Uttrakhand Floods: Shall we learn any Lessons

English: Temple at Badrinath, Uttarkhand, Indi...

It has become a tragedy of epic proportions. The loss in terms of precious human lives, property and environment is bigger than suffered in many wars. The floods which occurred in June 13 coincided with an event called “Char Dham Yatra” in which many hundred thousands have gone to the religious places in the Himalayas falling in Uttrakhand like Badrinath, Kedarnath. Thousands died and many thousands were trapped as the floods smashed many roads to smithereens blocking the way to return.

English: Kedarnath Temple, Uttarakhand

So many hotels and guest houses fell like house of cards. As can be seen clearly in the video footage shown on TV channels these were built on the edges of the river banks without taking any precautions about safety into consideration. They fell into deep trenches and furiously flowing water and were washed away.

The cloud bursts are a common phenomena in the region causing great distress and loss of property and lives. One of the reasons may be that roads have been built in an unplanned manner. The number of vehicles carrying heavy loads of pilgrims or tourists have increased very heavily putting the pressure on these roads and weakening them. They were thus unable to withstand the onslaught of the flood fury.

Why people go in so many numbers to these places? This region is the home of many Gods and dotted with several temples. Most famous of all  these belong to the Shiva the God who is the source of dynamic forces of birth and deaths. By bringing end or death to physical form or pain or unhappiness, He transforms and purifies the things and since in Hinduism, soul is immortal, death is the way forward to life.

Also many of our saints like Kabir emphasized that there is no need to search for God outside in temples, Mosques or Jungles because the God is within us. But human beings are frail and gullible and choose the method which is visible or apparent like visiting a temple. Not only that, auspicious dates are announced by the priests and people in thousands begin congregating towards the said places.

This tragedy has caused great setback to the progress of the area. It has incurred losses of billions of rupees to the Government. So many army men, helicopters and road builders have been pressed into day and night service to rescue the people. Many families have lost all the members. It will take numbers of years to bring back the normalcy.

There are entry points which can regulate the entry of people into the region. It is a very sensitive issue to stop people from going en-mass for the fear of curbs on religious liberty, it is therefore for the people to think and learn the lessons. Since last some years, the weather is becoming very unpredictable and it is better to not to risk the adventure and be at home and worship the God at home.

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Hymn of Creation

Cosmos is a mystery and man have been curios to know how it came into being. What was there in the beginning? In India the intelligent mind began striving since the first millennium, for convincing explanations of cosmic mystery. In the latest phase of Rig Veda poets began wondering about creation. There is beautiful hymn called “Hymn of Creation” in the Rig Veda. It marks the beginning of abstract thinking and work of a very great poet who is asking questions which are fundamental in nature. It portrays whole vision of mysterious chaos before creation and the ineffable forces working in the depths of the primeval void. It goes like this:

“Then even nothingness was not, nor existence.

There was no air then, nor the heaven beyond it.

what covered it? Where was it? In whose keeping?

“Then there was neither death nor immortality,

nor was there then the torch of night and day.

The One breathed windlessly and self-sustaining.

There was that One then, and there was no other.

“At first there was only darkness wrapped in darkness

All this was only unillumined water.

That One which came to be, enclosed in nothing,

arose at last, born of the power of heat.

“In the beginning desire descended on it-

that was the primal seed, born of the mind.

The sages who have searched their hearts with wisdom

know that which is is kin to that which is not.

“And they have stretched their cord  across void.

and know what was above, and what below,

seminal powers made fertile mighty forces.

Below was strength, and over it was impulse.

“But, after all, who knows and who can say

whence it all come and how creation happened?

The gods themselves are later than creation,

so who knows truly whence it has arisen?

“Whence all creation had its origin,

he, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not

he, who surveys it all from highest heaven,

he knows -or maybe even he does not know”

This was used in Hindi as the starting track of the Doordarshan serial “Bharat Ek Khoj” by Shyam Benegal.

Modern physics is also striving to know the answer in theory called “Big Bang”. Its basic surmise is the there was energy only everywhere and matter did not come to existence. After the big band some of  the energy condensed to become matter.

 

Devi Lakshmi

Lakshmi means fortune. She is the wife of Vishnu and is often called Shri. She is the goddess associated with good luck and temporal blessing. Although she is considered coexistent with Vishnu, she appeared in full glory at the churning of primeval ocean. Thus ocean is considered her father.

She is usually portrayed as a woman of mature beauty, seated on a lotus, with a lotus in her hand and attended by two elephants who sprinkle water on her from their trunks. She is believed to incarnate herself as the wife of incarnation of Vishnu, thus worshiped as Sita, the spouse of Rama, as Rukmani or Radha being the chief queen and favorite of Krishna of his youth.

Tai Ahoms: The Easterly Kshatriyas

Indian subcontinent can be accessed on land and by sea from three sides. In the past, invaders entered it through West from the side of Afghanistan. It is protected from North by Himalayas which act as a formidable wall. The mountains which cover the India from North West to North East have been responsible for keeping the invaders entering from the North directly and also for creating the weather particularly the Monsoon which gives India respite from sweltering heat and helps in meeting the irrigation requirements and bestow bounteous crops to the region. Its snow capped mountains feed the perennial rivers which sustain the life of teeming masses inhabiting the entire northern India.

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/03/Sukapha.jpg

The people entering from the West mingled with original people inhabiting the region. Soon their population escalated and they were obliged to spread in search of newer avenues where the conditions existed for habitation. In this process they spread over whole of Ganges valley up to Bengal.

The other entry point was the North East where people from South East Asia and China entered India. In comparison to the Western corridor mentioned earlier, terrain here is more difficult. Also people who came and settled in the North East confined themselves to the Assam and its 6 sister states in the North East. One reason for this might have been the difficult proposition to expand towards West where already stronger kingdoms existed. Secondly the narrow strip called chicken neck area separating the North East states from rest of India must have acted as a bottleneck which might have dissuaded them.

Assam and the 6 other states namely Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland & Manipur in the North Eastern part of India possess enchanting natural beauty. Due to the lack of industrial progress, the environment is still free of pollution. The natural products are forests of bamboo & teak, crops of rice and vegetables grown on the fertile land on the edges of river Brahmaputra without any application of contaminating fertilizers. Of course most famous product of Assam known all over the world is the tea. You travel by car on any road and along both sides are never ending teas plantations. You can see the women laborers with special kind of baskets hanging from their shoulders plucking the leaves and putting in the baskets.

Nederlands: Een vrouw aan het werk op een thee...

Parasuram Kunt, Arunachal Pradesh

There is plenty of fish in the rivers. The area is rich in petroleum. In fact, the oldest oil well in India was drilled in Assam at Digboi. The original people are mainly tribals whose customs and rituals are entirely different from rest of India.

The most important migrants to come and and settle in this area came from Yunnan province. First to enter the North East region was Sukhapa, who came with army, his women and nobles. Although initially they did not practiced Hindusim but later Kings leaned towards this religion and ultimately converted to Hinduism. Local inhabitants called them Tai-Ahoms.

Arunachal Pradesh is famous for its mountainou...
Arunachal Pradesh is famous for its mountainous landscape. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As they became more tolerant towards Hinduism, the elements of Hindu mythology entered into their history. Thus it was stated that Brahma created the human beings from a gourd. These people were gentle and pious. But by the time of Treta Yuga, the moral values declined and Indra became worried and sent his grandsons: Khunlung & Khunlai to rule the earth and bring back the old order. These were the progenitors of Tai-Ahoms. They descended to earth facilitated by a golden ladder on the Mung-ri-Mung-ram mountains. Thus the Tai Ahoms, as they won over the local people labeled themselves as Eastern Kshatriyas.

Sacred Rivers

In Hindu religion, anything can become pious. God pervades everything ranging from the mammoth stars to the tiniest atoms. All the innate things are the forms of the God. God is everywhere, omnipresent. Therefore even stones can become the objects of veneration. So are many kinds of trees, rivers, hills and mountains are revered in Hinduism. Many of them have some form of association with the Gods. For example, the rat is the vehicle of Lord Ganesha. Siva mounts the bull Nandi which can be seen in the stone casts squatting outside the temples of Siva. There is a mammoth statue of Nandi bull in the Chamundi Hills of Mysore. The pedestrian journey to the temple atop the hill begins from here.

Rivers are considered sacred. This is logical also because they provide us with the water which sustains the life by helping grow the crops, drinking, bathing and transporting. In fact many great cities and civilizations flourished on the banks of the great rivers. The most prominent example is the Indus valley civilization which existed on the rivers in Punjab. Thus many rivers are held in most esteem by the Hindus.

Ganga is one such river. It is thought to have sprang from the foot of Vishnu, flowed over the sky in the form of milky way(Mandakini) and descended to earth with great force. The terrific effect of its impact was smothered by Siva who absorbed its great strength in his matted locks. Like her tributary Yamuna it is revered as a Goddess. Other river like this is imaginary river Saraswati which was supposed to flow underground and meet the Ganga and Yamuna at the Prayag sangam which is a most holy place for Hindus. Mughal emperor Akbar was so impressed by the great Kumbh fair there that he named the city as Allahabad. Other rivers held in esteem are Krishna (also called Kistna), Godavari and Cauvery. Certain lakes, notably Manasa in the high Himalayas near mount Kailash and lake Puskara near Ajmer in Rajasthan are held divine.

Second Birth!!

Upanayana or the second birth ceremony was a great rite performed whereby a Hindu boy in ancient times became a full member of his class and of the society. This was a very elaborate ceremony. This rite was performed by only three upper castes namely Brahmins, Ksatriyas and vaisyas. The ceremony was not strictly performed as the time passed because of the elaborate nature. Also, during this ceremony, Gayatri mantra was whispered in the ear of the initiate by the Brahman performing the ceremony.

It is verse from a hymn of Rg. Veda addressed to old solar God Savitr and is still looked on as the most holy passage of that most holy text. It is repeated in all religious ceremonies and rites and has a position in Hinduism rather like the Lord’s Prayer in Christianity except that it may be uttered by the higher three castes.
Tat Savitur vareniam,
bhargo devasya dhimahi,
dhiyo yo nah pracodayat.
Meaning

Let us think on the lovely splendor,
of the God Savitr,
that he may inspire our minds
All these rites also indicate that caste system was very strongly practised and people belonging to the lowest strata were sidelined and kept aside from the mainstream. They were supposed to do only menial jobs. Although the caste and creed has been done away with in the modern democratic set up of our country, but even the political parties keep these things alive to earn the votes.

All is Energy

Hinduism is very difficult to define. It cannot be confined into strict rules and regulations. It can be amended to suit certain needs. So it is a dynamic system. It is continually evolving. One of the beautiful feature of the system is that both animate and inanimate things are given equal status  and thought to be the extension of the supreme one. The tenet that energy is the supreme cosmic entity has been proved to be true in the scientific experiments. Einstein‘s famous equation states it in beautiful short equation which tells us the energy and matter are inter convertible. Thus the material things which we see is the energy condensed into a small space. Atoms with higher atomic weight have large amounts of energy locked inside them. The sum of weights of their individual parts exceed the actual mass, a property called mass defect. Where is that mass gone? It is there in the atom itself in the form of binding energy. This tremendous amount of the energy had been used as nuclear weapons which cause the devastation on a scale unimaginable.