Author:Shatavadhani Dr. R. Ganesh

It could be argued that early in the colonial period, there was genuine interest to study India, and the West did produce some rigorous work in the area in the form of travelogues, comparative religion, military accounts and India-specific formal academic scholarship. Among others, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, Niccolao Manucci, Eliot and Dawson, Robert Sewell, and James Todd have left behind invaluable treasures after years of observation, experience, study, travel and other painstaking labors aimed at uncovering our past.

If you ask a Hindu what it means to be one, or what Hinduism is, you will get many answers. Some will say it is a way of life and not a religion. Some will say that it is a conglomeration of various belief systems. Some will say it is a religion. Some will say there is no such thing as Hinduism but it is sanatana dharma. And some will have no clue.

There is no straightforward answer. It is at once utterly simple and extremely complicated. That’s the paradox of defining something so fundamental, so natural.

About thirty-five years ago, I was getting an old house repaired. The roof in the front portion of the house had become rickety. I had assigned the entire work of pulling it out and setting it right to a contractor. Although some portions of that house weren’t in good shape, the main door was stable and looked beautiful. It had come from fifty or sixty years earlier. The contractor and I had agreed that all the work would be done without displacing the front door, letting it stay exactly as it was.

In the 2015 Crime/Mystery Thriller Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!, after retrieving a corpse from an abandoned factory, Byomkesh says, “Sach ke aas-paas waala jhoot pakadna mushkil hota hai” (It’s difficult to detect a lie that is close to the truth.) At its very core, the work of a detective is to eliminate falsehood and find the truth. This is perhaps the reason why Saradindu Bandhopadhyay doesn’t call his hero a ‘detective.’ In the original stories, Byomkesh calls himself a satyanveshi – a discoverer of truth.

An important concept that Krishna speaks about in the Gita is that of being a स्थितप्रज्ञ – a balanced person with steady intellect. He says, “One who abandons selfish desires and is satisfied within the true self is a sthitaprajna (BG 2.55). In other words, he is telling Arjuna to let go of देहाभिमान, the obsession with the body and focusing only on the material aspect of living.

अशेषशेमुषीमोषं
माषानश्नामि मातुल ।
बिम्बवल्लीवितानाधः
पिबामि दधि माहिषम् ॥

There are many references to show that women too were endowed with the spirit of kshaatra. For instance, in the Ramayana, we have the Kaikeyi episode. When Dasharatha took part in the great war between devas and asuras, Kaikeyi accompanied him. It is during that war she obtained those two boons from Dasharatha. In the Mahabharata, when Arjuna kidnaps Subhadra, a huge army of yadus attacks him. When he single-handedly combats the army, it is Subhadra who takes the reins of the chariot and skilfully drives it.

This is the full text of the author’s paper presented at the National Seminar of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research held in Bangalore in September 2016.