Modern Science Validates our Scriptures on Nutritive Value of Cow-Milk

Sh. I. K. Narang

Milk has been recognized as a complete food by nutritionists all over the world. It has all the ingredients and nutrients necessary for growth and maintenance of a healthy human body.  Modern science as well ancient Indian texts and scriptures are full of references eulogizing the virtues of milk as a complete food. Indian scriptures have described milk as the elixir of life or Amṛta.  

अमृतं वै गवां क्षीरमित्याह त्रिदशाधिप:।

तस्माद् ददाति यो धेनुममृतं स प्रयच्छति॥

(Mahābhārata 65-46)

Similar reference which means ‘Cow-milk is Amṛta, It protects us (from disease). Therefore, if someone donates a cow, he actually donates the Amṛta.

Goshu priyamamrutam rakshmana

(ṚgVeda 1-71-9)

ṚgVeda in another Mantra (5-19-4) describes Cow-milk as the most desirable and likeable drink. There are several similar descriptions in other scriptures, which enumerate the health-providing, prophylactic and curative properties of milk. Milk has been described as a drink providing vitality, immunity, (the inner strength to fight diseases), a complete balanced diet, which gives ‘Subudhi’ or the right thinking power or wisdom. Charak has described milk as:

स्वादुशीतं मृदु स्निग्धं बहलं श्लक्ष्णपिच्छिलम्।

गुरू मन्दं प्रसन्नं च गव्यं दशगुणं पयः॥

(Charka-Samhita 27-217)

This describes the Organoleptic and nutritional properties of milk. It says Cow’s milk is tasteful, sweet, has a fine/subtle flavor, is dense, and contains good fat, but light, easily digestible, and not easily spoiled. It gives us tranquility and cheerfulness. Charka 27-214 states ‘kshiryojaskar pusam’ which means milk increases the vitality and Virility in man. Dhanvantri another ancient Indian physician has described cow’s milk is a desirable and preferred diet in all types of ailments and that its regular use protects the human body from Vātta, Pitta, Kafa. ‘Raj Nighantu’, another authoritative treatise on ‘Ayurveda’ also describes milk as Amṛta or Piyush. Similar properties of milk as provider of vitality and strength are –

यूयं गावो मेद्यथाम कृशं चिद्श्रीरं चित कृणुथाम सुप्रतीकम

भद्र गृहम कृणुथ भद्रवाचो बृहद वो उच्यते सुभासु

(Atharv Veda 4-21-6)

The Cow, through its milk, transforms a weak and sick person into an energetic person, provides vitality to those without it and by doing so, makes the family prosperous and respectable in the ‘civilized society’.

The curative value of cow milk in heart diseases and Jaundice like diseases (Hriday Rog and Pāndu Rog), milk from cows of red colour was considered to be the only remedy for this.  

अनु सुर्यमुदयतां हृदयोतो हरिमा च ते।

गो रोहितस्य वर्णेन तेन त्वा परिदध्मसि॥

(Atharv Veda 1-22-1)

Validation of the above claims by Modern Science:

What is for consideration here is whether Cow-milk has been compared with or described as ‘Amṛta’ only on sentimental/emotional or religious grounds or whether there is any description of certain specific qualities or properties of milk and milk products which enhance the longevity or vitality of life to the extent of making the regular consumer of milk a healthy person with a long life and help cure certain ailments.  Let  us therefore have a look at the findings of modern science to validate what our scriptures have stated.

 Source: National Institute of Nutrition – Hyderabad

In modern science Cow-milk occupies a special position among foods as it is an animal food that has a vegetarian connotation. The above table shows the various nutrients found in milk. All these make the milk a complete food. It carries almost all nutrients needed by any human being for growth and development be it children, adolescent, elderly people, pregnant and nursing mothers. It is considered as a protective food. Milk helps to balance human diet by supplementing good quality fat, protein, calcium and vitamins particularly, vitamin A, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid. In addition milk contains several bio-protective molecules that ensure health security to humans. Component wise discussion is given below:

  1. Milk fat
  • The average cholesterol content in cow- milk is only 2.8 mg/g fat. Moreover, humans absorb 10-14% of dietary cholesterol, thus only 20-40 mg cholesterol will be absorbed from 50g of dietary milk fat. On the other hand, the body itself synthesizes cholesterol (1-4g daily) in much higher amounts than what is absorbed from the diet.
  • Milk fat has high proportion of short and medium-chain saturated fatty acids, which do not raise serum cholesterol levels. Experiments with volunteers have shown that cholesterol levels do not rise when as much as 2 litters of milk is consumed daily. On the contrary, the cholesterol level is reduced. It has been suggested that the regular intake of milk keeps blood vessels healthy.
  • Compared to other fats and oils, milk fat is easily digestible. The digestibility of milk fat is 99%. The excellent digestibility of milk fat is due to dispersion of fat globules in the aqueous phase of milk forming an emulsion. They are absorbed directly unlike other dietary fats that have to be emulsified by bile, pancreatic enzymes and intestinal lipases before they can pass through intestinal well. The easy digestibility of milk fat makes it a valuable dietary constituent in diseases of stomach, intestine, liver, gall bladder, kidney and disorders of fat digestion. Milk fat has a protective effect against human tooth decay.
  • Protective effect of milk fat against some types of cancer (colon, breast and skin) has recently been reported. A specific fatty acid (a cis-trans isomer of linoleic acid) has been identified in milk fat, which appears to be an inhibitor of cancerous growth.

2. Milk proteins

  • Milk proteins are rich in essential amino acids. The digestibility of milk proteins is rated higher (96%) much more than that of plant proteins (74-78%).
  • The milk proteins are useful in the diet of patients suffering from liver and gall bladder diseases, hyperlipidemia and diabetes. Patients with impaired kidney functions rely on protein with high BV for relieving strain on the excretory function of the kidney.
  • Modern medical science tells us that milk helps in curing uric acid problems and acidity conditions in stomach, treatment of inflammation of mucous lining of stomach and of stomach ulcers, preventing hyperacidity. This due to buffering effect of protein in milk.  Drinking milk is, therefore, advised in case of hyper acidity or peptic ulcer formation.  
  • Immunoglobulin, lactoferrin, lysozyme, lactoperoxidase and vitamin B12-binding protein have antimicrobial effect also. They not only act against the microorganisms in the intestine but also prevent the absorption of foreign proteins.
  • Lactoferrin is an iron binding glycoprotein that occurs in cow milk at a level of 0.2 mg/ml. It plays an important role in the resistance against intestinal infection, particularly Escherichia coli.
  • The milk proteins are used in slimming diets also.

3. Milk sugar

  • Lactose, the principal milk sugar, is slowly metabolised and therefore, a considerable portion of it passes into the large intestine where it promotes the growth of lactic acid producing bacteria. lactose promotes the utilization of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.
  • The blood glucose does not rise rapidly on lactose diet.
  • Milk consumption, therefore, enables the diabetic person to obtain the biologically highly valuable milk proteins without running the risk of rise in blood glucose levels.

4. Minerals in Milk 

  • Milk and dairy products are the most important source of calcium in readily available form. A 250 ml serving of cow milk contains calcium equivalent to 60% of ICMR’s Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults. Incorporation of milk in the diet also improves the bioavailability of calcium from vegetable foods.
  • Recent research has shown that poor nutritional status with respect to calcium is related to diseases like osteoporosis, hypertension and colon cancer.
  • The hypertensive patients have shown significant reduction in blood pressure in response to increased calcium intake.
  • Introduction of increased dietary calcium through dairy products has been shown to reduce incidences in colon cancer and hyper-proliferation in the colonic mucosa in rodents.
  • Milk is rich in phosphorus that reduces urinary calcium excretion. Milk and most dairy products,  have a near 1:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio considered to be ideal for retention of calcium in the body

5. Rich source of vitamins

  • Milk is a rich source of vitamins not only in terms of their contents but also their better bioavailability.
  • Milk is one of the richest natural sources of riboflavin (vitamin B2). A 250 ml serving of cow milk contains riboflavin equivalent to 50% of the daily requirement of a pre-school child.
  • It is a very good source of niacin (Vitamin B3) though in small amounts. Indeed, milk is used as dietary ingredient for patient suffering from pellagra, a niacin deficiency disease.
  • For vegetarians, milk is sole natural source of vitamin B12, as this vitamin is present only in animal foods.
  • Milk is also a good source of folic acid. / Vitamin A.  

6. Enzymes :

A number of enzymes in milk are involved in the milk immune system. These are lactoperoxidase, xanthin oxidase and lysozyme. The lactoperoxidase-thiocyanate-system  destroys the harmful  microorganisms.

 It is because of these qualities of cow’s milk that cow has been treated as “Gau Mātā”, a provider of Amṛta, provider of health, wealth, prosperity, fame and respect. This also made the cow an object of worship and reverence. While praying for freedom and prosperity for nation, the Aryans, prayed for high yielding milk cows –

दोग्ध्री धेनु

(Yajurveda 22-22)

OUR ANCESTORS WERE DAIRY SCIENTISTS  :

This analysis is a pointer to believe that our Ṛṣis were Dairy Scientists They understood the:

  • The nutritive value of various components of milk & milk products
  • The Curative – preventive and therapeutic  properties of milk,
  • Therapeutic and Immunological  properties and extra-nutritional role of milk constituents
  • Immunological aspects of proteins

NEED FOR FURTHER RESEARCH

This   discussion provides a lead to further investigate and validate the claims like producing medicated milks and research in to medicinal effects of milk drawn from different colour cows through modern methods of diagnostic medicine.

Mr. I. K. Narang, Former Assistant Commissioner (Dairy Development) Government of India

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पुस्तक की नियति

-डा. प्रवेश सक्सेना

भारत हो या विश्व के अन्य कोई देश, सर्वत्र पुस्तक आरंभिक दिनों में कहीं जीवित व्यक्तियों के रूप में, भोजपत्रों, पत्थरों या मिट्टी की गोलियों के रूप में या पिफर चर्म और धातुओं पर अंकित या उकेरी रही है। परिवर्तन संसार का शाश्वत नियम है। मानव जीवन के हर क्षेत्र में परिवर्तन होता है तो पुस्तक के क्षेत्र में भला क्यों नहीं होता? काग़ज़ के आविष्कार और मुद्रण कला ने क्रांतिकारी परिवर्तन किए हैं पुस्तक के रूप में। सबसे बड़ा परिवर्तन जो 20वीं सदी के अंत में कंप्यूटर और इंटरनेट ने किया और अब जो ‘ई-बुक’ का आधुनिकतम आविष्कार हुआ है, उसने तो न केवल पुस्तक का कलेवर बदला है, लेखक, पाठक, प्रकाशक और पुस्तकालय सबके समीकरण बदल डाले हैं।

पुस्तक के भविष्य को लेकर इस युग में प्रायः समाचार-पत्रों या पत्रिकाओं में इतस्ततः चिंता व्यक्त की जाती है। पुस्तकें गायब हैं? पुस्तक की मृत्यु हो चुकी है? आदि नकारात्मक बातें इस साइबर युग में बार-बार पढ़ी-सुनी जाती हैं? इक्कीसवीं सदी के इस साइबर युग में जबकि इंटरनेट, किंडल, ई-बुक आदि का प्रचलन बढ़ता जा रहा है तो पुस्तक के भविष्य को लेकर चिंता होना स्वाभाविक है। क्या होगा मुद्रित पुस्तक का भविष्य? क्या वह अजायबघर की एक वस्तु बनकर रह जाने वाली है? फिर पुस्तक की नियति के बारे में और भी प्रश्न मन में घुमड़ने लगते हैं? कैसे वह अस्तित्व में आई, कैसे मनुष्य ने लिखना सीखा, प्रथम पुस्तक प्रस्तर पर लिखी गई या भोजपत्र पर, काग़ज़ कब, कहाँ से आया? आदि-आदि। प्रथम मुद्रित पुस्तक किस भाषा में थी, क्या नाम था उसका? अर्थात् ‘पुस्तक की नियति’ को लेकर उसके ‘कल, आज और कल’ से संबंधित प्रश्न अगणित हैं। दूसरी ओर जब दिल्ली पुस्तक मेले या विश्व पुस्तक मेले लगते हैं तो ‘किताबें लौट आई हैं’ जैसे सकारात्मक शीर्षक भी नज़र आते हैं। जो भी हो 20वीं सदी के अंत और 21वीं सदी के इन प्रारंभिक दशकों में पुस्तक को लेकर चिंता व्याप्त है। कारण प्रथम तो यही कि कंप्यूटर, इंटरनेट और ई-बुक ने मुद्रित पुस्तक को पीछे छोड़ दिया है। द्वितीय कारण पठनीयता कम से कमतर होती गई है। यही सब कारण रहे कि ‘पुस्तक की नियति’ पर कुछ लिखने का मन बना।

पुस्तक की नियति के बारे में सोचते ही प्रश्न उभरते हैं कैसे वह अस्तित्व में आई, कैसे मनुष्य ने लिखना सीखा, प्रथम पुस्तक प्रस्तर पर लिखी गई या भोजपत्र पर? काग़ज़ कब, कहां से आया आदि-आदि? इन सब प्रश्नों के उत्तर खोजने के लिए अतीत के गर्भ में जाना जरूरी था। प्रागैतिहासिक काल में कैसे मनुष्य ने भाषा को सीखा, लिखना सीखा आदि प्रश्नों के उत्तर टटोलने ज़रूरी थे। इसलिए जितना संभव था उतना ढूँढ़ने की कोशिश की। आश्चर्य हुआ यह जानकर कि पुस्तक के जन्म या विकास को लेकर कुछ विश्वकोशों से सहायता भले ही मिल जाए परंतु ‘पुस्तक पर पुस्तक’ कहीं नहीं मिलती। दूसरे शब्दों में कह सकते हैं कि पुस्तक के जन्म और विकास की गाथा के सूत्र जहाँ एक साथ मिल सकें-ऐसी कोई ‘पुस्तक’ पुस्तक पर नहीं मिलती है।

अनेक पुस्तकालयों के चक्कर काटे। प्रकाशकों से संपर्क किया परंतु निराश होना पड़ा। हिंदी भाषा में तो इस प्रकार की पुस्तक मिली ही नहीं। हाँ, साहित्य अकादमी में ज़रूर एक अंग्रेज़ी ग्रंथ मिला पर उसमें संस्कृत, हिंदी का उल्लेख तो था ही नहीं अंग्रेज़ी साहित्य की पुस्तकों का ही उल्लेख था। पुस्तक के जन्म और विकास की गाथा का उल्लेख भी कुछ विशेष नहीं था।

एक पुस्तक एम. आइलिन की प्राप्त हुई, जिसका अंग्रेज़ी शीर्षक था ‘Black on White’ यह भी मूल रूप में नहीं मिली। ‘पुस्तक के जन्म और विकास की कहानी’ शीर्षक से जितेन्द्र शर्मा ने इसका रूपांतरण किया है और कौस्तुभ प्रकाशन, हापुड़-245101 ने इसे सन् 2010 में छापा है। अत्यंत रोचक तरीके से इस रूपांतरित पुस्तक में पुस्तक की गाथा वैश्विक संदर्भ में लिखी गई है। आश्चर्यजनक बात लगती है यह कि यहाँ संस्कृत जो कि विश्व की प्राचीनतम भाषा सर्वस्वीकृत है तथा ऋग्वेद जो विश्व-पुस्तकालय की प्राचीनतम लिखित पुस्तक मानी जाती है उसका उल्लेख तक नहीं। भाषा के अक्षरों तथा अंकों की खोज का श्रेय फोनिशियंस जो सेमिटिक जाति के थे, उन्हें दिया गया है। विश्वास है यह किसी पूर्वाग्रह या दुराग्रह के कारण नहीं हुआ होगा, संभवतः लेखक या रूपांतरकार दोनों ही संस्कृत से परिचित नहीं रहे होंगे। 

भारतीय संदर्भों में वेद मौखिक परंपरा से पीढ़ी दर पीढ़ी पहुँचे, ज्ञान दर्शन सबका संप्रेषण गुरु-शिष्य परंपरा से हुआ ज़रूर परंतु उस सुदूरकाल में लेखनकला भी उसके समानांतर चलती रही। पुस्तक के जन्म के या मूल के प्रसंग में इसे जानना रोचक और ज्ञानवर्धक रहा है। इसके लिए पुरातात्त्विक साक्ष्य जैसे शिलालेख आदि तो हैं ही साथ ही प्राचीन वाङम्य में अनेक अंतःसाक्ष्य भी उपलब्ध हैं।

इन्हीं सब विचारों को समेटे हुए तथा पुस्तक के प्रति आशावादी सोच रखते हुए ‘पुस्तक की नियति’ नामक पुस्तक को लिखने का विचार आया। कुल बारह अध्यायों में पुस्तक के मूल, उसके लेखक, पाठक और यहाँ तक कि लेखन सामग्री और पुस्तकालयों तक पर विस्तार से चर्चा; ई-बुक का चमत्कारपूर्ण संसार; समय-समय पर कथित विद्वानों द्वारा पुस्तक के महत्त्व के विषय में टिप्पणियाँ; पुस्तक को लेकर संस्कृत और हिंदी की कुछ कविताओं का संकलन; पुस्तक के विषय में प्राप्त रोचक तथ्य आदि का वर्णन है। कुल मिलाकर कहें तो यह ‘पुस्तक’ इस क्षेत्र में एक बड़े शून्य को भरती है।

इस कार्य द्वारा भारतीय और वैश्विक दोनों संदर्भों में ‘पुस्तक की नियति’ को जानने-समझने की कोशिश की गयी है। मेरा मानना है –

‘पुस्तक की नियति’ : पुस्तक थी, है और हमेशा रहेगी।

Dr. Pravesh Saxena, Former Associate Professor, Sanskrit, Zakhir Hussain College, University of Delhi

Connecting with Mā Gangā

Ms. Neera Misra

Introduction

Gangā! The very name creates a sense of sanctity, devotion and reverence. It is the only flowing body of sacred waters whose history of origin through superhuman efforts, has been immortalized in legendary films and arts, and termed Gangā Avtaraṇa or even as Bhāgiratha Prayathna. We get a detailed description of Gangā Avtaraṇa  in Srimad Vālmīki Ramāyana.

कथं गङ्गावतरणं कथं तेषां जलक्रिया….॥ (बालकाण्ड, द्विचत्वारिंश सर्ग ६)

भगीरथस्तु राजर्षिर्धार्मिको…..राज्यं गङ्गावतरणे रत:॥ (वही, ११-१२)

(Source of Image : ‘Gangā Avtaraṇa गङ्गावतरण ‘ – A famous painting by Sh. Raja Ravi Verma

The water deity, identified with ‘makara’ at her feet, brings with it unique power of salvation from sins. It is the spiritual river that has defined Bhārata’s culture and civilization since time immemorial.

The Gangā occupies an unrivalled position among the rivers of the world. No other river is so closely identified with a country as the Gangā is with India’, says Jagmohan Mahajan in Gangā Observed (Foreign accounts of the river). ‘Cities and pilgrimage centers teeming with temples and shrines have sprung up all along its course (milestones in the history of the land and the growth of Indian civilization). The Gangetic plain has indeed been the pole towards which the political, economic and religious life of the country has gravitated’.  Gangā is much more.

‘पतित पावनी जीवनदायनी’ Mā Gangā is integral to us from birth to death. Its water is used at every ceremony for purification, as a charm to ward off evil spirits, sprinkled at weddings over the bride and bridegroom, and dropped into the mouths of the dying, and also serving as a medium for oath taking. Geographer Strabo calls it ‘the largest river’. The English traveller Thomas Coryat, who visited India from 1612 to 1617, has called it ‘the captains of all rivers in the world’.

Yet this water of life and death is not just a naturally existing river as perceived by many. Descending from the heavens as rain, she was created as a channel for human salvation with the vision of Solar Dynasty King Sagara and his five generations of descendants, a task finally accomplished by Bhāgiratha with the blessings of Lord Shiva. Gangā is not just flowing waters but divine waters endowed with unique properties for our ‘mokṣa’. Some scholars believe that our current understanding and approach to ‘river’ is based on European ideas and very different from what ancient seers of Bhārata conceived. Dilip da Cunha, in his book ‘The Invention of Rivers: Alexander’s Eye and Gangā’s Descent‘, (published 2018 November by the University of Pennsylvania) attributes the colonial understanding of river and banks, the separation of land and water, to be derivative from Alexander’s concept and ancient Greek cartography. He explains ‘Although Alexander the Great never saw the Ganges, he conceived of it as a flowing body of water, with sources, destinations, and banks that marked the separation of land from water. This Alexandrine view of the river, as per Dilip da Cunha ‘has been pursued and adopted across time and around the world.

Dilip da Cunha, indirectly agrees with the Vedic view that Gangā descended from heavens, when he argues that ‘the articulation of the river Ganges has placed it at odds with Gangā, a “rain terrain that does not conform to the line of separation, containment, and calibration that are the formalities of a river’ He explains  that ‘What we take to be natural features of the earth’s surface, according to da Cunha, are products of human design’, thus again authenticating the ‘itihāsa’ of Sagar and Bhāgiratha.

In the 4th century BC, Megasthenes came from Greece as ambassador to the court of Chandragupta Maurya, leaving the first detailed account of India by a foreign visitor. He noted that the Indians worshipped the rain-bringing Zeus (Indra), the Gangā River and local deities. The Arthashastra of Kautilya mentions that ‘during drought shall Indra, the Gangā, mountains and Mahakachha (sea or ocean) be worshipped. Textual references prove that the Gangā is actually channeled rainwater (Ṛgveda 1.32.11-12).

इन्द्रो यद् वॄत्रमवधीन्नदी….| (ॠग्वेद १.५२.२)

Mysterious purifying powers

Gangā that we revere is the very special living divine liquid energy with mysterious purifying properties. This unique and mystifying trait of the Gangā has intrigued modern scientists for long but till date none have succeeded in decoding the Gangā’s spiritual powers.

Mark Twain notes that a scientist named Mr. Henkin, who was employee of the government of Agra, concluded experiments to examine the water. He went to Banāras for his tests and took water from the mouths of the sewers where they empty into the river at the bathing-ghāts; Tests revealed that a cubic centimeter of it contained millions of germs; but at the end of six hours they were all dead. He then also caught a floating corpse, towed it to shore, “ … and from beside it he dipped up water that was swarming with cholera germs; at the end of six hours they were all dead’ writes J Mahajan (Virgo Publication, 1994). Repeatedly, he took pure well-water which was barren of animal life, and put into it a few cholera germs, they always began to propagate at once, and always within six hours they swarmed- and were numerable by millions upon millions.

Europeans wondered, as many of us still do, ‘how did they find out the water’s secret in those ancient ages? Had they germ-scientists then? We do not know. We only know that they had a civilization long before we emerged from savagery’ (Mark Twain: Following the Equator, 1897).

(Source of image : ‘Devprayāg’ where the Bhāgirathi joins Alakhnandā to form Gangā. Image courtsey by Sh. Abhay Mishra)

This most telling image from Devprayāg distinctly shows here two flowing water bodies of very different colors. It is pertinent to note that this is the sacred place of the ‘divine confluence’ (Devprayāg) of two rivers that join together, creating Gangā’s emergence as the single flow towards the plains. Also, that the chemical properties of such contrasting waters will be different is clear to even an ordinary person.

How does the mixture of two or more variant waters, flowing through mineral rich pristine areas, affect the final properties of the Gangā waters that have mysterious purifying qualities? Was this confluence natural or man-made? We know of Panchprayāg (five confluences) at Uttarākhand. Waters descend crossing through Vishnuprayāg (DhauliGangā-Alakhnandā), Nandprayāg (Alakhnandā-Nandākinī), Karnaprayāg (Alakhnandā-Pindar) and Rudraprayāg where Alakhnandā meets Mandakinī.

What is the significance of the name ‘Devprayāg’ as ancient seers named people or places with certain symbolic identifications? Where or what is the initial source of the mystical properties of Gangā waters? We know that – Gangā water is always sacred as germs do not develop in it. Gangā water is always pure. It has medicinal properties in it. This drinking water has divine traits as stated in ancient texts –

शं नो देवीरभिष्टय आपो भवन्तु पीतये शं योरभि स्रवन्तु न:। (ॠग्वेद १.९.४)

Germ free pure water is also mentioned –

यथोदकं शुद्धे शुद्धमासिक्तं तादृगेव भवति। (कठोपनिषद् २.१.१५)

It is notable that where the Gangā waters fall on Hemkunt as spring,  gold particles are found there. In several places in the Gangā valley there is a tradition to strain gold particles. This gold is called ‘Gangāye’ Periplus mentions this.

Gangā is called the ‘Das Pāpa Hara Devī’ as she provides solution for ten problems. Gangā Daśera is festival celebrated in recognition of Gangā’s power of washing away ten ‘Pāpa’ or sins (sin means problems). It is also mentioned by Bhojrāj (Rajmartand) [quoted in गङ्गा नदी : उद्भव एवं देवत्व – एक सांस्कृतिक यात्रा, presented by Prof. Deen Bandhu Pande, at Draupadi Dream Trust Gangā Conference, 6th Dec 2018, Delhi]. Was course of waters having divergent properties chartered to form the miracle water?

Rajnīkānt describes the ten traits of Gangā, by which it helps us keep away problems. These ten natural qualities of Gangā are –

1. शीतत्वम्, 2. स्वादुत्वम्,  3. स्वच्छत्वम् ,  4.  अत्यन्तरुचत्वम् , 5. पत्थ्यत्वम्, 6. पावनत्वम्  7. पापहारित्वम्,  8. तृष्णामोहध्वंसनत्वम् 9. दीपत्वम्, 10. प्रज्ञाधारित्वम्.

As the British interests in India increased, they also started exploring its natural resources. Gangā, Yamuna, Brahmaputra and other rivers originating from the Himalayas attracted their attention, during 1800s and early part of 1900s. British surveyors surveyed these rivers comprehensively, and Sir William Willcox, the Director General of Irrigation of India has, in his book, shows his understanding of high standards of ancient documentations. He writes that Indian ancient writers wrote about physical facts in a spiritual manner. Regarding the rivers he states that every flow which went southwards whether, big as the Bhagirathi or not, originally started as a canal and that these canals were lined out, dug and placed just at the distance that canals should be placed. Sir William Willcox reasons that Gangā or the River Bhāgirathī was a canal constructed by our ancient visionaries. The bringing of the Gangā from the heights of Meru to the plains of India would be the greatest accomplishment of engineering in India, or even in human history.

Divine water

What is the mystery of this Divine water?

Modern scientists are gradually realising the science of Ayurveda, Meditation, Yoga and even ‘ritual fasting, but will take many decades, if not centuries, to unlock all the secrets unearthed by our ancient seers. Knowledge of our Rishi’s came through centuries of penance by understanding and connecting with nature. They unravelled the depths of ‘vijñāna’ and planned for welfare of humanity.

The gospel of preventive medicine and science of life ‘Ayurveda’ is the ‘Charak Samhitā’ which means research by travelling to various parts of the land. It was not commercial exploitation as Vedic dharma is based on the principles of

सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः
सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु मा कश्चिद् दुःख भाग्भवेत्।।

Gangā too was channeled from heavenly waters for the welfare of mankind. It is the perfect blend of nature and culture for social engineering the welfare of a civilization that believed in divine nature of man, nature and all earthy beings.

Gangā Mā is a marvelous gift of visionary King Sagara, dedicated efforts of his 60,000 population and sons Anshumān, Dilipa and especially Bhāgiratha, who is immortalized through Bhāgirathī river which joins Alakhnandā at Devprayāg, to finally form the Gangā we know.

Since time immemorial Mother Gangā is flowing through our heartlands and we use her pure waters for all our holy rituals. But in this auspicious Śrāvan māsa we pay special tribute to the heavenly Divine Gangā. People travel for days, covering thousands of miles up the mountains to bring the freshest waters of Gangā river to pour on Lord Shiva, thanking him for blessing us by bringing Mā Gangā to us mortals. It is like a thanksgiving celebration, so integral to our sanskriti.

Jai Mā Gange!

Om Namay Shivāye!

Ms. Neera Misra, Independent scholar on Vedic and Mahābhārata Heritage, Chairperson-Trustee Draupadi Dream Trust

Indian Festivals based on the Concept of Yajña (Part-II)

Continued from Part-I

-Sh. Anand Gaikwad

Festivals based on the concept of Yajñā during Aświn and Kārtik :

Sh. Anand Gaikwad along with his wife performing Yajñā

Durgā Pūjā/ Navrātrī: During Durgā Pūjā, Mā Durgā i.e. Ādi Śakti is worshipped. Mā Durgā is worshipped in different forms starting with Śailputrī Devī on first day. The second day is Brahmachāriṇī Pūjā and subsequently Chandraghaṇṭā is worshipped for peace, tranquility and prosperity, Kuśmānḍā for cosmic energy, Skandamātā as a relationship between mother and son. She is also called as Padmāsīnī since she is seated on lotus flower. On day six she is worshipped as Kātyāyīnī, on seventh day as Kalvatri or Mā Kāli and on eighth day as Māhā Gourī the eighth form of Māhā Durgā.Durgā Saptaśati Japas and Havans are performed for “Nav Cadī”, “Śat CadiYajña. Durgā Pūjā is not considered complete without the performance of Havans. In these havans samidhās of Yajña-Vṛkśās are used and different types of havan samugrī are also used which is prepared from aromatic and medicinal herbs.

Daśherā: This day is celebrated as Vijayā Daśamī i.e. success of good over evil. It is considered as a very auspicious day as per Hindu calendar therefore new possessions are acquired. Some Naimittika Yajñas are performed for material well being, health, wealth, peace and prosperity. In agriculture sector, sugar factories worship and start boilers on this day for subsequent starting of new crushing season. This practice is prevalent in Maharashtra, which produces about 35% to 40% of the total sugar produced in the country.

Dīpāvalī:  Festival of lights celebrated by Indians all over the world. The first day of Dīpāvalī is called Vasubaras when, “Savatsā Dhenu“ i.e. lactating cow with young calf  or  entire cow family is worshipped. During ancient times the wealth and prosperity were measured in terms of or judged on the basis of number of cows one possessed. Therefore, ‘Godhan’ was first worshipped before worshipping any other type of ‘Dhan’. For establishing divine relationship and complete integrity with our Homa Farm and Family, we have started performing Havans on Rigveda 10.169, Atharvaveda 4.21 & 3.14 as a part of cow pūjā on Vasubaras day at our farm. Although no specific types of Yajñas are performed during Dīpāvalī days, the houses and surrounding premises are decorated with flowers, mango/ banana leaves, electrical lamps and oil/ ghee lamps are lit to celebrate it as a festival of lights. On Lakṣmī Pūjā Day and Kārtik Pratipadā, flowers, sweets and preparations made from new harvests, dryfruits etc. are offered to the deities as a part of pūjā.

Sh. Anand Gaikwad while worshiping cow

Sankrama Kāl Festivals: This is a transition period when the Sun starts entering Uttarāyaa and Sankrama. Festivals based on the concept of Yajña are celebrated throughout the country under different names.

Māgh Bihu and Meji Fires: Māgh bihu is celebrated in Assam during January to mark the end of harvesting season. It is a thanks-giving celebration to the nature’s bounty as the granaries are full after harvesting the first new crops of the year. On or before the day of Sankrāntī Bellaghars and Mejis are prepared by menfolk with Bamboo sticks and other wood / grass material. Beautiful make-shift cottages in the form of Bellaghars are prepared.People stay overnight in these Bellaghars, enjoys feasts and next day the Bellaghars are lit. The ashes are spread in the fields, rivers and trees for improving soil health and bringing luck for better harvesting next season. On the day of Sankrāntī people gather together in their fields at very early hours and do Meji fires. Meji fire is a ritual in which Agni is worshipped. All the offerings are placed in front of Meji and one of the elders of the community does the honour of lighting up the Meji. A thick cloud of smoke covers the area and the crackling sound of burning bamboos is heard. While the sacred Meji fires burn, people greet each other and enjoy the feasts. Womenfolk distribute the offerings placed before Meji fires as Prasādam.

Lohri: Every year on the previous day of Makar Sankrāntī in Punjab, Haryana and north-western region, the harvesting festival celebrated is known as “Lohri”. This commemorates the passing off of winter solistice and Lohri represents the largest night before the end of winter solistice followed by the shortest day of the year in Māgh as per Hindu calendar. Although Punjab is known for production of wheat, this festival is related to the sugarcane harvesting after the crop reaches the maturity. Sugarcane products such as jaggery and gachak are essential for Lohri along with groundnuts which are also harvested in the season. Traditionally people eat chikki, gajak, sarso dā sāg, makkai de roti, raddish, groundnuts and jaggery during the festival. Lohri celebrates fertility and joy of life. Harvested fields and farmyards are the central attraction. The farmyards are lit up with lights and bonfires. Folk dances are a part of the festival such as men perform Bhāngara whereas women perform graceful Giddā dance. People circle around the bonfires and offer sugarcane, puffed rice, popcorn etc. while performing folk dances with songs and prayers to Agni. The prayers to Agni Devatā are for his blessings for prosperity and fertility of land. The fire signifies the spark of life and prayers are said for goodwill and abundant crops. They also shout, “Ādar Āye Dilather Jāye” i.e.” Let the wealth, prosperity, honour come and poverty vanish.”

Pongal: Pongal is celebrated as a harvesting festival with glory in Tamilnadu, Puducherry, Sri Lanka and by Tamilians. This harvesting festival is dedicated to Sun God. In Tamilnadu it is a four-day festival called “Thai Pongal” usually celebrated every year from 14th to 17th January. It corresponds with Makar Sankrāntī which is celebrated throughout India. Thai Pongal is mainly celebrated to convey appreciation and gratitude to Sun God for bountiful crops and their successful harvesting. Part of the celebration is boiling of the first rice of the season as an offering to Sun God i.e. “Sūrya Mangalam”. The four day Pongal celebrations are Bhogi, Thai, Maatu and Kannuml. On “Bhogi” day, people discard old belongings and celebrate new possessions. Houses are cleaned, painted and decorated to give a festive look and the farmers keep medicinal herbs, neem leaves etc in the north-east corner of each field to prevent crops from diseases and pests.

The main event, “Thai Pongal” takes place on the second day of four day celebrations. On this day, milk is cooked in a vessel and when it starts bubbling and overflowing, freshly harvested rice is added and cooked, as an offering to Sun God. The day marks the start of Uttarāyaṇa i.e. when the Sun enters the 10th house of Indian Zodiac viz. Makar or Capricorn. “Maatu Pongal” is celebrated to recognize and appreciate the cattle for providing dairy products to human beings and fertilizers, labour and transportation for agricultural operations. Cows, buffaloes, oxen are bathed, decorated and fed with mixture of Pongal, jaggery, honey, banana and other fruits. “Kannum Pongal”, the fourth day of the festival marks the end of Pongal. The word ‘Kannum’ in this context means ‘visit’. Many families hold reunions. Villagers visit relatives and friends while in the cities people gather on beaches, theme parks and gardens. The exchange of greetings and gifts take place and the joyful atmosphere prevails in all households.

Makar Sankrāntī: The sun’s entry  in Makar Rāshi and starting of Uttarāyaa is celebrated as Makar Sankrāntī or “Sankrama Parva” in Andhra Pradesh, Bengal, Bihar, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh, while it is celebrated as, ‘Uttarāyaa’ in Gujarat and Rajasthan. In Andhra Pradesh, it is celebrated for four days like Pongal in Tamilnadu. The fourth day here is celebrated as “Mukkanuma” for worshipping cattle. Some people also take non-vegetarian dishes on the fourth day while they do not take any non-vegetarian food during first three days of Makar Sankrāntī.

In Maharashtra, Makar Sankrāntī is celebrated not only for three days but as a Sankrama Parva it extends right up to Rathasaptamī, the 7th day of Śuklapaka of Māgh. The previous day of Makar Sankrāntī is called “Bhogi”. On this day, Bājrā rotī of Til (Bread of Pearl Millets with toppings of Sesame Seeds) is prepared and a bold dish of mix-vegetables consisting mainly of green bengal gram, carrots and various types of beans, which are the produce of new crops is prepared. On the day of Makar Sankrāntī a delicacy of “Gul Poli” (rolled Chapatti/Roti with inside stuffings of jaggery and sesame seeds) is prepared and offered in Pūjā.

During the period from Makar Sankrāntī to Rathasaptami (except the third day which is called, ‘Kinkrant’) “Haldi-Kumkum” programmes are organized and celebrated by ladies. People meet their relatives and friends and offer Laddoo made from Sesame Seeds and Jaggery with greetings for auspicious days of Uttarāyaa and for establishing re-unions and good relationships with each other. On Rathasaptami day Sun god is worshipped in the form of “Sun riding the Chariot of Seven Horses”. On this day milk is boiled in small earthen pots and allowed to overflow as an offering to Sun God. Thus, Makar Sankrāntī with extended period up to Rathsaptami is the largest festival celebrated during Sankrama Parva, while the Sun enters the Makar Rāshi.

In all these festivals the concept of Yajña is deeply rooted. The basic principle is expression of appreciation and gratitude to the nature, nature-spirits and deities for their benevolence and bounty. Sacrifice of something given by nature (Idam na mam!) for ‘Samaṣṭī Kalyān’ and ‘Mānav Kalyān’. The elements of, ‘competition’, ‘Brand building’ or ‘Conflict with Nature and others’; which are the basis of Western Approach to Agriculture or any Business activity , is totally absent here . On the contrary the concept of, ‘Sacrifice for Samddhī‘; i.e. overall prosperity, peace and happiness is very much ingrained in these festivals. Prayers for Bounty or Samddhī to Agni or Sun God are for the purpose of ‘plenty for all and sharing with all’. The concept of Yajñā in these festivals makes the fundamental difference in the Cultures.

to be continued….

Sh. Anand GaikwadKrishi Bhushan Sendriya  Sheti  M. S. & Retd. Executive Director/Company Secretary

‘Prajā’ in the Light of Vedic View

The whole human race is ‘Prajā’ is the notion of Vedic society as told by Black* Yajurveda’s Taittirῑya Samhitā verse 1.5.1.3 –

तस्मान्मानव्य: प्रजा उच्यन्ते 

Tasmānmānavyaḥprajāucyante

This ideology continues to Upaniśadhic literature and developed as ‘Eko’ham Bahusyāmῑ’ i.e. “I [Brahman (ब्रह्मन्/ब्रह्म)] am one; may I become many”. Thus, this whole world or human race is manifested from Brahman. Here Brahman is the ultimate reality or the eternal truth/knowledge or the universal power that pervades whole creation. In Puruśasūkta of Ṛgveda, Brahman is clearly stated as supreme and from Brahman classification of society into four varṇas is listed –

ब्राह्मणो अस्य मुखमासीद बाहू राजन्य: कृत।

ऊरू तदस्य यद्वैश्य: पद्भ्याम शूद्रो अजायत ।।

Brāhmaṇoasyamukhamāsῑdabāhūrājanyaḥkartaḥ

Ūrūtadasyayadavaiśyaḥpadbhyāṁśūdroajāyata 

It said that brahmin was born from the mouth, kṣatriya from the shoulders, vaiśya from the thighs and śūdra from the feet of the creator.”

(Ṛgveda 10.90.12)

Today the word ‘Prajā’ is majorly used for the fourth varṇa i.e. śūdra and these śūdras are comprising of OBC/SC/ST/Dalits whereas in Vedic view śūdras were born from the feet of Brahman. Symbolically feet represent the foundation. So, śūdras are the foundation of the society. It can be elaborated as anyone who lays the foundation of the society is known as ‘śūdra’. Laying down the foundation means to build up. In other words, one who builds up the society by providing his/her services to the society is known as ‘śūdra’. In this sense, all the service providers of society such as teachers, doctors, engineers, environmentalists, musicians, painters, agriculturists, dancers, economists, writers, architects etc can be called śūdras. With these service providers a society, a nation builds up and sustains forever.

From above annotation, śūdras i.e. ‘Prajā’ are revealed as the creators of society. The etymological meaning of word ‘Prajā’ is ‘Pra’ (Prefix) means intense and ‘Jan’ (root) means creative. The word ‘Brahmā (ब्रह्मा)’ develops from Sanskrit root “Bṛh” which means “to grow” or “to expand”. Though the term ‘Brahmā’** does not appear in Vedas it is more prominently mentioned as deity of creation (one of the trinity) in the post-Vedic-texts and Puranic mythologies. Hence, sometimes Vedic god ‘Prajāpati’ is identified as ‘Brahmā’ – the creator {Brahma is the Puranic heir of Vedic Hiranyagarbha, and Brahmanic Prajapati (https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-Brahma-Brahman-and-Brahmin)}. Because of this very similarity even in today’s society ‘the creators of society’ i.e. ‘Prajā’ address themselves as ‘Prajāpati’. Like ‘Prajāpati’, Vedic god ‘Vishwakarmā’ too is considered as the lord of creation. In modern era, since creative talents are perceived by ‘Prajā’ people, so they relate themselves with above mentioned Vedic gods such as potters use ‘Prajāpati’ and carpenters, blacksmiths, jewellers use ‘Vishwakarmā’ in their surnames in recognition of their traits with ‘Prajāpati’ and ‘Vishwakarmā’. Thus, there is no harm in calling ‘Prajā’ people as lord of the society, as long as they possess the creative qualities.

scvoweb2013-emp-equalities-banner-alt2-940x382px

(Source of Image : http://www.scvo.org.uk )

We often come across certain Vedic texts highlighting non-allowance of śūdras for formal education. I feel such meanings of Vedic texts are misinterpretations, and there is a need to have deeper study and understanding. ‘The Whole world as the manifestation of Brahman’ is referred by Vedas many times in different ways, hence how could Vedic hymns encourage discrimination among people? In our opinion, there could have been two categories of centres of education during Vedic era. One was based more on theoretical-knowledge-creation-learning system where primarily intellectuals got admitted for deeper basic research. For skill development the vocational or practical training centre was the other choice for applied knowledge and development. In modern times these would be similar to basic fields like science, economics, etc. for basic knowledge and professional courses like engineering, medical, business, etc. for applied knowledge.

According to popular quote–

जन्मना जायते शूद्र: संस्कारात द्विज उच्यते।

वेद पठनात भवेत् विप्र: ब्रह्म जानाति इति ब्राह्मण।।

JanmanāJāyateśūdraḥsanskārātdvijuchyate

Veda pathanātbhavetvipraḥ brahma janātiitibrahmaṇaḥ।।

“By birth one is a Śūdra (lower caste), by education or by reformation, one becomes a Dvija (higher caste), by study of the Vedas one becomes a Vipra, and one who knowns Brahma is a Brahmaṇa.”

It can be understood that everyone born with capability to be a skillful person. The creativeness of each individual sometimes developed by his own or sometimes by inheritance of the family tradition or sometimes one has to go to special school of training such as we have engineering or medical colleges with specialized streams. Like at present everyone cannot go to every school similarly in Vedic times there was a definite line of schools for various streams of knowledge. We should always look into the context Vedic hymns are referring to rather than arguing on the basis of biased explanations.

It is a perception that Brahamins were the ruling class and śūdras are the lower (fourth) class. Actually there is no ascending or descending order in taxonomy of four varṇas. In our opinion, it is completely a choice-based-system where a person either wants to pursue his practically inherited/acquired skills (as śūdra) or to carry out deeper research (as in case of a brahmin). It can be explained as one who is doing a field job or practice of his skill is a śūdra and one who is inclined to enhance his intellect is a brahmin. This is, what is defined in the statement by Lord Śṛῑ Kṛśṇā–

चातुर्वर्ण्यं मया सृष्टम गुणकर्मविभागशः

Cāturvarṇyaṁmayāsṛṣṭaṁguṇakarmavibhāgaśaḥ

I (Lord Śṛῑ Kṛśṇā) am the creator of the fourfold human society according to aptitude and profession (karma)”.

(Śṛῑmadbhagavadgῑtā 4.13)

and later Sanskrit texts –

न जात्या ब्रह्मणश्चात्र क्षत्रियो वैश्य एव न।

न शूद्रो न च वै मलेच्छो भेदिता गुणकर्मभि:।।

Na jātyābrahmaṇaścātrakṣatriyovaiśyaevana

Na śūdronacavaimlecchobheditāguṇakarmabhiḥ।।

“In this world nobody is brahmin, kṣatriya, vaiśya, śūdra or mleccha by birth. Qualities and their deeds are responsible for these differences”.

(Śukranῑti 1.38)

The words ‘cāturvarṇyaṁ’ and ‘sṛṣṭaṁ’ are singular numbers, which testify that the four varṇas together constitute one singular society (https://sites.google.com/site/hindunew/dharma).  It can be said that Vedic sages didn’t narrate any kind of discrimination. Social unity and welfare were the only aim.

Above discussion is a hypothesis, for today’s society. If this system can be adapted then equitable society and social structure can be achieved. Inequality and social differences among the people can then be addressed.

Notes-

* The Yajurveda is broadly classified into two – the Kṛśṇā (loosely translated as black Yajurveda and the Śukla (loosely translated as white Yajurveda. The term “Kṛśṇā” implies ‘the un-arranged, unclear collection’ of verses in Yajurveda, in contrast to the “shukla” which implies the ‘well arranged, clear’  Yajurveda. 

** One should not be confused in the words Brahman and Brahmā. The Brahma(n) is a neuter gender word that ends in ‘ न्’. It is the Upanishadic (Vedantic) spiritual concept of oneness whereas the masculine gender word Brahmā is the four-headed Puranic character who is the creator among the Puranic Trinity concept. It can be said that Brahman is a divine concept of Hinduism and Brahmā  is one of Hindu Deity.

Dr. Aparna Dhir, Assistant Professor and Prof. Bal Ram Singh, Director, School of Indic Studies, INADS, Dartmouth, USA

 

 

The Idea of God (Part-II)

– Dr. Koenraad Elst

Continued from Part-I

Mono- versus polytheism

The Sumerian ideogram Dingir was read as ElIn neighbouring Akkadian, a Mesopotamian dialect of Semitic. We know this word very well through Hebrew, a northwestern (Levantine) dialect of Semitic. Thus the names Uriel, “my light is God”; Gabriel, “my strength is God”; Michael, “who is like God?” But as we shall presently see, these names now carry a meaning of “God” that has resulted from a revolution, viz. from poly- to monotheism.

A derivative of El is Eloha, “a deity”, “a god”. We know it mainly through the plural form Elohim, “gods”, “pantheon”. Strangely, this form has survived the theological revolution described in the Bible book Exodus under the leadership of Moses, ca. 1250 BCE. Here, the many gods were replaced with a single jealous god, yet the plural form Elohim remained but with a singular meaning: God. Thus, the Bible, which received its definitive form only under the Persian empire ca. 500 BCE, when this usage was well-established, starts with the sentence: “Berešit bara Elohim et ha-šamaim ve-etha-aretz”, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The connection with the stars was severed, at least for the Israelites, not all the other nations: “Pay attention lest ye lift your eyes up to the sky for seeing sun, moon and stars, that ye be led astray and adore and serve them, those whom the Lord your God hath assigned to all the nations under heaven.” (Deut. 4:19)

A synonym of Elohim, referring to the same jealous God, is Yahweh. Moses himself introduced this god-name into Biblical tradition. Though new to the Israelites after centuries in Egypt, it must have existed earlier among the Arab (South-Semitic) Beduins as well as among the Northwest-Semitic people of Mari. Moses, when a fugitive from Egyptian law after he was found out to have committed murder, stayed with a Beduin tribe. They had a storm-god Yahweh, best translated as a causative participle of a verb meaning “to move in the sky”, whether “to blow” or “to stoop like a bird of prey”, from an Arab root HWY later attested in the Quran (22:32), but not in the Bible. This meaning is confirmed by the fixed expression Yahweh Sabaoth, “he who causes the motion of the heavenly hosts”, i.e. of the majestic procession of the stars across heaven. Here again we find a stellar meaning associated with a god-name.

Moses saw an apparition of this god in the burning bush. When Moses asks the god who he is, the god expresses his total sovereignty: “I am who I am”, ehyeh ašer ehyeh. Theologians and translators have contemplated this sentence profusely, until in ca. 1900, the German Orientalist Julius Wellhausen hit upon its probable original meaning: it elaborates a pun on the name Yahweh, which the Hebrews misinterpreted folk-etymologically as a causative participle of the verb HYY, “to be”, hence “the being one”, “he who is”, or more philosophically, “he whose essence is existence” “he who necessarily exists”, “he who causes existence to exist”. This edifice of profundities is entirely built on a folk-etymological pun, nothing more. Or to put it more positively: a new conception of the divine was grafted onto an old god.

The Arab form of the originally polytheistic term ha-eloha, “the deity”, is al-Ilāha, also “the deity”. A contracted form is Allāh, “thé deity”, “the god par excellence”, hence “God”. Originally it could refer to any earlier-mentioned god. Thus, Mohammed’s Pagan father was called Abdallāh, “servant of the deity”. Mohammed, in a bid to establish monotheism among the Arabs, reinterpreted Allāhas a synonym of Yahweh. He saw himself as the latest (and even last) one of the line of the prophets of Yahweh, renamed Allāh in Arabia. This way, the star-god El, the Semitic form of Sumerian Dingir, ended up shedding his connection with the stars and becoming the disembodied extra-cosmic Creator-god Yahweh/Allāh. The Quran (6:78, 22:18, 41:37) simply and strictly prohibits star worship.

In the footsteps of the reform movements Brahmo Samaj and Aryan Samaj, many anglicized Hindus claim that “Hinduism too is monotheistic”. This is a very defensive stand, and it is simply not correct. If the Hindu wealth of gods and of ways of worship were not polytheistic, what other religion would be? It seems to us that they are using a word they don’t understand. Monos does not mean “one”, it means “alone”, “one and no other”. Monotheism accepts only Yahweh or Allah, and considers all others as false gods, only good to be destroyed and discarded: Marduk, Ba’al, Osiris, Ahura Mazda, Śiva, Buddha. By contrast, Hinduism is inclusive. The Vedic verse: “The wise call the one essence by many names”, means that the different gods are not false but are essentially the same as your chosen god. There are no “false gods” in Hinduism. Reality is both one and manifold, and Hinduism is not bothered with the question whether the divine is single or many.

This also counts for other Pagan civilizations. When Protestant missionaries set up shop in China, they discovered that a native term roughly meaning “God” was Shangdi, so they appropriated this term as name of the Christian God. (Catholics preferred Tianzhu, the “Heavenly Boss”.) What they did not know, is that the Chinese language mostly does without the separate category of a plural, so the same word can be both plural and singular. Shangdi does not so much mean “the Sovereign on High”, as rather “the Powers on High”. In Chinese, even the grammar militates against the contrast between one and many. To monotheists this numerical matter is all-important, worthy of the iconoclastic destruction of all the “false gods”; but to regular people such as Hindus or Confucians and Daoists, it is just not an issue.

Širk

Heaven-worship is truly the universal religion, rivalled only by ancestor-worship. And even then, these two are intertwined. Deceased ancestors are deemed to be in heaven, often actually associated with a specific star. When your father has died, you take your child on an evening walk, and when the stars appear, you point out one of them and say: “There is grandpa, watching over us.” In a Vedic ritual, a zone in the sky, in the Scorpio-Sagittarius area, is designated as the destination of the dead.

For famous people, who had become part of the collective consciousness, the procedure could be to “elevate them to godhood” (Greek: Apotheōsis) by associating them with a specific star or constellation.A case in point from antiquity is Antinoös, the lover-boy of the Roman emperor Hadrian, who drowned himself and was given a star in Aquarius, still named after him. When in the 17th century the southern sky was mapped, one constellation was named after the protection given to Vienna by Jan Sobieski against the Ottoman siege: Scutum Sobieskii, “Sobieski’s shield”, now simply Scutum.

This practice was first attested in writing in Ugarit, Syria, where in ca. 2000 BC famous people upon their deaths were identified or “associated” with a star. In the native Semitic, this practice was named Širk, “association”. The term ought to be well-known today, but with an evolved meaning. When Islam imposed monotheism, it denounced polytheism and idolatry as Širk, i.e. the “association” of a mortal, a creature, with the Supreme Being, the Creator.

India too has known this practice. The stars of the Great Bear are named after the Seven Sages who composed most of the Ŗg-Veda. There are different variations of this list of seven, but one of the Sages who returns in all of them is Vasiṣṭha. He and his wife Arundhātī are associated with the twin stars Mizar and Alcor. In a moderate way, they did graduate to godhood, with a few temples in Himachal and Uttarakhand dedicated to them. Another sage who made it to heaven is Agastya, the Sage who went to the South, and therefore has the southern star Canopus named after him.

 Conclusion

At the dawn of history, and practically since the birth of mankind, star worship, partly overlapping with ancestor worship, was the main religion worldwide. With the development of civilization, conceptions of the divine grew away from their referents in nature. India generated a spirituality implying renunciation, and the gods followed suit. The Upanishads signalled a break with the Vedic focus on the gods and reoriented mankind’s attention to the spiritual path. A kind of relation with a kind of gods was restored, but adopting the new focus on Liberation.

Star worship remained alive, as “nothing ever dies in India” (in the words of the late Girilal jain), but that old layer was overlaid with new levels of abstraction. The highest of these was the abstract concept of the Absolute (Brahmaṇ) that appeared in the Upaniṣads and remained, in various guises, in the mai sects of Hinduism. But the lower levels, including the naturalistic, star-related levels did not disappear; it was an organic evolution.

A roughly similar evolution took place in the Greek world and then in the Roman empire. The elites outgrew the colourful pantheon and, mainly through Stoicism, accepted a more abstract and more unitary concept of the divine. In Neoplatonism, which may have been influenced by Indian developments, everything was thought to emanate from “the One”. In China too, “the One” was the name of a unifying abstract concept transcending the many natural gods of everyday religion.

Unfortunately, in the Roman empire, this natural evolution was interrupted and forcibly driven in a particular direction by the imposition of Christianity. However, at the same time, to better insinuate itself in the Greco-Roman culture, Christianity also took over much from Stoicism and Neoplatonism, which appear mainly in Christian morals c.q. theology.The breakthrough of monotheism followed the same pattern as the conceptual development in Hinduism to a some extent, but was unnecessarily brutal and destructive regarding the earlier religion. The same scenario repeated itself even more abruptly with the advent of Islam.

The resulting concept of divine unity (in Islam: tawḥīd) was also much cruder than a what gradual development would have made possible. While superseding the colourful old gods, Yahweh or Allah were much like them in their negative aspects: all too human, too personal, not nirguṇa, “beyond qualities”. As India has shown, it was perfectly possible to move from a naturalistic to a more abstract conception of the divine without destroying the earlier conception.

 

‘Sapta- Sindu’ the Homeland of the Rigvedic Culture – Literary Evidence

Prof. Shashi Tiwari, General Secretary, WAVES-India 

There are so many questions related to Vedic people under discussion as part of Indian history, religion, mythology and civilization. The hunt for their original land has been a particularly important topic of research among Indologists and historians since Sir William Jones’s pronouncement in 1786, in Calcutta, that ‘Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Celtic and old Persian were related languages with common source.” The whole of nineteenth century was dedicated to the study of language and literature of Vedic and ancient Sanskrit texts, where the study of dates, editions and interpretations was done. The publication of two volume of Vedic Index by A.A. Macdonell and A.B. Keith in 1912 was almost the closing work in this field. Macdonell placed the Aryan entry into India at about 1500 BC. The establishment of the notion of a common Indo- European heritage, at the beginning of British rule in India, was a powerful instrument to rule Indians, so this view was highlighted in various ways. Ironically, in 1907 came archaeological evidence from Boghszkoi (east Turkey), which established the existence of the names of the Rgvedic  deities in fourteenth century BC.

In the 1920s, the ancient cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro were discovered. Tentatively a time period of 2500 -1500 BC was assigned to these cities at that time. Since the estimated date for the end of these cities coincided with the estimated date for Aryan entry into India, it was emphasized that these cities were brought to an end by Aryan invaders. Aryan invasion was sometimes called as Aryan migration. In either case Harappans were declared as Non-Aryans. Now many historians and Sanskrit scholars are refuting these theories on the basis of various categories of evidence. They think that the Homeland of Aryans was Indian continent or Aryans themselves were Harappans.  It is understood generally that Harappan civilization began at about 3300 B.C. and takes its earliest roots at Mehrgarh. Excavation has shown that this civilization possessed a writing system, as well as a social and economic system.

In my understanding, the Vedic civilization is the earliest civilization in Indian history for which we have written records.  The vast Vedic literature provides important materials to understand every aspect of the Vedic people and their views. The mantras present an extraordinary picture of culture, religion, philosophy, economics, polity, ritualistic practices and scientific knowledge of the Vedic people. It looks like such an organized and developed society based on agriculture, arts and crafts, trade and industry, education; characterized by a deep interest in nature and environment, and moved by the spiritual urge. These facts have been proven in my earlier papers written on agriculture, economics, architecture, birds, animals, food, ornaments, weapons, society and education of the Vedic people.  In the entire Vedic literature, the authors of Vedas never say a single word about their migration or invasion. Rather they indicate their stable and calm establishment in numerous places in the literature.

Evidence from within the Vedas suggests that the Vedic people were acquainted with the seven rivers, especially with the mighty river Saraswati. The description of mighty Sarasvatī  and references related to the terms Sapta-sindhavah͎ and Sapta-Sindhuṣu in Rigveda show a rich historical tradition of Vedic people in that area. The country of seven rivers is very dear to them. Saraswati is described as sapta svara (having seven sisters- 6/61/10, 8/10/9). It is said to be the mother of seven rivers (saraswat̄i saptadhī sindhumātā. -7/36/6). There is much talk and exploration of the river. She is a great river rushing down from mountains towards the ocean (ekā acetat sarasvatī  nadīnām shuchir yāti giribhya ā samudrāt -7/95/2). She is far superior to her companions (uttarā sakhibhyah -7/95/4). She surpasses all other streams by her sheer majesty (prabābadhanā rathyeva yāti  -7/95/1) and glory (pra yā mahimna mahināsu cekite -6/61/13). She is the best of rivers, best of mothers and best of goddesses (ambitame, nadītame devitame sarasvati -2/41/16).

The core region between Sarasvati and Drisadvati rivers was called vara aprithivya (the earth’s best place) and nabha prithivya (the navel of the earth).  It also has been known as ‘Kurukshetra’ (the land of the Kuru people). Manusmriti called it ‘Brahmavarta’ (the divine land). According to mantras, Vedic people feel affection for this area because their civilization began and flourished there in the Saraswati basin since 5000 to 4000 BC. This was the homeland of Vedic Aryan people. Broadly it was the sapta sindu region where Sarasvati was Main River. According to two mantras there were three sets of seven rivers (i.e. twenty one rivers)- trih͎ sapta sasrā nadyo mahir (10/64/9) and pra sapta sapta tredh̄a hi  (10/75/1). The Vajasaneyi-samhitā  (34.11) talks about of five rivers joining the Sarasvati. So we see that the descriptions vary slightly due to the symbolic poetry of Vedic Seers. The important point though, is their fascination regarding the sapta-sindhu area and the river Sarasvati.  The Aitareya and Shatapatha Brahamanas repeatedly mention that Sarasvati either got fanned out in deserts or dried up. Later on, the drying up of Sarasvati led to migrations of people towards the northwest or westward of the Sarasvati river system .This is the opinion of many scholars today.

Atharvaveda’s Bhumi sukta depicts the picture of Indian land. It has six seasons (12/1/36 ), colorful soil, sea, rivers,  mountains, and glorious description of ancestors. In the Rigveda we find names of only three seasons – vasant, grishma and sharad (RV 10/90/6) but they are indicative of winter and rain. These seasons are familiar to Northern India.

PicsArt_02-22-02.07.58

The principal food of the Ṛgvedic Aryans consisted of barley-flour and its various preparations, rice and other cereals, fruits, honey, clarified butter (ghee), curd and other preparations of milk. The sowing, ripening, and ploughing of Yava is mentioned in the Ṛgvedic verses. Etymologically, barley was called Yava because its grain, though one, has two distinctly marked parts, which are still not separated. Specimens of barley, unearthed from the ruins of Mohenjodaron shows its use in that region even in the Ṛgvedic age. It is certain that barley and some other grains were cultivated in Ṛgvedic times. Barley was offered to gods. In their prayers, Vedic people are found asking gods for this grain. In the Atharvaveda it is called one of the two immortal sons of heaven, i.e. barley and rice (AV.8/7/20). These two were the staple crops that were cultivated by the Ṛgvedic Āryans, one in winter or spring and the other during the rainy season. It may be that, as the climate of Punjab was extremely cold in the Ṛgvedic times, the cultivation of barley was more convenient and yielded bumper crops rather than that of rice. Moreover ‘Vrīhi’ – meaning rice – is frequently referred to in the later Vedic works. Dhānya, Dhānā are other words denoting grains in general. It is but natural that for agriculture and cultivation a stable society and lifestyle is needed. Thus seasons, grains and agriculture prove the homeland of Aryans as the region of seven rivers near Punjab.

It is important to note that Salt (Lavan͎a) is not mentioned in the Rigveda, but is frequently mentioned later. Keith and Macdonell has observed that, “it is somewhat surprising, if the regions then occupied by the Indians were the Punjab and the Indus valley, where salt abounds, (that it is not mentioned) it is however, quite possible that a necessary commodity might happen to be passed over without literary mention in a region, where it is very common”. It is sure Āryans knew it because in a Ṛgvedic mantra they talk about thirst (Trishn͎ā) between waters of ocean ( RV 7/89/4).

We found description of ornaments and jewellery in Ṛgveda, almost similar to what we found in Harappan excavations. In both descriptions people used them to decorate head, ears, neck, finger, chest, hands, waist and legs, These decorative items were made of metal,  mud or stone; such as  man͎i grīva, nis͎ka, khādi,sraj, rukma, hiranyavartani etcGenerally it is said that Rigvedic people were living in mud houses in villages. We found that houses and building materials were not unknown to them. In one Mantra worshipper says to Varuna that ‘he does not want to live in a house made of clay’.- Mo shu varuna mrinmayam griham rajan naham gamam (7/89/10). Instead he askes to Parjanya Deva to give ‘tridhatu Sharnam (7/101/2 ) i.e. ‘three  storied dwelling’ according to H H Wilson and ‘Tribhumika house’ according to Sayana. Ayasi Puh (7/95/1) i.e. ‘Fort of iron’ is used for metaphor. Ishttikas meaning bricks are described variously in Brahamana texts. Dvara for door, and chardi for terrace are in common use in the Rigveda. Two ‘Shaala’ sukas  in Atharvaveda describe about bigger and systematic house. This shows that Vedic people liked clean and strong houses for living. Study of Ṛgvedic birds, animals and plants are also relevant in this context to decide about the place and period of Vedic culture. Undoubtedly these too indicate their Indian origin.

Vedic civilization, as reflected in the Ṛgveda, is seen developing gradually in all aspects in the later Vedic texts. Keeping in mind the scientific principles of development of any civilization, it would be appropriate to think of the early period of Vedic civilization as 5000 to 4000 BC. Its later period may be assigned during Harappan period.  Further, other categories of evidence, incorporated with literary evidences, may provide advanced chronological findings of our ancient times.