Friday, January 25, 2013

Reclaiming our History | Decoding the Ramayana: The *real* Shri Ram: Whether he was a "bad husband" and what is 'Ram-Rajya'? (Part-XVII)

Author's Note: Please visit - The 'Real' Ramayana/ Ram-Rajya - to read the other parts of this series, so as to be able to fully understand or grasp the contents of this one. 

Why is Shri Ram known as: "Raghu", "Raghunandan", "Raghav" and "Raghupati"? What does "adivasi" and "vaanvasi" mean? Who is a "Chakravarti Raja"? Why is Sri Ram known as a "Chakravarti Raja"? What does a "Chakra" represent? Why is Shri Krishna depicted with the "Sudarshan Chakra" (or the golden disc)? Notes on: some great teachers; the duties (dharma) of a teacher; "Dramila"; Paanchajanya; Karna's 'chariot wheel' sinking to the ground; our education system; nation-building; the "kupamandup syndrome", etc.

Shri Ram was able to surmount great odds and accomplish various noble tasks - for the good of society and for the welfare of the people. He refused to accept the injustices prevailing in society - during his time - even though these were accepted as 'societal norms' (maryada). Instead, he dismantled these accepted societal norms (maryada) - for the greater good, and thereby established a just society (Ram Rajya). Hence, he is hailed as 'Maryada-Purushottam'. [Do read: Part-IX.]

As we know, Shri Ram belonged to the Suryavanshi Ikshvaku clan or the Kshatriya Sun-worshiping Ikshvaku clan, which is a part of the 'Puruvansh' (the Puru lineage). Raja Yayati's youngest son, Puru, is the progenitor of the Puru clan or the Bharatas (from which 'Bharat-Varsh' derives her name. Do read Part-XIII - to know the meaning of 'Bharat-varsha'.) Shri Ram is the most famous personality of this clan. However, the Ikshvaku clan is also known as: Raghuvaṃśa or Raghukula after Raghu - a valourous king of this clan, lineage or dynasty. Raghu was an ancestor of Shri Ram, and hence, Ram is also known as 'Raghav' or 'Raghunandan', meaning: belonging to the Raghus or hailing from the Raghuvaṃśa or Raghukula. ['Suryavanshi' does not mean 'descending from the Sun'; that is a mistranslation - by aliens. 'Suryavanshi' means Sun-worshiping.]

Dasaratha (Ram's father) was an able ruler, and there have been other great kings like Bhagiratha and Sagara - who too were part of this great lineage. However, all of them worked for the welfare of their praja (people) - within the framework of the accepted societal norms (maryada) of their times. Hence, these great kings (Bhagiratha, Sagara, etc) were 'Maryada-Purush'. Bhagiratha, of course, was instrumental in getting the gupt or hidden river Ganga (that flowed beneath the ground) to emerge out of the mountains, and thereafter bringing the waters of this river to the whole of this land. This way he solved the irrigation and drinking water needs of the people. [Do read: Part-XIII.]

However, unlike some of his illustrious ancestors who were 'Maryada-Purush', Shri Ram was and remains a 'Maryada-Purushottam'; someone that surmounted a variety of constraints put forth by an assortment of entities, rules and norms (of his times), and successfully performed various noble deeds - that were good for the people and for society. Ram (and Sita) did not accept the injustices of their time; they chose to undo them instead. And for this they were willing to face great odds and discomfort.

Frankly, Siya-Ram and Krishna (as well as Draupadi and Kunti) could have easily led a peaceful and comfortable life, given their positions. They could have accepted the prevailing conditions and compromised with the dominant entities and/or simply looked the other way. But they did nothing of the sort. Instead, they chose to do what they did. They chose the path they eventually traveled and the hard life they had to consequently lead; they chose to undo obnoxious social ills, and dismantle negative perceptions/mindsets; they chose to be 'patita-pavana' - the deliverer of the oppressed; they chose to use their time, energy, effort and means to protect the noble principles of the 'Sanaatan Dharma'; they chose to use their power for the greater good. And they made their choice despite being cognizant of the formidable odds, and despite being fully aware that the entrenched interests would invariably come after them. And yet, they chose to become "Neelkanth" - so as to be able to bring about the necessary changes in perception/mindset/society. In the wise words of Gurudeb Robi Thakur: "... aami jeneshune bish korechi paan". Yes, in order to bring about positive change, one has to take the proverbial poison. Jeneshune (janbujhkar). [It is not a matter of choice, but inevitable and inescapable, since the situations aren't ideal + an assortment of entities try their hardest - to put a spanner in the works.]

Even Chanakya. This great man could have remained in Takshasheela (then the greatest center of learning) and ignored the white Macedonian python. Or he could have genuflected before the debauched and tyrannical Dhana Nanda and his cronies... and consequently gained immense material benefits. But he did neither. Chanakya remained steadfast; his eyes firmly fixed on a higher goal, a goal much higher than himself, despite the many insults and personal trials - the proverbial 'agni-pareeksha'. Now, what was Chanakya's 'agni-pareeksha', you ask? Immense: something that would have destroyed, broken or overwhelmed any ordinary mortal. Chanakya withstood extreme humiliation and imprisonment; saw his family ruined, and his father, Acharya Chanak (Canak), humiliated, imprisoned and hanged - the body left to rot. And as per some accounts, even his fiancée was forcibly taken away and turned into Dhana Nanda's mistress. [Some suggest: she was turned into Rakshasa's mistress. Rakshasa was Dhana Nanda's powerful minister and Chanakya's lifelong adversary.] 

Yet, our academic colossi excel in calling him "thin", "skinny", "pockmarked-faced", "ugly looking", "misogynist" and whatnot...! And worse: as "Indian Machiavelli", although Chanakya's works predate Machiavelli's "The Prince" by about 1800 years, and have clearly influenced it...! We are truly independent, and not mind-controlled. QED. :)

Chanakya is also known as Chanakya Pandit and addressed as "Acharya". [Pandit = honorific/title for a learned person. Acharya = honorific for a teacher.] He was a student at the famed Takshasheela University, and later taught economics and political science there. Frankly, Chanakya may not have been a Brahmin by birth; in case he was, he was very unlike those that mutilated our ancient texts for petty personal gains. Chanakya may have been a Kayastha - born into a Kayastha family, like the great Swami Vivekananda. Kayasthas are Kshatriyas who shunned weapons and picked up the pen instead, many of them joined the administrative services. In Dvapar, they would have been known as: "Suta". [Do read: Part-XVI - to know more about "Suta".]

I say this 'coz he did not advocate jap-tap, puja-path, unending rituals, dip in the Ganga, and the like, to achieve one's goal or purpose in life or to build a nation. Instead, he stressed on Karm Yog - action. Also: the very fact that Chanakya made his arguments about statecraft, power and governance without a reference to divinity, makes him (in my eyes at least) a true political scientist, as well as the founder/father of political science (in the current yug/era). He stressed on "dharma," that elusive word that lays down what is right, and indicates one's duty despite the odds. "Dharma" is not to be confused as "religion", that too is a mistranslation by aliens and their spiritual progeny. Dharma = the right path or way of life; where the focus is on fighting adharm (negativities and profanity), so as to protect the noble principles of our ancient heritage/the Sanaatan Dharma. Chanakya was also the pioneer economist of the world. [And to me, he is the Shri Krishna of the current era, 'coz he was an able spiritual disciple of that remarkable transcendental man.]

Some accounts indicate that Chanakya was a "Dramila". Now, "Dramila" means, "running away" or "escaping". It is possible that this word was used (by our ancients) to refer to the people who escaped the great deluge that swallowed up Dvarka (Dvaravati). Later, these displaced people settled down in various parts of the country, and Chanakya may have been born into one such family. [However, it is also possible that with time, this word - Dramila - underwent certain changes, and gave rise to a new word, "Dravida".]

[There are multiple accounts of Chanakya's life, and given the passage of time and the many influences, it is difficult to reconstruct the events with 100% accuracy. However, we will try to do it as best as we can - in our later posts, wearing our worn-out Sherlock Holmes hat and invoking Feluda's famed 'mogojastro'. :)]

BTW, we mentioned that these great humans chose the path they traveled or the life they led, right? But, I guess, it is also the other way round. Even the path they traveled and the life they led... chose them. 'Coz a "jog" or a "sanjog" (connection) cannot happen unilaterally. [What our ancients knew as "yog" probably is derived from "jog" - to connect, to add: allowing them to gather immense knowledge and know-how from nature (Prakriti), creation (Shrishti), space (Vyoma) and the universe (Brhmaand). [Addition is known as "jog" in Bangla, subtraction is "biyog".] This immense and illumined knowledge in turn helped our ancients build wondrous structures + achieve awesome medical and other technological wonders. This "yog" is not to be confused with what passes for "yoga" these days, or have been masquerading as "yoga" for a while now.]

These great humans, in my humble opinion, have exemplified Gurudeb's timeless words:

|| Aamar je shhob dite hobe shhey to aami jani
Aamar joto bitto prabhu aamar joto bani
Shhob dite hobe ||

Yes, these great humans had to give up a lot - so as to bring about positive change. [You see, being "Neelkanth" is not easy.] They had to give up a trouble-free and comfortable life; they had to give up their riches, face turbulent times and live in hardship. 'Coz they knew: je "shhob dite hobe" - that they have to give up their all to bring about the required change.

[However: this should not be construed as Ram subjecting Sita to "purification rituals" or "suspecting her fidelity/chastity" - ever. These obnoxious customs were socially accepted norms or "maryada" of that era, decreed by a certain class, against which/whom Siya-Ram struggled. [Do read: Part-I.] But, thanks to numerous mistranslations, embellishments and contemporisation (which we have discussed in some detail - during the course of this series), this "suspecting of Sita's fidelity/chastity" bit and "subjecting her to purification rituals" bit has been supplanted much later. Now, what do you think it helped bring about? Do put on your thinking cap. And while you are at it, do also spare a thought for the current version of the "Shiv-Sati" stories, which tell us: 'Sati immolated herself' in order to "uphold her husband's honour".

That our ancient texts have been indiscriminately mutilated is indisputable, but do pause and think about the havoc it has wrecked - on our society and on our collective psyche. Sanaatan Dharma has always been about balance - Ardhanarishvara. A female is not inferior to the male, neither is the husband deity-like.

So, what do you think was achieved by bringing in Sati's 'self-immolation' and the now-familiar version of Sita's 'agni-pareeksha' - into our ancient texts (that incidentally, also served as reference points)?

We will of course discuss the Shiv-Sati stories as well as the Shiv-Parvati stories - soon, in light of the "Devi Mahatmyam", and we will also try to gather the still available bits and pieces of scattered aspects - that will help us to reasonably piece things together.]


Gurudeb also said: 

|| Betosher moto shobhyo shikkhya shekheni jara,
hawa-r neshaye maati, bot-er moto khola mathe aajo royeche khada ...||

These greats, to (sort of) borrow Gurudeb's thoughts, did not learn the shobhyo (civilized) shikkhya (lesson) dispensed by the betosh (cane, reed) - to bend with the wind; instead: they chose to remain standing - with their head held high - like the bot (banyan tree).

Else: all those negative "maryada" would have prevailed, and the Macedonian python + the then all-constricting Magadhan python would have made merry.

[Umm, BTW, while a ruler halfway around the world (supposedly) renounced his throne - to marry his sweetheart, Shri Ram (we are told) "renounced" his beloved wife - to save his throne. Ha! :)]

But there is a need for some serious introspection, a need for soul searching - to understand what went wrong/where did we falter - in the last millennium or so (post the demise of the Gupta era), that the great Vedic civilization collapsed; that this great land saw the advent of horde after horde of barbaric Mlechchas; that this great land experienced a forced demise of a part of her culture and heritage; that this great land was plundered of her immense wealth - tangible, spiritual and intellectual. Paying mere lip service to our ancient culture and traditions, and reminiscing about our past glories will not do and is not enough. A glorious past is no guarantee for a shining future, unless we are prepared to jettison petty-mindedness in favour of a serious intent towards Karm Yog, in order to execute the common goal of freeing our beloved motherland (Bharatavarsha) of all the white-ant-like unwanted aspects that has seeped in. Only then can she reinvigorate herself and emerge as a great nation once again, and claim her rightful place on the world stage.

Sadly, our R&D and original research (for the last 4-5 decades at least) has stagnated (to put it mildestly, that is.) Instead, we have opted to build a nation on assumed names, fake accents, and cheap labour. We have never made any attempt to scale up on the quality and type of work that has been and is being outsourced and accepted in the name of 'synergy', 'growth, 'development' and whatnot. Hence, it is a small wonder that we have never attempted to grasp the heart, the soul, and the future of a nation that is being built as the promised land of cheap labour.

Unfortunately: a weak spine cannot support a strong mind and vice versa.

And if this trend was to continue unabated, we will get thoroughly entangled in a very potent form of neo-colonization, from whose tentacles there will be no respite... and no way out.

We have managed to create a large pool of engineering, law, medical and management graduates, even post-graduates and PhDs - thanks to proliferating educational institutes. But what is the quality of either of them? And what is the type of work they are doing, if at all? What sort of India is being built, painted brightly and then termed "new India" and all that jazz? A mirage looks good and alluring from afar, but can a nation and people become so or thrive in such an environment?

The current education system is producing tons and tons of R2D2s, zombies who know everything but can create nothing. Even on the patent count, we lag behind the Chinese and yet, neither the Indians nor the Chinese can breathe life into anything that they can proudly call their own creation/invention. There is nothing that we can claim to have visualized/conceptualized and brought to fruition. Sadly, we take China - a nation that is below pathetic in engineering and technology - as our role model, all the while steadfastly refusing to look within.

Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt has been playing the Veena for almost his entire life, but we recognized him (and his talent) only after he won the Grammy. Our colonial mentality has, alas, not subsided. We constantly look to the West - for approval. Many Indians, including youngsters (from the interiors and small towns), with little formal education and no exposure to elite institutes, have been regularly coming up with some or the other innovation/contraption/machine - that can be put to good use, yet we ignore them and their creations. Our snobbishness knows no bounds; we will successfully give a complex to Pinocchio even. :)

We have an ocean of pseudo-engineers; great at theoretical understanding, but practically (?) - well, the less said the better. Even automobile engineers (from elite institutes) rely on the neighbourhood/roadside "chokra boy"/mechanic - to fix his vehicle! No, its not because of their aversion to grease, but because s/he does not know how to fix it. Yes, they know exactly how it works, but lack practical knowledge (something which a school dropout mechanic possesses.) Electrical engineers call in "mistiris" to fix electric wiring; and these "mistiris" are people who have not even passed high school. What does it say about all the theoretical knowledge that these engineers (including the ones from elite institutes) have acquired? When will they apply it practically, to fix... and to create? When will they contribute towards nation-building, instead of selling toothpaste, chocolates, shampoo, soap, soft drinks, mosquito repellant, and the like?

Putting quantity over quality is not acceptable. Yet, nobody speaks about doing something to improve the abysmal condition of our primary and secondary education system and govt. aided schools... especially in the interiors. What is the condition/quality of our faculty? And what kind of students are such teachers and sub-standard institutes nurturing/churning out?

Please watch this clip (on what is expected of teachers or the duties [dharma] of a teacher):

Sadly, such teachers are fast becoming an extinct species. The quest for power, commerce and politics has rapidly changed everything... for the worse. However, we must also keep in mind that teachers do not operate in isolation; society, especially the govt., has a tremendous responsibility - to care for and nurture them, so that they can, in turn, nurture their wards/students.

Until a few centuries ago, people from distant lands would travel to this great land - in order to imbibe knowledge. We were the best in everything: economics/math/science/medicine/arts/warfare/fine arts/literature/craft. You name it; we had the best of minds amongst us. Today: people seem to think that teaching or teachers have no 'value', completely forgetting that teachers are the backbone of a nation. The minds they nurture are the future of this nation. In ancient times, things were different, maybe even until a few centuries ago; teachers were very respected; they were the Gurus: one who imparted knowledge and guided the students... and prepared them for this journey called life. Things have taken a 180-degree turn now. Sadly.

This great land has always been the seat of learning: the Takshasheela and the Nalanda Vishwavidyalayas bear silent testimony. However, even before these universities (seats of learning; Vishwavidyalayas) came up, ancient India has been a resplendent land - in every sense of the word.

Siya-Ram, Valmiki, Krishna, Gautam Buddh, Mahaveer, Chanakya, Veda Vyas, Kashyap, Bhrigu, Rishyashringa, Aryabhata, Varahamihira, Bhaskara I, Bhaskara II, Shushruta, Charaka, Brahmagupta, Baudhayana, Pingala, Panini, Khana, Gargi, Mayitri/Maritrayee, Lopamudra, Lilovarti/Leelavati, Guru Nanak-dev, Vidyasagar, Ramakrishna, Sarada-ma, Sister Nivedita, Vivekananda, Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis, Jagadish Chandra Bose, Ashutosh Mukhopadhyay, Prafulla Chandra Ray, Meghnad Saha, Robi Thakur, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Satyajit Ray, Anant Pai (Uncle Pai), Satyendra Nath Bose, Srinivasa Ramanujan, C.V. Raman, Vishveshwarya (Sir MV), Sisir Kumar Mitra, Mani Lal Bhaumik, et al have been teachers/gurus/guides. [Frankly, the list is much longer.]  

What folks halfway around the world claim to have 'discovered', was known to our own greats - our scholars/teachers/scientists, many millennium ago. Unfortunately, while a lot of our knowledge and heritage was destroyed and ruined at the hands of various Mlechchas, a substantial part of it (including our ancient texts) was carried away (by the same Mlechchas) - over a period of time. From these Mlechcha-lands, our ancient texts and knowledge reached other lands - halfway around the world. And... most certainly, the "already highly civilized" people (inhabiting those lands) did not dump these texts somewhere or display them in some nondescript showcase. They have clearly been mining them ever since, while relentlessly injecting fictitious invasion theories. Didn't Churchill accept that these theories buttressed their claims of "superiority", thus helping them lord over other lands?!

They have been destroying other civilizations/lands in the name of research and demo-crazy; while we have happily turned into a nation in thrall of regressive matinee idols and so-called cricket heroes.

The proliferation of educational institutes with sub-standard facilities and faculty is our bane. In a few years we will be saddled with a predominance of unemployable engineering/medical/management grads; we will then have to import skilled labour from abroad. This way, not only our energy needs, but also our technical/technological/medical/management requirements/needs will be heavily dependent on aliens. They can and will have us by the jugular. We will never be able to extricate ourselves from this neo-colonization.

Yes, we do need doctors, engineers, software engineers, management grads et al, but everyone need not run after this mirage. 'Coz we also need scientists, teachers, artists, craftsmen, tailors, agriculturists, poets, mechanics, technicians, shopkeepers, and skilled and semi-skilled labour - in big numbers. All of them are required for this nation to run smoothly + generate employment. If everyone wants to (or tries to) become engineers, doctors and management grads, what will be the result/outcome? It is important that we collectively work towards restoring the balance, don't you think?

If we do not achieve food security, we will always remain weak and vulnerable, no matter how many industries we may build. We only need to look at the fate of the erstwhile Soviet Union - to imbibe this lesson. Therefore, we must preserve the ancient knowledge of this land (whatever remains of it, that is) - in various fields (be it agriculture, medicine, ecology, craft, handloom, cuisine, music, sports or anything else.)

If the progeny of farmers, artisans, and craftsmen shun their vocation and, consequently, their immense know-how and knowledge, (passed down to them from previous generations) in favour of the proverbial rat-race - to become doctors, engineers, and the like - imagine what will be lost forever?! I mean: a handful of the ones that possess the right aptitude (varna: Part-XII) are welcome to do so, but what about the vast majority who do not possess that aptitude? What will be the outcome? Will it help anyone? Imagine the imbalance? And imagine the amount of indigenous agri know-how that will be lost - forever. Isn't it prudent to preserve all of this priceless knowledge and utilize it towards strengthening our nation instead? What about Jai Kisaan? The same is applicable to the progeny of engineers and doctors too. If they do not have the aptitude (for engineering or medicine), there is no point in pushing them towards it. On the other hard, if they possess the right aptitude for the performing arts or for research, they should be encouraged. However, all of this requires a right/conducive environment and that must be created. Lamenting "brain drain" will not do. The cause must be diagnosed and rectified, the sooner the better.

So much has been ruined and lost - it boggles the mind. Nalanda was ruined and burned for three months. Takshasheela was razed and plundered as well. And though the Chambal Valley has now gained notoriety, in ancient times this was a well-known seat of learning. Extensive ruins of Buddhist monasteries can be found at Paharpur and Mahasthangarh in the northern parts of present-day Bangladesh. Imagine the amount of knowledge, culture and heritage that has been ruined and lost forever - in one fell swoop?

Unfortunately, by the 6th Century AD, diverse unwanted aspects adulterated Shri Gautam Buddh's teachings, turning his message of peace into an excessively docile version. The misunderstandings and misinterpretations by later-day scholars probably played their part. Perhaps the renowned Buddhist teacher and Pandit - Dipankar Srigyan (Atiśa Dipankara, Shrijnana) - played a role. He had set out from a village called Bajrajogini (in Bikram Pur) near Dhaka to spread (perhaps what he understood/interpreted as) Shri Buddh's message - in the whole of Tibet.

Atisa was a revered figure in his homeland, hence the people there imbibed his teachings and lessons. So, when the marauders came charging in, you can imagine what transpired. 


Unfortunately: the demise of several languages and ancient groups (clans), as well as the systematic conversion of indigenous people, the adivashis or vaanvashis (the so-called 'tribal') all over the world, to some or the other organized 'ism' - has had devastating effects vis-à-vis written and oral history, heritage, art, crafts, knowledge, ancient texts, languages, culture and folklore. We simply have no idea of what has been lost - forever.

Though, we, the Sanaatan Dharmis or Sanaatan-Hearts, do not quite understand this strange concept called "conversion". I mean: how can anyone "convert" without changing the mark of their ancestors, which is firmly embedded in their DNA? But then, strange things happen, like an idol of Ganesh "drinking milk" (aside: thanks to capillary action).

As for that strange concept, also known as "conversion", let me share a joke. Do read and spread the smile:

Each Friday night, after work, Bubbal Singh would fire up his outdoor grill and cook a tandoori chicken and some meat kebabs. But, all of Bubbal's neighbours were strict Catholics, and since it was Lent, they were forbidden from eating chicken and meat on a Friday.

The delicious aroma from the grilled meat was causing such a problem for the Catholic faithful that they finally talked to their Priest.

The Priest came to visit Bubbal, and suggested that he become a Catholic. After several classes and much study, Bubbal attended Mass, and as the priest sprinkled holy water over him, he said, ''You were born a Sikh, and raised a Sikh, but now, you are a Catholic."

Bubbal's neighbours were greatly relieved, until Friday night arrived, and the wonderful aroma of tandoori chicken and meat kebabs filled the neighbourhood... once again.

The neighbours called the Priest immediately, and, as the latter rushed into Bubbal's backyard, clutching a rosary and prepared to scold him, he stopped and watched in amazement. There stood Bubbal, clutching a small bottle of holy water - which he carefully sprinkled over the grilling meat and chanted: "Oye, you waz born a chicken, and you waz born a lamb, you waz raised a chicken, and you waz raised a lamb, but now yara, you are a potato and a tomato!"

Lets retrace our steps.

Given his glorious deeds (keerti), Shri Ram is also hailed as "Raghupati" - the best among the Raghus or the best among the Raghuvamshis. Hence, he is: "Raghupati Raghav".

[Raghu and Raghav = belonging to the Raghus or hailing from the Raghuvaṃśa or Raghukula. Pati = the best. "Raghav" also means: "swift" in Sanskrit; Shri Ram was not only quick to detect the wrong principles or "adharm", but equally swift in taking measures - so as to negate or dismantle them. He was discerning, a visionary, and altruistic in nature; remained calm and composed even in the face of great odds, without succumbing to negative thoughts.]

|| Aum Namah Raghukul-shiromani Kaushalya-nandan Dashrath-putra Shri Raam ||

{I bow to Shri Ram - The Pride-and-Jewel of the Raghu clan, Born-of-Kaushalya, The Son-of Dashrath}

[Aum is the sound of primal energy, the sound of the universe itself. Namah = a respectful bow; Raghu = belonging to the Raghus or hailing from the Raghuvaṃśa or Raghukula; Kul = clan; Shiromani: shir comes from sheer/seer = head, pride; mani = jewel; Nandan, putra = son.]

Ram's handling of certain situations turned Ayodhya, Kishkindhya, Jamvanta Nagari and Lanka into staunch allies, thereby ensuring peace. Ram, Lakshman, Sugreeva, Angad, Hanuman, Jambavan, Vibhishan, et al became personal friends, which further ensured that there was no loss of precious lives and property in unwanted skirmishes; this prevented unnecessary drainage of time, energy and resources - in fighting each other or being wary of each other. However, Ram did not try to 'assimilate', 'mainstream', 'help' or 'civilize' the Vanaras (the denizens of Kishkindhya, Jamvanta Nagari, etc.) He did not think his way of life was better than theirs, nor did he raze their hills, massacre their forests, or pollute their water-bodies. [So the versions of the Ramayana that tries to project the Ramayana as a poisonous tree or claims that Shri Ram usurped anyone's right... is way off the mark. It has been done so as to feed the fictitious invasion theories and the fictitious theory of races.]

Instead: all of them respected and accepted each other as friends and allies, and as people with a distinct culture and heritage; yet as "Arya" - or noble-natured, i.e. as people following a noble way of life. [Unfortunately, the Mlechchas ruined Kishkindhya.]

Incidentally: though the 'civilized' aliens still refer to the "forest-dwelling humans" as "savage, uncivilized tribal", our ancients referred to them as "adivasi". [Adi = first, before the others, or before the rest. Vasi = dwellers.]

Now, what could this mean? Why were they called "adivasi"?

This is because: these were the progeny of the first set of humans that evolved on earth - from various animal-like ancestors (and are the children of the forest, with a distinct pattern of life: culture, heritage, language, cuisine and so on.) Hence they are also known as "vaanvasi" [Vaan = forest, vasi = dwellers.]

And since they predated the next set of humans that sprang from evolved humans (that arrived in ancient Kashmir; the "Sapta-Rishi") - they are known as "adivasi".

The people of the 2nd era (the Treta Yug) - that lived outside the forest and refused to accept the first set of humans as "full-fledged humans" - on account of their appearance, language and way of life, were essentially the descendents of the "Sapta-Rishi", and hence, the progeny of the second set of humans.

Siya-Ram and Lakshman set out to change this mindset/perception, in their quest to dismantle various social ills/adharm. Kaikeyi and Manthara aided them in their mission. [Part-VI and Part-VII.]

However: given the passage of time, a lot of intermingling of people, culture and blood has happened, and this has, in turn, given rise to whole new sets of humans, languages, culture, music, cuisine, et al.

All the groups of humans have a rich culture and heritage: art, craft, cuisine, attire, language, history, folklore, music, and so on. Are there any that don't seem to have much to show? What say you? BTW, though we have been programmed to believe that life elsewhere is spider-like or octopus-like, this bit is soundly debunked by even a cursory reading of the Mahabharata. We all know that Karna was Kunti and Suryadev's son. But who was this Suryadev? He is not the Surya (Sun) that we see rising in the east and setting in the west - everyday.

So, who do you think was this "Suryadev"? [Do put on your thinking cap until we discuss this in greater detail.]

As to why Ram (i.e. Siya-Ram) is revered as "Bhagavan", do read: Part-XIV (there, we have discussed what "Bhagavan" really means.)

Shri Ram was a "Raja" or king, but a "Chakravarti Raja", meaning: "King of Kings", and along with Sita is hailed as: "Patita-pavana". [Do read: Part-II.]

That his kingdom encompassed vast lands is beyond doubt, but a "Chakravarti Raja" is not restricted to the size of his kingdom only.

A chakra was originally a wheel - or disk-shaped weapon in ancient India that was hurled as a missile at enemies. Chakras are centers of Prāṇa, life force, or vital energy. Chakras correspond to vital points in the physical body i.e. major plexuses of arteries, veins and nerves. Their name is derived from the Sanskrit word for "wheel" or "turning". The 7 Chakras are the energy centers in our body in which energy flows through. The concept of chakra features in Sanaatan Dharma (including tantric and yogic traditions, as well as in the teachings of Shri Gautam Buddh.) The word dharma-chakra, or the wheel of the Law, is often used to describe the teachings/message of Bhagavan Shri Gautam Buddh. [Meaning, his teachings/message is expressed as: "the turning of the wheel of the Law."]

Chakra also means: treasure or wheel treasure; one of the seven treasures that a wheel-turning king (Sanskrit: chakravarti-raja) is said to possess. A wheel-turning king was a wise and benevolent ruler, an ideal king. The Sanskrit word chakra means the wheel of a carriage. The seven treasures of a wheel-turning king are: a chakra, elephants, horses, jewels, jewel-like women, excellent ministers of financial affairs, and generals. A chakra, or wheel, is of four kinds: gold, silver, copper, and iron. A wheel-turning king (symbolically) possesses one or the other of these four kinds of wheels, an indication of his rank. Turning his chakra (i.e. by using his wisdom and resources optimally), a wheel-turning king advances without hindrance, overthrows his enemies, establishes peace, and rules with justice and benevolence - wherever he goes. [Shri Krishna is shown/depicted with the Sudarshan Chakra - the golden disk; he was wise, enlightened, discerning, a visionary, a great ruler, teacher, friend and guide. In short: the best of all. Su = good, pleasant. Darshan = appearance, vision. The Sudarshan Chakra is a symbolic golden disk, chakra or wheel.]

Karma (Karm Yog) must be done in massive quantity as Bhagiratha did, but selflessly. Brave people continue to work in spite of a mountain of difficulties or challenges, and finally achieve their goal (or make things sufficiently easier for others to achieve it.) Bhagiratha, with his unparalleled effort to out the hidden river - that flowed beneath the ground - showed us how much effort a man or a woman can put in, and as a result what wonders can be done. Yes, we can achieve wonders, once we put in our best effort and dedication. Indeed, impossible is nothing. 

Karma is essential to get rid of Karma. Since: a thorn can be removed only with the aid of a bigger thorn. Therefore, in order to get rid of Prarabda (negative, destructive) Karma (whether done by us or by others), we have to perform good deeds (Sat Karma). And as we go on doing/performing good deeds indefinitely/continuously, sakama (selfish, benefit-seeking) Karma gets transformed into Nishkama (selfless) Karma. In this way, one (i.e. the performer or the Sadhaka) becomes a true yogi (a Karm Yogi), a real sanyaasi (i.e. one who is detached like the lotus - which grows in muddy water yet remains untouched by it [Part-XIII], or like the hamsa - whose feathers do not get damp despite remaining in contact with water [Part-XI]; a Jnani (an enlightened person) and achieves Moksh/Nirvana (Jeevan Mukta; non-materialistic). 

The wheel (chakra) needs to rotate or turn continuously, for the poison (negativities) to be absorbed (negated) and replaced by noble principles/aspects.

Hope you can now figure out as to why Shri Krishna is depicted with the (symbolic) golden disc (chakra). Siya-Ram too is in the same league. Shri Krishna's conch is known as the Paanchajanya. The whole life of Bhagavan Shri Krishna is like the roaring sound of a conch. He undertook a vow: to fight adharm - injustice and profanity in all its forms, and to re-establish dharm (justice, right principles) by restoring peace, order and balance in society... and did his best to fulfill it.

The same goes for Bhagavan Shri Ram. Therefore, it is a small wonder that Shri Krishna paid the highest tributes to Shri Ram in the Srimad Bhagavat Geeta, while describing the best of creation and action (karm): "I am the Wind among the purifiers, and Shri Rama among the warriors." [Here "warriors" = Kshatriya; one who protects others from harm or from negative (adharmic) entities/influences - everywhere, and not just in the battlefield.]

The great Yug Purush - Chanakya - was their worthy disciple. 

OM or AUM is the sound of primal energy, the sound of the universe itself. Space in Sanskrit is 'Vyoma', and this too contains the sacred sound of primal energy: OM or AUM. It is very likely that the Universe (Brhmaand) is shaped like a conch (shankh), and that is why the sound of primal energy or the sound of the universe is: OM or AUM - the same as Shankha-dhwani. This sound does not require any external stimuli whatsoever; it is Pranava Naad or Anhad Naad.

That the universe is conch-shaped is (perhaps) indicated by the idols or the 'tangible/physical manifestations' of the unseen energies of the cosmos (such as: Vishnu and Shakti) depicted as: holding a conch in hand. Essentially to indicate: that these forces/energies support the universe (Brhmaand). 

Shri Krishna's actions preserved the noble principles of the Sanaatan Dharma; it helped the people and society to function well, which in turn helped civilization to flourish well. Paanchajanya: Paanch = five; indicating - the five elements or the five senses (indriyas); also: "others", "people", "everyone". Paanchajanya = for the welfare of others. Shri Krishna employed his immense knowledge, vision, intelligence and power for the welfare of all/for the welfare of others - Loka kalyana or Loka-sangraha.   
[So, now tell me what do you think is meant by Karna's 'chariot wheel' sinking to the ground? To know more about Karna, do read: Part-XVI.]

We are ever-ready to read the thick books penned by sundry aliens; we not only devour them (including all the fictitious invasion theories they have floated), but also learn them by rote. Yet, we seem to have some sort of firewall when it comes to reading books penned by some of the finest historians: R.C. Majumdar (Ramesh Chandra Majumdar), Dr. Radha Kumud Mookerji and Rakhaldas Bandyopadhyay (R.D. Banerji). What to do? We are like this only. :)
Also: somehow, we manage to spend a lot of our time (and energy) debating over supposed "sons of the soil" and "outsiders". Here is an anecdote:

In mid-90s Calcutta (now Kolkata), there existed a 'revivalist' organization called "Amra Bangali" (translated: We Are Bengali.) When I say 'existed', it is in a purely circumstantial sense, 'coz there was no physical manifestation of this group - except posters and graffiti. They did nothing to revive so-called 'Bengali pride' except write slogans on walls, exhorting fellow Bengalis to do the needful. Their most common slogan was: "Bangali, Jaago!" (Translated: "Bengalis, arise, awake!"). And this was found across the city in all the wall-space that was not taken up by the sickle-cell anemia, the panja, the grassroots and their ilk. [This slogan was perhaps directed at the Gujaratis, the Punjabis, the Sindhis, the Marwaris, the Tamilians and others - essentially people who have made Calcutta their home.] 

However, the laid-back Bangali pretended to take this metaphysical awakening in a literal sense, and very soon a repartee was seen scrawled under the original message. Under "Bangali, Jago", it was written: "Jegechhi, ebar cha dao." (Translated: "I have woken up, now get me some tea.")


Frankly: the medium of instruction need not be the mother tongue... for someone to 'learn' his or her mother tongue (matri-bhasha). Nobody goes to school right after birth - to 'learn' his or her matri-bhasha. English must be the 1st language, since after a certain age one finds it difficult to learn/pick up new languages (especially the grammatical nuances). The 2nd language can be one's mother-tongue; the works of greats can be read - both at school and back home. None of us are likely to forget our mother tongue, so our many bhashas are under no threat/danger from the English language. English is a language spoken all over the world; it is a link language in which business is conducted; it also played a big role in uniting us against the friendly aliens. English is being spoken in India for about 300 years, we have the largest English-speaking population... compared to Europe and the US combined; this is our strength.  (Though the English spoken in India is infused with various local flavour and can be broadly classified as: Indian English.) However, the English language has also enriched itself by borrowing heavily from the many Indian languages, including Sanskrit - a language steeped in antiquity, but almost forgotten in the land of its birth. [And yet, we still call English a 'foreign language'!]

Instead of fighting windmills, the focus should be on developing a culture of reading - books/journals/materials (in any language, including English and one's mother tongue). This will broaden our outlook/horizon/thinking and in turn enhance our knowledge, which will (hopefully) get us out of this negative and self-created 'kupamandup syndrome'. [Kupa = well, mandup = frog.]

Even countries that have ignored the English language for long (e.g., Spain, China, Russia, the Philippines, etc)... are now taking rapid steps to make amends. In a short while they will be our formidable rivals and pose a mighty challenge to us. If we continue with our contrived 'sons of the soil' rhetoric and hollow bombastic talk about the 'glory of the mother tongue'... spearheaded by forces that are inimical to progress/peace/harmony and who have no stake in it whatsoever, we are doomed. We need to build on our strengths, so that our weaknesses can be minimized. We must not surrender/squander/give up the few advantages we still have - as a nation; nor should we destroy whatever little we have - to pamper the distorted and myopic views of vested interests. 

Words from India's greatest patriot:

"One individual may die for an idea; but that idea will, after his death, incarnate itself in a thousand lives. That is how the wheel of evolution moves on and the ideas and dreams of one nation are bequeathed to the next." - Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.

Truly, there is no alternative to Karm Yog. The wheel must continue to turn.

[We will continue our discussions in the next post...]

(Do stay tuned…)

Pictures: An illustration of Shri Ram, Chanakya, Aryabhata, some wise words, Shri Krishna with the 'Sudarshan Chakra', Karna's 'chariot wheel' sinking to the ground, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Reclaiming our History | Decoding the Ramayana: The *real* Shri Ram: Whether he was a "bad husband" and what is 'Ram-Rajya'? (Part-XVI)

Author's Note: Please visit - The 'Real' Ramayana/ Ram-Rajya - to read the other parts of this series, so as to be able to fully understand or grasp the contents of this one. 

What does the 'Parasurama-avatar' signify? Who really was Karna? Who is a "Suta"? Why is Karna called a "Suta-putra"? What does 'Rishi', 'Muni', 'Maharshi' and 'Brhmharshi' signify? Notes on: 'Kshatriya', 'Rajput', 'Rathi', 'Maharathi', 'Sarathi', 'Paarthsarathi'; 'Gandharva-Vivaha'; Yudhisthira's 'curse'; the various Krishnas presiding over the Mahabharata; 'Sati-saras', 'Prajapati', Maharshi Veda Vyasa, Rishi Kashyap, 'gotra', etc. Some thoughts on: the 'Shiv-Sati' stories.   

The Mahabharata (the itihasa of the 3rd era - the Dvapar Yug) has been presided over by not one, but three Krishnas.

1.  Krsnadvaipayana Vyasa, popularly known as Maharshi Veda Vyasa: the son of the matysa-kanya Satyavati and the venerated Maharshi Parashar; born out of a short-term "Gandharva Vivaha". Vyasa was responsible for conducting various medical miracles (via the usage of advanced medical science): resulting in the birth of Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidur; as well as that of the "Kauravas". [Part-V.] He did not impregnate or cohabit with Amba, Ambika and Ambalika. Hence, the perception that he was the "progenitor" of Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidur is clearly wrong. It is a mistranslation by sundry aliens and their spiritual offspring and disciples. But then, by misinterpreting and tweaking our ancient texts, including the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, a chunk of a certain class were able to come up with "niyog-pratha": wherein they 'cited the ancient texts' - so as to be able to cohabit with the women of the Kshatriya groups, etc - and father their progeny, all in the name of dispelling their childlessness. [Krsna = dark, dark-complexioned. Dvaipayana is derived from dveep (island), since he was born in an island (dvaipayana). Veda = a reference to the four Vedas/Veds. Vyasa, since it is believed that he was responsible for dividing the Vedas into four parts.]

2.  Kṛṣṇa or Shri Krsna, now known and revered as Bhagavan Shri Krishna. [And if we were to address him the way we name or call ourselves, he would be: Krishna Vasudev Yadav. Since he hailed from the Chandravanshi Yadavvansh or the Moon-worshiping Kshatriya Yadav clan (whose preceptor was Raja Yayati's eldest son - Yadu.)] He is also known as Devaki-nandan (son of Devaki), Yashoda-nandan (son of Yashoda; Yashoda was his foster-mother) and Nand-lal or Nanda-lala (meaning: son of Nanda; Nanda was the chief of the cowherds or milkmen - Gwals/Gwalas - and Krishna's foster-father).

3.  Kṛṣṇā draupadī or Krishnaa, also known as Panchali, and best known as Draupadi. [Panchali, since she hailed from the royal family of Pañcāla or Panchala. Draupadi, since she was the daughter of the Pañcāla Naresh - Raja Drupad.]

Maharshi Ved Vyasa clearly possessed vast knowledge, and this can be attributed to his father, Maharshi Parashar. In ancient times, a handful of people (amongst the ones that were involved in imparting knowledge/education) - were very learned persons indeed. [Even in the current era - the Kali yug - we find Chanakya performing what is now known as an emergency "Caesarean operation" - to bring out Bindusara, after his mother had unknowingly ingested poison-laced food.] 

[Note: Rishi, Muni, Maharshi, Brhmharshi, etc essentially were titles by which learned, venerable and knowledgeable persons were known as and referred to - in ancient times (especially in the earlier eras). The titles differed, based on the level or the amount of knowledge they possessed; these titles may have been upgraded, once they gathered more knowledge. That Veda Vyasa was an extremely prodigious child can be clearly understood from the narrative, which says: that "he immediately grew up" - soon after birth. This means: he was an extremely prodigious talent, and his speed of learning was astonishing; what teenagers and adults strove to learn, he easily learned as a child or barely into his teens. That is: he became a towering scholar while still in his teens.] 

Now, what was the source of all these highly advanced knowledge and technology (that our ancients, including those from previous eras or yugs, possessed), since the modern world seems to be unaware of them, or at the most have only seen a few of them (and that too in much "lesser" forms/versions)?

Well, to figure this out, we will have to consider the 6th 'avatar' (of the "Dasavatara") - the 'Parasurama-avatar'.

The 6th 'avatar' (of the "Dasavatara") - the 'Parasurama-avatar' represents the Sapta-Rishis and their progeny. These were various sets of humans that walked on this earth; they were very different from the humans represented by the 4th-avatar - the 'Narasimha-avatar' and the 5th-avatar - the 'Vamana-avatar'; as well as the 7th avatar - the 'Ram-avatar' and the 9th avatar - the 'Krishna-avatar'. The Sapta-Rishis are the seven enlightened persons/sages that arrived in ancient Kashmir. [Note: the 'Parasurama-avatar' has nothing to do with Rishi Parasurama per se. The Big Dipper asterism is also called Saptarshi - in Sanskrit. Parasu = axe; Parasurama = Rama with the axe.]

The Valley of Kashmir (ancient Kashyap-pur) got its name from Kashyap Rishi (one of the Sapta-Rishis or one of the seven enlightened persons/sages.) The Kashmir valley originally was a vast lake called "Satisaras", named after Sati (actual name: Dakshayani; daughter of Daksha.) She is also called Satī, since Sati = the feminine of sat ("true").

Therefore, Sati was someone that lived in the 1st era: very likely during the middle or later part of the Sat/Satya/Krita Yug - and pre-dated Parvati. She is said to be the daughter of Prajapati Daksha. [Here, "Prajapati" probably means a king or an influential chieftain; Daksha may have exerted his writ or influence - in the foothills of the Himalayas and surrounding areas.]

The Sati-saras or "Sati's lake" probably was a treacherous lake whose waters were of no use to anyone. So, the leader of the "Nags" (Anant Nag) later drained it off and made this area habitable. It is also possible that some miscreants (possibly certain type of humans like the Pisachas who preyed on humans and dead bodies) may have been using this area for negative activities/purposes. Anant Nag and his fellow Nags fought these Pisachas and slayed them, and thereafter, turned this area into a peaceful and habitable place. Anant Nag renamed this place or valley as Kashyap-pur or Kashyap-mira - after his father: Rishi Kashyap.

[Now: whether the Caspian of the Caspian Sea is also derived from Kashyap - I do not quite know. And whether the Caucasus Mountains are actually Kaikeshi Mountains - my guess is as good as yours. Kaikeshi was Ravan's mother; the name Ravana is derived from the root, 'Ra' which signifies the sun. In ancient Egyptian culture 'Ra' = Sun. We know that various groups of people from this land ventured out - in search of greener pastures, and traveled far and wide, taking with them the culture, heritage, knowledge and majesty of this great land; as a result, other faraway lands have been enriched.] 

Rishi Kashyap was the progenitor of a variety of humans: hence he is also referred to as Prajapati Kashyap. [Here, Prajapati = progenitor; since he was responsible for 'creating'/giving rise to/fathering various humans. Meaning: he was the progenitor of many different kinds of humans who went on to become the Aryas, the Devas, the Asuras, the Nags, the Danavas, the Daityas, the Rakshasas, and so on - through his many wives.]

Ravana was born to a great sage - Rishi Vishrava (or Vesamuni), and his wife, the daitya princess Kaikesi. [Ram and Ravana were "gynatis" or related people, since they had a "Sapta-Rishi" connection.]

The various groups of humans that originated from the Sapta-Rishis (and not just from Rishi Kashyap) may have been collectively known as the: "Arya" or the "Aryaee" people. [Since they would have clearly differed in appearance and lifestyle; and very likely spoke a different language (or languages) - vis-à-vis the humans that were already present or preceded them: such as the various groups of Van-nar or "Vanaras" ("forest-dwelling humans") and the "Yakshas".

These "Arya" or "Aryaee" people probably called the other humans that were already present in ancient India, i.e. the ones that pre-dated/preceded their arrival - as the "DAsa" or "Dasa" people.

"DAsa" or "Dasa" means "ten", so there may have been 10 distinct groups of humans that pre-dated/preceded the arrival of the "Arya" or "Aryaee" humans. It is possible that the "Arya" people referred to the pre-existing humans (collectively) as: the "DAsa" or "Dasa" people. [We will discuss this in greater detail, including the origins of the "Sapta-Rishis", in our later posts.] 

Kashyap is a gotra. Several Indian and non-Indian communities claim descent from the Sapta-Rishis. A person of Kashyap Gotra is a person who traces his or her descent from the ancient sage Rishi Kashyap and (maybe) Suryavansh (Sun-worshipping clans). [Gotra indicates: origin or descent.]

[It is possible that initially these humans that were born due to the Sapta-Rishis may have worshiped the Sun - since the Sun (Surya) provided warmth from extreme cold weather. Thereafter, they may have worshiped the Fire (Agni) - for the same reason. Later, some may have worshiped the Moon (Chandra) - since the moon not only helped them to see at night, but also exerted immense influence on the water-bodies, including the human body - which too largely consists of water. As the population grew, the people may have scattered, and hence, identities too may have grown distinct. Some groups may have taken to worshiping the Nags (the serpents - since these areas may have been infested with serpents); the air (Pavan or Vayu - a vital element of life), water (or Varun - yet another vital element of life) and so on.]

Today: cutting across clans, groups, communities, castes, languages and regions, one finds people belonging to Kashyap Gotra (apart from having gotras denoting descent from other sages, of course.) However: over the last many millenniums, there has been a constant intermingling of people, culture and blood, thereby giving rise to wholly different sets of humans, languages and cultures. Rishi Kashyap is part of Buddhist (as Mahavagga Kassapo), Jain and Sikh texts (as the second avtar of Brahma). Mahavagga is very likely "Mahabhagya" or "the very fortunate one". Or in other words: "Bhagavan".

However: the "Shiv-Sati" stories should not be mixed with the "Shiv-Parvati" stories. The "Shiv-Sati" stories are also referring to certain natural-cum-celestial events, besides documenting Shiv and Sati's story. To my mind, there were two Shivs - two human Shivs; one of whom we find with Parvati, the other may have been his ancestor and Sati's consort. [Later translators have got confused and mixed them up, by bringing in stories of 'reincarnation', etc. Perhaps: Yash Chopra in one of his earlier incarnations wrote these 'reincarnation' stories involving Sati and Parvati. :)  Also: the various cults that came up in Shiv's name too may have contributed their bit (including the Aghoris, and the tantric Kapalik order.)

'Shiv' is associated with tandav nritya or turbulence. The 'moving force' behind the cosmos is also called Shiv; this force or energy (as per our ancients) must remain inert so that there is no cosmic turbulence (also: tandav nritya). This is the celestial 'Shiv'. On earth, 'Shiv' may have been the name/title bestowed upon the best warrior of that era. [Note: the narrative about Shiv wandering about in the cosmos with Sati's lifeless body on his shoulders, and Shri Vishnu chopping off her body into several pieces - with his golden disc or Sudarshan Chakra - is clearly a cosmic phenomenon. Due to the passage of time and thanks to misinterpretations, etc, lines have become blurred.]

Incidentally: Shiv may have also been known as "Eknath"; Akhenaten (pron.: also spelled Echnaton, Akhenaton, Ikhnaton, and Khuenaten) is nothing but a corrupt version of "Eknath" - due to the change in phonetics. During the course of our discussions, we have talked about various groups of people from this land venturing out - in search of greener pastures. That a part of ancient Egypt's culture and heritage has come from this great land is indisputable. [We will of course discuss this in greater detail in our later posts.]

By the way: Duryodhan has managed to garner some sympathy since he is said to have befriended the supposedly "Suta-putra" Karna. Karna means "ears" (ears are called 'karn' in Sanskrit.) But unfortunately, "Suta-putra" has been mistranslated as: "son of a charioteer" and therefore, "low-born". Karna is addressed as a "Suta-Putra" simply because this was one of the many ways of addressing a person (in that era). It was a common norm of that era; even Shri Krishna is addressed as: "Kshatriya-Shresht" (meaning: 'the best amongst the Kshatriyas'; kshatriya is an amalgamation of two words: Ksat means injury, and tra means deliver. Hence a 'kshatriya' means: a brave-heart, someone who protects others from harm, from adharm, and from aasuric or negative influences or entities - anywhere, and not just in the battlefield.)

It was based on a person's "varna" (i.e. on one's talent, aptitude, nature or pravritti.) In other words: on one's swa-dharma. [Do read: Part-XII - to get the drift.] There was no concept of "caste" in Dvapar; caste is a foreign word and is derived from the Portuguese word "Casta", meaning: purity of descent.

Karan automatically came under the "Suta" group, since he was thought to be the son (putra) of Adhirath and Radha; and hence, he shocked everyone by picking up weapons. Adhirath was Raja Santanu's sarathi or charioteer. [Whether he was of Ashvaka descent - my guess is as good as yours. Do read: Part-VIII.] Adhirath was a martial person (a Kshatriya) and an expert charioteer - which was a crucial and critical expertise - in the battlefield, one that was much valued. We can see the courtesy and respect extended to Sanjay, who too was a Kshatriya, a charioteer, and a "Suta". [Sanjay may have been of Ashvaka descent as well. However, the chariots that they expertly maneuvered on the battlefield are unlikely to have been anywhere like the somewhat rickety structures depicted in various shows these days.]

The "Sutas" were Kshatriyas; they were learned persons that did not pick up weapons (to fight in the battlefield.) They chose to become sarathi (now translated as: charioteers) or wandering minstrels/poets (kusalavya) instead. A renowned kusalavya of that era was: Ugrasrava, son of Lomarsana, known as Sauti to one and all. [Sauti is derived from "Suta". And we must also remember that even Shri Krishna chose to become a "Suta" in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, hence he is also known as Parthasarathi. Parth = another name for Arjun.] 

Those who fought in the battlefield were known as 'Rathi' or 'Maharathi' - based on their caliber, laurels, usage and knowledge of weaponry, knowledge of warfare, and perhaps even experience - as a warrior. Hence: 'Sarathi' can also be described/understood/interpreted as 'a warrior who did not pick up weapons, despite being in the battlefield, and participating in the battle/war'. Their expertise lay elsewhere - in intelligently maneuvering the chariots (raths) so that the 'Rathi' or the 'Maharathi' derived maximum advantage, and this no doubt required a very sharp understanding of the battlefield as well as various types of warfare. 

Rath = chariot. Rathi = a warrior atop the chariot (rath). Maharathi = a far more accomplished warrior - atop the chariot (rath). Sarathi = a warrior maneuvering the chariot (rath). 

[Much later, in the current era, a group of Kshatriyas decided to shun weapons and picked up the pen instead: the Kayastha community. They too would have come under the "Suta" group. BTW, Rajputs are Kshatriyas that have a royal background. "Rajput" denotes royal descent, i.e. these Kashatriyas hailed from a royal lineage. Raj = royal. Put = children, offspring, descendents. The Rajputs are very much part of this land and are Kshatriyas.]

Karna was a Maharathi and a close friend of Duryodhan. During the Pandava's exile period he helped Duryodhan become the ruler of a large kingdom, by conquering various lands. The kings of these lands either accepted Duryodhan's suzerainty and swore allegiance to him, or chose to die in the battlefield, defending their kingdoms. Karna is said to have subdued the kingdoms of Kamboja, Shaka, Kekaya, Avantya, Gandhara, Madraka, Trigarta, Tangana, Panchala, Videha, Suhma, Vanga, Nishada, Kalinga, Vatsa, Ashmaka, Rishika and numerous others, including Mlecchas and many forest tribes.

A "Suta" is also the offspring of mixed parentage, more precisely that of a Kshatriya-Brahmin parentage. However: I suspect that this word (Suta) has undergone some mutations down the years and has given rise to the current word: Shudra.

[Post the demise of the Gupta era, whatever has been wrecked upon this great land and her people - in the name of 'birth', 'caste', etc - can be traced to the higher board game of "divide and rule" played by an assortment of friendly colonizers (that descended on this land.) These entities were ably aided by home-grown vested interests, especially belonging to a large chunk of a certain class - that could easily mistranslate and mutilate our ancient texts - in order to not only accumulate power, influence and other materialistic aspects for themselves, but also to stratify society along gender lines, and along community, 'race', 'caste', linguistic and ethnic lines.]

Much of the confusion about Karna is due to the perceptions about him, chief amongst these are: 1. Kunti abandoned him right after birth - 'so as to avoid shame, since Karana was born out of wedlock'. 2. Draupadi (who apparently later "lusted" after him) 'rejected' him @ her 'Svayamvar' - since he was a "Suta" and therefore, "low-born"...!

However: all of these are clearly later-day add-on, thanks to the changing times, influence of various types of aliens and other vested interests (especially the ones that blatantly mistranslated our ancient texts). [It is also possible that these later add-ons and mistranslations came about so as to aid our internal and external vested interests to stratify society + bring down the position of women + mutilate Sanaatan Dharma.]

There was no concept of 'extra-marital affairs' or 'illegitimate children' during the Vedic eras or during the earlier eras (and perhaps until the various types of friendly colonizers arrived.) Vedic marriages were of many types, and Gandharva Vivaha represented a short-term union (vivaha) between a male and a female... where there were no rituals involved. Gandharva Vivaha happened either to beget a progeny or for the sake of simply coming together. [We tend to forget that Maharshi Vedavyas himself was born out of one such union between the 'matsya-kanya' (the fisher-woman) Satyavati and the renowned sage Maharshi Parashar. Satyavati later married the Kshatriya king of Hastinapur, Maharaj Santanu, and had two sons: Chitrāngad and Vichitravirya.]
Therefore: Kunti clearly did not 'abandon' Karana 'for fear of being shamed'. Nor did she place the basket (containing the infant Karna) on the waters of the river Aswa (a tributary of the river Ganga) - as is popularly believed. Karan was an unnatural human, born as a result of very advanced genetic engineering. He (very likely) was a radiant-and-remarkable-looking baby. I would like to believe that this may have induced someone to kidnap him. But whoever it was that kidnapped him, abandoned him later, since taking care of him may not have been an easy task - given that he was an unnatural human. Later, the childless couple - Adhirath and Radha found him, and brought him up as their own son. [Hence Karna is also known as Radheya: son of Radha, though he was named Vasusena by his adoptive parents. As for his real 'father', we will discuss that in our later posts.]

And no, Draupadi did not 'lust after Karna'. Nor did Krishna offer her as bait to him - to induce him to join the Pandavas. These are later-day embellishments to attract crowds @ stage plays, etc; though Karna did suffer from the same limitations as Bhishma Pitamah though - regarding attachment to a vow as a be-all and end-all. Despite understanding and accepting that Duryodhan's actions were abominable [Part-XV], he chooses friendship over defense of dharm (and this is not the mark of a true Kshatriya.) However: it is unlikely that Karna called Draupadi a "whore" (veshya), or said that a "whore" had no right, and thus there was nothing wrong in bringing Draupadi nude in the court, etc. These are again later-day add-on by various dramatists, poets, and the like. Reason: the Pandavas, Draupadi and Karna were all unnatural humans, and it is unlikely that Karna was unaware of the manner of their birth. [Also: "veshya" is a word/lingo that is much closer to our times.]

Therefore: all the sob stories and pathos-filled poems about Kunti abandoning Karna (soon after his birth) or asking him to throw away "Radheya" and take on the name of "Kaunteya" instead - are the figment of the extremely fertile imagination of later-day authors, interpreters, poets, dramatists and the like. Ditto the ones about Karna giving away his "kaavacha" (armour) and "kundaal"/"Kundala" (wrongly translated as: a pair of ear-rings) in 'daan' (charity) - to Shri Vishnu or Indra disguised as a Brahmin. This is because: Karna's "kaavacha" and "kundaal" are simply indicators of his status as an unnatural human (more likely that of a highly-evolved humanoid.)

So, how could he give away something that cannot be given away?!

"Kaavacha" (armour) is simply a metaphor to indicate that Karna was very difficult to kill (since he was an unnatural human; it is not to be taken at face value or literally.) While "Kundaal" or "Kundala" is perhaps derived from "kundalini" (kuṇḍalinī), meaning: "coiled". [Sanskrit: kund - "to burn"; kunda - "to coil or to spiral".]

Hence, I interpret "kundaal" or "Kundala" as the circuits - inside Karna's body - more specifically, near his ears (karna). Only if the "Kundaal" is 'taken off' or attacked - Karna will be destroyed, nothing else could destroy him (as indicated by the "kaavacha"). [Therefore: Karna could not have donated either his "Kaavacha" or his "Kundaal". Ever.] 

Frankly: wherever the later interpreters have got confused or have not understood something (e.g. technology) - they have altered the narrative. Plus: there has been much contemporisation as well as excessive moralistic discourse weaved into the narrative, with an eye to attracting bigger audience during stage plays, etc. Apart from loads of mischief of course - so as to be able to stratify society + bring down the position of women. [E.g.: the work of our ancient female scholars, like: Khana, Gargi, Mayitri, et al have either vanished without a trace or have been suitably 'amended'.]

[A chunk of those that have mistranslated, added + perpetuated various embellishments have also come up with long narratives about how Radha and Krishna still dance together; Radha's date of birth - complete with the 'fact' that she was 5 or 8 years older to Krishna and was his aunt (!), Brahmin-bhojan, exclusive housing societies/gated communities, and the like. These entities are also the ones that have thought up some fictitious narrative (that accuse Krishna of some very disgusting activities), and then ritualistically hurl the choicest of abuses at him - while pulling his 'rath'. All in the name of custom and ritual. As for Ram and Sita, we already know what has been done to them.] 

Incidentally, there's a story that goes like this: when Karna was on his deathbed, Indra and Surya had a dispute regarding Karna's generosity, and to settle the same they approached him disguised as mendicants. Karna regretfully told them that since he had nothing left, he could give them nothing. The 'mendicants' respond by reminding Karna about his golden tooth. Thereafter, Karna is said to have broken his golden tooth with a stone... and given it to the mendicant duo, thus epitomizing the way of life he led (i.e. his "daanveer" status.) However, we must not take these stories at face value. They have very likely come about or been incorporated much later - so as to convey certain morals or teach some values and virtues. [Several other well-known characters from our ancient itihasa, such as Ram, Krishna, Arjun, et al too have been used in a variety of stories whose primary aim or motive was to teach good lessons or to inculcate good values, especially amongst children and youngsters.] 

The narrative also tells us that: following the Kurukshetra war, Tarpan vidhi (rites of passage) were performed for all the dead warriors, and that Kunti asked her five sons (the Pandavas) to perform the rites for Karna as well. However, they protested, saying that since Karna was a charioteer (suta-putra), this was below their dignity. [Now, this bit is clearly the work of later (mis)interpreters, (mis)translators, authors, dramatists, poets, and the like - so as to stratify society, by blatantly mistranslating our ancient texts. We have already discussed what "Suta" "Rathi", "Maharathi" and "Sarathi" mean, including the most famous of all sarathis: Paarthsarathi.) 

There's more: apparently when the Pandavas protested, Kunti revealed the "truth of Karna's birth". And this so shocked and infuriated that "model of righteousness" - Yudhisthira - that he laid a curse upon all womankind: that they would never be able to keep a secret, henceforth...!

Need I say more? :)

BTW: even a cursory reading of Draupadi's speech (@ the Kaurava Court) clearly brings out her immense contempt for this man. 

A few centuries ago, there was no big and small screen [Link]. But there were plenty of wandering theatres, stage shows and stage plays; poetry and drama; including our so-called epics (actually: pracheen itihasa), which were given the required twist - in order to bring in various regressive aspects (and entrench them firmly). Visual medium is very powerful, its influence lingers. And these theatres, stage shows, stage plays, et al had powerful backers/patrons. [Negative values/events/customs are very easy to bring in, but extremely difficult to uproot, since it creates powerful vested interests that fight tooth and nail to protect their turf.]  

[We will continue our discussions in the next post...] 

(Do stay tuned…) 

Pictures: Illustrations of Rishi Veda Vyasa, the Parasurama-avatar, Shiv-Sati and Kunti "abandoning" an infant Karna.