Sunday, December 26, 2010

Episode 38 - The Markandeya Sessions Pt. 2

Episode 38 - The Sage Markandeya continues with his storytelling.  He begins with his own version of the Four Ages or Yugas.  One interesting point is that in his reckoning, the Kali Yuga lasts 1,200 years in total.  Since we are told elsewhere that the Kali Yuga began for us on the death of Krishna, then the Kali Yuga must have ended centuries ago, and we happy people have made it into the next Golden Age!

After an apocalyptic vision of the future, Makandeya gives us the Tale of the Frog, which culminates in a showdown between the brahmin Vamadev and a pair of stubborn kings.  The brahmin, of course, comes out the victor!

There are more stories to come in the next episode, so the Markandeya Sessions will continue...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Episode 37 - The Markandeya Sessions Pt. 1

Episode 37 - While Krishna is still hanging out at the camp, the sages Narada and Markandeya show up.  After some prodding, Markandeya finally opens up and gives us his take on reincarnation, sin and the afterlife.  He follows that up with two stories about Brahmins, and then gives us his rendition of the Fish, Manu, and the Flood.

I also present my theory that the five Pandavas are somehow correllated with the five extremities of the human body.  Yuddistira is clearly the head, while Bhima is associated with the right arm.  Arjuna, the "Left-Handed Archer", seems pretty clearly to be linked with the left arm, and the twins make up the pair of legs.  Since they are all incarnations of a single being-- Indra-- perhaps Indra had himself dismembered and each limb became a different Pandava.

There is also something sexual about Arjun that is different from the others.  We haven't gotten to that part of the story yet, but during the year in hiding, Arjun is disguised as an hermaphrodite, Brihanala, which literally means "Woman with large penis".  Much later in the story, we'll discover that of the five sons of Draupadi, it is Arjun's son and grandson who carry on the line of kings.

Markandeya is still telling stories, so we'll have more from him next time.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Episode 36 - Bhima and the Snake

Episode 36 - The Pandavas journey south, out of the Himalayas and back to the plains.  Along the way, Bhima goes hunting and finds himself captured by a giant magical snake.  The Snake takes his time and tells Bhima his life story before proceeding to eat the hero.  Meanwhile, Yuddistira sees dark omens and heads off to look for his brother on his own.  For the purposes of the later story, Arjun stays at home and Yuddistira does the rescuing.

When Yuddistira gets to the scene, Bhima tells him what is going on, and that the snake is under a curse.  If Yuddistira can answer the snake's question, then all would be well.  Yuddistira is good at quiz games; the question is basically whether one is a Brahmin by birth or by behavior.

The Snake and Yuddistira hit it off really well, and the two discuss questions of the Soul and Karma for a while.  Finally, the snake releases Bhima and then dies, his soul returning to heaven.  The brothers return to the camp, where the Brahmins scold Bhima-- "He shouldn't have been out hunting anyway!  Hunting is bad!"

The Pandavas then journey onward to the Kanyaka forest-- the place where they began their exile 10 years earlier.  At the Kanyaka forest they meet up once again with Krishna.  This time he brings his first wife Satyabhama, and they intend to stay a while.

Krishna brings news of the Pandavas' five sons.  They are teenagers now, and are all being raised at Dwarka, learning the arts of war with Krishna's eldest son Pradyumna.

Finally, two more guests arrive; Narada and Markandeya.  Markandeya has appeared several times in the past, but he has always been a man of few words.  This time he apparently has a lot he wants to say.  We'll get started on it next time!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Episode 35 - Welcome back, Arjun

Episode 35 - It's deja-vu all over again, as the Pandavas move from the hermitage of Nar-Narayan to another one on the slopes of Mt Kailash, named for Arstisena.  Another flower wafts down the hill, and Draupadi again sends Bhima off in search of the source.  Bhima completely forgets Yuddistira's injunction about making trouble and he invades Kubera's kingdom, starting a war with the god's "genial leprechaun" army.

There's no Hanuman this time around, but we do at least get an explanation for Kubera's toleration of Bhima's vandalism and slaughter-- it turns out that Kubera's buddy Manimat had been cursed by Agastya, and was doomed to die at the hands of a mortal.  Bhima was only fulfilling the inevitable.

During the course of this adventure, the fifth year of Arjun's mission comes to an end.  He comes flying in on Indra's chariot, with a load of WMD in the back.  After a joyful reunion, Arjun tells us of his last mission for Indra.  This story is another replay.  It is basically the same story as Krishna's battle with Shalva and his Saubha "flying city".  This time the flying city is inhabited by Nivatakavacas ("beings clad in air-tight armor"), and Arjun fights them to the death, breaking in his new weapons.

Now re-united, the brothers hang out in the gardens of the far north for another four years, making it a total of 10 years they have spent so far in exile.  Next time, they will begin heading south and making preparations for their year in hiding.