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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Talking with the rivers

Rivers have been revered since time immemorial in cultures across the world.  For ancient peoples, the pure waters provided by rivers to drink and to water crops must have seemed to be a blessing from nature or from the gods.  In the Rig Veda, the sapta-sindhu or seven rivers stand pre-eminent.  Two among these, the Vipāśā (Beas) and Śutudrī (Satluj) rivers are the interlocutors of the sage Viśvamitra in a fascinating and unique conversation translated here.

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India Report: Religion and Social Reform

Readers will by now be familiar with the dramatic developments at one of our most elite institutions, which culminated in an unprecedented act of violence involving two of India’s most distinguished scholars. The altercation between Kumārila and Dharmapāla at Nalanda University has attracted much attention, and has somehow led to the unfolding media spectacle of Kumārila’s current self-immolation.

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India Report: Questions to History

In the world today, we increasingly witness the influential presence of leaders from larger, more populated states in global dialogue.  India is a prominent example, with much media attention on our current highly charismatic and energetic leader.  Indeed, Janamejaya has been highly effective in consolidating the diversity of the Indian population into our current Kuru […]

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