Monday, 18 January 2016

Janani Janma Bhoomischa Swargadapi Gariyasi

Janani Janma Bhumischcha Swargaadapi gariyasi. These famous words are quoted by many to impress the importance of one's Mother and Motherland.This is one of the  oft quoted verse from Srimath Ramayanam. Some say it is the words of Vibhishana to Sri Rama. I searched for the origin in Valmiki Ramayana in many editions, but to my surprise could not find this verse. How ever I could find this sloka  in "Valmiki Ramayana - Yuddha Kanda" in  the edition published by Hindi Prachara Press, Madras. These are the words of Sage Bharadwaja to Sri Rama, when he returned from Sri Lanka and met him on the way to Ayothya.

मित्राणि धन धान्यानि प्रजानां सम्मतानिव |
जननी जन्मभूमिश्च स्वर्गादपि गरीयसी || ६-१२४-१७

mitraaNi dhana dhaanyaani prajaanaaM sammataaniva |
jananii janma bhuumishcha svargaadapi gariiyasii || 6-124-17

"The friends, the riches and the grains are highly honoured in this world. 
Mother and mother-land are far superior to even the heaven."

( "Valmiki Ramayana - Yuddha Kanda" in  the edition published by Hindi Prachara Press, 
Madras in 1930 by T.R. Krishna chary, Editor and T. R. Vemkoba chary the  publisher.)

Another version quoted here under is said to be the words of Sri Rama to Lakshmana in Sri Lanka, but  not found in the editions of Valmiki Ramayana.
अपि स्वर्णमयी लङ्का न मे लक्ष्मण रोचते।
जननी जन्मभूमिश्च स्वर्गादपि गरीयसी॥
api svarṇamayī laṅkā na me lakṣmaṇa rocate |
jananī janmabhūmiśca svargādapi garīyasī ||

Even Lanka, decked with all it’s gold doesn't  endear itself to me;
Mother and mother-land are far superior to even the heaven."

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Remembrance Day - Poppy Day.

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ID: 5124Today November 11 is observed as Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Countries All public and private institutions and business establishments stop their activities for a couple of minutes at 11am on November 11 every year to observe the signing of armistice ending World war I (1914-1918) between Allied nations and Germany on November 11,1918.

People wear "Poppy flowers" on this day, as a synbol of sacrifices made by the soldiers in the wars."Scarlet corn poppies (popaver rhoeas) grow naturally in conditions of disturbed earth throughout Western Europe. The destruction brought by the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th Century transformed bare land into fields of blood red poppies, growing around the bodies of the fallen soldiers. 

In late 1914, the fields of Northern France and Flanders were once again ripped open as World War One raged through Europe's heart. Once the conflict was over the poppy was one of the only plants to grow on the otherwise barren battlefields." (BBC)

I rembember during my childhood, on this day poppy flowers made of cloth will be pinned on the shirts against small amounts collected for charity. Municipal siren will be on exactly at 11 minutes past 11' O clock on this day to stand silent for two minutes.

Saturday, 10 October 2015



Prince Shahab ud-din Muhammad Khurram's (Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan) prayers at the Dargah of great Sufi mystic Hazarat Kwaja Moinuddin Hassan Chisti at Ajmer, for a male heir, was answered on Safar 19, 1024 AH (March 20, 1615 AD) by the birth of a male child to his beloved wife Arjumand Banu Begam (queen Mumtaz Mahal) at Sagartal near Ajmer. Grand father Emperor Jahangir named the child Dara Shikoh,in Persian meaning "Darius the magnificent". His full name was "Sultan Mohammed Dara Shikoh"

Dara Shikoh was a unique personality among the Mughal dynasty from 1526 AD to 1827 AD. Like other Mughal princes,  he had his earlier education from Maulvis attached to the Royal Court, who taught  Al Qur'an, Persian literature and History. The chief instructor Mullah Abdul Latiff Shahranpuri a liberal Sufi muslim,  encouraged the young Prince  a thrist for gaining knowledge in metaphysics and speculative sciences.The mystical and intellectual environement of that Mughal times nurtured Prince Dara the deep interest in pursuit of gaining knowledge in arts and litereture. During this period, young Dara interacted with host of Islamic and Hindu mystics, Pundits and yogis, including Shah Muhibhulla, Shah Dilruba, Muhammad Nisanulla Rostaki, Baba Lal Das Bairagi and Pandit Jagannath Mishra ,  some of them excercised profound influence on him. The most noted among them was Hazrat Miyan Mir, the Quadri Sufi of Lahore, who had laid foundation stone of Golden Temple of Sikhs at Amritsar. Impressed by the teachings of Hazrat Mir, Dara got initiated to Quadri Sufi order.After the initiation into quadri order, Prince Dara spent more time with his preceptor Hazarat Mian Mir, Mulla Badakhashi and other Sufi saints which encouraged him in the deep study of mysticism. During this period Prince Dara published his major writings on Sufism. These are the Safinat-ul-Aulia (1640 AD), the Sakinat-ul-Aulia (1653 AD), both biographical sketch of Sufi Saints and three more books, exposition on Sufi fundamental doctrines, the Risala'i Haq Numa (1647 AD) the Tariqat-ul-Haqiqat and the Hasanat-ul-Arifin (1653 AD).

Dara Shikoh  was deeply interested in comparative religions, universal brotherhood and humanism, which he had imbibed from his great grandfather Emperor Akbar and deep interest in studies from Humayun. These influences played a notable role in developing his personality. Dara Shikoh had no liking for luxurious life  or sensual pleasures, instead developed refined tastes in life. His interests turned towards finding common grounds between Islam and Hindu thoughts. For this purpose Dara spent many years in the study of Sanskrit and employed a large number of Pandits from Benaras including contemporary scholars Pandit Jagannath Misra, Pandit Kavindracharya and Banvali Das. Pandit Misra has written a book "Jagatsimha" in praise of Dara. After his interaction with Baba Lal Das Bairagi, Dara brought out a summery of his teachings in a booklet "Makalama Baba Lal wa Dara Shukoh" highlighting similarities in the teachings of Hindu and Muslim Mystics. He found  common elements in Quadiri Ashghal and Yogic meditational techniques, which inspired him to bring out Persian tranlation of Yogavasishta in 1650 AD. followed by a Persian translation of Bhagavad-Gita.

In all,Dara Shikoh arranged for translation of fifty-two Upanishads into Persian, and had named it "Sirr-e-Akbar" (the Great Secret). In its forward Dara Shikoh writes " I had collected a large number of Hindu Pandits and Sanyasis from Benaras, the center of the Hindu lore and wisdom, with whose help I completed this work within six months in Delhi" (by June 28, 1657 AD).

Dara Shikoh's efforts to find commonality in comparative religions resulted in bringing out  an extremely remarkable book "Majma-ul Bahrain" - "The Mingling of two Oceans" (1656 AD) considered his magnum opus.He describes this book as "the collection of truth and wisdom of two truth knowing groups".

In the notes given in the book "Travels in the Mogul Empire 1656-1668 AD" by french traveller Francois Bernier, it is stated:

"Dara Shikoh, when Governor or Viceroy of Benares, in 1656,caused a Persian translation to be made from the Sanskrit text of the Upanishads ('the word that is not to be revealed'), which he called the Sarr-i-Asrar, or Secret of Secrets. This translation, which was made by a large staff of Benares Pandits, has been rendered into Latin by Anquetil-Duperron, and published by him at Paris, 1801, under the title of Oupnekhat {id est, Secreticm I'egendum) opus ipsain India rarissimum, etc. etc.."

This latin version got in the hands of German Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, and was later translated into German by Friederich Max Muller for Philosopher Friedrich Schelling. Later this was translated into many European languages.

Dara Sukoh was a patron of fine arts, poetry and dance. He was well read in classical Persian literature. He himself had written poems in Persian. He had expressed his sufistic views in beautiful quatrains and Gazals. He was an accomplished artist and calligraphist. He had left a collection of his paintings and calligraphy collected from 1630 till his death in an album known as "Dara Shukoh Album", which is believed to be in British Library now.

On February 1, 1633 AD, Dara Shikoh married Karim-un-Nisa Nadira Banu Begum, his first cousin, daughter of his paternal uncle Sultan Parvez Mirza. They led  a happy and successful married life. Dara never took another woman as wife. Though the couple had eight children, only two sons and two daughters survived.

Emporer Shah Jahan formally declared his elest son Dara Shukoh as his heir on September 10, 1642 AD. and granted him the title "Shahzada-e- Buland Iqbal" Prince of High Fortune.

How ever, the spate of misfortunes overtook the life of the Prince when Emporer Shah Jahan fell ill in September 1657AD. A desperate power struggle triggered among the four Princes. Aurangzeb and Murad joined togather and defeated Prince Dara in the battle of Samugarh. Aurangzeb grabbed the throne in 1658 AD, and imprisoned his father in Agra Fort, where Shah Jahan died after eight years. Dara had to run away to Sindh to seek the help of Malik Jiwan, Afghan Chieftain. Later Dara was caught by Aurangzeb due to the treachery of the same Malik Jiwan, and brought to Delhi and humiliated. At the instance of Aurangzeb, Prince Dara was accused of infidelity and heresy by a religious court and put in prison and executed on August 30, 1659 AD. under Royal decree issed by Aurangzeb. It is said after his death his head was cut and sent on a platter to his father Shah Jahan lamenting in Agra fort.

Had this gentle and pious intellectual Prince ruled our Country, history would have taken a different course of religious tolerance and amity. Prince Dara Shikoh was a devout Muslim, it is said he used to chant Allah's name before translating Upanishads.

His body lies buried in a nondescript grave in the burial complex at Emperor Humayun's tomb in Delhi.


Friday, 29 May 2015


Tears of Lord Shiva:

There is a holy pond in Pakistan along with hindu temple complex in Katas raj. This ancient Hindu Temple complex is situated  40 Kms from  Chakwal city in the District of same name in Punjab, Pakistan. The locals call the complex as “Qila Katas  Hindhu mandir".The main temple is a dedicated  to Lord Shiva. It is said that the temple has been in existance prior to the days of Mahabharata and the Pandavas have spent substantial part of their period of exile at this holy place. It is also believed that this is the pond where the famous dialogue between the Yaksha and King Yuthishitra known as "Yakshaprasnam" had taken place.

As per  the mythological account origin of this temple and tank is related to Sathi devi's death. It is believed that after the death of his beloved consort,  lord Shiva shed tears so much and so long that the tears from one eye of the Lord  is said to have created the holy pond at Katas, ( Keta-aksha in Sanskrit  means 'weeping eye',). And tears from the other eye has created the holy tank at Pushkar, near Ajmer, Rajastan. 

According to historians, during Gandhara age, scholars from many parts of the world have visited Katas raj to study in the famous University established here.This  is the place where the famous Persian Scholar Al Bairuni,  who had written "  Kitab- Al-Hind",after exploring the religious faith practiced in India had spent some period of stay at Katas raj to learn Sanskrit in the linguistic University, established there. Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang said to have visited this place around 630 AD and mentions about Katas in his writings. According to one account most of these temples were built by  Hind-shahi kings (650-950 AD) driven from Afghanistan by their ethinic cousin Mahmud of Ghazni they fled the region and set a base in Katas.  

Prior to partition in 1947 , this Temple complex has attracted tens and thousands of Hindu pilgrims from the sub-continent, and other parts of the world, through out the year. However after the partition the flow subsided and virtually came to an end after 1965 war.  In 2005, at the invitation of General Musharraf then President of Pakistan, Shri L.K.Advani visited Katas Raj to launth the renovation  program of Katas Raj Temple complex initiated by the Government of Pakistan. And the Indian government was quick to dispatch an Archaeological Survey of India team to survey Katas Raj and facilitate a whistle stop tour of Indian temples for Pakistani archaeologists. Accordingly the Pakistani delegation led by the Punjab Archaelogy Director General Oriya Jan Maqbool was on a 10 day trip to study Hindu architecture and customs, and visited several important Temples in  India. The first three year phase of renovation was the complex at the cost of Rs 60.3 million was completed in 2007. A "Siva Linga" was installed and consecrated on February 16, 2007.  

Saturday, 25 January 2014

First Tamil Printed Book.

                    When I was searching for information on Religious conversions in India, I stepped into some interesting information, one among them was, that the printing in First non European language was Tamil. Here is a brief account of the same:

                     தமிழின் முதல் அச்சு புத்தகம்
"ஆகாசமும் பூமியும் படச்சவன் சர்வமும் ஆனவனே, பிதாவே தம்பிரானே விசுவாசம். அவ்வண்ணம் என்னடே கர்த்தாவே யேசு கிறிஸ்து அவ்வனடே புத்ரனே ஒருவனே. சுத்தமான சித்தத்தினொடெய கருணே கொண்டு கெற்பம் ஆயி: கன்னியாஸ்திரி மரியத்தில் பெறந்தவன்: போஞ்சியு பிலாத்து விதித்த விதிகொண்டு வெசனப்பட்டு: குருசினில் தூக்கிச் செத்தான்: குழில் வைத்து.."

Above is a passage is from the first Tamil Printed book " Thambiran Vanakkam" (தம்பிரான் வணக்கம்) printed in India in 1578. It is a matter of record Tamil was the first non-European Language to be printed in movable type. The credit should go to the untiring efforts of a Portuguese Jesuit Priest Fr.Anrique Anriquez (1520–1600) better known as Fr.Henrique Henriques, who spent most of his life in missionary activities among Paravars in South India. He strongly believed that books of religious doctrines should be in local languages and to this end he wrote books in Tamil. The first such book printed in Tamil Script was Thambiran Vanakkam (தம்பிரான் வணக்கம்) (1578), a 16-page translation of the Portuguese “Doctrina Christam”. It was followed byKirisithiyaani Vanakkam (கிரிசித்தியானி வணக்கம்)(1579). These were works of catechism, containing the basic prayers of Catholicism. Before this ‘Cartilha’, a Tamil prayer book printed using Latin script, was printed in Lisbon by command of the King of Portugal and financed by the Paravar Christians community of Tuticorin, who also helped with scholarly assistance. The first known Tamil typeset for printing was cast in 1577 at Goa by a Spanish Jesuit Fr Juan Gonsalvez "who succeeded in makingMalauar (Tamil) printing press". The first Tamil Book "Tambiranvanakkam" was printed in this Printing Press at Kollam, Malabar.
Fr Henrique Henriques is sometimes called The Father of the Tamil Press. After his death his mortal remains were buried in Our Lady of Snows Basilica in Tuticorin, India.

Roberto de Nobili (1577- 1656)

                             Roberto de Nobili (1577- 1656)

I wish to share information about Rev Fr. Roberto de Nobili who spent many years to propagate Christianity among the Tamils.

Roberto de Nobili was an Italian Jesuit born in Montepulciano, Tuscany, in September,1577. He was the first son of a nobleman, a general in the papal army. After his father's demise at the age of seventeen Roberto chose to join the Society of Jesus founded by Ignatious Loyola, in spite of opposition from his family,which had contributed numerous clerics to the Church , including several Cardinals and at two Popes.Thus in 1596, ignoring his family's wishes, he entered the Jesuit novitiate with the intention of becoming a foreign missionary. After a brilliant course of studies he sailed for the Indian mission in October, 1604, arriving at Goa on 20 May, 1605.

After a short stay at Cochin and among the fishermen in coramandal Coast, he moved in November, 1606, to Madurai, great cultural center of Tamils ruled by Telugu Nayaks, patrons of Vedic learning and Hinduism. Here he spent close to next fifty years in the service of his Lord.The policy of Portuguese clergy until then was to try and achieve to increase the number of converts, by conversion of the downtrodden lower classes to Christianity, sometimes forcefully, hardly making contacts with the upper castes. They set strict rules after conversions, getting the new recruits to eat meat, change their entire ways of life etc which earned them no good will, the converts were still considered lower class. The revised priority in India, therefore for the Jesuits, was to free Hindus from the stranglehold of the Brahmins as set by St Xavier. The resident Jesuit priest in Madurai was making not much headway with conversions and not a single Brahmin could be converted thus far. Instead the Portuguese and their Priests earned the sobriquet of Pirangis or Firangis, unclean white-men, bracketed with lower class people.

Soon, Fr.Roberto de Nobili understood the iron bound Caste system that held the Hindu society strongly. As a result, he decided to move ahead and accept the restrictions of caste and refuse to condemn any social custom or idea in this regard. First, he tried to ally the fear that he was a Portuguese (Pirangi) Priest, but a holy man from Italy like a Brahmin in India.. He moved from the missionary compound into a house in the Brahmin quarter of the city and shaved his head and sported a tuft of hair. He spoke only Tamil, hired a Brahmin cook and houseboy, and became a vegetarian. Like many Brahmins, Roberto de Nobili limited himself to one meal a day. He abandoned the black cassock and leather wear of the Jesuits for a saffron robe and wooden clogs. He put sandalwood paste on his forehead to like a Brahmin priest and even wore sacred thread across his shoulder for some time, as a sign of his caste rank.. He referred to himself as an ascetic or a sannyasi. Eventually, he preferred the company of Brahmins and even ate only with them. He bathed daily and cleansed himself ceremonially before saying mass. Thus it looked, instead of converting Brahmins, he converted himself as a Brahmin !

With the help of his scholarly Brahmin associate in the School run by Catholics, he learnt Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu. In two years he mastered these languages to the extend of conversing fluently in Tamil and Telugu, and studying Sacred Texts of Vedas and Upanishads. Perhaps de Nobili was the " first European to study those venerable classics". In 1613 de Nobili wrote a detailed treatise on Hindu customs, and importance of careful adaptation of missionary methods, "Preaching Wisdom to the Wise- Three Treatises by Roberto de Nobili" which his Portuguese Jesuit superiors disagreed. However in 1623 Pope Gregory XV issued a papal document, that largely approved de Nobili's approach. Through the next forty-five years he wrote over twenty volumes of Catholic teachings in Sanskrit and Tamil.

Roberto de Nobili was a polyglot well versed in fourteen languages. "He composed Catechisms, apologetic works and philosophic discourses in Tamil, and contributed greatly to the development of modern Tamil prose writing". "As he expounded the Christian doctrine in Tamil he coined several words to communicate his message. He used the word "Kovil" (கோவில்) for a place of worship, "arul" (அருள்) and "prasadam" "(பிரசாதம்) for grace, "guru" (குரு) for priest or teacher, "Vedam" (வேதம்) for the Bible, "poosai" (பூசை) for Mass, etc".

Regarding number of Brahmin converts by de Nobili, there are different numbers given in books. But it was not significant. The reason as one author said, by getting converted, Brahmins viewed that they gain nothing. They enjoy status in society, looked after well by the rulers and the rich. Then why should they convert themselves to a new religion.

During his final years Roberto de Nobili courted many controversies and banished to Jaffna, where he had lost much of his eye sight. Eventually the Church refused to allow him back to his favorite Madurai, instead sent to San Thome, Mylapore, Madras, where after spending eight years as a broken, penniless and blind man Rev.Fr.Roberto de Nobili, the Count of Civitella died in the year 1656. His tomb is not identified till now.


Monday, 23 September 2013

Where could we find those kind of people today?

Where could we find those kind of people today?

While browsing the internet I stepped into a news item, that took my memory to an incident which happened long back, some time in 1958 or 59. I was returning from Madras to Coimbatore by Nilgiri Express. When the train started from Central two gentlemen rushed to the compartment and got in. It was a third class reserved compartment for sitting. In those days there was no sleeper Compartments. One person was fair and lean, wearing Khadi kurtha, dhothi and a towel over his shoulder and the other was little dark complexioned wearing white shirt, dhothi and a towel over his shoulder. They were allotted seats nearby in the same bench. They were carrying ordinary bags containing their clothes and some documents. They were discussing some politics and the assembly proceedings for some time. The ticket examiner came and when he saw them he respectfully enquired about their welfare and asked whether they would like to upgrade their tickets to travel by first class. The two gentlemen told that it is OK for them to travel by third class.

The fair gentleman turned to me and introduced himself as K.R.Nallasivam, MLA from Chennimalai and the other was N.K.Palaniswami also a MLA ( Communist) from next constituency. He told they would get down at Erode, till then we can adjust and sleep in the available space on the bench.In the meanwhile Sri.Palaniswami climbed up on the luggage rack and spread his towel to sleep. I could not believe at the simplicity and ease with which they moved with others. Later I came to know that Sri K.R.Nallasivam from Kodumudi was an agriculturist and respected Congressman turned staunch Socialist and spent his entire life in the service of people.
He was an MLA for nineteen years from 1952 to 1971 , but did not own any property.
Now please read the news item in the following URL:

The Hindu : Tamil Nadu / Erode News : Cheque given to former MLA’s wife
ERODE:Saturday, Feb 16, 2008:The wife of a former MLA was presented a cheque for Rs. 2 lakh.
K.R. Nallasivam, a veteran Socialist leader and All India President of SP, represented the then Chennimalai Constituency as MLA from 1952 to 1957, again from 1957 to 1962 and also from 1962 to 1967.
Then, after formation of Modakurichi constituency in 1967, he became the first MLA of the constituency of the Socialist Party contesting on the banyan tree symbol. He represented the constituency till 1971. He died in 1975 after a brief ailment.
He left behind his wife, son and daughter. He was not having any immoveable property and on lease he and his son maintained four acres of land, owned by the Thiruvaduthurai Aadheenam.
After his death his son is maintaining the land. Nallasivam’s wife Saraswathy aged 72 now, and her son N. Ravindran are in poor status.
Coming to know of this, the present Congress MLA representing Modakurichi, R.M. Palanisamy, raised the issue in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly and spoke about the family circumstances of K.R. Nallasivam.
Immediately, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi declared that on behalf of the Tamil Nadu Government, a sum of Rs. 2 lakh would be given to N. Saraswathy, wife of late K.R. Nallasivam.
The cheque for Rs. 2 lakh was handed over to her on Thursday by the Handlooms and Textiles Minister N.K.K.P. Raja in the presence of R.M. Palanisamy MLA and Chairman of the Erode Panchayat Council S.V. Saravanan.
Receiving the cheque, N. Saraswathy thanked the Chief Minister for the timely help rendered to her.