About Hinduism and India

Posts tagged ‘Vedic’

Splashes – 67/72 – Loss of Patronage to Hinduism

Before partition, at least in few princely states, Hinduism received some patronage. But in post partitioned India that patronage was also lost. Nepal was the only one Hindu kingdom on the global map, but it is no more. Hinduism has come to be neglected after partition, particularly at the behest of Congress leaders, who continued the policy of colonial government the same way, as that was handed over to them after partition.  Over and above politicians have assiduously encouraged the minorities to strengthen and preserve their fundamentalist outlook in the social structure of Indian Society by advancing financial and organizational infrastructures.  They have been assured of having first right on countries resources in comparison to Hindus.

Bias against Hindu Heritage

We ignore the fact that Christian organizations have a heavy stake in education. They want to hold on to the colonial – missionary version of history. They do not want our academic curriculum changed, because, they will have to teach the modern and scientific version, that would establish India the home of Vedas, scientific knowledge, and grand Civilization.

The education system of elite’s choice was monopolized by missionary schools during colonial days. The product of such schools came to occupy decision-making apparatus of the government in post partitioned India. Such Anglicized Indians valued dogma above rational thinking. While they preferred everything in English, they generated a dogmatic mindset incapable of critical analysis beyond colonial knowledge.

  • ‘One of their dogmas has been that Christianity is progressive, and rejection of ancient Vedic concepts is a sign of progressiveness’. They assume that Indians do not have the capability to question Western institutions. Jawaharlal Nehru used to pride in referring Vedic period as “Gobar Yuga” (cow-dung age).
  • ‘Muslims in India are a peace-loving minority, suffering at the hands of Aryan “chauvinists”, who want to saffronize the secular character of India’. They associate saffron color with terror by saying that biggest threat to India exists from Hindu fundamentalists.
  • ‘Minorities in India have the first right on resources of the country. Special welfare schemes are needed for their support’.

Due to such generated mind-set most of the youth identify Hinduism with superficial rituals performed on occasions like marriages and funerals. Photographs of drug-addicts in the guise of Sadhus and beggars are projected as representatives and propagators of Hinduism on the cover of glossy magazines. While minorities are hardening their life styles on extreme fundamental dictates, Hindu youth find an escape route in secularism. Government aided Madrassa education is churning out motivated Islamic youths to dream India turning an Islamic state in near future. Individually and collectively, Hindus express helplessness to block their aggressive designs.

Lack of Self-confidence

The net result of such timid mind-set is leading to destruction of Hindu self-confidence and national pride. Unless something is approved by the Westerners ‘educated Hindus’ do not repose faith in their own findings. If westerns certified the benefits of Yoga, sublimity of our classical music, curative properties of Ayurvedic medicines, and usage of Indian herbs for beautification; only then we regarded those as patriotic sophistication in Indian society.

We felt elevated only after being told by John Marshall that we were the oldest civilization. We quote foreign travelers to tell ourselves that there were universities at Nalanda and Takshashila in India, where students all over the world came to study Science and Mathematics. All that could not have been believed otherwise by us.

For rediscovering India, Indian elites happily to go to Oxford and Cambridge, but feel agitated, if facilities for our ancient studies are contemplated in Indian universities. We perceive it as a threat to secularism, which is practically being misused to protect the medieval mindset of ethnic minorities.

Judicial Activism

Of late judicial activism has added another dimension to anti – Hindu mindset. Many often Obitter Dictums are sounded that Caste system should be thrown to dust bin. While our Judiciary has been reluctant to interfere with the personal law of minorities, how passing references are made by courts against customs and traditions of Hinduism? Submitting to pressure from Islamic clerics while judgment in Shah Bano Case was nullified at the behest of Rajiv Gandhi, Congress government and Judiciary seemed to be enthusiastic in recognizing living in relationships, gay marriages and protecting marriages within same Gotras. The government has failed to pass uniform civil code to obliterate distinction between minority and majority.

Opposition to Hindu Studies

Perpetual opposition from secular politicians to introduction of astrology, and other Vedic studies in universities is continuation of slavish mindset, even if the studies are to be presented in modern light. When Astrology was sought to be taught in diploma course in Gujarat, elitists went on to argue that introduction of astrology would be counterproductive to scientific temperament. They contended that due to variability in astrological predictions, Astrology could not be classified as a Science.

Carrying this argument forward one can say that Business forecasts are nothing but estimates, based on market trends applying a blend of modern technology to the database created on past records. Even business predictions are open to errors in judgment. Many times meteorological forecasts also go wrong, though these are arrived after using most modern gadgetry. Should we conclude that Meteorology is also not a science? Likewise, business forecasting is superstitious? Going further, there should be no forward planning in the country, as future cannot be scientifically predicted.

Rediscovering through Technology 

Our astrology still has enough original scientific data and literature to work and improve upon. Systematic study in the field of Astrology has generated self-employment for many, since a market at home and abroad already exists. What astrologers should not have access to modern technology and facilities created in the universities? Further, streamlining Vedic education may help eradication of harmful bias associated with this branch of study. If we accept Vedic studies in our curriculum, experimentation employing modern technology will be helped to verify the correctness of predictions and make us self-sufficient in conceptualization followed by technological absorption of indigenous knowledge.

Neglecting Research

Scientific research can be undertaken to test the hypothesis, with the help of research tools available today and analytical aids applied to case studies. The same is true about our vast philosophical knowledge, which is lying compressed in Vedas and Upanishads. It is lying unused, because it is hard to convince brown elitists and secularists, who are conditioned not to quote beyond Aristotle, Socrates, and Fraud.

Neglecting Sanskrit

Though Sanskrit is the only language in the world to possess an original treatise in the field of all human sciences, we resist its retention in educational curriculum, due to communal bias generated by anti Hindu elements. Our software professionals meekly admitted the validity of Sanskrit for computers after westerners certified that. Convent elites remain blind to the fact that when Chaucer, the father of English poetry was born, Sanskrit literature was already enriched with classics yet to be surpassed by other languages of the world.

On the contrary we are over indulging in promotion of Urdu that has borrowed script and vocabulary. Promotion of Urdu will regenerate more communal mindset among minorities and impede acceptance of Hindi as our national language.

Distortion of History

Cultural self-hatred abounds due to the anti-Hindu educational policy of the government pursued by secularists in secular India. For the pleasure of minorities, atrocious doings of Muslim invaders against Hindus are being excluded from our History books. Attempts have been made to interpret historical events that factual wrongs committed by invaders and bigots, remain over looked. Shamelessly, we turn apologetic about the heroic deeds of Aryans, Rajputs, Marathas and Sikhs who resisted Islamic onslaught.

Many of ancient sites and shrines have been occupied by Muslims and bear Islamic names in spite of archeological evidence suggesting the original ownership. The government is hesitant to probe the matter to restore ownership to Hindus. This has made India a nation without nationalism, pride, or history for our younger generation. Pseudo-secularists want present generations to believe that Mahmood Gaznavi and Mohammad Ghouri, were not fanatics, but Shiva Ji and Maharana Pratap were the rebels. Western countries have converted most of our intellectual wealth to theirs, while we remained shy and ignorant to stake our claim.

We should assert our Heritage

Modern corporations spend handsome amounts on idea generation exercises, before the launch of new products. Had there been a system of patenting knowledge, India would have been the sole proprietor of world’s intellectual property. The fatherhood of many faculties of knowledge would have been bestowed upon Indians. But there is probably no other country except India, where indigenous concepts however enlightened, is ridiculed while western concepts are blindly parroted. In India, foreign cultures can preach what they want, even if the same were irrelevant, vulgar, backward or anti national. We agitate if our own ancient heritage is included in the curriculum.

It is well-known that concept precedes discovery. Concept changes rarely, while technology to transform concept in to reality changes at rapid pace. One can find for him-self several inspiring concepts lying scattered between the lines of Vedas, mythological literature, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Jatka tales and other classics in Sanskrit. Outsiders need not pull Indians down; we are ourselves quite busy in this exercise in the name of preserving secularism, even if we lose our ancient cultural identity. Our youth leaders like Rahul felt “ashamed” to be associated with India, while Italian Sonia in power declared that “India is not a Hindu country”. Our elected representatives kept mum.

Chand K Sharma

(Naxt: Splashes– 68/72 – Insecure Environment for Hindus)

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Splashes – 54/72 – Spread of Knowledge Abroad

The destruction of Indian literature was so extensive that no record of pre-Islamic history remained in India. In fact, whatever history of ancient India exists now, was re-constructed by the Europeans with the help of writings that survived mainly, in Sri Lanka, China, Myanmar, Nepal and Tibet.  Another source of information was the biographies and official records of Islamic rulers. Hindus sources like Puranas and Vedas were dubbed as mythology by British historians and their clones like Nehru, in India. The gaps in history were therefore filled up by interpretation of British historians to suit their political and colonial aims.

Islamic Contributions

It cannot be categorically stated, that all Muslims were barbarians, while most of them were. Some refined Muslim intellectuals, particularly from Sufi cult in Islam, not only studied Hindu scripture,s but had them translated to Arabic and Persian language. Some Muslims poets and philosophers also enriched our intellectual heritage by their individual contributions. Prominent among them were Amir Khusro, Malik Muhammad Jayasi, Rahim, Raskhan, Maseet Khan, Raza Khan and Dara Shikoh. They contributed mainly towards literature, music, and other arts.

Although Islamic invaders had indulged in reckless destruction of educational institutions and massacre of intellectuals, but many texts in the field of mathematics, astrology, medicine and philosophy had already been translated into Arabic, before Indian universities were burned down and inmates killed. Some manuscripts that were scattered over the country, escaped destruction as they remained in safer hands.

Prominent Translations within India

Some notable translations into Arabic and Persian are:-

  • Al-Bairuni – He was a Muslim Saint and contemporary of notorious Muslim invader Mahmud of Ghazni. It is said that many often he preceded the campaigns and acted as Mahmud’s mentor. He translated Brihatsamhita to Arabic.
  • Aziz Shams Baha-i Nuri – Subsequent to Al-Bairuni’s translation, Aziz Shams Baha-i Nuri translated Brihatsamhita to Persian.
  • Nakhshabi– During his conquest of Nogarkot in 1362, Sultan Firuz Shah Tughlaq acquired 1300 books from Jwalamukhi temple. He commissioned Sanskrit scholars to translate some of them to Persian. On the basis of the translation of texts on Physics and Astronomy, ‘Izzu’d-Din Khalid Khani compiled the Dala ‘il-Firuz Shahi’ and ‘Abdu’l.
  • Sultan Sikandar Lodhi – Sikandar Lodi also ordered the translation of many Sanskrit works to Persian with a view to enrich the language.
  • Sultan Zaynu’l-‘Abidin – Sultan Zaynu’l-‘Abidin of Kashmir had some Sanskrit Texts translated to Persian in Kashmir.
  • Mughal Period – Mughal Emperor Akbar had established a translation bureau Maktab Khana for translation of Sanskrit texts to Persian and Arabic. Sanskrit books were translated during Jehangir’s period also. Prince Dara Shikoh translated Upanishads to Persian.
  • Retranslation of Translated Sanskrit Texts – Anquetil Duper Ron re-translated the Persian version of some Sanskrit texts to French and Latin, which influenced many intellectuals in Europe including German scholar Schopenhauer.

Slow absorption of Knowledge

Initially the Europeans were slow to absorb knowledge, such as new type of numbers. Much of the work in universities and monasteries was limited to copying the manuscripts and translating them. They were not able to use decimals until a Dutch mathematician Simon Steven (1548-1620) explained the system in a book called La Thiende (The Tenth). After him, Magini and Christopher Claudius used them in their works. In 1621, Bachet published the Latin version of Arithmetica from Arabic.

Accounts of Foreign Travelers 

Since the period of Mauryan Dynasty foreign travelers and diplomats had been visiting India. They carried scriptures as well as accounts of India’s progress in various fields.  Some of their accounts influenced the spirit of Renaissance in Europe and explorers from those countries embarked upon reaching Indian shores. Kamasutra of Vatsayana had been one such text that interested most of the Europeans during the age of Renaissance and afterwards. Navigators from England, France, Portugal, Spain, and Holland competed against each to reach India during fifteenth century. Some of the foreign travelers are mentioned below:-

  • Megasthenes – Megasthenes (350 – 290 BC) was a Greek ambassador in the court of Chandragupta Maurya. He has given accounts of older Indians who knew about the pre-historic arrival of Dionysus and Hercules in India. He mentioned about devotees of Hercules (Shiva) and Dionysus (Krishna or Indra). His classic Indicaserved as an important source to many later writers
  • Buddhist Monks – Emperor Ashoka had sent many Buddhist monks to Tibet, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, China, Japan, Cambodia and several South East Asian countries to propagate the message of Buddhism. They carried with them several texts and art forms. Qandahar (then Gandhara) in Afghanistan, being located along the silk route was an important center for transfer of scriptures and practical interaction between countries in Central Asia and the Middle East. Tibetan alphabet bears influence of Gupta period.
  • Fa-Hien – A Chinese Buddhist monk traveled extensively in India, and Tibet through Kashmir, Kabul, Qandahar, and through Punjab to Central India. He remained in India for about 10 years, seeking complete copies of the Vinaya-pitaka and compiling information regarding Buddhism and the life of its founder. Thereafter he went to Ceylon where he copied many sacred texts. After his return he wrote an account of his travels. His narrative was translated to French by Rémusat (Paris, 1836) and to English by Beal. His accounts inspired Chinese historical novelist to write ‘Journey to the West’ in English.
  • Hiuen-Tsang– Hiuen-Tsang was a seventh century Chinese Buddhist pilgrim. He knew about Fa-Hien’s visit to India and like him was concerned about the incomplete and misinterpreted nature of the Buddhist scriptures that had reached China. Starting from China in AD 629, Hiuen-Tsang passed through Central Asia by the northern trade route via Kucha and reached Northern India, where, at the city of Kannauj, he was the guest of Emperor Harsha-vardhana. He visited the sacred Buddhist sites in Magadha and spent much time studying at the great Nalanda monastery, then an important center of Buddhist scholarship. The Pilgrim next travelled to parts of Bengal and then to South and West India. He studied Sanskrit and translated several scriptures to Chinese. He returned to China, again by way of Central Asia, and recorded the details of all the countries he visited. Hiuen-Tsang’s purpose was to obtain Buddhist books and to receive instruction on Buddhism while in India, but he ended up doing much more. He has preserved the records of political and social aspects of the lands he visited.
  • Ibn Battuta – He made many trips and travelled to several countries during the period 1304 – 1368 AD covering almost 75000 miles, including a voyage from Central Asia, to china and South East Asia. During the period of Muhammad Shah Tughlaq he entered India via Afghanistan. He stayed for some time at his court and then visited Khammbhat and Calicut. He described the city of Hansi under the Rajput and carried his accounts for subsequent European navigators.
  • Sir Thomas Roe – Sir Thomas Roe was an English diplomat and an accomplished scholar and a patron of learning. His reputation resulted mainly from the success of his embassy in 1615-18 to the court of Mughal Emperor Jahangir. He became a favorite of Jahangir. His journal was a valuable source of information for the reign of Jahangir. Roe himself collected several valuable manuscripts which he subsequently presented to the Bodleian Library. As a result of his contacts fame of Indian muslin spread in Europe and fabrics were exported to European Countries from India.
  • Marco Polo – Marco Polo wrote of his extensive travels throughout Asia. He wrote about customs, traditions, philosophy, astronomy, astrology, geometry and dresses of the countries he visited. His pioneering journey inspired Christopher Columbus to undertake an exploration mission in search of India, but eventually he landed on the Continent of America.

Translation of Rig Veda

The knowledge contained in Upanishads had already been put to use in Europe. In 1845 Max Muller from Germany translated Hitopdesha. Max Muller was wary of Darwin’s work on human evolution, and attacked his view of the development of human faculties. Muller shared many of the ideas and associated communion with natural forces. Muller’s Sanskrit studies came at a time when scholars had started to see language development in relation to cultural development. Muller therefore devoted himself to the study of this language, becoming one of the major Sanskrit scholars of his day. Muller believed that the earliest documents of Vedic culture should be studied in order to provide the key to the development. At that time the Vedic scriptures were little-known in the West, though there was increasing interest in the philosophy of Upanishads.  He saw the gods of the Rig-Veda as active forces of nature, only partly personified as imagined persons.

Providential Escape

Perhaps it was also a blessing in disguise that some of the documents and manuscript had escaped destruction that was to follow in India and reached Europe to be used for the benefit of mankind. The worst of blood-bath and destruction were yet to take place in India because Hindus had over indulged in spiritualism and idealism.

It is ironical that to some of our present generation, India is a nation without nationalism, pride, or history. Cultural self-hatred abounds in secular minded academicians who are Indian only in blood and color, but English in taste, opinion, and intellect. Unfortunately still those lots continue to dominate our educational institutions.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 55/72 –Indian Illumination in Renaissance)

Splashes – 52/72 – Indian Achievements Under-rated

Till middle of first millennium India had made trail blazing discoveries in every field of knowledge. Indians had pioneered comprehensive texts on all the branches of Science and Arts. Hindus were the most developed, prosperous, civilized and powerful Nation on globe, while other countries and faiths had yet to make some start.

Due to vested interests India’s contribution to the world of science are under-rated, negated, distorted and twisted to such an extent that many are used to believe that Indians did not contribute to the field of original sciences. The chronology of Indian history has also been demoted by 1200 years in a planned way by vested interests.

So called intellectuals think that modern civilization is a product of Judo-Christian tradition. As a benefit of that, imperialist countries of West are having a monopolist hold over the world knowledge. Anything that contradicts their thought is branded blind faith, orthodoxy and fantasy.

The facts are contrary to that. Modern philosophy and science are the contribution of Hinduism whereas Christianity did everything to suppress and destroy the achievements of ancient who did not echo their theological thought. Our ‘modern Hindus’ are fooled to believe with their mouth wide opened in appreciation of Europeans’.

India Shined when Europe Slept

While India was known all over the world for its wealth and knowledge, historical facts confirm that up to fifteenth century, Europe was in the ‘Dark Age.’ This fact is now openly agreed by European historians. There was no knowledge like mathematics, science, and medicine in Europe.

There was some enlightenment in Greece. Turks invaded Greece and their intellectuals fled to Italy and later reached England along with few books on ‘knowledge. This event is called the ‘first awakening of Europe’. Even that much was also through import of knowledge from India during sixth century BC.

The re-appearance of this knowledge in the 16th century is called ‘the age of Renaissance’. It was only thereafter that European explorers desperately raced to locate and reach India.

Co-relating History

We need to co-relate certain historical facts relevant to the loot and destruction of Hindu knowledge bank.  The period under reference extending fourteen hundred years onward were called ‘dark ages’ by the Europeans in their own history. In India Hinduism had lived to flourish as a system to promote ‘Live and let live’ part of Dharma, within their peaceful environment. The ‘environment’ was the outcome of economic progress, social practices, acquisition of knowledge, and political stability. Developments in one field affected the other fields also.

During that period, apart from India, only Greece, Rome, Egypt, Mesopotamia and China were counted as developed countries.  In rest of the world people still lived in primitive kind of settlements.

The First Awakening

India had been the birthplace of science over ages. Takshashila University was a great center of learning where students from Iran and further west came to study. In the first millennium BC, Iran could be considered an expansion of Indian culture and civilization. Turkey was known as Asia Minor and was a meeting ground between Greeks and Iranians.  Islam had not been founded then, thus people who lived in Turkey were not Muslims.

Effect of Upanishads

Iran was located on the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Being located on the route of migration, Iran was a mixture of many ethnic groups. Over the centuries its borders have changed frequently. Sometimes Iran was a mighty empire and ruled over lands as far apart as Egypt and India. At other times, foreign invaders ruled over Iran. Around 1500 BC groups of people began migrating into Iran from North. They were sometimes called Indo-Europeans and sometimes called Aryans.

Those days Mecca was a center of International trade and also a religious center.  Arabs gathered there once a year to worship at a black stone (Shiva Linga) which they believed had fallen from paradise.

Monotheism of Upanishads literature had reached a full development in India. It had influenced Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and also Akhenaton of Egypt (1350 BC). Zoroaster lived in eastern Persia during fifth century BC, close to India. His belief to wage war on evil and struggle between good and bad, light and darkness is Indian in origin and influenced by Upanishads.  The religions in Middle East based on the principle of monotheism had their ethical origins from Hinduism.

Mithraism was Vedic Concept

Mithraism was another branch of Vedic religion, which spread widely over Iran, South Europe and Egypt. The birthday of Mithra, a Vedic Sun God, used to be celebrated on 25th December since after this Sun entered Northern Hemisphere. This day was later adapted by the Christians as the date of birth of Christ.

Influence of Hindus concepts

During third century BC, a sizable community of Indian traders lived at Alexandria in Egypt. Besides traders, Vedic and Buddhist monks also traveled the area that is now known as ‘Middle East’. Thus Indian beliefs, philosophy, science, and customs had already traveled beyond ‘Middle East’ before the rise of Christianity and Islam. Many of the modern scientific, philosophical and political theories inspired by Hindu concepts had also found their way to Europe through Middle East. Some of the Hindu concepts that influenced the world are mentioned as under:-

  • Earth is round – The concept of a round earth had never been disputed in India. Hindu mythology depicted Varah Avatar lifting the rounded earth on His tusks in many sculptures, and Buddhist icons depicted Lord Buddha as a lion fighting a dragon representing Ignorance, holding a round earth by its tai.
  • Theory of Relativity – Hinduism encouraged its followers to seek truth as a goal of life. It also recognized that different individuals under different circumstances may conceive truth differently. Thus Hinduism preached tolerance in difference of opinion as the first requirement for the growth of knowledge. The sages said that knowledge was relative.
  • Religious Freedom – Those who refuted the existence of God were also accepted within Hindu religion. The religion and belief were a matter of personal choice and could not be enforced by the family, society or the state. Clergy and priests did not exist in Hinduism in Western sense. Priests were to perform the rites only, when requested. Every individual visualized the Creator according to his choice and method.
  • Unified Field Theory- The theory of Brahman not only inspired the Theory of Relativity but also the unified field theory in Physics.
  • Law of cause and effect – Hinduism always considered Truth to be a subject of investigation, and not a matter of belief. It encouraged people to know and experience God, rather than to believe someone else having seen Him. The Universe has been regarded a complex system of causes and effects flowing in time.
  • Karma Theory –The doctrine of ‘Karma’ making people responsible for their acts and denial of the doctrine of divine will and fate was the first seeds of modern attitude and scientific temper. Because of this investigative temper, India was ahead of all other nations in modern thought, science and mathematics. In contrast, Jewish, Christianity and Islam were based on the faith that God identified by the founder of their faith alone was real and all others were false. The words of the God as revealed to their respective Prophets were final. Anything contradicting them had to be destroyed. That bred heresy hatred and intolerance.

Alexander the Great

This was approximately the period when Alexander the great invaded Afro Asian Countries. Alexander was a real military leader who was not greedy after gold alone. Wherever he conquered he did not destroy the local civilization.  If he saw some exotic bird, animal or book, he used to send the same to his teacher Aristotle in Athens.

Alexander met several learned persons and collected pieces of wisdom from them for his country. From his time the process of knowledge from East to West started. His campaign established links between Eastern and Western parts of the world. That is how flow of knowledge moved westward from India to Greece.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 53/72 – Shine of Indian Wisdom)

Splashes – 45/72 – Melodiously mystifying Music

Right from celestial beings to humans, every Hindu is individually attached to music in some form. Hindu’s and life without music is considered hellish. The arts of vocal singing, instrumental performance and dance are wrapped within the definition and scope of Music.

Ancient Texts on Music

Indian system of music is the oldest in the world as a written science. Sama Veda deals with the subject of music in addition to religion and philosophy. Musical notes and intervals were analyzed and mathematically calculated in the Indian treatises on music. Instrumental music was a part of music from very early days and Hindus had a variety of percussion, wind and stringed instruments.

Musical instruments have been associated with Gods and goddesses. Shiva danced Tandava to the beats of his own Damroo while Saraswati, the goddess of learning is depicted playing a Veena. Krishana played flute that inspired gopies (milk-maids) to dance. Sage Narda, Ravana and Pandva prince Arjuna are also associated with Veena while Arjuna was well versed in tutering dance also. Apasaras and Gandharvas are considered to be exponents in music and are celestial performers.

Apart from Sama Veda, Bhart Muni’s Natya Shastra is comprehensive treatise on music and drama. It is a fore runner of opera and provides a detailed account of stagecraft and theory of music. There is also a very detailed discussion of the musical instruments. The second part of Narada Purana deals primarily about the art of music. The theory explained there in is the foundation of Indian music. The formation of seven note scales (swara- saptaks), Low, middle and higher octaves (Mandra, Madhya and Taar Sthanas), modes (moorchhanas), natural and complex movements (shuddha, and koota taanas) have been explained. It is noteworthy to contrast that till first century, western music had only five notes in vogue and there was no theory at all till Aristotle provided some format.

Development of Musical Art

Worship of sound (Nada-upasana) is thought to be an important means for attaining Moksha (total contentment).The highest musical experience is the divine bliss (ananda). This devotional approach to music is a significant feature of Indian culture. The art of Vedic chant was an essential element of Vedic rituals. The references in Vedic literature, the epics, and other scriptures, show that it was a highly developed secular art centuries before the Christian era.

The Vedic hymns, like all Hindu poetry, were sung. Those travelled from temples to royal courts and to common folk being integral part of festivals. The form of music also changed accordingly from mystic to classical and thereafter as folk music that is called popular music or pop music. Chandogya Upanishada helped the priests to sing the Samans properly for the pleasure of Gods. The Samans could either be sung or played on the Veena. That became the basis of later Bhakti movements, where all other rituals and sacrifices were given up to be replaced by simple Bhakti expressed through devotional music. Music developed as a means of pleasure in the courts later, during Muslim period.

Besides generation of concepts, later to be known as Binary figures and Pascal Triangle during third century BC; Pingala was the first to introduce an important concept in the field of music also. According to his view, Shruti was to be the shortest unit of the musical sound (Nada) that could be imitated or reproduced. Shruties are capable of generating vibrations in the air that are conducive to be used in music. Today, in the musical jargon shruties are placed between micro-tones and semi-tones, though the equation is not exact. Two or more shruties create Swara (Natural Musical Notes). Indians were the first to identify musical notes. In Indian Music all notes are not made of equal number of shruties, while in Western music all natural notes have two semitones except F and B notes.

The development of Western music also followed more or less similar pattern. It started with choral chants in Church, traveled to Royal Chambers and reached the masses through Operas and Public performances during its Classical age in seventeenth Century. The origin of Western music theory is attributed to Aristotle and Pythagoras in third century BC.

The first millennium provides us with several texts that show the evolution of Indian music. The Brihaddeshi written by Matanga Rishi (700 A.D.) is very important.  It is in this work that we first find the word ‘Raag’ mentioned.  Another important text is the ‘Sangeet Ratnakar’ by Sharangdeva.  This work, written around the thirteenth century, gives extensive commentaries about numerous musical styles that existed at that time.

Scales and Ragas 

Indian music is based upon a system of Ragas that are derived from scales (Thaata) and reflect a particular mood. The term Raga is derived from Sanskrit root – ranj or raj, literally meaning to color, but figuratively meaning to tinge with emotion and are assigned a specific time for performance. Musical notes of every Raaga, are selected with extreme care to maintain the mood and purity of the Swara-mala of Raaga. It is upon this basic structure that a musician or singer improvises according to his feeling within the strict rules of musical grammar, and the precision of timing given by the accompanying percussionist. Structural melody is the most fundamental characteristic of Indian music. As compared to India there is no time theory in Western music, and entire range of western scales can be compressed just in 5 scales of Indian music. Indian music has seventy two scales out of those 10 scales, Bilaval, Kalyana, Khamaj, Bhairava, Bhairavi, Kafi, Pooravi, Asavari, Marva and Todi are presently in vogue. Indian music is melody dominant while in Western music many often harmony and melody have equal share.

Indians were original and far ahead of Western musicians. They subdivided the octave in 22 Shruties, while the latter have only 12 Semitones in an octave. Further by taking the initial letter of the Notes Indians improvised Swaramalika that can be sung as – Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, and Ni. The Persians also borrowed these notes. During eleventh century Guido d’ Arezzo introduced them in Europe in the form of Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti. Subsequently different notation systems prevalent in European Countries were standardized and first seven Alphabets of English language were picked up to identify seven musical notes. These notes cannot be vocalized and have to be substituted with musical phonetics such as Yo yo, la la or something else convenient to the singer. There are several other disparities and handicaps but those are beyond the scope at present.

Indian concepts in the West

Of late western composers are experimenting Micro tonality to have 24 sub-divisions within an octave. However their newly designed keyboard having one black and one white keys is yet to gain acceptance. In contrast the Indian micro tonality of 22 shruties within octave is a well-known nuance of expert Indian vocalists.  This can also be demonstrated on Sarangi that is a fretless bowed instrument to accompany vocalists.

The Minimalism is another new trend wherein a simple melodic motif is repeated over and over with prolonged chords in harmony. It is like repetition of cosmic sound OM using three notes harmonized against the prolonged vibration of similar sound emanating from the revolution of other heavenly bodies.

Development of Opera took place during Gupta Period from 4th to the 6th century AD. This was the classic period of Sanskrit literature, culminating in the drama of Kalidasa and his other contemporaries. Same time is assigned to the amalgamation of music and drama to entertain aristocracy. During Bhakti movement Kirtan was a popular format of devotional music. The same format has now been adopted in Disco, wrap and Rock style for the purpose of entertainment often under the influence of drugs. 

The contribution of Film music directors deserves to be mentioned for blending classical music with folk music and carrying the same to masses in the form of popular (Pop) music. In this field of compositions, maestro Naushad has towered his contemporaries with several successful experimentations. Indian film music is more popular all over the world.

Indian Dance

India has a proud history of dance dating back to 5000 BC. The earliest available ‘evidence’ of dance in India is the figurine of the ‘dancing girl’ found at the Harappa excavation in IndusValley.

According to Natya Shastra, Nritta, Nrithya and Natya are the three aspects of dance.

  • Nritta means pure and simple dance. This involves movements of the body and limbs, for a decorative effect, without conveying any meaning.
  • Nrithya lays emphasis of expressions, to convey the meaning of the rendering. Nrithya involves facial expressions, gestures and symbolic poses.
  • Natya includes drama through the use of spoken word, apart from Nritta and Nrithya.

According to Natya Shastra dance originated when sage Bharata approached Lord Shiva with a request to give the world an art form through which the essence of the Vedas could be propagated to everybody. Hence Shiva took parts from the four Vedas to create Panchama Veda of Natya. He took Nada from Rig Veda, swara from Samaveda, acting from Atharvaveda and chanting from Yajurveda. On Shiva’s request Parvati performed the elegant Lasya style of dance. She taught this to the Asura princess Usha who eventually propagated it in the western parts of present India. Shiva (in the form of Nataraja) is the presiding deity of dance.

Vishnu in the form of Mohini is said to have danced with Bhasmasura. Krishna is also said to have danced over the head of the deadly snake Kaliya. He is well-known to have danced the Raas with the Gopies of Vrindavan.

The other form of Dance originated by Shiva is Tandava that is most energetic and known as dance of cosmic destruction.

There are several dance styles out of which Bharat Natyam, Kathaka, Katha-Kali, Kuchipudi, and Manipuri are the most popular classical forms. In addition there are several folk dances representing India’s diverse culture. Most of the folk dances fall under the basic category of Tandava or Lasya. Bhangra dance from Punjab and Garba dance from Gujarat are conspicuous examples.

A Living Paradise

Volumes can be written to explain the variety of Music and Dances of India for the inquisitive mind. Folk music and folk dances have been part and parcel of Hindu society in every shade of life. The colorful life style of Indians have remained a big attraction for other nations of the world.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 46/72 – Origin of Political Thought )

Splashes – 26/72 – Temples and Rituals in Hinduism

Hinduism considered religion and spirituality to be a personal affair of the individual to connect his soul to God. Human body itself is a temple and abode of God, since it is formed out of five basic elements; Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Ether. It draws warmth from Sun and coolness from Moon. The human body is a tool for creation, preservation and also destruction. Thus basic elements of Nature and gods symbolizing Trinity reside and act in human body.  Hinduism asserts oneness with the Universe by saying:

“जो ब्रह्माण्डे सो ही पिण्डे” – meaning whatever is in universe is also in our body.

The temple viewed is an external symbol of body. Various parts of human body have therefore been incorporated in temple’s architecture. Hindu is obliged neither to build a temple nor pay any visit to it on any particular day. It is optional to choose the time, form and place of worship for the individual.

Significance of Temples

Temples are classrooms of spirituality for the community. Even those who believe in formless god, also have temples. They have played a significant part in helping to preserve and enrich our religion, culture, arts, and crafts. Temples scattered all over the country have served as meeting places to foster national unity.  People living at far off places, have been voluntarily converging at one place on festivals like Kumbha and Jagannath Rath Yatra for several centuries. Thus temples, have served as information and coordination centers of all activities of Hindu Society.

Importance of Rituals

In Hinduism the meaning of dharma is related to the service of all living beings in the environment. But it is difficult for everyone to perceive abstract principles. Philosophy without perceivable actions is hard to be understood, and turns meaningless. ‘Some tangible activity’ is therefore necessary to translate thought into action. Rituals do this job. Religions without rituals become insipid.

The rituals are like spice to the food. They standardize a way to perform certain functions for the sake of uniformity and formalize the beginning and ending of procedures.  It is only when the rituals are separated from the faith and assume an independent existence, they become mechanical, lifeless and burden.

Nowhere in the world, human societies devoted themselves purely to abstract principles and dispensed with all sorts of symbols and rituals. A flag hoisting, an oath taking, or dress codes during university convocation, is as much a ritual as worship or sacrifice. Sage Manu recommended the performance of several rituals, not only to give concrete shape to the abstract spiritual ideals, but also to add color and zest to life. A solemnly conducted ritual creates conducive atmosphere, suggests the mood so that the spiritual aspirant may easily detach himself from the world and feel the mysterious presence of the Supreme Power.

Rituals are like customs and traditions, and may continue changing according to the environment in the society. For instance meditation at sunrise, noon and sunset with recitation of some Mantra, worship of God through symbols and idols, offering oblations to sacrificial fires, were some of the rituals more common in the past. But many exist today in modified form, or with lesser intensity.

Rituals of Worship

Since rituals standardize the system and consolidate the society, changes should not be frequent, and arbitrary. They can be varied according to circumstances, availability of time and resources. A broader conscientious must be arrived before any diversion is made to existing customs and traditions. Deviations should not be made for the sake of flimsy difficulties experienced by few individuals.

Hindu rituals are not as rigid as thought to be. More or less, all religions and civilized communities have been observing similar rituals with slight modifications. Hinduism suggests two types of rituals:

  • Daily Rituals are for the personal satisfaction of the individuals.
  • Contingent rituals are performed to formalize activities in the society on as required basis.

Daily Rituals

Sandhya, Homa and Puja are daily optional rituals. Individuals may choose any one, or all the three, or a combination depending upon time, facilities and resources available. It may be performed individually, or in the company of family members as well as in large gatherings. The venue could be home, community place, a temple, or anywhere. It is to be remembered that these are not for the benefit of God but for the individual to feel contented, humbled, calm and composed after having been relieved of his daily tensions. These are:

  1. Meditation Prayer (Sandhya) – It is focusing the mind on the Supreme Power in any form through meditation. One may meditate at any place and face any direction, since Almighty is everywhere. However climatically, the ideal suggested time is at dawn and dusk before commencing and after concluding daily routines. One may thank the Almighty by inner voice, whispers or chanting loudly one or several mantras, or by using simple words in any language. All forms appear appropriate to God.  The louder would certainly draw more attention and often ridicule from the by-standers. Any convenient clothing could be worn. It is desirable that the place should be clean and quiet as far as possible.
  2. Sacrificial Fire (Homa) – It is Vedic form of worship offered to formless Deity invoked through the sacrificial fire. Precisely it helps to remove pollution from the environment as incense and other materials with beneficial properties are burned along chanting of Mantras. It may be performed individually or collectively for better environment.
  3. Formal Worship (Puja) – This is comparatively formal and elaborate than Meditation prayer. But some or all the formalities can be skipped according to perceptions of the worshipers. The mode of Puja or worship is a replica of the courtesies and protocols normally extended to a beloved guest or a person of higher status. The procedure involved is similar to worldly form of respect that we offer to many mortals to solicit some favors. Only, the King of kings is the recipient here. Puja may be arranged at home or in a temple, and can be performed by the individual himself or more elaborately through a professional priest acting as chief of protocol. Stepwise, the following is the order:-
  • Avahana – invoking the presence of the Deity,
  • Asana – seat is offered to the Deity invoked,
  • Padya – the feet of the deity are washed,
  • Arghya – an offering of sandalwood paste and rice is made to deity,
  • Chandana – sandalwood paste is smeared,
  • Pushpa –  flowers are offered,
  • Dhupa –  incense is burned,
  • Dipa – lighted lamp is waved in front of deity,
  • Naivedya – food offering is made along with drinking water to deity.
  • Visarjana – Finally the Deity is given a farewell.

Contingent Rituals 

The rituals of this category are contingency dependent, and need to be performed when the situation arises. These were mentioned in Manusamruti since the evolution of the society, and continue to be observed in every society with local modifications. These are intended to formally announce the occurrence of major event in the life of an individual for the information of other members of the society. Though some of the embellishments prescribed by Sage Manu might have been out dated due to changes in environment, but in substance and the purpose, these rituals are essentially relevant in every society while some of the westernized Hindus mock at them. Their mocking is nothing but display of their utter ignorance and ingratitude to their own ancestors.

One significant aspect of Hindu ritual is that all activities are performed after invoking the ‘presence’ of Vedic gods, particularly Agni (Fire), Ganesha, and the heavenly bodies of our solar system as witnesses. Celestial witnesses are invoked for testifying the occurrence, as Human beings are liable to be inconsistent and unreliable for multiple reasons. Celestial witnesses are omnipresent and omniscience.

It is also to be remembered that according to Hinduism, God is not concerned with any form of clothing, food, or rituals. Whatever people practice based on their own perceptions, is only to please them-selves. If a person liked sweets and pampering, he would conclude sweets to be the best gifts towards God, and would derive satisfaction by offering the same to Him. He would suggest others also to follow the same. Likewise, rituals are pleasing as long as one can afford them. They become burden when forced upon.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes 27/72 – Environment Related Colorful Festivals)

Splashes -17/ 72 – Hindu Religion is not Syllabus Based

All religions of the world have prescribed certain texts to be read, revered and recited by the followers to demonstrate their fidelity in the faith. In certain faiths, it is mandatory to visit assigned places to offer prayers before the Almighty. Some have prescribed certain dress codes also to be observed and violations are not tolerated at all. Violators could be ticked off, punished and even killed by fellow believers. They could be forced to comply with religious obligations.

In contrast, Hinduism offers total freedom to maintain personal relationship with Almighty as per the choice of the individual. Nothing is prescribed or considered as compulsory, except if the place of worship owned by some individual or trust, only then, the rules framed by the owners have to be observed. Individual should not offend others is the only constraint.

Options Available

  • Literature – Hindu catalog of scriptures offers wider choice. Hinduism neither prescribed any particular syllabus of religious textbooks nor prevented anyone form the study of any scripture. Hindus can pick and choose the type of literature that suits their individuality and the goals for self-development. More and more additions continue to be made by various sects that keep emerging within the fold of Hinduism.
  • Forms of God – Everyone is free to have individual precepts about God in Hinduism. It could be one or multiple gods; it could be formless or a god in flesh and blood in the form of human, animal, living or non-living object. God can be perceived and addressed by thousands of name at individual choice.
  • Language – Sanskrit is the common language of ancient Hindu Scriptures. It is a scientific, systematic, expressive and yet compressive language. Unlike the Roman script there is no variation in written or spoken words. Still, there is absolute freedom regarding the choice of language in Hinduism. Translations are as valid as the Sanskrit texts. Signs and gestures are also adequate if anyone wanted to remain silent.

Dynamism in Hinduism

Hinduism was not founded by any individual, but is the result of meditations, intuitions, and experience of a large number of seers, saints and mystics called Rishies. Their wisdom and experiences were systematized and handed down from one generation to the next as a great tradition.

Even today, these spiritual truths can be experimented on and verified like the statements about natural laws found in textbooks of science.  Truths are open to discussion, addition, interpretations, and modifications. The religion is adaptive to the changes and additions to human knowledge. Everyone can write and project his interpretations supported by reasons for others to accept or reject. Hindu literature is therefore open to inclusion of new codes of law.

Acquisition of knowledge

Acquisition of knowledge is regarded an individual responsibility. The learned are graded in the society accordingly. Those who specialized in any one Veda were called Vedi, specializing on two were Dwevedi, on three were Trivedi and those specializing on four Vedas were Chaturvedi. Person knowing all the Vedas, Upanishads and Shastras were called Vedanti and so on.

However, today these titles have become hereditary and their actual specialization is not counted. Even Muslims also have such titles. Individuals capable of reciting Quran are called Hafiz, those having under taken pilgrimage to Mecca are called Haji, and those having been slayers of infidels are honored as Gazi. But in Hinduism if anyone did not read or recite any scripture or text, he is still regarded as a Hindu without any prejudice.

Compendiums of Collective Wisdom

Hindu scriptures contain subtle and secular philosophy of everyday life and environment around. For the sake of laymen abstracts have been personified. We need to recall that when early men saw the rising of the Sun, Moon, stars, thunder, lightning, they wondered or feared the same. Only some of them thought of solving those mysteries around their environment. They used their observations, imagination and intelligence to create mythical stories. They were the scientists of ancient world, and their collective knowledge has been compiled in Hindu literature for the benefit of entire mankind.

In every part of the world some form of mythology had come into existence. The nomadic groups adopted paganism, but later submitted to Christianity or Islam. New faiths demolished paganism. For protecting their new-found dogmas against exposure and test of rationality, they prohibited questioning of their dogmas. This has not been the case with Hinduism.

In India ‘Sanatan Dharma’ and Vedic knowledge have remained supportive to each other and grown side by side. Puranic mythology is the pictorial form of Vedic knowledge through which abstract thoughts and attributes have got personified in divine hierarchy of Gods, goddesses and mythical events. Both are complementary to each other.

Faith of Universal Brotherhood

Conversions are not sought in Hinduism by force, allurements, or deceit. Hinduism is acquired by birth as a human. Anyone who lived a natural life and let others also live their life within the constraints of local environment preserving harmony is a natural born Hindu. It is the practice of this subtle philosophy that Hindus can be seen feeding ants and birds in nearby parks, revering water sources and mountains even in remote areas.

An individual may not have time; aptitude, opportunity, and inclination to read religious literature as people have different priorities and commitments. It does not matter if anyone did not read any scripture, nor went on pilgrimage, believed any God or remained an atheist, yet he can proudly call himself to be a Hindu. It is a faith of absolute freedom for those who respect the freedom of fellow humans and all living beings as one family Vasudeava Kutumakam.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 18/72 – Laying Foundation for Moral Values)

 

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