About Hinduism and India

Posts tagged ‘Yoga’

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)

Splashes – 56/72 – Plagiarism of Intellectual Property

Political stability is key factor for development and in its absence, all systems go out-of-order. When political conditions in India became unstable, everything was dislocated and Hinduism lost the patronage of the ruling class. As a consequence social, economic, and religious infrastructures crumbled down.

Prior to the rise of Islam Indian ideas and texts had already reached Baghdad. During eighth century the Arabs gained political power and ruled from Indus to Spain. Arabic schools were established all over the Abbasid Empire of Arabs.

Translation Centers

Indian texts that were picked for translation had been taken out of India even before the spread of Islam. Since pre-Islamic intellectuals were not biased against Hindu scriptures, many of the texts were read, understood and translated to Arabic, Persian and other languages as an academic activity. Translation Centers existed at the following places:-

  • Spain – Caliph Abdur-Rahman III (891–961) built a massive new library at Cordoba in Spain and filled it with manuscripts in Sanskrit and other languages brought from Baghdad. The library contained 400,000 volumes.
  • Sicily – Arabs governing Sicily also imported texts from Baghdad and had a rich library there. The translation of Hindu-Arabic literature continued till the end of sixteenth century.
  • Syria – Translation Centers were at work in Syria, Damascus, and Palermo where translations of Aryabhatta also found their way.
  • Europe – In 1120 an Englishman Robert of Chester living in Spain translated Al-Khwarismi’s Algoritmi De Numero Indorum into Latin.This work was in fact based on Aryabhatta. The translation  carried Indian numbers, arithmetic, Algebra and Astronomy to the Latin world along with Aryabhatta’s works in the field of fractions, quadratic equations, sums of power series, concept of version 1- cos, equations of imaginary numbers and square root of One.
  • Palestine Frederick founded the University of Naples in 1224 endowing it with a large collection of Arabic manuscripts. From Spain he brought a translator who created a Latin summary of Aristotle’s biological and zoological works. The library was endowed with a large collection of Arabic manuscripts of ancient Greek and Indian texts; as well as commentaries of the Arab scholars on them. Copies of Latin translation were sent to universities in Paris and Bologna. Frederick also led the Fifth Crusade to Palestine in 1228-1229, and recaptured Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth. These efforts brought back to Europe the works of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. It also brought to Europe the works of Indians in the field of Mathematics, Astronomy, Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, Philosophy and Music.

Indian identity got camouflaged

Europe was still passing through ‘Dark Age’ and ‘Renaissance’ was far off. Even about more than thousand years after Christ, Europeans were ignorant of India and her progress. Their knowledge extended up to the Arab world due to which they attributed the inflow of knowledge only to Arabs.

  • By 976, Hindu numerals started appearing in plagiarized form as ‘Arabic numerals’, even though the Arabs had been referring the same numerals as  “Hind-se”, implying ‘from India ’.
  • It was only in 1202 that Leonardo Pisano introduced Arabic numerals to Europe and the original Hindu numerals Hind-se were adopted as modern International form of numerals under the brand of Arabic numerals.
  • Many of the Arabic manuscripts had been translated to Latin at the monastery of Santa Maria de Ripon in Spain. However the people of Spain had no inkling that the text material was originated from India.
  • In the tenth century, Gerbert of Aurillac (946–1003), became the Pope. He learnt the Indian counting system from the Moors of Spain, and in 990 he taught the Hindu numerals to his students and monks. He trekked to Northern Spain to carry home Latin translations of Arab treatise on Abacus and Astrolabe. He encouraged adoption of those systems especially by merchants. The new numbers revolutionized accounting and made Europeans a successful mercantile community.

Effect of Sanskrit on English

Relative Pronouns – Sanskrit word Pitra had been transformed into Pidar in Arabic and Persian. It travelled further and got converted to Father in English. Similarly Matra underwent changes in the order of Mather and Mother, Bhratra changed to Biradar and then to Brother. Many Sanskrit words as well as their connotations found their way to Europe. It is obvious that there was outflow from Sanskrit but no words found their way to Sanskrit.

Proper Names – The names of towns and places also have been affected.

  • Tashkent is derived from Takshak Khand. India was called Bharat Khand when King Bharata ruled over it.  The area inhabited by Bundela and Ruhela clans came to be known as Bundel Khand and Ruhail Khand
  • Fortified towns used to be named after their owners by adding a suffix Garh, such as Lakshman Garh, Pithora Garh and so on. The suffix Garh could be spelt in English as Gard also; like Lenin-grad and Stalin-Grad.
  • British often spelt Kanpur as Cownpore and Lukhnow as Lucknow. Likewise they mis-spelt Sinhpur as Singapore, Maley as Malaya, Kamboj as Cambodia, and Astralya as Australia. In India and Gandhara (Afghanistan).
  • Towns with watch towers were suffixed with word Names of cities in Europe have similar suffixes like Pitts burg and so on.
  • Hari-kul Ish (Balrama, the elder Brother of Krishna) got converted to Hercules, and Alkhshendra to Alexander.
  • River Ganga is known as Ganges.

That trend is reversed now. Many Indians shorten their names to mingle with Europeans and Americans. Otherwise if one made a list of proper nouns in English, the list will be a repetition or modification after about hundred original names have been noted.

Customs and Traditions – It has been customary for the new brides to kick a pot filled with rice at the main entrance of her husband’s house to denote that their new abode be blessed with plenty of food and comforts. Since Europeans preferred drinks, the young brides there kick a Champaign bottle on the occasion of her first entrance in husband’s house.

The English word husband too is linked to Hindu marriage rites. The word referred to the person whose hand had been tied to the specific female for the purpose of marriage. The ritual is still performed during Hindu marriages when the groom ties a wrist band to the right hand of the bride.

Calendar – The word Calendar is written and pronounced as Kalander in Portuguese. It is derived from Sanskrit word Kal-antra (Time interval). The English months September, October, November, and December also had their roots in Sanskrit such as Sapta-ambar.  Seventh Ambar meaning 7 th mark in Sky, Ashta- ambar – 8th, Nav – ambar – 9 th and Dasha- ambar 10 th mark in the sky.

The word ‘Ambar‘is a synonym for sky in Sanskrit. The yearly sky-route of Earth’s revolution around the Sun was marked by Zodiac signs. When Sun entered new Zodiac, which signaled the beginning of new month in Hindu calendar. Prior to 1752 March used to be the first month of the year in England also. Accordingly September happened to be the seventh month and so on.

Theological Opposition to Knowledge

It was Galileo in the late sixteenth century who for the first time tried to understand what was contained in the Latin translation of the Sindhind (Siddhanta Shiromani) of Brahmagupta. When he propounded the theory of rotation of earth he had to suffer the persecution of the Church, as it did not match the Gospel. Considered by many to be the founder of modern science, Galileo not only built the first telescope but also discovered the laws of bodies in motion.

But instead of rewarding his discoveries, Galileo was put under house arrest in Sienna. Theological rejection of Truth continued in other fields also in contrast to Hinduism.

Europeans took years in understanding science complied by Hindus and presented to them by the Arabs, because of Church’s domination in everyday life.  The decline of Christian faith coupled with rise of knowledge ushered Europe into all round development and they came in a position to dominate world.

Patenting of Knowledge

The sages and intellectuals in India had been in the pursuit of Knowledge and had devoted themselves for self-actualization.  There were no patent laws to protect intellectual property rights as there are today. The Sages never indulged in commercialization of Knowledge.  It is only in the Western world where they are trying to patent Basmati Rice, Neem tree and Yoga to make business out of knowledge. The plagiarism and conversion of Hindu knowledge continues unabated though India is projected as land of savages and primitives.

The positive View

The positive aspect of export of Hindu knowledge was that their compilations were put to use for inventions, otherwise the knowledge in unused state would have been perished. Unless one made use of knowledge, power, and wealth, he is sure to lose the same. Un-used assets always reach usurpers.

Need for Political Patronage

Lack of political patronage has resulted in massive loot and destruction of our intellectual wealth. We have not even estimated and identified the losses. Since our government is “secular” – there is none to stake claim. Unless Indian youths are acquainted with their past heritage and are motivated, these treasures left by our ancestors will fade into history.

There is need for Indian scholars to undertake research to trace out and reclaim our intellectual heritage. Many of our artifacts and ancient manuscripts are still lying un-ciphered in museums of the world. Only patriotic Indian scholars with deep knowledge of Sanskrit can undertake this work with financial backing from government or some patriotic foundations. For this mammoth task we have to pick leads from Sanskrit language.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 57/72 – Sun set in East – Sun rise from West)

Splashes – 43/72 – Entertainment and Pastimes

Previous Indian generation may still recall having played some Indian game during their child hood, otherwise our ancestral legacies in play-field have already been swallowed by colonial Sports.

Unfortunately today, reference to games in India is associated primarily to Cricket. In addition Hockey, Volleyball, Football, and Tennis and some other European games are also being played as legacies of the British Raj. It appears that until the British arrived India had no games to play. The British employed cheap Indian labor on the play fields in service of players to for cheering them up while the white men played.

Commercialization of Sports

The regrettable aspect that stands out is that the sport fields today are no longer within the reach of common man. People have to stay in their rooms only for watching games being played over TV screens. Few can spare time and money to witness the same alive in big cities. Those who applied during childhood could be fortunate to avail the facility of Sports Clubs shortly before their Vanaprastha stage.

Sports clubs are used by business minded members for commercial contacts or socializing, because games are no longer within the reach of street children and youth. Budding sports-boys have to get immune to frequent scolding from disturbed residents staying near miniature ‘playfield’ if they venture out to play. Moreover, they cannot afford the expensive equipment required for modern game and have to practice with crude improvised gear.

Those who are fortunate enough to play, sportsman-spirit has given place to their ambitions for amassing wealth, and learning skills of cut throat competition. Many of the aspiring sportsmen end up frustrated with nothing left for living. Sports are now a wagering profession.

Sports for Self Development

But that was not the case with sports in Ancient India. Physical perfection (Kaya- Sadhana) was an integral part of Hinduism and a pre-requisition to salvation. It involved perfect coordination between body and mind. The capstone of Hatha Yoga was strength, stamina and supreme control of the body functions.

The ‘eight-fold’ Yoga encompassed techniques associated with body posture (Asanas), breathing control (Pranayama), and withdrawal of the senses (Pratyahara). Religious rites provided impetus to physical culture in ancient India. Many of the present day Olympic disciplines are sophisticated versions of the games involving strength and speed that traveled from India to Greece.

Encouragement to Body Development

To belie the misconception that Indians had no sport aptitude, it is relevant to recount some traces from our past.

  • Vedic Period – Individuals were encouraged to improve their body potential along with intellect at Gurukul by strict adherence to Brahmacharyaand practice of Yoga. Even in the marriage, physical efficiency and skill were tested as evident from Ramayana and Mahabharta Balarama, Bhimsain, Hanuman, Jamavanta, and Jarasandha were some of the great wrestler-champion of yore.
  • Excavations at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro confirm that during the Indus valley civilization the weapons involved in war and hunting exercises included bow and arrow, dagger, axe and the mace out of those Toran(Javelin) and the chakra (Discus), were also used in the sports arena. Men were expected to be well-versed in chariot – racing, archery, military stratagems, swimming, wrestling and hunting. Cart races were also held.  Many of the Olympic traditions travelled from India to Greece and Rome.
  • Buddhist Period– With the spread of Buddhism, Indian sport reached excellence. As a prince Siddhartha Gautam (Buddha) was a player in the sport of archery, chariot racing, equitation and hammer throwing. Tiruvedacharya has described many of these games in detail in Villas Mani-Manjri.  In Manas Olhas of 1135 AD, Someshwar writes about Bhara-shram (weight lifting) and Bharaman-shram (walking). Both the items are now established Olympic disciplines at present. Mall Stambha was a peculiar form of wrestling, wherein rivals wrestled from the shoulders of their helpers standing in waist-deep water during the bout.
  • Gupta Period – The renowned Chinese travelers Fa-Hien and Hieun-Tsang have recounted swimming, sword fighting, running, wrestling and ball games; that were immensely popular among the students of Nalanda and Takshashila Universities.
  • Medieval Period– Medieval Period in our history was a period of turmoil. The nobility indulged in games like Chowghan (polo) or taming of hostile animals and Buzkashi. Aimed to practice youths to serve as mercenaries in the royal army, the games played were barbaric and violent. Gradually common folks lost interest in outdoor games except few games that could be played locally for moderate exercise. However, even then the range of sports activity and sports venues impressed a Portuguese ambassador to visit Raja Krishnadeva, the ruler of Krishna Nagar, who was an ace wrestler and horseman.  

Out-door Games of India

A remarkable feature of Indian sports is that no sophisticated equipment was required, nor any umpire was needed to interpret complexity of rules that exist today. The games were designed primarily as source of healthy past time without any pre training or expertise. Some of the popular games played in India were:

  • Sagol Kangjet– The equestrian game like today’s Polo was played around 34 AD in Manipur where it was called Sagol Kangjet; sagol meaning horse, kang meaning ball, and jet meaning stick. Subsequently Muslims introduced the Persian Chaugan and the Afghani Buzkashi versions of Indian game. Buzkashi was cruel since a live sheep was torn to pieces by horsemen who snatched live animal while playing on the field.
  • Battle Dour– Modern Badminton derived its origins from the 2000 year-old game of Battle Dour that was played in ancient India. The game played today with the rackets and shuttles are the refined versions of Battle Dour.
  • Kabaddi –It is the only surviving game on global arenas from India. The game does not require any equipment except a line dividing the playing area into two halves. Two teams play against each other by touching or capturing players of the opponent team. Both teams alternately send players into the opponent’s court. Any player going out of the boundary line is declared out, except during struggle. There are three forms of Kabaddi in India, out of which form ‘Sanjeevani’ is played under Kabaddi Federation of India under its rules & regulations.
  • Gilli-Danda– Unfortunately due to lack of open areas in cities, this game has vanished. It was a popular game played all over India till few decades ago. It was played by using a small round stick called ‘Danda’ and another slightly cylindrical shaped billet of wood called  The objective of the game was to hit the gilli with danda. The person who could hit the gilli to fly the farthest added more credits for his team to be proclaimed the winner at the end. There were many popular local versions of the game. By adding glitter to Gilli Danda, such as leather satchels, hand gloves, eye covers, sun umbrellas spread on lush green vast turfs for the spectators holding binoculars slung around their neck, Gilli Danda has all the potential to compete with Golf.

In-door Games

Not only males had the privilege of entertainment, women, too, excelled in sport. They could enjoy out-door games like cock-fighting, quail-fighting and ram-fighting. Besides that females had indoor venues open to them. Some of the indoor games that were played by both sexes are mentioned below:

  • Chaturanga –Chess was known to Indians as Chaturanga, meaning four wings of the army described in Amarakosa as Elephants, Horses, Chariots, and Infantry. It was also known as Ashtapada, since it was played on a board of 8 x 8 cells. It was taken to Persia in the sixth century during the reign of Anushirvan (531-579) where it came to be known as Chaturanga or Chatrang.  Subsequently in Arabic phonetic system the name changed to Shatranj. The earliest reference to chess in Persia is found in the Karnamak-i-Artakh Shatr-i Papakan, written during 600 AD. In the tenth century, the poet Firdusi related a traditional story in his epic Shahnama of how chess came to Persia through an envoy of the King of Hind. From India, Chaturanga traveled to China and Japan. The earliest reference to chess in China is found in Niu Seng-Ju’s Yu Kuai Lu (Book for Marvels) written during eighth century AD. The countries of Southeast Asia learned chess directly from India. The game has been often complimented as a philosophy and contest of mental athletics.
  • Mokshapata – The earliest version of Snakes and Ladders is credited to 13th century saint-poet Gyandevof Maharashtra, and was called Mokshapat (meaning Salvation Cloth). The ‘game’ was not for entertainment, but to explain the basic tenets of Hinduism to common folks. The game was drawn out on a cloth divided into blocks called houses, each representing emotions like Daya, Karuna and Dar (kindness, empathy and fear). The ladders represented virtues and the snakes, vices. The Hinsa (violence represented by snake) would take one down to Hell, while Vidyabhyas (Ladders of Knowledge) would take one to the Shastras. The game was played with dices and cowrie (shells). The game travelled to Thanjavur in during 17-18th century where it was magnified in size and called Parama Pada Sopana Pata and went through other alterations. The morality of the game appealed to the Victorians, who took to the game. It was popularized in England as Snakes and Ladders in 1892.
  • Ganjipha – This game of Playing Cards had a religious sanction. They were circular in shape and were covered with various kinds of material and paintings. While the poor would use paper or starched cloth for their cards, the wealthy would go in for cards made out of ivory, tortoise-shell or mother-of-pearl. There was a basic set of 12 cards featuring various aspects of Indian mythology. The Navagraha Ganjiphawas a game with 108 cards divided into nine suites, representing the nine planets of our solar system.
  • PachisiPachisi also known as Twenty-Five is very popular game of the masses. Pachisi is like the game of Chaupar, Chausar, or Chaupad.  This game dates back at least 2,200 years.

Besides the above games, there have been many street performers identified as Bazigars. They have been performing gymnastics and acrobats like nomadic circus with much less infrastructure and safety equipment. They are apt in walking on tight ropes fearlessly by balancing themselves only with a bamboo pole.  Also they can walk on hands with legs up and perform high jumps. Sadly, our self-centered politicians have not cared to provide them adequate infrastructure and opportunities to make even some living. Gradually these folk arts are vanishing.  Our heritage is decaying in front our eyes while we remain amusing over selves watching pre-fixed cricket matches that are turning the rich – richer. It is very unfortunate that all Indian sports have been replaced by European sports due to glamorization and own folk arts are dying due to neglect and lack of patronization.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 44/72 – Ruins of our Architecture)

Splashes -38/72 – Ancient Medical Infrastructure

Living according to Natural laws of the local environment is the essence of Hinduism. In modern jargon it is called Naturo-pathy. Patanjili’s Yogasutra suggested a holiest approach to disease free life based on constant practice of self-discipline, diet control, body postures and breathing techniques. Hindus by and large continued to live the same way till their life styles came in clash with invaders and got distorted. According to Atharva Veda, water therapy was to be the most effective remedy for all cures as water is at the base of every medicine.

System of Diagnosis

Ancient Indian texts on physiology identified three body humors – wind, gall, and mucus as primary factors. A balance among all the three was necessary to be maintained for enjoying good health. Life styles were broadly classified as Satvik, Rajsik and Tamsik, and they also contributed towards good or bad health.

A wide variety of herbs were listed in ancient pharmacopoeia, many of which have been proved to be sure cures for specific diseases, such as oil from the bark of Chaulmoogra trees remains was the most effective treatment for leprosy. Many of Ayurvedic diagnoses and cures are still used in India, with success to the envy of Western physicians.

Surgery

Conceptual references about transplantation of body part are already available in pictorial representations of Lord GanshaVarah Avatar (human form of Vishnu with Boar’s head), and Narasimha Avtar, (human form of Vishnu with Lion’s head).

In addition, there is Puranic reference where Shiva had transplanted goat head on the corpse of Daksh Prajapati. The narration goes that Daksha had insulted Shiva. It resulted in Shiva’s consort Sati jumping into yagna fire. On orders from Shiva, his Gana Veera Bhadra chopped off the head of Daksha. Subsequently, moved by the pleadings from his widow, Shiva transplanted a goat head on Daksha’s corpse to give him new life. Allegorically Daksha had to be identified as a person with greater ego than his worth.

Apart from matter of faith, mortal ancient Indians also have been bold and skillful in the art of Surgery. They conducted amputations, arrested bleeding by pressure with the help of a cup-shaped bandage, and boiling oil. They devoted great care to the making of surgical instruments, and to the training of students by means of operations performed on wax spread out on a board, or on the tissues, cells of the vegetable kingdom, and upon dead animals.  Sushruta has been the foremost surgeon and is credited to have performed complex surgeries.

Anatomy and Physiology

India’s oldest medical texts were far superior to most subsequent works in the field. Anatomy and physiology are the by-products of medicine. As far back as the sixth century BC, Indian physicians described ligaments, sutures, lymphatic, nerve plexus, fascia, adipose, vascular tissues, mucous, and many more muscles than any cadaver are able to show. They understood remarkably well the process of digestion, different functions of gastric juices, and dissolution of food in to blood.

Garbha Upanishad attributed to Rishi Pipalada has listed 180 joints, 107 delicate parts (Marmasthalas), 109 Nerve centers (Sanayutantra), 360 bones, 500 marrow centers (Majjas) and 4.5 million cells in human body.  It is further mentioned that human-heart weighed 8 Tolas, tongue 12 Tolas and liver one Seer. It has also been clarified that due to variations in food intake and expulsion of waste matters, the weights of body part are not uniform in all humans.

The Indian medical schools of 500 BC suggested birth control in the latest theological fashion that during the twelve days of the menstrual cycle impregnation was impossible. Fetus development has been described with considerable accuracy in Garbha Upanishad; and it has also specified the period till the sex of the fetus remained undetermined. It was also stated that food or drugs could influence the sex of the embryo.

Process of Death

Another text Trishikha Brahmnopnishad has described the process of death in human body on a time line. According to the description, sensations follow a set pattern prior to natural death of persons. One year prior to the natural death sensation recede from foot soles, thumbs, and toes. Six month before the death sensations from wrists and ankles are lost. One month prior to death, sensations are lost from elbows and fortnight prior from eyes. The appetite is lost ten days before death. Eye sight gets reduced to glow-worm spark five days prior to death. A person cannot see the tip of his own nose three days prior to his death and candle light just two days before. Any physician can start data collection on the subject and verify the percentiles himself.

Herbal Cures

The Hindus knew various chemical processes. Oxides, sulphates, and metallic substances made out of gold and silver, were administered internally in India long before the Arabs borrowed the same and introduced to Europe. A tree resin had been used in India as a cure for variety of ailments, and also to lower cholesterol in lab animals. Gugal, had been used since 600 BC to battle obesity, arthritis, and many other ailments.  Tamarind was used as a cooling agent. Even today many of the herbal cures suggested by Swami Ram Dev and Acharya Balakrishan are causing envy and surprise for the medicos at home and abroad.

Hypnotism

Hypnotism as therapy also originated from India.  Hindus often took their sick to temples and holy places for cure by hypnotic suggestions. Buddhist Monks carried this tradition to China and Far East. Muslims followed the practice and started taking their sick to shrines and mazaars.  Subsequently Christians also resorted to faith healing techniques.

Ancient Hospitals

While the earliest hospital in Europe were opened after tenth century, the Hindus were the first nation to have established public hospitals, and for centuries they were the only people in the world who maintained them. The kings and merchants financed hospitals. Nursing and attending of the sick was considered highest service towards Dharma.

The Chinese traveler, Fahien, narrated about the hospital he visited in Pataliputra: “Hither come all poor and helpless patients suffering from all kinds of infirmities. They are well taken care of, and a doctor attends them; food and medicine being supplied according to their wants. Thus they are made quite comfortable, and when they are well, they may go away.

Regulations for Public Health  

Sage Manu has suggested that persons polluting public places should be reprimanded only, but he has been sterner on the aspect of exercising control over quacks. It is mentioned in Manusumriti:-

आपद्गतो़तवा वृद्धा गर्भिणी बाल एव वा। परिभाषणमर्हन्ति तच्च शोध्यमिति स्थितिः।।

चिकित्सकानां सर्वेषां मिथ्या प्रचरतां दमः। अमानुषेषु प्रथमो मानषेषु तु मध्यमः।। (मनु स्मृति 9- 283-284)

(Implied meaning- If an old or pregnant women, patient, or a child are seen polluting any public place, they be over looked and let off after getting the place cleaned. Unqualified medical practitioners treating animals be punished with one Sahasa, and those treating humans be punished with two Sahasa).

Veterinary Science

Emperor Asoka had established hospitals for animals and birds, besides his subjects. Veterinary medicine was a distinct branch of science with its own hospitals and scholars. Considerable advances were made and monographs exist on the diseases of horses and elephants.

  • Veterinary medicines prevalent during ancient time have been mentioned inVisnu Dharmottara Mahapurana.
  • Megasthenes refers to the treatment practiced for prolonging life of elephants. Palakapyamuni’s Hastyayur Vedais a Veternary text exclusively attributed to the care of Elephants.
  • Salihotra was the most eminent authority on horse breeding.
  • Juadudatta has given a detailed account of the medical treatment of cows in his Asva-Vaidyaka.

It is interesting to note that till 350 BC Aristotle, father of almost ‘everything in knowledge’ for the Western world had classified birds in two categories. In the first category were the “birds with blood” and in the second category were those “without blood”. In contrast, one needs to scan through Manusamriti, where classification of all living species has been made on the basis of their process of birth, body parts, and traits. Further Valmiki Ramayana also contains a detailed classification of all living species in the style of family trees. Both are identical though works of different sages.

The classification of Indian sages cannot and should not be discarded simply for the reason that their terminology does not match with that of Western zoologists.  The classification of Indian sages is original, scientific, holistic, and appealing even to the common sense of all concerned.

Ancient physicians and surgeons were fore-runners in the field of Medical Science. Although Swami Ram Dev is successfully demonstrating and carrying forward the same legacy in twenty first century, but many biased persons across the globe find it hard to digest the efficacy of herbal cures and Yoga practices, mainly for their vested economic interests. The revival of Ayurveda and Yoga is a welcome sign for India.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 39/72 – Sanskrit the perfect Language)

Splashes – 29/72 – Practices for Self Control

Vrata implies taking vow to accomplish pre-decided mission in spite of difficulties and obstacles. Repeated action aimed at perfection is called Sadhna.  Undertaking Sadhna is called Tapa. It is one of the five Niyamas of Yoga. Sadhnas prepare a person bodily and mentally to negotiate challenging situations. The gamut of Vrata, Sadhna and Niyama is regarded as an effective tool for spiritual, mental and physical development.

Fasting (Vrata) is an important practice (sadhna) for exercising control over passions.  It is undertaken primarily to keep the body in fit condition and to balance out excessive intakes. Fasting controls passion, emotions and controls the senses also. It is a great penance to purify mind and heart. Fasting overhauls the respiratory, circulatory, digestive and urinary systems. It destroys all the impurities of the body and all sorts of poisons; such as uric acid deposits. In no way God is concerned to keep record of fasts undergone by an individual.

Choice of Time

Fasting may be practiced on any day according to the choice and convenience of the individual, or on the days as suggested by customs of the society. Persons can select any days and frequency to practice fasting. Instead of continuous fasting for several days, Hindu sages have suggested certain days so that fasting could be spread over the year and easily practiced by all sections of the society.  The uniform days for observing fast are advantageous because person required undertaking travel can also get fasting type food at all places.

During fasting some people abstain from taking one or more items such as salt, certain specific cereals, non-vegetarian foods, and various items classified as ‘Tamsik ’ or considered undesirable. Sometimes people do not take even water, but all such restrictions are left to the choice of the individual. It is simply a sort of training in self-discipline to overcome temptations. Excessive fasting is to be avoided, as it will lead to weakness. It must be practiced gradually. Complete fasting helps to control sleep. During fasting, as for as possible, one should avoid company and be alone. When breaking a fast, a heavy meal or food that is hard to digest should be avoided. Milk or some fruit juice is more beneficial.

Over the period, interesting folk tales have also got attached with various fasts to impress the importance and keeping people occupied with some activity. Most common occasions for fasting are as under:

Sheetla Vrat: Summers are generally accompanied with fly breeding and cause epidemics like small pox. As protective measure, people in northern part of India change the food intake. On the day of Sheetla fast only pre-cooked food, combined with cool items like yogurt, butter and milk is consumed. The items are generally fried, and sweet in taste to maintain requisite nourishment to the body.

The Eclipse: Fasting is recommended during solar and lunar eclipse. Preferably, food should have been taken and digested before the beginning of the eclipse. Alternately, kitchen should be disinfected of bacterial growth occurred during the eclipse, and food should be prepared fresh for consumption afterwards. Normally people clean their houses, vessels, and take a bath before they start cooking. Sages have further advised that pregnant women should not see the Sun or the Moon during the time of the eclipse. If they do the child born may have some kind of physical defect. He may be born deaf, dumb or blind or having some awkward marks on his skin. Householders are strictly forbidden from sexual intercourse during the eclipse, for the same reason. At this time one should take great care in avoiding bleeding. Even an earthworm has a poisonous effect when it bites during an eclipse.

Satya Narayana Vrata: It is generally observed on the full moon day, or on new moon days. It is a standard practice of one fast every month. It is therefore simple in ritual and least expensive on pocket, that everyone can afford. The observance of the Satya Narayana Vrata does not cost much. Some wheat flour and sugar will make up the Prasad for general distribution, while little curd and some fruit are required to substitute as diet. Regular practice of this fast is enough to keep fit. For mental satisfaction, the ritual of narrative can be completed through self-reading or by professional priest.

Ganagaur: This fast is more popular in Rajasthan. The period of fast is in the month of March April (Chaitra). During this period, harvesting is almost over. In ancient days, young warriors would return home after campaigning period, therefore married women observed this fast for the longevity and safe return of their husbands, while the unmarried for seeking prospective husband. From the first day of Chaitra month, the fasting period extends to eighteen days, during which women take one meal only after moon rise. On the last day procession of Shiva’s spouse Gauri is taken out, since the legend goes that she had also undertaken this fast for marrying Lord Shiva.

Karva Chauth: Karva Chauth falls during October November. This is a rare practice of love and affection that Hindu wives perform not for their personal benefit, but for the welfare of their husband. They refrain from taking food and water for the entire duration of the fast, which is broken on sighting the moon.  It is really a tough fast. Nowhere else in the world such a penance is undertaken.

Ekadashi: Ekadashi refers to the eleventh day of a fortnight belonging to a lunar month. It occurs twice in a month, as there are two fortnight in a lunar month—the bright and the dark. No rice should be taken on Ekadashi days.  As compared to Satyanarayan Vrat, this fast offers standardized schedule to people to observe two fasts a month.

Nirjala Ekadashi: Out of several Ekadashies during the year, the one falling during the month of June (Jyeshtha) has special significance. The fast on this Ekadashi is the toughest.  People do not take even a sip of water, although summer is on its peak and days are long. Higher level of determination and self-discipline are necessary to undertake this fast. People donate, hand-held fans, earthen water pots and seasonal fruit melons to passersby and organize sweetened water drinking outlets. The spirit of Hindu community in self-discipline with helping attitude is visible in the length and breadth of the country during this fast.

Navaratras: Fasting for nine days is undertaken by devotees twice a year, once as ‘Rama-Navaratri’ in the month of April-May (Chaitra) to mark the beginning of summer: and then as ‘Durga Navaratri’ in September-October (Ashawin) to mark the beginning of winter. Both the occasions are two important junctions of climatic and solar influence, and bodies and minds of people undergo considerable change on account of the changes in weather.

For health point of view, diet routines are changed for a period of nine days by observing fasts, to prepare digestive system to acclamation with the changes in weather. Devotees abstain from non-vegetarian foods, and cereals. They use other substitutes to cater for balanced dieting, experimenting varieties in food habits.

The scientific aspect of this tradition has found acceptance even in the Middle East region also. People observe fast during the entire month of Ramadan, though the sanction for the same came from their holy book Quran.

Besides the above, some individuals voluntarily abstain from only one or two items like salted food, some particular grain or non-vegetarian food, to practice self-control. In substance all fastings are optional. Significant aspect of Hindu fasts is that no animal is sacrificed for breaking the fast. If any sacrifice was to be desired, the person would be suggested to donate his own blood at nearby blood bank for common good.

Maun-Vrata

Keeping Quiet is most powerful and an effective tool to practice self-control and developing confidence. It may be combined with fasting also. During Maun-Vrata, an individual has to refrain from communicating with others in any form including gestures and writing. He is expected to spend time in introspection and meditation.

The purpose of restricting communications is to gain control over reactions caused by the activities of others. This training is most beneficial to diplomats, military persons and those dealing in matters related to security. The period and frequency of this resolve depends upon the choice, capability, and the aspirations of the practitioner.

Meditation

There is really no intrinsic connection between fast and meditation, but it is better to give rest to digestive system while practicing meditation. This helps to control mind and will. There is a necessity to give the physiological system some rest once a while. It may be over-worked due to a little over-eating or in-discrimination in diet. Thus the irregularities unconsciously done during the past get rectified in one day.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes 30/72 – Hinduism and Knowledge)


Splashes: 12/72 Philosophical Darshana Shastra

The innate curiosity of man has always been urging him to explore the mysteries of the universe. Who created this universe? Who am I? Where did I come from? Where do I go after death? The relentless search for an answer to such basic questions has led to the origin and evolution of philosophy in the world. To satisfy subtle queries, Hindu sages turned their gaze inwards and discovered their own answers through meditation and mysticism.

Visualization of truth by the sages is called ‘Darshana’. Although according to Indian tradition there is only one Ultimate Reality, but Hinduism has provided six fundamental interpretations of the same. The Sages carried out six dimensional review of the knowledge compiled in Vedas and Upanishads in the form of six Darshan Shastras. These six Philosophies constitute the philosophical thought of India. Often called Shat (Six) Darshanas and have many characteristics in common. All of them grew out of the Upanishads.

The style of Darshan Shastras

Darshana Shastras are delivered in Sanskrit Sutras. A Sutra is an aphorism, extremely concise, avoiding all unnecessary repetition by exercising economy of words. Some times that makes it difficult to understand them correctly in their original form. Fortunately, Hinduism has given rise to numerous outstanding commentators, and many of their works are now easily available. The renewed interest in Hinduism has produced many new commentators also. There is general acceptance on the following principles among all schools of Hindu philosophy on the following:-

  • The eternal cycle of nature is without any beginning and end. This cycle consists of vast periods of creation, preservation and dissolution.
  • The principle of reincarnation of the soul implying rebirth after death.
  • Dharma is the moral law of the Universe that accounts for the eternal cycle of nature as well as the destiny.
  • Knowledge is the path to freedom and that Yoga is method to attain final liberation.

Methodical and Rational Approach

Darshan Shastras are primarily treatise of philosophical nature but they contain ample study material concerning multiple subjects like psychology, physics, hypnotism, mesmerizing, and Hatha Yoga. Many subtle concepts have been explained with suitable examples. As a matter of fact they qualify to be the encyclopedias of knowledge complied by humanity during ancient period.

For instance, it has been explained that all living beings ranging from the smallest worm to mighty emperors, continue their efforts to seek freedom from worries all the time, but their efforts end up in vain. Instead of rational appreciation of the situation, they continue chasing mirage and tend to misinterpret pertinent aspects of the problem. The suggested approach is to analyze following aspects:-.

  • Worry – Identifying exact form of worry, pain or stress.
  • Source of worry – Identifying the source of worries and pains.
  • Worry-less condition – Clear perceptions about worry-less condition.
  • Remedial Action – Remedial action.

For evaluation of the above aspects, Darshan Shastras have further dissected the subject into smaller parts such as:

Element of Awareness – Identifying that ‘element’ in living being that is subjected to worry, pain or stress. It could be mental or physical, or both.

Unaware Element in Source – This is related to the ‘source’ of worry. The source causing worry may not be aware of its action. The act causing worry may fall in the charter of natural duty, implying ‘Prakriti’ of the source. Once this is properly understood, questions related to worry and source of worry get automatically resolved. ‘Distancing from the source’ is the remedy.

Act of Vis-Major – Apart from the element of awareness and unaware element in source; it is necessary to accept the third element also. It is the act of Vis-Major, the act of God or Destiny. Realization and Reconciling to this element is the answer to all the worries, pains and sufferings.

The Six Texts of Philosophy

The Six Systems of Philosophy are Mimansa, Vedanta, Nyaya, Vaiseshika, Sankhya and Yoga; as explained in brief as follows.

  1. Mimansa Shastra

Mimansa Shastra is the largest among Darshan Shastras and contains 2644 sutras spread out in 909 chapters (Adhikarans). It was authored by Rishi Jaimini during 600-100 BC. The part dealing with knowledge about God and soul is referred as Gyanakand. Deliberations on this part are called Uttari Mimansa.

The part dealing with procedures is called Karamkand, and deliberations on this part are called Poorva Mimansa. The routines of Karmakand are divided into three categories such as: daily, on occurrence, and those undertaken for some specific purpose on ‘as required basis’. The subtle substance of Mimansa Shastra is that unless acted upon, mere attainment of knowledge is fruitless.

  1. Vedanta Shastra

Rishi Badrayana is the author of Vedanta Shastra and the work dates back to 600-200 BC.

The central idea of this treatise is that differentials are only outward, while all creations reflect the image of Master Creator. Knowledge is ever growing and its acquisition is an un-ending and continuous process. This approach is truly an inspiration of modern scientific thought.

  1. Nyaya Shastra

Rishi Gautma is the author of Nyaya Shastra that is founded on the principles of reasoning. It is also known as Tark Vidya (Knowledge of Reasoning) and suggests testing of every issue according to reasons and proof in support.

It is divided into five chapters. The central idea here is that true knowledge is subject to proof, which are classified into four types, such as:

  1. Pratyaksh (direct) perceived through own senses,
  2. Anuman (estimation) based on past experience or circumstantial evidence,
  3. Upman, and
  4. Agam.

The same are today at the foundation of modern jurisprudence all over the world. Control over senses and passion is suggested as sure cure for all worries and miseries.

  1. Vaiseshika

Vaiseshika Shastra is the creation of Rishi Kanad, who can be rightly called that Father of Atomic knowledge in modern science. It has 370 Sutras divided into ten chapters.

The word Vaisesh refers to specific differentials between two objects under examination. If the same are correctly identified, they lead to the foundation of true knowledge. Due to improper evaluation of the situation we continue suffering miseries in day to day life.

For example, merely looking at the height property of a pole, someone may take the same to be a thief and feel afraid, but that will not be a rational appreciation. If other properties of pole and thief had also been taken into consideration, unnecessary fear could have been overcome.

  1. Sankhya

Sankhya is the oldest school of Indian philosophy founded by Kapil Rishi around 600 BC. It contained 527 Sutras spread over six chapters, but many scripts of this philosophy have been lost over the period and now only one is available.

The approach of Sankhya Shastra is also fully scientific. The cause of worries has been classified into:

  1. Adhyatimic, mis-understanding between mind and body,
  2. Adhibhoutik – caused by others, and
  3. Ati daivik-due to natural calamities.

Interpreting the causes reasonably can mitigate worries and miseries. An awakened person does not consider dreams to be reality. Similarly an enlightened person considers worries to be feeling of the body, separate from soul. Bad effects are curable by good action. The Sankhya philosophy influenced Greek philosophy more than the other schools of Indian philosophy.

  1. Yoga

Yoga Sutra of Rishi Patanjili dates back to 300 BC. While Study of Darshan Sastras primarily provides philosophical knowledge to mind, but it is through the Yoga Sutra of Rishi Patanjili; that transformed the philosophical knowledge into practical application. Thus, both are complimentary to each other.

One can get the feel of internal energies provided by nature in the body through regulating proper food intakes, breathings, exercising control over senses and other body part, and then concentrating mind within. Yoga is thus a combination of science and art to have perfect control over mind and body for optimal performance and longevity.

Yoga Sutra of Rishi Patanjili is divided into eight parts and is called Ashtang Yoga.

  • The first part contains ethical philosophy to be inculcated in thought and practice, and is called Yama,
  • The second part consists of Niyama and tells the methodology to practice
  • The third part Asana prescribes body postures to retain the body in proper fitness for optimal performance.
  • Fourth part Pranayama deals with proper breathing techniques,
  • Fifth part Pratyahar tells about control over senses,
  • Sixth part Dharna tells about focusing of mind,
  • Seventh part Dhyana teaches proper meditation and leads to the ultimate
  • The eighth part is total perfection in the state of Samadhi.

One can feel the awakening of cosmic power of Kundalini power only after perfecting control over preceding eight parts of Yoga.

For the purpose of study the six Darshana Shastras can be clubbed into three groups as follows:

  • Group I: Nyaya and Vaisheshika lay down methodology of science to explain how the manifestation of various phenomena comes into being.
  • Group II: Sankhya and Yoga give an account of cosmic evolution on purely logical principles. Srimad Bhadvad Gita has greatly amplified the concept of this group further.
  • Group III: Mimamsa and Vedanta critically analyze the basic principles in greater detail.

These commentaries facilitate understanding of Vedas to those who have the interest and aptitude. It is up to an individual, whether to reconcile with all, or any particular school of philosophy or with none. The Vedanta philosophy endeavors to sum up all human knowledge, presenting as Truth. However, Hinduism does not accept anything as final, dogmatic or as the last word on that subject. Instead it encourages investigation, analysis and criticism.

Darshan Shastras are individual thesis written by great Rishies on Vedic knowledge and accumulated wealth of human inquiry. They are not an end of learning and reasoning as descent is acceptable in Hinduism. It is really disgusting to see that such ancient texts packed with wisdom of our great intellectuals are lying excluded from the curriculum of our own universities in India.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 13/72 – Ramayana is First Historic Epic)

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