Comics Based on Indian Mythology Go Mainstream: Virgin Comics

Posted on January 4, 2007
Filed Under Hindu Gods, Hinduism, art, comics, movies, mythology, stories | 1 Comment

What do you get when you put Richard Branson, Shekhar Kapur, Nicholas Cage, Deepak Chopra and his son, artists in Bangalore and all the Indian Gods, Goddesses and Myths?

You get Virgin Comics. Their “Shakti” line of comics seeks to tap into the pantheon of Indian Gods and Myths and blend them with modern storytelling. Inspirations include the Ramayana, Nag Kanyaka (Serpent Lady) and all the other myths that we Indians are so familiar with.

The new comic hopes to capitalize on the eastward-looking western generation which popularized Manga, Anime, Yoga and Tantric sex. Their comics seem to be off a good start too. Nicholas Cage is all set to star in “The Sadhu” – with a storyline penned by Deepak Chopra. Chopra’s son is behind the comic line, and the famous, such as Shekhar Kapur have contributed storylines to the comic series.

The new comics, which cost $2.99 each, are being rolled out in the U.S. and will be introduced in India this month. They will also be launched in some countries in Europe and Latin America in the first quarter

I will be very interested to see how all this turns out. Maybe, God willing, my kids will grow up yearning for Shakti, Devi and Ram as much as I did for Phantom, Batman and Superman. The WSJ profiled Virgin Comics recently, and something tells me I will hear more about them.

V. Gangadhar – Slice of Life Archive

Posted on December 27, 2006
Filed Under Hindu Gods, Hinduism, mythology, stories | 20 Comments

One of the simple pleasures of a Sunday used to be reading V. Gangadhar’s column “Slice of Life” in The Hindu on Sundays.

I now get to to relive the experience, thanks to Rediff. The archive of Gangadhar’s Slice of Life provides for very interesting reader. He mostly writes about one-off topics related to his life in Ahmedabad, about the India of the past etc.

Here’s an excerpt from his article suggesting we celebrate Manmadan, the Hindu God of Love instead of Valentine’s Day:

Manmadhan was in the habit of shooting arrows made of fragrant flowers at his victims, making them fall in love. Somewhat like Cupid of Greek legend. Unfortunately, Manmadhan once fooled around with Shiva, the Angry Young God, who was not known to be particularly romantic. On being struck by the romantic arrow, Shiva reacted strongly. He opened his third eye, discharged the requisite fire reducing poor Manmadhan to ashes. I do not know when this exactly happened but it would be nice to celebrate the martyrdom of Manmadhan as our version of Valentine’s Day.

I guess that is enough linkage for you to waste a couple of hours. Have fun!

Soma: God, Mushroom or Vine?

Posted on December 20, 2006
Filed Under Hindu Gods, Hinduism, mushroom, mythology, soma, stories | 5 Comments

The Soma plant and the drink derived from the Soma, also called Soma is referenced in the Rig Veda and many of the other scriptures. This plant (and drink) find references in the Persian Avestan tradition too. Over a period of time, I think the same term started referring to a lot of different plants. Soma, the drink, is the Indian equivalent of Ambrosia – the drink of the Gods.
In the Vedas, drinking soma is said to make one happy, satisfied, and even immortal. In the modern world we live in, no one seems to have a very clear idea of which plant is actually the Soma plant. One opinion is that it is a mushroom that grows in the dark. Amanita Muscaria is one such mushroom with psychotropic properties. The book Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality, (Ethno-Mycological Studies) describes the Soma mushroom and the ethnic connotations in various cultures, primarily the Persian and Vedic cultures.

In modern Hindu tantric practices in the southern state of Kerala, however, Soma is a different quantity. The botanical name of Soma is `Sarcostemma Brevistigma`. It is a creeper(vine) that is commonly found in the Western Ghats of South India. The stem is used to make the Somarasa for many yagas in Kerala. The King of Kollengode, an erstwhile principality in Kerala, is obliged to supply the soma stems for yagas. It is described in the book Agni by Frits Stall. Agni: The Vedic Ritual of the Fire Altar. 2v. rep. with all tapes

The search for the Soma plant continues — if someone were to find it, as described in the Veda and the Avesta, it would bestow immortality, the light of knowledge/awareness, and heal many ills(according to Susrutha and the Atharva Veda). In later Hinduism the Soma was replaced by the Rhubarb plant due to Soma being unavailable. Susrutha also mentions that the best Soma can be found in Kashmir and the Upper Indus region.

There is also a mythological god Soma, who was depicted as a bull or bird, and sometimes as an embryo. What is interesting is that he is never shown as a mature adult. In Hinduism, the god Soma evolved into a lunar deity, and became associated with the underworld. The moon is the cup from which the gods drink Soma, and so Soma became identified with the moon god Chandra. This explains why in Hindi, “Somvar” means “Monday”. A waxing moon meant Soma was recreating himself, ready to be consumed. Soma had twenty-seven wives all of whom were daughters of the great King Daksha (the Daksha who conducts the Daksha yaga, father of Dakshayani or Parvati), who felt he paid too much attention to just one of his wives, Rohini (the star). He cursed him to wither and die. His wives would have none of that and so they intervened and the death became periodic and temporary. Soma is perpetually condemed to die and be reborn once every 28 days.
The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell (Perennial Classics)
To add to the confusion, there is a drug called Soma, and some contend that Soma is nothing but the common Marijuana plant. I find the concept of Soma very alluring – does it suggest that the ancients had knowledge of hallucinogenics, and the “awakening” they speak of is the same as Huxley’s Doors of Perception being opened wide?

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