Monday July 23, 2018

How modern was Indian Mythology? Read here the story of Ahalya-Rama that has power to transform society!

Ahalya is one of the Panchakanyas is believed to be the wife of Rishi Gautama, according to the Hindu mythology

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Lord Rama. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
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Hindu scriptures have always mesmerised people in India and people across the globe with its poetic verses. The detailing of the stories, powerful characters, interesting plots and much more are the qualities that make a reader glued to Hindu mythologies such as- Puranas, MangalKāvya. The stories might appear simple but when one delves deep, they can find the true meaning of the stories. Philosophers, Historians have agreed that the stories in the Hindu scriptures are layered and need to be analysed for better understanding. They aren’t just a random thought of the poets but the proper history of the ages.

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According to the Hindu mythologies, five Kanyas (Panchakanya) are mentioned in the texts, who established the bravery and strength of Indian women as an individual, apart from fulfilling the responsibilities of being a mother or a wife. Ahalya is one of the Panchakanyas who needs no introduction, as she is believed to be the wife of Rishi Gautama. The section of Ramayana that narrates about her, explains how three men affected her life.

Ahalya-Rama, Wikimedia Commons
Ahalya-Rama, Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Ahalya was described as the beautiful lady on whom Devraj Indra got attracted to, due to her charm. On one unfortunate dawn, Rishi Gautama went to the river for religious practices and Indra took the form of the Rishi went to Ahalya. Ahalya didn’t recognise the culprit and served him as she used to. When the clone was leaving Rishi Gautama saw him and Ahalya understood that she was betrayed. Not aware of the situation, Rishi Gautama accused his wife and cursed her to be a ‘stone’. In Treta Yuga, Rama accompanied by Rishi Viswamitra turned the stone to the living being and freed Ahalya from the curse, with the touch of his feet.

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For the better understanding of the history, one should delve deep to find the true meaning. Rabindranath Tagore interpreted Rama as a social changer who left the kingdom and palace to give people a more practical path to living in a better manner.

Ahalya, Wikimedia commons
Ahalya, Image source: Wikimedia commons

Rama and Viswamitra, believer of Karma or work came to the land of Ahalya. Haricharan Bandopadhyay’s Bengali dictionary gives the meaning of the word ‘Ahalya’ as a land which is unable for Hal (ploughing) i.e. an infertile land. From the story, one can interpret that the land (personified as Ahalya) was betrayed by Lord Indra, the Deity of Rain and the husband, the farmer who took care of the ‘land’ left her, which made her stone (meant lifeless here). Rama came to the ‘land’ and farmed on her which made the land fertile and green again. Here being fertile refers to being alive.

On the other hand, Kumarilbhatta interpreted rape of Ahalya by Indra from a different angle. He defined Indra as Sun, Ahalya as night and rape of Ahalya as the end of the night by bright rays of the sun. Thus it necessary to view the mythology as history and not blindly believing the poetic appearance of the texts.

– by Priyanka Saha of NewsGram. Twitter: @priyanka140490

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Shankaracharya: A remarkable genius that Hinduism produced (Book Review)

The irony is that most leading scientists, particularly outside India but also within, have little knowledge of the structure of Shankara's philosophy and the transparent interface it has with scientific discoveries today.

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He was greatly influenced by three basic texts of Hindu philosophy: Upanishads, the Brahma Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita
He was greatly influenced by three basic texts of Hindu philosophy: Upanishads, the Brahma Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita.

Title: Adi Shankaracharya: Hinduism’s Greatest Thinker; Author: Pavan K. Varma; Publisher: Tranquebar Press; Pages: 364; Price: Rs 699

This must be one of the greatest tributes ever paid to Shankaracharya, the quintessential “paramarthachintakh”, who wished to search for the ultimate truths behind the mysteries of the universe. His genius lay in building a complete and original philosophical edifice upon the foundational wisdom of the Upanishads.

A gifted writer, Pavan Varma, diplomat-turned-politician and author of several books including one on Lord Krishna, takes us through Shankara’s short but eventful span of life during which, from having been born in what is present-day Kerala, he made unparalleled contributions to Hindu religion that encompassed the entire country. Hinduism has not seen a thinker of his calibre and one with such indefatigable energy, before or since.

Shankara’s real contribution was to cull out a rigorous system of philosophy that was based on the essential thrust of Upanishadic thought but without being constrained by its unstructured presentation and contradictory meanderings.

He was greatly influenced by three basic texts of Hindu philosophy: Upanishads, the Brahma Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita. He wrote extensive and definitive commentaries on each of them. Of course, the importance he gave to the Mother Goddess, in the form of Shakti or Devi, can be traced to his own attachment to his mother whom he left when he set off, at a young age, in search of a guru and higher learning.

The irony is that most leading scientists, particularly outside India but also within, have little knowledge of the structure of Shankara's philosophy and the transparent interface it has with scientific discoveries today.
Shankara wrote hymns in praise of many deities but his personal preference was the worship of the Mother Goddess.

Against all odds, Shankara created institutions for the preservation and propagation of Vedantic philosophy. He established “mathas” with the specific aim of creating institutions that would develop and project the Advaita doctrine. He spoke against both caste discriminations and social inequality, at a time when large sections of conservative Hindu opinion thought otherwise.

Shankara was both the absolutist Vedantin, uncompromising in his belief in the non-dual Brahman, and a great synthesiser, willing to assimilate within his theoretical canvas several key elements of other schools of philosophy. He revived and restored Hinduism both as a philosophy and a religion that appealed to its followers.

Also Read: Hinduism: The Nine Basic Beliefs that you need to know

Varma rightly says that it must have required great courage of conviction as well as deep spiritual and philosophical insight for Shankaracharya to build on the insights of the Upanishads a structure of thought, over a millennium ago, that saw the universe and our own lives within it with a clairvoyance that is being so amazingly endorsed by science today. The irony is that most leading scientists, particularly outside India but also within, have little knowledge of the structure of Shankara’s philosophy and the transparent interface it has with scientific discoveries today.

Shankara wrote hymns in praise of many deities but his personal preference was the worship of the Mother Goddess. The added value of the book is that it has, in English, a great deal of Shankara’s writings. Unfortunately, most Hindus today are often largely uninformed about the remarkable philosophical foundations of their religion. They are, the author points out, deliberately choosing the shell for the great treasure that lies within. This is indeed a rich book. (IANS)