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- “Hinduism in India: The Early Period’ is a compilation of essays highlighting different aspects of Hinduism
- The Book is edited by Greg Bailey and published by SAGE
- It is made up of seven essays covering a variety of epics and mythologies
August 15: 2017: A compilation of essays defining various aspects of Hinduism and its traditions, Sage Publications brings to you a beautiful book by Greg Bailey, titled “Hinduism in India: The Early Period’.
Although it is complex to concise something as vast as Hinduism in a single book, Greg Bailey’s topics of selection are worthy of comprehension.
There is a total of seven essays that make up this book. These seven essays range from epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata to the mythologies that are at the core of Hinduism. Bailey’s efforts of compiling the most vital of events together should be applauded.
However, Free Press Journal had rightly observed that ‘Hinduism in India’ is sort of redundant due to the fact that India’s gift to the world was Hinduism and even today Hinduism largely refers to India.
The first chapter of the book, is, of course, the introduction to the book written by Greg Bailey himself. He provides an overview of Hinduism and its principles. It was rightly observed in the review that most readers are accustomed to the usage of BC and AD for studying chronology, whereas the book has used BCE and ACE which can prove to be an impediment for some time. Referring to Axel Michaels, Greg Bailey has highlighted the significance of rituals in Hinduism. Rituals like sacrifice and asceticism are at the very core of Hindu religion. But they are not exclusive to Hinduism. Sacrifices and asceticism are present in other religions as well. Furthermore, Bailey explains the division of rituals into three distinct parts. The first two of these include- Devotional practices/ beliefs and Public Animal Sacrifice. Sacrifices are now rare in the modern practice of Hinduism.
The second chapter of the book is also written by the editor Greg Bailey. It is about the wider aspects of Hinduism. It also states the classification of Historical periods. The writer then talks about how different rulers and empires contributed to the shaping up of Hinduism. The four phases of Hindu life, i.e. student life, householder, hermit and ascetic wandered are also presented. But this is a little discrepancy because last two phases are retirement and renunciation. The chapter ends with a discussion on the conflict of class between mainstream and independent Hindus.
The third chapter of the book is titled ‘Rituals’. It is written by Axel Michaels. The chapter is interesting because rituals are integrated deeply within the religion. However, a lot of discrepancies are to be found. Renunciation, according to Michaels, is a ritual. But there is no reason to believe so. Secondly, ‘Garbha’ which is the womb is referred to as the semen. Being from another religion, it may have been immensely complicated for the writer to figure out Hindu rituals.
The fourth chapter of the book is dedicated to Mahabharata, authored by Adam Bowles. Bowles has done a good research on the Hindu epic and his study is shown in his writing. For those who do not know the Mahabharata, this chapter is a revelation. The chapter is in fact so extensive that one might conclude all of Hinduism is tells the story of Mahabharata.
Titled ‘Mythology’, the fourth chapter of the book is written by Greg Bailey. Free Press Journal suggests this chapter can be avoided due to the many lapses present. Bailey’s reference of technical institutes teaching management techniques and western based management techniques is nothing but preposterous.
‘Religious Pathways’ is the chapter five written by Angelika Malinar. Her literary expertise helped Swami Vivekananda find pithy treatment. This chapter is a powerful one. If any discrepancy it is that the Bhakti movement which played a major role in influencing Hinduism and society was not discussed extensively. The focus given to Bhakti could have been much more.
The chapter seven of the book is the longest chapter also. Written by Eric John Lott and titled ‘Hindu Theology’, it talks at great length about the Epics, Puranas, Vedas, Bhagwad Gita, Vedanta, and Poetry. Lott’s attempt is worth applauding because he tried to cover a very broad topic in a nutshell. Issues of sentiments have been objectively met by the author.
The last chapter is a dedication to Hindu art by author Crispin Branfoot. Religion is influenced by its art and scriptures. The author has talked about temples, scriptures and other art forms that have resulted in our knowledge of Hinduism. Crispin Branfoot has done a remarkable job of talking about art, which is itself limitless. Over so many years, different art forms have helped to shape Hinduism but Branfoot had tried to cover most of these. Temples of Khajuraho, Angkor Vat, and Mamallapuram have all been mentioned.
To conclude, the book is good for anybody who wants to refer to some events or definitions since the categorization of the essays and their sequence is a job well done. It is interesting to read this painstaking effort by authors and scholars to objectively portray the different aspects of the religion that is Hinduism. Their efforts are exhibited in their writings.
– prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394
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Tenali Ramakrishna, or Tenali Raman as he is more popularly known is Birbal's equivalent in South India. A court jester and a scholar exuding great wisdom, Tenali Raman was known as one of the greatest courtiers in King Krishnadevaraya's court.
The Vijayanagar Empire ruled a large part of South India between 1336 and 1646. In the 16th century, the kingdom rose to prominence under the eminent leadership of King Krishnadevaraya. His continuous victories against his enemies ensured a successful and peaceful reign for his subjects. As a patron of art and literature, many crafts and cultural assets thrived in the empire.
Krishnadevaraya's beloved courtier, Tenali Raman is the finest example of the splendour of the Vijayanagar empire. He was born in Tenali, a town in Andhra Pradesh. He lived here until he lost his father, after which his mother brought him to Vijayanagar. He was discovered for his excellent wit and wisdom, and appointed in the court. He was one of the king's ashtadiggajas (collective name for the eight poets and scholars).
A statue of Tenali Ramakrishna near a Municipal Office in Andhra Pradesh Image source: wikimedia commons
Tenali Raman as a scholar, published great texts of wisdom, which have now become artefacts of the Kingdom of Vijayanagara. But his fame does not lie in these achievements. He is known for the mischievous jester that mythical folklore portrays him to be. Through stories, many writers have used jokes to impart wisdom and morals to many generations of people. The stories of Tenali Raman are almost legendary in the Southern peninsula.
Textbooks have been written with his moral stories in mind, and these days, many self-help book are also incorporating his wisdom. His most popular stories are, 'Mother Tongue', 'Cursed Face', 'Saluting the Donkeys' and many more. Through these stories, Tenali Raman, in some way, brought about social justice. Perhaps this is why he is most beloved by many people even today.
Keywords: Tenali Raman, Vijayanagar empire, Krishnadevaraya, Jester, Wisdom
It must be noted that different religions and societies in Southeast Asia have alternative narratives of Ramayana, one of the greatest epic.
Here are some of the versions of Ramayana!
Dasaratha Jakarta: The Buddhist Version
Interestingly, this version of Ramayana does not mention Ravana at all and in fact, there’s no mention of Sita’s abduction, too. In this version, Dasaratha is the king of Benaras and not Ayodhya. Also, Rama and Sita leaves kingdom and go to the Himalayas and not forests. Then, after twelve years, Rama and Sita return back to Benaras and get married.
Paumachariya: The Jaina Version
In this version, Lakshamana is the killer of Ravana and not Rama. Here, Rama is an ardent follower of Jainism, and so he cannot be the killer of Ravana. Also, this version states an army of warrior and not monkeys, as stated in Valmiki’s Ramayana. Another interesting feature of this version is that Ramayana is not shown as a villain, rather a magnanimous king and follower of Jainism.
Gond Ramayani: The Gond Version
Gond is an adivasi clan belonging from Madhya Pradesh in India. Interestingly, in this version, the story begins from where Valmiki’s Ramayana ended; when Sita is rescued from captivity. Also, Bhima, one of the Pandavas from the epic of Mahabharata, is mentioned in this version. Unlike Valmiki’s Ramayana, Rama is not the protagonist in this version.
Ramakien: The Thai Version
This is considered as Thailand's national epic, and is still taught in some schools in the country. In this version, Ravana is shown as a learned scholar and a noble king in this version. Also, Ravana’s pursuit for Sita is depicted as true love. There are a lot of similarities between this version of Ramayana and Valmiki’s version, but this version lays a lot of emphasis on Hanuman.
When a baby is born in an Indian household-they invite hijra to shower the newborn with their blessings for their blessings confer fertility, prosperity, and long life on the child. But when that child grows up we teach them to avert their eyes when a group of hijras passes by, we pass on the behaviour of treating hijras as lesser humans to our children. Whenever a child raises a question related to gender identity or sexuality they are shushed down. We're taught to believe that anything "deviant" and outside of traditional cis-heteronormativity is something to be ashamed of. This mentality raises anxious, scared queer adults who're ashamed of their own identity, and adults who bully people for "queer behaviour".
Hijras are a community of people who include eunuchs, intersex, and transgender people. They worship the Hindu goddess of chastity and fertility, Bahuchara Mata. Most hijras, but not all, choose to undergo a castration ceremony known as "nirvana" in which they remove their male genitalia as an offering to their goddess. The whole community is vibrant with hundreds of people with hundreds of ways of expression, the true identity of a hijra is complex and unique to each individual. In India, hijras prefer to refer to themselves as Kinner/Kinnar as it means the mythological beings who excel at singing and dancing.
Hijras worship the Hindu goddess of chastity and fertility, Bahuchara Mata.homegrown.co.in
The hijra community works systematically, the community separates itself from the outside world and teaches lessons to the young ones in secret. Each community has a guru and the other hijras are their disciples or chela. The "hijra ways of life" are taught to the disciples in a secluded environment where they leave their families and live with other hijras in the community. More often than not hijras are thought of as nothing different from transgender and often referred to as transgender; however, scientifically these two terms denote a different class of people. Hijras are a part of the whole community of people with various identities and of spiritual and cultural values meanwhile, transgender merely refers to those people whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned to them at birth, they are a part of the community and do not represent the whole community.
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Historically and culturally the community has existed in the Indian subcontinent as long as the civilization has existed. There are mentions of hijra in The Mahabharata, a holy book of Hindus. Shikhandi who was neither male nor female is a mythological legend. In another version of Mahabharata Arjuna, one of the Pandavas was cursed to be the third gender by Urvashi, when he refused to be sexually involved with her. In a story by Padma Purana, it is seen that Arjuna transforms into a woman to take part in Krishna's mystical dance which only women can take part in. The Hijra figures are prominent in Indian Mughal History as well, referred to as Khwaja Siras and known for their loyalty to the ruler, they worked as the sexless watchdogs of the Mughal harems. They held important positions in court and various facets of administration during Mughal-era India, from the 16th to 19th century. The Hijra community is a testament to the sexual diversity that is integral yet often forgotten in Indian culture.
If the whole hijra community was looked upon with enamor and respect in our history, what happened that when we come across the community we look at them with contempt and are filled with a mixture of negative, fear, laughter, and odd emotions. It's owing to the fact that under British Raj, the Criminal tribes Act 1871 hijras were criminalized and the law was made to eradicate the whole community. However, these acts were abolished by the Indian government after independence, and by 2014, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh all had officially recognized third gender people as citizens deserving of equal rights where the third gender means individuals categorizing themselves as neither male nor female. Even though the progress is slow but in 2015 Madhu Kinnar became the first hijra mayor in India was elected in the city of Raigarh.
ALSO READ: India's first Residential Transgender
Although the hijra community was revered by society and is invited to births and weddings for religious and spiritual ceremonies, they still become victims of abuse and discrimination. Violence and hate crimes against the community have become common. They are deprived of education, job opportunities, seating in restaurants, etc. leading them to live in poor conditions barely surviving. They often have to resort to begging and prostitution to earn a daily living. The government has tried to address this issue by introducing bills for the protection of the hijra community, with prison terms and other punishments for those offending them, but there is little to no less effect on the social stigma against the community.
In India, the hijra community comes under the umbrella term LGBTQ+ and we notice that they lack voice and representation when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. We need to understand that when we fight for LGBTQ+ rights we fight for the whole community, we fight for hijras who have been victims of violence, hate crimes, and disrespect from none other than the people of our society. And although hijras are a part of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, they have an independent subculture of their own. It is worth every effort to know about them, to study about them, to befriend them, and to smile at them for they are every bit of human as we are and they have nothing but blessings in their heart.