Decoding ancient epics: Essential points on Mahabharata and Gita

The Mumbai (Colaba) branch of New Acropolis had an interactive session yesterday titled ‘Mahabharata – The War Within.’ It focused on revisiting the age-old teachings of Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita (which is basically a part of the epic) and how we can inculcate them in dealing with our current problems.

Here are some important points of the discussion:

– Mythology is generally referred to as something that is a myth. However, the word is derived from the word ‘mythos,’ which means something rooted in truth.

– The teachings were passed on to the next generations better in olden times (despite no technology) than today.

– The incidents in mythology are symbolic. They can’t be taken literally. We misinterpret epics by taking them literally.

– The story of Mahabharata is similar to Troy. The story is interchangeable. The same is with Hercules.

Mahabharata-Gita– The theme of lot of superhero films is rooted in Mahabharata. The epic is universal.

– When Arjuna is filled with grief at the start of the battle of Kurukshetra, Krishna unveils his internal conflict.

– Kauravas are nothing but our negative emotions. They are 101 in number and not 100 because the number 1 signifies infinity.

– Hastinapur (where the story of Mahabharata takes place) is the city of elephants. Hasti means elephant. It symbolizes the city of wisdom within us. The war is constantly taking place between us (between the positives and negatives).

– When four horses of a chariot go in different directions, we need a charioteer like Krishna.

– Yoga is not about fitness regime. A Yogi is someone who lives in harmony and in dharma (the word refers to doing the right thing).

– Without Arjuna’s confusion there would have been no Gita. So, some amount of confusion is good.

– But it’s not good to be confused about your identity. It’s not good to not be aware of the higher self (atma) while identifying ourselves only with the lower self (body).

– One of the most important lessons by Krishna in the Gita is to remember that we are eternal.

– Why were Kauravas Arjun’s family members? They were his negative emotions. Hence, they were part of himself.

– We can’t work without stress. We are dependent on our lower self.

– One of the important lessons in the Gita is Karma Yoga. It means to work without thinking about the fruits of action. When you do a presentation in office for promotion, praise or raise, it is not Karma Yoga because you are attached to the fruits of action.

– When the disciple is ready, the master appears. What is the difference between student and disciple? Master or guru gives a part of himself to the disciple.

– Gita talks about our daily battles.

– To be spiritual doesn’t mean one should retire in the Himalayas. Krishna tells Arjuna to engage in life, not to go to vanvaas. The real challenge is to be at the center of the noise and still be yourself.

– Gyan Yog, Bhakti Yog and Karma Yog lead to the same destination. Also, over the course of time you will realize that following one Yog is not enough.

(Compiled by Keyur Seta)


Pictures: Khandoba Temple atop the hill at Deolali

The Khandoba Maharaj Temple or Khandoba Tekdi at Deolali (also known as Devlali) is an interesting mixture of mythology and history. As per a legend, it is believed that Lord Shiva took the form of Khandoba Maharaj to eliminate two demon brothers Malla and Mani.

After performing a lot of austerities, the brothers had received a boon from Shiva through which nobody could kill them. But they became extremely arrogant and started creating havoc on innocent citizens. Hence, Shiva took matters in his own hands and killed them through his Khandoba avatar.

Khandoba-TekdiThe legend goes onto say that Khandoba Maharaj, after killing Malla and Mani, took some rest at this place. That’s the reason why the place is also called Vishram (which translates to ‘rest’) Gadh.

It is believed that much, much later when Shivaji Maharaj was going towards north, he took rest at this place. Ever since, the temple was formed and it has been taken care of by Amle family.

Surprisingly, the premises of the Khandoba Temple start with a huge park meant for both children and adults. It ends where the steps to the temple, which is situated on a hilltop, start. The steps are wide and less in height. This makes it possible even for older people to climb them.

It’s an enjoyable climb due to it being easy and the view that it offers. One gets a peaceful and calm feeling after reaching the temple at the top. The entrance and the inner sanctum are well structured and maintained. The vibrant colours add to the beauty.

By: Keyur Seta

More pictures:


History of Khandoba Temple
Gita Saar on the way
Hanuman Akhada (place where wrestlers fight)
Almost there



Khandoba temple




The main idol of Khandoba

Khandoba temple-Deolali

Holi: The story behind the festival of colours

Holi is a Hindu festival but it is celebrated by people of al faiths in India. It known as the festival of colours. It is celebrated by colouring our friends, family and near and dear ones with various colours and water.

Over the years, the festival is also used to create all kind of nuisance and hooliganism. Since the last decade or more, it has turned into a modern big DJ (disco jockey) party where people have crazy fun.

I am sure many of them are not even aware as to why the festival is celebrated in the first place. Ask them and they will go blank.

Here is the story or legend behind the festival of Holi:

The story dates back to the mythological era when Hiranyakashipu is having the time of his life. He was the king of the demonic Asuras. He had a boon through which he received five special powers: he could be killed neither by a human nor an animal, neither indoors nor outdoors, neither at day nor at night, neither by astra (projectile weapons) or by shastra (handheld weapons) and neither on land nor on air or water.


Hiranyakashipu considered himself God and became very arrogant. He wanted everyone to worship him. However, his own son Prahlad didn’t consider his father God. He continued to be an ardent follower of Vishnu.

Hiranyakashipu showred Prahlad with cruel punishments but it didn’t break the latter’s resolve and devotion to Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu’s evil sister Holika thought of a plan. She had to cloak that made her immune to fire. She tricked Prahlad into a pyre and set it afire. However, the cloak got transferred from Prahlad to Holika due to strong winds. Hence, Prahlad was saved while Holika was reduced to ashes.

Hiranyakashipu’s anger rises as Prahlad’s devotion to Lord Vishnu deepens. He claims that the Lord is present everywhere (omnipresent). Hiranyakashipu points at a pillar and asks if he is present in it. When Prahlad answers in the affirmative, Hiranyakashipu breaks the pillar and to his horror, he finds Lord Vishnu in his Narsimha (half human, half animal) avatar.

Narsimha kills Hiranyakashipu in the evening through his nails (lion’s nails), thereby meeting every criteria of the boon.

In this way, the festival of Holi celebrates the victory of good over evil. The Holi pyre is burnt at night and celebrations take place the next day to pay tribute to the elimination of evil.

Wishing you all a very Happy Holi. May the various evils from your lives be wiped off this year and forever.

Review: Ramayana (Book 4) – Stand Strong by Shubha Vilas

Since last few years, author Shubha Vilas has been on a mission of rewriting the great Indian epic Ramayana in a six part book series. His intention is to present every little incident of the story in a way it appeals to the younger generation and provides them with wisdom to deal with everyday life situations.

After completing the first book, I was skeptical as to whether the author would be able to maintain the interest in the books to come. Today, I am glad to have been proven wrong. Vilas has continued the good work of the earlier three books in Ramayana: The Game Of Life – Stand Strong.

The story of this book focuses on Rama and Laxmana’s meet with Sugriva and its consequences. Sugriva’s life has been transformed into hell by his brother Vali. After an unpleasant mission in the forest, Vali develops great misunderstanding towards his brother. He kidnaps Sugriva’s wife Ruma and banishes him from the kingdom.

Ramayana 04 Stand StrongSugriva finds shelter at the Rishimukh mountain, where Vali can’t land due to a curse. But he continues to kick him daily without landing on it. Rama makes an alliance with Sugriva. He will help him eliminate Vali and free Ruma. In return Sugriva would help Him in His mission of rescuing Sita from Ravana.

The biggest myth Vilas has been able to smash through his books is that Ramayana is a simple story without many layers. He has once again put forward the deepness of the epic. So much so, that in this book, he has concentrated mostly on Vali and Sugriva than Rama. The story of the two warring brothers is surprisingly fascinating. Vilas makes it more interesting through the intelligent use of flashback.

The author has continued his own style of dramatic narration, which works again. His movie-like manner of presenting major as well as minor incidents regularly adds excitement. The very last portion related to Hanuman deserves special mention. It not only ends the book on a high but also produces the same effect that Bahubali generated whenever he shouted ‘Jai Mahishmati’ in the Bahubabli two movies.

But Stand Strong has a negative point which can’t be ignored. The portions where Sugriva introduces Rama with the chiefs of Vanarasena and later when he explains different regions for their search appear dry. You lose grip and also get confused with too much of information thrown in.

Besides, there is an incident that is more than questionable. When Laxmana angrily stomps into Sugriva’s palace to remind him of his promise, he kills a number of monkey soldiers while displaying his anger. Why kill them when they were just doing their duty? Besides, isn’t Sugriva your most trusted and only ally?

Overall: Stand Strong does what was required. The book continues the good work of the previous three books and makes you eager to read the next one in the series.

Review by: Keyur Seta

Rating: 3.5/5

Author: Shubha Vilas

Pages: 326

Price: Rs 350

Publishers: Jaico Books

Cover: This one is way different from the previous three covers. The sky blue colour and simple fonts make it look like a self-help book, which it is in a way.

Unable to visit your temple or Guru? Take a 360 degree VR experience and immerse yourself in devotion

The medium of the internet has provided us with the option of getting darshan of our most sought after devotional venues while sitting anywhere in the world. Now, with the latest advancement in technology, the merging of Virtual Reality (VR) has seeped into the idea of virtually visiting religious centers.

VRDevotee (VR stands for Virtual Reality) is a new technology that enables us to have a virtual reality experience of various temples and devotional events taking place in India. The experience is started by the company named VR Devotee.

Today, many people are unable to visit temples or places of devotion for various reasons like ill-health, old age, distance, lack of time and in many cases financial constraints too. The desire to spend more time with God is a constant need and it is satisfied to some extent through various TV channels. But the experience is at best passive.

Virtual Reality darshan of IsckonVideos only provide you with a recorded footage from the angle it is taken from. Now with VRDevotee, the experience is as good as being there. This technology enables us to have a full 360 degree view of the entire venue.

For example, experience the 360 degree view of the flower showering ritual at the Iskcon Chowpatty temple (Mumbai) on their website – and app – You will realize how much better it is than simply seeing a recorded video. The app gives a better experience.

But to get the best experience, one must try their VR headset. This will better your experience manifolds. The feeling being present at the place is at the highest when experienced with this gadget. You can buy it from their website.

Similarly, they also provide experience Sri Sai Centre in Bengaluru and Adiyogi Maha Shivaratri at Isha Yoga Centre at Coimbatore. They will soon have channels on Swami Sukhabodhananda and Dwarkadhishji Temple in Mumbai. According to their official website, they will be adding more channels and centers.

There is recorded content available and the company has successfully completed its first live VR telecast of the Flower Festival for ISKCON Chowpatty and has lined up several more of such events.

The experience of actually visiting a holy place or devotional center is, no doubt, the highest. But with the fast paced and stressful city life, it is always a welcome break to latch onto the next best option to unwind whenever one gets the time.

Learn more about VR Devotee technology in this video:

Get Value Based Education on Spiritual growth for FREE at this place

Ramakrishna Mission’s Mumbai branch has recently started ‘Value Based Education’ sessions for youngsters every Sunday from 10 am to 11 am. The basic aim of the sessions is overall spiritual development of an individual. It is conducted by Swami Shrimohanananda maharaj, who is also the librarian of the Ramakrishna Mission library.

Along with imparting knowledge, one is also taught meditation and chanting of Sanskri shlokas from ancient scriptures. The sessions take place in the air-conditioned Vivekananda Auditorium and they are FREE of cost.

Here’s more information on the sessions:


Today was the first time I attended the session. The topic of the discussion was ‘Vedanta in education.’

Here are the highlights of the same:

– Vedanta means the essence of the Vedas.

– In ancient times when people didn’t know the art of writing, knowledge was passed on verbally to the next generations.

– Vedanta says that man is a divine being. He is not just a lump of body. Soul is his nature. We all are one.

– When somebody asked Swami Vivekananda about the solutions to the many problems in India and the world, his only answer was ‘education.’

– Today, people are earning many degrees. But has morality and sense of purpose of a person become better? It has actually gone down.

– For example, a Commerce student is only taught to add and subtract. A lot of CAs (Chartered Accountants) are even hired by companies to manipulate (numbers).

A glimpse from today’s session

– It is a wrong belief that one’s only aim should be to earn a lot of money, buy a big house and have a big bank balance.

– Most school and college teachers teach in the same way. If you teach in the same way for 15 years and not make it more interesting (upgrade your teaching), how has it helped your students? They can get this (type of teaching) even in books.

– One should be greedy of knowledge.

– One should be greedy of religion. If you know your religion well but don’t study other religions, how will you respect them (other religions)?

– Foundation should be strong. Only then the building will be strong. The base of education should be to see your spiritual ideals.

– Nobody can dictate as to what this ideal should be.

– Vedanta is the only philosophy that can accommodate everything (every knowledge or faith).

Swami Vivekananda’s quotes on fearlessness

Swami Vivekananda, the patriotic monk, has been one of the most powerful motivational sources to have emerged from the land of India. Out of the many things he preached, the most prominent one remains ‘fearlessness.’ This is evident from his quotes that are widely available today.

On Swami Vivekananda’s 155th birth annniversay (12 January 2018), let’s revisit some of his thoughts that inspires us to be fearless:

Swami Vivekananda - 2015– Always say, “I have no fear.” Tell this to everybody –“Have no fear”. Fear is death, fear is sin, fear is hell, fear is unrighteousness, fear is wrong life. All the negative thoughts and ideas that are in this world have proceeded from this evil spirit of fear. This fear alone has kept the sun, air and death in their respective places and functions, allowing none to escape from their bounds.

– If you read the Vedas, you will find this word always repeated — fearlessness — fear nothing. Fear is a sign of weakness. A man must go about his duties without taking notice of the sneers and the ridicule of the world.

– The greatest sin is to think that you are weak.

– It is fear alone that is death. You have to go beyond all fear. So from this day be fearless.

– It is true that fear is the sure cause of degradation and sin. It is fear that brings misery, fear that brings death, fear that breeds evil. And what causes fear? Ignorance of our own nature. Each of us is heir-apparent to the Emperor of emperors; are of the substance of God Himself. Nay, according to the Advaita, we are God Himself though we have forgotten our own nature in thinking of ourselves as little men.

Also read: 5 inspiring incidents from Swami Vivekananda’s life

– Be brave! Be strong! Be fearless! Once you have taken up the spiritual life, fight as long as there is any life in you. Even though you know you are going to be killed, fight till you “are killed.” Don’t die of fright. Die fighting. Don’t go down till you are knocked down.

– Be not afraid, for all great power throughout the history of humanity has been with the people. from out of their ranks have come all the greatest geniuses of the world, and history can only repeat itself. be not afraid of anything. you will do marvelous work.

– The moment you fear, you are nobody. it is fear that is the great cause of misery in the world. it is fear that is the greatest of all superstitions. it is the fear that is the cause of our woes, and it is fearlessness that brings heaven in a moment.

– My child, what i want is muscles of iron and nerves of steel, inside which dwells a mind of the same material as that of which the thunderbolt is made.

Also read: How Swami Vivekananda attacked communalism, casteism, class division in one go

– The fear of reputation is stronger than the fear of death.

– This I have seen in life — he who is over-cautious about himself falls into dangers at every step; he who is afraid of losing honour and respect, gets only disgrace; he who is always afraid of loss always loses.

– All this is our work, our fear — fear, the beginning of misery, of disease, etc. By being nervous and fearful we injure others, by being so fearful to hurt we hurt more. By trying so much to avoid evil we fall into its jaws.