Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Day 116/366

I went to the Elephanta Caves yesterday. Being the last field trip in college, and more so, in my entire span of formal education, I decided to follow the teacher around as he took up the role of the tour guide. I would have preferred to run around following the monkeys on the island had it not been for the first story Sir told us. Lord Shiva's son, Kartikeya, is like a mountain god very similar to Murugan, the popular South Indian god. Now, his origin was traced back to the gods of one of earliest civilization tribes called Ma in Africa. That tribe still exists in some part of that continent and lives the same lifestyle as it did earlier. I found this possibility of culture sharing deeply interesting.

Someone asked Sir about how there was no sculpture depicting the controversial charas smoking Shiva. What Sir said was that Shiva was originally a Vedic god, not a tribal one as is the modern understanding. Tantrics apparently implanted that trait to him to get a high in the name of devotion, whereas the same could have been attained by meditation or music! Also, in the Trimurti, someone had to be the sage, which was granted to Brahma; another had to be the human, which Vishnu was designated as; by default, Shiva had to be the demon, making him the wild, tribal deity that he is popularly seen as today.

He told us the story of Shiva as the Ardhanarishvar, of how Ravan became a Shiva bhakt, of the importance of the Shiva linga. Whether you are an atheist or a staunch believer in a certain religion, mythology is something that is hard to not find fascinating. It's a pity that the Portuguese used these sculptures for shooting practice and destroyed many of those fascinating tales that few will be able to tell the way our storyteller teacher did.

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