One day, sometime during 1905-06, at about 10 in the morning, my grandfather’s brother was sitting at the veranda of our house, chatting with someone. At that time, a man came there, stood at a distance, and spoke in Telugu in a soft voice, “Right now, if I requested you for some food, would it be inconvenient?”
Ananda Coomaraswamy is one of the little-known figures of India. Which is baffling because a vague estimate of his works runs into more than 15,000 pages. It is all the more baffling because his range of subjects is almost beyond belief and his grasp of their intricate nuances is staggering.
The scriptures declare "धर्मो विश्वस्य जगतः प्रतिष्ठा" (तैत्तिरीय-आरण्यकम् – IX-63). Dharma indeed is the foundation of the universe. Sri Vidyaranya saw that dharma, once firmly established, engenders establishment of all that is good. While dharma refers to cosmic order in the highest sense of the term, it is seen manifold in reality as conduct, practice, punishment and penance(अाचार,व्यवहार,दण्ड,प्रायश्चित्त). This should not be construed as a duplicity or flaw in dharma.
In 1906 or 1907 Swami Abhedananda honored Bangalore by his visit. He was one of the direct disciples of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. During his visit to the Unites States, Swami Vivekananda lit the lamp of Hinduism’s glory. He brought immense respect to our country in all corners of the Western world. Then he returned to India. It was Swami Abhedananda who continued Vivekananda’s work in the US and by his persistence succeeded in taking the mission forward. Was it surprising that people regarded the visit of such a great personality as a huge blessing?
As we have seen so far, Sri Vidyaranya’s contributions towards nation building, politics, jurisprudence, agriculture and commerce were in no small measure. However, what people remember to this day are his monumental and lasting contributions in the cultural arena.
The Vijayanagara Empire attained great success from an agricultural perspective under the reign of Chikka Kampana. The Vijayanagara administration gave great importance to efficient schemes of irrigation that form the bedrock of any successful agricultural enterprise. A record number of tanks and bunds were built during this era – several of which are being used to this day.
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.
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.
The Vijayanagara Empire pioneered not only Hindu cultural renaissance but also re-energized administrative, political, and economic conditions of the era. Under Madhava-Vidyaranya’s guidance, time-tested concepts of Hindu polity were brought back into currency along with much needed innovations. So effective was his model that three hundred years later, the famous Shivaji, influenced by the Vijayanagara model, instituted the अष्ट-प्रधान (council of eight ministers) concept for his own administration.
Vidyaranya ensured that different religious traditions of the land were given equal respect while not disturbing the peace in the empire. For a great empire to flourish, it needs more than military and political prowess. Only a robust cultural and social foundation can ensure that the people of a country remain united through troubles and turmoil. If a cursory look at today’s world can show us what kind of profound impact religion can have over a country, it is impossible to not see how religion ruled the worldview eight hundred years ago.