Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Past meets the Present Leading to a Better Future

Taken from
Ancient Indian Mythological Scripts are Actual History Scripts : APJ 09 Aug 2011

(This inaugural speech by our former President, Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, though concentrates upon discovering Indian mythologies in the light of science and technology, yet it conveys a message to all of us; Ancient Indian Civilization has not migrated from somewhere else, it has indigenously evolved.)
Past meets the Present Leading to a Better Future
"The DNA of a human being is his history book ever written"
I am indeed delighted to participate in the inauguration of Seminar on Scientific Dating of Ancient Events Before 2000 BC at New Delhi. My greetings to all of you.
Friends, I am happy that all of you are engaged in the mission of establishing synergy between the scientific wisdom of ancient India and modern scientific inventions in various areas such as agriculture, energy, medicine, weapon systems and metallurgy. I am sure this type of study will enable us to utilize the scientific techniques used by our ancestors and lead towards an eco-friendly planet earth for the present and future. When I am here with all of you I would like to share my thoughts on the topic "Past meets the Present leading to a Better Future".Friends, when you are all working on scientific dating of epics particularly Ramayana I would like to share with you my personal experience. I was born in British India in Rameshwaram grown there for 16 years when India's India emerged. My life is completely inter connected in lovely way because during various phases my life sea waves were giving me beautiful songs, songs of freedom and songs of development. The entire Rameshwaram Island is known to me with great detail every part of it, because as a young boy I used to travel all parts of the Island to deliver the news paper daily to various houses. In my eyes Gandhamanaparvatham appears from where Rama is supposed to have seen Srilanka. In front of me appears the famous Kothanda Ramar Temple of Rameshwaram. Also I see the Ramatheertham, Lakshmanatheertham and Jatayutheertham and Agnitheertham in different areas of Rameshwaram. The central point is the Ramanathaswamy Temple where we find the Siva linga which Lord Rama had worshiped. Today being the new moon day of Adi month, minimum 3 Lakh pilgrims from different parts of the country will be converging at Rameshwaram for sea bath. This the day Lord Rama is supposed to have taken the bath in the Rameshwaram Sea after returning from the war to remove the Doshas of killing Ravanan. Thousands of pilgrims visit the Island every day and enjoy its beauty and spirituality.
I will be the happiest fellow, if through scientific dimensions establish the places from where there Lord Ram, Lashmana, Hanuman, Sugreeva and the Vanara sena created a base before launching the war on Srilanka. Really I have a profound interest in scientific dating of Ramayana. Dating of events leads to transforming mythology into historyVedic and post-Vedic literature has a tremendous amount of scientific knowledge which will be extremely beneficial to humanity. For creating a faith in these documents, there is a need to establish the date of occurrence of Vedas and Upanishads which are contained in our mythology, so that they are transformed into historical events and not imaginary mythological events. I am happy that this is what the researchers in astronomy, ecology, theology, archeology, anthropology and space science assembled here have carried out and are in the process of demonstrating it to the modern scientific world.If we look at the study on Scientific dating of Ramayana, the important aspect about the Ramayana is that when Valmiki wrote the epic, he made it with many proofs. He packed so much information about the various planetary positions of those days, the geography of the areas mentioned in the epic, the seasonal events, and about the genealogy of various kings that it is virtually a no-brainer to establish the dates on which those events occurred. Genealogical links and archaeological findings provide clues to the dating of the Ramayana era. According to writer B.R. Haran, In no other nation and no other religion in the world, true history is so meticulously documented, supported by many evidences. Any ancient history is supported with evidences of architecture and literature. The Sangam literature is the documented evidence for the existence and ruling of Tamil kings, and similarly, Ramayana and Mahabharata are the documented evidence for Rama and Krishna.Archaeological and literary methods can only provide approximate datelines. For determining the precise time of the Ramayana events, scientists use astronomical calculations. Several of India's leading astronomers and nuclear scientists have come together to establish the dates of India's ancient history.So how is astronomical dating done? Says eminent historian Dr P.V. Vartak: "Sage Valmiki has recorded the dates of events in detail, albeit by describing the positions of stars and planets. To decipher the astronomical encodings has not been a trivial task, and not many have attempted to do so. It should be noted that the ancient Indians had a perfect method of time measurement. They recorded the 'tithis', days according to the nakshatra on which the moon prevailed, the months, the seasons and even the different solstices. By noting a particular arrangement of the astronomical bodies, which occurs once in many thousand years, the dates of the events can be calculated."Dr Vartak has taken hundreds of illustrated passages from the epic to establish dates. Valmiki records the birth of Rama as Chaitra Shuddha Navami (9th), on Punarvasu Nakshatra and five planets were exalted then; Sun in Mesha up to 10 deg., Mars in Capricorn at 28 deg., Jupiter in Cancer at 5 deg., Venus in Pisces at 27 deg. and Saturn in Libra at 20 deg. (Bala Kanda.18/Shloka 8,9). December 4, 7323 B.C. therefore is the date of birth of Rama, when the four planets exalted. Ramayana occurred over 9300 years ago.For example, Rigveda talks about an advanced civilized predominantly urban and maritime society which has used variety of ships, boats and 75 different types of houses which includes hutments and palaces. Vedic literature reveals that Indians are very advanced knowledge of mathematics and were possessing extraordinary knowledge of astronomy. Takshila University was established in 700 BC where more than 10,000 students from all over the world studied more than 60 subjects. Similarly, Nalanda university was in existence in 3rd century BC which had housed more than 90 lakhs books. Maharishi Atreya was the first Guru of internal medicine, Shri Dhanvantri of Surgery and Kashyapa was the first Guru of Gynecology and pediatrics. Shushruta Samhita describes more than 40 types of surgical instruments and Ayurveda talks about holistic treatments. Astronomical calculation making use of planetarium software have proved that events narrated in Balamiki Ramayana actually occurred around 7000 years back and they can be sequentially dated. Ramasetu is found submerged and the same location as is described in Balamiki Ramayana and the city of Dwarka has been explored by marine archeology wing of Govt of India. As per the estimate made by the Inter-Governmental panel on Climate Change (NASA, Global Change Master Directory) the rise in the sea level during the last 7000 years has been about 2.8 meters which roughly corresponds to 9.3 feet. The remains of Rama Sethu are found submerged nearly at a depth of 9-10 feet. Thus, obviously this bridge was capable of being used as a land route 7000 years back. This is the only existing evidence on manmade bridge few thousand years back. It is essential that our researchers launch a mission oriented programme in an integrated way by earth science, geological science, remote sensing, space scientists, oceanography, climate change teams and the people who build construction under the sea.Here I request the researchers to launch research on India's epics with atleast 100 Ph.Ds with the highly talented historical, geological, astronomical and space scientists to ascertain the veracity of history and date of events in our epics. Science always has multiple source of research information to verify the conclusion. It should be true to all our research on epics and its dating. Let me now discuss the work of Prof Tobias on human evolution.Human EvolutionI was studying the work of Prof. Tobias on Paleo-anthropology and discovery of archeological sites, I thought of recalling the advances made in the research on human evolution. Traditionally, there have been two distinct and different approaches in understanding human evolution. First is the archeological evidence. The lessons that we have learnt in India from Mohan-ja-Daro and Harappa and many similar excavations the worlds over have been seminal and many a civilizations' way of living, its culture and its origins have become evident. Prof. Tobias has made a significant impact in this area, particularly emanating from land, which is said to the cradle of human evolution. The second and more recent approach is propelled by advances in our understanding of the human genome. While the major part of the human genome sequence is common between human beings and even with mice, the small portions that differ; control and contribute to the diversity that we find in the evolution of humans. I am happy that through such genomic studies, it has been found that Harappan civilization were not a mysterious people of unknown biological origins, or migrants from Centers of high culture in western Asia, but were descendents of population identified with pre-Harappan cultures of the North Western sector of the sub continent. Gene flow between Mesopotamia and the Indus domains, perhaps along trade routes, accounts for the higher incidents of some phenotypic features along this east west axis than what is apparent across north south axis penetrating peninsular India. But, migrant theory need not be invoked to explain various patterns. This makes research in genetic engineering, using human genome sequences to understand the evolution of humans, very fascinating for scientists. The scientific dating of our epics has also to be related to Genology with human genome sequences, with the evidences that we found in the form of fossils. Prof. Tobias is one of the pioneers in the area of genetics. From his vast experience in genetics and Paleo-anthropology, Prof. Tobias has been able to present to the world in an understandable capsule form, the whole process of human evolution over 600 million years. The simplicity of the outcome of his complex research has also stimulated many scientists the world over to look at the challenges posed in our understanding of human evolution. Today, the world talks about convergence of many technologies. Prof. Tobias and others have shown us that all our origins converge to a single point both in space and time. The evolution human orgin put forth by Prof Thobias should be related to events of Indian epics. After all every Indian’s epic deals with human history, their conflicts and their civilization. Hence it has to be releated with the evolution of human origin over 600 million years ago, which is scientifically proven.
Origins of Life
Ancient human history has been revealed beautifully by Paleoanthropology. Life originated 600 million years ago and continental drift occurred 200 million years ago creating five continents. Mammals evolved 140 million years ago, Hominids that is the human type, evolved 26 million years ago but modern man only arrived on the scene some 200,000 years ago. He migrated and colonized the world only in the last 50,000 years. The spoken language is some 10,000 years old while writing evolved only a few thousand years ago. All this phenomenal progress has been achieved only within the short span of 200 to 400 generations that is in just 10,000 to 5,000 years. The spoken language period as per Prof. Thobias is around 10000 years old and the birth of Rama based on the 9th thithi of Chaitra month dates to 10th January in 5114 BC, that is 7117 years back. We need to establish the relationship between the birth of spoken language and the evolution of Valmiki Ramayana.
New DNA technologies
Newer DNA technologies have given us better insight in retracing the history of man. The DNA of a human being is his history book ever written. Nowadays intelligence, cognizance, drug response, behavioral problems everything is related to genes: disease gene mapping is progressing at a faster pace with new age DNA technology. It is probably during the 30,000-50,000 years of co-existence that societies have evolved adopting newer innovations and cultures.Thus the 'Nature - Nurture' philosophy holds good even in this Genomic Era: 'Genes' what we inherit from our parents is the basis; a beautiful 'building' is built over it, be it Einstein or certain unique creations, the environment plays a crucial role in shaping the destiny of the individual and leading to excellence. It is just the opportunity that makes Man. All children when they are born are equally poised to become a great scholar. The nervous system, and for that matter any of our systems, should cooperate with an individual in his or her progress. Origin of civilization in Indian subcontinent, I am happy that through the use of modern technology the perception of Indian Archeology has changed and has facilitated by researchers to prove an indigenous origin of civilization in the Indian Sub continent. This is an important factor which should work as an integrator of the entire nation since all of us have come into this land from the same ancestors and roots. While discussing this issue I am reminded of a conversation with one of my cardio thoracic surgeon friend. He said, "When I perform an open heart surgery, on different patients; after opening I find the blood of the patient is same in color, hence I cannot discriminate any patient and provide differing attention and care." This thought process has to get embedded scientifically and culturally amongst all Indians so that we can see nation is bigger than any individual and all of us have to contribute to the accelerated progress and development of the nation. Now let me talk about certain application of knowledge derived from Scientific Dating of Ancient Events.
Agriculture in Ancient India
The dating studies have found that the farmers in the vedic period used natural manures for their agriculture. They have found 12 types of soil and determined the associated organic manure compatible to the soil types. They did not make use of pesticides or any poisonous elements in the agro sector. This has resulted in reduced atmospheric pollution and also provided quality food for the humankind. We have to learn a lot from this experience. Today, we have to ensure that we should use eco friendly fertilizers, pesticides and plant systems in our overall agricultural development taking the cue from ancient civilization that will make a big contribution to green agriculture goal of 21st century. We need to integrate our past civilizational heritage in forms of agriculture or other forms of systems which provides earning capacity with reference to modern technologies. Induction of modern technology definitely add values to our ancestor database of civilizational heritage. The mission for scientific dating of our epics, I have the following suggestion:
Launching research on India's Epics with atleast 100 Ph.Ds with the highly talented historical, geological, astronomical and space scientists to ascertain the veracity of history and date of events in our epics. The scientific dating of our epics has also to be related to Genealogy with human genome sequences, with the evidences that we found in the form of fossils. The evolution human origin put forth by Prof Thobias should be related to events of Indian epics. After all every Indian's epic deals with human history, their conflicts and their civilization. Hence it has to be related with the evolution of human origin over 600 million years ago, which is scientifically proven. The spoken language period as per Prof. Thobias is around 10000 years old and the birth of Rama based on the 9th thithi of Chaitra month dates to 10th January in 5114 BC, that is 7117 years back. We need to establish the relationship between the birth of spoken language and the evolution of Valmiki Ramayana.
I have discussed few areas which can benefit from the dating of our ancient events. I am sure the scientists and technologists assembled here will be presenting several areas in which the dating can be beneficial. To disseminate the findings of these studies to the large population will require intensive documentation and the application potential of each one of the findings. I would suggest that the teams assembled here can work out areas which need to become the part of the learning process of our youth. This will enable the seminar to make specific recommendations on including vital areas of our ancient culture in the primary, middle and secondary school text books. In addition, the seminar should attempt networking of people and ideas belonging to different specialties like agro scientists, doctors, engineers, archeologists, geologists and environment experts so that the benefits of lesions arising from earlier civilization and their lifestyle make a change to our thinking and lead towards the development of an eco friendly human habitat. The research on scientific dating may have partners, who can provide scientific, astronomical, anthropological and geological and genetic data to ascertain the veracity of the historical events.With these words, I inaugurate the Seminar on Scientific Dating of Ancient Events before 2000 BC. My best wishes to all the participating for success in the mission of connecting the past to the present leading to a better future.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Unique Experience

(Taken from a long-forgotten online source)

Many years I was a guest at a similar recital that took place in Bethesda, Maryland. The Bharata Natyam is surely one of the most difficult dances that humanity has thought up; as such it's an accurate reflection of the very ancient and complex Indian culture.

Except for a handful in attendance, including Pundita, the audience was Indian or Americans of Indian heritage. The recital was a graduation ceremony for American girls of Indian ancestry who had been studying Bharata Natyam for years -- some practicing since early childhood.

One girl among the dancers riveted the audience's attention. She was beautiful, incredibly graceful, and for one so young she demonstrated impressive dance technique.

I ask you to put yourself for a moment in the girl's place and consider that the Indian culture, even when transposed to Indians living in America, is very conservative, very restrained. Think of practicing for years to master a dance that is far more than dance -- at once living history, a statement of your heritage, and a spiritual meditation. Finally comes the time to demonstrate everything your teacher has taught you and make your parents and community proud.

Now ask yourself what might be the worst thing that could happen to you on that stage, with hundreds of eyes upon you.

Suddenly a murmur went up from the audience. The woman next to me gripped my arm and whispered, "Oh my God her pantaloons have come undone!"

Yes. The button or safety pin had given out. As the hapless child continued her dance the leggings underneath her costume slowly continued their descent. A look of horror fleeted across the girl's face. The other dancers broke their stride a bit to glance in sympathy.

The girl's teacher raced to the stage wing and gestured, calling softly for her to leave the stage for a moment so she could regain her dignity and her pantaloons. Everyone would have understood if she'd left the dance momentarily under those awful circumstances.

A look of determination came over the girl's features; within an instant the look was gone, replaced by the stylized expression of the deity her dance was meant to represent.

Without missing a beat, and as the pantaloons continued their downward journey to twist around her ankles, the girl continued with her dance.

Even before the triumphant stamping of the dancers' feet to signal the end of the dance, the audience was clapping her on.

Yet only after all the dancers made their bow to the audience was the deity replaced by a mortified child. She whisked off the pantaloons, scampered to her teacher's embrace, then disappeared backstage for pantaloon repair.

Then at the insistence of the other dancers, her teacher, her parents, the musicians and the audience, the girl shyly returned to the stage to take a bow to thunderous ovation.

As the audience dispersed I heard a man say to a companion, "It was as if Saraswati [the goddess of wisdom, music and the arts] appeared tonight to teach us a lesson."

Goddess or no goddess, the lesson was abundantly clear. To be human means you can't avoid making a damn fool out of yourself, even if you're the best-looking and most accomplished of the lot. But you show the spark of that which transcends the human condition when you hang in there and finish your dance.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Musical nostalgia

Simon & Garfunkel’s unique compositions, Bob Dylan’s profound lyrics and musical biographies of The Beatles have continued to fascinate generations. Does good music ever grow old?
Pratiksha Thanki

The evergreen ABBA and The Beatles: From LP to ipod their music never lost its charm. Wandering around the streets of a tiny German city L├╝beck, the aural pull drew me to a church choir of teenage boys, singing Ralph Vaughan Williams’ ‘Turtledove’ with a heavy German accent. At their age they probably didn’t understand the British folk song about love and loss, but their voices and Vaughan Williams’ composition nearly moved two Indians in their informal audience to tears. Music does have that power over us.
Plato warned the world of this power centuries ago as he thought music could affect human psyche. He preferred music only for the purpose of education. However, music hasn’t remained within the bounds of platonic point of view for a long time now. Passing through many evolutionary stages, music is often identified by the era, genre, artists, nations and cultures; as a continuum, evolving on the inspiration of the past. The times they are a-changin'…
In his much talked about book ‘Why Classical Music Still Matters', musicologist Lawrence Kramer worries if classical music will eventually fade away or will it be confined inside the museum walls? Such worries seem needless so far, even today when a person begins to learn the piano, the first tune he/she would start with would be invariably Bach’s ‘Musette’ while the guitarists would initiate plucking the chords with Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘The Sounds of Silence'.
Musical nostalgia is not limited to the West, even in India one can witness singers earn more points with old classics across talent hunt programmes.

They say, the music you listen to in the years of growing-up stays with you forever. In later years people start complaining about how the contemporary music doesn’t make sense to them. Keeping such generalisations aside, the classics from the past few decades, especially the music of the 50s and 60s still seems very much around. Even for the new generation, The Beatles and the Doors share the same storage space on an iPod, and are merely divided by a play-list name from Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. Their relevance may be a subject of debate after 50 years, but the Beatles and the Doors have surely survived the test of time. In fact, one would easily find Jim Morrison’s face printed on t-shirts, hanging right next to Che Guevara even in some urban Indian corners.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…

The way music influences people and cultures is an interesting study for musicians themselves, to legendary pianist of the 20th century, Igor Stravinsky, "music expresses itself". This leads one to assume that interpretation of that ‘expression’ remains in the hands of the listeners. Projecting personal feelings and perceptions in Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of fire’ or The Rolling Stones’ ‘I can’t get no Satisfaction’ allows every individual to come up with their unique interpretation of the songs in different age, under different
circumstances. In dealing with the western music of the last century, one could be lost in a web of genres - ranging from rock, country, rhythm and blues to jazz, but from John Denver’s ‘Country roads take me home’ to ‘Across the Universe’ from the Beatles, the appeal of music is less based on the genre, and more on the audiences’ personal history with particular songs and bands. Some were introduced to The Beatles by their spouses, others learned about them from their parents and grandparents. Even if they simply bumped on to some of their song on a website, after listening to Lennon-McCartney combo crooning,
‘Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup,' they may not need further introduction.

How exactly have these songs remained relevant at the moment? Apart from the fact that after half a century, compositions of Queen, Beatles or ABBA do not sound outdated, their words also appeal to the universal human nature. Paul McCartney had his mother in mind when he wrote the song ‘Let it be'. Co-incidentally she was named Mary, and McCartney’s words "When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be," end up with countless religious or inspirational interpretations even today. His fellow Beatle John Lennon’s lyrics in ‘Imagine’ made a political statement and also sounded like "a communist manifesto" in Lennon’s own words, today it is revered as a kind of peace anthem.

Queen, another rock band from the 70s, too has its songs rooted deep in the pop psyche. Their songs like ‘I want to break free’ still rock the college festivals alongside Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall'. Queen’s best known number ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is high on finding contemporary relevance. According to Freddie Mercury, Queen’s lead singer and lyricist of the Indian origin, that particular song was just ‘random rhyming nonsense'. Around the same time Jim Morrison from the Doors was busy singing about ‘Cancelling his subscription to resurrection'. The incoherence of life conveyed through these songs still finds a resonance in today’s climate of political and financial cacophony.

Riders on the storm…

While The Beatles, the Doors and Queen tapped into personal and cultural history and political ideas, artists like Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel were busy dealing with identity crisis. Dylan’s ‘Like a rolling stone’ strikes a chord with anyone who has dealt with feelings of disconnection with the world and loneliness. On a similar line, Paul Simon’s words ‘A rock feels no pain, and an island never cries’ have become the epitome of lonely souls across the globe. Simon simply regarded that song as an ‘adolescent’ effort but his songs speak to a whole new generation with identity crisis of their own.

These are still instances of the ‘Popular’ music, as musicologist like Theodor W. Adorno would have us mark clear distinction between serious classical music and music that is created to please the masses. However, the lines between classical and popular are definitely blurring as music of Mozart is often used as background music for advertisements while Bob Dylan keeps getting nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature for his lyrics written in the past four decades.

The popularity scale for music is changing because of the blurring of language and cultural barriers. Nena’s German protest song ‘99 Luftballoon (99 red balloons) ‘ still finds young international fans while A R Rahman and Gulzar’s ‘Jai Ho’ makes Scandinavian ladies tap to its beats in their Bollywood dance class. Fresh interest is generated in the Bollywood song-and-dance in the rest of the world, but the musical past hasn’t lost its relevance in India either.

Har fikr ko dhuen mein udata chala gaya…

There are far more interesting and complicated musical genres and traditions in India, yet, popular music is still associated with movie songs. The process and purpose of composing music for movies in India is very complicated. Majority of songs are written or selected to suit the premise of a movie script. Despite these limitations the music of the 60s and 70s contained some gems penned by Sahir Ludhianvi, Shailendra, Hasrat Jaipuri, Kaifi Azmi and Gulzar, that capture complicated human emotions and seem relevant even today.
On the one hand, Sahir found some outlet for personal feelings in songs like ‘chalo ek bar phir se ajnabi ban jaayein’ based on his
failed relationship with Sudha Malhotra, his communist thought process emerges in ‘Saathi haat badhana’ from the film Naya Daur. The closest he comes to the tone of Bob Dylan-esuqe thought process is in ‘Mein zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya’ which comes from his personal experience of getting uprooted, overcoming many obstacles and moving on like a rolling stone. Shailendra, on the other hand was obsessed with the concept of death that he dealt with in the song ‘Jeena isi ka naam hai’. Apart from lyricists, music compositions of Shankar Jaikishan, S D Burman, Madan Mohan and other masters of the 60s and 70s earned the music of this era the distinction of ‘Golden Era of Music.' HMV still earns maximum revenue by selling music of this era.
The author is a free-lance writer, researcher and a blogger. She divides her time between India and Germany.