Thursday, January 29, 2015

Gita, Gandhi and Godse

Varghese K. George

Both Nathuram Godse and Mahatma Gandhi read the Bhagavad Gita but one became a martyr and the other a murderer
 
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GRIM REMINDER: “January 30, the day Nathuram Godse killed Mahatma Gandhi, is the starkest reminder in the history of humankind of how the same text can be read differently.” Picture shows Mahatma Gandhi’s funeral procession in in 1948.

January 30 reminds us of the fact that even the holiest of texts can have subjective and differential meanings.

The sacred Indian verses of Shrimad Bhagavad Gita has been in the news for various reasons in recent months. Prime Minister Narendra Modi presented a copy of the Bhagavad Gita to United States President Barack Obama when he visited the White House last year and one to Emperor Akihito of Japan. He has declared that the Gita would be the gift that he would carry for all world leaders. More controversially, Union Minister Sushma Swaraj advocated that the Gita may be declared the national book of India. Most recently, the BJP government in Haryana declared its intention to teach the Gita as part of the school curriculum.

To say that religion and politics should not be mixed has not only become a cliché, but may be missing the point altogether. Many tall leaders found the reason for their political action in their religious faith. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr are examples. President Obama mentioned in his town hall speech in Delhi last week that his faith strengthened him in his life. It is also true that many kings and emperors of the past used religious faith to justify killings and destruction.

Martyr and murderer

Many individuals and organisations advocate and indulge in violence today, and justify it on the basis of religious texts. January 30, the day Nathuram Godse killed Mahatma Gandhi, is the starkest reminder in the history of humankind of how the same text can be read differently. Both read the Bhagavad Gita. One became Gandhi. The other became Godse. One became a martyr. The other became a murderer. Jawaharlal Nehru, for whom the Gita was “a poem of crisis, of political and social crisis and, even more so, of crisis in the spirit of man,” wrote in the Discovery of India: “... the leaders of thought and action of the present day — Tilak, Aurobindo Ghose, Gandhi — have written on it, each giving his own interpretation. Gandhiji bases his firm belief in non-violence on it; others justify violence and warfare for a righteous cause ...”

What is curious is the fact that the two opposite interpretations of the Gita that Nehru refers to were responses to the same shared reality that their respective proponents encountered —  colonialism and Christianity. Two strikingly different responses emerge to the same situation. The divergence is evident from the debate between Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak. In 1920, Tilak wrote to Gandhi: “Politics is the game of worldly people and not of Sadhus, and instead of the maxim, ‘overcome anger by loving kindness, evil by good,’ as preached by Buddha, I prefer to rely on the maxim of Shri Krishna, ‘In whatsoever way any come to me, in that same way I grant them favour.’ That explains the whole difference.” Gandhi replied: “For me there is no conflict between the two texts quoted by the Lokamanya. The Buddhist text lays down an eternal principle. The text from the Bhagavad Gita shows to me how the eternal principle of conquering hate by love, untruth by truth can and must be applied.”

For Tilak, the Gita was a call for action, political and religious. He declared that the Gita sanctioned violence for unselfish and benevolent reasons. While Tilak’s interpretation of the Gita that he wrote while in prison inspired a generation of warriors against British colonialism, it also informed Hindutva politics. Godse used similar arguments to justify the killing of the Mahatma, and quoted from the book during his trial. For Gandhi, the Gita and all religious texts were not excuses for exclusion and bigotry, but inspiration for compassion and confluence. In The Bhagavad Gita According to Gandhi — incidentally, the book that Mr. Modi gifted Mr. Obama — the Father of the Nation wrote: “But there is nothing exclusive about the Gita which should make it a gospel only for the Brahmana or the Hindu. Having all the light and colour of the Indian atmosphere, it naturally must have the greatest fascination for the Hindu, but the central teaching should not have any the less appeal for a non-Hindu as the central teaching of the Bible or the Koran should not have any less appeal for a non-Christian or a non-Muslim.”

Challenged by Christian missionaries, Gandhi learned more about his own religion, but more importantly, he imbibed Christian values rather than rejecting them. “Gandhi integrated several aspects of Christianity in this brand of increasingly redefined Hinduism, particularly the idea of suffering love as exemplified in the image of crucifixion. The image haunted him all his life and became the source of some of his deepest passions. He wept before it when he visited Vatican in Rome in 1931; the bare walls of his Sevagram ashram made an exception in favour of it; Isaac Watts’s ‘When I behold the wondrous Cross,’ which offers a moving portrayal of Christ’s sorrow and sacrifice and ends with ‘love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all,’ was one of his favourite hymns...” Bhikhu Parekh writes. Gandhi was accused of being a ‘closet Christian’ and ridiculed as ‘Mohammad Gandhi’ by Hindu radicals.

Support for Godse’s reading

Godse’s reading of the Gita appears to gather more supporters in contemporary India. BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj knew what he was talking about when he praised Godse. Several individuals and organisations have become active in propagating the ideas of Godse. There is also a move to build a temple for him.

After gifting the Gita to the Japanese emperor, Mr. Modi wondered whether his act would irk secularists. The greatest of Indian secularists, Nehru, had this to say: “During the 2,500 years since it was written, Indian humanity has gone repeatedly through the processes of change and development and decay; but it has always found something living in the Gita...The message of the Gita is not sectarian or addressed to any particular school of thought. It is universal in its approach for everyone… ‘All paths lead to Me,’ it says.”

But then, it is all about reading it like Gandhi.

varghese.g@thehindu.co.in

Source: The Hindu   

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Legal experts say debating Preamble pointless, needless

Written by Utkarsh Anand , Seema Chishti | New Delhi | Posted: January 30, 2015 1:22 am | Updated: January 30, 2015 2:27 am   

A day after Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said there was “no harm” in debating whether the Preamble should have the words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’, legal luminaries said that given the might of the Constitution and assertive judicial pronouncements, such a debate was “redundant” and “unnecessary”.

“What debate (is to be done)? Article 25 uses the word ‘secular’, and it was always there. The entire Constitution is premised on the idea of equality irrespective of religion, caste, creed or sex… That is secular, and the Constitution guarantees it,” former Chief Justice of India V N Khare told The Indian Express.

“Our Constitution itself is secular, with or without these words in its Preamble, and every Indian is fundamentally equal,” Justice Khare said.

Former Supreme Court Justice K T Thomas said the secular nature of the Constitution no longer required deliberation or debate.
“The secular nature of the Constitution has been well settled in many judgments of the Supreme Court, which has declared the Constitution itself as secular. It doesn’t make a difference whether the words (secular and socialist) were added during the Emergency or not.”

Justice Thomas, however, added that now that the words have been added, “they should remain there”.

Former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee said: “What is the point of arguing all this now? The Preamble only reflects what our Constitution says, and the Constitution lays down equality in every sense of the word for all Indians.”

The “Constitution itself is secular”, and a debate is “totally unnecessary”, Sorabjee said.

Retired Justice Rajindar Sachar, who headed the panel that studied the socio-economic and educational status of Indian Muslims, had stronger words.

“Any attempt to tinker with the Preamble is utterly illegal and grossly unconstitutional,” he said. “It warrants a more stern censure since the idea has come from those who have taken the oath of the same Constitution. It is in breach of that oath… The Prime Minister must issue a statement on behalf of his Cabinet that… the Preamble will not be touched.”

Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran said the two words added by the 42nd Amendment only made explicit what was already part of the original Preamble.

“The Constitution guarantees justice: social, economic and political; liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; equality of status and opportunity, and fraternity. These concepts are surely a part of the basic structure, which, under the law of the land, cannot be done away with. So the principles of secularism and socialism is intrinsic to Constitutional principles,” Ramachandran said.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Ghar wapsi: Why the Hindus will never be a minority in India

Only the lower caste have reasons to convert in this country.

POLITICS   |   4-minute read |   19-01-2015

Sohail Hashmi @Dilliwal

There has been a lot of noise on the issue of conversion, the pitch is constantly rising and the gullible are increasingly being told that there is an international conspiracy to reduce the Hindus to a minority in the land of their birth. The ratcheting up of the rhetoric has assumed shriller tones since Nepal, the one country that used to describe itself as a Hindu state decided to drop the sobriquet and chose to declare itself a "secular state". The only people in Nepal who want to go back to being described as a Hindu state are the monarchists and that says something about the relevance of the idea of a denominational state in the 21st century.

All kinds of "histories", in fact more hysterical fulminations than the result of any serious enquiry, are put forward and claims made that Hindus have been enslaved and converted forcefully for a thousand years.

The entire thesis of slavery of the Hindus at the hands of Muslims is a fallacy, primarily because those propounding this thesis have not the foggiest idea of what precisely slavery is and when they club this so-called slavery in the "Muslim period" with the "enslavement of the Hindu nation" by the British, they place under public scrutiny their utter and absolute ignorance of what imperialism is and how it operates.

Aside from their complete unfamiliarity with historical processes and with the various stages in the evolution of societies, these worthies, who also claim to have taught the decimal system to the world, expose themselves further to ridicule by not addressing a question of elementary arithmetic, they have never tried to explain why after 1,000 years of forcible conversion, Hindus continue to be 85 per cent of the country's population. Either those engaged in forcible conversion were extremely inefficient that they managed to convert only about 15 per cent of the population in a project lasting ten centuries, or the entire thesis is based primarily on make believe assumptions.

This constant noise about conversion and the creation of this frenzy of insecurity and of a psychosis of fear, of being reduced to a minority is, in fact, a clever attempt to prevent people from asking the one basic question that the noise makers have no answer for and the question is "But why do only Hindus convert".

The entire discourse on forcible conversion has been developed in order to prevent people from asking this one question. An honest answer to this question will shake the vey edifice upon which rests the Chaturvarnashram or the caste system.

Almost 2,500 years ago, two Kshatriya princes began needling the Brahmanic order, asking questions that triggered the first exodus from the order. This mass departure was the first organised rejection of the idea of intellect being the preserve of some, power the handmaiden of some others, trade and commerce of another lot and existence in servitude, the fate of the overwhelming majority. The questions that the Kshatriya princes asked have yet to be comprehensively answered.

As long as those who control the reins of faith continue to insist that Chaturvarnashram is in fact the divinely ordained division of labour, we cannot escape the situation where large parts of the population are compelled to exist in conditions of absolute servitude, exclusion and marginalisation. The Chaturvarnashram is the Indian version of racial discrimination. Forever perpetuating the dominance of the "dwij jaatis".

As long as this discriminatory construct continues, Dalits and tribals will continue to convert as they have from the time of the Buddha, it is another matter that conversion does not help them escape the brand of being a low born and so carpenters, weavers, blacksmiths, butchers, cobblers, tailors, potters, goldsmiths, silversmiths, coppersmiths, performers, and others who had to work for a living have always been treated as life of a "lower intellect" because if they had any intellect they would be Brahmins or Kshatriyas - people who made others do their dirty work.

And it is because of this that entire communities converted to Islam and Sikhism when the opportunity presented itself and it is because of this that the finest craftspeople are to be found among these communities.

Some "upper-castes" also converted in the hope that if they converted to the religion of the king, it will help them rise in life. Whenever the "upper-caste" converted they carried their caste names into the new religion and examples of this can be found in Kashmir, in Rajasthan, in Haryana and in Punjab, but when the "low caste" converted they gave up their caste names because they were not converting for political reasons, they were opting out of a system that treated them with bias and prejudice.

Source: dailyo

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Where Upanishads and Hadith are taught together

News » National                          MANDSAUR, January 10, 2015

Mahim Pratap Singh

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Images of goddess Saraswati and Ajmer Shariff share the wall at a classroom in Madarasa Firdose centre at Mandasaur in Madhya Pradesh. Photo: Prashant Nakwe    The Hindu

As the sun slowly warms the small classrooms of Madrasa Gyan Sagar, students return from the extended winter break to welcome New Year’s Day at school.

There is a picture of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, displayed prominently on the wall in the Principal’s office. Outside is a blackboard on which is inscribed a quote from the Brihadarnyaka Upanishad (Asato Maa Sadgamaya) and one from the Hadith (Knowledge is the greatest wealth.)

In a classroom, three girls, Ambreen, Simran and Farida, begin reciting Saraswati Vandana. They study in a madrasa, probably unlike any other in the country.

Gyan Sagar is one of the 128 madrasas run by a group of women in and around Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur district, which is otherwise famous for its poppy farms and high-grade opium. In 78 of these madarsas, Hindu students outnumber their Muslim friends (over 55 per cent of the students are Hindu), while 630 of the 865 teachers employed by the group are Hindu.

The Hindu religion is taught as a compulsory subject for students from Hindu households, with textbooks comprising detailed explanations of religious rituals and their scientific basis. “Most of the families in this village [Songari] are Muslim. Yet, the madrasa offers both religions as subjects. Students learn about their respective religions and share the teachings with their classmates from the other religion in their free time. The entire experience is very enriching,” says Gagan Bhatnagar, Principal of Madrasa Gyan Sagar.

Five Muslim and two Hindu women form the Nida Mahila Mandal (NMM), which operates these schools, headquartered at Madrasa Firdaus, the main branch just outside the gates of old Mandsaur city. The madrasas — with names such as Madrasa Gurukul Vidyapeeth and Madrasa Jain Vardhaman — have a strength of 5,500 students from across the district.

Set up in 1992 by Shahzad Qureshi, Madrasa Firdaus initially used to impart religious education and offered free tuition to poor students from other schools. In 1998, when the Madhya Pradesh government set up the Madrasa Board, the Nida Mahila Mandal, a registered society, got itself accredited as a study centre to offer higher secondary education.

“We were educating children from poor families. A lot of poor Hindu families wanted to enrol their children in our schools, but were concerned about religious education,” says NMM chairperson Talat Qureshi.

“That is when we thought of reviving India’s older system of madrasas that offered subsidised education, and where such legends as Munshi Premchand, Raja Rammohun Roy, Bharatendu Harishchandra and Pandit Ramchandra Shukla had their education,” says Dr. Qureshi, a dentist by profession.

Modern education is the primary focus of the Madrasa Firdaus group. However, since it is affiliated to the Madrasa Board, it must offer religious education. To get around that condition, the NMM sought help from Hindu friends and prepared a Hindu religious education module and integrated it into the curriculum. As a result, Hindu religion is a compulsory subject for Hindu students studying in these study centres, while Muslim students have to study and pass Deeniyat.

“The Hindu Dharma textbook contains the Gayatri Mantra, Solah Sanskaar and Pranayaam, among other topics, and explains their scientific basis,” says Nemichand Rathore, a freelance journalist who drafted the textbooks.

While English is the preferred medium of instruction, Hindi is a compulsory language, and students can choose either Urdu or Sanskrit.

Ayushi Varshi, 16, has opted for Urdu and flawlessly recites Kalmas and Ghazals. “My parents encourage me to learn Urdu. They say it offers a lot of career opportunities,” she says.

Her siblings Mehek, 12, and Abhi, 9, enrolled in Insha Public School, another branch of Madrasa Firdaus, are also learning the language.

Then, there is Shabnam, a Class VIII student of Madrasa Firdaus, who is fascinated with the Gayatri Mantra. Bolne mei bahut accha lagta hai [I love the sound of it], she says, after reciting it.

The group of madrasas is affiliated to the State education board till Class VIII, while the secondary and higher secondary levels are affiliated to the National Institute of Open Schooling.

Source: The Hindu

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Sunday, January 04, 2015

Nation celebrating wrong heroes: Arundhati Roy

Special Correspondent

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Writer Arundhati Roy at an Ayyankali memorial lecture in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday. 
Photo: C. Ratheesh Kumar    The Hindu

 The real struggles and battles of actual heroes such as Ayyankali in Kerala or Jyotiba Phule in Maharashtra, who successfully led mass movements against upper class brutalities, will continue to be kept away from popular imagination as long as the nation keeps celebrating the wrong heroes, writer and political thinker Arundhati Roy said here on Thursday.

She was delivering the Mahatma Ayyankali address at an international seminar on “Re-imagining struggles at the margins: A history of the unconquered and the oppressed” organised by the Mahatma Ayyankali Chair, Department of History, University of Kerala.

It is part of a political conspiracy to perpetuate the caste system that such heroes are never celebrated. All the while, the nation has been fed on centuries of lies about “mahatmas,” who never openly renounced the caste system but instead, advocated that the hereditary occupation of people who belonged to a particular caste ought to be the maintained social order, she said.

“The story of Gandhi that we have been told, is a lie. It is time to unveil a few truths, about a person whose doctrine of nonviolence was based on the acceptance of a most brutal social hierarchy ever known, the caste system. Gandhi believed that a scavenger should always remain a scavenger. Do we really need to name our universities after him?” Ms. Roy said, quoting from several writings by Gandhi.

Caste system

“India can never hope to be a U.S. or China as long as the caste system, this deep disease in our souls, is not annihilated. It is time that as a nation, people started asking themselves if they wanted to institutionalise injustice, if they were so sick as to believe that some people deserved to be more privileged than the others,” she added.

Kancha Ilaiah, Dalit activist, writer and former Professor of Political Science, Osmania University, Hyderabad, delivered the keynote address. The seminar was inaugurated by P.K. Radhakrishnan, Vice Chancellor, University of Kerala.

Source: The Hindu

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శ్రీ కౌముది జనవరి 2015

The Spice that Could Help Boost Memory in Just One Hour

Michelle Schoffro Cook                               January 2, 2015

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Now there’s one more reason to enjoy your favorite curry dish. Turmeric, a spice commonly found in many Indian curry dishes, has been found to improve memory and cognition in as little as one hour.

While conducting the research for my upcoming book 60 Seconds to Boost Your Brain Power (Rodale, 2015), I came across an exciting study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. The double-blind, placebo-controlled study explored the effects of one of turmeric’s active ingredients known as curcumin on sixty healthy adults aged sixty to eighty-five to determine whether the spice has any short- or long-term memory or cognitive effects.

Conducted at the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, researches assessed the mental effects of curcumin supplementation after one hour, three hours, and four weeks. They conducted multiple tests to determine whether the participants had any mood, cognitive, or blood marker effects that might indicate curcumin’s immediate or long-term effects. In just one hour after taking the supplement the participants showed significant performance improvement on memory and attention tasks compared to the placebo group.

The participants had many impressive results after four weeks of treatment with curcumin as well. The scientists indicated that working memory, energy levels, calmness and contentedness (as measures of mood), and even fatigue induced by psychological stress were significantly improved following the long-term treatment with the supplement. Participants also had lower cholesterol levels after taking the curcumin supplement.

Even Alzheimer’s patients with severe symptoms, including dementia, irritability, agitation, anxiety, and apathy, showed excellent therapeutic results when taking curcumin in a study published in the Japanese medical journal Ayu. When participants took 764 mg of turmeric with a standardized amount of 100 mg/day of curcumin for twelve weeks, they “started recovering from these symptoms without any adverse reaction in the clinical symptom and laboratory data.” After three months of treatment the patients’ symptoms and their reliance on caregivers significantly decreased. After one year of treatment two of the patients recognized their family members when they were unable to do so at the outset of the study. In one of the cases the person had a 17 percent improvement on their Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) score.

The study results were achieved using a brand of curcumin called Longvida; however there are many other excellent brands. Ideally choose a standardized extract of curcumin. Follow package directions. Consult your physician prior to taking curcumin. In my upcoming book 60 Seconds to Boost Your Brain Power (Rodale, 2015), I recommend 400 mg of curcumin three times daily for people suffering from brain disorders, working with a physician.

Source: care2

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Friday, January 02, 2015

Excavation at Harappan site reveals house plan

News » National                                                                                CHENNAI, January 3, 2015

Updated: January 3, 2015 01:49 IST

 T. S. Subramanian

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A part of the 21 pots found at the burial pit in the late Harappan site of Chandayan, Baghpat district, Uttar Pradesh.

Remains of skeleton, animal bones indicate funeral ceremony at late-Harappan site

Excavation conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) at the late-Harappan site of Chandayan in Uttar Pradesh has, for the first time, revealed the plan of a house on the Ganga-Yamuna doab, with its mud walls, four successive floor levels and post-holes.

While these were found in the habitation area, trenches laid in the burial area brought to light 21 Harappan pots, the remains of a skeleton, a broken copper crown placed on the skull, animal bones and remains of a feast, indicating a funeral ceremony.

“It was a salvage excavation meant to know the site’s cultural sequence,” said A.K. Pandey, Superintending Archaeologist, Excavation Branch-II, ASI, who led the excavation at Chandayan in Baraut tehsil of Baghpat district. He decided to conduct the excavation after labourers digging farmland to collect clay found the crown placed on the skull, a red-ware bowl and a miniature pot last August. The ASI excavated five trenches in December, each of 10x10 metres, with two trenches in the habitation locality and three in the burial area. Mr. Pandey estimated that the late-Harappan site could have existed before 4,000 years.

The excavation in the residential area revealed a mud wall and post-holes in one trench and four closely laid and successive floors of a house in another trench and pots. They were found at a depth of 130 cm and upwards from the surface level. The posts positioned in the holes would have supported the roof of the house. “The habitation area is significant for the floor levels, and mud walls were occurring in the Ganga-Yamuna doab for the first time,” Mr. Pandey said.

In the burial site, 150 metres from the residential area, excavations brought to light 21 pots, including deep bowls, dishes, flasks and lids with knobs and cylindrical agate beads. Nearby were the skeleton’s femur and pelvis. These, along with a broken copper crown, were found by labourers digging for clay. The copper crown was embedded with carnelian and faience beads. The orientation of the burial site was from northwest to southeast. The 21 pots might have contained cereals, milk, butter and honey used in the funeral ceremony, Mr. Pandey said.

Twenty metres from the skeleton, remains of animal sacrifice, other refuse and pots similar to those found in the habitation area were found, suggesting some religious ceremony during the funeral, Mr. Pandey said.

Source: The Hindu 

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