Guru Ravidas was a spiritual leader in the 14th Century. His teachings of equality and brotherhood in society have been a great inspiration to the people of this land today.
Birth and Marriage
Guru Ravidas was born in a village Govardhanpur, near Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, in a poor family. His father Santokh Das was a leather merchant.
Guru Ravidas was married to Lona and a son named Vijayadas was born.
Composing Devotional Songs
All through his family life, Guru Ravidas was never distracted from his devotional affinity. A leading composer of devotional songs, Guru Ravidas made a lasting impact on the minds of the people and helped in inculcating Bhakti, devotion to the Divine.
In Bhakti Movement
Guru Ravidas was regarded as a great Guru in the Bhakti Movement. He was a Guru to many, including Meera Bai, the famous devotee of Lord Krishna.
Among other eminent people of those days who were the disciples of Guru Ravidas, was the Queen of Chittorgarh, a city in present day Rajasthan.
He is today called by title Bhagat, a terminology often used for a great devotee.
The songs and writings of Guru Ravidas are included in the Guru Grantha Sahib, the Holy Book of Sikhs.
Guru Ravidas and Guru Grantha Sahib
The followers of Guru Ravidas forming a separate religious sect are called Ravidassia.
Guru Ravidas also fought against untouchability, an ill plaguing the society of his days.
Multifacet Life, An Inspiration
A social reformer, a poet, a humanist, a Spiritual leader, Guru Ravidas will continue to inspire people on the spiritual path for many generations to come.
Writers often use the phrase, “Red Lettered Day” to mark an important day. One such red lettered day in Indian history is, 18th February, 1946.
While a lot has been written about the various heroes of
India’s Freedom Struggle, this final trigger of 18th February,
1946, is lesser known among people.
On this day in 1946, the Navy, Army, Airforce and the Police, whose rank and file comprised Indians, revolted simultaneously. This revolt was like the proverbial last nail on the coffin of the British Rule.
The united revolt against British
Royal Indian Navy Riots
In the course of events starting with 18th February, 1946, the naval officers of Indian origin in the Royal Indian Navy, captured the naval ships, lowered the British Union Jack flag and hoisted the then Indian flag as a form of revolt against the British.
It was started off by the Indians in the Royal Indian Navy stationed at HMIS Talwar in Bombay, a Communication Station. It therefore spread soon, like wildfire, to other Naval bases and ships in India.
Through wireless network, they contacted all the naval vessels from Karachi in the west, to Chittagong in the east and informed everybody of this deed. Immediately, close to 72 war ships, manned by loyal Indians in the Royal Indian Navy (RIN) trained their guns back towards the port, as a sign of readiness to attack the British.
The revolt spread like wild fire across the country, with those in the Navy, positioned onshore, starting to march against the British on the streets.
Indian Air Force Strikes
Seeing the Navy revolting in Bombay, the airmen in the Royal
Indian AirForce too went on a sympathetic strike. They had gained courage by
the token strikes offered earlier in January by the British and American airmen
spread world over, seeking demobilization and return to home base after the
The British administrators, who were considering air attacks on the striking Royal Indian Navy, therefore could not command the Royal Indian Air Force to get into action. They had to resort to taking the help of the Royal AirForce instead.
The airmen at all airbases in India such as Bombay, Kanpur, Allahabad, Jodhpur, Vishakapatnam, Delhi. It culminated with the strike by airmen at Kohat which was the only Air Force station in India manned by the RIAF.
Indian Army Rebels
The alarmed British officers had brought in the Indian based Mahratta Light Infantry (MLI) to fire upon the Navy. Reluctant to open fire on the rebelling Indian brethren, the army fired shots but at the ground in front of the rebelling Navy men.
When the British found Indian soldiers reluctant and lenient
in dealing with the rioting Navy, they had to bring in British troops to fire
on the striking Navy men.
Finally with the help of the British troops, the Royal
AirForce and Royal Navy from Sri Lanka and Britain the revolting Navy was
intimidated and made to surrender on 23rd February,
But this firing incident was a shot in the arm for the soldiers of the Indian Army whose tolerance had already been stretched beyond limits.
The command to open fire on their own brethren who were only
making demands similar to theirs, at a time when INA prisoners, who had fought
gallantly for Indian freedom, were being tried, was the tipping point for this
The rebellion within the Indian Army came from the Indian
Signal Corps at Jabalpur. Starting on 27th February, 1946 it gained
momentum and seriousness, lasting until 3rd March, 1946.
Though it was contained by the British with the help of
senior Indian political leaders and did not extend beyond Jabalpur, this one
incident in the Indian Army was enough to shake the British confidence and
More than the Navy and the AirForce, the British relied heavily on the Indian Army for external as well as internal control. The confidence of the British in being able to control and hold India, took a serious hit with the strike by the Indian Army at Jabalpur.
Indian Police Refuses
When the Navy in Bombay had started to strike, the British
officers had called for the support of the police. But the local police too,
like the Royal Indian AirForce had joined hands with the rebelling Navy and
could not be counted upon.
The Indian police constabulary also had refused to swing into action.
Jitters down British spine
There was a total breakdown of the defense service and the
constabulary against the British Rule of India.
This sent jitters down the spine of the British
For the first time, the 200 year hold that the British had on India was being crushed. For, there was no way the British could quell the rising citizens of India, who were now backed by the Navy, Army, Airforce and the Police – all the armed forces.
British offer Independence
Within the next fortnight, on 15th March, 1946, Clement Attlee, the Prime Minister of England, announced in the house of Lords, the British Parliament, London, that they were sending a mission to India, the Cabinet Mission of 1946, under the leadership of Lord Pethick Lawrence, the Secretary of State for India, to discuss transfer of power to India.
The Mighty British Blink
This immediate announcement saved the day for the British in
India. In this standoff between the officers in service and the Police
constabulary on one side and the British government on the other, it was the
mighty British who were compelled to blink first.
Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa is one of the most well known saints of this country. A spiritual leader who promoted religious harmony through his life. An ideal for Spiritual Seekers.
Ramakrishna was born Gadhadhar into a Vaishnava Brahmin family on February 18th, 1836, at Kamarkupur, in West Bengal. Prior to his birth, his parents had mystical visions, indicating the birth of a great soul as their son.
Birth Place of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
Spiritually inclined at young age
The seeds of spirituality were sown in Ramakrishna at a very young age. He had the opportunity to meet many saints at a tender age and was influenced by the stories of Ramayana and Puranas, narrated by them.
First Spiritual Experience
Ramakrishna had his first spiritual experience at the age of six. While visualising white cranes in the backdrop of dark clouds in the sky, he became absorbed in this scene and lost external consciousness. He experienced great bliss in that ethereal state. Ramakrishna had many such experiences in his childhood.
Priest at Kali Temple
Ramakrishna became the priest of the Dakshineshwar Kali Temple in 1856. From then on, he was drawn to the deity at the shrine and became an ardent devotee of Devi Kali. He had many spiritual experiences with the Divine Mother and many times lost outward consciousness, being immersed in bliss.
Dakshineshwar Kali Temple in those days
Dakshineshwar Kali Temple as it stands today
Ramakrishna married Saradamani Mukhopadhyaya, now respectfully called Sarada Devi in the year 1859.
Even into Married life, Ramakrishna was never distracted from his spiritual endeavour.
Showing Religious Harmony in Practice
Ramakrishna undertook many sadhana, spiritual practices through his life. He sought to show to the world that,
“As there are a number of beliefs, there are a number of ways to Divinity” .
Ramakrishna awakened people to this harmonious thought not just through his teachings, but in actual practice.
Practicing Islam & Christianity
Ramakrishna practiced other religions including Christianity and Islam.
While practicing the tenets of Islam, Ramakrishna dressed himself as an Arab Muslim, performed Namaz 5 times each day and continuously repeated the names of Allah. After 3 days, he had a vision of Prophet Mohammed merging in his body.
Ramakrishna had a vision of Jesus Christ merging in his body when he undertook to practice Christianity.
Epitome of Religious harmony
Similarly, Ramakrishna undertook spiritual practices pertaining to many religious sect and every time had the vision of the respective deity. He also practiced the Advaitic Sadhana and realized the One Formless Divinity.
Ramakrishna thus became an epitome of religious harmony in the country.
Ramakrishna, An Epitome of religious harmony
A True Paramahamsa
From Spiritual Seeker, Ramakrishna had now become a Spiritual Master. Ramakrishna began to attract many spiritual seekers who felt they were face to face with a highly evolved Guru. He was now popularly known as Ramakrishna ‘Paramahamsa’, with the latter honorific title meaning ‘A fully blossomed soul’.
Guru to Swami Vivekananda
Ramakrishna is the one who inspired Swami Vivekananda, his chief disciple into spiritual life and to carry out the mission of unravelling Indian wisdom and revealing it to people, both in India and in the West.
In this light, Swami Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Mission to propagate the teachings of his Guru.
Ramakrishna passed away on August 16th, 1886 at Cossipore, West Bengal.
A Continuous Source of Spiritual Inspiration
Apart from Vivekananda, Ramakrishna inspired many spiritual seekers through his life and continues to kindle the spiritual fervour in many youth of this country, even today. The result has been that Ramakrishna Mission has spread to every nook and corner of this land and the world.
Ramakrishna Mission, Chennai
Ramakrishna Mission, Bangalore
Ramakrishna Mission, Pune and Hyderabad
Ramakrishna Mission, Agartala and Delhi
Today, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa continues to live in the hearts of his millions of devotees.
Desert Festival of Jaisalmer is celebrated every year in January February. Jaisalmer is a World Heritage Site located in Thar Desert, in Rajasthan.
The city is nicknamed ‘The Golden City of India’, for when the sun light is reflected on the sands of the desert city, it appears Golden.
Jaisalmer, the Golden City of India
Raja Maharaval Jaisal Singh
Jaisalmer City is named after Rajput king, Raja Maharaval Jaisal Singh who established this city in 1146 CE.
Raja Maharawal Jaisal Singh
The word Jaisal refers to the King and the word Mer, Meru, means ‘Hill’, ‘Pyramidical Hill’. The word Jaisalmer literally means, “Jaisal’s Hill Fort”.
The dry bed of Sarasvati River flows near Jaisalmer. This whole region became a desert since the drying up of the river 4500 years ago.
Dry Channel of River Sarasvati near Jaisalmer
The Jaisalmer Desert Festival is organized by the Rajasthan Government Tourism Department.
This festival was started to attract foreigners to the state, who want to experience the culture of the state. This festival is celebrated over three days, when visitors from all over the world attend. The rich cultural heritage of Rajasthan is showcased. The audience is treated to the state music and folk dance.
Jaisalmer Desert Festival
One of the main features of this festival are the Camel Races.
Apart from these Camel races, other contests like Turban Tying contest, Best Mustache contest and Mr Desert contest are conducted.
Mr Longest Mustache
The festival culminates at Sam sand dunes with scintillating performance by folk artists under the Full Moon, reflecting light on sand dunes, making for a wonderful ambiance.
Bahubali is one of the revered personages in the Jain tradition. Bahu means arms, and Bali, Bal refers to strength. Bahubali was the one who possessed great strength in his arms. This name Bali is similar in context to the story of Mahabali Chakravarthi, the all-powerful king and also to the story of Bali and Sugreeva, the two Vanara brothers of the Ramayana, of whom Bali possessed greater strength.
This name, Bahubali is a pointer to the fact that Bahubali was powerful and had conquered the whole world.
Son of Rishabhadeva,
Bahubali is the son of Adi Nath, the first Jain Tithankara, known as Rishabh Dev.
Sugar, Ikshvaku, Rishabh Dev
The Samskrt word for sugarcane is Ikshu.
One of the oldest dynasties of India, the SuryaVamsa, solar dynasty, which gave rise to luminaries such as Rama, Dasaratha, Aja, Raghu, Dilipa, Bhagiratha, Sagara, Harishchandra, Prthu and many more, was called the Ikshvaku dynasty after one its very early kings, Ikshvaku.
More on the Ikshvaku dynasty in our book, Historical Rama.
In the Jain tradition too, the first Tirthankara, Lord Rishabhdev, known as Adi Natha is also referred to as Ikshvaku. Rishabhdev earned the name Ikshvaku as he could extract sugar from sugarcane. He also broke a year long fast with sugarcane juice.
As Jain records go, Bhagavan Rishabh Dev went on a fast to show His disciples, how to lead an ascetic’s life by eating only what is given in alms. Unfortunately, wherever He went seeking alms, He only received jewels and other non-edible items. This went on for close to 400 days. He finally landed up in a sugarcane farm belonging to His great grandson Shreyans, near Hastinapura, the famed kingdom, which was much much later ruled by the Pandava during the Mahabharata period, in 3100 BCE.
It was in Hastinapur that he was received with sugarcane juice and He thus ended His fast after more than a year.
1st Jain Tirthankara, Bhagavan Rishabhdev or Adinatha breaking fast with Sugarcane Juice
This legend thus speaks of sugarcane cultivation and extraction of sugarcane juice during Bhagavan Rishabh Dev’s times.
More on the Ikshvaku and the sugarcane connect in our book, Brand Bharat – Vol-1 – Made in India.
8th Avatar of Vishnu
In the Bhagavata Purana, Rishabha is listed as the 8thAvatar of Lord Vishnu, among His 24 Avatar. The story of Rishabh Dev appears in the 5thSkanda of Bhagavata Purana.
Bahubali was the son of such an illustrious father.
Jada Bharata was the other son of Rishabh Dev.
Jada Bharata was one of the early great kings. The story of Jada Bharata is also narrated in the 5thSkanda of the Bhagavata Purana. His rule was able and prosperous, when the glory of this land reached its pinnacle. Thus the name Bharat was attributed to this land, after Jada Bharata.
Fight between Bahubali & Jada Bharata and departure of Jada Bharata
After Rishabh Dev renounced his kingdom, the mantle of ruling fell into the hands of his two sons, Bahubali and Jada Bharata. With time, there ensued some differences between the two brothers, and there was a fight between them.
During the course of the battle, Bahubali had a realization that he was fighting his own brother. He decided to give up the fight. Bharata too realized his great blunder of fighting his brother. He also gave up, and both the brothers patched up.
They both eventually renounced their kingdoms and took up sanyasa.
Jada Bharat renouncing his kingdom
Detachment to kingdom and attachment
Bharata retired to the forests to take up sanyana, and practice Tapa, for attaining Jnana.
While in the forest, he became attached to a deer, as even a great renouncer like Jada Bharata was not free from attachment to the mortal coil. The one who gave up a kingdom, became attached to a mere fawn. Attachment and detachment are facets of human life.
Jada Bharata getting attached to a deer
Jada Bharata eventually attained Moksha, after undergoing a birth as a deer, in a subsequent life.
Just like his brother, after attaining many victories, Bahubali too renounced the world. It is interesting the way this renunciation actually took place.
After having conquered the whole world, Bahubali asked his soldiers to go on top of the tall mountain and inscribe his name as the first king to conquer all. His soldiers go up there, to inscribe his name, but what they find is that the rock is already inscribed by the names of earlier kings, and there is no space left for Bahubali’s name.
Bahubali looking in wonderment at the inscriptions of the names of earlier kings
What this tells us is that even before most of the ancient kings who thought they were the earliest, there were many kings of greater antiquity, who had had conquered the land and had inscribed their names. Satapatha Brahmana and Aitareya Brahmana mention 16 kings or Chakravartin who ruled India from sea to sea. Yet scholars claim the idea of empire in India started only with the Mauryas.
Such an illustrious land this is of such antiquity.
One of the so called earliest kings by name Bahubali is infact a much later king, in the illustrious lineage of great kings.
This incident created a dawning of realization in Bahubali, the mighty king, who then decided to renounce worldly pleasures and take up spirituality.
He attained Kevala Jnana.
Kevala Jnana is a term used in Jainism to indicate absolute knowledge or wisdom. As per this concept, every individual soul has Kevala Jnana as its inherent quality. This Jnana is however covered by Karma, the deep impressions of previous thoughts and actions. Once this veil of Karma is removed through wisdom, then the state of Kevala Jnana naturally shines forth.
Such a state was attained by Bahubali, who is today revered and worshipped as Gomateshwara.
Bahubali’s statue today stands tall at Shravanabelagola, one of the most revered pilgrimage sites for the Jains, in the state of Karnataka, where He is worshipped as Gomateshwara. This statue of Gomateshwara is one of the 7 wonders of India.
How did this place attain the name Shravanabelagola?
King Chamunda Raya, had this idol installed, with great effort. The story goes that the king soon after establishing the worship of this statue became proud, as he felt that he had installed the deity through his mighty strength. In the coming days, when the king performed the Panchamritabhisheka of this idol, i.e. bathing, abhisheka the idol with 5 liquids, it was found that even though huge qualities of liquid were poured, the liquid did not descend lower than the navel. This miracle was enacted by the Divinity to dispel the vanity that had possessed the king. The king was frustrated and filled with grief as he was unable to bathe the idol of Lord Gomateshwara completely with the ablution. In this situation, on the orders of the Divinity, a celestial apsara named Padmavati, disguised herself as a poor old lady, and appeared before the king, with the five liquid held in a small silver pot, “Beliya Gola”, with the intention of bathing the statue. The king mocked at Padmavati stating that how she could accomplish this as he himself had failed in this endeavor. However on further insistence on her part, the king allowed her to perform the abhisheka, out of curiosity. Padmavati brought the liquid and was successful in performing a complete ablution of the statue. The king realized his arrogance, and giving up his vain pride performed ablution with great respect. From then on this place took on the name of Beliya Gola, meaning a Silver pot.
The great king Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the Mauryan Empire, who ruled from Pataliputra. After establishing the Mauryan Empire, he decided to follow spirituality. He came all the way from Pataliputra and settled down at Shravanabelagola.
Chanakya and Bhadrabahu
Chanakya as a Guru to Chandragupta Maurya, taught him the various arts of administration, warfare and social welfare. He was also Chandragupta’s political advisor and helped him strategize the plan for expanding his kingdom. Later on in his life, after he renounced his kingdom, Chandragupta took up Jainism. At that stage in life, Bhadrabahu, the Jain monk was his spiritual Guru.
The knowledge of the basic tenets of Jainism was passed on to Chandragupta Maurya by his Guru Bhadrabahu, at the Bhadrabahu Cave, in the Chandragiri hills, near Shravanbelagola.
Two sects of Jainism
There are two sects in Jainism namely, Swethambara and Digambara.
Swethambara are those who dress themselves in white, Swetha, while Digambara are those with sky as their covering.
Bahubali belonged to the sect of Digambara, as can be understood from his statue in Shravanabelagola.
Unfortunately, this noble ideal of Digambara has been misunderstood by the materialistic society of today.
Mahamastakabhisheka is a prominent festival dedicated to Lord Gomateshwara, held at Sharavanbelagola, based on the conjunctions of planetary bodies at an interval of 12 to 15 years.
History of Mahamastakabhisheka
The consecration and the first Mahamastakabhisheka of the statue of Lord Gomateshwara – Bahubali happened on 13th March, 981 CE. In the year 1981, the 1000th year of the installation was celebrated with much grandeur at Shravanabelagola, with a Mahamastakabhisheka.
This festival involves the bathing and anointing of the statue of Lord Gomateshwara, with milk, sugarcane juice, saffron paste and sprinkled with powders of sandalwood, turmeric and vermilion.
A festival that sees a congregation of thousands, who want to witness the Abhisheka of their Divinity.
Sir Galileo Galelei is one of the great names who revolutionized science in the 17th century. He is the father of science. He is the father of modern physics and scientific method in Europe. He is also the father of observational astronomy. He was a physicist, a mathematician, an astronomer, and a philosopher all rolled into one. This great scientist had his advent on 15th February, 1564 at Pisa in Italy.
Galileo’s achievements are many. Some of them being,
Discovered that the earth is round, for the people of Europe
Confirmed telescopically the phases of Venus
Carried forward the understanding of Heliocentric model, after Nicholas Copernicus
Observed and analyzed sunspots
Discovered the 5 large satellites of Jupiter, which is known as Galilean satellites
Galileo’s discovery and the opposition
Galileo was the one discovered that the earth is round and not flat. Before that, the people in the West were of the view that earth is flat.
When Galileo published his view on the earth being round, and about the Heliocentric model, he was vehemently opposed by the church. A church priest then cried out in a court of law, saying,
“Commonsense must tell anyone that the earth cannot possibly be a ball, otherwise, the people on the lower half would fall into the void”.
The Priest’s view on what would happen if the earth were to be round
It is clear that the people in the west didn’t understand gravity, for such a view being presented by the priest. The world later on understood and accepted Galileo discovery, as modern science made great advances.
Galileo’s Trial and house arrest
The Pope Urban VIII ordered Galileo to stand trial for heresey in 1633, as his views were found to be “absurd, phylosophically false, and formally heretical, because they were contrary to Holy Scriptures.”
Galileo recanted his opinion to save his life, and lived under house arrest. While under house arrest, he wrote one of his best-known works, Two New Sciences, in which he summarized work he had done some forty years earlier on the two sciences now called kinematics and strength of materials.
Galileo passed away on 8th January 1642, Italy, while serving house arrest.
It was only 1978, Pope John -11, pardoned Galileo, when it was well established that the earth is round.
Astronomy, a subject in India, even before Galileo
The world is of the opinion that Astronomy existed as a subject, only after Galileo. The reality is quite different.
Indian Jyotisha, Astronomy is a science par excellence that the ancient Indians had developed. Indian astronomers have written a series of astronomical treaties through millennia which form a rich contribution of Indians to the world of astronomical sciences.
The scientific aspects discussed in Indian Astronomy, Ganita Jyotisha include,
Heliocentric view in Indian Astronomy
Scientific naming of planets and stars
Distances in space
Measurement of astral bodies
Indians knew the earth was round
Indians also knew that the earth is round. They always called the earth as “Bhugola”. Bhu means “earth” and Gola means “round”. Bhugola means, “the earth which is round shaped”. This very word for earth, shows that the ancients of this land knew that the earth is round.
Aryabhatta wrote his book “Aryabhatiyam” in the year 499 CE, when he was just 23 years in age. In this work, he clearly mentions the earth as being round. This is full thousand years before Galileo and others in Europe proved and accepted that the earth is round.
Indians also knew of a land on the other side of the globe, from India, which was known as Siddhapura in the Indian astronomical texts. This again establishes that the ancient Indians, very well knew of a place on the other side of the globe, exactly 180 degrees, opposite to India.
The west had adopted the heliocentric model after Galileo proposed it, 400 years ago, and before that it was the geocentric model that was in vogue.
The Geocentric model
In contrast, the India texts pertaining to Ganitha Jyotisha, the Veda and other texts have all along been mentioning heliocentric model for many millennia.
The Heliocentric Model
Heliocentric comes from the Greek word Helios, meaning Sun. In this view, the sun is at the centre of everything in the sky. Ganitha Jyotisha, Astronomy with its inclination to accurate recordings has always held the helio-centric view point. This is clearly indicated in a shloka in Rig Veda, compiled over 5000 years ago.
The Shloka in Rig Veda
According to the above sloka, the moon which is the satellite of the earth revolves around its mother planet and follows it in its revolution around the sun.
This sloka clearly indicates that the people of this country had recorded the helio-centric model, 5000 years ago.
If we see the arrangements of idols in a Navagraha temple, it is always seen that the idol of sun is in the centre, surrounded by the idols of other planets.
Navagraha shrine with the idol of sun in centre
This again testifies that Indians always knew and followed the heliocentric model. They knew that all the planets revolved around the sun. Hence, the Solar System is called Surya Mallika, Surya meaning Sun.
Astronomy was a subject in India even before Galileo!
More on Indian Astronomy in our documentary film, Wonders of Indian Astronomy, and short film.