Monthly Archives: February 2016

Classical Indic Literature IV: Epic Poetry

MahabharataManuscript

The soul of a culture and civilization is embodied in its National Epics. Not just the values and high-minded principles, but also its emotions, core, and national character. That is the importance of High Culture and the Indigenous Indic Literary Canon, and that is the value of today’s topic in our continuing Series on Classical Indic Literature.

Readers may recall the previous articles in the series: Literary Theory, Poetics, & Dramatics. Part IV continues with a survey of Epic Poetry.

Epic Poetry

From the Epic of Gilgamesh to the Prose & Poetic Edda, Epic Poetry has a crucial place in the annals of World Literature. It is often adapted as was Milton’s Paradise Lost, re-constructed as was the Aeneid, or even outright constructed, as was the case of the Silmarillion. In fact, J.R.R. Tolkien of Lord of the Rings fame, is said to have written the latter on account of a desire to create a mythology for the English, and mythos to reference in LOTR. Allegations of anti-semitism aside, Richard Wagner is said to have held a similar fascination for Norse Mythology, which was adapted for the Germanic people for a Teutonic mythos. But what others called mythology, we call Sacred History. [2]

Indeed, the category of Epic Poetry in the Indic context is better served by native terminology of Itihasa-Purana and Mahakavya For us, these stories, names, and even places are not made up, but in most cases, stories, names, and places that are still being lived or lived on today. Ayodhya is not some imaginary city, but an important municipality that stands even today and is revered by millions. Mathura is not on some distant planet, but a place of pilgrimage to the common person. Kasi is not merely a crowded, polluted town, but the holiest city in Hinduism. They are as much the cities of Rama, Krishna, and Divodasa, as they are Pradhan Mantri Narendra’s.

That is why, even when characters and various lokas seem fantastical in the modern world, they still hold a very real relevance because the earthly places  themselves still exist. Whether we believe these stories took place verbatim, or believe them to be mere atisayokti (hyperbole) added to true events per the storyteller’s prerogative, Itihasa-Purana is at the heart of our heritage. Empires may fall, cities may be destroyed, but the heritage of a people, indeed their historical memory and civilizational identity, is contained in its stories and epics. That is also why “mythologists” and assorted videshi vipers have been hissing and spreading sometimes sweet, but usually sour, poison about our stories and figures, whether male, or increasingly female. When they are ‘Invading the Sacred, it becomes all the more important that we reassert the sacredness of our epics and adapt them to the modern context.

Classical Indic Epics

What are the civilizational epics of Bharatavarsha? How many are the national epics of India? The short answer is 2, 20, and 32.  Virtually every Bharatiya  when prompted about the sacred epics of their society will instantly respond: Ramayana & Mahabharata.   And this is for good reason. They are our two most important epics and central stories as they are not only spotlights on the national character, and guidebooks on dharmic living, but they in turn connect us to the overarching Puranas and our ultimate Vedic tradition. Both are stories within stories. As the Silmarillion provides the backstory that makes the Lord of the Rings all the more compelling, so too the Puranas provide the backstory that makes the Ramayana and Mahabharata all the more compelling.

But while Tolkien had to invent a mythology for a nice story, we have ready made Pauranic punditry to bring to life the Ramayana and Mahabharata’s sacred history. The Lord of the Rings and the western literary canon are generally mere fiction meant to provide entertaining stories. But the Ramayana and Mahabharata provide a moral compass for society. That is why we study them and make serials which no Hollywood or Bollywood could replace. Their profundity surpasses production capacity of the big screen.

But along with these 2 Sanskrit epics and the 18 Maha Puranas that form the corpus of Pauranic literature, we also have contributions from Baudha Dharma and Jina Dharma via associated Sanskrit and Tamizh Literature.  First, there is the Buddhacharita of Ashvagosha. Then there are the 5 main epics of Tamizh Literature. Finally, there are the Mahakavyas. These are the 5 main great poems of Sanskrit: Kumarasambhava, Raghuvamsa, Kiratarjuneeya, Sisupalavadha, and Naisadheeya Charita, by Kalidasa, Bharavi, Magha, and Sri Harsha respectively.

Despite being mere adaptations of Pauranic history as Paradise Lost was to “biblical history”,  these Mahakavyas have over the course of time acquired a potent character so as to be almost sacred. The truth is, given the 30 million texts in sanskrit alone (leave aside Tamizh, Prakrit, and Pali), countless tomes can be classified as Epic Poetry. But what what is it that truly makes a work Itihasa-Purana, or a Purana, or a Mahakavya?

That is where the tradition itself and the adhyatmic authorities who guide it, play the presiding role, not some self-appointed videshi “dhotiwallah’, pretending to go native.  What text has served to provide moral education and critical understanding of our Dharmic tradition? That is what elevated even the Mahakavyas to the level of secondary epics.

Authors

Before we commence with this exegesis on the epics, it is important to briefly touch on those two mightiest of poets, who art the fount of both poesy and wisdom, from which men of the dread Kali Age derive their dharma and direction.

Valmiki

maharshi-Valmiki

Known as the Adi Kavi, Maharishi Valmiki, and his own wondrous story of redemption, needs no introduction to the cultured Indian person. From robber-hunter to wise Sage to majestic poetic, he is the man who gave us our most inspiring tale of familial and fraternal love, and yet inspires us with his own biography.

He uses the anushtubh metre in his wonderful poem, imbued with the spirit of his tapas. Like the Ramayana, his is a story of vindication. Indeed, his life alone demonstrates that it is not mere learning or knowledge or certified scholarship that marks an acharya or authority on literature (let alone a Maharishi), but rather, sadhana and shraddha.   Like the Aayana of Rama, Valmiki’s journey is one that awakens not just the mind but also the soul, and the fruit of his Tapas, is our beloved Ramayana.

Veda Vyasa

Maharshi_Vyasa-image

Better known as Krishna Dvaipayana, “the Island Born” Krishna (as distinguished from the other Krishnas: Draupadi, and Vasudeva), Maharishi Veda Vyasa is famous for, among many other things, compiling the Vedas and presenting them in their present form.

Per the tradition, the full corpus of the Vedas could no longer be memorised and understood by a single human being in a single lifespan, due to the moral and physical degeneration of man in the Kali Yuga. As such, at the End of the Dvapara, he divided the Vedas into the Chaturveda as we know them today. However, in their original form, these only constituted Karma Kanda, that is, the portion of Vedic Knowledge associated with ritual and yajna. The remaining portions of the traditional “Veda” include Jnana Kanda (The Upanishands) and Upasana/Bhakti Kanda (Bhagavata Purana).

As such, the work of this mighty Maharishi spans the breadth of our tradition: from the Vedas, to the Itihasas, to the Puranas. The son of Satyavathi and Maharishi Parasara not only compiled the Vedas, and composed the Mahabharata, but features in the latter as well. Nevertheless, his story and greatness are a matter for another time. It is time to understand what makes an epic, epic.

Epics

Arjuna_statue
Arjuna in Indonesia

The sway of our epics has spanned the breadth of the world. However, nowhere outside of India has their impact been more obvious than South East Asia. Our ancestors crossed the oceans, and the love of Indic culture and civilization created new Ayodhya’s across the samudra. Mahakavi Dandin wrote that “lore is the boat for those who desire to cross the deep ocean of poetry”[5, 7]. That is the value of not only the epics, but understanding of Itihasa-Purana and Sastra. The value of each reference, each allusion, each simile, and their respective depths-of-meaning can only be fully absored by one well-versed in lore.

Despite the sophistication of Classical Indic Poetry, its brilliance is in capturing the most elevating of sentiments and philosophies in the simplest and most sundaram of stories.

Ramayana

rama-coronation

Divided into six books, kandas (though the 7th Uttara Kanda is sometimes added), the Ramayana is the most beloved of all Indic epics, and the masterpiece of Maharishi Valmiki.  [10, 72] It is for this reason, known as the Adi Kavya, and its author, the Adi Kavi. It is 500 cantos and 24,000 verses of pure spiritual beauty. Was it history? When did it take place? Some say thousands of years ago, some say, Chatur-yugas ago. Nevertheless, this is the singular work that binds the heart and soul of Indic civilization together. This is not due to geography  or history or even morality, but the pure sentiment of the work. Despite being dharmopadesa, it is a poem of vatsalya (familial affection).

So much so is this the case that even the video game, Sid Meier’s Civilization, refered to the Ramayana as a civilizational achievement that boosted the morality and happiness of a populace. Yet in our era, this timeless tale is attacked from all corners without proper understanding, or unwillingness to undertand, its subtlety and moral high-mindedness.

From Presidents of the Republic, to local dhobis, it is the universally known and universally recited epic of our civilization. From the small child, to the greatest warrior, all draw inspiration from its simple elegance, profound sentiment, and hope against hopelessness. The well-known story of Lord Vishnu’s 7th incarnation as Rama, the Crown Prince of Ayodhya, his wife Princess Sita, his loyal brothers, his beloved bhaktas, his vaunted lineage, and his destiny’s enemy  Ravana, are all so woven into our being that it is verily part of our national character, and can be discussed at another time.

Nevertheless, it is a guidebook for individuals and the conducting of individual relationships. It captures the sweetness of family life and provides a cautionary tale of how selfishness and jealousy lead to division. But it is also a triumph. While the Mahabharata destroys one family, the Ramayana victoriously reunites this one.  It is a tale of a family reunited, because they were able to surmount the bitterness of circumstantial division (caused by fate), and ultimately triumph because all the brothers and all the sisters-in-law did their duty. One sin by one mother nearly destroyed a kingdom. But it was the nobility of the eldest brother and the sacrifice of the second-eldest, and the selflessness of the two youngest, that ensured the family was ultimately able to triumph over all tragedies. The rightful heir became king, and the people received good government, not only because they were worthy of Ram Rajya (unlike our current crop), but because all rejected the Perils of Ambition.

Fittingly, this very theme of ambition and its perils would be evaluated in the Epic that defined the very geography of Bharatavarsha, the War of the Bharatas.

Mahabharata

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The epic of epics, the Bharata of Bharatas, the incarnation of incarnations, all are so contained in this magnum opus of Maharishi Veda Vyasa that the very name evokes sweeping grandeur. The familiar story of a family divided, and the fratricidal war that follows, shows not only the ultimate restoration of dharma, but also the dangers of internecine and inter-familial rivalry.

That, incidentally, is also part of the lesson of the epic Poem for which the future Sapta Rishi is famous for. Originally known as Jaya, and Bharata, the Mahabharata is the single greatest epic known to man. Requiring no introduction to any Bharatiya of worth, it is more than just the record of a rivalry or war as with the Iliad or the tale of journey a la Odyssey, but is an expression of the philosophical, political, societal, and strategic culture of Dharma itself. “It is not an epic written to please the kings sitting on the throne” [10,62]. It is a guide of societies. “The artistic unity and symmetry, the harmony and the right proportion of the various parts and the natural way in which events follow events and items are introduced in various contexts –all these make the epic a real work of art.” [10,62]

At 18 chapters and 180,000 verses, and 1.8 million words, it is the single longest epic poem in World Civilization. Ten times larger than the Iliad and the Odyssey put together, it is four times longer than the Ramayana.  Simultaneously discussing various aspects of humanity, and with numerous side stories and side instruction, a veritable lifetime itself could be spent poring over its plentiful details and nuances. What begins on the banks of the Ganga, featuring its eponymous Goddess and the Kuru King Shantanu, ends not on that famous field of the Kurus, or even with the end of Sri Krishna avatar, but concludes with an exhortation to moral behaviour. While the Ramayana is written in the form of a recitation, the Mahabharata is written as a dialogue, of Rishi Vaisampayana recounting the story to King Pareekshit. It predominantly uses anushtubh chanda (metre). Said to take place in the Dvapara Age, the passing of Krishna, iniated the start of the Kali Yuga (3102 B.C.E).

As the world’s longest poem, veritable tomes let alone articles could be written on the best of Bharatas. Where to begin and where to end in the discussion of the sum total of human experience? Maharishi Veda Vyasa himself notes that while what is contained in it may be found elsewhere, there is nothing found elsewhere that is not contained in it. Therefore, better to end this section on the Mahabharata with the sloka that best defines epic:

Oorddhva baahurviromyesha na kashchit shrnothi me
Dharmaath artthasha kaamascha kim na sevyati? (Svargarohanika Parva, S.5)

I raise my hands up [in frustration] and say “The way to wealth and love is through Dharma—why doesn’t anybody listen?!”

Classical Indic Literature traditionally maintains the category of Itihasa-Purana. While the two Civilizational epics cross the threshold of that liminality, because our tradition holds them as sacred physical history, there are nevertheless the namesake Puranas that are clearly meta-physical in nature.

Puranas

Bhagavatapurana picture
Bhagavatha Purana

There are traditionally 18 Maha Puranas and 18 Upa Puranas. While the Ramayana and Mahabharata are often referred to as Puranas, per the tradition, in the Pauranic context, they are referred to as Itihaasa. Many such as the Vayu Purana are mentioned in supplements to the Epic of the Bharatas. Thus, the 18 Maha Puranas, generally of later origin, can therefore be distinguished. Of these, the Bhagavatha Purana is of the greatest importance, while the others are often assigned a younger date circa 300 B.C.E. [10, 76] This is because when Maharishi Veda Vyasa, at the end of the Dvapara (5117 years ago) was compiling the Vedas, it was determined that the traditional corpus could no longer be mastered by a single brahmana. As such, he divided it into karma-kanda (Chatur-Veda), jnana-kanda (Upanishads), and upasana/bhakti-kanda (Bhagavatha Purana).  The other 17 Maha Puranas are as follows: Padma Purana, Vishnu Purana, Shiva Purana, Skanda Purana, Vayu Purana, Brahma Purana, Brahmanda Purana, Brahma-Vaivarta Purana, Agni Purana, Garuda Purana, Linga Purana, Markandeya Purana, Matsya Purana, Kurma Purana, Varaaha Purana, Vamana Purana,  and Naradheeya Purana.

The Dasavatara of Lord Vishnu is predominantly discussed here. Per tradition, the Puranas are all said to be extensions of the Mahabharata, and thus, all are sometimes credited to Maharishi Veda Vyasa. [10,74] Nevertheless, there is more to them than moral instruction. Interestingly, we find that despite being spiritual in nature, and dealing with the creation story of the universe, they remain works of great literary significance. Women too are provided with a prominent place. The Shiva Purana itself critically features episodes concerning Goddess Durga.

shivapuranaack

The 18 upa-puranas typically deal with matters of lesser importance. These include the history of place names, and thus, many are called “sthala purana”. [10,79]

Nevertheless, Jina Dharma (Jaina/ Jainism) and Baudha Dharma (Buddhism) also made significant contribution to Epic Poetry.

Ashvagosha

Ashvagosha wrote his famous Buddhacharita in the days of Kanishka. Considered a good poet writing “true poetry”, he nevertheless has, unlike Mahakavis, the intention to sermonise, and he does so plentifully. Despite differing in panth, he looked to Adi Kavi and the compiler of the Vedas for inspiration. He himself annointed it a Mahakavya and composed it in Sanskrit (as opposed to the traditional Pali). [7, ii] Only half the work (17 cantos) is said to have come down to us, four of which are not considered authentic. In fact, in a recurring issue, we have a later poet adding on to the original work. Translations in Tibetan and Chinese take the original number to 22 cantos at least. [10, 131] We see the episodes involving Siddartha Gautama‘s life in the palace, eventual despair at the cycle of samsara, and quest for enlightenment. The language used is simple but elegant, and very much in line with the Vaidarbhi style of Acharya Dandin.

Interestingly enough, Ashvagosha is credited with a lesser  known epic the Saundara-nanda. A work in 18 cantos, it begins in the city of Kapilavastu with the father (Suddodhana) and brother of the Tathagatha, namely  Nanda. Here we see the rise of the Buddha’s half brother to the throne, and understand his ambivalence between the exigencies and pleasures of the material world, and the buddhist beatitude of the spiritual world. [10, 132-4]. Whether it should be considered a formal epic in the league of the Buddhacharita is another matter, but in “the Saundara-nanda, there is a deliberate introduc-tion of the poet’s erudition in the ancient lore of India, various names of sages and of poets of the ancient times, the Vedic rituals and customs and manners, stories of the heroes of old and so on.” [10,133]

Considered a work of great dexterity and kavya skill, the Saundara-nanda of Ashvagosha gives us an understanding of sampradayic relations. In fact, in “his works we see the great reverence which the poet had for Vedic literature and Vedic culture”. [10,133] As such, the actual “integral unity” of our tradition is apparent once again. This is also apparent in the Jain canon and in the classical Tamil language.

Tamizh & Jain Literature

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Among the other classical languages, Tamizh (Tamil) naturally stands out. There are 5 epic poems credited to the Sangam Age that define this branch of the Indic canon. These epics, nevertheless, are the Silappathikaram, the Manimekalai, the Sivaka Chintamani, Valayapathi, and Kundalakesi. Interestingly enough, though most of Jain literature, especially the Purvas and Angas, is in Ardh-Magadhi (Prakrit) or Sanskrit, it is in Tamizh that we see its philosophy come to life in epic form.

While the  Manimekalai favours Baudha Dharma, Jain themes are replete in the Sivaka Chinatamani and the Valayapathi. Tamizh itself by tradition is attributed to Lord Shiva, and its grammar credited to Maharishi Agasthya, per his disciple Tolkappiyar (who wrote the Tolkappiyam). Sangam literature itself is presently dated to the 3rd Century B.C.E. to the 1st, though it is likely older. The most famous however remains the Silappathikaram. It too is a tale that is replete in Dharma, and the heroine, Kannagi, said to be an incarnation of Devi herself. These epics are filled with themes of heroism and valour. [16]

Tamil literature in fact contains numerous resplendent gems, such as the Thirukural and the Kamba Ramayana. Nevertheless, in order to properly appreciate these classics, it best to learn from proponents of the tradition themselves,  here.

Mahakavya

There are, according to tradition, 5 Mahakavyas in number, and thus, they are known as the Pancha Mahakavya. [10,136] Of course, alert students (and motivated videshis) are quick to question why Ashvagosha’s work or Bhatti’s Kavya are not included in this number. But that is a matter for another time and another article. At present, we shall limit ourselves to the traditional number and works.

These are: Kumara-Sambhava and Raghuvamsa of Kalidasa, Sishupala-vadha of Magha, Kiratarjuneeya of Bharavi, and Naishada Charita or Naisadeeya of Sri Harsha. In his Kavyadarsa, Mahakavi Dandin has stipulated conditions for a poem to be classified as a Mahakavya:

The truly great work of Poetry is the Mahakavya (Great Poem). A type of this is the Sarga-bandha, which is” a Mahakavya that has a beginning with a benediction or indication of contents, it deals with purusharthas and has one of the four types of heroes. It describes the various phases of romance between great lovers, their journeys, trials and tribulations, uses rasa and bhava, has reasonable size chapters and will survive several kalpas. [5, 8-10]

Reputed scholar M.R.Kale defines it as follows: “A Mahakavya is a metrical composition which ought to be divided into cantos, not less than eight and more than thirty in number, and not containing less than thirty and more than two hundred slokas in each.” [6, v]. He further writes that it may be concered with the life of a single hero (Kiratarjuneeyam) or an entire race of kings (Raghuvamsa). The hero should possess the qualities of the Dhirodatta Nayaka (hero of sublime qualities). Moreover, each canto is required to have a uniform metre, which much be changed at its end–with some exceptions. What’s more, at the conclusion of each canto, the subject matter or predominant rasa should be indicated. “A Mahakavya must, as well, contain descriptions of great cities, oceans, mountains, seasons, the rise of the sun and the moon, sportings with ladies in gardens and water, drinkings, separations and unions of lovers &c. The style should be highly sentimental and embellished with figures of speech &c. Nothing that violates the dignity of poetry, such as unmeaning talk &c. should find place in a Mahakavya.“[6,vi]

Given these guidelines, it is obvious to see that only a poet of great skill, a true Mahakavi, can aspire to complete a true Mahakavya. It is for this reason that, while many epic poems have been attempted before and completed since, it is only these 5 poems in Sanskrit that are traditionally referred to as Mahakavyas. It is also why 3 of the 4 poets below wrote at least 1, and the remaining 1 was a master of poetics.

Upama Kalidasasya, Bharaverartha gauravam ! Dandinah padalalityam, Maghe santi trayogunah !!

The simile of Kalidasa, the depth of meaning of Bharavi, the word-play of Dandin, in Magha all three qualities are found! [4]

There are of course many other poems that are epic in nature, not only in Sanskrit, but many other languages. By some estimates 3000 sanskrit works have been composed since Bharatiya Svatantra (Indian Independence). But these Pancha Mahakavya have acquired a certain sanctity that, like canon law among the Anglo-Saxons, has a certain authority of their own. The first of these authorities is none other than poet extraordinaire, Mahakavi Kalidasa.

Kumara-Sambhava

kumarasambhava_of_kalidasa_m_r_kale_medium
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Kalidasa is reckoned the poet among poets, and an artist of the first echelon. Reams can be written on him, and indeed have been, and will be. Nevertheless, the focus of today is not on his life or even his poet grace, but the majesty of his mahakavyas, the first of which is the Kumarasambhava.

The Kumarasambhava of Kalidasa is a tour-de-force of literary effort of a very high order, and is in fact the oriflamme of Indian poetic genius. It is a gem among Kalidasa’s poetic works“. So wrote eminent scholar C.R. Devadhar. But what is it that makes this recounting of the Birth of the War God, so resonant with power and redolent with sentiment?

Adapting the a portion of the Skanda Purana, it discusses the marriage of Shiva and Parvati and the Birth of their child, Kumara (Karthikeya/Muruga/Skanda), who will grow up to become the commander-in-chief of the Devas and defeat the demon Tarakasura. There are some who assert that due to presence of eros in the gandhamadhana episode, that Kalidasa’s pupils must have finished sections of it, to account for the disparity. There are others of more foreign disposition who assert that all of Sanskrit kavya is eros, so there is no point in drawing morality from it (this specifically is patent nonsense). It is true that as both Kama and his mate Rati feature in the Kumarasambhava, so too do Sringara rasa and Rati bhava accompany each other. But as both this mahakavya, and the one we end with demonstrate, the nava rasa is present in the discussion of dharma, because dharma pervades all 9 of them. A poem in 17 cantos (though Kalidasa is usually credited only with 8),[10,120]  its predominent rasa is Sringara, but due to the great battle that is to ensure, it has elements of Vira rasa as well, as can be seen here:

God Kumara, too, indulging in the sport of war, snapp-ed into bits the arrows and the bow of the Asura, just as a Yogi, himself dry as dust, by his yaugic practices, snaps the infallible bonds of Samsara s.47,C.7 [7,252]

Raghuvamsa

return of ramaThe Raghuvamsa is one of the most beautiful epic poems composed by man. This mahakavya of Mahakavi Kalidasa, is singularly one of his best works. While he normally distinguishes himself through upama (that is simile), here we find a magnificent work conceived from start to finish, encapsulating the glory of the dynasty of the Raghus.  The maturity of the poet’s age and talent is seen in the sophistication of this composition.

There are by tradition 25 cantos, of which 19 have come down to us. [7,ii] The great Telugu commentator Mallinatha, from new Telangana state, famously did a commentary on it. Raghuvamsa begins with a salutation to Lord Shiva and then commences with the story of King Dilipa. From there it proceeds to the rise of Raghu, then Aja, then Dasaratha, and the veritable tilika of the Raghus himself, Sri Ramachandra. After relating key episodes in the Ramayana, in proceeds to successors from Kusha down to Agnivarna. In a long line of kings of high character, the last one named proves a libertine. Nevertheless, it ends on a note of hope, mentioning his pregnant wife.

In an era of special effects and CGI, the Raghuvamsa nevertheless proves an engaging and even engrossing read. Filled with action, softened by sentiment, and replete with deep-seating meaning and moral principle, it is the complete Mahakavya. And discussing Kings from the Uttarapatha down to the Dakshinapatha (the Chola king is invited to a Svayamvara), it is the complete Indian Mahakavya. [7]

Sishupala-vadha

As the title indicates, this poem adapts an infamous episode from the Mahabharata, known as the Slaying of Sishupala, the evil cousin of Krishna. But what marks the skill of the poet is not the description of the blades of the Sudarshana chakra. Rather, it is the very apogee of not only poetic skill, but imagination and conception of rhetoric device. That is why makes Sisupala-vadha an unique, intricate, and memorable work.

It is said by some that Magha, in whom all three qualities of great poetry are said to be found, was in fact inspired by Bharavi.  There are many points of resemblance. “It is said that the name Magha was assumed by the poet to indicate when Magha (a month in the cold season) comes Bharavi (the sun) loses his splendour“. [6, xxii] A few examples alone will demonstrate the consummate skill of Mahakavi Magha.

From the 114th stanza of the 19th canto, a single consonant is used to compose an entire sloka!

दाददो दुद्ददुद्दादी दाददो दूददीददोः ।
दुद्दादं दददे दुद्दे दादाददददोऽददः ॥

dādado duddaduddādī dādado dūdadīdadoḥ
duddādaṃ dadade dudde dādādadadado’dadaḥ

“Sri Krishna, the giver of every boon, the scourge of the evil-minded, the purifier, the one whose arms can annihilate the wicked who cause suffering to others, shot his pain-causing arrow at the enemy.”

Naisadheeya Charita

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Naisadhiya-carita is philosophy and all sciences and other currents of thought brought into poetry, or poetry presenting all the systems of philosophy and all the sciences and currents of thought knit around a simple and familiar story. There are elaborate descriptions, both of nature and of human emotions.“[11, 147]. Such is the glowing the glowing account of the Naisadheeya Charita of Sri Harsa Deva. But of all the why’s and who’s that come up, the first is whether the aforementioned Harsa is in fact Emperor Harshavardhana of Kannauj, the famous king of Kanyakubja who ruled Northern India in the 7th Century C.E.

harshavardhana

From all accounts, this appears to be the case. He, in fact, is credited with a number of other works including the dramas Ratnavali, Svapnavasavadatta, and Nagananda. If this is in fact beyond a doubt, then it only goes to show that the model of Indic manliness and kingship, the embodiment of Nara Dharma, is in fact shown through harmony of prowess in battle and cultivation of culture.

A composition in 22 cantos, the Naisadheeya is an account of the famous episode in the Mahabharata concerning the Nishada King Nala and his lady love Queen Damayanti.[11,xx] It discusses their romance, and marriage. Harsha’s language is described as “lucid and grand“. “Harsha’s philosophy does not affect the art in his poetry; on the other hand, he beautifies his philosophy by giving it a coat of art”. [11, 147]

Kiratarjuneeyam

Kiratarjuniya

The Kiratarjuneeyam is that famous Mahakavya that celebrates the episode of Arjuna fighting Lord Shiva in the guise of  Kirata (mountain-man) and later receiving his blessing and Pasupat-astra. Composed by Mahakavi Bharavi, its predominant sentiment is Vira rasa (heroic). While little has come down to us about its author, it is not the clash of arms that has elevated this composition to the stratosphere, but for the power of the poetry itself.

Bharaver-artha gauravam is a famous portion of a sloka on the sanskrit Mahakavis, and this is not without cause.  Bharavi is famous for his depth of meaning and we understand why from the first canto. His expertise in political philosophy and rajniti is apparent throughout, and thus, it is as much as a pragmatic work as it is poetic. It has been referred to by other commentators as “one of the most vigorous and spirited poems in the Sanskrit language“. [6,xxi] Mallinatha remarked that  Bharavi’s style was like a coconut “which has to be broken before one can get at the sweet kernel“. [6,xxii] But why learn second hand what you an see for yourselves. Here is a sample sloka.

Abhimaana dhanasya gathvarairasubhih sthaasnu yasaschi cheeshathah|

Achiramshu vilaasa chanchalaa nanu lakshmih phala maanush-angikam|| C.2, s.19

To a man regarding self-respect as his wealth and seeking imperishable (lasting) glory by (at the cost of) perishable life,

wealth which is unsteady like a flash of lightning is but an object of secondary consideration.  [6, 112]

Conclusion

ram-ravana-the-ramayana-indian-mythology-brahmastra

In the era of 300 Ramayanas, Ravanleela, Siya ke Ram, and Sita sings the Blues, the very accuracy, let alone efficacy and sanctity of epics has been questioned. Bharatiyas, particularly the English-medium variety, are being “saved” by foreigners who are falling over themselves to rescue them from the very upper castes who feature in and composed these epics…if only we’d gosh darn let them! But why are they and their 300 Ramayana’s theories so full of Beowulf?–because our tradition also asserted what is the original. Despite being a proud Telugu speaker, I know that the Andhra Mahabharatamu may be a wonderful re-telling, but it does not have the authority of Vyasa.

It is the height of foreign arrogance to think that a Nina Paley could have the same authority as Maharishi Valmiki. This is because if countless and contradictory variations serve as ultimate authority, than what is the lesson we are meant to draw? So why do our “phoreign sabiours” insist?–It is because if epics can be and mean anything, then they are and mean nothing. That is the true value of epics: Dharma Upadesa. They give us upadesa (moral instruction) and niti (lesson) from which to guide our life. Does the heartbroken Nina Paley have the same authority of a tested Philosopher? Why the reverence of Derridas, but not Valmiki? That is why regional variations and assorted 300 Ramayanas, whatever their literary merit, provide adaptation to local needs, but the paramount authority remains the original version composed after sadhana and intense tapas, repeatedly chanting the syllables “Ma Ra”, as japa, resulting in that sweetest of phala:

Ra Ma.

Accordingly, the Valmiki Ramayana and the Vyasa Mahabharata stand out not only because they are the originals (and therefore, canon) but are pan-Indic in nature and their influence spans the subcontinent. In fact, it is not the “Valmiki Ramayana”, but simply The Ramayana, as it is the authentic version that all others bow to, draw from, and depend upon. That the Mahakavyas all draw their inspiration from these two as well as the Maha Puranas, only further demonstrates their status and that they are in a class of their own. Epic Poetry is itself a non-Indic classification. As such, as feted as the Mahakavyas are for their literary merit (and deservingly so), it is only the original Ramayana and Mahabharata that are worthy of the appellation Itihasa-Purana, and the due reverence they deserve. The others are unofficial upa-puranas at best, but more likely mahakavyas.

Those pseudo-intellectual Ivory & Ivy tower pinheads who mock our stories and serialised epics as “masculinasation of [effeminate] hindoos” should keep their shameless colonial terminology to themselves. The Raj era racist tripe against “Hindoos” is well known (and its modern day variants easily detectable), and these Western Europeans are the modern-day bearers of that ‘White Man’s Burden’. Perhaps that is why they decry the popping of that bubble so much (and having failed, perhaps that is why their attack is from the other end of the spectrum now). Yes, our heroes were manly, but also respectful of women. It is not a cowardly Parthian shot by retreating central asian horse archers, or conquest through canon from a distance and deception that marks manliness. It is not just power, but strength of character… integrity. Do these self-proclaimed, self-assuming “masculine” races have it?

samudraram

Why do they attack our sacred stories? A certain Shri Srinivasan has ventured a theory. Perhaps that is why they brand Bhagvan Ram and deride Durga Ma, because they themselves are insecure at the piffle they’ve produced. Can the Iliad and Odyssey, or Lusiad and or assorted tales of chivalry, even hold a candle to just our two epics?

Indic Epic Poetry is attacked so heavily for other reasons as well. “This immense literature consisting of the Itihaasas and the Puraanas held the nation together, resisting the tendencies for separation and even disruption on account of geographical distances, introduction of new religious beliefs and practices, presences of different races in the country and the incursion of foreign tribes into country, and also the development of many regional languages into literary languages. ” [10,79]

It is no wonder that the Vedas and the Itihaas and the Puraanas are worshipped by the nation as the path for salvation. These specimens of poetry and their poets are the real saviours of the country from utter ruin. [10,79]

As a cosmopolitan person, it is important to appreciate what the rest of the world has produced. From Sun Tsu to Ovid, there is in fact much to appreciate in global literature, whether practical or philosophical. It is good to read widely and recognise wisely what is good in others. But it is even more important to do so, while being firmly rooted in one’s own tradition. That is the value of our Sacred Epics and Epic Poetry. It is only by juxtaposition (upamana) that we understand the beauty of what we have, and it is only by knowing the beauty of what we have, that we can correctly appreciate beauty in others.

But above all, Epic Poetry and Itihasa-Purana are crucial for reasons, ironically, that the Lord of the Rings itself best expressed.

And we shall conclude with that.

References:

  1. The Mahabharata. http://sacred-texts.com/hin/maha/index.htm
  2. Srinivasan, Rajeev. Firstpost. “Modi right to Ditch English”. (June 11, 2014) http://www.firstpost.com/india/modi-right-to-ditch-english-but-he-should-speak-sanskrit-at-un-1563899.html
  3. Malhotra, Rajiv. http://rajivmalhotra.com/library/articles/myth-hindu-sameness/
  4. Das, Sisir Kumar. A History of Indian Literature, 500-1399: From Courtly to the Popular. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. 2005. p.75
  5. Sastrulu, V.V., and Ed. Rabindra K. Panda. Kavyadarsah of Dandin. Delhi: Bharatiya Kala Prakashan. 2008
  6. Kale, M.R. Kiratarjuniyam of Bharavi.Delhi: MLBD. 1993
  7. Devadhar, C.R. Works of Kalidasa. Vol. II. Delhi: MLBD. 2010
  8. Mishra, Sampadananda. The wonder that is Sanskrit. Sri Aurobindo Society, Vijay (2002).pp. 3
  9. The Ramayana. http://www.valmikiramayan.net/
  10. Raja, C. Kunhan. Survey of Sanskrit Literature.Delhi: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. 1962
  11. Kale, M.R. Ratnavali of Sri Harsa-Deva. Delhi: MLBD. 2011
  12. Malhotra, Rajiv. Sulekha. 2002. http://creative.sulekha.com/the-axis-of-neocolonialism_103313_blog
  13. http://www.thehindu.com/br/2004/02/03/stories/2004020300331500.htm
  14. R. S. Sharma; June Gaur.Ancient Indian Literature: An Anthology. Sahitya Akademi.Sahitya Akademi (New Delhi, Inde).2000 p. 137.
  15. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kozhikode/capturing-the-essence-of-18-puranangal-in-murals/article6271621.ece
  16. Sastri, K.A.Nilakantha. A History of South India. New Delhi: Oxford. 2015

Set Mundu – A Kerala Woman’s Quiet Dignity

The following Post was published at Andhra Cultural Portal on May 31, 2015


India is a land of varied geography. But geography in India is not just about physical features; it is sacred. The geography of a particular place is intimately intertwined with its culture and its people and people mould their lives according to the geography they are in. Living in a certain geography in India means to be in harmony with it, to enhance it, and to make it more beautiful. I dwell on the subject of aesthetics here with the example of dress and particularly female dress.

Let us take the two examples of Rajasthan (desert landscape) and Kerala (lush vegetation). The women of Rajasthan wear flowing lehengas with cholis and chunaris which are in bright shades of yellow, red, blue, green and so on. These bright colours do enhance the beauty of the stark, sandy, desert landscape and are a feast for the eyes. On the other hand, the state of Kerala, a tiny strip on the west coast of India is a riot of green, blue and brown because she is richly endowed with lush vegetation, is by the sea, and has a high hill range protecting her. When she is endowed with so much natural beauty, people don’t need to add more colour to add to her beauty; which is why the predominant colour of the dress that Keralites wear is white or off white, with some minor embellishments. It is so apt, for this simplicity just adds elegance and a look of purity/freshness to the greens, blues and browns of the richly endowed land.

So, my focus here is only on one of the off white garments that Keralites wear. I refer to the set mundu that is the most simple attire of a lady in Kerala but which has evolved into one of the most understated, lovely, fashion statements at least in sections of Malayali society today.

The set mundu is essentially a two piece clothing worn with a blouse which has evolved to be worn like a saree in the present day. However, the origins of the garment were certainly not in the present form.

The Evolution of the Set Mundu – A little bit of history

Kerala is a very hot and humid place and I contend that its society was not overly concerned with issues of clothing and fashion. Moreover, the Western Ghats bordering Kerala act as a natural barrier and cocoon the land from overland influences. Hence influences from outside reached Kerala only slowly except if those influences came via the sea route. The preferred dress was to wear a simple white/off white cotton cloth called mundu which was tied at the waist and fell to the ankles or below the knees. A light piece of cloth across the breast and over the shoulders was called the upper cloth or melmundu.

Malayali Nair Women wearing Mundu

Slowly, the present day blouse that most Indian women wear with a saree began to gain popularity in Kerala.

And the melmundu began to be worn over the blouse in the traditional way.

The Weaver Story

As I was researching for this subject I came across information about the creators of this garment. There are I think principally 3 regions where the weaver community who create this garment live. One is Balaramapuram near Thiruvananthapuram, another is Kuthampully in Thrissur district and the third is Chendamangalam near Ernakulam. The weavers In Kuthampully and Balaramapuram trace their origins to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu respectively. Kuthampully weavers say they are from the Devanga community in the erstwhile Mysore state who left their ancestral land during the period of Turkic rule which was hostile. They settled in Kuthampully, a village on the banks of the Bharatapuzha (Nila) and became the weavers for the Royal family of Kochi (Cochin). The Balaramapuram weavers trace their origins to the Shaliyar community of Tamil Nadu who were again brought to Thiruvananthapuram by the Travancore kings to be weavers for the Royal family.

How did the Set Mundu evolve to its present avatar?

With the coming of the weavers from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, a part of their culture would have come to Kerala. Both in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, there is a culture of little girls wearing chattai pavadai /Langa (two piece garment with a long pleated ankle length skirt from waist down and a waist length blouse for the top).

This garment metamorphoses into dhavani-pavadai as the girls turn into their later teen years. A dhavani-pavadai is a three piece garment. Like in chattai pavadai, you have the ankle length long pleated skirt, the waist length blouse of the childhood years turns into a blouse that is used with a saree. Over this ensemble is worn the dhavani which is a long piece of cloth which is pleated and goes across the left shoulder with the other end tucked into the pavadai. Essentially it looks like the pallu of a regular saree. This culture was probably brought into cocooned Kerala by the weavers who were anyway familiar with these clothes.

pattupavadai

Now, once the girl got married, she graduated from the dhavani phase into the mundu blouse phase. That’s probably when the melmundu began to be redesigned like a dhavani with pleats going across the bosom and over the left shoulder with the other end end tucked into the mundu. This gave the whole ensemble a saree like look.

Generally, the set mundu is quite simple when it comes to embellishments. For the larger part, it is plain off white, cotton cloth both in the mundu and the neriyathu (melmundu) with just the borders of the cloth and the two ends being either woven with jari/gold thread (kasavu) bands or with bands that are of different colour thread. The garment is elegant, understated and extremely comfortable to wear. And most of all, it gives a pristine, fresh look when contrasted with the lush vegetation. It is everyday wear for older women and it is really a pleasure to see elder women start each day wearing a fresh, starched set mundu after a bath. The look of freshness is enough to wake one up and be thankful for the new day!

Kerala Mundu Saree. First ReporterSaree Drapes, Saree Collection, Onam Saree, Kerala Mundu, Kerala Saree, Saree Traditional, Indian Saree, Kerala Style, Mundu Saree

This garment while it was regularly used by the older generation, generally by women over 45-50 since it imparted an air of maturity and understated beauty, it has now been adopted by youngsters too as a style statement. In the Namboodiri community, this garment has become the rage in recent years with it being adopted as the standard dress code for occasions. For occasions such as a wedding, it has now become the norm to order set mundus in bulk. They are ordered like a uniform with the groom and bride’s side being distinguished by the respective uniform set mundus.

The set mundu is a definite requirement when doing the traditional folk dance of Kerala for women, called the Kaikottikkali or Thiruvathirakkali. It is also worn on festive occasions like Onam , Vishu and Thiruvathira.

Problems facing this sector

As everywhere else, this is purely the handloom sector and facing an existential crisis. As I did my research, I chanced upon news item after news item which spoke of the penury of these handloom weavers. All the three places Kuthampully, Balaramapuram and Chendamangalam have been given intellectual property rights through the Geographical Indication Act. But even this has not prevented the decline in their means of livelihood.

Their profession is not seen as being respectable and the younger generation is clearly not interested in taking up the trade in a 100% literate state. Many of the weavers themselves do not encourage their children to take up the profession. They push them towards professional courses so that they have better prospects in the ‘marriage market’[2]. This is in Kuthampully.

I happened to chance upon a blog by a young boy who is from Kuthampully but not into his ancestral trade anymore. From the tenor of the post, I felt the boy is quite apologetic about his ancestors’ profession and does not look upon it with pride. He of course seems to be employed in an IT firm in some other state. He seems to feel his village is a relic of some bygone era and one senses that he feels he has escaped the drudgery. Irony is that education has meant becoming disassociated from your past. Education has meant devaluation of a skill and its ability to become your livelihood. Weavers face many hardships too because earnings are low, peoples’ choices have evolved and hence their market has shrunk, and they are unable to repay debts as institutional funding is not easily available to them. However, the few who remain in the profession say that it “gives me immense pleasure to see the finished product[3]. I can only agree with her that that is the unalloyed joy one gets when one creates something.

The Road Ahead

While the market for set mundus will not die out for another generation maybe, its long term prospects are certainly in Intensive Care as the younger generation moves on to trendy western clothes and salwar kameez (which incidentally was a rarity in Kerala even in the 90s). I sincerely hope something is done to restore this extremely humble and simple yet elegant garment regain place of pride. For nothing brings more beauty to the lush landscape of “God’s Own Country” than a beautiful Malayali woman donning this fresh and simple dress with the simple accessories that go with it. Nothing rivals it to exude that quiet elegance which contrasts with the riotous colours of nature.

References:

  1. http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/A-Life-without-Zari-for-Kuthampullys-Weavers/2014/11/10/article2516445.ece
  2. http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/kochi/A-story-of-the-struggle-for-survival/2013/10/22/article1848198.ece
  3. https://myshadowflowers.wordpress.com/2012/09/07/kuthampully-the-village-of-weavers/
  4. The Spirituality of Basic Ecclesial Communities in the Socio-religious context of Trivandrum/Kerala, pg. 109
  5. http://pazhayathu.blogspot.in/2012/02/kerala-dress-1500-till-now.html
  6. http://www.mkhandlooms.com/about_us
  7. http://www.ashahandlooms.com/history.php
  8. http://www.kaithary.com/about-us

Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions of the Author, and should not be considered a reflection of the views of the Indic Civilizational Portal. The Author is responsible for ensuring the factual veracity of the content, herein.

Classical Indic Literature II: Poetics

A version of this Post was published at Andhra Cultural Portal on June 12, 2015


Kalpa Sutra Manuscript-Auspicious Dreams of Jina's Mother (wikipedia)

Continuing our Series on Classical Indic Literature is Part II: Poetics. Long time readers may recall our previous post on Literary Theory. This piece will very briefly recap some of the related concepts before quickly moving on to expand upon our discussion of our traditional art of poesy.

ACP’s coverage of Andhra literature begins at its origin point, in Classical (sastra-based) Indic Literary Theory and Poetics. Andhra’s all India auteurs like Mallinatha and Princess Gangadevi were properly schooled and cultivated in the great tradition, in order to permit their own future works.  In fact, the rajkumari of Vijayanagara herself mentions the main figure of today’s discussion as an highly accomplished poet, and noted authority on poetics.

Poetics (A reintroduction)

Literary theory in general and Poetics in particular were highly developed and sophisticated in ancient India. Indeed, it would be difficult to find a peer culture or civilization in this regard. This is apparent not only in the cultivation of the world famous Ancient Indic Nava Rasa theory, but also in the explication and categorization of works of fiction and drama, romance and comedy, poetry and prose, elite and common.

In fact, despite attempts to criticize, or failing that, digest it into the tradition of parvenus by poseurs, Classical Indic Literary Theory managed to incorporate both the elite and common worlds. As written previously, Sanskrit and Prakrit were used alongside each other, not only by the same author, but in the same dramatic compositions! In our preceding posts we discussed the theory of rasa at great length, and by association, rasavat, that which provokes sentiment. These dramatic concepts and alankara (art of rhetoric) are critical to poetics. Few demonstrated this as well as Dandin, famed for his way with words.

Upama Kalidasasya, Bharaverartha gauravam ! Dandinah padalalityam, Maghe santi trayogunah !!

The simile of Kalidasa, the depth of meaning of Bharavi, the word-play of Dandin, in Magha all three qualities are found! [3]

While Mahakavi Magha and his Sisupalavadha may be dealt with at another time, it is Acharya Dandin and his masterly art of wordplay that is our topic of today.

Dasakumaracarita

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Having already discussed the Dasakumaracarita at length in the last piece, we will merely place it in context here, vis-a-vis Dandin and Poetics.

The Dasakumaracarita is considered an Akhyayika. An Akhyayika should include a genealogical account of the poet’s family and also of other poets; its verses may occur in it at intervals. Its chapters are called Asvaasas, which should contain introductory verses suggestive of episodes in the story. While the Dasakumaracarita does not strictly conform with this definition of the Akhayayika, it is nevertheless considered one.

Regarding the differences between the Akhyayika and the Katha, Visvanatha of the 15th century wrote in his SahithyadarpanaIn a Katha a charming plot is composed in prose, which is interspersed with stanzas in the Arya, Vaktra, and Aparavaktra metres; in the beginning there should be a salutation to a deity, a description of the nature of villains,etc. “[2, xii].

While most non-religious stories of Ancient India tend to claim descent from the Brihat-katha of Gunadya, the Dasakumaracarita of Dandin appears to be wholly original. If Kalidasa’s couplets read like supple vines, Dandin’s verses read like a rolling brook, pleasantly bubbling in our eyes and ears. The passage below illustrates this:

There, in the course of conversation with regard to her lover, she, coming to know his family and name from Balachandrika, was overcome with intense love (with the fall of Cupid’s arrows), and began to grow emaciated day by day, like the crescent of the moon in the dark half of the month, from the pangs of separation. She gave up taking food and her other daily pursuits, and in her secret chamber restlessly rolled her creeper-like (slender) frame on a bed formed of (tender) leaves and flowers wetted with sandal-juice. Her female friends, seeing the delicate princess in that state withering with the fire of love, and feeling very sad, tried to cool her body, with materials for relief from the torment, such as water prepared for her bath, mixed with sandal, usira and camphor and kept in gold vessels, garments of lotus-fibres, and fans of lotus-leaves. Even that application of cooling reeds simply [causes] fire to appear on all sides in her body like water dropped in heated oil…(the princess) of delicate limbs was affected by the highest stage of the feverish condition of love” [1, 250-1]

 The Dasakumaracarita is a must read for any lover of great literature, particularly the Classical and  Indic. To understand the poetics and art of rhetoric that helped craft such perfect prose-poetry, Acharya Dandin’s own treatise must be read.

The Kavyadarsa

kavyadarsaThe Kavyadarsa promulgates and expounds many canons of poetic composition which show that its author had refined notions about style and its functions [1, xv]

Dandin’s work on poetics is itself poetic. Literally meaning ‘Mirror of Poetry’, the Kavyadarsa imbues us with knowledge of kavya and alankara-sastra (rhetoric) in a language redolent with the art of poesy Dandin himself extols. It is one of the earliest works on Alankara [2,ix].  Rather than being a boring list of categories and a lexicon of terms, it is fluidly composed and easy to read and digest even for the unschooled. A work of poetics that is itself poetry, it commences in appropriate fashion.  It is tradition in Sanskrit literature to begin with a benediction.

Pariccheda I

Chaturmukha mukhaambhojavana hamsavadhur mama

Maanase ramataam nityam sarvasuklaa Sarasvati P.I,S.1

May the lovely lady swan that sports among the lotus-mouths of Brahma, the all-white Sarasvati roam for ever in delight in the lotus-pool of my heart. [2,1]

Goddess Sarasvati is particularly praised by poets of all ranks, as she is the fountain of knowledge, truth, and speech. As for the work itself, it is divided into three Paricchedas, or sections. First and foremost in the first Pariccheda, where he stresses grammar, and how it is critical to understanding and evaluating poetry.

He then moves on to discuss the body of a poetic composition.

This (body) is classified threefold, as Padya, as Gadya as Misra (i.e. as verse, as prose and as a mixture of prose and verse). Verse has four feet; and (again) it is divided into two classes Vrttam and Jati (according to Varna and Matra respectively).” [2, 6]

Types of verse include Muktata, Kulaka, and Sanghaata, and are dealt with collectively as part of the Sarga-bandha. The truly great work of Poetry is the Mahakavya (Great Poem). A type of this is the Sarga-bandha, which is” a Mahakavya that has a beginning with a benediction or indication of contents, it deals with purusharthas and has one of the four types of heroes. It describes the various phases of romance between great lovers, their journeys, trials and tribulations, uses rasa and bhava, has reasonable size chapters and will survive several kalpas. [2, 8-10]

In contrast to poetry is prose, which is a sequence of words not constructed in metrical feet. Prose is divided into Akhyayika and Katha. The former, according to Dandin, is told only in the first person (from the mouth of the hero), while the latter may be told by all. The last type of literary body is Misra, which is a mix of prose and verse, usually in Nataka (dramatic) form and in Campu verse. Literature was further divided into four linguistic classes. [2,16]

“Samskrtam is the name of the celestial language which has been used by great sages; Prakrtam is divided into many ways as Tadbhava, Tasama and Desi.

In such language is the ocean of gemlike saying Setubhanda and other works.” [2,17]

In Poems, languages, like the Abhira and the like are considered as Apabhramsa; but in the sastras … any language other than Samskrtam is considered Apabhramsical. “[2, 18]

Sarga-bandha and other types of similar verses are Samskritam, Skanda and similar types are considered Prakritam, Aasara and others are Apabhramsa, and Nataka and others are considered Misrakam (due to their mixed linguistic nature).

Dandin then continues,  explicating the path of word being twofold, the path of Vidarbha and the path of Gauda.

He describes the Vidarbha as having the characateristics of “Slesa (compact), prasada (charity), Samata (evenness), Madhuryam (sweetness), Sukumarata (elegance), Arthavyakti (expressiveness), Udaratvam (excellence), Ojas (vigour), Kanti and Samadhi (structure)”[2,21]

Gauda is referred to the as the opposite of these. Slistam is when the letters are not loose and not of small breath-value while Sithilam is loose. The latter is a key part of the Gauda and adds dignity to the composition. For the uninitiated, Gauda may be deemed cumbersome, compound (sandhi), and consonant, while Vidarbha is light, short-syllabled, and easy to grasp. Evenness of composition, or samatam, is divided into Mrdu, Sphuta and Madhyamam (soft, hard and medium).

He criticizes easterners as effecting a want of evenness in literature stating “unnevenness and desiring the display of pompous embellishments, the series of Kavyas of the Paurasyas (easterners) have developed.” I guess some reputations haven’t changed! It is the general poetry of his poetic work, and witty remarks like this, that truly make Dandin a delight to read. Indeed, he moves on by extolling sweetness (Madhurya) as the flavour in words and in sentiment. The wise, he says, are like bees in that both are intoxicated with honey. The related concept is Anuprasa, which is word sequences that conveys flavour or sentiment (rasa) through evenness with prior words. [2, 29]

Examples of Anuprasa in words and metrical feet are then given, followed by descriptions of Sruti and Saithilya. Sruti here is sequences of similar sounds and saithilya is want of coherence of sounds rugged in build. The recurrence of the same sequence of sounds in uneven fashion is called Yamaka (alliteration, i.e. consonance and assonance). Daksinatyas (Southerners) did not like incoherence of sounds. It appears the South’s reputation for stricture and conservatism was intact back then as well!

Perhaps the most critical sloka on poetics for our era of vulgar parvenu poetry is the following:

Granting that all arts of speech (Alankara), and delectableness to the idea (conveyed) it is the absence of vulgarity of expression alone that is mostly responsible for delectableness” [2, 33]

Gramya is vulgarity in expression examples of this are given, as well as the opposite. The Acharya is very critical of vulgarity but also of unnecessary and overly complicated constructions to appear intelligent.

There has been a tendency, which Dandin appears to attribute to pretentious easterners, to preference difficult to pronounce compound words (sandhi) under the impression that they constitute grandeur.  He exhorts that it is only by Sukumarata, tenderness (i.e. use of non-harsh letters) rather than over-embellishment that we get approval in the minds of the good. [2,39]

Moving on, he describes Udara as when all sequence of words find their excellence when the word sequence’s excellence is clear, while “Ojas [vigour] is in abundance of compound words. This is the soul of Gadya (prose;) in verse Padya also for the non-Southerners this alone is the goal” [2, 43]

While kantam (not straying from standard meanings) is mentioned, most important, according to Dandin, is the concept of Samadhi. It is structural embellishment or the simultaneous application of many characteristics.

The guna or characteristic of poetry called Samadhi is the very treasure-house and constitutes the entire wealth of poetry. The entire group of poets follows (and uses) this characteristic.”[2, 53]

Pariccheda II

dhwani-theory-and-alamkara-9-638

The Second Pariccheda focuses on Alankaras proper. This is the critical aspect of poetry that makes embellishment possible and sets it apart as an high art. But why explain what an old master does better:

They give the names of Alankaras to the characteristics, which render kavyas attractive. These characteristics are even to-day diversified anew; who then can treat of them exhaustively?” [2, 57]

The old masters have shown the following alankaras (figures of speech: -Realistic expression, simile, metaphor, light, repetition, objection, illustrative citation, differentiation, cause terseness, hyperbole, conceit, reason, subtlety, minuteness, sequence, felicity, provoking sentiment, vigour, paraphrase, unison, sublimity, denial, paronomasia, specialty, equation, direct praise, concealed praise, conjunctive expression, exchange, benediction, confusion and expressiveness. Realistic expression also called Jati or group description is the first alankara and describes the actual forms of different conditions of objects.” [2, 59]

Dandin moves on to discuss realistic expression of species (Jati), of action (Kriya), of characteristic (Guna) and of substance (Dravya). He then provides an entire section on the various and numerous types of upama, that is simile. This is delightfully done with poetic examples of this essential aspect of poetics. As it is too long to reprint here, we will merely list the different types of simile:

There is the simile of quality (Dharmopama), the simile of object (Vastupama),the transposed simile (Viparyasopama), the simile of mutuality (Anyonyopama), the simile of exclusive determination (Niyamopama), the simile of indetermination (Aniyamopama), the multiple simile (Sauccayopama), the hyperbolic simile (Atisayopama), the simile of conceit (Utpreksopama), the simile of wonder (Adhbutopama), the simile of delusion (Mohopama), the simile of doubt (Samsayopama), the simile of certainty (Nirnayopama), the paronomasiac simile (Slesopama), the simile of exactness (Samaanopama), the simile of contempt (Nindopama), the simile involving praise (Prasamsopama), simile involving the desire to express (Acikhyaasopama), the simile involving opposition (Virodhopama), the simile involving exclusion (Pratisedhopama), the simile of truthful expression (Asaadhaaranopama), the simile of impossibility (Adbhutopama), the simile involving statements contrary to nature (Asambhaavitopama), the simile of super-excellence (Vikriyopama), the simile in a series (Maalopama), the simile of sentences (Vaakyarthopama),  the simile stating the object (Prativastupama), the simile of equalising (Tulyayogopama), and finally the simile involving a statement of the reasons (Hetupama). [2, 62-82].

While many figures of speech may seem similar to the simile, there is a rule in Sanskrit poesy that a simile cannot be in verbs. This is the word of the Aaptas (or authoritative writers). [2, 148]

As one can see, the exhaustive and methodical classification of the simile, so elementarily treated in english, reaches a near-impossible level of sophistication. Perhaps it is not for nothing Alankara, like the sastras, are ultimately credited to divine beings in the Classical Indic Tradition.

Next, Dandin describes the Metaphor. Simile itself where the difference is implicity is called the metaphor, for example, arm-creeper, palm-lotus, foot-tendril” [2, 84]. There are 66 types of compound metaphors, which for reasons of brevity, won’t list here. The sanskrit word for metaphor is rupakam. The numerous varieties are so copious, there is even a rupaka-rupakam or metaphor on metaphor. [2, 94]

We move on from the two major concepts to other types of Alankara. The concept of Dipakam (or light) is unique as it is the notion of a word helping the entire sentence through jati (genus), kriya (action), guna (quality) or dravya, which is the subject-matter.[2,96] Avrtti, or repetition, is then discussed along with its assorted types and uses both in word and meaning. Aaksepa, which is objection and has a variety of classes. Interestingly, of the different types of objection includes anujnaksepa, that is objection in the form of apparent permission–a phenomenon with which married men the world over are all too familiar! Indeed, the section on Aaksepa is a veritable playbook for a woman in a relationship to influence her beloved!

Then there is illustrative citation (arthantara-nyaasa). Assorted figures of speech are used to express ideas by citing other objects such as those that are universally applicable (visvavyaapi), special (visesastha), panoro-masiac (slesa-viddha), having opposition (virodhavaan), incongruous (ayuktakaari ), fitting (yuktatma), partly incongruous and partly fitting), and contrary (viparyaya). [2, 123]

Acharya Dandin asserts that “Reason (hetu) and subtlety and minuteness (suksma and lesa) constitute the best alankaras of words” .[2,151] This is because a slight reference to a thing discloses (lesa) both indicates and excites the imagination.Correspondingly, Ingita and Aakaara are mentioned as facial gesture and condition of the body respectively. [2,163] Paryayoktham is the paraphrase .[2,178] Drstantam is defined as illustration.

Udaattam (sublimity) is the alankara used to express the pre-eminent greatness of a person, both his qualities and his riches. Apahnuti is denial and is used to great effect in order to enhance the description. [2,184]. Slistam is paronomasia, or words with a single form but many meanings [2,187]. Indeed, there is an entire sub-section on specialty, which again, for brevity’s sake, we will leave at here.

Among other interesting concepts include variations of ninda (insult/deprecation) and praise, stuti. There are numerous categories of stuti, such as Aprastuta-prasamsa (indirect praise) and Vyaajastuti (concealed praise). Concealed praise is where it is in the form of despise and virtues are described through mention of vices.

With all these alankaras, or embellishments, Dandin uses examples to not only illustrate, but to very frequently entertain. What could easily have been an exhausting effort because engagingly educative.

Pariccheda III

In the third pariccheda, Dandin moves on to the more structural aspects of poetics. He discusses recurrences of letters (Yamaka) and various types of feet (pada), one through four. Types of recurrences are discusses such as Vyapeta-Yamaka (mediate recurrence) and Avyapeta (mixed recurrence of mediate and immediate). [2, 228]. This is described with great complexity with all the permutations and combinations of letter recurrences.

Finally, this magnum opus of poetics concludes with a veritable lesson in linguistics. From the listing of vowels to the various consonant types, it is highly detailed and worth a review. He also discusses Prahelikas (or Amusing Riddles). These are described as “useful in the entertainment of sportive assemblies; and by those who know them for the purpose of secret consultation in a crowd and for setting riddles to others” [2,262]. Once more, he goes into the technical aspects of riddles, and the various components and component types. In fact, there were as many as 16 types of Prahelikas.

Ten faults of artless poets are also discussed: Apaartham (or meaninglessness), Vyartham (or contrary meaning), Ekaartham (or identical in meaning), Samsayam (or doubtful meaning), Apakaaramam (or want of sequence), Sabdahinam (or wanting in word), Yatibhrastam (or absence of pause), Bhinnavrttam (or metrical defect). Visandhikam (absence of Sandhi, or pause) and impropriety in place, time, in branch of learning, etc.” (desadhi-virodhi,kala-virodha, nyaya-virodha, etc) [2, 276-7].  He nevertheless mentions how a clever poet can use any and all of the improprieties to lift up from the region of fault to the good qualities of poetry.

He concludes with concepts associated with love. Laya is the blending of tunes. Harmonious laya is said to promote Raaga or Love while”Utka and Unmanayantya both convey the longing of the beloved“. [2, 281]

Thus, with an exhaustive but easy-to-read treatise, Acharya Dandin explicates his educative exegisis on kavya and alankara-sastra. Fittingly, he ends with the following advice for would-be poets:

With his intellect, trained by this Path of guna and dosa (Excellences and Faults) shown according to the rules, the blessed person sports like a youth attracted by Words, who have loving eyes and who remain in his control; and he also obtains fame. [2, 305]

References:

  1. Kale, M.R. Dasakumaracarita of Dandin. New Delhi: MLBD. 2009
  2. Sastrulu, V.V., and Ed. Rabindra K. Panda. Kavyadarsah of Dandin. Delhi: Bharatiya Kala Prakashan. 2008
  3. Das, Sisir Kumar. A History of Indian Literature, 500-1399: From Courtly to the Popular. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. 2005. p.75

Nilambari’s Kutcheri: A Primer on Carnatic Music

A version of this Post was published at Andhra Cultural Portal on January 31, 2015


Carnatic Trinity: Muthuswamy Deekshitar,Thyagaraja & Syama Shastri

This is a post on the structure of a Carnatic music Kutcheri (a traditional musical performance gathering) accompanied by a virtual kutcheri that I have put together.

The Kutcheri format as we know it today is said to have started out in the 1920s. That is not to say that it didn’t exist before that.

Traditionally, a kutcheri starts with a varnam. A varnam is a composition which basically tells you the swaras (notes: Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Da, Ni–> Shadjam, Rishabham, Gandharam, Madhyamam, Panchamam, Dhaivatham, Nishadam) that are present in that particular ragam both in the arohana (ascending scale) as well as avarohana (descending scale). It lays down the rules of how the various swaras can be combined in both the scales. It is split into specific parts and is a rather technical piece which lays out the rules for the development of a particular ragam. Thus the varnam is a composition which a student of carnatic music learns as a primer before going on to explore more elaborate nuances of ragas through kritis.

At this point let’s do a little more study of classical music. Carnatic music is made up of 72 fundamental ragas called the melakarta ragas or the janaka (giving birth) ragas or the parent ragas. All other ragas, and there are literally hundreds of them are derived (janya or given birth to) from these 72 janaka ragas. It just means that there are 7 swaras with  12 semi-tones in one octave. They are both in the ascending and descending scales combined in different ways to form these primary 72 ragas, i.e, these 72 ragas have the entire scale (Sa-Ni with their semi-tones) both in the ascending and descending scales. Hence they are called sampurna (complete) ragas. Janya ragas however are derived from these 72, meaning that they have have swaras left out from the parent. The number of swaras left out from the parent janaka raga can vary.

The list of the swaras and their semi-tones are like this: S, R1, R2=G1, R3=G2, G3, M1, M2, P, D1, D2=N1, D3=N2 and N3. Of these S and P do not have semi-tones.

In conjunction with swara is tala, which refers to the number and type of beats within a cycle. This is similar to the concept of meter and helps track the pace and time in a composition. There are 7 basic talams (Adi, Dhruva, Rupaka, etc), and 108 total talas, due to combinations with other factors known as angas and jathis.

I admit I have a fondness for the 28th Melakarta Raga called Harikambhoji. Many of the songs from the janyas of this raga are a favorite with me.

So, here’s my choice of varnam to start this personal kutcheri. I would love my kutcheri to start with this beautiful varnam called “Mathe Malayadhwaja”. Its not a traditional varnam nor an easy one, but its beautiful and captivating for me. So, here is Sudha Raghunathan singing “Mathe”, in raga Khamas, janya raga of the 28th melakarta raga Harikhamboji set to Adi talam.

Raga: Khamas

Arohanam: S M1 G3 M1 P D2 N2 S                                                  Avarohanam: S N2 D2 P M1 G3 R2 S

Following this, the kutcheri format prescribes one or two compositions of the trinity in Ghana ragams. We will have only one.

Who are the trinity?

The Trinity is a group of three composers who are known as the creators of almost all the compositions that are sung today. They are Muthuswami Dikshitar, Syama Sastri, and  Thyagaraja. While the latter two are Telugu origin, Muthuswamigal is Tamizh. Though our common Bharatiya Saastriya Sangeeta is obviously very ancient, the Carnatic School is traced to Karnataka’s Purandara Dasa in the 1500s, during the Vijayanagara Empire. This title is highly deserved, but honorary as he is predated by a number of other composers. Northern and Southern Indian Schools diverged in the medieval period, and Carnatic remained essentially unaffected by foreign influences. North or South, Classical Indic Music originated in the Natya Sastra of Bharata Muni.

What are Ghana ragams?

First, there are eight Ghana ragams in Carnatic music. They are Nattai, Goula, Bouli, Reetigowla, Malavasri, Arabhi, Varali and Sri. They are so called because they are said to be able to effectively portray masculine emotions like shouryam (ferocity), veeryam (bravery), roudram (anger) and so on.

So with this information, here is my second offering in the kutcheri. This is in Raga Nattai, janya raga of the 36th melakarta ragam Chalanattai and sung once again by the supremely talented Sudha Raghunathan. The song is “Swaminatha paripalaya” set to Adi Talam. The composition is by Muthuswami Dikshitar.

Raga: Nattai

Arohanam: S R3 G3 M1 P D3 N3 S                                                   Avarohanam: S N3 P M1 G3 M1 R3 S

After this now we must have a composition in the shuddha madhyamam scale. Let us see what this is. This essentially means that the melakartas are divided into two types, the ragas which have shuddha madhyamam i.e, the first semi-tone of the swara M, M1 and those which have prati madhyamam or M2. So, now we have to select a raga that has shuddha madhyamam from one of the melakarta ragas. Let me choose my favorite melakarta raga Harikhamboji itself. It is after all my favorite one.

Here is the next offering from Balamurali Krishna in Harikhamboji. The song is called “Rama nannu brovara”, a Thyagaraja gem set to rupaka talam.

Raga: Harikhamboji

Arohanam: S R2 G3 M1 P D2 N2 S                                                   Avarohanam: S N2 D2 P M1 G3 R2 S

Moving on to a composition in the prati madhyamam scale, let us see what this means. As I stated earlier, the melakarta ragas are divided into two: the shuddha and the pratimadhyamam scales. In fact, the first 36 ragas in the melakarta are in the shuddha madhyamam scale and the second 36 in the prati madhyamam scale. The most common one is Kalyani, also called the Mechakalyani. This is the composition “Nidhichaala Sukhama” by Thyagaraja rendered by the peerless and timeless M.S. Subbalakshmi in adi talam. Do enjoy.

Raga: Kalyani

Arohanam: S R2 G3 M2 P D2 N3 S                                                   Avarohanam: S N3 D2 P M2 G3 R2 S

I cannot go on to the main composition without having my favorite raga in my kutcheri, can I? So, I will have a Dwijavanthi in my repertoire. This raga is a janya raga of the 28th melakarta raga Harikhamboji. The composition is “Akhilandeshwari” by Muthuswamy Dikshitar sung by the Trichur brothers. The composition is in adi talam.

Raga: Dwijavanthi

Arohanam: S R2 G3 M1 P D2 S                                     Avarohanam: S N2 D2 P M1 G3 M1 R2 G2 R2 S

Now we come to the main piece of the concert where the kutcheri format says that the composition should be a rakti/naya raga.

A rakti  or naya raga is called a feminine ragam. In fact, the entire set of ragams are classified as ghana ragams, rakti/naya ragams and desiya ragams.As we discussed earlier, ghana ragams are said to be masculine ragams. Desiya ragams are those that have been imported into the Carnatic school of music from either Folk music or the Hindustani school. Hence the rakti/naya ragams are those which are said to be feminine. This means that the large majority of ragams are feminine ragams which are said to be capable of portraying feminine emotions like karunam (compassion), sringaram (romance), vatsalyam (parental love) and so on. This is not to say that ghana ragams cannot portray feminine emotions or vice versa. For more on this, please refer to this excellent lecdem by Sri. R Visweshwaran.

This main piece is the one where the vocalist, the violinist and the percussionists all get to display their talents and can sometimes go for an hour. It is called the ragam-tanam-pallavi where the raga is first explored in all its nuances through the alapana (where the swaras comprising the raga are sung in a melodic form to set the mood of the raga). This is then followed by the tanam or the main part of the composition.

Tanam was first developed for the veena but began to be practiced by vocalists too, and it means expanding the raga rhythmically with the use of syllables like ta, nam, tom, aa and so on. In the tanam phase an extremely versatile and accomplished singer can also incorporate a few other ragas than the one s/he originally started out with. Then, in the pallavi section, the singer sings a single line and then explores it in different speeds. Finally, the percussionists are given the time to explore the rhythms in their turn and the whole can take about an hour or more. For more on this very complicated form of singing, please refer here.

Now, I present for your listening pleasure, a superbly crafted Ragam-tanam-pallavi by Sanjay Subramaniam. This comes with a warning however: The piece takes over an hour to listen to but I assure you its well worth the trouble 😉 . The composition is “Sabapathiku veru deivam” in raga Abhogi and rupaka talam. Raga Abhogi is a janya raga of the 22nd melakarta raga Kharharapriya. Gopalakrishna Bharati has composed this song.

Raga: Abhogi

Arohanam: S R2 G2 M1 D2 S                                                                   Avarohanam: S D2 M1 G2 R2 S

Before we end the kutcheri, after such an intense encounter with ragam-tanam-pallavi (RTP), we have to unwind and lighten the knots that we had got into. Its now time for some lighter yet melodious and easier pieces called tukkadas. Let us listen to two of them.

Sit back and enjoy a soothing, gentle and lilting “Hey Govind, hey Gopala” in raga Desakshi and rupaka talam. Suddha Desi is a janya raga of by now you know which melakarta!…yes, it is a janya raga of the 28th melakarta raga Harikhamboji. This divine song is rendered by the sister duo Ranjani-Gayatri and is composed by Surdas.

Raga: Suddha Desi

Arohanam: S R2 M1 P N2 S                                                                Avarohanam:  S N2 D1 P M1 G2 R2 S

Second to last in the kutcheri is another gem from the evergreen and ever remembered M.S Subbalakshmi. This time it is a ragamalika, meaning that the song is composed of multiple ragas. This one “Kurai ondrum illai”, is composed in three ragas Shivaranjani, Kapi and Sindhu Bhairavi. Shivaranjani and Kapi are janya ragas of the 22nd melakarta raga Kharaharapriya and Sindhubhairavi is a janya raga of the 10th melakarta raga Natakapriya. The composer of this song is the famous Indian politician and freedom fighter C.Rajagopalachari.

Ragamalika: Shivaranjani, Kapi and Sindhubhairavi

Raga: Shivaranjani

Arohanam: S R2 M1 P N3 S                                                                Avarohanam:  S N2 D2 P M1 G3 R2 S

Raga: Kapi

Arohanam: S R2 M1 P N3 S                                                         Avarohanam:  S N2 D2 N2 P M1 G2 R2 S

Raga: Sindhubhairavi

Arohanam: S R2 G2 M1 G2 P D1 N2 S                                    Avarohanam:  N2 D1 P M1 G2 R1 S N2 S

Finally, we round off this kutcheri with the standard sign off raga which is Sowrashtram. The signature song is “Pavamana suthudu battu and here it is rendered by K. J Yesudas. Sowrashtram is a janya raga of the 17th melakarta raga Sooryakantam. It is a composition by Thyagaraja set in adi talam.

Raga: Sowrashtram

Arohanam: S R1 G3 M1 P M1 D2 N3 S                             Avarohanam:  S N3 D2 N2 D2 P M1 G3 R1 S

I hope you enjoyed the kutcheri as much as I did putting it together for you!!

References:

  1. http://www.ragasurabhi.com/carnatic-music/raga-comparisons.html
  2. http://www.shabda.co.in/?q=node/65
  3. Concert Format Sequence – Carnatic Music
  4. http://www.chennaionline.com/musicnew/CarnaticMusic/174th.asp
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melakarta
  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janya
  7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity_of_Carnatic_music
  8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harikambhoji

The Death of Romance

The following Post was published at Andhra Cultural Portal on Feb 7, 2015


Antônio Parreiras, The End of Romance

It is sometimes said that “Analysis is the death of sentiment”, but I disagree. As with all things in life, balance here is required as well. The truly fulfilling life is the one which is equidistant to the two. It uses reason to determine the correct course of action based on duty to others, and uses sentiment to experience the splendid possibilities and experiences and rasas life has to offer, with romance and true love being the most prized.

However, in our era of “hookups”, one-night stands, and office relationships, has the so-called “sophistication” of modernity killed off true love? Has the rise of prurience uber alles resulted in destroying the very bonds that once raised armies of rescue and launched a thousand ships? Is The Death of Romance upon us?

Real romance is not a function of skill in the bedroom or the frequency of neurotransmitter release, despite what people today may read in cosmo, playboy, huffpo, jezebel or whatever other intellectual cul de sac they rely on to educate themselves. Real romance is about putting the other person’s needs above our own–even thinking about their interests before our own. It is not about convenience, but constancy. It is not about hopelessness, but hoping against hope. But do materialism, fancy shoes, and “Mr. Right now” instead of “Mr. Right” ultimately lead to happiness? Whatever the latest push to downgrade monogamy as boring and marriage as “obsolete”, the end result of the lives of these fictional characters below (and their real life imitators–male and female) is instructive.

Indeed a poster for the movie Nymphomaniac features a series of men and women in various states of tumescence featuring the caption “Forget About Love”.  This isn’t just limited to Hollywood, but rather, the state of Bollywood, and now increasingly Tollywood, is testament to this.

Somewhere along the lines of the mid-2000s, the soulful sentiment that once pervaded mainstream Hindi filmdom ( I am purposely avoiding the word cinema here) from screenplay to song, diluted, and then vanished.

Hits steeped in sentiment like “humko humise churalo” have been replaced by chart toppers like “char bottle vodka”…Even the romantic songs once riveting with equal parts longing and mourning and charm and rapture now pass off romance as de riguer, easily substitutable in the buffet table of modern hedonism. A timepass or recreational commodity, on demand courtesy of tinder, snapchat, okcupid or whatever else the kids are using these days, that separates the desired product (romance, sex, etc), from the person. These of course are punctuated with nice club dance beats and other assorted chart toppers.

Even the word “beloved” has been cheapened beyond the point of recognition. What was once deemed a word worthy of our spiritual other half, our second heart, is merely a detachable moniker for the infatuation of the moment or the source and recipient of a serial concupiscence. The reality however is that love without sincerity is mere simulacra.

Men, you may now have been taught by the media to think that all girls are wannabe Sunny Leones who want bad boys, and Ladies, you may think all men are the same or only run after “insincere” girls. The truth, however, is most men either want a good woman to settle down with or after wasting 20 year of their lives, realize the value of a good woman. And most women may often confuse arrogance with confidence, but they too dream of a gentlemen. Yes there are bad man and bad women, who are only “about that thing”, but the majority are in the middle. The question is whether catastrophic loss of culture will cause them to gravitate to promiscuity over Prema.

Given all this, the Death of Romance is invariably upon us. And this is not an East vs West commentary, but a Modern vs Traditional one, as it is only circumstance that has resulted in the western world first being infected by this plague of insincerity—rapidly affecting “Modern India”. Nowhere was this more obviously seen than in the TV series How I Met Your Mother.

*Spoilers Ahead*

In our era of global satellite television, many of you in both hemispheres may be familiar with How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM). While the 2005-2014 production was hailed for its creativity and crisp writing/performances, it was above all the story of a young man, Ted Mosby, in his 20s/30s seeking his one true love over the casanova lifestyle. In fact, while one friend openly embraces it, and another escapes it by sheer good fortune of meeting his future wife at a young age, Ted consciously chooses to pursue it–and over the course of 8 years, is punished for it, repeatedly. Despite all this, he nevertheless soldiers on.

If the story of Ross & Rachel were about how true love is possible, but is frequently complicated by other romances, Ted & Tracy was about choosing real romance in a distinctly unromantic time. What  was originally hailed as the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. of the 2000s decade, and arguably the TV show for all hopeless romantics, had all the potential to be one of the great small screen romances of our time.

Flat panel had accomplished what today’s film was increasingly failing to do–capturing and communicating real sentiment of longing for love.

Ted Mosby, a Manhattan Manmatha had committed to finding his Rati, and after  e ^ 1000 embarrassments, heartbreaks, bad advice, and wrong-turns over the course of a decade, he finally did.

One would think the finale and story would have ended there…but nooo. 9 years of character development and story-telling were ruthlessly destroyed in a mere five minutes with this abomination from network-approved naraka:

As you can see, the final scene is emblematic of how the show’s internal logic was destroyed, and also why it contributes in general to the Death of Romance…real romance. While it was fittingly panned as one of the worst finales in small screen history, it had nevertheless done its work. In the process, it led to such pearls of wisdom from pan-hellenic Platos and other assorted tequila fueled supporters as “omg! it makes perfect sense, you have many one true loves!!“, “yeah, i completely get it, you don’t stop loving after your lover leaves“,  “i totally want that–true love and a back up relationship!“…”i want to have my cake, and i’ll eat it too!

Now don’t get me wrong. Life most assuredly isn’t simple. There is indeed an element of bittersweet in romance as all lovers are doomed to be parted on this Earth. Indeed some die far too soon. But what this show, and celluloid in general, is today advocating is that lovers are indeed replaceable. Thus from the Ayodhyan heights of Ram refusing to marry again and having a gold statue fashioned in Sita’s image, we have fallen to widowers deluding themselves into thinking old casual relationship exes (who never themselves were really interested in romance) can fill the void left behind by the woman they claimed to have dreamt of for the better part of an era. It is almost as though the very nature of romance had been mutilated, convoluted and turned into a consumer good.

*End Spoilers*

Why this tangent“–you ask? Well, admittedly in our fast-paced world where professionals don’t necessarily have arranged marriages, or have relationships prior to having one, Pehla Pyaar may not be an option for everyone. Indeed, divorce/remarriage may be appropriate for some and romantic pasts are never simple. Nevertheless, simply because we end up falling short of the ideal, or need a Dusra or Teesra , doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aspire towards it in the first place. It is certainly  better for us in the long run than Sau or Sahasra. Waiting is not weak. Principles are not prudishness.

Now, I’ve always been part of the camp that was always fine with Valentine’s Day. Whatever the actual history behind it, in theory, it’s a rather lovely way to celebrate and connect with the one whom we love. The problem however is what it has become in practice. Rather than a day of soulfully cherishing love for one’s spouse (or soon-to-be spouse), it has become a mere veneer of romance to legitimize mechanical debauchery, with unseemly displays of public affection. Those left alone due to circumstance are mocked or seen as curiosities, while the elect happily trot about adducing their rent-a-date or fling-of-the-moment as evidence of their possession (consumption?) of “love”.

This much is made additionally clear from friends with benefits and serial monogamy substituting for real relationships to pornography’s psychologically and sociologically harmful effects to laws that destroy incentive for trust in marriages.

What’s more, the rise of the PDA is feted as somehow as a sign of liberation rather than indecency. Blatant disregard to civic decorum and respect for elders is not romance. While I certainly don’t support the institution of a “Ministry of Vice and Virtue”, those young people feeling prohibitively passionate should keep personal acts for the private sphere. True, Classical Indic society was not repressive in these matters, but it wasn’t libertine either. It merely stressed that there was a time, place, and manner for such things.  There was and is no “right of way for ribaldry”. Rati-bhava divorced from Sringara-rasa is not love at all, but lust seeking pretext.

It has become part of common parlance to say chivalry is dead, and feminism killed it. A corollary of that of course is that romance is dead, and lust killed it. The moment a society exults in the divorcing of sensuality and marriage, is the moment romance truly dies. Because when marriage itself is no longer looked forward to by the majority of society for having children or moving in together, let alone maithuna, that is the moment when it becomes a mere formality. Rather than the fulcrum of one’s life, it becomes merely a trophy or label.

When “Love” is commoditised, the consumers themselves become replaceable and interchangeable.Living for the moment, treating lovers as disposable, and lust as an assortment of flavors may be fun and fashionable, but this lifestyle more often than not leads to this result.

Real romance is not a mere veneer for licentiousness, but has an element of sacrifice. “The Beloved” is not merely the flavor-of-the-month object of prurience, but a person willing to sacrifice for us and for whom we are willing to sacrifice. It is reciprocal.

Marriage is not the end of romance, rather it is the celebration of it. And true love is the highest form of romance. It recognises the inherent oneness of the male and female halves of an individual soul to the exclusion of all others. It is why a Sati could voluntarily commit sati or an Aja (grandfather of Rama) could climb on to Indumati’s (his wife) funeral pyre in inconsolable grief.

There is an old joke that men need money for women, and women need men for money (though such equations have been changing). Now assuredly, however tempting money may be for women, so it is for sex and men. Thus, there are men and women who sacrifice the pursuit of romance for these mere commodities instead. But as with all material things, we need more and more only to feel less and less. In their waning years, such men then realise the value of a good woman (rather than many “hot” ones) and such women realise by serially pursuing Mr. Money Bags or Mr. Right Now, they lost the interest of Mr. Right. The greatest of lotharios from Don Giovanni to Sam Malone may be the envy of most men, but in the end, do the sheer notches on their bed posts fill their inevitable void of loneliness?

To get the woman or man we seek we must be the man or woman that person would want. Love that stands the test of time is not driven by superficial states or faddish fetishes. Looks fade, money comes and goes, but companionship and qualities are truly timeless.

In our topsy turvy age of polyamory and serial monogamy, such notions may seem quaint. After all, these gyaanis and gyaaninis ask, “isn’t restriction of our love to only one person (or gender) selfish, even primitive”? But as always, a little knowledge, in the hands of the foolish, is a dangerous thing. Setting aside the fact that monogamy comes naturally to us, the benefits are manifold as well.

First and foremost comes validation (real validation that one-night stands and serial lovers could never afford). The idea that someone out there is eager and willing to commit himself or herself to us to the exclusion of all others is not only validating but downright scintillating. It affirms not only our sense of self and self-worth, but adds to our esteem in a way that single-serving lovers never could. After all, if we are irreplaceable, there truly must be something to us. And if we’re not, well, we’re just emotion-less commodities driven by base pleasure.

Second, comes security. Not only the security in having someone you can trust no matter what, but the security in knowing that the connection isn’t temporary (as all superficial infatuation tends to be) like fads and fetishes. Ultimately, marriage forms the ideal environment needed to ensure that children from this union will securely have a mother and a father as a parenting unit, providing the steady love and care required in child rearing.

Family First, and Marriage makes it one

Fundamentally, marriage is about children, whatever our modernistas may say. That is because society then mandates that a man not only fulfills his responsibility to provide for the pregnant mother, but not abandon the children after birth and leave them without food and shelter. While it is true that there are those who marry and do not have children, since when is the exception the rule? Because of “except after ‘c’, does that mean ‘i’ shouldn’t be before ‘e’?”. Because the vast majority of marriages past and present have resulted in children, they must be the fulcrum of our consideration, not our passing fancies and whims.

Third, it gives us a sense of balance and stability. Life is full of ups and downs. Career success is fleeting, even friends fade in and out, but a true life partner provides us with both wind and ballast as needed. When we are sad, they cheer us up, when we are angry, they cool us down, when we are lonely, they give us companionship, and when we need a kick in the seat of our pants, they gladly give us one. After all, just as the meal that is shared is more delicious, so to is the life that is shared more fulfilling.

Sita-Rama

So if you want to rekindle romance (sringara) in society again, you must be the change you want to see. Without Juliet, there is no Romeo. Without Sita, there is no Ram. It is the virtues of women that ultimately inspire the virtues of men. That is why, in ancient civilizations, muses are personified as feminine. Even in our Indic civilization, it is Goddess Sarasvati who inspires. Indeed, it is Sarasvati’s knowledge that is the source of Brahma’s creative power, Lakshmi’s prosperity that is the source of Vishnu’s preservation power, and Parvati’s Shakti that is the source of Shiva’s destructive power. That is why our society does not stress being overly masculine or overly feminine—but advocates balance.  Yin and Yang, Female and Male, Nari and Nara must exist in harmony. It is the synergy between that two that empowers society and rekindles real romance, just as Sita’s chastity adorned Ram’s nobility.

The point is not to advocate hypocrisy, but to educate that one cannot have one’s cake and eat it too. Actions have opportunity costs, and to seek what we really want, we ourselves must be worthy of it, for nothing in this world worth having comes easy. Many of you may be despondent about being alone a week from now, but fear not. It, or many such days, may come and go, but if you truly commit to true love, it commits to you.

So what then is the cornerstone of a good marriage and true love? Fidelity. This is because Fidelity breeds Trust, Trust breeds Friendship, and Friendship breeds Love. And that, dear reader, is what will result in the reincarnation of Romance.

Nara Dharma

maryadapurushottam

As the natural next step to our previous article on Stree Dharma, is its complement, Nara Dharma.

Traditionally, The Dharmasastra and Puranas have provided man with insight on what Dharma is, and both confirm the Veda as the ultimate authority of the Dharma which they express [1,4]. While Dharmasastra provides injunctions, Purana provides examples and demonstrates context-sensitivity. These were further illumined by various Commentaries such as the Mitakshara and formal law digests such as the Vyavahara Nirnaya.[12] Nevertheless, much has changed since the composition of the last major Dharmasutra (Apasthamba). As such, it is imperative that in the present time, rather than inventing Dharma out of thin air, the Principles of Dharma are restated appropriately for modern context. While it is true that a number of Sampradayas (paths/communities) and Panths (religions) have had Swamis and Saints do the same, the time has come for the declaration of a modern Saamaanya Dharma, the common and foundational dharma, across caste and creed.

We cannot turn back the clock and we must understand that society has changed, and we cannot force-fit stone tablets from another Millennium or Yuga into the present one.  Dharma must adapt to the present time.

With that in mind, having reviewed Sastra, Smriti, Itihasa, and Purana,  we present a Dharmic guidebook of Principles for Young Bharatiya Men, of all castes and creeds, to ensure society guides them, and also educates them on being ethical citizens, equal stakeholders, and responsible leaders in the Revival of our Civilization.

I. Introduction

Historically, Dharmasutra was appended to the Grihyasutra, itself ultimately part of the greater corpus known as Kalpasutra. [1,11] The historic division of Kalpasutra (ritual) into Grihya (domestic rites) and Srauta (yajnic offering) naturally was focused on a more limited audience, in a less universally literate time. Nevertheless, the Dharma of all four traditional classes of society was in fact described, just with varying degress of expansiveness and attention. The traditional phases (ashramas) of brahmacharya (student/celibate), grihastha (householder), vanaprastha (hermit), sanyaasa (renunciate) still apply based on one’s jati, varna, or panth and modified for the present context.  They are described in great detail by Apasthamba and his predecessors. While Varnashrama Dharma was the focus there and then, none of that obviated the existence of a Nara Dharma. In fact the traditional name for this has been Purusha Dharma, dharma of the Male. But in the present time the word Purusha has been affected in its meaning, and the word Nara implies the complete human male, including the family man.

As such, while there is varnashrama dharma, there is also dharma of the nara. Before a male is a brahmana, a kshatriya, a vaisya, or sudra, he is first a man. And  to be a good brahmana, or kshatriya, or vaisya, or sudra, one must first be a good man. That is the foundational dharma applicable to all jatis, varnas, sampradayas, and panths which we focus on today.

At a time when Bharatavarsha is beset by bands of barbarians of all sorts, those who call themselves Dharmikas, must first break the barbarity within themselves imposed by wrong practice and frequently foreign fashion. In the quest for modernity, we have forgotten our morality. In prizing knowledge, we have forgotten wisdom. In seeking development and sophistication, we have forgotten character. It is time to remember who we once were, and revive the ideal of men we have the potential to be.

II. Nara Dharma

samudraram

  1. Sukhasya Moolam Dharmam. The root of Happiness is Dharma.
  2. Maathru Devo Bhava. Mother should be treated as God. She is the first Guru.
  3. Streeya Maryada Uttama. Honouring women is the Best Path.
  4. Pithru Devo Bhava. Father should be treated as God.
  5. Acharya Devo Bhava. Acharya (spiritual educator) should be treated as God.
  6. Atithi Dharma. Today rather than treat as God, observe Dharma with Guest.
  7. Uddaret atmana atmanaam. One should elevate one’s self through education in & beyond school.
  8. Sadacharam leads to cultivation of good qualities in individual and all. Nithya & Naimittika Karma facilitate the fulfillment of Svadharma. Practice them.
  9. Knowledge is not Wisdom. Ergo, respect those who are elder to you, so that you may gain their wisdom and in turn be respected by those younger to you.
  10. Vedic knowledge is Not for Sale. Those who study the Vedas should observe the spiritual guidelines it requires during and beyond the student phase.
  11. Discretion is the better part of Valour
  12. Greed is Not Good. Practice daya, dama, dana.
  13. Selfishness is the real root of all evil
  14. Silence is Golden
  15. Culture is the Cure for Stupidity
  16. Duties balance Rights.You are not just an Individual, but part of a Society.
  17. Jyestha braatha dvitiya pitra. Elder brother is as a second father.
  18. Learn to be a good Lieutenant
  19. Tyajet ekam Kulasyarthe, Gramasyarthe Kulam tyajet; Gramam Janapadasyarthe, Atmarthe prithivim tyajet
  20. Yatha Raja tatha Praja. Yatha Praja tatha Raja. Lead by example. Be the change you want to see.
  21.  A place for Everyone and Everyone in his Place. Win as a Team.
  22. Pursuance of academic goals with intent to be useful not just to self but to society at large is a must. Studies are good. Study of Niti is better. Study of Dharma best of all.
  23. Traditional dharmic principles are not in favour of either drinking or smoking. Even today it is advisable to follow these injunctions, but if one chooses otherwise, then it should be done responsibly with consideration for health, safety and reputation.
  24. Traditionally, it is not advisable to indulge in pre-marital sex. In the age of STDs, cancers and unwanted pregnancies, it is still the best advice but if a young man chooses otherwise, then the same advice as given for 23 above holds the same.
  25. Conjugal relations between the husband and wife have to be mutually respectful and fully consensual. A man who pressures his wife into immoral acts, sins. Pursuit of Kama should be in line with Dharma.
  26. Conjugal relations while being for pleasure should not lose sight of the procreation aspect. Sex for pleasure only is not the goal of a marriage and procreation has to also be a goal so as to bring forth and/or raise progeny to preserve society.
  27. Financial decisions and planning for the future has to be joint exercise between the husband and the wife. Saving for a rainy day should be the goal in order that those in your care do not suffer hardship.
  28. In-laws & Parents have to be respected and consulted on decisions that impact them. They have to be looked after with respect & dignity if they are staying with you.
  29. Grihastha dharma Sampoornaha
  30. Prathama kumara uttaradhikarin
  31. Age gracefully and see to it that you withdraw respectfully from your children’s lives once they become independent and start their own lives. Advise but don’t interfere.
  32. Karmanye vadikaraste, ma phalesu kadachana

Why was Bhagvan Ram called Maryada Purushottam? It is not just because he practiced Maryada (propriety & courtesy), or that he was the ‘Best of Men”(uttama purusha), but because he was the embodiment of Nara Dharma. Jatis and Varnas may vary, but through his life we understand the nuances of Dharma and the various dilemmas he faced. Kshatriya or not, all can learn from his example and understand through him that society comes before self. That is the dharma he taught.

However, per our sacred history, Sri Rama was born in the Treta Yuga, thousands upon thousands of years ago per our reckoning, to say the least. His actions were conducted given certain assumptions, indeed iron principles, of his time, which we do not find today. Honour of women was held in higher sanctity than it is in the present time, so concern for the safety of women was not as high as it must be now. Younger brothers were far, far more loyal in his time, than they are now. And citizens were far better in his time than they are now. As such, his dharma must be restated and adapted to the present time. Nevertheless, he remains the ultimate example for all time.

Before we commence with the exegesis of these principles, we will actually present a separate section focused specifically on principles two and three. These have been expanded to discuss a sub-dharma under Nara Dharma: Nara Dharma to Naari. Of late, there has been a movement to over masculinise all things in the name of reviving masculinity. Reviving Masculinity is indeed an exquisite goal, particularly in an era of Mama’s boys.

But reviving Masculinity doesn’t mean showing contempt to women. I wonder, when did the Itihasas and Puranas refer to the “Fatherland”? When did we consider women as weak? True, average males are said to have 3 times the upper body strength of the average female, and modern armies absolutely should realise this before placing women in frontline combat. But as Swami Vivekanananda, another advocate of strong minds and strong, masculine bodies, said, “which man can give birth?”. Inner strength and outer strength are complementarities and not mutual exclusivities.

It is Bharat Mata, as Bharatavarsha is our Maathru Bhoomi. It is the same even in my Maathru Bhasha. In countering our enemies, let us not seek to become like them. Our Civilization represents mankind’s cause precisely because it respected womankind.

Stay true to our tradition. By respecting women, boys become real men. By understanding how to interact with ladies, we become real gentlemen. And here is that Dharma.

III.Nara Dharma to Naari

sitaram

If there is a Naari Dharma, then surely, there must be a Nara Dharma to Naari. If rights come with responsibilities, then men who seek to assert their rights must remember that they too have responsibilities under the Dharma, especially to women, their other half. Therefore, here we summarise Nara Dharma to Naari.

  • Maathru Devo Bhava
  • Streeya Maryada Uttama
  • Protect thy society. Neglect not thy wife.
  • Daughters are Music of the home

§. Maathru Devo Bhava

Man’s relationship with Woman is not 1 dimensional, as it may be in other modern societies. In fact, in our Tradition, we view women first and foremost as mother.

It is first Maathru Devo Bhava…then Pithru Devo Bhava…then and then only Acharya Devo Bhava…and in this era, depending on his character and cultural origin, maybe Atithi Devo Bhava. But above all a mother. Because even if she is not our mother, she is a potential one, or a mother to someone else. This is the foundation of respect for women in our society. And it has been since time immemorial.Though modesty (of demeanor and dress) are advisable for both  genders, it is mentality that matters more. Also, it ensures healthier relationships with the woman who will be the mother of our kids. Mother is the storehouse of all good things.

It is not for nothing we say…

This doesn’t mean being a mummy’s boy. It means understand that to have not just the love but the respect of a real mother is to be on the side of goodness itself.

§. Streeya Maryada Uttama

Those of you familiar with Sanskrit and Sanskrit-enriched languages (like my own honey sweet Telugu) know that a single phrase, can mean many things. So it is with this one.

Firstly, Streeya Maryada Uttama

Honouring of women is the best path. The first lesson we are taught is Mathru Devo Bhava, and for good reason. Mother is the first guru. How can we not honour her? In our tradition, there is no lower form of life than an ungrateful student. A criminal may not be able to help his criminal tendencies, but even a thief looks after his mother. But like the Rakshasa who immediately seeks to use his boon against Mahadev, so too is the son who fails to respect and look after his mother. Showing honour to women, especially the one who gave you birth, is the best path not only for men, but for women, and for civilization itself.

Secondly, Streeya Maryada Uttama

Protecting a woman’s honour is of highest importance to man. More than his, more than his family’s, more than even his religion’s, is protecting a woman’s honour. In fact, it is the essence of all true religion. A society that fails to fight for its women’s safety, a society that seeks not to safeguard its stree, is no society at all. Dharmena heenaha pashubhih saamannaha. One without Dharma is like a beast.

In the great divide between “honour societies” and honourless societies are various questions about whether honour itself should be honoured. But whether a woman is honourable or not, the Shakti within her should be honoured through man’s good behaviour.

This means first and foremost controlling himself around her and not behaving like an animal. Man’s own civilization spouts from and depends upon his relationship and treatment of women. A man who barters his own woman’s honour or preys upon the women of others, is no real man. Whether she’s his woman, she’s someone else’s woman, or she’s her own woman, a man is not his own man if he cannot seek to protect women.

Rakshabandhan exists for a reason. Every woman who is not your wife is your sister (or mother or daughter). Safeguard her, welcome her, and above all cherish her.

Thirdly, Streeya Maryada Uttama

In the presence of women, being honourable is best. Here, Maryada means not just honour, but also propriety. Man should not simply content himself with not being a criminal.

Uddaret atmana atmanam. One should elevate one’s self. This means behaving appropriately in the presence of women. This neither means being an uxorious wimp nor a rude, crude, ruffian. It means being a man who respects others because he respects himself. For a woman to lose respect for a man is the kiss of death and a quest for cuckoldry. So man must respect himself. But, a true gentleman treats women well, not because of what it says about her, but because of what it says about him.

Finally, Streeya Maryada Uttama

For women, honourable courtesy is best.

Bhagvan Ram was known as the Maryada Purushottam not just for his propriety around women, but for his courtesy. A true gentleman of gracious mien.  Whatever “Surpanakha’s Daughters” may say Ravana’s sister was not punished for being a wanton woman or a “liberated lady”. Lakshmana punished her for attacking Sita. Rama had been courteous to her up until that point.

Sri Rama was not only only proper in the presence of women and elders, but was also courteous and pleasant to all. It is chivalry and gentlemanliness that delights young and old or  mother of your children and your mother. It is not just good manners or due courtesy, but that rare charm of friendly decency, to high and low, man or beast. It is not over-sophistication, but cultivation, of not just manners, but personality & prudent ideals.

So yes, accept the exhortations of the Smritis and be like Ram! But also be, the Ram…of the times. Yudhisthira attempted to be the Satyaharishchandra of the Dvapara, but Draupadi paid the price via dice as she was not born in the Treta. True Dharma lies in honouring women, safeguarding women’s honour, being honourable in the presence of women, and honouring through courtesy. Streeya Maryada Uttama.

DharmaMandir

§. Protect thy Society. Neglect not thy Wife.

Do your duty as a citizen, as a leader, as a protector, and as a father, but also as a husband. Do not neglect your wife.

If protecting one’s society first means protecting one’s womenfolk, then it also means not neglecting them. If Selfishness is the Real Root of all Evil, then neglect is its CO2. There is no greater poison in a relationship than neglect. There is no worse emotional feeling than feeling alone when you’re in fact with someone.

Not being a neglectful husband is more than just asking how her day was, or taking her out once in a while, or listening to her for 15 minutes then tuning her out the rest of the day. Neglect is also emotional distance, isolation, and cold-hearted selfishness: brutishness. If you can’t think of someone before you think of yourself, then you are not doing your dharma to your marriage, and your society.

This isn’t to say women are perfect. Nilambari has described at great length how ill-treatment of men and abuse of marriage laws is a precipitous path for society. But she and others like her have stood up for men. It is time we stood by such women, and not neglect our good fortune.

§. Daughters are Music of the Home

Sons may carry on lineages. Sons may carry on names. Sons may even carry us on to the afterlife (all per the Smritis). But daughters are the music of the home.

For far too long has the place of daughters been diminished in our own eyes as a dowry burden. Researched and presented by Nilambari in the first of our Shakti Series of Posts, dowry is adharmic, stridhaan is not. Stridhaan is not a profitable asset for greedy bridegrooms, but a gift to a bride from her own family, for her own security and maintenance.  Even the Dharmasutras permit a young woman to choose her own suitor if one cannot be found by her father. If there are only greedy, money hungry would-be matches, better to let her be, and make her own choice and meet her own match.

Therefore, the birth of daughters should no longer be a financial calculation, let alone a burden. Daughters are in fact the music of the home. If we encourage a young man to marry a wife to add colour to his life, then we should encourage him to welcome daughters to bring music to his home. From laughter, to singing, to dancing, to innocence, to sweetness, more than his own wife, it is his own little girl that softens a man, and his own rough edges.

At a time in the dread Kali (5117), when daughters more than sons are increasingly looking after parents, the veritable dhvani for any true garhapati is his putri and dauhitri.

We are the Civilization of Satakarni and Samudra Gupta who proudly styled themselves as Gautami-putra and LicchavayahStreeya Maryada Uttama.

Thus spake Nripathi on Nara Dharma to Naari.

IV.Nara Dharma Principles & Explanations

a. Svadharma

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Maharajadiraja Samudra Gupta with veena & vaana

Uddaret atmana atmanam[10]. One should elevate oneself. One should cultivate oneself. Not just spiritually, not just morally, but also culturally. Our tradition never condemned the man of the arts. In fact, it praised warrior poets, and cultured Kings. Maharajas like Paramara Bhoja and Maharajadirajas like Samudra Gupta were famed not only as Kings, generals, and warriors, but also as patrons of the arts & learning and musicians or men-of-letters in their own right. They held the veena in one hand and the vaana (bow) in the other.  Do not be a sybaritic and overly refined poppinjay,  but do not be a dour and brutish troglodyte either. Neither be a bookish wimp nor an uncultured ruffian. It is an art, an art as simple as Calligraphy, that disengages man from the severity of his duty, so that he can meditate on the right course of action.

A real man is not 1 dimensional. He has many dimensions to him.  His jati or state origin are only 1 aspect. His varna is only 1 aspect. His marital status is only 1 aspect. His interests/desires are only 1 aspect.  His talents are only 1 aspect. As such, his personal duty, his svadharma, is to ensure all these aspects are in harmony, and in harmony with his society’s needs.  it also means knowing how to interact with others especially women, as we showed above, and understanding the nava rasa of life, especially Sringara rasa.

Some malefactors of dharma have characterised svadharma as something subjective and capricious. But this is false. Svadharma is evaluating the needs of society and understanding one’s talents and obligations, to determine the optimal course of action or duty to society. How can you best contribute? That is how svadharma is determined. Not everyone can be a King or captain. Not everyone can be a purohit or teacher. Not everyone is good at business. And not everyone is a good craftsmen or farmer or construction worker. Rather than being jealous of others, understand your current competence and overall potential, avoid the Arishadvargas, and put society before self. That is how svadharma is determined and achieved.

That is why Acharya Chanakya writes

Sukhasya moolam dharmah Dharmasya moolamarthah |

Arthasya moolam rajyam Rajasya moolam indriyavijayam ||

The Root of Happiness is Dharma. The root of Dharma is Artha.

The Root of Artha is Rajyam [Power]. The root of Power is Victory over the Senses [10,129]

That is the key to happy living and the basis for all the Yama & Niyama (do’s and don’ts) that characterise the Dharmasastra and are advocated by the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Human life is a rare privilege in our tradition, and so, must be used wisely. Purusharthas are the aims of life: Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), Kama (pleasure & love), Moksha (liberation). Of these, Dharma is the best, as it guides the next two and ultimately makes possible the last.

Nithya and Naimittika Karma facilitate the fulfillment of Svadharma. This is due to the spiritual discipline and hygiene that is promoted. Traditionally referred to as the more expansive Ahnika, Nithya Karma refers to daily rituals and rites, generally based on one’s station in life. Certain varnas, especially Brahmana, require more time dedicated to spiritual discipline, and the Apastamba, Baudhyana, Gautama, and Vasishta Dharmasutras all describe those associate rituals in greater detail (from Achamana (rinsing with water) and Dantadaavana (brushing teeth) to Snaana (daily bath) on) [2]. Naimittika Karma is more expansive, but done more periodically. It deals with rituals and prescribed rites based on phase of life. i.e Namakarana, Annaprasana, Upanayana, Vivaha, etc. All these are again better dealt with in the Apasthamba Grihyasutra, among others. Naimittika Karma is in turn determined by and is part of the more expansive Kulachara and Achara. Because there is Kula and Desa Achara that are very dependent on context, the more general Achara refers to Good Conduct.

Foods forbidden per one’s station or varna or desa should be avoided. Go-mamsa in particular is forbidden to all classes as the cow is aghnya (that which should not be killed). Cow leather, therefore, should be avoided when possible. If these and other infractions or moral transgressions occur, the Dharmasutras of Apastamba et al, should be consulted for appropriate prayascitta. Apastamba also asserts that if engaging in one’s traditional vocation is not possible, another one can be followed while maintaining kulachara. However, in the present time, it is advisable for all varnas to learn the arts of self-defence, exercise regularly, and have plans in place and be ready to take up arms to defend their families. The safety of their womenfolk should be the foremost concern on their minds.

Man is not only a performer of karma (Nitya and Naimittika) and Yajna, but he is also an upholder of dharma, a protector of streeya (women), a sustainer of Kutumba (family –young and old), and a pillar of Samaaja (society). Boys forever seek frivolity and fun. While there is indeed a stage for such things, (Snataka) it is short and sweet, and cannot last for too long after completion of his studies. The best course of action is to take a wife after preparation for Grihasthashrama and after ensuring he has sufficient Artha (wealth) or source of income to provide for his family and progeny.

Live by a simple code. Whatever vocation or occupation, or dharma you pursue in life, remember, Bharat is Mother to us All…

b. Grishastha Dharma

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Grihastha Dharma Sampoornaha. Grihastha ashrama is in fact considered dharma in fullness, not because it is the complete totality of it, but because it is a microcosm of complete dharma and creates complete men. In fact, none other than Maharishi Yajnavalkya advocated it to his own eventual wife Maitreyi (who sought brahmajnana). While yogis and swamis may choose the path of brahmacharya and eventual sanyaasa, Grihastha Dharma is the forerunner that provides grounding for performance of higher duties, as man learns to provide for dependents.

Svadharma finds a balance between a man’s duties, talents, and aspirations/hopes. But Grihastha Ashrama, and the associated Dharma, are predicated on balance between a mans’ Svadharma and his immediate obligations to society. He cannot neglect either himself or those who depend on him. Balance must be found.

Conjugal Relations

True, man does marry, let’s face it, because he loves woman, all aspects of woman. The Dharmasutras encourage man to marry after his studies to beget sons to bear his name and perform his last rites. But Purana also asserts that marriage is man fulfilling his duty to his society and even mankind, by having children. He fulfills his duty to society by looking after a woman of his generation, ideally his own spiritual other half. While the best course is to abstain from physical relations prior to marriage (the lifestyle of the traditional brahmachari), those who failed to wait should neither exploit women, nor give false promises of marriage, and they should provide financial maintenance when children result. Bhrunahatya (abortion) and Sisuhatya (infanticide) are Mahapatakas (terrible sins) per the Dharmasastras. No matter what his accomplishment or learning, a man too will share in the sins of a woman who, due to his counsel or pressure or desertion, undertakes in abortion. That is why Grihastha ashrama is the best time for kama and rati bhava (love and erotic pleasure).

Manu asserts that a man remains spiritually unclean for 2 days after emission, and should take bath and avoid sacred places til this time passes. Varahamihira in his Brihat Samhita advises that couples avoid relations during certain sacred festivals, pujas, and phases of the moon. By regulating the frequency of relations, he writes that there will be no need to resort to dreadful measures (i.e. abortion, etc) for family planning.[13] Hence moderation, as in all things, is advised for dharmic enjoyment of conjugal relations.

It is true that the ancients, especially since the Treta Yuga, practiced polygamy. But this comes with qualifiers. These was primarily made available to Kshatriyas for obvious reasons. As for the remaining varnas, a second wife was permitted only if the first one was barren (or the more archaic rule that the couple is sonless).   It should also be noted that the most recent of the Dharmasutras (Apasthamba) condemned Niyoga (levirate) and banned it in the current Yuga. This is due to the weakness of the flesh that both men and women have in the present time. Rather than taking matters into our own hands, it is best to accept one’s fate (or the decision of God), rather than opportunistically marrying and divorcing (a worst case scenario) or undertaking assorted abominations.

Therefore, whatever natural (and of course, wholly normal) urges a man has, marriage is ultimately about procreation and learning to live for others. That is the heart of dharma. This baseline knowledge then transfers to higher and higher families (samaaja, rashtra, desa, bhoomi), ultimately leading to the concept of Lok Kalyan.

Prior to this stage, it is advisable to study selections of the Kamasastra. The Kamasutra of Vatsyayana touches on many topics, of which rati bhava (erotic pleasure and positions) is only 1 of 10 traditional chapters (or presently 7 chapters). In fact, the entire text was composed as advice to a gentleman of the nagara who has completed brahmacharya and was looking to learn how to be a worthy match to and win the affection of a loving wife. Some of the ancillary chapters are only there for descriptive purposes and for those involved in State Espionage. They should not be studied by the common man as they may corrupt public morals.

Just as a Nara is not a Kliba, neither is a Naari, nor especially, his dharmapatni. Therefore, whatever nonsense others may be purveying, while an aspect of sexual congress is about each spouse physically enjoying the other for pleasure, it is best to follow the advice of the sastras and only engage in traditional maithuna that, even if that is not the intent, has the potential to lead to reproduction. Kautilya and Manu both condemn the behaviour of catamites, and punished exploitation of minors.

If one strays from the traditional path, he should be aware that there are karmic implications for these infractions. Therefore, rather than condemning others or believing yourself to be condemned for all time, it is best to return to the traditional path. Failing that, attempt to graduate to the next higher level of dharmic sexuality, and limit behaviour to the least detestable. Behaviour that harms or exploits the vulnerable must be immediately given up. The purpose of Indriyavijayam (conquest of the senses) is not because mortification or denial is a virtue. The purpose is to gain control over the senses, so that you do not become a slave to them or oppress and degrade your spouse (or others in general).

Apramattho daaraannireekshet | 358

“Examine the potential wife with utmost care.” [10,169]

This is the advice of Chanakya to carefully evaluate the character of a woman before marriage. Character should be the key qualification; beauty, wealth, learning, and family name are secondary factors. This is because a man must not be a cuckhold. His self-respect ensures respect from others. While the laws of adultery may have been severe among the ancients, liberal among the medieval legal commentators, they are downright oppressive in the present time.

Kautilya and Vatsyayana both assert that it is in fact difficult to fully ascertain a woman’s character prior to marriage. Both assert, however, that once married, past conduct is no basis for a man to pressure his wife into moral corruption. Sastra asserts that the best guarantee to a wife of good character and family name is through perfect duty.

Nevertheless, a man should be wise and weigh the circumstances. As the Mahabharata writes, unhappy wives (through neglect or otherwise) destroy lineages. In a tragic era of degradation, even Dushasana pales in comparison to what the Ravanas born in human form have been doing to women, married or not. As the legal texts provide guidance on remarriage, maintenance, or forgiveness, they will be covered at the appropriate time. But where a woman was obviously innocent and a victim, relations may return to normal after 1 full lunar cycle. A woman who has been a victim should not be ostracised by the family or her husband. In fact, they should evaluate how to better ensure the safety of women in oppressive circumstances or asuric vicinities. Streeya Maryada Uttama.

If your blood doesn’t boil at this, you’re not a real man.

Here the Maharanas of Mewar stand as paragons in the protection of women. Above all, Maharana Pratap. From Chittor to Kumbalgarh to Gogunda, they stood as the foremost successful examples in always ensuring the safety and honour of their womenfolk. And I bow my head to their example. Namostute.

maharanapratap

c. Pithru Dharma

dhritarashtra
Don’t be this guy

 When children are first born, it is natural for a new father to have boundless affection for them. Very often, no request or wish is not granted in order to respond to the normal impulse. But fatherhood is not just about providing for dependents, its also about creating an environment of structure and discipline so as to educate sons and daughters about the (frequently dangerous) world at large.

The Dharmasastras traditionally discuss fatherhood in terms of rites and rituals and customs. They are mentioned here only in so far as they should be passed on from father to son (and where relevant, daughter). Nithya (daily) and Naimittika (periodic) Karma provide rituals that not only encourage civilised living via hygiene and special care for loved ones, but also to help guide us during periods of liminality. That is, during periods of uncertainty where circumstances change, such as birth or death or marriage, Naimittika Karma provides us with structure to help navigate through such a period of ambivalence and emotional turbulence. As listed above, the stepping stones to dharma should be inculcated and Achara encouraged. Kulachara will vary from family to family and jati to jati, but the common Achara of Good Conduct, trains Good family members and Good citizens.

But as we commenced above so we end this section. Dhritarashtra is the textbook case of what kind of father not to be. An indulgent father who stokes his sons bad qualities to further his own ambitions and delusions, is not a good father. In fact, the Elder Kuru is a metaphor for the blindness of moha (attachment). Attached to his ambitions of securing the throne for his family, attached to his dangerously selfish son, and attached to achieving his own odd quest for vengeance against fate, he ultimately lost them all. That is the danger of being an indulgent father who puts what is pleasant to his children above what is good for them, and what is good for them, above what is good for his society.

That is why Grihasthashrama completes us. Dhritarashtra proved by being a terrible father he was also a terrible king. So how then to properly execute Pithru dharma? It comes from understanding the needs of society, the traditions of the family, and the talents of one’s children and planning for their harmony. If a son lacks Satvika guna, he should not be pressured into Vedic study as he does not have adhikar. If a daughter shows artistic talent, it should not be stifled, but channeled so that duty to society and family are fulfilled while the talent given expression and outlet. Above all, as with one’s wife, so it is with progeny. Children should not be neglected, and each child has his or her own level of confidence and social skills. It is best for a father to reach out and find an area of common interest where both can consistently bond at an early age. Chanakya provides excellent advice, suggesting play from 1-6, discipline from 6-16, then friendly counsel from 16 on. [10]

Inheritance

Finally, it is important to ensure that a strong team structure is in place. Those who make for terrible team players at home tend to be terrible team players outside. If the father is the team president, the eldest son or daughter is the team captain in managing family matters and overseeing family property.

Prathama kumara uttaradhikarin. Primogeniture was the traditional rule for kings and unpartionable ancestral property and last rites. Only exceptional circumstances circumvented this rule. While this does not apply to modern inheritance law, this principle at home exhorts younger brothers and youngers sisters to respect their elders, creating harmony and stronger family in the process.

The eldest son is not the only adhikarin or heir. Wealth and other property should subdivided equally per Medatithi and Apasthamba, who do not permit a special share (uddhara) to the elder. If stridhana is not given to a daughter, then she too can claim a share in her father’s property.  The status as uttaradhikaran has other qualifers, however. These include responsibility to marry off sisters and sororal nieces. It also means that, should the elder be found obviously incapable or even malevolent, primary family authority can be granted to the younger. However, given the traditional role of elder brothers, it is best to assuage feelings and proverbially “kick him upstairs”, meaning providing a higher titular place with limited actual role or involvement (Chairman vs CEO). However, a wise father takes steps to ensure good familial relations, chastises the rebellious and ungrateful, and counsels the imperious. A family should be governed gently.

d. Kutumba Dharma

whatfamilymeans

The tragic reality is, in what was once the Land of Lakshmana, Indian men have become horrible lieutenants. Make no mistake: they are grade A chamchas and have become filmi tyrants (when opportunity permits). But they have forgotten the first lesson of leadership: “He who wishes to command, must first learn to obey“.

It is not for nothing our tradition has advocated Primogeniture and even states that Elder brother is a Second father. Is that not how Lakshmana viewed Rama? Did he not obey Sita like a son does a mother?

In this disgusting time, a degenerate who does not respect his own sisters-in-law, let alone daughters-in-law, is no real man. And a clown who attempts to usurp the place of his elder brother (second in command to his father), is swine . Buffoons who point to Michael superseding Fredo, forget that the Corleones were a crime family.  What kind of family is yours? Ahankaris drunk on Ambition look for any excuse and any example to take what is not theirs. That is why our archetype is not Michael Corleone, but Bharata of the Ikshvakus.

By respecting your elder brother, or your team leader, or your political leader, he in turn will respect you, and grant additional responsibility. That is the path to leadership and success. Not through ambitious and opportunistic backstabbing when his luck is down, but through loyality and selflessness that puts family and society above self.

Before putting on noble airs, before annointing yourself “best of brahmins”, remember, true Kshatriya nobility and true Brahminhood is through nobility of spirit…and respecting the chain of command.

Chandra Gupta II  Vikramaditya and Adi Sankaracharya were all exceptions to the rule. Before citing them as examples, understand whether your circumstances are similar straits, and your qualities truly exemplary.

While it is true that not all fathers and elder brothers are like Rama and behave honourably, in the present time, it must be remembered that those who have the best reason to rebel are the least likely to do so. Where fraternal or familial relations cannot be congenial, rather than openly and publicly war, it is best for alienable inheritances to be civily divided, and have each go his own way. Even in the worst of situations, steps should be taken to avoid mahapatakas. Younger brothers and sons cannot be run roughshod over, but their cooperation and, where justified, obedience, should be expected. Rather than fight over parents and inheritances, it is best to follow the more basic aspects of dharma, such as achara (good conduct), maryada (maryada), saujanya (etiquette), or at least sabhyata (civility)

Chanakya provides the best guidance in this regard:

Vinayasya moolam vruddhopaseva | 6
The root of humility is in the service of the seniors—elderly or old persons. When one renders honest service to elders one learns the worth of humility. [10, 129]

Indriyaani jaraavamsha kurvanthi| 279

“(Over) Indulgence in sensory pleasures expedites the onset of the old age.”[10,162]

Naasthyahamkara samah shatruh | 287

“Arrogance is one’s greatest enemy.” [10,162]

e. Samaaja Dharma

Some Dharmas explain themselves. Or, more appropriately, are best explained with simple explanations, many of which already exist.

One such explanation was provided by Shri Swaminathan Gurumurthy who quoted the Mahabharata as follows.

“Tyajet ekam Kulasyarthe, Gramasyarthe Kulam tyajet; Gramam Janapadasyarthe, Atmarthe prithivim tyajet”[13]. It means that [rights of] individuals are to be sacrificed for the family; [rights of] families are to be sacrificed for a village; [rights of] villages are to be sacrificed for the country; and when it comes to realising God, the entire everything can be sacrificed.”

The meaning is that the individual owes duties to families, families to village [neighbourhood] village to the country. So the relation between the individual to the nation is interlinked and integrated by a sense of duty to one another. The traditional society is relation-oriented which binds everyone to duties to families, near and dear, community and society, even to nature and animals. This sense of duty is comprehended in the concept of Dharma.[9]

But being a community leader is more than just being a dictatorial member of your jati sangham, or holding an important sounding title on your city council or wearing gleaming uniforms as an officer, it is about standing up for more than just your own rights or your family’s rights or even your own sacred vow. As written in our article on selfishness, the greatest adharma is facilitated not through conscious choice to join with adharma, but through failure or refusal to prioritise correctly…even when obvious and informed so. Should a vow to serve your king bind you to stand silently through this?

Do not bother calling yourself a community elder, or a leader or a “pitamaha” if you failed to do your duty here. Do not pretend as though such things do not go on today…in fact, they are infinitely worse. Draupadi was saved by Sri Krishna. Who stood up to save this common woman? Certain dharmas may be rooted in varna, but no dharma permits such treatment to any woman of any varna, whether brahmin or dalit. If you engage in such behaviour today, no matter what your caste or creed, prepare to face the sword.

Streeya Maryada Uttama. Learn from a King who understood this….

f. Rashtra/Desa Dharma

pratapstatue
Maharana Pratap Singh of Mewar

Interestingly enough, Rashtra and Desa dharma are connected. In previous eras, what we called rashtra was in fact referred to as Desa (i.e. Kosala mahajanapada, Vanga desa, Andhra desa) and modern desh referred to as Bharatavarsha or Bharatakhanda. This is because modern India (like the Maurya Empire and the Gupta Empire, and to a lesser extent the Maratha Confederacy) is a civilizational state  or polity. Federalism being ingrained in Indian political philosophy, the system of saamantas (i.e. subordinate kings) under the Guptas was similar to having a Rajpramukh or governor under the Mauryas. Therefore, rashtra dharma cannot be in isolation from desa dharma.

It is good to do your dharma, it is good to advocate for your state’s interests, but this must be done in understanding the greater good of the nation or civilization.


g. Bhoomi Dharma

While patriotism remains of utmost importance in the present time, rashtra or desa dharma cannot be done in ignorance of or in dereliction to bhoomi dharma. There is a dharma of the earth, that all living beings must bear in mind.

Greed and Selfishness have destroyed man’s character and are now destroying the environment and the very land on which he lives, water he drinks, and air he breathes. Pseudo-philosophies, and piratical economic theories have been disseminated so widely and so insidiously, that they have been accepted as blind truths. But all truths can and must be examined and either validated or discarded in order to determine if they are actually Truth.

Modernity and modern warfare requires the technological infrastructure to defend one’s Desa. In order to do so, however, the desa itself must not be destroyed. Arthasastra and Vidura Niti should be studied to understand the timeless principles of economic prosperity and environmental harmony. These can then inspire modern variations and adaptations to eternal economic realities.

The ultimate motivation for Dharma is not profit, but Lok Kalyan. This necessitates Nishkama Karma, selfless duty and work. The greatest good for the greatest number should be considered.Note: it is the good (shreyas), not pleasant (preyas). The good of society, civilization, and the world should be man’s ultimate pursuit. To do so, he must ultimately put aside immediate individual profit, and look at Lok Kalyan. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad posits daya (compassion), dama (self-restraint), and dana (charity) as pillars to civilised life.[8, 289] Man must learn to show respect and courtesy to all form of life and all classes of society as Bhagvan Ram showed Shabari. The fruit of karma may not be ultimately reaped by you, but will benefit all in the process.

Karmanye vadikaraste| ma phalesu kadachana

Ma karmaphala hetur bhu|ma te sangostvakarmani [7]

You have the right to work only
but never to its fruits.
Let not the fruits of action be your motive.
Nor let your attachment be to inaction.

This is the highest dharma, that is pursued when all others are understood.

All this is ultimately why we pray for Lok Kalyan as the ultimate Nara Dharma, after all others have been attained.

Loka Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu

V.Teaching Nara Dharma

Instruction in Nara Dharma may no longer be able to proceed along traditional lines universally. Nevertheless, it remains the best. This is because when children and young men are taught by fathers, male relatives, and Acharyas through both instruction and example, they absorb the best.

Nevertheless, it is imperative that rather than merely having them rote-memorise injunction and mechanically conduct ritual, both should be explained to children (in tandem with their regular primary, secondary, and collegiate studies). By having them understand meaning and importance and relevance, they are more likely to not only appreciate but preserve and pass on their Dharmic heritage. In the present time, Nithya and Naimittika karma should be performed when possible. They may not always be. Ritual is important, but safety of one’s family and society takes precedence. Students should therefore be taught to prioritise correctly based on time and place. Basic weekly education in self-defence, and or, training in sastra and suhstra is advisable today for all classes and varnas.

Accordingly, at a time when hypocrisy is rampant, teaching by example is the best method, as children are keen observers. Fathers and elder brothers must themselves properly study and implement Nara Dharma to properly teach. While kulachara may determine the pursuit of Adhyapana  by a student and traditional rites and studies associated with it, all should pass on the basics of pranayama, puja, nithya and naimittika karma, and study of itihasa-purana. In the present time, viewing of Pandit-advised serials such as the Ramanand Sagar Ramayan and B.R.Chopra Mahabharata are excellent supplements to individual study of Purana, Itihasa, Veda, Vedanga, and Sastra. Above all, it is best to pass on Buddhi (wisdom) which encourages Viveka (distinguishment) between right and wrong, which is facilitated by Niti (lessons). This arms the individual to be self sufficient and encourages him to pursue self-driven study and self study (svadhyaya), which is best of all.

Thus spake Nripathi on Nara Dharma.

VI. Conclusion

rp_Dharmachakra-300x300.png

Team, unit, discipline, chain-of-command, unity-of-purpose, strategic action, all these things are crucial for the victory of any family, any community, any state, and any civilization. All these are things Bharatiya men currently lack. Inflated with pseudo-intellectual arrogance, rotted by idiotic films, or addicted to the playboy lifestyle, they have become spoiled mummy’s boys.

This Sutra on a Modern Nara Dharma was composed to educate them on what they need to inculcate. But at present time, the slightest challenge to their ill-deserved egos results in a combustion of buffoonery (unless there are tangible consequences), making them easily manipulable. A real man is not the one with the most notches on his bedpost. A real man is one who has the self-respect to stand up for himself, the strength to defend himself, the forbearance to provide for and maintain his family, the maryada to be a pillar of his communty,  and the courage to do his Dharma.

In the Andhra bhasha, there is a saametha (saying): Bharinchey vaardu Bhartha. It is the man who can bear all burdens who is the Husband. That is true manliness. Do you have it?

References:

  1. Kane. P.V. History of Dharmasastra. Vol.1. Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research.1930. https://archive.org/stream/HistoryOfDharmasastraancientAndMediaevalReligiousAndCivilLawV.1/Kane_A-History-of-Dharmasastra-v1_1930#page/n0/mode/2up
  2. Kane. P.V. History of Dharmasastra. Vol.2.P.1. Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. 1941. https://archive.org/stream/HistoryOfDharmasastraancientAndMediaevalReligiousAndCivilLawV.1/Kane_A-History-of-Dharmasastra-v1_1930#page/n0/mode/2up
  3. Dharmasutras
  4. The Ramayana
  5. The Mahabharata
  6. The Panchatantra
  7. Bhagavad Gita. C6.S2, C2, S47
  8. Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli. The Principal Upanisads. London: Unwin Brothers.1968
  9. Rangarajan. L.N Ed., Kautilya. Arthasastra. Penguin. 1992
  10. Chaturvedi, B.K.Chanakya Neeti.Diamond: New Delhi.2015
  11. Gurumurthy, S.India’s culture — Past, Present and Future. http://lookintoculture.blogspot.com/
  12. Mathur, Ashutosh Dayal. Medieval Hindu Law: Historical Evolution And Enlightened Rebellion. Oxford University Press. 2007
  13. Iyer, N.C. The Brihat Samhita of Varahamihira. Delhi: Satguru.1987
  14. Dharmic Development. http://indicportal.org/dharmic-development/

Reviving Shakti II: Stree Dharma

MahaShakti

Continuing our series on Reviving Shakti is Part II: Stree Dharma. Part I discussed the historical path of Indic Society and how each Civilization has its own trajectory, and Dharmic Society must chart out its own.  However, it must do so while adapting to time and place and the modernity in our midst.  We cannot turn back the clock and we must understand that society has changed, and we cannot force-fit stone tablets from another Millennium or Yuga into the present one.  Dharma must adapt to the present time.

With that in mind, having reviewed Sastra, Smriti, Itihasa, and Purana,  we present a Dharmic guidebook of Principles for Young Bharatiya Ladies to ensure society empowers them, and also educates them on being ethical citizens, equal stakeholders, and responsible co-leaders in the Revival of our Civilization.

I.Introduction

The events of the recent past have made this Post a necessity. In this 21st century, the lines between the genders are fast getting blurred. This is a welcome phenomenon to skewed traditional imbalances in societies around the world. However, it does make me wonder if all such movements eventually have as their aim, the enrichment of the future world for all. From the current discourse, it seems as if wholesome unity and complementarity of the two sexes is not the goal of such fulsome movements. The clamour for individual rights (more from the side of women), is ironically leading to fissures in society while “liberating” the individual.

When these issues are playing out as per rules and paradigms defined and presided over by the West, I thought the time has come to do a stock taking of the narrative from our own civilization. After all, our civilization has followed a different path from the rest of the world and I felt that it was worthwhile to trace gender relations and especially Stree Dharma through the ages and see if our culture offers more harmonious options regarding the relationship between the sexes than is seen today.

Down the ages, the status of women has undergone a change. This can be attributed to many developments that impacted Bharatiya civilization but the end result is that by the 20th century, the Bharatiya woman had lost the exalted status she once enjoyed. From Maitreyi who was wife of Yajnavalkya and an expert of the Vedas, much water has flowed down the river Ganga. The 20th century also saw many movements working for the emancipation of the status of the women in the West, who had never enjoyed it all through history. I believe that adopting the same narrative of emancipation that the West used for its women, to help change the condition of the Bharatiya stree, was and is still an error and inflicting huge damage to the fabric of Bharatiya society.

This video shows the current discourse that is taking firm root at least within the circle of “Idea of India elites”. It is heartening that our civilizational ethos is still not yet damaged beyond repair because the above video was not very well received as this article demonstrates. The video prescribes a stree hood which is quite removed from the sanskriti that defines and marks Bharatiyas. “My Pleasure could be your Pain“?–is this ethical living? I think not. So obviously an imported ideology and framework cannot help in helping defining the Dharma of the Stree.

Today, ideas about family as a social unit itself are changing, “The spread of liberal attitudes to love and marriage empowers individuals, especially young women, but it causes its own complications. One is the increasing fragility of the nuclear family, especially in the rich world.[1] Hence I believe it is important to revisit Dharmic ideas of yore to understand if there are lessons to be learnt and adapted for today’s scenario.

Another aspect that needs to be re-defined is the concept of power in gender relations. Today’s woman is certainly quite powerful. But with power comes great responsibility and tragically, that maturity is not being exhibited as this article is testimony. Hence, we need new paradigms and definitions of stree empowerment.

It is now time to revisit Stree Dharma as it was conceived and perceived in our civilization. But before we do so, it is important to assert that rights and responsibilities are reciprocal. In fact, what creates a society (especially an ethical and dharmic one) is reciprocal duties. So before we provide principles for women, let us first issue some demands to men. And so,  I briefly hand the palm leaf manuscript over to my colleague and co-author, Nripathi.

II.Nara Dharma to Naari

sitaram

If there is a Naari Dharma, then surely, there must be a Nara Dharma to Naari. If rights come with responsibilities, then men who seek to assert their rights must remember that they too have responsibilities under the Dharma, especially to women, their other half. Therefore, here we summarise Nara Dharma to Naari.

  • Maathru Devo Bhava
  • Streeya Maryada Uttama
  • Protect thy society. Neglect not thy wife.
  • Daughters are Music of the Home

§. Maathru Devo Bhava

Man’s relationship with Woman is not 1 dimensional, as it may be in other modern societies. In fact, in our Tradition, we view women first and foremost as mother.

It is first Maathru Devo Bhava…then Pithru Devo Bhava…then and then only Acharya Devo Bhava…and in this era, depending on his character and cultural origin, maybe, Atithi Devo Bhava. But above all a mother. Because even if she is not our mother, she is a potential one, or a mother to someone else. This is the foundation of respect for women in our society. And it has been since time immemorial.Though modesty (of demeanor and dress) are advisable for both  genders, it is mentality that matters more. If you lust and lech, no amount of modesty is enough, it is mentality that needs to to change. Also, this ensures healthier relationships with the women who will be the mother of our kids. Mother is the fountain of all good things.

It is not for nothing we say…

§. Streeya Maryada Uttama

Those of you familiar with Sanskrit and Sanskrit-enriched languages (like my own honey sweet Telugu) know that a single phrase, can mean many things. So it is with this one.

Firstly, Streeya Maryada Uttama

Honouring of women is the best path. The first lesson we are taught is Mathru Devo Bhava, and for good reason. Mother is the first guru. How can we not honour her? In our tradition, there is no lower form of life than an ungrateful student. A criminal may not be able to help his criminal tendencies, but even a thief looks after his mother. But like the Rakshasa who immediately seeks to use his boon against Mahadev, so too is the son who fails to respect and look after his mother. Showing honour to women, especially the one who gave you birth, is the best path not only for men, but for women, and for civilization itself.

Secondly, Streeya Maryada Uttama

Protecting a woman’s honour is of highest importance to man. More than his, more than his family’s, more than even his religion’s, is protecting a woman’s honour. In fact, it is the essence of all true religion. A society that fails to fight for its women’s safety, a society that seeks not to safeguard its stree, is no society at all. Dharmena heenaha pashubhih saamannaha. One without Dharma is like a beast.

In the great divide between “honour societies” and honourless societies are various questions about whether honour itself should be honoured. But whether a woman is honourable or not, the Shakti within her should be honoured through man’s good behaviour.

This means first and foremost controlling himself around her and not behaving like an animal. Man’s own civilization spouts from and depends upon his relationship and treatment of women. A man who barters his own woman’s honour or preys upon the women of others, is no real man. Whether she is his woman, someone else’s woman, or she’s her own woman, a man is not his own man if he cannot seek to protect women.

Rakshabandhan exists for a reason. Every woman who is not your wife is your sister (or mother or daughter). Safeguard her, welcome her, and above all cherish her.

Thirdly, Streeya Maryada Uttama

In the presence of women, being honourable is best. Here, Maryada means not just honour, but also propriety. Man should not simply content himself with not being a criminal.

Uddaret atmane atmanau. One should elevate one’s self. This means behaving appropriately in the presence of women. This neither means being an uxorious wimp nor a rude, crude, ruffian. It means being a man who respects others because he respects himself. For a woman to lose respect for a man is the kiss of death and a quest for cuckoldry. So man must respect himself. But, a true gentleman treats women well, not because of what it says about her, but because of what it says about him.

Finally, Streeya Maryada Uttama

For women, honourable courtesy is best.

Bhagvan Ram was known as the Maryada Purushottam not just for his propriety around women, but for his courtesy. A true gentleman of gracious mien.  Whatever “Surpanakha’s Daughters” may say, Ravana’s sister was not punished for being a wanton woman or a “liberated lady”. Lakshmana punished her for attacking Sita. Rama had been courteous to her up until that point.

Sri Rama was not only only proper in the presence of women and elders, but was also courteous and pleasant to all. It is chivalry and gentlemanliness that delights young and old or  our mother and mother of your children. It is not just good manners or due courtesy, but that rare charm of friendly decency, to high and low, man or beast. It is not over-sophistication, but cultivation, of not just manners, but personality & prudent ideals.

So yes, accept the exhortations of the Smritis and be like Ram! But also be, the Ram…of the times. Yudhisthira attempted to be the Satyaharishchandra of the Dvapara, but Draupadi paid the price via dice as she was not born in the Treta. True Dharma lies in honouring women, safeguarding women’s honour, being honourable in the presence of women, and honouring through courtesy. Streeya Maryada Uttama.

DharmaMandir

§. Protect thy Society. Neglect not thy Wife.

Do your duty as a citizen, as a leader, as a protector, and as a father, but also as a husband. Do not neglect your wife.

If protecting one’s society first means protecting one’s womenfolk, then it also means not neglecting them. If Selfishness is the Real Root of all Evil, then neglect is its CO2. There is no greater poison in a relationship than neglect. There is no worse emotional feeling than feeling alone when you’re in fact with someone.

Not being a neglectful husband is more than just asking how her day was, or taking her out once in a while, or listening to her for 15 minutes then tuning her out the rest of the day. Neglect is also emotional distance, isolation, and cold-hearted selfishness: brutishness. If you can’t think of someone before you think of yourself, then you are not doing your dharma to your marriage, and your society.

This isn’t to say women are perfect. Nilambari has described at great length how ill-treatment of men and abuse of marriage laws is a precipitous path for society. But she and others like her have stood up for men. It is time we stood by such women, and not neglect our good fortune.

§. Daughters are Music of the Home

Sons may carry on lineages. Sons may carry on names. Sons may even carry us on to the afterlife (all per the Smritis). But daughters are the music of the home.

For far too long has the place of daughters been diminished in our own eyes as a dowry burden. Researched and presented by Nilambari in the first of our Shakti Series of Posts, dowry is adharmic, stridhaan is not. Stridhaan is not a profitable asset for greedy bridegrooms, but a gift to a bride from her own family, for her own security and maintenance.  Even the Dharmasutras permit a young woman to choose her own suitor if one cannot be found by her father. If there are only greedy, money hungry would-be matches, better to let her be, and make her own choice and meet her own match.

Therefore, the birth of daughters should no longer be a financial calculation, let alone a burden. Daughters are in fact the music of the home. If we encourage young men to marry a wife to add colour to his life, then we should encourage them to welcome daughters to bring music to his home. From laughter, to singing, to dancing, to innocence, to sweetness, more than his own wife, it is his own little girl that softens a man, and his own rough edges.

At a time in the dread Kali (5117), when daughters more than sons are increasingly looking after parents, the veritable dhvani for any true garhapati is his putri and dauhitri.

Thus spake Nripathi on Nara Dharma to Stree.

III.Stree DharmaSatyabhama&Krishna

Following from where Nripathi left off. I want to say this is not a set of laws written in stone for all time. Rather, it is a guidebook for women of all ages (and an education for some spoiled brat men) on what the Dharma of the Bharatiya Stree is. In the context of Reviving Shakti, Stree Dharma is naturally not passive nor long-suffering nor meek, but powerful and empowering. Unlike the pie-in-the-sky ‘my choice’ clap trap and irresponsible individualism and selfishness of adarsh liberals, it re-establishes women as ardhanginis and saha dharmacharinis and equal stakeholders of society. As opposed to other traditions who say women are worth only half of men, we of the Dharmic Tradition and Indic Civilization say, Women are the Other Half of Men! And here is our Dharma, the Dharma of the Stree.

  1. Streeya Maryada Uttama. Oh Ladies! Propriety is best.
  2. As a young girl, be immersed in living the symbols or the external adornments of dharma ie. in dress, in stories, in going to temples, in arts and so on.
  3. Precociousness of childhood should slowly give way to sabhyata, saujanya, maryada and achara through the medium of external adornments as in 1 above at younger ages and through conscious guidance of elders as they grow older.
  4. For the teenager, awareness of the physical changes in her body and how it ties in with cultivating appropriate qualities like those described in 2 is paramount.
  5. Pursuing with passion and with aim to do the best in any field or fine arts/crafts is a must.
  6. Cultivation of the habit of helping around with household duties in preparation for her eventual role as a house manager is a must.
  7. Pursuance of academic goals with intent to be useful not just to self but to society at large is a must. Studies are good. Study of Niti is better. Study of Dharma best of all.
  8. Healthy interaction with the opposite sex with ability to lay down personal boundaries in order to be able to deal with the adult world is a must.
  9. As a young woman, having clear sight of academic goals and working towards it is a must.
  10. If working, should be able to independently take decisions in professional domain so as to maximize personal growth while not affecting family and peer dynamics.
  11. Traditional dharmic principles are not in favour of either drinking or smoking. Even today it is advisable to follow these injunctions, but if one chooses otherwise, then it should be done responsibly with consideration for health, safety and reputation.
  12. Traditionally, it is not advisable to indulge in pre-marital sex. In the age of STDs, cancers and unwanted pregnancies, it is still the best advice but if a young woman disagrees, then the same advice as given for 11 above holds good for this too.
  13. Abortion has traditionally been considered a Mahapataka, and advised against, and its still so in the modern time unless there are dire circumstances. Therefore, it is better to be safe than sorry with regard to sexual relations both without and within marriage.
  14. As a wife, the woman has to balance to the best of her abilities, duties towards her marital household while not abandoning her own parents.
  15. Conjugal relations between the husband and wife have to be mutually respectful and fully consensual. Fidelity leads to Trust. Trust leads to Friendship. Friendship leads to love.
  16. Conjugal relations when being for pleasure should not lose sight of the procreation aspect. Pursuit of Kama should be in line with Dharma.
  17. A woman is fully entitled to be protected during her pregnancy and her wishes respected with regard to where she would like to deliver her baby.
  18. As a mother, it is the prime duty of the woman to give care and comfort to the child in its growing years.
  19. A mother is responsible for transmitting the cultural values, customs, and rituals to the child through whatever means.
  20. Usually, the mother is working these days and she has to balance her work commitments along with her commitments as householder.
  21. Financial decisions and planning for the future has to be joint exercise between the husband and the wife. Saving for a rainy day should be the goal in order that those in your care do not suffer hardship.
  22. Greed is Not Good.
  23. In-laws have to be respected and consulted on decisions that impact them.
  24. Silence is Golden
  25. Age gracefully and see to it that you withdraw respectfully from your children’s lives once they become independent and start their own lives.
  26. Be the grandmother your grandchildren need and nurture them without interfering unduly. Neither smother your grandchildren nor abandon them. It is your duty to transmit while you are here, what you learnt of dharma through living your life.
  27. Beware the Arishadvargas (kama, kroda, lobha, moha, mada, matsarya). [2]
  28. Be a good global citizen by being a good local, state, and national citizen.

IV. Stree Dharma Principles & Explanation

While traditional Stree Dharma focuses on the married woman and her duties and responsibilities the most, a woman has to perforce go through other stages in life. She begins life as a little girl, grows into a teenager, then a young woman, a married woman, a wife and a grandmother. There is an Achara (conduct and custom) for all these stages which Bharatiya women unconsciously imbibe through generations of transmission.

a. Svadharma 

Nripathi was being kind to us ladies when he told men there were four different meanings for Streeya Maryada Uttama! The truth is, there is a fifth: Oh Ladies! Propriety is best!

This one guidance ensures not only that a woman makes the right and ethical decision in situations, but guilts men into behaving properly around them. This is also rooted in the purusharthas as maryada is a stepping stone to dharma, which guides, artha (wealth) & kama (love & pleasure) and leads to moksha. Wealth and love have their rules not to imprison us, but to guide us and protect us from greed, selfishness, and jealousy. Therefore, if there is one principle a lady,  young or old, takes from this, it is this. But from here, we move on specifically to the young.

The most significant stages of a woman’s lifecycle are the next two stages, that of a wife and then a mother. It is so because it is the stage when the stree has to align and adapt her svadharma with those of her husband’s and her new family’s and then go on to be the role model for her children. The below is an illustration of what I was saying about aligning svadharma as your circumstance changes.

As can be seen from the picture below, Bharatiya mothers and modern ones at that are quite capable of marrying tradition and modernity with elan i.e doing their svadharma. Surely most of them are mothers and it is important for today’s mothers to also nurture their individual talents along with caring for their family and children. Indeed, such mothers are beacons for their daughters, being achievers in the normally male dominated world of the sciences and also being wholesome and rooted mothers. These women below are certainly worthy of being worshipped for they are serving themselves and their families according to their svadharma and thereby contributing to Bharatiya society.

isro-celebrates

Lady Scientists of Indian Space Research Organisation

b. Pativratha

Gurumata Anasuya, the wife of Maharishi Atri, teaches Sita the spirit of Pativratha

Sita is upheld as an epitome of pativratata and while she is not a figure very dear to many “liberated” modern women, her story has shaped the worldview of almost all Bharatiya women. Pativratata is the defining quality of a married woman whereby she reveres a man as her lord and surrenders herself to him. The Vishnu Dharma Sutra lays out the relationship between husband and wife in quite a practical manner. It says, “...now then the duties of wives (are declared); they should perform the same vratas (observances and vows) which the husband undertakes; they should honour the mother-in-law, the father-in-law, other elders, gods, guests and keep the household utensils well arranged; they should not be extravagant in giving to others; should keep the goods well guarded; they should have no liking for magical practices (to win love) and should be devoted to auspicious conduct.“[3]

An aspect of pativratata is decision making. Issues on which the wife feels differently from the husband are sorted out through dialogue and action is taken after mutual consent. The end result could be one of three possibilities with the wife winning or the husband winning or they jointly taking an alternative route. And this does not even violate our sastras! The sastras say, Husband and wife (pati and patni) made for one complete entity, with wife mentioned specifically as one-half of the whole (ardhangini).Marriage vows to date have included the groom consulting his soon-to-be spouse in all matters involving dharma (religion and duty), artha (material matters), and kama (enjoyment of sex). [4]

On the issue of conjugal relations, it is worth noting that our sastras were extremely fair minded. Both husbands and wives were entitled to expect their spouses fulfil their conjugal duties, the punishment for the husband being double that for the wife” [5]. Sexual relations were primarily for the process of procreation but procreation with sacredness for how else can one reconcile the Kamasastra, with a biological act for procreation? The Kamasutra has very detailed procedures for the act of consummating a relationship. Prior to consummation of marriage, it is then the appropriate time for an aunt or elder sister to pass on limited knowledge from Dharmic selections of it. Sexual union, maithuna, is not considered dirty per the sastras. But dharma stipulates rules for cleanliness, before, during, and after. They apply not just to women, but also to men. Menstruation rules are known to women, but they should know that men too have similar rules for 2 days after a sexual act has been committed.[6]

Staying with conjugal relations, abortion or bruna-hatya is considered as an aparadha, indeed mahapataka (terrible sin) except in some extremely rare situations. Varahamihira in his Brihat Samhita advises that couples avoid relations during certain sacred festivals, pujas, and phases of the moon. By regulating the frequency of relations, he writes that there will be no need to resort to dreadful measures (i.e. abortion, etc) for family planning. Hence moderation, as in all things, is advised for dharmic enjoyment of conjugal relations. Arthasastra asserts that “Causing abortion was a serious crime”. [7] Ashwatthama was punished because he committed bruna hatya on Abhimanya’s unborn son Pareekshit.

However, as stated before there are some exceptional cases like this tragic one where an abortion would have saved the woman’s life. It is clear that abortion is neither ‘on demand’ nor a birth control option. It is considered as paap just as in other cultures around the world. However, if the woman engages in abortion, it should be done in a responsible manner so that the women undergoing the abortion do not have to face this.

For those advocates of free love, free sex and individual rights, here is a MUST READ article which shows how a society will collapse if it works on these principles.

Savitri is an extremely intelligent woman from our puranas who outwitted Yama (the god of death) and brought back her husband Satyavan to life through her intelligence. She is revered as a pativrata stree, as one of the pancha satis and “Women worship Savitri by tying colored sacred threads to the Vata (banyan) tree as part of observance during the rainy season in many parts of India, the occasion being called Vatasavitri” [8]

Photo: kidsgen

vat_savitri_vrat_sms_wishes_3735098624

 

Saha-dharma-charini (“one with whom dharma is conducted equally”) is probably a better role for the women of today.

Ahalya Draupadi Kunti Tara Mandodari tatha |

Panchakanyah smarennityam Mahapataka nashinim ||

Ahalya, Draupadi, Kunti, Tara and Mandodari

One should forever remember the panchakanya who are the destroyers of great sins [9]

The Pativratha standard as extolled in the Dharmasastra and Purana, is indeed the highest most aspirational form on the path to moksha. But those of us who live in the modern context may require a more accessible standard. These women (the panch kanyas mentioned in the sloka above) may not be Pativrathas in the traditional sense of “complete virginity before and chastity mind/body/soul within marriage, “, but they were nevertheless great women, great stakeholders of society, and great “saha-dharma-charinis”. They shared the dharma of their husbands equally, and managed despite their own complicated circumstances. So let that Pativratha standard be there for those who pray for Rama, but for women who hope for Arjuna (given his complicated love life), this second-highest standard within Dharma exists as well, that of saha-dharmachara.

Dharma is a big tent.Every saint has a past. Every sinner has a future.” Even the commentaries on Dharmasastra provide for separation from or reconciliation with wives who have transgressed. Whether or not a husband chooses to forgive, ladies, remember all make mistakes on the path to Dharma. But the best course is not to consort with or ogle other men. Husband should be the object of affect. Fidelity leads to Trust. Trust leads to Friendship. Friendship leads to Love. That is the basis for a strong marriage and the Hindu Family System.

Inheritance & Finance

The daughter, according to the Hindu family system, becomes a part of her husband’s family after marriage, and inherits her husband’s or son’s property according to well laid down principles. However, dharma sastra and vyavahara (formal law digests) have tried to create some security for the unmarried daughter (and a married daughter in distress). The unmarried daughter has the right to be maintained by her father and brothers, and also the right to be married off for which the father or the brother may draw from the ancestral corpus.After the death of the father, property devolves upon the brothers, and they are under the obligation to look after the unmarried sister. They also have the pious duty to arrange her wedding.”[10, 87]

On the issue of women having the right to property, our sastras have this to say: “The purpose of giving women the right to property is to afford protection in the case of calamity’ (3.2.34)”.–meaning protection not only of women, but protection by women of their family.[10]

As such both women and men have a responsibility to think not only of their individual needs, but to think of the needs of the family/society and plan for a rainy day.

With respect to non-ancestral property, “Apastamba said that husband and wife had a joint interest in the (acquisition and disposal of) wealth.” [11]

With respect to ancestral property, “Devana, Madhava, Candesvara, and Varadaraja agree with Vijananesvara that a wife who has received her stridhana gets only half the share or proportionate share” [12] The traditional rule is that if she has received her stridhana, then she is not entitled to ancestral property.

Bharatiya economy is a feminine one because it is the women who run it. Shri. Gurumurthy explains it well in this video. He writes about Indian economy as feminine, with women as leaders of the household and key decision-makers.Even per the sastras, men may be Chief Executive Officer, but women are Chief Operating Officers. Rather than being Gandhari and covering her eyes, she should give sight when her husband lacks it.

c. Mathru Dharma

YashodaKrishna

Mathru devo bhava.

This is one role revered by our civilization. Stree as a mother is the most exalted status that a woman can enjoy. Bharatavarsha is imagined as a mother and motherhood is considered as the pinnacle or crowning glory of being a woman. Manu says, “The acharya exceeds by his greatness ten upadhyayas, the father exceeds a hundred acharyas, a mother exceeds a thousand fathers“. [13]

But for mother to be a guru or herself to be an emanation of God, she must behave like one and be a good example, not just after motherhood, but even before. Also, mother herself cannot spoil her child. While her first principle is to love the child and nurture it, the second is to teach and punish where necessary. In an era where corporal punishment is frowned upon by modernists, mothers who refuse to engage in it still have other tools to correct misbehaving children (such as refusing gifts and not rewarding bad behaviour). The consequences of a mother indiscriminately indulging the child rather than disciplining it when occasion demands lead to an irresponsible adult as can be seen from the clip below.

On the other hand, Jijabai was the example of a mother, a strong Independent woman who raised a Shivaji to become a brave and fearless patriotic warrior. Her love for him was not blind but one in which discipline was a key ingredient to help him realise his potential.

jijabaiputra

d. Kutumba Dharma

whatfamilymeans

While families in Bharatvarsha are turning more and more nuclear, strangely there is a spate of regressive and outright moronic genre of soaps playing out on tv sets across the country; the saas-bahu soaps. In a cruel twist to traditional dharma, the characters who play daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law in these myriad serials are shown to be uni-dimensional characters portraying only good or bad. Nuances are lost, and these characters have no resemblance to real life people. Yet, these mindless serials hold our women in thrall, and worsen relations not only with in-laws, but even mothers and sisters. It is a bit frightening to think that households might soon start mirroring such mindless nonsense with real life resembling reel life.

We turn to our Itihasa, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata to draw inspiration. In the below clip form the Ramayana, Sita’s mother is advising her daughters and nieces who have been married to the brothers Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna on how to deal with their mothers-in-law, particularly Kaikeyi who has banished Sita to vanavas with Rama.

In reality, mature relations between parents-in-law and daughters-in-law engender that there is mutual respect between them. Decisions may not always be acceptable to all concerned but if they enjoy a mutually respectful relationship, things can be sorted out through discussion and dialogue. And where there is no middle ground possible, the son (husband of daughter-in-law) should be allowed to take a final decision which may be least trouble to all concerned. The daughter-in-law has to understand that if they are in-laws to her, they are parents to her husband and that he also has his dharma to uphold. The Mahabharat has a scene (see below) which shows Kunti clearing telling Draupadi that she will step back and let the daughter-in-law take primary responsibility. If such maturity was displayed then by putting Stree Dharma principles into action maybe it is a lesson for today’s bickering saas-bahus if they are there, that there is another way to go about things.


e.Samaaja dharma

Mothers are indeed people who form the citizens of tomorrow through their sons and daughters. Hence it falls on the mother to inculcate such values in her children so that they in turn become upholders of dharma.

If that is one part of the deal, the other is that when the child strays away from the path of dharma, the mother has to correct the child for the greater common good of the society even if it means punishing the child severely. For instance, in this clip from the movie Mother India.

We can see how a mother keeping aside her matriarchal affections towards her son, does not hesitate to draw the trigger on him when he behaves badly with a girl from the village. Here, the mother has discharged her samaaja dharma by sacrificing her son who had gone astray from the path of dharma, to keep the honour of the girl who he tried to violate. “She is a daughter of this village”. Here we see here not only as a mother in a family, but a leader of a community. Dharma is not one dimensional, but must balance these different interests.

f.Rashtra/Desa dharma

rani(2)

Our tradition is filled with examples of women who were extremely well versed in political administration and many were also brave warriors & participants in society.

If we take the Satavahana dynasty of ancient Andhra desa, “Royal ladies like Naganika, Balasri played a dominant role in the affairs of the state….One of the outstanding features of the Satavahana society was the high status accorded to women. One can presume that some women occupied high positions in the administration as we come across the terms like Mahabholi, Maharathini and Mahasenapatini in the inscriptions…

The Satavahana women were fashion-conscious. In the paintings at Ajanta and sculptures of
Ellora and Amaravati we come across different hairstyles that were in vogue in those times. They were also fond of ornaments and bedecked themselves with a variety of jewels like earrings, necklaces, bangles,bracelets, and anklets. They did not have any inhibition in partaking intoxicants or participating in entertainments like Madanotsava, Ghatani
Bandhana Kaumadi Yagam where both sexes mingled freely.

In short, the Satavahana society was free and open but not permissive. The
people had developed a healthy attitude towards religion, morals, and sex” [14]

Chandra Gupta II’s reign is rightly known for the efflorescence of culture”. [15] His daughter Prabhavati Gupta ruled the Vakataka Empire of Maharashtra as regent. Yet she did not usurp the throne for her family, but did her duty on behalf of the family she married into and passed the throne on to her son.

The Portuguese traveler, Fernao Nunez, says, before: ‘[The king of Vijayanagar] has women who write all the accounts of expenses that are incurred inside the gates, and whose duty it is to write all the affairs of the kingdom and compare their books with those of the writers outside;….even the wives of the king are well-versed in music…It is said that he has judges, bailiffs and watchmen who every night guard the palace, and these are women” [16]

Then there is the story of Rudrama Devi who was the daughter of Kakatiya king Ganapati Deva. Since the king did not have sons to continue his lineage, he conducted a putrika ceremony that made his daughter the legal equivalent of a male successor. She proved herself to be an illustrious and worthy co-ruler along with her father.

Besides, there is the famous Maratha Ruling Queen of Indore, Ahilyabai Holkar, and the more modern story of Jhansi ki Rani who is held up as a symbol of valour and an icon of the First War of independence in 1857.

Hence dharma is replete with examples of brave and valorous women who took rashtra and desa dharma to be part of their stree dharma. Today’s woman also has a duty towards her state and country, and must remember this as a single woman or a married mother. There is also plenty of stree shakti in Bharatvarsha’s armed forces. Besides, there are many women in positions of power and responsibility in politics, economics, environment etc., who have the potential to be game changers in the growth story of this sacred bhoomi.

g. Bhoomi dharma

Satyabhama

Be a good global citizen by being a good local citizen. Be a custodian of the environment in your own land and own patch of land, and the world will benefit.

In the rural milieu, land has always been considered as sacred and tilling the land for sustenance and not exploitation has been a way of life for the Bharatiya farmer. This means that everything associated with that land, be it people, be it the animals, be it the crops themselves are considered as sacred. This safeguards against the tendency to exploit the land and its resources indiscriminately. The rural family believes that even its livestock is part of its sampatti and usually it is the woman who  nurtures and cares for this sampatti.

Therefore, there is a Bhoomi Dharma too, to honour the Earth and living harmony with it rather than taking more than we need for fashion or fashionability. Decisions we make as consumers affect more than just us, and therefore, must be made responsibly. Woman feeding healthy organic  food to her family especially her children, ensures healthy individuals are being nurtured to become responsible and contributing citizens of this country. This also promotes human civilization and agriculture that is in harmony with the land. By valuing nature and Mother Earth (Bhoomi Devi) at the local level, we become better global citizens in the process.

BhoomiDevi
V. Teaching Stree Dharma 

After going through all the texts and reflecting and debating, it all comes down to what is practically possible and feasible in today’s context. Our smritis are not written in stone and are meant to be adapted for the times. Thus Stree Dharma is a constantly evolving concept rooted however to its tradition. So, even if we change something today, it is an organic evolution of a principle that was previously there in our texts.

Women are the culture carriers of a civilization. Hence what Dharma a mother, an aunt, a grandmother follows will be transmitted to the child of the next generation. This transmission should be both overt and subtle; overt via visible symbols, rituals, stories etc, and subtle via how the elder women conduct themselves in various situations.

This is the only way dharma has survived thus far and how it will in future too. So, the onus is on you, the woman reader, to take the lead. Prepare well the dharmic women of tomorrow.

VI.Conclusion

rp_Dharmachakra-300x300.png

Today, Bharatavarsha stands at the crossroads. In fact there are two Bharats today. One, the rural Bharat where the woman works as hard as the man but that is just in keeping with her dharma of providing for the home and hearth. She tills the land, cooks, looks after the children and her husband and is the general manager of the family. There is the urban Bharat where the woman fills two roles. One as the general manager of the family and the second as a career woman in whatever role at her workplace. Thus her loyalties are divided between her personal and professional spheres. And it is among these women that Stree Dharma has its confusions and complexities. It is here that sometimes the woman is unable to prioritize and understand her roles and responsibilities.

While it is not possible to turn the clock back and go back to archaic ways of thinking about what constitutes Stree Dharma, it may well be that when in doubt, the modern working woman, should go over the practical dharma prescribed for a woman of today (drawn from the traditional dharma itself) and decide whether following any of those will give her the peace and harmony that she is entitled to in her life. I think most women do that unconsciously and without much reflection. This has been the reason for the reasonable stable nature of Bharatiya families.But such compromises do not come easy and without the reflection, they can be cause for dissatisfaction with personal life.

However, if the woman stops to reflect and understand her traditional roles and responsibilities and then make the compromises in a conscious fashion if she chooses to, she will be more comfortable with her decisions and in turn will transmit this harmony to her family. For, there is no doubt that it is the stree who is the glue of the family and therefore the society and finally the country. If she is at peace with her decision, peace is ensured for all the remaining.

Therefore, O Bharatiya naari, arise, awake, revisit your traditional roles, adapt them and make them practical for today, understand them and make your decisions after due reflection. It will really define Stree Dharma for you, and your coming generations. What values we imbibe is what we transmit. And what we transmit is what will be carried forward by our daughters. And our daughters will define the Bharat Varsha of tomorrow.

bharatmatacharan

References:

  1. http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21688585-love-and-marriage-have-become-more-individualised-smaller-smarter-families?fsrc=scn/tw/te/pe/ed/smallersmarterfamilies
  2. see “7 should defeat the 6)http://indicportal.org/reprint-post-prema-is-not-moha/
  3. Kane, P.V. History of Dharmasastra. Vol.2.P.1. Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. 1941.p. 564
  4. Sardesai, D.R. India: The Definitive History. Westview. Boulder, Colorado 2008
  5. Rangarajan, L.N. Edit, Kautilya. The Arthashastra. New Delhi. Penguin.1992
  6. Same as 5 above
  7. Rangarajan, L.N. Edit, Kautilya. The Arthashastra. New Delhi. Penguin.1992. p. 68
  8. Sardesai, D.R. India: The Definitive History. Westview. Boulder, Colorado 2008. p. 110
  9. Apte, Vaman S. The Student’s Sanskrit-English Dictionary (2 ed.). MLBD. 1970.p. 73
  10. Rangarajan, L.N. Edit, Kautilya. The Arthashastra. New Delhi. Penguin.1992. p. 66
  11. Mathur, Ashutosh Dayal. Medieval Hindu Law: Historical Evolution And Enlightened Rebellion. Oxford University Press. 2007 p. 70
  12. Mathur, Ashutosh Dayal. Medieval Hindu Law: Historical Evolution And Enlightened Rebellion. Oxford University Press. 2007 p. 73
  13. Kane, P.V. History of Dharmasastra. Poona. Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. 1941.p. 580
  14. Rao, P.R., History And Culture Of Andhra Pradesh, Sterling. Delhi.1994.p.18 Satavahana Dynasty Of Amaravati
  15. Sardesai, D.R. India: The Definitive History. Westview. Boulder, Colorado 2008. p. 79
  16. Sardesai, D.R. India: The Definitive History. Westview. Boulder, Colorado 2008. p. 152
  17. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/why-my-choice-featuring-bollywood-actor-deepika-padukone-is-not-everyones-choice/articleshow/46790471.cms
  18. http://m.ibnlive.com/news/india/on-womens-day-read-the-suicide-note-of-a-man-971895.html
  19. Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli. The Principal Upanisads. London: Unwin Brothers.1968
  20. Iyer, N.C. The Brihat Samhita of Varahamihira. Delhi: Satguru.1987

 

[Guest Post] Odisha Fashion & Handloom

The following Post was composed by Sheetal Mishra. You can follow her on twitter.


OdishaFashion

Amidst India’s myriad offerings in the domain of art and culture, none represents a greater artistic grandeur than Odisha’s exquisite hand woven Sarees . A motley crew of weavers in this coastal state create sublime designs on a variety of Sarees like Sambalpuri, Bomkai, Maniabandha, Khandua, Nuapatna, Pasapalli, Berhampuri Pata that fascinates people across the globe. Each region in this beautiful state has its own peculiar design that gives the sarees an identity of their own.

Once upon a time weaving clothes was an important means of livelihood for the people of Odisha. It is also interesting to note that Odisha’s caste system is largely influenced by weavers and many castes were created as per various categories of weaving. It indicates the preeminence of this profession in the glorious history of Odisha.

Odisha, also known as Utkala and Kalinga, has a rich tradition of ikat handloom which stands out among rest because of its fine patterns and designs. It showcases one of the finest qualities of double ikat silk and cotton handloom sarees with very unique and beautiful patterns in borders and pallu. Use of vibrant colors, variety and fineness are distinctive features of Odisha’s handloom sarees which suits every taste and pocket. Most of these varieties are a product of Ikat (Tie and Dye). Double Ikat Sarees are produced in Odisha since time immemorial and is unique to this region.odrafash1

It is also referred as “Bandha” in local language, Odia. In Ikat method the yarn is subject to tying in sequences. Then weavers dye the required areas in the desired color. By this method they dye and soak into the exposed portions and the tied portioned are left from the dyeing effect. As a result, you have a systematic sequence in the yarn which is then put to weaving. This sequence is a preconceived design of the weaver. This sequential tie and dye method allows the weaver to form the designs in various colors. This technique is quite different from the “Bandhani”method adopted in other States like Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Some statistics according to Government website:

Type Region Looms Production potential (In lakhs) INR

Type Region Looms Production potential (In lakhs) INR
Silk Tie-dye, Silk and Cotton Bomkai Boudh, Sonepur 6773 4063.8
Khandua Silk Saree Cuttack 2255 1217.7
Cotton tie-dye Saree and Furnishing Bargarh, Sonepur, Bolangir and Nuapada 8045 3816.6
Tasar thana saree and furnishing Bargarh, Jajpur, Balasore, Nuapatna 2424 1163.52
Berhampur Silk Saree Joda Ganjam 609 292.32
Single count fine cotton Saree Jagatsinghpur 2234 804.24
Medium variety cotton Jajpur, Khurda, Bargarh, Bolangir, Ganjam and Nayagarh 5563 2003.47
Course variety cotton Bolangir, Cuttack, Khurda, Kendrapara, Nayagarh, Puri, Nuapada,Kalahandi, Kandhamal, Balasore, Bhadrak & Sambalpur, Sonepur 17220 5166

According to “Third National Handloom Census of Weavers and allied workers” in Odisha only 40,683 household are engaged in weaving or allied activities. Out of that only 1,416 households reside in cities.Most of them are uneducated. Adding salt to injury, the average annual income per weaving household is a meagre 30,000 to 32,000 INR.

odishahandloom

It is appalling and concerning that the people who carry forward our culture and tradition in a very creative way since ages are struggling to make ends meet. Shall we only act as a passive protestor and let them lead a miserable life?

Could we allow these adverse conditions destroy Odisha’s rich tradition? Is there anything that can be done to revive Odisha handloom? Handloom products are good for the skin and are very durable. They can be used as curtains, clothes, bed sheets, and doormat and has got many more applications. Actors, designers, political leaders and most importantly the common people, can promote handloom in their day to day life and bring it to the limelight from its murky existence. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi rightly pointed out that Indian handloom products lack global branding. Honorable Prime Minister, who himself is seen wearing handloom products on many occasions, appealed the masses to use at least one khadi product to brighten the lives of the producers.

odrafash2

Reputed fashion designer Manish Malhotra just revealed his latest handloom collection- “The regal threads, and paid tribute to Gujarat and Benaras weaves. South India designers like Shravan Kumar Ramaswamy, Gaurang Shah, Vivek Karunakaran are aggressively promoting handloom among Indian celebs. Like that, Odisha handloom Industry needs to be marketed globally. Famous designers have to explore this fabric and re-introduce to the world.

Odisha state government has roped in top fashion designers like Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Rajesh Pratap Singh and Bibhu Mohapatra to promote and popularize Odisha handlooms and textiles within the country. They will work with the weavers to preserve the old traditional designs and train them about new pattern and trends of handloom industries. Added to that, both Central and state Govt. should actively promote Odisha handloom along with Odisha tourism. Inclusion of more and more weavers under insurance schemes, strengthening co-operatives, re-branding and marketing of Odisha Handloom products would take our textile industries to places.

As a woman I have always been fascinated by handloom products for its variety and uniqueness. That is why this blog came into existence. Before concluding, I would like to suggest a few designs made out of different handloom products for both boys and girls. You can look stylish while wearing handloom products also! Though I don’t have pictures of dresses made out of Odisha Handloom products, these references can help you to style your own handloom dresses.

odrafash3jpg

When palazzo, patiala salwar, hot pants, maxi dresses, short skirts, dhoti trousers are trending in this fashion season, girls flaunt these with our handloom products. A well stitched vase coat is a style statement for both boys and girls. Stitch one with Handloom fabrics. Boys can also experiment a lot with Odisha Handloom fabrics. Try out making “Nehru Jackets, Khadi shorts, shirts, pathani suits, Dhoti trousers and short kurtas”. It’s high on style quotient and comfort level.

Let’s join our hands to promote Odisha Handloom world wide. Buy, gift and motivate others to do the same. Let’s create blogs, photo blogs and share it actively on Print media and social Media!

Exhibition_Fair_Orissa_Handloom_Expo_Valluvar_Kottam_Chennai_Oct_2015

References:

  1. All statistical data derived from “Third National Handloom Census of Weavers and allied workers 2009-10”
  2. http://she9.blogspot.in/2014/07/khaadi-man-shalwar-suit-collection-2014.html
  3. https://www.jaypore.com/white-khadi-yoga-dhoti-men-p11392
  4. http://www.thecrispycorner.com/trend-called-bandi/
  5. https://www.etsy.com/in-en/listing/195372783/boho-hippie-shorts-summer-shorts-light?ref=related-4

Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions of the Author, and should not be considered a reflection of the views of the Indic Civilizational Portal. The Author is responsible for ensuring the factual veracity of the content, herein.

[Guest Post] Decoding the Intellectual Kurukshetra

The following Post was composed by Shivoham. You can follow him here on Twitter.


battlefield-of-kurukshetra

This blog is about contemporary India, but we start with a bit of European history.

Part-1: 20th Century Europe

Alan Turing 

In 1939, ace computer scientist, mathematician, and cryptanalyst Alan Turning decided to solve the challenging problem of cracking the German Navy version of the Enigma code. Why? In his own words: “because no one else was doing anything about it and I could have it to myself“. Thus, the great Alan Turing and his intrepid team at Bletchley Park, through hard work, intelligence, and ingenuity were able to crack the Enigma code, and helped turn the tide of World War 2. The story is well known today. At first, they were resource-strained, and by the time the intercepted messages were decoded and sent up the chain of command, the relevant events had already passed into history. However, thanks to an increase in human and computing resources, and equally important, by upgrading their own game, the cryptographers were able to eventually decipher the messages fast enough to reliably predict what would happen in the future. They had turned information on enemy movements into actionable intelligence. Pure gold dust. By closing this gap between interception and decoding, they were able to have a significant impact on the course of the war between the Allies and the Axis powers. So precious was their operation, their work was rated ‘Ultra’, even above ‘Most’ secret. Some of Alan Turing’s research findings were hidden from public view for 70 years and only published recently. Even beyond WW2, it appears that Enigma machines were sold to 3rd world countries that were unaware that their information could be tracked by the west.

enigma

The Nazi analysts themselves believed their Enigma encryption to be fool-proof, and it is acknowledged that in principle, they indeed were. However, overconfidence, and bad operational practices gave away enough clues to Bletchley Park, who were smart enough to take advantage of these lapses. Turing’s team was able to make risky predictions that turned out to be right. The allied command subsequently bet the lives of thousands of soldiers on their predictions. Theirs was a solid scientific approach supported by rigorous math and empirical testing, which allowed them to be confident in their predictions. However, if their predictions were wrong, many lives would have been in jeopardy due to faulty intelligence and their work would’ve been dismissed as pseudo-science.

What distinguishes Science from Pseudo-science?

Around 1919, Karl Popper, a western philosopher, began to actively ponder this demarcation. He narrowed down the distinction to one of testability. According to Popper, a scientific theory must be able to make somewhat risky predictions about the future. Others would try to falsify this theory, and if this falsification failed, the theory would gain credence. If the events did not happen as predicted, the theory would be weakened, and efforts would be made to either rectify the theory and re-test, or abandon it entirely. 97 years ago, Popper applied his principles to identify at least two theories popular in the West during that time as pseudo-science: the Marxist theory of history, and the Freudian psychoanalysis. Why? These theories simply did not fail! They could explain everything in the past with 100% accuracy, and were irrefutable. First-time viewers, to this day, find this ability to confirm quite irresistible. However, within a few decades of Marx’s theory, it failed the risky predictability test not once, but several times. Freudian analysis met the same fate. From this western perspective, it was classic pseudo-science (although, apparently Marx was confident enough to crown himself as ‘the Isaac Newton of Social Sciences‘). Arguably, Marxist theory or Freudian theory did not become obsolete over time, but were born blind. By brushing away these glaring failures to predict, scientist Karl became prophet Karl. As contemporary events show, ‘propheteering’ is much more lucrative and unimpeachable (compared to the scientific alternative of forecasting, where a 5% increase in error in predicting product sales may have your client pulling the plug on your project). Well, what on earth has all this to do with India? We discuss this in the next section.

Part-2: 21st Century India

Indology

Welcome to western Indology (India study). The major theoretical foundations of western Indology over the last few decades are, as you may have guessed, Marxist theory of history, and Freudian psychoanalysis! Completely unchallenged, totally unhindered by any need to test predictions, many (but not all, there a few good ones) Indologists have combined to build up an entire body of Indology literature based on these pseudo-sciences. Let us examine the nature of this literature constructed.

chakravyuha

The western approach to knowledge-building via math models employs rigorous theorem proving starting from a bunch of ‘self-evident’ statements called axioms. A ‘purva paksha’ of the way mathematics historically developed in the West would reveal, at least at a very high level, the contrast between the Euclidean western way of theorem-proving versus the Paninian Indian approach of rule-generation (refer to the talk and work by M. D. Srinivas and others). Infallible Western mathematics versus the explicitly fallible Indic Ganita (science of computations) is an interesting topic in its own right, which we will explore in-depth in this space later. The theorem-proving approach allows us to reliably extend existing results, without having to start from scratch each time. By maintaining rigor and by subjecting new ideas to rigorous predictive testing, one can minimize the fallibility of the entire system. Of course, if one of those axioms or proofs were to be found wanting in some future scenario, it can open up a can of worms.

This incremental approach of knowledge generation used in the hard sciences has been borrowed and applied by the west to social sciences as well, which as we have seen from the time of Prophet Karl, are pseudo-sciences. So we have journal papers quoting and extending the work of previous papers, results building on prior result, producing an incestuous body of Indology writing that can plausibly confirm any and all prior data about India, but is largely useless as far as reliably predicting ‘risky’ future events. Therefore, not only has this body of work not been useful, but these highly innovative, imaginative and intellectually engaging models have been harmful when used outside academia as a predictor to develop solutions in a real world. If, by chance, a future event does conform to a theory, they can claim credit; if it failed, then of course, “the cow and goddess worshiping, caste obsessed, curry munching Hindus” weren’t smart enough to understand Marxism properly. At its core such social sciences are largely a ‘Heads I win, Tails you lose’ proposition. Thus, when decades of Marxist-inspired methods of planning in post-1947 India inevitably failed to yield results, it was explained away as the “Hindu rate of growth”. This also justified the need to continue inflicting Marxism on Indians until they fully understood it, i.e., when enough successive ‘Heads’ were observed!

Indology Theory versus Hindu Practice

Recently, I visited Columbia University in New York City to attend a science conference. The STEM departments in such universities are top-notch. Genuinely curious and good scientists and wonderful human beings. I have learned from them, and my interactions have been beneficial. Only in the last decade did I learn that in these same campuses, in their humanities and social sciences departments, there are other smart professors who are invested in Western Indology and Hindu studies. From nine thousand miles away, they were and are doing a whole lot of theoretical model fitting using materialist Marxist and Freudian interpretations of Sanskrit texts that would appear utterly nonsensical to actual practitioners in India. The dharmic content of Hinduism that actually guides its practice is summarily rejected!

On the other hand, some Western thinkers outside the ivory tower who internalized Hinduism’s ideas were able to practically adapt it to solve some of the biggest challenges of the 20th century. For example, the approaches of both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela, borrowed from the Satyagraha of Gandhi that is fundamentally rooted in Sanatana Dharma. The positive and pervasive influence of Swami Vivekananda on Western thought is stunning to read, and has never really been acknowledged either.

The Indology Enigma Machine

In an earlier era, there were the ‘orientalists’ from a Europe that had colonized and ruined India, who studied India from the perspective of a superior ‘teacher’ race. These earlier Indologists have been thoroughly exposed and the new generations of Indologists that are based in the United States are much smarter. They are trained in Sanskrit, have learned from the mistakes of the Orientalists, and have proceeded to cleverly write lengthy papers and analyses using extremely convoluted English (search for example, the pomo generator). Their writings virtually became a code that only their peers, who were part of a mutual back-scratching network, could review, read, understand, and build upon. Alternative new approaches to Hindu studies in the US would be branded as “communal” and “Hindu extremism” by their gatekeepers and shut down. If you, as a graduate scholar, wanted to study Hinduism and get funding, you would have to learn their code language, and thereby also adopt the encoded views about India.

impostor2
Comic XKCD

Simply put, these Indologists had succeeded in creating their own virtual Enigma machine. This Indology enigma machine is then shipped to third-world India, safe in the knowledge that only the encoders in the US, and their elite disciples in India, would truly know what the messages meant. It became their ultimate inside joke on India. This Indology Enigma in principle is also a fool-proof system like the earlier WW2 model and cracking this code would require sustained, single-minded effort, enormous resources, and a high degree of intelligence to break. They progressed, unhindered for decades, until the breakthrough came in the form of a trained physicist named Rajiv Malhotra.

American Orientalism Decoded

Rajiv Malhotra has lived in the US for more than 40 years and his is another successful Indian immigrant story – he studied physics, but got into IT and Telecom and eventually became the multi-millionaire owner of 20 companies. However, it is what happened afterward that is quite extraordinary. He gave it all up (for one dollar) at the age of 44 to devote his life, full time, to Hindu and Indian studies from an insider perspective. He used his personal funds to set up a research foundation and has over the last few decades, given grants, built up a dedicated home team, and done a deep and thorough study of the Indology landscape from an Indic perspective (and this is really key). While others too have attempted such studies earlier, there is really no one else who approached this problem in a single-minded manner, applying scholarly rigor, comprehensive research, and thoroughness. Rajiv Malhotra decided that he would take this up as part of his sva-dharma. He became the perfect storm that was required to crack this Indology Enigma code. Based on more than 20 years of painstaking research, and at a high personal cost, Rajiv Malhotra has authored five epic books on related topics, and we will briefly examine a specific trilogy among them, noting that the very first book, ‘Invading the Sacred‘ demolishes the Freudian psychoanalysis applied to Hindu studies in America.

The first book in the three we examine here is ‘Breaking India’, which analyzed the prior Indologists, mostly from Europe, whose theories from the 19th century have devastated Indian politics and sections of society (including in my own home state) for more than a century now. Thus, the initial decoding of Indology by Rajiv ji, while being amazing and successful, is associated with a large time lag between when these virulent messages were encoded and when they were fully decoded. However, his next book ‘Indra’s Net’ that focused on newer but equally diabolical Indology theories reduced this time lag. Here, he was able to expertly decipher the more recent discourse around the spurious idea of ‘Neo-Hinduism’ being propagated in India over the last few decades. Finally, his latest book, ‘The Battle For Sanskrit was released in India a couple of weeks ago. While this book is yet to release in the US, I have studied several video overviews of its content to realize that it has exposed the ugly face of an  ‘American Orientalism’, a new form of Orientalism.

bfs
Click here to Pre-Order the Book today!

It is clear that today, Rajiv Malhotra’s systematic approach has been able to decipher the output of American Orientalism as it is happening in the US right now. In this desperate intellectual and civilizational Kurukshetra, for the first time ever, practicing Hindus will have actionable intelligence that will enable them to proactively mount a defense before these destructive theories fully percolate into the Indian discourse that is controlled by sepoys – the paid native intellectual gunmen of these western masters.

A new generation of dedicated Intellectual Kshatriyas are needed to carry this work forward. Who will join this Battle for our Sanskriti?

References

  1. beingdifferentbook.com
  2. thebattleforsanskrit.com

Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions of the Author, and should not be considered a reflection of the views of the Indic Civilizational Portal. The Author is responsible for ensuring the factual veracity of the content, herein.