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By Janet Murphy, Winchester, United Kingdom
Great Minds of India by Salil Gewali is a compact book discussing the power that Indian ancient wisdom, thought and way of life had an impact on western minds, especially those who are of great historical significance, such as Voltaire, Albert Einstein, Ralph Emerson, Julius Robert Oppenheimer, Mark Twain, HG Wells et al. Gewali’s motive for his research work stems years back when his father encouraged him to read the ancient texts of the eastern wisdom, which prompted him to research western scholars like Fritof Capra, Ralph Emerson, Henry David Thoreau to name a few.
This perspective of India in the eyes of Western giants is what has led to the creation of this book which Gewali has undertaken since his early days. The researcher has collected quotes from these greats minds in the west that reveal their deep admiration for Indian philosophy and spiritualism, highlighting how central the study of Indian culture has been to western civilization. From Ved Vyasa to Chanakya, Swami Vivekananda, Indian philosophers have molded India’s history to what it is today, and have educated thousands of minds, even western ones. Gewali aims to reveal to his readers who central Indian philosophy and its relationship with the sciences is to modern philosophical and scientific interpretation.
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Great Minds of India, originally published in 1998 in xerox format and then again by Academic Publication in 2009, and later Penguin kindle edition in 2013, was seen as a landmark in modern Indian literature as it demonstrated Indian heritage in the modern world and managed to ignite fire into ancient Indian history. This book, a revised edition, has been extended because of the knowledge that the author has found in the time since its original publication in 1998 in Xerox format. His work has been approved by NASA scientist Dr. Kamlesh Lulla, a specialist in remote sensing and geosciences, indicating the absolute weight of Gewali’s work.
A few of the articles which I encountered that published from a Chicago-based media planted a seed of interest in Indian history which has stayed with me since, resulting in me choosing university modules around Indian history. These articles surround western giants and their relationship to India. Most if not all of these western intellectuals found themselves shocked at just how far Indian wisdom dated back, as well as being able to prove or disprove what were thought to be exclusively western ideas, such as rejecting a Newtonian world view. Werner Heisenberg, German physicist, and quantum mechanic, concluded that the ‘crazy’ ideas discussed by Indian philosophers centuries ago ‘suddenly made much more sense.’ Heisenberg is just one of the many intellectuals in Gewali’s book that appreciates and admires the wisdom in India.
Another article that I read in 2018 must-have elevated Gewali’s book, calling it a landmark research work that will detoxify India. Many in India have found hope with the publication of such articles and the book by Gewali, especially because of the long period of native scholars who have undermined Indian history and literary heritage. The effects of colonization on India have resulted in it being seen as a third world country, unable to climb out of the hole it’s been left in after years of oppression and resource extraction. This idea of India is far from the full story, and its history of trade and commerce from as early as the 4th century, as well as the wealth of knowledge about the universe. This book has been able to support my already existing knowledge of Indian wisdom and I hope anyone who reads it is planted with the seed too.
On a personal level, my direct relationship with Indian wisdom and culture stemmed from when I began to undertake yoga and meditation to calm my nerves. Having always been an anxious person, I attempted yoga one day, hoping my mind would calm down and I could figure out breathing techniques. This one encounter has changed me forever, as I’ve learned not only how to keep myself physically active, but also how to unify my mind, emotions and body. The Bhagavad Gita, one of the greatest spiritual books in Indian culture, states that “yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self”, which truly encapsulates what yoga means to a lot of people. However, despite a large group of western people participating in yoga and meditation, there is an intellectual gap between the action and history, which is why Gewali’s book is so monumental. Even if many people have statues of Buddha in their houses or participate in yoga exercises, the lack of deep appreciation for Indian culture and heritage necessitates a link to bring its history to western users, and Gewali pointing its readers towards western figures who understood Indian wisdom is the best way to do it.
Some of the best quotes Gewali has cited which appealed to me are by Western figures like Einstein who wholeheartedly believed that Indian wisdom has shaped everything the west knows of science and maths. His quote “We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made” reveals how Indian knowledge is the foundation of modern scientific understanding. Further quote, like this one from W. Butler Yeats, highlights how the boundless scope of knowledge and spiritualism captivated the western knowledge seekers: “It was only my first meeting with the Indian philosophy that confirmed my vague speculations and seemed at once logical and boundless.” It’s simply amazing.
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Towards the end of the book, after the quotes have been expressed, the author has included some of his essays and articles, where he discusses some of the Indian influences from his childhood, such as Swami Vivekananda and Gandhi. He expresses how these philosophers, and later the spiritual scholars like Vivekananda, and Paramahansa Yogananda – the revered guru of American business magnate Steve Jobs, were the first to directly reveal the greatness of India and her heritage to him. While this article could have been placed at the beginning of the book as a foreword or epilogue, the importance of his words shouldn’t be neglected. Realizing that it became obvious that the world wasn’t acknowledging the roots of these scientists, Gewali set to researching Indian influence, and his passion for rebuilding Indian reputation is remarkable.
The sole goal of Salil Gewali being to highlight how the study of India’s ancient wisdom is inextricably linked to the modern understanding of science and its universal significance has most definitely been achieved by this remarkable book. It is hoped all right-thinking scholars will find his work extremely applaudable.
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Karwa Chauth is a Hindu festival that is primarily celebrated by married Hindu women. On this day, married Hindu women keep Nirjala fast, which means fasting even without consumption of water, from sunrise to sunset. The reason behind this fast is to pray for their husband's life, health, and safety.
According to the Hindu calendar, Karwa Chauth is celebrated on the fourth day after Purnima in the month of Kartik.
On this day, married Hindu women dress in new clothes (preferably red because signifies a happy married life) and apply henna to their hands. At the same time, women observing this fast get together to celebrate it by narrating the Karwa Chauth Vrat Katha and singing folk songs, which make this a lot more lively. Some women also worship Goddess Parvati in the Karwa Chauth puja followed by Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesh, and Lord Kartikeya. And, the fast is later broken after having a glimpse of the moon.
Married Hindu women have gathered to perform the Karwa Chauth puja.Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
Interestingly, there are many stories related to Karwa Chauth. Some of them are:
Story of Queen Veervati
This is the most interesting story. There was a queen named Veervati, who was the only sister amongst seven brothers. She spent her first Karva Chauth as a married woman at her parents' house. She began to fast after sunrise but by evening, she was desperately waiting for the moon to rise because she couldn't control her thirst and hunger any longer. Seeing this, her brothers became worried because their beloved sister was suffering from thirst and hunger. So, they begged her to break the fast but she refused. Seeing her in distress, the brothers tricked her by placing a round mirror in a Pipal tree, which made it look like the moon had risen. So, Veervati fell for her brothers' tricks and broke her fast, and the moment she sat down to eat, news came that her husband is dead. This is the reason why married Hindu women observe such a tough fast for their husband's life.
Story of Karwa Chauth in Mahabharata
Interestingly, it is believed that Draupadi also observed the fast of Karwa Chauth for the safety and long life of her five husbands. Once, when Arjun had gone for penance in the Nilgris, the rest of the Pandavas faced many issues in his absence. That was when Draupadi remembered Lord Krishna for his help, and he reminded her that in a similar situation, Goddess Parvati had kept the fast for Lord Shiva. Inspired by this, Draupadi too kept the fast of Karva Chauth for her five husbands. Since then it was believed that the Pandavas were able to face every problem.
Therefore, Karwa Chauth is celebrated by married Hindu women all across the world with full enthusiasm. Though, there is a sect now that has started calling this age-old ritual “patriarchal".
Keywords: Hinduism, Women, Karwa Chauth, Festivals, Patriarchy.
Karnataka is famous for Sandalwood, and this is best projected in the state's own Mysore Sandal Soap. This golden, fragrant soap that is rich with the goodness of Sandalwood, has a rather fascinating history behind it, and it is not for cosmetic benefit at all.
Mysore Sandal Soap, surprisingly, was not created by anyone interested in the beauty benefits of soap or its cosmetic value. Instead, it was created by Maharaja Krishna Raja Wodeyar IV and Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya, the Diwan of Mysore.
Post-World War I, there was too much sandalwood lying around and the state did not know what to do with it. This excess stock was a result of the halted export to the other princely states. In 1916, the birth of the Sandalwood soap beloved to Karnataka came from an idea that the Maharaja received because of this wood.
He was gifted a set of soaps made from sandalwood oils, and he was extremely impressed with this. He decided to make soaps that represented the essence of the state. He discussed this idea with his Diwan, Visvesvaraya, who immediately backed him up. They began to experiment the making of soaps in collaboration with Indian Institute of Science.
Msore Sandal Soap is the only one with an oval shape that has not changed since 1916 Photo credit: Wikimedia commons
One of the students who worked on this process, Sosale Garalapuri Shastry showed great talent and was sent to England, to learn how to make soaps. He later came to be known as Soap Shastry. His work helped to standardise procedures, and the government factory that makes Mysore Sandal Soap was set up.
Shastry also designed the packaging box and gave the soap a unique shape. Soaps at that time were only rectangular bars. Mysore Sandal is the only oval soap that is embellished both inside and outside. Shastry intended for it to look like a jewellery box.
Every box of Mysore Sandal Soap has the inscription, 'Srigandadha Tavarinida' which means, "from the maternal home of the sandalwood". It is the only soap made from pure sandalwood oil, and bears the emblem of the sharaba, a creature with the body of a lion and head of an elephant.
The Maharaja's initial intent behind the soap was to reach the goodness of sandalwood to as many people as possible, and through men like Visvesvaraya and Shastry, it was made possible. The Mysore Sandal Soap is still one of the most organic soap and perhaps the only one that represents the culture of an entire state.
Keywords: Mysore Sandal Soap, Sandalwood, History, Shastry, Visvesvaraya
The new medical colleges being opened in Uttar Pradesh will be named after saints and sages.
The state government has issued an order naming four district hospitals that are being converted into medical colleges.
These district hospitals are in Bijnor, Fatehpur, Chandauli, and Siddharth Nagar.
The Bijnor medical college has been named after Mahatma Vidur, a philosopher during the Mahabharata era and uncle of the Pandavas and Kauravas.
The Chandauli medical college has been named after Baba Keenaram, said to be the founder of the Aghori sect.
The Siddharth Nagar district hospital will be called Madhav Prasad Tripathi Medical College after the BJP politician from the region. Tripathi, popularly known as Madhav Babu, was also the first Uttar Pradesh BJP chief. He was elected MP from Domariyaganj in 1977, besides being two times Jan Sangh MLA and also a member of the UP legislative council.
The Fatehpur hospital has been named Amar Shaheed Jodha Singh Ataiya Thakur Dariyawn Singh Medical College, after the freedom fighter of 1857.
It is said that he was among the first to use Guerrilla warfare against the British, as taught by freedom fighter Tatya Tope.
Meanwhile, according to official sources, the medical college in Deoria will be named after Maharishi Devraha Baba and the medical college of Ghazipur in the name of Maharishi Vishwamitra.
The medical college of Mirzapur will be in the name of Maa Vindhyavasini, the medical college of Pratapgarh in the name of Dr. Sonelal Patel and the medical college of Etah will be named after Veerangana Avantibai Lodhi. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: Medical Colleges, Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, India, Politics