India’s Ancient and Great Maritime History, by Stephen Knapp

(An Excerpt from Advancements of Ancient India’s Vedic Culture)

We should first take into account that ancient India, which was centered around the Indus Valley years ago, and was already well developed before 3200 BCE, stretched from Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean and points farther east and north, the largest empire in the world at the time. But its influence spread much farther than that. During its peak developments, it had organized cities, multistory brick buildings, vast irrigation networks, sewer systems, the most advanced metalwork in the world, and a maritime trade network that incorporated the use of compasses, planked ships, and trained navigators that reached parts of western Asia, Mesopotamia, Africa, and other ports far beyond their borders. 1 So they were certainly capable of ocean-going trips that could have reached even to the Americas.

Prakash Charan Prasad explains in his book, Foreign Trade and Commerce in Ancient India (p. 131): “Big ships were built. They could carry anywhere upwards from 500 men on the high seas. The Yuktialpataru classifies ships according to their sizes and shapes. The Rajavalliya says that the ship in which King Sinhaba of Bengal (ca. sixth century BCE] sent Prince Vijaya, accommodated full 700 passengers, and the ship in which Vijaya’s Pandyan bride was brought over to Lanka carried 800 passengers on board. The ship in which the Buddha in the Supparaka Bodhisat incarnation made his voyages from Bharukachha (Broach) to the ‘sea of the seven gems’ [Sri Lanka], carried 700 merchants besides himself. The Samuddha Vanija Jakarta mentions a ship that accommodated one thousand carpenters.”

Marco Polo also related how, “An Indian ship could carry crews between 100 and 300. Out of regard for passenger convenience and comfort, the ships were well furnished and decorated in gold, silver, copper, and compounds of all these substances were generally used for ornamentation and decoration.” 2

Because of the Vedic civilization’s great reach, Aurel Stein (1862-1943), a Hungarian researcher also related: “The vast extent of Indian cultural influences, from Central Asia in the North to tropical Indonesia in the South, and from the borderlands of Persia to China and Japan, has shown that ancient India was a radiating center of a civilization, which by its religious thought, its art and literature, was destined to leave its deep mark on the races wholly diverse and scattered over the greater part of Asia.” 3

In this regard, Philip Rawson, in The Art of Southeast Asia (1993, p. 7), further praises India’s gift of its civilizing affect on all other cultures. “The culture of India has been one of the world’s most powerful civilizing forces. Countries of the Far East, including China, Korea, Japan, Tibet, and Mongolia owe much of what is best in their own cultures to the inspiration of ideas imported from India. The West, too, has its own debts… No conquest or invasion, nor forced conversion [was ever] imposed.” And this is the basis for the mystery of the widespread nature of the ancient Vedic empire, which in many ways still exists today. It was this subtle spiritual dimension that spread all over the world.

ADVANCED EAST INDIAN SAILING IN THE EARLY VEDIC TEXTS

As Gunnar Thompson also explains, regarding the capability of Indian ships: “Extensive maritime trade between India and the islands of Indonesia is well documented and illustrated. A 1st century Hindu manuscript, the Periplus, mentions two-mates ships with dual rudders mounted on the sides in the fashion of ancient Mediterranean vessels. The ships are portrayed in 2nd century Indian murals. Chinese chronicles of the same era describe seven-masted Hindu vessels 160 feet in length carrying 700 passengers and 1000 metric tons of merchandise. Buddhist records of a 5th century pilgrimage from Ceylon to Java report vessels large enough to carry 200 passengers.” 4

India’s ancient maritime history is referenced as far back as the early Vedic texts. This is taken from my book, Advancements of Ancient India’s Vedic Culture (pp. 143-45). As we look at other cultures, what is often left out is the advanced nature of the ancient Indian civilization. As we look over this information, it becomes clear that ancient India had the means for sailing over great expanses of water, and also had a thriving trade industry based on shipping.

The fact is that the ancient Vedic texts, such as the Rig Veda, Shatapatha Brahmana, and others refer to the undertaking of naval expeditions and travel to distant places by sea-routes that were well-known at the time. For example, the Rig Veda (1.25.7) talks of how Varuna has full knowledge of all the sea routes that were followed by ships. Then (2.48.3) we find wherein merchants would also send out ships for foreign trade. 5

Another verse (1.56.2) speaks of merchants going everywhere and frequently to every part of the sea. Another verse (7.88.3-4) relates that there was a voyage by Vasistha and Varuna in a ship skillfully fitted for the trip. Then there is a verse (1.116.3) that tells of an expedition on which Tugra, the Rishi king, sent his son Bhujya against some of his enemies in the distant islands. However, Bhujya becomes ship wrecked by a storm, with all of his followers on the ocean, “Where there is no support, or rest for the foot or hand.” From this he is rescued by the twin Ashvins in their hundred oared galley. Similarly, the Atharva Veda mentions boats which are spacious, well constructed and comfortable.

We should keep in mind that the Rig Veda is said to go back to around 3000 BCE, which means the sailing capacity for the Vedic civilization of ancient India was well under way by that time.

An assortment of other books also referred to sea voyages of the ancient mariners. Of course, we know that the epics, such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata referred to ships and sea travel, but the Puranas also had stories of sea voyages, such as in the Matsya, Varaha, and Markandeya Puranas. Other works of Classical Sanskrit included them as well, such as Raghuvamsha, Ratnavali, Dashakumaracharita, Kathasaritsagara, Panchatantra, Rajatarangini, etc.

Actually, ships have been mentioned in numerous verses through the Vedic literature, such as in the Vedas, Brahmanas, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas, and so on. For example, in the Ayodhya Kand of Valmiki’s Ramayana, you can find the description of such big ships that could hold hundreds of warriors: “Hundreds of oarsmen inspire five hundred ships carrying hundreds of ready warriors.” The conclusion is that ships have been in use since the Vedic age.

In the Ramayana, in the Kishkindha Kand, Sugriva gives directions to the Vanar leaders for going to the cities and mountains in the islands of the sea, mainly Yavadvipa (Java) and Suvarna Dvipa (Sumatra) in the quest to find Sita. The Ramayana also talks of how merchants traveled beyond the sea and would bring presents to the kings.

In the Mahabharata (Sabha Parva), Sahadeva is mentioned as going to several islands in the sea to defeat the kings. In the Karna Parva, the soldiers of the Kauravas are described as merchants, “whose ships have come to grief in the midst of the unfathomable deep.” And in the same Parva, a verse describes how the sons of Draupadi rescued their maternal uncles by supplying them with chariots, “As ship wrecked merchants are rescued by means of boats.” However, another verse therein relates how the Pandavas escaped from the destruction planned for them with the help of a ship that was secretly and especially constructed for the purpose under the orders of the kind hearted Vidura. The ship was large, and provided machinery and all kinds of weapons of war, and able to defy storms and waves.

Also, in Kautilya’s Arthashastra we find information of the complete arrangements of boats maintained by the navy and the state. It also contains information on the duties of the various personnel on a ship. For example, the Navadhyaksha is the superintendent of the ship, Niyamaka is the steerman, and Datragrahaka is the holder of the needle, or the compass. Differences in ships are also described regarding the location of the cabins and the purpose of the ship itself. 6

In the Brihat Samhita by Varahamihir of the 5th century, and in the Sanskrit text Yukti Kalpataru by Narapati Raja Bhoj of the 11th century, you can find information about an assortment of ships, sizes, and materials with which they were built, and the process of manufacturing them. For example, one quote explains, “Ships made of timbers of different classes possess different properties. Ships built of inferior wood do not last long and rot quickly. Such ships are liable to split with a slight shock.” 7 It also gives further details on how to furnish a ship for accommodating the comfort of passengers, or for transporting goods, animals, or royal artifacts. The ships of three different sizes were the Sarvamandira, Madhyamarmandira, and the Agramandira.

The Shangam works of the South Indian Tamils have numerous references to the shipping activities that went on in that region, along with the ports, articles of trade, etc. Such texts included Shilappadikaram Manimekalai, Pattinappalai, Maduraikhanji, Ahananuru, Purananuru, etc. 8

Ancient Indians traveled to various parts of the world not only for purposes of trade, but to also propagate their culture. This is how the Vedic influence spread around the world. For example, Kaundinya crossed the ocean and reached south-east Asia. From there, evidence shows that rock inscriptions in the Sun Temple at Jawayuko in the Yukatan province of Mexico mentions the arrival of the great sailor Vusulin in Shaka Samvat 854, or the year 932. In the excavations in Lothal in Gujarat, it seems that trade with countries like Egypt was carried out from that port around 2540 BCE. Then from 2350 BCE, small boats docked here, which necessitated the construction of the harbor for big ships, which was followed by the city that was built around it. 9

In the period of 984-1042 CE, the Chola kings dispatched great naval expeditions which occupied parts of Burma, Malaya and Sumatra, while suppressing the piratical activities of the Sumatra warlords.

In 1292 CE, when Marco Polo came to India, he described Indian ships as “built of fir timber, having a sheath of boards laid over the planking in every part, caulked with iron nails. The bottoms were smeared with a preparation of quicklime and hemp, pounded together and mixed with oil from a certain tree which is a better material than pitch.” He further writes: “Ships had double boards which were joined together. They were made strong with iron nails and the crevices were filled with a special kind of gum. These ships were so huge that about 300 boatmen were needed to row them. About 3000-4000 gunny bags could be loaded in each ship. They had many small rooms for people to live in. These rooms had arrangements for all kinds of comfort. Then when the bottom or the base started to get spoiled, a new layer would be added on. Sometimes, a boat would have even six layers, one on top of another.”

A fourteenth century description of an Indian ship credits it with a carrying capacity of over 700 people giving a fair idea of both ship building skills and maritime ability of seamen who could successfully man such large vessels.

Another account of the early fifteenth century describes Indian ships as being built in compartments so that even if one part was shattered, the next remained intact, thus enabling the ship to complete her voyage. This was perhaps a forerunner of the modern day subdivision of ships into watertight compartments, a concept then totally alien to the Europeans.

Another traveler named Nicolo Conti came to India in the 15th century. He wrote: “The Indian ships are much bigger than our ships. Their bases are made of three boards in such a way that they can face formidable storms. Some ships are made in such a way that if one part becomes useless, the rest of the parts can do the work.”

Another visitor to India named Bertham writes: “The wooden boards are joined in such a way that not even a drop of water can go through it. Sometimes, the masts of cotton are placed in such a way that a lot of air can be filled in. The anchors were sometimes made of heavy stones. It would take a ship eight days to come from Iran to Cape Comorin (Kanyakumari).” 10

The famous archeologist Padmashri Dr. Vishnu Shridhar Wakankar says, “I had gone to England for studies, I was told about Vasco da Gama’s diary available in a museum in which he has described how he came to India.” He writes that when his ship came near Zanzibar in Africa, he saw a ship three times bigger than the size of his ship. He took an African interpreter to meet the owner of that ship who was a Gujarati trader named Chandan who used to bring pine wood and teak from India along with spices and take back diamonds to the port of Cochin. When Vasco da Gama went to meet him, Chandan was sitting in ordinary attire, on a cot. When the trader asked Vasco where he was going, the latter said that he was going to visit India. At this, the trader said that he was going back to India the very next day and if he wanted, he could follow him. So, Vasco da Gama came to India following him. 11

Sir William Jones, in The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society–1901, relates how the Hindus, “must have been navigators in the age of Manu, because bottomry is mentioned in it. In the Ramayana, practice of bottomry is distinctly noticed.” Bottomry is the lending of insurance money for marine activities. 12

In this way, Indians excelled in the art of ship-building, and even the English found Indian models of ships far superior of their own and worth copying. The Indian vessels united elegance and utility and fine workmanship. Sir John Malcom observed: “Indian vessels are so admirably adapted to the purpose for which they are required that, notwithstanding their superior stance, Europeans were unable during an intercourse with India for two centuries, to suggest or to bring into successful practice one improvement.” 13

Mexican archeologist Rama Mena points out in his book, Mexican Archeology, that Mayan physical features are like those of India. He also mentions how Nahuatl, Zapotecan, and Mayan languages had Hindu-European affinities.

In this line of thinking, some American tribes have traditions of having ancestral homelands across the Pacific. A legend of Guatemala speaks of an ancient migration from across the Pacific to the city of Tulan. A tribe from Peru and Tucano of Columbia also relate in their traditions how ancestors sailed across the Pacific to South America. Tales of trade over the Pacific were also related to the earliest of Spanish explorers in Central America. 14

Georgia anthropologist Joseph Mahan, author of The Secret (1983), has identified intriguing similarities between the Yueh-chic tribes of India-Pakistan and the Yuchi tribe of North America’s Eastern Woodlands. The Yuchi tradition also tells of a foreign homeland from across the sea–presumably in India. 15

This information makes it clear that ancient India had the means to reach and in fact did sail to many parts of the world, including the ancient Americas, long before most countries. This is further corroborated by information in the chapter of Vedic culture in America in Proof of Vedic Culture’s Global Existence, for those of you who would like more information on this.

ANCIENT INDIA’S MARITIME TRADE

Further evidence shows that shipping from Bharatvarsha was a national enterprise and the country was a leader in world trade relations amongst such people as the Phoenicians, Jews, Assyrians, Greeks, and Romans in ancient times, and more recently with Egyptians, Romans, Turks, Portuguese, Dutch, and English.

The simple fact is that India’s maritime history predates the birth of Western civilization. The world’s first tidal dock is believed to have been built at Lothal around 2300 BCE during the Harappan civilization, near the present day Mangrol harbor on the Gujarat coast.

The earliest portrayal of an Indian ship is found on an Indus Valley seal from about 3000 BCE. The ship is shown being elevated at both bow and stern, with a cabin in the center. It is likely to have been a simple river boat since it is lacking a mast. Another drawing found at Mohendjodaro on a potsherd shows a boat with a single mast and two men sitting at the far end away from the mast. Another painting of the landing of Vijaya Simha in Ceylon (543 BCE) with many ships is found amongst the Ajanta caves.

That India had a vast maritime trade, even with Greece, is shown by the coins of the Trojans (98-117 CE) and Hadrians (117-138 CE) found on the eastern coast of India, near Pondicherry. This is evidence that Greek traders had to have visited and traded in the port cities of that area.

Kamlesh Kapur explains more about this in Portraits of a Nation: History of India: “Recent archeological excavations at Pattanam in Ernakulum district of Kerala by the Kerala council for Historical Research (KCHR) indicate that there was thriving naval trade around 500 B.C. According to the Director of KCHR, ‘The artifacts recovered from the excavation site suggest that Pattanam, with a hinterland port and a multicultural settlement, may have had links with the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the South China Sea rims since the Early Historic Period of South India.’ KCHR has been getting charcoal samples examined through C-14 and other modern methods to determine the age of these relics. These artifacts were from the Iron Age layer. The archeologists also recovered some parts of a wooden canoe and bollards (stakes used to secure canoes and boats) from a waterlogged area at the site.

“The radiocarbon dating from Pattanam will aid in understanding the Iron Age chronology of Kerala. So far, testing done by C-14 method to determine the ages of the charcoal samples from the lowermost sand deposits in the trenches at Pattanam suggests that their calibrated dates range from 1300 B.C. to 200 B.C. and 2500 B.C. to 100 A.D. Thus there is strong evidence that Kerala had sea trade with several countries in Western Asia and Eastern Europe from the second millennia B.C. onwards.” 16

The influence of the sea on Indian Kingdoms continued to grow with the passage of time. North-west India came under the influence of Alexander the great, who built a harbor at Patala where the Indus branches into two, just before entering the Arabian sea. His army returned to Mesopotamia in ships built in Sindh. Records show that in the period after his conquest, Chandragupta Maurya established an admiralty division under a Superintendent of ships as part of his war office, with a charter including responsibility for navigation on the seas, oceans, lakes and rivers. History records that Indian ships traded with countries as far as Java and Sumatra, and available evidence indicates that they were also trading with other countries in the Pacific, and Indian Ocean. Even before Alexander, there were references to India in Greek works and India had a flourishing trade with Rome. Roman writer Pliny speaks of Indian traders carrying away large quantity of gold from Rome, in payment for much sought exports such as precious stones, skins, clothes, spices, sandalwood, perfumes, herbs, and indigo.

The port cities included such places as Nagapattinam, Arikamedu (near Pondicherry), Udipi, Kollam, Tuticorin, Mamallapuram, Mangalore, Kannur, Thane, and others, which facilitated trade with many foreign areas, such as Indonesia, China, Arabia, Rome, and countries in Africa. Many other inland towns and cities contributed to this trade, such as Madurai, Thanjavur, Tiruchirapalli, Ellora, Melkote, Nasik, and so on, which became large centers of trade. Silk, cotton, sandalwood, woodwork, and various types of produce were the main items of trade.

Trades of this volume could not have been conducted over the countries without appropriate navigational skills. Two Indian astronomers of repute, Aryabhatta and Varahamihira, having accurately mapped the positions of celestial bodies, developed a method of computing a ship’s position from the stars. A crude forerunner of the modern magnetic compass called Matsyayantra was being used around the fourth or fifth century CE. Between the fifth and tenth centuries CE, the Vijayanagara and Kalinga kingdoms of southern and eastern India had established their rules over Malaya, Sumatra and Western Java. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands then served as an important midway for trade between the Indian peninsula and these kingdoms, as also with China. The daily revenue from the western regions in the period 844-848 CE was estimated to be 200 maunds (eight tons) of gold.

Not only was there trade from ancient times, going to many areas of the globe, but other countries may have also been going to India. It is reported that marine archaeologists have found a stone anchor in the Gulf of Khambhat with a design similar to the ones used by Chinese and Japanese ships in the 12th-14th century CE, giving the first offshore evidence indicating India’s trade relations with the two Asian countries. The stone anchor was found during an exploration headed by two marine archaeologists, A. S. Gaur and B. K. Bhatt, from the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO). “Though there are a lot of references and Chinese pottery (found from coastal sites) indicating trade relations between the two Asian nations (China and Japan) in the past, but this anchor from the offshore region is the first evidence from Indian waters. Similar type of anchors have been found from Chinese and Japanese waters,” stated Mr. Gaur. 17

Furthermore, another recent finding that shows the ancient advancement of Indian maritime capabilities is the evidence that Indian traders may have gone to South America long before Columbus discovered America. Investigation of botanical remains from an ancient site, Tokwa at the confluence of Belan and Adwa rivers, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh (UP), has brought to light the agriculture-based subsistence economy during the Neolithic culture (3rd-2nd millennium BCE). They subsisted on various cereals, supplemented by leguminous seeds. Evidence of oil-yielding crops has been documented by recovery of seeds of Linum usitatissimum and Brassica juncea. Fortuitously, an important find among the botanical remains is the seeds of South American custard apple, regarded to have been introduced by the Portuguese in the 16th century. The remains of custard apple as fruit coat and seeds have also been recorded from other sites in the Indian archaeological context, during the Kushana Period (CE 100-300) in Punjab and Early Iron Age (1300-700 BCE) in UP. The factual remains of custard apple, along with other stray finds, favor a group of specialists to support with diverse arguments the reasoning of Asian-American contacts way before the discovery of America by Columbus in 1498. 18

THE INDIAN NAVY AND SEA POWER

In the south especially there was an established navy in many coastal areas. The long coastline with many ports for trade for sending out ships and receiving traders from foreign countries necessitated a navy to protect the ships and ports from enemies. According to records, the Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas, and the Cheras had large naval fleets of ocean bound ships because these rulers also led expeditions against other places, such as Malayasia, Bali, and Ceylon.

The decline of Indian maritime power commenced in the thirteenth century, and Indian sea power had almost disappeared when the Portuguese arrived in India. They later imposed a system of license for trade, and set upon all Asian vessels not holding permits from them.

The piratical activities of the Portuguese were challenged by the Zamorins of Calicut when Vasco da Gama, after obtaining permission to trade, refused to pay the customs levy. Two major engagements were fought during this period. First, the battle of Cochin in 1503, clearly revealed the weakness of Indian navies and indicated to the Europeans an opportunity for building a naval empire. The second engagement off Diu in 1509 gave the Portuguese mastery over Indian seas and laid the foundation of European control over Indian waters for the next 400 years.

Indian maritime interests witnessed a remarkable resurgence in the late seventeenth century, when the Siddhis of Janjira allied with the Moghuls to become a major power on the West Coast. This led the Maratha King Shivaji to create his own fleet, which was commanded by able admirals like Sidhoji Gujar and Kanhoji Angre. The Maratha Fleet along with the legendary Kanhoji Angre held sway over the entire Konkan Coast keeping the English, Dutch and Portuguese at bay. The death of Angre in 1729 left a vacuum and resulted in the decline of Maratha sea power. Despite the eclipse of Indian kingdoms with the advent of western domination, Indian shipbuilders continued to hold their own well into the nineteenth century. The Bombay Dock completed in July 1735 is in use even today. Ships displacing 800 to 1000 tons were built of teak at Daman and were superior to their British counterparts both in design and durability. This so agitated British shipbuilders on the River Thames that they protested against the use of Indian built ships to carry trade from England. Consequently, active measures were adopted to cripple the Indian shipbuilding industries. Nevertheless, many Indian ships were inducted into the Royal Navy, such as HMS Hindostan in 1795, the frigate Cornwallis in 1800, HMS Camel in 1801, and HMS Ceylon in 1808. HMS Asia carried the flag of Admiral Codrington at the battle of Navarino in 1827, the last major sea battle to be fought entirely under sail.

Two Indian built ships witnessed history in the making. The Treaty of Nanking, ceding Hong Kong to the British, was signed onboard HMS Cornwallis in 1842. The “Star Spangled Banner” national anthem of the USA was composed by Francis Scott Key onboard HMS Minden when the ship was on a visit to Baltimore. Numerous other ships were also constructed, the most famous being HMS Trincomalee, which was launched on 19 October, 1817, carrying 86 guns and displacing 1065 tons. This ship was latter renamed Foudroyant.

The period of 4000 years between Lothal and Bombay Dock, therefore, offers tangible evidence of seafaring skills the nation possessed in the days of sail. In the early seventeenth century, when British naval ships came to India, they discovered the existence of considerable shipbuilding and repair skills, as well as seafaring people. An ideal combination was thus available for supporting a fighting force in India. 19

HOW THE BRITISH KILLED THE MARINE INDUSTRY OF INDIA

When the westerners made contact with India, they were amazed to see their ships. Until the 17th century, European ships were a maximum of 600 tonnes. But in India, they saw such big ships as the Gogha, which was more than 1500 tonnes. The European companies started using these ships and opened many new factories to make Indian artisans manufacture ships. In 1811, Lt. Walker writes, “The ships in the British fleet had to be repaired every 12th year. But the Indian ships made of teak would function for more than 50 years without any repair.” The East India Company had a ship called Dariya Daulat which worked for 87 years without any repairs. Durable woods like rosewood, sal and teak were used for this purpose.

The French traveler Waltzer Salvins writes in his book Le Hindu, in 1811, “Hindus were in the forefront of ship-building and even today they can teach a lesson or two to the Europeans. The British, who were very apt at learning the arts, learnt a lot of things about ship building from the Hindus. There is a very good blend of beauty and utility in Indian ships and they are examples of Indian handicrafts and their patience.” Between 1736 and 1863, 300 ships were built at factories in Mumbai. Many of them were included in the Royal Fleet. Of these, the ship called Asia was 2289 tonnes and had 84 cannons. Ship building factories were set up in Hoogly, Sihat, Chittagong, Dacca, etc. In the period between 1781 to 1821, in Hoogly alone 272 ships were manufactured which together weighed 122,693 tonnes.

In this connection, Suresh Soni, in his book India’s Glorious Scientific Tradition, explains how India was deprived of its marine industry, but also from any notation in its ancient history of its ship-building ability. He writes:

“The shipping magnates of Britain could not tolerate the Indian art of ship manufacturing and they started compelling the East India Company not to use Indian ships. Investigations were frequently carried out in this regard. In 1811, Col. Walker gave statistics to prove that it was much cheaper to make Indian ships and that they were very sturdy. If only Indian ships were included in the British fleet, it would lead to great savings. This pinched the British shipbuilders and the traders. Dr. Taylor writes, ‘When the Indian ships laden with Indian goods reached the port of London, it created such a panic amongst the British traders as would not have been created, had they seen the enemy fleet of ships on the River Thames, ready for attack.’

“The workers at the London Port were among the first to make hue and cry and said that ‘all our work will be ruined and families will starve to death.’ The Board of Directors of East India Company wrote that ‘all the fear and respect that the Indian seamen had towards European behavior was lost when they saw our social life once they came here. When they return to their country, they will propagate bad things about us amongst the Asians and we will lose our superiority and the effect will be harmful.’ At this, the British Parliament set up a committee under the chairmanship of Sir Robert Peel.

“Despite disagreement amongst the members of the committee on the basis of this report, a law was passed in 1814 according to which the Indians lost the right to become British sailors and it became compulsory to employ at least three-fourth British sailors on British ships. No ship which did not have a British master was allowed to enter London Port and a rule was made that only ships made by the British in England could bring goods to England. For many reasons, there was laxity in enforcing these rules, but from 1863 they were observed strictly. Such rules which would end the ancient art of ship-building, were formulated in India also. Tax on goods brought in Indian ships was raised and efforts were made to isolate them from trade. Sir William Digby has rightly written, ‘This way, the Queen of the western world killed the Queen of the eastern oceans.’ In short, this is the story about the destruction of the Indian art of ship-building.” 20

Of course, let us not forget that not only was commerce between ancient India and other countries made through maritime capabilities, but also through land routes that extended to China, Turkistan, Persia, Babylon, and also to Egypt, Greece, and Rome, which continued to prosper.

These days, India is still very much in the ship building business, mostly in small and medium size ships. As of 2009 there were 27 major shipyards, primarily in Mumbai, Goa, Vishakhapatnam, and Cochin.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the fact is that the ancient Vedic civilization had a strong connection with the sea, and maritime abilities. Even in their language of Vedic Sanskrit, words such as samudra, salil, sagar, and sindhu indicated the sea or large rivers. The word sindhuka also meant sailor, which became the name Sindbad for the sailor in Arabian Nights. Also, the English word navigation actually originates from the Sanskrit word Navagati.

Further evidence has been shown, such as that presented at a 1994 conference on seafaring in Delhi where papers had been presented that shows how Indian cotton was exported to South and Central America back in 2500 BCE. Another report suggested Indian cotton reached Mexico as far back as 4000 BCE, back to the Rig Vedic period. According to Sean McGrail, a marine archeologist at Oxford University, seagoing ships called ‘clinkers’ that were thought to be of Viking origin, were known in India a good deal earlier. Thus, India’s maritime trade actually flourished many years ago, along with many other of its advancements that are hardly recognized or accounted for today. 21

This helps reveal that India’s maritime trade actually flourished more and far earlier than most people realize. This was one of the ways Vedic culture had spread to so many areas around the world. Though the talents and capabilities that came out of ancient India’s Vedic civilization have often remained unrecognized or even demeaned when discussed, nonetheless, the Vedic people were far more advanced in culture and developments then many people seem to care to admit, and it is time to recognize it for what it was.

CHAPTER NOTES

1. Lehrburger, Carl, Secrets of Ancient America: Archaeoastronomy and the Legacy of the Phoenicians, Celts, and Other Forgotten Explorers, Bear & Company, Rochester, Vermont, 2015, p.209.

2. Kuppuram, G., India Through the Ages, pp 65..527-31.

3. Ibid., pp.527-31.

4. Thompson, Gunnar, American Discovery: Our Multicultural Heritage, Hayriver Press, Colfax, Wisconsin, 2012, p.216.

5. Rao, S. R., Shipping in Ancient India, in India’s Contribution to World Thought and Culture, Published by Vivekananda Kendra Prakashan, Chennai, 1970, p. 83.

6. Science and Technology in Ancient India, by Editorial Board of Vijnan Bharati, Mumbai, August, 2002, p. 105.

7. Ibid., pp. 108-09.

8. Ramachandran, K. S., Ancient Indian Maritime Adventures, in India’s Contribution to World Thought and Culture, Published by Vivekananda Kendra Prakashan, Chennai, 1970, p. 74.

9. Soni, Suresh, India’s Glorious Scientific Tradition, Ocean Books Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2010, p. 68.

10. Ibid., p. 72.

11. Ibid., p. 73.

12. Shah, Niranjan, Little Known Facts About Shipping Activity in Ancient India, in India Tribune, January 8, 2006.

13. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. 1) (Singhal, D. P., Red Indians or Asiomericans–Indian Settlers in Middle and South America, India’s Contribution to World Thought and Culture, Vivekananda Kendra Prakashan Trust, Chennai, India 1970, p.644.

14. Thompson, Gunnar, American Discovery: Our Multicultural Heritage, Hayriver Press, Colfax, Wisconsin, 2012, p.223.

15. Thompson, Gunnar, American Discovery: Our Multicultural Heritage, Hayriver Press, Colfax, Wisconsin, 2012, p.235.

16. Kapur, Kamlesh, Portraits of a Nation: History of India, Sterling Publishers, Private Limited, 2010, pp. 414-15.

17. http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/000200903151560.htm.

18. http://www.ias. ac.in/currsci/ jan252008/ 248.pdf.

19. http://indiannavy.nic.in/maritime_history.htm.

20. Soni, Suresh, India’s Glorious Scientific Tradition, Ocean Books Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2010, p. 74-75.

21. Frawley, Dr. David, and Dr. Navaratna S. Rajaram, Hidden Horizons, Unearthing 10,000 Years of Indian Culture, Swaminarayan Aksharpith, Ahmedabad, India, 2006, p. 79.

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A Look at India From the Views of Other Scholars

(Excerpt from Mysteries of the Ancient Vedic Empire by Stephen Knapp)

First of all, why should we consider that Ancient India was so important? What did it have to offer anyone? And what did others have to say about Vedic India? And what difference does it make if it did spread over such a wide area and into so many different countries? And even if it did, why would this make a difference today?

If we have not studied the ancient Vedic culture, then there may be more about it that we should understand. After all, it is still the oldest living indigenous culture on the planet. It is not dead yet, and never will be. That alone says something of its universal nature. And if we have studied it, then we should review some of the impressions that India made in the minds of other people to better understand its importance.

THE WIDE INFLUENCE OF VEDIC INDIA

First of all, as explained in The Ancient World by John Haywood, “India is the birthplace of two of the world’s great religions, Hinduism and Buddhism. Today, nearly half the world’s population live in countries whose cultural development has been influenced by one or both of these religions. Apart from India itself, these countries include China, Tibet, Nepal, Japan, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Indonesia. The influence of ancient India was not just limited to its religions. Indian mathematicians were the first in the Old World to discover the mathematical value of zero, and gave the world quadratic equations and the now universally used system of ‘Arabic’ numerals. The alphabets of Tibet, Mongolia and all of the Southeast Asian languages are of Indian origin. Yet despite their wide-ranging influence, the early civilizations of the Indian subcontinent are the least well known of any of the ancient civilizations.” 1

Let me add that how the influence of the Vedic culture of ancient India, Bharatvarsha, spread throughout the world is also hardly understood. This is why I have put together the present volume. And, as mentioned above, the advancements that were developed within and spread outside of India is also rarely recognized, which is why I have explained these ancient advancements, many of which the world now takes for granted, in my book Advancements of Ancient India’s Vedic Culture.

Many others also had complimentary things to say about the importance of India and its Vedic traditions, such as Mark Twain: “Let us remember,… That India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit, the mother of Europe’s languages; that she was the mother of our philosophy, mother, through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics, mother, through Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity, mother, through the village community, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all.” 2

Mark Twain went on to say: “This is India! Cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of tradition, whose yesterdays bear date with the moldering antiquities of the rest of the nations,… one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the globe combined. India had the start of the whole world in the beginning of things. She had the first civilization; she had the first accumulation of material wealth; she was populous with deep thinkers and subtle intellects. India is the prime source of human development.” 3

William H Gilbert said in his Peoples of India: “In the history of human culture, the contribution of the Indian people in all fields has been of the greatest importance. From India we are said to have derived domestic poultry, shellac, lemons, cotton, jute, rice, sugar, indigo, the buffalo, cinnamon, ginger, pepper, sugar-cane, the games of chess, pachisi, and polo, the zero concept, the decimal system, the basis of certain philological concepts, a wealth of fables with moral import, an astonishing variety of artistic products, and innumerable ideas of philosophy and religion such as asceticism and monasticism.”

In this same regard, Rabindranatha Tagore also related, “I cannot but bring to your mind those days when the whole of Eastern Asia, from Burma to Japan was united with India in the closest ties of friendship.”

A. L. Basham also felt that India was extremely important, as he says in his Cultural History of India: “There are four main cradles of civilization, from which elements of culture have spread to other parts of the world. These are, moving from east to west, China, the Indian subcontinent, the ‘Fertile Crescent’, and the Mediterranean, especially Greece and Italy. Of these four areas, India deserves a larger share of the credit than she is usually given, because, on a minimum assessment, she has deeply affected the religious life of most of Asia, as well as extending her influence, directly or indirectly, to other parts of the world.”

Pierre Sonnerat also explained, “We find among the Indians the vestiges of the most remote antiquity… We know that all peoples came there to draw the elements of their knowledge… India, in her splendour, gave religions and laws to all the other peoples; Egypt and Greece owed to her both their fables and their wisdom.” 4

The German historian and novelist Friedrich Schlegel saw in Sanskrit the “original language,” or what is now called the Proto-Indo-European language, and declared in 1803 that, “Everything without exception is of Indian origin… ” 5 Also, “Whether directly or indirectly, all nations are originally nothing but Indian colonies… The oriental antiquity could, if we consented to deepen it, bring us back more safely towards the divine.” 6

Regardless of how much various religions in the past or even today have tried to wipe out or minimize the advanced nature of Vedic culture, they still could not do that, as explained as follows by Higgins: “The peninsula of India would be one of the first peopled countries, and its inhabitants would have all the habits of the progenitors of man before the flood in as much perfection or more than any other nation… In short, whatever learning man possessed before his dispersion may be expected to be found here, and of this, Hindustan affords innumerable traces… notwithstanding … the fruitless efforts of our priests to disguise it.” 7

Even Vedic culture’s deep spirituality is found to be the underlying basis of other religions, as explained by Maurice Maeterlinck: “Thanks to the labors of a science which is comparatively recent, and more especially to the researches of the students of Hindu and Egyptian antiquities, it is very much easier today than it was not so long ago to discover the source, to ascend the course and unravel the underground network of that great mysterious river which since the beginning of history has been flowing beneath all the religions, all the faiths, and all the philosophies: in a word, beneath all the visible and everyday manifestations of human thought. It is now hardly to be contested that this source is to be found in ancient India. Thence in all probability the sacred teaching spread into Egypt, found its way to ancient Persia and Chaldea, permeated the Hebrew race, and crept into Greece and the north of Europe, finally reaching China and even America.” 8

Professor James Traub, in India–The Challenge of Change, goes on to say: “Five thousand years ago, civilization of India was age-old. This civilization should be much older with many millennia of human endeavor behind it. Five thousand years ago, when the peoples of Europe were hauling stones across the face of the continent and grubbing out a meager existence, Indians throughout what is now western and southern Pakistan and Punjab, and even farther to the East, were living in elaborately designed cities, with sturdy houses, broad, straight roads, public baths, and drainage systems that were hardly equaled until the Roman era three thousand years later…. But five thousand years ago, according to archeologist John Marshal, the Indus Valley civilization was already age-old and stereotyped on Indian soil, with many millennia of human endeavor behind it. Usually we think of Mesopotamia as the cradle of civilization, but evidence suggests that the society of northwestern India, which has preserved its essential spirit over countless generations, deserve equal billing.”

Not only was the Vedic Indian influence recognized to the west of India, but also far to the east, as explained by Rene Grousset in Farther India and the Malay Archipelago (Volume II): “In the high plateau of eastern Iran, in the oases of Serindia, in the arid wastes of Tibet, Mongolia, and Manchuria, in the ancient civilized lands of China and Japan, in the lands of the primitive Mons and Khmers and other tribes of India-China, in the countries of the Malaya-Polynesians, in Indonesia and Malay, India left the indelible impress of her high culture, not only upon religion, but also upon art, and literature, in a word, all the higher things of spirit… There is an obstinate prejudice thanks to which India is constantly represented as having lived, as it were, hermetically sealed up in its age-old civilization, apart from the rest of Asia. Nothing could be more exaggerated. During the first eight centuries of our era, so far as religion and art are concerned, central Asia was a sort of Indian colony. It is often forgotten that in the early Middle Ages there existed a ‘Greater India,’ a vast Indian empire. A man coming from the Ganges or the Deccan to Southeast Asia felt as much at home there as in his own native land. In those days the Indian Ocean really deserved its name.”

Will Durant in his Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage, goes on to say, “It is true that even across the Himalayan barrier India has sent to us such questionable gifts as grammar and logic, philosophy and fables, hypnotism and chess, and above all, our numerals and our decimal system. But these are not the essence of her spirit; they are trifles compared to what we may learn from her in the future. As invention, industry and trade bind the continents together, or as they fling us into conflict with Asia, we shall study its civilization more closely, and shall absorb, even in enmity, some of its ways and thoughts. Perhaps, in return for conquest, arrogance and spoliation, India will teach us the tolerance and gentleness of the mature mind, the quiet content of the unacquisitive soul, the calm of the understanding spirit and a unifying, pacifying love for all living things.”

However, that may depend on how much the people of India retain their culture. Otherwise, the more Westernized they become in their thinking and values, the more the above statement may be called into question. Nonetheless, to remain aware of its possibilities, we should not forget the well-known and glowing words that Max Muller had for India and its culture: “If I were to look over the whole world to find out the country most richly endowed with all the wealth, power and beauty that nature can bestow–in some parts a very paradise on earth–I should point to India. If I were asked under what sky the human mind most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions of some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant, I should point to India. If I were to ask myself from what literature we, here in Europe, may draw the corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more universal, in fact more truly human, again I should point to India.” 9

Lord Curzon, while Viceroy of India, in his address at the Great Delhi Durbar in 1901, expressed, “Powerful empires existed and flourished here (in India) while Englishmen were still wandering, painted, in the woods, and while the British Colonies were still a wilderness and a jungle. India has left a deeper mark upon the history, the philosophy, and the religion of mankind, than any other terrestrial unit in the universe.”

From a more political perspective, Lord Curzon, before he went to India as a Viceroy, two or three times emphasized the importance of India to the British Empire when he said: “India was the pivot of our Empire. If this Empire lost any other part of its dominion we could survive, but if we lost India, the sun of our Empire would be set.” (Times, 3/12/1898)

Lord Roberts, after retiring for good from India, also said a similar statement to the London Chamber of Commerce: “I rejoice to learn that you recognize how indissolubly the prosperity of the United Kingdom is bound with the retention of that vast Eastern Empire.” (Times, 25/5/1893)

“That retention of our Eastern Empire is essential to the greatness and prosperity of the United Kingdom.” (Times, 29/7/1893)

“However efficient and well-equipped the army of India may be, were it indeed absolute perfection, and were its numbers considerably more than they are at present, our greatest strength must ever rest on the firm base of a united and contented India.” 10

In this way, the Vedic empire was a different kind of empire and showed its influence by its qualities and beneficial nature to one and all, rather than by power and military dominance. In A History of India by Kulke and Rothermund (1986, p.152), they explain how the influence of ancient India traveled over many lands: “The transmission of Indian culture to distant parts of Central Asia, China, Japan, and especially Southeast Asia is certainly one of the greatest achievements of Indian history or even the history of mankind. None of the other great civilizations–not even Hellenic–had been able to achieve a similar success without military conquest.”

The attractive nature of the Vedic Aryan Culture is explained more completely by David Frawley: “In the beginning there was one culture–that of the Spirit–and one language–that of Truth. This culture was outwardly one of worship and inwardly one of meditation. The language was one of mantra and communication was from the heart. The outer life was simple. There were small cities and villages, mainly along the rivers. Agriculture was practiced with the use of domesticated animals. Boats and wagons were used for travel. The emphasis was on the inner life and the outer life was not considered important, nor was there any great effort or need to improve it. Nature was abundant. This culture did not come from the outside but came from within and was guided by the sages, who generally lived in retreat in the mountains, who visited the peoples periodically and gave them instruction. From it later cultures diversified, along with divisions of language and religion, as we gradually fell from truth and our connection to the Divine to pursue outward and sensate values.” 11

Some additional information of the peaceful and developed ways of the Harappan culture is described by Michel Danino in his book, The Invasion that Never Was. “Dancing, painting, sculpture and music (there is evidence of drums and stringed instruments) were part of Harappan culture. Probably drama and puppet shows too, as a number of masks were found. The Harappans may also have been the inventors of the game of chess, of which one terracotta set was found at Lothal. Other kinds of gaming board and pieces have come up at many sites, as well as cubical dice identical to those used today. Children do not seem to have been neglected, judging from the exquisite care with which craftsmen fashioned toy oxcarts and figurines, spinning tops, marbles, rattles and whistles. And they could also amuse themselves with pet dogs and monkeys, pet squirrels and birds, too.

“Naturally, with hundreds of rural settlements, agriculture was practiced on a wide scale, the result of a long tradition going back four millennia. There is evidence of networks of canals for irrigation, of carefully shaped ploughs and ingenious tilling methods: at Kalibangan, for instance, excavations revealed a field ploughed with two perpendicular networks of furrows, in which higher crops (such as mustard) were grown in spaced-out north-south furrows, thus casting shorter shadows, while shorter crops (such as gram) filled contiguous east-west furrows. In the Indus valley, wheat, barley, pulses, a number of vegetables, and cotton were some of the common crops, and were planted following the two-season pattern still in use today (rabi or winter, kharif or summer); in Gujarat, rice and various millets were grown, too.” 12

THE SPIRITUAL ASPECT–STILL ATTRACTIVE TODAY

One of the major factors of the Vedic society was their spiritual orientation, which many people seek out even today. Max Muller mentioned this in one of his books: “I wish to point out that there was another sphere of intellectual activity in which the Hindus excelled–the meditative and transcendent–and that here we might learn from them some lessons of life which we ourselves are but too apt to ignore or to despise.”13

It was the Vedic philosophy that charmed and attracted people. As the Britisher Sir Charles Elliot explains, more than military or economic power, Vedic India spread into the hearts of people because of her way of thinking, and through that process spread over the globe. “Scant justice is done to India’s position in the world by those European histories which recount the exploits of her invader and leave the impression that her own people were a feeble dreamy fold, sundered from the rest of mankind by their seas and mountain frontiers. Such a picture takes no account of the intellectual conquests of the Hindus. Even their political conquests were not contemptible, and are remarkable for the distance, if not the extent, of the territories occupied… But such military or commercial invasions are insignificant compared with the spread of Indian thought.”

Sir William Jones (1746-94) once said about his admiration for India: “I am in love with Gopia, charmed by Crishen (Krishna), an enthusiastic admirer of Ram and a devout adorer of Brihma (Brahma), Bishen (Vishnu), Mahisher (Maheshwara); not to mention that Judishteir, Arjen, Corno (Yudhishtira, Arjun and Karna) and the other warriors of the Mahabharata appear greater in my eyes than Agamemnon, Ajax and Achilles appeared when I first read the Iliad.” 14

Arthur Schopenhauer, the German scholar (1788-1860), as quoted by Nehru, 15 once said that he expected Vedic Dharma to become accepted by the majority of people: “From every sentence (of the Upanishads) deep, original and sublime thoughts arise, and the whole world is pervaded by a high and holy and earnest spirit… In the whole world there is no study … so beneficial and as elevating as that of the Upanishads… (They) are products of the highest wisdom … It is destined sooner or later to become the faith of the people.”

It was also Schopenhauer who said, “The truth was recognized by the sages of India.” 16

GREATNESS OF VEDAS

Much of the reason for the qualities of ancient India and its great sages are held and can be seen by the greatness of the Vedic texts. This has been recognized by numerous scholars over the years. Here are a few, such as Professor Paul William Roberts in Empire of the Soul: Some Journeys in India: “The Vedas still represent eternal truth in the purest form ever written.”

Of course, we know that Henry David Thoreau greatly admired the Vedic literature, as mentioned in Quotes of Henry David Thoreau: “What extracts from the Vedas I have read fall on me like the light of a higher and purer luminary, which describes a loftier course through a purer stratum. It rises on me like the full moon after the stars have come out, wading through some far stratum in the sky.”

He also said in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, “In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita, since whose composition years of the gods have elapsed, and in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial; and I doubt if that philosophy is not to be referred to a previous state of existence, so remote is its sublimity from our conceptions.”

Another famous quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson is, “I owed a magnificent day to the Bhagavad-gita. It was as if an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us.”

Even Aldous Huxley once related, “The Bhagavad Gita is the most systematic statement of spiritual evolution of endowing value of mankind. The Gita is one of the clearest and most comprehensive summaries of the spiritual thoughts ever to have been made.” 17

Annie Besant brings up another idea, that even westerners who are now drawn to the rare teachings of the Vedic philosophy are experiencing an attraction that was attained in a previous life. In India: Essays and Lectures she says: “Among the priceless teachings that may be found in the great Indian epic Mahabharata, there is none so rare and priceless as the Gita… This is the India of which I speak–the India which, as I said, is to me the Holy Land. For those who, though born for this life in a Western land, and clad in a Western body, can yet look back to earlier incarnations in which they drank the milk of spiritual wisdom from the breast of their true mother–they must feel ever the magic of her immemorial past; must dwell ever under the spell of her deathless fascination; for they are bound to India by all the sacred memories of their past and with her, too, are bound up all the radiant hopes of their future, a future which they know they will share with her who is their true mother in the soul-life.” 18

CHAPTER NOTES

1. Haywood, John, The Ancient World, New York, Metro Books, 2013, p.54.

2. Twain, Mark, Following the Equator, 1897, p. 347.

3. Ibid.

4. Sonnerat, P., Voyage aux Indes orientales et a la Chine, Paris, 1782.

5. Schlegel, Friedrich von, Letter to Ludwig Tieck of 15 December, 1803, quoted by Leon Poliakov in The Aryan Myth.

6. Schlegel, Friedrich von, Essay on the Language and Wisdom of the Indians, quoted by Roger-Pol Droit in L’Oubli de I’Inde, Paris Presses Universitaires de France, 1989, p. 129.

7. Higgins, The Celtic Druids) (Niranjan Shah, India: The Birthplace of Human Speech, International Vedic Vision, Sands Point, N.Y., 2013, p. 66.

8. Maeterlink, Maurice, in The Great Secret) (Niranjan Shah, Indian Origins of Ancient Civilizations, International Vedic Vision Foundation, New York, 2011, p.4.

9. Muller, F. Max, India, What can it teach us? Published by Rupa & Co., New Delhi, reprint in 2002.

10. Quoted in “Dadabhai Naoroji: Poverty and un-British Rule in India,” 1901, http://www.archive.org/details/povertyunbritish00naoruoft .

11. Frawley, David, Gods, Sages and Kings: Vedic Secrets of Ancient Civilization, Passage Press, Salt Lake City, 1991, p.239.

12. Danino, Michel, & Sujata Nahar, The Invasion That Never Was, The Mother’s Institute of Research, Delhi, 2000, p.91.

13. Muller, Max, India: What Can it Teach Us?, Longmans, Funk & Wagnalls Company, London, 1999, p.138.

14. Mukharji, S.N., Sir William Jones: A Study in Eighteenth Century British Attitudes to India, Orient Longman, 1987.

15. The Discovery of India, Calcutta, Signet Press, 1946, pp. 92-93.

16. Schopenhauer, Arthur, The World as Will and Representation, Vol. 1, trans. E. Payne, New York: Dover Publishing Inc., 1969, p.3.

17. Galav, T. C. Philosophy of Hinduism–An Introduction, p.65.

18. Besant, Annie, India: Essays and Lectures, Vol. IV, The Theosophical Publishing Company, London, 1895, p.11.

Can Vedic Dharma Bring Peace to the World? By Stephen Knapp

The gifts and contributions to society that can be traced to Vedic Dharma are many. One of the most popular these days is yoga. The benefits of yoga are both individual and social, various and numerous. On the mental level it strengthens concentration, determination, and builds a stronger character that can more easily reduce and cope with various tensions in the material world. The assortment of asanas or postures also provide stronger health and keeps ills such as diabetes, high and low blood pressure, etc., away or in check. It improves physical strength, endurance, flexibility, back pain, digestive disorders, and arthritis. It promotes detoxification of the body, toning of muscles, and relief from stress and anxiety. Certain diseases can be prevented or improved by performing yoga on a daily basis.

When you progress in yoga, you can feel the unwanted burdens of the mind fall away, such as anxiety, anger, greed, envy, hate, discontent, etc. Then other qualities like peacefulness, tranquility, contentment, and blissfulness will be felt. These are qualities everyone is trying to find and are some of the many things that can be accomplished with yoga, at least on the elementary level. As you make further progress, you may enter into the deeper levels of understanding and transcending the mind and gradually go so far as to attain realizations as to what your own spiritual identity is and what your relationship is with the Absolute. Becoming free from material life and regaining one’s spiritual identity is the superior goal of all yoga.

As we progress in this way, we separate ourselves from the general vibrations of selfishness, greed, and anger that often pervade this planet. But we also contribute to the uplifting vibrations in the social or mass consciousness that this world so much needs these days. If we all can continue to work in this way, there could be a major shift in planetary consciousness for the upliftment of humanity for the greater good. Thus, our own spiritual progress becomes a positive influence on the whole planet, starting with our own small sphere of influence. This is how the Vedic Dharma goes from being an individual benefit to a positive social influence for peace and cooperation.

FACTORS THAT KEEP US APART

One of the main concerns in establishing peace, harmony and cooperation in this world is an old problem, mentioned in the Taoist text Chuang Tzu (11): “Men of this world all rejoice in others being like themselves, and object to others not being like themselves.” One of the main reasons for this is that everyone acts under the influence of different bodily conceptions of life. This causes three of the inner enemies: envy, pride, and anger. Because of our bodily conception, we may become proud of who we are, envious of others, and angry over their apparent differences from us. Because of these diverse perceptions, people cannot act in harmony in this world. To act in harmony and unity, there must be a central focus.

Since everyone is actually a spiritual being, a soul within the material body, then accepting the body as oneself is an illusion. This illusion, the acceptance of the material body as ones real identity, causes a person to think “I am American,” or “I am European,” or “I am white,” or black, or fat, or skinny. We may think this is my country, my family, my friends, my society, or my political party, and everyone else is different or wrong. But what is this consciousness of being American or Russian? A Republican or Democrat? Black or white? It is all illusion based on the impermanent identity of the ever-changing mind and body. It is the “I” and “My” consciousness. It creates a society in which people fight with each other because of the differences of the body and their identification with it. The whole world exists under this illusion. So how can there be peace? Even though government leaders talk about peace, and meet in peace conferences, there can be no peace as long as this misdirected consciousness continues.

When people are under the bodily concept of life, they do not know that their real self-interest is spiritual. Therefore, they try to adjust things materially, changing their situation, changing the way they look, changing their job, their government, or their living arrangement, or their neighborhood. They think such adjustments are the way to be happy and to improve their lives. These arrangements, however, are temporary. Sooner or later more changes will again be necessary if we live with this mindset.

Furthermore, leaders are doing the same thing. They try to change things through political, economic, or military adjustments. However, more often than not, it is merely guesswork, speculating on what strategy to use. Yet, the same problems, fighting, and antagonisms continue.

The United Nations in New York has been formed to try to calm this fighting so countries and people can work out their differences and work in unity. Instead, people often come together and blame or threaten each other. Unity has not been achieved. Actually, more flags are flying. More countries and borders have been established. Everyone has their own agenda. Disagreements between countries have increased. This brings the whole world into a deplorable state.

So, unless we have a central focus on the goal and identity of humanity, all talk of unity is merely utopian: It will never happen. As long as people act under the influence of thinking they are their bodies, born of a certain country, culture, religion, and loyal only to that particular identity, people will continue to fight like cats and dogs. No matter how much we desire peace between everyone so we can live in unity, as long as we are in this bodily concept of life, peace is not possible.

The only possibility of unity is in rising above the bodily platform of life and coming to the spiritual platform, the level of ultimate reality. Then there is a genuine possibility of unity on this planet because we can focus on the real identity of humanity as the uniting force among us all.

Therefore, one of the goals of human existence is to realize and enter that Reality. We need to be agents of Reality. This could also be called having spiritual vision.

HAVING SPIRITUAL VISION

So what does it mean to have a spiritual vision? To attain a spiritual vision, we need to follow the Dharmic process and rise above the bodily platform if we ever expect to reach a stage of permanent peace and unity. Even on an individual basis, real peace of mind can be attained only when one realizes that he or she is not the body. Otherwise, when you think you are your body you engage in the never-ending game of trying to satisfy your mind and senses, which always want new things for stimulation. The more you try to satisfy your senses, the more you will come under the control of lust, greed and anger. Lust is there when you want to satisfy your material desires. Greed is there when you want more than you need. Anger will always be there in some form when you fail to achieve what you want, or when you attain it but then lose it. The unmerciful masters of lust, greed and anger will never leave you alone. The only way you can achieve real peace of mind is by being free from your material desires, or at least most of them. That can only be possible when you realize you are not your body but the spirit soul within. And that is part of the essential process advocated in the Vedic spiritual tradition.

We find that the best sources for explaining the characteristics of what and who we really are, as the soul, are found in the ancient Vedic literature of India. Many such texts have information about this, but the great classic Bhagavad-gita (13.34) explains: “O son of Bharata, as the sun alone illuminates all this universe, so does the living entity, one within the body, illuminate the entire body by consciousness.”

Another great verse compares the body to a chariot in which the self or the soul is riding. “Transcendentalists who are advanced in knowledge compare the body, which is made by the order of the Supreme Personality, to a chariot. The senses are like the horses; the mind, the master of the senses, is like the reins; the objects of the senses are the destinations; intelligence is the chariot driver; consciousness, which spreads throughout the body, is the cause of bondage in this material world.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.15.41)

So, naturally, until our consciousness is cleansed or spiritualized, we recognize various beings according to their body. We may see a person that appears to be a man, a woman, a child, or a baby. Or we may recognize those who appear to be animals, insects, aquatics, or plants. As long as our consciousness remains in this level, we are bound to continue living in this material world. However, once we can see beyond these material bodies, we will see that all these entities are the same. They are all spirit souls. No other tradition provides such clarity. Then we have a chance of understanding reality.

The Svetasvatara Upanishad (5.10-11) states that the self is not man, woman, nor neuter, but appears in different types of bodies only due to previous activities and desires of the living entity. This is how the entity chooses whatever status in which one presently appears. But a person in divine consciousness can perceive that he or she is beyond all material designations and activities.

As further explained in another of the ancient Vedic texts, the Sri Isopanishad (Mantras 6-7): “He who sees everything in relation to the Supreme Lord, who sees all entities as His parts and parcels and who sees the Supreme Lord within everything, never hates anything nor any being. One who always sees all living entities as spiritual sparks, in quality one with the Lord, becomes a true knower of things. What, then, can be illusion or anxiety for him?”

Only in this frame of mind or with this focus, will we be able to reach a stage of peace within ourselves individually and go on to attain peace in the world. This is what the world needs.

SEEING THE DIVINITY IN EACH OF US

This is why I have formed what I call the 11th commandment. The other commandments we hear about are but moralistic principles, but now is the time to add real transcendence to the equation, and this 11th Commandment is: “Thou shall recognize the Divinity in all living beings, and that the spirit in all forms of life is part of the Supreme Spirit.” This is the way we need to recognize each other, which if applied properly, would create great social change.

Viewing it in another way, Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of the Aikido method of martial arts said: “Above all, one must unite one’s heart with that of the gods. The essence of God is love, an all-pervading love that reaches every corner of the universe. If one is not united to God, the universe cannot be harmonized. Martial artists who are not in harmony with the universe are merely executing combat techniques, not Aiki (Ai–uniting harmony and love with ki–the universal energy).”

This understanding is very important even in everyday life. If we are not working in harmony with love and universal energy, if we are not recognizing the Divinity in all living beings, we are simply going through daily routines that are ineffectual and empty of any spiritual value. We need to practice the methods which also awaken the connection we have with God, the universe, and each other. This is the way we can fully grow and develop. Then our life will have meaning and purpose. We will be guided by our own upliftment and will be able to assist in the upliftment of others. And we will be able to recognize the all-pervasiveness of the Supreme Being. This is the goal of yoga and the Dharmic spiritual process.

The essence of this perception again has been related in the ancient Vedic texts, as we find in the Svetasvatara Upanishad (6.11) which states, “He is the one God hidden in all beings, all pervading, the self within all beings, watching over all worlds, dwelling in all beings, the witness, and the perceiver.” If one can truly understand this and become enlightened in this way, he will see that he is a part of the Supreme Reality and realize his union with all beings. Within that enlightenment one can reach Divine Love. This love is based on the spiritual oneness and harmony between all beings, which is sublime. It is a source of spiritual bliss. It is a love based not on bodily relations or mutual attraction, but it is based on being one in spirit, beyond the temporary nature of the material body. This is the love for which everyone searches, from which springs forth peace, harmony, and unity, of which all other kinds of love are but mere reflections. This state of being is reached through that spirituality as taught in the Dharmic traditions, especially in Bhakti-yoga. Therefore, a life without spirituality is a life incomplete. All have the need to fill their souls with spirituality, the presence of God, in order to feel fullness, peace, contentment, and unity.

To begin seeing how things really are, and to recognize the Divinity in each of us, we have to start adjusting our consciousness. This takes place by being trained in the Vedic spiritual knowledge and by the practice of yoga which purifies or spiritualizes the mind. When the mind becomes purified and the false ego no longer influences our vision, we become sensible people.

As the Bhagavad-gita (13.31-32) says, when a sensible man ceases to see different identities due to different material bodies, he attains the spiritual conception. Those with the vision of eternity see that the soul is transcendental, eternal, and beyond the modes of nature. Despite being within the material body, the soul is above material contact.

In this way, we can understand that all of us are but small reflections of the Supreme Consciousness. When we put the greater whole above ourselves, and realize that we all contribute to the condition of this planet, then uniting with a common cause and with that Supreme Consciousness will be easy.

This planet does not allow us to be isolated. We all must work together and interface with others on some level. One lesson that this school of existence on this planet forces us to learn is that when we come together willingly to communicate, with a positive purpose, or to pray together, and to unite for the good of the whole, then harmony and peace can exist. That peace forms and manifests when we focus on our spiritual nature, which brings between us our unity in the Supreme, as children of the same Supreme Father. Making this the center of our existence will easily bring peace, unity, and harmony in this world because it brings in the spiritual vibration that emanates from God. That vibration is one of spiritual love. It is all that is eternal. All else is temporary. All else comes and goes. Therefore, focusing on and using our energy on temporary emotions such as envy, jealousy, and anger, will only keep us far away from the Supreme, and from reaching any peace or unity between us.

We have to recognize how similar we are in order to expand our heart toward others whom we may have previously rejected. This is how love and understanding can dissolve the boundaries that keep us stifled as a society and individuals, and keep us from entering higher dimensions of consciousness. There is no other way to grow spiritually. A lack of love toward each other is a reflection of a lack of love for God, regardless of how religious a person poses to be.

When we think in spiritual consciousness, we do not recognize others by their differences, but we see our similarities. This is easy when we think in terms of being sons and daughters of the same Supreme Father, parts of His creation, and all sharing this world together. We all belong to the One, to God. Only in this way can there be universal love among all living entities. Only in this way can we begin to think that we are all related to each other. Once we establish our relationship with the Supreme, then we can establish our true relationship with everyone else.

Remember, our spiritual nature is eternal, and our spiritual relation with the Supreme is eternal. Therefore, our spiritual relationship with each other is also eternal. We simply have to reach that stage of awareness. This central point has to be established in order for there to be universal peace, brotherhood, equality, and unity in the world.

In essence, yoga and the Dharmic principles teach us that we are all consciousness in material forms. Consciousness cannot be destroyed. It is the symptom of the soul, which is the essence of God in each of us. We are all spiritual beings, reflections of the Divine. We are not our beliefs, our cultures, or our minds and bodies. We are all divine souls on a wondrous journey through Truth. We have all manifested from God, the Supreme Truth, and we are all evolving back to God. As the Manu-samhita (12.125) relates, “Thus, he who by means of Self sees the self [soul] in all created things, after attaining equality with all, enters into Brahman [spiritual consciousness], the highest place.” That is the ultimate goal.

The Bhagavad-gita (4.39) states: “A faithful man who is dedicated to transcendental knowledge and who subdues his senses is eligible to achieve such knowledge, and having achieved it he quickly attains the supreme spiritual peace.”

This is how the Dharmic values and principles can spread to affect all of humanity for its greatest social good, which then also affects all life on this planet.

* * *

May I also conclude with the fact that the Vedic philosophy does not have the idea of conversion as part of its premise, nor has India and its people ever gone on campaigns to conquer other people or countries or religions. The Vedic culture has continually promoted the Sanskrit saying Vaisudhaiva Kutumbakam, which means the whole world is one family–the whole world. I rarely hear that in any other country today, or in any other religion.

This is actually the reason why many people, especially in the West, often say they are not so religious but are more spiritual. They no longer want to be associated with a narrow belief system, but want to attain a natural spiritual realization without the confines imposed by religions and all their superficialities that no longer make sense. They want a more wholesome form of spiritual development. In this way, enlightenment of the spirit is more important than pushing on the victory or popularity of a particular religion or even political ideology. This is what Vedic Dharma has to offer for anyone who investigates its holistic spiritual knowledge and understanding.

This means that the behavior of any person must be consistent with Sanatana Dharma, the eternal spiritual path, which contains truthfulness, devotion, nonviolence, goodness, service to others, help toward the poor, service and prayer to God, and spiritual realization. And this must be without racial or ethnic discrimination. In this condition there is an opportunity to attain the real goal of spiritual Vedic Dharma, beyond religion, and reach the natural condition of realizing our spiritual identity and connection with God, which also means our natural relation with each other. It is the Vedic tradition that points us in this direction.

Herein it is clear that it is natural for us to feel that all people are connected. That is the spiritual essence in all of us. It is the ego which makes us look at our differences and create a feeling of unity only with those of us who seem alike. The fact is we are all alike. But the ego must be stifled and the spiritual identity must be brought to the center for us to recognize that. However, we all inherently do want to do that. But we have turned our back on that natural inclination, and now only recognize our differences, either by politics, localized religion, racial barriers, or so many other things. This is why the Vedic culture has emphasized the path which will take down our ego and raise up the means to recognize our spiritual identity, which we need now more than ever. Unless this is done with earnest, peace in the world will never happen, nor will society ever become civilized.

The spiritual principles in the Vedic tradition teaches us to embrace all human beings and all living entities of all species. It sets aside false pride, and the sense of superiority. This is our spiritual quality as the outcome of a noble life that knows no distinction of rich and poor, or the high and low. This is our ideal culture.

The Vedic philosophy points out that the whole purpose as a human being is to live harmoniously with nature, with the world, and all of society to accomplish the true goal of life. It is this human life and this planet earth that is like a portal through which we can attain many different realms of existence. After death, our consciousness carries us to the most appropriate place for us to continue our existence. It only depends on how we use this life. So the whole purpose of this planet earth and life on it is to raise our consciousness and understand and perceive who we really are as spiritual beings, rising above this human experience and to attain our real and spiritual identity, and then to act in that way. But how long that takes is up to us. That is what we are meant to do, and by clearly understanding and being educated in this Vedic culture, and following its principles, is the way we can attain that goal.

This is called Sanatana Dharma, the timeless, universal spiritual truths, which do not conflict with anyone, but are applicable for everyone, for any time in history, and for any place in the universe. This is the uplifting nature of Vedic Dharma.

Dharma Rakshati Rakshita, and Jai Sri Krishna.

More information on this topic is elaborated in Stephen Knapp’s books: Toward World Peace: Seeing the Unity Between Us All  and  The Eleventh Commandment: The Next Step in Social Spiritual Development.

THE GREATNESS OF ANCIENT INDIA’S DEVELOPMENTS, by Stephen Knapp

THE GREATNESS OF ANCIENT INDIA’S DEVELOPMENTS

(Excerpt from Advancements of Ancient India’s Vedic Culture)

By Stephen Knapp (Sri Nandanandana dasa)

When we talk about the planet’s earliest civilization, we are talking about the world’s earliest sophisticated society after the last ice age. This means that according to the Vedic time tables, various forms of civilization have been existing for millions of years. But the first record of an organized and developed society was the Vedic culture that arose in ancient India with the Indus Sarasvati civilization, and then spread out from there in all directions around the world.

Often times we see that students, even in India’s academic system, have not studied or encountered the contributions that were made by early civilization in the area of ancient India. Not only are they not aware of such developments that had been given from India, but there is often a lack of such knowledge to be studied. Therefore, this book is to help fill that gap of information and to show how this area of the world, indeed, had a most advanced civilization, but was also where many of society’s advancements originated.

It can be found that what became the area of India and its Vedic culture was way ahead of its time. This can be noticed in such things as industry, metallurgy, science, textiles, medicine, surgery, mathematics, and, of course, philosophy and spirituality. In fact, we can see the roots of these sciences and metaphysics in many areas of the world that can be traced back to its Indian or Vedic origins.

Furthermore, we often do not know of all the progress that had been made during the ancient times of India, which used to be called Bharatvarsha or Aryavrata. Nor do most people know all that ancient India gave to the world. So let us take a serious look at this.

From the Preface of Indian Tradition of Chemistry and Chemical Technology, the authors relate most accurately: “Hindus are a race who have dwelled on the most fundamental questions about life (& death), about nature and its origins. The bold questioning by Hindus gave birth to theories, axioms, principles and a unique approach to and a way of life. The approach to life and the way of life led to the evolution of one of the most ancient and grand cultures on the face of the earth. The spiritual aspects of Hindu culture are more commonly known, the fact that science, technology and industry were a part of their culture is little known.

“For historical reasons, the achievements of ancient Hindus in various fields of science and technology are not popularly known to Indians. The recent research by Sri Dharmpal and others has shown that the colonial invaders and the rulers had a vested interest in distorting and destroying the information regarding all positive aspects of Hindu culture. The conventional understanding today is that Hindus were more concerned about rituals, about spirituality, and the world above or the world after death. That Hindus were an equally materialistic people, that India was the industrial workshop of the world till the end of 18th century, that Hindus had taken up basic questions of the principles of astronomy, fundamental particles, origins of the universe, applied psychiatry and so on, are not well documented and not popularly known. That ancient Hindus had highly evolved technologies in textile engineering, ceramics, printing, weaponry, climatology and meteorology, architecture, medicine and surgery, metallurgy, agriculture and agricultural engineering, civil engineering, town planning, and similar other fields is known only to a few scholars even today. There are about 44 known ancient and medieval Sanskrit texts on a technical subject such as chemistry alone. The information about the science and technological heritage of India is embedded in the scriptures, the epics and in several of the technical texts. The information needs to be taken out of these and presented.

“Facts like Hindus had the knowledge that the sun is the center of the solar system, about the geography of the earth, the way the plants produce food, the way blood circulates in the body, the science of abstract mathematics and numbers, the principles of health, medicine and surgery and so on at a time in history when the rest of the world did not know how to think, talk and write has to be exposed to people. This can draw the attention of these communities, especially the future generation towards ‘ideas’ that are essentially Indian.

“There are several published works on the history of India. Such works are written by Indian scholars as well as western researchers in oriental and Indological studies. Many of these works are highly scholastic and are not amenable to the common man. There is a need to make the knowledge of science heritage of India known to one and all. Further, there is need for studying scriptures, epics, and other ancient literature (in Sanskrit as well as other regional languages) to unearth the wealth of knowledge of our ancestors. Reports of such studies also need to be published continuously.” 1

This is the goal of the present volume, to easily and simply convey this knowledge for the benefit of everyone, for the correct view of history, and to give credit where credit is due.

THE ADVANCED NATURE OF ANCIENT INDIAN SCIENCES

Achievements in the sciences of ancient India were known all over the world, even in Arabia, China, Spain, and Greece, countries in which medieval scholars acknowledged their indebtedness to India. For example, the Arab scholar Sa’id ibn Ahmad al-Andalusi (1029–1070) wrote in his history on science, called Tabaqat-al’umam:

“The first nation to have cultivated science is India… India is known for the wisdom of its people. Over many centuries, all the kings of the past have recognized the ability of the Indians in all the branches of knowledge. The kings of China have stated that the kings of the world are five in number and all the people of the world are their subjects. They mentioned the king of China, the king of India, the king of the Turks, the king of the Persians, and the king of the Romans. …they referred to the king of India as the ‘king of wisdom’ because of the Indians’ careful treatment of ‘ulum [sciences] and all the branches of knowledge.

“The Indians, known to all nations for many centuries, are the metal [essence] of wisdom, the source of fairness and objectivity. They are people of sublime pensiveness, universal apologues, and useful and rare inventions. …To their credit the Indians have made great strides in the study of numbers and of geometry. They have acquired immense information and reached the zenith in their knowledge of the movements of the stars [astronomy]. …After all that they have surpassed all other people in their knowledge of medical sciences…”

Furthermore, “Whether it was astronomy, mathematics (specially geometry), medicine or metallurgy, each was a pragmatic contribution to the general Hindu ethos, viz., Man in Nature, Man in harmony with Nature, and not Man and Nature or Man Against Nature, that characterizes modern science. The Hindu approach to nature was holistic, often alluding to the terrestrial-celestial correspondence and human-divine relationship. Hindu and scientific and technological developments were an integral part of this attitude that was assiduously fostered in the ancient period.” 2

In his article, Indic Mathematics: India and the Scientific Revolution, Dr. David Grey lists some of the most important developments in the history of mathematics that took place in India, summarizing the contributions of luminaries such as Aryabhata, Brahmagupta, Mahavira, Bhaskara, and Madhava. He concludes by asserting, “the role played by India in the development (of the scientific revolution in Europe) is no mere footnote, easily and inconsequentially swept under the rug of Eurocentric bias. To do so is to distort history, and to deny India one of its greatest contributions to world civilizations.”

Lin Yutang, Chinese scholar and author, also wrote that: “India was China’s teacher in trigonometry, quadratic equations, grammar, phonetics…” and so forth. Francois Voltaire also stated: “… everything has come down to us from the banks of the Ganges.”

Referring to the above quotes, David Osborn concludes thus: “From these statements we see that many renowned intellectuals believed that the Vedas provided the origin of scientific thought.”

The Syrian astronomer / monk Severus Sebokhy (writing CE 662), as expressed by A. L. Basham in his book The Wonder That Was India (p. 6), explained, “I shall now speak of the knowledge of the Hindus… Of their subtle discoveries in the science of astronomy – discoveries even more ingenious than those of the Greeks and Babylonians – of their rational system of mathematics, or of their method of calculation which no words can praise strongly enough – I mean the system using nine symbols. If these things were known by the people who think that they alone have mastered the sciences because they speak Greek, they would perhaps be convinced, though a little late in the day, that other folk, not only Greeks, but men of a different tongue, know something as well as they.”

There have been many scholars, both old and new, who readily agree and point out the progressive nature of the early advancements found in ancient India’s Vedic tradition. So let us take a quick overview of some of what was known and developed in earlier times in the Vedic culture of the East.

American professor Jabez T. Sunderland (1842-1936), President of the India Information Bureau of America, spent many years in India. He was the author of India in Bondage, wherein he wrote, “India created the beginnings of all sciences and she carried some of them to a remarkable degree of development, thereby leading the world. India has produced great literature, great arts, great philosophical systems, great religions, and great men in every department of life–rulers, statesmen, financiers, scholars, poets, generals, colonizers, skilled artisans and craftsmen of every kind, agriculturalists, industrial organizers, and leaders in far reaching trade and commerce by land and sea.”

Sunderland went on to say, “India was a far greater industrial and manufacturing nation than any in Europe or than any other in Asia. Her textile goods–the fine products of her loom, in cotton, wool, linen, and silk–were famous over the civilized world; so were her exquisite jewelry and her precious stones, cut in every lovely form; so were her pottery, porcelains, ceramics of every kind, quality, color and beautiful shape; so were her fine works in metal iron, steel, silver, and gold. She had great architecture–equal in beauty to any in the world. She had great engineering works… Not only was she the greatest ship-building nation, but she had great commerce and trade by land and sea which extended to all known civilized countries.” 3

In India in Bondage, Sunderland also quotes Lord Curzon, the British statesman who was viceroy in India from 1899 to 1905, as saying in his address delivered at the great Delhi Durbar in 1901: “Powerful empires existed and flourished here [in India] while Englishmen were still wandering, painted in the woods, while the English colonies were a wilderness and a jungle. India has left a deeper mark upon the history, the philosophy, and the religion of mankind, than any other terrestrial unit in the universe.”

Lord Curzon had also stated: “While we [the British] hold onto India, we are a first rate power. If we lose India, we will decline to a third rate power. This is the value of India.”

Similar to this, Beatrice Pitney Lamb, former editor of the United Nations News, first visited India in 1949 on an assignment for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, writes in her book, India: A World in Transition: “In addition to the still visible past glories of art and architecture, the wonderful ancient literature, and other cultural achievements of which educated Indians are justly proud, the Indian past includes another type of glory most tantalizing to the Indians of today–prolonged material prosperity. For well over a millennium and a half, the Indian subcontinent may have been the richest area in the world.” 4

Many other writers and scholars had commented on their high regard for what had been developed in India. For example, to recognize a few, General Joseph Davey Cunningham (1812-1851) author of A History of the Sikhs, writes: “Mathematical science was so perfect and astronomical observations so complete that the paths of the sun and moon were accurately measured.”

There was much admiration even of the language of India. William Cooke Taylor (1800-1849), author of A Popular History of British India, stated in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. II: “It was an astonishing discovery that Hindusthan possessed, in spite of the changes of the realms and changes of time, a language of unrivaled richness and variety; a language, the parent of all those dialects that Europe has fondly called classical–the source alike of Greek flexibility and Roman strength.” 5

French scholar Buffon presented a coherent theory that scholars of ancient India had preserved the old learning from the creators of its sciences, arts, and all useful institutions. Voltaire had also suggested that sciences were more ancient in India than in Egypt. Russian born philosopher Immanuel Kant placed the origin of mankind in the Himalayas and stated that our arts like agriculture, numbers, even the game of chess, came from India.

German scholar Friedrich Schlegel also had a high regard for India, stating that everything of high philosophy or science is of Indian origin. French scholar and judge Louis Jacolliot, in his Bible in India, writes: “Astonishing fact! The Hindu Revelation (Vedas) is of all revelations the only one whose ideas are in perfect harmony with modern science, as it proclaims the slow and gradual formation of the world.” Of course, we can see the videos in which the astrophysicist Carl Sagan says, “The Hindu religion is the only one of the world’s great faiths, dedicated to the idea that the cosmos itself undergoes an immense, indeed, an infinite number of deaths and births. It is the only religion in which the time scales correspond to those of modern cosmology.”

The point is that all science of the Vedic tradition was developed with or in continuation of the ancient Vedic or spiritual knowledge that was a central point in understanding life. It was part of the Absolute Truth, or Sanatana-dharma, by which we could understand how to function in this world, and what is the purpose of both this world and our life in it. From this point, so many other developments took place, not as a means to control the environment, but as a means to know how to work holistically with nature for our material and spiritual progress and growth.

People like the Nobel Prize winner Maurice Maeterlinck wrote in The Great Secret: “…This tradition attributes the vast reservoir of wisdom that somewhere took shape simultaneously with the origin of man, or even if we are to credit it, before his advent upon this earth, to move spiritual entities, to beings less entangled in matter.”

The popular American author Mark Twain also had a high opinion of India, and wrote in Following the Equator: “This is India… cradle of the human race, birth place of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of tradition, whose yesterdays bear date with the moldering antiquities of the rest of the nations… India had the start of the whole world at the beginning of things. She had the first civilization; she had the first accumulation of material wealth; she was populous with deep thinkers and the subtle intellects; she had mines, and woods, and a fruitful soil.” 6

Even in scientific discoveries, there are those who acknowledge the knowing that has taken the rest of the world ages with which to catch up. For example, Fredric Spielberg writes in Spiritual Practices of India, with an introduction by Alan Watts: “To the philosophers of India, however, relativity is no new discovery, just as the concept of light years is no matter for astonishment to people used to thinking of time in millions of kalpas [days of Brahma]. The fact that the wise men of India have not been concerned with technological applications of this knowledge arises from the circumstance that technology is but one of innumerable ways of applying it. It is, indeed, a remarkable circumstance that when Western civilization discovers relativity, it applies it to the manufacture of atom bombs, whereas, Oriental (Vedic) civilization applies it to the development of new states of consciousness.”

Another simpler example is when Dick Teresi, author of The God Particle and co-founder of Omni magazine, writes in Ancient Roots of Modern Science, “In India, we see the beginnings of theoretical speculations of the size and nature of the earth. Some 1,000 years before Aristotle, the Vedic Aryans asserted that the earth was round and circled the sun.”

Dick Teresi also acknowledges how much of the knowledge we understand today did not necessarily come from the Greek civilization, but actually existed much earlier in the Vedic traditions of India. He again writes in Ancient Roots of Modern Science: “Two thousand years before Pythagorus, philosophers in northern India had understood that gravitation held the solar system together, and that therefore the sun, the most massive object, had to be at its center. Our Western mathematical heritage and pride are critically dependent on the triumphs of ancient Greece. These accomplishments have been so greatly exaggerated that it often becomes difficult to sort out how much of modern math is derived from Greece and how much from …the Indians and so on. Our modern numerals 0 through 9 were developed in India. Mathematics existed long before the Greeks constructed their first right angle.” 7

THE ANTIQUITY OF VEDIC CULTURE

Many are those who have mentioned the antiquity of the Vedic tradition, but how far back does it go? Traditionally, it was there since the beginning of time. However, even archeologically we can ascertain its very early dates.

For example, archeologists have found 7000-year-old rock paintings in the Aravalli mountain range near Benari dam in the Kotputli area of Jaipur district in Rajasthan in 1991. These paintings are adjacent to the site of the famous Indus Valley Civilization. Such 7000-year-old (5000 BCE) paintings were also found in Braham Kund Ki Dungari and Budhi Jeengore in Rajasthan. This discovery makes the Vedic civilization more ancient than the Egyptian and Greek and Mesopotamian civilizations. This also negates the Aryan Invasion Theory, the hypothesis that the Vedic Aryans were not indigenous, but established themselves after invading the area, which is completely wrong as we will show later in the book. 8

Along these same lines, further verification was also supplied by the Times of India (May 30th, 1992, New Delhi edition) wherein it was reported that the department of Archeology and Museums in the city of Jaipur, Rajasthan discovered as many as 300 prehistoric paintings on Kanera rocks in an area of 400 square miles near the town of Nimbahera in Chittorgarh district. These paintings are dated between 50,000 to 60,000 years old. That pushes the earliest reaches of Vedic civilization to at least 50,000 years back.

Additional finds such as these are discovered on a regular basis. Another one is reported in the publication called Science (February 23, 2010). It was reported therein that newly discovered archaeological sites in southern and northern India have revealed how people lived before and after the colossal Toba volcanic eruption 74,000 years ago.

The international, multi-disciplinary research team, led by Oxford University in collaboration with Indian institutions, unveiled to a conference in Oxford what it calls “Pompeii-like excavations” beneath the Toba ash.

According to the team, a potentially ground-breaking implication of the new work is that the species responsible for making the stone tools in India was Homo sapiens. Stone tool analysis has revealed that the artefacts consist of cores and flakes, which are classified in India as Middle Palaeolithic and are similar to those made by modern humans in Africa. “Though we are still searching for human fossils to definitively prove the case, we are encouraged by the technological similarities. This suggests that human populations were present in India prior to 74,000 years ago, or about 15,000 years earlier than expected based on some genetic clocks,” said project director Dr Michael Petraglia, Senior Research Fellow in the School of Archaeology at the University of Oxford. This exciting new information questions the idea that the Toba super-eruption caused a worldwide environmental catastrophe.

An area of widespread speculation about the Toba super-eruption is that it nearly drove humanity to extinction. The fact that the Middle Palaeolithic tools of similar styles are found right before and after the Toba super-eruption, suggests that the people who survived the eruption were the same populations, using the same kinds of tools, says Dr Petraglia. The research agrees with evidence that other human ancestors, such as the Neanderthals in Europe and the small brained Hobbits in Southeastern Asia, continued to survive well after Toba.

The team has not discovered much bone in the Toba ash sites, but in the Billasurgam cave complex in Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, the researchers have found deposits which they believe range from at least 100,000 years ago to the present. They contain a wealth of animal bones such as wild cattle, carnivores and monkeys. They have also identified plant materials in the Toba ash sites and caves, yielding important information about the impact of the Toba super-eruption on the ecological settings.

Dr Petraglia said: “This exciting new information questions the idea that the Toba super-eruption caused a worldwide environmental catastrophe. That is not to say that there were no ecological effects. We do have evidence that the ash temporarily disrupted vegetative communities and it certainly choked and polluted some fresh water sources, probably causing harm to wildlife and maybe even humans.” 9

In this way, recent discoveries show that the area of ancient India was one of the locations for the oldest civilizations the world has known.

 

CONCLUSION

THE GREATNESS OF INDIA AND VEDIC CULTURE

History certainly proves that India was also one of the wealthiest countries on the planet in its earlier days. Not only did she have vast treasures of knowledge and developments, but ancient India also had great wealth, such as sapphires, rubies, emeralds, pearls, and other gems, along with sunny climate, great fertility, and much more that was exported to various parts of the world, but the deep levels of knowledge and development was another of her greatest assets. For this reason, the ambition of all conquerors was to possess the area of India.

The pearl presented by Julius Caesar to Servilia, the mother of Brutus, as well as the famous pearl ear-ring of Cleopatra, were obtained from India. The Koh-i-noor diamond, weighing at 106.5 carats, one of the most fabled of diamonds, was taken to England from India. In fact, when Alexander left Persia, he told his troops that they were now going to “Golden India” where there was endless wealth, which made the beauty and riches of Persia look puny.

When the Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni destroyed the famous Somnath temple, he found astonishing wealth in diamonds and jewels. He also sacked Mathura and gathered numerous Deities in gold and silver. Thereafter he went to Kanauj which astonished the tyrant and his followers to such a degree in its wealth and beauty at the time that they declared that Kanauj was only rivaled in magnificence by heaven itself.

Ultimately, it was the wealth of India that drew the barbaric Arabs to the country, and then let the half-civilized Tartars to overrun it. It was the wealth of India that attracted Nadir Shah to ancient India, and from where he captured immense booty, which motivated the Abdali chiefs to renew their attacks on the country.

The people of India were actually not so barbaric as the invaders that forced their way into the country, but rather some of the most civilized in the world, primarily because of their sophisticated level of consciousness and gentleness towards one another caused by their training in the principles of the Vedic spiritual culture.

The character of the Hindus of the day had been described by some of those Europeans who had traveled there back in the 19th century, such as Max Muller, wherein he said: “Warren Hastings thus speaks of the Hindus in general: ‘They are gentle and benevolent, more susceptible of gratitude for kindness shown them, and less prompted to vengeance for wrongs inflicted than any people on the face of the earth; faithful, affectionate, submissive to legal authority.’

“Bishop Heber said: ‘The Hindus are brave, courteous, intelligent, most eager for knowledge and improvement; sober, industrious, dutiful parents, affectionate to their children, uniformly gentle and patient, and more easily affected by kindness and attention to their wants and feelings than any people I ever met with.’

“Sir Thomas Munro bears even stronger testimony. He writes: ‘If a good system of agriculture, unrivaled manufacturing skill, a capacity to produce whatever can contribute to either convenience or luxury, schools established in every village for teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic, the general practice of hospitality and charity amongst each other, and above all, a treatment of the female sex full of confidence, respect, and delicacy, are among the signs which denote a civilized people–then the Hindus are not inferior to the nations of Europe, and if civilization is to become an article of trade between England and India, I am convinced that England will gain by the import cargo.'” 10

Besides all these considerations, Max Muller also once related: “I wished to point out that there was another sphere of intellectual activity in which the Hindu excelled–the meditative and transcendent–and that here we might learn from them some lessons of life which we ourselves are but too apt to ignore or to despise.” 11

Finally, in what could be a conclusive statement made by a European who had spent many years living and studying the Vedic culture and Sanskrit literature of early India, Max Muller said, “If I were to look over the whole world to find out the country most richly endowed with all the wealth, power and beauty that nature can bestow–in some parts a very paradise on earth–I should point to India. If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions of some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant–I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself from what literature we, here in Europe, we who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of Greeks and Romans, and of one Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw that corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact more truly human, a life not for this life only, but a transfigured and eternal life–again I should point to India.” 12

 

CHAPTER NOTES

1. Prof. A. R. Vasudeva Murthy and Prasun Kumar Mishra, Indian Tradition of Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Samskrita Bharati, Bangalore, India, August, 1999, pp. i-v.

2. Science and Technology in Ancient India, by Editorial Board of Vijnan Bharati, Mumbai, August, 2002, Foreword by B. V. Subbarayappa.

3. Niranjan Shah, Indian Tribune Newspaper, December 8, 2007.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Niranjan Shah, Indian Tribune Newspaper, December 1, 2007.

7. Niranjan Shah, Indian Tribune Newspaper, December 9, 2005.

8. India Tribune, June 1, 1991, Atlanta edition.

9. http://www.ox.ac.uk/images/maincolumn/9440

10. Max Muller, India: What can it teach us?, first published in 1883, published by Rupa & Co., New Delhi, 2002, pp. 46-47)

11. Max Muller, India: What can it teach us?, Longmans, Funk & Wagnalls, London, 1999, p. 22)

12. Max Muller, India: What can it teach us?, first published in 1883, published by Rupa & Co., New Delhi, 2002, p. 5)

Women in Vedic Culture

Women in Vedic Culture

By Stephen Knapp

 

There are many civilizations in the world where respect for women and their role in society are prominent, and others where regard for them and their status should be improved. Yet the level of civility along with moral and spiritual standards in a society can often be perceived by the respect and regard it gives for its women. Not that it glorifies them for their sexuality and then gives them all the freedom men want so they can be exploited and taken advantage of, but that they are regarded in a way that allows them to live in honor for their importance in society with respect and protection, and given the opportunity to reach their real potential in life.

Among the many societies that can be found in the world, we have seen that some of the most venerating regard for women has been found in Vedic culture. The Vedic tradition has held a high regard for the qualities of women, and has retained the greatest respect within its tradition as seen in the honor it gives for the Goddess, who is portrayed as the feminine embodiment of important qualities and powers. These forms include those of Lakshmi (the goddess of fortune and queen of Lord Vishnu), Sarasvati (the goddess of learning), Subhadra (Krishna=s sister and auspiciousness personified), Durga (the goddess of strength and power), Kali (the power of time), and other Vedic goddesses that exemplify inner strength and divine attributes. Even divine power in the form of shakti is considered feminine.

Throughout the many years of Vedic culture, women have always been given the highest level of respect and freedom, but also protection and safety. There is a Vedic saying, AWhere women are worshiped, there the gods dwell.@ Or where the women are happy, there will be prosperity. In fact the direct quotes from the Manu-samhita explains as follows:

“Women must be honored and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands, and brothers‑in‑law, who desire their own welfare. Where women are honored, there the gods are pleased; but where they are not honored, no sacred rite yields rewards. Where the female relations live in grief, the family soon wholly perishes; but that family where they are not unhappy ever prospers. The houses on which female relations, not being duly honored, pronounce a curse, perish completely, as if destroyed by magic. Hence men who seek (their own) welfare, should always honor women on holidays and festivals with (gifts of) ornaments, clothes and (dainty) food.” (Manu Smriti III.55-59)

            Furthermore, in the Vedas, when a woman is invited into the family through marriage, she enters “as a river enters the sea” and “to rule there along with her husband, as a queen, over the other members of the family”. (Atharva-Veda 14.1.43-44) This kind of equality is rarely found in any other religious scripture. Plus, a woman who is devoted to God is more highly regarded than a man who has no such devotion, as found in the Rig-Veda: “Yea, many a woman is more firm and better than the man who turns away from Gods, and offers not.” (Rig-Veda, 5.61.6)

Additional quotes can be found in other portions of the Vedic literature. This is the proper Vedic standard. If this standard is not being followed, then it represents a diversion of the genuine Vedic tradition. Due to this tradition, India=s history includes many women who have risen to great heights in spirituality, government, writing, education, science, or even as warriors on the battlefield.   
            In the matter of dharma, in the days of Vedic culture, women stood as a decisive force in spirituality and the foundation of moral development. There were also women rishis who revealed the Vedic knowledge to others. For example, the 126th hymn of the first book of the Rig-Veda was revealed by a Hindu woman whose name was Romasha; the 179 hymn of the same book was by Lopamudra, another inspired Hindu woman. There are a dozen names of woman revealers of the Vedic wisdom, such as Visvavara, Shashvati, Gargi, Maitreyi, Apala, Ghosha, and Aditi who instructed Indra, one of the Devas, in the higher knowledge of Brahman. Every one of them lived the ideal life of spirituality, being untouched by the things of the world. They are called in Sanskrit Brahmavadinis, the speakers and revealers of Brahman. 

Throughout the history of India and the traditions of Vedic society, women were also examples for maintaining the basic principles in Sanatana-dharma. This honor toward women should be maintained by the preservation of genuine Vedic culture, which has always been a part of India.

Unfortunately, these standards have declined primarily due to the outside influences that have crept in because of foreign invaders, either militarily or culturally. These foreign invaders who dominated India mostly looked at women as objects of sexual enjoyment and exploitation, and as the spoils of war to be taken like a prize. The oppression of women increased in India because of Moghul rule. As such foreigners gained influence and converts, decay of the spiritual standards also crept into Indian and Vedic culture. The educational criteria of Vedic culture also changed and the teaching of the divinity of motherhood was almost lost. The teaching changed from emphasis on the development of individual self-reliance to dependence on and service to others. Thus, competition replaced the pursuit for truth, and selfishness and possessiveness replaced the spirit of renunciation and detachment. And gradually women were viewed as less divine and more as objects of gratification or property to be possessed and controlled.

This is the result of a rakshasic or demoniac cultural influence, which still continues to grow as materialism expands in society. Money and sensual gratification have become major goals in life, though they alone cannot give us peace or contentment. Instead they cause us to develop more desires in the hopes of finding fulfillment while leaving us feeling hollow and ever-more restless without knowing why.

In Vedic culture it is taught that every man should view and respect every woman, except his own wife, as his mother, and every girl with the same concern and care as his own daughter. It is only because of the lack of such training and the social distancing from the high morals as this that this teaching is being forgotten, and the respect that society should have for women has been reduced.

In this way, the change in the attitude toward women in India was due to a loss of culture and of the true Vedic standards. Thus, it should be easy to see the need for organizations that will keep and teach the proper views, which were once a basic part of the genuine Vedic traditions.

When the position of women declines, then that society loses its equilibrium and harmony. In the spiritual domain, men and women have an equal position. Men and women are equal as sons and daughters of the same Supreme Father. However, you cannot bring the spiritual domain to this Earth or enter the spiritual strata if your consciousness is focused on the differences of the sexes, and thus treat women poorly. One is not superior to the other, but each has particular ways or talents to contribute to society and to the service of God. So men should not try to control women by force, but neither should women forcefully try to seize the role of men or try to adopt the masculine nature of men. Otherwise, imbalance results in society, just as a car will not move properly when the tires on one side are too low or out of balance. Of course there are exceptions in which some men are naturally good at feminine roles and some women are talented in masculine occupations. But the point is that women and men must work cooperatively like the twin wings of a bird, together which will raise the whole society. If there is a lack of respect and cooperation, how can society be progressive? After all, how can there be a spirit of cooperation and appreciation between men and women when instead there is a mood of competition? It is this mood in materialistic society that is increasing in both family and corporate life which contributes to social imbalance and not to a smooth and peaceful society.

Motherhood and Family

            The nature of motherhood of women was always stressed in Vedic India. After all, we often find them to be the foundation of family life and of raising the children properly. They usually provide the love and understanding and nurturing for the development of our children in a way that is unlikely from most men.

            Our own life is a gift from our mother’s life. We were nourished by her, we spent nine months in her womb, and her love sustained us. Even now we are loved by our mother. This includes Mother Nature and Mother Earth, which is called Bhumi in the Vedic tradition. The Earth planet is also like a mother because everything we need to live, all our resources, come from her. As we would protect our own mother, we must also protect Mother Earth.

            Women in motherhood, after giving birth to a child that they have carried for nine months, is the first guru and guide of the child and, thus, of humanity. Through this means, before any child learns hatred or aggression, they first know the love of a mother who can instill the ways of forgiveness and kindness in the child. In this way, we can recognize that there is often a strong women, either as a mother or as a wife, behind most successful men.

            In exhibiting the qualities of motherhood, women must be warm and tender, strong and protective, yet also lay the foundation of discipline and the discrimination of right from wrong. Furthermore, in the home it is usually the woman who lends to providing beauty in decorating the house and facility for an inspirational atmosphere. Also, she must usually provide the nutritious and tasty dishes that give pleasure and strength for the fitness and health of the body.

            By their innate sense of motherhood and compassion, women also make natural healers, care givers, and nurturers. Those women who have this intrinsic disposition for caring will also be natural upholders of moral standards and spiritual principles. By their own emotional tendencies and expressions, they are also natural devotees of God.

            In ancient India the Sanskrit words used by the husband for the wife were Pathni (the one who leads the husband through life), Dharmapathni (the one who guides the husband in dharma) and Sahadharmacharini (one who moves with the husband on the path of dharma–righteousness and duty). This is how ancient Vedic culture viewed the partnership of husband and wife.

            When a husband and wife are willing to be flexible to each other’s needs and move forward in love and mutual understanding, the relationship can go beyond equality to one of spiritual union. This means that each one appreciates the talents of the other, and views the other as complimenting what each one already has. This also makes up for the weaknesses or deficiencies of the other. In this way, each can provide support, encouragement and inspiration to the other. This ideal can only be achieved when they properly understand the principles of spirituality. It is also said that where the husband and wife get along well, Lakshmi Devi (the goddess of fortune) Herself dwells in that house.

            It is also considered that a wife who serves a spiritually strong and qualified husband automatically shares in whatever spiritual merit he achieves because she assists him by her service.

The Feminine Divinities

            In the Vedic tradition it is common to see the pairing of the Vedic male Gods with a female counterpart, thus combining both sets of powers and qualities that each would have. We can easily see this in Radha-Krishna, Sita-Rama, Lakshmi-Vishnu, Durga-Shiva, Sarasvati-Brahma, Indrani-Indra, etc. Thus, we have the combination of male and female Divinities that make the complete balance in the divine spiritual powers.

            Through the medium of pure affection, the feminine Divinities have been able to break down the most powerful citadels known to creation, especially those of evil. The divine mystery of life is that the most powerful forces of the universe are subjugated by love, and that love is most completely channeled through the feminine energy and personality.

            For example, “Durga” means the one who is difficult to know. Yet, being considered the mother of the universe, or the personification of the material energy, we as her children can approach her through love. And she will respond with love.

            Also, out of love the goddess took the form of Mahishasuramardini, or the one who destroyed the dark demon known as Mahishasura. She was generated out of the anger and potency of Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, and others, and was the combination of their powers. They could not defeat the demon, but the goddess could. Symbolically, Durga can destroy the demonic darkness of the mode of ignorance and the quality of laziness within each of us.

            Another example is when Durga expressed her love and care to the Gods and humanity by manifesting herself from her side as Kaushika Durga, also called Ambika. By her beauty she attracted the demons Shumba and Nishumba to her. Thus, they would not disturb the rest of creation. Then from her forehead she manifested herself as the dark goddess Kali who killed all the disturbing demons in that episode. In this way, through love the Divine feminine potency takes on forms to alleviate powerful disturbances in the universe and within us.

            Out of love also the Divine feminine potency manifests as Srimati Radharani, the consort of Lord Sri Krishna. One of her many names is Janagati, which means the goddess of all goddesses. She is the origin of the divine feminine love and beauty, and the epitome of devotion to the Supreme Being. Thus, from the ideal spiritual world, we can see Her divine reflection mirrored here in this relative world in all that is feminine, beautiful and pure. By being conscious and aware of such qualities, we can perceive the spiritual dimension pervading and flowing throughout this temporary material universe. Thus, we recognize the very qualities of the Divine Persons from whom they originate in the spiritual world. We humans are but limited reflected forms of the Divine Couples who reside in original existence. This is why the Vedic tradition placed much value in honoring and worshiping the Divine feminine nature along with the masculine–one without the other is incomplete. This is one of the unique traits that distinguishes Vedic culture from others.

The Future

            Examples in Vedic history have shown that all women should be respected and honored for the potential and talent they can provide to keep the family together, as well as bare and raise children, but also for the many women who have taken up the cause to preserve, protect and carry on the spiritual standards found in Vedic culture.

            This shows that we should not diminish the potential that women have to be strong advocates of the Vedic principles. We should not discriminate and think that women have less to offer. It is not one’s sex that will determine one’s strength and character to help champion the Vedic cause.

            In this world we need people to help in all areas and all levels of life to protect the Vedic knowledge and traditions, and women have a very important part to play. As we said, they are usually the first inspiration and first teachers of our children. So many of the great men who had become powerful proponents of Sanatana-dharma also had strong and inspiring mothers or wives.

            So, you never know who among the women in society, or among our daughters we are raising that may become the next Savitri, Draupadi or Anasuya. Also, you never know who among the boys that the women may raise that may become a great Vedic saint or scholar or stalwart protector of our culture. We must look on everyone as if they have that potential, because somewhere and sometime it will happen. Another great person may appear, be it man or woman, who will emerge from among us. We need to arrange for that possibility to happen by giving all women and children the necessary facility and training.

            Every girl should have the opportunity to learn spirituality along with modern education to help her reach her full potential. Of course, this can also be said of boys. No one is born hating another, but this is learned in materialistic societies from wrong association. Only later in life does a person learn the ways of liking their own kind and disliking anyone who seems different. Genuine spiritual knowledge is the alternative to bring a change in such a society and stop the hating and quarrel that go on because of perceiving bodily and external differences between us.

            It is the primitive customs as well as the sexist inventions in modern but materialistic society that force social trends to limit, subjugate or even exploit women in today’s world. Such a society does not allow the strength or ingenuity of women to arise or be recognized, at least not without a struggle both inside the mind of women and outside in the field of activity and occupation. Women need to muster the strength to overcome such limitations. It is not that the world does not need nurturing and healing right now, which is a common and normal trait in women. After all, how many times do we hear of women being accused of rape, or child abuse and molestation, or kidnapping and murder? These are mostly the crimes of men, imbalanced men but men nonetheless. There is also a connection between the way men destroy the environment (Mother Nature) and their exploitative attitude toward women. This must be corrected.

            A faulty beginning or childhood, as well as exposure to thoughts and ideas and indoctrinations of one’s limitations rather than of one’s superior potential is one of the reasons why women lose their ability, means or motivation for higher accomplishments in life. This often causes their spirit of achievement and contribution to be squelched. This only adds to the struggle of women which is often passed along from one generation to the next. Thus, all of society loses the capabilities that women could otherwise attain and provide. In this way, women often have a built in fear of stepping forward to help meet the needs that the world is crying for.

            Harmony needs to be restored between the masculine and feminine natures, which are especially exhibited in the relations between men and women. This can be done most effectively through genuine spiritual development, when both masculine and feminine natures become balanced and complimentary rather than competitive. This can harmonize not only the external relations between people, but also the feminine and masculine tendencies within each individual, both men and women. By genuine spiritual progress we can rise above our bodily material identities and work with and compliment the talents and abilities of others, regardless of whether they are men or women. We must know that within each body is a spirit soul that is no different than our own. By that I mean that we must recognize that on the platform of spiritual reality there is no difference between one soul and the next, no matter whether the external body is male or female. But while we are in this world and in different types of bodies, we can work cooperatively for our survival and for harmony among us, and use our naturally varied talents together. Women can do what they do best and men can do what they do best. This certainly makes it easier for all to live peacefully than in a mood of competition and aggression, or envy and prejudice. In such a mood of cooperation we can see that we all have something to offer or contribute, and we all have something for which we can be appreciated. We only need the right opportunity to bring that out of each and every one of us. The proper leaders of society or of organizations who promote such situations are those who can arrange for such a harmonious environment to exist.

            One difference that we often see between men and women is that there is often nothing harder to penetrate than the typical male ego, which often causes men to hesitate to show any weakness and to make a show of a tough exterior, while women often respond easily to love with love. However, love and compassion are not meant to be exhibited only by women or mothers. It is a state of being, a level of consciousness. It is an exhibition of one’s spiritual development to have care and concern, compassion and love for each and every being. It should be a common interest that everyone should be able to live a life of opportunity, development and progress for their own material and spiritual well being. And this concern is natural for both men and women who have reached this level of spiritual awareness, recognizing in many ways the similarities between us all, regardless of our sex. This is what is needed to help bring more peace and cooperation in the world, and another reason for protecting and emphasizing the traditional standards of spiritual understanding as found in the teachings of Santana-dharma.

Examples of Great Women in Vedic Culture

            Some of the women that have helped make great strides in establishing the foundation of Sanatana-dharma and Vedic culture can be listed and described. They serve as fine examples of historical importance that have been the basis for inspiration to both men and women for centuries. From the early Vedic times these include such women as Sati, Sita, Anasuya, Arundhatee, Draupadi, Queen Kunti, Shakuntala, Maitreyi, Gargi, Madalasa, Savitri, Ahalya, and others. It is said simply reciting their names removes sins. There are additional women from the last few hundred years whose lives we can recollect as well. Such great women have contributed to the glories and splendor of Vedic culture. So let us briefly review the lives of some of these great women.

            Madalasa was the daughter of Vishvasu, the Gandharva king. She was also a great inspiration to her sons. Ritdhvaj, the son of the powerful king Shatrujit, was her husband. When Shatrujit died, Ritdhvaj took the position of king and engaged in the royal duties. In due course, Madalasa gave birth to a son, Vikrant. When Vikrant would cry, Madalasa would sing words of wisdom to keep him quiet. She would sing that he was a pure soul, that he has no real name and his body is merely a vehicle made of the five elements. He is not really of the body, so why does he cry?

            Thus, Madalasa would enlighten her son with spiritual knowledge in the songs she would sing to him. Because of this knowledge, little Vikrant grew up to be an ascetic, free from worldly attachments or kingly activities, and he eventually went to the forest to engage in austerities. The same thing happened to her second son, Subahu, and her third son, Shatrumardan. Her husband told her that she should not teach the same knowledge to their fourth son, Alark, so that at least one of them would be interested in worldly activities and take up the role of looking after the kingdom. So to Alark she sang a song of being a great king who would rule the world, and make it prosperous and free from villains for many years. By so doing he would enjoy the bounty of life and eventually join the Immortals. In this way, she trained her son Alark from the beginning of his life in the direction he would take. This is how a mother can influence her child in whatever potential may be possible, whether materially or spiritually, by imparting noble thoughts to open the avenues of activities for her children.

            Sati. From the Puranas we learn how Sati would not tolerate the dishonor of her husband Lord Shiva. Sati was the daughter of Prajapati Daksha, who was one of the sons of Brahma. Once Daksha arranged to hold a major religious ritual (yajna) in his capital, near present day Haridwar. Many kings, emperors and demigods were invited. However, Daksha did not respect Shiva, so Shiva was not invited. Nonetheless, Sati wanted to go to see her father and many sisters. Shiva tried to dissuade her from going, saying it was not good to go uninvited. But Sati went anyway to participate in the yajna. Unfortunately, she found that her father was greatly insulting her husband, Shiva. Not bearing the dishonor of her husband, she self-immolated in fire and left this world altogether, leaving her body in ashes.

            When Lord Shiva heard about this, he was terribly angry and taking a hair from his head, he threw it to the ground and it turned into the demon Veerabhadra who was the anger of Lord Shiva and who disrupted the yajna. In disappointment, Lord Shiva then bore the body of Sati to different places in the world. Sati’s various limbs dropped as Shiva carried her body, and wherever a limb dropped became a Siddhapeetha, which remain major places of Shakti worship. According to the Devi Bhagavata there are 108 such Siddhapeethas, while other texts say there are 51. Among these, 42 are in India, 2 in Nepal, 1 in Tibet, 1 in Sri Lanka, 1 in Pakistan, and 4 in Bangladesh.

            Sati then reincarnated as the daughter of the Himalaya Parvata, and thus she became known as Parvati. She underwent great austerities and won Lord Shiva as her husband once again.

            Anasuya was a woman who could bring back the life of a dead sage due to the power of her own austerity and devotion to her husband. She showed that devotion to a qualified husband gives the wife fame, power and is the fulfillment of her dharma. Anasuya was the wife of the sage Atri. Her mother was daughter of the sage Svayambhuva and her father was Kardama Muni. Her fame had spread throughout both the Earth and the planets of the Devas.

            According to the Markandeya Purana, there was once a sage named Mandasya who cursed a brahmana named Kaushika to die the next morning at sunrise. When Kaushiki, Kaushika’s wife, heard the news, she vowed that by the power of her chastity the sun would never rise. When the sun did not rise for many days, everyone started to become alarmed. Brahma then told the other demigods to go to Anasuya and she could assist them to continue the sunrise by the force of her moral power. Anasuya then entreated Kaushiki to allow the sunrise to resume. Kaushiki then allowed the sunrise to take place, but her husband immediately expired because of the curse. Yet, Anasuya brought the husband back to life by the power of her own austerity and devotion to her husband. Being pleased by this, the demigods gave Anasuya the blessing to have her wish for three sons who would be reincarnations of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Thus, Brahma appeared as Soma, Vishnu as Dattatreya, and Shiva as Durvasa. Of course she was also greatly honored by her husband who said to Sri Rama when Rama once visited Atri’s ashrama during His exile, that Anasuya was a great lady, following the path of austerity and deserves the salutations of all beings. Anasuya was a bright example among women.

            Sita is fully described in the Ramayana. She was the daughter of King Janaka, ruler of Mithila. The king was engaged in ritually plowing the land to help produce food to counter a famine at the time, and while using a golden plow, it revealed a pitcher that had been buried from which Sita appeared. The plow tip is called a sita, thus Sita was the name given to her. At the time, the demon Ravana had collected tax from the local sages who had placed their blood in this pitcher. Thus, when the plow later uncovered and churned the pitcher, the life-force from the sages produced Sita, and Sita thus became the cause of Ravana’s destruction.

            As related in the Ramayana, Lord Rama won Sita’s hand in marriage. But due to political intrigue, Rama’s father, Dasharatha, had to keep a promise he had made to his second wife Kaikeyi, who wanted her own son to ascend the throne and not Lord Rama. So she had Rama and Sita thrown into exile and made to wander the forests. During that time, Ravana abducted Sita and kept Her in the Ashoka-Vatika, the garden of Ashoka trees. He tried to force her to marry him but she would not. During that time Rama and Lakshmana wandered the forests in search of Her. In time they found out she had been taken by Ravana, and having learned where he was, Lord Rama finally put the end to him and rescued Sita.

            Even though some citizens doubted Sita’s purity, she had undergone the Agni-Pariksha, or witness by fire to attest to her purity as a devoted wife. Even then it was over-heard that a washerman had doubts of Sita’s character, having spent so much time in Ravana’s house. So to help ward off any criticism, Rama exiled Sita to the forest ashrama of Valmiki. While there she gave birth to, Lava and Kush, the twin sons of Lord Rama. Valimiki once brought Sita and her sons to Ayodhya, the capital of Lord Rama, where the sons sang the Ramayana in front of Lord Rama. Valmiki also proclaimed that Sita was as good as purity and chastity incarnate.

            Though Sita’s life was full of struggle and hardship, she was innocent and pure. She gave up all comforts to serve her beloved husband and uphold sanctity, faithfulness, virtue and moral standards. Thus she holds one of the highest places among women in Vedic culture and of woman’s character.

            Draupadi was the daughter of Drupada who was the king of Panchala. She was born from the fire ritual and for this reason was also called Yajnaseni. Her dark complexion also gave her the name of Krishnaa. Queen Kunti was the mother of the five Pandava brothers, Arjuna, Bhima, Yudhisthira, Sahadeva and Nakula. When the Pandavas brought Draupadi back to their home, they wanted to show her to their mother, but Kunti, without having seen Draupadi, told them that whatever they have they must all share equally. So Draupadi became the wife of all five Pandavas. It is said that Draupadi in a previous life had been the wife of Indra, the King of heaven, and she took five separate forms in serving her Pandava husbands. Thus, she was most devoted to her five husbands and was also a great devotee of the Supreme Lord, and regarded Lord Krishna as her ultimate protector.

            One episode that shows this was when in the court of the Kauravas, wicked Dushashana tried to disrobe her in front of everyone. Draupadi became hopeless and fervently prayed to Krishna for protection. Krishna heard her prayers and though He was in Dwaraka, He protected her by providing an endless supply of cloth to her sari so that it never ended, and she was always covered and not dishonored in such a way.

            Another time was when Durvasa Muni, who was known for his quick anger, suddenly decided to drop in on the Pandava camp, along with his many thousands of disciples. He would also want something to eat for himself and his followers. But the Pandavas had just ate and there was nothing more to prepare. Lord Krishna asked for whatever remnant grains were left in the pot. Being the Supreme Lord, if He was satisfied, then everyone would be satisfied. So He took what few grains were there and when Durvasa Muni arrived, they were all so full that they no longer wanted anything to eat, and thus left peacefully.

            In Draupadi’s service to her husbands, she had said that she rises before anyone else, tolerates hunger and thirst, and goes to bed after the others. She also gave birth to five sons, all of whom were killed by the wicked Ashwatthama. But since he was the son of the family guru, and she had such respect for their gurus, he forgave him.

            When the Pandavas had reached the end of their lives and were setting out to ascend to heaven by climbing up into the mountains, she was the last in line. But she was the first to fall and thus rise to heaven after her death. Her dedication and devotion make her one of the great personalities of Vedic culture.

            Maitreyi was the wife of the great sage Yajnavalkya. His second wife was Katyayani. Both were devoted to their husband and of lofty character. However, Maitreyi had a higher regard for spiritual knowledge and devotion to God than did Katyayani. The Brihadaranayaka Upanishad relates that finally, the sage Yajnavalkya wanted to renounce householder life and accept the sannyasa order of life, and divide his possessions between his two wives. Maitreyi then questioned to herself what greater thing her husband must have found if he is willing to give up his present status in householder life. Surely no one will give up his position unless he finds something better. So she asked her husband if she had all the riches in the world, could she still attain immortality. Her husband said certainly not, it is not possible. All the happiness and conveniences from wealth will not lead you to God. So Maitreyi then asked why she should acquire wealth if it is not going to deliver her from future rounds of birth and death. She requested that he tell her about the Supreme Being, for which he was happily giving up household life.

            Therefore, Yajnavalkya explained to Maitreyi all about the divine knowledge of the Self. He informed her that no being in this world has any capability of being dear to another without the presence of the soul within. Even to enjoy the beauty of this world has no meaning without the soul within our own body, for the soul is all that we are. Understanding the depths of spiritual knowledge is the way to attain moksha, liberation from the continued rounds of birth and death. Thus, Yajnavalkya took sannyasa and Maitreyi attained supreme bliss by hearing her husband’s discourse and by diving deep into this spiritual understanding. In this way, Maitreyi showed how all women can achieve the heights of spiritual understanding simply by careful listening and practicing the Vedic path.

            Gargi was the daughter of Vashaknu, and was also called Vachakni. But because she was born in the line of the Garga Gotra or family line, she was also called Gargi, a name by which she became well known. The Brihadaranayaka Upanishad explains that she asked the sage many questions on spiritual science and became highly educated in this way. Once in the court of King Janaka there was arranged to be a debate on the spiritual sciences. He wanted to find out who was the person who knew best the science of the Absolute, and that person would receive 1000 decorated cows with horns plated with gold. None of the local brahmanas complied because they were afraid they would have to prove their knowledge, and may not be up to the task. However, the sage Yajnavalkya told his disciple to take all the cows to his place, which started the debate.

             Yajnavalkya answered the questions from many scholars who approached him, setting aside all of their concerns and doubts. However, then came Gargi’s turn to ask the sage whatever she wanted. But she asked many different and complex questions on the immortality of the soul, the arrangement of the universe, and many other topics. Finally Gargi herself bowed to the sage and proclaimed that there was no one else who was more greatly learned in the Vedic Shastras than Yajnavalkya. In this way, Gargi showed that in Vedic culture it was not unexpected for women to become greatly learned in the Vedic sciences, nor that they could not discuss such topics with wise and kindly sages who also shared their knowledge with them. Thus she is a luminous example of women in the Vedic tradition.

            Savitri was the only child of a king named Ashwapati, the king of Madra-Desha, as explained in the Mahabharata and Matsya Purana. He had performed austerities to please Lord Brahma and his consort, Savitri Devi, to have progeny by chanting the Savitri prayer. When a daughter arrived, he named her Savitri, and she grew to be a girl of great beauty and character, and wonderful personality and qualities. Unfortunately, her father could find no suitable husband for her when she became of age. So he sent her to different parts of the country so she could find a husband she deemed acceptable. After some time Savitri decided to marry Satyavana, but he was the son of Dyumatsena who was the blind and exiled king of Shalya-Desha. Because of this, they lived in the forest. Satyavana was simple but bore a countenance of royalty, which attracted Savitri.

            Savitri returned to her father to relate the news, however the sage Narada Muni happened to be there and heard it and revealed that Satyavana was highly qualified but was to live for only one year longer. But Savitri had made her decision and would not marry another. So to fulfill Savitri’s intention, the king arranged for a wedding.

            One day, after living in the forest for a year, Satyavana went off to chop some wood as usual. Savitri had been observing penance for many months and followed him into the woods. On this day Satyavana fell down with a headache. At that same time, Savitri saw a ferocious person approaching and could recognize that it was Yama, the lord of death, who was coming to take Satyavana since his life was ending. After Yama had taken Satyavana, Savitri started to follow Yama. He asked her not to follow him and even promised her many boons, all but the life of her husband. Nonetheless, Savitri continued to follow him until he granted her wishes.

            Savitri asked Yama for her father-in-law’s eyesight to return, along with his lost kingdom. Then she asked for one hundred sons for her father. All these were granted as Yama became increasingly impatient. Then she asked for one hundred sons for herself as well, all of them as handsome and wise as Satyavana, to which Yama also agreed without much thought. But then he realized his mistake and had to allow Satyavana to continue with his life. Thus by the power of Savitri’s austerity, wisdom and devotion, she conquered death for her husband and blessed her own father and father-in-law as well.

GREAT WOMEN IN MORE RECENT TIMES

             Sri Gangamata Goswamini was born as Sachi, the princess daughter of King Naresh Narayana in the present state of Bengal. She was a great devotee of God from her early childhood. As she grew and entered into her education, she studied grammar and poetry but soon spent all her time studying the Vedic scriptures. All the boys were attracted to her and her father began to think of arranging for her marriage. But she was not the least bit attracted to any young men. She was always filled with thoughts of Madana Gopala, Krishna.

            Gradually the king and queen grew old and left this world, leaving the responsibilities of governing the kingdom to Sachi. She accepted these, but later arranged to allow other relatives to govern in her place as she went to see the holy places on the plea of traveling throughout the kingdom. After so much travel, she still was not satisfied and wanted to find a spiritual master. Then she went to Jagannatha Puri and while having darshan of the Deities she was inspired with an inner message to go to Vrindavana.

            After arriving in Vrindavana she met Haridas Pandit, who was solely devoted to Lord Gauranga and Nityananda. Sachi was filled with ecstasy and after meditating for several days Haridas Pandit gave her shelter, upon which she prayed to him with tearful eyes begging for his mercy for spiritual advancement. Haridas discouraged her from staying in Vrindavana, telling her that it is not possible for a princess to remain absorbed in bhajan with little to eat and no comforts. But she stayed and gradually gave up her nice clothes and opulent ornaments. Noticing this determination, Haridas instructed with his blessings that she could wander throughout Vrajamandala and beg from place to place as a renounced devotee. Having accepted Haridas as her guru, she was filled with joy. Thereafter, freed from her false ego and dressed in rags, she went begging alms and exhibited her intense renunciation which astonished all the devotees.

            Her body grew thin and physically exhausted. She would sleep on the banks of the Yamuna and rise to sweep the Lord’s temple, have darshan and listen to the Bhagavatam classes. Haridasa became very happy seeing the intent of Sachi and promised to give her initiation into the mantra. Haridasa Pandit had another disciple named Lakshmipriya who at that time arrived in Vrindavana. She used to chant 300,000 names of Krishna everyday. Haridasa sent her to live near Sachi on the banks of the Radhakunda. Everyday Lakshmipriya and Sachi would circumambulate Govardhana Hill. Thus they continued in their devotional service to the Lord with great determination. Then one day Haridasa Pandit instructed Sachi to return to Jagannatha Puri to continue her bhajan there and preach what she learned of Sri Chaitanya’s teachings. However, most of Sri Chaitanya’s associates had already left the planet.

            Sri Sachidevi returned to Jagannatha Puri and stayed in Sarvabhauma’s house where she engaged in bhajan and gave classes on the Srimad-Bhagavatam. She also established first class worship of the Damodara Salagram in that house, which was crumbling and where few people ever visited. However, her classes became famous and many people started to attend to listen to her discourses. One day even the king of Puri, Mukunda Dev, came to hear her Bhagavatam class, and he was astounded. He wanted to make a nice offering to her in appreciation for her worship to Lord Krishna, and that night he had a wonderful dream in which Lord Jagannatha appeared to him and said to offer her a place on the banks of the Sveta (White) Ganges.

            The next day the king went to make the offering to Sachidevi, but she was not inclined to accept any wealth or comforts and wanted to refuse. The king persisted and not wishing to violate Lord Jagannatha’s order, he issued a decree dedicating a holy ghat by the side of the White Ganges after Sri Sachidevi. The decree stated that she was a princess that gave up everything to come to Puri and preach the teachings of Lord Chaitanya.

            One day Sri Sachidevi wanted to go to the Ganges to bathe, but remembered the order of her spiritual master never to leave Jagannatha Puri. That night she had a dream wherein Lord Jagannatha appeared to her and told her not to worry, that the day when Varuni will take bath is approaching when you must go to bathe in the White Ganges. Gangadevi had been praying for Sachidevi’s association, so she should go.

            Sachidevi was extremely happy, having had this divine vision. The day of the Varuni-snana came and in the middle of the night Sachideva went to the White Ganges to bathe, but the current of Gangadevi overflooded the pond and carried her away to the Jagannatha Mandira. Seeing this, thousands of devotees became ecstatic and also took their holy bath in the Ganges.

            In the midst of the commotion, the guards of the Jagannatha temple awoke and were speechless to see all that had happened. Hearing the noise, they went inside the temple. The king had also awoken and ordered the gates of the temple to be opened. When the doors were open, Sachidevi was standing there alone inside the temple. The servants and priests concluded that she must be a thief to steal Jagannatha’s valuable ornaments. Then Sachidevi was taken to the dungeon where she was imprisoned to stand trial for theft. Sachidevi was indifferent and remained absorbed in chanting the Lord’s holy names.

            Later that night, Lord Jagannatha appeared to Mukunda Dev in a dream and demanded that he release Sachidevi. The Lord explained that it was because of His personal arrangement to wash Sachidevi’s holy feet that He had the Ganga bring Sachidevi to His temple. If the king wanted his life to be auspicious, then he better have all of the pandas and priests bow at her feet and beg for forgiveness, and the king must take initiation from her. The next day the king did as he was told, making sure that everyone paid full obeisances to her while asking for forgiveness for the offenses made at the feet of a devotee. He also begged that she accept him as a disciple and give him initiation.

            Sachidevi become very joyful, understanding that this was all due to the arrangement of the Lord. Placing her hand on the king’s head, she blessed him, and soon thereafter she gave him initiation into the eighteen syllable Radha-Krishna mantra. Many of the priests also took shelter of her on that day. It was from that day that Sachidevi became known as Gangamata Goswamini.

            One day a strict smarta-brahmana, Mahidhara Swami, came to the banks of the Sveta-Ganga and wanted to have darshan of her holy feet. He had come to offer worship for his ancestors and while in discussion with Sri Gangamata Goswamini, she instructed the Srimad-Bhagavatam to him. The brahmana was astonished by her explanations and asked to take shelter of her. On an auspicious day she initiated him into the Radha-Krishna mantra of ten syllables. On the order of Sri Gangamata Goswamini, he preached the message of nama-prema, ecstasy of the holy name, and the teachings of Lord Chaitanya throughout Bengal.

            Sri Sita Thakurani is the eternal wife of Sri Advaita Acharya, who is considered an avatara of Maha-Vishnu. Sita Thakurani is to be worshiped as much as Mother Sachideva, the mother of Sri Chaitanya. She married Advaita Acharya in Phuliya Nagara and they moved to Shantipura. Sita Thakurani was always absorbed in motherly devotion to Sri Chaitanya and would instruct Jagannatha Misra, Sri Chaitanya’s father, on how to care for the boy.

            Advaita Acharya was the one who did special worship near the Ganges in Shantipur to call the Lord to appear in this world, having felt that the conditions were so bad that only the Lord Himself could help. Thus, both Advaita Acharya and Sita Thakurani were in great bliss when Sri Chaitanya appeared in this world, and she brought Him many presents. From then on, Sri Sita Thakurani would often come to Mayapur from Shantipur to see the child and to give instructions to Sachimata about how to care for the child.

            The Gaura-Ganodesha Dipika explains that Sri Sita Thakurani is an incarnation of Yogamaya. The Gaura-Parshada-Chiritvali says that in the Krishna pastimes she was Purnamasi, the mother of Sandipani Muni, grandmother of Madhumangal and Nandimukhi, and a disciple of Narada Muni. The Gaura-Ganodesha Dipika however says that Purnamasi in the Krishna pastimes went on to become Sri Govinda Acharya in the Chaitanya pastimes.

            When Sri Chaitanya was grown, he went to Gaya and became initiated by Iswara Puri. Afterwards he returned to Mayapur and started His sankirtana pastimes. Sri Advaita Acharya and Sita Thakurani were the first to worship Sri Chaitanya at the beginning of His real purpose in this world.

            After Sri Chaitanya took sannyasa and went to Jagannatha Puri to live, Sri Advaita Acharya and Sita Thakurani would go and visit Him, bringing their own son, Achyutananda. On one such occasion Sita Thakurani made many of the Lord’s favorite preparations and invited Him to their place to take lunch. Simply to increase their ecstasy, the Lord honored their invitation. Always being absorbed in motherly affection, she treated Him like her own son and He returned the sentiment. Sri Sita Thakurani bore three sons, Achyutananda, Krishna Mishra and Gopala Mishra. Thus, she was an inspiration for spreading the mission of the sankirtana movement.

            Sri Jahnava Mata was born of Sri Suryadasa, along with her sister Sri Vasudha. The Gaura-Ganodesha-dipika explains that They are both expansions of Varuni (Sri Vasudha) and Revati (Jahnava Mata), and that they are both incarnations of Ananga-manjari. In time the daughters became of marriageable age and Suryadasa gave it much thought. The one night he had a dream in which he gave both of his daughters to Sri Nityananda. Surya dasa then told a brahmana friend about this and it was arranged to deliver the message to Sri Nityananda Himself. Upon hearing of it He agreed, after which the ecstasy of Suryadasa knew no bounds.

            Arrangements were made for the wedding at Borogacchi Gram, and many devotees from all around attended (the full details of which are recorded in the Bhakti-Ratnakara). Thus, Suryadasa was most fortunate to have given both of his daughters to Sri Nityananda Prabhu. Lord Nityananda stayed in Shaligrama Pura for a while but then went to Nabadvipa to show His mother Sachideva His two wives. Sachimata was delighted to see them. On the order of Sachimata, Nityananda went to the house of Advaita Acharya in Shantipura. When his wife Sita Thakurani saw Vasudha and Sri Jahnava, she floated in waves of ecstasy. Sri Nityananda wandered from place to place performing many sankirtana pastimes (congregational singing of the Lord’s holy names). In due course, Sri Vasudhadevi gave birth to a daughter named Ganga and a son named Virachandra. However, Sri Jahnavadevi had no children.

            As time passed, Sri Nityananda Prabhu, Advaita Acharya, Shrivasa Pandita, and many other members of Lord Chaitanya’s personal entourage left this world to return to the spiritual domain. Sri Jahnava Mata still wanted to inundate the world with a flood of sankirtana nectar. In Kheturi Gram at that time was a great festival to be held on the celebration day of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s advent. Many devotees attended, like Narottama, Shyamananda and Shrinivas. The festival had been arranged by King Santosh Dutta. Sri Jahnava herself attended the festival and cooked the food for offering to the Gaura-Nitai Deities there. After the festival for one night, they went on to Nabadvipa. However, Sri Jahnava did not get to see Sachimata, Lord Chaitanya’s mother, and felt very unhappy. She went on to the home of Sripati and Srinidhi, but again was heartbroken because of not seeing Srivasa Pandit and Malinidevi there. After spending the night they went on to Shantipura and again discovered that Sri Advaita Acharya and his wife Sita Thakurani had also both passed away. Though greeted by their sons, Achyutananda and Gopala, Sri Jahnava was filled with grief.

            Sri Jahnava Mata continued to travel with her associates and devotees, always gathering to perform sankirtana, the congregational chanting and singing of the Lord’s holy names. In this way, many devotees were able to drown themselves in the nectar of kirtana, and even many atheists and sinners were greatly purified. On one special occasion at Kheturi Gram, even Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda, who had already left this world, made Their divine appearance again in the midst of the kirtana.

            Sri Jahnava Mata was a wonderful cook and would prepare herself such dishes as rice, vegetable preps, and other foods to be offered to the Deities at such festivals. Thereafter, she would distribute the prasada (offered food) herself with her own hand to the great souls who were gathered there.

            When Sri Jahnava went to visit Vrindavana, she was greeted by many great devotees, and her ecstasy was unlimited. The Gosvamis offered their pranams and she also offered her obeisances in return. She was very happy seeing the efforts of the Gosvamis in renovating the holy land. She toured the holy places of Vrindavana and saw the different Deities. After visiting the many pilgrimage places, she returned to Gaudadesha, Bengal. While there she also visited the town of Sri Nityananda’s birth, Ekachakra, and was filled with ecstasy to see where He partook of childhood pastimes. She continued her travels, returning to Nabadvipa and seeing the birthplace of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu where she fainted in ecstasy. She then went to the nearby courtyard of Srivasa, where she spent the night and the devotees engaged in a great sankirtana, for this is where Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu began His sankirtan movement. That night she had a dream of Lord Chaitanya in which He performed different pastimes.

            In this way, Jahnava Mata continued in her pastimes of traveling to visit various devotees and engaging in sankirtana festivals, cooking food to be offered to the Deities, and even witnessing the appearance of Lord Chaitanya and Nityananda in the midst of some of those ecstatic kirtans. She continued to deliver the love of bhakti (devotion) to numerous people, even atheists and materialists by her mercy. Thus, being considered the divine shakti of Lord Nityananda Himself, she continued the mission of Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda by her activities, which centered around sankirtana and cooking and distributing prasada to everyone.

            Vishnupriya devi is the wife of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and appeared to assist with His mission of spreading the holy name of Krishna. She is said to be the internal potency of the Lord known as Bhu-shakti. Thus, Sri Chaitanya and Vishnupriya are as Vishnu and Lakshmi combined again.

            Vishnupriya was the daughter of Sanatana Mishra. He was a highly developed Vishnu bhakta. He was pious and generous and would feed, clothe and shelter many people. He was famous as the king of pandits. It is said that he was a king named Satrijit in the age of Dvapara-yuga. It was a result of his great devotion that he was blessed with such a qualified daughter.

            Vishnupriya was devoted to her parents and would bathe in the Ganga three times a day and observed many different vows of spiritual austerity, and was devoted to the shastric principles. Everyday when she would bathe in the Ganga, she would also bow at the feet of Mother Sachi, the mother of Sri Chaitanya, and Mother Sachi would bless her that Krishna may provide her with a qualified husband. Upon further enquiry Mother Sachi learned that she was the daughter of Sanatana Mishra, a qualified pandita of Nabadvipa, and she began to think that Vishnupriya may make a good wife for her own son Nimai, Sri Chaitanya.

            At this time, Sri Chaitanya’s first wife, Lakshmipriya, had passed away and entered the spiritual domain. So Mother Sachi was in great pain at first, but started to think how to arrange for her son’s happiness. When she learned that He did not mind the idea of marrying again, Sachi began to make plans in earnest to have her son remarried, and proposed that a match be made with Vishnupriya. She made consultation with Sanatana Mishra and he agreed and was pleased. It was arranged by the people and devotees to be a grand event. (This is fully explained in the Chaitanya Bhagavata.)

            Sri Vishnupriya spent her life as a devoted wife. Even when Sri Chaitanya took sannyasa to engage completely in His purpose of preaching and spreading the glories of Krishna’s holy names, Vishnupriya stayed with Mother Sachi, engaging in service to the Lord together. Later, Vishnupriya had her own Deity of Sri Chaitanya and worshiped that Deity until she left this world at the age of 92. This Deity is still worshiped in Nabadvipa in a temple where you can visit and have darshan of this same Deity. In this way, she also assisted in the continuation of Sri Chaitanya’s sankirtana movement and in the principles of Vedic culture.

            Rani Chennamma of Kittur (in North Karnataka) was the first woman freedom fighter of India against the British. Rani Chennamma was known for her chivalry. She was born in 1778 and from childhood she trained herself in warfare. Her husband, Raja Mallasarja of Kittur, died in 1816 and her only son died in 1824. Chennamma adopted Shivalingappa as her son, but the British did not accept this. The Rani fought tirelessly with the British and with the help of her bodyguard, Balappa, she killed the British Southern provincial officer, Thackray. The British, however, regrouped and attacked Kittur. They followed non-Kshatriya methods and defeated and imprisoned her in Bailhongal. She was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. She died on 21-2-1829.

             Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi was one of the most brave and legendary of warrior women of India. The city of Jhansi was an important center in the 18th century, but in 1803 the British East India Company took over control of the state. The last raja at the time died without a son in 1853. The British had passed a law that allowed them to assume control of any state under their patronage if the ruler died without a male heir. The Rani of Jhansi, however, did not like this enforced retirement and preferred to rule on her own. So she was ready for the rebellion at Jhansi when the Indian Mutiny began. The British in Jhansi were killed, but the next year the British took Jhansi because of the disunity among the rebel forces. The rani fled to Gwalior and while there made a defiant last stand. Disguised as a man, she rode out to battle against the British, but was unfortunately killed. Her qualities of boldness, patriotism, and generalship were highly appreciated, even by her foreign rivals. Since then she has been a heroine of the independence movement of India.

            The hilltop fortress of Chittorgarh was another but more general example of the chivalry of the Rajputs and the warrior spirit of the women. The fort has a long history. In 1303 was when the Pathan King of Delhi, Ala-ud-din Khilji, attacked the fort in an attempt to capture the queen Padmini, wife of Bhim Singh, the Rana’s uncle. When it was obvious that defeat was inevitable, the Rajput noblewomen, which included Padmini, committed Sati while Bhim Singh, knowing of his certain defeat, nonetheless took his men and put on the saffron robes of martyrdom and rode to battle and to their deaths. Honor was more important than death to them, and the women also would rather die than submit to the enemy and certain humiliation.

            Another such event at Chittorgarh took place in 1535 when the Sultan of Gujarat, Bahadur Shah, besieged the fort, and once again the Rajputs did what they could. It is said that13,000 Rajput women and 32,000 Rajput warriors died in the battle. The last of such scenes took place in 1568 when the Moghul Emperor, Akbar, took the town. The women again performed Sati and 8000 saffron clad warriors rode out to their deaths. Again death was better than submitting to the Muslim invaders.

            Devi Ahalya Bai Holkar, the queen of Indore (Madhya Pradesh) has set an excellent example of efficient administration. Her contribution to encourage free trade and the concept of the welfare state is very admirable. Her practices for maintaining integral nationality, her quick impartial justice were very effective. She led a very simple and selfless life, not utilizing anything from the royal treasury for her personal use.

            Jijabai was not exactly a warrior herself but was the mother of Shivaji, one of the great protectors of the country and its religion. She was the guide who shaped his mind from his early years. She was the embodiment of self-respect. She nurtured her child to fight and bring back Hindu Rastra and became a constant source of inspiration to her heroic son.

            Mira Bai is another name that many people will recognize for her saintly loving attachment to Lord Krishna. Her history is not so clear, but it is generally accepted that she was born in 1498 in a village near Merta about 40 to 50 miles northwest of Ajmer. She was the daughter of Ratna Singh, a Rajput noble and warrior who was much involved in fighting. Mira’s mother died when she was still very young. For these reasons she was sent to live with her grandfather, Rau Dudaj, who had taken the town from the Muslims to repopulate it with Hindus.

            Mira was a devotee of Krishna from very young. One story is that even before her mother died, Mira begged for an image of Krishna from a holy man who had visited her home, which she received. She became so attached to the Deity that her mother would joke that Krishna would become her bridegroom. Mira’s family were all Vaishnavas and regular worship was a common event in their home. Later, Mira’s grandfather died and her uncle Viramji took responsibility of her.

            In 1508 Rana Sangh, the great Rajput warrior, tried to arrange for the defense of the oncoming Muslims by marrying Dhan Bai of the Jodhpur branch of the House of Rathor, and thus establish alliances with other local rulers. He also arranged with Viram Dev for the marriage of Mira to his own heir, Prince Bhoja Raj, in 1516. This was supposed to secure an alliance of power to the north.

            So in 1516 Mira was married to Bhoja Raj, but the marriage was childless. Mira was never interested in the marriage and was completely preoccupied with her devotion to Lord Krishna, who in her poems she refers to as her husband, and to herself as a virgin. It is said that Bhoja Raj was frustrated with her for a while but gradually understood the devotional nature of Mira and did not expect her to play the typical role as a wife. There is a temple that is said to have been built for Mira Bai at the Chittorgarh Fort where she would worship her Deity of Lord Krishna. You can still visit this temple if you ever go to this fort.

            War was common place at the time and in one such battle Mira’s father, Ratna Singh, was killed. Even Mira’s uncle was attacked by an opposing family, and Mira was increasingly left alone to her own devices. This was most often based on her devotion to Krishna.

            The marriage of Mira to help military alliances did not work out well for Mira because 15 years later, in 1531, when Rana Sangh had been dead for 3 years, Vikramajita (Vikramaditya), who was a mere boy of 14, acceded the Kingdom of Mewar and was most temperamental. [Rana Raymal reigned at Chittor 1473-1508. Rana Sangh was his son.] This put Mira in the spite of members of a rival family. Vikramajita did not like Mira and it is said at one point he locked her in a room with a guard. This did not have the desired effect, so he tried to poison her, but that also failed. She refers to this in her poems as the intervention of her Lord Krishna.

            It is thought that Mira took refuge of her uncle Viram Dev in Merta until Viram was expelled from his own capital by the King of Jodhpur in 1538. From this point, the rest of Mira’s story is unclear. However, there are a few bits and pieces that seem to stand correctly. In the first half of the 17th century Mira is said to have visited Vrindavan. She may have been a wandering ascetic after Viram was forced from Merta. The poet of Priyadas who was at Vrindavan at the time says that Mira went to see Jiva Gosvami of Sri Chaitanya’s association, but Jiva refused to see her because she was a woman. She replied that she thought Lord Krishna was the only male in Vrindavana and all others were female gopis (cowherd maidservants). This led to Jiva Gosvami admitting her into see him. There is also an old temple in Vrindavana that is still dedicated to her presence there, and there is an altar with nice Krishna Deities you can see there.

            Other histories say that she went to Dwaraka and lived there for a considerable time, worshiping at the temple there.

            The death of Mira Bai in 1614 is also unclear, but it is said that in course of time, evil fell on the fort of Chittor where Mira’s family members lived, and where they began to think that the decline of the fortress was because of their persecution of a great devotee, namely Mira. The king sent a message begging for her to return, but she took shelter at the temple of Ranchor (Krishna) to pray, and it is said that her body melted into the Deity.

            In any case, Mira’s poems remain an inspiration to many, and stir the heart toward devotion to Krishna in many ways. They also emphasize the means of developing attraction to Krishna’s form, pastimes and the chanting of His names, and exemplifies a love relationship with the Lord.

            Vandaniya Lakshmibai Kelkar (Kamal as she was known as a little girl) is another woman who did a tremendous amount of work of India and its culture. She was born on July 6, 1905 to Bhaskar Rao Datey and her mother Yasodabai. Kamal grew up in a congenial environment which molded her into a sensitive and intelligent girl. She learned the qualities of serving others to assist in their needs from her aunt who continually worked to ease the plight of people affected by the plague. Kamal was also imbued with devotion to India and its culture, and developed an acute sense to organize and execute plans for its preservation. This was due to her mother who would read to the local ladies the national newspapers to enlighten them about the oppressions committed by the British. Though this was viewed by the British rulers as an act of treason, she asserted that as a free person and not a Government servant she had the right to read such papers.

            In the meantime, Kamal was admitted to the only available convent school in town, but shortly left because of the Christian domination in it. She grew to be a lovely teenager but was determined not to marry anyone that demanded dowry. So she later married a widower, Purushottam Kelkar. He had two daughters from his first marriage. In the wedding, Kamal was given the name Lakshmi, meaning prosperity. In her marriage she took care of her two daughters, managed the household and in time became the mother of six sons.

            Laxmi was not satisfied with mere household duties. She also had the spirit of patriotism, sacrifice and social reform. She was waiting for the chance to participate in the freedom movement. She attended meetings and listened to the top leaders of the movement and observed the effects of the Law Defiance Movement, along with the gradual change in the social psyche. She felt that obtaining political freedom was necessary, but that every citizen of free Bharat must come forward with a firm common will and total identification with the national interests, ancient glories, the Vedic culture and traditions of Bharat. But how to put this all together was the issue.

            During this time some eminent personalities were striving for the education of women. Due to Western impact, Indian women were struggling for equal rights and economic freedom. Yet this led to progress of the individual but not for the society as a whole, and to self-centerdness. This presented the risk of women losing their commitment to love, sacrifice, service and other inborn qualities that glorify Hindu women. She felt that this attraction to the easy and showy way of western life that lead to this unnatural change in the attitude of women could also lead to the disintegration of family, which has been a primary and important factor in Vedic society for imparting the proper Vedic culture. So Lakshmibai was worried by this.

            After attending discourses by Gandhi and hearing him advising the ladies to follow the life of Sita and Savitri, she studied the Ramayana and Mahabharata. She was attracted to the literature of Swami Vivekananda who professed that men and women are equally important constituents of the nation just like two wings of a bird. Lakshmibai came to the conclusion that women should boldly come forward and share the responsibility in solving the various problems of the society.

            Lakshmibai lost her husband in 1923 and was left to look after eight children and a vast property. She faced the situation and still pursued her national commitments. Later, through her sons, she learned of an organization based on individual contact, mutual love and voluntary discipline called the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh. She thought that this type of organization would also work well for meeting the challenge among women. After meeting with Dr. Hedgewar about her ideas, she formed an organization for women called Rashtra Sevika Samiti on Vijaya Dashami Day, October 25, 1936. She sketched the working plan for the organization and shouldered all the responsibility herself.

            As the organization grew, among its members Lakshmibai was called by her family nickname of “Mousiji”, but they prefixed it with “Vandaniya” to show their respect. Vandaniya Mousiji’s talent of nursing became especially useful, since she had to nurse a number of ailing minds from all kinds of weaknesses. It was difficult in those days for a socially and economically well placed young widow to get involved in work wherein prestige, honor and fame were never to be aspired for.

            In the beginning she was also too shy to deliver speeches and often would ask a friend to do it for her. But through perseverance, firm will and relentless practice she slowly acquired most of the qualities to lead the organization.

            The basic premise of the organization was the practice and promotion of Vedic culture in its relevance to modern times. She convinced many women to do the same by protecting it through the natural process of imparting the proper impressions at home, especially to her children. It is through this process that a mother’s power can build a strong character-based society.

            To set the proper example, she introduced Devi Ashtabhuja, a symbol of the ideal Hindu woman with eight (ashta) specific qualities, such as chastity, boldness, affection, alertness, etc., that every woman should have. To organize and inspire the women, there were regular meetings. And to spread it, Mousiji started touring with what little transportation that could be arranged, traveling alone and with her small son, depending on God to avoid the risks. Gradually, the Samiti grew to a national organization, holding special gatherings in places like Mumbai.

            Taking a special interest in education, the “Bharatiya Shri Vidya Niketan” was registered in 1983 to reorganize the system of girls’ education.

            Having studied the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavata Purana, she gave discourses on them and inspired many women to inculcate the firm will, sanctity of thought and deed, and the self-protecting spiritual power like that of Sita and Draupadi. Her discourses became popular and large numbers of people would throng to hear her sweet voice and logical interpretation. She could convince many younger generations to look on Vedic culture as their national heritage and the divine personalities such as Sri Krishna, Sri Rama and Sita, and Savitri as national heroes and heroines.

             Vandaniya Mousiji was very affectionate and loving as a mother but equally strict as a general in organizational matters. The individual attention that she showed on each sevika volunteer made them feel that Mousiji loved her the most.

             Vandaniya Mousiji passed away on November 27, 1978 at the age of 73. The news spread quickly and many members came to pay their last homage to one of the recent architects of “Modern Vedic Women”. Through her foresightedness she had already made arrangements and had appointed leaders to continue the work without any confusion after her passing. The Samiti was then lead by Vandaniya Saraswatibai (Taiji Apte) until her passing on March 9, 1994. During her tenure the organization even spread outside India. The Samiti has since been lead under the loving and careful guidance of Vandaniya Ushatai Chati, who had been appointed by Taiji Apte herself. Thus, from the efforts of Mousiji, the women volunteers of the Samiti are continuing in the protection and promotion of Vedic culture.

* * *

            There are many other women I could have included in this article, especially those who have been recognized as saints and guardians of Vedic culture, such as Anandamayi Ma who lived in Vrindavana. And presently there are such women as Mother Karunamayi and Mother Amritanandamayi Ma whose life stories are also inspirational, and who are traveling throughout the world and actively preserving and expanding the understanding of various aspects of the Vedic tradition. Because they offer the unconditional love of a spiritual mother for their spiritual children, their popularity is one of the reasons why thousands of people, especially women, have been attracted to such lady pioneers in spirituality. The world is like a desert craving for the rejuvenation and reciprocation of such love. Why would it not be attractive? Even now there are a host of other women that I have met, whether they are in the Rashtra Seviki Samiti, Iskcon, Vivekanandra Kendra, Arun Jyoti, Swadyaya, Kalyan Ashrama, or other organizations, all working in various ways in their humble service to God, as well as for the protection and advancement of Vedic culture.

            So these are just a few stories of the examples of strong and influential women in Vedic culture, from the early Vedic times up to modern date, and how women can further their development in spirituality and reach a higher potential and contribution to society.

Vedic Culture: As Relevant Today as Ever

Vedic Culture: As Relevant Today as Ever

By Stephen Knapp

 By investigating the knowledge and viewpoints in the many topics found in Vedic culture we can certainly see that the practice and utilization of this Vedic knowledge can indeed assist us in many ways. In regard to all the trouble we presently find in this world, maybe it is time to look at things through a different and deeper view to find the answers and directions that are so needed. The knowledge and understandings of this great Vedic culture may indeed be what will help us see through the fog of confusion that seems to envelope so much of society.

            What we find in Vedic culture are areas of study, progress and expression that are as relevant today for human advancement as they were hundreds or thousands of years ago. India and its Vedic culture has contributed much to the world, such as its music, beautiful forms of art and architecture, martial arts, astronomy, holistic medicine in Ayurveda, and the mathematical system based on the number ten, along with its yoga and philosophy. In the United States, yoga has exploded into a three billion dollar industry. A recent survey (at the time of this writing in 2005) showed that 16.5 million people are practicing yoga, or 7.5 percent of the United States. Also, the Yoga Journal magazine has grown from a circulation of 90,000 in 1998, to 170,000 in 2000, to 325,000 in 2005.

            Vedic mathematics is another example of its contribution to world progress. It is an ancient development that continues to play an important part in modern society. Without the advancements in math that had been established by Vedic culture as far back as 2500 BC and passed along to others, such as the Greeks and Romans, we would not have many of the developments and inventions that we enjoy today. The Greek alphabet, for example, was a great hindrance to calculating. The Egyptians also did not have a numerical system suitable for large calculations. For the number 986 they had to use 23 symbols. Even after the Greeks, the Romans also were in want of a system of mathematical calculations. Only after they adopted the Indian system that was called Arabic numerals did they find what they needed. Weights and measures and scales with decimal divisions had been found from that period which were quite accurate.

The difference was that Vedic mathematics had developed the system of tens, hundreds, thousands, etc., and the basis of carrying the remainder of one column of numbers over to the next. This made for easy calculations of large numbers that was nearly impossible in other systems, as found with the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and even Chinese. The Vedic system had also invented the zero, which has been called one of the greatest developments in the history of mathematics.

The numeral script from India is said to have evolved from the Brahmi numerals. This spread to Arabia through traders and merchants, and from there up into Europe and elsewhere. It became known as the Arabic numerals, yet the Arabians had called them “Indian figures” (Al-Arqan-Al-Hindu) and the system of math was known as hindisat, or the Indian art.

Vedic culture already had an established mathematical system that had been recorded in the Shulba Sutras. These are known to date back to the 8th century BC. The name Shulba Sutras meant “codes of rope”. This was because such calculations were used for measuring precise distances for altars and temple structures by using lengths of rope.

The Shulba Sutras were actually a portion of a larger text on mathematics known as the Kalpa Sutras. These and the Vedic mathematicians were recognized for their developments in arithmetic and algebra. Indians were the first to use letters of the alphabet to represent unknowns. But they were especially known for what they could do in geometry. In fact, geometrical instruments had been found in the Indus Valley dating back to 2500 BC. Furthermore, what became known as the Pythagorean theorem was already existing in the Baudhayana, the earliest of the Shulba Sutras before the 8th century BC. This was presented by Pythagoras around 540 BC after he discovered it in his travels to India. So this shows the advanced nature of the Vedic civilization.

After the Shulba Sutras, Vedic mathematics enjoyed further development in the field of Jyotish, Vedic astronomy, which used all forms of math. Indian mathematicians continued creating systems that were not known in Europe until much later in the Renaissance period. For example, Aryabhatta in the 5th century introduced sines and versed sines, and is credited as the inventor of algebra. He is said to be the first to state that the Earth travels around the sun. However, the ancient Vedic texts have described this many years earlier, which shows the wisdom of the early Vedic seers.

 Aryabhatta was followed by Brahmagupta (7th century) who was the great mathematician that especially developed the use of zero and was the first to use algebra to solve problems in astronomy. Next was Mahavira (9th century) who made great strides in the use of fractions and figuring out how to divide one fraction by another. Then there was Bhaskara (12th century) who made progress in spherical trigonometry and principles of calculus before Newton by 500 years. He used it to determine the daily motion of planets.

The Vedic system of math, as explained in the sutras, also reduced the number of steps in calculations to merely a few that otherwise required many steps by conventional methods. Thus, this ancient science is still worthy of study today.

In 600 BCE, Sushruta recorded complicated surgeries like cesareans, cataract, artificial limbs, fractures, urinary stones and even plastic surgery and brain surgery. Usage of anesthesia was well known in ancient India. Over 125 surgical instruments were used. Deep knowledge of anatomy, physiology, etiology, embryology, digestion, metabolism, genetics and immunity is also found in many texts.

A well-developed medical system was in existence by the 1st century A.D. Progress in medicine led to developments in chemistry and the production of medicine, alkaline substances and glass. Colorfast dies and paints were developed to remain in good condition over the centuries. The paintings in the caves of Ajanta are a testimony to this.

            Vedic art is another ancient development that still holds much appreciation in modern times. Art in the Vedic tradition was never a mere representation of an artist’s imagination. It was always a vehicle to convey higher truths and principles, levels of reality that may exist beyond our sense perception. It was always used to bring us to a higher purpose of existence and awareness. In this way, it was always sacred and beheld the sacred. Still today it is used to allow others to enter into a transcendental experience. It may also present the devotional objects of our meditation.

Vedic paintings or symbols are unique in that they can deliver the same spiritual energy, vibration and insight that it represents. In other words, through the meditation and devotional mood of the artist, the art becomes a manifestation of the higher reality. In this way, the painting or symbol becomes the doorway to the spiritual essence contained within. They are like windows into the spiritual world. Through that window we can have the experience of darshan of the Divine or divinities, God or His associates. Darshan is not merely seeing the Divine but it is also entering into the exchange of seeing and being seen by the Divine.

 Thus the art, or the Deity, is beyond mundane principles or ingredients, such as paint, paper, stone or metal with which it may be made, but it becomes completely spiritual through which the Deity can reveal Himself or Herself. Thus, the truth of spiritual reality can pierce through the darkness of the material energy and enter our mind and illuminate our consciousness.

To convey higher realities in paintings and sculpture, everything has a meaning. The postures, gestures, colors, instruments or weapons, everything conveys a principle or purpose, which often must be explained to those who lack understanding. Thus, knowing the inner meaning of the painting increases its depth for those who can perceive it, which makes it worthy of further meditation and contemplation.

            As with art, dance in India was not merely an expression of an artist’s emotional mindset or imagination, but was meant to be an interpretation or conveyance of higher spiritual principles or pastimes of the Divine. In fact, in the Vedic pantheon Shiva is known as Nataraja, the king of dancers. Shiva’s dance was also not without a more significant purpose. His dance was based on the rhythm of cosmic energy that pervades the universe, and the destruction of the illusory energy by which all souls are given the opportunity for release from the illusion to attain liberation, moksha.

            In this way, traditional Indian dance is highly spiritual and often accompanies important religious rituals and holy days and festivals. Vedic dance goes back to prehistoric times. Bharata Muni wrote his Natya Shastra, science of drama and dance, over 2000 years ago. In it he explains that it was Lord Brahma, the secondary engineer of the universal creation, who brought dance (natya) and drama to the people of Earth millions of years ago, shortly after the Earth was created.

Now dance has evolved into a tradition involving various schools and styles but with strict discipline. It is not uncommon that Indian families will have their daughters spend at least several years or more in such study and practice. There is a precise method of postures, facial and hand gestures (mudras), and movements, along with footwork that must be learned and synchronized to the beat and music in order to convey specific meanings, moods and stories to the audience. Many temples, especially in South India, were known for maintaining large groups of dancers that performed at festivals and religious functions. 

When the dance is performed according to the spiritual standards, which some view as similar to the practice of yoga, even the dancers can invoke a high degree of spirituality in their own consciousness and bring unity between their inner selves and God. Then the transcendental atmosphere can manifest and draw the Divine to appear in the performers on stage. Thus, the environment becomes transformed and the audience may also experience darshan of the Divine and experience an inspiring upliftment in their own consciousness. In this way, the dance is divine beauty in motion. Or it is a way of invoking the spiritual dimension into our midst. Few other forms of dance attempt to do this. 

Various schools of dance include Bharata Natyam, Kathakali, Manipuri, Orissi, Kathak, Mohini Atam, Krishna Atam, Bhagavata Mela, etc. Thus, we may have many dances that convey stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, or Krishna-lila from the Bhagavata Purana. Nowadays this ancient art of Indian dance is enjoying a wide audience and a prominent place on the international stage.

            So, as we can see, Vedic culture and its many areas of knowledge and devotional expression are still as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago. And humanity can benefit from it by introspection and in spiritual as well as material development as it did in the past.

            The power of the Dharma and the relevancy of Vedic culture are found in the number of tools it has always provided in order for humanity to reach its fullest potentials, both as individuals who are searching for their own fulfillment and spiritual awakening, and as a society that can function in harmony with nature and cooperation amongst themselves.

By investigating the knowledge and viewpoints in the many topics found in the Vedic tradition we can certainly see that the practice and utilization of this Vedic knowledge can indeed assist us in many ways. Let us take a look at a few.

 

AYURVEDA

                Ayurveda is the Vedic system of holistic medicine. It has become quite popular in the West and is continuing to gain ground and acceptance. To understand briefly what Ayurveda is, I let Pratichi Mathur, an Ayurvedic practitioner herself, tell us about it from the book, “Vedic Culture: The Difference It Can Make in Your Life”:

            “So what is Ayurveda exactly? Literally translated from Sanskrit it is composed of two words ‘Ayus’ which means life and ‘Veda’ which denotes knowledge. So Ayurveda is the knowledge of healthy living and is confined not only to the treatment of diseases. Life is a vast, and an all-encompassing phenomena, which includes death. On one end, life is a celebration of birth, growth, child bearing, youth and sexuality; on the other end, life also brings forth disease, decay, aging, and loss of vigor. Ayurveda is that ancient art and science that helps us understand this very ‘life’ with all its different shades and colors; understand how best we can undertake this journey; and how we transition through its different phases, example from teenage, to adulthood, to maturity, etc. Following the principles of Ayurveda brings about a profound understanding of the inner ability to have sound body, mind and spirit. From this point of view, Ayurveda is a compendium of life and not disease. This is a major agenda indeed for any system of medicine, but can it be any less–especially if true healing has to take place. Perhaps, this is exactly why Ayurveda manages to get to the root of the disease that distresses the mind or the emotion that ails the body.

            “Ayurveda has twin objectives–maintaining the health of the healthy, and cure illnesses of the diseased. Ayurveda, which is not just a system of disease and its management, but literally a living dynamic philosophy and manual on the art of living, is well fitted to meet its objectives. On one hand Ayurveda offers treatments like Panchakarma or even surgery for the diseased; and on the other hand Ayurveda offers preventative medicine for the healthy. These include elaborate details for following ideal daily and seasonal routines, specialized diets for optimizing health and immunity (Ojas), Rasayana Chikitsa (promotive therapy), Vajikarna Chikitsa (aphrodisiac therapy), Swasthavritta (regimen to stay healthy furnishing details on topics such as exercise, smoking for health), Sadachar (social hygiene), etc.

            “Ayurveda advocates a complete promotive, preventive and curative system of medicine and includes eight major clinical specialties of medicine namely, (1) Medicine (Kayachikitsa), (2) Surgery (Salya Tantra), (3) ENT (Salakya Tantra), (4) Pediatrics (Kaumatabhritya), (5) Psychiatry (Bhutvidya), (6) Toxicology (Agad Tantra), (7) Nutrition, rejuvenation and geriatrics (Rasayan tantra), and (8) Sexology and virilization (Vajikarana). This shows what a developed science Ayurveda was in ancient times.

            “The exact origin of Ayurveda is lost in the mists of antiquity. Since Panini is placed at 7th century BC and Ayurveda depicts non-Paninian Sanskrit grammar, it is logical to place Ayurveda between 6th –10th Century BC. Tracing the continuity of Ayurveda, it is natural to look for the continuing thread in India’s ancient Vedic tradition. Although the term Ayurveda, does not seem to appear in the Vedas, and it appears first in Panini’s Ashtadhayayi, however, there are positive evidences to show that in the Vedic period, medicine as a profession was prevalent. The Rig Veda and the Atharva Veda both mention that there were thousands of medical practitioners and thousands of medicines. References to Ayurveda are found as early as the Rig Veda. The three Rig Vedic gods Indra, Agni and Soma relate to the three biological humors: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. References are made of organ transplants as in the case of the artificial limb of queen Vishpala, daughter of King Khela. The functions of physicians are also described in the Rig Veda.

            “Rishi Sushruta, famous Ayurvedic Surgeon, also holds that Ayurveda is a supplement (upanga) of the Atharva Veda. While several other sources including the famous Hindu epic Mahabharata speak of Ayurveda as an upanga of Atharva Veda; several other schools of thought hold Ayurveda as a fifth Veda (Panchamveda). Perhaps Ayurveda grew from Atharva Veda first as a branch and then as a comprehensive vast system deserving it’s own status, or it developed parallel to the four Vedas as an independent knowledge (with close resemblance to the Atharva Veda).”

 

JYOTISH: VEDIC ASTROLOGY

            Jyotish is the Vedic form of astrology, which is an ancient science and is also being accepted and gaining popularity in the West. Vedic Astrology is meant to help the individual better find his or her way through life. It is to assist in discovering one’s highest proclivities, personality, character, qualities and traits and what may be one’s best direction for a career, and other things. Thus a person will least likely waste one’s time in unfulfilling activities, professions or pursuits.

            To further our understanding of Jyotish, I let Chakrapani Ullal, one of the most well-known Vedic Astrologers, describe it as taken from the book, “Vedic Culture: The Difference It Can Make in Your Life”: 

            “We turn our attention now to the subject of a branch of the Vedas called Vedic astrology or Jyotish, which is called the ‘eye of the Vedas’. It has a cognizing influence of the truth of life and self-knowledge. It acts as a mirror to an individual without which one may not know how to approach life most effectively. It is also called the ‘Science of Time’. Time is the source power that rules the universe. All things originate through the procession of time. Hence, Vedic Astrology constitutes the science that maps the structure of time. Astrology is considered divine knowledge that is pure, supreme, secret, and exalted.

            “Astrology can be defined as the science of correlations of astronomical facts with terrestrial events, and demonstrates the Vedic understanding of the universal interconnectedness and interdependence of all phenomenon, that microcosm and macrocosm are but reflections of one another. Just as mathematics is the organizing principle of science when dealing with inanimate matter, so also astrology is the organizing principle which deals with life and its significance in relation to all living bodies. The planets are seen as reflectors or transmitters of light and solar energy. The solar and planetary rays, like radio waves, affect biological and psychological processes. The rays of influence are unseen vibrations that are not perceptible to the physical eye.

            “Astrology gives insight and guidance to the fortunes and misfortunes of men, issues of empires and republics, floods and earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, plagues, pestilence and other incidents concerning terrestrial phenomena in relation to the regular movements of the planets. 

            “Over 10,000 years ago the ancient sages, in their super-conscious state, cognized that there is energy in planets, and that they send out different rays at different angles which bear influence on everything animate and inanimate on other planets. Through their sensitized intuition and repeated observations these highly evolved souls were able to find out the different characteristics inborn in the planets and also discovered that each rules a distinctive part of the human mind/body. It was also found that particular groups of stars known as constellations have different characteristics, and that they modulate the influence of the planets.

            “Astrologers say that there are two forces, Daiva and Purushakara, fate and individual energy. The individual energy can modify and even frustrate fate. Moreover, the stars often indicate several fate possibilities; for example, that one may die in mid-age, but that if, through determination, one gives attention in that area it can be overcome, one can live to a predictable old age. Thus, astrology does not say that events must and should happen, but gives the benefic and malefic tendencies which can be directed or modified through conscious effort. The horoscope shows a man’s character and temperament. Though it may show that he could become a criminal, it does not mean he is fated to become so. What it means is that he is just the sort of person who will have criminal tendencies, but they can be checked by proper care and training. Additionally, if emotional and financial challenges are indicated in any particular year, one can certainly meet the crisis better if one knows that it might occur. 

            “Then, how would one define astrology? It is the philosophy of discovering and analyzing past impulses and future actions of both individuals and nations in the light of planetary configurations. Astrology explains life’s reactions to planetary vibrations.”

 

VEDIC GEMOLOGY

            Gemology is an important field in today’s market. But when we speak of Vedic gemology, we do not mean that it is merely for judging the value of a gem. The Vedic purpose in gemology is to determine the best type of quality gem for a person to wear. Thus, Vedic gemology worked in conjunction with Ayurveda and Jyotish to establish the best gem a person should wear for health and positive influence. To give a little more understanding about this increasingly recognized field, I include the following description by Howard Beckman, a qualified and practicing Vedic gemologist, from the book, “Vedic Culture: The Difference It Can Make in Your Life”:

“It is a field that is making great strides medically by using gems for illness and disease both of the physical body and the mind. It is a noninvasive therapy that has produced definite repeatable results medically. (It should be noted that only natural gems, not synthetic, have this inherent energy and also that certain gem treatments commonly used for color or clarity enhancement will render the gem ‘dead’ and ineffective.) Our research and record keeping of case histories of gem use in jewelry for astrological reasons has also allowed us to not only prove the efficacy of gems, but in “debunking” commonly held incorrect notions as far as how to recommend them, as well as baseless superstitions.

            “It is the energy force of the cosmos that sustains all living organisms. This energy is called ‘prana’. It energizes our bodies throughout life until it leaves at the time of death, leaving the gross material body to decay and return to the elements from which it arose. The Vedic scriptures calculate our life spans in the number of breaths we are allotted during our lives. If we use this energy more quickly, then the life span will be shorter. (Long distance runners are renowned for dying in their 50’s.) If we conserve our energy, especially through systems such as the yoga system, then the life span may be extended. The Ayurvedic system of healing first evaluates the intake and distribution of prana within both the physical and subtle (ethereal) bodies of an individual.

            “Gem therapy has been used by many ancient cultures and especially the wearing of gemstones on the body had great significance for the Vedic culture, other than the purely cosmetic or ornamental value that gems are mostly used for today. The science of Ayurveda when combined with Vedic astrology gives a wealth of knowledge in the correct application of gemstones to amplify planetary rays, which can have a dynamic effect on one’s physical and emotional health, one’s ability to prosper materially, and the general well-being of individual persons here on earth.

            “As Gems have such vibratory qualities, we may utilize them to not only affect the brain, but also the higher vibrations in the physical body necessary for healthy functioning of all our internal and external organs.  Dr. Young and Bruce Tainio of Cheny University in Washington have made the following statements from their research in this regard. ‘The average frequency of the human body during the daytime is between 62 and 68 cycles per second. If it drops below this rate the immune defense system will start to shut down. Cold symptoms appear at 58 cycles, flu at 57, candida at 55, glandular fever at 52, and cancer at 42 cycles per second’.

            “Natural (meaning from the earth, which does not include synthetic, man-made material), untreated gemstones, which are repositories of cosmic colors, can restore the pranic energy to the cells of the body, so that its natural vibratory rate and normal health may be regained when it is in a diseased condition. Blue sapphire can tranquilize or have a sedative effect. Emerald can be used as an analgesic. Yellow sapphire has antiseptic properties, and diamond’s ability to stimulate cell growth are just a few examples of how gems can affect the healing process in the body.”

 

 VASTU SHASTRA

            Vãstu is the Vedic science of architectural and home arrangement. It made its way through the orient and became known as Feng Shui, which has made particular progress in popularity in the West. However, Vastu is a particular science that deals with the flow of energy through a house or building for the highest benefits. It is not enough to merely arrange a house so it looks nice or that there is a good flow of energy through it. But there is much that depends on the directions in which things are facing or which parts of the building in which certain activities are performed.

            To get a little more insight into the Vedic science of Vãstu, I have included the following description by Arun Naik, an architect that practices the science and art of Vãstu Shãstra. Again, this is taken from the book, “Vedic Culture: The Difference It Can Make in Your Life”: 

            “The Vedic and the Agamic traditions of ancient India always held that the microcosm is a reflection of the macrocosm. A dwelling is an ecological unit, a microcosm which reflects the Cosmos, the macrocosm. Vãstu Shãstra is the applied aspect of this philosophy, a highly refined method of creating a living space which is a miniature replica of the cosmos as perceived by the Vedas. Vãstu Shãstra is about emulating the attributes of the Cosmic Space, about bringing the divine sentinels of Cosmic Directions into our homes, about creating Harmony by creating a living environment where the forces of nature are balanced and at peace with each other.

            “Sri Aurobindo has said… ‘Indian sacred architecture of whatever date, style or dedication goes back to something timelessly ancient and now outside India almost wholly lost, something which belongs to the past, and yet it goes forward too, though this the rationalistic mind will not easily admit, to something which will return upon us and is already beginning to return, something which belongs to the future.’ (SA, The Renaissance in India)

            “There is a prayer is Sama Veda:

May there be peace in the sky, may there be peace in mid region, may there be peace on earth, may there be peace in the waters, may the medicinal plants be peaceful, may the forest be peaceful, may there be peace in gods, may Brahma be peaceful, may all the creation be peaceful, may there be peace and peace only, may such peace come to us.

“Vãstu is about creating an Inner Space, the chidakash, where this divine peace can park itself. And it achieves it by creating a harmonious external environment–the bahyakash.

“At a more earthly level, Vãstu Shãstra aims at establishing a dynamic balance between Form and Energy so that harmonious conditions are created for the inhabitants. Vãstu buildings have harmonious energies and they promote stability, prosperity, happiness, and mental peace for the occupants and owners.

            “The principle of Vãstu is that the Cosmic World with its order and stern discipline has been built by the gods who occupy all the spaces, from the celestial Space within the Cosmic World to the little spaces in our homes, and even our mental space, chidambaram. Man’s existence in the Cosmic World has a purpose: it must ascend to immortality and godhood; and the gods, having occupied man’s inner Space, strive to create different states in man’s consciousness for his ascension from mortality and low nature to Truth, godhood and immortality. Vãstu Shãstra helps the effort of the gods by creating an external space–a dwelling, a place to worship and meditate, or a place to work by applying the same laws which the gods have used to create the Cosmic World. This, indeed, is the ultimate function and the highest objective of Vãstu Shãstra.”

 *  *  *

            So here we can see how various aspects of the ancient Vedic culture are still applicable today and can provide assistance in our attempts to reach our highest potential, both materially and spiritually. This is the constant and higher nature of the power of the dharma that can be recognized and utilized generation after generation.

Indian Contributions to American and Global Progress

Indian Contributions to American and Global Progress

 

While traveling and giving lectures in India last winter (December, 2002), a few questions that were presented to me was how America seems to be so progressive, as if it is the Americans themselves and their lifestyle that should be followed. However, I pointed out that it is the inter-cultural contribution that makes the progress in America possible, including those made by Indians. The following includes a few of the points I made in answer to such questions.

1. Who is the co-founder of Sun Microsystems? Vinod Khosla. The Sun founder also had an Indian Professor in Computer Technologies at Louisiana State University.

2. Who is the creator of the Pentium chip (needs no introduction as 90% of the today’s computers run on it)? Vinod Dham.

3. Who is the third richest man in the world? According to the latest report on Fortune Magazine, it is AZIM PREMJI, who is the CEO of Wipro Industries. The Sultan of Brunei is at 6th position now.

4. Who is the founder and creator of Hotmail (Hotmail is world’s No.1 web based email program)? Sabeer Bhatia.

5. Who is the president of AT & T-Bell Labs (AT &T-Bell Labs is the creator of program languages such as C, C++, and Unix to name a few)? Arun Netravalli.

6. Who is the GM of Hewlett Packard? Rajiv Gupta.

7. Who is the new MTD (Microsoft Testing Director) of Windows 2000, responsible to iron out all initial problems? Sanjay Tejwrika.

8. Who are the Chief Executives of CitiBank, Mckensey & Stanchart? Victor Menezes, Rajat Gupta, and Rana Talwar. Indians are the wealthiest among all ethnic groups in America, even faring better than the Caucasians and natives. There are 3.22 million Indians in USA (1.5% of population).

9. Furthermore, the Consul General in New York, Mr. Pramathesh Rath has said that India (as of 2002) is the largest source of international students accounting for more than 11 percent or 67,000 of the over half-million studying in various universities in the U.S. In this case, Indian students for the first time outnumbered the hitherto largest source of international students, which was China.

        For the period of 2002-03, Indian students remain number 1 in U.S. university enrollments, totaling 74,603, up from the previous year. This accounts for a good 13% of the 586,323 international students. This means the Indian student population in the U.S. has doubled in the last 7 years. The U.S. authorities also appreciate this since it brings in large sums of money for the U.S. economy. It also allows the Indian talent to contribute to the U.S., as well as brings home to India a work force with cutting edge skills.

10. Indian doctors, numbering more than 35,000, constitute over five percent of all physicians in America.

11. Indians constitute ten percent of all medical students in America.

12. Indians also own nearly 40% of all the small and mid-size hotels in the country.

13. Another point is that three-fourths of all graduates from the prestigious IIT university in India are in the U.S.

14. Let’s not forget that it was such spiritual visionaries as Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Vivekananda, and others who first brought notice of the true glories of Indian Vedic philosophy to the American public, and helped change the public’s view of spirituality, popularize the vegetarian diet and yoga, and make “Hare Krishna” a household word.

Additional facts were recently published in a German magazine, which deals with

WORLD HISTORY FACTS ABOUT INDIA.

1. India never invaded any country in her last 1000 years of history.

2. India invented the numerical system. Aryabhatta invented ‘zero.’

3. The world’s first university was established in Takshila in 700 BC. More than 10,500 students from all over the world studied more than 60 subjects. The University of Nalanda built in the 4th century BC was one of the greatest achievements of ancient India in the field of education.

4. According to the Forbes magazine, Sanskrit is the most suitable language for computer software.

5. Ayurveda is the earliest school of medicine known to humans.

6. Although western media portrays modern images of India as poverty stricken and underdeveloped through political corruption, India was once the richest empire on earth.

7. The art of navigation was born in the river Sindh 5000 years ago. The very word “Navigation” is derived from the Sanskrit word NAVGATIH.

8. The value of pi was first calculated by Budhayana, and he explained the concept of what is now known as the Pythagorean Theorem. British scholars have last year (1999) officially published that Budhayan’s works date back to the 6th Century, which is long before the European mathematicians.

9. Algebra, trigonometry and calculus came from India. Quadratic equations were by Sridharacharya in the 11th Century; the largest numbers the Greeks and the Romans used were 106 whereas Indians used numbers as big as 1053.

10. According to the Gemological Institute of America, up until 1896, India was the only source of diamonds to the world.

11. USA based IEEE has proved what has been a century-old suspicion amongst academics that the pioneer of wireless communication was Professor Jagdeesh Bose and not Marconi.

12. The earliest reservoir and dam for irrigation was built in Saurashtra.

13. Chess was invented in India.

14. Sushruta is the father of surgery. 2600 years ago he and health scientists of his time conducted surgeries like cesareans, cataract, fractures and urinary stones. Usage of anaesthesia was well known in ancient India.

15. When many cultures in the world were only nomadic forest dwellers over 5000 years ago, Indians established Harappan culture in Sindhu Valley (Indus Valley Civilization).

16. The place value system, the decimal system was developed in India dating back to at least 100 BC.

To elaborate on these points:  

A similar article to the one above was originally sent into the Indian Express newspaper, June 22, 1999, by Maxwell Pareira, and reproduced in the Annual Research Journal – 2000, by the Institute for Rewriting Indian (and World) History, which follows.

Some may dispute the facts, like, “India never invaded any country in the last 10,000 years of her history.” But when many cultures were nomadic forest dwellers over 5,000 years ago, India established the Harappan culture in the Indus Valley. The world’s first university, established in Takshila in 700 BC, had 10,500 students from all over the world studying more than 60 subjects. The large university at Nalanda, dating from the 4th century BC, is acknowledged as one of the greatest achievements of ancient India in the field of education. And Sanskrit, through Latin, is accepted as the mother of all European languages. A 1987 report in Forbes magazine said Sanskrit was the most suitable language for computer software.

India contributed to the number system by the numeral 0, innovated by Aryabhatta. Algebra, trigonometry, and calculus originated in India. The quadratic equation was solved by Sridharacharya in the 11th century. The Greeks and Romans contented themselves with rather small numbers, while Hindus (the then inhabitants of the land of Sapta-Sindhu) used units as big as 10 raised to the power of 53 with specific names as early as 5,000 BC, during the Vedic period. Today, the largest unit in use is tera, or 10 to the power of 12.

The solar year was calculated as 365.25875684 days by Bhaskaracharya in the 5th century, hundreds of years before the astronomer Smart. The value of pi was first calculated by Bodhayana, who also discovered the Pythagorean Theorem in the 6th century, long before the European mathematicians. The place value system and the decimal system were developed in India in 100 BC. [Further research has placed the dates mentioned in this paragraph as actually being much earlier for some of these inventions, as explained in Proof of Vedic Culture’s Global Existence.]

Ayurveda is the oldest school of medicine codified by Charaka 2,500 years ago. Sushruta, the father of surgery, conducted complicated procedures dealing with cataracts, artificial limbs, fractures, urinary stones, plastic surgery, caesarean section and brain surgery 2,600 years ago. Over 125 surgical instruments were in use. The use of anesthesia was also known in ancient India.

A century-old suspicion that the pioneer of wireless communication was Prof. Jagadish Bose and not Marconi now stands proven. And Nature has reported that a Danish physicist and his team in the US have slowed down light from the speed of 300,000 km per second to 71 km per hour, using the Bose Einstein Condensate to stall it in its path. And the forensic use of fingerprints was discovered and developed in Calcutta.

The art of navigation was born in the river Sindh 6,000 years ago. The very word “navigation” is derived from the Sanskrit naugatih. Although modern images of India show poverty and underdevelopment, it was the richest country on earth until the arrival of the British. Christopher Columbus was attracted by India’s wealth. According to the Gemological Institute of America, until 1896 India was the world’s only source of diamonds. Furthermore, the earliest dam for irrigation was built in Saurashta. According to the Saka King Rudradaman I, a beautiful lake called Sudarshana was constructed on the hills of Raivataka in Chandragupta Maurya’s time.

In regard to games, there is no doubt that the game of chess is an Indian invention in the form of Shatranj or Astha Pada. Polo originated in Manipur. The first man on Everest was Tenzing Norgay, not Sir Edmond Hillary.

 

Some additional facts about India are the following:

1. The number of companies listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange,  at more than 6,000, is second only to NYSE. 
2. Four out of 10 Silicon Valley startups are run by Indians. 
3. With 800 movies per year, India’s film industry overshadows Hollywood. 
4. The organized lottery market in India is US$7bn (2% of GDP). 
5. India consumes a fifth of the world’s gold output. 
6. Indians account for 45% of H1-B visas issued by the US every year. 
7. Growing at 6%, in 25 years Indian GDP on a PPP basis will be at the same level the US is at today. 
8. Six Indian ladies have won Miss Universe/Miss World titles over the past 10 years. No other country has won more than twice. 
11. Bank deposits in India roughly equal 50% of its GDP OE again, among the highest in the world. 
12. Indian Railways is the largest railway network in the world under single management. 

13. India has the third-largest army in the world, nearly 1.5 million strong. 
14. India is the largest producer and consumer of tea in the world,  accounting for more than 30% of global production and 25% of consumption. 
15. India is the world’s premier centre for diamond cutting and polishing. Nine out of every 10 stones sold in the world pass through India. 
16. India has the highest number of annual bulk drugs filings (77) with USFDA. 

17. India is home to the largest number of pharmaceutical plants (61) approved by USFDA outside the US. 
18. India’s Hero Honda is the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, with 2002 production of 1.7m units. 
19. Other than US and Japan, India is the only country to have built a super computer indigenously. 
20. Indian Railways is the largest employer in the world, with a staff of 1.6 million people. 
21. It is the second-largest cement-producing country in the world, producing more than 110m tonnes. 
22. Of the Fortune 500 companies, 220 outsource their software-related work to India. 
23. There are 8,500 Indian restaurants in the UK, 15% of the country’s total dining-out establishments. 
24. India is the largest democracy in the world, with nearly 400m voting in the last national elections. 
25. India has the second-largest pool of scientists and engineers in the world. 
26. India has the third-largest investor base in the world. 
27. According to the Gemological Institute of America, up until 1896, India was the only source of diamonds. 
28. The Kumbh Mela festival, held every 12 years in the city of Allahabad, attracts 25 million people OE more than the population of 185 of the 227 countries in the world. In fact, in 2001, it attracted 27 million people on the main holy days in January, and 71 million over the course of the 6 weeks of the whole festival.  
29. The Indian city of Varanasi, also known as Benares, is the oldest,  continuously inhabited city in the world today. 
30. There are 3.22 million Indians in the US. 
31. Indians are the richest immigrant class in the US, with nearly 200,000 millionaires. From a sample of 2004 US Census based surveys, Asians are the highest earning subgroup with a median income of $57,518 compared to the national average of $44,389.
32. India is ranked the sixth country in the world in terms of satellite launches. 
33. There are over 70,000 bank branches in India – among the highest in the world. 
34. The State bank of India is the world’s largest Bank in terms of branches. 


Additional and Interesting Quotes About India.

 

We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made. Albert Einstein.

India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend and the great grand mother of tradition. Mark Twain.

If there is one place on the face of the earth where all dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India. French scholar Romain Rolland.

India conquered and dominated China culturally for 20 centuries without ever having to send a single soldier across her border. Hu Shih. (Former Chinese ambassador to USA)

ALL OF THE ABOVE IS JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG, THE LIST COULD BE ENDLESS. BUT, if we don’t see even a glimpse of that great India in the India that we see today, it clearly means that we are not working up to our potential; and that if we do, we could once again see India as an ever shining and inspiring country setting a bright path for rest of the world to follow.

 

With all this evidence anyone can see the potential India and her people have exhibited in the past, only to have had it stifled and squashed by its conquerors over the centuries. Nonetheless, it could again become a global influence if allowed to do so, which is something that is again gradually happening after a long struggle toward freedom.

 

[Much more information of this kind is presented in Stephen Knapp’s book “Proof of Vedic Culture’s Global Existence.”]

 


 

 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON THE AFFECTS OF IMMIGRANTS ON THE AMERICAN ECONOMY

 

A team of student researchers in the Master of Engineering Management program of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University led by Executive in Residence/Adjunct Professor Vivek Wadhwa, Research Scholar Ben Rissing, and Sociology Professor Gary Gereffi, has documented the economic and intellectual contributions of immigrant technologists and engineers to US competitiveness — to understand the sources of US global advantage as well as what the US can do to keep its edge.

The results released on January 4, 2007, show a significant contribution by immigrants of Indian origin:

**Indian immigrants have founded more engineering and technology companies in the US in the past decade (1995-2005) than immigrants from the U.K., China, Taiwan and Japan combined. Of all immigrant-founded companies, 26% have Indian founders.

**Chinese (Mainland- and Taiwan-born) entrepreneurs are heavily concentrated in California, with 49% of Mainland Chinese and 81% of Taiwanese companies located there. Indian and U.K. entrepreneurs tend to be dispersed around the country, with Indians having sizable concentrations in California, Texas and New Jersey and the British in California and Georgia.

** While in New Jersey, the share of Indian start-ups was a whopping 47 per cent, in Texas, it stood at 25 per cent. This was followed by California with 20 per cent, Florida with 18 per cent, New York with 14 per cent and Massachusetts with 10 per cent.

**Almost 80% of immigrant-founded companies in the US were within just two industry fields: software (33%) and innovation/manufacturing-related services (46%). The software field contains computer programming services, prepackaged software, integrated system design, processing services and information retrieval companies. The innovation/manufacturing-related services field includes a variety of electronics, computer and hardware design and service companies in addition to engineering services, research and testing.

** Immigrant groups from India, UK, Mainland China and Taiwan founded innovation/manufacturing related service companies in similar proportions over the past decade (accounting for 42% to 46% of all engineering and technology companies founded by each group). Entrepreneurs from India and the U.K. gravitated as well toward the software industry, which accounted for 46% and 43%, respectively, of their startups; but they were minimally represented in hardware-oriented sectors such as semiconductors and computers/communications. Immigrant founders from China and Taiwan started companies in a broader range of industries, and were more likely to start computers/communications (with 25% and 27% respectively) and software companies (19% and 17%). In addition, they were more likely to be founders of semiconductor companies (8% and 7%) than their Indian or UK counterparts.

**Indian immigrants are the primary founders of immigrant companies in the innovation/manufacturing-related services fields. Just under a quarter of the immigrants who founded companies in this field are from India, followed at a considerable distance by Taiwan and China at 6% each. The Indian immigrant group contributes as well to the biosciences and computers/communications fields but is not a dominant force. In biosciences, India and Germany each contribute 10% of the companies founded by immigrants; the UK, France, Israel and Korea trail at 6%. In the computers/communications field, India-, Taiwan-, and China-born founders together accounted for just over 50% of all the immigrant start-ups from 1995 to 2005. India- and China-born immigrant entrepreneurs each founded 15% of the immigrant founded semiconductors companies from 1995 to 2005. These contributions were trailed by those of immigrant founders from the Philippines (10%) and Taiwan (10%). Finally, within the software field, Indian immigrants established 34% of the immigrant founded software companies from 1995 to 2005.

**Based on an analysis of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) patent databases, the largest group of immigrant non-citizen inventors were Chinese (Mainland and Taiwan-born). Indians were second, followed by the Canadians and British.

**A comparison with Saxenian’s 1999 findings shows that the percentage of firms with Indian or Chinese founders in the Silicon Valley had increased from 24% to 28%. Indian immigrants outpaced their Chinese counterparts as founders of engineering and technology companies in Silicon Valley. Saxenian reported that 17% of Silicon Valley startups from 1980-1998 had a Chinese founder and 7% had an Indian founder. The new study found that from 1995 to 2005, Indians were key founders of 15.5% of all Silicon Valley startups, and immigrants from China and Taiwan were key founders in 12.8%.

** In Research Triangle Park, 18.7% of startups had an immigrant as a key founder, compared with the North Carolina average of 13.9. Indians constitute the largest immigrant founding group, with 25% of startups, followed by immigrants from Germany and the U.K., each with 15%.

**Between 1990 and 2000, the population of Indian scientists and engineers (S&E) in Silicon Valley grew by 646% (while the total foreign-born S&E workforce grew by 246% and the region’s total population of S&E, both native and foreign-born, grew by only 103%). In short, the growth of Indian entrepreneurship reflected the influx of Indian scientists and engineers to the region.

**Silicon Valley’s immigrant entrepreneurs led the nation in the 1990s by starting dynamic technology businesses that generate substantial wealth and employment in the US. Today they are contributing to the creation of new centers of technology and skill in their home countries. As these entrepreneurs collaborate with former classmates and colleagues in once peripheral economies like India and China, they are providing access to the markets and know-how that are critical to success in today’s global economy.

**There was at least one immigrant key founder in 25.3% of all engineering and technology companies established in the U.S. between 1995 and 2005 inclusive. Together, this pool of immigrant-founded companies was responsible for generating more than $52 billion in 2005 sales and creating just under 450,000 jobs as of 2005. These immigrants come to the U.S. from all over the world to take advantage of the business, technology and economic opportunities in the country. Almost 26% of all immigrant-founded companies in the last ten years were founded by Indian immigrants. Immigrants from the U.K., China, and Taiwan contributed to 7.1%, 6.9% and 5.8% of all immigrant-founded businesses, respectively. These immigrant-founded businesses are unevenly located across the country. California and New Jersey represented hot spots for immigrant-founded engineering and technology business; Washington and Ohio possessed relatively low percentages of immigrant founded businesses. Some immigrant groups displayed tendencies to start businesses in a particular state. For example, 81% of businesses founded by Taiwanese immigrants were located in California.

**This research shows that immigrants have become a significant driving force in the creation of new businesses and intellectual property in the U.S. – and that their contributions have increased over the past decade.

**The key to maintaining US competitiveness in a global economy is to understand America’s strengths and to effectively leverage these. Skilled immigrants are one of America’s greatest advantages.

 The full report can be read at http://memp.pratt.duke.edu/downloads/americas_new_immigrant_entrepreneurs.pdf