One of the greatest losses of the so-called Dravidian discourse in Tamil Nadu is the loss of a number of Hindu devatas or deities in the civilizational consciousness of the Tamils. More pointedly, the cultural-heritage-loss that accompanied this devata loss has in many cases become irreversible. To restate the obvious, most ancient and medieval era temples in Tamil Nadu today have become dens of corruption, squalor, and pettiness at all levels. This rampant degradation continues unchecked.
Now from the Vedas, Itihasas, and Puranas, we come to the era of reality. As such, there is no separate demarcation that separates our ancient texts from history. All the details of the lineage of kings that we find in the Vedas are part of history. For example, an ancient king who is mentioned in the Vedas is Divodasa. His son was Sudasa. The purohita of Sudasa was Vasishta. The Rigveda speaks about the Battle of Ten Kings (दाशराज्ञयुद्ध), in which ten kings combined forces under the guidance of Vishwamitra and attacked Sudasa.
In the previous part of this essay, I traced the origin of the Mackenzie Manuscripts to Col. Colin Mackenzie discovering his life’s mission after his interactions with the Madurai Brahmins whose learning was prolific, vast, deep and multifaceted, and concluded with a mention briefly of their contents.
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.
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.
In the Vedas, alternative words for kshatriya are ‘गोप,’ ‘पशुप,’ ‘शर्धा,’ ‘व्रात,’ etc. The word ‘गो’ has ten meanings of which one of them is ‘earth.’ Other meanings include ‘wealth,’ ‘knowledge,’ etc. It also has the meaning of one who nurtures all these. In several places, Indra has been called ‘गोपति.’ The word ‘गोप्ता’ comes from the root word ‘गुप्.’ When words like ‘गोप’ and ‘गोप्ता’ are used in the sense of nourishers and kshatriyas, it emphasizes the philosophy of nurturing dharma.
In our tradition, of the lineage of seers, the family that stands out is the Bhrguvamsha (or the Bhargavavamsha). Bhargava was one of the leaders of our country’s rise in material prosperity; he even tried to reach out to other-worldly wealth. Chyavana, one of the founders of Ayurveda; the seer-poet-artiste Shukracharya, who was a master of the Arthashastra and skilled in martial science; the seer Dadhichi who sacrificed his own body for the sake of universal welfare; and other greats were all descendants of the Bhrguvamsha.
Awareness of Kshaatra in Kalidasa
The Mahabharata was also known as Jaya (victory). By using the word ‘जय,’ Vedavyasa speaks of kshaatra and valor. There, both dharma and adharma are permanent, pre-eminent. When Vyasa calls Duryodhana as “दुर्योधनो मन्युमयो महाद्रुमः” and Yudhishthira as “युधिष्ठिरो धर्ममयो महाद्रुमः” (MB 1.1.65-66), the implied meaning is ‘a kshatriya should be established in dharma and should gently nurture the world like a great tree.’
When describing Rama, Valmiki says, “कुलोचितमिति क्षात्रं धर्मं स्वं बहुमन्यते” in the beginning of the Ayodhya Kanda (1.16). Rama opined that kshaatra was the most appropriate path for his clan and took great pride in his valor. Rama knew elephant-riding, horse-riding, and was well-versed in all martial arts and techniques. If he went for war, he always returned victorious. Valmiki describes this in about 24 verses.