Lax Kwa’laams Ceremony


At the recent pole raising ceremony on Lelu Island, Simoyget Yaahan Don Wesley, who was the face and voice of the resistance to the PETRONAS led Pacific Northwest LNG development on the island said, “Today, the Tsimshian people and the Gitwilgyoots stand proudly to stand this pole that marks the occasion of … where our ancestors left off at Rupert harbour thousands of years ago …. to commemorate what we have done here, the past to years, of taking on a giant in the Liquified Natural Gas Industry, the Federal and Provincial governments, the Lax Kwa’laams Indian Band, the Metlakatla Indian Band that tried to take away our land, our way of life and our salmon. The people of the gitwagiats tribe got together and made a stand to show Canada that our blood is still here on this land and that we are here forever.” 

The Tsimshian people are constituted in seven First Nations, the Kitselas, Kitsumkalum, Lax Kw’Alaams, Metlakatla, Kitkatla, Gitga’at  and the Kitasoo. By the reference to ‘Lax Kwa’laams Indian Band’ and ‘Metlakatla Indian Band’ above, the speaker is indexing the elected bodies representing these bands and not the people s individuals. The Gitwilgyoots are themselves Lax Kwa’laams and, according to Shanon Lough in the Nothern View, the ceremony was attended by about 100 people including members of Lax Kw’alaams, Metlakatla bands, along with people from the Gitga’at and Gitxsan Nation, as well as non-Indigenous people, some from as far away as Montreal, Wyoming, California and New Mexico.

Image and audio:



Lelu Wolf Totem


On Friday, 20th October, a totem pole carved by Tsimshian artist Phil Gray of a wolf and an orca fin was ceremoniously erected on Lelu Island British Columbia to commemorate the victory of the resistance against the PETRONAS/ provincial government of British Columbia/ Federal government of Canada plans for a massive LNG terminal. According to Ian Gill in his article in the Tyee Gwishawaal Ken Lawson, a house leader of the Gitwilgyoots tribe said modestly, “It’s a small pole, but the wolf is here,” Ken Lawson jointly claims stewardship rights and responsibilities on Lelu Island with Simoyget Yahaan, Don Wesley  for the Tsimshian First Nation. In the course of the proceedings, Don Wesley, who publically led the resistance to protect the island and the Skeena watershed, was presented with a copper shield by Guujaaw, the leader of the Haida Nation to acknowledge his resistance.



According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Progress Energy, a subsidiary of Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional (PETRONAS) has just put its oil and gas assets in Deep Basin, Alberta up for sale. Given this upcoming sale and also the cancellation of their massive Pacific Northwest LNG project on Lelu island, British Columbia, it appears that Progress Energy and PETRONAS will be concentrating their future Canadian investments and activities in North Montney, British Columbia. Progress Energy claims that it is the largest holder of contiguous areas of land in Montney and that over 13,000 drilling locations have been identified of which about 215 wells have been  drilled.








Mango Performance

At the heart of the Koboi Performances at Singapore Biennale 2016,  was the offering of a mango to Lords Murugan and Ganesha while reciting a prayer addressed metonymically to Lord Murugan’s Vel (spear) –


veera vel
thaarai vel
vinnohr siraimeetta theera vel
sev vel
thirukkai vel
vaari kullittha vel
soor marpum kunrum thullaittha vel
onreh thunai

வீர   வேல்
தாரை   வேல்
விண்ணோர்   சிறைமீட்ட   தீர   வேல்
செவ்   வேல்
திருக்கை  வேல்
வாரி குளித்த  வேல்
சூர்   மார்பும்   குண்றும்   துளைத்த  வேல்
ஒன்றே  துணை

The mango was then offered to the image of Thalaivar Rajinikanth and a small portion was served to one member of the audience.


Light on the Playa

truthOnce upon a time, an eternity ago, in their heavenly abode on Mount Kailash, Lord Shiva, Mother Parvathy and their children Ganesha and Muruga were all together in a moment of family bliss. The Sage Naradha, who is notorious in Hindu mythology, for creating dissension among the Gods, paid them a visit. Holding a mango in his hand, Naradha addressed the boys, “Lord Ganesha, Lord Muruga, this is the mango of knowledge or enlightenment (nyanam) . It is sweeter than amirtham or the divine nectar, elixir of immortality. It must not, however, be shared or divided. It must be consumed whole, by one person of course!” Shiva and Parvathy were perturbed by this divisiveness, but nevertheless Lord Shiva set the boys a challenge, “This mango, this Nyana Pazaham (fruit of enlightenment), goes to the person who is the fastest in circumnavigating the world.”​

Knowing he must win, Muruga bestrode his glorious vahanam (mount), the peacock, and flew swiftly round the world. The ungainly Ganesha, God of Wisdom, thought for a moment before setting off. Ganesha pondered on his own gait and girth, and on his modest vahanam – the homely mouse, and asked his parents a question, “AmmaAppa, is it not true that the parents are the world for a child?” “Yes”, the puzzled but glowing parents replied. Ganesha continued, “Is it not true that the whole universe is but a reflection or manifestation of your Lordly selves?” “Well, yes of course, it is!” It was the only possible reply. Ganesha simply circumambulated Shiva and Parvathy, his father and mother, his whole world – the whole world!

Sure enough Ganesha won the mango. When Muruga came flying back expecting to win, he saw Ganesha with the prize. Feeling cheated by his parents, he flew into a rage and pierced Ganesha in the belly with his vel (spear) a symbolic attribute of the Lord Murugan (This unusual variation of the myth comes via my mother and grandmother). Disenchanted, he abandoned his family and discarded all his jewels and princely clothes. He left his abode in Heaven and went south to stand on Mount Palani in his loin cloth. To this day he stands there as a youth, as Palani Aandi or the Mendicant of Palani, a form of the Lord, dear to the hearts of the Shaivites of South India and the diaspora.

Truth on the Playa

mango of truthThe mango also appears in an episode in the Oriya  poet Sarala’s rendition of the Mahabaratha where, the now mature and more worldly, Lord Krishna performs a miracle with the fruit. He materializes a ripe mango from a seed, while the fruit is out of season and then, turns it to ashes, thereby revealing both the illusory nature of reality (maya) and the complexities that underlie the idea of truth (satyam) itself.

As it is written in the Mahabaratha … Nine years pass after the Pandavas go into the forest having lost their kingdom in a game of dice. Duryodhana the leader of the Kauravas sends Gouramukha to locate  the Pandavas. Gouramukha would find them by posing as a sage and asking for the gift of a ripe mango out of season. Only the Pandavas, aided by their ally Lord Krishna, could produce such a miraculous mango. When Yudhisthir, the lead Pandava, came upon Gouramukha in the forest disguised as a sage, he asked with great humility what food he would accept as an offering. The false sage said he would accept only a ripe mango. As expected, the  needy Yudistihira asked Krishna for help. Krishna was, of course, able to oblige but an out of season mango was a ‘mango of truth’ and that it could only be produced if each of the Pandava brothers and their common wife Draupadi spoke their innermost truth.

Krishna called for a dry mango seed and breathed the potential of life into it. One after another the Pandavas each spoke their truth – Yudhisthira said he was a man of integrity and that he intended to fight to get back his kingdom … a shoot emerged from the seed; Bhima said he was a man of greed and he would kill anyone who insulted his mace … the plant grew into a tree; Arjuna said that he was brave and pure and that he was unbeatable in battle as long as he held his divine bow … the tree blossomed gloriously; Nakula said he was a man of conscience and that he was loyal to Yudhisthira  … small unripe fruits appeared;  Sahadeva said that he had the knowledge of the past, the present and the future but that he would not volunteer unsolicited advice to anyone … the mangoes grew to full size. Finally it was Draupadi ’s turn and she said that although the five Pandavas equal as her husbands, she had the greatest affection for Arjuna. The other brothers were hurt and angered but the mangoes were ripened by this truth.

Gauramukha swiftly departed to give Duryodhana the news that the Pandavas were indeed alive in the forest but Krishna intervened disguised as a Brahmin. Pretending to be surprised at the sight of a ripe mango in autumn, he suggests that it can not be ‘a real mango’ as a mango ripening in autumn was an anathema to the nature of things. ‘Truth’ could not produce such a mango. When Gouramukha protested, Krishna said that he would like to utter some truths as a test of this mango of truth. He said he had seen that a stone was floating on water, and a lotus was blooming on a mountaintop. The moon rose in the day and the sun arose at night. He continued in this manner and in no time the mango was burnt to ashes.

By Krishna’s ‘lies’ the falsehood of the ‘mango of truth’ ripened out of season was revealed and it was destroyed. Krishna symbolically destroys the very possibility of absolute truths in the relativistic flux of maya (our everyday reality), which is sustained by ambiguity. All things that one takes to be true are mere illusion – false mangoes of truth that reveal their falsehood beside Krishna’s apparent lies, which are at a deeper level, Krishna’s truths.

Love on the Playa

fruitseller​In the myth of Krishna and the fruit seller, an old hawker woman selflessly satisfies the god child’s desire for her ripe and aromatic produce, even though he seems to offer her practically nothing in return. In folk representations of this allegory of desire (kama) and devotion (bakthi), such as the terracotta icon described above, the sublime mango often stands, metonymically, for the cornucopia of fruit in the old woman’s basket, which in turn represents the desires and delectations of the material life.

This kama is redolent, or indeed ripe, with soteriological promise in that it can be transmuted into the bakthi of a selfless offering to the Lord. To return to the story … One day a fruit seller came to Vrindavan, the village that is young Krishna’s abode. She was a simple woman, old and poor. Little Krishna heard her call and he ran out to her with a handful of grains to trade for his favorite mango. As he was running, the grains fell out between his little fingers and as he made his offer to the fruit seller, there were hardly any left in his hands.

The poor old lady was, however, so charmed by Krishna’s  beauty that she freely gave him all the fruits he desired. On the way home she noticed the basket was heavy and when she arrived she found that the lord had filled it up with celestial jewels. Thus it is shown how love (bakthi) of the greater self (Brahman), recognized metonymically in the more tangible beauty of the young Lord Krishna has great soteriological effect. It is this salvation by selfless giving  that is both the theme and the message of the myth of Krishna and the fruit seller.