Teaching and researching religions, languages, literatures, films, and ecology of India: http://philosophy.unt.edu/people/faculty/pankaj-jain

Dr. Pankaj Jain

My photo

Dr. Pankaj Jain is the author of Dharma and Ecology of Hindu Communities: Sustenance and Sustainability (May 2011), which won the 2012 DANAM Book Award and the 2011 Uberoi Foundation Book Award. His 2nd book is Science and Socio-Religious Revolution in India: Moving the Mountains (Routledge 2017).

He is co-founder of American Academy of Indic Studies (www.AAIndicStudies.org) and is the editor of the Encyclopedia of Hinduism (Springer).

He is Associate Professor in the department of Philosophy & Religion. He has published articles in journals such as Religious Studies Review, Worldviews, Religion Compass, Journal of Vaishnava Studies, Union Seminary Quarterly Review, and the Journal of Visual Anthropology. He also contributes to the Huffington Post, Washington Post’s forum On Faith, and Patheos.
His research has been supported by the Fulbright fellowship and by the Wenner Gren grant. His teaching interests include Religion and Ecology, Indian films, and Religions and Cultures of South Asia and South Asian Diaspora in North America. Before joining UNT, he taught at North Carolina State University, Rutgers, Kean, and New Jersey City University. Interested in connecting ancient practices with contemporary issues, he is exploring the connections between religious traditions and sustainability in Hindu and Jain communities in India and the Indian diaspora. He serves as a research affiliate with Harvard University’s Pluralism Project, as scholar-in-residence with GreenFaith, as a board member of the Society for Hindu Christian Studies, and as a board member of the Executive Advisory Council of Hindu American Seva Charities, an NGO working with the White House Office for the faith-based initiatives. He has presented his research at Columbia University, University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, University of South Florida, Florida International University, University of Toledo, Texas Christian University, High Point University, Lancaster University (UK), Andhra University (India), Univ of Rajasthan (India), and several conferences, high schools, radio and TV stations, temples, churches, Yoga centers, and other community centers.
He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa and an M.A. from Columbia University (both in Religious Studies). In his “previous life” he had also earned a B.S. in Computer Science from India and had worked as a software engineer in India and in New Jersey. Dr. Jain is an active member of several academic and community organizations, is fluent in several Indian languages, and has published poems in Hindi. He was born in Rajasthan and had also lived in Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Karnatak (in India) and in New Jersey, Iowa, North Carolina, and Texas (in the USA). Some of his papers and articles are at:http://unt.academia.edu/PankajJain/Papers and videos are at http://www.youtube.com/pj2017. The Facebook page for his book is at:https://www.facebook.com/DharmaAndEcology

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Programs in Ethnomusicology, Indian Film Studies, Comparative Religions, and Jainism

I have created Wiki pages (which are editable by anyone) of lists of graduate programs in Indian ethnomusicology, Comparative Religions of India, Indian Film Studies and Jainism Studies.

Grad programs in ethnomusicology of South Asia:

Study of comparative religions in India:

Films Studies in India:

Study of Jainism in North America and Europe:

Sunday, May 10, 2009

वैदिक मंत्र

(notation A - X.Y.Z :
Mantra number A is from Rig Veda Mandala X, Sukta Y, Mantra Z)
1 - 2.23.1
2 - 1.27.13
3 - 1.112.3
4 - 1.147.1
5 - 1.164.50
6 - 1.167.4
7 - 1.169.5
8 - 1.185.9
9 - 1.186.8
10 - 2.28.3
11 - 3.6.7
12 - 3.49.1
13 - 3.56.8
14 - 4.34.11
15 - 4.50.9
16 - 4.55.1
17 - 5.31.8
18 - 6.7.1
19 - 6.7.2
20 - 6.50.11
21 - 6.52.15
22 - 8.63.12
23 - 9.109.1-2
24 - 10.51.8
25 - 10.55.7
26 - 10.85.23
27 - 10.85.36
28 - 10.95.7
29 - 10.109.5
30 - 10.110.11
31 - 10.112.6
32 - 1.99.1
33 - 7.59.2
34 - 1.164.41
35 - 10.71.2
36 - 6.61.4
Thus, e.g., 33 - "Om trayambakam yajamahe sugandhim pushtivardham..."
is Rig Veda Mandala 7, Sukta 59, Mantra 2.

भारत और दक्षिण एशिया

Subject: Indian Influence in Ancient South-East Asia
A Cultural History of India
Edited by A.L. Basham
Oxford University Press, Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras 1975
Chapter XXXI: Indian Influence in Ancient South-East Asia
Pages 442-443
By the opening of the Christian era the civilization of India had begun to
spread across the Bay of Bengal into both island and mainland South-East
Asia; and by the fifth century AD. Indianized states, that is to say states
organized along the traditional lines of Indian political theory and
following the Buddhist or Hindu religions, had established themselves in
many regions of Burma, Thailand, Indo-China, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Some
of these states were in time to grow into great empires dominating the zone
between metropolitan India and the Chinese southern border, which has
sometimes been described as' Further India' or' Greater India '. Once rooted
in South- East Asian soil, Indian civilization evolved in part through the
action of forces Of South-East Asian origin, and in part through the
influence of cultural and political changes in the Indian subcontinent. Many
scholars have described the eastward spread of Indian civilization in terms
of a series of 'waves'; and there are good reasons for considering that such
'waves' are still breaking on South-East Asian beaches today.
The cultures of modern South-East Asia all provide evidence of a long period
of contact with India. Many South-East Asian languages (Malay and Javanese
are good examples) contain an Important proportion of words of Sanskrit or
Dravidian origin. Some of these languages, like Thai, are still written in
scripts which are clearly derived from Indian models South-East Asian
concepts of kingship and authority, even in regions which are now dominated
by Islam, owe much to ancient Hindu political theory. The Thai monarchy,
though following Hinayana Buddhism of the Sinhalese type, still requires the
presence of Court brahmans (who by now have become Thai in all but name) for
the proper performance of its ceremonials. The traditional dance and
shadow-puppet theatres in many South-East Asian regions, in Thailand,
Malaya, and Java for example, continue to fascinate their audiences with the
adventures of Rama and Sita and Hanuman. In Bali an elaborate indigenous
Hindu culture still flourishes, and preserves intact many Indian ideas and
practices which have long passed out of use in the subcontinent; and here we
haven fossil record, as it were, which can be exploited to throw much light
on the early cultural history of India itself. The fact of Indian impact on
South-East Asian civilization, past and present, is, indeed, in no doubt.
Much controversy, however, has arisen over the precise way in which this
impact took place.
Page 443
The term South-East Asia, moreover, covers a very extensive area within
which there exists a considerable range of environments and ethnic types,
and throughout which there cannot possibly have been a uniform operation of
any one of the several likely processes of Indianization. Some populations,
like the Khmers, the Chams, and the Javanese, became heavily Indianized.
Others, like some of the tribes in Sulawesi (the Celebes), were indeed
subject to Indian influence, but lightly and, most probably, indirectly. Yet
others, like the Negritos of the Malay Peninsula, cannot be said to have
been Indianized at all.
Page 444
...It seems most probable, on the present available information, that
Indianization started in earnest in the period from the first century B.C.
to the first century A.D. There can be no doubt, at all events, that by the
fifth century A.D. Indian culture was widely known in South-East Asia, and
that Indianized states had appeared not only in regions with relatively
large populations practicing a settled agriculture, like Cambodia, Vietnam,
and Java, but also in remote and sparsely peopled districts like Kalimantan
(Indonesian Borneo) and Sulawesi (Celebes).
...Indian colonization of South-East Asia, on the pattern of European
colonization of North America or Australia and New Zealand, is no longer
regarded by the majority of scholars as a major factor in the initiation of
the Indianization process, which now tends to be interpreted in the light of
an expansion of international maritime trade.
Page 445
...It is certain however, that once the economic importance of the routes
from India eastwards through South-East Asia was established, they were
extensively exploited by Indians who, unlike the Westerners of this time,
left a lasting impression upon the South-East Asian cultural landscape.

We possess very little direct evidence as to the manner in which the
Indians, once they began to trade and travel widely in South-East Asia,
actually proceeded to Indianize the indigenous peoples with whom they came
into contact. It is clear, however, that more than one mechanism must have
operated and that there can have been no question of a single pattern of
events holding good for the whole region.
Pages 445-446
Such communities would no doubt provide an example for the techniques of
urban life along Indian lines and the practical advantages of the major
Indian religions, which could be copied by neighbouring indigenous
Another mechanism can perhaps be detected in the deliberate borrowing by
indigenous South-East Asian rulers of the techniques of Indian political
organization, of which they learned either from merchants visiting their
territories or from themselves visiting the early entrepôts. More recently
we have examples of this kind of mechanism at work in Asia in the efforts
towards self-Westernization made by Japan and Thailand in the latter part of
the nineteenth century. Here there was no blind swallowing in its entirety
of an alien culture: rather, specific aspects of Western civilization,
mainly technical and political, were married into the indigenous way of
life. The finer points of art, philosophy, and literature tended to be
ignored, Since ancient Indian political life was so inextricably bound, up
with the religious cosmology, one would expect that self-lndianization, as
it were, would result in the establishment, at an official level, of an
Indian-type religion in the charge of a brahmanical priestly caste, whose
role would be comparable to that filled today by Western advisers in an
under-developed nation.
Page 446
...The Chinese texts, confirmed by epigraphy, describe the founding of the
Indianized kingdom of Funan in Indo-China in terms which could well suggest
the career of the Indian equivalent of Brooke. Kaundinya, so the story goes,
guided by a dream, set out in search of a kingdom which he won by kidnapping
and marrying Willow Leaf, Queen of Funan, This tale was later phrased in
more orthodox Indian terms, with the brahman Kaundinya marrying Nagi Soma,
the daughter of the King of the Nagas, or serpent spirits, a legend
strikingly similar to that accounting for the origin of the Pallava Dynasty
of south India. The Khmers, whose empire was a successor state to Funan,
later adopted this story as their official myth, and the Naga motif came to
dominate their decorative art.
Pages 446-447
...Almost ubiquitous in South- East Asia, for example, is a category of
Buddha image showing very clear signs of Gupta or Amaravati influence; and
some examples of this can, on the established principles of Indian
iconography, be dated to very early in the Christian era. Specimens have
been found in Indo-China, Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the
Philippines. The earliest South-East Asian inscriptions, some of which may
perhaps date to the fourth century A.D., show the use of a script generally
considered to be of a south Indian type, with little if any sign of
evolution in a South-East Asian environment. All this rather suggests the
deliberate acquisition by the first South-East Asian Indianized rulers of
the signs and symbols of Indian political organization, the language and
script of the brahmans, and the cult objects of the major Indian religions.
Page 447
...The cult of the Devaraja, the God King, though certainly expressed in
Indian terminology, developed, so many scholars believe, into a distinctive
corpus of political and cosmological ideas which lies behind the
proliferation of Khmer temples built in the form of mystic mountains and the
Javanese chandis which were not only places of worship but also royal tombs
and mechanisms, as it were, designed to link the dynasty on earth with the
spirit world. No more extreme examples of this cult, with its identification
of ruler with god,' be it Siva, Vishnu, or Buddha, can be found than in
Angkor Thom, the city of the late twelfth- and early thirteenth-century
Khmer ruler Jayavarman VII. Here, on the gateway towers of the city, and on
its central monument, the Bayon, the face of the king himself becomes the
dominant architectural motif. From all four sides of every tower of the
Bayon, Jayavarman VII looks out over his capital, his lips and eyes
suggesting an enigmatic and slightly malevolent smile. This is something
which the Roman emperors, who deified themselves in their own lifetimes,
would have understood, but which would have been beyond the comprehension of
the great Hindu and Buddhist dynasties of India. The Devaraja cult of the
Khmers, Chams, and Javanese Indianized kings has survived to the present day
in Thailand, where it explains many features of the modern Thai monarchy.
Page 449
...Indianization, once initiated, did not come abruptly to a halt. Contacts
between India and South-East Asia along the trade-routes, once established,
persisted; and cultural changes in the Indian subcontinent had their effect
across the Bay of Bengal. During the late Gupta and the Pala-Sena periods
many South-East Asian regions were greatly influenced by developments in
Indian religious ideas, especially in the Buddhist field. The pilgrimages to
Indian religious centres like Nalanda, of which devout Chinese like Hsuan
Tsang and I Ching have left celebrated accounts, were also made by
South-East Asians, sometimes with much encouragement on the part of their
rulers. The Indonesian King Baladeva, for example, so an inscription
records, made in A.D. 860 a benefaction to the Buddhist university at
Nalanda. It should cause no surprise, therefore, to find a strong late Gupta
and Pala influence in many manifestations of Mahayana Buddhism in South-East
Asia. The art of the Sailendra Dynasty in Java, the builders during the
eighth and ninth centuries A.D. of Borobodur and many of the other
architectural glories of central Java, shows abundant evidence of this
particular influence, as also does the art of Srivijaya, a state which
dominated the Malayan and Sumatran shores of the Malacca Straits from the
seventh to the thirteenth centuries A.D.; and Pala influence can also be
seen to a varying degree in the major styles of the South-East Asian
mainland. Thus the great temple at Paharpur in Bengal, dating perhaps from
the seventh or eighth century, of which excavation has revealed the
ground-plan, may well be representative of an inspiration shared in common
by such widely separated monuments as Borobodur and Prambanan in central
Java, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and the Ananda temple at Pagan in Burma.
Pages 449-450
Inscriptions show that there was also a very close contact between many
South-East Asian regions and the Tamil kingdoms, particularly during the
period of the Chola Dynasty (ninth to thirteenth centuries A.D.). There were
Tamil trading settlements at this time at Baros in western Sumatra and at
Takuapa on the Kra Isthmus. Indonesian rulers endowed shrines in Chola
territory in India. This connection between both sides of the Bay of Bengal
was so important that, in the eleventh century A.D., it induced the Chola
kings Rajaraja and Rajendra to undertake demonstrations of their sea power
in the direction of Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula, with the probable
objective of securing a commercial monopoly rather than the acquisition of
territory. It is not difficult, therefore, to find explanations for the
presence of a Chola element in many South-East Asian arts and architectures.
Page 450
The Thais, once established in the Menam basin, underwent a process of
Indianization which, because it is well documented, provides an invaluable
example of the mechanics of cultural fusion in South-East Asia. On the one
hand, Thai rulers set out deliberately to Indianize themselves. They sent,
for example, agents to Bengal, at that time suffering from the disruption of
Islamic conquest, to bring back models upon which to base an official
sculpture and architecture. Hence Thai architects began to build replicas of
the Bodh-Gaya stupa (Wat Chet Yot in Chiengmai is a good example) and Thai
artists made Buddha images according to the Pala canon as they saw it. On
the other hand, the Thais absorbed much from their Khmer and Mon subjects;
and the influence of Angkor and Dvaravati is obvious in Thai art. Thai kings
embraced the Indian religions, and they based their principles of government
upon Hindu practice as it had been understood by their Khmer predecessors.
Hence the Khmer version of the Devaraja cult was absorbed by the Thai
monarchy; and traces of it survive to this day.
Pages 450-451
The thirteenth century, which saw the conquests of the Thais, also witnessed
two major developments in South-East Asian religious life, both, if
sometimes rather indirectly, the product of Indian influence. Theravada
Buddhism established itself as the dominant form of religious expression on
the South-East Asian mainland; and the saffron-robed monk became ubiquitous
in Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. This movement appears to have
originated in Ceylon and is unconnected, except in the most remote way,
with the Buddhism which came to South-East Asia in the first centuries of
Page 451
...But it seems that the actual conversion of South-East Asian populations
to Islam on a significant scale did not begin until the thirteenth century,
when Indian Muslim merchants from Gujarat or Bengal brought the faith with
them as their ancestors had brought the Hindu and Buddhist religions....
The conversion to Islam of much of island South-East Asia was the last phase
of Indianization which we can treat in the same terms as our discussion of
the earlier establishment of Hindu and Buddhist influence; for in the
sixteenth century the South-East Asian cultural scene was greatly
complicated both by the coming of the European empire-builders and by the
great increase in Chinese settlement. Indian influence, of course, has
continued up to the present; but it has done so in competition with the
influences of Europe and China, to which, in recent years, have been added
those of America and Japan. The Islamic conversion in South-East Asia took
place along lines very similar to those which marked the coming of Buddhism
and Hinduism in earlier-years. It was established by influence and example,
not by force; and there is no South-East Asian parallel to the Islamic
Turkish invasions of India. Once established on South-East Asian soil, Islam
began to acquire peculiarly South-East Asian features, the product of its
intermarriage with earlier cultural strata, both Indianized and pre-Indian.
Thus women in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines have not, as they
have in India and the Middle East, taken to veiling their faces in public.
The first South-East Asian mosques were not replicas of Indo-Saracenic art:
they were based on the forms of existing Buddhist and Hindu temple
architecture; and the dome is a late, and rather exotic, development in this
region. Many old pre-Islamic customs and ceremonies survived. Islamic
peasants continued to be entertained by stories from the Ramayana. Much of
Malay and Indonesian court ceremonial, marriage customs, and the like can be
traced without difficulty back to the days of Buddhist and Hindu dominance.
Page 452
The Indianization of South-East Asia was a slow and gradual process. With a
few exceptions like the Chola attacks of the eleventh century, it was
carried out by peaceful means; and in consequence, as it developed, it did
not build up a resistance to its further progress. Though its initial impact
was probably at the level of the ruling classes, Indian influences had no
difficulty in merging with indigenous cultures to create a series of
distinct South-East Asian amalgams in which it is now virtually impossible
to disentangle all the Indian from
the non-Indian. The result may not have simplified the task of the cultural
historian; but it has without doubt guaranteed the Indian heritage a place
in South-East Asian civilization from which it cannot possibly be dislodged
without the total destruction of that civilization.
Pages 452-453
Secondly, there are new theories about the reasons for the coming of Indian
influence to ancient South-East Asia and the way this influence spread.
These show a clear tendency away from a predominantly commercial or economic
interpretation of the process of Indianization (i.e. traders seen as the
main agents of the spread of Indian influence), let alone one based on the
assumption of large-scale migrations, abandoned long ago. Emphasis is now
put on brahmans or missionaries, or even on the initiative of South-East
Asians themselves, a development foreshadowed by Professor Lamb's adoption
of the term 'self-Indianization' to describe one possible mechanism of the
process. The frequent use of the words 'Sanskritization' or 'brahmanization'
in recent publications underlines this tendency. Archaeological evidence now
available also points to a slightly earlier date than that suggested by
Professor Lamb for the effective results of this Sanskritization in some
parts of South-East Asia, if not for its beginning.
Page 453
...As regards the extension of Sanskritization, which until recently was
thought not to have reached the eastern parts of South-East Asia, it has now
been shown that even the Philippines got a fair share of it, although it did
not result there in the establishment of lndian-inspired kingdoms as in the
more western and southern parts of the region.

श्री राम नवमी

The ninth day of the bright half of Chaitra

"Wherever four Hindus live, Rama and Sita will be there" so said Swami Vivekananda, one of the foremost harbingers of modern national renaissance of Bharat. The reverse also is equally true - wherever Rama and Sita live, the people there will remain and live as Hindus. Every hill and rivulet of Bharat bears the imprint of the holy feet of Rama and Sita. Sri Rama reigns supreme to this day in the hearts of our people, cutting across all barriers of province, language, caste or sect. Even the tribes living in isolated valleys and jungles have names like Mitti-Ram and Patthar-Ram. In some other tribes, every name carries the proud suffix of Ram, such as Lutthu Ram, Jagadev Ram, etc. In many northern parts of Bharat mutual greetings take the form of Jay Ramjee Ki.

Sri Rama has become so much identified with all the good and great and virile qualities of heroic manhood that expressions such as 'Us me Ram nahi hai' (there is no Rama in him) - meaning that a person has lost all manliness and worth - have become common usage. And when a Hindu quits the world stage, he is bid God-speed in his onward journey [with Ramanama satya hai or Raghupati Raghava raja Ram, patita paavana Sita Ram. In fact, the latter couplet has become the nation's bhajan par excellence.

Sri Rama's story, Ramayana, has been sung and resung in all the languages and dialects of Bharat. The tradition of writing epics centering round the saga of Rama's achievements started by Valmiki and Samskrit was continued by Tulsidas in Hindi, by Kamban in Tamil, by Ramanujan in Malayalam, by Krittivasa in Bengali and Madhav Kambali in Assamia and in fact, in almost every Bharatiya language. The tradition is being continued up to the present day. The Ramayana Darshanam of K.V. Puttappa, the national literary award of Bharat by the Jnana Peeth. The enchanting Geet Ramayana composed in Marathi by G.D. Madgulkar and set to tune by Sudhir Phadke is now thrilling the hearts of millions in Maharashtra. The various tribal groups too have sung the story of Ramayana in their dialects. Sri Rama, Lakshmana and Janaki mirror the ideals for millions of tribal boys and girls. The Khamati tribe in Arunachal Pradesh, which is Buddhist, depicts Ramayana as the story narrated by Buddha to his first disciple, Ananda, and carries the universal message of Buddha. How deeply significant that every group and sect even in distant and far-flung parts of Bharatavarsha should have found a radiant reflection of its own ideals in the form of Sri Rama!

The comparison of Sri Rama's fortitude to Himalayas and the grace and grandeur of his personality to the ocean – 'Samudra iva gaambheerye, dhairye cha Himavaan iva' - portrays how inseparably his personality has been blended into the entire national entity of Bharat. Where in lay the secret of this unique greatness in Rama's personality? He is called Maryaada-Purushottama - the great one who never deviated from the norms set by Dharma. In the eyes of the Hindu, the touchstone of human excellence is Dharma. Devotion to Dharma
came first in Rama's life and considerations of his personal joys and sorrows came last. It was his supreme commitment to putra-dharma (duty of a son) that made Rama smilingly depart to the forest for fourteen years at the bidding of his father. And this he did on the very day he was to be anointed as the future emperor of Bharat. He would not budge from the path of Dharma -
righteousness - even when his own preceptor, his parents, his brothers and the whole body of his subjects tried to dissuade him. He upheld the supremacy of Dharma in every one of his human relationships and hence became an ideal son, an ideal brother, an ideal husband, an ideal disciple. an ideal friend, an ideal kind and even an ideal foe. The one and supreme concern of Sri Rama's life was the welfare of his subjects. He would forsake everything else to uphold his kingly
duties - the Rajadharma. The night previous to his scheduled coronation, when Rama and Sita were alone in a happy mood in view of the next day's joyous occasion, Sita asked Rama, "What is that thing which hold dearest to your heart?" Rama fell serious for a moment and said, "Dear Sita, you know I love you most dearly, but I love the subjects of Ayodhya more and if their welfare demands, I would not hesitate to sacrifice even you!" The following couplet conveying this idea is cited often:
Sneham dayaam cha soukhyam cha yadi vaa Jaanakimapi,
Aaraadhanaaya lokasya munchate naasti me vyathaa.
And Sri Rama did live up to his words. When he felt that the call of his royal duties - Rajadharma - demanded the forsaking of Sita, he wavered not in carrying it out. The most crucial test came when Lakshmana violated the orders of Rama and admitted Durvasa to Rama's presence with a view to averting the destruction of Ayodhya by Durvasa's curse. Rama stuck to the law of the land and awarded death penalty to Lakshmana - one whom he loved dearer than his own life. It was with such a fiery faith that Rama followed the dictates of Dharma.

To such a one, how could power and pelf hold any fascination? When Bharata came to him in the forest and implored him to return to Ayodhya and become the emperor, Sri Rama firmly refused. Here was enacted a scene unparalleled in the annals of world history - each of the two brothers trying to out-argue the other to make him accept the emperorship of a great and mighty kingdom.

Sri Rama's role as one of the first and foremost national unifiers of Bharat is also unique and extraordinary. He embraced Guha, the forest Kind and ate in his house without the least hesitation. No sense of high or low ever touched his all-embracing love of his people.
He even enjoyed a fruit tasted and offered with devotion by Shabari, a tribal lady in the far south.
The Vanaras or the forest-dwellers too felt that Rama was their own. He endeared himself to them so intimately that they became, in fact, his chief allies against Ravana. All over Bharatavarsha, the dear, little squirrel with his three brown stripes bespeaks the devotion
to Sri Rama even among the animal world. Along with the Vanaras, a solitary squirrel had played his humble part in carrying sand for the construction of bridge to Lanka and Sri Rama's caressing of the little one on the back had left those indelible stripes for all future generations.

Sri Rama's intense adoration for the motherland has been immortalized by a legendary couplet which is playing on the lips of millions even to this day:
Janani janmabhoomischa swargaadapi garreyasi
(the mother and the motherland are to me greater than the heavens themselves).

The story of Rama is not that of a single towering personality dwarfing all others. The other characters like Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata and Hanuman too shine in their own greatness. All of them are so closely interwoven with Sri Rama's life and achievements that it is well-nigh impossible to think of any one without the other. In fact, the most popular picture of Sri Rama, i.e., of Sri Rama Pattabhisheka includes Sita, Hanuman and all his brothers. And in the bringing out of the greatness of all these partners of his life-drama, Rama's instinctive recognition of their merit and virtues played no mean part. He would always be the first to openly appreciate the unique and noble traits in others' character. Even for Kaikeyi, who was responsible for his banishment to forest, Rama had only words of kindness. And as for Ravana, the abductor of his wife, Rama's unstinted praise of his erudition and prowess at once lifts the story of Ramayana to heights unsurpassed in the annals of human history.

No wonder, the story of Sri Rama has crossed the boundaries of Bharat and inspired by many a distant people, their culture and literature. Indonesia - with Muslims forming 80% of her population - continues to adore Rama and Sita as her great cultural standard-bearers, and Ramayana as her national epic par excellence. Indonesia also prides herself in having the biggest drama stage in the world - with Ramayana as its chief attraction. And the credit goes to that country for celebrating the very first grand World Ramayana Festival some years ago.
The birthday of Sri Rama, indeed, signifies an event worth of remembrance by every one, whatever his country or race or religion, who cherishes the time honored sublime values of human culture and civilization.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Indus ‘non-script’ is a non-issue (Hindu.com)

Date:03/05/2009 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/mag/2009/05/03/stories/2009050350010100.htm

The Indus ‘non-script’ is a non-issue
There is solid archaeological and linguistic evidence to show that the Indus script is a writing system encoding the language of the region (most probably Dravidian). To deny the very existence of the script is not the way towards further progress.
The Indus script appears to consist mostly of word-signs. Such a script will necessarily have a lesser number of characters and repetitions than a syllabic script.

Photo Courtesy: ASI A Riddle still: Indus seals with long inscriptions.
Is the Indus Script ‘writing’?
“There is zero chance that the Indus valley is literate. Zero,” says Steve Farmer, an independent scholar in Palo Alto, California. “As they say, garbage in, garbage out,” says Michael Witzel of the Harvard University. These quotations from an online news item (New Scientist, April 23, 2009) are representative of what passes for academic debate in sections of the Western media over a serious research paper by Indian scientists published recently in the USA (Science, April 24, 2009).
The Indian teams are from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, and the Indus Research Centre of the Roja Muthiah Research Library (both at Chennai), and backed by a team from the University of Washington at Seattle. They have proposed in their paper, resulting from more than two years of sustained research, that there is credible scientific evidence to show that the Indus script is a system of writing which encodes a language (as briefly reported in The Hindu, April 27, 2009).
This is a sober and understated conclusion presented in a refereed article published by an important scientific journal. The provocative comments by Farmer and Witzel will surprise only those not familiar with the consistently aggressive style adopted by them on this question, especially by Farmer. Their first paper, written jointly with Richard Sproat of Oregon Health and Sciences University, Portland, has the sensational title, “The collapse of the Indus script thesis: the myth of a literate Harappan civilization” (Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies 11: 2, 2004).
The “collapse of the Indus script thesis” has already drawn many responses, including the well-argued and measured rebuttal by the eminent Indus script expert, Asko Parpola, “Is the Indus script indeed not a writing system?” (Airavati 2008), and a hilarious and intentionally sarcastic rejoinder (mimicking the style of the “collapse” paper) by Massimo Vidale (“The collapse melts down”, East and West 2007). Here is a sampling from the latter: “Should we be surprised by this announced ‘collapse’? From the first noun in the title of their paper, Farmer, Sproat and Witzel are eager to communicate to us that previous and current views on the Indus script are naïve and completely wrong, and that after 130 years of illusion, through their paper, we may finally see the truth behind the dark curtains of a dangerous scientific myth.”
I am one of the co-authors of the Science paper. But my contribution is limited to making available to my colleagues the electronic database file compiled by me in collaboration with the computer scientists at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, and partly published in my book The Indus Script: Texts, Concordance and Tables (1977). I have no background in computational linguistics. However, I have closely studied the Indus script for over four decades and I am quite familiar with its structure. The following comments are based on my personal research and may not necessarily reflect the views of the other co-authors of the Science paper.
In a nutshell, my view is that there is solid archaeological and linguistic evidence to show that the Indus script is a writing system encoding the language of the region (most probably Dravidian).Archaeological evidence
Path-breaking work: Iravatham Mahadevan.
The strongest argument against the new-fangled theory that the Indus script is not writing is provided by the sheer size and sophistication of the Indus civilisation. Consider these facts:
• The Indus was by far the largest civilisation of the ancient world during the Bronze Age (roughly 3000 – 1500 BCE). It extended all the way from Shortugai in North Afghanistan to Daimabad in South India, and from Sutkagen Dor on the Pak-Iran border to Hulas in Uttar Pradesh — altogether more than a million sq km in area, very much larger than the contemporary West Asian and Egyptian civilisations put together.
• The Indus civilisation was mainly urban, with many large and well-built cities sustained by the surplus agricultural production of the surrounding countryside. The Indus cities were not only well-built but also very well administered with enviable arrangements for water supply and sanitation (lacking even now in many Indian towns).
• There was extensive and well-regulated trade employing precisely shaped and remarkably accurate weights. The beautifully carved seals were in use (as in all other literate societies) for personal identification, administrative purposes, and trading. Scores of burnt clay sealings with seal-impressions were found in the port city of Lothal in Gujarat attesting to the use of seals to mark the goods exported from there. Indus seals and clay-tag sealings have been found in North and West Asian sites, where they must have reached in the course of trading.
This archaeological evidence makes it inconceivable that such a large, well-administered, and sophisticated trading society could have functioned without effective long-distance communication, which could have been provided only by writing. And there is absolutely no reason to presume otherwise, considering that thousands of objects, including seals, sealings, copper tablets, and pottery bear inscriptions in the same script throughout the Indus region. The script may not have been deciphered; but that is no valid reason to deny its very existence, ignoring the archaeological evidence.
Another important pointer to the literacy of the Indus civilisation is that it was in close trading and cultural contacts with other contemporary literate societies like the Proto-Elamite to the North and the Sumerian-Akkadian city states (and probably the Egyptian kingdom) to the West. It is again inconceivable that a civilisation as urban and well-organised as the Indus could not have been alive to the importance of writing practised in the neighbouring literate cultures and was content with “non-linguistic” symbols of very limited utility like those employed by pre-historic hunter-gathering or tribal societies.Linguistic evidence
While denying the status of a writing system to the Indus script, Farmer, Sproat and Witzel point to the extreme brevity of the texts (averaging less than five signs) and the presence of numerous “singletons” (signs with only one occurrence). Seal-texts tend to be short universally. Further, the Indus script appears to consist mostly of word-signs. Such a script will necessarily have a lesser number of characters and repetitions than a syllabic script. Thus the proper comparison should be with the number of words in later Indian seals or cave inscriptions. The average number of words in these cases matches the average number of signs in an Indus text. There are, however, many seal-texts that are much longer than the average. (See illustrations of longer Indus texts). As for singletons, they appear to be mostly composite or modified signs derived from basic signs, apparently meant only for restricted or special usage. An apt parallel would be the difference in frequencies between basic and conjunct consonants in the Brahmi script.The concordances
Photo Courtesy: UNESCO A file photo of The Great Bath at Mohenjo-daro.
Three major concordances of the Indus texts have been published: a manually compiled edition by Hunter (1934), and two computer-made editions, one by the Finnish team led by Asko Parpola (1973, 1982) and the other by the Indian scholar, Iravatham Mahadevan (1977). All the three concordances provide definitive editions of the texts, sign lists, and lists of sign variants. The Mahadevan Concordance also provides in addition various statistical tabulations for textual analysis as well as for relating the texts to their archaeological context (sites, types of inscribed objects, and pictorial motifs accompanying the inscriptions).
The concordance is a basic and indispensable tool for research in the Indus script. It is a complete index of sign occurrences in the texts. It also sets out the full textual context of each sign occurrence. The frequency and positional distribution of each sign and sign combination can be readily ascertained from the concordance. A study of near-identical sequences leads to segmentation of texts into words and phrases. Doubtful signs can be read with a fair amount of confidence by a comparative study of identical sequences. Sign variants can be recognised to a large extent by studying the textual environment.
It is the concordance which conclusively established the direction of the Indus script to be from right to left on seal-impressions and direct writing (naturally reversed on the seals). The concordance also reveals the broad syntactical features of the texts, like the most frequent opening and terminal signs, as well as pairs and triplets of signs in the middle representing important names, titles etc. Numerals have been identified. As they precede the enumerated objects, we know that adjectives precede the nouns they qualify. This is an important result ruling out, for example, Sumerian or Akkadian as candidate languages. According to competent and objective scholars like Kamil Zvelebil and Gregory Possehl, the concordances are the most tangible outcome of the prolonged research on the Indus script.
The concordances have been criticised for employing “normalised” signs that are sometimes different from what are actually found in individual inscriptions. The differences are as between a handwritten manuscript and the printed book. All the three concordances employ normalised signs, as there is no other possible way of presenting hundreds of inscriptions and thousands of sign-occurrences in a compact and logical arrangement for analytical study. The concordances have also been faulted for differences in readings. The criticism overlooks the fact that the Indus script is still undeciphered and such differences are unavoidable, especially in reading badly preserved texts or in deciding which are independent signs and which are mere graphic variants.
The serious student of the Indus script will consult the concordances, but refer to the sources for confirmation. Statistically speaking, differences (or even errors in coding) in the concordances are marginal and have not affected the interpretation of the main features of the texts.
This was confirmed by an interesting study published recently by Mayank Vahia et al of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics, 37:1, 2008). They removed all the doubtfully read signs (marked by asterisks) and multiple lines (with indeterminate order) from the Mahadevan Concordance and analysed the rest, a little less than half of the total sign-occurrences. They found that the statistically established percentages of frequencies and distribution of signs and segmentations of texts remained constant, attesting to the essential correctness of compilation of the full concordance.The Dravidian hypothesis
There is archaeological and linguistic evidence to support the view that the Indus civilisation is non-Aryan and pre-Aryan:
• The Indus civilisation was urban, while the Vedic was rural and pastoral.
• The Indus seals depict many animals, but not the horse. The chariot with the spoked wheels is also not depicted. The horse and chariot with the spoked wheels are the main features of Aryan-speaking societies. (For the best and most recent account, refer to David W. Anthony, The Horse, the Wheel and Language, Princeton, 2007).
• The Indus religion as revealed in the pictorial depictions on the seals included worship of buffalo-horned male gods, mother-goddesses, the pipal tree, the serpent, and probably the phallic symbol. Such modes of worship are alien to the religion of the Rigveda.
Ruling out Aryan authorship of the Indus civilisation does not automatically make it Dravidian. However, there is substantial linguistic evidence favouring the Dravidian theory:
• The survival of Brahui, a Dravidian language in the Indus region.
• The presence of Dravidian loanwords in the Rigveda.
• The substratum influence of Dravidian on the Prakrit dialects.
• Computer analysis of the Indus texts revealing that the language had only suffixes (like Dravidian), and no prefixes (as in Indo-Aryan) or infixes (as in Munda).
It is significant that all the three concordance-makers (Hunter, Parpola, and Mahadevan) point to Dravidian as the most likely language of the Indus texts. The Dravidian hypothesis has also been supported by other scholars like the Russian team headed by Yuri Valentinovich Knorozov and by the American archaeologist, Walter Fairservis, all of whom have utilised the information available from the concordances. However, as the Dravidian models of decipherment have still little in common except the basic features summarised above, it is obvious that much more work remains to be done before a generally acceptable solution emerges.
I am hopeful that with an increasing number of Indus texts, and better and more sophisticated archaeological and linguistic methods, the riddle of the Indus script will be solved one day. What is required is perseverance, recognising the advances already made, and proceeding further. To deny the very existence of the Indus script is not the way towards further progress.
Iravatham Mahadevan is a well-known authority on the Indus and Brahmi scripts. He is the author of The Indus Script: Texts, Concordance and Tables (1977) and Early Tamil Epigraphy (2003).
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