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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

Why Gentlemen Matter

How regressive!”, they may say. “MGTOW!” they will retort. “Tactic to guilt women into becoming Ladies!”, they might argue. Yes, even the last one is true courtesy feminists in our topsy turvy age. But the reality is, whatever radfem activists argue, whatever redpill [do]tards retort, and whatever post-modern popinjays might protest, for a civilised society, Gentlemen not only Matter but are, in fact, Foundational.

Pickup/Seduction artists may protest that “nice guys finish last” and “girls like bad boys”—and incidentally, I’m not actually contesting your point. But the problem is, you’re not asking why it might be true. The reason why nice guys finish last & many (not all) girls like bad boys is because when most people lead boring lives, it’s natural to want a little excitement, even if it is stupid or even dangerous. But none of this means a gentleman has to be boring. None of this means a gentleman can’t deliver a good ass-kicking to bad boys. And none of this means a gentleman can’t be popular with the ladies as well.

Mera rath par tumhara swagat hai, Rajkumari

And this is precisely the problem. Most young men forget that in a world dominated by bad boys, the Niti of Krishna is required. The attitude of bad boys (most of whom are usually cowards with attitude) is  misconstrued as confidence and strength and excitement. That’s why nice guys finish last. If you still look like your mummy picks your outfits, why would any girl want you?

But this is the conundrum, the false dichotomy if you will, in a long line of confused bipolarity facing modern society. Boring Nice guy vs Bad boy, Libertinism vs Slavery, Communism vs Capitalism, and of course, that all time classic, Virgin vs Whore. The Madonna-Magdalene dichotomy is one of the most injurious to civilised society, and yes, even one that prizes chastity. Simply because a woman is not “Mary-mother-of Jesus” or Sita Devi, does not mean it is “open season”.

I have used these two examples because contrary to attempts by Western Academia and Mainstream Media, it is not just Indian society that faces an issue with exploitation of women. In fact it is far, far worse in the Developed World , East Asia, and the Middle East. The difference is, unlike “Modern/Secular/Capitalist” India, Traditional Ancient Dharmic India emphasised the dignity of a woman, no matter who she was. And there were brutal consequences for men who tried to violate it (Google: Dushasana).

As is now well known, Kalidasa‘s Raghuvamsa described how safe the city of Ayodhya was for women:

Yasmin maheem shaasathi vaaneenaam nidhraam vihaaraardhapathe gathaanaam |

vaatho’pi naasraam-sayada-sukaani ko lambayed aaharanaaya hastham || (S. 6,sl.75)

 

While he [Dilipa ancestor of Rama] was ruler of the earth, even the very breeze dared not disturb the skirts of drunken women who sank to sleep on the road when half-way they had strayed to the place of enjoyment; far less dared any one to extend his hand for theft. [1,115]

We are of course a long ways away from Ram Raj, and modern India has its issues. But Crime occurs in any society, and statistics demonstrate that.

Why is only India targeted via “India’s Daughter” and other such politically-motivated documentaries? After all, all is not healthy in the infallible West. What of this culture?

This is the danger of racial stereotyping and negative imaging. Narratives are invented and individuals are judged on the basis of pre-conceived notions (usually by the ignorant). Unlike the intellectually dishonest doyennes of the Western Ivory Tower, we won’t stereotype this as emblematic of Western culture,  despite the historically confirmed misogynist reputation of a certain “Universal” Institution that happens to be the world’s oldest bureaucracy. The fact is, there is an even deeper sickness, and that is called post-modernity.

If Post-Modern Society is a Bastard Society, is it any wonder there are few gentlemen anymore, in any part of the world? Yes, much like boys complain, nice guys are finishing last (so women do have some part of the blame), but the time has come to put an end to the Virgin-Whore dichotomy. This is damaging not only to the vast majority  of women who are in the middle (just like the vast majority of men), but is damaging to society as well, as it degrades the dignity of all women.

Sita Mata once asserted the unfairness of all women being judged by the behaviour of a few vulgar women. And this is true. That is the reason why we split character into three parts.

Character is 3 parts:

1.Moral Character (living according to Moral Standards, religious, sexual, etc)

2.Personal Integrity (holding true to your obligations, beliefs, and promises)

3.Ethical Civility (treating other with respect and acting for societal good)

If we ask how many men have what it takes to be Ram, isn’t the corollary how many women have what it takes to be Sita?

Contrary to absinthe-addicted activists, if you have no loyalty to your own society “because patriarchy!”, don’t expect to not be civilly criticised for your ridiculous views. And for those ritualistic  twenty something twits on twitter who say “We are not Sri Rama to treat Surpanakha with respect”—well dear ritualistic twenty something twit on twitter, then don’t expect to marry a woman who is like Sita either. Whether you believe in probability or divinity, we get in life (generally) what we ourselves deserve.

As such, whether it is the reprehensible behaviour of members of that so called “Secular” Political Party AAP, or the corporate culture of that American Jewelry corporation, one can see how the absence of gentlemen creates conditions for the exploitation of women—whatever the rule of law.

Bad boys are “bad” for a reason, ladies. No matter how they look, no matter what they say, what’s important is how they see…you.  But these scenarios also show that it is not a simple matter of a “chaste religious girl” vs “office floozy”. If most men are of middling character, so too are most women. And as we illustrated, character is more than just moral character, it is also strength of belief and willingness to endure (even in the face of hardship or authority).

DharmaMandir

This is the importance of Sabhyata, Saujanya, & Maryada. All of these are an integral part of Nara Dharma. It is also why Bhagvan Ram was called Maryada Purushottam. It didn’t matter whether it she was Sita or Surpanakha, Rama treated all women with respect. It is only when Surpanakha threatened to kill Sita that Rama had Lakshmana punish her.

A man behaves like a gentleman not because of what it says about her, but because of what it says about him.

The American jewelry store chain had many more women whose maternal or economic or office hierarchical cares kicked in allowing their vulnerability to be exploited by bad men. There was probably a small percentage of vulgar women who were delighted to go along with the advances of men—but even if it was as much as 33%, that means still 67% didn’t want to and were pressured by these American men who should have treated their colleagues and employees with respect. Some may say  the middling 33% submitted to this pressure probably just found an excuse—but to that, the answer iswho’s to say?. Do you have student loan debt you can’t pay if you lose your job? Do you have a parent whose life depends on expensive medical care? Are you a single mother with a child to feed?

That last one Should sound familiar.

 

Most guys may say “Really? Problem solved, and I get sex too?” and most social contract sybarites may attest “It is simply a transaction resulting mutual gain“, but then society doesn’t judge men and women the same way in matters of sex, so neither  judgmental men nor their feminist/objectivist analogues have it right. Others may then argue “well, there were women who resist even that pressure”—and to that I say yes. There were women who resisted and there are women who resist. But both women and men are subject to blackmail, it’s just that they are usually blackmailed for different things. The women and men of highest character resist blackmail even in the face of dire circumstances, but also in the case of authority.

The story of Ahalya is illustrative here:

Most people believe that Ahalya was fooled by Indra into thinking he was her husband Gautama, and that is why she had physical relations with him. But as the Valmiki Ramayana itself confirms, Ahalya  was in fact very clever, and was intelligent enough to realize it wasn’t her husband. So why then did she agree? Well, most men have a ready answer and claim all women are like this when they get the chance. But that is not actually the case. Ahalya agreed to the tryst because in her respect for authority she believed a Brahmin or King or King of the Gods could not be disobeyed. But this of course is not Dharma, as we know Ravana who was a brahmin & a king & defeated the King of the Gods, was rightly refused. Authority, whether that of a brahmin, a king, or deva cannot be misused to exploit a person. And as both Indra and Ravana found out, they too would have to be punished and suffer the consequences, whatever their status or position.

That is also why Ahalya was cursed to turn into a stone. Just because in her delicateness woman may be more amenable to authority is no excuse to engage in immorality. She may be delicate like a flower or vine, but when faced with immorality and evil, woman must also be able to turn into a stone—and the men who would devilishly exploit them, must get hit by one.

That is why in the case of Sita we see that she not only turned into a stone (metaphorically speaking), but over the course of a year of torment, seduction attempts, pleading, and threats by Ravana,  she became a veritable diamond. That is why both she and her only love, Rama, were described as follows:

Vajradapi katorani mrudooni kusumadapi |

Lokotharaanaam chetaamsi ko nu vigyathu marhaati ||

Harder than a diamond and softer than a flower

Who can gauge the conduct of super-eminent persons?

It is this middle endurance that is lacking in both women AND men today, whether it is morality-obsessed Indian society or decency driven American society.

It is the courage of conviction that allows you to keep your character, even in difficult circumstances. And it is also the absence of gentlemen to intervene when the law fails or even a culture collapses, that creates bastards and the cycle of bastardy.

But as we’ve emphasized, contrary to what MSM, Cultural Anthropologists, and Native informants tell you, this problem is not specific to a specific culture, but as we’ve seen and will see now, an issue that all societies face when they become decadent or immoral.

“The Rape of Lucretia” is a famous episode from Italian History. It is all the more illustrative because the son of the Roman King Tarquinius Superbus threatened her that if she resisted, he would lie and tell everyone she willingly slept with a slave. The bad boys of today of course are even worse because unlike young Tarquin, they would have lied anyway. Nevertheless, it was the rape of Lucretia that caused Roman society to raise arms against the oppression of the Tyrannical Tarquins, and under Lucius Junius Brutus, established the Roman Republic. But the issue here is not the form of government, or even the specific culture, but the state of moral culture in society, especially in its elites.

And for those “human rights activists” who only seem to have Indian culture in their sights with regard to women and misogyny and Agni Pareeksha, tell me again which civilization produced this celebrated figure who said this:

Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion”.

This is the problem with double standards and selective application. Justice for my friends and the full extent of the law for my enemies may be the rule that “exceptionalists” live by (and a concept which sentimental protocol droids have yet to learn), but the essential aspect that all parties are forgetting, is the justice part.

Justice stands against exploitation.

That is why Gentlemen matter. Because whatever the law says, whatever your friend says, whatever Ayn Rand says, the gentleman is concerned about justice in any given situation. That is the value of udhaarabhaava (character) and Sujanah-bhaava (gentlemanliness). That is why Swami Vivekananda said clothes don’t make a gentleman, character makes a gentleman. And it is character that is precisely not being emphasised today.

This is the case whether it is ritual-obsessed India or PC-obsessed America. Morality matters, and Decency matters, but it is Character that ultimately makes both possible. That is why Rule of Justice that matters more than Rule of Law. That is why the Rule of Dharma must be restored.

When law and order breaks down, when a culture collapses, when the vulnerable are unprotected, forces of criminality don’t think of responsibility, but rather, think of opportunity.

That is why force requires counter-force. That is why gentlemen matter. Because whether it is in a corporation or in a political party or at a social party, rather than opportunity, gentlemen see responsibility.


References:

  1. Devadhar, C.R. Works of Kalidasa.Vol.11: Poetry. Delhi: MLBD.2010
  2. Kale, M.R.The Uttararamacarita of Bhavabhuti. Delhi: MLBD.2010
  3. http://sanskritdocuments.org/sites/giirvaani/giirvaani/rv/sargas/06_rv.htm

 

The Civilizational Resonance of Baahubali

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


Baahubali

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

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

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

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

Jai Mahishmati!


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

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

First, a Rejoinder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dharmic Culture

baahubalivisual

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

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

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

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

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

The Kshatriya Ideal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ranjit, Shivaji aur Pratap

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

Artistic Highlights

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

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

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

Sorry, no Salwar Kameez here

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

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

Inflection point for the Industry?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Jai Mahishmati!

References:

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

Madan Utsav — Indic Festival for Romance

madanotsav

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

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

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

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

Madan Utsav — Indic Festival for Romance

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

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

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

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

Kama-Rati

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is what the ancient Kashmiris celebrated:

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

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

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

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

Festival Significance

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

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

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

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

kama-ikshuvaana

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

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

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

Celebration

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

Public Celebration

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to buy this book!

Ratnavali

Family/Community Celebration

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

Couples

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

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

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

Lord Krishna teaches detachment

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

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

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

Kaameswara Lord Shiva Conquers Lust [6]

ShivaConquersKama

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Start?

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

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

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

Celebrate Madan Utsav!

kaamadhevaDate:

April 9th, 2017

Public Activities:

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

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

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

Kama-Rati

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

§ Play Romantic instruments like the flute or hire professional musicians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shubh Madan Utsav!!!
April 9th, 2017

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

Sringara (Romance) is also Part of Our Culture

sringararasa

After our preceding article on Romantic Sanskrit Poetry, it is only natural for people to ask whether our illustrious culture should be romantic, let alone, romanticised. Indeed, the current dispensation in the natural discourse seems to believe that everything but the legitimately native and authentically Indic, can be associated with such a feeling.

While we previously established not only the contours for Classical Indic Literature and provided redolently romantic examples of its high culture poetry, it is also important to understand the place of Romance in our culture. If there is opposition from libertine liberals to anything Sanskritic on the one end, there is opposition from Krypto-conservatives and their dour dreams of dreary duty only, on the other. But a marriage and a relationship between a man and woman is more than just about duty.

Dharma provides the basis to govern and preserve a relationship, and even makes a marriage meaningful, but it is the sentiment of Sringara that nourishes it. Even our greatest Kings, Warriors, and Avataras knew that Sringara (Romance) is also Part of our Culture.

Introduction

Shringaar

Sringara, or as it is said stylishly in Shuddh Hindi, “Shringaar“, is of central importance not only in Indic Civilization, but in Dharmic culture as well. After all, the society that celebrates Siva-Sakti, and the equal halves of one soul that make a marriage of man and woman, can never be far from the Sringaaric.

Sita-Rama

Sri Rama‘s incarnation as Maryada Purushottam was the Perfect man doing Perfect duty, to the point of self-denial and self-abnegation. In our callous and foolish era, libertines disrespectfully refer to him as “misogynist”, despite his proper behaviour and even charming gentility around women. But selfish creatures cannot be expected to understand the self-sacrificing. Perfect Dharma demands that a King’s duty places his subjects before his own family, even his own wife. But that degree of perfection was only possible in an era of perfection, or near perfection (the Treta Yuga). In the Kali Yuga, even great and self-sacrificing men should not be expected to give up their faithful and loving wives today due to idle gossip, because subjects themselves have become corrupt and immoral.

Sita could expect the protection of a Maharishi like Valmiki—but where are such venerable elders today? As such, it is important to understand that, beyond the Dharma of Ram, beyond the Sacrifice of Ram, was the Romantic Nature of Ram. In an era when Kings commonly took many wives, Rama restricted himself to only one…why?

Chahe rajsinghasan par ho ya kusha ke asan par, har sthan par, Ram Sita ke bina adhora rahega.

Whether on the Throne of Kings or the Seat of Ascetics, in whatsoever place, Ram without Sita, is incomplete

Dharma does not mean denying our emotions and feelings. Dharma means relying on duty to channel and refine our feelings, so that we take the course of action that benefits the most people, rather than just the few, or ourselves.

A handsome, narashardula (tiger among men), peerless warrior, and great Emperor, lived the rest of his life in loneliness, pining over Sita, the only woman he ever loved, and ever married. He even commissioned the fashioning of a gold statue of her in remembrance.

goldsita

As such, while Veera-rasa predominates throughout the Ramayana, there is undoubtedly a strong element of Sringara-rasa. The Romantic Love Sita and Rama shared for each other transcended not only their time, but inspires for all time. In an era when people fall in and out of relationships, or due to android applications—don’t even need them, how insolent to cast aspersion on such transcendental lovers? If newly wedded couples today are blessed with the benediction that they be like Sita & Rama, it is not merely so that they do their duty for society together (although that too is important). Rather, it is so that they too may have such a love.

Fraternity boys may not have time for such a conception of women. Red pill retrograde reading may be the present fraternal fashion. But to be properly prepared for marriage, a more sophisticated understanding of the opposite gender is required. To deny women love, is to deny women life. Abuse is certainly criminal, but neglect is truly sinful. Different women may have different natures, and not all women may be hopeless romantics (some may in fact exploit that sentiment, courtesy 498A, etc), but to not understand their general need for romantic love, and to perennially obsess over the anatomical and chemical, without contemplating the emotional, is foolishness. Lust is fleeting, and Duty is lasting, but it is Romantic Love that inspires and renews.

Ironically, the many pretenders to “player-hood” and catatonic khiladis who tom-cat about, fail to recognise precisely why the much-married Sri Krishna was so successful with women, even in his youth. Lust and the carnal are ephemeral; romantic love, when sought with skill is transcendental. Six-pack abs and well-heeled fabs may get attention, but it is charm that captivates it, and character that keeps it.

Confident attitude may be important, but charming disposition and gentlemanly conduct are crucial. Brutish behaviour may get attention, but it is not always good attention. The brazen braggart and boorish bouffon, are mere infants in the eyes of women, who prefer men to mere boys. Krishna was an invincible warrior, a cunning strategist, and a clever king among men, but he was also a cultivated gentleman, a charming conversationalist, an intoxicating instrumentalist, and above all, a cultured romanticist.  Funny how would-be “hypermasculine”, self-declared “defenders of Dharma” forget that today. That is why it is important to study Nara Dharma properly, rather than merely concoct uni-dimensional understandings of Dharma and Nara and Naari.

Lord Krishna was the complete man, that is why women craved him.

The true defender of Dharma, is thus, neither brutish nor churlish, nor is he a braggart nor a bouffon. Rather than stomp about in aggressive assertion of his alleged greatness and “proficiency in ritual”, he exudes his values through his conduct, character, and conversation. The Redpill movement, personified by such storied lotharios as this lout, may have plenty of wrong ideas, but they are right about one thing: how you project yourself is more important than what you say.

How ironic that the most misogynistically medieval of forces, and the most oppressive of ideologies, have come to occupy the romantic space in the Indic mindspace today, due to bollywood. But while anti-national producers are to blame, the public at large bears its share of responsibility. After all, what measures has it taken to rollback this romantic monopoly marketing attempt? What of the volcanic growth of revolting “item dances”. Why must we look elsewhere, when Bharatiya Sanskriti perfected Romance?

radhakrishnaflute

A culture that knows not the import of courtship is a culture that has collapsed. When Romance becomes a mere veneer for Lust, when it too becomes a commodity for one day of candy sales, then lovers become nominal, replaceable, and interchangeable. Sringara is not mere Rati bhava (erotic feeling). Kama deva and Rati are indeed wedded together, but it is the combination of both that gives us the full spectrum of romantic love.  It is why grihasthashrama is Dharma in fullness, not merely because of rati-bhava, but because of Sringara.

Prema comes in many forms: Vatsalyam, Bhakti, Mitrataall are important. But as great as these all are in their own ways, Sringara is the most ecstatic. It is not for nothing that the author of the Natya Sastra, the great Sage…

…Bharat consecrated ‘Shringara’- love, as the apex of all ‘Rasas’, as if he was pre-determining the course of Indian arts – painting and sculpture, which later discovered their relevance and prime thrust mainly in love. If anything, Bharat said, was ‘sacred, pure, placid and worthy for eye’, it would be some aspect of ‘Shringara’. [5]

Arranged marriage has been the traditional model in our society, but that has never denied the importance of either romance or consent. Rukmini’s letter to Krishna asking him to rescue her, is a prime example of this. This is the society of the Svayamvara, where women cannot be seen as mere pawns for political alliances courtesy of the marital. They have their own adhikara too. Yes, they must choose wisely (something many aren’t doing of late), and Arranged Marriage with Consent, offers one such avenue, which is certainly less risky than commercialised industrialised “live-in” arrangements, which maybe start  “in love”, but usually end up in “the clinic”. As such, there must be a balancing of interests:

1) Preserving the societal fabric for the next generation, 2) Providing a healthy environment for the nurturing of children, and yes, 3) Romantic compatibility.

The rights of women cannot be trampled upon in the matter of marriage. True, difficult times reduce freedoms for both men and women. But there is a difference between filtering eligible suitors from which to choose, and taking away choice completely. Rukmini was herself put in such a desperate position. This is where this daughter of Vidarbha demonstrated her strength as a woman and wrote a letter to Krishna declaring her love for him.

But Rukmini chose wisely, not merely based on fleeting caprice, but on character (and yes, charm). She exercised her rights responsibly. It is important to consider character compatibility along with eligibility and mass-marketed marriageability. Match-making must not be a simple meat-market or political calculation that makes pawns of progeny. It is also a sacred union of souls and a sentimental bond. The Lord himself answered her call, and respected her choice.

Why wax nostalgic over DDLJ, when our Ancient Civilization already produced the real deal?

Main Yoddha bhi hoon!

For a long time, poets and commentators  have used the wrong term, haranam to refer to the Rescue of Rukmini, when it is Rakshanam. The correct word is rakshanam or nistaaranam, because as Krishna himself says, he did not kidnap her, Rukmini called him. He responded to her letter asking him to rescue her and take her away from Vidarbha.

Lord Krishna’s example, in Rukmini Rakshana, was emulated by none other than that most Ideal of Rajputs: Maharana Pratap. Mewar’s greatest son chivalrously rescued a Rajput Princess who wrote a pleading letter to him. She was despicably being forced to marry a mughal.  He heroically liberated her from her foolish relatives, and taking her back to his kingdom, he then married her, with all religious rites. Thus we see not only the intersection of Legend with History, but Duty with Romance. Dharma and Sringara are not polar opposites or antipodes, but are complements. Sringara gives Dharma sentiment, and Dharma gives Sringara meaning.

maharanapratap

“Romance is the glamour which turns the dust of everyday life into a golden haze” – Elinor Glyn

All this is naturally causing indigestion to our krypto-conservatives on the dolt-right, so let me properly contextualise this for their edification:

Compatibility is not based on fleeting fancy or temporary lusts of the moment. Romance is not a mere veneer or hallmark style commodisation of sentiment. Sringara is meant to ennoble us beyond the everyday erotic. Where others see mere biology or TFR, Sringara in its full sense, exhorts good character and great conduct. Rukmini, Sita, and Savitri all sought out Sringara, but they pursued it the right way, looking for the right match based on long-term interests, societal good, and yes, noble romantic sentiment.

Savitri’s own choice showed her superiority over the women of today (and the less said about the men of today the better…but I digress). This Princess of Madra chose a man down on his luck but with good character to marry. She then became the veritable Lakshmi of the House by not only restoring him to his family’s ancestral kingdom, but restoring him to life. Sita herself forever abided by duty, but not only did she resist the lustful seduction attempts of Ravana in the face of imprisonment, inducements, and threats over the course of a year of torment, but she also sought out her Romance with Rama the right way.

Even the tale of Usha, and the grandson of Krishna named Aniruddha (a chip off-a chip off-the old block), is a romantic one. Usha sees the handsome Aniruddha in her dream, has her friend draw pictures of the illustrious princes of her time, and falls in love with this Prince of Dvaraka after hearing of his good qualities.

aniruddha

 Usha-Aniruddha

 Thus, the surrender of Sringara is the single biggest strategic blunder by our Samskruthi Senapatis. Even more vile, has been the venal conflation of it by these copycats with mere “sensuality” and prioritisation of the ever compounding, compound-hungry, self-serving pedantry to pervade it. Before teaching others to certify them in their little social media certificate programs, it’s important to actually learn our culture & history correctly.

flute-radha-krishna

Sringara, therefore, is a critical aspect not only to revival of culture and civilization, but revival of civilized life and the beauty of life itself.

The Kashmiri commentator Anandavardhana wrote  in his Dhvanyaloka : “In the shoreless world of poetry, the poet is the unique creator. Everything becomes transformed into the way he envisions it. If the poet is emotionally moved (lit. ‘in love’) in his poems, then the whole world is infused with rasa. But if he be without an interest in the senses (vitaraga), then everything will become dry (nirasa). (Dhvanyaloka, III. 43). [2,156]

Radha-Krishna_chess

The game of life must not only be played with discipline, and skill, but also with style, and in the right places, occasional sentiment.

Those identifying with the Dharmic view in India typically fall into two camps with respect to this topic. On the one hand we have those looking to create a drab and charmless society, where culture is only about mechanical karma, and Prema is only valid for Bhagavan (God). On the other we have the hippie free spirits or libertine liberals who, despite their undoubted patriotism, are tribalists (i.e. modern global types who nevertheless cheer for their home team) who seek to map their “liberal”/”feminist”/”new age Male” views on to Hindu Dharma, and frequently see sex detached from love.

Despite their diametrically opposing views, both of them fail to understand the importance of Sringara to our tradition. To the paleo-conservatives, romantic love is seen as a valentine’s day derived western import and an impediment to their dream society of boring severity. To others, romance is seen only through western rom-coms or bollywood buffoonery, where “love” is a commodity, and thus, not truly romantic, nor specifically, “True Love”.  In the wake of all this, we chart the middle path.

Whether it’s Sita-Rama, Savitri-Satyavan, Indumati-Aja, Malati-Madhava or even the nameless Yakshi & Yaksha of Meghaduta, Romance has always been an inseparable part of our Indic Culture, Tradition, and Civilization.

It has, in fact, been a part of it from the very beginning. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad tells us in the Fourth Brahmana, of how the Supreme Being became lonely and wished for a second. Dividing into 2, what once had no gender, re-emerged as two lovers: a man and woman in eternal embrace. That is the beginning of creation. [8, 164]

And, for all the attempts to brand Hindu culture as regressive towards women on account of Sati, how many people know of King Aja who inconsolably climbed upon his wife’s funeral pyre? He had to be dragged down, because he had a responsibility to rule. As soon as his minor son came of age, he starved himself so as to reunite with his beloved Indumati. Separating cases of societal misconduct on Sati (anyways barred by Dharmasastra in the Kali Yuga) from the nature of certain ideals is important; otherwise, it is emblematic of a desire to misconstrue and misportray. Aja, by the way, was none other than the grandfather of Rama.

Classical India was replete with such famous pairings. Even great romantic heroes such as Udayana Vatsaraja (the King of Vatsa) appeared in numerous romantic escapades that would put Don Giovanni to shame. But while the latter featured in eponymous operas,  whither the Vatsaraja in bollywood? Dramas abound in his name, with such classical works as Svapnavasavadatta and Ratnavali, and yet, no knowledge, let alone mention of this Romantic Hero. It’s why this article by sickularatti is so ignorant. Ancient  India did have such figures, but Lutyenswallahs simply refuse to acknowledge this, due to their own agendas.

Sringara Rasa is Romantic Love and Romantic Sentiment. In fact, so sophisticated was Bharatavarsha’s approach to romance, that our literature even divided it into two main categories: Vipralambha & Sambhoga.

Vipralambha Sringara—Love in Separation

This is further divided into two kinds:

Ayoga- the Non-consummation of marriage, and

Viprayoga-the Separation of the lovers deep in love (after marriage). “The former which arises from the dependent position of one or the other of the parties through distance or the intervention of adverse fate, has ten stages, ‘abhilasha, chinthaa etc.,..; the latter occurs through maana, pravaasa or some such cause.‘” [2, 3]

Sambhoga—Love in Union

Sambhoga is Love in Union. Vivaha is naturally the best form of this, and birth of a child, also part of the romance. After all, what demonstrates the love of another than wanting to join your qualities together?

Sambhoga has many elements including seeing, conversing, embracing, kissing, and consummation.  In fact, the word Sambhoga literally means “mutual enjoyment”—which characterises not only the Indic view of love but also of sex…so whose society is chauvinist now?

This topic, in fact, will merit a deeper discussion in future articles already prepared. In any event, all this is well and good for a “classical” construct. But what of modernity? What about the here and now?

“Modern Romance”

Many of you may be concerned. Parents may be bewildered at the notion of their children being distracted, and college boys fretting that their anime fantasies may now be spoiled. But look around, youth are already distracted, and are increasingly becoming depraved. Modern media, be it movies, TV, or most powerful of all, the internet, has made it possible to not only mould young minds, but to misinform and even misguide them. Is it any wonder divorce has sky-rocketed, and fidelity has plummeted? Many are having more sex than ever before, with more ‘lovers’ than ever before, but how many actually love? More importantly, how many are actually happy?

If Romance is Dead today, both genders are responsible. Young men deservedly get the lion’s share of the blame, but young women are not so innocent here either. If chivalry is dead, feminism killed it. In chasing after “pyaar, ishq, aur mohabbat” they have conveniently forgotten that Shringaar comes with responsibility. A capricious lust, or srk-inspired stalker does not automatically deserve the title of “beloved”. Merely because some schmuck is temporarily giving you attention, does not mean you give it all away.  Many people frequently fake love to advance their own political & ideological agendas.

Romance is best when it is balanced with responsibility. Charisma is a passing fad, but Character is timeless. Character & Charm best of all.

smartgirl

If men are guilty of superficiality based on looks and lust, then women are guilty of weighing only material gains and fashionability. Just because bollywood portrays pardesis as “romantic” doesn’t mean that is the case. Just because you only see a particular medieval set of monarchs doesn’t mean they embody nobility. Stop doing merely what you are told is trendy, and use your own judgment to judge what is right for you.

beautycharacter
What women (and men) should start focusing on again

Looks fade, and even Romance ebbs and flows, it is a common Dharma rooted in a common ideal of character, and a common lifestyle, with common loyalties, that binds couples. Romance is most meaningful when we admire not only looks, but also inner nobility. True, individuals can enhance their looks & appeal (marketing is in fact not all that new after all), and can put their best foot forward. They can even become accomplished like Ravana was. But it is character that is the true bond of any relationship. Superficialities are a means of catching and keeping interest.

But as with weapons of war, these Suhstras of Sringara are not to be used irresponsibly. To seduce is sinful, as it is deceit with ill-intention. It is superior to charm and to in turn, be charmed. Suhstra too requires Sastra, and wiles must be wielded as weapons are…with care. Woman too, wields many weapons, none more devastating than her eyes. But before you can get to the intermediate and advanced levels, learn the basics.

  • Learn how to wash properly
  • Learn how to dress properly
  • Learn how to behave properly
  • Learn how to charm properly

What is charm? It is the implicit appreciation of the presence of another. It is assuredness, without imposition. It is social grace and charisma. This does not always require song, and dance, or painting or a Versace wardrobe or a huge performance. It can be as simple as knowing how to have a conversation, or to interject it periodically with poetry. It’s not so much what you say…but…how you say it.

Much may be made of the scene ending here, but for those who know Dharmasastra, Gandharva vivaha was also a legitimate form of marriage. Though usually preceded by rounds around the fire or at least garlanding or giving of rings, Gandharva vivaha (gandharva style of marriage) required no rituals and results in union of mutual consent. Though it is not recommended, as men in this era duping women have shown, in the ancient times, it nevertheless resulted in commitment, as those who have seen Baahubali know both characters effectively considered themselves married after this song.

Since we’re on the topic of the Romantic, I thought I might use this as a segue to a little advice to all the would-be womanisers and wannabe Carrie Bradshaws out there.

As we’re now well into the era of “Love Marriage” I thought I might bring a healthier perspective to those of us who have dipped their toes (or dived headfirst) into the dating scene. I know there are plenty of working professionals today who continue to go the “Arranged” route and others who go the dating route—I am not judging either way, just giving helpful advice for both. This applies especially for guys PIO, NRI or even NIR —but also to gals as well. Whatever you decide to do, it’s always better to first learn from those older to you. Then make your own choice.

Courting Advice

1. Do Not take rejection personally.

I can’t stress this one enough, whether it’s an arranged Match that didn’t work out or a college girlfriend/boyfriend. It’s admittedly very hard to do (especially when we are young and obsessed with what others think (early vs late 20s)), but most people aren’t told this early enough. There are several ways to cope with this. One is the tried and tested “plenty of fish in the sea”/ “your loss”. Another, per Ovid, is to take a trip with a trusted friend to some safe place, and gain perspective. But perhaps the all time best, in my opinion, is that the other person simply isn’t “the One”. Many people may not believe in soulmates, but for those who navigate the treacherous waters of the dating world—this is the best defence when a romantic escapade doesn’t work out. Even if you don’t believe in “The One”, accept the fact that you weren’t right for each other, because no matter how much sense it makes in your head, your theory is invalid if it doesn’t work in practice.

Not constructively processing rejection is fraught with dangers. We’ve all heard the old adage “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”, and the frequent and tragic cases of acid throwers in South Asia are simply horrid. While strong punishment may deter some of this, it is imperative that fathers, uncles, and elder brothers/friends need to dissuade their idiot juvenile sons/nephews/brothers from such ideas by telling them this factoid from day 1.

A real man, knows how to control himself. Same goes for you ladies.

2. Don’t Date; Court.

Unfortunately, the romantic scene has become something of an extra-curricular activity or time pass. Courting and Courtship was once a high art, which has now devolved into the hookup culture or irresponsible and frequently unprotected sex. Rather than the rare exception, the one-night stand has, for all too many people, become the rule.

This one is appropriate especially for the gals, because, well, let’s face it, the biological clock starts ticking earlier for you (you don’t have to take my word for it) . This makes #1 easier, since the approach is to find the person you should marry. In essence, girls and guys should focus on Mr/Miss Right rather than Right now.

Ladies, I hate to say it, but this one is up to you. So if you’re not going the arranged route, and decide early on to put yourself in the market for a boyfriend-en route to-husband—don’t date recreationally in an endless relationship to nowhere, or have a string of affairs to the bottom if you break up, but make him court you with long-term intentions.

There is plenty of nonsense out there, especially in this post-SATC world that makes the Carrie Bradshaw lifestyle glamorous—but check in with your single female friends/cousins in their late 30s and 40s—and ask if what the third wavers call “sex-positive” really is all that fulfilling.

And to all the wannabe khiladis, look no further than one of the all-time great fictional playboys, Sam Malone. The latter years showed just how empty his life was, no matter how many women filled his social calendar. The allure of fast times, fast women, and fast cars runs out real fast when father time comes knocking. So find a path that works for you, maybe even at your own pace, but don’t get suckered in by fashionable puffery in cosmo, playboy, MGTOW, jezebel, or whatever other intellectual cul-de-sac in which you find yourself.

3. Guys, don’t complain, Up your game

One of the reasons arranged marriage has been emphasised by elders for so-long is because expectations are never the same. Many women can expect the world and, well let’s face it, we guys are lazy.

If you think boorish behaviour and being a jackass will get you far, you need to get your head examined, or at least see a different kind of doctor.

There is a difference between self-assured confidence, and off-putting crudity. You may gain the fleeting fancy of the lowest common denominator, but if you a looking for a quality girl, of good character, that is not the way.

Learn the fine art of charm. Don’t just awkwardly sing or poorly play the guitar. Master the fine art of conversation, refine yourself. Learn Poetry.

What is charm? It is the tacit expression of pleasure in the company of another. In contrast to self-serving sharks and self-involved screechers, a charming person is neither looking to “dominate” nor lead on a person, but is self-assured, confident, & calm. Exude charm.

4. Put your Best Foot forward

There’s a difference between trying to be the best version of yourself or doing a little brand-building, and out and out pretending to be something you’re not.

It’s why Vatsyayana stresses the importance of the 64 Arts. Graduating from a good school is good, so is having a great job or “high iq”. But finding the right person to marry isn’t simply a matter of exchanging genome charts. This is where cultivating yourself (something we have stressed throughout many topics) comes in handy. If you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, merely finding “a girl who likes playing playstation” is probably not the way to go.

Also, hygiene is very important—and yes ladies—that means you too…

5. Be courteous

Guys, don’t get into this moronic trend of “negging” where you openly insult girls to catch their interest. But do be playful and politely joke around with them. The point is for both of you to have fun . If you’re not interested in the girl, don’t be mean and destroy her already fragile ego ( girl world is ruthless enough as it is—and photoshopped magazines certainly don’t help).

Learn to listen. Don’t just hear what the other person is saying, listen and digest it.

And ladies, politely let down guys you are not interested in. It’s the best way to ensure (though not necessarily guarantee) they don’t end up walking on the dark side  or enter the forbidden land of Darr. But, also do recognise that some people are unfortunately obsessive groupies or creeps or mentally ill—so do be careful, and if it becomes apparent, then avoid and take action to distance and protect yourself. I should note that, this is yet another reason why many advocate and even prefer the arranged courting/marriage path.

Your relatives and family friends can already do a decent job of filtering out most people with such issues. They can certainly do this much better than WhatsApp, Tinder, OkCupid, and whatever else you kids are on this days.

 6. Don’t lead people on

There was recently an internet meme  that asked men and women to break the cycle of players/jerks and [rhymes with witches]. It showed how debutante-ingénues and blue-eyed boys are taken in by these characters and turned into the very thing that once harmed them.

The single easiest way to break this cycle is to not lead people on. If you’re not interested, or you simply don’t see a future, break it off early—or best of all, don’t get involved in the first place. Yes, every now and then we run into a hottie who captivates us, but self-restraint is part of being an adult as well.

 7. Think long term

 I’m not saying declare your love on the first meeting itself, or ask what the other would name a first child on the first date, but don’t be a flake either.

Don’t put off the tough questions till after you’re deep into a relationship or reached a point of no return (i.e. engagement, moving in, etc). Questions about a future child’s religion, culture, language—or your future place of residence are all important.

These should be anyways factors in deciding whom you enter into a relationship with either right away—or where appropriate, after a few weeks/ months in.

In fact, one particular case merits mentioning. An NRI college girl a long time ago was known to not date at all. When asked by the boys and girls in her friends circle why,  she said she just couldn’t bear the idea of going through serial and pointless heartbreak without any commitment. To go through serious emotional pain without any certainty of some commitment seemed to dilute the potential of marriage in her mind.  She figured she’d be better off focusing on her studies, and then have her family suggest eligible suitors from which she could choose. This may not be everyone’s view, and certainly there are those who find their spouses in college, etc. Nevertheless, it is a useful anecdote to explain why even if you choose to enter into relationships, make sure they’re ones with serious long term potential.

8. Be age appropriate.

Dating in high school is generally not advisable, whatever the stories may be coming out of DPS. I’m not saying go crazy in college when the cage door is opened, but it’s a good idea to focus on your education and discipline yourself before you go off to University (it’s why our ancient texts referred to student life as “brahmacharya”). True, a bachelors’ is often itself a stepping stone to a masters’ degree or beyond, but there’s no point in distracting yourself even before you’ve secured that first step (college admission) in your career/profession.

A degree of emotional maturity too is also advisable. And the whole May-December Romance thing is a mirage. Don’t waste your time pursuing something that clearly has no chance at long term viability (just ask Demi Moore or the countless old millionaires with gold-digging wives).

9. Be careful. Looks can be Deceiving.

Sometimes, parents of a boy or girl don’t know, sometimes they try to pass them off as something else.

I hate to break it to you boys and girls, but not every woman with a pretty face is a lady and not every man with seductive sophistication is a gentleman. There are goldiggers and players/cads out there who play with your hearts to advance their own agendas and vanities. That’s why it’s important not to fall head over heels—but to use your head and evaluate and even test whether the person who has so enamoured you really is what he or she claims to be. It’s also additional reason to not get too intimate too quickly (or further reason to wait until you’re married, if you feel that’s best as our sastras do). “Everyone is doing it” is not a reason to start, especially if you’re a girl. Actions do have consequences, so choose wisely. (If you’re a girl, test the guy to see if his profession of love is genuine. Make him wait…best of all…until marriage). Just to give you girls a bit more help, there is a saying among “Modern” men today that you may not like, but that you probably need to hear, so here goes : ‘Why buy the cow, when you get the milk for free‘. It is rude, it is crude, but it is a little insight into the male mind. Draw your own conclusions.

All too many innocent girls end up not only breaking ties with their family, but engaging in a life that they would not otherwise embark on because an abusive boyfriend takes predatory advantage of their love. Remember, if he really loves you, he won’t make you degrade yourself, or do something you feel would compromise your character, or end up in some internet video (like poor Miss Hilton)…he may walk off and sulk or grumble, but will thank you (years) later and admit you were right—if he actually loves you. If he doesn’t love you, then well, he’ll drop you faster than you can say “Mujhse Shaadi Karoge”.

In fact, while the best advice is to “wait until marriage”, the second best advice is “no sexting” ). And if the black-heart reveals itself and tries to blackmail youyou are ALWAYS better off going to the police, parents, or at least your friends/cousins/siblings. If you made a mistake, don’t make a bad situation worse by doing a deal with the devil. The existence of slimeballs  is well known now, so don’t think your reputation can’t be rebuilt or even excused due to their crime.

What’s more, due to the influence of some malignant fundoos (guys and girls), not every person out there is harmless either and may shower you with attention and affection one minute, then withdraw it the next if you don’t go along with them—repeating the process with several other partners, sometimes simultaneously. So please use your best judgment when you meet someone new—and take care to keep your friends (and ideally families) in the loop as well. This is the best way to make sure you find your someone special—while staying safe.

10. Be Honest

This of course is within reason, but the general principle does hold. If you don’t want to move or you don’t want kids, say so from day 1. Don’t fudge the issue so as to make someone commit on false pretences. While those who go the arranged route aren’t as (generally) encumbered by questions of romantic pasts, this is a factor for those who date. Again, better to be honest—within reason of course.

There is of course plenty more advice I could proffer—but I can’t give away all the crown jewels of House Nripathi …I will conclude with this though: The most important thing is to try to have a good time, and remember if it isn’t meant to be, it isn’t meant to be, and if it is—it is…

Conclusion

It is symptomatic of the topsy-turvy age that we live in that concerted attempts have been made to remove the Romantic from the Indic. How ironic that the civilization which practically invented the concept of soulmates (see the symbolism of a Hindu marriage) is asked by sepoys if it knows how to love?

Yes, bollywood sickulars, Indians (real Indians) know how to love. Bharat perfected romance millennia ago. Excerpt from Dasakumaracharita, regarding the love of Princess Avantisundari for Rajavahana:

“There, in the course of conversation with regard to her lover, she, coming to know his family and name from Balachandrika, was overcome with intense love (with the fall of Cupid’s arrows), and began to grow emaciated day by day, like the crescent of the moon in the dark half of the month, from the pangs of separation.

She gave up taking food and her other daily pursuits, and in her secret chamber restlessly rolled her creeper-like (slender) frame on a bed formed of (tender) leaves and flowers wetted with sandal-juice. Her female friends, seeing the delicate princess in that state withering with the fire of love, and feeling very sad, tried to cool her body, with materials for relief from the torment, such as water prepared for her bath, mixed with sandal, usira and camphor and kept in gold vessels, garments of lotus-fibres, and fans of lotus-leaves. Even that application of cooling reeds simply [causes] fire to appear on all sides in her body like water dropped in heated oil…”[1, 50]

She said:

Subhaga kusuma sukumaaram jagadana vadhyam vilokya te roopam |

Mama maanasa mabhila shathi tvam chinttam kuru tathaa mrudulam ||

[she spoke;] ‘only the prince [Rajavahana], who surpasses even Kamadeva in masculine beauty, can successfully cure this heat of the fever of love. But he is beyond my reach; what am I to do?’ [1, 69-70]

Prince in Dasakumaracharita:

 “There is no real happiness for those who lead a single life, or for those who have no wives of corresponding virtues. How then shall I obtain an accomplished consort?” [1,158-159]

So enough. Don’t degrade yourself with Fifty Shades of Grey, and don’t be prey for those who just want a lay. Be wise, be smart, and think long-term. Forgo the False Dichotomy of Pleasure vs Family life. Responsible marriage choices and Romance are not diametrically opposed. Sringara (Romance) is also Part of Our Culture—you must only learn it correctly.

Whether it is Kamadeva or Kalidasa, Ratidevi or Radha, Indic Civilization perfected the Romantic. Sanskrit, Prakrit, Braj, Telugu all were languages of love.

The time has come again to not only dream & converse in our own languages, but to love in them as well. The masses mastered Prakrit & desa bhasha, but Sanskrit was the elite’s.

Sringara is not an obstacle to Dharma. In fact, Sringara can inspire it. The most beautiful of women, after all, inspire men to climb the most difficult of mountains.

To reconstitute a Dharmic Indic elite, its romantic aesthetic, courtly etiquette, and noblesse oblige must all be reconstituted as well and adapted to the present time.

DharmaMandir

But crooked kupamandukas and selfish gyaanis bereft of nobility cannot revive the romantic with their bumpkin aesthetic—they forever dream of the erotic and pass off sringara as merely sensual.

Sringara is more than just sensuality: it is the self-sacrifice and refined affection and cultivated commitment of the gentlemanly and ladylike alike. These couples live on not only in each others arms, or in the pages of history, but in the hearts and souls of a people.

References:
  1. Kale, M.R. Dasakumaracarita of Dandin. Delhi: MLBD. 2009
  2. Vatsyayan, Kapila. Bharata: The Natyasastra. Sahitya Akademi.2007
  3. Kale, M.R. Malatimadhava. MLBD: New Delhi. 2010
  4. https://twitter.com/BookQuotesHere/status/587518078285701120
  5. http://www.exoticindiaart.com/article/rasa/
  6. www.astroyogi.com/articles/astrologyarticles/signs-you-have-met-your-soulmate.aspx
  7. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/Papers.cfm?abstract_id=2501480
  8. Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli. The Principal Upanisads. London: Unwin Brothers. 1968

The Global Crisis of Character

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Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.

—Heraclitus Ephesus

Like many words in our post-modern dystopia, character is one that has increasingly become of receding importance. It too, like virtue, has been mentioned here and there by the ever more reticent and the socially brave. It is the great tragedy of our times that to mention the words character or virtue (or lady or gentleman) has become a curiosity at best or an offence on the “rights” of others at worst.

We have created a society that thrives on Politically Correct protection of Characterless-ness. We have created a society that valorises IQ-obsessed hoop-jumpers who are nothing but glorified poodles performing tricks to the applause of fellow canines. This is touted as the purpose of our education: “Get job, earn salary, have money for children’s marriage, retire”. But

the End goal of Education is Character.

Why do we learn? What is the value of learning?

A quick google-search demonstrates that “crisis of character” remains more of an eye-catching book title, and  “Global crisis of character” an even more circumscribed, circumvallation of religious, new-age’y bent.

Ironically, the much ballyhooed Ivy Leagues for all their aptitude tests are now increasingly questioning whether their methodology is creating a meritocracy at all. What is merit? Is it going to a coaching centre to rote-memorise and regurgitate [if you have the money or caste connections]? Is it the increasingly dubious measure of IQ [which ignores different types of Intelligence]? Or is it the benefiting from privileged socio-economic backgrounds?

Shouldn’t the test for merit be capability in your circumstances, character to apply your education to useful things, and competence to do the job properly & honourably?

That is the problem today. Generally, the Elite School Grads in the US have wanted to be “Bankers, Consultants, & Lawyers”, and in India, primarily engineers (or unemployable Humanities graduates) desiring to go abroad to make money…generally doing the same. The Reservation system is admittedly broken—after all, government positions exist to ensure competent officers to do the work of the public…not as a socio-economic experiment. Past injustices should be remedied, but not to the extent that the purpose of a job or a position is forgotten. And this applies for our so-called “merit” candidates as well. Merely demonstrating ability to take a test is not demonstrative of competence for the position.  The present poor reputation of IAS babus is emblematic of that. For all their read and regurgitate, the only real capacity most have demonstrated is capacity to secure sinecures. Even the much vaunted scientist ultimately works for someone, generally more strategically intelligent than they are. What then is the purpose of education?

Is it merely to create individuals substituting one form of power (analytical) for another (wealth or lineage?). What happens when alleged “high iq types” sellout the national interest, because they have calculated that to be the most “efficient” course of action? What kind of society does this create?

Once upon-a-time, societies the world over would have families that sacrificed themselves for the nation, or individuals who would sacrifice themselves for families. That was the meaning of nobility, true nobility. Today we have families that sacrifice the nation for themselves, and individuals who sacrifice their own families for their own egos.That is the meaning of bastardy, true Bastardy.

This is the crisis of character we face today. And make no mistake, for all our cutting criticism of India and Indians, this is a global crisis. In India it is in fact least obvious due to Bharat remaining one of the last refuges of traditional, family-oriented culture—but this too is flailing fast.

The characterless have inherited the Earth, And they hide in many forms to justify their bastardy: Beauty, Wealth, Caste, Ritual, IQ, and now, of course, Genetics. But Might, in whatever form it is found, doesn’t make Right. If knowledge is power, so is beauty. If money is power, so is (caste) privilege. When elites (of whatever type) are formed for their own enjoyment, when power for its own sake becomes self-justifying, when no higher ideal beyond “cause we are” or “cause I can” is appealed to, then not only is the Kali Yuga deep, but the characterless have inherited the earth.

For our desi alt-right wrathofgnon promoters conveniently skipping over this

That is why the means of their power becomes sanctified as the most important quality, rather than merely another cog in the wheel. “Because she’s hot”, “Because he’s rich”, “Because they’re my caste”, “Because Holy Ritual”, “Because High IQ”, and now “Because Good Genes”. Character, what makes the world livable, what makes burdens bearable, what makes romance meaningful, what makes an individual trustable…character itself is near nowhere to be found, let alone, emphasised. The removal of racial quotas in American universities is well and good, but the removal of character as a qualifier has wreaked havoc.

It is because teleology has gone by the way-side our society has become inert and ineffectual. Addled not-only by sensual pleasure but by over-indulged ego, we have lost sight of why we do things at all, and do them for their own sake, or because others are doing it to.

app.hedgeye.com

  • Why do we eat?
  • Why do we sleep?
  • Why do we have sex?
  • Why do we live?

But perhaps, most important of all, why do we learn?

Many may ask, why learning has become more important than living, and that is because we live in an era where quantity of life has become more important than quality of life. Similarly, quantity of learning has become more important than quality of learning (wisdom). Lack of learning, true learning, is emblematic of this. The pedant of myriad memory tricks has become more important than the practicing pandit. The philognostic more important than the philosopher. Mere quantity of learning, mere quantity of knowledge, and competitions to showcase it in unseemly ego displays to the applause of the clueless and the tasteless, has resulted in wisdom being sidelined.

What is Character

character

Before one can construct character, or even understand how crucial it is, one must first learn what it means in its full sense. Moral character is only one aspect of personal character. Purity of conduct is important, but only one element. In our era, one of the all too tragic tragedies is that women (and men) who may have stumbled once on the moral purity aspect, wonder what at all the point is in preserving the rest of their character. But that is unfair (to them) and all too dangerous for society. Everyday you have a choice as to whether you decide to be a good person or a bad person. It’s upto you whether you want one fall to multiply into many.

Admittedly, it is very difficult to negotiate the treacherous waters of college popularity, and pressure to preserve relationships often leads one to do things one may not wish to do. But rather than a binary of 1 and 0, think of character as a spectrum. Even if you cannot be that absolute sterling character in katha or purana, keep the essence of who you are, and try to be some modern version of the ancient standard.

Strength in character consists of having the qualities that allow you to exercise control over your instincts and passions, to master yourself, and to resist the myriad temptations that constantly confront you.

  • Strength of character allows you to carry out your will freely, while enabling you to cope with setbacks. It assists you to accomplish your goals in the end.
  • It allows you to inquire into the causes of ill-fortune, instead of just complaining about it, as many are inclined to do.
  • It gives you the courage to admit your own faults, frivolousness, and weaknesses.
  • It gives you the strength to keep a foothold when the tide turns against you, and to continue to climb upward in the face of obstacles. [1]

More than Trivial Pursuit, GK games, IQ obsession & Eugenics theories to preserve your favourite perspective, wisdom and intellectual humility are needed to do the intelligent thing. That can only come from character. Udhaarabhaava (good character) or Aryabhava (Noble character). That is what is lacking today. Instead we have people full of Kusheela or Paapasheela (Bad and Ignoble Character). The Rishi has been replaced by the Marjaar.

Character (especially Noble Character) is about having integrity to do the right thing when obvious, even when difficult.It’s about who you are when no one else is watching.

Character is about building a community, not using people and throwing them away after.

Character is about “dancing with the one that brung you”, not running off with the one who shows up later in the fancy car.

Character is about building institutions for the common good, not just promoting your own brand or clique.

Character is about having the courage to do the right thing, even if it is the difficult thing. It is in putting societal duties above personal obligations. It is in looking after the common welfare rather than merely private social-climbing.

Character does not consist of putting up dp’s and gravatars showcasing severity to hide behind. Real character is not tough talk or braggadocio. It is about setting aside one’s ego to come together for the common good.

And yet, what do we have today. The self-same self-anointed saviours of society don’t even have the character to introspect, and ask whether they are doing the right thing or supporting the wrong voices, stubbornly hold on to illogical colonial theories. In their culture of “bros before hoes” they have forgotten what it means to be gentlemen of noble character (Aryabhava). They talk of “red pill” manliness, while failing to have the thumos to defend women.

Worst of all, they don’t even have the character to intelligently and intellectually confront those fundamentally harming the common interest, leading the innocent internet hindu off a cliff. Content to merely troll each other, the intellectual descendants of Tilak don’t even have the manhood to intellectually counter neo-Revolutionary views that would destroy their society. And forget introspection, that is the least of their worries. Follower counts are far more important. So much for thumos. So much for the self-anointed “The Best and the Brightest”.

Best and the Brightest

In our IQ and genetics obsessed era of error, the examples of history, even recent history, are often forgotten. Credentialed hoop-jumpers are quick to point out that they must axiomatically be “the best and the brightest”. But what they forget is that, this term has actually acquired a duly negative connotation.  But it is not just politicians who are worthy of censure and condemnation.

The laundry list of professional doctors, lawyers, MBA’s, and yes, even scientists, have set aside their responsibility & duty, in their money or sinecure-snorting state of hubris.

And yet, how quickly we forget the lessons of ethics. How quickly we forget the responsibility of knowledge. When you only ask whether you can or could without asking whether or not you should, this is what happens.  “The Best and the Brightest” indeed…

Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote that simplicity is better than complexity, but if we must have a sophisticated culture, let it celebrate virtue:

It is by following this example that the truly great monarch…drew from the very bosom of the arts and sciences…the dangerous trust of human knowledge…yet the sacred guardians of morals…

Those Academies also, which, in proposing prizes for literary merit, make choice of such subjects as are calculated to arouse the love of virtue in the heart of citizens…not only by agreeable exercises of the intellect, but also by useful instructions. [1,92]

We have physicists, geometricians, chemists, astronomers, poets, musicians, and painters in plenty; but we have no longer a citizen among us

But compare his example to what we have today. Perennially mocked, our self-proclaimed “high iq types” crave power…if only their sheer genius could be appreciated.

Even beyond the obsession with mathematicisation, model-based thinking has produced “erudite” but common sense lacking solutions such as this:

The council of “Alphas” vs “Sub-Omegaloids”. Food for thought for our “High IQ Types”. Why mere “analytical horsepower” isn’t enough for developing and implementing practical, strategic solutions to societal problems.

The intelligent, IQ, EQ, or multiple-intelligent, all can be corrupted by power. It is not a dearth of genius that destroys societies, but a dearth of character.

Dearth of Character leads to Death of Societies. And perhaps that is the greatest tragedy of our times. Sarasvati is sought by those craving learning—yet they forget that she is venerated above all as the apotheosis of the Truth. Vagdevi is Speech personified, and that speech is that which is true.  Sarasvati is the Truth, and rather than mere learning, it is preservation of the Truth that is most sacred, and automatically brings prosperity and power, but most importantly, gives us purpose. But today the pleasant lie is preferred to the unpleasant truth. Individuals hold on to what they have been taught so they can see themselves as “learned”, failing to ask whether what they have learned is in fact erroneous. Ego has become more important than reality.

It is not “high IQ types” who guide society. IQ is a limited and increasingly questionable measure of intelligence–even among those with the highest of IQ’s. In fact, the multiple intelligence model is increasingly taught in the Western Academy.  What good is IQ if the position requires management of individuals? What good is IQ if reading of emotion is required? What good is IQ if strategic thinking is required to pull disparate bits of information across disciplines? Suitability for position is determine beyond test-taking ability.

Make no mistake, subject-matter understanding is required But mastery of theory is one thing, competence in practice is another.

Do you take the candidate who gets 100% marks but is characterless and will engage in corruption?–or do you take the candidate with 90% marks, but who has a reputation for honesty and competent job performance? What good is your (self-proclaimed) IQ if you are a coward, and cannot withstand pain or pressure (or even momentary discomfort), to safeguard the common good? That is the problem today. India (and other parts of the world) are training “high iq” hoop jumpers who excel as slaves, rather than as citizens of character. But a high iq slave is still a slave.

In our era of Jan Lokpal and entitled hypocrites of all sorts attempting to anoint themselves guardians of society, the eternal question is not just rhetorical, it has an answer:

quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

constructingcharacter

The Cost of Characterless-ness

Characterless-ness may seem to be cost-free to those without character, but that is because they tend to be the primary beneficiaries. In fact, they freely engage in it only until the costs are visited upon them–at which point, they become the loudest (and most hypocritical) of bemoaners. We all know that person.

Then of course, there are those voices who will proclaim, “Well, that’s to be expected, we have to maximise utility, and all I am doing is utility maximisation”, or “Ayn Rand tells me its ok to be selfish”.  This is what happens when consumer culture (yes, even experiences and love can be consumed–just ask expedia.com, yatra, or hallmark) becomes the driving guide rather than relationships. We have become so driven by fear of “missing out” and “YOLO [which any thinking Hindu should axiomatically reject]”, that having that experience or doing what you want becomes more important than who you are doing with.

Social media and mobile phones have made it even easier to bail on our friends and family (when something better comes along). This too is characterlessness. True, there is a difference between skipping out on your friend’s 30th so you could see Coldplay, and missing a family event because you have a rare chance to meet the President. But proportionality has long ago gone out the window, especially for Indians. Sentiment and consumption based-living devolves into precisely that animal instinct of doing something because it feels good (or not doing something because it hurts bad). That is calculation not consideration. Consideration for others is at the heart of character, because we ask what is the best for all or most, rather than what is just pleasant for ourselves. When man (or woman) cares more about how much, rather than, with whom, this is the end result.

Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce.png
Intellectual heiress to SATC?

Others may demur, saying “Well, it’s what’s fashionable”. True, media-messaging across the spectrum has been promoting the fast-based consumer life-style. False dichotomies are presented across the board (i.e. old fashion vs hyper-modern). But one can live in the modern world while maintaining some semblance of ethics and morality. The problem is, that there is no support for voices that use the medium of modernity to support traditional values. For all the stereotypes of the African-American community and their music, it was never just “gangsta rap” or “bitches and hoes”.  This is a song from the late 90s when all that was at its height.

What was the message for young men & women alike?

Girls: Who you gon’ tell when the repercussions spin?
Showing off your ass ’cause you’re thinking it’s a trend

Guys: How you gonna win if you ain’t right with them?

This Lauryn Hill ‘feat is in many ways a lament of Post-Modernity and the tragic downfall of her community (mentioned here). The obvious contrasts between 1967 and 1998 are clearly seen in split-screen. She soulfully sings of how easily women are prepared to “give it away” for material things and how men are prepared to take advantage of women for “that thing”.  She asks men, how can they think they win if they don’t treat women right?  But no, that’s ok, gangsta rap, red pill, and racist IQ theories are more important to hide behind  to slander a race or community.

But wait, in India, we now have “Char bottle Vodka”

The reality is, such songs as Lauryn Hill’s are ignored by those who only want to be told what they want to hear. If you don’t value the right thing, if you don’t have the right moral aesthetic, you embrace a soulless one [particularly if you understand subtext]. Before people complain about “moralising”, bear in mind, even yester-year songstress Lauryn Hill sang that she’s not perfect, and was once young and in the same shoes, the “same predicament” as today’s young ladies. But character is not about falling for the trend if you ever fall, but in bucking the trend if it lacks aesthetic, especially moral aesthetic.

The reality is, it’s not a false dichotomy, a false choice between fun vs tradition(-al boredom), between barefeet vs high heels, or dhotis vs blue jeans.

The choice is between no respect and know respect.

Character is about not only respecting others and their genuine interests/well-being but also about respecting yourself. Self-respect.

Everyone wants fun, but the question is, what are they prepared to do to get it? Everyone prefers to avoid pain, but what are they prepared to do to avoid it? Any idiot can knock up a girl, but it’s taking responsibility for your actions that separates the men from the boys.

Any fool can have a child, that doesn’t make you a father“. Being a man is about taking responsibility for your actions. A real man isn’t the one who “gets with as many chicks as he can“. A real man, is one who shows character in looking after those from whom he is responsible, and not just following fashion, but bucking the trend when necessary. And for those who argue, Vell, vee are all animals, so we should not be ashamed of instinct”, well, there’s this to think about too:

Ladies, of course, are no less innocent. They too have made poor choices. If men have become obsessed about sex, women have become obsessed about material possessions–each gender tormenting the other over having “more”. Character isn’t about not wanting to have fun. Character is about not wanting to hurt others in order to have fun. Do you value the experience, do you value “that thing”, more than the human being?

And when others are hurting those for whom you are responsible, standing up and doing the right thing to defend them, is also character. In fact, it is national character.

National Character

The Global Crisis of Character is also reflected in the Comity of Nations. A nation is nothing but a community, a family, writ on larger scale. It is national character that determines national priorities, and even the willingness to prioritise properly.  The problem invariably comes when individuals want to have all the exceptions, all the tax deductions,  all the national service exemptions, while others must do their duty with due diligence. Do as I say, not as I do.

Declining national character is increasing even in the most powerful of nations.  How to secure the national character? The strategically clueless continually look for any excuse to drum up ritual. Their latest theory is that “holy ritual” is the origin of the martial–joke. Perhaps that may be the case for the characterless, but the origin of the martial is in Rajo guna. Those who fail to value rajas are usually mired in tamas (whatever their claims to the sattvic). It is Rajo guna that drives the martial and Rajo guna that is required to secure the national character. It is what drives individuals to endure, to not cave in when facing terrible odds, and to hearken to their allies when common interests are threatened. No wonder the ritualistic are confounded…they practice none of these things. This is a Jaichand complex in the making.

Loyalty to obvious Jaichands whose treachery is exposed is as good as being a Jaichand yourself. Arjuna was very loyal to Drona, who was his “AchArya”. But as Krishna conveyed to him, Drona was on the side of Adharma, and he had his own hidden agenda. Whatever past goodwill or Rna, the needs of Dharma are higher. That is how character is demonstrated. Not by sacrificing the vulnerable like Yudhisthira did to Draupadi, so that he could keep his word on the wager, but by making the difficult decision to set aside your own Rna, your own personal obligation, for the common good.

India’s record is actually slightly better than that, as there was resistance and even rollback throughout the 1000 years (which is closer to 5-600 years if one thinks of all of India, rather than just Northwest India). But the point of the honourable Minister is spot on. In our obsession for IQ, we are forgetting the need to evaluate character. Do you hang tough and stand by your countrymen when the going gets tough–or do you cut a side deal to keep your ill-deserved kingdom or because you feel he wronged you.

More than the Jaichands, it is the selfish crab who, despite repeated calls to unite by Shivaji, preferred to slink in his own lair, feigning ignorance or arrogance. The British too did not even require every Indian king to betray his fellow Bharatiya; John Company only needed them to not give support to their countrymen at crucial times.

Failing to join together to preserve the common interest is not only a recipe for common slavery, but indicative of a loss of character. The ability to endure pain is the sign of the statesman. It is the sign of the kshatriya (intellectual or otherwise), and that incidentally gave away Karna’s true birth. But in our era, whatever your birth caste,  if you play a role in civic affairs, if you wish to have a hand in the destiny of the nation, you must have the character to make the painful decision, when it is clear that it is the right decision.

Enjoying the bonhomie of the decade-old digital salon is easy. Recognising a Jaichand in your midst and disavowing when apparent is the sign of true character…not dp’s of grave looking old men.

The Romans had many intelligent slaves to serve as tutors in intellectual matters—yet, they remained the rulers. After all, “High IQ” slaves are still slaves.

Alcibiades too was “high iq”, but ultimately betrayed his nation. Carthage had the more brilliant general in Hannibal, but Rome’s character & citizenry ensured Scipio had the support to defeat him.

Talent is good. But talent, plus hard work, plus character is even better. Great talent will be defeated by medium talent with better character.

More than that, the desire to coast on talent, the desire to rely merely on clever talk, rather than concerted and consistent efforts is what threatens the national cause.  Parables and Panchatantra fables abound over the value of consistent and concerted action rather than coasting on talent. From the tortoise and the hare to the grasshopper and the ants, many a children’s story emphasises this importance. Even the career of Vijay Amritraj is emblematic of this. That is because…

hardworktalent

The Power of Character

The Sanskrit drama Mrcchakatika is famous in Classical Indic Literature for many reasons. The author Sudraka was himself a king, but the story is notable for the character of Charudatta, who was noted for his…character.

charudatta
Click here to buy!

The archetypal dhiroshanta, Charudatta was a Brahmana of famed noble characteristics. So great was his character and virtue, that the courtesan Vasantasena fell in love with his qualities and gave up her life of luxury, pleasure, and comfortable wealth, for the mere chance at marrying such a good man. Charudatta underwent many difficulties and injustices in his life, and even came very close to death. But his character was his guide throughout it all, and he endured terrible risks in order to preserve it. That was why he was respected by all and venerated for his wisdom and advice…tested by circumstance and demonstrated by example.

characterpaine

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

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

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

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

The moral of the story, of course, is that power, wealth, pleasure, all can be given up in the name of Truth (of which Dharma is the expression), because they are dependent upon it. This is because men and women of character can lose every material possession in the world, every opportunity for pleasure, every right of power, but their character is in their own hands.

If wealth is lost, nothing is lost. If health is lost, something is lost. But if character is lost, then all is lost.

Dharmachakra

References:

  1. http://www.wikihow.com/Strengthen-Character
  2. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Social Contract and Discourses. BN. 2007

Why Post-Modern Society is a Bastard Society

LucasSkywalker
Scene from the (Post-Modern) Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Shri S.Gurumurthy wrote in an article from 2015 that we are creating a Shameless Society. While he did cite statistics of divorce, and in subsequent articles, childbirth outside of marriage, being a respectable gentleman, he didn’t dwell on it, and examined other aspects causing shamelessness as well. We, however, are more visceral in such matters, and will pick up where he so graciously left off.

The core issue facing Mankind today is not merely stupidity, or selfishness, or stubbornness, or sanctimonious hypocrisy. It isn’t even about being spoiled, but rather, the core issue facing mankind today is the society of bastards.

“A Proud Tradition” of Bastardy

History has had many famous Bastards. Some of them constructively influential, many of them, not so much. One of history’s most famous bastards is British, not by birth, but by invasion. In typical brit fashion, this aspect is usually dealt with in an understated manner; nevertheless, William I may be called “the Conqueror”, but to the French this Anglo-Norman Duke  will always be Guillaume le Batard (William the Bastard).guillaumlebatard

Now as history has it, things worked out rather well for William the Bastard. This Frenchified Viking Duke of Normandy managed to defeat the actual English King, Harold Godwinson, at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. But the net effect was the air of illegitimacy that stained and continues to stain English “royalty” ever since. After all, Anglo-Normans or (as evidenced by the Battenbergs and Saxe-Coburg Gothas) Anglo-Germans, aren’t really English, are they? In fact, one of the reputed reasons for the American Revolution was the illegitimacy of the German King George (House Hanover) in the eyes of many colonial Englishmen of America. But since then, due to the wonders of marketing, Battenbergs became Mountbattens and Saxe-Coburg-Gothas became Windsors. Quite a rebrand.

But like all bastards, when it came to the Aryan Invasion Theory, the British were always better at analysing others than analysing themselves.

Bastardy isn’t always a direct consequence of illegitimacy. There are a number of children born out of wedlock who have gone on to productive and respectable lives. Whatever origin in gentleman’s clubs or high societies or rahasya societies, the much vaunted college fraternity is no longer the august dining club of the Porcellian era, or assorted post-graduate colonial holdovers. Indeed, it too, in its official and unofficial form, has also devolved into a society of mutual bastardy. Nevertheless, Bastardy’s root origin remains in the behaviour of most bastards, either as a result of resentment from it, or in the case of children born within wedlock, under the social influence of irreverent and ingrate bastards.

Many Indians think that modernity means fashionable clothes and western manners, urban habits and the English language. But it means far more. It is the intrusive ideology of the West. It even calls upon the Rest to give up its traditions as a precondition for economic growth. [1]

This theory, better known as ‘Western anthropological modernity’, mandated the Rest to become a carbon copy of the West. But things have drastically changed after 2008 and the West has now conceded that its model may not be as good for the Rest. But the psychological damage done to the Rest over hundred years cannot be easily undone. Modernity, which was marketed as a must for growth, has by now become a habit and fashion. [1]

As S.Gurumurthy has analysed, and as Western commentators are now analysing, out-of-wedlock birth may seem fashionable and even within the norm, but it has consequences, for both the West and the Rest. Even our sacred Dharmic texts speak of the consequences of children being born as a result of lust, rather than love, in sacred marital bond. Due to the mutual effect of bastardy and fashionability, however, attitude is king and spoiled children the queen.

quote-at-the-core-of-liberalism-is-the-spoiled-child-miserable-as-all-spoiled-children-are-p-j-o-rourke-257086

The Bastard society doesn’t just promote mediocrity by happen-stance; it promotes obnoxiousness and “unlimited confidence” rooted  in simple self-apotheosis or in security in numbers. But these are not wolf packs, doing something useful like thinning the deer population, but jackal packs that only occasionally assemble for general nuisance. The Bastard society promotes mediocrity on principle. Because the bastard is perennially dissatisfied with himself, his desire is to promote those beneath him, so he can (by contrast) look good, or engage in sycophancy and flattery of those far above him, that he may benefit from association & osmosis, or eventually be dubbed “legitimate”.

So what then is the opposite of Bastardy? It is Nobility. No, not the nobility of title, not the nobility of lineage, but the nobility of Character. That is why the Bastard is ever concerned with titles of nobility and “peerages” emphasising status because the reality is it is not titles that honour men, but men that honour titles. Those who lack good qualities are always the quickest to point out their titles and lineages and “rights”.

Sri Rama too was an Ikshvaku (Ikshvaku himself being a great king in his own right), but it is Rama who is referred to as the Ikshvaku-kula-tilaka (ornament of the Ikshvaku dynasty). He needn’t have name-dropped as his nobility of character was its own character reference. Rather than his greatest possession, his lineage was a responsibility to fulfill. Rather than Satya Harishchandra’s sacrifice being a point of braggadocio, it was a legacy to live up to. But bastards (real or by character) know no such burdens.

They take initiation into the “cult” of their patron, and then purvey that tradition without thought to ramification. Many may laugh at such notions, but the model has been more widely successful on an organised basis too. Such Whiney Brotherhoods/Sisterhoods are always built upon a myth of grievance and hand-wringing at present circumstances in contrast to past glory.

This is why the anglicisation of Indian society is exceedingly problematic. Not only due to the issues with any attempt to recreate Indic society on the blueprint of another, not only because of the cultural annihilation that would occur, but because there is a psyche of bastardy in British society dating back to William the Bastard. While it is useful to distinguish between the British (an artificial people based on the Union of distinct cultures in Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and England) and the English, even the history of English society has roots in such ingratitude. “The Venerable Bede’s” Ecclesiastical History of the English People is illustrative here.

bede

The Angles are invited to Britain. At first they repel the enemy, but soon come to terms with them, and turn their weapons against their own allies. [6,62]

They engaged the enemy advancing from the north, and having defeated them, sent back news of their success to their homeland, adding that the country was fertile and the Britons cowardly. [6,62]

These new-comers were from the three most formidable races of Germany, the Saxons, Angles, and Jutes. [6,63]

It was not long before such hordes of these alien peoples vied together to crowd into the island that the natives who had invited them began to live in terror. [6,63]

Germanic_Migration_to_Britain

Perhaps that is why they are always projecting the image of the “Central Asian Aryan” taking over the birthright of the materially civilised Indus Valley “Dravidian”—did they not do the same to the Romano-Britons?

The Celtic Brython is in fact the true native of the Island of Britain (along with the Picts and Scots of Scotland), but they were pushed to the small corner of Wales—where the Welsh and their unique language survive today (Sound familiar?). In fact, the entire history of the British (distinguished from Brythons/Britons) is one of such usurpation and Bastardy. They arrived as Anglo-German & Saxon soldiers and soon in-laws, took advantage of the situation and imposed their own rule. Is it any wonder this blueprint has been successfully imposed elsewhere?—not only India, but even on poor and innocent Ireland.

Perhaps that is why the English (and their intellectual children ) are forever projecting this “history” of usurpation and bastardy via “Central Asian Aryan Brahminism”, they themselves are usurpers and bastards…historically speaking, of course.

Whether it was usurpation of the land of the Celtic Britons or the legacy of Anglo-Norman William the Bastard, the Ecclesiastical History of the English People is ironically exactly that which they seek to project on to India. Only not satisfied with the demise of their official colonial empire gained not through “leonine” valour but through patient political bastardy, they and their acolytes now seek to usurp the role of Traditional Adhyatmika Brahmanas in Agraharas & Mathas, by usurping their authority to interpret and pass on our Vedic Tradition. They have even recruited nominal “Laukika” Brahmanas (better termed as Bhogi Brahmanas) by Birth, to betray the tradition their ancestors once preserved. Some such use discredited Freudian frameworks, others Marxist methodology, others the debunked Aryan Invasion theory, and now even some sepoy’ed “traditional scholarship” to invert and pervert our Sanskriti. Such is the blastoma of British Bastardy. The bastard is ever jealous of the legitimate child, so he seeks to usurp that which is not his. He may put on airs, he may take etiquette lessons, he may dub himself a gentleman, he may wear fine clothes, but he never manages to get character.

vivekanandagentlemen

But this is not over. Post-modern society is itself an outgrowth of this “bastard intellectual” lineage. As Rajiv Malhotra has prolifically studied, uncovered, disseminated, and written, the perverse undercurrents of Post-Modern society are undercutting the very root of our Sanskriti and Identity.

A Clockwork Orange

For all those who believe bastard societies to be benign, here is Stanley Kubrick’s vision of a dystopic Post-Modern society, and the delinquents who characterise it. While this scene itself is relatively tame, a general advisory to those of more genteel sensibilities about the movie A Clockwork Orange, in general. It is not for the faint of heart (or not yet old enough), but this scene illustrates the end game of bastardy: delinquency-driven sadism.

Many of our fashionably ignorant may protest, saying “It was just a movie, yaar“. But was it? Setting aside the fact that the film itself was based on an earlier book, modern Britain itself is beginning to see the rise of a class of youth with similar propensities, borne of nihilism, and yes, bastardy.

The Disgruntled Child

chav
The English “Chav”

The Chavs of the UK are not a new phenomenon, and date back to at least the early 2000s, though likely even the 90s. Classist overtones aside, there is the more concerning aspect of disgruntled and alienated youth, leading directionless lives of short-term thinking and short-term “kicks”. Cheap thrills may be all the rage today, but they eventually lead to sensory-fueled rage. The proclivity of disaffected and maladjusted youth to violence is well known, and threatens the very existence of decent society.

Of course, our half-read half-wits may blurt in a tamasic haze “Vell, so what, who cares, they deserve it“. Be that as it may, the contagion is spreading, and the disease, like it or not, is part and parcel of the very post-modernism that you associate with your prosperity today. Even the wealthiest country in the world is now at the edge of that precipice.

 

Coming_Apart

Coming Apart  is a book by noted conservative commentator Charles Murray. In it, he examines the unraveling of “White America”, due to a decline in values, moral character, and sense of overall nationhood. A key factor here was illegitimacy, and he studies the effects at great length. Murray has been criticised for earlier studies on race and genetics, but his views on illegitimacy were also echoed by a recent nobel prize-winner, as discussed in this video.

The African-American community is unfortunately demonised by many of the same voices aghast at Charles Murray’s study above . Nevertheless, the unfortunate state of that community was predicted by Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the 1960s itself. Tracing the effect of narcotics on destroying the family unit, this former Senator from New York predicted the current epidemic of illegitimacy and absent-fatherhood (doubly exacerbated by the “New Jim Crow“). Above all, however was the destruction of culture, resulting in the rise of crime (as seen in the clip above). Whatever culture might be there is a mere veneer, but the overall loss of High Culture, evident.

Thus, the main aspect of the Bastard, of whatever race/ethnicity, is that he is a disgruntled child. Naturally filled with resentment at having an absentee father (or not even knowing who he is) fills him not only with shame, but also anomie.  Perhaps that is why our rootless wonder are forever seeking to remake India in the image of another. But more concerning than that, is the false confidence of “unlimited confidence”. This is not only borne from unlimited internet, but also unlimited permissiveness. After all, if anything goes, then the most outrageous behaviour is the most refreshing and most socially rewarding. This toxic cocktail has even filtered into the rohipnol heavy circles of “red pill” pick up artists and even accidental yuppies. Again, if confidence is currency, then unlimited confidence, solipsism, and obnoxious behaviour is deemed the highest good. There is nothing more solipsistic than the absolute certitude demonstrated by dweebs.

They may garb themselves in ritual as the pirate Brit did in title, but the reality is they do not appreciate its sanctity or malleability. Make no mistake, ritual is important. But it is not ritual that makes civilization or even religion. A spiritual society is the product not of ritual; ritual is only its outgrowth, confirmation, aspect of (cosmic) participation, and a means of cultural preservation. But the origin of our society is in Tapasya. It is not philognosis, but philosophy, the love of wisdom that made, as the ancient Greeks referred to them, the ancient brahmanas the wisest of men, and ancient Indic society, the wisest of all civilizations. It is tapasya that was the origin and tapasya that is the first leg of dharma, and tapasya that is missing today. We have “traditional scholars”, but they lack sadhana. We have young, commited men, but they behave as though they have been committed to the lunatic asylum.

So what is the opposite of the society of bastards, it is the society of nobles. No, not necessarily Arya Samaj (though pun intended). Rather, a society of nobility, rooted in actual Tapasya, Saadhana, and Shraddha. But it is Tapasya that is the marker, not ritual. Ritualists have come and gone since the age of De Nobili (and before). It is genuine Tapasya, as Tapasya is one of the 4 legs of Dharma in our tradition (the other 3 being Saucha (Cleanliness), Krupa (Mercy), and Satya (Truth)). It is no wonder Tapasya is rarely prized by this set of lil bastards, after all, in the Kali Yuga, Dharma only stands on 1 leg (Satya), and even that too is now bent.

But as before, it is not illegitimacy that makes every bastard. After all, Satyakama Jabala was the son of a prostitute (or a woman who lived like one), but through his character and love of the truth, he proved his nobility. Today, we see young men fighting for the dignity of their mothers, and demonstrating their own nobility in the process.

Whether you believe in Lord Shiva and consider him the origin of not only Dharma but the Universe itself, or you are a nirishwarvadin who believes our tradition to be the inheritance of the collective wisdom of Rishis, it is Tapasya that is the basis for not only Ritual, but our entire tradition. Thus, ritual is important, but shraddha is higher. Shraddha is important, but Saadhana is higher. Tapasya is the means of Saadhana.

The problem is there is a batch of ritualists who have neither Shraddha nor Saadhana nor time for Tapasya, and thus, having been initiated into this society of bastards, they are working as termites to undermine our society from within. That is the danger of casteism, because it is assumes your caste to be above question and above trial. But a teacher can only punish an errant child for so long. At some point, a society must come together to pronounce the sentence for aparaadhis.

When tapasya drops, saadhana can sustain. When saadhana drops, shraddha can sustain, when shraddha drops, ritual can sustain. That is why ritual is important. But when ritual drops, or worse, becomes infected with asatya due to self-interest or selfishness that prioritises ritual above all, then society is on track to oblivion. It’s only defence then becomes Satya. Satya, Truth, that not only expresses itself as Rta, which is upheld by Dharma, but Satya that evaluates the validity of ritual to reinforce it. It is Satya discovered by Tapasya, enshrined by Saadhana, and revered by Shraddha that makes ritual (Kalpa) what it is. But bastards, by their very nature, are selfish, and thus, despite living in the material world, garb themselves in ritual and Rna, ignoring or minimising Satya.

And nothing minimises Satya more than Post-Modernism. After all, according to Po-Mo theorists, “there is no truth”.

Post-Modernism

The nihilism of Postmodern society has been evaluated by many. But one need not be Bazarov to be subject to its influence. As deconstructed by Rajiv Malhotra,  the core danger of nihilism is not that it doesn’t deconstruct effectively, but rather, that it fails to “provide the foundation for a positive existence“.

[5] Being Different. ‘Audacity of Difference’, subsection ‘Postmodern Evasiveness’ 

That is why it is important to de-construct the deconstructionists, as Malhotra has done. Those that demand tearing down the existing model without creating an alternative first are those who are hiding something. Much like Napoleon the Pig in Animal Farm, the Agenda of Cultural Marxists (and their unscrupulous co-operators), slogans of Equality and “uncompromising” fight for freedom are all cover for more authoritarian (socialist or otherwise) agendas . But the great irony of course is that in this story, they are not napoleon the pig, but snowball, who is eventually driven out. Cultural Marxist cooperators, like all traitor/useful idiots, are the first to face a firing squad.

That is the danger of the masters of the small picture. It is not that detail doesn’t matter, it’s who controls the details? Who controls the data? What is kept, what is left out, what is even recorded? That is why Dharma must be the model forward, and not  “anglicisation”, or “socialist-authoritarianism”, or “alt-right”, or or “neo-nippon”, or “nava-hindutva eugenics”, and a laundry list of other hare-brained schemes that all ultimately orient India toward foreign models. The latter one, in particular, is a hold out of Aryan Invasion aficionados, but the net result of eugenics theories is that they invariably pigeon-hole people and create inferiority complexes (taking you out of the game even before it begins). Sadly, even some well-meaning people have now bought into this under the weight of scientism. Perhaps this gang should watch Gattaca and mull over their position.

Even more incredulous however are the emotional children blissfully following cultural Marxist pied pipers off the deconstruction cliff. Like lemmings, they fall for a little pro-Indian, pro-Hindu talk about “uncompromising this” and “uncompromising that”, but forget that “politics is the art of compromise”.  This doesn’t mean selling out, but means you can’t always be a martyr like Subhas Chandra Bose, whose honourable attempt at freedom ultimately failed. It’s the figure who lives to fight another day, like Shivaji, who ultimately wins you freedom—not the uncompromising. “A great man can bend and stretch“. To be uncompromising on nothing (but your ethics) in this day an age, is not only “plain dumb”, but “plain suicidal”. Of course, cultural Marxists always know or believe they will escape, and it is only the workhorses who will get sent to the butchery.  But why take my word for it, here’s what an eminent authority himself said.

All this is ultimately why any deconstruction of any mythos built around any Indian figure must be on our terms, using our approach, not foreign ones.

Was Gandhi the “Father of the Nation” like Subhas Chandra Bose himself said in 1944? Are the rumours about Gandhi true? Is there more to Gandhi than we know? All these questions shouldn’t be dusted under the carpet, as they have been for the last 70 years,  but should be asked not under a foreign methodology like cultural Marxism, but under a native one like Dharma. That is how Gandhi’s callousness towards Hindu suffering can be assessed.  But agenda-oriented ideologues have no such interest in deconstruction on such terms, because ideology refuses to ask questions that obviate itself. After all, nothing is more self-contradictory than cultural Marxist derived Critical Race Theory and even Feminism ultimately originates from the same cultural Marxism.

All this is ultimately why whether it is Anglobalism, cultural Marxism, post-modernism, scientism, or fraudacharya-ism, foreign frameworks all lead to the creation of a bastard society. Not just one where illegitimacy may be rife, but one where a bastardised, inauthentic India is the aim (open or otherwise). One cannot properly understand a culture without being immersed in it. One cannot  properly provide alternatives without understanding its originating principle. And the core framework of our culture is Dharma, and the originating principle Satya (Truth).

Yet today, there are not just attempts to Anglicise India, but attempts to Arabise it, Persianise it, Japanicise it, and even Sinicise it.

There are of course, many reasons for all this, all very meticulously studied by Malhotra, but there is another aspect here too that merits study.

The Indian over-emphasis of the Guru-Sishya relationship remains one of the core reasons for the lack of self-respect. For half-read 20 somethings who have trouble reading, read again carefully. I did not say emphasis, but over-emphasis.

The Guru-Sishya parampara is one of the great traditions of Bharatavarsha. It truly must and should be celebrated and preserved in our gurukulas, agraharas, devalayas, and mathas. But if all the relationships we have can only be Guru-Sishya, Father-Son, Mother-Daughter, Raja-Praja, then relating to and working with peers becomes difficult. Further, if teachers from phoreign are given the same status as our gurus, then the net result is videshis taking advantage.

It is the height of bastardy that a foreign institution, educational or not, could appropriate the sacred name of Sri Adi Sankaracharya. Yet, this proposal was only stayed because someone of Malhotra’s strategic sense, discovered and stalled it.

Not every educational relationship is that of Guru-Sishya or Raja-Praja. Nor is there perfect equality between peers. After all, each individual has his or her set of strengths, and seniors outrank juniors even in college. But a senior is not a guru. When there is no longer the danda of ragging (or punishment from administration) to keep juniors in line, juniors run amok like school-children at recess….that is unless the prism of mentorship becomes pervasive under the aegis of Dharma.

Mentorship

A society bereft of self-respect basks in sycophancy on one end and tyranny on the other. For all its great accomplishments, Indic Civilization is presently facing a deficit of self-respect. Whether they are anglicised, persianised, arabised, or even patriotic or anti-national, Indians are lacking in self-respect, and sycophancy (ji-huzoori) has become the common currency.

The best way to stem the advance of bastardisation, be it anglicisation or otherwise, is through mentorship. Not everyone can be a guru, and not everyone has time to be a sishya. But the value of the mentor-protege relationship lies in the existence of a mild status differential, without the total surrender and dedication demanded by a guru. A mentor is there not to shape you and save you for soulful salvation, but to guide you, to give you hints, and to help you grow as an individual and a contributor.

Be a mentor to someone younger, and seek a mentor in someone older. This professional “parampara” is the best way to establish not only an efficient chain-of-command/unity of purpose/cultural cohesion, but to also grow and help others grow in the process. Demanding that all things emanate from you and be credited to you may often be symptomatic of a guru complex. So if you are not one, don’t pretend to be. The mentor, on the other hand, recognises that even the most modest and most illiterate of persons has something to teach. It will also end this dichotomy of total obedience or complete non-compliance. Be obedient to your guru, but be respectful to your seniors and mentor your juniors.

DharmaMandir

That is the importance of Dharma. Not only as a framework, but also as the origin of civility (sabhyata), etiquette (saujanya), propriety/courtesy (maryada). But in a society obsessed with kulachara and kula, these three have gone by the wayside.

The problem today with Indians (particularly a demographic of half-read twenty somethings, and their feckless forty-something fellow travelers) is that they are spoiled brats, and well, probably something comparable to the title of this article.

There is no point in trying to save the world if you yourself don’t even know how to behave and organise. Selective reading and willfully ignoring nuance is easy.  Petulant and rude behaviour is even easier. Closing your ears to retain the efficacy of ideology easiest of all. But the truly knowledgeable person is not the ideologue. He is the one who realises he knows nothing, and seeks wisdom instead. That is the basis of philosophy, not love of knowledge, but love of wisdom.

Philosophy vs Philognosis & Phil-ideology

The love of ideology is one of the great dangers facing human society. This is because ideology, unlike philosophy, demands compliance and reduces honest, critical thinking. The combination of ideology with bastardy is quite possibly the most combustive of all. It marries (pardon the pun) the worst of the certitude associated with an ideology, any ideology, with the worst of the bastard (anomie, alienation, constant need for self-assertion, sniveling and spoiled brattiness). When the rootless wonder finds his [imagined, Central Asian] roots, then a new persona is assumed. Filled with the zeal of a new convert, all worthiness is judged on the basis of conformity (to the ideology) and sycophancy (to a pseudo-clerical sovereignty). On the basis of by-birth brahminhood, real Brahmanas in the agraharas and mathas are being sidelined, their interpretations dismissed as “unscientific”, and their authority usurped by “by-birthers”. But a true Brahmana, born or otherwise, is known by guna, sattva guna.

All this is ultimately why we must reject Ideology and Philognosis for Philosophy. It is the love of wisdom and the love of truth (the origin of wisdom) that makes it possible to live not only well-meaning, full-filling, and prosperous lives, but also practical ones that preserve us and our society.

This is ultimately why the Post-Modern Society is a Bastard Society and must be rejected. And this is why our culture is the cure for Post-Modernism. It is not rigid, as other civilizations are, nor is it a black hole of self-annihilating nihilism (as is post-modernism). Our culture is based on Dharma consisting of uncompromising principles, but flexible application.

The Dharmic tradition shows the importance of Philosophy over Ideology, any Ideology.

  References:

  1. Gurumurthy, Swaminathan. “Society”.http://vskkerala.com/society-was-the-source-of-knowledge-for-deendayalji-s-gurumurthy/
  2. Gurumurthy, Swaminathan.”Modernity has Failed to Stop Deviance”. http://www.newindianexpress.com/opinion/columns/s_gurumurthy/Modernity-has-failed-to-stop-deviance/2013/10/15/article1835599.ece
  3. Malhotra, Rajiv. https://www.pgurus.com/pandavas-can-provide-hindu-leadership/
  4. Malhotra, Rajiv. Being Different. New York: Random House.2011
  5. Bede. Ecclesiastical History of the English People. London: Penguin.1990
Acknowledgement: My thanks to Shivoham whose insights and reference material were valuable for the composition of this article.

On Dharma II: Rta vs Rna 2

Karna-choice

Readers may recall our Post last year on Rta vs Rna. In it, we explained why Rna is necessarily subordinate to Dharma, and that the proper schema was in fact Satya then Rta then Dharma.

However, because we live in an era where knowledge itself is no longer seen as sacred but as a means of emolument, there are some fraudacharyas who are imputing wrong meaning into traditional definitions…partially out of their ignorance, but partially out of malevolence. Because their attempts to force Rna as somehow central to the Dharmic schema have been exposed, and realising they have left something out, they have tried to circumvent by saying everything is Sat. Everything is Sat, and Satya does express Rta. But Rta itself is the motivation for Dharma, not Rna. Rna is not the core of Sanatana Dharma: Satya, Rta, and Dharma are. Rna uber alles is the foundation for slavery—precisely what videshi slaves want.

This is because they have sold themselves out, they are privately paying off their own personal Rna by selling off Satya. Rna is below Dharma. Here is the correct schema:

Satya→Rta→Dharma→Rna

It is important to not only understand the distinctions between the four, but also their order of derivation. rnas

These Rnas come in many forms: Daiva-Rna, Rishi-Rna, Pitr-rna.  Those are the traditional tri-rnas, the Vedic rnas that all must pay to the Devas, to the Rishis & Gurus, and to our Ancestors. After paying them, moksha is then possible. These are traditionally paid by yagna, by vedic study, and by progeny. [2, 416] But there are also other rnas. Matr-rna, Mitr-rna, and the most dominating one, Desa-rna. One is a rni (debtor) to his Mathru-bhoomi too. So how to determine which comes first? After all, is not Daiva above Desa? Is not Mathru above Mitra? Is not spiritual debt above monetary debt?

It is precisely because material rna can be easily conflated with spirtual rna, that we must repay Rna through the guidance of Dharma. It is precisely that Dharma is the guide for Rna and not the other way around that definitions matter. And it is precisely because some murkhs prize material heaven above moksha that they continually ignore Desa-rna and Desa-Dharma, to the detriment of their countrymen, whom they betray. This is what happens to those who prize knowledge above wisdom…they end up neither breathing nor living & drag everyone else down with them.

hayagriva
Bhagavan Hayagreeva

Saying that Rna creates Dharma is like saying Vedas came from Man. Real Brahmanas know this to be otherwise. Just as the Vedas are Apaurusheya and were given to man from by God, so to does Dharma determine Rna, and specifically, which Rna should be paid when, or even be paid at all. Those in thrall to foreign funders naturally celebrate Rna—for they have assumed a lifetime and multi-life debt.

It is for this reason our Civilization is one of Truth not Debt (like some debt-driven societies). It is for this reason India’s national motto is Satyameva Jayate not Rnameva Jayate. It is Satya-Harischandra who is lauded not Mitr-rni Karna. It is love of Satya that constructs the order Rta and recognising the need for its preservation that creates Dharma. A society motivated by Rna is one first collapsed into chaos then caught in slavery.

The people who advocate Rna being the driver of Dharma are those who sold their souls and wish for you to the do the same.

Rna is used to buy the souls of Men, as Duryodhana bought Karna’s with Anga

He may be called “Daanveer Karan”, but his Daana, his Generosity, his liberality were all misplaced. Generosity to sinners is not generosity, it is signing one’s own death warrant, which is what Karna did when he gave everything, even his life, to pay off his debt to Duryodhana. His noble sentiment in sacrificing everything for the one person who stood by him is a noble one, but also a selfish one. Noble sentiments too can be selfish and misguided. Bhishma’s noble sentiment in taking his pratignya (oath) is the classic case.

We may all praise Bhishma for accepting the terrible oath of celibacy, despite being a royal prince, but he nevertheless violated Dharma and Rta by denying Hastinapura of a great king like himself. See how it suffered instability and uncertainty from the days of Chitrangada and Vichitraveerya on. This is the price of Rna and Moha. Desire to chase fame through sacrifice or to surrender to sentiment is also selfish. Noble, but misguided and harmful to society. To pay his personal debt, Karna was prepared to preside over Draupadi’s Vastraharan (attempted disrobing) and the unjust killing of Abhimanyu. What right does he (and those like him) have to lecture on Dharma?

Yudhisthira, on the other hand, was the opposite. He followed Truth to an extreme in the desire to be Satya-harishchandra, that he failed to prioritise his Dharma to his wife. It was a selfless mistake (he gained only shame and reprobation from this episode, not fame like Karna on the Kurukshetra), but a stupid mistake. He forgot that Harishchandra was in the beginning of the Treta Yuga (almost the Satya Yuga), while Yudhisthira was in the Dvapara (and that too, the very end). As the Yugas pass, people become more corrupt and sinful, and Dharma can no longer be so pristine, let alone naive. Yudhisthira was a king, and could not afford the luxury of being naive. When kings and politicians are naive, their prajas suffer.

When Satya-harishchandra honoured his promise to pay off his rna, his wife’s honour was not violated, but see what happened when Yudhisthira did the same thing. This is why the Panchatantra and Niti becomes important. In the present time, one must use viveka (distinguishment) to distinguish between right and wrong, wise and foolish, real and fake. Remember, a true Guru will never seek to confuse or confound, exploit or enslave, but will only seek to set you free, first from the torment of the senses, then from all Rnas.

The price of Rna

Science has no authority over our Vedic Tradition. Only our trained Bharatiya Acharyas do. Those who are rooted in the land for millennia, understand its traditions the best.

Above all, remember, it was Sri Krishna himself who tried to educate Karna that Rna is used to buy the souls of men. It is fine to fulfill Rna for fruitive rewards, but only if it is not in conflict with Dharma, Rta, and Satya. This is the eternal way.

Bhagavad Gita 2:42-43

yam imam puspitam vacam
pravadanty avipascitah
veda-vada-ratah partha
nanyad astiti vadinah
kamatmanah svarga-para
janma-karma-phala-pradam
kriya-visesa-bahulam
bhogaisvarya-gatim prati ||

Men of small knowledge are very much attached to the flowery words of the Vedas, which recommend various fruitive activities for elevation to heavenly planets, resultant good birth, power, and so forth. Being desirous of sense gratification and opulent life, they say that there is nothing more than this.

There are of course some fashionable modernistas with superficial knowledge who use this to then say there is no point to ritual. But this is also false. Between Hippies without Obligations and material Ritualists without Compassion, is the happy middle of responsible and Dharmic living. Ritual gives us structure to life, but philosophical knowledge (jnana) and worship (bhakti) give us meaning in life.  Ritual does have its place, as does the karma-kanda to those eligible for it. As the saying goes, “the same key that takes you to heaven can take you to hell“. Ravana used it to go to hell. Our Rishis like Vishvamitra used it to, forget going to heaven, but actually created an alternate material heaven for Trisanku. Such is the power of the Veda. But the wisest use the Veda to attain liberation (moksha) from the bondage of rebirth. They recognise it is possible through the structure of the Purushartha to neither lead a depressing and dour life without the rang (colour) of kama (pleasure) nor the life of the irresponsible hedonist, concerned only for his or her own pleasure. The Puranas give us many stories of those who live a happy, content, but responsible life and attain moksha in the process. The Satyanarayana Vratha also facilitates this process for those not eligible to do Vedic yagna.

Those who study the Veda have to take utmost precaution, not only when chanting mantras, but also in understanding the purpose for which they perform ritual. That is why the traditional Brahmana was traditionally respected…it is a very difficult, disciplined life to lead.

The ancient Rishis of yore would perform yagna for the benefit of all mankind. Further, the stringent life of traditional brahmanas as prescribed in the Dharmasastra, ensures a level of discipline that helps individuals transcend the cravings of the senses so that they may become fit for philosophical knowledge. Thus, Lord Krishna is not diminishing the importance of the Vedas, he is only putting them into the correct context. The Vedas are ever in consonance with Dharma. For those who pursue a certain way of life, Vedic ritual is eminently good—Krishna is only advising them to use their knowledge responsibly.

In any event, having contextualised the Rnas stipulated in the Vedic tradition, it is important to understand the need to live a life of balance. Because the Kali Yuga is such a terrible time, full of pleasurable but sinful distractions and many fraudacharyas (there are still some real Acharyas though, so find one), mere japa (chanting of God’s name) is sufficient for the average person. Rather than fighting the impulses causing sense-craving, the Saints say channel those impulses into good and productive efforts. Don’t fight the energy with a dam, but like an irrigation work, channel it to Artha, Moksha, and Kama in the right proportions through Dharma. Do your work during the day, complete your rituals/prayers in the evening, enjoy pleasure in the night. This is the traditional division for the parts of the day. In this way it is possible to do your Dharma to society, fulfill your rna to your obligators, and enjoy the pleasure of life. The happiest life is the balanced life.

The Purusharthas stipulate a life of balance. Artha, Kama, and Moksha are all important, but it is Dharma that guides all three. One cannot point to pitr-rna or daiva-rna or rishi-rna or mitr-rna to explain why their treachery is justified, as they wish to attain svarga (material heaven of pleasures) or moksha (ultimate liberation). Betrayal of one’s country is not justified. Vibhishana made every effort to bring Ravana to the right path, despite being Ravana’s rni. It was only to save Lanka from annihilation, and only because Sri Rama was the incarnation of Dharma, that Vibhishana went over to the other side. Thus, he is the exception and not the rule.

Therefore, rather than mocking the Veda (which one can only understand through proper Adhyapana, meaning “instruction”), respect those who have chosen the arduous path, and do your own duty. If you are upset at mean-spirited or hypocritical priests, find some sincere priests—there are actually many suffering from dire poverty and absence of benefactors. You may not feel Rna to those leading a traditional life, but give support out of a sense of Dharma to society, and its vulnerable sections. Even if you are agnostic, and don’t believe in ritual knowledge, at least give support to those who preserve our tradition and protect it from materialist foreigners misrepresenting our culture & history.

Here was one such traditional Pandit who deserves our respect for preserving our historical memory. We are all rnis to him.

DharmaMandir

Despite this Rna, preservation of Dharma knows only Rta, which must be preserved as it is the expression of Satya. By upholding Rta, all are benefited. By obsessing over Rna, only 1 or a few are benefited. Pandit Chelam may have had rnas to his foreign instructors of English and other subjects, but it was through his prioritisation of Dharma, Rta, and ultimately Satya, that he published 24 books documenting our true history. That is why Satya is the highest, most absolute concept. Dharma may bend the transactional everyday truth (“Ashwattama attaha”) to preserve this absolute Truth. But it is Satya which is absolute.

The order of hierarchy is Satya, Rta, Dharma, then Rna. Because if people don’t know which Rna to pay when, they end up like Karna…who chose his Rna to Duryodhana. Pitr-rna, Deva-rna are all to be paid when the common Dharma isn’t violated. A world of competing Rnas leads to chaos, in which each individual focuses on his (perceived rna) rather than than Saamaanya Dharma. That is why Rna is a secondary priority. Dharma is the first.

Opponents may argue that by prioritising Rna as the roots, the tree of Dharma will flourish. But the rebuttal is “yes, one tree will flourish, to the detriment of others“. The tree of Dharma in this case is the tree of Sva-Dharma (the personal Dharma). If you greedily prioritise your own Rnas, your own roots, other will not have water to be able to pay off theirs, and the other trees and plants die. A Dharma-driven society ensures the whole community flourishes. A Rna-driven society, is a selfish society, and is not “sustainable”.

Dharma is the righteous upholding of the Cosmic Order Rta which is expressed by the Absolute Truth Satya. Rna only ever comes after.

References:

  1. Bhagavad Gita. http://asitis.com/2/42-43.html
  2. Kane, P.V. History of Dharmasastra. Vol.3.P.2. Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. 1973.
  3. Suresvaracarya, Shoun Hino & K.P. Jog. Sureśvara’s Vārtika on Saptānna Brāhmaṇa.Delhi: MLBD.1995.p.94

Indic Sports: Culture of Kreeda

KrishnaVsChanoora

Amid all the discussion on one of India’s worst ever showings at the Olympics, a question arises about the Indic proclivity for Sports. As one foreign commentator recently asked, “Why is India so bad at the Olympics”. While we should not forget the legitimate point that the Olympics is no stranger to skullduggery, as the entire Russian Olympic Team and poor Narendra Yadav can attest to (his case should be reviewed again by an independent commission of concerned citizens), self-reflection is also critical.

Our own people have made attempts to understand. Others, to analyse. Interestingly enough, the Chinese have already conducted an analysis. And if it is authentic, it seems fairly spot on—after all, no one knows you better than your own shatrus, declared or undeclared.

Of course, by now, we’re all familiar with Indian twitter’s flooding of fading C-list celebrity Piers Morgan’s TL.

The more embarrassing aspect, of course, wasn’t Piers Morgan (unceremoniously fired from his pathetic hosting at CNN ) and his blunderbuss badinage. Rather it was that Indiots still clamber after the 2 pence opinions of a brit  “nobody-cares” after 70 years of Independence. See what nationality brought it to this professional troll’s attention in the first place.

Why do we care whether they care? Why do we care what they think? Rather than be upset about what they said, do something about what they see…next time. It’s not his place (or any foreigner’s place) to tell us, but he is right…be embarrassed. All praise to not only the two medalists Sakshi and Sindhu, but all the fourth placers like Abhinav Bindra (former gold medalist) and hardscrabble athletes who fought against all odds (Dipa Karmakar). But while giving them credit, criticise yourself. You are to blame.

If you only obsess about one sport and don’t give viewership or patronage to others…you are to blame. If at 36 years of age you still divine over the chicken droppings of yester-year celebrities of a certain sport, yes you are to blame. And if you still obsess over genetics rather than training, yes you are to blame. All these things breed and re-emphasise inferiority complexes, because only being good at one thing and useless at everything else, makes for good poodles, but incompetent individuals.

The root of this, frankly, comes from continuing to prize colonial culture (English—see the undistinguished Germanic dialect in which I must write this article, literature, and of course, cricket) long after those with self-respect have stopped caring. The root of the Indian lack of self-respect comes from lack of leadership. And the root of the lack of leadership comes from lack of team spirit and team sports. Even if the other team is better than you, it is only the Indiot who publicly accepts it and publicly self-flagellates about it, instead of privately doing something about it. It is not the size of the dog in the fight, it is the size of the fight in the dog. All the more so if he works as pack.

In any event, the obsession with the colonial game of cricket aside, it does lead to a natural question—have Indians been traditionally averse to Sports? The answer is an obvious NO (even the traditional 64 Arts mentions “Skill in youthful sports” as one of them). For social media gyaanis on public journeys of self-discovery: there have been entire books written on this matter. Nevertheless, this rather ridiculous question is primarily due to the modern tendency in the knowledge-based economy to only focus on two aspects of traditional societal Dharma. That physicality and team collaboration are required by the other two are well-known, and in all likelihood, explain the current decline for internal collaboration and penchant for external cooperation. Until the concept of “win as a team” is beaten soundly back into the heads of headstrong, overly-proud know-it-all yet “under-informed” Indians, such embarrassing showings are all but predictable. The repeated failure of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi to work together for national honour is one such example.

That is why culture is so central to the problem Indic Civilization faces. The same hypocritical hindus who whine day in day out about why medieval Indian kings didn’t work together, are the least likely to do the same today. But as we covered in our previous article on the Dharma of Collaboration, it is not some single “delicate genius” who diffuses victory through sheer, incomprehensible levels of self-proclaimed “IQ”, but a competent society dedicated to team success. In fact, we specifically used the example of the American Olympic Men’s Basketball team in our Post on Collaboration above.

Individually brilliant people who don’t work together, will, time and again, be defeated by average people who work together very well. Not just the players, not just the organization, but society and civilization as a whole should serve as secondary and tertiary support structures. The problem is while stuffing their face with hakka noodles, most Indians would in fact rather watch and play “kircket”, a near individual sport, with tennis, an actual individual sport, filling the remaining void.

Genius and Genetics (and TFR) provide a baseline (pun intended). These keep you in the game and provide a reservoir of potential. But unless there is training,dedication, and above all, (internal) collaboration, this potential energy, cannot be turned into kinetic energy, let alone kinetic action. Feckless, penny-packet, eleventh hour-last minute efforts are no more advisable than an all-nighter before the JEE or the EAMCET. That is why the spirit of Kreeda, true Kreeda, team Kreeda, must be re-ingrained in the modern Indian.

The renowned Chinese travellers Hieun Tsang and Fa Hien wrote of a plethora of sporting activities. Swimming, sword – fighting ( fencing, as we know it today ), running, wrestling and ball games were immensely popular among the students of Nalanda and Taxila. In the 16th century, a Portuguese ambassador who visited Krishnanagar was impressed by the range of sports activity, and the many sports venues, in the city. The king, Raja Krishnadev was an ace wrestler and horseman, himself. [1]

Kreeda, of course, is most famous to us due to the infamous dyut kreeda from the Mahabharata. But Kreeda is more than just mere gambling or pass-time amusement. It in fact covers a range of activities, some mental, some physical, some recreational, and some martial. I am deliberately leaving out “kircket” because that colonial game is really an individual sport masquerading as a team one—and it is also one of the twin causes for the catastrophic decline in Indic competence…the other being mass masala films. However, I will purposefully add a non-native game, field hockey, because it is one of the sports that for a variety of reasons, must be emphasised, invested in, and encouraged today.

I should also note that full credit goes to our teammates over at Tamizh Cultural Portal for presciently recognising the importance of this and doing something about it long before we did. While we will build upon the foundation they laid, we recommend first a full read of their excellent section here.

For our purposes however, what are the various aspects of the traditional Indic culture of Kreeda? This list is by no means exhaustive and is meant to serve as a preliminary structure upon which we can continue to build.

  • Martial Arts
  • Sports
  • Games
  • Personalities
Martial Arts

Kalaripayattu_weapons

Kreeda literally means “Sport” or “Play”. Yet despite including the harmless and the childhood amusement, it also extends to the violent and martial. While these may have had applications on ancient battlefields, or for self-defence, they can also be engaged in harmlessly by responsible adults, for recreation.

It is unsurprising that martial arts would be so closely related to sport in general. Just as neuroscientists assert that dreams help us simulate and deal with difficult scenarios in the future, so too do sports help us deal with the martial and security scenarios of life. One look at the Afghan game of buzkashi alone shows the type of tactics used by Central Asian horsemen on medieval battlefieds. Karate and Kung Fu are, naturally, more famous and more obvious in their applications. Lesser known, and more important, is that Classical Martial Art of India from Kerala.

Kalaripayattu

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

The famed martial art of Kerala, Kalaripayattu has become the de facto classical Martial Art of India. Rooted in Dhanurveda and Ayurveda respectively, it demonstrates the Indic origin of the concept of vital points (marmas), showcased in a certain hollywood movie. Indeed, it is considered the origin of the great spiritual East Asian martial arts traditions, such as Kung Fu and Karate. Tradition holds that the Buddhist monks taught it to the Chinese at the Shaolin Monastery. This is considered by many to have led to the development of Kung Fu and the martial arts tradition of the East. [8]

kalari_lock

Kalaripayattu is practiced to this day in its home state. Beyond the energetic and acrobatic armed and unarmed combat, it features both men and women practitioners hailing from different jatis, nationalities, and even age groups.

kalarilady

But why simply read about what you can see. Here is a well-known video of an elderly women trained in Kalari, fighting against a man half her age!

Malla Yuddha

20130125175804-malla-yuddha

Malla Yuddha forever has a place in the hearts of the Hindus for the great wrestling bouts not only between Krishna and Chanoora and Bheema and Jarasandha, but even today. While the Olympics predictably favours greco-roman style, there are many wrestlers in India, both male and female, folk and entertainment.

200px-Khali_cropped
The Great Khali of the WWE

There are some who might add pehlwaan, but it is about as Indic as qawwali. Malla Yuddha is our traditional name, and should be the terminology. There are none, however, who are more famous or beloved than the man who played Hanuman in Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan.

Dara_Singh_with_Wrestling_Cupdharas012hanuman

Wrestling historically takes place in Akharas, and there are many such even today.

Mushti Yuddha

With descriptions dating back to the ancient period, and texts such as the Manasollasa, Mushti-Yuddha is the traditional Indic art of Boxing. The Portuguese visitor Nunez was astonished at how ferocious the style of boxing was in the Great City of Vijayanagara. [2]

Boxers could routinely end up with broken teeth or battered eyes. While the modern era demands a bit more consideration for the health and safety of boxers, perhaps it is time to look to the past to take inspiration for our future.

Gadha Yuddha

Archery may be the most iconic and most common, but quite possibly no martial art remains as dear to the Indian imagination as Gadha Yuddha. Whether it is Balarama, Bheema, Duryodhana, or Lord Vishnu himself with his famous Kaumodhaki, the mace has a celebrated place in the hearts of Hindus. The rules for Gada Yuddha are simple…no hitting below the belt. But the rules for Dharma Yuddha demand the destruction of dushtas like Duryodhana, who himself cheated at Dice and committed injustice against Draupadi.

Gatka

The Armory of Gatka Practitioners

Like Kalariyapattu, Gatka (the great martial art of the Sikhs) is less for spectators and more for warriors. Nevertheless, the need for self-defence aside, it offers a number of potential competitive aspects beyond the obvious fencing. The Charkha (chakra) throwing aspects alone offer potential for competitive sport.

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, as can be seen above. 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 Sastra-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.

Dhanurvidya

arjuna-draupadi-swayamvar-mahabharata

From Rama Dasarathi to the modern Limba Ram, archery has long been considered the crest-jewel of Indic Kreeda. Equally valuable on the pre-modern battlefield as it was before a bullseye (or as above, below a fish eye), prowess with a bow was prized by men and women alike. Draupadi may have rejected Karna despite his skills with a dhanush, but Arjuna still had to prove himself to her in order to win her hand.

Boxing and wrestling are often referred to, but were not generally the hobbies of respectable young men…who performed for the amusement of an audience. The archery contest, however, was a much-loved amusement of the warrior class, and vivid descriptions of such contests occur in the Epics.”[2, 209]

Even Bhagavan Shri Ram had to demonstrate his power, by stringing the great bow of Lord Shiva. Such is the central place of Dhanurkrida, Dhanurvidya, and Dhanurveda in our culture.

Traditional Sports

Beyond martial arts, there are many traditional Sports that owe their origin to the Indian Subcontinent. Some are popular, some are regional, but all are part of the panoply of Bharatiya Kreeda.

Kabaddi

Part-game, part-sport, all excitement, Kabaddi is instantly recognisable to the average Indian, and an increasingly profitable business venture. Well-known to children and adults of all ages, it is now on track towards becoming a spectator sport in India, and perhaps even, other counties.

Not only national leagues in India, but many among the diaspora are making their mark.

Kabaddi is a high intensity contact sport, with seven players on each side; played for a period of 40 minutes with a 5 – minute break (20-5-20). The core idea of the game is to score points by raiding into the opponent’s court and touching as many defense players as possible without getting caught; in a single breath. One player, chanting Kabaddi!! Kabaddi!! Kabaddi!! Charges into the opponent court and tries to touch the opponent closest to him, while the seven opponents maneuver to catch the attacker.

Jallikattu

Banned by the Supreme Court on controversial and discriminatory grounds, Jallikattu is the traditional game of Bull-taming of Tamizh Nadu. While there are variants in other parts of the country, unlike Spanish bull-fighting, the animal is left alive and unharmed. It is only the players, who play voluntarily, who may be under any risk. Such is their veertha (warrior spirit).

Mallakhamba

Malkhamb_team_of_the_Bombay_Sappers

This legendary sport was revived by the Chhatrapatis for the purposes of the Maratha Navy and its multi-masted ships, but Mallakhamba is the ancient art of pole gymnastics. It is conservatively dated to the medieval period, but in all likelihood, is much more ancient.

Mallakhamb dates back to the 12th century and finds reference in the classic Manasollasa (1135 AD) by Somesvara Chalukya. [9]

It is still done today by the Bombay Sappers of the Indian Army. There is a push to make it a more popular sport.

Games

The distinction between Sports and Games is often very difficult to discern. There are many Sports with limited physical exertion (Golf) and many games with a surfeit of Physical Exertion, Kho-Kho. Which is which is a matter of subjectivity, but board games, card games, and school yard games, all fit the bill more for game than for sport.

Chess

ChessSet

Traditional and especially Ancient India had many games of which to boast, but the king of them all was the game of kings: Chess.

Foreign deniers may be a plenty (with Europeans, Chinese, and even the Persians attempting to claim it), but there is no denying Chess originated in India. Bharatavarsha can boast of not only the ancestor to Chess (Chaturanga), which featured as many as four players and used dice,  but the precursor to the modern version that “had developed into a game of some complexity, with a king-piece, and pieces of four other types, cor-responding to the corps of the ancient Indian army–an elephant, a horse, a chariot or ship, and four footmen. “[2, 208]

Radha-Krishna_chess

The earliest reference to Chaturanga is found in the Harshacharita of Banabhatta, dated to the 6th century.  It is said to have spread to China and was the ancestor of many strategic games there as well.

In the 6th century the game was learnt by the Persians and when Persia was conquered by the Arabs it quickly spread all over the Middle East, under the name shatranj, the Persian corruption of caturanga.” [2, 208]

While many have attempted to claim it, in whatever form, it is an Indian original, with the only distinction that matters being between the Indian version and modern Chess. The irony, of course, is that while Indians have produced Grandmasters and champions like Viswanathan Anand and Koneru Humpy, they continue to succeed at Chess yet fail at strategy. Perhaps it is time to view Kreeda as a way to win at life.

Dyut Kreeda

dyutkrida
The Infamous Dice game, and the Chaupad board

The Infamous Game of Dice naturally makes its place in the rankings. Gambling was obviously popular in ancient India. “Six-sided dice have been found in the Indus cities, and the ‘Gamester’s Lament’ of the Rg Veda testifies to the popularity of gambling among the early Aaryans“. [2,207]

The word aksa in the context of gambling is generally roughly translated ‘dice’, but the aksas in the earliest gambling games were not dice, but small hard nuts called vibheesaka or vibheedaka; apparently players drew a handful of these from a bowl and scored if the number was a multiple of four.” [2, 207]

Played on the chaupad board, it was a popular recreation not only between rival kings, but those other famed competitors in life: husband and wife.

Dice may have been popular in Ancient India, but it remains relevant even in the modern Era.

Mokshapatam

We all may be familiar with the childhood game of Snakes and Ladders. Less familiar, however, is how it originated in India.

Even the traditional game of snakes and ladders had a traditional name “Mokshapatam”. The roles of the devas are likened to it, as fulfillment of one’s role results in promotion up the ladder of creation. It was, therefore, based upon the principle of Karma. The Jain version was called Gyan Chaupar.

Gyan_chaupar

Kreedapatram

Often called Ganjifa, Kreedapatram is the ancient name for Indian card games, of which there were many. Traditional Indian cards were round, but the variety of games were plentiful, and it is still a popular pass time to this day. Here one effort to revive one.

Kho Kho

The game of kho kho is very simple and can be played by all ages. It is thought to have originated in Maharashtra, and it is considered one of India’s most popular traditional games. It is described as a “modified form of run and chase“. [1]

Each team consists of twelve players, but only nine players take the field for a contest. A match consists of two innings. An innings consists of chasing and running turns of 7 minutes each. Eight members of the chasing team sit in their eight squares on the central lane, alternately facing the opposite direction, while the ninth member is an active chaser, and stands at either of the posts, ready to begin the pursuit. Members of the chasing team have to put their opponent out, touching them with their palms, but without committing a foul. All the action in Kho-Kho is provided by the defenders, who try to play out the 7 minutes time, and the chasers who try to dismiss them. A defender can be dismissed in three ways: 1) if he is touched by an active chaser with his palm without committing a foul, 2) if he goes out of the limits on his own, 3) if he enters the limit late. [1]

Gilli-danda

Well known to children in school yard throughout India, Gilli-danda is a game of sticks.”The bigger one is called “danda” and the smaller one is called “gilli“. The player then uses the danda to hit the gilli at the raised end, which flips it into the air. While it is in the air, the player strikes the gilli, hitting it as far as possible. Having struck the gilli, the player is required to run and touch a pre-agreed point outside the circle before the gilli is retrieved by an opponent.” [10]

It may not have applications to stadium spectator sport, but Gilli-danda remains another Iconic game of Indic Civilization.

The Spirit of Kreeda, more than anything else, is one rooted in Team spirit. What is the Indic word for team?—perhaps therein lies the problem as most of our gyaanis seem to have forgotten it (if they ever knew it). Various words such as dal, vahni, and prayuj have been used. Due to a combination of semantic politics and narrative aesthetics, the last one is likely best suited for our times.

There are many, many, many more sports and games such as Boat racing, Polo, and various ball games which could be discussed here (and are discussed elsewhere). But either their origins still remain uncertain, or concision demands we focus only on a few here. Nevertheless, it is easy enough to see here that there has long been a tradition of Sport, a culture of Kreeda, throughout Bharatavarsha. The issue before us is not only whether we can revive them, but whether we can take inspiration from them to reinvigorate our approach to Modern Sports.

Modern Sports

Field Hockey

dhyanchand

From Dhyan Chand to the recently deceased Mohd. Shaheed, India’s field hockey heroes are perennially over-shadowed and under-appreciated it. It is time we did them justice. Naysayers may argue that football should be the priority non-native sport stressed by Indians, but I disagree. Indians already have a strong traditional track record in Field Hockey. To see short term results, Field Hockey will give us the best ROI, and boost in national sports morale.

Football (also known as Soccer)

Quite possibly one of the most simple and most easily recognisable of games, Football is an international phenomenon. It does not carry weight because a nation of a billion people, and some former colonies and their erstwhile coloniser play it, but because the entire world plays it. Kick the ball into the goal, pass to your teammates, defend your territory. It is the simplest most elegant expression of team collaboration. Everything a certain wicket-based sport is not.

Football must be an important long-term investment for the Indian public not only because Baichung Bhutia was popular with the ladies (ok that’s a private reason for gents), but because it remains the uncontested “Global Sport”. To see much smaller countries and even non-South American/non-European/non-African countries be ranked and notable teams should be a national insult for India. This is the cost of cricket.

Non-native sport though it is, it is the unofficial game of humanity (at least at present) and even if a World Cup is unthinkable and a distant dream, it should begin to at least be an aspiration. Even if you can’t play, start watching these games, start forming football leagues, and start joining your kids in a sport that will actually help them in life, even if they can’t become the next Ronaldo.

Personalities

Along with remembering our traditional sports and games, and the culture that drove them, it is also important to remember and honour the great personalities who contributed to our Sports culture. Such lists are usually subjective, but certain names tend to crop up, and thus, are mentionable either for merit or for fame. In any event, they should be remembered nonetheless:

Women

Kunjarani Devi

Karnam Malleshwari

India’s first female olympic individual medalist, Malleshwari Karnam hails from Andhra.

P.T. Usha

Mithali Raj

Anju Bobby George

Saina Nehwal

P.V.Sindhu

Sania Mirza

Sakshi Malik

Anushka Sharma may have played a wrestler, but young Sakshi Malik is the real deal. Champion wrestler and Olympic Bronze medalist, she deserves our respect (and a healthy fear for her strength…) for what she accomplished. She is proof again that the Bharatiya Naari may be seen as a pretty package, but packs a powerful Shakti too.

Mary Kom

Dipa Kalmakar

Dipa Kalmakar represents not only the potential reservoir of talent in India, but of simply how much of a difference a culture of training and support (institutional or societal) makes. That she was able to place fourth despite being the first Indian woman to even compete in Olympic gymnastics, speaks volumes about the greatness of her spirit, and why India citizens need to stop talking and start putting their money where their mouth is to support such athletes.

Men

Dhyan Chand

Ravi Shastri

Dara Singh

Dara Singh ji may be most famous for playing Lord Hanuman, but he was a great strong-man in his own right, in his own day. He may have been a champion Pehlwaani, but Dara Singh would have been right at home in traditional Malla Yuddha.

Limba Ram

Viswanathan Anand

Vijay Amritraj

India’s greatest tennis player who never won a Grand Slam. Perennial top ten threat, international celebrity, and one of India’s most recognisable sports figures, Vijay Amritraj of Tamizh Nadu represents Indian Sports almost to the T. Full of talent, with many missed opportunities, and the potential to dominate, only if he trained like the Borgs and Connors and Mcenroe’s of the world.

Mohd.Shaheed

Dhanraj Pillai

Sachin Tendulkar

Saurav Ganguly

Kapil Dev

Sunil Gavaskar

Harbhajan Singh

Navjot Singh Sidhu

Pullela Gopichand

Mahendra Singh Dhoni

Abhinav Bindra

Leander Paes

Baichung Bhutia

Considered India’s greatest football player, Baichung Bhutia should be a household name simply for the effort he has put in to popularise the sport and give support to young talent. This now retired “Sikkimese Sniper” started a football school in Delhi.

Vijender Singh

Olympic and now up-and-coming Professional Boxer, Vijender Singh is an athlete to watch for. He hails from Haryana. With a current W-L ratio of 7-0, he is a true Mushti-Yoddha in the making.

Most of these personalities are well-known enough that they do not require description. All of them, for the sake of brevity, are from India. But over time, we hope to add on to this and describe in greater detail.

Conclusion

winasateam

India is not a sports averse culture. India does not lack a sports culture. India lacks a team sports culture. That is the problem today. The cure for its millions upon millions of middle class, mummy’s boy, spoiled brats, does not lie in Sachin Tendulkar, but in Dhyan Chand, who played a true team sport. It does not lie in importing yet another foreign coach (or foreign saviour), but in building in-house talent through team thinking.

Kircket” is not a team sport. It is effectively an individual sport played by a team, with very little equipe-wide coordination. But between fire-teams and the entire army, there are intermediate levels of multi-person units (company, battalion, division, etc). The problem with Indians is that they forever vacillate between tyranny and sycophancy. “Kick the person who licks, and lick the person who kicks”. This is the “team” motto of our iq obsessed, barely genetically male gyaanis. How about doing neither? How about respecting authority and treating subordinates with respect? Even the Indian Army’s officers could learn this simple principle.

The concept of the loyal lieutenant is utterly lacking. Rather than a first among equals, it is “I must either oppress or be oppressed”—how is unity, team spirit, and coordination possible in such a toxic atmosphere?

kreedagames

Kreeda also has been able  to create awareness by documenting information on traditional games. “We can get a lead for a game from anywhere, even the most unlikely places. The history of some games are unknown and some have many versions, but we do everything to find and get to the bottom of it. I can give you the history, origin and rules of any game!” she beams. [5]

There are many efforts to revive not only traditional sports but traditional games today. Instead of just playing whatever Star TV tells you is “fashionable”, support these efforts and revive these games. Instead of snakes and ladders, play moksha-patam. Instead of playing hide-and-seek, tell your kids to play kho kho.

For all his obsolete lameness, Piers Morgan was right about one thing: Indians need training (just as he and his fellow brits need therapy). Even more pathetic than the 2 medals (Indian men, be ashamed of yourselves), is the fact that Indians not only don’t know how to conduct themselves, they don’t care to learn. “Absolute subservience. Or Unrestricted freedom of action and pontification”. No wonder Indians can’t get anything done unless it’s for a foreign MNC or for a paycheck or for punya…For anything else, it’s “Either I or my caste-brother is team captain, or I don’t play!

This is why for all the gyaani obsession over “merit” (i.e. ability to read and regurgitate for marks), the focus for positions must be “competence”. Are you competent to do the job? Are you competent to contribute to the organization? Despite your knowledge, are you competent to work in teams? When it’s an idiot Indian movie and the theme is “me against the world” the concept of team disappears. When you are forced to work and win as a team, however, then questions of competence (rather than marks and parrot pedantry) come up. See, incompetence. The national slogan should be Work Hard, Play Hard. Not the present one: Work only if I have to, Play only if the mood strikes, and Eat & Drink always.

It is time to get rid of this recipe for incompetence. It is time to throw away the bipolar monkey of the past century and rebuild the national character. Bharatiya Kreeda is one way to do it. Pick a team sport (a real sport, kircket doesn’t count) or team game, and begin today.

Being a single-line sports country has made obstacles for development of other sports in the country. You might be able to name the whole team that represented the country at the 2011 Cricket World Cup, but most of you would not know who PD Chaugule was. Chaugule was the first Indian who represented the country at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Belgium and took that same oath: “For the honour of my country, and glory of my sport. [7]

Many of you may still wonder, why despite all insistence on the Indic, we have given pride of place to a non-native sport like Field Hockey. Beyond just ROI, beyond even national sports morale, it offers the potential for something else. Something that, amid all the religious wars, and caste wars, and petty feuds, gives a vision of greater possibilities. If divide et impera was the motto for foreign imperialists & native sepoys, then the one for all true patriots and rooted Indians should be simple….

I am no SRK fan, kintuChak De India.

References:
  1. Traditional Indian Sports. http://sports.indiapress.org/ancient_indian_games.php
  2. Basham, A.L. The Wonder that was India. New Delhi: Rupa.1999
  3. http://www.ranker.com/list/famous-female-athletes-from-india/reference
  4. http://indiatoday.intoday.in/education/story/games-in-india/1/475954.html
  5. http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/The-tradition-of-playing-long-forgotten-games/2016/08/17/article3582674.ece
  6. http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/books/the-plays-the-thing-a-history-of-sport-in-india/
  7. http://www.sportskeeda.com/cricket/sports-fanaticism-in-india-history-and-where-are-we-today
  8. Sreenivasan, Rajeev. The Buddhist Connection: Sabarimala and the Tibetans.http://www.rediff.com/news/dec/31rajeev.htm
  9. http://www.telegraphindia.com/1111103/jsp/orissa/story_14698853.jsp
  10. http://www.thebetterindia.com/10492/lesser-known-traditional-games-sports-india/
  11. http://www.newsgram.com/ganjifa-an-indian-card-game-is-revived-by-sunish-chabba-of-sydney-australia/
  12. http://www.hindustantimes.com/punjab/gatka-a-traditional-martial-art-associated-with-sikhism-now-a-national-sport/story-RTMaURkzAMlaRPtb5jMlDN.html