Tag Archives: Bharatavarsha

“Hindu Left” is an Oxymoron by Morons

The past 3 years of NDA government has left many Hindus feeling ambivalent about party politics. After all, for all the fanfare and rhetoric, there has been little dramatic change on the ground. Sure, there has been drastic policy pushed, but how much has it been in the Hindu interest? Demonetisation was hardly a priority, whatever black money fighting slogans were touted (and cashless society has been advocated for around the world  with many advising against it).

RTE has not been touched, and illegal Bangladeshi/Rohingya migrants continue to settle across India, tipping the demographic balance. In fact, from primary English medium to AADHAR there has been much continuation in policy from the execrable UPA government. So is there really any difference with the “Party with a Difference?”.

As usual, our Internet Hindus miss the Woods for the Trees, and fail to factor in the background macro-politics that influence national politics the world over. Contrary to the narrative of Narasimha Rao or alternatively Manmohan Singh being the Father of Economic Reforms, the reality is that the Balance of Payments crisis led to a vulnerable India accepting pressures from “the International Community” (whatever that means…) to liberalise its economy. What has been the effect of this? Yes, malls and growth in retail consumption and satellite TV, but also NDTV and a host of other nominally national but phoreign owned economic realities, and ultimately political realities. That is the whole point of Breaking India’. Indians need to understand that simply studying party politics or foreign-sponsored history textbooks or foreign doctored historical sources will not tell us the whole story. Critical thinking and following the money trail is required to understand exactly who is pro-Indic and who is not.

That is why it is so ironic to see the same sanctimonious voices, making pretence to incorruptibility, equate Modi with Mamta. Seriously? TMC=BJP? I mean, really, it takes either a special kind of stupidity (or a behind the scenes complicity) to cause so-called “scholars” to mislead gullible internet hindus into believing such false equivalency. Any criticism of their positions immediately leads to echo-chamber tactics (followed by cowardly blocks) or generally labeling of people as “Right wing” or “RSS” or “mercantile”. But what of those who reject both Right wing and Left wing politics as mirror images of each other, and what of those who prefer decentralised Dharma to “hindutva”? Such uncomfortable realities can’t be acknowledged by those with private agendas. After all, if “all parties are same”, what objection is there to this?

The reality, there is a concerted effort to reconstitute Socialist/Communist politics not under the unpopular Marxist/Communist label, but under the “Hindu Left” label. A methodical approach of first appearing to stand up for the Hindu cause…through needed documentation of Human Rights violations of Hindus…followed by deconstruction of various Indian Independence Movement Figures…to reasserting the contributions of Subhas Chandra Bose…

subhashchandrabose_nation

…before ultimately using that legacy to call for a “Revolutionary” model for Hindus. How Revolutionary! Recreate the RW-LW false dichotomy by recasting them as Hindu Right vs Hindu Left.

But Dharma being their glaring weakness, they ignore the reality that the Hindu Left (as well as the Hindu Right) is oxymoronic. There is no Hindu Right or Hindu Left because Hindu isn’t even our word—Dharma is. And Dharma transcends such simplistic notions by asserting adaptability to the times not through contradictory L/R forces, but through Saamaanya Dharma, Sanatana Dharma and Yuga Dharma. Dharma may need to be updated for the times, but there is no “Dharmic left” and Dharmic right. There is only the Dharma for the times.

The RW-LW binary is product of liberal politics dating to the French Revolution (a notably ‘peaceful’ and non-tyrannical transition overthrowing aristocratic elites our temperamental triad wishes to recreate…). But before ye unwashed masses sharpen your guillotines, perhaps a deconstruction of our deconstructors is in order.

Revolution is a severe danger to any society. The irony of these recalcitrant Revolutionaries is they forget the very meaning of a “revolution”—you end up exactly where you start—crisis. Rather than circle around 360 degrees, the question before us involves understanding not only who we were and who we want to be, but what genuinely faces us today. Micro-brained micro-specialists who don’t understand the inter-disciplinary relationships between not only politics and history and culture, but even those between politico-strategic and economic/financial domains, really have no business making pretence to leadership—especially given their own poor leadership abilities and self-proclaimed dearth of serious solutions.

Further, had these one-note nincompoops come out of their echo-chambers and set aside their kupamanduka literature for a second, they would understand the danger of factions and of revolution itself.

 

China’s Cultural Revolution

 

If you believe what exists must first be torn down before solutions can even be proposed, then you are part of the problem and are aiming to exacerbate it. And if you continue to legitimise such grha shatrus long after they have declared their true intentions, you are also part of the problem (no matter what you daily twitter clipping load).

There are major issues facing Indian society in general but Hindu society in particular. Despite the rank denialism and the obvious hypocrisy of political operators, casteism still exists particularly in the intellectual domain (only recast under the mantle of IQ theories, genetics, and AIT). Pure traditionalism instinctively will alienate large sections of the Hindu population, and with good reason. What stake would the masses have in simply reviving the past? Scheduled Castes clearly have cause to pause. At the same time, continuing to map the Indian polity onto a western blueprint of Right and Left, is a bait-and-switch obvious to all but the most buffoonish.

 

Citation of the historic American “Left” ignores the reality that the modern Democratic party is itself fielding overt Socialists in its primaries. But before Bernie bros get too excited, the hypocrisy of socialism was unveiled by their hero yet again.

The reality is, both the Left and the Right wings need each other to demonise all while continuing to exploit the unsuspecting masses. Both communists and capitalists thrive while accusing each other of being the devil—what happens when both are? What happens when socialism is merely a means to an end?

What if the laundry list of ideologies that are touted in the “intellectual marketplace” are virtually all intellectually bankrupt . It is why traditional thinkers reject ideology itself, favouring philosophy, and especially, political philosophy.

Let me be perfectly clear:dignity of labour  & entrepreneurial spirit should be protected. Neither workers nor honest businesspeople are the enemy. Unlike the neo-Leninists hell-bent on demonising an entire varna, those with a modicum of foresight know that in a country where Brahmins are so openly demonised by the media, any such “leftist revolution” will ultimately target the “clericals”. After all, following the political revolution is the cultural revolution—why would the traditional custodians of culture escape unscathed?

Once the financial “bania” are dealt with, what’s to stop those ‘Revolutionary’ attacks on the other half of the B-B party? What of the traditional brahmin?

This is the danger not only of casteism, but selective vilification, rather than society-wide introspection. Those who promote such selective thinking should be ashamed of themselves, and not only lack the moral integrity to lead, but despite their jstor driven twitter rantings, the intellectual heft to lead society. The less said about publications that persist to publish such petulant drivel the better. Those who prioritise daily hits and traffic over journalistic ethics and the ramifications of a varna-based witch hunt would do well to remember exactly why Kashmiri Pandits were targeted with such ferocity in the first place. A community that preserves not only the historical memory but also the living culture of their region and civilization is an impediment to any cultural revolution, be it for desert-based or Leftist-based ideologies.

Further, if one were to do an honest accounting of all the collaborators (better termed ‘cooperators’), why stop only with the mercantile or even feudal? How many clericals and ministerials collaborated to bring down their legitimate ruler for personal gain or worked for foreign occupier governments? The name Purniah itself should ring a bell and put to pause such increasingly caste-motivated attacks. The fact is, traitors and patriots can be found in all communities.

Puerile notions of “perpetual revolution” ignore the fact that most individuals are neither traitors nor self-sacrificing patriots, but are in the middle. They simply want to live in peace and live out their lives as comfortably as they can. They will rise up if there is sufficient cause or possibility of success, or they will find ways to accommodate a foreign power when facing total destruction. Hindsight is 20-20 and so is passing judgment on entire communities. Dushtamatyas perennially quoting Kalhana would do well to remember his view of them.

The reality is neither hypocritical traditionalism nor left or right-ism are the way forward. India has its own political philosophies. There are conservative elements and free-thinking elements in any society, but constructing a polity around such binary-thinking is beyond idiotic.  Thousands of years ago, Acharya Kautilya clearly enunciated the 3 purposes of government (not 2):

Raksha, Palana, Yogakshema.

Any real Hindu society must bear these 3 directives in mind. Raksha is protection from external threat, Palana is internal law & order, and Yogakshema looks at citizen well-being.

A simplistic L/R false dichotomy is for the simple-minded, geared toward falsehood. Ironically, the only dichotomy that doesn’t matter for this bunch is dharma vs adharma. That is why rather than import obsolete, un-Indian thinking—rather than trying to appropriate Shivaji and Banda Bahadur into some inapplicable “Hindu/Indic Left”—let us recognise what they actually stood for: Rajadharma.

Rajdharma and even Svarajya can take different forms: whether is a ganarajya or samrajya, government should be premised on Dharma, not Dictatorship of the Proletariat.

The Left’s concern for the peasantry is automatically covered by Yogakshema (welfare of citizens) and the putative right’s concerns covered by Palana (law and order) and Raksha common to both (though the Communist Party (Marxist) shows ideology comes first here too). The question is of balance, with Dharma as the ultimate guide. Here merely spouting off citations of Dharmasastra alone will not do, nor will pompous proclamations by ardha-purushas of “Purandara wreaking havoc on the Dasyu”.

One must take the precedents provided by real Acharyas such as Apastamba and Kautilya and Dharma Svarupa’s such as Rama and Krishna and apply them to the present context. That is the limitation of rote-memorisation and read-and-regurgitation. It doesn’t teach application. There is a difference between critical thinking and critical theory, and the sooner some ideologues understand it the better. Critical theory is another asuric construction coming out of the intellectual cul-de-sac of Marxist thought. But critical thinking is an highly necessary, and dare I say, critical skill set in this era of pervasive untruth.

Make no mistake: the Hindu Left is a too-clever by half rebranding effort by half-wits at reconstituting the Left’s ideological moorings within the Hindu body politic. But Hindu Right (Hindutva) and Hindu Left (pseudo-intellectual pinhead rantings) are both ideologies commanding centralised unthinking obedience rather than positing contextual cultural ethics. After all, both Nagpur and Naxalbari have rightly come under criticism for hypocrisy—not only for their self-serving interpretations of culture and history, but also for the casteist natures of their respective leaderships.

Varnashrama Dharma (whatever its demerits and merits) has always posited a decentralised body politic—and with good reason. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The religio-cultural and politico-strategic must work together, but must also be divided among different classes. Philosopher-kings are well and good as are Vedic-warriors, but constructing a new “Hindu Papacy” or “Hindu Politburo” is not in the interests of real Hindus—and neither is a Hindu Right or Hindu Left.

But these rhetorical gymnastics are not accidental. After all, if a Revolutionary is to be created, then a Revolution must be sparked so the peasantry may be mobilised against the (petty) bourgeoisie. Marx himself did not engage in violence, but routinely called for it. This is called incitement, and criminally punishable.  And what is this contemptibly Adharmic series but a transparent exercise in agit-prop.

Open attempts are made to caste (spelling intentional) only the “mercantiles” as the main collaborators of foreign rule (as though feudals and clericals did not have a hand). But who exactly is a mercantile? True to the politics of Animal Farm, apparently even some mathas are more mercantile than others (only the ‘intellectually superior’ politburo will decide!)

But Subhas Chandra Bose wasn’t for democracy, he was for Socialist Authoritarianism (anyway a transitional phase to outright communism). Agenda-hawkers have no time for understanding the greys. Everything is black and white—or in their case, black and red. Here is a measured analysis of Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi’s term, which demonstrates the precise type of level-headedness Hindus need in understanding the issues facing them and the correct course of action.

Unlike our Revolutionary Triumvirate, however, the author of the article actually had the intelligence and common sense to offer a number of small local solutions as well. It is easy to dismantle any structure—until you have to answer what the alternative is. That article, on the other hand, also did a fine job of identifying a few of the macro-political forces that make it difficult for any government, let alone politician, to enact national wide civilizational change. In an era of fibre-optics, satellite tv, and quantum computing, foreign influence is even greater than the days of Shivaji. Those proffering simplistic courses of action are proving just how simple-minded they really are.

In fact, in perpetual over-compensation regarding “Bong jokes”, they ignore criticism of Bengal courtesy of a son of the Soil. What will they say of this?

What’s more, this self-touted mod squad of manic-depressives  will quickly go mute when asked who financed the Russian Revolution to begin with? After all, it is ok if petty traders are packed off to the gallows held by proletariat courts, but international financiers and big business must escape scrutiny.

Anyone disagreeing with them is touted “conspiracy theorist”, “misogynist” and a laundry list of other totalitarian touted labels meant to muzzle dissent. Anyone with a sound understand of international politics would quickly recognise the widespread influence of Big Business and Multinational Corporations in politics. Why is the petty Hindu trader being branded as a “mercantile traitor”? And is the poor Hindu priest next on the agenda when the political revolution is followed by a cultural revolution? Right-thinking Hindus would be right to ask.

Right-thinking Hindus would also do well to reject both the “Hindu right” and proposed “Hindu Left” as obvious Oxymorons pushed by Morons.  Right-thinking Hindus, better termed Sensible Hindus, are aware that our native civilizational tradition is not ideological but philosophical in nature.  Any theory of the Hindu Left will only seek to digest Hinduism into the same memetic pattern of “revolution“, “socialism”, “brotherhood”, and a laundry list of other code words and memes meant to spark general overthrow of traditional values.

It is traditional culture that is being destroyed the world over in favour of some ambigious “Global Culture” and monoculture.

If the politburo brooks no dissent, what protection for diversity?

Whatever Bose’s contributions to the freedom movement, his Socialist Authoritarian “Revolutionary” model would have been an utter disaster for India’s traditional culture. Casteism and ill-treatment of women must be condemned. But this must be done within Dharma rather than through importation and injection of a foreign ideology within Hindu Society’s polity.

There are indeed serious issues facing Hindus from Jammu & Kashmir down to Kerala, and from Alwar to Assam: Demographic aggression, RTE driven destruction of Hindu schools, Temple ownership, Safety of Women, stifled entrepreneurship, growing unemployment, declining privacy, and colonial legacy within the armed forces, all number in the expanding list of concerns that Hindu society has. But is the silver bullet to all our problems to chase after some hare-brained, ill-defined “Revolutionary” approach that doesn’t even have the courage to posit solutions to our political problems?

Socialist authoritarianism and national socialism are not the answers. Hindu society rejects leftism and fascism, because Dharma is our guide, not Marxism rebranded by “Marxians”. For those who wish to replace Kautilya Vishnugupta with Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, let us get one thing straight: only the only actual Indian in this list touted a system of political philosophy that actually worked. Marx on the other hand depended on handouts from Engels for most of his life and was a career failure.

Even his understanding of economics was poor, with Engels preferring to call him a “philosopher”. But the truth is, he wasn’t even really that. He was an ideologue posing as a philosopher who created the literary agit-prop in plainspeak for peasants to spark the bloodiest political movements in the history of man. For advocates of a “Hindu Left”, here is the death toll of Socialism.

Marx’s only value is in his critique of Capitalism. Capitalism itself is a questionable system as we have previously written, because it only prioritises 1 factor of production—capital (ignoring the other 3: entrepreneurship, land, and labour). Communism does the same, prioritising only labour instead. But the truth is, for a functioning economy, all four are required. A student of Hegel, Marx was no stranger to the Hegelian dialectic. Between Capitalism and Communism is “Socialism”.

Socialist revolutionaries are merely a halfway house to outright communism. Whatever the marxian mod squad’s artificial “critiques” of communist totalitarianism, their artifice is not as skilled as they would believe.

Gandhi’s questionable legacy deserves (dharmic) deconstruction, Indian Independence figures from Nehru to Patel all deserve fresh (dharmic) reevaluation, the jarring history of Jagat Seths deserves honest (dharmic) documentation, but Bose is not beyond critique. Shivaji and Banda Bahadur Singh are not figures of some imaginary “Hindu Left”. Both practiced Kshatriya Dharma, and reorganised society in accordance with the needs of Dharma.

Like a vampire squid seeking to attach itself to Sanatana Dharma, the “Hindu Left”/Marxians are merely a political parasitism seeking to reinvent the dying Indian left through some half-hearted appeal to the Hindu Right. I mean for God’s sake, Mamta is the same as Modi? Sensational news items and terrible crimes exist in any state or society, but the question is one of scale. Can any serious and honest person actually believe that both the border states of Gujarat and West Bengal are as bad for Hindus? Is the level of women’s safety at all the same?

False equivalency, agit-prop, echo-chamber tactics, and sophistry are all tools used by politburo tools. Academics and “intellectuals” are themselves often pens-for-hire on the payrolls of their political handlers. Anti-semitism does deserve condemnation, but can such figures who showcase Hindus for the sake of foreign audiences be trusted to safeguard Hindu interests?

Can those openly making casteist calls for witch hunts against a varna be considered well-wishers of Hindus?

Can scatter-brained, regurgitators be competent to provide Hindu leadership?

Glib bromides, census analysis, and twitter outrage are all easy. But actual competent and strategic leadership is hard. The reality is, if Hindus have become cynics, it’s because politics itself is so cynical—and social media is no exception.

Rather than simply running after what appears seemingly popular, it is high time Internet Hindus use their common sense and stop being so gullible. Reject this nonsense and the nonsensical poseurs reinventing and reimposing socialist/leftist theories. Both the RW and LW (Hindu Left or otherwise) are mimic men. They recreate the foreign within the domestic, that is why they don’t develop Dharma or a proper Dharma Paksha.

Vishvaksena Janardhana

Make no mistake: India is the Land of Dharma. The Dharma of Sri Krishna, Rana Pratap, Chhatrapati Shivaji, and Banda Bahadur Singh ji is what drives our political philosophy. Not some failed ideology of some failed newspaper editor of some increasingly flailing civilization.

The ‘Hindu Left’ is an oxymoron pushed by morons. Right thinking Hindus would do well to reject it and them.

Literature: Dattilam of Dattila

As an appropriate aside to our recent article on the History of Sangeeta, is a Post on a particular work of Literature said by some to pre-date the work of the great Bharata Muni himself.

The Dattilam of Dattila is an oft-cited but little known work on Ancient Indian Music that, even more than the music theory it covers, is critical for what it actually represents.

Author

In his seal for brevity, Dattila becomes so laconic in his descriptions that they often read like obscure mathematical formulae. Fortunately, Bharata and also later authors have given details enabling us to interpret Dattila meaningfully. [1, 143]

Not much is known about the eponymous author of the Dattilam.  Though the composer ends with a standard colophon announcing his name, he does not provide the traditional background and lineage one is used to encountering in such works. Like Bharata before (or after) him, he is more concerned with the content.

One of the reasons for the ambiguous speculation regarding Dattila’s contemporaneity with Bharata is because Bharata muni himself refers to the text Dattilam. At the same time, one of the one hundred sons list by him includes a Dattila. Was this a namesake of the original or the original himself? All this leads to the conclusion that it is best to avoid assertion where nothing is concrete.

Nevertheless, we know Dattila and his text are indeed authentic and influential as none other than the great Acharya Abhinavagupta refers to him and even quotes from the Dattilam. [1, 49]

The author sets out to describe not only what gandharva is but its purpose as well. He tells us of 18 jatis (proto-melodies) and 7 gitikas (structured song forms) and the importance of pada (words) and taala (beat pattern).

We see many of these common elements in Natya Sastra as well indicating the common tradition from which both Dattila and Bharata were working from.

Composition

http://indicportal.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/samaveda.jpg

The work begins with the traditional invocation to deity. It too ultimately is constructed upon the foundation of the Saama Veda.

Consisting of 244 slokas, Dattilam is divided into a preamble, two sections, and twelve chapters, with topics ranging from technical aspects of tala and varna to methodology suggested by others. It is a terse and aphoristic treatise, that reads as a manual for experts, rather than an introduction to students. As the translator of the current edition himself notes, it not only requires the use of later texts (such as Natya Sastra or Sangeeta Ratnakara) but also begs a commentary. So concise is the text that a number of scholars have suggested that it is only part of a greater work. Irrespective…

The Dattilam is a very suitable starting point for research into the theory of ancient Indian music, as it is a concise compendium of almost all the musical terms. [3, 5]

The manuscriptology behind the Dattilam is an interesting story in and of itself. Found in a collection sponsored by Travancore’s Royal Family, it was discovered by the curator, Pandit K. Sambasiva Sastri. The manuscript he came upon was attached to a copy of the Sangeetasamayasaara. It is said to have been written in Sanskrit with Malayalam script.

The first translation into English was by a Dutch scholar named Nijenhuis. A subsequent one also conducted by a Dutchman, with the present one completed by Mukund Lath. All of them are in effective agreement however that…

Dattilam assumes a series of purvacaryas, preceding masters, and specifically names three: Narada, Kohala and Visakhila. [1, xii]

This is an important point as it establishes the existence of a tradition prior to even Bharata muni (who himself refers to previous musical masters). Dattila, does not refer to Bharata, leading to the conclusion that they were both from the same time period, or Dattila was likely senior. While Natya Sastra is presently dated to 400-100 BCE, the Dattilam is at least as older if not older.

Further evidence adduced to this point is that the text is seen as rather independent of Bharata. Nevertheless…

gandharva stands for ‘music’—all music. But the gaandharva Dattila speaks of was a specific body of music, a sacred form. It was conceived as akin to a musical yajna, and like a yajna, it could result in transcendental merit (adrsta) leading to svarga. [1, xiii]

As such, whether it is Bharata or Dattila, it is clear that the sacred is not only the origin of music, but very much immanent in the Indic musical tradition.

Another point of interest is Dattila’s reference to various regions and musical aspects attached to regions. He makes frequent mention of jatis called udeecyava (meaning from the north), and also refers to andhri (Andhra), takka raga (from NW Punjab), maalavi (from Malava/Malwa), kambhoji (from ancient Kambhoja), gaudi (from Gauda/Bengal), and gandhara jatis, in verses 70-79. [1, 117]

Other concepts beyond jati discussed include varna. “Varna was the general term used to indicate musical or melodic movement over notes.” [1, 125] Varnas are inextricably linked to padas (words) in a gita (song). In contrast, a jati is of pure note structure, laying the foundation for later ragas. Tala (a term meaning beat or beat pattern) is also discussed. It is a time measure based on beats ensuring the note (svara) was saamya (in equilibrium).

Dattilam is a fine example of a saastric text and is of living value to us in that respect. It has striking affinities of approach and spirit with many other saastras, such [a]s those of Paanini on grammar, Pingala on the science of metrics and Tandu on the dance-form taandava. [1, xiv]

Selections

Gandharvaah

I. [Pranamya paramesaanam] Brahmaadhaamscha gurumstatha |

Gaandharva-saastra-sankshepah saarathoyam mayochyathe || sl. 1

[After having made my obeisance to the Supreme Lord] and to all the gurus, the first of whom is Brahmaa, I shall now enunciate in its essence the saastra concerning gaandharva in a concise form.  [1, 1]

II. Gandharvam naaradaadibhyah pratthamaadhau svayambhuvaa |

vidhidan-naaradenaatha prithivyaam-avathaaritam || sl.2

The origin of gaandharva

Svayambhoo (the self-born one) gave gaandharva to Naarada and other sages. Narada, then, duly brought it down to this earth. [1,1]

III. Padasthah svarasamghaathas thaalena sumithas thathha |

Prayuktas-chaavadhaanena gaandharvam-abhidheeyathe || sl.3

What is gaandharva

A group of svaras, well-measured through taala and set to padas (words) when rendered with due attention (avadhaana) is called gaandharva. [1,1]

IV. Sruthayotha-svaraa graamau moorchanaas-thaana-samyuthaah |

Sthaanaani vruttayaschaiva sushkam saadhaarane thathha || sl.6

Jaathayaschaiva varnascha naana-alangkaara-samyuthaa |

Esha svara-gathodhreshah samskhepenaatha nirnayah || sl.7

Next, micro-intervals(sruthi), notes (svara), the two-tone systems (graama), scales (moorchanaa) consisting of series of notes (taana), the registers (sthaana), styles (vrtti), pure instrumental music (sushka), and the two ways of overlapping

modes (jaati) and ways of ornamentation (varna) connected with various graces (alamkaara). This is a mere description of the things relating to the notes…[3,2]

V.  This exposition is no more than a pointer towards the system of the earlier acaryas. The knowing expert (sudhee) should look up their views and reach his own conclusions if he still has any doubts. sl. 244

Iti Dattilam samaaptam

Dattila (thus) composed a saastra known by the name Dattilam [1, 47]

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References:
  1. Lath, Mukund & Ed. Kapila Vatsyayan. Dattilam. Delhi: IGNCA.1988
  2. Prajnanananda, Swami. A History of Indian Music. Volume 1. Calcutta: Ramakrishna Vedanta Math. 1997
  3. Nijenhuis, Emmie te. Dattilam: A Compendium of Ancient Indian Music. Utrecht. 1970

Classical Indic Music II: History of Sangeeta

In the preliminary article in our Series on Classical Indic Music, we re-asserted the native canon of Saastriya Sangeeta and its historical Pan-India nature. The next installment will discuss the history of Sangeeta itself, and how the various regional notes compose the classical national scale.

Introduction

First off, why a survey of Indian music chronology at all? The antiquity of Ancient Indian Music may be difficult to calculate, but it is foolish to contest. As previously established, the indigenous classical canon of India is a matter of great discussion, but its integral unity cannot be denied. Ironically, the greatest revisionists of Indian Music history and even Indian history itself, accuse others of historical revisionism. Everything from the sitar to the tabla to classical music itself has been projected as being introduced by outsiders—eager to establish their own primacy and dominance. That foreign accounts can be given greater credence than native ones is the greatest sleight-of-hand of present times. All this makes a study of the History of Sangeeta all the more relevant to our times.

The ancient history of Indian Music is funda-mentally the history of her people, civilization and culture. The continuity of Indian civilization and culture, from the most ancient time uptil now, has one of its sources in the geographical configuration of the country. Many historians are of the opinion that as Hinduism was a common faith and the Hindu kings were in power, there was a religious and cultural unity and affinity among the Indian people as a whole.” [4,1]

As such, to properly understand ourselves and where we are going, we must first properly understand who we were and where we came from. Music History is crucially important to this.

Second, what is a history of music? A history of music is, therefore, a systematic and chronological records of musical thoughts and materials that evolved in different ages in a gradual process. It requires collection, arrange-ment and preservation of the facts and findings relating to music in a systematic order. ” [4, 9]

Rather than mere recitation and regurgitation of what has been taught by self-appointed “eminent experts”, it necessitates an investigation of the facts as available to us. This means not only questioning existing factoids, but questioning existing paradigms as well.

Third, what is the nature of a history of music?A history of Indian music is a saga of musical thoughts of the Indian people, as written in their subconcious mind. It has its birth, growth and progress in Indian society, and has religious and spiritual out-look. A history of Indian music is a wide subject, the range of which is extended from remote antiquity upto the present time.” [4, 9]

Thus, a proper history of Indian music must be a history of music rooted in Indian society and values and especially Indic Civilization. This then leads to the matter of valid sources of history.

Historical materials can be gathered from the following in order of descending importance:

  1. Various texts and treatises of music compiled from various authors across the ages
  2. Archeological evidence. These include rock and architectural inscriptions, copper-plate proclamations and tablets from various kings and aristocrats, coins and paintings.
  3. Private diaries of the local musicians and local folklores, including anecdotal evidence.
  4. Foreign accounts as well as the history of music from other nations

The native accounts must be given highest priority. Foreign accounts, which lack the insider understanding of a culture or civilization, can only be used to fill gaps or facilitate in the verification of facts.

Most of the historians both of the East and the West admit that many of the civilized nations of the world are indebted to India for their materials of civilization, art and culture. India does not lack in authentic materials for constructing a history of music of her own, for putting before the admiring gaze of the world, her glorious heritage in the field of art education and culture. [4, vii]

This then leads us to the imperative of challenging the false notion of indigenous Indian music being only ritual temple chants. Since apparently anything favourable to ancient India is considered jingoistic these days, let us turn then to the foreign-sponsored’s favourite sources: foreign: “From the writings of the Greek historians we come to know that in the Royal courts of Champaa, Raajgriha, Koshala, Vaishaali, Kau-shamvi, Paataliputra, Kalinga (in Southern  Orissaa), classical dances and music were fully encouraged… even the ladies of the Royal household allowed to culture dance and music. In the 2nd century B.C.” [4, 99]

Indeed, as far back as Paanini (presently dated to 500 BCE) and Patanjali (3rd Century BCE), we find descriptions of the practice of music and use of various musical instruments. In the Mahabhasya, there are a multitude of musical instruments listed including the mridanga, veena, and dundubhi. From the Buddhist canon we find Avadanas, Jatakas, and Pithakas reffering to music, musical instruments, and mudras. Hymns such as the thera, theri and sthavir were sung by Bhikkus. 107 poems and 1279 gathas make up the theras.

Further, we know from our own sources that music was highly encouraged, particularly within certain conventions, to virtually all classes. “In the 2nd century B.C., Vaastyaayana has mentioned about 64 kinds of art including dance music, and has said that they were freely cultured even by the married and unmarried girls“. [4,99] Whatever the traditional rules between castes, it appears that within castes—particularly the most orthodox—there were fewer taboos regarding performance of sangeeta and natya. This also provides further illumination into the nature of the conservatism of Hindus in the medieval period.

But a proper history is more than just a mere chronology or chronicle. It provides a systematic understanding and analysis of the nature and origin of events and realities. To properly do so, one must study the theoretical foundations.

Theoretical Foundations

The materials for history of Indian music of the ancient period can be collected from the Vedas and specially from the Saamaveda, the womb of music, the Shikshaas and the Praatishaakhyas, the Naatyasaastra and its commentaries, the classical Sanskrit dramas and literature, the Buddhist literature and the Jaatakas, the Brihaddeshi and the Sangitasamayasaara, the Silappadikaram and the Tevaram and other ancient Tamil literature, as well as from the rock-cut instructions and sculp-tures, chiselled on the railings, facades and walls of different Buddhist, Hindu and Jain Stupas, Vihaaras and temples. [4, 4]

Traditionally, Indian music has been divided not only into marga and desi but also vaidika and laukika. The Sama Veda in particular is considered the root of all music.

Veda

The Vedas are considered by the orthodox to be apaurusheya, that is, without human origin. Therefore, dating a specific period according to the conventional Western timeline becomes difficult. This is because they are considered the very embodiment of the Divine itself, hence all the rules and rituals related to paaraayanam (chanting).

In the Ka[u]shitaki-braahmana (29.5), it has been stated that the arts of dancing, singing and playing the musical instruments formed and important part of certain Vedic rites“. [4, 90]

Nada-brahma is considered the origin of the Universe and Paraa-Barahman emanating from the vibrations themselves. There is a famous quote in Matanga Muni’s Brihaddesi on precisely this point. Along with the Shruthi (Veda) is the notion of shruti (harmony/micro-tones.

The microtones (shrutis) are the minute percep-tible (“shravanayogya”) tones or musical sound-units that constitute the structures of seven tones like shadja, rishabha, gaandhaara, madhyama, pan-chama, dhaivata and nishaada (corresponding Vedic tones, chaturtha, mandra, atisvaarya, krusta, pra-thama, dvitiya, trituya).” [4,15]

Saamagaana is considered the earliest systematic method of singing in india. It had three base tones (anudaatta, svarita, and udaatta). According to Professor Sambamoorthy, “The Rigveda was recited to the three notes, udaatta, anudaatta and svarita, corresponding to ri, ni and sa of frequencies.” [4, 19] These partial and middle tones are considered the nucleus of the Classical Indic Scale (thaata, mela/melakarta).

Interestingly while the Sapta svara of Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Da Ni which is dated to Bharata Muni (6th-3rd centuries BCE, if not much earlier), the solfa system of Europe dates only to the 10th century CE, credited to Guido d’Areezzo. [4, 20]

Saama Veda is considered the foundational source of all music. It is divided into the purvaarchika and uttaraarchika. Songs of common people were known as graamageya, songs of the forest people known as aranyageya, and those of the mystics, rahasyageya.

The saamagaana or singing process of the saamans was divided into six or seven categories, and they were (1) humkaara, i.e., the priest will utter ‘hum’ (yes) at the beginning of the singing: (2) prastora i.e., which the Prastotris (prastotri—priest) used to sing at the beginning of the saamagaana: (3) udgitha, i.e., which the Udgaatris used to repeat to the tune of the saamagaana; (4) pratihaara, i.e., the Pratihaatris used to sing the part of the song after the third stanza of the saamagana; (5) upadrava, i.e., which the Udgaatris used to sing at the end of the third stanza; (6) nidhaana, i..e., that used to be sun by the sacrificial priests at the end of the saamans; and (7) pranava, i.e., omkaara. The saama-gaana sued to be sung in this way before the blazing fire on the sacrificial alt[a]rs, invoking the presiding deities.” [4, 93]

However, all this remains in the realm of the sacred. What of the material world and the inclination to sing and celebrate the world and worldly things? This is where the Divine descends into the semi-divine and celestial.

Gandharva

Gandharvaah

Sometimes attached as an upaveda, Gandharva Veda is often simply known as Gandharva. Such is its connection with those semi-divine beings.  Per the tradition it is reputed that the microtones were devised by Brahma or Brahmabharata, the first promulgator of the gandharva type of music, and afterwards it was made perfect by Naarada and finally Bharata muni. [4, 16]

Considered to have been collected from the Sama Veda, Gandharva Veda since took on a character of its own. In line with the pleasure-seeking ways of the Gandharvas it is named after, it adapted to the tastes and needs of more material humans. It created pleasure and enjoyable auditory sensations and good vibrations for all. It is the original systemised form of the systemised form of music we have today.

Nevertheless, it is considered the origin for the laukika (material world) music that has definite historical records dating back to 600 BCE, if not long before. Interestingly, the Ramayana makes reference to the tradition of wandering bards skilled in the science of gandharva, when it mentions Lava and Kusha singing of their parents travails. This ultimately brings us to saastra.

Sastra

rp_basis1.png

Although there are works and personalities considered anterior to this magnum opus and its composer, the Natya Sastra is considered the foundational text of Saastriya Sangeeta, and takes us from the realm of Sacred History to Pure History.

Bharata Muni propounds the existence of 22 microtones with associated jatis. The seven svaras (notes) each cover a set of these shrutis. For example tivraa, kumudvati, manda, and chandovati shrutis are all attached to the preliminary svara Sa. This division of shrutis is accepted by the Carnatic System to this day.

This then leads to the 10 essentials, or dasa-lakshanas, for qualities in determining the genuine nature of ragas. These are initials (graha), sonant (amsha), higher (taara), lower (mandra), concluding (nyaasa), medial (apanyaasa), rare (alptva), abundance (vahutva), hexatonic (shaadava), and pentatonic (audava).  Through these qualities, raagas can be examined and their real forms ascertained. All of these date back to Bharata Muni, though he himself says he is indebted to Brahma. All of these are also better discussed in detail in a future article. For our purposes, however, the saastric understanding of raaga is important.

A raaga is the product of permutation and com-bination of tones which creates sweet and sooth-ing impressions (samskaara) in the mind. This definition we get from Matanga’s Brihaddeshi [4, 33]

The 72 melakartha ragas have been listed in the introductory article of this series. What is interesting here for our purposes is when the gandharva or marga type of music began formalising the various ragas. The Ramayana (parsimoniously dated to 400 BCE) contains 7 jaati-raagas in its gaana. “Jaatis are the causal or basic raagas, from which evolved all kinds of raagas, maarga and desi“. [4,35] In the Mahabharata and Harivamsa we find 6 graamaraagas.We see these extend into the Naatya Saastra, where 18 jaatiraagas are mentioned.

Incidentally graamaraagas are found in Naarada’s Sikshaa as well as in Pallava dynasty rock inscriptions, attributed to King Mahendravarman, at Kudumiaamaalai in Tamil Nadu. [4, 36] Interestingly, we see that 2 of the 18 jati-raagas are named after regions (Andhri and Gaandhara-panchami). As such, we see not only a continuity, but a Pan-India pervasiveness, literally from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. By the time of Sarngadeva, a Kashmiri residing South of the Vindhyas at the Maharashtrian court, we find a total of 264 raagas evolving from the original melodic structures.

This of course leads to another modern concocted controversy over the origin of the melakartha system (or thaat of the North). Ever eager to find a foreign origin to all things Indian (even Indians!), Europeans and their current sepoys-at-arms have attributed a Persian background to the thaat on account of the name and the first emphatic definition of mela coming from Pandit Somanatha in the 1600s. But this is a risible notion, as Swami Vidyaranya, known for his native orthodoxy and revivalism, had formulated 15 melas by the 1300s itself. Somanatha asserted that 960 melas could be evolved, though eventually 72 were settled upon by Venkatamakhi.

Instruments

Indian Instruments

The history of Classical Indic Musical Instruments could be an article, or series of articles, in and of itself (incidentally, we already started one here). Nevertheless, no discussion of the History of Music is complete without mention of the vaadya or atodya of Sangeeta.

Basic stringed instruments are found in Lothal dating at least to 2000 BCE and are described in great detail not only by Natya Saastra, but reverential commentators on it, such as the Andhra Nayaka, Jaya Senapati in his Nrtta Ratnavali. [8, 437]

Generally classed as sushira (winds), thantri/thatha (strings), avanadha (percussion), ghana (metal), here are the most traditional of traditional vaadyas in the Indian vaadyabrnda (orchestra).

rudravina

Veena—Arguably the most ancient and most Indian of all Ancient Indian instruments, the veena is the vaadya of legends. Said to have evolved from the dhanuryantram (a bow instrument), it has since multiplied into varied forms and types. The shata-tantri is a 100 stringed veena, and the vaana veena is one with grass. These are known in the Kalpasutras with the former fittingly called kaatyaayani-veena. The sitar is itself a chitra-veena, tweaked for Turkic tastes.

Dundubhi—A very ancient and imposing atodya, the Dundubhi is associated with war drums of old and often foretells of a coming cataclysm. Often shaped from the hollow trunk of a tree and covered with leather skin, it has a deep and resonant sound that captivates audiences and armies alike, as it can be heard from great distances. The bhumi-dundubhi form is thought to be the oldest of percussion instruments.

Mridangam—The most pervasive of the classical percussion vaadyas is the mridangam. Still used today in carnatic, it is part of the standard repertoire of classical conclaves and katcheris. A related instrument is of course the Damaru, but this is better discussed elsewhere. Interestingly, there is an old folk story about how the tabla is merely a mridangam cut in half.

Tabla—Believe it or not, the tabla is not as young as we’ve been told. Whatever cute little ‘syncretic’ stories have been concocted by communist ‘mythologists’, the tabla is not a recently rendered percussion instrument. It very likely doesn’t even date to the medieval period. “These drums are known as pushkara. The two drums of identical-size, that have been depicted in the temple-halls of Muktesvara and Baadaami are the forebears of the modern tabal and baayaan, which are erroneously taken to be the two halves of the mridanga (or paakhawaaj), introduced…by Amir Khusrau“.[4, 106] While final confirmation of the modern tabla originating in the ancient pushkara drums found in these sculptures and bas-reliefs of Late Antiquity, one can quite obviously see that seeing foreign influence in all things Indian is more than a little suspect.

Tambura—Erroneously called “tanpura”, Tambura has a lineage of great antiquity and is associated with the Rishi Tamburu. It is used by Sages such as Narada, to keep sruthi. In modern times, the violin has taken its place, but the time may be approaching to restore the prominence of Tamburu’s namesake.

Venu—The bamboo flute, also known as vamsee or now bansuri (in Hindustani), rose to everlasting fame through that eternal romantic of Vrindavan. The murali may be forever associated with Lord Krishna, but its use is even more ancient.

Karathaala—These are the famed castanets of Narada Muni. They are still prominently used in Rajasthani folk music, and are called Khartal.

However, we know them better today, not in India, but among those Indic people properly called Romani (commonly known as Gypsy). This instrument has taken a distinctly romantic flavour in the flamenco music of Spain. But of course, as wikipedia will currently tell you…place of origin is…”unknown”…

Nadasvaram

Known as the Nagaswaram in the South and the Shehnai in the North, Nadasvaram is the original and is a pan-Indian pipe-reed instrument that can stop even the bagpipe in its tracks.

If nada is the origin of the universe, this instrument gives us a glimpse into why.

There are numerous other instruments that could be discussed. Nevertheless, for historical purposes, these serve for now.

But along with understanding the foundations and instruments is gaining a grasp of the common Indic terminology.

Terminology

  • Shruti—(literally sound, generally Vedas, but in music specifically, microtones).
  • Svara—Notes or tonal sounds. Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Da Ni
  • Sthaana—Registers in music
  • Geethi—Musical rendering
  • Geetha—Song
  • Sangeetha—Music
  • Jati—Pronounced jaathee. Organised tones. Depending on context, proto-melodies. A tune type or species. [5, 19]
  • Raga—Pronounced raaga, it is defined as “‘ranjayata it raaga.’ i.e., that, which produces pleasing and soothing impressions in the mind, is a raaga.” [4, 98] It is the basic melody of music and made up of various permutations and combinations of tones. There are 72 melakarta ragas.
  • Murcchana—elaboration of the seed-form of a raga. This is made possible when 7 tones of a raga manifest themselves via ascent (arohana) and descent (avarohana). It possess a unit of aesthetic sentiment. Bharata states there were 14 murcchanas.
  • Tana—Pronounced thaana. Similar to murcchana. The difference is that tana only has arohana [5, 69]
  • Varna—Manifesting of a song. There are 4 kinds: aarohi, avarohi, sthaayi and sanchari. They typically consist of pallavi, anupallavi, charanam, muktayisvara and chittasvara. [1, 57] The term is also used to refer to the syllables of a svara.
  • Kaaku—variation of vocal sounds. These are used to express the Nava Rasa.
  • Tala—Pronounced thaala, it means beat. While traditionally these reached as high as 108 different types, in Carnatic there are now 35 (i.e. dhruvaa, mantha, rupaka, jhampa, triputa, adda, ekataala) and are made up of different maatras (finger positions).
  • Laya—Rhythm or tempo. These are generally divided into 3: vilambita (slow), madhya (medium) and druta (rapid). [4, 73]
  • Vaadya/Atodya—Musical Instruments.
  • Vaadyabrnda—Orchestra. Also known as kutapa, the vaadyabrnda is distinctly mentioned in Saastra. The Indian orchestra is certainly nothing new, only has a different set of instruments.
  • Sangeetha-shaala—Music hall for singing and dancing. Found since at least the court of Pushyamitra Sunga.
  • Prekshagriha—Threatre auditorium for dramatic performances, musical and otherwise. The first Sunga ruler had a separate premises for these as well.
Personalities

Brahma

Personalities in the History of Music are myriad and manifold. Indeed, many are bracketed in the category of ‘mythological’. Being concerned with serious history, we will merely make reference to those sacred historical figures as legendary, and begin with  Bharata, Kohala, and Dattila as the first confirmed historical figures with associated texts.

Nandikeshvara

Nandikeshvara is known by many names and must be mentioned as he is the originator of one of the three original sampradayas of Sangeeta. The texts Nandikeshvara-samhita, Bharataarnava, Abhinaya-darpana, Kaishikaavritti are credited to him, but do all of them refer to the same person?  It is indeed very possible that there were many so-called historical (and human!) Nandis who were responsible for the texts associated with this figure, and yet, they have not been confirmed or even fully theorised. As such, Nandikeshvara along with Lord Brahma will have to be placed, rather than in the purely historical, in the realm of the sacred instead, but with textual attributions intact, much like the son of Brahma himself.

Narada Muni

Much like Nandeeshvara, many are reluctant to consider conflating the mythical Narada muni with the texts associated with him: Naaradi Sikshasaastra, Sangita-makaranda, Raaga-nirupana, and the Gandharva-rahasyam (on dance, drama, and music). Is he the great Sage of our stories, forever singing the glories of Lord Vishnu, or were there many ‘historical’ Naradas? When in doubt, it is better to preserve the chronology assigned in the tradition, and merely assert what has been confirmed by historical evidence. It is also important to catalogue his contributions as he is the second of the great sampradaya founders.

Bharata Muni

The third and most historical of the three founders of the original schools of Sangeeta, Sage Bharata is a storied name in not only music, but literature, dance, drama, poetry, and indeed, aesthetics itself. Though he mentioned only 8 of the Nava Rasas, the theory of 9 sentiment itself is said to commence with him.

Muni Bharata brought a renaissance in the domain of dance, drama and music, and scientifically devised laws and priciples of twenty-two mircortones (shrutis) or subtle tones on the basis of five mircrotones (jaati-shrutis), as promulgated by Naarada of the Siksha.” [4, 118]

Most important of all, this sagacious sage propounded his theory of Sangeeta for the purpose of Natya. There are a number of musicologists considered to have been either immediate contemporaries or successors to Bharat. These include Kohala (wrote Sangitameru), Durgashakti, Yaashtika (Sarvaagama-samhita), Shaardula , Svaati (considered the inventor of the pushakara drum), Vaayu, and Vishvavasu. One name associated with the significantly later King Vikramaditya of Ujjain is Matrgupta (appointed to rule Kashmir in the name of his Avanti overlord). Nevertheless, the most immediately relevant name is one who is often thought to perhaps even precede Bharata.

Dattila

The eponymous work Dattilam is the legacy of this sage. He is said to have continued in the tradition of Bharata, and discusses sangeeta in the context of natya. He lists 18 jatiraagas, various murcchanas and 66 thaanas. Not much is known about him, but he is considered to be a contemporary of Bharata Muni.

Matanga

The contemporary paradigm parsimoniously dates this great musicologist to the 5th or 7th centuries CE; however, to traditional Hindus, he is no mere Matanga, but Matanga Muni. Considered an ancient Sage, his background dates back, in all likelihood, to not too much after the Natya Sastra himself. He makes references to the most ancient commentators, including Bharata Muni, Kohala, and Dattila. Where he stands out, however, is in his treatment of the desi ragas and styles of music (hence the name of his work Brihaddesi, discussed below).

Though he is clear on the central nature of Marga, Matanga nevertheless discusses the different regional and national styles of music. For those wondering whether the orthodox ever admit to foreign influence, it is here that contemporary yet conservative commentators of India note that while the classical marga style of saastriya sangeeta remains indigenous, different national styles such as those of the Sakas found their way into myriad quilt of desi regional music and folk music. [5]

Emperor Samudra Gupta with Veena

 

It is a long gap between Matanga Muni and Maharaja Bhoja, but given the antiquity of Indian history, a single article Chronology is better focused on the reified names of history, rather than those who are still being confirmed. Though Fa Hien records the splendour of Indian music during the Gupta Period (no doubt due in no small part to the great veena playing Emperor Samudra), musicologists and evidence of direct contribution will better help mark the historical record.

Maharaja Bhoja Paramara

King Bhoj of Dhar is one such contributor. The storied lord of Dhaarangagari was arguably the most talented and scholarly of Royal Commentators on the Arts, including music, and is considered a true polymath. Though better associated with literature and architecture, his contributions to sangeeta cannot be gainsayed. Sringara-Prakasa is a work of his containing precepts of dramaturgy. Though only some of his 84 books are known to have survived, he was considered an authority on music by Maharana Kumbha.

Abhinavagupta

Undoubtedly one of the towering polymaths of Indian history, the great Kashmiri  Acharya Abhinavagupta widely commentated on everything from Tantra to the Arts. His commentary on the Natya Sastra, is known as Abhinava Bharati. This Bharatabhasyam elaborates the various issues pertaining to drama, dance, and music. He not only cites Bharata Muni, but also Kohala, considered an ancient authority in naatyaadhikaara and geyaadhikaara. His 1000th Birth anniversary took place this past year.

Mammata

He is credited with the Sangita-ratnamaalaa, and is dated to the 11th century. Also hailing rom Kashmir, he categorised raagas per the janya-janaka (genus-species) method. He lists a number of principal ragas suh as karnata and maalava. [4, 158]

Parshvadeva

In a long list of names, stands this prominent Jain musicologist who wrote Sangeeta-samayasaara. Thought to  date back to between the 9th and 11th centuries, Parshvadeva gives us a full description of various kinds of prabandhas. These were further elaborated upon by Sarngadeva. Nevertheless, the prabandha-gitis took inspiration from the ancient form of dhruvapada and eventually is known today in Hindustani as the dhrupad. The dhrupad is a shortened name for the saalaga-suda dhruva-prabandha, given patronage by Raja Man Tanwar. [4, 56] In Maharashtra, we find abhangas as the prized musical form instead.

Nanyadeva

Better known as King Nanyadeva, he is one of many royal comentators on music. A descendant of the Kannada Rashtrakuta dynasty, his kingdom was situated in land straddling Bihar and modern Nepal. Nanyadeva is notable for his commentary on Bharata’s Natya Sastra, called Sarasvati-hridayaalankaara. Other influences include Naarada, Yashtika, Kaasyapa and Matanga. He discussed various raagagitis and jati-ragas

Someshvara III

Author of the Abhilasha-Chintamani, the Chalukya Emperor Someshvara more closely associated with the alternate name of the same work: Manasollasa. This veritable encyclopadia deals with many topics ranging from Classical Cuisine to Music. He is considered one of the prominent Royal authorities on Natya and Sangeeta.

Jayadeva

Subject to a great war between Odias and Bengalis, as on the rasagolla front, Jayadeva the musical and literary personality appears almost certainly to go in favour of Odisha as well. His ashtapadis were heavily popularised at the court of the Odia King Prataparudra Deva Gajapathi. Jayadeva’s great Gita-Govinda had an impact as far as western India, with none other than Maharana Kumbha later commentating on it.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu

One undeniable Bengali, however, is Chaitanya Mahaprabhu of the 16th century. His impact extended beyond the Gaudiya Vaishnavism, a guru-sishya parampara that extends to that founder of the Hare Krishna movement, Srila Prabhupada (whose translation of the Gita remains the most widely read today). Nevertheless, it was the founder of his own parampara, who would have the greatest impact on the folk music of Eastern India. The Bhakti songs of Bengal very much bears the stamp of Sri Chaitanya to this day.

Sarngadeva

Known as ‘Nissanka’ (one who is doubtless), Sarngadeva was born in Varshagana gotra to Soddala Deva. His grandfather was Bhaskara, a Kashmiri Pandit who settled in Maharashtra.

He is regarded as an outstanding Sanskrit scholar and wrote the Vedanta work called Adhyatma Viveka. But he is best known for his Sangeeta Ratnakara (13 th century), which he wrote while residing at the Seuna Court at Devagiri. This soon became the classical standard in the medieval period, influencing both Hindustani and Carnatic.

Gopala Nayaka

Maharashtra musician Gopala Nayaka of Devagiri was eventually  to Delhi some time in the late 13th century. [9,27] This is said to have laid the actual foundation for what is known as the Hindustani School today.

Swami Vidyaranya

Considered by many to be a foundational influence on Carnatic music, the Vijayanagara Samrajya Sthapanacharya made an incalculable contribution to the revival of Saastriya Sangeeta at a time when Saastriya Samskruthi was under threat. His Sangeeta-Saram of the 1300s mentions 50 janya ragas originating from 15 melakartha ragas.  The head of the Sringeri Peetham, he oversaw a commission of scholars to revive traditional sangeeta that was under threat from destruction by invaders.

Kallinatha

A musicologist from the Vijayanagara Court, he wrote an authoritative commentary on Sarngadeva’s influential work.

Annamacharya

annamayyastatue

One of the most beloved classical musicians of Andhra, Annamacharya (1408-1503 CE) remains one of the critical bridges between the ancient Saastriya Sangeeta of old and the birth of the Carnatic Tradition.

Though his story and advocacy for upanayana for women and lower caste temple entry is what he had been remembered for throughout history by the masses, it was only recently that his keerthanas were rediscovered and set to music by Carnatic stalwart, Nedunuri Krishnamurthy.

The sheer volume of Annamacharya’s contribution remains virtually inmatched. Though less than half of his estimated 32,000 padams have been found, compositions such as this one below, reverberate throughout the Telugu states to this day.

Purandara Dasa

 

PurandaraDasa

Karnataka Sangeeta Pitamaha Purandara Dasa is a name known to all South Indians, and is one that should soon be known to all Indians. He re-established the native canon of authentic Classical Indic Music at a time when it was subject to many external influences and even outright corruptions.

Born Srinivasa Nayaka in 1484 at Pandaripur (Karnataka), he became the disciple of Sri Vyasa Teertha in 1525. He composed thousands of songs and codified the Carnatic Music Tradition. He passed away in 1564.

Maharana Kumbha

Image result for maharana kumbha

If ever there were proof that a fierce warrior, gifted general, and dignified king could be talented musician and musicologist as well, it is Maharana Kumbhakaran Singh of illustrious Mewar. Dreaded by his opponents, beloved by his subjects, and honoured by his scholars, one of Mevaad’s most ferocious veeras was also the author of the Sangeeta-raja and Sangeeta-krama-deepika.

He is also credited with re-setting the tune to Jayadeva’s Geeta-Govinda. Though Jayadeva was considered singularly skilled poet, the ragas he set his poems to were re-adjusted in what is widely considered to be a Rajasthani improvement on the Odia original. In any event, the skilled deputee of Eklingji held Jayadeva in high esteem, and thus, is credited with a commentary on the Gita-Govinda.

Narayana Teertha

Narayana Teertha Yatindra is the author of Sri Krishna Leela Tarangini. Living in the 16th century, he was another stalwart of Andhra, hailing from its Krishna district.

Krishna Leela Tarangini is considered a standard of Sanskrit opera. It is composes in 12 cantos with its various songs preceded by slokas and short prose passages. KLT is ranked with Geeta Govinda as work of Sringara. Its theme is the story of Krishna and Rukmini. [6, 83]

Tansen

Celebrated across divides and boundaries, Tansen is often considered to be the real founder of the Hindustani tradition. Born to Makarand Pandey at Gwalior, he learnt music from Swami Haridas. Rajput royals such as Rani Mrignayani (also of Gwalior) and Raja Sanmukhan Singh of Ajmer, were classmates. He later went to the Agra Court in the 1600s and wrote the Sangeeta Sara and Rajmala.

Tansen is said to have standardised 300 ragas in Hindustani. Miyan ki Todi is one of the ragas attributed to him. He had 5 children including a daughter named Sarasvati, who was a veena player. His sons played the rhabab—a string instrument modified by the great musician himself. [9]

Venkatamakhi

Ramamatya, Somanatha and Venkatamakhi consti-tude a group by themselves. They are respectively the authors of the following standard works in Sanskrit on Karnatic music: Svaramelakalanidhi, Raga Vibodha, and Chaturdandi Prakasika” [6, 85]

Ramayamatya is the earliest, dating back to the 1500s. At the request of Emperor of Vijayanagara, he wrote the svaramela kalanidhi and enumerated 20 melas and their janya ragas. He rejects Sarngadeva’s theory of 12 vikrta svaras in favour of 7.

Somanatha was another traditional scholar from Andhra desa. His Raga vibodha picks up from where Ramamatya left off. In contrast, he elected to posit a scheme of 960 melas with 15 vikrta svaras.

Finally, the most impactful of the 3 was Venkatamakhi. The second son of Govinda Dixitar, he studied under his brother Yajna Narayana. He later came under the tutelage of Tanapapacharya, a famous musician from Northern India. With the patronage of Vijaya Raghava Nayaka, Venkatamakhin wrote the Chaturdandi Prakasika in 1660. This Comprehensive work covers the gamut of the usual traditional concepts, but is credited most for standardising the 72 melakarta ragas used in Carnatic music today. [6, 86]

Meerabai

Meerabai & khartal

Mewar’s musical contribution to India includes the female as well as the male. The storied Princess Meerabai gave up all for her love of Lord Krishna. She is remembered today not only for her skill with the tambura and khartal, but for her voice as well. This songstress of Sri Krishna is known for devotional ballads such as these.

Lochana

Lochana Kavi is another notable scholar. Hailing from Mithila (in Bihar),  he is best known for his Raga Tarangini, which deals with Indian music in a time of great change. He mentions 12 janaka melas and uses 12 svaras to describe his ragas. A fitting homage to the historical Rajatarangini is the musical Ragatarangini. It is considered a useful study on the music of Northern Indian during a time of foreign ascendancy.

Kshetragna

A celebrated composer of Telugu padas, Kshetreyya was born in Muvvapuri graamam, near Chandragiri (Chittoor district). He was a tremendous singer, scholar, and litterateur. Dedicated to Lord Gopala, he worth 4000 padas in honour of his ishta devata. He travelled throughout peninsular India, and made his greatest impacts at the court of Madurai and Thanjavur.

Thyagaraja

The most famous of the Carnatic Trinity, Thyagaraja was born as Kakarla, Thyagabrahmam in a Telugu Brahmin family that migrated to Thiruvaiyaru from Prakasam district in 1767. He received his early music lessons from his guru Sonti, Venkata Ramanayya.

Thyagayya composed close to 24,000 kirthanas in his life time but only 700 kirthanas survived the vagaries of time. He also wrote two musical plays in Telugu “Prahlada bhakthi Vijayam” and “Nauka Charitram”. His Pancharatna (five gems) Krithis are considered finest gems of Carnatic music.

Every year in the month of January and February a music festival, Thyagaraja Aradhana, is held in Thiruvaiyaru to celebrate and honour his musical genius. On Pushya Bahula Panchami thousands sing his Pancharatnas together. Now it’s a worldwide event, Thyagaraja aradhana is conducted world wide by the patrons and practitioners of Carnatic music and attended by thousands of music lovers and devotees.

The language of Thyagaraja compositions is simple but yet beautiful, and the choice of words in the compositions add to the melody of raga and the rhythm of tala to create the ecstasy of bhava and rasa.

Syama Sastri

http://www.andhraportal.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/1985-shyama_sastri.jpg

Syama Sastri hailed from the Vadamar community connected to Tamil Nadu, but originally hailing from Andhra. He was born in Thiruvarur to Visvanatha Iyer, in 1762. He was a friend of Thyagaraja and guru to the third of the Carnatic Trinity, who will be discussed subsequently.

Syama Sastri’s achievements in classical music include around 300 total compositions, 9 kritis to Meenakshi Devi, and humbling a number of court musicians in sangeeta contests. His works are known for their intricate taalas. Above all, he refused royal patronage and never deigned to engage in nara-stuti, saving his musical talents to sing the praises of the Divine. He was a great sangeeta and spiritual power, the like of which rarely walks in this modern world. His most famous composition is considered to be Devi Brova Samayam Idhe.

Muthuswami Dixitar

The most famous student of the second of the Carnatic Trinity is the only true blue Tamilian among 2 Telugus. Nevertheless, he set a tradition that would continue on to make his home state the greatest patron of Saastriya Sangeeta in this era. This legacy continues on to the present day in the great Carnatic sabhas of Chennai.

Rajas Shahaji & Tuloji

The Maratha rulers of Madurai would continue the outstanding legacy of its previous Nayak rulers, and become tremendous patrons of Sangeeta themselves.

Tuloji (1765-1787) wrote the treatise Sangeeta Saramritam in 1770. He too was a great supporter of Saastriya Sangeeta.

Raja Swati Thirunal

The ruler of the Kerala kingdom of Travancore between 1829 and 1847, he is considered one of the great Royal composers of Saastriya Sangeeta (in both Carnatic & Hindustani schools). He was a poet, scholar and linguist, with songs credited to him in the Sanskrit, Malayalam, Marathi, Hindustani, Tamil, and Telugu languages. Considered a genius and generous patron of music, his court was adorned with musicians such as Paramesvara Bhagavatar, Govinda Marar and Vadivel.  He is highly respected for his technical beauty (svarakshara) and composed more than 300 kirthanas, padas, varna, thillanas, and raga mallikas under the ankitam Padmanabha. [6, 71]

There are, of course, many, many more personalities who could be discussed. But the ones above have had the most noted impact on Saastriya Sangeeta across the spectrum.

Let us now commence with a more detailed survey of the Important Texts of the Classical Indic tradition.

Important Texts

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Natya Sastra, 400 BCE (or earlier) [2,8]

The Naatya Saastra has already been discussed in detail in this previous article. Nevertheless, for those short on time and long on interest, here is a brief description of its impact on music. “Saaradatanaya (1175-1250 A.D.), the author of the Bhaavaprakaashan, informs us that the original editon of the Naatyasaastra consisted 12,000 shlokas and afterwards it was reduced to 6,000.” [4, 123] It 37 chapters make up one of the most systematic treatments on the arts. The 22nd chapter is considered the most important to music. There are at least 9 commentaries on it, with Abhinavagupta’s considered the most incisive. [6, 76]

Dattilam, 400 BCE (or earlier)

Brihaddesi, 400 CE (or earlier)

Quoted in numerous texts from the ancient period down through the 17th century, Brihaddesi is considered an exquisite exegesis on how classical Indic music balances between marga and desi. It demonstrates how the native tradition preserves its indigenous character, while allowing the tunes of various Indic desas and the folk music of the non-Indic to contribute to the Civilizational body. “The source of musical structure and composition, both of Hindustani and Carnatic, has to be traced back to the Br[i]haddesi“. [5] It is here that we first see clear distinctions between Jatis, Murchanas, and Raga.

Perhaps the best known quote from the Brihaddesi is the one on nada:

There is no geeta (song, music) wiithout naada, there are no svaras (musical notes) without naada, there is no nrtta (dance) without naada, hence the world is of the essence of naada. [5, 7]

Silappadikaram  ~2nd Century BCE-5th Century CE

Arguably the most famous work of Sangam Literature, Silappadikaram is a Tamizh epic that is also authoritative on poetry, music , and drama. It allong with the Tivaakaram and Paripadal is used to divine the divine music of that era in the Tamil regions. The Silappadikaram in particular describes 22 alaku (shrutis, much like the earlier Bharata Muni). There are also descriptions of various musical instruments such as the yazh and the kudamulabu.

Natyalochana, 800-1000 CE

Composed by an uncredited author, it is a text on drama and music that is wide in scope. Ragas are divided into shuddha (pure), saalanka (impure) and sankeerna (mixed). A total of 44 ragas are listed, with only 8 pure ragas.

Manasollasa of Somesvara III (Karnataka), 1131 CE

Abhinava Bharati (Kashmir), 1000CE

Bhaava-prakaashan

Composed by Saaradaatanaya, it is another work of Natya and Rasalankaara (aesthetics). Interestingly, he makes provision for acoustic enhancement through prescription of various shapes of theatres. For example, a circular theatre is ideal for a mishra dance (where marga and desi are mixed), and a triangular theatre is ideal for marga. [4, 164]

Gita Govinda, 1100 CE

Songs of Geetha Govinda are called prabandha-gitis. This is because they are characterised by saahithya, raaga, thaala, dhaatu, anga, murcchana, rasa, and bhaava. Gitinaatya as a genre in the present era is traced to this work due to its widespread influence. Written in the ashtapadi form (8 stanzas), popularised by the author itself, Gita Govinda celebrates the Rasa-leela of Krishna with Radha and the Gopikas.

Considered a classic work of Sringara Mahakavya, it contains 24 songs in 12 sanskrit sargas.  Ramashtapadi of Ramakavi and Sivashtapadi of Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati are said to have taken after it. [6, 78]

Sangeeta Samayasaara of Parsvadeva (Karnataka) 1100 CE

Sangeeta-Ratnakara  of Sarngadeva 1200 CE

Nrtta Ratnavali (Andhra), 1200 CE

nrttaratnavali

Geeta Ratnavali (Andhra), 1200 CE

Better known for his Nrtta Ratnavali (above), Jaya Senapati’s Geeta Ratnavali was a great text on music lost to us during the pillage of Warangal by Delhi Turks. While his treatise on dance leaves us to wonder what musical wonders were lost to us, the commander of the Kakatiya King’s elephant corps deserves mention for his contributions to music (glimpses of which can be found in his surviving work).

Bharatabhaasya of Naanyadeva

Sangeetopanisat

Sangeeta-Sudhakara ofJagadekamalla, ~1300 CE

Another work by a Chalukya sovereign, the Sangeeta-Sudhakara was written by the son of Someshvara III (of Manasollasa fame).  Prince Jagadekamalla is therefore another key royal musicologist and patron of music.

Sangeeta-Saram by Swami Vidyaranya, 1300 CE

Saaroddhara of Sudhaakalasa (Gujarat), 1350 CE

Dasar Padams (Karnataka), 1400 CE

Sangeetaraja & Sangeet-krama-dipaka by Maharana Kumbha (Rajasthan), 1400 CE

Sangeeta Kaumudi (Odisha)

Svaramela-kalandhi by Rama Amatya, 1500 CE

Raaga Vibodam of Somanatha, 1500 CE

Sangeetha Sudha of Govinda Dixitar, 1600 CE

Chaturdandi Prakaasikai of Venkatamakhin, 1600 CE

Sangitadarpana of Daamodara

Sangitataranga of Radhamohan Sen

Krishna-leela-tarangini (Andhra), 1600 CE

Ragatarangini of Lochanakavi (Bihar), 1620 CE

Kshetragna Padams (Andhra), 1600 CE

Sangita Parijata, 1650 CE

Written by Pandit Ahobala, it is a popular treatise on North Indian music. Ahobala is reputed to be the first writer to refer to the svaras by the lengths of veena wires. The kaphi raaga of Hindustani is attributed to him. His work was subsequently translated from Sanskrit into Persian in 1724.

Sangeetha Saaraamrutham by Tuloji Maharaj (Maharashtra/Tamil Nadu), 1700 CE

Sangeeta-narayana

Meladhikara Lakshana

A comparatively recent but valuable work for students sand scholars of Carnatic music, its author is unknown. It appears to date after Venkatamakhin and has an expanded system of 4,624 melakartas. This is divided into 136 chakras, with each chakra containing 34 melas.

This concludes the discussion of traditional texts on music. While any complete list is putatively longer (and any elaboration on the treatises even more so), these should suffice to provide an historical foundation for textual sangeeta.

Conclusion

[3,8]
We end as we began, with a discussion of not only the History of Classical Indic Music, but the pervasiveness of its influence. In fact, no discussion of Indian music is complete without mention of the expansive travels and tragic story of those wandering minstrels of global fame: the Romani. Though pejoratively called Gypsy or Gitanos, their musical influence is undeniable, not only via their own stories which they tell, but in the obvious impact they had on music wherever they went.

Nevertheless, the history of Indian Music and its spread predates these nomads of Northwestern India.

Specially the music of greece was indebted to indian music, which was introduced to Greece by Pythaagoras and the Pythaagoreans. It is said that Pythaagoras visited India and returned to Greece, carrying with him the cultural, religious, and philosophical ideas of India. [4, 110]

Furthermore, the Emperor of North India, Harshavardhana Shiladitya was a renowned supporter of classical music and dance.In 581 A.D., a band of musicians was sent from India to China at the invitation of the Chinese Emperor, and it is said that music missions weres sent to distant lands like Samarkanda, Bukhaara, Japan, Corea, Kaamboja (Cambodia) and other Middle and East Asian countries.” [4, 111-112]

Another trend of late is to create false cultural distinctions within India. Contrary to progressively-regressive revisionistas, time assignation for ragas exist in Carnatic. Of course, one does not expect them to have read the works of Karnataka Sangeeta Vidwans like A.S. Panchapakesa Iyer, but here is what he had to say:

27. Time for Singing Ragas

In a day consisting of 24 hours, we have morning, afternoon, evening and night….

There are some ragas meant for waking people up from deep slumber. The ragas Bhupalam, Bowli and Revagupti are fit for being sun during this period….

In the afternoon, that is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., people will be busy engaged in their work…Begada, Danyasi, Madhyamavathi, Manirangu, Bhairavi are the ragas suitable for this time…

In the evening, that is from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. when people return home after work, they would like to be happy in the company of their wives and children. Ragas like Sankarabharanam, Kalyani, Kambhiji, Bhairavi, Thodi, Kharaharapriya and Pantuvarali are suitable for this time.

During the night around 8 p.m. after taking food, one prepares to go to sleep. Ragas like Nilambari, Ananda Bhairavi and Edukula Kambhoji are suitable for this period” [ 1, 62-63]

Other names and concepts will become more relevant, particularly when discussing the distinctions between Carnatic and Hindustani, which incidentally had many intentional recent origins rather than historically organic ones. Hindustani, much like a particular persianised register of Hindustani (the language), is very much a product of politically driven motivation. Even the sitar (originating in the ancient chitra veena) and the tabla (clearly visible in ancient sculpture as the pushkara) have not been left untouched by colonial and neo-colonial revisionism. That is the importance of studying classical texts with the emic lens, rather than the etic. [11]

But perhaps it is best to conclude, not in our own words, but in those of the experts.

In conclusion, it can be said that ancient period is the most important, nay, the golden age in the history of Indian music. The cultural history of this period is glorious and eventful, and the age has undou[]btedly a charm, beauty and value of its own for the historians as well as for the students of the history of music. The most remarkable aspect of this period is this that most of the valuable and essential materials of music evolved during this period…So the ancient period of history of Indian music must be given special attention and be studied with proper care.” [4, 190]

References:
  1. Appa Rao, P.S.R. A Monograph on Bharata’s Natya Sastra. Hyderabad: Natyakala Press.1967
  2. Iyer, A.S. Panchapakesa. Karnataka Sangeeta Sastra: Theory of Carnatic Music. Chennai: Ganamrutha Prachuram.2008
  3. Lavezolli, Peter. The Dawn of Indian Music in the West. New York: Continuum.2006
  4. Prajnanananda, Swami. A History of Indian Music. Volume 1. Calcutta: Ramakrishna Vedanta Math. 1997
  5. Sharma, Prem Lata, asst. by Anil Bihari Beohar. Brihaddesi of Sri Matanga Muni. Delhi: IGNCA. 1992
  6. Sambamurthy, P. Syama Sastri and other Famous Figures of South Indian Music. Chennai: The Indian Music Publishing House. 1999
  7. Vatsyayan, Kapila. Bharata: The Natyasastra. Sahitya Akademi.2007
  8. Pappu, Venugopala Rao. Nrtta Ratnavali of Jaya Senapati. Kakatiya Heritage Trust. 2013.
  9. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-fridayreview/The-Tansen-legacy/article14951168.ece
  10. http://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/of-notes-and-notations/article8025724.ece
  11. http://www.rediff.com/news/column/column-why-the-battle-for-sanskrit-needs-to-be-joined/20160120.htm

Literature: Paaka Darpana

Continuing Food Week here on the Indic Civilizational Portal is a work of Literature mentioned in our preceding Post on Classical Indic Cuisine.

The Paaka Darpana of King Nala of the Nishadas is the oldest available text on Indian Cookery.  Although we already conducted a brief expository on it, it’s important to—pardon the pun—flesh out the details of this little known composition.

Any mention of Culinary Literature is incomplete without discussion of the Paaka Darpana. Meaning ‘Culinary Mirror’, it is an ancient work with modern applications. It helps us understand not only what unites Indian cooking—real Indian cooking—from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, but also gives insight into what many Ancient Bharatiyas actually ate.

Author

The legendary lord of the Nishaadas, Nala is a famed hero mentioned in the Mahabharata as the other half of that Pauranic Power Couple Nala & Damayanti.

It is said that he was extremely good looking, truthful, brave, just and endowed with eight boons. [1]

Nevertheless, as is famously recounted in the Naisadheeya or Naisadha Charita of Sriharsa , Nala (like another famous Mahabharata character) was not good at dice. He lost his kingdom in a wager with his brother Pushkara, and he too had to go into exile. It was in these circumstances that he became a chef in the Royal Kitchen of Rtuparna, King of Ayodhya. To preserve his real identity, Nala took the name Bahuka, and explained the Art of Cuisine to Rtuparna.

Interestingly enough, Nala later mentions his name in the Paaka Darpana and describes his travails. Damayanti is also discussed as is her later svayamvara.

King Nala himself is a member of the Nishada tribe. While the tale he is best known for is for another time, some of the slokas in this work give us insight into not only his surface-qualities, but also his substantive ones as well.

The king (Rtuparna), addressing Nala, asked him many questions regard-ing the dietics and regimens to be observed in various seasons. He puts forth many epithets to Nala…O, supreme one amongst the expert cooks having parexcellence knowl-edge of the science of cookery, authority of science of cooking, all round expert of sorts, of cooking procedures, O observer of auster-ity, O, proficient O, personified lion among the elepha[nts]. O, Baahuka (Nala), kindly exhibit the procedure of consumable articles, beneficial to everybody, to be taken in various seasons.” [1, 79]

The traditional seasons per the Indic Science of Time-Keeping are “the seasons of spring (Vasanta), summer (greeshma), early rains (praavrt), rains (vaarshikaa), autumn (saarad) and winter (hemanta) are observed in fore-noon (purvaahna), midnoon (madhyaahna), afternoon (aparaahna), evening (pradosha), midnight (ardharaatra) and dawn (pratyushas) respectively.” [1, 79] It’s clear the great Nala of the Nishaadas has a solution for every season.

Whatever your tastes, however, it’s quite clear what he had in mind for good food was the Royal Rajbhog and all the intricacies of its preparation. However, the composition itself explicates the breadth of his knowledge more than any would-be biographer could do.

Composition

Credited to Nala of Nishada rajya, Paaka Darpana is a Sanskrit work. It contains 761 slokas and is divided into 11 chapters.

In this wo[]nderful book the author has described the recipes of vegetable & non-veg. preparations. Dishes prepared from Neem, Mandan, Guduchi, Jackfruit etc. become cures also besides being very tasty, the dishes are made fragrant before being served.[2,1]

A manuscript exists at the Saraswati Bhavan Library of Sampurnanand Sanskrit University at Varanasi.

  • Chapter 1: By far the longest chapter (half the work), it introduces the topic and deals with the five key categories of food: pulses, rice, and meat.
  • Chapter 2: Discusses the various seasons and the food regimens to be observed. The influence of Ayurveda is obvious here.
  • Chapter 3: Treats the item of Bhaksyaraaja and various other dishes containing Egg
  • Chapter 4: Focused on Phirni (kheer). Interestingly, different varieties of Paayasa are mentioned, as well as syrups such as Paanaka (Sri Rama‘s favourite).
  • Chapter 5: Surveys the process pertaining to the preparation of different varieties of soft beverage, particularly their storage.
  • Chapter 6: Presents the various processes and properties of different soups (yoosa)
  • Chapter 7: Discusses the aspects of various Ghee preparations (Ghrtannapaaka) & Cereals.
  • Chapter 8: Lehya (lickable) foods, such as the mango, are mentioned
  • Chapter 9: Surveys the process of cooling water, giving fragrance, and preparing delicacies
  • Chapter 10: Ksheera-paaka, or general cooking of mixed dish milk preparations
  • Chapter 11: The last chapter overviews the processes of creating curd from milk

As a matter of interest, the original manuscript does not have these 11 paricchedas, and was found as one continuous composition (without punctuation).

Nala describes the various qualities of a cook (sooda ) and expert chef (soodaraat), which the reader can review among the selections. Nevertheless, the Nishaada king also describes the qualities of a proper waiter. Here is the gist below:

The waiter-at-meals (parivesaka) should attend to ablu-tions…followed by cleanliness of the feet and hands. He should be a fulfiller of culinary desires, attentitive to mind, firm/adherent, familiar with the timing of the meals of the king. Thereafter, he should serve the meals and food-prepara-tion in set order having come to know the appropriate time set for a king and considering its wholesomeness. [1,9]

The importance of cleanliness is quite apparent from the outset. Uniquely the cleanliness specified is not only a physical one, but a mental and even spiritual one. While the feasibility of ensuring such a level of saucha may indeed stretch credulity in our era, the emphasis on hygiene should, nonetheless, be feted and emulated. Whether chef or waiter or sommelier, one who furnishes food for others should take care to honour their trust.  There is an implied guarantee of cleanliness.

In the same chapter, Nala also outlines the work in slokas 28-32, albeit in greater detail than the list at the top:

The first section of the treatise deals with boiled rice (odana) with its various preparations; second one appraises the variet-ies of pulse (soopa); third one describes the clarified butter (sarpis); fourth one presents various varieties of recipes (vyanjana); fifth one depicts several preparations of meat (maamsa) and vegetables (shaaka); sixth one narrates a number of preparations of semi-hard food (bhakshya); seventh one introduces the preparations of Paayasa (rice cooked in milk with sugar added to it); eighth one elucidates an elixir (rasaayana); ninth one describes the preparation of syrup (paana) with its varieties; tenth one considers the varieties of soup (yoosa); eleventh one contemplates the food and its varieties processed by clarified but-ter; twelfth one exhibits the lickable (lehya) articles with its varieties; thirteenth one focuses the various beverages (paaneeya); thirteenth con-fines to several preparation of milk (ksheera); fifteenth one puts forth various preparation of curd (dadhi) and the last sixteenth one states the various preparations of butter-milk (takra).” [1,9]

Thus, one can see from this exegesis an inclusion of not only common staples such as rice, supplemented by vegetables, but also different types of meat.

Meat Recipes

Meat (maamsa) is reviewed with precision, particularly with regard to preparation and cleaning. Many different exotic meats are also discussed (it is not known if Nala’s tribal background influenced the selection). These range from curries to rice dishes. The most important however is referred to as simply maamsodana.

Preparation process of Maamsodana (Pulaava)—The cook skilled in processing should fill up the 3/4 part of the cauldron (Sthaali) by the water hereafter it should be kept on fire place (stove or chulha). When water becomes heated the well-washed rice should be dropped in the quantity of one fourth of the [vessel]. When the Sali rice becomes semi-cooked, meat either, completely cooked or semi-cooked in the form of minute pieces alike rice should be mixed along with salt. This cooked rice should be fired with clarified ghee. After disappearance of watery residue, it should be put on the coalfire (Angar). Afterwards the coconut water and new ghee should also b[e] mixed and should be scented with the flower of screw pine (Ketaki). Hereafter the pieces of Parpata should be dropped and it should be made scented through the product of Camphor and Musk (Kastooree).” [1,22]

A rice dish known as chitrapaaka is discussed, and a full recipe given (sl.86). It is to be prepared in a special non-metal vessel known as Pugapada. It is mixed with salt, musk and ketaki flower, camphor, saffron and water. Lemon, mushroom, coriander, ringer and onion are also to be included. Option of adding meat after all this is prepared exists as well.

There are many, many other recipes including those for kukkutamaamsatailodana (chicken pulao with asafoetida, sl.100), sooksmaamsoddana (minced chicken pulao, sl.103), etc.

As such, many of the items he mentions are not only non-traditional to modern Hindus, but also notable for lacking any dishes with cow meat. Thus, even a tribal king with even fewer restrictions than so called “savarna” Kshatriyas, did not advocate beef.  Therefore, we can see an integral unity in this myriad diversity.

The cow remains sacred for all Dharmic peoples.

Slokas 341-344 also discuss different spices. It appears the addition of ginger and garlic is nothing new to Indian cookery, as there is clear mention of it here.  But shakaharis and sattvik chefs need not fear. There are also a number of vegetarian main courses mentioned as well.

Vegetarian Recipes

Preparation of pulses is discussed in great detail with the mixing of turmeric and asafoetida. Different types of pulses are also described such as horse-gram (kulattha), black-gram (masa), flat bean (nispava) in sl.121. Pulse itself is described as an alleviator of pitta and a promoter of health [1, 27]. Thus, we again see the background influence of Ayurveda here.

Shigruphalam (drum-stick), plantain (kadhalee), audambara (Indian fig), tiktaalaabu (bitter gourd),  are all vegetarian options and their dishes all discussed as well. For sake of familiarity, a recipe for a brinjal (vrnthaakam) dish will be described here:

Method of preparing the vegetable of Brinzal and its properties. The lovely young fruit of brinzal should be taken and its upper portion should be cut by a sharp-edged knife. After cutting the brinzal into two parts, it should be dropped into a pot filled with water. The round brinzal fruit should be cleansed by the water and it should be dipped into the water medicated with ginger. It should be mixed with asafoetida, Kaayaphala (Kaidarya) and coriander powder. It should be added  by the pieces of garlic and ginger and it should be kept on fire. The round brinzal fruit cut into pieces should be kept in hot water for a while and it should be brought out of the water. After making the paste of spices containing black pepper coriander, cumin seeds (jeera) mixed with ripe tamarind and curd should be pasted on the pieces of brinzal fruit and it should be fried in cow’s ghee (clarified butter). After taking it out, it should be made fragrant with the camphor. Hereafter it should be kept in clean pipe of puga-putta boiling ghee. After taking out it should be eaten.” [1, 38] It is praised as “an alleviator of Tridosha” and an enhancer of strength. [1, 38]

But the best of all vegetarian dishes is described as Bhakshyaraaja, King of the Edibles:

The cook should take on part of the pieces of raw wheat along with the one part of fragrant article in order to cook it properly. The well cooked pulse of Bengal gram (canaka) taken as half part and one part of fat and one part of the flat bean (Nispaava) along with the five pieces of co[co]nut, fruit mixed with cardamom (elaa) and salt in appropriate quantity. All the above substances should be cooked properly and the butter ex-tracted from the scented milk should be mixed in boiled milk. after mixing all these, the pills should be prepared like seeds of lemon and these should be kept in pugapatta. These pills, after some time should be again cooked and dropped in the ghee. This preparation is called Bhakshyaraaja.” “It is celebrated as an alleviator of vaata and pitta, promoter of digestive power, palatable, and a strength promoter.” [1, 86]

In terms of vegetarian items of regional interest, Odias would be interested to hear about the preparation of the Kalinga fruit (sl. 444). Kashmiris might relish the description of Lotus flower, Padma-patra-shaaka (sl.477), as a dish.

Rasa & Ayurveda

The editor’s note gives a detailed discussion of rasabhinivritti (Manifestation of taste) and expounds  on how “Location (desa) plays a great role in manifestation of various tastes in one substance, e.g.grapes and pomegranates growing in the Himaalayas are sweet in taste whereas those growing elsewhere are sour“. [1, 11] Taste which manifests immediately is referred to as rasa, while that which manifests later and slightly is called anurasa.  Nala himself specifically mentions 8 demerits in food, along with various characteristics of starch.

Medicinal aspects are also discussed, such as how to alleviate pain from a scorpion-sting. This circles back to the overall connection to Ayurveda. Although naturally Nala being not just an ordinary cook, but a royal chef is expected to be mindful of taste, the centrality of nutrition and health is apparent. Incidentally, seasonal regimes (for purposes of health) are avidly described in chapter 2. Special care is taken to assert the need for more caution during the changing of seasons.

Nala himself recommends certain meats in certain seasons, suggesting deer in spring, goat in summer, chicken in rainy season, fish in autumn, pork in winter, and sparrow in late winter (sl.31).

Of course, no discussion of the composition would be complete without mention of the desserts. While foreign attribution of all things Indian may be popular (even phirni!), here is King Nala’s recipe for Kheer, better known as Ksheerapaaka.

Milk, unmixed with water, should be kept in a milk vessel. it should be cooked in slow heat in cauldron and stirred with ladle…Milk which has become drinkable is to be added by the jack-fruit. in the milk, which has become more solidified, the ginger should be added by another fruit. Later on the flowers of Punnaga should also be added to it. the milk known as ghatika is to be added by the mango fruit along with ghee and honey. In this way, the flower of pomegranate and rice should be added, when the milk becomes in ‘Sarkara’ form, banana fruit is to be added along with sugar.” [1,109] It is described as glorified by the Gods and alleviates the disorders of Tridosha.

Selections

Ekaaki naishadhah kadaachit kalinaashanah |

Rtuparnasya nagaree raajaanamidhamabraveet || sl.1

Long ago, having reached the city (Ayodhyaa) of Rtuparna, Naisadha (king of Nisadha county as Nala) the persecutor of Kali (the demon who rules in Kali Yuga) alone spoke thus to the king. [1,1]

§

(Panchavidha bhojanasya bhedhaah) Bhakshyam bhojyam tatha lehyanchoshyam peyam payogatham |

Bhedham rasaanaam shannaancha shuddha-samskaara-bhedhathah | sl.4

(I know the food-stuff classified into five categories viz., bhakshya [semihard food like sweet-ball (laddu) etc.] bhojya (soft food like rice, pulse etc.), lehya (relishable or lickable articles like sauce), cosva (suckable articles like sugarcane, pomegranate etc.) and peya (drinkables or beverages like fruit-juice, wines etc.) possessing either the six tastes (sweet, sour, salt, bitter, pungent and astringent) on the basis of preparation and processing. [1,2]

§

“Bhujyathe yena yatnena tasyaarogyam bhaved bhruvam |

vaatajam pittajam rogam sleshmajam hanthi sarvadaa ||

Sakrunnishevanenaiva tripuram tryambako yathaa || sl.6

Person, who relishes the aforesaid dishes (citrapaaka) with care and prepared by me, gets positive sound health. If this preparation is taken even once, alleviates the diseases caused by Vaata, Pitta and Sleshman as Lord Siva (Tryambaka) had killed the demon Tripura.” [1,3]

§

Asminnaarthe mayo’kaari grantho leka hithaaya cha|

loka paala-prasaadena paakadarpanaaamathah||

Tasyaava-lokanenaiva drsyanthe vividhaah kriyaah |

Soodasya lakshanam thaavad vakshye samkshepatha prabho || sl.22

O lord (prabhu) king Rtuparna. I have composed a trea-tise entitled Paakadarpana in this regard by the grace of gods (lokapaalas) for the benefit of people. All the process of (cooking) would be conspicuous by going through it. Now, I shall narrate the characteristics of cook (sooda) succinctly).

§

Svadesamsabhavah prajnha sarva-lakshana-laksithah |

Sadaachaara-samaayuktho visishta-kulasambhavah ||

Shaantho daantho daanasheelo raajapoojyo shuchismathah|

svadaaraniratha shuddhah paradaaravivarjithah ||

Bhitha-bhaashee sadaa daathaa dayaaluscha subhasitah |

Dhaathujno desakaalajno vayo’vasthaadhividh budhah||

The cook (soodha) appointed in a particular place, must belong to that habitat. He should be intellectual, endowed with all the required merits and characteristics, possessing the moral and ethical values, hailing from a respectable family, qu[iet], subdued, generous, honored by the royal families, pious, smiling, devoted to his wife, averted from other’s wife, holy, speaking measured words, liberal, com-passionate, soft spoken, familiar with various metalic utensils, conversant with place and seasons and detector of age and phases of life and also wise. [1,8]

Image result for paka darpana nala

§

Sarveshaam praaninaam praanam-annam prathama-muchyathe |

Brahma-roopamidham samyak-trishashti-rasa-roopakam ||

Doshashtakena rahithamaahared-annam-uttamam || sl.37

Food is primarily said as sustainer of vital force (Praana) of all living beings. Food, containing the sixtythree types (on the basis of combinations and permutations) of rasa (tastes) is factually personi-fied as Brahma (creator of the universe). The best food is that which is devoid of eight types of impurities. [1, 10]

§

Soodha-vedamakhilam susooksmayaa savidaa samavalokya sarvathah|

paaka-roopam-abhidheya-maa-daraadhyo bibarthim hrdhayena soodhaaraat || sl.498

Attainment of the post of expert cook. The best cook is one, who, having gone through cookery very attentively and pre-cisely from all the aspects; possesses the knowledge of all sorts of cooking by heart. He is also known as the king of the cooks. [1,78]

§

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References:
  1. Madhulika, Dr. & Ed. Jayaram Yadav. Paka Darpana. Varanasi: Chaukhambha Orientalia. 2013

Classical Indic Cuisine: Soopa Sastra

Indian_Spices

Why Soopa Sastra? Elsewhere cooking is referred to specifically as Paaka, in Sanskrit. The rationale for this is manifold. The first Sanskrit text known to us on the culinary arts is in fact called Soopa Sastra, and is credited to Sage Sukesa. In addition, “The cook went by many names, such as alarika, soopakaara, odanika, bhojanadatr, and sudas”. [1, 108] Further, much like Dhanurveda refers to the Military Arts (despite Dhanur being ‘bow’), Soopa Sastra refers to the Culinary Arts despite soopa meaning only Soup (or broth). Finally, Paaka refers to cooking, but Soopa is a broader term encompassing Cuisine in general. Thus, Soopa Sastra is Culinary Science which encompasses not only Cooking, but Civilized Dining as well.

For all these reasons, Soopa Sastra is the more preferable phrase for the present time.

Introduction

What did our ancestors eat? Was it similar to what we eat now? Is it all a patchwork of regional cuisines or are there Pan-Indian commonalities?

More importantly, as one culinary author asks, “What do you mean by ‘good food’? Good to the taste? By ‘good’ do you mean food which has inherent values, i.e. values which are good for the well-being of the eater?”. [7, 16] Or does this merely mean food which satisfies? As in all things, the key to life is balance. It is only when there is imbalance that man either becomes deprived or depraved. Between being dull and being diseased is the middle path.

Food was also part of the ‘discipline’ in daily living of the Hindu way of life….The peak of ascetic glory was to be able to live on air and water and the perfect ‘yogi’ was revered because he had taught himself to subsist on a mi[n]imum of food. The bogi learnt the pleasures of eating, and descended to eating two meals a day, while the rogi was the gourmet given to self-indulgence and excess which resulted in ill-health. Hence the same word rogi is used for a man sick with disease (from roga=disease).” [7,17]

Thus, one need not be a yogi to live a healthy life. The wise man or wise woman finds balance and eats in moderation—knowing to generally eat healthy, while responsibly indulging on special occasions. Thus, between the yogi and the rogi is the bhogi. Herein lies the importance of the Rajbhog.

Whether it was the Rajabhoga (King’s meal) or the saamaanya bhojana, food was so important that cities themselves have been named after food items. One such prominent example is  Vidarbha‘s Amraoti (not to be confused with Andhra’s Amaravati). The original named of this Maharashtrian municipality was in fact Audambaravati, named after the Indian fig (udambara). [1. 35]

Vegetarianism is also a frequent flower in the garland of Dharma. Not only those following the Sattvic way of life, but also The Buddha favoured ahimsa to animals, though he permitted non-veg in cases of unintentional slaughter.  [1,55] Jainism of course stands as the most dedicated to the concept of non-injury to animals, and many Sikhs observe vegetarianism (except in times of war).

Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism crystallized out of a Hindu matrix. In terms of food practices they have naturally many features in common with the Hindu ethos. [1.70]

Despite the large contingents of vegetarians (sakaharis) and non-vegetarians (maamsahaaris), one dietary thread is common to them: the sanctity of the cow.

Contrary to murkhapanditas peddling ‘beef in vedas’ theories, the cow was—and is—aghnya, that which should not be killed.

the Rigveda has a whole hymn to nutrition (peelu) in which only vegetable foods are listed, and carries two verses in praise of ‘the cow, Aditi, the sinless’. The word gau is used for the cow, and the term aghnyaa (‘not to be eaten, inviolable’) is employed no less than sixteen times, in contrast to three references to the bull, using the masculine form aghnya [1, 55]

These go-bhakshaks advocating a go-mamsa theory of Dharma are high on Ego and low on Sattva guna. This age old food restriction characterises our Dharmic way of life, yet nevertheless leaves a wide variety of not only other meats, but also a myriad of fruits, vegetables, grains, beverages, divine dishes, and savoury sweets.  Whether veg or non-veg, let us all survey together what is common in their presentation and preparation.

History of Culinary Unity

“May for me prosper, through the sacrifice, milk, sap, ghee, honey, eating and drinking at the com-mon table, ploughing, rains, conquest, victory, wealth, riches. May for me prosper, through the sacrifice, low-grade food, freedom from hunger, rice, barley sesame, kidney beans, vetches, wheat, lentils, millets, panicum grains and wild rice. May for me prosper, through the sacrifice, trees, plants, that which grows in ploughed land, and that which grows in unploughed land.” —Yajurveda [1, 28]

The influence of the Vedas on disparate spheres of life is so widespread that even food and agriculture are not untouched by it. We see from this quote from the Yajur Veda that agriculture was very much a part of Vedic Society.  Rather than a Central Asian pastoral culture, we see the mark of an agricultural one. This centrality of settled life would be seen in later periods as well, and we see the sophistication of irrigation driven farming.

In the Ramayana, the land of Kosala is eulogized by Rama as adhsvamatrakah, that is, as relying on irrigation rather than rainfall for its fecundi-ty. The Arthashastra of Kautilya (c.300 BCE) has many references to an extensive system of irrigation. [1, 29]

What’s more, one notes the antiquity of rice consumption in Indic Society. Various texts attest not only to its import, but to the technical details of cultivation and crop protection as well.

“The Kashyapa Samhita (c.200BC) has detailed accounts of every aspect of rice cultivation: sowing, irrigation, seed transplanting, weeding, watering, protection from birds like parrots (us-ing buffalo skeletons as scarecrows), defence against vermin like rats, locusts and borer in-sects, reaping and finally threshing. Even the conditions needed to take a second crop are elaborated. The collection of cowdung (sarishaka or sakrit) is noted in the Rigveda…Fodder crops are silaged as early as the Rigveda, the process being called sujavas.” [1, 29]

As such, it is only natural that the predominant Pan-India aspects of Subcontinental cuisine be driven by the native approach to agriculture. Ironically, it is that honoured bovine whose meat is forbidden that provides us with the most Civilizational of ingredients. More than any other animal, it is the dhenuh, the Indian Cow, whose produce embodies the most central ingredients to Classical Indic Cuisine: milk (ksheera), curd (dadhi), butter-milk (thakram), butter (navaneetham), and ghee (ghrtam).

In addition to the lactic aspects of core Indic food, are the grain (dhaanya) aspects. Staple is very important to virtually any urban/semi-urban cuisine. Here are the traditional grains.

The Brihadaranyaka Samhita states that there are ten foodgrains. These were rice, barley, sesame, kidney beans, (masha), mil-let, panic seed (priyangu), wheat, lentils (khalva) and horsegram (khalakhula, later kulattha, now kulthi. The Arthashastra lists sugarcane and mustard (both known from much earlier, but not mentioned in ritual lists), linseed (atasi), safflower (kusumbha), and kodhrava.” [1, 31]

Chickpeas, aman rice, wild rice, and Bengal gram are also listed, as are Pumpkins, other gourds, grapes, and long peppers (pippali). Spices include turmeric (haridra), fenugreek (methi), ginger, and garlic. “Others like pepper and cardamom came from south India, and asa-foetida from Afghanistan.” [1,33]

Speaking of sugar, one notes the dietary superiority of traditional sweeteners such as cane sugar, honey, and jaggery, versus the current obsession with visham-variety refined sugar (and the diabetes/obesity epidemic sweeping India & the rest of the world). Incidentally, “Sushruta’s observations suggest that as sugar products became purer and whiter, they also became ‘cooler’ but more difficult to digest.” [1,85] Health must come before Taste, but as traditional Indic cuisine (real Indic cuisine) shows, the two need not be antipodes (especially with the guidance of Ayurveda).

While simple Sattvic fare is indeed “sresth“, it is also important that Dharmic society begin rolling out the Ancient Indian Red carpet, and its Royal Rajbhog of Rajadhirajas.

Kingly Texts on Culinary Arts

There were many other masters of food preparation, perhaps none more famous than that mighty Pandava Bheemasena. His appetite for feats of strength was matched only by his literal appetite for feasts of savories. Those familiar with the film Maya Bazaar might enjoy this song, which captures the spirit (though Ghatotkacha will stand in for his father here).

While Bheemasena is credited with a text called Bheema Paaka Sastra, it is the Paaka Darpana of King Nala (of Damayanti fame) that is the most ancient text we have recovered to date.

Nala wasn’t the only King with culinary sophistication. King Somesvara III of the Western Chalukya dynasty of Karnataka wrote the well-known work Abhilashitarthachinthaamani. Better known as Manasollasa, meaning ‘refresher of the mind’, it is a veritable tome on not only knowledge, but also the pleasures of Royalty—with food naturally included in it. At 100 chapters divided among 5 books, it is a topic for another article. Nevertheless, there is a chapter titled Annabhoga stipulating varieties of dishes and methods of preparation (still common today throughout the Dakshinapatha).[1,89] King Basavaraja of Keladi (also in Karnataka) was another such who wrote on a wide range of topics, including food, in his Shivatattvaratnaakara. There is also the Soopa Sastra of Mangarasa III, King of the Kannada state of Kallalli, who wrote in Old Kannada.[1,88] It appears the Kings of Karnata were exemplars at promoting the culinary arts. Nevertheless, Nala set the original standard.

Paaka Darpana of King Nala.

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Nala & Damayanti may be famous for their love story (poetically recounted by Sriharsa in his Naishadha Charita), but the Nishada King was legendary for more than being merely a love-lorn lover. Before the great Bheemasena himself, was Master Chef King Nala. His conversation with Maharaja Rtuparna of Ayodhya and subsequent employment in Kosala’s Royal Kitchen gives us insight into not only a mature and even Imperial Indic Cuisine, but also the continuity of tradition from that ancient time to present-day.

Paaka Darpanam means Mirror of Cooking, and it is an ancient book on culinary science. It has 761 sanskrit slokas contained in 11 chapters (paricchedas).

In this wo[]nderful book the author has described the recipes of vegetable & non-veg. preparations. Dishes preparated from Neem, Mandan, Guduchi, Jackfruit etc. become cures also besides being very tasty, the dishes are made fragrant before being served.[2,1]

The cook is referred to as sooda and the waiter as parivesaka. Both are required to have good qualities and practice the utmost cleanliness. [3, 8] Nala then outlines the work discussing various aspects of food taxonomy, dividing his work into 16 aspects: boiled rice (odana), pulses/broths ( soopa), clarified butter (sarpis), curries (vyanjana), meat (maamsa) and vegetables (shaaka), semi-hard food (bhaksya), sweet rice dish (kheer), elixir (rasaayana), syrup (paana), soup (yoosa), lickable foods (lehya), beverages (paaneeya) milk (ksheera), curd (dadhi) , and butter-milk preparations (thakra). [2,9]

He also states that “Food is primarily said as sustainer of vital force (Praana) of all living beings. Food, containing the sixtythree types (on the basis of combinations & permutations) of rasa (tastes) is factually personi-fied as Brahma (creator of the universe). the best food is that which is devoid of eight types of impurities.” [2,10]

Nevertheless, of all the notable aspects of Nala’s treatise on Paaka, none more is important than that most healthful of Sciences: Ayurveda.

“Bhujyathe yena yatnena tasyaarogyam bhedam bhravam |

vaatam pittajam rogam slesmajam hanthi sarvadaa ||

Sakrunnishevanenaiva tripuram tryambaka yathaa || P.1, sl.6

Person, who relishes the aforesaid dishes (citrapaaka) with care and prepared by me, gets positive sound health. If this preparation is taken even once, alleviates the diseases caused by Vaata, Pitta and Sleshman as Lord Siva (Tryambaka) had killed the demon Tripura.” [2,3]

Certain fundamentals are obvious from the outset. We see that even in this most ancient period, Ayurveda is a driving factor. The mention of Vaata, Pitta, and Kapha (Sleshman) are clear demonstrations of the theory motivating the Classical Indic philosophy of Cookery.

Ayurveda

The Classical Indic Approach to food not only managed to balance the needs of the ascetic yogi with the royal bhogi, but also balanced health with taste. Nutrition and satisfaction need not be diametrically opposed. What matters is what you have, how you have it, and how it balances with not only the rest of your diet, but also with the rest of your lifestyle.

“‘There is no disaster in life’ the adult is admonished, ‘if one eats in mod-eration food that is not disagreeable. As pleasure dwells with him who eats mod-erately, so disease is the lot of the glutton who eats voraciously.’ Moderation in Ayurvedic terms is designated tripti, liter-ally satisfaction, but here connoting the appeasement of hunger and thirst. In contrast is atisauhitya meaning overeating to satiety.” [1, 79]

Texts such as Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita are classic works on Ayurveda (the science itself said to originate from Brahma, via Dhanvantari). Does this in fact work? Well, as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Shadruchi: The six tastes are sweet (madhuram), sour (aamla), salty (lavanam), bitter (tikta), pungent (kaatu) and astringent (kashaaya). Incidentally, among Telugu families during New Year (Ugadi), it is common to have Ugadi Pacchadi (New Year Chutney) featuring the six tastes to symbolise all the aspects of life to be experienced in the coming year. Some families are known to rig the system by adding more sweet!

While there are 6 pure tastes (shadruchi), there are as many as 63 mixed tastes according to Charaka. [1,79]

Regarding alcohol, Charaka counselled moderation, since alcohol increases pittha (the mental principle) while lessening both kapha (the physical principle) and vaatha (the vitality principle). [1]

Cooking Methods

Due to the importance of Pavitrata (purity) and suchi and muchi, the kitchen is considered a near consecrated portion of the orthodox Hindu household. Various rules are stipulated in the grhyasutras. Nevertheless, long story short, cleanliness is next to godliness. Many examples of traditional and modern wisdom have been passed on today.

Food taxonomy is typically divided into foods not requiring fire and those that require fire. Various other aspects are also mentioned, but these are the key ones.  As seen above, King Nala gave us a more detailed division of foods as well.

Several cooking operations were in use since very early times. These were thaalanam (drying), kvaathanam (parboiling), pachanam (cooking in water), svedanam (steaming), bhavita (seasoning), apakva (frying), bharjanam (dry roasting), thandooram (grilling) and putapaaka (baking). Devices for these operations developed in parallel. [1, 101]

Various methods of meat preparation also existed. Sour meats were marinated with ghee, curd and fermented rice gruel, along with acidic fruits and various aromatic spices. Meat when dried and roasted was called parisukamaamsam, while minced meat was called ulluplamaamsam.  [1,54]

Beverages

Beverages (alcoholic and otherwise) could also be a Blog Post in and of themselves. But for our “Madyam, apeyam, adeyam, agrahyam!” types…fear not! —I will commence with the non-alcoholic first.

Buddhist texts enjoin the use of pure rain water for consumption. Water meant for drinking had to be ‘clear, cool, shining like silver, health-giving and with the fragrance of the lotus’. In fact, the lotus was frequently grown in tanks to purify the surrounding water.” [1, 39]

Beyond water there were a variety of juices. These refreshing drinks include mango, jamoon, banana, grapes, phaalsa, coconut, edible waterlily roots, and diluted honey. There was also sugarcane juice and licorice leaf along with a host of others.

Although the brits (and their Indian leftovers (pun-intended)) would have us believe they brought Indians tea, present research appears to indicate otherwise. The specific varieties may have varied, but tea in some form did exist (with the word chai itself having a sanskrit equivalent via chaayam). Kashmir has its own distinct aromatic kaahwaah tea brewed in a khandakari (samovar). [1,107] Coffee is, of course, an Ethiopian import, via middle easterners. Nevertheless, it has taken a special flavour in South India “filter kaaphi” (As Nilambari would attest).

Nilambari

Different types of alcoholic beverages are also listed. The famous Soma is one such intoxicant, reputedly brewed from the ephedra plant for yagnas, particularly for those whom intoxicants are otherwise prohibited. Suraa is the most common name for alcoholic beverage. The word for wine usually from grapes is madhya. Wines from honey, rice, palm, flowers, and jaggery were also known. The spiced wine maireya is also mentioned in the Ramayana. While abstention from alcohol was and is considered a virtue, its restrained consumption was nevertheless permissible to most classes of society. Some examples of ancient liquors:

  • Madhira—Wine of high quality
  • Kaadambaree—Distilled liquor made from kadamba flowers
  • Thaallaka—Wine made from palm fruit juice
  • Haarahooraka—”Wine made from white grapes, imported from Haarahur, Afghanistan“[1,59]
  • Khajooraasava—Wine from dates
  • Shahakaarasuraa—Wine brewed from the juice of Mango
  • Mahaasuraa—”Mango juice win with a high proportion of fruit extract, perhaps modified with spices” [1, 59]

While reading all this one must remember what a middle eastern traveler wrote on the Indic view of Alcohol:

“The Indi-ans abstain from drinking wine, and censure those who consume it; not because their religion forbids it, but in the dread of its clouding their reason and depriving them of its powers.” [1, 60]

So if you do drink, drink responsibly.

With apologies to oenophiles, as there are many more aspects that can be discussed at another time, we must move on to that other guilty pleasure…open to all classes!

Sweets

Honey is considered the earliest sweetener. “Guests were welcomed to a household with madhuparka, a honey-sweetened concoction of curd and ghee.” [1, 37] Rock sugar (kand) is thought to have been known at least by 800 BCE, with modern exemplars such as Gulkand (Rose-jam) being used to this day. Confectionary may date back to the Vedic period with different combinations including cardamom, ginger, and ground barley/wheat with jaggery to make abhyusa.

Some of these confections were artisti-cally shaped. The rice-flour sweet preparation, modaka or madhugolaka, looked like a fig, and the barley flour confection, shastika, was cone-shaped and had delicate surface markings. By late Buddhist times, some sophisticated sweets are mentioned. The mandaka, now called mande, was a large parata suffed with a sweetened pulse paste, which was then (as now) baked on an inverted pot: madhusarika was a sweet cake; morendaka, made from khoa, was shaped like the eggs of a mora (peacock); gulala-laavaniya was perhaps the modern gole-papadi, a tiny fully-expanded puri…Rice cooked in milk and sugar was payasa, a popular sweet even now“. [1, 39]

Rice, of course, is so central to Indic cuisine that it was cooked in a variety of ways and forms. Rice cultivation has been radio-carbon-dated at Prayag going back to at least 5000 BCE, though terraced fields for rice cultivation have been dated to 10,000 BCE in Kashmir. As for types of rice, the most common is Oddana (boiled rice). Pruthukam is beaten rice (poha) and neevaraa is wild rice [1,184]. Then there is laajaah, the ritually pure form of parched rice, mentioned in the Ramayana as well.

The early canonical literature of the Buddhists and Jains (c.400 BC) again reveals extensive use of fine rice (shaali) or ordinary rice (vreehi), either boiled, or cooked with til seeds, or made into gruel (yaagu).” [1, 34]

Key Terms

  • Rice—Tandhoola/Annam/Bhatka
  • Barley—Yava
  • Roti/Chapaathi—Rotikaam
  • Pulse/Dhaal—Yoosa
  • Soup—Saara
  • Juice—Rasa
  • Tea—Chaayam (now Chai)
  • Peas —Kalaaya
  •  Vada—Vataka  (these are mentioned in the Dharmasutras as being fried in ghee)
  • Paapad—Parpatam
  • Sugar—Sharkaraam (“aapke muh mein ghee shakkar!“)
  • Salt—Lavanam
  • Pepper/Spice—Kaaram
  • Sambar—Kvathitham
  • Curry—Vyanjanam
  • Pickle—Upadamsam
  • Oil—Thailam
  • Chutney—Upasechanam
  • Vegetables—Shaaka
  • Vrntaaka—Brinjal
  • Sev—Sevika
  • Paaka—Cooking
  • Taste/Flavor—Ruchi
  • Plate—Sthaalikaa

This article will naturally focus more on the traditional native fare of Bharatavarsha. While it is true that food, like most aspects of culture, is not static, it is also important for native identity to not be lost to syncretism. It is possible to admire what is good about others while appreciating your own uniqueness.

Therefore, rather than hewing to the hyperactive hungama of invented “Ganga-Jamuni Nautanki“, this Post will focus on the core Indic aspects that can be traced back with continuity to Ancient India. These elements are very much alive today, and in regions such as Andhra and Odisha, predominant.

Contributions

§ Focus on Food as part of an holistic System of health. Application of Ayurveda pervades Paaka Darpana of King Nala.

§ Use of Mustard seeds, Turmeric, Cumin. These essential ingredients to “Curries” are as ubiquitous in ancient Harappa as they are in modern Himayatnagar.

§ Tandoor (originated in either Rajasthan or Punjab ). [1,107] The word comes from the Sanskrit “Kandu”. Thandoora is the word for grilling.

§ Khichadi/Khichdi/Khichri.  In the Vedic period, rice cooked with milk and sesame seed was called krsaara, and is considered to be a forefrunner to khichdi, which is made from rice and dhaal. [1,33]

§ Thali is the common word for the round plate of plenty throughout India. The word comes from the Sanskrit Sthaalikaa.

There, of course, countless other culinary aspects to discuss. But food history (as with history in general) is subject to great controversy. In order to separate the genuinely Indic from the colonially syncretic, we will discuss some of the issues here:

Biryani is foreign origin (coming from the Persian Beryan), but…

Pulao is definitely native to India and comes from the Sanskrit word Pulaka.

…meat cooked with rice is referred to in the Yagnavalkya Smriti as pallao-mevach, and the word palao also occurs in early Tamil literature [1, 54]

Other varieties of savoury meat & rice dishes are mentioned in the Ramayana. On such dish was called maamsabhutadana: rice cooked with deer meat, vegetables, and spices. The Mahabharata mentions pishthauddana, another rice dish, this time cooked with minced meat (other kinds include, sour meat, fried meat, ground meat, grilled meat, and meat for stuffing). [1, 54] In fact, rice being the major staple, it is only natural it was cooked in many forms. Odana is rice boiled in water or milk, often along with curds and honey. When this combination is cooked with meat it was called mamsaudana. Khichadi is another common denominator throughout most of India. So much so is this the case that the term “Khichadi couple” has been invented by NRI/PIO desis to refer to couples coming from “2 States” or more, but being 100% Bharatiya.

Traditional Indic sweets are called madhuraani in Sanskrit (or mithai in Hindi). Some sweet items such as Rooh Afza and Jalebi (zlabia) are obviously foreign origin. But many, many more are local (and given foreign origin by sepoys). In fact, the whole assortment of traditional Bengali sweets are said to be “phoreign” because apparently “yeverything kayme from  mughal”.  This is of course ridiculous. Many have argued that Kulfi is a recent addition, and that is probably a fair assessment, though iced dishes were certainly well-known in snowy Kashmir. It is, therefore, here that we shall begin:

Regional

Each region (indeed, state) of historic Bharatavarsha has evolved unique aspects of aahaaram while hewing to integral aspects of Saastric gastronomy that unify the Subcontinent. While all can’t be covered in a single (digestible!) article, here are some highlights to give a  Gastronomical Survey of India (GSI).

Kashmir

From Rogan Josh to its eponymous Pulao, Kashmiri Cuisine is rightly appreciated by sophisticates of all sorts. Although the ancient nobility of this famous region is now diminished, Kashmiri Pandits have maintained most of the traditional fare, with rare dilution. Known for its Wazwan (multi-course) meals, the Crown of India’s cuisine features  such spices as  asafoetida, methi, and ginger. Nevertheless, as evidenced by Kashmiri Pulao, saffron (kesara) is the signature spice, and has been cultivated here since ancient times. Though arguments are often made supporting foreign introduction, it’s fairly clear the use of saffron is indigenous.  Here are some of the finer points of this cuisine:

The Kashmeerees have been bons viveurs and are proud of their cuisine which is justly famous. ‘Snigdha’ sug-gests the use of oil to which the Kash-meeree chef de cuisine still adheres in preference to the melted butter (ghee) used in the Panjaab. The Kashmeeree Brahman is a lover of meat and fish and in ancient times grape wine was in common use. The Nilamata Puraana mentions the use of wine for ceremonial purposes.” [5, 555]

The nobility and courtiers in the typical bon viveur style enjoyed the Kashmiri cuisines which is justly famous; they had ‘fried meat’ and ‘delightful light wine cooled with ice and per-fumed with flowers.’…As for the common people, they subsisted on rice and hakh (Kashmiri greens)” [5, 23]

 One “could not do without the soft and unctuous fare of Kashmeer, which is easy to digest when washed down with sugared water whit-ened with chunks of ice.” [5,555]

Interestingly, the lotus is not just a symbol of prosperity, but also a focus of the dietary. Vegetables start in the Rigveda with the lotus stem (visa) and cucumber (urvaaruka), fol-lowed in the later Vedas by lotus roots (shaaluka)“. [1, 35]

Jokes are often cracked, usually by natives themselves, about how Kashmir is a land of literal and figurative lotus eaters. It is not without cause.

Lotus roots is a favourite dish of the Kashmeeree Brahmans. In the plains of India the dried roots from the homeland are imported as a delicacy. Seeds of the lotus…are also eaten.” [5,459]

Regardless, conventional staples are also popular in Svarga’s own Aahaara. Plain rice and assorted sweet pulaos (featuring fruits and nuts) are popular, as are breads such as kulcha, tsachvaru, and girda.[1]

Jammu and Ladakh, naturally have their own notable contributions. Dogras typically eat wheat, bajra, and maize along with rice as staple.

Andhra

Much of the Cuisine of the South shares certain well-known dishes, which are fought over with a ferocity that makes the great Rasagolla Wars of Eastern India pale in comparison. Nevertheless, there are certain distinctive state characteristics. Since a perennial question for most non-Southies has been “What is the difference between Telugu and Tamil”, allow this Andhraite to elaborate.

Andhra Cuisine stands out for a number of specialities, first and foremost is the use of spice. While mirchi is a near-Pan India practice, it reaches its fever pitch in Bahubali’s own Country, hence the justifiable reputation of having the spiciest food.

In fact, it packs such gharam dharam that the following saying has become a saametha of sorts about Andhra men.

Andhra men like their food as they like their women: Presentation is very important…and they prefer a little Spice.

Roselle leaf (gongura) is another key ingredient. While use of the green gram (mudga) dates back to King Nala’s time, it has taken a unique incarnation in that Andhra specialty known as Pesarattu:

Though tamarind is used widely in the rest of the South as well, it is a critical part of the Telugu dish known as the pulusu ( a tamarind sauce/stew).

http://anushabarrela.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/nell_fp-e1335090274156.jpg

The new state of Telangana also has some regional, yet truly native, specialities, such as sarvapindi and sakinalu. But these snacks, and more robust entree-fare, can be covered separately. The notable aspect is what unifies undivided Andhra in the food department.

The South (in General)

[3]
Beyond Andhra, the regions of Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu all have that have their own local specialities. Whether it is the Bisi-bela-baath of KT, the Coconut Aviyal of KE, or the Chettinad Chicken of TN, special dishes for each state can be found. Nevertheless, for the sake of brevity, this article will provide a general discussion instead (though native Kannadigas, Keralites, & Tamilians are welcome to comment on their states below).

The use of pickles (uragaaya/urakai) is quite common throughout the south, and are the ideal complement for daddojanam (curd rice), preferably with a little mustard seed.

The all-India favourite, Dosa, is seen as Udipi-derived (so there’s a win for Karnataka), but if that’s the case, you Kannadigas will have to take the blame for Bisi-bela-baath (sorry guys). Before the other side of that great Kaveri war gets upset, yes Idli is very likely a Tamizh contribution (though our sepoys are doing their utmost to invent an Arab origin…probably while smoking some pretty powerful hookah). Though it should be noted that the Manasollasa mentions both the dhosaka (dosa) and idarikaa (idli).

Idli_Sambar

And before our Mallu friends think I’ve forgotten them,  there is much that Kerala has to offer—especially when it comes to all things coconut. Unni-aapam (jackfruit-rice pancake) and coconut aviyal are two must haves from the land of Kalaripayattu. The ancient Chera country was also famous for its pepper.

The Kodavas of Coorg also have a distinctive cuisine, and are known for their preparation of pork-based dishes. Tulu cuisine is embodied by various Mangalorean fish curries.

South Indian fare is not all vegetarian as has popularly come to be believed. In fact, the most carnivorous (or more correctly omnivorous) states are found south of the Vindhyas, with Kerala leading the pack.  Rasam is of course common to pretty much all the Southern states, but I would argue that Andhra’s Tomato Chaaru is the most sophisticated form of this savoury soup of Soopa Sastra.

tamarind-rasam-recipe

Maharashtra

Core components of Maharashtrian cuisine are discussed below; nevertheless, Amba Kesari Bhaat is one signature dish.  Maharashtra is likely the place of origin for Shrikand (in its present form). The etymology of the word comes from, yes, Sanskrit. “Shikar-ini, the modern shrikhand, also employed strained curds, curstal sugar and spices.” [1, 35]

[3]
Konkani khaana is close related to Maharashtra’s, though distinctive in its own way. Tambli (bondi chutney) and Banana flower chutney are  standouts. There is also Amlechi Uddamethi, which is a raw mango curry. Fish is an important component as well.

Gujarat

Though Madhur Jaffrey has posited it as “Haute Vegetarian Cuisine”, something that Rajasthanis and Vegetarian Punjabis will contest ipso facto, there is a distinct variety of dishes that come from this ancient commercial entrepot.

Arguably the most entrepreneurial region in India, this partially dry but mostly coastal state in India has given and taken influences throughout the millennia and developed its own style of foods too. Dhokla and Rotli are common markers of the Gujju menu (as is sweetness even in staples), and Daakor na ghota (spicy fried dumpling) is another gujarati item. Saboodana shakes are recent addition too. Namkeen is the notable western Indian snack specialty, one which Gujaratis raise to a high artform with various kinds of Chaat that reach their peak in heavily Gujarati Mumbai (sorry Thackerays, its true).

[3]
Rajasthan 

Rajasthan features many different varieties of food. Its vegetarianism is predominant, though not universal. It has produced many popular traditional items such as Baati (Rajasthani bread) and Bikaneri Pulao and Bhindi Jaipuri. Kalakand is considered a native Rajasthani mithai. Undhiu is undoubtedly a western Indian dish, but Rajasthan and Gujarat can fight over it.

[3]
And because regional jokes (when tasteful & clever) are the flavour of the month, here is one proffered by Marwaris themselves:

Central India

Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, and Jharkhand all have their own flavours and cultures. MP itself prominently features two key regions: Malwa (ancient Avanti) and Bundelkhand (ancient Chedi). Jowar has traditionally been common in this part of the country. For the sake of article limitations, a few quick mentions will be made here, to be expanded upon at a later date:

Uttar Pradesh/Bihar/Nepal

Admittedly this is a very large region to cover, particularly if one includes now separate state Uttarakhand in the mix. Nevertheless, distinctions can be discussed in a different Post as there are some broad similarities in this core Gangetic region that has traditionally grouped them together (those hailing from this parts are welcome to give their thoughts via comments).  Roti, barley, and even raagi are all in use. Baath (boiled rice), however, seems to be the core staple. “Boiled rice flour cakes were termed khir-aura, phara meant steamed rice balls, and phu-lauri was a steam-cooked roll of coarse flour.” [1,140]

As for Bihar in particular, a plump rice known as shaali was grown in ancient Magadha and was served to honoured guests. Sattu (flour of roasted pulses) is commonly used as are barley grits, combined with salt or sugar. Sattu as drink is considered the marquee beverage for biharis.

Other dishes include laai (parched rice), chiuri (parched barley), lawaa (parched maize), and lapsi (flour of any grain boiled in milk and sugar).  As for desserts, various laddoos are favoured, such as fine-grained motichoor and sesame-seed tilkut.

Nepali cuisine shares much in common with Pahari food.  The standard Nepali Thali is Dal-Bhaat (rice and dhaal). Dhido is a traditional wheat staple from Nepal made from water and grains like buckwheat.

Odisha

Due to the long-running (and justifiable!) Odisha irritation with Bengal claiming Rasagolla (and Jayadeva!), we shall begin with the Land of the Lingaraja Temple and their unique cuisine. The Kalingas may have Konark and Kharavela, but the state famous for Swami Jagannath of Puri also packs a punch in the food department. Indeed, the origin of the Rasagolla is said to be Lord Vishnu’s way of saying sorry to Lakshmi Devi for his going on yatra without her granting leave (an abject lesson to all the non-divine husbands out there!).

Nevertheless, as in most other states, rice, wheat, and barley are all state staples. Pakhala (boiled rice covered with water and kept over night) is one item unique to Utkala.

And if you’re in the mood for something more casual, the state has plenty of snack foods to offer as well

Bengal

The very mention of Bengal and Food may bring to mind not only “jal pushp”—better known to the rest of us as fish—but one of the most celebrated varieties of sweets on the subcontinent: Mishti-doi (sweet curds for dessert), malpua, khoa, Sitabhog, nadu,  and of course, the state sweet, Sandesh. Another notable confectionary factoid: “Krishna Chandra Das invented the rasamalai, flattened chhaana patties floating in thickened milk”.[1,132]

These are just some of the scintillating sweetmeats and salivational (portmanteau) savouries south of the Siliguri. These confections are well-known to most Indians, though some are the subject to squabbles (such as the now confirmed Odia claim to Rasagolla already mentioned). In any event, there are other aspects that merit mention as well.

There are two distinct styles: East and West Bengali. East Bengali is low on dhaal and high on fish, while the West is known for use of poppy seeds (posto). [1,129]

Barley’s importance in the Vedic period is preserved in modern Bengali cuisine.

It was fried and consumed in the form of cakes dipped in ghee, or as sweet cakes called apupa fashioned out of the flour, boiled in water or fried in ghee, and then dipped in honey. The modern Bengali sweets pua and malpua preserve both the name and the essen-tials of this prepartion. [1, 33]

Rice is a big part of the Bengali diet, with a medieval text (Shunya Purana) stating there were 50 varieties grown in Bengal. [1,128]

Northeast

The Seven Sisters of the Northeast have their own offerings of civilizational savouries to offer, starting with Assam (The other sisters being Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Meghalaya & Arunachal Pradesh—though we can include Sikkim so no one is left out).

While distinct dishes exist in the various cuisines here, pork is common throughout. Rice is the staple for the most part and fish very popular. Given the diversity of offerings, they are best treated in a separate piece.

Sinhala

The good people of Sinhala are very much Indic in blood and culture, and so, their food also deserves a mention here.

While rice is also a staple, the island of Ceylon features many heavy influences, notably South Indian, Indonesian, and European. Seafood is obviously a key component. Some unique dishes include Pittu (cylinders of steamed rice mixed with coconut) and kokis (coconut biscuits).

Sindhi

With a taste that will make you say “Jai Jhulelal!” even when it’s not Chetichand, Dal Pakhwan is one of the most beloved breakfasts in India. Rice is obviously a staple of Sindhi food, but flat-breads such as roti and koki are also common.

Hilsa fish curry is a signature dish and Thadal is a signature beverage. Sanha pakoras and chola dhabal are other notable food items. There is also a special Sindhi Papad that is well-known among most Indic gourmets.

Punjabi

Last but certainly not least is the Land of the Five Rivers (surely, Punjabi mundian aur kudian, you didn’t think we’d forget you?!)

Punjabi khaana deserves a separate article (or series!) of its own. Along with the putative trend of Punjabification throughout India since the 90s (some would say for better or for worse), Apna Punjab has been at the forefront of marketing Indian Culture. But while Bollywood, Bhangra dance, and Punjabi Pop music can be discussed at another time, Punjabi food is very much a topic for the present. In fact, as recent research has determined (and as many Indians have long suspected), much of much-vaunted “Mughlai cuisine” is in fact from Apna Punjab originally. One Professor from the University of California Los Angeles wrote that:

There are a hundred different cuisines all over the country, each claiming to be the best in the country, if not the world, yet two styles have become popular among visitors to most major cities and towns countrywide: Mughlai, which is vegetar-ian and nonvegetarian, largely Punjabi, with a somewhat liberal use of ghee (clarified butter) and the use of a tandoor (an oven usually implanted in the ground), and South Indian vegetarian cuisine, which is somewhat less oily but spicier.” [8, 6-7]

Rich in butter, such favourites as mattar paneer, murgh makhani, and makkhi roti all hail from the Pancha-naada. As such, perhaps the time has come to give credit where credit is due. Surely kheema and and haleem are not native, but paneer, paratha, bhatoora, tandoori, along with that Punjabi favourite, Lassi, definitely are. In fact, the most ancient tandoor to date dates back to it.

The word Paneer (like the word Kalamkari) may have foreign word origins, but both are very much native Indic and very ancient. Whether it was common throughout ancient India or not, it has certainly come to refer to the Punjabi farmer’s cheese that is beloved by vegetarians the world over, and certainly within Bharat.

Conclusion

Perhaps most interesting is the question of whether the conventional wisdom itself has things correct. Is a paradigm shift required on recently ascribed beliefs regarding the origins of many Indianised foods? One example is the kebab. Noted Indian food authority K.T. Achaya writes:

Meat roasted on a spit (shula) is graphically described in the Mahabharata…and in south Indian literature…The modern kabab has therefore a long history in India  [1,101-102]

As seen above, whether it is crediting for biryani or for falooda, the truth matters more to us than any nationalistic claim. And yet, as we have seen with the idli, appropriation has been the frequent aim of Non-Indian Residents (NIRs). Is the kebab actually bhaditraka as one Oxford press pustakam prescribes?—or is it qualitatively something else? The time has come for Food Historians (and Tandoori Nationalists) to do serious research into these issues. Contrary to “yeverything kayme from mughals” types, Ancient Indian Culinary texts do exist (much to their dismay, no doubt). But it is equally important to carefully study claims (whether pro or anti) so that the authentic is revived from the quagmire of the syncretic. The best way to appreciate other cultures is to first appreciate your own—that is true cosmopolitanism.

Are chillies and tomatoes and potatoes all foreign origin? Evidence would suggest that chillies may not be (it was known to Purandara Dasa [1,227]), tomatoes likely are, and potatoes almost definitely so. In fact, in the Andhra-bhasha, potatoes are referred to as bangal-dhumpa (or Bengali rhizome) indicating their arrival via British-ruled Bengal. Nevertheless, the very likely foreign origin Aloo has certainly been indianised over the years. Yams were likely the native precursors to it. And what about that modern favourite, Samosa? Sorry folks, evidence points to the mid-east. But that being said, Pakoda, Bhajji, and Bhelpuri are all Bharatiya…pakka.

Nevertheless, appropriation of all things Indian under the neo-construct of “Mughlai” is well known. One can see here that malpua, phirni, and pulao (all Classical Indic classics) are being appropriated under the “mughlai” label. This doesn’t mean going the other way and not acknowledging obvious imports (falooda, jalebi/zlabia, biryani), but it does mean intelligent and discrete people must start asserting rightful claims over their state’s cuisine culture. Odias have shown the way with rasagolla.

All Indians, vegetarian and non-vegetarian, should come together to preserve their ancient claims to pulao, tandoori, and a litany of other culinary contributions to world cuisine. Just because some foreign or foreign-sponsored professor wrote a food book, doesn’t mean everything in it is true. Appreciate what is native, acknowledge what is foreign, and reserve judgment on what we genuinely don’t know. That is the proper path not only for wise people, but connoisseurs of all kinds—culinary or otherwise.

Since others are trying to serve us humble pie on a platter, let us show them our capacity for good digestion. So rather than say bon appetit, we sign off with that signature line from that sacred Saptarishi Agasthya Mahamuni: Jeernam vaatapi, vaataapi jeernam.

 


References:
  1. Achaya, K.T. Indian Food: A Historical Companion. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. 1994
  2. Madhulika, Dr & Ed. Jayaram Yadav. Paka Darpana. Varanasi: Chaukhambha Orientalia. 2013
  3. Tripathi, Vaishali. Traditional Indian Thali. Chennai: Notion Press.2015
  4. Ramayana. http://www.valmikiramayan.net
  5. Pandit, R.S. Kalhana’s Rajatarangini.Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. 2015.
  6. Basham, A.L. The Wonder that was India. New Delhi: Rupa. 1999. p. 190
  7. Rangarao, Shanti. Good Food from India. Bombay:Jaico.1977
  8. SarDesai, D.R. India: The Definitive History. Westview: Boulder, Colorado. 2008

Vedanga Jyotisha

The Great King Suchi of Magadha
His calendar was a royal mess
because the equinoxes precess
until he learned 'the lore of time' from Sage Lagadha.

Jyotihsastra

Jyotihsastra is the ancient Indian ‘science of light’ [2]. It includes within it the field of astronomy, which was known as Nakshatra Vidya (the science of the stars). Jyotihsastra is used for dik-desa-kala nirnaya (triprasna), i.e. to determine (direction, location, time) [4]. The Vedanga Jyotisha is an ancient text focused on Jyotisha, one of the six Vedangas. The Vedic texts, including the Upavedas and Vedangas, are harmoniously interlinked into an integrally united knowledge system. No one part of this system can be properly understood through an isolated study [1]. A key purpose of the Vedas is the performance of Yagnas correctly and on time. Time-keeping is the goal of Vedanga Jyotisha.

We resume our study of Ganitasastra at ICP through an inquiry into Jyotihsastra. This post is not an exhaustive restatement of facts. Instead, we try to understand the motivation and intuition behind the Ganita features of Vedanga Jyotisha (VJ). The Shulbasutras, which are part of the Kalpa Vedanga are also rich in Ganita, and will be discussed separately.

College students asked a professor 'Sir, what is time?' who replied "I can tell you what is the time, but I cannot tell you what is time"[4].

Vedanga Jyotisha

VJ is the earliest extant Indic work on time-keeping in the form of a handbook that is devoted to Kalavidhanasastra, the science of time-keeping. It provides the calculations associated with a lunisolar calendar derived from the Brahmanas and the Vedic Samhitas. VJ is not a self-contained treatise and any missing definitions, unstated assumptions, etc., are to be inferred from prior Indic sources and commentaries [1].

Vedanga Jyotisha has absolutely nothing to do with Phalita Jyotisha or Astrology [11]. 

The VJ was compiled around 1350 BCE (between 1150-1550 BCE) and is attributed in its verse to Lagadha, and key ideas in the VJ have been shown to belong to the Vedic texts and derived from earlier periods. VJ is in verse form while the other 5 Vedangas (Nirukta, Chandas, Kalpa, Vyakarana, & Siksha) are in Sutras indicating that it is the earliest of the six [1]. VJ was neither the first nor the last word in Indic time-keeping and astronomy as the Indians continued to make pioneering contributions to Ganita and Jyotihsastra over three millennia. These techniques enabled the Indics to produce a stable working calendar that could be employed for diverse purposes, and was sought after by the rest the world. The ancient Indic calendar traveled to China, and many other places [11].

VJ is available in the form of two ‘rescensions’ denoted as Rigveda Jyotisha (Arca Jyotisha, RVJ, 36 verses, earlier version) and Yajurveda Jyotisha (Yajusa Jyotisha, YVJ, 43 verses), which significantly overlap. Deciphering these rescensions turned out to be a challenging task. This effort started in the 1830s, culminating in the authoritative work of Prof. Kuppanna Sastry [1] in the 1980s who succeeded in meaningfully explaining all verses. Virtually every contemporary study of VJ cites his scholarship.

Time-keeping traditions of India

Vedic Cosmology — The Dharmic View of Time

We will devote considerable space discussing the unbroken traditions of astronomy and time-keeping that preceded Vedanga Jyotisha.

The Indic approach to discovery quite naturally arises from Rta, the cosmic order that is an expression of Satya, the ultimate reality. This cosmic order is experienced at every level from the microcosm to macrocosm. Time is sacred in this cosmology, and we have the kalachakra representing cyclic time, and it is intuitive that elapsed time can be tracked using precisely recurring rhythms of different durations that abound in nature. 18th century British scientist John Playfair who studied Hindu time-keeping in a manuscript obtained from Thailand, wrote an extensive treatise and was amazed by the Indic conception of cyclical nature [8]. He made several other important observations, which can be found within the cited references.

The second is the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom. 
- Physical Measurement Lab at NIST

Our solar system is quite flat, and hence the moon and most of the planets are located in a narrow region around the ecliptic, the apparent path of the sun in the sky during the day. This is really convenient for observation since it eliminates the need to focus on the innumerable luminaries that are away from the ecliptic. The moon’s path is within 5% of the ecliptic. The Ancient Indics kept time based on the periodicity of the (apparent) motion of the sun and the real motion of the moon. The study of planetary movements was not necessary to achieve this goal and does not concern VJ.

why isn't there a solar eclipse every New Moon night?

Careful observation was a critical component of Vedic astronomy and this became the hallmark of the Indic approach to discovery and obtaining valid knowledge in general, where all schools of dharma unanimously accept Pratyaksha Pramana [11]. From the perspective of accurate time-keeping required for Yagnas, kalavidhanasastra is a pratyaksha sastra [4], and is not deduced from a ‘black box’ math model.

By the early Rig Vedic period, one or more calendars were already in use for managing day to day activities. Time-keeping is critical for agricultural planning, e.g. to coordinate activities associated with the beginning and end of seasons, and continues to be important to the Indian economy [11].

The earth's equatorial plane is tilted at an angle of 23.5° with respect to the ecliptic plane. This results in varying seasons and daylight hours.

The Vedic people knew about the solstices and employed a six-season calendar which is special to India (it included a rainy seasonVarsha Rtu with months Nabha and Nabhasya). Obviously, the ability to accurately predict the arrival date of monsoons has always had significant economic value in India. The twelve tropical months along with their seasons in the Yajurveda are [2]:

Madhu, Maadhava in vasanta (spring),
Sukra, Suci in greeshma (summer),
Nabha, Nabhasya in varshaa (rainy),
Isa, Urja in sarada (autumn),
Saha, Sahasya in hemanta (winter), and
Tapa, Tapasya in sishira (freezing).

In 2004, agricultural operations were mistimed in India. Why? The monsoon was officially considered 'delayed' in the government calendar. In reality, it arrived on time per the traditional Indic calendar [11].

The trinity of adhidaiva, adhibhuta, and adhyatma are integrally united via Bandhus in the Vedic knowledge system [2, 9].  There exists a deep and ancient connection between Yagna (‘ the workshop where Bandhus are forged between the microcosm and macrocosm’ [9]) and time-keeping. Knowledge of the luminary phases was used to ensure that the monthly (Darshapuranamaasa) and seasonal (Chaturmasya) Yagnas were performed at the correct times [3]. The Atri family priests had the knowledge required to predict solar eclipses. By the time of the Yajurveda, the Hindus knew that a solar year was slightly more than 365 days. And importantly from a VJ perspective, a five year Yuga was already known, along with the need for two intercalary months to complete a Yuga [1].

pic source. By careful and patient daily observation of the sun at the same time in the sky, one can find out when the solstices occur (‘when the sun stands still’).

Prajapati as Time

Prajapati the creator is central to Vedic tradition. In his book ‘Being Different’, Rajiv Malhotra quotes the Rig Veda: “yajna is the very navel of the universe. It was Lord Prajapati who first fashioned yajna, and through it he wove into one fabric the warp and weft of the three worlds (Rig Veda I,164,33-35).” [9]. Prajapati creates and embodies a self-sustainable, self-correcting universe using the correspondence principle of bandhuta to achieve a balance between homogeneity and heterogeneity [9]. Prajapati is time, the very creator of the Vedas, signifying that the knowledge within the Vedas has no beginning or end [2]. He is Rta, the cosmic rhythm moving in a spiral, which indicates the Kalachakra, cyclical time [14].

Prajapati and Yagna are central to Vedanga Jyotisha, and receive the first respects in the starting verses of the VJ. The natural periodic events such as seasons, days, etc. are the five limbs of Prajapati, who personifies and presides over the five-year Yuga [1]. The separated faculties and limbs of Prajapati unite to form the infinite diversity of the universe, and the Yagna becomes a time-design to unite this multiplicity and continue the cosmic rhythm [14]. This five year Yuga is mirrored in Yagna through the constructed five-layered Agnicayana altar [6]. The Aahavaniya altar is built using 396 bricks that represent the days of the year: 360 to represent the Vedic ritual year and an additional 36 to represent the thirteenth (intercalary) month [3]. Many such bandhus arise through Yagnas [2]. The five-year Yuga is also a feature of Jain astronomy [6].

VJ states that those who correctly understand the effect of time on movements of the luminaries in the sky can fully grasp the impact of the Yagnas. One who truly understands the Vedas and Vedanga Jyotisha can experience transcendental bliss. These verses underline the integral unity [9] of the outer-material and inner-spiritual realms. We can see this dharmic concept re-asserted two thousand years later in the initial verses of Aryabhatiya, and more recently in Ramanujan’s approach as well.

The Indics were more than pattern seeking enthusiasts; they sought within patterns the deepest unity underlying nature’s diversity, and from this emerged the Yuga.  Yaga, Yoga, and Yuga (or the 3 Ys, with apologies to Modi ji) – all have a root meaning ‘to unite’. In [13], Prof Subhash Kak notes: “the ancient Indian calendar is an attempt to harmonize the motions of the Sun and the Moon…. Yoga may be seen as the harmonization of the motions of the inner planets of the body.  Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra speaks of how meditation on the Sun reveals the nature of the world-system and meditation on the Moon and the Polestar reveals the arrangement and the motion of the planets and the stars. Such assertions imply that turning inward can provide insights.”.

Nakshatras in Vedic Tradition

Since the most ancient time, Hindu astronomy adopted the sidereal system. This was done implicitly using Nakshatras (stars or asterisms) in the Vedic period, and explicitly in the VJ, as well shall see later [16]. The Vedics used 27 Nakshatras in the vicinity of the ecliptic to track the lunar passage where the moon takes 27.32 days to return to a fixed reference point (sidereal lunar month). To identify the Nakshatra location of the sun, a heliacal rising and setting of a Nakshatra seems to have been employed, i.e., a Nakshatra may be visible near the horizon just before sunrise or sunset.  Texts point to a multi-disciplinary approach to Jyotisha employing a Nakshatra Darsha (expert observer/astronomer) and Ganaka (a calculation expert). The term ‘Nakshatra Vidya’ is mentioned in the Chandogya Upanishad [2].

Mentions of Nakshatra observations in ancient texts are useful because they allow us to date these events using the earth’s precession rate. For example, Kuppanna Sastry quotes the Satapatha Brahman, mentioning that ‘the asterismal group Kritika never swerve from the east while others do’, which was also confirmed by the commentator Sayana. This yields a date of around 3000 BCE. Independent studies using modern astronomical simulation software and mathematical calculations (statistical best-fit models) indicate that the Nakshatras were closest to the path of the moon around 3000 BCE [10]. Subhash Kak has written extensively on the astronomical codes embedded within the Vedas [12].

It is clear that long before Vedanga Jyotisha, there was significant progress in time-keeping. It confirms the epistemological continuity in Indic sciences, including Astronomy and Ganita since the most ancient of times [5].

Epistemological continuity is also evident in other India's diverse traditions including art, music, dance, etc.

These prior developments are the foundation on which VJ’s calendar stands.  Let us see how VJ improves upon the prior work.

Vedanga Jyotisha’s Methods

VJ introduced an analytical time-tracking (deterministic) framework that works in tandem with astronomical observations of the real, uncertain world. Hence VJ’s Ganita calculates the timings of lunar and solar events, while also retaining and working in sync with the traditional pratyaksha sastra.  The Ganaka can make predictions, and the Nakshatra Darsa can visually confirm the degree of accuracy of these estimates, and corrections effected as needed. The diagram below illustrates how the VJ methodology can be useful in taking the science of time-keeping forward and provide increasingly accurate answers to triprasna.

Contemporary time-keeping adopts a similar approach. The atomic clock serves as an unnaturally perfect model for daily usage, but is corrected by nature. Without the latter, the model-based time would very slowly but surely drift away from reality.

The most recent leap second was added on December 31, 2016.

Nakshatra-sector Coordinate system (NCS)

Nakshatras (as stars or star groups) have been an integral part of Indic culture and some of them serve as exemplars. Dhruva (a northern pole star) and the Vashishta-Arundati (Mizar-Alcor) pair are good examples.

Prior to the VJ, the Nakshatras were used to denote visible stars or constellations (27 or 28 in number) dotting the moon’s path. Hence, it was limited by visibility.  Furthermore, these Nakshatras served as approximately fixed positions for time-keeping but were not truly invariant due to earth’s precession (‘precession of the equinoxes’). The designated pole star, for example, changes over time and cycles every 25,920 years (about a 1° shift every 71.6 years).

The Ancient Indics must have been aware of the impact of earth’s precession on the Nakshatra locations because, by the time of the VJ, the nakshatra-sectors were taken as 27 equal sections of the ecliptic (about 13.3° wide) rather than specific stars or asterisms in the background [3]. This change yields multiple benefits.

  • The NCS is an invariant and uniquely Indic coordinate system that comes with a clearly specified origin (zero-point) that gives us a fixed starting coordinate. It is unaffected by the earth’s precession. The NCS resembles the modern-day ecliptic coordinate system calculation of the celestial longitude (since the moon’s path is very close to the ecliptic, tracking longitude was practically sufficient) [3].
  • The NCS represents a virtualized analytical framework that allows the time-keepers to algorithmically enumerate the ecliptic sector locations of all the full and new moons in a Yuga, as well as the position of the sun. This was not possible in prior Vedic traditions since theirs was a purely physical coordinate system indentified by stars and asterisms along the moon’s path. This VJ system is free of visibility issues [3]. The VJ specifies a coordinate system using an ingenious ‘Jāvādi arrangement‘. Of course, pratyaksha continues to guide accurate time-keeping.
  • This NCS helps us carry out the VJ calculations unambiguously.

Yuga

The VJ Yuga is a time cycle of 5 years of 366 days each. A five year Yuga was already present in Vedic tradition. The Yuga is an integral unit of time-keeping in the Vedanga Jyotisha and all calculations are given based on this Yuga and the NCS.  VJ assumes 12 synodic months in a synodic year plus two intercalary months (adhimasa or adhikamasa) over a Yuga to harmonize the lunar and solar calendars, giving us a total of 62 synodic months in a Yuga.  The VJ specifically includes the adhimasa as synodic months #31 and #62 of the Yuga.

A VJ Yuga is completed when the sun and moon are observed to return to the pre-specified origin region of the NCS. This is the key definition in the VJ. Here is Sri Kuppanna Sastry’s description [1]:

In other words, the Yuga begins when the Sun and the Moon are observed together in the Sravistha Nakshatra sector of the ecliptic [3].

The Parameters of a Yuga (YVJ)

Tracking the movements of spherical objects rotating and revolving around other moving spherical objects can be tricky. Here is a ‘coin rolling on a coin’ puzzle, where the inner circle serves as a fixed frame of reference. If the inner circle also rotates, then the answer is relative to the chosen frame of reference.

How many rotations will the smaller coin make when rolling around the bigger one? (source: https://plus.maths.org)

Earth-Sun System (days and years)

Saavana durations represent the time of the (apparent) motion of the sun relative to the earth as the frame of reference. Each saavana year in VJ lasts 366 days, giving a total of 1830 civil days in a Yuga. In reality, this frame of reference is itself slowly revolving around the sun in the same direction, and therefore saavana calculations ignore the resultant additional earth rotation (one per year). Sidereal periods are calculated with respect to a fixed reference point (e.g. distant star). The sidereal year includes this ‘missing’ rotation, giving us 367*5 = 1835 sidereal days in a Yuga. VJ’s Nakshatra Darshas would’ve observed 1835 risings of a Nakshatra (an invariant ecliptic sector) in a Yuga.

Earth-Moon System (months and fortnights)

The moon is ‘tidally locked‘ to the earth. The actual time the moon takes to go round the earth (sidereal lunar month) is the time it takes to complete a full rotation around its own axis. So one side of the moon always faces us as if it never rotates, and we never get to see the mysterious far side of the moon (photographed for the first time in 1959).

"And if the dam breaks open many years too soon 
And if there is no room upon the hill 
And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too 
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon". - Pink Floyd.

Let us calculate the number of moon rises and the number of sidereal lunar months in a Yuga. This visible side of the moon will be partially or fully observable on all sidereal days except the new moon days, of which there are 62 (one per synodic month). This gives us 1835-62 = 1768 moonrises in a Yuga, and 1830/1768 saavana days per moon rise on average.

Similar to the earth-sun system, the earth-moon system also yields an extra rotation per year depending on the frame of reference. Due to the earth’s revolution, the moon takes a couple of days extra to complete the synodic month (~29.53 days) relative to the earth. There will be 62+5 = 67 sidereal lunar months in a Yuga.

Since there are 27 sectors of the ecliptic, the moon visits 67*27 = 1809 Nakshatra sectors in a Yuga. Therefore, the moon traverses one sector in 1830/1809 = (1 and 7/603) Saavana days. The sun apparently visits 27*5 = 135 Nakshatra sectors, spending 13 and 5/9 days in a sector.

We now examine some of the larger units used in the VJ to keep time.

Larger Time Units

Saavana day: measured from sunrise to sunrise. The VJ takes the civil year to be 366 days long. Each day is divided into 124 Bhaagas (day-parts). 31 parts make a pada.

Tithi: This is a fundamental unit of the VJ equal to (1/30) of a synodic month. Hence a lunar month lasts 30 tithis, and the VJ assumes 360 tithis or 12 synodic months in a year in harmony with Vedic tradition.  Thus, a Yuga has 1860 tithis and 1830 saavana days. From this, we can calculate the VJ mean value for a tithi = 1830/1860 or 61/62 of a day.  The duration of a tithi depends on the moon’s orbit and is a variable quantity (+/- 15% the mean value), with the tithi at sunrise representing a day’s tithi [3]. Sometimes, the same tithi can mark two successive sunrises or a tithi can be lost between two sunrises. Tithi was already used in prior traditions. In the Rig Veda, atithi is a guest – one who arrives without a tithi, i.e. without prior notice [15].

A tithi can go AWOL
It can be a really close call
All ye star-crossed suitors beware
Date your Nakshatras with care!

Given the diversity of India, its calendars are also diverse. Reckoning dates for dharmic events can be tricky even in 2017. This informative subtitled video asks ‘When is Ugadi?’. Yugadi ~ start of a new yuga (new year), Hevilambi, per current Hindu lunisolar calendars.

There are also variations such as Amanta/Amavasyat versus Purnimanta calendars depending on whether the start of a month is from a new moon or full moon.

Rtu (season): Its duration is 62 tithis long, and therefore a Yuga will have 30 rtus, and 6 rtus a year. An important and unique feature of the Indian calendar is the use of six seasons including the all-important rainy season, the most celebrated and joyous of all rtus. The monsoons are governed by the annual wind patterns influenced by the Coriolis force [11]. The first rtu of the Yuga is Sishira rtu (winter).

The VJ also specifies the duration of rtu using the NCS (4 and 1/2 Nakshatra sectors per Rtu). Knowing the start date of a rtu is also important because of the Chaturmasya rite that has to be performed.

Ayana (solstice): Ayanas divide the sidereal year into two halves. There are 10 ayanas in a Yuga.

Paksha: half a synodic month, equal to 15 tithis. The bright half is the Shukla Paksha and the dark half is the Krishna Paksha. A Yuga has 62 Shukla and 62 Krishna Pakshas.

Parva: The Yuga is divided into 124 Parvas. Therefore it is equal in duration to a Paksha. The Parva Raashi (R) is the accumulated heap of Parvas since the start of a Yuga and is quantified as follows [3]: R = 2(12(y-1)+m) + p + K,

where  y = current year of the Yuga, m = elapsed months in the current year,  p is the elapsed parvas in the current month, K is an conditional correction factor (2 per 60 elapsed parvas) to adjust for intercalation.

Visuva (Equinoxes): The day when the sun apparently starts to move south or north and they occur at the mid points of each of the 10 Ayanas in a Yuga.

The interval between two successive Visuvas will be 124/10 Parvas = 12 Parvas and 6 Tithis. Hence the time elapsed in a Yuga until the N-th Equinox can be obtained by multiplying this inter-Visuva number by (N-1) and simplifying.

Bhaamsa (Amsa): To track the position of the sun and moon, every ecliptic sector is also divided into 124 equal Bhaamsas, mirroring the Parva time division of the Yuga. Hence, there are 27*124 Bhaamsas that spans the 360°. The Bhaamsa after p parvas is the remainder obtained after dividing 11p/124 [3]. The VJ rescensions state an equivalent conditional and arithmetic rule that anyone can use, similar to the previous expression for parva raashi R.

Kalaa: A day is divided into 603 parts. This number is chosen so that the time taken by the moon to traverse one of the 27 nakshatra sectors (1 and 7/603 days) = 610 Kalaas, a whole number.

VJ gives many ingenious algorithms (abhiyukti) to keep track of the number of Parva, Bhaamsa, Paksha, etc. that have passed since the start of the Yuga. The interested reader is referred to Prof. Kuppanna Sastry’s work.

Intra-day Units of Time Keeping

Researchers point to 4 different kinds of times tracked by VJ [3] apart from the cosmic time. We point these out while listing the different time-keeping units.

Akshara (2 Maatraa) ~ 0.57 seconds. Time taken to pronounce a long vowel. This  time-unit is interesting and suggests the existence of a long and well-established oral tradition.

Kaastaa (5 Aksharas) ~ 1.15 seconds.

Kalaa revisited (124 Kaastaas) ~ 2 minutes, 23 seconds. Kalaa establishes a link between the rate of speech to the average rate of lunar motion.

Naadika (10.05 Kalaas) ~ 24 minutes. Mechanically-kept time using a water clock. Passages in the Vedas [7] suggest the use of a particular water clock of the ‘overflowing type’.

Muhurta (2 Naadikas) ~ 48 minutes. Solar time based on the Sun’s apparent motion. Amazingly, the ancient muhurta measure has been preserved and passed through several generations and is used in India the exact same way, to this day.

Length of local daylight time in Muhurtas = (12 + 2N/61), where N is the number of days after the winter solstice.  Since there are 183 days in an Ayana, the maximum increase is 6 Muhurtas. Using this, the ratio of the longest to shortest day is 18/12 = 3:2. This number depends on the latitude, and therefore helps us identify the source location of VJ.

Ahoratra (30 Muhurtas) ~ ‘day and night’, or 24 hours.

Bhaaga: The local time given in 124-th parts of a day starting from sunrise. Thus we see three divisions of ‘124’ in the VJ: Parvas in a Yuga, Bhaamsas in a Nakshatra sector, and Bhaagas of a day.

Note how a speech rate is linked to lunar time, then to mechanical time, and solar time. These physical temporal cycles of varying durations are ultimately united with the cyclical cosmic time through periodic Yagna performed at the right times.

Ganita

Algorithms

The VJ approach to specifying numerical constants is pretty elegant. The high-level parameters, which are fewer in number, are enumerated. For the myriad of lower level constants that proceed down to the intra-day level, it cleverly specifies algorithms based on a linear estimate (mean motion), using rules derived from modulo arithmetic. By specifying any three independent parameters of a Yuga, all other Yuga parameters can be calculated as derived values [1].  YVJ rescension’s second verse is famous for asserting the position of Ganita as the pinnacle of sciences [1].

VJ’s methods demonstrate ancient Indic abhiyukti. They do not provide a proof of correctness, but are to be validated by pramana. When a Ganaka’s analytically predicted quantity is in conflict with observation (pratyaksha), it is the model result that is discarded, and this also forces the model to improve.

Rule of Three: Linear Estimate

The VJ uses mean motion (average rate) as a first-order approximation within its calculations using the “rule of three“.

For example: Suppose we have a known average increment for a quantity ΔQ over a time period Δt, we can calculate an average rate of change = ΔQ/Δt. What will be the accumulated value of Q after T time units? A linear estimate will simply multiply this rate by time to obtain Q = (ΔQ/Δt)*T.  The VJ states the rule of three in verse, so that it can be used repeatedly as a subroutine: calculate an average rate and multiply the increment by this rate to generate the desired output.

Modular arithmetic

The VJ works with periodic quantities that get reset to 0 after reaching a maximum value. Doing calculations with such quantities requires expertise with modular arithmetic. 3000+ years before Gauss introduced formal modular arithmetic in 1801, the Hindus were actively applying modular arithmetic for calculating a variety of elapsed and remaining time values and the positions of the full and new moons over a Yuga.

Javadi Table

The Javadi arrangement is an important contribution from a Ganita and VJ calendar perspective. It represents a virtualized (independent of stars in the background) invariant ecliptic coordinate system with a zero point taken as the new moon near the Winter Solstice, which is tied to the start of a Yuga [3]. Javadi ~ Jau Adi, i.e., arrangement of Nakshatras starting from Jau (Ashvayujau) [1]. The position of the sun and new/full moon can be located unambiguously by the Javadi name of the Nakshatra sector and Bhaamsa within that sector. The table exhibits compact data organization and a circular ordering of the NCS data so that Sravistha represents Nakshatra sector 0 (or 27).

Simple Coordinates

From the Yuga parameters and the NCS, the ‘distance’ between successive full (new) moons can be calculated as follows:

The moon passes through 1809 Nakshatra sectors in a Yuga. There are 62 full moons and 124 pakshas in a Yuga. There, the distance between two full moons is 1809/62 = 29 and 22/124 Nakshatra sectors, and a paksha length is half this value (14 and 73/124). By partitioning a sector into 124 bhaamsas, we obtain a simple  (sector, bhaamsa) coordinate system using the original Vedic ordering of Nakshatras = (N_original, B) of new and full moons, where N_original and B are whole numbers.

Order-and-Chaos

The ganita properties of the full and new moon’s bhaamsas are interesting and we did not find much discussion on this, so we make an attempt here. A brief ganita description is in the appendix at the end of the post. Let us start from a new moon at bhaamsa B(0) = 0, and add 73 bhaamsas to obtain B(1) = 73 for the first full moon, and further 73 bhaamsas to get the bhaamsa B(2) of the second new moon, and so on.  We can observe the following patterns:

  1.  The full or new moon will be wandering around, visiting each and every bhaamsa number exactly once. A full or new moon will never be seen twice in the exact same location (bhaamsa) of the ecliptic within a Yuga. When it does so at bhaamsa 0 in the Sravistha sector, the Yuga is reborn (reminiscent of Kolam patterns).
  2. The 62 full moons of a Yuga occur at odd numbered bhaamsas, and new moons at even bhaamsas (if we start the Yuga at bhaamsa zero). At the full moons, the Sun’s coordinates will be 13.5 Nakshatras apart, i.e 13 sectors and 62 bhaamsas away.
  3. The nakshatra sector and bhaamsa are themselves linked, so if you specify just the bhaamsa, you can obtain the corresponding N_original value:
N_original = 5B mod 27 
N_original is remainder we get when we divide 5 times its bhaamsa by 27.

Of course, one can also calculate the N_original values directly as an independent check in case the input bhaamsa values are off. The VJ authors next transform the original Nakshatra sector list into the Javadi arrangement. It simplifies the required Ganita a bit (B instead of 5B).

Javadi Coordinates

The Nakshatra sector numbers can be transformed into a certain Javadi arrangement (N_original→N) using the following equation:

N = 11 N_original mod 27

Successive (original) Nakshatra sectors are 11 sectors apart in the Javadi arrangement. Conversely, successive sectors in the Javadi arrangement are 5 sectors apart in the original table. The Javadi arrangement starts from Ashvini and the final list is shown below [1]. The Sanskrit verse form of the Javadi representation is depicted at the top of this post.

Bhaamsa Generation Algorithm

This transformed N is related to B in this Javadi arrangement through a simpler modular equation compared to N_original. The (N, B) Javadi coordinates for all full and new moons of a Yuga can be iteratively generated (see appendix) and are shown in the plot below (X-axis = Javadi nakshatra sector indices, Y-axis = bhaamsa numbers). These coordinates would repeat every Yuga.

Javadi coordinates in terms of (Nakshatra-sector index, Bhaamsa) for all full and new moon in a VJ Yuga
Examples

The first full moon in a Yuga is at B = 73, which gives us a remainder N = 19 when divided by 27⇒ coordinates (19, 73). Therefore, the full moon occurs in the Magha sector per the Javadi table. The next full moon will be at bhaamsa B = 73+22 = 95. Applying N = 95 mod 27 ⇒ N = 14, i.e. Uttaraphalguni (14, 95).  Multiple full moons (2 or 3) can fall in the same Nakshatra sector, but always at different bhaamsas. For example, the next and only other full moon (38-th) in the Magha sector will occur when B = (73-54) = 19. The two full moons that occur in Magha are circled in light-blue in the above picture. Note that the 3 new moons along the Y-axis at Sravistha (X = 0) are at least 54 bhaamsas (about 5.8°) apart.

Ecliptical Coordinate System

The (N, B) from Javadi are equivalent to an ecliptic longitude. These results have been compared with those generated using the modern ecliptic coordinate system, and they are quite close [3]. Tracking the bhaamsas empirically is important and this can be done mechanically using a water clock. The Javadi table is deterministic and assumes fixed synodic month duration [3], so that every Yuga starts at coordinates (0, 0). This is not so in reality, and in the next section, we can see the maximum error that is possible. Since the origin is shifted, so will the calculation for every successive full moon. While the full moons may occur in the same Nakshatra sector, the bhaamsas will be off unless the origin-shift is accounted for. The Javadi table can be used as an approximate framework/guide for the Yagna calendar and supplemented with direct observation.

We have only discussed only a few of the high-level VJ calculations. For a detailed discussion, refer to [1].

Accuracy of some VJ calculations

Mean Tithi

VJ Value = 61/62 of a saavana day.

Modern estimate of an average synodic month ~ 29.5306 days

Modern value of tithi ~ (29.5306 * 12)/360  ~ 354.367/360

Absolute Error = |354.367/360 – 61/62| < 0.05%

A Yuga has 1860 tithis, so accumulated error ~ 0.896, or less than a tithi per Yuga [2].

Mean Moonrise Rate

VJ value = 1830/1768 ~ 24 Hours 50.4864 minutes [2], i.e., the moon rises about 50.4 minutes later every day. This agrees with the modern average moonrise value really well.

Start time of a Yuga

The new moon at the start of a new Yuga may not be exactly at bhaamsa 0 of the Sravistha sector. It has been shown that up to 46 bhaamsas error can accumulate over a period of 500 years [3]. Since the moon traverses a Nakshatra sector (124 bhaamsas) in 610/603 saavana days, using the rule of three, we find that the moon traverses 46 bhaamsas in 9 hours. This is less than the minimum gap (54 bhaamsas) between successive full or new moons in the same Nakshatra sector. The maximum possible cumulative error in the start time of a Yuga after 100 Yugas is 9 hours [3].

Yuga: Self-Organizing System

In general, the VJ seems to be relatively more accurate while calculating lunar periods compared to solar periods [2]. Over the next two millennium, the Hindu lunisolar calendars were significantly upgraded. The Ancient Indics were aware of the uncertainty in the true motions of the sun, earth, and moon, and the need for corrections. The Indian comfort with uncertainty [9] is perhaps reflected in the fact that the civil calendar was deliberately set up as a simple, convenient, and approximate framework for the astronomical (Yagna) calendar. The discrepancy between the arithmetic and astronomical calendar can be fixed using an intercalary day at the end of the Yuga [1]. They also synchronized the sidereal and tropical year using appropriate corrections. Beyond these basic corrections, the lunar-solar year gap can accumulate over Yugas. It has been discovered by researchers [1, 3, 6] that the properties of the VJ Yuga yields a self-correcting system that automatically cancels out these errors.

Lunisolar correction

Five tropical years at 1350 BCE = 5*365.1734 ~ 1825.9 days

Duration of a Yuga = 62 * 29.5306 ~1830.9 days

Difference ~ −5 days per Yuga or roughly one extra day per tropical year.

If this discrepancy is allowed to accumulate over 6 Yugas (sometimes 7), the total gap will be approximately a synodic month. A Nakshatra Darsha doesn’t even need to know the Ganita behind this. He/she simply sees the sun and moon together in the Sravistha sector to signal a new Yuga. The unnecessary intercalary month 61 is automatically skipped, which resets the accumulated error.

Some corrections were made by observation of the moon phase. At the new moon the moon rises and sets with the sun. If the moon rises just after sunrise, it indicates a time near new moon. Such observations enabled the Vedics to develop the rules required for an accurate timing of the Yagnas since certain Yagna performers would incur a penalty if they erred in the timing [1]. Thus Vedic Yagna is the creative driving force that inspires this self-correcting calendar. A self-harmonizing Yuga seems natural in Prajapathi’s self-organizing universe.

Date and Source of VJ

Date

Embedded within VJ’s verses is an astronomical date-stamp about Sravistha. If α-delphini is taken as the Yogatara (principal star) of Sravistha, then between 1550 BCE and 1150 BCE, the nakshatra Sravistha and the sun would have been close at the winter solstice, i.e., the Nakshatra rises and sets heliacally at the winter solstice, and this is not possible for dates outside this period [3]. If a certain other star other than α-delphini is chosen as the Yogatara, the date gets pushed back beyond 1800 BCE [7]. Kuppanna Sastry’s ganita calculations using the earth’s precession rate, and based on the observation of the VJ author that the winter solstice was at the start of the Sravistha segment, yields dates in the range [1150, 1400] BCE. Statistical analysis of the Nakshatra system shows that a maximal proportion (80%) of the Yogataras occupy their respective Nakshatra sectors in [1300 +/-300] BCE, indicating the finalization of the NCS during this period [3]. From [5], we find mention of a date of 1255 BCE when King Suchi of Magadha, a student of Lagadha [6] set forth VJ and dated it by including an astronomical note about the summer solstice. When combined with other independent considerations such as the visibility of the Saptha Rishi (Ursa Major) from Bharatvarsha, the timing of Yagnas in conjunction with seasons, full moon, and prescribed Nakshatras, we obtain a date range [1400 +/- 300] BCE for Vedanga Jyotisha [3].

Source

Multiple works show that the Nakshatra (star) system was most likely designed around 3000 BCE [2, 3, 10]. There is clear evidence of a continuous unbroken epistemology of time-keeping from the Rigveda Samhitas to the Vedanga Jyotisha.

Independent researchers have studied the 3:2 ratio of longest to shortest day, which is only possible around a certain latitude. This includes locations in far-northern India as well as other places. The calendar with a rainy season is also special to India. By also taking into account VJ’s date, several locations get eliminated from consideration, and Kashmir appears to be a likely location of the VJ author among the feasible candidates. This has been an independent conclusion reached by multiple scholars.

The Challenge of Vedanga Jyotisha

Kuppanna Sastry has listed three fundamental requirements for a scholar who wants to study and interpret Vendanga Jyotisha in its original Sanskrit verse [1]:

  • Sound scholarship in Sanskrit
  • Knowledge of Western Astronomy
  • Full understanding of the concepts and practices of Hindu Astronomy

Teamwork

Those who have been frustrated in this task have lacked one or more of the requirements stated above. It is not necessary for one person to have all three skillsets. We have a precedent from 3000 years ago, when Nakshatra Darshas and Ganakas combined their skills to take Indic science and technology forward. Today, traditional Vedic Pandits grounded in Sanskrit and Hindu cosmology, and STEM professionals can work as a team to overcome new challenges in many areas. The first and third requirements involve dharmic tradition, which requires shraddha and sadhana, something every team member must imbibe. The Swadeshi Indology initiative serves as an inspiring example in this regard.

Several luminaries have contributed their expertise toward explaining the time-keeping ideas of Jyotihsastra. This post summarizes the student notes compiled while learning from and exploring these truly enlightening works, which are listed in the references below.

'If you were in Darkness, what would you want more than anything else; what would it be that every instinct would call for? Light, darn you, light!' - Nightfall, Isaac Asimov.

References
  1. KV Sarma and Kuppanna Sastry. Vedanga Jyotisa of Lagadha In its Rk and Yajus Rescensions. With the Translation and Notes of Prof. T. S. Kuppanna Sastry. Critically edited by K. V. Sarma. Indian National Science Academy. 1985.
  2. Subhash Kak. Astronomy and its Role in Vedic Culture. Chapter 23 in Science and Civilization in India, Vol. 1. The Dawn of Indian Civilization, Part 1, edited by G.C. Pande. ICPR/Munshiram Manoharlal, Delhi, 2000.
  3. Prabhakar Gondhalekar. The Timekeepers of the Vedas: History of the Calendar of the Vedic Period (From Rgveda to Vedanga Jyotisa). Manohar Publishers. 2013.
  4. K. Ramasubramanian. Perspectives on Indian Astronomical Tradition. HH Dalai Lama Premises. Dharmasala. 2016.
  5. Kosla Vepa. The Origins of Astronomy, the Calendar, and Time. Lulu.com. 2011.
  6. Narahari Achar. Enigma of the Five Year Yuga of the Vedanga Jyotisa. Indian Journal of the History of Science (33). 1998.
  7. Narahari Achar. A Case for Revising the Date of Vedanga Jyotisa. Indian Journal of the History of Science (35). 2000.
  8. John Playfair. The Works of John Playfair (Vol. 3).. with a memoir of the author. Edinburgh, A. Constable & Co. 1822.
  9. Rajiv Malhotra. Being Different: India’s Challenge to Western Universalism. Harper Collins. 2011.
  10. Sudha Bhujle and MN Vahia. Possible Period of the Design of Nakshatras and Abhijit. Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. 2006.
  11. C. K. Raju. The Cultural Foundations of Mathematics: The Nature of Mathematical Proof and the Transmission of the Calculus from India to Europe in the 16 c. CE.  Pearson Education. 2007.
  12. Subhash Kak. The Astronomical Code of the Rig Veda. Oklahoma State University, Stillwater. 2011.
  13. Subhash Kak. The Wishing Tree: Presence and Promise of India. iUniverse Inc. 2008.
  14. Kapila Vatsyayan. The Square and The Circle of The Indian Arts. Abhinav Publications. 1997.
  15. R. N. Iyengar. A Profile of Indian Astronomy before the Siddhāntic Period. ISERVE Conference, Hyderabad, India. 2007.
  16. Kuppanna Sastry. The Main Characteristics of Hindu Astronomy in the Period Corresponding to Pre-Copernican European Astronomy. Indian Journal of the History of Science (Vol 9). 1974.
Appendix & Acknowledgements
Acknowledgments: Thanks to N.r.i.pathi garu for encouraging me to write this post, and for his Baahubali-esque patience and valuable feedback.
Appendix

The bhaamsas of the full or new moon are generated using the recurrence relation:

B(k+1) = B(k)+73 mod 124.

This is an example of a linear congruential generator (LCG) that is commonly used in computer simulation models. The sequence of bhaamsas visited by the full or new moon in a Yuga are pseudo-random numbers. Since 73 and 124 are relatively prime, this LCG is guaranteed to have a full period (124) that exactly spans a Yuga. The Hull-Dobell theorem (1962) proves the result for the general case. It is also easy to see that if B(k) is even, then B(k+1) will be odd, and vice versa. We can simply generate the bhaamsas to verify this.  The following algorithm generates the chronological sequence (N(k), B(k)) of all new and full moon positions of a Yuga in Javadi coordinates:

1. Initialize: k = 0, B(0) = 0.
2. N(k) = B(k) mod 27. If B(k) is even, it is a new moon, else full moon.
3. B(k+1) = B(k) + 73 mod 124.
4. if k=123 stop. Else, k=k+1; go to step 2.

The Civilizational Resonance of Baahubali

A version of this Post was published at Andhra Cultural Portal, on July 22, 2015


Baahubali

Much water has flowed down the waterfall south of Mahishmati since we last touched on this topic. Those of you following us on Andhra Cultural Portal would have read our Post 2 years ago when Baahubali-The Beginning was released. Well, unless you were living in one of those caves featured in the film, you would not only be familiar with this phenomenon, but also would have watched it…several times.

And make no mistake, this Andhra movies is not just a national or global phenomenon, but especially a civilizational one for all members of Indic Civilization. It is not for nothing this Telugu language movie was a hit in Nepal. Part 2’s distribution rights have already sold for 3 crores in Prithvi Narayan Sah‘s Hindu Rajya.

You would also have heard the new trailer was one of the fastest to garner 100 million views on YouTube. Wondering why? — see for yourself!

So in honour of Srisaila Sri Rajamouli’s digital age epic’s second installment, Baahubali 2-The Conclusion, we give a reprint of our review of Part 1. Enjoy. Watch the movie. And above all…

Jai Mahishmati!


The scores are in, the box office has reported, and the people have spoken: Baahubali-The Beginning is a box office behemoth. S.S. Rajamouli’s smash hit is truly a magnum opus that has swept all of India, South and North of the Vindhya. Indeed, much ink has already marked the proverbial paper, and a number of columns, cookie cutter top tens, and well-penned essays have made their mark. What’s more, long derided regional Telugu cinema is no longer seen as merely a source for remakes, but as even foreigners note, is a source of jealousy for Bollywood insiders. As Krishnarjun gaaru has written, the industry itself has the potential to go back to its golden age 3-5 decades ago, with classics such as Maya Bazaar and Missamma.

Nevertheless, while ACP typically analyzes movies long after the glitz and glamour of a premiere has passed, there is something special about this film that has come to underscore the present zeitgeist. As such, this post is not our standard cinematic analysis, or a fine study of symbology, or even a well-crafted commentary on the industry’s future. Rather it is about understanding the cultural resonance of Baahubali and why it’s relevant and indeed a revelation at this place and at this time. We have sought to do this with ** No Spoilers** for those of you who have yet to see it.

First, a Rejoinder

Despite all the acclaim— not only in the Telugu rashtras or even just Bharata desa, but also globally—sour grapes from the standard set has been increasing from dribble to a deluge. The bitter wine they swill is in the hopes of poisoning the popular opinion. As such, a rejoinder is in order.

Almost two weeks in, the knives are now out courtesy the usual suspects: “Idea of India” indoctrinues (copyright pending for portmanteau), Dubai-gang ghulams of bollywood, and assorted sordid-sickulars of all sorts are now slashing at this movie, after a proverbial puissant punch to the solar plexus. Gasping for breath, these pill-popping, phillim-hopping philistines have the gall to tear down this movie by hook or by crook. The “un-original” charges (Tarzan this, Lord of the Rings that) are particularly asinine, especially coming from bollywood. After all, Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay drew from Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West, which drew from John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven, which ultimately drew from Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. It’s invariable that inspiration here and there may come from different sources–the question is breathing new life, new vision, and new context into them, and weaving them into a unique piece. Baahubali has accomplished this to the shame of Bollywood.

As these intellectual imps impotently shriek and wailed “animal film!”, “symbolic molestation!”, “misogyny!”, they tried every trick in the book, first saying they “don’t review south movies”—but hey check out this no name flick from our sworn enemy), then they ridiculed looks  or even the very idea of a big hit “from south”, finally they began throwing mud through specious Freudian analyses and crackpot conclusions about tribal relations. In short:

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

Setting aside their ignorance about the Kalakeyas in the Mahabharata (yet another example of what happens when you don’t know your own epics), the question isn’t whether Bharatvarsha, the land of Rama’s friend Guha, Pratap’s friends among the Bhils, or Rani Durgavati’s own in-laws, treated its tribals well, but what happened to the tribes of Europe? Bharat respected the tribal way of life, and even saw its merits by encouraging vana prastha (forest life) for retired kings and other elites.

In any event, the body blow from Baahubali had left them in a week-long stupor that they are only now gurgling back from. Left with little other than Bajrangi Bhaijan to salve their wounds, they have united around this flick touting everything from “sentiment & emotion!” to “profitability” (a.k.a. the Sonam Kapoor defence)—poor dears. And yet, why this movie and why such mendacity? After all, Magadheera showed a native Bharatiya kingdom in a complimentary fashion. It too balanced CGI and Story with dramatic action and theatric performances. Those who point to a display of Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma) in positive light, forget the Kala Bhairava Statue that served as the sentinel of cinematic climax. No, the reason why Bahubaali-The Beginning, this movie, at this time, has stirred up a hornet’s nest of hate, is because it is true cinematic splendour celebrating Dharma.

Despite the laughable claims about Bajrangi Bhaijan touting an emotive ideal, while Baahubali did not, it’s quite clear that this movie was refulgent with an ideal. Dharma, in all its myriad forms, in all its numerous nuances, is immanent throughout this Sistine chapel in celluloid. And unlike that metaphor, the fact that Rajamouli’s Masterpiece drew on native Indic forms (architecture harkens to Angkor, Amaravati, and Avanti) , native Indic fashion (Tamannah’s transformative couture is more the ancient standard), Indic names (Avantika, Baahubali), Indic Sacred History (Rishabhadeva’s sons are an overarching influence), and Indic Geography (Mahismati was the capital of Kartaveerya Arjuna), only roiled our stealth regressive royyalu (that’s Telugu for “shrimp”, btw) further. That it was able to do this by bringing Bharatiyas of all panths (religions) in to enjoy the ride and make them feel a part of the experience, was the last straw.

Dharmic Culture

baahubalivisual

In a way, it’s almost poetic that a movie so redolent in Dharma Culture was distributed and promoted by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions. Though obviously written, produced, directed, and lead acted by Telugus, this multi-starrer provided a tale and experience to which all Bharatiyas could relate.

We saw a dharmic society in action. From artistry and architecture to the traditional sastras and functioning of statecraft, it was an image of an India that once was. True, it was balanced by elements of fantasy and drew directly from the Puranas, via the Kalakeyas. But we also a saw a version of how our ancestors lived and the principles that drove them: patriotism, loyalty, self-sacrifice, motherhood, love, and above all Dharma.

What’s more, it was an image of not just how the elites might have lived, but the commoners as well.  We see how villagers and elites coexisted honorably. Albeit underneath a fantastic and fantastical waterfall, it was a portrait nonetheless of the idylls of rural and even forest life. It too was replete with Dharma—not the philosophical or intellectual dharma, but the everyday dharma, the common dharma. Society may have different classes, but if the elites behave properly and with humility and a sense of social duty, then society is at harmony. The Brahmanas we see on film present a living memory of such great yet humble men.

In a snub to faux animal welfare activists (who think eating fish is inhumane, but are miraculously pro-beef), a version of Jallikattu is presented as a martial pass time. What’s more we even see an internal rebuttal regarding animal sacrifice. A Right hand Tantra riposte of the Left hand is given, demonstrating that Dharma offers alternatives internally to such practices in the name of Kulacara.

We see shakti in action, with numerous strong roles played by numerous strong women. Rather than being mere chattel, our women, our queens, commanded respect, and Shakti balanced her counterpart. We see glimpses of love and even a version of Gandharva Vivaha, where lovers came together through choice. Rather than merely loving and leaving, it was union of souls. That it was indeed marriage was emblematic when the obligation of the girl also become the obligation of the boy. As such, more than anything else, it was duty, and in particular, Kshatriya duty, that truly made its mark on screen.

The Kshatriya Ideal

Magadheera was certainly a cinematic benchmark, but Baahubali is a cultural phenomenon.  The title role is not a common soldier, but a Kshatriya incarnate. As ‘The One with Strong Arms‘ he fights not only with his weapons and fists, but also with his wits. Indeed, we see that the true Kshatriya, the true King, is the one who protects his people and has their interests at heart. What’s more, this embodiment of Kshatriyata was not merely limited to men. We see a true Kshatrani in action, in conjunction with many strong and even warrior women. Ramya Krishnan alone deserves applause for her compelling and moving performance. In many ways it is she who presents the fulcrum of the film. Not only checking ambition within herself and her own family, she asserts that the true Kshatriya is not a usurper, but executes his duty to the ruling house loyally. Indeed, she provides a firm feminine rebuke to pig-headed male ambition.

The great Kshatriya vamsas of old not only had great power but expectations of great responsibility. The Kshatriya ideal of balancing education, training, statecraft, wealth, and power is the need of the hour. Rote-memorization and blind application of and training in the sastras will not win the Kurukshetra. It is for this reason that adhyatmik and laukik knowledge were separated. Adhyatmik vidya is verily the soul of our tradition. But due to the high minded principles it inspires, it requires protection from evil via laukika vidya.

Therefore, Kshatriyas were the natural leaders of society. They had an understanding of and respect for the adhyatmik principles, but the pragmatism to recognize the era of falsehood that we live in, and the improvisation it requires. Hence, the true Kshatriya is not a hot-blooded, hot-head who loses his temper in blind anger, but is a strong willed defender of truth, by whatever means necessary. Varnashrama dharma certainly has degenerated in the past millennium into arrogant and brainless casteism from all ranks, and surely has its issues, but when properly conceived, it is one of balance. A society with an over-sized head, cannot be supported by the rest of its body. The true brahmanas of yore understood that as the teachers and philosophers of society, material living was not for them, and neither sought power nor wealth nor demanded sycophancy or undue influence. The true brahmana after all, is without ego. They also understood the limits of the brahmana varna, and as Parashurama corrected the imbalance of Kshatriyas crossing their limits, so too did Bhagavan Rama correct it with Ravana, and ironically, Parashurama himself.

spe-may112-02
Rama punishes Parashurama for ahankar from merit

The traditional partnership of Kshatriyas and Brahmanas is today mired in predation or pretentiousness. Those who aspire to those ideals must remember that Maharishi Veda Vyasa’s own son, the brahmana Suka deva, completed his education under the Rajarishi Janaka. Thus, while Kshatriyas were the natural political leaders and brahmanas the natural spiritual leaders, both required elements of the other to properly conduct their duties.

Competence is not mere aptitude or ability. After all, potential energy exists even in still water. Competence is being good at what you do. Ability too has varying degrees, but competence means you have sufficient ability for the job—not merely on the basis of natural talent, or studies, or even training, but due to habit of improvisation and adaptation confirmed through practical experience.

The sastras afford us with guidance, but it is the job of the general, the job of the Raja to not only learn and understand knowledge, but apply and improvise it. This is not done in the gurukul or ashram, but on the battle map or field of battle. After all, the tactics used by Chhatrapati Shivaji were evolved by Maharana Pratap—who had no Samarth Ramdas.

Ranjit, Shivaji aur Pratap

Therefore, leadership in society requires balance. Of the spiritual with the practical, of the traditional with the necessary, of the brahmana with the kshatriya. That this movie was able to present the kshatriya spirit, the aristocratic ethos, without ridiculing Adarsh liberal’s favourite punching bag—Brahmins—is only fuel for the fire of indigestion they’ve been suffering since July 10th. That is what Baahubali presented—and oh so very artistically at that. Whether it was the One with Thousand Arms or the One with Strong Arms, Mahishmati was the Capital of Kings.

Artistic Highlights

From its waterfalls to its mountains to its maps, this film is pure artistic splendour. The cinematography is truly outstanding and world-beating, and all elements of cinema, from the visual and auditory to the dramatic and literary are in sound balance. A complete movie, it serves as a grand canvas for not only fantasy, but indeed, on-screen poetry.

One of the more interesting aspects wasn’t the research into our Puranas or even the dress and architecture of the ancients, but the subtle inclusion of our classical literature’s approach to drama. Though perhaps not noticeable to our non-Andhra friends, the dialogue features different forms of Telugu, based on orders of society—a practice commonly used by the ancients. Thus, we see literary forms of the language ( granthikam ), along with dialectal ( mandalikam ) and colloquial ( janapadam ).

We are also given a vision of fashion and femininity that is nevertheless strong and full of Shakti. Traditional designs and forms are presented in a manner that is sensuous but not titillating.

Sorry, no Salwar Kameez here

Even rati bhava is treated with delicacy in a restrained manner. The artificial is blended with the natural, rather than challenging it. It is not the conquest of nature by man, but the harmony of man and woman with nature.

In short, this movie is a marriage of tradition and tastefulness, form and function, masculine and feminine, elite and common, ancient and modern, art and technology.

Inflection point for the Industry?

Long time readers may recall our early pieces on the Telugu film industry (tollywood no longer) bemoaning the state of the sector. Ironically, one of them actually touched on film and kshatriyata. Rather than being merely seen as an object for derision, it has an opportunity again to rise to its early heights in the 50s and 60s. From kitsch, are we truly seeing a return to art? One hopes that the smashing success of the film will ensure at least a few movies that at least aspire to such a level, even if they do not scale such Himalayan heights. The upcoming release of Rudhramadevi affords an opportunity. Indeed, Baahubali served as an exquisite launch vehicle for Anushka Shetty to a national audience. Whether Gunasekhar is ultimately able to balance CGI with cinematic depth and action with taste, remains to be seen. We remain hopeful.

A Riposte to the “Idea of India” & The Breakthrough of Bharat

This movie was nothing short of a riposte to the ineluctable “Idea of India”—hence its resonance with all classes. This colossus of a success has shown that cheap laughs, titillation and tawdriness, and the apotheosis of all things non-native, no longer need be the way to box office success, or more importantly, cinema and culture.

Above all, was the sense of belonging to a common society that truly resonated. This wasn’t just a Telugu movie about Telangana or Andhra Pradesh, but an Indian movie about India. The India that once was. What’s more, rather than attempting to pass for Persians or Syrians, the lead actor looked like he might actually be one of them—Indians. Full credit to Prabhas for the physique he developed to give a vision of a royal hero that actually looked like the people—a reality underscored by his own real life pedigree. Rana brought the glamour, but the heart and soul of kingship was played by the first lead.

Indeed, our brothers and sisters in the North have long been deprived of cultural expression of native high culture courtesy Bollywood. They have been taught and even expected to see themselves as part of that spectrum rather than the subcontinent’s as a whole. This movie changed all that. Perhaps nothing emphasized that more when Katappa’s native Indic khadga smashed the prized Persian sword. This scene was fitting not only in an artistic rejoinder to the Idea of India brigade, but in an historical and technological one as well. The famed wootz steel (ukku) ingots of India were what made the finest blades of the era. Indeed, the historical Andhra desa was distinguished for its khandas, and made the Kakatiya kingdom all the more splendrous.

Make no mistake, this was an original movie. Ostensibly, the fairy tale jibes will lead to the obvious Lord of the Rings, Tolkien comparisons. After all, suited simulacra can never see anything beyond the western. But what these indoctrinated ingénues forget was that Tolkien himself drew on Norse and biblical mythology to create one for the English. S.S. Rajamouli had no such need. He was able to draw on the incredible fountain of Classical Indic Literature, with all its epics, sophistication, beauty, and nava rasas, and use his talent, vision, and entrepreneurial courage, to bring them to life and make them relevant to the times. So let the pop-psychologists, Freudian hacks, Lutyens insiders, foreign sympathisers, and serial slanderers run their ignorant mouths…We, the native public, the real public, know the real reason behind The Civilizational Resonance of Baahubali.

Predictably ignorant of the native Literary canon, serial rudaali, PK pablum peddler, and apochryphal activist Aamir Khan is said to have remarked after watching Inceptionwe [Bollywood] can’t even think at that level [Hollywood]”. Perhaps Bollywood can’t think at that level, PK, but Bahubaali has shown that Bharatiyas—real Bharatiyas—certainly can.

 Jai Mahishmati!

References:

  1. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Visakhapatnam/telugu-scholars-see-need-for-comprehensive-dictionary/article7121325.ece

Shubha Vaisakhi (2017)

VaisakhiGurkmukhi

From all of us at ICP: Shubha Vaisakhi! Happy Baisakhi! Baisakhi di lakh lakh badhai! Shubho Nabo Borsho! Pana Sankranthi ra Subheccha! Shubh Jude Sheetal! Happy Bihu!

The other half of the assorted New Year’s of Bharatavarsha fall this well. Though the majority are today. We have two more tomorrow.

Today is most famously the Baisakhi Mela of Punjab, celebrated vivaciously by Sikhs. It is the Harvest Festival, and a time of great happiness.

In Vanga, that is the Bengal region, it is referred to as Pohela Boisakh.

VaisakhiPanjPiari

Continuing our tour of the Scripts of Bharatavarshi is the lipi for this festival, Gurmukhi. Used for the Punjabi language, Gurmukhi is also the text for the Guru Granth Sahib. Today is also the day that the Khalsa, the Sikh Brotherhood, was founded by Guru Gobind Singh. The Panj Piare from the five different caste groups were given Amrit today and forged into the Sikh Khalsa. This laid the path to the liberation of the Panjab from oppressive Mughal rule.

This is the other half of the Luni-Solar New Year’s Celebrations in Bharatavarsha. However, you celebrate today, best wishes to all our readers!

Shubha Vaisakhi! Happy Baisakhi!

Classical Indic Literature V: Romantic Sanskrit Poetry 2

RomanticSanskritPoetry2

In honour of Madan Utsav, Bharat’s true Festival of Romance, we bring you the second installment in our special set of articles from our Continuing Series on Classical Indic Literature.

Today we present to you our long planned Romantic Sanskrit Poetry 2.

This post features the famous Kavya of Mahakavi Kalidasa called Meghaduta.

Those of you following ICP would recall our inaugural Post on Romantic Sanskrit Poetry featuring Abhijnaanasaakuntalam. While the ‘Recognition of Sakuntala’ was a drama featuring beautiful poetry, Meghaduta is a lovely, lyrical poem that is pure romantic reverie. Perhaps no padya captures the longing of a husband for his wife like the ‘Cloud Messenger’. Indeed, if there were ever any question of Kalidasa’s poetic greatness, Meghaduta put it all to rest.

Author
http://indicportal.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/MahakaviKalidasa.jpg
Mahakavi Kalidasa

What is there to be said about Kalidasa that has not already been said? Quite a bit actually.

Kalidasa is a courtly poet, but his knowledge of the human heart and his understanding of the complex play of human motivation, are profound. A keen observer of nature in all its varied aspects—he sees with a painter’s eye and speaks with a poet’s tongue—he is at the same time a learned writer who wears his enormous learning lightly and with grace. [2]

Clearly there is a lesson in this legendary poet’s own approach. As alankara-sastra expert Acharya Dandin frequently decried, there is a proclivity toward pedantry, particularly in those subscribing to the school of Gauda. Mere show of learning is no real accomplishment. It is in the application of learning, to craft useful things which improve human life or via lucidly lyrical literature that lights up the soul. Along with learning, there is grace.

Kavi kula guru Kalidasa may have delighted us with his delightful dramas and romantic rupakas to remember. Abhijnanasaakuntalam, Vikramorvaseeyam, and Malavikaagnimitram may entertain us with their splendid stories. But if there is a piece that showcases the true genius of Ujjain’s most ardent devotee, it the one dedicated to a cumulus amicus. Meghaduta is that kavita that not only captures our heart but captivates our imagination.

“Kalidasa’s accomplishment is distinguished not only by the excellence of the individual works, but by the many-sided talent which the whole achievement displays. He is a dramatist, a writer of epic and a lyrical poet of extraordinary scope. In his hands the language attained a remarkable flexibility, becoming an instrument capable of sounding many moods and nuances of feeling; a language limpid and flowing, musical, uncluttered by the verbal virtuosities indulged in by many writers who followed him; yet, remaining a language loaded in every rift with the rich ores of the literary and mythical allusiveness of his cultural heritage. By welding different elements to create new genres, his importance as an innovator in the history of Sanskrit literature is clearly established.” [2,1]

The biography of that best of Kavis, Kalidasa, is a tale in and of itself—indeed, it is worth of a book, an article, a cinema, or several. Correspondingly, the writer who intertwined legend with history and delightful fancy with moral principles, led a life of similar meeting points. By the present foreign paradigm, he is dated to the 4th century CE, but it is more likely that he belongs to the 1st Century BCE instead.

The foregoing discussion is enough to justify the truth and the vitality of the age-long tradition that the poet belongs to the days of the glorious King Vikramaditya of Ujjayini—the founder of the Samvat era (57 B.C.) [1, vi]

 

Great Plays of Kalidasa

  • 8 works of his have come to us today.
  • 3 dramas, 2 epics, 2 lyrical poems, and 1 descriptive poems. [1]

Kalidasa would set standards of excellence in poetry for millennia. He imbues with life:

“Men of great stature, power and valour, and women of uncommon beauty and grace met by the heroes of epics and romances are often asked with admiring wonder if they are beings of divine origin: yaksas, gandharvas, apsaras. Apsaras, ‘born of the Waters’—the waters of creation (see note 8), are, like yaksa-yaksees, associated with life and fertility and seen as beneficent powers” [2,29]

To better prepare for married life, it is important to not only learn how to become eligible, but also marriageable. The courtly aesthetic is important not only in kingly courts, but in the courtship of couples. It is here that our hero of poesy truly excelled. He inspired generations of not only litterateurs and litterateuses, who frequently referred to him, but women and men of the elite, princesses and princes, wives and husbands,  to great romantic deeds in the itihaas of shringaar. But why take my word for it, hear from another great poet of antiquity.

Bana author of the Kadambari exclaimed:

Who is not delighted when Kalidasa’s perfect verses spring forth in their sweetness, like honey-filled clusters of flowers?”[1]

Indeed, who is not delighted. But if you have yet to dip your tongue in the madhu-madya of Mahakavi’s poetry, then start with Meghaduta.

Composition
kalidasa-s-meghdutam-the-cloud-messenger
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Sringara (Romance) is also Part of our Culture. Perhaps no Poem says Sringara like Meghaduta. From its dazzling descriptions of the Indian Subcontinent to its pleasing poetry recounting its people to its captivating kavya capturing sentiment, it is truly the poem for the true Romantic.

Describing the separation of a semi-divine Yaksha from his wife, we learn of this heavenly being’s banishment to Earth for 1 year. With no friend or beverage in which to drown his sorrows, this servant of Kubera turns to a gracious Cloud whom he beseeches to be his messenger. Duta-kavya can be considered a genre of poetry in and of itself, dating back to the Ramayana, and Rama’s anointment of Hanuman to be his messenger to Sita. In fact, the Meghaduta itself alludes to Valmiki’s great epic with frequent mentions of its characters and place names. The nayaka (hero), like Rama, is not resentful of the originator of his banishment, and bears his exile with heroic forbearance. It is certainly inspired by the Adi-kavya, and possibly an outright homage to it. And it certainly aspires to its himalayan heights of resonant rasa.

“The chief goal of drama is to produce rasa, the aesthetic emotion, evoked by the appropriate mood built cumulatively through not only words, but also by mime and gesture, music and dance, costume and jewellery” [2,7]…and oh, does Kalidasa evoke it, not only in his dramas, but in this descriptive poem.

The Court Poet of Vikramaditya and the first poet among Romantic kavis not only sources scintillating Sringara rasa but stylises soka as the sthayibhava.

He uses the “stately” mandaakraanta metre in his messenger poem. With its 17-syllabled lines, it is considered the archetypal chanda for love-poetry and longing. Indeed, through its cadence, it conveys the loneliness and yearning of the yaksha. If that is the mood, then the ambience is dream-like, like the very cloud with which it is eponymous.

The Meghaduta is divided into the Purvamegha (earlier cloud, as in the cloud’s journey to Alaka puri) and Uttaramegha (latter cloud, the narrative when the journey to Alaka ends).

The Purvamegha has 63 slokas and the Uttaramegha has 52 for a total of 115.

While this article will concentrate on the Uttaramegha, which most superbly captures the vipralambha sringara (love-in-separation) of the a-namika yaksha and yakshi as well as the exhilaration of Alakaa-puri,  outstanding descriptions of the Indian Subcontinent’s landscape is given in the poem’s earlier half, the Purvamegha.

In the Poorvamegha the poet reveals the Yaksa facing a cloud, clasping a towering peak of Himaalayas, whom he thinks of making the bearer of a message to his lorn wife; for he was cursed by Kuvera his Lord, to be severed from his wife for dereliction of duty. He makes an offering of Kutaja flowers and water to the cloud.” [1, iii]

It is a sophisticated work of an veteran poet and arguably ranks with Kumarasambhavam in its maturity. Connections with the Ramayana aside, it stands out for the originality of approach and the breadth of geographic treatment. Indeed, this descriptive poem provides a veritable  tour of Bharatavarsha and connects the sacred and super-human with the everyday and historical.

In this poem, Kaalidaasa gives us a glimpse of Kailaasa, and the Himaalayan regions. His eye in a fine frenzy rolls over the ridges, cliffs, scarps, valleys, dales, glades and the gritty upland of that mountain. He delineates the story of a bereaved Yaksa in crystal-clear vignettes that are remarkable for their precision and romantic charm.” [1,iii]

Mountains, rivers, valleys & cities, all are veritably painted by his padya for our manasa. Although apsaric Alakaa is the abode of the hour, Avantika’s favourite penman is loath to lose an opportunity to dedicate his penmanship to it.

Ujjayini was the city of his heart and he is delighted to sing of her glories and the romantic loves of her maidens. [1, vi]

Kalidasa’s reference to Ujjain in Meghadutam

 “to Ujjayinee glowing in splendor like a brilliant piece of Paradise

Come down to earth with traces of merits of dwellers in Paradise returning, the fruit of their good deeds almost spent.” [2,5]

For pedantic grammar-gyaanis and assorted Panchatantra murkha-panditas, an appropriate note regarding translation courtesy Chandra Rajan:

“Kalidasa’s poetry like much of Indian art is stylized. The Stylization is not a rhetorical procedure but part of the self-awareness with which the verse shapes itself. The translation therefore, has to be faithful, has to somehow contrive to be stylized and readable; to steer clear of a literalness of rendering as well as an identification of readability with contemporaneity.” [2,xvii]

In our time of jaded ennui and de rigeur poseurs, the Mahakavi revives the romantic with this refreshing tale of a lovelorn lover. Rather than the woman pining over the man, we find the husband pining over his wife.

The [cloud’s] message must be delivered at midnight, for the Yaksa’s fair and chaste wife passes sleepless nights, leaves her bed, sits in the highest window in the palace until the long to come daybreak comes. She is in no mood to enjoy the moonlight since she is neither fully awake nor asleep. Her lips go parch-dry, her hair grows coarse from want of oil; and her sleep is disturbed by tears so that she cannot dream of reunion. Such is the pitiful sight of the disheveled pining wife of the Yaksa that even the cloud would not fail to grow tender…The cloud is requested to bring back on his return a message from his beloved wife”  [1, xii]

C.R.Devadhar muses how interesting a sequel to Meghaduta would be, and what the return message from the Yaksa’s wife would be—perhaps there is a poem there to be composed by a skilled poetess yet to write…

And here, our journey into the author and his composition ends, and the selections from his celebrated poem begin. We now step into the heavenly realm of Himalayan Alakaa.

 Alakaa is a world created by our dreams and desires where time stands still and whose ways are untrodden by the unimaginative; where ‘sensual music’ fills the nights to overflowing under the moonlight (Megh.66,68). [2,26]

Selections
§
meghaduta2
Artwork by Artist Nana Joshi

I. Tanvee syaamaa sikhari dasanaa pakva bimbaa daroshtee

Madhye kshaamaa chakita harirgipre kshargaa nimma naabhah |

Srorgee-bhaaraa-dalasa-gamanaa sthoka-nabhra sthanaabyaam

Ya tatra syaadhya vathivishaye srushtiraadhyova dhaathuh || UM.Sl.19

There resides my wife, the Creator’s prototype of a luscious woman, slender and youthful, with pointed teeth and lips red like bimba fruit, a thin waist and a glance like that of a startled deer; she has a deep navel, with a measured gait owing to the weight of the hips, and she is slightly stooping from the weight of her bosom. [1, 31]

§

 

II. Thaam jaaneethaah parimitha-kathaam jeevitam me dvitheeyam

Dooreebhoothe mayi sahachare chakravaaki-mivaikaam |

Gaadotkashtaam gurushu diva-seshveshu gacchatsu baalaam

Jaathaam manye sisira mathhithaam padhmineem vaanya-roopaam || UM.sl.20

In her recognize my very life, sparing in her speech and cut off from me like a chakravaaka [bird] from the spouse. Her heart overflows with longing as days pass heavily; I think she droops like a younger creeper in Winter’s rigour. [1, 31]

§

meghaduta1 Artwork by Artist Nana Joshi

 

III. Noonam yasyaah prabala-rudeetochoo nanetram priyaayaa

Nihsvaasaa-naama-sisiratayaa bhinna-varga- dharoshtam |

Hasta-nyastam mukha-masakalvyakti lambaala-katvaa

Dindor-dainyam tvadanu-sararga-klishta-kaante -bimbatim|| UM.sl.21

My darling’s eyes are swollen red by constant tears, the color of her lips fades by her burning sighs; her face rests upon her palms, hid by her long tresses. Indeed, she looks like the waning Moon enwrapped in the night’s folds. [1, 32]

§

MeetingInTheDream

Artwork by Artist Nana Joshi

IV. Nih-svaasenaadhara-kisalaya-klesinaa vikshipantheem

Suddha-snaanaat parushamalakam noonamaa-ganda-lambam |

Matsambhogah kathamapi bhavet-svapnajo’peethi nidraa

Maakaankshantheem nayanasa-lilot-peeda-ruddhaa-vakaasaam || UM.sl.28

Her delicate lips are scared by her fervid sighs. She spills her hair, grown rough and dry since she washes them in pure water without oil or scent. She longs for my embrace even though it be in a dream. But tears well up and destroy the relief which sleep could afford. [1, 34]

§

The message:

V. Srangenaangam-suthanu tanunaa gaada-taptena taptam

Saasrergaa-sradrutama-viratot-kanta-mutkantithena

Dheergocch-vaasam samadhi-katarocch-vaasinaa dooravartheem

Sankalpai-stair-visaati vidhinaa vairirgaa ruddha maargah || UM.sl.39

Obstructed by an angry and inexorable Fate, the distant one [your husband] seeks to unite with you, to mingle tears with tears, arms with arms, pining bodies, anxious heart to heart, sigh with sigh—such are his wishes. [1,38]

§
meghaduta4
Artwork by Artist Nana Joshi

VI. Syamaasvanga chakhita-hareergipre-ksharge drshtipaatham

Vaktrachaayaam sasini sikhinaam bahambaareshu keshaan

Utpasyaami prathanushu nadheevee-chishu bhroovilaasaan

Hanthai-kasmin kvachidhapi na te chandi syaadrsya masthi || UM.sl.41

I can detect a little of your form in supple vines

Your glances in the eyes of a startled doe, your face in the moon

Your tresses vie with peacock’s plumage

Your eyebrow’s graceful curve in the stream’s small waves [2, 38]

But do not frown…for in no object, is there full likeness, of you [1,39]

§

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DevadharKalidasameghadutaofkalidasa meghdoothindi


References:
  1. Devadhar, C.R. Works of Kalidasa: Volume II. Delhi: MLBD. 2010
  2. Rajan, Chandra. The Complete Works of Kalidasa: Volume 1 (Poets). New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. 2005
  3. Wilson, H.H. The Megha-Duta: The Cloud Messenger. London: Thurner & Co. 1867
Acknowledgement: My thanks again to the young voice actor for enacting this poetry recitation on short notice. 

Acknowledgment: The outstanding artwork by artist Nana Joshi can be found on this website. The poem was verily brought to life by these chitras.

*Minor Proofing for some translations

Madan Utsav — Indic Festival for Romance

madanotsav

India, Indic Civilization, and Bharatiya Sanskriti have produced many noble and spiritual figures. But as those of us who grew up Indian know, it is very much work hard & play hard.

Colonial stereotypes  were convenient for those who were trying to change the religion of the people of Bharatavarsha. They failed because those who know our tradition know fun and frolic and yes even Romance has always been very much part of our traditional culture and festivals (perhaps that is why they are trying to doing everything they can to take away the fun…only for Hindu festivals of course).

Therefore, perhaps it is time to not just play defence and preserve what we have, but to go ahead and revive what was originally part of it. The youth of today very much exercise freedom, and naturally when they become college-age, it is only natural to be more interested in spending time with the opposite gender. Indeed, this too is ok, provided it is done respectably and with good intentions. As we wrote in our article on Sringara, Romance—real romance—is not just a pretext to “consume” or “purchase” love from hallmark or godiva. Love is not merely a “veneer” to give respectability to serial and animal lust. This is the danger of de-sacralisation (removing the sacred), whether it is removing Dharma from Yoga, taking the Veda out of Ayurveda, or turning Vasant into some sufi-bolly “Basant”.

In fact, lost in all of these efforts has been the fact that from ancient times itself we had something our Valentine’s day obsessed youth don’t know—our own Dharmic Festival of Romantic Love: Madan Utsav.

Madan Utsav — Indic Festival for Romance

Contrary to Valentine’s lovers who swear by the Catholic St.Valentine as the embodiment of Romance, Ancient India long had a festival that celebrated Shringaar. Vasanta Utsava was the traditional multi-day Spring Festival. Holi has come to represent two such days (with the burning of Holika during Choti Holi the night before). While Kama is associated with Spring, Madan Utsav begins on Chaitra Shukla Trayodasi, and thus is a month later than Holi. This is due to the discrepancy between the Purnimanta Calendar in most of the North and the Amanta/Amavasyat Calendar in Peninsular India. Thus, the reason why Holi and Madan Utsav (currently a month apart) would have been celebrated as part of the two-week Vasanta Maha Utsav is because of the general use of Amavasyat in all of India at one point. Restoring Amavasyat would restore the continuity of the two week Spring Festival, starting from Holi and ending with Madan Utsav. That is why Madan Utsav was traditionally synonymous with Vasant Utsav (and perhaps should be again).

In fact, it has historical precedence in many parts of the country, but especially Andhra. In fact, one king of the Reddi Dynasty, which presided over the Romantic Age of Andhra, came to embody the spirit of Spring, and also personally inaugurated Madan Utsav. It was a festival of great festivity and cheer.

Madan Utsav is also mentioned by our great poets, Kalidasa and Sriharsa, in their plays. Jayamangala, a commentator on the Kamasutra, in fact gives primacy to this day over the other constituent parts of Vasant Utsav, and mentions the name Madhanamahotsava. [1, 353]  This is a festival devoted to Madhana or Kama Deva, god of Love, assisted by his friend and ally Vasant, the presiding deity of the spring.

Madan Utsav celebrates the return of Madan to his wife Rati.

Kama-Rati

“It was primarily a romantic festival involving fun and frolic, music and dance, song and play, swinging, and swimming and all kinds of amusements.” [1,354] “Both men and women, young and old took part in this festival and marched in procession in streets, singing love songs and dancing to the accompaniment of music. Generally dancing girls and their paramours took an active part in these frolics” [1, 354]

That’s right. Hinduism, or more correctly, Sanatana Dharma, was never only just about ritual, or caste, or boring severity, but very much achieving a balance between fun and duty. Dharma to guide Rasa (sentiment), and Rasa to enrich Dharma. Morals, and laws, and virtuous examples don’t exist to restrict the fun of men and women (or boys and girls). They exist to protect individuals from each other and also to protect us from ourselves and from our greed.

Romance and love in the right context (marriage…or at least the path to it) very much makes life worth living and contains the full spectrum (erotic, romantic, & spiritual). But Romance without restraint ends up being, well, the disastrous state of affairs we have now. When no respect or regard is given to sacred relationships between the genders or even between family members—then isn’t what is being called “love”, really lust?

Love is seeking to give pleasure to someone you love. Lust is trying to extract pleasure for yourself. Lust is selfish, Love is selfless.

That is the reason why Madan Utsav is the real Festival of Love for Bharatiyas, rather than some corporate “Global” spend-fest. There was a great carnival and the King (or Civic Leader) would go to a park specially decorated for Vasant. There would be a pandal for Kama & Rati, Vishnu & Lakshmi, Siva & Sakti, and Indra & Sachi. Perfumes such as camphor, musk, civet, saffron, sandal were used, rosewater was freely sprinkled on people along with water mixed with turmeric. A bamboo water soaker was used (like in Holi). People mixed freely and the kings gave it royal grandeur . [1,357]

There is in fact broad evidence to the existence of Madan Utsav beyond Andhra’s Reddi Kingdom, or even the Vijayanagara Empire.

There are accounts for its existence in the Madhyadesa (modern Uttar Pradesh) and Kashmir as well as discussions in the Puranas, about the festival and its origin.

Here is what the ancient Kashmiris celebrated:

Then there was the Madana Trayodashi, a festival dedicated to the god of love. On this occasion a husband would demonstrate his love for his wife by personally giving her a bath with sacred water scented by herbs.[4, 87]

Madana Utsava  is frequently referred to as Madana Trayodasi, as it is celebrated on the 13th day of the Shukla Paksha of the Month of Chaitra (Early April). Being celebrated in the bright half of the moon, it can even extend to next day and thus, there is even a Madana Chaturdashi, which is the 14th day of the Month of Chaitra (for all you 14th of February fans).

The record of Madan Utsav in Kashmir’s ancient Nilamata Purana testifies to this as well.

The reason for this lies in the festival’s origin:

Festival Significance

Vasant Utsav and Madan Utsav have often been referred collectively. And yet, elsewhere we see a clear distinction between the two festivals with Vasant. Thus, traditionally, Madan Utsav seems to have been synonymous with Vasant. But given the divergences and exigencies of the time, perhaps its more appropriate to distinguish the two, while preserving the importance of both.

Here is the traditional story of the origin of Madan Utsav:

This festival of Madanamahotsava is described by Hemadri in his Vratakhand, wherein he narrates the following story about its origin. After marrying Gauri, Siva, observing Pasupatavrata, lost himself in meditation. Gauri’s desire for maternity remained unfulfilled.

Brahma and other gods held consultations and sent Madana to disturb Siva’s meditation, with the hope that he alone could divert Siva’s attention. Madana accompanied by Vasanta, went in front of Siva who was then in deep contemplation, and having drawn his sugarcane-bow, discharged his missiles of flowers on Siva which disturbed his deep medi-tation and caused mandonmada or love madness.

kama-ikshuvaana

Siva burst into a rage and opened his third eye of fire reducing Madana to ashes. Madana’s wife, Rati, seeing her husband burnt to ashes, was stricken with great grief. Then with a heart softened by seeing her pitiable condition, Gauri said to Siva, ‘you have burnt up Kama who had come here for my sake. Pray, take pity on his wife Rati, and bring Madana, her husband, back to life.’ Siva replied, “How could Madana, once burnt to death by me, come to life again?”

 However, I shall grant your request. In the spring season, on the thirteenth day of the light half of the month, he would reassume his bodily form.”  Having granted this boon, Siva is said to have gone to Kailaasa. So the lunar thirteenth day of the bright fortnight was the day of Madana coming to life again. Hemadri does not specify the month; but simply states that it is in the spring time. It is evident that it is the lunar thirteenth day of the bright half of the month of Caitra. This spring carnival is therefore called Madanamahotsava or Vasantotsava” [1,355]

This also aligns, of course, with the Spring Festival of Holi, which features the Holika Dahan. This is referred to as Kamuni Dahamu in parts of India, where a bonfire is lit to burn away attachments.

Celebration

How to celebrate Madan Utsav? While jnu “global” types suggest finding a random partner and running off to the nearest park or motel, Bharatiya sanskriti is more sophisticated. As we saw above, whether in Kashmir or Kosta (Coastal Andhra), Madan Utsav was celebrated by the entire society. Not just Kings and Queens, but traditional Brahmins, fun-loving masses, and everyone in between. The only difference is that achara (good conduct) and sabhyata (etiquette) were observed. In public, one must behave with respect/courtesy (maryada) to elders and senior citizens.

Public Celebration

Public celebration of Madan Mahotsav, specifically in the context of Vasant Utsav, is mentioned in both the Malavikaagnimitram and one of Sriharsa‘s famous plays celebrating the famed Manmatha of Madhyadesa, King Udayana—better known as Vatsaraja. Here is an excerpt from Ratnavali on the public celebration and all it entails:

His Majesty has started for the palace to witness the merriment of the citizens, heightened by the Madana Festival. (Looking up) Ah, how now! The King has ascended the palace! He, The lord of Vatsa, like the flower-bowed god (Madana) in person, as it were, with all talk of Vigraha (the war-body) ceased, having Rati (love of the people—his wife), living in the hearts of the people and one to whom Vasantaka (his companion—Spring), is dear, is advancing, eager to behold this great festival.“[7, 120]

Just behold the beauty of this great Madana-festival, in which curiosity is excited by the citizens (or gallants), dancing as they are struck by the water from the syringes [pichkaris] taken up, of their own accord, by the amorous women intoxicated with wine; which is attractive on account of the openings of the streets resounding with the sound of charchari songs (or clapping of hands) deepened by the tabors beaten all round, and which has rendered the faces of the ten directions yellowish-red by means of the heaps of patavasa [flowers] scattered about.” [7, 121]

By heaps of scented powder scattered about, yellow with saffron dust and imparted to the day the appearance of the dawn, by the glitter of gold ornaments and by the wreaths of  Ashoka flowers that cause the heads to bend low by their weight, this Kausambi, which has surpassed all the treasures of the Lord of wealth by its opulence apparent from the dresses (of the people), and which seems to have its inhabitants covered with liquid gold as it were, appears all yellow. Moreover, In the courtyard which is flooded all over with the continuous streams of water ejected by the foun-tains and where sport is carried on in the mud caused by the simultaneous and close treadings, the yon pavement is reddened by the people with the imprints (lit.plantings) of their feet, red with the colour of the vermillion” [7, 122]

Kaushambi is in modern Uttar Pradesh. Thus from Kashmir in the Uttarapatha to Kaushambi in the Madhyadesa to the Kosta in Andhra Pradesa, Madan Utsav was celebrated throughout classical Bharatavarsha.

By the way, although this is a legendary love story involving King Udayana and Princess Ratnavali, there is war and adventure, so there’s something in it for the guys and girls.

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Ratnavali

Family/Community Celebration

The Pujavidhana or the mode of worshipping Madana is also described by Hemadri. It is said that, on the thirteenth tithi of the bright half, a representations of the Asoka tree should be made after taking a bath, and the floor should be decorated with kolams. Images of Kamadeva, Vighnesvara, Siva and Vasanta and Apsarogunas made either of gold or of any other metal or material, should be worshipped with incense, sandal paste, and flowers at midday by the king, along with his ministers, ladies and others. After the completion of worship, offerings of cakes of different kinds should be made to them and betel be distributed among brahmin couples with daksina.” [1,355]

Couples

Couples should offer new clothes, gifts, flowers and ornaments to each other. “Those who observe this Madanamahotsava are enjoined to keep holy vigil that night, and perform rasa-mahotsava or love-dance. Lamps should be lit, and wine should be offered to sudras [or rather those who drink], and camphor, kumkuma powder, sandal paste and other perfumes and betel should be distributed.”[1, 355]

Thus while the wife would worship her husband on his return (as the embodiment of Kama Deva), the husband in turn would worship her after her sacred bath, as we saw in Kashmir.

This mutual reverence demonstrated not only respect for both genders but also gives the correct understanding of matrimony and even sex as sacred—in contrast to modern consumer society where it is lust on demand and for the highest bidder. Lust is not Love  nor is Lust even Erotic Love or Erotic Desire. Lust is selfish greed for sex. Erotic desire is not condemned (in the right context). Lust is condemned (in any context).

Lord Krishna teaches detachment

“Sri Krishna relates to Arjuna in Bhagavadgita (Ch.2.62 & 63), on the battlefield of Kurukshetra (a place near Delhi) in Mahabharata that:

Dhyayato vishayaan pumsah, vangas teshupa jaayate
Sangaat sanjaayate kaamah, kaamat krodhobhi jaayate
Krodhad bhavati sammohah, sammohat smriti vibramaha
Smriti bhramsaad buddhi nasho, buddhi maashaat pranasyati

While contemplating material and sensual objects, persons become attached to them. Such attachment develops lust and lust generates anger. Anger leads to delusion and delusion to mental bewilderment. When the mind is bewildered, intelligence and discretion is lost. Loss of intelligence and discretion leads to downfall of the person.” [6]

Kaameswara Lord Shiva Conquers Lust [6]

ShivaConquersKama

Kama (pronounced Kaama) is a very interesting word. Like many words in Sanskrit its meaning is context sensitive. In some contexts it means pleasure, in others it means love, and in this situation it means lust (kaama-moha or kaama-unmada). It is because of this danger (which Sri Krishna warns about) that Lord Shiva had to show us the importance of conquering Lust.

The reason why there are so many regulations and rules and such detailed morality regarding sex is because it is the most powerful of aspects in life. This is the case not only for its creative power, but due to its attractive power, its physical power, and even its spiritual power. The key to conquering lust, therefore, is not through celibacy-sans-saadhana, but by correctly connecting sex with love (if you do take the oath of celibacy, you must follow the saadhana that our sadhus do to succeed). Love comes in many forms. When you are capable of real romantic love, however, then the selflessness it demands, opens the door to Divine Love.

That is why the Madan Utsav itself is signified by Lord Shiva destroying Kama. He is referred to as Kaameswara and Maara-ripu because he conquered lust. When lust is conquered, then the full spectrum of love from the erotic to the romantic to the spiritual can be properly enjoyed. It was only after this that Mahadev and Parvati Devi endeavored to create the God Kartikeya.

That is why, unlike Valentine’s Day, Madan Utsav signifies the sanctity of the bond between woman and man, and especially, Wife and Husband. So yes, there is the erotic (rati), yes there is the romantic (sringara), but Madan Utsav is also about the spiritual (adhyatmika), which makes the erotic & romantic healthier and more meaningful . When wife is viewed as sacred, the husband refuses to exploit her (and vice-versa—yes ladies, what’s good for the gander…).

That is why you should celebrate Madan Utsav: the whole society comes together to celebrate Love in happy abandon, and all participate in their own way. Less orthodox castes used to be gifted wine while traditional brahmanas were gifted betel leaf. The day would begin with all of society coming together in respectable but enthusiastic celebration, with the night obviously ending between wife and husband.

In contrast to the consumer-driven, hallmark inspired veneer of romance for lust that is Corporate Valentine’s Day, Classical Indic Society celebrated the full spectrum of love in the proper context. Yes, dancers and actresses and singers, etc had their paramours and inspired people to celebrate, but the engaged (or about to be) and the married were naturally the core of the festival. Young and old, upper caste and lower caste, elite and mass, woman and man, all celebrated what we all know to be part of our nature…but in the right context…in the right way…in the right time.

How to Start?

It has been many centuries since the days of Ancient Kashmir or Medieval Andhra, so how can a beautiful festival be celebrated today? If you are reading this and are unmarried, you can tell people in your college or organise a group of friends your age and go to the park and sing your favourite love songs (they can be from Indian movies or popular music). If you are even more adventurous you can make (safe) flower-head arrows using a children’s bow or slingshot and pretend to be Kamadev, returning. You can distribute the traditional bamboo water soakers from Holi for rose-water or sandalpaste water (saving the colours for that special Festival of Colours).

If you are not single, then you know to exchange gifts, express love and affection, recite Poetry, and of course, dance the Rasa Mahotsav and the dance of love however you see fit.

But most importantly, if you care about our culture and tradition, be sure to tell your friends and family about Madan Utsav and how they can celebrate on Madan Trayodasi (Thirteenth day of the bright half of the lunar month of Chaitra, which is in Early April, see below for this year’s date).

Celebrate Madan Utsav!

kaamadhevaDate:

April 9th, 2017

Public Activities:

§ Spread the word in your College or Social Group. Hand out flyers explaining the day.

§ Greet or Yell “Shubh Madan Utsav!”. Find a public place or reserve one for celebrations.

§ Spray rosewater/sandalwood paste waster with pichkaris or gently throw flowers.

Kama-Rati

§ Sing your favourite love songs as a group and/or via Shringaar-themed Antakshari

§ Play Romantic instruments like the flute or hire professional musicians

§ Dance using Dandiya sticks—or Bhangra too if you are inclined to Punjabi.

Family Activities: Extended family can celebrate by lighting lamps, singing songs, giving tambula to those in home, colony, apartment or housing development. Of course, those of you who drink wine, will know whom to give it to, whom not to give it to, & when to drink it.

§ Draw Rangavali/Rangoli/Kolam during the Day. Light lamps at night.

§ Have a great feast in your community. Make garlands and swings of flowers. Play music.

§ Give gifts depending on how orthodox you or others are (betel leaves for some, wine for others)

§ Sing, Dance,use a safe (children’s toy bow)/slingshot for soft flowertip arrows or flowers.

Married Couples: Exchange gifts,  express affection in preferred manner (see above).

§ At the start of the day, wife welcomes husband as embodiment of Kama Deva

§ During the day is the chance to express love (rather than PDA) either in public celebrations or private, via music, song, poetry, dancing, etc.

§ At end of the day, husband returns favour and gives gifts & shows love for wife (see “Kashmir option” above)

Kama is the embodiment of Romance and his wife Rati is the embodiment of well, rati.

So Happy Festival of Love, in advance. Or as we should say in Bharat…

Shubh Madan Utsav!!!
April 9th, 2017

References:
  1. M.Somasekhara Sarma. History of the Reddi Kingdoms.Delhi:Facsimile Publ. 2015
  2. Rajan, Chandra. The Complete Works of Kalidasa: Volume One (Poems).Delhi: Sahitya Akademi.2005
  3. Dutt, Manmatha Nath. Garuda Puranam Calcutta.1908.p.355
  4. Kaw, M.K. Kashmir & its People: Studies in the Evolution of Kashmiri Society.New Delhi: Saras Graphics.2004
  5. http://www.hindu-blog.com/2010/03/madana-trayodashi-2010-date.html
  6. http://www.saibabaofindia.com/spiritual_meanings_for_holi.htm
  7. Kale, M.R. The Ratnavali of Sri Harsa-Deva.Delhi: MLBD.2011