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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
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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

Personalities: Savitri

savitri

After the great King Sagara, the time has come to study the life of yet another exquisite Royal Personality in Bharat’s great tradition. Not just men, but inspirational women too, have set an example on how to balance personal dreams and aspirations with familial and national duties.

Our next Personality in our Continuing Series is none other than the legendary Savitri.

Background

More than just a timeless, girl-saves-guy love story, Savitri & Satyavan is nidarsana katha in its highest form.

Savitri is among the five Satis of Sanatana Dharma and is held up as being a role model for pativrata. The story of Savitri and her husband Satyavan, first occurs in the Mahabharata in the Vana Parva. Her story is recited by sage Markandeya when Yudhisthira asks him if there is any woman who is as devout a wife as  Draupadi.

Princess Savitri was the daughter of the King of Madra, Asvapati, and his wife, Queen Malavi. Asvapati was a childless ruler, and as he grew older he began to feel anxious that he did not have an heir to succeed him. He thus undertook all sorts of penances and prayed to the goddess Savitri, residing in the sun, to bless him with a son to carry on his line. 18 years of hard penance earned him the goodwill of the goddess who appeared to him and told him he will be blessed with a spirited daughter. Soon, a daughter was born to him and he named her Savitri in honour of the goddess who blessed him.

Aryavarta

Savitri grew into a beautiful young woman and her beauty was so bedazzling that suitors got intimidated by her. Hence no one came forth to ask for her hand in marriage. Finally, her father told her that since no one was coming forth to marry her, she must go out and find a husband for herself. She set off on the search for a husband, and soon fell in love with Satyavan, the son of the  blind and impoverished king Dyumatsena. This ruler had been exiled from his kingdom (Salva desa) and was living as a hermit in the forest.

Savitri’s father was very displeased with her choice and wanted her to make another choice, but she refused to change her mind. Her father wished to hand over the kingdom to the groom so that his daughter would have a comfortable life. However, she refused this too and was adamant that she would stay in the forest with her husband and his parents.

But there was something even more dire than all the previous issues with the choice that she had made. Satyavan was destined to die one year from the day they got married. This was unbearable for Savitri’s father, who tried to dissuade her from going ahead with her plan. But Savitri, being the ever independent minded person said to him, “Once only one gets one’s inheritance, once only a daughter is given away and once only a father says, ‘I give her”’ These are three ‘once only’ acts. I have once chosen my husband, long-lived or short-lived, virtuous or wanting in virtue, I have chosen my husband once, and I shall not choose for the second time”. Faced with such strong resolve, Savitri’s father could only give in to his daughter’s wishes. Thus were Satyavan and Savitri married.

Savitri had not the slightest hesitation in giving up her royal robes and riches for the simple and humble attire of a hermit’s wife. She settled into her new life as wife and daughter-in-law and won the hearts and minds of all in that hermit’s abode, with her conduct. However, she never lost sight of the fact that in a year from the date of her marriage she was destined to lose her husband. She kept close watch on the count of days passing by and when there were but four days left to the date of Satyavan’s death, she undertook a fast for three days and three nights in order that her husband might be spared.

AchievementsPhoto: kidsgen

  • Saved her husband’s life
  • Restored her father-in-law’s health and wealth
  • Safeguarded her father’s future and her native kingdom’s security

On the appointed day of his death, when the day was halfway through, Savitri’s in-laws told her that she should break her fast. But Savitri refused, saying that she would eat only after sunset. Satyavan, in the meanwhile, had picked up his axe and was going out of the hermitage when Savitri came to him and told him that she would accompany him into the woods. Satyavan tried to dissuade her from accompanying him, telling her that her fast of the past three days would have tired her out. This, however, did not deter Savitri, and she followed him into the forest.

As Satyavan was working, he suddenly felt his head beginning to ache and began to sweat profusely. He felt so weak that he felt unable to stand. Savitri immediately took him in her arms and sat down, letting his head rest in her lap as he began to collapse. Yama, the god of death (and Dharma) appeared before her said that Satyavan’s life on this earth had reached an end and he was going to take his lifebreath away. So saying, he took a thumb length of Satyavan’s sookshma sareera even as his material body lay lifeless on the ground, and started proceeding southwards.

Savitri began to follow Yama and seeing her follow him, Yama asked her why she was following him. This was Savitri’s answer. She said, “I must go wherever my husband goes. It is established by the eternal ancient law that the wife should always follow her husband wherever he goes or wherever he is taken. By virtue of the austerities I have practised, and by the power of my love for my husband, as also the potency of my vow, and by your grace too, unimpeded I would go.” This was the Pativrata Dharma (one echelon of Stree Dharma) that she had been taught and what she lived by. Savitri then began to converse with Yama in her most elegant and refined manner, which gladdened the heart of Yama though he disapproved of her accompanying him. At last, her cultured and refined behaviour wore down his defences and he told her she could demand a boon of him as long as it was not the life of her husband. She demanded that her father-in-law’s eyesight be restored and that he be allowed to become “strong and shining in spirit like the sun and the fire.” That boon was granted and yet Savitri continued to walk with Yama.

After a while, seeing she had no intention of turning back, Yama inquired of her why she was still trailing him and whether she wasn’t tired. To that, the ever virtuous Savitri replied, “Why should I be tired when I am with my husband? I go wherever he goes. Besides, even a solitary meeting with the great is desirable; it never goes in vain. It is always beneficial to be in good company.” Now, Yama is not a welcome entity, normally, because he is the harbinger of death and hence grief. But Savitri living by her Dharma of seeing the goodness and greatness in everyone and stating that, made the normally bad tempered Yama feel honoured.

He asked her to name a second boon that did not involve bringing her husband back to life and she promptly asked that her father-in-law’s kingdom be restored to him. That wish was also granted and they continued on their way. In her pleasing manner, Savitri thus received additional boons; the third was that her own father should be blessed with a hundred sons, the fourth that she herself would be blessed with a hundred sons. Yama smiled, and said so be it.

As Yama began walking away, Savitri again followed him. Finally enraged, Yama asked how Savitri could continue to follow him after he had blessed her with so much. The clever Savitri then said “Oh Yama deva, you have graciously blessed me with a hundred sons, but how can I conceive them without my husband?“. Realising he had been out-witted, the Deva of Death praised this wise and devoted wife as an example for all time, and happily told her to ask for final boon (but this time he omitted his previous injunction against asking for Satyavan). She naturally asked for Yama to return her husband to life, which he did. Yamadeva  blessed Savitri and Satyavan, and disappeared.

In all the above chronology of the wishes expressed by Savitri, we see her selflessness shining through. Though her burning desire was to see her husband brought back to life, she was always aware of her duties a as a daughter-in-law and daughter to the elders that made up her family. Her concern for her in-laws and her own parents was placed before her own concerns and this alone was enough for Yama to understand the depth of her love for her  husband and her deep understanding of the values that a woman has to uphold and live by. Both women and men are expected to be unselfish under Dharma.

What is the lesson to be drawn from this story?

Satyavan_Savitri

The lesson of Savitri is that even the Gods bow before a woman who is forever protecting her husband and safeguarding his well-being. What she achieved through wisdom and prayer, other women may also do through the sword and strategem. But more than that, Savitri is a model for how husbands and wives are expected to be devoted to each other—that is the true driver of love.

We all are governed by the karmas we have accumulated over our many lifetimes and hence our destiny is pre-ordained. But, while that is the broad grand plan, how we respond to them and the dignity and unselfishness with which we conduct our lives, determines who we really are.

However, there are no short cuts or quick fixes to achieve it. Only by upholding dharma in the highest possible way and living life according to the Dharmic principles prescribed for each one of us, as daughters, women, wives, daughters-in-law, mothers and so on (in the case of women, with a similar list being there in the case of men), can we hope to overturn destiny. The greatness of Dharma lies in the fact that there is a possibility to make changes in our destiny but that it requires great will and tapasya to actually be able to accomplish it. The most meaningful lives, for both women and men (yes, I mean you too, boys..), are those that are lived for others. The selfish existence is the empty existence. Savitri stands as a shining example for all time. She was an empowered woman who charted her own course in life, but while she asserted her rights, she never forgot that rights go together with duties.

Such selfless women are rarely ever matched by men, and fewer still are the stories where the girl saves the guy. Savitri is one such heroine who commands our respect and admiration.

Legacy

SavitriVsYama

Contrary to modern debutantes, Savitri is a strong character and embodiment of Bharatiya Stree Shakti. Neither passive nor aggressive, she is assertive. She is intelligent, knows both her duties and her rights, and is not afraid to live up to the former while asserting the latter. But she does so with maryada (courtesy & propriety)—this is the true mark of culture and refinement.

Like the Great King Sagara, whether she too is Legendary or not, Savitri is an example and exemplar of Dharma. She exemplifies the very concept of ardhangini, which demonstrates that women cannot and should not be trod and trampled upon, but have 1 half of the share of responsibilities and rights in society. They are not worth only half of men like other cultures, but in fact the other half of men, and entitled to their share of respect and influence in society. Savitri personifies precisely how real strong women command respect.

vat_savitri_vrat_sms_wishes_3735098624

Savitri is an extremely wise woman from our epics who outwitted Yama himself and brought her husband Satyavan back to life through her intelligence. This was truly the ultimate girl-saves-guy love story. She is revered as a pativrata, as one of the pancha-satis and “Women worship Savitri by tying colored sacred threads to the Vata (banyan) tree as part of observance during the rainy season in many parts of India, the occasion being called Vatasavitri”. [2] This festival is to this day honoured, so that women too can hope to gain the wisdom and character of such a complete woman.

mahaSavitri

Beyond movies in languages such as Hindi and Malayalam, the English composer Gustav Holst was even inspired by the story to write an opera on it in 1916. What inspires even foreigners, Bharatiyas take for granted.  From the ancient Puranas to modern Popular culture, Savitri of Madra is one of the dazzling lights of our sanskriti, who attained eternal fame, and even gave the very name “Sati-Savitri”.

It may be a common joke in today’s jaded, pub-hub, dance club age for “liberated” girls to say “don’t be such a Sati-Savitri!“. But if Savitri means being an empowered woman who chose her own husband, saved his life, and secured the happiness of her family, in-laws, and nation, maybe we in fact should be.

References:

  1. Sarma, Bharadvaja. Vyasa’s Mahabharatam. Academic Publishers. 2008. pp. 329–336. Vana Parva
  2. SarDesai, D.R. India: The Definitive History. Westview: Boulder, Colorado. 2008

An Indic Perspective to Mathematics — 3

mahaviracharya

(This is the concluding part of the sequel to ‘Introduction to Ganita’)

Part 1 (Introduction) 

Part 2 (Ganita – Math Encounters)

Part 3 (below): Ganita prevailed over Math in their encounters, but what did it really win? While Ganita’s results were absorbed into Mathematics, the underlying pramana and upapattis were rejected. We explain why this happened, and its implications.

Digestion Of Ganita, the Needham Question, and the Road Ahead
Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less - Marie Curie.
The Digestion of Ganita

It appears the ancient Babylonians had something in common with the Indians: they were pattern-seekers. As far as trying to understand how the world around us works, Richard Feynman rejected (Greek) Mathematics in favor of what he recognized as a Babylonian method, as discussed in this lecture below. Despite this endorsement, it is the Greek approach that drives Mathematics today, while the Babylonian culture can be found only in famous museums today. Why?

It would not be a problem for any civilization to view and benefit from imported knowledge by employing a native lens, without denigrating and destroying the external source tradition, and based on mutual respect. However, when knowledge from another culture is deliberately cannibalized and appropriated as a predator, it is a serious problem. It turns into a process known as’digestion‘. We now describe how Ganita was digested into Mathematics after their encounters.

The Digestion of Ganita into Mathematics

This process of digestion has been laid out by Rajiv Malhotra in [4]. We apply this description step-by-step to see how Ganita was digested into Mathematics.

Step 1.The less powerful culture is assimilated into the dominant one in such a way that: the dominant civilization dismembers the weaker one into parts from which it picks and chooses which pieces it wants to appropriate“.  During their encounter, all the important results of Ganita, starting from the place value system with zero, to algebra, trigonometry, algorithms, combinatorics, … to calculus were accepted by Europe to obtain real-life benefits. However, the underlying epistemology and approach of Ganita that has worked so well for 2000+ years, and could be used to generate such astonishing results in the future were amputated from Ganita. Only the results were retained within Mathematics.

Step 2.appropriated elements get mapped onto the language and social structures of the dominant civilization’s own history and paradigms, leaving little if any trace of the links to the source tradition“. The formal Math rooted in the Greek tradition was enhanced and expanded so that the Ganita results could be systematically re-derived and reinterpreted in a compatible manner. Later, the beneficial features of the native Encuvati system of pedagogy was appropriated into the British teaching approach, and ‘undesirable’ features were deleted to ensure compatibility with ‘Christian values’ [15]. Once this process was complete, the source tradition of Ganita was expendable.

Step 3.the civilization that was thus mined gets depleted of its cultural and social capital because the appropriated elements are modified to fit the dominant civilization’s own history, and these elements are shown to be disconnected from, and even in conflict with, the source civilization“.

A. The credit for a re-engineered calculus was given to Newton/Leibniz and not Madhava and the Kerala School. We are taught the Pythagoras theorem and proof, not Baudhayana’s result and validation procedure. Fibonacci numbers, not Gopala-Hemachandra series. The IEEE journals recognize Arab numerals, not Hindu numbers, and so on. The list is long. In almost all these cases, the standard reason is that the Indians had not proved their results using the formal system devised by the west, even though each of these results were generated first by Ganita and also satisfactorily validated within the source tradition, often centuries earlier. The Ganita tradition was erased from the history of Mathematics.

B. On the other hand, the following types of claims are created:

  • Vedanga Jyotisha was full of astrology and religious mumbo-jumbo
  • Ganita was some kind of elite “Vedic Mathematics”
  • Hindu tradition was backward, caste-ridden, superstitious and incapable of producing such advanced scientific results.

Whereas, the exact opposite is true.

  • Vedanga Jyotisha is the science of time-keeping, and “the entire Jyotisa does not have a single sentence relating to astrology or prophecy” [1], whereas the main goal of European calendar reform was to advance the cause of organized religion [1]
  • Ganita was pragmatic and accessible to ordinary Indians including vegetable vendors who taught the greatest Arab scholar of their time [14], while today’s formal Mathematics is indeed the preserve of an elite few [1].
  • Hinduphobia is rampant in the Humanities departments of Western universities, which is subsequently exported to Indian universities, even as the digestion of Hindu science and technology results continues unabated [16].

Step 4. The final result is catastrophic for the source civilization: “the depleted civilization enters the proverbial museum as yet another dead culture, ceasing to pose a threat to the dominant one. After being digested, what is left of a civilization is waste material to be removed and destroyed.”  A mathematical monoculture was imposed on India during the colonial era after uprooting the ‘beautiful tree‘, India’s indigenous decentralized education system whose Ganita curriculum was sensitive to local requirements. Few students and teachers in Indian schools and universities today are aware of the source Ganita tradition. Among those who recognize the word,  few realize it is not an Indian neologism for Mathematics. Is this not an instance of cultural genocide?

How can we protect and revive the authentic and practical Ganita tradition that was the head of all the Indian sciences? To do this, we must identify the nature of the civilizational ‘Poison Pills’ within Ganita.

Civilizational Poison Pills

Rajiv Malhotra introduced the idea of civilizational poison pills from an Indian perspective in ‘Indra’s Net’. [13]. “Poison pills are those elements or tenets that cannot be digested into the DNA of a predator, because consuming them would lead to the destruction of the predator’s constitution. If a predator absorbs such an element, it will mutate so profoundly that it will lose its original identity and qualities.”  We now try to identify the poison pill in Ganita that needs to be preserved.

Ganita’s Poison Pill

The Indians achieved a smart reduction in uncertainty in calculations to a contextually admissible level, instead of beating themselves up trying to attain complete certainty. Ganita and Vedic thought recognizes that human understanding of the cosmos is never fully complete. In [4], the Indian and western mindset is compared thus: “Indians indeed find it natural to engage in non-linear thinking, juxtaposing opposites and tackling complexities that cannot be reduced to simple concepts or terms. They may be said even to thrive on ambiguity, doubt, uncertainty, multitasking, and in the absence of centralized authority and normative codes. Westerners, by contrast, tend by and large to be fearful of unpredictable or decentralized situations. They regard these situations as problems to be fixed. As we shall see, there is in fact some scholarly evidence that demonstrates this view of Western attitudes.” For a mindset that revels in perfection, this element of uncertainty that was acceptable within Ganita is a poison pill. This anxiety was evident in all stakeholders in Europe during the Ganita-Math encounters.

Western Fear of Uncertainty

Practically every Western point of view from the ultra-secular, to the religious during the Ganita-Math encounters was in conflict with Ganita’s poison pill:

  • In the abacus-algorismus battle, Ganita’s idea of ‘one manifesting as many’ in its place value system and the way it managed non-representability was suspect, given the scope for ‘chaos’ and ‘fraud’.
  • For a reasoning mind like Descartes, measuring the ratio of curved to straight lines involved an irreducible uncertainty, an understanding of which was beyond the human mind. This gave rise to the term ‘irrational numbers’ [1]. Not surprisingly, he rejected the idea of infinitesimals too.
  • Philosopher Thomas Hobbes was no friend of the Jesuits. But he too found the absolute, perfect order found in Euclidean geometry was its most appealing aspect and reflected his own perspective. As noted in [12] “in their deep structure, the Jesuit papal kingdom and the Hobbesian commonwealth are strikingly similar. Both are hierarchical, absolutist states where the will of the ruler, whether Pope or Leviathan, is the law.”
  • The Jesuits, Protestants, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicans, and a vast majority of Christian sects may have disagreed on some theological points, but all subscribed to the history-centric truth claims of the Nicene Creed [4]. At least three aspects of Mathematics would’ve appealed to them:
    • Calendar and time-keeping helped preserve history centric dogma and reestablish the importance of clergy.
    • The top-down, hierarchical perfect Eucliean order.
    • Proving theorems without need for empirical demonstration. History-centric Christianity treats the body as a vessel of original sin. Embodied knowing is problematic for this mindset.
  • Pioneer Jesuat monk Cavalieri underwent an inner struggle [12] after ingesting this poison pill, and all but disowned his Ganita-based idea of ‘indivisibles’.
  • Scientists who championed the cause of the infinitesimals, and their successors could never come to grips either. The Tagore-Einstein conversation is a good example. As mentioned in [4] “Not even Einstein was able to reconcile himself to the uncertainty inherent in quantum mechanics, prompting him to remark: ‘God does not play dice with the universe.’ But Shiva and Parvati, the Hindu cosmic couple, do happily play dice. Indian philosophy is receptive to the uncertainty theories of physics.

See Article 

However this poison pill does not negatively impact the Indian mindset. Why? Our Ganita Post discusses in detail, but we briefly summarize here for the sake of completion.

Ganita’s Comfort in Dealing with Uncertainty

The Indians were comfortable working with contextually accurate estimates for non-quantities like √2 and π, recognizing that the result could be improved upon.  Hindu society has no central authority that could ban innovation or the exploration of the realms of uncertainty. Its decentralized structure produced independent thinkers and innovators in every era. Dharma systems have built-in safeguards against Hobbesian/Church absolutism. As Rajiv Malhotra explains in [4] “Chaos is entrenched in the Vedas, the Puranas and Hinduism in general for a reason: its role is to counterbalance and dilute any absolutist tendencies as well as provide creative dynamism through ambiguity and uncertainty.” Ganita inherits all these features, and must retain all these properties for best results.

The inevitability of uncertainty was no cause for panic. It even opened up a degree of freedom for (dharmic, ethical) optimization using Yukti.  This comfort with uncertainty is visible right through Ganita’s storied history from Paanini‘s Ashtadhyayi before the common era, to the Aryabhatiya in the 5th century C.E, within the calculus results of Madhava in the 14th century, to Ramanujan in the 20th century. This perspective placed the Indian creation of all its algorithms, interpolations, calculus, etc. on solid epistemological ground. Let’s look at the Aryabhatiya, as an example.

Aryabhata‘s R-sine difference table shown below required an algorithmic package that managed uncertainty every step of the way in a transparent manner: one method for estimating square-roots, another for interpolation, and yet another non-mechanical exception step to generate an optimal final estimate for each value in the table. The Kerala Ganita experts extended such prior work to infinite series, including their own innovative exception terms [1].

Source: Indian lecture series on Mathematics [14]

Western mathematicians who reviewed Ramanujan’s notes found that he often used the terms “nearly” and “very nearly”[10]. Ramanujan came up with clever, non-mechanical approximations for specific quantities like π. Some of his approximations eventually lead to exact results. His exact infinite series for π triggered the most dramatic leap in accuracy since Madhava [14]. Some examples of his approximations are shown below [10].

ramanujan-1

ramanujan-1

The Indian approach seeks balance between chaos and order [4] and represents a dharmic optimization under uncertainty.

Eliminating uncertainty and deleting Yukti, Upapatti, and Pramana from Ganita to digest it, drains it of key features that make it a powerful and reliable approach for solving real-life problems. Furthermore, lack of Pramana can lead to pseudo-science and fraud, as we will see shortly. Preserving these features within an Indian approach to Mathematics has the twin benefits of recovering pragmatism and making the subject understandable and usable by everyone. It protects against further digestion and denigration of the source tradition.

Finally, How can Ganita preserve this poison pill while continuing to retain its open architecture [13] and confidently exchange knowledge with other cultures?

The need of the hour is a thorough and systematic purva paksha of Mathematics and Modern Science, employing an Indian lens.

We don’t have to be a Manjul Bhargava to experience some differences between Ganita and Math.  We can simply try out the basic instruments employed within each subject.

Indian Rope vs Euclidean Geometry Box

One of C.K. Raju’s most important contributions is his cogent argument for a fundamental change in the way math is taught in Indian schools and colleges.

Source: fastudent.com

The rope is a key entity in Ganita and the Darshanas. A fundamental feature of the rope is its flexibility, reflecting the idea of ‘one manifesting as many’. The night-time confusion between a rope and a snake is an example that has been used Dharmic seekers to communicate the deep ideas about the nature of ultimate reality.

Source: Library of Congress

The knotted rope is a critical component of the ancient Indian navigational instrument known as the rapalagai  or kamal [1]. The ‘Sulba’ in the Sulba Sutras means ‘cord/string/rope’, and the rope served as a measuring tool since ancient times. Consequently, as C.K. Raju notes, the circumference can be the independent quantity measured quite naturally using a rope, with the straight line radius derived from this. A mathematical mind measures the straight line (Euclidean distance) first. A geometry box consists of an assortment of rigid straight-edged tools, and each one is used for a specific operation.

source: Indian Mathematics Lecture Series [14]
A knotted string can measured curved lines. When it is stretched taut between pins, it becomes a straight line, and with one of the pins freed, it behaves like a compass. This strings-and-pins set can be used to construct squares, rectangles, circles, etc, i.e., its flexibility reproduces the functionality of an expensive geometry box at a fraction of the cost. It unlocks the creativity of Ganita and is available even to the poorest student.

Indian Nyaya versus Aristotelian Logic

From the Indian point of view, two-valued (Aristotelian) logic can play a supporting role (e.g. like tarka [22]) but does not enable a person to attain a higher level of consciousness [4]. Note that such reductive logic is different from the holistic logic of Nyaya, which accepts multiple pramanas. In fact, no major school of Indian thought directly mentions deductive logic as pramana [22]. On the other hand, all major Indian schools of thought accept pratyaksha pramana, which in rejected by Mathematics [1]. Misusing two-valued logic (that has no place for uncertainty) as pramana negates Ganita’s poison pill.

Mathematics in India Today

The  current approach to teaching mathematics in India appears to be a stressful  and boring mixture of bits-and-pieces of Ganita mashed up with partially understood formal Mathematics imported from the west. This digested teaching approach has been successful in confounding multiple generations of Indian students. The modern rote/mechanical mode is a distortion of the original approach of recollective memory, which was a distinct mode of learning that cultivated the amazing computational (Ganita) abilities of the Indians [15].

Repeat after me:

“An acre is the area of a rectangle

whose length is one furlong

and whose width is one chain” – Pink Floyd, The Wall.

The 2016 Hindi movie ‘Nil Battey Sannata’ (~ 0/0) dramatizes this state of confusion. The movie claims that Math is a natural enemy of girls (“Ladkiyon ko Maths se purani dushmani hain“). While this may or may not be true,  the daughters of Lilavati  should not experience any difficulty with Ganita. For the great Shakuntala Devi, Ganita was a bandhu, not an enemy. The sophisticated Ganita within Kolam designs attests to the embodied learning capability within women. Let us also not forget the women engineers of ISRO who mastered the Ganita of rockets and spacecraft (yes, Ganita’s calculus without limits can do this well [1]).

ISRO staff celebrating ‘Mangalyaan’ success. credit: www.aniruddhafriend-samirsinh.com

The intrepid mother in the movie tells her daughter that “maths yaad karne ki nahi, samajne ki cheez hai“, while the maths-savvy classmate advises: “ek baar maths se dosti karke dekho, usse majhedaar aur kuch nahi“. A key scene in the movie shows everyday, familiar objects from real life being used to convey this ‘samaj’ – clearly a Ganita rather than an Euclidean solution to an Indian problem [15].

In formal math, even something as simple as a point (Bindu) gets hairy. (Euclid: A point is that which has no part, then graduate to this).  A blind import of western approaches into the Indian classroom without subjecting it to a thorough purva paksha,  is a folly not just restricted to Ganita, but one that been repeated in different areas of study including social sciences, economics, religion, art, etc. The net result is years of misery for most Indian students followed by a trip to the west to get it straight from the horse’s mouth. S. Gurumurthy has repeatedly noted the negative impact and the poor track record of such a reductive mathematics in solving practical problems in the Indian economic context.  We close with a discussion on contemporary mathematics and the way forward.

The Needham Question
"With the appearance on the scene of intensive studies of mathematics, science,  technology and medicine in the great non-European civilisations, debate is likely to sharpen, for the failure of China and India to give rise to distinctively modern science while being ahead of Europe for fourteen previous centuries is going to take some explaining” - Joseph Needham.

Many Indian scholars have attempted to answer this complex question. However, virtually all of these responses that try to provide social/religious explanations offer little insight due to a shallow understanding of dharma and Ganita traditions, and the inability to do a systematic Purva Paksha of the western approach using an Indian lens. We quickly summarize three perspectives below noting that we are only scratching the surface here.

A. Several centuries of foreign occupation

This occupation of India ranked among the worst and longest-running genocides in history and was characterized by violence that specifically the Indian intellectuals. Such a strategy is likely to have taken a heavy toll on Indian R&D output and institutions. When there was a sustained break from this violence, e.g., the time period of  the Vijayanagara empire,  we observe that Ganita, Ayurveda, astronomy, and other sciences achieved significant progress.

B. Civilizational inertia: complacency or weariness?

The sharpest debates in India occurred internally, between the various darshanas, which may have shifted the focus away from the study of external cultures entering India. There appears to be no evidence of a thorough study of the axiomatic approach from a native perspective. The Indians may have identified the lack of integral unity in the western approach and rejected it without any further examination of possible useful features.  CK Raju notes in [1] that it was only in the 18th century that India got the Elements translated from Persian into Sanskrit (by Jai Singh). This lack of a systematic Purva Paksha is not limited to Ganita alone but is also seen in many other areas, as pointed out by Rajiv Malhotra [16], suggesting an overly inward focus, careless disunity against an external threat, and a lack of strategic thinking.

C. The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics

Roddam Narasimha’s analysis examines a question complementary to Needham’s: what are the reasons for a sudden European resurgence after 1400+ years of backwardness in science and technology? He cites a key reason for their resurgence in the 17th century: the mathematization of science. Galileo is his study of the motion of falling bodies, used the calculus (via Cavalieri) to came up with the ‘law of the parabolic fall’. This is considered the first ever quantitative representation of motion using mathematical equations [12].  Scientists thereafter began to develop effective quantitative models relating different physical quantities like velocity, momentum, etc. using abstract models and calculus.Newton titled his famous scientific work as ‘Principia Mathematica‘. These mathematical models, however ‘wrong’ they may be, helped in new discoveries.

Indian Ganita experts too may not have anticipated this unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics when they rejected it for centuries. Narasimha summarizes this in [17]:  “Modern science seems to have acquired, perhaps by fortunate accident, the property that the great Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna called prapakatva: i.e., it delivers what it promises; it may not be the Truth, but it is honest“.

The Road Ahead

Ganita, in the more recent interactions with modern science and math has made positive contributions, e.g., Satyendranath Bose and Narendra Karmarkar. The Bose-Einstein statistics comes out of counting exercise and is a significant contribution to Quantum Mechanics[17]. Karmarkar is famous for inventing the first practically effective algorithm for solving linear programs that is also theoretically efficient. Karmarkar’s proof of convergence demonstrates Yukti in gradually reducing the level of uncertainty in the solution quality in way that is both practically viable, and theoretically rigorous (a teeny bit of uncertainty remains in the end but it can be safely ignored).  Clearly, interacting with and exchanging ideas with other cultures can be beneficial, provided it is done with eyes wide open.  Scientists and applied mathematicians today employ a variety of different methods, including deduction, induction, inference, etc., along with empirical validation, etc., to come up with new findings and inventions.

Per Roddam Narasimha, the Indians paid a price for rejecting the axiomatic approach, but their stance was vindicated later by the 20th century developments in Quantum/Classical Mechanics and Logic [17].  Furthermore, modern science is being increasingly plagued by a variety of harmful ‘viruses’ that would not affect a ‘Ganita OS’.

Unreasonable expectations from Mathematics

The mathematization of science has succeeded, but only when the order it brings is honestly balanced by the reality check of an unpredictable nature.  The unbalanced mathematization of economics has resulted in a series of spectacular failures when applied in real life. Indian thinkers like S. Gurumurthy have studied these economic models in depth, and opted for a balanced Ganita-like method, bringing in empirical validation and Yukti to determine practical solutions anchored in Indian reality. Western social science, which mimics the axiomatic approach is degenerating into a self-serving pseudo-science that offers little insight. A sizable proportion of results published in modern scientific journals are not reproducibleThis highly cited 2005 article discusses the implications.  And then there is the issue of fraud that is peculiar to the western modeling approach based on Aristotelian logic.

Falling for Supermodels
Without+photoshop+_305e904f954ae7c6b82bd7893278408d
Source: funnyjunk.com

Supermodels sell an advertising pitch, not reality. Yet the temptation of falling for the perfection of abstract math models and ignoring the uncertainty of the real world can be too strong. As [17] notes: “The history of Western science is shot through with the idea of theories and models and of fraud. Ptolemy himself has been accused of fraud; so in more recent times have Galileo, Newton, Mendel, Millikan and a great variety of other less well-known figures. I believe the reason for this can be traced to faith in two-valued logic.” All models approximate reality. When this gap gets too wide, it makes sense to reject that model. However, it is tempting to reject reality in favor of a pet model or preferred hypothesis by cherry-picking data, fudging results, or tweaking the model in ‘creative’ ways to ‘make’ it work (e.g. some ‘AIT’ models in the Indian context).

Ganita does not suffer from this issue. Why? As noted in [17] that when “observation is the starting point and one has no great faith in any particular physical model, which was the prevailing norm of Indian scientific thought, the question of fraud does not arise. Indian scientists, even classical ones, do not appear to have accused each other of fraud. This could not have been mere politeness, as they did make charges of ignorance or even stupidity against each other (as Brahmagupta did on Aryabhata, for example). We could say that fraud is the besetting sin of a model-making scientific culture“.

Synthetic unity has its advantages and has revolutionized modern science, but progress based on Integral unity is more sustainable.

Some western scientists and mathematicians may have sensed this lack of Pramana. Poincare explored the role of intuition and inference in his candid 1905 essay [18]. We even get a hint of integral unity here. Albert Einstein was aware of the limitations of Math when he noted “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.” Contemporary mathematician Terrence Tao recognizes that there is more to mathematics than just rigor and proof [19]. Thus, we see a limited move by Math toward the Ganita position while remaining firmly grounded in its native western tradition. Ganita can reciprocate in mutual respect, anchored in its own epistemology. We conclude with an informal discussion on emerging technologies.

Digestion by Machine: Math versus Ganita

Ganita is well-suited for this era of decentralized internet, analytics, big data, and digital computing which is algorithm driven. The emerging world of Artificial Intelligence is also very interesting. We touched upon AI citing an important observation of Subhash Kak [20] in our post on Ganita. As AI becomes highly sophisticated, it will be able to automate many human capabilities. It may eventually master the axiomatic approach and digest the Euclidean mathematician.

On the other hand the Indian approach to knowledge is rooted in the correspondence principle of Bandhu. Potential fallibility is acknowledged. Machines cannot replicate embodied knowing since they lack Bandhus, and they will not have the ability to attain a higher state of consciousness. For example, machines cannot chant mantras. Next, this ‘Euclidean’ robot will be able to master scriptures, and emulate all text-prescribed functionality of a cleric. It can function as a virtual holy establishment by delivering impeccable discourses. It will become an expert of theology by encoding history-centric truth claims as axioms and applying two-valued logic. However, it cannot become a Yogi.  Learning Ganita and internalizing the Dharmic worldview offers job security in the world of robots!  India can lead the way forward by carefully reintegrating useful features of modern science and math into its Vedic framework [21].

References:
  1. Cultural foundations of mathematics: the nature of mathematical proof and the transmission of the calculus from India to Europe in the 16th c. CE, C. K. Raju. Pearson Longman, 2007.
  2. Plato on Mathematics. MacTutor History of Mathematics archive. 2007.
  3. Plato’s Theory of Recollection. Uploaded by Lorenzo Colombani. Academia.edu. 2013.
  4. Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism. Rajiv Malhotra. Harper Collins. 2011.
  5. Axiomatism and Computational Positivism: Two Mathematical Cultures in Pursuit of Exact Sciences. Roddam Narasimha. Reprinted from Economic and Political Weekly, 2003.
  6. Use and Misues of Logic. Donald Simanek. 1997.
  7. Computers, mathematics education, and the alternative epistemology of the calculus in the Yuktibhasa. C. K. Raju. 2001.
  8.  American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation How Indian Spirituality Changed the West. Phil Goldberg. Random House LLC. 2010.
  9. Logic in Indian Thought. Subhash Kak.
  10. Ramanujan’s Notebooks. Bruce Berndt. Mathematics Magazine (51). 1978.
  11. C. K. Raju. Teaching mathematics with a different philosophy. Part 2: Calculus without Limits. 2013.
  12. Infinitesimal: How a Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World. Amir Alexander. Farrar, Straus and Giroux reprint / Scientific American. 2014.
  13. Indra’s Net: Defending Hinduism’s Philosophical Unity. Rajiv Malhotra. Harper Collins. 2011
  14. Mathematics in India – From Vedic Period to Modern Times: Video Lecture Series, by M. D. Srinivas. K. Ramasubramaniam, M. S. Sriram. 2013.
  15. Mathematics Education in India: Status and Outlook. Editors: R. Ramanujam, K. Subramaniam. Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, TIFR. 2012.
  16. The Battle For Sanskrit. Rajiv Malhotra. Harper Collins. 2016.
  17. Some thoughts on the Indian half of Needham question: Axioms, models and algorithms. Roddam Narasimha. Infinity Foundation. 2002.
  18. Intuition and Logic in Mathematics. English Translation of Essay by Henri Poincaré. 1905.
  19. The Pragnya Sutra: Aphorisms of Intuition. Subhash Kak. Baton Rouge, 2006.
  20. There’s more to mathematics than rigour and proofs. Terence Tao. 2009.
  21. Vedic Framework And Modern Science. Rajiv Malhotra. Swarajya Magazine. 2015.
  22. Epistemology and Language in Indian Astronomy and Mathematics. Roddam Narasimha. Journal of Indian Philosophy, 2007.
  23. The Math Page. Plane Geometry: An Adventure in Language and Logic based on
    Euclid’s Elements. Lawrence Spector, 2016.
  24. Continuity and Infinitesimals. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2005, substantive revision 2013.
  25. The Indian Origins of the Calculus and its Transmission to Europe Prior to Newton and Leibniz. Part II: Lessons for Mathematics Education. C. K. Raju, 2005.
  26. Why Write: Legos, Power, and Control.  F. D. Poston. Johns Hopkins School of Education.
  27. Indo-Portuguese Encounters: Journeys in Science, Technology, and Culture. Edited by Lokita Varadarajan. Indian National Science Academy. 2006.
  28. The Kerala School, European Mathematics and Navigation. D. P. Agarwal. Infinity Foundation Mandala website.
Acknowledgments: I'm deeply grateful to the ICP blogger and editor for their constructive comments, review, and feedback.

An Indic Perspective to Mathematics — 2

This is the Second in a Set of Posts as a follow up to our ‘Introduction to Ganita’.


AlgorithmGanita
Source: IIT Lecture Series on Indian Mathematics [14]
This Set of Posts on the Indic Perspective to Mathematics is the third installment of our continuing Series on Ganita.  Our first article in the Series celebrated Srinivasa Ramanujan. The Second provided an Introduction to Ganita. Emphases within quotes are ours.

Topic Outline

Part 1: (Introduction) 

In Part 1 of this Set of Posts on the Indic Perspective to Mathematics, we provided a background on the historical paradigms that drive the engines of Ganita and Western Mathematics respectively.

Part 2: (below) Ganita-Math Encounters. Ganita and Math came face-to-face when Indian Algorithms and Calculus traveled to Europe to help solve two critical problems: calculating with big numbers and managing the infinitely small. In a tense battle, Ganita’s balance of order and chaos prevails over the top-down Euclidean order backed by the church. We become aware of the massive contribution of the Vijayanagara empire to modern science.

Part 3: We adopt an Indic civilizational perspective of the Math-Ganita encounters. This gives rise to  interesting questions like ‘What was lost when Mathematics digested Ganita?’. We also look ahead, exploring the importance of Ganita and its Indian approach in a futuristic world.

Ganita-Mathematics Encounters
Experts have their expert fun
ex cathedra 
telling one 
just how nothing can be done. - Piet Hein.

In the Introduction to this Set of Posts, we studied the Greek origins of ‘Mathematics’. The abstract nature of Mathematics resulted in a drastically reduced practical output and Europe plunged into a 1000+ year dark era. During this period, Ganita contributions from Dharma thought systems helped keep math practically relevant in other parts of the world, right up to the 17-18th century CE. In particular, this injection of Ganita helped resolve two Math crises in Europe [1]. For the purpose of this post, we oversimplify and classify these problems as the ‘big’, and ‘small’ number’ crises. By helping resolve these crises, Ganita played a leading role in the birth and progress of modern science.

Big Number Crisis (Abacus vs Algorismus)

Here is example of a 10-digit Hindu number and its Roman numeral representation.

large numbers
credit: http://forbrains.co.uk/free_online_tools/convert_to_roman_numerals

There are several such websites that allow us to perform this conversion and three aspects stand out. First is the reference to ‘Arab numbers‘ in many sites. Second, is a maximum limit on the input. Third, ‘0’ or negative numbers are not valid input. The idea of ‘Arab numbers’ is of course, deep-rooted in the western STEM community to this day (IEEE journal publication guidelines still refer erroneously to ‘Arabic numerals’) since a large body of Ganita knowledge made it to the west via Arab translations of Sanskrit works. As can be gauged from the conversion tool, the Roman system is cumbersome for doing actual calculations. Its representation is additive in nature and there is no place value for zero, and the idea that placing a ‘0’ after a number would increase its value was befuddling. The west relied on the abacus / counting board, which was adequate for simple arithmetic calculations (the Indians did most of their routine arithmetic mentally). The introduction of ‘algorismus’ from India via Arab sources  around the 11th-12th century CE provided the merchants of Florence with an incredibly advanced way of quickly and accurately performing all kinds of numerical calculations [1].

Although traders found it to be practically useful, resistance to the alien method was stiff and it was several centuries (16th century) before the Hindu system gained unanimous acceptance. Well, almost. The British treasury preferred to place their money in the ‘secure’ hands of the abacus and held out until the 17th century [1].  By that time, the second math crisis in Europe was well underway.

Source: wikimedia.org.

Smiling Boetius‘ works with Hindu numerals to prevail over his opponent, Pythagoras, who is sadly stuck with a counting board abacus. This depiction of the victory of ‘algorismus’ is on the cover of Gregor Reisch’s Margarita Philosophica (1508) [1].

Aside from the suspicion of an Arab source in a crusading world, a technical reason for the distrust appears to be Ganita’s approximation techniques combined with the fear of zeroes being added to make sums bigger. To a mind accustomed to the perfection of Euclidean math, not even the tiniest quantity could be discarded. Such unacceptable imperfections could open the door to fraud and chaos [1]. The Indian approach, since the Sulba Sutras, recognized the non-representability of certain quantities (e.g. √2) and employed pragmatic and epistemologically secure approximation methods without anxiety, in order to reduce uncertainty (round-off error) to within an acceptable level [1]. ‘Algorismus’ was absorbed into European practice in order to resolve real-life calculations, but not the underlying pramana and empirical rationale (e.g. upapatti).  Why?

Small Number crisis (Infinitesimals and the Indian Origin of Calculus)

The Indian Background Story

Source: HaindavaKeralam| Zenith of Vijayanagara Empire
Brothers Harihara and Bukka, with the blessings of Rishi Vidyaranya, laid the foundation for one of the most important empires in Indian and world history in 1336 CE. In particular, the global scientific community owes the Vijayanagara empire a debt of gratitude.

While most regions of 14th century India reeled from the attack of fundamentalist invaders who had already destroyed India’s top universities and institutions, the Vijayanagara Empire became an oasis that protected and nurtured the Dharma. In particular, a school of Ganita was etablished in Kerala thanks to the prosperity and security enjoyed by the region during the Vijayanagara period, between the 14th and 16th century CE. An important member of this Ganita tradition was Madhava of Sangamagrama (~1350-1425 CE). This school produced a illustrious line of scholars who were the genuine adhyatmic and intellectual successors of Aryabhata, Bhaskara, and other great seekers. A major part of the foundation for modern science was laid by the Kerala school and the Ganita tradition they carried forward.

Recall that Aryabhata had already come up with finite difference equations for interpolation by 499 CE to generate fine-grained sine values. His practical approach essentially translates into Euler’s  18th century method for solving ordinary differential equations (ODEs). These results were subsequently improved upon by Brahmagupta (his second order interpolation result is known as ‘Stirling’s Interpolation Formula‘ today),  Bhaskara-2, and others [1]. Today, Indians are familiar with the phrase ‘Tatkal booking’ of train tickets. The ancient Ganita experts had developed algorithms  to calculate the Tatkalika gati of planets, their instantaneous velocity (an important quantity in Newtonian physics), as shown below.

Source: Lecture Series on Indian Mathematics [14]

We can observe a continual progress in India toward calculus, right from Aryabhata [1]. For all practical purposes, the Ganita school in Kerala during the Vijayanagara period can rightfully claim to be the developers of Calculus (from a formal mathematics perspective, western historians credit them for ‘pre calculus’). C.K. Raju has demonstrated the all-around practical viability of this epistemologically secure calculus without the use of ‘limits’ [11].

Madhava gave the world some beautiful and important results in infinite series by 1375 CE, centuries before Newton/Leibniz/Gregory/Taylor/McLaurin & Co.

madhava_collage
Source: Indian Mathematics, An Overview (https://youtu.be/p2WankcGP3Q)

In the derivation of these calculus results we can observe a smart management of the non-representability of infinitesimals based on order counting, along with a judiciously chosen exceptional / end-correction term (right side of the picture above). This is a really cool and important innovation that serves twin purposes, as explained by C. K. Raju below [1].

correction_term

There are many other novel ideas and instances of such Yukti within the Indian approach.  The interested reader can refer to [1] for a detailed description of the techniques employed.

It is worth comparing the meaningful Sanskrit non-translatable abhiyukti (expressing, or translating one’s Yukti in action) to its nearest English counterpart ‘algorithm’. The latter from the Latin ‘algorismus’, which in turn came from Al-khwarizmi who had translated Sanskrit texts of Ganita (see the picture at the top of this post). Jyesthadeva published the Ganita Yuktibhasa around 1530 CE in Malayalam, which provides the detailed mathematical rationale validating the Calculus results[1].

Why was Calculus Important to India?

Madhava’s infinite series with end-correction terms, allowed him to quickly calculate estimates for trigonometric values and π (pi) to very high levels of accuracy. For example, Madhava was able to calculate π to 11 decimal places, which represents both a quantitative, and methodological leap over prior brute-force type approaches (the next such dramatic leap was also due to Ganita, via Ramanujan) [14].  A natural follow-up question is: why were precise trigonometric values useful? Isn’t calculating π to many decimal places purely an academic exercise?  We summarize the reasons below, referring the interested reader to [1] for a detailed description.

Agriculture and Trade were key contributors to an Indian economy that played a dominant role on the world stage from 0 CE (and earlier) through 1750 CE.

Agriculture
  1. Krishi was and is a dominant component of the Indian economy. It was (and still is) dependent on a successful rainy season, which means that accurately calculating the arrival time of monsoons is important. A couple of weeks ago, the Indian government announced a $60M supercomputer project to better predict monsoons.
  2. Vedanga Jyotisha is primarily a science of time keeping that has numerous applications and has been recognized by researchers as a key source of knowledge in the ancient world [1]. It enabled the Indians to maintain an accurate calendar. Thus, from a Krishi perspective, the Ganita of Jyotisha acted as a decision support system for planning and scheduling key agricultural activities.
  3. The Indian calendar date and time was calculated with respect to the prime meridian at Ujjain (long before Greenwich), which was then re-calibrated to obtain local times at locations all over Bharatvarsha that covered a vast area (ancient India was united by time too!). This local re-calibration:
    • ⇒ required the calculation of the local latitude and longitude (lat-long)
    • ⇒ which (in the Indian approach) used the size of Earth as input
    • ⇒ this required a value for π
    • ⇒ trigonometric values were also needed for lat-long calculations
    • Precise numerical values were required since tiny errors get magnified after multiplication by big numbers (in the order of the Earth’s radius). Thanks to the Ganita tradition, the Indians had access to good estimates that were continuously improved upon.
ujjainmeridian
Source: builtheritageconservation| The Ujjain Meridian
Overseas Trade

India has a culture of calculation and embodied knowing that goes back thousands of years. Many ordinary Indians even today take pride in their ability to think and calculate on their feet, or pull off some Jugaad without the aid of electronic devices. The pattern-seeking Indian nature is visible in their traditional approach to navigation, reflecting an ability to discover sufficient order even within an ocean of chaos. The metaphor of the Samudra Manthana truly comes alive here.

  1. India, thanks to its manufacturing and technological prowess, had established lucrative trading relationships as a net exporter with several countries, from ancient Rome to the far east. Much was this was done through open sea routes, and not just sailing close to the coast [1].
  2. Prior to the 11th century CE, accumulated navigational knowledge included seasonal wind patterns (‘wind lore’), nature of ocean currents (‘current lore’), etc., and the empirical wisdom of sea-craft. The ancient Tamizh seafarers made use of the Saptharishi mandalam (Ursa Majorin the southern hemisphere. This database of seafaring wisdom and best practices were preserved, improved upon, and transmitted from generation to generation via the oral traditions of the seafaring Jatis [27].
  3. Thus, the Indian sailors had already established a tradition of navigation and deep sea voyage without written charts (they rejected the method of dead reckoning‘ in order to stay alive). Their approach included an empirical understanding of ocean patterns, Ganita, and instrumentation like the rapalagai (kamal) for celestial observations. Tamizh navigators deciphered currents using a simple device known as mitappu palagai [27].
  4. Such historical data further debunks the theory that oral traditions were ‘pre-rational’ and the sole preserve of Vedic scholars. Hinduphobic Indologists like Sheldon Pollock are dismissive of such priceless oral traditions [16]. The western universal idea of history begins with written text and it is tough for this mindset to imagine open-sea navigation without written charts.
  5. Accurately determining the local lat-long using celestial observations (solar altitude at noon, pole star at night, etc.) was part of this approach.
  6. More reliable navigation in the open seas is possible if the 3L: latitude, longitude, and loxodrome can be accurately obtained for any given location. These were indeed calculated in multiple ways by the Indians using trigonometric values [1].
chola sea route pic
Source: Indo-Portuguese Encounters [27] | Chola Sea Route
Continual Progress in Calculating Accurate Trigonometric Values
  1. Aryabhata’s astounding publication of his R-sine difference table along with an interpolation method stepped away from the geometrical approach that was employed until then [1]. The Aryabhatiya was a prized intellectual property of its time. It significantly improved the accuracy of trigonometric values (given the sine value of an angle, one can use elementary identities to calculate all other trig values).
  2. Aryabhata’s work paved the way for Calculus. Over the next 1000 years, the Indians steadily improved upon prior estimates.
  3. Calculus was a natural outcome of this process of deriving ever more accurate trigonometric values. The Kerala school’s calculus extended the finite series based trigonometric results to a highly accurate infinite series based approach.

We refer the reader to this essay [28] by D.P. Agarwal for his summary of the Kerala School, European Mathematics, and Navigation. It is highly likely that this Ganita knowledge traveled to Europe via European missionaries in Kerala and played a key part in revolutionizing physics and mechanics via Newton’s Principia Mathematica and other works.  This story serves as background for the question: why did the idea of ‘infinitesimals’ which was a non-issue in the Ganita world, spark a crisis in Europe?

The European Background Story

Ancient Greek math hit a roadblock after encountering paradoxes tied to infinitely small quantities. Mathematics could not deal with the irritating uncertainty around infinitesimals and the problem of non-representability: For example, an infinite number of threads of minuscule but nonzero length, joined end-to-end should yield an infinitely long thread. On the other hand, combining even an infinite number of threads of ‘zero’ length would only yield zero. Aristotle believed that continuum could be divided endlessly and could not be made up of ‘indivisibles’.

A famous paradox (which used to be popular among those preparing for engineering school entrance exams in India) is that of Achilles and the Tortoise. Around 500 BCE,  Zeno of Elea came up with several such paradoxes that exposed the gaps in a seemingly perfect mathematics and two-valued logic. Unable to satisfactorily resolve such contradictions and deal with non-representability of certain quantities (a fundamental requirement for numerical calculations), Greek progress halted. The dark ages robbed the west of native expertise and appears to have hurt them in key areas including, but not limited to [1, 27]:

  • Astronomy, Navigation, Instrumentation
  • Calendrical Systems, Ship Building
  • Medicine and Botany

After more than a thousand years, between the 12th-16th century, we can observe the emergence of a new kind of Mathematics in Europe, which was fundamentally different in its epistemology from the Euclidean approach. This knowledge first arrived via Arab/Persian translations of Ganita works in Sanskrit, and later through Missionaries who had direct access to Ganita’s latest results in Sanskrit and local Indian languages. We kick off this discussion using the European calendar as a case study.

Trick question: What came after Thursday, October 4th, 1582 in Europe?

The answer is Friday, October 15th. The European (Julian) calendar was slow by about 11  minutes per year for about 1200 years across their dark age. Church and Biblical dogma reigned supreme from the time the Nicene creed was formalized in 325 CE. This dogma can be best understood as an instance of history-centrism [4], and a key to preserving the credibility of this ‘history’ of unique divine intervention is proper time keeping and dating of these events. This was a key motivation behind the European quest for a better calendar.

The Indians had maintained accurate calendars since ancient times thanks to Vedanga Jyotisha for use within multiple applications, and Buddhists even helped with calendars in China [1] (helping the Chinese is an old Indian habit…). The Roman Church realized in 1582 that their calendar was trailing the correct date by 11 whole days. This key project of calendar reform was taken up by Christopher Clavius (1538-1612 CE), a Jesuit priest. Thanks to his painstaking work, Pope Gregory was able to press the fast-forward button on the calendar (thereafter named after him), recommend a leap year correction, and the rest is history.

Milanese artist Camillo Rusconi’s sclupture, 18th century. Pope Gregory is on top of an urn depicting the 1582 promulgation of the Gregorian calendar. Source: http://vminko.org/ under GNU Free Documentation License 1.3.

C.K. Raju has uncovered the Indian source of this calendar bug fix [24, 1]: “Jesuits, like Matteo Ricci, who trained in mathematics and astronomy, under Clavius’ new syllabus [Ricci also visited Coimbra and learnt navigation], were sent to India. In a 1581 letter, Ricci explicitly acknowledged that he was trying to understand local methods of timekeeping from “an intelligent Brahmin or an honest Moor”, in the vicinity of Cochin, which was, then, the key centre for mathematics and astronomy, since the Vijaynagar empire had sheltered it from the continuous onslaughts of raiders from the north. Language was hardly a problem, for the Jesuits had established a substantial presence in India, had a college in Cochin, and had even started  printing presses in local languages, like Malayalam and Tamil by the 1570’s.“. The Jesuits have continued to exercise their influence on the Indian education system to this day. They also played a key role in the second Math-Ganita tussle.

Jesuit (Euclidean) Order versus Indian (Ganita) Chaos

The Jesuits are members of the Society of Jesus, an organization founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) and rooted in Roman Catholicism. Per [12] “In the broadest sense, imposing order on chaos was the Society’s core mission, both in its internal arrangements and in its engagement with the world.

Sir Peter Paul’s ‘The Miracles of Saint Ignatius of Loyola’ (Source: wikimedia.org)

This painting of Ignatius of Loyola is richly symbolic. It depicts the victory of a perfect top-down hierarchical order over chaos. Loyola and his back-robed Jesuits are in the middle, watched over by angels at the top. Loyola is calmly performing an exorcism, expelling the chaotic evil spirits possessing the bodies of terrified people at the bottom of the picture. [12] provides an insightful description of this picture, noting the role of the black robed Jesuits of Loyola’s Society of Jesus: “They are Ignatius’s army, there to learn from their master, follow his directions, and ultimately take over his mission of turning chaos into order and bringing peace to the afflicted. For that was indeed the “miracle” of St. Ignatius and his followers. Like no one else, they managed to restore peace and order in a land torn apart by the challenge of the Reformation.“.

The Church gained immensely via this decisive mathematical triumph of calendar reform, and Clavius who played an instrumental role, realized the benefits obtainable by investing in mathematics. This was a time period characterized by fissures and dissent in Christianity, with several alternatives and reformations (e.g., led by Calvin) cropping up that challenged the exclusive authority of the catholic church. In this climate, Clavius felt that the top-down hierarchical perfection within Euclidean geometry would be a great fit for the Jesuit curriculum, and in sync with the primary goal of their founder St. Ignatius of Loyola.

As mentioned in [12] “It was clear to Clavius that Euclid’s method had succeeded in doing precisely what the Jesuits were struggling so hard to accomplish: imposing a true, eternal, and unchallengeable order upon a seemingly chaotic reality. Just as Ganita was recognized as the foremost of the sciences in India since ancient times, Euclidean Mathematics became a most important subject in Europe after the calendar reform. The Society of Jesus embraced Math and all was well for a while. The focus had shifted to other pressing topics. For example, navigational challenges had to be overcome in order to ‘discover‘ reliable sea routes to new lands.

The Indivisibles

Calculus created a rather sudden splash into Europe within 50 years of the calendar reform [1]. By that time, the calculus, which was rooted in Indian epistemology had already been developed and studied for two centuries.  Bonaventura Cavilieri (1598-1647), a Milanese Jesuat monk and a student of Galileo was an early adopter. While the Jesuits were more like a MNC, the Jesuats were a local group of Italian monks lower in the pecking order. However, Galileo’s endorsement boosted Cavalieri’s profile significantly. Cavalieri introduced the ‘method of indivisibles’, in which “planes and solids had an indeterminate number of indivisibles” and authored the book Geometria indivisibilibus (Geometry by Way of Indivisibles) in 1635 [12].

While the idea of indivisibles was embraced by the Galileans, the Jesuits were not as welcoming. Those who worked with infinitesimal quantities did so for its practical value in generating realistic new results and could not really establish any logical consistency needed to prove infallible theorems. Unlike Euclid’s Elements which used top-down deductive logic to prove specific theorems from axioms, the use of infinitesimals required the ground-up Ganita approach: to start from physical reality and work toward generalized results, which could lead to innovation and potentially unpredictable discoveries. Clearly, Yukti was not welcomed by the church whereas Galileo’s methods were more compatible with Ganita.

Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642 CE)

Galileo had become a formidable opponent by that time. He had earlier discovered the moons around Jupiter, and as a prashasthi [16] to a rich grand duke who ruled Florence, named the moons after him and his family. In return, he was rewarded with benefits that included the post of ‘Chief Mathematician’ to the Duke in 1611, which also freed him up to pursue his work as an independent researcher. As [12] notes, “The Galileans also sought truth, but their approach was the reverse of that of the Jesuits: instead of imposing a unified order upon the world, they attempted to study the world as given, and to find the order within.” This started a conflict between the Galileans and the Jesuits.

For the church, the idea that matter could be broken down into infinitely small indivisible atoms was unacceptable. The archives of the Society of Jesus in Rome records for posterity the ruling of their leaders in 1632 on infinitesimals [12]:” Judgment on the Composition of the Continuum by Indivisibles”. …The permanent continuum can be constituted of only physical indivisibles or atomic corpuscles having mathematical parts identified with them. Therefore the said corpuscles can be actually distinguished from each other.” The church basically ducked the question of non-representability and banned the idea and the mathematical study of ‘indivisibles’.

Among the critics of these indivisibles was Thomas Hobbes, the philosopher author of the Leviathan, who deeply influenced Western thought. Hobbes was also an excellent mathematician and a devotee of the Euclidean approach. He was bitterly opposed in this battle of the infinitesimals by John Wallis of England, one of the founders of the Royal Society, the new science academy [12]. Wallis had little time for eternal proofs, and was firmly rooted in what we can unmistakably recognize as the pragmatic Ganita approach for solving real-life problems. Hobbes had tried in vain for several years to prove that he could ‘square the circle‘, and each attempt in this futile exercise was eagerly demolished by Wallis and exploited to the hilt in their public feud [12]. Eventually, Wallis’ team ‘won’ the contest (possibly in terms of cultural and scientific acceptance) and Newton came up with his famous work Principia Mathematica that relies heavily on calculus. Interested readers can refer to [12, 1] for a detailed discussion.

The Ghosts of Departed Quantities

It is worth noting some logical inconsistencies in the positions of both sides in this battle. The church was fighting to save their dogmatic belief in an infallible and orderly Euclidean math against a group injecting a practically useful but poorly-understood imported concept into this math. Every researcher seemed to have his own pet model showing how the math of the infinitely small worked.  In an important and devastating piece of satirical writing, Anglican church bishop Berkeley ridiculed the questionable fluxions of Newton, and Leibniz’s ‘infinitesimal change’ as “the ghosts of departed quantities”. CK Raju concludes (as do others) that this calculus was not on firm epistemological ground.

The European approach appeared to be mechanical and did not, for example, employ the end-correction terms that had helped keep Indian derivation transparent and anchored in a valid pramana [1]. Mathematicians could not accept, understand, or were unaware of the Ganita rationale behind the amazing calculus results derived by the Kerala School. For example, it is known that “Newton later became discontented with the undeniable presence of infinitesimals in his calculus, and dissatisfied with the dubious procedure of “neglecting” them” [24].  Mathematics was enhanced so that calculus was eventually placed on a firm formal foundation in the 20th century [1].

Transmission of Calculus from India to Europe

The etymology of ‘calculus‘ (17th century CE, Latin) relates to ‘reckoning’ and ‘accounting’. This focus is entirely empirical and on calculation, far away from the Euclidean world of theorems and proofs. On the other hand, it is directly corresponds in meaning, intent, and usage to Ganita. So far, research has uncovered three kinds of evidence linking Indian Calculus transmission to Europe: documentary, circumstantial, and epistemological. The interested reader is referred to [24, 1] for details. A primary, initial motivation for appropriating Ganita’s calculus results appears to be the practical problem of navigation: to obtain accurate trigonometric values required to calculate the 3L mentioned earlier [1].

A note in [24] on the circumstantial evidence is worth stating: “Unlike India, where the series expansions developed over a thousand-year period 499-1501 CE, they appear suddenly in fully developed form in a Europe still adjusting to grasp arithmetic and decimal fractions“. The 1400+ year discontinuity in the study of infinitesimals  in Europe was followed by a sudden upsurge in results in the 16th-17th century [12], right after Ganita’s documented achievements in Kerala and the establishment of European missions along the west coast. In fact, this was also a period when results from Ayurveda and Siddha began traveling to Europe giving birth to modern Botany, and similarly revolutionizing western medicine, health-care, and sanitation.

Epistemological Evidence

The epistemological evidence is fascinating to read [1]. A barrier in the western mindset as far as dealing with uncertainty manifests itself clearly in both the first and second math crises. As noted in [24]: “The European difficulty with zero did not concern merely the numeral zero, but related also to the process of discarding or zeroing a “non-representable” during the course of a calculation—similar to the process of rounding. Though the Indian method of summing the infinite series constituted valid pramana, it was not understood in Europe; the earlier difficulty with non-representables zeroed during a calculation reappeared in a new form. This was now seen as a new difficulty—the problem of discarding infinitesimals… In both cases of algorismus and calculus, Europeans were unable to reject the new mathematical techniques because of the tremendous practical value for calculations (required for commerce, navigation etc.), and unable also to accept them because they did not fit in the metaphysical frame of what Europeans then regarded as valid“.

Another instructive story (see page 3 of this essay), highlighting the outcome and unintentional humor caused by a borrow-copy-paste of Ganita without fully understanding its epistemology, is about how ‘sine’ and ‘cosine’ entered Europe. These mistranslated terms destroy the insight behind the original Sanskrit terms jya and kojya [1], baffling generations of Indian students studying Trigonometry.

To this day, neither organized religion and its theology, nor secular mathematicians, have been able to fully embrace the epistemology and validation procedure of Ganita. Why is this? And examining this question from the other direction, why did the Indians not take Euclidean math seriously for two thousand years? What is the future of Ganita? We study these civilizational perspectives in the third and concluding Post of this Set.

Selected References
  1. Cultural foundations of mathematics: the nature of mathematical proof and the transmission of the calculus from India to Europe in the 16th c. CE, C. K. Raju. Pearson Longman, 2007.
  2. Plato on Mathematics. MacTutor History of Mathematics archive. 2007.
  3. Plato’s Theory of Recollection. Uploaded by Lorenzo Colombani. Academia.edu. 2013.
  4. Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism. Rajiv Malhotra. Harper Collins. 2011.
  5. Axiomatism and Computational Positivism: Two Mathematical Cultures in Pursuit of Exact Sciences. Roddam Narasimha. Reprinted from Economic and Political Weekly, 2003.
  6. Use and Misues of Logic. Donald Simanek. 1997.
  7. Computers, mathematics education, and the alternative epistemology of the calculus in the Yuktibhasa. C. K. Raju. 2001.
  8.  American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation How Indian Spirituality Changed the West. Phil Goldberg. Random House LLC. 2010.
  9. Logic in Indian Thought. Subhash Kak.
  10. Ramanujan’s Notebooks. Bruce Berndt. Mathematics Magazine (51). 1978.
  11. C. K. Raju. Teaching mathematics with a different philosophy. Part 2: Calculus without Limits. 2013.
  12. Infinitesimal: How a Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World. Amir Alexander. Farrar, Straus and Giroux reprint / Scientific American. 2014.
  13. Indra’s Net: Defending Hinduism’s Philosophical Unity. Rajiv Malhotra. Harper Collins. 2011
  14. Mathematics in India – From Vedic Period to Modern Times: Video Lecture Series, by M. D. Srinivas. K. Ramasubramaniam, M. S. Sriram. 2013.
  15. Mathematics Education in India: Status and Outlook. Editors: R. Ramanujam, K. Subramaniam. Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, TIFR. 2012.
  16. The Battle For Sanskrit. Rajiv Malhotra. Harper Collins. 2016.

(A full list of references will be published along with Part-3).

Acknowledgment: Big thanks to the ICP blogger and the editor for their constructive feedback, patience, and comments that helped shape and improve this post.