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
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.
Read More Love, death and Sanskrit literature
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
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
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.
Read More Speech in the Rig Veda
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).
Read More Bear-king Jāmbavān and animal symbolism
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.
Read More Talking with the rivers
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