Friday, October 09, 2009

Moonlight bombing

Yes, we can.

But its not such a noble thing to do.

Bomb the moon , that is.

The moon is
much in the news these days. Much about it is celebrated in India. Our entire calendar is based on the lunar cycle, and come the end of the monsoon, we start a period of several festivals in India.

The full moon in the month of Ashwin(September-October) is special. Its is called
Kojagiri Poornima in my state and community. Typically, the monsoon has ended, everything is green , and there is a hint of the onset of cooler days and clearer nights ahead. The story goes that Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, moves around on earth , on this full moon night, visiting folks, and asking in Sanskrit, "Ko jagarti?"(~"Who is awake?"). So folks worship the goddess, spend the night on their terraces, singing songs, enjoying family time, and a special concoction of milk, thickened and spiced with dry fruits, and enriched by the special lunar cosmic radiation, is imbibed by everyone. Some folks even fast on this day.

We also have a mixture of milk and rice flakes (Poha) sometimes. The season heralds the end of hot and humid days, and the onset of cooler longer nights. Digestion is often affected due to this change of seasons (most Indian houses are not climate controlled), and a condition in Ayurveda called pitta gets aggravated. The mixture of milk and rice flakes serves to reduce this problem. And so this custom reminds folks to imbibe something that is good for you, healthwise...

My earliest memories are of everyone in the family gathering on the terrace and enjoying this delicious dry fruit enhanced milk, just comfortably warm, and some one's mother pouring it in steel tumblers, from a huge pot in which it has been prepared, and kept now, to imbibe all the good radiation from the moon. There would be songs sung, children would do mimicry or some similar performances, play group games, and there was also a custom of honoring the eldest child of the house on this night. Then before everything got out of hand, we would be reminded about school the next day, and sent back to earth, so to speak.

Four days later, on the fourth day of the waning cycle of the moon, folks in North India celebrate something called Karwa Chauth (~Karwa = pot, Chauth = fourth). Its a celebration for the prosperity and wellness of husbands. And there are several stories in the scriptures, pertaining to the dedicated power of women, that are told and recited on this day, sometimes even in verse.

The women prepare days ahead , and shop for stuff to fill the pots, and early on the day are woken up by their mother-in-laws, to have a pre dawn meal of sorts. The fast then begins and no one can imbibe any solid or liquid till moonrise , late in the evening. Presents are often received from the bride's mother (for the mother-in-law) at this time. In the evening, there is a family/group or community celebration , where lamps are lit , the pots are passed around, typical songs and prayers are sung, by women dressed in their bridal best. Husbands make it a point not to reach home late on this day. When the moon rises, the women observe the moon through a sieve, carrying a prayer dish with a lamp, a pot of water and a sweet . Their husbands stand in front, and give them their first drink of water for the day, along with a sweet preparation. And everyone goes forth to enjoy a wonderful dinner....

Customs across India vary. But it is interesting to note, that the Moon is referred to by children across India, as "Chandamama" (Chanda= moon, mama=maternal uncle), and of course, the Earth is always the Mother. And so, the moon is family.

So it is with some trepidation that one learned that NASA folks were planning to bomb the Moon, in their search for water. I mean settling into the surface of the moon, with a vehicle, with minimal throw of lunar soil, and Neil Armstrong taking big steps for mankind was one thing. Taking pictures, and analyzing spectra of layers of the moons surface was still tolerable.
But bombing the Moon ? Crashing vehicles on the surface of the moon ? Creating 10 kilometre deep craters on the moon by target bombing , so some satellite up there can analyse what flew up as a result ?

Curiosity and a sense of enquiry is to be admired. But the methods used need to be re evaluated. Have we exhausted investigating all the water systems on earth ? Does everyone on earth have sufficient water available to them ? The richest and most powerful country on earth, spends amazing amounts of money checking out the moon. And even other planets. One of the more successful emerging developing nations, with a huge trained human knowledge resource succeeds in sending a satellite to the moon, and suspects the existence of water.

Would someone be willing to spend such money to bring water to the most remote places in jungles, and mountains, and deserts om earth, so that these places can be inhabited ? Have we run out of space on earth that we need to rush and colonize the moon ? Can any country with the technical know how, simply send a vehicle to the moon, bomb it, and say they found water , and claim the place ? Are there rules about this ? Who makes them ?

Is this how colonization started in the early days ? Are we likely to see a repetition of history ? The last time it was exploration via the oceans. Someone set out to find India and found America instead.

Reminds me of a ancient story of a blacksmith, and a wise man. The latter could make anything happen.

The blacksmith was fed up of his hot environs and said ," I need a change. What wouldn't I give to be a cool stone mountaintop, enjoying the winds!

And so the wise man made him into a mountain stone.

Till a stone cutter came by and decided to cut the stone.

"Please. That hurts. But maybe I will be the cutter myself ! " he said.

The wise man decided to humor this foolishly ambitious chap and made him into a cutter.

And so he walked around searching for good stones to cut, and soon got tired and his feet hurt.

"Hmm. So boring. Enough cutting. But maybe I should simply be the sun ! Looks nice and warm ! "
And so the wise man transformed him into the Sun.

As the story goes, the stone cutter soon realized that he was in the hottest place amidst all his jobs. From his perch up there, he noticed the moon. And it looked so cool.

"Wouldn't it be great being the moon. !" he asked.

The wise man, at the end of his patience, made him the moon, only for him to realize that one part of the moon got so much permanent sun, it was actually warm and not cool. ...

The shameless stone cutter pleaded to be sent back to earth as a stone cutter again. But the wise man had had enough.

As the story goes, he now refused the stone cutter, and said , " " I am weary of your changing. You wanted to be the moon; the moon you are, and it you will remain."

The ancient story ends here, describing how the stone cutter lies there, on the moon, since time immemorial.....

As of Nov 9, 2009, the stone cutter must have realised, that thanks to NASA, his skill is now obselete.

Stones on the moon are now cut with a Big Bang.


  1. Bang on. ( I know thats an inappropriate expresssion for this post ). this is so pertinent.

    Why should you be looking at the moon for water ? Come on, wake up people. See whats happening around you. There is no water here, the poles are ripping. And the Earth is fast moving towards implosion of some kind.

    its time to put all the money are resources in saving our home ! Let the moon, mars and such else be.

    For heavens sake, leave the heavens out !

  2. Lovely post !!!!!

    its the turn of the moon now to face the human wrath !! sigh

  3. Seeing as how we Indians think of the moon as 'family', yes it is regrettable that Nasa scientists are thinking of bombing it!

    Now that humans have totally destoyed the environment on earth, they are now thinking of destroying the moon. Will this never end?

    If we asked scientists why they want to bomb the moon they will probably answer- "because it is there', as George Mallory, the mountaineer is said to have answered to the question of why he wanted to climb Everest.

    Yes, the moon is there, but if we start bombing it, it may not be there for long!

  4. Lovely post!! And a lovely story... I am confused about what's happening, but I agree that we have done enough damage to the Earth, we can't be trusted with the Moon.

    Lovely thought that Moon is family! Never occurred to me before mother Earth so Mama Moon :) There goes your tick tock ...and the bell... 7 15 PM!

    Making kheer and hanging it in open ... under the Moon is done in many parts of India on Kartik Poornima :)

    This festival is celebrated in the West also, there's this rhyme that goes,
    Boys and girls come out to play,
    The Moon is shining bright today,
    You bring rice and you bring milk, and we'll have a pudding in no time at all,... "

    ... let me get the exact lyrics... from google god :)

  5. The most common versions of the rhyme are very similar to that collected by James Orchard Halliwell in the mid-nineteenth century:

    Girls and boys, are come out to play,
    The moon doth shine as bright as day;
    Leave your supper, and leave your sleep,
    And come with your playfellows into the street.
    Come with a whoop, come with a call,
    Come with a good will or not at all.
    Up the ladder and down the wall,
    A halfpenny roll will serve us all.
    You find milk, and I'll find flour,
    And we'll have a pudding in half an hour.

    It seems this has nothing to do with celebration, but to do with the fact that the kids worked all day and evening was the time to eat and to play.


  6. Kavi Those who dont leave the heavens alone, are cursed to experience Hell. I wish some folks realize that....

    hitchwriter You never know where things might lead. Maybe in 2050 there will be a 5 minute international cricket on the moon, with the sons of the current chaps playing. And believe me fielding will be too difficult.

    Manju What continues to amaze me is how NASA seems to think it can do whatever it wants on the moon. And we keep quiet and watch. And blog .

    IHMWonderful poem, and thanks so much for searching and posting it. I didnt know about it. I guess the world over, children are the same...