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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Maha Kumbh Omnibus Part II

Rahu and Ketu were two demons who were a little quicker on the uptake than the rest of their bunch. They saw through the guile that had been planned against them. So they dressed themselves as gods and quietly slipped into their line. Their ruse worked and they drank their share of Amrit. Sun and Moon who were standing next to them penetrated their disguise and told Vishnu of what had happened. Vishnu promptly summoned his Sudarshan Chakra (divine weapon) and beheaded both Rahu and Ketu. It worked only partially. It didn’t kill the duo because they had become immortal. Their heads and torsos were separated but they lived, and since that day have become sworn enemies of Sun and Moon. That is why every once in a while Rahu swallows Sun and Moon. But since he has no torso he can’t keep them in his mouth forever, they emerge out of his throat. This is exactly what happens during an eclipse. Sun, Moon and Rahu must come together to cause a solar or a lunar eclipse. 
This is what is called an allegorical story. So what is the truth? I can make a guess.
Long time ago, their existed two groups of scientists and intellectuals. One group was green and wanted to keep ecology intact. The other group wanted progress at any cost. The ocean refers to the ocean of universal intelligence and churning to research and development. Meru mountain refers to the height of their intellectual and scientific achievement. Shesh Nag the celestial serpent represents wisdom. Their combined efforts produced genetically modified crops, improved breed of horses and elephants or alternatively invented machines that could replace horses and elephants. The toxic venom refers to the pollution that all this research produced. Finally after much research they invented a drug Amrit that could keep one youthful and increase the life span indefinitely. This is just a modern interpretation of the story with an apology to puritans and hidebound intellectuals.
The origin of this story is lost in antiquity and it has been embellished over the ages but it’s basic premise is still true. Indian civilization is great at turning events into lore and passing these down through successive ages. For the sake of those who are curious, I must mention that the number of these stories is astronomical.
Legend has it that since Rahu and Ketu had tasted Amrit and become immortal they were included in the group of gods and accommodated thus. They are not true gods but only deemed to be so. In reality too, Rahu and Ketu are not real planets but only a mathematical point in space. They are elevated to the status of a real planet because they are so powerful in influencing humanity. Allegory again!!!
Historical need for Maha Kumbh
India is perhaps the only country which has over the eons been blessed by spiritually exalted Yogis and sages. It is their blessings which have kept the civilization of the most ancient country in the world intact in its original form. Other great civilizations slowly decayed and either don't exist or exist in a form which is a much altered version of their original past.
Spiritually advanced people renounce the world and retreat to inaccessible places in Himalayan mountains. They do not want the vibrations of the material world to interfere with their spirituality.
Ordinary humans on the other hand do not have enough inclination or the time to involve themselves in spiritual practices and remain busy in mundane activities to satisfy their desire for Arth and Kaam (money and comforts).
Kumbh Mela is a periodical event where the Yogis come down from their retreats and bless the humanity which goes to the Mela to absorb those blessings.  

In the third installment of this article we shall take a look at what one needs to do in a Kumbh Mela.

Rajiv Sethi

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