Monday, November 6, 2017

Markandeya Purana - Review

Markandeya Purana, by Bibek Debroy


This is the tenth Purana that I am reviewing. Its name is the Markandeya Purana as you know. It is actually the shortest Purana. It has only nine thousand shlokas. I noticed that the last three Purana reviews that I had written were all satvik puranas, puranas that glorified Vishnu. I decided that it was time to move on to another type of Purana. I felt I had not written about rajasik puranas, puranas that glorify Brahma apart from the Brahma Purana. Between the rajsik puranas I decided to review the Markandeya Purana. This Purana was actually narrated by four birds to the sage Jaimini. Well, how did this happen and who were these birds who could talk.

There was once a rishi named Drona who married a woman named Tarkshi. One day, Tarkshi went to Kurukshetra when the great war between the Pandavas and Kauravas was happening. Arjuna and Bhagadatta were fighting when one of Arjuna’s arrows hit Tarkshi in the stomach. She died but four eggs fell out of her stomach. Bhagadatta’s elephant had a bell around his neck. A stray arrow sliced it off and it fell over the eggs protecting them till the end of the war. After the war ended a sage called Shamika found the birds and took care of them. They learnt to fly and speak. They bowed to Shamika and asked him to teach them the true knowledge. They then went to live at Mount Vindhya.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Bhagavata Purana - Review

Bhagavata Purana, translated by Bibek Debroy


This is the ninth Purana that I am reviewing. Wow! I never knew I had read so many Puranas. This is the Bhagavata Purana as you know. It is the fifth Purana in the list of Mahapuranas. It is a satvik purana, a purana that glorifies Vishnu. It is not too lengthy. It is medium sized and has eighteen thousand shlokas. It is then split up In twelve sections(skandhas) which are further split up into many chapters. The tenth skandha is the longest and talks about Krishna. Let us move on now.

This Purana has been narrated by Romaharshan alias Suta. He was called Suta because his father was a charioteer who are often called sutas. The sages in the Namisharanya forest wanted to know more about Krishna and the shastras so they asked Romaharshana to recite a Purana that had all these things. The Bhagavata Purana was the one that fit the description best so it was recited.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Shrilok Homeless - Review

The Adventures of Shrilok Homeless

by Pika Nani


Have you ever imagined an Indian Sherlock Holmes? Well here it is in the form of ‘Shrilok Homeless’ by Pika Nani. Shrilok is exactly like Sherlock but there are a few variations in his habits that are suited more to the Indian style. If you look at the cover page closely you will see some recognizable buildings in the background. I you look even closer you will notice that the book is set in Mumbai. Shrilok uses his skills of logic, observation and deduction to solve ten cases and the last one is with his enemy Masterji (a tailor). I am going to review the very same book.
First of all, you must be very curious to know how Pika Nani turned Sherlock into Shrilok. Well first let us review the facts we know about Sherlock.
  • He has a companion in his cases that is Doctor Watson
  • He likes to blow on his pipe while thinking.
  • He plays the violin.
  • The only person to have outwitted him is a woman named Irene Adler.
  • His enemy is a professor named James Moriarty.
  • The inspector in the Sherlock Holmes books is Inspector Lestrade.
  • Sherlock is a private detective.
In Shrilok Homeless, everything above is changed so that it is suited to the Indian way. Let me write the facts below:
  • He has a companion named Rohan Doctor who studies in class VII.
  • He likes to drink chai while thinking.
  • He plays the flute.
  • The only person to have outwitted him is an 8- year old girl named Pari.
  • His enemy is a tailor named Masterji.
  • The inspector in this book is Inspector Divya Lokhande.
  • Shrilok is a chaiwallah.
Now you have seen that the author has cleverly twisted everything into an Indian manner. As the book is set in Mumbai few things are also related to ordinary Mumbai life. Few of the cases such as the ‘The Lunchbox’ and the ‘The Rose Diamond’ are related to Mumbai things. ‘The Lunchbox’ is related to a dabba and dabbawallas. ‘The Rose Diamond’ all starts with a simple vada pav. This gives the Indian touch needed. All the cases are quite interesting and funny. I like the book very much. My favourite case was ‘The Rose Diamond’. I found this case very interesting. The mystery really needed you to think to find the answer. My favourite part in the mystery was the part when they start interrogating the workers at the shop from where the diamond was stolen.
I had also gone to the launch of the book that was held at Hippocampus. Over there we met the author Pika Nani and had a fun session solving codes and learning more about the book. Let me give you an example of few codes. See if you can solve it. You can check your answers below. Here it is:
  1. STMHGE KRDOASZE MDQIXAPMYOGNHD’
  2. Heat the cold lunch in the cool box Answers to Q1 and Q2
I enjoyed the book as it was simple yet really interesting and fun to read. You feel like you are solving the mystery along with Shrilok when you read the book. I liked the book but my sister did not. She found it boring. Few people might not like it but they are free to have their own opinions.
All the ten cases are amazing. Each one better than the other. I loved reading this book and had a really good experience.

Read “Shrilok Homeless” By Pika Nani to find out more about Shrilok and his interesting adventures.



Answers:
Answer 1: THE ROSE DIAMOND
Explanation: You had to cross out every alternate letter to find the answer. It was quite simple.

Answer 2: THE LUNCH BOX
Explanation: After each word related to temperature or weather you had to underline the next one.
So the code was:
Heat the cold lunch in the cool box
Answer was The Lunch Box.


© 2017, Anika Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

eGranth - Anvita and Anika's Book Newsletter - Sep 2017

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth newsletter. Last time my sister had edited it so this time I, Anika Agarwal, am the editor. In the August edition of the newsletter we had mentioned doing themed newsletters. Well, this edition is a themed one. The theme for this one is the Bookalicious section. That basically means that all the books in the newsletter are ones that we like. There is not a single book we don’t like in this edition. There is also one new addition to our newsletter. We have decided to give awards to our favourite books and the funniest book of the month. If you look in the top right corner of each page, you will notice a small badge, or trophy, telling you which section that particular book is in. Badges are for the normal sections. The trophies are for our favourite books, and the medals are for the funniest books. Hope you like these additions - Anika

George and the Blue Moon by Stephen and Lucy Hawking

Sci-Fi: Adventure
Age: 9-11
Reviewed by: Anika
Buy from: Amazon US, Amazon IN
Electrifying
Adventures
George and the Blue Moon: This is the last and final book in the George series. In this book George and Annie are selected for an Astronaut training program that trains young kids who are interested in becoming astronauts when they grow up. After being fully trained these young astronauts were sent to Mars on an expedition to find out about life on the planet. Both the kids thought it would be fun and interesting, but they were in for a rude shock. The program was far from nice; it was quite the opposite. All the children at the program were put in pairs of two. Along with their partners the pairs had to undergo three very dangerous tasks without any adult supervision! Annie and her partner Leone were the best team by far. After some time, George and Annie start getting a bit suspicious as none of the tasks seemed like they would be useful later. When a plane that was carrying all the children of the program malfunctions, it seemed that their suspicions were turning out to be true. The plane would have crashed if Annie’s partner Leone had not taken charge and saved the day. To add to it all George and Annie meet their arch enemy Alioth Merak again! I really liked this book, though the ending was a bit sad. It could have been a bit better. Otherwise the book was amazing. My favourite part was when the plane malfunctions and Leone saves the day. I felt this was the second-best book in the George series. The best was ‘George and the Big Bang’ which was covered in the June newsletter.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Garuda Purana - Review


Garuda Purana (Great Epics of India: Puranas Book 17)

Translated by Bibek Debroy

This is the eighth purana that I am reviewing. It is easy for anyone to guess the name as at the start of the review it is given the “Garuda Purana”. This Purana is the seventeenth Purana in the list of Mahapuranas. In my Vishnu Purana review I had mentioned that I was taking a break from tamsik puranas and would be reviewing satvik puranas instead. The Garuda Purana is also a satvik purana. It is the third satvik purana that I am reviewing. This Purana is not very long. It has only nineteen thousand shlokas. These shlokas are divided into two parts – the purva khanda and the Uttara khanda. These parts are further divided into chapters. The purva khanda has two hundred and thirty-four chapters and the Uttara khanda has forty-five chapters.

I think this much introduction is enough so let us move on.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Vishnu Purana - Review

Vishnu Purana (Great Epics of India: Puranas Book 3)

Translated by Bibek Debroy
This is the seventh Purana that I am reviewing. The name of the Purana is obvious since the title says, “Vishnu Purana”. The Vishnu Purana is third in the list of Mahapuranas and is an important Purana. I decided to do the Vishnu Purana because it was a satvik purana, a purana that glorifies Vishnu. If you go to my blog you will see that recently I have written three continuous tamsik puranas, puranas that glorify Shiva, so this time I decided to have a break and switch to another type of Purana. Well here I am writing a satvik purana’s review. There are five other satvik Puranas. They are:
  1. Bhagavata Purana
  2. Padma Purana {reviewed this one}
  3. Narada Purana
  4. Varaha Purana
  5. Garuda Purana
This Purana has twenty-three thousand shlokas and these are divided into six sections. The last section is shorter than the rest. The Vishnu Purana is a medium sized Purana. As you must have read in my Shiva Purana review I have said that Vedavyasa has composed all the eighteen Mahapuranas. Well, when I read the Vishnu Purana I found that was not completely true. Vedavyasa had composed most of the Puranas except the Vishnu Purana. The Vishnu Purana was composed by Parashara, Vedavyasa’s father. Well I think this much introduction is enough. If you want a bit more information on what is a Purana read my first Purana review, the Shiva Purana Read its first and second paragraphs for information. Let us move on.

The day I fell into cow dung - Hindi


जिस दिन मैं गोबर मे गिरी 

एक सड़ती शाम मै 5th Cross Road पर चल रही थी | तभी मुझे एक बहुत गंदी बदबू आयी | जब मैने नज़र उठाके अपने आगे - पीछे देखा , मेरी नज़र एक गोबर के ढेर पर पड़ी | वही बदबू  का कारण था और गोबर का कारण एक भैंस थी जो मेरे  बहुत पास खड़ी थी| दुर्भाग्यवश तभी एक आदमी जिसका ध्यान पूरी तरह एक किताब में था एक दुकान से बहार निकला | वह किताब पढ़ते -पढ़ते जा रहा था और उसने अपना पैर सीधा गोबर के ढेर मे डाल दिया | आदमी आश्चर्यचकित नीचे देखता है |

सीधा दो क्षण के बाद मुझे एक इतनी ज़ोर से चीख आई की दरवाज़े और खिड़खियाँ खड़-खड़खड़ाने लगे | उस चीख का स्रोत वही दुर्भाग्यशाली आदमी ही था | वह आदमी चीखता और भागता हुआ नज़र आ रहा था | उस आदमी की किताब भी गोबर मे गिर गयी थी | मुझे पक्का लग रहा था कि अगर किताब बोल सकती तो वह भी चीख़ती हुई नज़र आती |

तभी मुझे शोरगुल सुनाई दिया | पूछने पर मुझे पता चला कि पास मे Bannerghatta zoo से एक हाथी भाग निकल पड़ा था और 5th Cross Road कि तरफ़ आ रहा था | जब मैन पीछे मुड़कर देखा तो मैंने देखा कि हाथी सीधा मेरे  तरफ़ ही आ रहा था |  इसे पहले कि मैं भाग सकती मैं लड़खड़ाकर मुँह के बल गोबर के ढेर मे गिर गई | मै इतनी ज़ोर से चीखी कि पक्षी भी उड़ गए | मुझे यकीन नही आ रहा था कि मैं गोबर मे गिर गयी थी | मैं फिर जल्दी से उठकर सबसे पास वाले नल पर गयी और अपना मुँह धो लिया | मैं फिर अपना थैला उठाने गई जो गिर गया था जब मैं गिर गयी थी | जब मैं जा रही थी मैंने फिर से उसी गोबर के ढेर मै अपना पैर रख दिया| पर मुझे यह घर जाने पर ही पता चला | घर पहुँचने पर  मैने एक और चीख निकाली | मै बहुत दुर्भाग्यशाली थी | उस दिन के बाद मैं कभी 5th Cross Road पर कभी नहीं गई और मैं भैंस और गोबर से बहुत नफरत करती हूँ | 


 The End 

© 2017, अनिका अग्रवाल Anika Agarwal

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Vayu Purana - Review

Vayu Purana, translated by Bibek Debroy


This is the sixth Purana that I am reviewing. The name of the Purana as you can probably guess from the title is the Vayu Purana. The Vayu Purana has a bit of confusion surrounding it when you come to the list of Mahapuranas. This is because some people believe the Vayu Purana is fourth in the list of Mahapuranas whereas others believe the Shiva Purana is the fourth purana. However, the Vayu Purana is an important Purana.

This purana is a tamsik purana, a purana that glorifies Shiva. This Purana is a medium sized Purana and it has twenty-four thousand shlokas in all. These shlokas are divided into two parts. They are then further divided into one hundred and twelve chapters. There is just one last point before I start the review. The Vayu Purana is so named because it is believed that Vayu himself recited it.

Enough of introduction. Now, I would like to summarize and tell you my favourite story from this Purana. I am also sure that this is a story that very few would have heard.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Anvita and Anika's Book Newsletter - July 2017

 

eGranth - The July, 2017 Books Newsletter


Editor: Our July Newsletter is finally out. I know it has come after a long wait and I’m sorry for the delay but we finally completed it. This time we have added two brand new sections. Hope you enjoy the additions. This time I, Anika donned the editor's cap. My sister provided the content for quite a few books. She has given the content for at least eight to nine books and they are very well written. Well here are this issue's sections:
  • Epic Reading
  • Notable Books
  • Classic books
  • Yikes! I read what?
  • All work no play
  • Horrific Horror
  • Tickled my stomach

Epic Reading


This section contains books on the Ramayana and Mahabharata. It is the first section and has two books. If you are a fan of the Ramayana and all myths related to it, this section is just right for you.

Lanka’s Princess - This is yet another book written by Kavita Kane. This book is about Shurpanakha also called Lanka’s princess. Shurpanakha means hard as nails. She is the sister of Ravan. Ravan is an asura and the villain of the great epic the Ramayana. The first opinion that forms in your head, if you have read the Ramayana is that Shurpanakha is an evil shape shifting monster. She had tried to kill Sita, but had her nose and ears sliced of by Lakshmana brother of Ram. If you are hearing about the Ramayana for the first time, then after reading this you too would have formed a bad opinion about her. This book is different. It portrays the not well-known side of Shurpanakha. Kavita Kane has tried to sympathize with Shurpanakha while being fair to Ram and Lakshman. She has succeeded in doing so. I as a kid think the book could have done well without the overwhelming romance between Shurpanakha and Vidyujiva. Others might find this important or interesting but I didn’t care about this much. In the book Kavita Kane describes the small and trivial yet crucial events in Shurpanakha life that has not been written in other versions of the Ramayana. She has described most of the story from Shurpanakha eyes and concentrating on her emotions too. It has been a nice experience reading this book. You can also visit my blog to know more about this book. [k] [link]

Scion of Ikshvaku - This book is written by Amish, and is his second series which he has written. The first one was the Meluha series, and this is the second one, the Ram Chandra series. I want to give you a small idea on the storyline. The story covers the birth of Rama, his marriage and it ends when they are in exile and Sita is abducted, and Rama sees the Pushpak Vimana taking off with her. This is not the original Ramayana, but it is a fictional retelling of it. Amish has added his own changes to the story, with the basic storyline. I really liked the book. He added so many twists, which made the story one which you will read. I found each change in the story unique. The start of the book is slow, but later you really start to enjoy it. You might have to read some parts of the book again to understand it. It is a worthwhile book to read. It describes many things in detail, making it simple for the reader to understand. It is very different from the Ramayana and has many things that have been changed, but it does not make it unpleasant to read. [v] [link]

Notable Books

This section has all the must-read books. It contains the books that we thought most children would like. Trust me the books in here are totally amazing. Even if you are reluctant to read the books in here, do not miss them out. There is no need to buy them, just get them as an e-book or borrow it from a friend or library. The moment you start reading these books you will fall in love with them and would want to buy them. If they don't spark your interest follow the fifty-page rule before you put it down. They are totally amazing.

Esperanza Rising - This book is written by Pam Munoz Ryan. It was given to me by my cousin. As most of the books she gives me are nice, I started reading it. The story was about a young girl named Esperanza. It talks about how she struggles in her survival in the escape from Mexico to the United States. It starts with the unfortunate and sad death of her father and the way she her mother and servants, escape from the mercy of her cruel uncles to the United States. Even after reaching the United States luck is no better. They must do very tough work to survive and when things could get no worse, Esperanza’s mother falls sick. Can Esperanza stay strong and support her mother in this struggle? Read ‘Esperanza Rising’ to find out. This book was very nice. It gave the message to show hope and strength in even the worst of times. This book was based on the author’s grandmother’s experience on hermove from Mexico to the United States. There ae a few Mexican words in it which you may not understand but otherwise it was an amazing experience reading this. [k] [link]

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Matsya Purana, translated by Bibek Debroy - Review

Matsya Purana - Translated by Bibek Debroy

This time I am reviewing the Matsya Purana. This is the fifth Purana that I am reviewing, that has been written by Bibek Debroy. The Matsya Purana comes sixteenth in the list of Mahapuranas. The Matsya Purana has fifteen thousand couplets. It is a medium sized Purana. There are fourteen thousand shlokas which are divided into two hundred and ninety-one chapters. You might get a bit confused at this point because I earlier mentioned fifteen thousand shlokas but in the fifth line I mentioned the division of only fourteen thousand shlokas. The book doesn’t mention the division of the last thousand shlokas. Well, that must means that the last thousand shlokas have not been divided into chapters at all. The Matsya Purana is a tamsik Purana, a Purana that glorifies Shiva. Lomaharshana is the narrator of the Puranas to some sages in the namisharanya forest.
This Purana was originally recited to Manu by Lord Vishnu in his Matsya avatar. It is also considered as the most holy of Puranas because it was recited by Vishnu himself. Well, the question now is how and when did Manu hear the Matsya Purana? It so happened that Manu was meditating at the foothills of Mount Malaya. A pleased Brahma appeared and asked Manu what he wanted. Manu replied that he wanted to be the one to save the world from destruction in the current era. Brahma granted the boon and disappeared. Soon, the time of destruction dawned. As promised, Manu got a boat and collected all the great rishis and animals in the boat. However, before all this had happened, Manu had found a fish that had kept growing size. It became so large that it was too big for the whole ocean. Well that same fish came back and helped Manu steer the boat in the tossing and turning waves that were engulfing the entire Universe. The fish was none other than Vishnu in his Matsya avatar. Manu asked many questions, and the answers of the fish were written down in the Matsya Purana.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Scion of Ikshvaku, by Amish - Review

Scion of Ikshvaku


This book is based on the Ramayana. It is the first book in a series. It goes up to the part when Sita is abducted. It is a fictional retelling of the Ramayana not the actual story. There are many types of retellings. This book is a type of retelling in which the basic idea remains the same but there are a few twists, changes and additions that make a huge difference to the book. Let me just warn you that before you plunge into the review there are few minor spoilers here and there. Well, here goes.

There are many instances in which there are a lot of changes because it is a fictional retelling. Let me tell you about some of them.

Spoilers and more!
The story starts from before the birth of Rama. It starts with the important battle between Dasharatha and Ravan. The battle is not mentioned in most of the books on the Ramayana that I have read. It could have been an addition but I’m not that sure. The battle was important because it was crucial in affecting the lives and relationship of Dasharatha and Rama. This is one of the biggest changes that Amish has added in the book, but I won’t tell you what it is.

Guess, guess, guess!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Lanka's Princess, by Kavita Kane


Lanka's Princess, by Kavita Kane


This book is about Surpanakha, also called Lanka’s princess. Surpanakha means hard as nails. She is the sister of Ravan. Ravan is an asura and the villain of the great epic the Ramayana. The first opinion that forms in your head, if you have read the Ramayana, is that Surpanakha is an evil shape-shifting monster. She had tried to kill Sita, but had her nose and ears sliced of by Lakshmana, brother of Ram. If you are hearing about the Ramayana for the first time, then after reading this, you too would have formed a bad opinion about her.

Now, the question is, was Surpanakha evil? Or was it because of some event or tragedy she turned evil. Let’s find out.

Linga Purana, by Bibek Debroy

Linga Purana, translated by Bibek Debroy

This time I am reviewing the Linga Purana. This is the fourth Purana that I have read and am reviewing. The Linga Purana is number 11 in the list of the eighteen Mahapuranas. This Purana is a tamasik Purana, a Purana that glorifies Shiva. The Linga Purana is a comparatively short Purana because it is just eleven thousand shlokas long. It is divided into two parts. The first part is known as Purva bhaga and has one hundred and eight chapters. The second part is known as Uttara bhaga and has fifty-five chapters.
This Purana like most other Puranas is narrated by Sauti or Lomaharshana, a disciple of Vedvyasa to some sages living in the Namisharanya forest.
There were many interesting stories in the Purana but I would like to narrate one very interesting story.

One story

I’m sure that most of you might have heard about this amazing tirtha named Sthaneshwara tirtha. This tirtha is known as the place where wonderful things happen. I would like to share the story of this tirtha with you.
Once there lived a sage named Dadhichi. He had a friend named Kshupa. Dadhichi was a of the Brahmin class while Kshupa was of the kshatriya class. One day both the friends started arguing about the superiority of brahmins over kshatriyas and vice versa. Kshupa believed kshatriyas were superior while Dadhichi said that brahmins were superior. Soon they had argued as to come to blows. The sage hit Kshupa with his fist on his head. Kshupa had the Vajra {Indra’s thunderbolt} in his position at the time. Using the Vajra, he struck Dadhichi and killed him. Before dying he called out to Shukracharya, the guru of the asuras. Shukracharya knew the art of bringing the dead back to life. He resurrected Dadhichi. Shukracharya then asked Dadhichi to learn the art of bringing dead back to life from Shiva. The sage began immense tapasya and managed to please Shiva. He got three boons. They were:
  1. He would be prosperous.
  2. His bones would be as hard as the Vajra.
  3. No one could kill him.
After obtaining these boons Dadhichi went and kicked Kshupa. Kshupa hurled the Vajra at Dadhichi but the sage was not hurt due to Shiva’s boons. Kshupa started praying to Vishnu to get stronger. Finally, Vishnu appeared and Kshupa desired to be able to kill Dadhichi. Vishnu was unable to do so as Dadhichi was fortified by Shiva’s boon but promised to try. Vishnu went to Dadhichi in the guise of a brahmin. Dadhichi immediately saw through the disguise. Vishnu asked Dadhichi to tell Kshupa he was scared. However, when Kshupa came Dadhichi did not say what Vishnu asked him to say instead he said why should he be scared if Shiva was there. An angry Vishnu hurled the sudarshan chakra at him but of no avail. Then Vishnu threw the Brahma Astra but even that had no effect. Other gods came to help Vishnu in his fight but they too were defeated. Dadhichi took a handful of straw and threw it at the gods. Almost magically the straws turned into burning tridents and burnt everyone. Finally, even Vishnu gave up and Kshupa accepted that brahmins were superior. The place where all of this happened is known as Sthaneshwara tirtha.

The Linga Purana is the fourth Purana that I have read and was interesting to read. Compared to the other Puranas that I have read, this Purana comes at number 3. This Purana concentrates more on the creation and destruction of the Universe. It also talks a lot about the geography of the Earth. The Linga Purana has less stories and most of them have been mentioned in other Puranas. In a few stories, there is a twist which is added to glorify Shiva. The story of Sthaneshwara was the only story that I had not read before.
The other Puranas that I have read and reviewed are the Padma, Shiva and Brahma Puranas. The reviews are all available on my blog.

Book info: Kindle India




Saturday, May 20, 2017

Anvita and Anika's Book Newsletter - May 2017



Editor: This is the May issue of our newsletter. It is the second issue. This time I, Anika Agarwal, am the editor. In the previous newsletter, we had written about the reading that we had done in March. This time we have written about the reading that we have done in April. You might have noticed that we have changed the template of the heading. It might continue in the next few issues before we decide on one that we like best. You also might notice that there are few different books with the same authors as in the previous newsletter. This time we have concentrated the newsletter on many series of books. Read and enjoy!


Puranas: This book is about a Purana. A Purana is one of the sacred texts of the Hindus. a sacred text. There are many Puranas. The truth is that no one person wrote the Puranas. Many people wrote them. There are 18 main ones. These main ones are known as Mahapuranas. It is believed that Vedvyasa wrote the Mahapuranas. Vedvyasa is the same person who wrote the Mahabharata and compiled the Vedas. Mahapuranas are mostly concentrated on the three main Hindu Gods. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma is considered the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer. The Vishnu concentrated Puranas are called the ‘satvik puranas’. The Brahma concentrated Puranas are called the ‘rajsik puranas’. The Shiva concentrated Puranas are called the ‘tamsik puranas. All lists widely agree on the numbering of the Puranas except the fourth Mahapurana. Some people say the fourth Mahapurana is the Shiva Purana. While others say the fourth Mahapurana is the Vayu Purana. My sister and I have read four of the Puranas. They were really nice. We have even reviewed them on our bog. The versions of the Puranas that we read were unabridged ones. They were written by Bibek Debroy. His versions were easy and simple to understand. I enjoyed reading them. [Brahmna Purana, Shiva Purana, Padma Purana, Matsya Purana]


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Brahma Purana, by Bibek Debroy

Brahma Purana

Translated by Bibek Debroy

This time I am reviewing the Brahma Purana. This Purana is the first Purana in the list of Mahapuranas. The Brahma Purana is a rajasik purana, a purana that glorifys Brahma. The Brahma Purana has nineteen thousand shlokas. It is an average Purana in length, if compared to the Skanda Purana that has eighty one thousand shlokas and Markandeya Purana that has nine thousand shlokas. The shlokas in the Brahma Purana are divided into 245 chapters [adhyays].

The Brahma Purana is not only the first Mahapurana in the list but it is also believed to be one of the first to be composed. Due to this it is also reffered. to as the adi purana. The current version of the Brahma Purana is not that old. The Purana also mentions the famous Konarka Sun temple that was not constructed before 1241 A.D. The current text of the Brahma Purana has been reconstructed from material in the Mahabharata, Harivamsha, the Vayu Purana, the Vishnu Purana and the Markandeya Purana.

This Purana has been recited by Romaharshana, a disciple of Vedavyasa to some sages who were performing a yagna.

I would like to tell a story in the Brahma Purana that I found very nice.

Once there lived a cruel hunter. He used to kill birds, animals, sages and brahmanas. One day he caught a female dove. It was raining and it was very cold that day. He took shelter under a tree. That same tree was the home of the female dove’s mate. He was mourning for the female dove as she had not come back. The latter heard him from inside the cage and told the male dove that she was trapped. The male dove wanted to free her but the female dove said that the hunter had taken refuge at their home so it was their duty to serve him. Since the hunter was suffering from cold the female dove asked the male dove to light a fire. Soon the fire was lit. The male dove immolated himself in the fire so that the hunter would have food to eat. The grief stricken female dove asked the hunter to be freed. The hunter did so and the female dove to hurled herself into the fire. The hunter had heard everything and was amazed. The female and male doves were taken to heaven for their selfless acts. The hunter repented for his misdeeds. He was told by the doves to bathe in Goutami Ganga for 15 days and all his deeds would be forgiven. So great was the river Goutami Ganga. The place where the dove immolated themselves is known as kapotatirtha as kapota means dove.

The Brahma Purana talks a lot about the Goutami Ganga. There are many such stories in which the Purana praises this great river. The Goutami Ganga is supposed to be very sacred as it cleanses the sins of a person who bathes in it.

I would now like to enlighten you about the four classes and the four stages of life.
The 4 classes are brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya and shudra.
Brahmanas have to donate alms, study the shastras, perform yagnas and be well versed in the Vedas. They have to earn a living by teaching and becoming priests at sacrifices.
Kshatriyas have to bear arms, protect the Earth, donate alms and study the shastras.
Vaishyas should donate alms, perform sacrifices and study the shastras. They have to earn a living by trade, animal husbandry and agricultural business.
Shudras have to serve brahmanas. They have to earn a living by being shopkeepers and artisans.

Now let me tell you about the four phases of life.
The first phase {brahmacharya} – This phase is the student hood of life. The individual spends his days studying under his/her teacher.

The second phase {grahasthya} – This phase is the householder stage of life. The individual gets married and has children. He has to serve the gods, guests and ancestors well. It is the householders that provide alms for the sages. Due to this the householder stage is very important.

The third phase {vanaprastha} – This stage is the forest life phase. The individual retires to the forest. He detaches his mind from earthly things. He must eat fruits, berries and leaves. He must wear clothes of bark and skin. He is not allowed to cut and shave his hair.

The fourth phase {sannyasa} – This is the stage in which a brahmana completely detaches himself from things. He gets food from begging

The Brahma Purana talks a lot about the classes and phases of life so I decided to even include it in my review. This Purana is slightly different because it concentrates a lot on some things. Such as:

  • The creation and destruction of the Universe.
  • The river Goutami Ganga
  • Tirthas and sacred places.
  • The geography of the Earth.
  • Time division, the classifications in people and their life.
I found this different because most Puranas don’t concentrate a lot on a particular subject or topic. They just relate stories and the answers to questions on lots of topics.

I hope you liked and enjoyed reading my review. This is the third book I am reviewing that is written by Bibek Debroy. He has a very nice style of writing and I really enjoy reading his books.
I will soon come back again with another amazing review on another Purana.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Padma Purana, Translatd by Bibek Debroy

Padma Purana (Great Epics of India: Puranas Book 2)

Translated by by Bibek Debroy, Dipavali Debroy

Last time I had written about the Shiva Purana. This time I have decided to write about the Padma Purana. The Padma Purana comes second in the list of Puranas after the Brahma Purana. All 18 Mahapuranas share 4 lakh shlokas between them but they are not equal in length. The Padma Purana is the second longest Purana. It is fifty-five thousand couplets long, second only to the Skanda Purana which is eighty-one lakh couplets long. The shlokas in this Purana are divided into 5 sections. They are:
  • Shrishti khanda
  • Bhumi khanda
  • Svarga khanda
  • Patala khanda
  • Uttara khanda
The Puranas usually glorify all three main Hindu gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva but sometimes they devote more attention towards one god. The Padma Purana is a satvik Purana, a Purana that glorifies Vishnu and describes his avatars in more detail.

Each Purana is believed to be composed in a different kalpa. A kalpa is one of Brahma’s days. At the end of the kalpa the universe is destroyed and at night evil prevails. The next kalpa again starts with the creation of the Universe. The Padma Purana was composed in a kalpa known as the Padma kalpa. It is also agreed that the final form of the Puranas were composed between 300 A.D and 1000 A.D but the earlier sections of the Puranas could have been composed around 500 B.C. Bibek Debroy decides to describe the Bhumi khanda in his version of this Purana.

The Puranas have been recited by Lomaharshana on a request by some sages. I am going to tell you a story which I found very interesting.

One day during the Dvapara yuga there lived a petty and mean thief called Dandaka. He stole from Brahmans, lied, ate beef and drank wine. Dandaka once decided to steal from the temple of Vishnu. His feet were muddy so he wiped it on the threshold before coming in. This action of his had a very unexpected result. Dandaka entered the main chamber of the temple. He thought that the statue was not of use to him but there were other gold and silver objects in the room that he proceded to take. Some objects fell down and awoke some people. Dandaka ran but he stepped on a sleeping snake and died of snake bite. Yama’s servants came to take him to hell for his various crimes but Vishnu’s messengers stopped them. Vishnu’s messengers explained that when Dandaka had wiped his feet, the threshold was dirty. Some dust was brushed away when Dandaka wiped his feet. Due to this all his sins were forgiven and he was taken straight to Vishnuloka. Such are the effects of cleaning Vishnu’s temples.

I really liked this story because it taught me a new fact and was very interesting.
Each of the Mahapuranas is connected with a part of Vishnu’s body. They are as follows:
  • Brahma Purana – The head
  • Padma Purana – The heart
  • Vishnu Purana – The right arm
  • Shiva Purana – The left arm
  • Bhagvata Purana – The thighs
  • Narada Purana – The navel
  • Markandeya Purana – The right foot
  • Agni Purana – The left foot
  • Bhavishya Purana – The right knee
  • Brahmavaivarta Purana – The left knee
  • Linga Purana – The right calf
  • Varaha Puana – The left calf
  • Skanda Purana – The body hair
  • Vamana Purana – The skin
  • Kurma Purana – The back
  • Matsya Purana – The fat of the body
  • Garuda Purana – The marrow
  • Brahmanda Purana – The bones

If we hear the recital of one shloka from the Padma Purana all our sins that have been committed in a single day are washed away. We can obtain lot of punya by donating thousand cows but the same amount of punya can be obtained by hearing the recital of one chapter of the Padma Purana. An enormous amount of punya can be obtained by performing the asvamedha yagna but an equivalent amount of punya can be obtained by hearing the recital of the whole Padma Purana. It is better to hear the recital of texts than performing yagnas.

I enjoyed this Purana of Bibek Debroy’s also. He has used the same pattern and used simple and understandable English. This Purana had many interconnecting stories so you had to remember all the stories to understand the Purana.

I hope all the Puranas are like this and it has been really nice experience reading this Purana too.


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Review of Shiva Purana



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© 2017, Anika Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Shiva Purana by Bibek Debroy

Shiva Purana (Great Epics of India: Puranas Book 4)

Translated by Bibek Debroy, Dipavali Debroy

This book is about a Purana. Well, what is a Purana? A Purana is a sacred text. There are many Puranas. It is believed that Vedvyasa or Krishna Dvaipayana had written them. The word Vedvyasa is just a title. It means the person who compiled the Vedas. Vedvyasa first divided the Vedas into 4 parts. The Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda and the Atharva Veda. After this he wrote the Mahabharata. Mahabharata has one lakh shlokas. Still feeling unsatisfied he wrote the Puranas. The Puranas together make one crore shlokas. Since this number was too much for mere mortals to read, he summarized it to 4 lakh shlokas. The truth is that no one person wrote the Puranas. Many people wrote them. The eighteen main ones are the ones that Vedvyasa wrote. They are:
  • Brahma Purana
  • Padma Purana
  • Vishnu Purana
  • Shiva Purana/ Vayu Purana
  • Bhagwata Purana
  • Narayana Purana
  • Markandeya Purana
  • Agni Purana
  • Bhavishya Purana
  • Brahma vaivarta Purana
  • Linga Purana
  • Varaha Purana
  • Skanda Purana
  • Vamana Purana
  • Kurma Purana
  • Matsya Purana
  • Garuda Purana
  • Bhramanda Puarana

These eighteen Puranas are known as Mahapuranas. Every Mahapurana should have 5 things:
  • The creation of the universe [sarga]
  • The periodical destruction and recreation [pratisarga]
  • The solar dynasty [surya vansha] and the lunar dynasty [Chandra vansha]
  • The fourteen different eras [manvantaras]
  • The royal genealogies [vamshanucharita]
If a purana does not have these 5 things, then it is not a Mahapurana. There is some confusion about the Shiva Purana. Some people say the fourth Mahapurana is the Shiva Purana. While others say the fourth Mahapurana is the Vayu Purana. All the Mahapuranas are mostly concentrated on the three main Hindu Gods. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma is considered the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer. The Vishnu concentrated Puranas are called the ‘satvik puranas’. The Brahma concentrated Puranas are called the ‘rajsik puranas’. The Shiva concentrated Puranas are called the ‘tamsik puranas.'

The Shiva Purana is 24,000 shlokas long. It has been told to some sages by Romaharshana alias Lomaharshana, who was a disciple of Vedvyasa. Romaharshana also describes all the 12 Jyotirlingas. They are:
  • Somnath
  • Mallikarjuna
  • Mahakala
  • Kedara
  • Omkara
  • Bhimashankara
  • Vishvanatha
  • Vaidyanatha
  • Nagesha
  • Rameshvara
  • Tryambaka
  • Ghushnesha
I like the story in which Romaharshana describes the curses of the ketaki and champak flower, due to which they are not used to worship Shiva.

The ketaki flower has a unique story from the Ramayana on why it is not used to worship Shiva. The story takes place in the forest where Ram, Lakshmana and Sita were spending their exile. They had just received the news of Dasharatha’s death. Ram as the eldest decided to perform the funeral rights in the forest. He sent Lakshmana to get the required materials. Lakshmana did not return for a long time so Ram set out to find him. It was nearing afternoon and both Ram and Lakshmana had not returned. Sita decided to do the funeral rites herself. Two disembodied hands appeared and claimed to be Dashratha. They accepted the offering. Sita said that Ram and Lakshmana would not believe her. The hands said that the river Phalgu, the fire, a cow standing nearby and a ketaki flower would be the witnesses. Ram and Lakshman returned and did not believe her. Sita asked all 4 witnesses and all of them denied it. Ram and Lakshmana performed the rites and a voice from heaven explained that Sita had already completed it. The Sun God confirmed it. Sita was angry that the witnesses lied. She cursed the Phalgu river that it would only flow underground. The fire would consume all things irrespective of what it was. The cow’s mouth would become impure because it had lied through that. Lastly the ketaki flower would never be used to worship Shiva.

I liked the story because it was a new thing to me and it has not been described in most versions of the Ramayana. The twelve Jyotirlingas also have a different and unique story about them. It is said that at those 12 places Lord Shiva is always there. At those 12 places people did great tapasya and got a boon, with which they asked Shiva to always be there.

The Purana also describes the different types of hell for a person according to their sin. I am also sure the Shiv Purana is a Mahapurana because it has all 5 components needed for a Mahapurana.

If we hear or read the Shiv purana all our sins our forgiven. If we repeatedly read the Shiv Purana, Shiva himself will come to bless the devotees. If one donates the Shiv Purana with a bull and gold gets to live in Shivaloka forever.

It has been a nice experience reading this book and I hope all the other Puranas are the same. Bibek Debroy has used simple English that is easy and understandable.

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© 2017, Anika Agarwal.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Sita's Sister, by Kavita Kane


Sita's Sister, by Kavita Kane

This book is about Urmila. She is a character from the Ramayana who we don’t know much about. Urmila is most commonly mentioned when Lakshman decides to go for exile with Ram. Sometimes we wonder why didn’t Urmila go for exile with Lakshman. She chose to be separated from her husband for fourteen years, rather than to go with him. The Ramayana never really does talk about Urmila. Every time I read the Ramayana, it talks about Ram, Lakshman, Sita, Ravan, Dasharatha, Kaikeyi etc. It never specifically tells us how did Urmila bear these years of separation, and how did she feel when Lakshman decided to go to the forest, leaving her behind. I think Urmila, also known as Sita’s sister was an exceptionally brave woman to bear this separation.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Saraswati's Intelligence, by Vamsee Juluri - Review

Saraswati's Intelligence: Book 1 of the Kishkindha Chronicles, by Vamsee Juluri


The first thought that comes to your mind, when you see the cover page of this book is Hanuman. For, a picture of a monkey is drawn on it. When we think of Hanuman we also think of Ram, because Hanuman was a great devotee of Ram.

Now, the surprising thing is that this book does not even touch the subject of Ram. It is solely based on the childhood life of Hanuman. This book talks about his childhood which is not even mentioned in most Ramayana versions. When you read this book, you understand what really happened in Hanuman’s life before he encountered Ram.

The book goes slow at first but picks up pace as it moves on.

Hanuman was born to Kesari and Anjana while Vali and Sugriva were born to sister of Kesari, Riksharaja in Kishkindha. Vali, Sugriva and Hanuman were fast and steady friends. One day while the three of them were having a race when Sugriva slipped. Hanuman was shocked because Sugriva had committed a “param dharma apachara”. You must be wondering what is a ‘param dharma apachara’? In Kishkindha spilling even a drop of blood was called param dharma apachara. A drop of blood was made of the sunlight of 108 leaves. It was considered a sacrilege to spill blood. Hanuman tried to clean Sugriva’s wound. In the meanwhile, Vali had lied to Kesari by telling him that Hanuman had jumped first when it was Sugriva. Hanuman and Sugriva were exiled from Kishkindha for touching blood.

Both started wandering from place to place and on their way, they met the great sage Vishwamitra. All the three of them together went to the land of the Ganeshas.

Vishwamitra sensed that something was wrong in the far north. Then, one day a group of northern Ganas had come. A Ganesha chief went out to receive them but none of the Northern Ganeshas even answered. What happens next is a big surprise.

The rest of the book talks about their adventures, how Vali went after the creature inside a cave. Sugriva went to help Vali. Sugriva came back alone. He announced that Vali had been led into a cave and would come out only after defeating the monster. The creatures had been defeated. Sugriva was crowned king in Vali’s absence.

This book has a suspense ending. The book is also one of the books in a trilogy and makes you want to read the other 2 books. So far, this has been the summary of the book. Now, I am going to tell my views.

The book concentrates more on the culture and habits of the Kishkindhan people. I found it very interesting it did not lead to the subject of Ram. The book leaves each chapter in suspense so if you want to know more you have to read the whole book. In the ending of this book I felt like I had to know what would happen in the 2nd book.

The style of writing attracts you. At the starting it was slow and I was not interested but, as I read more I got interested and that resulted in reading the whole book. It has been a nice experience reading this book and I hope the other two books in the trilogy give the same experience.

If you want to know more read this fantastic book By Vamsee Juluri to find out.

Book info:
ISBN-10: 9386224267
ISBN-13: 978-9386224262
Publisher: Westland
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Excerpt:


© 2017, Anika Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Eighth Avatar – by Manoshi Sinha Rawal

The Eighth Avatar Paperback

by Manoshi Sinha Rawal
This book is about one of the avatars of Lord Vishnu.

There are 10 avatars of Vishnu.
They are: Matsyavtara, Kurmavatara, Varhavatara, Narsimhavtara, Vamanavtara, Parshuram, Ram, Krishna, Buddha and Kalki.

This book is about the eighth avatar that is Krishna. It is not about the whole life of Krishna but it is till Krishna’s battle with Jarasandha. But even in this much the book attracts the attention of all. One reason is because it has simple language that everyone can understand. The other is that it explains everything as simply as possible. I can guarantee that if you have not read about the life of Krishna then, after reading this book you will surely understand what it is about. It makes you feel that you want to turn page after page. Since I have read many versions of Krishna’s life I turn the pages just to know how this version goes.

This version of Krishna’s life concentrates on the childhood exploits of Krishna. Kansa kept on sending out asuras from his side and Krishna kept on killing them one by one. Few of the asuras he killed are:
Putana – Killed when Krishna suckled the life out of her while breast feeding.
Trinavarta – Came in the form of a tornado and grabbed Krishna but crashed to his own death.
Vatsasura – Came in the form of a bull but was killed in the duel with Krishna.
Bakasura – Came in the form of a crane but was killed when Krishna shattered his beak.
Keshi – Came in the form of a horse but Krishna smacked and battered him to his death.
Aghasura – Came in the form of a serpent and swallowed Krishna and his friends but was killed when Krishna tore open his abdomen.
Vyomasura – Came in the form of a bat and kidnapped Krishna’s friends. He was killed in the duel that ensued between him and Krishna.
Dhenukasura – He was an ass. He was killed by Krishna for harassing the people of another village.

Apart from killing the asuras Krishna also lifted the Govardhan mountain on his little finger. The story of this was that Krishna convinced the people of Vrindavan not to worship Indra but instead worship Mount Govardhan. Indra got angry and sent showers and showers of rain down on Vrindavan. To shelter the people Krishna lifted the Govardhan mountain on his little finger.

I was happy that this book did not concentrate much on the love life between Krishna and Radha because as a kid I am not interested in all this love stuff. I was really surprised because in almost all the versions that I have read they have quite a lot to say about the Krishna-Radha story.

It kept on attracting me like a magnet. Sometimes I would simply stop reading it. But again, the next day the first thing I would do was to find out what happened next, even though I knew it. It had that kind of power. It also kept on switching between the scenes.

You did not get bored that it was only about Krishna’s exploits or that it was only Kansa sending out asuras. You could enjoy the story and even see it through both Kansa’s and Krishna’s view.
 
Book info:
ISBN-10: 9384878472
ISBN-13: 978-9384878474

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Excerpt:


© 2017, Anika Agarwal. All rights reserved.