Sunday, June 24, 2018

Rakhigarhi was “Aryan”, Mr Witzel.

Earlier published in in three parts: 
Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

The preliminary findings of a DNA study of the skeletal remains of Rakhigarhi dated at 6000 years BP and reported in Economic Times on 13th June 2018 reveal that there was no trace of Central Asian ancestry. Mr Vasant Shinde, one of the authors of the study says, “This indicates quite clearly, through archeological data, that the Vedic era that followed was a fully indigenous period with some external contact.” 

Another author, Mr Neeraj Rai who did the DNA study says that the findings point to “greater continuity rather than to a new Aryan race descending and bringing superior knowledge systems to the region.”

While these are on expected lines concurring with the indigenous history of ancient India as known from the Itihasas, it is necessary to know the reaction from the other side of the fence. One of the prominent proponents of Aryan Invasion Theory, Mr Witzel had reacted to this news in one of the group-forums as follows:

“.. “proving" the same: ancient DNA (just 2 persons) from the Indus site of Rakhigarhi, long bandied about, now is said to show that their DNA was *not* that of “invading Aryans.”

Of course, in a Harappan site we would not expect W. Central Asian (Indo-Aryan) DNA, as the recent paper by Vagheesh et al. indicated: the *speakers* of Indo-Aryan entered the subcontinent only in the LATE Bronze Age: as evidence from Swat indicates.

For a nationalist/Hindutva person that does not matter, of course, as they wrongly maintain that the Harappan population was “Aryan” anyhow.
Problem solved, LOL.”

It is amusing to read this reaction with many pitfalls contained. Let me discuss them one by one.

Sample size

At the outset he seems to take a dig at the number of samples taken for the study. The samples were taken from just two persons. Can any conclusive word be given on a well-oiled theory like the AIT, from just 2 specimens?

Why not? If 92 scientists (Vagheesh M.Narasimhan and others /Narasimhan et al) can justify Aryan Invasion or rather, the movement of Indo-Aryan speakers to India on the basis of *zero* samples from the Indus region, the Shinde-Rai pair sounds more reliable when they made their claim on *just* 2 samples.  

Thankfully, Narasimhan et al adhered to academic integrity by conceding that they have no “access to any DNA directly sampled from the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC)” , but built up an hypothesis of an ancestry to IVC from outside Indus (Indus Periphery). In their own words,

Without ancient DNA from individuals buried in IVC cultural contexts, we cannot rule out the possibility that the group represented by these outlier individuals, which we call Indus_Periphery, was limited to the northern fringe and not representative of the ancestry of the entire Indus Valley Civilization population.” (lines 293-295)

 Indus Periphery-related people are the single most important source of ancestry in South Asia.” (Abstract)

Contrast this with the findings of Shinde-Rai which is based on the genetic material extracted from 2 specimens, found in a core IVC location from a layer of 6000 years BP and arriving at a conclusion that it is predominantly a local element and did not contain any central Asian genetic element. This is not a hypothesis but a finding. Can we say the same for the conclusion of Narasimhan et al? Theirs is a hypothesis – a ‘possibility’.  

The Swat evidence

Perhaps in realisation of this fact, Mr Witzel switches over to finding an excuse for the absence of Central Asian element in the genetic material of Rakhigarhi specimen.  He expresses in the next line of his comment that he doesn’t expect Central Asian gene in any Harappan site, meaning to say that they would appear in the genetic make-up only after the Aryan Invasion had started – i.e., from the middle of the 2nd millennium BCE. To support this he quotes the paper by Narasimhan et al on Swat-evidences. But then the Swat evidence speaks about an admixture of Iranian-agriculturists and South Asian hunter-gatherers (AASI) in 4700- 3000 BCE in outliers of BMAC and eastern Iran that was genetically similar to post-IVC groups of Swat region thousand years later (1200-800 BCE). This group is favoured by Narasimhan et al as forming “the single most important source of ancestry in South Asia.”

The fact of the matter is that there is NO central Asian ancestry in this group claimed by Mr Witzel as evidence from Swat (on subsequent Aryan Invasion). The admixture in Indus periphery / Swat is made of 58% - 86% of Iranian agriculturists related ancestry with “little Anatolian agriculturist related admixture” and 14%-42% AASI ancestry. On the other hand Shinde-Rai study shows minor traces of Iranian strains in Rakhigarhi which, going by the time period of the specimens, would be ancestral to Iranian genetic presence in Indus Periphery. In lay terms this means out of India movement of Iranian strains which however have to be corroborated by the exact strains found out in the study and made known once the paper is published.  

Can language be identified by genetics?

Another issue in Mr Witzel’s comment is about how he pinpoints the identity of the people that he calls Aryans. He identifies them by the language – “the *speakers* of Indo-Aryan”.
I never knew that linguistic research can be so easy that just by studying the genetic origins of a person one can tell the language he spoke! If DNA can tell the language a person spoke, it is certainly not a big deal to identify the languages spoken by say, the pre-historic people of Adichanallur in South East Tamilnadu.

Dated at 2500-2200 BCE, the skeletal remains of Adichanallur were found to have belonged to four races, namely, Caucasoids, Mongoloids, Negroids and Australoids, with none of them resembling contemporary Tamil people (here). 

Pic credit: The Hindu

The presence of these four races is absolutely not in sync with present day dwellers. How they reached this part of Tamilnadu from the presently known regions of these races might give a new migratory route. Instead if we link them with the language we speak, is it scientifically tenable to make a conclusion something like – that they brought Tamil to present-day Tamilnadu?

The Adichanallur specimens challenge one of the findings of the genetic study of Narasimhan et al. If Caucasoid had their origins in Central Europe or in central Steppe how did some of them reach this part of India at 2500-2200 BCE when their genetic markers were still hovering around BMAC between 2100 – 1700 BCE?

This means that there is many a slip in-between and Indian population history is not as easy as can be explained by an Aryan Invasion that is supposed to have brought a sophisticated language along with it. India’s location in a prime population blooming tropics, surrounded by oceans and drained by numerous rivers since Holocene offers a logical and plausible location for autochthonous growth of population with simultaneous growth of accessories like its own language and culture.

For saying this, if people like me are branded as “nationalist/ Hindutva person”, then the counter part of it makes the likes of Mr Witzel as anti-Indian and anti-Hindu, as Hindutva has its base in being a Hindu. Will he accept this identity for him?

Was Harappan Aryan?

Coming to the next and the last part of his comment, by rejecting the ‘Swat evidence’ of Narasimhan et al and subscribing to Shinde-Rai finding of indigenous strain in Rakhigarhi specimen, we are wrongly maintaining that Harappan was Aryan and be happy that ‘problem (is) solved’!

But the fact is that not just Harappan but the entire land of Bharat had been Aryan from an undated past. It was not caused by an Aryan Invasion. Central Asians or anybody could have come to India at any time or many times in the past, but how does it justify that they were the Vedic people?

In this entire issue of Aryan Invasion, one must be clear of what actually makes the culture Vedic?
Is it the spoke-wheeled chariot?

Yes, according to Mr Witzel. In the same comment on Rakhigarhi DNA study, he refers to the buried chariot excavated at Sinauli and observes,

“.. this is not a spoke-wheeled chariot but a cart with two *full* wheels, as is known from Harappa and Daimabad (see attached pictures). The usual confusion between chariots and wagons/carts, but exploited here for obvious political reasons : “No Aryan invasion” ”  

Does the animal pulling the chariot determine Aryan-ness?

Yes, according to Mr Witzel. His further comment on Sinauli-finding goes like this:
The draft animals will have been oxen, as in the Harappan and Daimabad cases. These were not “horse ridden chariots” as one newspaper had it : LOL.” 

Spoke-wheeled chariot and horses determine the Aryan-ness and characterise the people as Vedic! Witzel and others quote the Vedas as authority for this!

Nothing can be more ridiculous and unscientific than this, as the very identity of the Vedic people is the fire ritual, the Yajna and not chariots and horses. Anybody from anywhere in the world could have had chariots and horses but the fire-ritual of the kind done in Vedic society is unique for the Vedic culture only.

The basic fire ritual of the Vedic culture is called aupāsana’.  Aupāsana is done every day at twilights throughout one’s life and at no time this fire is extinguished.  From father to son, this fire travels down the generations endlessly. The fire for every other Vedic Yajna is taken from this Aupāsana fire. The one and only offering done in this fire is RICE.

Without rice no aupāsana can be done. Without aupāsana, no other yajna can be done and no Samskaras can be done. Rice is so basic to the Vedic society.

Now the question is, did the Central Asians know about rice?

They could have brought chariots and horses but did they bring rice – a grain very essential for doing the Vedic yajna?

Did they grow rice in the steppes or learnt about it anywhere en route to India identified by Witzel?
The simple fact is rice is not grown in those regions due to absence of supportive climatic conditions.
As per the AIT, they started Vedic life after reaching the IVC. But rice was already known to the IVC people and importantly in the present context of Rakhigarhi (IVC), a parallel archaeo-botanical study established that rice was grown in Rakhigarhi 6000 years ago! 

This is proof enough that the central Asians who were supposed to have entered the IVC in the 2nd millennium BCE, had learnt the use of rice in the Yajna - assuming they developed the concept of Yajna by themselves – from the native, indigenous people of the IVC. A rational interpretation would however treat the central Asians as learning the very technique of Yajna from the natives and not as developing a Yajna all in a sudden by themselves and making the native rice as integral to the Yajna.

Rice, the staple food for natives of India from time immemorial also happens to be the staple food for Gods worshiped through Yajna. More importantly, in the Yajna for departed ancestors (sharadha) only cooked rice is offered. Having their ancestral homes in Central Asia, isn’t it illogical to expect them to have devised a Yajna for their ancestors in which the offering is a food that doesn’t grow in their ancestral land? So the role of rice in Vedic Yajna is something that defines the identity of the original Vedic Aryans.

Cultivation of rice in India predates the IVC.

 The currently available proof on domestication of rice goes up to 9000 years ago in the Gangetic plain. Excavations done at Lahuradewa in the trans- Sarayū region showed that rice was the staple food for the people. Cultivation of wild rice in Lahuradewa dates back to an early period of Holocene. One can see the limits of rice cultivation in the figure given below, with the Indus region falling outside.

Map of wild rice zones since 20,000 BP (marked as P) in comparion to expansion since 9,000 BP (marked as H). Recent populations are marked in crosses and circles. (Fuller 2011)

The tropical climate and wetness have favoured domestication of rice in south east and eastern parts of India in the riverside regions from times before Indus civilization. This is proof of settled habitation in the Gangetic region much before Indus Valley Civilization started.  Indus region is out of place in the rice map of early Holocene days.

The author (Fuller 2011) of the study (above figure) says in the abstract that ‘much dispersal of rice took place after Indo-Aryans and Dravidian speakers adopted rice from speakers of lost languages of Northern India’. This observation is influenced by the faulty and hypothetical division of people of India as Indo-Aryan and Dravidian. Like human genetics, rice-genetics is also assumed to reveal the speech of the people of the region! How unscientific!

Research  by Upinder Singh (Singh 2008:110) has revealed the presence of cultivated rice of the variety Oryza sativa from the northern fringes of Vindhyas on the banks of Belan river up to Allahabad in the trans- Sarayū region. While Koldihwa and Mahagara in Allahabad show independent domestication of rice from 8th to 6th millennium BCE, the Neolithic sites in Son Valley in Madhya Pradesh has shown rice cultivation from 6th to 5th millennium BCE.  Thus the Vindhya- Ganga- Ghaghara region is found to be the nuclear zone of rice domestication and cultivation from10,000 years BP. Delving on the same subject, Varma (2008:40-41) opines  that this was not due to cultural diffusion from West Asia and South East Asia as one can find layers of evolution in the sites from Mesolithic to Neolithic culture.

The continuity or rather the spread of rice cultivation from east India to the Indus regions in the west was established by Petrie et al. The proof comes from Rakhigarhi!

In their paper Petrie et al established that rice was cultivated in Rakhigarhi even before the Indus Urban phase and observed that proximity of this region to the Ganges where the earliest domestication of rice was found in 7th millennium BCE “prompts the re-evaluation of the role of rice for Indus populations, and the way that it was transmitted from farther east”. This is a direct challenge to the view in support of AIT (Gangal et al. 2014) that farming entered India through Iran and Central Asia.  

All the rice growing regions mentioned above were home to the Ikśvāku-s of Sarayū, Kuśikā-s of Viśvāmitra and Jamadagni-s of Vindhyas – the last two being Rig Vedic sages having close blood relationship. Jamadagni was Viśvāmitra’s sister’s son and they both were of same age. (MB 13.4, VP 4.7)

The trans- Sarayū region had shown human settlements as early as 6th to 5th millennium BCE along with evidence of rice cultivation. It is significant that the birth date of Rama established by Puṣkar Bhaṭnāgar in his book “Dating the Era of Lord Ram” using astronomy software on the planetary position given in Valmiki Ramayana falls on 5114 BCE, within this period.

Ramayana period falling within 6th -5th Millennium BCE perfectly matches with archaeo-genetic of rice domestication in trans-Sarayu region. The same period witnessed rice domestication in Vindhya-Ganga-Ghaghara region lending cross-referential support for the contemporariness of Viśvāmitra and Jamadagni with Rama – a feature well attested through another cross-referential source, namely Ramayana.

Rice domestication in Vindhya-Ganga-Ghaghara-trans Sarayū region strengthens the case for a Vedic society at that time. There is literary evidence for rice in Valmiki Ramayana (Iyengar 1997:31). A sage by name Trijaṭa used to collect a rice variety called ‘lāṅgalī’ scattered in the forest. Twice it is mentioned in Valmiki Ramayana about this sage subsisting on rice grains collected this way (VR 2.32.29 & 34). This rice could be either a wild variety growing in the forest or the left-over’s of cultivated variety after harvest.

The date of rice cultivation in Rakhigarhi a millennia later to trans-Sarayū –Vindhya region establishes the route of movement of cultivation of rice that forms the heart of the Vedic yajna.
What is the more rational of the two – the chariot driving Central Asians of the mid-2nd Millennium BCE, after halting at the IVC grabbing the rice from the indigenous people and inventing Vedic fire ritual or a continuing indigenous population, growing rice since 7th Millennium BCE and gradually developing Vedic culture where rice is central to fire rituals?   Those in the know of Vedas would attest that Vedas and Vedic rituals could not have been developed in a few centuries but over a larger span of time (which would take another article to explain). So Mr Witzel, it is not nationalistic, but rationalistic to claim that Rakhigarhi was indigenously Vedic, and therefore Aryan!  


Fuller, D.Q. (2011). “Pathways to Asian Civilizations: Tracing the Origins and Spread of Rice and Rice Cultures”. RICE. 4(3-4). pp78-92.

Gangal K, Sarson GR, Shukurov A (2014) “The Near-Eastern Roots of the Neolithic in South Asia”. PLoS ONE 9(5): e95714.

Ganguli, Kisari Mohan (Trans) (1883-1896). Mahabharata

Griffith, Ralph T. H. (Trans) (1870-1874). Ramayan of Valmiki.

Iyengar, Srinivasa C.R. (1997) (Trans).  Sakala Kāriya Siddhiyum, Srimad Rāmāayaṇamum”  LIFCO Publication, Chennai. pp 29-32

Petrie, C., Bates, J., Higham, T., & Singh, R. (2016). “Feeding Ancient Cities in South Asia: Dating the Adoption of Rice, Millet and Tropical Pulses in the Indus Civilisation.” Antiquity.  90 (394).  pp1489-1504.

Singh, Upinder (2008). A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. Pearson Education India. Delhi.  pp 110-111.

Varma, Radha Kant  (2008). Beginnings of Agriculture in the Vindhya-Ganga Region” History of Agriculture in India (up to c.1200 A.D). Concept Publishing Company. New Delhi. pp 31-46

Recommended Reading for clarification of the yuga-time of Ramayana: 

(Mailed to Mr Witzel)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

What ails Sri Rangam temple?

Sri Ranganatha temple of Srirangam has been in the news for wrong reasons these days. Even before the controversy around the visit of Christian nuns to the temple and alleged reading of the Bible in the 1000-pillared hall had died down, another controversy had come in the open with one of the temple priests expressing in public a series of allegations against the government official in charge of the temple. These allegations are of serious nature as they pertain to interference in temple procedures that have been in vogue as per agama rules.

The officer facing the allegations had already been admonished by the Madras High court in February 2017 for his high-handedness in dealing with the religious activities of the temple. The court even remarked that the officer had attitude-problem. We are at a loss to understand how he is able to continue in his work and continue to cause damage to the tradition of rituals of the temple.

The temple priests are the custodians of the temple tradition, not the government appointed officers. In the past (known from epigraphic records) the temple priests were reprimanded even for the smallest transgression, though unintended, in the tradition. The society behaved like a watch-dog and ensured that temple traditions were maintained well. But today the temple priests are not allowed to do their duty as age old traditions are being trampled by those in power. The society is mute and insensitive; as a result the priests are forced to come out of the door step of the temple to take their fights to the street with the sole aim of retaining the tradition. The allegations are serious such as obstructing the performance of regular poojas, driving a wedge between Brahmins and non-Brahmins, threatening the priests who don’t accept the dictates of the officer and causing dis-unity among the priests by pitting one against the other.

Certainly all these speak of not just an attitude problem of the officer in question but a sick mind steeped in Dravidian propaganda against temples and Brahmins. It is not known what judgement was given by the High court in the case of this official in 2017 or whether the judgement is still pending. But this kind of repeated occurrences happening in most temples including Tirumala has only one solution – remove government control over the temples and bring in religious mutts affiliated to the temple or localised around the temple to oversee the governance.

It was really heart breaking to hear the speech by the priest Sri Parasara Badrinarayan Bhattar of Kooratthazhwan lineage pouring out his anguish on the way the Viswarupa pooja is obstructed and the food offerings of different times being offered at a single time to the Lord. It seems tough times have returned to daunt the priests and the devotees as well like how it was during the Muslim aggression of the temple.

With the government and the court not doing anything worthy enough to stop this menace, the devotees are left with the only option of spreading awareness among the larger populace of the Hindu community. This blog-post is such an attempt by bringing out the transcript of the speech of the Bhattar in English to tell the people outside what is ailing the Sri Rangam temple. The audio version of this speech has been doing rounds for the couple of days and a translation of the speech in English has been sent by an anguished devotee Ms Shanti Narayanan for publishing. Ms Narayanan has earlier presented a paper in Swadeshi Indology-3 conference on how Acharya Ramanuja and his philosophy had been mis-presented by the DMK patriarch in his tele-serial on the Acharya.    


Transcript of the speech by Sri Parasara Badrinarayan Bhattar of Sri Rangam in a protest meeting organised in the 2nd week of June 2018:
“Vanakkam to those of you here who believe ‘Thiruvarangan (Ranganatha Swamy) is for us and we are for Thiruvarangan’ and have therefore gathered here for this protest meeting – ‘Let us Protect Sri Rangam, Preserve its Sanctity’. We are those sthalathars, who have the distinction of gaining publicity for free, overnight in Srirangam owing to a poster. In that poster, if a small change had been made, it would have changed from ‘Kandikkirom’ to ‘Kandukkurom’ Periya Perumal (Kandikkirom means criticising and Kandukkurom means ‘Taking care of’). If this had happened, there would be no need for this gathering. The severe struggles and protests that have been happening behind scenes at the temple for the last 3 years would not have come out in the open, as is happening today. And the reason for this is the actions and behaviour of an executive of the temple. Time has come to throw light on our struggle against this official.

What exactly is the issue I am referring to, at Sri Rangam?

The temple executive authority is making a show that everything is working smoothly within the temple. However, nothing could be farther from truth. There have been gross violations occurring in the temple. The Aaru Kaala Pooja (pooja / services offered to the Diety at six times specified in the agamas) that ought to be offered to Sri Rangan are not being offered as per the scriptures and methods prescribed by Acharyas of yore, including Ramanuja Acharya.

One of the most important poojas - the Viswaroopa Pooja is offered at the early hours of the day. As part of this Pooja, a cow is made to enter and stand in the line of vision of the diety and holy water is brought on the temple elephant and thus the Lord Sri Rangan (Arangathamma) is woken up from his sleep to the accompaniment of music (mangala vaadyam) played in the veena. These procedures have been conceived and organised with great forethought by purva acharyas and institutionalised mainly by Ramanuja Acharya during his life time. 3 years before this day, it would have been very easy to tell when and what pooja / procession was going to happen at SriRangam. Such is the clockwork precision of procedures laid down by Ramanujar. Unfortunately, in the last three years, it has been impossible for us (including families like mine who stay close to the temple) to know when the poojas would be held or if Viswarupa poojas would be held at all on any particular day.

What is the reason for such a state of affairs?

The reason behind such gross disregard for the ageless procedures laid down by our acharyas, is the whims and fancies of the executive official at the temple at Sri Rangam. When asked about such irregularities, the official nonchalantly answers that it is his wish and command to either allow the conduct of the Pooja or disallow/cancel it and that nobody should dare question him. It is firmly believed and understood that the rest of 107 divya desa Lords visit Sri Rangan, the Raja of Rangam at Viswarupa pooja. Such is the importance of this daily pooja.

Not stopping with this transgression, the temple executive commanded the priests to offer all naivedyam (prasadam that is offered to the diety at different times during the day) all at once in the early hours of dawn. Such an act is impermissible under the agama scriptures.

The said executive also has been unilateral in his decisions on the timings of purapaadu (procession). The diety, Namperumal’s procession timings were known for its clockwork precision. Devotees often remark that one can set one’s watch, going by Namperumal’s procession. Such was the accuracy and exactness of procedures laid down by Swami Ramanuja. For over 1000 years, these rules have been strictly adhered to, come rain or shine. Since last three years, one individual has taken it upon himself to unilaterally decide on such sacred dictates.

When reasoned with, how did the official respond?

Other officials are scared to oppose this executive. The executive seems fearless, even seemingly uncaring about incuring the wrath of Sri Rangan. When, we sthalathaars questioned him, he retorted saying that if we continue to question such infractions, he would put an end to the mariyadai (special theertham and other such honours) bestowed by Lord Rangan on us. He did not stop with mere threats. He conducted meetings to that end and had it decided that he would stop such honours. People do not know the amount of suffering and humiliation that we, the families and representatives of acharyas had to undergo in the past few years. There have been retaliations because we objected to changing agama rituals. He would get back at us by changing rules at his will, with gross disregard for ancient agama rules, methods and procedures and rules that were crafted with great care and forethought by the likes of Ramanujar and followed strictly since atleast 1000 years. We responded with forbearance by giving a detailed 100-page document in which the details of procedures and rules to be followed with respect to Sri Rangam temple and how it ought to be followed as per the instructions of purva acharyas such as Ramanuja Swamy. But the executive always reverted with threats of disempowering us of our honours as ‘sthalathaars’ or ‘theerthakaarars’.

Then the speaker who is a direct descendant of Sri Parasara Bhattar of Koorathazhwan lineage, challenges the executive whether he is ready to serve Lord Ranganatha, by giving up the car, allowances and numerous monetary benefits he is receiving in the name of Lord Rangantha. On the other hand ‘sthalathaars’ like himself are serving God without any gains. They are being given a meagre sum of 1 rupee 35 paise every quarter in a year, which he says has been stopped since last three years. This underlines the important role, the sthalathaars and theerthakaarars play in the temple, out of devotion to Sri Rangan, they render kainkaryam (service) rather than view their duties as a job.

The speaker shares that though he studied to qualify as a chartered accountant and lawyer, his purpose in life (as has been moulded and reinforced by his family) has always been to be of service (to offer kainkaryam) to Sri Ranganatha perumal. That has been their family’s priority. Such families have been dedicated in offering service to the Sri Ranganatha. The executive is threatening such people for they question his decisions for the welfare of the perumal. The executive refuses to answer why he changes important rituals and procedures at his will. This happened even on important occasions such as Sri Jayanthi (Krishna’s birth anniversary). There are a lot of people who have been silenced by him by giving them special favours. This has been the strategy used by the executive for managing opposition successfully.

What is at stake at Sri Rangam?

The management of the Sri Rangam, as organized by Ramanuja Acharya is such a brilliant system that it is inclusive and cohesive in its approach. It includes Brahmins and Non-Brahmins equally in all kainkaryam, clearly specified in terms of roles and responsibility. However, the executive is trying to damage such an inclusive fabric of the temple management by highlighting distinctions between communities. The executive is grossly misusing his powers as a gazetted officer. The devotees have not been spared in this display of power. When devotees flock to have darshan of NamPerumal (utsavar diety) during purapaadu (procession), they are stopped and allowed only if they agree to pay 250 rupees as fee. The Sri Rangam lord delights in giving darshan as a Raja to his devotees who flock in big numbers to him. However, now that has been stemmed and people do not have easy access for darshan of their favourite lord. The executive has not understood the essence behind the popular verse – Aranga nagar vazha, Adiyaargal vazha’ (Long live Sri Rangam, Long live its devotees).

The popular ‘Gadya Trayam’ recital on the holy Panguni Uthiram day is a special occasion to pray and request for moksham from Namperumal. However, with the executive machinations, it seems as if one would attain moksham before being allowed to the Gadya Trayam recital. It has been made very difficult for devotees to gain access to such occasions, thanks to the misuse of powers by the said authority.

The speaker talks about the need for public outcry and questioning of such gross violations by temple authorities. He reports that they have submitted over hundreds of letters to the temple officers over such violations, approached commissioner, chief secretary, ministers. However, the executive continues his unilateral act unquestioned.

There are 55 upa-sannidhis in SriRangam temple. There are representatives from ancient families, responsible for these sannidhis. They hold the rights over these places of worship as well. The executive hold these representatives in his sway and constantly bullies over them to hand over the keys to the sannidhis. This was unheard of 3 years ago. One key example is the Mettu Azhagiya Singar sannidhi whose keys were taken over in this manner. The government official is behaving out of tune with what the constitution of India grants each citizen – their rights. He is riding roughshod over people’s rights, unbehooving of a government official. The official acts differently in front of important people like Venu Srinivasan who is the chairman, board of trustees, SriRangam and reverts to his original behaviour, the very next day. He refused to allow Viswaroopa darshan on the following day, even though he agreed to it in the meeting.


Ramanujar’s divya aagknya (divine command) is not being followed in the present day, thanks to the mischievous ways of the temple executive official. “This is to be treated very seriously by all devotees of Sri Rangan and we have to take sincere steps to resolve the current state of affairs in SriRangam temple. Let us work towards preserving the sanctity and glory of Sri Rangan’s abode”, concludes the speaker.

Monday, June 18, 2018

A discussion on elongated vowels in the Taittriya Shaka (Guest post by R.Ramanathan)

Mr R.Ramanathan, the Vedic scholar had been from time and again enlightening us with rare gems from Vedas and this time he has written for us a short article on some of the elongated vowels with particular reference to Pluta (प्लुत), which means protracted. The article introduces us to newer horizons in understanding the oral tradition that highlights how accents are related to the emotions and the contexts. For first time readers, I suggest a reading of two previous articles by Mr Ramanathan to get a better grasp of this article.  The links are

Now on to his article on Pluta….

Objective and audience

This small write up attempts to explain in some detail the semantics of various elongated vowels and its usage patterns in the various portions of the Taittriya Shaka, with special reference to the Atreya-Oukhya Shaka that is currently in vogue in most of south India. Many concepts can be the same across various shakas of the Krishna Yajur Veda or even other Vedic shakas. Differences and nuances of pronunciation are to be learnt from the Praatishakya literature of that Vedic shaka under the guidance of a competent Guru.

The intended audience are those who are currently doing proper adhyayanam of the above mentioned Shaka or any other shaka under competent gurus with the proper anushtanas from the Adhyayana parampara only and not for people who have learnt from youtube, CDs or smart phone apps, or “Self-taught”. Also, some familiarity of the Panini sutras and the Maaheshvara sutras along with the basic four Vedic Swaras the Udatta, Anudatta, swarita prachaya with the rules of interactions amongst themselves are assumed.

The reason I point out people who learn through other un authorized means is not due to any personal hatred for them. But many of these people who learn from these other sources are found wanting in actual practice of anushtanams and do not take the acharams seriously and are not actually seriously bothered about right intonation.
Now for the subject matter.

What are elongated vowels?

As per the Maheshvara sutras of panini the entire set of vowels can be
abbreviated by the pratyahara
अच्. This encompasses all the 16 Sanskrit vowels from now on called as swaraaksharas. Each vowel has 3 forms 1. Hrasva(Short) 2. Dheerga(Long) and 3. Pluta (Protracted). The first 2 are known commonly in all Indian languages and so the discussion will be centered around Pluta and its varieties.

In Devanagari, the representation for the above 3 is as below the same is applicable for other varnas too,

Thus in theory there are 16 possible plutas for each swara akshara. But note that in a given shaka not all vowels have pluta forms.

Types of elongated vowels in the Taittriya shaka

The Taittriya has the following types of elongated swaraaksharas.
1.     Ranga Dheerga: This is a form of a Dheerga which is pronounced longer than a proper two maatra Dheerga but is stopped before a pluta. It is indicated by (2) and not (2).  Examples for these are found in the taittriya Aranyaka first prashna. The important point is that it occurs in words with anusvaaras(म्)
नि॒ध॒न्वेव॒ ता (2) म् इ॑मिà(Aranyaka 1st prashna 12th anuvaka)
दे॒वा(2)म् उप॑प्रैथ्स॒प्तभिः॑->(Aranyaka 1st  prashna 13th  Anuvaka)

2.      Pluta and Ranga pluta: Pluta is pronounced for 3 maatras and the Ranga Pluta till the breath is exhausted though denoted by 4 in brackets. Classic example of an anuvaka that has both the types is found in the Rajasuya prashna which is the1st kanda 8th prashna 16th anuvaka. This is the chant of the Ritwik called the Brahma who does abhisheka of the new Saamrat.

Pluta: धृ॒तव्र॑तो॒ वरु॑णः प॒स्त्यास्वा साम्राज्याय सु॒क्रतु॒र्ब्रह्मा() न् त्वरा॑जन् ब्र॒ह्माऽसि॑ सवि॒ताऽसि॑ स॒त्यस॑वो॒ ब्रह्मा() न् त्वरा॑जन् ब्र॒ह्माऽसीन्द्रो॑ऽसि
The dheerga
the end of ब्रह्मा(3) is elongated to 3 maatras
Ranga pluta: In the same Anuvaka, in panchashat 32 we see a ranga pluta with a (4) in brackets. Though it is 4 it means that you have to elongate the vowel till the breath is exhausted. Note the anusvara/anunaasikya part on it like in point 1.
सुश्लो॒काँ (4) सुम॑ङ्ग॒लाँ (4) सत्य॑रा॒जा न्
Another example is from 7th kanda 4th prashna 20th Anuvaka
लाजी () ञ्छाची () न््यशो॑ म॒मा (4)म्
Again note the anuswaara on the Ranga. So the gist is Ranga(2) or Ranga(4) occurs only for words with Anunaasika/Anuswaara sounds.

Conditions under which Plutas can occur

Since the pluta and Ranga versions are just vowel elongations, they do not fall into the category of a proper swara like say Udatta or swarita. Thus, they do not have hard rules for occurrence nor can be derived from Paninis rules as for the 4 basic swaras. But we can qualitatively ascertain the situations they can occur.

1.     Discussions of various options possible in either a ritual act or otherwise.

For example in the Agnishtoma soma sacrifice, in the 6th Kanda, 1st prashna, Anuvaka 9, a doubt occurs as to whether the soma creeper bought has to be purified.

ब्र॒ह्म॒वा॒दिनो॑ वदन्ति वि॒चित्यः॒ सोमा () वि॒चित्या () इति॑

It means “Brahmavaadis say, Should the soma be purified or not”

Purified ->
वि॒चित्यः॒ सोमा ()

Not purified: 
वि॒चित्या ()  

Thus this shows the act of “Thinking out aloud”. This is a very common usage of the pluta. But remember that not all cases of Brahma Vaada or debate need to have a pluta in it. For indication of ascent or satisfaction.

2.     In the 7th kanda 1st prashna 5th Anuvaka, in a discussion between the deities Soma, Indra and Yama in the allocation of cows, Soma first finds the cows, Indra comes following him Yama comes later and asks that may he have a share in it too. The other too say “So be it”. This ascent is indicated by a pluta.
सोमो॒ वै स॒हस्र॑मविन्द॒त्तमिन्द्रोऽन्व॑विन्द॒त्तौ य॒मो न्याग॑च्छ॒त्ताव॑ब्रवी॒दस्तु॒ मेऽत्रापीत्यस्तु॒ ही() इत्य॑ब्रूता॒ :
ही() indicates ascent by Indra and soma

3.     Indication of emotions or surprise:

The most famous example being found in the Taittriya Upanisad. A rishi singing in absolute bliss. The pluta here indicates the joy here.

एतथ्साम गा॑यन्ना॒स्ते हा () वु॒ हा () वु॒ हा () वु॑ अ॒हमन्नम॒हमन्नम॒हमन्नम् अ॒हमन्ना॒दोऽ 
हमन्ना॒दोऽहमन्ना॒दः अ॒हश्लोक॒कृद॒हश्लोक॒कृद॒हश्लोक॒कृत् अहमस्मि प्रथमजा ऋता () स्य॒  
पूर्वन्देवेभ्यो अमृतस्य ना () भा॒इ॒ यो मा ददाति इदेवमा () वाः॒ अ॒हमन्न॒मन्न॑म॒दन्त॒मा () द्मि॒

4.     Indicating deep philosophical thinking

This is related to point 1. But does not involve various options but involves only the curiosity of the thinker.

उ॒ता वि॒द्वान॒मुल्लोँ॒कं प्रेत्य॑ कश्च॒न ग॑च्छ॒ती () आहो॑ वि॒द्वान॒मुल्लोँ॒कं प्रेत्य॑ कश्चि॒थ्सम॑श्ञु॒ता () उ॒
Basically the question is “Where would a dying person go? Where would he stay after exiting here?” The pluta here in the boldened texts indicate the curiosity of the questioner.

5.     Indication of sounds like say that of a flying object. 

In the Pravargya prashna Aranyaka 8th prashna(Of Dravida paata 6th of Andhra paata)1st anuvaaka, while explaining the reason why the pravargya is performed, The devas won the war against asuras with Vishnus help with the agreement that the credits for the victory would be divided equally. But it seems Vishnu ran away from the Devas and sat with his chin on his bow gloating over this greatness. The Devas sent some termites to bite of the bow string. As the string was taut the tip of the bow on which Vishnu rested his head coiled up like a spring and cut his head off. The head flew through the air. The sound made by the head is indicated by a Ranga pluta here.

तत्प्र॑व॒र्ग्य॑स्य प्रवर्ग्य॒त्वम् यद्घ्राँ (4) इत्यप॑तत्

The boldened text indicates the “Ghang” sound made by Vishnu’s head when flying through the air.

These are the typical cases when plutas and it varieties can occur.

Grammatical and shaka specific characters of plutas

1. It is not necessary that pluta for all the 16 vowels need to occur in a shaka. In the Taittriya for example pluta forms exists for all fundamental swaraaksharas


The लृ varnas do not have pluta forms in the Taittriya Shaka with only the dheerga forms being found()
2. Among the derived vowels    , pluta forms exists for only . But it does not exist directly but is split into its constituent vowels. For example
 = (or) +
To give an example for this, in the 1st kanda 4th prashna is called Graha prashna. The mantras are used to fill up the soma grahas in the Soma sacrifice. The mantra is as follows (27th anuvaka)

बृह॒स्पति॑सुतस्य इन्द्रो इन्द्रि॒याव॑तः॒ पत्नी॑वन्तं॒ ग्रहं॑ गृह्णा॒म्यग्ना() पत्नी॒वा() स्स॒जूर्दे॒वेन॒ त्वष्ट्रा॒ सोमं॑ पिब॒ स्वाहा

Actually the word
अग्ने is split into

अग्ने = अग्ना(3) + (ग्ने = ग्ना + )

The pluta is applied to ग्ना and them after a gap (Virama of ½ matra) the is chanted. This is as per Panini sutra
Pluta pragrihyam achi nityam          

If there is an अच्(Vowel) after a pluta(An elongated vowel) there should be no sandhi or coalesce of these two vowels and in the chant this absence of sandhi is shown by a small gap of ½ matra.