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Splashes – 40/72 Literary Contributions by India

India is the home of literary fiction. Stories of Indian origin have long been told in distant lands of Asia and Europe in a variety of forms often without awareness of their source. Although Europeans had no knowledge of Sanskrit till seventeenth century, folk-lore of India had already inspired people over there. Many of the popular stories had been converted to the local mold and that could be a subject for research in the age of copy right.

The Art of Story Telling

Indians had perfected several styles of story-telling. Some of the most popular formats and folk tales in Sanskrit are mentioned here.

  • Ballad Singing – Ballad singing has been very popular in India. Singers would narrate stories through songs at community gatherings. Their themes were chosen from Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas, and also the heroic deeds of Alha-Udal, love stories of Nala-Damyanti and sufferings of Raja Bhartahari.Ballad singing later inspired Europeans also as Ballads have been very popular in English literature.
  • Panchatantra – No other book, except the Bible, has played so important part in the field of World literature as story-collection ofPanchatantra. The name of its author Vishnu Sharma had travelled to Europe and other countries of the world centuries before Kalidasa captured the fascination of Western intellectuals at the end of the eighteenth century.
  • Jataka TalesJataka Tales are another collection of tales intended to illustrate the precepts of righteous living. Hindus believed in rebirth. Jataka Tales narrate various rebirths of Buddha in the form of Bodhisatva. In Jataka tales Lord Buddha is incarnated in human as well as in animal forms like deer, elephant, or monkey to spread the message of justice and wisdom. Many of the tales of Panchtatra and Jatka Tales are identical. Whereas in Panchtantra lord Rama is the narrator, this role is assigned to Bodhisatva in Jatka Tales. It is significant that Rishabhdeva and Rama both are the incarnations of Vishnu. Jatka Tales were written in Pali script.
  • Hitopdesha – Hitopdesha contained interesting incidents from prevailing social life and bring out some moral lessons on varied subjects to stress some ethical aspect of Buddhism, such as choice of friends. The subject matter of stories concerned day-to-day events in the life of common folks. They generate some moral values in life reflecting the spirit of Yama and Niyama.
  • Betal Pachissi – Another collection of stories is Betal Pachchisi that contain twenty-five stories narrated by Betal to virtuous King Vikramadittyawith every tale revealing some subtle truth.
  • Singhasan Battisi – Similarly, another collection from the same period is Singhasan Batteesi. These stories are narrated one by one by thirty-two puppet supporting the throne of King The tales revolve around several facets of Vikramadittyaglorifying him as a just, benevolent, and chivalrous King.
  • Shuka Rambha – In this collection a parrot happens to witness love affairs, debauchery, infidelity, and jealousy between human relations concerning couples, friends and other persons, and exposes the same through narratives.
  • Katha Sarit Sagara – It is another compendium of assorted tales.

Conversion of Folk Literature

Through Arabs and Persian travelers, Indian folk tales were carried to Turkey, Rome, Greece, Spain and other European countries. From Constantinople, Indian stories were transmitted to Venice and Naples through trade contacts and they found their way into the works of Boccaccio, Chaucer, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Le Sage, La Fontaine, Voltaire, and other famous writers.

With each story-teller, the story assumed new looks, eventually reaching a stage that bore only a feeble resemblance with the original. It was much later when Western scholars discovered Sanskrit literature and the Indian contribution to the world’s fiction came to be appreciated. Those folk tales were translated in many languages. Shuka-Rambha is known as Tota-Maina in countries of Middle East.

Many of the immensely popular tales such as the ‘Magic Mirror’ ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ and the ‘Purse of Fortunate’ have been traced to Indian sources. So are the Arabian Nights, which have also been traced to Indian sources. The world-famous story of ‘Sindbad’ is a tale of Indian origin as the Arab historian Al Masudi expressly said that the Kitab el Sindbad was derived from India. Most of travels and voyages of Sindbad are narrated on the backdrop of Indian shores. Some of the tales were given local face lifts that it was impossible to trace their origin. Following is an example:-

Peter of Holland

In Holland, the sea presses in on the land so much that the people built big walls of earth and stone to hold back waters. These were to be watched at all times for breach, as even a small hole was considered to be dangerous. Many years ago, there lived a seven years old boy named Peter. One day his mother sent him to go across dikes to deliver some cakes to a blind man. She warned him to return before dark. On way back home, Peter noticed the sea water beat against the dike. Soon the water started trickling and there was a leak in the dike. He tried all possible means to block the leak but could not. It grew darker and colder at night. No one came to help. With bare hands he tried to stop water for whole night and in the morning countrymen found him exhausted. They plugged the breech and carried the hero Peter home. Since then whenever sea roars like a flood, the children are taught what a child could do. Parents take their children by the hand, and tell them of brave little Peter whose courage had saved the land.

This story is similar to that of child Upmannyu in Hindu scriptures who was the disciple of Rishi Apadyomya. Upmannyu looked after the cows at Gurukul. One day he was sent to collect firewood from forest late in the evening. He noticed a breach in field and when all   attempts made by him to plug the breech single-handedly failed, he lied himself down on the ground to keep that plugged with his bare body for whole night till the Guru and other disciples discovered him on next morning.

In both cases the story motivated sense of commitment to duty.  Events are similar but the background and locations have been changed. That was just one example. Even Shakespeare was inspired by a Mahabharata episode to depict death of Macduff in his play Macbeth.

Indian influence on Global Literature

  • Story Telling Technique – The format of telling one story every day has inspired several ancient writers directly or indirectly.  In 1350 Chaucer used the same technique for his classic Canterbury Tales, where every pilgrim narrated a story every night to fellow pilgrims to cover the journey. Arabian Nights have also followed the same style.
  • Concept of Sutra-dhar –In most of the ancient Indian plays, A Sutra-dhar would link the scene by narration to the viewers that were practically not possible for stage action. In Elizabethan plays including Shakespeare’s, similar technique has been used in the form of Prologue and Epilogue. Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Shakespeare, also modeled the Prologue of Dr Faustus inspired by Kalidasa.
  • Comic Character – Another concept from Kalidasa’s period to influence English drama was to add a comic Vidushaks in the play, such as a Fool to accompany the central character. His main role was to provide some comic relief to counter-balance tragedy and also to be a mouth piece of the play writer. Such Vidushaks appeared on the Elizabethan stage in the role of Falstaff in Shakespeare’s historical plays.
  • Opera Performance – Presenting a story through song and dance is old Indian art. Bharat Muni’s Natya Shastra is the oldest and comprehensive treatise on the art of dance and drama written in third century AD. It covered all aspects of stage craft, acting, make-up, stage management, dance and music. Opera presentation was fully mature in seventh century AD, while in Europe people were still living in forest dwellings. Kalidasa, Bhava Bhuti and Banabhatta were renowned names in play writing. Emperors Vikramadittya, Harash Vardhna and others personally patronized the art of dance drama. They wrote and acted in plays. With Kalidasa the foundation of Opera (musical Dance Drama) was laid in Gupta period that later flourished in Europe in sixteenth century.

Influence on Literary Style

All the formats and styles of literature had already been tried in India before the same were adopted abroad.

  • Question-Answers Format: For explaining serious subject matter the format of question-answers has been widely used in Upanishads, Puranas and Gita.
  • Epic Writing: The grand style of embellishments, figures of speech had been used by the epic writers of Ramayana and Mahabharata that contain vivid use of simile, comparison, contrast, metaphor, alliteration and onomatopoeia. Since then no new format or new figure of speech has been added to literature of any language. By no stretch of imagination it can be concluded that Valmiki, Veda Vyas or Tulsidas had been inspired by Homer, Dante or Milton.
  • Heavenly Invoking: Invoking the blessings from Sarsawati, Ganeshaor from some other gods has been an Indian tradition. In Paradise Lost Milton is also seen invoking heavenly Muse to inspire him to write his epic.
  • Ode Format: In all the Vedas, the Rishies first address the subject and seek blessings, be it a god, goddess or an herbal plants before the attributes of the subject are narrated in the form of an address. This format is called ‘ode format’ that Keats and Shelley used later in English literature.

The above fact pertain to the period before which Sanskrit had already completed her golden period. Hindi had also come off her epic period with several epics like Prithvi Raj Raso, Veesal De Raso, Hameer Dev Raso, and Padmavat on book shelf. Hindi was being enriched by host of metaphysical and mystic poets like Khusro and Kabir when English Literature was just born in 1350 AD. It is a pity that we Indians realized the greatness of Kalidasa only after the British honored him with the title of Indian Shakespeare.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 41/72 –Prosperous Social Living)

Splashes – 39/72 – Sanskrit- the Perfect Language

Sanskrit is the oldest language in the world, and mother of all Indo-European languages. Impressed with Sanskrit grammar and scientific structure, the linguists consider it the most suitable language for computers. It is link between present generation of population divided into Nationalities all over the world, and past of entire mankind on this planet.

Richness of Original Texts

The Sanskrit is written in Devanagari script. Rishis discovered Sanskrit and used it to create the mantras that were made up of a combination of sound vibrations to create specific effect on the mind and the psyche, when recited. It is the language of the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharata, Ramayana and the Puranas. Sanskrit literature is the richest literature in the history of mankind.

The popularity and richness of Sanskrit is indicated by the wealth of literature composed in the language covering every subject under the Sun. On every subject a masterpiece treatise can be found in the Sanskrit literature. The range expands from Philosophy, Religion, Science, Fine Arts, Sex, Music, Astrology, Palmistry, Astronomy, Chemistry, Mathematics, Martial Arts, and Diplomacy, just to list the few.

Panini’s Grammar Ashtadhyayi

Panini’s Sanskrit grammar, produced in about 300 BC is the shortest but complete grammar in the world for its precision of statement, for its thorough analysis of the roots of the language and of the formative principles of words. By employing an Algebraic terminology it attains a sharp succinct-ness unrivalled in brevity. It arranges, in logical harmony, the whole phenomena, which the Sanskrit language presents. It is one of the most splendid achievements of human invention in the science of Linguistics.

Panini’s masterpiece Ashtadhyayi (Eight Chapters) stands out as the first scientific analysis of any alphabet. The work is the more remarkable since the author did not write it down. He worked it all out of his head. Panini’s disciples committed the work to memory and in turn passed it on to their disciples. Though the Astadhayayi has long since been committed to writing, rote memorization of the work, with several of the more important commentaries, is still the approved method of studying grammar in India today.

Ashtadhyayi comprises of four thousand sutras or aphoristic rules. Prior grammatical analysis is clearly evidenced by the fact that Panini himself mentioned over sixty predecessors in the field. Subsequent grammarians, especially Katyayana and Patanjali, carried the work much further, and by the middle of the second century BC Sanskrit had attained a stereotyped form, which has remained unaltered for centuries.

Scientific Structure of Sanskrit

The Indian grammar set the pace for Europeans to analyze speech forms. Ancient Indian work on grammar was objective, systematic, and brilliant than that done in Greece and Rome. This refers to the period centuries before that of Geoffrey Chaucer; the Father of English poetry who came on the literary scene in 1350 AD. In most of the European countries people resorted to yodeling to draw attention of their neighbors working nearby.

Since English has been enjoying the status of global language, it will be appropriate to compare and contrast Sanskrit with international language in simple laymen style, to avoid complexity of jargon.

  • Alphabets – In every language, sounds are represented by signs. One distinct sign is allotted for identifying every smallest audible sound. Total number of signs when arranged in any uniform order worked out by users is called alphabet of language. Thus every developed language has its own alphabet, otherwise it has to borrow the same from some other language. English borrowed Roman script. English language has only 26 alphabets; implying only 26 basic natural sounds can be recorded in her script for use. Even out of that ‘Q’ ‘W’ ‘X’ are not natural sounds. Thus the efficacy of scripting natural sounds is only 23. Compared to this, Sanskrit has 46 Alphabets in her own Devanagri Obviously for this reason, her capability to record natural sounds is twice more than English.
  • Vowels and Consonants – Alphabets are subdivided into Vowels and Consonants. Consonants are natural sounds expressed in shortest durations. Vowels are added to consonants to prolong, mold and twist the natural sound towards desired expression. English has only five vowels in her kitty. Those are often used as consonants also. Thus most of the time every vowel has to perform double or even triple role by producing different sounds. In comparison, Sanskrit has thirteen vowels distinct from consonants. Therefore on this count also capability of Sanskrit to articulate natural sounds is much higher than English. In Sanskrit, no vowel is assigned dual role.
  • Simplicity There are several sounds which cannot be properly written or spoken in English, such as ‘Kha’, ‘Tha’ ‘Khsa’ to express proper nouns imported from other languages. The vowels in use are not sound specific so are the consonants too. For instance, the sound of alphabet ‘c’ is not uniform in the word ‘ceased’ and ‘cat’.  The alphabet ‘w’ and ‘v’ are used for similar expression on the basis of convention. West begins with ‘W’, while vest is to be worn with ‘v’. In contrast, whatever is scripted in Sanskrit, the same is spoken also. Every sound can be scripted the way it should be spoken. Nothing is left to guess-work or convention. Therefore Sanskrit is easier to learn and use.
  • Pronunciation – The Sanskrit alphabets have been arranged according to their body source, such as sounds made from throat, nasal and tongue or through the combination of body parts. The sounds represented by the letters of the alphabet have been scientifically arranged. Vowels and diphthongs are separated from mutes, semivowels, and sibilants. The sounds have been grouped into guttural, palatal, cerebral, dental and labial. This purely corresponds with human anatomy in practice.

The above is a brief but obvious comparison between ancient languages with the current International language, on few counts only. Sanskrit is no doubt a scientific and systematic language with perfect grammar. It has rightly attracted scholars worldwide.

But there is no justification for present generation of Indians to feel proud about it unless Sanskrit is respected by Indians at home also. Until 1100 AD Sanskrit was without interruption the official language of the whole of India, but now it is losing home turf to regional languages, English and Urdu. Younger generations are not being attracted towards it due to neglect of India’s selfishly secular politicians.

Linguistic Imperialism

Language is the identity of Individuals and nationalities. England though a tiny country in size to India, is regarded as a super power in the world. This equation of strength is mainly due to the English language that the British introduced throughout in their colonies. They initiated the most primitive and illiterate locals of their colonies to English and raised the strength of working classes to accept as their language. Today economy and technology of the developed countries is being commanded by the English-speaking people only. Libraries all over the world have been stocked with volumes of English literature and Technology scripted in English.

In contrast, India and China despite being world’s most populated countries, have no say in their own language. They are compelled to interact only through English. Unless they learn to converse in English they are regarded deaf and dumb on the global stage. Is it not a shameful situation for the youth of any self-respecting country?

Cultural Identity of India

For lack of determination, Indians have failed to establish their linguist identity anywhere in the world as well as at home. They prefer to continue being yoked under English for earning bread. Our ancestors had left most valuable legacies for the world to admire and educate us in return, but we have proved worthless to deserve and uphold their glory.

No doubt, India has an edge over China, because Chinese script is difficult and complicated. Our Devanagri script is more scientific, simple and natural. This script is used for Sanskrit and Hindi that happens to be the National Language of India. Still there are no takers for both the languages even in India, and the class rooms in Universities of India have been facing shortage of students. Those who do not get admission anywhere finally take up these languages to obtain a degree to be called qualified and learned.

The word Sanskrit literally means Perfected Language. This is quite an appropriate name to describe Sanskrit, but unfortunately our convent educated secularists did not reconcile to it. We run after certificates from others. Till NASA declared Sanskrit to be the only unambiguous language on the planet we did not care about her well-being. Little do we realize that Sanskrit is the only language that can function as an effective tool to link with the past history of India, and to enable us understand literature of Ancient time.

If we want to stand at our own in the world, we shall have to build indigenous technology; for which the road passes through the domain of Sanskrit.  If we continue to overlook the importance of Sanskrit in India, we shall be obliterating this last link also that has provided continuity with since the creation of Universe. If India wants to regain her past, they shall have to revert to Sanskrit, otherwise they would be drowned in English Channel

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 40/72 – Literary Contributions by India)

Splashes – 34/72 – Indian Contributions towards Physics

Philosophy and Science are deeply related. Ideas precede inventions. Philosophers generate ideas and scientists shape them. The two functions might be combined in one person or more. The founders of Western scientific thought were also philosophers. So were the Indians. Indian scientists were called Ashvins.

The Beginning of Physics

Today the text books on Physics tell that matter lays in three states, that are solid, liquid and gas. This statement tells the condition of matter at some particular time only. The forms and shapes can change. The properties of different kinds of matter are the subjects covered under the Science of Physics.

Vedas were the first text books on Physics. The compiled knowledge about matter and its properties came to humans originally through the text of Vedas that provided the first, foremost and subtle knowledge about basic elements (Panch Bhuta) of Nature – Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Ether; out which rest of the things have come in to existence. The process of acquiring knowledge about the composition of different things, properties, and establishing cause to the effects has been a continuously ongoing process.

Vedanga and Vedanta carried forward the studies in Physics. Upanishdas, Darshana Shastras and Puranas are the sources that contain mantras explaining properties of various natural phenomena and link causes to the effects. All Mantras are not meant for spiritual development. Most of them contain vast knowledge in compressed form, like zipped files, and need further expansion.

Format of Texts

Those days even the scientific writing was also done in poetic Chhandas, economized within the given structure of the metric measure. That served as an aid for memorizing. Mostly the style of writings was either in ‘Ode’ format. The author ‘addressed’ the ‘Subject’ and narrated the properties and utilities before seeking the effect. Another style used in ancient texts was a dialogue between the Rishi and disciples. This style offered explanation with examples also. 

Example of the knowledge content

Atharva Veda is mostly devoted to Physics.  It stated that there are seven fundamental elements of matter. Those are (1) Dhara (Earth), (2) Jala (Water), (3) Teja (Fire), (4) Vayu (Wind), (5) Khitija (Horizon), (6) Tanmatra (Quantity) and (7) Ghamanda (Ego).

Further, every kind of matter is possessed by three Gunas (qualities) of (1) Satvik, (2) Rajasik and (3) Tamsik. That implied that all matters can cause beneficial, dormant and harmful effects.

By different permutations and combinations of seven fundamental matter and three Gunas, 21 more products could be formed.

Likewise, another Treatise Vaisheshika Darshana Shastra lists out Prithavi (Earth), Jala (Water), Agni  (Fire), Vayu (Wind), Akasha (Horizon), and adds Kala (Time), Disha (Direction), Atma (Soul) and Mana (mind).

The properties of those are briefly  explained below:-

Prithavi- Earth element has qualities of smell, shape, taste and touch, out of which smell is most significant.

Jala – Water qualities are Taste, Touch and shape. Taste is most significant. Presence of Water is identified through coolness in matter. The warmth in Water denotes the presence of Fire element.

Agni – Fire element has qualities of shape and touch, out of which shape is most significant. 

Vayu – Wind element has distinct quality of touch. 

Akasha – Ether element has qualities of sound. It is formless, but where ever sound can be heard, presence of this element is confirmed. Ear drums are the recipients of this property.

Kala – Time causes origin, state and destruction of everything. For practical interpretation, it has been conceptualized into hours, days, months, age, present, past and future.

Disha For practical application there are ten directions that have been conceptualized for the origin, existence and expiration of matter.

  • These are four cardinal points East, West, North and South.
  • Four corners North East, South East, South West, and North West.
  • Two sides, Surface and Bottom

Atma – Awareness is the sign of Atma. Awareness is not the identity or qualification of senses, because previous knowledge continues to stay even after destruction or mal- functioning of the sense that had acquired knowledge in the past. It implies that Atma experienced knowledge and is separate from senses. Desire, feelings, efforts, comfort and discomfort are separate from body and are the identity of Atma.

Mana – It is a tool to experience various sensory feelings.

The above illustrations depict that spirituality has been neatly blended with the subject of pure science Physics. It is not necessary to use only European terminology to look authentic. Explaining subtle scientific facts through artistically woven mythological stories has been the hall mark of Hindu religion.

Scope of Hindu Scriptures

Scientific gems are lying scattered throughout in Hindu Scriptures like Vedas, Vedangas, Vedants Purans and Epics. Modern physics confirmed that the Sun’s rays travel in a curved way, but not in a straight line. The same fact our ancestors had artistically explained through mythology that seven horses tied by snakes drew Sun’s chariot. As the movements of the snakes are crooked and curved, so also are the sun’s rays. This phenomenon has been poetically described in scriptures:

भुजंगनः मितः सप्तः तुर्गः

Similarly the Atharva Veda explained another scientific truth about Sunlight that there are seven colors in the white ray of the Sun. Sun rays contain blend of seven colors:

सप्तः सूर्य्स रसम्यः। 

Contribution of Indian Scientists

In the realm of physics, Indian scientists have made remarkable contributions.

  • Rishi Kanada, the founder of the Vaisesika system of philosophy, expounded that the entire matter in this world consisted of atoms, as many in kind as there were various elements. About light he explained that light and heat are variations of the same reality. He is the fore-father of Atomic Science. Jain thinkers went a step further. They thought that all atoms are the same kind and variety emerged because they entered into different combinations.
  • Sushrut explained that we are able to see the objects around us due to the light falling on them. Aryabatta also supported his views later. In contrast, Greek scientists held the view that objects are seen because of light in the eyes.
  • Varahmihir in sixth century explained how shadows were cast.
  • Chakrapani was the first to explain that light and sound traveled through waves, but the speed of light was many times faster than the sound waves.
  • Pratispda further elaborated that sound waves travelled in the shape of concentric circles and every sound wave has a corresponding echo.
  • Vachaspati interpreted light as composed of minute particles emitted by substances striking the eyes. This is a clear anticipation of the corpuscular theory of light, which was proposed by Newton, but was rejected till the discovery of the proton.

Gravitation and Astro-Physics

The theory of gravity found its existence in Yajur Veda that explains that the Earth is kept in space owing to the superior attraction of the Sun. Scholars of the Gupta period were already acquainted with the movement of the heavenly bodies, the reasons for eclipses of the Sun and the Moon.

  • Aryabhatta put forward a brilliant thesis regarding the Earth’s rotation on its axis. As regards the stars being stationary, Aryabhatta stated that starry vault was fixed, but the earth moving round its axis, again and again caused the rising and setting of planets and stars. He also described the Polar days and nights of six months duration. Aryabhatta affirmed the diurnal revolutions of the earth on its axis. He wrote that when the sun rose in Sri Lanka, it was midday in Yavakoti (Java) and midnight in the Roman land. Yavadvipa, a Sanskrit name mentioned in the Ramayana, to which Sugriva sent search parties looking for Sita, was the ancient name of Java. As regards to the size of the earth, he calculated the circumference of the earth as 4,967 Yojanas and its diameter as 1,581 1/24 Yojanas.  A Yojana is equal to five English miles, and the calculation tallies with modern calculations. The circumference of the Earth works out to be 24, 835 miles, with its diameter as 7, 905 5/24 miles. He also wrote a textbook Aryabhatta Siddhantafor working out astronomical calculations.  Even today, this data is used in preparing Hindu calendars (Panchangs) giving most accurate results.
  • Brahmagupta, (598 AD – 665 AD) is known for introduction of negative numbers and operations on Zero in Arithmetic. His main work was Brahmasphuta Siddhanta, which was a corrected version of an old astronomical treatise Brahma Siddhanta. From his time the Hindus were aware of the length of diameter and circumference of the earth.
  • Varahamihira in 6th century produced valuable material relating to Astronomy, Geography and Mineralogy in his work Brihat-Samhita. It is stated that one half of the moon, whose orbit lies between the sun and the earth, is always bright by the Sun’s rays;  while the other half is always dark by its own shadows, like the two sides of a pot standing in the sunshine. Explaining eclipse of the Moon and Sun, he wrote that Moon enters into the Earth’s shadow; and in Solar eclipse the same thing happens to the Sun. He further explained the commencement of a lunar eclipse does not take place from the Western side. The solar eclipse does not take place from the Eastern side. He gave the calculation of eclipses; independent of any reference to the mythological ‘Rahu Ketu’ episode.
  • Bhaskaracharya knew the law of gravitation. In a verse in Sidhanta Shiromani, he held that the Earth is endowed with the power of attraction. It drags with own power heavy objects on the sky.  It appears that objects are falling but actually they are not, they are only being dragged by the power of attraction of the Earth. When everything on the sky drags each other equally there is no question of objects on Earth to fall. It is explained that Earth, planets, stars, Moon, and Sun – each of them is being dragged by the other with its respective power of attraction and as a result of this attraction none of them is removed from their axis. This theory was deliberated in the Siddhanta Shiromani centuries before Newton was born. According to Brahmagupta and Bhaskaracharya the diameter was calculated to be 7182 miles, some calculated that to be 7905 miles, while modern scientists take it to be 7918 miles. Bhaskara is renowned for his concept of Tatkalik-agati (instantaneous motion).

Last but not the least, none of the Hindu scientists suffered the fate of poor Galileo for making new discoveries. 

Chand K Sharma

Next: Splashes – 35/72 -India’s Technological Contributions

 

Splashes– 31/ 72 – Blend of Science and Faith

One of the most remarkable features of Hinduism is that unlike other faiths, it is not confined to any geographical area; such as Jerusalem or Middle East, or time like first to seventh century AD, where Christianity and Islam developed. Santana Dharma has had its imprints left over the entire Universe. The gods, goddesses and sages are timeless. There are several inter-planetary movements not only of gods and goddesses, but also of sages and mortal beings. They appear and disappear. With such faith, Hinduism has unified abstract scientific knowledge and humanized illustrations in the form of spiritual literature that Europeans tend to call mythology.

The Scientific Mythology

Although mythology is a subject of faith and beliefs, but abstract knowledge compiled in books is open to scrutiny at all times. Hindu scriptures and text books are open to inclusion in the University curriculum for critical evaluation, so that various hypotheses could be verified by employing modern tools. The concepts in Hinduism are so strong that criticism is not considered taboo or blasphemous.

Hinduism is a perfect blend of Science and faith where both are complementary to each other.  Whatever cannot be comprehended is said to be a myth. The branch of knowledge that serves as tool to understand the intelligible qualifies to be referred as Mythology. Therefore, complex scientific concepts had been explained by Hindu sages utilizing the tool of mythology that is scientific in every respect.

Evaluation by Reasoning

Faith is always a consequence of several reasoning pointing to same findings with consistency.  Blind faith also required some solid ground for support. Hindus have several faiths and beliefs established in their kitty on account of reasoning. There is absolutely no danger to Hindu faiths that can survive any amount of cross checks. Faith is the real foundation of Hinduism.

Our scriptures are open to reasoned evaluation. Hinduism is not vulnerable to atheist thoughts that many other faiths are.  Many faiths have separated religion from science, under secularism, that is nothing but an escape to avoid scientific evaluation. Science and Religion are complementary to each-other for Hindus. Pursuit of Gyana (knowledge) is Science.

The Evolution Theory

The beginning of Indian scientific thought can be traced to the Rig Veda. According to Vedas ‘Creation’ indicated the state when there was no Creator. It is line between indefinable ‘nothingness’ and something defined by attributes and function. It was like the moment before the ‘Big Bang Theory’. These concepts about Truth provide cue to the scientific mind and are not mere religion.

Manusmariti (chapter one) refers to Evolution of Earth and life on our planet. Several Puranas have also given detailed description of the origin of our Universe.     

आसीदितं तमोभूतमप्रज्ञातमलक्षणम् अप्रतक्यमविज्ञेयं प्रसुप्तमिव सर्वतः ।।

ततः स्वयंभूभर्गवानव्यक्तो व्यञ्जयन्निदम्। महाभूतादि वृत्तौजाः प्रादुरासीत्तमोनुदः।।

                                                                                 – (मनु स्मृति 1 – 5-6)

It stated that the universe was covered in darkness and there was nothing to perceive or imagine for establishing the shape according to reasons. The five basic elements of matter subsequently known as Earth, Wind, Fire, Water and Ether emerged automatically out of the state of nothingness.

As per Sage Manu, the first germ of life was developed by water and heat from Sun. Water ascended towards the sky in vapors; from the Sky it descended in rain, from the rains were born the plants, and from the plants, animals and subsequently humans were born.

The ancient thinkers correctly understood the theory of animal life and particularly of man. The Brihat Vishnu Purana states that the aquatic life preceded monkey life, and monkey life is the precursor of the human life. Centuries later, Charles Darwin plagiarized the same thought and got it registered in his name. The ten incarnations of Vishnu explain the same theory in an interesting way since evolution, like everything else, was the manifestation of the supreme spirit (Atman). Chandogya Upanishad also testified the same thought.

Hindu sages had thoroughly studied the behavioral pattern of living beings and the motivating force urging them to actions. Animals and bird do not have schools to train their off springs in the art of making nests, finding food and satisfying other body demands, yet they have learned the same automatically under the guidance from the Creator. These findings are now being televised on National Geographic channels but sage Manu had enunciated the same fact centuries ago as under:     

     यं तु कर्मणि यस्मिन्स न्ययुड्क्त प्रथमं प्रभुः।

     तदेव स्वयं भेजे सृज्यमानः पुनः पुनः ।। (मनु स्मृति 1- 28)

For whatever activity Lord Brahma created the first specie, their off-springs automatically performed the same functions again and again.

Wood-peckers birds have been pecking holes in tree trunks for centuries to search food for themselves, when plenty of substitutes are available nearby. Their generations have continued to perform same duty in every birth without any training.

Puranic narratives depicted feelings and sensations existing in plants and animals similar to humans, and much later Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose was awarded Nobel Prize for re-stating the same truth in modern scientific language to the West.

Contributions in Applied Science

Old Indian Scriptures contain description of fourteen bhavans, seven continents and four oceans that we see printed on the geographical globes of today.  The Indian astronomers identified orbit of Earth around Sun and marked the route by providing twelve zodiac signs. They identified all the planets of our solar system, measured their distance and orbit,  predicted their effect on human mind, and thereafter included them in a Mantra to be recited to witness all the rituals of life. They had identified the gems and their properties to balance the effect of heavenly bodies on our mind, actions and events. That was the application of scientific knowledge in everyday life. The data gathered by Indian astronomers is as near to the limits established through the scientific discoveries being made today.

Philosophy of Actions and Re-actions

On the philosophical plain the Karma Sidhanta explained in Srimad Bhagvad Gita is the fore-runner of Action – Reaction Theory or better known as Theory of Relativity.

It is an accepted scientific truth that ‘Action and Reaction are equal and opposite.’ Doer does an action and its fruit is given by Almighty God and goes to the doer itself. In simple words, ‘Man acts and God reacts. Whatever you sow shall you reap is an eternal law. Effect wise actions have been classified in four types:

  • Nishkam Karma: The actions that are performed without any motive for reward provide deepest satisfaction instantly.
  • Punya Karma: When action and the intentions behind the action are noble, such as saving the life of some one.
  • Paap Karma: Evil actions performed with evil intentions to harm some body.
  • Mishrit Karma: Mixed actions are good actions with bad intentions or vice versa, such as using pesticides to obtain good crop.

Another classification of action is on different scale –

  • Kriyaman Karma: Present actions leading to chain reaction.
  • Sanchit Karma: Past deed, those have yet to show result.
  • Prarabdha: Actions performed in the past, but show their effect in present after maturing. Such actions are called fate or destiny.

The belief goes that it is purely destiny that someone has up start in life by birth in riches, while another is born with deformities. All activity in life is result of past actions and reactions. Some actions can be analyzed while others cannot be. Not only we are affected by individual actions, but also suffer or enjoy due to the actions of our parents, relatives and contacts. Can scientific reasoning be different from this thought process of Hinduism? Here lies the blend between faith and scientific explanations.

 Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 32/72 – Cosmic Time in Hindu Scriptures)

Splashes – 25/72 – Sati and Female Infanticide

Accusations are often made against Hinduism for abetting widow burning in the guise of sati practice and female infanticide at birth. Many Hindus are made to feel ashamed for such brutal acts alleged against their faith and ancestors. Ignorant of facts they tend to turn apologetic and accept the accusations. They do not know that the allegations are contrary to the facts. This misleading propaganda is carried out to engineer conversions out of Hindu faith by citing stray incidents of crime out of context to malign Hindu faith.

Scriptural Evidence about Sati

There is not even one statement advocating Sati in four Vedas, 108 Upanishads, 18 Puranas, or in Manusumruti. The incident of Shiva’s consort Sati had nothing to contribute towards the suicidal act of Sati. In brief, King Daksha Prajapati, had 100 daughters and the youngest of them was named Sati. She had married Lord Shiva against the wishes of the king.

Daksha organized a yagna and with the intent of ignoring Shiva, he did not invite Him. Sati went to witness the Yagna un-invited, contrary to the advice of her husband Lord Shiva. As King Daksha ignored her presence, Sati felt humiliated, and ended herself by jumping into sacrificial fire of the Yagna. Thus, Sati ended her life when her husband was very much alive and is still an eternal God! This incident is narrated in Shiva Purana to underline a social norm that a married woman must not visit her parental house, if her husband is insulted.

The incident of Sati cannot be related to the allegation of widow burning as well. In Hindu society, every married women faithful to her husband is referred as Sati – Savitri. The suffix ‘Savitri‘ is generally used as a metaphor to respect the wife of wood-cutter Satyavan, who died at young age and his wife Savitri, a princess, brought him back to life after impressing Yama, the god of Death by her wisdom.

This Sati episode also exposes the propaganda about the allegation of female infanticide at birth. If female infanticide was patronized by Hindu scriptures then King Daksha would not have nourished one hundred daughters to grow up.

Allegations belied by historical Epics

The historical epics Ramayana and Mahabharata also support that practice of Sati had no sanction from any of the Hindu scriptures. Here are some facts:-

  • In Ramayana, when King Dasratha died, none of his three queens committed sati.  They lived full life and blessed Rama at his coronation as King when he returned from exile.
  • When monkey-king Baali died, his wife Tara did not perform Sati, but was married to his younger brother It is a proof of widow rehabilitation by re-marriage.
  • When Ravana died, his wife Mandodari did not perform
  • When King Shantanu of Mahabharat epic died, his wife Satyawati did not perform Sati.
  • Similarly when his successors died, none of their wives performed sati.
  • There is only one incident in Mahabharata. Queen Madri, the second wife of King Pandu had held herself responsible to be the cause of her husband’s untimely death. Out of guilt and remorse, Madri, jumped into the funeral pyre of her fallen husband and committed suicide. The elder wife Kunti did not follow the act of younger wife. Except that incident, in the whole epic poem in which thousands of men got killed on the battlefield, there is no incident of Sati. None out of the 100 wives of the Kaurava warriors committed Sati.

Sati was an Alien Practice

On the contrary, the practice of wife burning had its roots away from India. Columbia Encyclopedia states: ‘The strange practice of killing a favorite wife on her husband’s grave has been found in many parts of the world; it was followed by such people as the Thracians, the Scythians, the ancient Egyptians, the Scandinavians, the Chinese, and people of Oceania and Africa’.

The practice of Sati came to India through Kushanas. In the later period as Rajputs, remained constantly occupied in wars, the invaders used to rape their wives again and again till they would die. Thus Rajputs resorted to the practice of Jauhar as a solution forced upon them out of socio-political necessity.

Jauhar of Rani Padmini

The episode of Rani Padmini reflects that she did not perform sati, but to save her dignity and honor, she had opted for Jauhar along with seven hundred brave young wives when their husbands volunteered ‘Saka’ (suicidal attack) on the camp of Alluddin Khilji. Thus the warrior husbands were alive on their chargers at the time of Jauhar. They bade farewell when their young spouses walked to the pyre singing bravely and escaped anticipated indignity.

The glorification of Jauhar was necessary to motivate young women to the option of choosing between a life of sexual slavery or glorified death as a Rajput widow. It was indeed a tribute to young widows who were brave to walk willingly towards death rather living dishonored.

Rule of East India Company

Harping about the practice of Sati is intended to malign Hinduism. In some provinces under the rule of East India Company, certain greedy families indulged in criminal act of widow burning to usurp the property of the widow, but that had no religious sanction. It also goes to the credit of Hindu reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy that they asked the British rulers at their own to severely punish the criminals.

Allegation of Female Infanticide

Similar to the allegation of Sati, the allegation of female infanticide also stands refuted by facts provided in scriptures and practices in Hindu society.

Besides epics and Purana, volumes of literature depicting the social life of ancient India is available under the titles Jatka Tales, Panchtantra, Hitopdesha, Betaal Pachisi, and classics of Kalidasa and others. There is no mention of any such practice or incident.

  • On the contrary, there would not have been inspiring female characters in our literature like Sita, Draupadi, Kunti, Devaki, Yashoda, Shakuntala and All of them are respected in Hindu society. Such strong-willed females would not have lived if female infanticide was patronized by scriptures and regularly practiced by Hindus.
  • It is regarded as a privileged sacred duty of the parents to perform Kanyadana (donning of daughters) at the time of marriage. Such society cannot indulge in or approve heinous crime of female infanticide.
  • Out of love and affection, Hindu parents voluntarily gift household items, colorful dresses and ornaments at the time of marriage to their daughters. Stray cases of dowry demands have no sanction from scriptures and are a social evil.
  • Hinduism does not support abortion even for limiting the family. Hinduism advocates self-restrain. Sex determination tests and abortion today are the unholy gifts from Western culture.
  • The range and variety of attractive female garments, beauty products and ornaments since ancient times in India is a reflection of love and prominence given to daughters in the families.
  • The unique festival of Raksha Bandhan is dedicated to the sentimental bond between brothers and sisters in Hindu family. No other society in the world has similar festival earmarked exclusively for this kind of relationship.

Islamic Brutality

In furtherance of his imperial designs, Mughal Emperor Akbar had initiated one-sided matrimonial alliances with Rajput families. In return when Rajputs sought reciprocal relationship, Akbar on the sly had debarred Mughal princesses getting married to anyone. Consequent to ban, both the daughters of Emperor Shahjahan, Princess Jahanara and Roshanara, had lived as spinsters. It was finally Emperor Aurangzeb who lifted the ban, because he was not interested in having matrimonial relationships with infidel Rajputs.

Such brutal practices resulted in infanticide and under-cover abortions to off springs born out of rapes, adultery and intrigues to eliminate successors to the rulers. It is still shrouded in mystery how many illegitimate infants would have been killed in the dark basements of forts during Mughal period on account of Akbar’s inhuman dictate. To counter Mughal atrocities certain Rajput families also indulged in honor killings of their daughters, but Hinduism does not support that also.   

Hinduism Pioneered Equality 

Hinduism did not make any discrimination in the society on the basis of color, race or gender. Every person is respected equally in individual capacity. As fore-runners of Human Rights, Hindus have promoted universal well-being, equality and global brotherhood through customs, traditions, rituals and festivals. Hindus must not hesitate to refute baseless propaganda hurled at them from any quarter.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 26 / 72 – Temples and Rituals in Hinduism)

Splashes – 10 – Intellectual Heritage of Mankind

Acquisition and propagation of knowledge is a fundamental right in Hindu religion for every individual. There is no particular book like Bible or Quran prescribed for Hindus to believe upon absolutely, but there is vast catalog of books to exercise choice reading. Hindus have the liberty to read, interpret and believe all, few of them, or none. Every Hindu is free even to suggest his own interpretations; and come out with new theological treatise. No one can be compelled to subscribe to any particular book.

Catalogue of Hindu Scriptures

For the purpose of easy understanding we can list Hindu literature into following categories:

  • Scriptures on Multi-disciplinary Core Knowledge
  • Epical and Historic Literature
  • Social Scriptures

 Multi-disciplinary Core Knowledge

In this category there are Four Vedas that contain wisdom and knowledge compiled for mankind through several learned sages called Rishies since ancient times. It cannot be equaled to be the research work of any particular individual. In deep meditation the learned Rishies pondered over various subjects, experimented and thereafter passed down the gist of truth orally to their disciples. When contents of Vedas were remembered by heart and passed down to next generation, the knowledge contained in Vedas was called ‘Shruti’ meaning what is heard through ears. The knowledge compiled in written form as memorandum is called ‘Samruti’. Thus from Shruties, Sage Ved Vyas subsequently compiled the Vedas in the form of written Samruties.

Hindus believe that Vedic knowledge was revealed by Almighty to the Rishies in the form of text the way thoughts are revealed to us for writing, say for example, an ordinary letter or poem.  Some time ago it was hard to believe this, but today formatted text can be posted to several recipients simultaneously over the globe through desk-tops, lap-tops and even on mobile phones, then this kind of revelation can also be visualized in few more years to come. Touch screen technology is already in existence. There is nothing impossible in the dictionary of the Almighty as for as Hindus believe.

The knowledge contained in Vedas is not only spiritual knowledge, but it is also fundamental knowledge about Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Political Science, Music and almost every subject under the Sun. It is compressed in the form of Sutras to be recited, understood and interpreted. Sutras are like acronyms used to-day to memorize compressed thought that may be expanded subsequently. They are written in the style of ‘Odes’, implying the subject is addressed as a deity and all the properties of the subject are then narrated with request to grant blessings or benefits .

In brief the four Vedas are known as Rig-Ved, Yajur-Ved, Sam-Ved and Atharva-Ved.

  • Rig-Ved – It contains Sutras regarding Spiritual, philosophical, fundamental as well as applied science, Physics, Astrophysics as well as Statecraft.
  • Yajur-Ved – It contains matters concerning procedural aspects regarding Sociology, obligations, rights and Duties to regulate human behavior and Preservation of Environment.
  • Sam-Ved – This treatise concerns Philosophy, Yoga, and fine arts like Music.
  • Atharva-VedIt deals with Anatomy, medicinal properties of herbs, and remedies available in environment for living healthy life.

Every Veda has one or more ‘Upvedas’ (subordinate texts) as additions containing more knowledge. There are six Vedanga (organs of the Vedas) to facilitate the study of Vedas.

Upnishadas  – After Vedas were compiled, subsequent Rishies continued not only adding to the knowledge bank of Vedas, but they critically reviewed, interpreted, and elaborated upon the Vedic knowledge in their own way by providing detailed commentaries. The compendiums of such interpretations are called Upnishadas and Darshana Shastras. It is great loss to the source of human knowledge that out of 108 to 200 original Upanishdas that existed, now only 10 Upanishads are available. The remaining were destroyed at the hands of Islamic invaders who delighted themselves in destroying all non-Islamic literature.  The format of Upanishdas and Darshan Shastras is in question – answer format.  Questions asked by the disciples are answered by the learned Guru. This kind of format is most suitable to examine the subject to clarify all possible doubts.

Darshana Shastras – Ever since the beginning of civilization, men have tried to seek answers for eternal questions about individual identity, the creation around and the creator of universe. The relentless search for an answer to these basic questions has led to the origin and evolution of philosophy. The Hindu sages turned their gaze inwards and discovered their own answers through meditation and mysticism. Visualization of truth by the sages is called ‘Darshana’. The six Philosophies (Darshanas) constitute the classic philosophical system of India. Often called Shat (Six) Darshanas the six scriptures have many characteristics in common. They all grew out of the Upanishads and have followed similar question-answer format between disciples and the Rishi.

Epical and Historic Literature

In ancient times historical events were recorded in epic style by Rishies, or poets who were either patronized by Kings or wrote as free lancers. Out of several epics of India, Ramayana and Mahabharata enjoy prominence in historical literature for their impact on molding Indian value system and society. Both the epics have been transformed in to all the literary forms like novels, short stories, comics, dramas, allegories, operas and so on.

Ramayana – Ramayana was composed by Rishi Valmiki and is regarded as the first epic of mankind. It is the story of prince Rama living an ideal life, intended to serve as models for the roles that a person has to perform in life under different situations. It is to be remembered that only Rama has been projected as ‘Maryada Purshottam’, meaning the ideal role model, while other characters of Ramayana are mixed of human strengths and weaknesses. Ramayana inspired many writers subsequently to compose different versions of the same story, of which Shri Ram Charit Manas composed by Saint Tulsi Das in Hindi is most popular. Besides many other salient features, this literary masterpiece stands out for being the only epic in the literature of the world, where feminine beauty has been described by the author visualizing the subject in the image of mother, rather than beloved.

Mahabharata – Mahabharata is the most voluminous epic all over the world. It is primarily the story of various dynasties woven together and reflects the prevailing life styles in society of the period. Every character that makes an entry has had his past and can be visualized in flesh and blood with all the possible human strengths and weaknesses. While Ramayana portrays the main character Rama discharging his obligations in the roles of an obedient son, a caring husband, an affectionate brother, a sincere friend, an ideal king, and a loving father; Mahabharata depicts various situations of human society and approach towards overcoming problems. In both the epics, the environment is not of a primitive human society, but that of a well-developed civilization. The situations and characters have universal appeal even today. It is noteworthy that scenario of Ramayana is set in the area of present day Nepal, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and extends up to Lanka. Mahabharata covered entire length and breadth of India and even beyond. It magnifies the fact that Indian sub-continent was already a nation, before MK Gandhi was declared as ‘father of the nation’ after partition of India in 1947.

Puranas – Besides the epics there are eighteen Puranas that contain stories of mythological characters, earthly kings and even ordinary persons. Potentially they appear to be woven round some historical events. Like mythologies of other religions, Hindu mythology is also full of stories, relationships, events, and images of persons divided into gods, demons, and humans. Some of the mythological stories are allegorical, and apparently do contain element of scientific knowledge, as well as refer to some historical event. It will be fruitful to trace their historical evidence, as most of our ancient history is lost. Technically, they are a piece of literature till their historical substance can be established. The descriptions are sometimes metaphorical as used to be the styles of epic writing. Their literary value can make every Hindu proud of their heritage.

Social Scriptures

Regarding Humanistic and related studies ample numbers of original scriptures are available.  One can find exhaustive treatise on every subjects like Grammar, Astronomy, Astrology, Gemology, Fine arts, Economics, Diplomacy, Sex, and Medicine, just to mention the few.  It is difficult to list all of them, except the following, that have influenced Hindu culture the most.

Srimad Bhagavad GitaThe philosophy underlined in Srimad Bhagavad Gita is the ancient most known to the mankind. It is practically relevant under all circumstances to everyone, and everywhere. Gita philosophy can be termed as a simple and abridged substitute for all other religious texts for the laymen as well as to scholars on Hinduism. It contains the summary of Vedas in simple form that can be understood by laymen. The philosophy of Gita is sufficient for living a successful and contented life, if anyone has no aptitude for reading Vedas and Upanishads.

Manu Sumruti – Manu Sumruti is the first regulatory system of society that can be traced in the history of mankind. It has its relevance today in every civilized society all over the world. It deals with subject that concern every society on the globe like evolution of life on earth, governance, defense, economics, stratification of society, obligations of the constituents, remedial measures, rituals and atonement.

It needs to be underlined when these scriptures were written, other faiths had not appeared on the surface of Earth. Therefore this literature is for the entire mankind irrespective of individual faiths and nationalities of humans. Vedas and Upanishads always refer human living as Prani or other secular pronouns, and not by any faith, believer or non-believer. There lies the secularity of Hinduism that it is a universal religion for the entire mankind with environmental modifications incorporated as per local conditions.

It was due to the literary contribution of our ancestors that India was regarded as global leader in human civilization. It is unfortunate that we have turned ignorant of our own intellectual heritage.  We need to pick up lead from our cultural past and re-establish the glory of our intellectual property on global stage.

Chand K Sharma  

(Next- Splashes – 11 – Upanishads are Critical Evaluation)

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