Tuesday, 30 December 2014


"A multi-dimensional hologram in the form of a seed"

The Shiva Puran consists of 24000 shlokas, and these 24000 shlokas are divided into 7 Samhitas. A Samhita is a collection or compilation of hymns or verses in a sacred book.
In the first Samhita of the Shiva Puran, the Videyshwar Samhita, in the 25th Chapter, is the first mention of Rudraksha.
Literally meaning the 'tear of Rudra', the seed forms an almost inseparable part of the Hindu philosophy and customs, not only because of the ascendancy it commands when we talk of Hindu symbols, but also because  like all the pan-Hindu symbols be it the OM, or the Namaste, this again seems to be a purely scientific marvel designed altogether as a religious symbol.

The Vidyeshwar Samhita states that Shiva had been performing penance for thousand of years, when out of sport, he opened his eyes, wanting to help Shakti with the benefit of world. Seeing the misery and the grief all over, drops of tears fell from his half-closed eyes. These tears became immobile as soon as they fell on the earth and from these drops cropped up the the Rudraksha tree .

Symbolism of Rudraksha: Though the prime symbolism of Rudraksha has already been explained earlier, a few other attributes could be aligned with its symbolism.
Since ancient Vedic times, beads are known to help a person concentrate one's thoughts while reciting verses or performing certain rituals. Rudraksha adds to that, it being a symbol of Shiva, and becomes the perfect bead when reciting "Om Namah Shivay" for meditation. A common Rudraksha is divided into 5 sub-sections, symbolic of the 5 faces of Shiva, viz. West, South, North, East and Skyward faces, while a 2 facet Rudraksha symbolizes Shiva and Parvati.

Scientific Analogies: In the year 1993, Subhas Rai of Banaras Hindu University conducted a detailed study on Rudraksha and its scientific analogies and he came out with some very interesting results.
Mr Rai proved that Rudraksha is di-electric and can store electrical energy and have permanent magnetic properties which affect human body when worn on it. Not only the electromagnetism provides anti-ageing qualities to the Rudraksha, the di-electric attributes cause a subtle change in the electric make-up of the body, helping it in a life-supporting manner.

Healing attributes: Rudraksha not only affects the central nervous system, resulting in decreasing anxiety, blood pressure, tension, it also helps a person in increasing concentration. This, coming not from some commercial site selling Rudraksha beads, but a scientific paper presented in one of the topmost engineering institutes of India.
A certain chemical called serotinin, which is responsible for levels of confidence or mental energy \, when falls below a certain level, causes anxiety, depression or low self esteem. Anti-depressants and tranquilizers control the levels of serotinin in the body and soothe mental disturbances. Depending upon which faceted Rudrash one wears, wearing it near the heart controls certain brain chemicals, thereby inducing the state of mind.

Feeling lucky?: The left part of the brain does all the logical and structured decision making, while the right side of the brain is known more for the abstract thinking or the lateral thinking part. Now, what is being lucky? Simply put, being at the right place at the right time or making a decision at the right time. Wearing Rudraksha for longer periods activates the right part of the brain, and people start taking more decisions, based on their subconscious layer of mind, as explained in The Multifaceted OM.

Feng-Shui Connection: Rudraksha doesnt come up as your regular, "more popular", classic tools of Feng-Shui. Infact, it is has been adopted by many Feng-Shui followers who have been fascinated by Hinduism and Rudraksha, in particular.

I am not trying to advertise Rudraksha here, trying to increase the sales of Rudraksha beads being sold in every nook and corner of the country. Most of them are not even genuine Rudraksha seeds. Commercialization certainly has its demerits, and attaching magical tales and legends with Rudraksha is yet another attempt to pep up the sales in various sacred cities of India, an attempt to push the sales among the general "not-so-educated" section of the society. This, in a way, demerits the credibility of such a magnificent phenomenon and raises doubts among people.
Rudraksha has its fair share of benefits, and should certainly be treated with utmost respect and treated more of a scientific marvel than a religious symbol. However, the fanaticism associated with such symbols somehow overshadow the science and the mysticism attached to them.
Think of it, a botanical seed, rich in electro-magnetism,  the intensity varying with the facets of the seed, is no small a marvel both in terms of science and religion. No wonder, a number of MNCs are vying to make a claim to patent Rudraksha now. I am really looking forward to the day when a majority of us Indians would start looking beyond the clouds of doubtfulness and start taking pride in our rich heritage.

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Saturday, 1 November 2014

A Journey Past Forward

"A highly sophisticated and advanced urban culture, the quality of planning and construction suggest efficient municipal governments which placed a high priority on hygiene.
A centralized granary, much akin to the concept of modern day State Banks is also evident. The entire urban plan included world's first sanitation system. The engineers were highly advanced, and that shows in the construction of the houses, the warehouses, granaries, and walls"

Any guesses which city, exactly are we talking about? No, its not present day New Delhi, though the current governance definitely pulls it back to the age which we are talking about. 
We are not even talking about a century old New York or Boston, and not even a decade old London, the description as such, though, would perfectly map to that of the cities.
The city, or rather setup I am talking about belongs to an era even 3400 years prior to the rule of Ashoka. It would sound nothing short of a miracle, even mysticism, to even believe such a civilization existed around 3600 BCE. Yes, we are talking about the Indus Valley civilization, in particular.
Time to move past forward and refresh the memories of your first ever history books!! I know it was boring, but lets try to make it interesting.

The architecture: Perhaps the most astonishing feature of the Indus Valley civilization, it is hard to believe that cities used to have a proper drainage system in those times, much akin to those even in use today. The walls were made of bricks, and houses were even multistory! Home to the first ever sanitation system in the entire world, separate dedicated rooms were set aside for bathing and toilets, which were connected to covered drains on major roads. Think of it, that we are not talking of our present day drainage system, but a system more than 5000 years ago.

Wide streets and easy access to all the routes was provided. The roads intersected each other at right angles, the houses were built on sides, taking care that the roads are never encroached. Buildings on corners of the streets suggest hotels or common dining places used for drinking and regular business activities. Pubs and restaurants, anyone?

The houses were built from east to west or north to south on a road, such that winds blowing in one direction would flow across all the houses in a row, ventilating them all across.  

Town Planning: Another one of the most astonishing attributes of Indus Valley Civilization was the concept of Granaries.
As a structure, the Granaries were quite interesting in their conceptualization and usage. The granaries ran 150 feet in length, 75 feet in width and 15 feet in height, and was divided into 27 distinct compartments in 3 rows. The granaries were very well ventilated, thus prohibiting decay of food items, and grains could be filled in, from outside. 
A remarkable feature of the civilization was the presence of a prominent current of egalitarianism in the society. The houses, though differed in sizes, probably based on the financial conditions of the inhabitants, each one of them had an individual well, and bathrooms were provided along with proper ventilation. 

Economy: Indus and Saraswati being the most remarkable out of the rivers, Ravi and Sutlej being the other two, the people used the presence of the three rivers much to their benefit. The rivers not only kept the land fertile and water handy for irrigation, they provided excellent medium for transportation and trade as well.

The concept of Granaries again comes into play here, as it was one of the primitive versions of modern day State Banks. Farmers were expected to pay a huge sum of their crops in the granaries in the form of taxes.
In the absence of any concrete evidence related to the medium of trade, barter system could be a distinct possibility.
Excavations have revealed possibility of a weight system with objects being discovered which could have been used for weighing. In all probability, they followed the sixteen system for weighing(16, 64, 160, 320).

Religion: An important aspect, considering they laid the very foundations of what was to be followed centuries later, there is an evident usage of Swastika. But, considering that it was a symbol more of rational implications then, than religious, seals with inscription of Pashupathi and Shiva-Linga have been discovered. A mother Goddess, primarily Earth, was worshipped, farming being there prime source of livelihood.
A few certain structures have been identified as temples, most of the deity figures, though unidentified till now, show them sitting in a Yoga posture, a highly corroborative evidence of Yoga being practised d
uring those times.

The Firsts: While it has already been mentioned that Indus people were the first to have a proper sanitation system and measurement system, they also scored in having the first ever dentists. Excavations have produced driller molar set of teeth along the site. They also were the first to use buttons as a means of ornament as well as fastening the clothes. They also built up world's first dockyard at Lothal where they had shops to trade with neighbouring lands.

The Mystery: The biggest mystery surrounding the Indus valley Civilization, is the sudden collapse of the entire existence of around 1000 years. They disappeared out of nowhere without leaving much behind.
Lately, the mysteries have been uncovered, and the disappearance has been attributed to drying up of Saraswati as the primary occupation then, was farming. There was a major reduction in monsoon over the area and Sutlej changed its course, resulting in drying of Saraswati. The theory, however itself is ambiguous as they could have easily moved over to certain other areas and survived.
The cult and the ideology of Indus people is highly unknown. Were they violent, or were they highly religious, one can not be much sure of. They certainly were democratic to a point as no statue or seal depicting a King or a head has been found.
They were certainly rich, and loved sanitation, cleanliness and bathing. They have often depicted battles between beasts and humans and Gods in their arts.

And to think of it, the planning and architecture they applied could put India's metros to shame. The population has increased heavily since then, one could argue, but so has technology. They were heavily dependent on a few rivers, so they vanished. The egalitarianism they enjoyed during those times is certainly a lesson for all the societies of the world to follow.
I chose to write about the Indus Valley Civilization, just to prove how modern and conceptualized the land was even 5600 years ago. Indians are lucky to be able to boast of one of the earliest and advanced societies of all times.

Ending the article on an interesting note, during the Middle Bronze ages(3600BCE-1200BCE), the people of Sumer are known to have had trading relations with a prominent center called Meluha. Probably, Meluha is the none other than the Indus Valley civilization. Though, there are no substantial proofs to validate this theory.

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Namaste for Now!

Friday, 31 October 2014

The Number 13

"Never cross a road if a black cat has crossed your path"
"If you sneeze before some work, the work is bound to fail"
"If you mutter the word 'oil' or 'tel' before leaving your home, something unasupicious will befall upon you."
"Wait for the Shubh Muhurat for anything auspicious, be it a medical checkup"
"Consult your horoscopes before getting married"
And the most famous...
"Do not plan anything auspicious on 13th of a month. Dont buy your home on the 13th floor."

I would like to analyze in this post, what caused the above mentioned superstitions to set their stronghold in India, how many of them were based on scientific and logical analogies, and may still hold true even to this day. How many of them are completely baseless, and why do people keep on sticking to them. Needless to say, most of these superstitions have made their way successfully through the new millennium into even this current decade. I may not be able to take up all of them in this post itself, but would definitely like to address all.

The Wicked Black Cat: Surprisingly, this superstition originate in India and has no reference whatsoever in any ancient Indian text. As a matter of fact, black cat was the Vahana of Goddess Shashthi, and symbolized childbirth in ancient India.
What was initially a mere propaganda, is now what people follow with blind faith. In earlier Egypt, the Goddess Bast, who was the Goddess of protection was actually a female black cat. In an attempt to denounce everything non-Christian, the then Christians declared a black cat to be a symbol of bad fate. This superstition propagated further and soon reached India.
Logical/Scientific value: None. This superstition is as good as useless.

Howling dogs: Howling dogs are said to be impeding signs of coming danger. It is believed that if someone listens to a howling dog, some great tragedy would befall on him.
The origin of this superstition turns out to be a very smart move by the ancient Indians. They had learned about the hearing abilities of dogs, and it has also been proved now that dogs have some sixth sense. Hence, howling dogs could very well predict natural calamities like earthquake, tsunami, or even heart attacks in advance and proper measure could be taken.
Logical/Scientific value: Credible to a limit. Not to be followed without reason

Sneeze and drink water: Another one of the most common and widespread superstition of all times is related to sneezing. This again, is based on a scientific logic. When we sneeze, the air and mucus leave our mouth and nose at the speed of 100 miles per hour. Science says that when this much amount of energy is released from the body, body becomes weak for a moment. Just before sneezing, one takes a deep breath  which increases flow of blood to the heart, increasing the heart rate. After sneeze, the heart rate drops all of a sudden, creating the effect of almost missing a heart beat. The western countries have a tradition of saying "Bless You". Saying "have something sweet", or "drink some water" is a way of asking the other person to relax.
Logical/Scientific value: Credible to a limit. Shall not be linked with any jinx or ominous behaviour.

Buri Nazar and the remedies: A superstition as widespread as the black cat and number 13, in the Indian sub-continent, is the Buri Nazar, or the evil-eye. Someone is looking very pretty in a party, or a child genius is celebrated in a parents-teacher meeting, or even getting a meagre salary-hike, can catch someone's fancy or the evil eye, and you are attacked by the Buri Nazar(yes, its that easy). If the person even feels a headache the next day, it confirms someone has set his or her evil eye. The remedy is to take a glass of water and dissolve some salt in it and rotate it around the affected person, immediately flushing it down afterwards.
Stupid, the cause and remedy, may sound, this is based on a solid medical foundation. Salt water attracts negative cosmic energy and breaks it down. It is equally important to throw the contaminated water away regularly.
Logical/Scientific value: Highly credible remedy , but not in the way it is followed in India.

Playing with scissors: Unnecessarily playing with scissors causes rifts in a home. How else would someone educate a child not to play with sharp objects like knife and scissors. A theory was developed around scissors and rifts. Creating fear in a child's mind helps, but thats not the best way always
Logical/Scientific value: Valid only for children, even that is debatable.

Right foot first: The superstition has got more to do with the psych and psychology of a person, than what is right to do and what is wrong. When setting on an important journey or a task, it is important to be in the right and correct frame of mind. Keeping right foot first is training yourself sub-consciously to be upright in the journey. This again, however, depends on the person, rather than "always right foot". Some people may feel more confident setting their left foot forward first. This is a highly personalized practice.
Logical/Scientific value: Again, as good as useless.

The twitching eyes: A left eye twitching on its own is a bad omen, while the right eye twitching on it own means a good news is on its way, or some success on its way. As per modern science, this is nothing more than a sham, this being the only superstition with no logical reasoning whatsoever.
Twitching of eye is a neurological disorder, like Perkinson's disease and should be taken care of, instead of feeling happy about it.
Logical/Scientific value: Again, as good as useless.

The Number 13: A lesser known fact is that 2 days before Diwali(in some regions 1 day before Diwali), Dhanteras is celebrated as the day when one should buy new utensils or jewellery, as it is considered auspicious, however, the day falls on 13th day in the month of Ashwin. Shivratri is celebrated on the 13th night of the Magha month. The probable cause of surge of number 13 as an unlucky number seems to be in the ritual when after death of a person, a ceremonial fast is held in remembrance of the departed soul on the 13th day after his death.
Logical/Scientific value: What began as an innocent practice now faces us in the form of a big and unhealthy superstition with no logical or scientific base whatsoever.

Think of it, India was chosen to be God's own country. Why else would civilization first sow its roots in this land. the intellect of ancient sages, the knowledge of the Vedas, it was all bestowed upon us out of all the lands of the world.
Its a pity, that from being a holy land we are now more of a Land of Superstitions. Most of the practices are followed out of habit and superstition more than intent and the need. people go on teaching these things to their children without even explaining, probably because they themselves are not aware. This awareness has to rise, if we want to get rid of the shackles of superstitions.

Coming up with a book based on Indian history/mythology.
Please join the Facebook page and invite others as well to do the same.
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If you liked the above post, please click on Khoj-In Search of lost signs and like the page which opens up. Bidding Adieu for now.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Festival of Lights

I will keep this post light and simple. Festival of Diwali is just round the corner, and there is no point expecting readers to spend a good few half an hour in front of their laptops/mobile phones. But, amidst this very debate of crackers v/s no crackers, people often bring up the point of "What's the point of fire crackers?" in their conversation. Well, lets sit back for a moment and have a look at the festival of Diwali. Who knows, a few people may get some answers here and there?

A point of confusion:  Lets move directly to the day when Rama has just defeated Ravana, the day, we celebrate even today as Dusshehra. Now, Ram was a pious king, so he would have made sure that the bodies of all soldiers were ceremoniously cremated. He also waited for Vibhishana to be crowned king of Lanka, or whatever remained of it. He would have bid adieu to Sugriva, Jamavant, Nala, Neela, and others. All of this could have taken a day, or two, when Rama along with Laxman and Sita would have started back for Ayodhya. All of them reach Ayodhya and the entire town broke into celebrations, the day, we still celebrate as Diwali. Which means, it took all three of them some 18-19 days to travel back the distance of 3253 km. This certainly seems to be a bit far fetched, especially knowing that they crossed sea, and high altitude mountains and dense forests, not to mention they didnt have any maps. How did they do it then? Ramayana mentions a certain Pushpak Vimana, but could they fly in those days?
To get the answers of the above question, please like the page of my upcoming book, Finders, Keepers. There is no point missing a chance of promoting your book :)

The burning of crackers: Its always been a nature of history, that what we see around us today, may not have been because of results of one singular act of events in history, but a combination of results of a number of acts together in history, which led to the very activity that we see in front of us.
Interestingly, there is no mention either in Ramayana or any other scripture of those times of burning of firecrackers when Rama along with Sita returned back to Ayodhya in Pushpak Viman. Then how did this act of burning of crackers got associated with the festival of Diwali?

As per some scriptures, there was a demon Narakasura who ruled the kingdom of Pradoshyapuram, who was the son of Bhumi Devi. He had a boon that he could be killed only by his mother. and Bhumi Devi had already died in his childhood. That had made him immortal in a way.
The king was evil and had even troubled Indra with his atrocities. Indra requested Krishna to end the evils of Narakasura. Krishna requested his wife, Satyabhama to accompany him  in this quest as he was aware that Satyabhama was the reincarnation of Bhumi Devi.
Krishna fought an epic battle with Narakasura and destroyed his army but was heavily injured by Narakasura because of his boon. Seeing an injured Krishna, Satyabhama picked up his Chakra and killer Narakasura out of fury.

Before his death, he requested for a boon from Krishna and Satyabhama that people should celebrate his death anniversary by lighting up their houses, distributing sweets and bursting firecrackers. His boon was granted by Satyabhama and Krishna and they blessed him that his death anniversary would be celebrated on the day of Diwali, which was already celebrated to mark the return of Rama and Sita back to Ayodhya.

The scientific angle: Believe it or not, there is a very scientific angle reated to burning of crackers and lighting lamps around this time of the year. Diwali comes at the onset of winters, and the rainy season is almost coming to an end.
With water being stagnant, mosquitoes and other insects  breed a lot, bringing with them a whole lot of  diseases.  In the older days when healthcare was not so advanced, bursting firecrackers was seen as one way to rid the atmosphere of  the insects, kill the bugs around. Also in a way burning firecrackers was one way of welcoming the winter chill, that was just about setting in

The etymological reasons: As per certain historians, the practice of burning of crackers originated in China as a means of warding off evil and notorious spirits by scaring them with loud bursting sounds and lights. Soon, this practice spread to other parts of the world, including India.
In the early days, the practice of burning of crackers and lighting of lamps was done to entertain the royals and the kings only, but soon, the practice associated a religious significance of symbolizing the victory of good over evil with itself, and burning of crackers became a regular practice at Diwali.
People had already been celebrating Diwali by lighting lamps, and cleaning their houses by then, as a mark of return of Rama and Sita to Ayodhya, and soon other practices also came to be getting associated with Diwali.

I didnt touch upon the Rama v/s Ravana part much in the above post, as that is one story that we have been listening to, hearing from our grannies since a long time, and in my knowledge, almost everyone if aware of. But, that doesnt stop me from mentioning how Diwali is still symbol of victory of the good over the evil. The tale of the victory of Rama over Ravana, or the tale of death of Narakasura at the hands of Satyabhama certainly strengthen the belief.
So, make your own decision on how you want to celebrate the festival of lights, and there is no particular way by which Diwali should be celebrated. As long as you are comfortable with your own way of celebrations, you should stick to it and celebrate the day as a symbolic victory of good over evil.

I would like to end this post now.
Coming up with a book based on Indian history/mythology.
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Bidding Adieu for now.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Finders, Keepers

A warm hello to all the esteemed readers and patrons of this blog.
I am really grateful of high the readers of this blog have appreciated, liked, and encouraged the articles they found over here.
I am really fortunate enough to find myself such interactive and interested readers,who would actually appreciate, suggest modifications and discuss pointers in an attempt to further improve the articles, and thus, this very blog.
Needless to say, this blog has seen a fair amount of rise in the numbers of visitors per day, which not only read, but also leave their valuable comments for me to ponder upon, revaluate, retrospect and come back more powerful.

After a few odd 56000+ views, I am proud to announce, that Leadstart Publishing has decided to publish my first ever novel, which goes by the name of "Finders, Keepers"

Finders Keepers is a fictional novel based on Indian history and mythology. If you have been an avid follower of the blog, you know what to expect, in there. If you havent been, well, the book would still be able to hold your interest.

Please join the Facebook page and invite others as well to do the same.
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With great hopes that the way you guys have liked my blog, you will like the book as well, I would wait in anticipation as you guys keep joining the page :)

Sunday, 28 September 2014

The Temples of Ancient Wisdom -Part Two

While growing up all these years(I assume you have spent quite a few years before accessing internet, and therefore this post), you would have definitely visited a number of religious buildings and monuments, where you are convinced Gods reside. Let me have the freedom to assume, all along these years, you would have visited places and monuments spreading across different religious verticals, beyond your own.
So think of it, these are places to pray, to meditate and to connect to God. Peace, is what you are supposed to find here. But, have you ever thought of or heard of a place of God, where they actually teach you a form of combative fighting? One of the deadliest in the world! If you still haven't figured it out, I am talking about Shaolin temples.

There are numerous Buddhist temples all around the world, and nowhere else is martial arts taught. The founder of Buddhism, Gautam Buddha himself is the most perfect symbol of peace. Then what made Shaolin Temples teach one of the deadliest arts to its disciples? If you follow my blogs closely enough, you know where all this would lead to. Exactly, India!
History books talk about a Bodhidharma who is believed to have started teaching KungFu in Shaolin Temples, in a way, the actual creator of Shaolin Temples  as we know them today. His story of how he reached there and started teaching Kung Fu and martial arts is yet another interesting matter demanding further analysis. The point here, however, is that he was an Indian who lived in 5th century CE.

Bodhidharma himself was an Indian of the then ruling class who migrated to China in search of peace and spreading Buddhism. The question here is, what made him teach Kung Fu at a place designated for prayers and Godly connect. Did he get influenced by something he was used to seeing back home? Were fight forms taught at Indian temples as well?

Hello and welcome to the second part of my previous post on The Temples of Ancient Wisdom. The earlier installment was liked, appreciated and re-shared by many on various social media platforms. So, thought of writing a second.

Kalaripayattu: One of the oldest fighting system in existence, Kalariyapayattu is now mostly practiced in Kerala, and parts of Tamil Nadu. This was first documented in 11th century CE, but has been practiced in India since long back. 
Whats fascinating is, Kalariyapayattu is practiced at Kalari, or places where it is a norm to first meditate and then start practicing, Whats even more fascinating is that this art is still taught at many temples of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Other prominent styles of fighting, like Mall-Yuddha, primarily made famous by Bheem in Mahabharata were also practiced and taught by sages and saints of ancient India. So, temples in ancient India were not averse to fighting styles and their practice in the premises.

Interestingly,  Kalaripayattu is still taught in the Indian Shaolin Temples, thus completing the full circle, in a way.
But, this brings us to question, were ancient Indian temples much more than a mere place of worship?

Centers of art, culture, science: While you are planning your next trip to any place in India, do make it a point to visit the Sun Temple in Konark, Orissa.
Though no more a working temple, the temple was developed primarily to worship Sun and all the sciences associated with the movement of earth round the sun. 
As per the locals, there was a huge magnet kept in the center of the temple which had bind the entire temple structure together. This was a unique marvel in itself, as the temple was using the magnetic fields to bind the entire huge structure together without binding them physically. However, the magnetic fields turned out to be so strong, that they would easily deviate and confuse ships and cargos on their way passing near Konark. The Britishers then removed the magnet, and a part of the temple collapsed. As its a practice not to pray in broken temples, the temple was closed forever for worship.
So, while there is a big circular structure which would tell you the exact time based on where the sunshine falls in which weather, there are also depictions of a camel and a lady wearing a gown with a handbag on the walls of the temple, stuff which Indians had not even heard of in those times.

Even the temples of Khajuraho depict sexual activities in various forms on their walls. Here, we should remember, in ancient times, even sex was considered a part of education and was taught in schools. 
Ajantha Cave Temples depict the beauty and antiquity of the art and knowledge of those times, where the temples were not only designed for worship, but also to learn and study various forms of art.
A number of temples in the southern part of India depict various forms of dances, like Bharatnatyam etc on the walls. It was only in these temples, that these dances were nurtured and improved by the practitioners. 

Temples as liberal banks: What would you do if you were living in ancient times and had lots of money out of some business, in your possession?
Keeping it at home was still unsafe as someone might steal it. So, people used to deposit them at temples, the temples serving as liberal banks for general public. Though, they maintained accounts of all those who deposited their money and gold at temples, the temples also provided loans to the needy for their business and other activities. Needless to say, as it was deemed temple's money, the interest rates were practically nil and only a nominal transaction fees was deducted.
As the temples always had part of King's army, practicing various combative forms, it was considered very safe to deposit the money at these temples, as no one would be able to steal it from there.

Art and Imagery inside the Temples: Though I have already written about the art and illustrations inside ancient Indian temples above, it is important to note that the art and imagery wasn't random.
The images could be classified based on the dimensions when they were completed:

Chitra: The images were three dimensional and complete.
Chitrardha: The images were engraved in half-relief
Chitrabhasa: Images that were two dimensional and were mostly images and paintings

Another way of classifying the images would be by their expressive form when completed:
Rudra/Ugra: Images that were mostly meant to terrify, or induce fear. They would have wide eyes, carry weapons. These were mostly worshiped by soldiers before setting out for war, or after any calamity or widespread disease. These were mostly built outside the villages.

Shant/Saumya: These images were serene, and expressed peace and love. These images would carry flowers, and eyes will be narrow, and would carry some or the other icons of love, peace, knowledge, music. These were mostly constructed inside towns and villages.

Symbolism: In all my previous blog posts, I have emphasized heavily on predominant symbolism viable throughout Hinduism.. Be it the imagery of Gods like Shiva, Ganesh or the divine Goddesses or the symbols like Om or Swastika, or even the carriers of Gods, the Vahanas. Think of it, temples are the physical embodiment of all such symbolism spread across the entire premises of the temple.
As per Vedic scriptures, a temple based on ancient Vedic principles, is a symbolic reconstruction of the entire Universe and its symbolic imagery. The temple is the depiction of Hindu philosophy and its principles.
Most ancient temples would have a huge, splendid door, but would rarely have strict boundaries or walls. Instead, the ancient temples would have huge open spaces inside, where the devotee, being an individual, a couple or even a family may take their own time to get into the temple premises and then eventually seek for the God.
The entire structure itself is a huge symbolism of the world, where from outer world of sin, Asuras and Rakhasas, one enters through the gates into the central core of the temple, or the Brahma pada. And then spiritually and psychically lifting oneself up a symbolic space marked by the pyramidal structure transcending into the vertex peak.

The Six Important Constituents of an ancient Vedic Temple: A Vedic Temple primarily has to be comprising of six important constituents:

The Dome and the Steeple: The shape of the dome may vary from region to region, and is quite different as we move from the southern parts of the Indian peninsula towards their northern counterparts. The shape of the steeple, is often in the form of the Trishul of Shiva, and mostly symbolizes Mount Meru.

Inner Chamber: Garbha-Griha, where the image or the idol of the principal deity is kept. The chamber is mostly closed for the visitors and general public.

The Temple Hall: Large Vedic Temples have halls and chambers where people can sit and meditate. The hall is usually decorated with paintings and images from scriptures and Gods and Goddesses.

Front Porch:  This place is marked mostly by a temple bell hung from the high ceiling of the temple roof. Devotees strike the bell before they enter and while they exit. To know more about why we strike the temple bell, read The Temples of Ancient Wisdom

Reservoir: Most of the Vedic temples were constructed on the banks of some or the other river. If water was not available in vicinity, a reservoir was built to store fresh water. The water was used not only to clean the temple premises, but also to clean oneself before entering the temple.

Walkway: It is considered a holy practice to walk around the central idol clockwise seven times. This is called walkway and is constructed in every temple with a comfortable width where people can walk easily.

Jabaldarshana Upanishad states:

शिवमात्मनि पश्यन्ति प्रतिमासु न योगिनः |
अज्ञानं भावनार्थाय प्रतिमाः परिकल्पिताः || ५९ ||
- जाबालदर्शनोपनिषत्
This means a yogin perceives god (Siva) within himself,
Images are for those who have not reached this knowledge. (Verse 59)

The verse principally states that ideally, a person who has submitted himself completely to the devotion of the lord, or who has learnt the art and patience to meditate peacefully and with complete single-mindedness would never need an idol or an image to pray and connect to the Lord. That person is able to worship even without being surrounded by the walls of a temple. But those who haven't realized that state or height of meditation need imagery or idols in temples to worship. That is the reason, many temples have big corridors or huge passages without the idols or images where people can sit peacefully and meditate. For others, there is the very idol itself.

Because ancient Indian temples were built strictly on Vedic guidelines, thats why there would always be a common lineage of principles and attributes which they would build their temples around. Of course while there were differences between the temple building styles of north India as well as South India, the very basic foundations and principles were very much similar and binding to each other.

I would like to end this post now.
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Monday, 1 September 2014

Surya Siddhanta

The numeric system of Roman numerals makes use of contributing Latin alphabets to signify numbers.
Representing numbers using Latin alphabets is a different thing, there has always been a tradition in every numeral system since the beginning of time to name certain numbers. Like, fox example, 1 is named as "one" in modern number system, "ek" in Hindi numerical system, "yi" in Chinese, and so on.

So, coming back to the first line, Roman numerals, this way have named 106 numbers in total. This is significant because Roman numerical system is one of the oldest and most ancient form of numerical system of all times.
The modern numerical system has named some 10^3 named numbers, the system that we use in our say to day work.
Why I am writing all this about other cultures and systems? Because Indian numerical system names a whopping 10^62 numbers.
Now, why am I writing all this? Has this anything to do with the name of the blog post 'Surya Siddhanta'? The only purpose of writing all this is that ancient Indians used to build such concise and well-planned systems and frameworks, that even modern people get awed of. Every single piece was so much planned and thought-off, the entire framework such well-built and well-designed, the principles and foundations so strong, there are still secrets and ideas which the modern people haven't been able to discover, or have discovered very late in the game.

This post mostly talks about the concise astronomical system that ancient Indians had built up, and what all they deduced. There wasn't just one system in place and various astronomers had their own version, but to talk about them in one single post would be beyond the scope of this blog. Hence we would talk about a few specific ones only.

Length of an Year: Surya Sidhhanta, which is one of the many traditions, doctrines of ancient India, speaks of 4 ways to measure the length of an year, viz. Nakshatra, Savana, Lunar and Saura. While the other systems are used for specific purposes, like Nakshatra for auspicious dates, etc. The Saura measure accurately estimates the length of date to be 365 days, 6 hours 12 mins and 30 seconds. If you think the number is a bit too far fetched, as how could Indians measure back then with such accuracy, I would suggest going to any ancient temple, specially Konark Temple, and witness the incredibly complex and technically correct architecture based on astronomical guidelines

The sphere called Earth: A quick search over the internet credits the discovery of Earth being round to some or the other Greek astronomers, including Pythagoras. Interestingly, Indian astronomers by then had already claimed that Sun is yet another star, and that earth is spherical. As a matter of fact, numerous attempts had been made to measure the circumference of earth. Aryabhatta presented a complete system of mathematics, on basis of which, Earth is said to be rotating on an axis. He also estimated the value of pi to be 3.1416, based on which he deduced the circumference of earth to be 24,835 miles, only 70 miles below its true value.
In fact, in his book Aryabhatiya, he also asserts that the movement of heavenly bodies like the sun, the stars are all relative, and only earth is moving.
"Just as a passenger in a boat moving downstream sees the stationary (trees on the river banks) as traversing upstream, so does an observer on earth see the fixed stars as moving towards the west at exactly the same speed (at which the earth moves from west to east.)"-translated from Aryabhatiya Gola 9

Gravity before Newton?: Much before the lucky apple dropped on the head of Newton, and he thought of this idea called gravity, Varahmihira, in 6th century proposed an idea of a force, that not only holds celestial body in space, but also things on earth. Varahmihira proposed that there must be some form of force that keeps objects stationary. Brahmagupta, in the 7th century had also proposed an idea that "It is the nature of The Earth to attract objects, and so the objects fall, just like water flows."
Here we must take note that the Sanskrit word for Gravity is Gurutvakarshan which is a Sandhi of Guru-tva-akarshan, thanks to the power of Sanskrit. Here akarshan means "to be attracted". So, Gurutvakarshan means "to be attracted by the master".
Interestingly, the Sun was treated as the most powerful of all celestial bodies, the master of them all, Gurutvakarshan would refer to being attracted by the sun, which holds true in the modern sense of astronomy as well.

Celestial Calculations:
युग सहस्त्र योजन पर भानु
लील्यो ताहि माधुर फल जानू 
-Hanuman Chalisa
Tulsidas wrote 40 verse in praise of Lord Hanuman, and the above verse, which is eighteenth from the beginning, translates to how "The Surya, situated thousands of Yojanas(a unit of distance) away was swallowed by you, after you assumed him to be a sweet fruit"
As per Vedic literature, the measure of units of distance are converted as follows:
1 Yuga = 12000 years. and 1 Sahsra Yuga = 12000000 years.
Also, 1 Yojan = 8 miles
So, Yug Sahsra Yojan(the first three words) would mean 96000000 miles.
Converting it to kilometers, 96000000 X 1.6 = 153,600,000 kms
Actual distance from earth to sun = 152,000,000 kms(error margin of around 1%)

Brahmagupta in the 7th century CE claimed the circumference of the Earth to be 36,000 km, which is close to the actual figure of 40,075 km, with an error margin of 1%

Yajnavalkya measured the distance of the earth from the sun and the distance of the moon from the earth and concluded that the distance is 108 times the diameter of these celestial bodies. Interestingly again, the correct number is 107.5 for sun and 110.6 for moon

Predictive Astrology: The very first references to astronomy are found in the Rig Veda. In ancient times, astrology and astronomy were coherent to each other, with Indians predicting fate and future on the basis of planets, with Mangal(Mars), Shani(Saturn) getting more ascendance than others.
Though, Aryabhata had already deduced that solar eclipse was caused by moon coming in between earth and the moon and that the moonlight was actually powered by the sunlight, Rahu and Ketu were still considered major forces in a person's fate and were called evil forces.
Predictive astrology is a very ancient Indian philosophy where astronomical phenomenons and movements of celestial bodies was studied to make predictive analysis. Not glorifying predictive astrology as such, but the study of planets and their movements was very much active even during Vedic periods.

The study of astronomy in ancient India wasnt restricted to predictive astrology only. The most comprehensive book covering this subject would be Aryabhata's Aryabhattiya which has laid down the entire framework of how astronomical calculations were done during early days. Jantar Mantar of Jaipur is a living example of such art of knowledge as it was built on the principles of ancient India.
Aryabhata was also the first to deduce that the time taken by planets to revolve around the sun was in ratio to their circumferences. He was also the first to deduce that the orbits of planets around the sun were ellipses. They were only slowed down due to the lack of a proper telescope, something which other cultures beat India to, and they had to base their calculations and assumptions on their imperfect instruments.
Other noted names in the field of ancient Indian astronomy were Bhaskar, Bhaskaracharya and Brahmagupta. They and Aryabhata not only made great advancements in the field of astronomy, but presented and formulated complex calculus puzzles and equations and trigonometric calculations which further helped scientists of other cultures to work on and enhance their studies.

Ending the post, I personally am delighted that Nalanda University is being revived, and finally our greatest treasure is being acknowledged, that of ancient Indian education system and the entire educational machinery.
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Saturday, 2 August 2014

The Bond of Love-Raksha Bandhan

Everyone loves a good story, and if the story concerns something which we have been living with, or have been celebrating, or have been cherishing all our lives, it certainly notches up greater interest.
While I strongly believe, adding reasons to certain customs or rituals, trying to understand the rationale behind them adds intent and motive to our acts, some festivals, certain practices, certain celebrations have an innocent and old word charm attached to them, and certainly dont need to add meaning to actually why are they practised.  Most certainly, Raksha Bandhan is one of those festivals which have this innocent and old-world charm to it.
Still remember those innocent days, when your popularity was measured more by having as many Rakhis on your wrist as possible. The girls would bring in Rakhis for the entire class, while the boys would wear them out till the last string. The more flashy the Rakhi, what with all the flowers, superheroes, sponge-based cartoons, the better attention would it grasp among the friends. Though as the boys grew up, the bigger and flashier Rakhis would be a major source of embarrassment and they would always prefer the simpler ones, the charm of Rakhi never really wore out.

Today, in this blog post, I would like to revisit certain stories and legends related to the celebration of Raksha Bandhan. I hope while going through this post you ponder upon some tales, which you havent come across till date, and were not entirely aware about.

The first seeds in Vedic Period: During the Vedic Period, a war was being fought between the devils and the deities on a Shravan Poornima, or the full moon day in the month of Shravan. Unfortunately, the demons were stronger and were winning easily. The leader of the deities, was worried that they may lose the battles to the demons and earth may see dark days forever. His wife Indrani, was worried about the outcome of the war and for her husband's unavoidable loss. She, being a religious lady, prepared an amulet and tied it around her husband's wrist.
Needless to say, the deities won the battle and Indra remained unhurt. Since that day, the amulet came to be known as Raksha Sutra and came to be celebrated on the full moon of Shravan month.
Interestingly, the first ever Raksha Sutra was tied by a wife on her husband's wrist. That, however changed, in Vedic period itself

From Raksha Sutra to Rakha Bandhan: Surya is said to have three children: Manu, Yama and Yamuna, As Surya was much powerful and his radiations very powerful, his wife, Samjna, was not able to bear his radiations and flee to her maternal home, leaving her shadow behind, known as Chhaya, so that Surya would never know.
Later, Surya and Chhaya had a son and she used to mistreat her step-sons and step-daughter. Yama could not bear the ill-treatment of her sister Yamuna, as both of them loved each other a lot, and revolted against Chhaya. He evidently learnt about Chhaya's truth and Chhaya cursed him with death and his body's mutilation thereafter. As during Vedic times, no one would die and they were considered immortals, this terrified Yama and Yamuna a lot.
It was then, that Yamuna tied a Raksha Sutra, or Rakhi on Yama's wrist and they both requested their father to take back the curse. When Surya came to know of the truth of Chhaya, he became very angry and brought her wife back, reducing his radiations.
Because of the curse, Yama had to meet his unfortunate mutilation, but the Rakhi on his wrist saved him from death. As a result, Yama became the first man to die(in the form of mutilation), and thus the God of death .
The sorrowful separation of the brother and sister duo who loved each other a lot, came to be celebrated as Raksha Bandhan between brothers and sisters

Lakshmi and Bali: Once when Raja Bali had gained much ascendancy amongst his subjects and was being considered powerful enough to rule even the heavens, Indra feared he may lose his kingdom forever. He requested Vishnu to help him retain his Kingdom as Bali was a demon king. Vishnu, in his very famous Vamana avatar pushed Bali into the underworld, but made him the emperor of the underworld. Bali being a very pious king, Vishnu asked him for a boon, when Bali asked him to bless and protect his kingdom forever. Vishnu, as a result left his abode of Vaikunth Dham and left for the underworld.
Lakshmi, worried that Vishnu may never come back, disguised herself as a poor lady, and visited Bali on Shravan Poornima. She requested him to tie a Rakhi on his wrist, to which Bali obliged and requested her to ask for a gift. Lakshmi then revealed her true identity and asked for Vishnu back. Bali immediately requested Vishnu to return back to Vaikunth Dham acknowledging the importance of Raksha Bandhan

A step beyond mythology-Porus and Alexander: When Alexander invaded India around 329 BC, his wife was aware of how brave and valiant a warrior Porus was and she sent a Rakhi to Porus and asked for her husband's life in the battlefield. Porus acknowledged the Rakhi and vowed not to kill Alexander on the battlefield.
Legend has it, that once Alexander did fall in front of Porus and he could have made a final blow killing Alexander off, when Porus saw the Rakhi on his wrist and refrained from killing Alexander. Porus lost the battle eventually, but gained much respect in the eyes of Alexander

Maharani Karnvati and Emperor Humayun: During the medieval period, the Rajputs were fighting Mughal invasions. When Rani Karnvati, the widowed queen of the King of Chittor realized she may no longer be able to defend her palace and her subjects from the invasion of the Sultan of Gujarat, Bahadur Shah, she sent a Rakhi to Emperor Humayun requesting him to defend her honour. Humayun, being aware the importance of Rakhi, started off with his troops to save the queen. Unfortunately, he reached Chittor a bit late and the Rani had already committed suicide by then, fearing Humayun may never reach them. This incident proved to be one of the most significant in recent history of the festival and made Rakhi a festival beyond religions and boundaries

Rakhi and Tagore: Interestingly, Rabindranath Tagore linked Raksha Bandhan not merely to brother and sister, but to the entire humankind as such through his poems and works. He invoked Rakhi to inspire love, respect and solidarity amongst Indians under the British rule. Tagore started celebrating Rakhi Mahotsavas in erstwhile Bengal, which came to be identified as a symbol of unity of Bengal.
In certain pockets of Bengal, people still tie Rakhis on the wrists of their neighbours and friends

Raksha Bandhan Mantra: Though many may not be aware about it, there is a certain Raksha Bandhan mantra which sisters chant while tying Rakhi on the wrists of their brothers. The mantra goes as follows:

येन बद्धो वली राजा दानवेन्द्रो महाबलः ।
तेन त्वा प्रतिबध्नामि रक्षे माचल माचल ॥

The mantra means
I am tying on your hand this Raksha, with which the most powerful and generous King Bali himself was bound; O Raksha, don't go away; don’t go away.
Needless to stay, the Mantra is dedicated to the Bali and Lakshmi episode related to Raksha Bandhan.

Is Raksha Bandhan a symbol of male patriarchal system in society? And thus makes women inferior to men? Is it a threat to feminism? Dont get me wrong! I am not putting up these questions, rather consider these questions illogical. These were certain sets of questions I found people asking on Quora under the garbs of misplaced feminism.
If you think about it, the meanings and the rationale of a lot of customs have changed over time, without changing the customs themselves.
The architects of Hinduism were so smart and forward-looking, they created Hindusim in such a way, that the rules could be able to reinterpret, logic redefined with each changing society and times. What would be the rationale of a custom, say, 100 years ago, would not hold true now, but some other rationale would fit in perfectly.

Unfortunately, most of the leaders and Gurus at the top holding the helm of Hinduism, haven't been able to upgrade or translate the rationale as per changing times, and thus, many customs appear outdated or rigid.
Raksha Bandhan was not always meant to be a "tying Rakhi on brother's hands so that he may protect the sister". Atleast the first few stories associated with Rakhi dont talk in such undertones. The story of Yama and Yamuna, which actually brought in the practice of sisters tying Rakhis on the wrists of brothers was more about the love between the siblings, and sister caring for her brother, than the brother committing to protect her.

Let the misplaced sets of rules of modern times not confuse you or berate your belief in these customs. Raksha Bandhan is a festival where selfless love between brothers and sisters is celebrated, and personally, I would any day find much more depth and meaning to it than some random Archies-sponsored Sister's Day or Brother's day.

With that I would like to bring this post to an end
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