Author Archives: skandaveera

Tenth Day, the One of Victory

Devi Navaratri and Vijaya Dasami is one of the most celebrated for Hindus all over the world. There are several stories of victory, of the noble over evil, associated with Aswiyuja Dasami. The first ten days of this month are celebrated as Navaratri culminating in Dasami the day of victory. As per traditions these are the nine days when Devi’s divine armies fought and eliminated Asura armies. While Devi Navaratri is celebrated by all the Sakta traditions, it is celebrated primarily as Candi tradition. The Godhead is called Durga, Candi, Candika, Camundi.

The Story of Devi’s Glorious Deeds

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Devi Navaratri story is best narrated in Markandeya Purana as the celebrated Candi/Devi Saptasati, also called Devi Mahatmya. It is a thirteen chapter narrative of seven hundred verses.

The dhyAna Sloka for canDI vidya best summarizes the story of Devi:

yA devI madhu kaiTabha praSamanI yA mAhishonmUlinI

yA dhUmrekshaNa canDa munDa damanI yA rakta bIjASanI

yA SumbhAdi niSumbha daitya damani yA siddha lakshmIH parA

sA canDI navakoTi Sakti sahitA mAM pAtu viSveSvarI

 

The 13 chapters are grouped into three caritra-s or main stories. The presiding deities of the three are Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswati. In the ancient Sankhya traditions these three main deities represent the three primal qualities of nature: tamas, rajas and satva. The three stories of Devi also are symbolic of these qualities. In Vedic imagery the principles (tatva-s) underlying these three qualities are represented by Agni, Vayu and Surya. The corresponding powers (Sakti-s) are the devi-s nandA, SAkambarI and bhImA. This is in contrast to the other great tradition of Lalita, where the three main divisions are those of energy instead of qualities: the powers of will, knowledge and action (iccha, jnAna and kriya).

 

 

First Story

A king Suratha and a trader Samadhi arrive at Rishi Medha’s abode, the king having lost his kingdom to enemies and the trader being driven away by his greedy wife and sons. Devi’s glorious deeds are narrated to them by the Rishi. Having heard the narrative with great attentiveness and meditated on Devi, Suratha and Samadhi regain their lost possessions with the grace of the Mother and return happily to their places and positions.

 

The first story is that where Vishnu, having vanquished Asura-s, goes into yoga nidra. From His ear and nasal wax two Asuras named Madhu and Kaitabha emerge. As they trouble the worlds, Devatas try waking up Vishnu. They fail to awaken the great god, and prey Devi the Yoga Maya/Maha Maya. With Her undoing Maya Vishnu wakes up and slays the two Asuras. The Devi that wakes the universe from its Tamas, is Maha Maya. Maha Kali is the presiding deity of this story. Its Rshi is Brahma and seed power Rakta Dantika Devi.

 

Second Story

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The second story is of Devi Durga/Mahishasura Mardini. The powerful Asura King Mahishasura defeats the divine armies of Indra and having lost swarga to the enemies Indra and other Devatas approach the primal Gods Vishnu and Siva. Then the three primal gods (trimurty) with their will give their energies unto a common form. All the devatas contribute their powers to the form and the collective energy form thus resulted, takes the form of the primal energy/Para Sakti Durga. Exceedingly beautiful, radiant, powerful, possessing all forms of weapons and riding a lion, the Mother is worshiped by the Devatas and then assures them of success.

 

The Devatas who lost a hundred battles to the Asura hosts, set into the war led by Durga and her armies of feminine divinities. In a fierce battle thus ensuing, Devi’s armies destroy Mahisha’s armies. Devi slays Mahisha’s best generals such as cikshura, cAmara, udagra, uddhata, bAshkala, tAmra, andhaka, ugrAsya, ugravIrya, mahAhanu, viDAla, durdhara and durmukha. Then the Mother, riding Her fierce lion, destroys Mahisha’s remainder armies along with their lord Mahishasura.

 

Devatas, liberated from their troubles, profusely praise Devi and her grace, beauty and powers. This story is the one of victory over the second of natural qualities, rajas. The inertia of sleep and its fruits represent Tamas in the first story, which Devi wakes the world from. In this story Mahisha represents the rajo guNa, from which Devi leads the seeker to a superior consciousness quality of knowledge, the satva guNa. Maha Lakshmi is the presiding deity of this story. The Rshi is Vishnu and seed power Durga.

 Third Story

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The third story is the most elaborate one of the three and the one that fulfills higher cravings of beings. It represents the numerous complex struggles in the higher reaches of nature and the ultimate taming of those with divine grace. Its consciousness quality is the satva guNa and presiding deity is Maha Saraswati the Goddess of divine Vidyas. Rudra is the Rshi and seed power Bhramari Devi.

 

As the third story begins, Amba, the Devi canDikA is worshiped by the Devatas. As two asuras canDa and munDa come to know of Her unparalleled beauty and grace, they narrate it to their lord, Sumbha the king of asuras. Sumbha, wanting to marry Her, sends a messenger with his proposal. Devi replies that She will be obliged to marry only the one who defeats Her in a battle.

 

Sumbha, knowing of this, sends his general dhUmrAksha with an army to defeat and bring Devi unto him. As dhUmrAksha declares the war, Devi attends with Her divine armies and effortlessly kills the general along with his army.

 

Having lost dhUmrAksha, canDa and munDa set out with their armies to fight Devi. In the terrible encounter Devi deputes Her fierce power kAlI to destroy the enemies. Divine armies rout the monster’s armies. kAlI of terrible feats kills both canDa and munDa fearsomely and returns to canDikA the Mother, having worn their heads in a garland.

 

Sumbha and niSumbha then dispatch their generalissimo raktabIja along with all their generals leading a large host to wage and win an all-out war. udAyudha with his eighty six, kambu with his eighty four, koTi vIrya’s fifty and dhUmra’s hundred armies followed raktabIja. kAlaka, daurhRda, maurya, kAlakeya also set out with their deputies and host clans.

 

In the fierce battle Devi assumes all the Devata powers in feminine forms: nArasimhI, kaumArI, aindrI, vaishNavI, mAheSvarI, cAmunDI, brAhmI, vArAhI etc. These are called the mAtRka powers, seven of which are primal. Devi’s divine armies, led by Her deputy kAlI, rout the asura armies and generals. On eighth day of the battle, raktabIja invokes his mystic powers because of which every drop of his blood falling on earth gives rise to a new raktabIja. The field infinitely multiplies with the asura as their blood flows and each of them fights fiercely. As Devi’s weapons injure the asura more, the more his forms multiply. To vanquish the asura kAlI the Mother with large tongue, spreads Her tongue in the entire field and drinks off all the blood as it spills even before it reaches ground. Dried of his blood, the asura becomes powerless and Devi slays him. The day of his killing is said to be the most fearsome day of the war and is celebrated as durgAshTamI.

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Finally niSumbha the powerful asura is slain along with his army, following which Devi kills Sumbha the lord of asura-s on the ninth day, celebrated as maharnavami. Freed from asuric tyranny, Devatas worship Devi and the graceful mother, pleased with the praise, grants boons to the Devatas. This is the story of sAtvik struggle and divine grace helping the seeker grow over even the third quality of consciousness, resulting in a triguNAtIta or the realization of absolute reality.

 

The king and virtuous trader, Suratha and Samadhi, by the virtue of listening to the stories with devotion and meditated on Devi, attain the grace and vision of Devi who then grants boons to them. They regain their possessions and positions and return.

 

The nine days of war in which divine armies vanquish the forces representing dark side of nature are celebrated as the Devi navaratri-s, consummating in the tenth day as vijaya daSami or the celebration of victory. The presiding deities of these nine days are nine forms of Devi, called navadurga-s. They are SailaputrI, brahmacAriNI, candraghanTA, kUshmAnDA, skandamAtA, kAtyAyanI, kAlarAtrI, mahAgaurI and siddhidAtrI. This is the navArNa nAma mantra of Devi which can be chanted at any time without formal initiation: Aum namascanDikAyai namaH.

 

This is also the day on which Arjuna vanquishes Kaurava host in gograhaNa, during their ajnAta vAsa.

 

The Vidya

Devi mAhAtmya is among the most celebrated texts of Hindus and unlike Sruti and some of the Saiva vidyas which are primarily dvija practices, canDI worship is meant for all four varNa-s. Besides, canDI worship is said to be especially suitable for kali yuga, through the saying “kalau canDI vinAyakau”. May there be peace and prosperity in the society by the grace of the Mother.

Celebrating Mahishasura and the Politics

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Some hate groups have been trying to celebrate Mahishasura instead of his slayer. As per them, Mahisha was a low caste representative who was oppressed (Devi high caste?). While the wise of India cannot obviously dare read misogyny into any of the anti-Hindu campaignds assuming the color of caste hatred, we need to understand why Durga puja is attacked. Similar to Rama, Durga is one pan Indian celebration which cuts across all groups. The way the Aryan Brahmin Ravana was projected as a representative of Dravidians, the high caste Mahishasura is projected as representative of so-called low castes. Truth or logic almost never matter for hate campaigners, what matters is whether they are succeeding in destroying the society. To that end, driving a caste wedge by projecting these traditions as representing high caste oppression is a means. The motivation, the politics, the stake holders should by now be clear: the enemies of Hindu nation trying to shoot at the society over the shoulders of those they claim to represent and take hold of, who in fact they never represented or benefited.

But if truth is to be ascertained, one needs to do no more than scratching the surface. Devi’s forms are just as percolated in the so-called low castes as in the so-called high castes. In fact it is more so among the former than latter. The main grAma devatas are no different from the primary Agamic devatas: Maisamma=Mahisha mardini, Renuka=Chinnamasta and so on. The “non-sanskritik” forms are not really so: in the several layers of practice they happen to be no less orthodox than the “sanskritized” practices of nAma pArAyaNa. Devi worship, be it Sakti pITha-s (geo-religious) or vidyas or bhakti, has been a marvelous integration motif in this nation. It is for this reason that it is being targeted, and it is for this reason that a proper understanding of these traditions is required among those committed to the cause of national integration.

Devi the Mother Nature is pervasive and the protector of continuities, and like Her sibling Vishnu, She assumes infinite forms from time to time to protect Her devotees and those who stand for Dharma. May She incarnate again to uphold Dharma and Sampradaya through which She Herself manifests. “sA canDI navakoTi Sakti sahitA mAM pAtu viSveSvarI”.

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on the Right to Propagate Religion – I

“Propagation of religion” is an area where Indian law is both unclear and unfair to non-proselytizing groups:

  1. The word religion cannot describe our society and hence propagation methods of religions are not acceptable in India
  2. The terms and ethics of propagation are not spelt out, which have been accepted norms in this nation for ages and helped a peaceful and non-traumatic spreading of traditions and mutual enrichment with interaction
  3. Practice is a right, but propagation is a privilege to be earned. Calling out propagation a basic right (Art 25.1) unwittingly encourages infringement of others’ freedom of their faith to not be interfered with.
  4. Like in many other areas like corruption and bad leadership, the primary assumption of constitution has been a use of law, not misuse.

We seek to explore here in brief, the conceptual background that helps formulating proper laws in this matter.

What is religion comprised of?

Religion by definition, is a truth claim and not a truth-seeking system. Indian traditions share a knowledge system with its formal hypothesizing, deductive and validating structures. India’s knowledge traditions have the culture of debating based on formal epistemology among the proponents of traditions, to earn the moral right to propagate their respective traditions.

Who can propagate?

In oriental societies, subscription and practice of any tradition is a matter of personal choice almost entirely. Propagation and preaching is a privilege, not a basic right as our constitution proclaims. It is similar to saying that to learn is a basic right but to teach is a privilege to be earned, and that to be treated of a problem is a basic right but to treat others is a privilege to be earned with knowledge and ability.

Among traditions/sampradayas, there is a formal debating structure. Propagation is a privilege earned by one who, having mastered one’s own tradition’s worldview and formal learning structures, ably defends one’s own siddhAnta in a formal debate, without taking recourse to deceptive arguments. There are ethics of argumentation or vAda, and arguments are qualified as ethical and deceptive.

What if deceptive arguments are used for propagation?

In formal argumentation, a deceptive argument is the last resort one uses to save a humiliating defeat. It cannot be used to defeat an opponent. Debates are officially moderated by scholars, who would object to such arguments. Argument proceeds as long as one does not withdraw or concede defeat, but it has to stick to either pUrva paksha (refutation of counter theory) or uttara paksha (affirmation of one’s own tenets).

Who cannot propagate?

One who is defeated in a debate, has to either convert to his victor’s position, or retire from propagation. It is immoral and fraudulent to continue propagating, once having lost a debate. Before doing that one must reverse the loss by inviting to debate proponents of erstwhile victorious tradition and defeat them.

What is ‘loss’

A tradition is not expected to be defeated in a defeat. It is the proponent who is defeated. This is because –

  1. The depth of tradition and the strength of argument of scholars are two different things. A tradition could be great, but the scholars may or may not be able to defend it for various reasons.
  2. Traditions evolve with time, and their practice cannot be questioned as long as practitioners retain belief in the core tenets of the traditions. This is unrelated to any scholarly debates.
  3. A scholar being defeated at a point of time could happen for various reasons:
    1. One not being equipped with sufficient knowledge of other traditions to win a debate
    2. One not being the best proponent of one’s own tradition compared to his rivals in debate
  4. The arguments extended from one tradition being refuted by others, which means the losing side would reformulate their arguments over time and conduct victorious debates and be back in propagation. This happens over several generations, not even in the life time of one proponent
  5. At a given point there could be places where proponents of one tradition are strong in scholarship and widen their practice and there could be other regions where weak scholarship of regional proponents weakens the tradition and shrinks practice

When is a tradition prohibited?

When a tradition becomes anti-social and disrupts the civilized social order it can be prohibited by the state, as was done in the case of nIlapaTa-s. Its practitioners would be warned (and punished in extreme cases) and propagators punished.

Market Argument

Often, a free market kind of argument is extended to justify right to propagate, that anyone is free to propagate and anyone who does not want to convert to another religion is free to reject it. This is ridden with several flaws, a few to mention:

  1. Even in a free market, right to buy and right to sell are distinct and the latter requires norms and licensing for productizing, marketing and selling. If an equivalent be applied, right to propagate is to be earned by clearing certain norms common to traditions.
  2. This puts the onus of knowing ins and outs of religions squarely on the common man, who is not equipped with the know how to understand the deception of specialized propagators.
  3. As a basic principle of propagating, one needs to respect the right of practitioners to not be interfered with. To say “I will bombard you with my speeches and keep coming to your places to insult your traditions but you are free to reject my version” is simply immoral and worthy of punishment.

Sermon on the Streets

The lefties are in general experts in deception. For one, they use disruption and blackmail as replacements to what is required in a civilized society – most significantly truth and transparency in public discourse, stability of state and society, and respect for institutions processes and their proper functioning. The recent phenomenon of AAP is not really different in this matter. Whether it is moralizing to others without having any morality themselves, assuming a pedestal to escape scrutiny, looking for soft targets, immoral use of public emotions, conflating goals with high sounding and vacuous theories, essentially AAP is through and through commie. Their discourse is best described as ‘Sermon on the Streets’ – something meant to catch following with no clue what the following is for.

Main Problem – Lack of Accountability

What Kejriwal demonstrated inside and outside of government is his absolute lack of accountability. When making false allegations, he is not accountable because his goal is not to ‘prove’ – after all his goal is what matters, not his action, and he is not accountable either to society or to state in any matter! He can go blackmailing the society and state with disruption. And worse, he can do that even as CM of a state when his primary responsibility is to ensure no disruption actually happens.

 Given that Kejriwal’s ascent to power happened without a clear majority, his primary role one would expect is to set things right in Delhi before initiating things that require a bigger mandate. Yet he does things entirely opposite, and without showing any consistency or commitment to his responsibilities resorts to blackmail every now and then. He threatens people that if his proposed bill does not get passed through his insisted unconstitutional method, he would resign. In spite of an assurance of support from both opposition and alliance in case he follows the procedure, he does not. He undermines the protocol and Lt Governor and tries to push things in his usual unruly ways. Finally he resigns after making false allegations against other parties.

The brief story of his ascent and resignation only that of his lack of accountability, untrustworthiness and dishonesty. Five year tenure for a government is not laid down for no reason – it is meant to allow the government function, consistently perform its basic duties while taking time for well thought out reforms as needed. Leaving a position within two months is considered unprofessional and unethical even in small time jobs, unless one can demonstrate and indispensable reason. To quit government in less than two months without any compelling reason like sabotage is unforgivable. Kejriwal must know that legislation is a small part of governance – majority of governance involves execution and implementation of what is already legislated. Can the country afford such unreliable leaders to be voted to power? Forget power, can they be trusted to function responsibly even in opposition? In spite of conducting so irresponsibly if they think they can audaciously compete for lok sabha polls, is it bringing down politics or reforming it?

Democracy

The real test of someone’s conformance with an open society democracy is the way they deal with dissent and opposition. The congress has a history of suppressing dissent and opposition for want of truth in their favor – right from illegitimately trying to fix opponents into fake cases and character assassination to banning books. Whether it is the targeting of Savarkar and RSS in 1948 or emergency or the recent bogie of Hindu terror, congress leadership in its socialist friendship conducted itself in the most inimical way to an open society democracy. Communist parties always stood one step ahead of congress in this matter. AAP with its cong-naxal background can therefore not be expected to augur well for any open society democracy.

Legislations are meant to be proposed, presented, reviewed, revised, refined until they are found to be in perfect consonance with existing law and implementable. The purpose of dissent is so thoroughly undermined by Kejriwal that he does not fit into any kind of democracy. It is as if he has the right to dissent with out of power and there can be no dissent when he is in power. Such duplicity is not just his individual trait but of his unfit-for-democracy party.

Here is a compilation on mediacrooks of the way in which the AAP leaders respond to criticism and opposition:

ImageCan any democracy or a civilized society allow such unruly, anti-social and rowdy element to lead it?

This being the fact, the party calling itself a common man party is where the real deception lies. Open society democracy is of the people precisely because it is of the common man – there is nothing more inimical to the interests of the common man than being damaging to democracy and democratic methods.

Anti-Corruption

The anti-corruption movement that was initially started by the nationalists threatened the corrupt and congress because its primary agenda included not just prosecuting scamsters but bringing back the black money from abroad. Right from 2G and coal allocation several scams were exposed and brought into public awareness. Bringing back black money stashed abroad was one of the major demands of the anti-corruption agitators like Ramdev Baba.

Anti-Corruption Achievements of AAP

  1. AAP or its gang did not expose any of the scams or corruption – they happen to be exposed by the nationalists. Kejriwal merely repeated some allegations against Robert Vadra, riding on someone else’s work to gain some public space. Prashant Bhushan tried to hog the limelight for 2G expose he did not do – it was exposed by Pioneer.
  2. Black money issue was completely subverted by friends of congress – black money is not just about fiscal corruption, it is anti-social in many ways and AAP hides this more dangerous aspect, vacuously making noise in the name of corruption, trying to equate pickpocketing to treason.
  3. AAP hijacked the original agenda of anti-corruption, fizzled it out of its spirit and word, reduced it to some farce of a law and then finally aligned with the party that has been looting the country for decades.
  4. Kejriwal made false allegations against Nitin Gadkari and retreated when asked for proof. He called Modi corrupt, which even congress did not dare accuse. So essentially he brought down the movement from its roots in truth to the realm of allegations and mudslinging. This is a bigger sabotage of the otherwise sustained anti-corruption activity in the country.
  5. Kejriwal cynically abused and misused the public sentiment against corruption to malign the BJP while carefully covered up congress in multiple steps.
  6. Not surprisingly for skeptics, the moment AAP got to power there is no talk of congress corruption anymore, Sheila Dixit and other scamsters are no more villains. This deception seems to be lost on many, in the vain hope that Kejriwal needs more time to do things right. However Skeptics cannot ignore the possibility of the cynical way in which sample scapegoats are being kept ready to be sacrificed for elections – while the AAP agenda has nothing that can contain or catch the biggest criminals.

It is not an exaggeration to say Kejriwal was brought to render the anti-corruption agitation harmless for the congress – his achievement is precisely that. Many quickly jump to call this a ‘conspiracy theory’, as though conspiracy needs an evidence. But we have not proceeded from allegation to data – we are proceeding from data to deduction and that leaves no scope for calling this a conspiracy theory or a speculation. Now whether his ‘intentions are good’, whether he meant to fizzle down the movement or did it by mistake is for him to demonstrate, because it is his actions in question ultimately.

What’s with corruption, anyway!

Corruption itself, is one of the several problems – being fiscally non-corrupt is a virtue of many commies of Bengal and Kerala, does that save the destruction they did in these regions? And if one were to bear a sense of proportion, both stagnation and growth of a society involve both corrupt and non-corrupt methods. To disorient the public discourse as though corruption is the only issue and suppressing topics of importance, is in itself deception of people. Look at the way issues of foreign funding or anti-nationals like Prashant Bhushan in the party or Kejriwal’s dubious friends like NAC members, convicted criminals like Binayak Sen become non-issues when in reality they are far more serious problems than corruption.

Who does AAP actually threaten?

India in the days of Russian friendship has seen a dangerous consolidation of communists in politics and academics. Naxalite movements, communist parties and communist influence within congress party rose steeply. While their stranglehold on academics remains, the naxalite movements and communist hegemony was controlled to an extent after the fall of USSR. Maoism, a Chinese gift is still being fought.

The prospects of a party like AAP threatens the revival of India in every way –

  1. Economic revival is threatened with its freebie culture and anti-investment climate they are creating.
  2. Development of the country is threatened by its apathy towards infrastructure and job creation.
  3. Both internal and external security is threatened, with the way the likes of AAP try to weaken the morale of security forces and align openly with naxals and jihadis.
  4. Integrity of the nation is threatened by their antagonism to the core identity of the nation.
  5. Social order and harmony are threatened by their anarchist ways.

Save Congress

It threatens the nation more than anyone and anything. That AAP does not threaten congress, that it is meant to protect congress, that its challenge is to BJP and other nationalists should by now be clear to any observant mind. That a vote for AAP is an indirect vote for congress, is already said by some – but it should be realized that a vote for AAP is a vote against the stability and development of the nation, and an invitation of danger to the nation. Outfits like AAP are floated to cynically exploit anti-incumbency, to curtail the strong anti-congress sentiment from expressing itself in the ballot, which is essentially an antithesis of democracy.

While AAP is the most recent example, the trick that congress uses is not new. Here is the algorithm –

  1. Rise credibility for the person by making him shout against congress misdeeds and corruption
  2. Make him look like a personification of ideals and employ media in his favor
  3. Garner votes in his name and divide anti-incumbency vote
  4. Keep the person and outfit as long as it suits, merge him back when it suits.

PRP and TRS of Andhra Pradesh are precursors of AAP in this matter. It is their success that made congress attempt AAP in Delhi. A partial success of AAP in Delhi was sufficient to prevent a good government – and emboldens them for a bigger bait in loksabha. However their actions and intent are both clear by now, and the common man should by now be seeing through those.

AAP is not the only player in this, though. Third front, a prospective stitch of currently pro-congress parties like the SP and JD, is another similar attempt at dividing anti-congress vote and reinstating congress in power through the back door. The fact that a third front conveniently keeps forming and disintegrating, is itself the evidence. Sometimes it is a left front, sometimes third front, sometimes it is AAP. Goal remains the same – preventing a strong nationalist dispensation by fracturing votes. A strong nationalist dispensation hampers the prospects of petty and selfish politicians and remains their biggest enemy. There is no other reason why these savers of congress, be it AAP or JD or SP should hate BJP or RSS so much.

Remembering Bharata Muni, Icon of Indian Aesthetics

In the current phase of human evolution when sense of utility dominates sense of beauty, appreciating aesthetics as a subject is not very common. Even happiness and its analysis seems to be rooted much less in sense of beauty and more in sense of possession, consumption and achievement. This is not a new observation, it is noted a century ago by Sri Aurobindo. We can see how word by word his analysis holds true even today, and how the overemphasis on the sense of utility along with destruction of sense of beauty (through destruction of culture) results in the same hindrances in happiness of human beings.

This is a major reason behind the vacuity and incompleteness of today’s human mind and its craving for ‘something more’. There is a reason for the traditional Hindu sense of completeness of life and experience too, which is wrongly termed mediocre contentment by the superficial leftists. The activity of left of mind has always been that of discrimination and sense of utility, while it is the right functions that involved sense of beauty and synthesis. The extent to which leftist thought dominated human activity and public discourse in the last century is visible not just from the communist regimes. The so-called non-leftist philosophies, by their economy-centrism have been predominantly left-minded in that sense. The erosion of native cultures all over the world, especially in Asia, is a result of such anti-aesthetic and anti-transcendental, disguised materialistic ideology of the west.

Even in the ‘right wing’ discourse of late, there is very little if any, presence of aesthetic aspect which is so very fundamental to sense of beauty and happiness, its understanding analysis and quest. There is definitely an element of assertion of traditions, constructive effort in social aspects in the ‘Hindu right’ and some support to art-forms in the spirit of respect to tradition. But aesthetic approach to life or aesthetic pursuits as ends in their own right, which is a severe lacuna in the contemporary Hindu thought – arguably the biggest one.

The aesthetic culture of India has several aspects and layers corresponding to the primal qualities and experiences of life and of the world. This is why it caters to people of all tastes, temperaments, bents of mind and belonging to different sheaths of consciousness.

Thus reinstating India’s aesthetic culture involves reviving not just performing arts, but the theory of aesthetics underlying the art-forms and the philosophy of beauty and happiness.

Rasa 

Any meaningful revival of Hindu worldviews and outlook to life cannot ignore its most fundamental aspect – happiness and beauty as the essence of life and universe. Ananda or happiness is the essence of life and ultimate purpose of all pursuits and experiences of the phenomenal world. This experience is primarily three-fold: sukha, dukha and moha. Theory of Hindu Aesthetics is aligned with this philosophical theory. The substratum of existence and experience in the theory of aesthetics, its essence or sap, is called rasa. Aesthetic moods are multiplied based on the nature of human experience. Rasa is the most articulate conceptualization of the experience of beauty.

Expression of experience through various art-forms is primarily based on (1) understanding the experience (2) understanding gesture (3) understanding the medium of expression (4) mastering the art of expression to achieve a resonance of experience in the observer. Thus the first two aspects are common to all art-forms. The third and fourth vary from one art-form to the other. For instance a dancer understands human anatomy and masters gesturing while a sculptor understands gesture and masters his instruments to achieve it.

Natya Sastra

Arguably, the most comprehensive text of Indian aesthetics and art is Bharata Muni’s Natya Sastra. Bharata Muni’s contribution to mankind is among the most valuable. While the immortal art of Bharata Natya derives from his text, the Natya Sastra covers a large canvass of aesthetics, starting with the theory of experience, expression, achieving the resonance, performing arts, cultural aspects, the various natural phenomena required to understand the basics of art-forms such as acoustics and human anatomy.

The treatise has six thousand verses organized into thirty six chapters. Here is a list of the chapters –

  1. Origin of Enactment
  2. The Theatre
  3. Consecration and Stage Deity
  4. The Class Dance
  5. Background and Preliminaries of Play
  6. Rasa-s/Aesthetic Moods
  7. Bhavas/states and variants
  8. Facial gestures
  9. Gestures of hands
  10. Gestures of other limbs
  11. Chaari Movements
  12. Mandala Movements
  13. Gaits
  14. Geo-cultural specifics
  15. Prosody, speech, pitch
  16. Metrical patterns
  17. Diction of a Play
  18. Languages
  19. Addressing and Intonation
  20. Types of a Play
  21. Limbs of Junctures, Plot
  22. The Styles
  23. Costumes and Make-up
  24. Representation, enactment and expression
  25. Courtesans
  26. Special representation and natural phenomena
  27. Success and accomplishment of a play
  28. Instrumental Music and Acoustics
  29. Stringed Instruments
  30. Hollow Instruments
  31. Time Measure
  32. Dhruva Songs
  33. Covered Instruments
  34. Types of Characters
  35. Distribution of Roles
  36. Descent of enactment/drama on Earth

Natya Sastra keeps in line with the tradition of the way any Sastra approaches its subject, by presenting its philosophy, method, context in micro and macrocosm, fruitfulness of the subject in human purposes and attainment of happiness, enlisting its modes of validation etc.

Bharata Muni

Like many seers, not much is known of Bharata Muni the person – only his vision is gifted to mankind, making both the seer and the text immortal. Besides Bharata Natya which is derived from the Natya Sastra, several art traditions and forms are enshrined in the text. Rishi Runa is repaid only through learning and imparting the knowledge the Rishis gifted us with. We bow to the Muni in reverence.

Note: Today, Magha Purnima, is Bharata Muni Jayanti (14 Feb 2014).

Idea of India, Unity and National Integration

(From Hindu Human Rights – http://www.hinduhumanrights.info/idea-of-india-unity-and-national-integration/)

One of the biggest ill-effects of the post-colonial ‘Idea of India’ is the confusion it created in the Indian mind about the country, its culture, its nation and state. While clarity exists in the minds of learned men who studied Indian/Hindu culture, many simply lack it. The idea of this write-up is not to analyze those confusions but to present a high level understanding of the different aspects that are now not seen clearly.

For instance many are concerned about the several divides that exist in India, in the name of region, religion, language, caste etc. While appreciating the ‘unity in diversity’, the lack of consensus as a retarding factor in the nation’s growth is seen as a result of such diversity or divides. But many do not have an idea of what the original notion of India, what its idea of unity, diversity and integration is. Unfortunately the modern idea of India is rooted in a complete ignorance of the real idea of India which is based on federalism, pluralism, tolerance. The attempt to create these artificially without seeing how they are actually present in the original Indian culture, creates both confusion and conflict between ideas which is otherwise unnecessary.

Traditional Idea of Bharata – The Rajya

The conceptual framework that underlies the culture and collective life in India is explained in http://centreright.in/2013/04/orient-and-occident-iii-structure-knowledge/. Traditional Idea of Bharata has two aspects, the rajya and rashtra. While rajya deals with the state (polity, administration etc) aspect, rashtra is the cultural-social-national aspect.

Rajya is the traditional concept of state. The geo-political units of traditional Bharata varsha were kingdoms or rajya-s, which are now rendered obsolete and replaced with the current democratic state-union arrangement. However there is still a need to understand the original geo-political arrangement, which is more glued to the Indian culture and psyche. For ages, Bharata always had several janapada-s and rajya-s, and a political ‘union’ was almost never consisting of the entire Bharata varsha.

At the same time different levels of consolidation always existed – janapada, rAyja, mahArAjya, samrajya, cakravarti etc were words used for kingdoms/empires of different spans. They were essentially hierarchical wherever applicable – for instance a cakravarti had rAjAs accepting his suzerainty, rAjA-s had smaller rAjA-s called sAmanta-s.

Historically there were always attempts to bring as many kingdoms as possible under an umbrella. The ashwamedha and rajasuya which are attested in ancient history, are examples. However it remains a fact that such attempts could succeed only partially, because the capability required for such an emperor who could bring the entire bharata varsha under a single umbrella is only rarely to be found. Those who successfully did so, are celebrated in Indian history – Sri Rama, Yudhisthira, Vikramaditya, Chandragupta Maurya etc.

The important thing to note is that these emperors emerged from different parts of the country, and made different places the capitals for their consolidation – Indraprastha, Pataliputra, Ujjain etc.  While this seems to be stating the obvious, but there is more to the significance of a capital than being a place from where an emperor hails. To understand this, we need to see the backdrop of the Hindu notion of divine geography.

Divine Geography, the Backdrop  

India is a primarily spiritual civilization. Spirituality in India does not mean religious or meditation practices, though they are among the tools for spiritual practice. Seeing the world from a spiritual outlook is what spirituality is. In spiritual philosophy, causal, subtle and gross emanate in order from the supra-causal principle of existence.

Applying this awareness in the various facets of individual and social life is spirituality. At an individual level, mind-speech-action affect each other and with a rigorous practice of controlling one of these, the other two can also be controlled to achieve a complete alignment between these three (samyama).

This is yoga. In modern science energy is limited to physical/vital. However in Sanatana Dharma primal energy descends in different levels of subtlety into different levels of consciousness – the causal, subtle and gross. The subtlest form is unmanifest, then the intelligence principle, then the thought-current, then vibration/wave, then the physical. Thus thought (bhAvanAtmaka) is known to be a subtler form of energy than the vibration (spandanAtmaka), and in continuity with it. A spiritual view of energy is the reason why schools and practices like yoga was possible in India.

An important area of study that that modern knowledge does not yet explore but had been part of Indian knowledge because of its spiritual outlook, is the study of divine geography or the study of energy-centers in a landscape. It is now well accepted not just in Hindu spiritual traditions but increasingly in the west, that there are energy centers in the human (subtle) body and that concentration of thought-currents and life-force in these centers and their control helps in achieving a healthier body and thought.

Similarly the seers visualize energy centers in the landscape of Bharata. They decree that making these places capitals/centers for various pursuits is going to result in a long lasting and successful pursuit of the respective collective interests.

The spiritual regions are classified into punya, tapo, jnAna and karma bhUmi-s. Based on the same principle, several places are recognized as suitable centers for political, commercial, educational pursuits. With those centers as capitals Bharata achieved the heights of civilization and remained at a high point for several centuries. Takshasila, Kashmira, Kasi for instance have served consistently as educational centers, regardless of political ups and downs the country went through. Delhi served as a ‘cakrasthAna’ or the place of emperor and remained so in the Hindu psyche ever since Yudhisthira’s times, regardless of how many consolidations subsequently happened with different capitals. Even in their highpoints, the capitals of Vijayanagara and Maratha empires could not dislodge Hastina-Indraprastha as the cakrasthAna from the collective psyche.

Traditional Idea of Bharata – The Rashtra

This idea of bharata varsha is essentially a concept of nation-culture, which comprises of 56 geo-cultural units traditionally called the chappan(na) desa-s (though some of these fall outside Indian borders). Understanding these desa-s is essential to understand the diversity and stratification in Indian culture. While the layout of rajya-s kept changing with political vicissitudes, while the rajya-s kept merging and breaking up into different empires, the desa-s remained to be regarded as the units that comprise the nation/subcontinent (varsha/khanda).

The practice of describing the span of empires in terms of desa-s, goes to show the significance of desa-s in the basic understanding of the subcontinent. Able emperors could control more than a desa, and a desa could also have multiple small kingdoms at times. But the desa as a basic understanding unit transcended the more transient and constantly realigning rAjya-s.

This is the reason why the stream of civilizational and cultural enrichment continued uninterrupted in the subcontinent irrespective of political realignments. This does not mean these aspects were completely unaffected by the patronage of rulers. Presence of a strong empire, resulted in patronage and high points of civilizational pursuits. However there was rarely any destructive effect on cultural diversity or identities of these desa-s.

Importantly, the desa remained a well-defined concept which is almost agnostic of the rAjya. For all non-political purposes, Bharata geography has often been described in terms of desa-s. For instance Varahamihira in his Brhat Samhita categorizes the desha-s of Bharata into different seismic zones. More on this can be seen in the paper “Earthquake prediction in Ancient India” by Prof. RN Iyengar (http://www.iisc.ernet.in/currsci/sept25/articles32.htm). Lawgivers dealt with validity of local customs and practices based on desa-s. Panini alludes to rules of grammar with respect to local language practices based on desa-s.

The cohesion of peoples in the subcontinent and their cultural affinities in the diverse landscape, need to be understood on the basis of these desa-s. It also needs to be understood that these desa-s were regarded as part of Bharata. This tells us the nature of oneness of Bharata ingrained in the Indian mind for ages.

The cultural affinities between peoples of the same desha are pronounced, and it is easy to find more similarity between cultural units/jAti-s (belonging to the same strata) of the same desa than people of same jAti of different desa-s. This is the reason we prefer the word geo-cultural unit for a desa.

Besides, an integral view of the entire bharata varsha as a rashtra is visible from several integration themes – for instance the Sakti peetha-s and Jyotirlinga-s, the spiritual unification centers that people cover. What more concept of geo-religious oneness does one require to see, than the sthala-purANa of Kanyakumari saying the Devi waits to get married to Siva coming from Kailasa of Himalayas? The landscape covered by Pandavas during their exile or Sri Rama during his exile are other classical integration themes.

Thus in the traditional Bharata, the different collectivities like jAti, desha, sampradaya acted as unification factors rather than as dividing factors between peoples. History of Bharata stands witness to the fact that such unity proved to be more powerful than political oneness in keeping the society united. Wherever and whenever that cultural cohesion suffered either due to religious or political machinations, India suffered.

India the Nation-State

Given the original Hindu understanding of Bharata, it is easy to notice that the organization of India since independence is not exactly in line with the former. To be fair, the post-colonial Indian organization was an uphill task of integrating hundreds of princely states (which themselves have nothing to do with the desa-s). And they were subsequently organized into 25+ states supposedly on the basis of language.

While the choice of Hindi instead of Sanskrit as a national language (quite a close contender even by post-independence poll) had its issues, the main problem in linguistic division is that it revolts against the very concept of cultural diversity represented by linguistic diversity. For instance the Hindu rAjya-s preserved cultural and linguistic diversity while the states of today impose a single official state language. This is an anti-thesis of the cultural unity-diversity that prevailed in the nation for centuries.

pic8-tyagFor example the Carnatic music supposedly of a ‘Kannada’ origin was enriched with thousands of ‘Telugu’ compositions, which are mastered by several ‘Tamilian’ artists. A geo-linguistic boundary is rather unimaginative arrangement compared to this, and this explains why we saw no scope for civilizational and cultural enrichment in post-colonial India.

The derecognition of a nation that can exist agnostic of state conception, and more importantly a proxy-colonial state which is not founded in the long known Hindu ideals, resulted in a near-complete curtailment of Hindu culture, civilizational progress and self-governing and self-correcting ability.

Another major negative consequence is that in the current arrangement all those collective arrangements that earlier acted as integration motives, are now acting as disintegration motives. Religious, cultural and linguistic bonds are way stronger than regional urban-rural cultural bonds, and this explains why India today suffers more lack of unity at people level than in the pre-colonial times. Caste, language, region based rivalry and jingoism  are essentially colonial and post-colonial phenomena.

Way Forward

Several nationalistic initiatives sought to undo these caste-language-region disintegration motives in the last century.  However to be able to reuse them as unifying and enriching factors is the real necessity, which requires a positive outlook towards these aspects – they cannot be seen as impediments in achieving unity. More importantly, these initiatives looked the wrong side – namely trying to correct or abolish the wronged institutions instead of addressing the causative factors that caused these wrongs.

Whether it is the state interference through matters like affirmative action or linguistic boundaries. While there is a need to revitalize the traditional institutions, it should be remembered that their very nature is evolutionary and hence they have the inbuilt ability to self-correct and realign themselves to a new polity. This self-correcting nature of traditional Hindu institutions is not recognized or made use of by either socio-political reformers or governments. The real issue is with the way the state policies often disregarded the core traditions and civilizational health, and the way the policies often disadvantage the native culture and its traditions vis-a-vis the intolerant monotheistic traditions.

We think that there should be correctives in the fundamental approach that the state has taken to stem further decline of the social fabric and civilizational health, and to allow a revitalizing of Bharata. While there are several correctives already being suggested to take effect within the existing setup such as uniform civil code, we think there need to be more fundamental changes.

Align State with Nation

The self-proclaimed secularist state of India has been conceding its alignment with nation step by step after independence. The original idea of India where the policy had an active participation from scholars with a profound knowledge of the social institutions, culture and human nature, is giving away under the name of secularism into a rather artificial leadership of rabble rousers with no basic understanding or vision of what policies really align with the long term interests and civilizational development of the nation.

If proxy-colonial education is half the reason for this, the other half is a self-defeating anti-Hindu, anti-pluralistic stand the leaders take in several policy matters. Policy’s purpose is national interest and not ideal romanticism, and this basic view is lost right from the days of Nehru.

Separating national interest from a religious ideal is necessary, and for this one needs to be able to define the scope of both. If religion is a matter of individual freedom and there are age-old traditions in the country for a common cause, the state needs to align with the latter as a national policy. Indian governments have systematically kept compromising on this, under the pretext of respecting ‘minority’ religious sentiments, which is essentially an anti-secular policy. In the face of state’s inability to align with nation’s core institutions, the state should at least remain agnostic of these and work with individual laws, and not make policies for specific groups.

Focus on Energy Centers

chakrasAs mentioned, from time to time different places have been identified as appropriate capitals for various activities of rejuvenation in the society. We need to take stock of our divine geography, liberate primary energy centers from their current use and restore their sanctity. The political and economic capitals of activities need to be realigned with the reviewed divine geography. This should be done with the guidance of seers who specialize this subject.

For instance, in the new geography of Bharata (post partitions) the cakrasthAna may not ideally belong to the present Delhi. Besides, the nature of economic and political activity required for the day will determine the choice of capitals where power (economic, political, educational, scientific, industrial etc) needs to be concentrated.

Undo Monotheistic Impact

Monotheism is an implicit assumption in secularism, whose main articulation is a curtailment of church role in state matters. While the Indian constitution originally did not have this, it was eventually added in under communist pressure and subsequently things only worsened – the innumerable Indian groups which number much smaller than the followers of monotheism, are disadvantaged with the grant of special rights to predatory, exclusivist and intolerant monotheism’s under the pretext of minority rights. Therefore the restoration of pluralism and tolerance will need removal of both secular clause and special privileges for fake-minorities.

Cultural affinities and IOC

While India is the primary shelter for Hindus, Hindu culture was until a few centuries ago spread in vast areas of south-east Asia. In the still remote past, it spanned Afghanistan and parts of central Asia not to speak of the global Hindu diaspora (see Bhiku Chamanlal’s book). India shares cultural bonds with several countries in the world, and the Hindu ideals like pluralism are now increasingly accepted in the world.

Given this backdrop, India should strengthen bonds with tolerant oriental societies. Given that the current dispensation in China is hardly interested in pursuing an oriental worldview, India would be the center of such activity. This also explains why India is a primary target of predatory monotheism. The Indian Ocean Community is one such constructive idea, and India should invest in revitalizing its native institutions as well as in contributing to such communities which would be instrumental in erecting a world order which could successfully counter the occidental imperialist and monotheistic worldview.