Monday, December 19, 2005

An Indian Abecedary

An Indian Abecedary, being a Challenge to Myself.

A is for Asoka, that wise, just king
Who decreed Buddhist peace for everything

B is for Buddha’s famous Bodhi tree
Under it Siddhartha had his epiphany

C is for Caste, a system that’s brought grief
To those who’ve suffered under this belief

D is for Dharma, the way given to each life
Follow its principles and minimize strife

E is for Elephant, magnificent beast
Ridden and cared for by mahouts in the east

F is for Freedom — from rebirth, in heaven
Or from the British in Nineteen Forty-Seven

G is for Ganesh, kind in thought and deed
Jolly elephant god with a mouse for a steed

H is for Hanuman, Rama’s loyal flunky
A healer and warrior in shape of a monkey

I is for the Indus Valley Civilization
The efficient, well-planned Harrapan nation

J is for Jains, who eat no meat (let alone cows)
They strive toward peace via the five geat vows

K is for Kali, like a skull-bedecked demon
Her cult of Thuggee was stopped by William Sleeman

L is for languages; India has more than a few
Like Tamil, Hindi, Konkani, and Urdu

M is for Mangoes, India’s tree-grown treasure
The sweet fruit fills your belly with pleasure

N is for Nehru, India’s first head of state
He pushed legal reforms at a rapid rate

O is for Ohm, that mystic syllable
Which makes the chanter with truth fillable

P is for Pakistan, India’s rival
Over Rajasthan plain might they fight for survival?

Q is for Queen Victoria, who ruled the Raj
And had the rep of being a humourless codge

R is for Rama, god born to a king
In an epic whose praises all Indians sing

S is for Sikhs, fiece people once so feared
With knife, iron bracelet and imposing beard

T is for the Taj Majal, world’s loveliest tomb
With beautiful facade and spacious room

U is for Upanishads, texts for meditation
On Hindu precepts of self-realization

V is for the Vedas, four books of hymns
To the Hindu gods whose deeds they limn

W is for Wheel, the Buddhist chakra of fate
The spokes stand for truth and they number eight

X is for Xenophobic; some do charge
That India’s peoples are insular, by and large

Y is for Yama, who pulls souls from the dead
To judge them on the lives they led

Z is for Zoroastrians, of Parsi culture
Whose dead are hung out to be eaten by vultures

And there you have it. Sure, on the whole this is doggerel, and the selections’ relative merits as representations are debatable — G could just as easily have been for the Ganges or Gandhi, K could have been for Karma or the Kashmir, S for Shiva or Sanskrit, A for Akbar, etc., etc. — but obviously some things are going to be left out. I had fun writing it, anyway.

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