Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Reading Notes: PDE Ramayana Part D

We are at the end of Ramayana in this post and I am excited to see how the story will end for Rama and Sita.

We pick up in the story to see Rama trying many methods to get across the ocean to Lanka. Finally, the Ocean King rises and listening to Rama's plea, addressed Nala to make a bridge for Rama to cross over. Upon hearing about Rama's power, Ravana was again advised to let Sita go, but he refused. Ravana even tries to convince Sita that Rama is dead before the battle begins. 

As Rama's monkeys started their attack, the rakshasas waited till they were strongest: at night. Inderjit, Ravana's son, became invisible and shot many arrows that harmed Rama and Lakshmana and the others. However, Garuda comes to their rescue and was able to save Rama and Lakshmana. Then we learn that the rakshasas were planning to attack again and awoke Kumbhakarna, the most powerful of all the demons. The legend is that each time he awoke, he would eat a huge meal and then go back to sleep. Kumbhakarna was quite powerful but as he was trying to carry Sugriva away, Rama severed his head. Inderjit came back and killed many more in Rama's army. But Hanuman carried an ENTIRE MOUNTAIN of herbs back to the battlefield and was able to heal the slain monkeys. But Inderjit fights back again, only this time Lakshmana is able to kill him. Upset about his son's death, Ravana heads to kill Sita but is asked to instead head to the battlefield. Ravana hits Lakshmana with an arrow and he dies. However, Hanuman again brings medicine to bring Lakshmana back to life.  After many arrows, Rama thinks he has killed Ravana. But he knew it was going to be harder than that to kill the King of the Rakshasas. So then he slowly cut Ravanas heads off (he had multiple). His wives and the rakshasas performed Ravana's last rites. 

(Image depicts that battle scene between Ravana and Rama, where Ravana is losing his heads; image provided by Wikimedia Commons)

After Ravana's death, Sita is adorned in better clothing and brought a palanquin to take her to Rama. But Rama wanted to make sure she was still "pure" (oof). So she was asked to walk across a path of flames to prove her pureness. Her feet were spotless, even after being burned, so she was considered pure.
Rama's exile ended and he returned to Ayodhya, his kingdom, with Sita and Lakshmana and Hanuman. Bharata welcomed his brother and Rama was crowned the king. However, this did not end the turmoils. Time went by, but people still questioned Sita's purity and virtue. She left Rama to go to a hermitage of Valmiki, where she gave birth to two sons, Lava, and Kusha. 16 years later, the sons win a battle and when Rama asks about their mother, they tell him it is Sita. Sita is asked to testify in front of a jury that the boys are Rama's sons. Right afterward, the earth opens a throne and takes Sita. in. The story ends with Rama leaving the kingdom in a path of worship.

Bibliography: Public Domain Edition
Authors:  M. Dutt, R. Dutt, Gould, Griffith, Hodgson, Mackenzie, Nivedita, Oman, Richardson, and Ryder.

Extra Credit Reading Notes: PDE Ramayana Part B

The second part of the Ramayana introduces us to Bharata. Upon returning to the palace, he learns that his father, King Dasharatha, had passed away. Bharata is distraught by his father's death and weeps aloud. However, Queen Kaikeyi does not shed tears but rather tells him what happened in the palace in his absence. However, Bharata is not like his mother. He feels his mother is the reason his father died and he loves his brother Rama very much. He tells her that he will bring Rama back from the jungle and give him the throne. He also apologizes to Rama's mother. Before any other steps are taken, Vashishtha reminds Bharata that he must perform the last rites of his father. So they travel to the outskirts of the city and burn his pyre. All of Dasharatha's wives and people weep at the loss of the King. 

Bharata then goes to meet Rama and tells him that he should have the kingdom back but Rama refuses. Bharata then offer's Rama gold sandals but Rama returns them and tells Bharata he would live as a devotee for fourteen years. Bharata tells Rama that he will keep the sandals on the throne for fourteen years until Rama returns to claim the kingdom.

(Image depicts the scene when Rama meets Bharata; image provided by- Wikimedia Commons)

Moving on, we see Rama get into a fight with a rakshasa who tries to take Sita. However, instead of killing him, Rama and Lakshmana deposit him in a pit. By then, the rakshasa figures out that Rama is the son of the King. The trio then meets Agastya. 

One day, Shurpanakha (rakshasa women and sister of Ravana (king of the rakshasas)) sees Rama and falls in love with him. She decides to entice him to leave Sita and disguises herself as a beautiful woman. She tells Rama to leave Lakshmana and Sita, but he refuses and she gets angry. She then tries to attack Sita, but Lakshmana cuts off her ears and nose. She runs to her brother, Khara, and tells him to bring Sita to her for revenge. Khara and his brother take an army of rakshasas to fight with Rama. But Rama single handly kills them all and the brothers. Shurpanakha then goes to her brother Ravana, the evilest of them all and King of the rakshasas. She tells him that the other brothers are dead and that the rakshasas are being made a laughing stock in the other worlds. She tells Ravana that he must take Sita to seak proper revenge. Maricha counsels Ravana that he must not mess with Rama, but if he wants to take Sita, it must be in a disguise. So Maricha dons the role fo a gold deer and when Sita sees him, she tells Rama she must have the deer. Rama then leaves to capture it. Maricha, pretending to be Rama, then calls out for help from Sita and Lakshmana. Lakshmana leaves to find Rama and Ravana arrives to meet Sita. He proposes to her but she denies it. He then takes her with him by force. Ravana takes Sita to his kingdom and keeps her captive. 

When Rama returns to the hut, he finds Sita gone and is in much pain. He finds Jatayu, who tried to save Sita from Ravana, dead. They meet Kabandha, who tells them where to go to find Sita. 

Bibliography: Public Domain Edition
Authors:  M. Dutt, R. Dutt, Gould, Griffith, Hodgson, Mackenzie, Nivedita, Oman, Richardson, and Ryder.

Reading Notes: PDE Ramayana Part C

This week we read Part C of the Ramayana. We meet Hanuman, who is the messenger of Sugriva and a monkey/human. Sugriva's wife was also captured so he feels Rama's pain. Sugriva had accidentally assumed his brother, Vali, dead and started to rule his brother's king. But Vali was alive and drove Sugriva out of the kingdom upon his return. Then we get into the battle between Sugriva (with Rama on his side) and Vali, which ends in Vali's death. However, after helping Sugriva win his kingdom back, Rama notices that after the rainy season ends, Sugriva is still not helping him get Sita back. However, after Lakshmana threatens Sugriva, he helps them out. After a month of searching, they find Sampati, brother of Jatayu, who tells them that Sita was taken by Ravana to his kingdom.

(Image of Hanuman with Sita and Rama in his heat; image provided by Wikipedia)

After some turmoils, we learn about Hanuman's life story and how he came to be born. Hanuman vows to bring Sita to Rama and reaches Lanka. In the bleak of night, he enters the city. Hanuman looks far and wide within the city for Sita and finally finds her in Ashoka's grove surrounded by weird figured animals. As Hanuman hides and watches, Ravana comes into the grove and tries to woo Sita. But when she refuses, he tells her that if she would not join him, he would have her tortured and killed. When Ravana leaves, Hanuman introduces himself to Sita. Soon after though, Hanuman gets caught in a battle. Although he manages to fight the rakshasas off at first, they eventually capture Hanuman. Ravana then orders for Hanuman's tail to be set on fire for all he has done. But Sita prays that since she was loyal, that Hanuman's tail is cooled when on fire and that is what happens. Hanuman, however, had a plan and rushed through Lanka with his tail on fire, burning down all of the city. Hanuman then winded through the air to indicate he had found Sita to the others.

Sugriva then orders a march upon Lanka. However, in Ravana's court, Vajrahanu has taken order to slay Rama, Sugriva, Lakshmana, and Hanuman. This part ends with Ravana ordering war and death upon the other kingdom and Rama.

Bibliography: Public Domain Edition of the Ramayana
Authors:  M. Dutt, R. Dutt, Gould, Griffith, Hodgson, Mackenzie, Nivedita, Oman, Richardson, and Ryder.

Monday, February 3, 2020

My Take on Feedback Strategies

(Freshmen year, I received a lot of rejection from various groups I applied too, however, now I see myself turning down opportunities. I think this quote puts that into perspective.- Image provided by- Padlet)

The article that immediately caught my attention was Why Do So Many Managers Avoid Giving Praise? by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman. The title is intriguing, but this article is not what you may think it is. I love that article begins by describing the stress that the manger felt in delivering the feedback. This was interesting because I tend to think of feedback as a positive, but in this sense, it was viewed as a negative by the managers. Analyzing the chart, it shows that managers who only give negative feedback are equally as ineffective as managers not giving feedback at all. However, those giving positive feedback are much more effective and the same as giving positive and negative feedback. Throughout my leadership positions and jobs, positive feedback has been my prime method of approaching situations. Considering the "you did great here! so proud, but... here is how you can improve." This helps the employees but it also improves manager-employee relationships. An important thing pointed out in the article is that sometimes managers only point out what's wrong, but I think it's so important to present this wrong in a positive demeanor.

The next article I read was Five Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job by Alfie Kohn. This article seemed interesting because it was the complete opposite of the one I read previously, which was encouraging positive feedback! But, the point of the article in to investigate the misused sense of praise, rather than attacking people for being encouraging and loving. The article mentioned 5 reasons to stop saying "good job" or giving false praise to kids. The first is "manipulating children", in which we sugar coat everything to our children, but are actually breeding them to become dependent on us for praise. The second is "creating praise junkies" where we are making kids relay on our evaluations of their performance and not their own. The third pointed out is "stealing a child’s pleasure" which is described that when we give praise, we are indirectly telling our child how to feel about a situation. In a way, we are manipulating their emotions. The next is "losing interest" in which if we give too much attention to children for an activity, it may become boring to them and they may lose interest. And the fifth is "reducing achievement". This is when we say things like "good job" even when something isn't good. This article was eye-opening because I tend to think more in terms of positive feedback (like the first article), but I see where the author of this paper is coming from. However, I still think positive feedback has more plus points then harm!

Topic Research: The Indian Twilight Saga

(Naags and Nagin's are shapeshifters that transition between human forms and a cobra- image provided by - Wikimedia Commons

When I started looking into what I wanted to write about, I was super intrigued by the story of naags and nagins. This is a topic not found in American literature (or at least I can't find anything) so I thought it would be interesting to explore this but try to add a twist to the tail! I want to add a "Twilight"-esc twist to the tail. Dr. Gibbs sent me some amazing resources to look at so I'm thinking maybe combining a few stories, but keeping the basic storyline of "Twilight". 

The first article I wanted to look up was to analyze the history of naags and nagins. I found a great Wikipedia article about the background of these creatures. They are actually referred to as Ichchadhari Naags which means they shape-shifting Cobras. Interesting, not just any snake but a cobra! So unlike a vampire (who converts humans) in Indian mythology, a cobra can become an Ichchadhari Naag after 100 years of Tapasya (penance). Then, if it gets blessed by Lord Shiva, they can take the form of any living creature (so not just humans). They can also live for more than hundreds of years without getting old (like vampires!). 

Now that I have a basic history of these creatures, I wanted to look into some specific stories. The first story I looked at was Takshaka. I think its interesting to first point out that Takshaka is also mentioned in Chinese and Japanese mythology as being one of the Eight Great Dragon Kings. I think it is so fascinating that there is a cross-cultural connection with this character! So Takshaka is known as the kings of the Naags and a descendent of Shri Rama. He was kicked out of his kingdom but sought revenge by killing the Kings' son with a snake bit. But then there was a bigger fight and he was expelled from there. After a lot of back and forth, Takshaka stopped the massacre of the Naags and ended all the enmity with them. 

In the last story, I wanted to look at was that of Ulupi. Ulupi is the daughter of Kauravya, one of the kings of the naags and the second wife of Arjuna. Her main story revolved are Arjuna because Arjuna is a human prince and Ulupi was a nagin. The basic story is that Ulupi falls in love with Arjuna and convinces him to marry her while Arjuna is in exile. They have a son born to them. Later Arjuna is cursed but after fights and turmoils, Ulupi used a Nāgamaṇi (naag gem) to bring Arjuna back to live and restore peace. 

Wouldn't it be interesting if I combined Takshaka and Ulupi's story into one and made them fall in love with each! haha, that would be very different from their original stories.  

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Week 3 Story: Letter to Queen Kaushalya

(Shows different representations of Rama- Image provided by: Wikimedia Commons)

My Dearest Mother Kaushalya,

I hope all is well with you and father, King Dasharatha. Also, give my regards to Queen Sumitra and Queen Kaikeyi. Please let Queen Sumitra know that Lakshmana is doing well and we have defeated the rakshasas.

It's quite an interesting tale mother. When Vishvamitra informed me I was the only one who could help him get rid of Subahu and Maricha, I was quite surprised but knew it was my duty as the son of the King to help. However, when we reached here, Thataka, the mother of Maricha, was the evil rakshasa behind much of Vishvamitra's worries. We have destroyed her. The sages at the hermitage have been very kind and adorned me with fine jewels and praise.

Mother, I also have to tell the most important thing of all. I met a beautiful young lady and I will make her my wife. She is Sita, the daughter of King Janaka. King Janaka set forth the condition that whoever can bend Shiva's bow, would get his daughter's hand in marriage. I was able to skillfully do so and will be marrying Sita, making her your daughter-in-law.

As I will be returning soon, I know my father was preparing to give me the Kingdom to govern. Unfortunately, I was also given word that, poisoned by Manthara horrible words, Queen Kaikeyi convinced the King to give the empire to her son, Prince Bharata. I understand that the King is upset by this condition, but I do not wish to do anything that would make Queen Kaikeyi upset, as I have much respect for her. The condition she set of sending me to the banishment for fourteen years to live in the jungle is hard, but I will accept it. I know you will be hurt by this decision, but know that I do this in order to not let the King go down on his promise to Queen Kaikeyi. With this mother, I bid you my regards. We will confront these issues upon my return.



Authors note: I have taken Part A of the Ramayana from the PDE and transformed it into a letter. In my version, Rama writes to his mother Kaushalya to tell her about all that he has been going through.

Bibliography: Ramayana Online: Public Domain Edition
Sources used: M. Dutt, R. Dutt, Gould, Griffith, Hodgson, Mackenzie, Nivedita, Oman, Richardson, and Ryder.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Reading Notes: Ramayana Part A

We finally started reading the Ramayana this week! I was a little late on catching up with my reading but I am so happy to have the chance to get started. In part A of the Ramayana, we get introduced to the two mighty kingdoms of Hindustan, one ruled by Rama's father (Dasharatha) and the other ruled by Sita's father (Janaka). We learn that after an Ashwamendha performed by the brahmin's, Dasharatha is rewarded with four sons. Dasharatha had three wives, in which Kaushalya was Rama's mother, Kaikeyi was Bharata's, and Sumitra was Lakshmana and Shatrughna's. Rama was seen as the most beautiful and compared to Vishnu (the preserver god of Hinduism).

We are then introduced to Vishvamitra, whose sacrifices were being disturbed by two rakshasas (Subahu, and Maricha) working for Ravana. He informed Dasharatha that only Rama could help him overcome these problems. Rama and Lakshmana decided to go with Vishvamitra to help him out. The brothers are then forced to kill Thataka, the mother of Maricha, to help Vishvamitra. This also led other sages and people at the hermitage to appreciate and honor Rama. Vishvamitra then tells Rama the story of Ganga and Bhagiratha. The essence of the story tells about how the Ganga river came to be and the reason most Hindus distribute the ashes of their dead in the river. After the Ahalya story, we are introduced to Sita. It was quite cute that Sita and Rama met in a garden and fell in love at first sight! Then we are introduced to King Janaka, who declares that the person who can bend Shiva's bow will get his daughter. And of course, Rama can bend it and marries Sita.

Now we go back to Dasharatha, who decides it is time for Rama to control the kingdom. However, while everyone else was happy, Manthara, the nurse of Prince Bharata (son of Queen Kaikeyi),  was displeased with the decision. She poisons Queen Kaikeyi to not accept Rama as the next king. She told the Queen to ask the King of the two wishes he said he would grant her. So Kaikeyi asks King Dasharatha that her son, Bharata be installed as Yuvarajah and that  Rama be banished for fourteen years to live in the jungle. She threatened to commit suicide if the King does not listen. So the King grants her wishes, but he also breaks off ties with Kaikeyi and her son. So Rama gets sent to Exile but Sita and Lakshmana go with him. But to further the shame, Kaikeyi also required that they shed their royal attire (except for Sita) and live as devotees.
(Image shows Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana in the woods at a Sage's hut- image provided by Wikimedia Commons

Now, Dasharatha was so distressed at the situation, that while releasing his anger he accidentally kills another hermit. The hermit's father then curses Dasharatha to his death. At the end of Part A, Dasharatha dies after asking Kaushalya, Rama's mother, for forgiveness. Throughout the reading, we are also told interluding scenes of Indra, Vishnu, and Ravana.

Name: Indian Myth and Legend
Author: Donald A. Mackenzie
Link: Ramayana PDE