Thomas Munro – A friend of India

Munro was one British officer who was friendly to India. He was a friend of India. He was an officer, who unlike the other colonial officers, had great respect and admiration for the native customs of the land.

Sir Thomas Munro was born on 27th May, 1761 at Glasgow. He arrived in India in 1789.

In 1820s, the British did an extensive All India survey of the education system of the land, which was conducted by Sir Thomas Munro, who later went on to become Major General Thomas Munro.

Sir Thomas Munro

British Survey of Educational System

As per Sir Thomas Munro’s survey, in every village, there was more than one Gurukula. Every temple had a Gurukula attached to it. Every region and kingdom prided in the Mahavidyalaya, the institutions of higher learning that were nearby, at hand.

He saw a vibrant education system that existed in India, prior to the imposition of the British education system.

His survey also showed that in the traditional education system, caste played no role, and was not restricted by gender or religion.  

He started this survey from Bellary, which is in the centre of Deccan.

Thomas Munro

Prosperous Bellary of antiquity

Bellary was a prosperous land, rich in minerals. This Bellary was associated with the Kishkinda Kingdom of Ramayana times. Hampi, the capital of Vijayanagara Kingdom of Krishnadevaraya was also located in this Bellary area.

Bellary was thus not a backward area but a prosperous land from ancient times. In the recent few decades too, Bellary has yielded mining wealth of legendary proportions.

Bellary

It is from such a well-to-do region, that Thomas Munro started his famous education survey. The survey was extended all over South India.

Survey of Madras Presidency

Thomas Munro was then posted in the Deccan region and was given the task of conducting an extensive survey of the schooling system that was prevalent there. He did a caste wise enumeration in each district that came under the purview of his survey.

His report is an eye opener for all.

Percentage of Sudra and Athi Sudra children going to Gurukula in Madras Presidency

The above statistics emphatically show that, in the Madras Presidency Area of those days, which covered most parts of South India, the Shudra and Athishudra children were the majority of students, uniformly in all the 4 language regions.

It can be observed that Madras Presidency Province extended from Orissa coast in the North to Kanyakumari in the South as well as to the Malabar Coast in the West. Adjoining kingdoms of Hyderabad, Mysore, Travancore and Calicut were also included in this extensive survey.

The survey also placed before all, district wise data of student of different castes studying in the same school together.

Caste Wise Division of School Students in the Madras Presidency and adjoining kingdoms

Going through these statistics in the survey report, we see that district after district, without fail, Shudra and other castes outnumbered the Brahmins in schools. The word Soodra was the way Shudra was spelt in those days.

This emphatically brings out the fact that, it was not only the Brahmins who went to Gurukula. All students of the society had equal opportunity to go to the traditional and native schools of India.

In the analysis of this chart, what comes out clear is that it was the kings, the Raja who did not send their children to Gurukula but instead seemed to prefer home schooling.

Whereas the students of Brahmana, Vaishya, Shudra and Athishudra, all studied together in the same schools, under the same teachers, in same classrooms and studied the same subjects. These statistics clearly bring out, that the interest of Shudra in education and enrollment in schools were in equal numbers or infact a lot more.

Religion and Gender not a barrier

Major General Sir Thomas Munro touched on the aspect of gender and religion, at Fort St.George, Madras on 10th March, 1826. As per what he said, in the Malabar region from 1822 to 1825, 11963 boys and 2190 girls went to school. Of these 1,122 girls belonged to Muslim families. He conducted this survey when he was posted at Malabar.

Malabar Region
Education of Muslim girls

Thomas Munro’s experience at Mantralaya

When Thomas Munro was the Collector of Bellary, he made a survey of the lands and fixed rents and taxes on a uniform scale. However he was not able to appropriately determine the ownership of the lands that were in the hands of the Matnralaya Mutt, the place where Sri Radhavendra Swamy’s Samadhi is located.

Mantralaya

The devotees of Swamy Raghavendra told Munro that even though Raghavendra Swamy has been in Brahma Samadhi for the last 130 years, He will continue to live for the next 700 years. They asked him to meet Raghavendra Swamy and seek from him clarification regarding the lands. Thomas Munro was moved seeing the faith of the people, and decided to meet the Swamy. He arrived at Mantralaya and sat by the Samadhi. He was astonished to see Raghavendra Swamy appearing before him in a manifested form.

Raghavendra Swamy and   Sir Thomas Munro

The Swamy then explained to him in detail regarding the extent of the land belonging to the Mutt. He then became invisible again. Thomas Munro who was awed at getting darshan of the Swamy in person, passed the lands in the Mutt’s favour.

Sir Thomas Munro

Sir Thomas Munro passed away on 6th July, 1827 at Gooty, after being infected with Cholera, in the then Madras Presidency. He was buried at a graveyard in Gooty.

For His efforts of the education survey and his other such untiring efforts, such as redesigning a peasant friendly land revenue system and a more people friendly district administration system which survives to this day, Major General Thomos Munro was knighted as Sir Thomas Munro. That is the honour and importance that the British had accorded to his sincere efforts and the survey.

A magnificent bronze statue of Sir. Thomas Munro stands to this day in the centre of Chennai, erstwhile Madras city, as a sign of the high esteem, in which he was held by both Indians and the British.

Munro Statue in Chennai

The interesting bit of information on the side is that, this statue, made in Britain by Sir. Francis Chantrey, a popular sculptor, shows Sir Thomas Munro without a stirrup, stirring up a controversy on whether it was an oversight or a true depiction of Munro who loved to ride bareback.

Stirrup or not, popular sentiment overrode and Munro continues to sit astride on his horse, as one of the landmarks of Chennai.

More on Thomos Munro and his education survey in our book, Breaking The Myths – About Society.

Buy this book at : https://www.artoflivingshop.com/breaking-the-myths-about-society-vol-2-9789385254789

Eclipse: An Ancient Indian Perspective

An eclipse occurs when the sun is obscured by the moon or the moon comes under the shadow of the earth.

Lunar Eclipse

A Lunar Eclipse occurs when the moon comes under the shadow of the Earth.

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A Lunar Eclipse – Earth’s shadow falling on the moon

Solar Eclipse

A Solar Eclipse occurs when the sun is obscured by the Moon.

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A Solar Eclipse – Moon hiding the Sun

Around 5 to 6 eclipses happen every year.

Recordings of eclipses are available in texts, temple inscriptions, copper plates and legends of the land.

In the Veda

The Veda are considered to be the oldest literature of mankind available today. One among the 4 Veda is the Rig Veda. In this text, in verses 5.40.5 to 9.

A Solar Eclipse- Svarbhanu

It states that, “Svarbhanu, i.e Solar Eclipse etymologically meaning a powerful phenomenon which takes away the splendour of the heavens, occurs, leaving the world bewildered.”

Rishi Atri, the first observer of Eclipse

Atri, the seer or Dhrishta, who observed this eclipse and understood the phenomenon of eclipse, is explaining it to the world through these Vedic verses.”

This makes Rishi Atri, probably the earliest astronomer to have expounded on eclipses for posterity.

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Vedic Rishi Atri, observing an Eclipse

In Ramayana

Notable amongst the celestial events mentioned in the Ramayana is the description of the solar eclipse that occurred on the day of the fight between Rama, the hero of the epic and the two demons Khar and Dushan.

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Solar eclipse on the day of the Khar – Dushan Episode in Ramayana

Searching for this eclipse using the Planetarium Software and the planetary configuration listed in the text, experts have dated this event to 7th October, 5077 BCE or over 7100 years ago, making this eclipse, perhaps one of the earliest recorded eclipses.

This date is substantiated by the internal consistency seen in the dates of other events arrived at by the Planetarium software using the description of the sky configuration from the Ramayana text, their sequence and elapse time between these dates tallying with the sequence and gap between the events as mentioned in the text as well.

Through the times, we see a continuity in the understanding and recording of eclipses.

Why were our ancients interested in eclipses? Why did they learn to predict eclipses?

Dos and Donts surrounding eclipse

We see, there are many elaborate dos and donts surrounding eclipses which have been a tradition of this civilization. Some interesting ones that have continued to this day are

  • eating food atleast 4 to 6 hours before an eclipse and not carrying forward food cooked prior to an eclipse
  • the use of Dharba grass to protect food items and other perishables
  • protection of pregnant women from the rays of sun during solar eclipses
  • not seeing solar eclipse with the naked eye

Advice for Pregnant Women

Scientists have shown today how during a Solar Eclipse, the amount of Ultra Violet rays and other cosmic rays reaching the earth are higher. These rays are harmful to the foetus. Hence pregnant women were advised to cover themselves and stay indoors during an eclipse to protect the foetus from these rays. Even today pregnant women are advised to stay away from radiation exposure of all kinds for example X Rays.

Contamination of Food

The increased exposure to such rays also contaminates food. Carrying forward of food cooked before an eclipse is therefore not advisable. Further more, there is the need to ensure that all food in one’s stomach is digested before the start of an eclipse.

Using Dharba grass

The antidote for preventing the food from contamination by radiation has been the practice of covering food with Dharba grass. This points to our ancients having used the Dharba grass as a shield to absorb the unwanted radiations in the atmosphere, especially those arising during eclipses.

Dharba grass absorbs X Rays

Nascent, independent research on Dharba grass has revealed its ability to absorb X Rays. These early finds make Dharba grass a very promising field of study.

We see a good grasp of astronomy, physics, biology and mathematics all rolled into the practice of predicting eclipses and the traditions followed during an eclipse. This holds good for a host of other astronomical observations and traditions followed too.

Donations During Eclipses

De Dhaan Chute Grahan – is a slogan one got to hear on the streets about 4 to 5 decades, during the time of eclipses.

It means Give Alms To Release The Eclipsed.

It was a common practice in India to give donations during eclipses and other cosmological events such as:

Ayana, Solstices – Dakshinayana, Summer Solstice and Uttarayana, Winter Solstice

  1. Vishnuvrata Equinoxes – Mesha Vishu, Vernal Equinox and Tula Vishu, Autumnal Equinox
  2. Grahana, Eclipses – Surya Grahana, Solar eclipse and Chandra Grahana, Lunar eclipse
  3. Amavasya, New Moon
  4. Yugadi, New Year

Many explain that such Dhana were given in the superstitious belief that the donor will gain relief from the evil forces that were capable of even devouring the Sun and the Moon.

On the contrary, we find from traditional literature that the people were well aware of the scientific nature of these cosmological events. They could predict their occurrences due to their understanding of the motions of the earth, moon and various planets as well as their proficiency in Mathematics, which is needed to model these motions and calculate dates for their occurrences in advance.

Dhana for noble causes was given on these significant days as these days were considered as markers of time and hence would be easily remembered over time.

Every king, landlord, zamindar, royalty made it a point to give Dhana every year from their accumulated wealth. Various kings like Krishnadevaraya, Harshavardhana and others, repeatedly gave Dhana every year and during such events as eclipses.

Many temple inscriptions speak about such Dhana, endowments made to the temple and thereby to the people at large, on the occasion of eclipses.

Eclipses continue to happen and many just ignore them. Inscriptions continue to remain as evidences of the ones gone by but are hardly known to many.

The request for alms on eclipses are no longer heard on the streets. Neither are there donors, nor are there receivers on this day.

But misconceptions about the Indian perception of eclipses continue to loom large in everyone’s minds.

More on Eclipses in our book, Triple Eclipse.

Image result for triple eclipse bharath gyan

Azad Hind Fauj

On 5th July 1943, Azad Hind Fauj came into force, Azad meaning Freedom, Hind refers to India and Fauj is Army. This Army, also known as Indian National Army was formed by Netaji with the aim of getting freedom for India, from the British Rule.

Netaji

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was freedom fighter who is today proudly remembered for the key role he played in the Freedom struggle.

Defeating British Army in Singapore

In 1943, Bose regrouped the Indian National Army, INA, with the help of the Indian soldiers, from among the defeated British Indian Army in Singapore.

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Netaji Bose with members of the Indian National Army – INA

Rani of Jhansi regiment’s commander Janaky Thevar (second from right). (Photo: Sagari Chhabra)

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Hoisting the flag in Manipur

He then marched through South East Asia reaching Moirang in Manipur.

In Manipur, he hoisted the Indian Army flag the Azad Hind Fauj, for the first time on Indian soil, on April 14, 1944, defeating the local British Army.

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The place where the Indian Tricolour was hoisted for the first time on Indian Soil, Moirang, Manipur INA War Museum, Moirang

Netaji Bose was the one, who with an army of dedicated freedom fighters gave a chill down the spine of the British Empire.

The Unarmed and Armed approaches of the 1940s

While all these factors cumulatively kept building up India’s struggle for freedom for over 100 years, the Quit India Movement and the INS’s Chalo Delhi march, were the ones to dominate the 1940s, when India decided to go both the armed and unarmed way to seek its freedom.

Quit India Movement Unarmed Internal Dissension and International Attention

The Gandhian freedom struggle using Civil Disobedience as a tool based on the principles of Ahimsa and Satyagraha and the ensuing Quit India movement, created a lot of international opinion against colonial rule.

It was a movement where, the masses arose in a non-violent uprising to express their resentment at the of British violence if push came to shove.

It was a silent and enduring resistance from the valiant, but common, unarmed people.

Chalo Delhi March Armed External Pressure and Mounting Attack from INA

Parallel to the Civil Disobedience Movement happening within the country, was the Indian National Army under the leadership of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose which was marching towards India from the East with a sizeable army.

The INA was not an unorganized, rag tag army. It was organized, disciplined, well trained and well equipped with armaments. It had war chests to fund its armed struggle, pay the salaries and maintain the supply of arms. One such war chest amounted to some 100 kgs of gold, of which, 11kg worth of treasure are deposited at the National Museum, New Delhi.

The INA was not an unorganized, rag tag army. It was organized, disciplined, well trained and well with armaments. It had war chests to fund its armed struggle, pay the salaries and maintain the supply of arms. One such war chest amounted to some 100 kgs of gold, of which, 11kg worth of treasure are deposited at the National Museum, New Delhi.

INA was well prepared.

It had a slogan Chalo Delhi

It had a flag to be hoisted on freedom.

It had a marching tune Kadam Kadam Badaye Ja

It had stamps, designed and ready to be issued after freedom.

It had a currency, designed, printed and ready for use after freedom.

It had established a new bank – Azad Hind Bank i.e. Bank of Independence, for a free India.

Businessman Abdul Habeeb Yusuf Marfani who donated 1 Crore Rupees to Azad Hind Bank In Rangoon for which Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Gave Him Sevak-e-Hind Medal

It was widespread all over India from Baluchistan to Bengal, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.

It had Baluchis, Punjabis, Tamilians and everybody from all across the land.

It had men and women in its force and medical professional in the form of doctors, nurses etc.

It had the whole army apparatus built to fight the British and it was both ready and functioning.

Kadam Kadam Badaye Ja Song

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Azad Hind Postage Stamps

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The chair of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose in the Azad Hind Bank at Rangoon

The chair of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose in the Azad Hind Bank at Rangoon

It comprised of over 60000 trained Indian soldiers, of which, over 20000 Indian soldiers lost their lives, waging war against the British.

Netaji Subash Chandra Bose of the INA too was not a randomly appointed leader. He was deep rooted in the ongoing freedom struggle in India and was also looking at various ways to overthrow the British rule, with his band of followers.

The only difference was that he advocated an armed resistance against the British, instead. As an armed resistance obviously needed sizeable monetary funds, Netaji Bose had to look at Indians and others outside India to support this armed movement.

The INA obtained support from Indians and other nationals in Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Burma, among other countries in South East Asia. For, these were all facing the oppression of the British too and were looking at ways to weaken the British colonial stranglehold over the world. In addition, Netaji also received support from Austria, Germany, Russia, which were all fighting against the British in the 2nd World War, that was raging on at the same time.

All of which made Netaji Subash Chandra Bose and the INA be viewed as radicals, both by the British and those in India, who were against an armed struggle.

If the British Army could exist on Indian land and not be branded radical, the Indian National Army (INA) had a greater right to exist on Indian land. How did that make INA radical?

If the British could take the support of Indians in quelling unrest in their other colonies or to fight their wars elsewhere, how does INA taking support from other lands, make it radical?

At the Tripura Congress of the Indian National Congress (INC) in 1938-39, Bose made a dramatic entry on an elephant even though he was unwell and had high fever that day.

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Mahatma Gandhi, Netaji Bose and Sardar Patel at the Tripura INC, 1938-39

Netaji Bose was elected officially as the President of the Indian National Congress, defeating the nominee of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya from Andhra, going to show the clamour amongst Indians too, for an armed struggle against the British.

Netaji Bose was therefore a well-established leader, feared by the British, popular among the masses of India, who were looking for a saviour, equally accepted internationally, by the oppressed lands.

So, INA was not a random, impulsive grouping, but a strategically planned, wholesome and effective movement.

It was a resilient and steadfast resistance from valiant, trained and armed Indians.

INC Disregards INA

Unfortunately after independence, while Pakistan recognized the contributions of Azad Hind Fauj, and honoured the soldiers by taking them in their same ranks in newly formed Pakistani Army, India rejected the Fauj, and dismantled it. This was a major blow to the morale, patriotism and sustenance, livelihood, of soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the freedom struggle. A major blunder on the part of the the then Indian National Congress Nehru government.

This day let us remember the contributions of our soldiers under Azad Hind Fauj, who fought for the cause of India’s freedom, without any monetary gain or recognition.

Dakshinamurthy – Jupiter Connect – Guru Connect

Jupiter – Brihaspati – Guru

Jupiter is called Guru or Brhaspathi in Samskrt – Brhaspathi from the root Brh meaning biggest or one that is large in size.  Guru denotes weighty, heavy and thereby the power to attract and retain in hold – the reason why a knowledge master who attracts and guides people to stay on a path of wisdom is called a Guru.

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Jupiter

It is the same reason why gravity in Samskrt is called Gurutvakarshana which appears to have been the root for the English word “gravity” itself too.

The word gravity has an agnate word in the Samskrt, where it is referred to as Gurutva. In India, the word and concept of gravity has existed as Gurutva and Gurutvaakarshana respectively. The root word Guru denotes ‘heavy, big and influencing’ and Akarshana means, ‘the power of attraction’. The word Guru and Gurutava means to attract. It is the root word for the English word gravity.

Thus Guru, Jupiter has been associated with knowledge.  Our ancient who were in tune with a common thirst for knowledge, had always kept their tryst with Jupiter, their Guru, for knowledge.

More on this planet in our film, “Wonders of Indian Astronomy”.

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4 Satellites of Jupiter

If we look at Jupiter, it has 4 main Satellites,

  1. lo
  2. Europa
  3. Ganymede
  4. Callisto

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4 Satellites of Jupiter

There is a close connection between Jupiter and Lord Dakshinamurthy.

Dakshinamurthy and His 4 Disciples

In the traditional ritual parlance Shiva is considered a Guru and this is famously symbolized by the Dakshinamurthy form.

Dakshin means the southern direction. Dakshinamurthy is the form of Shiva, as a knowledge giver, one who gives the knowledge of the ultimate Truth, cosmos and Creation that can help man overcome the cycle of birth and death.

Dakshinamurthy is depicted as a young knowledge giver with 4 Rishi –

  1. Sanaka,
  2. Sananda,
  3. Sanathana
  4. Sanatkumara

They sit His at His feet imbibing this knowledge. While Dakshinamurthy is depicted as a young man, the 4 Rishi, who receive the knowledge from Him are older in age. The 4 Rishi ask their questions in silence and receive their answers in the same mode, i.e. in silence.

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Dakshinamurthy

More on Dakshinamurthy in our book, “Understanding Shiva”.

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The 4 satellites of Jupiter represent these 4 main disciples of Dakshinamurthy, while Jupiter is the Guru, Dakshinamurthy.

Jupiter and Dakishnamurty (3)

Guruve Namaha

Guru is timeless. Guru Parmapara, Guru Shishya connect, Guru Tattva are all timeless traditions and practices of the Bharatiya civilization. There are many aspects of the Bharatiya civilization that have contributed substantially to the holding together, nurturing, sustaining and relishing not only this civilization, but Dharma as a whole. The Guru Parampara has been one of the key pillars upholding the Dharma of the land.

While this word Guru has specific meaning, etymologically, Guru Tattva has layers of connotations, and significance, and has touched the kings, the nobles, the common man in ways that are inexplicable and unexplainable in mere words.

Guru is an Anubhava, an experience.

Guru – The embodiment of All Divinities

A Guru is revered as an embodiment of Divinity. Thus Guru is suffixed by the term Deva, Divinity. Gurudeva is a popular honorific for a Guru. Some devotees revere and adore the Guru as Divinity.

In Srimad Bhagavata, Skanda 11, Sri Krishna says

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Gurudevo

We have the popular Shloka,

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There are innumerable other shlokas in praise of the Guru.

A Guru for All

In Indian thought, the word for anyone or any force that is capable of lifting – people, things, thoughts etc. is denoted by the root word Gur from which we get

  • Guru for a teacher and guide – one who lifts one’s quality of life and thoughts,
  • Gurutva Akarshana for gravity – that which attracts and prevents lift off / drift away,
  • Gaurav for pride – which is a form of a lifted ego, etc.

Different Gurus

While Adhyapak, Upadhyaya, Sikshak, Acharya are all terms that define the role played by a teacher, the term Guru was used to denote a more comprehensive role, related with a larger sphere of activity.

Siksha Guru – A Shiksha Guru meant a knowledge giver, the teacher of the 64 Kala.

Raja Guru – Raja Guru is a guide to the Raja, King. Raja Guru guides him to rule in right manner. Raja Guru ensures that the Raja rules the Rajya as per Dharma.

Kula Guru – A Kula Guru meant a family preceptor. He was a personal family guide.

Dharma Guru – A Dharma Guru meant a guide who shows the path to tread as per Dharma. A Dharma Guru ensures that Dharma is upheld in the people’s life.

Sath Guru – A Sath Guru denoted one who helps you differentiate between Sath and Asath, and guide one in the path of Sath as differentiated from Asath.

Jagath Guru – A Jagat Guru, denoting a guide for all moving world, Jagat meaning that which is constantly moving, in reference to our planet. They are Guru for all and also they act as Gurus for animals and birds, pashu and pakshi.

Guru Lakshana

The Upanishads define the signs of a true Guru with the five Guru Lakshana.

A true Guru is defined as one, whose presence causes

  • Knowledge to flourish – Gnana Raksha
  • Sorrows to diminish – Dukha Kshaya
  • Joys to well up without reason – Sukha Aavirbhava
  • Abundance to dawn – Samriddhi
  • All talents to manifest – Sarva Samvardhan

Popular Acharya

There have been many popular Guru who walked this land like, from ancient times.

  • Adi Shankaracharya
  • Ramanujacharya
  • Madhavacharya
  • Vallbhacharya
  • Acharya Abhinav Gupta
  • Nimbarka
  • Guru Nanak
  • Mahaveera
  • Mahanta Shankardeva

Guru not just a Person

Guru is not just “a” person, an individual, but stands for

  • a timeless tradition,
  • an ageless sentiment,
  • a selfless commitment and
  • a limitless engagement

to uplift people, rather civilization or shall we say, even humanity, to expand their hearts and minds and understand what it is to be born as mankind, with a heart and mind inorder to act like humans and play their part in the vast play of the cosmos.

In our book Guru, we attempt to bring out some of these facets for our understanding.

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Guru Parampara

India has led many civilizations around the globe with its thoughts and practices, India herself was led by an unbroken tradition of Guru Parampara.

The word Paramapara, which is commonly used for tradition, denotes something that goes “beyond and beyond”, from Para meaning beyond.

It is the Guru of India, who have guided the people of India, Para and Para, beyond and beyond,

  • in time and space,
  • in thoughts and deeds,
  • in stature and nature,
  • in life and for afterlife.

The Lakshana of Guru have been upheld and kept alive in this land by the Guru through this Guru-Sishya parampara, tradition. This tradition has been going on, unbroken, even much prior to the time of Rama, i.e. 8000 years ago and more.

Bharata – A land of Gurus

This land Bharat has been fortunate to have a continuous series, lineage of Guru. Right from time immemorial, these gurus have adorned different parts of the land in different centuries belonging to different parampara, espousing different aspects of Dharma as need for that time and situation. This has been a veritable blessing of Bharatiya civilization. The word Bharat itself means a land of connoisseurs of knowledge. Given this, we have had a series of knowledge givers, a continuous flow, pravaha of Guru who have constantly given us knowledge and values. This has been a signature feature of the land of Bharata.  Guru and Bharata go hand in hand.

Guruve Namaha!

Vyasa of Veda – Compilation of the Veda, Where and When?

It was at the crossroads of time. It was towards the end of Dwapara Yuga and the start of Kali Yuga. It was the time when King Shantanu, the Kuru king who had ruled Hastinapura ably for years was nearing his end.

The Vedic knowledge that had come that far in time through many millennia prior to their times, was strewn all around and was becoming unwieldy. They were spread all over the land right from Afghanistan to Burma. The Veda Samhita composed by the various Rishi over millennia were also numerous.

It was a huge body both in terms of geographical spread as well as the number of verses. There was a popular saying –

Ananta Vai Vedah,

Veda are endless, infinite.

Also Kurukshetra which had been the region of many prominent Vedic ashrams, that had kept the Vedic tradition alive, was in a state of wilderness as the ashrams had been wiped out in an attack from the near west. The Rishis had relocated themselves from the banks of the river Sarasvati to the banks of other rivers such as the Yamuna and the Ganga.

Rishi Krishna Dwaipayana’s father, Rishi Parasara, who had attempted to consolidate all the 4 Veda and restore Kurukshetra, as the land where the Vedic tradition had flourished, was no more.

Krishna Dwaipayana, who was extraordinarily gifted with skills to learn the Veda even as a young child, committed himself to the cause initiated by his late father, of compiling all the 4 Veda for posterity and restoring Kurukshetra to its glory.

Using his winful ways, he secured the patronage of the Kuru dynasty of Hastinpura to accomplish his mission.

He convinced King Shantanu to perform the Vajapeya Yagna, one among the supreme endeavours along with the Rajasuya Yagna and Ashwamedha Yagna. These were Yagna that could only be conducted by those who had an emperor status as the efforts and resources required for conducting such Yagna were enormous.

vedavyasa1

To restore Kurukshetra to its original state, Krishna Dwaipyana chose it as the venue for the Vajapeya Yagna, so that it would be cleared and made habitable once again. Since the Yagna would attract many Veda practitioners, Krishna Dwaipayana also used this Yagna as an opportunity to create an assemblage of Rishi and get the Kuru dynasty to commission a project of compiling all the Vedic knowledge that had come that far in time.

He commissioned a gathering of Rishi to compile all the scattered Veda into a structured collection.

On the request of Krishna Dwaipayana therefore, an august gathering of Vedic Rishis from all across the lands was convened, to compile all the Veda into a structured collection and give it a formal body. It was commissioned by King Shantanu, as a formal project, supported by the Kuru kingdom. After the death of King Shantanu soon after this announcement, Bheeshma, the son of King Shantanu, who had taken over as regent on behalf of Vichitraveerya, the son of King Shantanu and Queen Satyavati, provided the necessary support to see this project through.

Under this patronage, Rishi Krishna Dwaipayana embarked on the onerous task of compiling all the Veda Samhita that was available during his times and giving a format, a structure to this body of knowledge. He assumed the role of the compiler-in-chief for this project called the Shrauta Satra, which went on uninterrupted, for the next 12 years in Kurukshetra, thus restoring it back as a Dharmakshetra even much before the Gita was delivered by Krishna to Arjuna before the start of the big, bloody war there, many years later.

Veda Vyasa 1

This region, Kurukshetra can be unambiguously identified with the region around the town by the same name today, in the state of Haryana. This has been made possible due to the identification of the path of the lost river, Sarasvati and the innumerous archaeological sites along its banks – sites which were locations of the flourishing, vedic,  Sindhu-Sarasvati civilization and its various Ashrams.

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History of the Veda is therefore not hazy. The details are intrinsic in the ancient texts of the land.  There is clarity on

  • the person who commissioned its compilation – King Shantanu,
  • the compiler in chief – Rishi Krishna Dwaipayana,
  • the benefactor who saw this project through – Bheeshma
  • the time frame when it was carried out – after the death of King Shantanu,
  • the duration for which the compilation went on – 12 years,
  • the geography for the assemblage of the vedic scholars who compiled it – Kurukshetra,
  • the purpose for this effort of compilation – structuring and preservation of the Veda.

This was the grand act of Veda compilation, for which Rishi Krishna Dwaipayana was bestowed with the title “Veda Vyasa”, the compiler of the Veda and the Kurukshetra region came to shine again as Dharmakshetra, the region which was the source of Dharma, in the form of Veda, the guide to knowledgeable living.

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The name given to Krishna Dwaipyana on his birth, had two parts – Krishna denoting “one with a dark complexion” and Dwaipayana meaning “the island born”. Krishna Dwaipayana has been one of the most erudite sons of India who has enlightened humanity with his act of compiling the Veda.

The Veda have gone through such compilations periodically and each time the one who takes on the onus of collecting and putting them together for their times, is called a Vyasa, meaning compiler. Krishna Dwaipayana was the 28th such Vyasa. Each Vyasa compiled it into a body, for the needs of their times and future.

Using astronomical data embedded in the Mahabharata itself, we are able to date the Kurukshetra war to 22nd November 3067 BCE. From the narrative in the work and other corroborating works, we can draw a broad chronology of major events in the Mahabharata as follows.

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This chronology indicates that Bheeshma, the grand sire of the Kuru dynasty must have been about 90 years old at the time of the Kurukshetra war, i.e in 3067 BCE.

It also indicates that Bheeshma must have been between 16 and 33 years of age at the time of King Shantanu’s demise. It was during this period, that on behalf of the Kuru dynasty and King Shantanu’s promise to Krishna Dwaipayana, Bheeshma patronized the compilation of the Veda by Krishna Dwaipayana and the assemblage of Rishi at Kurukshetra.

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From these milestone events, we can fix the period in Indian history when this monumental act was last undertaken by Rishi Krishna Dwaipayana, as between 3141 BCE and 3129 BCE – about 5100 years ago.

What comes out very clear in all this, is the single minded commitment of Krishna Dwaipayana – Veda Vyasa, towards the preservation of the Veda. The whole compendium of Veda as we have it today, is because he gave it a form, a shape and a technique of storage that has survived the onslaught of time and has been recited by generations of Vedic scholars since then.

At the end of this compilation, Veda Vyasa and team gave us the Veda which had 1130 Shakha, recensions. Today, we are left with only 10 Shakha that can be traced. 1120 Shakhas have been lost in the passage of time.

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These 10 too seem to be struggling for survival.

Knowledge always needs redaction ever so often to keep it current with the state of the civilization.

India, the land called Bharath, had recognized this aspect as evident from the fact that the Veda itself had gone through so many redactions.

Little wonder, since its name Bharath denotes a land where people relish knowledge. Bha means knowledge and ratha denotes one who relishes knowledge.

Guru Poornima

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Guru Poornima festival is celebrated every year around July-August.

It is the Poornima, full moon day, on which we pay our obeisance to our Guru and through him to our Guru Parampara of this land, this civilization. This civilization has its ethos coming down to us over the last five thousand years or more, not because of the kings who ruled or administered this land, but primarily because of the various Gurus who came generation after generation, in different parts of this land. Gurus who have nurtured the civilization, given solace to the troubled minds and who given a continuity to the ethos of this land.

Why do we celebrate Guru Poornima, in the monsoon months of July – August?

The answer to this question, is embedded in the question itself, as is, in many of the questions of this land. India is a monsoon fed land and in the four months from June to September, the rain spreads all over the land. This heavy rain during these four months makes it difficult for people to travel from one place to another. This aspect of the annual rains, perforce makes one stay put in one place. This feature of nature was used by the various Gurus, through the ages, through the land to observe their Chaturmasya vrata.

What is this Chaturmasya vrata?

The word Guru comes from the Samskrit root meaning “to attract”, “to draw.” It shares the root with the word Gurutva meaning Gravity or the attraction force of any body.

A Guru draws people with his radiant knowledge and soothing words of wisdom.

rishi with student

  Guru with disciples

A Guru by his Dharma, radiates light and knowledge, to the people he meets.

A Guru’s Dharma in the Indian civilization is also to travel regularly from one place to another, sharing his knowledge regularly with the common folk of the land. This work of the Guru entails that he travels continuously. During the monsoon season, as we have already discussed, because of the heavy rains it becomes very difficult for them to travel from one place to another.

Given this, our Guru Parampara has been designed such that, for these four months, the Gurus stay in one place. During this lengthy stay at one place, they read from the voluminous literature of the land, meet the locals and enhance their own knowledge. It’s an annual, compulsory sit-down and upgradation of one’s knowledge.

After this annual study period, the Gurus are rejuvenated to travel once again through the land, to share their knowledge for the remaining 8 months. This study period is known as Chaturmasya period.

With the passage of time, this 4 month study period came to be reduced to a 4 Paksha study period. A Paksha is a 14 day period between a full moon and a new moon. With the passage of time it thus settled down to a 2 month period.

The land of India has been very fortunate to have a continuous series of prominent, well educated and noble Gurus.

Of all the Gurus, who can be called as the primary one? A very difficult question indeed!

If we look back at our civilization, the one Guru who has probably contributed the most, by far, is Veda Vyasa. Veda Vyasa as the name itself suggests compiled the knowledge available then, 5000 years ago, into 4 VedaRig, Sama, Yajur, Atharva. As if this one task is not enough achievement for a person’s lifetime, Veda Vyasa also went on to compile the 18 voluminous Purana, so that the legends of the land, along with the associated morals of right living, could come down to us, generation after generation. After having accomplished these two colossal tasks, he then went on to write the autobiography of his family, called “Jaya”, which over the years has come down to us as the Mahabharata epic.

 vedaVeda Vyasa

For a person whose contribution is truly gigantic, he is considered as one of the great Gurus of this land and Veda Vyasa is propitiated to, in the Guru Poornima prayers. As, Veda Vyasa has given us the Veda, Purana and Mahabharata, which between them, form the major portion of the Indian literature, he is  but naturally, revered as one of the greatest Gurus of this land. Given this fact, when we conduct our Guru Pooja, while we pray to all the Gurus of the land, the place of importance, primacy, is given to Veda Vyasa.

With this understanding of the concept, the purpose, the reason, for celebrating Guru Pooja, Guru Poornima, Chaturmasya, let us all read some aspects from the Indian knowledge system, understand a bit from the vast reservoir of knowledge and see how it can be applied in our lives.

This could be our fitting tribute to our Guru and through him to the Guru Parampara of this glorious land.

Lakshmi, Lakshya, God Particle

Indian thought since eons ago has delved deep into what causes Creation of the Universe and drawn out far reaching insights. These indescribable understandings were scaled down to a common level using metaphors and symbolic personages / divinities.

One such is the feminine divinity, Lakshmi.

Lakshmi, is the embodiment of wealth, prosperity and has her origins in the primordial waters from which came the Universe.

Lakshmi

Lakshmi coming forth from primordial Waters

Lakshmi, the Lakshya – Goal, Purpose

The etymological root for Lakshmi is Laksh meaning goal, target. From Laksh comes lakshya. Lakshmi is the goal that people chase continuously in their life for their basics as well as comforts.

The purpose of Creation, Srishti, the Big Bang, Brahmanda Visphotak, is to create this Universe. It is to create all the astral bodies, the galaxies, the sun, the earth and the planets dotting all over the universe.

Creation of all this, is the very purpose of the creation of the universe. This is the Lakshya, the goal of the Big Bang. In a way, creation of matter is not a by-product of the Big Bang, but is the very goal, the purpose of the Big Bang.

Life in the Universe is a continuous cycle driven by the goal to incessantly construct, destroy and reconstruct. Be it at the scale of wealth or sub-atomic particles, cells, all living beings, stars and the very cosmos itself.

Contrary to the oft expressed statement that the cosmos is chaotic, the cosmos is driven by an order. It has a purpose. It has a Lakshya.

 This Lakshya of the cosmos, is embodied by Lakshmi.

Lakshmi as the Lakshya of the cosmos is also regarded as the consort of the divinity Vishnu overseeing the sustenance and order in the cosmos.

 Life is driven by Lakshmi, the goal, the will to live, live well.

This goal, this will, forces the cosmos to go from a state of being inert and quiescent to a state of liveliness and activity.

In the Indian pantheon of divinities, Goddess Lakshmi represents prosperity and wealth as it is the will, the intent, the goal that incites and forces things to act to create and multiply. The essence of wealth and prosperity is denoted by plentitude, the ability to multiply.

So, at a gross level, Lakshmi stands for all forms of movable and immovable assets, be it in the form of gold, silver, currency, property etc. Lakshmi denotes not just wealth but material that sustains life on earth such as food grains, cattle, water etc.. She represents that material which sustains the cosmos itself.

The basic nature of Lakshmi though, is impermanence.

Impermanence of Lakshmi

In Indian tradition, Lakshmi is shown seated or standing on a lotus in a pond. The lotus is typically shown with large leaves and droplets of water rolling on them.

lakshmi2 Lakshmi standing on Lotus

When you put droplets of water on a lotus leaf, the water keeps on rolling. The water globules do not show an attachment to the lotus leaves.

Banyan leaf

Similarly, wealth, matter has no attachment to people, time. It is constantly rolling.

Lakshmi never stays in one place. She moves along, in the process distributing wealth as she moves.

This role of Lakshmi is exemplified by the proposal and discovery of the God Particle.

The God Particle

The Higgs-Boson particle commonly referred to as the God Particle, is expressed as that which enables matter to get created by enabling mass based particles, i.e. matter, to come into being. The presence of the God Particle, forces massless sub atomic particles called quarks, gluons to come together and form a stable particle with mass.

  God Particle

God Particle – A Representation

 Impermanence of God Particle

Having achieved the purpose for which it came into existence, its goal, the Higgs-Boson, self-destructs itself to appear again at another place to create fresh matter.

The God Particle thus seems like a catalyst, inciting the creation of matter in the Universe. There is a purpose, a goal, a Lakshya to the God Particle.

We see a similarity between the God Particle and the role being discharged by the impermanent, constantly on the move, Lakshmi with Her Lakshya too.

 Lakshmi shows the way

Will this understanding of Lakshmi, act as a catalyst to induce us to learn more about our cosmos and its Creation, from the metaphoric expressions of our ancients?

Where there is a will, a Lakshya, there is a way.

 Lakshmi

God Particle-End of Quest?

Higgs Boson.jpg

Science is in a quest to understand matter and its interplay with the forces of Nature. This quest goes all the way back to when matter was created at the moment of creation of the universe, namely the Big Bang.

On the other hand, spirituality is the quest to understand “Who am I?” and “Where did I come from?”, leading back all the way to the inter play of subtle and gross at the time of creation of universe and from then on.

 In essence, the interaction between science and spirituality is just not in the present or in the immediate past of a few millenia but goes back in thought all the way to the moment of Creation. It is here that both science and spirituality have a single point of origin and convergence.

Convergence of Science and Spirituality

The news of the finding of the imprint of the God particle by sciences has injected an interest into particle physics.

 What is this God particle? Why is it called God particle?

The terming of the new find particle in science as God Particle, is a quirk of fate.

The Nobel laureate physicist Leon Lederman when he was writing about this elusive particle, in exasperation wrote it down as ‘Goddamn particle’. The editor of the article toned down the exasperation and simply termed it as ‘God particle’. That is how it came to be called in common parlance. The typical term given for this particle is Higgs Boson particle. This is because Prof Peter Higgs in a scientific article had proposed first, that such a particle should be existing to create mass in Creation.

God Particle – A Representation

By identifying the imprint of this particle now, it is this postulate of Prof Higgs that is now being scientifically pin pointed to.

This sort of sequence of events – a scientific postulate being placed in a scientific paper and the actual discovery happening much later, has been one of the features of advancement of science.

History of Science

Before the planet Neptune was physically observed in the skies, it was mathematically calculated in a scientific paper, that such a planet should exist because of the gravitation tug of planet Uranus. It was only much later that Neptune was physically observed, thus establishing the postulate to be true.

Similarly, the Russian scientist George Gamow had postulated the existence of Cosmic Micro Wave Background Radiation (CMBR) which was later recorded by the two scientists Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson.

Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson

Like this, finding of the imprint of God particle is one more step in understanding science and the Creation of this Universe. This Particle is called Higgs Boson. Boson comes from the name of the Indian Scientist Satyendra Nath Bose, in recognition of his contribution.

The God Particle

In the case of the God Particle, this particle has been elusive for, it self-destructs itself after one trillionth of a second after coming into existence. In this short duration of its existence, it helps the other particles create the mass that this universe is made of.

Which is why, the understanding of this particle is essential in the understanding of this universe. Hence, understanding it will lead to a major breakthrough in science.

If it were really a God particle as touted in common parlance, why should it self destruct itself within a flash of a moment of its creation? A God particle should exist from before the Creation, to after dissolution of the Universe and not be in existence for just a fleeting moment.

Having thus seen that calling it a God particle would not be an apt phrase, let us see in simple parlance, what the Higgs Boson Particle exists for?

Mass

The Universe came into existence from the Cosmic Egg after the Big Bang, the Cosmic Egg’s dimension being of just a point. How could such an infinitely small speck create all that is there in this universe?

The earth itself is a heavy body but pales into insignificance when compared to the sizes of the solar system, the galaxy or the universe.

The moot question is then how did the infinitely small cosmic egg have the capacity to create this infinitely huge universe with all its mass?

It needs a trigger. If so, what is that trigger?

This is the search of this elusive Higgs Boson Particle. Since life of particle is only one trillionth of a second, it will not be possible to capture the particle. What is possible through the advance scientific practices at CERN and other places is to get a glimpse of an imprint of this Higgs Boson Particle. Getting this glimpse of this imprint itself is a major breakthrough.

Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Geneva to detect the God Particle

Stability from 3

This Higgs Boson adds mass only when three quark particles get together. Just two are not found to form a stable proton with mass. These three quarks that group together are said to possess different colours. The term colour has been used by the physicists to denote that they possess distinct traits, qualities, characteristics.

        

Three Quarks forming Stable Protons with Mass in Higgs Field

Immediately after its function of adding the mass, Higgs Boson ceases to exist. This is the nature of Nature.

It is this concept of the existence of the need of a basic three to create matter, is also what has been discussed in Indian knowledge system as Universe being created from Trigunathmika Prakrithi. Prakrithi is the nature of the Creation of this Universe and Triguna are the three characteristics which help in this Creation process. The process itself being called Trivrtitkaranam, “the act of the three when they come together”.

Triguna – Satva, Rajas and Tamas, the 3 characteristics

 Not Really Parallel But Synergized Systems

Like this there are many interesting parallels that we find between the Indian knowledge system and the modern research of Creation of the Universe carried out at CERN.

For example, in the Indian knowledge system, the Cosmic Egg is known as Hiranyagarbha, meaning “a golden hued womb” and the Big Bang is expressed as Brahmanda Visphotak, Universal explosion.

The Cosmic Soup has been described as one in which the sub atomic particles such as quarks and gluons are floating freely without the influence of any force upon them until the presence of a God particle, Higgs Boson  creates an energy field in which they interact and gain mass.

Indian traditional thought has spoken of Narayana depicted as resting calmly in the Primordial Waters. All these also depict a state of inertness and equilibrium as found in the cosmic soup before the presence of God particle. Narayana is symbolically depicted with a consort, Lakshmi, who arises from the same primordial waters. Lakshmi denotes the source of all matter and material wealth and is the bi product of the churn of these primordial waters. We thus see a similarity of a process that takes the early stage of universe from an inert state to a material form, albeit, the expressions being in a different style.

 

The CMBR concept is akin to the OM which is all pervading through the Universe. Like this, there are many other parallels between modern science and ancient traditional Indian knowledge system.

          

 OM and the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation

Going beyond parallels, the Indian knowledge systems offer deeper insights into aspects of Creation going to stages even before Big Bang and into the process of creation of matter.

All this has been brought out in our book, Creation – Srishti Vigyana and a film with the same name by the researcher couple D. K. Hari and D. K. Hema Hari of Bharath Gyan.

One of the senior physicists of CERN Geneva, Dr. Archana Sharma, the only Indian, permanent scientist member in CERN, found the parallels interesting enough to come to Bangalore, India and offer scientific inputs on the parallels and act in the documentary film made by Art of Living-Bharath Gyan, Bangalore. More on this subject can be accessed at www.bharathgyan.com.

Though spoken of as parallels, we see that there is a potential synergy in knowledge systems.

 Synergy of science and ancient knowledge systems

Pingali Venkayya

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In the year 1921, Gandhiji asked a person from Andhra Pradesh to design the Indian flag. His name was  Pingali Venkayya. He was no ordinary person. He was an authority on many subjects with doctorates in agriculture and geology. He was also an expert on diamonds, for which he was popularly called “Diamond Venkayya”.

Venkayya designed this flag of 3 colours, white on the top, green in the center and Saffron at the bottom, with a Charka, a spinning wheel in the middle. It was popularly known as the Charka Flag.

Pingali 1

This Swaraj Flag was first hoisted on December 31, 1929, at the Lahore Congress Session on the banks of River Ravi, in Punjab, by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. It was under this flag that Gandhiji declared our goal of freedom movement as “Purna Swaraj”, complete independence.

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It was this flag, designed by Pingali Venkayya from Andhra, which became the basis for the Indian National Flag later. The Charka changed into Dharma Chakra – wheel of Dharma and the Saffron colour at the bottom went to the top instead.

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Pingali 2

More on this in our book, “Telugu Talli – Her Unknown Side”.

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