The science behind restrictions on women into Sabarimala.

   The majority of Indians knew that women are not supposed to enter the famous Sabarimala temple in Kerala, India, where the deity worshipped is Lord Ayappa. There are many controversies, speculations, rages, supporting stances, perspectives on the restrictions of women (especially those who are in their reproductive age) into the temple. This was a significant issue that became rampant in most parts of the country in the year 2018. And, there came a verdict in lifting the ban, supporting various petitions for women to enter the temple. However, the ban still continues in support of the religious custom favoring the devotees.

Here, in this article, let us know that is there a science behind these restrictions, how temple architectures in India account for this issue, and why is it related to the health of women.

The answers to these questions can be known by putting Indian knowledge systems as upfront. The temples or houses in India are built according to vastu Sastra and the plan they follow is called ‘vastu purusha mandala’. The deity representing the vastu sastra is called ‘vastu purusha’. Different areas of a temple, right from the entrance to the main sanctum are represented according to the physical parts of the vastu purusha. To elaborate, imagine a human form lying along the temple area in horizontal position – the entrance of the temple represents the feet; flag post (dwaja stambam) represents the genital organs; open space (ranga mandapam) is signified by the naval region; half hall (artha mandapam) by the heart; vestibule (antarala) by the neck region; and the human head by the main sanctum (garba griham).

Now, what does it mean by this representation and how is it linked to human body?

Here comes the concept of chakras. All the Indian texts understand human body not only at the gross level but also at the subtle level. The gross physical body is termed as ‘sthula sarira’ and subtle body is called ‘sukshma sarira’. The chakras come under this idea of sukshma sarira. There are seven chakras in our body:

  • Root chakra or Muladhara (base of spine)
  • Sacral chakra or Swadistana chakra (2 inches below the lower abdomen)  
  • Solar plexus chakra or Manipura chakra (abdomen area)
  • Heart chakra or Anahata chakra (Center of chest)
  • Throat chakra  or Visudhha chakra (Throat)
  • Third eye chakra or Agna chakra (forehead, between the eyes)
  • Crown chakra or Sahasrara (The top of the head)

These chakras embody certain worldly as well a few subtle aspects of human life. Such as connection to the divine; sense of purpose in life; self-expression; love, acceptance, and relationships; personal power; sexuality and pleasure; career, sense of belongingness from the top chakra to the bottom-most chakra accordingly.

The temples of India are constructed and consecrated in such a way that the chakras in the human body are activated when one enters the temple. For instance, when a person steps into the entrance of the temple, his muladhara chakra gets triggered. Now we can relate to why we feel peaceful and stimulated when we sit in a temple.

But how is this all related to Sabarimala?

The Lord Ayappa actually dates back to another God called Shasta, who is said to be the son of Lord Shiva and Mohini (Lord Vishnu himself) according to Skanda Purana and Padma Purana. And, Lord Ayappa is the incarnation of Shasta himself says Bramhanda Purana.

(# Skanda Purana, Padma Purana, Brahmanda Purana are religious texts of Hindus in India)

There are many Shasta temples in Kerala as well as Tamil Nadu, the southern states of India. There is a tradition for the devotees of Lord Ayappa, who is known for his brahmacharya that whoever takes the Diksha has to start their journey with the first shatchakra temple in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, which activates the muladhara chakra and end with Sabarimala, the sixth temple which activates the agna chakra.

At the gross level, when one experiences a journey like Ayappa Diksha, undergoes physical changes as well as could attain/experience the divine (self).   

Here, when agna chakra gets triggered, like in the place Sabarimala, the pituitary gland gets stimulated releasing luteinizing hormone and then into testosterone (in males). However, in females, although, the pituitary gets triggered the estradiol may not be activated. Because during this period of brahmacharya (celibacy + practice (sadhana)), the human seed (sperm for males and egg for females) has to be intact within the body and should not be used for it to get transformed into more subtler forms. But in women, the seed (egg) will be released only during menstruation. So, whether the women practice celibacy or not is not the point.

So, this is the reason why women during menstrual age are not supposed to enter Sabarimala, for their health. However, they can enter this mokshadham after the reproductive age (menopause). Another aspect to it is women during menstrual age is all about life (reproduction), whereas the Diksha (spiritual journey) is about moksha (free from life), which do not support each other.

Now that we have known the reason behind restrictions on women entering into Sabarimala, there could be many scientific aspects behind other Indian traditions too.

Please feel free to share if you know any or looking for answers to such questions.

“Everyone has a story” – Savi Sharma review

          I am a beginner in reading books, and I think for such people it seems impractical to complete a book even in a week. However, with this book, I’ve completed reading it in a day! It is so fascinating, and poignant. I have picked up few aspects, where I have genuinely felt for, from the book and not looking for any logic’s. I am sure enough that it must have soothed people, at some point, whoever has read it.

The main characters in the story are relatively close to reality. Meera, a bubbly, beautiful and an aspiring storyteller; Vivaan, fairly intelligent, charismatic, mysterious personality, and who wants to travel; Kabir, friendly, warm, with an understanding persona; Nisha, a beautiful, despondent, friendly woman. The tale is pleasingly interwoven with these characters revolving around a café.

It starts with Meera searching for a story, whom she meets, will she be able to find one and write a book should be checked out. The story is about the values of friendship, freedom, dreams, love, pain which are the pillars of any relationship. In fact, the world runs on them. The whole story is so capturing because characters poured out their feelings genuinely, which makes you feel for them.

It encourages the fact that dreams cannot be compromised and has always a way out to make them happen. For instance, when Kabir wants to set up his own café, he was completely encouraged by all his friends and indeed Vivaan offers him some financial assistance to start off his café and ready to be a partner in his new venture.

There are many instances where love was conceded as the most essential part for human existence, in the tale. Sometimes there is something that is beyond love and it could happen to people who are waiting to seek it. The following sentence illustrates the essence of it – “It’s not a story. Maybe it’s not love. It’s about something more real than stories and more powerful than love. It’s about you. Yes you. Real and powerful.”

Love doesn’t happen without pain. Pain is imperative to appreciate love. I think the book offers that good cannot be appreciated without bad; togetherness without loneliness; and love without pain. Each character in the tale has a story where they’ve experience pain in their lives and because of which they would be able to appreciate the blooming side called love.

Kindness is another facet where the warmth or the human touch can be experienced. An act of kindness is never a harm because you never know what the other person might be facing in their lives at the moment. Kabir, for instance, no matter whatever his story is, throws a gentle smile at every person he meets and that’s how he makes friends with the rest of the characters.

Surprisingly, all the above aspects are so interconnected. Chasing your dreams follows freedom and finding a companion who can be a friend and who trusts you and most importantly who gives you the sense of belongingness is the most fortunate thing on the Earth. An Oldman in the story puts it this way –  “why would you chase your dreams alone when you can have your soul mate beside you?”

All these facets are bounded by love and the author nails it in expressing it. These are the essentials for a man to realize and experience in his lifetime.

It is a wholesome novel which encourages every individual, who has genuinely felt it, to dream, to hope, to make mistakes, to fail, to rise, to forgive, to care and to love.

Savi says “Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone is a writer. Some are written in the books, and some are confined to hearts.”

So, are you having one or heard one? Please feel free to share your thoughts.

Depression shouldn’t be underrated

The recent Indian actor’s (Sushant Singh Rajput) death news startled the entire nation and caught the attention of media and major social networking sites. Although the subtle reasons for his death are still unknown, the major reason that came out was depression. During the investigation of his death, the psychiatrist, whom Sushant was consulting from past few months, reports that he wasn’t doing quite well despite his consistent efforts in the treatment for depression.

The incident is awful and tragic. It leaves few statistics on the walls of various websites. “Nearly 150 million Indians suffer from depression and only 30 million people are getting medical support” says Ashok Swain, professor of Uppsala University, Sweden. I am sure the numbers are quite high at the global level and leaves us dumbstruck.

Let’s not leave it as a news which will be talked for a few days and be ignored later on. Questions such as why it occurs? ; what are the factors contributing to depression? ; symptoms of depression? ; are we ignoring it? ;how it can be treated? should naturally arise. Here is a small account addressing the above questions.

Unlike somatic disorders and diseases, which are given enough attention, psychological disorders are mostly underrated, taken for granted and definitely not easy to handle. Because they are not evident by “normal” physical symptoms they rather should be understood by symptoms and behaviors of individuals and cannot be taken easy. One such psychological disorder is depression, which is very real and most talked. This mood disorder is very much treatable but when ignored can be life threatening.

What is depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that causes persistent feeling of depressed mood or sadness and often profound loss of interest in things that usually brings us happiness/pleasure. Depression affects the cognitive functions of our daily life such as the ability to think, feel and behave.

Causes for depression?

Although, the reasons for depression are not fully understood, researches suggest that the reasons for depression could be genetic causes (if people in the family heritage has depression, there are good chances that people in the lineage gets affected); environmental factors such as trauma at different stages of life (childhood, adolescence and adulthood), chronic stress, or personal losses or substance abuse, poor social support, low self-esteem can act as triggers; or neurochemical changes in the body or combination of all of these.

What are the symptoms of depression and is it different from sadness or pain?

Research says that there are eight primary emotions that a normal individual come across in a lifetime. Sadness is amongst those and depression doesn’t fall under that category. Sadness is temporary, transient, however, can be turned in to depression. It is more often associated with various symptoms other than being unhappy. They include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness or “emptiness”
  • Physical symptoms may include as headache, body-aches, pain, nausea, insomnia, lack of appetite
  • Poor memory, concentration, and decision-making skills
  • Increased fatigue, irritability, anxiousness
  • Decreased sex drive

It’s unfortunate that people suffering with depression cannot snap out or recognize that they’re suffering with depression. It’s tough to recognize such people because sometimes they put their heart on sleeve and sometimes, they really hide their feelings. Now that we know the signs, if we come across such people, who could be our acquaintances, friends or even family, it’s time to role up sleeve and help them seek a mental health professional.

Often people with depression succumb to internalize false beliefs such as they’re unfit, they’re slacking, they’re not worthy, they’re alone, they’re not capable etc; afraid of social stigma that they cannot be a part of normal groups anymore; and they often feel they are burden to their loved ones which leaves them with suicidal thoughts.

Treatment methods:

Depression is treatable with medications, therapies, and lifestyle changes. But all the treatment methods should be customized for every individual because a person who reacts to medication may not require a therapy or the otherwise. Medication addresses the neurochemical changes such as increase/decrease in the production of hormones or neurotransmitters in the brain.

The most common neurotransmitters involved with depression are serotonin – the “feel good” chemical, which plays a pivotal role; dopamine – the reward giving/pleasure seeking hormone; and norepinephrine – “the flight or fight” hormone.

The most popular therapy used to treat depression is cognitive therapy, where the therapist does focus on the underlying causes and might recommend lifestyle changes. This therapy focus on negative thinking patterns and replacing them with positive ones. For instance, good thoughts make up good thinking pattern and in turn alleviates our mood which makes our brain produce the “happy hormones”. Thus, replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.

Understanding the complexity, depression may not completely curable. However, it can be considerably addressed and is a quite treatable illness.

Let’s acknowledge, empathize, and join hands in supporting a fellow human who is suffering from a mental illness.

Who am I (V 2.0)?

Life is a BEAUTIFUL  journey. It is all about “oh! I haven’t thought that way” – a journey of learning, resonating, making mistakes, discovering, loving, and just being. This reminds me of a quote from a movie “there are no ordinary moments”. The nature is just mimicking our being. When you start to see the normal things in an extraordinary way, and rediscovering ‘who you are’, is like the aha moment! and interestingly that aha moments start to play on repeat mode. Such as the morning walks, a plant way of responding to external calamities, the sunrise, the moon saying “hi” in the night, the birds chirping etc are all silently indicating us to be in harmony.

You might be wondering that my previous article talked about “who am I” in a negative tone and now this talk about the same in a joyous way. Why is the difference? It is just I forgot my very being and got entangled in the man-made illusions.

So, this demands the question: why are we forgetting the inherent nature of us? Life gives us certain implications and reminds us to change the recurring pattern which might be leading us to a wrong path. One who listens can find their purpose in life and embraces the journey on this planet, which otherwise could be pathetic. This is called spirituality.

An intellectual put it this way – spirituality is a journey of not repeating your previous actions (karma), so that you don’t walk through the same path again. Albert Einstein quotes “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Life is all about a conscious journey and not repeating the same mistakes. This what makes a successful person different from the rest.

Cheers to all those who are trying hard to embrace their journey.

“Because the journey is what brings us happiness but not the destination.”

Who am I?

Who am I? Who am I in this world of illusion? Who am I in this world full of suffering? Who am I in the world of attachments? Who am I in the world of contempt?  

Have you ever wondered that what is the purpose of your life? What should I attribute to and what is the point? Will these questions pop up only for people who are drowning in contemplation? Or bearing the overweight of thoughts? Where will such questions lead to? Is introspection good? Will it lead to “so called reality”? What is reality??

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Swimming in such thoughts, I understand that all I need is HAPPINESS. Now, what is happiness? Is it not being judged by others? and is it about being narcissistic? But where am I heading to while being narcissistic? Will it give me any good? What is good? Is it not complying to the beliefs or facts defined by someone else?

Nevertheless, knowing the fact that feelings or moods swing and thoughts intimidate me, I feel that I need a place to just breathe, just enjoy, just be!

A person that is standing in the grass

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I know am not being irrational, but all I need is my thoughts to pass on and cling/hook on to something. Despite these feelings, the answers to all these ever-pervading thoughts is the knowledge of consciousness!

May be am I just conforming with the concept of consciousness? Is it all we know or is it beyond??

Is Darwin’s theory of evolution now being proved right?

Corona virus pandemic! We all know the amount of changes that are happening across the world because of the outbreak of corona virus which is drastically affecting human lives. The amount of economic loss all over the world is far reaching and significant in many areas of our lives. Putting the statistics to one side, let’s envisage an interpretation of Darwin’s theory for a moment. According to Charles Darwin, a naturalist of 19th century, all species (basic unit of classification) evolve through the process of ‘natural selection’ of small, inherited variations that increases the chances of an individual to survive, compete and reproduce. Is the current cause of events proving the theory of natural selection in a different sense?

The theory states that we (all the organisms on this planet) evolve by natural selection and that’s how it accounts to what we are now! (origin of species). The mainstream western view of evolutionary hierarchy says that humans are on the top of the classification, which is contrary to the other world views of interdependence and non-hierarchical. Now, considering the western view, isn’t it the virus proving it wrong?

The hierarchical concept exist when the “survival of the fittest” view proves it right. A virus (protein shielded DNA molecule) with no life on its own has been creating a havoc and hitting the survival of the man itself. When I say virus as a non-living being, it has few factors to be considered. Unlike other organisms, it doesn’t replicate on its own and doesn’t require food to survive by metabolic processes. Despite such microscopic characteristics, it is quite evident the catastrophe it is creating.

So, I think the situation is quite lucid that the virus is acting smart and proving to be the “survival of the fittest” in the current scenario. Nevertheless, if science or some divine force proves it wrong, then virus will not survive.

However, the takeaway point from the situation is that we must create “safe walls” and not to exploit the nature and support the composite ecological consciousness. If not, we all can look back to history and learn how harsh the nature can treat us!

Redemption from guilt – evidence from Ramayana!

Life is all about choices and they become one’s destiny. Sometimes, the choices that you make could be bad choices and once you reflect on them, a few people might feel guilty. I believe guilt plays a major role in one’s life. Anthony Hopkins once said: “Guilt is the thief of life.” But, again, it is the choice of an individual to dwell or move on, which can change his destiny. Guilt can either hold you back from growing or can show you what you need to shift in your life.

Why am I pondering on this? 

Humans are so deep! For every action of theirs, there is a motivation behind it. Now is the time, where I got motivated to let go of my guilt through this article. The thought in me manifested to get redeemed. “True redemption is when guilt leads to good”- Khaled Hosseini. 

“True redemption is when guilt leads to good”– Khaled Hosseini.

All these days, I’ve always had a heavy heart because of the past events that I’ve encountered. I have a friend of mine, who chose the wrong person without giving much thought to it. I was there all the time next to her yet couldn’t guide her to the right path. She was into that illusionary bubble and yet happily persisted the pain adding to which she was adamant to change. Despite witnessing all her actions, troubles, and for which she was ignoring her studies too; I was not of much help in bringing her out of that delusion. 

This never kept me quiet, just like a rat in a maze, until I started reading this book called “drop”, a Yuvaveer initiative. This brought out a revelation that there’s no point dwelling on the past. Although, I can’t do anything, writing about it and helping people come out of similar baggage will make my effort fruitful. Here, I would like to bring an anecdote from Ramayana, an authentic Indian scripture otherwise, called as an Ithihasa (“this has happened before” or history and legendary source), which shows a way to get redeemed!

When one discerns the story of the Ramayana, the characters in it beautifully and evidently portrays emotions, jealousy, grudges, luxury, lust, love, guilt, redemption, leadership, devotion, respect, family bondings, gratitude, morals, fortitude, being stoic, happiness etc. The above qualities are all inbuilt and acquired through evolution to humankind. So, I believe that this epic is highly relevant to all of us. For that matter, Lord Vishnu himself incarnates as Kausalya Rama, a normal human being exemplifies “how an ideal man should be”, which is otherwise called the purpose of the avatar. This had been told to Valmiki Maharshi by Sage Narada when he asks the same (first Sarga (subchapter), Bala Kanda (Baal Kaand) – Valmiki Ramayana).

In the Bala Kanda, after the defeat of demons Maricha and Subhahu, Lord Rama, Lakshmana and Sage Viswamithra, were on their way to Mithila nagara (a city named Mithila) but took a detour to a deserted hermitage. Sage Viswamitra had a hidden purpose for taking Rama there. The place seemed to have experienced its glorious days to Lord Rama and asks Viswamitra about its history. 

Viswamitra continues – many years ago, there was a beautiful lady called Ahalya created by Lord Brahma out of his imagination. She was exquisitely carved with astounding features. She had reached her adulthood and being her father, Lord Brahma was in search of a groom to her. He announced a competition in which the world’s fastest would get married to her. Everyone who thought eligible was in the race including Indra (head of demigods). Gautama Rishi (Saint), who was also in the competition was quite intelligent to circle around a cow (Mother cow represents the entire Universe). Impressed with the knowledge of the saint, Brahma decides Ahalya to be married to Gautama. Gautama takes Ahalya to his hermitage and began his journey with her. However, Indra’s lustful longing was still there for Ahalya and he was waiting for an opportunity. While Gautama was not there, Indra morphed himself as the former and entered the hermitage and expressed his desire to make love with Ahalya. Despite knowing that he is not her husband, as he wouldn’t make such a wish at an untimely hour, she couldn’t resist the charms of Indra and eventually succumbed to the temptation. Soon the burden of guilt raised upon her, she asked Indra to leave the place right away and asked their transgression to remain a secret. No sooner, Gautama enters the hermitage and got hold of the entire situation. Unable to control his anger, Gautama curses Indra to become castrated and his wife to become a stone. Ahalya with penitence, pleaded her husband. Shaken with her sincerity, though he couldn’t take back his curse, became compassionate, told at some point Lord Rama would visit the hermitage and redeem her and help her reunite with him and he leaves the place. Ahalya since then does penance by chanting Lord Rama’s name. Viswamitra thus concludes this is the stone that had been waiting for ages, praying every moment for your lotus feet to touch it. The stone turns into Ahalya and she immediately bursts out into tears of gratitude and soon unites with her husband.

“No human being is so bad as to be beyond redemption”- Mahatma Gandhi. The above tale from Ramayana proves that for every non-righteous act, redemption leads to good. 

“No human being is so bad as to be beyond redemption”- Mahatma Gandhi.

What is the importance of chanting Lord Rama’s name?

The word Rama in Sanskrit means “that which gives happiness”. There are many instances in Ramayan itself signifying the essence of chanting Lord Rama’s name – when a decoit named Ratnakara by chanting the word Rama gets liberated and turns out to become Valmiki Maharshi, the author of Ramayana; when Sita (wife of Lord Rama) got abducted by Ravana, the king of Lanka, Rama along with his army of vanaras (monkeys) builds a bridge (Ram Setu) from Rameswaram (a place in Tamil Nadu, India) to Sri Lanka. The bridge, which was built with stones sustained only when “Shri Rama” was written on each stone. These pieces of evidence suggest that chanting Rama’s name has a huge impact on the mind by purifying it and making it thought-free. Thus, it leads to salvation.

Are you with me to get salvation? 

‘A personal insight into women, freedom and a sustainable society!’

There’s a whole lot of buzz around the rape case, which came into the limelight in India. This is not a new phenomenon, highly prevalent in such parts of the world, and therefore standing as an issue that needs to be discussed globally. It eventually shatters away and remains as a history. I personally think one has to delve into the roots of these issues and find some solution even though it takes time and hard work. 

Firstly, why do women enjoy political, economic and social freedom in some countries and not in others? 

When this was asked to a master’s student of Denmark, she mentioned that “I find it interesting when you bring up this topic. But for us, it is the way it is.” The answer was almost similar to what a Kurdish girl from Denmark said, which is “freedom is unappreciated here!”

But, I don’t think they just got it right away. 

On further profundity, when I looked into certain developed countries, such as the Scandinavian countries, the women of those nations worked towards their welfare and rights(political, economic, social) in the society through the various waves of feminism right from early 20th century.

I always wonder why certain developing nations in Asia, South America, Africa are “still developing” and still fighting for “women’s freedom.” On the other hand, despite the fact that most of the European nations, during the world wars,  were broken down to nothing, but are now raised as some of the most developed nations in the world. To my surprise, I heard of the Marshall Plan, where the USA lent a helping hand to Europe post World War 2 for its redevelopment from a master’s student, from Mozambique.

Additionally, she analyzed these developmental stages through the Venn diagram of sustainability. I perceive that until a nation gets stabilized in their economic situation and thereby political, it cannot focus or strive for progress in social and environmental situations. This was strongly taken as a reference for all-round development of a nation by her. She also stated that “ the statistics that we have right now are not reliable because the statistics of rape does not show the actual picture.” In South Africa, maybe because of patriarchal society and having a long colonial rule, men are considered high to women- in a way they treat women as “sex machines”. She personally felt that this kind of looking down on women is mainly due to culture and history.

Why this kind of cultural biases exist across eastern and western societies?

A master’s student from Kurdistan, but a Denmark citizen, articulated this difference. For instance, women are used to undeniable catcalls because of certain revealing dresses, which they are not supposed to wear back in my native place. But there aren’t any such restrictions here in Denmark. Stereotypes such as’ women alone have to cook food, wash utensils, do the laundry, not allowed to pursue education’ etc are prevalent .

How much ever the circumstances are changing, there is so much to change!

I understand that it is the upbringing environment, parental values, and societal influence and historical roots that are instilled in a person be it, women or men, that is what matters for a peaceful and sustainable society, be it, east or west.

In extension to my view, a family member of mine said his philosophical view, “how much ever one strives to achieve these goals socially, economically, legally, politically – unless there’s a strong philosophical/cultural basis on which ‘equality’ is a natural outcome than a forced one, all such attempts would just be superficial in nature and in some cases do more harm than good.” He, as an ardent “Advaitist” (follower of Advaita- Indian philosophy), believes and stated that “everything in existence is one, reflected in multiple forms and names.” Dwelling and working towards this concept would lead to a harmonious society as to how ancient India was.

This idea seems impossible right now, but why was it possible a few centuries back?

Forget about centuries, why was it even the case a few decades back?

For example, when one looks into the personal life of the Indian Mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan, his love for Mathematics made him leave his family and travel to Cambridge. I personally believe that he was a living example for one of the famous psychological concepts called “delayed gratification” (Marshmallow experiment). His passion for the subject, his ardent religious beliefs(strong identity) and the family support made him reach a place where the whole world, to date, respects him for what he was.

On the other hand, on analyzing through the behaviour of those culprits of the recent Hyderabad’s rape case with a friend cum “un-trained psychologist”, the possible reasons identified are due to the lack of 1) nurturing 2) family background(support) 3) education and 4) “identity crisis”.

The irony here is both situations happened in the same country!

I, being an Indian and a person who had an opportunity to enjoy the “women’s freedom” in a Scandinavian country, believe that there must be a blend in thinking according to contemporary modern situations and can still exist with strong cultural roots of India. Because the philosophy and heritage of India show scientifically that this kind of system is possible for what I am looking for through its scriptures. 

NOTE:

The above information is all based on short interviews on my personal interest from various countries (India, Denmark, UK, Mozambique, Venezuela, Kurdistan). I personally got some awareness, learning theories, and understood the situations at a global front. The whole point is about getting a broader perspective on crimes against women across the world, gender sensitization, feminism, stereotypes, and world peace.

The second article in the music series

  In my previous blog post ‘ Eastern and western collaboration series ‘, I gave the prelude to both the Music from my perspective. To be precise, I haven’t had the chance to give more insight into Western Classical Music. This blog illustrates that and some of the basic terms in it and Carnatic Music too.

Being a toddler in listening as well as learning this Music, my piano teacher Agne Zivatkauskaite, who had completed her Bachelor’s in Music from Royal Academy of Music, Aalborg, is helping me understand the history of European music, effective and scientific ways of practising the piano along with its theory.

As told in the earlier Music blog, it is easy to learn when written down. This holds true, very much in classical music as it would be impossible to play/ learn without being noted.

Most pop and jazz musicians, also, are quick to commend the value of learning to read music.

Pitch/Shruthi:

The very first term that comes to mind who is familiar or not to music is ‘Pitch’( it is called ‘Shruthi’ in Carnatic Music ). Well, I would like to describe it in terms of Western Classical Music( WCM ) as well as Carnatic Music( CM ). In basic words, the pitch is the degree of highness or lowness of a sound. To aesthetically describe, it is the smallest audible sound capable of being distinguished by a well trained human ear. In a piano, we often hear high pitched sounds and low pitched sounds on the right and left-hand side respectively when a person is in the centre to it. 

On the other hand, in CM, shruthi is person-specific and instrument-specific, which means every person has the freedom to choose a comfortable shruthi, which suits their voice or to bring out the ease. These aesthetic and emotional sounds can be practically termed as ‘Svaras.‘ In other words, shruthi can also be explained as a concept of encompassing the aspects of svaratva- position of svaras and the measurement of music intervals between any two given svaras. (The svara description in detail can be found below.)

Note/Svara:

As the keys on the piano need some representation, we use the first 7 letters of alphabets i.e A, B, C….G. And, these are called notes. However, the musical notation to these notes are Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Te. The same notion is also used in CM which is termed as svara, a definite entity – different sounds with different measures of intensity. There are 7 basic svaras in Indian music called ‘Saptasvaras’. The first svara is called ‘Aadhara shadja – Sa’, and the other svaras that follow are Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Da, Ni. These are arranged like a staircase and the 8th svara is Sa again with a doubled frequency of Aadhara shadja called octave shadja.

If one dives deep into the theory, the question of why the 7 note pattern recurs arises. To answer this abstract concept, an instrument like the piano is the best way. When you play and observe the sound of piano keys from A to G, the next note sound goes together as the first note A. This grouping is termed ‘Octave’. In CM it’s called ‘Sthayi’. So, every eighth note frequency sounds similar to the first note but with the doubled frequency. This is not only true for A-A but they exist from any note to another note with the same letter name like B-B, C-C etc.

There are technically 3 sthayis/territories (which I will be talking throughout my articles) that any normal person can sing in CM- Madhya sthayi, the middle octave( the shadja placed in this octave becomes his/her aadhara shadja), Mandra sthayi, the lower octave, and Tara sthayi, the higher octave. There are further 2 more sthayis above and below these called as Atitara sthayi and Anumandra sthayi, where a very few can potentially reach them.

Rythym and Raaga:

Before going further into the definition of Rhythm, I would like you to observe certain instances of a ‘beat’. Like, the heartbeat( or pulse ), the sound that comes when you clap your hands, the sound of a ticking clock, the sound of a church bell, the sound when you tap your feet on the floor etc. But, rhythm is something more to it. It is complicated and has a series of pattern with shorter and longer beats. In musical language, if someone says ‘that rhythm’ or ‘this rhythm’, they mean ‘that rhythmic pattern’ or ‘this rhythmic pattern’. 

Raaga in Indian Music is another important concept. The Raaga can be defined as aesthetic svara group patterns which can be further beautified by the tonal excellence which brings pleasure to the listeners. The raaga has a definite shape or in other words boundaries, which is called scale. This scale has the ascending and descending svara format called ‘ Arohana’ and ‘Avarohana’. Although the scale defines raaga boundaries, the expression of the raaga is not restricted to the scale but can be explored by traversing the component svaras in that scale. This is how different compositions are made.

There are two aspects of Carnatic music called ‘Kalpita sangeetam’ and ‘Kalpana sangeetam’. Kalpita sangeetam is pre-composed music by scholars whereas Kalpana sangeetam is music created from one’s imagination without deviating from the rules. One has to excel in Kalpana sangeetam to do the later.

“Kafka on the shore” – Haruki Murakami review

The reason why I chose this as my next blog is I have read this book and couldn’t get out of the enthralling world the author created. After all, good writings are no harm to share!

Before getting into the review of this book by Haruki Murakami, I want you’ll to get introduced to the style of his works. He mainly focuses on a central character and the story unfolds. His stories enfolds in a Japanese environment as he is from Japan. I like his writings because he brings out the courage to deal situations no matter how good or bad they are, by showing it is all within you. This is exactly similar to the real world. I presume this would be the same feeling for most of his readers and followers.

Our story starts with a fifteen-year-old boy named Kafka, who is with fortitude and is prepared to leave home so that he could avoid a daunting prophecy told by his father. Another thread goes in twain to this, which led to an introduction of another character, whose introduction took place in the mountains of Japan. The whole narration of this episode was captivating. But, I felt this was of no use since it nowhere appears in the tale later. The fictional parallel tracks were common through out the story and the way the author created two different worlds which converge and diverge was fascinating and gripping. I believe it is for this reason, the book is magical and reached millions of people.

I think every character has something to say to the reader. As told earlier, the two main characters are Kafka and Nakata, who is presently 60 years old man. There is something to learn from other characters too in the plot. One such character is Oshima, the librarian by profession. He is a bold, straightforward, gentle and a knowledgeable person. Kafka who reaches this place by destiny gets help from him in terms of job at the library and a room to live. During his days in the library, he meets the head of it, Miss Saeki, a 50-year-old, another crucial character, which creates a thread between the stories. 

She is a woman who is struck with the memoirs of her lover who died when she was twenty. The story unravels with Kafka and Miss Saeki. The relationship between them seems to be weird in the beginning, but it takes its course to convince the readers by the author. On the other hand, Nakata who has some ethereal powers like talking to cats, making fishes and leeches fall from the sky gets trapped in an incident. Here, he is forced to kill a mysterious personality. This is an important twist because it leaves the reader in confusion! However, this feeling gets carried away until it settles down with the next incident to happen. 

Nakata decides move from that place as it is too heavy to carry the feeling and on his way, he meets a guy named Hoshima. The bond between the two grew stronger with the story. Both of them journey together until they reach Takamatsu, where Kafka lives. This turns out to be a curious turn in the tale. While travelling in a literal sense also in metaphorical sense, they both get to know each other well. Murakami in his narration has a tinge of mixing philosophy and intellect in this phase of the story. Hoshima helps Nakata find the “entrance stone”, a crucial and “an existential character” of the plot. Once found, Nakata tries to conversate with the stone which sounds insane. But as a reader, who is familiar with his personality don’t find it strange anymore. Things from here take their course in a mesmerizing way leading to the climax.

“Silence I discover, is something you can actually hear” – Haruki Murakami ( Kafka on the shore ).

Now, what’s the prophecy on Kafka by his father and will it happen? Will Nakata’s and Kafka’s path come across? Will Kafka get answers that he is seeking? How will he accept his fate? What destiny shows him? are the questions that will arise and will be found in KAFKA ON THE SHORE!

I hope I have aroused enough curiosity to read this book by the review!