Monday, December 23, 2013


"The children looked around and found a big bull in their room. On top of the bull sat a man who was wearing animal skins. He had ash on his face and his arms. He held a trident in his hand. There was a snake around his neck and what looked like a moon on his forehead. And a fountain rising up from the knot of hair on top of his head." 

I was reading out this story of 'Shiva plays Dumb Charades' to Amal one day. It seemed like a story written for kids by Dr. Devdatt Pattanaik initially, by the look of the book. But as I went on to reading it till the end it actually turned out to be a story meant for us, grown-ups ...

" I am Shiva,", " and I too want to play dumb charades with you. Guess what this is." He turned his palm down and stretched it in the direction of the children. 
What could it mean, the children wondered. 
"It means take this boon." 

Then he explains to the kids, how these poses- mudras offer various meanings. He turns his palm so that his fingers point upwards and stretches out his hand, showing 'Abhaya Mudra'. 

It means calm  down, do not be afraid. 
" do not be afraid of what?" Wondered the children. Shiva did not say anything. He smiled as he noticed A was deep in thoughts. 

He realises, Shiva is telling him not to be afraid of time, whether it moves fast or slow. Time does not move fast or slow, but it's relative to the state of the mind. When our mind is happy it seems to be moving fast and when the mind is unhappy, it's as though time is moving slowly. 
C notices that shiva is standing on top of what looks like a goblin.

"What is that?" He asked.
Shiva said, " that is the goblin of forgetfulness. He makes you forget. Do you remember what you ate day before yesterday for lunch?" None of the children could remember.  "No, we cannot," they said in unison.
"The demon of forgetfulness is the reason we get anxious and upset. When good things happen, we forget the bad things happened in the past. And when bad things happen, we forget all the good things that happened in the past. We don't realise that good and bad things follow each other just like waxing moon follows the waning moon. We forget everything flows in and out like a river."

It is then, that I realise the moon on Lord Shiva's head is like a cup, it is the last day of the waning moon before it disappears from the sky on new moon night. I don't see the moon, as the moon in the sky. It's the moon that represents our moods. We are all like the moon ; our moods waxing and waning like the real moon. We pray to God when we are upset and that helps us in cheering our mood.
It's in fact exactly like disracting a crying baby to something else and helping the baby forget its pain..

"Shall we continue with dumb charades or shall I give you another puzzle?"
"Okay both," said Shiva striking a pose. This pose the children knew, was known as Nataraja, which means Lord of Dance.

Children notice that the left foot was moving while the right foot was still and firmly placed on the ground. This was no easy dumb charades. Here Shiva points out to children that, the left foot is on the side of the body that has our heart. Heart is always beating and the other side is always still...things that keep moving disturb us..still we shouldn't be afraid f movement. 
Further he points out to the kids that the left hand and left foot are pointing to something else. In fact, both the left limbs are pointing towards a big giant wheel..which is moving constantly like the hands of the clock. This wheel is time which is moving, constantly moving ahead...why should we be afraid of the time then !!! 

The kids in the story are clever. They keep impressing the Lord with their keen ability to observe things. B notices that Shiva has two different earrings on his left and right ear. They come to know that on the left Shiva is wearing a woman's earring and on the right, he is wearing a man's earring. Kids are overjoyed to know that Lord Shiva loves both, the boys and the girls equally.

"And why do you hold a drum in your hand?" Asked E realising this was another puzzle

The children had seen the drum even before, in the hands of those men who trained monkeys, a rattle drum, to distract and control monkeys. Monkeys are very restless. 

"Can  you tell me which part of your body is the most restless?" 
A said,"our feet"
B said,"our hands"
C said,"our eyes"
D said,"our mouth"
E said,"I think it is our mind."
Shiva said,"E is right. Even when you sleep and your body is not moving, your mind is moving, dreaming of things to entertain or frighten you." The children realised that was correct.

I think to myself, yes the mind is just like a monkey-restless. That's why sometimes we are happy and sometimes sad. That's what we all do all through our lives. Shiva's rattle-drum is meant to train our monkey minds. 

Also there is fire in Shiva's other hand. Fire burns everything, all that remains is ash. It symbolises that everything has to end, what will remain is memories. We must use THIS time well and our memories will be happy ones. 

Snake around Shiva's neck answers the next puzzle on his body. It is a cobra. When does a cobra spread it's hood? Not when it is moving, but when it is still...isn't it? 

Shiva says,"I'm so still that even snakes can climb on my body and coil around my neck. They sit still because I am still and we both invite everyone around to sit still, not run around restless all the time."

By the end, the children were sure that their parents did not know how to play dumb charades with the Gods.. And I had found a new reason to re-visit the temples...not just to study architecture but to play dumb charades with the Gods...enlightened, I feel by the end of the story. It's surely not just meant for kids...!!

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