Image of The Other

The word “other” in English language means “second”, “that which is not the self”. It comes from the old English word oder. The very concept of ‘other’ has been expressed in different civilizations starting from the very moment of creation.

In Assyrian civilization

In the Assyrian civilization of east Mediterranean, the two primary forces that brought about creation of the universe are Apsu and Thiamat. Apsu means “the primordial waters” and Thiamat means the other one, the one other than Apsu.

In Babylonian civilization

In the Babylonian Mesopotamian civilization, the two forces that engage in the process of creation of this universe are Marduk and Thiamat.

In Indian civilization

Even in ancient Indian language, the word “thia” stood for ‘other’, be it in Samskrt or in the South Indian Malayalam language.

In the Indian Knowledge System, the Veda, the process of Creation is described as a duel between Indra and his ‘other’, Vrtra. Indra denotes the collective consciousness that spreads forth and Vrtra, the holding back force.

The principle of the Other, Thia has existed in Nature even before the Creation of the Universe takes place. The existence of this Other has been recognized and been accorded a name that is phonetically and semantically similar across many ancient civilizations and their languages. Herein lies the beauty in the Other.

The concept of Creation

We see here that the concept of ‘other’ existed in reality and in thought right from the moment of creation of the Universe.  We are a part of this Universe and a part of the “Other” as well.

Even the perspective of how the Creation came to be is not one but two.

The one which describes Creation as the handiwork of a God external to the Created Universe, where God first created the Earth, then the Sun, Moon and the stars.

The “other”, which describes Creation as a natural order where the Divine becomes the Created Universe and is intrinsic to the Creation, where Creation happened from a cosmic egg with the Big Bang and everything spewed out from this. i.e the Earth appears later, much later, after the galaxies, the sun and all are  created in the process of Creation. This view is held forth in the Veda as Hiranyagarbha for the Cosmic Egg and Brahmanda Visfotak for the Big Bang. This view is similar to that held by modern science too.

Which is the Other?

Right from the explanation of this basic event in the Universe, there has been the “other”, in thought which got carried forward in religion as well.

The view that is the “other view” usually is adverse. But, which is “the other” view, depends on the viewer.

An example can best be seen with the word Asura in Indian thought, which today is loosely translated in English as demon.

Deva Vs Asura

In early Vedic language, the term Asura meant that which is spirited, full of life, vigour and was applied for all divine forces in the Universe starting from the process of Creation.

In later thought, this word Asura picked up a negative connotation in Indian legends and came to denote that which is opposite of divine. Hence the Deva, divine forces of Nature came to be adversaries of the Asura. Since in Samskrt the syllable “a” usually signifies an antithesis, the word Asura was split as “a” and “Sura” and a new term Sura came into usage to denote the opposite of Asura. Hence the Deva or all that is divine came to be called Sura.

But the same idea of Asura appears to have stayed positive in Persian thought and morphed into the word Ahura for their main divinity and the Vedic Deva came to be seen as adversaries.

Asura-Sura 

Respect for the Other

In India, across the land, through the times, there has always been a respect for the other.

The Veda welcome new thoughts and ideas from every direction apart from what is espoused in it.

Aa na bhadra katavo yanto vishwatah

Let noble thoughts come to us from every direction.

– Rig Veda

Nammazhavar, the saint from Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu, expresses in his poem that “every man worships God the way he perceives it in his situation and that is the right thought for him at that moment”.

 Nammazhwar

That That person with His and His varied level of understanding,

His and His Divinity’s abode shall he attain.

That That person’s Divinity is no lesser.

His and His Destiny will lead to such a Divinity.

–          A literal translation of the poem

Isn’t this a beautiful way of recognizing the plurality in the universe, in matter and in thought and respecting the same?

The thoughts of great people

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi in his prayer song “Raghupathi Raghava Raja Ram” has the next line as “Ishwar Allah Tero Nam”, where the divine in different names is equally acceptable.

Kabir

Kabir, the weaver saint of medieval India in his doha, couplets praised both Ram and Rahim.

Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda in his now famous speech at Chicago conference of world religion in 1893 spoke eloquently of the existence of the ‘other’ thought, the plurality and how we innately need to respect the ‘other’ and accept the ‘other’ as our innate ethos.

“As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so O Lord, the different paths which men take through their different tendencies, various though they appear crroked or straight, all lead to thee.”

VivekanandaSpeech

From Tolerance to Tolerate

120 years ago, in his speech, he brought in the concept of “tolerance” among religions. It was a 458 word speech that lasted just 6 minutes but ushered in a fresh breath of air then.

In the last 100 years, this tolerance has now come down from tolerance to tolerate.

Call to Respect

With this effort of The Other, we should now bring back into dialogue, the need to respect the other.

Mahabharatha

The idea of other is brought forth in a succulent manner by an incident from the Mahabharata, the epic of India.

When the 5 Pandava brothers were in exile in the forest. Duryodhana, their cousin and antagonist comes to the same forest to watch their sufferings during exile. Duryodhana and his Kaurava brothers were then captured by a third party. Yudhishtra, the eldest of the Pandava along with his brothers, secured the release of their cousins led by Duryodhana.

He explains that, “We are 5, they are hundred. But when a third person captures them, then we are 105 to unite against ‘the other’.

Vayam Pancha The Shatham

Vayam Panchotaram Shatham

–          Mahabharata, Vana Parva

Other Not Permanent

Through this episode Yudhishtra brings out the fact that the notion of ‘the other’ is not permanent, but variable based on the situation. Let us understand this through a simple example

From Student to Class to School

When in a class, two students are fighting, each is ‘the other’ to the other.

 OtherStudent

But when another class is against them, then these two students unite, to jointly defend themselves against the ‘new other, i.e the other class’.

 OtherClass

When someone from an ‘other’ school pits against this school, then the different classes unite to compete against the ‘new other’, i.e the other school.

OtherSchool

The concept of mine thus keeps changing, expanding with every situation.

In the face of a common goal, we find commonality with our other.

When the mine expands, ‘the other’ starts shrinking gradually.

This should ideally and eventually lead to Vasudhaiva Kutumbhakam, One World Family.

 globe

Path and Goal – Distinguishing as well Binding

The path and the goal are the distinguishing factor.

It is the same path and the goal that are the binding factor too.

Recognizing, accepting and respecting the other is in itself the binding factor.

Inclusive and Not Exclusive

It is the approach that one takes of being inclusive or exclusive that decides what “the other” is.

Respecting the other and using that respect as the binding factor is the inclusive approach.

In contrast is the exclusive approach which looks at mine alone as the better path and goal.

It is pertinent here to take note of the concept of Dharma in the Indian thought. Dharma is not religion in the limited sense but instead is about the innate characteristic of a human, animal, plant, living being or even the inanimate. Dharma is also about the varying character and actions to be adopted in varying roles performed by all of these under different conditions of space, time and environ i.e in sync with Nature, science and society.

Seeing the “image of the other” with respect, in sync with Nature and science and being inclusive with love and peace is the common path that has stood the test of time across civilizations.

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V O Chidambaram Pillai

V O Chidambaram is one of architects of the modern Indian shipping industry. He was a freedom fighter, an erudite scholar, a prolific writer, and an elegant speaker. He is popularly known as ‘Kappal Ottiya Thamizian’, meaning “the Tamil who sailed the ship”. He is mostly known by his short name VOC.

VOC was born on 5th September, 1872 at Ottapidaram, in the Tuticorin District of Tamil Nadu.

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V.O.Chidambaram Pillai – A 140 year old file photo

During the Colonial rule, the British took over our Seas and Ships. There were many attempts made to win back the seas from the British.

This made Sir Alfred Watson, editor of `The Statesman’ then in 1900, write,

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The first tangible stir in this direction came from South India in the form of Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company, offering sailing services between Tuticorin in South India and Colombo in Ceylon.

It was a wholly Indian owned company started by V.O.Chidambaram Pillai, a Tamil barrister, who lived between 1872 and 1936 and was a disciple of the freedom fighter, Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Known as VOC for short, he started this navigation company to revive Indian shipping industry, in direct competition to the British shipping services and monopoly of the seas.

Starting with leasing ships, when the lease was cancelled due to pressure from the British, he went on to purchase 2 ships, S.S.Galia and S.S.Lavo, by raising funds from all across India.

There literally ensued a tug of war between VOC’s shipping company and the British shipping company, with both lowering fares alternately to woo passengers. At one point, the British even made the service free.

Yet, when the Indians kept patronizing VOC’s services, as part of the Swadeshi spirit, the British charged VOC with sedition, stripped off his barrister license and sentenced him to 2 life terms, totalling 40 years. It was a Rigorous Imprisonment as meted out to a convict, where VOC was inhumanly, yoked to an oil press and made to toil in place of bulls, under the sun.

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The prison cell that VOC occupied in Central Jail, Coimbatore

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The Oil Press to which VOC was yoked during his period in prison

His life and struggles have been made immortal for this generation by the Tamil film “Kappal Otiya Tamizhan” meaning “The Tamil who sailed the Ship”, in which the legendary Tamil actor, Chevalier Sivaji Ganeshan played the role of VOC.

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Veteran Tamil actor Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan as VOC toiling it out in prison, in the film

Today, VOC’s name is remembered for the intense sacrifice that he made in an attempt to revive India’s shipping industry.

A stamp was issued in his honor by the government of India, in 1972.

A college in Tuticorin is named after VOC.

The bridge connecting Tirunelveli and Palayamkottai, over the Tamaraparani is named VOC

Also, a public park in Coimbatore is named after this freedom fighter.

He is among those great heroes of this land, who stood up for the cause of India’s freedom, and today his name is taken with great reverence all over Tamil Nadu and India.

We have spoken extensively about V O Chidambaram in our book, Brand Bharat, Vol-1.

BB-Vol-1.jpg

Lala Lajpat Rai

Lion of Punjab

Lala Lajpat Rai was born on 28th January 1865 at Dhidika village in Punjab. He aggressively fought against the might of the British Empire. He was popularly called, Punjab Kesari, “The lion of Punjab”.

Lala 1

Lala Lajpat Rai

“Lal Pal Bal”

The Trio of “Lal Pal Bal” were forerunners of the freedom struggle much before the times of Mahatma Gandhi. Lal was Lala Lajpat Rai from Punjab, Bal was Bala Gangadhar Tilak from Maharahstra, and Pal was Bipin Chandra Pal from East Bengal. They came from different corners of India and asked for Swaraj in united voice.

Lala 2

Lal Bal Pal

The lion that he was, Lala Lajpat Rai gave tough time to the British through his demonstrations, demanding Swaraj.

Hindu Orphan Relief Movement

Lala Lajpat Rai founded the Hindu Orphan Relief Movement to keep British missions from securing custody of orphans.

Punjab National Bank

He also established the Punjab National Bank. The Bank opened on 12th April, 1895, at Lahore.

Lala 3

“Simon Go Back”

Lala Lapat Rai succumbed to injuries sustained during a lathi charge while leading a non violent demonstration against the Simon Commission, with the slogan “Simon Go Back”. He passed away on 17th November, 1928.

Lala 4

“Simon Go Back” protest led by Lala Lajpat Rai

“Every Blow a Nail in the Coffin of British”

One of his strongest statements from his last moments, still etched in the mind of the people is, “Every blow on my body will prove a nail in the coffin of British Empire.”

 Roads in his name

The people of both India and Pakistan remember the contributions of this Freedom Fighter towards Freedom from the Colonial Rule.

Many major cities in India have roads named after this Freedom Fighter

 Pakistan has also named a road after Lala Lajpat Rai in its Quetta town. It is for the first time since partition that Pakistan had named a road after an Indian leader.

Statues

There are also statues erected in honour of Lala Lajpat Rai in many parts of the country.

Lala 5

Lala Lajpat Rai Statue, Shimla

Stamp

A stamp has been released in his name by the Government of India.

Lala 6

It is due to the efforts of such Freedom Fighters that India finally attained Freedom in 1947.

International Day of Tolerance

Swami Vivekananda’s Speech

120 years ago, in his speech, Swami Vivekananda brought in the concept of “tolerance” among religions. It was a 458 word speech that lasted just 6 minutes but ushered in a fresh breath of air then.

Tolerance 1

Call to Respect

Swami Vivekananda in his speech at Chicago conference of world religion in 1893 spoke eloquently of the existence of the other thoughts, the plurality and how we innately need to respect others and accept others as our innate ethos.

 “As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so O Lord, the different paths which men take through their different tendencies, various though they appear crooked or straight, all lead to thee.”

With this effort, we should now bring back into dialogue, the need to respect the other.

The Downward Slide

In the last 100 years, Tolerance has now come down to Tolerate.

A tolerant society will be destroyed by its tolerance to intolerance. So from Tolerance, Tolerate, we should move to Respect.

Birsa Munda

Led the Tribal Uprising

Birsa Munda was born on 15th November 1875 at Ulihatu village in present day Bihar. He lived for only 25 years, but gave a tough time to the British. He was a Freedom Fighter belonging to the tribal group of Munda Tribe. He fought for the tribals of Bihar, who were seized of their lands by the British. Birsa revolted against the British through many protests and led the tribal uprising against the Colonial dictators.

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British Seize Tribal Lands

The Munda tribe of the Chotanagpur area in Bihar was part of the agrarian system during the British Rule. As the tribals were not able to get enough surplus due to lack of facilities, the British administration replaced them by non-tribal peasantry. These non-tribal farmers began cultivating the fields and the tribals were soon made to give up their lands. In many villages, the Mundas became ordinary farm labourers under superior landlords.

Movement led by Birsa

Birsa Munda spearheaded a movement in which the the Mundas asserted their ownership to the lands that originally belonged to them. Birsa Munda carried out many revolts against the British and sought the tribal lands back from the British and the middlemen.

Forced British to pass legislation

The Movement led by Birsa Munda brought together all the tribals to fight injustice meted out to them. The repeated efforts of the Birsa’s Movement forced the British Government to pass laws in favour of the Mundas, so that their land could not be taken away easily by others.

Arrest and Death

Birsa Munda was arrested by the British on 3rd February, 1900 and imprisoned at Ranchi Jail. He passed away while in Jail, under unknown circumstances on 9th June, 1900. The British government pronounced that he had died from Cholera, although no symptoms of the disease were found.

Legacy

Today, he is the only tribal leader whose portrait hangs in our Parliament Central Hall. The airport of the capital city of Jharkhand is known as Birsa Munda Airport.

Image result for birsa munda airport

Birsa Munda Airport

He is one of those freedom fighters who has left a permanent imprint on the minds of the people.

World Diabetes Day

World Diabetes Day was instituted by the World Health Organization and International Diabetes Federation in the year 1991, to be observed on November 14th ever year.  The day is observed all over the world on the birth anniversary of Fredrick Banting. Fredrick Banting along with Charles Best discovered insulin in 1922.

Diabetes 1

On World Diabetes Day

On World Diabetes Day, programs are organized on Diabetes awareness and relief.

Madhu Meham

Diabetes in Indian thought is called Madhu Meham. Madhu means sugar, sweet.

Prameha

Diabetes is also known as Prameha and is mentioned in Ayurvedic texts like Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita, Hareeta Samhita and Ashtanga Sangraha.

Charaka

Diabetes is discussed in great detail in Charaka Samhita. Charaka, the ancient Indian Physician mentions a diabetic affected person as a person passing sweet urine.

Diabetes 2

Charaka

Diabetes 3

Charaka Samhita

Ants attracted to Urine

One of the ways of identifying Diabetes, as mentioned by Charaka, is to see and observe whether ants are drawn to the urine sample of the patient.

Diabetes 4

Ants drawn to the Urine Sample

Charaka also mentions that Diabetes occurs due to insufficient produce of insulin by the Pancreas, and which has been testified by modern science.

Types of Diabetes

Ayurveda mentions 12 types of Diabetes. 12 are curable while 8 can be suppressed.

Sahaja and Apathya

According to the science of Ayurveda, Diabetes occurs due to two major factors, namely, Sahaja and Apathya.

Sahaja is mostly seen in lean people and happens due to Insulin deficiency.

Apathya is observed in obese, those with inappropriate diet habits and occurs due to increased glucose production.

Herbs for Diabetes

Ayurveda prescribes various herbs such to keep diabetes in control.

Herb Scientific Name
Amla Phyllanthus emblica
Musta Cyperus Rotendus
Karela Momardica charantia
Jambu Syzygum cumini
Asana Pterocarpus marsupium
Haridra Curcuma Longa

While diabetes is not fully curable, it is controllable. This has been a realization from time immemorial.

 

November – Time to Celebrate Children

Seeing God as a Child

One can see an expression of the Indian love for children in the manner in which they have idolized even their gods in the form of a child.

We thus see portrayals of Shiva as Bala Shiva, Rama as Bala Rama, Krishna as Bala Krishna, Ganesha as Bala Ganapathy, Karthikeya as Bala Muruga and Hanuman as Bala Hanuman.

                     

                      Bala Ganapathy                                                                     Bala Rama                                                  

Bala Muruga

Bala Krishna

    Bala Shiva

Godly Children

Indian legends, the Purana are replete with enjoyable stories of the acts of various divinities in their child like form, some among these divinities being Tattva, cosmic principles and some others being historic personages.

The history epic, Valmiki’s Ramayana contains portrayals of Lord Rama and His brothers as ideal children. Through the behavior and life of these historic and ideal children, the Ramayana conveys the message of obligations of brotherhood, obedience to parents and obeisance to teachers. It celebrates childhood as the budding point for all qualities displayed in later adulthood.

The other history epic, Vyasa’s Mahabharata, through the lives of the five Pandava and the 100 Kaurava brothers, brings to focus competitive spirit amongst children. It showcases how impressions both positive and negative, formed during childhood can assume far greater proportions and cause great impacts to society in years to follow. It alerts us of the propensity of children to retain impressions and emotions well into their lives.

Purana dealing with tattva divinities such as Ganesha, Kartikeya have portrayed them symbolically in child like forms and through symbolic stories of symbolic acts of these divinities, have conveyed principles of the cosmos, of mankind, of mind, of intellect and of ego to help elevate man’s thinking and behavior.

Yet other Purana have immortalized some of the children of long bygone eras, in the saga of the land for generations that have followed in the last many millennia. The story of the boy Sravana’s devotion to his parents, the story of Markandeya’s unshakeable faith in the divinity Shiva, even in the face of death are known to most, through the land, even in this day.

The Purana legends have also showcased scientific possibilities involving children and their upbringing. We thus have legends showcasing the ability of the foetus to grasp happenings and sounds outside the womb. The story of Prahalada showcases how he imbibed devotion towards Narayana while in his mother’s womb and carried it forth as a little boy. The story of Ashtavakra again highlights how Ashtavakra imbibed the Upanishad while in his mother’s womb and used it later to help his father in times of need. Yet again, the story of Abhimanyu reiterates how a child starts gaining knowledge right from the time it is in the womb of its mother.

The legend of Dhruva symbolically narrates the scientific phenomenon of precession of the earth and its effect on the pole star seen in the skies. It is a beautiful way in which the principles of astronomy have been woven into a simple legend.

Srimad Bhagavatham contains many anecdotes on the pranks played by Lord Krishna, His brother Balarama and their gang of friends, Gopa and Gopi. This text highlights the qualities of innocence as well as impishness in children. It celebrates children for the adorable and affable beings that they are.

Seeing God in a Child

Children by nature are mischievous. To be mischievous is an innate quality of children.

Krishna’s precocious pranks are part of the rich folklore of this land.

                              

                                                                     Krishna’s pranks

Krishna, His pranks and His lovable, playful ways, set the trend for how people regarded children, in the land of India across millennia.

This land, by culture, for the last 5,100 years since the times of Krishna, has viewed children as a replica of Krishna and has relished their pranks as they would Krishna’s. The mischief of children has rarely been associated with punishment and reprimanding. It has instead been eulogized and happily expressed as an imitation of Krishna.

Given this ethos, when elders admonish their children for their harmless pranks, it is not stern and wrathful. It has in it an admiration for their innocence and a tolerance with an understanding that by nature, children are given to their ways of pranks.

A culture that gives space for children to grow up with their mischief also automatically gives them the space to grow out of their mischief as a part of the transition from childhood to adolescence.

Holding Children in High Esteem

It is no wonder that various political, religious as well as social leaders have focused specially on the children in the society. They have not only showered affection on them, but they have also invested time and effort in grooming the children in society, in morals, ethics and values. We thus have in many languages, simple couplets composed specially for inculcating good conduct and values in children. These couplets served as the nursery rhymes in this civilization much before the British replaced them with theirs.

Children’s day celebrations are a facet of the high esteem in which this civilization holds the development of its children.  Classic examples of this commitment, even till a couple of centuries ago, can be seen from the quote of Brigadier General Alexander Walker of East India Company from 1780 to 1810.

Dedicating November 14th, the birth anniversary of prominent leader Jawaharlal Nehru, who was close to children, as Children’s Day, is a representative gesture of the high esteem in which children have been held through the ages.

 Nehru with children

It is a day for us to recognize the value of children, the values in children and the values that have to be taken to the children for the development of a valued society.

It is a day to rededicate ourselves to the cause and joys of children.