Archive for ‘Culture’

May 8, 2011

Baji Prabhu by Shri Aurobindo

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

 

A NOON of Deccan with its tyrant glare
Oppressed the earth; the hills stood deep in haze,
And sweltering athirst the fields glared up
Longing for water in the courses parched
Of streams long dead.

 

It hung upon the Mogul horsemen as they rode
With lances at the charge, the surf of steel
About them and behind, as they recoiled
Or circled, where the footmen ran and fired,
And fired again and ran; “For now at last,”
They deemed, “the war is over, now at last
The Panther of the hills is beaten back
Right to his lair, the rebel crew to death
Is hunted, and an end is made at last.”

 

At morning when the sun
Was yet below the verge, the Bhonsle sprang
At a high mountain fortress, hoping so
To clutch the whole wide land into his grasp;
But from the North and East the Moguls poured,
Swords numberless and hooves that shook the hills
And barking of a hundred guns. These bore
The Hero backward.  Silently with set
And quiet faces grim drew fighting back
The strong Mahrattas to their hills; only
Their rear sometimes with shouted slogan leaped
At the pursuer’s throat, or on some rise
Or covered vantage stayed the Mogul flood,
A moment.

 

At last they reached a tiger-throated gorge
Upon the way to Raigurh. Narrowing there
The hills draw close, and their forbidding cliffs
Threaten the prone incline.

 

The Bhonsle paused.
His fiery glance travelled in one swift gyre
Hill, gorge and valley and with speed returned
Mightily like an eagle on the wing
To a dark youth beside him, Malsure
The younger, with his bright and burning eyes,
Who wordless rode quivering, as on the leash.

 

His fierce heart hungered for the rear, where Death
Was singing mid the laughter of the swords.
“Ride, Suryaji,” the Chieftain cried, his look
Inward, intent, “and swiftly from the rear
Summon the Prabhou.”

 

Turning at the word
Suryaji’s hooves sped down the rock-strewn slope
Into the trenchant valley’s death. Swiftly,
Though burdened with a Nation’ s fate, the ridge
They reached, where in stern silence fought and fell,
Their iron hearts broken with desperate toil,
The Southron rear, and to the Prabhou gave
The summons of the Chief, “Ride, Baji, ride,
The Bhonsle names thee, Baji.” And Baji spoke
No word, but stormed with loose and streaming rein
To the high frowning gorge and silent paused
Before the leader.

 

“Baji, more than once
In battle thou hast stood, a living shield,
Between me and the foe. But more today,
O Baji, save than any single life –
Thy nation’s destiny.”

 

“Thou seest this gorge
Narrow and fell and gleaming like the throat
Of some huge tiger, with its rocky fangs
Agrin for food: and though the lower slope
Descends too gently, yet with roots and stones
It is hampered, and the higher prone descent
Impregnably forbids assault; too steep
The sides for any to ascend and shoot
From vantage. Here might lion-hearted men,
Though few, delay a host.”

 

“Baji, I speed To Raigurh and in two brief hours return.
Say with what force thy iron heart can hold
The passage till I come. Thou seest our strength,
How it has melted like the Afghan’s ice
Into a pool of blood.”

 

And while he paused
Who had been chosen, spoke an iron man
With iron brows who rode behind the Chief,
Tanaji Malsure, that living sword:
“Not for this little purpose was there need
To call the Prabhou from his toil. Enough,
Give me five hundred men; I hold the pass
Till thy return.” But Shivaji kept still
His great and tranquil look upon the face
Of Baji Prabhou.

 

Then, all black with wrath,
Wrinkling his fierce hard eyes, the Malsure:
“‘What ponders then the hero? Such a man
Of men, he needs not like us petty swords
A force behind him, but alone will hold
All Rajasthan and Agra and Cabool
From rise to set.”

 

And Baji answered him:
“Tanaji Malsure, not in this living net
Of flesh and nerve, nor in the flickering mind
Is a man’s manhood seated. God within
Rules us, who in the Brahmin and the dog
Can, if He will, show equal godhead. Not
By men is mightiness achieved; Baji
Or Malsure is but a name, a robe,
And covers One alone. We but employ
Bhavani’s strength, who in an arm of flesh
Is mighty as in the thunder and the storm.
I ask for fifty swords.”

 

And Malsure: “Well, Baji, I will build thee such a pyre
As man had never yet, when we return;
For all the Deccan brightening shall cry out,
Baji the Prabhou burns!” And with a smile
The Prabhou answered: “Me thou shalt not burn,
For this five feet or more of bone and flesh,
Whether pure flame or jackals of the hills
Be fattened with its rags, may well concern
Others, not Baji Prabhou.”

 

And the Chief
With a high calmness in his shining look,
“We part, O friend, but meet again we must,
When from our tasks released we both shall run
Like children to our Mother’s clasp.”

 

He took
From his wide brow the princely turban sown
With aigrette diamond-crowned and on the head
Of Baji set the gleaming sign, then clasped
His friend and, followed by the streaming host
That gathered from the rear, to farther hills
Rode clattering.

 

Small respite had the slender band who held
Fate constant with that brittle hoop of steel;
For like the crest of an arriving wave
The Moslem van appeared, though slow and tired,
Yet resolute to break such barrier faint.
Pathan and Mogul and the Rajput clans,
All clamorous with the brazen throats of war
And spitting smoke and fire.

 

Sheltered by tree and rock, the silent grim
Defenders waited, till on root and stone
The confident high-voiced triumphant surge
Began to break, to stumble, then to pause,
Confusion in its narrowed front. At once
The muskets clamoured out, the bullets sped,
Deadly though few; again and yet again

 

So the great onset failed.  And now withdrawn
The generals consulted, and at last
In slow and ordered ranks the foot came on,
An iron resolution in their tread,
Hushed and deliberate. Far in the van,
Tall and large-limbed, a formidable array,
The Pathan infantry; a chosen force,
Lower in crest, strong-framed, the Rajputs marched;
The chivalry of Agra led the rear.

 

Then Baji first broke silence, “Lo, the surge!
That was but spray of death we first repelled.
Chosen of Shivaji, Bhavani’s swords,
For you the Gods prepare. We die indeed,
But let us die with the high-voiced assent
Of Heaven to our country’s claim enforced
To freedom.”

 

As he spoke, the Mogul lines
Entered the menacing, wide-throated gorge,
Carefully walking, but not long that care
Endured, for where they entered, there they fell.
Others behind in silence stern advanced.
They came, they died; still on the previous dead
New dead fell thickening. dead
Rather than living held the conquered slope,The
living who, half-broken, paused.

 

Then the heads that planned pushed swiftly to the front
The centre yet unhurt, where Rajasthan,
Playmate of Death, had sent her hero sons.
They with a rapid royal reckless pace
Came striding over the perilous fire-swept ground,
Nor answered uselessly the bullets thick
Nor paused to judge, but o’er the increasing dead
Leaping and striding, shouting, sword in hand,
Rushed onward with immortal courage high
In mortal forms, and held the lower slope.

 

But now the higher incline, short but steep,
Baffled their speed, and as they clambered up,
Compact and fiery, like the rapid breath
Of Agra’s hot simoom, the sheeted flame
Belched bullets. Down they fell with huge collapse,
And, rolling, with their shock drove back the few
Who still attempted. Banned advance, retreat
Threatening disgrace and slaughter, for a while
Like a bound sacrifice the Rajputs stood
Diminishing each moment.

 

Then a lord High crested of the Rathore clan stood out
From the perplexed assailants, with his sword
Beckoning the thousands on against the few.
And a mighty shout
Rose from behind, and in a violent flood
The Rajputs flung themselves on the incline
Like clambering lions.

 

The Rathore stood on the disputed verge
And ever threw fresh strength into the scale
With that inspiring gesture, Baji came
Towards him singling out the lofty crest,
The princely form: and, as the waves divide
Before a driving keel, the battle so
Before him parted, till he neared, he slew.
Avoiding sword, avoiding lifted arm
The blade surprised the Rajput’s throat, and down
As falls an upright poplar, with his hands
Outspread, dying, he clutched Mahratta ground.

 

Loud rose the slogan as he fell. Amazed,
The eager hosts of Agra saw reel back
The Rajput battle, desperate victory
Turned suddenly into entire defeat,
Not headlong, but with strong discouragement,
Sullen, convinced, rejecting the emprise.

 

As they retired, the brilliant Pathan van
Assumed the attempt. “Exhaust,” the generals cried,
“Exhaust the stubborn mountaineers; for now
Fatigued with difficult effort and success
They hardly stand, weary, unstrung, inert.
Scatter this fringe, and we march on and seize
Raigurh and Shivaji.”

 

On came the Pathans running rapidly,
But as the nearmost left the rocky curve
Where lurked the ambush, loud from stone and tree
The silence spoke ; sideways, in front, behind
Death clamoured, and tall figures strewed the ground
Like trees in a cyclone. Appalled the rest
Broke this way and broke that, and some cried, “On!”
Some shouted, “Back!” for those who led, fell fast.
So the advance dissolved

 

With gloom their chiefs
Beheld the rout and drawing back their hosts
In dubious council met, whether to leave
That gorge of slaughter unredeemed or yet
Demand the price of so immense a loss.

 

But to the Prabhou came with anxious eyes
The Captain of the band . “Baji,” he cried,
“The bullets fail; all the great store we had
Of shot and powder by unsparing use
Is spent, is ended.

 

And Baji Prabhou turned.
One look he cast upon the fallen men
Discernible by their attire, and saw
His ranks not greatly thinned, one look below
Upon the hundreds strewing thick the gorge,
And grimly smiled; then where the sun in fire
Descending stooped, towards the vesper verge
He gazed and cried: “Make iron of your souls.
Yet if Bhavani wills, strength and the sword
Can stay our nation’s future from o’erthrow
Till victory with Shivaji return.”

 

And so they waited without word or sound,
And over them the silent afternoon
Waited; the hush terrestrial was profound.
Except the mountains and the fallen men
No sight, no voice, no movement was abroad,
Only a few black-winged slow-circling birds
That wandered in the sky, only the wind
That now arose and almost noiselessly
Questioned the silence of the wooded sides.
So the slow minutes passed.

 

Resolved at last the stream of Mogul war
Came once more pouring, not the broken rout
Of Pathans, not discouraged Rajput swords,
But Agra’s chivalry glancing with gold
And scimitars inlaid and coloured robes.

 

Swiftly they came expecting the assault
Fire-winged of bullets and the lethal rain,
But silence met them and to their intent
So ominous it seemed, a while they paused,
Fearing some ruse; Reassured,
Onward with a high shout they charged the slope.
No bullet sped, no musket spoke; unhurt
They crossed the open space, unhurt they climbed
The rise

 

But even as their hands surprised
The shrubs that fringed the vantage, swords unseen
Hacked at their fingers, through the bushes thrust
Lances from warriors unexposed bore through
Their bosoms. Small was the space for fight,
And meeting strength with skill and force with soul
The strong and agile keepers of the hills
Prevailed against the city-dwelling hosts,
With covert and the swiftly stabbing blades
O’erpowering all the feints of Agra’s schools.

 

Upon the Prabhou all the Goddess came.
Loud like a lion hungry on the hills
He shouted, and his stature seemed to increase
Striding upon the foe.

 

That godlike impulse faded from his heart,
And passing out of him a mighty form
Stood visible, Titanic, scarlet-clad,
Dark as a thunder-cloud, with streaming hair
Obscuring heaven, and in her sovran grasp
The sword, the flower, the boon, the bleeding head —
BHAVANI!!!

 

Then she vanished; the daylight
Was ordinary in a common world.
And Baji knew the Goddess formidable
Who watches over India till the end.

 

Even then a sword found out his shoulder, sharp
A Mogul lance ran grinding through his arm.
Fiercely around him gathered in a knot
The mountaineers; but Baji, with a groan,
“Moro Deshpande, to the other side
Hasten of the black gorge and bring me word.
Rides any from the West, or canst thou hear
The Raigurh trumpets blow? I know my hour
Is ended; let me know my work is done.”

 

Desperate, he laboured in his human strength
To push the Mogul from the gorge’s end
With slow compulsion. By his side fell fast
Mahratta and Mogul and on his limbs
The swords drank blood, a single redness grew
His body, yet he fought. Then at his side
Ghastly with wounds and in his fiery eyes
Death and rejoicing a dire figure stood,
Moro Deshpande. “Baji, I have seen
The Raigurh lances; Baji, I have heard
The trumpets.”

 

And Baji with a gruesome hand
Wiping the blood from his fierce staring eyes
Saw round him only fifteen men erect
Of all his fifty. But in front, behind,
On either side the Mogul held the gorge.

 

Groaning, once more the grim Mahratta turned
And like a bull with lowered horns that runs,
Charged the exultant foe behind.
And as a knife cuts instantly its way
Through water, so the yielding Mogul wall
Was cleft and closed behind. Eight men alone
Stood in the gorge’s narrow end, not one
Unwounded.

 

There where hardly three abreast
Have room to stand, they faced again the foe;
And from this latest hold Baji beheld
Mounting the farther incline, rank on rank,
A mass of horsemen; galloped far in front
Some forty horse, and on a turbaned head
Bright in the glory of the sinking sun
A jewelled aigrette blazed.

 

And Baji looked
Over the wide and yawning field of space
And seemed to see a fort upon a ridge,
Raigurh; then turned and sought again the war.
So for few minutes desperately they strove.
Man after man of the Mahrattas fell
Till only three were left. Then suddenly
Baji stood still and sank upon the ground.
Quenched was the fiery gaze, nerveless the arm:
Baji lay dead in the unconquered gorge.

 

But ere he fell, upon the rocks behind
The horse-hooves rang and, as the latest left
Of the half hundred died, the bullets thronged
Through the too narrow mouth and hurled those down
Who entered. Clamorous, exultant blared
‘The Southron trumpets, but with stricken hearts
The swords of Agra back recoiled; fatal
Upon their serried unprotected mass
In hundreds from the verge the bullets rained,
And in a quick disordered stream, appalled,
The Mogul rout began. Sure-footed, swift
The hostile strength pursued, Suryaji first
Shouting aloud and singing to the hills
A song of Ramdas as he smote and slew.

 

But Shivaji by Baji’s empty frame
Stood silent and his gaze was motionless
Upon the dead. Tanaji Malsure
Stood by him and observed the breathless corpse,
Then slowly said, “Thirty and three the gates
By which thou enterest heaven, thou fortunate soul,
Thou valiant heart! So when my hour arrives,
May I too clasp my death, saving the land
Or winning some great fortress for my lord.”

 

But Shivaji beside the dead beheld
A dim and mighty cloud that held a sword
And in its other hand, where once the head
Depended bleeding, raised the turban bright
From Baji’s brows, still glittering with its gems,
And placed it on the chief’s. But as it rose
Blood-stained with the heroic sacrifice,
Round the aigrette he saw a Golden Crown.

 

(Abridged from a poem written by Shri Aurobindo.)

 

 

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April 30, 2011

Brave Hindus of Bali, a 1963 Photo Feature from Dharma Yuga

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

“kAla-jayI pUjA of mahAkAla: A Thrilling Photo Feature from Indonesia”

Under the clear blue skies of Bali, we were sitting on the broken steps of an ancient village temple of Ubud, when my companion, Ida Bagus Sudharma, renowned photo-journalist from Indonesia, narrated to me this thrilling and shocking tale of bravery. Of how, in the Phalguna of 1963 lakhs of Shiva-Bhaktas of Bali, Java and Sumatra, had gathered in the complex of Besakih Shiva Temple, to observe Ekadasha Rudra Parva ritual that is here only performed once in a hundred years; and how just two weeks before the ritual, the Mount Agung volcano, the largest active volcano of Bali, on the very slope of which the temple is located, had erupted, emitting terrible smoke and river of lava, threatening all-round destruction. And how, in face of such imminent calamity, brave Hindus of Bali stayed committed to properly performing the centennial ritual to mahA-kAla and only on the proper muhUrta assigned, come what may. And they indeed evacuated only after having acomplished the feat, to continue unbroken the tradition from several centuries.

Of the havoc wrought by the earthquake and volcanic eruption, news were published in papers all over the world, including some sparse coverage by Indian media too. But in Bharata, the abode of Shiva, who had ever heard of this unique tale of steadfast faith and unwavering bravery; unique indeed it must be in the annals of courage and of dharma!

But thanks to the Balinese photo-journalist Shri Ida Bagus Sudharma’s camera, a courageous witness to those events, Dharma Yuga presents that audacious tale of faith for the first time. — Dharma Veer Bharati.

One would scarce believe that the Times of India group once used to publish such magazines as ‘Dharma Yuga’ edited by legendary author Shri Dharmaveer Bharati (an important contributor to the neo-Renaissance movement in Hindi led by Shri Harivansha Rai Bachchan and Shri Sumitra Nandan Pant); a magazine which for over two decades had the claim to be the largest circulated fortnightly in any language world-wide. And who could also believe that it was this Times management which had conceived and initiated the Gyanapeeth Samman, to recognize and reward one literary personality every year for contribution to the wealth of any Indic language, including saMskR^ita. It is sad that with the change of hands in the 90s, the new Times of India management, hostile to dharma and saMskR^iti, closed down all these vernacular ventures including Dharma Yuga, Dinamaan, Sarika, Parag, and many others, which indeed used to be successful portals of cultural revival.

Well, in the same chest of old periodicals that we had earlier discovered from our ancestral place, we were amazed and delighted to stumble upon this one leaf from a 1960s issue of now defunct Dharma Yuga magazine, plucked aside to preserve it for future (likely by our pitAshrI but he does not remember it, so possibly by pitAmaha).  Wish we were a kavI to be able to describe our feelings when we discovered this blessing from our pitR^is…

It is a Photo Feature narrating a story of audacious bravery and defiance displayed by the courageous Hindus of Bali, when they dared their life in middle of a volcano eruption but did not shrink from keeping the millennia-old tradition of centennial ritual worship at the famous Shiva temple at Besakih, the kailAsha of Bali.

 

The famous volcanic Mount of Agung in East Bali is called the Kailasha of Bali.  Belief here is that Mahadeva spends the winter months here.  Once in a hundred years is celebrated that rare mahA-yoga when ekAdasha rudra mahApUjA is performed.  And this graha-yoga was to occur in the March of 63, for which the ritual preparations were on for the last two month.  Image above shows the Besakih Temple on the slopes of terrible vocanic Agung .  The three pIThikA-s are dedicated to bramhA, viShNu, and maheshvara.


Devotees carrying a dhenu-shAvaka for viShNu after bathing in sea


The devotees lining up in the Complex for darshana after bathing in the sea. The gathering and mela was spread over miles.


And the sleeping Agung woke up! Eruptions started and tremors were felt. Our journalist captured this image from an aerial survey.


What to do? Whether to evacuate? The purohita-s, managers, eminent devotees gathered to confer about the course of action in light of the danger.  But in a single voice, it was unanimously decided that come what may, the mahApUjA would be performed with full splendour and observing complete traditions, no matter what.


And then, disregarding the danger, all devotees went back to their duties.  In above image, ladies prepare floral AbhUShaNa-s with which the devatA-s would be adorned.  The bright tADapatra tied to their foreheads announces their cleanliness to perform such duty.


On Feb 18, the landscape was threatening. Agung was vomiting fire and lava. Earth was shattering. Sky was black with smoke.


But unmindful of all this, devotees were preparing for the ritual. A sample of colourful floral decoration with which the temple was decked.


The patAkA-s and masts were raised. Dancers in full traditional dress and preparation, continued to pour into the complex to perform.


And the groups of devotees, unmindful of the danger, continued to pray faithfully, bravely and steadfastly…


On March 17, the burning flood of lava engulfed the entire region, two days after the mahApUjA was accomplished and concluded, and devotees evacuated. (Wiki says, the flood of lava came up to this place, but missed the temple complex merely by few meters.  Overall, 1700 casualties were claimed by the 1963 volcanic eruption.)

 

***   *   ***

A 2010 video tour to this temple complex:

January 20, 2011

Maharana’s puNya divasa

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

In 1597, on January 19, died mahArANA pratApa siMha, the foremost luminary in the galaxy of all Hindu leaders that raised the standard of tumult to answer the jehAd.  But before he died he fulfilled the mission of his life of regaining control over his mAtR^ibhUmi, and even at his deathbed he made his heir and his band of men swear by Lord Ekalinga to continue fighting the battle for Hindu independence.

Never did that dharmAbhimAnI compromise on Hindu liberty and never did he submit even to the lucrative offers of moghal tyrant.  His insignia read “जो दृढ राखै धरम कौ ताहि रखै कर्तार”: Those Who Stiffly Protect Dhrama find Protection of The Creator. It is by his grit and that of his followers that the sapling of Hindu revival was kept nourished, which would in next century become the mighty vaTa. Thus while negotiating treaty at Purandar with Jai Singh, cHatrapati recalled mahArANA and his hardships.

But for that vIra-pu~Ngava, all was lost beyond hope, as says surAyajI, a contemporary rAjasthAnI poet:

हिन्दू हिन्दूकार, राणा जे राखत नहीं
तो अकबर एकार, पहो सहो करत परतापसी
हिन्दूपति परताप, पत राखी हिन्दवाणरी
सहे विपति संताप, सत्य सपथ कर आपणी

[Had rANA not kept the Hindu flag independent,
Akbar had all but succeeded in crushing them to joining/becoming Moslems
But O Hindupati Pratap, You kept the Hindu pride undiminished
Even bearing hardships and pains, never did you waver from your grit]

Even a rAjpUt courtier of Akbar, ADhA dUrasA of sirohI, wrote in his “viruddha cHihattarI”:

एही भुजे अरीति । तसलीमत हिन्दू तुरक
माथै निकर मसीत परताप कै परसादसी
रोहै पाताल राण । जाँ तसलीम न आदरै
हिन्दू मुस्सलमाण एक नहीं ता दोय हैं

[When such is the usage of the day that Hindus have to bow low and perform Tasleem to Musalmans,
It is only in your country, O Pratap, that the temples are seen reconstructed where mosques were squatting
Only if, O Pratap, you hold the Hindu Banner high and don’t acknowledge (Akbar’s) suzerainty
Hindus will retain their independence and identity and not get merged with Musalmans]

रोकै अकबर राह । लै हिन्दू कूकुर लखां
बीअर तो बाराह पाडै घणा परताप सी
सुख हित स्याल समाज, हिन्दू अकबर बस हुए
रोसीलो मृगराज पजै न राण परताप सी

[Akbar obstacles the path of pratApa with help from a lakh Dog-Hindus (those who have gone to Akbars side)
But when did they stop the Boar-like march of pratApa! A single vArAha-Hindu is enough.
For sake of comfort some coward jackal-Hindus have taken Akbar as overlord
But when did Lion-Hindus like pratApa ever accept his suzerainty!]

लोपै हिन्दू लाज सगपण रोपै तुरकसूँ
आरज कुल री आज पूंजी राण प्रतापसी

[When Hindu honour has disappeared; they shamelessly give their daughters to musalmans;
O Pratap rANA, today You are the only refuge left for the Aryakula honour]

pratApa siMha, the standard forever of Hindu bravery, had no hesitation to denounce the cowardly deeds of his father and used to openly lament that had udaya not been born between his grandfather Sangram Singh the ‘Hindupat’, and himself, the Moslem rule in hindusthAn would have been wiped out in the time of bAbur himself.  (This is not a mere boast)

सांगो धरम सहाय बाबुर सूं भिडियो बिहस
अकबर कदमा आय पडै न राण प्रताप सी
मन अकबर मजबूत! फूट हिन्दवाँ बेफिकर
काफिर कौम कपूत! पकडूँ राण प्रताप सी

[If for the protection of dharma had rANA sAMgA gone to clash with bAbUr
It is for the same reason that pratApa does not give in to Akbar
Akbar’s mind is carefree and strong seeing the prevailing disunity among the Hindus
But even he knows that amongst Kafirs these are the black sheep; So he goes after Pratap]

Once a rumour was spread in Agra that mahArANA was willing to accept Akbar’s overlordship and had sent such communication to Patsah. Alarmed about this, a rAjpUt prince of bIkAner, Rai Prithviraj who was at Akbar’s court, wrote to pratApa seeking the truth of the matter. He wrote:

पातल जो पातसाह बोलै मुख हूता बयण
मिहर पच्छम दिस माह उगै कासप राववत
पटकूँ मुच्छाँ पाण कै पटकूँ निज तन करद
लीजै लिख दीवान इण दो महली बात इक

[I have been told that pratApa has started calling Akbar his Patsah,
which to me seems as impossible as the Sun rising from the west
But tell me O Regent (of EkaliMga) where I stand –
Shall I proudly put my fingers on my moustaches or sword on my neck?
Just write back which of the two is for me?]

To which pratApa siMha wrote back the below lines which are proudly memorised by every true Rajput:

तुरक कहासी मुख पतो इण तन सौं इकलिंग
ऊगै जाहीं ऊगसी प्राची बीच पतङ
खुसी हूँत पीतल कमध पटको मूच्छा पाण
पछटन है जेतै पटौ कलमा सिर केवाण
सांगा मूड सहै सको समजस जहर सवाद
झड पीतल जीतो झलाँ वैण तरकसूँ वाद

[By Lord Ekalinga, I shall call Akbar Turak alone (and not Patsah),
as surely as the Sun would rise tomorrow from the East.
You may, O Prithviraj, continue proudly stroking your moustaches
As pratApa’s sword continues to dangle on the Mughal heads, and,
Let the Sanga’s blood be on my hands if I ever rest before crushing them
You would, Prithvi, no doubt, have the better of this quarrel of rumours at the court.]

When the news of pratApa’s death reached Akbars court, it is said that Akbar mourned for his death (so say also the persian sources). At this, a rAjasthAnI poet at Akbar’s court expressed his homage to pratApa like this:

अस लैगो अनदाग पाघ लैगो अणनामी
गौ आडा अवडाय जिको बहतो धुर बामी
नवरोजे नह गयो न गो आतसाँ नवल्ली
न गओ झरोखा हेठ दुनियाण दहल्ली
गहलोता राणा जीती गयो दसन मून्द रसना डसी
निसास मूक भरिया नयन मृतु शाह प्रतापसी !

[Kept his horses unbranded (of mughal seal), Head unbowed and fame untarnished
Carried on his fight against vidharmI yoke merely by his singular fortitude
Never went to Navroz and Atish festivals of Patsah nor mounted guard at his jharokha darshan
O rANA the guhilota! The victory be yours. Even in death you make Patsah speechless and blind
Breathless, Patsah’s tongue is stuck in throat and blinded, as his eyes are moistened from sadness]

January 2, 2011

Yoga Asana, the Ancient Hindu Legacy

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

आलोक्यसर्वशास्त्राणि विचार्यच पुनः पुन:

इदमेकं सुनिष्पन्नं योगशास्त्रं परम्मतं

We have seen in the previous part how the identity of pata~njali, about which Hindus have never had doubts, is maliciously obliterated by the western commentators of yoga.

Having obfuscated yoga-sUtra and having reduced its author to obscurity, next our western scholars say the following to reject the ancientness (and indigenousness) of yogAsana, an important pillar in the edifice of yoga:

“…The text usually cited as the definitive source for Yoga is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, but the familiar poses that are part of Hatha Yoga are generally traced to Shiva cults, the god Shiva being its founder. The problem that is being swept aside is that exact dates cannot be assigned to any of these texts…” – Deepak Chopra

“…But these texts say nothing about the physical “positions” or “postures” that distinguish contemporary yoga. The postures developed much later, some from medieval Hatha Yoga and Tantra, but more from nineteenth-century European traditions such as Swedish gymnastics, British body-building, Christian Science, and the YMCA, and still others devised by twentieth-century Hindus such as T. Krishnamacharya and B. K. S. Iyengar, reacting against those non-Indian influences.” – Wendy Doniger

We are reminded of the remark of Prof. Surendranatha Dasgupta on such western yoga scholars in one of his lectures on Yoga to the students of Calcutta Univerity several decades back: “(These) unsympathetic and shallow-minded scholars lack the imagination and the will to understand the Indian thought and culture of its past.”

But even a very sympathetic scholar and a Hinduphile Dr. Koenraad Elst colludes with the general view of the above scholars when he says:

“…the description of these specific techniques is found in the Hatha Yoga classics which do not predate the 13th century: the Gheranda Samhita, the Shiva Samhita and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika… There too, a number of asana-s or postures is described, though important ones now popular in the Western (and westernized-Indian) yoga circuit, particularly standing ones, are still not in evidence even in these more recent texts. In the Yoga Sutra, they are totally absent. Patanjali merely defines Asana, ‘seat’, as ‘comfortable but stable’… I don’t think any other asana postures except those for simply sitting up straight have been recorded before the late-medieval Gheranda Samhita, Hatha Yoga Pradipika and such.” – Dr. Koenraad Elst

Let us examine.
Having commented upon the Yama and Niyama, pata~njali describes Asana, the third great limb of yoga, in the following three yoga-sUtra-s:

sthira sukhamAsanam (2.46), prayatnashaithilyAnantyasamApattibhyAm (2.47), and tato dvandvAnabhighAt (2.48).

The view of Dr. Elst, that “pata~njali merely defines Asana as ‘seat’, ‘comfortable but stable’”, seems very simplistic reduction of the first sUtra sthirasukhamAsanam. Had Asana just meant so little as to merely mean a “comfortable but stable seat”, was it really worth enumerating as one of the limbs of the aShTA~Nga yoga? Would it not be pretty obvious to a rAjayoga student to anyway naturally take a “comfortable but stable seat” for practicing yoga? Why formulize upon Asana at all?

Indeed, the word “Asana” in simple saMskR^ita, in itself means to sit comfortably, according to its vyutpatti: “Asyate Asate anena iti Asanam” (deriving from the same dhAtu from which English ‘sit’ and ‘seat’ also came). That a sUtra-kAra of pata~njali’s fame, who scrupulously economizes on even half of the short vowels (as he says in the mahAbhAShya), should spend not one but three precious sUtra-s to Asana, when all he meant by it merely was a “comfortable but stable seat”, is hard to fathom. pata~njali must have a deeper meaning when he says sthirasukhamAsanam. What does he signify by the specific indication of ‘sthira-sukha’ in the sUtra, when ‘Asana’ itself would be sufficient had his intention been such a basic meaning as suggested?

The traditional Hindu wisdom says that deciphering the sUtras without help of an authoritative commentary, and better still under the guidance of a siddha preceptor, is fraught with the danger of gross errors for laymen. We refer therefore to the authorities of how they decipher what pata~njali implies in this first sUtra?

vyAsa explains the meaning of pata~njali here by considering the joint of “sthirasukha” and “Asana” to be the karmadhAraya samAsa, making the sUtra mean, “That Asana is here called Asana which yields sthira-sukha i.e. unwavering delight”.

AchArya shaMkara in his own TIkA explains this sUtra as, “yasmin Asane sthitasya manogAtrANAmupajAyate sthiratvam, duHkham cha yena nAbhavati tadabhyaset.” [Practice is recommended of that Asana which leads the practitioner’s mind to immovableness and constancy, and does not cause any discomfort.]

vAchaspati mishra in the eighth century explains this sUtra in his tattva vaiShAradi as, “sthiram nishchalam yatsukham sukhAvaham tadAsana”: Asana is that which yields a comfort that is lasting, stable, and unwavering. (Although vAchaspati also treats the samAsa between sthira and sukha as bahubrIhi: “sthiram sukham yena tat”).

But the clearest explanation of the sUtra comes from our favourite scholar, bhojadeva the learned rAjan: “Asana, the posture. Posture without motion. One that leads the practitioner to the not-flickering and lasting comfort. Only that type of Asana is Asana-proper, counted as one of the eight limbs of yoga.”

So, all these eminent authors on yoga understand pata~njali’s instruction to not mean just any “comfortable but stable seat”, which by definition ‘Asana’ anyway is, but specifically an Asana that gives the sthira sukha to the yogAbhyAsI helping him reach a concentrated mind; such an Asana alone is called yogAsana. Like ‘chitta’, pata~njali is not defining ‘Asana’, as he considers Asana to have been already understood earlier, he is only adding these further qualifications to it.

But is Wendy Doniger right when she says that the old texts including YS “say nothing about the physical “positions” or “postures” that distinguish contemporary yoga”, a view which Dr. Elst and Deepak Chopra seem to share? What about Chopra’s opinion when he says that the “the familiar poses are generally traced to Shiva cults”?

Let us explore this next.

Contrary to the above assertions, we find that ancient authorities mention the yogAsana-s, referring to them by name. Even the fairly antiquated commentaries of the pata~njali’s yoga sUtra itself, preceding the haThayoga dIpikA and gheraNya saMhita etc. by several centuries, already explain that Master pata~njali particularly implied these same standard “postures” when he instructed upon Asana in the yoga-sUtra.

Consider the oldest available commentary on yoga sUtra by vyAsa. The author ends his explanation of pata~njali’s ‘sthira-sukham-Asanam’ with a list of the names of Asana-s, “…tadyathA padmAsanam bhadrAsanam vIrAsanam daNDAsanaM sopAshrayaM parya~Nkam krau~nchaniShadanam, hastiniShadanam, uShTRa niShadanam, samasaMsthAnaM sthirasukham yathAsukham cha ityevamAdIni”, that is, “Asana like the padmAsana or the bhadrAsana, vIrAsana, daNDAsana, or (squatting ) postures like parya~Nka or sopAshraya, or postures named after krau~ncha bird, or the Camel posture or the Elephant posture, or samAsana, or any other comfortable (instructed) posture which provide sthira sukha”.  This elaborate list, though not exhaustive as the author says these are examples, is from at least as old as the 6th century if not older.

Explaining the same sUtra of ‘sthirasukhamAsanam’, AchArya shaMkara also concludes his explanation of pata~njali’s instruction with, “…tadyathA shAstrAntara prasiddhAni nAmAni padmAsanAdIni pradarshyante”, meaning “…that is, for example, those well known postures explained in the other shAstras, like the padmAsana etcetera.”] He even desribes, out of these, padmAsana, bhadrAsana and daNDAsana in instructive details.

An astute reader cannot fail to notice the casualness shown here in mentioning the representative names of the postures, when both the above authors refer to a few names of the Asana-s, followed by ‘Adi’, etcetera, meaning that the reader is anyway easily familiar with them.

Also observe the words AchArya shaMkara uses above, “prasiddhAni nAmAni”, explicitly signifying that many Asanas were already famous by specific names and were not worth repeating there.

Besides the above, further note the important word he uses, ‘shAstrAntara’. It is significant that shaMkara not only refers to these postures as famous, but also says those are ‘shAstrAntara’, or explained elsewhere beyond the yogasUtra or by the “other shAstra-s”. Of course we have no means at present to say which other shAstra he was referring here, but probably some older material no more extant.

In an entirely different book, that is the celebrated bramha-sUtra-bhAShya, AchArya shaMkara further refers to the Asana postures in a similar vein when he says, “ata eva padmakAdInAmAsana visheShANAmupadesho yogashAstre”: “…This is why yoga-shAstra particularly prescribes the postures like padmAsana etcetera…” (See BSB 4.1.10 under ‘smaranti cha’)

Still elsewhere, and very significantly, AchArya shaMkara alludes to the yoga darshana and its development from the vaidika roots. In the same bhAShya talking about yoga system what strikes his mind as uniquely characteristic of yoga, is its elaborate system of Asana! AchArya remarks: “AsanAdi-kalpanA-purassaram bahu-prapa~ncham yoga-vidhAnam shvetAshvataropaniShAdi dR^ishyate” [“Such emphasis on postures and related amplified prapa~ncha, one can already sense in the (old) upaniShada-s such as that of shvetAshvatAra etcetera”]

This is a very important testimony we get from the AchArya that even as far back as in his time, he understood the importance of the elaborate system of Asana postures to have gone back to the ancient upaniShada times, and their development being of a very obscure antiquity.

We return again to the genius bhoja rAjan, who, still a few centuries before the haThayoga classics that are available to us, enumerates some specific yoga postures. Having explained the meaning of sthirasukhamAsanam, he ends his statement by saying, “padmAsana-daNDAsana-svastikAsanAdi | tadyadA sthiraM niShkampaM sukhaM anudvejanIyaM bhavati tadA tadyogA~NgatAM bhajate”, meaning,”…such as padmAsana, daNDAsana, svAstikAsana etcetera. When the (practice of) a posture (advances, it) becomes (a vehicle) yielding of a stable unwavering sukha and is not uncomfortable (anymore). That is when it becomes, that much-praised limb of the (eight) yoga a~Nga-s, the blessed Asana.]

Here rAjA bhoja also interprets pata~njali to have really meant the specific yoga postures, giving here the names of postures such as padma, daNDa, and svAstika Asana-s. And he also adds an “Adi”, etcetera, to mean that already there must be a long list of very famous and commonly known Asana-s which he felt no need to elaborate upon beyond ‘etcetera’. The above shows, we think, that in light of these ancient authorities, we can take it that pata~njali did imply specific postures that are understood as standard yoga Asana-s, and not just any comfortable seat.

But already, even much before pata~njali himself, the Asana-s were already quite well known and practiced, as AchArya shaMkara said. We find an attestation from the Great bhArata of his observation, that the concept of Asana, that is the specific yoga postures, in the technical sense of it, was already an integral part of spiritual practice of ascetics. From the araNyakaparvan the 3rd book of mahAbhArata:

bhR^igor maharSheH putro ‘bhUch chyavano nAma bhArgavaH
samIpe sarasaH so ‘sya ta
ANubhUto mahAtejA vIrasthAnena pANDava
SThat subahUn kAlAn ekade
gt;a valmIko ‘bhavad R^iShir
br>aH
kAlena mahatA
an

[
was born to the great
igu, chyavana by name. And he, of an exceedingly resplendent body, began to perform austerities by the side of a lake. And, O Son of pANDu, O Protector of men! He of mighty energy assumed the Posture known as the Vira, in it being quiet and still like an inanimate post, and for a long period remained immobile at the same spot in the same posture. And as a long time elapsed he was swarmed by the ants turned into an anthill covered with the creepers growing upon it.”]

In the anushAsana parvan, the thirteenth book:

vIrAsanaM vIrashayyAM vIrasthAnam upAsataH akSayAs tasya vai lokAH sarvakAmagamAs tathA MBh 13.7.13

[“He who performs tapscharya-s sitting in the vIrAsana posture, by going to the secluded dense forest (where only the braves dare tread) and sleeping on the (hard rock,) the bed worthy for the braves, he attains to those eternal regions where all the objects of desire are fulfilled (or desires are nullified)”]

(In above, we differ in translating the verse from how the learned paNDita shrI K M Ganguly translated it. He takes the first line in sense of gaining martyrdom on the battlefield assuming the posture of vIrAsana.)

At yet another place in the same anushAsana parvan, mahAdeva is describing to umAdevI the routine of tapasyA that the ascetic siddha yogi-s perform:

yogacharyAkR^itaiH siddhaiH kAmakrodhavivarjanam
vIrashayyAm upAsadbhir vI
uktair yogavahaiH sadbhir grIShme pa~ncatap
tathA
maNDUka-yoganiya
br
ay
yogashcha
tav

H
3.130.


of the
ellent ord
elating to Yoga, hav
alleviated the passions of lust and violence, seated in the posture called vIrAsana in the midst of four fires on four sides with the sun overhead in summer months, duly practising what is called mANDUkya yoga, and sleeping on bare rocks or on the earth, these men, with hearts set upon dharma, expose themselves to the extremes of cold and warm (and are unaffected by the duality).”]

Not only do we find evidence in mahAbhArata therefore, of the importance given to the postures, specific postures, we should also observe that much before pata~njali, mahAbhArata already describes the yoga praxis in great detail. In the anushAsana parvan, it even describes the aShTA~Nga-s of yoga and even lists the famous teachers of sAMkhya and yoga, in which list pata~njali does not figure. This also means that the yoga text in the bhArata was pre-pata~njali and that by the time of pata~njali, yoga was quite a very well founded practice, its Asanas included.

In the early classical saMskR^ita literature also, we find the Asana-s mentioned. The Emperor of saMskR^ita poetry, mahAkavi kAlidAsa, already names the yaugika postures. He mentions vIrAsana in his raghuvaMsham by name (13.52) and also beautifully describes the siddhAsana through a verse. Ancient drama mR^ichcHakaTikA, going back to the BCE age, also describes yoga posture (see the opening chapter).

Dr. Elst has wondered why only sitting postures characterize or at least dominate the yogAsana-s, speculating that this is to do with the climatic conditions: that the Chinese postures being in standing position because it is wet and cold out there, whereas Hindu ones being in sitting position because of the warm climate here.

But the observation is inaccurate. Indeed we have enough textual and non-textual records of Hindu Asana-s also in standing, half-standing and leaning postures too from fairly old periods. mahAbhArata itself attests to this at multiple places, too numerous to recount, that standing postures were common for tapashcharyA. We find many ancient frescoes, murals, and bas-relief from old temples displaying the yoga postures in the standing position, see for instance the pallava temple carvings at mahAbalIpuram, dated to the 600s, depicting arjuna, bhagIratha and other characters (including a charlatan cat), to be performing the ascetics standing in the classical postures like the tADAsana and vR^ikShAsana. There are many other sources that attest to the postures in standing position, particularly for performing the tapascharyA, more specifically recorded by the early nAstika grantha-s, and both the bauddha and jaina texts record the standing postures.

vR^ikShAsana mahAbalIpuram

mahAvIra’s austerities in pristine tADAsana is all too famous. Also important to note is that the jaina-s carefully record that bhagavat mahAvIra acquired his siddhi while he was in a specific yoga posture known as the godohanAsana (see image), so called because it resembles how one milches the cow.  godohanAsana remains a classical standard yoga posture.

mahAvIra in godohanAsana

We further find traces of standard yoga postures in standing, half-standing, or leaning positions in other extra-yaugika special interest groups such as those in nATya and the practitioners of the Hindu martial arts, both of which are concerned with and utilize the standard yoga postures. The dhanurveda texts, variously titled and differently dated, tell us about specific Asana-s to be employed for specific purposes. The most complete, last redacted in the present form by around the 13th century but obviously containing much older material, the dhanurveda of vyAsa, tells the archers to assume one of the Eight Asana-s while shooting the arrow, each of which except the last, is in standing and half-standing posture. It describes each Asana and even mentions them by well known names such as the Asana-s of vishAkha, padma, and garuDa. Other and older Hindu martial art texts such as those contained within the purANa-s or bauddha pAlI sUtra-s inform us about the specific standing postures useful for practicing malla and other yuddha vidhA-s.

Coming to the climate part, yoga authors specifically mention that the Asana, by one of its very purposes, takes the body of the practitioner beyond the effects of climate and other such dualities. Explaining the last yoga sUtra on Asana, “dvandvAnabhighAt”, rAjan bhoja explicitly gives the example of climate, saying when the practitioner has perfected the yogAsana, the very effect of it is that Asana makes his body transcend and withstand the effects of extreme climate, both warm and cold.

To summarize, what the foregoing discussion aimed to show is that Asana had already acquired a technical sense during mahAbhArata, and even before, from upaniShadic times. That pata~njali does not need to define Asana itself, but simply add more specific qualifiers to it, also shows that the concept of specific Asanas was already a common knowledge. Such names of Asanas as padmAsana, daNDAsana, bhadrAsana, svAstikAsana, and vIrAsana, vajrAsana etc. were so very common and well known among the Hindus already from very early days. By as early as the 6th century we find the yoga authors not only mentioning them by name, but in a sense that it was such a common knowledge that simply indicating a few names appended by ‘etcetera’ is sufficient to indicate them all.  We also see that even these ancient Hindus were conscious about much further antiquity of the system of postures for yoga, as even AchArya shaMkara remarks about its obscurely ancient origins and wide popularity and recognition already by the time of the old layer of the upaniShada-s.  We also noted that the Asana-s, the postures, is what he takes as being a general identifying characteristic trait of the yoga system.  There are old records of not only sitting but standing, half-standing and leaning postures being practiced, and that the yoga authors were particular about Asana being for the very purpose to make the body of practitioner withstand the worldly dualities like the hot and cold climate.

The hindU-dviTa vultures delegitimizing the Hindu legacy of yogAsana remind us of how the legacies of our glorious cousins the Hellenes of Greece were also robbed away, how the fanatic pretamata first undermined, then outlawed, and finally secularized as its own, the ancient spiritual gymnast-athletics and its kumbha-like deeply spiritual festival of Olympic that was celebrated to honour the dyauspitR^i. Lamentably the perished Hellenic civilization would be unable to reclaim the Olympic from what it has now been vulgarized and secularized into. But the Hindu civilization is still alive, so far at least, to call yogAsana its asset, happy to share with the world, but as its very own ancestral civilizational and spiritual legacy.

June 7, 2010

Ramblings about the sword of bhavAnI

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

The legend of bhavAnI having blessed the cHatrapati founder of hindU svarAjya with her own khaDga for smiting the turuShka-s, is all too famous.  So we have the bhAkars mentioning about the miraculous sword, and we have contemporary bhUShaNa telling us about it.   But the fame of the khaDga was known far and wide, and it seems used to even awe the hearts of his enemies.

Thus we have the contemporary Italian  mercenary and freebooter Manuzzi telling us about his having once witnessed the abhimantrita maharaTTA sword.  In his Storia do Mogor he records that on one occasion he led a diplomatic mission on behalf of awrangzib and his portuguese allies to negotiate the terms of truce with shambhAjI and  the rebellious son of awrangzib who was in shambhAjI’s safe custody.  (shambhAjI introduced to Manuzzi durgAdAsa the famous rAThora general in disguise as prince Akbar.)  During the visit he once requested shambhAjI whether the latter could show him but once the famous divine sword that his father had, and shambhAjI would let him see from far just one flash of it.

The hindu revival in the founding of the maharaTTA empire had for its foundation its predecessor, the great vijayanagara.  the footprint of vijayanagara are visible in the resurgent maharaTTA-s in many ways: the legend pf jagadambA appearing before the valiant warrior-king and offering him her own khaDga to destroy the enemy being also one.  Thus we read the princess-poetess ga~NgAdevI describing in fourteenth century how the Goddess from madurai appeared to her husband yuvarAja kampanarAya, son of the founder of the empire bukkArAya, and gave him her sword to go out and thrash away the sultanate of the islamite tyrants from the draviDa lands.  The princess describes at length in madhurAvijaya the glory of this sword and how it originally belonged to mahAdeva, was given by sage agastya to various kings, and finally is being trusted by bhavAnI to the worthy arms of the vijayanagara.

It is of course very frequent throughout the hindU itihAsa-s and purANa-s for worthy warriors to acquire divine shastra-s from the deva-s.  Thus in padma purANa we have rAma getting the dhanuSha from mahAdeva, and rAvaNa had received before His sword.  mahAbhArata is of course full of description of such arms which can fill reams. 

But this had continued down to the later historical times, even before vijayanagara, that we read about bhavAnI’s or mahAdeva’s sword.  Thus we read in the histories of nAthayogI-s that the famous nAtha siddha delivered the divine sword of bhavAnI and mahAdeva to a rAjapUta named kAlabhoja who founded the house of mevADa.

Later in the eighteenth century, we similarly hear of the famed bhavAnI sword having been acquired by blessed pR^ithvI nArAyaNa shaAha who went on to found the now abolished hindU svArAjya in nepAla country.  We have had multiple occasions to be at this shaktipItha on the borders of nepAla, where young pR^ithvI nArAyaNa performed his arduous tapas and finally received the anugraha of devI.

That reminds us of our childhood chahamAna friend, now settled at this place, who would often tell us about a khaDga of bhavAnI also having been given to the chahamAna-s, and that his family was in possession of the sword.  Their family would even now perform the ritual shastrapUjA on the vijayadashamI day when every adult (male and female) of his clan would perform their own symbolic bali before devI and offer their own blood at its blade.  We would of course be denied access to see it. 

Until last, when we did get to witness the rAjapUta sword of bhavAnI.  On its golden hilt is inscribed some mantra in devanAgarI text, now hardly legible, but we guess it is from atharvan veda… and its blade is graced by the image of raNodyata kAlI…


April 25, 2010

itihAsaghAta

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

Wandering in the ancient jeta vihAra of koshala where tathAgata spent a considerable part of his life, we came across a group of four muNDaka-s under an arjuna tree whiling the warm afternoon discussing amongst themselves the fragments of collective memories of old.  Besides the other amusing stuff, their talk had a clear strain of aversion towards the hindU itihAsa-s, in particular towards the great bhArata, laughing at its events and ridiculing its Heroes.

We were later reminded of the following ridicule of mahAbhArata written by dhanapAla, the 11th century jainist nAstika from gujarAta country, which thus went:

कानीनस्य मुनेः स्व बान्धववधू वैधव्यविन्ध्वंसिनो
नेतारः किल पंचगोलकसुताः कुण्डाः स्वयं पाण्डवाः
तेमी पंच समानयोनिनिरताः ख्यातास्तदुरकीर्तनं
पुण्यं स्वस्त्ययनं भवेद्यदि नृणां पापस्य कान्यागतिः?

Roughly: Whose sage-writer is himself born from an (unmarried) girl’s womb and who later blemished the widowhood of his younger half-brothers’ wives, (natural it must be to have for) its heroes the pANDava-s, not only whose father pANDu was conceived after the demise of his own father, but also who are themselves result of the vIrya of someone other than their father even when he was alive;  and even further, who all five collectively enjoy the rati with a single woman; If such be the book reading which gives so much merit, one wonders what would be the path to sins.

mahAbhArata has been consistent in causing, as it seems, much udarashUla to all hindU-dviTa parties just as it does today. It is just a continuity that the hostile mlechcHa-s and svadeshI-drohins alike finds it necessary to ridicule or trivialize this grandest itihAsa, like done by the bahupuMsachAlI of kraunchadvIpa in her recent vaikalpika hindU itihAsa.

Knowing one’s attitude towards the hindU itihAsa-s, and in particular towards the Great bhArata, is we think an effective though crude way to tell one’s overall memetic stand towards the hindU-s. 

That reminds us of the great turuShka’s fascination for the Hindu itihAsa-s during the kAfir phase of his life, so much so that he got bhArata translated into persian, under the title of razm-nAmah (‘the History of the Great War’), and which, for over a decade, his associates used to daily read out to him before he retired for the night.  He seems to have been most impressed by the character of yudhiShThira who occupies most copious space among the hundreds of illustrations he got made on bhArata’s themes.  Knowing the great turuShka’s mind it seems likely that he looked at himself as the present-day-dharmarAja, if the likeness in the illustrations of the appearance of the eldest pANdava to his own appearance is any indication!

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