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18th April '2014
The Lotus Eaters

It is a well-known fact that Kashmiris are very fond of eating the lotus roots (Nadroo) and lotus seeds (Pambach). It would be interesting to recapitulate the story of the lotus eaters as given in the Greek tragedy Ulysses. Interestingly, the behaviour of Kashmiris very much resembles the people living in the land of lotus eaters as described in the Greek mythology. As per the account in Wikipedia, “In Greek mythology the lotus-eaters also referred to as the lotophagi or lotophaguses were a race of people living on an island near North Africa (possibly Djerba) dominated by lotus plants. The lotus fruits and flowers were the primary food of the island and were narcotic, causing the people to sleep in peaceful apathy.”
According to the account in the Greek tragedy, the hero Odysseus on his return journey from the Trojan War encounters many strange creatures like Cyclops and Sirens. He also comes to an Island called the land of the “Lotus Eaters”. He sends some of his sailors to explore the land. They discover there people very fond of eating lotus plants. They too eat these and fall into a stupor and are unable to move till Odysseus rescues them. These sailors are crying but they do not want to leave the island. Odysseus has to tie these sailors with chains to the benches to prevent them from running back to the island.

Odysseus forcibly removing sailors from the land of lotus eaters

In ancient Egypt, there are legends about the Blue Lotus. The Egyptian high priests used these in their ceremonies. The petals of the Blue Lotus were scattered on the tomb of Tutankhamen and the flower has been featured in the ancient Egyptian art.

The Blue Lotus of Egypt  
Root of the Blue Lotus

It is reported that the preparations from the root of the Blue Lotus which very much resembles the Nadroo of Kashmir possess certain psychedelic properties. It is a fact that Kashmiris too are supposed to be somewhat lethargic and full of apathy. However, there are also bouts of awakening which surprise many. Generally people remain in a very stoic state unmoved by events around them. During last decade or so there have been a couple of mass upheavals. One was about the Amarnath land transfer and the other about the killing of innocent boys. Entire Kashmir was under siege. Millions had taken to roads. It appeared the anger of the people would be impossible to suppress. However, with a large number of killings of youth, continuous declared and undeclared curfew, the upheaval was contained. Anyone who had visited Kashmir during the upheaval and after would not believe these were the same people!

During the entire history of Kashmir’s movement for “Azadi” which generally means total emancipation, there have been many ups and downs. Many times between the upheavals the people appear to resemble the “Lotus Eaters” of the Ulysses. However, at some other times they behave like true revolutionaries who would be impossible to suppress. That may be the major difference in the two categories of “Lotus Eaters”, the ones depicted in Ulysses and the other living in this serene and calm mystic valley of saints. May be the reason for this strange swinging behaviour is the fact that we do not eat Nadroos and Pambach all the time? We only occasionally eat the lotus roots and the seeds while as the in the Island of lotus eaters in Ulysses they only ate the lotus and its other off shoots and it was their main and probably the only diet. It would be worthwhile for our scientists to conduct some research in regard to the eating of lotus roots and the behaviour of Kashmiris!

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