Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Power versus Resilience

What survives after the storm, tall tree or grass? Which religion would survive longer in the world? An energetic and imposing one or the flexible and non imposing one?

The personal development seminars are really interesting ones. An hour break from work with free tea, biscuits :-) Another nice thing with these motivating speakers are, they never tell you the negative qualities in you. If you are just mechanical, always into work with no other feelings for others; you are a diver, deeply focused. You are a lazy bum, not concentrating too much on your work then, you are a creative person with lot of interest in many topics. At the end everyone will feel happy about themselves, get back to their work exactly as what they were before the seminar, unchanged.

It was one such seminar which dealt about different personalities. The speaker was referring to a category of restless people, who always try to engage themselves with hard work, who can never remain calm without work.  He said, most of the time such people leave behind rich young widows. It brought a smile. He continued, the people who survive longer are not the ones with more energy but the ones who are more resilient.
 
The sentence still haunts me. We tend to feel, power is the dominating force and long lasting in the world and neglect resilience. But nature always speaks the other way. Calm rivers pierce through the rock eventually. Small stars like Sun live thousand times longer than the stars having ten times its mass. The one which survives after storms are not the big trees, instead grass. This idea seems fascinating when we discuss why and how Hinduism is the oldest religion still surviving and thriving.
 
Hindu society before Buddhism and Jainism is very much similar to Paganism in Rome before Judaism and Christianity arrived except one difference. They had allowed a settlers (Brahmins) who had migrated from somewhere. This land has  given shelter to so many refugees, who came here fearing prosecution. Parsees, Jews, Christians from St. Thomas era, Shia Muslims of Iran. If ancestors of Brahmin community were outsiders (?), then they were no more/no less than others.
 
Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) has finally been changed to Aryan Migration Theory (AMT). For the invasion to happen, either the foreign (invading) population be substantial fraction of the native population or technically too advanced than the native population. Aryan population could not be that high (Today, even after mixing with native population, Brahmin's percentage is 1 or 2%. It can't be too high earlier). One can't argue for technical superiority of Aryan culture either. Indus was not primitive before Aryan's arrival. It had built cities with proper town planning. Aryans had not come with any heavy armoury. They just came on horses (as horse is mentioned for the first time in Aryan literature). But Aryans had literary skills. It could be an example of two matured cultures existing together side by side borrowing from each other (as both have been able to retain their identity this long). But this assumption comes with certain loop holes. If Aryans were Persian in origin and brown colour of Indians is explained in terms of mixture of two colours, why the other two prominent feature of Aryans (blue eyes and blond hair) was never shown with Indians? Interestingly this varying colours in hair and eyes are observed in Europeans, which shows they are also a hybrid product of two races (both fair skinned), one with blond hair/blue eye, another with black eyes/black hair. 
OIT (Out of India Theory is not totally convincing either, as it cannot explain the commonality between Dravidian sub cultures and their differences with north Indian one.
Wherever was the origin of this latter (ie fair skinned/black eyes/black hair) race (Mohenjodaro?), it was split up into two groups. One travelled eastwards and took shelter and got mixed with Indus Valley. Other went to Persia and then mixed with Europe. Unless substantiated, this theory could only remain as a speculation but this would explain the varying colours in both Asia and Europe.
 
Though the theory of AIT changed to AMT, the corresponding assumptions based on the theory of AIT did not change accordingly. It continued to picture Brahmins as the oppressors and natives as a suppressed class. It did not highlight, suppression of Dalit is done more by the non Brahmin class which is also native Indian. The people who insulted Ambedkar were actually the other classes. Teachers who supported him during school days, the lady who got married him in adulthood were Brahmins.
 
Though Indus civilisation gave respect to Brahmins community, they never borrowed Brahminical gods like Indra, nor Sanskrit became commoner's language. Instead Brahmins adopted to local language and kept Indus God (Shiva) on top of their Gods. (For the last few decades, reservation system in India made some Brahmins to settle in UK/US, making them eternal gypsies). Whether these were the people migrated to Indus (Harappa) from nearby settlements (Mohenjadaro) or refugees from their native land Persia (like Parsis who came much later) cannot be proved with any records. But only thing that can be deduced is, their conflict with another cult who were either natives of  Persia or migrated to Persia (The fight between goody Suras (/Devas) and baddy Asuras in Vedas, fight of Ahura Mazda the hero with the evil Daevas in Zanda Avesta).
 
Whatever was the reason to leave their homeland, Brahmins adopted to the new society. They did not try to challenge the existing society's practises or local gods. Society had no problem with the individual faiths, as long as they didn't interfere in native practises and impose their faith. This was the same rule, which was laid on Zoroastrians (Parsees) later. (This is the point I disagree with the people who say, Brahmins tried to preserve the caste system. Being a minority if they had challenged the system/society, they would have been annihilated. They were respected because they did not interfere or challenge the system). This is very similar to Paganism in Rome, where they did not have problem with another cult having different practise, but clashed with Christianity which tried to convert them. That is exactly what Buddhism or Jainism did, when they tried to spread. The conflict was not that brutal as in Rome, but not totally peaceful either. Brahmins debated, some other community showed their anger by sacking their temples.
 
When I chant the Vedic Mantra ॐ शं नो मित्रः शं वरुणः । शं नो भवत्वर्यमा । शं नो इन्द्रो बृहस्पतिः । शं नो विष्णुरुरुक्रमः । नमो ब्रह्मणे । नमस्ते वायो । त्वमेव प्रत्यक्षं ब्रह्मासि ।I wonder where are we praying to these Gods (Mitra, Varuna, Yama, Indra, Brihaspati, Vayu and Brahma) ? These Brahminical Gods have just become assistants to local Gods like Shiva. Some regional heroes have been incorporated into mythology (like Rama and Krishna) and have become Avatars of Vishnu (who anyway is collage of different local heroes starting from Parashuram to Buddha). Ironically, all these must have been written by Brahmins (as they are in Sanskrit) who accepted to place these people above the ones they have been used to worship before. Like Krishna (a Yadav who refused to pray to Aryan God Indra, instead continued with their tribal belief of praying the mountain Mandhara Parvata), who finally became a bigger God than Indra himself. Rama was again a dark skinned warrior who fought against a Brahmin Ravana and won. How can his win be Aryan's win over Dravidas?
 
The religions endorsed by most powerful rulers of India; Ashoka (Buddhism), Kharavela (Jainism), Akbar (Din E Lahi) and Aurangzeb (Islam) still remains a minority. So does Brahminism, which was indirectly supported by most of the rulers. But these other tribal faiths without any royal support, without any prophet or a book to endorse them, without any schools to organise and spread their faith (Mutts for some communities have happened only in last couple of decades) could remain a majority and retain their identity for more than the history of any existing religion in the world. How did they do it? How is possible to retain the tree God Jagannata, tribal gods Mailara, Madeva and Annamma despite the so called powerful religions?
 
A story from Puranas. Vatapi and Ilvala were two demon brothers. They hated  Rishis and they had a specific way to kill them. Vatapi had the power to get into any form and revive again. Whenever they see a traveller, they would invite him. Vatapi takes the form of a goat, Ilvala cuts him and serves as food to Rishis (a story, which was written before Brahmins took up to vegetarianism). Once they finished their meal, Ilvala asks Vatapi to come out. Vatapi comes tearing the stomach of the guest, thereby killing him. Once they invite a Rishi by name Agastya. Agastya knowing the brothers well, eats the food calmly and ends it saying "वातापि  जीर्नोभव"  (Let Vatapi get digested). This time when Ilvala calls out Vatapi, Vatapi does not come out; he has got assimilated.
 
Our culture resembles this story of  Agastya. Whatever has been introduced to our culture, we have modified it such a way that it no longer remains the original. British introduced Tea leaves for us. We made it into Masala Chai. Now we have got McSpicy Paneer. Faiths and religions have not been able to escape this influence either. Seeds of Islam may be outside. But the Islam practised in India with Babas, Fakirs and caste cannot be compared with the Islam originated in Arabia. It is purely Indian. The religions with Indian origin were influenced even more. When some tribes got converted to Jainism/Buddhism, they took their cultural practises, their gods/goddess into the new religion thereby modifying the religion itself. Their goddess became Yakshi in Jainism, became a form of Parvati in Vedic religions. The deity worshipped in Karnataka on the state festival is Chamundi, a tribal Goddess who gets praised with Vedic Chants. Really are these communities/faiths weak?

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