India: A Concept of Nationhood (Part-II)

Continued from Part-I

Dr. Raj Kumar

The Vedic phase is very significant and influential in the evolution of Indian society. It affects its cultural, socio-economic and social-political tradition. Although, there is a prolonged debate on the Aryan influence on Indian society, nothing conclusive could be presented. Some social activists view Aryans as a native of India, whereas several scholars and academic historians’ opinions are opposite. Whatever the view, Aryans evolved the tribal society to a well-developed civilization. Development of civilization provides the people a cohesive environment for discussion, and the people start looking for the answer of the fundamental questions. Every other civilization of the world meditated upon some fundamental questions for a long time; a) how to live life, b) what is the goal of life, and c) what is the way to find happiness. The idea of India provided a unique path to get the answer to these fundamental questions. As an Indian, our traditional goal of life is a virtue (Dharma), live with success and wealth (Artha), to live with pleasure (Kama), but in the end seek enlightenment (Moksha). Vedic philosophy also discussed several ideas; idea of consciousness, idea of humanity, idea of ethics in social life, idea of spirituality, and more importantly the idea of individuality (for example, Shrimad Bhagavad Gita tells your interpretation of life is different from others, but it doesn’t mean you are wrong or others are wrong. Similarly, Ayurveda treats a person based on their personal traits and habits, instead of using any generalization). These ideas influenced the thought process of the people of the region and shaped the idea of India.

The founding concept of India was not just an abstract idea of a plurality or an idea of a common interest. It is an idea of practical understanding of the compulsion and constraints, yet accommodative, between differing ideas and views. Now, let’s examine the characteristics of India as a nation.

Let’s define nation first. In my view, the best definition is provided by Ernest Renan’s. According to him, “A nation is not formed on the basis of dynasty, language, religion, geography or shared interests. Rather, a nation is a soul, a spiritual principle. A spiritual principle is a combination of two things, which in truth are one. One lies in the past i.e. the possession in common of a rich legacy of memories. Other lies in the present, which reflects the desire to live together, and perpetuate the value system and continue the heritage that one has received in an undivided form.” The idea of India exactly fits this definition. So many people of different value system, cultural system, belief system, and interests are coming together to develop an Idea of India. Probably only place in the world where we have preserved the traditions which were practiced thousands of years ago (rich legacy), yet all Indian together try to compete with the modern world (perpetuate the value system and desire to live together). Like any other nation, India also has gone through turbulent times. Even in those turbulent times, instead of hankering for purity, India gave some very powerful ideas to this world….. the idea of accommodation, the idea of incorporation, the idea of inclusion, the idea of embracing, and the idea of mixing without losing the basic character. She sees the moment of mixing as the most creative and imaginative one. She sees the moment of mixing as an opportunity to create the culture of give and take, and ultimately become one. So, the idea of India is not an abstract idea of just cultural pluralism and democracy, it is an idea of amalgamation of different ideas.

c

This amalgamation gave diversity to Indian system. Scientifically speaking this process increases the entropy/randomness, which all the thermodynamic systems aspire to. Energy is constant in an entropy-driven process. So, we need to know how to utilize this energy in a useful way. That is why increasing entropy can be advantageous and disadvantageous, too. Advantageous when you know how to utilize this excess entropy and balance the system, and disadvantageous when you don’t know how to control the randomness. I will use an example to simplify the above statement. Protein folding, a biological process, is a very important event when the linear sequence of amino acid organizes different interactions to devise a biologically functional shape. In this process, entropy is decreasing to create a useful structure. While acquiring a biological function from linear sequence, protein has two very important intermediate stages, molten globule and intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs). These two states are very flexible (higher randomness) and when needed can acquire a biologically functional state (entropically low structure). In another way, randomness is a necessary requirement but to perform function system needs to be organized. Randomness provides flexibility and fluidity, which is a necessary trait of our existence, and the idea of India already have this naturally.

You must have heard this statement ….. India is a very diverse country and its diversity is an asset. But nobody explains what is the meaning of this statement. Diversity means randomness, which is natural tendencies of anything in this world. It brings freedom; freedom of thought, freedom of action, and freedom of expression. Freedom is not the one-way road, it is a two-way path; one way is freedom, and another concurrent way is responsibility/onus/liability. Diversity in scientific terms is a degree of freedom, more degree of freedom more available options. More options mean more ways of doing things. In other words, different things can be done in a coordinated way to achieve the same goal. Therefore, in this sense diversity of India is an asset, but we need to know how to utilize it, we need to know how and where to direct this diversity, and we need to know how to fulfill our responsibilities and contribute to advancing the idea of India. One successful example of focusing diversity is the United State of America (USA). The USA has accepted people from all over the world, which gave her an asset of diversity. She utilized this diversity very smartly and focused to build a strong nation. India needs to do the same.

Thus, the idea of India is not a hypothetical one, it is a geographically, socially, philosophically, and scientifically proven idea. India’s diversity needs to be crystalized, so that the nation can move forward together in a constructive way. We did this very successfully in the past on several occasions, we need to do it again now to solve our current problems.

We are all pieces of the same puzzle.

References

  1. The Vedic Core of Human History by M. K. Agarwal, 2013.
  2. Indian Foreign Policy: Challenges and Opportunities by Atish Sinha, Madhup Mohta and Foreign Service Institute, 2007.
  3. ArunKumar, G., Soria-Hernanz, D. F., Kavitha, V. J., Arun, V. S., Syama, A., Ashokan, K. S., … The Genographic Consortium. (2012). Population Differentiation of Southern Indian Male Lineages Correlates with Agricultural Expansions Predating the Caste System. PLoS ONE7(11), e50269. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0050269.
  4. https://www.ibm.com/solutions/genographic/us/en/geno_story.html

 – Dr. Raj Kumar, Assistant Professor, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, MA.

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India: A Concept of Nationhood (Part-I)

– Dr. Raj Kumar

I would like to start this article with the preamble of the Constitution of India.

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;

IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY, this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.

The preamble of the constitution is the essence of the idea of INDIA. A country like India will only shape with cross-cultural communication. The formation of this communication can only be possible, where listening to each other is more desirable than a monologue or non-dialogue, where the discussion is preferred to talking, and where community interest is given priority to the individual interest. Modern India came together through our Constitution.

The idea of India is a socio-political model for the most unique and unusual nation in the world. The vast diversity of religions, caste, region, language, views, and most importantly people of this country living together as a country in such a way that no country in the world embodies. America is also a very diverse country, but it began as multiple colonies before becoming a nation. India began as a diverse country that has been preserved through the millennia.

British, who ruled India for more than 200 years, never consider India as one country. British propagated this theory through scholarly publication of renowned 19th-century historian, John R. Seeley, who mentioned, “India is not one country, and therefore it has no one civilization.” Sir John Strachey in his book, India: Its Administration and Progress, wrote, “There is no such country, and this is the first and most essential fact about India that can be learned” (Chapter 1, page 2, Sir John Strachey).

If this is true, then what about a text at least 2000 years old, Vishnu Purana, which defines INDIA.

‘उत्तरे यतसमुद्रस्य हिमाद्रेश्चैव दक्षिणम
वर्षम तद भारत नाम भारती यत्र संतति’ – विष्णु पुराण (2/3.1)

Meaning, the country that lies north of the ocean and south of the snowy mountains is called Bharatam; there dwell the descendants of Bharat.

Not only our ancient texts, famous western scholars from time to time mentioned India in the text as one region.

Megasthenes (300 BC) wrote in Indika:

“India the being four-sided in plan, the side which looks to the orient

 and that to the south is the great sea; that towards the arctic is divided

by the mountain chain of Hemodus from Scythia, inhibited by that

  the tribe of Scythians who are called Sakai, and on the fourth side, turned

  towards the west, the Indus marks the boundary, the biggest or nearly

  so of all rivers after the Nile.”

Arrian (140 CE) defines in Indoi, Indou:

The boundary of the land of India towards the north is Mount Taurus

(Caucasus). The western part of India is bounded by the river Indus right

down to the ocean. Towards the south this ocean bounds the land of India,

and eastward the sea itself is the boundary.”

Said- al Andalusi, a Muslim Qadi (Qazi in Urdu) described categories of people in his book Al-tarif bi-tabaqat al-umam (Exposition of the Generations of Nations). He defined nation as a region of land which cultivates learning. Although nations on the human plane are uniform, they differ in three ways, namely, morals, shape, and language. His approach for defining a nation was based on the scientific-philosophical concept. According to this concept, there are three requirements; a) compression of a level of discourse (theoretical reason), b) asceticism and control of the temper of the soul, and c) the essential place of philosophy and natural sciences in self-education and training. He also identified the most important people in the history. They were Persians and Chaldeans (Syrians, Babylonians, Jews, and Arabs), Copts (ancient Egyptians, Sudanese, Ethiopians and Nubians), Greeks (Romans, Franks, Russians, Bulgarians and others from the same region), Turks (Kimaki and Khazars), Indians and Chinese.

Babur who equally recognized this in his Babur Nama (Sinha and Monta, 2007), “The country of Hindustan is extensive, full of men, and full of produce. On the east, south and even on the west, it ends at the great enclosing ocean. In the north, it has mountains which connect with those of Hindu-Kush, Kafiristan, and Kashmir.”

Let’s go to start of formation of earth landmass. If you examine the formation of Earth’s landmass (Pangaea), you can notice that India is sitting on the Indian Plate, a major tectonic plate that was formed when it split from the ancient continent Gondwana land. This plate starts moving around 90 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period and covers the distance of ~ 3000 km before hitting the mainland of Asia to create Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas. The point I want to make here is that India has a unique place since the start.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Formation of Earth’s landmass. Note the formation of Indian landmass. This landmass formed and drifted separately than rest of the world.

In another way, the concept of India is not new. There is a direct evidence that human migration happens from Africa to India. Genetic evidence suggests that the first human from Africa migrated to Kerala about 70000 years ago (southern part of India). Gene M130 is the marker of the first human migrated from Africa, and Virumandi tribes of Kerala (southernmost state of India) have this gene. This is the most ancient migratory genes because the later migrations do not have this marker (Arun Kumar et al., 2012). There is already a growing view among geneticists that humans migrated to other parts of the world from India (Fig. 2). So, the first human evolved, then they migrated and at last they developed a language. Note that language is not the same as ethnicity. However, development of language provides a belief and thought system. The idea of the belief and thought system is so powerful that it provides a freedom to everyone a very robust system to believe in themselves, propagate their views, have every liberty to be proud of what they have. The idea of India allows this and it is the fundamental reason, I believe, why India is having a such a vastness of humanity with a diversity but still with the unity.

Figure22

Figure 2: Migration of human out of Africa (IBM Genographic project). Humans migrated from central Africa to eastern Africa, from there the migrated to India and distributed to the world.

Since the start of the language and writing, from time to time scholars defined India in their texts indicating British perspectives were not correct. However, British projected their view about India very strongly and most people still believe that. Honestly, I believed the same for a very long time. In fact, British did this to justify their reign and right to rule India.

I think I have given the right arguments to settle two things; a) why British were wrong in defining India, and b) from ancient to medieval period India was considered as one region.

                                                                                                                        to be Continued……..

 Dr. Raj Kumar, Assistant Professor, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, MA.

 

A Narration of Experiences of a Wife in Gurukul Life as Per Vedas in Contemporary Times

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– Mrs. Suvrata Vinod

I had been living a life of a modern career woman with a flourishing profession as a management consultant to many MNCs way back in 1990s. I got introduced to spirituality as a tool of Behavioual Science as is prevalent in our society today. I had a traumatic personal life with much confusion about customs and values. Destiny led me to a situation where I could jump to a new challenge of a ‘Life for Yajna’ (यज्ञार्थात् कर्मणोन्यत्र लोकोयं कर्मबन्धनः….Gita 3.9) rather than ‘Spirituality for Material progress’. Suddenly, I found myself learning and practising Vedic Life far removed from our familiar city life. A flood of some latent memories of Achara (Customary practices) came to me and I started understanding Spirituality not as a distant learning but something which I had left incomplete in some previous attempt due to some mischief or loss of patience (पूर्वाभ्यासेन तेनैव ह्रियते ह्यवशोपि सः…..Gita 6.44).

We were staying on the banks of River Narmada in Gujarat at that time. We had an Ashrama away from any village leave aside any town. We started with a purifying performance called ‘सर्वप्रायश्चित्तं’ in the presence of learned Brahmins of all the four Vedas. Our Guruji had taught my Pati our ancestral Shakha called Taittiriya Yajurveda. We now wanted to practise Karma Yoga as the Chosen Path.(लोकेस्मिन् द्विविधा निष्ठा पुरा प्रोक्ता मयानघ। ज्ञानयोगेन सांख्यानां कर्मयोगेन योगिनाम्। Gita 3.3) We decided to undertake a life of Grihastha with mandatory Panch Mahayajnya.(पंच वा एते महायज्ञाः..) Besides, we decided to share our learnings with whomsoever wishes to but in the prescribed fashion.

Two brahmacharins came to us for learning Veda. We had a small piece of land to cultivate and we bought a cow to complete our duties of fire worship etc. Narmada was 150 steps below and we chose not to have electricity, water-supply, road or telephone. We did keep a scooter to do a fortnightly visit to the nearest town Rajpipla.

Surya Argya

(Source of Image : http://gurukul.ashram.org/Home/A-Day-In-Gurukul)

The day starts early in the dark hours of pre-dawn. I would get up even before Acharya and Shishyas. I started with putting on the oil-lamp. Then I would visit the cow-shed to cleanup the cowdung. We will require this cowdung for making round-balls for preserving the household sacred-fire (गृह्याग्नि) incessantly. This practice is prevalent throughout the present day Vedics but I am told that this is just an Apad-dharma or contingency. They say, unknown to many practising Vedics, Vedas have no mention of using cowdung as fuel. [Footnote 1: Anyways, this is what we used till we shifted to Garhwal Himalayas. This part of the story will come in due course. But in short, over there we had an access to abundant dry firewood in the forest and a practise of keeping perpetual fire on logs of wood, without depleting the forest, by judicious cyclic usage.] After cleaning the cowshed, I would throw a bundle of dry fodder or green grass cut the previous evening from the fields to the cow as was the practise in Gujarat and come back to the hermitage. Meanwhile, Acharya would be sitting in the verandah surrounded by yawning young shishyas. They would be doing Pratah-smaranam. I also know the chants by everyday use but I never needed to learn them. प्रातरग्निं प्रातरिन्द्रँ हवामहे। प्रातर्मित्रावरुणा प्रातरश्विना। प्रातर्भगं पूषणं ब्रह्मणस्पतिम्। प्रातः सोममुत रुद्रँ हुवेम। They would be chanting this Sukta after their Apam-upasparshanam, splashing water on the face and sipping. He would ask them to drink cool water kept in the night in copper-vessel. And even I would drink some warm water. We used to go for bowels in woods at a distance and nearby for urination. [Footnote 2: Smritis have a detailed description of this मलनिर्मोचन. We admit that with the ever-shrinking space for human inhabitation, this is almost irrelevant now. But, Acharya tried to practise the prescribed way and he observes that the texts are very careful in maintaining hygiene and also respect the Mother Earth, Wind, Waters, Fire, Directions and Sun, all as Devata. This leads to a very healthy nature-friendly life, though we may find it cumbersome. We may envy their extravagant natural resources, the luxury of wild country-space.] This शौचमाचमनं is going on along with morning class of Veda-Avritti. This used to be hilarious or sometimes painful also for the young ones with all their sleepiness. They would be reciting with the Acharya doing Dhyanam or contemplation. This is the time which gives the best of insights into Past, Present and Future. Acharya would sit peacefully while I would dust the rooms and sprinkle water in the court-yard. I would draw Rangoli unless I am unfit in my natural menstrual cycle. Acharya told me an anecdote of how stupid and arrogant we are as the children of modern age. He once read a shloka ‘वैश्वदेवस्य यः कर्ता तस्य भार्या रजस्वला। भिक्षा तत्र न कर्तव्या यतिना हितमिच्छता।।‘ He construed it to mean: ‘He who is doing Vaishvadeva Homa, means his wife is unfit due to menses and hence Yati should avoid his house for Bhiksha, as it is certainly impure.’ He assumed due to unexposure to real practise that Vaishvadeva is to be done by the person who cooks. So naturally the wife would be ordinarily doing Vaishvadeva everyday. The day she is out, husband would cook and also perform Vaishvadeva. Now, along comes a Yati for Bhiksha and when he sees the husband doing Vaishvadeva, he understands the situation and walks away without having to be told the inside story! The readers are invited to share their interpretation as an exercise-problem to explain the importance of actual exposure to practises to interpret texts faithfully to the intention of the composer. We will answer the correct interpretation in the next issue. Acharya says, his Guruji in Kashi was ammused with this brilliant interpretation which was just false! Ofcourse he was crest-fallen and enlightened simultaneousely when the simple and elegant actual meaning was told by his Guruji.

This Rangoli is different for different clans. It also shows lots of innovations and adaptations. But the idea of fresh and pure household, fit for a ‘Life for Yajnya’ is what is common to all of them. This is our cultural unity in diversity in external form. We will keep sharing these little pieces, if the readers like it.

To be continued….

– Mrs. Suvrata Vinod, Anandavan Bhakta Samudaya, Institute of Advanced Studies in Veda and Science.

Understanding The Tradition of Vedic Recitation (Part-II)

(Continued from Part-I)

-Dr. Soma Basu

1.4. The necessity of oral transmission –

We can see that the tradition of oral transmission from teacher to pupil, from early times to the present day is most important, since it is the only method recognized as authentic and authoritative as far as the preservation of the sacred texts is concerned. The breadth of outlook of the Vedic sages, our ancestors, was truly remarkable. Great care was taken to preserve the proper accentuation of the Vedic texts.

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(Source of Image : https://indroyc.com/2014/11/08/the-tradition-of-vedic-chanting/)

The practice of different modes of recitation or the method of instruction is emphatically necessary for the proper understanding and transmission of any kind of Vedic texts and ritual practices. Some peculiar but very useful devices have been applied from time immemorial, which is now practised even today by following traditional system of education.  Fortunately, a growing interest has been felt in recent years in the study of the Vedic recitation in the traditional manner particularly in some parts of India.

1.5  The importance of the ancillary texts – 

The texts (or lakṣaṇa granthas) which define the characteristics and describe the special features of Vedic texts are generally termed Veda-lakṣaṇa. These ancillary texts, the highly interesting field of traditional Indian learning, are of multifaceted importance. They are of ancillary nature and generally classified under Vedāṅga, a few of them more precisely under the Śikṣā, i.e., the texts on Phonetics or Śikṣā. They relate to the method of instruction and the practice of different modes of recitation, which are most important for a proper understanding and the study of the tradition of Vedic recitation. Such texts are not only interesting from the point of view of the preservation of Vedic texts but are also very instructive for an understanding of the various devices or methods of learning that were exclusively developed for this purpose and also for knowledge of the various aspects of the history of their proper transmission.  A mere performance in the proper way is believed to produce a spiritual effect irrespective of understanding the meaning of the texts recited.

Attempting for preservation of the sacred texts in a strictly oral tradition, not only the words but also their correct articulation led to an inquiry into the production of the sounds of speech. To attain the goal of perfect preservation of the sacred texts, a sound knowledge of pronunciation techniques is required. Towards the end of the Vedic period there were three branches of linguistic study, – phonetics (Śikṣā), etymology (Nirukta) and grammar (Vyākaraṇa), but their oldest systematical works have not survived. Phonetics was the basis for the other two branches namely, Nirukta and Vyākaraṇa. Grammar was linked up with the ritual duties of the priests.

The earliest mention of the Sūtra texts of Phonetics or Śikṣā is found in the Taittirīya Upaniṣad (1.2). They are as old as the Kalpa Sūtras and connected closely with the Saṃhitās of the Vedas, the R̥gveda Prātiśākhya being the oldest textbook of Vedic phonetics. The six chapters of Śikṣā are enumerated there as lessons on letters and their intonation, syllabic measures, i.e., quantity of the syllables and volume, melody and word combination.

1.6. Conclusion

The sources of Indian phonetics, the Śikṣā and Prātiśākhya

The history of the study of Indian grammatical traditions begins with the Śikṣā and Prātiśākhya. They are two main categories that constitute the sources of Indian phonetics. Śikṣā dealing with the science of phonetics of the Vedas occupies a very important position in the Lakṣaṇa for facilitating easy learning and memorization. They contain instructions on pronunciation, intonation, euphonic changes of sounds in word combinations, elongation of vowels etc. The holistic manner of recitation of the Saṃhitās is not itself actual works of grammar still they deal with subjects which belong to grammar. They bear the testimony to the fact that the texts of the Saṃhitās have been preserved without any change throughout all these centuries since the time of the Prātiśākhyas, the oldest being the R̥gveda Prātiśākhya, the most important text book of Vedic phonetics. The Vedic Saṃhitās are the work of phoneticians or grammarians as we get the stanzas in a complete grammatically analytic form.

– Dr. Soma Basu, Associate Professor, School of Vedic Studies, Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata

Understanding The Tradition of Vedic Recitation [Part-I]

SB Photo

-Dr. Soma Basu

1.1. The relevance of ancient Indian texts on Phonetics –

The purport or relevance of the ancient scriptures (Śāstras) on Phonetics is most modern considering their invaluable importance in the methodical phonetic procedure developed by them, which helped preserve the Vedas without the slightest variants in the most faithful way possible. The Vedas are the most ancient bulk of literature humanity has ever produced. They are not only scriptures, but also the fountainhead of Indian culture and human civilization. Actually, they are the treasure house of knowledge par excellence. They are the source of integral wisdom, science, tradition and culture of a remarkable civilization. They are oral compilations of distilled wisdom of cosmic knowledge survived from the time immemorial. We all know that the Veda has to be studied along with its six ancillary texts, i.e., the Vedāṅgas. They are the last treatises of Vedic literature. The Vedāṅga likely developed towards the end of the Vedic period, around of after the middle of the 1st millennium BCE, These auxiliary fields of Vedic studies emerged because the language of the Vedic texts composed centuries earlier grew too archaic to the people of that time.

ṣaḍaṅgo vedo’dhyeyo jñeyaś ca.

1.2. The function of the auxiliary disciplines of the Vedas (Vedāṅgas) –

The necessity of the Vedas and precisely the limbs or auxiliary disciplines of the Vedas (Vedāṅgas) will never die out, in as much as these are the most dependable source to look up to for answers to many a query that invoke intricate exploration. Understanding Vedāṅgas is a pre-requisite to understanding the Veda. The function of the Śikṣā (i.e., the foremost of the six limbs – [The other five being Kalpa or ritual, Vyākaraa or grammar, Nirukta or etymology, Chandas or meter and Jyotia or astronomy.]) is to fix the parameters of Vedic words. Phonetics is most important in the case of the Vedic language; because we see that a mere change in sound leads to change in results and effect. The ancient Indian science of phonetics, which is taught so meticulously in the Śikṣā texts, is the ultimate knowledge discussed in such an ancient time regarding construction of sound and language for synthesis of ideas, in contrast to grammarians who developed rules for language deconstruction and understanding of ideas. We are astonished to know the content of the major treatises of this particular branch which are most relevant in today’s perspective since they analyze sound, vowels and consonants, rules of combination and pronunciation to assist clear understanding, to avoid mistakes and for resonance pleasing to the listener. The methodology found in the Śikṣā texts has been not just highly technical, it has strong aesthetic “sensuous, emotive” dimension, which foster thinking and intellectual skills in a participatory fashion. The reciter’s mind and body are engaged, making language and sound as an emotional performance. In theNāradīya Śikṣā, it has been expressed beautifully, –

Just as a tigress takes her cubs tightly in her teeth without hurting them, whilst fearing that she might drop them and injure them, so one should approach the individual syllables (2.8.31). (transl. by Annette Wilke and Oliver Moebus, (2011). Sound and Communication: An Aesthetic Cultural History of Sanskrit Hinduism. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-018159-3. [Source :Internet]

1.3. Some information –

1.3.1 From the ancient texts –

In the Atharvaveda (12.1.45), there is the unique realization janaṃ bibhratī bahudhā vivācasaṃ nānādharmānaṃ pr̥thithaukasam |

which means, “Let the earth, bearing in many places people of different speech, of diverse customs (-dharman) according to their homes…” [Trans. W. D. Whitney.  Atharvaveda Saṃhitā. Cambridge , Mass.1905 (1st Edition), MLBD : Delhi 1962, 1971, 1984 ( rpt.) Vol.8, p. 668.]

In the ancient texts like the Taittirīya Saṃhitā (2.4.12.1) and the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa (1.6.3.8) there is a well-known story narrated where it has been described how Tvaṣṭr̥ repeating the words ‘indraśatrur vardhasva’ in wrong accents caused the fire to be extinguished instead of inflaming it against Indra as he intended. The legend is all about how Tvaṣṭr̥ wanted to pronounce the word ‘indraśatruḥ’ (meaning ‘destroyer of Indra’) as a Tatpuruṣa compound (in which the last syllable of the compound has the udātta accent), while he actually pronounced the word as a Bahuvrīhi (meaning ‘whose killer would be Indra’), in which case the first word of the compound has the udātta accent (as in ‘indraśatrurḥ’) [P. V. Kane. History of Dharmaśāstra.  Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona, 1941. vol. II, pt. I, p. 347.]. Pāṇini says, ‘samāsasya’ (6.1.223) – samāsa-niṣpaṇṇa-śabdasya anta-svaraḥ udātto bhavati and ‘bahuvrīhau prakr̥tyā pūrvvapadam’ (6.2.1) – bahuvrīhi-samāse, udātta-svarita-yuktaṃ pūrvvapadaṃ prakr̥tyā bhavati… etc.

1.3.2  From the Bible –

The story of the Tower of Babel in the Book of Genesis (11:1-9) offers an explanation for the many different languages spoken on earth, though on the surface, otherwise it carries deeper meaning too. According to the story, all the descendants of Noah spoke a single language. They began to spread eastward as they increased in number. After finding a fertile area called Shinar they settled there and instead of setting up a society that fits God’s will, they decided to challenge His authority and build a city with a tower that could reach Heaven. They wanted the tower to be a proud monument to themselves and a symbol that would keep them united as a powerful people. However, God thought it otherwise. Unhappy he came down and looked at the city and watching the tower said, if as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other. (Genesis 11:6-7) God, recognizing their arrogance, regained control over them through a linguistic stratagem. Therefore, God made the people speak many different languages so as not to understand each other and work together on building the city and tower. He scattered the people around the world and the city was abandoned. After that incident, the number of languages increased through diversification, and people started to look for ways to communicate.

(to be continued…..)

Dr. Soma Basu, Associate Professor, School of Vedic Studies, Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata

Rediscovering Indian Culture : The Imperatives of Progress

-Mr. M.S. Srinivasan, Senior Research Associate, Sri Aurobindo Institute of Research in Social Sciences, Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry, India.

Another key factor which has to be kept in mind is that culture, like any other human organism, is also capable of evolution and progress. The cultural vision of a nation can undergo expansion and enlargement, constantly enriched by new insights from the succeeding generations of seers, prophets and thinkers from within itself or from a cross-cultural fertilization. This fact applies not only to art, science, philosophy and literature but also to religion and spirituality.

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Spiritual experience and spiritual thought are also capable of progressive evolution in the form of new discoveries and revelations in the realm of the Spirit and new forms of creative self-expression and synthesis in spiritual thought. So the spiritual intuitions, revelations and discoveries of our modern seers like Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and Swami Vivekananda are also as much a part of our priceless cultural heritage as the revelations of our past seers. This is something which the orthodox exponent of Indian culture still refuses to acknowledge. He is ready to accept a new spiritual teaching if it does not cross the boundaries of the ancient teaching. He is also ready to accept innovations within these boundaries. But when the new revelations go beyond the ancient revelations and enter into unexplored vistas of the Spirit, he becomes suspicious and protests and complains. But is it wise to set such limits to the possibilities of the spiritual quest which is a quest for the Infinite? As Sri Aurobindo points out in one of his letters:

“Truly, this shocked reverence for the past is a wonderful and fearful thing! After all the Divine is infinite and the unrolling of the Truth may be an infinite process . . . not a thing in a nutshell cracked and its contents exhausted once for all by the first seer or sage, while the others must religiously crack the nutshell all over again, each tremblingly fearful not to give the lie to the ‘past’ seers and sages (Sri Aurobindo, Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library (SABCL), Vol. 26, On Himself, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry, p.135).

Swami Vivekananda also said something similar in one of his lectures:

“Is God’s book closed? Or is it still a continuous revelation going on? The Bible, the Vedas, the Quran and all other sacred books are but so many pages, and an infinite number of pages remain yet to be unfolded.  I would leave it open for all of them. We stand in the present but open ourselves to the infinite future. We take in all that has been in the past; enjoy the light of the present and open every window of the heart for all that will come in the future. Salutations to all the prophets of the past, great ones of the present and to all that are to come in the future (Swami Vivekananda, The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol. 2, Adwaita, Ashrama, Mayavathi, p. 374).

The above inspiring words of Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda reveal the right attitude in dealing with the past and future of Indian Culture. Spirituality is the essence of our national genius: it is the “distinctive compe­tence” of our nation and the source of our national vitality. If the vitality of Western culture lies in its creative and progressive endeavour in secular sciences and the application of science to social progress, the vitality of Indian culture and civilization lies in its creative and progressive endeavour in spiritual science, thought and practice. The future of Indian civilization and culture depends on maintaining this creative and progressive attitude to our unique national genius and harnessing its potential for the progress and development of our own nation and humanity as a whole.

Rediscovering Indian Culture : The Universal, Temporal and The Specific

-Mr. M.S. Srinivasan, Senior Research Associate, Sri Aurobindo Institute of Research in Social Sciences, Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry, India.

There are two aspects of Indian culture which we have to study carefully and understand thoroughly in order to harness fully its creative potential: first is the element of universality in its essential insights which gives it a global validity, and second is the element of uniqueness of its essential temperament and genius which distinguishes it from other cultures and is therefore of special importance to India. The founders of Indian culture were not ordinary people or mere intellectual thinkers but spiritual seers, Rishis, who lived in constant communion with a universal and eternal consciousness beyond Mind and observed and knew from it the deepest truth of Man, Life and Nature. They tried to build human society on the foundations of some universal spiritual and psychological principles which govern human life in the individual and the collectivity. The values and ideals of Indian culture are based on and evolved from these deeper spiritual discoveries of our Rishis.

But the orthodox exponent of Indian culture asks us to accept this fact on the basis of a blind belief in the greatness of our ancient Rishis and wants to revive the old ideals and values as they were without any remoulding and modification. Such a static and inert approach to Indian culture can never be progressive and creative. If the insights of our ancient Rishis are to be brought back to life and made creative for the present, they have to become our own insights. We have to rediscover them through spiritual experience, vision, intuition or reasoning and make them our own. And if these insights have to become live and creative for shaping the future, we have to re-examine their applica­bility to the contemporary and emerging society.

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The insights of our ancient Rishis may have a universal and eternal relevance, but the way and the form in which they were applied or expressed in ancient Indian society have only a limited and temporary validity. The master­-builders of Indian culture may have seen the truth of things in its essence and wholeness, but the evolutionary condition or consciousness of the society in which they lived may not have been ready or prepared to receive, express and manifest the entire truth they had experienced. That the Vedic sages were well aware of this fact is clear from their description of humanity as a year-old infant. They might have revealed only that much of truth which the infant humanity of their times was able to assimilate and express. So there could be a considerable dilution of the original insights of the Rishis when these insights took a final form in society―a partial step down from the spiritual truth experienced by the seer to the truth revealed or sought to be realised in society; then there was further dilution in the mental ideal through which it was expressed in thought; and again a still further degeneration in the process of practical compromises which the ideal had to make in order to acquire a vital or material form in society. So one of the first tasks in revitalising Indian Culture is to recover the original spiritual and psychological insights behind its past ideals and forms and re-examine their relevance and applicability to the present society. The other task is to examine how best these insights can be re-applied to the progress and evolution of modern society by giving them new and greater forms of self-expression suited to the present evolutionary conditions of humanity.

The other aspect of Indian culture is its uniqueness, its special temperament and genius which distinguishes it from other cultures. The main features of this uniqueness are an inborn spirituality and passion for the Infinite,  a scientific and pragmatic turn of mind in the field of religion and psychology―or, in other words, in the field of spiritual and psychological self-exploration and self­-development,―its tendency to create the exterior from within; its primary stress on inner progress; its repeated emphasis on renunciation and sacrifice as the means for this inner progress; and finally, the great respect it has for the spiritual person who has attained inner realisation. There are many others, but these are the major features of the special temperament and genius of Indian culture.  We have to understand deeply and with clarity these different aspects of our national temperament and genius; make them the basis of our motivational strategies and try to manifest them in every area of our national life.