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An Introduction to Hindu Culture: Ancient and Medieval
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An Introduction to Hindu Culture: Ancient and Medieval
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To The Reader:

 

An English Professor under whom a Hindu student form India was studying English Literature in England (In the 1950's), requested his student to enlighten him on certain difficult passages from the Bhagavadgita. The Hindu student immediately blurted out, 'Sir, what is Bhagavadgita?'

Things have not changed much since then Perhaps they are worse, if the answers in the general Knowledge papers of Prestigious competitive examinations conducted in India are any indication.

Mark these words of Vivekananda, the Patriot-Prophet of Indian resurgence:

Ay, when a man has begun to hate himself, then the last blow has come. When a man has begun to be ashamed of his ancestors, the end has come. Here am I, one of the least of the Hindu race, yet proud of my race, proud of my ancestors. I am proud to call myself a Hindu, I am Proud that I am one of your unworthy servants. I am proud that I am countryman of Yours; …. You, the descendants of the most glorious Rishis the world ever saw. Therefore, have faith in yourselves, be proud of your ancestors, instead of being ashamed of them….

So long as they forgot the past, the Hindu nation remained in a state of stupor; and as soon as they have begun to look into their past, there is on every side a fresh manifestation of life. It is out of this past will become the future. The more, Therefore, the Hindus study the past, the more glorious will be their future, and whosoever tries to bring the past to the door of everyone, is a great benefactor of his nation.

These words of Vivekananda have inspired the author of this book to make an honest attempt at presenting a panoramic view of Hindu culture in all its aspects from the ancient days to the end of the medieval period.

In addition to helping the Hindus to regain their abhimana or national pride, this book is also aimed at urging them to work hard, to take India to still greater heights.

One More point, a confession (!), has to be made here. It is that the words 'Hindu' and 'Indian' have been used in this work as if they are interchangeable or even identical. In a geographical sense of derivation they are. To quote Vivekananda again:

The word Hindu, by which it is the fashion now-a-days to style ourselves, has lost all its meaning, for this work merely meant those who lived on the other side of the river Indus (In Sanskrit, Sindhu). This name was murdered into Hindu by the ancient Persians, and all people living on the other side of the river Sindhu were called by them Hindus. Thus this word has come down to us…

However, we mean no disrespect to the people of non-Hindu faiths living in India. If we love our religion, it does not mean that we dislike or hate other religions! This is exactly what Ramakrsna means when he gives the example of the daughter-in-law:

 

We Earnestly hope that this book will be enthusiastically received by the devotees and admirers of Ramakrsna-Vivekananda, especially the younger generation. We also wish that it can serve as a useful reference book to the students of Hindu culture.

With a view to wider circulation, notably among our youth, the price has been kept at an easily affordable level, even while maintaining a fairly good standard of paper, printing and get-up.

Our earnest thanks to Sri B. N. Nataraj of the Sri Nithyananda Printers, who has taken a lot of trouble and a personal interest in the printing and production of this book.

We will fell rewarded if the readers welcome this publication as a useful addition to the meager literature on Hindu culture.

 

Introduction

It is an undeniable fact of history that the destiny of world has very often been shaped by great persons of sterling character rather than the mediocre mortals who a hapless part of history. Man’s innate spirit - the personification of life, energy and consciousness – has always been goading him to rise above nature by struggling against it and not by being in conformity with it. It is this struggle that result is his progress.

This progress can be in two directions: external and internal. External progress leads to a better standard of living, i.e. civilization. Internal progress, on the other hand, results in greater refinement of the whole personality, i.e. culture.

Civilization and culture do not necessarily go together. Nor are they mutually exclusive. They can be elegantly harmonized, provided one known the relative proportions in combining them. This is exactly what the ancient rsis or sages of India – whether the rejarsis like Janaka and Sri Rama or the brahmarsis like Vasistha and Vyasa – did when they administered or guided the great kingdoms of their times.

World-history, whether of the ancient times or of the recent past, is replete with conflicts and wars. In general, one can adduce the following reasons the following reasons for such conflicts :

• Imperialism or dictatorship versus democracy
• The rich versus the poor
• Patriotism and nationalism versus
humanism or internationalism
• Science versus religion

However, the philosophy that the world is one family (vasudhaiva kutumbakam) as taught and practiced by our great sages, who were the real socio-religious and cultural leaders, has practically eliminated such conflicts in our country.

Records of ancient and medieval history of our country as given by the foreign travelers and other foreigners bespeak not only of a high degree of civilization but also of culture as revealed in their accounts of appreciation of our people’s deep devotion to truth and ingrained honesty. This had been possible solely because the ancient and the medieval Hindus of Indian never forgot that dharma (ethical values) and adhyatmavidya (spirituality) were the centre of gravity of their life. This fact has been further buttressed by the modern saints like Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Aurobindo and Ramana Maharshi. Their life and teachings have shown us the modern not only the need for and utility of a higher degree of civilization but also its limitations and dangers, thereby showing where to draw the border line. While they have taught us to be rightfully proud of our past history and culture, they have also reminded us very forcefully that we should take only the best form other nations and integrate it with our basic culture.

Their advice of caution has come not a day too soon. During the last few decades there has been a sickening tendency amongst us – especially the younger generation – to blindly imitate the Western culture, be it in hairstyle or dress or language or manners. All the dreadful vices of theirs like consumerism, alcoholism, addiction to drugs and profligate promiscuity to these dangers and try vigorously to tread the path blazed by our religio-spiritual heritage, the future generations – if at all they come into existence – can never forgive us!

In the light of all that has been said till now, a basic study of Hindu culture – as it was in the past and as it is at present – has become an urgent necessity, in order to evolve a balanced combination of the true spirits of both the Western and our cultures.

It is rather an uphill task to present such a comprehensive and complicated subject in a capsule form in a small volume such as this. Yet, an earnest attempt is being made in the foregoing pages which, it is hoped, will not be in vain.

 

CONTENTS

 

1. Introduction 1

 

2. Samskrti or Culture 5
 
    Definitions
5
 
    Culture and Human Beings
6
 
    Basis of Culture
9
 

 

    Training in Culture
10
3. Religion and Philosophy 13
 
    Religion is Adhyatmavidya
13
 
    Its Two Aspects-The Darsanas and Yogas
13
 
    Samanya Dharmas or Basic Moral Values
17
 
    The Four Purusarthas
17
 

 

    The Guru
18
4. Hindu Society 19
 
    Introduction
19
 
    The Varna System
20
 
    The Asrama Scheme
24
 
    Status of Women
27
 
    Some More Aspects of Social Life
28

 

5. Hindu Educational System 32
 
    Introduction
32
 
    Constituents of an Educational System
34
 
    Gurukulas
35
 
    Script, Language and Literature
38

 

6. Hindu Political Institutions 41
 
    Introduction
41
 
    Generalities
42
 
    The Rajyangas or The Constituents of a State
43
 
    1. SVAMIN
43
 
    1. MANTRIPARISAD
45
 
    1. JANAPADA
45
  DURGA
    1. AND BELA
46
 
    1. KOSA
47
 
    1. MITRA
48
 
    Some Salient Features
49
7. Hindu Economics 51

 

 
    Importance of Artha or Wealth
51
 
    Characteristics of Hindu Economics
52
 
    Planning and Budgeting
53
 
    Trade and Commerce
55
 
    Merchant Organizations
56
 
    Arts and Crafts
56
 
    Units of Money and Measurements
57
 

 

    Epilogue
57
  8. Hindu Judicial System 59
 
    Introduction
59
 
    Origin of the Hindu Judicial System
59
 
    Independence of the Judiciary
60
 
    The Court
61
 
    System of Judiciary and Judicial Administration
61
 
    Judicial Procedure
62
 
    Judgement
65
 
    Punishment
65
 

 

    Conclusion
66
9. Contribution of the Hindus to Science 67
 
    Introduction
67
 
    Architecture and Townplanning
68
 
    Astronomy
70
 
    Botany
71
 
    Chemistry
72
 
    Mathematics
75
 
    Medicine and Surgery
77
 
    Military Science
80
 
    Veterinary Sciences
83
 

 

    Zoology
85
10. Hindu Fine Arts and Music 87
 
    Introduction
87
 
    Drawing and Painting
88
 
    Sculpture
92
 
    Music
95
 
    Dance
98
 
    1. BHARATA-NATYA
101
 
    1. KATHAK
102
 
    1. KATHAKKALI
102
 
    1. KUCIPUDI
103
 
    1. MANIPURI
104
 
    1. ODISSI-NATYA
105
 
    1. SATTRIYA-NATYA
105
 
    1. YAKSAGANA
106
 
    1. FOLK-DANCES
106
 
    Drama
107
11. Hindu Culture Outside Indian 110
 
    Introduction
110
 
    Afghanisthan
111
 
    America
112
 
    Arabia
113
 
    Bali and Java
114
 
    Borneo (Indonesia)
116
 
    Burma (Myanmar)
116
 
    Cambodia (Kampuchea)
117
 
    Campa (South Annam)
119
 
    Cina (China)
120
 
    Iran (Eastern part)
121
 
    Japan
123
 
    Korea
124
 
    Laos
126
 
    Malaya (Malaysia)
127
 
    Mongolia
129
 
    Mexico
129
 
    Nepal
132
 
    Peru
133
 
    Philippines
135
 
    Soviet Russia
135
 
    Sri Lanka
138
 
    Sumatra
139
 
    Thailand (Siam)
140
 
    Tibet
141
 

 

    Conclusion
142
12. Epilogue 144

 

13. A Select Bibliography 150

 

14. Index 151

 

    This is a real incident from real life:
    1. Do you know what devotion to one ideal is like? It is like that attitude of the daughter-in-law in the family. She serves all the members of the family-her brothers-in-law, father-in-law, husband, and so forth…but with her husband she has a special relationship.
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An Introduction to Hindu Culture: Ancient and Medieval

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IDG660
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Paperback
Edition:
1999
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8.7" X 5.6"
Pages:
183
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weight of book 165 gms
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To The Reader:

 

An English Professor under whom a Hindu student form India was studying English Literature in England (In the 1950's), requested his student to enlighten him on certain difficult passages from the Bhagavadgita. The Hindu student immediately blurted out, 'Sir, what is Bhagavadgita?'

Things have not changed much since then Perhaps they are worse, if the answers in the general Knowledge papers of Prestigious competitive examinations conducted in India are any indication.

Mark these words of Vivekananda, the Patriot-Prophet of Indian resurgence:

Ay, when a man has begun to hate himself, then the last blow has come. When a man has begun to be ashamed of his ancestors, the end has come. Here am I, one of the least of the Hindu race, yet proud of my race, proud of my ancestors. I am proud to call myself a Hindu, I am Proud that I am one of your unworthy servants. I am proud that I am countryman of Yours; …. You, the descendants of the most glorious Rishis the world ever saw. Therefore, have faith in yourselves, be proud of your ancestors, instead of being ashamed of them….

So long as they forgot the past, the Hindu nation remained in a state of stupor; and as soon as they have begun to look into their past, there is on every side a fresh manifestation of life. It is out of this past will become the future. The more, Therefore, the Hindus study the past, the more glorious will be their future, and whosoever tries to bring the past to the door of everyone, is a great benefactor of his nation.

These words of Vivekananda have inspired the author of this book to make an honest attempt at presenting a panoramic view of Hindu culture in all its aspects from the ancient days to the end of the medieval period.

In addition to helping the Hindus to regain their abhimana or national pride, this book is also aimed at urging them to work hard, to take India to still greater heights.

One More point, a confession (!), has to be made here. It is that the words 'Hindu' and 'Indian' have been used in this work as if they are interchangeable or even identical. In a geographical sense of derivation they are. To quote Vivekananda again:

The word Hindu, by which it is the fashion now-a-days to style ourselves, has lost all its meaning, for this work merely meant those who lived on the other side of the river Indus (In Sanskrit, Sindhu). This name was murdered into Hindu by the ancient Persians, and all people living on the other side of the river Sindhu were called by them Hindus. Thus this word has come down to us…

However, we mean no disrespect to the people of non-Hindu faiths living in India. If we love our religion, it does not mean that we dislike or hate other religions! This is exactly what Ramakrsna means when he gives the example of the daughter-in-law:

 

We Earnestly hope that this book will be enthusiastically received by the devotees and admirers of Ramakrsna-Vivekananda, especially the younger generation. We also wish that it can serve as a useful reference book to the students of Hindu culture.

With a view to wider circulation, notably among our youth, the price has been kept at an easily affordable level, even while maintaining a fairly good standard of paper, printing and get-up.

Our earnest thanks to Sri B. N. Nataraj of the Sri Nithyananda Printers, who has taken a lot of trouble and a personal interest in the printing and production of this book.

We will fell rewarded if the readers welcome this publication as a useful addition to the meager literature on Hindu culture.

 

Introduction

It is an undeniable fact of history that the destiny of world has very often been shaped by great persons of sterling character rather than the mediocre mortals who a hapless part of history. Man’s innate spirit - the personification of life, energy and consciousness – has always been goading him to rise above nature by struggling against it and not by being in conformity with it. It is this struggle that result is his progress.

This progress can be in two directions: external and internal. External progress leads to a better standard of living, i.e. civilization. Internal progress, on the other hand, results in greater refinement of the whole personality, i.e. culture.

Civilization and culture do not necessarily go together. Nor are they mutually exclusive. They can be elegantly harmonized, provided one known the relative proportions in combining them. This is exactly what the ancient rsis or sages of India – whether the rejarsis like Janaka and Sri Rama or the brahmarsis like Vasistha and Vyasa – did when they administered or guided the great kingdoms of their times.

World-history, whether of the ancient times or of the recent past, is replete with conflicts and wars. In general, one can adduce the following reasons the following reasons for such conflicts :

• Imperialism or dictatorship versus democracy
• The rich versus the poor
• Patriotism and nationalism versus
humanism or internationalism
• Science versus religion

However, the philosophy that the world is one family (vasudhaiva kutumbakam) as taught and practiced by our great sages, who were the real socio-religious and cultural leaders, has practically eliminated such conflicts in our country.

Records of ancient and medieval history of our country as given by the foreign travelers and other foreigners bespeak not only of a high degree of civilization but also of culture as revealed in their accounts of appreciation of our people’s deep devotion to truth and ingrained honesty. This had been possible solely because the ancient and the medieval Hindus of Indian never forgot that dharma (ethical values) and adhyatmavidya (spirituality) were the centre of gravity of their life. This fact has been further buttressed by the modern saints like Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Aurobindo and Ramana Maharshi. Their life and teachings have shown us the modern not only the need for and utility of a higher degree of civilization but also its limitations and dangers, thereby showing where to draw the border line. While they have taught us to be rightfully proud of our past history and culture, they have also reminded us very forcefully that we should take only the best form other nations and integrate it with our basic culture.

Their advice of caution has come not a day too soon. During the last few decades there has been a sickening tendency amongst us – especially the younger generation – to blindly imitate the Western culture, be it in hairstyle or dress or language or manners. All the dreadful vices of theirs like consumerism, alcoholism, addiction to drugs and profligate promiscuity to these dangers and try vigorously to tread the path blazed by our religio-spiritual heritage, the future generations – if at all they come into existence – can never forgive us!

In the light of all that has been said till now, a basic study of Hindu culture – as it was in the past and as it is at present – has become an urgent necessity, in order to evolve a balanced combination of the true spirits of both the Western and our cultures.

It is rather an uphill task to present such a comprehensive and complicated subject in a capsule form in a small volume such as this. Yet, an earnest attempt is being made in the foregoing pages which, it is hoped, will not be in vain.

 

CONTENTS

 

1. Introduction 1

 

2. Samskrti or Culture 5
 
    Definitions
5
 
    Culture and Human Beings
6
 
    Basis of Culture
9
 

 

    Training in Culture
10
3. Religion and Philosophy 13
 
    Religion is Adhyatmavidya
13
 
    Its Two Aspects-The Darsanas and Yogas
13
 
    Samanya Dharmas or Basic Moral Values
17
 
    The Four Purusarthas
17
 

 

    The Guru
18
4. Hindu Society 19
 
    Introduction
19
 
    The Varna System
20
 
    The Asrama Scheme
24
 
    Status of Women
27
 
    Some More Aspects of Social Life
28

 

5. Hindu Educational System 32
 
    Introduction
32
 
    Constituents of an Educational System
34
 
    Gurukulas
35
 
    Script, Language and Literature
38

 

6. Hindu Political Institutions 41
 
    Introduction
41
 
    Generalities
42
 
    The Rajyangas or The Constituents of a State
43
 
    1. SVAMIN
43
 
    1. MANTRIPARISAD
45
 
    1. JANAPADA
45
  DURGA
    1. AND BELA
46
 
    1. KOSA
47
 
    1. MITRA
48
 
    Some Salient Features
49
7. Hindu Economics 51

 

 
    Importance of Artha or Wealth
51
 
    Characteristics of Hindu Economics
52
 
    Planning and Budgeting
53
 
    Trade and Commerce
55
 
    Merchant Organizations
56
 
    Arts and Crafts
56
 
    Units of Money and Measurements
57
 

 

    Epilogue
57
  8. Hindu Judicial System 59
 
    Introduction
59
 
    Origin of the Hindu Judicial System
59
 
    Independence of the Judiciary
60
 
    The Court
61
 
    System of Judiciary and Judicial Administration
61
 
    Judicial Procedure
62
 
    Judgement
65
 
    Punishment
65
 

 

    Conclusion
66
9. Contribution of the Hindus to Science 67
 
    Introduction
67
 
    Architecture and Townplanning
68
 
    Astronomy
70
 
    Botany
71
 
    Chemistry
72
 
    Mathematics
75
 
    Medicine and Surgery
77
 
    Military Science
80
 
    Veterinary Sciences
83
 

 

    Zoology
85
10. Hindu Fine Arts and Music 87
 
    Introduction
87
 
    Drawing and Painting
88
 
    Sculpture
92
 
    Music
95
 
    Dance
98
 
    1. BHARATA-NATYA
101
 
    1. KATHAK
102
 
    1. KATHAKKALI
102
 
    1. KUCIPUDI
103
 
    1. MANIPURI
104
 
    1. ODISSI-NATYA
105
 
    1. SATTRIYA-NATYA
105
 
    1. YAKSAGANA
106
 
    1. FOLK-DANCES
106
 
    Drama
107
11. Hindu Culture Outside Indian 110
 
    Introduction
110
 
    Afghanisthan
111
 
    America
112
 
    Arabia
113
 
    Bali and Java
114
 
    Borneo (Indonesia)
116
 
    Burma (Myanmar)
116
 
    Cambodia (Kampuchea)
117
 
    Campa (South Annam)
119
 
    Cina (China)
120
 
    Iran (Eastern part)
121
 
    Japan
123
 
    Korea
124
 
    Laos
126
 
    Malaya (Malaysia)
127
 
    Mongolia
129
 
    Mexico
129
 
    Nepal
132
 
    Peru
133
 
    Philippines
135
 
    Soviet Russia
135
 
    Sri Lanka
138
 
    Sumatra
139
 
    Thailand (Siam)
140
 
    Tibet
141
 

 

    Conclusion
142
12. Epilogue 144

 

13. A Select Bibliography 150

 

14. Index 151

 

    This is a real incident from real life:
    1. Do you know what devotion to one ideal is like? It is like that attitude of the daughter-in-law in the family. She serves all the members of the family-her brothers-in-law, father-in-law, husband, and so forth…but with her husband she has a special relationship.
Sample Page

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