Controversial Paragraph in a British Essay by Charles Radcliffe Cooke

There are two pieces of controversial material that I found in my cursory reading of the essay. (By no means, did I read it in its entirety).

The first thing that caught my eye first was this paragraph.

Wow. The British saw this when they were here so early. In my personal opinion, this is true even of today.

The second controversial topic was one that I had blogged about earlier. – the McCaulay address to the Parliament stating that, bringing in the British system of education into India was to ensure that they brainwash us into their system and that they can have more control over the “natives”.

This essay which is dated much before that indicates that the “natives” wanted more British system of Education. The British started setting up Sanskrit Universities, but the “natives” under folks like Ram Mohan Roy wanted more of the British education, and not something that they have been learning for a long time.

Ram Mohun Roy, after praising the Government for the exertions it was making in the cause of native education, goes on to say that, however thankful the natives must feel for the interest thus shown in their welfare, yet they cannot help perceiving that the labours of the Government are being misdirected, whether through ignorance of native wishes, or from other causes not specified. He therefore thinks it incumbent upon him to place before the authorities some statement of the native opinions and desires upon the subject. When therefore it was known that a certain sum of money had been voted for the purpose of promoting and encouraging education among our Indian subjects, ” We were filled,” he says, “with sanguine hopes that this sum would be laid out in employing European gentlemen of talent and education to instruct the natives of India in mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry, anatomy, and other useful sciences, which the natives of Europe hare carried to a degree of perfection that has raised them above the inhabitants of the other parts of the world.”

If, he observes, the Government wished to preserve the study of the Sanskrit language, it could have done so by holding out certain premiums, and granting allowances to professors, already too numerous, by whom those who were desirous of learning the language, might be instructed; but he regards the establishment of a Sanskrit College, in which the native youth, besides spending much valuable time in acquiring a knowledge of the Sanskrit tongue, would learn that which was taught two thousand years ago, and waste their energies in speculations suggested by the Vedanta, in metaphysical subtilties and logical niceties, much as an Englishman would have looked upon an attempt to replace the Baconian philosophy by the system of the schoolmen, calculated, as it alone was, to perpetuate ignorance. Impelled by these considerations, and a sincere desire for the good of his country, and the spread of true knowledge amongst its inhabitants, Ram Mohun Eoy prays the Governor-General to expend the grant of money in the promotion and extension of Western rather than Oriental learning.

I am not saying that this is the truth or fact. But this seems to introduce more controversy does it not?

Hat tip to ChennaiKaran Plus Ultra for pointing me to this essay.

Who was Vidhura ~ Part 3 ~

This is part 2 of a three part series on Who was Vidhura.

Part 1 is here Part 2 is here.

In which Vidhura is born

Meanwhile, in the kingdom of Hastinapura, Bheeshma had taken an oath of celibacy and to ensure the succession of the empire in able hands. He had ensured a good marriage to Amba and Ambalika and was eagerly awaiting that they give birth to good sons, who can rule the kingdom justly.

As fate would have it, both Amba and Ambalika lost their husbands in quick succession right after their marriages concluded. It was a practice in those days, that in, exceptional circumstances (like this), they could bring in a surrogate father (or a sperm donor as it is called in these days) to bring in to this world successors to royal kingdoms.

Bheeshma had requested the great sage Vyasa to be the donor. High quality sperm was the need of the day then as well. Vyasa was well versed in warcraft and very learned in the Vedas, and in general a person with great wisdom. A good choice. But then, artificial insemination was not quite present at those times, and hence natural copulation was the only way. Both Amba and Ambalika balked at the thought of having to spend the night with the old wizened sage.

Amba had closed her eyes the entire time, she was with Vyasa, and hence bore the child who was Drithrashtra (who was born blind). Ambalika’s skin turned white in shock and horror at the thought of Sage Vyasa, and hence bore the son who was Pandu (extremely pale white skin).

In those days, there were 14 lakshanas (a check list of qualities) that need to be fulfilled if you were to be crowned king. Both Pandu and Drithrashtra did not qualify because of their congentical disabilities.

Now Bheeshma, in a fix, pleaded with Vyasa to give it one more shot with Ambalika. Sage Vyasa, after a lot of persuasion agreed. On the appointed night, when darkness had fallen, and at the time chosen, Ambalika, who could still not convince herself to mate with the old sage, pushed in one of her royal maidens into the chamber.

The son born out of the royal maiden was Vidhura. And Lord Yama’s curse had happened. Vidhura. the half brother of Dhritrashtra advised him on a variety of matters, and was considered the expert in Dharma in the Kaurava side.

Acknowledgement: I am recounting this from a lecture recording called Vidhura Needhi by Shri R.B.V.S.Manian,  The lecture was hosted in Kumbakonam a few years back.


Who was Vidhura ~ Part 2 ~

This is part 2 of a three part series on Vidhura. You can read Part 1 here.

In which Mandavya Maharishi questions Yama

Several days passed. Mandavya Maharishi had gone back to his ashram. Life was beginning to roll back to normalcy, when one day, he thought – “Why me?”. Yes, Sages were human after all. Like all human beings, he thought – “Why me?”.

The sage had been meditating on the Lord. He had committed no crime, atleast not in this janma. Why had he been punished so harshly? The king had done his duty. So he forgave the king. But there must be a reason.

With all his powers, he summoned Lord Yama, the lord of death. And the dark one appeared. On his buffalo. And his long black whip coiled and in his hand. He got down from the buffalo and prostrated before the Rishi.

“Oh wise one, for what reason did you summon me? Please let me serve you by fulfiling your wish.”

The sage was upset, he could tell.

“I need a reason why I had to go through such a harsh punishment. I did not commit any heinous crime, atleast in this janma. And I would like to know from your records, if I did anything in my previous janma, and if it was my prarabda karma. ”

The Lord of death summoned Chitragupta,the official karma recorder, and asked him to provide the required details. Chitragupta went through the records, and said that the Muni had indeed committed a wrong by playing with a spider when he was young, and tormenting it by pulling off his legs. This event had occured when he was 12 years old.

The sage was furious. In his mind, the child of 12 does not know reason. He has not matured. He roared at Yama asking him to mend his laws, that – “No act of a child less than 14 years of age, would be recorded and evaluated in the karma register.” It was not Dharma that someone be punished because of an act committed by a doer, who does not realize it was a mistake.

It is worthy of note here, that, even to this date, the Human Rights world considers 14 as the age boundary for determining child labour laws.

Lord Yama saw reason in the Sage’s amendment, and made the appropriate changes immediately. The sages’ anger had not subsided still. He cursed the God of death to be born in the earth as a lowly mortal who would be born in the palace, but not to the royal family, but to an attendant of the royal family.

Acknowledgement: I am recounting this from a lecture recording called Vidhura Needhi by Shri R.B.V.S.Manian,  The lecture was hosted in Kumbakonam a few years back.

Who was Vidhura ? ~ Part 1 ~

In which Mandavya Maharishi gets spiked

It was a cloudy day, and the sage sat in a meditative trance outside his hermitage. He is in a yogic trance, meditating on the blue necked one. So deep that, he was on earth only physically. His eyes were half open, but did not see. His ears were wide open, but did not hear. And what could be the spate of the spoken word. Ofcourse it was silent. The mind was elsewhere.

The three thieves who had just robbed the Royal treasury were hiding behind the low wall of the hermitage. One of them went and scouted the area for a hiding place. And one went to check on the yogi, while the third guarded the loot.

“The backyard has a store room. We can hide there safely.”, said the one who had gone to scout the hermitage. “The yogi is so deep in trance, that he did not even notice me”, said the other. The three of them hustled the loot into the back room, and waited for the night to arrive.

The royal guards had been following unknown to three plunderers, and had seen them running in the direction of the hermitage. Half of a dozen of them now were in front of the hermitage. The leader of the group stepped up to the Rishi, and asked politely – “Did you see a band of robbers running by this direction, O Kind Sir?”. The Rishi of course did not respond, since it was just his body there. His senses were not in function. The squad leader ordered his men to search the hermitage. And they caught the thieves red-handed.

The guards went back to the king and narrated the tale. The only mistake, and a grave mistake at that, was the fact that, they said, the thieves were hiding in the hermitage of an old man, and the old man did not speak a word. The king did not investigate who the old man was. Whether he was Rishi. Whether he was a learned one. The King ordered the sage to be hoisted on the spike. This was the punishment of earlier times, reserved for grievous crimes such as loss of trust, colluding with thieves, thievery, murder etc. This was Impalement. Spikes driven into your body and through a wooden log and hoisted high into the sky.

And so the guards brought back the Rishi, who was still in Yoga Nidhra did not notice a thing. He was cruficied. Nails driven through him. He did not flinch a bit. He was hoisted. He did not notice that either. Three days later, they brought him down, and he was still living and in perfect condition. What can pain do to a body, when the soul is so deep in meditation. Meditating on the Mighty one, at that.

The king came running, when he heard of this. He had realized that, it was some great person to whom he had mistakenly given this punishment. They brought the sage down. The royal doctors painstakingly pulled out each spike carefully. And they did successfully, all but one in the nape of the neck. If they removed that, it could be death for the rishi. Too close to the jugular they said.

The Rishi chose this moment to come back to consciousness. The king fell at his feet, seeking forgiveness. Sages were wise ones. They had a huge heart. He pardoned the king.

It was then he realized the single remaining spike on his back. He smiled and said, “Oh, there is one remaining. Never mind, it will help me carry my flower basket, when i go to gather flowers for the Lord.”

This is how the great Mandavya Maharishi became to be called Aani Mandavaya Maharishi.

Aani in Sanskrit (and in a few Dravidian languages such as Tamil as well) means “Nail/Spike”.

Acknowledgement: I am recounting this from a lecture recording called Vidhura Needhi by Shri R.B.V.S.Manian,  The lecture was hosted in Kumbakonam a few years back.