In making my black jelly offering to Phra Rahu I learnt a Kata Bucha or (Gatha Pooja in Sanskrit.) Kata is the Thai term for an Incantation or Prayer used instrumentally in worship, veneration, invocation and magic. I learnt the Kata Prha Rahu Kam Duang to recite as part of my offering to Rahu from Ajarn Spencer’s online teaching. Phra Hanuman, presented by Jariya Laoriendee, is watching the ritual offering of Suriyan (the Sun) to Phra Rahu . Of course it in the tussle for the Sun (which the young Hanuman thought was a mango) with Rahu that Hanuman got his name – Broken Jaw!
Hiroyoshi Takeda, Shinji Kashima and I about to go on stage to perform my Cowboys and Indians: Tokyo Edition at Courtyard Hiroo Gallery, on 11th May 2018. (It was as if we had our own early Kaala opening!!) In this installation/ performance I developed my on-going theme of the mango in Indian mythology while engaging with Japanese myth and traditions via of the legend of Momotaro (the Peach Boy). During the performance, I presented an antique Momotaro doll and develop an association between Indian and Japanese symbolism centered on the substitution of the peach for the mango.
Cowboys and Indians: Tokyo Edition will be presented at Courtyard Hiroo Gallery, in a show titled ‘Home’ in the Expanded Field’ curated by and John Tran and Hana Sakuma. This exhibition explores ‘home’ as ‘a place that can be transitory, imaginary, and whose meaning is unstable or elusive’. I will present an installation/ performance around my on-going theme of the mango and the Indian myths that give meaning to this wondrous fruit. I will engage with Japanese myth and traditions via of the legend of Momotaro (the Peach Boy). During the performance, will present a Momotaro doll made by the Kyugetsu Company (esteemed doll makers dating back to 1835) in the 1920’s or 1930’s, and develop an association between Indian and Japanese symbolism centered on the substitution of the peach for the mango.
Once upon a time, an eternity ago, in their heavenly abode on Mount Kailash, Lord Shiva, Mother Parvathy and their children Ganesha and Muruga were all together in a moment of family bliss. The Sage Naradha, who is notorious in Hindu mythology, for creating dissension among the Gods, paid them a visit. Holding a mango in his hand, Naradha addressed the boys, “Lord Ganesha, Lord Muruga, this is the mango of knowledge or enlightenment (nyanam) . It is sweeter than amirtham or the divine nectar, elixir of immortality. It must not, however, be shared or divided. It must be consumed whole, by one person of course!” Shiva and Parvathy were perturbed by this divisiveness, but nevertheless Lord Shiva set the boys a challenge, “This mango, this Nyana Pazaham (fruit of enlightenment), goes to the person who is the fastest in circumnavigating the world.”
Knowing he must win, Muruga bestrode his glorious vahanam (mount), the peacock, and flew swiftly round the world. The ungainly Ganesha, God of Wisdom, thought for a moment before setting off. Ganesha pondered on his own gait and girth, and on his modest vahanam – the homely mouse, and asked his parents a question, “Amma, Appa, is it not true that the parents are the world for a child?” “Yes”, the puzzled but glowing parents replied. Ganesha continued, “Is it not true that the whole universe is but a reflection or manifestation of your Lordly selves?” “Well, yes of course, it is!” It was the only possible reply. Ganesha simply circumambulated Shiva and Parvathy, his father and mother, his whole world – the whole world!
Sure enough Ganesha won the mango. When Muruga came flying back expecting to win, he saw Ganesha with the prize. Feeling cheated by his parents, he flew into a rage and pierced Ganesha in the belly with his vel (spear) a symbolic attribute of the Lord Murugan (This unusual variation of the myth comes via my mother and grandmother). Disenchanted, he abandoned his family and discarded all his jewels and princely clothes. He left his abode in Heaven and went south to stand on Mount Palani in his loin cloth. To this day he stands there as a youth, as Palani Aandi or the Mendicant of Palani, a form of the Lord, dear to the hearts of the Shaivites of South India and the diaspora.
For the Cowboys and Indians performance at burning Man I shall present an antique terracotta icon of the infant Krishna. The icon was is a ritual object that would in its time have been used in domestic worship. It presents the infant Krishna bearing fruits. In his right hand, he bears a small purple fruit, perhaps a navel pazham or jambul fruit (Syzygium cumini) which is linked metaphorically to the Lord’s dark skin. In the crook of his left arm he holds a large ripe mango. This terracotta indexes the metaphoric equivalence of the Mango and the Jambul as attributes or representations or indeed flavors of the Lord Krishna.
In the myth of Krishna and the fruit seller, an old hawker woman selflessly satisfies the god’s desire for her ripe produce, even though he seems to offer her practically nothing in return. In folk representations of this allegory of desire (kama) and devotion (bakthi), as exemplified in the terracotta icon described above, the sublime mango often stands, metonymically, for the cornucopia of fruit in the old woman’s basket, which in turn represents the desires and delectations of the material life. This kama is redolent, or indeed ripe, with soteriological promise in that it can be transmuted into the bakthi of a selfless offering to the Lord.
The mango also appears in some versions of the Mahabaratha where, the now mature and more worldly, Lord Krishna miraculously materializes a ripe mango from a seed, while the fruit is out of season and then, turns it to ashes, thereby revealing both the illusory nature of reality (maya) and the complexities that underlie the idea of truth (satyam) itself. There are also variations of this mango of truth narrative in which, the mango is replaced by the jambul fruit (Syzygium cumini). A case in point is the Jambul-Upakhyan which is a contemporary expression of the Marathi folk tradition developed by the renowned folk story-teller and performer Shahir Vitthal Umap. Here the jambul which stains the tongue demonstrates the ubiquity of outward falsifications of inner truths.
The Koboi and family are off to Burning Man festival 2017 in Black Rock City, Nevada. This year’s theme for projects at Burning Man is Radical Ritual, and I propose to present a special edition of Cowboys and Indians. In keeping with the theme, this work will exemplify how, even traditional rituals are constantly being revivified and radicalized. This presentation consists of two images – Pazham Neeyappa and Indian Cowboy, as well as the Mango of Truth performance which will be carried out at the [The Camp with No Name] on the Black Rock City Playa.