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Let's drink to pralay, qayamat. . . whatchamacallit


Maya Indian Jose Erenesto Campos prays for safety at a Mayan heritage site in El Salvador.

Doomsday cults have an ancient pedigree. With so many gullible followers around, the nabobs of negativities are unlikely to go bust.

On my last visit to Ephesus, I was offered frothing glasses of cold Turkish lassi or ayran. These days, the hoteliers are touting something classier - Apocalypse Wine. "Enjoy it on Friday December 21st, the day the world ostensibly comes to an end!" says the Turkish vintner from the region long famed for its wines and Roman links. He is betting on Doomsday Fever to bulk up his bank balance.

Travellers with one-way tickets have been swamping the Turkish province of Sirince in the belief that Virgin Mary rose to heaven from here. The "positive energy" of the place, tourists hope, might shield them from global catastrophe predicted by a doomsday prophecy.

France and wine being inseparable there's a doomsday vintage being offered at a mountain in the French Pyrenees. Doomsday cultists claim this will be the only place still standing after the end of the world on December 21. This brings back visions of Noah's Ark resting on the Mountains of Ararat on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Deluge that supposedly devastated the world in Biblical times.

The Biblical flood harks back to still more ancient accounts from Assyria. It speaks of a tremendous cataclysm where all the howling forces of Nature waged a dreadful battle, "when the water rose to the sky and the brother no longer saw his brother... where men filled the sea like fishes and corpses floated like seaweed". When the storm subsided land was completely submerged by water and there wasn't any continent, lament the royal bards from ancient cultures of Mesopotamia.

Manu is the Indian counterpart of the Assyrian Noah. Being a man of truth and justice (Satyavrata) he was spared, says the Bhagavata Purana. The Middle-Eastern clones of Manu were saved too from divine wrath which literally cleansed the old world of burgeoning evil, according to most ancient apocalyptic writings. All these celebrate a cyclical version of the universe with its unending loops of creation (srishti), stasis (stithi) and destruction (samhara or pralaya).

"In seven days, " says Vishnu in his fish incarnation (avatar) to Manu, "the three worlds shall be submerged. " Compare this with the Lord's promise to Noah in Genesis, "Yet seven days and I will cause it to rain upon the earth. " Theosophists believe that the legends of the 'three worlds' and 'fish god' point to the legend of Atlantis. The three lokas or "worlds probably refer to the great empire of Atlantis, described by Plato, " writes Ignatius Donnelly in his 19th century compendium of Antediluvian myths from around the world;"( The other two) being the western continent of America, and Europe, Africa and Asia being considered together as the Old World. "

Like his credulous counterparts who readily subscribe to dystopian prophecies in this age of financial conspiracy theories and other skullduggeries on an interplanetary scale, Donnelly too sternly insisted that it was "too much to ask us to believe that Biblical history, Chaldean, Iranian, and Greek legends signify nothing, and that even religious pilgrimages and national festivities were based upon a myth".

Elsewhere, he claimed that the "the Koran formally states that the waters of the Deluge were absorbed in the bosom of the earth. " This glosses over a more apocalyptic vision of the end of the world which occurs in the form of Judgment Day or Qiyamah or Quayamat both in Judea-Christian and Islamic traditions.

Quayamat is envisioned as a Semitic version of the Karmic 'pay-back' time of the Orientals. While the latter supposedly plays out from one life to another reincarnated life, there is a terrible finality about Quayamat. In fact, the Day of Judgment or Resurrection, al-Qiyamah, is one of the six basic tenets of Islamic faith.

What sets Resurrection apart from the present hoopla over planetary havocs forecast by fearful mortals, the time of the final judgment is supposed to be only known Allah, according to the Koran. After this nothing is supposed to remain except God and He resurrects all!

In the final reckoning if you believe NASA scientists, our planet has been there and done all that - for as long as four billion years! The doomsayers just lost their shirts, for example, on Toutatis, when the three-mile-wide asteroid came 'cosmically close' to the Earth but did not quite manage to clinch it. Never mind, exclaim the nattering nabobs of negativities: there will always be new perditions to forecast, new prophecies to be made as long as there are gullible folks to follow them.

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