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Hindu Tales

Rama & Sita

Rama and Hanuman fighting Ravana
Rama and Hanuman fighting Ravana | Public Domain Mark
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Janaka, the King of Mithila organises a contest to find a suitable bridegroom for his lovely and generous daughter Sita. Princes from various kingdoms are invited and challenge to string a giant bow. Only the mighty Rama, son of the King of Ayodhya, is able to lift the bow, string it and even break it in half. Impressed by Rama’s strength and bravery Sita puts a garland around his neck and publicly chooses Rama as her husband.
Rama’s father dies and, before Rama can be crowned King of Ayodhya, intrigue in the palace sends him and his wife into exile in the forest. Then tragedy strikes: Sita is abducted by the demon king Ravana, the ten-headed ruler of Lanka. Rama, aided by Lakshmana and the mighty monkey-general Hanuman, tries to rescue her.
While Sita is held captive in the island of Lanka, the demon king Ravana tries to persuade her to marry him. The warrior monkey Hanuman helps Rama assemble an army of allies, comprised mainly of monkeys, to attack Ravana’s army. After a fierce battle, Hanuman’s army succeeds in killing the demon king and freeing Sita. Upon her return from the island, however, she faces an even more chilling trial. Rama still loves her but can not carry on as before: “I am happy to rescue you from the hands of Ravana but you have lived a year in enemy’s abode. It is not proper that I should take you back now.”
Sita is shattered by his words: “Was that my fault? The monster Ravana carried me away against my wishes. While in his residence, my mind and my heart were fixed on you my Lord, Rama, on you alone.” Desperate, Sita decides to end her life. She reverently circles around her husband and approaches a blazing fire. Joining her palms in salutation, she addresses Agni, the God of fire, “If I am pure, O Agni, protect me” and then steps lightly into the flames.
Agni soars from the flames with Sita and presents her to her husband Rama saying: “Sita is spotless and pure at heart. Take her to Ayodhya. People are waiting there for you.” Rama delightfully receives her and after fourteen years in exile, they return to Ayodhya where Rama is crowned and takes up the reins of government much to the great joy of his subjects. The royal couple has two sons – Luv and Kush – and rule happily for many years.

– a very short version of one of the greatest Hindu epics


Mahadevi | Public Domain Mark
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The Mother Goddess, called Mahadevi, is the consort or partner of the god Shiva, Lord of the Universe. She holds life and death in her hands and has many forms. Mahadevi can be kind and good, or angry and powerful if she needs to protect the universe that she holds in her womb.
She can be gentle and beautiful like the goddess Parvati and as devoted as the goddess Uma. When she is angry, Mahadevi appears as the terrfiying warrior goddess Kali who kills all in her path. She may even appear as Durga the yellow-haired warrior goddess, the most powerful of all, who rides a lion to battle her enemies with her all of her eight arms.
One day, as Durga she was called upon to fight a monster demon called Mahisha that none of the other gods were strong enough to kill. Mahisha turned himself from a water buffalo to a lion to an elephant and back again to confuse her. Each time he changed form Durga wounded but did not kill Mahisha.
Finally, she jumped on the buffalo’s back just as Mahisha’s spirit was flying out of the animal’s mouth to go into another. When she saw this, she cut off the demon’s head. The buffalo then fell to the ground to the goddess’ cries of “Jaya!” (Victory).
Then the lesser demons begin to fight. Each drop of the blood of the nasty demon Raktabija became another demon. Durga called upon Kali to drink up the droplets of blood on the ground and in the air. She then attacked and beheaded Raktabija with a stroke of her sword and drank his body dry of blood.
Thus it was that Mahadevi protected the universe and all that is in it against the awful demon Mahisha. Creation and destruction have the same source in the Mother Goddess.

– Traditional Hindu Myth

Lord of the Dance

Dance is an important art form in India, and Shiva is often called the Lord of Dance. The rhythm of dance is a metaphor for the balance in the universe which Shiva is believed to hold so masterfully. His most important dance, the Tandav, is the cosmic dance of death, which he performs at the end of an age, to destroy the universe. According to one Hindu legend, Shiva almost signalled the end of this universe by performing this dangerous dance before its time. This is the story.

Shiva & Parvati | Public Domain Mark
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Once upon a time, Shiva, Master of Cosmic Dance, marries the goddess Sati against the wishes of her father. To spite his daughter’s husband, Sati’s father decides to hold a special ceremony by inviting all the gods except Shiva.
Sati, deeply offended on behalf of her husband becomes very angry and jumps into the sacred fire that her father made for the ceremony. Off somewhere meditating, Shiva somehow realises what Sati has done, shakes himself to present consciousness and starts dancing the cosmic death dance.
The gods present at Sati’s father’s ceremony become afraid when they realise that the whole universe may soon be destroyed before its time by Shiva’s dancing. In an effort to stop Shiva, they scatter Sati’s ashes over him. This sobers him immediately and stops him from finishing the dance. Although the cosmos is spared Shiva is so deeply upset over the death of his wife that he forsakes all his duties and other interests for many, many years.
One day, Sati is reborn as Parvati. She leads Shiva out of his grieving state and joins his wife in her new form. Through her devoted love and patience, Shiva learns about what it means to be a couple* and then a family. Most importantly for the world, his wife also teaches him of the importance of moderation in all things.

*Shiva and Parvati are revered as the perfect example of marital bliss by many Hindus.

Measuring Inner Peace

Swami Satchidananda in Switzerland 1987
Swami Satchidananda in Switzerland 1987 | © Maithreyi Andre Marcela Andre | Creative Commons Licence
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A disciple once asked Swami Satchidananda: “How can I gauge how far I am from inner peace?”

The Swami replied: “Make a list of every noun you precede with the word ‘my’ – may children, my house, my car, my intelligence, my wisdom. If your list is this long (he spread his arms wide), you are this far from inner peace. If your list is this long (and he held his hands close together), you are this far from inner peace.”