Latest Posts

Mahabharata Metaphors

Mahabharata Metaphors: The Divinity of Sage Shuka – Part I

Sage Shuka, son of Sage Vyasa, is an important person in Mahabharata. It is Shuka who narrates Srimad Bhagavata to King Pareekshit – who was in anticipation of his end from Takshaka. Shuka is among the only five to learn everything under the lotus feet of Sage Vyasa. He is known in the tradition as the greatest of men with Vairagya-bhaava seeking to attain Moksha. His birth, his short life, and his eventual attaining of Moksha is a fascinating story in Mahabharata that elevates one to look at life with divine dispassion. The story of Shuka is narrated to Yudhishthira in Mahabharata by none other than Bheeshmacharya himself, in that great Parva – the Shanti Parva. His story contains immense insight into the notion of Moksha in our tradition as well as the traits and path of a person seeking Moksha.

Once, Bhagavan Shankara was on his usual vihara on the Meru Parvata, surrounded by the bhoota-gana and in the company of this Goddess Uma, the daughter of Himavanta. At the same time, Sage Krishna Dvaipaayana – the great Vyasa, was performing his penance with the sankalpa of receiving a son. He sought a son who was as courageous as ‘Agni, Bhoomi, Jala, Vaayu, and Akasha’. On that Meru Parvata, there were Saadhyas, Oceans, Rivers, the Ashwinis, Marutta-s, and others performing their penance and pleasing Mahadeva to realize what they sought. In the end, Maheshwara decided to bestow Vyaasa with the boon he sought. The great Trayambaka came to Vyasa and said with a great smile – “Oh Krishna Dvaipayana, you shall receive a son of your seeking. He will be as great and pure as you are. His mind and his intellect shall always be deep in the divine. He shall attain great fame in the three worlds”.

Thus, blessed by the Mahadeva himself, Vyasa came back to his Ashram. With the Agni-manthana-danda in his hands, he went towards the river and saw that great Apsara named – Ghritachi. At once, he was filled with a deep desire to be in union with the Apsara. Realizing that the great Sage is overcome with desire, Ghritachi herself took the form of a parrot and went to the sage. Vyasa was now filled with an overpowering desire in his entire body. With his immense penance, Vyasa sought to keep himself away from the desire but that was not to be. His energy of creation released itself out of his body and fell in the very ‘Arani’ that he was rubbing through this danda to create Agni. Vyasa continued his act of creating the Agni. In the two Aranis, instead of Agni was born the very great Sage Shuka. He came to be known as the Aranigarbha as a result. Since he was born as a result of ‘Rephalopa’ when the Shukra was being acted upon, he came to be known as Shukadeva. Divinity bestowed – his glow was equal to that of the Yagneshwara himself. The River Ganga came down to earth in the form of a divine woman and purified him in his first bath. From the heavens came down his deerskin and the Mantra Danda. Gandharvas sang Apsaras danced, all the divine conch shells blew to announce the birth of a great Sage of perfection. All the sages praised his greatness. All the Devas, Devarshis, the protectors of all worlds, Sages came down to Meru Parvata to see divinity itself born as the son of Sage Vyasa. Mahadeva himself came along with Uma and performed his Upanayana. Devendra himself offered Shuka with divine clothes and other elements needed for a tapasvi Brahmin. There was all-round happiness in all forms of life upon the birth of this great Sage.

Sage Shuka, thus born – remained in Meru Parvata performing his penance, divine rituals, and immense austerity. The Vedas came to him as easily as they did to Vyasa. Holding nothing other than Dharma in his mind, he sought Devaguru Brihaspati as his first guru. Having learned all the Shastras, itihasa-s, Purana-s, and the Vedas he offered the right Gurudakshina to Devaguru and returned to his Ashram to continue his penance. He was now equal to the best of the sages and all the Devi-Devatas. His advice was sought by the Devarshi-s themselves. His mind, though, was fixed only on one thing – that is to attain Moksha. Being a Grihastha was not a thought that came any close to him at all.

sage shuka

Sage Shuka

Sage Shuka sought to learn more about Moksha from Vyasa who directed him to study certain Shastras that concerned themselves with Moksha alone. Shuka, in no time, studied the Yoga and Samkhya. His aura was now equal to that of Brahma himself. Finally, Vyasa was pleased and said “Oh Shuka, you must now meet the great King Janaka of Mithila. From him alone you must learn the very Siddhanta of Moksha – that shall be your final step in the path of Moksha”. Vyasa further said “Oh Shuka, you must not use your divine powers to reach Mithila. You must go as a simple seeker. You must take the route traveled by Manushya-s, not the Devas or Danavas. You must not use your yogic powers and the Antariksha-maarga for travel. You must go there with humility, without seeking pleasure. You should not present yourselves to King Janaka as a learned person. You must perform everything that Janaka expects you to do without doubts and with absolute certainty”. Thus, blessed by Vyasa, Shuka set himself towards the city of Mithila. He crossed all the cities, towns, forests on his foot. He passed through the lands of Devas, Danavas, Kimpurushas and eventually came down to the Bharatavarsha and reached Mithila, walking down the entire path with as much ease as a bird would fly in the air. Even though he visited cities of pleasure, wealth, places of great beauty, grandeur and awe, nothing from those cities touched him except the thought of attaining Moksha and learning from Janaka on the next steps. The divine beauty of the Kingdom of Videha and the city of Mithila too made no impact on this great Sage Shuka. Moksha-dharma is all that he sought.

Finally, he reached the doorsteps of the palace of Mithila in the Kingdom of Videha. One of the soldiers was quite horrified at his state. He bowed to him and immediately sent him to the second stage of the palace complex, where Shuka sat on a seat. In no time, the minister of the Kingdom presented himself in front of Shuka and took him to the third stage. The third stage consisted of beautiful gardens, fountains, and charming places where the wives of the King and their friends, servants were in their Vihara. Shuka was presented upon with a great many enticements by the attendants of King Janaka. But Shuka was single-minded in his pursuit of Moksha. He neither responded to the invitations of pleasure nor did anger get the better of him in those attempts to deviate him from his path. Like any other day, he performed all his rituals, ate what he was minimally supposed to, and finally slept at the time that he always did – in his single most pursuit of the ultimate – Moksha.

 

In the part-2 of this series, we shall learn about his conversation with King Janaka. The very birth of Shuka speaks of what is a great birth. Desire is an aspect of life. It elevates itself as an element of Purushartha – serving greater causes – only when we seek it to be so. When our aim is to realize an offspring with the aura of the five elements of the universe, our desires are invoked by the most divine beings of creative energy (Apsaras) and become part of our penance.

The creative energies then are contained by the same instruments that are part of our penance, renunciation, and divinity. It is now part of our very divine performance. This, of course, must be preceded by a specific penance and with a specific boon from none other than Mahadeva – the great Viragi himself. Sage Vyasa too must go through that process.

 

Shuka may be born with immense divinity, but he needs a guru that he must search and seek. Vyasa must wait for his son to feel the deep urge and then alone guide him on a path of self-study. Sage Vyasa maybe Sage Vyasa. But in order to set his son in the path that he desires, Vyasa alone is not enough. Vyasa needs a King Janaka even for that great son Shuka to attain Moksha. Shuka too must perform Svadhyaya – self-study and then be ready for that great final journey. Shuka is not to doubt the choice of Vyasa and the candidature of Janaka, himself living in immense wealth and pleasure. The nature of the final journey is insightful. At every stage, Shuka is tested. It must be a journey of a common man so that one wins over the need for comfort. It must pass through every human enticement possible and come out with flying colors. One must hold one’s own sva-dharma in the midst of everything else that can potentially deviate us. For this, one must be able to see immense beauty in one’s sva-dharma. One must have prepared oneself through years of penance relinquishing pleasures of normal life and be in sva-dharma to undertake this testing journey to reach the destination. In summary, every seeker must find one’s own Guru, in fact, many Gurus. A Seeker must go through many journeys, many experiences, learn from many Gurus – before reaching a final Guru. An entire ecosystem is needed. The goal of civilization is to nurture this ecosystem and pass this from generation to generation. Every Shuka must find his own Janaka.

And that is not all. It is one thing to seek a son with the grace of five elements, it is another to have the courage to face the eventuality. We shall see that in the final part of the series on Sage Shuka.

Veer Savarkar – A nationalist, a rationalist and a humanist

Veer Savarkar – A nationalist, a rationalist and a humanist

A Nationalist, a rationalist, a humanist, a leader, a poet – Savarkar’s contribution to all he touched is immense.

Reformers who rock the boat, who become unpopular, who disturb the social balance, who hurt religious sentiments, who turn their back on majority opinion, who think rationally—all these reformers face the inevitable consequences of their actions. Every reformer has had to face these challenges. This is because social reform—by definition rooting out any evil social custom—means taking on the persistent social beliefs of the majority.

A true social or religious reformer should only be driven by the desire to do good and it should be stamped on their mind:

वरम् जनहितम् ध्येयं केवलं ना जनस्तुति: |

(It is best to think only of the welfare of people, not praise them).

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar is a hero that stands tall in History. A Nationalist, a rationalist, a humanist, a leader, a poet – Savarkar’s contribution to all he touched is immense. The life of Veer Savarkar continues to inspire countless people even today. Self-sacrifice and devotion to duty are the outstanding qualities that stand out throughout his life.

Born on 28th May 1883 in Bhagur, a tiny village in District Nasik, Maharashtra, lost his mother at the age of 9. When he was 15 he also lost his father Sri Damodar Pant in 1898.

India won her freedom from British rule due to the combined efforts of patriots of all persuasions. These included the armed revolutionaries, moderate and radical leaders as well as those who led mass movements. Veer Savarkar has been hailed as the ‘prince of revolutionaries’. It was Savarkar’s contention that freedom cannot be won by pleas and petitions. Savarkar proclaimed that absolute political independence was his goal and incessant armed revolution was the means to achieve that goal. Savarkar inspired generations of revolutionaries both in India and abroad. He is credited with placing the case for India’s freedom on the international scene.

SECTION-1: SAVARKAR THE HUMANIST

Savarkar was an illustrious social reformer. He firmly believed that political and social reforms are equally important and complementary to each other. During his time, many self-imposed shackles and superstitions had weakened Hindu society. Through his speeches, writings, and actions, Savarkar launched a sustained campaign of social reform. His commitment to social reform was lifelong. Savarkar’s social thought stemmed from his humanism. He championed social reform even amongst followers of other religions.

Some broken shackles: 

Savarkar believed that eating and drinking pattern has many myths and he started speaking loudly about it. What to eat and drink is a medical issue, not a religious one. One may eat and drink as per individual preference and digestive capacity under specific circumstances. There is no harm in eating what is medically permissible with any medically fit individual, not in a common plate but as a common meal. Be it a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian, eating and drinking with anyone destroys neither caste nor religion. 

In 1906, in a lodging house for Indian students in Highgate, London, when young lawyer M K Gandhi dropped in to see a younger law student Vinayak Savarkar, who happened to be frying prawns at the time. Savarkar offered Gandhi some of his meals; Gandhi, a vegetarian, refused. Savarkar allegedly retorted that only a fool would attempt to resist the British without being fortified by animal protein. That was Savarkar, clear-headed.

Inter-caste marriage was one another cause he worked on. Breaking the prohibition of intermarriage does not imply forcibly marrying off girls of one caste into another caste. What it means is that if a Hindu with desirable qualities such as love, character, and capacity chose a spouse from another caste, then such an alliance should not be condemned simply because their castes are different. Such a couple should not be considered as unworthy of cohabitation. Permission for such mixed marriages is extremely desirable not only for the removal of birth-based caste distinction but also for the success of the re-conversion movement.

Then his focus was caste discrimination. Just as there was a regulation in the past that at least one Brahmin should dine in a Ganesh Chaturthi meal, there should now be a regulation that at least one Chamar-Mahar-Bhangi brother should dine in the Ganeshotsav meal.

On untouchability:

Oh, organizer of Hindus! Rise and irrespective whether others do it or not, take a pledge at this very instant that I shall use the hand with which I touch my cat and dog to touch my untouchable brother in dharma, failing which I shall go hungry. Say, I will touch! And by publicly touching some untouchable brother, show the world that as far as you are concerned, you have acquired the boon of freeing the Hindu race from the sin of untouchability

Savarkar was a strong opponent of the caste system. He repeatedly argued that what the religious books say about untouchability is irrelevant. The social practice was unfit for a modern society. In his collection of essays on breaking the caste system, he welcomed the constitutional provision that made untouchability a crime.

“Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden The enforcement of any disability arising out of Untouchability shall be an offense punishable in accordance with law” —Article 17 of the Indian Constitution

This historic decision should be seen as the success of the hundreds of saints, social reformers, and political leaders who worked so hard over the centuries to break the shackles of untouchability. Article 17 of the Indian Constitution has used the word untouchability in the singular. There should have been an explanatory note in the interests of clarity. After all, there could be instances when untouchability has to be practiced for medical or personal reasons. These may not be damaging to society. Of course, Article 17 is meant to deal with only that untouchability that men and women have to face if they are born into a particular caste.”

SECTION-2: SAVARKAR THE RATIONALIST

Rationalism was an abiding guiding principle in Savarkar’s life. Though he did not start any rationalist movement as such, his thoughts and actions were invariably dictated by reason, scientific temper, utilitarianism, and human welfare. It is not surprising that Savarkar’s thoughts and teachings were shocking to contemporary society. It is precisely these thoughts and teachings that serve as a beacon to society even today. Savarkar’s relevance remains intact even decades after he has passed away. Truly, his entire life is a lesson in rationalism.

On different connotations of the word ‘dharma’

Like the English word ‘law’, the word ‘dharma’ has taken on different connotations. Its original wider meaning is ‘law’. The dharma of any object upholds its existence and regulates its behavior. It is in this sense that we refer to the dharma of nature, the dharma of water, the dharma of fire, and so on. This wider meaning led to the use of the term while describing the laws governing other-worldly objects, irrespective of whether these laws were verifiable or not! The term ‘dharma’ gradually encompassed the mutual relation between Heaven, hell, reincarnation, god, individual (soul), creation, and the like. In fact, the word ‘dharma’ soon came to be almost exclusively used in its other-worldly connotation.

The actions of human beings in this world were thought to affect his existence in the hereafter. So ‘dharma’ came to also mean that which upheld his life in the hereafter. In the past, the rules that governed worldly relations between individuals and nations were also termed ‘dharma’. This is clear from terms such as Dharma of War or ‘Yuddha Dharma, Dharma of Governance or Raj Dharma, Dharma of the conduct, or ‘Vyavahar Dharma’ and the like.

Source: (1934, Vidnyannishtha nibandha or pro-science essays, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p.309-310)

On Sanatan Dharma

Those laws of nature that have been experimentally vindicated and have stood the test of time verily constitute ‘Sanatana Dharma”.

Actions are necessarily mortal and time-bound for they are by and for humans. Hence, Sanatan Dharma will not die even if the entire corpus of rituals, what to speak of caste distinctions, is changed. It is beyond the power of the human race what to speak of a handful of reformers, to destroy Sanatana Dharma. It is Doubtful, even if it is within the power of God to do so! 

Close scrutiny of the Vedas as well as the Muslim Quran, the Christian Bible and the Jewish Old Testament and the Book of Moses makes it clear that the so-called divinely written or sent religious scriptures are man-made. No doubt, these scriptures have unprecedented historical and literary value. It is also admissible that these scriptures are a treasure house of words, worthy of respect and deep study…But they are not literally true. What does not stand the test of scientific reason ought to be verily discarded even if it appears in Vedas, Avesta, Quran, Bible, Book of Moses, and the like. It is incorrect to think that everything that is ancient, is necessarily sacred and worthy of worship. 

Savarkar on the age of machines:

“It was 200 years ago there were fears that humanity would lose its essence in the machine age, religion would be undermined, humans would begin to act like machines, our bodies would shrivel and the prosperity that was promised with the use of machines would itself be destroyed. Such shrill warnings were spread across Europe by a class that stuck to tradition and religious naiveté.

The reason machines are not more widely used by our people is because of the religious beliefs in our society. Europe too did not accept machines 200 years ago because of the power of Christian religious beliefs. There was a massive earthquake in Lisbon in the 18th century. The religious leaders of Europe preached to the people that the earthquake was the result of the Protestant perfidy against the religious beliefs of the Roman Catholics. It was a punishment because Protestant marriage ceremonies were led by women, Protestant priests were allowed to marry, the words of the Pope are not considered infallible. It was in reaction to these reasons that the people decided to protect themselves against future earthquakes by trying to finish off the Protestants.

Such naive people were incapable of even understanding that there were physical explanations for earthquakes, let alone trying to use seismology to design machines that could perhaps help them predict the risk of an earthquake. Europe could truly embrace the machine age only when its religious beliefs were demolished by the scientific approach.

But in India, even someone as influential as Gandhiji swears by his “inner voice” to say that the Bihar earthquake is a punishment for the caste system. And that he is still waiting for his inner voice to tell him why Quetta was rocked by an earthquake. And then there are Shankaracharya and other religious leaders who swear by the religious books that the earthquake was caused by attempts to do away with the caste system.

What can one say about the religious naiveté of the ordinary people in a country when its prominent leaders hold such views? Europe is in the year 1936 while we are still in the year 1736.”

– in Kirloskar Magazine

Savarkar On films:

The movies are one of the beautiful gifts of the 20th century. This is the machine age. We are surrounded by things that have been made with the help of machines. The world of entertainment cannot be an exception to this rule. Please understand that I refuse to condemn the advances made in technology. I dislike any restrictions on the innovative spirit of the human mind. The very essence of the progress made by humanity over the past many years in science and knowledge can be found in contemporary cinema. There is no better example of the use of modern technology than the movies, and that is why I will never back any restrictions on them.

These remarks by Veer Savarkar are a stinging answer to the contempt with which Mahatma Gandhi has spoken about movies.

I doubt the theater can compete with the movies. It will barely survive in a corner just as the folk arts barely survive in our villages today. But its best days are behind it.“There is no need to feel bad about this. What is the use of the wooden plough in the age of the tractor? The wooden plough will be used only where there are no tractors. I deeply oppose the charkha philosophy of going back to nature. As in all other fields, it is essential that our people are nationalists in the field of cinema as well. Everything else comes after that. The film industry too should believe that it will do everything possible for the progress of the entire nation.

SECTION-3: SAVARKAR THE NATIONALIST

As early as 1898, at the age of 15 Savarkar took an oath before the family deity to conduct armed revolt against British Rule.

Savarkar in London

Savarkar played a significant role in putting forth the case for India’s independence on the international scene. He fearlessly went to the enemy camp and carried out his revolutionary activities in the heart of the British Empire. Barrister Sardarsingh Rana had announced three traveling fellowships, Savarkar received the Shivaji fellowship on the recommendation of Lokmanya Tilak. Tilak also paid the first installment of Rs. 400. Finally, Savarkar reached London on 24 June 1906.

*To observe at first hand, the strengths of the British people which enabled them to rule over India and also to note their weaknesses and to think of ways of using them to achieve India’s freedom.

*To meet students from all parts of India. Such meetings were much easier in London than in India. People back home looked to these men with admiration and expected direction and leadership from them.

*To kindle the spirit of fighting among these youth for Indian independence.

*To meet professionals, Rajas, merchants and rich people, who came to London and possibly, also visited Europe. Savarkar sought their assistance in the freedom struggle too.

*To establish contacts with revolutionaries of other countries like Russia, China, Ireland, Turkey, Egypt, and Iran. He wanted to learn and put that knowledge and friendship into use for concerted attempts to overthrow the British rule. He also wanted to know bomb makings and smuggle pistols and ammunition into India.

*He started regular Sunday meetings to discuss various topics related to India’s future. These soon became popular among Indian students. Revolutionaries from other countries such as Egypt, Ireland, Russia, China, and Turkey used to attend. Lenin was one of them. One of the topics of discussion was the “Future constitution of India.”

*Savarkar organized the days of the remembrance of national heroes such as the birthday of Shivaji and celebrations of festivals like Diwali and Dassahara. He also celebrated the golden jubilee of the 1857 War of Independence against the British in India House.

*Savarkar had started his secret revolutionary society called the Abhinav Bharat, similar to Young Italy of Mazzini. Savarkar carried on the activities of the Abhinav Bharat while in London. Copies of bomb manual were printed in India House in London. One copy reached Lokmanya Tilak in Pune.

*Savarkar completed his biography of Mazzini in Marathi in September 1906. His elder brother Babarao published it in India in June 1907. He wrote his famous book Indian War of Independence 1857 in Marathi. His friends in India House translated it into English. It was published secretly in Holland in 1909 and immediately banned in India. Savarkar’s book served as a source of inspiration to Indian revolutionaries for the next 40 years.

This is a dedication to the Martyrs of 1857 which was written by Savarkar on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the ‘Indian War of Independence 1857’. It was then published under the title ‘Oh Martyrs’ and circulated on the 10 May 1908 at the time of the Golden Jubilee ceremony which was celebrated in England on a grand scale.

Oh, Martyrs!

The battle of freedom once begun
And handed down from sire to son
Though often lost is ever won!!

In November 1909, the Bombay Government was seriously considering Savarkar’s arrest w.r.t. The Jackson murder in Nashik when the preliminary investigations came to an end. The police established that the weapon used for the Jackson murder had been sent from London by Savarkar. Savarkar’s elder brother had already been sentenced to Transportation for Life in the Andamans and his entire property had been confiscated. His younger brother Narayan was on the brink of the arrest. Savarkar was in Paris. He could not sit quietly. He decided to go to London. Shyamji and Madam Cama pleaded with him to reconsider his decision. Shyamji told him: “You are a general and must not rush to the firing line with the rank.” But Savarkar replied, “But it is only by fighting first by their side in the firing line that I can prove my worth of being exalted to the position of a general: otherwise everyone would think himself, by a deceptive notion of one’s self-importance to be as indispensable, as a general and thus claim to remain at the Headquarters. Then who would fight? Will not, moreover, this kind of argument serve the cowards as a handy shield to hide their fear?”

Savarkar finally decided to return to London in spite of the misgivings of his associates. He was fully aware of the Fugitive Offenders Act that had been slapped on him. Coming to London was an act of uncommon bravery! He was promptly arrested at the station itself after a brief struggle. In the final days of freedom, Savarkar wrote letters to a close friend planning his escape. Knowing that he would most likely be shipped to India, Savarkar asked his friend to keep track of which ship and route he would be taken through. When the ship S.S. Morea reached the port of Marseille on 8 July 1910, Savarkar escaped from his cell through a porthole and dived into the water, swimming to the shore in the hope that his friend would be there to receive him in a car. But his friend was late in arriving, and the alarm having been raised, Savarkar was re-arrested.

Savarkar’s arrest at Marseilles caused the French government to protest to the British, arguing that the British could only recover Savarkar if they took appropriate legal proceedings for his rendition. The case excited much controversy as was reported by the New York Times, and it considered it involved an interesting international question of the right of asylum.

Arriving in Bombay, Savarkar was taken to the Yervada Central Jail in Pune. Following a trial, he was sentenced to 50 years imprisonment and transported on 4 July 1911 to the infamous Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. His fellow captives included many political prisoners and he also was united with his brother Ganesh. Prisoners were subject to frequent mistreatment and torture. Contact with the outside world and home was restricted to the writing and mailing of one letter a year. Obtaining permission to start a rudimentary jail library, Savarkar would also teach some fellow convicts to read and write.

In 1920, the Indian National Congress and leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Vitthalbhai Patel, and Bal Gangadhar Tilak demanded his unconditional release. Savarkar signed a statement endorsing his trial, verdict and British law, and renouncing violence, a bargain for freedom.

Savarkar and Gandhi

When M K Gandhi met Savarkar in London, the meeting is said to have begun hostilities between the two young Indian nationalists; whether or not the story is apocryphal, there were real reasons for antipathy. The two men had very different approaches to the struggle against Britain. He was a fiercely outspoken critic of Gandhi, still India’s top national hero: he called Gandhi weak, a “sissy” and far too willing to collaborate with Britain. Gandhi, who became the leader of the Indian National Congress (INC) which made it a more credible interlocutor with the colonial authorities, and over the years eclipsed his rival. Perhaps, because Gandhi suited the British cause more than Tilak and Savarkar. 

Gandhian talk of man’s common humanity he regarded as utopian to the point of naivety. In articles from the 1920s to the 1940s, Savarkar lambasted Gandhi as a “crazy lunatic” who “happens to babble about compassion and forgiveness, yet, notwithstanding his sublime and broad heart, the Mahatma has a very narrow and immature head.” Gandhi promoted ahimsa, a Buddhist rejection of violence that Savarkar called “mealy-mouthed”. He said Gandhi was a hypocrite for supporting violence by the British against Germany in the first world war. Nor did he cheer Gandhi’s prominent backing for the Ottoman Caliphate Movement, designed to win Indian Muslims to oppose British colonial rule.

Savakar, and gandhi

“Notwithstanding his…broad heart, the Mahatma has a very narrow and immature head,” wrote Savarkar

On Muslims and modernization:

“Just as it is my duty to repeatedly tell the Hindu nation to abandon its silly religious customs, observances, and opinions in this age of science, so I will also tell Muslim society, which is an inevitable part of the Hindustani nation, that it should abandon as quickly as possible its troublesome habits as well as religious fanaticism for its own good—not as a favor to the Hindus, not because the Hindus are scared of your religious aggression, but because these practices are a blot on your humanity, and especially because you will be crushed in the age of science if you cling on to an outdated culture.

You should abandon the belief that not even a word in the Quran can be questioned because it is the eternal message of God, even as you maintain respect for the Quran. But the norms that seemed attractive to an oppressed but backward people in Arabia at a time of civil strife should not be accepted as eternal; accept the habit of sticking to only that which is relevant in the modern age…

Oh, Muslims, just think what the Europeans reduced you to after they escaped from the clutches of the Bible, to master the sciences that are beneficial for our times. You were pushed out of Spain, you were subjected to massacres, you were crushed in Austria, Hungary, Serbia, and Bulgaria. Your control over Mughal India was snatched away. They are ruling you in Arabia, Mesopotamia, Iraq, and Syria.

Just as the Maulvis sent armies to war in the belief that the men who fought under the banner of Allah would never lose, so did our Pundits peacefully sit back to repeat the name of Rama a million times. But none of this prevented the Europeans, with their advanced weapons; they not only decimated the Muslim armies, but they even toyed with the fallen flag of Allah.

And that is why Kemal Ataturk has broken the bonds of all religious laws that have kept the Turkish nation backward. He has borrowed civil law, criminal law and military law from Switzerland, France, and Germany, to replace the rules in the Quran. Turkey can hold its own against Europe today because Kemal has given primacy to modern science in his nation. If they want to advance as the Turks have done, Indian Muslims should abandon the religious fanaticism that has been nurtured over a thousand years, and accept modern science.”

– May 1935 issue of the magazine Manohar

Leader of Hindu Mahasabha

Savarkar moved to Mumbai and was elected president of the Hindu Mahasabha in 1937, and would serve until 1943. When the Congress launched the ‘Quit India’ movement in 1942, Savarkar criticized it and asked Hindus to stay active in the war effort and not disobey the government, he urged the Hindus to enlist in the armed forces to learn the “arts of war”. Hindu Mahasabha activists protested Gandhi’s initiative to hold talks with Jinnah in 1944, which Savarkar denounced as “Appeasement”. He assailed the British proposals for the transfer of power, attacking both the Congress and the British for making concessions to Muslim separatists. Soon after Independence, Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee resigned as Vice-President of the Hindu Mahasabha dissociating himself from its “Akhand Hindustan’ plank, which implied undoing partition.

Mr. Savarkar insisted that, although there are two nations in India, India shall not be divided into two parts, one for Muslims and the other for the Hindus; that the two nations shall dwell in one country and shall live under the mantle of one single constitution.

On the Constitution of free India:

In his presidential address to the annual session of the Hindu Mahasabha held in Calcutta in 1939, Savarkar spoke about how Hindus and Muslims could bury their historical differences in a common Hindustani constitutional state.

“The National Constitution of Hindustan: The Hindu Sanghanists Party aims to base the future constitution of Hindustan on the broad principle that all citizens should have equal rights and obligations irrespective of caste or creed, race or religion, provided they avow and owe exclusive and devoted allegiance to the Hindustani State. The fundamental rights of liberty of speech, liberty of conscience, worship, association, etc., will be enjoyed by all citizens alike. Whatever restrictions will be imposed on them in the interest of the public peace and order of National emergency will not be based on any religious or racial considerations alone but on common National grounds.

No attitude can be more National even in the territorial sense than this and it is this attitude in general which is expressed in substance by the formula ‘one man one vote’. This will make it clear that the conception of a Hindu Nation is in no way inconsistent with the development of a common Indian Nation, a united Hindustani State in which all sects and sections, races and religions, castes and creeds, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Anglo-Indians, etc., could be harmoniously welded together into a political State on terms of perfect equality.

But as practical politics require it, and as the Hindu Sanghanists want to relieve our non-Hindu countrymen of even a ghost of suspicion, we are prepared to emphasize that the legitimate rights of minorities with regard to their religion, culture, and language will be expressly guaranteed: on one condition only that the equal rights of the majority also must not, in any case, be encroached upon or abrogated. Every minority may have separate schools to train up their children in their own tongue, their own religious or cultural institutions, and can receive Government help also for these, but always in proportion to the taxes, they pay into the common Exchequer. The same principle must, of course, hold good in case of the majority too.”

On freedom and revolution:

In 1952, Savarkar went to Pune to announce the closure of Abhinav Bharat, the revolutionary outfit that he had set up as a student to fight for independence. In a public speech, he said that revolutionary organizations have no place in a constitutional state, echoing the views of his friend B.R. Ambedkar.

The end of the age of revolution and the coming of Swarajya means that our primary national duty in the new age is to abandon the methods of rebellion so that constructive and lawful politics will gain primacy. To overthrow foreign rule, we had to inevitably have secret societies, armed revolt, radical activities, civil disobedience; these were holy. But if we stick to these methods after we have got our freedom, then the damage we will inflict will be worse than what even our enemies could do…

The establishment of Swarajya does not mean that Ramrajya will follow immediately…..it is our duty as citizens to support the national government that we should at least for sometimes bear whatever pain lies ahead. So that the national government gets time to address important questions. We should support the government with our hard work and patience. There is a lot of criticism of the mistakes the government has made… The people have still decided to hand power to the Congress. They have not snatched power from you. It is only fair to point out that had the difficult task of setting matters right not been given to the Congress, but to the socialists, communists, or Hindutva parties, they too would have made similar mistakes, either because of inexperience or the lust for power.”

Savarkar (back row, second left) was arrested and tried as a plotter in Gandhi’s murder. He was acquitted

Savarkar (back row, second left) was arrested and tried as a plotter in Gandhi’s murder. He was acquitted

After Gandhi’s assassination, Savarkar’s home in Mumbai was stoned by angry mobs. After he was acquitted of the allegations related to Gandhi’s assassination and released from jail, Savarkar was arrested by Congress Government, for making ‘militant Hindu nationalist speeches’, he was released after agreeing to give up political activities. He continued addressing the social and cultural elements of Hindutva. It was forbidden for Congress Party members to participate in public functions honoring Savarkar. Nehru refused to share the stage during the centenary celebrations of the “India’s First War of Independence” held in Delhi. After the death of Nehru, the Congress government, under Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shashtri started to pay him a monthly pension.

On 1 February 1966, Savarkar renounced medicines, food, and water which he termed as ‘Atmaarpan’ (fast until death). Before his death, he had written an article titled “atmahatya nahi atmaarpan” in which he argued that when one’s life mission is over and the ability to serve the society is left no more, it is better to end the life at will rather than waiting for death. He died on 26 February 1966 at the age of 83.

Since history belongs to the victors, the story of India’s independence movement became one of non-violence. But the strand of thought that Savarkar represented was more important than is generally recognized and is enjoying a revival. India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and then the Congress party (successor to the INC) promoted a pacifist narrative of history, the idea that Gandhi and the likes of B.R. Ambedkar, a social reformer who inspired the Modern Buddhist Movement, triumphed through non-violent resistance. That meant downplaying the bloodshed of 1857, in which atrocities were perpetrated by both sides, and also the roles of Savarkar, Subhas Chandra Bose, and Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Savarkar’s profile in our concocted history is lower but is also rising. Educational comics, hagiographies, and patriotic films retell parts of his life story. The man largely unknown to the masses because of the vicious propaganda against him and misunderstanding around him that has been created over several decades, the way the story of Indian independence is told is beginning to change.

References:

Veer Savarkar, book by Dhananjay Keer

Swatantryaveer Savarkar Rashtriya Smarak

http://www.savarkar.org/en/veer-savarkar.

Savarkar Unplugged

The article was first published on India Facts.

 

Polytheism

Polytheism and Ecology

Abstract

The ecological wisdom of the world’s indigenous polytheisms requires a properly polytheistic conceptual framework as a bridge to the global philosophical and practical environmental discourse, in place of the conceptual frame currently applied to these traditions, which is reductionistic and explicitly or implicitly monotheistic. This frame distorts the insights of these traditions and indeed, embodies in itself an imminent existential threat to them. A new ecological vision, with a rigorous ethical criterion encompassing ecologies of nature, of culture and of the mind, emerges from principles of positive individuation and polycentricity intrinsic to polytheism.

The Christian God lays claim to the natural world in the mode of a thing created, and which is thus already positioned as a resource, over which humans are ultimately granted dominion, and due to the ontological closure of monotheism, this relationship of created to creator is the totalizing determiner of all beings. The most important thing about nature in that ecological consciousness which leads to natural things being saved and preserved, by contrast, is that natural things, whatever the involvement of Gods or other metaphysical principles in bringing them forth, also exist for themselves. In this paper, I wish to talk about how polytheism, the religious regard toward many Gods, either at once, serially, or potentially, sustains ecological consciousness. The environmentalist orientation of so-called “Pagan” religions is often expressed in the language of “immanence” and “transcendence”. But these terms are inadequate. Polytheisms are religions of immanence, but also of transcendence, of multiple centers and peripheries, of hierarchies that can reverse themselves, extend or contract. In this paper, I will be approaching the question of the value of polytheism for ecology from a very different perspective.

With due caution about assuming what can be said of one polytheism to be true of all of them, two famous quotes from early Greek philosophers express a certain idea which seems to be basic to polytheism as such: [2]

All things are full of Gods. (Thales, 7th-6th c. BCE)1

There are Gods even here. (Heraclitus, 6th c. BCE)2

Both of these quotes were understood by later philosophers in this tradition—Plato and Aristotle, respectively—as establishing, through the pervasive presence of the Gods throughout the cosmos, that the world was intelligible, through and through, and hence that if one applied oneself to the study of natural things, one would not only discern an order in their existence and activity, but an order that was beautiful in itself, and that would, furthermore, furnish a ground for inquiry in every other area—scientific, intellectual, moral and aesthetic—through the principles which shone forth in it.

Aristotle thus inserts this quote by Heraclitus into his book about the parts of animals, which though it might seem, he suggests, a lowly study, nevertheless bears divine illumination.

Divine illumination is everywhere because everything exists. The Gods shine forth in all things because all things can host Them. Being is widely, generously distributed. We ask how something exists, in the first place, not whether it does. The quote from Thales goes further than the one from Heraclitus; it is not merely that wherever we are, the Gods are too, but that all things are full of Gods. This fullness, this lack of void, is moreover not the overflowing abundance of one single deity, but a profusion of Gods themselves everywhere, multiplying, indeed, even what appears to be singular with other aspects and hidden dimensions. There is no concern here about one God overlapping another, or that they might be thus indistinguishable. They are primordially many, not differentiating themselves through negating one another, but being with one another.

This brings us to a third quote, the authorship of which is uncertain. [3] One author attributes it to unnamed ‘Pythagoreans’, another to Anaxagoras. It bears, surely, a resemblance to the latter’s thought, but probably did not originate with him:

All things are in all things, but in each appropriately.3

This maxim reciprocally implies the rejection of void. Each thing is one in its plenitude; each thing, we may say, is a way of all things coming forth. What distinguishes the Gods, therefore, from any other class of beings in this common condition of all things? All things are in all things, the maxim states, but in each appropriately. So there are different ways in which things host all others.

For a criterion suitable to determine what way of hosting all things is “appropriate” to a given being, we may turn to the philosopher Parmenides, who received his doctrine in a theophany from an unnamed Goddess in the 5th c. BCE. [4] Parmenides’ doctrine of being is a doctrine of presence. To the degree that something is present, it is, it has being, and vice versa. Presence, in turn, is positivity, and hence a plenum or fullness of being. “What is,” his Goddess explains, “holds fast to what is” (frag. 4). There is no room, in this presence of being, for what is not. And hence Parmenides stresses that “Never shall this prevail, that things that are not, are,” (frag. 7). That is to say, nothing is what it is, in the final analysis, on account of what it is not. Insofar as something is, it is “one” and “continuous” (frag. 8). Neither, therefore, does its history pertain to it: “Neither [its] coming-to-be nor [its] perishing has Justice [Dikē] allowed, relaxing her shackles, but she holds [it] fast,” (ibid., ll. 13-15). That which is, insofar as it is, stands fast in eternity with its justice. What is this justice?

Less being is accorded to things, we can see from Parmenides, to the degree that we must know them by negation, by denying other things. The degree to which something is known positively, is the degree to which it exists more, or we might say, more perfectly, or with more justice. What distinguishes the Gods, such as the one who speaks to Parmenides, is the ability for each one of Them to host all other things positively, to do justice to them.4 This is the same as to say that the Gods exist in eternity, but can grant meaning to those who come to be in time. Parmenides’ criterion allows us to judge for ourselves, with respect to a being, the degree to which things can be present to it and through it in their positivity, or must be distinguished negatively from one another and from it.

[5]There is a wisdom in language which distinguishes positive and negative presence, namely, the distinction between proper names and common nouns, between what and who. When something is present to us with maximum intensity, we say that it is not something but someone. This, in turn, is the use of ‘one’ which we find throughout ancient We call someone by a proper name; they are thus ‘who’ rather than ‘what’, or at least they are not solely ‘what’. Every who, every person, is also a ‘what’ in a host of respects. But whatness, or ‘essence’, as it came to be called in the Aristotelian tradition, is shot through with negation, and hence with nonbeing in Parmenides’ sense. Everything, insofar as it is something, is what it is in virtue of what it is not; but everyone, insofar as she is someone, is who she is just in virtue of herself.

[6]The Gods are such persons to a superlative degree, simply because They are present to us as Who and almost not at all as Plato explains that the Gods have not been inferred from any reasoning (Phaedrus 246c-d). We know Them, rather, as They wish. We see this especially where Plato speaks of the names of the Gods (Philebus 12c, 30d; Cratylus 400d-e), where he consistently uses the terminology of what is pleasing (philon; chairô) to the Gods.

[7] The names of the Gods are, first and foremost, and whatever they may mean, those names which express our relationship with Them, the names which we call Them in ritual and devotion, and to which They respond, and bless us with Their presence.

[8] These are proper names, and their conceptual content does not pertain to this function of designating who rather than what. The concept of ‘who’, of positive individuation, shelters the relationship with such beings from reduction to mere resources. Moreover, for the God, it is always possible to perceive other things as ‘who’, because the Gods are not themselves defined by whatness, by essence. As unique individuals Themselves, they can host all things in their own uniqueness. Plato recognizes this superlative uniqueness when he states that “Each God is the most beautiful and the best thing possible” (Republic 381c).

The ecological force of positive individuation is twofold. First, of course, it is to existing things that we are morally accountable. This is not to say that species, in addition to individuals, are not intrinsically valuable. Far from it; for an individual has vested a great deal of their being in what they are. The appearance of a being as a certain kind of being is the single greatest project of their existence. Every living thing strives to become both what and who they are. But it is by understanding its role in whoness that whatness becomes intelligible and, moreover, acquires its ethical significance.

[9] Second, positive individuation affords us a criterion of value. Here, the concept of compossibility becomes useful.5 All things are in all things, but in each appropriately (oikeiôs). There are different ways in which a thing is host to everything else: more passively or more actively; more distinctly or more diffusely; more positively or more in the mode of negation. This sense of the appropriate, the oikeios, is in turn at the heart of ecology. Ecology is the science of the ability and necessity of things to coexist with one another in, as it were, a common dwelling (oikos). The ecology of things is the inquiry into what they are compossible with, what makes them possible, what permits them to be possible, and what they in turn make possible and permit to be possible.

This ecological criterion is, accordingly, wider even than that of nature or the living narrowly conceived. [10] Philosopher and psychoanalyst Félix Guattari thus spoke of three ecologies, namely, environmental ecology, which pertains to things insofar as they are natural beings, i.e., come forth in time and space, which is the primary positive presence of things; intellectual ecology, which pertains to things insofar as they come forth in the mind, which is primarily the mode of negation, of discerning ‘what’; and social ecology, which pertains to beings insofar as they form a community synthesizing positive and negative presence. In each of these ecological domains, if we apply the criterion of compossibility, we discern how the ecological disposition in one domain impacts the others.

Christianity provides an example of damaging ecological impact through the radical reduction of compossibility. For Christianity, there is no God but one, with all other things in the single relationship of created object to Him, a form of ‘seriality’6 in which beings relate to one another not directly, but only through His mediation. Lynn White calls Christianity “the most anthropocentric religion the world has seen,” which “not only established a dualism of man and nature but also insisted that it is God’s will that man exploit nature.”7 Note, however, that this is a privilege accorded to humans through their whatness, through the reified essence of humanity that embodies God’s will for them, and thus subjects humans as well. “In Antiquity,” White explains, by contrast [11] every tree, every spring, every stream, every hill had its own genius loci, its guardian spirit. These spirits were accessible to men, but were very unlike men … By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects.

It is very deeply ingrained in our contemporary life that, aside from the evolutionism which relegates polytheisms to the class of ‘primitive’ religions, all religions are essentially equal. Part of this argument is supplied by the notion that, where a religion has been supplanted—and, let us be candid, this has always been of polytheisms by monotheisms—it has been done without loss, because of the subordination which supposedly permits indigenous divinities to live on in diminished form. But White sees that this subordination entails a completely different ecological structure. A saint is not a God, nor is he a nymph or a satyr, for a saint is strictly human, and hence does not hold space for what is truly other than us and irreducible to our projects. As White puts it, “Man’s effective monopoly on spirit in this world was confirmed, and the old inhibitions to the exploitation of nature crumbled.”

A radical change in intellectual ecology, namely, the new conception of the class of divinities, contracted to one, brings about a collapse of whoness into whatness, resulting in a dramatically diminished compossibility of natural beings. For whereas Thales and Heraclitus, in the quotes from which I began, secured the intelligibility of natural beings by the pervasive presence of Gods in and among them, here, every relationship between the divine and the natural world, and every act of apprehension and of knowledge, serves to render natural beings ready for exploitation. This includes, of course, humans themselves insofar as they, too, are considered as natural objects, which the Christian intellectual ecology demands insofar as it frames them exclusively as created things.

This transformation in intellectual ecology thus immediately impacts natural and social ecology. Indeed, no less than the animism of nature, polytheisms have always entailed as well an animism of the social. [12] For every disposition of power, there was some divine principle advocating on behalf of the subordinate or marginal and possessing the potential, however seemingly constrained by the forces maintaining a given social order, of upending the hierarchy and claiming the center, rather than the periphery, of the social field. While there is no magical solution to social agonism, the activity of Gods throughout the social domain, just like their presence throughout nature, acted as a check to the degree that some unexpected agency, it was known, could always assert itself from the periphery.

Due to the polycentricity of polytheism, no polytheism enforces total closure upon the social or intellectual field. In this fashion, polytheism secured a space for critique, and for open-ended negotiations over social power. The extraordinary stability of polytheistic civilizations over long spans of time ought not be interpreted as indicating that they were static and unchanging, but rather that their cultural ecology was able to recognize and reproduce itself amidst change. The center might shift, and the composition of the pantheon transform over time, as we can see in every case in which there is sufficient historical documentation, but this transformation does not render the offspring of its earlier stages unrecognizable to their forebears or vice versa. Rather, it is the nature of these traditions to carefully knit together the old and the new. This is an aspect of cultural and intellectual ecology that suffers particularly from the depredations of an historicism seeking to impose its linear narrative upon such traditions at the expense of the hermeneutical values by which they sustain themselves. It is vital for such traditions to be able to read their past in their future, and their future in their past.

[13] Polytheism, the open-ended multiplicity of the divine, nourishes all three ecologies, not because polytheisms are “nature religions” in a basic sustenance relationship with their natural environment, but because polytheism keeps the channels with the divine open, so that humans and other mortal beings need never meet changing natural, social, and epistemic conditions alone. And so just as we recognize our vital self-interest in preserving indigenous knowledge about the natural world, we need to accord the same importance to preserving the names of indigenous Gods and the formulae by which They are called, and maintaining the conditions for their communities of worshipers to stay in contact with Them, or to create the conditions for reestablishing that contact if it has been sundered; for it is not the Gods who are diminished when we lose touch with Them, but ourselves.

*This paper was presented at the Indic Academy International Online Conference on Indigenous Environmentalism, May 17, Numbers in brackets refer to the corresponding slides in the accompanying file.

References

1 DK 11 A22(b), Aristotle, De Anima i.5, 411a7; Plato, Laws 10, 899b. Quoted by Aetius as “the All is full of daimones” (DK 11 A23, Aet. I 7, 11).

2 DK 22 A9, Aristotle, De Partibus Animalium i.5, 645a17-23.

3 Proclus, Elements of Theology §103; Syrianus, in Metaph. 82.1ff.

4 On this, see further my “Bhakti and Henadology”, Journal of Dharma Studies 1.1, 2018, pp. 147-161.

5 See further my “Hercules of the Surface: Deleuzian Humanism and Deep Ecology,” in An (Un)Likely Alliance: Thinking Environment(s) with Deleuze/Guattari, ed. Bernd Herzogenrath (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008), pp. 139-158. A similar argument is made by Pauline Phemister, Leibniz and the Environment (New York: Routledge, 2016), who references (p. 31, n. 45) a review of mine that was a forerunner of that essay (“Review of Spinoza and Deep Ecology: Challenging Traditional Approaches to Environmentalism by Eccy De Jonge,” Metapsychology Online Reviews, http://mentalhelp.net/ 9.45, Nov. 2005).

6 Félix Guattari, Chaosmosis: An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm, trans. Bains and Pefanis (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), p. 20; Gary Genosko, in Guattari, The Three Ecologies, trans. Pindar and Sutton (London: Athlone Press, 2000), pp. 125-8.

7 “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis,” Science Vol. 155, No. 3767 (1967), pp. 1203-1207.

 

Apsaras Part II – The Mystic Ornaments of Hindu Temple Architecture

The ancient Hindu temple architecture follows strict principles of construction and floor plan adhering to the doctrine of the Vastu Shastra. These temples have allotted spaces for the display of the presiding Deity, Demigods, Apsara, Yaksha, Gandharva, and Nagas. The sculptures of Apsaras, Devanganas, or Alasa Kanyas as they variously addressed. These figures can abundantly be seen chiseled in ancient Hindu temples and are represented according to their prescribed iconographies and descriptions.

 Apsaras Hindu temple

Apsaras in Hindu temple

The Kasyapa Silpa Patala text gives detail on the iconography of Apsaras. It reflects that the Apsaras shown in temples should be having long and heavy hair, decorated with various flowers, and should be draped with clothes. Their thighs should be shown thick and touching each other. Their waist should be narrow; their face to be serene and contented, having a faint smile conveying ecstasy.

The Silpa Prakasa, a treatise on the Kalinga temple architecture principles describes celestial damsels as ‘Alasa’. The text mentions that these Alasas should be placed in the Gavaksa or Chandrashala, Sikhara also known as Vimana, walls, and other parts of the Mukhasala or the audience hall of the temple. These Alasas have names as recommended by the Shastras
The sixteen most important Alasa Kanya adorning the temples with distinct characteristics are listed below
1. Alasa is shown as laid-back.
2. Torana stands with an inclination towards the doorway.
3. Mugdha displays innocence.
4. Manini is the aggrieved one.
5, Dalamalika is shown garlanding herself with a branch.
6. Padmagandha is portrayed as smelling the lotus.
7. Darpana is the damsel holding a mirror.
8. Vinyasa is shown as fixed in meditation.
9. Ketakibharana adorns herself by wearing flowers.
10. Matrmurti is the image of a mother.
11. Chamara is shown holding a fly whisk.
12. Gunthana is depicted as hiding herself. She is shown displaying her back by holding drapery, flowers, and fans.
13. Nartaki is the dancer.
14. Sukasanka is the maiden playing with a parrot.
15. Noopura Padika is the damsel wearing ankle bells.
16. Mardala is the female drummer.

Alasa Kanya

Alasa Kanya

In the 15th-century architectural text, Ksirarnava describes that temples should be ornamented with nymphs of beauty and creativity. Each Apsara has some unique specifications that bestow each one an individual identity. Menaka carries a bow and arrow and has her left leg risen. Lilavati is amorously shown as shunning lethargy. Vidhichitra is depicted holding a mirror while she places a bindi on her forehead. Sundari is seen cleanly dancing. Subha is depicted pulling out a thorn from the foot. Hamsavali has big lotus eyes and is shown bending down as if trying to adorn anklets. Sarvakala is portrayed dancing with a varada in chintana mudra. Karpuramanjari is shown dancing robe less while bathing. Padmini is shown holding a stalk of a lotus. Padmanetra is the lotus-eyed one while Gudhasabda is shown holding Abhaya hasta and a child stands by her side. Chitrini is seen dancing with her left hand on the head. Putravallabha is the one who has a baby by her side. Gauri is seen killing a lion and Gandhari is depicted as a special one dancing with her right hand aloft. Devasakha is the one dancing a circular dance. Marichika is shown aiming a bow-arrow looking on the left side. Chandravali is the beautiful eyed damsel looking to the front with Anjali hasta. Chandrarekha is shown writing a letter; her forehead is broad like the half-moon. Sugandha is depicted dancing in circles and also holding the moon aloft. Satrumardini is depicted holding knives and dancing. Manavi is seen holding flower garlands and dancing. Manahamsa is shown dancing with her back visible to the viewer. Svabhava is the one whose body is bent in chaturbhangib, one leg is lifted and hands raised above the head. Bhavachandra is the one who is dancing with her hands and feet in the yoga mudra. Mrigaksi is dancing with full bloom and beauty. Urvashi is portrayed as killing the asura with a khadga and pulling him by his shikha. Rambha is depicted as holding knives in both hands and dancing with her right foot lifted up. Manjughosha dances in circles holding khadga in both hands. Jaya is shown dancing with a water pot on her head. Mohini is portrayed as dancing and embracing the male companion. Chandravaktra is shown dancing gracefully by lifting one foot. Tilottama is depicted dancing either by holding a manjira or Pushpabana.

The Samarangana Sutradhara (1000–1055 AD) the text on temple architecture gives insights on the architectural traditions in the Malawa region in particular, and Northern Indian Nagara style, in general. The author Paramara King Bhoja of Dhar, describes that the Torana should be adorned with Makara , heads of elephants, leaves as well as groups of Apsaras. He puts forward that the Vimana, Vitana, Stambha and the Bumi of the Jangha of a temple should be adorned with groups of dancing Apsaras, Siddhas, Gandharvas, Yaksas, Devas and Kinnaras, depicting a playful mood.

Apsaras are cosmic beings who have the blessings of the Gods and the affection of the Devatas. These cosmic creations are free-flowing spirits, skillfully versed in sixty-four ways to please the senses. The mysticism and mystery around these Divine nymphs make them all the more entertaining, effusive, and fulfilling.

महाराज पांडु

महाराज पांडु : कथा एक अभिशप्त जीवन की

महाभारत की अनेक कथाओं में से महाराजा पांडु की कथा, जहाँ उनको एक महर्षि द्वारा एक श्राप दिया जाता है, काफी प्रसिद्ध हैं। इस श्राप को महाभारत का एक महत्वपूर्ण केंद्रबिंदु समझा जाता है। इस श्राप के कारण ही महाराजा पांडु की मृत्यु हो जाती है तथा महाभारत कुरु राजकुमारों के बीच संघर्ष में डूब जाता है। तथापि इस प्रकरण में छिपे परिप्रेक्ष्य के बारे जनमानस को भलीभांति ज्ञात नहीं है।

अपने अनेक सैन्य अभियानो की सफलता के बाद, राजा पांडु अपनी पत्नियों के साथ हिमालय के वनों को प्रस्थान करते हैं। सर्वप्रथम एक शिष्य के रूप में, तत्पश्चात एक राजकुमार के रूप में एवं एक राजा के रूप में तथा अंत में विराट सैन्य अभियान के नायक के रूप में महाराज पांडु अथाह परिश्रम कर चुके थे। अतः स्वाभाविक रूप से, यह प्रवास महाराज हेतु उनकी ऊर्जा एवं विचारशीलता को जीवंतता प्रदान हेतु अत्यंत आवश्यक था। महाराज पांडु जीवन पर्यंत अत्यंत अनुशासन में रहे था किन्तु वनप्रवास के समय एक जागरूक पारिस्थितिकी तंत्र की अनुपस्थिति में वह अपने को उन सभी अनुशासनों तथा चिंताओं से बंधनमुक्त कर देते है।

परिणामस्वरुप महाराज आखेट क्रीड़ा में अतिलिप्त हो जाते हैं। आखेट क्रीड़ा आपको व्यसनी होने के अतिरिक्त जीवन के प्रति एक निश्चित असंवेदनशीलता से भर देती है। किन्तु जब आप एक मर्यादा की रेखा को लांघते हैं तो यह विनाशकारी भी हो सकता है। इस क्रीड़ा में आपको निरंतर तीव्र गति से अग्रसर होना होता है एवं उसी तीव्रता द्वारा लक्ष्य पर ध्यान भी केंद्रित करना होता है। अधिकांशतः, गति वास्तविक उद्देश्यों के अतिरिक्त आपको अन्य वास्तविकताओं से भी विमुख कर देती है।

एक दिवस, राजा पांडु अपने धनुष तथा बाण के साथ आखेट हेतु प्रस्थान करते हैं। शीघ्र ही उनका मृगों के झुंड से सामना होता है जिसमे एक नर तथा मादा सांसारिक वास्तविकताओं से अनभिज्ञ, अपने परम प्रेम लीलाओं में लिप्त हैं। आखेट, आखेट की गति, आखेट का रोमांच तथा शक्तिशाली तथा अपरिजित होने की भावना, महाराज पांडु को विचारशून्य कर देती है। महाराज के मष्तिष्क में यह विचार उत्पन्न भी नहीं होता कि प्रेम क्रीड़ारत पशुयों पर लक्ष्य साधना उचित है या अनुचित।

महाभारत में इस प्रकरण का सजीव वर्णन है कि महाराज पांडु उत्तेजित होकर अपने सुनहरे पंखों से सुज्जजित पांच सुंदर तीर उठाते हैं तथापि उनको इस बात का कदापि अनुमान नहीं कि प्रेमलिप्त युगल आने वाली विपदा से बेखबर है। संभवतः उन्ही भावुक क्षणों के दृश्यों ने उस आखेट के रोमांच को उच्चतम स्तर पर स्थापित होने दिया किन्तु महाभारत में इसका वर्णन नहीं है।

किन्तु अंत में उस आखेट का परिणाम महाराज पांडु को रोमांच से वंचित कर देता है। प्रेमलिप्त युगल मृगों में से एक वन की ओर पलायन कर जाता है किन्तु जो धराशायी होता है वह मृग नहीं, बल्कि एक महर्षि का पुत्र था। राजा तथा मुनिपुत्र के मध्य संवाद अंततः एक अविस्मरणीय संभाषण में परिवर्तित हो जाता है है जो धर्म तथा अधर्म की परिभाषा की व्याख्या करता है। तीर से पीड़ित, प्रेम रस से अपूर्ण एवं आहत, तथा अपने जीवन के अंत के दुख से आच्छादित मुनिपुत्र अत्यधिक कठोर शब्दों में महाराज पांडु को उलाहना देते हैं।

“हे राजन, आप इस प्रकार के निंदनीय कार्य में कैसे लिप्त हो सकते हो जिसे एक निम्नस्तरीय, अशिक्षित एवं अमर्यादित पुरुष भी करने में संकोच करेगा। मुझे ज्ञात है कि मनुष्य अपने भाग्य से अछूता नहीं रह सकता एवं मेरा यह अंत भी मेरे पूर्व कर्मों का बोझ ही है। मुझे इस बात का भी बोध है कि आप चाहे जितने भी शिक्षित तथा दूरदर्शी हो किन्तु भाग्य की रेखाओं को परिवर्तित करना आपके नितंत्रण में नहीं है। मैं आश्चर्यचकित हूँ कि आप ऐसे उच्च वंश में जन्मोपरांत भी, जिसने धर्म की मर्यादा को स्थापित किया, अपनी अनैतिक आकांक्षाओं तथा लोलुपता द्वारा इतना अनियंत्रित कैसे हो सकते हैं कि परिप्रेक्ष्य बोध आपके भीतर लुप्त हो जाए?”

संभवतः आज तक महाराजा पांडु पर, क्रोध तथा उनके धर्म पालन पर, कभी किसी ने आक्षेप नहीं लगाया था। तथापि वर्तमान में एक मृग, एक मनुष्य के स्वर में उनसे अकल्पनीय वार्तालाप में लीन था। पांडु ने आघात से उबरते हुए उत्तर दिया कि हे मृग आखेट एक क्रीड़ा थी जिसे राजाओं हेतु अनुमति प्रदान की गयी है। आखेट क्रीड़ा राजाओं हेतु धर्म द्वारा स्वीकृत एक अनुमोदित प्रथा है। इसके अतिरिक्त महाराजा पांडु अपने प्रतिवाद में, मुनि पुत्र को, अतीत के संदर्भों का उद्धरण भी स्मरण कराते हैं तथा किसी भी लक्ष्मण रेखा का उलंघन किस प्रकार हुआ, ये समझ पाने में अपने को असमर्थ बताते हैं।

महाराज पांडु के उत्तरों को सुन, मृग धैर्यपूर्वक, उत्तम एवं अलंकारिक उत्तर देता है,

“हे राजन, आप अपने शत्रु पर उस समय प्रहार नहीं करते जब आपका शत्रु पहले से ही किसी अनिष्ट की स्थिति में हो, संकट में हो, या युद्ध हेतु उद्धत न हो। नियमानुसार, एकमात्र प्रत्यक्ष में ही शत्रु का वध किया जा सकता है। युद्ध में पृष्ठभूमि से शत्रु पर प्रहार कर उसका वध करना अधर्म है अतः आप मेरा वध किस प्रकार कर सके?”

महाराज पांडु अपना मत प्रस्तुत करते हैं, “हे मृग, आपका कथन सत्य है किन्तु वह तो किसी शत्रु पर ही प्रयुक्त होता है। आप एक मृग हैं अतः यह आप पर कैसे प्रयुक्त हो सकता था? यदि मैंने आपको चेतावनी भी दी होती तो आप इस स्थान से द्रुत गति से पलायन कर जाते एवं मुझे आप पर पृष्ठभूमि से ही प्रहार करना पड़ता”

महाराज पांडु को उस समय तक भी अपनी त्रुटि का भान नहीं हो पाया था। मृग महाराजा पांडु को संबोधित करता है,

“हे राजन, न तो मैं आपको पशुओं के आखेट हेतु दोषी ठहराता हूँ, न ही मुझे कष्ट पहुँचाने तथा पीड़ा देने हेतु दुखी हूँ। किन्तु क्या आपने यह ध्यान भी नहीं दिया कि हम दोनों प्रगाढ़ प्रेम में लीन थे, एवं अपने अत्यंत कोमल तथा संवेदनशील क्षणों के समीप थे। क्या आप से इतनी भी प्रतीक्षा नहीं हुई कि हम अपने परम सुख की प्राप्ति कर सकें? एक शासक इतना क्रूर तथा असंवेदनशील कब से बन गया कि वह पशुओं को उन परमानंद क्षणों से विहीन कर दे जिसका अनुदान प्रकृति सभी पशुओं को समान रूप से प्रदान करती है? क्या आपको यह अनुभूति नहीं है कि यह सभी पशुओं का समान अधिकार है? आपका यह कृत्य निश्चित रूप से उस शक्तिशाली कुरु वंश का महान राजा होने के योग्य नहीं है,जिसने हमेशा धर्म की स्थापना एवं उद्धार किया है। आपको सभी वेदों तथा संबंधित शास्त्रों का ज्ञान है किन्तु आपको उन विशेष क्षणों के महत्व से  भी परिचित होना चाहिए था। आपका कृत्य अत्यधिक क्रूर, निंदनीय एवं अधर्म की पराकाष्ठा है। यह एक अत्यंत अपमानजनक कार्य, हे राजा पांडु!”

यह सुन महाराज पांडु चैतन्य हुए। विचलित नेत्रों, दुखी मन तथा आत्म ग्लानि से परिपूर्ण महाराज पांडु निशब्द थे एवं प्रतिवाद की स्थिति में नहीं थे। तत्पश्चात मनुष्य के स्वर में मृग ने अब अपना परिचय दिया।

“ओह राजन, मैं मृग नहीं हूँ। मैं एक महर्षि पुत्र, किन्दमा हूँ, मैं और मेरी संगिनी ने प्रणय लीला हेतु मृग रूप धारण किया था और वनों में भ्रमण कर रहे थे। आपने मुझे उस समय कष्ट एवं पीड़ा दी जब मैं अत्यंत संवेदनशील ,भेद्य एवं आनंदमय अवस्था में था। आपने मेरा उस समय वध किया जब मैं गहन प्रेम के आलिंगन में था। मैं आपको श्राप देता हूं कि आप उसी क्षण मृत्यु ग्रहण करेगे, जिस क्षण आप कामभावना  के वशीभूत हो अपनी पत्नी का स्पर्श करेंगे”।

अपने दुःख को व्यक्त करते हुए अंत में मुनिपुत्र ने अंतिम सांस ली एवं अपने शरीर को त्याग दिया।

अंततः महाराज पांडु को त्रासदी की व्यापकता का आभास होता है। अत्यधिक विषमता से तथा अवसाद से परिपूर्ण, पांडु गहन वन से अपने शिविर की और प्रस्थान करते हैं। अपने शिविर में कुंती तथा माद्री के समक्ष महाराज पांडु घोर विलाप करते हुए अपनी मूर्खता के कारण आखेट के आवेश में किये गए प्रमाद को अपना ही दोष मानते हैं । यधपि, जिस तरह से वह अपने  आवेग एवं आवेश के मूल कारण का वर्णन करते हैं, वह चित्ताकर्षक है।

पांडु वर्णन करते हैं कि यधपि उन्होंने महर्षि व्यास की दिव्यता से जन्म लिया था, किन्तु यह आसक्ति तथा अतिभोग उनके पिता महाराजा विचित्रवीर्य का पांडु पर अप्रत्यक्ष प्रभाव था। संक्षेप में, महाराज पांडु किसी मनुष्य के जन्म पर, अप्रत्यक्ष प्रभाव हेतु पारिस्थितिकी तंत्र में उपस्थित मनुष्य के चरित्र पर अधिक दोष डालते हैं। महाराज पांडु महर्षि व्यास,अपनी माता तथा मातामही पर भी, जिनका जन्म राजकुल में नहीं हुआ था, दोषारोपण नहीं करते है।

महाभारत में काव्य प्रभाव हेतु मनुष्य के चरित्र का कारण अतीत है। यह महाभारत के परिप्रेक्ष्य में मानव चरित्र के महत्व को प्रदर्शित करता है। माद्री तथा कुंती से अपनी व्यथा के वर्णन तथा विलाप उपरान्त महाराज पांडु अपना शेष जीवन सन्यासी के रूप व्यतीत करने का प्रण लेते हैं।

यधपि एक प्रश्न उत्त्पन्न होता है कि क्या राजा पांडु, जो कि स्वयं अति विद्वान तथा प्रशिक्षित शासक थे, को यह ज्ञात नहीं था कि ऐसी विकट स्थिति में किसी पशु का वध करना अनैतिक है, वह भी जब मानव सभ्यता इस कार्य को अभिशाप समझती थी? संभावना यह है कि महाराज पांडु को इस कृत्य का ज्ञान था। किंदमा के प्रश्नों के उत्तर में जिस प्रकार महाराज पांडु निशब्द और निस्तेज प्रतीत होते हैं उस से इसी संभावना को बल मिलता है। किन्तु उन क्षणों में महाराज पांडु ने किस प्रकार का कृत्य साधा? यह प्रकरण उस विवेक शून्यता की और भी संकेत करता है जिसमे मनुष्य आवेश के फलीभूत होकर अत्यधिक संकट भरे कार्य, विशेष रूप से आखेट में लीन हो जाता है, जहाँ अत्यधिक गति एवं लक्ष्य को सिद्ध करने की चिंता में वह विवेकहीन तथा विचार शून्य हो जाता है ।

यह आपको मूलभूत तथा स्पष्ट वास्तविकता के प्रति भी अंधा बना देता है। इन क्षणों में अत्यधिक बुद्धिमान तथा विद्वान मनुष्य भी जीवन के प्रति अपना दृष्टिकोण भुला देता है एवं शमन जीवन की तुलना में अधिक महत्वपूर्ण हो जाता है।

राजा पांडु का जन्म महर्षि व्यास की दिव्य कृपा से हुआ था तथापि वह पूर्ण रूप से देवत्व को प्राप्त नही हुए थे। महर्षि व्यास को अपने सम्मुख पाकर उनकी माँ अम्बालिका का मुख श्वेतपीत वर्ण सदृश हुआ था, जिसके परिणामस्वरूप पांडु पीतवर्ण पैदा हुए। अम्बा ने अपने नेत्रों को बंद किया जिसके परिणामस्वरूप धृतराष्ट्र ने नेत्रहीन तथा विवेकहीन बालक के रूप में जन्म लिया। दूसरी ओर एक दासी ने व्यास की पूर्ण कृपा प्राप्त की एवं विदुर ने उनसे जन्म लिया था।

इस महाकाव्य में विदुर एकमात्र मनुष्य हैं, जो परिप्रेक्ष्य की पूर्ण स्पष्टता के साथ कार्य करते हैं। महाभारत में विदुर सदैव एक स्पष्टता तथा दृढ़ विश्वास का प्रदर्शन करते हैं जो अन्य पात्र नहीं करते। वृद्ध भीष्म भी धृतराष्ट्र तथा पांडु विवाह बंधन हेतु विदुर से, जो आयु में कृपाचार्य एवं पितामह से भी छोटे थे, विचार विमर्श करते है। विदुर की माता द्वारा पूर्णता में दिव्यता प्राप्त करने की क्षमता उनके वर्ण, समुदाय या कार्य की प्रकृति से अप्रभावित है- महाभारत इसके पक्ष में मनुष्यगत क्षमताओं को महतवपूर्ण मानता है।

धृतराष्ट्र का विवाह गांधारी से निश्चित होता है जो उस समय की श्रेष्ठ स्त्रियों से में से एक हैं तथा बृहत दृष्टिकोण धारण करती हैं। तथापि धृतराष्ट्र गांधारी की बुद्धिमत्ता को प्राप्त करने में असमर्थ रहते हैं एवं गांधारी पर धृतराष्ट्र के नेत्रहीन होने का विपरीत प्रभाव पड़ता है।

वह अपने नेत्रों पर आवरण रखना चुनती है जिसका रूपात्मक अर्थ यह दर्शाता है कि धृतराष्ट्र की निर्बल वैचारिक क्षमता, परिपेक्ष्य के अभाव में, भविष्य में कार्रवाई हेतु, गांधारी से किसी भी प्रकार का वैचारिक परामर्श एवं सहयोग प्राप्त नहीं कर पायेगी।

कुंती भी महान ज्ञानी तथा अनुभवी महिला हैं जिन्होंने कुन्तिभोज के राज्य में राजकीय अतिथियों की आवभगत का दुष्कर कार्य संभाला हुआ था। किन्तु कुंती की बुद्धिमत्ता भी पांडु के आखेट में पर अंकुश नहीं लगा पाती है।

आगे के कथानक में पांडु, अपनी भूल से शिक्षा लेकर फिर एक महान सन्यासी का जीवन व्यतीत करते हैं तथा त्याग में ही सौन्दर्य की अनुभति करते हैं। यह कुंती ही हैं जो परिवार को संभाले रहती हैं तथा यह सुनिश्चित करती है कि पांडु हर समय, अभिशाप की पहुंच से दूर रहते हुए सुरक्षित रहें। किन्तु हमारे कर्म तथा भाग्य जीवन पर्यंत साथ रहते हैं और समय-समय पर हमको हमारे पूर्व कर्मो का स्मरण कराते हैं ।

परंपरा हेतु स्वीकार्य प्रणाली से, पांडवों के जन्म पश्चात, पांडु के आत्मविश्वास में वृद्धि होती है। पूर्ण रूप से यह अवगत होते हुए भी कि, मन्मथा हेतु आरक्षित माह में मन्मथा प्रणय लीला से सिद्ध पुष्पों के बाण से प्रहार हेतु तत्पर रहते हैं, पांडु एक ऐसे स्थान पर प्रवेश करते हैं जहां मन्मथा अपने पुष्प बाणों सहित सक्रिय है। स्व-नियंत्रण हेतु माद्री का निरंतर अनुरोध भी पांडु को नियंत्रित नहीं कर पाता, तथा माद्री के स्पर्श के साथ ही, वह घातक अभिशाप से प्रभावित होकर मृत्यु को प्राप्त होते हैं।

इस प्रकार, किस भी दिव्य अनुग्रह को मात्र प्राप्त कर लेना ही पर्याप्त नहीं है। यदि आपको उस दैवीय कृपा से पूर्ण रूप से अनुग्रहित होना है तो आपको उस दिव्य अनुग्रह को चित्त,देह एवं विचार के साथ पूर्ण रूप से प्रतिग्राहित करना आवश्यक होता है। पांडु का जन्म एक अपूर्ण देवत्व था तथा इसी अपूर्णता ने राजा पांडु के एकमात्र मूर्खतापूर्ण कार्य द्वारा अपने आवेग को अपनी बुद्धिमत्ता से विजयी हो जाने दिया। अतः अंत में इसी अपूर्णता के द्वारा कुरु वंश का सम्पूर्ण नाश हुआ।

(This article is a translation of the original article written by Shivakumar GV published earlier)

Guilds of India

Ancient Indian Economy Part IV – The Role of Guilds in Ancient Indian Society

Introduction

In the previous article, we reviewed the origin and historical evolution of ancient Indian guilds. From political to judicial, guilds performed a multitude of functions. The thrust of this article will be their economic functions like acts of dāna and banking.

Functions Related to Dāna

There are references in Smṛti texts like the Bṛhaspati Smṛti about arrangements being made by guilds for relief measures and acts of dāna. Every guild had the power to decide the manner in which their profits were to be utilised. The Bṛhaspati Smṛti, a text dated around 600 CE states that ” A compact formed among villagers, companies (of artisans), and associations are (called) an agreement; such (an agreement) must be observed both in times of distress and for acts of piety” (Bṛ Smṛ. 17.5). The text specifies that the profits were to be put in use for the construction of an assembly hall, a shrine, a watershed, a shrine, a tank or a park. Temples built since the 1st century BCE were always temple complexes with a shrine, a tank and garden which would be generally donated by some high official of the state or a wealthy merchant. The guilds were also required to perform Vaidika yajñas as per the śāstras and help those in distress. They were also to extend aid in times of drought, natural catastrophes and help those in need. They were also to provide defence in case of need (Bṛ Smṛ 17. 12). This text also lays down that profits were to be divided among the members of the guild after allocating funds to help those who are mentally weak, disabled, orphans with mental ailments and women who have no one (Bṛ Smṛ 17. 23) and this law was for all times i.e., in other words, it was eternal.

Though the Bṛhaspati Smṛti is a later text, we find sreṣṭhins individually and the śreṇis collectively giving donations since the time of the Buddha himself. The guilds took a special initiative in funding the construction of Buddhist stupas and saṁghārāmas or monasteries. The evidence coming from sites like Bhārhut, Sāñcī, Mathurā and the western Indian Buddhist rock-cut caves reiterates this. Most of these sites were located on major trade routes and some like Mathurā were trade centres themselves. At Bhārhut there is an inscription, dated to the 1st century BCE which records the donation of a coping stone (part of the railing or vedikā of the stupa) by a guild or nigama from Karhāṭaka or modern Karhad in Maharashtra (Karhad itself has a large Buddhist cave complex). A guild of ivory workers from Vidiśā was responsible for the donation of a gateway for the Mahāstupa at Sāñcī and also sculpted some bas reliefs on the gateway. An inscription from the site of Pitalkhorā near Aurangabad in Maharashtra, datable to the 2nd century BCE refers to the donation by a guild of bankers. A guild of corn sellers donated a vihāra (residence of monks) with seven cells and a water cistern at the site of Junnar near Pune. There were vihāras in Mathurā which were named after different professional groups which may have been guilds. It is highly probable that these guilds may have funded the construction of these religious establishments.

Pitalkhora

Pitalkhora Buddhist Caves

A guild or puga of Yakṣa Manibhadra funded the erection of his image near Mathurā around the 1st century BCE. This Yakṣa was closely linked to trade and this guild may have been a mercantile guild who worshipped him. A guild from the settlement at Dhenukākaṭa donated a pillar at the Buddhist monastery at Karla near Lonavala in Maharashtra in the 1st century CE. A guild of stonemasons contributed seats or āsanapaṭṭas and this has been recorded in an inscription from Bandhogarh dated to 159 CE. A mercantile guild from Kauśambi donated a rock-cut residence during the reign of the late Kuṣāṇa king Bhadramāgha. An inscription from Mandasor records the construction and later repair of a Sun Temple by a guild of silk weavers in the 5th century CE. The donation of twenty nivartanas of land to a guild of elephant drivers has been recorded in the Nagardhan (ancient Nandivardhana near Nagpur in Maharashtra) copperplates of one Svāmirāja. Traders individually also donated rock-cut dwellings, arable land, pillars and water cisterns to monasteries.

From the above examples, we can understand that the range of charitable acts initiated by guilds was very wide. From funding the excavation of water cisterns in caves for the benefit of the monks and laity to the donation of land, guilds were involved in various welfare activities. They also funded the construction, upkeep and repairs of temples. The objective of all these activities was the attainment of religious merit or puṇya and the well being of all sentient beings. The fact that so many donations from the Suṅga period onward were made by guilds clearly indicates their sound financial condition and the manifestation of the virtue of sharing the wealth with those in need or for the betterment of the society.

Bank Like Functions of Guilds

In ancient inscriptions, we hear a lot about guilds of bankers which indicates the prevalence of some kind of a banking system. However, we must remember that banks in ancient India were very different from the ones we have today. Usually what people did to safeguard their wealth was to bury it in a field, on the banks of a river or in a forest or at times even below their house floors. We do not have a clear idea of guilds performing banking functions in the pre-Mauryan period though there are references to individual sreṣṭhins practising money lending. People would also deposit their money with friends. We also find references to high-interest rates in Pāṇini’s in Aṣṭādhyāyī and the Gautama Dharmasūtra also speaks about money-lenders doing good business. Pāṇini refers to creditors, debtors, loans, interest, repayment and surety which indicates that around the 5th century BCE money lending had become a common function which may have been also performed by guilds. The Arthaśāstra speaks about a document called ādeśa which could be interpreted as a letter of credit. This document in the opinion of K K Thaplyal was similar to a modern bill of exchange where a person had to pay money on behalf of the one sending the ādeśa.

In the post-Mauryan period the volume of inland, as well as international trade, increased tremendously. Powerful dynasties like the Indo-Greeks, Kuṣāṇas and Sātavāhanas minted a large number and a wide variety of coins in different metals and denominations. This expansion of the money economy gave a boost to banking services. By the 1st century CE, the guilds were well established in the economic and political spheres and common people, as well as high state officials, placed immense faith in them with respect to their effectiveness and honesty in work. Senior royal officers deposited a certain amount with guilds and the interest received was utilised for some welfare act. The principal amount invested with the guilds always remained safe. Seals of guilds of merchant-bankers, caravan leaders and guilds of artisans datable to the Gupta period suggest the banking activities of guilds.

An inscription from Mathurā dated to the reign of the Kuṣāṇa ruler Huviṣka records the donation of a puṇyaśālā by the bakanapati or officer in charge of temples. This officer Prācinaka who was of foreign origin and the son of one Rukmāṇa also gave a permanent endowment or akṣayanīvi of 550 purāṇas or silver coins to both- a flour makers’ guild and some other guild (whose name has been obliterated) to help a hundred Brāhmaṇas every month and giving food to those who are hungry and thirsty from the interest obtained on the endowment. Members of ruling families also gave permanent endowments to guilds. Uṣavadatta, the son-in-law of the Kṣaharāta Kṣatrapa ruler Nahāpāna made a permanent endowment of two thousand kārṣapaṇas (silver coins) with one weavers’ guild and the second one of one thousand kārṣapaṇas with another weavers’ guild. The interest on these amounts was to be used for providing clothing to monks and meals to them respectively. The endowments were made with a proper agreement which was approved by the nigama sabhā.

Nasik, Junnar, Gadhwa caves

Nasik, Junnar, Gadhwa caves

Another instance of such a permanent endowment comes also comes from Nasik, (datable to 258-259 CE) to the reign of the Ābhīra ruler Īśvarasena where a Śaka lady called Viṣṇudattā who was a lay worshipper made permanent endowments with four guilds who functioned from Govardhana near Nasik. The interest accruing on this amount was to be put in use for providing the monks living on the Triraśmī Hill (modern Nasik Caves) with medicines. These guilds were those of potters, those working with hydraulic machines, oil millers and the name of the fourth guild is not legible anymore. The reason behind the donors investing in more than one guild could be to ensure the continuity of their act of merit. Even if one guild suffered a financial loss or ran into some trouble, the other guilds would carry forward the pious acts of welfare. People also donated land to guilds to start the planting of certain trees. An inscription from Junnar which records the donation of two fields by a lay Śaka devotee is a point in this case.

The giving of permanent endowments to guilds continued in the Gupta period as well. An inscription from Gadhwa (near Prayag in Uttar Pradesh) belonging to the reign of Chandragupta II dated to 407 CE gives details about the donation of twenty dinars (gold coins) to help Brāhmaṇas with a guild whose leader’s name was Maitridāsa. Two inscriptions, also from Gadhwa dated to the reign of Kumāragupta I (son of Chandragupta II) record the endowments of thirteen dinars and twelve dinars to two guilds and the interest on these amounts was to be used to run houses which would provide food to the needy. People also gave permanent endowments to guilds for maintenance of temples and conduction of daily worship in them.
Guilds may have used the principal amounts given to them for improving the quality of their trade or business. They may have also lent some part of the principal amount to others and charged interest rates higher than the original rates of interest on the deposits. The endowments which were of a permanent nature would run continuously through the generations and guilds had to remain committed to honouring these endowments. Even though guilds migrated, there was no significant change in their internal structure and functions. Many of the guilds used the interest to provide the monasteries with products they themselves manufactured- like cloth and oil. They also provided services which were outside the purview of their business like making provisions to serve meals to the Buddhist monks. K K Thaplyal conjectures that guilds may have entered into some kind of agreement with other service providers for fulfilling such functions.

Concluding Remarks

Compared to today, the banking functions of the guilds of yore were relatively limited. We do not get any evidence of people depositing their money with them only for its safekeeping. What is noteworthy is that the guilds not only performed acts of merit themselves but also did so on behalf of others. Even as individuals, traders formed the major bulk of donors to religious establishments. The fact that people gave akṣayanivīs to the guilds demonstrates the deep trust they had in them and the close association these guilds shared with religious establishments. Ancient Indian guilds were always on the forefront in offering their service to the elite as well as the common people. This is a quality which a few multi-national companies in India have emulated. In other words, the guilds of Ancient India embodied the virtue of lokasaṃgraha which Lord Kṛṣṇa expounds in the Bhagavad Gītā.

References
1. Agrawala, V.S., India as Known to Panini. Lucknow: University of Lucknow, 1953.
2. Kangle R.P (Trans.), Kautilya Arthashastra, Mumbai: Maharashtra Rajya Sahitya Sanskruti Mandal, 2011(Reprint)
3. Maity S.K., Economic Life of Northern India in the Gupta Period. Calcutta: The World Press Private Limited, 1957.
4. Majumdar, R.C. Corporate Life in Ancient India. Poona: The Oriental Book Agency, 1922.
5. Mirashi V. V, The History and Inscriptions of the Satavahanas and Western Kshatrapas, Bombay: Maharashtra State Board for Literature and Culture, 1981.
6. Nagarkar, Sneha ‘Corporate Religious Responsibility in Early Historic India’ in aWEshkar, Volume XIV, Issue 2, September 2012, pp.41-51.
7. Olville, Patrick (Trans.) Dharmasutras: The Law Codes of Ancient India. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
8. Sircar, D.C., Select Inscriptions bearing on Indian History and Civilization, Volume I. Calcutta: University of Calcutta, 1965.
9. Thaplyal, K.K. Guilds in Ancient India. New Delhi: New Age International Limited, 1996.

Web Sources
https://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/sbe33/index.htm

Covidamma or Coronatalli ? A Conversation on Folk Hindu Religious Response to epidemics

A video presentation of a conversation between Dr. Nagaraj Paturi and Shri Hari Kiran Vadlamani. Dr. Nagraj is the Director of Inter-Gurukula University Center of Indic Academy.

Video discusses the ancient rituals, traditions and beliefs in the folk Hindu culture. Dr. Nagarj discusses about his research and findings in rituals from the folk culture and the integration of the vedic culture and the folk culture. Both cultures – Vedic traditions and Folk traditions have impacted each other while not completely taking over each other. Dr. Nagaraj goes on to discuss the folk traditions in response to epidemics.

Meenakshi Jain

Webinar: What Foreign Travelers Have Told Us of Indian History- By Dr. Meenakshi Jain

Continuing with its INDICA Conversations webinar series, INDICA USA hosted Padma Shri Prof. Meenakshi Jain on Saturday, May 9, 2020. Drawing from her own long and extensive research, Prof. Jain spoke on the topic of ‘What foreign travelers have told us of Indian history’.

In her engaging presentation, Prof. Jain was joined by co-hosts Avatans Kumar, Ramsundar Lakshminarayanan, and Nishant Limbachia and more than hundred live participants from four continents.

Prof. Jain is a Senior Fellow of the Indian Council of Social Science Research and a former Fellow of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. Prof. Jain was an Associate Professor of History at Gargi College, University of Delhi. In 202, Prof. Jain was awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award, by the Government of the Republic of India.

Nahusha Bheema

Mahabharata Metaphors: King Nahusha – The Immense Fall and The Great Reformation

Nahusha is one of the illustrious ancestors of the Kurus. He was the son of Ayus, grandson of Pururava and the father of Yayati. He appears in multiple places in the Mahabharat – there is a detailed reference to Nahusha in the Vanaparva where he is in the form of a great python, captures Bhima and engages with Yudhishtira in an enlightening conversation that relieves him from a curse. His past and the essence of it – is fully presented in the Anushasana Parva when Bheeshma guides Yudhishthira in righteousness required for a King. The journey of Nahusha’s life is full of immense insight for humanity. It’s a treatise on what blinds humanity, what sustains Dharma, and how are we to reform ourselves from a fallen state.

Nahusha was a great Rajarshi and Tapaswi. His penance earned him so much Punya that it elevated him as equivalent to Devendra. He was invited to become the Indra himself by the Devatas. Nahusha began to live in Svarga. With his penance guiding him, Nahusha continued to perform his humanly duties and divine responsibilities in a righteous manner, with equal justice. He continued to perform every single act of offering oblation to all devas.

Alas – that would not last long. In a while, Nahusha began to wear the fact that he was the Indra himself. An ounce of ego penetrated his mind which grew monstrously in no time. His performances lost their sincerity and earnestness. As a result, they resulted in nothing divine and his oblations to devatas began to falter. With his ego blinding, Nahusha went a step further. He forced the sages to be his vehicles. They were to pull him in his chariot from place to place.  With this, his penance that was compiled over many years began to fall apart. His unrighteousness began to destroy him from within which Nahusha did not realize.

Much time passed. Nahusha had ordained a turn for each sage to carry him in his chariot. Once it was the turn of Sage Agastya. Sage Bhrigu came to meet the upset Agastya. They reflected upon the state of affairs. Sage Bhrigu wondered if they should be suffering this any beyond. At this, Agastya said “Oh sage Bhrigu, let us not forget that he has a boon from Lord Brahma himself. Anybody who comes in front of him becomes subservient to him. Our curses have no effect on him. We can neither curse him, nor can we push him down from Svargaloka. Oh Bhrigu, we must find a different way out, can we?”.  Bhrigu said, “Oh Agastya, I am here with full knowledge of this reality. Brahma himself has sent me to you. Today, Nahusha will put you to pull the chariot. I shall end his ego and divest him from his Indra-padavi. You will see what happens today.”

On the other side, Nahusha went about with his day as usual. His day was no more filled with great acts of righteousness, rather with acts of insult to brahmins and sages. His oblations to the devatas diminished. As a result, Rakshasas had gained more power. Nahusha had begun to draw power from the Rakshasas. That day, he was in a great hurry. He sent word to Agastya for the day’s duty. Bhrigu alerted Agastya ” Oh Mahamuni, I shall hide in your shikha today, close your eyes for a moment”. Thus, he hid inside his shikha and waited for the most opportune moment.

Hiding his anger, Agastya spoke in a pleasing tone to Nahusha seeking the destination for his chariot ride. They were to go to River Saraswati. Nahusha whipped Agastya just as he would to a horse. Neither Agastya nor Bhrigu showed any anger. Agastya calmly went about with his drawing of the chariot, simply waiting for the moment. This very calmness drew Nahusha’s ire. Going over the board, he kicked Agastya on his head. That was the final straw. Bhrigu had a reason, he was invisible and Nahusha was least alert. Bhrigu immediately cursed Nahusha “Oh King, your time has come. You have simply forgotten what earned you this position. In your haste, seeking to move fast you kicked a great sage. Now, you shall fall upon earth as a Sarpa”. When he delivered the devastating curse, Bhrigu was still inside the shikha and invisible to Nahusha. The King only heard the sage’s voice. The curse took effect and Nahusha had nothing in him to deal with it. At once, Nahusha began to fall from Svarga. In moments, he was on earth as a Sarpa. In his fall, Nahusha saw his Ahankara slowly diminishing. By the time he fell on earth, he was the same old Nahusha – the righteous King but in the form of a snake, without any penance left. But his acts of righteousness in the past were so great that he did not lose his memory of the past. With his ahankara destroyed Nahusha greatly repented and sought a way out from the sages. Agastya took mercy and requested Bhrigu to provide relief. Nahusha would be relieved of his curse but not before a very long wait. His descendant after many generations, Yudhishthira, was to relieve him from his form as a Sarpa by answering questions of enquiry raised by Nahusha. At the Svarga, Shakra – who was the previous Indra, was restored as lord of the devas.

Many years later, Pandavas were in their exile. They passed through a forest called Vishakhayoopa. They were drawn by the serenity and camped there for a while. Bheema gave in to his indulgences and went on a hunting spree. Hunting being hunting, he gradually lost himself in the intoxicating spirit of the hunt and ventured into a territory that belonged to a large snake. The python was so big that even the great Bheema was stunned by its form. It occupied an entire large crater. The moment the python saw Bheema in the vicinity it grew in anger and hissed. In a whiz, it enveloped Bheema and caught him in a bind with a force that devastated even that great Bheema who had the strength of 10 thousand elephants. In one hold of the python, Bheema lost all his strength. He struggled to digest his defeat, not knowing the special boon the python had. At last Bheema set aside his ego and asked “Oh King of snakes, who are you? How could you contain a man with strength equaling 10 thousand elephants?”. He greatly lamented his comprehensive defeat.

By now the python knew who he was. “Oh, the mighty one, I have been lying here without food for long. I thank the Devatas for sending you. But Bheema, inspite of my state I shall not eat you without answering your questions. I am in this state due to my misdeeds of insulting great sages which resulted in a curse from Sage Agastya and Bhrigu. I belong to your own dynasty, Oh Bheema. I am Nahusha, son of Ayus and father of Yayati. One should not eat one belonging to the same lineage, yet I must eat you, imagine the depths to which I must have fallen. I have a boon that for a certain part of the day, none can escape once in my hold. In spite of my curse, my memory of my previous janma is intact -Bheema. The sages said that the one who responds to my questions of enquiry will relieve me from this state and their words continue to ring in my years even today. I wait for that moment.”

Bheema patiently listened. He thought his end must have come. He lamented that his brothers, mother and wife would be without his protection. He wondered if the misdeeds of Kauravas would go unpunished. On the other side, Yudhishthira sensed that his brother was in trouble. After wandering around all possible places, he eventually reached the crater and was aghast to see his brother in that helpless state. He learnt the sequence of events from Bheema and begged his ancestor Nahusha. “Oh great man, can we provide you with any other food for you so that you could release Bheema?”. Nahusha refused and threatened that his life too was in danger if he stood for long. He must eat what comes in his way. Yudhishthira sought to know about Nahusha in detail. Nahusha narrated the events of his entire life once again and repeated that if his enquiring questions were answered Bheema would be free. Yudhishthira readily accepted the challenge.

Nahusha questioned Yudhishthira on who must be deemed as a Brahmana. The duel of question and answer went for long with Nahusha finally was satisfied with Yudhishthira’s answers. A pleased Nahusha said that he could now not eat Bheema as Yudhisthira had answered everything satisfactorily. Yudhishthira was keen to get his ancestor released from this fallen state but was more eager to learn from his illustrious ancestor. His status of being a snake did not blind Yudhishthira – after all Nahusha was once elevated by Devatas as the Indra himself. He sought his advice on what actions lead to one attaining the exalted worlds. It was now Yudhishthira seeking and Nahusha guiding, and that went on for a very long. In his narration, Nahusha attained his full form gradually.

Yudhishthira wondered why such a knowledgeable person such as Nahusha sought an answer to a question from Yudhishthira in the beginning – he knew it all. Nahusha repeated the curse of the sages and the relief they provided. It was this great question and answer that released Nahusha from his state of Sarpa. He was now free from the curse and he could go back to the exalted worlds that he had attained from his good deeds of the past. At once he attained a heavenly form, sat in the chariot that came from heavens and went back to Svarga. A relieved Yudhishthira went back to the Ashrama with Bheema. Back home, Bheema was reprimanded for excessive indulgence in hunting and straying away.

Once again, this story emphasizes that one may attain Svarga but retaining it is not easy. One does not know when Ahankara steps in and takes one over. Our Ahankara can get so much better of us that we end up seeking sages to be our carriers. Such is the blindness that power and position can bring. Yet, if one has performed enough good deeds one could even demand sages to be carriers and get away with it. However, that would be a short-lived affair only, even if one had the kind of boons that Nahusha had. Great powers that we attain are not only boons, they can turn into curses in no time. Any material power is such. Our good deeds give us enough protection even as we move on the path of disaster but for a while only, until we kick Sage Agastya and end all the good that we have accumulated. That is when the hidden Bhrigu, invisible to our great powers of protection, pushes us down to be a Sarpa. At the same time, one may be a Saptarshi but may have to suffer unrighteous assault until the opponent has lost all the penance. Righteous retribution too must wait for its time. Such is the nature of accumulated power, strength and ability.

Nevertheless, it was an extraordinary punishment to Nahusha, to be a Sarpa – with limited movement, a very long life, having to indiscriminately eat what comes in the way, having immense power but without the ability to do anything substantial (much less righteous), with all memory of a deep past and perspective but without being able to put anything to meaningful action. But every state of indignity has a relief. It is here that we have a beautiful definition of what a release from a curse means. It is when you find your match in terms of prowess – the power of Bheema and the perspective of Yudhishthira. The great conversation between them results in Yudhishthira, the man of the future, invoking the divine abilities of Nahusha. Nahusha knows his divinity but in the weight of his body and immense strength is simply not able to invoke it. In his conversation with Yudhishthira, Nahusha overcomes the limit of his cursed body and assumes a form that merits his divinity. At the same time, Yudhishthira gains great clarity from Nahusha. The great ancestor has successfully passed on his perspective to an illustrious descendent – thus has contributed to the lineage’s greatness. In readying Yudhishthira for the future, Nahusha is released from his curse. Thus, the past, the present and the future must meet purposefully to nullify the ill-effects of the past and create a righteous future – setting it firmly in the path of Ruta. That is when a curse is relieved – when we create a good future, that is how one becomes vimukta from paapa. This is re-iterated once again in the story of Nahusha, just as saw in the stories of Yayati, Jaratkaru and Astika.

There is a third dimension. Why did Nahusha stray from his path in his stint as Indra even though he was a man of such righteous nature as a King?  The story contains an immense insight of great relevance for humanity. Nahusha, no doubt, was a righteous king, a man of great penance and attained Indra padavi through his righteous acts. But, once in Indra padavi, Nahusha began to relish and indulge in it without a sense of renunciation. Dharma sustains itself for long only under the protective coverage of Moksha, otherwise it tends to slip. The larger goal of life must be renunciation and striving for Moksha. Nahusha rediscovers this emphasis for himself, eventually, in his conversation with Yudhishthira – in the discussion of who a genuine brahmana/sage is and the nature of the Parabrahma vastu. Thus, he sets himself firmly in the path of renunciation in the guidance he provides to the future that is Yudhishthira. Hence, he regains his divine form and the right to be back to the exalted worlds.

Such is the nature of life.

Dukh

Dukh, Depression and Journeys of Life- Part V- Bhagawad Gita and the Lockdown

One of the vividest memories that I have from childhood is seeing my parents praying contemplatively in our tiny Mandir at home with their eyes fixated on the scriptures they were reading as their bodies rose and fell slowly with the rhythm of each deep breath. Mother was a stickler for discipline, she wouldn’t even answer phone or doorbell during this time. She would glare at us ominously if we got a little too raucous. My father on the other would carry on with the world as if it was not an interruption but an extension of his ritual.

Our Mandir was a minimalist walnut colored wooden box with a slanting roof, the kind that you see commonly in the hills. It had two main clay idols: a sky blue hued Shiva ,with his hair loosened casually on his shoulders -half smiling and half meditating, and a standing idol of Krishna playing flute with a hint of mischief in his eyes. Father used to read a tan coloured hardcover book: Shreemad Bhagvadgeeta, the title said. There were no fancy pictures or ornate calligraphy on it. He used to read it twice every single day. I sometimes wondered if he didn’t get bored reading it every day. “No, its meaning changes with your state of mind, so every shloka is new every time I read it”, he would say. It was too esoteric for me to comprehend then. But I remember the fragrance of the book. Its yellowed pages smelled of incense sticks — mogra, sandal and lavender. The pages were brittle, and the book’s binding was fragile. It has survived many life altering events. Shifting of home, our marriages, mom’s long illness and her eventual demise. The only thing that remained my father’s constant companion has been his Bhagvadgeeta.

Growing up in a deeply religious family, I went through deeply religious and equally deep atheist phases in life. I had read Shiva Purana, Ramcharitmanas, Durga Saptashati and several other scriptures even before i had become eligible to vote. But nothing stood out for me as much as Geeta. I was stunned by the philosophy (admittedly I would have understood very little at that time). The impression remained even through my atheist, agnostic and eventually spiritual-not-religious years later in life. During one of the touristy visits to ISCKON, I acquired my copy of Bhagvadgeeta and re read it. It indeed was very different from what I had remembered. Had the content changed or the context, I wondered. It stayed at home in a drawer largely undisturbed for many following years.

Two years ago, my mother fell sick very badly. Stroke, spinal TB, dementia, loss of vision all at once. She was incapacitated partly. At times she could not remember my birthday, sometimes she could not recall her own granddaughter whom she used to adore endlessly. She was going away the way tea diffuses in water, slowly but progressively. It was painful, both for her and us. Father was extremely stoic throughout, just going on through caregiving routine religiously. I never saw him flustered, frustrated or depressed. That was when I realised that he had completely imbibed the message of Geeta thoroughly.

सुखदुःखे समे कृत्वा लाभालाभौ जयाजयौ 
ततो युद्धाय युज्यस्व नैवं पापमवाप्स्यसि 

Neither joy nor distress, nothing moved him.

However, I was deeply distressed. I offered to read Bhagwadgeeta to my mother who could no longer read due to loss of vision. She was ecstatic. I used to read the Hindi translation aloud often struggling to keep my tears from bursting out. My voice would choke, and throat would become swollen with repressed sadness. Especially when reading about how death is just migration of soul from one body to another.

वासांसि जीर्णानि यथा विहाय
नवानि गृह्णाति नरोऽपराणि
तथा शरीराणि विहाय जीर्णा
न्यन्यानि संयाति नवानि देही ।।

Easy for you to say that Krishna, I would tell myself. Thankfully mother used to fall peacefully asleep while listening, saving me embarrassment of finding her son choked with emotion. Now as I look back, I realize, that I was reading Geeta for myself not mother. I was preparing for the inevitable. The inevitable did happen a few months ago. And I remembered this shloka from Bhagvadgeeta as I lit her pyre.

नैनं छिन्दन्ति शस्त्राणि नैनं दहति पावकः चैनं क्लेदयन्त्यापो शोषयति मारुतः

It is her physical body only, not her soul, I consoled myself.

The Corona pandemic came suddenly. Life as we know it went into a suspended animation through the lockdown. I began the first lockdown on a lofty note with plans to stay cheerful, spend time meaningfully etc etc. By the time, a week got over boredom, melancholy and frustration crept in slowly. Just 21 days I told myself. This too shall pass. But alas 21 days were just the beginning. So, when the second lockdown was announced, a sudden realisation dawned upon me. Hey! I have precisely 18 days. Eighteen. Like the chapters of Bhagvadgeeta! I started a project. A project to keep me positively motivated, while also re-enforcing self-discipline. I started posting a few shlokas from each chapter on Twitter. Initially I started with reading Bhagvadgeeta in our mandir at home after lighting the “jyot” in the morning. But that turned out to be difficult to follow through for a multitude of reasons like work related interruptions. Improvising, I downloaded its e-book version on Kindle. I would read a chapter or two (and sometimes only half a chapter) before I retired to bed. The thread of tweets I was maintaining kept me motivated — I didn’t want to fail publicly. But something changed as I ambled along my pursuit. I found myself seeing the issues at work differently. I found that I was having lesser confrontation and even lesser anxiety.

The lockdown is slowly being removed across the country. Corona is still at large around us. But I am no longer panicking about it — well at least not as much. So, what now? My father told me “Why do you need to stop just because 18 days are over? Keep reading Bhagvadgeeta”. Probably I will. Afterall it is a whole new book every time you read it.