Valmiki – Author of Ramayana
Valmiki, the man who chronicled the life times of Rama and the values Rama stood for, was born 7150 years ago.
Incident that led to first poem
Krauncha, Heron birds were mating. A hunter shot one of them down with his arrow. Valmiki who happened to observe this incident was moved by pathos and from him naturally comes forth the verse:
Valmiki moved by pathos
Thus came the first poem of humanity through pathos – “Sokah Slokatwam Aagatah”. It is for composing this poem and Valmiki is referred to as Adi Kavi, the first poet.
Valmiki badly shaken by this incident returned to his ashram, unable to compose himself. He then remembered to have said soemthing on that occasion and asked his sishya Bharadwaja if he remembered what he had said. Bharadwaja replied “Maa Nishaada…” They both were surprised at the particular pattern and rhythm in his utterance.
Valmiki and his disciple Bharadwaja
William Wordsworth, the celebrated English poet expresses poetry as,
“Poetry is a spontanesous overflow of powerful feelings, takes its origin from emotions, recollected in tranquility” is a poem of
This seems to fit aptly for the incident of Valmiki watching the Krauncha bird and the outcome being the first poem.
Valmiki, a forest hunter
Valmiki also means “anthill”. Valmiki was a forest hunter, a wayside robber called Ratnakar, who out of remorse went so deep into penance, that he was covered by an anthill and therefore got the name Valmiki.
He emerged from this anthill and penance endowed with the gift of writing. His magnum opus is the epic, Valmiki Ramayana.
There have been many Ramayanas written by different authors over centuries. These later day texts cannot be termed as being completely historical, because they are based on the information available at their times.
Hence these later versions are not called Itihasa. They are popularly known as kavya or beautiful poetry.
Valmiki Ramayana, the authentic historical text
In contrast to all this, the Ramayana written by Valmiki alone can be considered as authentic historical text, which is why the text has been classified as Itihasa, meaning ‘it thus happened’.
A Biography of Valmiki
Valmiki Ramayana is a historical biography because Valmiki, the author of the original Ramayana text was a contemporary of Rama.
This has been explicitly stated in the text itself. This story was not penned a few hundred years after the life of Rama. In fact, Valmiki was the guardian to the wife and sons of Rama, Lava and Kusha.
Valmiki teaching Ramayana to Lava and Kusha
This one fact gives it the credibility of being an authentic historical account. If you look at various historical texts world over, we find that the records of the events which happened, have usually been written down as history, about a few hundred or even few thousand years post the events having taken place, leaving room for some gaps.
In the case of Valmiki Ramayana, it is a text written by a person, Valmiki, who was a contemporary to the people and period of event.
Valmiki also plays an integral role in the events of Ramayana.
As the legend continues, Sita delivered twin sons – Luva and Kusha who learnt the Ramayana from Valmiki and narrated it to Rama.
Luva and Kusha narrating Ramayana to Rama
The authenticity of the text
As to the authenticity of the content of Valmiki Ramayana that he had collated, Valmiki himself vouches for it, when he meets Rama for the first time and introduces himself as,
Prachetsoahem dasmey putroh raghavnandany
Ne ismarahmeanritam vakyamimo tu tav putroko ||
- Valmiki Ramayana 7.96.19
i.e., Valmiki proudly says to Rama,
“I am the 10th son of Pracheta, and I never remember speaking even one untrue sentence.”
This emphatic statement of Valmiki gives a strong dimension of credibility to his Ramayana.
That the Ramayana is an itihasa and that it was written by Valmiki during the lifetime of Rama, His wife Sita and their sons Lava and Kusha can been seen from the language in the text. Ramayana is not written in the past tense or future tense, it is primarily written in the present tense.
This goes to indicate to us from a different angle, that it is a biography by Valmiki of the happenings during his times.
More on Valmiki and the historicity of Rama in our Book and Film, “Historical Rama”.
An eclipse occurs when the sun is obscured by the moon or the moon comes under the shadow of the earth.
A Lunar Eclipse occurs when the moon comes under the shadow of the Earth.
A Lunar Eclipse – Earth’s shadow falling on the moon
A Solar Eclipse occurs when the sun is obscured by the Moon.
A Solar Eclipse – Moon hiding the Sun
Around 5 to 6 eclipses happen every year.
Recordings of eclipses are available in texts, temple inscriptions, copper plates and legends of the land.
In the Veda
The Veda are considered to be the oldest literature of mankind available today. One among the 4 Veda is the Rig Veda. In this text, in verses 5.40.5 to 9.
A Solar Eclipse- Svarbhanu
It states that, “Svarbhanu, i.e Solar Eclipse etymologically meaning a powerful phenomenon which takes away the splendour of the heavens, occurs, leaving the world bewildered.”
Rishi Atri, the first observer of Eclipse
Atri, the seer or Dhrishta, who observed this eclipse and understood the phenomenon of eclipse, is explaining it to the world through these Vedic verses.”
This makes Rishi Atri, probably the earliest astronomer to have expounded on eclipses for posterity.
Vedic Rishi Atri, observing an Eclipse
Notable amongst the celestial events mentioned in the Ramayana is the description of the solar eclipse that occurred on the day of the fight between Rama, the hero of the epic and the two demons Khar and Dushan.
Solar eclipse on the day of the Khar – Dushan Episode in Ramayana
Searching for this eclipse using the Planetarium Software and the planetary configuration listed in the text, experts have dated this event to 7th October, 5077 BCE or over 7100 years ago, making this eclipse, perhaps one of the earliest recorded eclipses.
This date is substantiated by the internal consistency seen in the dates of other events arrived at by the Planetarium software using the description of the sky configuration from the Ramayana text, their sequence and elapse time between these dates tallying with the sequence and gap between the events as mentioned in the text as well.
Through the times, we see a continuity in the understanding and recording of eclipses.
Why were our ancients interested in eclipses? Why did they learn to predict eclipses?
Dos and Donts surrounding eclipse
We see, there are many elaborate dos and donts surrounding eclipses which have been a tradition of this civilization. Some interesting ones that have continued to this day are
eating food atleast 4 to 6 hours before an eclipse and not carrying forward food cooked prior to an eclipse
the use of Dharba grass to protect food items and other perishables
protection of pregnant women from the rays of sun during solar eclipses
not seeing solar eclipse with the naked eye
Advice for Pregnant Women
Scientists have shown today how during a Solar Eclipse, the amount of Ultra Violet rays and other cosmic rays reaching the earth are higher. These rays are harmful to the foetus. Hence pregnant women were advised to cover themselves and stay indoors during an eclipse to protect the foetus from these rays. Even today pregnant women are advised to stay away from radiation exposure of all kinds for example X Rays.
Contamination of Food
The increased exposure to such rays also contaminates food. Carrying forward of food cooked before an eclipse is therefore not advisable. Further more, there is the need to ensure that all food in one’s stomach is digested before the start of an eclipse.
Using Dharba grass
The antidote for preventing the food from contamination by radiation has been the practice of covering food with Dharba grass. This points to our ancients having used the Dharba grass as a shield to absorb the unwanted radiations in the atmosphere, especially those arising during eclipses.
Dharba grass absorbs X Rays
Nascent, independent research on Dharba grass has revealed its ability to absorb X Rays. These early finds make Dharba grass a very promising field of study.
We see a good grasp of astronomy, physics, biology and mathematics all rolled into the practice of predicting eclipses and the traditions followed during an eclipse. This holds good for a host of other astronomical observations and traditions followed too.
Donations During Eclipses
De Dhaan Chute Grahan - is a slogan one got to hear on the streets about 4 to 5 decades, during the time of eclipses.
It means Give Alms To Release The Eclipsed.
It was a common practice in India to give donations during eclipses and other cosmological events such as:
Ayana, Solstices – Dakshinayana, Summer Solstice and Uttarayana, Winter Solstice
Vishnuvrata Equinoxes – Mesha Vishu, Vernal Equinox and Tula Vishu, Autumnal Equinox
Grahana, Eclipses – Surya Grahana, Solar eclipse and Chandra Grahana, Lunar eclipse
Amavasya, New Moon
Yugadi, New Year
Many explain that such Dhana were given in the superstitious belief that the donor will gain relief from the evil forces that were capable of even devouring the Sun and the Moon.
On the contrary, we find from traditional literature that the people were well aware of the scientific nature of these cosmological events. They could predict their occurrences due to their understanding of the motions of the earth, moon and various planets as well as their proficiency in Mathematics, which is needed to model these motions and calculate dates for their occurrences in advance.
Dhana for noble causes was given on these significant days as these days were considered as markers of time and hence would be easily remembered over time.
Every king, landlord, zamindar, royalty made it a point to give Dhana every year from their accumulated wealth. Various kings like Krishnadevaraya, Harshavardhana and others, repeatedly gave Dhana every year and during such events as eclipses.
Many temple inscriptions speak about such Dhana, endowments made to the temple and thereby to the people at large, on the occasion of eclipses.
Eclipses continue to happen and many just ignore them. Inscriptions continue to remain as evidences of the ones gone by but are hardly known to many.
The request for alms on eclipses are no longer heard on the streets. Neither are there donors, nor are there receivers on this day.
But misconceptions about the Indian perception of eclipses continue to loom large in everyone’s minds.
by D.K.Hari & D.K.Hema Hari, Founders, Bharath Gyan
Sir Mokshagundam Visveshvarya’s is among the greatest Engineers that this country has ever seen. He is known to have built many structures throughout his life. He built the Vidhana Sabha Assembly in Bangalore. The dams built by him stand to this day as a testimony of his great engineering skills. His birthday is thus an occasion to honour all engineers.
Sir M Visveshvarya
Birth and Education
Sir Visveshvarya was born on 15th September, 1860 at Muddenahalli village of Chickballapur district in Karnataka.
Birthplace of Sir M Visveshvarya
He did his gradutation in Arts from Madras University in 1881 and went on to pursue civil engineering at the College of Science in Pune.
Sir Visveshvarya’s first major project was when he joined the Indian Irrigation Commission where he was give the task of constructing an irrigation system for the Deccan region.
Flood Security System, Hyderabad
His next major work was to build flood security system in Hyderabad.
Father of Karnataka
Karnataka is a state that has benefited greatly from the skills of Sir Visveshvarya. He is considered the ‘Father of Karnataka”.
Role in many industrial ventures
His skills both as an engineer came into play in many projects that have this day become major institutions and industries. He played a major role in the building of
*Iron and Steel Company in Bhadravati
* the Mysore Soap Factory,
* the Bangalore Agricultural University,
*Vidhana Soudha Assembly, Bangalore,
*The State Bank of Mysore, Bangalore and
*Jayachamrajendra Polytechnic Institute among many other industrial ventures.
Visveshvarya Iron and Steel Plant, Bhadravati
Jayachamrajendra Polytechnic Institute
Vidhana Soudha, Karnataka Assembly, Bangalore
State Bank of Mysore, Bangalore
He was also the chief engineer of the construction of Krishna Raja Sagar Dam.
Krishna Raja Sagar Dam
An Administrator and a Visionary
Sir Visveshvarya was not only a great engineer and outstanding administrator but was also a visionary.
There are many anecdotes about his integrity and honesty.
He used to use the candle, pen and ink provided by the government when writing notes related to work and, use his own candle, pen and ink when writing letter to his wife.
Engineer’s oath & Sir M Visveshvarya
The Canadian universities, engineering graduates, oath ceremony for graduation reads,
Engineer giving his oath
When we go through the oath ceremony, we realize that Sir Visveshvarya actually lived the above oath through his life.
Commander of Indian Empire
For his great engineering skills and contribution in the same field, he was made the Commander of Indian Empire by King George 5.
Sir Visveshvarya was conferred the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in the country, in 1955.
Bharat Ratna Sir M Visveshvarya with Jawaharlal Nehru
Sir Visveshvarya lived till the age of 101 and passed away on 14th April, 1962.
Sir M Visveshvarya memorial in Muddennahali
Educational Institutions in Name
Today, there are many educational institutions in his name in the country such as the Visveshvarya National Institute of Technology in Nagpur, Visveshvarya College of Engineering in Bangalore and Visveshvarya Technological University, Belgaum.
Visveshvarya Technological University, Belgaum
His statues can be found in many places across the state of Karnataka.
A Statue of Sir M Visveshvarya
A stamp has been released in his honour by the Government of India.
Engineers, the foundation
Engineers are the foundation of any developed civilization. India being the oldest surviving civilization has a long lineage of Engineers who are referred to as Vishvakarma.
Let us honour them
Let us on this day honour Bharat Ratna Sir M Visveshvarya along with engineers of modern India.
Subramanya Bharati, popularly known as ‘Mahakavi Bharathiar’, is one of the greatest Tamil poets, who through his poems encouraged patriotism among people at the time of Indian Freedom Struggle.
Leading Literary Figure
Considered one of the leading figures in Tamil literature, Subramanya Bharati’s works mainly ranged in social, religious and patriotic arena.
Subramanya Bharati, affectionately called Bharathiar was born in Ettyapuram on December 11th, 1882. He completed his education in Tirunelveli and Varanasi.
Birth Place of Bharathiar
Taking part in Freedom struggle
He joined the Indian National Congress and carried out revolutionary activities against the British rule, an aspect of which was his stirring poetry through which he kindled nationalism in people.
He also wrote articles for newspapers such as Swadeshamitra and India.
A National Poet
Mahatma Gandhi called him a national poet.
Poems on Women Emancipation
Among his poems were also many songs for women’s emancipation with the title of Kannama.
Coming to Pondicherry
The British police issued a warrant against him in 1908 for carrying out revolutionary activities. Bharathiar then went to Pondicherry, a French colony and lived there for the next 10 years. Here, he translated the Bhagavad Gita into Tamil.
Friendship with V O Chidambaram Pillai
Bharathiar was a close friend of V O Chidambaram Pillai, the other great freedom fighter who started the Swadeshi Shipping Company, forcibly closed by the British, as they perceived it as a threat to British interests.
V O Chidambaram Pillai Swadeshi Shipping Company
Bharathiar’s end came when he was shoved aside by an elephant in mast, at the Parthasarathy Temple in Triplicane, Madras. His condition deteriorated rapidly and he passed away on 11th September, 1921.
Parthasarathy Temple, Thiruvallikeni
Among his great grandchildren, Rajkumar Bharati is carrying forward his legacy.
The home where he spent the last few years of his life in Triplicane, also called Thiruvallikeni, has been named Bharathiar Illam, which stands adjacent to the Parthasarathy Temple.
In Tamil Films
The songs of Bharathiar have been used in the Tamil films and Carnatic Music, for the past many decades.
Feature Film – Bharathi
Bharathi, a film on the life of Bharathiar was released in the year 2000. This film won the National Film Award for best Tamil Feature Film, for the year 2000.
Bharathi Film on Bharathiar’s life
Streets, Associations and University in name
Almost every town of Tamil Nadu has a Bharathiar street. Tamil associations in different cities of the world have been named after him. There is a University in his name at Coimbatore. Such are his literary achievements.
Bharathiar University, Coimbatore
Stamps in name
There are also stamps and coins released in his name by the government of India.
Stamp on Bharathiar
Statues and Idols
Many statues have been erected for Bharatiyar all over Tamil Nadu. There are also some temples where his idol can be found. One such place is in Madhya Kailash temple in Adayar, Chennai, which has an idol for Bharathiar.
Statue of Bharathiar, Chennai Statue of Bharathiar, Pondicherry
All these speak of the immense popularity and wide acceptance of this Mahakavi.
Jatindranath Mukherjee is one of the main Indian revolutionaries from Bengal, who fought against the British Rule.
Leader of Yugantar Party
He was the leader of the Yugantar party that carried out freedom related activities, against the British. He was actually at the helm of the party at a very young age.
Bagha Jatin – A Tiger
He was nicknamed Bagha Jatin, Bagha meaning tiger, for the great courage he showed at a tender age, in revolting against the British.
Young Bagha Jatin
Indoctrinating Indian Soldiers
One of the main contributions of Bagha Jatin was that he and his party inculcated cognitive strategies and revolutionary spirit in Indian soldiers, for an uprising against the British.
His famous slogan was, “Amra Morbo, Jagat Jagbe”, meaning “We shall die to awaken the nation”.
‘A divine personality’
Gandhiji was so impressed by this revolutionary youth that he referred to Bagha Jatin as ‘a divine personality’.
Mahatma Gandhi and Bagha Jatin
Loved by Englishmen
Irrespective of Bagha Jatin’s revolutionary activities, he was also loved by many Englishmen. Charles Augustus Tegart, a colonial police officer had once remarked that if Bagha Jatin was born in England, then probably a statue would have been built for him and placed next to Nelson’s at Trafalgar Square. What he meant to say was that the great personality that Bagha Jatin was would have been highly revered in England.
Charles Augustus Tegart
Hard and Soft
The impeccable character of Bagha Jatin was both hard and soft. He had a soft corner for those suffering and a charitable nature. At the same time, he demonstrated great physical bravery and prowess while fighting the colonial rulers.
Above caste and religion
Another striking quality in Bagha Jatin was that he was beyond the narrow confines of caste and religion. He even financially helped a Muslim women by sending her money every month.
Brave End and appreciation in death
Bagha Jatin’s revolt against the British led to a backlash from the colonial rulers. Bagha Jatin was mortally wounded by the British police and passed away on 10th September, 1915.
Bagha Jatin during his last moments
Even at his death, there was a word of appreciation from the opponent forces. Charles Tegart, the colonial office who was part of the police squad that killed Bagha Jatin said, “Even though I had a duty to perform, I had a great admiration for Bagha Jatin. He died in an open fight.”
Today, his statue stands tall at the Victoria memorial in Kolkata.
Bagha Jatin statue at Victoria Memorial, Kolkata
Institutions, places in name
Many institutions and places in Bengal have been named after this great freedom fighter.
Bagha Jatin Railway Station, Kolkata
Bagha Jatin Passenger
Bagha Jatin Hospital, Kolkata
Amar Chitra Katha
Amar Chitra Katha paid a fitting tribute to Bagha Jatin by bringing out his story.
It is due to the sacrifices of such freedom fighters that finally led to the British vacating India in 1947.
- Sandeep Singh, Business Consultant, Writer, Friend of Bharath Gyan
The syllable ‘gu’ means shadows
The syllable ‘ru’, means he who disperses them.
Because of the power to disperse darkness the guru is thus named.
— Aaradvayatka Upanishad 14—18, verse 5
There is an unfortunate artificial darkness created around Teachers Day and Guruutsav. I tried to understand the darkness and learned quit a bit about Teacher, Guru, Teachers Day, World Teachers Day, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, and Gurupurnima. I am sharing the same.
Sanskrit has got four words Sikshak, Adhyapak, Acharya and Guru which are often used as synonym. Each of these words can be broadly understood as:
Teacher being equivalent to Sikshak
Professor being equivalent to Adhyapak
Principle being equivalent to Acharya
Guru doesn’t have an equivalent word in English. Hence it is used as Guru in all the languages.
Teacher gives the basic education.
Guru is a word much bigger than Teacher. As a noun the word means the imparter of knowledge. As an adjective, it means ‘heavy,’ or ‘weighty,’ in the sense of “heavy with spiritual wisdom”. Guru is one’s spiritual guide on earth. One is considered ‘orphan’ without a guru.
In fact a Tamil saying describes the word “Guru” beautifully:
“Guru illaakru vidhaiyum illai, mudhal illaarku labamum illai” i.e. This saying in Tamil means The Person who has no guru has no skill; just like a business without principle makes no profit.
Teachers’ day is celebrated in many countries but date varies from country to country.
World Teachers’ Day is distinct from Teachers’ days, and is officially celebrated across the world on October 5.
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s birthday, is celebrated as Teachers Day on 5th September from 1962 in India. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was born in a Telugu family at a village near Thiruttani , in Tamil Nadu near the border of Andhra Pradesh. His thesis for the M.A. degree was “The Ethics of the Vedanta and its Metaphysical Presuppositions”. His philosophy professor, Dr. Alfred George Hogg commended that Radhakrishnan has done most excellent work. Radhakrishnan’s thesis was published when he was only 20.
According to Radhakrishnan himself, the criticism by Hogg and other Christian teachers of Indian culture “disturbed my faith and shook the traditional props on which I leaned.” Radhakrishnan himself describes how, as a student, “The challenge of Christian critics impelled me to make a study of Hinduism and find out what is living and what is dead in it. My pride as a Hindu, roused by the enterprise and eloquence of Swami Vivekananda, was deeply hurt by the treatment accorded to Hinduism in missionary institutions.” This led him to his critical study of Indian philosophy and religion, and a lifelong defence of Hinduism against “uninformed Western criticism”.
For his services to education he was knighted by George V in 1931. He stopped use of the title after India became independent. He preferred to use his academic title of ‘Doctor’. In 1939 Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya invited him to succeed him as the Vice-Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University (BHU). He served as its Vice-Chancellor till January 1948. His political career started after BHU.
Radhakrishnan did not have a background in the Congress Party. His motivation lay in his pride of Hindu culture, and according to Brown, “He had always defended Hindu culture against uninformed Western criticism and had symbolized the pride of Indians in their own intellectual traditions.”
Gurupurnima falls on the day of, Purnima (full moon), in the month of Ashadh (June–July) of the Shaka Samvat (Gregorian calendar). Gurupurnima is as old as civilisation and is celebrated by all spiritual religions of India. Indian from all the fields, ranging from music to dance, academic to sports etc. celebrate this day by thanking their teachers as well as remembering past teachers and scholars.
Looking at above facts, it makes perfect sense to observe Radhakrishnan’s birthday as Guruutsav rather than as Teachers Day. Radhakrishnan was beyond “direction or language” division. Infact efforts should be made to celebrate his birthday as International Guruutsav Day. The world will be happy to accept it.
Paul Artur Schillp has said “….nor would it be possible to find a more excellent example of a living “bridge” between the East and the West than Professor Radhakrishnan.” While Michael Hawley said “Radhakrishnan’s concern for experience and his extensive knowledge of the Western philosophical and literary traditions has earned him the reputation of being a bridge-builder between India and the West.”
Last but not the least, Modern English, which includes the works of William Shakespeare and the King James Version of the Bible, is generally dated from about 1550. And only after the United Kingdom became a colonial power, English spread outside England. To top it more than 65% of English words are actually taken from other languages including from India. It will also be important to mention that the word Guru is more English than the modern day apologists of English and as old as English itself. The word Guru was first used in English in the year 1613.