Friday, 29 December 2017

The Concept of Avatara Purusha

Image result for tirupathi perumal
Vishnu in the form of Venkateswara or Balaji in Tirupathi. Picture source unknown.
The Samkhya philosophy speaks about the duality of reality. Samkhya is one of the 6 valid philosophies of Hinduism. Buddhism was influenced by Samkhya. It contains humanistic and practical values.

The cosmos is known as Purusha and the energy or nature that sustains it is called Prakriti. If Purusha is Static, Prakriti is Dynamic. The Chinese call it Yin and Yang. For the Saivites, Siva is Purusha and Sakthi is Prakriti.

In the Vaishnava religion, Narayana or Vishnu takes up the role of Purusha. His energy is called Vaishnavi. Vishnu is also the Preserver and Protector of Dharma. As we all know, Vishnu has many Avatars or incarnations.

In the Bhagavat Gita, Krishna mentioned that whenever there is a decline in Dharma, he will be reborn again and again to uphold Dharma. This brings us back to the concept of Purusha or the cosmos itself. 

The cosmos repairs itself. It does not have an external input to fix its internal problems. Because there is nothing external. Everything is internal and happens within the cosmos.

Whenever there is a problem, the Purusha will manifest itself to solve it. Whenever someone stands up for the right thing and restores order during desperate times especially when all hope is lost, such person will be considered as the manifestation of the Purusha itself. 

Krishna was needed to slay Kamsa, Rama was needed to slay Ravana. Their act restored order. Hence they are considered as Avatara Purusha; the Purusha (Vishnu) that incarnated/manifested.

There is an Avatara Purusha in each of us. It will and it must manifest in times of need. A separate God in blue will not appear to fix the problems in our society. We are the solution for our problems. We are our own saviour.

Vishnu on Garuda Tanjore
Pic Credit: Madhurya

Monday, 6 March 2017

Tamil and The Sanskrit Aindra Grammar School

The oldest available Tamil book known as Tolkappiyam written by Tolkappiyan is dated to be from 300-400bc. In this book, Tolkappiyan has mentioned that the natural languages spoken by the people in the region between Venkatam and Kumari (Indian Ocean) was formalised into Tamil.

This process was done based on the Aindra grammar system which happened to be a Sanskrit grammar system. Tolkappiyan was well versed in the Aindra system. On other words, formal Tamil which we consider as the Classical Tamil was influenced by Sanskrit grammar school.

Aindra is called as Aindiram in Tamil and the word Aindra simply means from Indra as he was considered to be the founder of this system. Tolkappiyan's teacher was a person who was well versed in the 4 Vedas. This was mentioned by Tolkappiyan himself in Tolkappiyam. It also explains why Tamil starts with syllable "ka" like most of other Indian languages.

For reference, I am attaching the prologue taken from Tolkappiyam. It is indeed proud to have one of the oldest surviving language as our mother tongue. 

But let's not forget the fact about how it was formalised and lets also not forget that there are approx 7000 languages in the planet and there is no evidence to say that Tamil is the oldest language in the world. It is only one of the oldest surviving language, not the oldest.

Our ancestors would have had a different language similar to Tamil or different from Tamil prior to 300-400 bc. Language used tend to change over time. Migration of various tribes into similar region is also a contributing factor. Let's be open minded about this one fact.

வட வேங்கடம் தென் குமரி ஆயிடைத் 
தமிழ் கூறும் நல் உலகத்து 
வழக்கும் செய்யுளும் ஆயிரு முதலின் 
எழுத்தும் சொல்லும் பொருளும் நாடிச் 
செந்தமிழ் இயற்கை சிவணிய நிலத்தொடு 
முந்து நூல் கண்டு முறைப்பட எண்ணிப் 
புலம் தொகுத்தோனே போக்கு அறு பனுவல் 
நிலம் தரு திருவின் பாண்டியன் அவையத்து 
அறம் கரை நாவின் நான்மறை முற்றிய 
அதங்கோட்டு ஆசாற்கு அரில் தபத் தெரிந்து 
மயங்கா மரபின் எழுத்து முறை காட்டி 
மல்கு நீர் வரைப்பின் ஐந்திரம் நிறைந்த 
தொல்காப்பியன் எனத் தன் பெயர் தோற்றிப் 
பல் புகழ் நிறுத்த படிமையோனே.

vaṭa vēṅkaṭam teṉ kumari āyiṭait 
tamiḻ kūṟum nal ulakattu 
vaḻakkum ceyyuḷum āyiru mutaliṉ 
eḻuttum collum poruḷum nāṭic 
centamiḻ iyaṟkai civaṇiya nilattoṭu 
muntu nūl kaṇṭu muṟaippaṭa eṇṇip 
pulam tokuttōṉē pōkku aṟu paṉuval 
nilam taru tiruviṉ pāṇṭiyaṉ avaiyattu 
aṟam karai nāviṉ nāṉmaṟai muṟṟiya 
ataṅkōṭṭu ācāṟku aril tapat terintu 
mayaṅkā marapiṉ eḻuttu muṟai kāṭṭi 
malku nīr varaippiṉ aintiram niṟainta 
tolkāppiyaṉ eṉat taṉ peyar tōṟṟip 
pal pukaḻ niṟutta paṭimaiyōṉē.

Translation of Tolkappiyam prologue into English: 
Tamil-speaking land was extended between Veenkatam (Tiruppathi) on the north and ocean Kumari on the south. The spoken and written Tamil languages are the sources of his work. He extends his study on phonetic letters, word-syntax and the matter revealed there-on. He studied properly the culture of the language-people and his predecessors' conventions and wrote his work of 'linguistic knowledge'.This work does not contain any objectionable point. It has been published in the learned-court of the Nilantharu thiruvin Nediyon. Atankoott Aasaan is the name of his professor. This professor is a man of balanced virtuous character.He is well-versed in four 'Vedas'. During his presentation some raised-doubts of his professor were cleared. The work is unambiguous. The author of this work is well-versed in 'Aindiram' (Aindra). He posses sound knowledge on sea-grit word. Tolkaappiyan is a renowned sage.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Sauram & NavaGraha

Picture Credit: Amar D.Gupta

The Hinduism which we practice today is a consolidation of various matham (religion). Each matham has one primary God and it can be considered as monotheistic. 

The traditional 6 religion which were said to be grouped together by Adi Sankara are known as Shaivam, Shaktam, Vaishnavam, Ganapatyam, Kaumaram and Sauram. 

The primary God of Shaivam is Shiva, for Shaktam it is Shakti, for Vaishnavam it is Vishnu, for Ganapatyam it is Ganapathi, for Kaumaram it is Kumara (Muruga) and for Sauram it is Surya (Sun). 

These 6 religions are collectively called as ShanMatham. 
Shan is the Sanskrit word for the number 6. 

There is also a tradition known as Smartham. The Smarthas worship God as ParaBrahma and accept the forms of God in the other mathams. Smarthas can worship any one of the primary God from ShanMatham as their favourite deity or IsthaDeivam. The present form of mainstream Hinduism is influenced by the Smartham tradition.

There is a phrase in Tamil, "Emmathamum Sammathum" meaning "Any religion is accepted". Many Tamils use this phrase in reference to religious tolerance. This is actually wrong. 

The actual phrase is "En Mathamum ShanMatham" meaning "My Religion Is Also The 6 Religion". This means a person who use this phrase believe in one of the 6 traditional Hindu religions as stated above. So this phrase is only applicable for the 6 religions within Hinduism.

The worship of NavaGraha (9 planets/celestial objects) is part of the Sauram religion. In the NavaGraha worship, Surya takes the central position. He is the primary God. Surya is accompanied by Chandran (Moon), Chevvai (Mars), Budhan (Mercury), Viyalan or Guru (Jupiter), Shukran (Venus), Sani (Saturn), Rahu (North Lunar Node) and Ketu (South Lunar Node).

You would have been advised by some Gurukkal to offer lamp for Sani (Saturn) on Saturdays. Saturday is the day of Saturn, hence Saturn's Day became Saturday. In Tamil we call it as Sani Kilamai. Some devotees offer lamp for other purpose on Thursday for Guru (Jupiter). 

The followers of other religions such as Shaivam have their own ways of doing things.  A Shaiva would normally offer prayers to Shiva in the form of Dhakshinamoorthy on Thursdays instead of offering prayers to Guru (Jupiter). 

The Shaivas, Shaktas, Vaishnavas, Ganapatyas and Kaumaras also believe in total surrender to their respective primary forms of God. Surrendering to God and worshipping with sincerity is the ultimate form of Bhakthi in these religions.

NavaGraha worship of the Sauram religion is closely associated with Jyotisha (Astrology) as each graha plays a role in a person's birth chart. Astrology is based on the study of Astronomy and how it relates to a human's life. 

Although NavaGraha worship is part of Sauram, it is also practised by a large number of Hindus who follow the other remaining 5 religious schools.  

Friday, 20 January 2017

Jallikattu Is India's National Heritage

Jallikattu is a bull-taming or bull-embracing sport practised in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu. Although this sport is practiced mainly by people from the Mukkulathor community, it is participated by everyone irrespective of communal or religious background in Tamil Nadu. Jallikattu is the pride of the Tamil people. It has now become the symbol of Tamil unity.

This sport originated in the Indus Valley civilisation about 4,000 years ago. According to the famous ephigraphist, Iravatham Mahadevan, a well preserved seal was found at Mohenjodaro in the 1930s. This seal shows a Jallikattu scene with a charging bull and several men thrown in the air as they try to control it.

Even in Hindu scriptures, there has been mentions of Krishna taming bulls. Most of these bull tamers or as we call today, Jallikattu players, come from martial communities in southern Tamil Nadu. 

In ancient times, those who were capable of being bull tamers were selected in the army of the kings. This is because the courage and skills displayed in Jallikattu is what exactly the army needed for its military raids. The act of stealing the enemy's cattle is the first act of provocation during war in ancient India.  

Although today the sport is not needed by the Indian army, it still plays an important role in our culture. Since only native bulls are used in Jallikattu, it helps to ensure that the native breeds are preserved. 

Jallikattu's connection with Indus Valley civilisation, Krishna and ancient Indian warfare shows that this sport is the identity of not just Tamil Nadu but the whole of India which sees the Indus Valley civilisation as its mother civilisation. 

The people of Tamil Nadu are the last society in India to preserve this sport. It has either been abandoned or forgotten by other Indians but continued to survive because of the Tamil people's determination. 

Jallikattu should be revived all over India. It must become a national sport conducted in a professional manner. Let there be arenas built all over India for the purpose of conducting Jallikattu. If that happens, it will create opportunities for tournaments or leagues to be held just like for cricket.

For this to happen, the ban on Jallikattu must be lifted immediately. Every Indian must stand in solidarity with the people of Tamil Nadu. They are the last guardians of this ancient sport.

This is India's national heritage. Not just Tamil Nadu heritage. 
Lets not kill it. Lets save Jallikattu!

PETA and its sympathisers can keep their opinion to themselves.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Does God only understand Sanskrit?

Picture credit :mariaparaffina

I had an interesting discussion with a few people this week. One of the question which I came across was if God only understands Sanskrit.

You can actually pray in any language including English. You can even pray by heart without any sound. How do you think the deaf and mute pray? God is beyond linguistic boundaries.

Sanskrit is a formulated language used mainly for mantric purpose. Although it can also be structured for daily conversation, it is not used as a mother tongue even by the Tamil Brahmins at home. They speak Tamil at home and many Brahmins can speak better Tamil than most of us.

Because of its mantric values, Sanskrit is considered as a more suitable language for chanting. Tamil prayers are poetic and not mantric. You can sing Tamil prayers but you can't chant Tamil prayers. Tirumurai is sung in Pann Isai and not chanted in metres like the Sanskrit mantras from Vedas or Agamas.

Singing prayers creates devotional attachment which is good. But chanting mantras repeatedly helps to condition the mind. Such conditioning is helpful for those who wish to elevate themselves spiritually especially those who are into meditation.

Even the Tamil Othuvars chant the Sanskrit panchakshra NaMaSiVaYa. If prayers can be done in Tamil alone, why are the Othuvars still using Sanskrit mantras like this? Why not make it exclusively Tamil without a single Sanskrit word?

Sanskrit is classified as an Indo-European language by the linguists. It is used in certain villages such as in Mattur but nobody claimed Sanskrit as their mother tongue. Not even the Brahmins of India.

To think of it, it is actually good to use Sanskrit in Hindu temples because it is a language common to all Hindus. Whether your mother tongue is Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Malayalam, Gujerati, Thai, Balinese, Javanese, English, German etc etc, using Sanskrit makes it neutral in all Hindu temples. 

Unlike Islam which emphasise on Arabic, mother tongue of the Arab people, Hinduism does not emphasise on a particular tribe's mother tongue. Devotional songs or poems can be in any language but the mantras are only in Sanskrit.

God is not human. God has no ethnic identity. God is not a property of the Tamil people alone. Hinduism gives an opportunity for both Tamils and non-Tamils to use Sanskrit as a neutral language. 

Today there are many opportunity for Hindus to learn Sanskrit or at least learn the meaning of the mantras which they recite. There are many reliable sources available. It is not an impossible thing. 

So why complain about it? 

Be happy that we have Sanskrit as it creates a sense of unity among Hindus when everyone use the same neutral language to recite the mantras instead of another person's mother tongue.