Tag Archives: Dharma

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

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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.

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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

Sattva and Bharatanāṭyaṃ

The following Post was composed by Prakruti Prativadi. You can follow her on TCP.


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Abhinaya

Bharatanāṭyaṃ performances often standout for the striking and realistic portrayals of characters and their stories which are powerful and moving and live in the memory of the audience. Audience members even share their experience with the dancer, often telling how the dance made them teary-eyed, or get goose-bumps. The technique and theory of emoting and embodying characters is referred to as Abhinaya in Bharatanāṭyaṃ and Indian classical dances. The word ‘Abhinaya’ literally means carrying the meaning of the art to the audience. In Indian classical dances like Bharatanāṭyaṃ, the means by which this is done is significant, since the dancer must have expert knowledge of the Abhinaya techniques and nuances in order to genuinely embody and communicate the essence of the song to the onlooker and, most significantly, to awaken the Rasa experience in the spectator.

The general understanding of Abhinaya is that it is the emotive and expressive aspect of classical Indian dance. However, Abhinaya consists of more than just the enactment facet of Bharatanāṭyaṃ; Abhinaya consists of four major types. But before going into the technical aspects of Abhinaya and its varied uses, we must first understand the purpose of Abhinaya. The point of Abhinaya is not just to tell a story or play a role. Abhinaya is how the dancer awakens the Rasa experience in the audience. In Indian Aesthetics, Rasa is a supreme aesthetic experience and is the paramount aim in any classical dance performance and is described as a conscious-uplifting experience, in which the spectator feels a bliss-state that is similar to the bliss of Brahman knowledge.

“The experience of Rasa is similar to the experience of Brahman” – Abhinavagupta

Per the Natyashastra, a dance, drama, or music performance that does not generate Rasas and is not offered to the Gods is not really art and is Nīca (vulgar). This kind of performance will not benefit either the audience or the performers. According to Bharata, no meaningful communication can exist without producing Rasa.

Rasa is not limited to the stage or court; Rasa comes from a set of conditions the dancer creates. Rasa is born after the generation of many and varied Bhāvas (mental and emotional states) that differ based on the character and circumstance. Rasa is awakened in the spectator as result of:  Vibhāvas (determinants), Anubhāvas (consequent reactions), Vyabhicāri (impermanent mental states), Sāttvika (with Sattva) and Sthāyi (permanent mental state) Bhāvas emerging first. According to Bharata, Abhinavagupta, Śārṅgadeva, and other scholars, the Rasa experience is the ultimate purpose of Nāṭya (dance, drama and music). Without Rasa, the performance does not bring a benefiting and lasting effect to the onlooker. Rasa experience is filled with joy and is akin to the knowledge of Brahman.

The Rasa experience stays with the audience for some time even after the performance has concluded; the audience wants to experience it again. During the Rasa experience, the very consciousness is transformed to reflect the true inner Self. The concept of Rasa is ancient and found in the Vedas and Upanishads. For example, the Taittriya Upanishad declares that: Raso vai Saha: Rasa (is) Him (Brahman).

Rasa is not isolated to dance, but also exists in poetry, music and drama. The dances of temples, performed by Devadāsis and in some cases even temple priests also have the same goal of generating Rasa in the onlooker because these dances are not just rituals, they generate Bhāvas which result in Rasa; the Devadāsis also offered their dances to the Divine Gods, which is the same motive of the dance performed on the Raṅga (stage) described in the Nāṭyaśāstra. There is no difference in purpose between the dance described in the Nāṭyaśāstra and the dance of the temples.

Abhinaya consists of four types:

Āṅgika Abhinaya: Using the body, including the arms, hands, feet, legs, torso, face, and head in dramatic representation.

Vācika Abhinaya: Dramatic portrayal through the use of speech, in Bharatanāṭyaṃ Vācika Abhinaya consists of the songs and compositions that are danced.

Āhārya Abhinaya: Consists of make-up, jewelry, flowers, props and accessories used by the dancer to aid in dramatic portrayal.

Sāttvika Abhinaya: Emoting and portrayal of characters and situations through Sattva.

All these types of Abhinaya are essential to generate the Bhāvas and awaken Rasa in the audience. Amongst these, however, the more intangible and indefinable type is undoubtedly Sāttvika Abhinaya. Sāttvika Abhinaya is portrayal that is full of Sattva. This is a crucial ingredient, because it is required to genuinely embody the Bhāvas that will generate Rasas.

Bharata states that a successful performance is not one in which the dancers win awards or gain materially but one in which the Rasa experience was powerful and experienced by the audience. This is the measure of Siddhi (success) that Bharata emphasizes.

Sattva

“One must take particular care of Sattva… for Abhinaya resides in Sattva” -Nāṭyaśāstra 

Sāttvika Abhinaya, as the Nāṭyaśāstra states is an intangible but vital element in generating the Bhāvas and Rasas. Generating Rasa in the audience is not a simple task. The dancer must possess the technical skill, imagination, intellect and a certain state of mind to be able to embody the characters, stories, and movements that evoke Bhāvas and Rasa. According to the Nāṭyaśāstra and other dance treatises, like Saṅgīta Ratnākara, in order to evoke Rasa in the audience, the dancer’s mind and consciousness must be in a state of Sattva.

“Sattva can only be accomplished by a tranquil, peaceful and concentrated mind” -Nāṭyaśāstra

Bharata and Abhinavagupta emphasize that a performance without Sattva will not move the audience and will not produce Bhāvas and Rasas, and thus, will be unsuccessful and meaningless.

Sattva is a Sanskrit word that has no direct translation in English or non-Indian languages. Interestingly, even Indologists like A.B. Keith, agreed that Sattva has no translation. So, what does Sattva mean?   Sattva is a concept that is present in other ancient Hindu philosophical and sacred works like the Vedas, Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita and is important in the Hindu worldview and in Hindu practices. Sattva is one of the three Guṇas (attributes, qualities, threads, tendencies); the other two are Rajas and Tamas.

Sattva Guṇa is one that is bright, pure, luminous, buoyant, happy and stainless. Under the influence of Sattva, the mind is calm, unagitated, filled with Śraddha, steady, and reflects the Self (Brahman). A person with a Sāttvic mind renounces the results of his or her actions; in other words, actions motivated by Sattva are offered to the Supreme. As the Nāṭyaśāstra makes clear in the very first chapters, Nāṭya, which consists of Indian classical dance, drama and music, whether performed on a stage or in a temple must be an offering to the Divine Gods.

Rajas is agitation, activity, pain, egotistic, seeking sense-pleasures, and Tamas, is dark, inert, lazy, indifferent and exhibits low passions and tendencies. Our actions are controlled and directed by the mind exhibiting a combination of these three Guṇas.

Sattva also means Rajas and Tamas are not present. When the mind is purified, it is Sāttvic and in a state of Śānti and Ānanda and is able to reflect the Self (Brahman). The Rasa experience itself, is likened to the bliss of Brahman knowledge. Sattva modifies the consciousness to bring out Rasa.

In the Nāṭyaśāstra, Bharata describes eight Sāttvika Bhāvas which are:  paralysis, sweating, goose-bumps, change in voice, trembling, pallor, weeping and fainting. According to Bharata, these Sāttvika Bhāvas give genuineness and realism to the dance and make the audience to become one with the performance, hence generating Bhāvas and Rasa. Bharata states that in order to embody the Sāttvika Bhāvas, the dancer’s mind must be in a state of Sattva – purified of the Rajasic and Tamasic attributes.

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Thus, a prerequisite to an outstanding dance performance is that the dancer must accomplish a state of Sattva before the performance and maintain this state of mind during the performance to generate Rasa. How does the dancer go about preparing the mind to be Sāttvic? It is not just a matter of motivating oneself through pep talks or having a few minutes of quiet solitude before the performance. These, of course, can help and all Bharatanāṭyaṃ dancers, to some extent, will use these techniques. But to have the mind in a state of Sattva prior to and during the performance, the dancer would need more than just motivational techniques, and this observation did not escape the perceptive Bharata.

Yajña

So how does a dancer get into the state of mind that has Sattva? The third chapter of the Nāṭyaśāstra is dedicated to explaining, in detail, a series of Pūjās and a Homa that the dancer and musicians should perform. In these instructions, Bharata clearly states that these Pūjās and Homa are the equivalent of performing a Yajña and will help the dancer achieve a calm mental and conscious state necessary for a successful performance. Siddhi or success in a performance, per Abhinavagupta and Bharata, does not mean winning banners (prizes) or material objects, but Siddhi of the performance occurs if the audience witness compelling Bhāvas and experience the different Rasas.

Therefore, these Pūjās and Homa are not robotic superstitious ritualistic acts; they are a science of connecting one’s own consciousness to the Supreme consciousness. They are an offering and a means for the artists to transform and purify their inner-selves to be Sāttvic.

In these pre-performance sacred activities, Bharata details how the Raṅga (stage) must be constructed according precise measurements depending on the type of Nāṭya to be performed. Significantly, the Vedi (altar) of a Yajña must also be constructed in a precise shape with exact measurements depending on the type of Yajña performed. Bharata then specifies how the dancer must sanctify this stage, and even the entire theatre where that audience will be seated, the dancer should then do a Pratiśṭāpana (sacred installation) of the Gods on the stage, and do a Pūjā to each one of these Deities in a certain order and with particular sacred Mantras. The dancer must sprinkle sanctified water on each limb to purify the body and must partake of the Pūjā and Homa with the utmost Śraddha (belief, Bhakti, and diligence) in order to bring his or her mind into a state of Sattva.

These actions along with their subtle effects will give Siddhi (success) by preparing the dancer to be capable of a performance that is rich in Bhāvas and Rasas. These performances are a few hours long and in some classical dances, like Katakaḷi and Yakśagāna, last through the night, so the dancer needs to muster tremendous energy, enthusiasm and concentration. The musicians too must do a Pūjā to their instruments. In effect, the stage and entire theater (where the audience are seated) become a temple, with the consecration of Deities and Pūjās and finally with the performance of the Homa. Bharata instructs that the point of doing the Pūjās and Homa are to offer the performance (dance) itself to the Devatās. This, advises Bharata, will bring Siddhi (success) to the performance.

Among these preliminary activities, the Homa (similar to a Yajña) is of distinct interest and serves a special purpose. Yajñas are ancient Vedic practices that are transformative and have subtle effects on the consciousness of the performer. Homa derives from and is an adaptation of a Yajña, but a Homa is performed in Pūjās to specific Gods. Both feature a specifically constructed altar, sacred fire and sacred materials. Yajña comes from the root word Yaj which means offering, reverence, adoration and bestowing. A Yajña and Homa, are Tyāga (offering) of Dravya (special sacred material) to the Devatās (Gods). They are complex activities that have subtle and powerful effects. Every offering during the Yajña and Homa results in Apūrva Śakti, which is a subtle effect and hidden power of an action (Karma) on the person who is the beneficiary of the offering. Thus, Yajñas and Homas have an effect on the one who performed it in a subtle manner, by affecting the Śaktis (energies, powers) of that person. Every action produces a Śakti which will produce a result. The dancer and musicians are transformed by the Homa; they exhibit Sattva and subtle energies as a result.

VedicYajnaIt is no coincidence that the Nāṭyaveda (classical dance, drama and music codified in the Nāṭyaśāstra) directly derive from the four primary Vedas contain Vedic ceremonies. Furthermore, Bharata states that performing these Pūjās and Homa is the same as performing a Yajña and the same benefits will be received. Here we see the beautiful connection between the preliminary activities of the performance and the performance itself because the Bharatanāṭyaṃ performance is also a Yajña. The Yajña conducted prior to the performance is a transformative experience for the dancer and musicians, and the Yajña of the dance performance itself is a transformative experience for the audience because they will experience Rasa bliss. Thus, Indian classical dances are themselves an offering, a Yajña conducted by the dancer on a specially built Raṅga (stage) and offered (Tyāga) to the Gods with love, Śraddha and Bhakti. In this case, the Dravya, or sacred material, is the dance which is offered to the Devatās. The ones who enjoy the fruits (Rasa bliss) of the Yajña are the attuned and receptive spectators (called Sahṛidaya).

HomaSome of the above Pūjās are done even to this day. Today’s dancers sanctify the stage and consecrate Mūrtis on the stage and perform a Pūjā offering the performance to the Gods. The Pūjās are offered to Ganapati and Nataraja and Saraswati and Vishnu. The Ārati is done, the sacred dance anklets (Gejje or Śalangai) are worshipped, the musicians also worship their instruments. This is not a mere ritual, but is the time when the dancer, Naṭavanār and musicians come together to conduct the Pūjā with Śraddha and Bhakti and offer the performance to the Gods. Dancers look forward to performing this Pūjā, taking it seriously, performing it with the utmost Śraddha and reverence because it brings them inner Śānti, happiness, and connects them to the Gods. In effect – it makes their mind Sāttvic, which is then reflected in the dance. After the Pūjā, the artists remain in this state of mind, now fully immersed in the art, centered, calm and ready for a rigorous and demanding Bharatanāṭyaṃ performance.

 Bhakti

Therefore, Bharatanāṭyaṃ (and other Indian classical dances) are not practiced by merely perfecting techniques and movements, facial expressions or time and rhythm. Traditional practitioners of Bharatanāṭyaṃ know that they require total immersion into the art and its philosophy, must have Bhakti and humility and reverence to dance successfully. A person who may know the technical movements of Bharatanāṭyaṃ but lacks these Sāttvic attributes such as Śraddha and Bhakti is not qualified to do the dance. Śārṅgadeva states that only one who is pure in mind (Sattvic) can be a dancer. The Devadāsis had this intrinsic Śraddha, and they certainly understood Rasas and Bhāvas. Theirs was not a mechanical ritualistic dance devoid of Rasa. The great exponent dancer Bala Saraswati, a Devadāsi, emphasized the importance of Bhakti as an integral requirement for Bharatanāṭyaṃ:

Bharatanāṭyaṃ is grounded in bhakthi…. In fact bhakthi is at the center of all arts of India. Our music and dance are two offerings to God…This experience may only occur once in a while but when it does for that little duration, its grandeur enters the soul not transiently but with a sense of eternity. As one gets involved in the art, with greater and greater dedication, one can continuously experience throughout the few hours of the dance, the unending joy, this complete well-being, especially when music and dance mingle indistinguishably.” – Bala Saraswati

Image result for balasaraswati
Shree Bala Saraswati. Eminent danseuse.

The ancient dance treatises have noted that a person best fit to dance is one who learns with Śraddha and Bhakti. Many expert Bharatanāṭyaṃ dancers and Nāṭyācāryas have observed that if a student does not have Bhakti, their dance is not genuine and has a mundane quality to it and few, if any, Bhāvas are produced. For example, if the dancer does not have Bhakti for Śri Kṛṣṇa, how can they embody the episode in which Yaśoda saw the entire universe in his mouth, and was overcome with awe and emotion? How will the non-believing dancer produce the Bhāvas that are required to generate the Rasa in the audience?Abhinaya is not a mere enactment, it is an exalted, lofty, glorified reenactment that will produce Bhāvas and the Rasa experience.

If the dancer interjects her personal opinions and portrays characters such as Sītā and Rāma through a non-Dharmic lens, the result will not be Sāttvic but a pale imitation, a counterfeit, and will not have any lasting effect on the onlooker and the Yajña of Bharatanāṭyaṃ will be a failure. The dancer must be in total sympathy with the character’s viewpoint and beliefs to embody that character authentically. This does not imply that these dances are somber and boring. Quite the contrary, Bharata states that a successful performance brings about happiness, entertainment, diversion, and knowledge to the onlooker and should generate all of the Rasas (Śṛṅgāra, Hāsya, Karuna, Vīra, Bhayānaka, Bībhatsa, Raudhra, Adbhuta and Śānta).

Philosophy, Language and Tradition

To do justice to the complex songs and poems that are danced, the dancer should do a serious study of the different philosophies of Hinduism. This understanding needs to be deeper than a superficial knowledge of the main features of Hinduism. Knowing the composer’s philosophical leanings to will help the dancer understand the significance of their compositions. As an example, many are familiar with Vaiṣṇavaism, however, there are different schools of Vaiṣṇavaism and their core philosophies have subtle variations that are significant nonetheless. For instance, the Vaishnavism of Sri Vaishnavism, Gauḍiya Vaiṣṇavaism, and the Brahma Sampradāya of Madhvācārya may seem the same, but in fact, they have significant differences and comprehending these will aid the dancer to authentically embody the compositions of those respective philosophies.

For example, the sacred poems of Ānḍāl follow the Śri Vaiṣṇava school whereas Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Purandara Dāsa reflect the Gauḍiya and Madhva schools of Vaiṣṇavaism respectively. Not fully comprehending these subtle differences will lead to missing the beautiful meanings and themes of the songs and even blatantly misinterpreting them in the dance. Ānḍāl’s Tirupāvai has profound meaning as does Gīta Govindaṃ of Jayadeva; however, the refined nuances in these compositions cannot be missed if the dancer wishes to bring about the right Bhāvas and Rasas. The same is true of Śaivism and Smārtism. How can a dancer embody Nirguṇa Brahman without understanding what this profound concept is and the difference between Nirguṇa and Saguṇa Brahman?

Hand-in-hand with this philosophical comprehension, is the practice of the customs and rituals that embody these philosophies. Hindu philosophy is embodied in Hindu practices and customs; they are not just rituals. Just like the Yajña, they are transformative experiences and have effects on the consciousness of the doer. An academic study or an observation of Hindu rituals or interviews with practitioners is woefully inadequate to understand them. These customs and traditions can be understood by experienced and performing them with Śraddha and Bhakti. Therefore, practitioners of these customs are best suited to portray them, because they are not conscious-less ceremonial activities.

CompositionsAndal

This brings us to a vital requirement to dance Bharatanāṭyaṃ and Indian classical dances. Since, as stated by Bharata and other scholars, the dancer’s mind should be Sāttvic and in total understanding with the characters, philosophies and customs and traditions of Hinduism, knowledge of the language in which the compositions are written is crucial. The traditional practitioners of Bharatanāṭyaṃ, Naṭavanārs and Devadāsis, were fluent in several languages and well-versed in our philosophy and traditions. The classical compositions are complex and difficult to comprehend even for a person fluent in the language in which they were composed. However, trying to understand the meaning of a composition by translations, especially from an Indic language to English (or other non-Indic language) will not be sufficient. Knowing another Indic language is helpful, but a dignified study is required with the aid of an expert in that language. Understanding the colloquialisms of the language and a detailed explanation of the philosophy and narrative is critical.

Even dancers who know the language often must do a diligent and serious study of the composition. English translations fall short in conveying the composer’s viewpoint and themes that are embedded in the cultural mores which the native language naturally communicates. These compositions are lofty and refined, and contain much symbolism which will otherwise be missed. Understanding the song through the Dharmic viewpoint, from the composer’s perspective and the times in which they lived is essential to bring out the Rasa of these works. For instance, the composition ‘Yār Āḍinar, ina yevar Āḍuva?’ in Tamizh tells of the great Cosmic Dance of Nataraja. Another composition “Ānanda Kūtāḍinar” is also about Nataraja and His celestial dance. So, are these compositions essentially the same? Well, a closer study of the above two songs shows they are similar on a topical level but convey different themes and evoke different Bhāvas. Similarly, two famous songs of Purandara Dāsa, Jagadoddhāraṇa and O’ḍi Bāraiyya are about Sri Krishna as the Divine child. A sensitive study of these songs reveals they are dissimilar and portray two distinctly refined themes with powerful meanings. The great composer Tyāgarāja is renowned for his beautiful songs devoted to Sri Rāma, but one should not make the mistake in thinking that all these compositions are the same.

Bharatanāṭyaṃ dance, and all Indian classical dance, is a complex rich transformative knowledge system. Bharata has codified the foundations and details of the sacred Indian dances. These codes are purposeful and not optional. They contain a profound philosophical aesthetic that is manifested physically in our ancient dances. The dancer’s mind (Manas) should be transformed into a state of Sattva and remain so during the performance so that the audience experiences the Rasas, which is the ultimate aim of these dances. Bharatanāṭyaṃ and other Indian dances are Yajñas that have a deep lasting impact on the consciousness of the dancer and the Sahṛidaya audience. Understanding these core fundamentals is the foremost prerequisite in the journey to be an accomplished and successful dancer.

RasasBook

About the Author: Prakruti Prativadi is a Bharatanāṭyaṃ dancer and Founder Director of Kalā Saurabhi Dance School in the US; she actively performs in the US and India. She has spent seven years researching the Nāṭyaśāstra and other Sanskrit texts on Indian aesthetics. She has written a book based on her research, Rasas in Bharatanāṭyaṃ, available on amazon.com


References:
  1. Ghosh, M.M. 2006. P. Kumar (Ed.) Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharatamuni. (Vols. 1-4). Delhi: New Bharatiya Book Corporation.
  2. Prativadi, Prakruti. 2017. Rasas in Bharatanāṭyaṃ. South Charleston: Createspace.
  3. Sarangadeva, Sangītaratnākara. Adyar Library Series.
  4. Srinivas, P. N. 2000. Mathugalu [Talks on Kannada Literary Criticism, in Kannada]. Bangalore: Purogami Sahitya Sangha.
  5. Subrahmanyam, Padma. 1979. Bharata’s Art Then and Now. Bombay: Bhulabhai Memorial Institute. Madras: Nrithyodaya.
  6. Swami Harshananda. 2001. Vedic Sacrifices. Bangalore: Ramakrishna Math.

Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions of the Author, and should not be considered a reflection of the views of the Indic Civilizational Portal. The Author is responsible for ensuring the factual veracity of the content, herein.

Copyright: Prakruti Prativadi. All rights reserved.

Shubha Vaisakhi (2017)

VaisakhiGurkmukhi

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

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

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

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

VaisakhiPanjPiari

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

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

Shubha Vaisakhi! Happy Baisakhi!

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

Vasant Utsav

gopikrishnaholi

Sabhi ko Holi ki Shubhkamnayein! A very Happy Holi to all our readers celebrating day 1 of this exciting festival today.

Holi’s roots are in fact very ancient in origin. Though today it is primarily celebrated in Northern India, it was once part of an all India, vast, virtual month of Festivities known as Vasanta Maha Utsava.

Vasanta Mahotsava

Spring has a definitive place in the minds of most people and most cultures. It not only signifies the end of winter, and the end of the previous year, but also a time of renewal, rejuvenation, rebirth, and revelry. It is truly a celebration of life, youth and the young-at-heart alike.

Vasanta Mahotsava, Vasantha Utsava, or Vasant Utsav or Basant, is the ancient Spring Festival of Indic Civilization. It is mentioned in many old works from the Kathasaritasagara to the Kamasutra. Vatsyayana refers to it as Suva-santaka. Kalidasa’s Malavikaagnimitra and Sriharsa’s Ratnavali both include this festival, and the latter, in fact celebrates it in the opening act. [1, 353]

Vasanta Mahotsava was, therefore, a seasonal festival celebrated at the approach of the vernal equinox. [1, 353]

“The new year begins with Spring around the vernal equinox. But the poem begins with Summer so as to end with Spring; and auspicious ending, for Spring is renewal. The old year is dead and the advent of Spring is welcomed with song and dance and religious ceremonies. In ancient India this was known as the Spring Festival or the Festival of Love and it was celebrated with uninhibited revelry in a carnival atmosphere. New plays were written and staged as part of the festivities. The prologue to Kalidasa’s first play Maalavikaa and Agnimitra mentions it as the new play presented at the Spring festival.”[2,18]

But while the modern North excels in celebration and festivity, it is important to note that Vasant was once an all-India festival. Here is an account of its celebration in the Reddi Kingdom of Andhra :

Beautiful descriptions of this spring festival are furnished by the Telugu works Simhaasanadvaatrimsika, Bheemesvara Puraanam and Kaaseekhandam produced in this age. These works give us a clear idea of the celebration of the festival and the different ceremonies practiced on this occasion. As the authors of these works lived in this age when the spring festival was at its zenith of popularity, we may be certain that, much influenced by the realistic grandeur of this carnival, they introduced it into their works, and provided us a good picture of the festival, as it was in vogue” [1,355]

There was a great carnival and the King would go to a park specially decorated for Vasant. There would be a pandal for Kama & Rati, Vishnu &Lakshmi, Siva & Sakti, and Sachi & Indra. 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 the pichkari in holi). People mixed freely and the Reddi kings gave it royal grandeur. The king and queen were sprinkled with saffron-water by passersby. [1, 357]

The Reddi King Kumaragiri himself so came to embody this celebration that he received the title Vasantaraya (Emperor of Spring).

hazararamtemple
Hazara Rama Temple,Women playing Kollatam (dandiya) during Utsav

The Rayas of Vijayanagara were Emperors in their own right, and Vasant is famously featured in temple sculptures of this Empire in Karnataka.

 “The festival of Holi also finds a reference in the sculptures on walls of old temples. A 16th century panel sculpted in a temple at Hampi, capital of Vijayanagar, shows a joyous scene of Holi. The painting depicts a Prince and his Princess standing amidst maids waiting with syringes or pichkaris to drench the Royal couple in coloured water” [3]

It is likely that what is being referred to as Holi above was in fact the grand festival of Vasantha Utsava, as listed elsewhere:

 “Vasantotsavam was celebrated in this mandapa [Mahanavami Dibba] during Tirumala-raya’s period.” [2,11]

mahanavamidibba

There are of course attempt to digest and appropriate Vasant Utsav as “Basant” by Sufis. But the Vasant Utsav itself is far more ancient, and in contrast with Sufism (a velvet glove for an iron fist), our Utsav is far more in line with the Indic Dharmic view of balanced relations between the genders anyway. Recent sufi attempts to digest Holi are even more risible and show the importance of understanding authentic Indic culture, rather than obsessing over the colonising syncretic.

Further, in the name of being “modern/post-modern”, many of our traditions are being digested by corporations and similar business efforts. The Color Run is one such example of Holi’s tradition of throwing colours being used as part of a marathon. While cultural exchange is good, cultural appropriation and de-sacralisating of our traditions is not. What usually starts as harmless participation, becomes appropriation, and when the Hindu/Indic roots are denied (as is being done with Yoga), finally becomes digestion (as explained by Rajiv Malhotra).

As such, it is far better to understand the significance, sanctity, and symbolism behind our traditions and culture, rather than merely exulting in “being recognised by global!“.

In any event, Vasanta Maha Utsava is the traditional two-week long Spring Extravaganza in Bharatavarsha. Here are the components and the significance in detail.

Festival Significance

Vasant Utsav is not merely 1 or even 2 days, but in fact extends over several weeks. While there are references tracing it back to Vedic times, it is almost certain that its celebration was documented in mid-first millenium BCE.

Traditionally, there are four navratras, the most famous being in Sharad. The Chaitra Navratri, true to its name, is also celebrated over nine days, and honours the Goddess Durga. Here is a description of it and the other components of Vasanta Mahotsav.

Holi

holi

As most know the famous story, Holi signifies the evil Holika’s defeat by the devout  Prahalad, a great Vishnu Bhakta. Holika was the sister of Hiranyakashipu, the rakshasa king who had grown powerful and full of arrogance, demanding all worship him instead of Vishnu. His son Prahalad was obedient, but refused this command, saying despite his father’s accomplishment, Vishnu was Supreme, and thus, should be worshipped. Hiranyakashipu’s ahankar was wounded, and thus commanded Prahalada to sit on Holika’s lap in a fire, to demonstrate whether Vishnu would save him. While the evil Holika (who was also a cannibal) had a saree that could protect her from fire, Prahalad had no such defence, and only his devotion to Vishnu. Nevertheless, he was saved and escaped unharmed from the fire.

holikadahan

Elsewhere, it is said that Lord Krishna killed Poothana (another killer of infants) on this day. Thus, Holi has acquired its importance and grandeur on account of these successive defeats of evil. It is thus traditionally divided over two days, starting with Choti Holi (on Chaturdashi) and ending on Phalgun Phurnima (full moon).

Choti Holi/Holika Dahan

HoliUdaipurBlog
Holika Dahan at Udaipur

This is the day that the bonfire is prepared. This is called Holika dahan, and articles from the past year are also burnt, signifying a fresh start for the upcoming year.

Interestingly, parts of the South celebrate this Holika Dahan as Kamuni Dahamu, signifying the burning away of all wrong passions and impulses and baggage of the previous year, and renewing ourselves in the New Year.

Holi Hai!

krishnagopiholi

This day needs no introduction in most of the world. From the colours (gulal) to the pichkaris (bamboo water soakers) to the dance and revelry, this is quite possibly the most fun festival in the entire world.

People from all classes and backgrounds freely mix and spread cheer and song in the name of Spring and the triumph of good over evil. More traditionally, one can find some additional rituals, especially in the villages of Northern India, which further underscore the mixture of the sacred with the festive.

Some women in the village offer special puja during Holi. Small twigs of the ‘Kamal’ tree are painted in red and yellow and then laid out in little bamboo baskets (khartoo) along with thread, kumkum, jaggery and roasted grams. The women carry this basket and little pots of coloured water in their hands and go for the Puja”. After it is offered, Holi is then played. [4,226]

Yugadi

Despite the calendrical variations, the two main divisions in the Hindu Luni-solar calendar celebrate New Year on the same day. Most of North India uses the Purnimanta Calendar. This Calendar ends every month with the full moon. The Amanta or Amavasyat Calendar starts every month with the new moon. Due to this discrepancy, Holi, which would normally align with the two-week long Vasant Mahotsav now has a month-long gap.

Restoring the Amanta calendar in the rest of India would restore the two week-long celebration. Interestingly, because the Purnimanta calendar starts with Krishna paksha, the Chaitra Sukla Pratipada (first day of the Bright half of the moon) is on the same day in both calendars. That is the reason why Ugadi/Gudi Padwa and Nava Varsha/Navreh are all celebrated on the same day, by both calendars.

Chaitra Navratas

ChaitraNavratri

When we say Navratri, most people think of the 9 days leading up to Dasara. But this is in fact just 1 of 4 (some say 5) Navratris, other than the famous Sharad Navratri. There is also the Magha, Ashvin, and relevant for Vasant utsav, the Chaitra Navratri. All of these celebrate the glory of Shakti.

Chaitra Navratri, in particular, is significant as it ends with the Sri Rama Navami. This is all the more symbolic as the original reason for this Navratri involved Ayodhya. Prince Sudarshana, one of Rama’s ancestors, was driven from his rightful throne. Through worship of the Devi, and her bija mantra, he was able to get married and become king. Bhagavan Rama too worshipped Shakti, and the timing of his defeat of Ravana is on Dasara (the tenth day of Durga’s Victory). As such, Chaitra Navratri ending with Sri Rama Navami is highly significant.

Sri Rama Navami

RamLalla

The Mahotsav appropriately closes with one of our most Sacred Days, Sri Rama Navami. This is the day of Lord Rama’s birth in Ayodhya. As he renewed our Dharma in the previous Treta Age, Spring renews our commitment to Dharma in the present one.

The overarching vision of Vasant Utsav, however, contrary to sepoys (LW and RW), is not unrestrained license or debauchery. Rather, it is a celebration of life in a tasteful yet enthusiastic manner. The full spectrum of all things, rather than mere obsession with the lower chakras. It is about celebrating all aspects of creation, whether personal or cosmic.

Celebration

HoliHai

In ancient times, this was arguably the most exciting of Indian festivals, with a large part of the subcontinent featuring a carnival atmosphere, of music, dance, food, socialising, and general celebration. With so many days of significance, from Holi to Yugadi to Sri Rama Navami, it is only natural that this Utsav would become a Mahotsav.

Holi, of course, needs no explanation on how to celebrate. The only suggestion is to play safe and to use safe organic gulal. There are plenty of healthy natural colour-based options that individuals can draw from. They are not only “eco-friendly” but are also made by people who actually care about the festival and passing on our traditions.

Vasant Utsav in general is celebrated in many ways. Beyond Holi and its famous festivities (an article in and of itself), there are many spring sports, with music, theatre, and dance.

After the termination of the sports, the king with his queens went to a lotus pond nearby and sported in the water for a while. Re-turning from the lotus tank he gave audience to the public and rewarded poets and artists according to merit. Dramas were put on boards; dance recitals were given; musicians, showed their skill in music, both vocal and instrumental; and magicians and others proficient in other kalaas or vidyas, came there in search of patronage, and displayed their feats of strength, skill and sleight of hand. It was a grand occasion for patronising Arts and Letters.” [1, 358]

Dandiya Raas (from the Sanskrit Dandaraasakam) is played , especially during the nine nights of Navratri. Puja is also done, especially for Devi, via the Ghatasthapana Muhurta, which has to be done at a specific time during the day. Doing so will activate the positive energy of Shakti via the kalasa (sacred pot).

Finally, Vasant Utsav is often associated with Kama Deva, the God of Love, whose friend and ally is literally the personification of the month of Spring, Vasanta. Kalidasa himself famously celebrated this month in his Rtusamhara.

Above all, however, Vasant Utsav was a great coming together of all sections of society, in fun and frolic. Spring is a time for renewal, not only of relationships and spirits, but of values and societies. And it should be once again.

Vasantamahotsava was the major festival of those days, which exercised great influence on the people culturally and socially. It was occasions like this that advanced the knowledge and culture of the common people. [1, 358]

References:
  1. M.Somasekhara Sarma. History of the Reddi Kingdoms.Delhi:Facsimile Publ. 2015
  2. Rao, V. Kameswara.Temples in and Around Tirupati.1986.p.11
  3. http://www.saibabaofindia.com/spiritual_meanings_for_holi.htm
  4. Gajrani, S. History, Religion, and Culture of India (Vol.5).Delhi: Isha Books.2004
  5. http://www.speakingtree.in/blog/gupt-navratri-the-secret-lesser-known-navratri-begins
  6. http://zeenews.india.com/entertainment/and-more/chaitra-navratri-the-legend-behind-it_1873820.html
  7. http://www.speakingtree.in/allslides/chaitra-navratri-2017-why-its-auspicious

The Mind of Margayya

(source: tribuneindia.com)

Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanaswami (1906-2001), the creator of Malgudi was one of India’s greatest storytellers and thinkers. Writing under the shortened name R. K. Narayan, a small sample of his works include Swami and Friends, Bachelor of Arts, Guide, and Gods, Demons, and Others. His equally illustrious brother Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Laxman (RK Laxman) brought Malgudi to life with his magical illustrations. The siblings were recipients of the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian honor. The popular 1980s TV series Malgudi Days, directed by the great Kannada artist Shankar Nag was based on the works of RK Narayan, and the 1965 Hindi movie Guide, a favorite of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was based on his book. 

The Financial Expert

RK Narayan’s 1951 work ‘The Financial Expert‘ [1] is universally regarded as a classic, and has been the subject of several excellent reviews from a western literary perspective, by both Indian and western writers. The book was made into a successful Kannada movie ‘Banker Margayya’ starring actor Lokesh in 1983, which went on to win multiple awards.

(source: shareyouressays.com)

Here, we explore some of the themes in this WW2-era Malgudi story using an Indic perspective, and in doing so, are rewarded with insights that would not be obtainable using a purely western lens. In particular, we discover that the timeless lessons in Neeti and Dharma that used to be orally transmitted from generation to generation in India are embedded within the ‘Financial Expert’.

Margayya

In ‘Financial Expert’, RK Narayan brilliantly encodes in simple English the sophisticated nuance and wisdom of Indian Itihasa and Purana, even as he unravels the multiple threads of thought running through Margayya’s mind. Margayya, like many a character in itihasa, undergoes intense penance in order to acquire some special power. His aim is to please Goddess Lakshmi, so that she will bless him with wealth and financial success. The story of Margayya’s journey from 14D Vinayak Street to 10 Market Street and back is rich in the symbolism and subtle suggestion that characterizes Indian art.

Margayya was named Krishna at birth, and his professional name (pronounced ‘Marg-Ayya’) reminds us of Arjuna’s charioteer who showed the way (Marg) of Dharma in the Mahabharata. Margayya employed his financial Ganita prowess to game the system. He presented the peasants within a 100-mile radius of Malgudi a financial roadmap that enabled them to secure a endless sequence of cash loans from the Central Cooperative Land Mortgage Bank (est. 1914). The ‘Cooperative Bank’ part was an oxymoron as it neither co-operated with its poor shareholders, nor performed its banking duties with a sense of seva. Margayya, aged 42, made a living by aggressively filling this gap from his service location under a banyan tree right opposite the co-op, much to their irritation. Imagine a smarter Alan Greenspan in a topi, torn shirt, and brown dhoti.

Margayya wanted to progress beyond this tension-ridden low-end job. A tipping point is reached when the stained-dhoti clad financial jugaad master is humiliated by the rich, boorish bank secretary dressed in European attire, top to bottom. We can see in Margayya’s subsequent reactions, the self-loathing, and frustration, sense of inferiority, and confusion that infested many Indians in the 20th century. A transition of people who were progressively less grounded in the forest civilization [2] traditions of Dharma and harmony that India embraced during its prosperous history; a mindset increasingly attracted to a desert civilization’s zero-sum modes of survival and self-preservation that appeared more pragmatic in a once-flourishing land, but now looted and scorched by the British Raj, abounding only in scarcity.

Margayya’s Rise

Margayya’s natural entrepreneurial drive was in sync with the Vidura Neeti that promoted the virtue of self-employment. His mind constantly tinkered with ideas for startups. He wanted to secure the financial future of his wife Meenakshi, and son, Balu. When Margayya witnessed impoverished townspeople using an unclaimed corpse to extract small-change from passersby for a funeral (and booze), and when he observes people risking life and limb to earn a few paise, he is struck by the power of money. “People did anything for money. Money was men’s greatest need, like air or food…Money alone is important in this world. Everything else will come to us naturally if we have money in our purse.“.  Here, he appears to gain some intuition about Chanakya’s words (dharmasya moolam artha). Indeed, a prosperous and developed nation is best equipped to preserve and propagate Dharma and harmony, else the rule of the desert will reign.  His goal from the day he quarrels with the co-op secretary is to reach the top of the wealth pyramid and through this wealth, acquire everything else. And right there, Margayya parted ways with Vidura and Chanakya and followed his own path and rules.

Like a Yogi, but for all the wrong reasons, Margayya constantly meditated on money and through this manthana emerged all kinds of discoveries. His analysis enabled him to delineate the subtle differences between money, riches, wealth, and fortune. Wealth, in particular, contained elements of transcendence as well as Jugaad.  “Riches any hard-working fool could attain by some watchfulness, while acquiring wealth was an extraordinary specialized job. It came to persons who had on them the grace of the Goddess fully and who could use their wits“.  If Ramanujan‘s amazing ganita results were achieved through the blessings of Lakshmi as Namagiri Amman in his dreams, Margayya’s self-serving schemes too (in his mind) were due to the blessings of Lakshmi. Through the mind of this ‘financial mystic’, we get to see the infinite recursive patterns hidden within ‘interest’.

There was probably no other person in the whole country who had meditated so much on the question of interest. Margayya’s mind was full of it. Night and day he sat and brooded over it. The more he thought of it the more it seemed to him the greatest wonder of creation. It combined in it the mystery of birth and multiplication…Every rupee, Margayya felt, contained in it seed of another rupee and that seed in it another seed and so on and on to infinity. It was something like the firmament, endless stars and within each star an endless firmament and within each one further endless … It bordered on mystic perception. It gave him the feeling of being part of  an infinite existence.

Such was Margayya’s devotion to the process of managing interest rates and accumulating wealth, that he was even able to give up his old addiction to snuff so that he could pursue his ‘yoga’ on all four cylinders which would free him from all worldly wants. A side-effect of this one-track meditation is Margayya’s general cluelessness and disdain for topics unrelated to his money, and therein lie the seeds of his downfall.

Margayya’s Fall

Margayya failed in his Nara dharma [3] and did not understand that dharma is the most important of the Purusharthas [4]. As explained here, Chanakya wrote:

Margayya is never really happy throughout the story. He obtains wealth and power, but is never able to conquer his senses, and always yields to moha, lobha, and krodha, which ultimately combine to ruin him.

Margayya has no use for the Dharma that accords to the elder brother the respected position of a second father [3], being far more interested in grabbing his share of the family property. He is quite sad that the Hindu Samaj prevented a complete takeover of the house and had to make do with a half-share (“he would willingly have seen his brother’s family perish without water by closing it to them, but public opinion prevented the exercise of his right.”).

He has no use for Saraswati and learning, which is dismissed as a derivative product that can be purchased on-demand (“‘A man with whom the Goddess of Wealth favours need not worry much. He can buy all the knowledge he requires.“. The dharmic concept of profitability, Shubh Labh, is rejected in favor of amassing wealth regardless of all consequences to others, to his family, and even to himself.

He has no qualms about misusing kama and rejecting dharma in order to hoard wealth and acquire power.  Moha blinds his eye like a Dhritharashtra to his son’s faults, and in any case, he convinces himself that a single-minded pursuit of Artha is the key that unlocked all the doors in this world for himself and his family. Every minute of his life is invested in this material quest, and it begins to acquire almost a spiritual quality. In short, Margayya’s misunderstanding of the priorities and implications of the Purusharthas leads him astray. Grihasthashrama Dharma takes a back seat. Moral relativism and a materialist clamor for rights overrides duties, replacing Hinduism’s contextual Dharma ethics [2] at every decision making fork in Margayya’s life journey.

Ultimately, Margayya begins to make money by the sackful. The more he made, the more it consumed him, until this activity completely drained him of his capacity to think straight. In a momentary lapse of reason, the coldly calculative Margayya is replaced by an angry, panic-stricken father. He loses control of his senses and strikes out against Dr. Pal, the very instrument that brought him all the wealth, and in one stroke, Dr. Pal ensures that all those earnings are taken away. Without the firm guidance of Dharma, Margayya the path finder himself loses his bearings, and returns to square one, financially bankrupt. There is some recognition in the end by Margayya of what he lost in his obsessive pursuit and why. The readers get a story filled with lessons from Dharma traditions.

The book has several memorable characters, but for brevity, we’ll focus here on Margayya’s friend, Dr. Pal.

Dr. Pal, Social Scientist

First, a brief introduction to Dr. Havelock Ellis (1859-1939). He was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). Unlike India, where Kama was always recognized as one of the Purusharthas and celebrated in poetry, song, dance, painting, and sculpture, the Europeans in Dr. Ellis’ time were repressed by the strictures of Victorian morality. Ellis boldly shattered several taboos although he was indifferent to the dharmic/adharmic impact of his work. He appears to have been a proponent of Eugenics and oddly okay with the Nazi sterilization program. Freud appears to have borrowed some ideas from Ellis for his psychoanalytical theories [5].

Dr. Pal is the instrument that befriends, makes, and finally breaks Margayya (It’s unclear how he became “Dr”). He is a journalist and an author and a sociologist who is influenced by Ellis’ work. Like India’s eminent journalists, authors, and social scientists today, Pal too is a scientific expert.

He mashed together Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra and Dr. Ellis’ liberating ideas to create a scientific cocktail and distilled this wisdom into an illustrated book titled ‘Bed Life’. Margayya here represents the mentally colonized and under informed native who is overawed by ‘modern science’ label that claims to enhances and elevates an ancient Indian treatise. Margayya’s Lobha overcomes his instinctive disgust for Dr. Pal’s work and he benefits immensely from the proceeds obtained by publishing this bestseller (renamed ‘Domestic Harmony’ to avoid legal scrutiny and obscenity lawsuits).  Margayya’s growth is seeded by the ill-gotten gain obtained from this salacious ‘digestion’ of Kamasutra.

Long before Wendy Doniger invaded the sacred traditions of dharma [8], propagating Freudian pseudoscience and Hinduphobia, we have the duo of Dr. Havelock Ellis and Dr. Pal. It is remarkable how RK Narayan’s 1951 novel anticipates contemporary India where educated people flock to devour Wendy Doniger’s latest sleazy pulp fiction that tramples upon their own heritage and indigenous knowledge systems [9].

Dr. Pal is the western-influenced free-thinking rebel for whom ‘anything goes’. Later, he brings to Margayya the steady supply of clientele required to sustain the latter’s Ponzi scheme. Dr. Pal is a double-edged weapon that Margayya tries to control. Despite Margayya’s best attempts to keep Dr. Pal away from his family, his corrosive influence begins to consume Margayya’s married son, and drives him to debauchery. At this point, Margayya loses his composure and beats up Dr. Pal who hits back by completely ruining Margayya, thereby completing the karmic cycle.

Lighter Side: Margayya versus Modi

Margayya loved cash, and only cash. “‘What am I to do with property?’ he said. ‘I want only money, not brick and lime or mud,’ he reflected when he reconverted his attached property into cash. Margayya seems happy only when he is counting cash. “…. the moment he reached home, he counted the notes again, bundled them up in tidy little batches, the lovely five-rupee and ten-rupee and the most handsome piece of paper – the green hundred-rupee note” . 

British India One Hundred Rupee Note (source: rbi.org)

Per RBI records, the thousand rupee note was introduced in 1938, withdrawn prior to independence, and reintroduced in 1954 [6]. It is possible there wasn’t a significant percentage of high denomination notes (500/1000) in circulation during a time when these amounts were princely sums. Margayya’s Ponzi scheme attracted so many greedy and shady investors that nearby banks began to lose their deposits. However, no one in his office had any clue about his net worth. Margayya would’ve preferred higher denominations to hundred-rupee notes since he was running out of space for his cash stash at home (“there were currency bundles stacked up a foot high all over the floor.“).  We’ve read in the newspapers how certain Indian co-op banks operate in present times, and why they’ve become a target for tax evasion investigators.  Modi with his demonetization and push for a less-cash society could’ve badly dented both Margayya and the Malgudi co-op.

RK Narayan’s Writing

It is interesting to compare RK Narayan with Shashi Tharoor, another Indian writer whose English novels are popular. RK Narayan’s works are popular all over India for their relatively straightforward rendering and simple English, while Tharoor’s target audience appears to be the westernized elite in and outside India.

It is not surprising that Tharoor chose to focus on, and expressed contempt  for Narayan’s simple English, and was frustrated by RK Narayan’s indifference to a language that colonized Indian minds. Mocking his English as a ‘translation’ is actually a compliment, because when I read RK Narayan, it is like reading a timeless story in my mother tongue about our civilization, people, and way of life. On the other hand, the well-written prose in Tharoor’s ‘Great Indian Novel’ based on the Mahabharata gives it kerb appeal, but cannot mask its alienating lack of authenticity.

A purely intellectual view of itihasa is reductionist and guaranteed to fall short. While Tharoor has spoken eloquently about India’s heritage and its wisdom, he remains confused about the differences between religion and Dharma, and intellectual versus the adhyatmic [2]. An entire generation of mentally colonized Indian writers in the last few decades, armed with excellent English, and indoctrinated in the Euro-centric humanities remains proudly clueless about the sacred art traditions of Bharatvarsha. Even if they wrote in an Indian language, it would still sound foreign. In contrast, RK Narayan as a child imbibed India’s Itihasa and Sanskriti from his grandmother. Perhaps it is this learning that is reflected in his stories.

There is no independent existence for, and artificial demarcation between, the secular/outer world and the sacred/inner realm in the ‘Financial Expert’. This reflects India’s unified view of reality. Preserving this integral approach [10] gives RK Narayan’s simple prose its powerful universal appeal.  Injecting sophisticated western structures would actually interfere with, and diminish this impact. Just as Ananda Coomaraswamy noted in The Dance of Siva [7] that inserting western harmony in order to ‘enhance’ a sangeetam recital would be unnecessary and detrimental. Indeed, this integral perspective indicates that RK Narayan’s writings are part of a long, unbroken artistic tradition that follows the Natya Sastra (itself rooted in the four Vedas).

Bharata’s Natya Sastra [12] is the most influential ancient exposition on dramaturgy, performing arts, and aesthetics in the world [2], which was accessible to all sections of the society without geographical or linguistic restrictions. Rajiv Malhotra notes (emphasis mine) that the Natya Sastra “treats ‘natya’ as the total art form, including representation, poetry, dance, music, make-up and indeed the whole world. It is an organic and integral view encompassing the Vedic rituals, Shaivite dance and music, and the epic tales. The eight traditional rasas (love, humour, heroism, wonder, anger, sorrow, disgust, and fear) mirror the real world and come together in pursuit of the ‘purusharthas’ (human goal).” One can find all traditional rasas within the pages of the ‘Financial Expert’. We will end with RK Narayan’s own words in his 1964 book Gods, Demons and Others [11], where he shares his views regarding literature. He emphatically affirms the integrally unified perspective of Natya Sastra over a synthesizing approach (emphasis mine):

Everything is interrelated. Stories, scriptures, ethics, philosophy, grammar, astrology, astronomy, semantics, mysticism, and moral codes – each forms part and parcel for a total life and is indispensable for the attainment of a four-square understanding of existence

Literature is not a branch of study to be placed in a separate compartment, for the edification only of scholars, but a comprehensive and artistic medium of expression to benefit the literate and the illiterate alike. A true literary composition should appeal in an infinite variety of ways; any set of stanzas of the Ramayana could be set to music and sung, narrated with dialogue and action, and treated as the finest drama, studied analytically for an understanding of the subtleties of language and grammar, or distilled finely to yield esoteric truths“.

References
  1. ‘The Financial Expert’,  R. K. Narayan. (Vintage International), Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, 2012.
  2. ‘Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism’, Rajiv Malhotra. Harper Collins, 2011.
  3. Nara Dharma‘, N.R.I.Pathi, Indic Civilizational Portal. 2016.
  4. The Purusharthas‘, N.R.I.Pathi, Indic Civilizational Portal. 2016.
  5. Havelock Ellis Wikipedia page
  6. RBI Monetary Museum, rbi.org.in.
  7. ‘Dance of Shiva: Essays by Ananda Coomaraswamy’,  Dover Publications. 1985.
  8. Invading The Sacred: An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America’, Editors: Krishnan Ramaswamy, Antonio de Nicolas and Aditi Banerjee, Rupa & Co., Delhi. 2007.
  9. Hitchhiker’s Guide to ‘Invading the Sacred’, 2014.
  10. How Sumitranandan Pant Rediscovered Dharma‘, 2013.
  11. ‘Gods, Demons, and Others’,  R. K. Narayan. University Of Chicago Press. 1993.
  12. Classical Indic Literature III: Dramatics‘, N.R.I.Pathi, Indic Civilizational Portal. 2016.

Acknowledgments

Thanks to n.r.i.pathi for the valuable feedback.

Rebuilding the National Character

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The essence of character is willingness to stand up for your principles and endure in safeguarding the principles you support. High-minded thinking may appeal to all or even most; but it is fortitude, and the willingness to endure in order to safeguard these principles, even sacrificing oneself in the process, which is the hallmark of character, and shows the calibre of the principle.

For Romans it was Virtus, for the Chinese its Tianxia, for Indians it is Dharma. The character of a nation or civilization is determined by the driving principle. It is an ideal that gives courage in dark days, high minded thinking in peaceful ones, and moral thinking in prosperous ones. Above all, it not only gives a nation its character, but builds character among its nationalists.

Our previous articles on the Global Crisis of Character and Why Character is so Important, were composed so that people, especially self-declared civilizational saviours, understand that their personal character is ultimately what deprecates or elevates National Character. Before you can save your civilization, before you can save your society, you must first save your own character. Spelling bees, IQ tests, entrance exams, College placement, or even delusional “genetic superiority” all come to naught if your character is atrocious. There have been many intelligent sellouts like Alcibiades and many farmer-soldiers of high character like Cincinnatus. Who is celebrated as saviour in the end? It is the one with character.

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The starting point of character is self-respect. Respect yourself, and show it by respecting others. Between shameless, servile obedient sycophancy and arrogant non-compliance is the middle ground of self-respect. Find it, and no matter who you are, what your role is, or what your caste is, keep it and never let it go. It’s possible to respect or admire something and adapt it without putting yourself down or losing your identity completely—learn this. It is right to learn, even from the enemy…but do not lose who you are.

Learn the concept of “other people”. There is undoubtedly a concerted campaign to smear Indians, especially “Hindu Males”, as was seen with documentaries like “India’s Daughter”. Statistics are ignored in favour of individual stories. At the same time, while pushing back against such unjustified stereotypes, it is also important to avoid playing to stereotype. Undoubtedly this article too had an agenda, and to maintain credibility, some understanding was given at the beginning. The words at the very end however are the grain of truth in a heap of chaff.  Due to Nehruvian Babooism, more than even casteism, a sense of self-entitlement and self-absorption drives far too many Indians. “Pata hai mera baap kaun?…He is the assistant secretary shoeshiner to the congress party president!”—ergo special privileges. This status obsession and self-centeredness have already been discussed here.

Not everything is a matter of short term, personal ROI. One generation plants the tree, another gets the shade. Furthermore, if you see a tree full of fruit, you don’t just feed your face, then cut down the tree to take back to your immediate family. Take what you need, and a few for your dependents, and leave the rest for others, who also rely on it. Live on the interest, not the principle of your inheritance.

The same applies to personal habits. This was already discussed here by a young lady in her Telugu article directed towards Men & her English article here focused on Women. Bathing, personal grooming, even dressing should take into consideration the fact that you are in public. Learn or re-learn basic etiquette. Cleanliness is part of our Culture.

Invest in public institutions. If you only support your caste/clique/social circle, if you only care about what affects you, no one will be there for you when you need their help. Most people think they’re very smart when they take advantage of someone else. But that only assumes you never bump into him again, or your circumstances don’t change. Don’t just win today, to lose tomorrow. Focus on winning tomorrow. Public institutions help here.

Learn the difference between a rival, an adversary, and an enemy. Indiots treat their enemies like rivals (or even friends) and their rivals like enemies. A rival is merely someone with similar talents who may be in competition with you—but is still part of society, and may even be your friend (after all, there is such a thing as friendly competition). A rival becomes an adversary when he is someone who is directly facing off against you, but whom you may need later since you are in a common society. An enemy is someone who is a severe threat to you, and possibly even your family, society, and civilization. More often than not, such people have made up their minds.

Introspection. There is plenty of blame to go around. Singling out a single person for all the ills in your family, singling out a single community for all the ills in your nation, is not going to achieve anything. Some may be more culpable to others, but there is always something we each can correct, or at the very least, do better at.

Introspection doesn’t mean public self-flagellation. It means sitting down, every once in a while (every week/month & year), to think about what you have done, what you shouldn’t have done, what you should have done, and what you should do better. This is the danger  in asinine theories of “genetic superiority” or molecular perfection—they ignore the place of character and taking responsibility for results. If your attitude is “things worked because I am genius/things failed because others are terrible”, then no wonder you’ve perfected the formula for national disaster. You are not that special. Most of you are morons—especially the IQ-obsessed among you priding yourselves on divining blog ramblings. Real intelligence lies in adapting to change, in adapting to our circumstances, and finding ways to correct course. Any idiot can give meaningless gyaan or vent on twitter or knock off memes from phoriegn. Take responsibility for your actions, be a man, and look for solutions.

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Cultivate yourself. It doesn’t matter if you are only 10th pass (or LKG), it is never too late to start reading. Reading doesn’t mean reading only what popinjay gyaanis prefer. Reading means making an effort to teach yourself. It can be as simple as learning about different varieties of birds, teaching yourself a new language, mastering a new cuisine to cook, or even enjoying popular literature. The Classics are an excellent pursuit for those with the inclination. Make an effort if you can. But no matter what your age, cultivate yourself by picking up the practice of reading both the practical and the recreational.

Cultivating yourself also means developing other sides of yourself with hobbies. Merely watching serials or cricket or idiot bollywood movies is no way to spend all your free time. Some tv time is ok, but the rest of it, spend on developing your artistic or musical side. Pick up gardening, or a sport—a real sport—like wrestling, archery, or field hockey. It also means, not devolving to the emotional equivalent of a child. From godforsaken gameshows to stupid serials and soap operas to infantile cartoons, the modern middle class adult (young and old, male and female) has literally become infantalised through a life of idle pleasure-addling.

A life of pleasure-addled delusion and pain-avoiding pill-popping leads to the requiem for a dream. Don’t be dependent on pharmaceuticals. Take what you absolutely need, but when possible rely on a healthy lifestyle, traditional medicine, and non-fast-food diet.

I have actually seen women in advanced middle age watch lullaby cartoons for infants because “it makes them feel calm & happy“. You know the infantilisation of adults is complete when people reach such a stage. Women who should be matriarchs and role models have devolved to this state—and the less said about their menfolk the better.

Become practical. Whether you are a Pandit, Philosopher, IT worker, or loafer, we are of this world and in this world. It is good to keep an eye on the next one, but what you do in this life, beyond the puja room, beyond the office, is ultimately how you will be judged…in this life and the next. Being able to organise an Akhanda Bhajan anywhere in the world within 24 hours may be an impressive feat of Bhakti and logistics, but it is not fundamentally going to safeguard your cultural and civilizational inheritance. Bhakti (or ritual or jnana or what-have-you) is primarily about your personal spiritual path. Your true work in this world is outside the puja room, and is the legacy you leave behind for the public good.

Pray knowing Ishvara controls everything,                     Act thinking you’re responsible for everything.

[Ram Raj] was not built in a Day. Ram Setu was not built by a single individual, but by a team of individuals working together towards a common goal. Ram did honour Varuna deva, and did puja by the seashore, but he also oversaw the construction of the bridge. Gyaan is cheap, action is expensive. Unless you have “skin in the game” , keep your useless gyaan to yourself and start contributing in a useful fashion. You get out what you put in, and the value of your advice is determined on the basis of the competence of your record. Fortitude, endurance, and willingness to bear pain are all required for those wishing to become physically fit. For the nation to become physically and mentally fit, the same fortitude is required. Cowering gyaanis braying about “hypermasculinity” or “genetic superiority” will be given the ridicule they deserve, especially  if they lack the courage and competence to lead by example.

Take responsibility. This means not only contributing to the national cause in some meaningful way, but in making it a point to safeguard that which you are immediately responsible for.

If you haven’t done any of these things in your spoiled little existence, start today. This is why we wrote of the importance of critical thinking. Gyaani-ism results in living in your own made up world of assumptions. Critical thinking necessitates understanding the world as it actually is. Dharma is not assumption-based. Dharma is reality-based, and reality changes based on circumstances .  Modern/Post-modern living may make it seem like you are just a mall or a single-brand retail store away from food, fashion, and water, but what happens when the power goes out? 1 hour or 1 day power cuts are the norm in less densely populated towns and villages, and even many cities, but what do you do if you live in a crime-ridden metro? Gated community or not, foreign or domestic, these are things to consider.

Puja, Ritual, Havan, Bhakti, all are good—but not enough. God helps those who help themselves. Unless you are a pujari, you have no excuses. As a praja (as a responsible citizen) you have a responsibility think about these things we listed above.

Science is organised Knowledge. Wisdom is organised Life.—Immanuel Kant

Value wisdom over knowledge. Knowledge is important, but not what is pivotal in the end. Learn the differences. Debasing yourself like a gunga din, following orders, taking instructions, or just taking advice (or saying you’ll think about it) are not the same thing. Being an argumentative and opinionated idiot doesn’t make you smart—it makes you an idiot. Just because your mummy says you’re smart doesn’t mean you can spout off like buffoon. Just because you did well in school doesn’t mean you can actually read/listen to understand what someone said rather than just read/listen to argue to live in your opinions. Just because something was written in a book doesn’t mean its true. Sabda pramana is primarily rooted in Divine authority—not some native or foreign fraudacharya playing false guru. Learn from real Acharyas who live in Agraharas and Mathas.

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Bhodrolok?

 This leads into the next point. While it’s good to differentiate between those who openly attack our culture and those foreigners who openly support it, understand that you don’t always know who’s doing what covertly. A traitor is still a traitor, but understand that there still is a difference between native and foreign. Foreigners can be allies and friends, but regardless of the behaviour of casteists, only natives are your real family. There are some things only natives can do. Have the self-respect to understand this.

Gandhi remains controversial, and this movie ever less appreciable by the day. Nevertheless, every now and then, there are some relevant scenes, and this is one of them.

It is good to appreciate friends, but your friends cannot run your own household. It is good to acknowledge well-wishers, but they cannot lead your way. It is good to be a good global citizen,but start by being a good national citizen first. Then, not only will you find that you will be more successful in attaining your objectives, but that your circle of friends (foreign and domestic) will increase, not because you are likeable, but because you are respectable.

Stop being useful idiots. If you don’t know, shut up. MTV veejays may have taught you to be loud or obnoxious or like these “bindaas” buffoons, but that’s the single best way to play into your opponents’ hands. It is the mark of an educated mind to consider without accepting. Learn from a real Mahatma, Mahatma Vidhur.

VN_SilenceNext, understand who you are. Perhaps the biggest problem facing us today is that caste identity has become the be-all-and-end-all. This is in part due to reservations, but let’s not kid ourselves, is primarily driven by our own history. Now it’s one thing to wish to preserve your jati identity, which most Hindus do today, and its another thing to only care about it. A Jati group is but an extension of your family group, beyond that may be varna, but beyond that is the common religious community and the nation in general. Be able to flow in and out of these multiple identities rather than just spend 24 hrs a day in caste battles.

Those who think casteism is dead are fooling themselves—it has merely morphed with one side using AIT based genetics theories and another using AIT based oppression theories. Those who want unity must understand that they can’t pretend nothing bad never happened 2000 years ago or 200 years ago. Most people won’t say much if you wish to marry within your own caste, or preserve and pass on your identity, but stop being a jackass about it. Prove yourself on your own merit, not your clan’s. Taking pride in something is one thing, being a prideful idiot is another.

On that note, by now most of you are familiar with our own house blend of searing internal criticism (you just had a sample above). Unlike some, we don’t lay responsibility at the doorstep of one community, but recognise that there’s plenty of blame to go around. Advocating against self-flagellation (especially the public variety) doesn’t mean license to avoid responsibility. Enough buck-passing. The buck stops here. Take responsibility. Man up. And if you wish to rebuild the national character, start with your own character. Young or old. Upper caste, Lower caste. Man or Woman. Ph.D or only LKG. All individuals have a role to play in the days ahead. The days of treating others like dirt are over.

Start with yourself, and show you have self-respect by treating others with respect. This is the first step to rebuilding personal character.

Personal Character

Shivaji

1. Reject casteists and casteism. 

If there is a single overarching obstacle to our unity today it is casteism. It is the biggest single problem facing us today due to its stakes, and it is not just something found in rural India. It has assumed a more subtle character in urban India, even among the professional middle classes. Most things aren’t said in polite society (unless doors are closed), but you can easily tag the casteists on twitter. They are found both in lower castes & upper castes, but all are societal termites. They can easily be identified by their genetics obsession and continued promotion of AIT on the one hand or hatred of a particular community on the other. They will even misquote shruti and smriti to that end, such is their shamelessness.

And for the caste obsessed, we also didn’t say varnashrama dharma. Caste endogamy or practicing your basic kulachara is not what makes you a casteist. Shamelessly feeling entitled to things which your character or your incompetence disqualifies from, does.

If you don’t believe in Varna Samkara, fine—free country . But remember, in Manu’s time itself there were many cases of inter-caste marriage; in fact, so much so, he himself gave a scheme of the new sub-castes created. Understand the difference and stakes between inter-caste, inter-religious, and inter-national. I am not against someone’s personal or familial beliefs. Marriage after all, is a personal/familial matter. But if you think inter-caste is the same as inter-religious or inter-national, you probably need to have your head examined. Have your priorities straight and distinguish between nice to have and need to have (yes, there is such a thing even under the strictest most conservative interpretation of Dharma). In times of aapaada, Aapad Dharma applies, irrespective of your caste-conceits.

So if there is a single thing you take away from this article, let it be this. If you can’t let go of your ancient views, at least have the intelligence to shut up about them in public—we don’t need pseudo-intellectuals like ruining the national cause with prejudice. This leads to the next point.

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2. Emotional Discipline. Time and time again we have written of the importance of social discipline in general and emotional discipline in particular. Between uncontrolled joy and unsustainable anger, is the middle path of equanimity. Just because someone disagrees with you on 9% doesn’t mean you sacrifice the other 91% by engaging in a to-the-death online argument with them. Just because someone said something positive of your society, doesn’t mean they’re your friend. Just cause someone does all the rituals doesn’t change the fact that his actions are destroying the rashtra and its native culture.  Don’t get fooled by appearances. Don’t be Gullible. Those who have strong personal religious beliefs frequently use them to further their own selfish public ambitions.

This is why deficiency in judgment is properly that which is called stupidity. Judging by the number of fools who outraged about PK and then went ahead and promoted Dangal (or vice-versa), it’s quite clear we have long road ahead on this count…

3. Plan & prepare for contingencies. Develop Survival skills.The ironically named Ramachandra Seuna provides a profile in foolishness on how failing to be vigilant results in ignominy. The great fortress of Devagiri (now ignominously renamed) was famed as the most impregnable in the Dakshinapatha. Despite being constructed upon an imposing hillock, it fell within weeks due to failure to keep account of adequate provisions in case of surprise siege. It would be centuries before the land of the Marathas would produce a Shivaji, who ensured a network of well-provisioned forts throughout Marathwada. If every man’s home is his castle, then the same applies to your house (or temporary shelter).

§ Learn to stock up and keep provisions for a rainy day or week or month

§ Learn to work in teams (castes don’t count)  like professionals in institutions

§ Learn to plan & train. Waiting until stuff happens isn’t a strategy. Emergencies happen.

4. Cultivate yourself

Just because you earned good grades/marks in school and went to a good school, doesn’t mean you are cultivated. Just because you “earn job make money” doesn’t mean you are finished with school. Your real education begins after graduation.

Don’t just watch tv/kircket/movies, develop your God-given abilities. Learn new languages, read books on topics that interest you and topics that help you grow. Try to better yourself as a person at least an hour a week. Everyone has at least 15 minutes a day to do something useful to grow or contribute (ideally both).

5.Develop standards for yourself. If anything goes, if hedonism is your compass, don’t be surprised if you become depressed by emptiness down the road. Ask yourself what type of person you wish to be, then make your decisions, rather than make a poor choice and rationalise it later. In our previous article we pointed out that along with Sita & Rama, there was Kunti & Pandu, and even Ahalya & Gautama. The only true judge is Divine, but ask yourself now what type of person you wish to be remembered as, rather than be short-sighted in your choices. Modernity may mean complicated romantic pasts for many, but it doesn’t justify ignominous romantic presents and futures. Some are men of honour, others are women of principle. Whether you can follow the rigid Dharma of Rama or not, there is no excuse for not having his Sabhyata, Saujanya, & Maryada.

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6.Accomplishments over Credentials. Credentials and degrees and jobs are important. But prestige is ultimately a nice-to-have. At the end of the day, the Harvard/IIT grad who amounted to nothing is forgotten, and the Chaiwala who became CM & PM is remembered.

If you are intellectually gifted, cultivate your physical fitness. If you are physically fit, cultivate your intellect. Clever talk and even subject-matter expertise are good, but promote those who are actually using their gifts for the common good.

Develop physical fitness, crowdsource movies by struggling but culturally rooted directors, go to the theatre to see real drama (not bollywood), give patronage to struggling small business. These are the real things that make a difference at the end of the day.  Accomplish something yourself, or support those trying to accomplish something.

7.Prioritise Family. Giving respect to elders. Looking after your children. Sheltering relatives and friends in need. These all may prevent your overall “utility maximisation”, but are critical for a common society.

This also means recognising the due place of women not just as mothers but as wives and co-equals and partners in society.  Real men not only fulfill their duties, but know how to interact and behave around women, and enjoy the company of others in a respectful way. Become skilled conversationalists (rather than just idle gossips or grunting neanderthals).

Familial Character
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Jijabai

1. Bharatiya Moms, stop raising Mummy’s boys. Learn from this mother about what it takes to raise a real man. Notice we didn’t say stop loving them or stop showing love. But stop being so unctuously permissive of all their misbehaviour. Treating them special at home is one thing, spoiling them so rotten that they act like they’re special in public is another. Time to bring an end to the Dhritarashtra and Gandhari Syndrome.

Raise men and women of character. It is not just sons who are spoiled but even daughters now. This is what happens when you don’t emphasise samskara and sadacharam at a young age. Philosophy and “choose your own way” is for when they are young adults. Children don’t have a vote in a democracy. They thrive in structure.

Here is Acharya Chanakya on the matter:

Laalyet panchavarshani dashavarshaani taadyet|

Praaptetu shodashevarshe putram mitravadacharet || sl.47

Rear your son affectionately till he is five yeas old then admonish him strictly for the next ten years. When he turns sixteen, start treating him as your friend. [1, 23]

Your grown children are your best friends. Good marks are good, good living is better, good character is best of all. Raise men and women of character.

2. Prioritise family over the individual. Yes, a repeat point. Yes, there is such a thing as individual dignity (something that has been lost to those promoting things like madde snanam…). But the head of family or the head of society has no right to degrade the dignity of others or engage in tyranny. But just as societal needs come before individual needs, so do family needs come before individual needs. Being the head of a household does not mean trampling all over members of your family, and being an individual does not mean you can willfully ignore family needs. Balance is the key.

3. Understand that that rights come with duties. As adults you may have freedom to act as you please. But actions have consequences. As we remarked in our previous article, lives of hedonism may seem appealing with their exterior gloss, but with agency comes responsibility. Take responsibility for your actions and use what freedoms you’ve been given to act responsibly.

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Community Character

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1. Start doing something to improve the community around you. Complaining on twitter is easy, actually doing something with your spare time is hard. Swachh Bharat is more than just another government programme. It is a national call to action. Cleanliness begins with you. Change begins with you. Temsutulu Imsong is now a celebrity for her Shramdaan effort.

When you are focused on trivia, you only attain the trivial. Real action isn’t ritualism. Real action is improving the world around you directly. Unless you are a pujari, you have no excuses. Plenty of people just like you are tired of just talking and are actually doing useful things. Don’t just RT and praise, follow their example, intelligently.

2. Be considerate to those around you. Time and again we have written about the importance of Sabhyata, Saujanya, and Maryada. Ironically, those most obsessed with kulachara seemed to have forgotten these components of Achara. Achara is good conduct, all-round good conduct. Part of it is ritual, but most of it is your own behaviour. Be considerate to those around you (young and old alike). You may expect the Temsutulas of the world to clean up after you, but do these national gems a favour and reduce their workload by ceasing your littering and inconsiderate behaviours. 

3. Prioritise business to small business. So what if you might pay a few paise more. So what if the other guys have an app. Like it or not, trust is a critical part of the commercial relationship. Giant mega-corporations and malls may look slick and shiny, but it’s small and medium enterprise that employs the most people. Yes, there are crooks who do things like adulterate milk, but how does that compare with the plastic and cadmium rice of corporations in India’s neighbour to the east?

Yes, cleanliness standards must be improved. So be a (partially) silent partner. Give investment and tips to the small teashops and local kiranas to keep them current. If they don’t take your advice, fine. You can always give your business elsewhere. But there is no point complaining about your own job getting offshored (or reshored due to automation…yes, even coding) if you didn’t make an effort to look after your community interests either. Going to the mall once in a while may be understandable, buying Lenovos or Huaweis then complaining about China, is not. Complaining about Pakistan is understandable,  watching Bollywood movies promoting their actors, is not.

4. Have a plan for succession. Team, Family, Community, Business, Army, Government, all need depth not just in the ranks of enlisted man or common member, but depth in leadership as well. From Dahir to Anandapala to Hemu, too many battles have been lost because a cause was personality-focused. Personalities do matter, but institutions matter more. Have a plan for succession, and develop talent to replace you if you should fall.  This point is also why loyalty is so important. If the person below you is too personally ambitious, then the more incompetent, but loyal person often gets promoted, affecting the whole team/system. Plan for succession.

Because the sons of Dasaratha were loyal to each other and put their desa dharma first, Bharata could keep the throne ready for Rama, when he returned. To get loyalty from your subordinates show loyalty and respect (not the same as subservience) to seniors.

5. Invest in Team Sports. Contrary to the Olympics gyaanis, Kreeda is in our Culture. But stop obsessing about individualistic kircket, and start playing team sports like field hockey and football. If you are an older person, start coaching local youngsters so they know how to play well as a team. Take a page from Bhaichung Bhutia.

State Character

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Many patriots pride themselves in being “nationalists”. But nationalism isn’t just “Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan“. Each state has its own heritage and even language that is worth treasuring as well. If we have written in support of Shuddh Hindi as rajbhasha it is out of necessity. Our own love for own state and language is the reason Andhra Portal was launched in the first place. All other states beyond the Telugu states deserve a Portal. All states, no matter how big or small, have a culture worth celebrating and preserving. That is true Samskruthi. Don’t just tweet on anniversaries of state figures, actually take pride in your actual heritage by taking tangible steps to preserve it.

To rebuild the character of the state necessitates leaders. Real leaders, not just entitled buffoons who like to boss people around or boast of credentials, but real people of action. Real action is not in producing hackneyed memes that mimic analogues from the West, but in actually taking tangible steps in collaboration with like-minded people. There are too many Dhritarashtras and Gandharis who have become too comfortable in their middle class palaces and pleasure-addled lives of mall food and bollytrash movies. We have written about this complex before, but now an article was written on this very issue in a mainstream paper.

To rebuild the character of state necessitates people willing to work across caste lines. If you truly believe in merit, you recognise only your caste doesn’t have it. If you truly believe in courage/manliness, you recognise only your caste doesn’t have it. Put the genetics-obsessed individuals in their place and out to pasture, and gather together people who recognise character makes men and women of worth. And simply 1 word here or there is not enough.

There must be robust pushback and even public shaming of those societal termites putting their own caste/community at risk with their “scientifically proven” bigotry. Otherwise, don’t make pretense to playing opinion-leader. Casteist BS has to be treated with the contempt it deserves, no matter how subtle it is, and simply calling others “jealous” only shows your own infantile understanding of how the world actually works. Nobel prize-winners include this sellout and exclude this genius.

This of course works the other way too. Whatever caste issues there were a hundred or a thousand years ago, “payback” benefits no one but anti-nationals. It will simply be a matter of cutting off the nose to spite the face. Don’t be a parrot of propaganda and a sucker for atrocity literature and drumbeater for reservations in everything. Self-respect is not just a slogan—show it. Empower yourself with your own hard work and God-given intelligence—and prove yourself to shut up the casteists. Many have already done this and have proven themselves in multiple spheres of life. Follow their example, and not the DMK’s. Picking on defenseless men and women is easy. Doing the hard work to correct societal problems is…yes…hard. If you are surrounded by casteists, ignore them, and reach out to us, or other like-minded people.

Once you have a group of like-minded folks, sit down, and discuss the issues of your state. In our case, we did this with individuals from our now bifurcated state. In addition, understand that women have an exceedingly important role to play—and if Jijabai is any indicator, an even more important role to play. Evaluate people’s strengths with an unbiased eye. Yes, we will have to place trust eventually in people. Some will let us down, so it is best to do filtering at the beginning.

This also means those who wish to participate and contribute must be patient. If you don’t get noticed right away, there is probably some reason. There are a million things going on and a crore Kalnemis in our ranks. It will take time. Rather than seeking to compete in resentment, build up your own repertoire in the mean time, via study or useful promotion of others. Show you are a team player. Those of you who compete anyways, at least have the responsibility to do your own thing and not get in someone else’s way.

Recognise core groups and peripheral groups. Example: In Karnataka, these would be Kannadigas, Kodavas, and Tulus,etc for the core. All other groups are peripheral.

1. Some of you have reached out to us. Most of you didn’t have the character to, and prefer to read in cowardly silence. Fine. But it’s never too late to course correct. If you want to do for your region what we did for ours and another one, reach out. It may take time, we may not say yes, we may not even respond, but that is not the point. There are many ways to revive the character of the state. Such a platform is but one of them, and not everyone is suited for it. If you’re not, find something else and make your mark positively. There are still ways to work collaboratively without being part of the same sub-team.

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Samarth Ramadas Swamy

2. Reach out to the local traditional Pandits. You can find ways to give qualified ones patronage or support the events they and others like them hold to teach all children. There is a lot of junk colonial history out there and junk colonial scriptural interpretation out there. It is only the traditional pandit who can give the correct interpretation and advise your effort to properly restore your regional history and culture. Only orthodox Pandits are the authorities on our scriptures anyway—not some beef-eating baboo, foreign or domestic, from the ivory tower.

3. Promote native/regional language & language bookstores. “But it’s cheaper on amazon” isn’t an excuse. That should be a last resort not a first one. Give patronage as much as you can and suggest book titles to your friends and family and followers. There’s no point whining about how your kids or the younger generation doesn’t speak  your mother tongue when you didn’t make it a point to show them what to read, and why.

For a community that has suffered terribly, the greatest counter-move Kashmiri Pandits could make is to preserve  & pass-on their knowledge of Sharda script. KP’s should teach their children Sharda (and of course, Koshur). This will safeguard not only the ability to read the treasure of Sanskrit literature that came from the Land of Maharishi Kashyap, but that there will be motivation to re-collect the many lost manuscripts of our civilizational heritage that are in that lipi.

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Kashyapa Muni Statue in Andhra

Our Sikh brothers in Dharma have provided an excellent example in preserving not only the Punjabi language, but the Gurmukhi script. The linguistic aspect is all the more relevant in how they have kept it current. Not only did they infuse modern pop-music with Punjabi lyrics, but they updated a native folk-dance for international audiences . The traditional folk dance and language remained in harmony with the exigencies of contemporary reality.

On that note, other groups, such as many a Sindhi  I know who did not learn her or his mother tongue, should do so now while the older generation is still around. Those speaking various Hindi dialects should begin emphasising them as well. We touched on that issue here. There is no reason why the purveyors of a persianised pidgin patois should look down upon the venerable bhashas of Braj and Avadh and Mithila.

4. Culture isn’t static. You can’t just regurgitate whatever traditional learning you were taught. Nor is it 1 dimensional or only religious in character. The next step is to revive cultural equities not just by documenting them,but by supporting artists, dancers, weavers, craftspeople, fashion designers, poets, etc etc.

Give patronage to the arts. Not just the occasional Odissi performance, not just the occasional Carnatic Katcheri, but giving 15 min a day or an hour a week to reviving Arts & Crafts. Find 1 or 2 things, and stick with the issue. Handloom workers across Bharat are in desperate need of business (and honest investment, from people who don’t take advantage). What is pocket change for you is a month’s livelihood for them. Give support to handloom. Even if you are not a “mercantile”, you can make a difference in helping these people update their fashion to current trends. Foreigners are constantly studying India to remake native styles and motifs for overseas sale. Indians end up buying from the same foreign brands. Don’t you think it makes more sense to just buy locally? Do you really think Levi’s or DKNY needs a few thousand more rupees? You don’t have sacrifice your entire wardrobe—but a kurta here and outfit or purse there, goes a long way. Don’t just Make in India, Wear from India.

And patronage is meant for not only the classical arts but for the folk arts as well. Harikatha, Burrakatha, Naga dolls, Madhubani, etc, all are deserving of investment and promotion. Kudos to Punjabis and Gujaratis who already showed the way with their embrace of Bhangra/Gidda & Raas/Garbha. Folk is not just for villages. It can be updated for contemporary metro kids as well—see the NRIs who created a new music/dance genre.

If you are fed up with bollywood insulting our culture, give the parallel vision, the real vision of real India. Enough talk. Put your money where your mouth is. They are plenty of short film directors and film students looking for funding online. Crowdsource. Pool your resources and give the ones with the right vision and right attitude the funding they need. One small film can lead to bigger ones.They are all one google-search away.

This also means investing in your regional language industry.  If your own state industry produces mindless mass masala like Sandalwood, fear not. Tollywood (now TFI) was even worse—so much so that I swore off of it. It has now returned full swing beyond Bahubali.   Yes there are still back-bencher flicks, but it has finally made a name for itself and is Tollywood no more. There is no reason why Bhojpuri films can’t do the same in the North.

If you see a director who goes against the grain, support him (or her). Crowdsource movies or prove to producers that your state too has the audience to make a Baahubali of its own. Culturally-relevant cinema should be the criterion. Move beyond the caste-agendas and prioritise the common state culture. Move beyond the regionalism, and prioritise the common national culture.

National Character
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Swarajya

Also understand how the game is played. Overcompensating bravado, caste prejudice, and even overt religious bigotry are merely going to ensure you play directly into our shatrus’ hands with quotable soundbites—many of you are experts at this already…And misogyny is downright suicidal. We at this site reject it prima facie, but if you don’t reject it on principle, at least have some sense. Political sense. When your shatru is trying to pit women against men, you don’t play into his hands.

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It is also means putting regionalism in check. The contributors to this site hail from different states, and even love their native languages dearly. At the same time, it is important to understand that a common native language, accessible to all, is required. We have already addressed this issue here. It is possible to support shuddh Hindi for national purposes while supporting local efforts like Kannada Baruthe.

Requiring all medium and long term residents of a state to learn the local language is the minimum courtesy for other regions like mine to accommodate another language for national governmental communication. If you disagree with this, at least disagree without being disagreeable, and give practical alternatives (neither universal translators…nor english). English is a colonial holdover, the time has come to start transitioning to the native. States like mine have accommodated the national interest. Migrants to my state can accommodate the state interest.

1. Buy native. Ask your salesman or merchant where your murthi comes from. If you have the money, give patronage to local murthi/diya artisans. Price and popularity aren’t the only things that matters. If you have the budget, have the sense to not buy from your “number 1 strategic threat”, or don’t be surprised when this happens.

2. Give patronage to Civilizational bookstores. They may not be perfect. They may have vsnl-era websites, but these publishers ensure that our common national and civilizational heritage is passed on to anglicised metro youth.

§  Chowkhambha

§  Motilal Banarsidass

§  Sri Yogi Books

§  Vedambooks.net

§  Vedicbooks.net

§  Exotic India Art

§  Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan

3.Be an ambassador for yourself, your family, your community,your state& your nation. Like it or not, people are constantly judging each other. The impression you make on someone else may be your prerogative, but also influences their impression of you and where you come from. You have freedom to act as you please, but don’t complain if your family or community then feels ashamed of you. Have fun, but be responsible. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. But all play and no work makes Jack a rotten boy.  Rotten boys can’t contribute to the national cause, just as rotten wood cannot be carved.

4. Put aside personal ambition and focus on the National Need.

Counted the old names of their descent dearer than the names of their sons

The days ahead will be tall and terrible. So much so that even the heretofore spoiled and brattish will wake up and be shaken from shirking obligation. While they will separate the boys from the men, but they will also make men, real men.

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Hindi di Chadar

Different Dharmas exist for different people. Nevertheless, there is a Saamaanya Dharma and a Bharatiya Dharma that exists above Kulachara and Varnashrama Dharma. Nothing is possible unless there is this unity. Not a feigned, falsely professed unity. Not a nationalism of convenience to advance own-side caste interests. Not apologia to justify power grabs or government jobs or party doles. But a genuine unity, that preserves nation, then state, then community, (then caste), then family, then individual.

The episode earlier this year where Rajiv Malhotra was attacked by a concerted casteist effort is a prime example of these issues. Under the obvious feigned pretence of “criticism” and “intellectualism” someone who had actually stuck his neck out for all castes was targeted by a section of casteists, ostensibly bought out by anti-nationals. Similar pseudo-intellectualism was seen in an attempt to pin the of blame on baniya communities for invasions. Casteism is no caste’s monopoly, and RM has been and still is defended by many from the same caste who oppose own-side casteists. The same occurred in the case against baniya community members. And that is the point. To be effective against casteists, inter-caste battles are not the way. Intra-caste battles must be fought to root out these societal termites, whether they are found among the clique that attacked Malhotra or the Periyar supporters that drove out most of a community from Tamil Nadu. If you don’t have the anatomy to do this, don’t whine when you and your caste are on the receiving end.

AIT is the theory by the racist, for the casteist, and of the clueless. No amount of IQ touting and self-celebration will change that.

“A man is great by deeds, not by birth.”– Chanakya

What has a person actually done? What solutions have they actually provided? A poet or “evolutionary biologist” is not a strategist, and should know his place in the scheme of things or be put back in it. Put aside caste conceits,genetics rants& entitlement complexes. Such charlatans may be gone cases, but those of you who have been tricked into supporting such nonsense, introspect and rather than ask whether you are doing the socially profitable, ask whether you are doing what is societally responsible. Ask what your “saviours” have actually done. Ask whether you are doing the right thing.

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For once in your lives, recognise we’re all in this together. Emotional discipline, cultured behaviour, professional competence, personal character, all these qualities, all this background literature was composed so that the one thing you truly lacked was the one thing you’d finally recognise you sorely needed: the right Attitude.

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I believe the single most significant decision I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude.

It is more important than my past, my education, my bankroll, my successes or failures, fame or pain, what other people think of me or say about me, my circumstances, or my position. Attitude keeps me going or cripples my progress. It alone fuels my fire or assaults my hope.

When my attitudes are right, there is no barrier too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme, no challenge too great for me. [2]

Ranjit, Shivaji, aur Pratap

Attitude is everything. It is the spark of character. It is the preserver of unity. It is the sail of culture. Your attitude stinks. We have spent the better part of 3 years explaining how and why. Without the right attitude, revival is doomed to fail.

Successful revival is only possible when the right number, of right thinking, right acting, righteous people with the right attitude come together. Either unite and rise to be taller than all your forefathers, or fall because you failed to put aside your personal ego. That is what makes character. These are the stakes of character. That is why we must rebuild it.

shivsmarak

References:

  1.  Chaturvedi, B.K. Chanakya Neeti.Diamond: New Delhi. 2015
  2. Charles Swindoll

Shubha Sankranthi (2017)

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Shubha Makara Sankranthi to all our readers!

Whether you call it Makara Sankranthi, Lohri, Magh Bihu, Ghughuti, Pongal, Sakraat, Khicheri, Saaji, Suggi, Tirmoori, Uttarayan or “the transition of the sun into the constellation capricorn“, we wish you all a very Happy Harvest Festival!

Part of celebrating what unites us is understanding the beauty of the variety. Sanskrit is the language that unites us and Devanagari the most accessible to us, yet greetings come in many languages and many scripts. This year’s is written in the superfun script of the Odias of Odisha (ancient Kalinga, Utkala, & Oddra). To know how they celebrate today, here is a must follow handle or two for all things Odia, including ICP’s own @Itssitu, who was featured last year with her article on Odisha Fashion.

Pongal-greetings-tamilFrom Odisha we go to Tamil Nadu and a particularly emotive Pongal, where the great tradition of Jallikattu is presently prohibited. One need not participate or even be a fan of a tradition that is important to a different socio-economic group (in this case rural), but it’s important to respect all traditions, particularly when the animal is not harmed and is in fact treated as part of the family. Jallikattu is neither Spanish Bullfighting nor Cowboy Rodeo. The animal is safe, well-treated, and it is the unarmed players who are taking the risk given the powerful bull horns and hooves. It may be more martial than most may handle, but when the animal is treated well, it’s yet another part of festival fun.

JALLIKKATTU - PONGAL FESTIVAL'S SPECIAL BRAVE ART EVENT OF TAMIL PEOPLE - Art by Anikartick,Chennai,TamilNadu,India
Art by Anikartick

For some, Makara Sankranthi is about flying kites, for others it is about drawing Kolam(Rangoli) or playing Jallikattu, and for still others, it is a brilliant bonfire, symbolising a fresh start and personal cleansing.

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Punjab’s  Lohri (like Bhogi in Andhra’s 4 day Sankranthi) is a great utsav of aag. It is celebrated by Punjabis the world over, and symbolises that spirit in a different way. And yet, the same voices who show no concern for say trees on Christmas, suddenly do when it comes to Lohri (leave aside New Years Eve vs Crackerless Diwali).

Do what you can to preserve the tradition and petition and protest peaceably. Use facts, logic, and calm patience to make the case and point out double standards. Some connect to their culture through intellectual endeavours, others through philosophical inquiry, but most through their traditions and festivals (and the delicious cuisine that goes with them).

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Makara Sankranthi is not just a Pan-Indian, but a Pan-Indic festival, and is celebrated with great gusto by our brothers in Nepal.

So whether you say Sankranthi Shubhkamnayein, Shubheccha, or Shubhakaankshaalu, from all of us at ICP, we wish you the very best!

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Why Character is so Important

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In our previous article, we discussed how there is a global epidemic of characterlessness. And contrary to characterless gyaanis, waxing eloquent on the glories of their genius and genetically determined birthright to oppress others, it is character that qualifies one for leadership of any sort (political or spiritual). This is not because talent and ability, etc, don’t matter, but rather that one with character will have the commitment to work to overcome deficits in talent and ability (i.e. the tortoise and the hare).

Naysayers may argue saying “Ok, Nripathi, character benefits society, but what does it do for me?”. Therein lies the other problem—the characterless ask, “What have you done for me, lately”.

Character is what gives meaning to life. Without character, everything becomes a consumable, even romance, and romantic partners themselves become interchangeable. The current courtship climate in the so-called “advanced economy”/”developed world” is more akin to musical chairs or Baskin Robbins. That is the reason why Sita & Rama are praised in our society, because neither viewed love and looks as a consumable. In an age where Kings (even his own father) had many wives, Rama only had 1, why? Character.

It is not that other kings did not have character, it is that Rama’s character was the highest. To him, the pleasures of life (even married life) only had meaning through Sita and sharing them with her—rather than successive or replacement trophy wives.  This is because character fundamentally means that who becomes more important than what or how much. YOLO and “Live for Today” are constructs designed to specifically subvert this, because a mania is created causing individuals to rush to gain an experience now…before it’s too late! But this isn’t character, it is consumption, it is vampirism. “If I cannot extract this life experience out of you, I shall extract it from someone else”. This exploitative outlook, in both communists and capitalists, is what defines the current line of characterless economic thinking.

Oordhva

Character is also the counter to circumstance. In life, those who live long enough, realise that their own success is not directly proportional (r^2=1/-1) to their own efforts, talents, or “IQ/Genetic superiority/Molecular perfection”. Circumstances have a critical influence. The historian Herodotus famously wrote “Circumstances rule men, men do not rule circumstances” after his survey of kings, queens, and commoners across civilizations. But if circumstances are so influential to the course of our lives, some ask why bother; why not just go with the flow and accept them via “eat, drink, and be merry”? Circumstances may indeed determine outcomes, but we have the power to determine our response to circumstances.

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Advice for the innocent & naive

When Rama’s circumstances became unfortunate, did Sita start considering other kings or did she remain loyal to him? Did not Ravana try this line of reasoning? After all, contrary to most recent popular portrayals, Ravana himself had looks, lineage, learning, and luxury (not to mention power)—all qualities most women consider, so much so, that many women voluntarily left their husbands to chase after Ravana (and they ended up as degraded objects of pleasure in his harem). Unlike the women of today, why did Sita not “consider her options”? –For the same reason Rama did not “move on” and remarry after she left the world—marriage is more than just about pleasure. Character itself ensures constancy, throughout the various vicissitudes of life.

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What women (& men) should start focusing on again

Character is also what prevents abuse of power. As we see today, power comes in many forms, not just the traditional wealth and power, but knowledge/education, ritual, beauty, intelligence, and yes, even circumstance. Draupadi’s circumstance is the most moving. An empress of royal & religious birth, reduced to bondage and finally disguised servitude in a foreign court….all through no fault of her own.

That is why character is so important. No system, no matter how intelligently designed, can be free of tyranny if the people themselves are completely characterless. It is why Sarasvati initially leaves Ujjain—because the people themselves had become immoral. Lakshmi leaves due to corruption, and Parvati leaves due to criminality. Criminality can be found in all castes and communities of society—character, and a society that values character, is what counters this. But today, India is the society of “Neethulu koodu gudda pettavu” and “Esh karo yaar!”…who has time for character? Having urges is natural, but having standards (for yourself an others) is meaningful.

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That is why, of all the qualities the eminently unromantic cynic Acharya Chanakya praised, the highest ( above all (above even birth)), was character in a potential spouse. It is character that matters most, that forges trust in each other (and in society), that gives meaning to our existence, and that defeats that universal feeling of “being alone” (perhaps that is the real reason why, despite temporary extreme highs, most hedonists are overwhelmed by the epidemic of loneliness today). If we only live for ourselves, rather than each other, then we truly are alone and without purpose.

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Casteists ruin Varnashrama Dharma. This is because for them, caste is the only consideration, the only prism, the be-all-and-end-all of everything. Rather than looking after Desh Kalyan and Lok Kalyan, they say one thing and do another, as all tyrants do. But the greatest virtues are those which are useful to other people.

“all science no philosophy”.

It is character that gives us purpose, and a purpose to our actions, and meaning to any pleasure we feel, and a point (and counterpoint) to our existence. Pleasure for its own sake is exceedingly risky. It does not mean that those seeking pleasure are bad—seeking pleasure is a natural instinct. But the danger arises in that selfish purposeless pleasure (i.e. pleasure as lifestyle—hedonism—or irresponsible pleasure with abandon or cruelty) may lead to gradual, and often undetected changes in our own character.

Sa yathaakaamo bhavati, tat kratur bhavati, yat kratur bhavati, tat karma kurute, yat karma kurute, tat abhisampadyate.[2, 272]

The best known paraphrase is as follows:

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

The harmless fun of a youthful indiscretion can lead to life-altering choices. And even those of excellent character can make a mistake. But if we continue to engage in wrong action, then it becomes not only our character, but soon our destiny.

The Flip-side

There are many of course who naturally object that character itself is not objective as it can be faked. After all, Ravana pretended to be an Ascetic, Kalnemi came in the guise of the Rishi, and [Insert here] in the guise of a “Modern Acharya” (to fool all the scientism fanatics). But that is why character is revealed (by circumstance and adversity). Individuals may do all the right things, and say all the right slokas, and even “perform all the right rituals”, but we subconsciously detect something off of about that person, and avoid anointing them “AchArya”. By waiting and watching, we observe their true nature, which incidentally, reveals itself at the right moment, when the Lakshmana Rekha is crossed, or the handler instructs.

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Others of course protest that politics is not for goody-two-shoes, and “we cannot be Satya Harishchandra”. No argument there. Yuga Dharma adapts Sanaathana Dharma to Time, Place, and Circumstance (Yudhisthira found that out the hard way over a game of dice). The Perfect Dharma of the Satya Yuga, drops to the imperfect but Rigid Dharma of the Treta, to the Nuanced Dharma of the Dvapara, to the near-imperceptibly subtle Dharma of the Kali. It is also why Dharma, especially Rajdharma, is necessarily balanced by Niti. Do your duty…but don’t be a dummy.

Even if personal sentiment, courtesy, or even Rna dictate one thing, Dharma determines another, and we must follow it, not for nationalism, not for ritualism, not even for traditionalism, but for our own personal character, which is rooted in Truth. It is Satya (Truth) which gives tradition, ritual, and even the nation their purpose.

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That is why no matter how great a personality may seem, no matter how much knowledge or what-have-you they have to share, if something (or someone) seems too perfect, it probably is.

Character is also why renunciation is considered virtuous. This is because if we are willing to renounce something (if necessary), then we are not beholden to it, we are not enslaved by it. That is why hedonists are pitied as slaves to their senses—just look at a drug addict; what is he/she willing to do in order to get his/her next high? Is it any different than some relationships some “girlfriends” and “boyfriends” and even wives and husbands have today? “Give me this/Do that, or I’ll find it somewhere else, from someone else”. That is also why in our tradition we say:

Na jithendhriyaanaam vishayabhayam | 262

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

Those who have conquered their senses do not fear sensual indulgence [because they can renounce it any time—especially if it risks becoming dangerous to anyone or disgraceful]

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Pleasure comes in many forms, the most obvious being marital. But even pleasure in our other relationships in society (be it with our friends and relatives or…AchAryas). The pleasure of being associated with a group can often countermand obvious higher duties to society. That is why not only the guru-moha of Arjuna to Drona, but also the bandhu-moha (the attachment to relatives) of Lakshmana to Rama also had to be renounced. His separation from Rama before the end of his life was necessary in order to show that despite his fierce loyalty to Rama, he would never let that interfere with his own personal commitment to Dharma. In contrast, we all know what Dushasana was prepared to do out of his loyalty to his brother Duryodhana.

That is why Prema is not Moha. That is why Dharma is so important—because Dharma is the path to perfect character. Rather than quantity of life, it is quality of life, quality of character, that matters. When character is perfect, not only the individual life, but existence itself has meaning, and we choose to continue to exist, not for ourselves, but for others…

In contrast, we have individuals reducing Dharma to only ritual. Ritual has its place, ritualism does not. This ritualism has in fact made  man insensitive and even foolish. Like the hedonist who seeks the series of steps that will grant him physical gratification, the fruitive man ever believes in that series of steps to fruitive rewards—hence their perversion of Vedic Truth.

The subconscious assumption that in any given context of life, almost algorithmically, if we perform x,y,z ritual, we gain the result (“I have completed my task, so I deserve the reward. I have done my job so I deserve my salary”) has made men characterless. Ritual certainly has its value to Dharma, as do the Yagnas that are prescribed in Karmakanda, but it is not the be all and end all as the overcompensating  publicly “hypermasculine” (but privately effeminate) charlatans declare. Ritual serves as a guide and as a regimen for men and women, but it is for a higher purpose. Just as the artist trains to create beauty and the aaesthete trains to appreciate it, the seeker of wisdom trains in ritual, and higher than that, tapasya, to improve character. Hence the traditional phrase: character-building.

But where is the importance of character building today? We want instant results, instant gratification, and seek knowledge only as the algorithm to attain them, rather than to appreciate the results or pleasure or beauty in all their layers. My Right (with pleasure as the aim) vs My Duty (with pleasure as a possible pleasant byproduct. Nishkaamya karma). No wonder women (and now men) are being objectified—it is not their duty to each other that matters, but how they have become objects from which to extract x,y, z, experience or pleasure or aim. No wonder relationship partners and even life partners are so replaceable today (given the epidemic of serial monogamy and polyamory), it is not the person (and her/his uniqueness that matters to us) but the experience or pleasure or objective that can be extracted…or given away.

Ritual & Tapas helps us build character, circumstances test character, but Dharma is the compass for character.  The essence of Dharma is not ritual. The essence of Dharma is Rta (moral order/harmony) which is the expression of Satya (Truth). That is the true purpose of religion (not robotic ritualism and fruitive reward from the Devas), but moral order and harmony in the universe, in the nation, and in the home. The spirit of Dharma is thus Rta and, above all, Satya. If Dharma is the compass, Rta is the Cardinal Direction, but Satya is the inner magnetism.

And that is the problem today. Ritualism has resulted in precisely the type of societal incompetence that continues to plague the “Modern” Hindu. This being the Kali Yuga, whatever the protestations and prevarications of the ritualist right, religion too has undergone corruption and all varnas too have been guilty of this. As Acharya Chanakya wrote, “A fish first rots from the head”. Ignore the charlatans, and seek what you know to be true in your heart: the Truth. That is the spirit of our age-old Dharma. It is not Rna-meva Jayate or Ritual-meva Jayate, but Satyameva Jayate—this is the spirit of our tradition, and shame on the selfish creatures who define it otherwise. Their agenda is known for all who see through their characterlessness.

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.

Aesthetics

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What is beauty?—perfect nobility. What is ugliness?—imperfect character.

That is why real art about the outward expression of inward significance.

Even an ugly thought can be give attractive expression. It is only after we study the inner essence that we look beyond the makeup. It is why aesthetics is predicated upon the moral aesthetic of a society.

That is also why aesthetics cannot simply be translated as rasa, but is in fact rasalankara. The beautiful, ornamented expression of the flavours of life. Even the disgusting can be presented in aesthetically pleasing ways. Literalism is not the highest sophistication. Mere outward shows, even to the gods is not enough. It is pureness of heart, even with Bhakti.

Bhakti is important. But as with ritual, Bhakti can’t be the be all and end all for responsible citizens. Blaring Bhakti songs at 180 decibels does not substitute for having actual Godliness in your heart. Merely showing your Bhakti (or even feeling it while stomping over others at Temple) is not enough. Bhakti is not about being a whirling dervish whipping oneself into a public frenzy, and advertising it to all, but in feeling spiritual oneness with the Divine and having gratitude in your heart.  Those who advertise their religiosity the most are usually the ones who feel sincerity the least.

As with ritualists, so with the bhakti brigade. First a caveat: One should never dream of harassing either in their private dharmic endeavours…it is a matter between them and God. Bhakti, as with Knowledge, as with Ritual, is important, very important, and kudos to those who follow those margas. But the problem is when any of these become a substitute for character. That is the importance of Atma-vichara (introspection), and Viveka (distinguishment between right and wrong), and parinamavasya (willingness to change). The outwardly uber-religious donkey who justifies his ill-bred and even adharmic behaviour on account of his performance of ritual or bhakti kirthana is one who has completely missed the message to begin with. The path to perfection is not a one or two step move. It requires constant introspection of whether or not you are not only fulfilling individual duties, but general duties to society as well. But Bhakti has become a convenient excuse for individuals to forego any introspection let alone concrete accountability for civic negligence. “I work job, raise family, do puja…I am not responsible for anything else…who are you to tell me…I go to temple!”

When individuals so stubbornly dig in, constantly criticising or expecting change from others rather than asking whether they themselves might be in the wrong…this too is another type of characterlessness. That is why, time and again, we have said that the most valuable virtues are those useful to other people. Going to temple is very good, but it cannot be a shield for bad and irresponsible behaviour—otherwise it is hypocrisy.  Doing ritual is good, but if you use that as an excuse to justify misbehaviour or develop greed for power, then it too is hypocrisy. All these things exist to perfect ourselves—merely doing them does not mean we have already attained perfection…no matter what mummy says.

Some men think they are God’s gift to women, and many women think they have license to behave as if they themselves were gods. That is the danger of Ego—it divorces us from the onus, or even the basic responsibility, to ask whether we were in the wrong and need to either do better or correct ourselves. Introspection. But we live in a time when individuals can be proven wrong, without any facts on their side, and they will still stubbornly say “I stand by what I said”. Bear in mind, this brazening out is often not even a matter of Bhakti and Faith, but simply Ego on simple matters like history. By all means, keep doing whatever makes you feel closer to the Divine, but for the love of God, start taking responsibility for your own actions. All the patriarchy memes in the world won’t change the fact that a real man is one who takes responsibility for his own actions. That is what real character is and why it is so important.

good-character

Have you done everything that can be reasonably expected of you?

Have you done contributed anything tangible at all to the cause you hold dear?

If you can’t do much, have you given minimal support or more to those that are?

Have you even thought about these questions while you were stuffing your face with samosa?

That’s our problem, people who are all talk but no action. Content that they have fulfilled their spiritual responsibilities they feel no obligation for their civic responsibilities—but they whine in impotent profanity or wait for Kalki.

From Satya Harishchandra in the Satya Yuga to Yudhisthira in the Dvapara to general Krishna Niti in the Kali, Dharma too has had to adapt, in order to protect Satya, sometimes with asatya. Chhatrapati Shivaji has embodied this. Similarly, Anusuya, Lopamudra, Sita, Sati, Savitri remain the highest standards of not only personal character, but moral character, and should remain so. Shakespeare may have said “Frailty thy name is woman” in Hamlet, but our Civilization has proven otherwise through women of character who held fast to their Dharma, whatever their external delicacy or circumstantial difficulty.

But character is not only determined by youthful pasts, but the behavioural present. Along with sexual morality there is ethical integrity and commitment to the common Dharma, the Saamaanya Dharma. Along with the golden Pativrata is the silver Sahadharmacharini of Kunti, Draupadi, Ahalya, Tara, & Mandodari fame. Arguably there is even a bronze (or copper/tamra) standard for women who are culturally & civilizationally loyal, whatever their complications. Moral judgment and condemnation is easy, living and leading by example is hard. If you demand character in others, demonstrate it yourself. Otherwise, expect to receive what you yourself have lived (whether you know it or don’t). Those who live for Dharma include aspirers to Seeta-Rama, but they also include those who have lived Kunti-Pandu.

Character is 3 parts:

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

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

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

For too long, we have only emphasised the top most and used that to excuse all-sorts of treacherous behavior (“well, he goes to temple and does all the rituals, etc”). The net result is youthful allergy to morality or any sort of sexual constraint or personal restraint, due to this hypocrisy. But a moral or sexually moral traitor is still a traitor. Rather than browbeating youth from the inside out, encourage them to live with character from the outside in. Let us start with basic ethical civility, then go to personal integrity, and then some semblance of Sexual morality. Educate and inculcate the highest standards, yes. Teach them Sita & Rama. But also show them the way back if they take unfortunate detours. Dignity is not brow-beating. Dignity is not severity. Dignity is self-respect. People will fail and fall, but at least they will rise again, and seek to live lives of character and dignity.

DharmaMandir

It is not simple about karma, but about kriya (doing). Actual doing. Actually doing something to improve something, some small aspect of the world, the nation, the state, the city, or even the community around you. Something![Ram Raj] was not built in a Day. The characterless have all the time in the world to criticise others and give gyaan about what others should be doing…but what are you actually doing, gyaani? Simply hiding behind past glories of your caste or ancestry does none of us any good.  What you actually do today is how posterity will judge you tomorrow.

Character, after all, is not simply a matter of personal entry into svarga or praise from your parents or even personal success. It is a matter of national & civilizational survival.

quote-character-in-the-long-run-is-the-decisive-factor-in-the-life-of-an-individual-and-of-nations-theodore-roosevelt-158026

References:

  1. Chaturvedi, B.K.Chanakya Neeti.Diamond: New Delhi.2015
  2. 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…

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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.

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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.

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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