A bird just flew from the sacred southern shores of IN and landed in my vicinity, bringing with him two books which I had sought. I spent a good weekend, in that bird's generous hospitality, all tucked up in the bed catching up with my fast disappearing reading habit(while bird cooked and fed me and ran odd jobs for me!). It seems,I gave some trouble, to various stakeholders involved in my wish fulfillment mission(of book acquisition), but my gratitude I hope will make up for it :).
So, I read a nice travelogue book, 'Bend in the Sarayu - A Soota Chronicle'. Its an interesting tale of Authors journey, beginning in Delhi across the dusty lands of eastern UP. Author, an engineer by profession, goes on a pilgrimage of some sort to Ayodhya and Naimish. In the process are uncovered, customs of hinterland, fables from purana and (my fav.), lessons of life learnt from perceptions of those body-mind systems which are oblivious of an urbanized life full of fret-rush and push-push. Its a good peek into history/culture/mythology(very generous dose of it), of the land where Rama, a 'high impact factor character' in the Indian 'diviniscape' was born. Some chapters were set in villages and described rural life, they were so enchanting and the characters so emotive that I was totally moved. Some premchand's traits there in story-telling, perhaps!
Even as I knew most puranic stories told there, some of my impressions about North indian 'mytho-scape' were challenged, esp. when I discovered, much to my chagrin that Varaha avatar is worshiped in Eastern UP. I was under the impression that, the erstwhile puranic gods had more or less left the popular imagination of Indo Gangetic plain, as north indians today mostly worship Rama Krishna,Shiva and Durga and hanuman. Some descriptions of Bairagi(vairagi) brought to my mind descriptions of Sant Mat and Udasi Sampradayas etc.
In the puranic lore, Soota is the traditional story teller. Author pictures himself as Soota in the book. But I would say, Soota of the book willy-nilly creates a sutra, yes a sutra which he then adorns, by plucking flowers from all traditions of India(from kamban to tulasi), and creates a floral garland. That sutra is devotion. Cant help thinking of akshar-manamalai, considering, that author ends the book with Upadesa Saram. Good Read!
Since, we are at Rama, here is chaupai from RCM, that my mother used to sing to me often, its from Beauty-Kand.
प्रबिसि नगर कीजे सब काजा। हृदयँ राखि कौसलपुर राजा।
गरल सुधा रिपु करहिं मिताई। गोपद सिंधु अनल सितलाई।।
गरुड़ सुमेरु रेनू सम ताही। राम कृपा करि चितवा जाही।
अति लघु रूप धरेउ हनुमाना। पैठा नगर सुमिरि भगवाना।।
Here are some more details about the book.