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59: Narakasur

Deepavali (Diwali) is one of the biggest festivals in Hinduism. Several things are believed to have happened during this auspicious time. There is the emergence of Lakshmi the goddess of wealth from the ocean of milk during to the great Churning of the Ocean that the gods and demons did together (Bhagvata Purana). Then there is the return of Rama to his kingdom in Ayodhya from his self-exile and subsequent successful campaign against Ravana of Lanka (Ramayana). There is also the return of Pandavas from their exile in the forest - with their taking down their divine weapons from the sami tree, and finally resolving to go to war against their cousins the Kauravas, for their rightful inheritance.
Different epochs of the serpent of time seem to have left over some residue (Shesha) during this specific fortnight as a reminder. One of the things that is commemorated during the second (or first, depending on your tradition) day of Diwali is the killing of demon Narakasur, and today we will ex…
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58: The Story of Vivasvat and Sanjana

The Story of Vivasvat (Surya) and Sanjana (Sandhya)

This one is an example of a story narrative that appears in different sources with slight variations, but where the general flow and incidents within the narrative are similar and fairly consistent. In some cases the names of the characters are different, in others the story ends abruptly, and in some others it forms the prelude of several other stories, including Indra’s slaying of the demon Vritrasura.

Vivasvat was the Sun god Surya. He was born to Sage Kashyapa and Aditi, along with other gods, Adityas (including Indra, Varuna, Soma, Mitra etc.). He would get on his chariot each day with his limb-less charioteer Arun (son of Kashyapa and his other wife Vinita, and brother of Garuda, Arun was prematurely taken out by his mother from the egg and hence did not have functioning legs); and climb up the skies. Once, he got tired of the daily routine, and asked Arun for advice …

57: Iravan

The story motif of voluntary self-sacrifice during the Mahabharata war is what brings the tales of Barbareek and Iravan (Aravan in some cases) together. This, and the fact that the minor fringe characters usually take the fancy of the marginalized or local groups within the society, has led to specific traditions around both these youths. In the last post we examined the life and death of Barbareek
Let us now look at Iravan, whose sacrifice in the middle of the war, helped Pandavas move closer to victory.

Although a minor character in the Mahabharat, the story of Iravan sees the light of day today in two cults of Tamil origin, and mainly found in Southern India – the Kuttantavar cult dedicated to Iravan in district Villupuram; and the cult of Draupadi.

Once Arjuna disturbed Yudhishthira while he was in his bedroom with their common wife Draupadi. As it was decided earlier among the brothers on the advice of Narada, Arjuna had to leave the company of his family and go on hermitage for a…