Tag Archives: Shakti

Why Gentlemen Matter

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

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

Mera rath par tumhara swagat hai, Rajkumari

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

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

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

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

Yasmin maheem shaasathi vaaneenaam nidhraam vihaaraardhapathe gathaanaam |

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Character is 3 parts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DharmaMandir

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

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

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

That last one Should sound familiar.

 

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

The story of Ahalya is illustrative here:

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

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

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

Vajradapi katorani mrudooni kusumadapi |

Lokotharaanaam chetaamsi ko nu vigyathu marhaati ||

Harder than a diamond and softer than a flower

Who can gauge the conduct of super-eminent persons?

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

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

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

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

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

Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion”.

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

Justice stands against exploitation.

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

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

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

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


References:

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

 

The Civilizational Resonance of Baahubali

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


Baahubali

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

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

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

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

Jai Mahishmati!


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

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

First, a Rejoinder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dharmic Culture

baahubalivisual

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

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

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

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

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

The Kshatriya Ideal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ranjit, Shivaji aur Pratap

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

Artistic Highlights

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

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

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

Sorry, no Salwar Kameez here

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

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

Inflection point for the Industry?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Jai Mahishmati!

References:

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

Sattva and Bharatanāṭyaṃ

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


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Abhinaya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abhinaya consists of four types:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sattva

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yajña

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Bhakti

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

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

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Shree Bala Saraswati. Eminent danseuse.

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

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

Philosophy, Language and Tradition

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

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

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

CompositionsAndal

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

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

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

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


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

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

Copyright: Prakruti Prativadi. All rights reserved.

Why Character is so Important

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

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

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

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

Oordhva

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

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Advice for the innocent & naive

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

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What women (& men) should start focusing on again

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

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

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

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

“all science no philosophy”.

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

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

The best known paraphrase is as follows:

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

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

The Flip-side

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

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

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

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

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

Na jithendhriyaanaam vishayabhayam | 262

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the eternal way.

Bhagavad Gita 2:42-43

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

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

Aesthetics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

good-character

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Character is 3 parts:

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

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

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

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

DharmaMandir

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

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

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

References:

  1. Chaturvedi, B.K.Chanakya Neeti.Diamond: New Delhi.2015
  2. Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli. The Principal Upanisads. London: Unwin Brothers. 1968

Shubha Dasara (2016)

Bijaya-Dashami-Nepali-Dashain

Happy Vijaya Dasami, Happy Durga Pujo, and Shubh Dussehra! On this Tenth Day of Victory, Durga Mata defeated Mahishasura and Bhagvan Ram defeated Ravana.

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Satyameva Jayate

Whether in Kathmandu or Kanyakumari, whether it through Raas-Garba or Bhajans, hope you all enjoyed the Nine days of Navaratri. May this Tenth Day usher in victory for good over evil. From all of us at ICP, Happy Dasara!

Fill-Your-Life-with-Happiness

Shubha Raksha Bandhana

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From all of us at ICP, Shubha Raksha Bandhana, Raksha Bandhan Shubhkamnayein, and Happy Rakhi!

Not all cultures celebrate the bond between brother and sister as colourfully and joyously as Bharatavarsha’s.  Rather than viewing relations between female and male through only 1 or 2 prisms, our ancestors recognised that the most holistic societies are the ones that also hold as dear the relations between siblings, cousins, friends, and fellow citizens.

To women, men are more than just fathers or husbands or sons, but also brothers and cousin-brothers. To men, women are more than just mothers or wives or daughters, but also sisters and cousin-sisters.

This wonderful festival celebrates what all other women or men beyond the top 3 should be to men or women: sisters or brothers. Rakshabandhan celebrates this bond and raises it to festival heights with a joyous utsav where brothers and sisters honour each other.

The loneliest societies are the most selfish ones. Unselfishness and protection of brother by sister & sister by brother is what makes ours the civilization of Subhadra & Sri Krishna.

Rakshabandhan Shubhkamnayein!

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Personalities: Savitri

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

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

Background

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

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

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

Aryavarta

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

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

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

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

AchievementsPhoto: kidsgen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the lesson to be drawn from this story?

Satyavan_Savitri

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

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

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

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

Legacy

SavitriVsYama

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

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

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

mahaSavitri

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

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

References:

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

Thoughts about Bharat Mata on “Mother’s Day”

bharatmatacharan

At first glance, many of the anglicised (reluctantly or otherwise) may wonder why, on Mother’s day of all days, I would write a piece on the Clash of Civilizations. The more ardently suspicious of anything foreign may even say “We’re Bharatiya, for us, every day is Mother’s Day!” [much to every Bharatiya daughter-in-law’s chagrin…] or “Parent’s Worship Day was on February 14th!”.

And yet, at the same time, perhaps there is a need for reasserting precisely why Civilizational understanding is so crucial. After all, “know yourself and know your enemy, and you will be victorious in a hundred battles”.   Civilizational contribution is not merely a once in while, recreational activity. Nor is it a favour to do to make nagging friends (or mothers) happy. Rather, it is a fundamental duty for those who care about all that is good and sacred in this world.

Bharat Mata

bharat-mata-pic-312934.4The idea itself is being made taboo by the self-same global citizens who happily have no loyalty. To them, their own libido is the greatest good. When you get your morality from moral degenerates, what value will you have for your mathru bhoomi? The point isn’t prudery or even moral posturing. Even the most flawed of persons is worth listening to if he or she is speaking the truth. But when moronic Marxists famously state “there is no truth”, only “perspective” then there is no fact—only opinion, and every idiot can live in his or her own perspective since “perception is reality”. But perception isn’t reality. There is objective truth, and the goal of every person should be to put aside ahankara and svaartha to understand it.

The fact remains, whatever the antiquity of the name “Bharat Mata”, the idea of the mathru bhoomi has always been a part of Dharma. Motivated “histories” by academic propagandists love to cite stray cases of the Chalukyas or Mauryas as examples of temple iconoclasm, which they in fact weren’t. Here, the murthis (statues of Gods) were not destroyed, but simply relocated. Because in each case the particular form of a devata was the “personification of the state”. As Virupaksha was to Vijayanagara, as Eklingji was to Mewar, so too were these respective divinities to the Pallavas and Kalingas. Kharavela famously took back Kalinga’s state murthi after avenging Utkala against Magadha. Unlike with the Linga of Somnath in the medieval period, Magadha did not destroy the murthi of the Mahameghavahanas. Even going as far back as the Mahabharata, we see the import of desa.

“Tyajet ekam Kulasyarthe, Gramasyarthe Kulam tyajet; Gramam Janapadasyarthe, Atmarthe prithivim tyajet”

But of course, according to NIRs, patriotism is ok for Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Germany, and even the US. Only in India do pseudo-historians ministering to pseudo-Indians make it taboo. But then, the love of adarsh liberals for everything but India is all too well known. Their “Idea of India” after all is about “Breaking India”. No wonder they have little love for “Bharat Mata”. Columbia, Britannia, and of course, Roma, can all be venerated, but Bharat Mata must be psycho-analysed and pseudo-historicised to oblivion. So who cares what they think anyway? They aren’t really even Indian.

But then, what to do when our much ballyhooed braggarts have been ultimately feckless in their efforts? Any idiot can get on his digital soap box and obscenely outrage, tweet, and even “weep” for his country. But the true patriot doesn’t weep or whine, even when he (or she) is wounded. He quietly does his work and aims to restore that which is most precious to him. He even puts aside rivalries (excepting opportunistic traitors and pusillanimous careerists of course) and petty jealousies to ask and do what is in the common interest: Better to defeat a common alien foe than win against a native rival under common slavery.

That is the value of strategic thinking over pompous pedantry. Victory is not about he who outrages (or gives gyaan) the most. It is not about sending soldiers to fight the other guy’s soldiers. It is not about surrounding the other guy’s fortresses. Victory is about defeating the other guy’s strategy. Hence the time tested dictum of Sun Tsu: “The great general first seeks victory, then seeks battle”. Our idiots are ready to battle even without taking stock of the situation and understanding precisely what faces us. That is the problem Rajiv Malhotra has been justifiably and angrily tweeting about time & again. It is also precisely why he, above all, was targeted by malicious smear campaigns to begin with.

Our well meaning morons act before thinking or talk rather than doing. He thinks before acting—guess which approach the other side finds more threatening? Our idiots engage in the most vicious and most malicious petty politicking against their own side, but then suddenly find their conscience and preach “dharma” when fighting the shatru…our real shatru. That is why there is a separation between adhyatmika and laukika vidya. Sastra, Sanctimony, and Pseudo-Science will not win war. Strategy is the realm of the statesman and senapati —not the srotriya. Whatever your caste, understand this cannot be about caste. The focus must be on what will safeguard us, all of us, that is true pragmatism.

Gyaani Complex Continues

Those of you who like to tweet or retweet like robins on crack without thinking, and give gyaan without processing, need to understand that this not about time pass. Nor is this about individual efforts. A perennial favourite phenomenon is the darthi ke laal who cry for their country day in day out but then refuse to work as a team, or prioritise giving gyaan over participating in collaborative efforts at documenting and preserving the common culture. For them, insolent behavior and glib one-liners are the highest good.

Even funnier are those clueless tweeps who are forever wasting the time of people like Malhotra who don’t have time for petty banter or for idiotic questions that could best be gathered by…Google.

You aren’t fooling anyone. You, the serial outrager, You the the prevaricating pontificator, You the phony moraliser. Just because you produce pedantic piffle, does not mean your hypocritical moral indignation is not undercut by your obvious, private petty politicking.

Intellectual arrogance serves no one but the enemy, least of all when it’s by those who have little action beyond self-promotion to show for. And sacrificing critical thinking to submit to the diktat of extra-party institutions is no way to victory either. Dharma was, is, and always will be about decentralised power.  This is because power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Everyone is out for his pound of flesh, who is looking to preserve the common boat? 

When we value possessions over people, Libertinism over Life, this is what we get. Who is not tempted?-by fame, by flesh, by finance? The questions isn’t temptation, it’s whether our conscience speaks out and wins out over cravings, cowardice, and cruelty.

Glib one liners are easy to produce. Facile factoids are facile to recite. The question is whether you have the discipline to consistently focus on the necessary over the popular, you applause hungry monkey. What have you sacrificed for society?

It is not a Clash of Civilizations, but verily a Clash for Civilization

 Clash civilizations.jpg

Ironically, despite the famous Huntingtonian riposte to the Fukuyama Thesis, and in spite of the Kaganesque revival, what we (and in fact, the world) face, is not a clash of civilizations, but verily, a clash for civilization.

Understand what is at stake. Romance didn’t die because of the West. Romance died in the West because it modernised and post-modernised. Why is India on the same track?

Family didn’t break because of the West. Family broke in the West because it modernised and post-modernised. Why is India on the same track?

Incest and perversion weren’t traditionally advocated by the West. It is advocated now because the West modernised and post-modernised. Why is India on the same track?

So for all its moralising, perhaps the West should turn its attention back on its own moral state, and tend to the crumbling edifice of its civic society, rather than hectoring India on crime statistics where western nations in fact perform much worse. Otherwise, political agendas become all too obvious and apparent, and spotlights shine back.

When sacred bonds between man and woman, brother and sister, father and daughter, and son and mother are desacrilised, destroyed and perverted to animal behaviour on the basis of “nature” and “freedom of choice”, then what else could we possibly have besides Matsya Nyaya (law of the fish).

Is the answer to turn back the clock? No. Without modern technology and knowledge, how will you defend yourself? Is the answer to unthinkingly apply the smriti? No, times have changed, and mistakes have been made along the way. What civilization is free of mistakes?

We also have made our fair share. There are some Brahmins today who eat beef and many Dalits who refrain from it. Why is the first feted and the second deprecated? Times have changed, even lineages are broken. The true brahmana is known through his conduct, that is why he is respected for not only speaking on morality but also for providing a moral example to emulate: that is the true purpose of a Brahmana. So it is long past time we assimilate Dalit communities and fight for their downtrodden in full zest.

Some cultures now seek to destroy civilization itself. Others have forgotten or have been made to forget it. And the West is ever increasingly rejecting it. Why do Indians seek to repeat the same mistakes? Why are Indian women glorifying the SATC consumer lifestyle and abusing 498A?. Why are Indian men seeking to become shameless and asinine “Red Pill” pick up artists, condemning women? Why are Indian parents increasingly being left in hospices masquerading as retirement homes?

While we are importing intellectually bankrupt Western “liberation” theories under lazy rebranding efforts, Westerners are increasingly taking to Indian perspectives. The point is not about fashionability, supremacy, racism, or racialism. It is about understanding what civilization is actually about. Before you can protect it, you must understand what it actually means.

While Comprehensive National Power, weapons, bank balances, are all important, it is not your bank balance that protects you and your society, but your values. Why was there no succession crisis in Ayodhya? Why didn’t the sons of Dasaratha fight among themselves for the throne? Why do idiot brothers (let alone idiot politicians) backstab each other today? How can you ever protect your civilization or society if you can’t even protect your own family…from itself?! That is why values matter, that is why morality matters. Ethics protects us from others, Morality protects us from ourselves. That is why Bharata remains a shining example in the face of the ambitious and ahankari mediocrities we have today.

“Dawkins this”. “Ayn Rand that”. “AIT uber alles”. Don’t you douchebags have any capacity for critical thinking? Just because you went to IIT doesn’t mean you understand history and strategy—even if you can rote-recite it. Just because you have a successful  popsicle stand business doesn’t mean you understand the modern business world. When there are numerous well-educated politicians who don’t know the full story, what makes you, some loser twenty-something with a receding hairline, dubious fashion sense, and general ignorance of your own stupidity, what makes you think you know it? Shut up, listen, and learn. Better to stay quiet and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.

Why the Laconic Chinese run circles around the Argumentative Indian

A rickshawallah can be respected for sheer anubhava (experience). That is why even the brilliant Chanakya wrote:

Naasthyahamkara samah shatruh | 287

Arrogance is one’s greatest enemy.

And

Vinayasya moolam vruddhopaseva | 6

The root of humility is in the service of the seniors—elderly or older persons. When one renders honest service to elders one learns the worth of humility.

Thus, it is vruddhopaseva itself that is the key to wisdom, despite many a philos for philognosis. Humble yourselves, ye high and mighty morons, and you will realise that true wisdom lies in humility.

The current batch of “young guns” and swaggering studs are nothing but a bunch of over-credentialed, over-bold and unthinking duds. If they don’t understand the concept of chain of command and the strategic value of respect for elders, and the necessity for collaborative action over individualistic pontification, they are as good as the children they behave like.

All it takes is one look at the fate of yazidis or the cultural genocide of a certain Himalayan people to realise just how deadly the danger is to our “darthi”. Despite the stakes, we still have tone-deaf, selfish, overly-ambitious, and unjustifiably arrogant ass-clowns whose preferred pass-time is condescension to those perceived as “beneath them”, combustion before those who show they are “above them”, and perennial misanthropy in between. In the process, they dilly-dally, navel-gaze, “eat samosas and give commentary”, all while civilization itself is on the brink. If they find some area in which an actual karma yogi does not have expertise, their first inclination is to tear him down, as was attempted with Malhotra and the Battle for Sanskrit.

That’s why it is ultimately amusing to see the sheer number of pompous, pedantic, and pusillanimous pugilists giving him unsolicited advice in the most disrespectful of manners. Let them first accomplish a millionth of what he has on behalf of society, then they can open their foul traps and give their juxtaposing judgments and endless opinions, which are, indeed, very much like themselves…

However moronic the masses may be for ignoring dangers facing us and mouthing unthinking bromides such as “We are all global citizens, yaar”, “Don’t be regressive, be progressive!”, “Arey aish karo, yaar!”, “YOLO” or “Bindaas”, I can’t, in fact, be too hard on them. After all, ignorance is bliss…who can blame them?

But the question is, what are you who are in the know, you who are aware, you who make pretense to being part of the elite, what are you doing…besides talking and tearing others down?

Gender wars, Caste-conflict, Sampradaya battles, general infighting, ambitious politicking, failure to respect chain of command, lack of unity, emotional indiscipline, and above all, inability to shut up, listen, and learn, are all putting Bharatavarsha on a collision course with catastrophe. And you are responsible…yes…You!

Make no mistake, there is a storm, and the storm is coming. You have been told to wake up. You have been advised to prepare. You have been warned to correct. And now, the reckoning is upon us.

What’s the point, yaar”, say our bollywood addled “kool dudes”. Yes, what is the point, you spoiled brat. You enjoyed your privileges, you gamed the system, you got your degree, Ayn Rand told you selfishness is virtue, you don’t care. But then don’t whine when you find yourself in need, and there’s no one around to help you. Real intelligence doesn’t lie in gaming the system. Real intelligence lies not in simplistically raising A to fight B, but in long-term strategic thinking.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the question is whether Bharatiyas have the sense to put aside their differences and focus on the big picture…at least until common foes are tackled. Whatever jokes are made about them regarding barbarity and the like, a certain land of horse-breeders has a famous dictum:

Me and my brothers against my cousins.

Me and my cousins against the world.

Some may dub them as fools, but at least they aren’t stupid. The same cannot be said for Indians …of all castes …who were long ago dubbed as knaves. Ostensibly their policy is:

Me and the world against my cousins! Me and my cousins against my brothers!

If ever there were a recipe for slavery, it is this…

Caste battles to oblivion. Missing the Woods for the Trees. Destroying states wholesale for petty politics. Allowing the senses to run wild without even the slightest bit of self-control or shame. Celebrating the shameful and making celebrities out of the shameless. But above all, forgetting even the basic sanctity of relationships between young and old, and justifying exploitation in the name of “freedom of contract”, all these things only play into the hands of those wish to destroy us.

Shri S.Gurumurthy famously coined the phrase “Bahuka Economics”. Is that not what we have today? Kakistocracies have always existed since the days of Kamsa. His own minister suggested the following policy: When people themselves are willing to sell the very rope by which they are hung, all in the name of swatantrata, then we know stupidity has reach its maximal limit.

Responses to date have mostly been tone-deaf, uni-dimensional, and based on reaction rather than action. Blindly mimicking once mighty and courageous, but ultimately failed models, will only lead us to the path of destruction. That is why one must look past surface level analyses and understand what is truly authentic. Aping others will only lead to “mimic men” of a different sort. To ultimately succeed, we must look within and understand who we truly are.

Many, of course, are overwhelmed by the task. Some have been coerced and others compromised. Still others simply refuse to face facts and prefer to keep their heads in the sand or up somewhere else. After all, it is easy for the ambitious and knavish to join with a more powerful enemy than to fight against great odds.

But it is in fact in the face of great odds, that we find out just who we truly are. Courage isn’t the absence of fear. Courage is having fear, but saddling up anyways to protect what means the most to you.

Not just things, not just land, not even just people. But in fact, something beyond the sum of all our parts, persons, and possessions: an ideal

When possessions mean more than our parents, When social partying matters more than societal prosperity, When physical relations means more than relational love, When money matters more than morality, When perversion matters more than promises…

What hope is there for society?

For all the armchair acharyas and chicken-hawk “chankias”: anyone can talk tough. Starting wars is easy, it is finishing wars that becomes difficult. The Germans found that out, twice. Before you first begin fighting, you must first fully understand what it is that you are fighting for. Then and then only will you know not only know where to fight, or whom to fight, but even what to fight…for it may very well start within yourself.

What is it that we are fighting for? What is it that we are striving for? What is it, that one idea, that one word, that one syllable that creates culture, that composes the very word of our highest ideal, from which all relationships stem from, the greatest of all goods, synonymous with right over wrong, the very beating heart of civilization itself?

   DharMA

                            Vande MAtaram              

                                                                               mere paas MA hai

                                                    MAthru Devo Bhava

                                                         a aa e ee nerpina amMA

                                                                                             Meri MA nu na dasseo

                                                                                                 AmMA endrazhaikkaatha

                                                                                                         MA oh meri ma

                                                                                 kalithozhiMArenne kaliyakki  

                                                                                                         MA tume maamatara

                       nisvarth prem maatrishwar no ane MAta no chhe

                                                           Kab door bahar chaMAn se

               Bharat MAta ki Jai

Personalities: Srinivasa Ramanujan

The following Post was composed collaboratively by N.R.I.pathi & Shivoham


srinivasaramanujan

With the occasion of his Vardanthi last week, and the premiere of his new international movie this week, we inaugurate our comprehensive Series on Indic Personalities with self-taught genius, devout Shakti bhakta, and quite possibly India’s most brilliant mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan.

But the story of this great figure of Indic Civilization is one that is as touched by spirituality and tragedy as it is hard mathematics. In his brief lifetime, he would leave an imprint on Modern Maths that both the Academic and Cinematic worlds are only beginning to unravel.

Background

Born in Erode to a poor Tamil brahmin family, Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar spent his early years in what is now Tamil Nadu. His father was an accountant in Kumbakonam to a cloth merchant. Nevertheless, the family would face financial difficulties for long periods.

He studied in a “Pial” school, which was the traditional institution for boys of his background. The young lad was noted for being quiet, but frequently asking about the distances between stars [1] (much like ancient Indian mathematicians once did). Despite growing up in trying poverty, the precocious boy would develop an impressive mathematical faculty in relative isolation and with focused self-study. “He had a prodigious memory, and at school he would entertain his friends by reciting the various declensions of Sanskrit roots, and by repeating the value of the constant ‘pi’ to any number of decimal places.” [7]

But that was not all. Innate ability aside, it was an unmatched drive and focused concentration as an autodidact that would forge his name in the annals of history.

Srinivasa Ramanujan displayed advanced mathematical ability since age 11 after reading a book on advanced trigonometry written by S. L. Loney, lent by two college students, who were lodgers at his home, which he mastered by age 13 and discovered sophisticated mathematical theorems on his own. [5]

He used an introductory book to study Trigonometry and even basic Calculus even before his teen years. Once in his teens, he would master 18th and 19th century mathematics with another book. G.S. Carr’s work, “A Synopsis of Elementary Results in Pure and Applied Mathematics”, is credited with providing him with exposure to modern Mathematical methods, in tandem with his existing foundation. Ramanujan mastered it all on his own. If ever there were proof that our education does not end with school work, it is this.

A brilliant student, he received various awards and certificates from his early teens onward.  He would later go on to Government College in Kumbakonam but famously did not succeed in earning his B.A. in Maths. This was later repeated at another Chennai College. Though he scored hundred percent marks in Maths, he failed in his F.A., known as First Intermediate Examination in Arts.

Ramanujan “really scored a very high percentage of marks in mathematics. His failure was due to poor marks in the other subjects. This is the true story.” [6] In fact, according the acclaimed biography “The Man who Knew Infinity”, this uncontested genius and intellectual giant appeared for his exams four times and was unsuccessful each time!  He lost his scholarship, and failed out of college. Compare that to today where students are committing suicide even after getting into college…

He finished a three hour maths exam in thirty minutes, but due to his lack of interest in other subjects, was unable to perform on the others.[6] What gave him the strength to go on and endure?

He would later marry Kumari Janaki at the age of 22, and barely subsist by tutoring other students. To support his family, he obtained a job at the Madras Port Trust Office. A local mathematician named S.N. Aiyar encouraged him to correspond with Western Mathematicians; Ramanujan eventually clicked with one an entered into a friendship with G.H.Hardy of Cambridge. A letter with 120 Theorems was what secured the attention of this academic from Trinity College. Invited to study there, Ramanujan was initially reluctant, as his family resisted. It was here that the one of many spiritual experiences would intervene in the course of his magnificent life.

Eventually booking a ticket to England in 1914, Ramanujan would disembark from his ship only to find himself dogged by health problems, which would claim his life years later. Long thought to have been Tuberculosis, exacerbated by the dreary British climate, his health problems were a mystery then, though the present consensus is that a parasitic liver ailment was the actual cause. Unfortunately, this curable disease was not properly identified by doctors at that time, and hepatic amoebiasis would periodically assert itself when minor illnesses would give it cause. Ramanujan would heroically carry on his research both in collaboration with Hardy and on his own. In the process, he would earn an A.B. from Cambridge and be inducted in the Royal Society. Health (and dietary) problems, nevertheless, proved too much. He would return to India in 1917.

In a terrible loss to not only the Indic world but the mathematic as well, Sri Ramanujan passed away in 1920, only in his early thirties. One can only imagine how much more cosmic the contribution of this meteoric mathematician would have been had he lived a natural lifespan.

Spirituality

All sources, even mathematic academics, recognise that Srinivasa Ramanujan credited his remarkable work to the Goddess Namadevi, an incarnation of the Mahalakshmi aspect of Shakti. Particularly in an era where scholarship is intensely ego-driven, to the point of a new law being developed, Ramanujan’s lack of ahankar and respect for the divine is refreshing. Although critiqued by outsiders as “unrigorous” due to lack of “formal training”, Ramanujan is emblematic of a different sort of tradition that recognises not only the value of discipline and training, but realises that there is a significant space for ’embodied knowledge’ as well.

Ramanujan was deeply spiritual and credited his mathematical ability to his family goddess, Mahalakshmi of Namakkal. He apparently claimed to dream of blood drops that symbolised her male consort, Narasimha, after which he would receive visions of scrolls of complex mathematical content unfolding before his eyes. [5]
G.H.Hardy’s own book attested to the importance of religion in Ramanujan’s life. Aside from his own birth being credited to his family’s prayers to Goddess Namakkal, the man himself was “Fond of the Puranas” and he “used to attend popular lectures on the Great Epics the Ramayana and [M]ahabharata. He believed in the existence of a Supreme Being and in the attainment of Godhood by men by proper methods of service and realisation of oneness with the Deity. He had settle convictions about the problem of life and after, and even the certain approach of death did not unsettle his faculties or spirits. In manners he was very simple and had absolutely no conceit.”  There may be something to the Great Tradition, after all.

Achievements

  • Auto-didact par excellence and Self-taught Mathematics genius who produced 3 notebooks of brilliant theorems and conceptual analyses.
  • The 1st notebook has 351 pages, in 16 chapters.
    The 2nd notebook is a revised enlargement of the 1st with 256 pages, in 21 chapters.
    The 3rd notebook has only 33 pages. [2]
  • Published more than 30 individual research papers in three years. Collaborated on several others with G.H.Hardy.
  • The most notable collaboration was written on the partial function, which counts the number of ways a natural number can be reduced to smaller parts. This is now called the Circle Method.[7]
  • Another collaboration resulted in the Normal Order Method. This paper gave birth to an entirely new branch of Mathematics called Probablistic Number Theory. [7]
  • Wrote “a paper that would connect the computations of the digits of ‘pi’ to modular forms, a theory developed largely in the 20th century. “[3]
  • Accordingly to Academics Murty & Murty, “the paper that really changed the course of 20th century mathematics was the one written by Ramanujan in 1916, modestly titled “On certain arithmetical functions.” In this paper, Ramanujan investigated the properties of Fourier coefficients of modular forms. At that time the theory of modular forms was not even developed. However, Ramanujan enunciated three fundamental conjectures that served as a guiding force for the development of the theory. “[7]
  • A number of Theorists would go on to win Fields Medals (the “Math Nobel”) studying concepts that stemmed from Ramanujan’s work. Others would make a career out of teasing out numerous insights from his papers that would have implications for areas of study such as Physics.

According to an article at the Indian Mathematical Society:

So long as our planet continues to exist in the Universe, and so long as civilization exists on our planet, Ramanujan will be remembered because of the outstanding research contributions made by him to Number Theory and Analysis, because his work has kept first rate mathematicians busy till this date, because his work has had a tremendous influence on modern mathematics and has opened up new vistas for research, but also because he was able to do so without any formal training, without any means of support, and more so because he continued to produce work of the highest order even in the face of death.

Maths Anecdote

We see that many Indians supported SR in India. He did not go to England because he was “let down” etc, but possibly because his work could be shared with a wider audience and many could benefit. He knew he was doing a lot of new stuff. He also received support from Indians during his stay.

Here is an interesting math anecdote from the “Man Who Knew Infinity Book” . [9] This is a challenging combinatorial optimization problem known as ‘classroom scheduling’ since there are zillions of different combinations possible, and it has to also satisfy a variety of complicating constraints and objectives (see bolded point below). Universities solve such problems today using specialised techniques and algorithms, and SR was given this task when he was around 14 yrs old. He wasn’t just solving cutting-edge math problems for journals that had future value, but also complicated real-life resource-allocation problems that were important to the local community and had immediate value:

“Occasionally, his powers were put to good use. Some twelve hundred students attended the school and each had to be assigned to classrooms, and to the school’s three dozen or so teachers, while satisfying any special circumstances peculiar to particular students. At Town High, the senior math teacher, Ganapathi Subbier, was regularly shackled with the maddening job—and he would give it to Ramanujan.” [9]

The goal was to make sure that the students and teachers both show up in the right place and at right time. Headmaster, R. Viswanathan, gives the number of students in the school at about one thousand. N. Govindaraja Iyengar, quoted in P. K. Srinivasan, puts the figure at fifteen hundred. Ramanujan deserved higher than the maximum possible marks. [10]

Resources on Ramanujan’s Work

Legacy

In a tragedy worthy of Natya itself, there is something about the number of years Srinivasa Ramanujan spent on this Earth. There is something to this number 32. Not only did this bright luminary pass away at that young age, but so too did  Adi Sankaracharya himself.  The communion with the Divine by these giant figures of Indic Civilization is an oft-recognised, but quickly discounted, aspect in an age marked by materialism and atheism. But perhaps there is in fact something to that and them, after all.

Both were undoubtedly astonishing intellects, who attained great intellectual achievement, but rather than pontificate with bloated ego, they humbly credited their accomplishment to the grace of something greater than themselves. They wielded this humility to make the most of their brief lives. And in that, whether we are blessed with mathematical or analytical, linguistic or strategic, or the highest of them all, spiritual, intelligence, these two figures who lived to thirty two are an example to us all.

Cinema

With the release of much advertised and much acclaimed movie The Man who Knew Infinity, starring Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons (as G.H.Hardy), interest in Ramanujan is higher than ever before. Such artistic endeavours from abroad surely should receive appropriate support. At the same time, we must remember efforts that have already attempted to celebrate his life in the native idiom. There is of course the 2014 Tamil-English movie called Ramanujan, directed by Gnana Rajasekharan. Previous efforts to honour in celluloid the legacy of this legend can be found in such movies as the Matt Damon movie Good Will Hunting and countless documentaries. There is even an app that pays tribute to him!

Yet his legacy was not merely mathematical, cinematic, or spiritual, it was also cultural. At a time when India and Indic Civilization was at its lowest depth, when questions of not only competence but innate capability were popping up (or propped up…), Ramanujan inspired countless Indians at home and abroad, including no less than Nobel Prize-winner Subramanyan Chandrasekhar. [7] He proved a pivotal Personality at a time when India was just beginning to rediscover itself. His adopted son and family by this lineage carry his torch on today.

Conclusion

Ultimately, Ramanujan’s life and legacy remain as much an enigma as his notebooks. How could a man without “rigorous” and “classical training” manage to reach the Kailasan summits of the field of Mathematics? How could a man who lived so brief a life manage to make such an enormous impact that gifted academics continue to parse over his handwriting to this day? How can a tradition that mixes the sacred with the “secular”, and philosophical speculation with empirical fact, be credited with producing such a genius?

All these, and many more such questions best left to the pure theory professionals, will be answered in the days and years to come. But surely, there must be something worth learning about where the man came from and how he was taught, to determine why he accomplished what he did. Genius quite possibly is in the genes. But achievement, accomplishment, and academic legacy transcend even the genetic. Sometimes, there is something to not only the scholarly tradition, but to the sacred as well.

There is also a lesson for our suicide-prone, over-emotional and over-exam’ed students: even if you fail out of school, it is no reason to end your efforts or your life.

Long after the humiliation of failing is forgotten, your true potential may be revealed in a way that marks and entrance exams and placements never will. Perhaps, in a way, that is Ramanujan’s greatest legacy of all.

His work has had a fundamental role in the development of 20th century mathematics and his final writings are serving as an inspiration for the mathematics of this century [7]

References:

  1. Hardy, G.H., P.V. Seshu Aiyar et al. Collected Papers of Srinivasa Ramanujan. Providence, R.I.: Chelsea Publ. 2000
  2. “Srinivasa Ramanujan”.Indian Mathematical Society. University of Pune.http://www.indianmathsociety.org.in/sramanujan.htm
  3. “Srinivasa Ramanujan: Life and Mathematics”. University of Vienna. http://www.mat.univie.ac.at/~kratt/vortrag/ramanuja.pdf
  4. “An Overview of Ramanujan’s Workbooks”. University of Illinois. http://www.math.uiuc.edu/~berndt/articles/aachen.pdf
  5. “Remembering Mathematical Genius Srinivasa Ramanujan”. Mid-Day. http://www.mid-day.com/articles/remembering-mathematical-genius-srinivasa-ramanujan/16792165
  6. “Did Ramanujan Fail in Math?”. The Hindu. http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/did-srinivasa-ramanujan-fail-in-math/article6254934.ece
  7. “The Legacy of Srinivasa Ramanujan”. The Hindu. http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/the-legacy-of-srinivasa-ramanujan/article2746988.ece
  8. Murty & Murty. The Mathematical Legacy of Srinivasa Ramanujan. New York: Springer. 2013
  9. Kanigel, Robert. The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan. New York: Simon & Schuster. 1991
  10. Srinivasan, P. K. An introduction to Creativity of Ramanujan. AMTS.1987.pg 121
*Special Acknowledgement to Shivoham for his time and intellectual contribution to this article,despite other obligations,and for making it a more "rigorous" endeavour than it otherwise would have been.

[Guest Post] TiruNrittam — When the Gods Dance in Our Midst

The following Post was composed by P.N. Namboodiri ji. You can follow him on twitter.


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TiruNrittam — When the Gods Dance in Our Midst

Every year, sometime in March, I make a pilgrimage to my ancestral village to attend the annual festival of the village temple. I am not alone in such a pilgrimage. There are many others, people who are displaced from their ancestral roots like me, who do the same. Elders say that this is important for migrants to undertake, to maintain their links with their cultural roots. It can be said that temples are an integral part of Bharatiya culture and they are the bedrock of its evolution and maintenance.

Kerala can be considered to be a collection of villages, as villages are present across the length and breadth of the state. All these villages are dotted with temples and many villages have more than one temple. This blog is a fond reflection of my thoughts after my recent visit to my ancestral village for this year’s Utsavam (festival) and the impact of such events on the religious, cultural, and family bonds of the life in a typical Kerala village. I have also included brief information on Nrittam, a unique temple ritual in this part of Kerala for the benefit of readers. The description of festival and Nrittam is with respect to our family village diety Chuzhali Bhagavati or Goddess Durga located in village Chuzhali of Kannur District of Kerala.

Temple Worship

“अग्निर्देवो द्विजादीनां मुनीनां हृदि दैवतम् ।

प्रतिमा स्वल्पबुद्धीनां सर्वत्र समदर्शिनाम् ॥

God is Agni for the Brahmins,

In the heart for the Sages,

Idol for the less wise

Omnipresent for the Enlightened.

“Puja”, or ritual worship of “Ishta Devata” is the most common and most simple method of being one with the divine. Thus, we have Puja rooms in our homes though household Pujas have become rare due to various reasons. Many are unable to maintain the prescribed discipline at home to perform Pujas. This is one of the reasons we have temples where the public worship the Ishta Devata through an Archaka. The Archaka is the agent here between the deity and devotee, who maintains the prescribed discipline and has the authority to perform Pujas.

Temple Rituals

There two types of rituals in a temple – “Nityam”, the daily rituals like pujas performed everyday and “Naimittikam”, special rituals like Utsavam and other celebrations on important occasions every year. The practices of a temple under both categories are believed to be followed from the time the temple has been in existence in accordance with an unwritten understanding between the priests and the temple owners at the time of original installation. Thus, the rituals and celebrations of a particular temple are more or less in line with those being traditionally followed from the very beginning, acting as a direct link to the cultural roots of the population.

Annual festivals in temples are occasions for celebration for the entire village. This is the time when the deity moves out of the sanctum sanctorum. Special rituals like Sribhutabali /Sheeveli (Ritual Offerings to the Devaganas in the temple premises), Pallivetta (Divine hunting ritual), Gramabali (Offering to the devaganas of the Village), Aarattu (ritual bath of the deity), etc. involve majestic processions accompanied by percussion instruments within and outside the temple premises to different locations within the village. In many such processions, the idol or murti is carried on an elelphant, sometimes accompanied by more elephants as part of the divine entourage. There is active participation of the local population in these celebrations. As against the devotee visiting the temple and praying to the Ishta devata, confined within the inner sanctorum, the local people consider it their good fortune to have the deity in their midst during such special processions. It is common to see villages festively decked up for such occasions and each family, en route to the procession, makes it a point to accord ceremonial reception to the deity.

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All processions outside the sanctum sanctorum uses the Thidambu, a replica of the original diety which is made of Panchaloha, Silver or Gold (Photo 1, Thidambu).

tirunrittam2Thidambu

The murti is carried by a priest, sometimes seated on an elephant, and the accompaniments include traditional oil lamp, percussion instruments in the front followed by someone holding a traditional umbrella at the back. See Video 1 to see these accompaniments.

Tiru Nrittam or Divine Dance

The art of Thidambu Nrittam has been prevalent for at least over 600-700 years in many temples of north Kerala. It is believed that Tulu Brahmins, who migrated from nearby locations of Karnataka to the northern part of Kerala were responsible for introducing this unique temple art, which is also prevalent in that part of Karnataka. Nrittam abides by the principles of dance which has its root in Natya Sastra.

“Tiru Nrittam” (Divine dance) also called “Thidambu Nrittam” is a part of annual temple festivals in many temples of northern Kerala. It is considered divine, as it is a part of a ritual performance with the artist carrying the temple murti on his head. That is the reason why it is also popularly known as “Thidambu Nrittam”, thidambu being the Malayalam word for representation of the temple murti outside the sanctum sanctorum.

Namboodiris are the specially trained artists who perform this dance. They are specialists with rigorous training under the tutelage of a guru. A percussion player has an important role during the training with the guru and Marars, a traditional group (families) play the percussion instruments for the performance. The same is the case with the persons who carry traditional oil lamps in the procession. They have traditionally been the ones entrusted with the task of carrying the sacred lamp and they continue to do it to this day. The dance is performed with the thidambu of the temple murti carried on the head by the priest. Foot work is most important and this is executed to the rhythm of drums and other percussion instruments. As the dance progresses, the tempo picks up momentum to the delight of the viewers and there are many stages and variations of the rhythm of the dance.

The thidambu is decorated with garlands, flowers and ornaments, all beautifully arranged on a circular frame made of bamboo strips. The artist himself does the complex decoration on the concentric frame, first with the garlands of fresh flowers, then with the silver or gold flowers and finally with the ornaments as seen in the picture. This decorated frame is then fixed on the thidambu. The artist then carries the decorated thidambu for the divine dance in the temple forecourt. See the decorated frame and the thidambu ready for the dance in the pictures below. See Photos 2 and 3.

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thidambu decoration (Photo 2 & 3) and Artist Costume (Photo 4)

The artists also wear a striking costume and ornaments – White dhoti with bright borders worn in traditional style with pleats, Uttariyam (diagonal vest) of bright silk, necklaces, bangles, earrings and nicely decorated turban known as ‘Ushnipeetham’ form the impressive attire of the Nrittam artist. See Video 2.

Nrittam at Chuzhali Bhagavati (Durga Devi) Temple

Nrittam is performed on three days during the annual festival. The main performance extends to over two hours in the evenings and there is a mini event in the nights which is of a much shorter duration.

The artists come out of the Sanctorum clad in conventional attire to the forecourt of the temple. Standing under the kodimaram (flag mast) facing the deity, they ritually place the thidambu on their head at the start of the performance or procession. During the main event, the procession covers four parikramas or circum-ambulations of the temple, each regulated by a different Thaalam (rhythm) by the percussion artists. The artists move from one end to the other and then backwards and this repeats for a while. The dancers make rhythmic footwork based on the music of the drums and this is the Divine dance giving a unique artistic and spiritual experience to the viewers. Here’s a video which takes a fuller look at the dance. However, this is not from my temple but another one in another village of northern Kerala. It so happens that the artist is the same.

There are many stages in which the performance unfolds with unique Thalam for each Parikrama. It starts with a special item called ‘Kotti Urayal’, or the summoning of the deity into the performer, and starts from the northern end of the temple forecourt. The artists, standing still are awakened by the percussion artists who play the drums and other instruments in a gradually increasing rhythm. This induces rhythmic movements in the artists and they start the dance in line with music tempo. This is an enjoyable experience for the viewers filling the entire courtyard as they stand most of them with folded hands, observing the ritual with total devotion.

After the Kotti Urayal, the dance slowly moves towards the kodimaram in front of the diety and this marks the beginning of a special occasion where the devotees get an opportunity to make their offerings to the diety directly. The artists with the thidambu on their head are now considered to be transformed into the temple diety with the Kotti Urayal ritual, and when they stand under the kodimaram they are considered to be Bhagavathy herself standing right in the midst of her devotees. Starting with the temple priest, practically all of them make their offerings personally to deity, into the hands of the artist. This goes on for almost half an hour in the first Parikrama with the artists moving from north to south and backwards many times all the time accompanied by the entourage.

This is then followed by the main dance performance which continues for half an hour before the Parikrama and the action repeats under a different Thala for the next three Parikramas. Finally, standing under the kodimaram, the thidambus are taken off their heads with loud chantings of “Amme, Amme, Govinda, Govinda” …. from the crowd, marking the end of Nrittam.

Conclusion

I go every year for the Utsavam and the rituals are the same. However, the joy and rejuvenation I feel each year is fresh and new and this is what makes me want to go back to my sacred janma bhoomi again and again. Bhagavathy helps me deepen my bonds with my janmabhoomi and also gives me Shakti, the strength to resume my worldly duties. I come back refreshed and grateful to have witnessed yet another Utsavam. I wait for the next one to come along with the same enthusiasm I have had for it all these years,  and I hope that Bhagavathy will bless me with her Shakti until next year, when it is time for a recharge.


About the author: PN Namboodiri is a retired Chemical Engineer, a Sanskrit enthusiast and volunteer with Samskrita Bharati. He is very interested in Bharatiya culture, traditions and customs and has been teaching Sanskrit for 5 years. He is also involved in vedic documentation projects.

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