journey of a person from exploratory infancy to a more regulated faster pace and finally a frenzy of activity, then the Tanpuras drone is like the hum of the universe in the background.

The first stage is selection of notes 5 6  or 7 in number , in ascending order, ‘Aroha’ starting with the tonic Sa reaching the Sa of the higher Octave and like wise 5 6 or 7  in descending order ‘Avroh’ from the Sa of the higher Octave to the tonic Sa. to produce basic melodic patterns.

Other features of a Raga that make it distinct from a mere scale  reflecting the soul of the Raga, are the given Vadi and Samvadi notes. The vadi has to be emphasised by frequent repetition in improvising the notes of a Raga and the Samvadi is the next constant though with lesser emphasis. The Raga thus gets an additional identity or colour when the artists compositions build these two notes into its fabric colouring the melodic composition further with their repeated resonance.

Now in the specific Raga structure we have either all natural  notes in ascent or descent, or variations replacing a Natural note with either flat or  Sharp (only in the case of a Ma), or one or two missing notes in ascent and descent. Each change in the patterns of different Ragas  based on its particular  Parent scale (except that the parent scale has no notes missing) gives the Raga a melodic theme which is unique and effects the listener differently providing varied emotional reactions. 

for those wishing an illustration in Hindi:

For those wishing an illustration in english:

  Raga rules can also emphasize certain notes by requiring them to be prolonged or elongated. Conversely a Raga may only require the artist to barely touch certain notes thereby de-emphasizing them. This is called deergh (long) and alpa (short). Another raga rule provides for phrases to end on certain notes rather than others. This produces its own effect in providing the Raga with its unique characteristic. This is called Nyasa the ‘landing note’.

ORNAMENTATION OF A RAGA

There are several ornamentations to make the Raga more beautiful and able to express emotions. Thus we find a gliding effect between two notes called a meedh. many vocalists and instrumentalists extend a note to continuously proceed or glide to the next which gives the melody a special beauty. There are several other ornamentations which make the ragas more appealing and endearing which we cannot go into here. When you hear meastros like Ravi shanker and Ali akbar you find them using these techniques which make the listener quite ecstatic. Note this when hearing their performances shown at the end. 

The rendering of a raga  does not confine to dwelling on the notes or swaras but also singing them or playing them without words or poetic phrases but actually engaging in naming notes as one improvises them – a full mastery of knowledge of notes utilised either by just singing them -aa aa up and down, or by naming them in melodic succession  – Do re so la si me pha so la ri ma pha  etc. an amazing display of virtuosity and understanding of notes in the raga scale!!

THE ALAP (PRELUDE)

 With a full grasp of all these features of a particular Raga The artist then begins an alap or slow movement touching the permitted notes in ascent and descent. The aim is to feel and examine each note in full measure, its resonance and timbre.  the exploration of a raga by the artist begins with slow movements of an Alap without any percussion instrument. Whether vocal or instrumental the Alap helps the artist to get the feel of each note individually in the Raga. this is done by prolonging the note  or notes with pauses on each to immerse himself in its particular resonance and sound. Each note that i hear in a concert in alap mesmerises me for its quality of resonance its pitch and the feelings it stirs within me. Each note is a different experience in itself and evokes different feelings even before it has been spun into a ragas musical melody. That indeed is the quality and capability of a musical note as opposed to just sound as noise.  The artist at alap stage is like a child who for the first time is experiencing different audio visual  interactions and learning about the world around him. so also the artist begins to familiarise himself with the environment of notes of a Raga. The raga is actually like a person he seeks to get to know intimately.

If one note can produce such responses  and stir emotions you can imagine what two in succsession will do and what the totality of a range of specific notes in ascent and desenct can, to arouse in you all manner of feelings and emotions which you cannot even comprehend fully or name. As the notes explored seep into the artists being and mind and their corelationship his mind begins to combine them in patterns that arise from his creativity, thought and emotion. To give you an example -when i hear a shuddha or complete and natural note followed by an unexpected flat or komal succeeding note it carries me to a different plane. While i am familiar with the shuddh or full note, that following seminote has a strange unfamiliar magic to modify or change my particular emotion produced by the familiar note of the octave. For instance i am familiar with the scale which is all natural 7 notes with no variations – i have heard it over and over again since childhood. But when suddenly that sequence produces a flat or sharp note in the melody it is transforming as if instead of looking at a beautiful desert landscape suddenly i find a waterfall at its end. dont know how to explain this further. When the Raga unfolds fully in ascent and descent with its surprising modifications or variations in notes, and even more when one or more note is absent the whole picture of my emotions changes completely to another level even more enthralling.  It is like meeting a person with certain characteristics but devoid of other basic ones. and that totally changes the nature of a person you may encounter.

That is the magic of the Raga system. Omission of notes from the 7swaras or modifications of same notes into Komal and Tivra in the melodic pattern produce breath taking effects – that is the magic of sound and melody. In Hindustani music these melodic combinations can prodce feelings of the onset of spring or monsoons, prayer and meditation on the absolute, love, yearning and pathos at seperation, learning the truth of existence, communion with a beloved godhead (Meera bhajans) praise and appreciation of the creator’s and His Avatar’s qualities. In some khayals (Vocal classical) the artist pauses over the word Rama for instance giving it an extended prolonged mesmerising note and variating it for as long as 5 minutes till the full aspect of the avatar can shine before you.

As the artist continues beyond the alap (prelude) stage he reaches a faster pace  introducing some element of tempo (laya) even without a percussion instrument or Tal. This stage is called Jod. The next stage is Taan or fast tempo conclusion of the Alap. Next comes the Bandish.  For vocal music it is a literary composition or bol sung as a part of the Raga.

 The raga is not merely a singing of a melody in ascent and descent in fixed progression but superimposed are couplets, like:” Shyam  Bhaye Ghansyam na Aa ye mere dwar”

Krishna the dark one has not come to my door though it is dark, a plaintive love lorn Radha says for her beloved. Love and spirituality combine in one to find union with the supersoul. The singer artist dwells on the word Shyam (evening dark like Krishna the playful romantic Avatar) during the Raga rendering with several enthralling melodic patterns till we know that Shyam can be  expressed in the variations of a note. the same phrase is repeated again and again in permutations and combinations of the melody with given rules of the ragas ascending and descending order till we are fully absorbed by the poetry and  melody so combined as to produce an ecstatic effect. These Bols or verbal short sentences are suprerimposed on many Ragas to add meaning and particular emotion to the play of a Ragas melody.

From the basic Melodic theme of a Raga derived from a mode or Thaata, arise not just one melody created by the ascent and descent of prescribed raga notes  but related innumerable melodies in the duration of a performance. Not one basic melody that defines a Raga but numerous melodies and variations with the supreme improvisations that an artist is capable of. That is the magic of the Raga system. Creativity and improvisation on the spur of the moment produce such melodic composisions that composers of written music may not be able to do with their fixed great compositions. These amazing creations in music reamain lost to posterity because the  indian classical tradition does not record or know how to write down compositions like their wester conterparts. the music flows and is finally lost. But the compositions of the ancients remain in the Ragas  structures forever.

Back to the concept of Bandish. When the artist has explored the swaras of a raga thoroughly in the first section of the alap called vistir and increased the pace (laya) between them in the second stage the Jod of the alap he further increases the laya pace or tempo till the the Alap finally concludes at the stage called a taan.

BANDISH

Then is introduced the literature or poetic phrases at the next stage the Bandish (binding together). Now the raga has three elements. bound together, the swaras or notes/tones, the pada or bol, the phrases which reflect a mood inherent in the raga, and the Tal or rhythm of the percussion accompanying instrument the tabla etc. This too has three layas or tempos, the slow, vilambit, medium, madhya laya and the fast drut. Together the three elements in perfect synch reflect the very soul of the raga, the musical, the literary and the beat.

TAALS

A word on the Tals. briefly they include 16 beats the popular teen tal, the 12 beats the ek tal and the 10 beats the jhaptal. there may be others but for our understanding of rhythm this should suffice as an illustration.

The great tabla exponent Allah Rakha Khan and his disciple and son Zakir Hussain

the late Allah Rakha, the genius Tabla meastro.

ZAKIR HUSSAIN  his equally celebrated son

LAYA

We thus find that without a percussion accompaniment the artist can introduce faster tempos(Layas) as in the exploratory alap stage and later as the pace increases and the percussion joins him  he has now to improvise within the beat chosen (Tala). (The Laya is the tempo without percussion instruments while the Tal introduces stricter rhythms for the vocalist or the instrumentalist at a final stage of the rendering of a raga.)

Further his verbal poetic phrases have also to fit into that beat. He has to keep in mind the ragas structure in ascent and descent, notes prohibited, notes Flat or Sharp the Vadi and samvadi notes to be emphasized, the notes where he should land at the end of a melodic structure, and of course the pitch of the Sa in the relevant octave where the entire exercise begins. (here the Tanpura’s role becomes important) Aside from his creativity and genius in improvising within all these multyple elements of Notes, raga rules, pace (Laya) and poetic phrases structured within the confines of the Tal,(beats of different dimensions at different stages) all in perfect sync  to produce the totality of the personality of the raga. This supreme conclusive effort arrives at the stage of the Bandish.

in instrumental rendering of a Raga the only missing element in the Bandhish is the poetic phrase. There the fast paced complex Bandish with Bol is substituted by the Jhalla and finally the Gat, whereas in the vocal it concludes with the fastest, the Drut.

With all these varied features  Ragas are classified based on the number of notes in ascent and desent, (Jati) the Thaat they belong to, their origin from other ragas (family) mixed ragas etc.

We have dwelt a great deal on theory structure and the discipline of Raga music. Now we need to see a raga in practive through a live performance.

EAMPLES OF RAGA PERFORMANCE BY GREAT MASTERS

RAVI SHANKER

First one of the greatest musicians India has produced who performed his last recital at age 92 with oxygen tubes in his nostrils. Pundit Ravi Shanker with his ethereal music and divine improvisations.

KUAUSHIKI CHAKRAVARTI

Second a vocal rendering of a thumri, a lighter form of a raga which however reflects its essence. This is an outstanding performance by the much awarded Kaushiki chakravarti in Mishra Mand a mixed raga with the Pad or bol  full of Pathos: ”You have become heartless my love, someone go and appease him, one who didnt understand my worth, my love the heartless one” said in a hundred different melodic ways playing with notes full or Flat and Sharp and eventully natural fixed perfectly within the different beat structures and naming the notes of which the melodies improvised are so perfectly set.

 AMJAD ALI KHAN- SAROD

Next an instrumental rendering of a Raga by the Master of Sarod music

DEVAKI PUNDIT- VOCALIST

Yet another vocalist the rising star Devaki Pundit gives you a glimpse of all stages of a Raga in her immaculate voice and brilliant improvisation.

USTAD BISMILLAH KHAN

We turn to a rare wind instrument always heard at festive occasions and marriages. Late Bismillah khan shows his genius at rendering plaintive Ragas at London

USTAD ALI AKBAR KHAN- SAROD

There is star of Hindustani classical instrumental music that will never set. His genius is now acknowledged as incomparable.  The Sarod meastro late Ali akbar Khan.

THUS WE CONCLUDE OUR PANORAMIC TOUR OF HINDUSTANI CLASSICAL MUSIC.

All who knew her said that there was something stunning about her beauty. The kind you may find in fairy tales. Every gesture carried with it an inborn grace without effort which further enhanced what had been God given. My father would say that when they walked into a cinema hall or public gathering every head would turn as she passed. There was an inner beauty too which shone out when she smiled or turned her lotus like eyes towards you thoughtfully  piercing unforgettably the innermost elements of your being.

But much later for us we realized it was bestowed on her by nature with a heavy price. She was allowed to enjoy it only for a brief period till her 26th year of life though ironically with full permission to live that short period in a manner which many could not experience in a lifetime. Strange indeed are the ways of providence , quite unfathomable. We can never dare ask questions or receive answers to its mysterious  purposes and overwhelming consequences.

My mother Kamala was born in the fiefdom of Bissau in the region of Shekhawati in Jaipur state in Rajasthan before India’s independence in 1920.

Her father Bishen Singh was an aristocrat Rajput who ruled over that desert fiefdom. He had two wives, the first gave birth to a daughter whom he loved dearly as her mother did not survive her infancy. His second wife from a Jodhpur fiefdom called Chandawal gave him an heir and two daughters. Bishen singh was happy to have a son and heir but when it came to daughters his first born remained his favourite. In this atmosphere  my mother Kamala grew close and inseparable from her brother the heir Raghubir singh who was an Oxford educated handsome favourite of the Jaipur royalty and eventually became ADC to the famed beauty Gayatri Devi the third wife of the maharajah Man Singh.

Thus the influence of modernity percolated from his association with the Jaipurs and provided a window to the west to the young lady and doubtless shaped her thinking away from the confining traditions of Rajput society.

Kamala right with her mother and sister early stoic upbringing

As she grew up she moved from the stoic to the modern outlook influenced by the Jaipur royal house

Adolescent fantasy inspired by Hollywood though she never smoked or drank

This was a time when Purdah or the veil had been virtually set aside and maharanis were riding horses attending balls and roaming the west. and these influences affected the nobility where some had more courage than others.

Her sister was to be married but unfortunately she died of typhoid before the marriage was to take place. her father suggested that she should take her place but she refused making him quite livid. Later her brother who loved her decided that he had to help her find a good connection and knowing my father , his age and generation decided to arrange a marriage which thankfully got sanctified despite the absence of the father at the ceremony where with the sacred fire as witness he gives away his daughter in marriage. It was a patriarchal society which brooked no compromise and defiance of a fathers orders however unpalatable resulted in punitive consequences. Absence of a father to  give away the daughter was considered inauspicious but the presence of her brother the heir made the impossible come about particularly because my father was most attracted to the idea and was his own master as he was a full fledged Raja over a fiefdom. Issues of ego and intolerance were also involved with bishen singh both for the defiance of a mere daughter and the fact that she found a  most eligible spouse who was no less a Raja. He probably felt insulted that despite her disobedience she had found a better match for herself than might have been possible for him to get for her.

Kamala married to Narayan Singh Raja of Masuda

She then became the Rani of Masuda and began her life anew.

pic just after marriage

Her only solace was that her father reluctantly joined the reception thrown after the marriage under pressure from her loving brother.

The marriage reception with her father at extreme right and groom at centre with child in lap

In the feudal past life even for a Rani could be quite challenging though coming from the same background she knew what to expect from living in a fortress in a village. There was of course much activity and many traditional responsibilities to fulfill given her new status. Undoubtedly she would have been relieved that she could marry a young handsome ruler, her own age, rather than fill in  with someone unknown as a replacement for her late sister. Furthermore she neither had to take orders from anyone nor seek favours from others. She was the mistress in complete charge of all she surveyed. My father was totally enchanted by her beauty and personality and hastened to please her in every possible way. His mother having passed away in his infancy there was no imperious mother in law to contend with. She had the valuable asset of total independence and a husbands unwavering love. Yes feudal society demanded women remain behind the veil -‘Purdah’ inherited from Muslim rulers of India. There was no freedom to venture out without arrangements for barriers to prevent others from looking at her and even driving in a car one had to be confined  behind lace curtains. All this she was familiar with but there was no one who could challenge her will to bring about transformations in one way or another. In such situations even the maharanis of major states in Rajputana had little choice but to conform to the stifling traditions of the times. Having felt the whif of change blowing from the Jaipur palace she determined not to lead the life of other ladies in the numerous fiefdoms  but to find ways to have her own way.

The first necessity was to venture out from the fiefdom and explore the world to the extent possible. Bombay shone bright as a place to explore  where film-stars roamed, the great ocean breeze filled your hair, cinemas were aplenty, parties held by  the likes of the Tata industrialists common, race courses filled with the elite, fashion and jewellery the issues of interest, people from all climes and categories to freely mix with without the ‘Purdah’, shopping and grand buildings to view and admire, limousines to acquire and drive around in, hotels like the Taj mahal with their numerous social events and festivities to participate in, Restaurants with exquisite cuisine, french perfumes to buy and use, in a word the window to the modern world of which she had become enamored. Bombay was a magnet not just for Indians but the likes of Australians then and middle easterns, not the squalor it is today. the Parsis and the British turned it into an eastern metropolis with grand stores like Army and Navy  opera houses where great concerts were held ( today it is like a delapilated cinema house) The beautiful Eros cinema at churchgate, race courses, exclusive clubs to envy,  Jewellers of international fame like the Gazdars, clean streets etc etc.

She then proceeded to fire the somewhat inhibited imagination of the new Raja Narayan with no experience of this emerging world and before long they took their first foray to the Gateway to the modern world BOMBAY. There having shopped and acquired a suitable wardrobe, advanced in fashion and perfumery, partied with well wishers and the new gentry wined and dined at the favored jaunts, acquired a Buick  and eight seater red velvet Oldsmobile with liveried chauffeur, found a flat at Mehervan Mansions on the beach front at Pedder Road and settled there they dressed and went to the great Indian cinemas one after another enjoying and learning about the emerging new India far from the fiefdoms and its confinements.

They learnt that it was the practice among the elite to visit Hamilton Studios India’s premiier photographer to be remembered in style by posterity (though real costly). Kamala had seen such pictures from the Jaipur royals and persuaded Narayan that this was not a photographer for passport sized necessities. It was a pilgrimage of sorts  and the done thing. she knew this from her Oxford returned brother now called GEORGE by the jaipur house ( all were named thus with pet names by the the Jaipur house, there were now only Marys Johns Dimples Twinkles Robins Ayeshas Pats Bubbles etc) where those who mattered got themselves preserved for posterity. Narayan had little option but to agree not knowing much better and trusting her judgement – so they began their long association with the famed Hamiltons. his speciality in the days of Black and white photography was to colour the photos expertly so that you never knew even that it was not colour photography. later it became an extinct art which no longer exists. a kind of half way point between an oil painting by the likes of Rembrant and colour photography.

Hamiltons Kamala

posing for posterity

 

 

 

 

HAMILTON STUDIOS BLACK AND WHITE

 

 

portrait by Deware Studios Bombay

 

The days passed and they had to return to Masuda to meet the demands of the fiefdom. The Kamdars were concerned that their Raja had been ‘abducted’ by the Bombay world. When they did return Kamala said she wanted a new home as she could not bear to live in the ancient fortress. So the process began to give her, her dream house. On a hillock opposite the fort a project was conceived to build a villa like the ones one found in Warden Road Bombay.

POSING BEFORE WARDEN ROAD VILLAS IN A HOTCHKISS SPORTS CAR -KAMALA AND NARAYAN ALL SMILES

The best architects were engaged and to furnish it the best interior furnishers of Bombay the Kamdars, so that the Art Deco style could be impressed on both the villa and its furnishings. The hillock was ideal being both in the village and high above it overlooking the village of Masuda and looking at the ancestral fortress. In a year or so the project was completed and narayan and kamala happily moved in.

             The new Art Deco villa at Masuda hilltop Like the Warden road villas

Life then began in Masuda as if they were in Bombay,  with a perfect retinue of servants both from Bissau known to her from childhood and Masuda known to Narayan, with the finest cooks and attendants. People from the neighborhood were delighted to visit them in their stately home decorated with the finest interior decorators and furnishings.. Duck and Pig shoots were organised for British friends in the area and life began to be a splendid mix of East and West. Narayan a lover of the arts decorated his home with fine portraits from Indian  and Chinese masterpieces and art deco vases and Persian carpets. The art Deco furnishings by the Bombay fursnishers added splendour to the ambience. and the couple now lived happily together doing their feudal duties arranging festivities on Diwali, Holi and Navratra, paying homage to the gods and their ancestors.

In this perfect ambience they Inevitably  were blessed with their first child in 1940 a beautiful baby girl they decided to call VijayLakshami as that year there was all round productivity and prosperity.

Mum and first child Vijaylakshmi

They were joyous with their first born whom they pet named nakki because when people asked her what her name was instead of Lakshmi she would say nakki.

The Rani was now in full bloom with a first born, happily in love with Narayan., as people said they were a perfect couple named Narayan and Kamala, like the lord Vishnu and his consort Lakmi, known as Narayan and Kamala.

However people as they always do, particularly in fiefdoms. demurred that they wanted to see an heir. The happy couple deeply in love then gave them what they wanted. In 1941 Kamala gave birth to a son, the heir to the joy of all concerned.

Kamala and me

Now with a loving marriage a daughter and son and heir, a desired place of residence, so beautiful and well decorated in the village of Masuda, the couple visited Bombay again to crown their happiness. There was  another upcoming studio this time Indian known as Deware Art Studio a Maharashtrian studio where they sought to get themselves photographed. The result below:

with a daughter and son they felt fulfilled

Once again having done all their duties diligently and provided progeny and heir for the fiefdom The couple left for their window to the world Bombay with their children. . Studio photos shows how the couple and kids loved this.

Happy Family -mother and son smile father and daughter appear serious

 

HAPPY FAMILY COURTESY HAMILTON IN COLOUR

By 1941 already three precious years had passed in a state of blissful happiness. But time was running out and the clock ticking away the minutes.

On return to masuda she then sought to assume greater responsibilities and helped the retinue of female attendants who had accompanied her from Bissau by finding well placed grooms for them in Masuda fiefdom. In those days it was the practice for ladies to bring their maids and companions with them so that they felt secure in the new home and not be subject to the machinations and intrigues which inevitably arose in royal houses. It was also the practice to make them settle permanently in the grooms home by getting them married to the grooms servants, aides and officials. She would often be seen surrounded by her retinue on a throne at the villa receiving petitions from the village folk (women) seeking to resolving their problems .

During festivals and receiving petitions on her throne Portrait by DEVARE STUDIOS BOMBAY

We should remember that even for the royals, life in the forties was not without its challenges. India had yet to gain Independence, the British were the overlords and to compound matters the Second World War had begun with d the fiefdoms being required to contribute to the war effort. Even for daily needs a special effort had to be made as provisions got reserved by the authorities for the war effort. For instance ghee was not easily available even for a Raja. In many of her letters Kamala would be pressing her husband to arrange essential supplies. Limousines booked from the USA got delayed on the high seas. Marriages had to be celebrated with economy and due restraint.Visiting Sahebs and dignitaries had to be suitably entertained and given  appropriate respect. In all this the Rani had a crucial role to play despite the limitations of the war years. The fact that her relations with her father were strained did not help matters and as far as i know he never visited her in Masuda nor encouraged her beloved brother and sister in law to do so. Neither did she visit her ‘Maika’, mother’s home. All these misunderstandings created stress and unhappiness. in india the practice of caring for daughters after their wedding and departure are known to be fundamental duties of parents rich and poor. With no natural mother in law to guide, despite the advantages of such an absence, rejoice at birth of progeny, participate in festivities in a customary manner and with her own parents distant and aloof she had to rely on the sole support of her loving husband. But that too could be challenging for a very young couple in their twenties with no elders to lean upon when differences arose. Further she gave birth in quick succession to a daughter and son in just two years. No one to advise with nursing help or experience in these matters except for trusted maids. My father then got her a British nanny which must have been a great relief. After I was born he managed to get a Jewish Nanny for me.

Kamala then felt inclined to acquire great jewellery the fashion of the times. She wanted the Gazdars to help her have the best. She asked Narayan to allow her to visit the treasury to see what was there. The Kamdars said a woman had never entered there and it was most inauspicious as custom dictated that a woman entering it would mean the loss of the treasury. Kamala insisted and saw all. The jewels worn by our great grand father on ceremonial occasions were taken out and handed to the Gazdars to make into modern jewellery for  ladies. these were priceless uncut emeralds which then were turned into chokers with diamonds. Thus the jewellers helped her wear what she wanted.

The war, two quick kids, settling in a new palatial home and managing it along with her duties as Rani for petition seekers, and visiting Sahebs whom she could not meet and the absence of parental concern did not defuse her passion for a glimpse of the outside world. The visits to Bombay continued and this time visits to Hamilton with kids. They of course travelled in luxury by Saloon class and met the outside world in the Dining car. There the curious Kamala looked at everyone present despite dads admonishings that it was not polite and no Purdah restrictions were not any excuse. Dad said more than her everyone in the dining car glued their impertinent eyes on her, but she remained unabashed. This time in Bombay she had the good fortune of meeting up with her darling brother. As usual he kissed her all over the face and she drove with her sister in law through Bombay enjoying the sites and happy to have such special company. During this visit ‘George’ Bissau introduced his sister and bro in law to friends who like him were modern and not restricted by feudal custom. Thus she got to befriend none other than the famous film star of Bollywood of the times, Nasim Banu Begum (mother of Saira Banu wife of Dalip kumar) and the Gazdar famous Parsi jewellers with a show window at the Taj. 

About the same time Kamala developed a recurrent cough which would not go away. Narayan , concerned, consulted the best Bombay docs. They diagnosed  pleurisy,and provided medications. We must remember that the circumstances of Kamala’s life, father’s opposition, mothers absence. absence of elders like a sensible Ma in law, youth and innocence of both Raja and Rani, pregnancy year after year, power and plenty without experience to handle it, presence of interested predators in close  confidence, became a deadly combination which the best of us could not have faced even in maturity. The coughing continued shattering the idyllic life led so far. No one knew what to do or what advice to receive. Narayan, motherless had no clue and given his background relied more on the occult than modern medicine. Narayan was always very spiritually inclined with prayer, fasting and rituals. not unlike other Feudal lords. They suspected the modern, the west, and the Sahebs, relying more on the magic of the past. Horoscopes, astrological dates for events, determinism of fate and Karma came above all else. Add to that the revelations of obtuse TANTRA and all were taken in by such revelations. Who cared about science the modern world and cures.

As the disease progressed within 2 years and turned into the dread diagnosis of Tuberculosis, very common at the time like Covid now, even the likes of the eminent Jawaharlal Nehru’s wife also called Kamala was a patient of TB. At the time there was no cure for this dread disease and a  diagnosis constituted a death sentence like the present day Cancer pronouncement, The happy environment collapsed and reliance on faith grew as medical science appeared to have nothing to offer.Both Kamala and Narayan’s mental state became totally irrational and reliance on faith an obsession. They travelled by train to Dhamngaon a village in Maharashtra where a great sage Mungsajimaharaj resided to seek his protection and blessings. He was what people called a Sidh with great powers  and he became their spiritual guide and Guru.  But the connection with Tantra continued. Meanwhile the Bombay doctors, eminent physicians like Dr BALIGA warned that whatever was available and all due precautions should be followed. But the couple still in their twenties insisted that faith was more important. A stage arrived when their tantrik advisers stated that  modern medicine and cures should be discontinued and reliance placed solely on Tantrik cures and magical rituals. They also stated that the problem resided in the ancient jewellery which was responsible for her disease and should be got rid of.

By then both Narayan and Kamala were distraught and unable to handle the situation. They decided first to do away totally with  Allopathic support and rely instead on Tantrik medications and rituals.

the final family two sons and a daughter last pic at HamiltonsAs if this was not enough Kamala got pregnant again and delivered a second son to Narayan in 1944 despite her deteriorating health.

Now only two years were left with the ticking clock. The disease then took full grip of her and without allopathy progressed fast. Finally her mother came over and remained beside her ailing daughter at Bombay. But this was little consolation as she would constantly complain of inconveniences till Kamala has to tell her to go back which of course she did not.

Meanwhile we the two sons and daughter were dispatched to a villa at Baroda to be away from infection and continue our studies at Rosary High School. My sister was in fact even allowed to pursue Piano lessons as was the practice among the royals. A full retinue of servants and staff were of course provided with a governess  in overall charge.

Kamala then gave away the ancestral jewellery to save her from the inauspicious. The Kamdars at Masuda thought that their Raja had gone mad. With no allopathy, and the discovery of streptomycin still some years into the future  there was yet no cure for TB

 Kamala then entered the final stage of the disease with much suffering aided only with Tantrik powders mixed with brandy, and unable to tolerate her mothers presence and unhelpful complaints. She even asked to see her dear beloved brother but he was advised against it because they knew he would as was his wont kiss her and ineviably the dread infection would be passed on.  so he never came to see her on her death bed and finally she tragically breathed her last with a hand extended to heaven before releasing her soul to God on 10th October 1946 at the tender age of 26. Just before that she expressed her final wish, to be able to see her second son for one last time.  He, Mohan  was brought from Baroda where we were confined in a villa  to Bombay by an attendant from Bissau and she saw him finally and bade goodbye. My father as a final gesture of love dressed her as a bride for the cremation replete with jewels. She was cremated in Bombay and my father more or less lost his mind in grief.

As for us we had no clue of what was happening and only later came to the flat at Bombay, being told that she had gone to the Himalayas to pray and would shortly be back. So we waited with abated breath for that to happen. Every time the flat bell rang we rushed to the door to see her but she was never there. The many pictures of her by Hamilton and Deware helped us to know what she was like. She remained a young lady throughout our lives, beautiful and unattainable.

Unfortunately we never shed a tear and were denied even grief, So she became our eternal desire unfulfilled to this day.

Us three, some 8 years later

LAST PHOTO TAKEN – A RITUAL LUNCH TO WARD OFF EVIL AND SAVE HER LIFE

Immune system, protection, immune defense ,virus, bacteria

We are only aware of the world around us.  Often some of us wonder at the world within i.e. The micro biological universe or the sub atomic worlds of matter. Biology and medical science explore the first and  Physics and Atomic Sciences the next. Both amazing and fascinating aspects of creation which are at the root of the visible macro world with which we are familiar and in which we lead our lives oblivious of the other world deep within.

Here let us explore the biological universe within us which makes us keep alive and defends us beyond our imagination. Any species survives because of its inbuilt defenses called the immune system. Microbes, bacteria, virus, parasites, fungus protozoa called pathogens are perpetually seeking to invade our organism, multiplying within and consuming it till its demise and transferring to other organisms through techniques of infection.

So too our decaying cells infected cells and dead cells that create the debris in our system  which like in any municipal system requires to be cleaned or eliminated. This also includes rebellious cancer cells which have a plan of their own. A rogue created often by our addictions and harmful activities. These rogues in our own organism require to be eliminated no less than the invading pathogen.

I suppose Pathogens have a right of survival in creation as much as we do. Nature allows survival of the fittest, If a pathogen has superior ability to survive, then it will overcome the organism it  infiltrates and be the survivor. If the organism has evolved to withstand this onslaught then it will overcome the pathogens invasion and be the survivor. The human race as also many species of animals and living beings are the organisms that have survived to the present day despite the  war with the micro world of pathogens. If they had not survived we wouldn’t be here like the Dianasores  who became extinct. Extinction is allowed by nature when the victim is weak and has failed to evolve adequate defenses at the level at which pathogens exist in the micro universe.

It is not enough to have strength and muscles to deal with adversaries at the macro level – one organism against the other, though that too is vital, but the ability to deal with micro biological threats is equally important. Else, while you may become supreme as intelligence has made Homo Sapiens it cannot ensure supremacy at the micro level where another form of intelligence comes into play in the game of survival. Survival requires ability to procreate and multiply because organisms are mortal, ensuring survival over millennia. The same yard stick applies to other competitors, this time not at the macro level but at a micro level. Nature (God?) is ambitious but not sparing for the weak whether at macro or micro levels.  Having provided the best with evolution of the cerebral cortex it does not have unquestioned favorites. Its cardinal axiom is SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST not survival of the most worthy, the most beautiful, the most desirable, the most creative or even the most intelligent.

.  Nature is God’s handmaiden to protect and maintain His creation in the form He conceived, and there is no guarantee that He cannot change his mind as with the Gigantic beings of his earlier creations of life forms like the dinosaurs or the early stages of human evolution- The Neanderthal gives way to Homo Sapiens, Who knows whats next. In the process He is possibly not  opposed to his micro level creations and allows them free play in their own evolution. Quite like the mutations that have produced the present level of Homo Sapiens so also mutations at all levels for arriving at the most deserving. Thus His finest product yet, us, are allowed to mutate in like manner to overcome threats to survival of a prize creation, MAN. Lets have a glimpse at how that has become possible for deserving candidates.

Firstly I am no scientist or micro biologist and can claim no expertise other than imagination and free thought as to what may be going on, based on what i have read from eminent findings and research into the biological world of the micro cosmos. All i can do is give a perspective based on my readings and mystical inspiration, for whatever that may be worth. And yes the capability to wonder at this exquisite creation of which i am a part not just at the obvious visible macro world of our lives, but equally at the micro world which possibly holds the real secrets of His intentions both at the Biological level and the atomic or sub atomic levels. His intentions  at the micro level possibly resemble roots of grand trees that produce leaves to feed and flowers to procreate and fruit to  survive to the next generation. So too our roots in the micro level be they threat, defense or survival. His intentions appear to be not merely survival but diversification. The idea of male and female is precisely that – no two fingerprints should be alike. species should be varied, beautiful to behold and more numerous than you can ever imagine. After all that is the wonder of creation whether biological, atomic or the universe of planets, black holes, suns and life forms. Hats off to Him for such a thought about diversification in creation. There is no great achievement in a creation of clones, no great achievement in like rather than dissimilar beings. He is the master creator with imagination beyond our perceptions.

So, with these esoteric and mystical thoughts let us try and understand as an example, what He did to help us evolve our own defense system at the micro level so that our survival as His favorite element in creation would be justified. Here let us ponder over the Covid revolution at the micro level with numerous mutations to see whether it is a challenge to His choice of Homo Sapiens being His single grandest  element in creation. Let us explore the nature of our amazing inbuilt defenses in the game of survival of the fittest.

After reading a range of literature on the subject I feel overwhelmed at the thoroughness and intricacy of the designed or evolved defenses we possess within making us at least for now the fittest survivor on this planet.

That amazing defense is what goes by the name of THE IMMUNE SYSTEM. It is not unlike an army with the latest technology to defeat any invader. There are soldiers, spies and intelligence agencies always on the alert, fortresses where those with special skills congregate, alarm systems to inform  about an invasion, systems and forces to take care of rebellion from within, the ability to detect among millions of inhabitants and workers what constitutes the nation and what is alien, also who has been compromised and has  been forced to collude with the enemy,  what agencies exist to clear the dead and any debris on account of warfare, how to identify the sick and diseased to quarantine or remove them from the state, how to train and coordinate different forces of defense, where to begin recruitment of fresh forces when a threat is perceived,( the bone marrow is not unlike a military Academy training and forming soldiers of different specializations as required by the perceived threat) )how to mark and identify a known enemy, how to register and remember  a former enemy, how to keep meticulous records of sources of threat and be available to identify them when they attack, how to engage in repair of damaged resources after the war and elimination of the enemy, how to utilize  chemical resources available for warfare, how to have different agencies for specific defense needs, Where to train forces to handle every situation that may arise, ad infinitum, to ensure the survival of the state (our organism against all odds).

Rather picturesque in presentation but necessary analogies for laymen to get the full picture of this wonder within us.

The Immune system has two categories. First what is termed the Innate Immune system and next the Adaptive Immune System. The first was what we have always been blessed with for survival against the microbiological enemies. the second is a product of evolution when the innate defenses were rendered stronger and more effective. Together these two aspects of the immune system have made us survive to the present day. Not all living beings have both. some have a modified form of the first but only mammals with jaws have both. Let us now plunge into the facts of what are these defenses.

WHITE KNIGHTS

The cellular inhabitants of this state which is our living organism, have two types, the RBC or red blood corpuscles and the WBC or white blood corpuscles (among other cells like skin heart and brain cells). The first is a kind of worker cell that performs a crucial activity. Transferring vital oxygen from our lungs to the rest of the body.

the workers keeping us alive by transferring oxygen

The latter, white blood cells are different.

Cells of immunity :Leukocyte, lymphocyte, eosinophil, neutrophil, monocyte, basophil dendritic cell Vector illustration on isolated background

They have a range of obligations and duties which include defense from invading pathogens like bacteria, virus, fungus, parasites, protozoa, and internal enemies like aberrant cells that have forgotten their duties are disobedient and wish to do as they please, multiplying at the expense of the host or State. These White Knights as I would like to call them defend against external as well as internal threats to the organism. Something to remember – not all cells can divide. The brain cells and the red cells do not reproduce themselves or divide. Cells die at an appropriate time which is fixed – call it cell suicide while more cells as required are then produced in the bone marrow, what i call the training academy. – all this is highly organised and programmed (except of course the cancer cell which has turned into an alien like the Pathogen who does not have to listen to the body’s dictates and never commits suicide.)

 THE INNATE IMMUNE SYSTEM

 At the Innate Immune system stage of defense the following warriors are available:

White blood cells called Leucocytes

A subdivision called Phagocytes which include Monocytes or Macrophages, Neutrophils and Dendritic white cells meaning cells that attack engulf and dissolve or consume the invading Pathogen. This process of killing the Pathogen through engulfing and consuming is called Phagocytosis, thus their description as  PHAGOCYTES.

Macrophage engulfing bacteria

Neutrophil engulfing bacteria.  infections. Neutrophils are part of the body’s immune response. . They extrude extracellular traps to catch and engulf (phagocytose) and destroy pathogens such as bacteria and viruses, and foreign material that has entered the body.

This defense belongs to our Innate Immune System. The three white warriors of this initial immune system , are not very advanced but very effective in warding off an initial attack.    Monocytes and the most numerous Neutrophils are the white warriors that travel perpetually in the blood stream in pursuit of invading Pathogens while the Dentritic white warriors  explore the external environment to detect presence of invaders at the location of the skin, nose , lungs and stomach and intestines the first barriers which Pathogens have to cross. Neutrophils are the first to arrive at the site of infection where acute inflamation occurs. Monocytes enter damaged tissues and become Macrophages which are the most numerous residents in tissues  and act as scavengers ridding the body of worn out cells and other cell debris not unlike municipal workers.

Neutrophils are the leukocytes found in the largest numbers in the bloodstream and they primarily fight bacterial infections.

Eosinophils are white warriors that specialize in targeting parasitic infections. Eosinophils and Basophils are involved in creating allergic reactions. Both release histamine and other proinflammatory compounds from their granules upon stimulation.

         

BASOPHILS

EONOPHILS

  • Natural killer (NK) cells are lymphocytes that recognize and kill abnormal or infected cells by releasing proteins that trigger apoptosis or cell suicide, vital for elimination of defective, worn out and infected cells..

    NATURAL KILLER CELLS

  • Monocytes are large, mononuclear leukocytes that circulate in the bloodstream. They may leave the bloodstream and take up residence in body tissues, where they differentiate and become tissue-specific macrophages and dendritic cells.

  • All the above warriors are leucocytes and belong to the first army or the innate immune system.

Before proceeding further let us learn what are Antigens and Antibodies.  Every pathogen has a unique molecule which marks it called an Antigen.  An Antibody is a y shaped protein used by the Immune system to identify and mark the pathogen for destruction. The antibody recognizes the unique molecule and binds to it whether it be a Pathogen or an infected cell and thereby tags it for destruction by relevant elements of the Immune system.

antibodies latching on to pathogen’s molecule to identify for destruction

The Innate Immune system ( I I S) and the Adaptive Immune system (A I S) are like two armies that need to coordinate their activity depending on the severity of the threat. The IIS has limited capability in facing the threat despite Phagocyte warriors plus above mentioned other specialists and is the first line of defense. It is able to prevent a menace that has appeared from overrunning the organism on a first onslaught. But this does not eliminate the growing threat from a persistent pathogen only limits its progress.. it then uses its messenger warrior the dentritic phagocite to carry the  antigen from the pathogen to the advanced army of the AIS .

DENDRITIC  WHITE CELLS the third category of Phagocyte warriors   present antigens to our T cells.

Dendritic cells

antigen presenting cell

These white warriors, the T cells play a key role in our ADAPTIVE IMMUNE SYSTEM  and are the most important  white warriors of this evolved immune system. Their origin  are the stem cells in our bone marrow. the T cell warriors  play a central role in eliminating virus infections and Cancer. when about their job they recruit other Leukocytes to the battlefield and help the soldiers to distinguish invaders from  self cells that belong to the host organism.  This  regulatory ability to distinguish alien from host cells to prevent their destruction are  however used by the cunning cancer cells to defend themselves from destruction by T cells. Dendritic warriors of the first army are to be found in the vicinity of the Lymphocytes the more advanced warriors of the modern army because they are always in the process of conveying antigen clues to the advanced warriors the T cells. They also can raise an alarm when a threat is detected in the external environment and are located on the skin, nose, lungs, stomach and intestines. They are the messengers that link the two Immune systems helping to coordinate their defense mechanisms as a joint effort against the enemy. The Lymphocytes belong exclusively to the  Adaptive Immune system.

Natural killer (NK) cells belong to the innate immune system. They generally serve as a first line of defense against foreign pathogens. This includes bacterial or virus particles or virus infected cells. NK cells are not specific in their immune response. In the sense that they recognize a wide variety of bacteria so any bacteria will activate them. This is good because when you spot an enemy, you must immediately engage and kill.  NK cells also have the ability to sense stressed cells i.e. cells that are infected with a virus or are turning cancerous. They will seek them out and destroy them before they do any harm. Therefore, they serve  as the sentinels of the body. They also induce damaged infected and worn out cells to commit suicide.

THE ADAPTIVE IMMUNE SYSTEM

The adaptive Immune system on the other hand relies on soldiers with a specific target producing a stronger and more particular immune response aided by superior immunological memory, each Pathogen is remembered by its signature antigen. The Adaptive Immune system is antigen specific, able to memorize and identify a Pathogen or its infected cell. thus the adaptive system is able to marshall its lymphocite white cells to destroy the particular invading Pathogen at a higher level than the inniate imuune system’s abilities. But the difference between the two warriors is that the former attacks all invaders at random while the more specialised T cell warrior targets only 1 ignoring the rest.

Then the Adaptive Immune system has another warrior called the B cell.  The B cell produces specific antibodies for specific pathogens. The antibodies lock on to the pathogen and mark them for destruction by other elements of the immune system. On the other hand the B cells may also inhibit the destruction of a cell, like tumor cells. Cancer cells take advantage of B cells to protect them from destruction by T cells. B and T cells are the armory of the adaptive immune system and come into the war when the White cell warriors of the innate immune system are unable to produce an effective defense because they have little or no immunological memory. Generally  the white warriors of the Innate immune system are efficient and able to ward off the threat. The T and B cells are called Lymphocytes because they are to be found in the lymph organs and are 18 to 42 % of all leukocytes. T cells are of two types -the helper and the killer. helpers activate the B cells to produce antibodies to mark the pathogen in question while T killer cells destroy  infected cells  and cancer cells.  Adaptive immune cells remember foreign invaders after their first encounter and fight them off the next time they enter the body.  The Innate immune warriors are unable to do so without antigen memory. Vaccines seek to do precisely that to create immunological memory where it may not exist.

THE LYMPHOID FORTRESSES

tHE LYMPH FORTRESSES are located in several parts of the body. Lymph nodes are classified as “secondary” lymphoid organs, with the primary lymph organs being the thymus gland, tonsils, spleen, and bone marrow. The white warriors of the innate immune system and adaptive immune system congregate at these sites, like soldiers in  a fortress. they release into the blood stream when a threat is signaled. There are hundreds of Lymph nodes inside the body. they are located mainly in the neck, between the lungs , armpits and groin. The lymph fluids from lymph vessels enter these filters where Pathogens and cancerous cells are eliminated by the immune warriors. Those that escape into the blood stream are then dealt with by the warriors of the first and specialized armies there.

CHEMICAL WARFARE

Apart from the external shell defense, skin, nose, lung, guts, intestines, stomach and internal immune defenses both innate and adaptive, the invading pathogen is subjected to what we can call chemical defenses and warfare.The complement system is a biochemical storm that attacks the surfaces of foreign cells. It contains over 20 different proteins and is named for its ability to “complement” the killing of pathogens by antibodies.. Complement is the major humoral component of the innate immune response.The cascade results in the production of peptides that attract immune cells, and coat the surface of a pathogen, marking it for destruction. This deposition of complement can also kill cells directly. 

This vast network of cells and tissues is constantly on the lookout for invaders, and once an enemy is spotted, a complex attack is mounted.

The immune system is spread throughout the body and involves many types of cells, organs, proteins, and tissues. Crucially, it can distinguish our tissue from foreign tissue — self from non-self. Dead and faulty cells are also recognized and cleared away by the immune system.

If the immune system encounters a pathogen, for instance, a bacterium, virus, or parasite, it mounts a  immune response.

Apart from the two immune systems and their cellular forces there are also mucus membranes that help trap or destroy pathogens. Mucus in the throat, bronchi. hair like structures called cilia in the nose, saliva with killer enzymes, stomach acids, even tears. and beneficial bacteria in the guts together support the immune systems.

All blood cells are produced in the bone marrow some like lymphocytes are created or mature and are stored in the spleen, thymus , lymph nodes, tonsils – called lymphoid organs.

The bowel plays a central role in defending the body against germs: More than half of all the body’s cells that produce antibodies are found in the bowel wall These cells detect foreign substances, and then mark and destroy them. They also save information about the substances in order to be able to react more quickly the next time.

In a nutshell,this then is the amazing defenses that we have been provided with,  for our survival at the microbiological level, to ward off dangers from pathogens that exist at that level and to enable us to destroy the damaged and dead cells and the malignant cancer cells to maintain our supremacy as Homo sapiens on our planet.

I suppose it goes without saying that no medicine or vaccine can compete with the body’s ability to defend and repair itself.  All they can do is to assist the inbuilt system to improve or aid in the recognition of its foes. That ability also flows from the cerebral cortex which too is based within not in some lab. The vaccines and medical science can be termed an evolution beyond that of the Adaptive immune system. But in the final analysis it is the body’s system that gives us clues about vaccine defense as too the fight against cancer can be borrowed from our immune system which daily engages in removing aberrant failed or faulty  cells, else we all would have cancer in our very youth. The T cells the B cells and their antibodies, the marker cells like dendrite cells, and macrophages ,  the leukocytes in their variety of specializations, the chemicals and protein defenses we generate from within, , the helper cells and natural killer cells that induce cell suicide and detect  tumors and cancers when cells fail or rebel, even before we undertake a cat scan the amazing alerts that the immune system are capable of to diligently protect the organism, no medical ability could duplicate, like fevers  and inflamations arising from our immune reactions to kill pathogens and the repair mechanisms there after to help us recover, are all the gifts of the Master Biologist. We learn to fly after studying avian abilities, make mobile engines after studying the bodies processes, nature is a library from which we have learnt so many lessons, antibiotics are already readily available in nature for us to copy or derive from and our own brains the perfect study to make mechanical brains in computer technology. Nature of which we are an integral part is the source of all advancements by simple emulation from the Great Guide. Yes we have been enabled and with that gift we shall overcome and evolve. Our gratitude and applause to the Universal Essence.

)

The Ball cactus that transformed into a Hindu tremple

Of all plants the cactus fascinates me the most because it is quiet pensive like a Muni undemanding as required by the Gita, able to face challenges like drought and heat without complaint, able to defend itself from predators with its Armour of spikes and finally because it is capable of surprising you with sudden spectacular blooms that leave you breathless.
This time it was not gorgeous flowers. Some time back I had bought a Ball cactus, thus called because it is round and in the shape of a ball. During the monsoons it suddenly produced six bumps on its side which grew into smaller balls attached to the ‘mother’. then the dome of the cactus began to grow till the shape of the ball began to change and become more oval. This continued till the dome grew higher and more pronounced and the six ‘buds’ also increased in size. One fine morning it was time to water the cactus. I just stood back aghast and realized that the ball cactus had transformed into the shape of a Hindu temple!!! This was the ultimate gift and surprise from my cactus friends.

It is not uncommon in ones sorrow and frustration to turn ones anger towards God blaming him for ones plight.  Others accept it as ones deserving fate for ones wrong doings and those who believe in Karma, on past and present life doings with their positive and negative effects in the present life. In many faiths ones challenges in life  are explianed as tests by the divine to help in the evolution of your soul and therefore to be borne with courage and fortitude rather than believing that it is simply the punishment for ones sins.

There is yet another explanation for ones circumstances,fortunes and misfortunes  particularly with New Age theologists and thinkers and those who have sought to explore the phenomenon of Near Death Experiences (NDE) thereby claiming to have briefly visited the spirit world and learnt some of its secrets.

In this version God does not figure. It is claimed that the eternal soul is forever seeking to evolve to a higher spiritual level in its craving to gain proximity to the creater and eventually to merge with that Supersoul.

 

In the process it seeks to impose challenges and corrections from one lifetime to another. While guidance is available from great spirit souls and beings in the spirit world, the task of self analysis is left to the individual soul to devise obstacles in a future life, to acquire positive and negative circumstances and attributes, to choose its parents its progeny its circumstances of birth even handicaps and extraordinary skills and abilities – the combination of positive and negative at birth and in the life to unfold, in order that together they shall enable it to prove itself and evolve spiritually. Here there would be situations where the father is a tyrant or a mother dies prematurely or there is abundant love from sibling or else abuse from members of ones own family. All manner of combinations to produce the right type of challenges to test the soul’s mettle and help it move forward in evolution. In this version there is no God to blame, no fate to explain ones circumstances. There is also abundant provision for positive support to enable the soul to face the difficult challenges like being in love compassion of near and dear,riches and luxuries, great achievements and honour, brilliance and success in certain fields the happiness provided by good progeny etc. But lingering behind these happy situations are the never ceasing challenges in one form or the other chosen by the soul itself, much like a dilligent student who wishes to choose a difficult subject despite failure being quite common. In all this at moments of extreme misery and difficulty, spirits and guides aware of the souls plight will assist and support it so that it is able to endure the difficult plan it has adopted for evolution.

Providence and the spirit world never impose a difficult trial of life in the material world but leave it entirely to the responsible soul to choose the path for its correction and evolution. Therefore there is no question of blaming God, fate or previous sins for ones present plight.  This view may be difficult for some to accept as it does not hold ones sins or omissions responsible for ones situation and plight, nor does it allow you to pass the blame on  to earlier omissions in past lives or again Gods fury to teach you a lesson through punishment. The soul becomes the supreme arbiter of the choice of a life whether of a Helen Keller, a mother Teresa, a beggar , a king, a male or female, the nature of ones family, friends, career and time and manner of death. Nothing fateful, everything chosen and imposed by your great soul.

But that is the New Age view based on its vision of the spiritual world and the souls freedom of choice. The Hindu view still relies on evolution of the human individual where the eternal soul is trapped. All the entrapped soul yearns for is freedom from its human entrapment and rejoining the Supersoul – Paramatma – i.e. God, of which it is an integral part – ansha – and from which it has got seperated at creation of the material world.

final liberation of the soul from rebirth in a human shell.

The soul being a part of Godhead is already perfect and needs no evolution. furthermore according to the Gita it is not the agent of action or the actor on the human plane accumulating Karmik debt. As it does not act it is beyond the law of karma. But the cage in which it is trapped is indeed subject to karma. The human being acts  driven by its insatiable ego and Karmik forces then determine the consequences of those actions in this life and the next. It also determines the circumstances of rebirth and the trials the human shell will have to undergo for the shells evolution. The soul plays no part in the karmik consequences of the gross and subtle body of the material entity. All it hopes is that the shell will evolve to the point of perfection when its rebirth will cease and with that evolution the soul will finally get released from bondage in a human body. Meanwhile though not responsible for any acts of the body it plays the role of councellor guiding the ego driven body on a path which will not attract karmik consequence of a negative sort, retarding its evolution and thereby enforcing rebirth for yet another trial in another lifetime.

The islamic view requires great reverence for god – Allah- who is the all merciful and compassionate. No question of any blame or aspersion being tolerated. All that he deals out to humans is trials and tests -Ajmaish- for their evolution which have to be borne with humility and dedicated effort to overcome weakness and faults or punishments for wrong doing to have the subject reap what he has sown. There are no Karmik laws and no rebirth. the soul or Rooh which in this case has been the actor and agent of action takes responsibility for all acts of commission and omission and faces the consequences in afterlife after judgement has been pronounced at the throne of the Almighty.

raaz e ulfat – secret of love

When i retired I had no idea what i would do with my leisure time. Ofcourse sports, watching TV plays, shows and films, walks in the park, writing books, poetry, writing on my blog about spirituality Hinduism, the after life, mysticism, music ,study of different religions, meditation, looking deeper on the meaning of life , establishing contact with lost friends and relatives having spent my life overseas in the Foreign Service and pursuing my interests like keeping pet fish and birds, studying nature and animal life ad infinitum.

I pursued all these interests now that retirement had given me the time to do so but kept on searching to find what could engage my free time more fully. And then i stumbled on a treasure trove to keep me fully engaged. Earlier in life we had come across some good Pakistani serials which we had enjoyed greatly rather than indian or American serials. I found that the Pak serials had gained great maturity in more ways than one. I couldnt believe how well they were produced, directed, story line,acting and actors and actresses, screen play, dialogue (in urdu) and issues explored from daily life in all classes from village, feudal, middle class, urban life and upper class life styles. The themes were also amazing in their diversity and authenticity. Yes I was totally hooked and it became my old age addiction and passion to spend several hours each day watching the Pak serials with total concentration and enjoyment. Life without these well produced, directed and acted serials would have become a source of depression in old age. And they are available on the internet free with hardly any ads on u tube and other sites. What a bonzana of good entertainment, drama, ethical and social issues and Islamic values of life and consequences of your actions. Neither in India or the west have these issues and relationships been tackled with so much finesse and admirable insight as the Pak serials which are often also subtitled to reach beyond the Urdu- Hindi lanuages to the west and elsewhere. All the themes have an amazing appreciation of spiritual values where the consequences of your actions provide in the end the right results in spiritual terms with tragedy or reward for commendable behaviour compassion and concern for others as against self centered pursuit of pleasure and hedonism depriving others of their rights imposing ones will on others and denying them their rights.

 

Indeed i have seen in these plays so much of what actually happens in life between people, families friends and siblings and the power of love, hate ,envy and selfishness equally of evil intentions and purposes, the life of poverty, riches and class, truely portrayed, that I am left entralled by the ability of these story writers, producers, directors and actors for the works of art they have created which leaves us totally engaged and driven off our feet for their insights and abilities. How have these Pak serials managed to achieve with absolute distinction what others have not been able to do!? And my happiness knows no bounds in finding that there are over 500 such priceless dramas never failing to impress, available on the internet at no cost and with minimal advertisements to feed ones addiction.

yes my friends these serials are jewels to treaure just right length with about 30 episodes or less succinct rarely trailing and never lasting longer than you want. The drama story line and emotions in relationships are superb and portrayed without any exaggeration. In particular i love the presence of parental figures showing the intimate affections and guidance provided by Mother for daughter , son the Fathers discipiline and guidance both loving and dictatorial in turns, the beautifully portrayed relationships of siblings, and of course the nature of love affairs involving sacrifice committment defiance of custom and tradition, leading to a lifetime of regret and tragedy or managing to overcome outdated norms and constraints which are only meant to shackle freedom happiness and free will. Ihe power of evil intentions is also wonderfully shoown where friends betray one another out of petty jealosies or seek to ruin the lives of gullible innocent souls by subterfuge deceit and cunning to win over trust and exploit it for ones selfish desires.Every type of relationship has the attributes to show all these characteristics good or bad superbly portrayed. and that is no wonder because many of the stories are written on by hired script writers whose only purpose is to win the box office with flimsy shallow themes but by eminent pak writers not aping the west but producing and showing the best in Pak and Islamic character. Finally every drama serial has attached to it a priceless message of what Allah or god is like in his guidance compassion and measuring out fate and anguish and trials of life to test the mettle of those He loves. Tests are the basic themes of these stories where every trial is there for a purpose, that being to improve the quality of humaness, test the mettle of mankind to raise it to ethereal levels. The concept which really won my admiration was that of ‘AJMAISH; which in urdu means supreme test through adversity. Like all religious messages Islam’s message of AJMAISH is beautiful because it seeks to show you that all adversity is not a punishmebt rather a test of the strength of your soul;s ability to endure and evolve which alone makes you what in the Gita is mentioned as the person who is dearest to Him.Whether in Islam hinduism or christianity the message is basically the same – christ on a cross, we bearing our own crosses all finally leading to evolution and enlightenment here and later elsewhere. These pakistani serials have managed to capture and beautifully portray that concept in their themes of love betrayal family relationships, human intereactions and life in totality. I congratulate them for not merely entertaining but leaving behind a message which goes way beyond that.Bravo and congratulations to these special people for what they have done and continue to do with unbelievable ability and skill.

let me introduce you to some of the serials i enjoyed most:

DASTAAN

A moving story of partition faithfully rendered without bias and stereotypes. Outstanding cast and individual portrayals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medicine Buddha and Apsaras -Antiques from Bangkok

Pleasures come in strange ways. Some can be arranged others come unexpected. They give meaning to life and doubtless help in lengthening your life span if they happen often enough. They are quite subtle and differ from merely feeling happiness. They are more specific than happiness. More focused. My pleasures come from relating to nature, viewing works of art at a museum, growth, devotional music which elevates you to sublime heights, seeing and loving antiques and owning them, keeping pets and seeing them multiply, learning about mysticism through philosophy, religion, spiritualism, yoga, meditation, discovering spread of Hinduism in alien cultures, New Age views of afterlife, different views of the meaning of soul, secrets of astrology,  scientific riddles, the universe and planetary systems, space and time dimensions. and a lot more that i cannot think about.

That is a lot said about pleasure. but for the immediate context lets narrow it down to recent experiences. I went to a park and a cat came up to me. Normally cats run away when you approach them. but this cat came and caressed my legs as a stood surprised. so i bent and petted her. then i went and sat on a bench. she followed me and jumped up and came into my lap. I fondled her and she remained there while i cuddled her chin. she purred. I fell in love with her and wanted to take her home. Then i saw the collar on her neck and knew she belonged to someone else. sad but true. So much love from nature overwhelmed me. I responded in kind. we remained like this together for half an hour. O what pleasure. why did she come to me. did we have a relationship in the past.

The friendly cat

 

I bought a cactus, the type that is round like a ball. sitting pretty in a small bowl. never wanting too much water or care, only the sunlight and an occasional spraying. i left it alone for a month. It just sat still doing nothing to know that it existed. Then i went on a vacation. when i returned it had grown. more pines coming out of its centre. Greener and more voluptuous. what a pleasure to see it slowly grow larger, if you know what i mean.

Cactus

I acquired four rare snails for my aquarium, called Apple or mystery snails. Very beautiful with golden shells and about two inches in width. They cleaned my tank then started mating. see my post on them. their sexuality was quite unique and very sensuous. the result in a month to my surprise were egg pods planted on the surface of my aquarium. then i went on my vacation. On return i was amazed to see 200 small snails all over the aquarium to my utter pleasure. I cannot explain the extent of my pleasure. They were very small and black not golden but crawling all over. One day They will all turn into giant Mystery snails . that is the wonder that caused my pleasure, though you may think such pleasure as silly.

Mystery snails mating

My Budgies, i have some 30 in a cage of all colours,  which gives me pleasure to see, I have a book which explains the colours, which in nature in Australia are only green, also bred. I saw some eggs in some of the bowls i put in the cage. then they produced little buddies which the mother and father took turns to feed into adulthood. each process gave me pleasure beyond measure. Again you may say that this is a stupid source of pleasure but for me it is not.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

I have a post on the pleasure of loving an object. One in the museum or one acquired by you to keep. On a visit to Bangkok I acquired some more. and they too give me no end of pleasure.

Emerald buddha, bejewelled

On my recent visit to Bangkok i was amazed by the influence of Hinduism and India on this alien land. whenever i saw a Hindu influence on the roadside or at a shrine I was again amazed by the cultural spread of Hinduism with no effort of proselytising, rather a unique embracing of culture from another land. I have two recent posts emphasising this phenomenon in Thailand as doubtless it is also true in Indonesia. Cambodia, China and Japan. Well this also gave me great pleasure to see my culture so well regarded in the Far East.

Brahma shrine Bangkok

Well, these are some of the sources of pleasure that I experience. sure many people have different sources. Bit these are mine and i wanted to share them. though they may feel strange to many.

 

 

 

Shiva at the temple

 

Though there is ample evidence of Hindu influences in Thailand which I covered in my previous post, there were still some surprises in this regard. I heard that there was a grand Shiva temple on the outskirts of Bangkok and made my way there. i was amazed at what i saw – nothing like this compared to any Shiva temple in India. The scale was magnificent with every care taken to produce the best in artistry of tableaus, sculptures in plated gold, bronze and clay. The aesthetic ambience was superb and only possible because of the faith and love of the Thai people for Indian gods and myths. i was unable to find out who had created this monument to Shiva though judging from the numerous alters to the royal family I had the feeling that it was sponsored by the Thai king and his government. When i left I was in a state of ecstasy and overwhelmed by the cultural, religious and artistic  efforts that must have gone into creating such a shrine in a land not very familiar with Shiva.  Even the Birla temples in india though quite grand, could not compare with the artistry and dedication that must have produced this monument to Shiva.

As i entered the temple complex i saw two great elephants with the god Indra astride them with domes housing a Shiva Linga (phallus) and a statue of goddess laxmi on either side of a a great Linga in the middle with dragons inscribed along the shaft.

Entrance to Shiva’s shrine

As i proceeded further i witnessed the great myth of the churning of the mythical cosmic ocean with gods on one side pulling a serpent and demons on the other in the hope of gaining the treasures which the ocean could bring up. What came out was the nectar of immortality which both gods and demons coveted, the vicious poison which could end creation, and the goddess of wealth and well being prosperity and happiness, Laxmi. Vishnu the god of sustaining creation immediately claimed Laxmi as his consort, the nectar of immortality went to the gods as Vishnu disguised as a beautiful damsel held the cup for the gods to savour,  and the poison threatening to extinguish creation, but the great lord Shiva took up the challenge and drank it to save the world, his throat turning blue in the process, but leading to the preservation of the universe. This act made Lord Shiva a saviour of mankind.

The churning of the cosmic ocean

I then proceeded to one of two temple structures where Lord Shiva was enshrined to make my offerings.

Lord Shiva in the first temple

Behind the black stone statue of lord Shiv in contemplation on the creation of the universe were further images of Shiva and his family of Ganesha and the goddess  Parvarti his consort in her furious aspect of Kali decimating the demons, the root of worldly evil.

Mahakali the furious aspect of his consort Paarvati

Exploring further i came across the divine embodiment of Rama, Laxman, Sita and Lord Hanuman. Their blessed presence added a new nuance to the temple considering that all royal kings of Thailand are styled as Rama.

Rama Sita Laxman and Hanuman

Apart from the Hindu gods with Shiva as the centre piece there were  Chinese gods and goddesses and the great Buddha all in one enclosure, inviting devotees of  Hinduism,Buddhism and Taoism all in one place which was quite remarkable.

The Buddha at the shrine

Chinese gods and goddesses

There was a stall neatly installed as is the Thai way, for offerings by devotees which was quite impressive.

our personal offering

offerings for devotees

 

 

 

 

 

I thI then then went to the second temple at the complex. on the ground floor there was a marriage hall with many seats and tables and altars to the royal family along with numerous pictures of lord Hanuman and Krishna. Ascending the steps i proceeded to the first floor which was equally magnificent. As one entered there was a beautiful statue of Shiva riding his bull, Nandi.

Shiva on Nandi

As i entered the sanctum sectorum i was amazed to find the entire galaxy of Shiva and family. On a throne were seated Shiva and Parvati and on two other thrones beside them Lord Ganesha and Kartike his sons. On the steps leading up to the altar were numerous Ganeshas in different ‘mudras’ and on the other side Parvatis in dancing poses. What exquisite artistry must have gone in creating these bronzes I cannot imagine.

IMG_0919

The alter to Shiva and Parvati

As if this were not enough of spiritual grandeur next to pillars were installed gold plated statues of Sarasvati goddess of learning and culture and consort of Brahma and Brahma who is greatly revered for having helped the Buddha in gaining enlightenment.

Sarasvati

Brahma

On the side of the altar were once again Chinese gods and goddesses and behind the alter a row of Chinese sages and gods.

Chinese gods and sages

On the other side was a shrine to the Buddha in black marble

Budhhist shrine

The goddesses Durga and Amba were also not ignored and figured at the temple.

Durga and Amba

At the gate as we left we saw the two guardians of Shiva holding tridents in their hands.

guardians of Shiva

Then there was also Shiva at the gate doing his cosmic dance of creation and destruction, the Nataraja.

Naataraja

And finally to our  eternal delight on an adjoining hillock a giant gold plated statue of Shiva in supreme meditation.

Shiva on a hillock at the temple

Hats off to the Thais for their artistry, faith, spirituality and dedication.

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