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Monday, December 8, 2008

Patalkot - the bottom of the Earth

We were traveling in a hired vehicle from Raipur to Pachhmarhi via Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh (India). After a drive of about 62 km's. on a plateu like terrain, we came across a sign board on the right side of the road reading "Patalkot". We were reminded of the people living in the bottom of the earth and indeed it was!. We alighted from the van and saw an extremely deep gorge surrounded by high mountain ranges. The place looked heavenly beautiful and scenic. In a way the formation resembled the great canyons of the Americas. But it was not barren. There was plenty of greenery. All of us climbed down carefully using the stairs provided but when we reached the bottom of the 3000 feet cliff, we were told that we need to walk for about 3 km's to reach the nearest human habitat. Since we were required to reach Pachhmarhi the same evening, we found our way up with a heavy heart.
There were people standing near our vehicle to greet us. We then spoke to them and learnt many things about the place. We also supplemented ourselves with additional information about the wonderful place and now we share it. Here it goes..
Deep in the valley, in an area around 79 square km's, there are tribal hamlets in 12 villages situated approximately at a distance of 2 km's apart. The inhabitants are tribal of Bharia and Gond denominations. They are above 2000 in number and solely depend on the mother earth for their livelihood. The vegetation in the valley is more akin to the tropical forests. The Doodh river which flows inside the valley lends grace to the terrain.
The important aspect of the flora and fauna is its bio diversity and abundance of rare plant species, medicinal plants and herbs. The inhabitants are skilled at using the forest plants and herbs to make effective medicines for every known ailment. The Bhumkas who provide health care in the hamlets have inherited the divine knowledge from their ancestors. However, the modern world was completely unaware of the existence of Patalkot and the people of the valley had an isolated existence until recently. Now there are increasing threats of deforestation and exploitation of the people.
The State Government has formed a Patalkot Development Agency which has been entrusted with the responsibility of welfare of the tribals. A middle school, primary health centre and veterinary services have now been made available. Self Help Groups have also been formed for the effective use of forest produce. Pure vegetarian Honey which comes out of Patalkot is really something to relish.

Incidentally, we may add here that one Dr. Deepak Acharya, a research scholar, who hails from that area, has been engaging himself in understanding, protecting and preserving the unique bio-diversity and the traditional knowledge of medication of the adivasis (Ethnobotany). Clicking the highlighted words will lead you to the respective sites.

Reports suggest that out of greed, a cartel of traders is active in the area and are engaging themselves in smuggling out the rare herbs and medicinal plants which are even being exported abroad. Their activities, unless checked, may lead to further deforestation and loss of the unique bio-diversity found in the valley.
Here is a video of Patalkot. Please do listen to the drum beats at the end.

Photos: Dr.Deepak Acharya हिन्दी में यहाँ देखें

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Elephant Beuty and Elephant Walk Policy

Elephants - Temple elephants are an integral part in the life of Keralites. Especially, if you are from Trichur area. The attachment towards the animal and interaction are very emotional and sensitive that they even address them by names and from ancient times there are several stories propagating the love and affection between man and elephant.
An Elephant's walk is a beauty to watch. However, imagine a situation if it get's wild. You just have to do a small search on youtube, you will see several videos of attacks by wild and angry elephant's killing it's mahout or others who come across.

Out of love and passion for the animal, I too have developed a very important Management Principle based on Elephant, closely following it's gentle and beautiful walking style which is a beauty to watch and it's actions terrorising all when it is wild. I have termed it as ELEPHANT WALK POLICY. It is somewhat related to our Gandhian and Hitler's philosphies and principles. Ist part of this principle follows Gandhi. Be mild - as mild as you can till you cannot tolerate any more when you may change over and follow Hitler and be wild and aggressive - as aggressive as you can. Create a wild impact and then let this impact force the results. It may be harmful, but till you shift the gear to Hitler, be a Gandhian.

Photos: PN Subramanian

at Mulakunnathakavu

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Satdhara - Buddhist Ruins

It is natural for friends and relatives visiting us expecting them to be taken around to places of interest. We have been religiously fulfilling this obligation to ensure that they also reciprocate , when we return the visit. This is a two way traffic. To give credence to their expectations, I have been visiting Sanchi, a world heritage Buddhist site, around 42 km's North of Bhopal, quite often. Whether I enjoy such visits is any body's guess. A Bhopal visit seems to be incomplete unless they go to Sanchi, to escape being ridiculed when they are back home.

My brother-in-law and his family was once on a visit to Bhopal. They wanted me to plan out visits to several places i.e., Ujjain, Dhar, Mandu, Onkareshwar, Maheshwar and of course Sanchi as well. I nearly fainted but it was a great relief when they requested me to arrange for a hired vehicle, large enough to carry all of us. I was spared of penning a requiem for my poor Maruti.

Within the next two days, we were on the wheels. As a first itinerary, we were on our journey to Sanchi. Many years ago I had heard that few more Stupas were discovered by the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) somewhere near the present site. This information was lingering over my head. Before we could reach Salamatpur, short of about 12 km's from Sanchi, there appeared a hoarding on the left side of the road - "Satdhara - Buddhist remains - 5 km's". This was a new board with directions to the new site. Well I thought, this could be some thing of interest to me and worth exploring.

Since we were traveling in a hired vehicle (Sumo), I thought I could afford to ask the driver to take us that way. The driver obliged and took the narrow road towards Satdhara. Soon we discovered that the road was strewn with boulders, but we moved on, notwithstanding the fact that the journey seemed taking us to hell. The jerks were becoming unbearable and the distance was covered in about 1 hour!. By the time we reached the spot, tiredness was writ large on every one's face.

When we got down and looked around, we were dumb struck. There was a river flowing very very deep at the left, mountain ranges and greenery all around, the pristine beauty captivated all of us. Amidst thick forest cover, we could get the glimpses of the great Stupa in the wildest form one could imagine with all sorts of wild growth over it. We went closer and found restoration work being carried out. We could also see a second Stupa which was smaller in size. The area being large, we were contended with what we saw. Nobody, in our group, seemed interested in surveying the area any further. The spot, up above the river bank, was scenic and seemed to me as one of the most beautiful places for picnicking. The river is known as "Bes" and at some distance seven rivulets join the main stream and that is the reason for the place being known as Satdhara (Seven Streams).

Approach to the main StupaOn our way back from the main Stupa, I thought of talking to the officials at the site office. My interaction with them revealed that the Satdhara Hinayana Buddhist complex, is spread over in an area of 28 hectares, with a Main Stupa, twenty-nine stupas and two monasteries. The Main Stupa

was constructed in the third century BC, during the Ashokan period, with large-sized bricks. It was then covered with stone layers some four hundred years later. Fragments of northen black polished earthenware possibly from 500-200 BC and Buddhist rock paintings from the 4th and 7th centuries AD have also been found. However, not much is known about the relics stored inside the Stupas.

While returning, after a drive of about 2 km's, we cross a canal. On the right there stood an imposing relic of the Nawabi days. The place is known as Kachnaria Kothi. It was supposed to have been used by the Prince of Wales (George Vth) during his hunting expedition in the princely state of Bhopal during 1911/12. It is said that during his expedition not a single tiger could be located but the English News Papers carried reports of the prince killing 3 of them! Plans are afoot to renovate and develop it to promote tourism. We could not, however, visit the Kothi as it was locked. We then continued our journey to Sanchi as per the programme.

Photo middle one by: Srinath Rao                         Find a Hindi Version here

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Jews of Cochin

During the second half of September, two years ago, I happened to be at Kochi (Cochin). My younger brother drove me and my family around the city and finally we were at the mouth of a narrow lane known as Jews Street in Mattanchery. We parked the car at some distance and made our way through the lane. Months before my coming here, I had seen a malayalam movie "Gramaphone" and some of its settings seemed to come alive. Most of the shops along the road were selling antiques and souvenirs. I was fascinated to see some beautiful ceramic knobs used for drawers/cupboards etc. I bought couple of them. Some of the shops had large warehouses on the back side filled with antiquities. Old pillars, door jambs, large vessels and many such things. Once upon a time it was the main trading centre of the Jews, one of the most respected and tolerated communities, whose number has drastically dwindled to a dozen.

At the far end, the old Paradesi Synagogue (1568) with its age old clock tower (1760), still stands as a meek witness of the prosperity, the street once boasted. When we were at half a distance, many people were seen assembled in front of a particular house at the right of the road. They were all gossiping. We peeped inside the house through an open window. There was a large hall and a corpse lied there on a couch, with oil lamps lit. My heart was filled with remorse to learn that the 13th Jew has departed (12 more remain). Also that the cremation had been kept in abeyance due to lack of quorum. Jews need at least 10 persons of their community to witness any religious function. They were supposed to be hunting nearby places in search of people from their community, living in Ernakulam, Mala, Chennamangalam etc. I went inside the house, went near the dead body and paid my homage's. It seems, I stood there for quite some time and moved out only after a prompt from my brother.

Kerala coast is famous for its spices from times immemorial and there was an active trade with several other countries through the main port of Muzris (Kodungallur, Cranganore). Jews are supposed to be visiting Kerala coast from the times of King Solomon of Israel (967 BCE). Settlement of Jews in Kodungallur, according to their own legends, started after the destruction of the second temple at Jerusalem, during the beginning of the Christian era. According to their own account, they came here in several batches over a period of time. They had a head man of their tribe known as Suranum Moplah and some 1000 families arrived in the first batch in 68 AD. 3/4th of them settled in Kodungallur and rest of them moved to nearby places like Chennamangalam, Mala etc. They claim to have received a copper plate from the local ruler, Cheraman Perumal, conferring on the community special privileges as also the land referred to as Anjuvanam. This copper plate is said to have been issued in 378 AD on the 36th year of the rule of the Perumal. As we would see, this claim is totally unfounded. There are no other archaeological evidences to establish their claims. However, at Chennamangalam, there is a very old tomb stone, inscribed in Hebrew "Sara the daughter of Israel 1269".

There seems to have been attempts to distort the historical facts, either by destroying or fabricating evidences by various interested groups. Incidentally, the above referred copper plates are not the originals. The original plate was said to be made of brass and was engraved on both sides. One Rev. C. Buchanan, made out facsimiles on two copper plates which is presently available. He is stated to have deposited the original with the University of Cambridge leaving the duplicates with the Jewish community. As per the translation provided, the grant was made to Joseph Rabban (Isuppu Irabban) and 72 families. A grant made to the Christian community at that time, is said to have been copied from the plates referred above. Looking at the script of the inscription, palaeographically, it is barely datable to 10th Century AD. As is assumed, the grant was made by a ruler named Bhaskara Ravi Varman  (962-1020 AD).

During 1341, due to geological disturbances, including floods, the coast line got altered. the flourishng port of Cranganore (Kodungallur) became unserviceable due to heavy siltation and Cochin became the main centre of commercial activity. In order not to harm their livelihood, the Jews were given land for building homes and for agriculture outside Cranganore to the east of Cochin in a place known as Kachangadi. A synagogue was built there in 1344. A sign placed there during that time is now at the Paradesi Synagogue.

In 1524 the Portuguese conquered Cranganore. They brought about the destruction of the community through forced conversions and burnt the existing Synagogue along with the manuscripts, preserved by the Jews since their arrival in the area. Even the Jewish cemeteries were destroyed. During the same period Muslims also attacked the community backed by the rulers of Calicut due to business rivalry in the Pepper trade. Thus all the Jews fled to Cochin, Chennamangalam, Palayur, Pullut, Quilon, Chowghat etc. Cranganore, now became devoid of any traces of Jewish habitation which once flourished there.

In 1663, the Dutch East India Company, after a battle with the Portuguese, gained control over the area. The Jews gave full support to the local Raja and the Dutch to get rid of the Portuguese. Once again the stars were in their favour. The Jews started flourishing. The Dutch were Protestants and unlike Portuguese, were tolerant towards other faiths. They even brought printed Torah (the Bible of the Jews) scrolls and prayer books for the Cochin Jews from Holland. In 1686 there were 10 synagogues and nearly 500 Jewish families in Cochin.

The Cochin Jews were divided into three major categories, the biggest group known as Meyuhassim (priviled) were the natives (early settlers) speaking the local dialect. They were also referred to as Black Jews although they were not really blacks. The second group was the Pardesi Jews or the White Jews who were foreigners from Spain, Holland, Poland, Ezypt etc . settled there. The third category Meshuhararim consisted of erstwhile slaves converted to Judaism on emancipation. They had separate synagogues, Theckoombagam, Paradesi and Kadavumbagam respectively.

The major cause for reduction in the population of the Jewish community in Cochin is attributable to the creation of a separate Jewish Nation known as Israel. There had been large scale migration to that promised land from across the globe, Cochin not being an exception. Only the old and infirm were left behind. Time is not far away when we shall not see a single specie from that tribe. However, the Synagogue, a protected monument, with its beautiful interiors, decorated with Belgian cut glass chandeliers, laid with hand painted blue ceramic tiles brought from China in 1762 will continue to remind us of the Jewish connection.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Vasai Fort (Baçaim, Bassein)

Basai, Baçaim, Bajipur, Bassein or the present day Vasai is at a distance of 50 km's from Mumbai to the North. For quite some time I have been planning to visit the ruined fort, chapels etc at that place. Finally on Sunday the 31st August 2008 I could make it. Along with my friend, Murthy, I boarded a train from Dadar (West) going towards Virar. We were at Vasai Road station in less than an hour. The bus stand is nearer to the station. Although there are buses going straight to the fort, it entailed a long wait. We then decided to proceed to Vasai village for which a bus was about to leave. We boarded that bus and reached the village. We came across a restaurant just across the local bus stand. We thought of filling out our stomachs before we proceed further. After the fill, we looked around the village. It was picturesque with plenty of vegetation all around. We felt as if we are out of Mumbai - indeed we were. I also recharged my mobile phone at one of the road side shops and caught an auto to take us to the fort site. We were charged Rs.20/- and were off loaded at the Vasai pier (Boat Jetty) over looking the Vasai creek. We looked around and located the entrance to the fort from that end.

Basai (as it was known) already had a Fort under the control of Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujarat. It was a significant trading centre in the west coast for times immemorial. Portuguese, with a formidable Navy, were trying to possess Diu and were continuously attacking the coastal territories, inflicting great losses. Finally they overran the defences of Basai and procured the fort along with Bombay and other adjoining areas, under a treaty signed with the Sultan of Gujarat on 23rd December 1534. In the second half of the 16th century, they reconstructed the fort on a grand scale with 10 bastions and named it Baçaim. This fort became the Portuguese Head Quarters of Indian Operations. The entire town was within the fort walls. It was known for the splendor of it's buildings, palaces and for the beauty of it's churches.

The importance of Baçaim was reduced due to Bombay getting transferred to the British under the famous wedding treaty of 1665 (Catherine Braganza of Portugal to Charles the Second of England). After the Portuguese rule of over 200 years the fort fell into the hands of Marathas. Chimaji Appa, younger brother of the Maratha ruler Baji Rao Peshwa, after a prolonged campaign defeated the Portuguese in May 1739 at a very heavy price - 12000 dead. The casualty on the Portuguese side was less than 1000. It was the magnanimity of the Marathas who allowed the portuguese to march out of the town honourably. However, all the Churches and buildings were destroyed. The Church bells were carried away as souvenirs and got installed at Bhimashankar, Naroshanker (Nasik) and at Asta Vinayaka temple, Ballaleshwar (Sudhagad - Raigad). Baji Rao II on his defeat at the hands of Yashwant Rao Holkar, took refuse in this very fort in 1801.The fort also got renamed as Bajipura or Bajipur. In December 1802 he signed the treaty of Bassein with the British, who in turn helped getting him reinstalled as Peshwa. Eventually the fort came under the British rule and got renamed as Bassein.

This is all about the history of the fort in brief. When we entered the gate from the boat jetty side, there was an eerie feeling. Despite being a Sunday, there were hardly any visitors. There was wild growth all around. Prominent among them were hundreds of date palms every where. We walked through the narrow path, amidst the ruined structures. Some of the façades, are very well decorated with carved stones. But there are some, which have lost their identity. There were some Churches in ruins, which are still recognizable. The roofing of one of them seemed like a barrel. Navigating ourselves through the undergrowth, we tried to explore as much as possible. Since the area being very wide, we could not venture into looking at many of the remains from close quarters. Perhaps the month of August was not very conducive for exploring the site. The fort as it is, suffers from gross neglect. No efforts appear to have been made for any kind of restoration. Elsewhere in the country, the ASI is doing a commendable job but when we look at Vasai, one can only cry in dismay.

Photos Courtesy: Himanshu Sarpotdar For a Hindi version Click Here

Bartia Bhata - Megalithic Burial Ground

To cover my operational area, I was required to travel frequently visiting various centres. While visiting interior centres, I used to travel by a Jeep or a sturdier vehicle and also carry a "Topographic Sheet" (toposheet) of a larger scale (published by Survey of India) relating to the area of my operation. They contain detailed information about fortifications, ruins, temples, hillocks, rivers and rivulets, bridges, ponds etc. which proved very useful for me. Today we have the Google Earth which also gives a satellite view of the land surface sans description. Wikimapia is another facility where you are enabled to identify places/objects and mark descriptions of your own.

Once I was required to visit a far off village known as "Gatadih" in Raipur district. To reach the place I needed to travel upto Saraipali, at a distance of 145 km's on Raipur - Sambalpur highway (Great Eastern Road) and then take a left turn towards the North for another 30 km's or so. The road to Gatadih was once made of bitumen but in the absence of maintenance, developed hundreds of potholes. It was impossible to drive without stumbling on them, giving terrible bone shaking jerks. Nevertheless, I reached Gatadih after a 2 hours ordeal, with every part of my body aching.

After finishing my usual inspection of the office thereat and scribbling my observations, it was time for me to return. The very thought of the return journey brought shivers in my spines. After resting a while, I pulled out my toposheet and spread it on the bonnet of the Jeep. On examination, I found, there was a kutcha road which could take me to the highway, leaving behind Saraipali, at a place known as Basna. Midway there was a large village "Bhanwarpur". I consulted some locals, who were assembled near my Jeep, and decided to take the unexplored road. The driver of my Jeep too was enthusiastic. Instead of going straight to Saraipali, we took the road to the right coming at a short distance. We traversed through the country side on the sparingly metalled road till we were about to reach Bhanwarpur.

While looking out of the window, I came across an unusual land formation on the right. The barren ground was strewn with pillar like monoliths. I gestured the driver to stop the vehicle on the roadside and walked towards the ground for a closer appreciation. In no time I found myself surrounded by a meter high monoliths all around. All the stone pillars were in a slanting position. One was even lying flat, on which I sat for a while. They were more akin to menhirs. I felt a sensation when I realised that it is a Megalithic burial ground. My "Steffy" ( Doggy - Fox Terrier) started making noises as if to tell me to make a move.

On one side of it, adjoining the road, there was a small building housing the Tribal Hostel. There was a guy available there with whom I conversed. He narrated that long long ago a marriage party was resting on these grounds and due to certain reasons they all became stones. That is why the place is known as "Bartia Bhata". A barren plain land is referred to as "Bhata" in the Chhattisgarhi dialect. He also informed me that during the excavations for the foundation of the building some pots, iron articles like knives, arrow heads etc. were found under the soil. He could not positively say if any skeletons were found.

On my return to Raipur, I took up the matter in the District Archaeological Committee meeting emphasizing the importance of the place and the need to protect it and conduct extensive excavations so that we are better informed about the cultural aspects of the tribal life. Subsequently a survey was conducted and I learnt that the site is around 2 to 3000 years old and nothing more. Similar sites have also been encountered one each in Durg and Dhamtari districts but the one at Bartia Bhata is said to be the largest.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ayurveda in Kerala

Emperor Asoka the Great introduced Buddhism in Sri Lanka by sending his daughter and son in the 3rd Century BC. Apart from the royal paraphernalia, the duo would have been accompanied by thousands of Buddhist Monks as well. Asoka was very much concerned about the well being of his subjects. To ensure proper medical aid, he has owned up in one of his rock inscriptions, of having created medical facilities, even in the remotest parts of his empire, bordering other kingdoms, to enhance well being and promote longevity. Dispensing of medical care had been the domain of the monks with knowledge of the traditional system of Aurveda, which then existed. Monastic system of education was considered incomplete without acquiring knowledge of medical therapies.
Ayurveda is considered a divine science being a part of the Hindu scripture "Atharvaveda". The oral traditions were led by Atreya and Dhanvantari representing two different schools of thought i.e. the school of physicians and the school of surgeons respectively. Further codifications were carried out in "Charaka Samhita" which deals with internal medication. "Susruta Samhita" on the other hand contains surgical procedures.

The Ayurveda system of medicine believes that the human body is made of Panchabhutas, the five elements, namely either (space), air, fire, water and earth. They combine with each other and manifest themselves as three basic principles, collectively known as Tridosha.
Either with Air creates Vata
Fire with Water creates Pitta
Water with Earth creates Kapha
The system attempts to address the imbalances in Tridosha to cure human ailments.

During the 8th century CE a Buddhist monk named Vag Bhatta from Kerala is said to have visited Sri Lanka for studying the Buddhist System of medicine. He is credited to have authored "Ashtanga Hridaya" and "Ashtanga Sangraha", treatises in Sanskrit, which has formed the backbone of Ayurveda in Kerala. "Ashtanga Hridaya" contains knowledge comprising the two schools of Ayurveda. "Ashtanga Sangraha" is bigger in size but more or less similar to the "Ashtanga Hridaya". Some scholars are of the opinion that the compilations could have been made by two different persons of the same name.

Soon after Buddhism got established in Sri Lanka, southern parts of Kerala came under Buddhist influence. The Ezhava community (also known as Chovars in central Kerala and Thiyyas in Malabar area) of Kerala is believed to have migrated from Sri Lanka, who became the torch bearers of Buddhism. They were physicians, astrologers,warriors, coconut farmers and so on. As a class they were held in high esteem in the society. Karappuram Kadakkarappally Kollattu Veettil Itty Achudan was a pioneer in editing the first Malayalam book on traditional medicine, published by the Dutch in 1675, titled Hortus Indicus Malabaricus. Kayikkara Govindan Vaidyar was the one who translated the famous "Ashtanga Hridaya" into Malayalam. Both the physicians belonged to the Ezhava community.

After the advent of Shankaracharya, a Hindu revival movement received great impetus. Over a period of time the Brahmins had a sway in the society with the support of the local rulers. All Buddhists were assimilated into the Hindu stream. However a large section of the ezhavas preferred to stick to their old faith. This infuriated the Brahmins and since they were wielding great power, with the connivance of the ruling elite, persecution of the non-converts gained momentum. Ezhavas were kept out of the Varna system of caste division and denounced as untouchables. Thus the community received a severe setback. They were compelled to work as toddy tappers, farmers etc. for a livelihood. This also made many of them to embrace Christianity.

Shri Narayana Guru (1855 - 1928) born into an Ezhava family was one of the greatest social reformers Kerala has ever seen. He revolted against casteism and relentlessly worked for social equality. It is he, who was responsible for the social emancipation of Ezhavas. They now constitute a major chunk of the Hindu population and considered to be one of the most prosperous communities. Buddhist influence can still be traced in their festivals. Their gods Cittan and Arattan are said to be of Buddhist origin.

Major ayurvedic hospitals, spas, pharmaceutical companies are now owned by them. Products like Kamilari, Chandrika, Medimix, to name a few, come from their factories. They also own large hotel chains, modern hospitals, multi-storied complexes and so on. Incidentally the present day Chief Minister of the State also comes from their clan.

To sum up, Buddhism and Ezhava community together have contributed immensely for the growth of the traditional wisdom in Ayurvedic medication and popularizing it amongst masses in Kerala.
Inspiration: Sampath Iyer, Kochi Abridged Hindi version

Monday, August 18, 2008

Achievement Motivation : Asokan Inscription

Once upon a time there was a king who was fighting a battle with a neighboring kingdom. Sensing imminent defeat, he ran away from the battle field and took shelter in a cave. While he was resting, his eyes fell on a spider which was engaged in making a large web. The king observed that the spider was falling down again and again but finally it succeeds in creating a beautiful web after some relocation. Taking a cue from the spider the king leaves the cave, reorganizes his army and attacks his enemy from a different front and wins.

Some 84 km's. from Jabalpur towards Katni, there is a Hindu religious place ( a Shiv Linga), Roopnath near Sleemnabad. It is here that we come across a rock (sheltered in a canopy) bearing the inscriptions of Asoka the Great (3rd Century BC). Quoting his own example, he advocates vigorous efforts to be made for achieving success. He stresses that not only the rich, even people of lower means could succeed in attaining heavenly pleasures provided determined efforts are made.
Generally we have found that most of the rock inscriptions speak of the achievements of the king in a highly exaggerated manner, couched in a spicy language. But the Asokan inscription, we are discussing about is plain and simple. We provide hereunder an English version of the contents:

"Thus speaks the Beloved of the Gods, (Asoka): I have been a Buddhist layman for more than two and a half years, but I did not make much progress. Now for more than a year I have drawn closer to the Order and have become more ardent. The gods, who in India up to this time did not associate with men, now mingle with them, and this is the result of my efforts. Moreover this is not something to be obtained only by the great, but it is also open to the humble, if they are earnest and they can even reach heaven easily. This is the reason for this announcement that both humble and great should make progress and that the neighboring peoples also should know that the progress is lasting, And this investment will increase and increase abundantly, and increase to half as much again. This matter must he inscribed here and elsewhere on the hills, and wherever there is a stone pillar it is to be engraved on that pillar. You must go out with this document throughout the length and breadth of your district. This announcement has been proclaimed while on tour; 256 nights have been spent on tour."
(Scholars are not unanimous about the exact translation. Interpretations differ.)
One may observe from the above translation that the sentence beginning "The Gods, who in India ........(in italics)" looks meaningless (absurd). Some scholars are of the view that "Deva" also means "Clan". Therefore the term "Deva" occuring in the original inscription is not a reference to "God". If this view is accepted, it would mean that the Clans which followed a faith of their own, were pursuaded to accept Buddhism. An extreme view could be that the places of worship were converted into Buddhist shrines.
(For an abridged Hindi version click here)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

सफलता और समृद्धि (एक पुरानी लघु कथा)

एक गाँव में एक किसान परिवार रहा करता था. परिवार में अधेड़ किसान दंपति के अतिरिक्त एक पुत्र एवं पुत्रवधू भी थे. पुत्र निकट के नगर में एक सेठ का सेवक था. एक दिन की बात है. तीन वृद्ध कहीं से घूमते घामते आए और किसान की आँगन में लगे कदम के पेड़ के नीचे विश्राम करने लगे. किसान की पत्नी जब बाहर लिकली तो उसने इन्हे देखा. उसने सोचा की वे भूके होंगे. उसने उन्हे घर के अंदर आकर भोजन ग्रहण करने का अनुरोध किया. इसपर उन वृद्धों ने पूछा, क्या गृहस्वामी घर पर हैं?. किसान की पत्नी ने उत्तर दिया, नहीं, वे बाहर गये हुए हैं. वृद्धों ने कहा कि वे गृहस्वामी की अनुपस्थिति में घर के अंदर नहीं आएँगे. स्त्री अंदर चली गयी. कुछ देर बाद किसान आया. पत्नी ने सारी बातें बताईं. किसान ने तत्काल उन्हें अंदर बुलाने को कहा. स्त्री ने बाहर आकर उन्हें निमंत्रित किया. उन्हों ने कहा "हम तीनों एक साथ नहीं आएँगे, जाओ अपने पति से सलाह कर बताओ कि हममें से कौन पहले आए". वो जो दोनों हैं, एक "समृद्धि" है, और दूसरे का नाम "सफलता". मेरा नाम "प्रेम" है". पत्नी ने सारी बातें अपने पति से कही. किसान यह सब सुनकर अत्यधिक प्रसन्न हुआ. उसने कहा, यदि ऐसी बात है तो पहले "समृद्धि" को बुला लाओ. उसके आने से अपना घर धन धान्य से परिपूर्ण हो जाएगा. उसकी पत्नी इसपर सहमत नहीं थी. उसने कहा, क्यों ना "सफलता" को बुलाया जावे. उनकी पुत्रवधू एक कोने में खड़े होकर इन बातों को सुन रही थी. उसने कहा, अम्माजी आप "प्रेम" को क्यों नहीं बुलातीं. किसान ने कुछ देर सोचकर पत्नी से कहा "चलो बहू क़ी बात मान लेते हैं".
पत्नी तत्काल बाहर गयी और उन वृद्धों को संबोधित कर कहा "आप तीनों मे जो "प्रेम" हों, वे कृपया अंदर आ जावें. "प्रेम" खड़ा हुआ और चल पड़ा. बाकी दोनों, "सफलता" और "समृद्धि" भी पीछे हो लिए. यह देख महिला ने प्रश्न किया अरे ये क्या है, मैने तो केवल "प्रेम" को ही आमंत्रित किया है. दोनों ने एक साथ उत्तर दिया " यदि आपने "समृद्धि" या "सफलता" को बुलाया होता तो हम मे से दो बाहर ही रहते. परंतु आपने "प्रेम" को बुलाया इसलिए हम साथ चल रहे हैं. हम दोनो उसका साथ कभी नहीं छोड़ते.
जहाँ प्रेम है वहाँ सफलता और समृद्धि भी रहती है.
मूलतः सारथी में प्रकाशित

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

World's Earliest Inscription of Love

(For a Hindi version please Click Here)
Recently I was on a family trip to visit the Golden Triangle consisting of Bhubaneswar, Konark and Puri in Orissa. While at the Udayagiri caves near Bhubaneswar (ancient name Ekamra), on the extreme left, there was a cave chiselled to look like a lions mouth. There was a platform in front of it. The site is also datable to 2nd Century BC on the basis of an inscription of Kalingaraja Kharavela at the nearby Hathigumpha. The cave aforesaid, had a resemblance with some similar cave structure I had in my memory. That was the oldest rock cut cave theatre (Amphitheatre) in the Ramgarh hills of Sarguja District in Chhattisgarh (India). This is said to belong to the 3rd Century BC on the basis of a "first ever message of love" found inscribed on the walls of a nearby cave. The cave housing the "Natya Shala"(theatre) is known as Sitabengra. It is about 45 ft long and 15 ft wide. The stage is at a lower level while the gallery for seating the people is elavated. Caves were reportedly used as pleasure resorts in the ancient times.
The other cave nearby is Jogimarha which is 15 ft long and 12 ft wide. The roof here is higher than Sitabengra and is adorned with rock paintings. Monks could also be seen depicted in those paintings apart from other subjects. The name 'Jogimarha' itself suggests its association with Jogis or Monks. The message of love referred above could be found engraved on its walls. The script is Brahmi of the Asokan period (3rd Century BC). This is said to be the only inscription from any period preserving pure Magadhi. The reason being the pronunciation of 'Dasi' as 'Dashi'.
The original text appears in the photograph below.

The English transliteration (Indian Epigraphy - Richard Salomon) is as follows:
Sutanuka nama
Sutanuka nama I devadashikyi I
tam kamayitha bal(a)naseye I
devadine nama I lupadakhe I
Although scholars are not unanimous about the exact translation, conversely we may put it as:
"Devidin a Sculptor from Varanasi fell in love with Sutanuka, a Devadasi"
Some doubts do arise in my mind when I look at the message. Devidin, apparently a person skilled in carving, as the adjective 'lupadakhe' suggests, has failed to do justice with the inscription. Geometrical proportion in lettering has been totally ignored. We may compare the Brahmi Characters with that appearing in the Asokan edicts for the purpose. Here is an example of his
Girnar Inscriptions.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

सामाजिक उत्तरदायित्व

शांतिनगर के हमारे मुहल्ले में सेवानिवृत्त बुजुर्गों की एक जमात है. रोज शाम शौपिंग काम्प्लेक्स के कोने में बनी दवाई की दुकान के सामने सब इकट्ठे होते हैं. कुछ दूसरे मोहल्ले से भी ऐसे ही लोग, अनुकूल वातावरण देख कर शामिल हो जाते हैं. जगह की कमी के कारण बैठक दो पारियों में होती है. एक का नाम विधान सभा और दूसरे का नाम लोक सभा रख दिया गया है. तीसरा समूह एक समाज विशेष का भी है जो चलायमान रहता है. यदा कदा इसमे से कुछ छिटक कर हमारे विधान सभा या लोकसभा के दर्शक दीर्घा में आ बैठते हैं. अब आप सोचेंगे की इस नामकरण के पीछे भी कोई सोच होगी. जी हाँ बिल्कुल है. विधान सभा में चर्चा का विषय अधिकतर प्रादेशिक और स्थानीय होता है जबकि लोकसभा का चिंतन राष्ट्रीय हुआ करता है. विधान सभा की बैठक ८.०० बजे या कुछ पूर्व ही समाप्त हो जाती है. लोकसभा का सत्र ९.०० रात्रि तक निश्तिक रूप से चलता है. परन्तु ९.०० बजते ही कुछ एक साथ उठ खड़े होते हैं तो कुछ ऐंठ कर कुर्सी या बेंच पर बने रहते हैं मानो उन्हें बीबी की परवाह न हो. वस्तुतः यह दिखावे के लिए होता है.

कुछ ऐसे भी लोग हैं जो दोनों सभाओं में बराबर की रूचि रखते हैं. करें भी क्या, बीबियाँ भगा जो देती हैं. भगाए जाने के पीछे भी कई कारण बताये गए. कुछ के यहाँ शामको सहेलियों का आनाजाना लगा रहता है. पत्नियाँ नहीं चाहतीं की उनके पति की सहज दृष्टि भी सहेलियों पर पड़े. कुछ पत्नियाँ ब्यूटी पार्लर घर पर ही चलाती हैं. सज संवर कर जब कन्यायें कमरे से निकलती हैं तो बैठक में बुजुर्गों का पाया जाना बाधक बन जाता है. फ़िर कहेंगी अंकलजी मैं कैसी लग रही हूँ? यह सब पत्नी को रास नहीं आता. पर पतियों को दी गई यह छूट असीमित नहीं है. रात ९.०० बजे के बाद घर आने पर हमारे कई मित्र प्रताडित भी होते हैं. ऐसा लगता है मानो लोग श्वान योनि में प्रदार्पण कर चुके हों. उनकी जरुरत हो तो घर पर ही रहो नहीं तो बाहर जाओ. ऐ ले आओ वो ले आओ. एक मित्र का पट्टा निश्चित समय पर खोल दिया जाता है. फिर वह अपने बुढापे का ख्याल किए बगैर मंडली की ओर पूरी रफ्तार से निकल पड़ता है. बेचारा करे भी क्या अन्यथा मंडली के द्वारा भी प्रताडित होना पड़ेगा.

विधान सभा में जैसा, पूर्व में ही कहा जा चुका है, चर्चा का विषय प्रादेशिक एवं स्थानीय होता है. बिजली, पानी, सड़क, पर्यावरण, चोरी चमारी, लूट खसोट और महंगाई. एक कालोनी की बिजली की समस्या पर चर्चा वर्षों से चल रही है. कोलोनायिसेर, बिजली बोर्ड एवं स्थानीय नेताओं को कोसते कोसते अभी अभी उस कालोनी में बिजली ने अपनी दस्तक दी है. अब पानी की समस्या ने विकराल रूप धारण कर लिया है. समाधान कहीं दूर दूर तक नही दीखता. एक के बाद एक बोरवेल सूखते जा रहे हैं. दूसरी ओर हमारी लोकसभा इन सब मामलों में रूचि नही रखती. राष्ट्रीय समस्याएं क्या कम हैं? आतंकवाद, तुष्टिकरण की राजनीती, परमाणु संधि, अमेरिका से रिश्ता, संभावित लोकसभा चुनाव, गठजोड़, ऐ सब भी तो हैं.

ऐसी गंभीर समस्याओं पर चर्चा के बीच कुछ मित्रों में अपनी व्यक्तिगत (घरेलु) समस्याओं को उजागर करने की प्रवृत्ति भी देखी गई है. आम तौर पर वह ज्यादा सशक्त प्रतीत होती है. कभी कभी समस्या को बयां ख़ुद बा ख़ुद सदस्य ही करता है या फिर उसे प्रेरित किया जाता है. वैसे तो हर व्यक्ति की अपनी समस्या होती है परन्तु दूसरे की सुनकर मन हल्का करने की या मजे लेने की जुगाड़ भी होती है. हाँ तो आज क्या हुआ ? - बस पूछने की जरुरत, फ़िर सुनते रहिये उनकी कहानी. एक मित्र तो आते ही कहते हैं "हमारी सुनो", जैसे सबकी सुननेकी जन्मजात विविशता हो. लोक सभा गई भाढ में.

हमारे इस क्षेत्र की आबादी काफी बढ़ गई है. नए नए अख़बार निकल गए हैं और मुफ्त में बाँट भी रहे हैं. पूर्व से स्थापित अख़बारों में अपने पाठकों को बनाये रखने की प्रतिस्पर्धा भी दिख रही है. उन्हों ने राजधानी के इस क्षेत्र विशेष के लिए अलग परिशिष्ट भी प्रकाशित करना प्रारम्भ कर दिया. कुछ ने तो अपना एक छोटा कार्यालय ही खोल दिया. अब इनके पत्रकारों को छापने के लिए मसाला भी तो चाहिये. उनकी नज़र हम मसाल्चियो पर पड़ी. प्रस्ताव आया की हम लोगों की फोटो खींची जायेगी. दो एक बातें होंगी और अख़बार में छपेगी. तब जाकर कर्तव्यबोध का ख्याल आया. हरेक ने अपने साक्षात्कार में अपने आप को किसी न किसी तरह समाज सेवा से जुटा हुआ जताया. अख़बार में फोटो सहित ख़बर भी छाप दी गई. सामाजिक उत्तरदायित्व का निर्वहन न सही, प्रचारित करने का अवसर तो मिला.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Constitution 1,000 years ago

by T.S. Subramaniam

A perfect electoral system existed, inscriptions found in Uthiramerur reveal.
Photos: S. Thanthoni

The mandapa of the Vaikuntaperumal temple.
It may be hard to believe that nearly 1,100 years ago, a village had a perfect electoral system and a written Constitution prescribing the mode of elections. It was inscribed on the walls of the village assembly (grama sabha mandapa), which was a rectangular structure made of granite slabs. “This inscription, dated around 920 A.D. in the reign of Parantaka Chola, is an outstanding document in the history of India,” says Dr. R. Nagaswamy, former Director, Tamil Nadu Department of Archaeology, referring to Uthiramerur in Chingleput district.
“It is a veritable written Constitution of the village assembly that functioned 1,000 years ago,” Dr. Nagaswamy says in his book, “Uthiramerur, the Historic Village in Tamil Nadu.” The book, in both Tamil and English, has been published by the Tamil Arts Academy, Chennai.
Dr. Nagaswamy says: “It [the inscription] gives astonishing details about the constitution of wards, the qualification of candidates standing for elections, the disqualification norms, the mode of election, the constitution of committees with elected members, the functions of [those] committees, the power to remove the wrong-doer, etc…”

And that is not all. “On the walls of the mandapa are inscribed a variety of secular transactions of the village, dealing with administrative, judicial, commercial, agricultural, transportation and irrigation regulations, as administered by the then village assembly, giving a vivid picture of the efficient administration of the village society in the bygone ages.” The villagers even had the right to recall the elected representatives if they failed in their duty!
It has a 1,250-year history
Uthiramerur has a 1,250-year history. It is situated in Kanchipuram district, about 90 km from Chennai. The Pallava king Nandivarman II established it around 750 A.D. It did exist earlier as a brahmin settlement. It was ruled by the Pallavas, the Cholas, the Pandyas, the Sambuvarayars, the Vijayanagara Rayas and the Nayaks. It has three important temples, the Sundara Varadaraja Perumal temple, the Subramanya temple and the Kailasanatha temple. Plans are under way for the conservation and restoration of the Kailasanatha temple, which is in ruins.
All the three temples have numerous inscriptions — those of the great Raja Raja Chola (985-1015 A.D.), his able son, Rajendra Chola and the Vijayanagar emperor Krishnadeva Raya. Both Rajendra Chola and Krishnadeva Raya visited Uthiramerur.
Uthiramerur, built as per the canons of the agama texts, has the village assembly mandapa exactly at the centre and all the temples are oriented with reference to the mandapa.
R. Vasanthakalyani, Chief Epigraphist-cum-Instructor and R. Sivanandam, epigraphist, both belonging to the Tamil Nadu Department of Archaeology, said that while village assemblies might have existed prior to the period of Parantaka Chola, it was during his period that the village administration was honed into a perfect system through elections. “About 1,100 years ago, during the period of Paranataka Chola, Uthiramerur had an elected village panchayat system, which was a step ahead of the modern day democratic system,” she said.
According to Dr. Sivanandam, there were several places in Tamil Nadu where inscriptions are available on temple walls about the prevalence of village assemblies. These villages included Manur near Tirunelveli, Tiruninravur near Chennai, Manimangalam near Tambaram, Dadasamudram near Kanchipuram, Sithamalli and Thalaignayiru near Thanjavur, Jambai near Tirukovilur and Ponnamaravathy near Pudukottai. “But it is at Uthiramerur on the walls of the village assembly (mandapa) itself, that we have the earliest inscriptions with complete information about how the elected village assembly functioned,” said Dr. Sivanandam. It is learnt that the entire village, including the infants, had to be present at the village assembly mandapa at Uthiramerur when the elections were held, pointed out Vasanthakalyani. Only the sick and those who had gone on a pilgrimage were exempt.

The Tamil inscriptions elaborate on the election procedure followed several centuries ago.

There were committees for the maintenance of irrigation tanks, roads, to provide relief during drought, testing of gold and so on. Sivanandam himself has written a book in Tamil called, “The Archaeological Handbook of Kanchipuram district,” (published by the Tamil Nadu Department of Archaeology in 2008) in which he says the original sabha mandapa’s superstructure was made of timber and bricks. After the superstructure collapsed and only the base of the mandapa made of granite slabs remained, Kulotunga Chola I built a Vishnu temple on the base towards the end of the 11th century.
The village sabha mandapa, with its invaluable inscriptions, is now called Vaikuntaperumal temple. Dr. Nagaswamy says: “The village assembly of Uttaramerur drafted the Constitution for the elections. The salient features were as follows: the village was divided into 30 wards, one representative elected for each. Specific qualifications were prescribed for those who wanted to contest. The essential criteria were age limit, possession of immovable property and minimum educational qualification. Those who wanted to be elected should be above 35 years of age and below 70…”
Only those who owned land, that attracted tax, could contest. Another interesting stipulation, according to Dr. Nagaswamy, was that such owners should have possessed a house built on legally-owned site (not on public poromboke). A person serving in any of the committees could not contest again for the next three terms, each term lasting a year. Elected members, who suffered disqualification, were those who accepted bribes, misappropriated others’ property, committed incest or acted against public interest.

Courtesy: Shri Ram Varmah (varmah@yahoo.com)

Around Mangalore

Courtesy: Shridhar Shenoy
The 35 kilometer stretch of Shirady Ghat between Kappalli (Manjrabad fort) to Gundya is a nature lover's paradise. It had always been from time immemorial but the beauty could not be enjoyed due to bad roads and drivers and passengers used to be more pre-occupied with the jolts and jumps that they might get during the journey.
But with the roads now as smooth as it used to be before, people are now enjoying the 90 minutes journey, and why not? There is so much to see, the evergreen Shola forests, the huge ferns that are an endemic species to Western Ghats and the thick foliage which is a delight to watch.
But what turns Shirady into a paradise during monsoons is its numerous water falls. There are no large water falls like Jog, but there are many medium and small water falls that fills your heart and eyes. The central part of Shirady Ghat I.e, between Adda Holay and Gundya is the natural water log area. The rain water re-charges the mountainous water veins and releases through faults and folds of the mountain. But apart from the technical details of the waterfalls the beauty of water falls which is what enthrals the nature lovers. The milky surf that cascades from a great height is a sight to watch. It is stated that there are over 300 small and medium water falls.

According to Dinesh Holla an adventurer and an avid trekker the origin of the water falls in Shirady generally is located at a height of 400 to 600 feet (MSL) many of them have a circuitous course before the emerge into open and fall from a height. Many trekkers stay for considerable time at the water bodies that open into a water fall.
The ideal route to get to the water fall is the route that the Mangalore-Bangalore train takes. It is possible for the trekkers to take the railway get down at Soorikumer and pass to the other side towards Pushpagiri. There are people who have driven their motorcycles on narrow paths from Shirady village up to a certain height and walked from there.
But one cannot go into these areas as they want, they should notify the forest department about their trekking route and take their permission well in advance.
For people who just want to enjoy it on the way to their destination either ways should travel during the day time. The ideal time is to arrive at this stretch either from Bangalore or Mangalore at mid morning or late afternoon, which is when the real enjoyment of waterfalls could be felt. The immediate instinct is to stand below the cascading water, but that is where extra precautions should be taken, the rocky slopes are slippery and the water would be cold.
Various spots like Kempu holay, Yemme holay, Adda holay, Annamma holay have good waterfall sites.

Paranumismatica - Indian Token Coins

The coins appearing hereunder, relates to the Indian Token Coins of 1911 issued by Longman, presumably a British company. As is apparent from the legend, they were produced in Germany. They bear the bust of King Edward VII who died in May 1910. They are made of card board. The denominations are Half Rupee, Quarter Rupee and 1/64th of a Rupee ( 1 Paisa). Although they are not identical but imitations of the coins, having the bust of Edward VII, in circulation during that period. The tokens depict the bust facing left. While One Paisa has a copper color, the other two coins have the appearance of silver.On a reference being made to the RBI Monetary Museum and the Indian Institute of Research in Numismatic Studies, they expressed their unfamiliarity with any such tokens. Accidentally I came across an article dedicated to 'Exonumia' (Study of Tokens, Medals etc.), a term I was not familiar with, in the Coin Encyclopedia web site. The term 'Paranumismatica', however, lends more comfort. I was amused as also enthused and thought of getting my token coins published there so that they come to the knowledge of a larger number of enthusiasts in numismatics.

Longman's Indian Token Coins
We are aware of 'play money' in use in the U.S. and other countries where replicas of coins are created in plastic or metal for children to play with. They are available in any toy store. But in the Indian context, the above referred tokens do not seem to be 'play money'. During World War II there was shortage of all kinds of metal world-wide. But the World War I started only in August 1914. An important event during that year was the coronation of George V at New Delhi on the 11th December. Reasons for 'Token Coins' being introduced, through private enterprise during that period is unexplainable at the present state of our knowledge. Further more, the above tokens are not in a mint condition. They appear to have changed several hands as the wear and tear suggests.
Recently I made a reference to the British Museum as well and the response received is appended:
"Thank you for your enquiry. This is is not a token coin issued as part of the currency in colonial India, but an imitation produced either as a toy, or possibly for the collectors' market. In either case, I would guess that it was issued in, and for use in, Great Britain rather than India. While I have not been able to trace a reference to Longman's, it seems likely that they were a British company, which may well have produced other series of token coins as well. Clearly this one was intended as part of an Indian series, imitating a half-rupee of George V (1910-36).
Yours sincerely,
Gareth Williams
Duty Curator"
We welcome contributions in this regard for enrichment of knowledge about the tokens under discussion.

भारतीय टोकन मुद्राएँ

एक बार मेरे एक बड़ी मूँछ वाले मित्र ने मुझसे पूछा, "क्या तुम्हारे पास चमड़े के सिक्के हैं". मैने अपनी अनभिंग्यता व्यक्त की. फिर उसने तुगलक की कहानी सुनाई. मैने कहा हाँ पढ़ा है, देखा नहीं है. उसने फिर कहा "अंग्रेज भी कम नहीं थे". मैने पूछा क्यों. कल बताऊँगा कह मुछड़ चलता बना. दूसरे दिन वह मेरे पास आया और एक डिबिया निकाली. डिबिये के अंदर से तीन गोल सिक्के नुमा वस्तु निकाली और मेरे हाथ रख कर कहा लो यह तुम्हारे लिए है. मैने उन्हें गौर से देखा. वे कार्डबोर्ड के बने थे. हूबहू अँग्रेज़ों के जमाने के सिक्कों के जैसे ही दिख भी रहे थे. एक अठन्नी, एक चवन्नि और एक एक पैसा.
अठन्नी और चवन्नि रुपहले थे तो एक पैसा ताम्र वर्ण का. अग्र भाग पर एड्वर्ड सप्तम बाईं ओर मुहँ किए हुए दर्शाया गया था. राजा के नाम की जगह गोलाई में "लॉंगमॅन्स इंडियन टोकन काय्न्स"अंकित था. नीचे की ओर "जर्मनी में बना" का उल्लेख भी था. पृष्ट भाग पर फूलों का बेल, राजमुकुट, मुद्रा का मूल्य एवं वर्ष १९११ अंकित किया गया था.
मैने थोड़ी छानबीन की तो पता चला क़ि एड्वर्ड सप्तम तो सन १९१० में ही स्वर्ग वासी हो गये थे. अलबत्ता १९११ में जॉर्ज पंचम क़ी ताजपोशी नई दिल्ली में हुई थी. ऐसी कौन सी घटना थी जिससे प्रेरित होकर एक ब्रिटिश कंपनी के द्वारा ऐसी मुद्राएँ (टोकन) निर्मित कराई गयीं. मैने सोचा, संभव है क़ि बाज़ार में धातुओं की कमी के कारण चिलहर की किल्लत रही हो. द्वितीय विश्व युद्ध के समय ऐसी स्थिति निर्मित हुई थी. परंतु प्रथम विश्व युद्ध का प्रारंभ तो अगस्त १९१४ में जाकर ही हुआ था. मैं बड़ी दुविधा में पड़ गया और अब भी हूँ. क्या इनका निर्माण बच्चों के खेलने के लिए हुआ था. यह मानने को मन नहीं करता क्योंकि व्यापार वाले खेल में नकली नोटों का या फिर अंक लिखे बिल्लों का प्रचलन मैने देखा है. ये जो सिक्के (टोकन) जिनकी चर्चा हो रही है, पुराने हैं. कई हाथों से गुज़रे होंगे. क्षरण साफ दिखता है.
मैने भारतीय रिज़र्व बॅंक के मौद्रिक संग्रहालय एवं इंडियन इन्स्टिट्यूट ऑफ रिसर्च इन नूमिसमॅटिक स्टडीस (IIRNS) से भी संपर्क कर सहायता माँगी पर उन्हे ऐसे टोकन्स क़ी कोई जानकारी नहीं थी. अंततोगत्वा मैने ब्रिटिश म्यूज़ीयम से पूछा. उनका कहना है क़ि ए टोकन सिक्के भारतीय उपनिवेश के मुद्रा के रूप में प्रचलित नहीं किए गये थे (सरकारी तौर पर). ये बच्चों के खेलने के लिए या फिर संग्रहकर्ताओं के लिए "अनुकृति" मात्र हैं. दोनों ही स्थितियों में भारत के बजाए ग्रेट ब्रिटन में प्रयोग (प्रचलन) हेतु इन्हे जारी किया गया होगा. संभवतः लोंगमेन एक ब्रिटिश कंपनी रही होगी और उन्होने दूसरे सिरीज़ (भारत के अतिरिक्त) के टोकन सिक्के भी जारी किए होंगे. उनका यह भी कहना था क़ि इन टोकेनों में जॉर्ज पंचम वाले सिक्कों क़ी नकल क़ी गयी है (जबकि हमने उन्हे टोपी पहने ही सिक्कों पर देखा है).
बहरहाल मेरी दुविधा जस क़ी तस है. मेरी समस्या यह है क़ी मैं जान ही नहीं पा रहा हूँ कि मैं और क्या जानना चाहता हूँ. यदि पाठकों में से किसी को भी कुछ भी पता हो तो निःसंकोच अवगत करा दें. टोकनों के छाया चित्र नीचे दिए जा रहे हैं.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Kallil Bhagawathi - A Jain Retreat

By Shri P.N. Sampath Kumar from Kochi.

He is currently working with the Cochin Shipyard.After reading your post on Buddhism and Jainism in Kerala, we thought of utilising our Sunday to visit the Kallil Bhagawathi temple near Perumbavoor. We were there on the the 20th July 2008.
Kallil Bhagavathi temple is a cave temple on a hill top at a place called Methara. Though dedicated to Bhagavathi (which they claim to be swayambhoo), on the back wall a Buddha like structure in the sitting posture (about four feet high). is carved. It looks like some Tirthankar or Mahavir himself. It is not very difficult to make out that even with the dim light within the sreekovil. The Bagavathi in front of Mahavir due to its small size gives vision of the carved mahavir figure on the back side. The bhagavathi has been ornamented with metallic (brass) face and major poojas are performed only to her.
The Shrine

The Mahavir carving has also been garlanded but the main pooja is for the Devi. Within the sreekovil, on the right and left hand side of Devi, two more statues of about 1.5 feet high are also seen. Outside the sreekovil, on the left hand side of the diety, one dwarapalaka type of statue which looks very old (details like eyes, ears, nose etc are erased due to passage of time) is also seen which is also kept garlanded by the devotees.
Modern Steps leading to the ShrineThere is a mandapam (made of sand stone) about four feet square where devotees can stand and offer prayers without any high peetham (as generally seen in other temples).

I Chatted with the priest for some time. Surprisingly, there was no hesitation on his part to accept the theory of Jain temple taken over by Hindus. Further he threw some more light into the theory as below:

“This used to be jain centre (temple?) main carving on the wall is of Parshwanath” and the devi is said to be Padmavathi (a jain goddess).
When Hindus took over, we considered (sankalpam) Parshwanath as Bramha, Padmavathi as Bhagavathi and other two deities on the left and right of the devi as Ganapathi and Siva” There are a few idols kept outside which is believed to be sarpakavu or nagarajas / naga yakshis.
Interestingly, there is no sign of demolition of any structures / idols. Only some additions like pavements, Mandapam and sopanam steps and designs on both sides of sopanam seem to made so as to suit to the hindu style. That means due to some reason, the jains might have abandoned the place centuries ago and would have been occupied by the Hindus only recently. That may be why the priest is able to explain the story correctly.

There is a siva (kallil sivan – on the planes, not cave) temple nereby who is said to be the husband of Kallil Bhagavathi. By the time we finished bhagavathi, siva temple was closed. There is ample scope for survey in and around the area. The place is calm and beautiful. About half a km walk from the road towards the temple.

The approach

Buddhism and Jainism in Kerala

The Vedic people worshipped the panchatatvas (five elements) and offerings to the Fire Lord (Homa) was considered very sacred. The concept of a God with a form was something which came up later. The idols of Gods carved out of stone or wood were initially sheltered under a tree. Trees were also considered sacred as we could find them on the reverse of many of the ancient coins. The idea of providing a roof to the Lord began, with a flat roofed square structure for him to remain protected. Then there was an addition of a small Mandapa (porch) for the devotees to stand as a shelter from the Sun and the Rain. Such structures datable to around 3rd/4th Century AD are available at Tigawa near Jabalpur and Sanchi. Archaeologically they are the earliest available examples of Hindu temple architecture in India. Thereafter there started a developmental stage during which the temples grew in size and ornamentation came to its zenith during 10th and 12th centuries AD.

Many of the Hindu temples in Kerala are circular in shape. This has always been pricking me.The circular shape of Kerala temples definitely suggests some indigenous initiative or other external influence.

The great Chandra Gupta Mourya and the Jain Saint Bhadrabahu are supposed to have visited Karnataka during the 3rd Century BC. Jain missionaries are also said to have visited Tamilnadu. The great Ilango Adigal, the author of the Silpaddikaram, is believed to have been a Jain patron. It is well known that Kerala was under the suzerainty of Cheras. It was, therefore, easier for the Jains to seek immigration into Kerala.

Sravanabelagola in the state of Karnataka is one of the greatest centres of Jainism (Digambara) in South India even today. There are evidences of Jain influence penetrating to the South into Kerala. Kasargod which borders Karnataka could be cited as an example. At the nearby Manjeswaram there is a Chaturmukh (Sarvatobhadra) Jain temple. The idol (Pratima Sarvatobhadrika) has  four faces, that  of Adinath, Shantinath, Chandranath and Mahavira looking at the four directions. Another Jain structure is in Wayanad which was used by Hindus and later taken over by Tipu Sultan for housing his armory. This is known as Sultan Battery.

Coming still further down, at Irinjalakuda, the Koodalmanikyam temple is also believed to have been a Jain temple dedicated to their Saint Bharateswara. Presently it is a Hindu shrine with Bharata the brother of Lord Rama, in a standing posture inside. Strangely, there are no idols of any other gods in the periphery. Generally we come across lord Ganesha (Vinayaka) in every temple. Perhaps this is the only temple in the country dedicated to Bharata. Incidentally, we find temples of all the four brothers of the Ramayana epic around Thrissur.
Sultan Battery. The Wayanad area is still home to more than 200 Jain families. Another granite structure is at Jainimedu, Palakkad. It is 20' wide and 32' long housing Tirthankaras.

Within an hour's drive towards the South, at Methala, 13 km's from Perumbavoor, we come across the Kallil Bhagawathi temple. It is a cave temple with carvings of Parswanath, Mahavira and Padmavathi reckoned to be of the 9th Century AD!. Jain monks seem to have come to this place finding an atmosphere of peace and tranquility conducive to meditation.

Kallil Bhagawathi - Up the Hill

Here is a video of Kallil Bhagawathi Temple

Buddhists too would not have been left behind since Emperor Asoka (304-232 BC) wished his Dhammam to spread far and wide. It is well known that his own daughter Sanghamitra and son Mahamahinda led a mission to Sri Lanka. In his rock Edict No.13, he mentions Cholas and Pandyas as having been won with Dhamma (they became followers of the faith). Kerala (Chera) was not included. There is a mention of Keralaputra which he has described in his 2nd major rock Edict as falling on the frontiers of his empire. In this Edict he informs having provided for medical facilities to humans as also animals (really great!).
A large number of Buddha idols have been discovered in the coastal districts of Alapuzha and Kollam. A large statue of Buddha is also reported from Lakshadweep (Kavaratti). There still exists a Buddhist temple known as Karumadi Kuttan near Ambalapuzha (Video Link). It is also believed that Kuramba Bhagawathy temple at Kodungallur was a Buddhist shrine or Vihara. There are also claims that the Vadakunnathan Shiva temple at Thrissur too was a Buddhist enclave. Interestingly, parents of Adi Shankaracharya are said to have made offerings at this temple for getting a child. Thus there seems to be some inconsistency.

Shri Rajaram Menon from Kaviyoor in southern Kerala has informed that :
"There is a cave temple in the village dedicated to Shiva, but is believed to have been built by Budhist or Jain monks. The main temple, a km away from the cave temple - again dedicatd to Shiva- is about 1000 years old. The cave is said to be older than this. The rock is called Thri-kakudi-para. (Thri=Thiru, kakudi=kal kudi, kal=stone/rock, kudi=home or settlement, para=rock). There must have been a settlement around the caves too; there is a piece of land still known as kakudi, a few blocks away from the rock. The area behind N.S.S. School in the village is still known as 'pallippuram', obvious reference to Budhist centre of learning/vihara. No excavation has been done here. Atop a nearby hill (mathimala), a tall stone-resembling shiv linga-was found and is now kept before the main temple. This could probably be an incomplete work of Budhist monks.

From the Palliyan Copper Plate of Ay King Varaguna (885-925 AD) we learn that Buddhism continued to enjoy royal patronage even in the 10th century AD. However the Ay Kings were Hindus. There is a Copper Plate assignable to the 9th century AD which tells about the construction of a Shiva temple at Tripparappu near Kulasekharam by an Ay King Karunanandakan (Sreevallabhan). This copper plate was inscribed by one Avilandrakan. This dynasty was ruling the southern part of Kerala.
Kaviyoor, incidentally, is one of the 64 brahmin settlements linked to Parasurama.

The rock temple is in a state of disrepair, though taken over by the state government. Not much is known about the village's past.

There is another place nearby - Mallappally - which is also believed to have been a Budhist centre. This village is also about 12 km east of Vazhappally, another ancient Budhist settlement."

Historical events in the sub continent lend support to assume that Jains and Buddhists had a presence in Kerala even prior to the Christian Era. While Jains entered Kerala from the North, Buddhists, on the other hand, seem to have gained entry from the South. Their decline which started somewhere in the 8th Century AD is mainly attributed to influx of Brahmins from the North, advent of Shankaracharya and the revival of the Vedic Culture. Both the faiths were completely assimilated and merged with Hinduism. People were back into the Hindu fold. Their Viharas and temples were taken over and Hindu shrines built, some for Bhagawathy and some for Lord Shiva. The Buddhist shrines must have been circular in shape for their Chaityas and the Hindu temples replacing them too followed suit. This is the obvious impact the Buddhist designs had on the temple architecture of Kerala. Most of the Jain temples were of the North Indian pattern excepting for the roof. They had their cave dwellings for their monks, which also were used to place Hindu deities.
Buddha idols have been discovered in the coastal districts of Alapuzha and Kollam. A large statue of Buddha is also reported from Lakshadweep (Kavaratti). There still exists a Buddhist temple known as Karumadi Kuttan near Ambalapuzha (Video Link). It is also believed that Kuramba Bhagawathy temple at Kodungallur was a Buddhist shrine or Vihara. There are also claims that the Vadakunnathan Shiva temple at Thrissur too was a Buddhist enclave. Interestingly, parents of Adi Shankaracharya are said to have made offerings at this temple for getting a child. Thus there seems to be some inconsistency.

Once, while I was at home in Kerala, the
Bharani festival at Kodungallur was going on. I sought permission from my Dad to visit that place. He told me that I can not withstand the happenings in the temple premises. That basically the devotees come from different lower classes. They take out processions singing dirty/erotic songs making obscene gestures and throwing dirty things at the temple premises. They use filthy language and apart from that thousands of Cocks/Chicken are brutally killed by way of an offering to the deity. The entire corridor will be smeared with blood and so on. He also explained about the 'Kavu Tindal' at length. When I questioned, him why such a tradion, he told me, these celebrations are in memory of the times when the place was inhabited by Bhikshus (could have been either Buddhists or Jains) and they were driven out.

During my efforts to enrich myself, I came across a well researched article by M.J. Gentes in the Asian Folklore Studies Vol 51, titled "Scandalizing the Goddess at Kodungallur". I am reproducing a portion which has appealed to my psyche.

"A historical and sect-based theory that attempts to explain the rite of polluting of the temple holds that originally Sri Kuramba Kavu was the shrine of a Jain goddess or a Buddhist vihara for nuns (see Obeyesekere 1984, 518-20). The Chera emperors whose capital was at Vanji, probably near or at Kodungallur, protected and supported Jain and Buddhist communities. The Buddhists flourished in Kerala during the fourth to the eighth centuries C.E.( Obeyesekere 1984, 517). At the end of this period, with the migrations of groups of Brahmin settlers into Kerala, the relegious climate began to change. The caste system as defined by the southern Indian Brahminism was gradually extended over the diverse residents, altering the social,
ritual, and political positions of the different segments of the population. By the twelfth century Buddhism had virtually disappeared and the cult of the goddess Kali was in the ascendent. This growth led to the re-consecration of Jain and Buddhist sanctuaries as Bhagavati temples (Induchudan 1969, 200-201). In order to get the nuns to leave their residence at Kodungallur, low- caste devotees of Bhagawati were persuaded to throw animals and filth into the sanctuary (Induchudan 1969, 39). It was then rededicated to Bhadrakali and lost its institutional association with the Jains or Buddhists and with the Jain goddess Kannaki of the fourth century epic Shilappadikaram (The affair of the anklet). The worship of Kannaki was absorbed into the Kali cult, and the polluting of the temple during Bharani commemorates the original confrontation and transfer of liturgical control."

It would be pertinent to add here that "Cheraman Perumal" was a dynastic title enjoyed by all the rulers of the family as we could understand from various inscriptions of Cheras. The last of the Perumal was Rama Kulasekhara (1089-1122 AD). His Kollam inscription of 13th year tells us that he offered 'Prayaschittam' for having offended the Aryan of the place. This shows the brahmins had a upper hand in his kingdom.

From what has been observed above, it would be evident that Buddhism and Jainism ceased to exist in Kerala only after/around 12th Century AD.