16 February 2009

Awakening to Indian scientific facts

Most Indians are aware that they have a great heritage; few would include science in it. This is mainly because during centuries of alien rule they have been led to believe that science is an import from Europe. They tend to forget the many significant contributions to science, which India had made for hundreds of years before the first Europeans came to India. There is evidence that more than 3,000 years before birth of Christ, people of this subcontinent had much scientific knowledge. Relics of the Indus valley civilization, found at Harappa and Mohanjo-daro, indicate that their cities were well planned, with excellent water supply and drainage systems. The progress they had made in agriculture, brick-making craft and industry was remarkable. Their cloths were made of cotton. There were astronomers, mathematicians and geometricians. Their calendar was based on the movement of both the moon and the sun. They had identified various constellations and had named the months after them. Outstanding contributions were made to mathematics, astronomy and medical science. However, there were several invasions, which wrought irreparable damage. Indians themselves forget this glorious scientific past until the Indus valley civilization was discovered in 1921.

Veda : The word ‘Veda’ literally means knowledge par excellence or supreme knowledge. The Hindus consider the Vedas as the original and prime source of their cultural life. The thinking and feeling of Hindus are regulated by the Vedas. It is almost impossible to perceive and fully understand the ethos of spiritual and cultural lives of Indians without having an insight into the Vedas. The themes appearing in the Vedas are eternal and relevant to the humanity for all times to come.This knowledge was not derived from a particular scripture or prophet but came into being in course of several millennia. This knowledge continued incessantly being transmitted from centuries from generation to generation by word of mouth. Most of the Indian scholars consider the Harappa-Mohen-Jo-Daro culture (4000B.C) to be later phase of the Vedic culture. This places the date of the Rig Veda, the earliest of the Vedas, around 10,000 B.C. The great sages Krishna Dvaipayana Vyas or Veda Vyasa is said to have effected this division by collecting all mantras extent during this time, and editing them, into four groups: Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva. He taught them to his for chief disciples: Raila (Rig Veda), vaisampayana (Yajur-Veda), Jaimini (Sama Veda) and Saumana( Atharva Veda). This is how these four Vedas took shape.

RIG VEDA : Of all the four vedic Samhitaas, the RV- Samhitaa is the oldest and has a pre-eminent place in the vedic literature.The topics dealt with in the RV samhitaa fall roughly into three groups. The first group deals with the deities like Agni, Indra, Varuna and others. The second group is concerned with philosophical speculations like the origin of the universe and the real nature of the human beings. Third group deals with several secular subjects like marriage, wars of kings, eulogy of generosity and so on. The mantra in which well-known statement ‘ekam sat viprah bahudhaa vadanti’, truth is one, sages call it by various names, sums up the spirit of the entire RV. The concept of ‘vasudeva kudumbakam’ or universal oneness was propounded in the RV. In the RV period Varna (cast system) had already taken roots, monogamy, polygamy and Swayamvara system (that of a bride choosing her husband) – all existed side. Agriculture aand animal husbandry was the chief means of livelihood. Civilization was well developed and fine arts were encouraged. Priests and kings were powerful. Satya (Truth) and Dharma (Righteousness) were extolled. Social life was permeated by spiritual consciousness.

YAJUR VEDA : It is collection of yajus, the mantras in prose, which are specially useful to the ahvaryu priests during sacrifices (Yajna). The YV-samhitaa is in two major forms the Krishna and the Shukla, meaning the Black and White.Though the Krishna- YV-samhita is said to have had 85 saakhaas or recensions, only four are available now

a. Taittiriya
b. Maitraayaniya
c. Katha
d. Kapisthala

Associated with the Taittiriya – samhita are Taittiriya-braahmana, Tittiriya aranya and the Taittiriya-upanishad. The well-known Kathopanishad also belongings to the Krishna YV, but to the Katha recension.The Shukla-YV-samhitaa, also known as the Vaajasaneyi-samhitaa, is said to have been collected and edited by famous sage Yajnavalkya.Ishavasyopanishad and Brhahadaranyakopanishad are the Upanishad of this Veda.

SAMA VEDA : The Sama Veda – ‘knowledge of chanted hymns’ in way stands between the poetic Vedas and the ritualistic Vedas. Sama stands for love of god and consists of hymns of devotion. The verses are traditionally chanted on different ceremonial occasions. In content form, it is poetry of the highest Order, while in arrangement and purpose it is ritualistic. Mostly the selections are made from the Rig Veda and grouped together and arranged for ritualistic purposes. The SV contains 1,875 verses, of which only 75 are not to be found in the RV. The rest are virtually the repetitions of the RV verses. The SV is said to have had one thousand recentions but only three of them are now preserved and they are Ranayania sakha, Kautuma sakha and Jaiminiya Sakha.

Atharva Veda is also known as Brahma Veda. The contents of this veda ranges from diseases and their cure, building construction, trade and commerce, statecraft, penances and propitiatory rites. High philosophical ideas much nearer to those of the Upanishads are also found. The AV has 6,077 mantras spread over 20 Kaandas. This veda designates God as the Absolute not only to Brahman but also by some interesting names like Skambha, Ucchista and Vraatya. The whole universe has emerged out of Him due to His will and is established in Him. He is the Lord of the whole creation.This work gives us an interesting picture of the society of its times. The land in which the people lived, extend from Gaandhaara (Afghanistan) to Magadha (Bhihar) and Vanga (Bengal). The Varna (Caste) system had been well established. Trade and commerce were prosperous though agriculture was mainstay of the people. The cow was highly venerated and Godaana (gift of cow) was considered meritorious. The three well-known Upanishads – the Prasna, the mundaka and the Maandukya – belong to this Veda.

PURAANA: The ‘Puraana’ means ‘ancient tales’. The puraanaas are eighteen in number which didactic in character and sectarian in purpose.The Puranaas in general deal with the origin of the universe, its destruction, the geographical divisions of the world, the nature of the people inhabiting the various Parts of the world, the dynasties that ruled over them, the political divisions of India in different periods of history, the important places of pilgrimage and the religious and social practices of the different people of the everyday life in ancient India moral precepts through interesting stories in the puranaas very popular among the people.

UPANISHAD:‘What is that by knowing which everything in this vast universe is known’? This question has some time or other agitated all thinking persons.The vedas are the basic scriptures of Hindus. Each Veda has four parts i.e Samhita, Brahmana, Aranyakaand Upanishads. The first three parts are called Karmakaanda – interpretation of actions. The other part is called Jnanakaanda – the interpretation of philosophy – known as Upanishads have a unique place in the development of Indian thought. The word Upanishad derives from the Sanskrit root ‘sadil’ with the prefixes (upasargas) ‘upa’ and ni’ which means ‘sit near’. (Upa –Near, Ni- Down, Sad-Sit). There is more intimate contact between the student and teacher; the student sits close to the teacher and that is the reason for designating the text as Upanishad. The Upanishads gives the ultimate knowledge and destroy ignorance.

YAGNA (YAGA): Yagna means sacrifice. In a yagna conducted in the vedic period, the members of the community came together in a spirit of dedication and sacrifice for the purpose of a co-operative spiritual and divine endeavor to invoke the grace of the Presiding Deity for the blessings of the community, for peace of the world, for the prosperity in wealth etc.

-Features of Yagna
-Inspiring goal for prosperity of everyone
-Working together in team spirit
-Sharing results

The yagna spirit is seen everywhere in nature: the sun shines, the moon appears, the sea throbs, the earth bears – all in a spirit of sacrifice and self-dedicated motherly love, never with even a trace of attachment or any kind of self-arrogating motives. The law of seva, is faithfully followed by every sentiment and insentiment member of the cosmos instinctively. Man alone is given the freedom to act as he likes and to the extent he disobeys this Universal Law of sacrifice (Yaga or yagna), to that extent he comes to suffer because of his arrogant and egoistic actions. This brings discord in the harmony of the existence around them.

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