Samsara koopa mati ghora magaadha moolam,
Samprapasya dukha sata sarpa samaakulasya
Deenasya Deva krupayaa saranaagatasya
Lakshmee Nrusimha mama dehi karaavalambam.
The name ‘ Indian ‘ is related to the great river SINDHU which is also known as Indus. In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed westwards towards setting sun to reach the shores of India. He had discovered people living on islands whom he had mistakenly named as Indians. Apart from those island dwellers, the natives of the entire American continent, the so-called ‘ NEW WORLD ‘, were named Indians. In spite of concerted efforts to rename them as ” Native Americans “, the name Indian is still in use. Name is a very important tool to describe personal identity. The word name as a noun, describes a person, place or thing. It is also a word or words by which an object of thought is known. Indians did not choose the name India or Indian. However, the people of our Land of BHARAT, are extremely fond of choosing names. This fondness for selecting, using and remembering names is an important Cultural attribute which defines our identity.
THE TRADITION OF GIVING NAMES :
The name ” RUDRA ” is one of the earliest names known to humanity. According to legend, the Vedic God Rudra acquired His name from His Creator Brahma. As per the story, a boy was seen ‘crying’ and ‘wandering’. The father had asked the boy the reason for his ‘howling’. The boy had answered that he was ‘weeping’ for he was not given a name. So, the father created a name by bringing together two Sanskrit words which mean ‘crying’ and ‘wandering’. Thus the name Rudra was born. This legend is an example of our emotional dependence upon the need for names. The major Deities such as VISHNU and SHIVA that Indians worship are known by thousands of names and remembering those names is deemed as an act of devoted worship. The use of these names is a fundamental right and I understand the term religious freedom in the context of my freedom to choose the name that I would worship. The religious experience that I had gained while growing up in India relates to the use of names as an act of worship. Worship would have no meaning or purpose and would not give me a sense of direction if I do not remember the beautiful names that I have come to know.
A PERSONAL NAME AND A PERSONAL STORY :
My personal name is very much a part of my personal story. The name is chosen entirely due to the circumstances of my birth and I remain connected to the persons and the places for the rest of my life. I describe MYLAPORE of MADRAS city(CHENNAI) as my birth place and I describe RAJAHMUNDRY of East Godavari District as my native place. My mother had given birth to me at my maternal grandfather’s residence on KUTCHERY road in Mylapore. I spent the years of my early childhood at my paternal grandfather’s mansion in INNISPETA of Rajahmundry. As per the traditional belief and the practice of Vedic Astrology known as ‘ JYOTISH ‘(Science of Light), my birth star predicted and warned about some forthcoming inauspicious events. The astrological calculations suggested that remedial action is needed to counter the negative aspects of the birth star. Accordingly, my father had performed a ritualistic worship popularly known as ” RUDRA ABHISHEKAM ” and worshiped SHIVA at the beautiful KAPALEESWARAR temple of Mylapore. To ensure that I would always enjoy the blessings from SHIVA, my father had decided to name me as RUDRA. Hence,this name of Rudra instantly connects me to my birth place of Mylapore and to KAPALEESWARAR as my personal protector. The birth star also had forewarned about consequences that would impact my paternal grandfather. There was no easy escape from the influences and the second part of my personal name was carefully chosen to please my paternal grandmother, Srimati. Lakshmi Narasamma. Because of the gender variation, the name Narasamma had become Narasimham. This name immediately connects me to the ” LAWS OF KARMA “. These names are well-known and particularly in the southern States of India, the name Narasimham or variations of that name are frequently used. As long as I remain a conscious entity, my grandparents live in my consciousness. Astrology or Jyotish may not be a perfect Science. Horoscopes may not predict the future course of events in a person’s life. I exist in this world and I am known by a name which was specifically selected for me because of the predictions cast by my horoscope and the prediction came true and I find enough justification for this Indian Cultural Tradition called Jyotish.
A UNIQUE NAME AND A UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE :
In 1965, I had joined Kurnool Medical College after I had obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Osmania University, Hyderabad. A batch of students were directly admitted into the second year of the medical education program that awards the M.B.B.S degree. Professor Rama Murthy of the Anatomy Department was very fond of knowing and recognizing each of his students by their personal names. On the first day of our Anatomy class, the attendance register was not ready and Professor Rama Murthy had decided to call out names from the list of selected candidates. He had very solemnly announced to the class that he had to begin with a very angry and fiery name. We were intently listening to know what that name could be. Apparently, the list of selected students was prepared according to merit and my name was placed at the top of the list. He called my name and expressed his sense of disbelief. He had asked me to verify my name and told the class that it was the first time in his life that he encountered a person with the personal name of Rudra Narasimham. His statement appears to be right and I have not known any other person who may have the same name. It is one of its own kind and is unique and special.
The name Rudra is related to SHIVA who is recognized as the God of Learning. Shiva is like Socrates. Socrates of 5th century B.C. is claimed to be the father of western thought. He had implored people to “know thy self”. Socrates had stated that the ‘ unexamined life is not worth living ‘. Shiva guides me to reflect upon life. Shiva encourages introspection, reflecting upon your own mind and thoughts. Shiva defines that the purpose of learning is to acquire the ability to think for oneself. The name Narasimham represents to me a person who defends the right to choose the name for my worship. The story about PRAHLADA represents the Cultural importance attached to personal choice in matters of religious worship. Names of persons, places and the legends form a part of Cultural legacy of our Land and define Indian Identity.
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,
Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, A.P., India,
M.B.B.S., Class of April, 1970.
CULTURAL UNIFICATION OF INDIA – THE PRACTICE OF TIRTHA SNAAN ( BATHING IN HOLY RIVERS )
Water plays an important role in a variety of Cultures and religious practices prevalent in this world.The role of water constitutes one of the most remarkable aspects of Indian religious life.Hindu religion is often described as ” SANATANA DHARMA “.The practice of bathing in a river is an unusual example of the continuance of an ancient tradition and hence I can refer to the practice of ‘ TIRTHA SNAAN ‘ as “SANATANA” in its origin.Simply touching water is a purifying gesture in the Vedas.Pilgrimages(TIRTHA YATRAS) to holy rivers(TIRTHA) was already known in Vedic and Epic times and it remains extremely popular up to the present day.In fact,my impression is that the practice has become more popular and a far greater number of people are participating due to the availability of modern time conveniences for travel and lodging.The news media consistently report that our river festivals such as “KUMBH MELA” and “PUSHKARAMS”have established world records as the largest gathering of human beings upon this earth in one single day and for one single purpose.The sacredness of a place is often due to the sanctity it derives from its location on the bank of a holy river(TIRTHA STHAN or TIRTHA KSHETRA).The following verse is an example of such belief.The simple act of remembering the various places that River Ganges traverses through,would be equivalent to the worship of all Gods and would bestow great blessings(PUNYA).
Tatra tatra sthitaa Gangaa,Sarva Punya Phala pradaa
Bhaveth smarana maatrena,Sarva Deva namaskrutaa.
Apart from bathing(SNAAN),holy waters are used in the ritualistic worship of deities,and the water used in the worship is used to sprinkle upon the heads of the devotees and also consumed by the devotee in acceptance of the blessings from the Deity.The devotee hopes for deliverance from sin or pollution(“PAAP”),seeks preservation or enrichment of his religious merit(“PUNYA”),hopes for a reward such as rebirth in a heaven(“SWARG LOK”)and even total emancipation(“MOKSHA or MUKTI”).There are instances when people had actually traveled to the holy city of VARANASI to die near the Ganges.More often,the cremated remains,the ashes are carried by the loved ones and are physically sprinkled and immersed in the holy rivers such as Ganges to help the onward journey of the departed soul.The worship of rivers and the practice of bathing is a belief that is connected with the traditional Indian views of earthly life.Indians believe in the theory of “KARMA”.They believe that the acts of their present lives and their past lives would be a factor that determines the condition into which a being is reborn.The “KARMA” binds the soul and compels it to go through an endless series of births and deaths.The cycle of birth,death and rebirth is called “SAMSARA”.In my previous entry,I had written about the fear of “SAMSARA”.The practice of bathing in a holy river is an example of “INDIVIDUALISM”.Even when millions of people travel and gather together to bathe in a river on one day,each is acting strictly to earn his own merit and to reap his own benefit and the community does not expect any share of the rewards that the bather may be granted.I could bathe and wash my own sins and I can not be of any help to others if they carry the burden of their own sins.Each person has to accept responsibility for their own actions and if necessary they can seek help from others to get to the river and ask for assistance to bathe in the river.River worship appears to be a communal event but its usefulness is strictly individualistic in nature.Bathing is not viewed as a simple act of personal hygiene,it constantly reminds us of the need to seek purification and makes us aware of our responsibility for own actions and challenges us to face the consequences in our future lives.People are encouraged to seek the blessings that bathing in holy rivers would contribute even while they may be showering at home.The following verse is an example of our connection to the rivers that flow across our Land.
Gangecha Yamunechiva,Godavari, Saraswathi
Narmade, Sindhu,Kaveri,Jalesmin sannidhim kuru.
MY INTRODUCTION TO RIVER WORSHIP :
I had described in my previous entry on traditional greeting,that Culture represents ideas and thoughts transmitted by one generation to the next.It indeed gives me a great pleasure to recall my learning of this unique Cultural Tradition while I lived at my Grandfather’s mansion in Innispeta of Rajahmundry town in East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh.During 1950s,I lived with my parents,two brothers,grand mother,her sister and my great grand mother.The house had bath rooms and we had regular water supply from the municipality.We would generally shower at home and on important festival days,we would bathe in River Godavari.My great grand mother was an exception to this bathing practice.She firmly believed in the practice of river worship and adhered to it every single day and almost till her final days of earthly existence.She was of short stature and she was already in her ninety’s and due to her age,her spine curved and made her even smaller.Her vision had deteriorated and she was able to see only a few feet ahead of her.Our house was located at the corner of “KALABARGI VARI” street and the “RAMALAYAM” street.The Lord Sri Rama Temple of Innispeta is a well known land mark and it stands next to the protective river embankment.The river bank is fairly wide,it included railway tracks and a motor-able road.Much later,the second rail cum road bridge was built across Godavari river using these railway tracks.My great grand mother would walk to the river all by herself and used a walking stick to support herself.The journey to the river is short but she faced a lot of dangers on the street.Those days,vehicular traffic was not a problem and crossing the railway tracks was not a problem.The biggest threat was posed by the stray animals such as goats and cows that roam freely on the streets.She was practically defenseless.As young boys at home,myself and my elder brother were often given the chore of escorting my great grand mother during her walk to the river.When we followed her as her escort,the animals always behaved better and would not come to attack her.The reward myself and my brother Pratap reaped was that of getting into the emerald green,crystal clear,cool waters of GODAVARI and frolic in the shallow waters as my great grand mother did her worship.But for my great grand mother’s tenacity and perseverance,myself and my brother would never have ventured to make a trip to the river in the morning.It was a joyful experience and the Tradition of River Worship gave us some very fond memories of our life in Rajahmundry.The following verse speaks of the importance that we attach to rivers of India and they are treated with great respect as they are deemed to be the same as Ganges:
Bhagirathicha vikhyata,Pancha Ganga prakiirtitaa.
THE TRADITION OF RESPECT AND OBEDIENCE :
Deuteronomy, 5 th Book of Moses, The Old Testament, The Holy Bible:
Chapter 10, verse 16 : ” Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked “.
The word ” Namah ” means one that bends which implies obedience. The one word ” Namaskar ” represents the full spectrum of the legacy of India’s Culture.
NAMAH SHIVAYA :
Sree madaatmaney gunieka sindhavey Namah Shivaya,
Daamaleysa bhuuta loka bhandhiney Namah Shivaya
Naama soshitaa namadbhavaamdhasey Namah Shivaya,
Paamareytara pradhaana bhandhavey Namah Shivaya.
I shall begin this entry with a traditional greeting. As a kid I was trained to greet and acknowledge others.The greeting is called ‘NAMASKAR’ or ‘NAMASTE’. I would begin by greeting all of you who may read this entry with my ‘NAMASKAR’. Namaskar is the essence of our Culture and this single word can represent the full spectrum of our Cultural legacy. I had served in Uniform.The lesson I grasped is that to’ SALUTE ‘ is the foundation upon which the entire structure of military discipline is built.Service in the Armed Forces depends upon team work.The team structure depends upon the ability of team members to recognize and acknowledge each other at all times. I ‘ SALUTE ‘ to acknowledge the person as a member of my team. Army accomplishes great things only when the team members follow this ground rule for their conduct and behavior. Namaskar is the tool given to me by the Culture of my Land and this tool shapes my attitude and personal behavior and this tool helps me to attain my life’s goals.
DEFINING CULTURE :
Culture is defined as learned or acquired behavior in contrast to biological behavior which is genetically endowed. Human Culture is defined as learned behavior acquired by individuals as members of a social group.Culture denotes a people’s heritage of custom and belief. It is a system of ideas that has been transmitted down through the generations. It includes assumptions about the world, about life and existence, rules and ways to act, goals and ways of achieving them. People’s ideas about ways to live may shape the ways they actually do live.Beginning at birth,each individual is en cultured by a body of norms governing behavior and other knowledge that the society has.Thus Cultural heritage can be defined as the sum total of human knowledge and acquired behavior. Namaskar represents the essence of my Cultural heritage.Culture gives people a sense of personal identity.Defining that ‘identity’ helps in understanding the Culture.Namaskar is the behavior I learned and Namaskar defines my ‘identity’. It is a behavior transmitted to me through the generations.
CULTURE OF THE LAND :
The Land of India in our Culture and tradition is referred to as the land of BHARAT. My purpose is to learn the ideas and thoughts that have found their roots in this particular Land. Ideas and thoughts help in developing and defining our attitudes.Our attitudes are reflected in our behaviors.The behavior which springs from the seeds of ideas and thoughts that were planted in the soil could be described as the Culture of the Land. The ancient Hindu Scripture known as Rig Veda has recommended that we should keep our minds open to receive noble thoughts from all directions. I studied natural sciences and I gained much of my information from ideas and thoughts expressed in books that were published in the West.The basic idea and thought that I had received was that we need to carefully sort out the information that we gather. Assimilation of information would be possible only when facts are considered in a systematic manner. I learned about plants and animals as a part of my study called Biological Science. Living things are connected and are related to each other.This interconnectedness and the interrelatedness describes the ecological system.There is a great amount of diversity in nature.To understand living things, we need to group them and learn about them as a part of an ecological system. We can not understand existence if we look at individual creatures.The reactions between the players of a given geographical area gives a better understanding of life and existence. I would like to use this kind of scientific tool to identify ideas and thoughts.Some ideas and thoughts could be assigned to a particular land in the same manner that a natural scientist would identify some species are ‘ NATIVE ‘ and others as ‘NON-NATIVE ‘ in the description of an Ecological System.To prove that an idea is Culturally derived, we need to demonstrate that the idea is transmitted through generations.To arrive at ideas that originated in the Land of India, I would prefer to obtain a sense of direction from my great grand mother, my grand mothers and my mother. If an idea was not known to them, it may not be a part of my Cultural legacy. If they had known very little, I would deem it as my good fortune and that little is my whole inheritance. Namaskar thus represents the best of my acquired knowledge.
THE IMPORTANCE OF NAMASKAR :
The word Namaskar is usually accompanied with the action of joining hands and bringing them together in front of the body with the elbows flexed and the neck slightly bent forwards.The joining of hands symbolizes respect and the bending of the neck signifies obedience. A person with ‘stiff neck’ is generally considered to be disobedient, rude, arrogant or proud. Respect can not be shown if the person does not display an attitude of obedience.The very essence of Indian Culture can be stated as that of showing respect and obedience.This is the most important behavior that is expected of every one. It is not merely about showing respect and of obedience to the Gods that people worship. Even the Gods that people worship also implicitly observe the rule about showing respect and obedience.This social expectation rules every relationship and activity.It is the basic expectation, let it be parent-child relationship, husband-wife relationship, teacher-student relationship, employer-employee relationship, the Ruler and the subject relationship, the relationship between siblings and even between friends. Respectful conduct is expected while receiving guests, while dealing with any elderly person even though the person may not be related. In addition, several plants, trees, birds, animals, rivers, the sea and the the hills and mountains enjoy a special status and are treated with great respect.This social behavior is encouraged at all times and specially kids are trained and tutored to display this behavior. I grew up in India and my childhood is shaped by learning this behavior. Also my Culture has given the freedom of choice. I am free to worship several entities in addition to God. If I am not inclined to worship God, I may choose a living person, a plant, a tree, an animal, some element of nature or even a name and shapeless stone and I am free to worship that object with the same and similar amount of respect that one may give to God.The Gods of my Culture would not get angry or jealous if I am totally preoccupied with showing respect to an object of my choice. Most people of the Land of India get used to showing respect to a variety of objects.
Showing respect and obedience is considered as the most important learning tool to acquire humility.Through humility, the individual can subdue his ‘ego’. Ego is viewed as a great obstacle in the pursuit of self-knowledge. Self-Knowledge is the chisel that lets an individual to break the shackles of all attachments. Freedom from all attachments is described as ‘MOKSHA
‘ or LIBERATION and as ‘MUKTI’ or RELEASE.This Cultural norm of showing respect and obedience and the use of Namaskar would help us in attaining life’s goal or to realize man’s purpose in life.
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,
Ex- Number. MS-8466 Rank. Captain AMC/SSC; Number. MR-03277K Rank. Major AMC/DPC
Medical Officer, South Column, Operation Eagle,
Directorate General of Security,
Office of Inspector General Special Frontier Force,
East Block V, Level IV, R.K. Puram, New Delhi – 110 022.
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ManO bhudhyahamkaara Chittaani na aHam,
Na Karnam, na Jihvaa, na cha Ghraana Netram,
Na cha Vyoma Bhumir na Tejo na VaayuH,
Chidaananda RuupaH ShivO aHam, ShivO aHam.
WHAT IS INDIVIDUALISM ?
The word individual is derived from Latin, ‘Individualis’-that which is not divided-an individual. Individualism can be defined as follows:1. a belief that stresses the primary importance and worth of each person and in the virtues of self-reliance and personal independence, 2. the principle or practice of maintaining individuality or independence of the individual, 3. the principle or habit of or belief in independent thought or action, 4. the conception that all values, rights and duties originate in individuals, 5. a doctrine that the interests of the individual are or ought to be ethically paramount, and 6. the pursuit of individual rather than common or collective interests. The doctrine of Individualism may support a view that the interests of the individual should take precedence over the interests of the State or Social Group.
Indian Culture views human existence in absolute individualistic terms and the legacy of Indian Culture could be described as ‘INDIVIDUALISM’.
THE FOUNDATION FOR INDIVIDUALISM:
The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter II, Sankhya Yoga, verse 39, claims that the analytical knowledge derived from Samkhya philosophy gives the description of the nature of individual and individuality. Chapter II, of the Bhagavad Gita explains this philosophy in several verses.Verse 11 claims that those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead. In verse 12, Lord Krishna states that there was never a time when He did not exist, nor Arjuna, nor all others in the battle field, and in the future there will never be a time when any of them cease to exist. Lord Krishna(The Supreme Individual Person) and also all other individuals are eternal persons.They existed as individuals in the past and they will continue to exist as individuals in the future.Their individuality existed in the past and their individuality will continue in the future without interruption. Lord Krishna clearly states that the individuality of all others will continue eternally. Hence, Indians do not accept the bodily conception of the living entities. Living entity is an individual soul and even though the body changes every moment, the soul does not undergo any change.Verse 13, claims that the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth, and then to old age; similarly, the soul also passes into another body at death. By nature the human body is ever changing, and the soul is eternal.Verse 24 states that this individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble. He is everlasting, unchangeable, immovable, and eternally the same. Finally, verse 27 establishes the foundation for ‘Individualism’ by stressing that ” For one who has taken his birth,death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain.”
THE SUPREMACY OF INDIVIDUAL:
The primary importance of the individual is established by the Vedic statement “AHAM BRAHMASMI” which describes the True Identity of the Individual as that of Ultimate Reality known as Brahman. The following verse supports the idea that the individual is totally identical with the perfect, Supreme Being:
Om, purna mada, purna midam, purnaat purna mudachyate
Purnasya purna maadaya, purna meva vasishtyate.
“That”( is an indefinite term to designate the Invisible Absolute ) is Whole( Perfect Substance with Perfect Nature and Quality ); “This” ( the visible, the phenomenal embodied Soul ) is Whole, from the ( invisible ) Whole comes forth the ( visible ) Whole. Though the visible Whole is derived or deducted from that invisible Whole, yet the Whole remains unaltered and both retain their Perfect Condition called Whole. The human entity is virtually trapped in a repeated cycle of birth, death and rebirth.The ultimate purpose of human existence is to achieve ‘MOKSHA'( LIBERATION ) or MUKTI( RELEASE ) from this cycle that is referred to as ‘SAMSARA’.
THE PRACTICE OF INDIVIDUALISM:
Individualism is built upon the value attached to knowing oneself. We are encouraged to look inwards and to reflect upon the nature of ‘SELF’. Self-Knowledge is considered to be more valuable than gaining knowledge of the material world.The following prayer which is known as ‘GAYATRI MANTRA’ is one such example of motivating individuals to look inwards. Similarly, Socrates had suggested, “Know thyself, and you will know the universe and the gods.”
Om Bhur Bhuva Suvah, Om tatsa vitur vareynyam
Bhargo Devasya dhee mahi dheeyo yo nah prachodayaat.
The individual while firmly establishing his individuality also takes complete responsibility for his actions.The individual bears the burden for his own actions.
THE JOURNEY TO ULTIMATE INDIVIDUALISM:
The individual strives for self-reliance, learns to minimize the importance of all external relationships and concentrates upon developing an intimate relationship with his personal God.The following prayer is one such example of an individual’s journey on the path of devotion( BHAKTI ).
Tva meva maata cha pitaa tva meva, Tva meva bandhu cha sakha tva meva,
Tva meva vidya, dravinam tva meva, Tva meva sarvam mama Deva Deva.
Devotion to God practically takes over, replaces and consumes the need for any other kind of external relationship such as man’s relationship to his mother, father, relatives, friends, and educational and material status.
THE GOAL OF ABSOLUTE INDIVIDUALISM:
For the individual to win the battle of ‘SAMSARA’, to gain freedom from the cycle of birth and death, to declare victory over death and to finally reach the shore and complete the long and tiresome swim across the uncharted ocean, he is required to disentangle himself from the cobweb of relationships and set himself free. The following prayer known as ‘MAHA MRITYUN JAYA MANTRAM’ illustrates the point:
Om,Triyam bakam,Yaja mahe sughandhim pushti vardhanam,
Urvaaru kamiva bhandha naat mrutyor muksheeya amrutaat.
Such liberated individual who had freed himself from all external relationships would be able to proclaim his True Identity and the following verse written by Shri Shankaracharya is an example of an individual who had reached the Goal Of Absolute Individualism:
Na Mrityur, na Shankaa, na me Jaati bheydaH,
Pitaa naiva, me naiva Maataa, na Janma,
Na Bandhur,na Mitram, Gurur naiva SishyaH,
Chidaananda RupaH ShivO aHam, ShivO aHam.
Thus Indian Identity is none other than the identity of “SHIVA” whose Individualistic Identity is described as Sat+Chit+Ananda.
In the Epic Poem of Ramayana, the concept of Individualism is vividly portrayed. Rama alone was required to live in the forest. He could have just refused to do so. No force upon earth could have moved Him but He made His own choice. Lakshmana made His own choice and had accompanied His brother for a life in the forest.Rama made no decision about Seeta. He did not want that She must accompany Him into the forest. Seeta had made Her own decision. All of them express their own personal independence in unique manners.
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,
Ex- Number. MS-8466 Rank. Captain AMC/SSC, & Number. MR-03277K Rank. Major AMC/DPC
Medical Officer, South Column, Operation Eagle,
Directorate General Of Security,
Office of Inspector General Special Frontier Force,
East Block V, Level IV, R. K. Puram, New Delhi – 110 022.
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“Vishno pade parama” ituudita prasamsau
Yo “madhva utsa” iti bhogyatayaapyu paatau
Bhuyasta dheyti tava paanitala pradhistau
Sree Venkatesa Charanau Saranam Prapadey.
PADA VANDANAM,PADA NAMASKARAM,PADA ARCHANAM,PADA SEVANAM, PADA PUJA OR WORSHIP OF FEET :
The land of India is a very unique place on this planet where people are culturally endowed with an ardent desire to worship feet.No other society or social community has openly exhibited this behavioral trait and feet worship could be described as the hall-mark of Indian Identity.This tradition and literal practice of feet worship was well established by the time the epic poem of Ramayana was composed.In AYODHYA KANDA,we read the very moving account of Rama touching the feet of His father Dasaratha and queen mother Kaikeyi after having received the orders for his banishment to live in the forest for fourteen years.Later in ARANYA KANDA,we read about the younger brother Bharata who literally clung to the feet of Rama seeking His refuge.Eventually,Bharata carried Rama’s sandals keeping them on his head and installs them on the throne( PADUKA PATTABHISHEKAM ) and served them with great devotion for fourteen long years during Rama’s exile.
India is the land where you witness people touching the feet of living persons as an act of worship.This is a fairly common event and sometimes the remembrance of such worship lingers in your mind.I would like to narrate one such event that I had witnessed in the past and my act of remembrance may add-on to the blessings these feet worshipers may be receiving even today.
I was traveling by train from Rajahmundry to Lucknow City to serve in the Indian Army Medical Corps. I was motivated by a desire to see the land of India with my own eyes and know its people.For the first time, I was traveling in a first class compartment and was the sole occupant. Later in the night, a lady entered the compartment and was apparently traveling alone. She was elegantly attired, looked modest and the picture of an upper middle class house wife. Early morning, when the train had halted at a station, I did not realize that she had reached her destination. She was quietly seated, was not gathering her belongings and was not even looking outside to check if some one had arrived to receive her. After a little while, I had noticed three young men, well- dressed and well-groomed, all of them little older than me, checking the list of passenger names on the door of the train compartment and entered the compartment. They did not pay any attention to my presence. One after the other, they went forward to bend and touch her feet and paid their respects. The behavior of the young men that I was keenly observing was natural, spontaneous and unpretentious. That early morning hour, they were not putting up an act in a public place to impress any one. They acted in a deliberate, purposeful and reverential manner and I am very sure that they grew up in that manner and clearly they were not inhibited in displaying their respect in front of strangers. I was a silent spectator of this scene wherein an unassuming woman suddenly got transformed into a living deity. I can assure you that you would witness such a scene only in the Land of India. Hence, I would claim that the desire to worship the feet of a living person would define Indian Identity.
Every deity that Indians seek to worship are better pleased when we worship their feet. PRAHLADA had described ” PADA SEVANAM ” as one of the nine ways to worship VISHNU. Indians worship feet not only as a sign of humility but also as a mark of submission, total surrender to the will of God. They touch feet as a plea for protection. This is not a mere religious rite or ritual and it actually shapes the attitudes and behavior of people. The final resting place for the individual souls(‘ JEEVATMA ‘)has been described as the Lotus Feet of the Lord. This is described as ‘CHARANAM'( Feet of the Lord ) ‘SARANAM’ ( Ultimate Refuge ).
Please also view a related blog post titled ‘Defining Indian identity – The Land of Karma’
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,
Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India,
M.B.B.S., Class of April, 1970.
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