Tag Archives: Romance

Classical Indic Literature V: Romantic Sanskrit Poetry 2

RomanticSanskritPoetry2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Great Plays of Kalidasa

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

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

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

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

Bana author of the Kadambari exclaimed:

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

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

Composition
kalidasa-s-meghdutam-the-cloud-messenger
Click here to Buy to this Album!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kalidasa’s reference to Ujjain in Meghadutam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selections
§
meghaduta2
Artwork by Artist Nana Joshi

I. Tanvee syaamaa sikhari dasanaa pakva bimbaa daroshtee

Madhye kshaamaa chakita harirgipre kshargaa nimma naabhah |

Srorgee-bhaaraa-dalasa-gamanaa sthoka-nabhra sthanaabyaam

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

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

§

 

II. Thaam jaaneethaah parimitha-kathaam jeevitam me dvitheeyam

Dooreebhoothe mayi sahachare chakravaaki-mivaikaam |

Gaadotkashtaam gurushu diva-seshveshu gacchatsu baalaam

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

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

§

meghaduta1 Artwork by Artist Nana Joshi

 

III. Noonam yasyaah prabala-rudeetochoo nanetram priyaayaa

Nihsvaasaa-naama-sisiratayaa bhinna-varga- dharoshtam |

Hasta-nyastam mukha-masakalvyakti lambaala-katvaa

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

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

§

MeetingInTheDream

Artwork by Artist Nana Joshi

IV. Nih-svaasenaadhara-kisalaya-klesinaa vikshipantheem

Suddha-snaanaat parushamalakam noonamaa-ganda-lambam |

Matsambhogah kathamapi bhavet-svapnajo’peethi nidraa

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

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

§

The message:

V. Srangenaangam-suthanu tanunaa gaada-taptena taptam

Saasrergaa-sradrutama-viratot-kanta-mutkantithena

Dheergocch-vaasam samadhi-katarocch-vaasinaa dooravartheem

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

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

§
meghaduta4
Artwork by Artist Nana Joshi

VI. Syamaasvanga chakhita-hareergipre-ksharge drshtipaatham

Vaktrachaayaam sasini sikhinaam bahambaareshu keshaan

Utpasyaami prathanushu nadheevee-chishu bhroovilaasaan

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

I can detect a little of your form in supple vines

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

Your tresses vie with peacock’s plumage

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

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

§

Click here to Buy this Book!        Click here to Buy this Book!    Click here to Buy this Book!

DevadharKalidasameghadutaofkalidasa meghdoothindi


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

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

*Minor Proofing for some translations

Madan Utsav — Indic Festival for Romance

madanotsav

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

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

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

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

Madan Utsav — Indic Festival for Romance

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

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

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

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

Kama-Rati

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is what the ancient Kashmiris celebrated:

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

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

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

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

Festival Significance

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

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

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

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

kama-ikshuvaana

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

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

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

Celebration

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

Public Celebration

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to buy this book!

Ratnavali

Family/Community Celebration

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

Couples

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

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

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

Lord Krishna teaches detachment

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

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

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

Kaameswara Lord Shiva Conquers Lust [6]

ShivaConquersKama

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Start?

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

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

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

Celebrate Madan Utsav!

kaamadhevaDate:

April 9th, 2017

Public Activities:

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

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

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

Kama-Rati

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

§ Play Romantic instruments like the flute or hire professional musicians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shubh Madan Utsav!!!
April 9th, 2017

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

Sringara (Romance) is also Part of Our Culture

sringararasa

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

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

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

Introduction

Shringaar

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

Sita-Rama

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

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

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

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

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

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

goldsita

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

radhakrishnaflute

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main Yoddha bhi hoon!

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

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

maharanapratap

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

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

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

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

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

aniruddha

 Usha-Aniruddha

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

flute-radha-krishna

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

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

Radha-Krishna_chess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vipralambha Sringara—Love in Separation

This is further divided into two kinds:

Ayoga- the Non-consummation of marriage, and

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

Sambhoga—Love in Union

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

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

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

“Modern Romance”

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

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

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

smartgirl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courting Advice

1. Do Not take rejection personally.

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

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

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

2. Don’t Date; Court.

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

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

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

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

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

3. Guys, don’t complain, Up your game

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

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

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

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

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

4. Put your Best Foot forward

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

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

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

5. Be courteous

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

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

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

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

 6. Don’t lead people on

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

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

 7. Think long term

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

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

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

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

8. Be age appropriate.

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

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

9. Be careful. Looks can be Deceiving.

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

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

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

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

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

10. Be Honest

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

She said:

Subhaga kusuma sukumaaram jagadana vadhyam vilokya te roopam |

Mama maanasa mabhila shathi tvam chinttam kuru tathaa mrudulam ||

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

Prince in Dasakumaracharita:

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

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

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

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

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

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

DharmaMandir

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

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

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

Classical Indic Literature V: Romantic Sanskrit Poetry

SringaraSanskritaKavya

Rebuilding the National Character involves not only understanding what we need to do, or even why we are doing it, but why it is worth preserving at all.

Civilization is more than the mere sum of its principles, precepts, philosophies, and pasts. It extends beyond even an ideal or reciprocal duties. At its uttermost height, it is in fact, a sentiment. Bharatiya Sanskriti is very much about Dharma, Rta, and Satya, but that Satya that is at its heart, is also the timeless Truth of Prema.

For Indic Civilization, for any Civilization, to Revive itself, it must not only think, dream, and converse in its own language, it must also love and romance in it. Sringara (Romance) is also Part of Our Culture. For far too long have its masses been misguided by foreign thoughts ennobled by Indian implementations, or foreign thinkers using local rustics to change the meaning of our words. And for far too long, have they reduced the Indian, the Indic, the Hindu Culture we know & love as only ascetic or erotic., when it is also Romantic. The very height of the Romantic in Classical India was the Sanskritic.

And which wordsmith could be more romantic than than that master of Simile, Mahakavi Kalidasa,and his eternal Kavya. For almost 2,000 years, this most perfect of poets has made even the most pedantic recognise that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.  Long before Shakespeare asked “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day“, the Court Poet of King Vikramaditya had become the utmost paragon of Upama, with comparisons that were as fresh and unique as the flowers that garlanded the Gods.

Ours was, and is, a civilization and culture of not only great warriors and devout women, but also charming gentlemen and passionate princesses. But as all things in Dharma, it is time, place, and manner that takes a natural feeling and ennobles it to a timeless aesthetic. And what can be more aesthetic than the romantic?

Therefore, without further ado, we bring you the first in an Anthology (accompanied by commissioned artwork), a concept that was a decade in the making…

…and the next installment of our Continuing Series on Classical Indic Literature: 

Romantic Sanskrit Poetry.

Composition

Ancient India had many timeless love stories. Katha, Kavya, Purana, and Itihasa are replete with lovelorn lovers, hopeless romantics hoping against hope, and eternal soulmates reuniting with each other across times and lifetimes. True, Rukmini & Sri Krishna, Sita & Rama, and Siva-Parvati, are all famous Divine lovers. But even we mortals figured in our ancient tales, in love stories worthy of not only drama, and opera, but even cinema.

Quite possibly the most famous of such prema kathas comes from the Land of the Kurus. The sons of Bharata take their name from that Bharata born to this couple, who entwined the legendary with the historical. The ancestors of the great Emperors of Hastinapura were the great Chandravanshi King and Conqueror, Maharaja Dusyanta & his lady love Sakuntala.

Sakuntala&Dusyanta

Mentioned in the Mahabharata, this courting couple was forever immortalised by Mahakavi Kalidasa. His famed drama was called Abhijnana-Sakuntalam: The Recognition of Sakuntala. This paramount of romantic poets produced a timeless tale of love, separation, and reunification. The composition was artful, the verses were tasteful, and the numerous productions of this play wonderful, across the centuries. Such were the Kailasan heights that Sanskrit Drama ascended to, that many thousands of years later, the famed German poet-philosopher Goethe exclaimed:

Willst du die Blüthe des frühen, die Früchte des späteren Jahres,

Willst du, was reizt und entzückt, willst du was sättigt und nährt,
Willst du den Himmel, die Erde, mit Einem Namen begreifen;
Nenn’ ich, Sakuntala, Dich, und so ist Alles gesagt.

Wouldst thou the young year’s blossoms and the fruits of its decline

And all by which the soul is charmed, enraptured, feasted, fed,
Wouldst thou the earth and heaven itself in one sole name combine?
I name thee, O Sakuntala! and all at once is said. [4]

So fascinated were foreigners by the Recognition of Sakuntala that there are 46 translations of this play in 12 European languages, going back to the first in 1789.  Indeed, in Europe, even a libretto was composed and Operas performed on it, at the height of the Colonial era. While it is nice to impress the videshi, however, it is better to take inspiration from the Bharatvasi. Sakuntala was forever ceremonialised by Raja Ravi Varma in his celebrated paintings. She is seen here with friends, artfully posing.

220px-Raja_Ravi_Varma_-_Mahabharata_-_Shakuntala
Shakuntala | Ravi Varma | Oil on Canvas |1870

Sakuntala has also been produced not only stage (a notable English language production in 1920) but on-screen many times starting with a silent film (also in 1920).  Yet so-called contemporary “national cinema” seems to have forgotten it (except back in 1947) for the time-worn recipes and veneers-of-lust masquerading as romance produced with parasika playwrights. Production values and marketing and black money may make it big at the box office, but it is the beating heart of a civilization and the sentiments and emotional verses it perfected, that make truly time-tested art.

The time has come for a new production of the great plays of Mahakavi Kalidasa, the foremost of which was the Recognition of Sakuntala. If compromised producers don’t have the fortitude, than the public at large should crowdsource a production with a talented director armed with artistic talent. This great Sanskrit drama could elegantly flow with Shuddh Hindi (or in my case, Telugu) dialogue that sets the stage for elegant Sanskrit verses, across scenes. Serenading with song may be well and good; charming with poetry is even better.

As Bollywood may not have the national interest at heart, perhaps it’s time for Tollywood to again step into the vacuum and inspire the nation. To do so, let would-be directors study the composition first.

Abhijnaana-Saakuntalam

A play in  7 acts, it begins with the traditional Prastaavana (Prologue) and Benediction (Nandi). Despite being a drama, Abhijnaanasaakuntalam is a veritable treasure trove of poetry with 34 slokas in the first act, 18 in the second, 26, in the third, 21 in the fourth, 31 in the fifth, 32 in the sixth, and 35 in the seventh…a grand total of 197 couplets.

This opus is interwoven with supple Sanskrit slokas, a multitude of characters, and the prominent theme of Sringara Rasa (Romantic sentiment).  “The drama ‘was meant for translating the whole subject from one world to another—to elevate love from the sphere of physical beauty to the eternal heaven of moral beauty’“. [1, xxiv]

The Nayaka (hero) is Dusyanta of the House of the Kurus and the Nayika is Sakuntala, daughter of Sage Viswamitra and the Apsara Menaka. She had been cared for by Saakuntas (birds) and was therefore called Sakuntala. She was later raised by Rishi Kanva, and grew up into a beautiful woman. The recognition of Sakuntala has in fact come down to us in two versions. The traditional one is found in the Mahabharata. Kalidasa gives us another, however, that brings us a brilliant battle in the Heavens with Dusyanta assisting the Devas in their war against the Asuras.

There are total of 4 recensions (a Devanagari, a Bengali, a Kashmiri, & an Andhra one) and two variations of the story. Nevertheless, both of these versions retell the birth of Bharata Dausanti, better known as Sakuntala-putra Bharata. Though the original Bharata who gave his name to our Land was the son of Rishabha of the Ikshvaku Dynasty, for a period of time, it was called Nabhi-varsha (after a king of the same House). But Sakuntala-putra was so famed for his world conquest and righteous rule, that the name Bharatavarsha came into fashion once more.

Whichever version you prefer, there is surely a blockbuster movie in the making here. If only the right director, with the right vision, and right talent (and right finances!) comes along. But financial matters are for the bean-counters. The aesthete is more concerned with the achievement of the author, and the talent that created this work.

Author
MahakaviKalidasa
Mahakavi Kalidasa

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

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

It is not for nothing that Jayadeva (of Gita Govinda fame) referred to Kalidasa as “Kavi kula guru” (master of poets). Famous for his love of Ujjayini (in modern Madhya Pradesh) and praise of Vikrama, Kalidasa was and is the undisputed King of Kavya. Blessed by the Goddess from whom he takes his name, this ‘Servant of Kali’ would go on to marry a princess and be considered one of the Navaratnas—Nine Gems of Avanti’s Court. “Ujjayini was the city of his heart and he is delighted to sing of her glories and the romantic loves of her maidens“. [1, vi] He would set standards of excellence in poetry for millennia.

 

Great Plays of Kalidasa

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

Abhijnaana-Saakuntalam is arguably the most immortalised of all of Kalidasa’s compositions. While his other dramas (Malavika-Agnimitram & Vikramorvasiya) have also been celebrated on canvas, it was the story of the Signet ring that has captured  imagination throughout the centuries.

The weaving of beautiful poetry, in the form of slokas (Sanskrit couplets), into the rupaka (dramatic composition) gives the literary experience more resonance. With the exception of Meghadootha, Kalidasa’s other works of pure poetry don’t rise to the same love of pure romantic sentiment. Kumarasambhavam is one of his contributions to the Pancha-Mahakavyas (the other being the famous Raghuvamsa), but it is an epic work with a hint of the erotic. Sringara-tilakam is very much a freshman work, but one that nevertheless gives us periodic foreshadowing of future talent, even in his younger days. And Rtu-samhara is very much a celebration of the seasons in all their splendour. Though Sringara rasa predominates, it is more of a descriptive work.

But while it is important to prepare the palate before cultivated taste can be appreciated in the aesthetic arts, one should not linger too long. This exegesis on this play, this poet, and this poetry, was all for the purpose of better understanding Sringara-Sanskrita-Kavya: Romantic Sanskrit Poetry.

To better prepare for married life, it is important to not only learn how to become eligible, but also marriageable. The courtly aesthetic is important not only in kingly courts, but in the courtship of couples.

Bharatiya boys, you may want to take notes, and Bharatiya ladies…you’re welcome…

Selections
§

I.Sarvat aapsara sambhavaisha

Maanushishi katham va syaadrsya roopasya sambhava |

Na prabhaatha ralam, jyothi, roodhethi, vasudaata laath ||

Truly born from a heavenly apsara

For what woman could give birth to such a lovely form

 

After all, the sparkling light of tremulous beams, does not rise from the surface of the earth. [intimation: ‘but descends from the heavens’] A.1 s.26

SakuntalaRecogntion2§

II.Kaamam priyaa na sulabha manasthu tabdaava darshanaa-srvaasi |

Akrutaarthe api manasije rati mubhaya-praarthanaa kurute ||

True, my darling is not easily attainable; yet my heart assumes confidence from observing the manner in which she seems affected.

Even though our love has not hitherto prospered, our mutual longing, nevertheless, causes delight. A.2 sl.1

§

III. (smitam krutva) Evamaatmaa-bhipraya sambhaaviteshta-jana-chittavrutti praartha-

Yitaa vidambyate | tadhyatha

(smiling) Thus is the lover beguiled, who judges of the state of his beloved’s feeling by his own desires. It is thus

Snigdham veekshitam anyato’pi nayane yatpreyantyaa tayaa

Yaatham yach cha nithambayor guruthayaa mandham vilaasad iva |

Ma gaa ithyu-paruddhayaa yad api saa saasooyamuktaa sakhee

Sarvam Thathkila matparaayam aho kaamee svataam pashyati ||

The tender look she cast, even while she directed her eyes elsewhere; her slow movement caused by the heaviness of her hips, as if for grace’s sake; the angry words she spoke to her friend who detained her saying ‘Do not go; ‘ all this was, no doubt, on my account! Ah! How does a lover discover his own (everywhere!). A.2 s.2

§

IV. Chitre niveshye parikalpita sattva-yogaa

Roopa-uchchayena manasaa vidhinaa krutaa nu |

Stree-ratna srushtir-aparaa prathibhaathi saa me

Dhaatur-vibhutvam-anuchintya vapuscha tasyah ||

Was she conceived in a picture [painting] and then endowed with life?

Or was she moulded in the Creator’s mind from an assemblage of all lovely forms?

When I meditate on the power of Brahma, and my beloved’s lineaments, she appears to me a matchless creation of the most beautiful of women. A.2 sl.9

§

V. Anaaghraataṃ puṣpaṃ kisalayam aloonaṃ kara-ruhair

Anaaviddhaṃ ratnaṃ madhu navam anaasvaadita-rasam |

Akhaṇḍaṃ puṣyaanaaṃ phalam iva ca tad-roopam anaghaṃ

Na jaane bhoktaaraṃ kamiha samupa-sthaasyati vidhiḥ ||

She seems a flower whose fragrance is yet unsavoured,

A gem uncut by workman’s tool,

A branch no desecrating hands have wasted,

Fresh honey, untasted and cool.

 

No man on earth deserves her beauty,

Her blameless loveliness and worth,

Unless he has fulfilled man’s perfect duty—

And is there such a one on earth? A.2.sl.10

§

SakuntalaRecognition

VI. Priye

Smruthi bhinnamoha tamaso dhishtayaa pramukhe sthithaasi me sumukhi |

Uparaa gaante sasinaha samupa gathaa Rohini yogam ||

Oh Beloved,

By the kindness of heaven, O lovely-faced one, thou standest again before me, the darkness whose delusion has been dispelled by recollection.

The star Rohini, at the end of an eclipse, rejoins her (darling) moon. A.7 s.22

§

           Buy this Book Today!                     Buy this Book Today                         Buy this Book Today!

  abhignanasakuntalam   shakuntala_hindi__1.1473417981DevadharKalidasa

                                                                            

References:
  1. Devadhar, C.R. Works of Kalidasa: Volume I. Delhi: MLBD. 2005
  2. Ryder, Arthur W. Kalidasa: Translations of Shakuntala, and Other Works.New York, E.P. Dutton & Co.1914
  3. Rajan, Chandra. The Complete Works of Kalidasa: Volume 1 (Poets). New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. 2005
  4. Goonetilleke, William. The Orientalist. Mumbai: Education Society Press.1985.p.101
  5. “Shakuntala”.IMDB. http ://www.imdb.com/find?ref_=nv_sr_fn&q=shakuntala&s=all
Ankitham: Dedicated to a Song Offering, who spent many a long & lonely night waiting to be sung and serenaded.

Acknowledgment: Gratitude to the amateur voice actor who brought these couplets to life & vibrant resonance—a Lothario in real life,no doubt.

Acknowledgment: My thanks to the Artist Archana,whose talent I'm sure, will blossom like the flowers she painted here.

Special Acknowledgment: My utmost appreciation for Nilambari. Her tireless work consulting on this effort and ever insightful counsel ensured this project finally materialised after years. Thank you.

*Minor Proofing for some translations

The Purusharthas

Purusharthas

 

Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha. Words that are known to almost every serious Dharmic person, since almost birth. Perhaps the ultimate irony is that a spiritual and cultural tradition long critiqued for religious extremes of self-abnegation and fatalism on the one end and Kamasutra and Khajuraho on the other, has always been one of balance. This is where the criticism of knowing more and more about less and less becomes highly relevant, as those using the outsider (etic) lens have studied the tradition only from the basis of a specific external framework. [5] The result is not objectivity, but obtuseness. The theory is force-fitted to the data. Or the data itself is self-selecting, with research areas being divided and sub-divided into oblivion.

That is why it is important that a tradition first be studied holistically and systemically, before moving on to more specialized areas and sub-parts. As the core of Dharma has to some degree been discussed, we may now move on to another central concept: PurusharthasThe Four Aims of Life.

Some of the favourite responses of youth of all generations have been “no one told me this before!”, “there is no guidebook to life!”, or my personal favourite “my body didn’t come with instructions!” [name that movie]. But the rejoinder is in fact “yes” to all of the above. You were told this before, there is a guidebook to life, and your body did come with instructions. You just chose to ignore all of the above because your motto to date has been “if it feels good, do it!”. In all fairness though, perhaps the channel or the communicator of these ideas may not have been the best or most effective.

The natural next query is “well, if we’re not supposed to do x, y, z, then why give it to us to begin with?”.

It is precisely this line of thinking that has been used by those with agendas and ulterior motives since the dawn of time. Through sophistry, casuistry, false equivalence, and half-information, they have sought to misinterpret and  misguide (much like modern-day “indologists”) the naive or unschooled in order to advance their own purposes.

And there begins the importance of The Purusharthas.

It is not “see, but don’t touch”, but “touch, in the right circumstances”, it is not “touch, but don’ t taste”, but “taste, only if it doesn’t harm someone”.  It is not “taste, but don’t swallow”, but “swallow, only if it doesn’t harm you”.

It is not that sensory pleasure is in itself bad, but when it becomes a fixation, when it becomes an obsession, then we become subject to it, we become a slave to it. And when we become subject or a slave to the dictates of our senses, then consideration for the safety and well-being or dignity or respect of others or our family name goes out the door. Without Dharma, Artha and Kama become subject to Asura, and Moksha goes by the wayside.

That is the brilliance of the chariot metaphor in the Bhagavad Gita. The Soul is Arjuna, the Charioteer is Krishna, the senses are the horses, and the body is the chariot. With Krishna (who not only represents God, but Dharma itself) guiding the chariot, the horses are properly reined in and we smoothly traverse the journey of life attaining our objectives and reaching our destination. But without a good charioteer, the horses (a.k.a senses) run wild, and the chariot overturns, and our life is ruined. That is how misery in this life and the next, and the next, is fermented.

http://www.bhagavad-gita.us/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/gita-126.jpg

This is the danger of becoming a slave to our senses. And this is why the root of all happiness is in victory over the senses. When we achieve victory over the senses (Indriya-vijayam), then we need not worry or feel guilty on those occasions when we do indulge in sensory pleasures. While other traditions treat sex as something dirty, in the Dharmic tradition, when done correctly, it is not. Even Acharya Chanakya wrote that:

Na jithendhriyaanaam vishayabhayam | 262

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

And that is why Dharma, both the spirit (inner) and the letter (outer), exists. With Dharma as the guide, with Dharma as the Rules of the Game, we can engage in play (in this material world via this corporeal birth) without self-harm and harm to others. And that is also why Dharma is the most important of the Purusharthas. This is because with mastery of Dharma, we then know how to handle artha (wealth) and kama (pleasure and love) when they come to us. And rather than moksha being something distant that we hurriedly and belatedly seek in our sixties or seventies, it becomes something we prepare for along the way, all our life. What’s more, through Dharma, we understand that our quest for moksha should not cause harm or neglect to others and lead to Adharma.

But of course, victory over the senses, and even practice of Dharma is far more difficult than it may sound here. The former takes many lifetimes for most jeevatmas, and the latter involves many falls even among the most disciplined and dharmic of souls. That is also why ahankar is the greatest impediment to enjoyment of the purusharthas. Aham kar (I am doing). Aham (the great, I am). This thought is in fact the seed of our destruction because it ignores the reality of “we”. When there is only aham, we are only accountable to ourselves and what we hold in importance. When there is hum, then “we” think of our obligations to others. That is why we take only what we need, or enjoy only what is proper.

Dharma

rp_Dharmachakra-300x300.png

Dharma is the foundational aim of life because it guides all others. It provides us with the Rules of the Game of Life so that we may navigate it happily and attain the ultimate goal of liberation from samsara. Too often individuals believe they can either live a miserable but moral life, or a sinful but happy life. Dharma teaches us that happiness and morality are not mutually exclusive. Even Acharya Chanakya, proponent of Lokayata, and ruthlessly pragmatic, himself wrote “Sukhasya moolam Dharmah”, the root of happiness is Dharma. This is because Kama (sensory pleasure & love) and Artha (wealth/material gain) are not immoral. It is only when desire for either of those two becomes excessive, that we become immoral, and in the long run, unhappy. As Swami Vivekananda reportedly said

What is poison?— Anything in excess

Dharma is the compass that allows us to navigate the map of life. By following it, we can continue on the right path, while enjoying the pleasant sights and sounds and experiences of life. As per Dharma, sex is not wrong. As per Dharma, even enjoying sex is not wrong. Dharma in fact celebrates sexual union of husband and wife as a microcosm of the union of Shiva and Shakti. It only cautions against sexual excess, and advises both husband and wife to experience sex under the guidance of Dharma, and through the bond of matrimony. In fact, that is what the act is meant to create: pair-bonding.

Similarly, the once magnificently wealthy civilization of India did not condemn wealth, why would it? It merely advised against miserliness and greed. That is why Acharya Chanakya wrote “arthasya moolam rajyam, rajasya moolam indrivijayam”, the root of wealth is power, and the root of power is victory over the senses. Therefore, Dharma exists not to deny us pleasure, but only to ensure pleasure and wealth are enjoyed without harming others or ourselves. Do not take what is not yours, that is the essence of Dharma.

DharmaMandir

Artha is in fact very important to the functioning of society. It allows men (and women) to provide for their families, permits governments to ensure security, law and order, and well-being for the people; and above all, it allows individuals to finance dharmic causes.

Artha

Arthachakra

Traditionally, Artha was to be pursued even before Kama, or at least the means to achieving it, to be secured before pursuing Kama. This is because as all men know, having a woman in your life can be very expensive! But beyond that, possession of Artha means being able to successfully undertake one’s duties and obligations. How can we run off and seek pleasure when our parents are unsheltered? How can we engage in reckless abandon when our children are starving? That is the value of artha.

So important is wealth, that Sanatana Dharma propounds the worship of wealth so as to not only acquire it, but to have the sense to use it wisely. That is why we worship wealth in the form of Lakshmi, so we do not lose wisdom (Buddhi).

goddess-lakshmi-picture

Wealth comes in different forms. As embodied by the symbolism of Ashtalakshmi, there are 8 traditional froms of wealth: Dhana Lakshmi (Money & Precious metals), Dhaanya Lakshmi (agricultural wealth), Dhairya Lakshmi (courage), Veerya Lakshmi (valour), Vijaya Lakshmi (victory in life), Vidya Lakshmi (scholarly wealth, i.e. education), Rajya Lakshm i(political wealth, empires), Gaja Lakshmi (animal wealth), and  Santhaana Lakshmi (family wealth & progeny) . This is why we worship the Goddess of Wealth, because she is the bestower of all these different forms of Artha, we ask for her grace so that we may value, and deploy wisely what we have. After all, “a fool and his money are soon parted”. Dharma ensures that charity begins at home, but that money is also used charitably. It is also why Dharma stipulates that women be respected, because women of the family, especially one’s wife, represent Griha Lakshmi (Lakshmi of the House).

As can be seen in the coin above, Artha when combined with Dharma, allows us to use wealth wisely. It also encourages us to spend within our means (unlike the current model of debt-financed consumption). Dharma teaches us the value of money.  When we know the value of money, the real value of money, we use it wisely and for the benefit not just of the senses, but of society at large.

Selfishness is not a virtue. How could it be? Only the severely stupid suffering under the  illusion of knowledge, think it so. Selfishness is in fact the Real Root of all Evil. Sophists, casuists, and the half-educated forever tout the import of “Self-interest”, but they forget that even Adam Smith advocated Enlightened self-interest and also emphasised the importance of benevolence.

The man who spends wisely, but liberally, is the man whom others enjoy being around. The man who doesn’t pinch every penny, who doesn’t nickel and dime his friends, is the man whom others seek out as a friend. The woman who respects her husband’s earnings and who spends within the family’s means, is the woman who is in turn respected as the protectress and matriarch (present or future) of her family. This is because, as all honest and self-made businessmen and businesswomen know, business is not about a number.

Mahatma Vidura , the enlightened Prime Minister and half-brother of Dhritarashtra, himself noted this important fact that true profit is holistic and systemic, rather than extractive. Accordingly, he advocated a balance among the Purusharthas as can be seen below in a quote from his celebrated Vidura Niti.

He that followeth virtue, profit, and desire in proper seasons, obtaineth hereafter, a combination of all three.

He that desires the highest success in all matters connected with worldly profit, should from the very beginning practise virtue [Dharma], for true profit is never separated from Heaven [2]

Kama

kamachakra

Pleasure comes in many forms. Because the most literal meaning of Kama is defined as the act or aim of desire (iccha), Kama, like Artha, has many categories. There is of course the most obvious sensual pleasure. In fact, Kama has become so associated with the sensual that it is frequently conflated with Rati (the erotic). But Kama is greater than that and actually means much, much more.

In some contexts, it means Love, as we know from the famous Art of Love. What most do not realise, however, is that the Kamasutra is in fact a manual on how to win the affection of and marry a good wife. Therefore, Love or Affection too is a form of pleasure. In fact, due to its expansiveness to not just refering to the affection of a lover, or a mother, or our family, or even our fellow citizens, it is frequently the most addictive form of pleasure. The desire to be loved by all is a universal one for all normal people. While the erotic pleasures are primarily chemical in nature, the desire for affection is an emotional one. Therefore, affectionate love too is subject to Dharma as Prema cannot become Moha.

MaslowMaslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is said to be a digested form of Indic teaching. While this may in fact be the case, it is nevertheless instructive here to understand the pyramid of Kama.

kundalini-3

As can be seen with the 7 chakras of traditional Yoga Philosophy, there are varying degrees of spiritual evolution. Most people are focused on the Muladhara, which is responsible for the primal drives to reproduce, etc. More spiritually aware beings are focused on the Ajna so that they may eventually open the Sahasraara Padma (Thousand Petalled Lotus), which is the topmost chakra, and connects us with the Divine. The mundane pleasures of the Muladhara far exceeded by the ecstasy achieved when the Sahasraara Padma is opened. But the Muladhara also contains the Kundalini, therefore, the same energy responsible for primal drives, when applied intelligently, rises up to open up the highest levels of spirituality–that is the logic of Tantra (or more correctly, Kaula).  Rather than chasing after lower level pleasures for our entire lives, like children craving candy, we are told to exercise self-restraint and engage in moderation.  That is also why we are told to guard our thoughts and desires. This is because as we desire, so we become.

Sa yathaakaamo bhavati, tat kratur bhavati, yat kratur bhavati, tat karma kurute, yat karma kurute, tat abhisampadyate. [4, 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 destiny.

This famous line from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (IV, 4, 5) discusses the importance of guarding not only our actions, but our thoughts and inner-most desires as well. That is why a good person can still do a bad thing. He may exercise self-control, but if he is mentally chasing after lower level or forbidden pleasures, he will eventually commit the acts to obtain them. If he continues to repeat the bad thing, that he ultimately becomes bad. As our deeds, so our character. As our character, so our destiny…

That is the Law of Kama. Because Kama is subject to Karma, it should be guided by Dharma. When this is so, we can happily engage in sensual pleasures without fear of sin.

But ultimately, even sensual pleasures have their time limit—that is why we age. There is nothing sadder than an octogenarian still clinging onto the pleasures of youth or lusting after one with youth. A life dedicated to only pleasure is one that is bereft of accomplishment. Looking back on one’s life, it is the achievements we count, not the individual units of utility we drew from each pleasure. What have we done with our life? Whom have helped? Where are we remembered fondly? That is what matters not only for a fulfilling life, but also for one that will ultimately takes us to the Ultimate Truth.

Moksha

moksha

Veda, Dharmasastra, Bhagavad Gita, Dhammapada, etc, all of these guide us to ultimate Liberation. Jeevanmukti, Kaivalya.

Moksha is the highest Purushartha because it is the one that takes us to the Ultimate Reality. Artha and Kama are both fleeting and linked to the ephemeral material world. Dharma guides us through the material world, but Moksha is the ultimate aim for all living beings.

The endless cycle of births and deaths is the root of our suffering. Because we are attached to assorted pleasures, the attachment itself (moha) becomes bondage. It is the source of our grief, the source of our pain, the root of our troubles, because we mistake the fleeting for the ever-lasting.

Wealth cannot be taken with us into the next life. Youth and Beauty are impermanent. Even family moves on after we are gone. Therefore, it is best to pursue a life full of Love of and Prosperity, but also one that recognises the importance of spirituality and tapas (ascetism). By thinking of Moksha throughout our lives, rather than just at the very end, we we can be best prepared to attain it, as well as the sensory pleasures of life along the way.

Therefore, young or old, man or woman, Four Ashramas or Eightfold path, all individuals should aspire towards Moksha. It is Moksha that frees us from the bonds of samsara and the grief of moha. It is the path to Moksha, Dharma, that guides us through life so that we may enjoy Artha and Kama while ultimately attaining Moksha.

samsarasamudra

The concept of the Purusharthas exists to guide us through the ocean of life. Merely chasing after wealth and pleasure takes us through numberless iterations of births and deaths. The truly full life recognises that Artha and Kama are certainly important (after all, all work and no play…), but is also aware of the necessity of Dharma and the ultimate liberative quality of Moksha.

Conclusion

reincarnation

As stated by Mahatma Vidura, he (or she) that seeks out Dharma, Artha, and Kama in proper measure and season, ultimately obtains all three and attains Moksha–that is the fullest life of all. The one that wisely seeks out all four of the purusharthas rather than just one, is the life that breaks the cycle of endless births and deaths and reaches the Divine and everlasting. All work and no play makes Jack a Dull boy.  But all play and no work makes Jack a dumb boy.

A life wisely spent is one that first learns Dharma (and Niti) at a young age, then obtains Artha (beginning with Vidya artha) from 6-16 or 26 (depending on our educational path), then Kama (from 18 or 28, etc), and then concentrates on Moksha (from at least age 50 on, if not sooner). Because none of us knows exactly how long we will be on this Earth, it is best to have all four in our mind as we journey through life. A life focused purely on Moksha may neglect the rest of society. A life focused purely on Kama, destroys it. Therefore, individuals must seek harmony among the purusharthas.

In summary, the Purusharthas are the Four Aims of Life because life is not meant to be aimless. Merely meandering through each ashrama (stage/phase of life) is no way to live and will merely lead to endless lives. Idleness, after all, is the mother of all vice. Idle minds lead to idle lives. For society to function, for the world to function, all must contribute. All must be producers of some sort, not just of produce, but of knowledge, or arts, or music, or good government, or wealth, or re-contextualisation of philosophy. When we consume the fruits without toiling to produce it (or something else), we do not know its value.

That is why Artha and Kama are both subject to Dharma. Dharma mandates not that all are subject to an unaccountable king or priest, but ensures that the king and priest perform their obligations and duties to society with humility. A king (or politician) who only believes he should enjoy wealth and pleasure, will inevitably seek to appropriate the Artha (wealth) of the state and prey upon prajas for pleasure. That is the root of corruption.

Corruption is not some black magic ailment that magically appears in society. Corruption occurs when The Purusharthas are not in balance. A life that pursues Artha and Kama while paying mere lip service to Dharma, will not, cannot, attain Moksha.

The best education is the one that is rooted in Dharma and informed by Niti. This grants us viveka (ability to distinguish between right and wrong) and allows us to separate bad information from good.

But the fullest life of all is one that seeks Dharma.

There is a famous story about King Vikramaditya of Ujjain. The ever vigilant king 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“, Vikramaditya 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 keep their character is in their own hands. If character is lost, then all is lost. That is the thinking of the Dharmic Man and Woman, so they prize their character, their Dharma, above Artha and Kama, and even Moksha, because they know Dharma is the path to all three, and therefore, a balanced and harmonious life that is ultimately fruitful.

But if all this is not enough. If you still only care about acquisition of Artha & Kama. If you are not interested in Moksha, don’t have time for Jnana, and care not for the Adhyatmika, let me end with the Laukika for all you materialistic pragmatists.  The essential reality of The Purusharthas was contained in the very same Epic Poem that contained the transcendental Song of the Lord you heard above.

The essence of the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and the Purushartha was summed up as follows by Maharishi Veda Vyasa himself:

Oordhva

References:

  1. Chaturvedi, B.K.Chanakya Neeti.Diamond: New Delhi.2015
  2. Vidura Niti. p.150
  3. Rangarajan, L.N.. Kautilya. Arthashastra. New Delhi: Penguin.1991
  4. Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli. The Principal Upanisads. London: Unwin Brothers. 1968
  5. Malhotra, Rajiv. “Insiders versus Outsiders: Who Speaks for Our Heritage?”. Infinity Foundation. 2016 http://rajivmalhotra.com/books/the-battle-for-sanskrit/insiders-versus-outsiders-who-speaks-for-our-heritage/

Classical Indic Literature II: Poetics

A version of this Post was published at Andhra Cultural Portal on June 12, 2015


Kalpa Sutra Manuscript-Auspicious Dreams of Jina's Mother (wikipedia)

Continuing our Series on Classical Indic Literature is Part II: Poetics. Long time readers may recall our previous post on Literary Theory. This piece will very briefly recap some of the related concepts before quickly moving on to expand upon our discussion of our traditional art of poesy.

ACP’s coverage of Andhra literature begins at its origin point, in Classical (sastra-based) Indic Literary Theory and Poetics. Andhra’s all India auteurs like Mallinatha and Princess Gangadevi were properly schooled and cultivated in the great tradition, in order to permit their own future works.  In fact, the rajkumari of Vijayanagara herself mentions the main figure of today’s discussion as an highly accomplished poet, and noted authority on poetics.

Poetics (A reintroduction)

Literary theory in general and Poetics in particular were highly developed and sophisticated in ancient India. Indeed, it would be difficult to find a peer culture or civilization in this regard. This is apparent not only in the cultivation of the world famous Ancient Indic Nava Rasa theory, but also in the explication and categorization of works of fiction and drama, romance and comedy, poetry and prose, elite and common.

In fact, despite attempts to criticize, or failing that, digest it into the tradition of parvenus by poseurs, Classical Indic Literary Theory managed to incorporate both the elite and common worlds. As written previously, Sanskrit and Prakrit were used alongside each other, not only by the same author, but in the same dramatic compositions! In our preceding posts we discussed the theory of rasa at great length, and by association, rasavat, that which provokes sentiment. These dramatic concepts and alankara (art of rhetoric) are critical to poetics. Few demonstrated this as well as Dandin, famed for his way with words.

Upama Kalidasasya, Bharaverartha gauravam ! Dandinah padalalityam, Maghe santi trayogunah !!

The simile of Kalidasa, the depth of meaning of Bharavi, the word-play of Dandin, in Magha all three qualities are found! [3]

While Mahakavi Magha and his Sisupalavadha may be dealt with at another time, it is Acharya Dandin and his masterly art of wordplay that is our topic of today.

Dasakumaracarita

Click here to buy the book today!!!

Having already discussed the Dasakumaracarita at length in the last piece, we will merely place it in context here, vis-a-vis Dandin and Poetics.

The Dasakumaracarita is considered an Akhyayika. An Akhyayika should include a genealogical account of the poet’s family and also of other poets; its verses may occur in it at intervals. Its chapters are called Asvaasas, which should contain introductory verses suggestive of episodes in the story. While the Dasakumaracarita does not strictly conform with this definition of the Akhayayika, it is nevertheless considered one.

Regarding the differences between the Akhyayika and the Katha, Visvanatha of the 15th century wrote in his SahithyadarpanaIn a Katha a charming plot is composed in prose, which is interspersed with stanzas in the Arya, Vaktra, and Aparavaktra metres; in the beginning there should be a salutation to a deity, a description of the nature of villains,etc. “[2, xii].

While most non-religious stories of Ancient India tend to claim descent from the Brihat-katha of Gunadya, the Dasakumaracarita of Dandin appears to be wholly original. If Kalidasa’s couplets read like supple vines, Dandin’s verses read like a rolling brook, pleasantly bubbling in our eyes and ears. The passage below illustrates this:

There, in the course of conversation with regard to her lover, she, coming to know his family and name from Balachandrika, was overcome with intense love (with the fall of Cupid’s arrows), and began to grow emaciated day by day, like the crescent of the moon in the dark half of the month, from the pangs of separation. She gave up taking food and her other daily pursuits, and in her secret chamber restlessly rolled her creeper-like (slender) frame on a bed formed of (tender) leaves and flowers wetted with sandal-juice. Her female friends, seeing the delicate princess in that state withering with the fire of love, and feeling very sad, tried to cool her body, with materials for relief from the torment, such as water prepared for her bath, mixed with sandal, usira and camphor and kept in gold vessels, garments of lotus-fibres, and fans of lotus-leaves. Even that application of cooling reeds simply [causes] fire to appear on all sides in her body like water dropped in heated oil…(the princess) of delicate limbs was affected by the highest stage of the feverish condition of love” [1, 250-1]

 The Dasakumaracarita is a must read for any lover of great literature, particularly the Classical and  Indic. To understand the poetics and art of rhetoric that helped craft such perfect prose-poetry, Acharya Dandin’s own treatise must be read.

The Kavyadarsa

kavyadarsaThe Kavyadarsa promulgates and expounds many canons of poetic composition which show that its author had refined notions about style and its functions [1, xv]

Dandin’s work on poetics is itself poetic. Literally meaning ‘Mirror of Poetry’, the Kavyadarsa imbues us with knowledge of kavya and alankara-sastra (rhetoric) in a language redolent with the art of poesy Dandin himself extols. It is one of the earliest works on Alankara [2,ix].  Rather than being a boring list of categories and a lexicon of terms, it is fluidly composed and easy to read and digest even for the unschooled. A work of poetics that is itself poetry, it commences in appropriate fashion.  It is tradition in Sanskrit literature to begin with a benediction.

Pariccheda I

Chaturmukha mukhaambhojavana hamsavadhur mama

Maanase ramataam nityam sarvasuklaa Sarasvati P.I,S.1

May the lovely lady swan that sports among the lotus-mouths of Brahma, the all-white Sarasvati roam for ever in delight in the lotus-pool of my heart. [2,1]

Goddess Sarasvati is particularly praised by poets of all ranks, as she is the fountain of knowledge, truth, and speech. As for the work itself, it is divided into three Paricchedas, or sections. First and foremost in the first Pariccheda, where he stresses grammar, and how it is critical to understanding and evaluating poetry.

He then moves on to discuss the body of a poetic composition.

This (body) is classified threefold, as Padya, as Gadya as Misra (i.e. as verse, as prose and as a mixture of prose and verse). Verse has four feet; and (again) it is divided into two classes Vrttam and Jati (according to Varna and Matra respectively).” [2, 6]

Types of verse include Muktata, Kulaka, and Sanghaata, and are dealt with collectively as part of the Sarga-bandha. The truly great work of Poetry is the Mahakavya (Great Poem). A type of this is the Sarga-bandha, which is” a Mahakavya that has a beginning with a benediction or indication of contents, it deals with purusharthas and has one of the four types of heroes. It describes the various phases of romance between great lovers, their journeys, trials and tribulations, uses rasa and bhava, has reasonable size chapters and will survive several kalpas. [2, 8-10]

In contrast to poetry is prose, which is a sequence of words not constructed in metrical feet. Prose is divided into Akhyayika and Katha. The former, according to Dandin, is told only in the first person (from the mouth of the hero), while the latter may be told by all. The last type of literary body is Misra, which is a mix of prose and verse, usually in Nataka (dramatic) form and in Campu verse. Literature was further divided into four linguistic classes. [2,16]

“Samskrtam is the name of the celestial language which has been used by great sages; Prakrtam is divided into many ways as Tadbhava, Tasama and Desi.

In such language is the ocean of gemlike saying Setubhanda and other works.” [2,17]

In Poems, languages, like the Abhira and the like are considered as Apabhramsa; but in the sastras … any language other than Samskrtam is considered Apabhramsical. “[2, 18]

Sarga-bandha and other types of similar verses are Samskritam, Skanda and similar types are considered Prakritam, Aasara and others are Apabhramsa, and Nataka and others are considered Misrakam (due to their mixed linguistic nature).

Dandin then continues,  explicating the path of word being twofold, the path of Vidarbha and the path of Gauda.

He describes the Vidarbha as having the characateristics of “Slesa (compact), prasada (charity), Samata (evenness), Madhuryam (sweetness), Sukumarata (elegance), Arthavyakti (expressiveness), Udaratvam (excellence), Ojas (vigour), Kanti and Samadhi (structure)”[2,21]

Gauda is referred to the as the opposite of these. Slistam is when the letters are not loose and not of small breath-value while Sithilam is loose. The latter is a key part of the Gauda and adds dignity to the composition. For the uninitiated, Gauda may be deemed cumbersome, compound (sandhi), and consonant, while Vidarbha is light, short-syllabled, and easy to grasp. Evenness of composition, or samatam, is divided into Mrdu, Sphuta and Madhyamam (soft, hard and medium).

He criticizes easterners as effecting a want of evenness in literature stating “unnevenness and desiring the display of pompous embellishments, the series of Kavyas of the Paurasyas (easterners) have developed.” I guess some reputations haven’t changed! It is the general poetry of his poetic work, and witty remarks like this, that truly make Dandin a delight to read. Indeed, he moves on by extolling sweetness (Madhurya) as the flavour in words and in sentiment. The wise, he says, are like bees in that both are intoxicated with honey. The related concept is Anuprasa, which is word sequences that conveys flavour or sentiment (rasa) through evenness with prior words. [2, 29]

Examples of Anuprasa in words and metrical feet are then given, followed by descriptions of Sruti and Saithilya. Sruti here is sequences of similar sounds and saithilya is want of coherence of sounds rugged in build. The recurrence of the same sequence of sounds in uneven fashion is called Yamaka (alliteration, i.e. consonance and assonance). Daksinatyas (Southerners) did not like incoherence of sounds. It appears the South’s reputation for stricture and conservatism was intact back then as well!

Perhaps the most critical sloka on poetics for our era of vulgar parvenu poetry is the following:

Granting that all arts of speech (Alankara), and delectableness to the idea (conveyed) it is the absence of vulgarity of expression alone that is mostly responsible for delectableness” [2, 33]

Gramya is vulgarity in expression examples of this are given, as well as the opposite. The Acharya is very critical of vulgarity but also of unnecessary and overly complicated constructions to appear intelligent.

There has been a tendency, which Dandin appears to attribute to pretentious easterners, to preference difficult to pronounce compound words (sandhi) under the impression that they constitute grandeur.  He exhorts that it is only by Sukumarata, tenderness (i.e. use of non-harsh letters) rather than over-embellishment that we get approval in the minds of the good. [2,39]

Moving on, he describes Udara as when all sequence of words find their excellence when the word sequence’s excellence is clear, while “Ojas [vigour] is in abundance of compound words. This is the soul of Gadya (prose;) in verse Padya also for the non-Southerners this alone is the goal” [2, 43]

While kantam (not straying from standard meanings) is mentioned, most important, according to Dandin, is the concept of Samadhi. It is structural embellishment or the simultaneous application of many characteristics.

The guna or characteristic of poetry called Samadhi is the very treasure-house and constitutes the entire wealth of poetry. The entire group of poets follows (and uses) this characteristic.”[2, 53]

Pariccheda II

dhwani-theory-and-alamkara-9-638

The Second Pariccheda focuses on Alankaras proper. This is the critical aspect of poetry that makes embellishment possible and sets it apart as an high art. But why explain what an old master does better:

They give the names of Alankaras to the characteristics, which render kavyas attractive. These characteristics are even to-day diversified anew; who then can treat of them exhaustively?” [2, 57]

The old masters have shown the following alankaras (figures of speech: -Realistic expression, simile, metaphor, light, repetition, objection, illustrative citation, differentiation, cause terseness, hyperbole, conceit, reason, subtlety, minuteness, sequence, felicity, provoking sentiment, vigour, paraphrase, unison, sublimity, denial, paronomasia, specialty, equation, direct praise, concealed praise, conjunctive expression, exchange, benediction, confusion and expressiveness. Realistic expression also called Jati or group description is the first alankara and describes the actual forms of different conditions of objects.” [2, 59]

Dandin moves on to discuss realistic expression of species (Jati), of action (Kriya), of characteristic (Guna) and of substance (Dravya). He then provides an entire section on the various and numerous types of upama, that is simile. This is delightfully done with poetic examples of this essential aspect of poetics. As it is too long to reprint here, we will merely list the different types of simile:

There is the simile of quality (Dharmopama), the simile of object (Vastupama),the transposed simile (Viparyasopama), the simile of mutuality (Anyonyopama), the simile of exclusive determination (Niyamopama), the simile of indetermination (Aniyamopama), the multiple simile (Sauccayopama), the hyperbolic simile (Atisayopama), the simile of conceit (Utpreksopama), the simile of wonder (Adhbutopama), the simile of delusion (Mohopama), the simile of doubt (Samsayopama), the simile of certainty (Nirnayopama), the paronomasiac simile (Slesopama), the simile of exactness (Samaanopama), the simile of contempt (Nindopama), the simile involving praise (Prasamsopama), simile involving the desire to express (Acikhyaasopama), the simile involving opposition (Virodhopama), the simile involving exclusion (Pratisedhopama), the simile of truthful expression (Asaadhaaranopama), the simile of impossibility (Adbhutopama), the simile involving statements contrary to nature (Asambhaavitopama), the simile of super-excellence (Vikriyopama), the simile in a series (Maalopama), the simile of sentences (Vaakyarthopama),  the simile stating the object (Prativastupama), the simile of equalising (Tulyayogopama), and finally the simile involving a statement of the reasons (Hetupama). [2, 62-82].

While many figures of speech may seem similar to the simile, there is a rule in Sanskrit poesy that a simile cannot be in verbs. This is the word of the Aaptas (or authoritative writers). [2, 148]

As one can see, the exhaustive and methodical classification of the simile, so elementarily treated in english, reaches a near-impossible level of sophistication. Perhaps it is not for nothing Alankara, like the sastras, are ultimately credited to divine beings in the Classical Indic Tradition.

Next, Dandin describes the Metaphor. Simile itself where the difference is implicity is called the metaphor, for example, arm-creeper, palm-lotus, foot-tendril” [2, 84]. There are 66 types of compound metaphors, which for reasons of brevity, won’t list here. The sanskrit word for metaphor is rupakam. The numerous varieties are so copious, there is even a rupaka-rupakam or metaphor on metaphor. [2, 94]

We move on from the two major concepts to other types of Alankara. The concept of Dipakam (or light) is unique as it is the notion of a word helping the entire sentence through jati (genus), kriya (action), guna (quality) or dravya, which is the subject-matter.[2,96] Avrtti, or repetition, is then discussed along with its assorted types and uses both in word and meaning. Aaksepa, which is objection and has a variety of classes. Interestingly, of the different types of objection includes anujnaksepa, that is objection in the form of apparent permission–a phenomenon with which married men the world over are all too familiar! Indeed, the section on Aaksepa is a veritable playbook for a woman in a relationship to influence her beloved!

Then there is illustrative citation (arthantara-nyaasa). Assorted figures of speech are used to express ideas by citing other objects such as those that are universally applicable (visvavyaapi), special (visesastha), panoro-masiac (slesa-viddha), having opposition (virodhavaan), incongruous (ayuktakaari ), fitting (yuktatma), partly incongruous and partly fitting), and contrary (viparyaya). [2, 123]

Acharya Dandin asserts that “Reason (hetu) and subtlety and minuteness (suksma and lesa) constitute the best alankaras of words” .[2,151] This is because a slight reference to a thing discloses (lesa) both indicates and excites the imagination.Correspondingly, Ingita and Aakaara are mentioned as facial gesture and condition of the body respectively. [2,163] Paryayoktham is the paraphrase .[2,178] Drstantam is defined as illustration.

Udaattam (sublimity) is the alankara used to express the pre-eminent greatness of a person, both his qualities and his riches. Apahnuti is denial and is used to great effect in order to enhance the description. [2,184]. Slistam is paronomasia, or words with a single form but many meanings [2,187]. Indeed, there is an entire sub-section on specialty, which again, for brevity’s sake, we will leave at here.

Among other interesting concepts include variations of ninda (insult/deprecation) and praise, stuti. There are numerous categories of stuti, such as Aprastuta-prasamsa (indirect praise) and Vyaajastuti (concealed praise). Concealed praise is where it is in the form of despise and virtues are described through mention of vices.

With all these alankaras, or embellishments, Dandin uses examples to not only illustrate, but to very frequently entertain. What could easily have been an exhausting effort because engagingly educative.

Pariccheda III

In the third pariccheda, Dandin moves on to the more structural aspects of poetics. He discusses recurrences of letters (Yamaka) and various types of feet (pada), one through four. Types of recurrences are discusses such as Vyapeta-Yamaka (mediate recurrence) and Avyapeta (mixed recurrence of mediate and immediate). [2, 228]. This is described with great complexity with all the permutations and combinations of letter recurrences.

Finally, this magnum opus of poetics concludes with a veritable lesson in linguistics. From the listing of vowels to the various consonant types, it is highly detailed and worth a review. He also discusses Prahelikas (or Amusing Riddles). These are described as “useful in the entertainment of sportive assemblies; and by those who know them for the purpose of secret consultation in a crowd and for setting riddles to others” [2,262]. Once more, he goes into the technical aspects of riddles, and the various components and component types. In fact, there were as many as 16 types of Prahelikas.

Ten faults of artless poets are also discussed: Apaartham (or meaninglessness), Vyartham (or contrary meaning), Ekaartham (or identical in meaning), Samsayam (or doubtful meaning), Apakaaramam (or want of sequence), Sabdahinam (or wanting in word), Yatibhrastam (or absence of pause), Bhinnavrttam (or metrical defect). Visandhikam (absence of Sandhi, or pause) and impropriety in place, time, in branch of learning, etc.” (desadhi-virodhi,kala-virodha, nyaya-virodha, etc) [2, 276-7].  He nevertheless mentions how a clever poet can use any and all of the improprieties to lift up from the region of fault to the good qualities of poetry.

He concludes with concepts associated with love. Laya is the blending of tunes. Harmonious laya is said to promote Raaga or Love while”Utka and Unmanayantya both convey the longing of the beloved“. [2, 281]

Thus, with an exhaustive but easy-to-read treatise, Acharya Dandin explicates his educative exegisis on kavya and alankara-sastra. Fittingly, he ends with the following advice for would-be poets:

With his intellect, trained by this Path of guna and dosa (Excellences and Faults) shown according to the rules, the blessed person sports like a youth attracted by Words, who have loving eyes and who remain in his control; and he also obtains fame. [2, 305]

References:

  1. Kale, M.R. Dasakumaracarita of Dandin. New Delhi: MLBD. 2009
  2. Sastrulu, V.V., and Ed. Rabindra K. Panda. Kavyadarsah of Dandin. Delhi: Bharatiya Kala Prakashan. 2008
  3. Das, Sisir Kumar. A History of Indian Literature, 500-1399: From Courtly to the Popular. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. 2005. p.75

The Death of Romance

The following Post was published at Andhra Cultural Portal on Feb 7, 2015


Antônio Parreiras, The End of Romance

It is sometimes said that “Analysis is the death of sentiment”, but I disagree. As with all things in life, balance here is required as well. The truly fulfilling life is the one which is equidistant to the two. It uses reason to determine the correct course of action based on duty to others, and uses sentiment to experience the splendid possibilities and experiences and rasas life has to offer, with romance and true love being the most prized.

However, in our era of “hookups”, one-night stands, and office relationships, has the so-called “sophistication” of modernity killed off true love? Has the rise of prurience uber alles resulted in destroying the very bonds that once raised armies of rescue and launched a thousand ships? Is The Death of Romance upon us?

Real romance is not a function of skill in the bedroom or the frequency of neurotransmitter release, despite what people today may read in cosmo, playboy, huffpo, jezebel or whatever other intellectual cul de sac they rely on to educate themselves. Real romance is about putting the other person’s needs above our own–even thinking about their interests before our own. It is not about convenience, but constancy. It is not about hopelessness, but hoping against hope. But do materialism, fancy shoes, and “Mr. Right now” instead of “Mr. Right” ultimately lead to happiness? Whatever the latest push to downgrade monogamy as boring and marriage as “obsolete”, the end result of the lives of these fictional characters below (and their real life imitators–male and female) is instructive.

Indeed a poster for the movie Nymphomaniac features a series of men and women in various states of tumescence featuring the caption “Forget About Love”.  This isn’t just limited to Hollywood, but rather, the state of Bollywood, and now increasingly Tollywood, is testament to this.

Somewhere along the lines of the mid-2000s, the soulful sentiment that once pervaded mainstream Hindi filmdom ( I am purposely avoiding the word cinema here) from screenplay to song, diluted, and then vanished.

Hits steeped in sentiment like “humko humise churalo” have been replaced by chart toppers like “char bottle vodka”…Even the romantic songs once riveting with equal parts longing and mourning and charm and rapture now pass off romance as de riguer, easily substitutable in the buffet table of modern hedonism. A timepass or recreational commodity, on demand courtesy of tinder, snapchat, okcupid or whatever else the kids are using these days, that separates the desired product (romance, sex, etc), from the person. These of course are punctuated with nice club dance beats and other assorted chart toppers.

Even the word “beloved” has been cheapened beyond the point of recognition. What was once deemed a word worthy of our spiritual other half, our second heart, is merely a detachable moniker for the infatuation of the moment or the source and recipient of a serial concupiscence. The reality however is that love without sincerity is mere simulacra.

Men, you may now have been taught by the media to think that all girls are wannabe Sunny Leones who want bad boys, and Ladies, you may think all men are the same or only run after “insincere” girls. The truth, however, is most men either want a good woman to settle down with or after wasting 20 year of their lives, realize the value of a good woman. And most women may often confuse arrogance with confidence, but they too dream of a gentlemen. Yes there are bad man and bad women, who are only “about that thing”, but the majority are in the middle. The question is whether catastrophic loss of culture will cause them to gravitate to promiscuity over Prema.

Given all this, the Death of Romance is invariably upon us. And this is not an East vs West commentary, but a Modern vs Traditional one, as it is only circumstance that has resulted in the western world first being infected by this plague of insincerity—rapidly affecting “Modern India”. Nowhere was this more obviously seen than in the TV series How I Met Your Mother.

*Spoilers Ahead*

In our era of global satellite television, many of you in both hemispheres may be familiar with How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM). While the 2005-2014 production was hailed for its creativity and crisp writing/performances, it was above all the story of a young man, Ted Mosby, in his 20s/30s seeking his one true love over the casanova lifestyle. In fact, while one friend openly embraces it, and another escapes it by sheer good fortune of meeting his future wife at a young age, Ted consciously chooses to pursue it–and over the course of 8 years, is punished for it, repeatedly. Despite all this, he nevertheless soldiers on.

If the story of Ross & Rachel were about how true love is possible, but is frequently complicated by other romances, Ted & Tracy was about choosing real romance in a distinctly unromantic time. What  was originally hailed as the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. of the 2000s decade, and arguably the TV show for all hopeless romantics, had all the potential to be one of the great small screen romances of our time.

Flat panel had accomplished what today’s film was increasingly failing to do–capturing and communicating real sentiment of longing for love.

Ted Mosby, a Manhattan Manmatha had committed to finding his Rati, and after  e ^ 1000 embarrassments, heartbreaks, bad advice, and wrong-turns over the course of a decade, he finally did.

One would think the finale and story would have ended there…but nooo. 9 years of character development and story-telling were ruthlessly destroyed in a mere five minutes with this abomination from network-approved naraka:

As you can see, the final scene is emblematic of how the show’s internal logic was destroyed, and also why it contributes in general to the Death of Romance…real romance. While it was fittingly panned as one of the worst finales in small screen history, it had nevertheless done its work. In the process, it led to such pearls of wisdom from pan-hellenic Platos and other assorted tequila fueled supporters as “omg! it makes perfect sense, you have many one true loves!!“, “yeah, i completely get it, you don’t stop loving after your lover leaves“,  “i totally want that–true love and a back up relationship!“…”i want to have my cake, and i’ll eat it too!

Now don’t get me wrong. Life most assuredly isn’t simple. There is indeed an element of bittersweet in romance as all lovers are doomed to be parted on this Earth. Indeed some die far too soon. But what this show, and celluloid in general, is today advocating is that lovers are indeed replaceable. Thus from the Ayodhyan heights of Ram refusing to marry again and having a gold statue fashioned in Sita’s image, we have fallen to widowers deluding themselves into thinking old casual relationship exes (who never themselves were really interested in romance) can fill the void left behind by the woman they claimed to have dreamt of for the better part of an era. It is almost as though the very nature of romance had been mutilated, convoluted and turned into a consumer good.

*End Spoilers*

Why this tangent“–you ask? Well, admittedly in our fast-paced world where professionals don’t necessarily have arranged marriages, or have relationships prior to having one, Pehla Pyaar may not be an option for everyone. Indeed, divorce/remarriage may be appropriate for some and romantic pasts are never simple. Nevertheless, simply because we end up falling short of the ideal, or need a Dusra or Teesra , doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aspire towards it in the first place. It is certainly  better for us in the long run than Sau or Sahasra. Waiting is not weak. Principles are not prudishness.

Now, I’ve always been part of the camp that was always fine with Valentine’s Day. Whatever the actual history behind it, in theory, it’s a rather lovely way to celebrate and connect with the one whom we love. The problem however is what it has become in practice. Rather than a day of soulfully cherishing love for one’s spouse (or soon-to-be spouse), it has become a mere veneer of romance to legitimize mechanical debauchery, with unseemly displays of public affection. Those left alone due to circumstance are mocked or seen as curiosities, while the elect happily trot about adducing their rent-a-date or fling-of-the-moment as evidence of their possession (consumption?) of “love”.

This much is made additionally clear from friends with benefits and serial monogamy substituting for real relationships to pornography’s psychologically and sociologically harmful effects to laws that destroy incentive for trust in marriages.

What’s more, the rise of the PDA is feted as somehow as a sign of liberation rather than indecency. Blatant disregard to civic decorum and respect for elders is not romance. While I certainly don’t support the institution of a “Ministry of Vice and Virtue”, those young people feeling prohibitively passionate should keep personal acts for the private sphere. True, Classical Indic society was not repressive in these matters, but it wasn’t libertine either. It merely stressed that there was a time, place, and manner for such things.  There was and is no “right of way for ribaldry”. Rati-bhava divorced from Sringara-rasa is not love at all, but lust seeking pretext.

It has become part of common parlance to say chivalry is dead, and feminism killed it. A corollary of that of course is that romance is dead, and lust killed it. The moment a society exults in the divorcing of sensuality and marriage, is the moment romance truly dies. Because when marriage itself is no longer looked forward to by the majority of society for having children or moving in together, let alone maithuna, that is the moment when it becomes a mere formality. Rather than the fulcrum of one’s life, it becomes merely a trophy or label.

When “Love” is commoditised, the consumers themselves become replaceable and interchangeable.Living for the moment, treating lovers as disposable, and lust as an assortment of flavors may be fun and fashionable, but this lifestyle more often than not leads to this result.

Real romance is not a mere veneer for licentiousness, but has an element of sacrifice. “The Beloved” is not merely the flavor-of-the-month object of prurience, but a person willing to sacrifice for us and for whom we are willing to sacrifice. It is reciprocal.

Marriage is not the end of romance, rather it is the celebration of it. And true love is the highest form of romance. It recognises the inherent oneness of the male and female halves of an individual soul to the exclusion of all others. It is why a Sati could voluntarily commit sati or an Aja (grandfather of Rama) could climb on to Indumati’s (his wife) funeral pyre in inconsolable grief.

There is an old joke that men need money for women, and women need men for money (though such equations have been changing). Now assuredly, however tempting money may be for women, so it is for sex and men. Thus, there are men and women who sacrifice the pursuit of romance for these mere commodities instead. But as with all material things, we need more and more only to feel less and less. In their waning years, such men then realise the value of a good woman (rather than many “hot” ones) and such women realise by serially pursuing Mr. Money Bags or Mr. Right Now, they lost the interest of Mr. Right. The greatest of lotharios from Don Giovanni to Sam Malone may be the envy of most men, but in the end, do the sheer notches on their bed posts fill their inevitable void of loneliness?

To get the woman or man we seek we must be the man or woman that person would want. Love that stands the test of time is not driven by superficial states or faddish fetishes. Looks fade, money comes and goes, but companionship and qualities are truly timeless.

In our topsy turvy age of polyamory and serial monogamy, such notions may seem quaint. After all, these gyaanis and gyaaninis ask, “isn’t restriction of our love to only one person (or gender) selfish, even primitive”? But as always, a little knowledge, in the hands of the foolish, is a dangerous thing. Setting aside the fact that monogamy comes naturally to us, the benefits are manifold as well.

First and foremost comes validation (real validation that one-night stands and serial lovers could never afford). The idea that someone out there is eager and willing to commit himself or herself to us to the exclusion of all others is not only validating but downright scintillating. It affirms not only our sense of self and self-worth, but adds to our esteem in a way that single-serving lovers never could. After all, if we are irreplaceable, there truly must be something to us. And if we’re not, well, we’re just emotion-less commodities driven by base pleasure.

Second, comes security. Not only the security in having someone you can trust no matter what, but the security in knowing that the connection isn’t temporary (as all superficial infatuation tends to be) like fads and fetishes. Ultimately, marriage forms the ideal environment needed to ensure that children from this union will securely have a mother and a father as a parenting unit, providing the steady love and care required in child rearing.

Family First, and Marriage makes it one

Fundamentally, marriage is about children, whatever our modernistas may say. That is because society then mandates that a man not only fulfills his responsibility to provide for the pregnant mother, but not abandon the children after birth and leave them without food and shelter. While it is true that there are those who marry and do not have children, since when is the exception the rule? Because of “except after ‘c’, does that mean ‘i’ shouldn’t be before ‘e’?”. Because the vast majority of marriages past and present have resulted in children, they must be the fulcrum of our consideration, not our passing fancies and whims.

Third, it gives us a sense of balance and stability. Life is full of ups and downs. Career success is fleeting, even friends fade in and out, but a true life partner provides us with both wind and ballast as needed. When we are sad, they cheer us up, when we are angry, they cool us down, when we are lonely, they give us companionship, and when we need a kick in the seat of our pants, they gladly give us one. After all, just as the meal that is shared is more delicious, so to is the life that is shared more fulfilling.

Sita-Rama

So if you want to rekindle romance (sringara) in society again, you must be the change you want to see. Without Juliet, there is no Romeo. Without Sita, there is no Ram. It is the virtues of women that ultimately inspire the virtues of men. That is why, in ancient civilizations, muses are personified as feminine. Even in our Indic civilization, it is Goddess Sarasvati who inspires. Indeed, it is Sarasvati’s knowledge that is the source of Brahma’s creative power, Lakshmi’s prosperity that is the source of Vishnu’s preservation power, and Parvati’s Shakti that is the source of Shiva’s destructive power. That is why our society does not stress being overly masculine or overly feminine—but advocates balance.  Yin and Yang, Female and Male, Nari and Nara must exist in harmony. It is the synergy between that two that empowers society and rekindles real romance, just as Sita’s chastity adorned Ram’s nobility.

The point is not to advocate hypocrisy, but to educate that one cannot have one’s cake and eat it too. Actions have opportunity costs, and to seek what we really want, we ourselves must be worthy of it, for nothing in this world worth having comes easy. Many of you may be despondent about being alone a week from now, but fear not. It, or many such days, may come and go, but if you truly commit to true love, it commits to you.

So what then is the cornerstone of a good marriage and true love? Fidelity. This is because Fidelity breeds Trust, Trust breeds Friendship, and Friendship breeds Love. And that, dear reader, is what will result in the reincarnation of Romance.