Tag Archives: Bharatavarsha

Classical Indic Warfare I: Dhanur Veda

It is often asked whether there was a Traditional Dharmic Military Science. After all, in an era where “Might makes Right” and “Victory is the only Morality”, how can a society, any society, hope to survive without its own Tradition of Warfare? Although modern India has come to be associated with the concept of Ahimsa, it must also be remembered that Bharat is also the society of Dharma eva hatho hanthi.

Those who wish to elevate Dharmo rakshati rakshitaha from a mere maxim to an actual eternal truth must first begin by properly understanding the first installment in our new Series on Classical Indic Warfare: Dhanur Veda.

Introduction

Vaasishtaaya namoh namaha

Salutations to Maharishi Vasishta, who expounded the Dhanur Veda to King Kausika (who became Vishvamitra).

Dhanur Veda is an ancient tradition, considered by some to be one of the 18 branches of knowledge. “According to Visnudharmottara, god Satakratu (Indra) represents Dhanurveda or the knowledge of warfare.” [2] Other divinities associated with it include Lord Skanda (the God of War), and his father (Sadashiva) who himself is credited with the Siva-Dhanur-Veda.

Although Dhanurveda is often referred to merely as Science of Archery or “Martial Arts”, it is in fact the Ancient Vedic Military Science. It is the foundation of the Indic Way of War. As for why the name emphasises the Dhanush, the explanation is as follows: Just as Soopa Sastra refers to Cuisine, just as Arthasastra refers to Statecraft, so too does Dhanur Veda refer to Military Science.

Long time readers would have become familiar with the preceding Upavedas we discussed. Each Upaveda is attached to one of the Chatur Vedas.

Gandharva Veda — Saama Veda

Sthaapatya Veda — Atharva Veda

Dhanur Veda — Yajur Veda

Ayur Veda — Rig Veda

As such, just as Gandharva Veda is attached to the Saama, just as Sthaapatya Veda is attached to the Atharvana, the Dhanur Veda is attached to the Yajur Veda.

That is why the realm of Dhanur Veda is not merely for rote regurgitators, but for those with an understanding of both ancient and modern military arts. In fact, the first guru-sishya parampara of Dhanur Veda begins with Lord Brahma teaching King Prithu. There are of course other lineages. The Siva Dhanur Veda propounds the teachings of Tripurantaka (Lord Shiva) who instructed Parashurama. And finally, the Vasishta Dhanurveda Samhita encompasses the discourse on Dhanur Veda delivered by Maharishi Vasishta to Vishwamitra. Some even list as many as 6 or 7 Traditions.

Despite the fumblings of neophytes, also-rans, and ahankari-shikhandis, a proper restatement of the Vedic Way of War has yet to be comprehensively discussed. To date, there have either been modern Subject-Matter-Experts with outstanding professional expertise, but minimal traditional awareness, or traditionalist (and pseudo-traditionalist) scholars who cite theory without practical modern understanding. But to face the Exigencies of the Politico-Strategic, both are required. We must be rooted in the past but pragmatically face the present as it is, not as we wish it to be.

As such, to fight the battle that faces us, rather than merely the one we want, one must properly understand that we face not a Clash of Civilizations, but a Clash for Civilization. Because when you realise the enemy you face is amongst you, and inherently uncivilised, you understand the traditional rules of Achara Yuddha do not apply. It is why Dhanur Veda stands astride both the realms of Raja Dharma and Raja Niti. While statecraft encompasses both, Dharmic Epistemology necessitates the classification of Sainyaara-vidya under Niti, as the principles of war are neither moral nor immoral, but amoral.

Dharma→Rajadharma→Rajaniti→Kootaniti→Dhanurveda→Kanikaniti

It is why in the Kali Yuga, Koota Niti rather than Dhanur Veda is the starting point, because strategy determines whether or not you go to war, rather than war being the starting point of considering strategy. The present time provides a set of sophisticated forms of warfare, which may or may not have been foreseen by our forbears and seers, but nevertheless are practiced today (Lawfare, Economic Warfare, Cultural Warfare, etc.). In fact, the modern and post-modern eras have become so complex, that one must consider strategy even before politics. The latter becomes an extension of the former, rather than the standard other way around.

If the Politico-Strategic involves understanding and successfully managing the competitive landscape, Dhanur Veda involves the ability to impose one’s decision upon the adversary.

Purpose

The Purpose of Dhanur Veda was stated by Maharishi Vasishta himself. Rather than for seeking glory or demonstrating mere skill, the purpose of archery (Dhanurvidya) and warfare (Dhanur Veda) was to protect one’s subjects, and rescue the weak from the strong, and preserve Dharma and the virtuous persons who practice it.

Dushtadasyuchoradibhya saadhu-samrakshanam dhammethah |

Praja-paalanam Dhanurvedasya Prayojanam || sl.5

The purposes of learning [Dhanurveda] are to protect the virtuous people from the evil persons, robbers and thieves and also to protect and defend the subjects. [2,4]

As such, a teacher of Dhanurveda has the responsibility to train students well, and also to reject greedy, foolish, ungrateful, and evil students so that they cannot abuse this knowledge to harm others.

Knowledge, for both student and teacher, comes with responsibility.

Theoretical Foundations

For the defence of a country, there are abundant references in Vedas, to maintain a regular armed force. It is also enjoined therein that the immediate control of this defence force should be under the command of a chief.  [1,14]

These of course are references to the state of the Military art of the time. Contrary to popular opinion, the theoretical study of Warfare is ancient and widespread in Indic Civilization.

As with all things Dharmic, the foundational aspects of the Indic Military Tradition are found in the Chaturveda. Due to the numerous references to the subject in that samhita, Maharishi Vasistha considers Dhanurveda to also be a sub-branch of Atharva Veda.

Committees (samiti/sabha/sura) consisting of competent experts were to be appointed by the King on defence policy and related matters (AV. 15.8.9, 4.30.2). Such bodies had an advisory role, with the King naturally serving as the overall Chief of the Defence Forces (RV.10.125) Nevertheless, separate Commanders-in-Chief (senadhipatis) were frequently appointed (though the risk of coups remained—as evidenced by Pushyamitra Sunga‘s rise to power).

The election and consecration of the commander on the field of battle as evidenced in the epic at once reminds one of the Vedic king’s coronation. [7, 2]

While rooted in the Yajur Veda, there are a large number of sources (extant and otherwise) for understanding the application of Dhanur Veda.

Dhanurveda, the standard work on Vedic military science being lost, dissertations on the Mahabharata, the Agni Purana, Akasa Bhairava Tantra, Kautalya Arthasastra, Manusmrti, Matsya Purana…Manasollasa, Yukti Kalpa Taru, Visnudharmottara Purana, Viramitrodaya, Samrangana Sutradhara, Sukraniti, and other small works on Dhanurveda like Ausanas Dhanurveda, Vasishta Dhanurveda, Sadasiva Dhanurveda and Niti Prakasika are the only source of information on the subject left to us.” [1,13]

Many of course will argue that some of these texts, such as the Siva Dhanurveda, focus almost exclusively on literal Dhanur vidya (archery). That is true, but even the Vasistha Dhanurveda Samhita is more robust and covers elements of battle strategy and military operations as well. There are also other Dhanurvedas that are lesser known: Vishvamitra Dhanurveda, Jamadagni Dhanurveda, Vaisampayana Dhanurveda, as well as the Veerachintamani of Sarangadhara. [1,15] Furthermore, the RamayanaMahabharata, and Arthasastra all cover the details of the art of Dharmic War, down to the granular level of logistics and military education of princes.

The Hindu did not permit even the military art to remain unexamined. It is very certain that the Hindu kings led their own armies to the combat, and that they were prepared for this important employment by a military education; nor is it less certain that many of these monarchs were distinguished for the highest valour and military skill. [1,1]

The Nitiprakaasika of Vaisampayana tells us that Lord Brahma was the originator of Dhanur Veda and taught King Prthu, son of Vena, via 1,00,000 slokas. This was reduced to 50,000 by Rudra, 12,000 by Indra and 3,000 by Pracetasa & Brihaspathi. Sukra reduced it to 1,000, Bharadvaja to 700, Gaishira to 500 and Maharishi Veda Vyasa to 300.  Vaisampayana himself provides us with this work in 8 chapters. [1]

Dhanurveda is generally divided into 4 sections: 1. Deeksha (Initiation), 2. Sangraha (Procurement), Siddhaprayoga (Training), Prayogavidhi (Operations).

Modern Hindus are more obsessed with 1 and 4, when they need to pay more attention to 2 and 3. Some leaders are born—it is true—but most are made. They are made through education and tested through practice. It is why all-theory and no practice pseudo-trads need to exit the kshetra where they do not belong.

Pareekshaa anyaa yogyataa anyaa

Exam is one thing competence is another

This is emphasised by Acharya Chanakya himself, who mentioned training in the military arts to extend to study of the Itihaasas. It is not for nothing that History is dubbed “the school of princes”.

Interestingly, talented generals were often highly trained in the fine arts. Maharana Kumbha crushed the neighbouring Sultanates and turned Mewar into a powerhouse. He was also a commentator on Music & Literature.  As for Andhra, the Nrtta Ratnavali (a work on dance) of Jaya Senapati ends every chapter colophon as follows:

Srimanmaharajadhiraja-ganapatideva-gajasaadhanika

Jayasenapati- viracitaayaam nrttaratnaavalyaam

Nrtta Ratnavali authored by Jayasenaapti, the chief of the elephant forces of Ganapatideva, the superior king of kings. [147]

A great general in his own right, Ganapati Deva was the father of the warrior Queen Rudrama Devi.

Thus the Gaja-sadhanika (or Elephant Corps commander) also had a well-rounded education. While these are some of the theoretical foundations, one must also familiarise oneself with the terminology and principles of Dhanurveda.

Teminology

  • Dhanurveda — Military Science
  • Samgraama/Vigraha — War
  • Yuddha — Battle
  • Sangraha — Procurement
  • Siddhaprayoga —Training
  • Prayogavidhi — Operations
  • Upasad — Siege
  • Samkrama — Bridge
  • Kavacha — Armour
  • Varma — Chain mail
  • Sirastraana/Sipra — Helmet
  • Kantatraana — Throat protector
  • Phalaka — Shield (metal or wood)/Charma (leather or hide shield)
  • Hastaghna — Armguard (especially for archers)
  • Dundubhi — War drum
  • Suhstra — Weapon
  • Dhanusha — Bow
  • Vaana — Arrow
  • Gadha — Mace
  • Vavri — Sheath/ Vaala — Belt
  • Khadga — Sword (falchion)
  • Khanda — Sword (long sword)
  • Asi — Blade/Knife
  • Chakra — Discus
  • Velam — Spear
  • Tomara — Lance
  • Parashu— Axe
  • Trishula — Trident
  • Yantra — War Engine (i.e. Catapult)
  • Durgam — Fortress
  • Skandhavaara/Shivira — Camp
  • Chakravartin — He who turns the Wheel of Dharma (Paramount Sovereign)
  • Raja — King
  • Rajanya — Royal Family
  • Kshatriya — Aristocrat
  • Veera — Warrior
  • Senadipathi — Commander in Chief
  • Senapathi/Senani — General
  • Nayaka — Commander
  • Upanayaka — Lieutenant
  • Sainik/Patti — Foot Soldier
  • Ashvasaada — Cavalryman
  • Spashah — Spy
  • Duta — Messenger
  • Gaja — Elephant
  • Ratha — Chariot
  • Naava — Boat
  • Nalikaa — Gun
  • Agnichoorna — Gunpowder
  • Nisthaanam — Base
  • Sena — Army
  • Nau Sena/Varuna Sena — Navy
  • Vayu Sena — Air Force
  • Kaksha — Flanks
  • Paksha — Wings (also camp)
  • Koti — Vanguard
  • Uras — Chest (front centre)
  • Madhya — Centre (behind the chest)
  • Prstha — Rearguard
  • Praligraha — Reserves
  • Vyuha — Formation
Principles

samudraram

  1. Initiation
  2. Procurement
  3. Training
  4. Operations
    1. Strategic Planning
      1. Personnel
      2. Logistics
    2. Military Operations
      1. Encampment
      2. Battles
        1. Organisation
        2. Formations
      3. Sieges

Study of specifically Dhanur Vidya is more appropriate for another time. It is important to understand its place and practice in the wider context of War (Samgraam)

Dharma of Samgraama

Dharmachakra

The Dharma of Samgraama, or Dharma of War, is one that is complex and one that has grown increasingly subtle over time. While the purpose of war has already been discussed, how should a just war be conducted?

The Epic code of ethics helped to soften the edge of conflict…The civilian population was allowed to pursue its labours umolested, temples and places of public worship were left undefiled. That these rules were operative in the fourth century B.C., is fully supported by the testimony of Megasthenes. It is doubtful if any other ancient civilization set such humane ideals of war. [7, 167]

Achara Yuddha

Hindu warfare was honoured for its code of Ethics, so much so that foreign commentators often asked whether it was more of a tournament for warriors.

Murcchitham naiva vikalam nashastram naanyayodhinam |

Palaayamaanam saranam gathanchaiva na himsayeth || sl.41

One should not kill the enemy who is lying unconscious, who is crippled, devoid of weapon or is stricken with fear and also who has come for shelter. [2, 64]

With such rules, it is easy to see why Rajputs fell for Turk deceptions time and again. But the first responsibility of a King is not to be a chivalrous/magnanimous figure, but to protect his subjects.

But contrary to naysayers, however, there was a practical aspect to it as well.Ethical warfare is suited for ethical enemies. Those who practice koota-yuddha must be opposed by similar conduct. Kautilya himself was merely reasserting what Krishna had already taught. When the enemy is breaking all the rules, you cannot fight with one hand tied behind your back. That is the difference between a Raja and Rajaputra.

Therefore, Achara yuddha was meant to be followed with other Indic Kings who observed the rules of Civilised Warfare. Above all, civilians were to be respected, and women and children to be protected.

Suptam prasuptamunmattam hyakaccham suhstra-varjitham |

baalam striyam deenavaakyam dhaavantham naivadhyaathayeth || sl.64

The person who is asleep, who is in drunken state, who is devoid of clothes or weapons, the lady, the minor, the helpless, the afraid one who deserts the battle field should not be killed. [2, 75]

As Bharatavarsha found out in the medieval period, there are some enemies who specifically mandate the opposite.

Rakshasa Yuddha involved an enemy who breaks all the rules. Atrocities are committed against civilians, who are not spared. Any unchivalrous method can be applied by this honourless foe. In fact, chivalry is seen as ‘markaz i jahalat’, or crassly stupid, as per such barbarians. War is not a mere tournament of arms, but as stipulated by Maharishi Vasishta himself, a means to protect one’s subjects, rescue weak from strong, and punish the wicked. To this end, Achara Yuddha must be put aside, and Koota Yuddha utilised.

Koota Yudha is defined as ‘deceptive war’ by Chanakya. Nevertheless, its more correct meaning is Strategic War, as it is ultimately rooted in Koota Niti (Strategy). Modern War as conducted by foreigners breaks all the rules and indiscriminately slaughters and even commits biological atrocities against civilian populations. One need not similarly become demonic to fight demons. Instead, one must use strategy to outwit such foes and develop asymmetric means to defeat their dastardly weaponry, via both R&D and strategic design.

Dharma Yuddha

Above all this, of course, is the concept of Dharma Yuddha. Some have tried to liken it to a “Crusade” or its Saracenic counterpart, but it is neither. Dharma Yuddha is a war to restore Dharma. That is, all Kings who proclaim to uphold Dharma are mandated to come together to defeat and uproot those who are threatening its very existence. When facing an Adharmic opponent, Koota Yuddha is often not only needed, but even required.

The person who in order to save the brahmins, cows, women or minors gives up his own life is sure to attain eternal salvation [2,75]

All this is more appropriate discussion for another time. For now, the Principles of Dhanur Veda will be covered.

Initiation

Vasishta muni states that “The ideal time for teaching and learning archery is in the presence of ten stars —Hasta, Punarvasu (Rama’s star), Pusya, Rohini, Uttaraphalguni, Uttarbhadrapada, Uttarasada, Anuradha, Aivini, Revati“, and that this should be done on the third, fifth, seventh, tenth, twelfth, and thirteenth days of the lunar month, ideally on Sunday, Thursday, or Friday. [2, 6-7]

The tradition of purvaranga vidhana (ritual oblations to the divine) is stipulated, as is reverence to the teacher by the students. Prayers to Mahadev, Krishna, Brahma, and of course, Ganesha are also advised.

The warriors of the day were duly indoctrinated in the code of morality and duty. Thus the education of Dhrtarastra, Pandu and Vidura includes lessons in morality, history, tradition, Vedas and the allied literature, apart from military exercises. [7, 163]

Martial Arts

kalaripayattu-martial-art-of-kerala-500x500

In general, martial arts is a subset of the greater Dhanur Veda. In fact, these are more commonly associated with Kreeda, hence the term Military Science better suited for Dhanur Veda. Nevertheless, initiation into the different schools can take place. Some train at akhaaras learning malla and mushti yuddha (wrestling and boxing), and others learn more armed forms of martial arts, such as Kalaripayattu and Gatka.

Officially dating back to the venerable Guru Hargobind Singh ji,  “Gatka can be practiced either as a sport (khel) or ritual (rasmi).” It features aspects of armed and unarmed combat. It is practiced to this day.

More importantly however, again like its Southern counterpart, Gatka is a direct connection to the ancient Indic warrior ethos. It is an outgrowth of traditional Suhstra-Vidya, which in Punjabi is called Shastar Vidya ਸ਼ਸਤਰ ਵਿਦਿਆ, but has become a tradition in its own right. Sikh Dharma may be centuries old, but it draws from and is part of a millennia old Dharmic Civilization. Whether for sport or for safety, preserving and passing on its proud traditions remains important for Sikh: Citizen, and Soldier alike.

Procurement

Procurement of excellent weapons, armour, and other equipment are an important part of War. Ancient India was no exception. Dhanurveda being intricately connected with Dhanur Vidya (Archery), procurement of a good bow was elemental.

Characteristics of a good bow were given. All these can be discussed elsewhere. What is important for now is that, different types of bow even composite bows made of horn are also discussed. Ancient India was, for obvious reasons, known for the long bow. Qualities of arrows (and even poisoned arrows) are also discussed. But more than the bow, it was the bowman who was irreplaceable. Good people, after all, are hard to find.

Training

Chitrayuddha, practice of archery, is an essential aspect of training with the bow. Arjuna memorably shot arrows in the dark, and ultimately was able to strike the matsya yantra (fish machine) merely from a reflection. All this was due to practice and rigour in training.

Dhanurveda stipulates stringent rules for the selection and imparting of military instruction. Beyond the usual rules and rituals, it emphasised guna in pairing a soldier with a weapon of choice. Those with Sattvika guna should be paired with the Bow (dhanush). Those with Rajo-sattva should be paired with the Sword (khadga). Those of tamaso-rajas should be paired with the spear (kunta). And those of tamaso guna should be paired with the mighty mace (gadha).

In the ancient times, Acharyas in Dhanurveda were brahmanas (who were then barred from ruling and power politics). A preceptor excelling in 7 types of fighting was called a Saptayodha. One who is versed in 4 is called Bhargava. One in 2 is called Yodha, and if versed in 1 type, he is called Ganaka. Maharishi Aurva trained the mighty King Sagara, and the illustrious Saptarishi Vasishta, trained Sri Rama.

There are, of course, various methods of imparting training. Dhanurveda naturally begins with the bow.

Practice

Various methods for practice are stipulated, primarily for archery. These involve firing blunt arrows (and other suhstras) as practice weapons. These are very detailed in discussion and best discussed elsewhere. What is useful to know, is that Dhanur Veda discusses target practice for standing targets, moving targets, and even moving targets while on horseback. Success in this skill is more than just a matter of balance, but also technique.

 Holding the String (Gunamusti)

Pataakaa vakramushtischa simhakarnasthatthaiva cha |

Matsari kaakathundi cha yojaneeyaa yathaakramam || sl.84

Gunamusti is of five types — Pataka (Banner), Vajra-musti (thunder bolt), Simhakarna (ear of a lion), matsari (fish), Kakatundi (beak of a crow). These should be applied in proper places. [2, 23]

Dhanurveda specifies a number of different methods of holding the string. These influence not only the effectiveness of holding the arrow, but the precision of hitting the target. These are in turn combined with laksya (types of aim) and even types of bow draw (dhanurmushti) and bow posture.

Bow Postures (Vyaaya)

These are, of course, just a few of the basic aspects of training in Dhanur Vidya. Dhanur Veda proper is more complex. Though rooted primarily in archery, the Dhanur Veda Samhita of Vasishta is more detailed and covers operations as well.

Army Training

Contrary to our modern “I am an army of one!” ahankari-shikhandis, Dhanur Veda did not simply stipulate singular individual training. The Dharma of Collaboration requires not cooperation with the enemy, but cooperation with one’s countrymen and fellow soldiers.

Parasparaanurakthaa ye yodhaah shaarnga dhanurdharaah |

yuddha-jnaasthuragaarudaasthe jayanthi rano ripun || sl.182

The Warriors even armed with Saarnga bow (made of horn) who co-operate with each other and know battle-craft may beat enemies fighting them on horseback. [1, 141]

Moving and operating as a unit is nothing unique to a particular civilization. Here is Maharishi Vasishta on the infantry.

The infantry or the food soldiers should be of equal height. All of them should be equally expert in jumping an running. They should also be trained in moving backward (pascadga-manam), standing still (sthirikaranam), lying [down] (sayanam) running apace (dhvanam) rushing  headlong into the hostile army and moving in different directions in accordance with signals” [2, 69-70]

Horses and even elephants were to be trained as well. Indian mahouts were celebrated for their skill with the elephant and ankush (goad). A good driver would bond with his elephant, which was celebrated for its loyalty and fierce defence of its master in war.  All these involved detailed elements of raising an army. What about deployment?

Military Operations

Niti

Preparation and deployment of one’s defence forces is not a simple method of theory and orders. Strategic planning, selection and training of personnel, order-of-battle, selection of ground/place/time, and formations—all play a role in making successful contact with the enemy. Whether to oppose in the field or to prepare for a siege or to even engage in guerilla warfare via tribal allies (atavi), are all complicated aspects that are covered by Dhanurveda in general and Sainyara-vidya in particular.

While Naval forces (Samudra Sena) and naval operations are mentioned, they are better discussed elsewhere. The great Naval expeditions of Kalingas, Cholas, and the Vijayanagara Empire are important to Sainyara-vidya, but Land warfare being central to Dhanurveda, necessitates focus on that type of war first.

Strategic Planning

The Vasistha Dhanurveda Samhita specifically has a section called Samgraamavidhih. That is, it establishes the importance of war strategy. Though it does not go into depth, it becomes apparent that success in war is more than just about mere proficiency in weapons or even numbers. All the elements of the Art of War were required to come together under the command of skilled general who understood that ‘prudence is the handmaiden of victory’.

The Atharva Veda (7.12.2) “recommends the formation of an advisory Samiti that could chalk out the plan and decide the strategy to fight out the war. The members of such a Samiti are called Narista…All the members of this council have to work collectively.” [1,18]

Personnel

Vasishta muni writes the following regarding selections of Senadhipatis and Senanis:

Listen O Visvamitra! that the Commander-in-chief should be physically fit, learned and powerful kshatriya. He should also treat all his subordinates equally. He should prove his intelligence in arranging the army in array and also provide such work to the infantry that fits it. [2, 73]

Qualifications of a Commander

           1. He must be conversant with the art of fighting a war (RV.1.114.4)

           2. He should possess exemplary character ( RV. 2.33.8)

           3. A Vajrabahu (one with arms like a thunderbolt) inspires confidence in troops.

          4. He should be a Pururupa(one who can handle all types of situations (RV.2.33.9))

          5. He should be a sahasraaksa (one who is equipped with a spying system (YV))

         6. He should be an outstanding warrior (Avevirah) (AV. 19.2.2)

Competent military and strategic leadership is paramount. As even the Vedas recognised, an intelligence network to surveil the enemy to determine capabilities/intentions, and to do basic reconnaissance on the field was important. Win or lose, a general is not allowed to be surprised.

Soldier – He should be swift in action, have great courage, be fearless and bright, and be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. He must be proficient in arms, and expert in his tasks, and possess requisite knowledge of army rules and regulations.

The Hindus display bravery not surpassed by the most warlike nations and will throw away their lives for any consideration of religion or honour. [1, 30]

Even Women could be recruited (though generally not for frontline combat). A secondary line battalion consisting of women could be put at the command of the mahishi (chief queen). It is this tradition of warrior women that could be seen from Kaikeyi down to Rudrama Devi to Rani Durgavati. [1, 29]

Above all, “Foremost qualification of the warrior is that he must be deeply in love with his motherland. It is only then he can put his whole soul to save his motherland from all sorts of troubles.” [2, 28]

Logistics

Logistics is crucial to warfare in any era. After all, an army marches on its stomach and gold is the sinews of war. As such, “all kinds of facilities are to be provided to army men. A special type of clothing, proper nursing, food, living accommodation, clubs, playground, hospitals, places of the prayers and educational facilities are to be provided” [1, 29]

The Mahabharata makes reference to a position similar to that of Quarter-Master General. Yudhisthira appoints Nakula (a famed swordsman in his own right) to maintain records of the various forces, secure supplies (especially food and water), and ensure prompt payment.

Repeated stress is laid on the importance of regular and punctual payment of wages and rations to the army; irregularity in this may lead to disaffection or even rebelllion. In the Sabha parva Naarada asks Yudhisthira if he pays his troops in advance before he marches, and if he supports the wives and children of men who lay down their lives for him, or undergo misery on his account. [7,149]

In the medieval period, the Army of Vijayangara was fabulously well-supplied. It was a veritable moving city that accompanied the Emperor.

Encampment

The army camp should be established at prudent (and auspicious) hours and avoid encroaching upon various burning grounds, temples, and other places of sanctity. “The ground, preferably level and abounding in grass and fuel, is properly measured for an encampment; a moat is dug around to protect it, and guards are stationed at important posts. Door-keepers and sentinels keep watch outside the tents of the chief heroes and princes. Stocks of arms and armaments, food and water are in evidence, and physicians and mechanics form part of the establishment.” {7, 151]

Discipline was to be maintained and stockades and watch towers erected for protection. Contrary to the current civic culture (or lack thereof), Ancient Indian military discipline (particularly in camps) was strict. Bivouacking was an orderly process, cleanliness and carelessness to be avoided, and clamour kept to a minimum.

Campfollowers were numerous, with doctors, purveyors of food stuffs, musicans, merchants, and vesya (women of the night). This practice was eventually banned by Chhatrapati Shivaji, due to the disrespect shown to women by foreign invaders.

The camp is, above all, a place for soldiers and warriors. The seriousness of the task and the adherence to strategy must be remembered.

Battles

battlefield-of-kurukshetra

Organisation

Over the years, military organisation has changed given the size and needs of military forces. As gloriously recounted in the Mahabharata, these could reach fantastic levels that may stretch credulity in the modern day, and yet, align with the internal logic.  The Battle of the Kurukshetra featured 7 Akshauhinis on the Pandava side and 11 Akshauhinis for the Kauravas.

1 chariot and 1elephant, 3 horses and 5 foot soldiers = 1 patti.

3 pattis = 1 senamukha. 3 senamukhas = 1 gulma.3 gulmas = 1 gana.3 ganas = 1 vaahini

3 vaahinis = 1 prtana. 3 prtanaas = 1 chamu. 3 chamus = 1 aneekini.

10 aneekinis = 1 Akshauhini [1,17]

1 Akshauhini

21,870 Chariots; 21,870 Elephants; 109,305 Infantry; 56,610 Cavalry

With a ratio of 1: 1: 5: 3, the approximate total is 209,700 soldiers.

This would bring the total on the Kurukshetra to 4 million. It is an amazing number indeed, which would number in the more modest hundreds of thousands in the post-Legendary period.

The army of Chandra Gupta for example was estimated to be 600,000 infantry; 30,000 cavalry; 10,000 chariots; 9,000 War elephants. In late antiquity, the Imperial Pratiharas were said by middle eastern chroniclers to field 4 armies for the 4 cardinal directions, each numbering 800,000 soldiers—for a total of 3.2 million men. Ancient India was, not for nothing, known for its armies. But armies are one thing, and generalship another.

India has fielded many great and intelligent generals, none more so than Krishna (the real commander of the Pandava armies). Nevertheless, legendary figures aside, “historical” figures such as Ajatashatru, Samudra Gupta, and Chhatrapati Shivaji all made their marks on history. It is only a recent matter for Indians to forget the importance of strategy & generalship.The Republic of India must remember this again.

And after making the decision to take the field, the next decision for any general is how order-of-battle should take form.

Formations (Vyuha)

The Vyuhas are one of the most legendary aspects of ancient Indic armies. Perhaps no vyuha is more legendary than the chakravyuya famously featured in the Mahabharata. A formation of envelopment, it was notoriously difficult to enter, and as young Abhimanyu discovered, even more difficult to exit.

Despite the legendary aspects of the Kurukshetra War, the importance of Vyuhas was retained long into the entry of Common Era. Though divyastras obviously were not used, deployment in concentrated force with proper arrangement remained important. The four divisions of the army (chaturanga-bala) that would inspire chess (chaturanga), which would feature an elephant corps, a cavalry corps, chariot corps, and infantry. All these would be deployed per the needs of battle.

  1. Chakravyuha — Discus formation
  2. Makaravyuha — Crocodile formation
  3. Syenavyuha — Hawk formation
  4. Garudavyuha — Eagle formation
  5. Varahavyuha — Boar formation
  6. Gajavyuha — Elephant formation
  7. Sakatavyuha — Waggon formation.This is ideal if surrounded or expecting rear attack
  8. Kraunchavyuha — Bird formation
  9. Simhavyuha — Lion formation
  10. Sarpavyuha — Serpent array
  11. Agnivyuha — Fire array
  12. Gomutrika — Echelon or Zig-zag
  13. Pippeelika — Ant array
  14. Ardhachandra — Half moon formation
  15. Sarvatobhadra — Hollow square
  16. Suchimukha — Needle array
  17. Danda — Staff formation
  18. Gulma — Bush formation
  19. Mandala — Hollow Circle formation
  20. Padmavyuha — Lotus formation
  21. Srenika — ranks/rows
  22. Bhoja — column
  23. Asanhata — detachments of various units into penny packets

Many of these may seem rather intricate and complicated to our modern eyes. Nevertheless, there are certain important principles that come from this. As seen above with the Garuda vyuha, there is very much a concept of organisation and backup planning. Contrary to the current school of thought that assumes a disorganised mass of chivalrous soldiers in unthinking frontal charges, methodical deployment was very much a practical art. Above all, is the fact that the concept of keeping reserves was emphasised — a reality that frequently turned the tide of key battles in history. Placing the chariots in front, elephants next to break the enemy lines, followed by the infantry is specified. Siva Dhanurveda specifically mentions the placing of cavalry on the wings, in sloka 179.

Ancient Indian Warfare was certainly practical. If one does not believe in combining mantra with suhstra, then the place of supernatural astras is reduced, and rather than spiritual, more material weapons will be emphasised. That is the nature of war, as well as the nature of RMA.

Sieges

Some of the most successful wars are conducted not in the field, but inside the fort. From the Vedic times of Purandara (destroyer of forts) to Chanakya to Chhatrapati Shivaji, the Indic Durg has been a crucial part of Dhanurveda. The most successful armies in history were those that mastered the art of conducting the siege. This involves more than just investment of fortified cities, but also the defense of even fortified positions and redoubts.

The frontiers of the country were expected to be guarded by forts, with the intention of perimeter defence or defence-in-depth. Terrain was taken into close consideration, and measures such as investment, artillery, and mining discussed to take opposing forts.

For the purposes of brevity,  a simple discussion of forts will be discussed here to dovetail with Sthapatya Veda:

Mountain fort (giri durgam), Forest fort (vana durgam), Water fort (jala durgam), Clay/Cave fort (panka/guha durgam), Chariot fort (ratha durgam), Divine fort (divya durgam, has extensive fortress with efficient defensive system), and Mixed fort (mishra durgam, situated among both both mountains and forest). [1, 45]

A land fort is the easiest to capture, a river fort more difficult and the mountain fort most difficult. From the point of a view of a besieged king, a mountain fort is preferable to a river fort which is better than a land fort (7.12.2) — Arthasastra

Important Texts

Dhanurveda

Siva Dhanurveda

Vasishta Dhanurveda

Ausanas Dhanurveda

Jamadagni Dhanurveda

Vaisampayana Dhanurveda

Ramayana

Mahabharata

Agni Purana

Matsya Purana

Visnudharmottara Purana

Akasa Bhairava Tantra

Arthasastra

Manasollasa

Yukti Kalpa Taru

Veeramitrodaya

Samrangana Sutradhara

Niti Prakasika

Veerachintamani of Sarangadhara

Application

Vedic scholars were well aware that ‘armies can signify but little unless there is  council or a wise management at home‘. The efficiency of an army is thus very much dependent on the efficiency of the ministry of defence.

In the legendary times, the sarvasreshta dhanurdharas (Sagara, Sri Rama, Bhishma, Arjuna) could all reputedly summon divine weapons (divyastras) that would unleash firepower that normal chariot borne archers could not match. Obviously in the present time, these seem to stretch credulity. Nevertheless, keeping in mind the internal logic of Divine involvement in the affairs of man (which even Homer includes in the Iliad) one could understand the devastating effect these dhanush-wielders could have. Bhishma himself swore to wipe out 10,000 soldiers a day with the firepower he commanded.  With these dhanurdharas as the centerpiece of the Indic armies of Legendary times, one understands the emphasis placed on them why they were deployed the way they were.

The Epic material provies depth to the pic-ture that we have gleaned from our Vedic sources. The nature of the Vedic literature precludes the possibility of the graphic des-criptions of warfare which we can find in the Epics. The echoes of the Mahabharata can be detected in the Vedic literature and, as we have pointed out time and again in our text, some of the Epic tradition is indeed very ancient. Chariots in the Epic are the invincible instruments of battle [due to the Dhanurdharas they carried]; elephants and cavalry play role of comparative insignificance. …By the time Alexander came to India, things had changed; the chariots were there of course, but the real responsibility of attack and defence had shifted to the elephants and the cavalry. ” [7, 2]

Weapons

Standard Weapons are divided into mukta (released from the hand), amukta (held), mukta-amukta (may or may not be thrown ), and yantra mukta (released by artillery/engines). We also find another division of suhstra, yantra, and mantra. Mantra will obviously not be considered here.Nevertheless, ancient Indian war was more in line with how the native cinema depicts, rather than foreign indologists, who seem to imply that the society that had the best metallurgy somehow did not believe in armour and helmets. That is why it is important to not deconstruct a tradition, but to study it as a continuum.

Continuity in these traditional weapons is seen even outside strict Vaidika Dharma, as Sikh Dharma and its warrior-saints used them to great effect.

Technology

Technology is a trendy topic, particularly in what we presently consider to be a technologically advanced age. Some topics are controversial, while others not so much. One area that has been acknowledged by almost all parties is the advanced state of Indian metallurgy—particularly in the forging of blades.

The famous crucible steel (Wootz) had its origin in India. The Chera steel was renowned for its quality. Indian iron smiths must have invented the ‘wootz’ process in the 6th or early 5th century B.C. Ktesias saw two wonderful swords of Indian steel at the court of Artaxerxes Memnon. Herodotus speaks of the arrows of Indian soldiers tipped with iron.” [7, 102]

Hindu warfare (what has been acknowledged at least) has long been the subject of controversy. “Were divyastras really just pre-modern artillery?”  or the most notorious, “Come on, vimanas? Really?“. But the perhaps the most important one of all is the question of whether or not ancient India had independently invented gunpowder. That’s right, as discussed by this article, it has been averred that Eastern India (particularly Bihar) possessed excellent saltpetre mines which are crucial for firearms.

A number of ancient texts specifically refer to gunpowder (agnichoorna/ranjaka) and firearms (nalikaa). The Dhanurveda explicitly mentions nalikaa (guns) as well as goleem(bullets)

Even the Sukra Niti supports this:

In Sukraniti, the method and chemical composition for preparation of gunpowder has been given. Accordingly, five palas (582.5 mg) survaci slat, one pala (11.5 mg) of sulphur and one pala (11.5 mg) each of the charcoal received from the wood of arka (…asclepias giantia), snuhi and angaara plants by the Ayurvedic process of Sahdooma Putapaaka where a drug is prepared in a closed vessel placed in a pit. The above-mentioned salts and charcoals should be purified, powdered and mixed together. This mixture should then be soaked into the juices of snuhi, arka and garlic. It should be dried up in the sun and finally powdered like sugar, the substance will be gunpowder.” [1, 76]

Whether or not this is the case is for present day scholars to confirm. Nevertheless, these ancient texts make a convincing case for ancient firearms. At the very least they give insight into some of the ancient artillery Indian armies featured.

Professor Wilson writes “Rockets…appear to be of Indian invention, and had long been used in native armies when Europeans came first in contact with them.” [1, 74] He goes on to say that ‘The Indians are from time immemorial remarkable for their skill in fireworks..” [1, 77] So much for “cracker-free” Diwali…

Engines of War were called Yantras. Some celebrated ones include the Sataghni (hundred-killer, asmaguda (catapult that pelts stone balls), ayoguda (weapon that pelts iron balls).

That elephants and chariots also carried yantras, is proved by a few references, but yantras in open battle seem to signify weapons in general. King Ajatasatru of Magadha, a contemporary of the Buddha, used a new engine of war against the [Vrjjis], called the mahasilakantaga, which must have been a stone-hurling contri-vance like those denoted by the Epic yantras. [7, 113]

When Alexander of Macedon set foot in the ancient Indosphere, his armies were said to have been scattered by a besieged Indian city which featured weapons of fire and lightning. These were unleashed following a terrifying pitch silence, soon broken by the sounds of thunder and cries of men.

For those of you familiar with the Byzantine Empire, there is, interestingly enough, even evidence that perhaps the famed “Greek Fire” may not have had a Greek origin after all. “The fire which burns and crackles on the bosom of waves denotes that the Greek fire was anciently known in Hindustan under the name of badavaa“. [1,75]

Ctesias, Elian and Phostratus all make reference to such an incendiary oil , saying “it is inextinguishable and insationable [sic], burning both arms and fighting men” [1, 75] Perhaps when the Arabs were crushed at Constantinople and during the Battles of Rajasthan, they may have in fact received “Greek fire” from both ends…

Personalities

Though the study of the Dhanurveda cuts across classes, this list will focus primarily on military commanders and direct operational planners. For brevity’s sake, this list will focus on both legendary commanders and warriors mentioned in the Puranas as well as “Historical” personalities from the Ancient, Medieval, and Late Medieval periods. Strategists and Commanding Generals of the Modern Era will be listed elsewhere.

King Prthu

King Sudasa

Maharishi Vishvamitra

King Sagara

Haihaya Karthaveerya Arjuna

Parashurama

Aikshvaku Raghu

Aikshvaku Rama

Bharata Dauhsanti

Bheeshma

Vasudeva Krishna

Arjuna

Jarasandha

Ajatashatru

Mahapadma Nanda

Chandragupta Maurya

Ashoka Maurya

Pushyamitra Sunga

Kharavela

Stabrobates

Sriharsha Vikramaditya

Gautamiputra Satakarni of Andhra

Samudra Gupta Ashokaditya

Chandra Gupta II Vikramaditya

Skanda Gupta Paraakramaditya

Narasimha Gupta Baladitya

Vikramaditya Panwar of Ujjain

Salivahana Panwar of Ujjain

Harsha Vardhana Shiladitya of Thanesar

Chalukya Pulakesin II

Karkota Lalitaditya of Kashmir

Pratihara Nagabhatta I & II

Rashtrakuta Dhruva Dharavarsha

Rashtrakuta Govinda III

Rashtrakuta Indra III

Dharmapala I of Vanga

Bhaskaravarman of Assam

Raja Suhel Dev

Haihaya Kalachuri Gangeyadeva

Paramara Bhoja

Chola Raja Raja I

Chola Rajendra I

Chalukya Rani Naiki Devi

Prithviraj Chauhan III

Ganga Bhanudeva II of Odisha

Rani Rudrama Devi

Kakatiya Prataparudra II

Hoysala Veera Ballala III

Musunuri Nayaks of Andhra

Maharana Kumbhakaran Singh of Mewar

Sangama Harihara & Bukka

Krishna Deva Raya

Venkatapati Deva Raya

Maharana Sangram Singh Sisodia

Maharana Pratap Singh Sisodia

Rani Durgavati

Lachit Bophurkan of Assam

Chhatrapati Shivaji Bhonsle

Admiral Kanhoji Angre

Baji Rao I

Maharaja Prithvi Narayan Sah of Nepal

Zorawar Singh

Banda Bahadur Singh

Maharaja Ranjit Singh

Hari Singh Nalwa

Sher Singh Attariwala

Marthanda Varma of Travancore

Conclusion

Clearly much water has flowed down the Ganga since the days of Dhanurveda’s first exposition. From the Imperial Armies of Magadha to the modern Day Indian Army, there is a long tradition of Military Science in Bharatavarsha.

For those who call for an Indic and Dharmic Way of War, it must be remembered that military lineages cannot commence with mere colonial regiments. Regimental and Tri-services pride aside, a society whose motto is Satyameva Jayate, must have lineages which work for the triumph of Truth, rather than colonial occupiers. But at the same time, one cannot be occupied or pre-occupied only with unthinking traditionalism or rote ritual.

The Dharmic way of War must necessarily adapt to the modern exigencies where victory is the only morality…

…and this is the cost of defeat.

The price of war is terrible, and therefore, must necessarily be practiced by professionals, whether strategists or soldiers. Knowledge of the Dharmic Art of War must be rooted in tradition, while being pragmatic enough to adapt to the Enemy. As Ovid wrote, it is right to learn, even from the Enemy.

It also means promoting those with a proper understanding of military history and modern strategy as overall Defense planners. This criticism was in turn criticised by the politically motivated, but leave aside gender and other considerations—is it not on point?

With V.K.Krishna Menon at the helm, Nehru planned to turn the Indian Army into a mere constabulary force of 100,000. Within a year or two, China launched a surprise attack (after similar Doklam type Chinese Checkers in Ladakh). The unmitigated disaster that was A.K.Antony was only further proof of the need for a governing class that has a strong affiliation for military affairs—beyond mere mantra japa of “Chanakya!“.

It is true, as those who actually understand global political affairs will tell you, that the risk of foreign funded military coups was at one point very great. One need only look at the Republic of India’s neighbour to the West to see just how frequent they could be. Even its neighbour to the North has come tantalisingly close to this very real reality of political life. The first step to fore-stalling or mitigating such risks would be to have a governing class that the officer class would not feel disgusted by. The current crop of the corrupt lining the IAS and the Rajya Sabha is exhibit A in a fool’s gallery of fops.

The Prime Minister has rather wisely been taking to the ancient nostrum of “minding the solidiers” and has restored a measure of trust between the Bharatiya Sena and the Bharatiya Sarkar. The current Raksha Mantri is a very efficient minister, and MP’s such as Rajyavardhan Rathore and Kiren Rijiju cut dashing figures. But the governing classes and would-be elites must build on even this, and regain a strong sense of the native Indic military sense, and military sense begins with strategic thinking. Winning in war is more than just a matter of mere numbers.

Api panchashatham suraa mrudananthi mahathim chamoom |

Athavaa pancha shat saptha vijayanthaanivarthinah || sl. 181

Even five hundred determined and well-trained soldiers can defeat a large army. Sometimes even five, six or seven such heroes who do not withdraw and fight bravely may emerge victorious [1,141]

—Siva Dhanurveda

If “war is too important to be left to the generals”, then it is definitely too important to be left to the hands of poets and pedants. Serious politicians with the Dharmic martial ethos and modern strategic education are required. The list of Dhanurveda personalities we listed above cut across caste and class, because they all faced the unignorable exigency of competence. All too much emphasis has been placed on Government, which in turn has become code for mere electioneering and politics. True Governance is rooted in Rajadharma, which is what is missing in today’s governing classes, with rare exception. An education in Governance and Modern Strategic Affairs is required to not only take the tradition of Dhanurveda into the Modern (and Post-Modern) era, but also to steer India and the rest of the world away from strategic disaster.

Indeed, the stakes of Dhanurveda are far higher than military honour or an “izzat ka sawal”. The very fate of humanity’s freedom depends on native Kshatriyata to re-emerge across caste lines focused above all on competence and character. We conclude this introductory article on the Indic Tradition of Dhanurveda and Dharma (and why they remain relevant), rather ironically, with a quote from a European General of whom you might have heard:

It is character that remains the Achilles heel of governing classes around the world, and India can no longer risk a governing class (or wannabe governing class) steeped in incompetence, completely clueless on strategic affairs, and utterly hypocritical and characterless. Those who are so compromised they induct and promote foreign “acharyas” to teach Indians how to “decolonise” are the least qualified to govern…period—their claims to “Chanakyanism” aside.

Vishvaksena Janardhana

It is time to  return to Krishna Niti. To properly understand modern Military Affairs, the ethos of the Kshatriya (the native Bharatiya Kshatriya) is required to train, mentor, and anoint a governing class across caste lines. That is the path of not only the Dhanurveda of King Prthu, but of Dharmic Civilization’s Revival itself.


References:
  1. Arya, Ravi Prakash. Dhanurveda – The Vedic Military Science.Rohtak: Indian Foundation for Vedic Science (Amazon Books).  2014
  2. Ray, Purnima. Vasishta’s Dhanurveda Samhita.Delhi: J.P.Publishing House.
  3. Gaur, Niketan. Sthapatya Ved-Vastu Sastra: Ideal Homes, Colony and Town Planning. New Delhi: New Age Books. 2009
  4. Rangarajan, L.N. Edit, Kautilya. The Arthashastra. New Delhi. Penguin.1992
  5. Sukra Niti
  6. Kota, Venkatachalam.
  7. Singh, Sarva Daman. Ancient Indian Warfare.Delhi: MLBD.1997
  8. Pappu, Venugopala Rao. Nrtta Ratnavali of Jayasenapati. Kakatiya Heritage Trust. 2013

Intro to Sthaapatya Veda — Indic Architecture, Sculpture, & Painting

Indian Architecture has been the subject of much discussion and debate. Often times, rootless people have a tendency to downplay the native tradition and place emphasis on theorised “foreign contributions” to the Indic Canon. The reality, however, is that there is a long and ancient tradition of not only Art & Architecture, but even City Planning per the Vedic Tradition. In fact, while these are all often grouped under Vaastu Sastra, they are in fact properly categorised under the upaveda known as Sthaapatya Veda.

Introduction

Much as Sangeeta Sastra & Nrtya Sastra emerged from the Gandharva Veda, so too does our tradition assert that Vaastu Sastra, Silpa Sastra, and Chitra Sastra emerged from Sthaapatya Veda. “It expounds the principles involved in the areas of Vastusastra (Architecture and Planning), Silpasastra (Sculpture and Iconography), Chitrakalaa (Painting in all branches“. [1,1] Just as the Gandharva Veda is attached to the Saama Veda, this upaveda is attached to the Atharva Veda. Further, knowledge of Ayurveda, Gandharva Veda, Jyotisha, and Saamudrika Sastra is also relevant to the field.

Central to Sthaapatya Veda is the Sthaapathi (master-architect). Sthaapathoh karma sthapatyam (the work of an architect is Sthaapatya Veda). [4,44] Silpa-Sastra has a section called Sthaapati-lakshana, or the Characteristics of a Sthapathi. It says:

“I am now going to described the Sthaapatya as handed down to us from generation to generation, by the knowing of which the values and defects of the Sthaapati are known”. The Sthaapatya is fourfold— the traditional lore (Sastra), the practical experience (Karma), intuitive insight (Prajna) and the righteous conduct and character [4, 45]

Vishvakarma is considered the originator of this field of study, and Pauranic tradition holds him to the be the Divine Architect. The great cities of Dvaraka and Indraprastha are attributed to his supreme skill in the field of city planning.

For civilized people a comfortable residence is as necessary as food and clothes. In fact the standard of civilization seems to be regulated, amongst other things, by durability, scientific plan, aesthetic construction, and successful finish of buildings, religious, residential or military. [1]

Maanasaara (‘the essence of measurement’, is considered the authoritative and exhaustive text on this topic today. However, the philosophy behind Sthaapatya Veda in general and Vaastu in particular is far more ancient. “The Creative feelings of Rsis, who were attributed to be the authors of the Indian Vaastu and Silpa texts, and the practicing Silpins had to activate the centre called aakaasa or aatman“.[3,17] This aligns very much with the common thread of Dharmic thought across the native Indic traditions.

For ancient Indian writers, at any rate, architecture seems to have been a very fascinating subject, inasmuch as the Vedic, Buddhist, Epic, Pauranic, Agamic, Historical, Political and even Astronomical literature bears traces of it. [1,1]

Theoretical Foundations

As with the Indic tradition in general, the origins of epistemology date back to our most sacred texts. Along with the Vedas, the Puranas, Agamas, and literature from the Buddhist and other Nastika philosophies have all contributed to Indic Art and Architecture. Therefore, an article on Sthaapatya should give space to all of them.

Veda

The Hymns of the Atharva-veda give some information about the construction of a house.” [1,1] Maharishi Vasishta is recorded to have spoken in the Rig Veda of his wish to have a tri-dhaatu-saranam constructed for him, indicating the varied types of housing even at an ancient date. [4, 51] The Sulba-sutras, which supplement the vast corpus of the Kalpa-sutra literature, discusses the measurement and construction of various vedis (vedic altars). This is often seen as foundation for the origin of Architecture in India. Altars mentioned by Baudhayana and Apastamba reach to the height of 10-15 layers of bricks.

As western scholars would later minimisingly mention, “the authors of the Vedic literature ‘were not ignorant of stone forts, walled cities, stone houses, carved stones, and brick edifices“.[1, 3] This is, therefore, even more so the case with the authors of the Pauranic literature.

Purana

The Mahabharata contains short but comprehensive accounts of the cities of Dvaraka (III.5), Indraprastha (1.207, 30f), a floating city (III.173,3), Mithilaa (III.207, 7) and others.[1,9]

Itihaasa-Purana is valuable source of information for Classical Indic Architecture. While it is averred that many accounts may seem fantastical to our ‘modern’ eyes, they give insight on not only continuity of theory to the present day, but also provide understanding of native inspirations (rather than the current obsession with native implementations of foreign inspiration).

The Epics furnish copious description of cities, storeyed buildings, balconies porticos, triumphal arches, enclosing walls, flights of stone masonry steps for tanks and a variety of other structures, all indicative of a flourishing architecture in the country [of India]. [1,8]

Perhaps the most famous account of City Construction in the Epics was that of ancient Indraprastha (modern Delhi). From the clearing of Khandavaprastha forest to the yagna performed for its construction, to its design and implementation by Vishwakarma, to even its beguiling wonders that caused Duryodhana to fall and Draupadi to laugh, one sees the start, completion, and effects of such beautiful municipalities.

Notably, the city plan of Ayodhya is ‘strikingly similar’ to the town-plan listed in the Maanasara and various other Architectural treatises. “The temples (devaayatana) in this city (Ayodhya) were as resplendent as the sky. Its assembly-halls, gardens, and alms-houses (prapaa) were most elegant; and everywhere were arranged extensive buildings crowded with men and women……..The houses were as mines of gems, and the abodes of the goddess of fortune. The steeples (sikhara) of the houses were as resplendent as the crests of mountains and bore hundreds of pavilions (vimana) like the celestial palace of the chief among the Devas. The rooms were full of riches and corn, exquisitely gilt and decorated, and seemed as charming as pictures; and they were so arranged that men could pass from one room to another without perceiving any inequality.” [1, 9]

Puranas

While the Ramayana and Mahabharata are traditionally classified under Itihasa, the Puranas proper (said to number 108) provide a wealth of information on the science of Art & Architecture proper.  The Matsya purana has 8 expansive sections discussing Vaastu and Silpa in great detail. One entire chapter is dedicated to the pillar, which is considered ‘the regulator of the whole composition of a building’. 5 styles of columns with 8 different mouldings are described. The other chapters focus on silpa and discuss taalamaana (proportionate measurement of images). Skanda purana has 3 chapters dedicated to it, and makes mention of construction of a golden hall, special pavilions for the wedding of a princess, and even chariots. The Garuda purana comprehensively discusses the 3 main types of buildings: religious, residential, and military. Layouts of temples, palaces, pleasure-gardens, fortresses, and fortified cities are all reviewed. Murthi-sthaapana (installation of religious icons) are also discussed. These are performed by a Sthaapaka (architectural priest) distinct from Sthaapathi (professional architect). [1, 11]

Finally, the Agni Purana of all the Puranas, allocated the greatest length to Sthaapatya Veda. It devotes 16 chapters to town-planning, 2 chapters with residential building, and 13 for sculpture. That temples are again discussed here shows the antiquity of temples to Sanatana Dharma itself. There are of course other puranas which treat on the topic, such as the Naarada, Linga, Vaayu, and Varaaha, but there are all better expounded upon elsewhere.

The most notable of the minor puranas is the Vishnudharmottara. It extensively covers the Artistic tradition of India, with special emphasis on sculpture and painting.

Bhagavata Purana

Agama

The agamas are critical text to the Vedic tradition that are still used today for both temple construction and temple management. Though legend asserts that there were once countless agamas, today there are about 200, with  3 Main categories: Vaishnava (108), Shaiva (28), and Shakta (64). In fact, from these are collected the 64 Tantras (but that is a topic for another time).

The Kaamikaagama dedicates 60 of its 75 chapters to Architecture, Sculpture, and Painting. It is a highly technical and systematic text (much like the Silpa Sastra) and deals with matters such as soil testing and preparation, selection of sites, measurement scheme and cardinal points for building orientation, as well as ground plans. 20 different types of buildings are mentioned. It also provides exceedingly technical classifications such as the various styles (Nagara, Dravida, and Vesara), shapes (masculine, feminine, and neuter), materials (Suddha, Mishra, and Samkeerna), amalgamation of materials (Sthaanaka, Aasana, and Sayana), as well as various ayadi formulae regarding proportionality. [1, 13]

The Karanaagama  allocates much of its treatment to Sthaapatya Veda, with 37 chapters on the subject. The Suprabhedaagama dedicates 15 chapters, but is highly useful for laypeople due to its brevity, clarity, and precision. It is deemed superior to Varahamihira‘s Brhat Samhita in such matters and has much in common with the Maanasaara. Finally, the Vaikhaanasaagama has 2 chapters on sculpture and various taala measures.

There are other Indic texts discussing various topics under Sthaapatya Veda. These include the Arthasastra of Kautilya, the Harsacharita of Bana, the Garga-samhita, and so on. Poetry, such as Bhavabhuti’s Uttaramacharita also mention aspects of Sthaapatya, as does Yaaska’s Nirukta and other subsequent compilations such as the Amarakosa.

However, this is also a unique point of divergence as we see along with the Astika Vaidika Dharma tradition, the Bauddha Dharma contribution to the Indic concepts of Art & Architecture.

Bauddha

“In the Buddha’s time and in that portion of northern India where the Buddhist influence was most early felt—that is to say, in the districts including and adjoining those now called the United Provinces and Behar’—the arrangements of villages were practically similar…Villagers are described as ‘uniting of their own accord to build mote-hills and rest-houses and reservoirs, to mend the roads between their own and adjacent villages, and even to lay out parks.'” [1,3]

The stupa is arguably the most famous contribution of Bauddha Dharma to Indic Civilization. Amaravati, Sarnath, Sanchi, Naalanda, and Takshasila all feature constructions famous the world over. While much of it is naturally an outgrowth of the Vedic Canon, the Buddha himself appears to have been a progenitor of a distinct approach to architecture. “At places it appears as if Buddha were delivering discourses on architecture. As a matter of fact, he enjoined upon his devotees the supervision of building construction as one of the duties of the order. It is stated in one of the early texts that the Bhikkhus were told on a certain occasion by the Blessed One, after the delivery of a religious discourse, with respect to dwellings, thus: ‘I allow you O Bhikkus, abodes of five kinds—Vihara, Arddhayoga, Praasaada, Harmya, and Guhaa’.” [1,4]

Viharas are the famous grand monasteries of the Bauddhas, Ardhayoggas are considered to be unique to Vanga (Bengal) and were part ceremonial and part residential. Praasaadas are purely residential multi-storied constructions. Harmyas are more humble versions of praasaadas, and Guhas are part underground cave constructions, which are famous through India. These of course often feature the Chaitya halls known in rock-cut cave architecture. Just to give insight into the timescales associated with their completion, a small Vihara was said to take 5-6 years and a large Vihara or Prasada 10-12 years.

Houses were built comprising ‘dwelling-rooms and retiring-rooms, and store-rooms, and service halls and halls with fire-places in them, and store-houses,, and closets, and cloisters, and halls for exercise, and wells, and sheds for the well, and bath-rooms, and halls attached to the bath-rooms, and ponds, and open-roofed sheds.” [1,4-5]

There was also mention of pavilions, lotus ponds, and inner chambers of 3 types: Sivikaa-garbha (square halls), Naalikaa-garbha or rectangular halls, and Harmya-garbha (large dining halls). Gates, doors, screens, and revolving doors are all mentioned. We also find discussion of various types of furniture such as divans (pallanka), rectangular chairs (aasandako), sofa (sattango), state chair (bhadda-peetam), cushioned chair (paeetikaa), cane-bottomed chair (koccham) and so on. There is also description of carpets, rugs, pillows, and other such accents and fixtures.

Literature providing insight into the Buddhist approach to architecture includes the Jatakas, the Nikayas, various Sutras such as the Mahaa-Suddassana.

File:Amaravati Stupa relief at Museum.jpg
Frieze of Amaravati Stupa, Andhra Pradesh
Key Concepts

There are a vast and variegated number of concepts associated with Sthaapatya Veda, given its status as a meta-category for Art & Architecture. As this article is meant to primarily provide a snapshot for readers, it will be more restricted in coverage.

Any object is a vastu, hence any creation deriving from an object is Vaastu.  Vaastu literally means “site planning”.  [2] As such subjects discussed below include home planning, municipality planning, and public hygiene.

Home Planning

Land Type

There are 16 types of Lands. They are classified under forest lands, fertile lands and ordinary lands. One that is fertile, verdant, full of hills and valleys all around, contains tall and “sweet scented trees and shrubs, where the atmosphere is serene, cool, and calm, where songs of birds abound, such a location is ideal for the selection of a dwelling site.” [1, 17]

Soil Type

Per the Maanasaara, “the ground should have sweet, dense, soft, and pleasant soil.” [1,17]

Ground to be avoided include those having the smell of honey, ghee, burnt items, birds, fish, or rotten bodies, those adjacent to Royal palaces or factories or workshops, road crossings, tomb, thorny trees, uneven surface, circular/concave land, and those infested by wild animals. Suitable ground is characterised by “having various colours, taste, fertile, redolent like musk by black bees, having all good features“, sloping hills and ponds in the right directions, and so on. Such a plot of land should be selected and purified. [1,18]

Each House plan is divided into x number of plots. Each set of plots is dedicated to a deity (such as Brahma, Indra, Vivasvan, and so on). Various directions and sets of plots are specified as ideal for certain occupations. It is said that water bodies should be made in the North East, South/Southwest suitable for dining halls, etc. Specification for bedrooms, study rooms, treasuries, and rooms for amusements, and flower gardens are also made on the basis of plot set. Proportionality (something modern Indians lack in behaviour) is mandated everywhere.

Rituals

There is a specified ritual for commencement of construction. Jyotisha should be consulted to determined the auspicious moment, followed by bath and prayers. A Sthaapathi (Architect) should also be consulted.  Following this, erection of the gnomon (similar to a sundial)and pegs can be done with the assistance of a surveyor. There are 3 types of gnomons. These are long, middle and smaller.

Construction

At the centre of the prepared site a circle having a radius double that of the selected gnomon should be drawn using a chord. The gnomon should be firmly fixed at the centre of the circle.” [1, 19] It’s quite clear from descriptions from the Maanasaara, that not only Jyotihsastra, but even Ganita that was crucially & carefully applied by the Sthaapathis.

Municipality Planning

Artist representation of Lothal, Gujarat

Urban planning of the Indic variety did not merely focus on urban areas and forts. Towns and even villages were meticulously planned and established. As such, what is called city planning is better termed municipality planning, since even ancient Indic villages not only conformed to certain patterns, but had specified plans for development and maintenance.

32 ground plans are given in the Maanasaara for the construction of buildings, villages, towns, palaces, and forts. Rather than give an exhaustive list here, the construction types will be covered instead

Villages

Per Sthaapatya Veda, there were 8 types of Villages. A separate exegesis on Vaastu Saastra will better cover the topic. Nevertheless, here is a brief overview:

  1. Dandaka—suited for agraharas, with 12-300 houses, including some for munis.
  2. Sarvotabhadra—another village type suitable for aescetics (Vedic, Jain, Buddhist), but in this case housing all classes of people with different occupations. Mathas may also be constructed here.
  3. Nandyaavarta—meaning frog-shaped, this type of village may even feature royal residences. Streets here are larger and feature footpaths as well. Residences for musicians and dancers are also specified.
  4. Padmaka—Has 4-8 streets. Generally follows the pattern of the nandyaavarta.
  5. Svastika—This village type has 81 plots and is particularly purposed for the residence of kings. Naturally the main street shape is in the design of a Svastika.Has a royal palace, with residential buildings laid out around temples
  6. Prastara—with 81, 64, or 49 plots, this village type is square-shaped. There is a circular road, and it is ideal as fortified trading municipality.
  7. Kaarmuka—This village type is ideal for mercantile and productive classes. Vishnu and Siva temples are stipulated for construction at the junction of 2 streets.
  8. Chaturmukha—Square or rectangular in layout, it has four main streets in four cardinal directions, with a round boundary wall. This village type can be purposed for all ways of life.

Reading various texts of Sthaapatya Veda, the ideal of the Village Republic becomes clear. The first priority is made for defence. Each village was expected to be surrounded by a high wall of brick or stone, along with a ditch beyond it to serve as an obstacle in the event of an attack. Four main gates are considered the standard with 2 intersecting N-S and E-W streets. Often one for circumambulation of the entire village is also advised.  Tanks and ponds are also mentioned. Houses in the street could range from 1 to 12 storeys. [1,39] The main point was that residential houses should be located in areas without street congestion from traffic. In addition, murthi-sthaapana was to take place only during festivals or special occasions, and with proper religious rituals and honours. [1, 38]

Most notable, however, is that provision is made not only for village planning but re-planning!In the case of replanning a village, the architect or town planner should follow the order laid down for all villages.” [1,39] And for those who believe Hindus have no sense of heritage, here is a specific exhortation for village re-planning: “if there is any ancient building or temple in the village it should be retained and preserved.” [1, 39]

Cities

Palitana — Jain City of Temples

City and town planning are admittedly more complex.  These were categorised based on who resided in the area, the most important being the ruler of the particular polity.  There were 9 categories for cities based on 9 types of rulers: Astragrahin, Praharaarka, Pattaabhaj, Mandalesa, Pattaadhara, Parshnika, Narendra, Maharaja, Chakravartin. These in turn had various sub-categories.

The other set of cities are simply known as Nagara or Kevala:

  • Nagara/Kevala—City with four gates in the cardinal directions. Army barracks and guard quarters with temples and markets.
  • Pura—Without a royal palace.  It has many gardens and orchards for people of the various varnas. It is a centre of trade and commerce, with temples for worship
  • Nagaree—A city near a mountain or river. It should have a wall for protection
  • Kharvata—A city near pasture lands with mixed population
  • Kheta— A forest municipality inhabited by hunters
  • Kubjaka—A town with diverse types of people. It does not have a defensive wall
  • Pattana—A citadel near a river (much like Mohenjo-daro)

Forts were categorised as Sivira (camp or outpost), Vahinimukha (city with defence establishments), Sthaniya (strategic city near mountains/passes), Dronaka (fortified town built on banks of a river for commerce), Samviddha (town for brahmins), Kolaka (a samviddha with a palace for the king), Chaari/Nigama (town primarily for religious and commercial purposes), and Skandhavara (fortified town for kshatriyas). [1, 44]

There are of course the traditionally specified types of fortresses, which are 7 in number: Mountain fort (giri durgam), Forest fort (vana durgam), Water fort (jala durgam), Clay/Cave fort (panka/guha durgam), Chariot fort (ratha durgam), Divine fort (divya durgam, has extensive fortress with efficient defensive system), and Mixed fort (mishra durgam, situated among both both mountains and forest). [1, 45]

Temple construction is a topic of its own.

Harmandir Saheb – Golden Temple of Amritsar, Punjab

Given the technicality, Temple construction is better dealt with again under Vaastu Sastra. Not to play to the gallery by saying “pehle sauchalay, phir devalay“, (which should really not be an either or proposition…) but another critical aspect to discuss is the emphasis on public hygiene. Modern Indian municipalities may not be known for this (the cost of Colonialism), but ancient India certainly was.

Interestingly, not just cities, but even villages had to plan for hygiene, drainage, and catchment.

Drainage & Hygiene

With the passage of time and the efforts of archaeologists, it’s becoming more and more difficult to deny the greater and greater similarities between the Vedic culture that is recorded (and still lived today) and the ever increasing discoveries of the scale and spread of the Indus Valley Civilization, so much so, that it is increasingly being called the Sarasvati-Sindhu Civilization. This, of course, dovetails with the Vedic Tradition itself, which asserts the Sarasvati-Sindhu (Brahmavarta) as the original home of all Indians.

Given the likelihood of this, and texts such as the Arthasastra which specify the high degree of regimented and disciplined public hygiene, Harappa and Mohenjo-daro are very much emblematic of Sthaapatya Veda’s emphasis on the same. If these cities in Sindhu desh show the urban plan of drainage, Sthaapatya Veda describes it right down to the village level.

It is also no wonder that Ayurveda is closely associated with it. According to Sthaapatya Ved it is imperative to known about other various valuable effects to the environment given out by various types of trees, plants, shrubs and herbs, etc. This has been studied methodically and their effects to human physiology have been stated. This is effectively used in planning a garden around a home, planting trees around a village, public gardens and tree in the cities. The trees and plants have been classified according to the location of their use.” [1, 48]

Vriksha Ayurveda, due to it extensive nature, is again, better discussed elsewhere. Nevertheless, this dovetails into the key terms for the topic.

Terminology

Keerthi Thorana, Warangal, Telangana
  • Vaastu Sastra—Study of Architecture & City Planning
  • Silpa Sastra—Study of Sculpture & Iconography
  • Chitra Sastra—Study of Painting
  • Chitra lakshana—Painting
  • Taksana—Carpentry
  • Rajadhani— Capital City
  • Graama— Village
  • Thorana—Arch
  • Devaayatana—Temple
  • Sabha—Assembly Hall
  • Sikhara—Steeple
  • Gala—Dome
  • Uttara—Lintel
  • Jaala—Jali (screen/lattice)
  • Gopura—Tower
  • Garbagriha—Sanctum Sanctorum
  • Praasaada—Palace
  • Vimaana—Pavilion
  • Visesha Bhavana—Palace of Beauty
  • Marga—Road
  • Manusyalaya—Residence
  • Aarama—Guest house
  • Alinda—Verandah
  • Prakaara—Ramparts
  • Parikha—Moats
  • Kapisirsaka—Battlements
  • Kautukalya—Museum
  • Silpasala— Art House
  • Istaka—Brick
  • Stambha—Pillar
  • Dvara—Door
  • Kaksa—Room
  • Gavaaksa—Window
  • Attaalika—Edifices/Buildings
  • Sthaapathi—Architect
  • Sthaapaka—Presiding priest at an architectural site
  • Silpi/Bhaskara—Sculptor
  • Chitrakaara—Painter

Important Texts

Vishvakarma Vastu Sastra

Vishvakarma Prakasa

Vishnudharmottara Purana

18 Mahapuranas (Matsya, Skanda, Garuda, Agni, etc)

Silpa Sastras

Silpa Ratna

Brihat Samhita of Varaahamihira

Maanasaara

Mayamata

Agamas, ie Kaamikaagama, Karanaagama, Suprabhedaagama & Vaikhaanasaagama

Suryasiddhanta

Siddhanta-shiromani

Samarangana Sutra of King Bhoja

Aparaajita-Prcchaa of Bhuvanadevacharya

Leelavati of Bhaskaracharya (mentions architecturally important concepts)

Conclusion

Much like virtually every field of study—even contribution—in Indic Civilization, Indian Art & Architecture is also subject to great controversy. On the one hand, western and western-sponsored “scholars” seek to minimise and question every accomplishment, be it intellectual or architectural, and on the other hand, the atisayokti-prone argumentative Indian reacts in grand hyperbole (“Taj Mahal was Shiva temple!“—[even this theory guys, asserts it was a palace that housed a Shiva Temple…details matter].

Marxist “historians” have only complicated matters more by inventing schools that didn’t previously exist “Indo-saracenic”, and crediting everything under the sun (pillars, domes, screens, even temples!) to foreign invaders. Finally, foreign invaders themselves gleefully catalogued their vandalism and iconoclasm that resulted in the destruction of many beautiful palaces and temples. Ghazni himself waxed eloquent on the wondrous temple of Mathura, saying it would take 200 years to build such a magnificent and glorious structure—before he proceeded to rob it of its inlaid gold and gems and burn it down with sulphur and naphta. Self-proclaimed “seculars” engage in all sorts of denialism of such realities, despite widespread primary source evidence. How can a person interested in facts, and Historical Truth, navigate his or her way through such a quagmire?

The answer lies in starting from the roots. And the roots of Indian Art & Architecture (real Indian Art & Architecture) are in Sthaapatya Veda.

Hindus had codified every branch of knowledge in some kind of Saastra and we had a Saastra on Art also. Among many Vedas and Upa-Vedas there was a Sthaapatya-Veda. Accordingly Hindu Art had a very vast scope in which Fine Arts, Technical Arts and Applied Arts, all were included. We had a full-fledged science which was called Shilpasasatra or Vaastusaastra. We had also a tradition of Kalaas what are known as ‘Catussastri-kalaas” [2, 1]

Srirangam Temple, Trichy, Tamizh Nadu

As seen  above with the Srirangam temple and also with the Vedanga Jyotisha, most of the traditional sciences in Indic Epistemology have an holistic unity. Architecture, Sculpture, and Painting are seamlessly integrated not only with themselves, but also with Ganita and Jyotihsastra. Many of course naturally protest saying the mythological and metaphysical should be kept apart from the modern and material. But in fairness, is that always the case?

Are the findings of Dvaraka real? —maybe. Are the roots of the Sarasvati-Indus Valley, Vedic?—possibly. But the answer to whether or not there was a native and ancient Indic approach to Art & Architecture should certainly be “definitely”. And that Indic approach to Art & Architecture is found in Sthaapatya Veda.

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References:
  1. Gaur, Niketan. Sthapatya Ved-Vastu Sastra: Ideal Homes, Colony and Town Planning. New Delhi: New Age Books. 2009
  2. Shukla, Lalit Kumar. A Study of Hindu Art and Architecture (with special reference to the terminology). Chowkhamba. 1972
  3. Singh, B. Satyanarayana. The Art and Architecture of Kakatiyas.Delhi: Bharatiya Kala Prakashan. 1999
  4. Shukla, D.N. Hindu Science of Architecture (Vol. I). New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers. 2008

Classical Indic Literature V: Romantic Sanskrit Poetry 3

Those of you familiar with our Post on Madan Utsav are no longer wondering whether Bharatavarsha had its own Festival of Love. But what if we told you there were not one but two festivals where lovers honoured and celebrated each other, and secret prayers for romance to fructify were offered to the Gods.

Sharad Rtu (autumn) is famous throughout India as the season of moonlight. The very sight of the full moon itself brings many thoughts of Sringara rasa.

Therefore, in honour of the ancient Kaumudi Utsav—celebrated on Ashvina Purnima, we give you Part 3 in our Set on Romantic Sanskrit Poetry.

While most of your are familiar by now with the peerless Mahakavi Kalidasa, today’s poet is uniquely talented in the art of Sringara Kavya. From the supple and spritely verses sauntering in the sophistication of simplicity, we give you the very pangs of separation incarnate.

Today’s installment on Classical Indic Literature features that beautiful work of Bhavabhuti called the Uttararamacharita.

Author

Bhavabhuti’s patron is thought to be Yasovarman of Kannauj, and is thus dated to the 8th century CE. Though there are debates as to Bhavabhuti’s correct time period, it is known that his ancestral home was Padmapura in the Dakshinapatha. Udumbara was the surname of his family, which was of the Kasyapa gotra. Udumbara may also correlate to the present Amraoti of Maharashtra, which was previously called Audambaravati, city of fig trees. Nevertheless, this family was of the Taittiriya school of the Krishna Yajurveda. Five generations prior was also a Mahakavi in the family. Bhavabhuti’s grandfather was Bhatta Gopala and his father was Nilakanta. Some hold that Bhavabhuti’s actual name was Srikantha, with Bhavabhuti as his title. His mother was Jatukarni. His tutor, Jnananidhi, was considered a master scholar. This Jnananidhi schooled him in the Vedas, the traditional systems of philosophy, grammar, and rhetoric. Bhavabhuti was certainly well acquainted with the Upanishads. Thus, along with being a master poet, Bhavabhuti was a master scholar himself. [1]

There is some indication that he was considered a rival of Kalidasa (if not in fact contemporaneous with him). Other non-contemporaneous rivals mentioned in the Bhojaprabandha include Bana and Mayura, and the Goddess Bhuvanesvari said to have anointed Bhavabhuti the best. Irrespective, if Kalidasa excelled at depicting Romance (sringara), Bhavabuti was an expert portrayer of Pathos (karuna) and Heroism (veera). Karuna is especially seen through the sympathetic portrayal of the separation of Sita and Rama,in the Uttararamacarita. If Kalidasa is “the Grace of Poetry”, Bhavabhuti is the “Master of Loquence”[1]. If the former is more idealistic and romantic, the latter is more realistic and varied.

Bhavabhuti was a great stylist and had a wonderful command over language; he was skilled in adjusting the sound of his verse so as to be an echo to the sense. [1,19]

The great author is known to have written three dramatic works: These are Mahaviracharita, Malati-Madhava, & Uttararamacharita.

The chief merit of Bhavabhuti’s plays, apart from questions of languages, lies, however, in their high moral tone. Even in describing ordinary human love, Bhavabhuti never wanders into the sensuous; he has probed the depths of romantic passions without descending to appeals to mere lust. He maintains a dignified gravity throughout; his ideal of a lover is one who obliterates self [1, 19-20]

Mahaviracharita is considered to be the earliest and covers the life of Sri Rama from his childhood to his later victory over Ravana and return to Ayodhya. Malati-Madhava is a love story in 10 acts. Uttararamacharita deals with the separation of Sita and Rama.

Composition

Sometimes the truth isn’t good enough. Some times people deserve to have their faith rewarded.

The Uttara Kanda of the Ramayana is one that leaves feminists aflutter in fury, but more importantly, leaves devotees and romantics alike afflicted with the pangs of pathos. One cannot help but shed tears, not only for Sita, who after all her suffering, was fated to be slandered by idle gossip, but also for Ram, who had to uphold the rigid Dharma of the Treta Yuga, and banish his beloved pativrata.

If the wife of mere Caesar had to be above suspicion, is it any wonder that the Chakravartin of Ayodhya’s had to be as well? Such laws have no place in our time of easy lies and facile gossipy gupshup. But even those of us who loathe cruel kimvadanthi can’t help but be deeply unhappy at the doom these two transcendental lovers were fated to suffer. Even the great Bhavabhuti, who authored the Mahaviracharita that celebrated Rama’s prowess, asked Vidhaatha, “Is this how you end it?“.

Determined to set things right, Bhavabhuti decided to give an ending he believed to be worthy of such a Divine Couple.

A nataka (drama) in 7 parts, the Uttararamacharita, like its predecessor, the Mahaviracharita, is a work that celebrates an episode from the Ramayana. The naayaka (hero) is a dheerodaatta (generous & self-sacrificing) and the naayika is a sveeya (one’s own rightful lover). While there is no pratinayaka (villain), the vastu (plot) is considered historical. [1, 22] While the earlier work is steeped in veera rasa, the later one is replete with soka as its sthayibhaava. While we feel the pathos of the protagonists through Karuna rasa, we also get ripples of romantic Sringara Rasa—the king of the rasas.

Sringara Rasa, as discussed in our previous article, is divided into Sambhoga and Viprayoga. While the former deals with lovers-in-union, the latter deals with lovers-in-separation. Quite possibly the epitome of viprayoga sringara was personified by that epitome of Dharma: the Divine Couple of Sita-Rama.

As such, Uttaramaracharita is very much work on viprayoga. Much maligned by misandrist feminists today, Bhagavan Ram’s deep-seated pain is searingly catalysed into our being, by Bhavabhuti kavi.

An interesting point that exposes the agendas of the “many Ramayanas crowd” is that if all Ramayanas are equally valid, then so is the Uttararamacharita—anyways based on the Uttara kanda. So either only Valmiki Ramayana is valid or the entire industry of India-hating feminists must accept the Uttaramacharita where Rama is not only reunited with Sita, but where the Goddess Ganga herself justifies Rama’s action as King who accepted the popular will.

In any event, one cannot help but be moved by the agony in Raghava’s heart. He who laid low the haughty brahma-rakshasa Ravana, now stood powerless once more before the high burden of Dharma.

The crown prince of Kosala could give up his rightful throne as if it were a speck of dust, but how could the King of Kosala banish his beloved wife, whom he rescued from Ravanasura? His duty as a king came before his duty as a husband, but that he nevertheless suffered the pain of parting becomes apparent in Bhavabhuti’s opus. Selection I alone is proof of this.

Those of you with commercial preferences for the crass persianised pidgin poetry of Bollywood may first require an immediate primer on real Romance. For the rest of us, however, the more sophisticated sensibilities of Sringara Sanskrita Kavya are more appealing to aesthetes and connoisseurs with more refined tastes.

Before we begin with the Poetic selections, in honour of the occasion, here is a brief overview of the Kaumudi Utsav.

Kaumudi Utsav

The sanskrit word kaumudi comes from the term for moonlight. As you will read in the selections below, such beauteous comparisons are not infrequent in Classical Indian Literature. They bring to mind wondrous thoughts of sleepy serene vales and dreamy autumn nights, when great love is painted on the canvas of existence.

It is in fact still celebrated in many parts of India, notably Assam, as the end of the Monsoon. Ashvin Purnima is known as Kojagiri Purnima and Sharad Purnima elsewhere. Appropriately, the Sharad Purnima itself is dedicated to none other than Goddess Lakshmi.

So without further ado, we bring you the love story of the Uttama Purusha through the Poetry of Bhavabhuti’s Uttaramacharita.

Selections
§

I.Tatkaalam Priyajana viprayoga janmaa

Teevro’pi pratikruti vaanchhaya visodah |

Duhkhaagnir manasi punar vapachya maano

Hrunmarma vrana iva vedanaam karoti || A.1,Sl.30

The fire of grief arising from the separation of my beloved, however fierce, was at that time borne by me through the desire for retaliation; but now, reviving in my breast, it causes agony like a wound festering in the vital part of my heart . [1,9]

 §

II.Iyam gehe Lakshmiriya mamruta varthirnayanayo-

Rasaavasyah sparsho vapushi bahulaschandana-rasah |

Ayam baahu kante sisiramasrno mauktikasarah

Kimasyaa na preyo yadi parama sahyastu viraha || A.1, Sl. 38

She is the very Lakshmi of my house, and a pencil of nectar to my eyes;

Her touch is a thick sandal-paste to my body; this her arm twined round my neck is as cooling and as smooth as a pearl-string; what about her would not be pleasing, but separation from her is exceedingly unbearable. [1,11]

§

III.Paripandu-durbala-kapola-sundaram

Dadhatee vilolakabaree-kamaananam|

Karunasya moorthiratha va sareerini

Virahavyatheva vanameti Janaki || A.3.Sl.4

The daughter of Janaka, her countenance charming owing to its pallid and emaciated cheeks and her loosened braids waving about, coming to the wood like the very image of pity, or rather lie the pain of separation incarnate. [1,26]

§

IV.Sramaambu sisiree-bhavath prasruthamandha mandhaakini

Maruttha-ralithaalak-aakula lalaata chandra dhyuthi |

Akunkuma-kalankithojjvala-kapolamut prekshyathe

Niraabharana sundara sravana paasa mugdham mukham || A.6, Sl.37

I remember her face, as it was cooled by the perspiration caused by fatigue

with its beautiful moon-like forehead overhung with her tresses, disheveled by the gently blowing breezes of the Mandakini

with its cheeks bright, not being marked with saffron-paint and engaging with its well-formed ears, charming in their unadorned state. [1,71]

§

V.Ethaani te suvachanaani saroruhaakshi

Karnaamruthaani manasascha rasaayanaani A.1, Sl.36

These thy words, O lotus-eyed one, cause the withered flower of my life to bloom,

[they] Gladden me, lull all my senses into peace, serve as nectar to the ears and as a sovereign balm to the heart.[1,11]

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§

VI.Advaitham sukha dukha yoranu gunam sarvaasavasthasu ya-

Dvisramo hrudayasya yathra jarasaa yasminna haaryo rasah |

Kaalenaa varanaatya yath parinathe yath premasare sthitham

Bandra tasya sumaanu shasya kathama pyekam hi tat praapyate || A.1, Sl.39

Blissful is that fortunate man who, somehow, obtains that one thing—pure matchless…

love—which is the same in happiness or misery, which adapts itself to all conditions, where the heart finds its solace, the flavour of which is unaffected by old age, and which matures, as time removes the veil of reservedness, into permanent deep affection.[1,12]

§

VII.Tvam jeevitam tvamasi me hrudayam dvitiyam

Tvam kaumudi nayanayor amrutam tvamange

A.3, Sl.26

You are my very life, you are my second heart; you are the moonlight to my eyes and ambrosia to my limbs. [1,34]


References:
  1. Kale, M.R.The Uttararamacarita of Bhavabhuti. Delhi: MLBD.2010
  2. Winternitz, Moriz.History of Indian Literature. Vol 1.Delhi: MLBD.1996
Acknowledgement: My gratitude to the young man who once more lent his voice to give life to these lyrics. An example to other young men on how to respect young ladies.

Vedanga Jyotisha & Indology

The method of simply assuming results, once one is persuaded that they are true, rather than trying to prove them, has all the advantages of thievery over honest toil.
- Bertrand Russell quoted in The Origins of Astronomy [5].

Introduction

This short article is a prequel to the ICP post on Vedanga Jyotisha (VJ). The prior post contains the answers to the questions from Indologists that are listed in this article.

Vedanga Jyotisha

Epistemological Continuity

Scholars from within the Indic tradition successfully decoded the complex VJ text available in the form multiple rescensions, after 150 years of attempts by researchers from all over the world [1]. Their rigorous analyses, made possible by their multi-disciplinary expertise in Sanskrit, Jyotishastra, Ganita Sastra, and astronomy, have helped debunk many unsubstantiated claims regarding Indic sciences and VJ. Their research work can also enlighten contemporary eminent historians in India who remain unaware of the deep connection between science and Vedas. The findings about VJ clearly establish that its scientific innovations arise from Rta and Vedic Yagna, and its calendar recalls earlier Indic traditions [2].  The inter-connected developments in astronomy and other sciences also coincided with the growth of Ganita (‘science of computation’). This progress was part of an independent and continuous Indic tradition [5, 11] that spanned more than 3300 years, from the VJ and Sulba Sutras, to the genius of Madhava and Srinivasa Ramanujan. We have discussed Ganita Sastra and its epistemological continuity in this ICP post. Due to the integral unity [9] of dharma traditions, we also find this continuity in multiple other fields including Indic artmusic, dance, etc.

Indologists Study Vedanga Jyotisha

The previous post concluded with three findings that are pertinent to this post:

  1. The date range for VJ (1150 – 1550 BCE).
  2. The location of VJ (Northern India / Kashmir).
  3. Necessary qualifications to study VJ in its original form [1]:
    • a) Expertise in Sanskrit,
    • b) knowledge of Western/modern astronomy, and
    • c) an understanding of the concepts/practices of Hindu astronomy.

The absence of one or more of these three qualifications is likely to nullify the research effort and end in frustration [1].

Indology is a peculiar field. Sportspersons, scientists, and actors love their work, take pride in the history and traditions of their respective fields, and generally take their field forward. However, many career Indologists loathe the subject they study: Indic history and culture, and their research effort is directed toward producing results that can bring both down.

Summary of Claims

We reviewed the various assertions made by some (not all) western Indologists regarding VJ and ancient Indic astronomy and compiled a representative set of ten claims to discuss.

  1. The Vedic Indians possessed only a crude calendar.
  2. The Indics borrowed ‘Nakshatra’ from Mesopotamia.
  3. The Vedic calendar had no systematic intercalation.
  4. The date for VJ is 600 BCE or later.
  5. VJ content was created in Mesopotamia.
  6. Aryans brought astronomy and VJ ideas to India.
  7. Indian Astronomy was borrowed from Mesopotamia.
  8. The superiority of European time-keeping.
  9. The water clock is a Mesopotamian invention that Indics borrowed.
  10. Indic sciences exhibit a lack of originality, are repetitive, and non innovative.

Christopher Hitchens fans would say “what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence“. On the other hand, these claims have been systematically studied and countered by multiple researchers, which allows one to dismiss them with evidence. For brevity, we have reviewed the arguments in [5], [3], and [1] to produce a limited response to each of these claims.

Claim 1

The Vedic Indians possessed only a crude calendar.

Response:

Many of the ideas in VJ are present in prior Vedic calendars. It is sophisticated for its time, and its mean measurements of lunar cycles and parameters, as well as the start time of the Yuga (a fundamental time unit of VJ), are remarkably accurate. The computations performed required expertise in modulo arithmetic, and the rule of three was employed as a subroutine. The invariant Nakshatra coordinate system, the Javadi table, the self-organizing and self-correcting Yuga based calendar, etc. indicate the depth of thought that the Vedic Indians put into the VJ.  The Javadi table is a thing of beauty that emerges from Rta. We found hidden inside this table, a full-period linear congruential (pseudo random number) generator that enumerates the ecliptic longitudes of all the full and new moons in a Yuga. VJ combined observational astronomy and Ganita (computation). The resultant balancing of order and chaos is characteristic of the Indic method [9] that is anything but crude.

Summary: False claim that has to be rejected.

Claim 2

The ancient Indians borrowed Nakshatra from Mesopotamia.

Response:

The commonality of certain prominent Nakshatras across cultures is unsurprising since everyone shares the same sky. In particular, it has been shown that the importance of Krittika nakshatra (star group ‘Pleiades’) is special to not just one or two cultures, but to peoples across all continents [3]. The Vedic lists of Nakshatras start with Krittika and the Rta basis for this choice is that the seasonal year begins when the sun in this Nakshatra sector (in Vasanta ऋतु, spring season). Krittika is relatively easy to observe and is important for a variety of reasons tied to the seasonal cycles of agricultural planning, food gathering, etc., and not because one culture found it first and shared this ‘IP’ all over the world.

Nakshatras (as stars or star-groups) are fundamental to the Vedic calendar as summarized in the Vedanga Jyotisha post. On the other hand, the Nakshatra coordinate system of the VJ is a uniquely Indic development that is not found elsewhere. In VJ, the Nakshatras identify wide ecliptic sectors that yield an invariant ecliptic reference system, and not the stars themselves [3], as misunderstood by some western Indologists.

Summary: False claim that has to be rejected.

Claim 3

The Vedic calendar had no systematic intercalation

Response:

In our post, we summarized the findings of researchers on intercalation in VJ, and discussed the intercalary months (adhimasa or adhikamasa) employed by Vedic calendars, and how the VJ Yuga is a self-organizing system derived from Rta that contains built-in error-correction.  VJ authors knew that the seasons must be synchronized with the sidereal year [3]. Such corrections prevented cascading errors (something that the European Julian calendar carried forward for more than a millennium until it was repaired for theological reasons by Catholic priests to safeguard the history-centrism [9] of their religion). The maximum error possible in the Vedic calendar has been calculated and shown to be bounded. Over the centuries, updated calendars and astronomical results were produced by the Indian astronomers and Ganita scholars.

The Indic method is systematic and is characterized by the Sanskrit non-translatable term abhiyukti (~algorithm) which is not entirely mechanical, but is comfortable with approximations, exceptions and non-mechanical corrections. This aspect can be seen continuously in Ganitasastra from the VJ to Aryabhata, from Madhava to Ramanujan.

Summary: False claim that has to be rejected.

Claim 4

VJ date is 600 BCE or later.

Response:

The astronomical time-stamp present in the VJ itself, a statistical analysis of the Nakshatra system, and other data enable us to narrow down VJ to a date range 1150-1550 BCE. It must be remembered that the VJ recalls earlier traditions that go further back in time. The 600 BCE or later date may have been proposed by Indologists so that it would be later than the earliest available Mesopotamian texts on astronomy (700 BCE), in order to satisfy their assumption of transmission from a Mesopotamian source.

Summary: This Claim has to be rejected. VJ dates several centuries prior, and is itself a culmination of results from previously existing traditions.

Claim 5

VJ content was created in Mesopotamia

Response:

Indologists latched on to the 3:2 ratio of the longest to the shortest day given in VJ to make this claim. This claim has been well-studied in [3]. The ratio depends on the latitude where these observations were made, and multiple locations qualify. However, most Mesopotamian areas are excluded, except for a couple of cultural centers in West Asia. Furthermore, a mathematical analysis reveals locations in the latitude range of 25N to 30N to be the more likely candidates, increasing the likelihood of an Indic origin, and significantly weakening claim 5.  Furthermore, mention of this ratio shows up in Mesopotamian literature after 700 BCE, long after VJ’s latest possible date.

Summary:  Unsubstantiated claim that has to be rejected. Kashmir is a likely candidate. Mesopotamian locations are unlikely.

Claim 6

Aryans brought astronomy and VJ ideas to India.

Response:

Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT), invented by Max Muller in the 19th century has been thoroughly debunked (historians have noted that the racist Aryan theory has been cynically exploited by two totalitarian regimes guilty of large-scale crimes against humanity: the British Raj and the Third Reich). There is no mention of such an invasion in Vedic text or Itihasa. Furthermore, the location and date of VJ, as well as its epistemology, considerably diminishes the chances of a non-Indic origin of VJ. There is a vast amount of work done by Indic scholars on this topic. The interested reader is referred to ‘Breaking India, by Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan.

Summary: AIT today is a discredited theory, albeit one that has considerable propaganda value in contemporary Indian ‘vote bank’ politics, and thus the debate is unlikely to end soon. The only sure way to ‘prove’ AIT today is to assume that AIT is true and then find data (genetic models are popular in recent times) that agree with this assumption. Quite Easily Done.

Claim 7

Indian Astronomy was borrowed from Mesopotamia.

Response:

Again, the time period of VJ and prior Vedic calendars, and the secure epistemology of Indic astronomy, makes this a remote possibility. There are several differences between ancient Mesopotamian and Indic astronomy since the latter is rooted in Rta, which is Satya in action. For example: A seven-day week is recognized as a Babylonian artifact, and is not found in Vedic text. Note that a 7-day week is not clearly tied to Rta whereas ahoratra (day-and-night), Pakshas / lunar phases, and ऋतु (seasons) have naturally occurring periods that are observable (pratyaksha). They represent Rta, and are used within ancient Indic calendars.  Per [3], the earliest mention of a seven day week in Indic literature is 484 CE, nearly two millennia after VJ. Research shows that the Hindus developed their own calendar and astronomy, and in many areas, were several centuries ahead of their time. (For example, see Ahargana in claim 8).

Summary: There was little need to borrow astronomical concepts from Mesopotamia or Greece since Indic astronomy was epistemologically secure [5] and advancing quite nicely. Ancient Indics had developed strong traditions in both algebra and geometry [5], a claim that few others (if any), can make. It may have been counter-productive to import alien concepts since it would require the Indics to force fit them into the Indic approach based on pramana, which is no easy task. In fact, a leading Indian scientist has argued that although this Indic policy of rejecting foreign paradigms (that lacked pramana) had positive outcomes, not re-working and adapting them into the dharma framework proved costly later.

Claim 8

The superiority of European time-keeping.

Response:

From the 18th century CE, European time-keeping and astronomy made rapid progress and took the lead. However, time-keeping there was not always as well developed. We can mention a couple of examples.

a) The Julian calendar (~45 BCE) produced a cascading error that could not be fixed until the Gregorian reform in 1582 CE. This effort relied at least partially on Indian time-keeping methods, using text from the Indian west coast obtained by visiting European missionaries during this time period. Once the Gregorian reform victory was secured for the church, Roberto De Nobili, the Italian Jesuit missionary in India (in 1610 CE) launched a diatribe against VJ to discredit the source text [11].

b) The Julian day number (not to be confused with the Julian calendar) was first created in Europe in 1583. This system calculates the elapsed time from a fixed date, Julian 1/1/4713 BCE. In comparison, Aryabhata’s Ahargana (‘heap of days’) method [5] for tracking elapsed time was already in use for a thousand years. Without a reliable method for time-reckoning, accurate time-stamping of historical events and record keeping is difficult.

Formidable numerical and calculating challenges had to be overcome by ancient cultures that did not yet possess Ganita. Commenting on the Indologists who ignored these epistemic gaps, Kosla  Vepa [5] remarks:”[ancient Europeans] had no symbols or numbers larger than a thousand. Most Indians have been persuaded by the Colonial power into believing that Indian chronology is faulty and wanting (compared to whom?). Such an assumption is belied by the fact that it is the Indian records that they depended on to decipher what the Greeks did according to David Pingree. We will illustrate the inherent contradictions in their stance towards Indian historical record keeping in the chapter on knowledge transmission, where we examine a half a dozen instances of similar contradictions…”

Time-keeping (from small intra-day units to the largest time units) has been a part of Indian civilization for a long time, and evident in the earliest texts. The importance of history to Indic civilization cannot be understated.

Vedic Cosmology — The Dharmic View of Time

Summary: The claim is rejected since the data suggests otherwise. It makes more sense to reverse the claim and find out whether the ancient Indic methods could be considered dominant based on the available data.

It would not be out of place to recognize the Indics as the original time-keepers of the cosmos.
Claim 9

The water clock is a Mesopotamian invention that Indics borrowed.

Response:

Indic water clock designs were different from the Mesopotamian ones. Ohashi’s informative paper (see [3]) on this topic debunks this claim and shows that post-Vedic water clocks were different from Mesopotamian ones. Furthermore, Narahari Achar [7] identified passages in Vedic text that suggest the usage of water clocks in Vedic times were also different in design.

Summary: This claim has to be rejected for lack of evidence.

Claim 10

Indic sciences exhibit a lack of originality, are repetitive, and non-innovative.

Response:

The VJ post shows that the exact opposite is true. This claim sounds childish now, after all the evidence meticulously uncovered by researchers, but such claims were taken seriously and parroted by multiple western Indologists in essays and books.  There is a long list of Indologists who spent years learning from Sanskrit Pandits and thereafter U-turned and denied, diluted, or damned with faint praise, the original accomplishments of the ancient Indians, without pretence of objectivity.

Summary: It is time to reverse the gaze and study why, who, and from where the motivation for such sustained hostility to Indic civilization emerges from.

Many churlish claims were made by a researcher named David Pingree. It is worth studying his approach as a representative specimen of Euro-centric bias.

Who was David Pingree?

Professor Pingree was a mathematical historian at Brown University in the US, and much of his professional career involved the study of scientific material in ancient Sanskrit texts. After spending decades wading through Indic works to create his magnum opus, ‘a census (not just a sample) of  the exact sciences in Sanskrit’, he opined that the Indics really did not come up with anything noteworthy and borrowed everything either from Europe (ancient Greeks), and if not Greeks, then from Mesopotamia. Interestingly, the volume of relevant manuscripts available from these ‘sources’ is minuscule compared to the massive amount of ‘borrowed’ material in Sanskrit that Pingree literally had to take a census of [5].

Pingree makes an implicit assumption that designates Indians as knowledge consumers and Greeks/Mesopotamians as knowledge producers. Thereafter, one can always speculate about how this transmission took place and find data that fits this assumption. Such Indologists would claim, without hard evidence, that many valuable results in Sanskrit texts were borrowed. If by chance, Indic priority was undeniable, then the claim would be that the G/M discovered it independently [5]. Pingree was neither the first, nor the last indologist to indulge in such narrative building exercises. The Aryan Invasion fiction is a necessary tool in this Eurocentric propaganda since it provides the Indologist a safe fall-back that ‘in any case, the Indic science and math came from the Aryan master race who invaded India’. The discussions in [5] and [3] thoroughly expose the methods employed by Pingree and other Euro-centric indologists.

It was an uphill task for Pingree to begin with as there are few, if any, primary sources of these claimed Greek results, and the earliest texts relevant to these claims belong to the Common Era [5]. As far as verifiable evidence of Greek-to-Sanskrit transmission to support these claims, there is none. However, in recent times, there is information regarding potential transmission in the reverse direction. In order to create a plausible picture from scant data, some Indologists have employed a technique called speculative reconstruction [5].

Some Indologists may have missed the lesson on 'etaddhasti darshana iva jatyandhah'. Different people can look at the same data and arrive at entirely different conclusions that suits their preconceptions. 

Speculative Reconstruction

A grand narrative promoted by Euro-centric Indologists requires a glorious, ancient Greek past where almost everything important in science and math today originated there (or independently discovered there, if someone else got lucky and did it first). Researchers like Pingree have devoted entire careers, producing results that further this goal. They have succeeded spectacularly, if one looks at all the theorems, results, and entire areas in mathematics that are attributed to Europeans in textbooks, starting from the Pythagoras theorem and Euclidean geometry to Fibonacci series to Newton’s calculus and McLaurin/Taylor series. It is as if no worthwhile mathematics ever happened outside the Judeo-Christian domain (!). These historians of math have often employed speculative reconstruction (SR) to guess the original result from partial data. SR combines imagination with contemporary math to form a conjecture about what was done thousands of years ago.

Recently, researchers have used such methods to try and push back the date of trigonometry in ancient Mesopotamia by creatively reinterpreting an ancient manuscript: Plimpton 322.  Other western experts saw through this as a marketing exercise. A key counter-argument to such claims is that exceptional “3000 years ahead of xyz” events is unlikely to occur in a vacuum. Showing the continuity in epistemology throughout that time period, and establishing a historical context for the result goes a long way in making such claims credible and reduces the chances of being dimissed as hype.

SR in itself may be a useful academic tool, but its value as confirming historical evidence is nil since it is speculation. Some Indologists have employed multiple layers in SR, i.e., they have rejected part of the historical data as mistakes committed by the author thousands of years ago and then generated new data ‘to correct the error’ and essentially produce what they assumed. An outrageous example is the ‘chord table of Hipparchus‘ where SR was used to claim that Aryabhata borrowed his R-sine difference table from this [5].  This claim has been exposed by Indic researchers by showing how SR works and then explaining the original Ganita in Aryabhatiya and its commentaries.

Final Note

Of all the subjects we studied in school, Mathematics was regarded as the least subjective.  As a historian of mathematics in a top US university, why did Pingree adopt such an utterly biased approach when it came to Indology? To understand his motivation, let us turn to his PhD work. One of his graduate advisors was Daniel Ingalls.

Ingalls visited India and learned Sanskrit, became a celebrated professor of Sanskrit in the US, and authored several works on Sanskrit literature. The names of the students who did their PhD work under Ingalls read like the who’s who of Hinduphobic Indologists: Wendy Doniger, Sheldon Pollock, John Stratton Hawley, and others. Daniel Ingalls has received relatively limited attention from Indic scholars so far, since the spotlight has been grabbed by the infamous bunch of students he spawned . He served as an espionage agent during WW2, when he was required to spy on Indians in Kabul. His closest Indian friend was the Marxist DD Kosambi. His student, Padma Shri Sheldon Pollock,  has progressed further and is the darling of both Indian marxists and Islamic fundamentalists. Indian billionaire Narayana Murthy’s son Rohan Murty, provided more than USD 5M to fund his subversive work.  More than 50 students got their PhD under Ingalls and teach in major universities.  The co-authors of the Harvard tribute to Ingalls that we have excerpted here includes Diana Eck and Micheal Witzel, well-known for their Hinduphobic writings.

Ingalls’ life-story deserves to be thoroughly researched since he succeeded in learning Sanskrit from the Pandits in India, and eventually produced an army of Sanskrit-aware western-supremacist scholars who, until recently, have hijacked and poisoned the discourse in India, and have been rewarded by the Indian government, media, and industrialists for this effort.

Juan Pujol Garcia (codenamed Garbo) was a spy and a dedicated double agent against the Nazis in WW2. His contribution toward the allied D-day deception is considered critical. He received major military awards from the Nazis and the British.The Germans paid for his fictional network of 27 Nazi spies. Once, one of these spies was killed, and the Nazis generously paid out a pension to his equally fictional widow. By the end of the war, German intelligence was actually funding British intelligence, paying several hundred thousand USD.

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.
Acknowledgments
Thanks to N.r.i.pathi garu for his patience and encouragement.

Grow Up, Bharatiyas

Indian politics remains one of those intriguing contradictions. Young nation-Old Civilization, Land of Dharma-Many Sampradayas, and with the commencement of Navaratri, it is key to note that it is also a nation of both Kaali and Sita. Yet no dichotomy remains more pertinent than Politically Independent-Mentally Colonised. Part of this is due to the nature of macro-politics, but much of it is due to the simplistic and even childish approach many Indians take to what is a strategic and highly sophisticated game.

Politics is not so simple as “Kalki Avatar!”. For starters, many of the self-proclaimed traditionalists themselves don’t realise that Kalki Bhagavan isn’t scheduled to arrive for another 427,000 years. What will you do until then? Many of the same ‘traditionalists’ are anointing Hindu beef-eating promoters as ‘pure satvic‘, so perhaps the time has come for people to look within.

Perhaps the problems are so great that not a single government—elected or otherwise—is capable of actually ensuring Dharma samsthapana. How is this possible you ask? Look no further than the world’s oldest democracy, and understand the debate that is going on there.

To properly understand the nature of sub-national, pan-national, and international politics, one must understand the nature of macro-politics. If you still believe this is a clash of civilizations rather than a clash for civilization, you are still clueless. If you still believe that prime actors are national actors rather than transnational actors, you are still clueless. If you still believe that only your caste, and no other caste will restore Dharma, than you are dumber than a post . Rather than doing 24/7 tom-tom (or supporting those who do), shouldn’t you being doing or promoting useful things?

The British were famous for the sociopathic pleasure that took in insulting people to their faces…and Indians, for their unique talent in being oblivious to that. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

If Bharatiyas, and other nations of humanity, are in the doldrums today, it is their own rejection of Virtue all while wearing their religiosity or anti-religiosity on their sleeves.

Make no mistake: However much we criticize Bharatiyas here, this is an international problem.

Problems specific to Indians in general and Hindus in particular have already been diagnosed here and here. But the main problem is an international one. It is one that plagues humanity as a species. Rather than not getting enough pleasure, it is getting too much of it.

Liberals of Delhi

Head-up-your-ass-itis may be a universal condition, but its Indian strain is particularly virulent. Exhibit A: Moron hindus RT’ing non-Hindus referring to “moron hindus”, albeit, by quotation.

Supporting people who proffer apologia for the well-known and well-documented British role in the Partition of India only shows how the so-called “RW” is as colonised as the “LW”. Ceding space to outsiders to a degree where they actually call you morons to your face while arrogating the position to lecture you on how to “decolonise” only shows RW Hindus are no less moronic than their “left” or “Hindu Left” counterparts. Getting respect starts with self-respect.

Devdutt Pattanaik’s detestable books pervert our Dharma through his perverted interpretations. Nevertheless, the crux of this article here is, sad to say, correct.

Far be it from me to support anything he writes, but it is the height of stupidity for RW’ers to knee-jerk respond by publishing the self-same british partition apologist’s mockery of not only Pattanaik’s thesis, but any Hindu calling into question the role of Foreign Saviours—a well-documented phenomenon even in the West. This left-wing bigot’s caste caricature should be condemned, but isn’t his general point about “Right-wingers” here correct?

Having to discuss nationality is unseemly & unfortunate when one is faced with not a clash of civilizations but in fact a clash for civilization; nevertheless, it is necessary. One cannot ignore the historic, well-documented and well-known role of De Nobili and other such foreign saviours used by foreign “universal” institutions to co-opt and ultimately replace first native spiritual leadership

 …and then ultimately “political leadership”.

And that is what is lacking today among Bharatiyas: Leadership.  They are quick to seek out videshis to settle native disputes, while whining about colonialism. They are quick to ally with their foreign enemies in order to defeat their native rivals. They are quick to anoint foreigners as “Acharya” who misinterpret our sacred texts for Liberal purposes:

all while arrogantly abusing their own orthodox native ones without provocation:

Perhaps that is the greatest oddity: The worst casteists are often the biggest foreign slaves. That is the true danger of Aryan Invasion Theory. It pits Indian against Indian, while giving justification for wannabe Indian elites to become mental, spiritual, and ultimately political slaves of supposedly more “genetically pure” Aryan foreigners…Just as FC Casteist needs BC Casteist, Right Wing needs Left Wing. All this is Liberalism anyway (Classical Liberalism (RW) vs Progressive Liberalism (LW). All this is why the casteist Right Wing is as colonised as the casteist Left Wing, and why a true Dharma Paksa—a Bharatiya Dharma Paksa—is what is required.

It is fine to question our Acharyas—particularly in this questionable era—but even this must be done with respect and Maryada…or at the very least Sabhyata.

DharmaMandir

True, “holy men” aren’t above the law (let alone Dharma), but the standards of law vis-à-vis men of the cloth must be equally applied. Are they? More than that, society should not be so quick to judge those who are ministering to others—and rebuilding Rta in their own way. That is also why—contrary to ambitious casteists of all kinds—there is a distinction between religio-spiritual leadership and politico-strategic leadership. Each has its role to play and its own variety of intellectualism to embody. Let the real Bharatiya Acharyas do what they must to spread the Dharma, and let those creating risible mythologies of “greatest political genius” leave politics to the competent professionals. But that is precisely the problem—a surplus of Ego that focuses on ambitions and (alleged) rights rather than necessities and duties.

Bharatiyas are infected by a pestilence of petulance so puerile that even a 1% disagreement with their own side results in a rhetorical (or actual) fight-to-the-death. The self-same hypocritical  do-nothings whine about westerners misinterpreting our texts but don’t call out “native” Indians misinterpreting them to further Aryan Invasion Theory. The self-same hypocritical do nothings will whine about Bose’s promotion of urdu but then  then double back and furnish apologia for M.F.Hussain’s bigoted and perverted paintings of Hindu goddesses. The very same M.F.Hussain’s who sins against Hindus go beyond overrated art (his initials are certainly apt). Funny how those who whine most about “cuckoldry” end up supporting those who further such an agenda. This is why your friends cannot be anointed to run your own homes. The great Kashmiri satirical writer Kshemendra wrote of such unwelcome guests who abuse and overstay their own welcome—despite coming in the guise of ‘acharyas’. That is why in the Kali Yuga, Atithi Devo Bhava does not apply. Observation of Atithi Dharma (by both sides) does.

There was a well-known criticism of Nehru that applies to self-appelled RW’ers and “trads” today: the type of intellectual pinhead who didn’t know which way was up. If you don’t know your interests, if you don’t’ know friend from foe—or at least have the sense to put someone in the “can’t be too sure/not one of us” category—then what business do you have giving advice to all and sundry?

Acharyas of old were of the mold of Acharya Vishnusarman. They had not only the command of spiritual texts, but had the practical sense to detect and distinguish the native from the foreign, friend from foe, the Daivik from the Asuric.

VN_foolishfriend

Rather than falling for threads and textual recitation, they had the good sense to understand capability and intentions—that is true realism. Rather than supporting Philip Goldberg & Sheldon Pollock over Rajiv Malhotra, they would have the good sense & virtue to prioritise Dharma over Rna.

Politics ain’t beanbag, and macro-politics ain’t for amateurs, intellectual or otherwise. The first qualification for this is the ability to shut up.

VN_Silence

And this is single-biggest thing “moron hindus” lack understanding of today: the value of ‘shut up’.

Videshis aren’t here to save you because videshis aren’t interested in saving you. That is why they are always saving each other’s asses even while on opposite sides of the same Indian dispute. Does this mean all of them are malevolent?—No. But it does mean a guest is just a guest—and not a family member. It does mean you can’t afford the risk of replacing your leadership, your primary advisors, with them. Kaakollukiyam was written by Acharya Visnusarman—yet you recite his Panchatantra with out actually applying its lessons.

This thread is a case and point in the stupidity plaguing Indians, top to bottom.

One set of morons exult in their own self-loathing embrace of English (in the name of ‘egalitarianism!’) and another set make matters worse by insulting the locals whose state in which they are living.

This childish need for external validation/inclusion is emblematic of esteem issues. This type of falling over each other to defend all things foreign, including foreigners poking their nose in your own politics, is part of the problem. Foreign friends have their politics and we have ours. It is fine to exchange notes in the clash for civilization. It is good to appreciate friends, and India does have many foreign friends of all shades who genuinely appreciate India and support its culture. But your friends cannot run your own house. They have their own house (which they must set in order) and you have yours. Many people choose to marry within their own castes—fine. But if you consider inter-caste marriage to be the same as inter-religious or inter-national marriage, no wonder many of you think you have more in common with other nations. Each nation has its own house.

Let foreigners practicing Dharma revive it in their own nations rather than ministering to India. If the above movie clip is emblematic of the real views in avowedly equality-oriented immigrant societies, what of non-immigrant societies like India? India and Europe are not immigrant societies, but old societies with their own long-established cultures or peoples. For all the talk of universalism, funny how the foreign commentators chased by LW and RW Indian publications are always North of the Equator…but never South. Leave aside African Acharyas, would an African Sonia Gandhi have been as successful among Indiots? Wouldn’t that be true internationalism and true racial non-discrimination?

Comparing notes is one thing, “outsourcing” leadership is quite another. Will this spark off xenophobia?—No, it’s just a healthy skepticism and self-respect that is required if all nations are to preserve their uniqueness. Rather than raising racial rhetoric, it will draw more attention to institutions making slaves of all races. In the guise of “freedom”, human beings are unwittingly being subjected to a hierarchy of slavery. Contrary to casteists, varnashrama dharma is not a hierarchy of slaves, but a framework for duties. No caste or class can be “respected without exception”—hypocrites and criminals of all castes and classes will be punished. If the most “classless” of  communist societies simply ended up  creating 3 new classes, then what is fundamentally the problem is classist and casteist attitude. So long as your approach is “kick the one who licks and lick the one who kicks”, hierarchy of slavery is all you’ll be re-establishing. So which are the institutions subjecting mankind of all colours to slavery? As Voltaire wrote, find out whom you cannot criticise, and that is who rules you…directly, or indirectly.

And that is what makes the ahankari-shikandi outrage over the Pradhan Mantri to so laughable. For all the claims of “political genius” they are utterly clueless of the macro-politics Modi faces. Many of his government’s policies are wrong: aadhar, gst, non-repeal of RTE, and yes, even demonitisation. But are many/most of these unique to him?—or part of the chillar-mukht policies proliferating around the world. Rather than threatening to vote for congress, perhaps clueless casteists should dismantle their own (substantial) ignorance and start asking…

bono

This is why it is time for Bharatiyas to set aside nationalism and start promoting patriotism. Desa Dharma isn’t the same as Nationalism. Nationalism is “help my country, right or wrong”. Patriotism is “help my country distinguish right from wrong”. Nationalism is about superiority complexes; Patriotism is about loyalty to one’s native land. That is why the true patriot respects patriotism in others. It’s why a Scipio Africanus could meet Hannibal on the eve of Zama. Often times opposing generals, warriors, and even diplomats express admiration for the other side, and wonder how they might be have been friends were they on the same side.

There are many reasons to be upset at the Centre. But what are the international politics? What are the macro-politics? If the Centre is doing what it can do to buy you time—what are you doing with that time? Are you continuing to cavort in caste-cliques spreading asinine propaganda, or are you working together or with others to do your part for Dharma?

Daily news cycles and social media free-for-alls only accomplish so much. They are simple reactions to the greater strategic action of those subjecting you to slavery. Rather than asking “why not me?” when looking at others doing something you wish to do, ask “why me?”—to see if you are even qualified. What’s worse, is if you spend day in day out RT’ing videshis poking their noses into our own politics—what self-respect have you?

Wolf in sheep’s clothing is a well-known parable. Better yet is the Panchatantra tale of the Crows and Owls…so remember the lesson of the Kaakollukiyam. Rather than chase after the approval and advice of foreigners you can’t be certain of, work together with your countrymen to collaborate in common interest.

Time to get your acts together. Grow up Bharatiyas.

“Hindu Left” is an Oxymoron by Morons

The past 3 years of NDA government have 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 much 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 viciousness 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 & 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 Singh ji 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 aimed 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-spiritual 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 like to 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 halfwit 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 failing 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

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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 rationales for this are 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 name 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 also to the technical details of cultivation and crop protection.

“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 the Culinary Arts

There were many 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 Abhilashitartha-chinthaamani. 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 (chitrapaaka) 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]

Cookery

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 Indian “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]

Terminology

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

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. One such dish was called maamsabhutaudana: 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.

That 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…it’s true…). 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, crystal 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 (take that, Thackerays!).

[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  Jagannath Swami 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
The Best Mango of all: Banganapalli (sorry Alphonso…)

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 also 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