The Vedas are among the oldest collections of text in India. Even today, they are taught orally from instructor to students. The teacher painstakingly corrects the pronunciation and intonation of the Vedic texts. Technology has seen to it that there are virtual classrooms where females also learn and recite the Vedas the way they were meant to be chanted. Women learning the Vedas and having upanayanam (sacred thread ceremony) happened in the glorious but distant past. It is ironic that the passage of millennia has, in some instances, caused retrogression rather than progress. The wisdom of the ancients needs to be remembered and once again brought into the mainstream of Sanatani thought and practice.
Slowly, the Vedic texts are coming to be written down. There is a phenomenon which is very common now in society. There was a stage when an average person could correctly reel off about 200 telephone numbers from memory. With the advent of mobile phones with a list of contacts in them, it has become impossible and totally redundant to remember these numbers. With the option of speed dialling, one does not even see the number dialled, let alone memorise it. This is an example of a capability being lost thanks to underusage.
Among the solid, although mute, proofs of our civilisational past are the surviving architectural monuments. The engineering is masterly. The ornamentation is stupendous. We must not take this marvellous bit of unwritten yet tangible history for granted. This writer was horrified to find the ground of a historical excavation site being ‘levelled’ through the use of stone rollers. Why? As it was ‘unsightly’ for an imminent political rally, taking place within a week or so. The name of the political party is irrelevant, as it is not the only such offender.
Antiquity is something we grow up with, so much so that we take it for granted. Even in families, the presence of a grandparent ensures that our share of latchkey kids is tiny compared to the rest of the world. Both parents being at work is quite common these days. The mothering or the parenting of children is often by grandparents, aunts and uncles. The average Indian child is able to ‘get along’ with people of different generations thanks to this social mingling across age groups. The tab or the mobile phone is making serious inroads into this though, unfortunately.
Even Kathakali padams and recitals of Pabuji are getting written down. There is a direct diminishing of memory associated with all the practitioners of these largely orally transmitted art forms. The best solution would be to preserve the literature in written form by non-performing scribes, so that it could be disseminated to a Western audience as well, while we domestically retain our memory power intact.
India has to relearn to rest on its core capabilities. It cannot be a wannabe West. The irony is that people from the West who are enamoured of India, bother to learn Sanskrit, push eagerly for visas and then come and spend lifetimes learning from the rich knowledge bank that India has to offer.
We cannot simultaneously declare that Sanatan Dharma is a way of life and then proceed to straightjacket it into the historically flimsy format of a rigid faith. Given our huge choice of spiritual texts, we must not in deference to Indic traditions denigrate people and systems of other faiths. There should not be an automatic sense of entitlement, only of the joy of sharing and learning. Very often capabilities or lack of them are smothered under the sheen of titles.
One of the definitions of the word Hindu is people from the banks of the river Sindhu. ‘Ha’ in Sanskrit stands for the sun. ‘Indu’ means the moon. Basically, all that is under the sun and the moon can be considered to be Hindu. We are all ‘One Family’, as has often been said without being believed and practised.
It is here that a very basic choice is there for all of us. We believe that on the orders of the Supreme Energy, Brahman, Creation was ordained from Prakrithi, the female aspect and Purusha, the male one. When Hinduism makes the claim that it is everything under the sun and the moon, it has to ensure that it is inclusive, giving ample space for different beliefs to co-exist peacefully.
It is said that the gods took avatars or incarnations on earth, as being human was a wonderful experience for them. Shri Maha Vishnu came on this planet time and time again, donning appropriate costumes of that time. Kindness, compassion, empathy, tolerance, if not actual love for fellow beings, are an inalienable part of the Sanatan Dharma. No person can claim to be a true Hindu if he/she differentiates between people on the completely random chance of birth.
Moksha, or Salvation, is the ultimate aim of the Hindus. Samaanam means equality, literally being like the sky and covering everything and everyone without barriers, favours or exceptions.
A dynamic society will, of course, have differences of finance, knowledge and strength. These are, however, secondary and practical manifestations of a diverse group of people staying together. But when this group is split up at the very inception, the schism will run far deeper and in a more lethal way. It is up to each of us to choose whether we are a confident, wise society, open to reflection, growth and dynamism, or one which reiterates its antiquity, but fails to remember and recognise the ancient values which, more than six millennia ago, created the tapestry of belief and culture that made our land unique.