Author:Hari Ravikumar

Subramanya 'Bharathi' (1882-1921) or 'Mahakavi Bharathiar' was among the foremost of modern Tamil poets. He was not only a poet but also a journalist, social activist, and freedom fighter. His poems covered a wide variety of topics and many of them are even sung as classical compositions.

The first poem of Bharathiar that I learnt was one that he wrote during the freedom struggle. It is a stirring poem that exhorts his compatriots to fearlessly face the British. The poem in Tamil goes:

Those familiar with Sanskrit–even an introductory course is sufficient–are sure to know Bhartrhari mainly via reading several shubashitas (noble sayings in verse form). Indeed, almost every other verse by Bhartrhari is a shubashita.

A king of Ujjain, Bhartrhari was the elder step brother of his more renowned sibling, Vikramaditya. His life presents to us a living account of a person’s transformation from a pleasure-loving emperor who had everything at his disposal to a sage who gave us the immortal Shataka trilogy.

Krishna grew up in Gokula with cowherds and was a true ‘son of the soil.’ From his earliest days, he developed a close connection with nature. He learnt to respect the environment even as a child. There is an episode in the Bhagavata Purana where he paid respect to the great Banyan tree (BP 10.22). He respected a tree, a cow, a human being. He respected the whole of creation. Even when he fought against the great snake Kaliya, Krishna didn’t kill him; instead he rehabilitated him (BP 10.16-17). He played the flute with great virtuosity.

In the राजनीति (politics) and युद्धनीति (warfare) sections of the Atharva Veda, there is a prayer –

“O deities! Ensure that we don’t have any enemies at all. Inspire us to greatness in kshaatra and in prosperity.”

From this we understand how courage was regarded and taught in Vedic times. While performing the पट्टाभिषेक for the king, the purohita says,

A. R. Krishna Shastri, the great savant of Kannada literature, once took a young boy to meet D. V. Gundappa (DVG). The boy, by then, had some articles to his credit. He had even taken a copy of his book for DVG’s perusal. DVG quietly glanced through it, and a whirlwind of questions followed. In order to answer those penetrating questions, the boy had to exhibit his hard-earned, meticulous scholarship. DVG must have been impressed, though there were no visible signs of it, for he moved on to the next topic. It was about a metrical flaw in one of the boy’s poems. Prof.

There are a few rare individuals who don’t have a ‘formative age’ – they seem to be born complete. They are born with wisdom. They don’t require an internal evolution, for they are already evolved. They don’t need any enhancements. Krishna is one such person. While Krishna’s childhood antics are described in detail, we don’t know his thought process during his early years. What we can see, however, is that right from the start he was one who embraced life with its ups and downs. He accepts life choicelessly; good and bad outcomes don’t bother him (BG 2.50).

काले माषं सस्ये मासं वदति शकासं यस्य सकाशम् |
उष्ट्रे लुम्पति षं वा रं वा तस्मै दत्ता विकटनितम्बा ॥

kaale maasham sasye maasam vadati shakaasam yasya sakaasham |
ushtre lumpati sham vaa ram vaa tasmai dattaa vikatanitambaa ||

Professor M. Hiriyanna is one of the little-known scholar-giants who gifted us new insights, and corrected thriving misconceptions in Indian philosophy. The title of this post is derived from his 1939 Indian Philosophical Congress lecture bearing the same title.

Subhadra Kumari Chauhan (1904-1948) was a renowned Hindi poet and freedom fighter. Her pièce de résistance is her epic poem on the Queen of Jhansi, Lakshmibai. While she was known for her poems in the vira rasa (the aesthetic experience of courage; one of the nine rasas), this is a beautiful poem about childhood in the karuna rasa (the aesthetic experience of compassion, pathos, and empathy).

In the Yajurveda, we see manifestly the greatness accorded to the essence of kshaatra. An important representative of the essence of kshaatra is the ashvamedha yajna. The Taittiriya Samhita says ‘यजुर्वेदं क्षत्रियस्याहुर्योनिम्’ (3.12.1.2) suggesting that the Yajurveda is the origin of the kshatriyas.