Una de mis historias épicas favoritas en la mitología de la India. Un cuento de devoción, separación y reunión. Es mucho más que la clásica trama del bien contra el mal, porque tiene elementos como romance, magia, aventura, acción, fantasía y un reparto fascinante con personajes como dioses, diosas, humanos semi-divinos, monos increíbles y ogros poderosos.
La trama va mas o menos así: El príncipe Rama es desterrado de su reino por órdenes de su madrastra. Rama y su amada esposa Sita tienen que vivir en el bosque donde ella es raptada por el rey de los ogros: Ravana. Rama y su hermano tienen como misión rescatarla y para eso se les une el reino de los monos mágicos lidereado por Hanuman.
Esta historia tiene dos mil años existiendo, inspirando la imaginación de la gente de la India y expandiéndose hacia el norte llegando hasta Nepal, Bután, Tibet y Asia Pacífico (Tailandia, Camboya, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam) y hasta China. Lo fascinante es que en cada región tienen su propia versión de la historia y formas artísticas para representarla.
El Ramayana ha sido plasmada en pintura, escultura, arquitectura; también se pueden encontrar grabados en piel, títeres, máscaras. Para compartir esta historia se han hecho bailes y obras de teatro tradicionales. Las culturas locales han transformado el Ramayana -como ninguna otra historia en el mundo- en una rica fuente de inspiración para las artes en una gran variedad de tradiciones literarias, expresiones narrativas, manifestaciones artísticas y estilos de puestas en escena.
En Tailandia tuve la oportunidad de ver la colección de pinturas en los muros del Gran Palacio de Bangkok con escenas de el Ramakien, la versión del Reino de Siam del Ramayana. He aqui un detalle:
In the beginning, on the ocean of milk, surrounded by the serpent of time, Narayana woke up from his dreamless sleep. From his belly button rose a lotus in which sat Brahma. Brahma opened his eyes and realized he was alone. He wondered who he was. From the desire to know himself, Brahma decided to understand what he was not. He created ten grown men out of his thoughts. These men were the Prajapatis. They knew how to produce children; they asked their father to give them a wife. Brahma split himself into two. From his left half came a creature unlike Brahma or his sons. It was a woman. She was extraordinarily beautiful. Brahma and the Prajapatis were moved by her beauty. The woman walked around Brahma to pay her respects, because Brahma was her father. Brahma overwhelmed by desire, created three extra heads, two on the sides and one behind, so that he could look upon her at all times. His daughter, ashamed by her father´s stare flew up to the sky. Brahma popped a fifth head on top of the other four. The daughter ran. Brahma chased her. As she ran, the daughter took the form of many female animals: goose, mare, cow. Afraid of losing her, determined to possess her, Brahma kept taking the complementary male forms: gander, horse, bull. Then many different types of living things came to life. Brahma called his daughter Gayatri, but she is also know as Saraswati. (Brahmanda Purana)
Narayana is the name of Vishnu as he sleeps a dreamless slumber. Lakshmi is massaging his feet. Brahma is the creator, Vishnu is the preserver of the creation. Narayana is the creator of the creator. The lotus is connected to Vishnu´s navel just like a mother´s placenta, suggesting that the interactions of Brahma within the world, that is the Goddess, nourishes him. There is a symbiotic relationship between creator and creation, God and Goddess. “He created her, and she created him. They are born of each other” (Rig Samhita)
Myth=mithya, by Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik, Penguin books, India 2006
Once upon a time, a group of Rishis (sages) was performing yagna (invocation of celestial beings through chants) in a forest when Shiva passed by. Shiva was naked, his phallus erect. The wives of the Rishis were aroused by Shiva. Losing all interest in the yagna, they followed Shiva. This made the Rishis angry. They used the power of yagna to create a tiger, a snake and a demon. Shiva stripped the skin off the tiger alive and wrapped the skin around him. He caught the snake and put it around his neck like a scarf. Then, he jumped on the demon´s back and began to dance. As he performed his beautiful dance the sages realized Shiva was God and his dance was the meaning of existence: not to indulge the ego and change the world but to discover the divine within with the help of the divine without. (Skanda Purana).
Shiva is a Yogi. The aim of yoga is to reduce mental suffering and bring stability and happiness to our inner life. His trident represents sat-chitt-ananda (existence, consciousness and bliss) and its staff represents yoga.
Shiva is also a dancer. Dance is the symbol of life. He communicates the truth of life through dance. The wheel around the dancing Shiva is the merry-go-round of worldly events. The ego (represented by the demon) is crushed by Shiva and he dances on its back, offering an alternative.
Shiva Nataraja is the representation of the cosmic dance of Shiva. The gestures of the dance represent Shiva´s five activities: creation (symbolized by the drum), protection (by the “fear not” hand gesture), destruction (by the fire), embodiment (by the foot planted on the ground), and release (by the other foot).
Parvati wanted to have a child with her husband Shiva. But he refused. Then Parvati created a child on her own, using tumeric paste. The child was called Vinayaka because he was born without the intervention of a man. Parvati asked her son to guard the entrance of her chamber while she was taking a bath. Shiva arrived and demanded to see his wife. Vinayaka blocked Shiva´s entry not knowing he was his mother´s consort. Shiva lost his cool, raised his trident and beheaded Parvati´s precious son. Parvati was inconsolable in her grief and threatened to transform into Kali, the life-taking goddess, if her son was not resurrected. Shiva ordered his followers, the ganas, to bring the head of the first living being they found. They brought back the head of an elephant with a broken tusk. Shiva placed the head on the neck of Parvati´s son and brought him back to life. By giving him life, Shiva became the boy´s father.
The choice of an elephant´s head for Ganesha is interesting. In Hindu symbolism, the elephant is the symbol of material abundance. Indra, king of the gods, rides an elephant. Elephants flank Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.
When you see an image of Ganesha, most of the times there is a rat at his feet. His rat represents the unmanageable, stubborn problems of life that he keeps at bay. Ganesha is the god of the present, sitting between the past and the future, removing all obstacles, ensuring the realization of every dream.
I have to write about Hindu Mythology. Everything in the Hindu world is reborn. Men die and are reborn. Societies die and are reborn. The cosmos dies and is reborn. Everything goes and comes back.
From the epic story of the Ramayana, I found this chapter related to rebirth:
“At the appointed hour, it was time for Rama to die. But Yama, the god of death, could not enter Rama´s city, as Hanuman, the mighty monkey guarded its gates. Hanuman loved Rama so much that he did not want him to die. To distract Hanuman and let nature take its course, Rama dropped his ring into a crack on the floor and asked Hanuman to fetch the ring. The crack led Hanuman to a subterranean realm, where he found countless copies of Rama´s ring. The guardian of the subterranean realm, the serpent-king Vasuki, explained: “Whenever a ring falls here, a monkey follows it and we know it is time for a Rama to die. Such rings have fallen form above for as long as I can remember, and will continue to do so in the future. As long as the wheel of existence rotates, old worlds die and new ones are reborn. In each world there will be a Hanuman, a Rama and a Rama´s ring.”
A year in our lives just died and a new time is born. Happy and prosperous 2012!
“Often a people’s myths are the highest and most truthful expressions of their spirit and culture” William L. Shirer
Myths have been a part of our lives since ancient times. After studying and teaching World History and Art History, I have found interesting connections between culture, religion, art and mythology. In order to understand a community’s or a country’s cultural expressions, we need to study the myths that are part of their foundation. The history of myth, in other words, goes hand in hand with the history of civilization.
My intention is to present a brief review of the mythologies of Latin America, Asia and Europe.