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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri




by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

The word ‘Mythology’ is derived from the word ‘Myth’, which in turn is adopted from the Sanskrit word ‘Mithya’ meaning false. This goes to show that whatever is recorded in any mythology is not true. It is false, fabricated, concocted and based on the fertile imagination of mankind. Even so it has a purpose, a lofty aim and the intention to do something for the good of the mankind. Every religious group, every ideological section and every sect has created a storehouse of mythological stories, which are read with reverence and faith. We have Puranas, Jatak Kathayen, Biblical stories, and umpteen other literary compilations, which are in the form of stories with morals, lessons and directions for righteous living. There are mythological heroes, whose life is an ideal to emulate. There are other characters who are role models for the conduct of a pious, pure and just behavior. In fact whereas the scriptures and holy books of various religions have attracted the attention of the intellectuals and an elite group only, the mythology has had an appeal for the common man. It has always been popular among the masses and has commanded their reverence, respect and devotion. It has put the common man on the right track in life and ensured that he refrains from vice and sin and leads a virtuous life.

In the corpus of Indian mythology eighteen Puranas are the most popular works, wherein there are characters, which have had an indelible effect on the conduct and morality of Indian masses. In addition the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are the two great epics, which are read with great devotion. Rama of Valmiki became a role model for Sanskrit knowing elites and then Rama of Tulsidas reached every household in the North. Subsequently Ramayana came to be written in almost every language of India. Rama is referred to as ‘Purushottama’, or an ideal person. No doubt he presents a clear portrait of an obedient son, a devout husband and a responsible and just ruler. Laxmana and Bharata, on the other hand are depicted as faithful, honest, truth-loving and devoted brothers, who know their respective rights and responsibilities. Hanumana is a devotee of the Lord and is ever prepared to carry out any job for him, howsoever onerous and difficult that may be. Sita shows an ideal woman-hood ever and always attached to her husband.

Even the negative characters have a message to convey. Look at Ravana, Hiranyakashyapa, Kansa, Duryodhana and their ilk. All of them were arrogant, haughty and headstrong. These negative traits were considered unpardonable and all these persons were punished. The lesson to be drawn is that the arrogance does not pay and instead we should be humble. As against these characters there were others like Vibhishana, Arjuna, Sugreeva, Angad etc who were humble. They got rewarded adequately for this virtue.

Arjuna and the Gopis collectively are the two characters representing respectively, intellectual finesse and devotional surrender. Arjuna argues, raises questions and doubts and seeks answers to his misgivings. Finally when he realizes his limitations and shortcomings he sees no other alternative but to surrender before the Master. He says, ‘Karishye vachanam tava. – I shall execute your orders and carry out your command.’ Gopis are, ab initio, in a surrender mould. When Udhav visits Gokul, at the behest of Shri Krishna, they surround him and ask scores of questions about the Lord. When he ventures to give them some lessons in knowledge ‘Jnana’, they brush that aside saying, ‘Udhav man nahin das bees, ek huto so gayo Shyam sang – Udhav! We do not possess multiple minds. Like any human being we had one mind, which has gone with our beloved Shyam, so we cannot be receptive to your lessons.’ This surrender pays because the Lord says, ‘Tesham nityabhiyukhtanam yogakshemam vahami-aham – I look after all the needs of those who are always attached to Me. I provide them what they do not have and protect what they do have.’

Look at the characters like Dhruv and Prahlad. They are embodiment of devotion, dedication, faith and love of God. Their life and activities are a lesson in surrender unto Lord, dedication to Truth and realization of the Supreme. Since the mythological literature is next only to the scriptures, these lessons in the conduct and behavior go deep into the psyche of a common man. Once it puts the lives of the millions on the proper track of righteousness, the purpose is served. Even otherwise conveying a message directly does not have that much an impact as when it is conveyed indirectly through the medium of a story. Outside the mythology as well, we have a storehouse of stories, ‘Brihat Katha Manjari’, ‘Katha sarit Sagar’, ‘Pancha-Tantra’ etc;       which convey morals, lessons and guidance in a subtle way, sometimes even through animal characters, e.g. ‘Buddhir-yasi balam tasye, nirbuddhestu kuto balam, pashya simho madonmatta shashikena nipatita – A person with wisdom only is said to be powerful, a fool has no strength. Look how a small but wise hare was able to drown a mighty but foolish lion.’

In India we see a lot many story-tellers, who take sessions after sessions and give discourses in Ramayana, Shrimad Bhagwat and other Pauranik literature. Thousands of devotees listen to them with reverence. They not only get solace for those hours spent in listening to these discourses but also carry the lessons in good conduct, pious behavior and virtuous life and imbibe these qualities. These lessons, sooner or later, stand them in good stead and help them in fashioning their lives on a righteous track. The individual is reformed and in the process the entire society is given a new and pious form. Thus the mythology plays a constructive role in shaping the lives of the people and in influencing the civilization and culture of a nation. This is no mean contribution and puts the entire corpus of this literature on a high pedestal. One can conclude that whereas the scriptures appeal to the spirit of a man, the mythology affects his mundane life and behavior. It has been rightly said that these mythological stories are read and narrated for ‘Vinoda, Sukha, Labhaya’ entertainment, happiness and benefit. It depends upon us how much benefit we derive from it.

Mythology may not stand the test of logic and reasoning. It may not pass the examination conducted through intellect and wisdom. Yet it cannot be discarded outright as irrelevant and useless. The corpus of revealed texts of different religions and the works and findings of various philosophers and thinkers appeal to those who are intellectually at a higher level and those who seek truth in a concerted way by adopting various spiritual disciplines. For a common man, however, there has to be some material, which attracts him, educates and guides him and gives him solace and satisfaction by reaching out to him at his level of understanding. This requirement is fulfilled by mythology and other similar literature that gives lessons in morality, ethics and good conduct. Human society owes a great debt to this corpus because it has shaped the society and given the life its meaning and purpose.

T. N. Dhar Kundan's Articles


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