The birth of Shakyamuni Buddha or Gautama Buddha is observed in the summer months in India as Buddha Purnima or Buddha Jayanti. You can read a letter I wrote three years back on the occasion.
You would have figured out by now that when I do refer to Buddha, I don't really care how you or I perceive Buddha in terms of how we visualize the concept of the person Buddha. I have been fortunate to have my eyes opened to the timelessness of the being of Buddha, the timelessness of his enlightenment and the simultaneity of the being of Buddha and all of existence. Sounds weird. It does to me, though not weird weird, but obvious weird once you get it. Was the Buddha black? Was he bald? Was he weird? Did he have a nervous tic or some funny mannerism? Burton Watson's translation of The Kumarajiva Lotus Sutra references "features that are featureless." To me, Buddha is me when I am in harmony with all of existence across all of time. You may want to read more about this here.
The month of Buddha's birth is also the month when I lost both my Thammi's, both dad's mom, and mom's mom (at different times though). Your Thammi’s mom was called Parul. It was from her that I heard the story of the seven Champa brother and their sister, Parul.
Madidi, as I called her, was the most beautiful person I have ever met. She went to join her brothers in the sky this month 29 years ago. I had to struggle a bit to reconstruct the story, since I was very small when I heard it, and at some places, I have made it up as honestly as one can make things up. Anyway, on with the story...
A long time ago, even before your Madidi’s Madidi was a little girl, there lived a king in the beautiful kingdom of Sundarpur, who had seven wives. Though he was a king, and kings (like you, me, and let’s say the IMF chief) get to do whatever they want, he was very sad, because he did not have any children who would inherit the throne. He would walk about in the forest all alone, so that others would not see his sorrow. Everyone secretly felt sad for him though they would not show it on their faces. Or so I am told.
One day, as he was walking in the forest, lost in his thoughts (not in the forest), a rishi or a wise man saw him, and touched by his sorrow, he gave him a special and strange fruit which he asked him to give to his queen, and which would then give him an heir to the throne. The king gave his three wives the fruit as instructed by the priest. The two elder queens did not produce any children. However, the youngest queen conceived. As soon as this news reached the King, he danced with happiness and all round festivities took over the kingdom of Sundarpur. He announced the good news by opening up the royal treasury and distributing his wealth among the people. He was no Suresh Kalmadi or A. Raja.
The elder queens, who were already very jealous that the youngest queen had conceived and were present when the children were being born, became very angry and jealous. As the youngest queen began to give birth, they were surprised to see that she delivered seven boys one after the other, and then a girl. Out of spite, they took and buried the babies in the garden before the younger queen gained consciousness and replaced them with seven puppies and a crab next to her. I remember when your Thammi asked me if I preferred a brother or a sister, I had asked for a puppy if it was not too much trouble. Well, I am glad that she didn’t listen since Tipukaka is the most wonderful brother one could ever have asked for.
When the king came and saw the newborns lying next to the queen, he was furious, and in his rage, branded the youngest queen a witch and banished her from the kingdom. I guess the puppies were not very cute. The other queens were very happy. The youngest queen went away and lived on the outskirts of the kingdom in a broken hut, and kept herself alive by begging and working as a maid.
The mystic law spares no one, no matter if they are kings and queens or high priests or priestesses, and seeing this injustice, mother nature decided to stop the flowering of trees and flowing of rivers, and soon there was a very bad famine in the land. People suffered a lot as no crop would grow. There were not even flowers for the royal household to offer to the gods.
One day, the royal priest came running with the news that he had come to know of a single Parul and seven Champa flowers, all growing on the same tree in the royal garden. But when he went to pick them they went high above his reach, singing that they would come down only if the king came to pick them. Upon being told this, the king immediately rushed to the garden, and as he looked at the lovely flowers, he felt something in his gut, almost like they were his children. Brushing it aside as moving gas from last night’s dinner, he went to pluck the flowers. But again, they leaped up beyond his reach and sang out, only if he got the eldest queen to come pick them would they come down. The king summoned the eldest queen. But as she reached out, they leaped up and sang again, only if the second queen comes, will they etc., etc., and this went on till they had made all the six queens come. At the sixth queen’s reaching out, they sang, only if the beggarwoman who stays on the outskirts of the kingdom comes to pick them, will they come down. The king, although surprised, sent for the woman, since kings feel awfully confronted when someone asks for something, and the only way they can respond is by doing what they are told.
The youngest queen, with her madwoman looks was brought in, and the king asked her to approach the flowers. As she did, the flowers sang out, “mother, mother,” and gently dropped into her outstretched palms. The king was very puzzled at their singing and asked why they were calling her “mother.” At this, the flowers went poof and changed into seven princes and one princess, and they told the king the whole sorry tale. The king understood, and repented, and banished the six elder queens forever.
He begged the youngest queen for forgiveness (and since this is all a story, she forgave him) and they lived happily ever after with the seven brothers Champa and sister Parul.
Will leave it to you to find out more about your dad's dad's mom. Her name was Asrubala. She was a medicine woman. Like all things obvious, she was pretty too. Pretty weird that is. But that would bring us back to Occam and Pinocchio's exchange program. Point less. Enjoy!!