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Sanskrit and Vedas – What the learning means?

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by PRAKASH KATOCH

Two news items linked to Sanskrit appeared in the media recently. First, a committee on revival of Sanskrit set up by Government of India made wide-ranging recommendations but made it clear that Sanskrit need not be made compulsory in schools, and that under the three language formula, schools and examination boards should ensure that Sanskrit is taught and available to those who are interested.

The committee has also said that if Sanskrit is to become popular, textbooks of all subjects should be available in Sanskrit.

The second news item is about an Indian American couple (Anupama and Guru Ramakrishnan) who have donated $3.5 million to Chicago University for the revival of Sanskrit language, adding to the immense contribution by Indian Diaspora towards reviving and retaining our culture.

The Ramakrishnans’ gift is part of The University of Chicago Campaign: Inquiry and Impact, which will raise $4.5 billion and engage 125,000 alumni by 2019. To date, the campaign has raised $2.82 billion and engaged more than 59,000 alumni. Interestingly, last year in India Maryam, a Muslim girl won the contest of Bhagwat Gita, holy book for Hinduism followers. Maryam’s parents supported her idea of participating in the contest. She defeated all the contestants to win the contest.

According to American political scientist Joseph Nye, “The soft power of a country rests primarily on three resources: its culture (in places where it is attractive to others), its political values (when it lives up to them at home and abroad), and its foreign policies (when they are seen as legitimate and having moral authority).”

In ancient times many civilization were formed that were confined to small regions but world’s first culture came up in India (Yajurveda 7/14: Sa Pratham Sansktiti Vishwara) which focused on inculcating human values in mankind and spread to vast areas of the globe; present day West Asia, Central Asia, South Asia including Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia.

Focus of Indian culture inculcating human values in mankind has been widely acknowledged abroad. British Historian Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975) had stated, “It is already becoming clear that a chapter which has a western beginning will have to have an Indian ending if it is not to end in the self-destruction of the human race. At this supremely dangerous moment in history the only way of salvation for mankind is the Indian way.”

Two issues are noteworthy in Toynbee’s statement; first, the world has become much more dangerous than when he spoke, and second, when he said “the only way of salvation for mankind is the Indian way”, he meant the human values and all inclusive nature of Indians.

The world acknowledges what India gave to them in terms of culture, civilization, Buddhism and Jainism, education, arithmetic, algebra, trigonometry, science, astronomy, medicine, surgery, rocketry, navigation, etc.

India gave the world Zero without which no worthwhile scientific discovery would have been possible, as acknowledged by Albert Einstein. Using an astronomical model developed by Brahmagupta in the 7th century, Bhaskaracharya accurately defined many astronomical quantities, including the length of the sidereal year, the time that is required for the Earth to orbit the Sun as 365.258756484, hundreds of years before astronomer smart.

It is also intriguing how accurate and meaningful our ancient scriptures are though not interpreted accurately or realized by any presently. The Hanuman Chalisa reads, “Yug sahastra yojan per Bhanu, Leelyo taahi madhur phal janu.” One Yug denotes 12000 years, one Sahastra denotes 1000 and one Yojan denotes 8 miles, which brings the total distance to 96000000 miles (12000 x 1000 x 8 miles) or 1536000000 kms to Sun, which NASA confirms is the exact distance between Earth and Sun.

Sanskrit is acknowledged as the mother of most languages in the world including European languages. NASA acknowledges it is the best language for computer programming.

In India, Sanskrit is mostly used as hymns and chants by Hindus and Buddhists as ceremonial language and for rituals. CBSE, ICSE and some state education boards provide Sanskrit as second or third language in schools for classes 5 to 8. There are a number of Gurukuls also teaching Sanskrit.

Many would be unaware that Moin-ul-Islam madrassa, located on outskirts of Agra, teaches Sanskrit and Arabic to girls and boys of both Hindu and Muslim communities. Spoken Sanskrit has been revived in some villages and traditional institutions as well. Compare this to the proliferation of Chinese language in India.

In 2012, China offered to train 300 Indian teachers in Mandarin Chinese covering all expenses in China for six months and under an MoU signed with CBSE for more than 100 CBSE schools to introduce Chinese language. In April 2012, CBSE made Chinese a foreign language subject for middle school students in 500 schools, with plans to promote study of Chinese in 11,500 middle schools. China’s Confucius Institute has been introduced by Vellore Institute of Technology in Tamil Nadu and JNU, Delhi too has been designated to host Confucius Institute online.

The hesitation within India to learn Sanskrit is generally because of the patent question what is the use of learning it? Such question ignores to examine why educational institutions in countries like Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Sweden, Thailand, USA and Russian Federation are teaching Sanskrit.

Interestingly an International Conference on “Sanskrit and Indological Studies in India, Russia and Neighbouring Countries: Past, Present and Future” held in Moscow last November saw 24 scholars from India, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Belarus presenting papers. St James Schools in England teach Sanskrit because: being the root of European languages its study illuminates their grammar and etymology; its philosophical concepts provide a wealth of human thought; regarded classical language par excellence and considered positive while assessing university admissions.

St James School, London, has Sanskrit compulsory second language subject for its junior division because it helps students grasp math, science and other languages better. Warwick Jessup, head of Sanskrit department, says “This is the most perfect and logical language in the world, the only one that is not named after the people who speak it. Indeed the word ‘Sanskrit’ itself means perfected language.”

Paul Moss, Headmaster of the school, says: “The Devnagri script and spoken Sanskrit are two of the best ways for a child to overcome stiffness of fingers and the tongue. Today’s European languages do not use many parts of the tongue and mouth while speaking or many finger movements while writing, whereas Sanskrit helps immensely to develop cerebral dexterity through its phonetics.”

Students of St James chanted Vedic hymns in presence of Queen Elizabeth at the Buckingham Palace in 2010 to celebrate beginning of the Commonwealth Games. Significantly, the Gayatri Mantra was proved to be the most powerful hymn in the world through laboratory tests by American scientist Howard Steingeril; the Mantra produced 110,000 sound waves per second. Gayatri Mantra is known to be capable of developing specific spiritual potentialities.

The most significant reason to learn Sanskrit is to be able to draw upon the great knowledge lying hidden in our Vedas. The bane of India always has been lack of political consensus, which is exploited to the hilt by political parties for political gains despite adverse impact to national interests.

Therefore, an impression has been created that Sanskrit and Vedas are strictly synonymous to Hindu religion, which is not the case. Even the great teachings of Bhagwad Gita because of the time of Mahabharata are alluded mistakenly to Hinduism, but are applicable across the board to all religions and communities.

American Thinker Thoreau clarified, “In the great teachings of Vedas, there is no touch of sectarianism. It is of all ages, climes and nationalities and is the road for attainment of the Great Knowledge.” The misperception in India that Vedas are part of Hindu Religion needs to be corrected, even as foreigners acknowledge that Hinduism is a way of life.

German Indologist Max Muller who translated Vedas into English and who was recruited by the British to educate officers of the newly formed Indian Civil Service post the 1857 mutiny said, “If I am asked which nation had been advanced in the modern world in respect of education and culture then I would say it was India.”

At a time when our abundant youth power must join in the development of India, especially with inimical and divisive forces hell bent to lead them astray, we need to make a conscious effort to draw upon our rich heritage and culture through learning Sanskrit and Vedas – it is time to pull the wool out of our eyes.

Prakash Katoch is a third generation army officer hailing from Himachal Pradesh. He has published over 530 articles on international affairs, geopolitics, military, security, technical and topical issues besides authoring two books. The article was first published at Hillpost.in

  • Surendera

    Good Reading!!

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Veerappan: India’s most wanted

Veerappan was hunted by the police for over four decades, making it the longest man-hunt in India

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Veerappan was a smuggler, poacher, murderer and extortionist who was killed in Operation Cocoon
Veerappan in his heyday, He was killed via Operation Cocoon
  • Veerappan was a smuggler of ivory and sandalwood in the southern states of India.
  • He killed government officials and civilians alike when they tried to stop his illegal activities.
  • He died in October 2004 during ‘Operation Cocoon’, which was carried out by a Special Task Force.

Poaching, smuggling, extortion, smuggling, brigandry, murder — these are some of the few charges against Koose Munisamy Veerappan Gounder, popularly known as Veerappan, for whom was constituted India’s largest manhunt, on which the government spent around 1.5 million Rupees. From his childhood, narratives about the elusive dacoit were laced with fiction, as he became an object of myth when he was only ten years old, and had infamously shot his first tusker elephant for ivory. His notoriety became a national concern when the government banned ivory trade in India, and he began felling trees for precious sandalwood, thus beginning a period marred by Veerappan killing government officials and locals alike when they became an obstacle.

Veerappan unleashed a reign of terror on the southern states of India from the early 1980s till his death in 2004; during which Veerappan killing police officers and civilians alike caused a nationwide uproar. In 1990, the notorious smuggler had beheaded a forest officer K. Srinivas, which wasn’t recovered until three years later. In 2000, he had kidnapped the Kannada actor K. Rajkumar, whose release was negotiated through Nakkeeran editor Gopal, to whom the infamous poacher admitted to murdering as many as 120 people. Matters came to a head when   abducted the former Karnataka minister H. Nagappa in 2002, and killed him when his demands were not met.

Operation Cocoon:

Veerappan leading his gang in moily forest,
Veerappan leading his gang in Moily forest. Wikimedia

A Special Task Force or STF was constituted for the capture of Veerappan in 1991, which, headed by K. Vijay Kumar, launched Operation Cocoon in 2004, which finally resulted in Veerappan’s death. Kumar, aided by his previous experience with Veerappan, based Operation Cocoon on human intelligence and interaction, during which multiple STF personnel blended in with the locals in areas frequented by Veerappan. The initial stages of Operation Cocoon consisted of gaining the trust of Veerappan’s associates, till they started divulging details about his failing health. In the years before his death, the elusive outlaw seemed to have lost much of his vigour and vitality, as he suffered from diabetes, and a cataract had almost blinded him in one eye.
On 18th October, 2004, the police lured Veerappan out of familiar terrains in an ambulance, and apprehended him at a roadblock, where he was killed in the crossfire between his team and the STF, via three bullets. The photographs after Veerappan’s demise show him in a pathetic light, bereft of his signature handlebar moustache, and the agility which had facilitated his escape for over four decades.

There have been a lot of controversies regarding his death, as many media houses and activists have claimed that Operation Cocoon has derived Veerappan of a fair trial by law. Some have even claimed that he was tortured to death in police custody. The facts regarding the elusive sandalwood smuggler remain inconclusive even after a decade of his death, due to the lack of concrete evidence.

 

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Bhai Boolchand-the Indian who launched trade with Ghana

The first Indian to arrive in the Gold Coast (Ghana's colonial name) in 1890 , Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana

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Ghanian flag, Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana.
Ghanian flag, Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana. pixelbay
  • Bhai Boolchand, the anonymous Indian, is credited with starting trade between Ghana and India
  • The year was 1890.

Not much is known about him, but it has now emerged that trade relations between Ghana and Indiawere started by Bhai Boolchand, the first Indian to arrive in the Gold Coast — Ghana’s colonial name — in 1890. That’s some 67 years before the British colonial government granted the country independence, research by the Indian Association of Ghana has found.

“As far as our records show, Bhai Boolchand (of the Bhaiband Sindhworki trading community), landed on the shores of the Gold Coast in western Africa in 1890. Nearly twenty years later, in 1919, the first Sindhi company was established by two brothers — Tarachand Jasoomal Daswani and Metharam Jasoomal Daswani,” the Indian Association said.

The duo opened a store — Metharam Jassomal Brothers — in the then capital city of Cape Coast in 1919.

“Their business flourished and branches were opened in Accra and Kumasi. A few years later, the two brothers separated and whilst Bhai Metharam Jasoomal continued the business as Metharam Brothers, Tarachand Jasoomal operated his business as Bombay Bazaar. These were the first two Indian companies that were established in the Gold Coast,” the Association said.

Boolchand’s arrival, therefore, pre-dates the historical links between the two countries that were always thought to have started between Ghana’s first President, Kwame Nkruman, and India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Boolchand can thus be described as the one who paved the way for the arrival of other members of the Sindhi community, initially as traders and shopkeepers.

The Indian Association said more of this group arrived in the 1950s and 1960s, with a few venturing into manufacturing industries such as garments, plastics, textiles, insecticides, electronics, pharmaceuticals and optical goods.

The Association said two more Indian firms were established under the names of Lilaram Thanwardas and Mahtani Brothers in the 1920s. This trend continued in the 1930s and 1940s with the creation of several more Indian companies like T. Chandirams, Punjabi Brothers, Wassiamal Brothers, Hariram Brothers, K. Chellaram & Sons, G. Motiram, D.P. Motwani, G. Dayaram, V. Lokumal, and Glamour Stores.

Glamour Stores, which was stared by Ramchand Khubchandani who arrived in Ghana in 1929, has grown — after changing its name to Melcom Group — to become the largest retailing business in the country. The Melcom Group, headed by Ramchand’s son Bhagwan Khubchandani, is now in its 60th year and about 40 stores all over the country.

Ramchand and his brother later went into garment manufacturing in 1955 and once employed over 1,200 Ghanaians. They later opened the first Indian restaurant, Maharaja, in Ghana. Bhagwan followed in his father’s footsteps and in 1989 established the Melcom Group with his sons-in-law, Mahesh Melwani and Ramesh Sadhwani.

Another Indian-owned company that has survived through the years is the Mohanani Group, which is currently in its 51st year. At the first-ever Ghana Expatriate Business Awards, the Ministry of Trade and Industries recognised the work of one of the thriving Indian-owned B5 Plus Steel Company and awarded it the Best Expatriate Company in the metal and steel category.

As these companies brought in new expatriate staff, some left their employers to venture out on their own — resulting in more companies opening up.

“After 1947, the Gold Coast attracted the attention of some Indian multinational companies, and big names like Chanrai, Bhojsons, K.A.J. Chotirmal, Dalamals and A.D. Gulab opened branches in Ghana,” the Association said.

“The employment of Ghanaians by these founding companies also helped to lessen the burden of unemployment in the country. This amply demonstrates the level of commitment India has in the developmental agenda of Ghana,” it said.

Indians are not only investing in the manufacturing and commercial sectors of the country; they are also investing in the financial sector. Bank of Baroda, one of India’s biggest and most reputable banks, recently established a branch in Ghana and hopefully it will expand its operations in other parts of the country very soon. (IANS)

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Beatles, Apple, Facebook knew India more than Indians

Famous non-Indian celebrities know more about India and its past

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The Beatles once visited India to know more bout its past and culture.
The Beatles once visited India to know more bout its past and culture. Wikipedia

-By Salil Gewali

Facebook’s Chairman Mark Zuckerberg had dropped a bombshell on the “secularists” in India during PM Modi’s visit to his campus in California. It’s all about the Facebook connection with India. Initially, it was never a bed of roses for what is now a household name “FACEBOOK” across the world. This world-famous ‘social networking service company’ had its own share of bad times. Revealing for the first time in the meeting at the Facebook office upbeat Zuckerberg told PM Narendra Modi that Steve Jobs, the founder Chairman of Apple, had advised him to visit a certain temple in India for blessings. The revelation may have caused heartburn to many. More so in India where so-called secular and snooty folks have long acquired a proclivity to look down upon their own culture, religion, and values while being appreciative of any bizarre customs and styles of the West. Yes, heeding the advice of his mentor Steve Jobs the depressed Mark had visited the temple and toured around India for nearly a month.

Facebook's CEO tells about India.
Facebook’s CEO tells about India. wikipedia

Well, the American techno-wizard Steve Jobs had himself spent over six months in India in 1974. He was here in quest of the higher meaning of life and spiritual solace. As understood, from early age Steve was quite haunted by a good deal of unanswered questions. Of course, his encounter with a book “Be Here Now” by Richard Alpert, a Harvard Professor, had opened up a gateway to the spiritualism of the East. This book had also introduced him to a mystic Yogi ‘Neem Karoli Baba’. That later inspired Steve to set out the journey for the East. As soon as Steve and his friend Daniel Kottke arrived India they directly went to meet the Guru in Kainchi Dham Ashram in Nainital. But to their disappointment, they found the Baba had already passed away some months earlier. Nevertheless, the urge to dive deeper into the spiritualism did not die away. They shaved their heads and put on Indian clothes and undertook an extensive meditation and yogic practices.

The most significant impact that had made upon Steve’s life was a book “Autobiography of a Yogi”by Paramhansa Yogananda. It is on record that he would read this book too frequently, at least once every year until his death, 2011. This book had given him the practical insight into what exactly this world is about and how a layman can prepare himself to realize the Supreme knowledge. The first-hand account of a Yogi with empirical approaches to know oneself this book by Yogananda is a smash hit manual now among the seekers of the Eastern spiritualism.

Yes, by dint of hard work, intuition and innovation Steve stood out as one of the most successful techno-tycoons of the modern times. As much known, Jobs was hardly possessed by the luxury of riches and materialistic vanity. He just regarded his entrepreneurship as a tool to awaken his dormant potentialities. The chairman of Salesforce.com and famous philanthropist Marc Benioff says with conviction — “If you want to understand Steve, it’s a good idea to dig into ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’.” It is this book which Steve’s family had given to all the guests as a last gift at his memorial service.

Here we can’t afford to ignore the Beatle’s fascination for INDIA as well. The band members that were basking in the opulence of materialistic riches and glory visited India (Rishikesh) in search of inner peace. They met with Sri Maharshi Mahesh Yogi and learnt from him Transcendental meditation (TM) who laid bare methods to feel true bliss within. Sri Maharshi is a big name in the West having a huge following that includes celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, David Lynch, Russell Brand, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Aniston, Modern physicist Dr. John Hagelin, to name a few. The Beatle’s Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr often assist a Hollywood Director/actor David Lynch to organize the Transcendental meditation under ‘David Lynch Foundation’ across USA and the European countries. George Harrison later took refuge in Bhakti Yoga. The founder of ISKCON Srila Prabhupada showed him the pathway to the Supreme Consciousness.

What basically pulls the rational westerners to India is less known to Indians themselves. It’s shamefully paradoxical. From early 19th Century, the philosophical literary treasure troves and Yoga of India found more admirers in the foreign lands than at home. Indeed, the philosophy of the “laws of karma” and the presence of all-power-divinity within every being and everywhere — which any human being can realize irrespective of one’s caste, creed, nationality, and color, has intensely stirred the greatest of the great minds of the West. The ancient texts hold out a whole bunch of keys to unlock oneself and know his/her relationship with the Supreme Being which in fact seems very reasonable to the West. Further, the complex studies of world-view by Modern scientists are gradually arriving at the same conclusion what the ancient sages of India expounded over five thousands year back that ‘creation and creator are ONE’. Interconnection, inter-relation and interdependence among every individual particle/object, living or non-living, in the infinite universe — which is the fundamental tenets of the Eastern philosophy, provided a new light of wisdom to the the modern physicists like Schrödinger, Heisenberg, Julius Oppenheimer, Brain David Josephson, David Bohm, John Stewart Bell et al.

Well, Indian’s contribution to the western academia is immeasurable — though deliberately undermined or less discussed in India itself. It’s very worthwhile to recall a famous proclamation by our western master whom we hold in the highest esteem. TS Eliot, one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, asserts: “Indian philosophers’ subtleties make most of the great European philosophers look like schoolboys”.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter @SGewali.