Wednesday, November 5, 2008

On Hearing that USA elected Obama!

Colour blindness

Colour blind we are not,For we search a ghori for our bride.

Caste blind we are not,
For we search for Yadavs,
Dalits and Brahmins ,
While we tender our votes.

Religion blind we are not,
For we search and burn ,
Temples , masjids and Church.

But it looks like Americans ,
Have become colour blind
Have become caste blind,And also religion blind .

How else would they vote,
For a black man and not white one
Whose forefather were of religion unknown,
And ancestors were slaves in USA?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Story telling in India

Story telling started in India from the Vedic times. Though most of the Vedas are either emphasis on spirituality or rituals or philosophy, many of these are illustrated by stories. Possibly this was done with a view to make these hard core thought processes, reach the common people. While the stories about the role of nature (symbolized by the five aspects of Fire, earth, water, wind and air) are found in the main textual portion of the Vedas, large number of stories illustrating the principles of philosophy are found in the Upanishads.
In spite of all that, these did not reach the common man and the next great development in Indian thought process started immediately after the Vedic period. These were the 18 mega epics which are essentially collection of intricately woven stories mainly of Gods, their incarnations, their devotees, the enemies of their devotees etc. Unless some body reads the mega tome called Maha Bharatha (loosely translated as “Great India”) and read the thousands of stories contained there, people may not believe the story telling culture of India. All these epics were spread by a group of sages called “Sootha Puranikar” by word of mouth. Naturally they underwent many changes. Alterations, deletions and additions are very much expected in this story telling process. Each of the epics is told by a sage to another sage or a king or to a representative of the common man,
This tradition took deep roots in India. You may wonder whether they were fairy tales. Fairies did not exist in the Indian lore. There were Gods, demi gods, Ogres , Yakshas (minstrel divine singers) , ghosts, spirits etc. Many of the stories of that time had these characters. Even at that time , in spite of religious back ground, it was not always good winning over bad. There were stories to illustrate the path to succeed in life , either by fair or slightly unfair means. In the past two to three thousand years, these stories were spread to the breadth and length of the country by word of mouth or by musical discourses, dance dramas etc.
The next great collection of stories was the “Brihat Katha Manjari” (The giant bouquet of stories) written in a language called Paisachi (loosely translated devilish) which was the forerunner of Sanskrit (refined). Here intricate love stories, stories about Heroes etc are found in plenty. The story within another story (some times seven to eight tiers deep) were found in this book.
It was possibly at this time that the religion of Buddhism was born in India. This religion depended a lot on story telling to propagate its principles. The stories of Bodhi sathwas were an integral part of this religion. These characters were incarnations of Budha . Many times the Bodhi Sathwa was not necessarily human but animal or bird or even tree which did charitable and noble deeds. Apart from moral these tried to teach the common man the philosophy of Budhism. These were written in a language called Pali, which originated from the spoken language of the Vedic and Puranic period, which was called Prakrit(Meaning “Very natural”). This pali is believed to be the fore runner of the present day national language of India –Hindi.
Side by side with these developments was the Golden period of the Gupthas. Among them was a great king called Chandra Guptha II otherwise known as Vikramadithya(The valorous Sun). Many very interesting tales sprung round this great king. In the beginning due to some accidents in life, he decided to rule the country for six months and live in the forest for six months. Every trip to the forest gave rise to an adventure. These stories of Vikramadithya which included the stories of Vikramadithya and his Vampaire are hot favourites of many generations of Indians. This dynasty was later followed by the Mauryas. And one of the greatest common man scholar of that period was Kautiliya also known as Chanakya and also known as Vishnu Sharman. He is credited to have composes the Pancha Thantra (Five tricks) which is a compilation of five stories. Most of the characters in these were animals. Again the idea was not to propagate ethics but teach people the method of living.
These stories descended to the common man and story telling became the art of the common man. The same story was told to a toddler to the young boy/girl , to the lad /lass and to man/woman. But the style and content of the story was altered by the story teller depending on the age group of the audience he is addressing, Story telling became an integral part of the common man’s lingua to drive home , the points that he was talking about.
Along with the religion of Islam came a moderate group who took to the Indian tradition of story telling. They were called Sufis. They illustrated their talks by peppery stories. Storied of Khalil Gibran and Naseruddin Hodja caught the imagination of the common man in India. When the British came , they came with Grimms fairy tales, Aespos fables, Andersons fairy tales and large number of stories frm the bible. Some how these were rarely Indianised.
Every village in India had a temple , a hero a great devotee of god and great women. The very imaginative Indians wove stories round them. Many of them illustrate why a temple is considered as particularly holy,hw a devotee got salvation, what a great hero did to the village and how by sacrificing her life along with her husband a woman became great etc.
The modern education spearheaded by the British laid emphasis on the fairy tales of Europe but the fairy tales of India did not vanish. They were preserved word of mouth. A great story teller during the modern period is Saint Ramakrishna. He illustrated his preaching with lots and lots of stories.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Kunjan Nambiar- some tales

Kunjan Nambiar

Kunjan Nambiar was a great poet and story teller of Kerala. He was a disciple of one great story teller called Pothiyil Rama chakyar. Pothiyil used to be an expert in the art form called Chakyar Koothu in Kerala. In this the story teller would come to the stage and tell us a story illustrated by Sanskrit slokas. They were also licensed to tease the audience and even the king. Pothiyil Rama chakyar one day teased Kunjan Nambiar too much. This irritated Kunjan Nambiar. So at the same time when Pothiyil Rama chakyar was presenting a story, at a near by stage Kunjan Nambiar introduced a new art form called –Ottan thullal. Literally translated it means jumping while running. A new genre of poem in Malayalam was written by Kunjan and since he used simple Malayalam words, he could easily draw away the complete audience of the Chakyars. There are many stories of wit about Kunjan Nambiar (Kunjan for short) prevalent in Kerala. I am giving below a few of them:-

The packet of Khus khus.

It seems n the debut day; he brought a packet of Khus Khus and showed it to the audience. Packet is called pothi in Malayalam and Khus khus is called Ramacham. He opened the packet in front of the audience saying “Pothiyil Ramacha akki yar?”
Meaning “who put the kuhs khus in the packet as well as teasing his rival whose name was the same thing.

Deepa Sthambam

Once Kunjan was attending a function in which the lamp pillar (deepa Sthambam) was being inaugurated by the king. The king naturally wanted all the poets to sing about his Deepa Sthambam. He gave them lot of money for each poem. Kunjan Nambiar was reluctant and when he was forced to do it, he sang

Deepa Sthambam mahascharyam,
Namukkum kittanam panam,

The lamp pillar is greatly wonderful,
I also should get the money.

The king realized his mistake and carved the pardon of this great poet,

The king’s boarding house

Kunjan Nambiar being poor was eating from the free boarding house (called Ootu puraii in Malayalam) maintained by the king. The managers and servants there were giving sub standard food after stealing the money granted by the king. One day Kunjan and the king were walking on the main road. Suddenly they saw a cow having watery motion. Kunjan rushed near the cow and enquired “Are you also eating in the king’s Ootu puraii?”
The king who heard this made enquiries and dismissed the corrupt officials and set right the Oottu puraii.

Who is more pretty?

One day Kunjan Nambiar was taking a morning walk along with his friend. The queen and her maid were going for bathing in the temple tank.
The friend of Kunjan asked him, “Nalla Thali (good shampoo)”
And Kunjan replied “Kathilola (Studs in the ears.”
Actually they were using their mastery in Sanskrit to enjoy themselves.
What the friend asked was “Ka athi lola?(who is more pretty) and what Kunjan replied was
Nallathu AAli(the maid is better.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Which Man has a womb?

Which man has a womb?

Translation attempted by

The food we eat,
The words that we talk,
All are meant to the baby,
When we are carrying him

I would deliver your child,
After floating in blood ,
For four to five hours,
So that he travels with you,
And puts your initials,
In front of his name.

If I request,
You would kiss me,
You would fondle and hug me,
And you would console me.

Do we give milk to the baby.
After he requests for it?

Which man has a womb,
To carry the girl,
Doing penance for a child,
To carry him in her womb.

Computers-mansions vs Mud huts


Ja Mariyammal
Translation attempted by

In the middle of all these human beings,
Who tell lot of falsehoods and lies,
She is the perennial God,
Who only tells the truth.

She who roams and roams,
In thousands of souls,
Is a dream girl,
Called computer,
Which never gets,
In to the hands of God of death.

She lies on several laps,
Of rich people in mansions,
And when will she come,
To the doors of these mud huts.

Your God !

Your God
Translation attempted by

I am asking your God,
Why he created your heart,
Within you ,
For , only because of that,
I am not able to know,
Whether I am inside your heart.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sagothra marriages

There was some very relevant point raised about the need of lifting the ban on sagothra marriages.. It is commonly understood that Gothra is the paternal lineage, which is important to Hindus of all shades except the group practicing matrilineal inheritance in Kerala. The Dharma sashtras, I understand also ban the marriages within Pravaras. Pravaras are important note worthy individuals among the ancestors of the Rishis who lead the Gothra. If we agree that sagothra marriages are not to be performed, then it is meaningful not to perform Sapravara marriages. I want to mention the fiollowing points:-

1.Caste among Hindus in Dharma Sasthras depend on the mother rather than the father.A Brahmin woman marrying a Brahmin , only begets a Brahmin child. If she marries outside the caste she gives birth to Chandala(with Shudhra), Sootha(With Kshatrya), and Vaidehaka(With Vysya). On the other hand the caste of the child born to a Brahmin father to the different caste mothers is same as the caste of the mother. What is the implication of this to the Gothra system?
2.Take Pravara for example. Angirasa occurs in the pravara of following Gothras viz Gargya, Angeerasa, Gowthama, Pourugutsya, Badharayana, Bharadwaja, Moudgalya, Vishnu vriddha, Shadamarshana Sankrithi and Haritha. As is known all these occupy a very large percentage of Brahmins.Apart from that Kasyapa another Rishi who is the brother of Angeerasa occurs in Many other pravaras. Realising this our forefathers have decided to perform Sapravara marriages. I really do not know when this happened and how the decision was imposed on the Brahmin community. Is it not time for us now to review the status of Sagothra marriages? Who has to do it? Who will give us the guidelines so that all of will follow?
3. I read recently in a stotra about Hanuman that he belongs to the Kaundinya Gothra. I understand that Padmavathi (A kshatriya) belongs to the Sree Vatsa Gothra. It is also common knowledge that each Gothra has followers from different Vedas. Does all this mean that the gothra consists of people from different castes and even animals? Does this mean that Gothra is not at all patrelineal lineage?
4.whatever may be the decision, if sagothra marriages are to be permitted, the Hindu law on marriages has to be amended, because it makes Sagothra marriages illegal.This is not as simple as it seems.If a sagothra marriage is performed and the boy later marries a girl belonging to a different gothra, the first wife will not be a legally wedded wife.
I am sure that very learned people are members of this group. I request them humbly to react. This is very major issue facing us now while performing marriage.

Brahmins of Tamil Nadu

Brahmanas in India – an introduction


Image result for iyers

Evidence as to whether all the present day Hindus were migrants , possibly from Asia minor and whether they were were Aryans is both confusing and conflicting. But the fact that they were a major part of the great religion called “Sanathana Dharma” or “eternal truth” is very strong. The invading hoards from outside of the later years starting from Hunas classified this group of people as Hindus. This religious group did not have any founder prophet. They followed the tenets of religion as enunciated by very many sages, kings, heroes in their four holy books called Vedas. When these books were evolved, there was no script to write and preserve them. So this group decided to entrust the job of learning all these Vedas by rote and teaching it to the next generation be left to a very specialized group of people called “Brahmanas”. Initially it looks as if these were only the selected people of the community who had the intellectual capacity to do this very tedious job and also prepared to lead a simple life without any vocation to earn their livelihood.. Preservation of Vedas was of paramount importance and the Hindu community must have decided that to do this these scholars who were dedicating their life for such a noble venture must be taken care of by the other members of the society engaged in war, cattle rearing and commerce.
It is not clear when the process of selecting the intellectuals and putting them in one group stopped and when Brahmanas became Brahmanas because of their birth. But this has already happened in the late puranic period and definitely in the early historic period of India. As per the religious tenets that they were taught, all groups gave munificent support to all Brahmanas , who lead a scholarly life devoted entirely to learning and teaching. Most of these early developments must have happened in the Indo gangetic plain and the valleys of great rivers like Narmada, for by that time the pastoral nomadic Hindus have become a thriving agricultural community. .When population started exploding and when new religious teachers converted the kings to new way of thinking and when enemy hoards threatened the very survival of their religion , some of these Brahmanas must have decided to migrate to the south and settle down in the shores of the great river Cauvery. .

A.A peep in to ancient and medieval history
According to reputed historians , in the hoary past Tamil Nadu was occupied by a very cultured people whose religion was perhaps different from Hinduism. They did not have the Chaturvarnyam among them but had different caste groups. To this country the Brahmanas of North India migrated. This according to historians took place when the Maurya Kings were ruling India, the reason being the new religious revolutions in the north started by Gautama the Buddha and Mahavira Vardhamana which found favour with the kings. The Brahmana migration was in waves and many of them settled down in present telugu country and some of them reached Tamil Nadu.The first groups to migrate to Tamil Nadu were the pro-Shukra Brahmanas who were followers of Lord Shiva and the last few waves were the Pro-Brihaspati Brahmanas who were mainly followers of Lord Vishnu. Historians believe that at that time there were differences between Saivites and Vaishnavites but was very minimal.
Tamil Nadu (i.e the three great kingdoms of Chozha, Pandya and Chera) welcomed these new migrants with open hands. The stories of the migration of Agasthya(a Brahmin saint of North India) and his being the founder of the river Cauvery are chronicled in ancient Tamil myth. His disciple Tholkappiyar , who is definitely a historical figure wrote the first book in Tamil viz. Tholkappiyam.This book clearly mentions the existence of Brahmanas in Tamil Nadu. There is some evidence pointing out to Tholkappiyar himself being a Brahmin. They were initially called Anthanars or Parpaars or aravor or vediyars. Tholkappiyam also mentions the word Aiyar in one place.
The kings of Tamil Nadu were attracted by these learned pundits and made them their Asans or teachers. They also gave these teachers several powers. Apart from this several villages were given to them as grants free of cost and free of tax .These were called Brahmodayams or Chadurvedimangalams. Possibly in a much later period they were renamed Agraharams.Though new to the culture and language these new migrants learned the language of the country and the ancient books mention many great poets among them in the courts of some very famous kings. These early migrants also brought the concept of Gothras. Bharadwaja, Koundinya, Kasyapa, Kaushika and Atreya Gothras are mentioned in the early sangam literature. They initially did not name themselves as they do in modern times after the Gods they worship but tended to use their Gothra in their names. Some of the examples of the early names were Kauniyan Vinnantayan (Kaundinya), Palai Gautamanar (Gautama), Ilankausikanar (Kausika) ,Kallil Athreyanar(Atreya) , Bharadwaji Nachinarkiniyanar (Bharadwaja) and so on.
They were strict vegetarians, teetotalers and spoke a specialized dialect of Tamil among themselves. Their houses had a “well-washed-scrubbed-courtyard” and mostly a cow and a calf were tied to a post in front of their houses and dog and fowls were assiduously kept out. The Brahmin of those times had six fold duties viz. learning of Vedic texts, teaching of Vedas, performing yagnas(called velvi in Tamil) , helping others perform yagnas, giving of gifts and taking of gifts. Among the earliest schools of Vedas started by them were the Ghatika in Kanchi and the Vedic School in a village called Ennayiram near present day Pondycheri.. The sangam literature mentions about a famous Brahmana named Punjarurkavunian Vinnandayan who is supposed to have performed many Vedic sacrifices during those times.
They also took lot of interest in developing Tamil Literature. Among the well known Brahmana poets of that time were Nakkerar, Kapilar, Nachinarkiniyar, Tayam Kannanar and so on. Though representatives of the Vedic learning they also took very active part in the Bhakti movement of the ancient Tamil Nadu. Among the great saints were Nambi andar Nambi , Nadamuni, Sambandar, Sundarar, Kungilyakalayanar, and many others.

Divisions and Groups

It is very important to note here that they were both Shaivites and Vaishnavites among them since their known history but they preferred to live as one major group with several sub groups.The Bhakthi movement of spearheaded by Azhwars and Nayanmars was followed by the great philosophical awakening of India strangely from the Brahmanas of Tamil Nadu.The first was Sankara Bhagawat Pada who was born in a Namboodiri family and came out with the concept of Advaitha or non dualism. He interpreted the holy books of India and came to the conclusion that , essentially there is no difference between God and the beings he created.All of them were a single ultimate truth called Brahma. Then came Sage Ramanuja from a tamil brahmana family who did not agree with Adhi Sankara. He conclusively argued that , the beings and God are different but the beings can merge with God by realization. The royal path for realization was through Saranagathi or absoulute surrender.His philosophy was called Visishtadvaitham or “specialized non dualism”. His disciples reinterpreted the concept of surrender according to the mode of saranagathi and there were two schools of his followers viz. Vadakalai and Thenkalai. The last great doyen of this great philosophers was sage Madhwa who was born in the coastal area of the present Karnataka who disagreed with both of them and gave rise to the philosophy of dualism.
The historians who have traced the migration of Brahmanas to Tamil Nadu believe that the first group to migrate were the BrihatCharanams and Ashtasaharam Brahmanas. The Brihatcharanams loosely translated as Big foot or Great migrations were the first wave of settlers who settled in places like Mangudi, Satyamangalam, Thiruvannamalai ,Palamaneri, Kandarmanikkam, Milagasur and so on. The next migrants were possibly were the Ashtasahasrams who settled down in a place called Ennayiram near Pondicherry. The next big wave of migrants were the Vadamas , so called by others who have already settled as Northerners. There were other smaller sub groups like Vathimas also. Many of these migrants whose main occupation was learning Vedas and performing Yagnas took to Temple worship in Tamil Nadu by gaining proficiency in agama Sastras. These were called Kurukkal in general and some of these prominent groups were again grouped in to Sholiyars. Since the initial migrants felt that these people have committed a big mistake by taking up Temple Worship , they were looked down by the other groups. Another prominent and well recognized group of learned Brahmanas were the Chidambaram Dikshitars. The Mukkani Brahmanas who assist in Pujas in the Tiruchendur Temples were a later addition to these groups The Vadamas themselves were again split in to Then desathu Vadamas and Vada desathu vadamas.
It is not clear when the Vaishnavites became a separate group and started calling themselves as Iyengars. They definitely did it after the advent of Sage Ramanujachariar who systematized Srivaishnavism After him his followers again split in to Vadakalai Iyengars and Thenkalai Iyengars. There is also some evidence to prove that most of the Vadakalai Iyengars were from Vadamas and most of the Thenkalai Iyengars were from the Sholiyars.
There were also minor sects like Kesis and Kaniyalars. There is another very small group called Prathamasakhis who are confined to few villages like Seddanipuram near Nannilam of Tanjore district who believe that they turn in to untouchables at mid day everyday. They go out of the house at mid day and reenter the house after a purificatory bath.
From those migrants who occupied the present Karnataka state rose another great sage called Madhwa.He preached a different cult of Vaishnavism with slightly different philosophy. His followers were called Madhwas.In later days reverse migration took place and many of them settled back in Tamil Nadu.Among them was the great Sage Raghavendra.
There also seems to be a big group of Telugu speaking brahmanas settled during the rule of Krishna Deva Raya and Marathi speaking brahmanas settled during the later Maratha rule in Tanjore.
The ancient Brahmanas of Tamil Nadu took up to professions such as Land Holders, musicians and domestic priests . Of these Silappadikaram mentions that those who took to music were frowned up on. They normally took to surnames like Sarma, Bhattar, Somayaji, Jadavallabhar, Dikshitar etcThey belonged to Gothras like Maudgalya, Srivatsa, Kaundinya, Kasyapa, Bharadwaja, Vadula, Atreya, Vasishta, Gautama, Haritha, Kaushika, Sandilya, Garga, Paurukutsa, Sankrityayana, Samkrithi, Viswamitra and so on. Most of the Rig Vedis followed the Aswalayana Sutra, the Shukla Yajurvedis followed either the Apasthambha or Bodhayana sutra , the Krishna Yajurvedis followed the Katyayana Sutra and Samavedis followed Drahyayana Sutra.

Ancient professions
As was necessary the Brahmanas could not stick on to the profession of Vedic learning and eke out a living. Initially they were supposed to perform Yagnas (Velvi in Tamil) but they convinced the kings of Tamil Nadu that they should take over the maintenance of temples according to the Agama Sasthras. Because of this except for the temples of Goddesses like Kali, Ayyanar etc they were appointed as the Archakas.Here again there were two major groups , the Kurukkal doing worship in Shaivaite temples and Azhwars doing worship in Vaishnavaite temples. Another profession in which they shined was administration. They were the only community in Tamil Nadu who established Sabhas for administration of their agraharams. The king gave a sort of autonomy to such Sabhas. Details of many Sabhas are available in several stone inscriptions. Possibly due to the simple life they lead, the Kings also started appointing them as ministers and chief administrators. One of the greats was Ulagalanda Chola Brahmarayan who surveyed the lands for the king Rajadiraja. Many of them took to Tamil writing like Kalamegha Pulavar, Arulnandi Sivacharya, Periyachan Pillai, , Nathamunigal and so on. They also produced Appayya Dikshidar who was possibly a great contributor to the philosophical writings on Advaita founded by Sankaracharya.Other great writers were Govinda Dikshitar the author of Sangita Sudha, Yagnanarayana Dikshitar the author of Sahitya Ratnakaram, Ramabhadra Dikshitar the author of Janaki Parinayam, Sridhra Venkatesa Aiyaval who wrote a biography of Shaji the brother of Shivaji, Sadashiva Brahmendrar who authored many religious tomes and so on. Another very important but patently unnatural profession for the Brahmanas of this period was that of the warrior. There were Brahmanas like Rajaraja Brahma Maharaja in the kingdom of Vengi, Kannan who was a general of Kulothunga I , Ramappiyan the famous general of Thirumalai Nayakkan of Madurai...
Music was another profession they shined. They systematized the musical rules , composed thousands of pieces and also became experts in singing.Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Deekshidar and Shyama Shastry were the all time greats.

Migration from Tamil Nadu

Another very important event that happened to Brahmanas , was their migration to neighboring states. The Palakkad Brahmanas of Kerala, the Dravida Brahmanas of Guntur, and The Sankethis of Karnataka all were Tamil Brahmin migrants. They might have migrated due to the rule of Maharatha and Vijayanagar dynasties when they lost their pre-eminent position in society. Also saint Ramanuja was forced by politics of those times to spend some part of life in Karnataka and he had several followers there.

Impression of ancient foreign visitors

Many foreign visitors during that period have left several comments on the life of a Tamil Brahmanas of those times .Marco Polo wrote that:” It is their practice of everyone, male and female, do wash the whole body thrice everyday … must know that in eating they use the right hand only and would on no account touch their food with left hand …..
So also they drink only from drinking vessels; and everyone hath his own;nor will anyone drink from another’s vessel. And when they drink they do not put the vessel to their lips, but hold it aloft and let the drink sprout in to their mouth…” He also says that they never tell lies and they abhor robbery. He also mentions” They are distinguished by a certain badge consisting of a thick cotton thread which passes over the shoulder and tied under their breast. Domingo Paes , a Portuguese visitor wrote about the king using their services to ask questions to the idol in the temples.
It was during this period that the Brahmanas of Tamil Nadu started concentrating on education. They established several schools called Ghatikas where they could learn Sanskrit and Vedas. There were famous Ghatikas in Kanjeevaram, Nagapattinam and Ennayiram. The subjects taught in these schools were Kavya, Vyakarana, Sastra etc. The kings made sumptuous grants for running of these schools. With the coming of Vijayanagar kings and that of Maratha kings Brahmanas easily picked up the language of kings and got employment in their courts. But most of the Brahmanas were not having facilities to come and join these Ghatikas. They instead continued with the Guru Kula style of ancient in India by living in the houses of their teachers. The art of music was somehow taught only like this.

B: Modern Times
The Brahmanas evolved much further in the eighteenth and nineteenth centaury. This period also saw their rise and fall in Tamil Nadu.The groups’ rise was due to their early interaction with the English. The English wanted to communicate with the locals. And they easily identified the Tamil Brahmin for this job. They first taught him English and employed him to help them talk with the locals. Identifying their administrative genius as well as devotion to their masters, they employed them in all sort of jobs. This was perhaps the main reason , why we find the Brahmanas of today a very educated lot. They made a mark in whichever field they got interested. If a list of all time greats in Tamil nadu were compiled about 50% of them would be brahmanas. Recently the Tamil Nadu Brahmin association has compiled to who is who among Tamil Brahmanas and this 1000 paged volume has not even covered 50% of those eminent people. A feeble attempt is made here to indicate some great people here and possibly represent .001% of the great Tamil Brahmanas.

Before independence most of great geniuses in administration who held posting under the British were Brahmanas. Some of the greatest were Sri Seshaia sasthri, Sri.T,.Muthuswami Iyer, Sri.P.S.Sivaswamy Iyer, Rt.Hon.Sreenivasa sastry, Sri.C.P.Ramaswamy Iyer,Sri.Bhashyam Ayyangar etc In the post independence period they mostly moved away from the spheres of administration but the notable among them was Sri.T.N.Seshan.

2.Freedom fighters
The Brahmanas though by nature not interested in politics fought side by side with others for making our nation free.Possibly the greatest among them was Sri.N.C.Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) who also became the first governor general of India, He was also a very great writer as well as social reformer. Some of the other notables were , Va.Ve.Su.Iyer, Mahakavi Bharathi, Vanchi who killed the collector of Tirnelveli, Sri.Santhanam who was our first railway minister ,SriSathya murthy and Sri.Bhashyam iyengar,Sri Ananthasayanam Ayyangar who was the first adorn the chair of speaker in the Indian parliament laid great foundations of parliamentary practice.

The Brahmanas simply dominated the writing scene of Tamil Nadu for a very long time. The first novelist , Vadavur Dorai Samy Iyengar, The great lady writer who wrote for creating social awakening Smt.Vai.Mu .Kothainayagei ammal, Sri.U.Ve .Swaminatha iyer who wandered all over Tamil nadu and collected folk and ancient Tamil literature(called Tamil Thatha), Kalki the greatest writer of historic fiction, Maha Kavi Subramanya Bharathi who is acknowledged as the greatest poet of modern times, Nadodi,Chavi, Gomathy Sunbramanyam, Ki.Va Jagannatham Chandilyan, are some of the few all time greats.
Among the savants who contributed to Sanskrit literature were Ganapathi shastri, Gopala shastri, Thethiyur Subramanya sastri, Prathivathi bhayangaram Annangaracharyar and so on.
In journalism also they made very significant contributions. The Hindu, Dhinamani, Swadesha mithran, Kalki, Ananda vikatan, were all started by brahmanas and managed by them.

This is an area that they took least interest. But the great mathematical genius Sri,Srinivasa Ramanhjam, The first Nobel prize winning scientist, Sir.C.V.Raman. the scientist responsible for feeding modern India.Dr.Rangachari possibly one of the greatest physicians Tamil nadu has produced,Dr.Ramamurthy the great neuro surgeon Dr.M.S.Swaminathan, Dr.Chandra Shekar , an authority on astrophysics who won Nobel Prize, Dr,Seshadri one of the greatest chemists that India has produced, Dr.Kasthuri Rangan of the ISRO were all brahmanas.

This was another field dominated by the Brahmanas. The music trinity who started it all,Pattanam Subramanya Iyer,Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer, Gopalakrishna Bharathi, Kothamangalam Subbu, Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyenger, Maharajhapuram Viswanatha Iyer, Maharajhapuram Santhanam,Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathatr, Sri.M.S.Gopalakrishnan, Tiger Varadhacharyar, Madurai Mani Flute Ramani, Kunnakudi Vaidyanatan,Veenai Balachander, Smt.Pattammal,Brinda –Muktha, Bombay sisters, Kavitha Krishnamurthy, Hariharan, Shankar Subramanyan the great music critic Subbudu are only the beginning of the list.
Another music related vocation in which they excelled was Pravachanas and Hari Katha.Two of the greats were Sengalipuram Anantha Rama Deekshidar and Thoopul Lakshmi Narasimhan,.Pudukootai Gopalakrishna Bhagavathar was an eminent musician who systematized the bhajana sampradayam.

This orthodox community also took interest in development of drama and Cinema in Tamil Nadu.Some of the all time greats were SriBalachander, the doyen among film directors and actors like , Gemini Ganesan, Kamala Hasan, Cho, Vishu, Vyjayanthi mala, Rekha, Jaya Laitha ,Hema malini, Saharanamam, Jayaraman, Priya Mani, Vidhya Balan and so on.

Quo Vadis?
The reservation system introduced after independence, the land reform bills and the Dravidian movement put this small vibrant community in to great strain. They were simply thrown out of their moorings and were forced to migrate all over the country as well as the world in search of jobs. Though earning a bread has become their priority, they still act as the repository of Hindu religious knowledge and are the corner stones on which future Hindu religion will stand..They also would essentially provide intellectual input in all walks of life for all the time to come.

Friday, October 3, 2008

There is no defeat

There is no defeat

Translated from Hindi

(Here is a translation of a great Hindi Poem called “Haar Nahi Hothi.” .I do not know who is the author of this work but I know that the message of the poem is universal.)

For those who try, there is no defeat ever,
Since a river can never be crossed.
Without an effort to cross it,
Even though one is afraid of the waves.

Small tiny ants that get hold of a grain,
Climb on the steep wall along with the grain,
They fall several times again, along with the grain,
But pick up the grain again and try again.
Falling never deters them from climbing,
For those who try , there is no defeat ever.

The small and tiny ants take the grain and move,
Up above the walls and drop the grain hundred times,
The belief in the mind fills our heart with hope and bravery,
Climbing and falling or falling and climbing does not deter them,
For his effort can never be wasted,
For those who try there is no defeat.

The divers, several times dive deep in to the sea,
Going and going deep they come back empty handed,
For the Pearl is not easily found in deep waters,
And the renewed vigorous effort is done due to the fact,
That every time you try ,you do not return empty handed,
For those who try there is no defeat.

Defeat is a challenge-accept it,
Examine what is the problem- improve it,
Till you get victory - forsake sleep and peace,
Do not run away - with problems in the arena,
For doing nothing- victory cannot be yours,
For those who try there is no defeat.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Maithreem Bhajatha

Maithreem Bhajatha
Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati
Translation by
(This prayer was written by Paramacharya of Kanchi to be sung in the U.N. Assembly by Smt.M.S.Subbalakshmi during its 50th anniversary and dealt about universal brotherhood and peace as enshrined by the Sanathana Dharma. An English translation was also attached. Fully realizing that my translation would be far inferior, I decided to do the translation on my own and present it here in the form of a verse. I am sure the admirers of the great savant would pardon me for such an attempt.)

Maithreem Bhajatha Akila Hrith Jeththreem
Atmavat Eva Paraan api pashyata
Yuddham thyajatha , Spardhaam Tyajata ,
thyajatha Pareshwa akrama aakramanam
Jananee Prthivee Kaamadughaastey JanakO Deva:
Sakala Dayaalu Daamyata Datta Dayathvam
Janathaa Sreyo Bhooyaath Sakala Janaanaam
Sreyo Bhooyaath Sakala Janaanaam
Sreyo Bhooyaath Sakala Janaanaam.

With friendship please serve,
And conquer all the hearts,
Please think that others are like you,
Please forsake war for ever,
Please forsake competition for ever,
Please forsake force to get,
Some one else’s property,
For mother earth is a wish giving animal,
And God our father is most merciful,
Restrain, donate and be kind,
To all the people of this world.
Let all the people, live with bliss,
Let all the people live with bliss,
Let all the people live with bliss.

Vaishnava Janatho

Vaioshnava Janato
(The man of God)
Narasi Mehta

Translated by

One of the greatest Gujarati poet-saints, Narsi Mehta introduced philosophical poetry into the bhakti world of Gujarat. He composed about 740 songs. 'Vaishnava-janato', the prayer song popularized by Mahatma Gandhi, is a composition of Narsi Mehta’s. This soul stirring poetry moves any theist. I have taken the liberty of translating this poem by substituting “Man of God” instead of “Vaishnava”. I did this because I felt that, what the poet must have meant was that.Hear this great song in the golden voice of MS

Vaishnava Jana To, Tene Kahiye Je
Peed Paraayi Jaane Re,
Para Duhkhe Upakāra Kare To Ye
Mana Abhimāna Na Āne Re
Vaishnava Jana To, Tene Kahiye Je
Peed Paraayi Jaane Re

He and he alone is the man of God,
Who knows the pain and misery of others,
Who tries to help others in distress,
And who does not have pride in his mind.

Sakala Loka Mā Sahune Vande,
Nindā Na Kare Kenī Re,
Vāca Kācha Mana Niścala Rākhe,
Dhana Dhana Jananī Tenī Re
Vaishnava Jana To, Tene Kahiye Je
Peed Paraayi Jaane Re

He and he alone is the man of God,
Who respects and salutes all,
Who does not talk ill of others,
Who keeps his mind pure in words and action,
And whose mother is considered blessed by all. 

Sama-Drishthi Ne Trishnā Tyāgī,
Para-Strī Jene Māta Re,
Jihvā Thakī Asatya Na Bole,
Para-Dhana Nava Jhāle Hātha Re
Vaishnava Jana To, Tene Kahiye Je
Peed Paraayi Jaane Re

He and he alone is the man of God,
Who views everybody as equal,
Who considers other women as his mother,
Who never tells lies all his life,
And who never yearns for other’s wealth. 

Moha Māyā Vyāpe Nahi Jene,
Dridha-Vairāgya Jenā Manamā Re,
Rāma-Nāma Śhu Tālī Re Lāgī,
Sakala Tīratha Tenā Tanamā Re
Vaishnava Jana To, Tene Kahiye Je
Peed Paraayi Jaane Re

He and he alone is the man of God,
Who never has any attachments,
Who is strongly detached to worldly pleasures,
Who is addicted to remembering his God,
And in whose mind are all the holy places of the world. 

Vana-Lobhī Ne Kapata-Rahita Chhe,
Kāma Krodha Nivāryā Re,
Bhane Narasaiyo Tenu Darasana Karatā,
Kula Ekotera Tāryā Re
Vaishnava Jana To, Tene Kahiye Je
Peed Paraayi Jaane Re

He and he alone is the man of God,
Who has no greed and deceit in his mind,
Who has forsaken all pleasures and anger,
And whose sight is thirsted for by Narasi the poet,
For the entire family gets salvation on seeing him.

Parthasarathy and Natarajan

After I completed my post graduation in Annamalai University, (1960) I was lucky to get admission in the Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta. On the day that I had to start to Calcutta, I received an appointment order as Statistical assistant in National Sample Survey in Trivandrum. I knew that I should accept that because the financial condition of the family was not good. But my great father told me that I should study further, because I was getting stipend. He said he will manage the affairs of the family for two or three years more. The first problem to be solved was dress. For the five years preceding, I was wearing only white Dhothi and White shirt. I along with my father felt that I should at least have a few pants. There was no tailor in my village who could stitch pants. The time left was short. Father had a very close friend Sethu, who was running a hotel in Vishakapatnam en route. My cousin Visweswaran was working in his hotel. I got down there by one train and within a day, a few white, poor looking pants were stitched at lightning speed. Next day I reached Calcutta. I had not spoken in the phone till then and for the first time was forced to call the warden of the hostel to get directions. That gentleman was speaking a benglish accent. Some how, I reached ISI. I stayed there in the hostel for the next one year. I made many friends. The strongest attachments were made with three people.
Shri K.R.Parthasarathy, an intellectual with craving for studies was one of them. He had been much poorer than me. He took free food in other’s houses when he was studying. He scored very high marks and worked 4-5 years as a lecturer. He saw to it that his sisters were given in marriage and his parents were taken care of. He was at least 7-8 years older than me. More than a friend, he was an elder brother who took care of me in the hostel. He later completed his PhD and again became a teacher of Mathematics in Madras. He is retired and well settled. I happened to meet him once in the eighties and spoken over pone to him once or twice I do have e-mail contact with him.
Sri K.S.Natarajan (Nattu for me) was my very close friend. He came as a sun shine in my life. He came along with me to specialize in Agricultural Statistics. Some how he could not continue after one year and after a few jobs landed in the Census office. I saw him several times, whenever I used to go to Delhi. Nattu is in Madras now.
I had several other good friends, during this one year. Chidambaran who has settled in USA, DR.Subramaniam Swamy who is one of the leading politicians of India, Dr.Panchapakesan who has settled down in USA, Sri.G.Narayanamurthy etc are the notable ones.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Political Parties

Political Parties
(published in Kalki, 31st August 2008)
Translation attempt

Political parties,
Make fun of our country,

One parties name is written in blood,
Taken from the wounds of our religion.

Film posters are pasted,
On the back of the democracy,
Talked about by Russo.

Elections are not able,
To prevent a country,
From becoming land of terrorists,

Make the camaraderie evaporate into gas.

Empty the black money,
From some where else,

A miser,
Who did not get a post,
Paints a new party flag,
Using the colours of his desire.

Tearing the screen of a cinema house,
A hero comes out with anger,
For registering a name to his political party.

People who set fire to themselves,
Drag and bring their family members,
Near the sacrificial altar of a party.

Never have flags flown at half mast,
For the people dragged away by Tsunami,
Nor the people swept away by raising waters,
Nor the people who died of starvation,
Nor those who were buried by an earth quake.

I do not want to see,
My nation’s flag,
Being defeated by any party’s flag.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Origin of Sambhar

Origin of Sambar

You would be all surprised to know that chillies entered India only 400 years back .So also tomato, potato and onion were introductions from our western settlers to India around the same time. Then the common sense question, which all of you should ask is how was Sambar prepared in South India before that and how were the North Indians preparing different Sabjis without Tomato and onion. I have been searching for an answer to this riddle for quite some time I was also intrigued by the name Sambar. No word in any of the south Indian language gave a meaning to that word. I was thinking it has to do something with Sambharam (Collection). But I was not able to connect this word to Sambar.
Before 400 years tamarind which is of south Indian origin was being used in all the south Indian states. The preparations were called by various names. It was Pulungari (dish with tamarind in Kerala), Huli in Karnataka, Pulusu in Andhra and Vattal Kuzhambu, poricha Kozhambu, Karai Kuzhambu, Pitlai etc in Tamil Nadu. Ofcourse, the traditional Kerala cuisine did not use chillies or tamarind but relied only on pepper for pungency and Buttermilk and mango for adding sour taste. In most of these cases the souring agent was tamarind and the thickening agent was cooked green gram dal, rice powder or ground coconut paste. Asafetida and Toor dhal which were not available in South India were not used in any of these dishes. The agent which added pungency to all these was still Chilies. Possibly before chillies came, they were using pepper powder .Then all of a sudden I realized that the preparations on the death anniversary days did not use chillies, asafetida as well as toor dhal. The main dish equivalent to Sambar, which was called Pitlai, was prepared using tamarind, pepper and green gram dhal. This must have been the precursor of the different Tamarind preparations mentioned above. When I was toying with this idea, I landed on the write up by Dr.Padmini Natarajan, which I quote Verbatim below: -
“South Indian food, people and culture are inexorably linked to a ubiquitous dish as in idli and sambhar, sambhar and rice and so on. Each state in the South prepares it with a typical variation, adapted to its taste and environment.
The genesis of this dish has an interesting tale linked to it. The Marathas were ruling Tanjore. Sambhoji was a great cook (the male clan members to note) and very fond of his amti with a handful of the tart kokum thrown in. In a particular season the kokum that was imported from the Maratha homeland did not reach the bare larder of the king's kitchen. Sambhoji was cooking and the minions were shivering in their dhothis to tell him that his favourite dish could not be made that day. A smart Vidushak, who had been elected sous chef for the day, decided to solve the problem. He whispered in the king's ears that the locals used very little tamarind pulp to gain a better sourness to the curry and that Sambhoji should experiment with this variation. Voila, the dish with the tuvar dal, vegetables, spices and the tamarind pulp was cooked and served by the king to his coterie. The court declared the dish an outstanding preparation (they had no choice with the king as Chef) and thus was born sambhoji's amti that in time became sambhar”
Thus the modern Sambar which we use is named after a king of Tanjore called Sambhaji. Due to distance from his native place and difficulty in getting Kokum, he used Tamarind and possibly added Toor dhal, which is mainly grown in Maharashtra and Gujarat. He might have added Pure Asafoetida which was used as a spice in Maharashtra. From then on lot of research must have gone in, in getting to the modern version of several types of Sambar.
Still I am wondering how North Indian Sabji was prepared without onion and Tomato!

Mom of Dad /Appatha

Where did you Go, my mom of my dad (Appatha)
Ramya Chendhi Shanmugam, Bangalore
(Tamil poem From Mangayar Malar , September 2008)
Translation attempt
I have never even murmured a word.
When I passed by you, even at times ordinary,
When I happened to see your sunken face,
I have not even thrown a soft smile at you.

In this world of hurry bury,
In which we are drowned in our thoughts,
I have never asked from you,
Those paths that you have passed with pain or pleasure,
Nor the burden that you carried always with a smile,
Nor listened to your stories that you wanted to share.

My mind which did not bother about you,
And my body which disregarded you ,
When you called me at rarest of the times,
Are making me sad with sorrow now.

You have gone leaving all of us sad,
To the place , where no one comes back.
Even if I shout, drenching it with copious tears,
Will you be able to hear my voice now?

Why did you go away, mom of my dad?
I would be waiting for you with anxiety,
With all the love that I had for you,
For your coming again to my house.
Would you come as my daughter, mom of my dad?

Quo Vadis Thathas and Pattis?

Anna and Akka will become mama (uncle) and Mami (aunty) when they cross the thirties. The role that they have played till then changes a lot. They were studying and leading a happy carefree life till then. Suddenly the new mama has to work and work a lot, to earn lots of money. His sisters get married (Mami?) and take up the job of running the house. The job is much more difficult than mama’s job. But the world does not recognize it. Nowadays, she has not only to manage the house but also work like her husband and brothers. Naturally she is surrounded by tension and is edgy. This state of affairs goes on for a long time. Children come in to the house. They become annas and akkas and slowly are groomed to become mamas and mamis. It is at this time that the mama and mamis realize that they have to become thathas and Pattis.
While Pattis who are healthy continue to be a part of the household management , by providing help in cooking and looking after the grand children, The thatha who was till then wedded to his work is left high and dry. Suddenly he finds that he has nothing to do.
The pleasant chit chat with children, the intermissions in the kitchen over planning of menu, discussions about future of their children etc are again not there. Since Thatha had spent most of his life in talking with friends in office, he does not know any of his neighbors. His friends have all become thathas and rarely move out. He finds that his children are earning much more money than him and are not bothered about the small wealth that he has. His grand children who prattle sweet nothings in English do not understand why their Thatha is so morose. The only friend in the house (his wife who is a Patti) is extremely busy looking after the needs of his grand children. Nobody seems to be interested in politics or newspaper. He, not being used to sit in front of the idiot box, finds it very boring. He broods and worries. This makes him imagine all the sickness that he has only heard.
Then comes the next stage. Patti who was needed as a service provider is not able to move out due to arthritis. Her grand children do not like the food prepared by her. .They would prefer north Indian food, pizzas and burgers. The brooding gang becomes richer by one more member. The sick tired people in the house are doubled. Suddenly the mami of the house realizes that, there are two useless people in the house, who have to be looked after. The home that was heaven becomes hell to thatha and Patti. If God gets angry and presents them with serious sickness, they crush themselves into dust. A nurse or a nurseman is appointed to look after them. Some mamas and mamis think that it is too much of a botheration and send them to old age homes.
These old age homes do not help them much. One hundred percent of the occupants of these homes are brooding thathas and Pattis who start cursing the world and the social order from morning to evening. Of course God has been kind enough nowadays. Many of them fall prey to Alzheimer’s disease. This blessing disease makes them forget everything and possibly they are no more brooding. He has also been kind enough to recall them back after some time.
What can we do about this pathetic saga? We can definitely keep ourselves very busy by engaging ourselves in some hobbies or social activities. It would be preferable that as long as the physical dependence does not set in, we live alone in our house .We (Thathas and Pattis) are a very influential lot. We can surely build up Senior citizen homesteads like those existing in USA. In such societies we can build up a social culture of our own without disturbing, the youngsters. WE can organize day care centers with transport facility so that when the Mama and Mamis go to office and Akkas and Annas have gone to college, we can be safe and build up a social life in such centers.. We can contribute a lot with our knowledge. We can surely teach lot of poor children at our home. If we are of the talking type, we can do fund collection for several good deeds. We can visit old age homes (if we are not already in one) and bring cheer to those lonely souls. We can help our friends and their wives, if they are sick. What I am trying to say is that, we should make others feel that these Thathas and Pattis are also very useful members of the society.

Babu, Shivadas and Sundararaman

In 1957 I passed out my intermediate class and much against my wishes got admission in Annamalai University near Chidambaram. Slowly the fact that I was very poor was sinking in o my mind. Unlike all other students of the university, I was not dressed according to the norms of the day. Possibly God brought Sundararaman as a solace to me. He was a son of Sri Dorai Samy of the Kanchi Kama Koti Mutt of Kanchipuram. The Acharya paid his fees and requested one of his devotes to feed Sri Sundararaman. The only condition the Acharya put was that he should maintain a tuft. Sri Sundararaman was poorer than me and we both got attracted to each other. Since I could not get hostel accommodation during the first year, I was staying in a relative’s house at Chidambaram as a paying guest. Daily after the class, me and Sundararaman used to walk home. Almost the entire year, he was the only student to whom I did talk. We became close friends.
In the next year, I got admission in the hostel. Life became more difficult. The monetary position of father was becoming bleaker. He was not even in a position to buy me the white Dhothi in sufficient numbers. I had four tamilian room mates, whom I did not like .Some Malayali students near my block used to tease me for my unseemly looks. One day an angel decided to look after me. His real name was Nalinakshan and he was studying M.A, in Social sciences. His college name was C.K.Nalina Babu. He understood that I am suffering from deep inferiority complex and used to spend a lot of time in correcting me. In those two years, not only I got rid of my inferiority complex but became a normal human being. Another of Babu’s protégé was P.Shivadas, . Babu made our life. We both were known as Babu’s kids. Unlike me, Babu and Shivadas were dressed extremely well. Both of them drove car. They had many girl friends. In fact they were extremely popular people in the hostel. I do not have any qualms in saying That , I am like this because of Babu .Babu used to call Sundararaman my wife and he used to call me Sami.
After I left Annamalai University Sundara Raman became a teacher there. He chose teaching as his profession. He went to various places and has settled down in USA as a teacher. He continues to be a great follower of Kanchi Mutt. I had last met him when he was working in Madras some 7 years back, I spoke to him over phone when I was in USA.
Babu also became a teacher in Ernakulam.I met him twice or thrice. Once I did visit him in his house, took lunch with him. At that time I saw his very pretty wife and equally pretty daughter. Later after my marriage, when things seem to be breaking down, I interacted with Babu. He bolstered my life by very encouraging words. True to his advice things did take a turn for good. Two years back, I was informed that Babu is no more by our friend Shivadas. I cried a lot. He was the elder brother, hat I never had. A true angel of God, who appeared in my life and showed me the right path. Babu, my pranams to you.
Shivadas after a stint of service as a scientist is settled down in Ernakulam. I met him last year , when he visited Bangalore. I do exchange mails with him.

Pathan and Balakrishnan

I passed out my SSLC in the year 1955 from Hyderabad and joined the Sree Kerala Varma College Trichur. I studied I.Com for two years there. This was the first time in my life that I knew that we were poor. Till 1955, I used to dress up like any other fashionable boy in pants and Bush shirt. But before going to Trichur my father told me that he cannot afford such luxuries any more. The two years in Trichur was spent in gaining knowledge and introspection, I was so good in mathematics, that once I answered all the questions including choices correctly. I was given 150 marks of 100 for that exam. This made me very famous. I was also selected as the best student of Intermediate.
I was staying in the newly constructed hostel there. I made two very close friends during the year 1955-57. They were Pathan and Balaksrishnan. They were a study in contract.
Pathan alias K.K.Padmanabhan was a Nair boy hailing from Cheruthuruthi. His father was an assay officer in the OOrgaum mines of KOlar. Pathan and me were classmates, room mates and close friends. He introduced me to Malayalam literature. During these two years, I read almost all the best novels published in Malayalam. These were borrowed from a village library (Trikumarakudam). Pathan completed Intermediate with me and came to Bangalore for a job of a steno in Kirloskar. I again met him briefly during a study tour at Bangalore in the year 1961. He was at that time working in the district court as a steno. We spent a very happy time for a day. After this Pathan disappeared from my world. I came back to Bangalore in 1984 and tried my best to locate Pathan. But God was not kind.
K.P.Balakrishnan was the son of the Principal of the Ayurvedic college at Kottakal. In the final exams in inter , he scored extremely high marks. He was a very great scholar and very studious. His acumen for understanding anything was really great. We spent several hours in scholarly discussions. I still remember a walk by us to a hill near by, on the top of which Ramakrishna Ashram of Trichur was situated. I missed him a lot after 1957. He studied Physics M.A., in Maharaja’s College, Ernakulam and later appeared for IAS/IFS. He got a very high rank in both. He chose to join IFS.I searched him a lot but could locate him in Sweden as The ambassador to India. At that time, I did contact him once but then afterwards , I could not contact him.
My mind always thinks of these two friends,. If only I can meet them.

Friday, August 29, 2008

My Friend S.Shanthi Lal

I heard a story of a friend from the middle east , when I was but a child. It runs as follows:-

There was a young man who one day boasted to his father that he had millions of friends. Then his father told him, he had only a half friend. The son laughed at this. The father egged the son o test his friends. Then the father filled up a big Gunny bag with saw dust .He poured lot of red ink on the gunny bad. The son carried this bag to his closest friend’s house. When the door opened , he told his friend, “Sam, I have killed a bad character. Now I do not know what to do. Can you help me?.” The friend slammed the door on him and shouted from behind the door, “Go away from here. I am sure the police would come in search of you. I do not want to have anything with you from now onwards.” The same thing happened in the houses of all the million friends of the son. He returned home and told his father, “Now , I have understood that they are not my friends.” Then father told his son to go to Father’s half friend’s house and tell the same thing. When it was done , the scene was very much different. His father’s friend, took him inside , gave a cup of coffee. Then he helped him clean himself. He then asked him to return to his home without the bag. After the sin left his house, the friend, surrendered to the police saying that he has killed somebody. Then the father told him , “this is but half my friend.”

Somehow right from my childhood I was in search of such a friend. In these 68 years , I do have large number of acquaintances but very few friend. I have decided to write about these few friends, in these blogs.

The first of them is Sri .S.Shanthikumar , who was my friend in my high school days at Secunderabad , Andhra Pradesh.. A few words about myself at that time. In 1950 , I was studying 6th standard in a Malayalam school at Chelakkara, Kerala. My father was running a hotel in Secunderabad. He decided to put me in an English medium school there. I was taught slight English by a young lodger in our hotel called Omana . I appeared for an interview in a St.Mary’s school. This was a very poor school those days with Father Fernandez as the principal. The medium was English and my second language was Tamil. I just knew how to read Tamil and did not know how to write it. I did not know how to speak English. I joined the seventh standard there in 1951. It was a real struggle to learn. All my class mated used to look at me with pity and wonder. But one of them had more pity on me. He was Sri. S.Shanthilal son of Sri Saranga Pani a railway employee. Unlike me he was not a Brahmin. But a real friendship flowered between us. This continued till 1955 , when I was forced to leave to Kerala for pursuing my college education. We both cried a lot at that time. We did manage to write letters to each other for another 5 years. Shanthi , my friend, had to discontinue his education. He worked in a tea factory , near Secunderabad . In 1961, I was a student in a statistical Institute in New Delhi. At that time, I undertook a study tour and visited Secunderabad. I met my friend Shanthi and stayed in his poor house. We had a f great time. After this I never had any contact with my friend. Several times, I had gone to secunderabad in search of him but I could never trace him.

My friend Shanthi, It is so painful that I lost you. You were the first friend I ever had and your memory is still green in my heart. . Ra

Friday, August 8, 2008

A call for my community

Awake , Brahmanas, Awake !!


Modern day Brahmanas whose role was to learn the Vedas and tenets of religion and explain it to those who are not capable of understanding them, are in the present day a very confused lot. The main reason is that they have left the vocation of their forefathers and have taken up all and sundry job just to eke out a living. Most of them only understand the label which is allotted to them as Smarthas, Vaishnavas and Madhwas. Some of them are a step higher and tell you that they worship only Shiva and their Guru is Sankaracharya; that they worship Vishnu and their Guru is Ramanujacharya and that they worship Krishna and Rama and their Guru is Madhwacharya. The real difference between them which is based on the philosophical interpretation of the great books of Sanathana Dharma is left to a few Acharyas and Pundits who live in some isolated Mutts. Rarely do these Acharyas talk to their followers of the philosophical interpretation but prefer to keep them in the Bhakthi filled world of an ordinary man, Ask a religious Brahmana and he will tell you that it is important to wear Vibhuthi/Thiruman/ Gopi and perform the Nithya Karmas .They also will tell that you have to observe several Vrithas as dictated by priests and go to several temples

.I am an ignoramus but would like to give a very small notes on the three thought processes and request all of you to further read , try to understand the glorious interpretations given by their respective Acharyas and explain to every one they know that their religion is a very glorious thought process and not a set of orthodox beliefs.

Advaitha of Adi Sankara

The seeker of truth of the sanathana dharma understands easily the difference between individual souls(Antharathma) and the great power that is every where(Paramathma).Sankara interpreted the the books of religion and concluded that these two are no different, whether you realize it or not. He told that they are same and your understanding or not is not going to change this fact.

Visishtadvaitha of Saint Ramanujacharya

Saint Ramanuja who was being taught Advaitha by a teacher could not digest this fact. He interpreted the same books as Sankara and concluded that unless you understand and realize that they are same, they are not the same .It is the inner light of realization within oneself, which could make you realize that they are not different. He also evolved the Saranagathi Thattwa (Principle of absolute surrender) through which the Antharathma can merge with the Paramathma. Two schools of thought differentiated later on the Saranagathi. One school believed that the Saranagathi does not need an effort on your part and is a passive surrender (Marjara Saranagathi-kitten like surrender) and the other school believed that your effort is very much needed even after the surrender and is an active surrender (Markata Saranagathi- the surrender of baby monkey)


Saint Madhwacharya interpreted the same books and found that there is no evidence of Paramathma and Antharathma being the same. They according to him are different. The Antharathma after many cycles of birth and deaths ultimately merges with the paramathma.

Unless we start doing introspection of these royal thought processes, here and now the future generation of Brahmanas who are extremely intelligent will break the ties imposed on them by a religion that they do not understand and which appears to them like a very orthodox cult rather than a magnificent thought process.

Let us all awake and let us all think so that this cherished magnificent heritage of ours burns for ever and illuminates all the world.

Some forgotten Kerala Iyer recipes

Old but forgotten Kerala Iyer Recipes


Over the years some of the very special dishes have gone out of fashion from the Kerala Iyer family. It is not because they are not good nor because they are difficult to prepare but because of the migration of families to different areas and their adopting to the recipes of the new area, that these are not prepared. Some of these are given here.
1.Arachu Kalakki
Normally these are prepared using mangoes or Nellikais preserved in salt in Kerala Iyer homes and used to be prepared in off seasons for vegetables. The only exception is Chenai. The method of preparation is given below: -
1.Take sufficient quantity of Kanni Mangai or Nellikkai preserved in salt or Chenai (Thoroughly washed tender mango pickles can be used instead of Kanni Mangai)
2.Grind it in Mixie with coconut and green chillies
3.Pour the ground mixture in sour buttermilk and mix thoroughly.
4.Season it with mustard, red chillies and fenugreek (Menthiyam) and garnish with curry leaf.
5.Add small amount of salt in case of salt preserved pickles and sufficient quantity in case of Chenai.
2.Manga Kadi
This can be prepared only in the mango season. The method is extremely simple: -
1.Boil cut pieces of green mango (with skin removed) in water.
2.Add salt and small amount of chilly powder and boil till mamgo pieces are cooked well.
3.Season it with mustard, red chillies and fenugreek.
3.Mezhukku Peratti
This is another very simple side dish, which was extremely popular in Kerala Iyer homes. The method of preparation is: -
1.Cut into small pieces Plantains (cooking type banana) and chenai. (In places where Chenai is not available we have found that carrot can be used) Jack fruit seeds if available or Koorkan Kizhangu during seasons are also added
2.If available at cut pieces of jack fruit seed and/or Koorkan Kizhangu
3.Boil with salt and turmeric powder in pressure cooker.
4.Take coconut oil and heat it. When sufficiently hot, put the boiled vegetables and mix well.
The kari tastes good even if other oils are used
4.Puliyitta Keerai
This is another very simple dish prepared using either amaranth leaves or tender non-itchy type of colacasia (Chembu) leaves. The method of preparation is as follows:-
1.Cut the leaf into very small pieces.
2.Boil the leaves in tamarind water, turmeric and salt , till the leaves are cooked well. Add also green chillies while boiling.
3.Take out the green chillies and grind them and mix with the boiled leaves
4.Season with mustard, red chillies and fenugreek.
5.Puliya Kuthi Upperi
This is a peculiar dish prepared only in Kerala iyer homes. In some homes , it is directly mixed with rice and in some others it is used as a side dish for Mulagootal.The method of preparation is as follows:-
1.Cut plantains, brinjal . ash gourd (Or Chowchow) and red pumpkin into thin long pieces similar to aviyal.Traditionally bundled non-itchy colacasia leaves used to be added in Kerala.
2.Boil in tamarind with turmeric and salt. Till well cooked. The tamarind water should be just sufficient to soak the cut pieces. And after boiling, very little watery portion should be there.
4.Fry without oil, rice, red chilies and fenugreek and powder.
5.Take some oil . splutter mustard and Uzhuttan Parippu..Put mixture of the boiled vegetables and the powder and stir till it becomes semi solid.
This is possibly one of the very simple Kerala recipes. It is also called Karingalan by some Here is the method:-
1.Choose either plantains and Chenai(Where Chenai is not available choose carrot instead).Cut into small pieces.
2.Boil till coked with turmeric powder, pepper powder and salt with medium water.
3.Season it either with raw coconut oil or mustard and uzhuttam parippu
7.Mulagu Vellam
This needs very sour buttermilk to prepare. Here is the method
1 Cook pepper powder in water for some time.
2,Add sour butter milk , salt and turmeric powder and boil till it is reduced to half the quantity,
3.Season it with mustard, red chillies and fenugreek.
8.Moru Charu
This is an instant recipe when you don’t have time and nothing else except sour buttermilk. Here is the recipe.
1.Heat Oil , splutter mustard , red chillies, uzhuttam parippu and fenugreek
2.Pour buttermilk and add salt.
3.Remove from the stow before buttermilk comes to boil.
9.Podi Podicha Pulungari
This is possibly the Kerala substitute for Tamil Nadu Sambhar.Here is the recipe:-
1.Cut into long thin pieces, Brinjal, red Pumpkin, ash gourd or Chow Chow.
2.Cook in pressure cooker in tamarind water.
3.Fry in a dry pan rice and red chillies.The colour of the rice should turn ivory.
4.Powder the rice , chillie mixture.
5.Add to the vegetables and boil.
6.Season with mustard and garnish with curry leaf.
a. The interesting variant is prepared by using only Jack fruit instead of all the above vegetables.
b. A super variant is the Puducode Pulungari prepared only on all days of Navarathri in the temple at Palakkad. The recipe of this is given below: -
Pumpkin 150 g, Yam 150 g, Ash gourd 150 g, Plantains 50 g,
Raw rice 10 g, tur dhal 25 g, dried chillies 3, Fenugreek (Mentha) 5 g, Tamarind 50 g, Coconut (shredded) 25 g, Mustard 2 g, green chillies 5 g, Jaggery 20 g, curry leaves, Coconut oil 25 g and some quantity of curry leaves and salt to taste.
1.Cut and cook Ah gourd and yam together in a cooker
2.Also cook Tur dal in the cooker
3. Cut and boil pumpkin and plantains
4. fry rice till they pop and powder it
5.fry fenugreek (Mentha) to golden brown and powder it
6.Grind coconut and green chillies together
7 Extract Tamarind juice and boil it for 5 minutes
8. Add all vegetables, jaggery, and cooked dhal for 10 minutes
9.Add rice powder and boil for 5 minutes
10. Take out from stove and immediately add coconut paste, mentha powder, coconut oil and curry leaves and stir.
11. Season it with mustard and dry chilies in coconut oil.
10.Murunga ilai Adai
This was a popular Tiffin item of yester years. Here is the method:-
1.Soak parboiled rice for more than 6 hours
2.Grind in to smooth paste adding sufficient salt
3.Add cut drumstick leaves to this mixture
4.Prepare thick adais from this batter
11.Chakkai Adai
This used to be prepared in jack fruit season in yester years.Here is the recipe
1.Soak parboiled rice for more than 6 hours
2.Grind in to smooth paste adding sufficient salt
3.Add also cut pieces of jackfruit and small quantity of jaggery half way while grinding.
4.Prepare Adais with this batter
This is normally prepared only when batter prepared for Verumarisi adai becomes sour. Being very tasty many families used to prepare the batter and allow it to become sour to make Koozhu.The method is as follows:-
1.Soak and grind par boiled rice and allow the batter to become very sour.
2. Mix the sour batter in more water and make it of thinner consistency.
3.Heat gingelly oil (sufficiently more) , splutter mustard, uzhtham Parippu, Milagai Vettal. Perungayam, and thairu milagai in the oil.
4.Pour the semi liquid batter in to this and keep on stirring till , the colour changes and the batter does not stick to the vessel
5.Keep ready an oil-coated plate(Olden times oil smeared banana leaves were used)
6.Pour the hot Koozhu in to this and allow it to cool.
7,Cut in to small pieces and serve
13.Koozhu dosai
For dosai normally par boiled rice is being used. In the olden times for Vritha days, it was felt that it was Vetthu. So it was necessary to eat some thing prepared of wheat or Pachaarisi(ordinary rice).But tiffins prepared by Pacharisi were not tastey.The following is the recipe for making tasty dosas out of Pacharisi.
1.Soak Pacharaisi and grind into smooth paste,Add salt
2.Take out a small portion and mix it with water
3,Put little oil and heat it. In this pour the liquefied batter and keep on stirring, till the colour changes and it does not stick.
4.Remove from the stove and mix thoroughly with the main batter,
5.Prepare very soft dosas now.
14. Aracha Kozhakattai
Normally on Amavasya days , at night Kozhakattai used to be prepared in olden days.The method is as follows:-
1.Soak Parboiled rice and grind it to coarse consistency.When the grinding is about to be over add shredded coconut (about quarter of the dough) and grind for a few minutes further.
2.Heat oil splutter mustard, Uzhutham Parippu , Milagai Vettal and Perungayam
3.Add the batter in to this and keep on stirring till it becomes solid
4.Make small balls using this batter
5.Put it in boiling water gently and cook for more than 15 minutes (Other alternative is steam cooking)
6,Remove and serve with Sambhar or Chutney.
15,Mooda Kozhakkattai
This can be prepared only in jack fruit season.Method is as follows:-
1.Heat water and bring it to boil
2.Add jaggery and jackfruit pieces and boil till jackfruit is cooked
3.Add the rice powder gently and keep on stirring till it becomes solid
4.Make it in to small balls, roll these balls in banana leaves and tie them
5.Steam cook these balls.
There are possibly many other very special dishes of a Kerala Iyer household which , I may not even know. If you know any please contribute .So that we keep living the culture of tasty food of Kerala Iyer households.
I am adding the recipe for Kalan’
1.Prepare sour butter milk
2.Take little water , add pepper powder and turmeric powder and boil for some time
3.Gently add the churned butter milk to this mixture
4.When it comes to boil add well cooked plantain pieces also(normally Chenai is used.)
5.Allow to boil.after adding salt
6.Unless the vessel is a deep one , it will boil and spill out.To avoid this keep on removing the froth
7.Reduce to half the quantity
8.Grind coconut and green chillies without adding much water
9.Add it to the boiled buttermilk
10 Heat for some time
11.Remove from tava and add curry leaves
12.Season it with mustard red chillies and mentha
(If buttermilk is not sour enogh , the boiled mixture will curdle. Put the entire mixture without vegetables and blend)