Archive for the ‘Indian Civilization’ Category

Less Known Temples of Kerala – 3: Thirunavaya, Trippadam, Hanuman Kshetram

The three temples  are near one another and can be comfortably covered within two hours.   (between kottakkal & kuttipuram on Mangalore  – Cochin rd ‘ 19 km from kadampuza ).

Ed visited these temples in June 2011.

PS: Roads in Kerala have innumerable turns , bends , forks, and junctions. Of course there are no sign boards where you need them. However people are helpful enough.

Thirunavaya : Nava Mukunda

Vishnu Kshetram on the banks of Bharatha Puza.

It is approximately 19 Km from Kadampuza. On the bank of the river steps have been built and maintained for convienence of pilgrims. Pitru Karma and kria ceremonies are conducted here, and many who are unable to go to Kashi or Gaya come here. You will also see many ladies performing ‘ tarpanam’, an unusual site, as normally it is the men folk who perform these ceremonies.

Navamunkuda Temple, believed to be constructed by Nava yogis on the right bank of Bharathapuzha, is an important Vishnu temple of Kerala. Pitru Tharpanam is a ritual, held here on the day of Amavasi in Karkidaka (July).  Balikarma is offered by people in their wet clothes, after a dip in the river, for the salvation of sins and to appease the manes.

There is a seperate sanctum for Lakshmi. The story goes; when Adi Sankara visited this spot he found that people of the area were arrogant on account of the vast wealth they possessed.  He saw that the reason was living in the vicinity of the idol of Laksmi whose right hand with an open palm facing downwards was below the hip  level. This ensured that any one who prayed to her was showered with wealth, deserving or not. So Adi Sankara prayed to the mother goddess to revert to her normal abhaya hasta, which she did. This ensured that undeserving persons did not get wealth.

Across the Bharatha puza is a temple for Brahma. However there are no boats or bridge to cross over for a darshan of Brahma.

Trippadam ;

Trikanangode ; Siva Ksehtram; Markandeya Moksha Sthalam

Markandeya was destined to live for only 16 years. When he found his parents sad and unhappy on the last day of life on earth he went to Trikanangode , the abode of Paramasivan, for help. He was chased by Yama dhootas and fled towards the shrine. The AAL in front of the temple split and gave way and allowed him to pass.

Markandeya entered the temple premises and in to the sanctum sanctorum and embraced the the Linga and prayed. The Yama dhootas could not enter the area and went to complain to Yama who himself came on the scene and summoned the young lad to come out.  When Markandeya refused Yama who by then had grown angry and frustrated bloated as he was with the power he wielded over all beings, threw the the pasak kayaru at the boy. The noose wrapped around the boy and the the Linga. When Yama pulled the pasam the Siva Linga was displaced and out came Lord Siva himself , angered by the the action of yama who had dared to take away the life of his bhakta.

It is said he covered the distance to Yama in three steps, and slew him with his trisulam. Then he went to the temple pond and washed away the stains . There is a temple at the original site and the three small temples depicting the three steps taken by Siva, near the present  main temple.

The main pujas in this temple are : Japa of Mritunjaya Mantram’, Uma Maheswara Puja ‘& Maha Rudra Yagna

Rama Temple at Althiyoor

(12 Km from Tirur)

It is a temple for Rama but over a period of time Hanuman has gained  pradhanam. There is a separate enclosure for Lakshmana.

Here one will find a strange looking Hanuman idol, with hands folded and head tilted as if listening carefully. The sthala puranam Rama spoke to Hanuman personally and in confidence and gave him some special signs by which he could identify himself to Sita  as the special dhoota of Rama. He related to Hanuman incidents not known even to Lakshmana, who was standing at a distance. Hanuman with folded hands is listening carefully to Rama. The sight of Hanuman with folded hands and attentive demeanour cannot but bring tears in to ones eyes.


Kashmiri Pandits celebrate Kheer Bhawani festival



TULMULLA (JAMMU AND KASHMIR): As thousands of migrant Kashmiri Pandits arrived to pay obeisance at the Mata Kheer Bhawani Temple here, there were emotional scenes as the pilgrims were reunited with their Muslim neighbours, prompting Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to call it the real “Kashmiriyat” which needed to be restored.

The local Muslims offered cold drinks and water to the devotees who arrived from different parts of country that they migrated to in 1990.

“We are happy to see them [Kashmiri Pandits] as we had no chance to live with them like our parents or grandparents,” said 21-year-old Khurshid Ahmad, who was among those offering drinks to them. “We are proud of this cultural ethos but unfortunately the link was broken due to militancy,” he said, adding: “Kashmir is incomplete without them.”

This was for the first time that nearly 50,000 devotees flooded the temple at Tulmulla in Ganderbal.

The Pandits met not only their Muslim neighbours but also their co-religionists after a gap of 20 years.

Sushma and Bimla, who were neighbours in South Kashmir’s Tral area, had one such reunion. They now live in different places as migrants.

“I am here after a gap of 19 years. We migrated in 1991,” said Bushan Lal, originally from Anantnag and now settled in Delhi.

“I prayed for the smooth return of Kashmiri Pandits to their homeland. I hope the Goddess will fulfil my prayer,” he said.

There are many like Mr. Lal who long to return to their homes, but some are sceptical. “I do not think it is possible for all to return,” said Shamboo Nath, adding that it was not possible to settle in clusters and without mingling with Muslims. “It is better to be where we are if we have to live separately here.”

Some blamed the then government for the exodus.

“The government at that time did not play positive role; so did the successive ones. Our plight would not have been so bad,” said another Pandit migrant.

“I was half of my age when I visited this temple last. At this juncture, I feel I am 20. I feel I am reborn.”

The arrival of Mr. Abdullah and his wife Payal added more colour to the occasion. “I am so happy to see you here. This is what is called the real ‘Kashmiriyat,’” the Chief Minister said addressing the devotees inside the temple.

Speaking to journalists later, Mr. Abdullah blamed vested interests for damaging “Kashmiriyat” and appealed to the Pandits to play a positive role in restoring it.

“Some vested interests were always on a mission to damage the ‘Kashmiriyat.’ This created a vacuum which needs to be filled, for which the Kashmiri Pandits need to play a positive role,” he said.

“A multi-pronged strategy is in place to facilitate the smooth return of Pandits settled outside the valley. They left because their security was snatched. They started feeling insecure. Now we are trying to restore the sense of security to the Kashmiri Pandits,” he added.

On the rehabilitation process, Mr. Abdullah said: “We are also thinking about their economic rehabilitation. Recently, 2,000 posts were filled under the Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Plan. More posts are being created.”


There’s a full moon over India and Gandhi lives again…



There has been a lot of discussion in the media about Gandhian methods and their efficacy. There have also been references to Gandhiji’s fads and quirks — especially his ideas about sex and continence.

I was attending a workshop in Kuala Lumpur. It was ostensibly about how to run a business and earn more money. The programme was interspersed with music and short experiential exercises. At one such session, the trainer played the famous American singer John Denver’s song ‘It’s About Time’, which began with the lines “There’s a full moon over India and Gandhi lives again/ Who’s to say you have to lose for someone else to win?”

The inspiration behind this song was Denver’s visit to India in the 1980s to pay respects to his spiritual guru Swami Muktananda as also his chance encounter with the members of the film fraternity who were on board and were going to Delhi to launch the film ‘Gandhi’. As the plane neared Delhi, Denver looked out of the window and saw the full moon in its pristine glory shining over India. The song writer in Denver was overwhelmed that nature conspired to make him empathise with the humanity at large through the prodding of a great soul, Gandhiji.

The powerful words of the song, coupled with Denver’s mellifluous singing, cast a spell on the participants who had gathered from different corners of the world. Joining hands and forming a circle of 500-plus, they sang in unison — “Who’s to say you have to lose for someone else to win?”

Gandhiji taught us this truth in so many ways. He was the master of non-violent communication that led to win-win situations. He was against class war because it had the seeds of violence in it and the potential for hate on the part of those who lose. He suggested that the rich act as trustees of their wealth and see to it that the last man gets a decent life before enjoying what they have in excess. Though a lawyer, he did not support litigation. Rather, he promoted out-of-court amicable settlements. He propagated ‘heart unity’ to solve the communal question.

The communal divide was sought to be closed by understanding each other’s religion better and accommodating one another. The crux of his campaign against untouchability was directed towards the heart of those who practised the evil because even if one is convinced that one is doing the wrong, it takes a long time to emotionally accept that and change one’s behaviour.

Gandhiji ruled out violence because it denigrated the practitioner; it was irreversible and, therefore, not to be practised by fallible human beings; because once practised, its threshold would increase with every successive attempt; also, it overlooked the fact that every human being is capable of love. Besides, violence did not lead to the resolution of conflicts because it always led to a win-lose situation — “For the first is just the last one when you play a deadly game. It is about time we find out it is all of us or none” (Denver).

He tellingly conveys Gandhiji’s thoughts when he croons —“There’s a man who is my brother, I just don’t know his name/ But I know his home and family because we know we feel the same/ And it hurts me when he is hungry and when his children cry/ I too am a father, and the little one is mine.” When Gandhiji felt sad over the London bombings during the Second World War he was echoing these very sentiments. It is ‘about time’ we recognised the truth of Gandhiji’s words and act on them.


Myth of separation between Indus Valley and Vedic Civilization

Professor K.P.N. Rao and his associates assert, on the basis of their recently published computer studies on the Indus script, that this script has statistical regularities which are in line with other natural languages. Thus, the various signs of the Indus script cannot be explained away as only symbols of different sorts. The latter opinion was expressed by an American group sometime back and apparently taken seriously enough by Rao and his colleagues to undertake their own analysis. That the Indus script represents a language is amply shown by the way its signs were found scratched from the right to the left on an inscribed potsherd from Kalibangan and the way in which the signs were arranged on the seals of Mohenjodaro. Further, the rarity with which many of these signs occur is almost a certain indication of the fact that much of the textual corpus of the Indus civilisation was written, on the analogy of the Indian tradition which continued down to the end of the nineteenth century, on perishable materials like palm and birch leaves.

The basic problem, however, lies elsewhere. There is a conscious attempt in certain quarters to disassociate this civilisation from the later mainstream tradition of Indian/ Vedic culture. Historically, the beginning of this attempt can be traced to the period around India’s Independence when Mortimer Wheeler proposed that the impetus for this civilisation came from Mesopotamia. Earlier, when India was a jewel in the British crown, there was no compulsion to depict it as an offshoot of Mesopotamian or other contemporary civilisations. The early excavators had no problem hypothesising that this civilisation was deeply rooted in the Indian soil and that many of its features could be explained with reference to the later Indian civilisation.

The current attempts to disassociate the Indus civilisation from the mainstream Indian tradition has assumed many forms. The term ‘Indus valley civilisation’, which is being increasingly common, suggests that this civilisation was primarily a product of the Indus valley alone, which is far from being the case. The civilisation is also bandied about as the product of what is dubiously dubbed as the ‘middle Asian interaction sphere’ and not as a product of a vast region of the sub-continent. Its chronology has been needlessly shortened, suppressing a long and continuous developmental span of about 2500 years in the modern Indian section of its distribution area. The civilisation is also visualised at the end of a straight arrow-line of wheat-barley-based development beginning in Baluchistan at c.7000 BC, completely ignoring the contribution which came from the east — from the early farming and metallurgical developments in the Aravallis or from the rice-cultivating tradition that began in the Ganga plain and its Vindhyan periphery in the seventh millennium BC. The famous Sramana image from Mohenjodaro, which shows the bust of a shawl-wearing man with a meditative expression, is now advocated as belonging to an artistic tradition of north Afghanistan and beyond. Notorious Hindu-baiters are aghast at the thought that anything related to Hinduism could occur in that civilisation, whereas the first excavators’ frame of reference for the study of the religion of this civilisation was Hinduism. That Siva was worshipped in this civilisation is proved not merely by the phallus-shaped stone objects found at Mohenjodaro and Dholavira but also by the find of an indisputedly Sivalinga set in a Yonipatta at Kalibangan. If anybody is interested, Bhang and Dhatura , both favourites with a class of Siva-worshippers, occur in the Indus civilisation.

The battle raging these days is whether there can be a relation between the life depicted in the Vedic literature and this civilisation. Without trying to pull down this debate to the all-too-common Indian level of ‘progress versus reaction’ syndrome which implies that that any talk in favour of Veda-Indus civilization relationship is a ‘right reactionary’ proposition ( a la Irfan Habib), we note that scholars of the stature of M.S.Vats, R.P.Chanda, B.N.Datta and P.V.Kane had no difficulty in arguing for a relationship between the two.

The opinions which we have noted above and which try to disassociate the Indus civilisation from the mainstream Indian tradition are endemic in modern First World archaeological literature on the subject and its followers in India. First World Archaeology, as my long familiarity with it tells me, suffers from a sense of inordinate superiority in relation to the archaeologists of the Third World. By allowing it to enjoy a free run in the country as the present archaeological policy of the government does and by allowing it to set up ‘Indus Centres’ in Vadodara or Pune, grievous damage is being caused to national archaeological scholarship in India.

The writer is emeritus professor of South Asian archaeology, Cambridge University.


Aryan-Dravidian divide a myth: Study

HYDERABAD: The great Indian divide along north-south lines now stands blurred. A pathbreaking study by ancestral Indian populations says there is a genetic relationship between all Indians and more importantly, the hitherto believed “fact” that Aryans and Dravidians signify the ancestry of north and south Indians might after all, be a myth.

“This paper rewrites history… there is no north-south divide,” Lalji Singh, former director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and a co-author of the study, said at a press conference here on Thursday.

Senior CCMB scientist Kumarasamy Thangarajan said there was no truth to the Aryan-Dravidian theory as they came hundreds or thousands of years after the ancestral north and south Indians had settled in India.

The study analysed 500,000 genetic markers across the genomes of 132 individuals from 25 diverse groups from 13 states. All the individuals were from six-language families and traditionally “upper” and “lower” castes and tribal groups. “The genetics proves that castes grew directly out of tribe-like organizations during the formation of the Indian society,” the study said. Thangarajan noted that it was impossible to distinguish between castes and tribes since their genetics proved they were not systematically different.

The study was conducted by CCMB scientists in collaboration with researchers at Harvard Medical School,
Harvard School of Public Health and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. It reveals that the present-day Indian population is a mix of ancient north and south bearing the genomic contributions from two distinct ancestral populations – the Ancestral North Indian (ANI) and the Ancestral South Indian (ASI).

“The initial settlement took place 65,000 years ago in the Andamans and in ancient south India around the same time, which led to population growth in this part,” said Thangarajan. He added, “At a later stage, 40,000 years ago, the ancient north Indians emerged which in turn led to rise in numbers here. But at some point of time, the ancient north and the ancient south mixed, giving birth to a different set of population. And that is the population which exists now and there is a genetic relationship between the population within India.”

The study also helps understand why the incidence of genetic diseases among Indians is different from the rest of the world. Singh said that 70% of Indians were burdened with genetic disorders and the study could help answer why certain conditions restricted themselves to one population. For instance, breast cancer among Parsi women, motor neuron diseases among residents of Tirupati and Chittoor, or sickle cell anaemia among certain tribes in central India and the North-East can now be understood better, said researchers.

The researchers, who are now keen on exploring whether Eurasians descended from ANI, find in their study that ANIs are related to western Eurasians, while the ASIs do not share any similarity with any other population across the world. However, researchers said there was no scientific proof of whether Indians went to Europe first or the other way round.

Migratory route of Africans

Between 135,000 and 75,000 years ago, the East-African droughts shrunk the water volume of the lake Malawi by at least 95%, causing migration out of Africa. Which route did they take? Researchers say their study of the tribes of Andaman and Nicobar islands using complete mitochondrial DNA sequences and its comparison those of world populations has led to the theory of a “southern coastal route” of migration from East Africa through India.

This finding is against the prevailing view of a northern route of migration via Middle East, Europe, south-east Asia, Australia and then to India.