The carefree, fun-loving boy changed suddenly. Meditative and withdrawn, Vekataraman or Ramana Maharshi, as he was later named, left his loved ones and set out to find his true calling. The Maharshi's, simplicity, his quiet wisdom and his love for every living being - be it a tree, an animal or the lowliest of people - brought with it a peace and calm that suffused every devotee who came before him.
It was a time of turbulence when resentment against British treachery and betrayal was simmering in the people of India. The Nawab of Avadh had been a staunch ally of the British, providing them with money, grain and cattle and yet, Avadh was annexed through the Doctrine of Lapse as were other states like Satara, Sambalpur, Nagpur and Jhansi. The discontent triggered off the first war of Indian Independence. Rana Beni Madho and Pir Ali were two heroes of that period who inspired many to stand up against injustice.
Born a poor refugee, Meher was blessed with both spirit and talent. She could ride horseback and design fine clothes. She could lead armies to victory and yet be a doting wife. She could attend to the problems of a vast empire and at the same time be blissfully happy making perfumes. Emperor Jahangir fell under her spell and aptly named her Noor Jahan, for she lit up his world with her love.
When King Dushyanta first saw Shakuntala, he was struck by her incomparable beauty and gentle character. He made her his wife and vowed to take her back to his palace. But a curse from the sage Durvasa erased her memory so completely from his mind that he failed to recognize her. Much later, when the curse was broken he realized his mistake but it was too late or so it seemed to be. The story of Shakuntala first appeared in the Mahabharata. It was later adapted into a play by the Sanskrit dramatist and poet, Kalidasa.
Ilisa and Kesiya, two misers, foolishly filled their lives with worry. Had they understood the joy of giving and sharing, how much happier they and their families, would have been! Buddha's most important message, that desire and greed block the path to eternal bliss, is reiterated in the Jataka tales. These light-hearted parables teach us to respect ourselves as well as others. But, like Manduka, they also relish an occasion to get a fool to part with his money!
Shivaji, famous as a warrior and patriot, was also renowned for his kindness. His behavior managed to convert a spunky young mother, an avenging widow and a terrified maiden into devoted friends. Not only did the powerful Maratha display humility and a constant sense of fair play, he also upheld the honor of every woman whether rich or poor, enemy or ally.