Category Archives: History

Swami Sri Vidyaranya – The Seer Who Laid the Foundations of Vijayanagara Samrajya

ॐ श्रीवल्लभमहागणपति-शारदाम्बा-शङ्कराचार्यसद्गुरुभ्यो नमः

Sri Vidyaranya was the 12th Jagadguru of the Sringeri Sharada Peetham from 1380 to 1386 CE. He built temples at Sringeri and Hampi and established Mutts to propagate Vedanta. He was not only a sage and empire builder, but also a savant and a scholar par excellence. His works constituted the greatest treatises in post-Shankara Advaitic literature. His marvellous interpretative skills reconciled many apparent differences in philosophic texts. His works include Vivaranaprameya Sangraha, Panchaadasi, Jivanmukti Viveka, Drig Drisya Viveka, Aparokshanubhuti-Tika, and six Upanishad-Dipikas. Also Madhaviya Shankara Vijaya is the work of Sri Vidyaranya. Because of its high poetic merit and objectivity, it is considered the best for recitation during Shankara Jayanti.

Tradition has it that Madhava (the generally accepted pre-ascetic name of Sri Vidyaranya) was the elder of two Brahmachari brothers belonging to a poor but learned Brahmin family of Ekasila Nagari (present-day Warangal). The younger of the two, wandering south in search of true knowledge, reached Sringeri when the great Vidyashankara Tirtha was the reigning pontiff. On seeing the innate greatness of the young Brahmachari, Sri Vidyatirtha readily gave him sanyasa diksha with the ascetic name of Bharati Krishna Tirtha in 1328 CE.

In the meanwhile, Madhava left home in search of his younger brother. After much wandering, he finally reached Sringeri where he found his brother as the junior pontiff Bharati Krishna Tirtha. At the junior pontiff’s request, Sri Vidyatirtha readily gave Madhava sanyasa diksha in 1331 CE under the ascetic name of Sri Vidyaranya, in other words, verily a forest of knowledge. Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha, though younger than Vidyaranya became his senior by virtue of his earlier ordainment into Sanyasa Ashrama and came to be known as the senior Sripada and Vidyaranya the junior.

Sri Vidyaranya then started on a pilgrimage and reached Kashi. At the direction of Sri Vyasa, he went to Badrikashrama where the great sage himself initiated him into Sri Vidya. Returning south, he retired to Matanga hill, near Hampi, where he immersed himself in intense meditation. It was at this time that the two brothers, Madhava and Sayana, the sons of Mayana of Bharadwaja Gotra, approached Sri Vidyaranya and sought his blessings. Sri Vidyaranya graciously gave them his unfinished Veda bhashyas and some other works. He blessed them to complete the works in their own names as Madhaviyam and Sayaniyam. Later, both the brothers served as ministers in the Vijayanagara empire under Bukkaraya and Harihara I and II.

It was while Sri Vidyaranya was doing tapas at Matanga hill that the two warrior brothers, Harihara and Bukka, sons of Sangama, approached him. Directed by a dream, they sought his blessings and guidance. Earlier, these two brothers had been taken prisoner and led to Delhi. It is believed they were under compulsion to embrace Islam. But the Delhi ruler recognising their valour sent them back to the south. They were sent back as the heads of an army to contain the rebellions brewing in the Deccan.

Seizing this opportunity, the two brothers asserted their independence. With the guidance and blessings of Sri Vidyaranya, they established their own independent kingdom with its capital on the left bank of Tungabhadra river. Following the sage’s counsel, they shifted their capital to the right bank, naming it Vidyanagara, as a mark of respect and gratitude to the sage, whom they regarded as their Guru, God and saviour. The city, which came to be popularly known as Vijayanagara or City of Victory was planned in accordance with the directions of sage Vidyaranya in the form of a Sri Chakra, with the Virupaksha temple in the middle and nine gates all around.

A copper plate grant of 1336 CE bearing the sign manual ‘Virupaksha’ recounts, ‘Harihara was seated on the throne as directed by Vidyaranya. He made the 16 great gifts resplendent in the city called Vidya, of vast dimensions” The emperor placed at the feet of his master Sri Vidyaranya, all his imperial insignia. Sri Vidyaranya initiated him into Atmavidya and conferred on him the titles, Srimad Rajadhiraja Parameshwara, Aparimita Pratapavira and Narapati. From then on, the Sringeri Jagadguru came to be addressed as ‘Karnataka Simhasana Pratishtapanacharya’ which is part of their birudavali (titles) even to this day.

Without Vidyaranya there would have been no Vijayanagara samrajya and without that Dakshina Bharat/ South India would not have retained its dharma and culture. We remember this great Acharya and dharmika and offer our namaskarams. Om.

Source: https://www.sringeri.net/jagadgurus/sri-vidyaranya

Note : 

Vaishakha Shukla Saptami is celebrated as Vidyaranya Jayanthi. Vaishakha Shukla Saptami is also celebrated as Ganga Saptami / Jahnu Saptami / Gangotpatti / Gangavataran.

The Three Kinds of Swadeshi

  • An Excerpt from Swadeshi and Boycott by Sri Aurobindo

” Now the meaning of Swadeshi and boycott, as we Nationalists understand them, is wider and larger than Swadeshi and boycott as defined by others, owing to the commercial and industrial circumstances of the country. There are three kinds of Swadeshi.  When Swadeshi was first started in Bengal, Lord Minto said at the Commercial Exhibition in Calcutta that he approved of Swadeshi. Our Swadeshi, according to Lord Minto, is the determination to encourage Indian manufacture and the use of Indian goods when they are as good as English manufactures and can be got at a cheaper price.  That is the economic principle preached by English economists. Lord Minto says that if Swadeshi excludes the goods of other countries it ceases to be an honest attempt for the industry of this country.

There is another kind of Swadeshi which is more developed. We shall encourage Indian labour, Indian manufacture, Indian articles, preferring our own goods by giving them a little stimulus. This idea of Swadeshi brings in the principle of preference and protection.

The third kind of Swadeshi adopts the principle of using our own Indian manufactures, our own Indian goods, and not using foreign articles if Indian articles can be had.”

Kanyā haraṇa in Itihāsa

Searching for victims of heroes in itihāsa is an old preoccupation of the enemies of the spirit of old lore (purāṇa vairi-s). That is a way of undermining the qualities that the civilization sees as heroic, and replace in collective psyche their images with icons of lower stature, representatives of qualities that prevent higher civilizational aspirations. While the enterprise is a big one, highlighting victims of heroes of epics helps (a) bring a doubt about their character and loftiness of the heroes (b) highlight defects in collective morality that sees the heroes as heroes.

When epics are not dominant in the collective consciousness, villains of epics can be directly highlighted as martyrs – Mahiśa, Rāvana etc. When epics come more into the fore, as happened recently during the lockdown thanks to the epics telecast on Doordarshan, villains of epics for their moral decrepitude cannot be highlighted by the purāṇa vairi-s because they then start looking like villains themselves.

Though for decades Rāvana was praised and Rāma was called an Aryan invader in some regions, now in most parts that line is not publicly acceptable – a rapist and an abductor of women cannot be called a martyr instead of a villain given the recent public anger for crime against women.

So the purāṇa vairi-s take to a different set of victims. Those that are not inherently negative characters but fell “victims” due to the poor moral compass of the heroes and society that produces those heroes. Sīta, Draupadi etc.

We learned recently that Subhadra was a victim of misogyny, forcefully taken away and married by Arjuna, and that her victimhood is not even mentioned in discourse. So it makes occasion to look at her case.

It is also a good occasion to look at kanyā haraṇa itself. Subhadra was not an isolated case of kanyā haraṇa, in fact kṣatriyas are “permitted” as an alternate method of getting wife, apart from the known brahma and gāndharva modes.

A simple survey of epics reveals easily, the fact that heroes of epics are men who always stood for protecting not just woman but woman’s right to make her choice. That becomes a topic in itself, so we can limit the current topic to kanyā haraṇa.

 

Dharma

Needless to say, it is not an appreciable practice to take a girl by force. Yet, it was a “permitted” thing for kṣatriyas. At this point it needs to be understood that smṛti/dharma ṣāstra is not prescriptive – it does not say “do this, do that”. It says “this is the nature of things, doing this has such result, and this is therefore the most doable or most avoidable thing”.

In that sense if seen, the dharma ṣāstras do not say “kṣatriyas should do this” but “it is a practice among kṣatriyas to do this”.

The different modes of marriage are mentioned in dharma ṣāstra texts. One instance is Manusmṛti (starting from verse 3.27). Brahma is the best mode of marriage. Arṣa, daiva prājāpatya are good modes where there is a family level agreement. Gāndharva is allowed for kṣatriyas where there is a mutual consent between the man and the woman, and no formal approval from parents is sought. Rakshasa is a discouraged mode where the girl is taken by force.

Why would such a marriage be allowed in a civilized society, and why it is sanctioned without prohibition? Why is no penalty imposed on the man? That too in a civilization that has practices  like swayamvara, where woman’s choice is given primary importance? There are multiple reasons for this.

  1. Ultimately it is the woman that is the loser. Bride has no legitimate status if the marriage is not legitimized. The girl can leave the man when she is freed, in case of abduction and captivity. The fate of a girl isolated after abduction is kept in mind, and therefore it is nevertheless listed a marriage while heavily discouraged.
  2. It is also possible that the abduction happens with girl’s consent. Though this is still haraṇa, it is still a right thing.

The possibilities in life are many, and when it comes to the question of which of the choices is “right” and which is not, the pedagogy of dharma  ṣāstras also gives us simple tests: any action that begets negative consequences is not in line with dharma. In cases where there are uphill tasks, facing lot of struggle and suffering but eventually results are positive, the choice is in line with dharma.

Yudhiśṭhira’s choices in dice game are shown to have negative results, and he is shown as expiating for his wrongs. So the lesson there is clear as to whether one should stake property and humans in a dice game, whether one should play without being adept, whether a game should be used to decide anyone’s fate at all.

Kanyā haraṇa episodes also have such lessons, in which case the choice has positive results and in which case it has negative results.

We know of at least three instances of kanyā haraṇa in itihāsa. First is Bhīśma taking the three princesses of Kāśī raja. Second is Kṛṣṇa taking Rukmiṇi. Third is Arjuna taking Subhadra.

These three happened in three different circumstances, and the merit and permissibility of kanyā haraṇa is different in all three.

 

Case 1 – Ambā (Adi Parva Section 102)

Bhīśma wanted brides for his brother Vicitravīrya. Given Vicitravīrya was not known to be a great prince, by character or power or charm, not many kings came  forward to give their daughters.

Bhīśma comes to know of Kāśī raja who announces a swayamvara for this three daughters Ambā, Ambikā and Ambālikā. There is no invite to Hastināpura. Bhīśma took a vow to remain unmarried and childless for life, and he was among the most eligible bachelors in Bharata. Vicitravīrya does not have a good name and gets no invite.

This angers Bhīśma, and he barges into the swayamvara, challengs the court to stand him in a battle if someone wants to stop him from taking the three brides for his brother Vicitravīrya, the heir of Hastināpura throne. Given Bhīśma’s standing as a warrior none could face him. Sālva king challenges Bhīśma to get Ambā his lover, and fails. Bhīśma comes to Hastināpura with the three princesses. Ambikā and Ambālikā get married to Vicitravīrya, soon to be widowed. Ambā reveals her love for Sālva and Bhīśma sends her to Sālva. Sālva having lost her in a fair fight, declines to own up Ambā.

Ambā is left nowhere. She demands that since Bhīśma used his power to get her from her father as well as her lover, he must marry her. Bhīśma is bound by vow, and declines. Then Ambā requests Bhīśma’s teacher Paraśurāma to persuade Bhīśma, he too fails. Ambā does tapas for Rudra, leaves her body, a part of her becomes Ambā river and another part takes rebirth as Sikhandi who becomes the cause of Bhīśma’s death.

This is a kanyā haraṇa, and the wrongs committed here are many:

  1. Woman belongs to the man who won her. This is itself  breached when Bhīśma used his power to win brides for his ineligible and incapable brother. A woman can live with a man who sought and won her, but not with a man who needs proxies to get her. It was not a case where Vicitravīrya sought the girls and stood, while Bhīśma’s power came to rescue.
  2. Bhīśma ignores the fact that Kāśī raja announced a swayamvara and not a contest. Unlike Draupadi or Sīta “swayamvara” which was more a contest and the girl goes to one who clears a test, Kāśī raja announced a self-choice where the girl picks the man she wants to marry. Bhīśma’s show of power to overrule a self-choice is the second wrong.
  3. When Sālva challenged Bhīśma, it does not occur to him whether Ambā could also have been interested. Ambā gets her chance to talk only after reaching Hastināpura.

Eventually since Bhīśma could not break his vow, Ambā’s life is ruined and she became the cause for Bhīśma’s death.

The lessons here are clear: one cannot forcefully take a woman when her interest is elsewhere. Show of power style representation is not acceptable for marriages. Given the negative consequences Bhīśma and Hastināpura has, this case of kanyā haraṇa, its method, motive all stand wrong.

 

Case 2 – Rukmiṇi  

Kṛṣṇa’s story is too famous, but a quick recollection helps conclusions. Vidarbha princess Rukmiṇi has Kṛṣṇa in her heart. Her brother Rukmi a friend of Kṛṣṇa’s enemies, is keen on getting her married to the man he likes and not the man his sister likes.

Rukmiṇi, intent on marrying Kṛṣṇa, sends a messenger. Agni Dyotana, a respected and  learned man, goes to Kṛṣṇa and conveys the longing Rukmiṇi has for Kṛṣṇa, the constraints she has and asks him to take Rukmiṇi from Vidarbha. Kṛṣṇa waits at the outskirts  of capital where Rukmiṇi comes to pray to her deity, comes on a chariot and takes her. The chariot is pursued by Rukmi, Kṛṣṇa stops and instead of killing his to be brother-in-law he shaves Rukmi and dispatches him back to Vidarbha.

This is a classic story of heroism, romance, love. It is not only read with great interest as a story, there is a practice in several regions to chant the episode by girls with the belief they will get married to a suitable and good man.

The antecedent and consequent are also clear: when the girl is interested, go to any length to get her. Yes, this too is a kanyā haraṇa – a stealing of Vidarbha princess from Vidarbha perspective. Yet this is always mentioned only in a positive sense.

 

Case 3 – Subhadra  (Adi Parva sections 221, 222)

Arjuna goes on an expiation exile and as part of it reaches Dwaraka. He sees Subhadra Kṛṣṇa’s sister, and has an instant attraction for her. Kṛṣṇa suggests that Arjuna abducts Subhadra and marries her.

Arjuna picks her, just like Kṛṣṇa picked Rukmiṇi, from outside the temple on a hilltop outside the capital. He reaches Indraprastha and their marriage happens. Yādavas in Dwaraka are enraged and Kṛṣṇa pacifies them saying Arjuna is the best possible groom they can ever hope to get for Subhadra, and they give their acceptance to the marriage.

The difference however, is this was not a case of girl taking the initiative. This was also not a case of Arjuna getting Subhadra’s acceptance before he takes her. This is also not an episode that is as celebrated as Rukmiṇi haraṇa.

Yet, we see no negative effects of this in the epic. It can be argued that since Subhadra knew Kṛṣṇa’s relation with Arjuna she had no hope of getting support and reconciled with life once she knew it was Arjuna who abducted her. This is not a valid argument, because the Yādavas including Balarāma were still around if she really wanted to protest. Yudhiśṭhira the Dharma raja himself would not approve of a match had Subhadra protested her abduction once they reached Indraprastha. To the contrary, it can be argued that Balarāma was in favour of Subhadra’s alliance with Hastināpura and Kṛṣṇa favored Arjuna as a friend and also as a better human and warrior. He sought a better man for his sister and suggested abduction because Subhadra did not make any decision. Possible arguments are many.

One question that arises in the latter argument is what happens to the consent of the girl. What is ignored while asking this question is when the consent did not matter (because the girl did not exercise it, not because the consent was overruled), what matters is getting the right man. Arjuna’s character throughout the epic is blemish less. He declines Ūrvaśī’s advances because he does not see in her a lover but an ancestor. He was the one to get whom as a son-in-law, kings conducted sacrifices and begot daughters. He declines marrying Uttara because he saw in her a student. A man of impeccable character, a man who knew exactly when to advance and when to stop, cannot be blamed for applying force on a woman without realizing where he could cross the line.

There are multiple versions in this story, and according to some accounts Kṛṣṇa advises Arjuna to abduct Subhadra. Some hold that Subhadra also had a liking for Arjuna and she went with him willingly, and was even driving the chariot. The implication in former version is that Arjuna abducted a lady who has not made up her mind (and was not against the alliance either) with the consent of her brother. The implication of the latter version is that this is another romantic story which is made out to be an issue for no reason.

But what is known is that Arjuna arranged for Subhadra’s meeting with Draupadi in a way their relation turns good. What is also known is that Subhadra is not known to have protested. What is also known is that Arjuna got a beautiful as well as affectionate wife in the form of Subhadra, and an illustrious son like Abhimanyu. There is no negative consequence coming out of this “stealing the girl” that came to Arjuna or Pānḍavās due to this that the epic narrates.

Because, unlike Bhīśma’s case, Arjuna wanted to win over his lady. Unlike Ambā’s case, this was also a great match – Arjuna was the best possible groom for a princess in that age, and had love for Subhadra. The bond between Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna, Arjuna’s character, every factor   was in favour of a happy marriage for Subhadra with Arjuna. Unlike Ambā’s case, Subhadra was also not having another man in her mind and was positively inclined to Pānḍavās due to Kṛṣṇa’s relation. From Subhadra’s viewpoint the only misgiving is not taking her acceptance, which, while being a major matter today, was hardly a big issue back then. When matches were arranged by elders barring exceptions, the boy and girl both go with the match arranged by parents. Given this, and given that Kṛṣṇa’s blessing was there, Subhadra had not a major reason to be unpleasant or express it.

 

Conclusion

While there are many other situations, these three reveal a fair diversity of kanyā haraṇa phenomenon along with their correctness, acceptability and consequences in the epic.

To conclude, kanyā haraṇa was not entirely proscribed because there were cases it had merit. At the same time, it was kept as one of the last chosen methods, to be resorted to after exhausting better ways and options.

RAVANA – A Serial Rapist and Tormentor of the Helpless

  • By Dr Rahul A. Shastri

Who was Ravana?

Ravana’s birth-name was Dashanana. His father was Vishravas s/o brahmin sage Pulastya, who is believed to hail from village Bisrakh in Haryana. His mother was Kaikesi, daughter of the Rakshasa King – Sumali. Ravana married Mandodari, the daughter of the divine architect Maya. 

Thus, contrary to what the leftists tell their confused followers, Ravana was neither Dravidian nor a sudra nor oppressed. He was a North Indian brahmin, very well connected and belonged to the royalty. 

What did Ravana do?

Ravana did tapas and got a boon from Brahma that none but humans could kill him. Empowered by this boon, he took away Lanka and Pushpaka Vimana from his cousin Kubera, conquered many regions with the help of his family and even subjugated the devas. 

Marching north he reached Kailasa and threatened Nandi that he would throw Kailasa away with Siva. To carry out this threat he put his hands under the mountain, but Siva put his toe down, trapping Ravana’s hands under the Kailasa. His fingers painfully caught, Dashanana then sang songs praising Siva so loudly, that Siva gave him the name Ravana (which means crying or roaring) and the sword Chandrahasa.

Puffed up by his success, powers and boons, Ravana turned into a bully, serial rapist and eve- teaser, misbehaving even with gods and rishis, earning eighteen curses in the process. It is because of these curses, that some of his atrocities are still known and remembered.

The many rapes by Ravana

When Ravana molested Vedavati who was engaged in penance to obtain Madhava as husband, she cursed that he and his family would be ruined by Lord Narayana on her account. Since he no longer feared gods because of the boon from Brahma, Ravana went on with his depredations. He raped Madanamanjari, wife of Rtuvarman, a tapasvi of Marutta forest, who cursed then that Ravana would be killed by a man.

Finally, he raped his own would-be daughter-in-law, Rambha, betrothed to be wife of his nephew ‘Nalakubara’ s/o Kubera. Furious at this, Nalakubara pronounced this curse

“You, who have become blind with lust, shall not touch a woman who does not reciprocate your love. If you do so your head will be split into seven pieces.”

It is this curse that later kept Sitadevi and many other chaste women safe from Ravana’s depredations, although they still were victim to molestation and insults by him. After this curse, Ravana resorted molestations, humiliation and abductions to cater to his lust, but never committed a rape again.

Rape, Rakshasas and Human Civilization

Rape is a part of Rakshasa culture, and ‘marriage by rape’ is known as ‘rakshasa vivaha’ to the Hindus. Ramayana, which is a story of the destruction of Ravana, is an eternal reminder that rape can have no place in human culture, and that the culture of rapists is bound to be destroyed by divine forces.

Molestations of women by Ravana

Ravana tried to humiliate Punjikadevi, the daughter of Brahma, who reiterated the curse of Nalakubara that he would die with all his ten heads broken if he touched unwilling women. By way of revenge, Ravana took to molesting and misbehaving with women in the presence of their helpless relatives. He humiliated Svahadevi, in the presence of Agni, earning Agni’s curse. When he molested Dvaipayana’s sister in the presence of Dvaipayana, the latter cursed him with humiliation by monkeys. Similar curses were pronounced when he molested Atri’s wife in his presence, and he misbehaved with and humiliated brahmin girls who were bathing in the sea, in the very presence of their mothers.

Once Ravana tried to catch Sulekhadevi, the daughter of Brihaspati after conquering Devaloka. Then Brhaspati cursed that Ravana would die hit by the arrows of Rama.

Some other atrocities of Ravana

Ravana committed innumerable atrocities, some of which are remembered only because of the curses that they fetched him.

He kicked Astavakra, the sage with eight hunches, saying ‘Oh ! handsome fellow ! I shall cure your eight hunches”. This earned him the curse of the sage: “For kicking me, a poor innocent sage, you will be kicked from head to foot and foot to head by monkeys.”

Knowing his perverse proclivities, Vasistha turned down his invitation to teach him Vedas. Owing to this, Vasishsta was imprisoned until the solar King Kuvalayasva rescued him. Vasishta then predicted that Ravana and his family would be destroyed by those born in the solar dynasty.

When Narada refused to explain the meaning of ‘Om’ to him, he threatened to cut off Sri Narada’s tongue, earning the curse, that all his ten heads would be cut off by a man.

Maharsi Maudgalya was once doing the svastika asana, resting his neck on the yogadanda. Seeing him thus, Ravana cut the yogadanda into two with chandrahasa sword. The rishi fell and broke his backbone. This earned Ravana the curse that the chandrahasa (given to him by Siva) would become ineffective.

Once Ravana invited a Vedic brahmin to install the idol of Tripurasundari given to him by Siva. For being late, the brahmin was imprisoned for seven days. This earned him the curse that he would be imprisoned for seven months by a man.

King Anaranya of the solar dynasty sought shelter with him. In our culture, one who takes refuge with us is protected, but Ravana killed Anaranya with a blow on the chest. The dying king cursed him that he would die from the arrows of a prince of the solar dynasty.

Sage Dattatreya had collected water which he consecrated with mantras, in order to bathe the head of his Guru. When Ravana saw this water, he poured it on his own head. Dattatreya cursed him that his head would be polluted by the feet of monkeys.

Conclusion

It can be seen from the above that Ravana was not an admirable character, in spite of his boons, lineage, royal power and worldly success. He was a serial rapist and tormentor of the weak.  Leftists are promoting the worship of such a person by deceiving the Indian masses. Their real aim is to foster divisions among us, to degrade our values and destroy our culture. Why are they doing this? 

Leftists promote divisions because according to their ideology, progress comes only by conflict and not through unity.  To promote conflict, they attack our culture and our values. Why? 

They know that the unity of Indian people comes from our culture and values. It is our culture which teaches us patience in difficulty, compassion for suffering, respect for learning, reverence for elders and traditions, and love for the motherland. These are the values that have held us together for millennia and which we uphold today. To destroy them, to fan the flames of discontent and discord among us, leftists attack our culture. 

Their deceptions about Ravana are part of this greater game plan. May their confused followers know the true nature of Ravana, see through their game plan, and strengthen national unity and the motherland.

References: Puranic Encyclopedia by Vettam Mani 1964, Sanskrit Dictionary .  Shivram Apte