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Krishna Plays Holi





Now, Krishna was growing into a handsome young boy, tall and slender, dark as the monsoon clouds. And the gopis, the young milkmaids, who had doted on him as a boy, found themselves falling in love with him all over again.

They felt his presence everywhere. When they were out collecting water they heard him the fields with his cows. At home when they looked into the mirror they saw him smiling back, his eyes twinkling with mischief. When they churned butter, their bangles sang to tune of his flute. And when his flute called them, they went to him dropping all their chores, thinking of nothing but him. They would find him by the river, leaning against a pipal tree playing his flute and they would sit by his feet for hours losing themselves in his divine magic.

The lovely Radha would come along too and Krishna would watch her watching him. They shared an unspoken bond, an unconditional gopislove, a belonging that transcended time and space. He found himself melting into her loveliness.

And despite his sway over all of Vrindavan and his many victories, in those moments Krishna felt inadequate. He was just a boy after all, dark skinned and akward and Radha was a woman, lovely and fair like the full moon.

It upset him and he didn’t quite know why. So one evening, he spoke to Yashoda, his mother, as she was serving him his meal, ‘Why is it that I am so dark and Radha so fair?’ as casually as he could.

Yashoda smiled in her wisdom. She could see the torment in his eyes. So she made light of the situation. How does it matter? She said to Krishna. It is only colour after all. Colour her any colour you wish, and she will still be Radha.

Krishna smiled at the thought. He would do just that. The next day he gathered his friends and together all of them armed with handfuls of coloured powder, ambushed the unsuspecting gopis on their way to the river. Krishna found Radha and smeared her with all the colours of spring and she became lovelier still. The gopis caught unawares, fought back by emptying their pots of water on the boys. And they all laughed and frolicked in this spontaneous sport, their hearts brimming with joy.

The eternal love between Krishna and Radha soon blossomed into a legend which is celebrated to this day with the same riots of colours and fun and romance.

Happy Holi to all my readers !!!!

colours of holi

Walking in the Footsteps of the Warrior Goddess


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Saptashrungi Devi

From the battle to the battlefield. Following on from the previous post, I am continuing the journey to the place where I was born, the holy city of Nasik. On the outskirts of the city are the Saptashrungi hills, a range of seven mountains that form part of the Sahyadri Range which runs all along the west coast of India.

It was here, in the foothills of these mountains, that Durga is said to have fought the epic battle and vanquished the powerful demon Mahishasura. Saptashrungi Hills

For many days and nights, the battle raged. Durga chased Mahishasura through the mountains, kicking a hole in one of the peaks in all her fury before entering the dense forest where she pounced upon him with her lion and chopped off his head.

Exhausted, the Goddess climbed to the top of one of the peaks and sat down to rest. And here she rests to this day, carved into the rock face, larger than life, eyes glowering, her eighteen arms brandishing the weapons gifted to her by the gods and smeared in Vermillion. She is Saptashrungi Devi, the Goddess who dwells among the seven peaks.

Saptashrungi As if in testament to the story, the head of a felled buffalo carved in stone sits at the base of the temple and the sky peeps through a gaping hole in one of the mountains.

The idol itself is believed to be swayambhu. Something that is not created but is manifest.  Of course, an idol as intricate as that could not just manifest but perhaps it is so ancient that the story of its creation has been wiped from the collective consciousness. What remains is the legend.

To the devotees, it is of little consequence. They speak of a palpable energy in the surrounding hills, the presence of Goddess in their midst as real as the hills in which she resides. 

Saptashrungi, the seven hills are also mentioned in the Puranas as one of the fifty-one Shakti Peeths, prominent seats of the Goddess, that are spread all over India. They are also the hills where the sage Markandeya is believed to have compiled the Devi Mahatmyam.

For ages, people have thronged to shrine not to be daunted by the extremely difficult trek up or the seven hundred and fifty steps cut into the rock that one must climb to reach the Goddess. Now a tarmac road leads your car to the bottom of the steps but my father still remembers the first time he went up there as a boy, way back in 1956. And I remember being taken up there as a child before the road was made.  An experience not easily forgotten.