During this month of May we will be celebrating the festival of Akshaya Trithiya or Akha Teej, a highly auspicious day which falls on the third day after Amavasya (no moon) in the Hindu calendar month of Vaishakha.
This traditional festival seems insignificant in comparison to some of the more glamorous festivals of the land.
For whatever reason this festival came into being, today Akshaya Trithiya day is being marketed as a day for buying gold, even better platinum now. Advertisements are being splashed all over urging one and all to buy gold.
Gold and Platinum
Is this festival Akshaya Trithiya, a festival for buying gold or better platinum? We have also heard our parents telling us to start things on this day because anything started on this day is expected to grow.
So, what is this Akshaya Trithiya all about?
Let us examine the word Akshaya first.
We would have heard of the phrase Akshaya Pathra, for the vessel that provided unending supply of food, during the Mahabaratha period. Draupadi has this vessel with her to feed her husbands the Pandavas, while they were in exile. It was given to her on this day by Lord Krishna.
Kshaya is something that diminishes. Akshaya is one that never diminishes.
Draupadi with Akshaya Pathra
So the word Akshaya denotes endless limitless provision of food, prosperity and wealth, wealth that never diminishes.
Why is this festival celebrated as that of limitless prosperity, Akshaya?
What is the event which gave this land this limitless prosperity, that is being commemorated as this festival?
There are quite a few reasons why this festival is celebrated, some of them being:
The day the Treta Yuga started.
Birthday of Parasurama the 6th avatara fo Vishnu.
The sun and moon are seen at their brightest best from the west coast of India.
The day Krishna gave the Akshaya Pathra to the Pandavas and Draupadi.
The day Sudama, the poor childhood friend of Krishna met Krishna with just a handful of puffed rice and received a lot of wealth in exchange without asking.
The day Krishna Dwaipayana, whom we reverentially call as Veda Vyasa, started dictating his family biography called Jaya, which is now known to us popularly as the Mahabharata.
Vyasa dictating Mahabharata
While all these are reasons enough to celebrate a festival, it still does not provide us any answers as to what is the limitless prosperity, that we are celebrating on this day.
In the Purana, the legends of ancient India, we have the story of Bhagiratha, an ancient king of this land belonging to the Surya Vamsa, Solar Dynasty. He was the illustrious forefather to Rama and Dasaratha, illustrious because he diverted the waters of the Ganga by his extraordinary effort, to the present day Gangetic plains.
This effort of Bhagiratha is celebrated in the legends as Bhagiratha Prayathna, the extraordinary or superhuman effort of Bhagiratha in bringing the waters to his parched kingdom.
Once the river Ganga was brought this side of the Himalaya and started flowing through the land, the waters gave prosperity to the land through the ages. So Ganga, with its waters has been giving unending prosperity to a civilisation for generations and generations to come.
Akshaya Trithiya is the day Bhagiratha cut through the rocks in the upper Himalaya and brought the waters of the Ganga, this side to give unending prosperity to his land, kingdom and people.
It is this event of bringing prosperity with the waters, that has been commemorated with the Akshaya Trithiya day.
Unfortunately today our thought has diverted from waters to gold and platinum.
Gold and platinum are only a result of prosperity and not the cause of prosperity itself.
Unending water supply is the cause of prosperity.
This is a key thought this civilisation seems to have forgotten in its hurtling haste.
Festivals like this are celebrated by us every year to recollect the yeomen efforts of our forefathers, to make our lives better in this world.
Ganga, the object of Akshaya Trithiya, today is being polluted by us continuously and is also on the verge of vanishing due to climatic changes, being hastened by our lack of concern and action.
Now, apart from appreciating their effort in providing for us a better life, the true way to honour them for their effort and surely a better way of celebrating, would be to safeguard our water sources – Ganga and all other sources, big and small, for ourselves and the future generations to come.
This would be a harbinger of everlasting prosperity.
A true way to celebrate Akshaya Trithiya, apart from just buying gold and platinum!
Bharatha – A land of people who relish knowledge
India had a pride of place in the ancient and medieval world. This land was called Bharatha, Bha meaning light and Ratha meaning ‘to relish’. Bharatha was the land of people who relished knowledge.
The Indian literature, right from the Veda, to the Tamil Sangam literature, speak of India as a land of prosperity. These bodies of literature describe a civilization that was prosperous. They present a picture of a society that was rich in material, cultural and spiritual wealth. The economy of the land was thriving. There was wide spread trade. Arts and culture were patronized and well established. The testimony to this prosperity is given by Marco Polo, a Venetian visitor to India in 1290 CE. He describes India in his writings as “the most prosperous of all, in the world he had seen.”
What gave India such a Brand Image of the most prosperous land, a sone ki chidiya?
Some are brands of goods that went from India, world over. Some are brands of thoughts and practices, with roots in India. Some are brands created by the image of India, for the world. These brands of yore created openings, not just in the field of trade but also in the very spread of thought and thought process. This is something that India can be rightfully proud of. For, it is thought process that shapes the evolution of thought, sciences, practices and lifestyle, which in turn, have a bearing on the pace of evolution of mankind. If there are a few civilizations or nations that can proudly say that it has offered something to the evolution of the thought process of humanity, then the Indian civilization does earn a pride of place, perhaps right on top.
Roots In India
The major aspects that make a prosperous civilization such as Education, Maths, Sciences, Languages, Music and Lifestyle, had their roots in India. They went on to create the Brand Bharat in the eyes of the world.
Signs of Brand Bharat
Some of the other signs of Bharat which became a brand, include
- Plentiful and Varieties of Food
- Abundance of Water and Water Harnessing
- Kama Sutra
- Sports – Chess, Polo, Snooker, Badminton,
to list just a few.
India was a leader in trade, having 25 % to 30 % share in World Trade in Ancient and Medieval times all the way upto 1800s.
Made in India – The Big Five
India had many produces to its credit that made it an economic powerhouse. The 5 main products that were manufactured in India were Iron and Steel, Zinc, Cotton, Indigo, Sugar and Spice.
The Five Ts – The Principles
They were able to sustain the brands, through many centuries and millennia, with the diligent practice of the 5Ts.
|Tradition||Understanding and Following Tradition|
|Talent||Skilled along with Quest and Innovation|
|Technology||Producing but Sustaining Nature|
|Trade||Trading, but not for Greed|
|Truth||Living with Truth – The Cosmic Principle, Dharma|
Lost to Plunder
Unfortunately, India lost its prosperity to wave after wave of plunder, first from near west and later from the far west in the name of colonisation, which destroyed Brand Bharat. But all is not lost. India may have lost a lot of wealth she had generated. But she has not lost the grace of Nature that can help her build similar wealth in no time, the way the earlier generations had done. All India needs, is to understand her strengths and deploy them suitably. More on Prosperity, Plunder and Rejuvenation of India, in our book ‘You Turn India’.
Bharath Gyan is an endeavour to bridge the old and the new worlds through knowledge from the past, for the present and future. Founded by the couple, D.K.Hari and D.K.Hema Hari and disseminated by The Art of Living of H.H.Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Bharath Gyan is 15 years of compilation of the knowledge and ethos of India from an interdisciplinary and wholistic perspective. “Brand Bharat”, as conceptualized by the Hari couple, paints the true picture of India and the pride of place India held among the comity of civilizations. It delves into the brands that had kept it so, for millennium after millennium. Brand Bharat leaves us with a new image of India, a new outlook on prosperity and a new sense of pride at being an Indian. More, in our work, ‘Brand Bharat’ from the ‘Autobiography of India’ series.
The concept of Smart Cities is not alien to this land. Smart Cities are part of the ethos of this land. The ancient Indian university towns like Takshashila and Nalanda were Smart Cities of those times.
India is embarking on an ambitious plan of building 100 Smart Cities in the coming decade.
Concepts from tradition to build Smart Cities
Our Tradition could provide lessons to incorporate sustainable time tested ideas in these upcoming Smart Cities.
What makes a Smart City?
Smart City is not just about commercial spaces, residential areas, public transports, basic amenities, hospitals, schools, colleges, shopping malls, car parkings, and manicured gardens; it is lot more….
A Smart City should have a knowledge commune, water harnessing, hinterland development and has to be ecologically sustainable and environment friendly. It has to be an alignment of all this. In other words, it has to be a skilled centre.
The present government policy being a mix of tradition with modernity, these would bring in the right balance.
The science of Indian architecture is based on the idea of living in harmony with all energies.
Bound in Boundless, Space in Space
Space is boundless. We have created bounds on the boundless.
It is the role of the Architect to create spaces in space for our dwellings.The people who built cities, dwellings and habitats were called Vishvakarma. Vishva means ‘World’ and Karma means ‘Action’. Vishvakarma were those who built the world for us to live in.
More on Indian Architecture in our work ‘Ethos of Indian Architecture’.
Click on Image to read the Book
The Vishvakarma built these cities to cater to the harmonious way of living, based on the idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbhakam, meaning, ‘One World Family’.
Deva means glowing and Vasu means earth, a dwelling place, where you live in a glowing divine way and where there is a purpose to life. Kutumbhakam means Family. Vasudhaiva Kutumbhakam is living together as family in bond, bandhan.
Chaturvedi Mangalam, Knowledge Communes were the Smart Cities of yore, where there was harmony with knowledgeable living.
Smart Cities of Yore, harmony with knowledgeable living
Chatur means four and Vedi is knowledge, Vidya. It need not be necessarily looked at as four Veda, but Vidya as a whole.
It is about knowledge, vidya, coming from all four directions. Mangalam means auspicious.
Ano bhadra katavo yanto vishwatah –Rig Veda
Let noble thoughts come from all directions
Noble thoughts from all directions
Chaturvedi Mangalam were truly the centres of auspiciousness. They were early models of knowledgeable Smart Cities, built on the wholistic ethos of Indian Architecture, based on the principles of Swasthi Rasthu, Healthy, Pushti Rasthu, Prosperous and Tushti Rasthu, Happiness.
4 pillars of Chaturvedi Mangalam
- Produce – Industry and Agriculture
- Knowledge and Administration
- Environment Ecology
4 Pillars of Chaturvedi Mangalam
These 4 should formed the pillars for Chaturvedi Mangalam. The same 4 are valid today for the Smart Cities.
One of the key features of these ancient Smart Cities was that 1/6th of the landspread was covered by water. This facilitated water harnessing.
India is a tropical country and temperatures are high 6 months of year. This 1/6th coverage of the land with water gave the land enough humidity throughout the year. This humidity kept down the temperature of the landscape and made the land salubrious for the people to live in.
This water body also provided the right inputs for greenery and horticulture in these Smart Cities.
Hinterland Development was another aspect of the ancient Smart Cities, for it is the hinterland that provides basic necessities for Smart Cities like water, vegetables, support services and other consumables.
Components of Smart City, A Model
In days of yore, few of the noble kings recognized the need for Smart Cities in their kingdoms, for their times and established Chaturvedi Mangalam, Knowledge Communes. These Knowledge Communes, Smart City were where people of knowledge lived and gave guidance for sustainable living. This knowledge was not just in Veda Samhita, but was applied in a range of subjects like architecture, agriculture, water management, languages, culture, paintings, fine arts, handicrafts, in technical expertise, sciences, mathematics and astronomy, among a whole range of other subjects like this.
In Europe and America
In the later renaissance period in Europe and in 20th century America, one of the defining features was the establishing of University Towns which were the modern Knowledge Communes. These knowledge communes gave ideas, inputs and directions for the growth of the modern world.
Knowledge Communes, Smart Cities made India prosperous
Just as Europe and America realized the need of knowledge communes to spur think and growth, the kings and people of yore in India had established Knowledge Communes, Smart Cities across centuries, over millennia, across the length and breath of the country.
When India was prosperous from ancient to medieval ages, it was these Chaturvedi Mangalam, Knowledge Communes which gave directions, ideas and vision for the land, kept the land prosperous, sustainable with its culture, practices and traditions, even when kings and kingdoms were in decline.
100 smart cities being planned
As India is now planning 100 Smart Cities, it will be prudent to have Chaturvedi Mangalam / Knowledge Commune enclaves as an integral part of the Smart Cities, which would not only give the balance, but really give them the edge of being Smart Cities.
This is through yoga. The root word for Yoga, is Yug, Yuga, meaning to align, Yoke, join. Thus Yoga is not just asanas but it is a factor of aligning and joining all aspects together in harmony, on the lines of Vasudhaiva Kutumbhakam.
An analogy of Cattle Yoke used to join two bulls
This is being smart. This is the true embodiment of Smart City. This is wholesome yoga that will bring Harmony and Happiness.
Happiness is not just about Quality and Quantity, but the overall ambience which humans create in coordination with Nature.
Holi is the festival that evokes colour and gaiety. The word “Holi” can be traced back to Holika, the sister of King Hiranyakashyapu and the aunt of Prahalada.
When Holika tried to burn Prahalada by sitting him on her lap, she got burnt instead and Prahalada escaped unscathed.
All this goes in the hazy past of the legends of the land. This holy festival celebrated by Krishna with the Gopi in Vrindavan, Mathura and later in Dwaraka is part of the folklore, paintings and poetry.
Holi is celebrated on the full moon in the month of Phalguna. It is also called as Phalguni festival. This process to vernal equinox when the sun travels in north crosses the equator.
Akbar celebrates Holi
Akbar celebrating Holi with his courtiers and commons is a part of the folklore and paintings of this land.
Akbar’s chronicler, Abul Fazl Ibn Mubarak who wrote the book AIn- i – Akbari who was one of the 9 gems in the court of Akbar vividly writes about Akbar collecting the holy play nozzle spout, pichkari.
He writes, “Shehansha bustche Shudam Aviyar minhal mustamber Qabl e jashn e fam”, meaning the emperor started collecting pichkari, the Holi nozzle in different designs, well before the start of Holi.
Shahjahan also plays Holi
Akbar’s son Shahjahan was also big time into playing Holi with his courtiers and the commoners.
The French traveler, Franko Bernier who visited the court of Shahjahan speaks about this.
Franko Bernier was quite taken in by the colours of Holi, and how the royalty and commoner mixed on this day in playing Holi.
One of the high points of the holy festivities was the Holi ka dahan, also referred to as ‘Dhulandi’, where a bon fire was raised in which everyone participated, while the bon fire idea, dahan may have started with Holika being burnt in it. Later through the ages, the Dahan came to symbolize the collective burning of ill will on this occasion of Holi.
Different types of Holi celebration
In Central India, in places like southern Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, Holi takes on one more flavor in which we have lattmar, where the women symbolically beat the men with lathi, sticks and men shield themselves.
Sir Aldus Huxley, the British philosopher, while describing the various festivals of India, describes Holi as the ‘subcontinent festival of festivals’.
Phag mahotsav is celebrated more in Rajasthan area.
It is an occasion where the Sikhs exhibit their skills in battle dramas. The word Mohalla in Punjab means procession of Army column accompanied by drums, people carrying the army flags, basically an army march to drum beats and festoons.
Celebrate Holi in true organic manner
In the last few decades, the colours used in the Holi festivities have a lot of chemicals in it, bringing about injury to skin, persons and animals. It will always be safe to play Holi with organic colours of chandan, haldi, to enjoy Holi in its true organic manner.
Every region has had its mini form of Holi celebrations, but unfortunately in the last few decades, it has degenerated to loud blaring of film songs.