The Kumbha Mela is one of the oldest and largest congregations of Indian civilization. In a sense, it is a congregation more than a festival
Indian thought and practices over time immemorial have commemorated certain days and festivals as ways and means for people to understand, remember and reunite with the Universe and the scientific divinities of the Universe. These festivals become gateways for people to reach out and be in communion with these divinities.
Ardha Kumbha Mela is being held in 2019 at Prayagraj from January 15th to March 4th.
It is said that there is no equivalent word for Dharma because
of which, Dharma has been multifariously translated as righteousness,
goodness, duty, nobility, giving alms and similar other terms.
Of late, in the local parlance of India, the word Dharma is
used interchangeably to denote religion.
Meaning of Dharma
Dharma is all the above and more.
Dharma, at a simplistic level means character,
nature. Every object, animate or inanimate has its own character, a basic
nature, its Dharma.
It is human character, nature, to have an ego from which
stems most of his actions and reactions.
At the same time, love and compassion too are emotions that
are innate and fairly well developed in humans.
Dharma is inexplicable in words, more so, in non
Indian languages where, while Dharma innately exists, the concept is not
Dharma – not just for humans
We speak of Ahimsa, not hurting another, as a human
quality and say it is as per Dharma. But can this Dharma be valid
for a Tiger?
A tiger’s nature is to kill its prey for food. That is the Dharma of a tiger.
The industrious nature of ants to collect miniscule bits of foods and travel distances in a thin line is the nature of ants, which is their Dharma.
Dharma – not just for earthlings
Similarly, this earth rotates at a tremendous speed. The
basic nature of the earth, to spin on its axis and go around the Sun, is its Dharma
while that of the moon is to go around the earth, waxing and waning very
It is the basic nature of the Sun to be scorching hot, spread light and to make the planets revolve around it. That is the Dharma of the Sun.
Dharma is thus not limited just to human beings but
is equally the discernable characteristic of humans, animals, plants, all the
animate objects and the inanimate objects such as earth, sun and all astral
bodies in the Universe, as well.
Dharma – the innate character of character
Dharma is the very characteristic of character itself
i.e. the nature to be a nature and is innate to one and all.
The character of a person or another object in this creation
is a part of the self. It lies within the person. It gets exhibited, comes into
relevance, only when it interacts with another body of creation. It is then,
that the character, Dharma finds expression.
Dharma is the principle of the “suchness” in the
cosmos. That which makes the “such”, be “as such”.
Dharma – a relationship, a role
This means, Dharma is not in isolation but in
relation to, in relationship with another. So, for the practice of Dharma,
relationship is an important component.
Dharma is thus a conjoint product of the
characteristic of an entity and its relationships. The Dharma for each
person, in each relationship will be different and takes different, even
contradicting priorities, in different circumstances.
Hence if we are all to live as per Dharma, we have to
think of others first and the expectations of the role we have to play with the
others, before we don that role and play it to perfection.
Every person and everything in this universe has a role to
Dharma includes the co-existence and cooperation of
the entire Universe, not just people alone.
Dharma – the
This Universal message of Dharma which came into play
ever since the Universe came into existence, has echoed from this land, eon
after eon, Yuga after Yuga, as a living brand of India.
For, even without intelligence or without mankind too, this
Universe, in its natural state has been living in Dharma. It is mankind
with his intelligence, who tries to defy it.
India is a civilization that has been bound by the law of Dharma
The difference between Law and Dharma is that,
As a brand ambassador of Dharma, it is the Dharma of
India, to bring out the power of this “suchness”, the power of character, to
the world for order, peace and harmony to prevail world over.
More on Dharma in our book, Brand Bharat – Unique To India.
January is the first month in our calendar. This calendar that the world is following today is the Gregorian calendar, that has been established by Pope Gregory in the year 1582.
Pope Gregory – a Painting
This word “January” comes from the old Roman divinity, Janus. “Janus” is a divinity that was venerated in Rome in the Pre-Christian days. This divinity has two faces, one that looks back at the past and one that looks forward to the future.
Janus with 2 heads
It is for this reason that the divinity, Janus, which has the capacity to look forward to the future, keeping in mind the past, that it adorned the doorways in ancient Rome. It was looked to, as the divinity for auspicious beginnings.
Now, let us look at the root of this word “Janus”. It is phonetically similar to the Samskrt word “Gnana” which means Knowledge.
In India, the divinity attributed to Gnana, Knowledege, is Ganesha. In the word “Ganesha”, the word “Gana” stands for numbers, heaviness and knowledge.
Ganesha too has two faces, one the popular elephant face that we all know of and the face of a young, stubborn child that he originally had borne, before he got the elephant head. In India and in most of South-East Asia, Ganesha is to this day, venerated first, as the divinity that removes obstacles. Ganesha, is venerated as the divinity of auspicious beginnings. In houses, in temples, in palaces, in street corners, Ganesha is looked up to, as the divinity of beginnings.
Ganesha, with elephant head
We see an interesting similarity here, between the thought of India, for auspicious beginnings with Ganesha, the divinity for knowledge and Janus, the divinity of Rome for auspicious beginnings in Rome, 2000 years back.
When Pope Gregory formed the new calendar with a Papal order, he retained the memory of Janus for January, the first month of the New Year. This shows how prevalent the concept was in Europe then.
With this knowledge, let us celebrate the coming year with the knowledge, that we need to look back on our deeds of the past and with that wisdom, look forward to our life in the coming year.
Ganesha as a divinity of beginnings, is not only venerated in India but also venerated in Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, China and as well in ancient Persia. It is interesting to note that in some of the paintings and sculptures, there is a subtle display of an elephant trunk.
Ganesha like depiction in Japan
Kangiten, Enmeiin, Iwai City, Japan
It is interesting how ideas and concepts in the ancient world, travelled across lands, continents and got imbibed in the local legends and minds of the peoples, uniting them by practices and customs.
May January, in this New Year, herald an auspicious beginning for reviving the ancient concept of Vasudaiva Kutumbakam, One World Family. A global togetherness, where the knowledge of the ancient world and that of the modern world live in sync and harmony with each other and with Nature.
It is like the time when the molting snake sheds its old skin, the past and wriggles out with a new skin to the next phase out its life.
It is like how the American eagle sheds its old feathers and beak, gains new ones for its next phase of life.
This shedding of the past and adopting the new is not just to humans and calendars but to animals too as we see here.
In the Indian ethos we have festivals such as Lohri in Punjab where the old articles are burnt in the bonfire. We see the same practice in Deep South in Tamil Nadu where the old things are discarded in the bon fire during Bhogi.
Ringing out the Old and Ringing in the New
This is one way of symbolically ringing out the old and ringing in the new. Be it the temple bells or church bells symbolize this ringing out the old and ringing in of the new.
Change through Celebration
So New Year is now just a calendar but also harbinger of change. Change happens through a revolution which is generally violent. Change can happen through celebration.