Medical ethics, erroneously believed to be a part of western philosophy and medical training, has always been an inseparable part of medical education in ancient India and inspirational legacy of ancient physicians. Ancient India’s contributions to ethics and surgical training are remarkable – and, almost 3000 years later, continue to have great relevance, given current concerns about the erosion of value systems of medical practice. Adoption of allopathic drugs and western system of medical education in India during the colonial period has resulted in Indian physicians forgetting the ethical and moral principles outlined by Ayurvedic texts and has made them more familiar, instead, with the Hippocratic Oath. In this era of enormous technical advances and innovative therapies, the influence and power of crass materialism and rampant commercialization grows ominously.
In ancient India, medical ethics was an important feature of the curriculum, duly emphasized by teachers. Ayurveda calls upon the physician to treat the patient as a whole: ‘Dividho jayate vyadih, Sariro manasasthatha, Parasparanz tavorjanma, Nirdvadvam nopalahhyate.’ (Diseases occur both physically and mentally, and though each might be dominant, they cannot be compartmentalized). The ideal virtuous, compassionate and dutiful doctor is described with great care in the samhithas.
The fundamental basis of ethics arises from the Hindu belief that we are all part of the divine Atman; and we have in each of us, a part of that Paramatman.
According to the Vedas, the call to love your neighbor as yourself is ‘because thy neighbor is in truth thy very self and what separates you from him is mere illusion (maya).’ – reiterating the concept that every form of life is interconnected, and every living being has within it, a piece of the divine. Jainism and Buddhism, derived from the principles of Hinduism, proclaim ‘Ahimsa’ or non violence, as the Paramo Dharma or the ultimate dharma. Patanjali, author of the yoga sutra, defined ahimsa as Sarvatha sarvada sarvabutananz anabhidroha, a complete absence of ill-will to all beings.
Charaka (likely 400-200BC) the protégé of Atreya, represented the school of physicians. The Charaka Samhita prescribes an elaborate code of conduct with humanistic ideals, emphasised by his statement: ‘No other gift is better than the gift of life’.
He clearly outlined four ethical principles of a doctor: ‘Friendship, sympathy towards the sick, interest in cases according to one’s capabilities and no attachment with the patient after his recovery’. “Those who trade their medical skills for personal livelihood can be considered as collecting a pile of dust, leaving aside the heap of real gold’.
His advice to physicians: He who practices not for money but regards bhuta daya (compassion of all living beings) as the highest religion fulfils his mission (sidhartah) and obtains supreme happiness.
Susrutha (~900-500 BC) taught surgery at the University of Benaras, on the banks of the river Ganges. An accomplished surgeon, philosopher and teacher, and his compilation the Susruta Samhita is a monumental treatise of seminal value, establishing him as the brightest jewel in the history of surgery in the ancient and medieval period.
Allen O Whipple commented in 1963 that, ‘All in all, Susruta must be considered the greatest surgeon of the medieval period’. K K Bhishagratna, the highly respected authority on the life and works of Susruta, wrote: ‘To Susruta may be attributed the glory of elevating the art of handling a lancet or forceps to the status of a practical science’.
Susrutha Samhita: ‘Thou shalt clip thy nails and hair close, observe cleanliness . . . and dedicate thyself to the observance of truth, celibacy and the salutation of elders… ‘
‘The preceptor, the poor, the friendly, the travellers, the lowly, the good and the destitute – those thou shalt treat when they come to thee like thy own kith and kin and relieve their ailments…’
Coming to the quite modern yet relevant concept of Euthanasia, our ancestors had this to say:
Charaka championed “good death” and Jain philosophy (Bhagavati-Aradhana) has long permitted the embrace ritual death under the following conditions:
-when one suffers from an incurable disease,
-when one encounters severe famine,
-when one encounters conditions that make the maintenance of one’s spiritual life impossible.
Further Reading: Excerpts from a book called Biomedical Ethics by Olinda Trimm (chapter 1: Introduction to Medical Ethics)
I unearthed this during the #Article370 withdrawal but forgot to write about it. This is from the official FBI archives, detailing the case of a man in 2011, Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, a 62 year old U.S. citizen and resident of Fairfax, Va., who plead guilty to conspiracy and tax violations in connection with a decades-long scheme to conceal the transfer of at least $3.5 million from the government of Pakistan to fund his lobbying efforts in America related to Kashmir. Fai’s alleged accomplice, Zaheer Ahmad, is a prominent Pakistani-American who owns hospitals in Pakistan, and has alleged ties to Osama Bin Laden. Justice departmentsaid that Pakistan’s scheme was to pay more than $4 million funneled from ISI to sway U.S. politicians and policy on Kashmir.
Fai mingled with America’s top politicians, and met former President Bill Clinton and drew 32 members of Congress to his annual conference on Kashmir. Fai grew up outside Srinagar listening to Pakistani speeches on the radio. “By 1965, India and Pakistan were again at war over Kashmir, and Fai recalled watching his family slaughter sheep and chickens then taking food and clothes to Pakistani soldiers hiding in the forest.” Fai joined the Jamaat-e-Islami, a Islamic militant group, while in college. He chanced opon an Islamic cleric that worked at the ka’aba, and invited him to a conference being held by the JeI. Fai and the imam of Kaaba played a pivotal role in introducing the strict Saudi version of Islam to Kashmir, which traditionally had been less orthodox. He fled to US to escape being arrested for treason in India and joined Islamic studies at Temple university, where the International Institute of Islamic Thought was founded (which later came under investigation in a federal probe into terrorism funding)
At Temple, he joined the ISI, became president of the Muslim students association of US&Canada (Saudi funded division of Muslim brotherhood), and Islamic society of North America. “in 1989 the ISI picked Fai to run the Kashmiri American Council because he had no overt ties to Pakistan. Similar groups were set up in London and Brussels, the FBI said. Incorporation documents filed in Maryland in April 1990 show Fai was one of three people who established the Kashmir center” and over the next 20 years, became the face of the Kashmir separatist cause in the US.
“In 1993, Fai wrote President Clinton about the suffering of Kashmiris, winning news coverage when Clinton wrote back. In 1996, Fai met Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole at the Republican National Convention. In 2000, he met Clinton in Chicago, just before Clinton visited India. In 2004, Fai testified in front of Burton’s subcommittee hearing on human-rights abuses in Kashmir. Each year, starting in 2003, Fai co-hosted a Kashmir peace conference, usually on Capitol Hill. The 2007 conference drew Pitts, a dozen other members of Congress and Pakistani dignitaries, as well as a handful of Indian and Indian-American human-rights activists and scholars.” Fai admitted that he had been affiliated with the ISI for 15 years.
Fai was released from prison in 2013. He continues to be Pakistan’s face for anti-India propaganda on Kashmir in the United States (except now out in the open). Pakistan PM Imran Khan also met a delegation of Kashmiri leaders led by Ghulam Nabi Fai in the US. The meeting was held at Roosevelt Hotel, New York with Pakistan’s FM Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to UN Maleeha Lodhi also attending the meet.
Putting all this into perspective gives us all an understanding of the sort of powerful nexuses that exist internationally to act against Indian interest. Media propaganda is a well-oiled machine, fueled heavily by Saudi and Qatari wealth, is perpetually acting against Indian interests. I presume its all part of the muslim brotherhood, or ummah’s incessant and persistent effort to pit India’s sizable muslim population against their own country, and cause disunity and havoc in India. Why else is cross border terrorism from Pakistan funded by them? We don’t realize it while safe in our homes everyday, but India has a substantial security threat from Pakistan and Bangladesh, and more recently from extremists in Kerala, Kashmir, and Tamil Nadu. Constant vigilance! (Harry Potter reference, iykyk)
Indian “journalists” and “human rights activists” attended Fai’s Kashmir separatist meetings for years. He would sponsor flight tickets and expensive hotels and they would go back and write about this rabid Pakistani agenda in Indian media as if it were “humanitarian” of them.
One of the Indians mentioned was Angana P. Chatterji, a “human rights activist” and “feminist historian” (whatever that means). She wrote a book titled ‘Kashmir: The case for freedom’. Sometimes I wonder how greedy and immoral someone has to be to push so vehemently, Islamic agenda in our great country that never hurt a fly. But I realize, not that much. People such as these are aplenty, and can be bought for 500 rupees and a victim card.
We know the pseudo-intellectual left is in a habit of routinely writing open letters, in their cheap attempts at grabbing international attention from the white man, and playing anarchist. A romanticization of political dissent, a Che Guevara, if you will, riding through the dusty country on a motorbike wearing a leather jacket. Anarchy is the new black. Anti-authoritarianism is the new cool. This would all be a legitimate, even commendable effort, if there was actually something even remotely authoritarian, or fascist, as the kids call it, about the Indian government.
Now, I’m in favour of absolute free speech, because, in an ideal world, opinions of habitual propagandists aren’t given a second thought, and the truth always prevails. But it isn’t an ideal world, people are mostly idiots than not, and propaganda is both easy to write, believe, and spread.
What I do take issue with, however, is why issues are cherry-picked for open letters to be written. Liberals claim to stand for equality and freedom of expression, and have developed an obnoxious sense of self-importance by believing themselves to be the white knights in shining armour to those that are “helpless and voiceless”.
The understand the deep desire to both manufacture propoganda. Not only is it instant gratification, but is also a golden ticket to media fame. What more could one ask for, when you can write ‘activist’ and ‘be the change you want to see in the world’ in your bio? When you have a chance to sit in the streets instead of attend classes? It’s a lovely and way way of appearing more intelligent than you are – using political activism as a substitute for personality and achievements.
Case in point: India’s very own aerobics instructor aunty, the gray haired old hag, cousin of criminal Prannoy Roy (of NDTV), Ms. Arundhati Roy.
Each open letter she’s written is more comical than the last. I assume she’s under the impression that flowery words ascertain the validity of claims made.
In the letter written by her to Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam, in 2018, she said, and I quote: “Your Prime Minister, who claims to be a secular democrat, has announced that she will build 500 mosques with the billion dollars the Government of Saudi Arabia has donated to Bangladesh. These mosques are supposedly meant to disseminate the “correct” kind of Islam. Here in India, our rulers have dropped all pretense of the secularism and socialism that are enshrined in our constitution. In order to distract attention from the catastrophic failures of governance and deepening popular resentment, as institution after institution—our courts, universities, banks, intelligence agencies—is pushed into crisis, the ruling power, (not the Government, but its holding company, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh,) is alternately cajoling and threatening the Supreme Court to pass an order clearing the decks for the construction of a giant Hindu temple on the site where the Babri Masjid once stood before it was demolished by a rampaging mob. It’s amazing how politicians’ piety peaks and troughs with election cycles.”
She hilariously doesn’t want the Bangladeshi government to promote Islam by building mosques in Bangladesh, AN ISLAMIC STATE according to their own constitution.
Roy, instead of focusing on the real issue of autocracy in Bangladesh, who jailed Alam for speaking of “The looting of banks, the gagging of the media …. the extra-judicial killings, the disappearances, the need to give protection money at all levels, bribery at all levels, corruption in education. It is a never ending list”, takes the opportunity to lash out at the RSS and her opposition to the building of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, quite predictably! Rest assured, Ms. Roy: Shahidul Alam COULD NOT care less about Ayodhya. Also: MANDIR WAHIN BANAYENGE, Jai Sree Ram.
Another gem of an open letter Roy has written to Penguin publishing, accusing them of being “terrified” and “succumbing to the fascists” for retracting the “scholar” Wendy Donniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History, which contained gems of literature such as:
Mangal Pandey was an opuim addict, Jhansi Lakshmi Bai was loyal to the British, Swami Vivekanada and Gandhi asked to have beef for dinner, and various instances of erotic sexualization of Hindu Gods.
The letter was an effort to defame Hindus for being intolerant, but the reality was the in the case against Penguin, the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samithi merely asked for corrections/deletions be made by penguin in the book, and did not ask for a ban. Dildo-hoarder Wendy Doniger was summoned but did not show up in court.
Roy asks, “Must we now write only pro-Hindutva books?”, but I ask: “Must we only write pro-Islamic books”?
Why doesn’t she write letters empathizing with Salman Rushdie, seeing as Satanic Verses is banned? Is it because she’s terrified of a fatwa being issued against her also, that will result in her having to flee the country?
Why didn’t she write a letter for all the other books banned in India? The forefathers of banning books in India were the British, that viciously went after any books criticizing their savage treatment of India and its people, and later, those that were pro-independence. Jadoogarlal Nehru the British boot licker continued the tradition with great gusto.
Even a work of fiction, Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code was banned in 2006 by the Manmohan Singh government for hurting sentiments of the church (the Cardinal begged people not to read it, and the Vatican hilariously appointed a “debunker” – a Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Archbishop of Genoa and a possible successor to the Pope, to rebut what the Catholic church calls the “shameful and unfounded errors” contained within The Da Vinci Code), which is, I repeat, a harmless WORK OF FICTION. Isn’t Manmohan the mouse, the intellectual of intellectuals? Isn’t he the torchbearer of democracy, the last time that the government wasn’t hitler-esque?
What about Hindu Heaven by Max Wyli, which was banned because it questioned the work of American missionaries in India? This books should be widely circulated and translated into local languages, in my humble opinion, not banned.
What about Understanding Islam through Hadis by Ram Swarup (which I have a copy of, DM if you’re interested in reading it), and Islam: A Concept of Political World Invasion RV Bhasin and countless others that are academic works merely providing a commentary and analysis of Islam without factual inaccuracies, unlike the work of Ms. Doniger?
“Salutaions to the Sun God, who destroys everything that was and creates them all again and whom, by his rays, consumes the waters, heats them up (into water vapor) and brings them down again as rain.”
Naturally I went looking for Vedic references to the hydrological cycle and came across this book which is a veritable gold mine.
The Ṛg Veda, Atharva Veda, Linga Purana, Matsya Purana, Mahabharata, Kishkinda Kanda of Ramayana etc all contain scientific explanations and elaborate descriptions of the water cycle. For example, here is what the Vayu purana has to say:
“the water evaporated by sun ascends to atmosphere through the capillarity of air, and there gets cooled and condensed. After formation of clouds it rains by the force of air. Thus, water is not lost in all these processes but gets converted from one form to other continuously”.
Similar descriptions of surface and ground water, hot and cold springs, origins of perennial vs seasonal rivers, weather phenomena etc. are all described, and Varahamihira’s Vraht Samhita (550 AD) has three chapters devoted to Hydrometeorology.
It is not news that scientific discovery is highjacked by the west. But despite all the ancient evidence stacked against them, guess who is credited?
Frenchman Bernard Palissy is often credited as the “discoverer” of the modern theory of the water cycle, and the “pioneer” of hydrology: wrote: Discours admirables, de la nature des eaux et fontaines, tant naturelles qu’artificielles, des metaux, des sels et salines, des pierres, des terres, du feu et des maux (Paris, 1580) or “Admirable speeches on the nature of water and fountains, both natural and artificial, of metals, salts and salines, stones, earth, fire and evils”.
Prior to him, Aristotle (384-300BC) is known to have speculated the nature of the water cycle but struggled with explaining how rivers flowed in the absence of rainfall. His predecessors, Anaxagoras and Plato both maintained that the source was fluvial water was a giant cavern within the earth, but Aristotle was the first to reject this notion.
Palissy was also one of the first Europeans who maintained that fossils were once living organisms, and contested the prevailing view that they had been produced by the biblical flood /astrological influence. (here I must mention that Padma Purana, Skanda Purana, Garuda Purana etc. all state that Salagrama stones, which are Ammonoid or mollusc fossils of the Devonian–Cretaceous period from 400-66 million years ago, are to be worshipped as Lord Vishnu himself, each representing an avatar of Vishnu).
Palissy was a Protestant, imprisoned for his beliefs and sentenced to death. He died in a Bastille dungeon during the French Wars of Religion which was a prolonged period of war between the Catholics and Protestants/Calvinists.
Lastly, Newton in 1666 is credited with proving the composite nature of white light but the Rig Veda (II, 12.12), at least 3000 years prior (a conservative estimate) describes sun light containing seven colors of rays.
Scientific, mathematical and medical achievements that far surpass contemporary western thought, contained in ancient Indian texts have never been exalted to the position they deserve. The profundity and accuracy of scientific facts stated in the vedas, upanishads, books on mathematics, etc is unparalleled and certainly eons ahead of the west, which only saw progress after separation of church from science in the 1600s.
Devdutt Pattanaik’s ‘My Gita’ is just that. It is a childish, error-riddled version of The Gita and can never serve as anyone else’s guide to the actual sacred book, but remains solely his own invention.
To start, a disclaimer: I did not read the whole book. I have however, read quite a few parts of it, and I can assure you, every page I read was positively awash with mistakes, many that even a lay person can point out. I categorically refuse to read any more, and give this lunatic anymore of my time. That being said, Devdutt’s erroneous Sanskrit translations and blasphemous word-splitting has been detailed by Nityanad Misra, who called out his factual, translation, and language errors in three detailed facebook posts, and a youtube video with Rajiv Malhotra, which I will link below. Rajiv Malhotra ji “demolished” Devdutt, and openly invited him for a debate on any platform, but of course, the offer is yet to be accepted by the coward. Devdutt also regularly engages in Brahmin-bashing, hatred, and insulting people’s mothers on twitter, when his factually inaccurate, fantastical tweets that he passes off as fact, are questioned or corrected. A quick google search and you can find plenty of proof of this.
I also want to mention that Hindu texts are extremely sacred, and only the greatest of learned men, Sanskrit scholars and philosophers, after years of reading Upanishads, sastras, etc. even have the audacity to attempt to write commentary. They are not simply literary works like Shakespeare, for example, which are completely free for interpretation by the public, qualified or otherwise. Interpreting a literary work is relatively harmless, and a lot of freedom can be afforded. Granted, actual experts in the field might not take them seriously, but free nevertheless. The issue is with religious texts like the sacred Srimad Bhagavatam, the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana etc, all of which this so-called “mythologist” has written of. Although they are great works of Sanskrit literature, they are primarily of immense religious and cultural significance, abound with all-encompassing, vast concepts of Hinduism that are difficult to comprehend, let alone master.
They must be handled with utmost care and caution, and approached with prior detailed knowledge. Misinterpretation and assumptions, nurtured by the wild and wanton freedom that Devdutt exercises, is a dangerous thing, especially since he has a sizable young and impressionable audience. The joy of having made these great epics largely circulated amongst the youth is quickly doused by schizophrenic manner in which they are written.
The Gajendra Moksha katha is perhaps one of the greatest purana told in the Srimad Bhavagatham, spanning the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th chapters of Canto 8. It also appears in the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred text of Sikhs. When I came across Devdutt’s version, I was more than appalled. I was horrified and disgusted. A true ‘sishya’ to his guru, the mistress of Hindu sexualization, Wendy Doniger, Devdutt spun an entirely sexualized angle on the preface to the Gajendra Moksha shuth/stotra. He’s also misinterpreted much of the takeaway, and while this story is a profound philosophical nugget, he cheapens its purpose and meaning. He has a blog post written along similar lines, called “Expressing Devotion Sensually”, which takes this trope even further and into more detail: I’ll link below (read at your own risk) but here’s the relevant page from My Gita. I’ve underlined the sentences that I address further on.
Gajendra the king of elephants doesn’t enter the pond in a frenzied “state of musth”. In the original text, the scene is described as: The king of elephants, and leader of the herd, Gajendra is wandering through forests on the magnificent mountain named Trikuta*, along with his herd of females (cow-elephants) and young ones, breaking through the thicket and the trees. Oppressed by the heat of summer, perspiring, and dripping ichor(mada–cyut), He catches the scent of a lotus pollen-filled breeze from the lake nearby. Gajendra and his accompanying herd are tormented by thirst, and thus find their way to the bank of the lake. There, the king of elephants enters the lake and drinks the clear, sweet water which is mixed with the pollen of lotuses and water lilies to his heart’s content. He also bathes himself and sprays water onto the accompanying females and calves, and relieves himself of his fatigue, oblivious to the impending danger.
Here, Devdutt takes the description of ichor, and fabricates a tangent of passion and sexual frenzy that does not exist in the original text. See: the use of the word ‘harem’, that has sexual connotations. In Sanskrit literature, references to this secretion, also called temporin, from the temples of elephants are made often (for example, in Raghuvamsa of Kalidasa) and is a symbol of vigour and potency, and in this case, befitting of the great strength of the elephant king. It is not referred to at any later point in the original text – it appears only once and is not elaborated upon. Nor is there any implication anywhere that he is consumed by lust.
More about Temporin: Elephants of of both sexes secrete this fluid from their temporal glands starting in the sub-adult stages, intermittently. Adult Males (bulls) cyclically enter a period of “musth” (hindi for intoxicated), characterized by high testosterone levels and erratic/aggressive behavior, and the temporin secreted during musth is more viscous, and contains sex pheromones, and androgens. The glands swell and create acute pain similar to that of a toothache, and due to this, they have been known to dig their tusks into the ground. This period is also characterized by decreased appetite and thirst, and in fact, male elephants have been known to lose 1/3rd of their body weight by the end of the musth period. All male elephants are not aggressive during musth, and older elephants, although reproductively active, are safely handled, as seen in domesticated Asian elephants.
Now. Ichor may have been mentioned, but are there any indications that Gajendra is in a state of musth, as Devdutt claims? In what way is this episode a ‘metaphor for a mind consumed with passion, seeking gratification’? Being intensely thirsty is “a mind consumed with passion”, and seeking water is a “material world gratification”? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m inclined to think it’s just normal animal (and human) behavior.
Next: a crocodile lurking in the lake grabs Gajendra’s leg, and after struggling with all his might, trumpeting in sorrow and taking help from other elephants, he is unable to free himself. The female elephants are distressed by their inability to rescue him by grasping him from behind. Gajendra fights with the crocodile, and devatas are astonished that even after a 1000 years, both animals are still in a state of struggle with each other, constantly pulling one another in and out of the water . Gajendra, although an extremely strong elephant, grows weak and exhausted, his senses less powerful, his mental and physical strength greatly diminished due to the years of fighting without sustenance, and the crocodile, being aquatic and having the upper hand, is winning.
In his acceptance of his inability to free himself, his circumstantial state of helplessness, and realizing his death is near, Gajendra begins to think seriously and decides to surrender himself to the Supreme Being.
“I seek refuge in the Lord that protects the fearful, seeking his refuge, requesting refuge from the powerful serpent of death/time that pursues ever so swiftly, but yet itself runs away in utter fear of the Lord.”
8.2, verse 33
Gajendra recalls that in his previous birth he was a Vishnu devotee named Indradyumna and prays to lord Vishnu with the noble prayers he had learnt earlier. The rest of the verses in the third chapter of the eighth canto of the Bhagavatha purana detail the praise of lord Vasudeva/Vishnu as Supreme, and seeking refuge in his lotus feet, while in the clutches of death; as death and the fear of death are inevitable to all that take birth, but surrendering to the Supreme can alleviate one from the cycle of birth and death. The aim is to be freed of one’s material body and avoid being repeatedly subjected to death.
At the end, Lord Vishnu, upon seeing the condition of Gajendra alights from Garuḍa and mercifully pulls the King of the elephants along with the crocodile, out of the water. Then, in the presence of all the demigods, he severs the crocodile’s mouth from its body with Sudarshana Chakra, freeing Gajendra.
Witnessing this, all the demigods, sages and Gandharvas, headed by Brahmā and Śiva, praise Lord Vishnu and shower flowers upon both the Lord and Gajendra.
The crocodile was actually a Gandharva King named Huhu who was cursed by sage Devala, and reverted back to his true form upon deliverance by Lord Vishnu. He pays his respects to the Lord and returns to the Gandharva loka, freed of his sins.
At the end, according to Pattanaik “Vishnu strikes the crocodile away” and “the solution is to stop fighting and have faith that another force will intervene.” Gajendra never stopped fighting. He exhausted himself physically until he could not fight any longer, and even after that, never expected “another force to intervene” but merely sought redemption and refuge in the Supreme.
Also, Devdutt writes that Gajendra sees himself as a victim and the victim mentality causes him to see the crocodile’s actions as a “violation”
Gajendra has victim mentality? Really? He fought for himself with all his strength, for a thousand years before surrendered to the Supreme being in his final state of helplessness and sensing that death was near. Does that sound like a victim to you? How is that even an acceptable interpretation? It is NOT even remotely a “victimization”.
“If he wins he will be hailed as a hero and if he loses, he will still be hailed as a martyr who died trying” – How does he come up with hogwash? Gajendra is fighting for his own life, not for some imaginary title of heroism or martyrdom.
“The crocodiles violence is not violation” – more gibberish. The last few sentences – I’m not even going to touch upon, as they are absolutely senseless. Please read them for yourself, and draw your own conclusions.
Gajendra moksha is one of the greatest ever writings dedicated to the Lord Vishnu. Reciting it early in the morning is said to have great immortal powers like the recitation of the sacred hymn Sri Vishnu Sahasranama. Devdutt has effectively desecrated this ancient and profound text with his degrading, loose, and downright blasphemous interpretation.
*Trikuta mountain: “three peaked” Mountain, said to have a height of 10,000 yojanas (where one yojana = 8 miles, according to Swamy Prabhupada’s translation of the Bhagavata Purana); beautifully situated and surrounded by an ocean of milk that produces emeralds; the valleys beneath mount Trikūṭa have jungles rich with animals and trees, gardens that are maintained by the demigods, In such a valley of Trikūṭa Mountain there was a garden called Ṛtumat that belonged to the Varuṇa and was a sporting place for the damsels of the demigods. Flowers and fruits grew there in all seasons.
Story of Indradyumna: Gajendra had formerly been a Vaiṣṇava and the king of the country known as Pāṇḍya, which is in the province of Draviḍa [South India]. In his previous life, he was known as IndradyumnaMahārāja. Following Vedic principles, this devout Vishnu devotee King retired into a small cottage or ashrama in the Malayācala Hills, where he spent his days in worship of the Supreme Lord. Once, while observing an oath of silence, Sage Agastya, along with his disciples, approached King Indradyumna’s āśrama, but because the King was meditating on the Supreme, he sat in silence and did not follow the etiquette of receiving Sage properly. Thus the rishi became very angry and cursed the King to become a dull elephant in his next life. Accordingly, he took birth as the elephant king Gajendra, but due to the grace of the Supreme Lord, he remembered a prayer from his past life while in the clutches of death and once again received the mercy of the Lord. Thus, he immediately attains moksha and accompanies the Lord to his abode, Vaikuntam.
Story of the Gandharva King: Once King Hūhū was frolicking with women in water, and accidentally pulled the leg of Devala Ṛṣi, who was also bathing there. The sage became very angry and immediately cursed him to become a crocodile. King Hūhū extremely apologetic, and begged for the sage to pardon him, who in compassion, gave him the benediction that he would be freed when Gajendra is saved by Lord Vishnu. In this way, he was delivered when killed by Nārāyaṇa, and regains his true form.
If I were to go into the faults of and the monumental game of omissions and half-truths that is the state of history textbooks in India, we’ll just be stuck here, not only all night, but for a few days and maybe even a few weeks. The subject of the discussion right now is the fault, specifically, in our Telugu textbooks. In case you weren’t a student of telugu, but of one of the various other Indian languages, hear me out, and maybe you’ll relate and can bring to light a similar irregularity in an analogous language.
August 29th was National Telugu Language Day, and it caught me by surprise. Not because August was coming to a close far too soon (is it just me or is 2019 flying?), but because I hadn’t known such a day even existed. This is significant, because, unlike the nonsensical National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day or National Chocolate covered Cherry Day (yes, those exist; thankfully not in our country) National Telugu day seemed like it warranted not only importance, but celebration. Having grown up in Hyderabad, now one of the two capital cities of the telugu heartland, if anyone should know of the existence of this day, I should hope it was the school going children of this state, past or present. Now I can’t speak for government schools in the state, but is not enough of a sorry state of affairs if the average private school student doesn’t know about it?
Coming to the meat of the situation, my beef (pun intended) is not just with the lack of awareness, but the lack of any action to rectify this sorry situation. Speakers of the telugu language are unfortunately blissfully unaware of the beauty, intricacies, and most importantly, the history (especially more recent history) of the ancient language.
While I cannot in English words describe the beauty of telugu, I can however stress its nearness to the hearts of those who speak it. It is the only language whose every word ends in a vowel sound, and thus, lends itself beautifully to Carnatic music. Two out of three of the trinity of the greatest Carnatic musicians ever composed lyrics in Telugu (Saint Tyagaraja in a more colloquial and Syama Sastri in a more Sanskrit-heavy Telugu). The love for telugu is also evidenced by another fact unbeknownst to the millennials, there was a massive movement not only to revive the language, but for the right to continue its public use and education. The Nizams forcefully imposed Urdu as a medium of instruction in all educational institutions, and suppressed the use of telugu language and squashed the culture and customs of the telugu people. For nizam apologists who think that’s fair – Hyderabad was 18-20% Muslim at the time, not 45% as it is today, so to impose the language of the rulers on the entire population is entirely wrong and entirely Nazi. The Nizams also created a landlord or jagir system that was shockingly unfair and exploited labour, illegal taxation, horrific large-scale exploitation of the telugu people (this is why I’m incensed when a Hyderabadi starts glorifying the nizams for giving them biryani, Osmania university and Hussain Sagar; but that’s neither here nor there and I will detail the horrors of nizam rule in a separate write up).
The golden age of telugu was during the God-king Krishnadevaraya’s rule of the expansive and prosperous Vijayanagra empire, but to truly understand the ‘revival’ of telugu, I’ll start briefly with the contribution of Kandukuri Veeresalingam, a great social reformer and the father of the telugu renaissance. He wrote the first novel in the telugu language in 1848, translated all of Shakespeare’s works into telugu, wrote plays and novels relating to women empowerment, socio economic conditions, womens’ independence, education, and equal rights (feminists take note). He encountered massive resistance to his efforts but made major strides – he advocated education of women and set up the first school for women; he conducted widow remarriages which were unheard of at the time, and set up homes for widows where they would be educated and independent; he strongly criticized child marriage, dowry, and sati.
Coming to the gentleman in honor of whom Telugu Day is observed, Gidugu Venkata Ramamurthy, was an icon and a visionary. He is responsible for the widespread acceptance and usage of ‘vyavaharika’ or colloquial telugu in print, press, and as a medium of instruction in educational institutions. He studied sasanas or inscriptions in ‘grandhika’ or literary version of telugu, which is loaded with ‘accha telugu’ (pure telugu) and Sanskrit words; and realized the impracticality and incomprehensible nature of it, insisting that it was not suitable for everyday communication. He met with much heated resistance from scholars of Sanskrit and Telugu, who regarded colloquial telugu as ‘gramya’ or ‘backward’, the modern equivalent being “ghetto”. He was a linguistics expert and scholar, and his most pioneering work in the field was working closely and tenaciously with the tribal ‘Savara’ people of the Munda tribe of AP and Orissa, and creating a script and a lexicon for their language (this creative and exemplary work in linguistics is still applauded by linguistic experts in universities across the world today). He travelled into these deep forested areas so frequently, that he caught malaria and was treated with the ototoxic drug quinine, which caused hearing loss. He was conferred the Kaiser–e-Hind medal by the British and was lovingly nicknamed ‘Pidugu’, meaning lighting bolt, rhyming with his last name. Kandukuri Veeresalingam also set up the Vartamana Vyavaaharikandhra Bhasha Parivartaka, which fought alongside Gidugu Ramamurthy for the shift towards vyavaharika. [Finally after about 40 years of rallying, in the 60s, AP universities began to accept the spoken language in textbooks, exams, and theses.]
During the Nizam rule which started in the early 1720s, the only real political revolution started in the 1920s. In 1921, a telugu lawyer, Allampalli Venkata Rama Rao, spoke in telugu in a conference with the Nizam state, and was ridiculed, which woke the telugu people up to the reality of the treatment of the language and its people by the Nizams. The “Andhra Jana Sangham”, whose name was later changed to “Andhra Mahasabha” was initiated with 11 original members, to promote and nurture telugu literature and language. They established multiple libraries, promoted education, encouraged research, and conducted regular conferences. They fought for education and healthcare for the masses. They also vehemently opposed the purdah system which had no basis in dharma sastras for Hindu women and advocated education for girls in the state. The analogous ‘Andhra Mahila Sabha’, for women, was presided over by educated women social reformers and womens rights activists in the state: they fought for girls’ right to education, widow remarriage and opposed polygamy. Nizam rulers banned all political conferences, so most meetings took place outside the state. Any peaceful gathering required permission from the police commissioner 10 days prior. Gradually, the movement gained traction and they included social and political changes relating to taxation and the brutal, autocratic zamindari system in their manifesto. PV Narasimha Rao, future PM of India, joined the Andhra Maha Sabha seeing the atrocities of the Nizams, but left to pursue Hyderabad’s liberation movement started by Swamy Ramanad Thirtha. By the 1940s the group saw a divide amongst the members, with the communists breaking off to form a Nationalist Andhra Maha Sabha; but in 1946, communist party was banned and hence all operations ceased. What followed was the establishment of the Hyderabad State Congress, the Telangana Rebellion, and the accession of Hyderabad to India a year after independence, which would make great fodder for subsequent ‘whats missing in textbooks’ series.