Thursday, June 14, 2018

Varna, Jati, Politics and Chaos

What was this caste discrimination in India called Varnas? Were Shudras really prevented from reading Vedas? 

Such questions are coming up because we do not know our own family history and our country's history well enough. Most people who gain their knowledge through social media memes suffer this disorder. This is also a common argument put forth by the ignorant ones blindly believing their Dravidian politicians in South India.

A Varna is not a Caste or Jati

First of all, one needs to understand that a Varna is not a Caste. Indian society all over the Indian subcontinent (including Tamilnadu) had  4 Varnas generally:

- Brahamana, propagators of knowledge
- Kshatriya, protectors of state & country
- Vaisya, one who indulges in commerce and agriculture
- Shudra, one who works on other tasks in society

One who is born to a Shudra father / mother need not be a Shudra. Even if you are born in a Brahmin family, if you are not a propagator of knowledge, you are not a Brahamana! Simple and straight forward ... Depending on one's daily work only, one was categorised in this manner.

One more thing - do you realize that one is not all the time a Brahmana or all the time a Kshatriya or Shudra for that matter? Let's say you are into agriculture as main business. By that virtue, you are a Vaisya. But you might also be into teaching others in your village. By that virtue, you are a Brahmana. One's Varna is known by the 'predominant' virtue of what they do and adopt.

Stephanie Jamison and Joel Brereton, a professor of Sanskrit and Religious studies, state, "there is no evidence in the Rigveda for an elaborate, much-subdivided and overarching caste system", and "the varna system seems to be embryonic in the Rigveda and, both then and later, a social ideal rather than a social reality". Source is Wikipedia page on this:

Historical examples

People might have exploited this whole system later by establishing rigidity around it and claiming their right by birth. That was not so earlier and I am going to give concrete examples from our history.

(1) Valmiki who wrote the Ramayana was a hunter / robber who later was reformed by Sage Narada. There is a caste of people called VALMIKIS in South India who are said to have come in the lineage of Sage Valmiki. Unfortunately, they take pride in identifying themselves as Shudras now! Anyway, Valmiki actually taught Vedas and the art of weaponry to Luv & Kush who are the sons of Rama. If he was not considered a Brahmana, who else was?

(2) Vyasa who wrote the Mahabharata and is known to have actually categorized the Vedas was born to Matsya Gandhi, a fisher woman. He was named Krishna Dwaipayana, the dark one born in an island, at birth. The very name VYASA means the 'Compiler' denoting his work on the Vedas. By birth, he should have been a Shudra. But by his deeds and dedication of life to teaching people, he was praised by everyone as a Brahmana only! There is a huge Guru Parampara that follows Vyasa muni. So, if he was a Shudra, how could he have learnt and work on the Vedas?

(3) Parashurama is known as someone who went about waging wars with Kshatriyas and killed many of them. Though he was born in a Brahmana family (to Sage Jamadagni), by his deeds he came to be a Kshatriya. Was he denied the knowledge of Vedas? No!

(4) Many of us know from Mahabhrata that Guru Dronacharya and King Drupada studied in the same Gurukul and learnt the same arts as children. Now Drona was a Brahmana and Drupada was a Kshatriya. But both of them were taught the Veda Mantras and art of weaponry by their Guru. Does this indicate a discrimination in teaching?

(5) There is a specific episode in Mahabharata where Yudhishthira and a Yaksha debate on the moral principles of that time. To the specific question by the Yaksha asking about one's Varna, Yudhisthira answers clearly and emphatically that nobody can claim their Varna by birth but it is by deeds only.

(6) A King born as Kaushika rules his kingdom for a long time as a Kshatriya but later gives it all up for severe penance. He is later recognized as Brahma-rishi and is now widely known by the name 'Vishwamitra'. Clearly Varna by birth did not decide what he would become.

(7) Krishna clearly states in Bhagavad Gita:

cāturvarṇyaṃ mayā sṛṣṭaṃ guṇakarmavibhāgaśaḥ .
tasya kartāramapi māṃ viddhyakartāramavyayam ... 4:13

"I have created this four-fold Varna order according to the quality of work."

Modern day's Interpretation

Going by these examples,

(1) If you have a good professor (not the leftist ones like in JNU) in your school or college, he / she would need to be recognized as a Brahmana.

(2) If you are in the IT industry in a menial job, at best you could be called a Vysya or a Shudra, even if you are born in a Brahmana family.

Is this Varna system explained only in the Hindu texts?

No! There is a Buddhist text called 'Digha Nikaya' ( which talks about an interesting discussion between Gautama Buddha and a Brahmana called Sonadanda that throws more light on how Varnas were treated in more recent times.

Buddha: By how many qualities do Brahmins recognize another Brahmin? How would one declare truthfully and without falling into falsehood?

Sonadanda: I will list five characteristics to recognize another Brahmin. He is of pure descent on both the mother's and the father's side, he is well versed in mantras, he is of fair color handsome and pleasing, he is virtuous learned and wise, and he is the first or second to hold the sacrificial ladle.

Buddha: If we omit one of these qualities you just listed, could not one be still a true Brahmin?

Sonadanda, one by one, eliminates fair colour and looks, then eliminates Varna in which one was born, and then eliminates the ability to recite mantra and do sacrifices as a requirement of being a Brahmin. Sonadanda asserts that just two qualities are necessary to truthfully and without falling into falsehoold identify a Brahmin; these two qualities are "being virtuous and being learned and wise".

Sonadanda then states that it is impossible to reduce the requirement for being a Brahmin any further, because "for wisdom is purified by morality, and morality is purified by wisdom; where one is, the other is, the moral man has wisdom and the wise man has morality, and the combination of morality and wisdom is called the highest thing in the world".

Sonadanda: We only know this much Gotama; it would be well if Holy Gotama would explain meaning of the two [morality, wisdom] more.

Interestingly, there is a text on Jainism called 'Adi Purana' by Janasena (8th Century AD) that talks about this too! The Adi purana text states "there is only one jati called manusyajati or the human caste, but divisions arise account of their different professions".

It is clear that at least the identification of one's predominant qualities formed the basis of Varna in Gautama Buddha's time and as late as the 8th Century AD. 

What should we do now?

Unfortunately, a lot of our scriptures and text were lost and burnt during the Islamic invasions thereafter (read about burning of Nalanda if you are interested) and we miss a precious lot of social thought and dynamics after 1000 AD. 

In my personal opinion, we should bring back everyone to the profession-based identification system and restore the societal balance accordingly. It is high time the current (and silly, may I add) caste system being endorsed by Indian politicians from 20th Century AD is discarded and thrown out of the window.

Kohinoor and the Kakatiya Connection

Many of us have heard about the #Kohinoor diamond and that it was looted away from India to Britain. But do you know that the diamond was unearthed in Kollur on the banks of Krishna river during the Kakatiya reign?

The #Kakatiya rule is said to be one of the golden ages of Telugu history and yet we hardly find any description of their rule over 250 years in our history books! 

Image result for kakatiya dynasty

Rudramadevi or Rudramba is probably the only ruler one might have heard of Kakatiyas, and that too after the recent movies in her name 
Image result for rudrama devi
Rudramadevi is a glorious example of how women had to struggle to ascend to power despite being born in a royal family and how sheer will & grit can achieve it. Despite initial misgivings by some of her own generals who resented a female ruler, she suppressed the internal rebellions successfully. She made her valour well known by handing out defeats to Rajendra Chola's incursion and rebutting invasions from the Yadavas of Devagiri.

Despite having constant battles throughout their reign against either the internal rebels or the external foes, the #Kakatiya rulers were great patrons of art and music. The Thousand Pillars Rudreswara temple at Hanumkonda and Ramappa temple at Palampet are great examples of the art at that time.
Rudreshwar Swamy Temple

Oh, if you did not know it already, Warangal was the capital city of Kakatiyas for a long time and derives its name from 'Orugallu' or 'EkaSila', pointing to the huge boulder around which its fort was built. Those who know Tamil can immediately identify that 'Oru kallu' means 'one rock' 

Image result for orugallu fort

Did you know that Kohinoor diamond was originally weighing 793 carats. It was cut several times over centuries. In 1852, Queen Victoria decided to reshape the diamond and it was cut down to 108.93 carats. This is just like the Kakatiya kingdom which sadly very few people know about now, though at its peak, it was one of the biggest & richest kingdoms in India.

There are so many social and political dynamics that one can learn from Indian History. Let's not miss these gems.

Urmila, the unsung heroine of Ramayana

Not much is known of Urmila the wife of Lakshmana. I am trying here to throw some light on this unsung heroine of the Ramayana. There is a good online reference about her:

I am reproducing the story here:

When Rama, the Prince of Ayodhya, was exiled to the forest for 14 years as per the wishes of Kaikeyi, his father’s youngest queen, Sita, his wife, insisted that she accompany him to the forest.

“A woman’s place is with her husband and I shall go wherever you go. Please do not stop me. If it’s your duty to follow the orders of your father, it is mine to follow you to the ends of the earth.” The young princess was stubborn and Rama had no choice but to let her have her way.

As for Lakshmana, his younger brother, there was no question that he would let his brother go into exile on his own. From their days in the cradle, they were always together.

“Dear Rama, you know you have no choice but to let me come with you. All I want to do is to take care of you and Devi Sita,” said Lakshmana when his brother tried to dissuade him. 

Lakshmana was married to Urmila, Sita’s younger sister. He hurried to her chambers to break the news to her. Gently, Lakshmana, gently, he told himself. He knew that Urmila was a spirited princess too. After all, she was a princess of Sita's stature and of course, he was being a bit unfair to her.

Urmila had heard from her sister that she was accompanying her husband and when Lakshmana announced that he was going too, she was least perturbed. “Oh, we must go with them...” she began cheerfully, her beautiful eyes lighting up at the thought them all going off into the great unknown. 

“Not we, Urmila, just me,” said Lakshmana gently. “You must stay behind and take care of our old parents, when we are away.”

“But a wife’s place is beside her husband. Isn’t sister Sita going? She has told me herself. If you are going, I come too.”

“I know you are right, dear Urmila. It is just that if I were to take you along, it would be a huge responsibility for me. The forest is a dangerous place with evil asuras and wild animals lurking in unknown corners. I will need all my wits about me to focus on protecting my dear brother and his wife. Please understand and make this sacrifice for me.” 

Lakshmana knew he was being unfair but his life was dedicated to his brother and Urmila knew that too.

“As you wish...” whispered the princess tearfully and bid adieu to her husband.

Rama, Sita and Lakshmana left for their exile. When the night fell and all the world was asleep, Lakshmana stayed awake watching over his beloved brother and his wife. One night as he sat outside his brother’s dwelling, a luminous form appeared before him. When his eyes adjusted to the light, he saw before him a resplendent goddess. She smiled at him. “How are you going to do this, Lakshmana?” asked she.

“Do what?” Lakshmana was puzzled for he knew not who she was and what she was getting at. 

“Sleep… everybody needs to sleep. I’m Nidra Devi, the goddess of sleep. Are you going to spend 14 years of your brother’s exile without sleep? It will be impossible!”

“But I will not and I cannot sleep, for I intend to watch over my brother day and night,” said Lakshmana.

“I know your devotion, Lakshmana. But no living creature can survive without sleep. That is the universal law! Unless…” the goddess paused.

“Unless... what?” Lakshmana seized upon that pause.

“Unless there is someone else who will do that for you,” smiled the goddess. “Someone who will have all the sleep you need for the 14 years while you are here in exile! Is there someone who will do that for you?”

Lakshmana smiled in relief. He knew he could count on someone, his wife! “My wife, Urmila... she will surely take my place for me.”

“I will go at once to the palace of Ayodhya and ask her,” said the Goddess and disappeared as she had come.

And of course Urmila did offer to take Lakshmana’s share of sleep and went into a deep slumber for all the 14 years he was away. Which is one of the main reasons why, no one speaks of Urmila throughout The Ramayana.

Because of this ability of not sleeping for years, Lakshmana was eventually able to vanquish Meghnad or Indrajit, the son of Ravana. At the end of the exile when Lakshmana comes back to Ayodhya, the sleep cycle is restored for both of them. 

There is also something called 'Uttara Ramayana', the story of what happened after Rama was coronated as King. This section of the Ramayana talks about Lakshmana and Urmila being blessed with two sons - Angada and Chandraketu. 

Angada ruled a place called Karupath or Angadiya, that is part of current day Orissa. Chandraketu ruled a place specially carved out for him in the Malla kingdom, which is in modern day Nepal. This same Malla kingdom as well as Ayodhya were later brought under Hastinapura rule by Bheema while they went on military campaign for Rajasuya yagna (part of Mahabharat story). 

So, there is a pretty long legacy for many places in our country. Will be back soon with some more interesting tidbits ..

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Seeman, the king of faulty economic policies

I happened to come across a post by Mr Maridhas who is a writer / teacher.

For those who do not understand Tamil, this post is about the faulty logic in Mr Seeman, leader of NTK party in Tamilnadu, who has made some wild promises in his political manifesto. Maridhas does a great job in ripping apart the manifesto to pieces. Pardon me for any translation mistakes that creep in...

Myth: Seeman proposes an economy that is self-dependent 

This is not true and is something that can be proposed only by someone who does not understand how economics works.

What is self-dependent economy?

A country should be able to make everything that it needs within its own geo-political boundaries. It will not be dependent on another country for any of its economic purposes. Only such a system can be called a self-dependent economy. This is a common aspiration for many nations but not something new.

What is our country's current economic state?

India is self-sufficient in terms of food grains production and also exports to other countries. We are doing well enough to be in the top three food exporting countries across the world. So, what are the things we are dependent for on other countries? Simply said, we need to look at what we import from other countries. If we can produce them within India, we can become self-dependent economy.

This seems very logical. But what Seeman is proposing as self-dependent economy is not addressing this basis at all. Instead, it is a romanticised version just inducing people's emotions, talking about things like jaggery, pickles, neem, etc. Just matching rhyme to rhythm does not yield the results!

What are we really importing as a country?

Then Mr Maridhas goes on to argue the following in his video:

(1) ISRO has been instrumental in launching over 100 satellites of Arab countries recently into the space. Why should the Arab countries come to India? Simply because they do not have the technology for it and we do. India charges a fixed amount for that service. So, as far as Satellite launching, Arab countries are dependent on India. And India in turn is dependent on those countries for Crude oil simply because we do not produce enough within our country. This is how one country is dependent on another for a certain resource. 

(2) Though being self-dependent economy is an idealistic goal for each country, we should constantly need to look at improving our manufacturing / producing power. If we do not have certain resources at all in our country, we have to look at others. But whatever we can make here, we should look at doing it effectively than importing. That is what will lead us towards being self-dependent in economy. 

This is what EVERY country in the world, big or small, does it. India also does the same already!

    (a) More than 70% of crude oil for India is being imported. Because we are not allowed to take more than 30% of our needs from our own natural resources. Can we move away from it? Yes, if we start going with electrical vehicles. Till then, it is impossible to not rely on crude oil imports.

    (b) Around 33% of our imports is transport equipments - land, water and air transport machinery requirements! Our own ship manufacturing. Road transport is primarily dependent on imports from Germany and other European countries. Can we get out of this? Sure, we have to have the technology and resources to manufacture in India itself first.

    (c) Coal is about 20% of our imports.

    (d) Electronics is about 10% of our total imports. Our internal electronics needs of about 58% is from these imports! Can we make these within our 

    (e) Industrial equipments and machinery is mainly from imports, including the power looms & stitching machines in major cotton dress manufacturers from Tirupur and Erode. Same is the case of paper industries in Sivakasi and Leather machines in Ambur. Most of our industrial machinery is only being imported.

(3) Almost 90% of medical equipments are being imported from USA, Europe and Japan. This is simply because we do not make them here.

(4) From small toys to mobiles to most other plastic items, we are importing from China.

(5) Copper and Aluminium resources are not being dug up much in our country as we are simply importing them. If we dig them up, these same people will cry hoarse about environment issues!

Are we dependent much on other countries for food? 

Obviously, No!! So, anybody who wishes to address the self-dependency of economy should address the imports first! Can we make these within our country itself? We can definitely work towards that. But not with the policies Seeman puts forth. 

One has to focus on the Engineering sector, especially since we have about 8 in 10 Engineers who can be employed in the sector. Our education sector also has to be reformed first. Majority of our country's imports are in this sector, but Seeman is proposing something ridiculous in agricultural sector. Totally irrelevant!

Instead of talking about ridiculous stuff like selling neem sticks, juices and soup to boost economy, Seeman should really look at what the country is first dependent on if he wants to make the country self-dependent. Does he even know what the demand-supply ratio for these items is?

What should we really do as voters?

Maridhas urges viewers to vote for any political party of their idealogical choice, but depending on how sound their economic policies are. Because, however idealogically strong or appealing a political party may be, if they mess up on economy, it will be disastrous for the state and country as a whole. 

Maridhas says he is willing to challenge Seeman on these items in any debate anywhere and any time. 

The gauntlet is thrown - will NTK party have the guts to pick it up for a fight? I doubt that ..

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Science and Yogic Culture - Tasting the same divine

I happened to see some people under the guise of scientists making fun of Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev's comments on Twitter, by selectively taking them out of context and making videos out of it.

It is ironic that technology can be used by anybody to suit their needs but if one pays sufficient attention, the bluff can be easily called off.

Here is gem #1.

“Today modern science has admitted that it’s an ever-expanding universe or an endless universe, rather ever expanding is a yogic term, they are calling it a endless universe" ... admitted 😁 

Let's explore this first before going into others.

Till 1998, scientists did believe that the universe CANNOT be ever expanding. Till then, most popular Physicists thought the expansion of universe after the big bang would slow down and that eventually gravity would pull the parts of the cosmos back in. But then, they found that not only was the expansion not slowing down, it was speeding up. The universe was expanding at an accelerating rate.

Saul Perlmutter shared the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics for his discovery that the universe was expanding at an accelerating rate. Perlmutter explains how supernovae and other astronomical artifacts are used to measure the expansion rate, and explains what physicists are learning about "dark energy" — the mysterious entity thought to be driving the acceleration.

The source for all the arguments above has been Published by National Public Radio (USA):

Apparently, the critics of Sadhguru indeed have no clue that physicists themselves have changed their stance fairly recently and 'admitting' that this is an ever expanding universe.

Though the discovery was done in 1998, further studies were conducted thereafter and the Nobel prize was given in 2011 only. However, the expanding theory of universe was not an unknown phenomenon even before 1998. Professor Arthur Holmes (1895-1965), a geologist & professor at the University of Durham, writes regarding the age of the earth in his great book, The Age of Earth (1913) as follows:

"Long before it became a scientific aspiration to estimate the age of the earth, many elaborate systems of the world chronology had been devised by the sages of antiquity. The most remarkable of these occult time-scales is that of the ancient Hindus, whose astonishing concept of the Earth's duration has been traced back to Manusmriti, a sacred book."

Mr Holmes had already mentioned in his 1913 book about the Hindu calculation of the present age of the earth and the expanding universe theory from ancient Hindu calculations.

Dick Teresi is the author and coauthor of several books about science and technology, including The God Particle. He is cofounder of Omni magazine and has written for Discover, The New York Times Magazine, and The Atlantic Monthly. Here are his words about Indian culture's contribution to cosmology:

"Indian cosmologists are the first to estimate the age of the earth at more than 4 billion years. They came closest to modern ideas of atomism, quantum physics, and other current theories. India developed very early, enduring atomist theories of matter. Possibly Greek atomistic thought was influenced by India, via the Persian civilization."

One should go through Teresi's book from 2002 "Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science - from the Babylonians to the Maya" to better understand the intertwining of scientific and cultural aspects in ancient civilizations.

In the yogic culture, there are countless stories about the cycle of destruction of universe through Pralaya and Srushti the creation. Lord Shiva's Thandava dance is supposed to be a symbolism of the cyclical nature of creation / destruction and expansion / contraction.

According to Hindu Vedic cosmology, there is no absolute start to time, as it is considered infinite and cyclic. 
Similarly, the space and universe has neither start nor end, rather it is cyclical per Vedic cosmology. 

Modern scientists are making an assumption that what is infinite can only be cyclical, ascertaining their view of universe, deriving their theories out of Vedic scriptures.

The current universe is just the start of a present cycle preceded by an infinite number of universes and to be followed by another infinite number of universes. Modern Science, on the other hand, is still dealing with only the current universe. Actually, the ultra-modern theory of parallel universes originates from the idea of infinite number of universes.

Ancient Hindu scientists predicted that the cycle of creation and destruction continues forever & symbolized it in Shiva's form, as one who holds the drum that sounds the universe’s creation in his right hand and the flame that, billions of years later, will destroy the universe in his left.

In  his landmark TV series Cosmos, Carl Sagan called Hinduism as the only religion whose time-scale for the universe matches the billions of years documented by modern science. Sagan filmed that segment in a Hindu temple (Chidambaram Nataraja temple) featuring a statue of the god Shiva as the cosmic dancer, an image that now stands in the plaza of the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva.

So, clearly the joke is on those trying to make fun of Sadhguru with half-baked knowledge of both science and ancient Indian culture. 

True Science does not bother where its inspiration to genius comes from, only some fake scientists do. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Vardah and Digital Economy

The Central Government wants us to go towards a #Cashless economy. Sure .. great idea!

But let's see some very valid points from Chennaiites against going towards completely digital economy.

(1) Before #Vardah, we were very patient taking only 2000 rupees a day max, even though we had to pay our rents and the landlord is refusing to take online payment.

(2) Before Vardah, did you see how orderly the entire state of Tamilnadu was, even while mourning for the loss of our CM Ms Jayalalitha? We did not hoard cash during that time also.

(3) After Vardah, there is no power supply for four days now. Er ... how do we pay our bills online?

(4) After Vardah, petrol bunks and even water lorries are not accepting cards because their bank networks are not working!

(5) After Vardah, cell phone networks are still getting up on their knees even after 4 days and there is no data connectivity most of the time. Paytm options are gone ...

(6) It is only the 50 & 100 rupees that our mothers & wives had saved in kitchen boxes that is helping us run the day now.

This is a harsh reminder that unless the critical #infrastructure, including electricity / water / road / bank networks is set right, all the talk about going Cashless is just big BS. Hope the Government (both State and Central) sits up and takes notice.

We have been very supportive of #Demonetisation and #DigitalDrive so far.

Now our patience is really running thin, since we are onto our bare minimal survival and this state cannot continue for long. Hope the State government and PMO India are listening.

Demonetisation and arm-chair critics

Unfortunate attitude of many Indians now-a-days:

(1) Why should I pay my #taxes in Chennai? What has this Central Government done to me?

(2) Why should I pay my taxes in Coimbatore? That money is being used for feeding somebody in Rajasthan.

(3) Why should I suffer from #demonetisation when I am not hoarding any black money?

(4) Why should I declare my income and pay my taxes in Andhra? That money goes to laying of roads in Assam!

Let's just assume everyone starts doing this - violating all rules set by the Government.

Can you imagine a 'ruleless' life? Would you even feel safe to venture out in the streets? 

Let's remain sensible. Rather than questioning everything from "me, me, me" perspective, let's start giving constructive suggestions to the government as to what can be done better for society as a whole. 

There are enough forums made available by this Government at least! If we are not contributing to our own governance in a constructive manner, we have no right to complain - for it is us who have forsaken our democratic responsibilities.

If this post strikes a chord within you, it is meant to be :)

Varna, Jati, Politics and Chaos

What was this caste discrimination in India called Varnas? Were Shudras really prevented from reading Vedas?  Such questions are coming u...