Oct 27, 2011

Tihar and Halloween: Long Lost Twins


Tihar is a festival of lights, when we clean our houses to welcome the goddess of wealth to our home. Halloween is a night of ghosts when children dress up and eat treats, and adults dress up and drink beer. Sound very different, don’t they? However, I found that the Hindu festival of Tihar and the Western festival of Halloween are actually pretty similar.

There are a few very obvious similarities between Tihar and Halloween. The first similarity is in the custom called trick or treat. Children dress up in fancy dress costumes, which are usually scary, and visit their neighbors where they play the game of ‘trick or treat’. They ask the neighbors to give them a ‘treat’, which is usually candies and chocolate. If not, they end up playing some minor ‘trick’ on the neighbor, like puncturing their tyres.


In Nepal, we thankfully avoid the trick part, and our costumes are meant to make us look pretty rather than scary, children do go around to their neighbors’ homes and get lots of Tihar goodies in return. Today cash may have replaced the goodies but there was a time when it was more normal to give rice and food to the deusis and bhailis. It is still not uncommon to find selroti, mithai, and fruits among the Deusi and Bhailini’s booty. Incidentally, this tradition of Deusi and Bhaili seems unique to Nepal, I have yet to come across an Indian Diwali celebration where children sing at their neighbors' houses and are given goodies.


The reason for celebrating Halloween is steeped in many layers of mythology. The end of October and beginning of November are the All Saints Day and All Souls Day, which commemorate the dead. As a result, today Halloween is a day of ghosts, devil, and anything that is scary in Christianity. The association of death also exists in Tihar since Yamraj and his army plays a major role in Tihar. However, the representation of death in Tihar is not so macabre as in Halloween.


Also, going back to the pre-Christian roots of Halloween, Halloween is supposed to be descended from the Celtic festival of Samhain, celebrated in Western Europe over 2,000 years ago. This festival was marked by building huge fires in pits. Today, this fire lives on as candles placed inside carved pumpkins.

Though these skillfully carved pumpkins have come to symbolize Halloween more powerfully than the candle inside it, fire was central to Samhain. The fire of Samhain symbolizes the end of summer and coming of winter. After the big fire died down, people took away embers to their own homes to light their own fires for the coming winter.


Fire is also central to our Tihar, we light candles and diyos during Tihar to light up our whole house. We burst firecrackers and burn sparklers. Maybe these pretty Tihar lights have a purpose too, to remind us that winter is coming near and we must keep the house warm!

The mythology of our own Tihar is built in so many layers that it is very difficult to uncover each layer and arrive at the root of the festival. Add to it the fact that every layer is beautiful, is full of symbolism, and every layer is very dear to us, and the task becomes even more difficult. Many communities celebrate Tihar as the return of King Ram to Ayodhya, many others celebrate it as the Yamapanchak, the days when death’s messengers get a holiday and Yamuna worships her brother Yamaraj. Then there is the story of Krishna lifting the Govardhan Parvat and saving his fellow villagers, which is commemorated in Govardhan Pooja. The obscure story of Krishna killing Naraksura is also attached to Tihar. But though different communities may focus on any of these stories, most of them celebrate the third day of the festival in the same way: by performing Laxmi Pooja. At the root of all these festivities is Laxmi, the goddess of prosperity. Over the years, prosperity has come to mean money and gold, but if we look closely at the earliest pictures of Laxmi, we see what she truly symbolizes: Laxmi’s hands are often overflowing with grain, the true wealth of an agrarian people.


Tihar celebrates the harvest of grains that were planted in spring, and we give thanks to this wealth by worshipping goddess Lakshmi. In the western world, when Romans conquered Europe, Roman deities influenced Celtic Culture. The deity celebrated in Halloween was Pomona, the Roman goddess of food and grains, She was often depicted surrounded by baskets of fruits!
The most important similarity between Tihar and Halloween is that they both occur at the same time. Due to our lunar calculations, the date of Tihar often varies, but it is safe to say that this festival occurs at the end of autumn and beginning of winter. Halloween always occurs on October 31, at the end of fall and beginning of winter. Why are festivals celebrated half the world from each other so similar? Were our cultures connected in ancient times? Did we share the same beliefs and religion at some point? We can only guess, but what we do know for sure is that both occur at the time when the spring’s crops are harvested and stored, and people are getting ready to face the cold winter. The reason for celebrating both Tihar and Halloween are full of mythology, but the earliest of them point to harvest and the change of seasons.


To me, it seems that people of all cultures celebrate certain milestones in a year: every culture has festivals of spring, summer, planting, sowing, etc, which are important to the community. Food and grains are important to every community, and hence, harvest festivals are found in almost every culture. As for the similar manner of celebrating, only further studies into the prehistoric roots of these festivals can tell us more. Until then, Happy Tihar, have a blast!

Oct 21, 2011

Shawnee Trip V: Lost in Translation


Recently I went on a camping trip with the university. Not only was the trip a whole lot of fun, but it also exposed me to a lot of interesting aspects of communication. So many things that we take for granted are perceived differently by people of different cultures. Here are a few examples of intercultural communication.

**

We waited inside the van as people trickled in one by one after lunch. Nimitta was pretending to punch Dan to pass the time. “Dhoosh! Dhoosh! Dhoosh!!”

“Hey don’t call me names” said Dan.

“I wasn’t calling you names!” Nimitta was outraged.

“You just called me douche!!!”

“No, I didn’t!!!” Nimitta enlisted my support. “Sewa didi, in Nepal, don’t we make the sound dhoosh dhoosh when we are pretending to hit something?”

“Sure we do, all the movies say so too” I agreed. But Dan would have none of it. And in fact, he and Nimu argue to this day about the meaning of Dhoosh Dhoosh!!

Could only find Tanaak and Dhadaak but I am sure Dhoosh is out there as well


**

“Ringa ringa roses, pocket full of poses

Hassa, hussa, we all fall down” Nimitta was singing.

“It’s not haasa hoosa!! Its ashes, ashes” said Dan.

“Well, in Nepal we just say Hassa hussa, don’t we di?”


“Yes, we all grew up playing that game and falling down at hassa hussa” I agreed.

“The ashes must have got lost in translation then” said Dan.

“Do you know what it’s actually about?” asked Grant. “It’s about the black plague in England. The ring of roses is actually talking about how people get red cheeks when they get the plague!!”

“Most of the nursery things are about scary things like that” Brandon added. Now this was something I had to research. I found that it goes like this:

Ring a-round the rosie

Pocket full of posie

Ashes! Ashes!

We all fall down.

The “pocket full of posies” refers to herbs that people carried in their pockets to ward off the plague, “ashes, ashes” refers to the cremation of dead bodies, and the “we all fall down” refers, of course, to death. And I also found that this rhyme has numerous other versions, including

Ring a ring a Rosie,

A bottle full of posie,

All the girls in our town

Ring for little Josie.


A ring, a ring o' roses,

A pocket full o’posies-

Atishoo atishoo we all fall down.


**

At night, sitting around the fire, Kensie showed her tattoo of “Om” on her wrist. She was surprised that I recognized it, and told me that she is very attracted to Hinduism and wants to become a yoga master. “I know the story of Shiva and Ganesh” said she. “About how they had to cut his head off and replace it with an elephant’s” . Wow, it was really nice to find someone so interested in our religion. “I like eastern religions because they are not pushy. Are there any female deities?” she further asked.

“Yes, many.” I replied. “Shiva’s wife Parvati is a major one, then there is Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, and Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom.”

“So is there only deity for one thing? Is there no god of wisdom?”

Hmm, this one stumped me. “It is not a fixed rule. There might be local deities of anything” I answered. “But in the most popular Hindu deity family, the only deity of wisdom is Saraswati.”

Trisha was working very hard to build the fire. But she still found time to converse. “Do you find the caste system strange? ” she asked.

“Not strange” I replied “I grew up with it. But I certainly dislike it. It is changing nowadays, my roommates are all of different castes. It’s not like what it used to be, older people, for example, won’t even eat at the same tale with people of other castes.”

“It’s the same like here, where many older and traditional people refuse to change their ways. People are afraid of change, and it is not specific to any single society” said Brandon. I couldn’t agree more.

**

At night we went for a walk by the lake, and sat down to watch stars. Trisha, Grant and Brandon identified so many stars that it was mind boggling. Brandon and I had a hard time hearing the other two though.

“Why don’t you come around to where we are?” Grant suggested.

“Can we cuddle?” Brandon asked.

“No” Grant seemed pretty firm on this one.

We identified the North Star, which I expected to be on the top of my head (fried brains that I have), but it was obviously on the north side.

“It’s the brightest star on the horizon, right?” I asked. I thought I remembered something about Dhruva tara.


“No, the brightest star is actually Sirius, the dog star, that is why Sirius Black changes into a dog in Harry Potter” that was Trisha.

“Yes, and there is also a constellation called Lupus which is called the wolf constellation, that is why Remus Lupin is a werewolf” I added.


“There is also a constellation for Draco Malfoy” Trisha informed me “called the Draco constellation” now that was news to me. I excitedly followed Trisha’s imaginary dragon in the sky.

And then we went on to identify the big dipper and the little dipper (Big bear and little bear to Native Americans, Saptarshi and Krittikas to Hindus), and Cassiopeia, the vain queen who boasted of her beauty. The Greek gods punished her by stringing her across the skies. I did not know what Lupus and Draco are called in Hindu mythology, but I did remember the story of Dhruva, the Hindu north star. The mythological character Dhruva, as a child, prayed patiently to Lord Vishnu for five full years. Pleased with his devotion, Lord Vishnu put him up in the sky as the North star. Hence, to Hindus, it represents constancy. Like Dhruva, the dhruva tara never moves in the sky, and all others stars are oriented around it (from the earth’s point of view).

“Even though the brightest star of the horizon is actually Sirius, the North star is a very important star” said Brandon. “The story goes that when Christ was born, three kings knew that a great prophet would be born and they would find him if they followed the North Star. They did and came upon Jerusalem, where Jesus was born. They story goes that they were the earliest astrologers....Then they gave Jesus three gifts, Myrrh, Gold and Frankin....”


“OH SHIT!!!!! DID YOU SEE THAT?” that of course was Melissa, who had seen a shooting star. Too bad I missed the star, but everyone enjoyed her comment immensely.
“Oh shit did you see that, that was awesome, that was the quote of the week” said Brandon, after the laughter had died down. And that is how ended the star watch.

Oct 18, 2011

Whose Responsibility is the national image?


More than a year ago when prime ministerial elections were going on, I analyzed newspaper reports of Nepal’s political situation for a class project. After nine rounds of ballot, Ramchandra Poudyal had effectively created a stalemate by neither gathering enough votes to be elected, nor giving up his candidacy. At that point, I wanted to find out which media was supportive of the political situation of Nepal, and which media was critical. I expected to find supportive points of view and constructive criticism from national media and deprecating or dismissive points of view in international media.

I collected 17 articles and categorized them into three different groups: Nepali, Neutral Non Nepali, and Stakeholders. The first category contained newspapers from Nepal. The second category contained independent news agencies like Reuters and AFP, and newspapers based in places like US, France and Hong Kong that have mid to low interest in the political affairs of Nepal. Stakeholders were based on sources that had a high level of interest in Nepal. This includes news sources from India, China, and UN. I present here only the results of the analysis without its tedious parts like coding and methods.
Most newspapers expressed mixed views, with some supportive and mostly critical viewpoints. The general trend was very pessimistic. There were entire articles without a single positive phrase. Very few articles were completely neutral.

Contrary to my expectation, I found Nepali media to be much more critical of the situation than international newspapers. In fact, Nepali writers were the ones who employed the most negative and deprecating adjectives to describe the scenario. Kanak Mani Dixit, in an article for Republica, called Nepal a “floundering” country, and derided its “escalating violence, criminality, and impunity”. The supportive phrases were few and far between, and seemed more like backhanded complements rather than full fledged praise. For example, the rebels might, at some point “submit to the dictates of peace” and “save themselves from their own lethal obduracy”. Here, negative words like dictates, lethal, and obduracy appear in the few phrases that are supportive in the entire article. While eight such backhanded complements were found in the article, eighteen distinctly pessimistic sentences were found. This article was representative of the other Nepali articles.

In contrast, I found Neutral Non Nepali media to be more or less impartial. Some were satisfied with using neutral terms like “political impasse” and “situation.” Others did give negative terms to Nepal, but also gave uniformly negative terms to all nations involved. A Hong Kong based news source stated that Nepal was in a “political paralysis” with “few signs that the crisis will end” but it also stated that India and China were “meddling in Nepal” and “India’s own bungling” was the reason it lost its clout in Nepal. This article also accused China of financing bribery scams in Nepal.

Articles from stakeholder nations were critical of the situation. A report in Frontier India depicted the leaders as incompetent, as they “failed” to win the presidential elections. The same article framed the situation in dire terms like “constitutional crisis” and “deep economic distress” from which the leaders were “unable to rescue” Nepal. Pakistani newspaper Dawn was the most vocal in its disapproval, as every sentence was peppered with phrases like “collapsed government”, “damaging leadership vacuum”, “weak law enforcement” and “mounting legislative backlog” among many others.

Though ostensibly writing about the political situation of Nepal, stakeholders used the opportunity to present a rosy picture of their own involvement in Nepal. To achieve this effect, they used neutral words to describe the opposition they received. For example, an article from Outlook India described in warm tones how “hundreds” of people had gathered to welcome the Indian ambassador to Nepal, who inaugurated several projects. The article discusses India’s positive contribution to Nepal and wishes for a “prosperous, peaceful and stable” Nepal. It also mentions India’s large donations to the project, implying that the protests against India are unfair. This report would have been unremarkable, except that it was a report of protest against the Indian Ambassador’s visit to Nepal. However, only the first two sentence talk about the protests, stating that a few Nepali Maoists “waved black flags” in protest of the Indian ambassador. The use of the word “waving” in conjunction with the black flags provides a very mild picture of the situation (As we all know, nobody simply “waves” black flags in Nepal, the protests were much more violent according to other media sources).

A trend of depicting past political achievement of Nepal in less than flattering words was noticed across all newspapers, whether domestic or international. For example, though ostensibly writing about Nepal’s political impasse, writers often took the opportunity to drag Nepal’s poverty into the limelight and foist it in the article. Nepal was labeled “one of the world’s poorest countries” by a Hong Kong source, and a “troubled young republic” in a Pakistani source. Positive events like the peaceful end of monarchy and successful negotiation with rebels, that actually formed a background to the situation were downplayed in favor of age old clichéd labels that depicted Nepal in a poor light. For example, a Qatar based newspaper termed the end of monarchy in Nepal “abolished”, ignoring the event’s importance as a major political achievement of Nepali people. Yubaraj Ghimire, writing for Indian Express, described the elections that followed simply as “changes” instead of recognizing their historic significance. Instead, western nations are glorified and labeled “Western Powers” by Kanak Mani Dixit, though they could easily have been given neutral terms like Western nations.

I had always believed that Nepal is portrayed in a poor light in international media. This turned out to be only partly true: neutral international media tended to highlight the permanent problems of Nepal like poverty, and mostly abstained from passing judgment on the current chaotic scenario. The stakeholders were mostly scathing, and their occasional neutrality was deceptive because they wanted to cover up their own negative points. Such neutrality needs be taken with a grain of salt and careful analysis is needed to ascertain the vested interest in neutrality.

In the end, Nepal’s negative image in international media is overshadowed by the larger truth of Nepal’s negative image in its own media. Though this research is one year old, I am pretty sure that the results would not be different if a contemporary study was carried out, as nothing has happened to change the attitudes of national and international writers. To bring about a positive change to this situation, we, Nepali writers, should strive for a more positive tone in our own media as the first step towards fighting pervasive negativism. Granted, it is not easy it be optimistic in times like this, but mass media can not only disseminate but also create information and attitudes, and consistently negative expressions in the mass media might be one of the factors creating pessimism in the general public today. Instead, writers should always be careful of the mood and tone that they create when reporting such sensitive issues. It is not possible to completely cheerful about the present political situation, but it is surely possible to tone the pessimism down and be more neutral, following the examples of neutral international media, and utilize every opportunity to highlight the considerable political achievements of Nepali people.


Oct 9, 2011

Shawnee Trip IV - Experiencing American food

It was the end of a long and tiring day. We were getting back to our tents from our evening hike.

“How hungry is everyone?” asked Grant.

“Pretty hungry” said many people. After all, it was the end of the day, and the last we ate was before we set up our tents and went on a hike.

“Ok, so would you like to just boil the pasta and dump the sauce over it? Or boil the pasta and bake it?”


At the mention of baking, no one was immediately hungry. “Just make it the best” said many people, and Grant set about baking the pasta. Most of were surprised that it was so easy to make proper food like pasta over a camping fire. “Can it even be done?” someone asked. Grant first boiled the pasta, then strained it, then baked it for some time in sauce and cheese. When the final dish was set on the table and the lid opened, the pasta was still faintly bubbling, and had a wonderful aroma. Also, we spread butter, garlic, and cheese over bread slices and put them over the fire to make garlic bread. I loved the delicious dinner, perhaps more precious because it was eaten outdoors.


That night I was also introduced to a new dessert: s’mores. Several people were sharpening little twigs, and I did not understand why. Later, we used these twigs to pierce marshmallows that we roasted over the fire. Once the marshmallow was melted and gooey, we wrapped it between 2 graham crackers and a piece of chocolate. Yay s’mores, they were delicious!

**

The next day, in the wet morning, Grant was making pancakes. The fragrant pancakes sizzling in an iron pan were very very attractive on a damp day. Everyone agreed that the pancakes were delicious.


“Camping makes everything taste good” said Sean.

“No, it’s the pan, its iron” I said.

“The pan?” Grant raised an eyebrow.

“Well, I didn't know of any pan that imparted its flavor to food” Sean replied. Boohoo, nobody believed me. But I do think that different pans give a mild but distinct flavor to food. Cook the same food in iron pan, an aluminium pan, a teflon pan, a steel pan, you will definitely have different flavors. Now add different cooking fires, an oven, a tandoor, a microwave, an open fire, and you will have still more flavors. Mild, but there nonetheless.


**

“Don’t you find American food bland?” asked Kensie.

“Yes I do, it’s very bland indeed” I replied. I was staring at my “veggie platter” that consisted of boiled carrots, boiled maize, lettuce and carrots in mayonnaise sauce, and potato in butter. I could not detect any spices in the platter. “In Nepal, we use a lot more spices than just salt and pepper.”

“Yes, thank god, I am not the only person who thinks so” Kensie was ecstatic. “Did you write home about American food?”

Actually, that was a strange question, but I had wrote home about it. About how there is so much cheese in everything, and how there is no “tarr” over milk, and how the consistency of the yogurt is different in a way that I cannot describe.

“In fact, we gain weight from bland food” Kensie informed us. “Because it is so easy to consume, we can have more of it, and because spicy food is difficult to eat, we eat less of it. So if you want to lose weight, eat spicy food.”

“That tip works the other way around for me” said Brandon. “I am always trying to put on weight, and my doctor advised me to eat twinkies and ice creams.”


“Oh wow, I wish someone would prescribe ice creams for me” I was wistful, because that was not going to happen anytime soon.


**

I never expected the camping to be a culinary experience, but it was. From Trisha’s delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to pasta and garlic bread on open fire, to the local (in Kensie’s words, bland) restaurant in Goreville, to Cockerel restaurant the next morning (where almost everyone seemed to be eating something I had never seen: oatmeal, grit, applesauce, my own fried apples...), there was so much variety in just two days! What an awesome time for my tummy!

Oct 4, 2011

the meaning of Ayu Drona Sute


आयु द्रोण सुते श्रीयं दशरथे सत्रुस्च याम…राघवे,
ऐश्वोर्य नहुशे गतिस्च पवाने मनंच दुर्योधने,
दानवा सुर्य सुते बलम हलधरे सत्यम्च कुन्ती सुते
बिज्ञाने बिदुरे भवति भवताम किर्तिस्च नारायणे

Every year we hear the long Sanskrit shloka that begins “Ayo Drona Sute” in Dashain, we know that these lines are blessings, but what do they actually mean? This shloka actually lists out the good qualities of characters from Hindu myths, and blesses the receiver with similar qualities. Many of the stories are familiar, but some are pretty obscure bits of mythology. For example, most people are familiar with the first bit which goes “Aayu Drona Sute, Shriyam Dasharathe, Shatrukhsyayam Raghave”. This line starts with Ashwatthama, the son of Drona. He had once vengefully unleashed a weapon on the womb of Abhimanyu’s wife Uttara, killing her unborn child. For this sin of feticide, Lord Krishna cursed him to live as an insect for 3 lakh years. Our elders would like us to live for 3 lakh years through a benign blessing and without the disadvantage of this curse. The next bit wishes that the receiver has as much wealth (Shree) as king Dasharath, and the last part is regarding Ram. The receiver is hoped to destroy all his enemies (shatru kshayam) like Raghav (another name for Ram) of yore did.

The second line runs thus:”Aishyarwam Nahushe, gatishcha Pawane, Manam cha Duryodhane.” It begins with the obscure story of Nahush. Nahush was an ancient king who was made the king of heaven during Indra’s absence. As a result, he lived an extremely luxurious life. But there is also a dark spin to his luxury. Nahush became so arrogant that he dared to desire Sachi, the wife of Indra, and decided to ride on a palanquin carried by rishis. No other mortal would even dare to think of such blasphemies, but Nahush wanted to prove that that he was the only one who could afford such luxuries. Not satisfied with that, Nahush kicked rishi Agastya, who in turn cursed him, causing him to fall from heaven and live on earth as a serpent for many years.

Moving on, the next part wishes that the receiver has the speed (gati) of air (pawan). Spending my third Dashain away from my family, I certainly could do with that kind of speed! I could go home with the west winds and come back with the east, and not worry about the doldrums in between! The last bit of this line mentions the pride (maan) of Duryodhan. Usually portrayed as the evil arch villain of Mahabharata, here Duryodhan is heaped with praises. Indeed, abhimaan or pride is the hallmark of this ill fated man’s life. He gave his best to the Mahabharata war, even though he knew there was no way he could win, simply because he had too much pride to surrender to his arch enemies. Despite having little support from his elders and being put down all his life, he stayed true to his heart. If he had won the war, the Mahabharata might now be a paean to his achievements, but since he did not, only this little shloka bears testament to his iron will.

The third line begins by extolling the generosity of Karna. “Daanam Surya Sute, Balam haladhare, Stayam cha Kuntisute”. This offspring of Surya was so famous for openhandedness that Lord Indra was able to wrangle his kawach and kundal that he was born with. Karna had to cut them out from his body to fulfill Indra’s request. No contentions here, Karna is indeed an admirable character and by far the favorite Mahabharata character of most people I know. The next part is regarding the strength (balam) of Balaram, who is famous for carrying a plough (Haladhar). He was renowned for his wrestling skills, which require a lot of physical strength. In fact, he was also the wrestling teacher of Bhim and Duryodhan, the best wrestlers of the era. The last bit praises the truth (satya) of Yudhishthir (Kunti-sute). Known for his virtuous ways, Yudhishthir was supposed to have spoken only one falsehood in his entire life.

The last line begins with a praise of Bidur for his knowledge. “Bigyanam Bidure, Bhawanti Bhawatam, Keertishcha Narayane.”Bigyan would mean science, but nowhere do we find Bidur being an engineer, or architect, or being even vaguely scientific in any other way. However, he was certainly well versed in politics, ethics, governance, astrology, and even Mlechha (foreign) languages. Now these are knowledges that I would die for, so I would gladly accept this gyan in lieu of science. The next part is the blessing part, where the speaker says “may these things happen!” The last bit talks about the fame (Keerti) of Lord Narayan. And truly, Narayan is probably the most famous of gods. Besides being part of the mighty trinity, two of his avatars Rama and Krishna are among the most famous Hindu gods. So our elders would not only want us to have all the above mentioned heavenly qualities, but also be world famous celebrities.

It is notable that all characters are from either Mahabharat or Ramayan, and there are no outside characters like Shiva, Ganesh, etc. It is also notable that apart from neutral qualities like speed, generosity, truth, knowledge and fame, the rest of the qualities are distinctly warlike. The strength of Balram, the foe destroying capacities of Ram, and the pride of Duryodhan fall into this category. As such, according to ancient Hindu classification, this shloka seems to be for Kshatriyas. The mention of luxurious life further confirms this, as no other caste is encouraged to live luxuriously. Conversely, there are no blessings about non Kshatriya values like peace, humility, or labor.

Some of the characters mentioned seem to be ill chosen: Ashwatthama, for example, is the only one of the Chiranjeevis to be cursed into long life, and his inclusion seems surprising beside the glittering resumes of other seven chiranjeevis who lived as long as him. Duryodhan too is a highly dubious choice as his admirable pride turned out to be very destructive for himself and his entire clan. Nahush met his downfall in the very luxury that this shloka promotes. In Hindu philosophy, Satya does not mean just the spoken truth, but also a virtuous lifestyle. Being a woman, I find it surprising that a man who staked his wife on dice is held up as a model of truth. On the subject of women, it is notable that while all these personalities are extraordinary and anyone would be lucky to have their qualities, all of them are men. Sure, it is desirable for women as well to live long, be swift and live a life of luxury. But all the same, many qualities like physical strength and foe-destruction are generally not applicable to women. It would have been nice if some of the names had been of women. As intelligent as Sarasvati maybe? Or as prosperous as Lakshmi, who is a much better symbol of wealth than the scandalous Nahush?

Though the meaning behind this shloka is now clear, many other questions remain. Who wrote this shloka? In which epic or manual can it be found? Since when has it been used in Nepal? Since when has it been associated with Dashain? I could find no answers to these questions, and I am looking forward to learning those answers too.

this one was published in kathhmandu post, yupee http://www.ekantipur.com/2011/10/04/oped/not-a-simple-blessing/341801.html

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