Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Arda Vs. Aryavartha

Arda Vs. Aryavartha

The juxtaposition of Indian Mythology with Tolkien's Mythology produces some very interesting parallels. However, I strongly suggest that they remain only those-- parallels, and I urge the readers against riding the current band-wagon of "everything is Indian".

It is interesting that Tolkien's literature doesnt have the words "God" or "Divine". His world (called the Arda, of which "Middle-Earth" forms a part) is a quite natural , matter-of-fact one where "magic", or "divine intervention" as Jules puts it in "Pulp Fiction", are as present as they are absent. The people depend on their own selves for protection and expect no miracle from any deity. But then there are Miracles and unexplained incidents. As for Elves, that which Samwise calls magic, is what they call skill-- the same skill that wrought the Silmarils, rings of power and the cloaks of the Fellowship.

Tolkein, as is said by himself, wanted to create a mythology for England because it had none of its own. The central theme of Ainulindale and Valaquenta, the first two chapters of Silmarillion is the concept of One God, Angels, and a fallen Angel who turns people away from Good-- the premises of Christianity. But along the way, because of the robustness of the starting idea and the fecund imagination of Tolkien, the mythology departed from its starting point and took on a unique form of itself. It is a kown fact that Tolkien, a professor of Old English and a Historian, included also the elements of the Nordic mythology into his world-- the Elven language of Quenya is supposed to be derived from Finnish. Yet, the ancient pre-abrahamic nature-worshipping mythologies of the world are so connected that we can already see parallels emerging thereof between the two aforementioned in the title.

It is worthwhile to note that the powers of the world, collectively called the Valar (plural of Vala), are much more than just Angels of the Abrahamic religions--
Manwe, the King of Valar, is the lord of winds,
Varda (who in middle-earth is called Elbereth), Manwe's consort is the giver of light-- she made the stars and the ancient lamps that shone in Arda,
Aule is lord of all the Arda's crust-- Mountains, plains, etc,
Yavanna, Aule's consort holds dominion on all things that green and growing,
Ulmo is the lord of waters, and so on...
In a single sentence, they are powers of nature, the equivalent of the 33 deities of Rig Veda suggesting a polytheistic nature resembling those of Greeco-Roman or Nordic Mythos.

Yet, there is a deeper similarity than this: Silmarillion begins (I think) with:
"In the beginning there was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Illuvatar". Illuvatar is of course the name for "God" in Tolkien's Myth and then the story continues saying that He created the Ainur, of who, the Valar are the more powerful ones. This should immediately lead us to the concept of "Henotheism"-- the Vedic religion, and the Indian religion right now, demanded a seperate kind of term to describe them-- They are polytheistic on the outer side, but the concept of "One" forms the underlying matrix for all theories that emanate out of them. Also, note that the conept of "One" is absent from Greeco-Roman and Nordic Mythologies.

Secondly, Ainulindale-- "The Music of the Ainur" is said to have made the world. The One gave them a theme to sing and when they sang it, the world materialised out of their song. This, as Indians, we can relate to the concept of "aadi naada"-- the eternal anaahata (meaning that which doesnt make a "sound") rhythm that existed before eternity.

And lastly, if you look at the map of Arda in the First Age (which resembles a real-world map), you will find that the land of Hildorien, where Men woke up first i.e., created, lies exactly where India is. Well, well...Ahem! No comments.

well, actually 2 final comments:

1) Alas that people talk of "the others" in the same breath as Tolkien!
2) Since I am not a scholar, I dont have to bother about copyrights (or copylefts) of this very important article.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Of Caradhras and Tom Bambadil

All the characters in LOTR are divided into two camps-- powers of light and justice symbolising the good and powers of darnkess symbolising the bad. One one level, this seems very much like the wars of Aryas and Dasyus and Devas and Asuras highlighted in Rig Veda, though it might take a different kind of post to delve into the similarities between Tolkienian world called "middle earth" and the world described in the Rig Veda.

Only two characters of LOTR are mysterious in their aspect of siding with no one-- they serve no master and they have none to do them homage.

One of them is Tom Bombadil and the other, Mount Caradhras. In the movie, Tom is of course conspicuous by his absence but Caradhras by himself is shown powerless -- Saruman is shown chanting curses from the top of the Orthanc tower to cause the snowfall on Caradhras. In the book, Caradhras has his own personality and it is told that he does not like humans (men) climbing him, so he causes snowfall on his own. Yet, he is not in league with Sauron. He simply doesnt want any man to cross him, and he doesnt care about the tidings of the world. This actually makes sense because He was there even before Morgoth, the master of Sauron corrupted the earth, and He knows He will be there even after the dominion of Sauron, though Sauron were to regain the One and his rule lasted an eternity.

On the other hand, Tom is shown to be indifferent to the power of the One Ring, or rather, the One has no power over him. He is shown to be happy in his own place with his "goldberry" by his side and he is a gentle, humane, and good and he is said to be "the eldest" (curiously, the same title is conferred by Galadriel to Treebeard). Yet, he is not on the side of elves, dwarves or men though he will help those in his land at need.

Some feel that the inclusion of Tom Bombadil is the only weak link in the most robust "true fiction" produced in the twentieth century. The song and story of Tom Bombadil was written by Tolkien for kids before he began writing LOTR, and then, for some reason that either I dont know or dont remember, he included it in the story. When Frodo reaches Rivendel and the council of Elrond begins, Tolkien promptly covers his tracks by saying that its not wise to give Tom the responsibility of guarding the One Ring because he would be negligent and might throw it away simply because he is unaffected by it. Hmm... Convincing?

There are many theories about who Tom Bombadil is, the most popular being one that associates Tom with Aule and Goldberry with Yavanna, though that has been disproved by some.

Nevertheless, we do see that there are striking similarities between the way the two are dealt with-- showing that there are many other powers in the world that are either good or bad by nature, though it is not necessary that they be in league with the respective "eponymous" powers.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Vande Mataram

1) Vande Mataram Traditional, in Desh.

2) Vande Mataram rendition by Sudha Raghunathan,in traditional Desh tune (with her own spin).

3) Vande Mataram from Anand Math (1951) (I am afraid this is not the original song sung by Hemant Kumar et al).

4) Vande Mataram in Khambavati by a seemingly young Mogubai Kurdikar (Mother of Kishori Amonkar).. a very old recording-- 1947.

5) Vande Mataram in Brindavani Saranga by Vishnupant Phagnis.. this is older-- 1920s.

6) Vande Mataram in kafi by Omkarnath Thakur. Again, very old-- 1938-39.

7) Vande Mataram from "Vande Mataram" album by A.R.Rahman -- Traditional, in Desh with wonderful Saxophone by Chris "Snake" Davis.