A Ramayana Festival

 

 

The Ramayana in Literature, Society, and the Arts

 

A Festival organized by

 

The C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation                           

 

February 2013

The Ramayana is a great epic which knows no boundaries of religion or nation. It has taught the values of life and behaviour to men and women over centuries, across India and South-East Asia. There is no finer example in the world of a multi-religious, international culture than the Ramayana. Scores of generations of children have watched performances and narrations of the great epic over 2,000 years, to learn the importance of an ethical life. This has been the cornerstone of the life of India and South-East Asia. Many kings in these countries have taken the name of Rama, cities and islands have been named after persons and places in the epic and symbols of Vishnu (whose incarnation is Rama) have been royal emblems across the region.

 

The story of the Ramayana is enacted more often than any other story of the world. It is performed by Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims. It is the most important cultural tradition of Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal and India. It has also been widely prevalent in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. The Ramayana is the great bond of culture which unites India and the countries of South East Asia.

 

The C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar Foundation is celebrating the role of the great epic in the culture of India and South-East Asia.

 

February 1 to 24        

Exhibition of the

RAMAYANA in ART

at  C.P. ART CENTRE

 

February 1 to 24

RAMAYANA in HARIKATHA, MUSIC and DANCE

at  The C.P. RAMASWAMI AIYAR FOUNDATION

 

February 1 and 2       

International Conference on

RAMAYANA in LITERATURE, SOCIETY and the ARTS

at C. P. R. INSTITUTE OF INDOLOGICAL RESEARCH

 

 

An international conference to research the impact of the Ramayana in Literature, Society and the Arts will be held on February 1 & 2, 2013 at CPR Institute of Indological Research (CPRIIR), No.1, Eldams Road, Alwarpet, Chennai 600 018, as a part of the RAMAYANA FESTIVAL.

 

All conference participants should be registered on or before October 30, 2012. While there is no participation fee, we are limiting the number of participants, so please register as soon as possible.

 

For further information, please write to the e-mail / postal addresses below.

 

Or call G. Balaji: +91-94441 54939 or Malathy Narasimhan: +91- 97100 49639

 

The C.P. RAMASWAMI AIYAR FOUNDATION                           

1, Eldams Road, Alwarpet

Chennai 600 018, India.

www.cprfoundation.org

Tel.: 91-44-2431778, 24337023

e-mail: cprafoundation@gmail.com; ramayanaconference@gmail.com

 

Photo:  Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain / Hanuman, Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana

Eye of the Wolf

In the scarred land

 

Under the wind-haunted skies

 

By the village that is marked on no map,

 

With no history, no tribe, no country.

 

Where the wind wails,

 

Through the worn

 

Windows of mud brick,

 

Past the edge

 

Of the gap

 

In the barrier

 

Wall,

 

Shining paws

 

Fall

 

In the shadowed circle.

 

Silver tails

 

Flick, flick.

 

Let us go quickly

 

Now, to follow

 

The call

 

Of the black plateau

 

Where the rocks stand

 

Tall

 

In the billowing

 

Grass.  It is better to go

 

To see the wide, white jaws

 

Of the wolf than to sit, sipping

 

Bitter stones in this village

 

Of empty

 

Eyes,

 

Than to sit by the torn

 

Stumps of corn

 

That crackle

 

Like pale scales

 

In the dry-finned wind.

 

Let us go quickly

 

Now, and gladly

 

Into the courage

 

Of the eye

 

Of the wolf, into

 

The brave-riven flame

 

Of the night with no name.

 

Where only the lone

 

Call

 

Of the owl-hooded harrier

 

Echoes

 

From rock to rough-rued rock

 

In the soul of the dawn,

 

In the song of the stone,

 

In the winged wind

 

That will fly through the open sky

 

And forever be gone.

 

Written around 2003

 

Photo: © Thomas Barrat / dreamstime.com

 

Wildflowers at Cedar Breaks

Colorado Columbines

By Tamara Dormer

Every July, Cedar Breaks National Monument located on Cedar Mountain, Utah, holds their wildflower festival to celebrate the blooms that grace this natural amphitheater and the surrounding woodlands and hillsides.  You can hear a ranger guide you to several of the wildflowers or you can take your own ramble through the two main trails.

Aspen Bluebells

 

This was my second time visiting, though this year I hiked both trails and greatly enjoyed the differences between them.  The Alpine Pond trail is a two mile loop through dense woods, going by a pond and a creek that you can hear, but cannot see because it is sluicing underneath the plant cover.  When you live in southern Utah, you live amongst sage and sand and rock and heat.  Yes, there are certainly desert flowers, but there are rarely bodies of water so what is on the desert is usually small and on the edge, always fighting to live and to bloom and to reseed in this harsh environment.  The flowers that live in the under stories of trees are quite different than the ones out on the open flats of sage, and this is a lot of what you’ll see along the Alpine Pond trail.  You’ll see lavender fleabane, columbine, scarlet Indian paintbrush, silver lupines, alpine bluebells, along with elkweed and many others.  But you won’t just see, you’ll hear—the songbirds that flit about in the woods, the scampering of animals in the underbrush, the sound of the water.  If you stand still long enough and listen and watch, you will see the birds and other creatures, including the yellow-bellied marmot, which I was fortunate enough to see, then watch for several minutes.

Curious yellow-bellied marmot

As you walk along the trail, which has gentle rises and dips in elevation, you can peek through the trees and see glimpses of the amphitheater; on different parts of the trail you can look out over meadows that stretch out into the distance, awash in wildflower blooms.  Being deep in the woods with moisture, shade, and wildflowers is a magic you don’t experience often here, but yet it is almost in the backyard of South Central Utah, about 70 miles from Kanab.  The day I most recently visited, it was 47°F (8 degrees centigrade) at nearly noon, overcast and recovering from recent storms—in other words, a perfect day for long hikes.  The recent rains had pushed the wildflowers further in their blooming and increased the greenness of the woods; however, what really makes the wildflowers rich and full in color and number is the winter snows that come to Cedar Mountain and then melt and trickle down in the early spring.

Wildflowers among rocks

 

The Rampart trail I’d never hiked until this visit, and it is quite different than the Alpine Pond trail, both in scenery, distance and difficulty.  This trail is four miles in length, with two viewpoints along the way; the Spectra viewpoint at the one mile mark, then the Rampart viewpoint which terminates the trail.  This trail goes along exposed cliffs and you can look down into the amphitheater most of the way.  The soil is harsher, a limestone scale that has smaller wildflowers that you could easily miss if you’re looking for big or bright or tall plants.  At the Spectra viewpoint, there are several bristlecone pines, the oldest trees on the planet; there is one of a group of three or four right at this viewpoint that is known to be at least 1600 years old.  Combined with the strength and deep spirituality that these trees exude, and looking deep  into the amphitheater to the incredible results of 60 million years of erosion, made me feel small and insignificant.  However, that is just a fact because compared to the planet and how it moves forward and lives, I am.  It is an humbling sensation.

Baby bristlecone pine

Continuing to the Rampart viewpoint you descend into woods, but the difference is that if you look to your right on the way out, there is the amphitheater and to your left are deep woods with a stream carving its way through.  Balancing on the trail, you are on the edge of two very different worlds, and if asked I could not choose a favorite.  On the edge of and throughout the woods, are the same types of wildflowers that you will see on the Alpine Pond trail and in the meadows, while on the right is the limestone scale going into the amphitheater with its smattering of wildflowers that are more alpine in their needs and displays, which usually means tiny flowers, low to the ground.  The Rampart view itself is right on top of some erosions that are very hoodoo-like, which brings to mind Bryce Canyon—in fact, the amphitheater at Cedar Breaks reminds me of a “mini Bryce”, which is one of the reasons I love Cedar Breaks so.  Bryce is probably my favorite canyon, but Cedar Breaks offers what I also crave which is flowers, color, and moisture.

A multitude of wildflowers

 

I urge anyone who’s not been to Cedar Breaks to visit, and July is a fine time during the wildflower display.  You not only see many aspects of nature there, but it’s a wonderful break from the heat that is going on at the lower elevations.  If you have been to Cedar Breaks before, maybe this will serve as a reminder to visit this place that feels like a secret; a powerful secret held in the bosom of Cedar Mountain.

 

 

 

Music: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Tinariwen, and Yanni

 

By Elizabeth Doyle

Whirling dervishes, traditional Sufi dancers

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan — Some people say that this man, with his six-octave vocal range was the best singer of all time.  Of all time!  I’m not quite ready to go that far, but he is incredible. He was a Pakistani who sang primarily Sufi songs.  Apparently, his family had a 600-year tradition of singing these songs, and Nusrat brought them all to new levels of fame, even recording soundtracks for major motion pictures. Tragically, he only lived to age 48. It was his liver or his heart or something; I’m not quite sure. But he certainly made an impact!  Click here.

 

 

 

Rock formations from Tambori, Mali

Tinariwen – If you liked the Sahara desert music from last week, here’s another band from the region. The Tuareg leader of the band comes from a refugee camp (Homelands of nomadic tribes of the Sahara have frequently been annexed by surrounding Saharan countries, which has resulted in refugee camps.) The band has a large cast of changing members, and they’ve really built their reputation through word of mouth around northern Africa. Many of the young men in the band have been soldiers, and they’ve used music to give a voice to the people of the desert. They’ve gained real international recognition for their exceptional work, they’re becoming surprisingly influential, musically speaking, and they’re definitely worth knowing about. Click here

 

Yanni

Yanni – OK, a lot of people make fun of Yanni. I think it’s the hair. Maybe the moustache. But Yanni is really talented. And Greece has every right to be as proud of him as it is! Back in Greece, Yanni taught himself how to play every instrument he knows, beginning at age six. He began writing his own music as a child. And he had no musical education of any kind. When he began making albums, he didn’t make anything that he had any reason to think would sell well. Instead, he made what he wanted to make. For a while, PBS (Public Broadcasting) was one of the only places you could see or hear his music. But he was so good, that he became famous anyway. He’s put a lot of the world’s music in the spotlight during his concerts, he’s known to be a genuine philanthropist who cares deeply about the plight of nature. In this video, he takes a moment to put the spotlight on a gentleman who can play a 3,000 year old Armenian instrument. Click here.

 

Top photo: diaz /Wikimedia Commons / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. / Whirling dervishes or Darveshes, Rumi Fest 2007.

Second photo:  Timm Guenther (Timm Busshaus) / Wikimedia Commons / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / Rock formation near Hombori, Mali

Third photo: Public domain press photo / Yanni

 

“The Illusion of Time” and a thought or two

 

 

A star-forming region known as N90. See credit below.

Brian Greene’s “The Illusion of Time, part of the series “The Fabric of the Cosmos” aired Sunday evening, July 22, 2012, on “Nova” on PBS.  Here’s a summary, followed by a couple of thoughts.

 

“Time is not what it seems…There may be no distinction between the past, present, and future.” Discoveries in quantum physics suggest that time is entirely different from how we perceive it to be in our daily lives.

 

All cultures, including very ancient ones, have found time fascinating.  The Maya for example calculated time with three different, interrelated calendars; for the sun, the moon, and Venus.

The Crab Nebula. See credit below.

 

 

In our search to measure time, the rotation of the earth and its revolution around the sun became our first clock.

 

Today, instead of measuring the earth’s rotation, the atomic clock measures the frequency of the cesium atom, which, in one second ticks 9 billion, 192 million times.

 

Asking the question, “Time is a mystery.  What is it we’re actually measuring?” Brian Greene recalled the work of Einstein.

 

For Newton, time had been absolute and immutable.  But with Einstein, time is experienced differently by each of us, and is affected by motion through space and time.  Time and space are linked, and one person’s time is not the same as another’s.  Although time moves more slowly for a person in motion, this is not something that we can observe in our everyday lives, but scientific experiments have proven that this is true.

The Orion Nebula. See credit below.

 

By an experiment in which a jet plane circled the earth and time was measured by atomic clocks on the plane and on the ground, it was demonstrated that time moved more slowly on the plane, which was in motion, than it did on the earth.

 

The sharp differentiation that we make between past, present and future is an illusion because, Brien Greene explained, according to Einstein, “Time and space are fused together as space/time.”

 

In a different galaxy thousands of light years distant, an alien who is riding on a bicycle away from us, would not (assuming that he could look at us through his telescope) see us as we are in the present; instead he would see us in the past – perhaps during the time of Beethoven.  If the same alien were riding towards us on his bicycle, he would see us, not in the present, but in the future – perhaps as we will be 200 years from now. So, says Brian Greene, “Past, present, and future are all equally real….the future is not non-existent….Einstein shattered the distinction between past, present, and future.”

 

Just as, in a movie, every frame already exists on film, the flow of time, from a past that exists to a future that does not yet exist, is an illusion.

 

Though we think of wormholes as something belonging to science fiction, Einstein’s equations actually predict them, and they would provide gateways through both space and time.  Perhaps even if we don’t jump into them, we might just peer through them as a window to view what is far, far away, what has been, or what will be.

 

One of the most puzzling aspects of time is that it is one directional, though there is theoretically no reason why time should not flow in both directions.  There is simply the fact that it doesn’t.  The laws of physics do say in fact that time could go backwards, so the question asked is “Why doesn’t it?”  If one drops a wine glass and it shatters, one can’t reverse the action and have all the pieces streaming back together again.  Our lives go irreversibly in one direction, which leads to the question, “What is responsible for the arrow of time?”

 

Entropy is randomness, meaning that everything has a tendency to move toward disorder, like the pages of a book that fall apart, but do not fall back together again.

Billowing smoke becomes disordered.  Degrees of messiness increase.

 

The Mystic Mountain in the Carina Nebula. See credit below.

 

This problem of the directionality of time seems to be solved by taking entropy into account. The arrow of time comes from the tendency of nature to move towards increasing disorder. If one goes all the way back to the Big Bang, one arrives at a highly ordered situation.

 

At a single moment at the beginning, all matter was compressed neatly into one single point, all precisely ordered. After that came the beginning of disorder.  The universe expanded and spread out.  It can’t be put back, like the genie can’t be put back into the lamp.  So, at the Big Bang, the arrow of time was given its direction toward disorder. “Time is a 13.7 billion year old drive toward disorder.”

 

Scientists, who used to assume that the expansion of the universe was slowing over time, had a rude awakening a few years ago, with the discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating – going faster and faster, and the galaxies are hurtling away from each other.  One day, our descendants will see no other galaxies, and the cosmic past will be out of reach.  Eventually there will be no movement and no time.  Brian Greene summed it up by saying, “The flow of time is an illusion…We are part of a far richer and far stranger reality.”

 

A thought or two

 

“The Illusion of Time” is very fascinating and brilliantly presented, though it does come to a rather grim ending. (We can’t, of course, hold scientists responsible for how the universe ends.)

 

However, interestingly, the idea that time and space are illusory is not new at all.  It is at least 5,000 years old – maybe 10,000 – maybe it is a timeless concept that has always been there.

 

The ancient texts of India describe time and space as illusory, as maya, having the appearance of reality, but not having the quality of ultimate reality.  We do not see the world as it truly is because of the veil of maya, just as, on a cloudy day, we do not see the sun hidden behind the cloud cover.  We do not see the true nature of time and space, until the veil is removed from our eyes.

 

Concerning the concept of entropy, long ago Hindu seers wrote that there are four ages – each on a lower, baser level than the last, until one arrives at the fourth, last age, the Kali Yuga, the age where we find ourselves now—an age of dishonesty, corruption, and negativity. This is an example of entropy – of traveling inexorably from order to disorder.

 

The concept of time as linear is, by and large, a western concept. In eastern thought, time tends to be not linear, but cyclical.  The four ages, the yugas, are one day in the life of Brahma, the Creator.  At the end of this day, Brahma goes to sleep, and then at dawn he awakens, ready to start a new day composed of another four ages.  Of course it’s somewhat more complicated, but that is a rough outline of what happens.  The four ages are one day in the life of Brahma.

 

This concept has a few things to be said for it – for one, it is not grim; for another, it has not only a poetic quality, but also a truthful quality.  And it transcends the problem of being stuck in a purely physical reality.

 

Brian Greene is a brilliant physicist who has taken us on an amazing journey into a strange world, a very thought-provoking journey.

 

Physicists of today are by no means limiting themselves to a linear view, quite the contrary.  There is the concept of multiverses.  (Brian Greene examines this in other programs, as part of the “Fabric of the Cosmos” series.)  This is the idea that there may not be just one universe, but countless or infinite parallel worlds; and one individual may exist in many of these at the same time or different times.  Have you ever felt that you were in more than one place?

 

A book that takes a look at this possibility is “2012” by Whitney Strieber.

It’s basically a horror novel, but if you don’t mind the horror bits too much (I did actually mind, but found the book intriguing anyway), it is fascinating reading.

 

Then, from another angle altogether, there is the legend of the Chinese general who lost a very important battle. It is said that the reason he lost the battle is that many years later, mistakes were made in the liturgy of his funeral.  The mistakes caused his life to be less auspicious and therefore led to the loss of the battle.  I suppose, if we are not too confused already, we could meditate on this as an alternate view of time and destiny.

 

In all societies of the past, ancient spiritual traditions recognized many levels of reality. There is the material level of everyday life where we walk along on our journey from day to day, but there are also the broader, more sunlit levels above, of mystical or magical realities from which we see with different eyes – seeing farther and more clearly—beyond the bounds of time and space. The things we cannot see from this earthly level, can be seen from other levels, as if we are looking out the window of an airplane or riding on a magic bird that flies above the clouds.

 

Photo credits:

“ESA/Hubble images, videos and web texts are released under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license and may on a non-exclusive basis be reproduced without fee provided they are clearly and visibly credited.”

Top photo: Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration / A star-forming region known as N90, on the outskirts of the Small Magellanic Cloud.

Second photo: NASA, ESA and Allison Loll/Jeff Hester (Arizona State University). Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin (ESA/Hubble) / The Crab Nebula. Observers in China and Japan recorded the supernova nearly 1,000 years ago, in 1054

Third photo: Credit: NASA,ESA, M. Robberto (Space Telescope Science Institute/ESA) and the Hubble Space Telescope Orion Treasury Project Team / The Orion Nebula

Fourth photo: Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI) / The Carina Nebula: The Mystic Mountain

For more Hubble images and information, click here

For more on the Nova series, “The Fabric of Time”, click here.