Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Doctor Who Did Nehru Proud In China


Sometime in 1945 ,well-known film producer and director Sri .V.Shantaram from Prabhath Studios, Poona hit the headlines of

Indian film industry by producing a magnificient cinema in Hindi by name 'Doctor Kotnis Ki Ama Kahani'. This picture depicted the true life

story of an young doctor from Sholapur by name Dr.Shantaram Kotnis who died in China fighting the China-Japanese war.

In December 2009, one year before the centenary birthday celebration of Dr.Dwarakanath Kotnis, Dr.Kotnis will be honoured by the

Chinese Government as one of the most inflential foreigners who positively shaped the history of Modern China . He was chosen

through an on-line poll in which 50 million Chinese cast their votes.

Recall the inspiring life story of Dr.Dwarakanath Kotnis in the attached article.

B.M.N.Murthy, Saturday 12th Dec 200


“The terror was not that of battle, of shells and tanks and of guns and grenades. It was not even terror of bombs from the air-----It was not the terror of death, of combat, of the clang of metal against metal. Men had killed men in battles since civilization began----.But not until now, since God created man, had human eyes seen laughing soldiers throw a baby into the air, catch it expertly on the point of a sharp bayonet and call it sport----No, the terror was that of man, what men of one race could do to fellow men of another race”—
These poignant lines from the pen of the famous Chinese writer Lin Yutang in his novel ‘A Leaf in the Storm’, dealing with the war-swept China when Japan barbarically attacked China in 1937, sum up the situation in China during this war. With a poor medical contingent unable to cope with the magnitude of the disaster on the battlefront,
The Communist Party of China requested Jawaharlal Nehru, the undisputed leader of the Indian National Congress, to send some doctors from India to China to take care of the wounded soldiers in the war. The request was acceded to.

When Pandit Nehru made a moving appeal to the nation for enlistment of doctor
Volunteers to be sent to China, there was appreciable response from all over the country. A committee of the most eminent medical practitioners including Dr. Jivraj Mehta and Dr. B.C.Roy interviewed dozens of candidates who had volunteered to go on the mission. Finally four doctors were selected taking into consideration their ability, experience and health, besides Dr. Atal who was to lead the Delegation. The oldest of them was a veteran nearly 60 years and the youngest being 25 years old. The following doctors constituted the Mission:
1. Dr. Atal, Leader of the Mission.
2. Dr .M. Cholkar, Deputy Leader
3. Dr. Dwarakanath Kotnis
4. Dr. D.Mukerji and
5. Dr. B.K.Basu

Of these five, Dr. Cholkar was the oldest [60 years]. He was a Gandhian and a leading doctor from Nagpur. Dr. Mukerji was from Calcutta and Dr. Dwarakanath Kotnis hailed from Sholapur and had just then graduated from the Grant Medical College, Bombay. Dr.B.K.Basu, hailing from Dacca, was an active Leftist. All these three doctors were unmarried and adventurous sportsmen within their thirties. The five doctors were given a warm send off at Bombay under the leadership of Mrs. Sarojini Naidu. On 1st September 1938 the Mission sailed from Ballard Pier, Bombay by the P&O Liner S.S. Rajputana. Thousands of citizens came to cheer the Mission and see them off. Dr. Kotnis could count the largest number of friends and relatives, including his aged father and mother. Both of them blessed their gallant son, as he touched their feet before walking up the gangway. It was indeed a touching farewell. At midnight the ship sailed with the Mission—Five warriors without weapons—on board. With them they carried
one ambulance truck, one ambulance car, 60 cases of medicines and surgical instruments, one portable X-Ray apparatus and good wishes and blessings of the entire nation.

Passing through Hong Kong, the Mission reached Canton in China on 17th September 1938 to a rousing reception by the Chinese. Canton, once a flourishing center of trade and commerce and the leading city of South China, turned out to be a battle-charred city. Several buildings had been razed to the ground by the Japanese bombers.
Many schools, hospitals, residential houses were in ruins expressing the hostilities of the war. Without any adequate defense against the Japanese bombers and raiders, the local residents had built bamboo roofs over their terraces to break the fall of crushing bombs.
There had been so many air raids in Canton and so frequent were they that the siren served no purpose. Into such a valley of death and destruction, rode the five valiant Indian doctors donning on their military uniforms.

They spent seven days in the Military Hospital of Canton attending to the wounded soldiers. The sight of the few Chinese military doctors feverishly working day and night to cope with the hundreds of wounded men, women and children lying in the wards, in the verandas and even in the open courtyards, gave the Indian doctors some idea about the desperate urgency with which China needed doctors and medical supplies. It is learnt that there was only one doctor for every 2,000 soldiers on an average. From Canton, the Mission went to the city of Chung Yen, about 400 miles away, accompanied by a few Chinese doctors. The sight at Chung Yen brought them face to face with the hideous, horrifying realities of war. In all their collective experience, this was the first time the Medical Mission saw ghastly sights—hands and legs amputated, faces blown off by bullets, pieces of shrapnel in lungs and abdomen—nor had they witnessed the amazing capacity for silent suffering.

Within three months of their having reached China and getting their minds attuned to the larger tragedy there, tragic news came from India through a letter to Dwarakanath Kotnis that his father, Shantaram Kotnis, expired at Sholapur—a father who had come to Ballard Pier at Bombay along with his wife just three months earlier to bid a touching farewell to his son. Shantaram was a clerk in a textile mill at Sholapur and was getting a poor salary. He had sent his son Dwarakanath to Bombay to study medicine and incurred heavy debt in educating his son, without the son being aware of it. Shantaram was hoping that after obtaining a medical degree, his son would set up a private practice in Sholapur and that would enable him to repay the loan. After the departure of his son to China, the financial condition of the family worsened. Unable to bear the strain of poverty, the old man committed suicide. It was a tragic story of classical poignancy. On receipt of the tragic news, all the colleagues of Dwarakanath urged him to go to Sholapur and console his elderly mother and others in the family. Shantaram refused to go to India on the plea that the call of duty was far more important to him than a personal tragedy.

A few months later, sometime in May 1939 when the team was working in Yenan, Dr.Cholkar left or India as his constitution could not bear the extreme cold weather. Two months later, Dr. Mukerji developed acute kidney trouble and returned to India. Dr.Basu continued to work in Yenan while Dwarakanath shifted to work and organize the Bethune Memorial Base Hospital and Medical School.

By the time Dwarakanath took charge of the Base Hospital, he could speak Chinese fluently and had developed a wonderful rapport with all the Chinese doctors, nurses and other medical staff in the hospital. He was progressively getting attached to the country of his adoption, China. While working in the hospital, Dwarakanath fell in love with a Chinese girl by name Guo Qinglan-- a small, attractive, jolly girl about five feet tall and a round face. She was a teacher of nursing in the Medical School. She hailed from a well-to-do family from Peiping and had received her education in the Union Medical College and could speak English fluently. After the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, she had been separated from her family and after trekking hundreds of miles to escape the Japanese invaders, she had joined the Eighth Route Army and posted to the Medical School of which Dwarakanath was the Principal. On 25th November 1941 both Dwarakanath and Guo got married. In July 1942, the couple got a male child.

The strain of work in the hospital round the clock was telling on the health of Dr.Kotnis. In the meanwhile, he developed epilepsy. For more than a year he was suffering from fits of epilepsy. And yet, sensitive and brave he was, he never let anyone know about it, not even his wife. Being a doctor himself, he could feel the fits coming in advance and quietly he would go out in the hills while it lasted so that no one could notice it and worry on this account. The lack of rest and nourishing food, constant strain of overwork, absence of proper medical care—all these conspired to deliver a fatal blow to the young doctor. On 9 th December 1942, Dr. Dwarakanath Kotnis at the young age of 32, died [when his son was just four months baby]. Death came to him, as he lay in a mud hut in an obscure corner of North China. He took with him his long cherished desire to return to his mother and motherland and to serve India, as he had served China.

For two and a half years after he left India, Dr. Kotnis used to write to the family frequently and the last letter received was dated 11th March 1940. Afterwards; for nearly a year and a half, there was no news from him, despite the best efforts of the family to contact him. It was only in January 1943 that the family received an official letter from China informing them that Dr.Kotnis had died in China, caring for the wounded Chinese.
His widow Guo remarried a Chinese in 1944 and had two children from him, However,
Guo’s attachment to India was so strong that she visited Sholapur and Bombay, along with her first son in August 1950. Guo, now 96[in 2009] is in not in the best of health and is in a hospital in China. Dr.Kotnis’s two younger sisters from Poona, Manorama [88] and Vatsala [82] with whom Guo has maintained cordial family relations for over seven decades, have just gone to Beijing on ‘a special visit’ to China to be present on the occasion when their brother is being honoured by the Government of China as one of the ten most influential foreigners who have positively shaped the history of Modern China. They were chosen through an online poll in 2009, with more than 50 million Chinese casting their votes. The three sisters-in-law are eagerly awaiting their re-union.

China had also honoured its beloved guest Dr.Kotnis by erecting a statue for him in 1982. It is learnt that Dr.Kotnis is the only Indian to receive such a high honor from China, with the exception of Lord Buddha whose statue was erected in China more than 2,000 years ago.
B.M.N.Murthy, 12th December 2009

Created: Friday, December 11, 2009 8:22 PM

Labels: , , ,

Indentured Labour - Gandhiji's First Peaceful War


The Oxford Dictionary defines the word ‘indentured’ as ‘that which bonds an apprentice to a master’. This word became popular in India only about 150 years back even though it has been in the Dictionary for hundreds of years. The reason is that sometime in the year 1860 the Government of South Africa under the British rule felt acute shortage of labour force to work on their fields in Natal, as locals refused to work on fields. Poverty-stricken India [also under British rule], particularly the illiterate poor were ready to oblige the South African Government. The Government of South Africa hired these labourers on a contract basis and the term ‘indentured’ became popular.

Initially Indians were recruited to work on farms, mines and estates owned by the Britishers in South Africa. Later there was a demand for labourers to work on railway lines when the Government decided to extend the railways to the interior. This demand for hiring labourers continued for a period of nearly 50 years. The first group of Indian labourers disembarked from the steamer ‘S.S. Truro’, a paddle steamer which sailed from Madras, in the British Colony of Natal in South Africa on 16th November 1860.
This small group pioneered a path that was to be followed by over 1. 5 lakh hapless workers from India over the next half a century. This was the first batch of ‘indentured labourers’ from India to work on the sugar fields in and around Durban.

The second steamer to arrive at Natal was ‘S.S.Belvedere’, this time from Calcutta. Later, thousands landed at Port Natal as and when the demand increased. Recruitment of Indian workers was not difficult sine they needed no passport as they hailed also from British India. The last steamer which carried the workers from India was
‘Umlazi 43’ which reached Natal on 21st July 1911

The journey by steamer meant a lot of hardship. The conditions on board were awful. Nearly 29 workers died aboard ‘Belvedere’ and 10 more on shore before they were assigned to a particular employer. After reaching Durban the conditions under which they had to work were most inhuman and horrible. It is only when the workers landed in South Africa they were confronted with the severity of the labour system there. Some of the workers tried to protest in vain about the inhuman treatment and some even attempted suicide to get away from the clutches of the British landlords. However as they were far away from their other friends and countrymen and were still trying to find terms to settle down and as there was no organization to channelise their protests in a sort of systematic protest, there was no option but to suffer silently.

By about 1890 coalmines and sugar factories in South Africa started expanding their activities with the necessary infrastructural facilities. This necessitated the recruitment of a better type of workers. A small group known as ‘ special servants’ arrived from Madras to work in hotels, clubs, restaurants and also as housemaids in some of the wealthy private residences. Simultaneously another group of Indians started

migrating to South Africa who were classified as ‘passenger Indians’. They were not indentured and they were free to engage themselves in any business in Natal on their own and make money. By the time Mahatma Gandhi arrived in Natal in 1893 the Indian immigrants in South Africa were divided into three groups—Indentured labourers who were hired on contract, ‘ free Indians’ who had completed indentureship and decided to stay back in Natal instead of returning to India and the ‘Passenger Indians’.

After the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa, sufferings of Indians in general and the inhuman working conditions of indentured labourers drew the special attention of the Indian National Congress in India. Every session of the Congress took up this issue seriously and South Africa figured prominently in all the sessions. Year after year it was pointed out “ how we were not permitted there to travel without a pass, not allowed to walk about in the night after 9 pm , how we were cosigned to locations where refuse was dumped in Transvaal, how we were denied admission to the first and second class on Railways, how we were driven out of tram cars and pushed of from footpaths, kept out of hotels, how we were spat upon, hissed, cursed, abused and subjected to a variety of other indignities which no human being could patiently bear “[ The remarks under the quotation have been taken by the book ‘The History of Congress: written by Dr. B. Pattabhi Sitaramiah and published in1935]

Appeal by Mahatma Gandhi and other national leaders to the British Government to repeal the Immigration Act met success only when Lord Hardinge became the Viceroy of India in 1913. He was sympathetic to the Indian cause and got the Indentured Labour Act abolished. The Congress placed on record its gratitude to Lord Hardinge foe the partial settlement of the South African problems.

It is in the blood of Indians not to forget their religion wherever they go. Sant Tulasidas wrote the ‘Sriramacharithamanasa’ in which he has imprinted his magnificent devotion to Lord Sri Rama as well as his views on the ethical, moral , political, social and other aspects of life. The work projects the message of Ramabhaktas and ideals of Ramarajya to the world through the forceful medium of Avadhi. 300 years ago following the composition of Sriramacharitamanasa, the indentured labourers from United Province and Bihar carried their copies of the book wherever they went when they migrated between 1860 and 1911. This has influenced the lives of those Hindi speaking labourers so much that even today the present third or forth generation progeny who continue to live in South Africa recite part of the hymns or at least recite the ‘Hanuman Chalisa’


Fw: ARTICLE NO. 542--Indentured Labourers.
Created: Friday, December 4, 2009 8:31 PM

How MurtyMandala Was Born

Dear Murty Uncle,
I was at my cousin's in Minneapolis over Thanksgiving Weekend. I read your article there.
I was wondering if you would be agreeable to putting all your articles on a blog, if you've already not done so, that is. Since I have a lot of free time here, I could start one for you and upload them, and you wouldn't have to print and photocopy stuff. It will be a very therapeutic activity while being educational too. I am going to start a blog or two of my own soon.
As for adding Praveen to my name, a cousin of mine asked me if I had gone from being AJ to APJ!!
Warm regards,

hello from Alladi Jayasri
Created: Monday, November 30, 2009 8:59 AM

The World's First Cosmetic Surgeon- Sushrutha

SHUSHRUTHA—World’s First Plastic Surgeon
--Crest Jewel of Indian Medicine and Surgery

Hippocrates, popular as ‘the Father of Medicine’, was a noted physician in ancient Greece who lived by about 425 B.C. By his devotion and dedicated service to people in Greece he is celebrated as having saved hundreds of lives in Greece from the ravages of an epidemic like plague. It was he who laid down the professional code of conduct for a practicing doctor, known as the ‘Hippocratic Oath’ by which a doctor entering the profession takes an oath to live with a sprit of self sacrifice and devoted service to society in need of medical care and attention.

Preceding Hippocrates by more then one hundred years, there lived in India a great doctor by name Shushrutha [a contemporary of the Buddha] who was a sage-like medical marvel. He was acknowledged as the most authoritative in medicine and surgery. He imparted the following exhortations to his students on the eve of their entering the noble profession of medicine and surgery:
• Dedicate yourself entirely to helping the sick, even ignoring the perils of your life.
• Never harm the sick, not even in thought
• Endeavor always to update and perfect your knowledge
• Treat no woman except in the presence of her husband.
• Observe all the rules of good dress and good conduct
• When you are with a patient, think of only the suffering of the patient both in word and thought
• Never speak to the patient about the chances of his death
• Take these pledges invoking the presence of God. May God help you if you follow these rules of conduct. Otherwise, May He be against you.

The Hippocratic Oath, in addition to the principles enunciated by Shushrutha, mentions also the ethics about the remuneration of a doctor. However, remuneration of the doctor was not a problem for Shushurutha. Our ancients considered knowledge as not an individual property and that remuneration was totally secondary to service. According to Shushrutha, doctors should give priority and preference to service of the sick and needy in keeping with the motto ‘Service to man is service to God’

Shushrutha wrote a wonderful medical treatise known as “Shushrutha Samhita”—a work while acquainting us with his ideas about medicine and surgical methods, also shows how far ahead of the rest of the world India was in the field of medical knowledge of those days. This is the only medical treatise which has influenced medical practice all over the world for centuries. Precepts of Ayurveda and Shushrutha had spread to the known civilized world like Greece, Mesopotamia, Egypt and China. It is now well established that even in the 6th century B.C. there was regular exchange of all branches of knowledge among learned men from different parts of the world with Persia. In the 11th Century A.D ‘Shushrutha Samhitha’ was translated into Persian and Arabic.

The Shushrutha Samhitha is a monumental medical treatise which deals exhaustively with all aspects of medicine. The treatise consists of 120 chapters compiled in 5 volumes. There are descriptions of 700 medicines, 3,000surgical instruments and thousands of disease processes with their symptoms and treatment. According to Shushrutha “Only the union of medicine and surgery constitutes a complete doctor. The doctor who lacks the knowledge of one of these branches is like a bird with only one wing”. The Samhita deals with almost all the surgical operations on the body except on the chest. As most of these operations cannot be done without the use of general anesthesia, Shushrutha deals with them as well. In fact, a Sanskrit composition called ‘Bhoja Prabandha’ written by Pandit Ballala in the 11century A.D. describes an operation on the King of Bhoja where a tumour of the brain was removed by drilling a hole in the King’s head. During the operation, a drug known as ‘Sammohini’ [as recommended by Shushrutha ‘] was used to make the king unconscious and another by name ‘Sanjeevini’ was used to bring him back to consciousness.

The meticulous aseptic and antiseptic principles of surgery, described by Shushrutha, were unknown to the Western world till about the 19th century. It was only in the year 1890 that these principles were discovered in Europe when the English surgeon Lord Lister [after whom Listerine is named] demonstrated antiseptic surgery for the first time. This has been considered a milestone in Western surgery. Even the wearing of clean clothes by the Surgeons was accepted in Europe only in the 19th century. Before that, the surgeons used to wear the same dirty gown throughout their lives as a mark of seniority and experience.

It may surprise many to learn that Shushrutha was the world’s first plastic surgeon. In fact, surgery started in India, a country which performed all modern surgical operations like Caesarean, cataract extraction, renal stone removal, brain surgery etc. The word ‘plastics’ in plastic surgery derives its name from the Greek word ‘plastika’ which means ‘to build up’. Shushrutha specialized in building up noses, known as Rhinoplasty. In those days, flashing of swords during a battle was common and people lost their noses easily during a fight. Then they would rush to Shushrutha for treatment. He would take strips of flesh from some part of the body and mend their noses with them. Occasionally a man would come to him with a split nose for treatment. Shushrutha would fashion a new lip for him. Such surgery was not available anywhere in the world for quite a few centuries except in India.
In the Mysore war of 1792, Tippu Sultan’s soldiers captured a Maratha cart driver called Cowasji, who was in the British army, as a prisoner of war and cut off his nose. A year later, a native Vaidya from Poona who practiced medicine according to Shushrutha reconstructed Cowasji’s nose in the presence of two British doctors --Thomas Curso and James Hindlay. An illustrated account of this rare medical feat was published in the Madras Gazette which described the operation as ‘not uncommon in India and has been practiced in India from time immemorial’. In fact, this article was reproduced in the Gentleman magazine of London in issue dated October 1794.
From time immemorial Indian practice of Indian medicine and surgery always kept its motto as ‘Service to man is service to God’. This truth is corroborated by Ancient History of India wherein we see many kings and emperors who ruled the country having given utmost importance to medical treatment to the common man. According to the Girnar rock edict, Emperor Ashoka who ruled the country in the 3rd century B.C. is said to have constructed several big hospitals in the state, both for men and animals. . A century later, King Dutta Gamani is said to have listed among his good deeds the founding of 18 hospitals for the poor and needy. Treatment was equal and common to all the citizens without discrimination whatsoever. Ancient India considered practice of medicine and surgery as an adoration of God through service to humanity. This was the philosophy which it delivered and which acted as the healing touch.

B.M.N. Murthy

ARTICLE NO. 541--SHUSHRUTHA, World's First Plastic Surgeon
Created: Friday, November 27, 2009 9:16 PM

The Cricketer And The Swami


On 21st November 1896 three great personalities from India, each an achiever in his own field, shared a common platform in London. The occasion was a dinner hosted by the Cambridge Indian Majlis in London in honour of two celebrated Indian citizens who had made a name in England—One was the well-known cricketer K.S. Ranjith Singhji [ popular as Ranji] and the other was Atulchandra Chatterji from Calcutta ,who had topped the list in the I.C.S. Examination. The third person who had been specially invited to respond to the ‘toast of India’ was none other than Swami Vivekananda whose name had spread across the globe after his triumphal speech at the Parliament of World Religions held in Chicago in September 1893.

Colonel H.H. Sri Ranjithsinghji Vibhaji Judeja, Jamsaheb of Nawanagar, a princely state, was known popularly as K.S.Ranjithsinghji or Ranji for short. Ranji was recognized as ‘the black prince of cricketers’ and as one of the greatest batsmen of all time. Unorthodox in technique and possessed of extremely fast reactions, he brought a new style in batting that revolutionized the game of cricket. He excelled in late cuts and popularized the leg glance. The Ranji Trophy, the most important first class cricket I India was named in his honour and inaugurated in 1935 by Maharaja Bhupendra Singh of Patiala.

Ranji was born in a small village in Kathaiwar, Gujarat, in a wealthy Indian family of princely status. His clan, the Jadejas, was Rajput warriors. He was adopted by the Jamsaheb of Nawanagar, a small princely state. As were there was some conspiracy to dislodge him from his heirship to the princedom and as his life was at stake, Ranji was sent to England in 1891 when he was 19. He was educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge University. Prior to his arrival in Cambridge, Ranji had never played an organized game of cricket. Nevertheless he won a cricket blue in the final year and moved on to play country cricket for Sussex after graduation. He played his first country match at Lords in May 1895 and made his first debut in England in 1896, becoming the First Indian to play Test Cricket. It was to honour this signal achievement of Ranji that the Cambridge Indian Majlis had organized the dinner.
In 1896 Ranji’s batting average exceeded even that of the legendary W.C.Grace. It was written in Ranji’s praise that no cricketer had ever won so peculiar a place in the affection of English people as Ranji did through his genius for the English game. He was probably the first Indian to have touched the imagination of the English lovers of sport. Such was his popularity in England that one London newspaper suggested that at this rate of progress, Ranji might even seek entry into the House of Commons and aspire for still higher positions. Even as Swami Vivekananda was holding his European audience spellbound by his powerful oratory, Prince Ranjith Singhji was saving English honour against the Australian cricket team. He had scored 154 runs and was not out.

Atulchandra Chatterji stood First in the highly competitive I.C.S. Examination in 1896—a dream achievement for any Indian. He went to England on a state Scholarship from Calcutta and was admitted to King’s College, Cambridge. He topped the ICS list which was his crowning achievement—an examination which drew the most brilliant and talented aspirants, both in England as well as in India.

In the dinner hosted on 21st November 1896, as per the custom, a number of toasts were proposed and many speeches delivered. Drinking to the health of the people and praising the British Empire for its contribution to the welfare of Indians was a normal feature in such gatherings. In his reply, Ranji [as an expected heir to the throne of Nawanagar] commended the British rule in India in keeping with the policy adopted by the other princely states. He exhorted his countrymen to extend full cooperation to the British rule in India. Even Atulchandra who was to serve under the British Government as an ICS officer was all praise for the British rule and toed the line of Ranji.

The speeches made by Ranji, Atulchandra and other Indians could not have pleased Swami Vivekananda. Responding to the toast, Swamiji pointed out that though India had fallen behind and was now serving the British, it was purely a temporary phase and it was only a matter of time before India would rise again and occupy the pride of honour it once commanded among the comity of nations. Swamiji said, inter alias:

“It is only out of the past the future will come. I know no greater and more permanent foundation for the future than a true knowledge of what had happened before. The present is the effect of infinity of causes which represent the past. We had many things to learn from the Europeans but our past, the glory of India which had passed away, should continue even as a still a greater source of inspiration and instruction. Things rise and things decay. There is rise and fall everywhere in the world. And though India has fallen today, she will assuredly rise again [loud cheers]. There was a time when India produced great philosophers and still greater prophets and preachers. The memory of those days ought to fill us up with hope and confidence. This is not the first time in the History of India that we are so low. Periods of depression and degradation had occurred before but India has always triumphed in the long run and so would she once again in the future”

During the entire speech Swamiji stressed the need for having a real and true knowledge of the history of the past—a history that would give Indians adequate self-respect and totally remove unhealthy feelings of slavishness from their minds.


Fw: ARTICLE NO. 540 Cricketer Ranjith Singh [ RANJI ] and SwamiVivekananda
Created: Tuesday, November 24, 2009 8:45 PM

The Perfect Dancer And Rukmini Devi's First Guru


Most connoisseurs of classical dance in India will agree that if a count of about half a dozen greatest classical dancers of India in the 20th century is taken, the legendary Mylapore Gowri Amma, Rukmini Devi’s first Guru, would easily be one among them. She was the last bastion of the Devadasis attached to the Kapaleeshwara Temple, Mylapore, Madras, who held the dignity and honour of her profession until the Anti-Nautchl Bill was passed by the government and the Devadasi system was abolished.
To most classical dancers, Gowri Amma represented pinnacle of perfection who was particularly noted for the perfect synchronization of muscle movement and emotions.

Gowri Amma was the senior most among the well known Bharathanatyam dancers in the early part of 20th century when classical dance was slowly emerging as an art form in its own right. Born in 1892 she was the great grand- daughter of Mylapore Dhanam who was a noted musician. Her mother Doraikannamma was a dancer who had learnt under the famous dance teacher Krishna Nattuvanar of Tanjore. Doraikannamma was herself an exquisite dancer and her ravishing beauty was an extra-ordinary point in her favour. Her beauty was such that when she passed away her widowed husband refused to get treatment for his falling eye-sight saying that the need for recovery of the eye had ceased with the death of his wife. Coming from a long line of hereditary artists well versed in music and dance, Gowri Amma had a natural cultural bearing displaying her art with restraint and refinement.
Gowri Amma had her early training under the great master Nallur Munuswamy Nattuvanar and developed Abhinaya under the tutelage of her mother. Short of stature and fair of complexion and endowed with a musical voice, she was one of the few Bharathanatyam dancers who sang while doing Abhinaya. No wonder that her performance at the Music Academy, Madras on 3rd January 1932 received high acclaim both from the public as well as by the press.
As Gowri came from a family of traditional temple dancers, she took to temple dancing as her career. She was the last Devadasi attached to the Kapaleeshwara Temple at Mylapore, Madras. Unfortunately with the passage of the Anti-Nautch Bill by the government which abolished the system of employing Devadasis by the temples, she lost her job and became unemployed. Even she had to vacate the house allotted to her by the temple. She requested Rukmini Devi many times to persuade the temple authorities to let her continue in the same house but Rukmini Devi’s appeal went on deaf ears. It is said that when she vacated the temple residence and her intimate association with the temple came to an end, she was disheartened. However, such was her bond with the temple that she chose some place to stay close to the temple. Thereafter, the first thing she did every morning after getting up was to open the window of her room and have a Darshan of the gopuram of the Temple. .

In 1932 on an invitation from Sri E.Krishna Iyer who spear-headed the movement for the revival oh Bharathanatyam to its original pristine glory in the thirties,, Rukmini Devi went to see the dance performance of Gowri Amma at the Music Academy. Madras. After seeing the dance, Rukmini Devi observed “I could see that the dance was highly classical. Gowri Amma is an expert in Bhava”. When Rukmini Devi was in search of a dance teacher the well-known Sanskrit scholar Prof.Kunhan Raja suggested the name of Gowri Amma and took her to Gowri Amma’s residence at Mylapore. Recalling her meeting with Gowri Amma, Rukmini Devi writes “Many teachers were suggested to me, but I went to meet Gowri Amma in the home where she lived in Mylapore. My first lesson started with her as my teacher with the sabdam ‘Sarasijakshulu’. After that I arranged for her to come to Adyar to my home to teach me”.
Paying glowing tributes to the artistry and inner talent of her Guru Gowri Amma, Rukmini Devi further writes “Another special feature about her was that she had creative ability to compose dances to the song, a rare talent exhibited by dancers. Her ideas were very creative, expressive and beautiful. It was my good luck to have had her in Kalakshetra and to support her and also get the benefit from her as much as possible.
A particular posture of the body, a dignity of movement combined with grace and expressiveness of face which had an element of surprise all the time. These were some of the special features of her dance. Perhaps this comes from someone who has inherited by birth, the quality which others are not able to have”

Gowri Amma was also a dance teacher to Dr.Padma Subramanian, another exemplary dancer of the country. The teacher was so fond of Padma and her talent that she would often visit Padma’s residence in Gandhinagar, Adyar, to teach her. She would treat Padma’s house as her second residence. As she became older and frailer, her grand daughter was accompanying her to Padma’s residence and other places Gowri used to visit.
According to Dr. Padma Subramanian, Gowri Amma became blind with the passage of time and that she refused all medical treatment saying that it was all God’s will. She was taught music by the veteran Sangeetha Vidwan Sri Araikudi Ramanuja Iyengar to whom she was extremely devoted. Gowri Amma narrated to Dr.Padma that one day her music teacher appeared in her dream and told her “I will give you sight in one eye tomorrow. As far as the other eye is concerned, when you visit Tirupathi”. To Amma, her Guru was God himself, identified with the Tirupathi deity. The next day she woke up to find, miraculously, sight restored in one eye. However, later, though Padma made several attempts to take her to Tirupathi she could not succeed. The other eye remained blind till her death.
The well known dancer of Madras, V.P. Dhananjayan, happens to be another student of Gowri Amma .In his nostalgic memories of his teacher, V.P Dhananjayan says “Gowri Amma’s graceful body movement and facial expressions were just divine. We were able to imbibe a great deal from her. When she used to teach us in Kalakshetra, one of her grand daughters used to accompany her to Kalakshtra in a bus and she used to walk all the distance from Adyar Bus terminus to the Theosophical campus, quite a distance, where Kalakshetra was situated till 1963”

Having devoted and dedicated her entire life to the cause of dance and having n trained such great talented dancers like Rukmini Devi, Dr.Padma Subramanyam, T.Balasaraswathi and others, the last days of Gowri Amma make sad reading. Towards the end she led a life in acute penury. She was among the first artists to receive a gold medal from Sangeetha Nataka Academy. Yet, she would say “What use is this gold medal to me who does not know where her next meal will be coming from?” This statement is also confirmed by V.P.Dhananjayan who says “Occasionally Gowri Amma used to ask us for bus fare. We used to collect a few annas or a rupee, since we were also poor children with no money in hand even for our own maintenance.”

The penury was caused by her drunkard son’s wasteful ways. All her earnings she was getting from Kalakshetra and from her tuitions to several dance students were thrown away on liquor by her son. When finally Gowri Amma died on 21st January 1972 in penury in her grand daughter’s house who was her only support, the grand daughter did not have enough money even to buy a garland for Gowri Amma’s dead body. The last rites were performed and looked after by Rukmini Devi and her institution the Kalakshetra.

What made Gowri Amma unique? Rukmini Devi answers “To a certain extent, all her pupils have benefited from her yet there was something they did not capture. A particular posture of the body, a dignity of movement combined with grace and expressiveness of face which had an element of surprise all the time. These were some of the special features of her dance. Perhaps this comes from someone who has inherited by birth the quality which others are not able to have”


Dear Murty Uncle,
I read your gowramma piece immediately after reading a biography on MS by TJS George. This touches on the transition of both bharatnatyam and Carnatic music and the i discourse on how these two forms were taken from devadasi world to become "Brahmin" in ethos
It spoke of balasaraswathi and rukmini devi's diff of opinion . Your article enriched my scanty knowledge of music and dance.
Warm regards,

On Nov 29, 2009, at 10:54 AM, bmnmurty wrote:

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Dhananjayan v.p.
> To: bmnmurty
> Sent: Sunday, November 29, 2009 9:14 AM
> Article on Gowri ammal:
> As usual your article is very concise and informative. This will be very useful for all publications and research workers to throw light on this legendary Bharatanaatyam great.
> Could have added a little bit more of the personal experiences of those great artistes whom you have quoted speaking about her. Hope you are using the picture I gave you for publication.
> Dhananjayan
> .

Created: Friday, November 20, 2009 10:38 AM

Ramana Maharshi's Playmate Sab Jan


When young Venkataraman [who later became Ramana Maharshi] was studying in Madurai in the American Mission High School in the 4th, 5th and 6th forms in the years from 1892 to 1895, he was closely associated with a Muslim boy whom he chose as his intimate friend. He was very fond of this young Muslim boy whom he addressed as Sab Jan, even though his real name was Abdul Wahab. The depth of attachment between them was so great that they were often recognized by the neighborhood as the
‘Inseparable mates’.
Sometime in the early sixties, when Sab Jan was nearly 80 years old and was unable to see or hear properly and was living with his son at Nyveli, a devotee of the Ramanashram went to meet him with the specific purpose of eliciting some information about the boyhood days of the Maharshi and his classmate Sab Jan. Recalling his boyhood memories of Venkataraman, Sab Jan told the devotee:
“Venkataraman was very well learned in Tamil and stood first in the class. When the teacher wanted to refer to some portions in the textbook, he used to ask Venkataraman to quote and Venkataraman used to do it with remarkable clarity. His knowledge of Tamil was remarkable and that of Tamil grammar was exact. He was not very good in English in the sense that he was not an expert in English. Generally he was not much interested in schoolbooks. He was fond of games and an expert in playing football. He used to encourage me to join him in playing football, assuring me that he would teach me how to play. We used to play together. Once while playing, he was severely knocked down and his right leg got swollen. I immediately lifted him, carried him on my back and took him to the nearby hospital for treatment. When the swelling reduced, I took him home. He thanked me profusely for this timely help.
Even as a student he was very religious. Every Saturday and Sunday he would go to the Tirupurakundram Temple. I used to accompany him often. He used to make me go round the temple in ‘pradakshina’ saying, “God’s creation is alike and there is no difference in creation. God is the same. The apparent differences in Gods are created by man”. In the company of Venkataraman, I never felt any difference between a mosque and a temple. Because of such universal outlook imparted in me by him in those days, in my later days I could become an ardent devotee of Sri Varadaraja Perumal of Kancheepuram. I used to have the vision of Varadaraja Perumal in my dreams and this proved to be of great help to me”.
Elaborating on his association with the Varadarajaswamy Temple, Sab Jan continued: “ For 12 years I was able to part take actively in the ‘Garuda Seva’ of the temple by giving a shoulder to lift the deity of the Perumal while going in procession in the streets of Kanchipuram which I regard as the greatest privilege even today. Once when I was on duty at Kuppam I received a telegram that my wife had an abortion. I was worried she might die. The same night Varadarajaswamy Perumal appeared in my dream and assured me that my wife was all right and that I need not worry. When I returned to Tirupathur she was in normal condition. Her recovery was nothing but the grace of Varadarajaswamy”.
Recalling his association with Bhagavan’s mother Alagammal, Sab Jan said: “When I used to go to Venkataraman’s house, his mother would announce my arrival by saying “Your dear Muslim friend has come”. She had a wonderful face beaming with nobility. Every time I was accorded a warm reception and fed with home made eatables. By chance I could not go for a week or so, she would pack the eatables and send it through Venkataraman. I can never forget her maternal love and her kindness to me, even though I am a Muslim”.
Venkataraman suddenly left his house in 1896 without informing any one to a known destination with an unknown destiny. Even his close friend Sab Jan was totally unaware of this. However, when he came to know about his friend’s sudden disappearance, Sab Jan became sad. Recalling how he came to know the whereabouts of his friend later, Sab Jan said: “ I was enlisted in the Police Department and was posted to Uttarameru in 1903. One day I happened to see the photograph of Venkataraman in one of the medical shops there but completely different in appearance. When I asked the shopkeeper as to who that person in the photograph was, he said ‘Brahmana Swamy in Tiruvannamalai’. He further told me that the Swamy was observing silence. As I was eager to meet the Swamy I went to Tiruvannamalai. I saw him there and introduced myself as his former classmate Sab Jan. His facial expression showed that he had recognized me and that my introduction was not necessary. He simply nodded his head with a radiant face. I was thrilled to see my classmate who looked more beautiful with a mark of sainthood. Thereafter I visited the Ashram several times. He gave me special attention and used to make me sit next to him while taking food in the dining hall”.

Continuing the recollections, he said “My continued visits to the Ashram transformed me to an ardent devotee of the Bhagavan from being a friend. This inward change is the greatest boon he showered on me. On 15th April 1950, the day of his Maha Nirvana, even though I was posted in a far off place, it was his sheer grace that enabled me to go to Tiruvannamalai and pay my last respects to him. I paid my homage to my friend and GURU who left his mortal coil that night. I was in deep mourning. Someone asked me to take food as I looked fatigued and tired and it was late at night. I was in no mood to eat anything. The whole day I fasted as a token of reverence to my intimate friend and revered GURU.

Sab Jan passed away several years ago. Still, his memory remains green even today as one who did not stop at just being a classmate to Venkataraman but went several steps ahead to become an ardent devotee of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi.


Fw: Article No.--539--SABJAN, Ramana Maharshi's Muslim Devotee
Created: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 8:45 PM

How To Learn


Swapan Adhikari, A rickshaw puller from Calcutta: In the year 1975 the Ramakrishna Ashram, Belurghat, West Bengal, felicitated one Sri Swapan Adhikari, a local rickshaw puller, for his remarkable commitment to the promotion of education. Every year for the past twelve years, Swapan had been single handedly arranging for distribution of books and writing materials to the poor students of the town. On 3rd Jan 2005 about 200 students received materials worth Rs. 40,000 in the presence of the District Magistrate and the District Social Welfare Officer.

Sometime in 1984 Swapan had accidentally discovered an envelope containing Rs. 4,300 while clearing his rickshaw. Despite his best efforts with the local police and the panchayath, he could not trace the owner. So he decided to purchase note books for the local poor children. When he went to the school and distributed the notebooks, the radiating joy on the faces of the children deeply touched his heart. He himself had studied only up to 4th Standard but he thought that if he could help poor children to get educated, they could stand on their own feet and come out of poverty. That was the beginning of his mission. Each day he would keep Rs. 50 from his daily earnings to maintain his three member family and would set aside the rest towards his pet project. At the end of the year he would visit the local schools to get a list of children who needed financial help.
He and his family voluntarily embraced frugal living so that they could bring joy to many more students.
In helping others to get their education, Swapan has shown what True Education is.

Novel Way of Spreading Vivekananda’s Message: A. Selvam, a roadside vegetable seller of a remote village near Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu, not only sells vegetables but contributes his own mite in spreading the gospel of Swami Vivekananda.
On the heaps of brinjals, beans and other vegetables which he sells on the walkway of an over bridge, he puts up an attractive white plastic board with a quotation from Swami Vivekananda written on it in Tamil. Many curious visitors ask him as to what the board contains and Selvam explains to the extent he knows. It all started when Selvam was gifted a book in Tamil on the teachings of Swami Vivekananda by one of his customers about five years back. Selvam read the book in his free time and found that these ideas should reach the others as well. Thus began his humble mission.
Every day he spends about 30 minutes in choosing and writing one saying of the Swamiji. It attracts quite a few who visit to look at the day’s quote, even as they select the vegetables for purchase.
A class 3 drop-out, Selvam, 41 years, also relates the life and message of the Swamiji to his kids at home.
Vedanta Keasri, June 2008

Guru Nanak and the Two Villages: Once the Sikh teacher Guru Nanak was traveling accompanied by a disciple called Mardana. They came across a village where the people were inhospitable. The two holy men were given neither food nor shelter. On leaving the village, Guru Nanak said “May this Village always be here!”
Soon after they came to another village where the villagers were extremely hospitable, kind and looked after their guests very well. On leaving the village, Guru Nanak said “May this village disappear and its people scatter all over the earth!”

Mardana was astonished. “Sire” he said to the Guru, “When you left the last village you wished it well. Now when you leave this great village where the people have tried to make us happy and comfortable, you wish that it disappears. Is it not strange?”
“Not at all!” replied the Guru with a smile. “When I left the good village I wanted its inhabitants to spread all over the world to shed sweetness and light. And when I forsook the bad one, I expressed the wish that its meanness of spirit might ever be confined to a small place”

Miranda’s eyes opened wide in admiration for the wisdom of his revered teacher.

Be Like a Pearl Oyster: There is a petty Indian fable to the effect that if it rains when the Swati Nakshatra is in ascendance and a drop rain falls into an oyster, that drop of water becomes a pearl
The oysters know this and they come up when the star Swati shines and wait to catch the precious rain drops. When a drop falls into them, the oysters quickly close their shells and dive down to the bottom of the sea, there to patiently develop of the drop of rain into a pearl.
We should be like that oyster. First hear, then understand and then leaving all distractions shut your minds to outside influence and devote yourself to developing the Truth within you.
One should be patient and ready. The magic moment of illumination may come at any time.
It is believed that a pearl oyster commences making of a pearl only when a drop of pure rain water falls into its mouth when the star Swati is in ascendance. And not otherwise. The moment is most important when Truth unfolds itself which requires patience. --Swami Vivekananda

B.M.N. Murthy

Fw: Article No.538--How to Learn and Make Others Learn [Midweek Miscellany ][
Created: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 8:45 PM

Mr Murthy Makes News

Praying It With Flowers






The article today includes an attractive Gift of Nature.

B.M.N.Murthy, Saturday 26th Sept 2009

POSTSCRIPT : I could not keep up MY DATE WITH FLOWERS since the telephone let me down. However, as thse flowers do not fade
I presume they would be fresh even today


Association of flowers with religion and worship and with legends and myths has been the tradition in all the religions all over the world. To the people they have been symbols of love and remembrance. A flower is one of the most wonderful creations of Nature and represents Divinity. We see the great truth of this statement in the lines of poet Lord Tennyson when he writes:
“Little Flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all
I should know what God and Man is”.

In the Hindu tradition in particular, the flowers have always been considered sacred and divine. Probably there is no devotional hymn [Stotra] which does not make a reference to the flower. The most popular prayer for Goddess Lalitha, Sri Lalitha Sahsra Nama describes the Goddess as wearing flowers Champaka, Ashoka, Punnaga and Sowgandhika on Her tresses. Acharya Shankara in the ‘Soundarya Lahari’ while describing the beautiful locks of the Goddess says “The flowers that are found in the garden of Devendra prefer to dwell on your locks of hair”. The Durga Saptashati or the Devi Mahatmyam which is particularly recited during the Navaratri festival refers to the ‘Neelotpala’ or blue lotus. The Shiva Panchakshara Stotra refers to the Mandara flower [Parijatha]. Again, Jasmine and Champaka find a place in Shiva Manasa Stotram.

Apart from divinity, beauty of form, fragrance, rich texture and colour which individual flower possesses, each flower has its own special features and significance as would be evident from the following illustrations:

Lotus: India’s national flower, the Lotus, is special to the Hindus, Buddhists and Jains and revered as such. It is a symbol of purity in many Asian cultures, including China.
Few objects of nature have affected the imagination of Indian thinkers, philosophers, poets and aestheticians so much as this wonderful flower. From physical beauty to cosmology and esoteric spiritual concepts, this flower has been the standard, the inspiration and the prototype of ideas. According to Hindu mythology, the very universe bloomed out of the primeval lotus. In Sanskrit the lotus is called ‘Pankaja’ which means ‘born in mud’. Though born in mud and slush, imagine its supreme manifestation and the supreme level it attains. The lotus blooms when the sun rises and folds its petals when the sun sets. In other words, it shows its utter loyalty to Light. Likewise, the world around man is filthy, muddy and slippery. Still, man can raise himself from dirty surroundings and reach the highest God by total devotion to God at all times, both in prosperity as well as in adversity.

Parijatha: Though a native of the Sub-Himalayan tract, the Parijatha tree is well established all over the South and its flower is considered sacred and grown in temples and gardens. Perhaps no other tale in the Hindu mythology as that of Rukmini and Satyabhama in Srimad Bhagavatam can illustrate the importance of the Parijatha as an example for the undivided love of God towards all creations of the world. It is well known in this episode how Lord Sri Krishna shows his undivided love towards his two wives Rukmini and Satyabhama by planting Parijatha trees in their adjoining gardens so that the each tree blossoms in the neighboring garden.
The Parijatha flower blossoms early in the morning during the ‘Brahmi Muhurtam’ and is said to give considerable yogic power, in addition to lovely fragrance. According to Agastya Vijayam, Lord Krishna himself brought this flower to the earth for the benefit of human beings to enable them to achieve yogic knowledge and power. It is the belief that Anjaneya always resides under the Parijatha tree.[Parijatha Taru Moola Vasinam]

Rose: As one of the most beautiful flowers, the Rose symbolizes human love. Poets throughout the ages have not ceased to about the glory, the beauty, the splendour and the magnificence of the rose.
According to Greek mythology, the rose was created by the Goddess of Flowers, Chloris. One day, she found the lifeless body of a beautiful nymph in the woods and she turned her into a flower. She called upon Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love and Dionysus, the God of Wine and requested to gift their specialties to the rose. Aphrodite gave her beauty as the gift and Dionysus added nectar to the rose to give it a sweet fragrance.

Mango Flower: The mango has several names in Sanskrit such as Amra, Chootha, Rasalu, Sahakara etc. The Sahakara variety [the word Sahakara means co-operation] has a special significance. Its blossom is supposed to excite passion and love. It is believed that when lovers quarrel and part company and feel the pangs of separation, their coming together under the Sahakara tree in blossom would unite them again. The fragrance of the Sahakara blossom has this rear power of attraction. Kalidasa makes a reference to the Sahakara blossom in his kavya ‘Kumarasambhavam’

Bamboo Flower: In India, Bamboo is mostly grown in the hilly parts of Tripura, Mizoram and Assam. The bamboo flowers only once in 40 years and when it does blossom its fragrance spreads for miles around. However, it is a common belief among the poverty stricken hilly tribes of these areas that the bamboo flower heralds the advent of famine, epidemic and starvation which they say out of past experience. The bamboo fruit which drops down in the ground is a favourite fruit for the rats and this leads to plague and other epidemics. The increased rat population will invade the neighbouring fields and destroy the crops, causing food crisis.

Pumpkin Flower: In South India, particularly during the Dhanurmasam [December-January] it is customary, particularly in rural parts, to draw Rangoli patterns and arrange in the middle a few pumpkin flowers on small cow dung balls. The villagers believe that this ushers in prosperity and heralds the advent of a bounty harvest. It is the favourite of planet Jupiter

Screw Pine: [Known as ‘Taale’ in Kannada and ‘Thalamboo’ in Tamil]. The Screw Pine is a very sweet smelling flower and is light yellow in colour, resembling the colour of sandal paste. The petals are thick and come out in the form of strips, tapering at one end. Girls would specially like to use the strips of the Taale flowers on their hairdo and plaits.

Ashta Pushpa: [Eight Flowers]. When natural flowers are not readily available for worship, one need not worry. Providence has provided us with in-built eight virtues called ‘Ashta Pushpa’ on the analogy of flowers which could be used for worshipping the Almighty. These ‘Astha Pushpas’ are the following eight spiritual qualities with whose devotional officer, the Lord is easily propitiated. These flowers are the following virtues:
1. Non injury. 2. Control of Senses 3. Forbearance 4. Compassion. 5. Knowledge. 6. Penance. 7. Trust and 8. Sincerity
‘Ahimsa Prathamam Pushpam; Pushpam Indriya Nigrahah
Kshantih Pushpam Daya Pushpam; Jnanam Pushpam Atahparam
Tapah Pushpam Satya Pushpam Bhava Pushpam Atha Ashtamam

Worship the Deity with these eight flowers and one will be rewarded amply.
A rich dividend on a meager investment!

ARTICLE No. 525--Flowers are Manifestation of Divinity
Created:Tuesday, September 29, 2009 4:10 AM

The Write Stuff-- Pen And Pencil

PEN AND PENCIL ---Nostalgic Snippets.

The Parker Pen: The Parker Pen was founded in 1891 by George Safford Parker in Wisconsin, USA. It was almost number one in world-wide writing instruments sales before the development of the ballpoint pen. In 1931 Parker created an ink called ‘Quink’ which was a quick drying ink which eliminated the need for a blotting paper. The Parker Pen was frequently selected and was the favourite of many famous signatories when important international documents had to be signed.

When the Company established a showroom and service centre in China in December 1980, some 4,000 Chinese flocked to the opening—not to buy pens but to get their trustworthy old Parker pens repaired. It seems that the pens which were sold in China before the Chinese Revolution in 1949, are considered family heirlooms and are treated and preserved as such with great care. In the past, the Company says, some Chinese bandits demanded Parker pens as ransom for their victims. It is also said that a Chinese soldier in the Second World War who was awarded his nation’s highest award for bravery, opted for a Parker pen, instead of a gold medal.

Ratnam Pen from Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh : Great Indian freedom fighters like Gandhiji, Rajaji and Babu Rajendra Prasad, well-known journalists like Kasturi Ranga Iyengar of the Hindu and Ramanath Goenka of the Indian Express had one thing in common: They used pens popular as ‘Ratnam Pen’ supplied from the hometown of Rajahmundry in coastal Andhra Pradesh.

Ratnam Pens which became popular as ‘Swadeshi Pens’ during freedom struggle brought laurels to Rajahmundry and to the pen maker K.V.Ratnam. After Gandhiji gave a call to boycott foreign goods, Ratnam, who was till then engaged in making lithographic blocks, met Gandhiji in 1921 and started the manufacture of his own pen. Nyapati Subba Rao who was one of the founders of the Hindu ordered the first Ratnam pen. It was made of silver. His grandson, the junior Subba Rao has confirmed “It is true that the first Ratnam pen was purchased my grandfather. He always used a Ratnam pen. Ratnam pens were made to order by my grandfather and gifted to VIPs visiting Rajahmundry. I was told by my gransfather that Ratnam personally went to Madras and delivered Ratnam pens to Kasturi Ranga Iyengar on several occasions”

. Once Ratnam made a special pen for Gandhiji made in ebonite material and sent it to Gandhiji. On receiving it, Gandhiji wrote from Wardha:

‘Dear Ratnam,
I must thank you for the fountain pen you sent me. I needed it and in my opinion it would be a good substitute for the foreign pen, once put in the bazaar.

Yours sincerely
M.K.Gandhi, 16th July 1935.

Even after independence Ratnam pens attained popularity and remained as status symbols. In the 1950s a Ratnam golden pen cost Rs 55 which was sold for a sum between Rs. 30,000 and Rs.40, 000 in the year 2005. K.V.Narasimhacharyulu and K.V.Ramana used to assist their father in the business. The elder son Narasimhacharyulu went to Germany in 1959, obtained necessary technology for the ballpoint pen and started a ballpoint manufacturing unit in 1959 and continue to run the industry even today.

The Pencil: The standard pencil is 7 inches long and can draw a line 35 miles long, writes at least 45,000 words and survives 17 sharpenings down to a two-inch butt. Yellow is the favourite colour for the casing. Manufacturers of pencil have tried other colours like green, black and blue but they have never sold as well as the yellow pencil.

A standard pencil is made up of 40 different materials. The best graphite comes from Sri Lanka, Madagascar and Mexico and the best clay from Germany. Rubber for the eraser tips comes from Malaysia, wax from Brazil. Virtually all wood used for pencil casings comes from the California aromatic-incensed cedar, found mainly in the High Sierra. Its wood has a straight grain, uniform texture and relative softness which make it ideal not only for precision sawing but for staining and waxing and sharpening.

Parable of a Pencil: A little boy went to a shop and brought a new pencil and came home. When he started sharpening the pencil, it spoke to him in these words: “My little friend, when I was packed in a pencil box in the factory, the pencil maker gave me some advice which I want to share with you. He said:
There are five things very important in life and if you bear in mind these points and fashion your life accordingly, you can always live in harmony:
1. You will be able to achieve great things in life if you allow yourself in the hands of the Holder.
2. You will experience a painful sharpening with a blade or a sharpener now and then. Bear it with a smile. Then only you will be useful.
3. People use you and correct if you write something wrong. Do not get upset that your footprints are erased. That is done in your own interest so that you can write better.
4. The best part of your energy is hidden inside. That comes out only when you are sharpened
5. You will write what your Master wants and not what you want

There is an interesting episode in the Srimad Bhagavatha [11th Canto] narrating how Lord Dattatreya, the foremost Guru, learnt 24 lessons from observing Nature and its phenomena. Similarly how interesting it would be, if we stretch our imagination a bit and draw the following lessons from the parable of the pencil:

1. We are all born, with our intellect covered, to be of service to society. It only requires a Guru to uncover that intellect and expose us.
2. Our achievements and results of our actions are not in our hands but at the hands of Divinity, our Lord and Master.
3. Never get discouraged or frustrated at times of sorrow and distress. These are only stepping obstacles to eventual success.
4. Learn to live in unity amongst diversity..
5. The pencil is a perfect example of globalization for the benefit of society where the whole world can live in harmony and peace, inspite of geographical diversities.

Mindbender: Name the only portable communication equipment that requires no battery or electricity for operation and comes in attractive wooden casements which even ladies find it easy to carry and sometimes even put them in their vanity bags.


Hot From the Press: according to news report published by ‘The Hindu’ in just yesterday’s issue [Bangalore Edition 22nd Sept 2009], the most expensive pen right now in India is the Mont Blanc Skeleton A380 Limited Edition. In solid white gold with diamonds and a handcrafted nib, this pen costs a whopping Rs. 10 lakhs. As the name suggests it is limited to 380 pieces across the globe.

ARTICLE No. 524 --PEN AND PENCIL [Midweek Special]
Created: Tuesday, September 22, 2009 9:17 PM

The Wordiest Of Them All


Of the world’s five thousand languages, English is considered the richest language with a torrential flow of words. While the very first dictionary in English language published in London in 1604 contained just 2,500 words, English today contains nearly half a million words plus a further of 3,00,000 or so technical terms. By contrast, the Germans have a vocabulary of just 1, 85,000 words and the French just about 1, 00,000 words. While English has the capacity to make a statement in simple Saxon words which anyone can understand, it has a vocabulary rich enough to make the same statement in lengthy and verbose words, mostly of Latin derivative, which cannot be normally deciphered without reference to a dictionary. This style of verbose English is attributed to the 18th century lexicographer Samuel Johnson and is known as Johnsonian English. The following examples are a few illustrations:

Making mountain of a molehill:

1. Everything that coruscates with effulgence is not ipso facto aurous.
[All that glitters is not gold]
2. Individuals who perforce are constrained to be domiciled in
vitreous structures of patent frangibility should on no account employ petrous
formations as projectiles
[People living in glass houses should not throw stones at others]
3. A mass of concentrated earthly material rotating on its axis will not
accumulate an accretion of bryophitic vegetation.
[A rolling stone gathers no moss]
4. That prudent avis which matutinally deserts the coziness of its abode will ensnare a vermiculate creature.
[The early bird catches the worm]
5. Aberration is the hallmark of homo-sapiens while longanimous placability and condonation are the indices of super mundane omniscience
[To err is human; to forgive is divine]

Anagrams: Anagram is a re-arrangement of letters in a word or a phrase to form another word or phrase. Anagrams are said to have originated in Greece sometime in 4th Century B.C. They become more interesting when they relate in some way to the original word or phrase. A few examples:

Dormitory: Dirty room
William Shakespeare: We all make his praise
A Decimal Point: I’m a dot in place
Endearment: Tender Name
Bathing Girl: In Slight Garb
The Morse code: Here comes Dots
Circumstantial Evidence: Actual Crime isn’t evinced
Astronomer: Moon Starer
Madame Curie: Radium Came

Pangram: A pangram is a sentence that uses all the 26 letters of the English alphabet. Example:
1. The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog [ 31 letters]
2. Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs [ 32 letters ]

English is a Funny Language:

1. When a girl says ‘you are going too far’ she means ‘you are coming too close’
2. Copyright is what takes away the right to copy
3. Flammable means the same as inflammable
4. Night falls; but it does not break
Day breaks; but id does not fall
5. Female nurse is called sister but a male nurse is not a brother
6. The day begins at midnight
7. Morning sickness may occur at night also

B.B.C. English: Standard British English, also known as the Queen’s English, is the English spoken by the B.B.C. Newsreaders. Its origin lies in the early part of the 15th century when Government records started being written in English rather than in Latin. This helped to standardize vocabulary and grammar.

Words and Sound: It is no longer possible to say that such and such a letter in English always and everywhere signifies such and such a sound. For example, a combination of the four letters O, U, G, and H is used to signify at least seven distinctly and even widely different sounds : as in Though, Tough, Cough, Hiccough, Plough, Through and Thought

What is Up: The two letter word ‘up ‘is easy to understand when it means upwards [towards a sky or towards the top]. But when we awaken, why do we wake up? And why it is up to the secretary to write a report? Similarly, for no reason or logic, we brighten up a room, light up a cigarette; lock up the house; line up for a ticket.

Siamese Twins: Siamese Twins in the medical field is understood but not in English writing. Probably we use twin words for the sake of emphasis. Prices go up by leaps and bounds; we put our heart and soul into the matter; the contract becomes null and void; the manager knows the nuts and bolts of administration. However, there are certain pairs of repetitive words like on and on, out and out, through and through, bag and baggage wherein the same word is repeated. These are called Binomials which do not permit deletion of the repeated word. For example, when we say ‘My cousin left the village bag and baggage’ we cannot delete either of the repeated word. Otherwise, it becomes ‘My cousin left the village bag’ or ‘my cousin left the village baggage

English Poetry: A local magistrate was asked to try the case of a school teacher whose dedication to English poetry was almost equal to his devotion to the bottle.
“You are charged with being drunk and disorderly” said the magistrate “Have you anything to say why the sentence should not be pronounced?”
The teacher replied “Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn. I am not as debased as Edgar Allan Poe, as profligate as Byron, as ungrateful as John Keats, as intemperate as Burns, as timid as Tennyson and as vulgar as Shakespeare, so—
“That will do” interrupted the magistrate “Seven days Simple imprisonment. And officer, take down the names of the others he mentioned and round them up. They sound as bad as he is”.

English Grammar: There is a general perception that learning of grammar in any language is difficult. English is no exception.

A schoolboy was finding it extremely difficult to learn English grammar. Once he was so much fed up with the subject that he wrote the following epitaph to be inscribed on his tombstone when he died:

“When I die, bury me deep
Bury my Grammar book at my feet.
Tell the teacher I have gone to rest
And won’t be back for the grammar test”


ARTICLE No. 523---The English Language
Created: Friday, September 18, 2009 9:27 PM

How Harshacharita Came To Be Written

This Article has appeared in the latest issue of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan's Journal in its issue dated 15th Sept 2009

Best Wishes : B.M.N. Murthy, Wednesday 16th Sept 2009

--Strange Circumstances of its composition

In the history of classical Sanskrit literature which is at least 2000 years old, Poet Banabhatta stands like a Himalayan peak in giving a new literary dimension to Sanskrit prose. His spectacular success could be gauged by the numerous imitations of his style which were followed by successive poets. Bana’s magnum opus “Kadambari”is not only the most celebrated prose romance in Sanskrit, but it is also the best and its appeal has been universal for the past 14 centuries. Similarly, Bana’s other composition ‘Harshacharitha” is the only and the very first of its kind in what could be called as ‘Historiography’ which is a biography of his patron king Harshavardhana belonging to the 7th century A.D. These two works of Bana has been considered sufficient by critics to look upon him as an embodiment of Goddess Saraswathi.

In traditional Sanskrit literature it is always the practice that the poets remain silent completely about their life and times. Even Kalidasa mentions nothing about himself and the stories we hear about his life are only conjectures. So was the case with Bhasa. However, Bana was an exception to this general rule of reticence since he provides us with detailed picture of his life and times, his family background besides a glowing account of his royal patron King Harsha. Bana could therefore be considered as the very fist poet historian whose account of contemporary India throws refreshingly rich light on the high culture which flourished in India. He does not, like writers .of romance, reconstruct an epoch. Since he chose a contemporary subject of general interest and treated it in a way suited to his age, he could not have departed much from the truth

King Harsha ruled a considerable portion of North India as Chakravarthi [Emperor] for a period of 41 years from 606 A.D to 647 A.D. So vast was his kingdoms that among his tributary rulers [Subordinate kings] were the rulers of Jalandhar in Punjab, Kashmir, Nepal and Vallabhi. He was a great patron of arts and literature. The Chinese pilgrim Hieun Tsang who visited India during Harsha’s reign has left a memorable record of his travels in India in which he pays glowing tributes to the popularity of Harsha. Another Chinese pilgrim I-Tsing, who studied in the Nalanda University from 671 to 681 A.D, narrates about the erudition, scholarship and literary excellence of Emperor Harsha as a poet and scholar

The Harshacharitha of Bana contains six chapters of which the first two are devoted to a detailed account of the family history, starting from the lineage of the family. According to the text, Bana was born in a village called Prithikula on the banks of the river Shona in the region of Kanyakubja [Modern U.P.] almost at the close of the sixth century.
The village was a settlement of Brahmins celebrated for their scholarship and virtuous life. Bana lost his mother early in his childhood and lost his father too when he was 14 years. This untimely demise his father threw Bana into deep distress, though the family was rich and affluent. With a view to overcoming the mental depression, Bana took to a wandering life. He also received an all round education both in secular as well as in spiritual fields.

Bana was an exception to the lineage of early Sanskrit poets like Kalidasa, Bhasa etc most of whom were born in ordinary families. He was born in an affluent family and he could spend lavishly on his wandering tours and personal comforts. It is learnt that on his tours and travels, his entourage consisted of 44 members who included a painter, a sculptor, a musician and a dancing girl. Each one of them had specialized in a different fine art. Some of them were poets in various languages and some others were philosophers. The Harshacharitha further mentions that there were personal attendants of Bana to take care of the betel chewing habits of Bana. Engaged in the company of such variegated talents, Bana must have had a carefree and jovial life, giving himself to the best delights in life. During his travels, he visited several education centers and met many scholars. They gave him a first hand insight into the social life of their place. This fed him with a rich and cultural life of the country and probably this wander lust was eventually responsible for his becoming a historiographer at a later date. After covering a vast part of the country spanning several years, Bana finally returned to his village.

Bana’s rich style of luxurious living drew the attention of some slander-mongering courtiers of the king who were obviously jealous of him. They hatched a plan to bring him down in the eyes of the King and reported to the King about the immoral way in which he spent his time which was not expected of a well-known Brahmin family. It was a sort of character assassination of Bana by his detractors. Since Bana had his own friends in the royal court, it did not take much time for him to hear about the conspiracy being hatched against him. In the meanwhile, Bana was trying to court royal patronage and recognition of his talent. However, the King was upset by the rumors in the court corridors about the moral character of Bana. Before deciding to extend royal patronage to Bana, King Harsha decided to meet Bana personally and clarify.

One summer evening when Bana was relaxing, a messenger came from the royal court and delivered a message to Bana directing him to meet the King at once. Though he was taken aback by the unexpected royal message, still he could put two and two together and guessed that it must be the handiwork of his denigrators. He lost no time in arranging for his journey to meet the King personally. He felt that his enemies must have painted a bad picture of him to the King and the King might be wanting him for a clarification. He started mentally preparing himself for vindicating his moral purity and impeccable character. It took three days for him to reach the capital. As he entered the main gate of the palace, he had his own misgivings about the interview since he apprehended that the Emperor might have his own royal whims and fancies. He had no influence in the court to help him in this hour of need. He prayed to God seeking Divine help. When he entered the royal court where the King was seated on a throne, he was treated with scant respect and the King Harsha greeted him with the words “You! A great Libertine!” Bana, however, kept his cool and gave a spirited, impromptu and sincere reply in the following words: “Oh King! Why do you say so, as if you do not know the truth, as if you are prone to doubting, as if you could be nose-led by others and as if you don’t know the ways of the world? The nature of people is proverbially capricious and strange. They spread scandals as they please. But the great should investigate the truth by themselves. You should not misjudge me as if I am ignoble commoner.
I come from a holy, respected erudite family of Brahmins well-known for their Vedic sacrifices and other rituals. I have received my complete education in the scriptures and I am now living with my lawfully wedded life. Where is the scope for my being a libertine? I might have been a little wayward in my younger years. But I have never transgressed the rules of our Sanathana Dharma. And I am repentant myself even of that youthful waywardness of mine”

This spirited and spontaneous and sincere reply moved the King so much that he was deeply hurt about the mistaken notions and ill feelings he had developed towards Bana and his wrong assessment of his moral character. He asked Bana to stay in his palace for a few more days during which period he was very much impressed by Bana’s genius, scholarship and erudition He showered royal honours on him, in addition to presenting him with herds of elephants and tons of gold. No wonder, then, that Bana did his best to recompense the patron properly by writing the first ever biography of a historical king in the most gorgeous Sanskrit style of prose chronicle and name it


MIDWEEK SPECIAL--Article No. 522--Sanskrit Poet Banabhatta's ' HarshaCharita'
Created:Tuesday, September 15, 2009 9:37 PM

M S- Divine Voice , Yet Modesty And Humility Personified

The article on Srimathi M.S. Subbulakashmi has been prepared in memory of the late musician whose 93rd Birthday

falls on 16th September 2009

Best wishes

B.M.N.Murthy, Satrurday 12th Sept 2009

-Epitome of innate Modesty and Humility.

Many were the landmarks in the musical career of late Smt.M.S.Subbulakshmi who attained worldwide fame with her participation in the Edinburgh Festival and her performance in the U.N.General Assembly. A Magsaysay Award Winner, it was she who took Carnatic music to the world famous Carnegie Hall in the USA. Another feather was added to the crown of this ‘Queen of Music’ [As Pandit Nehru described her] when the Viswabharathi University at Calcutta [founded by Ravindranath Tagore in ] conferred the title ‘Deshikottama’ on December 24th 1981.

On this memorable occasion Smt. M.S. Subbulakshmi delivered a speech to convey her gratitude to the Vishwabharathi University. Her speech which revealed her innate modesty and humility is reproduced below:

“I am deeply moved and feel all the smaller to receive this doctorate of high distinction from this most respected cultural academy of our motherland, The Vishwabharathi. I tender my profound gratitude to you for the gesture.

When honours come to my humble self one after the other, it only helps me to intensify my surrender at the feet of the Motivator pulling the strings of this puppetry of Grace. I can do no better than recall the sublime words of Gurudeva Tagore:

“This little flute of a reed
Thou hast carried over hills and dales
And has breathed through it
Melodies eternally new”

Not only melodies of music but melodies of service to humanity He had enabled me to render to some extent.

He alone is the Deshikottama, the Teacher Supreme, as Lord Dakshinamurthy, as the Geethacharya, as the Mother Divine manifesting Her Grace through all the Masters. To that galaxy belongs the Life Force behind this Vishwabharathi, appropriately and affectionately called “Gurudev”

To me personally, the Guru manifestation has been in many forms. In music, my mother Shanmukhavadivu amma was my first Guru. Then I learnt from other Gurus also and I continue to imbibe musical values from many vidwans.

In my personal life, my husband Shri.T. Sadashivam is my Guru—Guru of a unique kind, combining in himself the attributes of mother, father, friend and guide. In fact he is my all and I owe my all to him.

In the Life Beyond, my Guru is the Paramacharya of Kanchi, Poojyasri Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakothi Peetham , who is moving on His feet in His 88th year, showering the Light of Knowledge even on those who, admitting their ignorance
Seek refuge in him.

I place this Doctorate at the feet of all those Deshikottamas and take it back as their Prasadam. May they and you all bless me to become at least a Shishyottama, a life-long Vidyarthi, filling up some potfulls from the ocean of Naada Vidya and watering some patches in this vast garden of humanity.

I feel indebted to the Vishwabharathi for two reasons: One, for turning my mind once again towards a rededication to all my Deshikas; two, for the joy of being in this Sanctum of Serenity, Shantiniketan.

In a way I can claim a special kinship of Guru Parampara with the Shantiniketan. If my husband is my Guru, he in turn moulded himself in the cast of his Guru, Poojya Rajaji; Rajaji’s sworn Guru was Bapu. And Bapu himself called the Architect of Shantiniketan as Gurudev.

Before I conclude, let me pay my homage to the two Deshikottamas who made a deep dent in my life, Shri Jawaharlal Nehru and Srimathi Sarojini Devi, both of whom poured their parental love and affection on me and my home over a period of years.

Once again I convey to you all my sincere gratitude and invoke the blessings of the one Deshikottama on us all, in the cadence of the Gitanjali:

“Let all my songs gather together their diverse strains into a single current and flow to a sea of silence in one salutation to these”.


ARTICLE NO. 521---Deshikottama Srimathi M.S.Subbulakshmi
Created: Friday, September 11, 2009 9:50 PM

Teacher's Day- Sir S.Radhakrishnan

TEACHER’S DAY—Remembering Sir S. Radhakrishnan.

Swami Pranavananda was one of the earliest devotees of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi. He visited Bhagavan in 1910 in the Virupaksha Cave. His integrity and strong spiritual aspirations earned him an enviable position among Bhagavan’s devotees. He was Bhagavan’s intimate companions. His love for Bhagavan was so great that he surrendered himself unconditionally at Bhagavan’s feet, relinquishing all worldly attachments and this filled his heart with joy and peace. He was modest and never spoke about himself and his speech was restricted to the barest minimum.

Pranavananda belonged to the Sarvepalli family which was highly esteemed in the village of Venkatapuram, near Tiruttani in South India. Though Pranavananda did not consider himself as a teacher, his life itself served as a valuable lesson in spirituality.
The Sarvepalli family was a stronghold of learning in the Vedas, Upanishads, the Shastras and the Puranas.The family deity was Lord Yoganarasimha of Sholingapuram and Pranavananda was named Narasimham after the family deity. He took the name of Swami Pranavananda at the time of becoming a Sanyasi.

Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the world famous philosopher and one of the most illustrious Presidents of India, was Narasimham’s nephew. Surprisingly enough, Dr. Radhakrishnan, who is highly respected and revered for his erudition and wisdom, was rather dull as a child. His father was very much upset by Radhakrishnan’s nature and concerned about his future. Narasimham offered to take the boy to Vellore and take care of his education.

Upon reaching Vellore, Narasimham initiated his nephew in the Rama Taraka Mantram. Constant repetition of the potent Mantram resulted in the blossoming of Radhakrishnan’s intellect and he grew into a brilliant student. He joined the Vhoree’s College in Vellore and passed his Intermediate Course. By taking care of Radhakrishnan during his formative years of his life and by helping him through the initial stages of his academic career, Narasimham laid the foundation for Radhakrishnan’s success later in life.

For Pranavananda, spirituality was not mere intellectual exercise but the very way of life. From his childhood, he had great faith in the Rama Taraka Mantram. He used to impart this Mantram to his students so that their hearts and brains could acquire clarity and brilliance.

Sir S.Radhakrishnan and the University of Mysore:

After teaching Philosophy in Mysore for three years, Sir S. Radhakrishnan left for Calcutta in May 1921 to join the Calcutta University at the instance s of India’s greatest educationist Sir Asutosh Mukherji, who was Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University for five consecutive terms. Recollecting the pleasant days his father had spent in Mysore,
Radhakrishnan’s son Prof. S.Gopal has written;

“He had declined all formal functions to bid him farewell. But the students converted the occasion of his departure to such a function which has become a part of the History of Mysore University.

The horses of the horse-drawn carriage by which he was to go to the railway station were detached. Students in harness pulled the carriage all through to the railway station. The platform was wreathed with flowers and garlands and the compartment packed with rose flowers. Almost the whole faculty and students of the university turned up at the station to see their beloved Professor off. The traffic on all roads was held up for hours and the crowd inside the platform was such that the passengers had to literally wade through a sea of humanity to get into their compartments.

As the train pulled out of the platform, several hours late, to resounding cheers,
Radhakrishnan, like many others present, was moved to tears”.


Article No.520--Sir S.Radhakrishnan
Created: Friday, September 4, 2009 9:17 PM

The Sanatana Way Of Saying Who We Are


It has been a traditional practice among Hindus that when we meet saintly people, teachers, elders and the like, we prostrate before them with respectful salutation and make a self-introduction tracing the lineage of our family in brief. This pattern of prostration is called “Abhivadana” in Sanskrit and the lineage is referred to by the two terms ’Gothra’ and ‘Pravara’. While the term ‘Gothra’ refers to the original founder, a Rishi of the clan, the term ’Pravara’ refers to a group of three or five subsequent Rishis who contributed to the spiritual growth of the lineage.

It is a common practice in all religions to be guided by a spiritual text for proper guidance for a virtuous living. In Hinduism it is called The Veda which has been considered as a revealed text, revealed by the God to some of our ancient sages. The code of practice which we follow conforms to the Sanathana Dharma which has the Veda for its basis. The custom of prostrating before the elders etc is as per our Dharma.

The term’ Veda’ means knowledge in Sanskrit which includes both spiritual and secular knowledge which are called Para Dharma or Apara Dharma in Sanskrit. To start with, there was only one Veda. As it was impossible for a for a single individual to preserve, protect and propagate the Veda and carry forward the tradition on account of its vastness and enormity of the topics it covered, the great Rishi Vedavyasa classified the single Veda into four divisions or Shakhas. These divisions were named Rig-Veda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvana Veda depending on the topics they covered. Vedavyasa entrusted his four chosen disciples the responsibility of carrying on the tradition of each Shakha. He gave the Rig-Veda to the charge of Rishi Paila, the Yajurveda to the charge of Rishi Vaishampayana, Samaveda to the charge of Rishi Jaimini and Atharvana Veda to Rishi Samanthu .Each Rishi, even though he was generally aware of all the four Shakhas, made a special study of the Shakha assigned to him in all its details. With the passage of time the descendents of these Rishis were became the followers of that particular branch or Shakha

Each Shakha of the original one Veda was by itself enormous and in course of time each Shakha gave rise to what are called ‘Sutras’ or aphorisms based on the Vedic hymns contained in the Veda. For example, Rishi Ashvalayana evolved the Ashvalayana Sutras and Rishi Apastambha evolved the Apastambha Sutras. These Sutras were followed by the descendents of these Rishis. In those days, the Gurukula system of education was prevalent and it was a practice for the disciples to bow down before his guru at the end of each day’s learning. This was done with a deep sense of reverence and respect as the Guru has always been considered a living God. Besides it is Guru who dispels all ignorance and lights the lamp of knowledge. While bowing down before the Guru, the disciple would remember the names of a few important Rishis of his clan and pay obeisance to them. This is the origin of Abhivadana Incidentally this would remind the disciple about the glorious lineage of his clan and how he should conduct himself in society to keep up the fair name of the lineage. These Rishis who were at the fountainhead of the lineage are called ‘Gotrapravartakas’ in Sanskrit.
All Rishis are not Gotrapavartakas but only those who were at the fountainhead of the original founding of the line. It is customary to remember either three or five Rishis of the clan. If three Rishis are remembered it is a practice to say ‘Trayarsheya’ and if five are remembered we say ‘Pancharsheya’ [The word Arsheya is the adjective of the root word Rishi]. The group of Rishis put together constitutes what is known as ‘Pravara. ’ According to Kalpa Sutras the following eight Rishis are considered the original founders of the Gotras: Jamadagni, Bharadwaja, Vishwamitra, Gautama, Vasishtha, Kashyapa and Agastya. It is said that the recitation of the names of these Rishis everyday and remembering them with gratitude bestows all prosperity in life and eventually leads one to salvation.

Hinduism has laid the greatest emphasis on Universal Peace and all our Upanishads invariably conclude with a Shanti Mantra. This is practically achieved by the regular performance of Homas, Havanas, Agnihotras and such other rituals by offering oblations to God Agni and the recitation of the Shanti Mantras. For conducting these Vedic rituals with proper recitation of the Vedic Mantras, two ingredients are essential –
Vedic Brahmins who can conduct the rituals with the proper recitation of the Mantras and secondly, an abundance of cattle wealth like milk, butter, ghee, curds, cow dung etc.which alone yield the oblation materials to be offered to Agni. The term ‘Vedic Brahmin’ does not mean a Brahmin by birth. He could be a man born in any other caste but devoted to the acquisition of Brahmajnanam.In fact Sage Vishwamitra was a Kshatriya by birth and Sage Agastya was born of a fisherwoman and Maharshi Valmiki came from a hunter’s family.

In modern days, recitation of the Gothrabhivadana is not that regular and common. However, it could definitely be heard at the ‘Upanayanam’ function where the Brahmacharin recites it in front of the Brahmins and some other elders while prostrating before them seeking their blessings. During prostration the Brahmachari also gives an indication about the caste from which he comes. The term ‘Sharma’ is added to the name if he is a Brahmin, the term ‘Varma’ if he is a Kshatriya and the term “Gupta’ if he is a Vysya. The following illustration explains:

My name is Narayana [Murthy]. I belong to Rigveda, my Gotra is Moudgalya and I am a Brahmin. During Abhivadana I remember three Rishis of our clan namely Angirasa, Bhrowmyashva and Moudgalya. I recite the following Gotrabhivadana:
“Chatussagara Paryantam Go Brahmanebhyah Shubham Bhavatu
[Let there be auspiciousness bestowed on the cattle wealth and on the Brahmins spread across the globe]
Angirasa-Bhrowmyashwa–Moudgalya Trayarsheya Pravaranvitha, Moudgalya Gotrodbhavasya, Ashwalayana Sutrah, Rikshakha Adhyayi [Myself, hailing from Moudgalya Gotra of which the triumvirate are Angirasa, Bhrowmyashwa and Moudgalya and belonging to Rigveda and Ashwalayana Sutra]
Narayana Sharma, Aham, Bho! Abhivadaye
[Oh Revered one! I, Narayana Sharma, prostrate before you].


ARTICLE No.519--Gothra, Pravara and Abhivadana and
Created: Friday, September 4, 2009 9:17 PM