Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Come lets fail together ...

...and if you would like to enjoy the same in Malayalam.

The Hidden Truth... Zero

Have you ever given a thought about India’s contribution to the world or to itself or to the humankind? The more we know, the realization creeps in that all we know is less. The 4 Vedas, Shashthras (Bhautika Shastra (physics), Rasayana Shastra (chemistry), Jeeva Shastra (biology), Vastu Shastra (architectural science), Shilpa Shastra (science of sculpture), Artha Shastra (economics), and Neeti Shastra (political science)), 64 art forms were all categorized well before we realized our existence or value. A single blog can never deal with all the secrets not do I have the knowledge enough to comment on the immense source of knowledge. So this blog is an attempt to open a Pandora’s box of hidden knowledge.

The Veda or compendium of knowledge is broadly classified into four Samhitha or compilation of the mantras - The Rig Ved, Yajur Ved, Sama Ved and Atharva Ved. They were sacred texts dating to a Vedic period, spanning the mid 2nd to mid 1st millennium BCE, or the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age. These four branches of knowledge has been passed on since the time, we started recording history. The Vedas are referred to as the Sruthis (What is heard) and it is different from smithies (what is remembered). Which actually makes us think that much has been lost and little remains which we treat as ritualistic practices. 

Other than these Vedic texts, there are the Brahmana, Aranyaka, Upanishad, Purana, Sutra and more. A compendium of what is left was laid down in the Vaidika Padānukrama Kosa prepared from 1930 under Vishva Bandhu, and published in five volumes in 1935-1965. Its scope extends to about 400 texts, including the entire Vedic Sanskrit corpus besides some "sub-Vedic" texts in volumes ranging in Samhita, Brahmana and Aranyaka, Upanishad, Vedanga. It was revised and published extending to about 1800 pages during 1973-1976. 

François-Marie Arouet a.k.a Voltaire regarded Vedas to be exceptional, in his words: 

"The Veda was the most precious gift for which the West had ever been indebted to the East."

Leave alone the Samhitha, Brahmana, Aranyaka, Purana and all other texts as the volume of knowledge is huge. Come to a simple example of a verse in one of the associated text - Isha Upanishad. The Each Veda had associated text like the Upanishads. The term Upanishad means inner wisdom or mystic knowledge. Literally it is derived from words which means sitting down beside or near. This was how the knowledge was passed on to the next generation from a Guru. It also suggests that these texts or Upanishads are the simplified knowledge to destroy ignorance. These have been the contribution many learned sages. 

Let me come to the point and not delve into who wrote it or other technical nitty grittties. This is just an attempt to open your eyes and make you think about the kind of hidden knowledge from India, where the world used to look up to for knowledge through the renowned universities in Nalanda and Takshasila.

Isha Upanishad starts with an invocation

poornamatha poornamitha poorna poornamuthatsate 
poornasya poornamathaya poornamevavashishyathe

But there are a lot of meanings given to this sloka. The word poorna means complete, but it could also mean fullness, reality, or even the number zero. There can be many explanations given to this verse in many forms. But let’s look at a mathematical point of view. Let’s treat the term poorna as the number or placeholder Zero. 

The system of using zero was seen in Babylonian and Sumerian civilizations. But the full importance of Zero and the decimal system was a gift to the world by an Indian - Aryabhatta. The concept of zero first appeared in India around A.D. 458. Mathematical equations were spelled out or spoken in poetry or chants rather than symbols. Different words symbolized zero, or nothing, such as "void," "sky" or "space." In 628, a Hindu astronomer and mathematician named Brahmagupta developed a symbol for zero — a dot underneath numbers. He also developed mathematical operations using zero, wrote rules for reaching zero through addition and subtraction, and the results of using zero in equations. This was the first time in the world that zero was recognized as a number of its own, as both an idea and a symbol.

We often treat the number zero as valueless. But to understand the real value of zero we all have to think a little different. Unknowingly we have been chanting the properties of zero through the invocation in Isha Upanishad. 

The verse could also mean
Whether the place given to the placeholder zero is here or there; there is a value for Zero
When added or subtracted the number to which it is treated remains the same or it made Zero nirguna. But when zero is deducted from zero, what remains is zero itself, making it unique. The division by zero still remains undetermined or infinite. That gives Zero a special value. 

So there is a mathematical angle to this simple invocation in Isha Upanishad. But the name given to it "poojyam" also means worshippable, which sanctifies and gives a philosophical touch to Zero. Let’s look at those philosophical factors which make Zero worshippable or give us an insight to divinity.

The following are some elementary rules for dealing with the number 0. These rules apply for any real or complex number x, unless otherwise stated. 
  • Addition: Any addition to a number with Zero, the number remains unchanged
  • Subtraction: When zero is deducted from a number it remains the same but when the number is deducted from zero it becomes negative.
  • Multiplication: Any number multiplied by zero will result in zero
  • But Division: When a non zero number is divides zero the result is zero but division by zero is undefined, because Zero has no multiplicative inverse
  • Exponentiation: any number raised to the power of zero is one and when zero is raised to the power of zero the value is undefined.
This could be the explanation of the verse and has more to it - The hidden truth of Zero. Let me replace the word zero with divinity as it is "poojya" or "shoonya" in Indian culture.
  • Addition: When a man adds divinity to himself, there is no change to him, which means that we can absorb divinity at any point of time.
  • Subtraction: When divinity is removed from a man, the man remains but when he removes himself from divinity he turns negative.
  • Multiplication: We cannot multiply divinity, revealing the oft quoted truth in all religions, divinity is one.
  • Division: When a man divides divinity, divinity remains unchanged, showing the greatness of the divinity.
  • Exponentiation: any man raised to the power of divinity is one - which is the oneness of Athma and Paramathma or the Advaitha philosophy. It also states there is no greater power than the divinity as divinity cannot be raised to divinity and remains undefined.
And that could be one of the hidden truths in the millions of verses spanning across all the texts in the Vedic literature. So from now on, when someone calls you zero, be happy or at least realize the zero in you. It zeroes down to one fact, there is more to it when you think you know it all. Think about it!!!

Om shanthi shanthi shanthi:

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Mistaken Identity of Chathurvarnya

I hear a lot of talk about Hindutva these days especially after BJP won the Indian elections. But I feel sorry for those who have made Hinduism a religion where it was supposed to be a Sanatana Dharma or a way of life. This is what man does to a social system. He bends it to his benefits. How much do we know about the people who were civilized near the river Indus or about the Indus Valley Civilization? Are they not the people to be rightly referred to as Hindu? We talk about the river Saraswathi. But does that river, mentioned in The Rig Veda exist anymore. We talk about the Vedas, but how much do we take pains to understand what is said in that or decipher the codes like Bhoothasankhya in them, which reveals loads of information, mathematical and scientific formulae and technical information. 

Let me give you a small example of where we have gone wrong in our thoughts. The classic example would be a suktam or a collection of verses written in praise of the omnipresent. The suktam set in anushtup chandas which is the meter in which it should be recited and describes the Purusha or the omnipresent as we would understand.

We talk about the chathurvarnya or the caste system in the society, or that’s what we understand of it. In Purusha Suktam there is a reference to an Adipurusha. It will be our mistake to understand the slokas literally which will start of giving the look of the Adipurusha in the weirdest of the possible ways. 

sahasrasheershad purushaha| sahasraksha sahasrapaad |
sa bhumim vishwato vrutwa athyathishtaddashangulam ||

The Omnipresent one has countless heads, eyes, and limbs
He stands in all His majesty pervading the entire Universe and extends by 10 

A man with a countless or thousand heads, thousands or innumerable limbs, who spreads around the world from the earth to the skies and a 10 inches more (The literal meaning). Is it not a way the people who wrote it or formulated it to talk about the society who lives far and wide in the world? Thousands of people living on the earth (remember the population was less in those times). 

The suktam goes on to describe that the purusha is the past present and future, which would be the indication to the existence of the society in the past, present and future. The seasons offered to his sacrifice or yagna. The society grows with every season and utilizing the nature. That could be the meaning hidden in those lines. 

In the next few lines the suktam refers to something more. The five senses of perception, the five senses of action, the five circulatory systems, the mind, intellect, awareness, ego, Dharma and Adharma became the 21 offerings into the sacred fire. (Three sets of seven offerings - refer to the power of seven in my previous blog). Then there are explanations which might be the indications to how the society worked towards domestication of animals, birds, agriculture and gaining of knowledge.

Again coming back to the power of seven, the next few words indicate the formation or creation of meters for writing verses. From the Yagna emerged the different meters (the seven meters are gayatri, trishtup, brhatee, pankti, ushnuk, anushtup and jagati.) 

The Purusha sukta, in the seventh verse, hints at the organic connectedness of the various classes of society.

Bharahmanosya mukhamaseet
Bahurajanya kruthaha
Urutadasyayad vaishyaha
Padbiaghum shudro ajayatha

We misunderstand these verses by taking the literal meaning and we assume the face of the purusha gave birth to the Brahmins, the shoulders to kings, the thighs to merchants or business men and the feet to the shudras or the working class. But these words meant something much deeper. The face of the society should be the learned people and Brahman was not a caste but the educators. The society is better off with the wise leading all. The communications come from them. They see what is happening. They hear the vows of the people. Hence the head of the society should be the intelligent.

The head rests on the shoulders or they are to indicate taking the burden of holding the society or governance to be exact. This lies with the khsthriyas or the raja maharaja - The rulers. They are lead by the face of the society and they form the governing body. They drive the society in the direction as instructed or advised by the intelligentsia.

The thighs or the driving force which takes the society forward are the merchants or businessmen. The vaishyas are the movement and they run the society forward. Then comes the support of the whole body or the society - the working class. The Sudras are the feet which help the merchants, rulers and the intelligentsia forward with basic support.

Now think of any one of these divisions as standalone entities. That’s impossible and it’s clear. Hence these words mean no stratification or division of labour, but the guidelines to a better society. The interconnected nature of the society and what should be the activities for a civilized society are the hidden meanings of these words. 

I recently read a groups discussion on the net which actually make fun of these words and scorn by saying that these are biased thoughts. But if these are biased thoughts then how would a society survive. Why do we call them civilized? We have lost the essence of civilization and messed up the whole structure by sheer misunderstanding of the right guidelines passed on to us.

The suktam also has a line

tathä lokägm akalpayan || 
Thus the entire world was created or it meant thus a civilized society was formed.

We slowly have deteriorated to lesser beings and less civilized. We tend to forget the knowledge and see what can be used for one’s own benefit. Remember as we talk about Bharatha varsha or India in the scriptures, we were talking about the world itself as there was only one island and one sea in the beginning as per plate tectonics. Let’s try and learn more and understand more. Let’s spread the wisdom and remove the darkness of ignorance

asathoma sat gamaya
tamasoma jyothirgamaya
mruthyorma amrutham gamaya
om shanthi santhi santhi:

Let the untruth be banished by the truth; Let the darkness be removed by light; Let the immortality prevail over mortal nature or in other words let the wisdom outlive us and be passed on to the future generations making the knowledge imperishable. And thus let there be peace, peace and peace. The peace of mind, body and soul.

Please do think and embellish this knowledge and pass it on ... we are the torch bearers.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Seventh heaven and The Power of Seven

I recently watched a movie called 7th day. I happened to think about the lines from The Bible, the book of Genesis, where god rested on the 7th day. I happened to talk in length about the power of the number 7 with my friend Anil George too. I kept thinking and when Anand called me today, I came again to the same topic of power of 7. 

After thinking a lot about the amazingly powerful number 7 I came across many people who thought along the same lines. I came to know that David Eastis wrote a book on the magical power of 7. He went in details in listing out the power of seven in pop culture, Sports, religion, Language, Seven spans of the globe, Seven in Art and seven sells and wrote only seven chapters about it. Dean Seddon wrote a book on the 7 words, 7 actions and 7 days to success. There are innumerable examples of mathematics problems solved using 7. Devdutt Patnaik has written a book on the seven secrets of Indian art: 

  • Ganesha’s secret – Different people see God differently
  • Narayana’s secret – What dies is always reborn
  • Ardhanari’s secret – God is within, Goddess without
  • Shiva’s secret – Withdrawal leads to destruction
  • Devi’s secret – Desire and destiny create life
  • Vishnu’s secret – Detached engagement brings order
  • Brahma’s secret – Human life is an opportunity(less)

Warning :This blog contains interesting facts, but lengthy. Read if you enjoy !!!

I stopped thinking and thought of putting it down as a blog dedicated to seven. I continued my research, as a result of which, and let me list down the power of seven in simple words for you to think about:

In Numerology

  • No. 7 has the same numerology meanings of Divinity in many of the different cultures and civilizations. It is believed that seven is its measure, defining life's realities, like Sound, Time, and the Significance of Planets. 

In Day to day Life

  • Seven Days in a week dedicated to seven celestial bodies - Sunday to sun, Monday to moon, Tuesday to Mars, Wednesday to Mercury, Thursday to Jupiter, Friday to Venus and Saturday to Saturn.
  • Seven colours in a rainbow or visible light spectrum- Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange and Red
  • Seven notes in music - so, re, me, fa, so la, te do in the western diatonic scale or the sapthaswara of Indian tradition being sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha, ni
  • Seven tastes in the world - sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, pungency, astringency (chavarppu in Malayalam) and umami.
  • The sum of any two opposite sides on a standard six-sided die is seven (6+1, 5+2, and 4+3)
  • Snow white met seven dwarfs as per the fairy tale.

In Geography

  • Seven Seas - Even in the Mesopotamian civilization there are references to the seven seas. The term "Seven Seas" appears as early as 2300 BC in Hymn 8 of the Sumerian Enheduanna to the goddess Inanna. In the modern day classification of the waters of the world we have Arctic, Antarctic, North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Indian Oceans
  • Seven Continents - From the single Pangaea the seven continents were formed and they are Asia, Antarctica, Africa, North America, South America, Europe and Australia

In History

  • Seven Wonders of the world - Each period had only seven wonders and we still follow the tradition. The seven wonders of the ancient world are
    • The Great Pyramid of Giza 
    • The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
    • The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
    • The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
    • The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
    • The Colossus of Rhodes and 
    • The Lighthouse of Alexandria are 
  • Rome is believed to have been built on Seven Hills of Aventine, Caelian, Capitoline, Esquilline, Palatine, Quirinal and Viminal.

In Astronomy

  • Seven stars in the Big Dipper constellation or the saptarishis in Hindu mythology - These Seven Rishis are the great seers, caretakers, mind born sons of Brahma. The most accepted Seven Rishis are Atri, Vashishta, Kashyapa, Vishwamitra, Jamadagni, Bharadvaja and Gautama. In a similar way, Greeks too had seven wise men namely Cleobulos, Periandros, Bias, Pittacos, Chilon, Solon and Thales which shows that mythologies around the globe do have parallel connections though it will take another hundred years for researchers to prove it.
In Mathematics

  • Seven is a prime number
  • Seven is the only number less than 15 that cannot be represented as the sum of the squares of three integers
  • Seven is the smallest happy number, except for the trivial example of 1
  • 7 is the only dimension, besides the familiar 3, in which a vector cross product can be defined
  • 999,999 divided by 7 is exactly 142,857. Therefore, when a vulgar fraction with 7 in the denominator is converted to a decimal expansion, the result has the same six-digit repeating sequence after the decimal point, but the sequence can start with any of those six digits. For example, 1/7 = 0.142 857 142… and 2/7 = 0.285 714 285…
  • A seven-sided shape is a heptagon. The regular polygons (n-gons) for n = 6 can be constructed by compass and straightedge alone, but the regular heptagon cannot. 

In Chemistry

  • 7 is the neutral pH value between acidity and alkalinity, which denotes pure water, which is neither acidic nor basic.
  • The element nitrogen, the chief constituent of the Earth's atmosphere and a vital element in all known forms of life, is the element with atomic number 7
  • There are 7 periods, or horizontal rows of elements, in the Modern or Mendeleev's periodic table

In Human body

  • Seven is the number of external holes in the human head: Two eyes, two nostrils, one mouth, and two ears
  • There are seven bones in the neck of a mammal, which supports a heavy skull with the brain and other organs seated in the head (There are a few exceptions :) ).

In Electronics

  • There are seven logic gates: NOT, AND, OR, NAND, XOR, NOR, XNOR
  • The seven-segment display is an electronic device that uses seven individual segments to create one digit. It is used in display devices like digital clocks and some basic calculator screens, amongst others

In Christianity and The Bible 

  • There are references to The Seven Heavens, The Seven Thrones, The Seven Seals, and The Seven Churches. Seven denotes originality, superior knowledge, all pervasiveness, aloofness, self Contented Nature, and Reformation.
  • The Seven churches of Asia to which the "Book of Revelation" is addressed
  • The Seven Joys of the Virgin Mary
  • The Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary
  • The Seven Corporal Acts of Mercy
  • The Seven Spiritual Acts of Mercy
  • The Seven last words (or seven last sayings) of Jesus on the cross
  • In the genealogy in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is 77th in a direct line
  • In the New Testament Gospel of Matthew 18:21, Jesus says to Peter to forgive seventy times seven times
  • There are seven suicides mentioned in the Bible (Old Testament and New Testament)
  • The Seven virtues - chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility.
  • The Seven deadly sins (sapthavasana) - Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride
  • The seven terraces of Mount Purgatory

In Islam

  • The number of heavens in Islamic tradition
  • The number of Earths in Islamic tradition
  • The number of circumnavigations (Tawaf) that are made around the Holy Kaaba
  • The number of walks {Al-Safa and Al-Marwah) that is traveling back and forth seven times during the ritual pilgrimages of Hajj and Umrah
  • The number of fires in hell; that is, the 7 fires of hell
  • The number of doors to heaven and hell is also seven
  • The total number of Prophets sent by God are 124000. The sum of 1+2+4=7.
  • The number of followers to fight alongside Jesus Christ and Imam Mehdi against the anti-Christ/dajjal is 313. the sum 0f 3+1+3=7.
  • The number 786, which in Islam is also used to denote "in the Name of Allah," sums 7+8+6=21 divisible by 7

In Indian Traditions
  • Seven vows or the saath phere each circumnavigation of the fire denoting a vow in a Hindu marriage -
    • 1. prayers to God for plenty of nourishing and pure food. They pray to God to let them walk together so that they will get food.
    • 2. prayers to God for a healthy and prosperous life. They ask for the physical, spiritual and mental health from God.
    • 3. prayers to God for wealth. They ask God for the strength for both of them so that they can share the happiness and pain together. Also, they pray so that they can walk together to get wealth.
    • 4. prayers to God for the increase in love and respect for each other and their respective families.
    • 5. prayers for the beautiful, heroic and noble children from God in the fifth step.
    • 6. prayers for the peaceful long life with each other.
    • 7. prayers to god for companionship, togetherness, loyalty and understanding between themselves. They ask God to make them friends and give the maturity to carry out the friendship for lifetime. 
  • The husband says to his new wife that now they have become friends after the Seven Vows/Sat Phere and they will not break their friendship in life for seven lives.
  • Seven phases of time - pathah sandhya and sayam sandhya (two twilights), prabhatham (morning), madhyanam (noon) and rathri (night) with ardharathri (midnight) form the ezhu neram or the seven phases of time.
  • The royal courts in India had the Sabhasapthangas - kavi (Poet), gayak (singer), sangeethak (Musician), vaadak (Instrumentalist), vichaarak (Historian), Sycophant and Vidhooshak (Comedian).
  • Seven chakras in transcendental meditation - 
    • Root Chakra (Mooladhara), 
    • Sacral Chakra(Swadhisthana), 
    • Solar Plexus Chakra(Manipura), 
    • Heart Chakra(Anahata), 
    • Throat Chakra(Vishuddhi), 
    • Third Eye(Agnja), Crown Chakra (Sahasrara). 
    • Each one is represented by a different colour and a different symbol, thus making a special set of seven colours, seven symbols and the seven chakras.
In Hindu Mythology
  • Indian tradition splits the worlds as eerazhu pathinaalu lokam, which means two sets of 7 worlds - 
    • The seven higher worlds are bhu, bhuvas, svar, mahas, janas, tapas, and satya named the saptha bhuvanas; and 
    • The seven lower worlds or underworlds are atala, vitala, sutala, rasaataala, talatala, mahaatala, paatala called the saptha adholoka.
  • Each avatar had the significance of seven in the dasavatar
    • Matsyavatar the saving of seven sages or the saptarishi
    • Kurmavatar - 14 precious things evolved during the samudra manthan namely
      • Sura, goddess and creator of wine 
      • Apsaras, various divine nymphs like Rambha, Menaka 
      • Kaustubha, the most valuable jewel in the world 
      • Uchhaishravas, the divine 7-headed horse 
      • Kalpavriksha, the wish-granting tree 
      • Kamadhenu, the first cow and mother of all other cows 
      • Airavata, the elephant which is the steed of Indra 
      • Lakshmi, the Goddess of Fortune and Wealth 
      • Parijat vriksh (tree) 
      • Kaalkut poison 
      • Chandra, the moon and Dhanvantari with Amrita
  • Exiles mentioned in the Ramayana and Mahabharatha are multiples of Seven years, as the 14 years of exile for Lord Rama as per Ramayana
  • Krishna was the seventh son of Devaki 
  • Seven immortals or Chiranjeevis as per Hindu mythology
    • The Puranas, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata describe seven long lived personalities. Each represents a different attribute of man, which as long as they live, will exist amongst humanity.
"Ashwatthama Balir Vyaso Hanumanash cha 
Vibhishana Krupacharya cha Parashuramam 
Saptaita Chiranjeevanam" - 

'Ashwathama, King Mahabali, Ved Vyasa, Hanuman, 
Vibheeshana, Kripacharya and Parashurama 
are the seven death-defying or imperishable personalities '.

  • Hindu scripture contains the above mantra about the seven immortals, in which their names are recited for luck and longevity
  • Seven seas as per Hindu Mythology:
    • kara, ksheera, sura, ghrita, rusa, dahi and jala
  • Surya, the sun god rides on a chariot yoked by seven horses each corresponding to a particular color, energy and day in the week
  • The Mundaka Upanishad refers seven tongues (sapta jivhas) or seven flames of Agni, which are kali (black), karali (fierce), manojava (swift as mind), sulohita (red as iron), sudhumravarna (smoke-colored), visharuch-devi (universally pleasing) and sphulingini (cracking). They are depicted as the seven hands in the iconography of Agni and probably correspond to the seven dhatus (saptadhatus) of the human body and seven energies that awaken during our spiritual practice.
  • Lord Venkitachalapathy is referred to as Ezhumalayan, which means lord of seven hills. The saptagiri's are Srigiri, Vrishabhadri or Vrishabhachalam, Seshadri or Seshasailam, Narayanadri, Natavrishadri, Garudachalam or Garudadri, Venkatadri. A set of Seven Sacred Hills which is now the abode of His Lotus Feet, Sri Venkateswara Swamy. 
  • Sapthamathrukas or the seven mothers are also mentioned in Hindu mythology - Indrani, Kaumari, Chamundi, Brahmi, Maheswari, Vaaraahi and Vaishnavi. And Lord Skanda, son of Shiva and Parvati, but was suckled and raised by the seven goddess mothers or Sapta Matrikas.

Also there are references of 

  • Sapta-puris or seven holy cities: kashipuri, kanchipuruam, mayapuri, ayodhyapuri, dwarakapuri, mathurapuri, and avantikapuri
  • Sapta-nadis or seven sacred rives: Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Saraswathi, Narmada, Sindhu and Kaveri and
  • Sapta-kshetras or seven battle fields: Kurukshetra, Hariharakshetra, Prabhakshetra, Ramkshetra, Bhungakshetra, Purushottamakshetra and Sukarkshetra.

In Literature

  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, a book by Stephen Covey also lays down the importance of the number seven other than 
  • Secret Seven by Enid Blyton
  • Seven Pillars of Wisdom, by T. E. Lawrence. 
  • Even there are a number of references to seven in Harry Potter: There are a total of seven books in the series; Ginny Weasley is the seventh child and only daughter; Harry Potter was born in July, the seventh month of the year; Wizarding students must complete seven years of school at Hogwarts; Lord Voldemort splits his soul into seven parts which he believes ensures his immortality. Seven is also the number on the back of Harry Potter's Quidditch robes. In Quidditch each team consists of seven players. Chapter four of Book 7 is titled "The Seven Potters."
  • As per Arthashashthra by Kautilya, he recognizes seven elements of the state as Sapthanga. These elements he compares to the different organs of the human body. These seven elements are the angas, which should be active and healthy for the smooth functioning of the body politics. Kautilya considered all these elements as being interdependent. These seven elements are: 
    • 1.Swamin (King) 
    • 2. Amatya (Ministers and Advisors)
    • 3. Janapada (Population and Territory)
    • 4. Durga (Fort)
    • 5. Kosha (Treasury)
    • 6. Bala (Army)
    • 7. Mitra (Friend)
  • Thiruvalluvar scribed only seven words in every verse of Thirukkural and the total number of kurals 1330 which totals to 7

Last but not the least .... Remember you have read details under 14 headings (multiple of seven) written in 2014, which adds up to seven...

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Understanding Bharatham as Dance and Life

Gurur Brahmaa Gurur Vishnnur Gururdevo Maheshvarah |
Guru saakshaath Param Brahma Tasmai Shrii-Gurave Namah ||

Guru is the creator, guru sustains and guru eliminates what needs to be destroyed. Hence the guru is the supreme soul I bow before him to lead me to betterment in this life.

Humbled by the love shown by Manoj maash,  dedicated dance teacher, who dedicates himself to training more and more students in traditional Indian dance forms, and to be invited as the chief guest to inaugurate Natya Dhwani 2014 at Cultural Palace, Sharjah. Honoured to witness traditional performances as per Sampradaya. The honour of being present in the august gathering and the presence of Manoj mash and Sashi mash really made me tense and at the same time blessed. 

With my respects to the guruparampara (The lineage of gurus), I opened my speech with the dhyana shloka for dance, I was taught during my dance training in the nineties. It was neither the time nor proper to elaborate on the shloka but mentioned that the shloka is never a religious practice but something deeper. Dance is the form of expression which can really change the way you look at life or even Indian traditions. Let me write about what I had in my mind while talking about the shloka.

aangikam bhuvanam yasya
vaachikam sarva vaangmayam
aharyam chandra tharaadi
tvam vande satvikam shivam.

This is the dhyana sloka, or evoking the blessings while learning dance. Whenever we hear a shloka we tend to judge it as a divine or Hindu ritualistic practice. But can we look into the meaning of the shloka. Then we might understand why the dhyana shloka is designed the way it is. Sadly during the time of formulating the sampradaya for dance in India our language was the rich classical language Sanskrit. The meaning of the shloka is as follows:

Yes it does talk about Nataraja or the dancing Lord Shiva in its literal sense. The expression literally means whose body is the universe and whose speech is the universal language, and the ornaments are the sun and the moon or the celestial bodies, the prayers are unto the pure form of the Lord. 

But the inner meaning looks into the four kids of abhinaya: 
  • aangikaabhinaya
  • vaachikaabhinaya
  • ahryabhinaya and 
  • saatvikabhinaya. 

According to Bharatha's Naatyashashthra the sloka portrays the basic expressions of nature and reminds us of the four ways to express while performing dance. Expressions with the body (aangikaabhinaya), Expressions through the words or the sahithya of the song and expressions based on those words(vaachikaabhinaya) and expressions with the ornaments or costumes (ahaaryabhinaya) and the expression through purity or serenity (saatvikabhinaya). Without understanding what an expression abhinaya is we won’t be able to move forward. The literal meaning of the word Abhinaya has been explained by Bharata as follows in a shloka:

"Abhipurvastu nindhatur abhimukhyartha isyate
Yasmat Padarthan nayati tasmad abhinayah smrtah"

'Abhi' is the prefix meaning 'towards' and 'ni (naya)' has the root meaning to carry. So, Abhinaya means to carry towards, i.e. to carry the spectator towards the meaning. Thus, Abhinaya can be called a vehicle of Natya through which the spectator experiences the particular emotions of the dramatic character that is to lead him towards Rasananda - the ultimate bliss of enjoying the rasa, which is the aim of Natya.

"Yatho hastha tadho drushti
Yatho drushti thadho mana
Yatho mana thadho bhaava
Yatho bhaava thadho rasah"

While performing a dance recital, the eyes should follow the hand or the mudras, so the vision and mudras are perfected. Where the eyes move, the mind should move understanding what we are trying to convey and where the mind resides there should be the bhava or the feeling. And so there in the mind of the dancer evolves the rasa which needs to be enjoyed by the spectator. 

Having understood the rasa, rasananda, abhinaya and the four kinds of abhinaya, you should know where to look for these in dance forms. Then you mature as a good spectator. Each of these abhinayas or expressions are clearly understood with forms of dance in India. 

Angika Abhinaya - means to convey the meaning through body movements. This involves natural as well as symbolic gestures (Mudras), postures and movements of the major and minor parts of the body, including the Mukharaga, which are expressions conveyed through the subtle movements of facial muscles. Bharata's description of the usages of body limbs for conveying various meanings is a detailed scientific study of human behaviour. So these can be observed in almost all dance forms, especially in Bharathanatyam, Mohiniyattam, Kathakali and Bharathanruthya. Mukharaga cannot be observed in certain dance forms where masks are used like the Chau, which expresses itself using the bodily movements alone. The Bharatha's Naatyashashthra elucidates three divisions for the angas or the body as six angas (including the hands and head), six pratyangas (including the shoulders, thighs and feet) and the twelve upangas (including looks or the eye movements, nose and lips). So this covers the hasthabhinaya too which is the hand symbols, movement and the combination of the hands and postures with positions. 

Vaachikaabhinaya - means to express through speech. Bharata has discussed in detail the different Vrttas, metres in poetry; the Laksanas, figures of speech; the Gunas and Dosas, the strong and weak points of poetic writing as well as diction. Which means when you are observing as a spectator, you need to understand the literature of the song, about which the dancer tries to convey. Be it the laasya bhaava of Mohiniyattam or the expressions of Bharathiyar or Thyaagaraja who wrote the line with their heart filled it with bhava and when the dancer understands each word, he or she tries to express the same. Thus giving you the expression to enjoy or relish the rasa. If the singer sings the song without knowing the meaning of the words and the dancer just tries to perform the routine of the dance or the spectator does not understand the mudras, or the words, the enjoyment is reduced to be just  watching an exercise. The tala and laya or the rhythm and the flow of the song also play an important role. Choosing a raga which has an inherent quality will have its own expressions. Hence music and its understanding play an important role in the life of a dancer.

Ahaaryabhinaya - means to express through costumes. Rangabhusa - the make-up and costumes, ornaments etc. - of the character being depicted by the dancer. It also lays out the Nepathya, the stage props and decor. Bharata has prescribed specific colours, hair-styles as well as costumes for particular characters. Hence looking at a pacha vesham in kathakali you know it depicts a hero, the kari vesham for kiratha, kathi vesham for villains, and you follow it better. Similarly the dance dramas of India, gives immense importance to the rangabhusha, which becomes a part of the aharyabhinaya. But the ornamentation is not always real in dance forms, sometimes the characters depicted are symbolically adorned with the ornaments when the character is being depicted in the dance form. Be it the peacock feather for Lord Krishna, the bow for Lord Rama or the beard of a rishi and so on.

Sattvikaabhinaya - expression through purity of the emotions of the dancer. The peculiar emotional states producing the particular physical reactions like Romancha (being exhilarated), Asru (tears as the expression of sorrow), Sveda (perspiration), Vaivarnya (change of complexion) etc. The lasya bhavam expressed in Mohiniyattam is a good example. The word satvika means born out of a pure mind or in Bharatha’s words "Nirvikaratmakan Sattvan Bhavayan Bhava Ucyate" which means an emotion is born out of a tranquil or serene mind. Which pin points the need for a cool and calm mind for a dancer to express properly while dancing. This will generate the eight satvika bhaava as mentioned in Natyashashtra. 

Hence bhava, raga, thala layam becomes bharatham and the rules laid out for expressions ages ago are easily carried to a dancer who learns the basic through the dhanaya sloka. All the four modes of expression or abhinaya are important for the right kind of enjoyment of a dance performance. they are never independent and have to come in unison for a person to enjoy the dance completely. The four abhinayas also creates a special state of mind body coordination. So dance in Indian tradition is not just a performance but a holistic approach for a person to be a better and expressive human being.

Now that we know what the shloka evokes in the mind of the dancer, let’s also look into the word "Shivam". The name Shiva means a lot if you look deeper. Shiva means the holy one. It also means seven, which can denote the seven notes in music, seven colours in the nature and seven rishis in the mythology. The Sanskrit word Shiva comes from Shri Rudram Chamakam of Taittiriya Samhita of Krishna Yajurveda. The root word śi means auspicious. He is the oldest worshipped Lord of India. Adi Sankara, in his interpretation of the name Shiva, the 27th and 600th name of Vishnu sahasranama, the thousand names of Vishnu interprets Shiva to have multiple meanings: "The Pure One", or "the One who is not affected by three Gunas of Prakrti (Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas)" or "the One who purifies everyone by the very utterance of His name." Swami Chinmayananda, in his translation of Vishnu sahasranama, further elaborates on that verse: Shiva means "the One who is eternally pure" or "the One who can never have any contamination of the imperfection of Rajas and Tamas". 

The abhinaya in the shloka points to the universe, the sounds of the universe or the language and the celestial bodies, Shiva is a combination of all, which means we are talking about the relation between man and nature, where Shiva is nothing but nature. Nature, prakruthi in Sanskrit, can be what is around us or inside us as our traits and attributes. Pra- or for or towards and krithi is to create or scribe which shows nature as pro-creation. Nature is another word for creation or creativity inside a man and around him. So the sloka is invoking the nature and giving it the name Shiva. So the dhanya sloka was never a worship mantra but creating equilibrium with nature and express ourselves better with the co-ordination of the mind and body.

So express yourself better by understanding better ...

(References - Bharatha's Natya shashthra articles, wikipedia and texts for dance)