Professor Kalive Viswanatham

on the achievement of this Punyabhumi, Aryavarta

Sadguru Sri Sivananda Murty garu, reverentially referred to as shivasri, is turning seventy-five come this November and his friends, followers, admirers and devotees are actively planning a Festschrift for the sadhaka-seer’s birthday. I, a humble devotee and admirer of the sadguru, crave the indulgence of the readers to permit me to present my research supervisor’s paper. The revered guruji, the recipient of this volume liked the paper and wanted to perpetuate the memory of late Professor Viswanatham besides making available to the readers a very valuable paper on aryavarta’s culture, heritage and grandeur in this volume.

A new, objective, rational and unbiased assessment of our historical past is essential to promote (first among our educators) the feeling of national pride. A reading of the day’s newspaper is not likely to send morally or intellectually edifying signals to our young readers, what with the sensationalized stories of all kinds of aberrations, crime and merely commercial advertising. For quite some years, especially after our Independence, scholars began to look at our past in a perspective all our own. An increasing awareness of truth as the essential basis of history has led our intellectuals to reconstruct our national history afresh. The quest goes on: not merely in the onetime rulers’ language but also in our bhashas. The Most recent in Telugu is M.V.R.Sastri’s Yedi Charitra published a few months ago. Students would be beholden to their teachers, gurus and preceptors to be given an idea of what this nation has been down the ages: not merely in terms of materialistic evaluations but in the more worthy pursuits of the head and the heart. Convinced of the great value of our past, its glory and our responsibility, the inspired teachers would be the best to enthuse, inspire and lead the learners to the vistas of glory beginning millennia ago. This is an important way to make them feel the onus to preserve our heritage and our values to enthuse them to try and work for further achievements spiritual and temporal. It is worthwhile reading about our past achievements going beyond text books of history. The long essay by Professor Kalive Viswanadham that follows gives us all a fairly good idea of what the nation of ours has been.

Professor Kalive Viswanatham, the Sanskrit and English scholar, retired as Head of the Dept. of English, Andhra University on 1976. He was at King’s College, London and he attended prestigious meets like Commonwealth Literature Conference in Uganda and the Socio-linguistic conference at Uppsala, Sweden. After retirement he was awarded the UGC Retired Teachers’ Award for four years. He was an ardent devotee of the highest values of our culture and upheld the values of scholarship and devotion to literature for its own sake, as the source of two of the most sublime things: sweetness and light. He left behind him what are treasures for scholars, well-researched, insightful writings like India in English Fiction (1978) and Essays in Criticism and Comparative Poetics (1978). The present writer is beholden to this doyen of literature for having been asked to go through the proofs of both the volumes. Not all the research papers of the great man have been published during his lifetime. The paper India – A Donor of the Ancient World was written sometime in 1978. Its length rendered its publication in a daily newspaper unfeasible. But its value and the insights it revealed have relentlessly prompted me to send it to one journal after another. The piece whets our appetite to know more about our country’s greatness in the comity of nations, when we are reminded of some facts, which lay buried in the debris of destroyed truths. Hindu is not a native word, not even India. Hindu is Persian for Sindhu and Greek for Indos. It has always been that it is somebody else (most of the time a foreigner, an alien) that should unveil our own glory to us. Several years after his death in 1986, The Deccan Chronicle of Visakhapatnam carried this paper in its entirety as one collected by me: in fact I typed out the manuscript and the professor allowed me to have a copy with his own signature.

India: A Donor of the Ancient World

Most Western scholars write as if India is culturally a satellite of the Greco- Roman world even after the publication of books like The wonder that was India. They hesitate to admit that India was far ahead of the Greco – Roman world in many areas of thought.

The Sciences

Bertrand Russell remarked wittily that the contribution of India was Zero. For long it was thought, writes Basham, that the decimal system of notation was invented by the Arabs but this is certainly not the case. The Arabs themselves called mathematics hindiasat. The debt of the Western world to India in this respect cannot be over-estimated. Most of the great discoveries and inventions of which Europe is so proud would have been impossible without a developed system of mathematics. The unknown man who devised the new system was from the world’s point of view the most important son of India after the Buddha. His achievement was the work of an analytical mind of the first order (The wonder that was India, p.496). Winter writes: The solution of the general equation:ax2 dx c y2 by a method affected by Bhaskara II in a manner which has perpetuated his name for all time in the history of the theory of numbers.

It is salutary to remember that Bhaskara II made these advances around the middle of the 12th C. Independent European investigations of the 17th & 18th C did not reach completion until about 1770 with the work of Euler and Lagrange (A cultural history of India, p.156-157). The Arabs transmitted to the West the Hindu numerals and decimal system and the simple algebraic and trignometrical processes but ignored the use of negative quantities and the higher algebra of indeterminate equations, which they do not appear to have understood ( Ibid., p.156). Bhaskara II was six centuries ahead of Euler and Lagrange! Severus Sebokht, a Syrian astronomer and

monk, writes in A.D.662; I shall now speak of the knowledge of the Hindus…. Of their subtle discoveries in the science of astronomy, discoveries even more ingenuous than those of the Greeks and Babylonians-of their rational system of mathematics or of their method of calculation which no words can praise strongly enough- I mean the system of using nine symbols. If these things were known by the people who think that they alone mastered the sciences because they speak Greek they would perhaps be convinced, though a little late in the day, that other folks, not only Greeks but men of a different tongue, know something as well as they. (The wonder that was India, p.VI) Few words, writes Savery, have a more remarkable story behind their appearance in English than this familiar and important trigonometrical ratio whose name is derived form sinus a bosom and is pronounced sign. The idea that the term sie expresses was first developed by the Hindu mathematician Aryabhata about A.D. 500 Aryabhata’s JIVA becomes Arabic JIBA and JB as the Arabs omit the vowels. A Spanish scholar of Toledo in the 12th C was puzzled by JB. He thought it was Arabic JAIB, the curve of a breast and translated it by the Latin SINUS bosom (Words of science; p.78) JIVA becomes SINE!

Scholars talk about Copernicus of the 15th C. They ignore Aryabhata of A.D.500 who suggested that the earth revolved round the sun and rotated on its axis. The Hindu astronomers calculated the astronomical constants and these calculations were more accurate than those of the Greco- Roman world. Eclipses were forecast with accuracy and their cause understood. (The wonder that was India, p.491) Aryabhata forestalled Copernicus by ten centuries and he is not mentioned by scholars when they talk about the solar system. Is it scholarly integrity?

George Sarton suggests in his History of Science that Democritus might have learnt of the concept of the atom from the Hindu Nyaya and Vaiseeshika schools. Indian atomism was independent of Greek influence, writes Basham, for an atomic theory was taught by Pakudha Katyatyria, an older contemporary of the Buddha and was therefore far earlier than that of Democritus. The atom of Buddhism in some measure resembles the quantum of Planck …The atomic theories of ancient India are brilliant imaginative explanations of the physical structure of the world; they agree in part with the theories of modern physics and are much to the credit of the intellect and imagination of early Indian thinkers (Ibid.,p.497) Bhavamisra postulated the circulation of blood a century before Harvey and the Pythogorean theorem was known to Bodhayana. Doctors of the East India company learnt rhinoplasty from native vaids. Mankh the translator of Susruta, cured Haroun –al – Rashid of a fell disease and was made the head of the Royal Hospital. Long before Vasalius, osteology was studied. And a thousand years before Paracelsus there was research in mercury and iron. In the field of metallurgy remarkable technological competence, says Winter, was attained as early 4th and 5th C: in casting the pure copper casting at Sultanganj in Bihar and the welding of wrought iron shapes to complete the iron pillar near Delhi cannot fail to inspire the highest respect (A cultural history of India, p.158 ). In the words of Basham it is over 23’ high and consists of a single piece of iron, of a size and weight which could not have been produced by the best European iron founders until about one hundred years ago. The metallurgical skill of ancient India is further attested by the fact that this pillar, though it has weathered torrential rains of over 1500 monsoons, shows no signs of rusting. (The wonder that was India.p.220)

Arts and Literature

Ajanta is one of the most glorious monuments of India’s past (Ibid.p.371) and among the greatest surviving paintings of any ancient civilization (Ibid, p.354). Ellora is the most stupendous single work of art executed in India. Says Brown: Amaravathi medallions are the greatest works of Indian art. A feeling for animal from of Konarak is rare in world art (Ibid.p.371). The Chola bronze casters have not been excelled in the world (Ibid.p.375) The Heptatonic scale formulated by Europe in the 16th C was codified by India in the 5th C. The extraordinary variety of musical types is probably unparalleled in any other equivalent part of the world, writes Jairazbhoy (A Cultural History of India p. 212). In the science of acoustics, India made real discoveries based on experiment and the ear highly trained by the phonetic study necessary for the correct recitation of the Vedas learned to distinguish musical tones far closer than those of other early musical systems (The wonder that was India, p. 498). Amir Khusrau, a poet and musician at the court of Ala–ud –din Khilji, comments that the music of India was the finest in the world. It is not surprising if Rawlinson regretted: English people as a whole has been singularly blind to India’s contribution to world culture. It is impossible to belittle or ignore culture which gave the world a religious teacher such as Buddha, rulers like Asoka and Akbar, Kalidasa’s Sakuntala, the superb masterpieces of Sanchi and Borbudur the Ajanta frescoes, the South Indian bronzes, the Hindu temples of Orissa and Muslim mosques and palaces of Hindustan. (India: A short cultural history). Sister Nivedita wrote about Sankara: Western people can hardly imagine a personality such as that of Sankaracharya. We contemplate with wonder and delight the devotion of St. Francis of Assisi, the intellect of Abelard, the force and freedom of Martin Luther and the political efficiency of Ignatius Loyola but who could imagine all these united in one person (The Web of Indian Life)? Mrs. Annie Besant declared: After a study of some forty years and more of the great religion of the world I find none so perfect, none so scientific, none so philosophical and none so spiritual as the great religion known by the name of Hindusim. The more you know it, the more you will love it, the more you try to understand it the more deeply will you value it (Lecture at the presidency college, Madras- 1914). This sarva sukla saraswati perorated at the Central Hindu College Banaras: Without Hinduism India has no future: let Hinduism go and in that passing would be India’s grave. India would remain a subject for the antiquarian, the archaeologist, a corpse for dissection. Oppenheimer calls the GITA “the most beautiful philosophical song in any known language.” Critics like Eliot and C.S. Lewis consider it the greatest philosophical poem next to Dante’s Divina Commedia (I am inclined to agree more with Oppenheimer than with the literary critics having studied Dante and the Gita.) The catholicity of the Gita is seen in “Yepi anyadevatabhakta yajante sraddayanvitah tepi mameva kaunteya yajantyta vidhipurvakam. (Chap IX –Sl 23). Gandhiji is the resurrection and life of the Gita: “The Gita has been a mother to me ever since I became first acquainted with it in 1889 – Renunciation of fruit in no way means indifference to result. A true votary to the Gita does not know what disappointment is. Carlyle made a present of the Gita to Emerson and the little book inspired the Concord Movement. Arnold in a letter advises Clough to read the Gita. No other Indo-European language produced such a perfect grammar, Bloomfield remarks, as Panini’s Astadhyayi and Prof. Allen says that linguists can still learn from it. Monier Williams in The Indian Wisdom calls the Iliad and Odyssey rivulets compared with the mighty rivers of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. It is rightly said of the Mahabharata. Says Aurobindo: “one is reluctant to acknowledge any other poem as its superior: yavat sthasyanti girayah saritasca mahitale: as long as mountains stand and rivers flow, it will be on the lips of men.” The Ramayana tradition in Asia indicates its hold over pets from the Oxus to the Mekong. Lakshmana’s: naham janami keyure. is the highest idealism in the domestic sphere one can think of, and Edwin Arnold regards these two epics as the epitomes of India’s world view. Max Muller in a famous passage considers the study of Indian culture as a necessary corrective to the European thought based on the Greco-Roman and Semitic world-view. “If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered over the greatest problems of life and has found solutions of some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant - I should point to India.” Roman Rolland observes: “If there is one place on the face of the earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the earliest days when man began to dream of existence, it is India.”

MacDonnell remarks: “No other country except China can trace back its language and literature its religious and literature its religious beliefs and rites its dramatic and social customs through an uninterrupted development of more than 3000 years.” Schopenhauer thought: “That incomparable book stirs the spirit to the very depths of the soul. In the whole world there is no study except that of the originals so beneficial and so elevating as that of the Upanishat. It has been the solace of my life it will be the solace of my death.” Paul Drusen thought of the Vedanta “as the strongest support of pure morality, the greatest consolation in the sufferings of life and death.” The eminent jurist Palkhivala describes India as a donkey carrying a burden of gold not knowing the value of the burden; that is a very apt description of even cognoscenti in our country Late Prof. Brough pointed out that Sanskrit literary criticism was as well worth reading as Aristotle’s Poetics or Horace’s Ars Poetica and in many ways much more sensitive in its approach than either of these two works”. (The Sir George Birdwood Memorial Lecture) Chaucer’s The Nun’s Priest’s Tale is from Kukkuta Jaataka. Shakespeare’s story of the three caskets is in Saddharma Pundarika and the Jaatakaas are centuries older than the Gospels: Jaataka 190 supplies the story of walking on water. The story of Sindbad the Sailor is of Hindu origin. And Eliot’s The Waste Land ends on Datta, Damyata, Dayadhvam gospel from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Clement of Alexandria states roundly that the Greeks stole their philosophy from the Barbarians. He is the first Greek to mention the Buddha by name – the Buddha who gave to Christian Hagiology the story Barlaam and Josaphat. Barlaam is a corruption of Bhagwan and Josphat of Bodhisattva. Through the famed seaports of Bhrigukaccha and Supara, Champa and Tearalipti, Musiris and Karkai and Kaveripattinam slipped out rice, cotton, sugarcane, spices, domestic fowl, chess, the decimal system of notation (wrongly called the Arabic numerals) and not least the fables and the thought of the Upanishads. The similarities between the Essenes and Buddhism, the New Testament and Pali scriptures, the Upanishads and the mystics from Pythagoras to Plotinus at least prove that there was contact between India and the Hellenic world mediated first by the Achaemenid Empire, then by that of the Seleucids and finally under the Roman rule by the traders of the Indian Ocean. Language proves this. Hebrew kapi, Karpasos and peperi are form Sanskrit, Karpas and pippali; aux in medieval astronomy is form Sanskrit. Uccha; Sanskrit. Chakra and English wheel are form the same root (India in English fiction pp.4-5) Sanskrit. chaturang becomes Presian shatranj! The whole of S.E Asia is culturally a satellite of India. It is a fine example of acculturation. It is part of further greater India.

Alastair Lamb writes: “S.E. Asian concepts of kingship and authority, even in regions which are more dominated by Islam, owe much to ancient Indian Political theory. The Thai monarchy though following Hinayana Buddhism of the Sinhalese type still requires the presence of court Brahmins (who by now have become Thai in all but name) for the proper performance of its ceremonials”. (A cultural history of India, p.442) He says Islamic peasants continue to be entertained by stories from the Ramayana (Ibid., p.451) In China under the Sui dynastry Buddhism became a stabilizing force” India sent incense and fruit, flowers and spices. It sent music which has a vogue in the Tang capital and information about discoveries in astronomy. In the 8thC three Indian families had a monopoly as calculators for the official calendar. Gautama Siddhartha, Director of the Royal Observatory under Emperor Hsuan Tang, tried to introduce the zero and the table of sine functions (Ibid., p.458) [AM1]

Heliodors had a column raised in honor of Vishnu at Besnagar and Milind Panha is a testimony to the hold of India even on foreigners like Menander the greatest of the Indo-Baco train kings. The impact of Indian religion and thought in recent times is only too well known to be repeated: for instance, the Hare Krishna Movement and the transcendental meditation of Maharishi Yogi. Sophis Goldborne the heroine of Hartley House Calcutta, perhaps the earliest Anglo. Indian movie admires the Gentoo class structure and idolatry; she admires even sati which seems to have prevailed in ancient Greece; Evadne and Oenone burn themselves on the pyre of Capaneus and Paris. The Gentoos live the most inoffensively and happily of all created beings, their Pythogorean tenets teaching them from their earliest infancy the lesson of kindness and benevolence. She admires the Gentoo dance and song and the Brahmins with countenances such as Guido would have bestowed on a heavenly saint. Its impact on Muslims is seen in Sufism. The depth of impact made by Theistic Upanishadic concepts like aham brahmasmi or tat tvam asi is seen in Bayhazid Bistami, writes Rizvi, and pranayama became an integral and increasingly important part of belief. The Sufis accepted idolatry as another way of worshipping God. Some abstained from eating meat and preached ahimsa. They denounced bigotry and fanaticism. They admired Hathayogic practices. Rizvi writes: “They evolved a corporate system of their own, ideas and practices being borrowed form Christian and Buddhist monasticism and philosophy from neoplatonism and upanishadic concepts”. (Ibid.p.283)

How far-reaching the thought of India is seen in the following comment: According to Dr. Briggs Sanskrit grammarians have already found a way of solving what is perhaps the most important problem in computer science, natural language understanding and machine translation. (The Hindu p.7. 31-12-1985). Aryabhatta’s alogorithm called kuttaka meant to solve linear intermediate equations is found, according to Prof. Subhkshak of the Electrical and Computer Engineering faculty in Louisiana State University, to be extremely efficient computationally. (Ibid) Ancient Indian mathematicians were computer scientists without a computer.

Mrs. Fiorella Rossi Pasotti, wife of a Italian diplomat, is an unofficial crusader for Carnatic music. They are thrilled when the intricacies are explained because no other system has this wide variety of Tal patterns. “My task in spreading the glory of Carnatic music assumes more responsibility because I have to explain to the foreign audience the similarities and differences based on melody and harmony. Comparison is an onerous job. Even though all systems of music are ennobling, still the Carnatic classical style attracts me because it is a symbolic, its content being divinity.” The Hindu of 3.1. 86, p.10) Daphne Manners (in the British serial drama) Jewel in the Crown speaks of Indian music “as the only music I Know that sounds conscious of breaking silence, of going back into it when it is finished as if to prove that every man-made sound is an illusion.” The passing away of John Higgins deprived Carnatic music of one of its American votaries. An American exponent of Odissi dance form, Sharon Loewen, described the Indian dance forms as being much weightier than those of many other cultures. “They come out of spiritual consciousness and beautiful without being saccharin.” “I love India” she says, “it helped me grow. The Indian dance experience had made a tremendous spiritual impact on me.” (Span, Feb 1986, p. 39}

Perios of Culture

Of the four cradles of civilization China, India, the fertile Crescent and the Mediterranean-littoral, India deserves a large share of credit. She has deeply influenced the religious and cultural life of most of Asia and the whole of S.E. Asia and extended her influence to other parts of the world. The heritage of India is the heritage of the World. No land on land on earth has such a long cultural continuity as India and the Gayatri composed 3000 years ago is repeated daily by Brahmins. For the sake of clarity, it is better to note the periods and the signal achievements in each period. We should know what is India’s and what is not hers. For instance, chilli or lal mirchi or red pepper is not native to Inda; chilli itself is of Mexican origin and the Portuguese brought it form Pernambuce.

The periods are as follows:

  1. Harappa culture – Mother Goddess, sacred animals and trees,
  2. Vedic Aryans – hymns, rituals, patriarchal family system,
  3. 1000-600 B.C. later Vedic times: Quest of the Absolute, doctrine of transmigration, the four varnas, iron form Western Asia, domestication of the elephant.
  4. 300 years: coined money. Writing, the Buddha, expansion of civilization, new doctrines.
  5. 520-185 B.C: The Mauryan Empire, Kautilya’s state craft, stone sculpture, artificial caves stupas, spreads, Buddhism.
  6. 184 B.C – A.D.320 (500 years) Between the Mauryas and the Guprtas- most formative period Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharata and Ramayana, Mahayana Buddhism to China, devotion to Siva, to Vishnu, courtly literature, philosophical schools, S.E- . Asia
  7. 320-647: form the Guptas to Harsha : Classical period greatest sculpture and finest literature Kalidasa, Ajanta, decimal system of notation, mathematics and astronomy, Puranas, Mother Goddess, stone- built temples.
  8. 647-1200 : between Harsha and Islam : Bhakti from the south, temples with towers, hatha yoga, tantrism and sacramentalization of sex, Sankara and Ramanuja, bronze casting in Tamilnadu and Bengal, miniature painting.
  9. 1192-1526 Sultanate period : dome and arch in architecture, miniature painting, Sufism, devotional Hinduism, paper, Urdu language, regional languages,
  10. 1526-1707 : Mughal Empire : Tajmahal, cannon, European traders, new crops : Potato, tobacco, pine-apple, chilli , sikh religion,
  11. 18th C: Break-up of the Mughal Empire, East India Company, cultural decline, Urdu poetry painting,
  12. 19th C: Western influence, Sepoy Mutiny, Universities, in 1857, Indian Renaissance, Raja Rammohun Roy, the Arya Samaj, Theosophical Society, Gandhi National Congress 1885, Newspapers and vernaculars, changes in caste, family, status of widow, marriage of girls, impact of India on creative writers of Europe and America, Hatha Yoga and Zen Buddhism (A cultural history of India, pp. 2-4)

Brahamanical, image-worshipping, caste-ridden, misogynist?

Hindu culture is branded as Brahmanical and the Brahmin is vilified and Reformist Movement carried a jehad against caste, idol worship, Brahmins, Sanskrit, Vedism, etc. Varuna is replaced by Rama and Krishna, meat-eating by cow worship, monism by image worship, Rta by avatar concept, Acharya guru, sacrifices by bhakti, renunciation by service. The Hindu pandits of Banaras told Bernier, the French traveler: when we pray, it is not to the statue but to that deity. Images are admitted in our temples because we conceive that prayers are offered with more devotion when there is something before the eyes that fixes the mind (Travels in the Moghul empire, p. 342) Bagehot in the English Constitution points out that the monarchy has such a pull over the common man and hence its utility. To illustrate the pull of the image Swamy Atmanada Saraswati relates the story of the Italian saint: Giuseppe, levitating and talking to the Madonna’s Head. (Readings in cultural heritage, p. 76) The image is not the Brahman but a means to realize the Brahman. The fierce and systematic iconoclasm of Muslim rulers arises out of ignorance and perversity; they have not destroyed a Faith but a figure. Vilifying Hinduism as idol worship and destroying temples is just prejudice and bad taste. Mira’s Giridhar illustrates the Idol’s pull and power and Grace.

Take the Caste system against which ignorance and prejudice thunder day in and day out. Louis Dumont the author of Homo Hierarchical points out that human nature is hierarchical, that the caste system is in tune with this awareness, that homo equalis the plank of Western Society is a fraud and a cheat and chicanery. Every critic of the caste system should read this book to understand the rationale behind caste. The caste system is an intelligent organization of society with scope for the assimilation, as Nehru observes, of the conquered races instead of decimating them. The stratification at the lower strata might have damaged Hindu Society but there is nothing wrong in the system itself, though maligned. The classification is reflected in the Republic of Plato and Iranian social structure: arthava, rathestha, vastryafsyant and huiti; Plato mentions Guardians, Auxiliaries, and Craftsmen.

Sydney Low says: No doubt that chaturvarnya is the main cause of the fundamental stability and contentment by which Indian society has been braced up for centuries against the shocks of political and cataclysmal of nature (Vision of India). Stability of the system and the security it offered, writes K. M. Sen, provided a firm basis for operational efficiency (Hinduism, p.29) It provided, says Munshi, a social fabric of universal significance or application whereby new races were fitted into a living organization without destroying its stability and cultural standards. It utilizes the principle of hereditary transmission of specialized functions (Indian Inheritance, Vol. 2, p. 121) Caste need not be crucified for restrictions imposed by endogamy, craft-exclusiveness; they are hygienic and economic in outlook.

Marco Polo noted: They drink only out of flasks, each one from his own, for no one would drink out of another’s flask. (Travels, Penguin, p. 239) The caste system has not left the Indian Muslims untouched or unaffected. The Syed, the Sheik, the Pathan, the Malikm the Momin, the Mansoor, the Rayeen, the Qasab, the Raki, the Hajjam, the Dhobi and a host of other caste names may be mentioned to show the division among Muslims. Though inter-marriages are not prohibited among the muslim castes, in most cases they take place within the group to which both the parties belong. Large communities, converts to Islam, maintain many of the Hindu usages and customs. The Malkhana Rajputs still maintain many of the old Hindu rites. The sari is adopted by muslim women and muslim poets have not deigned to sing Hinduistic devotional songs (Indian Inheritance, Vol.2 , p. 138) The political vote has but accentuated the caste system or the philosophy of the Inner Ring. Varnashrama dharma is the keystone of the arch of Indian social scheme. It aimed at a permanent solution of every side of the social problem: genetic, psychological, spiritual and economic. It has won the appreciation of discerning Sociologists and students of history. It humanized society and spiritualized it. Its recognition of fundamental instincts to which man responds by his activity and its scheme for canalizing and transforming them to common purposes through the system of ashramas so as to raise the individual and the mass made for its success.

The rules of the varnadharma are described as fabrications of Brahmins to gain overlordship. The criticism loses sight of certain facts. The tendency for the formation of classes is natural and almost universal. Ascription of the system to brahmin ambition and selfishness loses sight of the fundamental features. The scheme of varnas lives, served and survived because it was based on a reasoned philosophy of existence, of rational perception of the strength of instincts and of the possibility of conserving them by heredity. Sudra disabilities are really advantages. A sudra to attain moksha need not study the Vedas; dana or charity saves him. He is not tainted by what he eats or drinks: he can become a king. He is not denied the sacrament of marriage. There is no apartheid for him. (Indian Inheritance, vol. 3, pp. 30.-33)

The faith, the devotion and the spirit of sacrifice underlying it are astounding (Ibid., p. 134). Kipling has a poem about the sati of the Bondi Queen. The custom was prevalent in ancient China and the kings of Ur - not only the wives but the beloved possessions of the hero were buried or cremated along with him.; by the by sati means a virtuous woman. It is ridiculous to say that sati was abolished; it is sahagamana or anumarana that was abolished. Some Hindu law-givers called it suicide and prohibited it.

Regarding the position of women, the dharma sastras are very broad-mined. Sakuntalarao Sastri writes: At the time when these laws were framed no country in the world produced better laws for womanhood nor gave a higher status to women in society (Ibid., p, 189) Manu lays down that the daughter of the house is the object of the highest tenderness. “Where women are honored, there the gods are pleased but where they are not honored no sacred rites yield rewards” (Manu Samhita III. 56-57) A wife is daivakrita sakha:

The wife is half the man
The best of friends
The root of the three ends of
And of all that will help him in The other  (The Mahabharata)


The idea is enshrined in Rama’s

Haropi narpitah kanthe sparsa samrodha bhiruna

or Bhavabhuti’s

sukha duhkhayoh anugunam sarvasu avastiasu yah.

“If woman is to be protected by the father, the husband and the sons in her childhood, youth and old age, the rule has a philosophical justification. As a woman is to perpetuate the race she has to be protected in every way from the sordid struggles of the world and should not be exposed to physical and economic strain” (Ibid., p. 41) Gandhiji’s advice to a bridegroom puts the girdle round this ancient wisdom about He & She relationship : “Remember that a woman was your mother before a woman became your wife”.

Caste did not erect barriers. Uddalaka Aruni directs five scholars to Aswapati, king of Kekaya for enlightenment. K. M. Sen points out the Hinduism is in fact a dharma, not a religion (Hinduism, p. 38) In the words of Radhakrishnan the theist and the atheist, the sceptic and the agnostic may all be Hindus if they accept the Hindu system of culture and life. What counts is conduct, not belief (The Hindu view of life, p. 77-78).


The words of Shri Rajagopalachari: “The fathers of Hindu religious thought approached their subject in a scientific spirit. They treated religion on the whole as a search for truth and not a matter for dogma. So from time immemorial although hypotheses were put forward, there was not intolerance of difference. Religion with us has always continued to be rather a science of the spirit than a body of dogma. Naturally therefore every variety of approach to the great mystery is permitted in Hindu religion and treated with respect. (Readings in the heritage of India, p. 56) With regard to worship and ritual, Hinduism is free and tolerant. Indian religion has always been, writes Bouquet, hospitable, absorbent and syncretistic. Hence within Hinduism as it exists there is almost an unbelievable tolerance of varieties of belief and practice (Chambers Cyclopedia, Hinduism, p. 98) The Gita is very clear on this point in Chap IV-Sl 11:

Ye yatha mam prapadyante tam stathaiva bhajamyaham mama vartmanu vartante manushyah partha sarvasah “However men approach me, even so do I accept them; for on all sides whatever path they may choose is mine, O Partha” This basic truth is embodied in Yekam satyam viprah bahudha vadanti


gavam aneka varnanam kshirasya yeka varnata


Janam bibhrati bahudha vivachasam nanadharamanamprithivi yathauukasam sahasram dhara dravinasya me duham

All modes of worship reach Brahman. It is the same fruit that is called angur by the Persian, inab by the Arab, uzum by the Turk, astafeel by the Greek. Just as the rain that falls from the sky reaches the ocean ultimately, all paths lead to Rome: Akasat patitam toyam yatha gacchati sagaram.

Rituals are bahya. Bacon points out this truth in his essay on unity in religion. As Baul Singer says: Does the fruit grow ripe and sweet by the painting of its skin? All colours, as Bacon puts it, agree in the dark. Dharmaraja tells the yaksha that bath is removing mental impurity, not mere physical cleanliness: manomalatyaa The panchmahayagnas include bhutayajna and naryajana, service to animals and guests and do not need fuel and fire. That shows how ritual is transcended.

The concept of yajna, writes A. C. Bose, was much widened by the adoption of the five systems of great yajnas. If the spirit is accepted, the material part of the yajna related to the fire fuel and oblation may be taken not only literally but also symbolically and figuratively. There will be yajna and scripture (The call of the Vedas, p. 62). Ashoka in the 12th Edict proclaimed: “he who does reverence to this own sect while disparaging the sects of others wholly from attachment to his own with intent to enhance the glory of his own sect in reality of such conduct inflicts the severest injury on his own sect. Concord therefore is meritorious, to wit, harkening and harkening willingly to the law of piety as accepted by other people”. Hinduism allows considerable non-conformism. Renunciation and service, monism and polytheism, advaita and bhakti dualism find a ‘Live and Let Live’ roost under the golden umbrella of Hinduism. True religious life should express itself in the love of man: na yete punanti manujam yatha bhuta hito ratih.

Shaw considers Hinduism the most tolerant of religions, Gautama Haridrumata accepted Satyakama Jabali, son of a servant maid as a disciple. Yudhisthira defines a Brahmin in terms of behavior and points out that birth does not confer Brahmin hood on one and one born of sudra parents need not be a sudra (The Mahabharata, Vanaparva) The proud brahmin Kausika is humbled by the religious butcher of Mithila (Ibid.)

Most of the Alwar saints were men of low caste and Andal is a woman of low caste. Lord Ranganatha himself ordered the Brahmin priest to bring Tiruppan, an untouchable inside the temple as he is a great bhakta. Bana had a sudra for his half-brother. Marco Polo’s observation implies that some Brahmins at least live up to the highest ideal: “I assure you these Brahmins are among the best traders in the world and the most reliable. They would not tell a lie for anything in the world and do not utter a word that is not true. They eat no meat and drink no wine. They live very virtuous lives according to their usage. They have no sexual intercourse except with their own wives. They take nothing that belongs to another. They would never kill a living creature or do any act they believe to be sinful. (Travels. pp. 250-251, Penguin). Kant says about the Hindus: “They are gentle that is why all nations are tolerated amongst them and that is why they are easily subdued by the Tartars. They are industrious and upright in their business and much more honest than the Chinese”. It is surprising to note that neither Hindu for India is a native world. Hindu is Persian for Sindhu replacing S by H and Indus is Greek for Hindu by eliminating the aspirate. Aryavarta is a native term and Aryayarta is wherever varnasramadharma prevails. The country and the people are as the body and the soul; the country is the Hindus greater self, daiva nirmitam.

Summing Up

The observations of three eminent persons round off this paper. Basham hints at the overlying vitality of Indian thought. C. E. M. Joad talks about the ultra modernity of Indian thought. Gandhiji takes his stand on Hinduism:

Basham : The sages who meditated in the jungles of the Ganges Valley 600 years or more before Christ are still forces in the world (The wonder that was India, p. 487)

Joad: So great and perpetually modern is the speculative thought of India that the latest novelettes of the 20th C turn up casually as it were and as matters taken for granted. The discovery cannot fail to sober let alone humiliate, the so-called progressivists of Western thought today (The story of Indian Civilization, p. 56)

Gandhi: Let all the cultures of the world be blown about our house but let us not be blown off our feet.

“It is sad that the descendents of Panini study Philology in academies of yesterday and the donors of the ancient world go about with an alms bowl. The wonder that was India can be a wonder still.” So the present writer regrets and hopes in his book India in English Fiction, p. 7 “Let tat tvam asi guide Kalpak am and India can be a wonder still! The Queen in her X-mas message in 1983 said wisely: “Electronics cannot create comradeship, computers cannot generate compassion, and satellites cannot transmit tolerance”. Only the culture of a country teaches the truth of : ko videsah suvidyanam ka parah priyadinam Wilson began the study of Sanskrit by stumbling across a translation of chaym na upasamaharati drumah

Indians are all half castes - Indians in blood and color but near to English in tastes and opinions. Hari Kumar should not become Harry Coomer. Sir Thomas Munro seems to have said: “I like the Indian climate and country much better than our own. I almost regret it is not my own country”. Kipling preferred Bombay sunshine and skies to London fog and filth. India’s ethical standards are pitched high as in:

bhadram karnebhih srunuyama devah


kevaladi kevalagho bhavati



smaraye tvam na sikshaye

“The highest common factor of the various legacies of India,” writes Basham, “is simply the message that here are values more important than material ones, that prosperity and political power are not the ultimate tests of a nation’s greatness or the greatness of an individual, that there are aims and purposes in man’s existence which override even the claims of society and the state.” (A Cultural history of India. P. 499)

The counter attack from the East is abundantly seen in Emerson or Huxley or Bain. Mallarme has a poetical version of Nala and Damayanti story. The Four Quartrets is in some parts Gita versified and the Raj Quartet is authored by Paul Scott. If I were asked, says Max Muller, what I considered the most important discovery of the 19th C with respect to the ancient history of mankind, I should answer by the following short line: Sanskrit. dyaus pitar –Greek Zeua pater-Latin, Jupiter – Old Norse Tyr.

We must note the reverse of the coin; Daniel Bornstein points out ideas are not fungible and culture is not national. All culture belongs to all people. So, Basham observes that it is an anachronism to talk about Hindu culture or European culture today. Acculturation or Symbiosis goes on continuously. The Heritage of India is the Heritage of the world. And aham brahmasmi is as much India’s as the world’s: the numerals of India are the numerals of the world. And ideas are iridescent: they mean several things to several people at several times and places.


More by :  Dr. Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B.

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