Monday, August 29, 2016

Spoken Sanskrit picking up in Chennai.


Chennaiites get their ucharanam right

Aug 29 2016 : The Times of India (Chennai)
Mrinalini Sundar

Gajananam bhuta ganathi sevitam, kapittha jambu palasara bhaksitam, uma sutam shoka vinasha karanam, namami vignesvara pada pankajam. The first shloka that is taught to a child is this Ganesha shloka. But does everyone know what it means? Well, that is one of the primary reasons why V Lakshmi Kumari, a housewife signed up for Sanskrit classes.

“We read so many mythological texts without knowing the meaning. I did not want to blindly recite a shloka or read the Ramayana without knowing what it meant,“ says Lakshmi, who has been learning Sanskrit for the last two years.

According to Dr R Ramachandran, a professor of Sanskrit at Vivekananda College, the number of families who can read, write and speak in Sanskrit has increased over the years. In fact, he says that today , there are close to 150 families in Chennai who can speak in Sanskrit fluently . “The number of people who sign up for spoken Sanskrit classes has increased over the years. The class starts with a simple song, first-timers find that easy because they just have to repeat the lines. Then we introduce objects that we use on a day-to-day basis and then, move on to simple sentences. Finally , we get to the grammar part of it, but we don't make it very complicated,“ says Ramachandran, who is also the vice president of Samskrita Bharati, a non-profit organisation working to revive Sanskrit. Anybody can sign up for Sanskrit classes.

“Previously , the perception was that Sanskrit is used only while reciting shlokas for poojas. But that is changing now. Sanskrit these days is used for research in the field of science, math, chemistry and even management. A lot of parents send their children to learn Sanskrit these days, because they never learnt the language themselves, and are now realising its importance,“ he adds.


One might think that the complex nature of the words, complicated sentence structure, and tough grammar makes Sanskrit a tough language to master. But Lakshmi says otherwise. “In the initial stages, learning any new language can seem daunting. But once you get a hang of it, it becomes enjoyable. Sanskrit in particular, is a rich and sweet language. One just needs to develop interest. You will find a lot of teachers in Chennai who take Sanskrit classes. In fact, I am going to take my first class this September,“ she adds. 

Sixteen-year-old Ram Prakash and his 12-year-old brother Raghav Prakash have been learning Sanskrit for a year now and have begun speaking the language at home, too. “I took up Sanskrit in my 9th grade and found it really tough. But the language was engaging, which is why I signed up for spoken Sanskrit classes. Sanskrit is a language that has a lot of rules, but that's the best part. The language has helped me improve my pronunciation and has helped me understand the meaning of the shlokas I recite. My brother and I are in the fourth level in spoken Sanskrit and I'm competent enough to read books now, albeit a little slowly ,“ says Ram Prakash.


In ancient India, scholars used Sanskrit as the main language of written and verbal communication. In fact, the language was referred to as devabhasha -the language of Gods, and it was spoken by only a certain community . But that has changed over the years. Ramachandran says that Sanskrit has become the janbhasha -the language of the people, now. “Sanskrit is no longer a community-based language. From Muslims to Christians, we have students from different communities who are interested in signing up for spoken Sanskrit lessons. We, in fact, go to villages to teach the language and reach the masses,“ he says.

M Afreen, who is in her eighth grade, has been learning Sanskrit for a year now. She says, “I wanted to learn a new language, which is why I chose Sanskrit. It is the oldest language in our country and is rooted to our culture. My father is not very encouraging of me learning Sanskrit, but then I tell him, that there is nothing wrong in learning a language that belongs to this country . I love the language and I will continue to learn it,“ she says.

Related articles:-

Wide reach of Sanskrit culture in the past.

Learn Sanskrit to stimulate brain cells.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sindhu- Sakshi- Dipa – their Olympic effect in India.

A nation starved of recognition at the world’s prestigious sporting event is crying and screaming with elation at the achievements of our girls at Rio Olympics. I have added Dipa Karmakar’s name in the list in the title as her achievement is no less than that of a world champion as she was one among the two Finalists in her category to have done the most difficult vault called Produnova.

Losing the medal by just 0.15 points would be tougher than doing Produnova, and our girl Dipa Karmakar had to swallow that pain. True to her name (as I assume) she has stood as a Doer – a karma gyani who is not rattled by the wins or loses, when I read her say, coming fourth means fourth (place) and that she is happy with the vault she had performed. This kind of reaction is too odd to hear in the midst so much fuss about winning, winning and winning.

Winning is of course important, but the kind of temperament that one has to possess in facing wins and loses is even more important. I am reminded of a dialogue that comes often in Sundara Kanda of Valmiki Ramayana. It is – in any war winning or losing is not in one’s hands however capable one may be and one must be prepared for any of the two (winning or losing) in a war. It is the same in sporting events too. It is the same in life also – in how we face the events in life, both good and bad. One has to put up the best performance that one can, but when results come one must accept it with equanimity.

I found the same idea mouthed by the Great Sindhu after losing the Finals. She said that like in life, there will be ups and downs in sporting events too. She exhibited the finest form of that wisdom of equanimity in looking calm after losing the Gold and in lifting up Carolina Marin (winner) from the ground to congratulate her and in picking up the racquet of Marin (who left it on the ground) and leaving it in her place. It is a class performance of a champion which Marin didn’t display while playing and even after winning. It has become a habit for winners to scream and shout on winning. At the same moment one must think of the other at whose cost, that winning became possible. A true winner must immediately pat the loser in a gesture that all is not lost forever and that the loser had indeed did her/ his best. That is the best way a champion must conduct himself/herself.

The coaches are teaching them how to express their adrenalin-surge during the course of the game. But the players must be taught how to accept victory with elegance which cannot happen without an element of equanimity. This does not mean that we the people who have to cheer them must not exhibit our elation in all boisterous forms. Our support, cheers and applause are the energisers of our players, not the selfie comments.

The way our sports people are handling victory and defeat has a deep story behind. They have gone there with not much support in the making of their potential. They have gone there knowing very well their limitations. But we expect them to speak ‘I will win” etc, thinking that it is how a positive mindset has to be. Sakshi Malik has gone to play from a place that does not want to see a girl child born. Dipa Karmakar has gone from a practice session made of crash mats and discarded parts of second hand scooter. Only Sindhu seems to have had some backing in honing up her skills. But even that had a background of a Gopichand who was determined to make up for the inefficiencies that he often suffered.

So the problem why we have not produced world class talent is because we have not thought of giving importance to the sporting events that are making headlines for a fortnight now. Except cricket no other form of game is given importance or even known to common man. The reason is obvious. Media and publicity have kept up the cricket fever forever.

Another reason is that we as a young nation wishing to rise up quickly have our priorities elsewhere. We have to feed more than a billion people, pull them up from poverty and enable them to have access to basic needs. Only when a family fulfils its basic needs of means of decent living, can it think of encouraging their children to take up sports as a full time work. Our policy direction is also such that we want to produce only engineers and doctors. Or atleast this is the case in Tamilnadu where no other avocation has been set as a goal for our youth. We believe that education alone can uplift us and that is also true to a greater extent. We are still at this level of coming up to some status in life. Once this is fulfilled, people would start concentrating on sports.

Looking at the men and women taking part in many games in Olympics, it is obvious that they have a safe living back at home. They are not starved nor were the facilities lacking for them. By taking up a sport, they are not having an unstable career or lack the means of living. For a nation of huge population like ours such guarantees are not there. So far whoever had made it big, were driven by their passion for the game overriding all difficulties. Such a situation cannot produce sports talents in a larger scale.

In this situation private participation can bring out results in the immediate future. I think of the Indian Cricket board and the wealthy Film stars as best patrons to make this happen. The BCCI is like Trimala-Tirupathi Devasthanam in having good flow of funds. The Devasthanam is doing a lot by way of helping poorly kept temples to renovate and maintain pujas. Likewise, the rich BCCI can set up training academies for as many kinds of sporting events as possible and maintain them. 

Attracting talent can happen region-wise. For example our best swimmers can be identified from the fishermen community. Genetically and locationally, the kids in the fishing hamlets can be seen to be adept in swimming, something I have noticed near Rameswaram. Swimming academies must be set up near such places to enable them to try and hone up their skills in swimming. Traditionally our country has had a variety of talents like this. As we can see in Sakshi, best wrestlers come from Haryana and Rajasthan – the location of Pushkar where Olympic like events  were held during Mahabharata times.  

Like BCCI, film stars are the richest in the country and they can take initiatives to provide facilities and attract talent to train them up. Salman Khan has taken the lead in this regard. Perhaps exposure to wrestling in his film Sultan had enabled him to appreciate the difficult practice sessions that the sports persons have to undergo. He had come forward to donate a lakh rupees to each one of the Indian contingent that had participated in Rio Olympics. Other film celebrities also must come forward to do something like him to encourage sportsmen and promote sports.

Today the focus is only on the winners. Imagine the rest of the Indian contingent, they too had dedicated a considerable part of their lives to training in their respective sports; but not lucky to clinch the titles. What is awaiting them back home? Would they concentrate on another bout of practice to get qualified for another event or look for venues to earn a living? As long as this dilemma is real, we cannot see more medallists in future events.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Ancient sound propagation theories and their Vedic applications (Guest post by R.Ramanathan)

 Given below is an article by Mr R. Ramanathan, the Veda adhyayin who has been doing an excellent service to Veda Matha by means of various types of articles to make the common public understand the supremacy of Vedas from different angles. In the current article, he is explaining the Science of Sound which is the basis of Vedas. This article is a kind of twin article to the previous one on how the Vedas are preserved through oral tradition. The basics of oral tradition being the ‘sound’ factor, Mr Ramanathan explains in the current article the theories of sound propagation found in the various Darshanas and ancient linguistic cognition theories, how they are used to form the philosophical background for efficacy of mantras and spiritual/metaphysical  inquiry.

Ramblings on ancient linguistic and sound propagation theories


Ancient Indians have done a very exhaustive study on linguistics principles and sound propagation. The main contribution to this was from the Poorva Mimamsakas and the Vaiyakaranas (Grammarians) and to some extent Naiyayikas (Logicians or people from the Nyaya darshanas). The Poorva Mimamsakas were very concerned with those theories as they were gung-ho on establishing the infallibility of the Vedas.  We will first deal with the sound propagation theory posited by the Poorva Mimamsa School.

Sound propogation theory from Poorva Mimamsa.

Here I will share material from an article by one Mr N. Siva Senani, whom I used to communicate with in some groups. I do not know anything about him or never met him or do not have a link to his article, except for a PDF. So I could not give the link here. The credit for this info under this heading goes completely to Mr N. Siva Senani. But I have taken some liberty to present this in a different way.

In the Bhāṣya on the mimamsa sutras of Jaimimi, 1.1.13, of the Mīmāṃsā model of production and propagation of sound is given. The original text and our translation is given below:

तच्च सयं ोगविभागसद्भािेसवत भितीवत सयं ोगविभागाििेावभव्यञ्जकाविवत िक्ष्यामः। उपरतयोः सयं ोगविभागयोः श्रयूत इवत चते,्नतैदिेम।्न ननूमपुरमवि सयं ोगविभागाः, यत उपलभ्यतेशब्द इवत। वि तेप्रत्यक्षा इवत। . . . . अवभघातने वि प्रवेरता िायिः विवमतावन िाय्विरावि प्रवतबाधमानाः सितव ोवदक्कान्सयं ोगविभागानत्पु ादयवि। यािद्वगे मवभप्रवतष्ठि।े तेच िायोरप्रत्यक्षत्वाा्यं ोगविभागा नोपलभ्यि।े अनपुरतष्वे िे तषे ुशब्द उपलभ्यतेनोपरतषे।ुअतो दोषः। अत एि चानिुातं दूरादुपलभ्यतेशब्दः।

As long as compressions and expansions (saṃyogavibhāgau) [of air particles] are present, Śabda is heard. Therefore we say that compressions and expansions are the manifesters of Śabda. If it be said that Śabda is heard after compressions and expansions have stopped, it is not so. The compressions and expansions, from which Śabda is perceived, do not cease. It is only that these compressions and expansions cannot be directly perceived. . . . . The air particles propelled by the stroke hit against other unagitated air particles and produce compressions and expansions on all sides. These compressions and expansions subsist as long as the impetus lasts. Since air cannot be directly perceived these compressions and expansions are not visible. Śabda is heard only as long as these compressions and expansions do not cease, but not after they cease. . . . This is the reason Śabda is heard for longer distances downwind. This description is, quite remarkably, exactly the same as found in any modern Physics textbook. An extract is given from a modern textbook (Singh, Singh Sardar. Longman science Physics 9. New Delhi: DK Publishers, 2009. pp. 107, 108), with the Sanskrit text from Śābarabhāṣya superimposed on the text at appropriate places.

 (अवभघातने वि प्रवेरता िायिः विवमतावन िाय्विरावि प्रवतबाधमानाः सितव ोवदक्कान्सयं ोगविभागानत्पु ादयवि।)
Consider the original position of layers of air when no sound wave exists (Fig. 5.2(a)). Now strike a tuning fork against a rubber pad (अवभघातेन वि), so that both the prongs P1 and P2 begin to vibrate. For convenience we shall consider the motion of only one prong, say P2. When the prong P2 moves to the right it pushes the layer of air adjacent to it (प्रेवरताः िायिः). This creates a region of high pressure close to the prong P2. The air gets compressed (or a compression is formed) Fig. 5.2(b). This compression is passed on to the next layers by the vibrating air layers (विवमतावन िाय्विरावि प्रवतबाधमानाः). The layers vibrate back and forth about their mean positions and the disturbance, in the form of compression, moves on. When P2 moves to the left of the original position (Fig. 5.2(c)) and leaves a region of low pressure on the right side, the layers move apart to form a rarefaction. In the rarefaction, the particles are farther apart than normal. Like in the case of compression, the rarefaction is also passed on to the adjacent layers. A compression is always followed by a rarefaction, which is again followed by a compression (सयं ोगवियोगान उत्पादयवि). This process is repeated so long as the tuning fork is vibrating (यािद्वेगमवभप्रवतष्ठिे). Thus, the net effect of a vibrating tuning fork is that it sends out the waves consisting of alternate compressions and rarefactions in the air (Fig. 5.2 (d)).”

So you can see how advanced the thinking of the Poorva Mimamsakas was. The gist of all the above is that they believed that sound produced by any source is heard when the energy, travelling in the form of compressions and rarefactions hit the ear.  This is similar to the concept of a mechanical wave in modern physics. We will also see the view held by various other schools.

Sound propogation theories of other schools or darshanas (Both Astika and nastika schools)

Sankhya: The Sankhya school held that the Shrotendriya or organ of hearing (Here we do not mean the gross external ear, but the internal subtle Bhoota tanmatras that combine to form the organ of hearing). The idea behind such a concept was this. The bhoota “Akasha” or space has the quality of hearing, just as air has the sense of touch, Agni has the qualities of sound, touch and sight etc. In the theory of Panchikarana (Mixing up of the various bhootas in well-defined proportions) of the Sankhyas, depending on the nature of the organ created, the corresponding bhoota will have a dominant presence in the combination. So since the nature of akasha is of sound, akasha is the bhoota that will be predominant in the bhoota level of the organ of hearing. This may be the reason the Sankhyas posited an apparently absurd theory.

Nyaya and Vaisheshika: These schools held that sound travelled in the form of waves in ether. So these schools seem to have an earlier wave notion for sound.

Buddhists: Held that there was no contact required between ear and sound for hearing.

Theories of language cognition

Speech or Vaak was conceived as goddess Sarasvati in the Veda. 

And as discussed in a previous article, the Vedas were transmitted orally and was used extensively in rituals and in Vedantic philosophical enquiry into Brahman and its nature.  The two different kinds of usage of the Veda resulted in two different theories of linguistic cognition, the Varna vaada, believed to be posited by saga Upavarsha who wrote the most ancient commentary on the Brahma sutras. The other theory was Sphota vaada developed by Rishi Sphotayana.  Ancient authorities like Bodhayana are however of the opinion that both karma and jnana kandas of the Vedas are equally important for the Sadhaka.

The schools that supported Varna vaada are: Vedanta (Strangely so. We will get into the “why?” soon), Poorva Mimamsa, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Kashmir Shaiva Siddhanta and Sakta tantra. The schools that support Sphota vaada are, Vaiyakaranas (Grammarians) like Panini, Patanjali, Katyayana and Bhartrhari . Barthrhari especially uses this theory to develop the concept of the Advaitic shabda brahman, which strangely is refuted by Shankara in his commentary on the Brahma sutra. We will take a look into a brief description of these 2 theories

Varna Vaada

The Varna Vaada School proposes that the meaning conveyed in a sentence is the sum total of the individual letters. Simply put, the whole is the sum of its parts. Thus the basic linguistic unit as per this school is the Akshara or the phonemic syllable. As stated earlier the Poorva Mimamsaka School is the arch defender of this idea. The reason the Mimamasakas supported this theory was because they had to prove that the Vedic injunctions were the main sources of dharma. Indeed as per Manu “Vedam akhilam dharma moolam”. So to do this they had to prove

1. Words are eternal.

2. Words and their meanings are eternal. When one utters the word “Gau” in Sanskrit, one immediately connects it with the idea of a physical cow along with its qualities and attributes.

3. The meaning conveyed in a sentence is the sum total of the individual letters.

But then a question arises. Sound uttered is surely not eternal as it dies away soon after uttering. So how can one claim the Vedas are eternal, since a Vedic chant also dies down like normal speech? The answer here is that the Vedas have an Aanupoorvi or fixed order of words and accents. Whenever one chants the Rudram, one has to follow the established order in the chant. This fixed order or Aanupoorvi of the Veda is the meaning of the eternity of the Vedas. It is to preserve this Aanupoorvi such great pains were taken in the oral tradition. In fact the amount of literature and knowledge generated in this field of angas and lakshana granthas is comparable to the vastness of the Veda itself.

To give an illustration of what I mean, the Taittriya shaka in many places says “Purastat svahakara vaa anye devaha| Uparisthtath  svahakaara anye”. The meaning: Some gods accept offerings when svahakara is added after the name of the devata like “Indraya Svaaha”. So this is Uparishtath svahakara, i.e. svaaha after the name. An example of Purastat svahakara is “Svaaha agnim”. So here the svaha is before “agnim”.  Some devatas can be both, i.e. “Agnaya Svaha” and “Svaha agnim”. So you see here that though by name the devata can be the same, for ritual purposes they are considered as two different deities. That is “Svaha agnim” is an offering for one deity and “Agnaya Svaha” is an offering for another separate deity even though both are “Agni”. This is an example of how Aanupurvikam or ordering of words plays an important role in rituals. Thus if a sacrifice specifies the use of both purastat and uparishtat svahaakaras for the same deity, both offering have to be performed as if though they are separate. Then only the final results accrue.

This theory can be closely connected to the Apoorva or unseen effect of various acts in a sacrifice. The Mimamsakas maintain that each step in a sacrifice results in an Apoorvata and each of these Apporvatas, add up to give the final result. For example to prepare the offering called Purodasha (Rice flour mixed with ghee and cooked. Similar to arisi uppuma). Here one has to first collect the paddy, husk it with a pestle, crush the grains with a stone etc. Each step involves the chanting of mantras and each step generates a separate Apoorvata.  Note the Mimamsakas maintain that each individual Apoorvata does not give “Some punya or minimal punya” and we can see only the combined result as stated in the Veda.

Comparing this linguistically, when we utter the word “Manager”, we do not understand the “Man” half way through, as a man, because the manager could be a woman also. But when the word is uttered we immediately get the meaning without caring to note what individual syllable’s mean. The meaning cannot be over and above the utterances of the syllables in the word. Thus the Varna vaada is deeply reflective of the ritual philosophy of the Mimamsakas. 

This theory is also the basis of the why mantras have a desired effect. Since the meaning of each word has an actual physical significance in the world, chanting them in the proper Aanupoorvi results in the exact physical effects that are desired. This is supposed to be the background philosophy for why karmas like Abhichara or black magic works.

Summarizing, to the Mimamsakas the reality of the shabda brahmam lies in the Aanupoorvi of the Veda and further in the injunctive statements of the Veda, only though which dharma can be known. The meaning of a statement being the sum total of the individual varnas. This could be the reason for why the Mimamsakas do not comment on the Upanishads, because they contain words that cannot be related to physical concepts and sometimes, the meanings are deeper than the apparent meanings of the stated sentence.

For example to understand the meaning of the word “Tat tvam asi”, “You are that”, one cannot state to have understood or experienced the self if one only understands the apparent meaning of the sentence as “You are that”. It requires deeper mananam and nidhidhyasanam. This is where Sphota vaada kicks in. But strangely all schools of Vedanta reject the Sphota vaada and support Varna vaada. This is gets stranger, if one considers the Advaita School and its focus on the 4 mahavakyas. Shankara very aggressively criticizes Sphota vaada. I think this is because of the need to establish the infallibility of the Shruti, including the karma kanda. All Vedanta Schools are forced to reject Sphota vaada.  Now a discussion of Sphota vaada follows.

Sphota vaada

This theory says that the meaning of the sentence is much more than just the sum of its parts. The meaning for the word Sphota is “Sudden” or “Quick”. The open hood of a cobra also is termed sphuta because of the deadly speed with which the hood opens. The Sphota vaadins postulate an entity that actually brings in the desired cognition of a sentence. This entity is not part of the aksharas in the sentence. This explains why the Sphota vaadins consider the meaning of the sentence is much more than just the sum of its parts.

Sphota vaadins too accept Vyaakarana as an important Anga in preservation of the Vedas as the Mimamsakas, but they go one step further. They postulate an eternal Shabda brahman like the Brahman of the Upanishads, which again Shankara rejects totally in his Bhashya on the Brahma sutras. The Sphota vaadins make a distinction between the existence of the physical object and its mental notion.

To the Mimamsakas the word and its relation with physical objects are real. To the Sphota vaadins the meanings reside in human consciousness, which has an eternal relationship with sound on various circumstances.  This leads to the ultimate Shabda Brahman and is represented by OM of the Vedas. Patanjali in this context states in his Maha Bhashya on Panini’s Ashtadhyayi: “The man who knows the secrets of words (Vaag-Yoga) attains bliss in this world and the next”. Patanjalai in his Mahabhashya again says “Maha devaha Shabdaha”. This means “Sound is the great Lord”.  So a study of sound will help us reach that state.

There are many statements in the Vedas to support this theory. The Maitrayini Upanishad says at the very beginning “That beginning and endless Brahman whose essential nature is shabda manifests into all this world and objects”. This statement seems to directly support Sphota vaada. Bhartrhari especially says that words and consciousness are interchangeable entities.   Also giving an example from the Purusha sookta “Namani kritva abhivadan yadastee” “After creating various forms the Prajapatis or spiritual giants started calling all objects created by name”. So names were given to objects after creation. Thus this establishes the idea that “Artha” or meaning of sounds have mental existences, and have an eternal relationship between objects, the mental artha existing in the minds of the Prajapati even before the objects got created.

Thus to grammarians the Shabda Brahman is not a secondary reality, as posited by Advaita Vedanta and various other theistic schools. It is coeval with the ultimate reality itself. The entire model is based on the Vedic conception of Omkara and Pranava itself. The additional meaning bearing entity, in addition to syllables in the sentences is called “Sphota” by Bharthrhari. Thus to know the actual meaning of Mahavakyas like “Tat tvam asi” one needs this Sphota which is not a physical syllable but is more spiritual to understand and actualize the meanings. To Bhartrhari individual varnas or letters were artificial constructs. They were not real. This very postulate cuts at the root of the Poorva Mimamsaka doctrine. Thus Kumarilla Bhatta in his Shloka Vaartika has gone the extra mile to discredit this doctrine totally.

This concept of Shabda Brahman has been used in yogic practices like Naada yoga of which music is a part. Music is considered to be a great way to realize Brahman. This has been greatly encouraged by sages like Yajnavalkya . He says in a Smriti with his name that “One can realize the Brahman by playing the veena and meditating on its notes.”

Thus the Nada yoga tradition is based on the Sphota vaada concept and use sound to realize and connect with the ultimate Brahmam. In the mantra shastras this “Sphota or meaning bearing entity” was concretized in form of Bijaakshara, which are supposed to give special effects on chanting the mantra and cause the inner meaning of the mantra to flash in the sadhaka.

This concept is found in the Sama Veda, where in the middle of a Saman being sung we find strange syllables like “Auhova”, “ee”, “Oyi”, “Bha bha” etc that are sung.  These are supposed to be mystic syllables and can be considered to be the “Sphotas” for the Saman. Also the addition of “Om Bhur Bhuvasuvaha” to the main Gayathri mantra is another example for the concept of Sphota.
But there is a problem here. There are sentences in the Veda that are opposed to this point of view. In the Taittriya shaka, Indra the divine grammarian is supposed to have partitioned the divine vaak into human language, which involves Varna and the like. So this point of view is used by the Mimmsakas to attack Sphota vaada.    This concludes the discussion of the Sphota vaada.


The conflict between these two theories as I understand (I could be wrong here), is mainly due to two different applications of the Veda, ritualistic and Spiritual realization. Personally I would like to retain the Varna vaada for Karma kanda and the Sphota vaada for the Upanishads. But as stated earlier all Vedantic (All the 3 schools condemn it in their respective Brahma sutra bhashyas) and theistic schools seem to be against the Sphota vaada. Strangely the only Mimamsakas to support Sphota vaada was Mandana Mishra. But actually it was Patanjali and Bhartrhari who actually took this theory to its logical limits, where it started to find applications in the later Mantra shastra and Naada yoga and music schools.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Origin of Olympic Games traced to Matsya festival at Pushkar.

Common perception is that the Olympic Game is the oldest game event traced to ancient Greece of perhaps 8th century BCE. But looking at our scriptures in India, we have reasons to think that Pushkar in Rajasthan in India hosted international games from time immemorial or from a roughly datable past of 5000 years before present, though the events have got restricted to animal races at present. A research into the nature and origin of Olympic games and also the until-now known features of Ionian sports congregation reveal connections to Pushkar Gaming event which was called as “Matsya Festival” during the times of Mahabharata.  

To begin with, let me show 2 major features of the Olympic Games having strong connections to Indian Vedic practices.

1. Olympic game event was originally a religious festival of pagan Gods dedicated to the Greek God Zeus. The description of Zeus resembles that of Indra.  Zeus is regarded as the Chief of all Gods much like Indra who is the chief of all Gods (Devas). Zeus is also regarded as the God of the sky, lightning and thunder - a description that is similar to Indra. Zeus holds a weapon that signifies thunderbolt which is similar to Vajrayudha held by Indra. Infact Tamil texts speak of Indra-vil (Indra’s bow) as the weapon of Indra which is nothing but a symbol of lightning.

(Illustration of a thunderbolt and its symbolization as the Vajrayudha)

The picture below is that of Zeus holding the weapon of thunderbolt/ lightning. Note the weapon in his hand looking similar to Vajrayudha.

Vajrayudha in the hand of Indra is shown below in the 13th century statue found at Somnathpur in Karnataka.
(Pic courtesy here)

The iconographic description of Indra by Mayamatham (Vaastu text authored by Mayan) also says that Indra must be depicted with a thunderbolt in his hand. The above image from Somnathpur is exactly as given in Mayamatham.

Looking at the facial features of Zeus, his beard is a prominent feature. Indra too had a beard as per Rig Vedic verse. {“Upon the great Trikadruka days, Hero, rejoicing thee, O Indra, drink the Soma. Come with Bay Steeds to drink of libation, shaking the drops from out thy beard”  (RV 2-11-17)}

Another reason to identify Zeus in the image of Indra is that he heads the pantheon of other Gods, much like Indra. Including him the Olympic Gods are 12 in number which is somewhat similar to the depiction of a leading God along with the zodiac of 12 signs.

There is a verse in the Rig Veda that praises Indra as the Ram / Mesha whose gracious deeds are spread like heavens above. (RV – 1-51-1). It is as though Indra is leading the zodiac of 12 signs (with respective lords).  Thus there are strong reasons to believe that the imagery of Indra of the Vedic Thought has gone into Greek mythology as Zeus.

2. The Olympic fire is an important component of the Games event. During the ancient Olympic events that fire was lit at the altar of Zeus and other Gods at Olympia. Lighting lamp at the beginning of any event is basically a Hindu practice. Lighting a torch in front of the deities and during processions is also a Hindu practice that continues even today. Lighting a torch on top of a Deepa- sthambha as is done in Hindu temples is what was done in ancient Olympia before the start of the game.

Today the Olympic flame is brought from Greece and lit on a pillar (deepa- sthambha) at the stadium as shown in the picture below.

In ancient Olympia, the flame that was kept burning in front of the temple of Zeus was somewhat like how it is shown in the picture below.

(For source picture and details read

The above picture is an artist’s construction. The altars at Olympia have been destroyed, but based on corroboratory inputs, it is found that a fire was permanently lit at the altars of Zeus and other Gods in Olympia. This is not a fire altar of the type of a Homa kunda and it is not even a pillar (Deepa sthambha). This is clearly a structure that holds fire on top as a torch light. The shape is strikingly that of a hill or a mountain.

Interestingly this fire altar resembles the fire lit of Annamalai deepam – the lamp-fire lit on top of the Thirvannamalai hills.

Another striking similarity is that Olympic flame is obtained from Sun’s rays. The Thiruvannamali deepam is symbolic of the fire of the Sun as Shiva, as the hill itself has got its name from Sun God as Aruna-malai (Hill of Aruna, the Sun ) which corrupted to Anna-malai.

The occasion of lighting this lamp of fire on the hill-top occurs in the month of Karthikai on the day of Full Moon (Nov-Dec) every year. Further interesting connection is that the day of Full Moon Karthikai is an important day at Pushkar in Rajasthan of the annual 5 day Pushkar Fair or Pushkar Festival. At present no sporting events are held here, but the Fair is well known for animal races especially camel races. Many weird types of competitions are held such as the longest “Moustache” and the longest “nail” competitions.  The kind of draw that the Fair attracts and the kind of competitions that are being held do indicate that there must have been a time in the past when sporting events were also held. The proof of this comes from Mahabharata.   

Matsya Festival at Pushkar.

In Mahabharata, the Pandava brothers spent 12 years in exile and entered the Matsya Desa to spend the 13th year incognito. The 13th chapter of the Virata parva says that on the 4th month of Pandava’s stay (in the 13th year), a grand festival was held in honour of Brahma known as Matsya festival in which competitions were held for athletes who came from other countries.

(Location of Matsya country – Pushkar is within the territory inside the circle).

To quote from Mahabharata, the athletes were “endued with huge bodies and great prowess, like the demons called KalakhanjasAnd elated with their prowess and proud of their strength, they were highly honoured by the king. And their shoulders and waists and necks were like those of lions, and their bodies were very clean, and their hearts were quite at ease. And they had many a time won success in the lists in the presence of kings.”

The description further goes on about a particular wrestler called Jimuta who remained unbeaten. It was then the king of Virata (under whom the Panadavas were working in disguised names) challenged him to fight with his cook who was none other than Bheema working as a cook in the king’s kitchen in the disguised name, Vallava. Needless to say that Bheema- Vallava won the duel in which Jimuta was killed. Pleased with his prowess, the king made him enter into combats with many other athletes. Not being satiated with those powerful combats, the king even made Bheema fight with lions, tigers and elephants.

The strange similarity here again with ancient Greek Olympics is that the first ever champion in the first ever Olympics was a cook by name Coroebus. He won the running race which was the only race conducted in the first Olympics. Is this a real one or a mythically constructed one taking cue from the Pushkar-Matsya festival dominated by Vallava, the cook and was adapted to Olympian Games after a couple of millennia?

Another reason to back up this thought is about the way Greek names of places and myths are derived from Sanskrit and from pre-existing sources of history or myth that were not of Greek origin. It is as though on one fine morning the long history of Greek gods and their escapades were discovered and narrated as belonging to a place that did not know them before! The Greeks also claim that those mythical Gods were real and once lived as kings and warriors on the earth. On the one hand they considered them as historical figures and on the other they added mythical elements. In both cases they ended up fantasising with the characters of Vedic lands and Vedic Gods. One example is Zeus who is an adaptation of Indra, the Lord of Devas. Greek etymologists consider Zeus to have been derived from  Deva -> Deus -> Dzeus. Most of pronouns of Greek myths and geography can be traced like this to Sanskrit.

Applying such rules of derivation of Greek sounds from Sanskrit, it appears that the names Olympia and Palaestra, the ancient wrestling ground of Olympia are related to Bheema’s name Vallava / Vallabha and wrestling respectively.

Origin of the name Olympia

There exists no proper etymology for the word Olympia in Greek or any other language of Europe. They say that Olympia means ‘from Olympus’. But what is Olympus?  The reply is that it is the dwelling place of Olympian Gods starting with Zeus! But when we apply the rules (deduced) of how letters of Sanskrit are found to undergo changes in Greek language, we can find a connection between Vallava (or Vallabha) and  Olympia.

 Using the rules given in page 396 of the book “India in Greece” authored by E.Pococke, ‘v’ in Sanskrit becomes ‘o’ in Greek. The name of Bheema was Vallava or could have been Vallabha. Changing the first letter ‘v’ of Vallava, it becomes Ollava. The letters V,B,P are  interchangeable in this transition. The last letter ‘va’ or ‘bha’ becomes ‘pa’ or ‘p’. So Vallava first loses va and becomes Ollava. The last letter ‘va changes to ‘pa’ to become ‘ollapa’. The ‘ll’ became ‘l’ or ‘lum’. Thus the transition is Vallava -> Ollava -> Ollapa ->  Olumpa -> Olympa ->  Olympia.

An important structure of ancient Olympia has a similar etymological connection to the Sanskrit word for wrestling.

This is Palaestra,  the wrestling ground of Olympia.
The above is what remains of Palaestra of the 3rd or 2nd century BCE in Olympia. It is a 66 metre square building that was covered with sand for use in boxing or wrestling events. The orientation and design of the structure is as per Vaastu rules.

Palaestra traces its origin to the Greek word ‘palaiein’ which means ‘wrestle’. In Sanskrit a wrester is a ‘malla’ and wrestling is ‘mal-yuddha’. The root word is ‘mal’ which means to hold. Substituting ‘ma’ with ‘pa’, malla became palla -> palay -> palaiein in Greek. Both mean wrestling. And wrestling was the main event at Matsya festival of Pushkar.

Timing of Olympics

The timing of Olympic Games once in four years also has an ominous connection with Pandavas. According to the earliest myth narrated by the Greek Historian Pausanias of the 2nd century CE, there were 5 brothers who went on a race at Olympia to entertain the newborn Zeus. Of them one won the race which left the four out of race. So after four years the next race was held and this is how the tradition of conducting the Olympic Games once in four years began!

The number 5 for the brothers and number 4 for the intervening period have a connection to the Pandavas and the Mastya Games. Like the 5 brothers of Olympia, the Pandavas were 5 in number. 4 was the month number during their stay in Virata’s Matsya Desa when the Matsya festival was held.
Mahabharata says that “after three months had passed away, in the fourth, the grand festival in honour of the divine Brahma which was celebrated with pomp in the country of the Matsyas, came off”. (Mahabharata – Virata parva – 13th section). The Pushkar festival culminates on the Full Moon of karthika. If this happened to be the 4th month of their stay, the Pandavas must have begun the 13th year in Solar month of Aadi (cancer). As per research in Mahabharata this is identified with lunar Shravana month. Part of it comes in Solar month of Aadi. Counting from Aadi, Karthika month comes as the 4th month (after Aavani, Purattasi and Aippasi). The Pandavas witnessed the Gaming events on the 4th month after their stay. Was this taken by myth writers of Greece as the events in the 4th year and built up their mythology upon that?

These connections apart, the question needs to be answered how and by whom the Pandava connections were carried over to Greece. Based on the available inputs we have today, Ionians, one of the ancient tribes of Greece were the carriers of Vedic culture and life and characters of Mahabharata.
Ionia is a Greek word transformed from Sanskrit word Yavana. Y in Sanskrit becomes ‘i’ in Greek. ‘V’ becomes ‘’O’ in Greek and therefore Ya-va-na became I-O-na ->Ionia. The Yavanas occupied North West part of India for a long time and their predecessors were a branch of Yayati’s sons. Yayati was Rama’s grandfather’s grandfather. Yayati ruled the region that is regarded as Matsya or Madhya desa where river Saraswathi flowed. This is the North West part of India that included Rajasthan.

Yayati had 5 sons (Pancha Manava) who were engaged in a fight to among themselves after the death of Yayati, to wrest the control of the kingdom. After the war the 5 sons separated with 2 of them, Anu and Druhyu leaving the Indian sub continent. It is not an exaggeration to say that from then onwards the history of India and Europe came to be determined by these Pancha Manavas with Anu and Druhyu spreading the Vedic culture in Europe that underwent many a transformation as Time progressed.

Of the 5 sons, Yadu and Turvasu were the sons of Yayati born to Devayani, daughter of Shukracharya.  From Yadu sprang the Yaduvamsha in which Krishna was born. The descendants of Turvasu came to be called as Yavanas. So there is a blood relation between Yavanas and Yadavas of Yadu vamsha. Their origins happening in a distant past, say 7000 years ago (before Rama’s times), their population has increased over time and spread to different places within and outside India while undergoing changes in their character and life style. But with all that the underlying faith in Veda Dharma and its Gods had remained with them in some form.

Games of Ionians.

By the time a group of Yavanas migrated to the west of India in the millennium before the start of the Common Era, lot of changes have happened in the way they spoke and behaved. But they retained their memory of ancient ties with Veda Dharma and life style. The Ionians (Yavana)  were in groups and founded 12 cities and formed a league among themselves. They were the early Greeks. They carried the memory of the Games of Matsya desa and conducted annual sports called Panonia. It must be remembered here that the Matsya games also was an annual affair.

The Panonian Games can be characterised as the precursor to Olympic Games. A major purpose of the ancient Olympic Games was to buy peace among the warring countries. On the year of the Games, a truce was called and the countrymen geared up to participate in the gaming events. 

Similarly the Ionions spread over 12 cities were constantly under threat of war. They formed a league among themselves to strengthen their position. The Panonian festival of religious affairs and gaming events strengthened their unity and also helped them to be physically fit that aided them in war-preparedness.  This must have been the aim of the gaming events at Pushkar also, as the countries of India at that time were living under the threat of war from neighbours and had to be vigilant. The Gaming events such as wrestling and boxing kept the kshatriyas fit throughout the year during peace times.  Even during war times, the religious nature of the Festival helped the athletes from other countries to participate in the events.

The Ionians worshiped Poseidon  before the start of the games. There is no etymology for the word Poseidon. The syllables are  po-se-da. The se-da is an adaptation from Siva, the lord of the Hindu pantheon. Po is the prefix. The identity with Lord Siva is reinforced by the trident carried by Poseidon just like Siva.

But in the Olympic games, Zeus was given precedence. Even there we can quote a connection to Vedic Thought. Rig Vedic verse 1-174-9 says that Indra helped Yadu and Turvasu to sail safely in stormy weathers. (“A Stormer thou hast made the stormy waters flow down, O Indra, like the running rivers. When o’er the flood thou broughtest them, O Hero, thou keptest Turvaśa and Yadu safely”.)

Though Poseidon was the Sea God (perhaps in having helped the Ionians cross the seas safely when they prayed to him / Siva), later Indra was brought in to lead the Gods in the form of Zeus. Perhaps the above quoted Rig Vedic idea had existed among the Yavanas, the descendants of Turvasu and after weighing the options, they settled down to Zeus as the supreme protector during the earliest part of their history.  

From Ionion Panonium, the games got a new birth at Olympia. New myths were woven from the available pool of stories that were remembered and transferred down the generations.

Games promoted by Celts.

Another source of Olympic kind of games can be attributed to Celts. Celts, pronounced as Kelts had Druids among them whose ancestors could be related to Druhu, a son of Yayati who went westward after losing the war of Pancha Manavas.

To give a brief connection of Celts / Druids with Vedic people, they followed Vedic practices like idol worship, worship of multiple gods, food offerings in worship, philosophy of non destruction of soul, belief in rebirth after death, worship of ancestors, etc. Julius Caesar, while describing them, mentions that they were experts in Religion, Philosophy and Astronomy, and they were doing research in, debating and interpreting, those fields. This is similar to the way Upanishads were formed through debates, discussions and interpretation of Vedas. The Druids chanted something similar to Vedas. Vedas were not written, but orally transmitted. Similarly the Druids did not keep a written record of the chanting. They did not read out from books. Those who chanted Vedas were under strict regulations and disciplines; the Druids also followed strict codes of conduct. Like this, the Druids can be compared to Brahmins in Vedic tradition in many ways.

When Greeks and Romans brought Celts under their rule, they changed the Celtic names. They changed the names of places and people to Greek and Latin and gave new interpretations. Part of Greek myths and practices can be traced to these changes carried over from Celts.

What is of importance to this article is that the very name Celts (Kelts) can be related to Kelati or Khela in Sanskrit which refer to playing or sports. The Celts were fond of sports. Celts were interested in water sports and in other sports of might. They played War games too, which is unfamiliar to Europeans till this day. Historical researchers say that there was a wooden board in this game in which wooden figures were used for playing. The figures would disappear in the game. This resembles the ancient game of India called as chathuranga. Its modern version is the chess game.

This game originated in India. The Pandavas, in Mahabharata, lost a kingdom, by merely playing this game, without actually engaging in a battle. Thus it is appropriate to call Chathuranga or chess as a War game! If Celts had played this game, it is easy to trace the origin of Celts to the place of origin of the game – which is India. If it is argued that Celts came to India and spread that game, then Celts and their names must have been remembered in India. But we find Celtic names in Central Europe and in Ireland, not in India! 

The Celts conducted sports events in a grand way at the time of harvest in August. Known as Lughnasadh, it was considered as an Assembly of Lugh much similar to the Panionia of the Ionian League where sports events were conducted to show bravery and skills. 'Lúghnasadh was the occasion of major assemblies where legal matters were settled, political problems were discussed, craftsmen, artists and entertainers got a chance to show off their talents, and sporting events brought scattered communities together.' (Details here)  Interestingly, the Celtic God Lugh who is said to have begun this festival has 3 faces that resemble the Tri-Muthy – the Trinity of Hindu Thought and also Brahma, the Creator God of the Hindu Thought.

Celtic God Lugh

The above image of Lugh has three faces on three sides. It is possible to interpret it in 2 ways as having three faces like Trimurthy – a combination of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva or as 4-faced Brahma whose 4th face is behind and therefore hidden from our vision.

Trimurthy (combination of Brahma,Vishnu and Shiva)

Four faced Brahma with the 4th face hidden from sight.

The four faced concept of Lugh makes it strikingly similar to Matsya festival of Pushkar where Brahma was the Chief God.


The Celtic and Ionian influence on ancient Greece and its mythology is something that cannot be ignored. Only these two groups have held sports events at grand scale inviting wider participation. The 3 or 4 faced Lugh as the presiding deity of Celtic Games and the trident holding Poseidon as the presiding deity of Ionian Games bear influence from Pushkar games presided by the 4 faced Brahma.

(Pushkar lake in 1850. Brooklyn Museum)

The Pushkar Fair continues till date without break for all times since Mahabharata. Perhaps with the fall of kingdoms after Muslim invasions, promotion, patronisation and participation of martial art games such as wrestling and boxing could have subsided at the Pushkar Fair. But the fact that this Festival continues even today without fail can be attributed to one figure that is Brahma! The religious fervour behind this Fair / festival had kept up the event alive despite down slides. So it is not without reason, our ancestors have brought in a connection to deities to any event – even if it is sporting event.

The Celts and Ionians and Greeks followed the same, but Christianity made sure that all historical foot prints are erased. Without giving room for any more erosion to happen in the Vedic soil of Bharat, it is pertinent that archaeologists explore Pushkar and its surroundings to re-establish what Mahabharata has written on the gaming events. On parallel lines, the gaming events must be revived at Pushkar Fair to regain the glory it once enjoyed as a venue for international games.

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