Arunachal Pradesh

Arunachal Pradesh is a state, in the north easternmost boundary of India, and is the largest among the 7 sister states in north east India. It was a union territory until 1987, when it became the 24th state of the Indian Union, on 20th February, 1987.

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Arunachal Pradesh

The mention of this state immediately brings to mind images of lush green rain forests and a rich wildlife. A land of incredible natural beauty, and rich flora and fauna.

Arunachal Pradesh had a prominent place from ancient times.

Eastern Boundary of India

The land of Bharath, as India was known in ancient times, had four boundaries. Maha Sagara, the Indian Ocean in the south. Himalaya, the snowcapped mountains in the north. Ashtachal Mountains in the west and Arunachal Mountains in the east.

More on this in our short film: Boundaries of Bharat.

Thus Arunachal region is an important landmark in Indian geography, marking its eastern boundary.

Aruna means “The first rays of the sun” and Achal means “Mountains”.

Arunachala are the hills that receives the first light of the sun, in Bharath. In other words, Arunachal is the “land of the rising sun”.

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The name Arunachal is also a name of Shiva, and has an important place in the concept of Ashta Dikpala, the rulers of 8 directions. Ashta Dikpalas are the deva who rule over the eight direction, Ashta, meaning eight, dik meaning direction and pala, meaning one who rules. The Deva who rules over the north east is Isana, i.e. Lord Shiva.

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Ashta Dikpalas

Orchid of India

Known for its flora, Arunachal Pradesh is known as the “Orchid of India”, and the “Paradise of the Botanists”.

The entry point of Brahmaputra

It is also the land where one of India’s biggest rivers, Brahmaputra, enters the country. The river has its origin at Manasarovar in Tibet, near Mount Kailash, where it has the name Tsangpo. In Arunachal Pradesh, where it enters India, it is known as Yarlang. It is only in Assam, it gets the name Brahmaputra.

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Brahmaputra

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From ancient Past

In the Purana, this region of Arunachal Pradesh is mentioned as Prabu Mountains.

It is at this region that Veda Vyasa mediated, for a period of time.

Parasuram kund, a lake dedicated to Lord Parasurama is a popular pilgrimage spot in Arunachal Pradesh. It is visited by thousands of pilgrims from across India, and also from Nepal.  It is here that Lord Parasurama performed penance. Makara Sankranthi is a festive occasion at this kund, when around 1 lakh Devotees take dip, Snan in its waters.

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Parasuram Kund

Arunachal Pradesh is also the region ruled by King Bhishmaka, the father of Rukmini, whom Krishna married. This takes the antiquity of this place to 3100 BCE, as we have dated Krishna to 3100 BCE in our book “Historical Krishna”.

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In the previous millennia, this region was ruled by the Ahom dynasty, from 1228 CE to 1826 CE.

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Ahom Dynasty Insignia

Culturally Diverse

The population of Arunachal Pradesh mainly consists of Vana Vasi.

The dweller of forest who are the true custodians of this ecosystem are known as Vana Vasi.

Vana meaning forest, and Vasi, dweller.

These tribals were not poor, but instead they were rich, for all the forest of the land were theirs by right. They were the guardians of the forest. The forest looked after their well being.

Today, they have been classified as Adi VasiAdi meaning first and Vasi, dweller, and restricted to living in pockets within their forests.

Adi Vasi is a new term and also has a sense of derogatory to it. The Adi Vasi brings in an incorrect concept that tribals are the first dwellers of the land and the town and village dwellers are later migrants. This is ethnographically erroneous.

Whereas the words, Vana Vasi is their rightful name used with respect.

Nagar Vasi, Grama Vasi and Vana Vasi, all three belong ethnically to this land from time immemorial. And each have their respective place in the civilization, in the land and in the society.

There are more than 26 tribes of Vana Vasi in Arunachal Pradesh, who follow their own customs and tradition, making it one of the most culturally diverse states in India.

Some of the major tribes being,

  1. Adi
  2. Galo
  3. Aka
  4. Apatani
  5. Nyishi
  6. Tagins
  7. Bori
  8. Bokar

Arunachala, fire element and Sun worship

In South India, Shiva is manifested in the form of Arunachala hill at Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu.

As per the legends, this hill was originally a pillar of fire that appeared before Brahma and Vishnu.  Brahma had flew towards one end to search for its origin while Vishnu had penetrated towards the other end taking the form of Varaha, the Boar, to bore to its other depths. But they could not reach the two ends of this column of fire.

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Depiction of a legend in the Shivapurana – Search for the ends

This column of fire was a manifestation Shiva.

More on this legend in our book – Understanding Shiva.

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The form of Shiva as Arunachala is associated with the fire element.

Arunachal Pradesh is the land of rising Sun, where the worship of Sun, a manifestation of the fire element, is prominent among all the tribes. Here Sun is worshipped as the Supreme Divinity.

Donyi Polo is a religion practiced here, which worships the Sun and the Moon, Donyi meaning the Sun and Polo, the Moon.

Si-Donyi is an important festival celebrated in Arunachal Pradesh, dedicated to the Sun.

There are also other tribes who worship the Sun.

Buddhist Monasteries

Arunachal Pradesh is also home to many Buddhist monasteries.

Some of the prominent ones being,

  • Tawang Monastery

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Tawang Monastery

  • Bomdila Monastery

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Bomdila Monastery

  • Urgelling Monastery

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Urgelling Monastery

Occupation

The main occupation of Arunachal Pradesh is agriculture, while weaving is another vocation, popular mainly among the woman folk.

The people here are experts in creating beautiful carpets, wooden vessels, and silver articles.

Woodcarving is another favourite vocation, as also ornament making that is practiced in Arunachal Pradesh.

The state is also famous for its Bamboo handicrafts.

Statehood Day

Arunachal Statehood Day is observed every year on 20th February, the day when Arunachal Pradesh became a state. A day to remember an important part of the Indian civilization. A state which apart from its rich flora and fauna, is also a home to richly diverse culture.

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Nicholas Copernicus

Nicholas Copernicus was an astronomer of Polish origin during the European Renaissance period, who was born on 19th February 1473.

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Nicholas Copernicus

Introducing Heliocentric Model in Europe

Copernicus was the first to come up with the Heliocentric Theory in Europe i.e. all planets go around the sun. Copernicus’ theory was an important step in European astronomy. Europe had till then believed that earth was in center, all else go around earth, i.e. in a Geocentric Model.

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Heliocentric Model

In Veda

In India, the Heliocentric View, that all the planets move around the sun is mentioned in the Veda, that were composed thousands of years before Copernicus.

The Indian astronomical texts have repeatedly mentioned that the planets, sun and moon are not geocentric but are heliocentric, with the sun at the center of the solar system and the earth with its moon going around it, along with other planets.

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How can we say for sure that they had this heliocentric view thousands of years ago itself?

Navagraha, Around the Sun

Besides the over thousands of years old Veda, which speak about a heliocentric Solar System, the heliocentric state of the Solar System has been continuously showcased in every major temple of India in the form of the Navagraha shrine. Nava means 9 and graha refers to a planet or an occupied space.

In the Navagraha shrine, it is the sun which is at the center and the planets are placed around it.

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Navagraha Shrine

And people go around this shrine as a sign of reverence to the planets and the sun.

It was a simple, clear and concise way of making the common man, understand the heliocentric concept of the Solar System.

This is not the only scientific knowledge of the ancient Indians, to have come to be accepted by the modern world.

Who knows what else we may uncover for future, If only we take the pains to wade through them and read them from their perspective!

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj

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Chatrapathi Shivaji

February ushers in Shivaji Jayanthi on the 19th of this month. It is a day observed by the state Government of Maharashtra to mark the birthday of a boy born about 400 years ago. A boy, who would grow up to establish the Maratha Empire and become its ruler as Chatrapathi Shivaji.

Birth Place of Shivaji Maharaj and his cradle

Born Shivaji Raje Bhosle, Shivaji made significant contributions not only to the Maratha Empire, but also to the destiny of the rest of India.

Two storeyed wooden temple of Lord Vinayaka, called Kasba Ganapati temple, built by Shivaji’s mother Jijabai in November 1630, when Shivaji Maharaj was only 8 months old. This deity is today the Gram Devata of Pune

Named After Shivaidevi

Named Shivaji after the deity Shivaidevi, a form of Goddess Durga, an embodiment of courage, strength and fearlessness, Shivaji, true to his name, fearlessly strode the path that would eventually liberate the land from the oppressive rule of the Mughals and their vassals in different parts of India.

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Sculpture of Shivaji Maharaj from his life time

The legends of Shivaji, his conquests, the Guerilla warfare that he popularized, the ploys he adopted to outwit the Mughals, are all well known and well documented.

An old painting, dated c.1668 CE, of Shivaji Maharaj with soldiers setting out for war

Shivaji, the humanist

Apart from his conquests, Shivaji is known for his respect for every human being, He honoured every women even if they belonged to the enemy ranks.

Jadunath Sarkar in his book ‘Shivaji and His Times’ speaks of an incident that shows the high upbringing of Shivaji. He writes,

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Built a robust administration

We all know Shivaji as a great warrior, but how many know he built up a very robust administration too. And this when he had no formal education and spent most of his life in battle. Some of his achievements

1) Ashta Pradhan a council of 8 ministers who advised him on all matters

2) Recognized the importance of a navy to protect Konkan coast and built one.

3) Built sea forts at Sindhudurg, Jaigad to protect from pirates.

4) Did away with Jagirs and paid army in cash, this eliminated corruption.

5) Built up a very professional army.

6) Disallowed dancing girls, to maintain discipline in army.

7) State looked after families of dead soldiers.

8) All enemy property seized during a campaign belonged to Treasury, none was allowed to use for personal purpose.

9) Robust revenue collection system.

10) Maintained a large network of forts and garrisons.

A Wrong perception

A popular statement made by many is that,

the British took over the political control of India from the Mughals”.

Little known to many is the ground reality, corroborated by British Maps themselves.

Ground reality

Defeating Mughals

After Shivaji and his forces had dealt a decisive blow to the Mughal forces, the Mughal empire, along with many of their vassals had disintegrated. In their place, the Maratha rule and the Maratha confederacy of Peshwa, local kings and heads of principalities, started ruling different parts of India.

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A Portrait of Shivaji Maharaj

Maratha confederacy

It was a confederacy because while there were many Peshwa ruling in their respective localities, they shared the ideals, principals, goals and the rule of law of the Marathas.

British Map Testifies

All this is borne out as a fact when we see the British map of 1780, during the times of Robert Clive, where it shows the Maratha Empire covering pretty much, most portions of present day India – Central, North and South India. It stretched from Tamil Nadu in South India to Peshawar in the north, in modern day Pakistan and upto Bengal in the east.

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British Map of India, 1780 – Maratha Empire is the Region in Yellow

Naval forces keeps colonial powers at bay

The Naval force that the Marathas created under the able leadership of Kanhoji Angre, helped guard the Konkan coast for nearly a century and kept the colonial powers at bay. The colonial powers could only function as minor trading posts in the Konkan coast and become colonial powers in this region only after they managed to defeat the Naval forces of the Marathas.

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Statue of Kanhoji Angre in Alibag, Maharashtra

A rare gold coin of Shivaji prob. issued on the occasion of his coronation.- Devnagari Legend on the coin reads Shri Raja Shiv Chatrapati.

The Maratha Power

Shivaji had personally marched through much of Karnataka, central parts of Andhraand visited even Madras, which was a fledgling town then, primarily a British trading post operating out of Fort St.George.

Gifts from British

During this visit to Madras, the British sent him gifts, honorariums, which in the local language  is called “Kappam”, twice within a month, to his camping site near the Kalikambal temple, which formed the entry point to Madras then. They did this as a good will gesture requesting him not attack their trading post saying that they were only peaceful traders.

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Fort St. George, Old Madras

Marathas at power when British arrived

This corroborates the point that it was indeed the Marathas, who were in power when the British arrived in India. If Shivaji had then gone ahead, attacked and decimated this fledgling trading post, then the history of India would have taken on a different turn.

The only live sketch of Shivaji Maharaj , discovered by historian V S Bendrey

The Maratha Effect

Anqetil DuPerron

Many years later, Anqetil DuPerron, a French orientalist and linguist, who had visited India and stayed here for 7 years between 1755 and 1761, quotes a traveller as,

“When I entered the country of the Maharattas, I thought myself in the midst of simplicity and happiness of the golden age … misery was unknown … the people were cheerful, vigorous and in high health.”

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Anqetil DuPerron

This statement of DuPerron highlights to us that not only had Shivaji and his lineage of Marathas, conquered the lands they did, but were administering them in a sustainable manner with the welfare of the people in mind.

Barring a few parts of India, it was the Maratha Confederacy which was in power after the Mughals. It was a campaign, initiated and given a form by Chatrapathi Shivaji, that brought India together as a cohesive unit after the Mughals and before the British.

Shortlived Resurgence

Then how could the British have taken over India from such a powerful empire? While it was a period of resurgence in India, which applied a healing balm to many a wounds that had been inflicted by the various foreign invasions and their oppressive rule, sadly this period of resurgence was shortlived.

Mughals joing hands with Afgans

The defeated Mughals started joining hands with the Afghans and the Nawabs to counter the expansion of the Maratha empire and started pushing the Marathas back.

Infighting

Also, the individual rulers in the Maratha Confederacy, whose autonomy had grown over the years, soon started fighting amongst themselves due to jealousy and thirst for power.

It was by dethroning these individual, infighting rulers in the Maratha Confederacy in the 1800s, through bribe, deception, trade, threat, treachery and force, that the comparatively smaller in size, but devious British force, weakened the confederacy and gained monopoly over India – literally every inch of it.

Shivaji’s efforts in vain

All the unification brought about by Shivaji and his followers, had gone to vain. This is an excellent lesson on how,

“United we stand, divided we fall.”

The word “Maratha” today conjures up an image of present day Maharashtra alone, for the present generations. It invokes a picture of pleasant, simple, sincere and hardworking locals, popularly termed as “Marathi Manus” these days.

The contribution of Shivaji and the Marathas, towards the unification of India before the British and in the development of a spirit of fearlessness in the Indians, which helped them later to resist the British and eventually gain Independence, cannot be acknowledged enough. Anything said will only be an understatement!

Did Mandodari Marry Vibhishana?

Ravana had many wives amongst whom, Queen Mandodari, was the chief Queen, a virtuous, beautiful lady. She was the daughter of Mayasura, a great mathematician, a great architect and an engineer par excellence. As his name Mayasura suggests he was from the Asura clan.

It was Mayasura who built Lanka, one of the greatest cities.

Ravana and Mandodari – Great Devotees of Shiva

Ravana and Mandodari were great devotees of Lord Shiva.

In response to the prayer of Mandodari, Lord Shiva visited the island of Lankapuri at Thiruketheeswaram, in the form of a child and blessed Queen Mandodari and Ravana.

It is in commemoration of this visit of Lord Shiva to Lanka, that Queen Mandodari’s father, Mayasura, the architect par excellence, built the Thiruketheeswaram temple, as per the rules of the Agama sastra for temple construction.

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Way back in 1864 itself, the famous Galle Face Hotel of Colombo chose for its logo, the Dandu Monara Vimana. This goes to show that, Ravana flying in Dandu Monara Vimana was a popular and widely accepted theme, even 150 years ago during colonial rule.

In the logo of the hotel, it shows Ravana and Mandodari flying in the Dandu Monara Vimana.

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Ravana and Mandodari in the Vimana

Galle Face Hotel Logo,

Dandu Monara Vimana, 1864

Mandodari Counsels Ravana

When Ravana kidnapped Sita, Mandodari counselled him many times on the inappropriateness of this action.

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Sita in Ashok Vatika

But Ravana, for all his gifted qualities of being well educated, a good administrator, possessing varied skills, met his downfall when he coveted somebody else’s chaste wife against her own wishes.

He refused to see reason, despite the good counsel of Mandodari his wife and Vibhishana his brother and refused to release Sita back to Rama.

Ravana eventually met his end at the hands of Rama.

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Rama slaying Ravana

Did Mandodari marry Vibhishana?

Now, there are some who question the character of Rama and Vibhishana, stating a few sources which seem to suggest that Vibhishana, Ravana’s brother, coveted Mandodari, on the advice of Rama, after Ravana’s death. And that, Sita was a mute onlooker to this.

Kelaniya – Vibhishana’s Palace

To the north of Colombo is the Kelaniya Buddhist temple.

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This temple has been identified as the site of the ancient palace of Vibhishana. Carvings to this effect are found on the outer wall of this temple.

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Kelaniya temple

Is it Mandodari in this Sculpture?

On the back side wall of this temple, is a rock cut, sculptured panel depicting the coronation or Pattabhishekam of Vibhishana.

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Vibhishana coronation panel in Kelaniya temple

Lakshmana is depicted to be conducting the coronation of Vibhishana in this panel.

This sculpture is in  line with the description of this event in the Ramayana epic because Rama was still undergoing His 14 years of Vanavasa, exile in the forest and hence did not enter the city to conduct the coronation but instead, had deputed Lakshmana to do so on His behalf.

In the coronation sculpture, the queen of Lanka sitting beside Vibhishana is identified by some observers now, as Mandodari.

No reference in Valmiki Ramayana

For an accurate picture, we need to look at Valmiki Ramayana, the original source of Rama’s story; an itihasa, which means, “It thus happened”.

Valmiki Ramayana is a biography of Rama, chronicled by Valmiki!

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Valmiki, the author of Ramayana

It should be noted here that, as per Valmiki Ramayana, Mandodari did not occupy the throne of Lanka with Vibhishana. After Ravana’s death, Mandodari went into mourning.

Vibhishana was a married man, whose wife was Ammani and he also had a daughter called Trijata. She was known as Trijata because she had three Jata of long hair, Jata meaning plait. Since she had dressed her hair in three plates, she was called Trijata. Trijata had earlier been deputed to attend to Sita’s needs, when Sita was held captive by Ravana at Ashoka Vatika.

So it should have been Vibhishana’s wife, Trijata’s mother, who occupied the throne along with Vibhishana at the time of the coronation and not Mandodari as is held by some.

More on this in our book, Ramayana in Lanka.

In Ramacharitamanas

The source that some quote to suggest that Mandodari married Vibhishana, comes from an indirect reference in the Ramacharitamana, by Tulsidas. In this poetic work, Tulsidas, while speaking of the compassion of Rama on His devotees, states, in the first chapter, Doha– 28.

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In this sloka, there is no reference to Vibhishana forcefully coveting Mandodari. When the misdemeanor is not fully expressed, one cannot assume without reason that it relates to Mandodari.

Case of Tara and Sugreeva

There is another incident in the Ramayana, where, Tara, the wife of Bali, offers to marry Sugreeva on the death of Bali, on the promise that after the time of Sugreeva, her son Angad will be the king. She did this to ensure the safety of her son.

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Tara supporting Bali, after he was wounded by Rama

An Understanding needed

We need to understand that only the act of forcing a woman to marrying someone, is immoral and illegal. But, if a married woman wanted to marry someone else, it was not considered illegal or immoral. Women enjoyed that unique right in this land.

Mandodari – A Woman par Excellence

Mandodari did not marry Vibhishana. After the death of Ravana, she went into mourning and oblivion.

Mandodari was no ordinary lady. She was the daughter of the renowned Mayasura, the great architect, mathematician, astronomer and skilled engineer.

Pancha Kanya

Mandodari was such an illustrious woman that she figures as one of the 5, in India’s Panchakanya list of “all time great” women. Pancha is 5 and kanya is a lady.

In the Indian tradition 5 women have been given the title of Panchakanya for their ideal lives. They are Ahalya, Sita, Mandodari, Draupadi and Tara.

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The Samskrt hymn on Panchakanya is as follows:

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Need to present factual opposition

Thus we need not cast aspersions on the character of Mandodari and Vibhshana, or for that matter Rama, and need to give a factual opposition to any malicious theories put forth by vested interests.

More on Rama and other characters of the Ramayana in our Rama Trilogy,

  1. Historical Ram
  2. Ayodhya – War and Peace
  3. Ramayana in Lanka

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and film Historical Rama in

  1. English
  2. Hindi
  3. Kannada
  4. Tamil                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     16       

Random Act of Kindness Day

Every year, 17th February is celebrated as Random Act of Kindness Day. The name ‘Random’ Kindness is peculiar as kindness is spontaneous and often random.

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Kindness innate to every being

The sense of kindness is innate to every being. The sense of kindness is not just limited to humans but also to the animal and plant kingdom.

In Plants

Plants offer us kindness by providing shade from the sweltering heat.

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Trees Provide Shelter from heat

Plants also express kindness to the animal kingdom, which includes the humans, by the succulent seasonal fruits that they offer.

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In Animals

Similarly, every animal also has kindness innate to them, be it an herbivore or a carnivore.

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Thus we see that ‘Act of Kindness’ is innate to life form itself. It is a conscious choice to be kind and not just a Random Act. Kindness is verily the nature of mankind.

While one comes across, benefits from others’ kindness and enjoy the act of kindness, let us at the same time appreciate and acknowledge the act of kindness.

Kindness in India

In Samskrt, kindness is referred to as Maitri. The concept of Maitri is ingrained in our culture and tradition from many millennia. Our texts are replete with stories of kindness.

In Purana, we have Lord Shiva in his kindness drink poison that came up during Samudra Manthan, inorder to protect our universe

Lord Vishnu is all his kindness, accepts human kind from time to time, to establish dharma, and one of the dharmas, nature of humans is kindness.

The epic Ramayana, one of the itihasa of this land, is full of examples of compassion and kindness shown by Rama to the people who sought his help.

The Tirukural, an ancient Indian work on ethics and morality, devotes a separate chapter on kindness.

Every Moment, Every Deed

Let us not be kind only in a random manner. On this Random Act of Kindness Day, let us resolve to be kind to our fellow beings through the year and through every deed.

Future of Cauvery water sharing lies in our past

Politicians of the day have made it seem like that the dispute over Cauvery water sharing is a conflict without a solution. They have been so successful in this that today farmers of the riparian states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu believe there is no life for them without Cauvery waters and hence are  willing to stake their life for the cause.

In reality, this is yet another example of how a short-sighted vision can complicate matters for one and all. There can be, and there is, a prosperous life for farmers of the riparian states beyond Cauvery waters. The concept of water sharing in India, is as old as the early civilization of the land. History stands testimony to this.

The sharing of waters went on without any noticeable acrimony till the 1960s. Till then, there existed arrangements among people which ensured that what was available was shared amicably among the riparian states in an equitable manner. One such arrangement was a formal agreement entered into in 1860 between the Mysore Maharaja Government and the Madras Presidency, under British administration for how the waters of the Cauvery would be shared for the next 100 years. In 1960, this 100-year agreement came to an end but was not renewed by those in power.

But more than such agreements, what had ensured a harmonious sharing was the fact that both these states did not solely depend upon River Cauvery for their water needs. They had a decentralized form of water harnessing called the Chain Tank System, which met their water needs. The Cauvery was only a supplementary source to the Chain Tank System. However, in the last 50 years of modern development, both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have neglected the decentralized form of water harnessing, the Chain Tank System, which was a sustainable form of water replenishing.

The Chain Tank system of the Carnatic was conceived and built about 1500 years ago, around 500 CE to 900 CE. It was built on the leeward side of the Western Ghats taking into cognizance the gradient of the land, sloping towards the Bay of Bengal. This region was known as the Carnatic.

Every village in this region had tanks which formed part of a Chain Tank System. The tanks were called Kere in Karnataka, Eri in Tamil Nadu and Cheruvu in Andhra Pradesh. In a chain, the Kere, Eri and Cheruvu of every village was linked to the other, right from the Western Ghats to Bay of Bengal. Rain waters were collected and stored in these local tanks as and when the rains came. Once a tank filled up, the overflow was channelled to the next in the gradient. The water thus collected flowed through every village of the Carnatic, from the slopes of the Western Ghats to the Bay of Bengal. This chain of tanks ensured that every village in this region got water irrespective of whether it had rained there or not.

This Chain Tank was decentralized and did not depend only on Cauvery waters. Just as the river Cauvery uses the gradient to flow from Western Ghats, the Chain Tank system too used the same gradient of land. Cauvery was an arterial river in this web of feeder and distribution canals.

The ingenuity lies in how the rain water was harnessed in this land across generations, ensuring prosperity to the land for thousands of years.

However, in the last 50 years of modern development, this Chain Tank System has become defunct. The decentralized approach which was the back bone of the Agrarian society has been replaced by a centralized approach of solely depending on Cauvery for both agriculture and industries as well as for water table management. This has created an unnecessary strain on the water resources.

Though there exists a web of feeder canals to and from the Cauvery and the Chain Tanks, they are blocked with silt owing to lack of maintenance over the last seven decades. Making them functional again will create a situation for balancing water between the Chain Tank and the river.

Water sharing agreements, however satisfying they may be, only address rainy season needs. The real sustainable solution lies  in making the decentralized system of water harnessing using the Chain Tank System, functional again. This system can harness the water when it rains, where it rains and make it available to the people when they need it, in every nook and corner of the land. The surplus waters from this system, which will be in plenty when the system functions, can be shared with the rivers like Cauvery of this region. The excess from the rivers such as Cauvery, when in spate can also be shared with the Chain Tanks, thus balancing the water flows. This will ensure that seasonal floods and droughts are avoided.

As a civilized society, if we can restore what our ancestors had created for us, we can again be prosperous and harmonious for centuries to come.

Ideally, the acrimony over scarce Cauvery waters should have pushed modern-day politicians and administrators to clever ways of harnessing waters. Sadly, it has been long used as a political tool. In reality a solution to this vexed problem in not so far away. It is just a few decades back in the past.

(The authors are the founders of  Bharath Gyan, a Knowledge Foundation. More on their work can be found at http://www.bharathgyan.com)

Mahamastakabisheka

Mahamastakabisheka, the ablution to the idol of Lord Gomateshwara – Bahubali, is being held from 17th to 25th February 2018.

Bahubali is one of the revered personages in the Jain tradition. Bahu means arms, and Bali, Bal refers to strength. Bahubali was the one who possessed great strength in his arms. This name Bali is similar in context to the story of Mahabali Chakravarthi, the all-powerful king and also to the story of Bali and Sugreeva, the two Vanara brothers of the Ramayana, of whom Bali possessed greater strength.

This name, Bahubali is a pointer to the fact that Bahubali was powerful and had conquered the whole world.

Son of Rishabhadeva,

Bahubali is the son of Adi Nath, the first Jain Tithankara, known as Rishabh Dev.

Sugar, Ikshvaku, Rishabh Dev

The Samskrt word for sugarcane is Ikshu.

One of the oldest dynasties of India, the Surya Vamsa, solar dynasty, which gave rise to luminaries such as Rama, Dasaratha, Aja, Raghu, Dilipa, Bhagiratha, Sagara, Harishchandra, Prthu and many more, was called the Ikshvaku dynasty after one its very early kings, Ikshvaku.

More on the Ikshvaku dynasty in our book, Historical Rama.

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In the Jain tradition too, the first Tirthankara, Lord Rishabhdev, known as Adi Natha is also referred to as Ikshvaku. Rishabhdev earned the name Ikshvaku as he could extract sugar from sugarcane. He also broke a year long fast with sugarcane juice.

As Jain records go, Bhagavan Rishabh Dev went on a fast to show His disciples, how to lead an ascetic’s life by eating only what is given in alms. Unfortunately, wherever He went seeking alms, He only received jewels and other non-edible items. This went on for close to 400 days. He finally landed up in a sugarcane farm belonging to His great grandson Shreyans, near Hastinapura, the famed kingdom, which was much much later ruled by the Pandava during the Mahabharata period, in 3100 BCE.

It was in Hastinapur that he was received with sugarcane juice and He thus ended His fast after more than a year.

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1st  Jain Tirthankara, Bhagavan Rishabhdev or Adinatha breaking fast with Sugarcane Juice

This legend thus speaks of sugarcane cultivation and extraction of sugarcane juice during Bhagavan Rishabh Dev’s times.

More on the Ikshvaku and the sugarcane connect in our book, Brand Bharat – Vol-1 – Made in India.

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8th Avatar of Vishnu

In the Bhagavata Purana, Rishabha is listed as the 8th Avatar of Lord Vishnu, among His 24 Avatar. The story of Rishabh Dev appears in the 5th Skanda of Bhagavata Purana.

Bahubali was the son of such an illustrious father.

Jada Bharata was the other son of Rishabh Dev.

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Jada Bharata

Jada Bharata was one of the early great kings. The story of Jada Bharata is also narrated in the 5th Skanda of the Bhagavata Purana. His rule was able and prosperous, when the glory of this land reached its pinnacle. Thus the name Bharat was attributed to this land, after Jada Bharata.

Fight between Bahubali & Jada Bharata and departure of Jada Bharata

After Rishabh Dev renounced his kingdom, the mantle of ruling fell into the hands of his two sons, Bahubali and Jada Bharata. With time, there ensued some differences between the two brothers, and there was a fight between them.

Jada Bharata didn’t want to fight against his brother, and so decided to renounce the royal life. He renounced his kingdom, attachments and retired to the forest, to seek true knowledge.

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Jada Bharat renouncing his kingdom

Detachment to kingdom and attachment

While in the forest, he became attached to a deer, as even a great renouncer like Jada Bharata was not free from attachment to the mortal coil. The one who gave up a kingdom, became attached to a mere fawn. Attachment and detachment are facets of human life.

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Jada Bharata getting attached to a deer

Jada Bharata eventually attained Moksha, after undergoing a birth as a deer, in a subsequent life.

Bahubali too

Just like his brother, after attaining many victories, Bahubali too renounced the world. It is interesting the way this renunciation actually took place.

After having conquered the whole world, Bahubali asked his soldiers to go on top of the tall mountain and inscribe his name as the first king to conquer all. His soldiers go up there, to inscribe his name, but what they find is that the rock is already inscribed by the names of earlier kings, and there is no space left for Bahubali’s name.

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Bahubali looking in wonderment at the inscriptions of the names of earlier kings

What this tells us is that even before most of the ancient kings who thought they were the earliest, there were many kings of greater antiquity, who had had conquered the land and had inscribed their names.  Satapatha Brahmana and Aitareya Brahmana mention 16 kings or Chakravartin who ruled India from sea to sea. Yet scholars claim the idea of empire in India started only with the Mauryas.

Such an illustrious land this is of such antiquity.

One of the so called earliest kings by name Bahubali is infact a much later king, in the illustrious lineage of great kings.

This incident created a dawning of realization in Bahubali, the mighty king, who then decided to renounce worldly pleasures and take up spirituality.

He attained Kevala Jnana.

Kevala Jnana

Kevala Jnana is a term used in Jainism to indicate absolute knowledge or wisdom. As per this concept, every individual soul has Kevala Jnana as its inherent quality. This Jnana is however covered by Karma, the deep impressions of previous thoughts and actions. Once this veil of Karma is removed through wisdom, then the state of Kevala Jnana naturally shines forth.

Such a state was attained by Bahubali, who is today revered and worshipped as Gomateshwara.

Gomateshwara

Bahubali’s statue today stands tall at Shravanabelagola, one of the most revered pilgrimage sites for the Jains, in the state of Karnataka, where He is worshipped as Gomateshwara. This statue of Gomateshwara is one of the 7 wonders of India. The consecration and the first Mahamastakabhisheka of this statue of Gomateshwara happened on 13th March, 981 CE. In the year 1981, the 1000th year of the installation was celebrated with much grandeur at Shravanabelagola, with a Mahamastakabhisheka.

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Gomateshwara

How did this place attain the name Shravanabelagola?

The Legend

King Chamunda Raya, had this idol installed, with great effort. The story goes that the king soon after establishing the worship of this statue became proud, as he felt that he had installed the deity through his mighty strength. In the coming days, when the king performed the Panchamritabhisheka of this idol, i.e. bathing, abhisheka the idol with 5 liquids, it was found that even though huge qualities of liquid were poured, the liquid did not descend lower than the navel. This miracle was enacted by the Divinity to dispel the vanity that had possessed the king. The king was frustrated and filled with grief as he was unable to bathe the idol of Lord Gomateshwara completely with the ablution. In this situation, on the orders of the Divinity, a celestial apsara named Padmavati, disguised herself as a poor old lady, and appeared before the king, with the five liquid held in a small silver pot, “Beliya Gola”, with the intention of bathing the statue. The king mocked at Padmavati stating that how she could accomplish this as he himself had failed in this endeavor. However on further insistence on her part, the king allowed her to perform the abhisheka, out of curiosity. Padmavati brought the liquid and was successful in performing a complete ablution of the statue. The king realized his arrogance, and giving up his vain pride performed ablution with great respect. From then on this place took on the name of Beliya Gola, meaning a Silver pot.

Chandragupta Maurya

The great king Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the Mauryan Empire, who ruled from Pataliputra. After establishing the Mauryan Empire, he decided to follow spirituality. He came all the way from Pataliputra and settled down at Shravanabelagola.

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Chandragupta Cave

Chanakya and Bhadrabahu

Chanakya as a Guru to Chandragupta Maurya, taught him the various arts of administration, warfare and social welfare. He was also Chandragupta’s political advisor and helped him strategize the plan for expanding his kingdom. Later on in his life, after he renounced his kingdom, Chandragupta took up Jainism. At that stage in life, Bhadrabahu, the Jain monk was his spiritual Guru.

The knowledge of the basic tenets of Jainism was passed on to Chandragupta Maurya by his Guru Bhadrabahu, at the Bhadrabahu Cave, in the Chandragiri hills, near Shravanbelagola.

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Bhadrabahu Cave

Two sects of Jainism

There are two sects in Jainism namely, Swethambara and Digambara.

Swethambara are those who dress themselves in white, Swetha, while Digambara are those with sky as their covering.

Bahubali belonged to the sect of Digambara, as can be understood from his statue in Shravanabelagola.

Unfortunately, this noble ideal of Digambara has been misunderstood by the materialistic society of today.

Mahamastakabhisheka

Mahamastakabhisheka is a prominent festival dedicated to Lord Gomateshwara, held at Sharavanbelagola, based on the conjunctions of planetary bodies at an interval of 12 to 15 years.

History of Mahamastakabhisheka

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This festival involves the bathing and anointing of the statue of Lord Gomateshwara, with milk, sugarcane juice, saffron paste and sprinkled with powders of sandalwood, turmeric and vermilion.

A festival that sees a congregation of thousands, who want to witness the Abhisheka of their Divinity.

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Mahamastakabhisheka of Lord Gomateshwara