Those are the opening verses of the Kalabhairava Ashtakam, an anonymous and hugely popular Sanskrit chant in praise of Shiva as the ‘Death of death’ at Varanasi. You can walk into any corner of India where Hindus live and somebody is bound to know it or at least know of it, if only the local pandit. This ashtakam (eight-stanza devotional poem) is set in 4X2 beats per line and is quite hypnotic when you find its rhythm
If you don’t quite relate to it, let’s try this: “They're creepy and they're kooky/ Mysterious and spooky/ They're altogether ooky/The Addams Family.” That’s how I try to reduce death dealers (terrorists) in my head since alas, our Governments, central or state, seem to have idlis in place of…appendages.
So some day I, like my fellow-Indians this year in Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, New Delhi, Modasa, Malegaon, Agartala, Kanpur, Imphal and now Assam, will walk into my favourite market for something routine, perhaps bread, cheese and fruit. And splat! I’ll die because some creep blew up my market. Love you UPA, BJP, huji, simi, jaish, baj rangis, sena. You are the Addams Family crossed with The Book of Indian Demonology.
As a Hindu I’m not obliged by my religion to forgive anybody or endure guilt. So let me do this and pray: Mahashatru vinaashanam. ‘Destruction to the enemy’, the enemies of India, internal and external. Let me add a Qur’anic ayat against them: Summum bukmun umyun fa-hum layarjiyoon, which means, ‘Deaf, dumb and blind, they shall not return.’
Herein is a true story. Earlier this month, I was deep into Qur’anic homework about terms like jihad, qital, kafir and mushrik. I read and re-read the Qur’an obsessively. Inexplicably,
I got fixated on this ayat (2:18). It is such a fierce thought whereas my personal vision of God is so celebratory, so…well, Hindu, always praising through loving stutis (Madhuram madhuram mathuraadhipateyr akhilam madhuram… Sweetness, sweetness, everything about the Lord of Mathura is sweetness) and stotrams (Jayajayahe Mahishasuramardini ramya kapardini…Hail, O Demon-Killing Goddess with enchanting braids) and suprabhatams (Kausalya supraja Rama…Awake, O Noble Son of Kausalya, it’s morning now). The relationship is ecstatic, and intimate, with no guilt on our side or anger on God’s.
So it was with great incomprehension that I found myself muttering this ayat night after night. It’s when I mentioned it to Muslim friends that they told me its value as a kavach, like the Hanuman Chalisa. Sufis repeat this ayat seven times at night and blow the breath on their bodies .
I did namaste to the Holy Qur’an in startled thanksgiving. Of all its 6,236-plus ayats, it had chosen to impress this one on me, as a protective gift? Now, when we Indians are sitting ducks for anyone with a grouse and a bit of plastic and the men who rule India seem fit only ‘to wear bangles’, all we can do is be alert and encourage each other in whatever way we can. So I share this protective ayat as prasad from the Holy Qur’an. God save India since Government will not.