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.
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 2nd 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.
As per Swami Vivekananda, a teacher is the one who is a constant learner.
So, from whom did this great teacher learn from?
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.
We have all heard this word, being mentioned frequently in connection with the freedom struggle of India against the British. The word Swatantrata is easily understood to connote independence.
If you break the word Swatantra, it has two components to it, swa and tantra.
Swa denotes self and tantra stands for sciences, techniques, practices of a land, the way we live, in consonance with our surroundings and nature in a sustainable manner. Tantrayukti is a discipline of studies where the word tantra stands for scientific. Tantrayukti is a work of scientific reasoning or scientific debates.
From this meaning, we realize that swatantrata is more than independence, just political independence. When one fights for swatantrata, it is not just for political independence. It is not just for governance independence. It stands for a higher level of freedom, a higher dimension of independence.
It is the freedom, the right to practise one’s own sciences and techniques. It is the independence to practise one’s own indigenous way of living, that which is sustainable and in consonance with nature – the nature of the land, the nature of the people and the nature of Nature itself. It is to maintain oneself free from all influences and act under one’s own will. It thus stands for the notion of Independence, freedom.
So when our immediate forefathers fought for Swarajya, freedom, independence, it was not a call only for Swa rajya, meaning self rule or primarily, political freedom of India. But the overall call was for Swatantrata too.
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.”
Bal Gangadhar Lokmanya Tilak
This uprising, due to the rising yearning for Swarajya, Swatantrata, from the British, in every common man’s mind as well as collectively in the entire population of the land, was not a one off event. It has been the turning point of our history. Many personal uprisings have occurred many a times over, at many a crucial juncture, in the long history of this civilization.
One of the other prominent, better known examples of such an uprising, is when the king, Raja Chandragupta, with the help of master tactician, Chanakya, successfully threw off the yoke of repression, of the Nanda tyranny, so that people could practise “their practices” freely.
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, what is essential, is 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 practises 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 practising the tantra, scientific practices of one’s civilization.
Science is not just theory alone or laboratory experiments.
Science is the principle of the functioning of Nature, the cosmos, 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, in its own sphere of existence. A vast domain indeed!
When a society or entity, either out of repression or out of choice, does not practice its own tantra, set of indigenous practices or a sustainable way of living, 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 finally 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, which are in sync with the basic sciences, tantra of the cosmos and 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, the 15th day of August, let us understand the real meaning of Independence, swatantrata, as a 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 true Swatantrata, the courage and will to practice our own, indigenous, proven, sustainable techniques.
To practise Swatantrata, Swarajya is a fundamental need. For without self governance it will not be possible to freely practise the practices of one’s land. As a corollary to the statement, if we have Swarajya it does not naturally mean that we are practising Swatantrata too. Swarajya aids, helps in practising Swatantrata. But to practise Swatantrata, Swarajya + gyana is imperative.
Let us with this knowledge, Gyana and Vigyana, march towards swatantrata, true Independence.
Kalasam, an auspicious symbol
Kalasam, Water, Mango Leaves, coconut
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.
Brim and Overflow
How does a Kalasam hold beyond its brim and over flow to denote this overflowing bounty?
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?
Coconut on Kalasam filled with water
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.
In some traditions, they keep rice instead of water, in the Kalasam.
The coconut kept on top is referred to as Poorna Falam. A wholesome fruit.
Coconut = Ego
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 & various connects
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.
Venerating a Kalasam of Varalakshmi Vratam
Celebrated by Women
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.
Women Pray for their Family
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.
The innate beauty
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.
Bond of Women & Water
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.
Women as Lakshmi
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.
Varalakshmi Vratham – Nature of Motherhood
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.