'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Of Ballgames And Sacrifices

- "One day, the princes of Hastinapura were engaged in a ballgame; the ball fell into a deep well and they were wondering how to get it out when a stranger came by...."

- "Once King Rukmangada chanced upon a stunningly beautiful damsel in his personal garden; she was bouncing a ball playfully, her movements were so seductive that the (much married) king was hopelessly smitten..."

- "Princess Chandraprabha and her friends were at play in a garden when a youth by name Manaswi happened to pass by. He watched the princess throw a ball to her friend - her movements could have beaten a gazelle for grace"

These are a few of the references to ballgames in ancient Indian literature. Those were times when rubber was unknown everywhere except the Americas (when the Spaniards first encountered the Aztecs playing a ballgame, they thought the ball bounced so much due to some genii trapped within, says Wikipedia).

I have no idea what stuff those ancient Indian balls were made of. Leather would hardly give a good bounce. Perhaps they used some animal bladder (scandal!) like the Europeans did until proper rubber bladdered footballs came to be produced recently.

Perhaps, since Drona retrieved the ball for the Hastinapura princes by throwing blades of grass like darts, that particular ball might have been made of sterner stuff (like cork?).

The story of Rukmangada (as narrated in the Wikipedia article on him) has some parallels with that of Abraham - the hard to refuse (and impossible to justify) divine command to sacrifice a son, the willingness to go thru with it bringing Grace and so on. One gets a feeling: by the time the Puranas were being composed (from AD 1000 or so with the agnostic Buddhism in terminal decline), the majority among the Indian intelligentia had bought into the concept of devotion to an exclusive personal God who would make severe and illogical demands of his devotees and also reward - with an even more glaring lack of logic - those who complied. Indeed 'Periya Puranam', a work I referred to in the last post here, has an episode where a child is actually killed and (horror!) cooked by his pious parents, and then, Grace descends...

Note: Guess the Rukmangada story would be fine for Girish Karnad to mould into a modern play - the way he (re)created 'Nagamandala', 'Hayavadana', 'Fire and Rain' and so on... At least the ingredients are all there - irrationality, abuse of power, the supernatural element and yes, libido.


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