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Gleanings from Hindu scriptures: Part 14
Karma, or actions, are central to human life. There does not pass a moment when people are not involved in one or the other action. Karma does not merely refer to bodily movements, but also to our speech and thoughts. After all, even speech and thoughts involve movements and vibrations with respect to sound and mind.
Thus, Karma sustains life. But, not all actions enrich life. Some lead to upliftment and happiness while others lead to pain and sorrow. Hindu scriptures call these uplifting actions as ‘Dharma’ because they uphold life, impart happiness, and establish harmony. The depreciating actions that lead to pain, suffering, and disharmony are termed as ‘Adharma’, or that which is opposite of Dharma.
The performance of Dharmic actions helps a person fulfill his/her desires without causing disharmony or suffering to others, and thus, leads to spiritual elevation. On the other hand, the fulfillment of one’s desires through Adharmic actions without a care for the society, will result in the society’s harm, and will cause sorrow to the performer. Thus, the scriptures say, Dharma must always be practiced and Adharma avoided.
Hindu scriptures have enunciated at various places which actions are to be performed and which to be avoided. It must be kept in mind that actions refer to not just bodily actions, but also to those performed through speech and thoughts. Manu Smriti, for instance, classified ten actions under Adharma: 3 bodily actions, 3 mental actions, and 4 actions committed by speech.
In this installment, let us look into three kinds of bodily actions that are considered as ‘Adharma’ and hence should be avoided. Manu Smriti (12. 7) says:
adattAnAmupAdAnam hiMsA chaiva vidhAnataH |
paraDharOpasEvA cha shArIram trividham smritam ||
Meaning: Taking what has not been given, injuring (others) without the sanction of the scriptures, and holding intercourse with another man’s wife, are declared to be the three kinds of (adharmic) bodily action.
Each of these terms covers a huge variety of actions. For example, the term ‘adattanaamupaadaanam’ not only refers to act of stealing but also to all forms of corruption and unethical wealth accumulation.
Cheating people by fooling them, extorting people using force, stealing, dacoity, corruption, and bribery, every action that results in unethical accumulation of wealth are all considered as Adharmic actions.
The gist of the tenet is that a person must earn his wealth and luxuries through virtuous Dharmic means by hard work and honesty. All other means of gaining wealth have been considered as Adharma.
The second tenet calls ‘Himsa’, or injury which is not sanctioned in the scriptures, as Adharma. It is interesting to note that the Smriti is not asking for adherence to absolute non-violence or pacifism, but only rejects those acts of violence which are not according to the scriptures.
So, what does “according to scriptures” mean? Hindu scriptures permit injury in certain situations like the performance of Yajna, during cooking, in self-defense, during wars, etc.
In these circumstances, an injury is inevitable. Yajnas are performed for the material and spiritual welfare of the Universe, wars are fought to protect one’s nation and citizens, while cooking is necessary to sustain life. Ahimsa, as an absolute tenet is only applicable to Sannyasins (renunciates) who have renounced the Universe. For all others, Himsa (or injury) is permitted only in a few unavoidable circumstances. Apart from that, any violence committed is considered as Adharma.
Thus, killing or hurting people or animals for any reason other than self-defense or during the war is Adharma. Kidnapping, blackmailing, human trafficking, animal trafficking, forcing women into prostitution, and all related crimes are Adharma. Human and animal rights are all addressed by this tenet.
The third tenet of Adharma is having a physical relationship with another person’s spouse, and thus addresses adultery. The reason adultery has been considered as Adharma is that it involves cheating. Just as one must not steal another person’s wealth, one must also not violate another person’s wife. Marriage is a deep conjugal bond and this bond is violated when there is adultery.
Further, the tenet not only refers to the issues of willful adultery but also to cases wherein women are harassed or raped even after the perpetrator knows that she is not interested in him or that she is already married. The tenet reminds men to keep their actions in restraint so that women can live their life independently, without fear of harassment.
Hence, the Manu Smriti calls stealing, violence, and violating others’ wives as three of the heinous Adharmic actions that should be avoided. Other actions can also be Adharmic, but the verse highlights three important aspects of human actions where they err the most.
One may desire momentary pleasure, or wealth by committing acts of Adharma. However, the pleasure will not last long. Ultimately, one will invariably end up in pain and sorrow that is proportional to the magnitude of the Adharma committed, and the magnitude of suffering caused to others. Thus, the scriptures repeatedly advise people to practice the path of Dharma and shun Adharma.
More in this segment:
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 1
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 2
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 3
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 4
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 5
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 6
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 7
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 8
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 9
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 10
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 11
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 12
Kerala is a land of many good things. It has an abundance of nature, culture, art, and food. It is also a place of legend and myth, and is known for its popular folklore, the legend of Yakshi. This is not a popular tale outside the state, but it is common knowledge for travellers, especially those who fare through forests at night.
The legend of the yakshi is believed to be India's equivalent of the Romanian Dracula, except of course, the Yakshi is a female. Many Malayalis believe that the Yakshi wears a white saree and had long hair. She has a particular fragrance, which is believed to be the fragrance of the Indian devil-tree flowers. She seduces travellers with her beauty, and kills them brutally.
Yakshi idol in Veroor, Sri Dharamashastha temple Image source: wikimedia commons
The Yakshi is believed to live in a palm tree which can appear like a palace. Victims are taken here before they are killed. Travellers on highways are often advised not to stop near heavily forested areas, or speak to anyone who closely resembles a Yakshi. Some believe she can change form, while other hold to the belief that she doesn't. after securing her victim, the only trace left behind is body parts like hair, nails, and teeth.
They say, like other ghosts, a Yakshi's feet will not touch the ground. This is something to look out for. Mysterious deaths have been reported across the rural areas in Kerala, and all these have been attributed to the legend.
Keywords: Legends, Yakshi, Urban legend, Ghost, Kerala, Myth, Vampire
The LGBTQ+ acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and others. In India LGBTQ+ community also include a specific social group, part religious cult, and part caste: the Hijras. They are culturally defined either as "neither men nor women" or as men who become women by adopting women's dress and behavior. Section 377 of the India Penal code that criminalized all sexual acts "against the order of nature" i.e. engaging in oral sex or anal sex along with other homosexual activities were against the law, ripping homosexual people off of their basic human rights. Thus, the Indian Supreme Court ruled a portion of Section 377 unconstitutional on 6th September 2018.
But the question is, "was India always against homosexuality"? Has the concept of homosexuality being unnatural existed forever? No, in Indian history and Hinduism homosexuality has never been an offense, in fact in several instances it has been depicted how people embraced their identity, be it sexual identity or gender identity. Section 377 was brought to India by the British in 1862, while India was colonized. Even after the Independence, it was only in 2018 that the Supreme Court ruled it as irrational and illogical.
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Homosexuality in Ancient India
When Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality in India, there was an uproar about it being a western ideology and liberalism. But in reality, homosexuality has existed since the time of the Vedas. The Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association (GALVA) researched and discovered that it was around 3102 B.C. (during the Vedic Age) that homosexuality or non-normative sexual identity was recognized as "Tritiya Prakriti", or the third nature. Ancient India not only made mentions of homosexuality but accepted it as well.
Hinduism is the most vastly followed religion in India. Hinduism does not explicitly mention homosexuality however it does contain a homosexual theme and characters in its text. There have been various instances in our scriptures and texts that have introduced us to LGBT+ characters such as the androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati Ardhanariswara meaning "the half-female lord". One of the most popular and ancient texts on sexuality, eroticism, and emotional fulfillment of life, "Kamasutra" has a complete chapter dedicated to homosexuality and homosexual sex. Numerous Hindu sculptures and temples have statues depicting homosexual activities.
Numerous Hindu sculptures and temples have statues depicting homosexual activities. Facebook
Our Mughals were Queer
Mughals are often seen under the light of cruelty, rigid ethics, nobility, and polygamy. Simultaneously, Mughals are also the ones credited for the emergence of Sufism, abolished jizya tax, love beyond religion, classes, and gender.
In the Baburnama written in memoirs of our very first Mughal ruler Muhammad Babur, several instances documented Babur's infatuation and affection towards a teenage boy named Baburi. We also have multiple Persian couplets as evidence of Babur's affection for Baburi. Mughals engaged in homosexuality and pederasty, and they believed that later was a form of "pure love".
But as time passed homosexuality was suppressed more and more though people practiced it in secret if revealed they were punished. According to the Fatwa-e-Alamgiri Sharia-based text of the Mughal Empire, there is a common set of punishments for homosexuality, which could include 50 lashes for a slave, 100 for a free infidel, or death by stoning for a Muslim.
British Raj and Independence of India
In 1862, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalized homosexual sex came into force. Even after Independence in 1947, the section remained a part of the Indian Constitution. There were protests all over the country to give people of the LGBT+ community basic human rights but it was not until 2018 that The Supreme Court of India ruled the portion of Section 377 has unconstitutional and struck it off. One judge said the landmark decision would "pave the way for a better future.". With Section 377 gone are LGBT+ people allowed to fall in love freely? No, people are still afraid to love because of the stigma in our society when it comes to homosexuality; they are seen as lesser humans.
ALSO READ: Significant Support for Rights for LGBTQ+
Although the Supreme Court has decriminalized homosexual activities, same-sex marriage remains illegal in the country. Homophobia is still prevalent in India, and homosexual children would rather commit suicide than come out to society with their true identity, that's how harsh of a world we live in. Lacking support from family, society, or police, many gay rape victims do not report the crimes. In 1977, writer and Indian mathematician Shakuntla Devi published "The World of Homosexuals". It was the first study in the Indian context; the book contains interviews with homosexual men set in the years of Emergency. She wrote, "rather than pretending that homosexuals don't exist it is time we face the facts squarely in the eye and find room for homosexual people." We've had small victories in our fight against homophobia and getting LGBT+ community the rights they deserve as humans, but we still have a long and exhausting fight ahead of us.
The Mysore kingdom became a popular tourist destination after India became an independent country. The Wodeyar dynasty who succeeded Tipu Sultan are still royalty, but they do not rule the state. Their heritage and culture have become what Karnataka is famous for.
Among the many things that Mysore offers to the state of Karnataka, the Mysore Peta is one. In north India, various cultures have their own headgears. They wear their traditional outfits on the days of festivities and ceremonies. Likewise, in the south, especially in Karnataka, the Mysore Peta is worn.
Made of the traditional Mysore silk, the Peta is usually a white turban decorated with a gold silk thread. It is worn by the Maharaja of Mysore during Dasara, or any other public appearance. This tradition has been preserved and is used all over the state by prominent leaders.
Politicians who want to appease older, more experienced politicians, offer a peta as a sign of honour. International guests are welcomed into the city with a peta and silk shawl. In universities, the peta is worn as a replacement to the black caps, as a sign of graduation and scholarship.
Even today, in the court of Mysore, petas are worn and given out as tokens of honour. The peta of the king varies from the ones a courtier wears, and even among them, there is a difference according to status. Petas are made by a particular family and passed down from generation to generation.
Keywords: Mysore kingdom, peta, silk, Wodeyar