On the occasion of Guru Pūrṇimā, our thoughts may turn to the venerable lineages of successive teachers and students in India. As we will see, the need to record and preserve genealogical details of family and pedagogical lineages was already recognized in India in the earliest times. Indeed, this is very likely a continuation of the concerns of proto-Indo-European people. For many ancient peoples, family would perhaps be the main source of personal identity, and the basis of all religious life.
Read More Family and society in the Vedic period
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.
Read More On craft-worker gods and heroes
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.
Read More T.S. Eliot, the Vedas and the Concept of Time
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.
Read More On the vision of God
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.
Read More India Report: Religion and Social Reform
Many Christmas traditions have taken on a rather secular character in the modern world and can be fully enjoyed by us all, whatever the case is about our religious beliefs or lack of them. Among such traditions, the practice of decorating a tree for Christmas appears to be a rather modern one, but with many ancient precursors, both within Christian history and in comparative Indo-European and world-historical perspective.
Read More Christmas trees and Indian literature
Ṛg Veda Book 10 Verse 85 is commonly known as Sūryā’s Bridal Hymn or the Wedding Hymn. In some Hindu families, this is one of the Vedic verses recited as part of the liturgy at Hindu marriage ceremonies. It tells a metaphorical story of the wedding of Sūryā, seemingly the daughter of the sun-god, as bride, to soma, seemingly the moon, as bridegroom. Some of the features of the wedding described continue to be features of Hindu weddings today
Read More Marriage in the Rig Veda
We may perhaps wonder whether individuals in ancient India thought about their own identities in terms that are recognizable today. It may be assumed that any sense of self that ancient Indian people might have had would have been conceptualized so differently that the identity terminologies of the 21st century would not apply.
Read More Gender and identity in the Mahābhārata
Themes of exile, quest and wandering are prominent in epic literature, at least of the Indo-European tradition.
Read More Ethics of exile in the Ramayana
In the first part of the story, we saw how the buffalo-demon Mahiśāsura behaved in an extremely arrogant and conceited way due to the boon granted by Brahma that he could not be killed by any male god, demon or human, thinking himself invincible because of this. He made fun of the idea that any woman could be strong enough to challenge him and even taunted Indra about his supposed lack of manly courage.
Read More Devī and the Buffalo Demon – Part Two