How the Indian festivals are a way of expressing love!

Dr. Nandini Samant

Come February and excitement in young boys and girls in schools and colleges starts! Innumerable flowers, chocolates, gifts and vows are exchanged on Valentine’s Day, which is on the 14th of February each year. With growth in technology and exposure to social media and the western world, the celebration of Valentine’s Day in India has spread tremendously in the past two decades.

However, is this good for our country, our Bhāratvarsha, which has such a rich and sāttvik culture? Today, the youth are unaware of the birth and death anniversaries of our great Indian patriots, freedom fighters and martyrs such as Vasudev Balwant Phadke, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Veer Savarkar and Chandrashekhar Azad, which too are in the month of February. Due to lack of education on Dharma (known as Dharmaśikṣaṇ), the youth are sometimes even ignorant about who these personalities are!

In this article, we present in short the greatness of Indian festivals and why they are superior culturally and spiritually over other non-Indian festivals and events.

Background of Valentine’s Day

So, let us understand why Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the first place. Valentine was a Catholic priest in Rome. When the Roman king passed an order banning youth from marrying during the war period since he needed their help on the battlefield, Valentine was secretly getting young men and women married. Consequently, he was imprisoned by the king for defying his order. In prison, although being a priest and a celibate, Valentine fell in love with the jailor’s daughter and even wrote love letters to her, thus betraying his religion and commitment to the church. Can one, who is not in control of his own emotions, influence society for its upliftment? How can such a person be a role model for the youth? And, why is his death anniversary being celebrated by Indians as Valentine’s Day?

Indian festivals are meant to celebrate love!

Today, if the youth are asked why they celebrate Valentine’s Day, they say ‘It is a celebration of love!’ However, is love limited and as Indians, is there a dearth of occasions to express our love? In India, every relationship is considered pure, and we have festivals to celebrate love emanating from each relationship in its purest form. For example, we have Bhaubeej and Rakshābandhan to express love between a sister and brother, Gurūpournimā to express gratitude and love unto the Guru, Gowardhan-puja to express love for cows, Nariyal Pournimā to express love for the sea, Padwa (Diwali) to express love for the spouse, Gangour and Karvāchauth to express love for the husband and so many other occasions. The list is endless. Then why do we need Valentine’s Day to express our love?

How is love viewed by Dharma?

Dharma allows man to fulfil four pursuits of life called ‘Purūṣārthas’ – Dharma (Righteousness), Artha (Wealth), Kāma (Desire) and Mokṣa (Final Liberation). Even our wise Sages, who have handed over a treasure of invaluable knowledge to us in the form of Holy texts such as the Vedas, Purānas, Upanishads, Rāmāyaṇa, etc., were allowed to fullfil these four pursuits following the Code of Righteous conduct (known as Āchārdharma). Celibacy was never mandatory for them.

Dharma classifies love into two types

1. Emotional love (known as Prem) : In this, the relationship is governed by emotions and expectations; for example, husband-wife, father-son, etc.

2. Spiritual love (known as Priti) : This is unconditional love, without any expectations, where the relationship is governed by spiritual emotion (known as bhāv) ; for example, Guru-disciple, God-devotee.

In fact, we can emphatically say that no religion in the world is as expansive as our Dharma which says – ‘The whole world is mine’ and Vasudaiva kutumbakam’.

(Source of Image : Speakingtree.in)

In our country, selfless love is the basis of all relationships. Hence, there is no insecurity and thus no need to especially express it in the words such as ‘I love you’ as is done in the west, where relationships are unstable. This is why, they need days and festivals such as ‘Mother’s Day’, ‘Friendship Day’, ‘Valentine’s Day’, etc. to express their love.

Dharma also teaches us to love everything from living to non-living creation. For example, ‘Vasant Panchami’ is celebrated in this period to welcome the king of seasons ‘Vasant’ (Spring), when Nature is blossoming and the environment is charged with positivity. In this period, one benefits spiritually. In his epic poems ‘Ritusamhara’ and ‘Kumarasambhava’, Saint Kālidās has described the beauty and love that blossoms during Vasant. A well-known translator of Sanskrit classics, Mr. A. N. D. Haksar has translated works of Kālidās and described ‘Spring’ as –

In the woodland, everywhere,

the flame of the forest trees have shed

all their leaves, their branches bent

with flowers bright as blazing fire,

and the earth gleams in the spring,

like a new bride in red attire.

(Source of Image : Twenty20.com)

Hence, instead of celebrating a spiritually beneficial day like this by worshipping Deity Saraswati and Deity Lakshmi, it is a pity that our youth want to celebrate Valentine’s Day, where we forget our natural bond with nature and family, and instead want to follow the western culture. Is this not a kind of ‘Love Jihad’?

Harmful effects of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day has no spiritual benefits. In fact, harmful effects such as financial loss due to unnecessary expenditure on expensive gifts and chocolates, degradation of moral values of the youth in succumbing to immoral behaviour such as premarital sex, extramarital sex, abortion, etc., creation of incorrect impressions in their minds (such as ‘physical love’ is true love).

What can we do to tackle this growing menace of Valentine’s Day?

The answer is – provide Dharmaśikṣaṇ. Children should be provided Dharmaśikṣaṇ, first at home and then in schools and colleges. Children need to be taught about the rich cultural heritage of India, its patriotic heroes, Saints and Sages, and a sense of pride for our traditions and country needs to be inculcated in them.

If by following Dharma we can lead a blissful life, enjoying material as well as spiritual benefits, then why follow practices of other cultures? Why ape the west? Why not follow the example of Śri Rāma who was faithful to His only wife Sītā, even when there was a practice of the king at that time having several queens?

Āchārdharma means the spiritualisation of every aspect of our day-to-day life; it includes expressing spiritual love unto our parents and family members by respecting, caring and nurturing them and our Sages and Gurus by practising and propagating their views.

मातृदेवोभव।पितृदेवोभव।आचार्यदेवोभव।अतिथिदेवोभव॥

Taittriya Upanishad (1.11.2) say – ‘Mātru devo bhava, Pitru devo bhava, Achārya devo bhava, Atithi devo bhava’ (Meaning – The mother, father, Guru and guests are forms of God). Doesn’t this give love a different meaning which is very pure and unconditional? When this be true, why do we need days such as Valentine’s Day to express our love?

Contemplate seriously, and spread the perspective presented in this article.

Dr. Nandini Samant, Consulting Psychiatrist, Maharshi University of Spirituality, Goa

‘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.