October 2 2017

Discovering Vishpala and the world’s first reference to prosthesis

Many readers have asked me how I discovered the story of Vishpala, reimagined in Avishi. Quoting one of my editors, stories find their tellers and have a unique way of manifesting. I strongly feel they choose their time and gauge the readiness of the story teller too. Back in 2012, when I was struggling with an early draft of Abhaya, I got some feedback about breathing life into the characters. I was advised to meditate upon the daily life of the characters outside the story and the plot. This is an advice I value dearly and follow even today.

Once, I was writing a scene of Abhaya where the protagonist is a 6 year old toddler demanding her father to tell her stories while he fed her. What kind of stories would a father who is a King and a warrior tell his only daughter? He would want to inspire her with stories of valor too. As Abhaya was set in the times of Mahabharata, this story had to be older. I thought of warrior women from Ramayana. Kaikeyi did not offer a positive side to be narrated to a six year old. Savitri’s story had adventure, romance and philosophy but seemed too terse. It was then that I turned to the oldest book of India, the Rig Veda. The surprises that Rig Veda threw at me would make for quite a few posts! One of them was this warrior called Vishpala (Vishapala where Visha referred to a settlement and Pala referred to the one who headed it).

Vishpala is mentioned in one of the hymns dedicated to the divine healers and miracle workers called Asvinas. The hymn extols them for granting a prosthetic leg to Vishpala when she lost her leg in a battle. (Speculated as an iron leg by the 19th Century Indologist Ralph Griffith) Modern scholars speculate that the metal could be either bronze or copper. But setting the academic debate aside, the hymn happens to be the world’s first reference to the concept of prosthesis! Something that even international medical journals mention while broaching the topic!

I could not help setting aside the draft of Abhaya for a while and marveling at the heroine who fought with a prosthetic leg and about the ancient society which made such iron willed men and women. Consider it a promise made by a story teller to the ancient character who unexpectedly graced her. I resolved to revisit and explore the story of Vishpala after publishing Abhaya (Avishi is a fictional name).

Exploring the world of Avishi posed interesting challenges. The experience was a heavy contrast to writing Abhaya where I struggled to find place for my characters in the dense plot of Mahabharata. Vishpala who was mentioned nowhere but in the precious few shlokas of Rig Veda required me to reimagine the early Vedic society in all its egalitarian glory at the dawn of human civilization. Even the name of Vishpala (which clearly referred to her position) is lost to our memory.

Imagining Santagrahis or those endowed with lightning memory who carried out oral tradition in the times where script was yet to be invented, making sense of live-in relationships as the institution of wedlock was still nascent as a concept were just some aspects in the world creation process behind Avishi.

With each story he or she writes, the story teller challenges his/her comfort zones and turns richer with experience. I hope there are more such stories from the past waiting to reveal themselves when they think the time is ripe!

About the Guest writer: Saiswaroopa is an IITian and a former investment analyst turned author. Her keen interest in ancient Indian history, literature and culture made her take to writing. Her debut novel Abhaya, set in the times of Mahabharata was published in 2015. Avishi, her second novel set in Vedic India explores the legend of India’s first mentioned female warrior queen Vishpala. She holds a certificate in Puranas from Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. She is also trained in Carnatic Classical music and has won a state level gold medal from Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. Website * Facebook * Twitter



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October 2 2017

Write Tribe Problogger – Pattern – Day 1

From an early age, I have truly loved the art of coloring and now I have developed unconditional love for adult coloring books. It is truly relaxing to take some time to yourself, kick back your heels, and color. It is soothing in its simplicity but still feels like a lot of fun. As I get ready to board a flight, my coloring book is in toe as I will be coloring the entire way.

To some, coloring books are ridiculous. It is a little odd to see people coloring in classrooms or libraries, but I get it. Why worry about an ugly grade when you can instead pick a pretty color for a flower petal? It serves as a way of calming me down.

Not only is it rewarding to be coloring and finishing something you’re proud of, but it is relaxing in itself when you have the time to do it. So often I get stressed about running from this thing to the next, or working on five assignments at the same time. If I have an hour to spend coloring, that probably means my work is behind me and I can take a break to slow down.

Coloring isn’t competitive, either. You are not comparing your doodles and patterns to someone else’s, and there isn’t a way to do it wrong. If you are over the age of 12 and love coloring, I do not blame you. It is a simple activity that can relieve so much stress from the daunting tasks in our lives. When I complete coloring in a picture, I get satisfaction from finishing something, without the stress of actually doing it. It is a beautiful thing. I will never be ashamed to whip out my so many colored pencils and pens and book in public, and anyone who judges me for that is simply jealous.

 I am taking part in The Write Tribe Problogger October 2017 Blogging Challenge

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