Trysts by night in art and poetry

The painting above, by one of the great Indian artists of the late eighteenth century, Nainsukh, depicts such a scene.  Our paramour sneaks away from her home by night to a spot in the forest where she has arranged to meet her lover during the night, and she must be back before anyone awakes and misses her in the morning.

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Love, death and Sanskrit literature

In romantic literature across the world, we frequently read about lovers who would die rather than be apart.  In the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, Pyramus kills himself, believing Thisbe to be dead.  When Thisbe finds the dead body of Pyramus, she also kills herself.  Romeo and Juliet, based on this story, and many other tales of world literature, follow a similar pattern.

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On craft-worker gods and heroes

For ancient as well as modern people, God has been conceived of in a bewildering variety of ways.  At one extreme, we see a wholly abstract and ineffable power, such as the Advaitic conception of Brahman, and on the other hand, we find an anthropomorphic god such as Krishna in the Mahābhārata, who is faced by the same moral dilemmas and limitations on his ability to act as the rest of us.

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T.S. Eliot, the Vedas and the Concept of Time

The concept of time seems to have been a preoccupation for many leading figures of this generation across a variety of fields, stimulated perhaps in part by the linking of hitherto distant regions through railway and telegraphy during the nineteenth century, and likely also by the impact of Einstein’s work.  Such figures might include Henri Bergson, Martin Heidegger, Marcel Proust, Salvador Dali and many others.

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Conflicting norms of behaviour: in Greek drama and Indian epic

Polyneices a proper burial.  Polyneices has been killed in a battle against his brother and fellow citizens, and, as he is considered a traitor to the kingdom, the king decrees that no-one is to bury him or mourn him.  As his sister, however, Antigone feels that she is under an obligation to give him some minimal burial rites, and in fact does so, leading to her being condemned, as illustrated above.

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Speech in the Rig Veda

age has been connected with religious and ethical traditions in diverse regions of the world and throughout history, from the Biblical idea that the Word is God to the Confucian idea of the rectification of names.  In the Indian tradition, too, language has been of central importance, and this has motivated a tradition of linguistic analysis and linguistic precision in the Sanskrit language.  Indeed, for some Indian thinkers, sound itself, in the form of human speech, is the metaphysical basis for our entire reality.

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On the vision of God

A pivotal point in many sacred narratives is the encounter between the human and the divine, often in terms of a theophany, that is, a visible manifestation of a deity.  Early in the Book of Exodus, we read about Moses’ first encounter with God in the burning bush.

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Bear-king Jāmbavān and animal symbolism

We can perhaps identify some similar themes of cultural centrality of the bear in Indian culture, especially in its earliest phases.  Similarly to Western mythic taxonomy, the seven stars of Ursa Major are called ‘the bears’ (ṛkṣa) in the Rig Veda (1.24.10), and in fact the Pleiades are their seven wives according to Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa (2.1.2).  These bears (ṛkṣa) later came to be known as sages (ṛṣi).

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The separation of Earth and Sky

If, however, we were to speculate more freely, we may canvas a possible connection with the English word ‘hebban’, meaning ‘to lift’ or ‘to raise’, made plausible when we think of the sky as something that has been raised up as a firmament or heavenly vault.  This line of thought gains further strength when we consider the many creation myths about the separation of earth and sky to make room in the cosmos for us. 

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