Arthdal Chronicles: Unfolding of the Epic Saga

TV Show Analysis

A legend unfolds,

Behold,

The mighty revelation.

Epics, narrative grand poems that celebrate the feats of a hero, and Sagas, narrative prose that deals with social histories and legends, bring forth the magnificent magical miraculous in stories to remind us of the distant charming dream we so often dream; the dream where we always win the battle.

Such heroic stories colour our humdrum thoughts, cheering the spirit’s faith in wonders.

Believing in wonders is vital for it steers us to explore life more keenly and sanguinely; our cherished wonders, packed neatly in stories, passed from generation to generation, create our mythologies.

Mythology is psychology, misread as cosmology, history, and biography.” — The Flight of the Wild Gander (1951)

by Joseph Campbell

The heroic stories, the epics and sagas, the mythologies continue to bridge the gap between the normal and the astonishing, to collect various truths sans embellishments, to fuel the burning time and to mentor the individual who approaches it.

Approaching the epics and sagas via an audiovisual means is not an offence; rather it is advantageous for all those who believe in it.

Arthdal Chronicles is an epic saga that has attempted to present Act I of mankind’s complicated story, a thoroughly entertaining and gripping version of how the journey began.

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Season One – Poster [Source – kpopmap.com]

Arthdal Chronicles is a South Korean fantasy drama TV series that takes us back to the Bronze Age in a mythical land named Arth, where different human species and tribes struggle to be on the top of the power pyramid. The tribes which are technically advanced win over the ones which are not; fear of gods and goddesses help in ruling over the masses. In the chaos of battles and betrayals, the hero, as foretold by the seers, rises amongst the so-called barbarians to win his love and tribe back.

What is fascinating is the fact that in Arthdal Chronicles the writers have given every single one of the main characters, not one but many archetypal characteristics making them grey in the purest sense. These characters drive the already-active plot making it an engaging watch.

Meet the five main characters of the series –

(Spoiler Alert – if you do not wish to know the secrets in advance then please watch the show first, though I assure you that this analysis will not tarnish your experience of watching the series.)

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[Source – kpopmap.com]

Ta-gon

The Warrior/ The King/ The Dictator/ The Intellectual/ The Lover

Ta-gon is an excellent warrior; his war tactics bring victory for the Sarem tribe making them more powerful. His secret, that he is an Igutu (mixed blood species), is his strength and weakness. The king, his father, repents not killing him as a child – a traumatic moment that shapes Ta-gon’s persona. His father stations him always on the battlefield, keeping him occupied fighting and winning endless battles, taking over more and more land, getting more salves in return.

Aware of his father’s scheme, Ta-gon plays the game of politics shrewdly and with the help of his loyal Daekan warriors overthrows his father and becomes the King of the entire kingdom. Unafraid to do the blasphemous, the terrible, Ta-gon kills his father and framers an outsider – Eun-Seom.

Ta-gon makes sure no voice rises against him. He becomes the king and very soon a dictator – for he still has a major opponent to defeat – the religious guru Aasa Ron – against whom he could not declare an open war (not unless he has secured his position).

An atypical lover, Ta-gon promises his love, Tae Al-ha, that whatever happens, they will never sacrifice themselves for each other; both tired of acting as pawns for the men in power, they decide to free themselves from this bonded life.  Tae Al-ha plays a very important role in Ta-gon’s victories as she understands the political game only too well.

While maintaining his outer image as an indomitable King, Ta-gon prefers to compromise rather than quit. He is an intellectual, a wise man who knows when to recede and when to attack.

When such a complex character is situated in a volatile scenario, explosions are bound to happen. The character growth that we witness in Ta-gon – from a warrior to a king to a dictator to a fallen hero yet not fully defeated – makes him a real, three-dimensional character.

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[Source – kpopmap.com]

Tae Al-ha

The Queen/ The Femme Fatale/ The Backstabber/ The Lover/ The Protector

One of the strongest characters in this series is Tae Al-ha, daughter of Mehol (whose tribe has the authority over all the technical advancements), Ta-gon’s love interest whom the King i.e. Ta-gon’s father, also proposes for marriage.

She is intelligent, courageous and calculative. A natural leader, she is a perfect contender to be a Queen.

Tae Al-ha desires to win the entire Arthdal Kingdom and rule it along with Tagon. For this she manipulates, tricks and kills; at times like a Femme Fatale she spies for her father and brings all the information that he wants to know about Ta-gon and his father; playing the game all along, revealing only that what must be revealed.

Until the time when his father’s plan does not hold any threat for Ta-gon, she like an obedient servant works assiduously for him, but when her father tells her that to maintain his camaraderie with the ruler, their next step would involve Ta-gon’s sacrifice, Tae Al-ha backstabs her father and takes Ta-gon’s side.

She tells her father that she has chosen a path for herself and that path will take her and Ta-gon to the throne.

As the story progresses, her and Ta-gon’s love story also progresses; she knows all his secrets; she is the one who brought up his child (the Igutu child he had found abandoned in the jungle); she is a true lover and protector as she saves Ta-gon from every threat, albeit her strong personality, her clever solutions to the problems and shrewdness keep us guessing if she is actually on anyone’s side.

Later in this series, Tae Al-ha fights the soldiers who are sent by Asa Ron (the religious leader) to kill Ta-gon; she gets badly injured but does not quit until she finishes each one of them.

Ta-gon and Tae Al-ha fall and rise together, determined throughout to win the kingdom of Arthdal.

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[Source – kpopmap.com]

Eun-Seom

The Hero/ The Messiah/ The Punisher/ The Protector/ The Innocent/ The Star-crossed Lover

Eun-Seom is very much like the classic mythological hero –at times like Krishna & at times like Christ- born in tumultuous times, is raised away from his home town, brought up by outsiders, different from the normal kids of his age, capable of doing the impossible, righteous and smart, who grows up to be the saviour of not only his tribe but all the suffering souls.

Here, Eun-seom is on a ‘Hero’s Journey’ where his adventure has begun and he is facing crisis back to back; death threatens and revives him; after undergoing an internal transformation he continues with his journey.

Slave trade is prevalent in this world and Eun-seom, betrayed by one of his own, is sold as a salve. Trapped in a mine, digging day and night, collecting precious stones, Eun-seom, feeling cheated and lonely, slowly regains his strength and rises back to fight and frees not only his friends but the rest of the slaves as well.

He like a Messiah saves the victims and like a Punisher destroys the evil-doers. It is Eun-seom who asks the warring tribes to unite if they wish to stand against the powerful lords.

In the series, he is often hailed as Aramun Haseulla – the great god who first came on Arth and settled the first tribe, while later he is called Inaishingi – the leader who, 1000 years ago, united all the warring tribes as one.

Initially, Eun-seom is also a simpleton, an innocent person, who restrains from killing anyone, he hesitates to use his power (as being an Igutu he is more powerful than Homo Sapiens), but when he sees the ways of this new world, and how the weak are suffering, he changes and accepts that he cannot win from the technically advanced race without bloodshed; he understands there is just one sin in the world and that is to show weakness. Thus, he becomes the Protector for all those who join his cause and for them he fights and kills without flinching.

Eun-seom’s character grows, he learns how corrupt this world is, a complete opposite of Iark (the place where he has grown-up); while he is in search of his true identity, his main focus remains the same –to save Tan-ya, his love. The promise that he made to Tan-ya, helps him to survive every danger, the hope of meeting and rescuing Tan-ya fuels his spirit.

Both Tan-ya and Eun-seom were born on the same day, the day Azure Comet shined brightly in the sky; their destiny was sealed that day and thus, even when apart, their heartbeats for each other. They are star-crossed lovers who are destined to change the world forever.

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[Source – kpopmap.com]

Tan –ya

The Female Messiah/ The Punisher/ The Star-crossed Lover/ The Scapegoat

Tan-ya, the next Great Mother of Wahan Tribe, is also destined for great things, though initially, she does not picture herself doing anything of importance.

Her character arc develops quickly as soon her tribe is thrown in jeopardy, many die including her mother and thus, she takes the responsibility as the tribe’s Great Mother. She becomes the Female Messiah as she is the one who frees the remaining members of her tribe, including her father. She is forgiving but does not hesitate in punishing the evil-minded.

She is a nature lover and does not like living in Arthdal; she misses the simple lifestyle of Iark. She stands for her causes, loves her tribe and is willing to fight for them.

Often she and the other Wahan tribe members are used as the scapegoat in the series; when Ta-gon frames Eun-seom for his father’s murder, the public ostracises and attacks Tan-ya and her tribe. Until she becomes the high priest, she stays continuously under threat – Ta-gon, Tae Al-ha and Saya –all try to use her to achieve their ulterior motives. But Tan-ya is a fast learner, she starts understanding the structure of the power pyramid and outplays them all. She can no longer be used as a scapegoat or as a pawn.

Just as Eun-seom, Tan-ya is always thinking about him; she is worried if he will be able to survive in this new world; when Saya tells her that Eun-seom and other Wahan tribe members died in an uproar caused between salves and their lords, Tan-ya breaks down; she then decides not to give up and instead gain power to save the rest of her tribe and apologises Eun-Seom for not ending her life.

She and Eun-seom are a perfect example of the star crossed lover archetype, once separated, they do not get to meet in the first season, while they ceaselessly yearn for each other. Tan-ya before getting captured gives Eun-seom a name – dream – she tells him that he is her and her tribe’s dream, a dream that is meant to come true and so he will have to win.

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[Source – econotimes]

Saya

The Fool/ The Lover/ The Outcast/ The Intellectual

Saya is Eun-seom’s twin brother who was adopted by Ta-gon; he was brought up by Tae Al-ha and spent his childhood life trapped inside a tower. He is truly unpredictable as an individual – the Intellectual when he uses his knowledge (he is very well-read) and tricks Ta-gon and Tae Al-ha and helps Tan-ya to become the high priest, the Fool when he acts instinctively and makes mistakes (by declaring overtly that he is Ta-gon’s son) and a Lover when he for the first time does something, not for his personal but for Tan-ya’s interest.

Though he falls for Tan-ya, he repeatedly tells her lies (like Eun-seom is dead).

Saya is made to live the life of an Outcast; the fact that he is an Igutu and lives in the royal palace equals a serious crime. Ta-gon makes sure that he is locked up all the while; he wishes to use Saya as an Igutu loyal servant.

Full of mysteries, Saya acts as a devoted son, he fears Ta-gon and follows his instructions sincerely, but at times he reveals his anger and frustration and hatred towards Ta-gon and Tae Al-ha. He wants to break away and rule as the King. He can sense Tan-ya’s free spirit and wishes to be with her always.

By the end of the series, the world gets to know about his identity – that he is Ta-gon’s son – and his position becomes stronger as he and Tan-ya (the high priest) appear as a couple to the public. Though it is still not clear as to which side he truly belongs and what new plan he is hatching.

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The Arthdal Kingdom. [Source – kdramapal.com]

According to a prophecy, three powers that united and later will destroy the Arthdal kingdom are – a Sword (to slay the wicked), a Bell (to echo the Word of God) and a Mirror (to illuminate the world with truth) – Eun-seom, Tan-ya and Saya represent these three powers.

In season one, we cheer for these three characters (especially Eun-seom and Tan-ya) and thus, it will be interesting to see them as the destroyers, facing Ta-gon, Tae –Al-ha and the entire Arthdal kingdom.

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Watch Arthdal Chronicles to witness the unfolding of an epic saga.

Here is the trailer –


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“Smile”, says the Girl and Laughs

Flash Fiction
The grand mountains and the evening sky = peace.
Image by enriquelopezgarre from Pixabay.

What a wonderful, serene scene this is… I love mountains.

[Dev breathes in the cool air, then walks ahead and clicks pictures using his new camera; the funky-funny-machine-like clicking repeated sound is in sharp contrast to the peaceful silence present.]

Hmm… Hey, Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me/ I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to/ Hey, Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me/ In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come following you…

[Dev walks ahead; his rough shoes making imprints on the kind earth; he continues humming and the wind plays the tune; he then stops and clicks another photograph.]


Who’s that? Does not look like a tourist… she is… why is she standing… on the edge of the cliff?

“Excuse me, you are standing on the edge… the cliff is quite steep… just, just be careful.”

[The girl does not pay much attention to him; she is looking at the grand mountains and the evening sky.]

What is with this girl… she is clearly… oh!

[Dev suddenly starts running; camera in one hand, he rushes, gazing like an eagle at the girl.]

“Hey! Wait! What… what are you doing?”

“Calm down, it is alright”, said the girl curtly.

[Dev halts; panting he takes a step forward and then looks up in the sky; he then presses his forehead with two fingers and sets his hairstyle before looking at the girl again.]

“I thought… I… I thought you are about to jump… sorry!”

[The girl smiles and goes back to looking at the picturesque scene. Dev feeling embarrassed hits his head gently and starts walking away.]


“Will you click a photograph for me? Such a peaceful place this is”, said the girl mesmerised by the view.

“Oh, yeah, sure”, said Dev.

Should I take her photograph or just the mountains…? Oh, she is looking at me and smiling, definitely posing for the camera.

“One moment, please”, said Dev.

[He changes the settings on his Canon DSLR and then gets ready to click the photo.]

Hmm… she is beautiful…

[As Dev sets the frame with the girl to the left side and the mountains in the centre, the girl takes a step backwards and jumps. The camera slips from Dev’s hand and he rushes towards the edge.]

Oh, no, oh, no!

[Dev gulps dry air and peeks down the cliff, he cannot see her anywhere. His heart beats madly and his head starts to spin.]

What just… she, she… jumped!

*

[Dev again looks down, a gush of wind hits him, this time it is playing another melody. Dev fails to recognise this tune. Dev steps back from the edge of the cliff, takes out his cell phone and turns; he dials the emergency helpline number and looks up. The girl is standing with his camera in her hands.]

“Smile”, says the girl.

[Dev blackouts. The girl laughs.]

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Lissome Dream

The gentle, lissome dream.
Image by Dimitri Houtteman from Pixabay.

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Beyond bountiful thoughts of today,

Tomorrow and yesterday,

Lies the gentle, lissome dream…

Bright and blissful that scene,

Distant, imaginary if not seen.

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Take two drops, without fail, of zeal,

And Sunshine, keep turning the wheel,

Playing the circus game, yet untamed,

To become the dream you dreamed.

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Why should you keep your Dream Light on forever? Click here to find out.


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Enlightenment Pocketed

Lotus Koan.
Image by Marek Studzinski from Pixabay.

“The enjoyment of art is an act of recreation, or rather of creation in the reverse direction, towards the source of intuition, i.e., an act of absorption, in which we lose our small self in the creative experience of a greater universe.”

Anagarika B. Govinda

I happen to have a small sweet book titled Art & Meditation (actually a few years back I took it from my brother), written by Lama Anagarika B. Govinda – an artist, a Buddhist monk, traveller and writer.

Sharing his paintings, poems and thoughts with us, he talks about the ineffaceable, elusive yet real, sublimely beautiful link between art and meditation; how true art merges with true religion and vice-versa.

It is not digressive or sluggishly cumbersome, this thought, rather it is stimulating for the one who is not in a hurry.

The author wishes his essays and artwork to serve as koans i.e. ‘meditative problems’ for his readers that churn our thoughts and act as an impetus for continuing the search.

I have gone through this insightful book twice now. What struck me this time was its size, how come Lama Anagarika Govinda’s lectures on art and meditation along with his artwork were capsuled in such a tiny book?

Of course, there must be other collections of his essays and pictures, surely in not-so-tiny a book.

But here I would intentionally turn this coincidence into a grand undertaking and happily say something ambitious.

This beautiful book holds, yes-yes it does, the secret to enlightenment and simply because of its humble, calm and forgiving nature, affordable price, elucidations of the artwork and colour schemes given and the profound ideas shared.

With these balmy thoughts, I will read this book again in the near future for then it will reveal a new secret to me.

Leaving you with an edifying thought –

“Art in itself is a sort of a paradox, a Koan in the deepest sense of the word, and that is why the followers of Zen prefer it to all other mediums of expression. For only the paradox escapes the dilemma of logical limitation, of partiality and one-sidedness. It cannot be bound down to principles or conceptual definitions, because it exaggerates or abstracts intentionally in such a way that it is impossible to take it literally: its meaning is beyond the incongruity of the words.”

Anagarika B. Govinda

Enlightenment, Pocketed-

Calm mind beams

Together with the heart.

Haiku – Jagriti Rumi

Also read other posts on art and meditation –

Buddhahood

I wish to SEE Tibet

Thunderous Applause… And the Warli Drama Unfolds

कलाकार/ Artist

Transient Permanence


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Paper-Light-Lemon-Fresh Stories

Laymun – Short Film Analysis

Paper – light, white, bright,

Wrinkled, crumpled and creased,

Torn into pieces without a thought,

A kid’s fighter jet airborne, that

In raining season turns into a boat.

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Paper – how different are we from it?

Shape-shifters, cerebral fools,

Taking two crude steps

Forward, backward, learning, unlearning.

Our ephemeral paper-life folds

To build a castle with battlements

That burns on its own.

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Paper-life – light, white, bright,

Wrinkled, crumpled and creased.

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The film’s official poster.
[Source – CatherineProwse.com]

Wars fought for peace have nothing to do with peace as in the very end the avaricious intentions and deceits also win and not only the powerful/ just one. All this after crushing many innocent souls.

Yes, life is a cycle of chaos and calm, and we do evolve. We evolve because of the unsung kind-hearted simple folks continue to work no matter what.

Just like the protagonist in the short animation film titled Laymun (directed by Catherine Prowse and Hannah Quinn; original compositions and sound design by Kalle Jurvanen) who continues to revive the spirits of the Syrian public traumatized by the unending war; she gifts the residents in that area with lemon plants, trying to refresh and enliven their war-sick eyes.

The lemon’s yellowness and its leaves spunky greenness transforms the cracked walls into a brave embroidered piece and beautifies the broken windowsill.

Soon the war frenzy returns without any shame, aerial bombing the city, shattering the gardener’s nursery; she manages to escape.

Bowed but not defeated, she boards the bus that will take her maybe to a better place.

Seeing a little girl, who is sitting next to her, crying and clinging to her mother for comfort, the gardener takes out the only lemon that she had, scrapes off its skin and gives it to the little girl.

The sweet fresh smell of the lemon makes the little girl smile.

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Laymun” zest is vital for living.
Image by Yousz from Pixabay.

What a beautiful film this is! The gardener in her gentle manner wins over the war, albeit, she continues to struggle. She thus becomes the unsung kind-hearted hero who contributes in bringing change.

“We didn’t want to oversimplify the issues we were depicting in the film and offer a neat, unrealistic ending, but we wanted to offer a note of hope. We found the idea of a lemon seed being taken with the protagonist at the end offered the perfect balance of a possible new start for this character but also a sense of precariousness: would the one lemon left in her city have a chance to grow into something better, or would it perish?”

Catherine Prowse and Hannah Quinn.

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Paper boat, paper world, paper life.
[Source – Pixabay.]

Surely nothing could have highlighted the ephemeral human life better than the usage of paper animation/ cutout animation, quietly mocking the idea of wars, the profitable victory of one over the other… as if they are immortals.

The light-spirited-jumpy smell of any citrus fruit, its taste cheers up a sick one, especially one who has motion-sickness, this age-old remedy is known to all, it has travelled via the “oral culture” routes.

And so has the stories of bloody battles, clashes and bloodshed… we have learned from our mistakes, we have!

Let the paper-light-lemon-fresh stories carry the tales freely.


A Must Watch Short Film –

Laymun – A powerful example of the magic of storytelling.

Read Chelsea Lupkin’s review of Laymun here. Complement it with the true story of the last gardener of Aleppo that inspired the makers of Laymun here.


Check out another write-up on a short film titled One, Two, TREE here.


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Meeting a Fool in a Lovely Quaint Place

Raga-rich village scene.
Image by siam naulak from Pixabay.

Every language brings a distinctive flavour in the story, making its world unique and familiar at the same time. The world of Hindi stories always comes across as very honest and subtly profound to me.

Just like visiting a beautiful village, coloured green with flora, blue with water-wells and brown with earthen-wares, the Hindi language stories that I have read till now have become this lovely quaint place in my head.

And the people that inhabit this place, interesting characters from all over India, each one has struggled, battled, lived and loved this life truly.

Malkauns, Yaman, Basant bahar, Darbari, Khayal and other such ragas intricately design the wind here.

The latest addition to this place of mine is a compilation of short stories of some of the most famous Hindi writers of the early 20th century. Munshi Premchand, Jaishankar Prasad, Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, Upendranath ‘Ashk’ and Bhisham Sahani are the greats whom I have met before via their other stories and poems.

The others – Vishambharnath Sharma ‘Koshik’, Sudarshan, Vishnu Prabhakar, Kamla Chaudhary, Jainendra Kumar Jain, Chandragupt Vidyaalankar, Acharya Chatursen Shastri, Yashpal, ‘Agyaya’ and Siyaramsharan Gupt are the ones whom I had the opportunity to meet for the first time.

What a world they have all created – sensitive, soulful, revolutionary and inspiring.

Here, the writer whose short story I would like to share with you is Pandya Bechan Sharma ‘Ugra’.

The title of his short story is मूर्खा Murkha (A Fool).

अम्माँ का नाम गुलाबो, मुँह देखो तो छुहारा, आकृति धनुष की तरह।  गुलाबो अम्माँ की अवस्था अस्सी और पाँच पचासी वर्ष।

[Translation – “Amma (Granny) is called Gulabo (Rosy), face, a dried date, shape, bent like a bow. Gulabo Amma is eighty and five, eighty-five years old.”]

Bang!! That is how the story begins, gripping instantly, visually powerful; it reminds you of an old lady, one who is waiting on the roadside to cross the road or sell vegetables or beg.

The author’s famous penname ‘Ugra’ describes his writing aptly. Ugra means fiery, radical, hot-blooded.

He writes economically, hitting the right chord without any delay, not shying away from the truth, not allowing the eyes to escape, making a satirist out of you before you can realise it and run.


The Story Gist

Amma is old and so is the cow that had for past ten years served the family without a complaint; she gave six-litre milk every day, six of her bull calves and four heifer calves were sold for a good amount.

But now old, she is of no good and thus, Amma’s three darling sons want to get rid of the cow.

Though politically inversely aligned – eldest one a congressman, other a communist and the youngest follows a Hindu party – they have unanimously made up their mind to either sell the cow to the butcher or send it to a cow-shelter or simply abandon her.

But Amma has become a heavy hurdle for them; she is horrified to even hear of such a suggestion about her beloved cow.

She argues with them, starts eating one meal a day so that they still buy the cow’s feed and saves her one wintry night when the youngest son tries to drag the cow away.

Amma lovingly apologises to her; seeing the cow shivering in the cold weather, she runs to her room, calling herself a fool.

Out of the two blankets that she owned, she picks her own warmer one, goes to the cowshed and happily covers the cow with it.

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Gulabo Amma’s dear cow.
Image by Prawny from Pixabay.

A two page long short story, dramatically strong, dipped in sweet sarcasm, this piece raises questions unabashedly. What path have you chosen dear one? What rules do you abide by?

You weigh matters miserly, falsely, egotistically and complain of the imbalance. Why do you refuse to learn and almost always forget?

Ugra’s मूर्खा Murkha (A Fool) boldly strengthens the storyteller’s voice; still pertinent to the present times, one looks around to see what all has changed and what has not.

The lovely quaint place is kaleidoscopic in nature; I often see through its lens to pick up the different shades and rhythms of life.


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What the Indian History tells us about the Present

Intricate works, intricate stories.
Image by lapping from Pixabay.

What is history? Does the dictionary tell us everything about it?

History is the branch of knowledge dealing with past events; a continuous, systematic narrative of past events as relating to a particular people, country, period, person, etc., usually written as a chronological account; the aggregate of past events.

While such definitions are important, especially for students and for others to have a basic idea about this field of study, but surely history is more than just a record book.

History tells us about the unapproachable yet important past for generations have lived this life we are now living, on this very planet before we were born and to understand how they succeeded, failed, survived or thrived is a piece of valuable information as then we can prepare well for what is coming in the future.

Talking about future, what will be the future of India, this great country that was once called the golden bird and was the centre of worldwide trade, that was once colonized and had to struggle hard for its freedom, that is now developing into becoming one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and an emerging superpower, what does the future hold for it?

Let us go back in time and see how this land managed so well with its rise and fall to become the India of the present times.

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Painting of a horned boar in Rock Shelter 15, Bhimbetka, India.
[Source – Wikipedia]

Indus Valley Civilisation is the first name that comes to our minds when we turn to the ancient past of our country, but what is not known to everyone is the fact that there lived people long before the Harappan and Mohanjo-Daro cities were even conceived.

Archaeological studies have proved that human species were present in the Indian sub-continent since over 250,000 years ago and it is, therefore, one of the oldest inhabited regions on the planet.

The earliest records of the Indian history exist in the form of the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh (9000 BCE to 7000 BCE) from the prehistoric Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods, as well as the historic period. Another site belongs to the Neolithic Age, Mehrgarh (7000 BCE to 3300 BCE), Pakistan. Archaeologists have not only found Stone Age weapons here but also cave paintings depicting hunters, animals and people dancing.

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Dholavira in Gujarat, India, is one of the largest cities of Indus Valley Civilisation, with step-well steps to reach the water level in artificially constructed reservoirs. 
[Source – Wikipedia]

It was around 5000 BCE that Indus Valley Civilization started shaping throughout the Indus and Ghaggar-Hakra river valleys (now in Pakistan), along with the northwestern parts of India, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan.

The well-developed cities of this period, especially the Harappa, Ganeriwala and Mohenjo-Daro, with houses built of kiln-fired mud bricks, the streets laid out evenly at right angles and a sophisticated drainage system, the Great Bath (it may have been a public bath), bronze and copper items like the statue of the Dancing Girl, of Indra (the god of storm and war), terracotta pieces depicting the Shakti (the Mother Goddess) and the cultivation of barley, wheat, peas, sesame and cotton, show how successful a civilization it was.

Also, seals belonging to Indus Valley Civilization have been found at sites in Mesopotamia (another one of the oldest civilizations), meaning that trade was an important source of commerce.

Such details not only highlights the fact that we are a very old civilization that had flourishing art and culture, but it also tells us that our land is ideally located for people to thrive, geographically India is more of a mini world – we have oceans, rivers, deserts, islands and mountains; rich flora and fauna that is supported by six seasons (while there are only four in most of the other countries) – and these favourable conditions were majorly responsible for the early hunters and gatherers to survive.

Knowing then the fact that India’s land is very fertile, that the present situation where our oceans are polluted, rivers dried up, deserts have become harsher, islands are frequently under tsunami threats and mountains are getting much populated, it becomes the duty of every Indian to not exploit, but value the gifts of this land.

After the Indus Valley Civilisation ended, a group of small settlements of different tribes appeared in the North-Western regions of India until the arrival of the Aryans who become responsible for ushering the new age in Indian History – the Vedic Age.

In this period, along with the archaeological legacy, India also got a source of literary legacy – The Vedas (collections of hymns, prayers, and liturgy) are the earliest record of Indian culture. These texts composed in Sanskrit comprises of four major texts – the Rigveda, the Samveda, the Yajurveda and the Atharvaveda. Also, the great religious and literary works of The Upanishads (commentaries on Vedic rituals and philosophical treatises), The Puranas (traditional mythical works), and the two epics – The Mahabharata and The Ramayana – all come from this period.

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Rigveda manuscript in Sanskrit. [Source – Wikipedia]

The Vedas put forth the concept of varnashramadharma, the bedrock of Indian traditional social organization, is built on these three fundamental ideas: varna (social class), ashrama (stages of life), and dharma (duty or righteousness).

The Varna system divided the society into four classes – Brahmana at the top (priests and scholars), the Kshatriya next (the warriors), then the Vaishya (farmers and merchants), and last, the Shudra (labourers). Initially, this system proved good for all as everyone worked according to their capability, but gradually it degenerated to become a corrupt, biased, rigid and false law.

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Vardhaman (Mahavira) sculpture at Keezhakuyilkudi, Madurai, Tamilnadu, India.
[Source – Wikipedia]

Then came two religious reformers Vardhaman Mahavira (549-477 BCE) and Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 BCE) who completely rejected the orthodox, repressive ideas that Hinduism had then started fostering. Both these belief systems emphasised on renouncing the world and opposed the ritualistic Brahmanic schools that enjoyed the exclusive status of being the interpreters of the ancient Sanskrit texts.

Jainism and Buddhism, formed by the followers of these two reformers, promoted asceticism, the abandonment of ritual, domestic and social action, and the attainment of spiritual illumination in an attempt to win, through one’s efforts, freedom from repeated rebirth.

Not only religion was undergoing such changes, the society as a whole was facing many alterations then like the rise of many powerful kingdoms; while urbanization and wealth of these kingdoms multiplied, it also started attracting attention from the outside.

Cyrus, ruler of the Persian Empire invaded India in 530 BCE and also tried to spread his religious ideas. In 327 BCE came Alexander the Great, who continued his winning streak by conquering some regions of Northern India before his army mutinied. Again, Greek culture influenced all areas of culture in Northern India from art to religion to attire.

With Alexander’s departure from India, the Mauryan Empire (322-185 BCE) rose under the reign of Chandragupta Maurya (322-298 BCE), a significant period in Indian History as it became the first pan-Indian empire. The Mauryan dynasty ruled almost the entire subcontinent (except the area south of present-day Karnataka; Chera, Chola and Pandya dynasties were ruling the south), as well as substantial parts of present-day Afghanistan.

In the 100 years of the successful Mauryan imperial system, the one king who is the most popular even today is Ashoka the Great (269-232 BCE), under whose rule the empire flourished at its height. After the bloody battle of Kalinga, in which more than 100,000 people died, Ashoka had a change of heart; he accepted Buddhism and focused on maintaining peace in his kingdom. He also sent missionaries to spread the teachings of Buddhism in far North, South and even overseas.

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Ashoka pillar
 at Vaishali, Bihar, India.
[Source – Wikipedia]

With years passing by India saw new empires rising and facing a downfall. In the 3rd century CE to 590 CE, arose the glorious Gupta Empire and under their rule, India witnessed its Golden Age. Philosophy, literature, science, mathematics, architecture, technology, art, engineering, religion, and astronomy, among other fields, all flourished during the Gupta rule, resulting in some of the greatest of human achievements.

Aryabhatta, Kalidasa, Varahamihira and Vatsyayana were some of the many scholars who made a significant contribution during this age; decimal system, the concept of zero and chess came into existence. The Gupta philosophers also discovered that the Earth is not flat but round and that it rotates on its own axis causing lunar eclipse; discoveries regarding gravity and the planets were also made during this period.

The famous caves of Ajanta and Ellora, with their elaborate carvings and vaulted rooms, belong to this age. The Gupta rulers advocated and propagated Buddhism as the national belief and this is the reason for the plentitude of Buddhist works of art, as opposed to Hindu, at sites such as Ajanta and Ellora.

The empire declined slowly under a succession of weak rulers until it collapsed around 550 CE. After this period various dynasties ruled different regions, all contributing to social, economic and cultural changes.

With such a lengthy list of invasions and battles, the Indian battleground had just been prepared for what was yet to come.

The Muslim general Muhammed bin Qasim, in 712 CE, conquered northern India (modern-day Pakistan) and thus, ushered the beginning of Mughal rule in India – invasion by Mahmud of Ghazni, the battle of Tarain between Mohammed Ghori & Prithivi Raj Chauhan, the establishment of the Khilji Dynasty, the seven main Mughal rulers: Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb and Bahadur Shah – that lasted for 331 years, modifying the Indian society to a great scale, merging their culture in the heart and soul of this land and making it a truly diverse country.

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 Qutb complex, with the Qutb Minar and some ruins.
[Source – Wikipedia]
Taj Mahal, Agra.
[Source – Wikipedia]

While the Mughals ruled and expanded their reign, explorers from the West like Marco Polo and Vasco-da-Gama also visited this country and empires like the Vijayanagar Empire and Maratha Empire saw many successful decades. Many battles were fought by each to expand and save their respective kingdoms, but what ultimately beat them all was the coming of British East India Company.

European countries all scuffled for a piece of rich Asia and thus, originally arriving as traders (of silk, cotton, tea and opium) the British soon started functioning as the military authority in growing sections of India.

From the battle of Plassey (1757) to the revolt of 1857, the British had established themselves rather comfortably in India. Though Queen Victoria promised that the British government would work to “better” its Indian subjects, the British successfully tried to ‘divide and rule’ this diverse country.

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Two silver one rupee coins used in India during the British Raj, showing Victoria, Queen, 1862 (left) and Victoria, Empress, 1886 (right).
[Source – Wikipedia]

Independence movement started and great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi demanded the British government to ‘quit India’. And as it became difficult for the British officials to handle the violent outbreaks that took place in between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, they decided to leave the country once and for all.

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 Jawaharlal Nehru sharing a joke with Mahatma Gandhi, during a meeting of the All India Congress, Mumbai, July 6, 1946.
[Source –Wikipedia]

India, in 1947, became a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. From the year of Independence to the present times, India has been fighting its way through communal riots, poverty, famines, unemployment, corruption, illiteracy, population, pollution, gender inequality, terrorism and more such issues.

And yet, its booming economy, geographical location suitable for world trade, young population, good foreign relations, advancement in science and technology, a strong military force are some of the factors that make it a strong contender to become a superpower in future.

History proves that Indian civilization has stood the test of time and survived against all odds. This fact in itself is an indicator that the future holds good things for this country, but what history also shows is that more than often we have been conquered, sometimes by weapons and sometimes by ruses.

We need to remember this lesson from our Modern History class – ‘united we stand, divided we fall’.

Rather than falling prey to the ideas that lead to communal unrest and disputes, today’s India needs to be tolerant and broad-minded, its leaders should not worry about power, but should work for the public interest, its industrialists should enforce transparency and generosity, and its public should become aware, responsible and hardworking citizens, for this ancient land has nurtured those who have valued it.

History is a guidebook, it shows the magnificent rise and tragic fall of civilizations, for both are a possibility at any given period of time.

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For a better world, let the children also befriend History books.
Image by AkshayaPatra Foundation from Pixabay

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Nature

Green magic!
Image by Mabel Amber from Pixabay.

Wondrous are the ways of Nature

Capturing, hiding the sun in a leaf,

Revealing it in a colourful belief,

Fruits of absolute joy, a treasure.

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Giving life to all lives,

Giving shelter to all tribes,

The Nature plays a rhythm divine,

Transforming the woods into a shrine.

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Nature destroys the apathetic traders;

Blind, unforgiving, hitting with catastrophes,

Listening not to the heavens, the creators,

But to the Time that heals.

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A dense forest or a tiny plant,

Both are Nature’s marvel;

Her ethereal hands are the mantle

That blesses our lonely planet.

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Sublime nature!
Image by David Mark from Pixabay.

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Journeying Backwards and Forwards and Sideways

 “The time scheme of the epic is somewhat puzzling to us who are habituated to a mere horizontal sequence of events. Valmiki composed (Ramayana) as if he had a past tale to tell, and yet it was broadcast to the world by Kusa and Lava, the sons of Rama, who heard it directly from the author.

One has to set aside all one’s habitual notions of movement and get used to a narrative going backwards and forwards and sideways.

When we take into consideration the fact that a king ruled for sixty thousand or more years, enjoying an appropriate longevity, it seems quite feasible that the character whose past or middle period is being written about continues to live and turns up to have a word with the historian.”

An excerpt from R.K Narayan’s book ‘Gods, Demons and Others’, Chapter 3, Valmiki

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The myths, the legends, the folktales, the epic victories and defeats, the deaths and rebirths simplify the reality of the extraordinary spirit – confounded and weakened often by tribulations or lulled by indolence – that resides within us all.

These stories take myriad routes, journeying from the world of Gods to the world of Demons, concluding on a high and happy note, introducing one to the game of life, entrusting then the secrets to win.

Every emotion makes an appearance here; ego clashes until it shatters to accept change; Gods create obstacles almost breaking one’s spirit, but blesses the resilient one in the end with immortality and splendour.

These unfathomable, and at times a bit ridiculous, tales are the means to measure the unfathomable, ridiculous reality we live in; these tales, the bases of our culture, our rituals and an amalgamation of past societies, lead us.

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Journeying through the circle of life.
[Image from Pixabay.]

Splendidly well-adjusted to change, it accepts deletions, additions, revisions without much hullaballoo. It revels in various versions and shades read throughout the country. Same gods-goddesses, demons, sages, avatars… often playing different roles, but embarking on similar journeys.

Written in a playful and ambitious tone these valued legends, retold by storytellers in every generation, are our inheritance; it holds a secret for every tenacious individual.

It is not a particular theme that is the moral of the story here but the journey, the journey with its endless possibilities and absurdities, twists crafted by the capricious fate and the supremacy of time that gives us insight into our understanding of life.

And such has been the role of the myths, legends and epics and of course, the storytellers and it continues.


The renowned author R. K Narayan’s Gods, Demons and Others is an interesting and engaging read, one that opens the gates to Indian mythology for one and all.


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The Fall – Seeing Through a Screenwriter’s Eyes

“Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Stories – every well-told journey – give us a chance to understand different characters – the hero as well as the villain. But who wants to partake in the villain’s journey…? And yet we do, very keen to know her fate. We are thrilled, appalled and disgusted to see her commit a crime, knowing faintly and accepting quietly the destined end.

Stories are cathartic and a key to understanding the difficult, the “stranger than fiction” reality.

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The Darkness Falls…
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

The Fiction Route

A crime thriller TV series set in Northern Ireland, The Fall, is about senior investigating officer Stella Gibson’s search for a serial killer, Paul Spector, who is targeting white young professional women in the capital city of Belfast.

The show is very well written, interestingly shot and credibly performed; a multi-layered plot and pacy structure make it an engaging watch.


Series 1, Episode 1 Analysis

The episode one is titled ‘Dark Descent’ and indeed the darkness falls engulfing not only the protagonist but also the antagonist, for the serial killer’s identity is revealed to us from the very start.

When we see Stella Gibson, who works for the MET (UK), working on an unsolved murder case, we also see the murderer visiting his next victim’s house. He is way ahead of the protagonist and is ready to attack again; the audience knows more than the protagonist and thus, stays engaged to know even more.

What is fascinating is that we are not told much about Stella Gibson’s personal life, rather the questions are left unanswered to be solved by the viewers gradually and thus, she remains Metropolitan Police Superintendent Stella Gibson who is smart, strict and brutal when it comes to dealing with murderers.

And on the other hand, we meet the antagonist, Paul Spector’s entire family – his wife and his two lovely children. Yes, the serial killer is a family man and not only that, but he is also a Grief Counsellor (a form of psychotherapy). We are repeatedly shown how particular he is about things in his personal and professional life, quiet in his demeanour, but always ready to pounce back if pestered. Paul Spector is an intelligent criminal.

These details show what Stella Gibson is up against, it makes the antagonist stronger, raises tension and keeps the viewer on edge.

One does not see scenes of murder or violence scattered impractically in this series, but the fact that a serial killer is on the loose, someone whose psychology the audience has now started to understand, creates another level of dreadful yet gripping mood.

We understand that two equally clever and fierce personalities are steadily moving towards each other, but we also get to know that the other characters, the side tracks, will come in their way – either to help or to obstruct. Such intricately are all the characters crafted that they stay with you.

One such character is Olivia, Paul Spector’s little daughter, who gets night terrors and is unable to sleep properly. In the first episode, it is established that Olivia is a bit too sensitive and picks on small things. In another scene, one of Paul’s patients, who recently lost his son and had come for counselling, tells him that his son died because “a son has to pay for the sins of his father”. Though Paul does not agree with him, we understand that this scene is a foreshadowing of what is yet to come.

In the first episode, Stella Gibson finds out a link between the case she is investigating and another murder case but struggles to convince her seniors that they are chasing a serial killer and not just a murderer.

Meanwhile, Paul Spector executes his plan, the darkness within overpowers him completely.

Gillian Anderson as Stella Gibson, Jamie Dornan as Paul Spector.
[Source – fanart.tv]

Highlights

  • The multi-layered storyline unfolds bit by bit, not at all diminishing its impact in any way.
  • The antagonist’s world is drawn with much more clarity than the protagonist’s, allowing the audience to know the villain’s psychology and to maintain a mystery around the hero.
  • Every subplot is in one way or the other linked to either the hero or villain, thus, keeping the interest alive throughout the show.
  • Both the hero and villain are presented as vulnerable characters; both have weaknesses and can be defeated.
  • The grey side-characters give the show a realistic feel.
  • While mobiles, laptops and cameras in a thriller can make things too simple, here the advance technology only supports the story and does not override it.
  • The gritty, ominous music that sparingly plays in the background adds to the overall tone of the show.

The Fall, a character as well as a plot-driven show, is an engrossing watch that leaves you wondering about how psychological complexes possess a human mind.


The Fall

Written by Allan Cubitt; Directed by Jakob Verbruggen and Allan Cubitt

Watch the tailer –


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