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By Nithin Sridhar
For long, Hindus have allowed the outsiders to interpret our religion and traditions for us. For long, these scholars who are not practitioners of Hindu religion, but who study Hindu religion and practices through western frameworks–scholars like Sheldon Pollock and Wendy Doniger– have been considered as authorities on Hindu issues. For long, Hindu practices have been allowed to be secularized, dismantled, and uprooted from their roots.
This was partly a result of European colonialism that dismantled Sanskrit language as well as the traditional institutes of education; partly a result of left-liberal narrative of Independent India that imitated their previous colonial masters; and partly due to the failure of Hindu traditional centers to develop a critique of the modern methodologies (poorva-paksha) and reclaim the adhikara (authority) of our tradition to analyze and interpret itself.
This lacuna in the Hindu response to the western appropriation of the adhikara to interpret our traditions has been finally filled by the Indian American author and Indologist, Rajiv Malhotra, who addresses precisely these issues in his new book: ‘The Battle for Sanskrit’ The sub-heading of this bold book summarizes the whole battlefield of Sanskrit and Sanskriti (culture) thus: ‘Is Sanskrit political or sacred, oppressive or liberating, dead or alive?’
Some influential western academicians like Sheldon Pollock have been arguing for long that Sanskrit has been a dead language for over a thousand years. Thus, they tend to equate Sanskrit with classical European languages like Latin or Greek and hence consider Sanskrit as being a museum artefact of the past. As a corollary Indian culture and traditions, which have their roots as well as their most creative expressions in Sanskrit, must also be considered primitive and superstitious practices of the past, which must be discarded to progress into future.
This notion is clearly contradictory to even the everyday experience of a practicing Hindu. Hindu culture or Sanatana Dharma is a perennial flow of sacredness, values, and philosophy and there has been no break in the tradition for last many thousand years. Sanatana Dharma has remained as always static at the core essence, but dynamic and ever changing in outer forms. Sanskrit, which is repository of Vidyas (knowledge) continues to be alive in Hindu culture, religion, and practices.
Malhotra strongly endorses the traditional view that Sanskrit is alive and argues that Hindu Sanskriti did not evolve as a rejection of the past, but instead as a continuation of the past. Malhotra also challenges attempts by some academicians to secularize Sanskrit knowledge repository by discarding everything connected to sacred- yajnas, pujas, etc. – as being superstitious and exploitative. This secularization of Sanskrit and Sanskriti will result in the uprooting of Hindu culture from its roots and reduction of Hinduism into materialism. Malhotra strongly counters this secularization and shows how it would compromise the integrity of the tradition.
Another area of contention is the portrayal of Sanskrit and Sanskrit as being inherently abusive and oppressive towards certain sections of society like women, Dalits, etc. Some western academics allege that Vedic philosophy is by design discriminatory and curtails intellectual freedom. The Kavyas, for example, is given as example for literatures which ancient Hindu kings used as propaganda literature to spread political hegemony over people. Similarly, Ramayana is portrayed as a political tool as well. Malhotra strongly condemns this reduction of Kavya (poetry) from being a creative mode of expression, which included various sacred and secular elements, to being a tool for establishing political hegemony. Similarly, the tradition holds Ramayana as a text that teaches Swadharma (righteous live through practice of duties) and considers Rama as a personification of Dharma and as ideal Man, which is completely antithetical to the view held by some western academicians.
Malhotra also takes up many other related issues like chronology of Hindu texts, the importance of oral traditions of Sanskrit, presence of Hinduphobia in western academia, etc.
The central issue of the whole debate lies in the question- Who owns the Adhikara (authority/competency) to analyze, interpret, and present correct essence of Hindu scriptures, culture, and practices? Is it the practitioners of the Hindu religion, who are the inheritors and rightful owners of the traditions and its symbols, who have invested their life in understanding and realizing the truth spoken in their scriptures, and who have traditionally evolved various worldviews, frameworks, and methodologies to analyze their own tradition? Or is it the Western non-practitioner scholars who study Hinduism and practices as a specimen that needs to be dissected and uses western social and cultural models to make various conclusions about Hindu religion, while completely ignoring how Hindus themselves perceive their culture and religion?
For the last many decades, western academicians have considered themselves as the rightful authority to dictate and decide what Hinduism is and what it is not, what is central tenet of Hindu philosophy and what is not, what practice of Hinduism is authentic and what is not. This book is the first serious attempt that challenges this hegemony of certain section of Western academicians. The book maps various methodologies and frameworks employed by Western Academia in Indology and Sanskrit studies and provides a thorough critique of the same from a traditional Hindu standpoint.
The battle for reclaiming the adhikara for understanding and interpreting Sanskrit and Sanskriti has finally begun.
(Feature Photo: beingdifferentforum.blogspot.com)
Along with the undeniable natural beauty, the Kashmir valley has developed a reputation for adventurous activities like trekking, hiking, and river rafting. Kashmir has maintained its charm, allowing us to time-travel into beautiful destinations which make one forget about the stress and worries of life. The hikes in Kashmir offer adventurers to go on a self-discovery trip through nature's lap over the mountains while taking in the breathtaking scenery that surrounds them on their journey. In addition to the hikes, there are many thrilling adventure activities, like rock climbing, rope climbing, etc. Trekking across the region of mountains and lakes will allow you to experience living in the "Paradise on Earth," and you wouldn't want to return to your regular life after that.
The following are some of the finest hiking destinations in Kashmir:
#1: Kashmir Great Lakes Trek: You will be transported to a heavenly and unseen aspect of Kashmir on the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek. In addition to three high-altitude passes and five river valley crossings, this is the only trip in the Himalayas that includes seven alpine lakes, each of which is a stunning shade of green, blue, or turquoise. The extravagance is limitless and breathtakingly stunning every day: infinite blue sky, a larger-than-life backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, colourful meadows overflowing with wildflowers, river crossings are just a few examples of what you will encounter during the trek.
You will be transported to a heavenly and unseen aspect of Kashmir on the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek. | Photo by prayer flags on Unsplash
#2: Sonamarg-Vishansar-Bandipora Trek: The Sonamarg-Vishansar-Bandipora trek is a one-of-a-kind experience that provides a glimpse into Kashmir's undiscovered regions. Sonamarg, famously known as the Meadows of Gold, is the starting point for this fascinating journey that is the perfect experience for anyone looking to get away from the frantic tourist rush. This trek is a fascinating journey that allows nature enthusiasts to bask in the splendour of nature's grandeur. The trek goes over many high mountain passes, some as high as 4000 metres in elevation. The hiking route, in addition to providing breathtaking views of the magnificent Vishansar Lake, provides visitors with the chance to see more than 50 alpine lakes.
Sonamarg, famously known as the Meadows of Gold, is the starting point for this fascinating journey. | Photo by YASER NABI MIR on Unsplash
ALSO READ: Top 10 Beautiful Sights To VIsit In Kashmir
#3: Tral-Narastan-Marsar Trek: The Tral-Narastan-Marsar trek is filled with a range of exciting experiences from beginning to end. The hiking trail passes past a waving saffron field, beautiful meadows, and several streams. The path also crosses the Dachigam National Park, where there is an opportunity to see various animal species. Trekkers may take in spectacular views of the high mountains running parallel to them as they cut and pass through Narastan, a Hindu pilgrimage place.
The Tral-Narastan-Marsar trek is filled with a range of exciting experiences from beginning to end. | Wikimedia Commons
#4: Chhatargul-Mahlish-Gangabal: The journey, which passes through beautiful locations such as Chattargul, Mahlish, Kolsar, and Trunkul, provides a peek into an utterly uninhabited wilderness of Kashmir. There are lakes and meadows adorned with flowers along the route as one trek into the alpine wilderness. Trekkers can also enjoy fishing in the crystal clear lakes, camping, or just seeing towering snow-capped mountains while on their journey.
There are lakes and meadows adorned with flowers along the route as one treks into the alpine wilderness. | Wikimedia Commons
#5: Kolahoi Base Camp Trek: The Kolahoi Base Camp trek in Kashmir has been famous since the early 1900s and has been a goal for many seasoned hikers from across the world. While Srinagar serves as the beginning point for the trip, it is in Aru Valley that the actual hiking begins. The Kolahoi Base Camp Trek is a gentle adventure that is ideal for novices and families with children. The breathtaking sight of the peaks rising into the sky on the horizon of the Pirpanjal and Karakoram ranges is certainly worth capturing. It is considered to be one of the most popular treks in the Kashmir valley.
The Kolahoi Base Camp Trek is a gentle adventure that is ideal for novices and families with children. | Wikimedia Commons
Kashmir's natural splendour, with its beautiful valleys and towering mountains, is really unlike anywhere. Trekking through various valleys and peaks while taking in the scenic beauty is something that always calms the heart and provides us with memories that we will remember for a lifetime.
Keywords: Kashmir, Lakes, Alpine, Hiking, Trekking, Treks, Sonamarg, Gangabal, Kolahoi, Chhatargul, Mahlish, Tral, Narastan, Marsar
The Pitru Paksha starts after the Full Moon day, and this day marks the beginning of the waning phase of the Lunar cycle. This event is roughly of 15-day period, and is of great significance. From this day, rituals like Tarpan or Tarpanam and Shradh are carried out to pay respects to dead relatives and ancestors.
It is believed that from the very first day till the last day, the unhappy souls of the deceased return to the Earth to see their family members. So, in order to ensure that the dead attain Moksha, i.e. to get liberation, family members of these souls quench their thirst and satisfy their hunger by performing the Pind Daan, which includes offering food consisting of cooked rice and black sesame seeds. The literal meaning of Pind Daan is the act of satisfying those who no longer exist physically.
For fifteen days, prayers are offered in temples and rituals are performed to help the souls get free from the cycle of birth, life, and death, and attain salvation.
At the same time, the Pitru Paksha is also an important period for people with Pitru Dosha, which means the curse imposed by the ancestors. Hence, in order to ask forgiveness, people perform Shradh rituals and offer food to the crows, who are considered as living beings that represent the dead. It is believed, if the crow eats the offered food, the ancestors are happy and pleased. But, if the crow doesn't eat the offered food and flies away, the ancestors are not happy.
The event of Pitru Paksha is widely observed by Hindus from all over the world, and they perform prayers and rituals in order to gain their ancestors blessings.
At the heart of Bangalore city, a large 300-acre space of lush greenery and heritage stands as a symbol of the city's past, present, and future. Cubbon Park is every child's favourite park, every Bangalorean's haven of fresh air, and altogether, the city's pride.
It stands testament to the past, in terms of the diversity of flora it houses. Bangalore traffic in the recent past has grown into a menace, but the stretch between MG Road and Cubbon Park is always a pleasurable place to stop and wait for the signal to turn green. The gust of wind that blows here, and the smell of mud, coupled with floral scents instantly transports citizens to Old Bangalore, where the weather was fine, and the trees loomed over roads with thick canopies that did not even allow rainwater to penetrate. Cubbon Park is also a historical site, and one of the few remaining monuments of colonial heritage in Central Bangalore. It houses many statues and among them, the most famous is that of Queen Victoria, which faces the St. Mark's Square.
The stretch outside Cubbon Park is cool and well-shaded from the canopy of trees over it. Image source: wikimedia commons
At present, Cubbon Park is known for the cultural hub that it is. It houses Jawahar Bal Bhavan, which is a large theatre that hosts film festivals through the year. Festivals, poetry open mics, and other such shows are conducted on the lawns every Sunday. A small stream runs through the park, where boat rides are held occasionally when the water level is high enough. There is a children's park on one corner, and a government-maintained aquarium, two-storeys tall, with exotic fish.
The Park has been renamed many times in the past. It was originally named Meade's Park, after Sir John Meade, the acting commissioner of Mysore in 1870. It was later changed to Cubbon Park after Sir Mark Cubbon, who was the longest-serving commissioner of the Mysore state. In 1927, the park was renamed after the Mysore Maharaja Sri Krishna Wodeyar, to celebrate his silver jubilee, since the park was developed during the reign of his ancestors. Even though it is officially named Sri Chamrajendra Park, it is still known as Cubbon Park all over the city. In fact, Bangalore was alluded the sobriquet of 'Garden City' because of the rich botanical diversity of this park.
Art Installation at Cubbon Park Image source: wikimedia commons
In many parts of the country, governments have renamed structures, places, and cities to remove traces of colonialism. But, in a city like Bangalore, there is too much evidence of the British rule. Many of the most prominent attractions of the city are known by their British identities despite the change in name. Even the city's name continues to be Bangalore, despite having been changed to Bengaluru. Last year, the British era and its achievements were celebrated in Cubbon Park when Sir Mark Cubbon's statue was moved from the grounds of the Karnataka High Court and placed in the Park.
Keywords: Cubbon Park, Mark Cubbon, British Colonialism, Cultural hub, Garden City