Monday, January 7, 2019

Sabarimala row: Hinduism’s moment of Draupadi Vastraharan.

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Never in the 70 year history of free India has Hinduism faced an existential threat as it is facing now in the State sponsored and judiciary abetted desecration of the temple of Ayyappa at Sabarimala. Threats have been happening over the years ever since foreigners intruded this country thousand years ago with the first ever worst assault on Somnath. Millions of our forefathers sacrificed their lives in saving Hindu temples and Hindu culture, with the result that Hinduism was able to thrive in the face of and inspite of all odds. At the crucial moment when India should have been declared a Hindu nation, it started well with a Constitution, the original document of which displayed the rich Hindu past of India. This handcrafted document has the scene of a Vedic Gurukul in the beginning of Part II on Citizenship, in a thoughtful portrayal of where we, the Indians trace our sense of belonging.

But all this is past and forgotten in such a short period of independent India compared to a thousand year old struggle against invaders. Liberty, the second clause guaranteed in this document in terms of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship sounds non-existent to Hindus today but is used deftly against the interests of Hindus only. Once secularism entered the nomenclature of the Constitution of India, it is no holds barred affecting the interests of Hinduism. Temples, the edifice of Hindu culture had suffered the worst with systematic looting of temple properties, successful alienation of several communities from temple services they were associated with for ages and manning temple administration with non-Hindus.

With all these we, the Hindus, the practicing ones at that, had silently put up but the last straw happened with the abuse of tradition at Sabarimala initiated by the judiciary, executed by the Government of Kerala with an unseemly zeal and supported by the media while all through this a definite game-plan of pitting non-Hindus against Hindus was well orchestrated much to the shock of the unsuspecting Hindu lot, notwithstanding the fact that an early hint of Hindus versus non-Hindus was thrown by the actor turned politician Kamal Haasan in a TV debate as the narrative for 2019 general elections. So what is originally the identity of this land with a long history is sought to be openly trampled upon for the benefit of political ends and desert cults.

When the Mughals came, we knew who our enemies were. When the English came, we knew whom we have to protect ourselves from. But in free India we have absolutely lost our sense of judgement as to who works against us - is it the politician or the non-Hindu or the very Constitution that is supposed to protect our rights and our tradition or our own brethren, the fellow Hindus? The damage caused by the ignorance of our Hindu brethren is no less damaging than the collective effort of all those pitted against Hinduism. It is regretful to hear the Chief of a Mutt saying  that there is nothing wrong in the judgement on Sabarimala.

The height of ignorance of diverse ways of the Hindu tradition was demonstrated by a much respected spiritual Guru who welcomed the verdict initially but did a volte face after opposition to the verdict grew. The irony apart of persons like them seen as custodians of Hinduism influencing modern day Hindus, there are numerous others leading various sects of Hindu thought who have not even bothered to open their mouths, with the least realisation that what is seen now is fire in the next door which can engulf them anytime soon with all the inimical forces waiting to fan the fire to destroy Hinduism in its own country.

Judiciary, politicians, fellow Hindus in slumber – with all these having a part in hastening the pace of desecration of Hindu space and Hindu traditions, an average Hindu who is able to foresee the things to come is absolutely lost as to what to do, what next going to happen, how to defend himself and his faith and how to survive in the midst of all round assault on himself and his only source of visible connection with divinity - the temples.

Millions of Hindus undergoing the pain and sense of loss on seeing the State orchestrated pilgrim tours of non-believers to complete the process of havoc caused by the judgement of the Supreme Court have no idea of what to do next and how to react to this. The devout had reacted – but in an unfortunate way; the breach of sanctity of the abode of Ayyappa had caused them to abandon their vrat midway – a reaction much awaited by the assaulters of the tradition. 

There are others shouting for help at all directions, fretting, fuming, praying and tweeting but nothing else at their disposal. They almost look like the hapless Draupadi who wanted a Dharmic answer to her simple question after the Pandavas lost the dice game and staked her after losing themselves. She wanted a Dharmic answer and not a lawful answer, for Dharma is always Dharma, but the law need not be dharmic.

When she asked the same question to Bhishma, his reply was on law and not Dharma – something similar to what we are experiencing now. He just relied on power, authority and numbers on the side of the one who issued the decree when he replied that what is called as Dharma by a strong man in this world is regarded so by others, however otherwise it may be; but Dharma spoken by the weak man is scarcely regarded as Dharma, however correct it may be. Bhishma didn’t side with Dharma but with the brute power of those in authority which is absolutely unexpected and unbecoming of a person of his stature who avowed to protect the throne of authority.

Today Hinduism is disrobed like what happened to Draupadi. From all sides the wicked and the mighty are colluding to rip her apart. To name the salient ones:

·       The 4:1 judgement is akin to the power of numbers in the court of Dhritarashtra – the 5th voice, that of the female (Justice Malhotra) was trounced by the power of the mighty (majority numbers), similar to how Draupadi’s voice was ignored.

·        Draupadi was in her menstruating season at that time – the very issue that is being used now to disrobe Hinduism. And that was the foremost reason for her refusal to come to the court. The menstruating women never mingled with anyone in this country since time immemorial. Then what to say about going to a temple?

·       The question raised by Draupadi addresses the issue of gender equality – the focus of Sabarimala issue today. Yudhishthira, the eldest of the Pandava brothers lost his four younger brothers in the dice game and finally staked himself and lost too. After losing himself he staked Draupadi and lost her. Her question in simple terms was whether the wife was a property of the husband or an individual entity by herself – a question that exposes the level of feminism and respect for female gender prevalent in the Hindu society even at that olden time.

Hinduism brimming with well thought-out and worked out paths of relevance cutting across times is now being made a Draupadi mainly because the assaulters as well as majority of the assaulted ones are ignorant of what and why of the many ideas of Hinduism!

Dharma and the mighty.

In the above listed issues, whatever the mighty says is not correct if it is not Dharma. And a law not addressing the underlying Dharma is not correct and hence untenable. Bhishma sided with the strongmen of the court accepting their word as Dharma which is completely deplorable. If the one at the helm, who is in a position to uphold Dharma, fails to do it, he is bound to suffer for that. This is not a curse but Natural Justice. Hinduism does not condemn anyone as a sinner –but sinner is the core concept in the religion that worships a dead body and another which condemns to death everyone other than themselves.  Hinduism only says you will get what you sowed –which is a universal concept. Bhishma paid for the dereliction of what is expected of him at the arrow bed 13 years later. What Draupadi felt all over her body when disrobed was felt by him with every inch of his body constantly pierced by arrows.  

One may give any kind of justification for him to have chosen the arrow bed, but that was the manifestation of Natural Justice for his failure to safeguard Draupadi. So there is something beyond the law of the mighty, and that is Dharma. When the law is different from Dharma, only Dharma must prevail and prevail it will sooner than later. In the course of it, those who harmed Dharma would stand to undergo Natural Justice.

Menstruation issue

On the second issue of menstruation, there are reasons why women don’t enter a temple during menses and why women of menstruating age are not going to Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala.  A temple is not just a building but an abode of the deity in the form of Vigraha which means ‘special embodiment’ that is made possible by mantra, yantra or tantra. So far experts have looked into the plan of the temples as well-crafted ones in alignment with natural forces. But an experiment done way back in 1980 and reported in Indian Express on 31st December 1980 has something more to say. (The experiment and its results were displayed in a stall at the Trade Fair in the Island Grounds in Chennai that year) It says,

Teachers and students of Parasakthi College, Courtallam, through a set of experiments using laboratory gadgets, make a scientific interpretation of the chanting of slokas, abhisheka of the idol and offering of fruits and leaves. "Temple worship has a definite scientific reasoning behind it", the assistant professor in charge said”.

While this reveals the beginning of an unknown science of temples, the Athirathram Yajna was already within the purview of scientific scrutiny with results proving the benefits of the Yajna. Similar tests conducted on Agnihotra Homa that was found to have saved two families in Bhopal Union Carbide gas tragedy revealed the scientific nature of the Homa wherein it was found that the expected results did not materialise when a menstruating woman touched the homa vessels in use and conducted the ritual herself.

This is an area requiring serious scientific study but what this reveals is that these yajnas must have come into existence after a series of studies and experimentations. The time needed for the experimentations prior to their formulation pushes back the origins of Hinduism farther back in time. Any advanced and civilised society would only like to preserve them and subject them to more scientific scrutiny without spoiling any of the features – one of them being restriction on menstruating women – and not barge on the community to disrupt the traditions, as the Kerala Government is doing now. With so much scope for probe into scientific aspects of these issues, what scientific or logical reason has been cited by anyone including the judges to show that ‘sanctity’ of the temple would not be breached if women of that age-group enter the temple? The burden of proof is on the prosecutors and persecutors of this tradition that nothing of the temple chemistry was breached by the biological conditions of the woman during her menstruation and no harm to herself during her menstruating age.

On the other hand the proof of the pudding is in the inbuilt process of maintaining equilibrium in the temple chemistry. The ritual of Shuddhikaran is one such proof aimed at restoring sanctity when the women of restricted age-group entered. Shuddhikaran is not something invented recently. It is part and parcel of the rules of the temple when the deity was consecrated as an embodiment of a universal principle.  The very existence of this remedy shows how the temple science has been perfected long ago.

Gender Equality.

On the third issue of gender equality, by staking Draupadi after he lost himself, Yudhishthira, one of the three acclaimed as knowers of nuances of Dharma (Vidura and Bhishma being the other two) had given the message that women are not to be treated as property of or subservient to men but are free entities on their own. Bhishma failed to voice this openly; But Vidura was unequivocal when he said that “If Yudhishthira had staked her before he was himself won, he would certainly have been regarded as her master”, but that he didn’t showed that the wife was not a property of her husband. She was neither lost nor won by anyone, which means that she was a free woman - always.
Can there be any better statement on gender equality as being part and parcel of Hindu culture, and above all supported by Dharma? Can such a culture shaped by the tenets of Dharma discriminate women on an issue unless that is Dharma-based? But why did Hinduism reach such a state as to be disrobed by too many Dussasanas today?

Redeeming Hinduism from Draupadi moment.

The story of Draupadi vastraharan shows a way out. When Dhritarashtra offered to grant her boons, she sought the release of Yudhishthira and then the other four Pandavas. When prodded to ask for more boons, she refused to oblige saying that covetousness brings loss of virtue. 

The five Pandavas released from slavery stood with her to pay back for the harm done to her and to restore her dignity. They are the five senses of each one of us released from the clutches of covetousness, with Dharma as the sole torch bearer. Let’s consciously stand by Dharma in whatever we do, and none of what we do should make Hinduism a Draupadi. We cannot stake her in the course of any work we do. He be the Tantri or the Prime Minister or the Chief Justice or a pilgrim or a common man – each one must do what is Dharmic in the situation.

A Tantri cannot allow himself to be cowed down by a contempt threat in as much as a pilgrim cannot afford to abandon the pilgrimage, for, more the pilgrims, stronger will be the deity’s power. The Vigraha is made a ‘special embodiment’ by the devotion of the pilgrim too in addition to mantra, yantra and tantra.  The sound effect of chanting plays a crucial role in transforming a temple into a divine abode much in the same way the Vedas create vibrations by recital. The above mentioned experiment by Parasakthi College proved that. So never stop going to the temple and never stop chanting His name aloud. We need more temples, almost in every street to make this sacred mother land of ours a divine land.

In the larger picture, all the heads of different paths of Hinduism must be brought under one umbrella and they must raise their voice every time an assault is made. Draupadi was able to win only because everyone in this land was drawn into the fight – whichever side they may be – but it must be known which side that one is seen, on the side of Dharma or Adharma. Let us accept the emerging narrative that it is Hindus versus non-Hindus and work for victory for Hindus. Victory for Hindus means victory for Dharma, What else is needed to restore the honour of Draupadi? 


harinee said...

Madam it is these opportunistic Gurus who have dragged Hinduism to this level .People should open their eyes and realise true saints like Mahaperiyava,Ramanna and Ramakrishna picked simplicity and austerity before anything unlike the current crop.
BJP and Shiv Sena(which initially threatened mass suicide) have spectacularly failed in Kerala.We needed stronger voices and action from center in BJP and Shiv Sena may have had its faults but late Balasaheb never shied away from fighting on issues related to Hinduism, alas his descendants have completely failed him

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Very true Ms Harinee. Many people have let Hindus down. When one does not rise to the occasion, only mayhem and destruction will result. There is no use coming to salvage later. If only Bhishma had voiced his disapproval then and there, Draupadi might have been spared of the ill-fate she suffered. That he didn't do at the right moment is the lesson for everyone - including those at the helm now.

Anyway Hinduism will survive, but let it not suffer in our life time. If not in India it will survive elsewhere. Let us not lose the wealth we have.

Rama said...

Not only are these modern rootless gurus a problem. There are 1000 year old quarrels between different traditional mutts of Sanatana Dharma. Shringeri mutt does not recognize Kanchi mutt as official, quarrels between different sects of Vaishnavism on very simple issues like the kind of pundram to wear, the quarrels among various madhva mutts etc, all in all the impossibility of the mutts of all Sampradayas to work together on even the most basic minimum common issues etc.

These kind of issues affect even the daily Vedic rites of common people. I would like to share an experience here. When my father was doing one of his ishtis connected with the aupasana rite a few years ago in a remote village, we invited a couple of Vaishnavaite priests who came as ritwiks. They got offended at not being referred to as "Shree Vaishnava brahmanaha" as we had referred to all priests as "Nanaa vida gotrebhyaha nanavida brahmanebhyaha" and started throwing temper tantrums. This caught us completely off guard and caused a lot of bitterness all of which were finally for nothing. Think what would common people think of us.

All these issues kill us from within. Think how great it would be if all of our traditional mutts could pool their resources and unit. Think how much formidable it would be. Here advaitia mutts could lead the efforts because they are not very specific to any deity and consider all Vedic deities to be the various forms of para brahman. They could provide the gelling need but alas i see no effort on that front as Shringeri and kanchi mutts cant work in tandem.

Abrahamic religions use these kind of gaps and exploit it very well. They know well hot to proselytize. They tailor their techniques as per the sampradaya they approach. When the preach to theistic traditions like Shaivism and Vaishnivism they draw parallels between the concept of surrender to god in vaishnavism to the acceptance of Jesus christ, or how "Anbe Sivam"= "God is love" etc. To the advaitas they hit them hard with the idea of caste division and the meaningless of yajnas, since it is only the smarta brahmanas who still perform shrauta yajnas and very few people in the theistic traditions take such performances. The last known vaishnava to me who has performed the Agnishtoma was the Jeeyar of Ahobila mutt. So these Abrahamics are very clever. They do a very thorough analysis of the tenets various schools and disagreements between various schools. But majority of us Hindus do not care to do a serious study of our own texts. How many Hindus can read the original Bhagavata purana, which is most popular today? How many know why should one do pitr karma on Mahalaya Amavasya, the roots behind the Bhajan traditions etc. People think that nama sankeertanam does not need aachara, but they do not study the texts like the narada Bhakti sutras. Sorry for my long winded comment. But Madams article sort of fired up these thoughts in me

R.Ramanathan said...

My idea is to resort to the basic tenets of the Veda. Many sects start out claiming to be vedic but as time passes the Vedic part eclipsed by extraneous traditions accumulating on it. For example many traditions like wearing of pundrams, sankalpam, benediction of Brahmanas do not have any mention in the Veda or the Dharma shastras. Also when a vedic priest goes to the function of the brahmin of another he can stick to the generics and not stick like a "Udumbu" to his traditions atleast at the spot of performance of course at home and in their own mutts everybody can practice their traditions in full mode. But when it comes to common issues we can remove the layers of traditions and stick to the bear minimum of the Veda like for example

One reason i say smartas can do the gelling is that they are flexible enough compared to brahmanas from other sects . This is not to offend anybody but this is the truth madam. Please do not consider this as offending any sampradaya. I give few examples

1. Priests officiating in a function conducted by a person of a different sampradaya should not insist on following his sampradaya but should go by the common parts found in the Veda and leave the Sampradaya part to the Yajamana.
2. The issue with Shaivites is also the same they also insist things like that are like the above when they are asked to officiate at functions of different sampradayas insisting things should be done as per their own sampradaya

3. Though the difference between Shringeri and kanchi is not doctrinal it is more political and this results in too much pain, as Vedic scholars who are staunch devotees of either mutt do not go to rituals of the other mutt. This is too bad as either of them lose out.

4. Madhvas wholesale insist on their sampradaya rites only as to be done first even at the cost of relegating Vedic rites to the back burner. I know a Madhva vaathyar who would not perform the shraddha of his father on ekadashi. because the madhva sampradaya holds fasting on ekadashi more important than vedic rites.

5. Support each other in issues of all Hindu temples and should not stay away from a temple issue because one does not worship the deity there.. One does not need to worship at that deities sannadhi if one's sampradaya forbids it but they can take part in protests or express solidarity through social media rather than ignoring such things.