Sunday, September 16, 2012

Dvija - Rescuing Varna from Jaati

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Thoughts continued from these previous posts.

My Priya Bandhujan,

Upanishad Ganga has begun churning minds. Here is a snapshot of this ongoing manthana in my mind after watching the episode of Chanakya and Varna-Vyavastha. More than the episode itself, this bharatvaakya of the episode had a lasting impact.

जन्मना जायते शूद्रः. संस्कारात् द्विजं उच्यते |
वेद-पाठात् भवेत् विप्रः ब्रह्म जानाति ब्राह्मणः| स्कंदपुराण ६.२३९.३१

Everyone is Shudra by birth. With Sanskaras (the system of 16 sanskaras in dharma) makes a person "Dvija". Mastering Vedas (knowledge) makes one "Vipra". One becomes a "Brahmana" as he attains "Brahma-Jnana".

applying modern context - 

Everyone is Shudra by birth. After enrolling in school (Upanayana sanskara) and graduation (Samaavartana) one becomes Dvija (twice born). After becoming a "master" of a particular stream of knowledge, one becomes a "Vipra". And after attaining "Brahma-Jnaana" one becomes Brahmana.

If one looks at most of the Smriti verses dealing with "dharmaarthik" theories pertaining to Purushaartha-trayi (Dharma-artha-kaama i.e. politics and economy, jurisprudence, personal lifestyle), the most frequent term used is "Dvija". 

Dvija is one who has initiated his formal education in an institution which is recognized by sociopolity of given space and time. Initiation of education is marked by Upanayana Sanskaara (admission to primary school in modern context) and Samaavartana sanskaara (graduation - HSC OR Bachelor's degree). All scriptures are unanimous at giving these two sanskaras to three varnas. In modern context, we have amended it to include all 4 Varnas (a welcome decision). 

In days of current dharma-shaastra (constitution of India and Hindu civil code suite), all those who have completed formal education up to at the least HSC and at the most Bachelor's level is a "Dvija". 

As far as Brahmanas are concerned, well, that is subjective. But all know such Brahmanas in and around our lives and times. That is "Adhyatmika" aspect and falls outside the scope of my capability and experience. Hence I respectfully tiptoe and desist speaking about it, until I have credible "Pratyaksha Pramaana".

Those who choose to specialize and become authorities in a particular field of knowledge (PhD, Post-Doctoral researcher, associate/assistant/ full professor, having published the fruits of his/her deliberations in a peer-reviewed platform) can be called as a "Vipra" (vip + ra - vaguely translated as praiseworthy brightness). In all these, categories, a person is expected to live on donations by parents, society, King and Vaishyas. And even in modern times, these guys do live off the donations (we call is grants). Ironically, the fact that most of our "vipras" now a days are busy applying for grants here and there, instead of spreading their luminescence (research), shows that this system too has begun its decline and will shed and evolve into something else shortly. 

In none of the above categories, does (rather SHOULD) one really care about "Jaati". One beautiful sentence from TV series Upanishad ganga - 

जो सत्य कह सके, सत्य सून सके, सत्य धारण कर सके, श्रेष्ठ ज्ञान का अधिकारी वही होता है   One who can speak truth, listen to truth, bear the truth, only he can attained greater knowledge.

This actually gives us platform to serially dismantle this distorted system. Jaati-System is here to stay. One has to dissociate the word "brahmana" from various jaatis like "Muhiyal", "Bhumihar", "Chitpavan", "Deshastha", "Vaidiki", "Niyogi", "Iyer", "Aiyangar", "Namboothiri" so on and so forth. All these are merely "jaatis" and should have no right to place the word "Brahmana" after them, unless they really follow the "dharma of brahmana varna". Of course, thanks to Britishers  the words Brahmana and Kshatriya are perhaps tainted permanently, we may need to find a new word which imply the meaning depicted in the opening Shloka of this post.

Varnashrama functions on ratio of Varnas in society. With onslaught of Saif-ud-Deen (sword of faith), this ratio was disturbed. The specialized Kshatriya classes of India either fell fighting OR migrated after defeat OR converted to newer faith OR retained their way of life by compromising on their Dharma and living to see next day. Same applies for other specialized classes, one of which is Brahmana Varna.

Looking logically, none of these responses are illogical and condemnable. All of us have had ancestors who compromised on Dharma and lived on (hence we exist) and some other ancestors who chose one of the other three options. 

The word "compromise" elicits a strong emotion, so does the word "selfish". But are these really "bad" words? What would one call of a "Jaati-dhaari Brahmin" (not varna), who took decisions which resulted in great troubles for some people of lower castes in his vicinity, but also preserved a rare manuscript(s) at the cost of his life, his property and even his honor from predatory hands of invader? What about those Veda-shaalas who kept the oral tradition of vedas alive, by gulping up the resources from local vaishya OR king instead of helping farmers in famine, probably by threatening him of religious excommunication and at times blackmailing the traders OR at times even legitimizing the deeds of a "Muslim ruler" committed against his fellow Hindu bretheren?

There are many such complex points in history where choices of individuals arose out of the "cost-benefit ratio" calculations being played out in his mind and he taking the decision based on his understanding of this equation and grasp over situation. In fact, this entire domain of history wherein the flame of Dharma was kept burning (at least the memory and resources required to resurrect it when time is ripe) at "ALL COSTS" is full of such instances. Hence it makes it difficult to categorize them as "good" or "bad".

Dharma sustained due to these so called compromisers. Dharma also sustained due to so called "Aakramana-Kaari". There is space-time for "compromise" and there is space-time for "Aakramana". Those who keep on compromising (or advocate doing so) in space and time of "Aakramana" are real Dhimmis. Those who advocate Aakramana in space and time of "compromising" are real "Martyrs". And both "Dhimmis" and "Martyrs" are necessary as "examples" so that the message of Dharma is delivered and wheel of Dharma starts rotating (Dharma Chakra Pravartana).

The moral of the story is, we need to dismantle this distorted understanding of varna and "brahmin" and need to rebuild the cadre by drawing and training individuals from wide spectrum of Jaatis. May be a new word, but the connection between Jaati and Brahmin should and will severe.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Purva-Paksha analysis of Islam using Tarkashastra of Saankhya-Yoga

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I have previously written three essays on similar topic. I would request gentle readers to go through them before you read on this essay.

Offering my Pranaama to Mahakaala, I now begin this essay. In essay no. 2 cited above, I arrived at a conclusion quoted below.

The power-structure in Islam is inherently linked with the nature and Chitta-Vritti of Prophet Muhammad himself. Belief in Allah is not enough to ensure the place in heaven. One has to depend upon Muhammad's favours and his influence on god to go to heaven. Thus, Muhammad made himself more powerful than Allah. Thus, in Islam for all practical purposes, Muhammad, the Rasool, is supremely powerful figure. This is as perfect and complete as it can get. Muhammad will only talk to Allah about you if you were a true Muslim. 

But who determines who the true-Muslim is and who is not, herein lies the real crux of the issue. A Qazi or a Mullah controls the social matters and ascertains the "report-card" of spiritual progress of ordinary Abdul. And sad part is ordinary Abdul in India can't even think of rebelling because if he does, he will be branded as "enemy of Islam" by power-establishment and will bring "Islam in danger".

Islam, when initiated, introduced sort of standardization of ideas in otherwise free-thinking and dispersed Arabs. Standardization perhaps helped in efficient survival where resources are scarce and cost of living in terms of energy is high. Civilizations like India where resources are abundant and cost of living in terms of energy is ridiculously low, are better off being free-thinking and non-standardized. Violent suppression of critical faculties lead to conflict between free-thinkers (Indic people) and standardised products (Muslims in general and those from Deobandi and Wahabi schools in particular).

Re-reading above analysis it seems that the Wahabi/Deobandi groups are like regression in the progression of Islam. Study of history from this perspective, seems to give out a signal of future decay/demise when fundamentalists/conservatives take over as it halts the progress or linear march of a movement. But is this movement of Wahabandi (Wahabi+Deobandi) groups to the center-stage really a regression?

My attempt at Purva-Paksha of Islam from Point of view of Saankhya-Yoga epistemology. 

I have numbered the "Purva-Paksha Sutras" and "Teeka (commentary)" follows. For those who are not aware of Indian Tarka-Shaastra OR dialectics, please follow this wiki link.

1. Any meme which wishes to survive beyond era of its inception has to have an infallible core.

2. Muslims are caught between "drive to live/evolve/excel" and "drive to be righteous (according to book)".

In Dharmik system, these two drives are not at loggerheads with each other. In fact, in Dharmik systems, we have separate "shastras" to deal with both these drives. (Artha and Dharma respectively. I am not even bothering to use the word Moksha and Adhyatma for Islam). The inherent "separateness" of these two Purusharthas (They are linked and move in parallel, not completely severed like in Secularism) makes it difficult for a dharmik to comprehend the nature and magnitude of churning which goes on in Muslim mind. Unlike Dharma, Deen and Daulat cannot be separated in Islam (as in all abrahmic faiths). 

3. In Islam, their "infallible" (Qur'an and hadith) is almost a universal set. Shruti, which is Indic infallible core, is not.

Furthermore, Shruti is a work of thousands of seers, criticized and peer-reviewed by thousands of other seers, all this process being extended over thousands of years of continuous composition, has enough material which can very effortlessly sustain and hold together vastly contradictory ideas and memes. There is plenty of "digestion time" spent in the process. Something which did not happen and is impossible to happen in one man's life-time (no matter how talented he is). Even if we see Islam as continuity of Judaic tradition extending over millennium and half prior to birth of Muhammad, it still does not pass the crucial criteria of "rigorous peer review" by multiple composers. This peer-review is missing in Judaic tradition.

4. In Saankhya-Yoga, there are at the least three acceptable "Pramaanas" - Pratyaksha (direct experience/observation), Anumaana (logical inference/interpretation from observed data) and Shabda (word in literature). 

While examining Shruti, a Dhaarmik is expected to give importance to Pratyaksha Pramaana, but here "pratyaksha", means direct experience. Then comes Anumaana and then one has to test what Shruti (Shabda) has to say about a question.

There are no tools OR permissions to "examine" Deen, per se. But if one wishes to do so, one is supposed to give primary importance to Shabda (words written in good book). Second is Anumaana (various Firqas and sects and their interpretation of the infallible core) and last is Pratyaksha (the qalandars, sufis, who are detested by all good muslims who believe in supremacy of "Shabda-Praamanya" (word in Qur'an)).  

So, when this conflict between drive to live and drive to be righteous arises, a Muslim who has understood the "essence" of dharma simply deletes (in his mind) those parts of "Deen" which comes in way of his "drive to live/evolve/excel". This is what we call as "Swadharma" in Sanskrit - the drive which made us utter "Tamaso Maa Jyotir gamaya"

For most muslims, Deen being infallible is beyond question - they follow orders/interpretations of Mullah in matters of religion. Those who do question these interpretations, are caught in dilemma - Whether to give primary importance to Pratyaksha pramaana and have courage to delete those ideas in Deen which do not conform with one's "Anubhava" OR to give primary importance to "Shabda praamanya" as Mullah and Deen recommends.

5. Dharmik individuals give importance to Pratyaksha Pramana and then Anumaana while testing the efficacy of Shabda.

Rest who cannot muster courage to test Deen with their experience and rely on Shabda (for which they have to depend upon a mullah who understands Arabic) have to undergo one further test. The qualitative difference in "shabda" (the infallible core) as discussed in commentary of sutra 3, is to be applied here. When testing efficacy of Shabda alone, Dharmikness of individual depends upon dharmikness of Shabda under consideration. Shruti is inherently "Dharmik" in character due to its limited scope and robustness in accommodating multiplicity of opinions in that narrow scope of human experience. Deen, on the other hand, is monopolistic with universal scope covering entire spectrum of human experience and hence Aasurik.

6. How to prioritize Anumaana pramaana (various interpertations) is the next test.

Wahabis are those Muslims who eliminate this second Pramana as well (to highest extent) and rely only and solely on "Shabda Pramaana". No interpretations, only to take literal meaning, and one gets what the shabda really means and wishes to say. 

From Deen's perspective, those giving primary importance to Pratyaksha Pramanas are Kafirs 1.0. Later, once these are removed, those relying on Anumaana Pramaana (which is subjective and determined by demographic factors in given "desha") are kafirs 2.0. This is a the crunch situation when expansion-based sociopolity of Deen cannot be continued. What remains thereafter, is utopia of true believers.  

Thus the phenomenon of Wahabism taking center-stage is in fact progression and not regression when we view Deen from Saankhya point of view. Wahabism a logical conclusion to Deen.

Phalashruti - Vast majority of Muslims in Indian subcontinent are like stones lying in Ganga river. For millennia, they have been surrounded by Dharma and Dhaarmiks just like water surrounds these pebbles all the time. Yet when we break these pebbles, we see that the core is still dry. Similarly this sense of Dharma has not percolated in Indian Muslims. They have remained "dry" in spite of being in water.

One look at the typical Sufi argument:

This argument is typically put forth by those who are either genuine travelers of Tasawwuf OR are Islamists hiding under Sufi garb. 

Here's an interesting ayat, often quoted by Sufis which goes somewhat near to Indic concept of PramaanaQur'an 17:36 

"And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the core of the heart - about all those [one] will be questioned."

The Ibn Katheer commentary mentions that the order of pramanas here is significant - hearing, sight, and core of the heart. Therefore the sufi will proceed accordingly. However, "popular theologians" for the masses always emphasize on "faith over reason". In Islam, this is by far the predominant view, since it is a cult engineered for social control and mobilization.

So even among most Sufis who take a view of pramanas that is somewhat like Indic philosophy, their orientation is such that it ultimately reinforces doctrinal affiliation and communal identification over other human dynamics. We see this a lot with many Indic people who pursue their spiritual effort within the context of a particular school or maTha. They ultimately come around to affirming their maTha. But because of the long and variegated traditions that are woven to make up Indic traditions, a stable context is available in which these statements can be evaluated neutrally - i.e. separate from group-identifications. But Islam lacks that.

Ibn Katheer in fact corroborates what I said above. Relying on what one hears (shabda from Qur'an) is more important than one's pratyaksha anubhava in "core of your heart". Popular theologians, too basically say the same thing  - To rely on Shabda (Qur'an). 

This again underlines the natural progression of Islamic society towards Wahabism. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Historical Analysis of Maharashtra politics

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Things have been in flux in Maharashtra and western India off-late. I will not speak much about this region, things are happening on ground which I won't like to be spilled on english domain. Instead, I will talk of history. 

Uddhav Thakré is much more than what people give him credit. Yes, he totally lacks the charisma of his father and his cousin, but the word is, he is very good at armchair politics and also considered a good "organizer" (of same "jaati" as Ahmad Patel). The rebuilding of Amar Jawan jyoti was one small gesture by Shivsena the day after, which won accolades throughout Maharashtra and beyond. Raj Thakré spoke in his rally what BJP spoke in a recent press conference - That, all rioters in the 11th August Azad maidan riots were Bangladeshis and Pakistanis living in Mumbai. Now this is a dual edged sword. This is where I will remain silent for next few years.

RT is compelled to look "secular" because Hindutva is taken. Hence he rants about "maharashtra-dharma". Ironically this term "Maharashtra-Dharma" is coined by Ramdas Swami lauding work of Shivaji Maharaj of establishing a Hindavi Swarajya (Indian/Hindu self rule). Ramdas Swami askes Shivaji Maharaj to establish "maharashtra-dharma" all over the nation. It is also a word-play of Maha-raashtra (greater nation = Indian dharma). All the previous interpretations of this term by all the scholars from any perspective (there have been commie attempts to analyze this term and give it a parochial context) leads to one and only conclusion - that it is synonymous to modern term - hindutva.

As the readers of this blog might have noticed, I like to view India in terms of river-basins. The difference in upper Krishna-Godavari (KG) basin and lower KG basin, since demise of Vijaynagar, is that upper KG basin (modern MH) is essentially much less parochial and casteist than lower KG (modern Andhra Pradesh and to some extent northern Karnataka). The ancestral clans which made up "reddy" is same as those who make up "Maratha". Both these names originate from Rathod rajput clan. But this clan-identity and caste-identity has been very loose in upper KG (in comparison to Rajputana and lower KG). Hence a brahmin could become a peshwa (there was resistance, but not that big). That brahmin peshwa in turn created alternate power centers from lower nomadic and agrarian castes (Holkars and Shindes). This Manthana although caused resentment in 96-clan Maratha power-centers, the model remained and even today remains "workable" to an extent. It is this loose caste identity, which helped them pour out of their native land and spread all over subcontinent. 

The reason I am telling this is to explain the raison d'être of NCP. The loss of power to brahmin Peshwa was not accepted graciously by a section of 96-clan Maratha. However, there was and is another equally vocal and perhaps larger 96-clan Maratha section which does not care about "brahmin" background of Peshwa and cared/s only for MH-dharma of Shivaji and Ramdas. The more recent product of this ongoing manthana is emergence of neo-buddhist lobby. The idea of Shivaji links them all, but due to Phule's work they detest brahmins. The feet of Mahatma Phule are muddied about financial benefits he received from Brits. Perhaps even he figured that out and after a while, he simply stopped talking out this anger. His earlier works have been selectively used (akin to something that happened in Tamil Nadu as described by Rajiv Malhotra in his book, Breaking India) to bash brahmins and hence Hinduism. 

Same goes for Babasaheb Ambedkar. Babasaheb's most vitriolic book "Riddles in hinduism" was mischievously published after his death. Perhaps it was something he did not want. I do not know whether becoming Buddhist was a good choice for MH based dalits, it would certainly have been a great move if dalits in AP and TN followed. Instead, they fell to Christian Missionaries. This convoluted logic of bashing an imaginary enemy (brahmin) began to take root in "96-clan" Maratha lobby backed by Pawar since mid 90s (when INC lost power in MH). The reason to bash brahmins is that, once one bashes Brahmin, one automatically becomes backward caste. "96-clan lobby" within NCP has been asking for reservations for 96-clan caste, because after 1992 this section of society, like 300 years ago started becoming militantly anti-muslim and hence anti-congress. One should talk to grass-root cadre of NCP, INC, RSS, Shivsena, MNS. Unless told which party they belong to, you won't know the difference. 

However, the characters used for flogging are and were peshwas and other ministers of Shivaji and his successors. Add to that all the freedom fighters who happened to be brahmin. Then of course RSS. This resulted in formation of few NCP backed organizations - Maratha Seva Sangh (MSS), Sambhaji Brigade (SB) and Moolnivasi Sanghatana (MS). All their antics of desecrating and removing statues of brahmin ministers from museum in Pune, vandalizing BORI library and bashing brahmin professors who helped an Englishman James Laine to write a book on Shivaji and filty propaganda against brahmins in public forums). Overall, these guys haven't received public support on ground.

Although given birth by NCP, these orgs started becoming increasingly vocal and independent as they attracted numerous "Kancha Ilaiha" types. One thing led to another and suddenly we found these same orgs, supporting Mushrif's theory that IB-brahmins killed Karkare in 26/11, that Brahmin IB+CIA+Mossad doing all sorts of nasty things. Basically our home grown Paki conspiracy theorist - Zaid Hamid. We also find head of MSS, Lakshman Maané attending World council of Churches (WCC) conference and letting out his angst against brahminical hindus.

All the hatred towards Brahmins (either genuine arguments and pure motives like that of Phule and Ambedkar OR Paki logic like Sambhaji Brigade et al) eventually in fullness of time and inevitably results in them dancing on the tunes of Missionary or Mullah. The genuine non-brahminization of religion has been happening in upper KG and rest of Maratha controlled India for atleast past 1000 years. Curious readers may search for Varkari movement and Bhakti movement. This is a dharmik mobilization which brahmins too are integral part of. And I have never heard anything bad about any caste from people like these. It is only deracinated commies, who wish to have all changes in one-life (because rebirth is brahminical hoax), who support this blind hatred. 

Shiv Sena symbolized that section of INC which was nationalist in 1960s and which could see through soviet infiltration happening in western coast.  Here the word "Nationalist" needs to be read with caution. I basically mean centrist INC section which wishes to preserve the rule of Delhi based dynasty's version of Republic of India. The first thing which Shivsena did was eradication of communism which was taking root in Bengal, MH (two of the three armed revolutionary epicenters of freedom struggle, Punjab was already truncated after 47. In case of akhand bharat, HSRA et al would have sowed third seed in PN). Similar attempts were done by nationalist sections of INC in WB but in vain. In MH, however they were successful. Now, while commies maintain presence in mumbai in form of some trade unions, electorally they have been extinct for past 30 years. Once this achieved, Shivsena slowly jumped the bandwagon of Hindutva. The shift started in mid 80s after Shahbano incident and diplomacy of Pramod Mahajan. Bal Thakre is a Kaayasth by caste. His father was a staunch reformer and anti-brahminist, but from ideological school of Savarkar, not in lines of missionary influenced bashers. He played important role in creation of MH-state (and Gujarat) from Bombay presidency. 

Shivsena, like earlier Marathas, is one of the few parties in India where caste is irrelevant. Promotion is given solely on clout and merit. At times here merit is determined by degree of nuisance value, but that is again regardless of caste. Hence it predominantly remained urban party. Dawood Ibrahim's one wrong move (of supporting ISI and Tiger Meman in 1993 bomb-blast) pushed him permanently in hands of ISI and associated higher forces which ensure Paki-existence. Things were relatively nice and dandy until then. There was slow rise of Hindu criminal networks which began competing with Islamic gangs (amar naik, pujari, gavli, manchekar, chhota rajan, bada rajan and many others). 

Something forced the incumbent GoMH post 1993 to selectively eliminate non-Islamic criminal gangs. Many tips were openly given by Dawood to police and police obliged. What that thing was, cannot be pinpointed, only speculated - which I will desist doing. Now, Dawood is important part of legitimate businesses in city of dreams. Much like Michael Corleone slowly managed to enter and establish himself in legitimate business in Godfather trilogy. Yes, he maintains his clout in traditional businesses of smuggling, he is big player now in Bollywood, Shares, real estate, media and politics. Many accusations against Chiddu and his wife about participatory notes and BSE plunges need to be looked from this perspective as well. In short, it has now truly become multinational. This is what is really meant by the oft-repeated phrase "India is now much more integrated with global economic system, than China". 

Meanwhile lets return to Indic forces in lower ranks of society and polity. They are scattered. Even NCP has now begun to abandon the monsters they created (MSS et al). The prominent dalit thinkers have started criticizing these orgs which has snatched the ideological backbone of these orgs. When dalits say, "the problem they have with brahmins is mostly ideological and not politico-socio-economical", the very basis of brahmin bashing falls apart. This happened after Shivsena pulled RPI (republican party of India) into alliance with BJP. Uddhav Thakré played a central role in this. While RPI does not win that many seats and is fragmented (like janta dal), many rural ambedkaraite dalits have become relatively more sympathetic towards RSS. Urban dalits, like others, have been in Shivsena camp for decades. In Maharashtrian urban scenario, caste does not matter at all. 

With help (?) of Shivsena-BJP, Pawar has eliminated the preeminence of Delhi Sultan in MH politics. I do not know whether to thank him for this one thing OR curse him for many other things, because he did this at great cost. But he did not take MH on YSR path and kept the ties with mullah and missionary as "strictly business". So I decided to call him Nizamshah of Ahmednagar OR Adilshah of Bijapur who helped resist the Mughal juggernaut with help of Pre-Shivaji and post Shivaji Maratha chieftains respectively. Ultimately, both Nizamshah and Adilshah were enemies of Vijaynagar (the ideal Hindu promised land), but also were enemies of Mughals of Delhi. What were Maratha power centers doing then? constantly changing sides and ensuring that Nizamshah of Ahmednagar, Adilshah of Bijapur, Qutubshah of Hyderabad (Golkonda), Mughal of Delhi keep fighting and none of them get to establish stable base in upper KG.

As I said, I will be silent about things happening in present and trends ahead. In hurry of being "ahead of curve" we at times forget to study the curve itself. 

Instead, I will write about single greatest achievement of Shivaji as an administrator. Shivaji successfully eliminated the "mansabdari" system created by Akbar to divide Indic power. Nobody else showed this courage. It crept back largely due to pressures from Aurangzeb's Deccan invasion. But in his lifetime, he successfully implemented the model wherein officers and administrators were given salary and pension, did land reforms, eliminated feudalism. The fighting warlords which ensured the attrition of foreign ROP states, preserve the dharma in adversarial conditions, serve their purpose when "dharma" is established. 

Indraaya Svaaha, Takshakaaya Svaaha....

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Brief History of Hindu Marriage - 4 - Atithi Devo Bhava

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In previous part, we saw how the yuga system was used by Bhishma Pitamaha to explain the evolution of human pair-bonding. How the "relations" were defined and slowly came into existence. We also saw how time is relative in Indic narrative and that the stages of increasing complexity in any institution be linked with the Chaturyuga system. I would like to clear one thing beforehand. Though I use the masculine proverbs while citing examples (partly because I am man, hence the pronoun "he" comes naturally to me, while speaking of other people), this is applicable to humans, irrespective of gender. So, please adjust your filters accordingly.. :-)

The essence of a stable pair-bond is the right of the partners over each other. Be it a monogamous pair bonds (as it happens with most of us) or official Polygamous pair-bonds (both poly-androus and poly-gynos), there is a sense of ownership over the partner. As the pair-bond strengthens typically the ownership too grows and previous "allegiances" (like old friends, parents) start taking a relative back-seat. Even among polygamous lot, the sense of belongingness and ownership between the "hive" or the group of mating partners, exclude others from this network. 

When we talk about slowly evolving stability of a human pairbond, we are basically talking about slowly evolving "exclusion" of this "other". The other can be a "friend" OR "guest" OR anybody else outside the mating hive. Even in modern days, the tension between network of friends and a newly married member of that network who can't devote enough time to mingle with his old buddies evoke a strong sense of betrayal. The sentence "Saalaa, Shaadi ke baad badal gaya" (Bugger changed after marriage, he wasn't like this before!!), is often heard either in humorous context OR in some cases serious ones, from network of friends, relatives, parents etc. This denotes that the process of "exclusion" has begun. It is not always a pleasant process. 

A closely knit group of friends are known to share almost all intimate secrets with each other. Modern lifestyle forces most of us to move away and seek for new friends as we travel for education and job, this wasn't the case for a agrarian OR even pastoral and nomadic society. A group of friends usually stay in vicinity throughout the life. Once a group is formed, people tend to remain in that group as long as they aren't physically separated. The torment of "exclusion" is high in people with such lifestyle. However, since for most of our history, humans have stayed this way, this bondage is one of the most important factors which influenced the marriage institution.

As is the case with previous parts of this series, the main reference here is Acharya V.K.Rajwade's book - Bhaartiya Vivaha Sansthecha Itihaas. I have composed this article taking help from references cited in this book.


Socrates is known to have given his wife Xanthippe to his close friend Alcibiades. Plutarch says that roman statesman Cato, the younger gave his wife to his friend Quintus Hortensius. These are references from Græko-Roman narrative from period around 100 BCE to 50 BCE. What do Indic sources say about this?

The famous sages referred to as "Sanatkumar" are cited to have said in 45th chapter of Udyogparva of Mahabharata that "इष्टान् मित्रान् विभवान् स्वास्च दारान्" (In times of need, good friends even give their wives). The context here is, Yudhishthira is explaining the 6 qualities of a "true friend" as described by ancient seers. This is one of the six qualities. We traditionally date Kurukshetra great war on 3101 BCE. When Yudhishthira refers to an "ancient" seer, one sees that there was a time when a "woman" was shared by friends. This is proverbial "satya-yuga of marriage institution" as described in previous part. Much before Yudhishthira, during Ramayana itself, the pair-bond was solidified and this custom probably vanished. But there was a time when this was prevalent. 

Even Panini (around 1000 BCE to 500 BCE) says in one of his sutras (4-1-18), द्वयोर्मित्रयोरंपत्यम् द्वैमित्री (A son of two friends is called Dvaimitri).  If a friend "gives" his wife to his friend for the sake of "Graama-Dharma" and if she gets pregnant while dwelling with the friend, the resulting offspring is referred to as an offspring of two fathers and both the men have the responsibility of looking after his Brahmacharyashrama. Such offspring is called as "Dvaimitri" by Panini.

It appears that perhaps this custom was prevalent until Panini's time OR perhaps Panini too was referring to older examples. The purpose of Panini's works is codifying the grammar of language and not telling history. Hence it is possible that to make his grammar ironclad, he has cited a case from older times and given a name and grammatical solution of using that name in a sanskrit sentence. Either way, this custom was known to Indians (whether practiced or not, I am not sure) until the days of Panini. 

The custom of serving a friend OR a guest with women (if not one's wife) was practiced openly until 19th century. Even today, the "escort" services do the same thing, albeit in hushed tones. There are plenty of references from Mughal, Marathas and earlier era where a beautiful "Daasi" was sent in night to serve the friend or guest who was visiting the royal families.


As the commerce expanded, the circle of friends too expanded. Especially many of those belonging to the Vaishya varna of Grihastha-society, used to widely travel around and at times stay at friend's OR acquaintance's home. Thus the words Atithi and Mitra are usually used interchangeably. Atithi, more often than not, is a friend from far off who comes to stay. As said above, it was common custom among the rich and royal, to send a daasi to serve the Atithi. In 168th chapter of Shanti Parva of Mahabharat, there is a story of a brahmin named Gautama who was felicitated by a tribal leader by donating him a Daasi, along with other donations (food, clothes, cow etc). 

However, the story of evolution of the exclusion of the "other" and solidification of pair bond is narrated again by our Bhishma Pitamaha in Anushasana Parva of Mahabharat. It seems Bhishma gave the entire extract of his life to Yudhishthira while resting on his deathbed, the Shara-Shaiyya. In concise four stories, Bhishma explains to Yudhishthira how the stable pair-bond evolved and how the wedded partners started exerting the right of "ownership" upon each other. 

1. These stories occur in chapter 266 of Mahabharata's Anushaasan Parva. First story is that of a Rishi named "Sudarshan". Sudharshan says to his wife Oghavati," I have vowed to live in accordance of Grihastha-dharma. Hence, never be unpleasant to a guest. Even if the guest wishes, do not feel inhibited to have intercourse with him as pleasing the guest is your dharma and mine". Later, a guest arrives at Sudarshana's in his absence and proposes to have intercourse with Oghavati. She happily obliges and when Sudarshan returns he praises his wife and thanks her to have followed the "grihastha-dharma".

2. The next story which Bhishma narrates is that of Chirakaari. Chirakari was son of some Gautam Rishi. Once while Gautama was away from his Ashrama, Indra visited to have sex with Rishi's wife and left. When Gautam Rishi came to know of this, he was consumed by extreme rage. He ordered his son, Chirakaari, to kill his mother for this infidelity and went to deep forest to perform tapasya. Later when his anger vanished, he came back to his Ashrama. He saw that Chirakari had not killed his mother and Gautama praised his son to have shown the presence of "Vivekabuddhi" and praised his wife to have followed the Aatithya-dharma. There is a crucial difference in these two stories. Sudarshana did not feel angry for what his wife did. Gautama perceived this act as infidelity and was visibly outraged, although later he let this go and accepted wive's behavior as Dharmik.

3. The third story is actually a twin story. That of Gautama rishi (this time the famous one from Ramayana, the husband of Ahilya) who cursed her for her infidelity to become stone. Second is that of Jamadagni, Renuka and Parashurama. Renuka didn't even commit adultery, only momentarily looked at Chitrarath Gandharva with lustful eyes. Jamadagni saw through this and ordered his son Raamabhadra (who later came to known as Parashuraama) to cut off his mother's head. Unlike Chirkari, Parashurama actually beheaded his mother and Jamadagni saw it through. Thus, we see by this time, the pair-bond had become so strong that even the thought that wife OR mother  looking at other man with infidel intentions was not tolerated both by husband and son. 

4. Fourth story is of course, that of Sri Raama and Seeta. Seeta remained loyal to Sri Raama and vice-versa, in spite of being abducted by Raavana. Although Sri Raama was not sure of Seeta's character and asked her to perform Agni-Pariksha, he accepted her thereafter. The main indicator here is Seeta's resolution. It was the sense of belongingness and ownership over Seeta that inflamed Raama and made him move all the way from Maharashtra to Sri Lanka to reclaim her. Even Seeta was sure that Sri Raama would come to rescue her. 

IN these four stories, Pitaamaha Bhishma explains to Yudhishthira and us, how the human pair-bond evolved. My homage to this great soul. Sudarshan refers to that early stage of marriage institution which is symbolized by "Satya Yuga" as discussed in previous part of this series. Whereas Sri Raama and Seeta symbolize the matured and "institutionalized" form of stable human pair-bonding. This evolution happened with time.

In next and final part, discovery of fire, the institution of Yagna and its relation with Hindu Marriage institution will be discussed. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Evolution of Guerrilla Warfare in India since medieval times

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Around great men, legends are inevitably woven. These legends, which may or may not be factually correct, speak a lot about the character of the persona involved. One such legend woven around the life of King Shivaji. He was not a coronated Chhatrapati, when this incident allegedly happened. In fact, he was a fledgling king in his early 20s, struggling to carve a niche for himself. The analysis of Shivaji can be found on this blog here and here.

When the province of Kalyan near Mumbai was captured by Marathas, the Persian daughter-in-law of the the provincial Subhedar was captured along with other "war-spoils". She was trying to escape and was captured in the process. As was the tradition in Mughal and other Islamic armies of the time, this captured woman was "offered" to Shivaji. Shivaji's aunt Godavaribai was similarly abducted by Mahabhat Khan, an incident which had a marked impact on the psyche of child Shivaji. 

This captured lady, the legend says, was extremely beautiful and young Shivaji could have kept her in his custody, building harem. He, however, let her go saying that she reminded him of his mother. To be exact, Shivaji allegedly said,"You are indeed beautiful, lady. I wish I had a mother as beautiful as you, I would have been much more good-looking too".

No one knows, whether this incident is historically correct or not. But it is so popular in the folklore of Maharashtra and Marathas that it does not matter now. And this tendency of letting the enemy women "go" attracted a controversial ire by Veer Savarkar. Savarkar who idolized him (well, almost all nationalists all over India, have been idolizing Shivaji for past 300 years), criticized Shivaji for letting this woman go. Of course, Savarkar was writing in context 1920s and 1940s, at the backdrop of Moplah riots in Malabar and Partition riots in Punjab and Bengal. But this analysis of Savarkar that Hindus required a strategy to wage all-out unethical war against invaders demands a scrutiny. 

Pardoning of captured woman is metaphor. The issue is how to integrate Indic values of accommodation and Dharma with unscrupulous hawkish mindset required for a successful guerrilla campaign.

Ghanim-i-Qavvait (गनिम इ क़वैत)

This term for Guerilla warfare technique, which was used and perfected by Marathas, was introduced in Deccan by a person named "Malik Ambar". While the technique itself is very old (Krishna himself was a master of Guerilla warfare, his war against Kaal-Yavana is an excellent example of his genius), it started becoming a common practice in  Krishna-Godavari Antarvedi (present day MH, AP, KN) region after Malik Ambar's time. Until advent of Malik Ambar, this technique was more of an exception than rule. Marathas from Seuna Yadava empire were waging traditional styled wars with their neighbors after disintegration of Rashtrakoota and Chalukya Empire.

The Arabic term गनिम-इ-क़वैत (Maneuver of the successful) implied that those who fought by "Koota-Neeti" were always successful. The Arabic word Ganim (successful) is absorbed in Marathi but with the meaning "Enemy". What prompted the Mughals and Adilshahs to brag themselves as "Ganim" so much so that the word became synonymous to word enemy?

The answer is "Total war" which was waged upon India. 

Guerrilla warfare and India's Dharmik Scaffold

Total war is not a recurring phenomenon in Indian narrative. Except for war of Kalinga waged by Emperor Ashoka, the instances of an Indian state or a kingdom waging a war on entire country of enemy and not just on enemy's military, are rare. By and large in pre-Islamic India, it was the professional and enlisted soldiers who fought in a battle, the local population remained unscathed. And history tells how Emperor Ashoka repented having waged a devastating total war against the population of Kalinga. Even the Dik-vijaya of Samudragupta and Chandragupta Vikramaditya do not describe them having waged a similar war against barbaric foreign tribes of Scythians and Huns. 

Barring invasion of Arabs on Sindh, India was relatively at peace after defeat of Hunnic King Mihiragula by Yashodharma and Baladitya Gupta. Hence Indians did not feel necessary to wage a total war on their internal rivals and competitors. India faced her first massive onslaught of an all-out total war when Mehmood Gaznavi invaded India and crossed Hindu-kush to leave a trail of massacre and loot until Somnath. While this was new to India, India responded in the only language known to barbarians on the battle field of Bahraich. It was this response which kept  India immune of any invasions for next 170 years. However after 1192, India's depression started. India forgot that total war has to be responded by total war. Dharma-Yuddha (Ethical war) cannot be the right response to a sustained total war spanning generations. When total war is responded by Dharmik war for generations, the dharmik side inevitably emerges as eventual losers.

The accounts of Khafi khan, Ibn Batuta and others are full of references which describe how Sultanate armies tricked and massacred Hindu armies time and again. It is not that Hindu armies never emerged victorious, they did on many occasions. But as stated above, they eventually emerged as losers. The famous saying निर्लज म्लेंच्छ लजै नहीं, हम हिंदू लजवान (Shameless Mlechhas have no scruples, We Hindus have honor), describes the overall psyche of the Indics. While there were innumerable instances of Rajputs and other parts of India waging guerrilla warfare to sustain an defeat Sultanates and Mughals, somehow this "dishonorable" way of fighting, it seems, had not percolated in the Indic psyche completely.

It was Shahaji and his son Shivaji who reinvented this guerrilla techniques, now called Ganim-i-Qavvait (Ganimi Kaavaa in Marathi) OR the maneuver of the successful and institutionalized it as an honorable way of fighting. The necessity to abandon the mode of fighting which the scriptures preach about, and take up warfare based on "Koota-Neeti" as almost exclusive means of offense was a slow transition and a bloody one. All the forces all over the world fighting against a dictatorial omnipotent centralized power with all the machinery of state available at its disposal to act against dissenters, have resorted to Ganimi Kaavaa. 

Shivaji's Ganimi Kaavaa

In Shivaji's ganimi Kaava, the honor of victory is immaterial. What counts is attrition of enemy with respect to self-attrition. As long as enemy's attrition is order of magnitude more, the method legitimises the "running away" from the field. Typical of Rann-Chhod Daas strategy of employed by Shri Krishna described in one of the links provided above. It involves giving promises, breaking them first, back-stabbing, pillaging villages, burning crops avoiding direct confrontation; basically making the territory inhospitable for enemy, even if it hinders one's own productivity and development. 

It is also a tactic when the onus of struggle falls on the shoulders of those people who are do not have any experience or tradition of military career. This method was (and is) more efficiently employed by unorthodox fighting clans (in Indian terms Non-Kshatriya Jaatis) when the traditional kshatriya force has either fled the country OR killed OR compromised with enemy. The non-specialist fighters have no option but to resort to Ganimi Kaavaa, in order to survive. And in a way, it is they who can internalize this method of fighting most successfully. A Kshatriya with inflated ego, would find it difficult to run away when being challenged OR when soft points (family, for eg.) are being targeted by enemy to draw you out in open. The emphasis here is on survival and out-lasting the enemy, not out-fighting him.

Throughout the life of Shivaji, we see this focus on "outlasting the enemy". The gruesome Mughal-Maratha war of 27 years was essentially about outlasting the Mughals. 

Post Maratha attempts to revive Ganimi kaavaa.

After decline of Maratha empire in 1818, there were many instances where Ganimi Kava was used to varied degrees of success against the British. The famous Anglo-Indian war of 1857 was epitome of Ganimi Kaava waged by Pro-Independence forces. They were outmatched because they did not have answer to systematic cold-blooded violence unleashed by EIC on the country side which supplied to the logistical column of Indian forces. Other attempts like Sanyasi rebellion, war against British by Santhal tribe (Birsa Munda), Vasudev Phadke's Ramoshi rebellion of 1875-1882, all attempted to recreate Shivaji's model but against an enemy who was on much higher technological plain as compared to contemporary adversaries of Shivaji.

Naxalism and Maoism

As happened with factions of Vijaynagar kingdom which kept on fighting Deccan sultanates for long time, the folks and streams of resistance against the centralized Indian power based in Delhi (both before and after transfer of power in 1947) continued in various pockets of India. The infamous dacoits of Chambal valley and other regions are continued streams of earlier guerrilla resistance groups. As the uneven development began happening in India, people in certain remote pockets took up arms and started fighting against the Indian establishment. This marks the beginning of Naxalite movement in India. Where other Indic guerrilla movements against centralized and oppressive Indian power were not much successful in "lasting long enough", the Naxalite movement transformed slowly to a Marxist and then Maoist movement. This transformation was essentially a game changer. The example of Paritala Ravindra discussed on this blog earlier, also casts light on the changing scenario in India.

Marxism removed the "inhibitions" on Indic mind to be "more violent and unscrupulous" than the power ruling from Delhi (which they perceive as Asurik). Maoism refined these methods and further removed the inhibitions on Indian/Hindu mind and emerged as a "menace". Here Hindu mind refers to those Indians OR Hindus who choose to enter this Chakra-vyuha of Maoism to commit suicide against fellow Indians. This engineering of mind which Marxism and Maoism has done, has been a great evolutionary step in history of Guerrilla warfare in India since the days of Shahaji and Shivaji Maharaj. The irony of India is, while Guerrilla movements have become more unscrupulous and violent, central Indian government, after 1947's transfer of power to Indics, has become less aasurik and violent in comparison to their British predecessors. Given these scenarios, it is more than likely that Maoists just might "outlast" Government of India in her current form, especially in their stronghold pockets. Maoists may succeed in long run where naxalites like Paritala Ravindra failed.


Ganim-i-Qavvait is without any doubts an Asurik and Adharmik way of resisting. However when left with no chance, Indic mind took it up and institutionalized it. At times, it worked for benefit of India (Shivaji and Marathas, 1857, Sanyasi, Santhal, Phadke et al) whereas as after 1947's transfer of power, it has been working against republic of India's interests. The fault lies with Government of India machinery as well which has modeled itself along the lines of Mughal and British Predecessors forcing many groups to do what Shivaji did. Since Indic ideological pool could not provide any alternatives which could motivate and justify the Indic resistors to overcome the scruple-barrier required to outlast the British Empire, the resenting population sought elsewhere and found the answers in Marxism and Maoism. So far, it does not look like GOI has found an anti-dote to this "astra".

There are two ways ahead. Either one has to present an alternative to Maoism which is more effective. We have traditions and legends of "Parshurama" which can be the ideological source of the subsequent iteration of future Indian Guerrilla fighters from Indian narrative. 


GOI takes sincere measures and drastically reduces corruption and delegates more power to people, bringing in a genuine decentralized democracy in the country, taking it nearer to the golden times of Sri Raama and Vikramaditya.

In both cases, India will preserve her "Swa-tantra" (Self-system). Else, bondage under foreign system is assured.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Brief history of Hindu Marriage - 3 - The flux of Yugas

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In previous part, we saw the description of Hindu Marriage ritual and symbolism associated with the three central rites which are more or less common across the Hindus throughout the subcontinent. But one interesting doubt which emerges from part 1 of this series is how did this symbolism evolve? Why did it became necessary to place a unwed girl in the bondage of Devatas like Varuna, Aryaman et al? Why did this story of heroic rescue stuck at all? Again the main reference here is Acharya V.K.Rajwade's book - Bhaartiya Vivaha Sansthecha Itihaas. I have composed this article taking help from references cited in this book.

To get first clue, let us revisit the verse by Bhishma Pitamaha from Mahabharat cited in part 1 of this series. In Mahabharata, Shanti Parva, Chapter 207, Bhishma says,

न चैषां मैथुनो धर्मो बभूव भरतर्षभ  
संकल्पादेवैतेषां अपत्यं उपपद्यते  - 37
ततः त्रेतायुगेकाले संस्पर्शात् जायते प्रजान 
ह्य भूः मैथुनो धर्मस्तेषां अपि जनाधिप - 38 
द्वापरे मैथुनो धर्म प्रजानां भवन्नृपःतथा 
कलियुगे राजन द्वन्द्व मापेदिरे जनाः - 39 
"In satya yuga, intercourse happened as desire arose in minds of fertile men and women. There were no words for mother, father, sibling etc. In Treta Yuga, when men and women touched each other and welcomed the touch, dharma allowed them to copulate for time-being. (this is stage where concept of "favourite" mate started emerging). IN Dwapara Yuga, Men and women started cohabiting as couples but not as stable and committed pair-bonding couples. In Kali Yuga, the stable pair-bonding (what we refer to as institution of marriage) emerged."
According to Bhishma, in Satyayuga, the intercourse happened as desire arose in the minds of men and women. In Treta Yuga, there began elaborate ritual of expressing the desire to have coitus. They included the rituals of making hand-gestures and touching the potential mates symbolically to invite them for coitus. What were those rituals of symbolic touching? Let us refer to Ashwalaayan Grihya Sutra. Most of Hindu marriage rituals are present in 7th volume of first chapter of Ashwalayan Grihya Sutra (AGS). Therein, the priest asks groom to 

गृम्भाणि ते सौभागत्वाय हस्तं इति अङ्गुष्ठमेव गृहणियाद् यदि कामयति पुमांस एव मे पुत्रा जायेरन्निति, अन्गुलिरेव स्त्रीकामः , रोमान्ते हस्तं सान्गुष्ठं उभयकाम. इति त्रय पाणिपीडनं 
There are three types of Paani-Peedanam (hand-hurting/clasping). If Groom wishes to beget son, he should clasp the thumb (of the bride's hand) first and then rest of the hand. If groom wishes to beget a daughter, he should clasp her four fingers first (barring thumb). If groom wishes to beget both son and daughter, he should clasp entire palm of the bride and hand too as long as her hair are. That is, he should clasp entire palm and also the hand at the point where her hair (Veni) reach.
This refers to the Sparsha (touch) ritual described by Bhishma from Treta Yuga. While this is supposed to be done prior to every coital session, we now a days do it during the ritual of "Paani-Grahanam". 

This is also perhaps a remnant tradition of various clans from Treta-Yuga following patriarchal, matriarchal and dual system of inheritance and precedence described in part one of this series. The patriarchal system following tribes forcibly held the thumb of woman (either captured OR reared from within the tribe). In matriarchal systems where men wooed women to get coital consent held the fingers of the women they wished to indulge in coitus with. While those societies which were not preferentially patriarchal OR matriarchal held hand and wrist (typically woman is described "Sukeshaa" (one with beautiful long hair) in Indic narrative, hence it was and is common to have a wife with long hair until her wrist).

Indic society was made up of all three systems described above. The composer of AGS, Sage Shaunaka has chronicled these ancient mating gestures for our privilege.

With beckoning of Dwaapara-Yuga, the process of stable pair-bonding started emerging in Indic society. As opposed to treta-Yuga, wherein kids belonged to entire tribe, in Dvaapara yuga, the ownership of kids started emerging in parents. Identity of child was based on parentage primarily and not on clan or tribe. In Kaliyuga, the institution of marriage came into existence with formation of stable pair-bonding. Along with this, emerged definition of various relations which we use today (like cousins, uncles and aunts etc). 

The cyclic nature of Yuga and time

In one older articles, I have discussed how time is viewed "cyclical" in Indian world-view. When Bhishma was on his death-bed giving this final advise to Yudhishthira, the world was still in Dvaapara-Yuga. Kali-Yuga had not started. Yet Bhishma speaks of Kali-yuga in past-tense. This is because the four-yugas are symbolic terms used for growth in complexity of any organization OR institution.

By the time of Ramayana, the stable-pair bonding was already in place. After all, the whole story of Ramayana is about Rama's and Seeta's commitment towards each other. This means that the "institution of marriage" was already in late Dvapara Yuga and Kali-yuga while the story of Ramayana happened. However, politically the age was treta.

In Indian narrative, time is relative. What is one day for Brahmadeva is millions of years for human being. Hence when we see the verses pertaining to time and four yugas, one should examine the context in which they are being spoken. The increasing level of organizational structure and complexity of any system (be in dhaarmik, aarthik, Kaamik OR Mokshik) is denoted by progress of that system in four yugas.

While things are completely flexible in any institution when in Satya-yuga stage (like a small start-up company), they become increasingly bureaucratic and complex as the organization grows and becomes rigidly rule-based in Kali-yuga phase. While it is good for a while, too much of rigidity causes stagnation of evolution, hence the system breaks down and new cycle of 4 yugas start. This point when a system breaks down owing to its extreme rigidity (in peak of kali-yuga) is termed as "pralaya".

Speaking with respect to Marriage institution, one has to answer, does choice of partner need to be strictly rule-based in given time? In west, the institution of marriage is collapsing. Or rather we can say it is getting more "open". Some even find this "open-ness" abhorrently repulsive. But one must understand that western civilization is merely transiting from Kali-Yuga to Dvaapara-Yuga. Perhaps even Treta-yuga where one-night stands are increasing and so are the instances of single-parents. This is nothing but the system reverting to times described in Puranas when children were identified by mother and not father. We have seen this in part 1 of this series.

In India, in recent times, we are slowly transiting from Kali-Yuga to Dvaapara Yuga. The "live-in" relationships are seen relatively in higher frequency in urban India. This was not the case ever since we entered Kaliyuga (of marriage institution). The institution and the rigidity of marriage was further cemented by Islamic invasions when women were made forcibly to stay in homes. In my opinion, the Kali-yuga accelerated in India with stabilization of Islamic rule in past 1000 years followed by Victorian British rule where our moral values were severely engineered. Prior to this, as long as the system of "Svayamvara" was in place, we were still in "Dvaapara-Yuga". At least not in deep kali-yuga as we were post Ghurid invasions.

I am not making any moral judgments on this change. I am simply acknowledging and making gentle readers aware of the fact that Indian scenario (of marriage institution and Kaama) is in flux and this flux has been documented by our ancestors. One has to understand that time is relative and cyclic. We are undergoing cycles of 4 yugas in one's own lifetime too.

Since we are discussing the most important "Kaama" purushartha of human life, one has to look at Yuga-transition from this perspective.

Shubham astu !!!

In next part we will learn about the ancient meaning of the word "Atithi" (guest) and how it is intimately associated with institution of stable pair-bonding.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Brief History of Hindu Marriage - 2 - Significance and Story of Core Marriage Ritual

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Continued from part 1

As man progressed the vedic era, the ritual for marriage became fixed. The ritual itself is highly revealing and are found in Ashvalaayan Grihya sutra. The three core rituals of Hindu marriage are

1. Shila Aarohanam
2. Lajjaa Homam
3. Sapta padi. 

The sequence of other rituals changes in different cultures, times, places, castes etc. But these three are somewhat universal. 

When a girl child is born, she is "owned" by different Devatas until she crosses her different ages. It seems like Devas being powerful had the right of Prelibation (Agra-Upabhoga). Prelibation means right of "first taste". Right to have first Upabhoga of a woman was by Devas. Young fertile bride of marriageable age is under the bondage of three devatas (Aaryaman, Varuna and Pushan) because they have right "taste her first". 

Groom asks permission from bride's father and father gives away his daughter to the groom (Kanyaadaan). But what about the devatas? they will not give her up so easily. Vara (Groom) frees the bride from the bondage (Paasha) of three devatas by his valor at an opportune time (Muhurtam). This is the reason why Hindu marriage emphasizes on Muhurta.  It was deliberate planning by the groom to liberate the one whom he desires at an auspicious time when he thinks the chances of slipping past the guard of devatas are highest. On predetermined time, the bride agrees to elope with groom from bondage of devatas. This is signified by exchanging garlands which symbolizes her consent.

The three Devatas are angered by this insolence and attack the "Vara" to get back, what they think is rightfully theirs. Here comes the ritual of "Shilaa Aarohanam" where groom asks bride to climb a rock and hold it tight and stay in his life like that immovable rock. Remember, Varuna is water-god and only climbing on a tall, firm and immovable rock can save one from wrath of Varuna. This also affirms the commitment of bride. Since groom has angered three powerful devatas for this lady and has picked fight with them, he needs to be sure that all this was worth it. The bride promises him that she shall hold on firmly to the rock and hold on in his life like that firm immovable rock.

As angry Devatas approached the Vara, and seeing that bride safe on rock (Shilaa), her brother rushes to help the groom. He indulges in negotiations with three devatas. Here begins the ritual of "Laajaa Homa". He offers the three gods parched rice grains (which is more valuable than raw rice grains, hence an expensive gift). Not only this, he coats the Laajaa (parched rice) with ghee, thus making it a valuable offering. He offers Parched rice coated with ghee thrice in Agni as "fine" to the devatas. This ritual is called "Avadaana". While giving this "fine" to three devatas thrice, the brother warns three of them to leave his sister alone else he will join hands with her husband in war against them. He "calls" three devatas individually and gifts them and warns them separately. Thus both groom and bride's brother bribe and threaten each of the three gods individually and separately. They circled around agni to confuse the devatas. While encircling the sacred agni, couple made vows to each other of mutual good conduct. This shows how cunning brother was.

In spite of bribing, Varuna still held on to the hair of bride. Groom symbolically touches the hair of bride and releases her from clutches of Varuna, setting her completely free. 

Hereafter we approach the main ritual of "Sapta Padi". Hindu Jurisprudence has considered this ritual as the one which cements the wedding since ancient times. Even modern hindu civil code asks for performance of sapta-padi as proof that marriage has materialized. After victoriously liberating his beloved from clutches of devatas, they take seven steps together towards Ishanya (north-east) direction which is considered direction of devatas. They make joint declaration of their wishes and expectations from each other. 

This ritual of Hindu Marriage is itself a signification of evolution of man, assertion of man over something that belongs to him and drive of man to achieve it, even if it means angering omnipotent Devas. It also shows how important brother is in life of a woman. It also shows that the relationship of "brother-sister" is well defined and established and sibling-cohabitation had by this time, had became "Off-limits". It also shows that woman was yearning to be liberated by a "hero" and becomes his wife in defiance of gods. 

The ritual continues only if woman swears the oath of fidelity by climbing the rock. This shows the beginning of patriarchal system and stable pair-bonding where children were (and are) identified by their father. The relations like Maamaa (maternal uncle), Mausi (maternal aunt), mother, sibling were defined earlier during matriarchal times. With establishment of marriage-institution the relatively distant relations like Chacha (paternal uncle), Bua (paternal aunt), their kids (cousins), were also defined.

The story of evolution of human pair-bonding and marriage institution of India and Hindus continues in part 3.