Saturday, February 4, 2012

Five Milestones in LIFE

We often talk of reaching or crossing "Milestones" in one's life.  Someone crossing a milestone is applauded and congratulated by the near and dear ones.  Such events are often celebrated and many times in large scale by arranging a function and inviting extended family members and friends.  Gifts are given and received at such functions.  Such celebrations are sometimes accompanied with prayers and religious ceremonies.

What are these milestones?  "Life is a journey from the cradle to the grave", says a proverb.  The true milestones start with the birth of the child and ends with the last breath.  There may be stones after death also.  Tombstone for an example.  There may be busts, statues and monumental stones for some personalities.  Or even one stone for many as we see in "War Memorials" or for those killed in natural calamities.  Memorials are also there for those killed in man made events like "Jalianwala bagh massacre" or "Hiroshima atom bomb victims".  There may be a stone statue in every town and village for some, generally lying uncared for and being home for birds and worms.  Or remembered twice in a year, on birthday and death anniversary, by the so called followers of these great personalities.  Followers who mercilessly kill their principles and philosophy throughout the year but never forget to swear by their names.  "Let not a stone tell where I lie", said Alexander Pope in his "Ode to solitude", not desiring a tombstone.  Thomas Grey in his famous 1750-51 poem "Elegy written in a Country Churchyard" for the poet Richard West, stretching to as many as 128 lines, has left a memorial in words remembered even today.  But all such stones, in any form, are to be excluded for this discussion on "Milestones in Life", because there is no contribution by the concerned persons for these stones.

There could be arguments that a child's movement or kicking a mother's womb when taking shape there before birth is also a milestone, being an earliest sign of life.  It is indeed a significant stage and a milestone, not for the child but for the mother.  Not to be considered a milestone for the unborn child because it has no existence of its own then and it is still an integral part of the mother.  The first cry of the child immediately after being born is indeed the first milestone.  The child has entered the playground of life and taken its guard.  Celebrations now are in order as this is not only the first milestone, but also the bed rock of its life.  One can count on many milestones now on.  The child's first smile, first time turning on its back, first voluntary movement forward, crossing the threshold of the door as well.  In some families coconuts are broken on the threshold and sweets are prepared using it to celebrate this occasion.  The child's first time standing on its own and the first step; its first word and so on...  There are parents who record each such step in their camera or videos for future reference.  This is possible in the present era when parents have mostly one child or some exceptions with two.  Five or six decades ago these were not observed with such importance because families had as many as six, eight or even more than a dozen children.  In fact there were days in such families where several milestones were crossed on the same day, the youngest one being born, penultimate one standing up for the first time, one more going to the school for the first time and probably the eldest one getting her first degree after some years in college!

While all these stages are indeed milestones, many of them are normally expected of any human being, save for rare exceptions of unfortunate ones born with some deficiency.  Many of them are stages of the natural process of growing up and there is no real achievement in reaching those stages.  There can be other milestones like securing the first job, earning the first promotion, buying the first cycle, scooter or car, housewarming of the first house or flat, birth of the first or only child, birth of the second and last child and so on.   First medal for a sportsman, first poem or book for a writer and first elected post for someone in public life.  There can be the milestone of clearing the first mortgage as well.  I am told that there is a practice in some countries to have a big bash for celebrating such an event and the documents of mortgage or a photocopy thereof is burnt down to signify clearing a debt.  As one advances in life there can be events like marriage of the first child, arrival of the first grand child and distinctions secured by one's children and grand children.  Some of these milestones are crossed not by one's own efforts, but as a collective effort or contributory effort of other members of the family or the society.

Human life span is expected to be 100 years.  Vedic blessings always say "Shatamaanam bhavati...".  Prayers say "Pashyeema Sharadah shatam,  Jeevema sharadah shatam...". (Let us see 100 Autumns (Fall seasons), let us live to see 100 autumns  etc).  Living  a useful life for 100 years is the expectation.  Useful life for oneself as well as for the society.  Not the life of a vegetable or in coma, but an active and healthy life.  Though the expectation is the same for all humans born, a very small number actually reach the goal of 100 years.  Some may lead a long life but one of illness and suffering.  Most of the people do not cross 70 or 80 years.  Governments and organisations believe that 60 years is the active period and pack off employees around that age on retirement.  We wish you well, but we had enough of you!  It is the time for eyesight to fail, hearing level going down and reflexes becoming slow.  There are many who lead an extremely fruitful and active life even after these years but their number is low.

In the background of all these discussions one has to ponder over as to what are the acknowledged milestones in our life.  In our part of the world, five milestones are generally accepted as the milestones that call for a full celebration:
  1. Crossing 60 years in the Life's cycle - Shashtabdha or Ugraratha Shanti
  2. Crossing 70 years in the life's cycle - Bhimaratha Shanti
  3. Sighting of 1000 full moons - Sahasrachandra darshana Shanti
  4. Birth of great grand son - Prapoutra darshana Shanti
  5. Full 100 years of life - Shatamana Shanti
What is the significance of these milestones and why they are celebrated?  That is for another day.     


  1. Good. Waiting for the sinificance of these
    milestone. Hope to read soon.

    Vasudeva Rao HS.

  2. Good. Waiting for the sinificance of these
    milestone. Hope to read soon.

    Vasudeva Rao HS.

  3. Very interesting indeed to read about milestones in ones life.
    We can enjoy them with open mind which comes with divine
    blessings to all of us. Also eagerly waiting to read the next
    one to know about the significance of these five milestones.

    1. Dear Sir, , it is, indeed, an excellent work of epitmisation without any ambiguites in terms of understanding life's Grand Journey. Moreover, this piece seems to be a travelogue written by an itinerant. Thank You for giving such a wonderful reading experience.

      Dr. Umashankar

  4. What a way to travel from birth to death as the latter is bound to happen. Each stage comes with responsibilities and expected duties. A fruit plant bears fruit in different stages. Flower, unripe sour hard fruit(showing the hard work),ripe fruit (after you have discharged all your responsibilities as a house holder). A premature renunciation only ends with ROTTEN FRUIT. So stay with each stage and carry out your responsibilities. You will never reach MOKSHA if you are in a hurry to meet the lord. Dr.R.K.Pudupakkam

  5. Thank you Mr.Keshava murthy for this wonderful wealth of info on human life and its journey. Also thank you for condensing the whole thing in 10 minutes during your address during my recent celebration. You are a genius. Lakshminarayana K