The possibilities of the occult in fiction

How does one research into occult? In the climax of Cult of Chaos, the first novel of my tantric fantasy series ‘Anantya Tantrist Mystery’, the protagonist Anantya and her teacher, Dhuma, an aghori who lives in a cemetery, embark on a complex tantric ritual to call upon a charnel goddess, Shamshana Kalika, to the human plane.
The ritual called Shava Sadhana requires Anantya to sit on top of a corpse on a full moon night. I first came across this dramatic ritual in The Calcutta Review Volume XXIV written in 1855. In true Victorian Gothic style, the text explained that the sadhak, or the one who meditates, sits on top of a dead body, preferably a corpse of a chandala who has died a violent death, on a full moon’s night, so as to gain command over impure spirits like danavas, betalas, bhutas, pretas and other paranormal goblins.
While researching this scene, I sat on top of a corpse, all night, in suffocating darkness with Anantya. We touched the cold, clammy flesh of the swollen corpse and we felt blood pounding in our veins and hearts. Sitting on that corpse, waiting to connect with powers beyond the human consciousness, made me realise the ultimate truth of all human lives:
That the day shakti (alternatively meaning energy, prana, life, or soul) stops coursing through our bodies, we will cease to exist and maggots will consume the bodies we call our home. This relationship with death and life, expressed in such a dramatic, dreadfully mesmerising way, stays with me even three years after I wrote it.

Rituals like these are the reason perhaps why tantrism is misunderstood by outsiders.

According to Georg Feuerstein in Tantra: The Path of Ecstasy, the verbal root in ‘tantra’, tan, means ‘to expand’, tantu means a thread or a cord. Tantra then is a web, a system, a ritual, a doctrine or compendium that expands jnana or knowledge and wisdom.

In early Vedic times, everything was called a tantra, be it actual sciences like agriculture, cattle-breeding, distillation, iron-smelting or experimental ones like alchemy, medicine, embryology, and physiology. Tantrism was an individual’s quest for science, spirituality and the supernatural. The aim was to attain siddhi, a spiritual quest for liberation, enlightenment, or, in a worldlier sense, a search for extraordinary powers or paranormal abilities.

The power of tantrism lay in its democratisation of knowledge. Anyone, be it lower caste, tribals or women, could become adept at it. This soon led to a conflict with the Vedic philosophy which preferred structure, the varna and patriarchal systems. So tantrism began to form around the other, the subaltern, the negation, the non-Vedic, the one outside social mores.

In a way, this push to the edges of the society freed tantrism as a science of its moral and ethical shackles.

Tantric practitioners, in their quest to understand and be one with prakriti, or nature, pushed the acceptable boundaries using methods that were considered sinful, immoral, shocking, or abnormal by conventional Vedic society. The idea was to shock the human consciousness out of imbibed social behaviours and morals and achieve a state of infancy.

Ritualised sexual intercourse, aphrodisiacs, alcohol and meat, as well as necromantic rituals, eating excreta and drinking urine and blood were included—all symbolising freedom from social habits.

This idea is perhaps best exemplified in the iconography of tantric goddess Chinnamasta, who holds her own severed head in one hand and a scimitar in the other, as she stands on top of a divine copulating couple. Jets of blood spurt from her bleeding neck and are drunk by her severed head and two attendants. In tantrism, blood is a symbol of life. The image, though shocking, implies the goddess nourishing her devotees with her shakti. 

Unable to understand this symbolic, outrageous aspect of tantrism, mainstream society further vilified tantrics, shunning their rites, looking at them with disgust.

Centuries of storytellers, imaginations and half-truths build upon this, till what remained in anyone’s mind when the word ‘tantric’ was whispered was jaadu-tona, black magic, or people who were power hungry, ruthless and inherently evil.

Like the Chinnamasta symbol, actor Amrish Puri exemplifies this modern image of a tantric in movies like Naagin and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. From a scientist or a philosopher, the tantric had turned into a black-choga, rudraksh-wearing black magician, an enemy of society, who hollered and danced in front of a larger-than-life sculpture of goddess Kali, did disgusting blood magic, sacrificed humans and animals and inhabited dark spaces like caves or burial grounds.

Both this occult image and the philosophy that preceded it inspired the ruthless fantasy world that Anantya Tantrist lives in. While the popular imaginations of tantrism provided me with the world of ambitious tantric clans, fighting each other for power, the tantric philosophy of shakti wove itself into the magic-principles of the world.

Everything runs on shakti and tantrism is the science of harvesting that shakti, as Anantya explains, be it through sacrifice, mantras, or through ritualised sex. Fantasy world-building would be empty without supernatural creatures, which I found in the epics, folklores and oral stories of our myth-rich lands. From rakshasas who have the power to turn invisible and move through planes, to dasyus, bat-like creatures who live in caves and yalis who are part lion, part elephant and part something else.

While building the world of my books, I consciously tried to make tantrics part of the mainstream.

Instead of living in secret cults and shadows, tantrics have been announced to the world. They run an efficient system controlling the supernatural population in tandem with the Indian Government and have their own council, police and justice systems.

Because tantrics have all the power, the supernaturals are the new tribals, the subalterns (who are ousted from forests and pushed into underground city ghettos, to live their lives in poverty, and are forced to buy expensive maya potions from tantrics) who hide themselves from humans. The Matsya Curse, the just-released second book of ‘Anantya Tantrist Mystery’, sees a supernatural tribe, the Nishadas, being used to provide immorality to the few rich socialites in Delhi. The supernaturals in the world are the new downtrodden. Them and the women.

The other day, someone messaged me on Facebook, wondering why the protagonist of a tantric fantasy series was a woman.

According to him, tantrics are all males; women can only be channels of shakti for the male. He wasn’t incorrect. Tantric texts, without exception, speak to men urging them to worship women, approach them with reverence, purity and devotion so they can raise themselves to the standard of the female. Some like Sahajiyas even believe that the man should transform himself into a woman. Becoming a woman or one with the supreme woman, Shakti herself, is the ultimate goal for a male tantric. But even though the shakti, the energy or magic, belonged to women, there is no mention of women themselves using it in any of the tantric texts.

In the History of the Tantric Religion, a seminal book written by scholar NN Bhattacharyya, I found an answer which was to tell me more about Anantya and the philosophy she symbolises. ‘Though in modern times, Tantra has become male-dominated, there is reason to believe that once it belonged to the females,’ writes Bhattacharyya. Quoting ancient texts, he redefined the ‘vama’ in ‘vamachara’ to mean not ‘left’, but ‘woman’. From there, much like my detective, I looked out for references and found that every text circumstantially mentioned yoginis, variously named tantra-yoginis, or sadhikas, female shamans or even witches. They stood in the shadows, as spectators to an elaborate tantric ritual, as goddesses being worshipped, as sex-aides to males in their quest for power.

Soon a parallel philosophy emerged, run by powerful educated women, who used tantrism and the shakti within them to aim for higher spiritual quests.

I had found my subaltern, the new tantric, considered an outcaste by even the original outcastes themselves. It was exactly here that my protagonist, Anantya emerged. She is born in Banaras in a conventional tantric ashram, trained in ritualised sex to aide male tantrics attain shakti. She suffers abuse, fights and leaves this limited life choosing to travel into the shadows, embracing the art of occult herself, tapping into the shakti troves within her female body.

In Anantya’s world, as in ours, she’s a threat, an illegal entity, an abnormality. It’s a new conflict, not between Vedic and Tantric philosophy, but an eternal one between prakriti and purush, female and male, yoginis and tantrics that is played out in the third book of the series which I’m currently working on.

A tantric image of Kali sits on my study table, as I write this. In it, Kali, prakriti or nature herself, stands fierce, naked, full breasted, full of life, astride the prostrate dead body of her eternal partner Shiva, the purusha , with ashen skin and an erect penis, infusing the half-dead body with her life or devouring its life, however you wish to see it. The image, which I bought in Kamakhya Devi Temple in Guwahati, reminds me every day of yoginis, female power, deified and suppressed, forgotten by a history written by men, though the dark echo of their presence remains like a smear on human memory.

Somewhat like the forgotten ruin of the Chausath Yogini Temple sitting on top of a hill in Madhya Pradesh which is shaped in the form of a yoni, or vagina. Not much is known about who were the women who worshipped there; the sculptures have been rooted out, replaced by Shivlings. But the temple is said to have inspired the unique circular architecture of the Indian Parliament, the seat of power of men.

 


This column was first published in Open magazine. 

Dhanushkodi, the ghost town to Sri Lanka

The road to Dhanushkodi is smooth and straight, flanked by gabion boxes that protect it from gales with velocity of 70-80 kilometers per hour. The panorama fills with salty water, an endless silver and blue, merging with the mercilessly heated up skies. The waters of Bay of Bengal roar on our left while the cerulean depths of the Indian Ocean glimmer on our right.

We are on the 19 kilometre national highway that links Rameshwaram, a popular pilgrimage town on Pamban island in Tamil Nadu to Dhanushkodi, the abandoned ghost town on its south-eastern tip.

Just 18 miles from there, as the crow flies, lies another country, Sri Lanka.

An ancient Hindu legend claims this as the place where Rama built the Rama Setu, a bridge of floating rocks that could connect the islands of Pamban and Sri Lanka and enable his legendary monkey army to reach King Ravana’s abode, the modern day Sri Lanka. When Rama won the war against the King of Lanka, he was asked to destroy the bridge, which he did using the end of his bow, hence the name ‘Dhanushkodi’ which literally translates into ‘end of the bow’.

Continue reading “Dhanushkodi, the ghost town to Sri Lanka”

The river Ganga: Myths, folklore and stories you want to retell

On Dasashwamedh Ghat in Banaras, people jostle with each other to touch the holy waters of the river Ganga. Old people take careful steps, while younger ones jump into the river from a height, slapping, playing, and laughing. Some mutter prayers to Goddess Ganga as they take dips ritualistically amidst the flotsam of rituals, decayed flowers and pieces of bones and plastic kiss the corners of the ghats. Cows munch on garbage while tourists crane their cameras from boats, their fingers pressing the button for panicked clicks. It’s a chaotic scene that celebrates life and death in an endless cycle.

She’s a goddess who travels through three worlds

For the river Ganga, with a whopping 2,525 kilometers of length that begins in western Himalayas and continues through the Gangetic plains into Bangladesh and then the Bay of Bengal, is not just a river for Hindus in India. She’s a goddess who travels through three worlds, making her an important highway if you want to reach either Heavens or Netherworld from Earth. In Sanskrit, Ganga is also called Triloka-patha-gamini or Tripathaga, or one who travels the three worlds.

Continue reading “The river Ganga: Myths, folklore and stories you want to retell”

Mamallapuram’s drowned temples

A long time ago, seven granite temples stood on the beach of Mamallapuram near Chennai, a port at that time. Myth has it that lord Indra, the god of thunderstorm became so jealous of the town’s beauty that in his anger, he brought out a great storm from the Bay of Bengal, gobbling six of the temples. And so only one remained, the Shore Temple, built on an outcrop of land on the beach, to guide the travellers coming from the sea.

Some 60 kilometers from sweltering Chennai on the East Coast Road, Mamallapuram is more of a popular weekend beach retreat now than a port. Cheap homestays, larger-than-life resorts, backpacker hostels, restaurants and cafes pepper its lanes, each of which weaves down to the sandy beaches. Built by the Pallavas during the seventh century, it used to be a famous trading port on the east coast. Traders and merchants travelled all the way from countries in South East Asia and even the Mediterranean to reach its shores. Legend has it that Marco Polo, the famous Venetian merchant traveller, found his way to this port, marking it on his Catalan Map in 1275. It was during the Pallavas that Sangam literature and Bhakti movement flourished here.

Continue reading “Mamallapuram’s drowned temples”

Are ghosts real?

Are ghosts real? As an author interested in the paranormal and supernatural, this is the question I get asked a lot. Do I believe in ghosts? Have I experienced any? Do I think ghosts exist around us? I’ve had a few experiences which defy logic. And I’m okay with them, because you cannot find a logical or scientific answer to everything. Continuing the blog series of real life ghost stories, here are four more tales.

 Mystery man in Patna

When she was little, a friend of mine moved to a new home in the outskirts of Patna. It was pretty much undeveloped then and the kitchen window overlooked a farm. Everything was great except her mom noticed a man sitting outside in the farm, when she cooked. He looked like a farmer and stared at her, silently. She called out. No response. She ignored and continued cooking. Every afternoon, he was there, for five odd hours, staring in through the kitchen window as her mother made food. In the beginning, she was freaked, but later on her mother got used to the situation and ignored the man. “He remained there, sitting outside in the overlooking farm, staring, for five hours, for two years,” she said. “We assumed he was a peaceful ghost and let him be.” Two years later, he vanished just as mysteriously as he’d appeared.

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Woman in white in Manali 

A long time ago, as a teen, I’d gone to a camp from my school. We camped in a valley near Manali. It was a beautiful clear night, the sky was laden with stars. We’d finished dinner. It was late and we sat on a ledge away from the camps, chatting.

About 30 meters behind the ledge, I saw a figure in white. At first I thought it was girl, but there was something weird about the figure. It was hazy and gliding towards us. Not walking. I blinked and asked others if they saw the same thing as me. The figure shimmered in the starlight almost like she had a torch under the white ensemble. And kept gliding towards us. All of us were now looking at the figure, wondering what it was. We tried to fit a lot of logics, but nothing worked. The figure vanished a few minutes later. Till now I don’t know what it was.

Click here for more real life ghost stories

The fat lady in Haridwar

This story comes to me from my grandmother who recently passed away. By retelling her tale, I hope to immortalize a part of her. She’d heard it from her brother, who’d heard it from the rickshaw driver who experienced this. One day this rickshaw driver gave a ride to a really fat lady who wanted to go to Har-ki-paudi, the popular holy ghat on the banks of Ganga. Surprisingly, though she was really fat, the driver peddled the rickshaw as if it was empty. She felt weightless. They reached the ghat, the lady stepped down and asked him to wait. “I’ll be back in 15 minutes after a quick dip in Ganga.” She gave him a handkerchief tied up into a pouch. The driver waited for the lady. He waited an hour, a few hours and begun to worry. Had she drowned? He went to the ghat and found her clothes, floating in the water, without any woman inside them. He finally remembered the little handkerchief that she had given him and opened it. The kerchief had precious emeralds and rubies and diamonds inside it. He went back to the same road he had picked her up from and inquired about the lady. Finally he found out that she was a rich lady and had died in an ashram with a wish to take a dip in the Ganga on her lips. A year before she’d met the rickshaw driver. He’d been rewarded with money because he’d helped with her last wish.

Backtracking woman on the Lonavala road

“It’s a true story,” stresses my friend from Mumbai, who called up to understand exactly what he’d seen. Early morning, as he was returning with his two friends from Lonavala back to Mumbai, they saw a woman. “We were driving slow as we wanted to enjoy the early morning scenery on that road. The woman from afar looked like a beggar, really tall, thin and lanky.” The weird thing was, she was walking backwards. They were driving slow, at 40km/hour, and passed her and saw her disappear into their rearview mirror. “Maybe she was drugged or a nutcase,” he says, “else why walk backwards?” Though they were tempted to, they didn’t dare turn around and see who the person was upclose.

Read a real-incidents inspired ghost tale based in Manipal


Have any paranormal incidents to share? Put in a comment below. I would love to hear your experiences.

 

Real life ghost stories I’ve heard

Have you heard a real life ghost story? Whenever I’m travelling and meet someone new, this is the first thing I ask people. Have they seen any ghosts that have jumped onto them from spooky corners or any hazy female figures dressed in white that they saw shimmering on a lonely, dark road? I write ghost stories because I’m highly curious about ghosts, monsters and all things that belong to the dark. In this blog, I wanted to share with you a few stories I’ve heard from friends and strangers over the years. They’re all true, atleast to the people who told them to me.

Double suicide in IIT Kanpur

I stayed at the beautiful IIT Kanpur campus for a few weeks a couple of years back. It’s a dense, big campus, a whopping 1055 acres of lung space in the outskirts of the chaotic madness that is Kanpur. At a literary meet, on asking, a student told me about a room in one of the hostels, where there had been two suicides in a row. After the second one, the authorities locked up the room. In the night, some students could hear a rattling sound from the room, if someone was trying to open the door from inside. This student even approached the room door one night when the noise was disturbing him from his late night studies. “The door knob turned even though I knew there was no one inside,” he said. He ran back to his room, firmly shutting the door. “Yeah,” said another, “but the next year the room was cleared and just given to a first year student. The ghost is forgotten.” I wondered if the first-year student had experienced anything, but I never got to talk to him.

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The man with a lantern

I heard this story in the mountains somewhere in the Himalayan region. Most people there have various paranormal experiences in their pockets. They tell them as if it’s an everyday occurrence and don’t think of ghost stories as something unnatural, the way we city dwellers do. In this case, an old man told me about a time when he was young. He was walking down a lonely stretch of road at night, in darkness as there was not much moonlight. He saw a man up ahead of him walking with a lantern and called him since it was too dark and the jungle had a lot of snakes and wild things. The man didn’t turn. He reached the man and touched his shoulder. The man turned and the lantern he carried illuminated his face. There was nothing there. No eyes, no lips, no nose. “I turned and ran so hard that I have no idea where I went,” said the old man.

Click here for more real life ghost stories

A dancing table in Switzerland

I got this story from a friend, an enthusiastic blogger who has experienced it herself when she was little. “My great-grandmother had a small round wooden table, a tabletop with a central stand on three split legs that would rock and knock when people gathered around it for a ‘spirit’ session,” she says. Ever the curious, she approached the round wooden table one evening with a few cousins and an uncle, determined to dispel the illusion. When the table started to wriggle and tilted to stand on one leg, she asked her uncle to stop pushing it and freaking them out. “I got an electric shock from the offended table because I refused to believe it could shake on its own accord.”

Read a real-incidents inspired ghost tale based in Manipal

 


Have any paranormal incidents to share? Put in a comment below. I would love to hear your experiences.

The djinn-saints of Delhi

There’s a djinn that lives next to the Feroz Shah Kotla cricket stadium in Delhi. His name is Laat Waale Baba (The Pillar Saint) and he’s older than the stadium and older than the British rule. Some whisper he’s even older than the city-fort which was built by Sultan Feroz Shah Tuglaq in 1356, after whom the stadium is named. Laat Waale and his assistants, thousands of other minor djinns, live in the skeletons of the once royal city. And they live royal lives. For they get a heap of letters and coins and prayers and fruits and sweets from worshippers every week.

The ruins of Feroz Shah Kotla

Come Thursday, be it sweltering hot or bone-chilling cold, hundreds of worshippers gather around the Minar-e-Zarreen, a 13.1 meter high, polished sandstone pillar that stands in the middle of the ruins. The pillar, which is believed to be the pathway for the djinn and his minor army, is surrounded by a protecting grill put up by the Archeological Survey of India who maintain the Tuglaq ruins. The worshippers stretch their arms through the grill, futilely to try and touch the pillar, their hands full of letters, photocopies and hope. After the trial to touch, they kiss the grill and tie up these letters, full of prayers. They even bring photocopies and photographs so they can post multiple letters to multiple minor djinns in case one of them is not heard. All letters are full of prayers and pleadings, asking for a wish or hoping the senior djinn or one of the minor ones will help them in matters of the heart, or marriage, of wealth or of health. Some even bring their possessed relatives for exorcism in ruined caverns with bats hanging upside down in the dampness, witnessing the thrashings and shrieks.

Letters to the djinns

A worshipper whispered to me that a hundred years ago, under the British rule, these ruins were haunted by ghosts and pretas and thugs and tantrics and dogs and bats and the Pillar djinn wasn’t a saint. He turned into one post Independence when partition changed the dynamics of the capital city. That’s when, people, maddened by grief of what humans could do to other humans, left with no hope and no other saints or gods, crawled to the ruins, clutching letters of hope. They turned to djinns when they saw the worse in human nature. For they hoped that djinns, who according to Islamic mythology live for centuries and are made of smokeless fire, might know something about life and dignity that humans forget. Continue reading “The djinn-saints of Delhi”

A few good Khasi tales

In the beginning of things, there was vast emptiness. God created two beings out of it – Ramew, the guardian spirit of Earth and her husband Basa, the patron god of villages. They had five children, the Sun, the Moon, Water, Wind and Fire. The family provided for Earth, giving it rich soil, fruits and trees and flowers. All it lacked was a caretaker and so God called upon seven families from Heaven and told them to take care of the Earth and planted a divine tree that served as a golden ladder between Heaven and Earth. Every day, these seven families would climb down from Heaven to Earth to till it and cultivate crops. However, soon humans were discontent and began to steal, swindle, cheat and even kill for gain. Angered, God decided to pull up the Golden Ladder and so the seven families were stranded on Earth and had no option but to make it their home.

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The story rings true as I look over the endless emerald of the rolling hills of Meghalaya’s Cherapunji-Mawsynram Reserve Forest. We’ve stopped at a roadside tea kiosk to sip on sweetened black tea. For a split second, as you see the sun peeping through laden clouds, you can also see a ladder from the skies to earth, the golden light its beams.

Like this origin myth, Khasi people have many stories. Their language didn’t have a script before the missionaries, when they adopted Roman script.

For centuries, oral stories have carried forward Khasi traditions, their collective knowledge and their ideas, generation to generation. There is a story for everything in Khasi legends. Thunder and lightening, a gigantic boulder that looks like an overturned conical basket, the name of a waterfall, a hill, a forest, a village…everything. They even have a story on how they lost their script. The story goes that once a Bengali and a Khasi scholar had to cross a river. The Bengali tied the books to his hair, while the Khasi put it between his teeth. When crossing, the Khasi, a mountain person, almost drowned. Instinctively he opened his mouth and took a deep breath, swallowing his text by mistake. The Bengali script remained intact. However the Khasi script was lost, though the knowledge remained in people’s minds.

DSC00135One of my favourite stories is about a dragon spirit called thlen. Legend goes that thlen was born near the village of Rangjyrteh, an abandoned village which stood on top of the famous Dainthlen waterfalls. According to the legend, whenever a group of people passed up their way to the village, the dragon-demon would attack and devour half of them. The only way anyone could escape was to walk alone as the thlen couldn’t devour a half of a single person. The people of the village approached U Suidnoh, a brave and devout keeper of the grove to get rid of the monster.

U Suidnoh befriended the dragon demon by feeding it goat’s flesh daily. After gaining its trust and confidence, he heated a bar of iron in a huge furnace, went to the cave and called out to thlen to open its mouth. When the dragon opened its mouth, he shoved red-hot-iron down his throat. Taken unaware, the thlen violently choked and died. The carcass was cut up and distributed to all for a public feast. A strict instruction was issued that the meat should be ingested at the site and even a single scrap should not be left uneaten as that will allow the monster to spring back to life.

photo credut: http://folkfestivals.blogspot.in/2010_10_01_archive.html

However, an old Khasi woman saved a piece of it to take home for her grandchild. When she reached home, she forgot to give it to the child and lo, the thlen came to life again. In exchanged for sparing her life, the thlen demanded shelter in her house and a regular diet of human blood. It also promised increase of wealth for its keeper. Ever since then, keeping a thlen makes you wealthier, but for that you have to provide sacrifice humans and feed it blood.

DSC00056It’s a tale that cautions against human greed and private ownership of land. Decades before the government made private land owning possible, the land in Meghalaya belong to the community and not individuals. In case the owner died, within a few years, the land would go back to the community, ensuring that a single person’s greed didn’t destroy the resources meant for all. Something all the more relevant as mining, both legal and illegal, is fast devouring these iron, coal and limestone rich hills, leaving chipped and ravaged empty shells behind.


First published in Discover India. Credit for a few images go to FolksFestival.in

 

Gond Ramayani: Ramayan in tribal comic format

I found my first Gond story in a Gond painting exhibition by Indra Gandhi National Centre of the Arts in Bangalore. The series of paintings, in ten by ten feet frames, was a graphic narrative like I’d never seen before. And I was wowed.

It’s Ramayana, I exclaimed, a story I knew, peering to understand the visuals and corroborate it with the story my grandmother had told me ages ago. The story I’d seen again in Ramananda Sagar’s Ramayana TV series which was inspired by the Awadhi text Ramacharitra Manas written by Goswami Tulsidas. However, I couldn’t decipher the visual story. It didn’t collaborate with the Ramayana tale I knew. The one I considered the right one. Curious and fascinated, I contacted IGNCA, started to research on this unusual Gond version, emailed people, called scholars, read books and piece by piece constructed the story that is sung by the bards of Gond, where Ram isn’t the main hero. And so I build up the whole story. Or atleast a version of it. For I’m a storyteller too.

Have you heard the story where Lakshmana is the real hero in Ramayana? And Ram, that ideal husband and king is but a side character who orders his younger brother to fetch his dice for a game and then blames him for trying to sleep with his wife. I hadn’t.

So I’m going to retell one of the Gond Ramayani tales to you.

Continue reading “Gond Ramayani: Ramayan in tribal comic format”

Did Jesus backpack through India?

Hemis Monastery stands inside a gorge, a lone ranger surrounded by vast swathes of red and brown mountains, bare valleys peppered with poplar trees and a vivid blue sky. I reach the courtyard of the monastery after a steep climb, my city lungs working overtime in the thin Ladakhi air, wondering how it would’ve felt for a young and lost Jesus Christ to have walked this very path more than two thousand years ago.

DSC02314The rumours of Jesus’s visit to India, which are still being passionately argued upon with a documentary made a decade ago, were started by two gentlemen much before internet became the fighting ground of conspiracies. Louis Jacol
liot, a French barrister who lived several years in India between 1865-1869, wrote ‘La Bible Dans I’Inde’ (The Bible in India) where he compared the accounts of the life of Krishna, one of the prominent Hindu avatars of Vishnu, with that of Jesus Christ in the Gospels and concluded that there were far too many similarities in both these accounts and hence they were of the same person.

Continue reading “Did Jesus backpack through India?”