Teachers’ Day

After independence, those who gave a shape to modern India, marked different days as days of national importance. One such day of national importance is the Teachers’ Day, which falls on 5th September to honour teachers.

Why did they choose this day to honour teachers?

Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan was a teacher by profession, who rose to be a leader of modern India.

Radhakrishnan

He started his career as a teacher in the Madras University. He distinguished himself in his chosen field of Philosophy and in his times, was one of the foremost thinkers in this field. His specialisation was Hindu philosophy. We often hear the phrase, “Hinduism is a way of life” as a  way to explain Hinduism. This phrase was coined by Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan.

From being a teacher, Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan soon rose to the high post of becoming the Vice President of India and later occupied the highest post of the land as the 13th President of India.

One particular instance of his brilliance is when he addressed the august gathering of Master Minds in United Kingdom. One of the norms after a person addresses a Master Mind is for the presiding officer of the function to give his comments. After Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan’s address at the Master Minds, the presiding officer’s only comment was, “a mastermind on Master Minds.” Such was his erudition indeed!

After his lecture there, one of the students present asked him, whether he possessed the whole of the knowledge, for which Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan replied that, “he was still searching for grains, in the sands of knowledge”.

Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan’s humble repartee to the student seems to have been inspired by the famous quotation of the ancient Tamil poetess Avvaiyaru – “What you have learnt is equal to just a handful of soil, what you have yet to learn, is as wide as this Earth”.

True knowledge is that which produced humility and a sense of balance in the individual.

In memory of the scholarship of this teacher and leader, the Government of India declared his birthday as Teacher’s Day.

A good teacher is known by the students he creates.

While the birthday of Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishna was chosen as the date to honour teachers, we cannot afford to forget his teacher. For, it was his teacher, Ashutosh Mukherjee who had guided Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishna in rising to those great heights.

In 1921, it was Ashutosh Mukherjee who convinced the budding philosopher, Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan to join the Calcutta University. Ashutosh Mukherjee also inspired and groomed other famous personalities like C. V. Raman, Srinivasa Ramanujam and Subhash Chandra Bose.

This teacher’s day, let us cherish memories of not only the great teacher Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan but also the great teacher’s teacher, Ashutosh Mukherjee.

Varalakshmi Vrata

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Kalasam, an auspicious symbol

An image of a Kalasam with a coconut and mango leaves on its mouth is always used as a sign of auspiciousness. It signifies prosperity and the joys it brings with it. The water held in it is a sign of overflowing bounty.

 How does a Kalasam hold beyond its brim and over flow to denote this overflowing bounty?

 Let us look at a pitcher, Kalasam.

 If you fill water in a pitcher, Kalasam, we can only fill it to the brim. Beyond its brim water will flow out of the pitcher and the Kalasam will always be only brimfull at the most.

 Can we make a kalasam hold water beyond its brim?

 When you put a coconut on top of a Kalasam filled with water, the water inside the coconut, gives rise to a setting, where there is water over and above the brim in the Kalasam. Below the coconut, you have the mango leaves dipped in the water. The water dripping from these mango leaves continuously through its capillary action, indicate an overflow, an overflowing prosperity for all.

 The Kalasam filled with water, with mango leaves and a coconut on its mouth, thus symbolizes prosperity and the overflowing bountiful Nature.

 The coconut also represents the human body and ego. Only when the ego is broken, the pureness in us, which is innate to us, comes out to the open. This goodness is a resplendent, pure, sweet succor to life and is symbolized by the white and sweet kernel inside the coconut. Breaking the coconut is akin to symbolically breaking the “ahankaram”, ego, the total surrender and merging with the Divine.

 Such a full Kalash, Kalasam forms a prominent part of the Varalakshmi Vratam festival.

 Varalakshmi Vratam is a festival that brings out the connect between a kalsam and overflowing prosperity, connect between prosperity and water, connect between water and women and the connect between women and abundance to make a full circle.

 It is celebrated by the women of India in the month of Shravana on second Friday. It falls in August – September every year, the peak of the monsoon season, when the lands are green and filled with water from the copious rains.

Kalasam

Venerating a Kalasam of Varalakshmi Vratam

The key aspect of the rituals in this festival is that, the women take a Kalasam, pitcher of water, wrap it with strings, place mango leaves on its mouth, a coconut in the centre amidst those leaves and pray to the divine forces with all humility, for safeguarding their family, their village, their community and the land as a whole.

 This ritualistic festival has multiple layers of meanings. The women are known to always pray for their family, their loved ones, their community, their village and their land. They hardly pray for themselves. This shows the beauty of the innate selfless nature of the women of this land.

 When the women pray to the Kalasam filled with water and wrap it with strings, among the other ritual meanings, one sublime expression is the bond of the women with water. The women by tying this string express their binding with water. It is a bonding borne out by the fact that most of the rivers of this land are named after women, save for a few such as Brahmaputra.

 Water being the root, route for prosperity, the binding between women and water also denotes the binding of women with prosperity of the family, household, land and society. It shows women in the light of Lakshmi, the Divinity for wealth, prosperity and happiness.

This Varalakshmi Vratam festival denotes the nature of motherhood, the selflessness of motherhood, the bonding of mother, the women with the waters, the abundance of the feeling of love and care in women, the abundance of their love and care for Nature and the abundance in Mother Nature itself.

Swatantrata – True Independence

Swatantrata

We have all heard this word, being mentioned frequently in connection with the freedom struggle of India against the British.

The word Swatantrata  connotes independence.

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The word Swatantra has two components to it, “swa” and “tantra.”

 “Swa” denotes self and “tantra” stands for sciences, techniques, practices of the land, the way we live. In consonance with our surroundings and nature in a sustainable manner.

 It is obvious that Swatantrata is not just political independence. It stands for a higher level of freedom, a higher dimension of independence. It is the independence to practice one’s own indigenous lifestyle, that which is sustainable and in consonance with Nature – the nature of the land, the nature of the people, the nature of Nature – Dharma.  It is to free oneself from all extraneous influences and act under one’s own will.

It thus stands for the notion of Independence, freedom.

Against British

So when our forefathers fought for Swarajya, it was not only a call for self-rule or just a political freedom of India but the overall call was for Swatantrata.

Are we really Swatantra today?

Swaraj is my Birthright

Rajya is to rule. Swa rajya is self rule. This slogan of Swarajya was made popular by one of India’s early freedom fighter, Lokamanya Balganagadhar Tilak, when he raised the  clarion call,

Swarajya is my birth right and I shall have it.”

Rajya is to rule. 

Swarajya is self-rule.

This slogan of Swarajya was made popular by one of India’s early freedom fighter, Lokamanya Balganagadhar Tilak, when he raised the clarion call, “Swarajya is my birth right and I shall have it.”

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Bal Gangadhar Lokmanya Tilak

This uprising in the common man’s mind due to the yearning for Swarajya, Swatantrata from the British was not a one off event. It was the turning point in the history of struggle for independence.

Chandragupta

Another prominent example of such an uprising in the history waswhen Raja Chandragupta with the help of master tactician Chanakya, successfully threw off the yoke of repression of the Nanda tyranny in order that people could practice “their practices” freely.

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Chanakya – an artist impression

Knowledge of tantra

For a group of people to be called a civilization or society, it is essential that they have their own set of indigenous practices. For a society or civilization to follow their own practices, they need to have the knowledge of what their practices are.

How did these practices come about?

How have these practices evolved and got refined through the ages?

Are these practices in consonance with Nature?

And how can these practices help them lead a sustainable, prosperous and happy life?

It is only when one is aware of these habits, practices, culture and ethos, does one begin to understand one’s society, civilization and culture.

It is only then, will one also know if one is practicing the tantra, scientific practices of one’s civilization.

 Science is not just theory alone or laboratory experiments.

Science is nothing but the principles of the functioning of Nature, which includes man and his society. In short, science stretches right from the subtle rules that govern the creation of the cosmos to the conduct of every entity in the cosmos, whether living or non-living.

When a society or entity does not practice its own tantra, set of indigenous practices or a sustainable way of living, either out of repression or out of choice, the urge for swatantrata will eventually arise in that society, in the minds of the common man of that society.

 Such a call for swatantrata could also result in the desired power to the society or group, to practice its own set of ways.

 But when such a call for swatantrata is not further followed up with tantra of the cosmos, which can sustain the society, it will not be long before it leads to a call for another swatantratra once again.

 On this Independence Day let us understand the real meaning of swatantrata- Society’s practice of its own indigenous way of living, in line with its history, geography, geology, topology, climatology, ecology, biology, cosmology and all other sciences, which go towards shaping the society and its culture.

Swarajya vs Swatantra

What we fought for and obtained from the British is swarajya, self-rule.

We have a long way to go to achieve our Swatantrata- the courage and will to practice our own, indigenous, proven and sustainable techniques.

 To practice SwatantrataSwarajya is a fundamental need. For, without self-governance it will not be possible to freely practice the practices of the land. As a corollary to the statement,  if we have  Swarajya,  it does not naturally mean that we are practicing Swatantrata too.

 Swarajya aids, helps in practicing  Swatantrata. But to practise  Swatantrata, Swarajya + Gnana is imperative.

 Let us with this knowledge, Gnana and Vignana, march towards true Swatantrata,  true Independence.

May We Celebrate Labour Days

The 1st of May is called May Day world over and is celebrated as Labour Day in many countries.

The genesis of May Day and Labour Day come from the struggle of the labourers in US and other parts of the world in late 1800s for limiting their work day to 8 hours.  It later got associated with the Marxist communist idealogy of the labour class being the toilers.

Today, the May Day, Labour Day celebration is a vestige of Marxist communism. We use the word vestige because the very ideology of Marxism, communism is tottering.

Ideas keep evolving through the ages. Different ideologies come up at frequent intervals. The not so sound ideologies, enforced by force, die down after their brutal, repressive force is spent. They come to an end by the force of nature, the nature of people and the collapsing nature of unsustainable practises that these ideologies espouse.

One such ideology that is now in the brink of extinction is communism.

What happens on May Day?

The Labour Day, May Day thought, where we are made to celebrate labour, is an idea propped up by the communists.  In the mid of last century, when communism was a raging thought in Russia, China, Cuba and such other countries, the might of the people, the military might, was showcased on May Day.

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A Labour Day March

It was a day for showing solidarity and the might of the working class. They went on marches, waved flags and made bombastic speeches. This was their idea of May Day celebrations, which continues even today.

In contrast to this, in India, through the ages, in different parts of the land, the contribution of the people, the labour of the land were valued and celebrated, by venerating their skills and art.

Each variety of trade guild, had their own special labour day. It was a way of venerating their trade and trade equipment and a day for reflecting and paying respects to the great people, who had taught them the skills for the trade.

Let us look at some of these trades and their special days.

Vishwakarma Day

People who practise trades like architecture, sculpting, carpentry, smithy and metal works, jewellery making, painting and such other creative forms of art and architecture, venerate and celebrate their day as Vishwakarma Day.

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Artisans cleansing their tools on Vishawakarma Day

Farmers Day

Farmers celebrate the harvest day as a day of thanks giving to all those who helped in growing the crops and harvesting them and most importantly to mother Nature.

In south India it is celebrated on the day of Sankaranti.

In Tamil Nadu it is called Pongal.

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Pongal

In the east of India, Assam, it is called Bohali Bihu.

Teachers Day

Similarly, teachers are also a class of society, who labour hard to educate the society as a whole. The Teachers Day, Guruvandana, is celebrated on Gurupuja Day.

Thanking the Animals

The veneration is not limited to the trades mentioned here alone.

That even the animals help in the labours of the land is recognised. The bull and the cow are also venerated and there is a day celebrating these animals for their help in aiding productivity. In Tamil Nadu they celebrate a day exclusively for domestic animals, a day after Sankranti or Pongal. This festival is called Mattu Pongal.

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Mattu Pongal

In south Karnataka, it is celebrated as Kambala.

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Kambala celebrations

Equipments Day

Not only are there days celebrating the labours of men and animals, the living beings, but there are are also days to celebrate inanimate objects such as the tools and the equipments that serve the labourers of the land. The tools could be farm implements. The tools could be swords and spears, used for warfare. The tools could also be books of knowledge or in today’s times, the tools could be a modern computer.

All these tools are collectively venerated, thanked and celebrated on the 9th day of the Navaratri festival. This day and festival is called Ayudha Puja. Ayudha means tools, implements and puja is a form of veneration.

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An  Ayudha Puja for the weaponry, in Bengal, during the British days

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Ayudha Puja worship in present times

Celebrating Work , Ownership, Responsibility and Sustainability

We can see from all this, that this land not only acknowledged but also venerated the labourers of different vocations on different occasions. This respect was not only for humans but also for the animals who form a part of the work force and also for the tools and implements.

This overall celebration of work kept the people industrious and helped maintain a spirit of veneration and ownership towards one’s work and activities.

This sense of ownership brought in a sense of belonging, connect with the society and gave rise to the feeling of responsibility.

This feeling of responsibility towards one’s family, society and Nature  resulted in the blossoming of a temperament geared towards sustainability in the society, due to which prosperity prevailed on the land for the last 5000 years and more.

Each individual trade thus had their special day to celebrate their skills.

Given this overall understanding, isn’t it time for us to get back to respecting each vocation and the labours that the people have undergone for their families, the society and the civilisation as a whole?  

In present times, when communism is tottering and the idea of labour and workforce have taken a different shape, the idea of Labour Day is also losing its sheen, as Labour Day is only a one day “tamasha”, gimmick of walks and talks.

While the modern Labour Day of the last one century has been a fight for the rights of the working class, with the civilization having moved on since, the need of the day is to appreciate the skills of each of these individual labours so that they can be further refined in a sustainable manner by the labourers in this new century.

Each skill and labour should be individually recognized and appreciated on their respective days, for their contribution to keep the society functioning together as a whole and in keeping the society moving ahead in a sustainable manner.

May we therefore celebrate many Labour Days all the year long.

April Fool

The 14th of April is celebrated as the New Year in a few states of India such as Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Bengal, Assam among others.

The astronomical reason for the same being, that when the calendar in these places were formed over 1500 years back, the sun in its annual transit would cross the equator on this date. It was the equinox, the sun being on the equator and crossing over to the northern hemisphere.

It is for this reason that the New Year was celebrated not only in different parts of India, but in Persia too, as Nowroz and also in different parts of Europe in the pre-medieval days.

So April was the time for the start of a New Year across the world in the Northern Hemisphere. This New Year celebration was based on the movement of the sun. This shows that the people then lived in consonance with nature.

During the dark ages, as Christianity established itself in Europe, the New Year was shifted from April 1st to January 1st. The new Gregorian calendar of 1582 cemented this shift.

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When this happened, people were coerced to shift the observation of New Year from April 1st to January 1st.  The pagans in the villages though, continued to celebrate April 1st as their New Year in accordance with nature and the transit of the sun.

Since the official New Year was shifted to January 1st, the people who continued to celebrate April 1st as New Year were called “fools” and thus came the derisive terminology of “April fool”.  It is from this word of villagers we have the root of the word ‘villain’. Since the villagers took time to change to the official ways and calendar from their nature-based ways, they were dubbed derogatorily as ‘villains’, ’village’ and ’villager’.

 April-Fool

Over the last few decades, the world is not only becoming more and more scientific, but is also becoming more and more connected.

Between the 1600s to 2000, the world was Euro-centric.

Now, with progress, different parts of the world are bringing forth their individual character.  In this journey, maintaining one’s own individual character yet, at the same time being connected with each other, while being collectively connected with Nature, is the vehicle that can take us collectively into the future.

If this is to be so, then, we need to take a relook at our connectivity with Mother Nature.

Then, for the people living in the Northern Hemisphere, who comprise over 70% of the land mass and population of the earth, the natural New Year has to be the Equinox of March 21st when the Sun transits North, crossing the equator.

This thought is neither radical nor new.

After independence, India formed many scientific committees to understand various aspects of India. One such committee formed then was the Calendar reforms committee. This committee in the year 1957 recommended that the Indian calendar should start from March 22nd.

calender-reform

Calendar represents an important aspect of a civilization’s culture. It is basically a time marker of  events, events that are important to and determine each civilization’s culture and history.

What is Time?

WallClock?

 As the world , of which we are all a part, rotates and revolves, creating days and nights that rollup into months and years, giving us the notion of the passage of time, we need to go closer and closer towards Nature and the cosmos, to understand the concept and true meaning of Time.

In that path, taking a relook at the calendar is but one early and small step.