Draupadī’s Speech, Vastrāharaṇa: A Collaborative and Experimental Audio-translation

Fragment of a collaborative and experimental audio-translation of Draupadī’s speech following Vastrāharaṇa (The Attempted Disrobing of the Empress), as presented in the 2013 rendition of the Mahābhārat. Created in the module ‘The Practice of Literary Translation’ of the Warwick Writing Programme with Sumithreyi Sivapalan. 🙂

Draupadī:

Touch me not, Queen Mother Kuntī.

I will get besmirched.

I am no longer your daughter-in-law.

I am no longer your sons’ wife.

I am no longer the bride of the Kuru dynasty.

Now I am without husband, without name, without dynasty.

I am the fire that burns in the furnace. I am purity itself,

yet I feed on what is impure.

Today, in this sabhā, I have cried the tears of the women who walked this Earth.

Queen Mother Kuntī, Great Queen Gandharī, if you wish to save yourselves, renounce this sabhā and leave. Because this palace hall will break today.

I am no longer a human being. I am death itself, only death. I am the death of all the vile men present in this unjust sabhā today.

My curse is that, at this very moment…

Gandharī:

No, Draupadī. Do not curse. Do not curse! Forgive them. Forgive us. I beg you, forgive us!

Draupadī:

My curse is forgiveness in itself, Great Queen. If I have to punish, let it be in this lifetime. Every moment, they will suffer the agony of hell. Their pain will know no end.

Gandharī:

No, my daughter. The woman who gives life cannot give death.

In taking one’s own life, one annihilates their body. In taking another’s life, one destroys the soul.

When a person destroys their soul, that is called self-annihilation.

In your anger, do not act like these men!

Draupadī:

It is a woman’s duty to keep the house clean and it is a woman who purifies the house. It is a woman’s duty, as well, to keep this world clean, and only a woman can purify the Earth. I curse (that)…

still and edit i created of Pooja Sharma as Draupadī. the most fantastic performance of the fireborn heroine!

Fractals of Reality

🏵 “The Śrīcakra is the most elegant and complete representation of the complicated interplay of the gross and subtle factors that keep us bound in saṃsāra. The Śrīcakra is also the map to nirvāṇa. In addition to being a flawless map of the microcosm, the Śrīcakra is also an unparalleled representation of the macrocosm.”

🔱 “The Trikoṇa symbolizes the primordial triad of Śiva, Śakti and the relationship between them, which is the source of all the other triads in creation, moving from the gross to the subtle.”

🏵 “The Bindu IS the Śrīcakra and is presided by Parāpararahasya Yoginī. To move from the Trikoṇa to the Bindu, the triad needs to collapse. The fundamental perception that drives our existence must shift radically, after which nothing will ever be the same again, and the cycle of saṃsāra comes to an end.”

– Dr. Kavitha Chinnaiyan

🔱 it is an absolute joy to finally be able to hold in my hands a copy of FRACTALS OF REALITY: LIVING THE ŚRĪCAKRA, the magnificent fourth book authored by my beloved Guru, Kavitha Amma. 💛 Fractals of Reality is a book brimming with beauty and wisdom, masterfully woven and expertly written. it is a practical exploration of the esoteric Śrīcakra (or Śrīyantra) that is immediately applicable in the daily unfoldings of one’s life, “as the map of the microcosm that reflects the macrocosm”. in this, “all of life comes together in a cohesive whole”, with the separation between the mystical and the mundane collapsing into one. truly a gift to the world, and i am beyond grateful to have the opportunity to delve into this exquisite vidyā – the treasure of treasures. 💛

🏵 what is more, the book is replete with astounding illustrations created by the incredibly talented Rashmi Thirtha Jyoti (Rashmi Thirtha Sacred Arts Studio), who fleshes for us hypnotic visions of Devī and of the Yoginīs that will undoubtedly mesmer all who encounter them. 💛

🔱 available on amazon, you can order your own copy here:

🏵 kindle:
https://tinyurl.com/392kn49p

🏵 paperback:
https://tinyurl.com/3ump9w74

śrī mātre namaḥ! śrī gurubhyo namaḥ!

🙏

Warwick Anthology and Re-introduction

#Repost @thewarwickanthology with @make_repost
・・・
Introducing the Team of Warwick Anthology 2022: Florilegium! 🌺

Meet Téa Nicolae! Téa is a marketing co-head and an editor of this year’s anthology. She joined the Warwick Writing Programme to delve deeper into poetry and literary translation.

Téa is a poetess and a scholar-practitioner. She writes devotional (bhakti) poetry and her research interests are Śāktism, Mahābhārata and non-dual philosophy.

Téa holds a BA in Film and Creative Writing and an MA in Philosophy and Religious Studies from Lancaster University. She is studying oral-practice traditions with Dr. Kavitha Chinnaiyan at Śabda Institute and is part of the Operations Team of ŚI. Her studies at Śabda Institute enrich her writings with the insights, delight and fervour unearthed only through practice.

🥰🙏❤️

Yajñasenī by Téa Nicolae

she who was born of fire

she whose beauty enticed even the sun

i garland thee

she whose blood spilled on royal floors of marble

she whose woe scorched the Kurus

i weep with thee

she who was touched yet remained stainless

she whose dishevelled hair holds the griefs of woman

i pray with thee

Draupadī,

she who cried the tears of the women who walked this earth

i am thee.

*poem published in Śabda Magazine, vol. II.

collage i made of pooja sharma as the beloved empress. her performance is etched to my heart!

ecstatic sculptures of the Devīs & the Devas at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

ecstatic sculptures of the Devīs & the Devas at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, one of the oldest museums in the world! 🤍 awe!

pictured:

• Śiva & Pārvatī tenderly embracing each other (alternatively titled ‘Umā-Maheśvara).

• Pārvatī as the enthralling Gaurī. Mahārājñī!

• the beautiful Pārvatī making the kaṭakahasta gesture

• Viṣṇu ruling with his śakti, Lakṣmī, seated on his lap as her throne (alternatively titled Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa)

• the radiant Goddess Siddhā holding lotuses

• victorious Durgā slaying Mahiṣāsura

• dancing Ganeśa

• yet another depiction of Durgā slaying Mahiṣāsura

• two sculptures of the enrapturing Viṣṇu

• Viṣṇu birthed as Rāma

Quick, quick, quick, quick!—the gates are drawn apart

Oxford, in bloom! a wonder to walk where the great C.S. Lewis & J. R. R. Tolkien walked. 🌸 i ventured on Addison’s Walk, where C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien & Hugo Dyson most famously discussed myth, philosophy and religion while pacing through the trees. Lewis recounted a walk of theirs to his dear friend, writing as follows:
“These hauntingly beautiful lands which somehow never satisfy,—this passion to escape from death plus the certainty that life owes all its charm to mortality—these push you on to the real thing because they fill you with desire and yet prove absolutely clearly that in [William] Morris’s world that desire cannot be satisfied.
(…)
The [George] MacDonald conception of death—or, to speak more correctly, St Paul’s—is really the answer to Morris (…). He is an unwilling witness to the truth. He shows you just how far you can go without knowing God, and that is far enough to force you . . . to go further.”
Lewis later wrote a poem about Addison’s Walk:
“I heard in Addison’s Walk a bird sing clear:
This year the summer will come true. This year. This year.

Often deceived, yet open once again your heart,
Quick, quick, quick, quick!—the gates are drawn apart.”
🙏
source: Justin Taylor. 💗

The Internal Freedom of the Mahābhārata’s Fire-born Heroine

Perhaps one of the most jarring episodes of the Mahābhārata, the disrobing of Draupadī has been etched to my mind since my first introduction to the epic. The story of the Mahābhārata’s fire-born heroine goes as follows: the empress Draupadī, an incarnation of the celestial Śrī, is violently dragged to the royal court after her husbands, the Pāṇḍavas, are enslaved through deceit. Draupadī is tearful, menstruating, and the Pāṇḍavas’ offenders, the Kauravas, attempt to enslave her. However, she fiercely debates them and proclaims her freedom. Enraged by her rebuttal, the Kauravas decide to disrobe her. When they mercilessly begin to pull her clothing, Draupadī’s garment endlessly unfolds, and she remains clothed — by what is presumed to be the grace of Lord Kṛṣṇa.
My fascination with Draupadī first began as awe of the female endurance she embodies. As a woman myself, I deeply identified with her pains, and found our sufferings to mirror each other. In my reflections, my being melded with her character, whom I felt connected to through the thread of shared female experience. I found comfort in her triumph. As I continued mulling over her story, I became inexplicably moved by the imposing testament of devotion that is showcased in her tale; in most renditions of the Mahābhārata, Draupadī, while being abused, earnestly prays to her dearest friend, confidant, and God, Kṛṣṇa, who, out of boundless compassion, answers to her calls and envelops her in his grace. It is a touching picture: as the men of the court hang their heads in shame, bound in silence and inaction by their royal vows, Draupadī, deserted by all, is shielded by her devotion to Kṛṣṇa — and her devotion is enough.
However, my greatest personal and transformational shift has occurred when, with my beloved guru’s guidance, I was able to deconstruct the tale of Draupadī’s anguish in order to delve deeper into the teaching encased in it. Before doing so, there was slight anxiousness in my heart: there was self-doubt, and there were questions; Draupadī had been ‘saved’ through her devotion, but would I be? Would I be saveable or worthy?
Indeed, my mistake had been not delving deeper into the teaching encased in Draupadī’s anguish by remaining stuck at the level of storytelling. The liberating conclusion I have reached is that, in truth, whether the empress’s garment endlessly expanded or not is irrelevant. The teaching veiled in Draupadī’s disrobing is that she was untouchable because she was internally free. The horror she was subjected to did not shake her internal freedom, nor did it dismantle her devotion. Throughout it all, she was rooted in her love for Kṛṣṇa, and immersed in her independent power. As she says in a recent rendition: “You cannot make me your slave because I do not allow it. Independence lies within me; it is not a piece of clothing you can snatch.” All along, the question was not whether I would have been saved; it was whether I could unearth Draupadī’s fearlessness in myself.
The Mahābhārata’s fire-born heroine has taught me that freedom lies within me. It is not given to me by others, and it cannot be taken from me. My freedom is married to my devotion, and my heart holds the keys to both.


This article has been published in the second volume of Śabda Magazine.

Collage I made of Pooja Sharma as Draupadī in the 2013 Mahābhārat. Although the TV series presents many distortions, her brilliant, fiery performance makes viewing it a joy for me.

Path to Devī: Detroit, UMMA & the Siri Jyoti Pūjā

i have had the great fortune to visit the United States for the very first time to be with my guru and saṅgha! during my trip, i had the opportunity to visit UMMA and i was mesmerised by its South Asian collection! not only are the sculptures magnificent in their precision and beauty, but their descriptive texts are poetry. attaching excerpts below. ♥️

1. Durgā on her lion mount

“In caves and temples, in metal and stone, artists captured the ferocious energy of the Goddess as revealed in her heroic victory [over Mahiṣāsura]. Here, her quiet grace signifies her boundless strength. Her round breasts and belly push forth from beneath her skin, indicating the distinctly feminine force behind her awesome capacities.”

2. Vārāhī

“She is boar-headed, and her rear hands would have held signature weapons. She has taut, youthful flesh and full breasts, signifying fecundity. Her crossed legs form a cradle, offering a tender sanctuary.”

3. Devī

4. Śiva as Bhairava

“Śiva’s sensuous pose and levity communicate liberation as a result of contemplating death in lone wanderings through vast cemeteries.”

5. Pot-bellied Ganeśa, endearing and gentle

6. Viṣṇu

“There is an intimate relationship between the God’s body and his sculptural surroundings: two arms are embedded in the plane behind him, while two project forward, echoing the curved bell of his hips. A garland unites the planes of carving in an elliptical halo, framing his body for the gaze of his devotees.”

7. Śiva

“Here, he is shown in his role as the divine ascetic or yogi, unclad but for an animal skin about his loins, with matted hair piled high on his head.”

8. Viṣṇu as Varaha

“The body of Viṣṇu’s boar-headed incarnation, Varaha, forges a diagonal bolt through this sculpture. His right foot is planted decisively at the corner of its projecting base; his left is flexed for leverage on a lotus pedestal. Against these rooting forces, his body surges upward, culminating in an acutely raised snout”.

days of sweetness, study, laughter & wonder spent in retreat in Detroit! it was an immense honour to be with my teacher, Kavithaji Amma, and her teacher, Sumitji – and a profound joy to be with my Śabdācāra saṅgha. these days have been monumental – days of belonging, of returning home.

finally… an ode to the Siri Jyoti Pūjā! it is difficult to imagine a more beautiful way to spend my first day in the United States than by attending the Siri Jyoti Pūjā (“the wealth of light”, pūjā designed by Śrī Amṛtananda Natha Sarasvatī), conducted by my beloved teacher, Amma. ❤️♥️❤️ to have offered my poetry to Devī & Nārāyaṇa within this pūjā has been most precious… overflowing!

“to sing and dance through the Śrī Cakra”… (Śrī Vidyā Trust)

The Siri Jyoti Pūjā, which translates as “wealth of light”, is an exceedingly auspicious ritual designed by Śrī Amṛtananda Natha Sarasvatī, affectionately known as Guruji. The Pūjā is described by the Śrī Vidyā Trust of Devipuram as a group ritual that is performed to the Śrīcakra, which opens one to the immense benefits of performing the cakra pūjā within: “Doing this enables us to enjoy life, sing, and dance through it.”

pūrṇam | wholeness

yesterday, we concluded three weeks of intense study at Śabda Institute. my beloved teacher, Amma (Dr. Kavitha Chinnaiyan), and her beloved teacher, Sumitji (Dr. Sumit Kesarkar), helped decode the esoteric meaning veiled within the magnificent Īśopaniṣad, and, with great expertise, made its heavy and charged verses applicable for us – as both householders and as practitioners. i was most touched by the chant’s invocation & by its teaching of wholeness, which inspired me to write a poem that i was greatly honoured to read at the beginning of our fifth class. 🧡


oṃ | pūrṇamadaḥ pūrṇamidaṃ pūrṇātpūrṇamudacyate |

pūrṇasya pūrṇamādāya pūrṇamevāvaśiṣyate ||


Oṃ is the entirety from which everything we see as parts has emerged. The whole remains whole even when a part is taken from it. The whole was born out of the whole. What appears as a part is the whole, and the leftover is whole. The whole cannot be split even when it appears so.
(translation by Sumitji).


☀️ my poem (written as a ghazal):


pūrṇam | wholeness


you were always whole
the grief on your tongue was whole


when longing cut like a knife
the woe stuck to your eyelids was whole


when anger brimmed in your belly
the burn of your cruelty was whole


when the sun washed your cheeks
the glee warming your fingertips was whole


when your heart cracked open
the light trickling through was whole


my parents named me ‘Gift of God’
what gifts are there when all’s already whole?


☀️ praṇām to our two illustrious teachers & to the vidyā they graciously transmitted to us in these three weeks. 🧡 the wonders of Śabda Institute 😊

reading my poem