Last night we had a phone meeting with colleagues in the U.S. By the time I could go to bed, it was already 11.00 and usually our neighborhood is wrapped in thick, dark silence after 9.00 in the night. I could consciously feel myself slipping into a dream when suddenly there was this horribly loud sound of drums from somewhere. Accompanied with some weird South Indian wind instrument that can wake up a sleeping Kumbhkarna. Rumor has it that this instrument (called Nadeswara) was made solely for that purpose in the island nation of Lanka (now Sri Lanka): to wake up the huge ogre Kumbhkarna who plundered and destroyed for six months and then took an equally long nap.
When Rama attacked Lanka to rescue his wife Sita, he had only monkeys as soldiers. But he also had one Bibhishana who had defected from Ravana's camp (despite being Ravana's brother) and joined an otherwise gullible Rama as the minister of espionage and military strategy. Some people draw parallels between Rama and our slain prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Rajiv was a deft pilot, but not a politician. Poor guy had to become the Prime Minister because the medieval people of India wanted to remain in Ramarajya (read "being led by someone of the Nehru/Gandhi clan"). Rajiv eventually died a dog's death. Rama, likewise, was good at archery, but that was all he was good at. By virtue of being King Dasarath's eldest son, he too had to take up the king's post. He didn't die a dog's death though. He had wily jackals around him.
Now Rama, with the help of his military advisors, was making inroads into Lanka, and Ravana's army was about to face defeat. Being a human being (and thus handicapped against the ogres) Rama was privileged enough to have the support of all the gods that you can think of. Now who doesn't know that a weak man needs support. You cannot blame the gods either. They saw this as a good opportunity to use a human being to destroy some of the ogres while they enjoyed strip-tease parties in heaven . . . more about those in another story.
Kumbhkarna happened to be the only hope of the ogres. He was huge, a little bigger than King Kong, and had a huge appetite as I already mentioned. He had gone to sleep a few months back and it was absolutely necessary to wake him up before the six-month quota got over. The ogres were badly losing. One wise ogre (with a white beard) figured that the only way to wake him was to create a noise that would pierce its way into his subconscious and jolt him out of his sleep. He got a black pipe and called the scariest sounds of the world and bundled them in the pipe. And where the drums and cymbals had failed, the nadeswara succeeded. Kumbhkarna jumped out of his sleep and started eating the monkey soldiers as if on trance.
That was how the nadeswara was born. Much later the ogres and the monkies of the subcontinent started using nadeswara as a musical instrument. An instrument that will shake you out of your slumber and make you stand straight . . . ready to attend to your duties, transfixed.
When I was woken up last night by this sound at the unearthly hour, I too woke up. Stood straight, as if in a trance. Went to the box of firecrackers that I saved from Diwali. Picked up a jumbo rocket. Dipped its head in petrol. Aimed it at the house where the celebrations were on. And fired.
Deccan Herald, Feb 03, 2006
Last night there was a huge fire at a house in South Bangalore. It is reported that 72 people died in the fire. The local residents and the firefighters could manage to pull out only the charred remains of the bodies. Not a single person is reported to have survived the fire. The cause of the fire could not be established as everything is burnt beyond recognition. The police, however, recovered a nadeswara which had survived the wrath of the fire. Some local residents claimed it was the first nadeswara with which Kumbhkarna was woken from his sleep.