The Untold Status of Women in the Institution of Marriage: Understanding through the Philosophical Lens

Dr. Jayanti P Sahoo and Dr. Aparna Dhir Khandelwal


‘लड़की लोगों के लिए पूरी दुनिया सोचती है, बस यह नहीं पूछते कि वो क्या सोच रही है’

(A dialogue from the movie ‘Pagglait’ released in 2021)

Passing through the 21st century, women feel more confident and independent in terms of thoughts, choices, and finances but when it comes to the institution of marriage why our own traditional women happily adopting live-in culture or by-pass their legally wedded partner. From the land of Ṣṛī Rāma and Devī Sītā, why we found bitterness in relations that too specifically in the institution of marriage? These unanswered questions are drilling our society’s conventional foundation and polluting our new generation’s minds for happily accepting western culture. Numerous issues that are yelling and can be heard from our own neighbourhood stories are touching big figures in the form of pending cases from lower to higher courts.

It’s a wake-up call now, to understand why these issues are on rise. It is not about giving equality to women but to understand their priorities of life too as equable members of the family/society.   

When we address the institution of marriage philosophically, we take metaphysical, epistemological, logical, and ethical aspects into account. So far as the metaphysical aspect is concerned, it considers the objective truth. It starts with a realistic model with idealistic parameters where two conscious beings entered a relationship that is permanent, eternal, and everlasting. The authoritativeness is claimed through the texts which justifies the truth. The institution of marriage was highly-value-loaded and based on customary morality. The values are taken from the scriptures starting with the Śruti and followed by Smriti texts such as Rāmāyana and Māhābhārat, Purāṇas, and also the Āgamika texts.

चक्रवाकेव दम्पती

पति-पत्नी में चकवा-चकवी के समान परस्पर प्रेम हो।

(अथर्ववेद 14.2.64)

पुरुषो ह जायां  वित्त्वा कृत्स्नतरमिवात्मानं मन्यते

पुरुष पत्नी पाकर स्वयं को अधिक पूर्ण मानता है।

(ऐतरेय आरण्यक 1.3.5)

सन्तुष्टो भार्यया भर्ता भर्त्रा भार्या तथैव च। यस्मिन्नेव कुले नित्यं कल्याणं तत्र वै ध्रुवम्॥

हे गृहस्थो!  जिस कुल में भार्या से पति प्रसन्न और पति से भार्या सदा प्रसन्न रहती है, उसी कुल में निश्चित कल्याण होता है।

(मनुस्मृति 3.60)

Rāma is treated as Maryādā Purūśotaṁ and Sitā is treated as the most pious woman. And in real-life situations, the husband treats himself as Rāmachandra and his wife as Sitā. The relationship between Rāma and Sitā is based on the sacrifice made by Rāma to keep his father’s promises and Sitā equally followed the path of Svadharma or Patnī Dharma. Both are doing their duties in order to retain the metaphysical boundaries of the institution of marriage. Respect, keeping promises, sacrificing individual interests for social interests, and retaining family values are essential conditions upon which the institution of marriage is built.

There is no problem so far as the metaphysical explanation of marriage is concerned. The problem arises where the epistemological aspect is concerned. Though it appears to be good, the inside story is different. No more universal values exist.

The categorical imperatives of Immanuel Kant (German Philosopher) are very much practiced and followed to retain the sanctity of the institution of marriage. Initially, it is love, faith, and trust but after entering that relationship it becomes a moral obligation.

The perceptual analysis of marriage is a problematic area. The Chārvāka theory of perception cannot bring the truth of the institution of marriage. Nor even the Nyāya theory of perception which will provide a logical and rational explanation of the whole thing cannot provide us with the truth.

The choice left with us is an existential one. The witness consciousness of Advaita Vedanta will be able to address the problem and will also provide the path to resolve the gap between appearance and reality. In the 21st century relationships are going bitter day by day. There is neither Sat nor Cid nor Ananda. The relationships are based on value-loaded compromises. But these values have also changed with the passage of time. The conditionality has changed. The institution of marriage does recognize the work done by women but mostly the appreciation or the motivation is found to be negligible towards women. Whereas, it is often seen that man is the one who goes beyond family interest and communicates with the larger domain and thereby transcends himself, the woman accepts passivity and stagnation often. In other words, it can be said that the conditionality has never brought reciprocity between them. The substantial change in the social conditioning of the women have not reached to its highest level as still she is not considered as a complete individual by the society. The society always treats a man as a productive worker that enlarges his existence. The reason is that most of the time these relationships are based on the satisfaction of our biological desires and once the joy is over and the two married beings come into real-life, bitterness takes its place. The expectations are many but the mechanical lifestyle has created a gap. ‘Problems are many and vary from family to family, individual to individual, society to society, and culture to culture.’ There are many taboos imposed upon women inside the institution of marriage. The woman is the sufferer so also the man. Both parties suffer because of the conditionality they have created, as Buddha said.

Though the institution was started with the appreciation of the role of women it reaches a level where in most cases, matrimonial families don’t consider their daughter-in-law’s priorities or creativities as their own like those of their sons. For example- if a son wants to continue his studies, job, his passion even after marriage there’s no such pressure of fulfilling marriage obligations but at the same time if a daughter-in-law wants to pursue her studies, job, creative talents then there is always a question ‘who will take care of the family?’. Also, buying a property or a car or investing in funds or shares is generally not being discussed even in front of educated daughters-in-law of the family. Research tells us that men and women are often still exposed to different expectations from a young age. Women are often expected to be communal, which is typically reflected in caring for and nurturing others. There is more pressure on them to be “kin keepers” who manage relationships within the family and the community. Men are traditionally expected to be more agentic from a young age — rational, strategic, and assertive — even if this results in being less cooperative and considerate. But Today’s young men have a greater sense of shared responsibility for domestic life. Young men are realizing they have to do more at home than they traditionally did, and they want to do so. Of course, it might also be that men today are more inclined to expect and want their wives to work, both for income and for their wives’ professional fulfilment. Then from where the problem comes in? It actually happens because of the mindsets of the members of the family or society that treats a woman as an object which will not resolve the problem. The time has come not to prove who is right and who is wrong. Ethics will create more gaps as ethics is invoked by both sides.

Co-existent and Interdependence Model of Śūnyata doctrine

Since its inception, no one has ever put a serious reflection on the institution of marriage. The time has come to address the problem of not creating a negative set of ideas that revolves around biological desire but working through the Svatahpramanyavada model of Advaita Vedantic and the co-existent and interdependence model of Nagarjuna’s Śūnyata doctrine so that we can re-establish the traditional values. Diversity in Indian tradition is cherished. It reminds us of the Śūnyata doctrine of Nagarjuna which provides eight no’s

Nagarjuna in his Mādhyamika Karikā has described Śūnya as the symbol of the inexpressible. His analysis of Śūnya consists of ‘eight Nos’, such as:

Anirodham anūtpādam anūchedam asāsvatam /

Anekārtham anānārtham anāgamam anirgamam //MK

What is needed is acceptance, recognition, respect, assimilation, and care for each other so we can save the institution of marriage. This relationship demands human touch. Nobody should work in bad faith (Jean-Paul Sartre- knowing the truth and hiding the truth). If both treat each other as subjects and work for each other, not through the conditionality given by Buddha to understand sufferings (as understood by Hinayana), but through interdependence and co-dependence theory which add happiness (Nagarjuna Concept of Śūnyata). We can create relational wealth by understanding each other, surrendering our egos, and sharing and caring for each other. We can work through human desire. CAN WE??-Let’s begin our journey!

Dr. Jayanti P Sahoo, HOD & Associate Professor, Philosophy, JDM College, University of Delhi, Delhi &

Dr. Aparna Dhir Khandelwal, Assistant Professor, School of Indic Studies, INADS, Dartmouth, USA


Paūrāṇic Ganesha (Part-V)

Series on Ganesha the Great!

Dr. Dhananjay B. Ghare

(Continued from Part-IV)

This mini ‘one_act_play’ in english, is based on ‘11 chapters of Ganesha Geetā’ and is designed to convey the theoretical philosophical essence of ‘Ganesha Purāṇa’, compiled by sage Vyāsa in the form of a dialogue between ‘Lord Gajānana’ an incarnation of Lord Ganesha and his father (in this incarnation) King Vareṇya (as his disciple).


King Vareṇya:  I beg your pardon, for my foolish and highly cruel action under the influence of some foolish priests & ministers.

Lord Ganesha: My dear father, please feel relaxed. Such mad, cruel, silly actions happen due to blind beliefs and ignorance. Often, there is intellectual confusion about ‘true knowledge’ as against a mistaken recognition of ‘wrong knowledge’ as ‘true’ and valid. Further, any ‘Interpretation’ of Veda-shāstrokta advise, true and valid in one context, can be wrong and misleading in several other contexts or situations. Many times, a) wrong b) ignorantly performed or c) mischievously floated ‘motivated misinterpretations’ of Vedageetopanishadic verses are blindly believed as correct, appropriate and valid.

King Vareṇya: Oh, my dear son Ganesha, you are right. All my ministers, recognized as great scholars, misled me in carrying out a shameful sin. Please coach me in the correct and true knowledge.

सांख्य सारार्थ योग:

Lord Ganesha: My dear father, my intention in undertaking this ‘Gajānana’ incarnation is to unfold the knowledge compiled in ‘Ganesha Geetā’ containing knowledge about several alternative Yoga-techniques. These methods can be used for achieving a linking between oneself with myself as ‘Ganesha’. Literally, the word ‘Ganesha’ has several alternative meanings depending on the context. e.g. ‘Gaṇa’ can mean ‘a follower’. In that context, ‘Ganesha’ means the ‘Commander in chief’ of any set of followers. Mathematically, ‘Gaṇa’ can mean to count or compute. In that context, ‘Ganesha’ means the ‘Supreme God’ possessing divinely infinite computational capability to control all activities in all infinite numbers of Universes. This ‘Ganesha Geetā’ text will work as an illuminating light for all future human generations.

The word ‘Yoga’ is many times used to indicate the ‘probability’ of occasions of a) meeting together of friends, relatives, etc. or b) of events like getting married, getting awarded etc. But the ‘Yoga’ I am teaching you now, is about an ‘intellectually convinced’ ‘Mental State’ of getting permanently bonded with ‘Para Brahma’ or ‘Ultimate Universal Reality’ which is

  1. the original ‘Source’,
  2. the ever existing ‘Existence’ (presence) and
  3. the ultimate ‘Drain’ of all existences.

A person in such yogic spiritual state, realizes that he is not just his physical body, but is actually a part and parcel of the spiritual omnipresence in this entire universe (just like a drop of water belonging to an ocean).

ध्यायन्त: परमम् ब्रह्म   चित्ते योगवशीकृते | अनुग्रहाय लोकानाम् भ्रमन्ति धरणीतले (१.१५_१८)

Such saintly personalities (immersed in 24×7 meditation-based link with God Supreme) live and wander all over the world, just for helping all other mortals. Therefore, they do not get over-worried, deeply-saddened, unhappy or upset while facing unfortunate, bad-luck type events or circumstances. Nor do they get over-excited with joyful happiness, due to any gains or good-luck’s, fortune’s etc. Normally, persons first make a ‘desire’ and then they work towards fulfillment of such desires.

चिन्तयान् अस्य विषयान् सङ्ग: तेषु उपजायते | काम: सञ्जायते तस्मात् तत: क्रोधोभिजायते  (१.५९)

क्रोधात् अज्ञान सम्भूति:  विभ्रम: तु तत: स्मृते: | भ्रंशात्  स्मृते:  मते: ध्वंस: तद् ध्वंसात् सोऽपि नश्यति (१.६०)

The repeated fulfillment of one’s desires, leads to habits or addictions. Any ‘non fulfillment’ of addictions generates ‘anger’. Excessively angry mood generates intellectual confusion. This confusion or ignorance blocks or distorts memory, which leads to wrong ways of thinking patterns. This in turn, can lead to ‘destruction’ of that personality. The organs of one’s body are like horses of a ‘chariot’. They need to be properly trained, controlled and driven along the correctly desired direction and path. Loss of strong mental control over these horses, leads to conditions like that of a ‘boat’ left to wind, in the ocean.

कर्म योग:

King Vareṇya: All people are not intelligent enough to pursue the paths of knowledge (ज्ञान-योग, सांख्य-योग, बुद्धि-योग etc.). Many cannot retain conscious awareness in intellectual discrimination during performance of every activity.

Lord Ganesha: A person without matured knowledge (e.g. in childhood or during some sickness) or if born with lower intellectual capabilities, should learn to a) limit and control all his limited basic activities, b) get engaged only in selected minimum appropriate activities, c) the art of mental detachment with ‘personal profit or loss’ like calculations. Further, for ensuring ‘best possible performance’, one should consciously a) get intellectually involved and b) learn to ‘enjoy’. To ensure ‘success’ of his undertaken activities, one must follow a) correct step by step procedures, b) in appropriate order. In case of each ‘moral duty’ type activity, a) one should concentrate on ‘faithful implementation’, irrespective of it’s possible outcomes or results and b) one should not get discouraged by any incidental failures and must tenaciously pursue one’s involvement in such good activities.

ज्ञान् योग:

Every activity which is a) well planned and b) is being carried out with proper knowledge, can be considered as a ‘Yajña’. For the benefit of children (or ignorant), Vedic sages have recommended and prescribed the procedures of several such daily routine type Yajña activities, which are physically and spiritually credit worthy activities. E.g. ‘पञ्चमहायज्ञा:’ are recommended for daily routine performances. They are

  1. ब्रह्मयज्ञ study of Vedopanishadic, spiritual or contemporary knowledge.
  2. पितॄयज्ञ respectful services to elders and ancestors
  3. देवयज्ञ performance of any variety of worship (of Gods, Goddesses etc.), 
  4. भूतयज्ञ feeding any pets like dogs, cows, etc.
  5. मनुष्ययज्ञ (अतिथि सत्कार, अतिथि देवो भव) taking care of human guests.

None of these five ‘महायज्ञ’ activities involve fire and burning of anything in flames.  Burning off to smoke, bit by bit, is useful to maintain pleasantly warm climate and to sustain a source of fire or smoke for repelling flies, mosquitoes and wild animals etc. Participants in Yajña type cooperative events, make their own contributions with selfless attitudes and work towards ‘Success’ of such events. The laws of Mother Nature are binding to all natural divine forces (called as Vedic Gods देवाधीनम् जगत् सर्वम्  मन्त्राधीनम् च दैवतम् ). Activities involving such natural powers (e.g. wind mills, solar heaters, steam turbines etc.)  produce results as per these laws. If correctly planned and implemented, any Yajña type activity must result in success, e.g. setting up an industry to manufacture a desired product or establishment of a school or college etc.

अखिलै: विषयै: मुक्त:   ज्ञानविज्ञानवान् अपि |  यज्ञार्थम् तस्य सकलम्   कृतम् कर्म विलीयते  (३.२९)

Activities carried out with selfless spirit do not lead to bindings and expectations. All activities naturally occurring in this Universe, can be considered as a ‘Brahma Yajña’. In Vedopanishadic texts, a conceptually imagined ‘Leader’ or coordinator of these natural activities is called as Brahmā or Brahmadeva. Most of these natural activities are rhythmically repetitive with their own periodicity. E.g. a) day and night b) month c) seasons d) year etc.

संन्यास योग:

As per one’s age and health requirements, everyone should practice renunciation from every currently irrelevant useless activity. Performance of duties and responsibilities, (without classifying them as good, bad etc.), is spiritually creditable and should never be abandoned. Non-performance of duties, even if they are classifiable as ‘bad’ (like punishing a thief or hanging a properly sentenced criminal) leads to acquisition of sin.

तत्ववित् योग युक्तात्मा   पुण्य_पापै: न लिप्यते |  त्यक्त्वाशाम् कर्म कुर्वन्ति   योगज्ञा:  चित्तशुद्धये (४.८-१०)

Saintly persons perform every (consciously performed) action in one’s life, from a) eating food when hungry or b) sleeping or resting when tired c) study of spiritual texts and worshiping any Gods or d) donating any funds for a good reason etc. as their contribution to the ‘Brahma Yajña’ and never claim any selfish personal credit (nor expect returns) for these performances. This is one of the best ways for living a) in grateful touch and b) linked and bonded with Mother Nature (प्रकृति), also called as ‘God Supreme’ (पुरुष).

(to be continued…)

Dr. Dhananjay B. Ghare, Former Scientist, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru

The Unconscionable Constitution of the Republic of India

– Prof. Bal Ram Singh

As we celebrate the 74th Republic Day (Ganatantra Divas) of India, it may be just about the time to reflect upon its origin, inspiration, and adoption of the Indian constitution by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949, and went into effect on January 26, 1950.

Indian constitution, perhaps the largest of any constitution in the world, in large part borrowed from other countries, that too mostly from the Western nations. Looking at an online website of an educational service for candidates appearing in the Indian Administrative service exam one can see the sources of the Indian constitution, from Preamble to administrative details, mostly being from outside, including the 1935 Government of India Act enacted by the British.

Much of the Indian laws are still from the British colonial days, despite the fact that the Indian Constituent assembly consisting of 293 members, including 15 women, (commenced on December 6, 1947) met for about two years to draft and adopt the Indian constitution (November 26, 1949). It had members from the Congress Party which had a majority, Muslim League, Scheduled Caste Federation, the Indian Communist Party, and the Union Party. There is much to discuss about various aspects of the Indian constitution, but just focusing on the Preamble of the constitution that has garnered continuous debate on its value, especially regarding its amendment to include the two words – Socialist Secular, as in the following:

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;

EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;

and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;


As shown in the Table, it is believed the Preamble is borrowed from the US and French constitution. However, tenors of the preambles of those constitutions are more empowered and emphatic than that of the Indian constitution.

For example, although Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity (kind of) is supposed to be derived from the French constitution, French themselves did not place it within their Preamble. “The preamble of the constitution recalls the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen from 1789 and establishes France as a secular and democratic country, deriving its sovereignty from the people.” In fact, French have struggled with this concept within their history, and had a slightly different twist to it. “It (the symbol of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity; in fact, “Unity, indivisibility of the Republic: liberty, equality or death”) returned during the Revolution in 1848, which defined it as a principle of the Republic, enshrined in its constitution. The Church then accepted this triad as a summary of Christian values: priests celebrate fraternity with Christ and bless Liberty Trees.” It just goes a long way to show that a Secular constitution finds acceptability of liberty and fraternity, because it is in accordance with the Christian values. But more important element is the equality, which is so important that either equality (egalite) or death (mort). It is akin to something like Pran Jayn Par Vachan Na Jayi (preferring death to one not being able to keep one’s word).

Most likely, some of these concepts also were derived from the intellectual borrowing from the academic world of the Western scholars with whom stalwarts like Dr. BR Ambedkar had interacted. Ambedkar’s thought was deeply etched by the ideas of John Dewey of the Columbia University, professor he was very influenced with, for education as linked to experience, as practical and contextual, and the ideas of freedom and equality as essentially tied with the ideals of justice and of fraternity, a concept he would go on to apply to the Indian context, and to his pointed criticism of the caste system.

The preamble of the US Constitution (which is among the shortest in the world) on the other hand emphasizes perfection through justice, tranquility, defense, welfare, and liberty, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

These reflect the struggles these countries had for their values in their history, and thus gel with their tenor. India, on the other hand, retained its slavery to the colonial powers even in framing their constitution. Nothing about the Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam to encompass its diversity, nothing about the Satyameva Jayate that adores its national emblem, and nothing about Ekam Satya Viprah Bahudha Vadanti that was even quoted by the UN General Secretary, Koffi Annan, in his Nobel Peace Prize speech in 2001. Even more pathetic situation has been the lack of any discussion and debate even as the country is touted as the largest democracy, largest constitution, the most ancient civilization, and potential revival of the Vishwa Guru status!

Still, there has been a substantial debate on Indian constitution related to the substantial amount of remnant British laws still in the books, but none more than that is related to the introduction of the terms socialist secular as part of the 42nd amendment in December 1976. Part of the controversy is due to the fact that it was passed during the emergency period imposed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. But the substantial part of the opposition is for the addition of word ‘Secular’ in the preamble. While politicians generally act only when it has some electoral advantages, there is no evidence of any electoral advantage Mrs. Gandhi could reap by introducing the ‘Secular’ word in the preamble. It could be an intellectual or philosophical awakening, international pressure, or diversion strategy that forced Mrs. Gandhi to introduce such a step that actually had no measurable meaning, especially in view of the Article 51A that exhorted citizens to develop a scientific temper. A scientific temper means any and every belief can be questions with all due respects.

For the inclusion of secular in the preamble, MS Yazdani in piece in The Daily Guardian opines (October, 13, 2021) that, “The addition of the term ‘Secular’ to the preamble of the constitution established secularism as a part of the basic structure which essentially means that because of its fundamental element, the secular nature of the Indian constitution cannot be altered by any act.” That tactic makes sense, but unfortunately, Indian intellectuals are such a servile class that they are a ready master’s voices to justify any even good idea without grasping and clasping, but certainly with rasping.

The case of S. R. Bommai vs. Union of India is cited as a landmark case when it comes to establishing the basic definition of secularism in India. There, the Supreme Court stated, “The term ‘Secular’ has advisedly not been defined presumably because it is a very elastic term not capable of a precise definition and perhaps best left undefined. By this amendment what was implicit was made explicit.” Well.. well.. well.. My Lord may, in fact, a take a lesson or two in English origin of the word ‘Secular’. A problem with Indian intelligentsia and ruling structure is that they blindly follow, not translate, the English words, by going into their origin to separate the chaff from the grain, so to speak. A fairly simple look at the etymology of ‘Secular’ makes it abundantly clear. The ‘Secular’ word comes from Latin saeculum or Saecularis, both referring to relating to age, time, or generation. Its original meaning has almost nothing to do with religion, except it was applied to describe the rigid and old ways of Christianity.

In fact, ‘Secular’ word has been used regularly in other fields of studies, such as biology, sociology, geology, life sciences, etc. For example, an author of a work in medical anthropology explains the meaning of ‘Secular’ for the discipline of biology:

“A secular trend is a gradual, unidirectional change in a characteristic over time. The word “secular” is related to the Latin word for “century” (saeculum); therefore, a secular trend is one that takes place over one hundred years or over two or three generations. For example, ages at menarche have become earlier over time (Eveleth and Tanner) and height has increased over time (Bogin). (Shook, J., 2020. The Meaning of ‘Secular’ as a Scientific ConceptSecularism and Nonreligion, 9, p.1).

Therefore, Secular basically means that everything, including scientific approach political system, social structure, educational formats, etc. need to updated regularly, and one should apply the same to the religions, rather than making them sanctimonious!

Prof. Bal Ram Singh, School of Indic Studies and Botulinum Research Center, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, USA

Dravidian Origin of Makar Sankrānti and Much of Indian and World Culture

Ayodhya Nanihal Series. III

Prof. Bal Ram Singh

Makar Sankrānti is celebrated when the Sun enters the constellation of Capricorn from Sagitarius, and according to the Vedic zodiac this phenomenon happens on January 14/15 every year, and is celebrated as the dawn of the Uttarāyan movement of the Sun.

According to the Bhagvadgītā’s Chapter 8 –

अग्निर्ज्योतिरह: शुक्ल: षण्मासा उत्तरायणम् |
तत्र प्रयाता गच्छन्ति ब्रह्म ब्रह्मविदो जना: ||24||

agnir jyotir ahaḥ śuklaḥ ṣaṇmāsā uttarāyaṇam
tatra prayātā gacchanti brahma brahmavido janāḥā

धूमो रात्रिस्तथा कृष्ण: षण्मासा दक्षिणायनम् |
तत्र चान्द्रमसं ज्योतिर्योगी प्राप्य निवर्तते ||25||

dhūmo rātristathā kṛiṣhṇaḥ ṣaṇmāsā dakṣhiṇāyanam
tatra cāndramasaṁ jyotiryogī prāpya nivartate

शुक्लकृष्णे गती ह्येते जगत: शाश्वते मते |
एकया यात्यनावृत्तिमन्ययावर्तते पुन: ||26||

Śukla-kṛiṣhṇe gatī hyete jagataḥ śāśvate mate
ekayā yātyanāvṛittim anyayāvartate punaḥ

Meaning (Bhagvad Gita, Commentary by Swami Muktananda), Those who know the Supreme Brahman and who depart from this world, during the six months of the sun’s northern course, the bright fortnight of the moon, and the bright part of the day, attain the supreme destination. The practitioners of Vedic rituals, who pass away during the six months of the sun’s southern course, the dark fortnight of the moon, the time of smoke, the night, attain the celestial abodes. After enjoying celestial pleasures, they again return to the earth. These two, bright and dark paths, always exist in this world. The way of light leads to liberation and the way of darkness leads to rebirth.

Thus, Uttarāyan movement of the Sun is very auspicious, and it is stated in Māhābhārata that Pitāmāhā Bhīshma waited 58 days for this occasion on the bed of arrows to depart from the Earth. It is somewhat connected to the Winter Solstice that currently occurs on December 21/22, and the difference may be due to the use of Gregorian calendar, according to an article by Kartik Chaturvedi (The Astronomical Significance of Makar Sankranti, Science, February 13, 2022).

Makar Sankrānti is celebrated throughout India, albeit with a regional and local tinge to it, in terms of names, such as Thai Pongal (Tamil Nadu), Uttarāyan (Gujarat), Lohri (Punjab), Poush sôngkrānti (Bengal), Suggi Habba (Karnataka), Makara Chaula (Odisha), Maghi Sankrānt (Maharashtra and Haryana), Magh/Bhogali Bihu (Assam), Shishur Saenkraat (Kashmir), and Khichdi Parv (UP and Bihar). Interestingly, one thing is common in its celebration, from south to north and from east to west, and that is a rice dish, mostly called khichadi or Pongal. The question is where did this tradition begin and how far it has traveled?

India is arguably one of the most ancient countries of the world, and a country that is at least civilizationally the origin of the most of the world population. There are two lines of evidences to support India’s ancientness and its connection with the remaining world civilizations. One is the population genetics data that shows the origin of the human race in the central part of Africa, over 2,00,000 years ago.  Over 70,000 years ago humans in large chunks began to migrate to India. In an article entitled ‘Out of Africa, into India’ it has been asserted that human migration to India may have been more than coincidental. The other being the cultural one that includes language, food, and dress.

For the timeline of the population genetics data, it may be noted that according to Indian cosmology, a kalpa consists of fourteen manavantaras, each with seventy-one Yugas of 12,000 years. At present we are living in the 28th of Yuga of the 7th manavantara. Every Yuga sees pralaya (deluge) and srishti (creation). There is no equivalent day of reckoning like other biblical religions in Hindu cosmology or mythology. This makes human civilization about 5,448,000 years old, which is in the range of around 2 million years supported by modern scientific calculations. Every manvantara has its own Manu. At present, the progenies of Vaivasvata Manu, are in the existence since 336,000 years (Singh, 2022: “Land of Ayurveda, India, That Was, That is, and That Could Be”…, Ayurveda Journal of Health, Volume 20, pp. 32-40). The word ‘Manu’ is interesting, as later words like manava, manusya, or even ‘man’ or ‘Adam’ (from ‘Ādimanu’) of English language are derived from the same root. So, linguistically this credits India as the cradle of human race.

According to various texts (for example, The Matsya Purāṇa, A Study By V. R. Ramachandra Dikshitar, M.A., Lecturer In Indian History, University of Madras, 1935),  Vaivasvata Manu is supposed to have founded the kingdom of Ayodhyā, on the bank of Saryu river, as his son Ikshavāku is the originator of the Suryavaṅśa or the solar dynasty, and his another son, Ila is believed to be the originator of the Chandravaṅśa or the Lunar dynasty. After the Vānaprastha, he and his queen Śatarupā are supposed to have retired for his tapasyā in the forest, which is in the Avadh region.

Evidently, this makes Ayodhyā as the first city of human civilization and her language Avadhi, as the spring-well of all later languages of the world. Although, some tend to credit Vedic Sanskrit as the oldest language (or even devabhāṣa), but the classical Sanskrit (literary, the purified, or perfected, or cultivated, or adorned), as we know it today, was organized by Māhāṛṣi Pāṇini only around 2500 years ago. Even Vedic Sanskrit could not be more than 30,000 years old. Linguists, therefore, are in favour of considering more germane languages like Prākrit, with Avadhi and Tamil variations in North and South India. There is a reference in the Matsya Purāṇa, which suggests Vaivasvata Manu of Dravidian origin, who moved to Ayodhyā during the epochal deluge (Singh, 2021: “A New Narrative of Ayodhya as the Nanihal of Humanity,” Vedic Waves blog, August 6, 2021) .

As per Dikshitar (1935), “The origin and date of the Matsya Purāṇa have long been a matter of speculation among scholars. Orthodox tradition has it that this Purāṇa was revealed originally by Lord Viṣṇu in the form’ of a fish to Vaivasvata Manu, the first king of the solar dynasty who survived the deluge (Pralaya) which resulted in a partial dissolution of the world and not in its total annihilation. In this connection, two legends, the legend of the flood and the legend of the incarnation of Viṣṇu as fish require a careful investigation.” Further (Dikshitar, 1935), “according to the Matsya Purāṇa the place where Manu, the hero eponymos of the Vedic mythology and son of Aditya Vivasvat, performed his penance, is the Malaya Hill in South India. This receives further corroboration from the Bhāgavata Purāṇa where reference is made to the king of the Dravida-desa in connection with the Deluge. This theory gains further support, if the five tribes of the ṚgVeda, who are supposed to be the offspring of Father Manu, bear any affinity to the five natural geographical divisions of the territory to which the Tamil Sangam Literature makes such pointed reference. The geographical divisions of people, according to Tamil literature are maritime, hilly, sandy, agricultural and forest.” Elsewhere, it is stated that the purpose of this Matsya incarnation of Viṣṇu is said to be to recover the Vedas or revealed texts after slaying the demon Hayagriva who had stolen them.” The names in this account are not Manu and Malaya. But it is Satyavrata, the royal sage, the king of Dravida-desa. Thus, the Dravidian origin of the King Manu has a preponderance of the textual reference. The question is what cultural connection can be established between the Dravidian King Manu and the Manu of Ayodhyā in north India. One thing, there are some common words between Tamil and Avadhi and Tamil, such as Amma for mother, Appa/Bappa for father, and peculiarly Pillu for little babies.

However, a most compelling case is made for the celebration of Makar Sankrānti. While it is known as Pongal in Tamil Nadu, the dish for the celebration of the festival is prepared from rice, just like the Khichadi in north, particularly the Avadh region. The festivals in India are mostly celebrated at some harvest, especially when a specific food is served at the festival. The rice crop in north India is harvested in November, so a January celebration for a rice crop does not make any appropriate sense. However, it is a recent discovery for me to learn that in Tamil Nadu there is a rice crop in January. It is, therefore, quite likely that rice dish tradition was imported along with King Manu, making the Dravidian origin of the Manu more strongly established.

This finding may have more implications than simply a festival, as the Dravidian origin of Indian culture and civilization will have social, political, linguistic, and dhārmic repercussions, and will completely destroy the concepts of Aryan Invasion Theory mooted by the British for a long time. There will be questions about Sanskrit or the Tamil being the most ancient language, and finally it will explain the most authentic Hindu practices in India being that of the Tamil or South India origin. Much research and analysis is further needed.

Interestingly, in a genetic study by National Geographic Society (See, Singh, 2021, above) it has been proven that human population initially migrated from Africa to the Indian Subcontinent, and that too, first to the South India, and then from here to everywhere else, making India as the main source of human migration some 65,000 years ago.

This may provide further cultural and linguistic connections with Ayodhyā and Avadhi to the many parts of the world. Avadhi, thus, becomes a prime source of many languages. Exploring links between literature of Avadhi and other languages could provide whole new gamut of research. For example,

Avadhi language, therefore, not just be a source of speech in the world but also culture, a culture of a civilization that still brings out passion in India, and, indeed, throughout the world. It will be wonderful to examine the cultural connection of India throughout the world. I recently learned from one of my associates in the United States, Mr. Paul Lindo, who mentioned that as per his family tradition, he used to touch the feet of his grandfather as a mark of paying respect, something that is seen as a very common practice in India. In addition, it is notable that Italians have a rice dish called Risotto, which is uncannily similar to Pongal, and also to Khichadi. A colleague from some 30 years ago, now Prof. Giampietro Schiavo at the University College London, had mentioned that many people in Italy, particularly in southern Italy claim to have come from India.

More interestingly, during my recent visit to Milano, Italy, I surprisingly encountered a bookstore name after Mandodari. The owner of the bookstore had no clue to its meaning or connection to India. There is so much to research, there is so much to learn, and there is so much to share about the Indian culture, traditions, and the history. Makar Sankrānti provides just a beginning, perhaps from its traditional value of hopefully an auspicious beginning!

Wish you all a happy, purposeful, and meaningful Makar Sankrānti!

Prof. Bal Ram Singh, School of Indic Studies and Botulinum Research Center, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, USA

Paūrāṇic Ganesha (Part-IV)

Series on Ganesha the Great!

Dr. Dhananjay B. Ghare

(Continued from Part-III)

This mini ‘one_act_play’ in english, is designed to convey this theoretical, as well as, the symbolic stories-based information about Lord Ganesha, as found in the text ‘Ganesha Purāṇa’.

ध्यायेत् सिंहगतम् विनायकममुम् दिग्बाहुम् आद्ये युगे

त्रेतायाम् तु मयूर वाहनममुम् षड् बाहुकम् सिद्धिदम् |

द्वापारे तु गजाननम्  युगभुजम् रक्ताङ्गरागम् विभुम्

तुर्ये तु द्विभुजम् सिताङ्ग रुचिरम् सर्वार्थदम् सर्वदा  

(गणेश कवच, गणेश पुराण)

Vyāsa : Oh Grandpā, please brief me about some important incarnations of Lord Ganesha.

Brahmadeva : My son, in the first ‘Kṛutayuga’ (कॄत युग) period, a pair of handsome twins called ‘Devāntaka’ (देवान्तक) and ‘Narāntaka’ (नरान्तक) were born to a brahmin scholar ‘Raūdraketu’ (रौद्रकेतु) and his wife ‘Shāradā’ (शारदा). After hard penance, the twin brothers received boons from Lord Śiva and became very powerful and virtually invincible. Even though they were born to a great Vedic scholar, due to their blown-up ego and greedy selfish motives, they slowly got diverted from the path of truth and morality and established their demonic tyrannic rule in all the three lokas (त्रैलोक्य = भूमि, स्वर्ग, पाताल). Lord Ganesha then got born as the son of Sage Kashyapa (कश्यप) and his wife Aditi (अदिति). This incarnation was named ‘Mahotkaṭa’ (महोत्कट) and his favorite ‘Ride’ vāhana was Lion. Symbolically this ride ‘Lion’ represents the sets of ‘Moral Laws of Behavior’, naturally fixed by the Mother Nature. These sets are tuned for every kind of living species, e.g., this ‘Set of Laws’ is different for a) a lion as against a cow, or b) a King as against a sage, or c) a child student as against a matured teacher, etc. Riding on the Lion, ‘Mahotkaṭa’ (Vināyaka Gajānana), confronted and killed ‘Narāntaka’ by crushing him under his thumb like a ‘bug’. Then, when the powerful ‘Devāntaka’ pulled out one of his two elephant’s tooth, he snatched the tooth back from his hands and killed the demon by repeated hitting and breaking his head to pieces using that same tooth like a hammer.

Vyāsa : Oh Grandpā, great. This is how Lord Ganesha then became famous by the name ‘Ekadanta’, isn’t it?

Bramadeva : Yes, My son. You are right. Later in the next ‘Tretāyuga’ (त्रेता युग) period, King ‘Chakrapāṇi’ (चक्रपाणि) and his queen ‘Ugrā’ (उग्रा) conducted hard penance for pleasing Lord Sun and the queen became pregnant with a spark of Lord Sun (received by her as his blessings). However, the queen could not bear the radiance of the fetus and she secretly dropped it on the sea shore. Lord Varuṇa therefore took care of the (forcibly aborted baby) prince till he grew to childhood. Then he handed over the child to his father King Chakrapāṇi, for taking care of his education appropriate for a ‘Prince’. King Chakrapāṇi named the prince as ‘Sindhū’ (सिन्धू), the gift of Lord Sea and got him trained appropriately for a ‘Prince’. Lord Sun was very fond of this son and granted several boons and placed a secret bottle of nectar in his stomach, which made him very powerful and nearly impossible to get killed. However, this extraordinary level of power was used by Sindhū to rule the ‘traīlokya’ (स्वर्ग, मॄत्यु, पाताल), in his greedy selfish demonic fashion. Lord Ganesha then took the ‘Gajānana’ incarnation as the son of Goddess Pārvatī. Then, riding on a divine Peacock (मयूर) he killed the demonic Sindhū, using his Axe Paraśu, which busted the nectar bottle hidden in his stomach. He was then called as ‘Mayūreshvara’ (मयूरेश्वर). This idol of ‘Mayūreshvara’ is installed as the deity in one of the temples, among the famous ‘Aṣṭa-Vināyaka’ temples. This temple is located at Morgaon near Pune.

Vyāsa : Oh Grandpā, it is very interesting. But then why is a mouse popularly recognized as the ‘Ride’ of Lord Ganesha?

Brahmadeva : My son, in the later ‘Dwāparyuga’ (द्वापर_युग) period, once Lord Śiva instinctively visited Satya-loka and happened to awaken Lord Brahmadeva from his deep sleep. A beautiful red colored demon took birth out of an instantaneous ‘Yawn’ experienced by Lord Brahmadeva, during getting awakened. Out of an appreciation of his handsome personality with a pleasing reddish complexion and form, Lord Brahmā named this baby son as ‘Sindūra’ (सिन्दूर). Further, out of my blind fatherly love, I myself (Lord Brahmadeva) unnecessarily sanctioned several boons to that immature baby son. One of the boon was, he can kill anybody by just hugging him forcefully. The demon was pleased and instinctively wanted to try this boon, on me, his own father, who had granted him all so many boons. When I realized this demonic instinct in him, I ran away and cursed him that he will get crushed and killed by Lord Gajānana.

King ‘Vareṇya’ (वरेण्य) and his queen ‘Pushpāvatī’ (पुष्पावती) had carried out penance and got the boon that Lord Ganesha will get born as their son. In Kailāśa-loka, Goddess Pārvatī had delivered a baby but was actually quite upset with the ‘funny looking’ personality of her son with the huge head (गजानन), huge belly (लम्बोदर) and a bent mouth (वक्रतुण्ड) like an elephant’s trunk. Lord Ganesha therefore inspired Lord Śiva to order Lord Nandikeśvara, to carry this infant Gajānana incarnation and place him on the bed, by the side of the sleeping queen Pushpāvatī. The royal family members were however terribly upset by the news that the queen had given birth to an abnormal child with the head of an elephant. The Royal priests proclaimed that the child was ‘inhuman’, inauspicious (अपशकुनी) and was a great risk to the welfare of the royal family, as well as, the state’s population. On the chorus of bad advice of such foolish priests and mad ministers, King Vareṇya inhumanly ordered that the infant should be abandoned in a thick forest. By divine planning, Sage Parāshara (पराशर) happened to hear the cry of the divine infant and carried him to his hermitage. He loved him like his son. Once a divine gandharva called ‘Krauñca’ (क्रौञ्च) happened to get cursed to become a mouse. This huge mouse caused havoc in the hermitage of sage Parāshara. The child Lord Gajānana therefore tamed this huge mouse and forced him to become his ‘Ride’. Then riding on this mouse, he challenged demon Sindūra and assuming a virāṭa svaroopa or infinitely huge universe size form (विराट-विश्वरूप स्वरूप), the Lord crushed the demon by a hugging embrace. His whole body therefore became smeared with red color, due to the red color of ‘Sindūrāsura’ and his blood. All gods and sages and kings appreciated this valorous deed of child Gajānana. King Vareṇya who attended these felicitations, remembered & recognized the child, as his mistakenly abandoned son. He therefore requested the Lord for pardoning him for his foolish behavior under the influence of his foolish priests and ministers. He also requested his son to educate him in ‘true knowledge’. Lord Gajānana therefore preached ‘Ganesha Gītā’ (गणेश गीता) to his father disciple, King Vareṇya.

Vyāsa : Oh Grandpā, I am most obliged to you for this great information about Lord Ganesha. I shall now conduct penance and observe ‘Vināyakī’ and ‘Sankaṣṭa-haraṇa Chaturthīvratācaraṇa rituals to please him and get boons from him.

Brahmadeva : My son, it was my pleasure to recollect and speak about the Lord Ganesha and some of his important incarnations.

(to be continued…)

Dr. Dhananjay B. Ghare, Former Scientist, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru

Paūrāṇic Ganesha (Part-III)

Series on Ganesha the Great!

Dr. Dhananjay B. Ghare

(Continued from Part-II)

This mini ‘one_act_play’ in english, is designed to convey this theoretical, as well as, the symbolic stories-based information about Lord Ganesha, as found in the text ‘Ganesha Purāṇa’.

जेतुम् य: त्रिपुरम् हरेण, हरिणा व्याजात् बलिम् बध्नता |

स्रष्टुम् वारिभवोद्भवेन भुवनम् शेषेण धर्तुम् धराम् ||

पार्वत्या महिषासुर प्रमथने सिद्धाधिपै: सिद्धये |

ध्यात: पञ्चशरेण विश्वजितये पायात् नागानन: ||

Vyāsa : Oh Grandpā, Please tell me how did Lord Ganesha took his incarnation as ‘Umāputra’, ‘Gajānana’.

Brahmadeva : My son, please listen to that interesting and spiritually highly symbolic story very carefully. In fact, ‘Ganesha’ as the ‘Divine, infinite and instantaneous computational capability’ of Mother Nature, is Omnitime, Omnipresent (कालत्रयातीत मूलाधार: स्थितोऽसि नित्यम्) and does not have any physically visible shape. The ‘Elephant-head’, i.e., ‘Gajānana’ is his symbolic visible representation, which is easier to ‘carve-out’ or ‘mold’ in the form of an idol for purposes such as i) installation in the temples or in celebration pendant halls, or in the household worship rooms etc. and ii) convenience in carrying out rituals like the Ṣodaśopachāra pūjā vidhī ’ (षोडशोपचार_पूजा) 16-step worship etc. In Ganesha Purāṇa, during the performance of a month long मास-व्रत (Māsa Vrata) from श्रावण शुक्ल चतुर्थी (Śrāvaṇa Śukla Chaturthī) to भाद्रपद शुक्ल चतुर्थी (Bhādrapada Śukla Chaturthī), Goddess Pārvatī is described as creating such a new idol, for her worship every day, out of the (locally easily available materials like) wet soil or thick mud-sand-paste, on the bank of the river or lake, wherever she used to bathe. After completing the worship, she used to immerse that muddy-idol in the water, to let the idol get decayed and destroyed by waves of water.

Vyāsa : Oh Grandpā, it is very interesting. Even today, people should actually encourage their children to create such idol out of mud-sand sludge, instead of purchasing them in the market. The children will enjoy this play of such ‘idol-creations’, boosting their imaginative creativity every day (or at least once in a year, on the occasion of the Ganesha Chaturthī). Further, please explain to me, about how this symbolic form of a ‘Gajānana’ coupled with his other ‘physical attributes-based names’, such as ‘Lambodara’, ‘Brahmānḍodara’, ‘Ekadanta’ etc. have symbolic theoretical representations.

Brahmadeva : My son, ‘Mathematical-Computations’ is believed to be an intellectual capability. The intellect is again believed to reside in the ‘brain’, which is located in the ‘head’. Among all living species, the ‘Gaja’ means ‘Elephant’ has the largest size of ‘Ānana’ or head. Therefore, an Elephant’s head has been chosen by the Vedic sages, to symbolically represent the head of Lord Ganesha.

Vyāsa : Oh Grandpā, It is really a great poetic, as well as, very practical symbolization.

Brahmadeva : Further, the Vedic sages have also a symbolic ‘spiritual significance’, to this huge elephant-head (गज-आनन) as well as, the huge-spheroidal-belly (लम्बोदर, ब्रह्माण्डोदर) of Lord Ganesha. The Vedic three supreme divine powers, Lords a) Brahmā, b) Viṣṇu and c) Śiva (Maheśa) symbolically represent the three subtle shapeless moral characteristics (सत्व, रज, & तम – त्रिगुण) possessed by the ‘Spirit’ or ‘Atmā’ of every living species. Further, they also simultaneously represent the three physical characteristics of a) birth or generation, b) maintenance or existence for a certain life-span period and c) the ‘aging’ resulting in ‘end’ or destruction or death or dissolution, (उत्पत्ति, स्थिति & लय) of every living-species, as well as, nonliving objects. However, both varieties of these (त्रिगुण ) Triplet characteristics are neither visible to human eyes in any shape or form (like stars, animals, mountains, rivers etc.), nor can they be sensed by the five human sense organs (viz. touch, smell, vision, taste & hearing) or even by any human tools or instruments. They can only be visualized and understood by human ‘Intellect’, the symbolic wife of Lord Ganesha, invisibly residing within each living species. Therefore, they are categorized by the Vedic sages as undetectable or un-sensable and shapeless (निर्गुण, निराकार) forms of ‘Natural Existence’, called ‘ब्रह्म’.

On the other hand, a) the nonliving bodies like the stars, galaxies, trees, mountains, rivers, etc. along with b) the physical bodies of any living species, are either visible to the human eyes or are detectable by the instruments (like microscopes, telescopes etc.). Their shapes and sizes can be seen, measured and counted (like the red or white blood cells of different varieties, in the microscopic blood analysis). The size and shape of this entire universe which has emerged as a consequence of the latest ‘Big-Bang’ explosion, has been estimated (using telescopic observations and mathematical computations etc.) to be like a huge spheroidal egg (ब्रह्माण्ड). This visible or detectable presence of our universe, is therefore categorized by the Vedic sages as a ‘Natural Existence’ possessing ‘detectable-characteristics’ (सगुण, साकार ब्रह्म). The Head of ‘Gajānana’ is recognized to represent the characteristics-less Nirguna Brahma’, while his huge belly is recognized to represent the huge spheroidal shape of Saguna Brahma or ‘Our Universe’. The bent ‘Trunk’, overlapping both these (सगुण & निर्गुण) formats, is considered as the ‘tie-up-link’ between these two ‘characteristics-possessing’ and ‘characteristics-less’ formats of the ‘Natural Existences’ called ‘Para Brahma.

Vyāsa : Oh Grandpā, it is really a great spiritually-symbolic-intelligent representation.

Brahmadeva : My son, Lord Ganesha’s favorite sweet is ‘मोदक’ meaning ‘happiness’. He is shown holding it in one of his hands, in his symbolic statues or pictures. In practice, ‘Modaka’ is a sweet item prepared using wheat or rice floor, coconut, milk and sugar, and then cooked by either frying in ghee (or oil) or steaming by hot water vapor in a cooker. It is very tasty as well as, a very well balanced nutritious and healthy food. In a popular four-hand-idol (चतुर्भुज), other three hands are shown to hold

i) A ‘wide axe’ (परशू) representing logical (yes/no or right/wrong type) intelligent ‘discriminating power’,

ii) A ‘noose loop’ (पाश) representing his divine capability to determine the ‘law adherence’ and execute control on developments, using mathematical equation type formulas of every law of mother nature and

iii) A ‘pointed needle type tool’ (अंकुश) representing his divine capability to control every event happening in the entire universe and lead the universe to grow in age and proceed only as per his desired mathematically assessable & forecastable directions.

His residential abode is called as ‘स्वानन्द-लोक’ meaning the hypothetical ‘space’ of ‘self-reliant happiness’. ‘Shubha’ (शुभ meaning Auspiciousness alias क्षेम meaning Austere physical & emotional ‘well-being’) and ‘Lābha’ (लाभ meaning profit or gain or advantage) are regarded as the two symbolic sons of Lord Ganesha. Goddess Santoṣī Mātā (meaning and representing ‘Mental Satisfaction’ सन्तोष, तॄप्ति) is recognized as his symbolic daughter.

Vyāsa : Oh Grandpā, thanks for enlightening me with a lot of symbolic spiritual knowledge about Lord Ganesha and his children. Now please tell me about some of the symbolic and enchanting stories associated with the incarnations of Lord Ganesha, especially his ‘Elephant head’ (Gajānana), incarnation as the son of Goddess Pārvatī.

Brahmadeva : My son, as per the Vedopaniṣadic and Paurāṇic literature, and as prophesied in the Bhagavadgītā and Ganesha Gītā such incarnations take place with the motivation of

a) guarding the saintly,

b) punishing the tyrants and

c) re-establish the moral pattern of behavior

साधून् संरक्षितुम् दुष्टान्  ताडितुम् सम्भवाम्यहम् | Ganesha Gītā 3.10

परित्राणाय साधूनाम् विनाशाय च दुष्कृतान् | धर्म संस्थापनार्थाय सम्भवामि युगे युगे: || Bhagavadgītā 4.8 etc.

Like the four major phases of human life, a) the childhood, b) the younghood, c) the mature middle-age hood and d) the oldage-hood; there are four major phases of ‘Nature’s Universal Manifestation’, viz. Kṛutayuga, Tretāyuga, Dwāparyuga and Kaliyuga. In each such ‘Yuga’ periods, whenever there is a drastic failure in ‘morality’ or ‘social index of moral-behavior pattern’ or ‘a rise of highly suppressive tyrannic rule’, an appropriate ‘Incarnation’ of a divine supernatural power like Lord Ganesha, or Lord Śiva or Lord Viṣṇu etc. takes place for a) the protection of saintly personalities b) re-establishment of divine moral principles and values and c) destruction of immoral demonic tyrants

उछिद्य अधर्म निचयम् धर्मम् संस्थापयामि च | हन्मि दुष्टान्श्च दैत्यान्श्च नानालीलाकरो मुदा || Ganesha Gītā 3.11

According to this natural divine legacy or tradition, the ‘Incarnations’ of Lord Ganesha have taken place during the current Mahāyuga (or Chaturyugī) period.

(to be continued…)

Dr. Dhananjay B. Ghare, Former Scientist, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru

Let’s be Equal – Men’s Karwachauth and its Consequences!

Prof. Bal Ram Singh

(Continued from)

Two-thirds of Covid pandemic victims have been men. 99.97% of those who die in a war are men, Men on average live about five years less all over the world, and even before birth, the boys in the womb die more (16%) than girls. However, none of these matters when it comes to denouncing men for imposing conditions, like fasting, on women.

The world and the cultural context have changed in the society. Technology has provided wonderful opportunities to young and old alike to navigate through knowledge, distance, and time. The traditional role and understandings even within the families – parents vs. children, men vs. women, and young vs. old have changed, and seem to have change forever. A better understanding of the relationships based on current context and also modern science is needed for developing harmonious life. There are personality differences based on neurological, psychological, physiological, and genetic variations, the two complementary pillars of the family, and by extension of the society.

In recent times, men have numerous problems, they are ahead of women in crimes of all kinds except prostitution, their college graduation rate is lower in recent years, and men’s suicide rate is 3-4 times higher, despite women being depressed up to 3 times more than men.

International Men’s Day (IMD), although not recognized by United Nations (which does have its seal on November 19 as the World Toilet Day!) unlike International Women’s Day, is celebrated on 19 November every year and is marked in around 80 countries worldwide.

It is basically an informal celebration, initially started by Gerome Taluksingh of Trinidad and Tobago in 1989, and has the following six pillars as IMD objectives:

  1. To promote positive male role models: not just movie stars and sports men but everyday, working-class men who are living decent, honest lives.
  2. To celebrate men’s positive contributions to society, community, family, marriage, child care, and the environment.
  3. To focus on men’s health and wellbeing: social, emotional, physical, and spiritual.
  4. To highlight discrimination against men in areas of social services, social attitudes and expectations, and law.
  5. To improve gender relations and promote gender equality.
  6. To create a safer, better world, where people can be safe and grow to reach their full potential.

In Australia, IMD is a great opportunity to take part in a global conversation about manhood, masculinity and men’s issues by:

  1. Highlighting some of the social issues that men and boys face
  2. Making a difference for the men and boys in your community
  3. Celebrating men and boys in all their diversity
  4. Having some serious fun in the process

It maybe worthwhile to note that Father’s Day came long after Mother’s Day, and was actually due to sustained efforts of daughters. Therefore, for Men’s Day to get official recognition, it maybe the women folks who will have to get involved. Incidentally, November 19 also is celebrated as International Women’s Entrepreneurship Day by 144 countries at the United Nations! Men may also consider Women’s Entrepreneurship, in a lighter note!

Men seem to be in deep ditch as far as recognition of their contribution to the society is concerned. Further, men also need to understand that there is some outrage against them from women, who in current time consider the men to the source of their problems. For instance, fasting by men and women is a common practice worldwide, more so in India. In India, there are some occasions where women keep fast for their sons and husbands. Many women consider such one sided forced fast an example of oppression against women. Every time a fasting season appears on the horizon, especially those that are kept by women to keep men (husband or son) healthier, there is a pouring of outrage by feminist, taunting why men do not keep fast for women!

On October 7, 2021, Nishtha Pandey stated in an article published in Women Web, that “‘I’m Not Against Fasting, But Why Is It Always Women Keeping The Fast For Men? Why Not The Other Way Around? Karva Chauth is one such fast, mostly followed by women of the Northern part of India. Married women fast the entire day for the longevity of their husband. Another fast for husbands is the Vat Savitri Puja which is mainly observed in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Orissa and Maharashtra.” She has no problem with festivals where both genders fast; “There are various fasts which anyone can keep. We have festivals like Navratri, Janmashtami, etc. where people irrespective of their gender fast to appease the god/goddess. On the other hand, there are many fasts that are just pushed down on women in the name of ‘long life of family and husband’. 
Badsha Ray in an article published in The Quint (October 24, 2021), entitled “Women On Vrat: Why Don’t Husbands Fast For Their Wives?” retorted that “Women have questions about India’s age-old tradition of having wives fast for their husbands.”
Similarly, Ex BJP min Kusum Mehdele stated (October 18, 2019), Why don’t men fast on Karva Chauth: Men are so insecure that women have to observe fasts like Teej and Karva Chauth for them,” she remarked. 
Neha Yadav in an article entitled, Five Types of Karva Chauth Think Pieces You Will Read Today (October 13, 2021). Two among those are as follows:
The Traditionalist Piece, “one sees a simple rehash of the standard Karva Chauth piece platforms put out every year. It will contain a basic introduction to the festival and its historical origins.”
The Feminist Rebuttal, “Right on cue, a feminist rebuttal will arrive on our digital doorsteps. This piece will quite rightly point out the problematic nature of the festival. It will systematically expose the nexus of capitalism and brahminical patriarchy that keeps this outdated practice not just afloat but thriving in this day and age. It will be dripping with barely restrained rage, awash in satirical derision.”

In addition to social and spiritual aspects of fasting, there are strong scientific evidences (at the Nobel prize level) to suggest fasting has metabolic, physiological, and psychological benefits through autophagy and neurological processes, more to women than to men (Singh, Fruits of Feminine Fasting, March 8, 2022). Fasting has been a tradition from ancient times, and is prevalent throughout the planet! Its planet, as animals and plants also follow circadian rhythm-based food and mineral uptake. It need not be looked upon from parochial perspectives. “Experimental studies have elucidated some of the metabolic mechanisms involved with intermittent fasting. Animal models have shown positive changes in glucose (lower plasma glucose and insulin levels) and in lipid metabolism (reduced visceral fat tissue and increased plasma adiponectin level), and an increased resistance to stress” (Azevedo et al., Effects of intermittent fasting on metabolism in human, Revista da Associação Médica Brasileira, Volume 59, Issue 2, March–April 2013, Pages 167-173)

Other traditions, such as Islamic practices have been examined for fasting effect on human health and physiology. Aksungar and colleagues assessed cardiovascular health in Muslim individuals during Ramadan, with special emphasis on coagulation (Aksungar et al., Effects of intermittent fasting on serum lipid levels, coagulation status and plasma homocysteine levels, Ann Nutr Metab, 49 (2005), pp. 77-82). The results showed improvements in the lipid profile, with increased HDL-cholesterol levels and decreased values of HDL risk factor (CT/HDL), during the fast and 20 days after it; decreased levels of D-dimmer and reduced homocysteine, which translates in an improved coagulation profile, were also observed. Three years later, in a similar study design, the same author measured inflammatory markers levels, such as IL-6 and CRP, during Ramadan. The results demonstrated a decrease in the inflammatory response, since plasma levels of IL-6 and CRP were consistently reduced by fasting (Aksungar et al., Interleukin-6, C-reactive protein and biochemical parameters during prolonged intermittent fasting, Ann Nutr Metab, 51 (2007), pp. 88-95). However, since Ramadan is observed by most men and women with any distinction, there is no hue and cry over that.

Effect of Fasting on Husbands

Now to the point of fasting by men! What may be advantages and disadvantages of fasting for men?

In a recent article, Sofia Cienfuegos  and colleagues (Sarah Corapi, Kelsey Gabel, Mark Ezpeleta , Faiza Kalam, Shuhao Lin, Vasiliki Pavlou, Krista A Varady) (2022) state the Effect of Intermittent Fasting on Reproductive Hormone Levels in Females and Males: A Review of Human Trials Nutrients presented scientific studies showing detrimental effects on men’s physiology of men.

Intermittent fasting (Karwachauth will qualify to be an intermittent fasting) is a popular diet for weight loss, but concerns have been raised regarding the effects of fasting on the reproductive health of women and men. Accordingly, Sofia et al (2022) conducted this literature review to clarify the effects of fasting on reproductive hormone levels in humans. Their results suggested “that intermittent fasting decreases androgen markers (i.e., testosterone and the free androgen index (FAI)) while increasing sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) levels (which would bind testosterone and make it less available for action) in premenopausal females with obesity (thus keeping females more feminine). In contrast, fasting did not have any effect on estrogen, gonadotropins, or prolactin levels in women.

As for men, intermittent fasting reduced testosterone levels in lean, physically active, young males, but it did not affect SHBG concentrations, meaning making them less masculine sexually speaking. That is perhaps good thing for men from women’s perspective, to reduce their inclination to commit crime! Interestingly, muscle mass and muscular strength were not negatively affected by these reductions in testosterone. In interpreting these findings, it is important to note that very few studies have been conducted on this topic. Thus, it is difficult to draw solid conclusions at present. From the limited data presented here, it is possible that intermittent fasting may decrease androgen markers in both genders. If this is the case, these results would have varied health implications. On the one hand, fasting may prove to be a valuable tool for treating hyperandrogenism in females with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) by improving menstruation and fertility. On the other hand, fasting may be shown to decrease androgens among males, which could negatively affect metabolic health and libido.

Thus, demanding Karwachauth fasting from husbands is likely to have direct impact on the sex life of the couple, a bargain not necessarily desirable for at least wives!

Prof. Bal Ram Singh, School of Indic Studies and Botulinum Research Center, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, USA

Paūrāṇic Ganesha (Part-II)

Series on Ganesha the Great!

Dr. Dhananjay B. Ghare

(Continued from Part-I)

This mini ‘one_act_play’ in english, is designed to convey this theoretical, as well as, the symbolic stories-based information about Lord Ganesha, as found in the text ‘Ganesha Purāṇa’.

Vyāsa : Oh Grandpā, Please tell me about who are these eight Gods ‘अष्ट_विनायक’ (‘Aṣṭa-Vināyaka’)? Where are the locations of these temples famous as अष्ट_विनायक तीर्थयात्रा स्थला (‘Aṣṭa-Vināyaka’ Pilgrimage Centers)?

Brahmadeva : My dear son, most Vedic Gods have taken several incarnations, but only a few of them, have become popularly well known. Like the ‘दशावतारा’ (‘Daśāvatāra’) ten incarnations of Lord विष्णु (Viṣṇu), or अष्टलक्ष्मी (‘Aṣṭa-Lakṣmī’) eight incarnations of Goddess लक्ष्मी (Lakṣmī), or नवदुर्गा (‘Nava-Durgā’) nine incarnations of Goddess Pārvatī, ‘अष्ट_विनायक’ (‘Aṣṭa-Vināyaka’) eight incarnations of Lord Ganesha have become very popular.

The names of the eight famous incarnations of Lord Ganesha (as per ‘मुद्गल_पुराण’ Mudgal Purāṇa) are: 1) वक्रतुण्ड (Vakratuṇda), 2) एकदन्त (Ekadanta), 3) महोदर (Mahodara), 4) गजानन (Gajānana), 5) लम्बोदर (Lambodara), 6) विकट (Vikaṭa), 7) विघ्नराज (Vighnarāja) and 8) धूम्रवर्ण (Dhumravarṇa). The ancient temples originally mentioned in the Ganesha and Mudgal Purāṇa texts are spread all over the भारतवर्ष (Indian subcontinent), but most of them have now become untraceable.

‘Aṣṭa-Vināyaka’ Temple’s Geographical Locations

However, the पेशवा (Peshavā’s) who ruled from Pune, Maharashtra as their headquarters, were great devotees of Lord Ganesha. The eight ‘Aṣṭa-Vināyaka’ temples rebuilt and renovated by them (or by their relatives and lieutenants), are in localities near and around Pune and have now become the world famous ‘Aṣṭa-Vināyaka’ pilgrimage centers. The idols installed at all these temples, are स्वयम्भु: (‘Svayambhu’) meaning ‘self-generated’. They have got auto generated by some mysterious natural processes of mother nature. They are not carved out by human efforts and therefore are respected as ‘highly divine’. They are also believed to have been installed by some divine deities or great ancient sages.

Svayambhu ‘Aṣṭa-Vināyaka’ Idols and their Locations

(Source of Image:

Vyāsa : Oh Grandpā, this information about Aṣṭa-Vināyakas was very interesting. Now please tell me about, how and why Lord Ganesha now becomes famous mainly via his incarnation as ‘Gajānana’, the elephant-head son of Lord Śiva and Goddess Pārvatī?

Brahmadeva : My son, a demon famous as त्रिपुरासुर (‘Tripurāsura’), got born out of a terrible ‘sneeze’ of his father, sage Gṛutsamada. Gṛutsamada, was a great devotee of Lord Ganesha and therefore he instructed his son to chant mantras and prayers to please the Lord. Following these instructions, Tripurāsura carried out hard penance and pleased Lord Ganesha. He received in boon, three very beautiful, comfortable and fast flying cities. Thus, the demon became famous as Tripurāsura, meaning the ‘demonic king of the three cities’. All these cities were continuously moving in space, at very fast speed and the demon had also managed to get another boon that he can get killed only by Lord Śiva, and that too only if, Lord Śiva will hit and burn all those three cities by a ‘single arrow’. This way, the wise demon cleverly became practically ‘invincible’ and defeated all Gods and forced them to live in mountains or forests in exile. Lord Śiva also had to leave his abode ‘Kailāśa’. He started penance addressed to Lord Ganesha, in some hideout place. The demon Tripurāsura, thus become the ruler of all the three worlds viz. स्वर्ग (Svarga-loka), मृत्यु (Mṛutyu-loka) and पाताल (Pātāla-loka), as well as, even the still highly divine habitats known as सत्य (Satya-loka), वैकुण्ठ (Vaikuṇṭha-loka) and कैलास (Kailāśa-loka).

Vyāsa : Oh Grandpā, all this sounds very interesting. Please tell me how did that demon got killed and how could Lord Śiva manage to perform that difficult task?

Brahmadeva : My son, Lord Śiva has been known as the best divine ‘archer’, and his famous शिव_धनुष्य (‘Śiva_dhanuṣya’) is believed to be visible even today, in the clear night sky as धनु राशि (‘dhanu rāshi’), a star constellation. When Lord Sun occupies the stellar house of this constellation, for roughly a one-month period, that solar month is called as धनुर्मास (‘dhanurmāsa’) and it is the annual coldest period in the north hemisphere of the earth. Lord Śiva was approached, praised and requested by all the Gods to battle, fight & defeat the demon. Lord Śiva did battle for a long time, but could not defeat Tripurāsura. Tired, and exhausted, he took to penance to please lord Ganesha and to receive his advice and instructions, vitally helpful to kill the powerful demon. Goddess Pārvatī, leaving ‘Kailāśa’ had gone to her father, and was residing with her parents. She requested her father for his advice and help under her current ‘in exile’ situation. Her father, पर्वतराज हिमालय (‘Mountain Himālaya’) advised her to worship विघ्नहर्ता_गणेश (Lord Vighnahartā Ganesha). Sing his prayers, praises and observe विनायकी व्रत (Vināyakī-vrata) on शुक्ल चतुर्थी तिथी (Śukla Chaturthī Tithī) of every month. This व्रताचरण (Vratācharaṇa) procedure mainly involves a) fasting for the whole day of Shukla Chaturthī Tithī of every month, b) spending all the 24 hours of that day, in mentally focusing and reciting especially sacred mantras of Lord Ganesha e.g.

ॐ श्री गणेशाय नम:

ॐ नमस्ते गणपतये

ॐ गं गणपतये नम:

ॐ एकदन्ताय विद्महे, वक्रतुण्डाय धीमहि, तन्नो दन्ति: प्रचोदयात् etc.

and c) conducting his ’16-step worship’ षोडशोपचार_पूजा (Ṣodaśopachāra pūjā) etc.

During this 16-step worship of Lord-Ganesha, the step of महाभिषेक (Mahābhieka) bath is carried out with chanting of the sacred गणपत्युपनिषद् (Gaṇapatyupaniṣad), also well known as गणपति अथर्वशीर्ष (Gaṇapati-atharvaśīrṣa). Whenever possible, this अभिषेक मन्त्र (Abhieka mantra) is chanted for 21, or even 1008 times (for सहस्राभिषेक Sahasrābhieka). Further, in the worship of Lord Ganesha, offering him a) at least one जुडी (bunch) of 21 दुर्वा (durvā) grass leaves, as well as, whenever available, b) some शमीपल्लवा (leaves of Śamī Tree) and c) मन्दार पुष्पा (flowers of Mandāra Tree) and any other रक्तपुष्पै सुपूजितम्  (red or orange or pink colored flowers), are very important factors.

There are some episode stories connected with their relevance. Next day, on the पञ्चमी तिथी (Panchamī Tithī) day, after performing the worship, the नैवेद्य (Naivedya) of preferably ‘21’ or ‘1008’ मोदक (Modaka) sweets is offered to Lord Ganesha. Ten Modakas out this, are recommended to be donated to a worthy priest. Remaining Prasāda Modaka sweets are traditionally first distributed to devotees and then at least one is eaten by the performer. Further, such Vrata performances are described to earn much higher level of spiritual credits (पुण्यार्जन), whenever such चतुर्थी तिथी (Chaturthī tithī) happens to coincide on a Tuesday, the weekday named after Lord मंगल (Mangala). Such a combination is called as अंगारक योग (Angāraka Yoga) and the day is called as अंगारकी चतुर्थी (Angārakī Chaturthī).

Goddess Pārvatī followed the advice of her father and performed विनायकी व्रताराधना (Vināyakī Vratārādhanā) with full devotion and surrender to please Lord Ganesha. She also performed a month long मास-व्रत (Māsa Vrata) from श्रावण शुक्ल चतुर्थी (Śrāvaṇa Śukla Chaturthī) to भाद्रपद शुक्ल चतुर्थी (Bhādrapada Śukla Chaturthī). Subsequently, on the Bhādrapada Śukla Chaturthī day, after she had just completed her worship, Lord Ganesha appeared before her and offered to grant her boons. She happily requested him a) to help Lord Śiva to kill the demon Tripurāsura and also b) to get born as his ‘Incarnation’, as her son, who will become famous by names affiliated with her, such as उमापुत्र (Umāputra), पार्वतीनन्दन (Pārvatīnandana) etc. and not like her elder son who had become famous only as शिवपुत्र (Śivaputra) or कार्तिकेय (Kārtikeya), तारकमर्दन (‘Tārakamardana), सुब्रह्मण्य (Subrahmaṇya) etc. Lord Ganesha granted the boons. Thus, he appeared before Lord Śiva and instructed him about how to compute the size, shape and timing of the release of the specially ‘enchanted arrow’, which can destroy all three cities of Tripurāsura in a single hit. Lord Śiva followed this advice and successfully killed Tripurāsura.

The Mahāgaṇapatī temple at Rānjaṇagāva, is one of the famous Aṣṭa-Vināyaka temples. The idol in this temple is believed to have been installed by Lord Śiva in memory of this episode of Lord Ganesha appearing & favoring him with advise & instructions helpful to kill the demon Tripurāsura. The Girijātmaja cave temple at Leṇyādri, is another famous Aṣṭa-Vināyaka temple, which has been carved out of the mountain. This temple is in representation of the episode of Lord Ganesha appearing and favoring Goddess Girijā or Pārvatī, to sanction the boon, and agreeing to get incarnated as her son and becoming popularly well known by names such as Girijātmaja, Umāputra, Pārvatīnandana etc.

Vyāsa : Oh Grandpā, that sounds great.

(to be continued…)

Dr. Dhananjay B. Ghare, Former Scientist, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru

‘Karwachauth’ as an Untenable Frowning and Feasting Festival for Su-Feminists

Prof. Bal Ram Singh

(Continued from Part-1)

The Karwachauth is just gone by a couple of days ago, as is the fasting, but there is a feasting on that day by feminists (mostly Su-Feminists, for a reference of the term, one is referred to my article on Vedic WAVES blog; who deride the occasion as an example of archaic suppression of females who need to break apart the chain of slavery to man. Many so called progressive men join the chorus, in many cases just to get, otherwise not difficult, closeness to women. Traditional points and modern counterpoints are hurled at each other, in most cases without critically examining the tradition, in an anciently living country which has arguably had a very deep tradition of traditions for a very long time.

While it is always good to question any ritualistic or otherwise practice, if for nothing else, just for understanding any logic behind such practices which may have lost any value with time. Examining Indian traditions, in general, and Hindu traditions in particular, must be done with open mind and closed prejudice, as these traditions in many cases were part of a medical practice ensconced as social traditions to ensure compliance.

Most festivals in India have fasting component, and most fasting is carried out by women, who appear to be more vulnerable to metabolic, physiological, and neurological disorders. As pointed in the first article of this series, “…it is experimentally established now that autophagy which is helpful for the health is only about half as active in females as in males, and fasting enhances the autophagy, it makes sense for women to observe the fasting for health, if not for their husband or sons.” The role of constitutive autophagy has been studied and the results indicate that it is essential to prevent certain neurodegenerative diseases

Writing opinion on such sensitive topics is fraught with the possibility of selective and skewed views. So, it is better to hear it out from the horse’s mouth. The following collected articles on the subject speak for themselves.

Study 1 – Congdon, E. E. (2018) Sex Differences in Autophagy Contribute to Female Vulnerability in Alzheimer’s Disease, Frontiers in Neuroscience, published: 22 June 2018.

 Key points

1. From the earliest time points, data suggests that autophagic flux is lower in females. Expression of autophagy related proteins is lower than in males, and the presence of estrogen and its receptors suppress autophagy. AD (Alzheimer’s disease) pathology appears long before either symptoms or menopause, indicating that factors affecting protein clearance early in life likely contribute to the differences in outcomes seen in men and women.

2. The relationship between estrogen and insulin signaling involves a balance of interactions, and demonstrate how both an excess or loss of sex hormones may cause autophagic impairments seen in AD. In young women, excessive estrogen levels, overactivation of ERs (estrogen receptors), or abnormal expression of testosterone promote insulin resistance. Following menopause, loss of hormones and decreased receptor expression lead to the same results. In both cases, the result is activation of mTOR (a physiological protein that regulates autophagy) and further suppression of autophagy.

3. Multiple stressors exist in the brains of AD patients similar to those found during acute brain injury. Data from injury models suggest that female hormones act to stabilize the cells in times of stress, limiting induction of autophagy and promoting its progression. However, when pathology is first initiated, this response may prevent acute toxicity, but hinder clearance. When this process is further destabilized through loss of hormones and receptors, neurons in female brains may be more vulnerable to insult. Decreased estrogen may also result in impaired lysosomal maturation.

4. As in other aspects of the autophagy pathway, the final stages of lysosome maturation and acidification show why women present with greater pathology than men. In this case, loss of estrogens results in increased Ab (amyloid-β) production and a deficit in autophagic flux.

By examining the deficits in autophagy in AD, and the ways in which they intersect with sex, we will gain valuable information on how the sex-based differences seen in AD come about. Women are both at greater risk for developing AD, and develop more severe pathology.

Study 2 – Bushnell et al. (2018) Sex differences in stroke: Challenges and opportunities. Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism.  Vol. 38(12) 2179–2191

Biologic sex, the variable defined by characteristics encoded in DNA, and gender, the collection of social, cultural and psychological traits that are a function of being a human male or female, influences both health and disease.

Stroke is a massive public health concern. It is the fourth and fifth leading cause of death in women and men, respectively, and is the number 1 cause of disability in the US in both sexes. In its wake, victims often suffer from neurologic disability and mood disorders, as well as increased likelihood of re-hospitalization and complications such as infections, venous thromboembolism, falls, and fractures. And, the high cost of rehabilitation and long-term nursing care, and the loss in productivity for stroke survivors and their caregivers have created a financial burden that exceeds $75 billion a year in the US alone. A well-known example is the observation that coronary heart disease is more likely to be the first cardiovascular event for a man, whereas for a woman, the first such event is more likely to be stroke. In 2014, the American Heart Association/ American Stroke Association published Guidelines for the Prevention of Stroke in Women. These guidelines not only highlight differences in risk factors associated with stroke vs. heart disease but also point to risk factors that are unique to, or more prevalent in, women.

Due to sex differences in life expectancy as well as other contributing factors, women experience approximately 55,000 more strokes in the US each year. Stroke prevalence is also higher in women, with 4.1 million women currently living with stroke compared to 3.1 million men, making it the fourth leading cause of death among women. It is determined that the higher burden of stroke in women is largely a result of longer life expectancies, but sex differences in stroke incidence rates also play a role.

When studies were repeated in aged FCG mice with low levels of endogenous gonadal hormones, the importance of XX chromosomes in stroke outcome, regardless of gonadal sex, was observed. Indeed, animals with an XX chromosome compliment had larger infarcts, higher neurologic deficit scores, and greater immune-cell infiltration and activation, compared to animals with an XY chromosome compliment. These results suggest a detrimental effect of the second X chromosome that is only evident after reproductive senescence, which implies a complex interaction between aging, ischemia, and sex chromosome genes. One mechanism that may account for the chromosomal dependence observed in the FCG model is related to function of microglia, the innate resident immune cells of the brain. In animals with 2 X chromosomes, microglial activation after focal stroke is enhanced, and thus inflammation is greatly enhanced.

Study 3 –  Mo, Y., Sun, Y. Y. and Kang-Yong Liu, MD (2020) Autophagy and inflammation in ischemic stroke Neural Regen Res. 2020 Aug; 15(8): 1388–1396.

Ischemic stroke is generally caused by vasculature occlusion, primarily due to deposition of misfolded protein, cell and organelle debris, etc. in the blood vessels, preventing blood supply to brain. A biological response to such a situation is the activation of autophagy that helps clean up the cells and tissues of the cell debris to alleviate any obstruction. Inflammation is another important factor during ischemic stroke. Cerebral ischemic injury and reperfusion of blood flow cause an inflammatory cascade, including oxidative stress, excitotoxicity, inflammatory cell infiltration, and release of toxic inflammatory mediators that further contribute to nerve tissue damage and cell death (Mo et al., 2020).

Role of autophagy in the post-stroke inflammatory response is as follows (Mo et al., 2020): (1) Autophagy inhibits inflammatory responses caused by ischemic stimulation through mTOR, the AMPK pathway, and inhibition of inflammasome activation. (2) Activation of inflammation triggers formation of autophagosomes, and the upregulation of autophagy levels is marked by a significant increase in the autophagy-forming markers LC3-II and Beclin-1, which help enhanced level of autophagy in brain, leading to prevention of neurodegeneration.


Fasting by women clearly increases their autophagy, which is usually half as much as men under normal conditions. Women are also vulnerable to brain conditions, such as stroke and Alzheimer’s diseases, in addition to metabolic and physiological disorders that are connected to the low autophagy. Therefore, the tradition of fasting by women, more common in India, compared to men, is, in fact, scientifically proven to benefit women, in general.

Thus, the feminist narrative and frowning at occasions like Karwachauth is untenable. Everyone, including feminists, can benefit from increase in autophagy through fasting to keep the brain healthy. Of course, it is not clear if that effect is responsible for making certain type of feminists.

A question is whether men could also observe Karwachauth fasting for their wives? The answer to be addressed in the next article of this series…

To be continued…

Prof. Bal Ram Singh, School of Indic Studies and Botulinum Research Center, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, USA

The Existence of Women within the Institution of Marriage : Appearance and Reality

Dr. Jayanti P Sahoo

In India, the institution of marriage has a long history. Since the Vedic times, the institution of marriage has a firm place in the society, where two conscious beings enter into a relationship consciously. The idea of the institution of marriage was not simply created where two parties enter into a relationship. The idea was to establish a society where the satisfaction of both animalistic instinct as well as human desire are taken into account. Two self-conscious beings enter into a kind of relationship where mutual adjustment, respect, trust, faith, freedom, acceptance, assimilation, and recognition take place. These are the parameters on which the institution of marriage is built with. Our Śāstra Paramparā also gives us ample examples where the relationships are based not only for the fulfillment of biological needs, rather it is based on the fulfillment of material, social, mental, and spiritual needs, e.g., Rāma and Sitā, Śiva and Śakti, Yājñavalkya and Gārgī and Maitreyī, etc.

When we talk about the metaphysical aspects of the concept of marriage, we find that an idealistic interpretation has been associated with it. Marriage is defined as the highest social relations of two conscious beings. According to R.N. Sharma, a Hindu marriage is ‘a religious sacrament in which a man and a woman are bound in a permanent relationship for the physical, social, and spiritual purposes of dharma, procreation, and sexual pleasure’.

According to Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa (, the wife is said to be ardhānginī which means ‘The wife is verily the half of the husband. Man is only the other half, not complete until he marries’.

अर्द्धो ह वा एष आत्मनो यज्जाया। तस्माद्यावज्जायां न विन्दते नैव तावत् प्रजायते।

The Taittirīya Saṁhitā also highlights the same concept. Manu declared that mutual fidelity between husband and wife was the highest dharma. A wife in a Hindu family is treated as ‘dharmapatni’. Any type of yajña is incomplete without her. The wife is supposed to be the best friend of her husband. She is the source of Dharma, Artha, Kāma, and Mokṣa.

Interestingly, the tradition says if we go by our causal explanation then either the self or the matter has created this world. And neither the self nor the matter has any gender. Logically, it follows that two self-conscious beings entered inside the institution of marriage and start their relationship by making some value-loaded promises which have no rational content but a conscious emotional decision.

So far as the metaphysical explanation of reality is concerned, the role of a woman within the institution of marriage is highly recognized. She has equal status in every sphere as we find enough shreds of evidence in the pre-Vedic age. Also, the Śruti texts such as Upaniṣads, and Epics like Rāmāyana and Māhābhārat recognize the role of women within the institution of marriage.  There are over 36 Riṣikas specifically found mentioned in various Vedic texts.

In the Vedic era, knowledge was transmitted through Guru-Śiṣya Paramparā, and the Śruti texts recognized the existence of the mother as the Ādi Guru or first preceptor. Even the children were prepared for a life of knowledge and wisdom during pregnancy – Garbha Samskāras. Vedic women were always literate. They were the primary custodians of essential knowledge.

However, coming to the Pauraṇic tradition, Smṛti tradition, and some texts on dharma sutras, we do not get a generous view regarding women. But there is enough evidence from the Śruti text that women had equal status as those of men in the Vedic age.

Literature like Bhagavadgītā talks about the equal status of women.  Ancient India recognized two types of scholarly women — the Brahmavādinīs, or the women who never married and cultured the Vedas throughout their lives; and the Sadyodvahas who studied the Vedas till they married. Pāṇini mentioned female students studying Vedas. Kātyana called female teachers Upādhyaya or Upādhyayī. Women played a prominent role in politics also.

The main objective of the institution of marriage especially in Hinduism is to foster, not self-interest, but self-restraint and love for the entire family, which keeps the family united and prevents its breakdown.


A woman defines her existence through the institution of marriage. The institution of marriage does not provide equal footage to both men and women. Existence becomes a struggle for a woman whereas for a man it’s an enjoyment. For a woman, it’s a state of immanence and passive existence and for a man, it’s a state of transcendence. All the rules are for women whereas men are the rule makers. Gradually the relationship diluted and resulted in stress and anxiety. It creates unhappiness for both husband and wife. The question arises of who is responsible for the state of uneasiness as both are the sufferers. One existential angst enters inside this close relationship. There is no longer any mutual recognition, respect, trust, faith, or love. The woman is defined no more as a self-conscious being but as an object of animalistic desire. Her existence is being challenged over a period of time. This forced her to act in a bad-faith (knowing the truth hiding the truth). She is alienated from her own consciousness and behaves like an object. Consequently, it also damages the existence of a husband who always claims himself as a subject (self-conscious being), a privileged class who always works through human desire. Ultimately the metaphysical explanation of marriage as reality turns into a hostile relationship on the level of appearance.

At the level of appearance, men have always kept all concrete powers in their hand. Women are always in a sorry state not acting as autonomous consciousness but as dependent entities. It’s not that a woman within the institution of marriage doesn’t want to project herself as Sītā or Durgā or Gourī or Satī. She only does sacrifices in her life but in return never receives any appreciation. There is a gap between appearance and reality. It’s not that she claims equality. We cannot make any general claim here. Problems are different. The existence of women is not properly defined within a patriarchal setup. It’s not the question of who is right and who is wrong, but the question is how to remove the gap between the husband and wife. Unless there is mutual agreement, adjustment, and respect, the things are not going to change. Both have to work together in order to bring unity and peace within the family. Saying one is right and the other is wrong won’t resolve the problem.


Our scriptures say like this, and without understanding these thoughts people always try to raise their girl child by saying ‘you are Sītā, you are Pārvatī, and later on in their lives when they get married in Indian society, they are expected to behave like that. A married woman within the institution of marriage loses her self-respect, and identity and also has no place for in-laws. Because Sītā is dedicated to her husband or family… so, should be all females but in society, no male is behaving like Rāma and they are not even expected to…hence conflict arises.

The equation works like this:

  1. Subject (conscious being can be wife/husband) treats others as an object (can be husband/wife) (Appearance)
  2. Both of them treat each other as objects (Appearance)
  3. Both of them treat each other as Subject (self-conscious being), thereby entering into a relationship where marriage is sacrosanct and pious. (Reality-Intersubjective element based on mutual adjustment, surrendering their false ego, acceptance, assimilation, and recognition of human I)

Who is responsible for this? Society, the wife, the husband, or everything taken together?  It’s a never-ending story….

(to be continued…)

Dr. Jayanti P Sahoo, HOD & Associate Professor, Philosophy, JDM College, University of Delhi, Delhi