Monthly Archives: March 2016

Kolam — Computing and Cosmology within Indian Art

Background1.bmp
copyright: Indicportal.org
Introduction

Kolams are curved line patterns drawn by the women of Tamil Nadu every morning in front of their houses after sprinkling water and cleaning the ground. Traditionally, this is done using rice flour and is not intended to be a permanent design. Over the day, birds, ants, and tiny insects feed on it, and the wind and footsteps disturb it. The Kolam is disturbed and eventually erased, and the whole cycle is repeated the next day, and the Kolam is reborn.

Kolam patterns are quite fascinating and have caught the attention of researchers worldwide. ‘Ethnographers’ study the Kolam and compare it to ancient designs from other world cultures, while scientists seek to better understand the computing, linguistic, and mathematical rules embedded within these ‘mysterious’ curved lines. Many admire the aesthetic aspect of this female artistic expression. Some are moved to poetry. But it is the Indian woman, from vegetable vendor to ISRO rocket engineer, who have actually practiced and kept the tradition of Kolam alive across centuries. They are connecting with the sacred and the auspicious while creating a new Kolam in front of their home to start off another busy day.

Here are a couple of beautiful Kolam websites that you must visit. Kolams can be done in a variety of different ways. They can be something really simple that takes only a couple of minutes, or they can turn into serious art projects like the one shown in this video below.

In other regions of India, Kolam, especially with colors (e.g. see above video) is known as RangoliRangavalli, etc.  Each region has its own distinct version of Kolam or Rangoli. An incomplete list is provided below [1].

  • Muggulu (Muggu): Andhra
  • Alpana: Bengal
  • Puvidal: Kerala
  • Chowkpurna: Madhya Pradesh
  • Rangoli: Maharashtra, Karnataka
  • Mandana: Rajasthan
  • Kolam: Tamil Nadu
  • Sanjhi: Uttar Pradesh

Women artists in each of these Indian states create Kolam themes that are distinctive and reflective of their regional culture. However, one cannot fail to notice the commonality and consonance between the Rangoli patterns spread all across India, exemplifying India’s unity in diversity.  In southern India, Kolams are often drawn daily, while in other places, women may choose to do so during festive occasions.  There are also Kolam variations within any given region. For example, in Tamil Nadu, we have Pulli (dot) Kolam, Padi Kolam, etc.  Here is a video of a step-by-step construction of a Padi Kolam.

The Kolam structure naturally lends itself to a rich artistic expression. Indeed, the word ‘Kolam’ itself suggests ‘beauty’. It has certain fascinating mathematical properties, as well as a sacred cosmology associated with its construction. Let’s look at all these ideas after a brief review of its history

History of Kolam

Creating paintings on a natural surface has a really ancient history in India, as evidenced by the Bhimbetka frescoes that are at least 15, 000 years old.  This news article [2] talks about the use of Rangoli in the Mahabharata while another forum mentions the design in the Ramayana. Other floor designs, such as the endearing floor drawing of the footprints of little Krishna walking into the house during Janmashtami are well known in Indian tradition. One of the 64 arts mentioned in ancient India is तण्डुलकुसुमवलिविकाराः , i.e. Tandula (rice) Kusumavali (array of flowers), Vikara (transformation).  This is an art form of organizing an offering of rice and flowers. Rangoli appears to be an instance of this art form. Rangoli is mentioned in the Chitralakshana [3], one of the oldest Indian treatises on paintings, attesting to its ancient origins. In Tamil Nadu, Kolam floor designs were popular during the Chola rule [4].

An article summarizing the amazing work of Dr. Gift Siromoney, a pioneer of Kolam research, comments on the historicity of the Kolam patterns in Tamil literature [5]: “Contrary to popular belief, the common threshold patterns are not very ancient. The practice of decorating the floor may go back to about six hundred years and not more. A few designs may be traced to the Jain temples of South Kanara and at least one to Mahayana Buddhism“. The first conclusion is incorrect. While it may be possible that the usage of the word ‘Kolam’ in Tamil to denote these sacred designs may have been no earlier than 16th century, the actual practice of such floor drawings in Tamil Nadu and other parts of India is ancient, as mentioned earlier. The author is quite right in his second observation that the sacred practice of Kolam is common to all three dharmic systems of India.

Another interesting point mentioned here is that: “To save time in “drawing” the Kolam, many women use devices such as perforated rolling tubes and perforated trays“. We find that attempts to automate Kolam generation were made several decades ago. Of course, such a mechanical device would reproduce a single pattern.

The global research community appears to have noticed the Kolam of Tamil Nadu in 1929 via the work of Mrs. Gnana Durai [3].

Mrs. Durai’s note (source: jstor.org)

A few years later, American anthropologist Layard published a detailed treatise [4] that has been cited extensively. More recent studies done by researchers have covered a wide range of areas including art, computer science, math, sociology, etc.

Kolam Computing

Dr. Gift Siromoney at Madras Christian College co-authored a series of articles on Kolam in the 1970s-80s [5] by analyzing Kolam patterns as a ‘picture language’ in the context of computer graphics, image processing, and theoretical computer science topics. Dr. Siromoney was by all accounts, a remarkable multi-talented personality. His key contributions include:

  • A systematic analysis of Kolam that breaks down the construction of any complex design into a finite sequence of simple ‘Kolam moves’, which remains a key idea in Kolam pattern research even today. Based on this analysis, he was able to develop one of the earliest computer programs that could generate multiple Kolam designs.
  • Identifying the initial placement of Pullis (dots) to create a grid as a key facilitating step toward rapid Kolam creation.
  • A method to determine whether a given Kolam pattern is made up of a single curve (kambi) or multiple lines (multi kambi). He showed how single-line Kolams could be transformed into multi-line Kolams and vice versa, using certain elementary operations that are also noted in Circular DNA Splicing Theory (!). We also note here the single-kambi Kolam connection to an Eulerian graph.
  • Experiments that empirically demonstrate that Kolam creation requires skill that can be learned and improved via experience. Seasoned Kolam practitioners were able to store, recall, and more quickly create sophisticated patterns compared to novices.
  • Determining that a Kolam practitioner’s skill level had little correlation with their attained level of academic education.

After the pioneering work of Siromoney, a variety of western and Japanese research contributions were published. One of the common goals was the design and analysis of algorithms that could efficiently generate a variety of Kolam patterns. Innovative ideas from math topics ranging from knot theory to topology were employed to come up with methods for generating valid Kolam patterns. Some others tried to enumerate the number of single-kambi Kolam combinations possible for a given number of dots in a grid (not surprisingly, they grow exponentially).

Since the earliest works, several researchers have remarked on the ‘endless lines’ within some Kolams, which we discuss in the next section. Contemporary research is also trying to better understand how single-strand Kolam patterns can be encoded via a ‘sequential language’, i.e. the sequence of gestures employed by Kolam creators.  Recently (2011), researchers at SASTRA university in Thanjavur patented a steganographic  method  (encrypting and transmitting data using an image or pattern), using a pulli Kolam. Note that FIG 2. below resembles a single kambi Kolam. There may also be beneficial applications in the analysis of the Traveling Salesman Problem, a famously difficult problem in Computational Complexity Theory. Clearly, we have a long way to go before we fully decode its magic.

source: google.com (USPTO)

Whereas the western approach to art, science, and math is based on a separate and independent existence of the material and the transcendental world, the Indian approach sees no such dichotomy. Indian art, including Kolam, is rooted in a sacred cosmology, which we examine next.

Cosmology of the Sacred Kolam

Why do Tamil women draw Kolams daily at the threshold of their homes? Why not do something else?

This informative article poses such questions and provides an explanation from a western universal perspective. I present an alternative point of view from my Indian perspective. The linked article also has a nice discussion of the significance of a Kolam’s location at the point of entry into a home. It is clear from this discussion, as well as the history of Rangoli, that these designs involve a sacred transcendental dimension.  In Itihasa [1], Rangolis were drawn by the Gopis anxiously awaiting the return of their beloved Krishna, and by the joyous citizens of Ayodhya in anticipation of Rama’s return. Why did they do it?

We can see from Dr. Siromoney’s research, that 16th and 17th century Tamil works record Kolams being drawn prior to a puja invoking Ganapati, the deity who is a remover of obstacles. Today, Kolam drawing in front of their houses remains an integral part of daily life for many Indians, and is also a part of sacred Hindu festivals across India. A deeper understanding of Kolam (and Indian art in general) can be obtained via the traditional Indian approach that views art, science, etc. as not merely secular aesthetic-intellectual subjects, but also as a link to the sacred realm and worthy of reverence. We can recall that the Ganita genius Srinivasa Ramanujan employed this approach while generating truly astonishing results.

From an Indian perspective, we can find not one but several key dharmic ideas embedded within the observations made by various researchers about Kolam. We discuss some of them here.

  1. Order and Chaos: The harmonious existence of a Kolam and nature within an endless cycle; a gradual dissolution into chaos followed by an equally inevitable restoration of order the next day. Furthermore, there exists within the seemingly complicated ‘spaghetti’ patterns, some really simple and orderly moves that generate them.
  2. Recursion: for e.g., the fractals identified in the kolam [10]
    • Fractal Kolam: The Anklets of Krishna (source: math.yale.edu)
  3. The idealized Kolam: a single, unbroken line used to create the entire kolam
  4. The embodied skill required to recall and create complex Kolam designs

The reader is referred to [8] to better understand the first idea. As far as the second concept, many have observed a recursive generating rule pervading Indian art. A similar inductive approach is apparent in various fields such as Sanskrit Grammar (Paninian rules), and Ganita (e.g., Pingala‘s Mount Meru, Hemachandra series, etc.). For example, consider the Hindu representation of the cosmos as the Sri Yantra, which clearly exhibits this recursion. Here’s a simple DIY Sri Yantra Kolam.

Sri Yantra (source: sutrajournal.com)

The third feature suggests dharma’s integral unity:  the externally visible plurality of designs in a single-strand Kolam have no independent existence of their own, but exist within and as a single line (cycle) that has no beginning and end. This also represents the cosmological idea of a Brahma Mudichchu, or Brahma’s knot. Dr. Siromoney travel notes mention that “The South Canara district of Mysore region is studded with Jain temples and each temple has an ornamental flag-staff or dhvaja stambha. The Thousand Pillared Basti at Mudabidare built in the fifteenth century has many ornamental pillars. In some of the pillars there are some complicated designs similar to the Kolam patterns made of unending lines….The unending lines are clearly depicted showing a line superimposed and going over another line at the crossings..” Note that idea of integral unity is common to Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist dharma traditions. In fact, it appears that the Buddha may have been an expert at this art.

Today, multiple independent lines are often used to quickly complete Kolams that become too complex to be completed using a single line. However, mathematicians have been able to recreate elaborate integral Kolam instances (e.g. Pavithram (sacred) is the term used to denote kolams that have ‘never-ending lines’. See the Pavithram design below from [9]) by employing the principles of symmetry and recursion. Similarly, in Indian art, reconstruction of lost art traditions (actual examples include classical dance and poetry) is achieved via the resemblance principle of bandhu. In [8] we learn that “integral unity is not expressed only in terms of divinity and devotion; transcendence to such a state is also available through art. Since time immemorial in India, art has been a way to connect the manifest and the un-manifest, evoking through form the experience that is beyond form.

Brahma Mudi

This cosmic knot is not only present in Kolams. The knot that binds the three sacred threads (‘Poonal’ in  Tamil), as well as the joining together of the ends of the garments of the bride and groom during a Hindu marriage ceremony symbolizing their seamless and unending union, are other instances of a Brahma Mudichchu.  The Brahma knot is also present as the deep and sacred Yogic concept of Brahma Granthi in Kundalini Yoga.

A simple answer to the question of ‘why Kolam?’ is ‘why not Kolam’? All Indian art traditions seek to connect with the sacred transcendental and the Kolam is no exception. This reverence has a practical impact. Traditions rooted in sacred practice endure, while those that exclusively rely on the aesthetic or the intellectual become ephemera.  Our closing discussion on the fourth and final point shows how sacred Indian practices such as Kolam are preserved and transmitted.

Here is an interesting statement by a Japanese researcher praising the knowledge of Kolam practitioners [11]: “In southern India, there are many great female mathematicians who solve a complicated line pattern every morning, with white rice powder on the ground. The pattern is drawn around a grid pattern of dots so that the lines minimally encircle each dot, which is so called “Kolam” pattern in Tamil.”

Dr. Siromoney was able to practically demonstrate that a Kolam practitioner’s skill is an outcome of what we recognize today as the important Indic tradition of embodied knowing [8]. Dr. Siromoney’s experiments show: “… Expertise in Kolam drawing is, thus of the nature of a skill and exhibits all the attributes that psychologists associate with skill-acquisition and performance.” However, immediately after saying this, the article concludes that “Although the performance of this skill results in products (i.e., Kolam patterns) that possess complex grammatical properties, the practitioners of the skill are themselves unaware of this fact since a large proportion of the practitioners are nonliterate.”

This conclusion can now be recognized as inaccurate. Such decisive dismissals have been repeated by several western researchers, who, after using sophisticated instrumentation to record the amazing results achieved in Yoga and transcendental meditation by Hindu and Buddhist Yogis and monks, labeled them as eastern ‘mystics’ [8], in direct contrast to academy-trained ‘scientists’. Even Srinivasa Ramanujan was not spared since he did not provide a deductive proof for his results. Later, of course, almost all his results were proven by western researchers to be true to their satisfaction.

This confusion can be resolved when we understand that embodied knowing does not require literacy [8] or knowledge of scriptural text, and can be systematically accessed and transmitted in-person from Guru to Sishya, and mother to daughter. This is exactly how Sangeetam and Nrityam (traditional Indian music and dance) is taught via repeated demonstration-replication, where no dance-move textbook or musical score sheet is essential. Arguably, the depth of awareness, knowledge and skill acquired via embodied learning may be more than that achieved by tunneling through mountains of text.

Embodied knowing also democratizes and decentralizes the transmission and reception of knowledge. In fact, it appears that India’s scientific and technical prowess since ancient times until the 1700s was a result of the embodied knowing traditions being passed down from generation to generation by its artisans and engineering communities [8]. The assumption that text-parsing ability is vital to acquiring the deepest knowledge appears to be more typical of Abrahamic tradition, which has been internalized by both secular and religious scholars trained in western academia.

If you haven’t done so before, draw a Kolam at home and teach your kids. Let us rediscover this beautiful Indian tradition, and bring the sacred right to our doorstep and connect to infinity, and beyond! 

References
  1. Pongal Kolam. http://www.pongalfestival.org/pongal-kolam.html (2016).
  2. Colourful Tradition http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/mp/2003/01/07/stories/2003010700050200.htm (2003).
  3. Rangoli History. http://www.rangolidesign.net/rangoli-history.html. 2014.
  4. Explorations in Applied Geography, edited by Ashok K. Dutt et al. PHI Learning, New Delhi. (2008)
  5. Dr. Gift Siromoney’s work on Kolam. http://www.cmi.ac.in/gift/Kolam.htm. T. Robinson.
  6. Preliminary note on geometrical diagrams (kolam) from the Madras Presidency. H. G. Durai,  Man, Vol 77  (1929)
  7. Labyrinth Ritual in Southern India. John Layard. Folklore, Vol 158 (1937).
  8. Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism. Rajiv Malhotra. Harper Collins India. 2011.
  9. Reconstruction and extension of lost symmetries: Examples from the Tamil of South India. P. Gerdes,  Computers & Mathematics with Applications, Vol 12 (1989).
  10. Thinking in Patterns: Fractals and Related Phenomena in Nature. By Benoit B. Mandelbrot, edited by Miroslav Michal Novak World Scientific Pub Co Inc. (2004).
  11. Solving Infinite Kolam in Knot Theory. Yukitaka Ishimoto. Computing Research Repository(2007).

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.

Introducing New Blogger: Shivoham

shivoham

Namaskaram.

I’m a keen follower of this Indic Civilizational Portal (ICP), and my humble contributions here are largely due to the encouragement of ICP, a wonderful website firmly grounded in, and serving Dharma and the Indian narrative. It is very difficult, perhaps impossible (think Amitabh-Don here) to find much originality in my posts. Rather, given my engineering
background, I’m trying to apply previously established Indian ideas (input) to different problems and then examine what the output looks like.

Every post is an attempt to push hard against the door leading to vidya and see if it budges a bit. Here is my previous article on ICP as one such example.

Thank you for taking the time to read.

Shivoham, Shivoham.

The Politics of Language

A version of this Post was published at Andhra Cultural Portal on September 30, 2014


While this guy may have said “no”, we say “yes”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent speech at the United Nations revived the old debate on “national language”.

In response, conventional media and social media have been alive with debate, some informed, most un-informed. Some object to the very notion of Hindi as national language, seeing it only as 1 of 2 official languages. Others reject it both as national and official. A smaller subset concedes its official status but insists on English or Sanskrit as “national” link language. Nevertheless, all this has yet again provided a moment for introspection. Is Sanskritised Hindi India’s official and national language? Was Shri Narendra Modi correct in using this version of Hindi (any version of Hindi) to represent India? While his previous directives to encourage the use of Hindi across the country initially stirred this pot, the General Assembly appearance (available in the full 35 minute video below) outright churned it.

What’s more, it added the additional seasoning of Shuddh Hindi vs Bollywood Bhasha (which has increasing left common Hindustani or even Urdu for outright near Rekhta, as is seemingly in fashion on the other side of Wagah…if that). That’s what makes the opposition of the naysayers so humorous. The same voices who raise a hue and cry about “Northern Imperialism” and “Brahminical conspiracy” have no problem imposing regional or even non-Indian infusions (i.e. English, etc)—hypocrisy in its worst form.

In a particularly telling incident a number of years ago, one buffoon spouted off on how because India was an “IT Choopar pavar” software could be developed to automatically translate orders from an officer to a jawan in his mother tongue. Said moron predictably failed to answer what the contingency would be if an EMP destroyed the translating device—rendering all conversation, let alone orders, unintelligible). And that, folks, is the problem.

For almost 70 years this debate has dragged on to such ridiculous extremes due to self-centeredness on one end, self-entitlement on the other, compounded by stubborn Indian Stupidity and its penchant for argument for the sake of argument. The current clash has virtually divorced the discourse from the fundamental premise of Hindi as Official and National language to begin with. So let us start with the basics:

Article 343 of the Indian Constitution specifically stipulates the following:

“(1) The official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script

“(2) Notwithstanding anything in clause (1), for a period of fifteen years from the commencement of this Constitution, the English language shall continue to be used for all the official purposes of the Union for which it was being used immediately before such commencement:

Provided that the President may, during the said period, by order authorize the use of the Hindi language in addition to the English language and of the Devanagari form of numerals in addition to the international form of Indian numerals for any of the official purposes of the Union”

Article 344. Commission and Committee of Parliament on official language

(2) It shall be the duty of the Commission to make recommendations to the President as to—

(a) the progressive use of the Hindi language for the official purposes of the Union;

(b) restrictions on the use of the English language for all or any of the official purposes of the Union”

Article 351. Directive for development of the Hindi language.—“It shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language…by drawing, wherever necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, primarily on Sanskrit and secondarily on other languages” [emphasis mine]

The Constitution of India

As such, for all the whiners, hysterical drama-bazis, and whirling dervishes of outrage, the fact remains what the Prime Minister did, and has been doing, perfectly comports with the intent and the letter of the Constitution: Hindi drawing primarily from Sanskrit is the official language for the Union, and should be used to represent India internationally. In fact, rather than repeatedly copying and pasting the [strategically amended] preamble (which even a child can do), perhaps the naysayers should start reading the actual articles of the Constitution (especially A.44).

Concerns about Regional identity vs National identity

There have long been concerns about regional identity vs national identity. To what extent should regional culture be patronised without compromising unifying factors. In short, how to avoid the dangers of new Periyars and Bhindranwales, while at the same time ensuring preservation of and justifiable pride in regional identity?

On the other end, we have those who point to the bifurcation of old Andhra Pradesh state as evidence of the obsolescence of linguistic states and even regional identity itself. Unitary system advocates posit that Federalism itself is problematic, and speak in terms of 1 dimensional nationalism. But along with the Constitution (which is Federal in Structure; Unitary in Spirit) the Mahabharata itself gainsays this when it states:

Tyajet ekam Kulasyarthe, Gramasyarthe Kulam tyajet; Gramam Janapadasyarthe, Atmarthe prithivim tyajet

The essence of this “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. “

Thus, we all owe duties to our family, region (i.e. villages), and country (desh being above the rest in this ascending order). The entire business about citing Hindi’s pedigree versus more ancient Kannada or Tamil is preposterous. By that token, what is English’s pedigree compared to Hindi?–do the research on the origin of Angrez then talk (while you’re at it, ask the French what they think of English).

Dharma is our common thread, and Sanskrit the high language of its expression and culture. Hindi serves as a common tongue and is already used within the army by enlisted soldiers–it is the language of the jawan. Many of the same regionalists whining about Hindi would have no problem imposing their own regional language on others.

The language of government should be accessible to both the cultured grandee and the common man. Despite my love of Sanskrit, it is in recognition of this reality that I, as a proud Telugu, support Hindi as the national language, for the following reasons:

Reasons for Hindi

  • De Jure Basis
  • De Facto Basis
  • Historical analogue to Prakrit
  • National Pride

Basis for Opposition

  1. Hindi Hegemony (implies others less Indian)
  2. Regional languages threatened
  3. Native languages antiquated, English is Global, Modern

Rebuttal of Opposition

  1. Revive regional dialects of Hindi, many of which can be their own languages.
  2. Even without Hindi, regional languages already threatened…by English
  3. The most advanced/modern countries in the world use their own native languages

Reasons for Hindi

De Jure Basis

While we already touched on the substantive text of the Constitution establishing Hindi as the official language of India, it is quite clear time and again that the intent of the framers was for Hindi to be the national language as well. Article 351 clearly demonstrates how they desired to spread not English, or Farsi, or Abyssinian, or Esperanto, but Hindi throughout India. While the directive principles clearly establish the recognition of 22 Official languages of India, thereby preserving and sustaining the right of regional linguistic and cultural expression, the language of national dialogue and global representation of the nation was intended to be Hindi.

When that noble scholar in the English language (and Chairman of the Constitutional Drafting Committee), Shri Ambedkar, posited Sanskrit as the official language (demonstrating its validity to Indians across class and caste), it was ultimately Nehru, that Anglicised doyen of the left, who steered the official language to Hindi. Even Chakravarti Rajagopalacari a.k.a. Rajaji initially supported Hindi, despite being a Tamilian (and before TN politics later forced him to backtrack). No less than Gandhiji posited Hindi as the national language, yet his alleged inheritors on the left act as though English is somehow the Gandhian choice–it’s not, he chose Hindi. He pointed out that there are five requirements for a national language:

“‘(1) It should be easy to learn for government officials.

(2) It should be capable of serving as a medium of religious, economic, and political intercourse throughout India.

(3) It should be the speech of the majority of the inhabitants of India.

(4) It should be easy to learn for the whole country.

(5) In choosing this language considerations of temporary or passing interests should not count’.

English, Gandhi declared, did not satisfy any of these requirements, and he had no hesitation in declaring that Hindi satisfied all of them“.

De Facto Basis

Like it or not, two institutions have made Hindi use widespread. The first and most important is the Indian Army. While traveling in Chennai, I as a Telugu was faced with a conundrum when in need of information. Out of habit, I began my question in English. The very Tamilian jawan on duty said, and I quote, “no Angrez, only Tamil or Hindi”. I’m not going to lie, I felt a surge of post-colonial pride.

A similar occurrence took place when I was in Delhi. It so happened for whatever reason my relative’s housekeeper was a Tamilian, who didn’t speak much Telugu. Again, what language did two South Indians from different states and different socio-economic strata rely on for communication?—Hindi. Granted, this had less (really nothing) to do with the Army and more to do with location, it again demonstrated that I as a Telugu was no more inclined towards Tamil than I was to Hindi, despite the former’s geographic proximity (and vice versa).

The second and unofficial institution is Bollywood, which has also served to popularise Hindi to the extent that it’s actually become identified as the National Film Industry. The top talent from South and East gravitate to Hindi cinema for precisely this reason. Hema Malini, Rekha, Sridevi, and Aishwarya all cut their teeth in regional film before eventually going “national”. Indeed, one need only take a look at Telugu cinema’s actresses to see how Tollywood became a minor league of sorts for aspiring Bollywood stars.

But relying on Bollywood alone will not serve the cause of ensuring Hindi’s status as the national language, since “Hindi” cinema has also been in danger of drifting from the constitutional directive. An (North) Indian-American writer recently said as much:

The movie’s stilted dialogue in Persianized Urdu to evoke the Mogul era was as incomprehensible to my Indian aunt and uncle, who live in Gurgaon and speak fluent Hindi, as it was to me

Thus, it becomes all the more imperative to reorient Bollywood and our Cinema in general back to Sanskritic culture. As the incisive Christopher Hitchens once said, “Globalization is only really interesting if we all bring something different”. Rather than encouraging films catering to others in the name of “Being global”, we should focus on reviving the cultural essence of India.

Historical analog to Prakrit

With rare exception, Prakrit was the typical language of administration in Ancient India. Even the Satavahanas of Andhra and the Pallavas of Tamil Nadu used it for governance. The very meaning of the word Sanskrit is “refined”, whereas the word Prakrit means “normal or vernacular”. As there were many Prakrits (i.e. Ardh-Magadhi, Maharashtri, etc) so too are there many “Hindis” (Garhwali, Bhojpuri, Avadhi).  Even the Pali of Ashoka Maurya is considered part of the Prakrit family. The fact that distant Southern empires of Ancient India used Prakrit is only further evidence that Hindi too can be accepted as a language of national administration and international representation.

Let me further clarify by saying that I firmly believe the language of state administration should be the regional one and that resident students must learn the state language. State Assemblies should conduct business in the native regional language, whether it be Assamese, Gujarati, or Kannada, but let the language of Rashtrapati Bhavan and Sansad Bhavan indeed be Hindi. “Adhyaksha Mahoday(a)“.

National Pride

There is something really shameful about an ancient civilization that respectively boasts quite possibly the most refined and ancient language, the 4th most common language, and what I as an Andhraite will insist is the sweetest language, yet we rely on a parvenu patois of an undistinguished Germanic dialect heavily infused with Latin and Viking French for our national communication. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly do not caucus with the luddites who want to kick out English, computers, and anything else that prevents them from handing out jobs to their cronies/party workers, but there is a such a thing as national and civilizational pride.

Geopolitically and commercially, English does have value to India (and it can be taught alongside our own as part of the 3-language formula), but language is also culture. For the same reason we at ACP advocate to revive the linguistic culture of the people of Undivided Andhra, so too should India revive the national culture of its civilization through a native language.

Having established the fundamental premises for (re)-establishing Hindi as the national language, let us then examine and deconstruct the specific prongs of opposition to it.

Basis for Opposition

1. Hindi Hegemony (implies others less Indian)

This has been a common complaint for Indians hailing from South of the Vindhyas. Many resent the idea of Hindi as both official and national language because they feel it devalues and even disparages their own idiom. Languages such as Kannada and Tamil are hundreds (or depending on how we define Hindi) even thousands of years older, with rich pedigrees and classical status to boot. Tamil claims descent from Lord Shiva himself via Maharishi Agasthya, and Kannada was the language of dynasties such as the Rashtrakutas and Chalukyas that crossed the Vindhyas and ruled lands as far Nepal and Bengal.

This sentiment is frequently coupled with resentment at the assorted Madrasi/Northeastern jokes that many non-Hindiwallahs are frequently subjected to. While many do give back as good as they get, I certainly did, they internalised and congealed this feeling into stereotyping all Northerners and retaining resentment (which I did not). Thus, language to many of them has become a way of frustrating what they see as the “over-bearing behaviour of superiority complex-ed Northerners” all while using their linguistic/cultural/imperial pedigrees to construct their own.

Finally, there is the irritating reality that there are many Northerners who do come to cities like Bangalore and Chennai, and don’t learn the local languages…and refuse to. They hope to coast by on English or even put the onus on the local for learning Hindi. This has resulted in (justifiable) movements like No more “Kannada Baralla”

2. Regional languages threatened

There are of course the regional language champions. They complain that the flood of Hindi in schools, government, and movies means their own languages will die out.  In the name of defending their regional identity, some Manipuri militants have even “banned Hindi movies”–resulting in the growing popularity of Korean movies and K-Pop (is this going to help either national integration or regional identity?).

Then there is the opportunist. The self-starting, up from the boot-straps or clipped St.Stephens graduate who likes his English advantage with his single-malt Scotch, and will be damned if some “vernie” seeks to undercut his hard-earned or “inherited” privilege. Thus he posits English as the “link language” for fair play, much like his patrons from John Company once did.

3. Native languages antiquated, English is Global, Modern

This is the latest fashion for the anti-Shuddh Hindi /pro-Hinglish types. Many of these people even take pride in not knowing how to speak their own native regional language, let alone write it. For them, English is the only language of literacy, modernity, and fashionability…becharas. To be frank, I’ve never quite understood what goes on in the minds of these curious characters. But then why analyse what had already been spelled out as explicit colonial policy for subjects of Indian blood…

Rebuttal of Opposition

1. Revive regional dialects of Hindi, many of which can be their own languages

When there are many dialects of Hindi, many of which could be treated as their own language, how is this Hindi hegemony?

Bhojpuri’s vibrant cinema is already emblematic of this need for intra-Hindi cultural expression and diversity. Many speakers of Hindi dialects other than Hindustani/Kauravi often find it difficult to adjust to it, prefer their own enough to have a unique film industry, and have their own cultural heritages (Braj, Bundelkhand, Marwar, Mewar) that deserve to be celebrated rather than subsumed. Subsuming is” Synthetic unity”, we need “Integral unity”.

I agree, there shouldn’t only be one “authentic” Indian identity. Being a native of the Hindi heartland shouldn’t automatically designate one as more Indian. But, the same people who idolise China don’t know Mandarin is  merely one language of many, and only the prestige dialect of Mandarin (Putonghua) is the official language–with recognised “regional languages”.

prc language map410px-Map_of_sinitic_languages_cropped-en.svg

“In the early 1900s a program for the unification of the national language, which is based on Mandarin, was launched; this resulted in Modern Standard Chinese”. Much like Hindi, Mandarin holds native sway in a gigantic part of China. But even it is divided into various dialects, which are not always mutually intelligible. In fact, it is only the “prestige dialect” around the national capital region of Beijing that is used for Government, so why do these self-same China admirers in India balk at the use of the “prestige dialect” of Hindi (Kauravi/Hindustani) being used given its origin from around India’s national capital region. These are presumably the same people who went around saying “China’s Chairman is our Chairman”—or are intellectually (or genetically) descended from them.

2. Even without uniform Hindi use regional languages already threatened…by English

A recent Telugu movie said as much, given how English has increasingly gained currency for visa/job/fashionability (short clip.words may not be understood,but emotion will be).

Aside from threatening regional languages with obsolescence in modern Indian homes, English may also serve to shut the less fortunate out. Many of our self-styled saviours of regional language posit how English is a better choice, because it puts everyone at an equal disadvantage (Indian crab mentality doing its work) and prevents Hindi from drowning out “vernaculars”. However, as if on cue, a recent article discussed how “India’s media, English-educated elites, and its government have often seemed out of touch with the majority of India’s population.”

It goes on to note that “The problem with this is that it is logistically impossible for all Indians to learn English well enough to use it in this manner, which limits its learners to those who are either good at learning languages or to those who grow up in an environment that exposes them to it from birth so that they pick it up easily. Hundreds of millions of Indians who are otherwise hardworking or talented but poor or not good with languages often do not get the opportunities in life that they deserve simply because they do not know English.”

As the article concludes, Hindi is far more closely related to Gujarati, Marathi, Odia, and Bengali than English is, not only making it more accessible, but shielding these languages in the process. Presumably, the primary complaint comes from the South, but there again the prescience of India’s constitutional framers becomes clear as Hindi primarily drawing from Sanskrit was specifically stipulated–putting Hindi again closely in the grasp of Telugu and Malayalam, which draw over 80% from Sanskrit, and followed not too distantly by Kannada. Tamil is the only outlier, and by some estimates it too is around 30-40% influenced by the Pan-India classical language. Sanskrit vocabulary therefore forms the only significant repository common to India’s large, native languages, and preserves them in the process. Whereas English simultaneously becomes a threat to the professional prospects of less fortunate regional language speakers all while extinguishing the regional language itself in upper and increasingly middle class homes.

I also want to know what exactly these self-styled saviours have done for their own languages? It seems regional languages are only a tool to oppose Hindi/National integration rather than a principle put into practice. Other than sarcasm (in actuality petty poseur passive-aggressiveness garbed in affectation), these champions of parochialism go back to general uselessness when the dust of debate settles. For all the talk of “English exploding in India”, ” It should be noted that English is spoken or understood by about 150 million Indians, or about 10 percent of the population. This means that around 90 percent of Indians do not understand or speak English.” So only around 10 percent know varying degrees of English, but more than 41% speak Hindi as a first language. Non-native speakers of Hindi would easily give this existing plurality a majority.

Thus it’s clear India’s elite and upwardly mobile  only want to preserve their inherited English advantage or at best oppose because they “don’t want to give undue status to Hindi”. Yes, better for all to be equally enslaved than to have 1 first among equals–sounds vaguely familiar… Once again, it’s quite apparent these hypocrites are speaking only in their self-interest. The question is, who will speak out in the national interest?

Interestingly, this question of preserving native languages is not only an Indian one. In fact, the French themselves have long resisted the invasion of English. Once the language of culture and diplomacy of the European elite, la langue Francaise has been relegated to a global has-been, with only spheres of influence in parts of Africa and former colonial enclaves elsewhere (i.e. Pondicherry).

France’s Académie française, official custodians of the French language, has taken its battle to fight the invasion of English and bad French to the internet with a new interactive web service.

In their commitment to preserving the cultural validity and modern relevance of their language, the French have gone to the extent of not only insisting on translating Anglicisms such as “email”, but even attempting to anticipate popular words of science and business in order to translate them in advance. How easily we Indians give up what the French hold dear. Language is culture.

Looks like Rajnath Singh was right after all.

3.Stupidity. Japan, China & Korea are all more modern/advanced than India—and they don’t use English as their medium of communication and learning

Even those Chinese learning English don’t replace their own with it, only add to an existing quiver of languages.

The key is forming academies to ensure India’s languages keep pace with science and sociology. But establishing such academies seems to be too much work for our sepoys, who insist “only English will allow for debelopment”.

As a recent article discussed,

“of the top 20 richest countries in the world per capita, only four are English-medium based. 16 of the 20 richest have higher education, science, engineering, medicine, business, law all available in their own non-English languages. None of these 20 countries have a disconnect between the mother tongue of their people and the languages of higher education and government. None of these have an English-medium based class system where English is a marker of social and economic standing above the ‘natives’.”

Thus, rather than destroying class, English obsession is reinforcing it.

What is often posited as a regional pride issue is really an individual pride issue. The most vocal voices against Hindi speak not out of concern for the son of the street side hawker, but, as usual, for his own selfish interest. Either his English gives him an advantage, rather than the par or disadvantage that Hindi would, or he is yet another example of the crab mentality of Indians (I would rather see all of us go down, than one of us go up!!!)

As the original article notes, “The division of Indian languages simply for “literary value” and English for professional fields was also an Orientalist prejudice, mentioned in the Macaulay Minute. ” Indeed, “Indian languages are far more scientific than English. Their grammar is more structured, they are phonetic; their alphabet is based on a systemisation of sound. If Japanese and Chinese with their multi-thousand letter writing systems can be used for modern knowledge, there is no reason that Indian languages cannot.”

In sum, whether considering the ancient or modern, classical or scientific, we should remember the following dictum:

 “All major civilisations promote their own languages. “

Having laid out the case for Hindi as the official and the national language, what advice do I, as a Southerner, have for Northerners on what they can do to facilitate Hindi’s national use?

What can native Hindi speakers do to help

I recognise there are many well-meaning and even open-minded North Indians willing to learn a Southern or Eastern Indian language in the interest of national integration. For every boorish mohalla-Delhiwallah who throws his linguistic weight around in Bangalore or Mumbai (often with tragic results…), there are many more who are happy to learn beyond Bollywood stereotypes and “idli/vada/sambar”. So I am not here to perpetuate stereotypes, rather, I want to provide solutions. So what can native Hindi speakers do?

1. As previously stated, revitalise your native Hindi dialect’s cultural & literary canon

From the Prithviraj Raso to the Ramcharitmanas, there is an extensive literary canon for the various dialects of Hindi. It is incumbent upon the speakers of these dialects of Hindi to revitalise them. They deserve their due spotlight. North India is more than just Delhi-Agra-Jaipur. It is high time for the sons of Chittorgarh, Pithoragarh, and Pataliputra to take pride in not only historic, but also cultural and linguistic heritages. Your poetry and literature also counts. So take an interest in recovering it and passing it on to the next generation.

2. Ditch the Madrasi/Northeastern jokes

We all know the jokes, “Kallu this/Ch**ki that”, but nothing serves to more reinforce the resistance to Hindi than the “other”ising of your fellow Indian. Coming from Andhra (a region famous for comedians from Tenali Ramakrishna to Hindi film’s Johnny Lever) I am all for good-natured ribbing and witty one-liners. But brainless name-calling and lazy stereotypes are not wit, and making common cause with Pakistanis who, despite sharing the same background as most NI Punjabis, call all Indians “kallu” is the height of stupidity. If you want a united India, act like it.

I also know that with the development primarily in the South (though Gujarat and Gurgaon are actually ahead in some ways), the shoe of late has frequently been on the other foot. Many of our brothers from UP and Bihar have been at the receiving end of unprovoked mockery. So I am not saying don’t defend yourself, just be smart about it. An IT/Visa joke about a “Gult”= fair game. But attacking  darker skinned Southerners and epicanthic fold bearing Northeasterners for their looks is crass and cultureless. What’s more, many of them have identified vulnerabilities in the North (all too crass and offensive to be repeated here), so rather than devolve to mutual acrimony and hate-fests, respect others and respect yourself by behaving like gentlemen and ladies–and your fellow Indians will do the same. If they don’t, report them to people like me, and we’ll give them a talking to.

3. Most importantly: Learn the language & culture of the state you live in

It doesn’t matter whether you like the sound of your own mother tongue more (who doesn’t?–though as a Telugu I will axiomatically beg to differ with you), or don’t have a knack for learning new languages; make an effort and pick it up. Trust me, the goodwill you generate from even showing the slightest interest in the local regional tongue will be met with a flood of reciprocation. By not just referring to everyone from Dakshin Bharat as Madrasi or South Indian and taking the time to learn the difference between Telugu and Tamil (or Mizo and Khasi for that matter), you will do more for national integration than all the twitter fights could ever hope to accomplish.

I, as a South Indian, have stuck my neck out for Hindi at the risk of considerably displeasing many of my brethren in Andhra and other parts of India, in the name not of self-interest, but national and civilizational interest. How are you, mere bhaiyon aur behinon of Uttar Bharat, willing to reciprocate in the same national and civilizational interest?

Conclusion

Ultimately, I personally am fine with either Hindi or Sanskrit. Many of late have been vehement in their insistence that Sanskrit and Sanskrit alone fits the bill as national language, and possibly even official language.  Others more recently have proposed Hindi as the First Official Language but Sanskrit as the National Language. This suggestion, in fact has more merit, and is worthy of further study, as it allows government accessible to and conversation for the common man, while rooting national thought in the only true Pan-Indian language. However, this invariably calls for a reevaluation of the criteria for and the nature of a National Language (mandatory), and favours its replacement with a Civilizational Language (something available to all, but not mandatory).

I certainly believe Sanskrit is our common civilizational language of high culture, and along with Tamil, one of our two living classical languages, but show me how you’ll get the lance naik of the Indian army or the average auto wallah to learn the language speedily (i.e 1-5 years), then talk. Anybody can form an opinion, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so show how you would do it (not in a 140 character tweet, but a 14 or 140 page plan).

I don’t mean just making the case for Sanskrit, but providing the specific plans, timelines, and infrastructure to deliver the end result leading to Sanskrit as national language or official language. Otherwise, it’s quite clear that certainly in the near and even medium term, Hindi (as defined by the Constitution) alone fits the bill, and Sanskrit will remain a civilizational fountain. Pragmatism must also drive our decision and there is a need to organise ourselves correctly AND swiftly to meet the challenges of the future.

I mean for God’s sake, we are surrounded by hostile foreigners plotting to take our land and even our loved ones, but 70 years later we are still bickering over what language we should use for national communication?!!! Are we understanding the gravity of the situation? ARE WE A SERIOUS PEOPLE?!!!

The Bottom line is this: it has been almost 7 decades since India attained Independence. Whatever side you’re on, this debate is now beyond stale, and the “imposition” charges without merit. “Vell, VEE NEED CONSENSUS FIRST”, bray our gyaanis—well gyaani, there is such a thing as a reasonable time limit for consensus, and cloture for debate—and thanks to your dilly-dallying, the time is now up. Whether top-down or bottom-up, people, it’s time to make a call…what’s the national language?—as far as the Constitution is concerned, the matter is already settled…

hindi1

References

  1. Constitution of India
  2. http://thediplomat.com/2014/07/why-india-must-move-beyond-english/
  3. http://thediplomat.com/2014/07/language-and-basic-rights-in-india-beyond-english/
  4. http://www.niticentral.com/2014/06/28/revitalising-indian-languages-will-unlock-our-civilisational-genius-232436.html
  5. http://rajivmalhotra.com/library/articles/response-postmodernist-charge-essentialism/
  6. Planet India. New York: Simon&Schuster. 2007. p.98
  7. http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/art-culture/a-historical-sense
  8. http://www.rediff.com/news/slide-show/slide-show-1-indias-english-obsession-must-end/20140626.htm
  9. Dasgupta, Jyotirindra. Language Conflict and National Development: Group Politics and National. p.110
  10. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/361585/Mandarin-language
  11. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/8820304/Frances-Academie-francaise-battles-to-protect-language-from-English.html
  12. http://www.academia.edu/7602522/The_Ability_of_Sanskrit_to_Coin_New_Words
  13. Rao, P.R. History and Culture of Andhra Pradesh. Delhi: Sterling. 1994

The Purusharthas

Purusharthas

 

Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha. Words that are known to almost every serious Dharmic person, since almost birth. Perhaps the ultimate irony is that a spiritual and cultural tradition long critiqued for religious extremes of self-abnegation and fatalism on the one end and Kamasutra and Khajuraho on the other, has always been one of balance. This is where the criticism of knowing more and more about less and less becomes highly relevant, as those using the outsider (etic) lens have studied the tradition only from the basis of a specific external framework. [5] The result is not objectivity, but obtuseness. The theory is force-fitted to the data. Or the data itself is self-selecting, with research areas being divided and sub-divided into oblivion.

That is why it is important that a tradition first be studied holistically and systemically, before moving on to more specialized areas and sub-parts. As the core of Dharma has to some degree been discussed, we may now move on to another central concept: PurusharthasThe Four Aims of Life.

Some of the favourite responses of youth of all generations have been “no one told me this before!”, “there is no guidebook to life!”, or my personal favourite “my body didn’t come with instructions!” [name that movie]. But the rejoinder is in fact “yes” to all of the above. You were told this before, there is a guidebook to life, and your body did come with instructions. You just chose to ignore all of the above because your motto to date has been “if it feels good, do it!”. In all fairness though, perhaps the channel or the communicator of these ideas may not have been the best or most effective.

The natural next query is “well, if we’re not supposed to do x, y, z, then why give it to us to begin with?”.

It is precisely this line of thinking that has been used by those with agendas and ulterior motives since the dawn of time. Through sophistry, casuistry, false equivalence, and half-information, they have sought to misinterpret and  misguide (much like modern-day “indologists”) the naive or unschooled in order to advance their own purposes.

And there begins the importance of The Purusharthas.

It is not “see, but don’t touch”, but “touch, in the right circumstances”, it is not “touch, but don’ t taste”, but “taste, only if it doesn’t harm someone”.  It is not “taste, but don’t swallow”, but “swallow, only if it doesn’t harm you”.

It is not that sensory pleasure is in itself bad, but when it becomes a fixation, when it becomes an obsession, then we become subject to it, we become a slave to it. And when we become subject or a slave to the dictates of our senses, then consideration for the safety and well-being or dignity or respect of others or our family name goes out the door. Without Dharma, Artha and Kama become subject to Asura, and Moksha goes by the wayside.

That is the brilliance of the chariot metaphor in the Bhagavad Gita. The Soul is Arjuna, the Charioteer is Krishna, the senses are the horses, and the body is the chariot. With Krishna (who not only represents God, but Dharma itself) guiding the chariot, the horses are properly reined in and we smoothly traverse the journey of life attaining our objectives and reaching our destination. But without a good charioteer, the horses (a.k.a senses) run wild, and the chariot overturns, and our life is ruined. That is how misery in this life and the next, and the next, is fermented.

http://www.bhagavad-gita.us/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/gita-126.jpg

This is the danger of becoming a slave to our senses. And this is why the root of all happiness is in victory over the senses. When we achieve victory over the senses (Indriya-vijayam), then we need not worry or feel guilty on those occasions when we do indulge in sensory pleasures. While other traditions treat sex as something dirty, in the Dharmic tradition, when done correctly, it is not. Even Acharya Chanakya wrote that:

Na jithendhriyaanaam vishayabhayam | 262

Those who have control over their senses are not afraid of their indulgence in sensual delights. [1,p. 160]

And that is why Dharma, both the spirit (inner) and the letter (outer), exists. With Dharma as the guide, with Dharma as the Rules of the Game, we can engage in play (in this material world via this corporeal birth) without self-harm and harm to others. And that is also why Dharma is the most important of the Purusharthas. This is because with mastery of Dharma, we then know how to handle artha (wealth) and kama (pleasure and love) when they come to us. And rather than moksha being something distant that we hurriedly and belatedly seek in our sixties or seventies, it becomes something we prepare for along the way, all our life. What’s more, through Dharma, we understand that our quest for moksha should not cause harm or neglect to others and lead to Adharma.

But of course, victory over the senses, and even practice of Dharma is far more difficult than it may sound here. The former takes many lifetimes for most jeevatmas, and the latter involves many falls even among the most disciplined and dharmic of souls. That is also why ahankar is the greatest impediment to enjoyment of the purusharthas. Aham kar (I am doing). Aham (the great, I am). This thought is in fact the seed of our destruction because it ignores the reality of “we”. When there is only aham, we are only accountable to ourselves and what we hold in importance. When there is hum, then “we” think of our obligations to others. That is why we take only what we need, or enjoy only what is proper.

Dharma

rp_Dharmachakra-300x300.png

Dharma is the foundational aim of life because it guides all others. It provides us with the Rules of the Game of Life so that we may navigate it happily and attain the ultimate goal of liberation from samsara. Too often individuals believe they can either live a miserable but moral life, or a sinful but happy life. Dharma teaches us that happiness and morality are not mutually exclusive. Even Acharya Chanakya, proponent of Lokayata, and ruthlessly pragmatic, himself wrote “Sukhasya moolam Dharmah”, the root of happiness is Dharma. This is because Kama (sensory pleasure & love) and Artha (wealth/material gain) are not immoral. It is only when desire for either of those two becomes excessive, that we become immoral, and in the long run, unhappy. As Swami Vivekananda reportedly said

What is poison?— Anything in excess

Dharma is the compass that allows us to navigate the map of life. By following it, we can continue on the right path, while enjoying the pleasant sights and sounds and experiences of life. As per Dharma, sex is not wrong. As per Dharma, even enjoying sex is not wrong. Dharma in fact celebrates sexual union of husband and wife as a microcosm of the union of Shiva and Shakti. It only cautions against sexual excess, and advises both husband and wife to experience sex under the guidance of Dharma, and through the bond of matrimony. In fact, that is what the act is meant to create: pair-bonding.

Similarly, the once magnificently wealthy civilization of India did not condemn wealth, why would it? It merely advised against miserliness and greed. That is why Acharya Chanakya wrote “arthasya moolam rajyam, rajasya moolam indrivijayam”, the root of wealth is power, and the root of power is victory over the senses. Therefore, Dharma exists not to deny us pleasure, but only to ensure pleasure and wealth are enjoyed without harming others or ourselves. Do not take what is not yours, that is the essence of Dharma.

DharmaMandir

Artha is in fact very important to the functioning of society. It allows men (and women) to provide for their families, permits governments to ensure security, law and order, and well-being for the people; and above all, it allows individuals to finance dharmic causes.

Artha

Arthachakra

Traditionally, Artha was to be pursued even before Kama, or at least the means to achieving it, to be secured before pursuing Kama. This is because as all men know, having a woman in your life can be very expensive! But beyond that, possession of Artha means being able to successfully undertake one’s duties and obligations. How can we run off and seek pleasure when our parents are unsheltered? How can we engage in reckless abandon when our children are starving? That is the value of artha.

So important is wealth, that Sanatana Dharma propounds the worship of wealth so as to not only acquire it, but to have the sense to use it wisely. That is why we worship wealth in the form of Lakshmi, so we do not lose wisdom (Buddhi).

goddess-lakshmi-picture

Wealth comes in different forms. As embodied by the symbolism of Ashtalakshmi, there are 8 traditional froms of wealth: Dhana Lakshmi (Money & Precious metals), Dhaanya Lakshmi (agricultural wealth), Dhairya Lakshmi (courage), Veerya Lakshmi (valour), Vijaya Lakshmi (victory in life), Vidya Lakshmi (scholarly wealth, i.e. education), Rajya Lakshm i(political wealth, empires), Gaja Lakshmi (animal wealth), and  Santhaana Lakshmi (family wealth & progeny) . This is why we worship the Goddess of Wealth, because she is the bestower of all these different forms of Artha, we ask for her grace so that we may value, and deploy wisely what we have. After all, “a fool and his money are soon parted”. Dharma ensures that charity begins at home, but that money is also used charitably. It is also why Dharma stipulates that women be respected, because women of the family, especially one’s wife, represent Griha Lakshmi (Lakshmi of the House).

As can be seen in the coin above, Artha when combined with Dharma, allows us to use wealth wisely. It also encourages us to spend within our means (unlike the current model of debt-financed consumption). Dharma teaches us the value of money.  When we know the value of money, the real value of money, we use it wisely and for the benefit not just of the senses, but of society at large.

Selfishness is not a virtue. How could it be? Only the severely stupid suffering under the  illusion of knowledge, think it so. Selfishness is in fact the Real Root of all Evil. Sophists, casuists, and the half-educated forever tout the import of “Self-interest”, but they forget that even Adam Smith advocated Enlightened self-interest and also emphasised the importance of benevolence.

The man who spends wisely, but liberally, is the man whom others enjoy being around. The man who doesn’t pinch every penny, who doesn’t nickel and dime his friends, is the man whom others seek out as a friend. The woman who respects her husband’s earnings and who spends within the family’s means, is the woman who is in turn respected as the protectress and matriarch (present or future) of her family. This is because, as all honest and self-made businessmen and businesswomen know, business is not about a number.

Mahatma Vidura , the enlightened Prime Minister and half-brother of Dhritarashtra, himself noted this important fact that true profit is holistic and systemic, rather than extractive. Accordingly, he advocated a balance among the Purusharthas as can be seen below in a quote from his celebrated Vidura Niti.

He that followeth virtue, profit, and desire in proper seasons, obtaineth hereafter, a combination of all three.

He that desires the highest success in all matters connected with worldly profit, should from the very beginning practise virtue [Dharma], for true profit is never separated from Heaven [2]

Kama

kamachakra

Pleasure comes in many forms. Because the most literal meaning of Kama is defined as the act or aim of desire (iccha), Kama, like Artha, has many categories. There is of course the most obvious sensual pleasure. In fact, Kama has become so associated with the sensual that it is frequently conflated with Rati (the erotic). But Kama is greater than that and actually means much, much more.

In some contexts, it means Love, as we know from the famous Art of Love. What most do not realise, however, is that the Kamasutra is in fact a manual on how to win the affection of and marry a good wife. Therefore, Love or Affection too is a form of pleasure. In fact, due to its expansiveness to not just refering to the affection of a lover, or a mother, or our family, or even our fellow citizens, it is frequently the most addictive form of pleasure. The desire to be loved by all is a universal one for all normal people. While the erotic pleasures are primarily chemical in nature, the desire for affection is an emotional one. Therefore, affectionate love too is subject to Dharma as Prema cannot become Moha.

MaslowMaslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is said to be a digested form of Indic teaching. While this may in fact be the case, it is nevertheless instructive here to understand the pyramid of Kama.

kundalini-3

As can be seen with the 7 chakras of traditional Yoga Philosophy, there are varying degrees of spiritual evolution. Most people are focused on the Muladhara, which is responsible for the primal drives to reproduce, etc. More spiritually aware beings are focused on the Ajna so that they may eventually open the Sahasraara Padma (Thousand Petalled Lotus), which is the topmost chakra, and connects us with the Divine. The mundane pleasures of the Muladhara far exceeded by the ecstasy achieved when the Sahasraara Padma is opened. But the Muladhara also contains the Kundalini, therefore, the same energy responsible for primal drives, when applied intelligently, rises up to open up the highest levels of spirituality–that is the logic of Tantra (or more correctly, Kaula).  Rather than chasing after lower level pleasures for our entire lives, like children craving candy, we are told to exercise self-restraint and engage in moderation.  That is also why we are told to guard our thoughts and desires. This is because as we desire, so we become.

Sa yathaakaamo bhavati, tat kratur bhavati, yat kratur bhavati, tat karma kurute, yat karma kurute, tat abhisampadyate. [4, 272]

The best known paraphrase is as follows:

As your desire, so your will. As your will, so your deed. As your deed, so your destiny.

This famous line from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (IV, 4, 5) discusses the importance of guarding not only our actions, but our thoughts and inner-most desires as well. That is why a good person can still do a bad thing. He may exercise self-control, but if he is mentally chasing after lower level or forbidden pleasures, he will eventually commit the acts to obtain them. If he continues to repeat the bad thing, that he ultimately becomes bad. As our deeds, so our character. As our character, so our destiny…

That is the Law of Kama. Because Kama is subject to Karma, it should be guided by Dharma. When this is so, we can happily engage in sensual pleasures without fear of sin.

But ultimately, even sensual pleasures have their time limit—that is why we age. There is nothing sadder than an octogenarian still clinging onto the pleasures of youth or lusting after one with youth. A life dedicated to only pleasure is one that is bereft of accomplishment. Looking back on one’s life, it is the achievements we count, not the individual units of utility we drew from each pleasure. What have we done with our life? Whom have helped? Where are we remembered fondly? That is what matters not only for a fulfilling life, but also for one that will ultimately takes us to the Ultimate Truth.

Moksha

moksha

Veda, Dharmasastra, Bhagavad Gita, Dhammapada, etc, all of these guide us to ultimate Liberation. Jeevanmukti, Kaivalya.

Moksha is the highest Purushartha because it is the one that takes us to the Ultimate Reality. Artha and Kama are both fleeting and linked to the ephemeral material world. Dharma guides us through the material world, but Moksha is the ultimate aim for all living beings.

The endless cycle of births and deaths is the root of our suffering. Because we are attached to assorted pleasures, the attachment itself (moha) becomes bondage. It is the source of our grief, the source of our pain, the root of our troubles, because we mistake the fleeting for the ever-lasting.

Wealth cannot be taken with us into the next life. Youth and Beauty are impermanent. Even family moves on after we are gone. Therefore, it is best to pursue a life full of Love of and Prosperity, but also one that recognises the importance of spirituality and tapas (ascetism). By thinking of Moksha throughout our lives, rather than just at the very end, we we can be best prepared to attain it, as well as the sensory pleasures of life along the way.

Therefore, young or old, man or woman, Four Ashramas or Eightfold path, all individuals should aspire towards Moksha. It is Moksha that frees us from the bonds of samsara and the grief of moha. It is the path to Moksha, Dharma, that guides us through life so that we may enjoy Artha and Kama while ultimately attaining Moksha.

samsarasamudra

The concept of the Purusharthas exists to guide us through the ocean of life. Merely chasing after wealth and pleasure takes us through numberless iterations of births and deaths. The truly full life recognises that Artha and Kama are certainly important (after all, all work and no play…), but is also aware of the necessity of Dharma and the ultimate liberative quality of Moksha.

Conclusion

reincarnation

As stated by Mahatma Vidura, he (or she) that seeks out Dharma, Artha, and Kama in proper measure and season, ultimately obtains all three and attains Moksha–that is the fullest life of all. The one that wisely seeks out all four of the purusharthas rather than just one, is the life that breaks the cycle of endless births and deaths and reaches the Divine and everlasting. All work and no play makes Jack a Dull boy.  But all play and no work makes Jack a dumb boy.

A life wisely spent is one that first learns Dharma (and Niti) at a young age, then obtains Artha (beginning with Vidya artha) from 6-16 or 26 (depending on our educational path), then Kama (from 18 or 28, etc), and then concentrates on Moksha (from at least age 50 on, if not sooner). Because none of us knows exactly how long we will be on this Earth, it is best to have all four in our mind as we journey through life. A life focused purely on Moksha may neglect the rest of society. A life focused purely on Kama, destroys it. Therefore, individuals must seek harmony among the purusharthas.

In summary, the Purusharthas are the Four Aims of Life because life is not meant to be aimless. Merely meandering through each ashrama (stage/phase of life) is no way to live and will merely lead to endless lives. Idleness, after all, is the mother of all vice. Idle minds lead to idle lives. For society to function, for the world to function, all must contribute. All must be producers of some sort, not just of produce, but of knowledge, or arts, or music, or good government, or wealth, or re-contextualisation of philosophy. When we consume the fruits without toiling to produce it (or something else), we do not know its value.

That is why Artha and Kama are both subject to Dharma. Dharma mandates not that all are subject to an unaccountable king or priest, but ensures that the king and priest perform their obligations and duties to society with humility. A king (or politician) who only believes he should enjoy wealth and pleasure, will inevitably seek to appropriate the Artha (wealth) of the state and prey upon prajas for pleasure. That is the root of corruption.

Corruption is not some black magic ailment that magically appears in society. Corruption occurs when The Purusharthas are not in balance. A life that pursues Artha and Kama while paying mere lip service to Dharma, will not, cannot, attain Moksha.

The best education is the one that is rooted in Dharma and informed by Niti. This grants us viveka (ability to distinguish between right and wrong) and allows us to separate bad information from good.

But the fullest life of all is one that seeks Dharma.

There is a famous story about King Vikramaditya of Ujjain. The ever vigilant king was also a famed adherent of the truth. One night, when he was silently guarding his capital incognito, he saw a beautiful woman, verily a Devi, clad in red, leave the city. He stopped her, asking, “Oh Devi, who are you and why are you leaving?“. She responded, “I am the Goddess of Power. I am leaving this city as the citizens have become criminal, and it is no longer a fit abode for me”. “I understand“, replied Vikramaditya .

Then, another beautiful lady, clad in gold, began leaving. Vikramaditya asked her too “Oh Devi, who are you and why are you leaving?“. She replied, “Oh Maharaja, I am the Goddess of Wealth. I am leaving your capital as the citizens have become corrupt, and it is no longer a fit abode for me”.  “I understand“, Vikramaditya relented again.

Finally, a third beautiful lady, clad in white, began leaving. Vikramaditya asked her too, “Oh Devi, who are you and why are you leaving?” She replied, “Oh Rajan, I am the Goddess of Truth. I am leaving your people as they have become immoral”. This time Vikramaditya said “Oh Devi, please do not leave. I can live a life without Power and Wealth, but I cannot live a life without Truth. I beg you, please stay in my kingdom“. The Goddess smiled, and said “So, be it.”.

Soon, the Goddess of Wealth returned. Surprised, Vikramaditya asked “Oh Devi, why have you returned?“. She replied “I am the Goddess of Wealth, I reside where Truth resides”.  Then finally the Goddess of Power returned. Amazed, Vikramaditya asked “Oh Devi, why have you returned?”. She replied “I am the Goddess of Power, I reside where Wealth resides”.

The moral of the story, of course, is that power, wealth, pleasure, all can be given up in the name of Truth (of which Dharma is the expression), because they are dependent upon it. This is because men and women of character can lose every material possession in the world, every opportunity for pleasure, every right of power, but keep their character is in their own hands. If character is lost, then all is lost. That is the thinking of the Dharmic Man and Woman, so they prize their character, their Dharma, above Artha and Kama, and even Moksha, because they know Dharma is the path to all three, and therefore, a balanced and harmonious life that is ultimately fruitful.

But if all this is not enough. If you still only care about acquisition of Artha & Kama. If you are not interested in Moksha, don’t have time for Jnana, and care not for the Adhyatmika, let me end with the Laukika for all you materialistic pragmatists.  The essential reality of The Purusharthas was contained in the very same Epic Poem that contained the transcendental Song of the Lord you heard above.

The essence of the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and the Purushartha was summed up as follows by Maharishi Veda Vyasa himself:

Oordhva

References:

  1. Chaturvedi, B.K.Chanakya Neeti.Diamond: New Delhi.2015
  2. Vidura Niti. p.150
  3. Rangarajan, L.N.. Kautilya. Arthashastra. New Delhi: Penguin.1991
  4. Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli. The Principal Upanisads. London: Unwin Brothers. 1968
  5. Malhotra, Rajiv. “Insiders versus Outsiders: Who Speaks for Our Heritage?”. Infinity Foundation. 2016 http://rajivmalhotra.com/books/the-battle-for-sanskrit/insiders-versus-outsiders-who-speaks-for-our-heritage/

Reviving Shakti III: Raising Durgas

RaisingDurgas

The Third Part of our Shakti Series of Posts is one that is both long-needed and the need of the hour. In parts I and II, readers may recall our exegesis on the importance of restoring feminine balance and the power of Stree Dharma. Part III asserts that the need for Raising Durgas.

In this concluding installment, we will discuss the imperative of raising powerful warrior women who can contribute as citizen, guide as leader, nurture as mother, and if need be, protect as fighter.

Introduction

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Modern Indic Society and modern Indian women are at a crossroad. Traditional Society vs Modern “my choice”.

What’s more, recent controversies have rocked the nation and parliament, and have brought the story of Mahishasura Mardini to the fore. The story of Durga destroying Mahishasura is a well known one from the Siva Purana.

But she is in the news today for all the wrong reasons. She has been defiled in the most derogatory terms by students of JN University and it has taken a Durga-like form in Smriti Irani to call out the dishonor meted out to her.

In these times when Devi Durga has been so maliciously maligned, it is time we parents looked into how we should bring up our daughters. Our civilization looks upon the feminine as divine, worships it and looks upon it as that which sustains and nurtures. However, today, we live in a completely globalised world where other cultures and other worldviews easily flow into our living rooms via the television and internet. Other worldviews have not had a civilizational trajectory like ours and don’t necessarily understand ours either. As is amply evident from this infuriating article, condescension and often a dismissal and denigration of our culture is what goes for reporting about us, and now, even Indian women are not spared.

So for all you girls who stupidly think foreigners are coming to save you, think again. Yesterday they demonised old conservative men, today it is mummy jis, tomorrow, by virtue of being a different race, the one being demonised will be you. You may be able to change your passport, you may be able to change your religion, but you cannot change your race. Even if you get plastic surgery, you, like Michael Jackson, will always be reminded of who you really are. And if even this is not enough to convince you, remember, 1 day, you too will become a mummy ji or a behen ji.

In their cultures, mummy ji may be feared, but in our culture, mata is respected. They may have no regard for women of a certain age, but in our culture, the wisdom of and respect for women only increases with age. Recent attempt to malign Goddess Durga perhaps demonstrates underlying euro-abrahamic fears of strong women & the divine feminine. Rather than caving in by acceding to girls being exploited as “trophies” or “exotic erotic assistants” in the name of “my choice”/”liberation”, perhaps it’s time we revive their Shakti by Raising Durgas.

On the one hand we have the uber-conservative traditionalists who advocate pativrata and on the other we have those who advocate “my choice” debauchery. But in this dichotomy of SitaSatiSavitri vs Surpanakha, I choose none of the above. Instead, I choose Durga and it is a natural choice for me coming as I do from a state that is famous for its matrilineal traditions.

As mentioned by Neha Srivastava, to face the challenges of the coming years, the answer should not be to lock up your daughters (though common sense during riots is advisable), rather, we should be inspiring them to think like Durga. As such, Part III of our Shakti Series of Posts is to inculcate Stree Dharma by “Raising Durgas”

Raising Durgas – A Curriculum

Maa_Durga-870x1110Who is Durga? What does she represent?

Durga is Mahishasura Mardini and she represents the fierce and valorous side of feminity which is invoked only in the most extreme circumstances. In normal circumstances, she is the soft side of feminity but when Dharma is in danger, it is Durga who is invoked. Hence a woman needs to be prepared not only with the soft and nurturing side of her nature but also as the fierce side which is unleashed only with due care and under extraordinary circumstances. Durga unleashed is very potent and can consume everything.

Not all women have the same inclinations, and hence the preparation to be Durgas differ for each of them. Education is a lifelong process and does not stop once you leave the halls of a formal educational institution. It is not for nothing that it is said that life is the greatest teacher of all. However, formal education has its place and access to basic literacy is a must for ALL women. Some however want to go beyond basic literacy/primary education, and they specialise in one stream and become well-educated. A tiny fraction however love to go deeper and do super specialisation in their chosen field thus becoming highly educated. So basic literacy is a must for all girls while going beyond depends on the girl’s interest and inclination.

Formal education is only one aspect. Sanskriti as practised in homes through immersion in rituals, stories, food habits, festivals, and celebrations, embed the vitals of the civilization in a girl. Niti (lessons of life) comes from problem solving which should be promoted through exposing the girl to real life problem situations. Finally, Dharma is the bedrock of any Bharatiya and so dharma should be ingrained in the girl by helping her understand that pursuit of Artha or Kama are always in line with Dharma. She will imbibe these as she watches her immediate family living their lives. Apart from all this, and specifically to keep the fire of Shakti burning for today’s circumstances, every girl must be trained in some martial art like kickboxing or krav maga, though traditionally it would have been Kalaripayattu or karate.

I. Pregnancy

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Seemantam is a samskara that usually is conducted in the 7th month of pregnancy. It literally means parting of the hair.

It is an auspicious ritual praying for the well being of the foetus and a safe delivery for the mother. It essentially prepares a mother for her new role.

II. Infancy (birth to 1 year)

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Various samskaras are performed in infancy. Namakarana (naming ceremony), Karnavedha (ear piercing ceremony) and Annaprashna (first taste of cooked food) are some of the samskaras that are performed in the first few months after the child is born. Rather than recognise dowry for greedy bridegrooms, restore the traditional Streedhana to be given to the daughter at her wedding. Saving within means for that purpose will ensure she will be empowered as an adult, to use the money as she deems necessary.

Each of them is a milestone of the child becoming an individual separate from the mother. The child should be welcomed and an auspicious environment should be created with a positive view of the birth of a daughter, bringing music and laughter to the home.

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III. Childhood (2-9 years)

SarasvatiShakti

Vidyarambham is a samskara which signals that the child is now ready to start education. It is usually performed around the age of three now but in earlier times, it used to be around the age of five.  Essentials such as puja, pranayama, and mantra should be taught, and she should be regaled with tales from her mother and grandmother. While this is the time for play, it is also the best time to learn and absorb, especially languages.

  • The girl should at this stage be enrolled in an educational environment where she will start interacting with peers for the first time. These are important lessons in community behaviour.
  • Various practical exercises to introduce the alphabet and the basics of maths should be started.
  • While the school imparts some lessons, sanskriti is the domain of the family. If you want your daughters to grow up dharmically inclined, then this is the time to fill their environment with dharmic symbols: exposure to classical music, classical dance, visits to temples, kirthana, flowers in hair, bangles, anklets, traditional dresses, stories from the Panchatantra, Ramayana and Mahabharata, stories of veerata (valour) both from women and men and so on. Slightly older children should be introduced to Amar Chitra Katha. There is no better source for stories from our puranas and itihasas than these. The child will be wonderstruck by the magic and drama in Uncle Pai’s comic books.
  • It is imperative that the girl picks up her mother tongue in these formative years. Conversation at home should be only in the mother tongue. Other tongues (i.e.English) will be learned at school. Foundational thinking should be in the mother tongue.

IV. Youth (10-16 yrs)

gajalakshmi

Upanayana is the formal initiation into the serious world of study. In vedic times it is believed to have been done even for women, but in later times ceased to be a practice for women. Whether this is done or not, essential values and morals should be communicated and also explained as to why they are important.

  • At this stage, focus on studies should become more pronounced. This is the time when the girl starts to decide how she would want to steer her adult life.
  • As they learn to read, write and decode the physical world around them, they should also learn to understand their own physical self and the changes it undergoes as they move from childhood to youth. Today most families have done away with the coming-of-age rituals, but in times of yore, a girl who attained puberty was feted and celebrated as passing from girlhood to womanhood attaining the ability to bring a life into being on her own. The rite was called ritu kala samskaram.
  • The girl should also pursue interests in the arts. She could take up music or dance or drama or any of the 64 traditional arts (prescribed by the sastras). This is the time to hone the skills both academically and aesthetically. It is a way to channelise the energies constructively. Talent at this time should be nurtured and given opportunities to excel.
  • Training in any one of the martial arts is a must for the present world is not such a safe place for women. Sastra should be balanced by Suhstra.
  • Of particular importance is the art of debating. If your daughter is exhibiting a flair for language, get her to understand logic and use it to hone her skills at debating. It is a big asset to have if your daughter is going to go into the public domain where she will need to be an effective communicator with conviction in her ideas. If possible introduce her to Sanskrit education which has excellent potential to helping her develop logic, wisdom and conviction and thus help her in debating.
  • As the physical changes appear in the girl, the mind also changes. Attraction towards the opposite sex is also very natural at this stage. Traditional parents advise against dating, and there are good reasons for this advice. These have to be explained tactfully to the girl by someone older to her in the family, i.e. aunt or elder sister.
  • Mother, aunt, or elder sister should also educate her (not just lecture but also examples/news items) to ensure she is worldly-wise and knows how to avoid dangerous people, and if she decides to have relationships anyway, to be wise enough to avoid being taken advantage of.
  • A girl should be taught that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and strange men may seek to ply them with flattery, attention, gifts, or wine for bad agendas.
  • Self-respect should be inculcated by teaching that true beauty is inner beauty. While it is good to look good, one should be healthy too, and external validation or magazine models should not negatively affect a girl’s self-image and sense of worth.
  • Just as there are many types of intelligence, there are many types of beauty. Because not everyone sees it, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

V. Post-secondary Schooling

TriShakti

All women may not wish to go beyond secondary schooling, but for those who want to, this should be the period to consolidate the knowledge they have acquired. Women in Ancient India were not only Upadhyayinis (teacher’s wife) but also Upadhyayaa‘s (lady teachers). Irrespective of whether she becomes a traditional teacher or professor, a girl should be taught to stand on her own two feet, give sound advice, and even lead when required.  Girls must become complete women, like the three forms of Goddess.

  • They should start building the capability to expand on this knowledge and probably look to take it further with their own new insights.
  • They should learn how to dharmically generate wealth, manage it, and give charity
  • They should know how to wield power (social, political, financial) effectively and for collective and societal good.
  • As for the arts, this should be the period when the public performances should begin. For music and dance, there is the ritual called Arangetram (the first formal solo stage performance) which should be undertaken at this time. This sets the stage for the formal entry of the girl into the adult world.
  • Even if she doesn’t go to college or even vocational school, she should be taught a valuable and honourable occupational skill so she can be self-reliant.

This is also the period when girls are deciding whether they want to go for the traditional way to marriage or whether they want to go for ‘love marriage’. Better to introduce her to our stories rather than simply “ban” or disourage reading. This will captivate her imagination in positive ways. For girls who decide they want ‘love marriages’ however, here is some practical advice as well, that parents or at least elder sisters/cousins should impart.

  • It is good to broaden horizons, but also smart to avoid bad influences.
  • Understand if the men in your family tell you an area is not safe.
  • Be aware of surroundings and timings, be careful of accepting drinks, be wise about choosing friends.

VI. Single Woman

sitasvayamvara

The single woman is a phenomenon from the recent past since in earlier times girls were married at a younger age. Hence there are no clear cut samskaras defined for this group, only preparation for vivaha, if not previously done. It is the period when the woman is most often in an earning position these days and when she enjoys financial independence. It is also the time when the girl potentially leaves the parental home because she has found a job elsewhere. But increasingly, this is also the time when women can get carried away and indulge in inappropriate behaviour drunk on the intoxication that financial independence brings them. It is the time when the sanskars they have imbibed from their upbringing play a decisive role. If these are strong, the woman stays steady to her sanskriti and starts to become an actively contributing member to her rashtra and desa.

  • Pay attention to societal issues facing community, state, nation
  • Read widely (history,etc )to understand how world works,not just how we want it to
  • Give guidance to younger women, particularly those in college so they make wise and responsible decisions. Teach them to use technology carefully.
  • While it’s good to be empowered, keep family or at least sisters/female cousins in the loop about decisions. The world is not a Bollywood movie.
  • Socialise responsibly. Avoid bad company and keep good company.
  • Do not trust strangers easily, especially strange men. Test them, trust your instincts, and avoid risky situations where you don’t have friends you trust around.
  • Values and advice exist to protect us. Seek wisdom over gossip.
  • Being a patriot doesn’t mean being a jingoist, but it doesn’t mean being anti-national either. Take pride in your culture, but critique intelligently.
  • Be cosmopolitan and appreciate the world, but stay connected to your roots. No matter where you are or what your citizenship, you will be seen as Indian only. Be a good citizen, and a good Indian person. Appreciate without losing your culture.

For girls who decide they want ‘love marriages’ , here is some practical advice as well that parents or at least elder sisters/cousins should impart.

  • Learn to distinguish between men who are superficial and flattering you only to gain your acceptance. Relate to men who respect you, and care for your safety and comfort and make sure you are not drawn into vulnerable situations.
  • In this age of size zero and chemically aided beauty treatments, it is important for you to feel comfortable in your own skin. The natural look is always preferable to peroxide and is safer for you in the long run. Do not obsess about body but do not become obese or anorexic. Eat healthy and keep positive thoughts.
  • Rights come with responsibilities. The law is there to protect you, not for you to use it as a weapon for personal anger.
  • It’s all about inner beauty, moral independence, and strong character, and if you are comfortable on the inside, naturally it will show up on the outside.
  • To find a good mate, a girl must respect herself first (without ahankar). This is the path to not just finding a stylish or fashionable man, but a good man.

VII. Married Woman

IndiaTvc12821_debina-gurmeet-ramayan

Vivaha completes the cycle of samskara for the woman. The woman who is grounded in her sanskriti will be at this point a very attractive and intelligent person whether she has studied only till the secondary level or whether she has gone on to earn further accolades. From here, the married woman has to be the other half of her husband within the family and grow to become the mother that Bharatiya society venerates, fiercely protective and nurturing of all that is hers to shape. Increasingly, she is also playing the role of shaper of the rashtra’s destiny outside her home too because she is an active contributor to its economy. And in this, she becomes the Durga, the one capable of holding her own within and without the traditional home and hearth.

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  • Marriage is about creating a culture. Women are the fountain of culture
  • Raising a big family is not a burden, but a societal good. Single child families might raise entitled, selfish children. Larger families of 3 or 4 teach children how to share, work together, and ensure retirement security for parents(rather than gov. security).
  • Modern education of children should be balanced by cultural education. The world is not a Bollywood movie.
  • Just because a movie says some people can be trusted with your children, doesn’t mean its true.
  • Don’t just gossip with other women, form committees to improve your community
  • Get to know your neighbours, especially if they follow your sampradaya, and take care of their children when they need you to, so they will do the same for you
  • Encouraging women to perform prayers for family well-being (like Lakshmivratha, and Durga Puja) is good. They re-emphasise respect for wife as Griha-Lakshmi
  • Understand if the men in your family tell you an area is not safe or if people are attempting to take advantage (financially, etc). Women know motives of other women. Men know motives of other men.
  • Learn to be a wise woman like Upakosa, who protected her family, outsmarted her enemies & defeated lecherous men with her wits. She was honoured by her people
  • It is always good to be prepared for a rainy day or an emergency. It’s just good common sense.

Streeya Maryada Uttama

Conclusion: Reviving Shakti

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In our culture, we have the concept of Ardhanareeshwara, of Shiva and Shakti, of Purusha and Prakriti. These two are complementary and one is not complete without the other. Indic society is not complete without the other gender. Here we are not talking of equality. We are talking of complementarity.

I don’t want to ask for reservation of any kind as a woman. For instance, I think it is simply more beautiful to have a man vacate his seat in a bus on seeing a woman than a woman forcefully demanding it as a right or complain if he vacates. Chivalry still makes a woman feel special and helps to keep her softer feminine side alive. I believe that when a man vacates a seat of his own volition, he does so because he respects the woman and values her as a person. When you force the man to do it because of a regime of rights and reservations, it is done under duress and with some level of dissatisfaction of having been forced to do something. This in turn affects the respect one feels for the woman because inherently, one is having to forego one’s rights to accommodate another. This breeds a certain transactional value in relations which can then turn into disrespect and at its worst, abuse.

It is becoming increasingly clear that not only the media but entire governments are turning a blind eye to the subject of women’s honour. True, many men out of genuine concern for the safety of women, object to them being in the armed forces or being outside in the late evening due to realities about rape, abduction, and unit cohesion.

While there may in fact be a very good argument against inducting women into regular combat as part of mixed units, the time may be fast approaching where every day women will need to know the basics of combat. I am personally not for women taking to combat roles. Woman is the protectress of society. She should be invoked onto the physical battlefield only as a last resort. It is not because woman is not capable of fighting alongside men. Durga herself is a fierce form. And we have many examples ranging from Rudramma Devi to Jhansi ki Rani, women warriors who never flinched from fighting for their land. But a woman is not made for the warfront. She is the one who keeps society from becoming barbaric. She is the check and balance to a man’s natural aggressiveness.

MahaShakti

Our civilization of course has had very principled rules for warfare. In times of yore in Bharatvarsha, women were not called to the battlefield and not used as trophies. But other ideologies from other lands seldom have the same respect for women. A woman even today values her honour immensely and I can only imagine the devastation of a woman who might fall into enemy hands at the battlefront. War is about baser instincts and a woman is made for finer things. We don’t have to go far to know about what war can do to women. A cursory look at the Bangladesh liberation war of 1971 or the tragic case of Captain Saurabh Kalia, is enough to make one’s blood go cold, and help us understand why men are so protective of women.

At the same time, if called to fight at last resort, then the Bharatiya naari has vaunted lineage of warrior women from which to take inspiration. Rani Naikidevi famously defeated Ghori at the Battle of Mt. Abu, with her son Rajkumar Mulraj in her lap. Even beyond Rani of Jhansi or Rani Rudramma Devi or Rani Durgavati, even the common women have fought beside their men. In fact, when the Turkic Khiljis invaded Maharashtra under the Seunas, these warrior women did just that. “The opposition was organised by Kanha the local administrator and consisted of soldiers provided by his friends and two noblewomen of the area with their armed retainers. According to Isami, the Marathas charged the invaders who were nearly swamped and forced to fall back but a counter-charge led by Ala-ud-din ended with the withdrawal of the Marathas after suffering heavy loss. Ala-ud-din addressed his troops and pointed out the difficulty of their undertaking because in a country whose women could fight so well, the men were bound to be formidable foes.”[5]

We need to rediscover ourselves. We need the Durgas only to intervene at the most crucial moments to restore the equilibrium between Shiva & Shakti. Our Durgas must be empowered and equipped to strike: strike with both words and weapons, sastra and suhstra. They must be trained in the art of self defense as also the art of vigorous and fearless debate. When Durga strikes, it should be to restore Dharma. And such a day is now approaching in Bharatavarsha.

Jai Bhavani!

References:

  1. http://indicportal.org/reviving-shakti-restoring-feminine/
  2. http://indicportal.org/reviving-shakti-stree-dharma/
  3. Kane, P.V. History of Dharmasastra. Poona. Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. 1941.
  4. http://theweek.com/articles/442947/woman-standing-indias-abused-husbands
  5. Sandhu, p.222
  6. http://hinduonline.co/Scriptures/Puranas/ShivaMahaPurana.html
  7. http://www.economist.com/news/christmas-specials/21591745-curse-mummyji
  8. Kumbhare, Arun R. Women of India: Their Status Since the Vedic Times. Ne York: iuniverse. 2009
  9. Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli. The Principal Upanisads. London: Unwin Brothers.1968
  10. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/why-my-choice-featuring-bollywood-actor-deepika-padukone-is-not-everyones-choice/articleshow/46790471.cms
  11. Mathur, Ashutosh Dayal. Medieval Hindu Law: Historical Evolution And Enlightened Rebellion. Oxford University Press. 2007