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
In the ancient Indian epic Mahābhārata, we read about a shocking and devastating war at Kurukṣetra that seems to have many parallels with the ongoing war in Ukraine. In this summary of some key points about the Kurukṣetra war, we may perhaps find some revealing similarities.
Read More On war in Ukraine and in the Mahabharata
I previously discussed how strong emotions such as grief and rage well up from a very deep place within the self, expressing themselves in ways which go beyond the usual range of human expression, and how, according to the Indian tradition, the first poetic verse utterance emerged as an expression of deep sorrow. We see this particularly in the expression of rage on the battlefield, as will be described here.
Read More The rage of the warrior in literature
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.
Read More Trysts by night in art and poetry
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.
Read More Conflicting norms of behaviour: in Greek drama and Indian epic
This year, India enters the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member for the whole of the year, and the Indian delegation have set out what its priorities will be there, including the very interesting idea of ‘Technology with a Human Touch’.
Read More Technology and Indian Literature
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 […]
Read More India Report: Questions to History
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
Another interesting story concerns the buffalo demon Mahiśāsura who was granted a boon that he would not be killed by man or by gods. This story is told in the Devī Māhātmya, from which I will draw below, as well as in the Devī Bhāgavatam, and in many other literary texts and folk stories too.
Read More The Buffalo Demon – Part One
Sexual harassment is an unfortunate reality in many societies, and this fact is also reflected in literature too. In the story of Śakuntalā, originally in the Mahābhārata, Śakuntalā becomes pregnant by Duryodhana who then initially refuses to acknowledge that he is the father. In the Rāmāyaṇa, too, Sītā chooses to accompany her husband Rāma into exile and her vulnerability leads to her being kidnapped by Rāvaṇa who attempts to seduce her.
Read More Sexual Harassment in the Mahābhārata