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Archive for April, 2013

In keeping with the ethnic Indian thread, I here present a recipe for Indian food. And, before you ask, the Naga in the recipe refers to chili peppers. This variety is known as Bhut Jolokia in India, but in American parlance is Ghost Pepper. It is reputed to be the very hottest chili pepper in the whole world!

Chicken Naga Curry
(with thanks to the Curry Frenzy web site)

Ingredients
2 Chicken Breasts, diced
1 cup Masala Gravy (recipe is on the web site)
1/4 of an Onion, finely chopped
2 tsp Curry Powder
24 Naga Chilies
4 cloves Garlic, crushed
2 inches Ginger Root, grated
5 Tb Vegetable Oil
4 Tb Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
1 Tb Coriander Leaves, whole

Instructions
1) Puree the chilies in a blender (I assume you stem and seed them first) and form into a paste with the curry powder and some of the vegetable oil.
2) Fry the onion in the remaining oil until it begins to look transparent. Add the garlic and ginger, and fry 5 minutes more.
3) Add the chopped chicken and fry until lightly browned.
4) Now add the chili/curry paste and stir for 30 seconds to coat the chicken.
5) Add the gravy, reduce temperature, and cook 20 minutes until chicken is done. Stir occasionally; add water or more gravy if the mixture thickens too much.
6) Serve over rice or with naan bread, sprinkling the whole coriander leaves over the top. Keep a fire extinguisher handy, and enjoy!

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Last episode, Skalah was paralyzed by fear and unable to help Jerromie against Vingrel’s assault. Now Urzel explains Vingrel’s true identity. Skalah remains unwilling to take action, and that sets him at odds with his companions.

You can download episodes from Podbean or my web site, and I’d love to hear what you think of the story.

Time notes: Introduction 0:12; Chapter Three, 0:55; End Credits, 12:07; Total Run Time, 13:30.

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Last time I recounted the origin of the Nagas, a tale that is part of the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata. I diverged a bit into their enmity with the god Garuda, but there’s still more to the story.

If you recall, Kadru was the mother of all snakes (including the Nagas), and she had made a bet with her sister, Vinata. Whoever lost the bet would have to serve the other. Kadru tried to cheat by having her children help her, but they refused. In rage, she cursed them!

Kadru’s curse was that they should be sacrificed in fire by King Janamejaya, who was the grandson of Arjuna, one of the main heroes in the Mahabharata. The king of the snakes was named Vasuki. When he learned of Kadru’s punishment, he made plans to save his people from extinction. Vasuki went to a famouse wise man named Jaratkaru and offered in marriage his sister, Manasa. (It might seem odd that a man should marry a snake, but remember, Manasa was a nagini, able to choose her form between human and snake or some combination of the two.) Jaratkaru agreed, and in time Manasa bore him a son, Astika.

All this while, Janamejaya had prepared a sacrificial platform and brought in the priests needed for the ritual. The priests lit the fire, kept it burning with clarified butter, and chanted the mantras. Then they began calling the snakes by name. The snakes could not resist the power of the summons. One by one, they came to the fire and were burned in it.

There were many snakes, so this must have gone on all the time Astika was growing to manhood. Finally, perhaps prompted by his uncle and mother, Astika took action. He went to Janamejaya in a human disguise with glowing praise for the sacrificial rites. Flattered, Janamejaya offered the young man a boon. Of course, Astika’s boon was that the sacrifices stop at once. Janamejaya must have been dismayed by this request, but he kept his promise and the remaining snakes were spared.

Perhaps this story explains why, in other parts of the Mahabharata, the Naga were intent on gaining immortality.

Coming up on Sunday, look for Chapter 3 of my swords and sorcery podcast, The Weight of Their Souls. Next week, I’ll be doing a school visit in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, which may keep me away from my computer. Until I post next, I wish you all happy writing.

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Much of the Naga lore that comes down to us is from the Mahabharata, an epic story cycle of Vedic and Hindu culture. In particular, the Mahabharata contains origin story for the naga race.

The great sage Kasyapa had thirteen wives, who were all daughters of Daksha, a prajapati or creation god. Two of these wives were named Kadru and Vinata. Kadru wished to have many children, while Vinata wanted only a few but powerful children. Kasyapa gave each one her wish. Kadru laid 1,000 eggs, which hatched into serpents, the ancestors of the Nagas. Vinata laid two eggs, which hatched the deities Garuda and Aruna. Garuda had the wings and beak of an eagle.

Although they were cousins, Garuda and the Nagas were destined to become mortal foes. Kadru and Vinata made a bet, and they agreed that whoever lost would become a slave to the winnter. Kadru enlisted her many children to help her win, but they wouldn’t do it. Furious, Kadru cursed them. Nevertheless, Kadru won the bet. Vinata, Garuda and Aruna became slaves of Kadru and the Nagas.

Garuda was obedient, but his anger grew into an eternal grudge. When he asked Kadru’s children what he must do to release his mother and brother from servitude, they said he had to bring them amrita, the elixir of immortality. Garuda set off, although the odds were long. The gods guarded their previous elixir with warrior deities, a ring of fire, a machine with whirling blades, and two gigantic poisonous serpents. Somehow Garuda made it through and seized the amrita in his beak but did not swallow it.

On his way back to his mother, Garuda encountered the gods Vishnu and Indra. Vishnu promised to make Garuda immortal if he would serve as Vishnu’s flying steed, while Indra said if Garuda tricked the serpents and gave back the amrita, he would have snakes for his food ever after. Garuda agreed to both proposals.

When Garuda got back, he laid the amrita on open grass. Vinata and her sons were freed! But he told the Nagas the elixir would only work if they purified themselves at a temple before they drank. While the Nagas were in the temple, Indra swooped down and snatched the amrita away. Only a few drops were left.

The Nagas must have been furious, but Garuda had plausible deniability, and so he remained free. The Nagas tried to lick up what was left. They gained magical powers and long life, though not true immortality. Also, this split their tongues, so that all snakes now have forked tongues. From that time on, Garuda attacked and devoured any snakes he could find. Perhaps this is why the Nagas eventually retreated to underground domains.

Check back on Thursday for more Naga legends.

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The story continues as Vingrel gives enchanted mead to his unsuspecting comrades. What wicked scheme has he got going? You can listen on Podbean or my web site.

As always, I’d love to get comments on the story.

Time Notes: Introduction, 0:12; Chapter 2, 0:57; End Credits, 12:14; Total Run Time, 13:36.

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If you are like me, the first you knew of Indian myth was an exotic creature in the D&D monster manual, called a Naga. It had a serpent’s body and the head of a human. (I know, Naga aren’t dragons! But they’re pretty cool, and I’m going to cover them anyway. So there.)

Naga are a kind of creature like Elves and Dwarves, that have a long history in folklore. They appear in lots of stories, where they sometimes behave in contradictory ways. Also like Elves and Dwarves, Naga are not individual monsters but an entire race, separate from humans but intellectually equal.

Naga, generally, are snakes that can take human form. They seem able to choose what parts are human and what are serpent, so sometimes they are entirely snake, sometimes they are snakes with multiple heads, and sometimes they are humans with serpent coils from the waist down. Naga are immortal, demi-gods in Western terms, and many are skilled sorcerers.

A Naga man is called Naga, and a woman is Nagini. (If you were wondering, yes, this is where J. K. Rowling got the name for Voldemort’s serpent companion.) They dwell in a nether realm called Patala, and have been ruled by various kings and princes. Naga practice multiple marriage, with powerful Naga men having several wives. There aren’t any stories that I’ve found where Nagini act as leaders.

In part, Naga are nature spirits associated with rivers or underground caverns. As such, they are vulnerable when humans alter or damage the environment. In most tales, Naga are only malevolent when reacting to such depredations. Some also are treasure guardians, so perhaps they strike back to defend what is theirs.

Next week, I’ll recount some Naga legends, but on Sunday, look for the second episode of my podcast, The Weight of Their Souls.

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One of the great things about mythology is how it opens a window into the minds and hearts of people in far-away places. The legend of Indra and Vritra is a prime example of this.

Like many pantheons, the deities of Vedic myth reflect a time when people felt at the mercy of nature. For instance, Indra, King of the Gods, is a lord of the sky and rains, and his major weapon is a thunder bolt. This is very similar to Zeus, lord of storms, who is King of the Gods in the Greek myths which are familiar to most of us. Likewise Vritra, the terrible dragon, is a being of malice and chaos familiar to Western thought.

On the other hand, Indra’s advisor in the myth of Vritra is Vishnu — not just a fellow god, but a Supreme God. Vishnu is all knowing, all powerful, alpha and omega. Much like the Christian God of the Bible. To Western eyes it seems strange that Vishnu is supreme, yet Indra is King of the Gods. In our stories, the most powerful one simply has to be the leader.

Further, Vritra is created by Tvashtri, who has designs to overthrow Indra’s rule. But Tvashtri is not a fellow deity — he is a mortal priest who has learned great magic through years of study. For a mortal to conspire against a deity would be unthinkinkable in Western myth. In Greek myth, to keep with my example above, it is always the gods who go out messing with people.

I’m not saying I know what this difference means. Just that it’s a very cool and interesting way to look at the world.

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