Saturday, March 29, 2008

Indian Cat Names

Upon the banks of the Indus river some 4000 years ago there stood a town called Chanhu-daro. One day in this ancient town of India, a cat was chased by a dog across freshly made bricks that were set in the sun to dry. We know this because early in the 20th century, Chanhu-daro was rediscovered. Among the ruins those very bricks, cat and dog paw prints still intact after 40 centuries, told their simple but timeless story. Cats have enjoyed a humble position in Indian mythology for thousands of years. The earliest records of such cat stories are found in the Vedic classic known as the "Mahabharata," composed by several story-tellers between 400 B.C. and 300 A.D. One of these stories is called "The Cat and The Mouse". A cat and a mouse lived not far from one another deep in the jungle. The cat was content to catch birds for his supper and the mouse, knowing he was safe as long as the cat was busy chasing birds, made his home in the cat's favorite bird tree. One day the cat became caught in a trap set by hunters from the nearby village. At first the mouse was relieved thinking that now he never had to worry about the cat suddenly running out of birds and turning his attention to mice. But then the mouse noticed he was surrounded by larger, more dangerous predators like owls and the mongoose. The cat noticed the troubled mouse and offered to protect him if he nibbled through the ropes of the net-like trap. The mouse agreed. Once the mouse had climbed into the net that held the cat tightly, he began to relax a bit and decided to take a nap now that he was out of immediate danger. The cat, feeling betrayed and humiliated, asked the mouse if he ever intended to provide the help he had promised. The mouse replied that he would indeed, but only when he felt safe. If he freed the cat now, surely the cat would eat him. So the mouse slept as the cat endured the embarrassment. Before long, the sounds of the approaching hunter were heard. Quickly, the mouse chewed through the ropes of the trap just as the hunter came into sight. Off the cat ran, with the mouse running in the opposite direction. The mouse had stayed true to his word, and the cat grudgingly maintained his end of the deal by fixing most of his attention on birds. However, the incident put a heavy strain on their relationship which is why cats attack mice to this day. To the following gods of Indian mythology, cats were sort of like messengers, helping their human friends understand some of the principles governing the Universe, regardless how insignificant those principles might seem.

ADITI (Ah-DEE-Tee; Female): This pretty name belongs to the Hindu sky goddess. Her name means "Unbounded" or "Limitless". In this regard she is considered the goddess of the past, present, and future, as well as the mother of the seven major gods called The Adityas. An obvious name for a motherly cat or for a meditative cat seemingly able to ignore past, present and future altogether. Actually this name would be nice for just about any female cat.

ATRI (AH-Tree; Male): This son of BRAHMA is considered to be the source of the intoxicating drink of the gods called Soma which was believed to have poured from his eye. This drink was something like the nectar and ambrosia (the food of the gods) from Greek mythology, complete with exhilarating powers of rejuvenation. Atri was also considered a prestigious scholar in his own right. As for a cat name, Atri might suit a cat with a thing for liquids. You know the type. No matter what it is you're drinking, whether it be wine, tea, or soda-pop, the cat will attempt to sip from your cup or glass. And that even includes hot, hot beverages. More than one cat has learned a hard lesson in living by sticking its tongue in a scalding cup of coffee. If you've never encountered such a cat, then perhaps you ought to give this name to one of those many scholarly felines that love newspapers.

BALI (BAH-lee; Male): First of all, Bali is a demon. But what a demon! He actually managed to gain dominance over all the heavens and the earth, ruling as absolute boss and master. Eventually the god VISHNU had enough of the demon's antics, so he disguised himself as a midget named Vamana. He then went to Bali and humbly asked for a mere three steps worth of land upon which he might build a really narrow house. Being in a generous mood, the demon agreed. All at once the little midget started to increase in size until he reached cosmic dimensions as only a mighty god could. Vishnu then took his first two steps which carried him right across the entire Universe. With his third step he crushed the demon Bali and sent him down to hell. Somehow Bali escaped, only to be slaughtered once and for all by Indra. It is said that instead of blood, precious jewels gushed from his wounds. Since Bali was technically the ruler of the Universe for a short time anyhow, his name seems fitting for a bossy, dictatorial cat. On the other hand the fact that he was filled with all kinds of gems makes me think of a pampered kitty, just spoiled rotten, festooned with diamond collar and whatnot. Consider this name if this describes your cat. Rhinestone collars acceptable.

BHUTAS(BOO-tahs; Male or Female): Bhutas isn't a "Who's That?" but a "What Are They?" They were the ghosts of burial grounds and mausoleums, as a matter of fact. The legends say that even though they are extremely dangerous phantoms, they can nevertheless be shooed away by throwing handfuls of bread crumbs at them, as well as in the four directions of the compass. My theory is that this legend originated in the fact that pigeons often congregate in cemeteries thus producing the "Boo-like" sounds which may have actually given the Bhutas their name. The nonsense with bread crumbs seems to support this theory. Cat name? Try it with an obnoxious feline, full of sound and fury, who simmers down when fed...signifying nothing.

BRAHMA (BRAH-mah; Male): Along with VISHNU and Siva, the great God Brahma is part of the supreme Hindu triad. He was the first expression of "Being", born when nothing existed. Being the only guy around in the vastness of the potential Universe can be pretty lonely, as you might expect, so Brahma pulled the clever stunt of bringing forth his own girlfriend, Sarasvati, who sprang out of his side. Sarasvati was very beautiful, but she was also very shy. Upon looking at her, Brahma was immediately smitten by her charms. This embarrassed Sarasvati, so she stepped to his right side, just out of his line of vision. For Brahma this was easily remedied by growing another face on the right side of his head. Still bashful, Sarasvati stepped behind Brahma, but he grew another face on the back of his head so he could keep on admiring her beauty. The same thing happened when Sarasvati moved to his left side. This is why Brahma is depicted with four faces. Together Sarasvati and Brahma created the first human- Manu. This is the ultimate name for a persistent cat that seems to have eyes on the back of his head.

BUDDHA (BOO-Dah; Male): This guy was a prince complete with magnificent palace and luxuries beyond imagination. At that time he was known as Siddharta, and frankly, he was a spoiled brat. His parents were so over-protective of him that they kept him cloistered within the palace walls which surrounded the entire complex. As he grew, his curiosity about the outside world grew also. One day while his mother and father were away on official business (dedicating a bridge or something), Siddharta ordered one of the palace guards to prepare a carriage which he might use to ride into town. The guard, sworn to obedience, did as the prince commanded, but with extreme reservation. For the first time in his life, the prince left the palace walls, riding out into the world in the royal carriage. It didn't take long for him to dislike what he saw. There, in the middle of the road which the carriage was traveling, an old man struggled with a basket of goods. Siddharta had never seen an old person before, so he ordered the carriage to stop while he had a few words with the strange looking man. From this man he learned about aging and death, of sickness and misery, of the daily struggle of living. The prince, filled with sorrow and pain, returned to the palace late in the evening. From that point on, he vowed to discover the reason for such suffering in the world. He escaped from the palace walls which he now saw as a prison of falsehood. Over the years that followed he tried several spiritual disciplines but none ever seemed to satisfy his quest. Then one day, while resting beneath a tree in the town of Bodi, all his years of searching and learning came together in a flash of enlightenment. He had found the answer to his question. Deciding to tell others of his discovery, he began to preach and instruct throughout India, gathering a large following in the process. His followers called him the Buddha, meaning "enlightened one", and he was considered to be an avatar (or manifestation) of VISHNU The religion he started spread through all of Asia and continues to spread, with over 250 million people adhering to some form of Buddhist teachings. While it may seem a bit irreverent some, this name fits the meditative cat to a tee. You might also consider this name for a fat kitty since we often think of Buddha in the form of a jolly and rotund, baldheaded man, which actually isn't Buddha at all.

CHANDRA (SHAHN-drah; Male): Sleepy, daydreaming felines might well respond to this name. Chandra was one title given to the moon god. Another name attributed to the moon god was Soma, named after the powerful hallucinogen/beverage of the gods. Since the moon symbolized the growing and diminishing consciousness of the dream state, it was a natural that this connection between god and beverage should be made. Still, if you ask me, Chandra makes a far better cat-name than Soma.

DAKSHA (DAHK-shah; Male): Suspicion and possessiveness are the two traits that come to mind when considering this god. Actually he was a "lord of creation" which isn't exactly small potatoes. He had many daughters, 27 of whom were married to the moon god Chandra (or Soma ). For some reason Daksha got the irrational idea that Chandra was paying more attention to one of his daughters than to the others, so in an act of fatherly madness he sent a deadly illness that caused the moon to fade. The daughters pleaded with him to cure their husband, which he did, but spitefully so. As a condition to sparing Chandra's life, Daksha insisted that the cure come in cycles, once a month to be exact, which is why the moon waxes and wanes. If your cat seems to make vindictive decisions regardless of the consequences, consider this name.

GANESHA (gah-NEE-shah; Male): One of the most well known gods of the entire Indian pantheon. How can anyone forget this elephant-headed deity? But Ganesha didn't always have an elephant's head. That happened as a result of his father's rash behavior. You see, Ganesha was the son of the great god Siva and his consort PARVATI. His sole purpose was to protect his mother. In fact, one legend says that Parvati formed him from flakes of her own skin that she collected while bathing. Ganesha did his job quite well. Too well in fact. One day as he was standing watch over his mother's private rooms, Siva decided to pay a little visit to his wife. But Parvati wished to spend some time to herself, relaxing and bathing in solitude. To insure her privacy, Ganesha was posted at her door with strict orders to turn away whoever might attempt to walk in on her, including her husband. This didn't go over so well with Siva. He became instantly suspicious and allowed his jealous nature to get the best of him. Certain that Parvati was in the act of being unfaithful, Siva drew his sword and with one swift blow he cleanly sliced off Ganesha's head. Storming into Parvati's private chambers, the god felt a bit foolish to find his wife all alone, calmly lounging in her gold bathing pool. When she discovered what her husband had done, the goddess gave the red-faced Siva an angry tongue-lashing. Letting him know that he really screwed up this time, Parvati demanded that Siva go out and get Ganesha a new head. In a hurry to make amends, Siva rather foolishly swore to come back with the head of the very first creature he set sight upon. Since this was India, chances were good that the very first creature Siva would set sight upon might be an elephant. As it turns out, the elephant head was a perfect fit and quite becoming at that. Since the elephant was considered a creature of great wisdom, Ganesha became the god of wisdom and literature. And since the elephant uses his trunk to clear himself a path through the jungle, Ganesha became the god of new beginnings and travel, promising success and prosperity in all endeavors. Now if you've noticed a change of luck for the better since adopting your feline companion, or if a glint of uncommon intelligence shines from his eyes now and again, Ganesha might be just the name you're looking for.

HANUMAN (HAH-noo-mahn; Male): Most cats are known for their stealth, making good use of agility, concentrated observation, and the patience to hide indefinitely in the shadows. In fact, their silent mobility is reminiscent of a walking shadow. One god that didn't have such luck with his shadow was the Hindu king of the monkeys, Hanuman. Several stories tell of his enemies capturing him by seizing his shadow, then pulling him into captivity. This tactic never worked, for once Hanuman found himself prisoner he shrunk himself down to minute dimensions whereupon he quite casually strolled away from his would be captors. Above all, Hanuman was fiercely loyal to his friend RAMA (the 7th avatar, or earthly manifestation, of VISHNU with absolute commitment. Since Hanuman was a monkey, many were jealous that Rama favored him so. This jealousy subsided when Rama chose Hanuman as the living example of pure devotion to god, a behavior others were strongly encouraged to emulate. One might name their shadowy cat after this important monkey god since he was extremely clever and adept at hiding, but his greatest attribute was his faithfulness which in my opinion is a far greater quality to celebrate when naming your devoted friend.

INDRA (IHN-drah; Male): Does your cat pick fights? Is he spoiled to the point where any attention not directed his way results in flashes of temper? Does he sulk? Most importantly, does he eat like a pig? If so, then he shares much in common with this very early Hindu god named Indra who was demoted from chief of the gods to greatest warrior of the gods. In this manifestation, Indra loved to fight, and woe to the poor soul who managed to stir this god's rage . One of his most indulgent vices was guzzling that stimulating hallucinogenic called "soma" which we mentioned earlier. This made him even more warlike and seemed to increase his appetite tenfold. He ate like there was no tomorrow, but no one dared criticize Indra, the god of war. Time passed and myths evolved. Indra's stature was lessened still. Some accounts have him acting as the rain god, only his thunderbolts remained as a vestige from his days as a mighty warrior god. No wonder he broods. How would you like to fall from king of the gods and warrior beyond measure to a second rate weather man like Willard Scott? In any event, whether your cat is spoiled, aggresive, a glutton, or even a sulking outdoor cat with the bad luck of almost always get stuck in the rain, the name of the mighty Indra should go well with his complex personality.

JALANDHARA (jah-lahnd-HAH-RAH; Male): This is a great sounding name, isn't it? But Jalandhara wasn't so great of a guy. In fact, he was a demon. His story is filled with conceited actions, vindictive seductions, gory battles in heaven among the gods, and ends with some good old fashioned blood drinking on the part of SHIVA. But don't let all that stop you from using this distinguished name. I mean, nobody's perfect.

KALI (KAH-lee; Female): A goddess we should all respect, if not out of piety then out of absolute terror. Just consider her attire: body enveloped in snakes, necklace made of skulls, earrings of rotting corpses, and a girdle of dismembered hands. To complete her ensemble, Kali would smear her face with blood. But she wasn't all bad. In fact, she was absolutely necessary. Her destructive nature cleared away all the old and obsolete manners, beliefs, and customs, as well as the stubborn fools holding desperately onto those antiquated ways. From this devastation, Kali brought forth new worlds and epochs of thought, for she was not only the goddess of destruction but of creation and renewal as well. In spite of her frightening aspect, she was well loved and adored. She was one of the wives of the great god SHIVA, actually the wife upon which he depends upon as the source of all his power. No Kali, no potency for Shiva. One final note: you might be surprised to learn that right now we're in the midst of the age of Kali, known as the "Kali Yuga". This means that the world is falling apart with darkness and chaos. If you think that our contemporary trials and tribulations will merely pass as all things must, don't hold your breath. The "Kali Yuga" is supposed to last for another 200,000 years--200,000 more years of hate, destruction, bloodshed and violence. Obviously this is a name for a ruinous house cat, but one with a positive side as well. Severed mouse heads and bloody fur is optional.

KARTTIKEYA (kahr-teh-KAY-ah; Male) This Hindu god of war was begotten by SHIVA as a result of him peering into a lake with his mighty third eye of illumination. From this lake arose six children, all of whom were given to Shiva's wife, PARVATI, that she might look after them. Being a tender and affectionate goddess filled with maternal instinct, she hugged all six of the children so tightly that they all fused into one entity, with six heads of course, not to mention twelve arms and just as many legs. Equipped so, it's no wonder that Karttikeya became interested in fighting and warfare. He takes particular pleasure in administering revenge upon those who would harm his faithful devotees, and he's not above using magic of the darkest sort. For a street fighting cat this may very well be the ideal name.

KRISHNA (KRIH-shnah; Male): Long before there were such things as airports there were disciples of Krishna. He was the eighth and most famous avatar of VISHNU As for Krishna, he was such an important being to so many that he achieved god-hood in and of himself. There are many very intriguing facts surrounding Krishna. Those familiar with Christianity will have no problem at all recognizing some of the circumstances in Krishna's life. First of all, his birth was presaged by a brilliant star in the heavens. Angels sang his praise throughout the countryside to glorify him. Shepherds and cowherds came to bear witness to his birth, and learned kings came to present gifts to the baby. The monarch of the time was named King Kamsa and this king was fearful of the divine infant. Thus he expedited a horrible slaughter of all male babies in the hopes that Krishna would be among them. His plan failed miserably. Krishna grew both in stature and wisdom. To his followers he was known as "the Redeemer" and "the Savior god." One source even recounts Krishna's sacrifice in which he was suspended between the heavens and the earth. His blood was believed to purify the ground. In this respect he was thought of as the savior from the sinful transgressions of humanity. These uncanny parallels between Krishna's story and the story of Jesus Christ become even more amazing when you consider that these Hindu myths predate Jesus by nearly 500 to perhaps 800 years. But there was more to Krishna. For instance, he was said to have 180 wives. He was a great practical joker. When he wasn't destroying sin, he enjoyed all manner of erotic activities. Most important, Krishna spoke the very words of God to his human friend Arjuna who was filled with doubts concerning life and death during preparations for a massive battle. This sacred discourse is known as the "Bhagavad Gita" and is considered to be one of the worlds most profound works of spiritual wisdom. There are many reasons why you might name your cat after this avatar/god. Is your cat prone to mischievous pranks? Does he have an unbridled sexual nature? Has he done his part in taking away the sin of the world? Above all, when listening very close, can you hear the word of God buried somewhere deep within his purrs? If you think so, perhaps you have an avatar living with you. If so, I'd treat him well for karma's sake.

KUVERA (khoo-VEHR-ah; Male): No doubt about it. Cats will sometimes get in fights with one another. Often BIG fights. I'm sure you've all seen cats with torn ears, or scratches and scars which provide indisputable evidence of less than friendly cat-fights. If you have such a battle scarred cat and don't know what to call him, look no further than the name of the Hindu god of wealth, Kuvera. He was anything but a pretty sight; he was an obese little midget that had three legs, one eye and only eight teeth left in his mouth. Despite his ugliness, he was good friends with SHIVA. Since he was an earth bound deity, he was pictured as a force governing the distribution of silver, gold, and precious gems, thus developing the reputation as "the lord of all riches". With all that treasure at his beck and call, no one really gave much thought to his nasty appearance. Would you?

LAKSHMI (LAHK-shmee; Female): If your cat loves a nice and refreshing dish of milk now and then, she would have been one happy kitty had she been around to watch the following events. For some reason, Indra managed to infuriate one of the very powerful holy men named Durvasas, who in turn placed a curse on the god which also caused the rest of the gods to weaken in their abilities. So VISHNU comes to save the day, this time appearing as the second avatar, a turtle by the name of Kurma. His plan was to use the great snake Vasuki to stir up this sea of milk, promising that through churning the sea not only would a substance come forth that would revitalize the gods, but another fourteen swell things would form as well. Vitality and power were restored to the gods by this curdled sea of milk which was one source of the wondrous drink "soma", but among the many treasure produced from this sea of milk was the lovely goddess, Lakshmi, deity of love and beauty. Vishnu fell in love with her instantly and the two were married. She brought nothing but riches and goodness wherever she happened to be and because of this she was well loved throughout India. In time, Vishnu returned to earth as another avatar named KRISHNA, and Lakshmi joined him in a new reincarnated form named Rukmini. With all this talk of milk, I think it's fairly obvious to reserve this name for a pretty female kitty who's wild about saucers filled with delicious cream, milk, or even "half and half".

PARVATI (pahr-VAH-tee; Female): We've already encountered this goddess of divine union and ecstatic desire (see GANESHA). As the wife of the god SHIVA, she was constantly subjected to his overly amorous needs. On one such occasion, while both were in the middle of some heated physical passion, two holy men happened to accidentally walk in on the naked duo, much to everyone's embarrassment. As much as the holy men tried, they could not contain their laughter. Poor Parvati was mortified, and Shiva wasn't exactly overjoyed by the awkward situation. Things might not have gotten so heated had the holy men refrained from laughing, for that was all the mighty Shiva needed to give those two one nasty balling out. He warned them to never again disturb Parvati and himself or he'd turn them both into women. The holy men got the hint, knowing full well what Shiva enjoyed doing with women. It should come as no surprise that no one ever bothered these two gods again. Since Parvati could often be very shy, you might want to give her name to one of your more bashful kitties.

PRAJAPATI(prah-jah-PAH-tee; Male): Actually this entity is a pure abstraction, neither really male or female, although most legends tend to use a masculine persona when incorporating Prajapati into a story. This abstraction represented the cosmos in unrealized potential. Later the myths turned this concept into a god of creation given the title "Lord of the Creatures". He took on fatherly characteristics, albeit, incestuous ones, for it is said that his coupling with his daughter was the source of all cosmology. This taboo reputation toned down some as the years passed and he became associated with BRAHMA. Some say that it is Prajapati who is the real supreme creator Being, but by and large it is believed that the creative concept or force behind Prajapati remains an abstraction which manifests in several different gods of creation. Since this character is so deeply conceptual, there doesn't seem to be a concrete behavior present that can be related to cats. However, this is a beautiful and poetic name fully acceptable for any cat at all.

PURUSHA (pah-ROO-shah; Male): This one is about as odd and unusual as they get. He's another one of those midget beings, but a very mystical midget being. He's thought of as the primordial human being, also called "the Cosmic Man". He sees every single thing in the universe, but he has no eyes. Not the slightest sound, nor the faintest whisper occurring throughout the entire cosmos escapes his acute sense of hearing, but he has no ears. He is all wise, all knowing, but there's not a person around who knows too much of anything at all about him. Last but not least, he is omnipresent. He is everywhere at once, but he's about as big as your thumb. Go figure. The ultimate name for a paradoxical cat, but it's up to you to define just what the paradox is surrounding your kitty.

RAMA (RAH-mah; Male): One of the most important hero-gods in all Hindu mythology. Rama was another avatar of VISHNU, the seventh to be exact. His valiant exploits are recounted in a great classic of Vedic literature called "The Ramayana". It's a rather complex story of righteous vengeance of which we'll only give the most important details. Briefly put, the story begins with the discovery of a plot to overthrow the kingdom into which Rama was born. Rama fled for his life, deep into the jungles of India with his faithful wife Sita who loved her husband dearly. Far away from any human contact, Rama fell victim to the trap of a demon working on the side of the plotters. In no time at all Sita was taken prisoner and sent far off to Sri Lanka where she was kept prisoner by forces of demons. Enlisting the help of his good friend HANUMAN the monkey king, Rama was able to learn that his beloved wife was still alive and well. Using his skilled ability of organization, Rama amassed a huge army to invade Sri Lanka. Rama's forces defeated the demonic army. Wasting no time by basking in his victory, Rama searched for and finally found his wife Sita. But the powers of evil had one final trick up their sleeve. Taking advantage of his human nature, the demons placed doubt within the mind of Rama. He began to question the virtue of his wife and could not bring himself to believe she remained chaste during the ordeal of her captivity. He suggests that the only way he will believe in her fidelity is if she undergoes a trial by fire. If she burns to death, she must have been guilty. If she emerges from the flames unscathed, then this would indeed prove her faithfulness. Sita, filled with nothing but love for her husband, agrees to submit to the test. A giant bonfire was built and the trial was about to commence when suddenly the skies opened and the gods of heaven appeared to Rama to at last inform him that he was an incarnation of Vishnu, an avatar. Suddenly filled with the knowledge of his divinity, he hugged his wife and begged her forgiveness for ever doubting her. They soon returned to India and continued their reign which was said to last 1000 years. A suitable name for a defensive cat, a righteous cat, or a cat filled with the spirit of god. Take your pick.

SARANYU (sah-RAHN-yoo; Female): I'll make this quick. She was the goddess of the clouds, and the mother of twins which personified the morning and evening star. These twins were also known for their skill in the healing arts. Personally, I think any cat would appreciate this name, but you might want to restrict it to an outdoorsy, what with the cloud connection and all.

SITA (SAH-tee; Female): For a detailed account of Sita, see the entry for RAMA.

SHASHTI (SHASH-tee; Female): Considered a divine mother-goddess and protector of children. A most appropriate name for a cat since Shashti is depicted as riding upon a cat. Together, Shashti and her feline conveyance were emblems of fertility and child birth. Some traditions consider her a manifestation of a fierce and invincible goddess of warfare named Durga.

SHIVA (SHEE-vah; Male): One of the three members of the dominant Hindu triad (the others being BRAHMA and VISHNU), and God of the cosmic dance, with each stylized move enacted in his dance representative of the everlasting life and death. He can be a kindhearted god, merciful and generous, but he can also be a most severe god as well, ruinous and deadly. One of his characteristics is to provide comfort and support to the outcasts of society. He is particularly compassionate to the most desperate people in need: the homeless, those suffering doubts in faith, the grieving, the disabled, the mentally ill, the lonely, and that's just a partial list. Woe be it to anyone who harms or takes advantage of persons such as this. Shiva is usually portrayed with four arms and a third eye situated in his forehead. In his form as God of the cosmic dance, or King of the Dance, Shiva is known as Nataraja. His dance (called the tandava) is a universal expression of blessedness which fills the cosmos with order. To atheists, his enthralling dance has the power to convert them into devoted believers. At its most abstract, this dance of Shiva is capable of making that which is ineffable known to all who have open minds willing to hear. Shiva is one of the most popular gods in the entire Indian pantheon, so if you choose this name for your cat, make certain you treat him with utmost respect. By the way, don't let the cat-dancing bother you.

SURYA (SOOR-yah; Male): The blazing god of the sun. As mighty as this sun god was, he was rather a lonely fellow. No one could stand being around him too long. Even his wife, Sanjna left him. It wasn't really Surya's fault. It was just that he was too damn bright and dazzling. What else would you expect from a sun god? To remedy this unfortunate situation, Surya shaved off an eighth of his brilliancy. Not much really, but enough, and everyone appreciated the gesture all the same. You've probably already guessed that this name would go well with a sunbathing cat.

TARA (TAH-rah; Female): I swear this name has nothing to do with Scarlett O'Hara's beloved plantation. As a matter of fact, Tara was a sex goddess and in charge of governing human sexuality. The Tantric sect held her in high esteem and asked for her help in guiding them toward methods of sex which would lead to spiritual illumination. This she was more than happy to do. Got an over sexed cat howling around your house? Then name her Tara and she'll never go hungry again.

UMA (OO-mah; Female): Uma is nicknamed "daughter of the Himalayans". Basically she's a goddess of the harvest, corn to be exact. But things can get pretty confusing when it comes to Uma. Besides being a goddess in her own right, her name is also used as a synonym for other earth and harvest goddesses including PARVATI, LAKSHMI, and even Durga. If you name your cat Uma, make sure you leave it at Uma. For that matter, name her after that actress...

URVASI (oor-VAH-see; Female): This is the goddess that brings success in all matters relating to love and romance. She's actually a creature called a apsaras which is something like an angel but more like a libidinal sylph. She and her consort (some sex elf by the name of Pururavas), nurture the flames that ignite amorous passion in human beings. They consider this fire their child (named Ayu) since they created it by rubbing two sticks together that were not surprisingly named "Urvasi" and "Pururavas". What would Freud say? I don't have to offer any obvious suggestions concerning reasons to name your cat after this goddess, do I?

USHAS (OO-shahs; Female): This beautiful goddess is the ruler of the dawn. Each and every morning she rides across the sky in her brilliant chariot chasing away the dark night, rousing all living things to experience yet another day. I thought of naming my cat Ushas since every morning, just as the sun peeks over the horizon, she obnoxiously runs across the bed, rousing me to wake up and feed her. Maybe you know a cat like this.

VARUNA (vah-ROO-nah; Male): Varuna belongs to a class of gods identified as the Asuras, otherwise known as the creators of the cosmos. Varuna's particular job was to establish and maintain cosmic order. In a sense he was both the judge and the jury of all activities occurring within the universe. Nothing escaped his notice. Nothing. He witnessed and recorded all deeds, ruling strictly but fairly. With his all seeing eyes, Varuna reminds me of that sort of cat which fixes upon you with a frighteningly attentive gaze. I suppose we can be thankful that cats, unlike people, aren't judgmental. That is, we better hope they're not.

VISHNU (VIHSH-noo; Male): One of the gods of the supreme Hindu triad along with BRAHMA the creator, and SHIVA the lord of the cosmic dance (which is to say he is the force of kinetic energy). Vishnu is considered lord of the light which pervades the entire universe conquering both physical and spiritual darkness. He is seldom seen without his mate LAKSHMI. Together they often ride throughout the world upon the back of the giant king of birds, to Garuda. Vishnu is filled with infinite love for humanity, ready to forgive our shortcomings and failures without question, providing we ask him for such grace with a sincere heart. As proof of his magnanimous concern for the welfare of the human race, he has come to earth in nine different manifestations called "avatars". Some are quite famous such as RAMA, KRISHNA, and the BUDDHA. Others are less known like Matsya the fish. Whenever humanity was in serious trouble, Vishnu came to earth as an avatar. The legend claims that there shall be ten avatars in all, so we're still waiting for the last one to come. It's said that this avatar will be named Kalkin and he shall appear as a mighty warrior upon a white horse. He shall punish the evil doers and the unjust so a new world of righteousness may begin. Okay, so how are we going to bring cats into this? Nine avatars of Vishnu so far and cats have nine lives. Sorry, but that's the best I could do. If your cat loves people and has tempted fate by trading in some of those nine lives, here's a name you might consider.

YOGI (YOH-gee; Male or Female): is what you call a person adept in the practice of yoga, the Hindu method of spiritual growth. There are many systems of yoga: Raja, >Jnana, Karma, just to name a few. But most people are familiar with Hatha Yoga, which is the discipline of posturing the body that one may concentrate upon an awareness of the soul. Apparently we have cats to thank for this method of enlightenment. Here's what happened. There was once a young Indian prince who was filled with frustration because his mind continually wandered when attempting meditations in Karma Yoga. He went for a long walk in the jungle, when he happened to come upon a cat. This large cat was sitting as still as could be in a most meticulous posture. The prince was amazed at the sight and was captivated by the soft purr coming from this wonderful cat. Filled with desire to learn, the prince asked the cat how she could possibly concentrate with such focus when his own mind would not allow him the slightest meditative satisfaction. The cat, now alert and refreshed, arched her back, then stretched each of her four legs to their maximum length. She then twisted her entire body around with ease, once again stretching legs, paws, neck, even her tail. Upon completing her display, she told the prince that this was her method of meditation, preparing her body with stress relieving movements, tensing her muscles and then allowing them to relax. This, she said, helped calm the body, thus quieting the mind and allowing focused meditation. The cat taught him several stretching and twisting exercises, then she showed him a soothing sitting position with legs crossed and arms folded in his lap. As the prince allowed his body to settle, he imitated the cat's purr which came out sounding like "OM". Every day from then on the prince returned to the cat where she continued to teach him more and more of the art of Hatha Yoga. When the prince at last learned all there was to know of this spiritual system, the cat told him that together they should travel about India teaching others the system of Hatha Yoga. So the two did just that, remaining friends for the rest of their lives as they instructed the world in this method, first practiced by a very wise cat.

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