Wednesday June 20, 2018

Vivaha Panchami: Celebrating Rama’s marriage to Sita

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Vivaha Panchami
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By Nithin Sridhar

Vivaha i.e. marriage is a sacred bond, a commitment between two people who take a vow to pursue their desires, dreams, and duties together. And Hinduism, which has always upheld Grihasta ashrama (the stage of marriage) as one of the most important stages in society, cherishes this beautiful bond by celebrating every year the ‘Vivaha’ of Lord Rama and Devi Sita.

Every year the festival, which is named as ‘Vivaha Panchami, is observed on the fifth day of the bright fortnight of Margashirsha month. This year the day has fallen on December 16, i.e. today.

Lord Rama is called as ‘Dharma Murti (the symbol of righteousness/duty) by Maharishi Valmiki in Ramayana. The Hindu tradition has always looked up to Rama as an epitome of the best in humans- as a King, as a son, as a brother, and of course as a Husband.

But, in modern times, Rama’s treatment of Sita has been seriously questioned and severely criticized by many liberals, feminists, and even common Hindus. In view of such criticism, the celebration of Rama’s marriage to Sita as ‘Vivaha Panchami’ may appear as incorrect or without any meaning, or downright misogynist to many people.

Thus, it becomes very vital to examine the life of Rama and his relationship with Sita especially in the context of Rama’s actions that have been criticized.

There is nothing wrong per se in questioning and criticizing, but an analysis of the past, especially the judgment of morality of characters from the past should never be done by imposing current notions of morality on the past. Such, impositions of our own pre-conceived notions without taking into account the essence and worldview of the scriptures which speak about a particular incident will almost always result into distortions.

The criticism of Rama’s treatment of Sita is on two counts: One, after the slaying of Ravana, Rama did not go straight away to meet Sita. He, instead, made her prove her purity by ‘Agni Pariksha’ (trial by fire). Two, Rama abandoned a pregnant Sita in the forest because some of his subjects raised questions about her character.

These two actions of Rama have been used to portray Rama as a bad husband and a misogynist. Further, Sita is portrayed as a submissive woman who is forced to follow her husband’s whims and fancies. But it is conveniently ignored that Rama went to war with Ravana for saving Sita and that Rama never married again even after sending Sita to the forest. In fact, he conducted Yajna’s with an idol of Sita beside him.

Also Read: Marriage is a commitment, not contract

Let us, for a moment, forget that Rama was an avatara of Lord Vishnu. As far as Valmiki Ramayana is concerned, Rama perceives himself just as a Man. But, the Ramayana tells that he was such a man whose every action was taken after examining all available paths and the righteousness of each path. He tried to stick to his duties even in the most difficult situation despite enormous sufferings he had to face.

Now, coming to the episode of Agni-Pariksha, a careful reading of Valmiki Ramayana shows that it was Sita, who said she would enter the fire and not Rama (Yuddha Khanda 116.18-19). Though, Rama did not stop it and, in fact, allowed it to happen, it is wrong to say that he specifically asked her to enter the fire.

In any case, the question to be asked is, why did Rama allow Sita to enter fire? Does it show that Rama doubted her character?

In answer to the second question, Rama himself has given a clear ‘No’. In Yuddha Khanda 118.13-20, Rama explicitly stated that he knew that Sita is without blemish and no one can violate her. He has repeated this statement that he never doubted Sita again and again.

But, he adds, as if in answer to the first question, that Sita was allowed to go through Agni-Pariksha because otherwise people would have questioned her character as well as his decision to accept her. He further adds that she deserved to be proven innocent and without faults in front of the whole world.

Thus, his actions were not only guided by the fact that he was about to become a King and Kings do not have the privilege of ‘privacy’ and have a duty to be morally unquestionable, but also by his desire to show to the world that his wife is innocent and hence, no person should ever raise a finger against her. Rama was simply trying to do his duty as a husband as well as his duty as a future King. The episode can serve as the best example of nuanced and deep love which do not always become obvious.

The fact that after the Agni-Pariksha, when Sita heard Rama’s explanations, instead of refusing to go back to Rama, she was happily united with him, establishes beyond doubt that Sita did not view Rama’s actions as misogynist, instead she clearly understood the compulsions and subtle love that made Rama act the way he did. Rama, in fact, calls Sita as being non-different from him, the way sunlight is non-different from the Sun which again goes to show his deep commitment and love for Sita.

Another issue raised regarding the Agni-Pariksha episode is that it portrays Sita as meek and submissive to her husband. Sita was no doubt a dedicated wife, but she was by no means meek or submissive. This is clearly brought forward in the chapter 117 of the same section, where Sita criticizes Rama’s behavior towards her. She boldly calls out the wrong treatment being meted out to her, though she was without fault. Sita was so self-confident and assertive that she decided to enter the fire to prove her innocence.

Now coming to the episode when Rama abandoned Sita when some people in his kingdom raised doubts over her chastity. The episode is a fine example of what is called as ‘Dharma-sankata, wherein a person sees himself in a situation where various duties clashes and no path is completely right.

Rama could have simply ignored the citizens’ questions about Sita’s chastity and his acceptance of her as his wife. But then the rumors would have spread like fire and defamed Sita. Further, many people would have misused it to justify their own acts of cheating and adultery. As a husband, Rama could not allow his wife to be defamed like that and as a king, he could not allow adultery to be accepted as a virtue especially by wrongly quoting Rama-Sita as an example.

Rama could have punished all those people who questioned their queen’s character, but then he would be called as an oppressor who oppressed his people! Rama loved his citizens, he never wanted to cause suffering to them on his account. So, he obviously did not choose it.

Rama could have simply abandoned his Kingdom and went away with Sita to the forest. But then it would have meant that he abandoned his own children because a King is like a father to his subjects. A King’s duty towards his citizens always comes before other duties just as a father’s duties towards his sons and daughters comes before other duties. Would Sita, who was well versed in Vedas and Dharma, have approved of such abandonment of duty by Rama for her sake? It is highly unlikely.

Rama could have called Sita and asked her to take another Agni-Pariksha. But, this would have been an insult to his wife, whom he loved dearly. So, instead of taking any of the above-mentioned options wherein he would have either abandoned his duty as King, or caused insult to Sita, he took the path which caused him, and Sita, enormous personal suffering, but it neither insulted Sita nor caused abandonment of his Kingly duties.

Thus, Rama’s act of leaving Sita near Valmiki’s hermitage was not an act of misogyny. It was an act of supreme sacrifice, wherein he chose to suffer from pangs of separation from Sita and subjected Sita- his better half to such a suffering as well. The love and bond between Rama and Sita remained intact despite their separation. This is clearly established by the fact that Rama never married another woman and he kept a golden statue of Sita with him and Sita never taught her children to hate their father.

The relationship between Rama and Sita should not be perceived in black and white. Life is not black and white. Their life, just as ours in today’s society, had many complications and difficult situations. Rama took the decision he perceived as the best among the various options available to him at that time. He was always united with Sita in his heart and Sita with Rama.

This unity in the hearts and minds despite physical separation or innumerable challenges and obstacles posed by life is the ultimate ideal of ‘Vivaha’ and this is what should be remembered and celebrated by everyone, especially the couples during ‘Vivaha Panchami’.

(Photo: http://www.dollsofindia.com)

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Why I Refuse to be ‘MODI’fied?

Hindu Right goons have accosted couples on Valentine's Day and beaten them up claiming the festival was a degenerate adoption from the West

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Modi
This article is about "Why I refuse to be 'MODI'fied?"

By Tania Bhattacharya

Tania
Ms Tania Bhattacharya

Narendra Modi does not represent classical Hinduism. But few Hindus are open to realizing this. Here is an inventory of points, to expand on my premise. Indeed, if Hindus are to emulate the policies of the Hindu Right Wing, we will move closer to
the Abrahamic ideology.

Modi is ethnocentric (meaning Indocentric), a vegetarian extremist promoting teetotalism, anti-LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and the transgender), can’t distinguish between traditional western culture and neoliberal westernization, has colluded in the mass murder of innocent Gujarati Muslims (not Islamic terrorists, mind you) and openly courts the bourgeoisie, while promoting complete privatization. To complete the picture, Modi, the RSS and the rest of the Hindu right wing, covertly encourage casteism and linguistic jingoism.

But in conjunction with denouncing Modi, the half-informed Marxists and the pseudo-
liberal bogey, also decry Hinduism. As if Modi’s views, are Hinduism’s faults! This is why a re-assessment of historical Hinduism is the need of the hour, so that the image of Hinduism – South Asia’s classical identity – may be rescued.

1) For the past 2000 years, Hindus have accommodated: Armenians, Zoroastrians,
Greeks, Jews, Black Africans called Siddis, Chinese and Tibetans on their soil, not
once asking any of these communities to renege on their religions. Persecuting any
of India’s religious minorities, goes against the grain of Hindu religious thought. Sure,
there have been frictions between Hinduism and the Indic religion of Buddhism at
intermittent periods of India’s bygone history, but this friction cannot be possibly
compared to the scale and ferocity of monotheism’s religious crusades.

Representational image.
Representational image.

Hinduism allows its adherents to remain atheistic. It has evolved the ‘Charvaka’ and
‘Sankhya’ schools of philosophy, which reject divinity and concentrate on atheistic materialism.

Even though Judaism, Christianity and Islam are the best-known proselytizing faiths;
Buddhism is not innocent of proselytization, either. Few Hindus want to admit, that in
endowing East Asia with Buddhism, which carried over Hindu ideas and cultural
nuances to that part of the world; Buddhism quietly subordinated and decimated the
indigenous, ethnic religions of East Asia, such as: Muism, Bonism, Tengrism,
Shenism and Satsana Phi. Only Shintoism, Japan’s indigenous, polytheistic identity,
could hold on stubbornly.

Hinduism’s all-encompassing outlook at other faiths, stands in opposition to the
dogmatic and insular approach of the Hindu Right towards India’s religious
minorities, which include Muslims and Christians.

2) Never has Hinduism – or for that matter any other polytheistic, indigenous religion
– discriminated against the LGBT. India’s anti-LGBT laws were promulgated in mid-
19th century, Christian England and were imported into India, via the British. It is
disturbing, how Hindus like Modi and his clique, have embraced the monotheistic
prejudice against the LGBT, while at the same time, projecting themselves as the
defenders of Hinduism.

The Indian epic Mahabharat, contains two characters named Shikhandi, and Aravan.
Both Shikhandi and Aravan, are transgenders. There is a temple dedicated to
Aravan named the Koothandavar Temple. It is located inside the Indian state of
Tamil Nadu. Every year, an 18-day festival to commemorate the transgender status
of Aravan, is organized there. Pagan philosophy of which Hinduism is a branch, has
had a long tradition of recognizing alternative sexuality in the form of the LGBT.

When the Hindu Right beginning with the RSS, denounces intimacy between
members of the LGBT community as being unnatural and offensive, we become a
mirror image of the three Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,
which condemn the LGBT community as being sinful.

Representational image.
Representational image.

3)Hindu Right goons have accosted couples on Valentine’s Day and beaten them up
claiming the festival was a degenerate adoption from the West. They are ignorant of
the fact, that Valentine’s Day has its roots, in the ancient, pagan Roman celebration
of ‘Lupercalia’, which was a commemoration of love and fertility, that was held
between the 13th and the 15th of February. Christianity, merely plagiarized the
festivals of the pre-Christian people.

http://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day
While original Abrahamic philosophy (and not its modern, watered down version)
looks askance at the intermingling of unmarried boys and girls, Classical Paganism
takes the opposing view. In the Polytheistic Greco-Roman observance, three days,
the 13, the 14 th , and the 15 th of February, were set aside for celebrating love, fertility,
and the socializing of the sexes, which involved paying obeisance to the Roman
wolf-goddess Lupa, who was said to have suckled Remus and Romulus, the twin
brothers who had founded Rome.

The Indian treatise Kamasutra deals with sexuality and so does the temple art of
Khajuraho. Thus, by shunning Hinduism’s long tradition of recognizing and feting
human sexuality, and by victimizing couples on Valentine’s Day, the Hindu Right has
amply displayed its slide towards Abrahamic segregation of the sexes.

4)Indocentrism is as faulty as Eurocentrism and Afrocentrism. Indocentric Hindus
are in effect, reacting to European racism, with counter-racism. 19th century
European ethnologists had forwarded ideas which proposed that non-European
people are inferior to Europeans. In the 20th century, such racist ideas were
overturned with the discovery of ancient civilizations all over the world, which pointed
at sophisticated ways of thinking, outside of the European orbit. India’s ‘Indus Valley
Civilization’ and the Native Americans’ ‘Tenochtitlan’, were just two of the ancient
non-European seats of civilization, that were unearthed. Since then, history has been
revised several times, with non-European cultures and their achievements hogging
most of the spotlight. However, the memory of European colonialism, has also had a
neurotic, and narcissistic effect on the majority of Hindus. Such Hindus have
elbowed aside all the fine classical achievements of Europe and other non-Hindu,
Polytheistic, Classical civilizations and have projected Hinduism as the creative
source of all other forms of Polytheism. It would have been hilarious, if it wasn’t so
demeaning and offensive. Does it ever occur to Indocentric Hindus, how disrespectful this is, to our polytheistic sisters and brothers in other parts of the world? European, Middle Eastern, Sub-Saharan African and West Asian polytheism, are being revived at present. How do the Indocentric Hindus reckon, our pagan fellow travellers will treat our affront to their dignity?

The ‘Indian Origin Of The Aryans’, is the pet theory of Indocentric Hindus. They put
their faith in the idea, that the Aryans originated out of India. There are serious
problems with this theory. The region which produces a race, will exhibit the
maximum diversity present in that race. If India was indeed the birthplace of the
Caucasian race, then all varieties of Caucasians would have been represented in the
population of India. But is that the case? Certainly not! Scholars have already
located the birthplace of the Caucasian race. It is the steppes of the Ukraine-Russian
flatlands. About two decades back, the Indian media had reported the finds of a
submerged metropolis off the coast of Gujarat, that was touted as being ‘Dwarka’,
the city associated with Lord Krishna. There is a thesis doing the rounds, which
supposes, that the Indus Valley Civilization, was in reality the ‘Saraswati Civilization’
of the Vedas. But both these theories have a serious flaw. Adherents of these two
theories, hold, that the North Indian Caucasians and the Dravidians of Southern
India, are essentially of the same genetic stock. Such purloining of genetic and
anthropological data, at the hands of Hindus, of all people, is unbecoming. It has
been well established through mtDNA (Mitochondrial DNA) testing, that North
Indians share 3/4ths of their genes with Afghans, West Asians, and Europeans,
especially the people of the Mediterranean. North Indians also bear Greek and
German blood, as in the days of yore, many pagan Greeks, following Alexander’s
invasion of India; and a good number of pagan Huns, had formed colonies in north
India, married north Indian women and settled down to build families. mtDNA
analysis has similarly established, that South Indians (and Sri Lankans), share their
genes with Australian Aborigines. Australian Aborigines, the Dravidians and the
Sinhalese, are offshoots of East Africans; in other words, the Somalis and the
Ethiopians, who branched off to constitute the fourth race, known as the Australoid
Race. How then, can North Indians and South Indians, be a part of the same race?
Indocentric Indians are so hard pressed to prove to the world that Hinduism is over
and above all the other polytheistic faiths, that if the Mongoloid people in India’s
north-east had been Hindus by majority, Indocentric Hindus would have made the
ludicrous claim, that the north-east Hindus also share the same race as that of other
Indians.

Representational image.
Representational image.

A scholarly article establishes the genetic distinctiveness of the Indo-Aryan Indians
of the North and the Dravidian Indians of the South, from each-other, by stating :“We
analyze 25 diverse groups to provide strong evidence for two ancient populations,
genetically divergent, that are ancestral to most Indians today. One, the “Ancestral
North Indians” (ANI), is genetically close to Middle Easterners, Central Asians, and
Europeans, while the other, the “Ancestral South Indians” (ASI), is as distinct from
ANI and East Asians as they are from each other. By introducing methods that can
estimate ancestry without accurate ancestral populations, we show that ANI ancestry
ranges from 39-71% in India, and is higher in traditionally upper caste and Indo-
European speakers. Groups with only ASI ancestry may no longer exist in mainland
India. However, the Andamanese are an ASI-related group without ANI ancestry,
showing that the peopling of the islands must have occurred before ANI-ASI gene
flow on the mainland. Allele frequency differences between groups in India are larger than in Europe, reflecting strong founder effects whose signatures have been
maintained for thousands of years due to endogamy.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2842210/

Conclusion: The Aryan people did not originate in India and spill out to other parts of
the globe. Q.E.D. It is proven.

5) Narendra Modi is bourgeoisie friendly, whereas Hinduism repeatedly warns
against the perils of hoarding wealth. The Brahmin priestly class, was meant to live
off the alms of the other castes, in an attempt to prevent any consolidation of power
by them. The Hindutva wadis are in cahoots with the business class and the
industrialists who virtually run this country and its media. Big industries routinely flout
environmental procedures and jeopardize the safety of our water resources. They
exploit our natural wealth, immiserate our workers, fell our forests, in the process
depriving our fauna of their natural habitats and inch our country and the earth,
closer to a man-made cataclysm.

The Niyamgiri mountains of the state of Odisha, is home to the Dongria Kondh tribal
community. Over decades of mining, the Indian mining conglomerate Vedanta, has
reduced the resident tribals to homelessness as the latter would depend on the
mountain for survival. The slopes of the mountain hosted a waterfall, which is today
all but lost, thanks to mining.

Treating Mother Nature casually, is peculiar to the three Abrahamic faiths. They
propound, that Nature is secondary to their Almighty God, since he has created her.
For, how can the creation be higher than its creator? By ignoring environmental
concerns as a result of courting big businesses who exploit our natural wealth, Modi
and the Hindu Right have rendered Mother Nature a second class citizen, much as
the three Monotheistic religions do.

6) It is amazing, that so many Hindus are not even aware, that the oldest Hindu
spiritual text, the ‘Rig Ved’ doesn’t make any mention of a birth based caste system.
Instead it clearly speaks about professional segregation as defining caste. It speaks
of inter-caste marriage and projects the caste system as being an open order, in
which one could travel up and down the caste hierarchy. A passage in the Rig Ved
goes as “I am a trader, my father is a priest and my mother is a reaper of corn”.
Traders are Vaishya; priests are Brahmins and reapers of corn, are Shudra, by
caste. Scholars know, that in Early Vedic Hinduism, the caste system was egalitarian
and easy on the adherents. It was only during the Later Vedic Age, that the caste
system became rigid, closed and birth oriented. This could not have been achieved,
without the shenanigans of the priestly Brahmin caste, who, in order to consolidate
prestige and power, made the caste system a dogmatic affair. What is truly
unfortunate is that, so many modern Hindus protect the birth-based caste system as
something intrinsic to Hinduism. They protect an undemocratic classification, that
has brought untold misery and persecution to millions of low caste people through
the centuries, prompting them to convert to other religions. The birth based caste
hierarchy is a prime reason, Hinduism is fodder meant for ridiculing if you ask Jews,
Christians, Muslims and Marxists. Even though, original, early Hinduism never endorsed a birth-based caste system, oblivious and snooty Hindus, portray this as a
‘Christian-Marxist’ interpretation of our holy texts.

The Islamic and Christian invasions of India, made a bad situation, worse. Hinduism
– in an attempt to protect itself from the invaders and their alien monotheistic ways –
closed in on itself and became rigid and streamlined. The caste system,
accompanied by patriarchy and misogyny, took their toll on a religion which had
placed great relevance on its goddesses.

Representational image.
Representational image.

In Early Vedic Hinduism, caste was a matter of proclivities in the professional arena.
If the son of a Brahmin chose to not learn about the spiritual texts and took up selling
spices as his profession, he would automatically slide into the ‘Vaishya’ caste. On the contrary, if the son of a street sweeper and thus a Shudra, was sent to a school
by his father, where he learnt about the spiritua