Talking with the rivers

Rivers have been revered since time immemorial in cultures across the world.  For ancient peoples, the pure waters provided by rivers to drink and to water crops must have seemed to be a blessing from nature or from the gods.  In the Rig Veda, the sapta-sindhu or seven rivers stand pre-eminent.  Two among these, the Vipāśā (Beas) and Śutudrī (Satluj) rivers are the interlocutors of the sage Viśvamitra in a fascinating and unique conversation translated here.

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India Report: Religion and Social Reform

Readers will by now be familiar with the dramatic developments at one of our most elite institutions, which culminated in an unprecedented act of violence involving two of India’s most distinguished scholars. The altercation between Kumārila and Dharmapāla at Nalanda University has attracted much attention, and has somehow led to the unfolding media spectacle of Kumārila’s current self-immolation.

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Christmas trees and Indian literature

Many Christmas traditions have taken on a rather secular character in the modern world and can be fully enjoyed by us all, whatever the case is about our religious beliefs or lack of them. Among such traditions, the practice of decorating a tree for Christmas appears to be a rather modern one, but with many ancient precursors, both within Christian history and in comparative Indo-European and world-historical perspective.

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Marriage in the Rig Veda

Ṛg Veda Book 10 Verse 85 is commonly known as Sūryā’s Bridal Hymn or the Wedding Hymn. In some Hindu families, this is one of the Vedic verses recited as part of the liturgy at Hindu marriage ceremonies. It tells a metaphorical story of the wedding of Sūryā, seemingly the daughter of the sun-god, as bride, to soma, seemingly the moon, as bridegroom. Some of the features of the wedding described continue to be features of Hindu weddings today

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Devī and the Buffalo Demon – Part Two

In the first part of the story, we saw how the buffalo-demon Mahiśāsura behaved in an extremely arrogant and conceited way due to the boon granted by Brahma that he could not be killed by any male god, demon or human, thinking himself invincible because of this. He made fun of the idea that any woman could be strong enough to challenge him and even taunted Indra about his supposed lack of manly courage.

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The Buffalo Demon – Part One

Another interesting story concerns the buffalo demon Mahiśāsura who was granted a boon that he would not be killed by man or by gods. This story is told in the Devī Māhātmya, from which I will draw below, as well as in the Devī Bhāgavatam, and in many other literary texts and folk stories too.

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Sexual Harassment in the Mahābhārata

Sexual harassment is an unfortunate reality in many societies, and this fact is also reflected in literature too. In the story of Śakuntalā, originally in the Mahābhārata, Śakuntalā becomes pregnant by Duryodhana who then initially refuses to acknowledge that he is the father. In the Rāmāyaṇa, too, Sītā chooses to accompany her husband Rāma into exile and her vulnerability leads to her being kidnapped by Rāvaṇa who attempts to seduce her.

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