“The simplest meaning of the word sutra is “thread”. A sutra is, so to speak, the bare thread of an exposition, the absolute minimum that is necessary to hold it together, unadorned by a single “bead” of elaboration. Only essential words are used. Often, there is no complete sentence-structure. There was a good reason for this method. Sutras were composed at a period when there were no books. The entire work had to be memorized, and so it had to be expressed as tersely as possible Patanjali’s Sutras, like all others, were intended to be expanded and explained. The ancient teachers would repeat an aphorism by heart and then proceed to amplify it with their own comments, for the benefit of their pupils. In some instances these comments, also, were memorized, transcribed at a later date, and thus preserved for us.”

From the Translators’ Foreword.

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Is it possible to ‘review’ poetry? Every time I sit to write about poems or stand to speak about poetry, this question confounds me. A friend sent a poem of his about 4-5 years ago and asked for my opinions. I read it, a critic would have perhaps trashed it owing to its form. I asked my poet friend if he had written what he thought of and what he thought like. He said yes. I told him it was good. With poems as with any other form of writing, I try to see through the feelings and the honesty in expressing them. If there is a match, I am up for more from you. However, if I find a mismatch or if I feel that the work has become a matter of form over emotions, I am turned off.

 

“Two weeks after her sudden departure for California, Swami Vivekananda praised Joe’s detachment, as noted in a letter from Betty to Joe, written October 27:

He spoke of “Joe” and said you were the only real soul who had “attained freedom among us all,” including himself. You could drop everything, everybody and go out without a thought of regret & do your work, that you had attained this through thousands of reincarnations, he had seen it in India & here. No luxury counted, no misery (as in India) mattered – [you were] the same poised soul, etc.

“If I were a Devadasi.”

It is time to get transported into one of the most fascinating milieus and yet another brood of the notorious caste system – the Devadasis. We could have easily been talking about the age of romanticism where women dedicated themselves to deities and temples. As resonates through The Ivory Throne : “their lives committed in service of god, dancing and singing and preserving high culture in great Hindu temples of the land.” To add to the romance, imagine a vivid picture of the great shrine of Mahakala in Ujjain, which resounded with the sound of the ankle bells of dancing girls: The Meghadutam by Kalidasa.

There are times when while looking at a painting one is seduced into a different time and era. I often picture my silhouette in Kolkata of the 30s : a swarm of people moving at the speed of light, sometimes even passing through my silhouette yet the silhouette is held by the spirit of the times as if the latter were a painting. Let us float into the age of romanticism and call my perchance finding of ‘The Ivory Throne, Chronicles of the House of Travancore,’ a book by Manu S. Pillai, serendipity.