Art of Living Wisdom.

The Puranic legends of India speak of many worlds.

As per the Puranas, when Vishnu, in the form of a young scholar Vamana, humbled Asura king Maha Bali, Maha Bali was banished to Pathala Loka. When the Deva overcame the Asura in battles, the Asura were forced to migrate to thePathala Loka, the netherworld or the world below.

Where is this Pathala Loka?

People have conjured up images of Pathala Loka as being vertically downwards inside the earth.

 

Asura going down to Pathala Loka

 

In the picture it is shown as Asura going down to Pathala Loka  an incorrect understanding

The Puranic legends describe how the world is divided into different habitable regions. They list 14 regions, with 7 regions being the “nether worlds”, the Pathala Loka. The Puranic texts also give the notion of the Pathala Loka as being beyond the seas.

The words like location and locomotion are etymologically similar to the word, “Loka”.

There are other technical texts that mention the location of Asura and their adversaries, the Sura.  A sloka in Surya Siddhantha throws some light on the exact location of the Pathala. The relevant sloka is,

 Surasuranam anyonyam diva – ratra viparyayaha

For Sura and Asura, days and nights are interchangeable

According to this sloka, Sura and Asura would have lived on opposite sides of the earth as only then can their days and nights be interchangeable.  The region of the earth diametrically opposite to the Indian subcontinent is the central parts of South America which was the Pathala Loka of the Asura.

 

Pathala Loka

 

If we want a modern analogy, we have the British calling Australia as Down Under. That does not mean that Australia is in the underground areas of England. What the English really mean by the phrase “Down Under”, is that, for England, high in the northern hemisphere, Australia is on the other side of the earth, down in the south

 

DownUnder

 

Similarly, there is another popular term in the US, called the China Syndrome. People often joke that, in case there were to be a nuclear mishap in America, then the nuclear explosion would burrow a hole beneath America, continue to burrow through the earth and come out on the other side of the earth, in China.

ChinaSyndrome

 

These phrases, Australia Down Under and China Syndrome are examples of usage by people on one side of the globe to bring out the concept that, there is another side, opposite to them on the earth, which is also inhabited by people.

It is in this similar vein of expression that the ancient Indians had used the term Pathala Loka, as the area on the other side of the spherical earth. It is not to be erroneously understood as an underground cavern or kingdom.

To have had this knowledge, the ancient Indians must have known that the earth was not flat but spherical in nature.

Does this mean that Pathala Loka is for real and the story of Maha Bali, real?

ALSO IN THE SAME SERIES

Onam Festival Part 1- The Story of Onam

More to Come

Bharath Gyan

Art of Living Wisdom.

Onam commemorates the homecoming of the great Asura king Maha Bali from Patala Loka. Maha Bali, the grandson of Prahalada, was a strong and learned king. The name Bali means strong. Bali was also a person who gave a lot of respect to knowledge. This is evident from the famous episode of his encounter with Vamana.

Maha Bali was performing a Yagnaa focussed and austere act, towards achieving a goal, by sacrificing one’s pleasures and possessions.

At that time, a short, young, radiant boy entered the yagna shala. He seemed to be the epitome of true knowledge. Maha Bali as is the custom, welcomed this radiant youngster and enquired upon the reason as to why he had come to attend this yagna. The youngster requested for just that much space, as could be measured by three of His footsteps.

Vaman n Mahabali

When Maha Bali thinks of this request to be very small for a man of his stature and immediately offers to give the youngster what He desires, Guru Sukracharya, the mentor of Bali and the Asura, intercedes, to restrain the Asura King Bali from granting the requested three measures of space, without giving the request a due thought.

Sukracharya advising Bali

Maha Bali does not pause to think, as cautioned by his mentor Sukracharya. Instead, brushing aside the warnings, he goes ahead and grants three measures of space, as asked for, by this radiant youngster Vamana.

As the legend goes, no sooner were the three footsteps granted, the youngster Vamana assumed a gigantic form known as Trivikrama and with the first step of His foot, measured the whole earth. Then with the second step of His foot He measured the whole sky. These two steps had covered the whole of Maha Bali’s kingdom, the earth and the sky. Vamana then asked the King, as to where he should place His third step.

Trivikarma

King Maha Bali recognizing the divinity of Vishnu in Vamana, understood his folly, bowed and offered his own head to Vamana, for placing His third step on.

Seeing Maha Bali’s sincerity and reverence, Vishnu forgives him, places his third foot on Maha Bali’s head and sends him “down” to Pathala Loka and offers to stay guard for Maha Bali, Himself

Vamana’s leg on Bali’s head

Acceding to the request of Maha Bali’s people, Vishnu grants Maha Bali permission to return to his kingdom from Pathala Loka, once every year to be in the midst of his people. This day is celebrated as the Onam festival.

Where is this Pathala Loka?

More to come 

Bharath Gyan

Uncategorized.

A few weeks ago as I was getting off the Delhi train at the Chennai railway station in my white dhoti (called as `veshti` in Tamil Nadu) with a light yellow border when two young men generously and forthrightly complimented me for supporting the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa. Little did I realize that it was that very morning she had passed a law in the State Assembly seeking to remove restrictions imposed by recreation clubs, hotels and other entities on wearing the dhoti. The young men mistook me for a north Indian and cheered me for having put that morning`s new-born law into immediate practice!!

NothinglikeDhoti2

In essence, the dhoti is fully out of the closet to become formal attire now and no one can object to wearing it as long as it is worn in a decent manner. By passing such a law the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister popularly known as `Amma` (Mother) has  proudly liberated the dhoti, the Appa`s, Anna`s and Thambi`s ( meaning `father, elder and younger brother`) and `potential dhoti-ites` from the pseudo-western or highly pro-western individuals and organizations that one finds in every section of society. Well, just 12 years ago even I was exactly one of them!! I was sometimes more western than the westerners themselves. To add to it some knowledge of French to boast about. High on western lifestyle and attitudes that were distinctly shaped by a strict English school education or should I simply say `convent education`.

Things changed very much for me in the summer of 2002 in Germany when I first met Sri Sri RaviShankar the world renowned spiritual leader. Looking really cool and simply elegant in his sparkling white dhoti and angavastram (accompanying long shawl that is placed hanging down the shoulder), His powerful spiritual energy spread around very easily, like a rose swirling in joy and splashing her perfumed petals. It somewhere struck me that moment that perhaps there could be a secret in wearing light and loose fitting clothes like the dhoti and angavastram.

Sri Sri`s amazing presence, wisdom and secrets to meditation impressed me the most and became a permanent inspiration for me. However it was also his distinct style of wearing the dhoti; now held great appeal to my English-educated, convent attitude.

It then came to my mind that during my salad days, those lovely school and college days, I may have unknowingly been less appreciative of our very own rich Indian tradition and culture, wherein one specific day was set aside for students every year to wear traditional Indian ethnic attire, as though it were something foreign to us! Aping the west was the in-thing then and so `ethnic-wear day` became a rare celebratory exception. Was I sacrificing our values, customs and traditions for a western lifestyle in the name of being `modern`, `progressive` and `forward` ?

On seeing Sri Sri RaviShankar wear our traditional Indian attire even in the German summer made me think twice on my very own dress-sense. My western mindset started searching for logic. My own Google search had begun. It suddenly ran through me that perhaps body- hugging tight clothes do constrict or reduce energy flow. Perhaps the constant wearing of those tight jeans and t-shirts does make me more restricted yet exhibitionist! Somewhere it also occurred to me that perhaps body-hugging clothes were deliberately designed to accentuate and exhibit bodily parts.

I decided to make a conscious choice on that particular day, to at least try out and experiment with the dhoti vis-à-vis the jeans-t-shirt combination, to test my own concept and attitude towards it. More importantly I boldly embarked on an exercise to directly feel and experience the joy and secret of wearing a dhoti and precisely loose – fitting clothes. Thus began an experiment.

My dhoti experiment! The first few days were a little hilarious. My first brush or rather `crush` on the dhoti!   I slipped with it. Gingerly ran with it. At times my dhoti would be at `flood level` (i.e. tied so high as though waiting for an upcoming water flood). I`d also sashay the dhoti`s fall and drape like a confident handsome hunk on a fashion ramp. I sat on the floor with it looking around if anyone was watching me settle into it. Sometimes it looked like I was going for a sack race. 

A few weeks down the line I was lightly liberated…almost… as the English expression goes `hook, line and sinker` (an idiomatic expression to describe a situation where a person or group accepts wholesale and uncritically an idea or set of beliefs)! I say `almost` because I went through it without much wholesale acceptance of the idea and it was on an experimental basis only.  

Our students and youth should particularly take note of this. My first `dhoti experiment` was a near-success. It made me feel much lighter, confident and carry the good vibrant energy. It is my personal experience that the dhoti does ensure a positive, free-flow of energies around the body without any restriction or stagnation at points.

It is the best for our Indian weather and it did make me personally feel much more traditional. It did not stop me from thinking or being modern. Wearing the dhoti did not make me feel old-fashioned fuddy-duddy. Whereas the `tight fitting-body hugging` clothes had failed me, perhaps culturally, morally and in terms of energy levels. 

In that year 2002, i came to a near-conclusion that there`s nothing like the dhoti. Freedom guaranteed. The Tamil Nadu government may just love to hear this. Should I then begin a `I love dhoti` campaign?

Well, it must be noted that countries in the Middle East permit their citizens to wear the traditional attire and national dress to the place of work too.

Now let me pause a little to give a clear thumbs – up to the Tamil Nadu Government`s pro-active legislation on the dhoti which reads thus: 

The Tamil Nadu Entry into Public Places (removal of restriction on dress) Act, 2014 says: “No person, wearing a veshti (dhoti) reflecting Tamil culture or any other Indian traditional dress, shall be denied entry into any public place, by reason only of his dress, provided that the dress shall be worn in a decent manner.” The Bill proposes to cancel licenses of clubs and organizations having ‘no-dhoti rule’ in their bylaws. Whoever violates the new law can be punished with imprisonment up to one year, besides being fined up to Rs 25,000.

The Act sought to declare as null and void any regulation or bylaw made by any recreation club, association, trust, company or society denying entry to a person wearing a veshti (dhoti) or any other Indian traditional dress.

The Act says the imposition of restriction on persons on the ground that their dress did not conform to western culture would amount to continuation of the colonial imperialistic attitude. No dress code restrictions can be imposed in public places, and such other places, as may be notified by the government, where people congregate in connection with any function, event, entertainment, sports or other activity.

Will Corporates in Tamil Nadu now allow employees to reach office in dhotis? Why not?  The new `Act` is here to stay. For the un-initiated, potential dhoti-ites, now get your dhoti act together. Because there is simply nothing like the dhoti!

Nothinglikedhoti1