Raja Ram Mohan Roy

Socio Religious Reformer

Raja Ram Mohan Roy was a socio – religious reformer during the British rule, who was a major player in effacing some of the evils prevalent in the Indian society. He challenged some of the practices that had crept into Indian culture which was detrimental to the progress of India. He played a key role in the abolishing of Sati and pitched for women’s rights at a time when superstition and social bigotry was much prevalent in the Indian society.

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Raja Ram Mohan Roy

Father of Modern India

For laying down the guidelines for the development of the Indian society under the British Rule, he was given the title ‘Father of Modern India’.  His ideas were propagated through Brahmo Samaj which he later founded.

Raja Ram Mohan Roy was born on May 22nd, 1772 at Radhanagar village of Hoogli district in Bengal.

An Independent Thinker

From his young age Raja Ram Mohan Roy was an independent thinker. He had differences with his father, an orthodox Brahmin, on certain superstitions and practices that were followed in the society. He was also against idol worship.

Travel to Himalayas

He soon left home for Himalayas seeking true wisdom and travelled upto Tibet. He returned home after this Himalayan sojourn.

Entering Marriage

After his return, Raja Ram Mohan Roy was compelled to enter into marriage by his parents, inorder to bring about a change in his thinking process and outlook.  The marriage however did not have any impact on his progressive mindset.

Learning Vedas and Upanishads

Raja Ram Mohan Roy travelled to Varanasi and pursued his interests in Indian philosophy, studying the Veda and Upanishad.

Forming Atmiya Sabha

Raja Ram Mohan Roy was against all superstitions, which he wanted to remove from the society. His first step in bringing about a change in the society was taken when he formed the Atmiya Sabha. The main aim of this association was to trigger socio religious reforms in the society. He vehemently opposed the practices of Sati and Polygamy and pushed for women rights, such as women’s right to own property. Another area of activity for this Sabha was women’s education. Raja Ram Mohan Roy was seen as a savior for women, working to improve their lives.

Founding Brahmo Samaj

In 1828, he founded the Brahmo Samaj through which he furthered his mission of educating people to give up what he called ‘evil practices’ that had crept into Hindu religion.

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Brahmo Samaj

Sati

According to him, evil practices such as Sati and polygamy were actually allowing Christianity to get converts and bring a bad name to Hindu religion.

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The practice of Sati

Immediately a year later, the efforts of Brahmo Samaj and its founder bore fruit, when Sati was abolished in 1829.

Establishing Schools

Raja Ram Mohan Roy established many schools under Brahmo Samaj to spread his idea of education, which was an amalgam of Vedic and Western thought. He felt a change in the education system was necessary for India to make progress in the modern world.

Ever Indebted

Brahmo Samaj remains the legacy of Raja Ram Mohan Roy to this day, an institution that has grown over the last two centuries.

This country will be ever indebted to Raja Ram Mohan Roy for ridding the society of unwanted superstitions and inculcating the true sense of modernism in people at the time of British rule, to bring about a progressive outlook in the minds of the people, away from conservatism.

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International Day Of Biodiversity

Biodiversity is defined as variety and variability in living organisms. From our immediate environment to the whole world, the flora and fauna are intensely diverse.

How many amazing varieties of lives we encounter in our life, from insects, to animals, to plants. Each ecosystem brings with it its own set of creatures, who are dependent on each other.

Every life is dependent on the other for its survival, and are part of the food chain. And, even if one life becomes extinct, then the whole food chain is affected.

Thus understanding of the Ecology of living creature, will help us to understand how vital it is to preserve the Biodiversity.

Biodiversity in India

India has been a richly biodiverse civilization from ancient times, partly because of its diverse terrain. From the Himalayas in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south to the Thar Desert in North West, to peninsular plateau, India is a home to a variety of ecosystems.

Ecology and Biodiversity are integral to the ethos of this land.

This diversity is echoed in our Upanishad, which has the sloka, “Ekoham Bahushyam, meaning, “I am One. I shall become many.” Thus Divinity divided Himself into infinite lives, through the universe.

Shiva Parivar

The concept of Biodiversity and food chain is beautifully depicted through Shiva Parivar, Shiva’s Family.

Shiva has Nandi, bull for his Vahana, vehicle and wears a snake. Parvathi has a lion, Ganesha has a mouse and Karthikeya a peacock.  In real world, the lion considers bull as its prey and the bull fears the lion. Similarly, snake preys on the mouse and a peacock preys on snake. Here we see that the family members of Shiva have Vahana that are by nature antagonistic to each other. This is symbolic of Biodiversity and food chain that are the very nature of Nature.

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Shiva Parivar

4 types of Creatures

In the Mahabharata, Chapter-5, Sanjaya describes to Dhrtharashtra, the types of life, immobile and mobile.

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Sanjaya describing to Dhrtharashtra

 

Three Categories of animals

Similarly, animals were categorized into three.

  1. Vayavya – those of the air
  2. Aranya – those of the wild
  3. Gramya – Those of the village

Ramayana

Ramayana speaks of the biodiverse nature of the forests.

At the time when Rama was leaving for exile, Kaushalya, His mother expressed her fear about His safety, wherein she says,

“May the huge elephants not harm you my dear son, nor the lions, tigers, bears, boars or ferocious horned buffalo.”

At another place, Sita expresses her delight in witnessing the forest, where she refers to lotus ponds, herds of deer, geese and ducks.

Ayurveda

Ayurveda, the Indian science of medicine, consists of profound knowledge of Biodiversity. Ayur means life and Veda, knowledge. Ayurveda is the knowledge about life. In Ayurveda, the inter-relationship between living creature and their habitat was establish.

Vriksha Ayurveda, is a branch of Ayurveda that studies the science of flora. In it, various aspects of plant life and forest ecosystems are dealt with. It also describes varieties of plants that have medicinal properties, and are widely used in treatment.

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Arthasastra

Chanakya’s Arthasastra, gave importance to preservation of Biodiversity.

The Arthasastra divides the environment into several regions like,

  • Aranya – Forest Areas
  • Parvata – Mountains
  • Audaka – Wet and humid regions
  • Bhauma – Drylands
  • Sama – Plains
  • Visava  – Uneven lands

Protection of each of these ecosystems, as well as the creature are given prominence in Arthasastra, which specifies penalties and punishments for injuring living creatures.

Jungles to Concrete Jungles

Today, in the name of progress and prosperity, buildings replace trees in most major cities. Water bodies disappear to make way for residential and business complexes. Jungles are slowly giving way for concrete jungles. This has greatly affected the Biodiversity of our planet.

Humans are the Cancer of this planet

A thought-provoking quote from the Hollywood movie, Matrix states:

“Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply… until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern.

Do you know what it is?

A virus.

Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet”.

International Day for Biodiversity

International Day for Biodiversity is a UN instituted day observed every year on May 22nd to raise awareness on preservation of Biodiversity.

Only preservation of this diversity can save us from the adversity that our planet is facing these days.

International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia

Man, Woman and The Other in India

International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia Day is observed every year on May 17. Homophobia means “dislike or prejudice against the homosexual people”. Biphobia is “dislike or prejudice against bisexual people”. And, Transphobia refers to, “dislike or prejudice against transgenders”.

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Section 377  is an article in the Indian Penal Code, IPC. It is all about what constitutes permitted sexual act in humans.

What has been the ethos of India with regards to this subject that goes beyond sex between a man and a woman?

Delving into the Samskrt language, we find a word Napumsaka. Pumsa means male. There is infact a mantra/ritual called Pumsavana performed in early conception for avana, i.e. to wish, hasten, a pumsa, male progeny. Pumsa denotes the spirit of being a man, masculinity.

Here we see the specific word Napumsaka meaning, “not pumsa”, those who are not fully male either by body or in character, in other words transgenders.

We also come across another word Samalingakamin, meaning those who desire the same gender, in other words homosexuals.

The fact that these words exist implies that such people existed too. If such people existed, then their practices of sex and other aspects would have existed too. Acknowledging them, also acknowledges their lifestyle.

While most languages in their usage have only 2 genders, one comes across 3 genders in prayoga, usage, in Samskrt and other Indian languages. So, it was an accepted fact in the Indian ethos, that besides the two genders, male and female, a 3rd division also exists in reality.

Transgenders were therefore accepted as a 3rd form of humans as Nature expresses itself in many forms.

The 3rd gender have been referred to in India by diff names – Eunuchs in English, Hijara in Hindi, Urdu, Persian, Arabic languages, Jogappa in Kannada, Aravani, Ali or Thirunangai in Tamil. Nangai means womanly and Thiru is an honorific title given to males. Thirunangai means male and female in one body. This word for the transgenders in Tamil Nadu implies that they are not looked down upon.

When did this scenario change in India?

In 1870, the Indian Penal code (IPC) was formulated by the British administrators. In article 377 of the IPC, non heterosexual sex between male and female humans has been classified as “unnatural” and punishable upto a period of 10 years in jail.

Why was it classified as “unnatural”?

In 1870s, it was the Victorian puritan view that was prevalent in medieval Europe. That view was imposed on India through this section 377.

But since then, in the last 140 years, Europe and England have moved on in thought and practice, whereas India has been stuck with an outdated, alien law section – alien to the views of this land, alien to the jurisprudence of this land.

The origins of this thought in England and medieval Europe comes from the Biblical incident of Sodom and Gomorrah wherein it is expressed that the city of Sodom was burnt down by a fiery shower because some of its residents had indulged in homosexual acts.

It is from the name of this Biblical town Sodom that certain types of sexual acts are now called sodomy.

Modern science and analysis have proved that there was a meteor strike in the Alps mountains over 3000 years ago. Rebounding of the meteor parts as they hit the Alps, caused a spray of molten rocks on Sodom. This astral event has now been scientifically analyzed and explained with specific dates. In the wake of this analysis, to link the fiery shower to the act of sodomy of a few in Sodom makes it irrational, unscientific.

We need to now move ahead shedding behind the unscientific as well as Victorian views.

The issue concerning 377 can be viewed at from different perspectives.

It is a bodily fact that a person is born as a transgender. It cannot be expressed as a bodily defect. Mutations are a process by which evolutions evolve.

In the bodily realm, besides the physically noticeable bodily differences, what is physically not seen but is equally potent are the effects of hormone play in a person. The play of hormones is not limited to the stage of puberty but continues through the life. Imbalances in these can give rise to such situations in a person.

The other factor is the mind play. We all know that mind can play a substantial role in determining tastes, preferences, attitude in all aspects including sex.

While the case of physical body variations gives to transgenders, the other cases of hormonal and mental influences tend to take the preference towards homosexuality (gay or lesbian or bisexual).

In modern parlance the homosexuals, transgenders and transvestites have all been brought under the broad term LGBT – Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgenders, to distinguish them as a community different from the heterosexual community.

Fundamentally it denotes a sexual minority of people who vary from a stereotype male or female in their physical body parts, physique, physiology, psychology or preferences. It is a variance that reveals itself in their choice of partners for sex and life.

While the heterosexuals look at LGBT as a deviance, the LGBT community which over the last few decades have found a global voice, express in loud and clear terms, that it is not a deviance but another way of thinking where there is no harm done to other members of the society.

In the traditional Indian view also the personal preferences of LGBT were acknowledged. They also realized that the LGBT community were not harmful to society and were allowed to live their lives as per their preferences quietly. People from the LGBT community were given their lawful share, stake, pangu of village resources. They also figured among the rightful pangudhars, stakeholders in the village.

India had devised its own way of dealing with this community. The LGBT formed cults of their own and intermingled within themselves without intruding on the lifestyle of the rest of the heterosexual society.

The Kama Sutra also contains mention that homosexuality is something that is enjoyed by its practitioners. Narada Samhita, Manusmriti and a whole host of other texts acknowledge the existence of such people and their personal preferences. In a few temples there are sculptures of not just heterosexual couples but of homosexual couples as well. These are strewn all over the land and have been sculpted through the ages.

Literature and art thus showcase existence of homosexuality in ancient India.

These highlight that while heterosexuality is needed for procreation, homosexuality is seen to have been practiced by a minority few, purely for pleasure and solace.

This distinction can be seen in depictions even while dealing with concepts, principles, Tattva.

Everything in Nature including divine forces was attributed a gender – masculine, feminine or neuter.  There are stories of two masculine divinities, Tattva, Hari and Hara, coming together for a purpose – to bring forth Ayyappa, another divinity with their combined qualities, principles.

But here too, inorder to depict the concept of procreation, Hari or Vishnu principle takes the female form of Mohini, as the legend goes. The divinity Ayyappa however is commonly referred to only as HariHara Putra, meaning son of Hari and Hara.

There is another very interesting story in the Mahabharata legend. Where there is a dialogue between Yudhishtra and Bhishma. Bhishma is on his deathbed, on a bed of arrows. This dialogue takes place in the month of January 3066 BCE. Yudhishtra asks Bhishma as to, in sex, who enjoys more – man or woman. Bhishma then narrates the story of a king of a bygone era who had got converted into a woman, lady. In that king’s opinion, it was the woman who enjoyed the sexual act more.

What this brings out is that there were incidents where people of yore did consider changing their gender to enjoy the sexual act.

What is even more interesting is that such a topic was discussed between two men of high esteem, separated by two generations, such as Yudhishtra and his grand uncle Bhishma, on a solemn occasion when Bhishma was on his deathbed. Even on such an occasion, it was not out of the norm to discuss such a matter.

This tells us of the openness with which this subject was discussed.

As the heterosexual community does not make a big noise about their sexual preference, the LGBT community also did not, about theirs. It is only when one group tries to look down upon the other and intrude through laws and punishments, on the other’s right to live their lives as per their choice, do such issues come to the fore and seem larger than life.

In conclusion, the Indian ethos has been an open one where issues of sex, gender and LGBT have been given their due place in discussion and freedom of choice. We too, this day, should discuss and come up with laws that are in tune with the times, with the nature of this land and Nature “herself” to address this issue which perhaps is as timeless as the origins of man and woman.

Sukhdev Thapar

Sukhdev Thapar was one of the youngest freedom fighters that India had and is counted among the three musketeers of Indian freedom struggle, the other two being Shivaram Rajguru and Bhagat Singh.

Born in Lahore on May 15th, 1907, he is known for the Lahore conspiracy case involving the killing of J P Saunders, the deputy superintendent of police, under British rule.

Sukhdev was an accomplice in this assassination, along with Bhagat Singh and Shivaram Rajguru that was carried out to avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai.

Lala Lajpat Rai was killed in a police assault, for holding a non-violent procession against the Simon commission.

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The other well-known bold act of this young freedom fighter was to set up a small bomb factory against the British. He was arrested for this and in the following trial was sentenced to death, which was carried out on 20th March, 1931 at the Lahore Central Jail.

A valiant life came to an end!

On his birthday, let us pay our salutations to this young freedom fighter who gave up his life at a young age of 24, while fighting for India’s freedom struggle.

International Day of Families

The International Day of Families is observed every year on 15th May to highlight the importance of a family in the present day world. This day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in the year 1993.

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The word ‘family’ is derived from the latin word familia meaning ‘house hold’. Every family is a microcosm of the macrocosm, the Global Family.

In the Indian tradition, the whole world is considered a family. “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – One World Family”. An oft expressed Indian thought, through the ages.

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Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam– a Global Family

There are many factors that determine peace in the family.

The Shiva Family Example

The example from the family of Shiva, consisting of Shiva, Parvathi, Ganesha and Karthikeya, is a good way to understand, some of the variant factors.

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Shiva Parivar

Shiva has Nandi, bull for his vahana, vehicle and wears a snake. Parvathi has a lion, Ganesha has a mouse and Karthikeya a peacock.  In real world, the lion considers bull as its prey and the bull fears the lion. Similarly, snake preys on the mouse and a peacock preys on snake. Here we see that the family members of Shiva have Vahana that are by nature antagonistic to each other, but collectively, they lead an accommodative life. Inspite of being of divergent nature, they live in harmony. A family to emulate!

Family Day

This family day, let us understand the importance of family concept, take measures to maintain peace in the family and avoid actions that would disturb the harmony of our family. If there are differences, let us agree to disagree.

There is a saying of a Tamil Sangam poet, which speaks of the way to harmony in the family, leading to harmony in the whole world.

Where there is righteousness in the heart,

there is beauty in the character.

When there beauty in the character,

There is harmony at home, family,

Then there will be peace in the whole world.

Let us look beyond our immediate family, towards our world family, of which we are but a part – Vasudhaiva Kutumbhakam, ‘One World Family’.

Mother’s Day

The Mother’s day is observed on the 2nd Sunday of May every year, to celebrate the unique love of a mother, to honour motherhood.

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A mother is our creator and sustainer. She also shapes and transforms our early life as the first teacher.

There is a saying in this land – Matru Sakshat Devo Bhava, meaning, the Mother is revered as the epitome of the Divine.

7 Mothers

In the Indian ethos, there are 7 mothers, who are honoured and revered.

  1. Atma-mata – The mother, from whose womb we have come to this world
  2. Guru patni – The wife of the Guru.
  3. Brahmani – The wife of a Brahmana
  4. Raja-Patnika– The wife of the king – the Queen.
  5. Dhenu – Cow
  6. Dhatri – Nurse
  7. Tatha prithvi– Earth

Shaktaism – Worship of the Divine Mother

India is home to many Religions such as Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktaism etc.

Of these, Shakta is the religion dedicated to Devi, the Divine Mother. The followers of this religion revere the Divine Mother as the absolute divine being. She is worshipped in Her different forms such as Durga, Lakshmi, Sarasvati, Kali and innumerable other aspects.

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Durga, Lakshmi and Saravati, the three forms of  Devi

Greek Celebration

The Mother’s day celebrations can be traced back to Greece, where the Greek Goddess Rhea, the wife of Cronus, who is looked upon as the mother of many Greek Divinities.

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Goddess Rhea

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Rhea, Cronus and their children

Love of Allah

In Koran, the love of Allah, is expressed as, that of 70 mothers. Thus, the Barometer of Love being the Mother.

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The Holy Quran

Hindi Saying

There is a saying in Hindi, “Putra kuptura Bhaye, Mata kumatana Hoye”.

A son may go awry, but a Mother, never would lose her love for her children.

Chaya Surya episode

The same sentiment is expressed by Surya, the Sun, Divinity, to Chaya his wife. Chaya meaning shadow, shadow of the wife. The wife of Surya Sanjana, could not stand the radiance of Surya, so she kept her shadow, Chaya in her stead. When Chaya was impersonating as Surya’s wife, in that impersonating role, Chaya ill-treats his children, which is when Surya comes to know about the impersonation.

The Moral of the story being, a mother’s love would never diminish for her children.

Heaven is Mother

The Persian poet Agar Firdaus, while referring to a Mother’s love with poetic flourish sings, “Warruesaminast, Haminast, haminast, haminast”.

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Agar Firdaus

“If there is Heaven on earth, it’s here, here, here.”

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The script

It is this quote that was used much later by the Mughals, and Nehru, to describe the beauty of Kashmir.

M in Mother, M in Om

The word ‘Mother’, in all world languages, has the syllable ‘M’ in it. Not incidentally, but for an obvious reason, it is the same syllable ‘M’, that is present in OM, Amen and Ameen, signifying the source of all, the Mother.

Respect our nurturer

This Mother’s day and infact every day let us respect the role mothers have played in nurturing generation after generation.

For without a mother, we just don’t exist.