Blogs (Articles)

Hindu Dharma Shastra and gay sex

Posted in Blogs (Articles) on July 11th, 2018 by Rajesh Kochhar – Be the first to comment

Dr Subramanian Swamy belongs to that rare class of men who do not need any supporting evidence for the assertions they make. He has declared that homosexuality is against Hinduism.. How would he know? Has he carefully studied each and every dharma-shastra from beginning to end ?I would like to draw his attention to the monumental many-volume History of Dharmasastra by [Bharat Ratna] PV Kane. On page 275 of Volume I, the author quotes a verse from Kashyapa Dharma Shastra prescribing a joint prayashchita for homosexuality (pumsi-maithuna) and masturbation. It is noteworthy that a common atonement is prescribed. thereby lowering the sin of pumsi-maithuna to that of relatively more common masturbation. Similarly Sanskrit- English Dictionary by VS Apte lists a word raksha-apekshaka, literally meaning one who expects protection. One of the listed meanings of the word is catamite.
. This is to set the record straight. More fundamentally, debate on any reform should be based on contemprary considerations.

Hindu sacred texts vis-a-vis archaeology

Posted in Blogs (Articles) on July 10th, 2018 by Rajesh Kochhar – Be the first to comment

Rajesh Kochhar
Thoreau very wisely wrote that ‘A man is wise with the wisdom of his time only, and ignorant with its ignorance’. When people draw conclusions and make observations or generalizations, it is on the basis of evidence available to them and in a framework prevalent at the time.
Max Muller worked about 150 years ago. Vedic studies were new at the time; much of the corpus had not yet been translated or analyzed; and archaeology of India was still into the future. There was thus hardly anything to constrain speculation. The Norwegian Indologist Lassen suggested that the Sarasvati river of the old Rigvedic mandalas was the old Ghaggar in Haryana. Max Mueller accepted the hypothesis and popularized it. In contrast, the Germany-based Hillebrandt identified Sarasvati with a river in South Afghanistan. While Hillebrandt has been ignored, without going into the arguments proffered by him, for reasons of convenience, the Lassen-Mueller hypothesis has not only been accepted but elevated to the level of a gospel truth.
On linguistic grounds, Mueller concluded that the Aryans, as a branch of Indo-Europeans, came from the northwest. By placing Sarasvati in Haryana, he assumes that the Rigveda was composed in India. European scholars held the Puranas in contempt; they would not take note of the long-held belief that Sarasvati was an invisible partner of Ganga and Yamuna. But today’s Indian scholars must address the question.
Rigveda refers to Indra as purandara , the destroyer of pura (forts, settlements, etc). Mueller assumed that these pura must be the earlier Indian settlements and concluded that they were destroyed by the invading Aryans. In the colonial framework, it was very convenient to believe for the British to see Aryans as invaders so that their own forced entry into India could have a precedent. But it did not suit them to have Rigveda composed outside India. This would have worked against the colonial premise that while upper-caste Hindus and Europeans were ethnically the same stock, Muslims were different by definition.
It should however be kept in mind that the key question is whether the Aryans came from outside or not; whether there was an invasion or migration is a matter of detail. There is now a near unanimous consensus that the Harappan civilization was weakened by a very prolonged drought ( which affected a vast area in the world) so that the incoming Aryans did not create political vacuum by invasion but filled one created by ecology.
Fake scholarship is being created on ancient India. It is fake because it is not consistent and rigorous. Max Muller is accepted (Ghaggar) or rejected ( invasion/migration) as per convenience. This is unfair to scholarship generated and evidence collected since his time.
At the current level of knowledge, literary evidence from Rigveda and other texts on the one hand and the archaeological evidence on the other constitute two distinct streams that do not interact. Old literary evidence is not backed by any explicit archaeological evidence nor does the archaeological evidence have the benefit of widely acceptable decipherment of the script.
The inherent uncertainty of the available evidence must reflect itself in the conclusions drawn on their basis. Any working hypothesis linking the Vedic corpus and archaeological evidence must remain consistent with the contents of the sacred texts.

The Yogi and the Kumbh: Tampering with tradition for no reason

Posted in Blogs (Articles) on January 9th, 2018 by Rajesh Kochhar – Be the first to comment

Rajesh Kochhar

Gathering of the Faithful: Life at India's Colossal Kumbh Mela, 1953

For more 1953 Kumbh pictures see 



UNESCO has announced its decision to include the Kumbh Mela in its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Ironically, at about the same time, the UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has announced his government’s decision to unnecessarily and thoughtlessly change the traditional Kumbh nomenclature

Kumbh Mela is celebrated at four river-side cities: Hardwar, Prayag (Allahabad), Trimbak-Nashik, and Ujjain.  The event recurs every 12 years. Half way through that is after six years Ardh-Kumbh is celebrated. On a longer time scale, after 12 cycles that is after 144 years Maha-Kumbh occurs (only at Prayag).

To fix our ideas we may note recent dates. Allahabad celebrated the Kumbh in 2013 and will be organizing Ardh-Kumbh in 2019. Kumbh was celebrated at Trimbak-Nashik in 2015 and at Ujjain in 2016. The same year Haridwar hosted Ardh-Kumbh.

The timing of Kumbh Mela is fixed astronomically. The celebration is in honour of the planet Jupiter which has an orbital period of about 12 years. For the event to occur, Jupiter should be in a specified zodiacal sign (rashi). Since Jupiter spends a year in a rashi, timing of the festival is made precise by referring to the Sun (and the Moon). For describing the apparent path of the Sun the zodiacal list is headed by Aries (Mesha). For some reason, in case of Jupiter the most important rashi is Aquarius (Kumbha).

The term Kumbh has come to be used in two distinct senses: to denote the rashi proper and as a general description for the congregation. Strictly speaking there is only one Kumbh, namely the one at Haridwar when Jupiter is actually in Aquarius. The congregations at Nashik and Ujjain are not Kumbh but Simhasth because Jupiter is in Leo (Simha) in both cases. That is why the twin events are never more than a year apart. Simha rashi is important because it is mid-way in Jupiter’s 12-year orbit. The Prayag congregation is peculiar. It celebrates Makar Samkarnti (Maghi) every year. Kumbh takes place   when in addition Jupiter is in Mesha or the succeeding Vrishabh (Taurus).

While releasing the logo for the Prayag 2019 event, UP Chief Minister facetiously asserted that since there was nothing incomplete in Hinduism, Ardh-Kumbh would be designated Kumbh, and the Kumbh Maha-Kumbh!  There is nothing incomplete or vague about six being half of 12. The UP executive fatwa raises many problems. In Yogi Adityanath’s scheme, no unique term is left to denote the 144 year event. Secondly, since the order cannot be implemented retrospectively it will create confusion between the description of past and present congregations at Prayag. Thus, a Kumbh was celebrated in 2001 and 2013 and is again being celebrated in 2019. Finally, since UP Chief Minister’s writ runs only in UP, pan-Indian description would be fragmented with Prayag following a different nomenclature for its Kumbh than the three other locations.

Assemblage of a large number of people at a single place for a limited period of time poses great challenge on various fronts: law and order, crowd management, sanitation, hygiene, pollution control, healthcare, etc. A government should focus on these issues. As a matter of policy it should desist from unilateral action on matters involving tradition, culture, and religion.

There are calendrical matters that would benefit from government interest.  Because of differences among traditional astronomers, Kumbh was celebrated in Prayag in 1965 as well as 1966. UP government should call a meeting of traditional panchang makers, Sanskrit scholars and modern astronomers to ensure that there is unanimity on the timing of  the Kumbh. At a more fundamental level, there is need to remove the error that has accumulated in the Vikrami calendar over the past 1500 years. Thus Makar Samkranti (14 January) is still celebrated as Uttarayana (northward turning of the Sun) while winter solstice has already taken place on about 21 December. UP government should persuade the central government to initiate action to restore precision to Vikrami calendar and bring the calculated sky in consonance with the observed sky.

Confusion should not be created where there is already clarity. Initiative should instead be aimed at bringing clarity where confusion prevails.